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"King Cotton" had not yet justified the expectations formed of him, but there was still an apparently substantial basis for confidence in his power. In a message of November 18, 1861, Jefferson Davis warned Europe, over the shoulders of the Confederate Congress, that it was "plain that a long continuance of this blockade might, by a diversion of labor and investment of capital in other employments, so diminish the supply as to bring ruin upon all those interests of foreign countries which are dependent on that staple"; and it remained to be seen, he said, how far the war might "work a revolution in the industrial system of the world."
Of course Seward could not know either the amount of distress that would be caused on account of the lack of cotton, or the political considerations that might induce France or Great Britain, or both of them, to interfere. As a matter of fact, Palmerston and Russell thought it still too soon to act, although France would have been ready to join in serving notice on the belligerents that they must make up their quarrels or count the two great powers as their enemies. If the policy was to be changed Russell believed that it should be done on a grand scale.' All interested parties looked forward with hope or fear to the meeting of the British and the French Parliaments early in 1862, when, it was thought, some definite policy would be adopted. The strength of Seward's diplomacy so far had been in its fearlessness, not in any ability to win European sympathy for the North. But he now realized the importance of trying to influence the two great governments by bringing the press and the clergy, and then the people, to a correct understanding of the causes and purposes of the Civil War. This intention seems to have taken a definite shape in his mind in October, 1861.
12 Walpole's Russell, 344; 2 Ashley's Palmerston, 28.
The original plan was to send Edward Everett, J. P. Kennedy, Archbishop Hughes, and Bishop McIlvaine to Europe. Subsequently Robert C. Winthrop was also invited.' But of the five only the two ecclesiastics found it practicable to accept; and the Archbishop even made his acceptance conditional on having Thurlow Weed for a colleague. Seward was afraid of the criticism. that might be occasioned by Weed's appointment, for most of the strong antislavery men had not forgiven Weed for favoring compromise the previous winter. Finally, Seward's fears were so far overcome as to allow Weed to go abroad "as a volunteer," while the expenses of the others were to be paid by the government. It was believed that Weed could correct many of the erroneous impressions in the minds of French and English journalists and public men, and also undo some of the work of the Confederate press-agents. Bishop McIlvaine, of the Protestant Episcopal Church, was expected to develop among English clergymen a sentiment against the Confederacy, the corner-stone of which was slavery. Archbishop Hughes bore Seward's important reply to Thouvenel, and it was hoped that his distinguished rank would help him to win for the North the sympathy of Napoleon, of the Pope, and of other Catholics high in church and state. General Scott, who had retired from the army and was going abroad for his health, had in vain coveted a semi-diplomatic position.3 All set out early in November. Scott and Weed sailed together; and it was odd that they should narrowly escape capture by the Nashville, which was supposed to have Mason and Slidell aboard. But, in fact, these Confederates were then sailing northward in a United States warship. And an incident had occurred that
1 Winthrop to Seward, November 12th. Seward MSS.
3 3 Seward, 20.
4 3 Seward, 20.
was to change the point of immediate danger from Paris to London and to make the all-important question not one about cotton and European interference in America, but of American interference with neutral rights.
THE TRENT AFFAIR
A FEW days after Mason and Slidell escaped from Charleston, the Theodora landed them at Cardenas, Cuba, whence they leisurely proceeded to Havana, to take the Trent, a British packet running between Vera Cruz and St. Thomas. Captain Wilkes, in the San Jacinto, was on the southern coast of Cuba, when he heard of the Theodora and her important passengers. He hastened to Havana, hoping to capture the little blockade-runner; but being too late, he concluded to try to catch the diplomatists elsewhere. He was lying in wait in the Bahama Channel, November 8th, when the Trent came along. A shot and then a shell fired across her bow halted her. Wilkes sent an officer and an armed guard aboard. Her captain refused to show the ship's papers or the passenger-list; but Mason and Slidell and their two secretaries were recognized and forcibly removed to the San Jacinto, notwithstanding the angry protests of the officers of the British ship. The Trent was then permitted to con- : tinue on her course. From St. Thomas many of the passengers and at least one of the officers went direct to London and spread the news of the exciting incident. The San Jacinto proudly bore off her prize to the United States, and in a few days the would-be envoys extraordinary at the Courts of the Tuileries and of St. James were prisoners in Fort Warren, near Boston. But their surprise was as nothing compared with the
state of public feeling in the United States and in Great Britain.
A few days before the news of the Trent affair reached London, Captain Marchand appeared in English waters with the James Adger, and coaled and took on supplies at Southampton. As it was known by this time that Mason and Slidell were going to Europe via the West Indies, it was assumed that Marchand's instructions were to seize the Confederate emissaries in in a British merchantman. Before Adams had had an opportunity to explain to Palmerston that Marchand was looking for the Nashville-to the capture of which Great Britain could have taken no exception-a British warship was sent out to prevent Marchand from interfering with neutral rights; and the newspapers and the government were expecting something sensational near home.' The erroneous inference about Marchand's instructions was not corrected outside of a small circle; therefore, when Wilkes's exploit was reported it was widely assumed that he had acted on orders. England was soon ablaze with indignation at the alleged insult to British sovereignty. Interest, prejudice, and politics worked together. Many persons endeavored to use the affair so as to help forward the plan of breaking the blockade and recognizing the Confederacy. "The whole feeling of the people," one of Seward's English friends wrote, "has undergone a change. Sympathy was but coldly expressed for the South. Now it is warm and universal." The newspapers, led by the London Times, used the most violent language toward the United States, and were extremely bitter against Seward. It was charged and widely believed that an affront had been intended and a war sought. Seward's earlier declarations about Canada and his letter to the governors of the states bordering
1 115 War Records, 1078, 1104.
2 Charles Mackay, 115 War Records, 1107.