Confederate diplomacy. [from the Sunday News, Charleston, S. C., July 17, 1904.]The opposition our Representatives faced in Europe.
Mr. John Witherspoon Dubose Reviews the failure of Confederate diplomacy.He appears to think that the result May have been different had the masterly statecraft of the Hon. R. Barnwell Rhett been Adopted—The Queen, Prince Albert, Palmerston. Cobden and bright for the North, and the negroes, while the Tories warmly approved the cause of the South—The status of France and the views of Napoleon—Sharp criticism of President Davis and his Cabinet.
Was it ever before that a nation at its birth was ready with a million young horsemen to ride across its borders as Forrest and Morgan and Mosby rode, gathering arms and blankets and horses for wider range of unparalleled enterprise in the enemy's territory? Was ever invaded nation firm in its foundations to drive back the million young horsemen from the farms of the South! When Robert Barnwell Rhett in masterly statecraft, at the outset, would prepare compensatory treaty rights for the commercial powers of Western Europe in Confederate ports, thus to hold them safe from hostile blockade; and when this measure of statecraft was refused by the Confederate government, the act of refusal became tantamount to the use of a policy of military defence of thousands of miles of Southern coast, impossible of success, yet a policy wherein the Confederate soldier was shorn of his peculiar prowess in war and whereby an exhaustive draft was made upon the army for garrison forces. The government of the Confederacy lost no time in entering a a field of diplomacy of its own devising, a sentimental appeal to an unwilling world. The Confederate States made prompt advances for admission of the most refined free government that had ever  lived into the family circle of hereditary monarchies, but it brought in its pure hands no temptation to the avarice of the old monarchies. It appeared with long scroll of argument in its pure hands, going to prove to ancient kingdoms that the only hope for free institutions in America lay in the length and safety of its own precious life. That was all of Confederate diplomacy—all, from first to last, brief as the time. The young slave republic, the offspring of a dismembered government at peace with all Europe, and which, if let alone, would go, full sail, into the sphere of monarchial conditions—the young republic mounted the pedestal of natural right, and with the curl of virtuous scorn upon its lip challenged the monarchial world to turn from the spectacle if it could!
Four Ememies of the South.Lord Palmerston, the Whig premier of England, an octogenarian, who had been a personal disciple of Wilberforce in his youth and who had brought down to his present life and office the enthusiasm then inspired by the great emancipator, heard with a smile of incredulity the solemn plea of the Confederacy at the Court of St. James. John Bright and Richard Cobden, the venerable premier's lieutenants, had hardly composed themselves from the exciting sympathy with which they had watched the campaign Abraham Lincoln for the Presidency. The German Prince-Consort, too, Albert, was near to carry into the predicate of Confederate recognition the national German morbidity of hate against slavery. Albert died soon, yet not before he had developed his stand for the side of the United States in the American conflict. For years after her husband's death, the Queen lived in a melancholy, and he would be a rash minister who should approach her Majesty with suggestion of variance with her dead husband's known policy.
The Queen follows Albert's prejudices.It was not new or recently excited prejudice that the Confederacy met at the Court of St. James. The amiable Victoria in her happiest years had been offended to hear the truth of the Southern States. She had retired from her household the chosen companion of her childhood, the constant associate of her domestic life and the favorite among her four maids of honor, Miss Amelia Murray. The tale so simple, now so ominous, had been long told to the  world. Miss Murray made a tour of the United States, from North to South, accompanied alone by her English maid. She came in the time of the Kansas agitation and being informed in public affairs, wrote voluminously in private letters to friends in England of party politics as she observed them in Congress and elsewhere. She wrote critically of American society, its customs and the sectional lines that separated what was good North from what was good South. Gradually approaching slave States, the tourist accepted proffered hospitality of the planters and visited plantations. The tone of her original Wilberforcean prejudices began to moderate as information reached her mind of practical conditions concerning the Southern plantation and its African bondsmen. The truly valuable letters of Miss Murray were published. The delightful literature proved an offence in the Royal Court. The revelation of truth on the Southern plantations published from the household of the Queen of England whose government, directed by her husband, was even then engaged in vigorous efforts to put down the surviving slave trade in English bottoms with Spanish-American islanders and Brazil, was bad politics. Not only so, but the Queen's government had a rule to enter upon no new treaty of amity and commerce which failed to commit the signatures alike to suppression of the African slave trade. Miss Murray's published reports of Southern plantations were an unwelcome information and must needs suffer a positive royal repudiation in her dismissal from the semi-political post she had so long adorned. The Southern Confederacy, nevertheless, had already taken the most advanced step open to it against an indefinite expansion of the institution of slavery. The Secession Convention of Alabama had led in the movement which culminated in a proviso of the Federal Constitution forever forbidding the introduction of slaves into the Confederacy from any foreign country whatsoever.
