Table of Contents:
The American Revolution.By the arrival of the Cunard mail steamship American at New York, on the 24th inst., we have European mails of the 7th instant, with files of papers to that date. We give below some very interesting extracts, bearing upon the all-absorbing topic which occupies the public mind at this time:
President Davis's Message in England.The principal intelligence conveyed by the Edinburg from America consists in the message of the President of the Southern Confederation, and we are glad to notice the friendly tone in which it treats of the relations of the South with this country, while we are embarked in a critical negotiation with the North; and while we are also about to enter upon our intervention in Mexico, a country bordering upon the Southern States. This is, in fact, the only satisfactory and significant information that the present American packet has brought. The ‘"Trent question"’ remains in statu quo. The opinion of the law officers of the Washington Cabinet, which is now repeated, had reached us by the Persia on Monday last; but the popular excitement which the question had provoked appears to have in some measure cooled down. For the moment, therefore, Southern politics arrest our chief attention. The Message of President Davis to the Southern Congress is, in our judgment, the more satisfactory for the firm and determined attitude in which it confronts the Unionist party and the Cabinet of Washington; for if we concede the conquest of the South be next to impossible, it is by the exhibition of Southern strength rather than of Southern weakness that peace is to be restored between the two belligerents. President Davis recounts that throughout seven months of hostilities the confederates have almost uniformly held their own, and that in several instances they have thrown their opponents into a defensive attitude. President Davis is therefore fully entitled to the bold ground which he assumes when he declares that ‘"the South will be content to live at peace with the North, but that the separation is final."’ He adds that the South will accept of no compromise. He is now, perhaps for the first time, in a position to make use of this language. Indeed, one is led to ask, after the trial and exhaustion of so many designs, and the expenditure of so much money on the part of the North, what is yet to introduce decisive features into the campaign? The federals have enjoyed immense advantages in point of men and money, and also (as we showed yesterday) in drawing warlike supplies from this country, through their superior command of the sea. President Davis will no doubt derive fresh confidence when he reads the two royal proclamations which, in the latter respect, have now placed the North and South on a footing of equality. But there has been scarcely a single State over run by the Northern army during the whole course of the campaign, and it is much questioned whether the naval expeditions of the federal government to Hatteras and Port Royal have done much more than slightly to reduce the privateering activity of the South. The assertion of the Southern President must, therefore, he admitted to be substantially true, that ‘"the reconstruction of the Union, which the Federals seek to effect by force of arms, has become more and more palpably impossible." ’ He maintains, also, that the causes which brought about the separation not only remain in full force, but have been strengthened since the civil war began. With a view of observing strict neutrality between the contending States, we have carefully refrained from officially recognizing the South; but the time has certainly arrived at which we cease altogether to believe in the possible reunion of the States, and at which we must, at all events, recognize the independent confederation of the South as an actual fact. President Davis speaks with just indignation of the seizure of his Envoys to the Courts of France and England; and there is a passage in this part of his message which throws a probable light on the distinctive mission on which Mr. Slidell and Mr. Mason were sent to Europe. He remarks, with some evident pride, that the Confederate States have been content to fight their own battle, and have solicited no assistance from foreign Powers. But he declares that they have a right to bring before Europe the question of the application of the existing blockades of their own ports to the acknowledged principle of international law, that blockades, if they are to be respected by third Powers, must be effective. He is about to represent to the European Governments, accordingly, the total inefficiency of these blockades, and to put the assertion upon evidence. It is a fair inference that this was one of the questions upon which Messrs. Slidell and Mason were sent to Europe. But there is another statement in our present American intelligence which threatens to put the blockade question in a light altogether new. It is announced that twenty-five vessels have set sail, apparently from New York, heavily loaded with stones, with the view of their being sunk at the mouth of a Southern harbor. Now, in all probability ingress or egress would be as difficult at a Southern port, with five-and-twenty sunken vessels in front of the harbor, as it was at Sebastopol, where the Russians