Table of Contents:
Mr. Russell's letters to theMr. Russell's first letter on the American crisis was dated at Washington, March 20th. We make an extract for the purpose of showing his ‘"early impressions:"’ It is difficult for one who has arrived so recently in this country, and who has been subjected to such a variety of statements, to come to any very definite conclusion in reference to the great questions which agitate it. But as far as I can I shall form my opinions from what I see, and not from what I hear; and as I shall proceed South in a few days, there is a probability of my being able to ascertain what is the real state of affairs in that direction. As far as I can judge — my conclusion, let it be understood, being drawn from the prevailing opinions of others--‘"the South will never go back into the Union."’ On the same day I heard a gentleman of position among the Southern party say, ‘"No concession, no compromise, nothing that can be done or suggested, shall induce us to join any Confederation of which the New England States are members;"’ and by another gentleman, well known as one of the ablest of the Abolitionists, I was told, ‘"If I could bring back the Southern States by holding up my little finger, I should consider it criminal to do so."’ --The friends of the Union sometimes endeavor to disguise their sorrow and their humiliation at the prospect presented by the Great Republic, under the garb of pride in the peculiar excellence of institutions which have permitted such a revolution as secession without the loss of one drop of blood. But concession averts bloodshed. If I give up my purse to the footpad who presents a pistol at my head, I satisfy all his demands, and he must be a sanguinary miscreant if he pulls the trigger afterwards. The policeman has, surely, no business to boast of the peculiar excellence, in such a transaction, of the state of things which allows the transfer to take place without bloodshed. A Government may be so elastic as, like an overstrained India-rubber band, to have no compressive force whatever, and that very quality is claimed for the Federal Government as excellence by some eminent men whom I have met, and who maintained the thesis that the U. S. Government has no right whatever to assert its authority by force over the people of any State whatever; that, based on the consent of all, it ceases to exist wherever there is dissent — a doctrine which no one need analyze who understands what are the real uses and ends of government. The friends of the existing Administration, on the whole, regard the Secession as a temporary aberration, which a ‘"masterly inactivity,"’ the effects of time, inherent weakness, and a strong reaction, of which they flatter themselves they see many proofs in the Southern States, will correct. ‘"Let us,"’ they say, ‘"deal with this matter in our own way. Do not interfere. A recognition of the Secession would be an interference amounting to hostility. In good time the violent men down South will come to their senses, and the treason will die out."’ They ignore the difficulties which European States may feel in refusing to recognize the principles on which the United States were founded when they find them embodied in a new Confederation, which, so far as we know, may be to all intents and purposes constituted in an entire independence, and present itself to the world with claims to recognition to which England, at least, having regard to precedents of de facto governments, could only present an illogical refusal. The hopes of other sections of the Northerners are founded on the want of capital in the slave States; on the pressure which will come upon them when they have to guard their own frontiers against the wild tribes who have been hitherto repelled at the expense of the whole Union by the Federal troops; on the exigencies of trade, which will compel them to deal with the North, and thereby to enter into friendly relations and ultimate re-alli- ance. But most impartial people, at least in New York, are of the opinion that the South has shaken the dust off her feet, and will never enter the portals of the Union again. She is confident in her own destiny. She feels strong enough to stand alone. She believes her mission is one of extension and conquest — her leaders are men of singular political ability and undaunted resolution. She has but to stretch forth her hand, as she believes, and the Gulf becomes an American lake closed by Cuba. The reality of these visions the South is ready to test, and she would not now forego the trial, which may, indeed, be the work of years, but which she will certainly make. All the considerations which can be urged against her resolves are as nothing in the way of her passionate will, and the world may soon see under its eyes the conflict of two Republics founded on the same principles, but subjected to influences that produce repulsion as great as exists in two bodies charged with the same electricity. If ever the explosion come, it will be tremendous in its results, and distant Europe must feel the shock." Mr. Russell's Second letter. Was written on the 5th of April, while he was yet sojourning at Washington. The fact that these letters may have considerable