The Tories were with us.But the Palmerston ministry resolved from the outset upon an unfriendly policy toward the Southern Confederacy. The Tory party, dividing almost evenly with the Whigs, met the ministry on the issue. The London Times earnestly supported the Tories and the South. At Liverpool, Manchester and in London voluntary associations of the higher classes were formed to express in practical methods their sympathy with the South. Rich men offered money to army hospitals of the Confederacy, competent writers  published paragraphs and authors wrote bound volumes arguing for the South, members of Parliament from their seats prodded the ministry for its shirking policy toward the South. The Tories were as much our friends as if they had been of us, on the land. While the Southern sympathizers in England were thus busy in practical ways at home, they did not fail to approach Napoleon III in their urgency of the Southern cause. The Emperor of France was a willing listener. He took up the cause of the South through formal channels of diplomacy with England. He held interviews with English members of Parliament, committing himself to the most advanced suggestions of co-operation with their own Government for the recognition and support of the independence of the Confederacy. He urged them to force the British ministry to favorable action. Robert Barnwell Rhett, deputy from South Carolina, had given the subject of Government for the South the study of an acute and philosophic mind for more than the life of a generation. He took his seat at Montgomery well prepared with an outline of foreign policy for the young republic which he had done so much to make possible. Mr. Rhett's suggestion was founded upon certain accomplished facts of daily experience in the relations of the commerce of the slave States to European trade. The export commerce of the slave States in raw material was the richest in the world. The official report of the fiscal year ending June 30, 1859, gave the exports initiating in the slave States at $188,693,490 and the exports initiating in the free States at $5,281,091. England was both the chief ocean carrier and the chief manufacturer of the main subject of Southern commerce, cotton. The industries of France were also largely involved in the carrying trade and the manufacture of Southern raw material.
The Rhett scheme.Upon the demonstrated value of Southern commerce and the historical record of Southern civil and military character, Rhett's object of a foreign diplomacy rested. The Rhett scheme was, to proceed without a moment's delay to assail the well-known antislavery prejudice and fanatacism of the Palmerston ministry on the moral aspect of Southern slavery with an irresistible temptation of treaty stipulation into the interest of English commerce and manufactures known to be generally controlled by Whigs and abolitionists. The Rhett scheme would pledge the trade of England and  France special advantages and privileges in Confederate ports; for example, a tariff rate for twenty years, not to exceed 20 per cent. ad valorem, and certain fixed port charges not to exceed the cost of maintenance. It was not pretended that the suggestion of special and compensatory terms of commercial treaty in the premises was original. On the contrary, the terms were recommended as proven by the treaties of the United States with France and England in the revolution. The policy of Rhett was a practical confronting of an emergency; the refusal of his policy without a substitute in any degree was a sentiment without an apology. Did the rejection of Rhett's scheme of foreign alliance give promise of any uncommon exertion of vigor in the Confederate government within the limits of its own resources? The inexplicable situation was laid open by the act of rejection, the diverting of the Federal government of seceded States from control of the political school that had long resisted the invention. Secessionists had called the government into existence upon an argument all their own; Unionists immediately rose to the administration and held it firmly until the end. Perhaps an intrepid spirit for hazards revealed itself in the conduct of the men who had been 10th to the last moment to enter upon so daring an enterprise as the erection of the new republic. It is enough to say the leading secessionists of 1860-61 lost control of the Confederate government at the outset. If discernment was to be used, if opportunity was to be seized, if influence was to be reckoned on, the founders of the Confederacy had no voice in the situation. Whether the road to the Confederacy was straight or devious, the one significant thing was, it led to the goal which the road builders were denied.