sank several of their ships with the view of preventing the entrance of English and French vessels of war. But if the Federal Government desire by this expedient to relieve their own ships by thus blocking up Southern ports, they must be perfectly aware that there is at once an end of the blockade in every instance in which their new plan is to apply. Sunken vessels will not constitute a blockade, let them be as as‘"effective"’ as they may; and wherever the Federal Government shall thus substitute sunken vessels for its ships-of-war, then the blockade is at once terminated by the consent of all nations. We draw attention to the rational and friendly manner in which the Southern President alludes to the attitude maintained hither to towards America by this country, because we regard our relations with the Southern States as henceforward of very considerable importance. These States have now attained such a position that we must bring ourselves to believe in the permanence of their independent confederation. We have differences with the North in which the Southerners are directly interested; and we have just concluded a treaty with the Juarez Government of Mexico for a settlement of our long-standing claims upon that country, under the ‘"Aldham Convention,"’ and other recorded obligations. Our naval expedition to the Gulf of Mexico is charged with the execution of these terms; and, probably, before February next the system of sequestration of customs revenue at Vera Cruz and Tampico will have been put into action, and the proceeds be accumulating for distribution under the mixed commission between the despoiled residents and the wrong bondholders. We must look upon this intervention as one that may be in operation during a considerable period of time; and while the Northern Government is too distant to admit of its attitude entering materially into this question, the Southern confederation, on the other hand, stretches for a great distance along the frontier of Mexico, so as to render its friendly disposition to the authors of the intervention of no slight consequence. The Northern Government has invariably railed at our neutrality; but the Southern, with statesmanship and moderation, has recognized in it all that we could do for either party, and whether with a view to our transactions in Mexico, or to our relations with the Cabinet of Washington, the friendly forbearance of the Southern Confederacy is an important point in our favor.
Queen Victoria's proclamations against the export of war material — what effect they may have on the war.The second royal proclamation, forbidding the export of arms and other warlike stores not included in the former., has followed its predecessor not a day too soon. With whatever view the Cabinet of Washington has been engaged in buying up all our purchasable means of offence and defence, after a fashion that Charles Dickens would describe as ‘"wholesale, retail, and for exportation."’ By much or by little, whatever was to be obtained for money was about to be purchased and shipped for America. Within the last ten days an agent of the Federal Government is understood to have bought up three thousand tons of saltpetre, the chief component of gunpowder; and this was so much more than the whole amount that London could supply that the American agent, we believe, was obliged to complete his commission by contracting with manufacturers of this commodity in the provinces. The export of these three thousand tons was arrested by the former proclamation, probably just in time. Mean while, however, the American government had been purchasing small arms on a scale somewhat less vast, or with so much more discretion, at least, that the fact had not become notorious. But the necessities of the Washington Cabinet proving more urgent, a fresh messenger is understood to have been dispatched from New York in the Persia, which vessel arrived in Liverpool only on Monday last. It is believed that the latter agent repaired immediately to Birmingham, with very extensive orders for rifles, percussion caps, lead for bullets, and other stores of war. These articles, it will be seen, had not been included in the interdict of the former proclamation, which had been issued but a few days before the arrival of the Persia. What the immediate success of this agent's commission to the manufacturers in Birmingham and elsewhere may have been we do not know, but if he were prepared to pay the cost in cash — which he was very probably armed with the means of doing — it may be assumed that no difficulty presented itself in the completion of the contract so far as the manufacturers were concerned. But so prompt and decisive has been the action of our Government, that before this latter agent of the Federal Cabinet had set foot for forty-eight hours in this country, a second proclamation has issued, forbidding the export of ‘"arms, ammunition, percussion caps, tubes, and lead."’ This proclamation is dated Wednesday, Dec. 4, and took the public by surprise yesterday morning. But for this rapid action, the goods in question would probably have been shipped, so far as they were ready prepared for use, by the end of the week. The result is that this American gentleman is thrown upon his beam ends, and will probably return to New York by the next mail, with his cash in his pocket, and leaving the coveted arms and ammunition on English ground. The object of the Federal Government certainly cannot be logically proved to have been that of a preparation for hostilities against ourselves. If, indeed, it were clear that this was their motive, the fact that their earlier orders had been issued before they had learned of the San Jacinto affair would render their conduct peculiarly ominous. It is, of course, possible that these immense orders may have been dictated by the exigency of their campaign against the Southerners. They affect to keep an army of something like half a million in the field; and although we doubt whether throughout their civil war so much blood has yet been shed as was shed in a single day at Solferino, the requirements of such an army, even in ammunition, must still be considerable. The manner, however, in which the Federal Government has set to work on the present occasion is very unlike the purchases they have hitherto made in support of the civil war. The one case differs from the other as much as a steamer taking in coals for a long voyage differs from a steamer supplying herself for a river trip on the Thames. The Northern government knew very well that we sought no rupture with them, and that so long as their conduct to us was peaceable they might rely upon making, from time to time, whatever purchases they pleased.--The Atlantic was always open to them, and they had no more dread of the few Confederate vessels of war on the ocean at one time than at another. Moreover, they could read-fly send their stores of war on all occasions under convoy. Neither is this country the only one from which saltpetre is to be had. Of the twenty thousand tons which we annually import, some twelve thousand tons are sent from India, and the remaining eight thousand from Chile and Pern. The South American markets, which are thus extremely prolific, must have been quite as much open to the importers in the Federal States as to ourselves. It is probable that the Washington government, therefore, could have bought saltpetre cheaper in South America than they could have bought it here. True, the transit in that case would have occupied longer time than it would in this. Yet they could not have required three thousand tons for the purposes of their present civil war until they had time to send ships to South America and receive them back again at least ten times over. We must remember also that this order for saltpetre was dispatched from Washington before the exploit of Captain Wilkes had become known. As soon as it did become known, a fresh agent, as we have teen, was at once sent here with orders to purchase rifles, lead, and percussion this, on a scale, it would appear, of corresponding magnitude. Once and for all is certainly, not the usual course with those who can cut and come again. We do not desire to give these considerations under influence but they certainly imply a disposition to draw our teeth and then to tell us to bite if we can. We shall not lose rejoice at this prompt intervention of our own Government, even if our difficulty with the Northern States should be happily surmounted, and the civil war should be left as before to drag on its weary length. We have aimed at the maintenance of a bone fide neutrality between the two combatants. A royal proclamation, a considerable period ago, warned British merchant captains to carry neither arms nor troops for either party. Even in our official language we have abstained from anything more than regret for the existence of the contest. Northern and Southern ships have, as far as we are concerned, enjoyed the same facilities for the shipping of warlike stores in British ports.--But, in point of fact, there has existed the grossest inequality between the advantages of the two combatants in this latter respect. The North have been supreme at sea, and they have also maintained a more or less effectual blockade of Southern ports. Thus the one party have enjoyed a practical immunity in the shipment of arms from this country, and the other party have been nearly excluded from our markets. A Southern ship has first to run the blockade at Charleston or New Orleans; it has then to make Liverpool in spite of Northern cruisers; afterwards it has the same peril to encounter on the return voyage; and, finally, it has to run the blockade again and to enter its own port in safety. The truth, therefore, is that the liberality and equality of our laws have operated to feed the war in the greatly preponderating interest of the North. By the present proclamations this tendency is now at an end, and neither belligerent will receive arms or ammunition henceforward from these shores. This is meting out even justice, at least, to both parties. But whatever were the designs of the Federal Government, it is impossible to imagine any power more completely beaten in policy by its late outrage on our flag. It it were its aim in these purchases merely to provide for its campaign against the South, it has closed the door to its own factitious advantages over its antagonist in British ports; and if it were its aim to exhaust our own resources, it has put its design in practice just in time to be decisively defeated by the two royal proclamations.
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