influence in giving direction to British sentiment, induces us to give place to the subjoined extract. It must be borne in mind that events of a stupendous nature have occurred since it was written, and for the purpose of informing himself correctly on the points at issue, Mr. Russell is now at the South: Without the means of enforcing an authority which many of its own adherents, and most of the neutral parties, denied to it, Mr. Lincoln's Administration finds itself called upon to propound a policy and to proceed to vigorous action. The demand is scarcely reasonable. The policy of such men suddenly lifted to the head of affairs, which they cannot attempt to guide, must be to wait and watch; and their action must be to simply tentative, as they have no power to put forth with moderate hope of success any aggressive force. Be satisfied of this,--the United States Government will give up no power or possession which it has at present got. By its voluntary act it will surrender nothing whatever.--No matter what reports may appear in the papers, or in letters, distrust them if they would lead you to believe that Mr. Lincoln is preparing either to abandon what he has now, or to recover that which he has not. The United States Government is in an attitude of protest; it cannot strike an offensive blow. But if any attack is made upon it, the Government hopes that it will be strengthened by the indignation of the North and West to such an extent that it can not only repel the aggression, but possibly give a stimulus to a great reaction in its favor. On these principles Fort Sumter and Fort Pickens are held. They are claimed as Federal fortresses. The Stars and Stripes still float over them. Whatever may be said to the contrary, they will remain there till they are removed by the action of the Confederated States. The Commissioners of Mr. Jefferson Davis's Government ‘"have reason to say that if any attempt be made to throw reinforcements into Fort Pickens, unless they receive previous notice of it as promised, it will be a breach of good faith."’ From all I can learn no intention of strengthening the fort is at present entertained, but it may be doubted if the attempt would not be made should any favorable opportunity of doing so present itself. All ‘ "the movements of troops,"’ of which you will see accounts, are preparations against — not for — aggression. At most they amount to the march of a few companies and guns to various forts, now all but undefended. Fort Washington, of which I shall have a few words to say hereafter, was till lately held by a very inadequate force. As a member of the Cabinet said to me, ‘"I could have taken it last week with a little whiskey"’ that potent artillery being applied to the weak defences of the aged Irish artilleryman who constituted ‘"the garrison."’ The ‘"formidable military force concentrated in Washington,"’ of which you may read in the American journals, consists of about seven hundred men of all arms, as far as I can see, and four brass field guns. There is a good deal of drumming, filing, marching, and music going on daily. I look on and see a small band in gay uniforms, a small body of men in sombre uniforms, varying from fifteen to thirty rank and file, armed, however, with excellent rifles, and a very large standard, pass by, and next day I read that such and such a company had a parade, and ‘"attracted much admiration by their efficient and soldierly appearance, and the manner in which,"’ &c.--But these military companies have no intention of righting for the Government. Their sympathies are quite determined. Formidable as they would be in skirmishing in the open country, they would be of comparatively little use against regular troops at the outset of the contest, as they have never learnt to act together, and do not aspire to form even battalions. But their existence indicates the strong military tendencies of the people, and the danger of doing anything that might turn them against the Government.--Mr. Lincoln has no power to make war against the South; the Congress alone could give it to him; and that is not likely to be given, because Congress will not be assembled before the usual time, unless under the pressure of an imperious necessity. Why, then, hold these forts at all? Why not give them up? Why not withdraw the garrisons, strike the flag, and cease to keep up a useless source of irritation in the midst of the Southern Confederation? The answer to these questions is:--These forts are Federal property. The Government does not acknowledge, the existence of any right on the part of the people of the States to seize them as ap- pertaining to the individual States. The forts are protests against the acts of violence to which the Federal authority has yielded elsewhere. They are, moreover, the points d'appui small as they are, on which the Federal Government can rest its resistance to the claims of the Southern Confederation to be acknowledged as an independent Republic.