John C. Calhoun, seeing the end of his own availability approaching, prophesied that the young Senator from Mississippi, then on crutches from the field of Buena Vista, would be the master spirit in the ripening movement to confederate under one government the slave States. Calhoun died in the belief that the Senator intended his eloquent defence of the right of secession and his eloquent portrayal of the perils which beset the slave States should lead to the remedy of secession. But the President of the Southern Confederacy never approved the secession  movement. Mr. Davis was, perhaps never quite understood. The hand of the Confederate government denied the predicate of preference to the men from whose brains and hearts the Southern movement had been nourished into complete system. In the years of opportunity from foreign diplomacy, the Secretary of State was Judah P. Benjamin, a Whig and Unionist in the period when tariffs and free trade were contending American theories; the Secretary of War was James A. Seddon, by whose order General Johnston was retired from command, the second army in strength then destroyed, and Seddon had been earnestly opposed to the formation of the Confederacy long after President Davis took the oath at Montgomery; the Secretary of the Treasury, Christopher G. Memminger, was a lifelong and active opponent of the Calhoun doctrine and he was put in office against the declared judgment of the President that Robert Toombs, secessionist, was the ablest financier among all American public men. It is not worth while to say these officers were all faithful; they were all failures. The axiom remains unimpeached, that statecraft is the intellectual product of an ideal. Without the ideal there is no statecraft. Statecraft involving the efficiency of the Confederate war office did not suggest John A. Campbell for Assistant Secretary of War, yet Campbell held the place until the end in the face of his avowal to the President that he had no sympathy with the motives of the Confederacy. (Letter of Campbell to Judge Curtis.) The Senator from Georgia, Benjamin H. Hill, was notoriously the friend and counsellor of Mr. Davis, yet within thirty days of the meeting of the Confederate Congress at Montgomery, Mr. Hill had denounced bitterly the Southern movement. There was never a day when he either expected or desired the Confederacy to live. (Life and Speeches of B. H. Hill, by his son.)
Mr. Davis and his wife, purporting to relate the tale of the rise and fall of the Confederacy and the parts acted by many persons, contains the name of Robert Barnwell Rhett, William L. Yancey, Louis T. Wigfall and their associated secessionists. The massive volumes leave a perfect hiatus between the lucid accounts of the incorporation of the States' rights principle in the Federal system of the United States and the application of the principle in the perfected  Confederate government. Who prepared the people through long years of public discussion, and what the motive of final action, the many books omit to tell. We are denied the simplicity of facts, for the gratification of a patriotic desire to find the men and their motives who built a government which sought to live among the nations.
Yancey's fruitless mission.In March, 1861, the Confederate commissioners in Europe, Wm. L. Yancey, President, and F. A. Rost and A. Dudley Mann, Associate Commissioners, with their accomplished young Secretary, Mr. Fearn, of Huntsville, Ala., sailed out of the port of Charleston. Orders were obeyed. Mr. Yancey made Southern rights' speeches and all talked to the kind people who received them into their confidence, of the inherent virtue of the Confederate cause. Yancey had no confidence when he left home in his mission. ‘Don't go to Europe, if you value your reputation,’ his frieuds warned him. Having exhausted the field of his instructions, he asked to be called home. The request was reluctantly granted by his government. He was too fluent a talker to be spared. The others remained. Mr. John M. Mason, long a distinguished Senator from Virginia, and Mr. John Slidell, a native of New York, long a Senator from Louisiana, were sent out to the Court of St. James and St. Cloud respectively.
