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mentioned the fact that no words on the subject had passed between himself and the British minister, and that he should say nothing until advised of the action of the British Government in the matter. At the same time he called Mr. Adams's attention to the fact that Captain Wilkes did not act under instructions from his Government, and therefore the subject was free from much embarrassment. Mr. Seward expressed a hope that the British Government would consider the subject in a friendly temper, and declared that it might expect the best disposition on the part of the Government of the United States. He gave Mr. Adams leave to read his note, so indicative of a desire to preserve a good understanding with the Cabinet of St. James, to Earl Russell and Lord Palmerston (the Prime Minister), if he should deem it expedient. Mr. Adams did so," and yet the British Government, with this voluntary assurance that a satisfactory arrangement of the difficulties might be made, continued to press on its warlike measures with vigor, to the alarm and distress of the people. The fact that such

' assurance had reached the Government was not only suppressed, but, when rumors of it were whispered, it was semi-officially denied. And when the fact could no longer be concealed, it was, by the same authority, affirmed, without a shadow of justice, that Mr. Adams had suppressed it, at the same time suggesting, as a reason, that the minister might profit by the purchase of American stocks at panic prices. The most absurd stories concerning the

a Dec. 19,


1 Lieutenant-General Scott was in Paris at the time of the arrival of the news of the capture of the conspirators. He wrote and published a very judicious letter (Dec. 3), in which he gave assurance of friendly feeling toward Great Britain on the part of the Government of the United States. But this semi-official declaration from so high a source was not allowed to have any weight.

? Letter of Charles Francis Adams to Mr. Seward, January 17th, 1862.

9 Letter of Charles Francis Adams to Mr. Seward, January 17th, 1862. An incident occurred on this side of the Atlantic in connection with the Trent affair, and stock speculations, which gave rise to much comment. Dr. Russell, the correspondent of the London Times (see page 358, volume I.), was then in Wasbington City, and remained there for some time. He had so persistently disparaged the National (iovernment and its supporters, and predicted success for the rebellion with an earnestness which indicated the wish that is "father to the thought," that the confiding courtesy which had been shown him by the National authorities was withdrawn. He was now, it was said, in daily and intimate intercourse with Lord Lyons. On the 26th of December, Secretary Seward communicated to that Minister his letter announcing that Mason and Slidell would be given up to the British Government. The fact was intended to be kept in most profound secrecy from the public for the moment; but on the following day Russell, possessed of the secret, was allowed tu telegraph to a stock speculator in New York: “ Act as though you heard some very good news for yourself and for me, as soon as you get this." At that time, operations in New York, in Government stocks, were active and remunerative. Those stocks had been depressed by the menaces of war. Words that would give assurance of peace would send them up. These had been spoken in secret; and the first man who was allowed to profit by them pecuniarily was a British subject, a representative of the British journal in the interest of the Crown, most abusive of the American people, and who was then in intimate relations with the British embassy. What is still more strange is the fact that, in violation of a positive order to the Censor of the Press and Telegraph at Washington, to suppress all communication concerning the Trent affair, this dispatch, so palpably burdened with contraband information, was allowed to be sent forty-five minutes after the order for suppression was received. Still more strange is the fact that, while the reporters of the Press were not allowed to send any dispatches, for all of which they were ready to pay, on the back of the favored Dr. Russell's message (the original is now before the author) were these words, written in pencil: “Mr. Russell's messages are free, by order of Mr. Sanford," who was the Censor. For a further elucidation of this subject, see the Report of the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives, on the Censorship of the Press at Washington.

