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[644] government, were devoted by the latter as much to the purchase of arms and ammunition as to the creation of a naval fleet. This fleet was especially intended to make voyages; the Confederate agents, however, proposed to procure from the shipyards of Liverpool such armored vessels as might be able to cope with the ships composing the blockade squadrons of Charleston or Mobile. The Confederates counted upon the connivance of certain agents, on the sympathies of the majority in Parliament, and the indecision of the government in tolerating the violation of British neutrality. In fact, the experience of the Sumter had shown that the boats seized by the Confederates at the time of secession would be inadequate to carry on the privateer war, which was to avenge the South for the humiliation of the blockade; this required very strong vessels, with capacity for carrying large quantities of coal, a strong armament, a numerous crew, and capable, in short, of fighting the Federal gun-boats on equal terms, in case of their being brought to a stand as the Sumter was at Gibraltar.

As soon as Mr. Davis' representatives had a few millions in hand, they found every desirable facility for carrying on their military preparations. They entered into brisk competition with the Federal agents for the purchase of arms and ammunition—a traffic which was besides perfectly legitimate in itself; for if such articles could, in view of their destination, become contraband of war, which a belligerent has a right to seize on the high seas, the mere fact of their sale does not constitute an act of hostility. Their chief, concern, however, was the fitting out of ships of war. The magnificent shipyards of Messrs. Laird at Birkenhead, and the cannon-factory of Mr. Blakeley in London, were open to their orders; the banking-house of Messrs. Fraser and Trenholm assumed the agency of their financial operations; and the task of superintending the construction and armament of the vessels which were to display the Confederate flag was entrusted to Captain Bullock, a naval officer of great intelligence. The execution of this task required much skill and prudence, for the United States minister in London, Mr. Adams, was on his guard. It was hopeless to try to evade his vigilance, and that of the entire American commerce, which, stimulated by danger, was on the watch for him; what was wanted was shrewdness to deceive the

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