Page images
PDF
EPUB

The high character of the government of Russia warrants these moderate and just expectations.

Mr. Seward to Mr. Marsh.

May 9, 1861.— I know that you will be welcome at Turin. Count Cavour, a true exponent of the sentiments of a generous sovereign, will be rejoiced to receive from this country a, minister who will not manifest repugnance to the aspirations of the Italian people for liberty and unity. The government of the United States practises non-intervention in all other countries and in the controversies between them. You are at liberty, however, and indeed, are especially charged, to assure his Majesty that he is held in high consideration by the President and the people of the United States. You will further assure him that it is a source of sincere satisfaction to this government that Italy seems to be even more prosperous and happy now under his government, although enjoying only short respites from revolutionary struggles for independence, than it has been at many periods long gone by, when despotism shielded that classic region from turbulence and civil commotion.

You will learn from observation that government, even when its councils are inspired by patriotism and humanity, has its trials and embarrassments as well in Italy as elsewhere. How to save the country from the ambitious designs of dangerous neighbors on either hand -- how to reconcile the national passion for freedom with the profound national veneration for ecclesiastical authority how to harmonize the lassitude of society in the Mediterranean provinces with the vigor that prevails along the Apennines, and how to conduct affairs with so much moderation as to win the confidence of the conservative interests, and yet not to lose the necessary support of the propagandists of freedom, are tasks witnessed there which will convince the American statesman that even in that country the establishment and maintenance of free government are attended with difficulties as formidable as those which sometimes produce political despondency in our own.

Since the inauguration of the President it has been my duty to prepare, under his directions, instructions to many of our ministers going abroad. The burden of them all has been, not the ordinary incidents of international hospitality and commerce, which reduce

[graphic]

diplomacy to a monotonous routine, but the extraordinary and sometimes alarming condition of our own internal affairs, threatened with the complication, most of all to be deprecated, of intervention, in some form or other, by European nations.

This foreign danger arose chiefly out of the deplorable condition of affaiils at home. The administration found the government disorganized by the presence of disunionists of high position and authority in all its departments. Some time was necessary to eliminate them before any decisive policy could be adopted. It was, moreover, necessary to forbear from demonstrations of Federal authority that might be represented as aggressive, to allow the revolution to reveal its alarming proportions and boldly proclaim its desperate and destructive designs.

It was se 'en all the time that these needful delays were liable to be misunderstood abroad, and that the malcontents would endeavor to taize advantage of them there. The government has, therefore, not been surprised, although it has been deeply grieved, to see the agents of the revolutionary party, perhaps even with the concurpence of some of our own demoralized ministers in Europe, insidiously seeking to obtain from some of its sovereigns a recognition of the projected treasonable Confederacy.

It has been no easy task to study the sophisms, arts, and appliances which they might be expected to use in the highly commercial circles of Belgium, Paris, and London. It was, nevertheless, necessary to attempt it, for human nature is at least no more moral, just, u!" virtuous in courts than it is in private life. There is no such embarrassment, however, in the present case. It often happens that foreign observers, if candid, understand American questions quite

as well as Americans themselves. Botta and De Tocqueville were of this class. So Count Cavour cannot be at any loss to understand the present political condition of the United States.

The American Revolution of 1776, with its benignant results, was due to the happy combination of three effective political ideas: First, that of emancipation from the distant European control of Great Britain ; second, popular desire for an enlargement of the political rights of the individual members of the state upon the acknowledged theory of the natural rights of man ; third, the want of union among the states to secure safety, tranquillity, aggrandizement, and fame.

[graphic]

The revolution attempted in 1861 is a spasmodic reaction agasinst the Revolution of 1776. It combines the three ideas which vere put down, but not extinguished, in that great war, namely: First, European authority to regulate political affairs in this continent; second, the aggrandizement and extension of human slavery; /third, disunion, dissolution, anarchy.

Any impartial thinker can see that an attempt at a revolution so unnatural and perverse as this could never have been embrikced by any portion of the American people, except in a moment of frenzied partisan disappointment; that it has no one element of syccess at home, and that it is even more portentous to all other governments than to our own. It is painful to see faction stalking abroad in one's native land. But faction is incident to every state, because it is inherent in human nature. We prefer, if it must come, that it come in just its present form and character. It will perish by simply coming to confront the American people, for the first time brought to meet that enemy of national peace and safety in arms. The people are aroused, awakened, resolute and determined. The danger is, therefore, already passed. We no longer fear — indeed, we hardly deprecate — the disaster of civil war brought upon us

without fault. We now see that it may be regarded as a necessary trial to preserve the perfection of our Constitution, and to remove all remaining distrust of its durability and its adaptation to the universal wants of mankind.

