previous next

Doc. 148.-the English press on the fall of Fort Sumter.

Nature, or something that stands in its stead, is still strong in the Americans. They fight “willing, but with unwilling minds.” They lift the hand to strike, they wing the instrument of death, but a mysterious power averts the stroke, or blunts the edge, or deadens the blow. Are they in earnest, or are they playing at war, or dreaming that they strike, and still strike not? It sounds more like a dangerous game than a sad reality. Seven batteries breached and bombarded Fort Sumter for forty hours, burnt down its barracks, blew up several magazines, threw shells into it innumerable, and did a vast show of destruction. The fort replied with like spirit. At length it surrendered, the garrison marched out prisoners of war, and it was then found that not a man was killed or an officer wounded on either side. Many a “difficulty” at a bar has cost more bloodshed. Was this a preconcerted feat of conjuring? Were the rival Presidents saluting one another in harmless fireworks to amuse the groundlings? The whole affair is utterly inexplicable. It sounds like the battles when the coat of mail had come to its perfection, and when the only casualty, after a day's hard fighting, was a case of suffocation and a few bruises. Odin's heroes, as they renew their daily warfare, are really wounded, though their wounds are quickly healed. This is sparring with boxing-gloves — not the loaded caestus of modern warfare. It is a mere spectacle. The population and even the ladies of Charleston poured forth to see the sight. Ten thousand soldiers lined the works, watching the sport and contributing their share. Our own Cockneys have seen as much, and done as much, at Cremorne, or the Surrey Gardens, not more unscathed, and, let us hope, in not more pacific mood. But, perhaps, this is only the interchange of courtesies which in olden times preceded real war. The result is utterly different from all we are accustomed to hear of the Americans. There, “a word or a blow” has been the rule. In this case, the blow, when it does at last come, falls like snow and lights as gently as thistle-down. Surely it cannot be a “cross” ? If it be, half the old Union is in the conspiracy, for all are arming and rushing to war, as if they expected serious work.

What next? An attempt to recapture Fort Sumter? A contest for Fort Pickens? A struggle for the Capital? A. diversion in Texas? A renewal of negotiations? No one knows, and, what is worse, no one credits President Lincoln for any plan. We can only compare the two sides, and strike a balance. In the North there is an army and a navy, and money, and a more numerous white population, without, too, the incubus of Slavery. There is also the tradition of the Union, the Capitol, and the successor of Washington. Modern warfare cannot go on without money, and the Northern States can more easily raise and spend a hundred millions of dollars a year than the Southern can raise ten millions. All that is outside, and material, is in favor of the North. It has the preponderance of every thing that can be counted, measured, and weighed, that can be bought and sold; that can be entered in legers and put on a balance-sheet. It has the manufactories, the building yards, the dockyards,--the whole apparatus of national wealth and strength. It has the money market, and it borrows more easily than the South, where, however, political zeal sustains a fictitious credit. So, in the North we read of numerous gatherings of State forces — of many steamers chartered, stripped of their finery, filled with soldiers' food and ammunition, and steaming southward. So much for the North. In the South, on the contrary, there is little or nothing but that which often becomes the counter-balance to every thing else. There are the men of action, who can combine, conspire, keep the secret, have a plan, and carry it out without wavering or flinching. The politicians at Washington have been vacillating between peace and war, between compromise and resistance. In the South there has been one steady, uninterrupted progress toward secession and war. To the very last, President Lincoln has been behindhand. His ships, sent to relieve Fort Sumter, only arrived in time to be distant spectators of the scene; they came, in fact, but to contribute to the glory of the captors, and to bring shame and distrust on themselves and their cause. If this is to be an omen of the result, the rich and unready North will be no match for the fiery forwardness of the South.