Mr. Slidell, passed uninterrupted through the blockade at Charleston and at Havana boarded her Britanic Majesty's mail ship Trent, plying between Vera Cruz, Mexico, and Southampton. Mr. Seward, Secretary of State, had determined from the beginning of the war to bluff England and alarm her ministry. Among the first of his unrelaxing acts in this line was the capture of Messrs. Mason and Slidell under the British flag on the high seas off the coast of Cuba. Seward held his finger firmly on the pulse of Palmerston's timid government. When the time came, he surrendered the commissioners to a British ship in the harbor of Boston, and in February, 1862, they were landed at Liverpool. Early in February, 1862, Mr. Mason delivered informally Secretary Hunter's message to the British ministry. There was absolutely nothing in it beyond the stale argument Yancey had left behind him, that secession was not revolution in the American system, that  the Southern people were not in rebellion; that the success of the South in the war was inevitable; that the Southern people would never return to the Union; that there were vast stores of cotton on the plantations, which an enterprising neutral could have for the asking. In the retirement of his later years President Davis recounted the success of the first commissioners, as he had anticipated success, in these words: “Our efforts for recognition by European powers, in 1861, served to make us better known, to awaken a kindly feeling in our favor, and cause a respectful regard for the effort we were making to maintain the independence of the States which Great Britain had recognized and her people knew to be our birthright.” （Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, Vol. I, p. 469.) This, after contemplation in fact, comprehended the whole scheme of Confederate foreign diplomacy from first to last.
Tories Welcomed Mason.The Tories of England received Commissioner Mason with open arms. They flocked to his apartments to welcome him and to applaud his country. They escorted him to a seat in the galleries of Parliament, that he might hear with his own ears how they prodded the ministry and shamed it. They carried him to their country homes to see their kennels and their stables and to look upon their balls. ‘They are the same people here as in old Virginia,’ wrote Mason to his wife. The Lord Mayor invited him to attend the grand annual dinner. He was there called upon to speak and his speech was tumultuously applauded. Commissioner Mason took up the question of blockade with the English ministry, to the limited extent that the ministry would hear him. England had insisted that the Confederate States should informally accede to the Paris Convention; and this Paris Convention had committed the powers that signed it to the proposition that: (1) Blockade by belligerents must be effective; (2) That blockade once raised, even for an hour, could not be restored without notice to neutrals.
The blockade inefficient.Mr. Mason showed to the British minister conclusively that in the second year of the war the blockade of the Confederate ports was not effective; that a lively trade continually passed through the blockade, so called; that, for instance, 100 vessels and more had  passed through the Confederate ports laden with incoming and outgoing merchandise in the three months only of the winter of 1861-62. The commissioner further showed the British Secretary for foreign affairs that in lieu of a port blockade which it had failed ignominiously to maintain, the United States government had established a line of patrol ships at sea in front of the various Confederate ports, and that the captures of several neutral vessels, made in their attempts to trade with the Confederacy, were actually captures made upon the high seas, and not in the harbors or within the Confederate jurisdiction. These, therefore, were unlawful prizes and were a direct insult and injury to neutral commerce.
Commissioner Slidell was active in Paris. He persuaded M. Thouvenal, the French Secretary of Foreign Affairs, to obtain permission from the Emperor for Messrs. Lindsay and Roebuck, members of the British Parliament, to see him in the interest of the Confederacy. The Emperor cheerfully received the visitors, Mr. Slidell also being present. The interview was prolonged at the Emperor's insistence. He authorized the Englishmen to prepare Parliament for any advanced movement in favor of the South, even to a break up of the Whig government that stood in the way, and he would promptly and effectively join it. Mr. Lindsay explained at length to the Emperor that the battle of the United States was not really for the maintenance of a Union from which slavery should be eliminated, but for the maintenance of a Union which would abolish the revenue tariff and in lieu restore the Clay-American system, or protective duties for the benefit of the commerce and manufacturers of the North. He showed that as imports are paid for by exports, and as the imports of the South were great and of the North small, the South really paid three-fourths of the Federal revenues, only to be denied an equitable disbursement of the collection. The Emperor admitted the probable correctness of Mr. Lindsay's views, and reiterated his readiness to join England in recognition of the Confederacy at once and to sustain that proceeding at all cost. ‘Why not advance to that step alone, may I ask your Majesty?’ inquired Lindsay. ‘Ah, what then becomes of my fleet off Vera Cruz?’ was the reply. While the commissioners were thus employed Moncure D. Conway, a Virginian of extraordinary ability, who had in his youth gone North to enlist with Garrison, Phillips, Mrs. Howe and the  most radical of the abolitionists, advertised in London that he would lecture in that city under the auspices of Mr. John Bright, and that the object of his lecture was to give moral support to a party in the United States that would rise up and coerce the Lincoln administration, to stop the war, and concede the independence of the Confederacy. Conway sent Commissioner Mason a ticket to his lecture.
