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favored increasing the rights of neutrals and restricting belligerent interference. After countless declarations, during eight months, that the Confederates were not belligerents, but insurgents, his whole argument rested on the fact that they were belligerents and that their diplomatic representatives were to be likened to ambassadors of independent states. In the hope of removing Great Britain's apprehensions, as well as to prevent giving any excuse for an alliance with the Confederacy, he had declared, less than four months before, that no depredations would be committed by citizens of the United States, so far as it could be prevented, upon the vessels or property of any British subjects.' He now solemnly enunciated a doctrine that would justify American naval officers in seizing and bringing to New York or Boston neutral packets, wherever they could be found, transporting Confederate diplomatic agents or despatches. French, British, or German ships plying between European ports might be captured in the British Channel, the Mediterranean, or anywhere on the high seas, if they carried Yancey or Rost, or despatches to them, even between England and the Continent. The oft-quoted Scotch verdict of "Not guilty — but don't do it again," was not more illogical than Seward, who undertook to avoid a casus belli by maintaining a doctrine that would surely throw the United States into war with every nation against whose ships it should be enforced."

1 See ante, p. 195.

2 As soon as Russell received Seward's communication he informed Lyons that the British government disagreed with some of the conclusions, which he would discuss in a few days, and added: “In the mean time it will be desirable that the commanders of the U. S. cruisers should be instructed not to repeat acts for which the British government will have to ask redress and which the United States government cannot undertake to justify."-115 War Records, 1171.

To Seward's interjected and gratuitous declaration that “if the

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The thorough method of Russell's formal reply to Seward's leading contentions in international law indicates that he supposed the note was for the British government. And one would naturally expect Seward to take pride in defending, to the utmost, the position that he had taken in this cause célèbre. The document was, indeed, addressed to Lord Lyons, and was forwarded to the British Foreign Office; but it was, in fact, written to the American people. And it had accomplished its chief purpose long before it reached London. So it is not surprising to find that what Seward called his "rejoinder" merely declared: "The differences stated by Earl Russell involve questions of neutral rights in maritime warfare which, though of confessed importance, are not practically presented in any case of conflict now existing between the United States and Great Britain"; and then, in direct contradiction to his argument that diplomatic representatives were contraband of war, he said that the United States would follow or lead in any movement that promised to meliorate the law of maritime war in regard to neutrals." Two later Secretaries of State, who were good judges as to what was politic and sound, have criticised Seward's argument. Hamilton Fish wrote at the time:"


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"In style it is verbose and egotistical; in argument flimsy; and in its conception and general scope it is an abandonment of the high position we have occupied as a

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safety of this Union required the detention of the captured persons, it would be the right and duty of this government to detain them,' Russell replied that "Great Britain could not have submitted to the perpetration of that wrong, however flourishing might have been the insurrection in the South, and however important the persons capttured might have been."-Dip. Cor., 1862, 253.

1 Dip. Cor., 1862, 316.

2 115 War Records, 1199. Marquardsen tauntingly remarked, after giving the text of Russell's reply of January 23, 1862: "Von einer Replik des amerikanischen Governments auf diese Auseinandersetzung

nation upon a great principle. We are humbled and disgraced, not by the act of the surrender of four of our own citizens, but by the manner in which it has been done, and the absence of a sound principle on which to rest and justify it. . . . We might and should have turned the affair vastly to our credit and advantage; it has been made the means of our humiliation.”1

James G. Blaine concludes his criticism of Seward's argument by saying: "It is to be regretted that we did not place the restoration of the prisoners upon franker and truer ground-viz., that their seizure was in violation of the principles which we had steadily and resolutely maintained-principles which we would not abandon either for a temporary advantage or to save the wounding of our national pride.'

19 2

Not only has Seward's dictum, that diplomatic agents are contraband of war, remained unsupported by author

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taken care to prevent the repetition of such a blunder

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as Wilkes made. Early in the war against Spain the "Instructions to Blockading Vessels and Cruisers,' prepared by the Department of State" said:

"A neutral vessel carrying hostile despatches, when sailing as a despatch vessel practically in the service of the enemy, is liable to seizure; but not when she is a mail packet and carries them in the regular and customary manner, either as a part of the mail in her mail bags, or separately, as a matter of accommodation and without special arrangement or remuneration. The voyages of mail steamers are not to be interfered with except on the clearest grounds of suspicion of a violation of law in respect of contraband or blockade.

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hat man nichts weiter vernommen, und in der That möchte es schwer sein, vom Sewardschen Standpunkte aus, in einer ferneren Discussion dagegen aufzukommen."-Der Trent-Fall, 174.

1 4 Pierce's Sumner, 54.

21 Twenty Years of Congress, 585.

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"A neutral vessel in the service of the enemy, in the transportation of troops or military persons, is liable to seizure."

The highest type of statesmanship is to extricate one's country from danger in the best way. But that is not the only type. Whether the last opportunity to save the Union should be thrown away depended upon Seward's decision to hold or to release Mason and Slidell. Had he favored retaining them, there was no one that could and would have overcome his influence. Therefore, what was done he did, and but for him it would not have been done. That his argument was so effective, although unsound, was a tribute to his truly marvellous skill in making bricks without straw. It was at least a political masterpiece. And, as the world of politics goes-but not as scholars think it should be— politicians that effectively serve the state are classed as statesmen. It sometimes happens that a general wins a great battle although he violates the most fundamental rules of strategy or tactics. A grateful country, whose failing cause he has saved, will not forget his service, even if military critics demonstrate that he wasted ten thousand lives and realized only a fraction of the possible victory. So, Seward's method was far from perfect, but what he accomplished was one of the greatest feats of the war-period, and has rightly given him lasting fame and honor in American history.

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1 Navy Department, General Order No. 492, June 20, 1898.






OUR record of Seward's various activities in 1861 is not yet complete. Although he performed a much larger proportion of the work of the department than any Secretary of State would now think of doing, it is doubtful if it consumed more than half the time and thought he gave to public affairs. Probably the detec tion of political offenders and the control of political prisoners were the most distracting of all his cares.

The firing upon the Massachusetts regiment as it was hastening through Baltimore, April 19th, surprised and angered the North. Governor Hicks soon became alarmed lest the sympathizers with secession might become excited beyond control and precipitate a civil war in Maryland. Hoping to avert this, he wrote a letter to Seward requesting that northern troops should be entirely excluded, and suggested that Lord Lyons should be asked to act as mediator between the Washington and the Montgomery governments, so as to prevent an effusion of blood.

Washington was still in extreme danger, and alarm had become panic. It was necessary for the administration to temporize until northern troops should arrive. By direction of the President, Seward declared that "the force now sought to be brought through Maryland is intended for nothing but the defence of this capital,” and that the new route via Annapolis had been chosen with the expectation that it would be "the least

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