But long shots are very different from close quarters. A fight of batteries across a river, watched with telescopes, and quietly witnessed by a large population, affords little clue for the result of a battle, hand to hand, step by step, with revolvers, knives, and what not, round the very building of the Capitol. That appears to be the thing next apprehended, and President Lincoln has summoned to his aid all the miscellaneous local corps of the several Northern States that may choose to hear him. Strange [229] that the spot once held so sacred and so carefully insulated from local or partial associations, should become the object of the first civil war! That is, indeed, what we have come to. Many of us remember, not without a tingle of shame for our own country, the wanton attack of the British army on the Capitol, and the foolish injuries done there, destined to be more than avenged. This was but a souvenir of the old War of Independence. No British officer would have dared to insult the shrine of American union and liberty, had it not been felt that, besides the question then at issue, there was an account still to settle for the former war. Since the year 1812, there has been a generation of mutual respect — of even affection. That is all gone by. Other combatants gather round Washington. The War Minister of the Southern Confederacy publicly promises that the Secession flag shall float over the Capitol by the 1st of May. Any day it is expected that Virginia, whether by choice or necessity, will join the Secession, and then the sacred district of Columbia, which was to have been the common ground of the world's great brotherhood, will be the debateable border of a divided allegiance and a bloody quarrel. Meanwhile time brings round anniversaries, which are celebrated as of yore, but with the feeling that they are now a solemn mockery. What are the Declaration of Independence, the Battle of Lexington, the Birthday of Clay, and the other red-letter days in the American Calendar, now that the glorious fabric is itself in the dust, and the mountain made with hands shattered to pieces? It was but the other day, that all eyes were fixed on the Capital of the Old World as the single object of interest, and the expected scene of the great events that were to mark the latter years of this century. Rome occupied the attention of all men. A hundred questions were asked, but all were of Rome. Will Rome be still a Capital? Will it be the head of a Confederation, or the throne of a King, or the seat of a foreign Viceroy, or the See of a Universal Bishop, or the Senate of a National Republic? Before these questions could be answered, and while they are still asked, the Capital of the New World comes to the foreground, and is the object of much the same inquiries. The two cities of Rome and Washington are not so differently situated at this moment, nor are their prospects so different as might be. For the present, indeed, we shall all think more of Washington than of Rome.--London Times, April 27.

We have at last the intelligence that hostilities have broken out between the Federal Government and the Southern States. Fort Sumter has fallen, after what is described as a gallant resistance on the part of Major Anderson and his force, of forty hours duration. But, singular enough — and fortunate as it is singular — during this protracted cannonade, in the course of which some 1,700 rounds of shot and shell were fired by both parties, not one single man was killed on either side, and it is doubtful whether any one has been wounded. This bloodless conclusion of the first encounter, taken in connection with the circumstances which preceded and followed it, seems to indicate that there is no very bitter or rancorous feeling on either side, and favors the hope that a good deal of the pent — up irritation of the Southerners has found vent in the first and comparatively harmless passage of arms. From the correspondence between General Beauregard and Major Anderson immediately before the forts opened fire, it was quite obvious that bloodshed was not intended, and that the commander of Fort Sumter, in resisting the demand to evacuate, stood simply on a point of honor, and, in returning the fire of the Secessionists, only desired to justify himself to his Government, and remove the impression which his passive conduct appears to have created at Washington. We say all this is to be gathered from the correspondence in question, and derives confirmation from the fact that, immediately after Major Anderson hauled down his flag, he proceeded to Charleston, where he became the guest of General Beauregard. It is further observable that, although there were ships of war under the orders of the Federal Government, in the offing, no attempt was made to relieve Fort Sumter, nor when the commander commenced to reply to: the Secessionists' fire. The excitement both at Charleston and at Washington is described as intense; but it would seem the feeling has not reached the occupants of the White House, who, and more especially the President, are said to be calm and composed. Neither has the news from the South, notwithstanding its gravity, produced any thing like a panic at New York. The stocks generally receded, it is true, but the Government Securities are reported to have been firmly held--a fact in itself of sufficient significance, as indicating confidence in the proceedings of the Administration. The suspension of business in Wall street was the natural consequence of the report of the actual outbreak of hostilities, but the absence of any thing approaching to a panic could not fail to be regarded as a proof that the mercantile community, at least, do not regard civil war with all its horrors, as inevitable, or that the general interruption of trade is the necessary consequence of the existing state of things. Nevertheless, notwithstanding the reluctance of the Federal Government to resort to hostilities, it is obvious that they are prepared to take a determined stand against the Secessionists, wherever the rights or property of the Union are attacked. It rests, therefore, with the Southern Convention to say whether they are disposed to listen to terms, or whether they are prepared to persevere in the course they have adopted, regardless of the consequences.--London Shipping Gazette, April 26.