The blockade twice broken.Again and again the Confederate Commissioners urged upon England and France the rights of their governments under the terms of the Paris Convention. It was shown that now in the third year of the alleged blockading, Flag Officer Ingraham, of the Confederate navy, had attacked the blockading squadron off Charleston, destroyed some of its vessels, and entirely dispersed the others from view. The next winter, it may not be amiss at this place to say, Captain Dixon and crew ran the submarine torpedo boat Hunley, the first boat of the kind known to naval warfare, under the blockader Housatonic, a powerful warship, off the harbor of Charleston. The Housatonic and all on board, about 400 persons, went to the bottom, carrying the Hunley with it. Every blockader, taking fright, fled, and the port was open for several days. At the same season in which Ingraham opened the port of Charleston, Semmes opened Galveston. But neither England or France enforced the terms of the Paris Convention. In the winter of 1862-63 the improvised navy of the Confederacy destroyed eleven warships of the United States, while the Alabama and the Sumter drove the merchant marine of the enemy off the high seas.
Pressing need for firearms.Among those in high place, early impressed with the importance of foreign sympathy and trade, especially in the matter of procuring arms for the Confederacy, was the first Secretary of War, General Leroy Pope Walker. The Secretary suffered a rare experience. He was so beset by importunate captains of companies to receive their commands into the army that he found it essential to his personal comfort to reach his office in Montgomery by the back way to avoid the importunities of the soldiers. He made a requisition on his government for 150,000 foreign rifles, but was shut off with 25,000. The government did nevertheless promptly select a purchasing agent, and ordered him to Europe with full discretionary  power to buy arms and army equipments. The person selected was an old army officer, who had been detailed as drill master and commandant at the University of Alabama, a young man, Captain Caleb Huse, of Massachusetts. Captain Huse was a graduate of West Point, and a good soldier, but citizens and prudent soldiers thought General Beauregard, with a competent staff, must have been a more serviceable officer to have sent abroad on so vital a responsibility. As the sequel proved, when General Joseph E. Johnston, soon after the First Manassas, proposed to invade the North as the necessary strategy of war, President Davis assured him the War Department had not the arms needed. The President said, with apparently deep feeling, that he had tried to get arms, but had failed, and he did not know when he could get them. So about the same time, when General Albert Sidney Johnston, had recruited and put in camp ten or twelve thousand volunteers for the Western army, the Secretary of War ordered the camps broken np and the men returned home for want of arms. In all that time, and for months after, Capt. Huse was receiving only $250 or about that sum, a month from his Government to use in his duty, but having made known to friends of the Confederacy in London his urgent need, Sir Isaac Campbell loaned him half a million dollars on his private account and his cargo of much needed arms sailed. The Confederacy needed a currency and manufactured one. Did the abortive effort fairly represent the opportunities of the government? There was much of foreign sympathy rejected in the proceeding. We shall see that ‘cotton’ bonds of the Confederacy, marketed in England and France were almost 100 per cent. higher than the bonds of the United States at the same period. I well remember that Vice-President Stephens in conversation remarked to me, in the war time, that the Confederacy with a little more business tact in the finances, might establish ‘the strongest paper currency in the world,’ referring to the uses that might be made of credit, founded on cotton, by the Treasury Department.
