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[380] opening. The usage is hardly to commence with an ultimatum—that is, to commence with the end. Ordinarily, when there has been a misunderstanding or regrettable act, especially when that act comes within a portion of the Law of Nations which is yet full of obscurity, the natural opening is to ask for explanations as to the intentions, and for reparation for what has been done, without mixing therewith an immediate menace of rupture.

It is astonishing that a demand of apology should figure in the original programme, where it was entirely out of place. Seeing such haste, and proclamation so lofty of an exigence above debate; seeing the idea of an impious war accepted with so much ease by some, and with such joy so little dissembled by others, Europe declared without ambiguity or reserve, that if England were not miraculously saved from her own undertaking—that if she went so far as to fire a cannon at the North as an ally of the South, she would tear with her own hands her principal titles to the respect of the civilized world; for from the moment that England becomes only the ally of Slave-traders, she has abdicated.

But the wisest council prevailed in Mr. Lincoln's Cabinet. A very brief examination of the case showed that the act of Captain Wilkes could, under no circumstances, be sustained; and that the surrender of the prisoners, with or without a demand from the British Government, would be only in strict conformity with the precedents which had been established by our own government. Consequently, without any regard to popular clamor, Mr. Lincoln peremptorily ordered a release of the Rebel Commissioners, who had been confined in Fort Warren, in Boston harbor; and that portion of the precious freight of which the steamer Trent had been relieved, was handed over to the British Government, much to the regret of the war party of Great Britain.

Before this had taken place, however, Mr. Sumner, who had received letters from distinguished friends of

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