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[60] I submitted the proposal, in a letter to the Hon. G. A. Trenholm, who referred it, as I believe,1 to Montgomery. The total cost of buying, arming, and fitting-out the ten ships was estimated at two millions of pounds, to put the fleet on the coast ready for action; a sum which would have been covered by forty thousand bales of cotton, out of the three or four millions of bales which the government had, at that time, under their hand, and which would not have cost them, at 6d. in their own currency, more than two millions of dollars. There would have been little or no difficulty in getting the ships to sea. The Foreign Enlistment Act had not then—and, indeed, never has been—authoritatively interpreted to mean that a neutral may not sell an unarmed ship to a belligerent: all that was required was commercial caution and coolness, and naval skill and address; all these were at hand, and there is no room for reasonable doubt that, within six months at furthest of the acceptance of the offer being received on this side, the fleet would have appeared off Boston and swept the coast thence to the Gulf, an achievement which would have compelled the prompt recognition of our government on this side, and the speedy triumph of our cause. I have always understood that the proposition was considered and rejected by the Confederate government, but I never had any communication from them on the subject. Although much disappointed at this result, so convinced was I of the value of the ships that I determined to retain my hold upon them as long as possible, to prevent their being sold elsewhere, and in hope that other counsels would prevail at home before it was too late. By means of negotiations which it is not necessary to detail here, I did succeed in retaining control of them until the occurrence of the “Trent outrage;” when the British government, requiring immediately ships of this class for transportation of troops and war-material to Canada, the owners broke off the negotiations with me, and got the ships, or many of them, employed in this service, in which they remained until there was no further need of them.

This is a correct and simple statement of the facts which are (as far as regards this side of the water) necessarily known better to myself than to any other living person, and concerning which my memory is perfectly clear and reliable. It occupied my mind almost exclusively for some time, and I built the highest hopes upon the success of the scheme. It is true many of the ships were of too great draught of water to enter some of our ports, but that was a matter of comparatively little importance. What was wanted, in my view, was the moral effect which would have been produced everywhere by such a blow as could have been struck by even half of the whole number; an effect which I have always, and will always believe, would have gone very far towards determining, if it had not entirely reversed, the result of the struggle.

I am, dear General,

Yours very truly,


1 The proposal was referred, as we have seen, through Mr. W. L. Trenholm.

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