With words calculated to keep up the excitement and alarm, and warlike measures on the other side of the Atlantic, and still further to depress the stocks of the United States, Russell wrote to the London Times, on the day when his profitable dispatch was sent to New York free, saying: “As I write there is a rumor that Messrs. Slidell and Mason are to be surrendered. If it be true, this Government is broken up. There is so much violence of spirit among the lower orders of the people, and they are so ignorant of every thing except their own politics and passions, so saturated with pride and vanity, that any honorable concession, even in this hour of extremity, would prove fatal to its authors. It would certainly render them so unpopular that it would damage them in the conduct of this civil war.” He had already ventured to make many prodictions of evil to the Republic. So early as the previous April he had said to Europe, through the Times, "The Union is gone forever, and no serious attempt will be made by the North to save it" In August he had said, "General bankruptcy is

VOL. II.-11



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temper of the American Government, calculated to inflame the public mind and excite a warlike spirit, were put forth, such as the following, paraded conspicuously in the columns of the London Times:

“During the visit of the Prince of Wales to America, Mr. Seward took advantage of an entertainment to the Prince to tell the Duke of Newcastle he was likely to occupy a high office; that when he did so it would become his duty to insult England, and he should insult her accordingly.”

In the mean time, Earl Russell's demand was communicated to the Government at Washington. It produced much indignation in the public mind, and there was a general disposition to give a flat refusal. The legality of Captain Wilkes's act was not doubted by experts in international law. British precedents were all in favor of it; and even a writer in the London Times, two days before the date of Earl Russell's dispatch, admitted this fact, and complained only of the informality of Captain Wilkes, in taking the “Ambassadors” out of the Trent, instead of taking the ship itself with all on board into port, to have the case adjudicated in a court of admiralty. Such was a feature of the decision in the case, of the law officers of the crown, in alluding to which Mr. Adams said, “In other words, Great Britain would have been less offended if the United States had insulted her more.?

In opposition to popular feeling and opinion, the Government decided to restore Mason and Slidell to the protection of the British flag; and the Secretary of State, in a very able letter to Mr. Adams, for the ear of the British Government, discussed the subject in the light in which the President had viewed it from the beginning. He corrected the misrepresentations of Captain Williams as to the facts of the capture, declaring that Captain Wilkes was not acting under instructions from his Government, but only “ upon his own suggestions of duty;" “ that no orders had been given to any one for the arrest of the four persons named,” and that the United States had no purpose or thought of doing any thing “which could affect in any way the sensibilities of the British nation.”

Then, with the Queen's proclamation in mind, Mr. Seward spoke of the captives as pretended “Ministers Plenipotentiary, under a pretended commission from Jefferson Davis, who had assumed to be president of the insurrectionary party in the United States," and so publicly avowed by him, and argued that it was fair to presume that they had carried papers known in law as dispatches. IIe also stated that it was asserted by competent authority that such dispatches, having escaped the search, were actually carried to England, and delivered to the emissaries of the conspirators there;“ also,


inevitable, and Agrarian and Socialist riots may be expected pretty soon.” He had declared, so late as Dee. 230, that Mr. Seward would " refuse, on the part of his Government, to surrender Mason and Slidell and their secretaries;" and in the first days of 1862, he said, " The fate of the American Government will be sealed if January passes without some great victory."

1 Mr. Adams to Mr. Seward, Nov. 29th, 1861.

2 Captain Wilkes said in a second dispatch to the Secretary of the Navy, that he carefully examined all the anthorities on international law at hand-Kent, Wheaton, Vattel, and the decisions of British judges in the almiralty courts—which bore upon the rights and responsibilities of neutrals. Knowing that the Governpents of Great Britain, France, Spain, and Portugal had acknowledged the Confederates as belligerents, and that the ports of these powers were open to their vessels, and aid and protection were given them, he believed that the Trent, bearing agents of that so-called belligerent, came under the operations of the law of the right of search.

3 See note 2, page 156.

4 This service for the Confederates was performed, it is said, by Captain Williams, R. N., IIer Majesty's only representative on the Trent,



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that the assumed characters and purposes of Mason and Slidell were well known to the officers of the Trent, including Captain Williams.

Having prepared the way for argument, the Secretary entered upon it by a consideration of the inquiries: "First, Were the persons named and their supposed dispatches contraband of war? Second, Might Captain Wilkes : lawfully stop and search the Trent for these contraband persons and dispatches? Third, Did he exercise that right in a lawful and proper manner? Fourth, Ilaving found the contraband persons on board, and in personal possession of the contraband dispatches, had he a right to capture the persons? Fifth, Did he exercise the right of capture in the manner allowed and recognized by the law of nations? If all these inquiries shall be resolved in the affirmative," said the Secretary, “the British Government will have no claim for reparation."

