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course of time but for the warning which came from the other side of the Atlantic against precipitation. In lieu of the former rashness has come a proportionate timidity."
About the time Seward thought he had got rid of the most troublesome questions, a new one arose, although. it was as yet merely theoretical. The administration had chosen the blockade as the surest way to weaken the Confederacy; but many continued to believe that it was a mistake to try to watch a coast three thousand miles in length. If the ports could be closed effectively by law, then the ships so widely scattered could be brought together and used to conquer southern cities and districts on the seaboard; and this would prevent the Confederates from concentrating their strength in front of Washington. It was understood that Great Britain and France would not respect an attempt to close the ports by proclamation. A civil war was then in progress in New Granada, and the government in that country had adopted this method against its insurgents. Russell told Adams that the British Cabinet, after considering this case, had decided that in the event of insurrection or civil war, a country could not close the ports that were de facto in the possession of the insurgents; for that would not be a blockade according to international law. Before Adams's report of this conversation reached the United States, Congress had authorized President Lincoln to close the ports held by the Confederates. It does not appear that Seward then wished the President to declare a paper blockade in this indirect way, but he considered it his duty to let no claimed right seem to lapse by failing to deny the British dictum. What he did was to inform Great Britain
1 Adams to Seward, June 21, 1861. MS.
2 Dip. Cor., 1861, 111.
that the law merely granted the authority; that the President approved the principle of the law, and would exercise the power whenever the safety of the nation required it.
This was not asserted pugnaciously, but only with such clearness as suited the circumstances. Of course, he made it plain again that fear of war would not prevent the United States from exercising their rights, but even this was not said until after he had significantly and diplomatically remarked:
"I may add, also, for myself, that however otherwise I may at any time have been understood, it has been an earnest and profound solicitude to avert foreign war that alone has prompted the emphatic and sometimes, perhaps, impassioned remonstrances I have hitherto made against any form or measure of recognition of the insurgents by the government of Great Britain. I write in the same spirit now, and I invoke on the part of the British government, as I propose to exercise on my own, the calmness which all counsellors ought to practise in debates which involve the peace and happiness of mankind.” 1
This despatch bore the date of July 21, 1861 — the day of the first battle of Bull Run. He said that he could not close without again asking Great Britain to realize that the policy of the government was "based on interests of the greatest importance and sentiments of the highest virtue, and, therefore, is in no case likely to be changed, whatever may be the varying fortunes of the war at home or the actions of foreign nations on this subject, while the policy of foreign states rests on ephemeral interests of commerce and ambition merely. The policy of the United States is not a creature of the government, but an inspiration of the people, while the policies of foreign states are at the choice mainly of the governments presiding over them." "
1 Dip. Cor., 1861, 118.
2 Dip. Cor., 1861, 121.
TWO DIPLOMATIC INCIDENTS: SEWARD AND THE DECLARATION OF PARIS; BRITISH AND FRENCH "NEGOTIATIONS" WITH THE CONFEDERACY
It was inevitable that the differences of opinion as to the belligerency of the Confederacy would lead to other disagreements. In fact, nearly a month before any power had formally recognized that belligerency Seward formed a plan by which he hoped to remove all excuse for such action. But, after recognition, other steps naturally followed, and these were the cause of discussions in which much cleverness was displayed by the diplomatists on each side.
A congress of the leading maritime powers of Europe, held in Paris in 1856, agreed to the following rules, which are commonly called the declaration of Paris:
"1. Privateering is and remains abolished.
"2. The neutral flag covers enemy's goods, with the exception of contraband of war.
"3. Neutral goods, with the exception of contraband of war, are not liable to capture under enemy's flag.
"4. Blockades, in order to be binding, must be effective; that is to say, maintained by forces sufficient really to prevent access to the coast of the enemy."
As the first three provisions were not well-established rules of international law, and were binding only upon the contracting nations, the other maritime states were invited to adopt them. In replying for the United States, Secretary Marcy pointed out several reasons why they
could not be accepted by his country without disadvantage, unless certain alterations should be made. The first article was objected to, because the United States had not adopted the policy of keeping a large navy in time of peace, and, therefore, might find it important to use privateers in case of war. But it could be rendered acceptable, Marcy suggested, if all the private property of individuals, though belonging to belligerent nations, should be made exempt from seizure or confiscation in maritime war. All efforts toward a realization of Marcy's plan were unsuccessful. Buchanan's administration broke off the negotiations.
Shortly after the fall of Fort Sumter, when the questions of belligerency and of issuing letters of marque by the Confederacy arose, Seward saw that it might be advantageous to the United States to change their position. Because the Confederacy had no merchant marine worth mentioning, probably the United States would have no occasion to send out privateers. Therefore, as far as the present conflict was concerned, the United States had practically nothing to lose by agreeing to abolish privateering. On the other hand, it was expected that much of the naval success of the Confederacy must depend on the destruction of northern merchantmen. Confederate privateers would also interfere with the goods of Europeans, especially when carried under our flag. If these privateers could be kept off the ocean, it would save the maritime nations much annoyance. Assuming that the adherence of the United States to the declaration of Paris would bring about this result, it was to be expected that the other powers would welcome such a step. Here, then, Seward believed that he had a great opportunity to gain the advantages already
1 Stated more fully in Marcy's instructions to the United States Minister to Belgium, July 14, 1856. MS. See also Dip. Cor., 1861, 34, 232.
mentioned, and a much greater one, of which he was careful not to speak at the beginning.
On April 24, 1861, he instructed our Ministers to the leading European powers that the United States were willing to assent to the declaration pure and simple, if the Marcy amendment should not be acceptable.' He told Dayton that two motives induced the United States to assume this position, as far as France was concerned: "First, a sincere desire to co-operate with other progressive nations in the melioration of the rigors of maritime war; second, a desire to relieve France of any apprehension of danger to the lives or property of her people from violence to occur in the course of the civil conflict in which we are engaged." A further motive is to be found in another despatch, which says: “In this way we expected to remove every cause that any foreign power could have for the recognition of the insurgents as a belligerent power.""
The parties to the declaration of Paris agreed that they would make common cause among themselves in enforcing its articles. Some months after the original proposal of accession was made, Seward said that “ tendered it, of course, as the act of this Federal government, to be obligatory equally upon disloyal as upon loyal citizens." It did not require the gift of prophecy to tell what would result in case the offer of accession on the part of the United States should be accepted.
The governments of Great Britain and of France seemed to receive the proposition with favor, although the Queen's proclamation had already recognized the belligerency of the Confederacy when this subject was first presented. Lord John Russell gave Adams to understand that Lord Lyons had been authorized to enter into a similar agreement with our government.
1 Dip. Cor., 1861, 34-36.
3 Dip. Cor., 1861, 233.
Dip. Cor., 1861, 251.
4 Dip. Cor., 1861, 232.