The fall of Fort Sumter must soon, we fear, if we may rely at all on the drift of the recent [230] news, issue in civil war. The rumor that the Southern Confederation intends to anticipate an attack by moving upon Washington, is scarcely likely to be true, for President Davis is too sagacious a man to take a step which would so enrage the North as to induce it to enter heart and soul into an internecine contest with the South. If he were wise, indeed, he would not have ventured any active collision at all, such as has taken place at Charleston. It would have been better to trust exclusively to blockade for the reduction of the Federal garrisons in the revolted States. The moral shock of any collision is most dangerous, as the accounts of the frantic excitement in Washington, on the arrival of the news of the collision at Fort Sumter and the surrender of Major Anderson, sufficiently prove. It is true that American rage even at its highest pitch usually manages to stop short where policy would direct, and that we in England are exceedingly liable to be deceived by its effervescent symptoms. Still there is now the gravest reason to apprehend a serious civil war; indeed all the Free States seem already to have intimated to the President, through the telegraph, their readiness to support a war policy; and, if it is prevented at all, it will only be by the unwillingness of the northern statesmen to risk the adhesion of the border States by an actual invasion. But if the Southern States should, as is rumored, be so foolish as to take the initiative by invading Washington, they would play directly into the hands of the extreme party in the North. All compunction would immediately be at an end, and in all probability the border States would themselves be induced by such a step to fight with the North. The situation is very similar to the attitude of Austria and Sardinia. The neutrals will inevitably throw their influence into the scale of the party attacked. Mr. Lincoln, as far as his own popularity and political position are concerned, can wish for nothing better than to be relieved by his antagonist of the responsibility of a decision. His difficulty has hitherto been, that the great power and wealth of the North have been passive and reluctant to foment a fratricidal strife. But let once the slave States take the guilt upon themselves, as in some degree they have already done, and Mr. Lincoln would find his hands strengthened and his cause enthusiastically supported by a power such as does not exist in the Southern States at all. We do not believe, then, in the reported invasion of Washington. A course so blind and insane is utterly inconsistent with the general ability shown by the Southern Government. But we do fear that the strife and defeat at Charleston will render it very difficult for Mr. Lincoln, in the attitude in which he now stands, to evade some attempt at reprisal, and that thus a regular war may soon break out.

Under these grave circumstances it is that Mr. Gregory proposes to ask the House of Commons on Tuesday next to affirm the expediency of an immediate recognition of the Southern Confederation. We can imagine no course more disgraceful to England, or less likely to command the assent of the popular body appealed to. Not that we desire to see a civil war in America, even though the North should be completely triumphant. We have often said that, unless there were a Union party in the Southern States considerable enough to make some head even without external assistance, the defeat of the newly-confederated States by the North could scarcely lead to any good result. It would be mere military conquest; and a power like the American Union cannot hope to hold together its territory by military force. And seeing that there is, unhappily, but little trace of a powerful Unionist minority among the seceded States, we cannot wish to see a fratricidal strife which would multiply indefinitely the mutual hatreds of North and South without solving the ultimate difficulty. But this is not the question for us to consider. It has been England's universal rule to acknowledge a de facto revolutionary government whenever it has established its practical independence by incontrovertible proofs — then and not sooner. Whatever be the wisdom or folly of the war, which there is but too much reason to believe is now declared between the Federal Government at Washington and the revolted States--it is not yet begun, or is only just beginning — there can be no question whatever of the constitutional right of President Lincoln to treat the hostile confederation as a treasonable rebellion, which, so far as it trenches on Federal property and laws, he may resist by force. This is his present attitude. He hopes, however little we may hope, to suppress the rebellion. He thinks, however little we may think, that he shall be able to enforce the laws enacted at Washington, and to redeem the United States property from the hands of the seceders. This may be sanguine; nay, it, may even be a mere hallucination. With that we have nothing to do. We profess always to abstain from judging the rights of a quarrel between a people and its rulers, and to guide our conduct by the plain results of political fact. We are now on the eve of seeing what these results will be. Either war or compromise seems now inevitable. If it be compromise, we shall know how to act. If it be war, we are bound to await the results of that war. A premature recognition of the Southern Confederation would be a departure from the recognized course of England, and could not but therefore express a political bias in favor of the seceders.--London Economist.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)
hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Abraham Lincoln (7)
Robert Anderson (4)
G. T. Beauregard (2)
George Washington (1)
Odin (1)
Samuel N. Gregory (1)
Doc (1)
Jefferson Davis (1)
Cassius M. Clay (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
1812 AD (1)
May 1st (1)
April 27th (1)
April 26th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: