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commissioners to examine those still in military custody. They quickly caused nearly one hundred more to be liberated. In a note to Stanton, April 8, 1862, they said: "We have this day examined the cases of several prisoners who have been long in prison and who are detained without just cause."1

There was current a story that Seward boasted to Lord Lyons that he could ring a little bell and cause the arrest of a citizen of Ohio or order the imprisonment of a citizen of New York, and that no one on earth except the President could release the prisoner. If he made the remark, it is of no special importance. It was a fact that he was almost as free from restraint as a dictator or a sultan, and he was charged with acting accordingly. But the surprising thing is that in the great mass of documents on the subject of political prisoners there are no manifestations of improper motives or of extreme prejudice or of personal considerations except in the Pierce episode. His mistakes, save in one case, were perfectly natural and almost inevitable, considering the constant anxiety of the administration about military affairs in front of Washington, and the need of suppressing words and acts in the North that might indicate to Great Britain and France that the Federal government was declining in strength. But no one will deny that Seward sought and was given too much responsibility.

1 1 115 War Records, 277-79, 282.

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THE Outcome of the Trent incident disabused the minds of many Englishmen of the belief that Seward desired a foreign war, but it did not affect the economic influences working toward intervention. Louis Napoleon once remarked to one of the Confederates that "the policy of nations is controlled by their interests, and not by their sentiments." The actions of France and of Great Britain during these years furnished excellent illustrations of this rule. It was not difficult to estimate approximately the losses that the two countries were suffering on account of the blockade; but the question that no one could answer was: What will intervention cost if it entails a war with the United States and a general disturbance of European politics? The belief that the North could not conquer the South, and that the attempt would not continue very long, was an additional reason for postponing all direct efforts to influence affairs in the United States.

After the beginning of 1862 there was no substantial reason to doubt the efficiency of the blockade. But the Confederacy argued at one time that it was folly to respect a blockade through which scores of ships ran with impunity; at another time it maintained that the blockade prevented Confederate independence and cut off the exchange of cotton and merchandise, without

'Bigelow's France and the Confederate Navy, 121.

which the distress must continue both in Europe and in the South. Plainly there was nothing in international law that would warrant foreign interference. So, if it came, it must be the outgrowth of selfish interests. But some plausible theory or fiction might be regarded as a sufficient excuse. However, Great Britain and France watched the blockade like birds of prey eager for quarry where no risk was involved.

Near the end of 1861 the United States Navy Department purchased a score or two of old vessels, formerly used as whalers or in the India trade, loaded them with stone, and sank them at points in the channels of Charleston harbor and of the Savannah river, where it was expected they would cause accumulations of sand and alluvial deposits, and thus stop navigation. The New York Times of December 23, 1861, triumphantly declared that those vessels were filled with Massachusetts rock, and would forever blockade Charleston harbor. Although this device was not entirely novel, it was very unusual, and it was soon popularly known as a blockade by a stone fleet.


In Europe it aroused great indignation, and many pronounced it a violation of the laws of war. Even Cobden called it a "barbarism." If the Times was right as to the "forever," the trade of Great Britain and of France was to be permanently injured; and Thouvenel so understood the signs. The general depression of manufacturing and commercial interests in Europe was increasing. "This is attributed to the blockade," Weed wrote in January, 1862. "Europe asks how long this is to last? And finally, assuming the answer, they say, is it not time to recognize the independence of the South?" But for recent successes at Port Royal, he believed that a combination would have been formed against the United

1 2 Morley's Cobden, 393.


States. He thought the objections to the "stone fleet" were more a pretext than an expression of a real grievance; yet he was confident that Napoleon had again suggested to Great Britain that they interfere jointly in the affairs of the United States.1 On January 18th Mann reported to Jefferson Davis that he regarded it as certain that the Emperor was to raise the blockade. In fact, the representatives of both the great powers grew very indignant because they considered that the United States had adopted a peculiarly objectionable method of evading the conventional duties of maintaining a blockade.'

Seward explained that the measures were only temporary expedients. "No American ever conceived that the human hand could place obstructions in a river which the same hand could not remove. No loyal American citizen has regarded this war as one that can have any other than a brief duration, with a termination favorable to the Union, casting upon the Federal government the responsibility of improving the harbors of all the states." Two of the natural channels leading to Charleston harbor had been in no way obstructed, he said. As evidence of this, he added that a British steamer laden with contraband had just succeeded in getting in. The London Spectator of February 1, 1862, called this "a neat reply." And the question soon ceased to afford any excuse for protests and threatening hints.

Cobden, in December, 1861, believed that three-fourths of the members of the House of Commons would be glad to find an excuse for voting for a dismemberment of the great Republic. And Weed found the Emperor of the French and all his associates, except Prince Napoleon, in sympathy with the Confederacy. Since



13 Seward, 54, 55, 56.

2 Dip. Cor., 1862, 409, 410, explains Thouvenel's attitude.
› Dip. Cor., 1862, 316.

4 2 Morley, 390. * 1 Weed, 642.

October, 1861, Seward had felt much concern lest the French and the British Parliaments on reassembling early in 1862 might assume an unfriendly attitude. "The next will probably be a direct demonstration in Europe for recognition on account of the rigors of the blockade," he wrote to Dayton in an unpublished despatch of January 2, 1862. "If the military and naval movements now imminent shall be as successful as we think, we shall have much confidence in our ability to meet with success the last and greatest foreign difficulty before us." Then he very prudently added: "At the same time, do not lose an opportunity for saying that with our past and coming successes we are quite sure that the need of the blockade will not continue very long. If necessary, speak of it as a thing more and more within our power to modify, if not to terminate altogether." In the same month he said, in a letter to Weed: "But I know this, that whatever nation makes war against us, or forces itself into a war, will find out that we can and will suppress the rebellion and defeat the invaders themselves." Then again a few days later: "Your letters alarm me about the malign intentions on the part of Great Britain and France. . . . It will be a sad day if Europe intervenes. What we can do to prevent it we are doing."

Very early in 1862 it was thoroughly announced in Europe that the Federal government was about to begin an aggressive campaign against the Confederacy. This was an admonition against foreign intermeddling just then. France was also very much engrossed in the difficult task of improving the condition of her finances." In February Weed wrote from London: "All is quiet now, in the expectation that an immense army and navy will show results." The news of the Federal victories, especially

13 Seward, 42, 43.

* Slidell to Benjamin, February 11, 1882.

* 3 Seward, 62.

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