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Doc. 129.-England and the rebels.

The following correspondence appeared in the Mobile Tribune of April seventeenth:

H. B. M.‘S Legation, Washington, D. C., April 1, 864.
Mr. Jefferson Davis, etc., etc., Richmond, Va.:
Sir: I have been instructed by Earl Russell, her Britannic Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, to convey to you the following extract of a despatch which has been forwarded to me by his lordship. I have chosen the method which appeared to me to be the only available one, under the present unhappy circumstances in which the country is involved, and I trust that the absence of all recognized diplomatic or consular residents or other agents of her Majesty near Richmond, will be recognized as sufficient reason for its not being sent through usual channels. I need scarcely say that the bearer of this despatch, whom you have consented to allow to visit Richmond, has been authorized by the Government of the United States to pass into your lines on the flag-of-truce boat, for the purpose of delivering it, and will desire your permission to return for Washington by the same mode of conveyance.

I have the honor to be, with high respect, your obedient, humble servant,


[copy.]

You will also convey to Mr. Davis at Richmond, through such channel as shall be available, and as you may in your discretion deem proper, the formal protest and remonstrance of her Majesty's government against the efforts of the authorities of the so-called confederate States to build war-vessels within her Majesty's dominions, to be employed against the Government of the United States. Perhaps your Lordship might best accomplish this object by obtaining permission from the authorities of both belligerents to send a special messenger to Richmond with the necessary despatch, in which you will transmit this paragraph, or the substance of it, together with all that follows, to the close of this communication.

Her Majesty's Government, in taking this course, desire Mr. Davis to rest assured that it is adopted entirely in that spirit of neutrality which has been declared the policy of this country with regard to the two belligerents now so [514] lamentably desolating America, and which will continue to be pursued, with a careful and earnest desire to make it conducive to the most rigid impartiality and justice.

After consulting with the law officers of the Crown, her Majesty's Government have come to the decision that agents of the authorities of the so-called confederate States have been engaged in building vessels which would be at least partially equipped for war purposes on leaving the ports of this country; that these war-vessels would undoubtedly be used against the United States, a country with which this Government is at peace; that this would be a violation of the neutrality laws of the realm; and that the Government of the United States would have just ground for serious complaints against her Majesty's Government, should they permit such an infraction of the amicable relations now subsisting between the two countries.

Mer Majesty's Government confidently rely on the frankness, courtesy, and discernment which Mr. Davis has displayed in the difficult circumstances in which he has been placed during the past three years for a recognition of the correctness of the position which her Majesty's Government have taken upon this subject. No matter what might be the difficulty in proving in a court of law that the parties procuring the building of the vessels are agents of the so-called confederate States, it is universally understood throughout the world that they are so, and her Majesty's Government are satisfied that Mr. Davis would not deny that they are so. Constructed as “rams,” as these vessels are, they would certainly be in a condition, on leaving port, to inflict the most serious damage on vessels belonging to the United States, as was shown by the destruction of the Cumberland, United States sloop of war, by the “ram” Merrimac, merely by the latter being run into collision with the Cumberland. Such vessels are to all intents and purposes equipped as war-vessels of a certain power, although they be without a gun or any ammunition on board; nor can the frequent use of the word “equip,” in the sense of “to furnish with every thing necessary for a voyage,” be held for a moment to limit its significance to the furnishing of a war-vessel with every thing which it might be possible to put upon her, or the ultimately putting of which on her might be contemplated. Such a construction cannot be entertained for an instant. It is clear that a hundred-and-twenty-gun ship might be equipped for war purposes with any fraction of her armament on board, although she might not be so powerful or so efficient as she would be if she had the whole of it. A ram would be also equipped for war purposes, although the absence of her ordnance and ammunition might render her less effective than she would be with them. This, it is presumed by her Majesty's Government, will be conceded by Mr. Davis, without further argument or illustration in support of it.