These questions, excepting the last, were affirmatively argued by the Secretary, with the assumption that the British doctrine was correct. The conclusion from his reasoning was inevitable, that every thing had been done in strict conformity to the law on the subject of neutrals, as expounded by British authority, excepting the failure of Captain Wilkes to exercise the right of capture in the manner allowed and recognized by the law of nations. Ilere the Secretary frankly admitted that there had been a fatal irregularity. To meet the requirements of law, Wilkes should have been less generous and humane. It was his business to capture lawfully, but it was that of a court of admiralty to decide upon the question of holding the vessel or its contents as a lawful prize. It was not for the captor to determine the matter on the deck of his vessel.

Ilaving concluded his argument, which British jurists and publicists, and the practice of the British Government, admitted was unanswerable, the Secretary, after briefly summing up in an interrogatory the iniquitous features of the “right of search,” so strictly maintained by the British, said: “If I decide this case in favor of my own Government, I must disallow its most cherished principles, and reverse and forever abandon its essential policy. The country cannot afford the sacrifice. If I maintain these principles and adhere to that policy, I must surrender the case itself. It will be seen, therefore, that this Government could not deny the justice of the claims presented to us in this respect, upon its merits. We are asked to do to the British nation just what we have always insisted all nations ought to do unto us." The Secretary added that, if the safety of the Union required the detention of the conspirators, it would be the duty of the Government to detain them; but the condition of the rebellion, "as well as the comparative unimportance of the captured persons themselves,” he said, happily forbade him from resorting to that defense. He continued by delicately alluding to the injuries inflicted on his countrymen by the British in the past, when exercising power in the manner they now complained of, and said: “It would

1 In his dispatch to the Secretary of the Navy, Captain Wilkes said it was his determination to take possession of the Trent, and send her to Key West as a prize, for resisting the search, and carrying those " Ambassadors, whom he considered as the embodiment of dispatches ;'" but the reduced number of his officers and crew, and the large number of passengers on board bound to Europe, who would be put to great inconvenience in not being able to join the steamer from St. Thomas to Europe, “decided him to allow them to proceed." This weak point in the proceedings was noticed by the Secretary of the Navy, both in his congratulatory letter to Captain Wilkes and his Annual Report.



tell little for our claims to the character of a just and magnanimous people, if we should so far consent to be guided by the law of retaliation as to lift up buried injuries from their graves to oppose against what national consistency and the national conscience compel us to regard as a claim intrinsically right. Putting behind me all suggestions of this kind, I prefer to express my satisfaction that, by the adjustment of the present case upon principles confessed to be American, and yet, as I trust, mutually satisfactory to both of the nations concerned, a question is finally and rightly settled between them which heretofore, exhausting not only all forms of peaceful discussion, but also the arbitrament of war itself, for more than half a century alienated the two countries from each other, and perplexed with fears and apprehensions all other nations." The Secretary then announced that the four persons confined at Fort

Warren would be “cheerfully liberated," and requested Lord Lyons to indicate the time and place for receiving them. The latter ordered the British gun-boat Rinaldo to proceed to Provincetown, Massachusetts, for that purpose, where, on the 1st of January, 1862, the prisoners were delivered to the protection of the British flag. They were conveyed first to Bermuda, and then to St. Thomas, where they embarked for England, and arrived at Southampton on the 29th of the same month."

So began and ended, in the space

of eighty-three days, the event known as “the Trent affair,” which cost Great Britain ten millions of dollars for unnecessary warlike preparations, and the people of the two nations concerned four times that amount, in consequence of the derangement of their industrial operations. While the result was full of promise of good for the two nations, it was pregnant with promises of disaster to the conspirators and their cause. It was so unexpected and discouraging to them and their sympathizers in America and Great Britain, who hoped for and confidently expected a war between the two Governments that would redound to the



1 When the captives could no longer serve a political purpose for the ruling class in Great Britain, they sank into their proper insignificance, and, as a general rule, Mason was treated with courteous contempt by the public authorities and cultivated people everywhere. The Liverpool Post, imitating the severer example of the London Times, * gave the following contemptuous notice of their arrival, on wbich occasion they were almost unnoticed: “Messrs. Mason and Slidell bave arrived. Already the seven weeks' heroes have shrunk to their natural dimensions, and the apprehensions expressed by the London Times, by ourselves, and by other journals, lest they should have a triumphal reception, already seems absurd.”