Mr. Seward to Mr. Fogg.

May 15, 1861. — For the first time in our history the standard of civil war has been raised with the purpose of overthrowing the Federal Republic. It is a cardinal point with the seditious in niodern revolutions to gain aid, or at least sympathy, in foreign countries. That sympathy is sought in the form of recognition of the simulated sovereignty set up by faction. An act of recognition carries moral weight, and material aid is expected soon to follow it. No state ought to lend its support to revolution in a foreign country except upon motives of justice and humanity. But in point of fact these motives seldom prevail, and nations generally act/in such cases upon calculations of profit or ambition, or in the wantonness of mere caprice. It is well understood here that the revolutionary faction has its agents abroad, soliciting European powers to intervene

[ocr errors][merged small]

in this unhappy civil war. It has therefore been my duty, under the President's authority, to instruct our representatives there how to meet them and counteract their designs. I could easily imagine that either Great Britain, France, Russia, Austria, Prussia, Belgium, Spain, or even Denmark, might suppose that it could acquire some advantage, or at least some satisfaction to itself, from a change that should abridge the dominion, the commerce, the prosperity, or influence of the United States. Each of them might be believed to have envious sentiments towards us, which would delight in an opportunity to do us barm. I have therefore

I have therefore first addressed myself to the consideration of our relations with those countries. It is otherwise with Italy and Switzerland. The former is yet hotly engaged in the struggle to secure freedom and unity, and the latter enviably distinguished by the rare enjoyment of both. Human nature must lose not only the faculty of reason which lifts it above the inferior beings, but also the benevolence which lifts it up to commune with superior orders of existence, when the security, welfare, and happiness of the United States shall have become even a matter of indifference to Italy or Switzerland. I salute Switzerland last among the European nations only because we esteem and confide in her most.

You will say this, or anything else that may occur to you that would more pleasantly or more effectually assure the government of Switzerland of the cordial good wishes cherished for it by the President and the people of the United States.

You will, of course, need to say nothing to the government on the subject of the domestie difficulties to which I have already adverted. You will, nevertheless, not be absolutely free from all responsibility on this head. You are in a region where men of inquiring mind and active babit seek a temporary respite from severe studies and exhausting labors. The world's affairs are discussed freely, and the sentiments and opinions which influence the conduct and affect the prospects of nations are very often formed in the mountains and dells of Switzerland. You will meet there, if no others, many of our fellow-citizens, doubtless of both classes -- the disloyal, sometimes, as well as those who are loyal to the Constitution and the Union. Improve the calmness and candor which the contemplation of nature inspires to dissuade the discontented American from his unnatural course and pernicious convictions, and to excite the loyal to return

Own

home as speedily as possible to speak, to vote, and, if need be, to enroll himself as a soldier or a sailor in the land or naval forces for the defence of liis country, of freedom, and of mankind.

Seventy years of tranquillity and harmony, unparalleled in the experience of states, have made us misunderstand the stage in our national career at which we have arrived.

We had to prove, by demonstration in war, that these institutions are adapted to defence against aggression, and even for aggrandizement of empire. The proof was given, and the world has nobly confessed the truth established. We assumed that faction could not gain consistency and make head under institutions so free, so equal, so just, and so beneficent. This was a mistake less in regard to our institutions than in regard to human nature itself. But self-complacent, and consequently selfdeceived, we have come all of a sudden to meet the emergency of civil war, and we find ourselves obliged to demonstrate that our government is adapted to resist and overcome domestic faction. It is a momentous but necessary trial. Perhaps it has not come too soon. Certainly we have no apprehension of failure. Revolutions are seldom successful, even when they have just causes. Revolution without a good cause, amounting to absolute necessity, is never possible in a country where stable government is at all known by experience of its blessings. The present attempt at revolution is based on no alleged experience of oppression. It puts forth only apprehensions of danger of oppression, which the form of the Constitution and the experience of its actual working proves to be altogether impossible. It is a revolution originating only in disappointed personal ambition. Personal ambition is the least effective of all the political agencies that can be found in an extended Federal republic. The revolution aims at the life of the country. It gathers the support of only that small, though very active, class of persons who are so thoughtless as to be insensible to the importance of having a country to protect and defend, with benefit to themselves and their posterity. Against it are arrayed the larger portion of our people with whom love of country is the first and strongest of all the social passions — that holy sentiment which in mature life is the strongest passion of our common humanity.

Tell the Swiss Republic, then, that with God's blessing we will preserve this model of Federal Republican government by which they have reformed their institutions, and we invoke them to retain

« PreviousContinue »