This much being established to the perfect conviction of her Majesty's government, and the law officers of the crown, and admitted, as they are convinced it must be, by Mr. Davis, and by every other person of sound and impartial judgment, there is not the slightest room to doubt that it is purposed to use the vessels in question against the United States, a country with which this nation is at peace and on terms of amity, and that the permitting of them to leave the ports of her Majesty's dominions would be a violation of the neutrality laws of the kingdom, and such an injurious act toward the United States as would justify the government of that country in seriously complaining of it as unfriendly and offensive in the highest degree, even to the imminent peril of rupturing the peaceful relations now existing between the two countries.

Under these circumstances, her Majesty's government protest and remostrate against any further efforts being made on the part of the socalled confederate States, or the authorities or agents thereof, to build, or cause to be built, or to purchase, or cause to be purchased, any such vessels as those styled rams, or any other vessels to be used for war purposes against the United States, or against any country with which the United Kingdom is at peace and on terms of amity; and her Majesty's government further protest and remonstrate against all acts in violation of the neutrality laws of the realm.

I have the honor to be your Lordship's obedient servant,



Reply of Jefferson Davis.

Richmond, Va., C. S. A., April 6, 1864.
To the Right Hon. Lord Lyons, C. B., etc., H. B. M.'s Minister to the Government of the United States:
my Lord: I have been instructed by the President to acknowledge the receipt of a despatch from your lordship, inclosing a copy of a portion of a despatch from Earl Russell, H. B. M.'s Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, purporting to be a “formal protest and remonstrance of her Majesty's government against the efforts of the authorities of the so-called confederate States, to build war-vessels within her Majesty's dominions, to be employed against the government of the United States.”

The President desires me to say to your lordship, that while he is not unwilling to waive, in existing circumstances, the transmission of such a document through other than the usual and proper channel, it would be inconsistent with the dignity of the position he fills as Chief Magistrate of a nation comprising a population of more than twelve millions, occupying a territory many times larger than the United Kingdom, and possessing resources unsurpassed by those of any other country on the face of the globe, to allow the attempt of Earl Russell to ignore the actual existence of the confederate States, and to contumeliously style them “so-called,” to pass without a protest and a remonstrance. The President, therefore, does protest and remonstrate against this studied insult; and he instructs me [515] to say, that in future, any document in which it may be repeated will be returned unanswered and unnoticed.

With respect to the subject of the extract from Earl Russell's despatch, the President desires me to state, that the plea of neutrality which is used to sustain the sinister course of her Majesty's present government against the government of the confederate States, is so clearly contradicted by their actions that it is regarded by the world, not even excepting the United States, as a mere cover for actual hostility, and the President cannot but feel that this is a just view of it. Were, indeed, her Majesty's government sincere in a desire and determination to maintain neutrality, the President would not but feel that they would neither be just nor gallant to allow the subjugation of a nation like the confederate States, by such a barbarous, despotic race as are now attempting it. He cannot but feel, with the history and traditions of the Anglo-Saxon race before him, that under a government faithfully representing the people of Great Britain, the whole weight and power of that nation would be unhesitatingly thrown into the scale, in favor of the principles of free government on which these States were originally formed, and for which alone the confederate States are now struggling. He cannot but feel that with such a government, and with the plea of neutrality urged upon the people, as it now is, no such pitiful spectacle could be witnessed as is now manifested by her Majesty's present government, in the persistent persecution of the confederate States, at the beck and bidding of officers of the United States, while a prime minister mocks and insults the intelligence of a House of Commons, and of the world, by excusing the permission to allow British subjects to go to the United States to fight against us, by the paltry subterfuge that it was the great demand for labor, and the high rate of wages that were taking them thither. He cannot but feel that a neutrality most cunningly, audaciously, fawningly, and insolently sought and urged, begged and demanded by one belligerent, and repudiated by the other, must be seen, by all impartial men, to be a mere pretext for aiding the cause of one at the expense of the other; while pretending to be impartial, to be, in short, but a cover for treacherous, malignant hostility.

As for the specious arguments on the subject of the rams, advanced by Earl Russell, the President desires me to state that he is content to leave the world and history to pronounce judgment upon this attempt to heap injury upon insult, by declaring that her Majesty's government and law officers are satisfied of the questions involved, while those questions are still before the highest legal tribunal of the kingdom, composed of members of the government and the highest law officers of the crown, for their decision. The President himself will not condescend to notice them.

I have the honor to be your lordship's obedient, humble servant,


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