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[266] alone deserves the name of neutrality, and their action, in some cases, has assumed a character positively unfriendly.

You have heretofore been informed, by common understanding, the initiative in all action touching the contest on this continent had been left by foreign powers to the two great maritime nations of Western Europe, and that the governments of these two nations had agreed to take no measures without previous concert. The result of these arrangements has, therefore, placed it in the power of either France or England to obstruct at pleasure the recognition to which the Confederacy is justly entitled, or even to prolong the continuance of hostilities on this side of the Atlantic, if the policy of either could be promoted by the postponement of peace. Each, too, thus became possessed of great influence in so shaping the general exercise of neutral rights in Europe, as to render them subservient to the purpose of aiding one of the belligerents, to the detriment of the other. I referred, at your last session, to some of the leading points in the course pursued by professed neutrals, which betrayed a partisan leaning to the side of our enemies; but events have since occurred which induce me to renew the subject in greater detail than was then deemed necessary. In calling to your attention the action of these governments, I shall refer to the documents appended to President Lincoln's messages, and to their own correspondence, as disclosing the true nature of their policy, and the motives which guided it. To this course no exception can be taken, inasmuch as our attention has been invited to those sources of information by their official publication.

In May, 1861, the Government of her Britannic Majesty informed our enemies that it had not “allowed any other than an immediate position on the part of the Southern States,” and assured them “that the sympathies of this country (Great Britain) were rather with the North than with the South.”

On the first day of June, 1861, the British government interdicted the use of its ports “to armed ships and privateers, both of the United States and the so-called confederate States,” with their prizes. The Secretary of State of the United States fully appreciated the character and motive of this interdiction, when he observed to Lord Lyons, who communicated it: “That this measure, and that of the same character which had been adopted by France, would probably prove a death-blow to Southern privateering.”

On the twelfth of June, 1861, the United States Minister in London informed Her Majesty's Secretary for Foreign Affairs, that the fact of his having held interviews with the Commissioners of this Government “had given great dissatisfaction,” and that a protraction of this relation would be viewed by the United States “as hostile in spirit, and to require some corresponding action accordingly.” In response to this intimation, Her Majesty's Secretary assured the Minister that “he had no expectation of seeing them any more.”

By proclamation, issued on the nineteenth and twenty-seventh of April, 1861, President Lincoln proclaimed the blockade of the entire coast of the Confederacy, extending from the Potomac to the Rio Grande, embracing, according to the returns of the United States Coast Survey, a coast line of three thousand five hundred and forty-nine statute miles, on which the number of rivers, bays, harbors, inlets, sounds, and passes, is one hundred and eighty-nine. The navy possessed by the United States for enforcing this blockade was stated, in the reports communicated by President Lincoln to the Congress of the United States, to consist of twenty-four vessels of all classes in commission, of which half were in distant seas. The absurdity of the pretension of such a blockade, in the face of the authoritative declaration of the maritime rights of neutrals made at Paris in 1856, was so glaring, that the attempt was regarded as an experiment on the forbearance of neutral powers, which they would promptly resist. This conclusion was justified by the fact that the governments of France and Great Britain determined that it was necessary for their interests to obtain from both belligerents “securities concerning the treatment of neutrals.” In the instructions which “confided the negotiations on this matter” to the British Consul at Charleston, he was informed that “the most perfect accord on this question exists between Her Majesty's Government and the Government of the Emperor of the French;” and these instructions were accompanied by a copy of the despatch of the British Foreign Office of the eighteenth May, 1861, stating that there was no difference of opinion between Great Britain and the United States as to the validity of the principles enunciated in the fourth article of the declaration of Paris in reference to blockades. Your predecessors of the provisional Congress had therefore no difficulty in proclaiming, nor I in approving, the resolutions which abandoned in favor of Great Britain and France our right to capture enemy's property when covered by the flags of these powers. The “securities” desired by those governments were understood by us to be required from both belligerents. Neutrals were exposed, on our part, to the exercise of the belligerent right of capturing their vessels when conveying the property of our enemies. They were exposed, on the part of the United States, to interruption in their unquestioned right of trading with us by the declaration of the paper blockade above referred to. We had no reason to doubt the good faith of the proposal made to us, nor to suspect that we were to be the only parties bound by its acceptance. It is true that the instructions of the neutral powers informed their agents that it was “essential, under present circumstances, that they should act with great caution in order to avoid raising the question of the recognition of the new Confederacy,” and that the understanding on the subject did not assume, for that reason,

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