• The Times, in an editorial, said they were “ about the most worthless booty” it would be possible to extract from the jaws of the American lion, for it recognized in them the leading revilers of Great Britain for many years, and the promoters of discord between the two Governments, hoping thereby to bring on war, when the opportunity for the conspirators against the Republie would be presented. The Times hoped Englishmen would let the " fellows," as it called them, alone." England would have done just as much," it said, " for two negroes.” This language produced both indignation and alarm throughout the Confederacy, for it was significant of a policy on the part of Great Britain in favor of entire non-interference. The Richmond En Lirer id, “Englanil may dishonor herself if she will. She may prove false to her duty if she choose. Thank Heaven, we are not dependent upon her, and her course will not affect ours

..... John Bull is a surly animal, we know, but such gratuitous rudeness shows a want of practical sense as well as good manners."



a Nov. 28,


& Dec, 16.

benefit of the insurgents, that they could not conceal their chagrin and disappointment. They had tried to fan the flame of discord between the Cabinets of Washington and London. In England, Liverpool was the focus of efforts in aid of the rebellion. There the friends of the conspirators held a meeting, al which was presided over by James Spence, who, for a time, was the fiscal agent of the Confederates and a bitter enemy of the Republic. On that occasion the act of Wilkes was denounced as a gross violation of the honor of the British flag, for which, according to a resolution offered by Spence, the most ample reparation should be demanded. In concert with these expressions, a sympathizing friend in the American Congress (C. L. Vallandigham, of Ohio) offered a resolution in the House of Representatives, in which the President was enjoined to maintain the position of approval and adoption by the Government (already assumed by the House) of the act of Captain Wilkes, “in spite of any menace or demand of the British Government,” and declaring that “this House pledges its full support in upholding now the honor and vindicating the courage of the Government and people of the United States against a foreign power.” “We have heard the first growl of the British lion,” said the author of the resolution, “and now let us see who will cower. The time has now come for the firmness of this House to be practically tested, and I hope there will be no shrinking."

Fortunately, better counsels prevailed in Congress, and out of it. The loyal people acquiesced in the wise decision of the Government, and soon rejoiced that it had sustained American principles in a case so tempting to a different course, for thereby the nation was amazingly strengthened. This act of the Government was warmly commended by the best men in Europe, and gratified those powers who, like the United States, had been in vain endeavoring to persuade England to a righteous and unselfish course concerning the sacred rights of neutrals. M. Thouvenal, the French Minister for Foreign Affairs, had expressed, in a confidential note to Count Mercier, the representative of France at Washington, a desire that the captives might be delivered up, in accordance with the liberal




1 The meeting was called by the following placard, posted all over the town: “OUTBAGE ON THE BRITISI Flag-THE SOUTHERN COMMISSIONERS FORCIBLY REMOVED FROM A British Mail STEAMER. A public meeting will be held in the Cotton Salesroom at three o'clock."

2 Proceedings of Congress, reported in the Congressional Globe, December 16, 1861. The resolution, by a rote of 109 to 16, was quietly disposed of by being referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. The 16 who voted against laying the resolution on the table were: Messrs. Allen, G. H. Brown, F. A. Conckling, Cox, Cravens, Haight, Holman, Morris, Noble, Nugen, Pendleton, Shier, T. B. Steele, Vallandigham, Vandaver, and C. A. White.

3 The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations (Charles Sumner) approved the action of the Government, and made it the occasion of an elaborate speech in that body. He declared that in the dispute Great Britain was “armed with American principles, which throughout our history have been constantly, deliberately, and solemnly rejected.” Speaking of the release of the prisoners, he said: “Let the rebels go.

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