‘Cotton obligations.’The Confederate cruiser Alabama, was built for the government at Birkenhead, on the Mersey, by a firm of Laird, a member of Parliament, was a member. The cost was $250,000 and the firm rejected offers from the Secretary of the Navy, at Washington, to  build several war ships for the United States. They would have built others for the Confederacy, because it paid good prices. In September, 1862, Commissioner Mason wrote to his government that twenty or twenty-five millions could be had for its uses for ‘cotton obligations.’ Now the income of the United States, in 1860, was about $75,000,000 only. At a single draft our government was able to command one-third that sum. ‘Cotton obligations’ of the government consisted in a simple pledge of honor to deliver so many pounds of lint, at a price named, at a convenient seaport within the Confederate limits, within three calendar months after the arrival of peace. So attractive to foreign money lenders were the ‘cotton obligations’ that Mr. Erlanger, of the private banking firm of Erlanger & Co., Paris, made his way through the blockade to Richmond to urge the authorities there to sell large blocks of this character for gold delivered in London.
Two hundred and fifty thousand ‘Union’ Hessians.The Union States, pending these incidents of Confederate financiering, was selling bonds in Germany and devoting the proceeds to bounties to German subjects to enter its army. Approximately a quarter of a million stout Germans flocked to save the Union upon their bounties. At the same period the United States had agents in Ireland recruiting soldiers to come to the rescue of the Union on promise that the scanty farm at home, crippled with tithings and landlords exactions, should be replaced with many fruitful American acres as a free gift. Then, too, to fill out the quota of soldiers, school teachers and others of both sexes came from New England to Southern rice and cotton plantations to recruit negro troops, and of these some 241,000 were armed and mustered into the ranks of the Union army. What the United States bonds brought on the market in Europe is immaterial. They sold as low as 40 cents on the dollar in Wall street.
The South Borrows $15,000,000.Under date ‘Richmond, January 15, 1863,’ Secretary of State Benjamin wrote to Commissioner Mason: ‘The agents of Messrs. Erlanger & Co. arrived a few days before your dispatches and were quite surprised to find their proposals were considered inadmissible. They very soon discovered how infinitely stronger we were and how much more abundant our resources than they had imagined. We  finally agreed with them to take fifteen millions instead of twenty-five millions which they offered.’ The 7 per cent. bonds of the government were taken at 77. The Secretary said the government took the money really because Mr. Slidell advised the step to assist the negotiations for recognition of France. At that very time, when the government wanted no money, the Ordnance Department was drawing the copper to make percussion caps from old distillery outfits in North Carolina and the commanding generals stood aghast at the long line of shoeless, ragged men in their ranks. The Erlanger loan was placed in London with immediate and astonishing success. March 3, 1863, Mr. Erlanger had returned and the first offering of $5,000,00 appeared on Lombard street. Before the day closed $10,000,000 had been subscribed and the premium was 5 per cent. When the aggregate of bids for the entire loan of $15,000,000 was summed up $75,000,000 had been subscribed.
Mr. Colin J. McRae, a successful cotton factor of Mobile, to Europe as its financial agent. McRae soon sent home a protest against the neglect of his government in failure to make proper control of the blockade running business. He found the Liverpool market fairly well supplied with cotton, brought through by private enterprise. He earnestly urged that the government should take charge of the blockade running and control the commerce to its own advantage. He gave as one reason for his counsel information that much cotton escaped the blockade direct for the port of New York. Two splendid iron ships of war for the Confederacy were completed on the Clyde by Captain Bulloch. The other brother, Captain Bulloch (both uncles of President Roosevelt) arrived in London to take command of one, for work against the enemy, and Commodore Matthew F. Maury arrived to take command of the other. Ambassador Charles Francis Adams discovered the approaching readiness of the ships to put to sea. The American minister again played his old game of bluff successfully. He at once called on Earl Russell, her Majesty's Secretary for Foreign Affairs, and demanded the sailing of the ships should be promptly forbidden. The banker, George Peabody, agreed to put up the $5,000,000 gold that Russell required, to indemnify his government, and the ships were thrown out of the Confederate possession at once,  before leaving their docks. All ships building in Europe on account of the Confederates then ceased. The Southern cause was dead in Europe.