--If they were surrendered without attack, or without the existence of any pressure arising from the refusal of the Southern authorities to permit them to get supplies, which is an act of war, the case of the United States Government would be, they consider, materially weakened. If it be observed that these forts have no strategic value, it may readily be replied that their political value is very great. But, serious as these considerations may be, or may be thought to be, with respect to foreign relations, there are in reference to domestic politics still more weighty inducements to hold them. The effect produced in the North and Northwest by an attack on the forts while the United States flag is floating over them would be as useful to the Government at Washington as the effect of abandoning the forts or tamely surrendering them would be hurtful to them in the estimation of the extreme Republicans. A desperate attack, a gallant defence, the shedding of the blood of gallant men, whose duty it was to defend that entrusted to their keeping, and who yielded only to numbers — the outrage on the American flag — would create an excitement in the Union which the South with all its determination and courage is unwilling to provoke, but which the Government would be forced to use in its own service. Such an event must lead to war — a very terrible and merciless war; and both parties pause before they resort to that court of arms. Unless the Border States join in the South, Mr. Jefferson Davis could scarcely hope to carry out the grand projects which are attributed to his military genius of marching northwards and dictating terms on their own soil to Republicans. He could scarcely venture to leave the negro population unguarded in his rear, and his flanks menaced by the seaborn Northerners on one side, and by such operations as the water-sheds significantly indicate on the other. It is idle to speculate on the incidents of that which may never occur, and which, occurring, may assume the insignificant aspect of border skirmishes, or the tremendous proportions of a war of races and creeds intensified by the worst elements of servile and civil conflict. The Government of Mr. Lincoln hope and believe that the contest may be averted. The Commissioners of the South are inclined to think, also, there will be a peaceful solution — obtained, of course, by full concession and recognition. But inaction cannot last on the part of the South. Already they have begun the system of coercion. --The supplies of the garrison at Sumter will be cut off henceforth, if they are not already forbidden. They do not fear the moral effect of this act, for some of their leading men actually believe that nothing can stop the progress of a movement which will, they fondly think, absorb all the other States of the Union, and leave the New England States to form an insignificant Republic of its own, with a possible larger destiny in Canada. Their opponents in the North are fully satisfied that the direst Nemesis will fall on the Montgomery Government in the utter ruin of all their States the moment they are left to themselves. The Government is elated at the success of the loan, and Mr. Chase has taken high ground in refusing offers made to him yesterday, and in resolving to issue Government securities for the balance of the amount required to complete the amount. Mr. Forsyth, one of the Southern Commissioners, who has just returned from New York here, is equally satisfied with the temper of parties in that city, and seems to think that the New Yorkers are preparing for a secession. But, though States may be sovereign, it has never been asserted that cities or portions of States are so, and in the Western and Northern portions of the State of New York there is a large agricultural population, which, with the aid of Government, would very speedily suppress any attempt to secede on the part of the city, if men are to be believed who say they know the circumstances of the case. Virginia is claimed by both sides, but accounts this morning are to the effect that the secessionists have been defeated on a division, by a vote of two to one, in favor of the Union; and, although General Houston appears to be forced to accept the situation for a time, there are many who think he will organize a strong reaction against the dominant secessionists. Whatever may be the result of all these diverse actions, the Great Republic is gone! The shape of the fragments is not yet determined any more than their late. They may re-unite, but the cohesion can never be perfect. The ship of the State was built of too many ‘"platforms; "’ there were too many officers on board; perhaps the principles of construction were erroneous — the rigid, cast iron old Constitution guns burst violently when tried with new projectiles — any way, those who adhere with most devotion to the vessel admit that it is parted right amidships, and that its prestige has vanished. The more desperate of these would gladly see an enemy, or go out of their way to find one, in the hope of a common bond of union being discovered in a common animosity and danger. The naval preparations, of which you will hear a good deal, are intended to make good existing deficiencies and to meet contingencies. At any other time the action of Spain in St. Domingo would create a cry for war.--Now all the Federal Government can do is to demand and receive explanations. In reply to Mr. Seward's inquiries, the Spanish Minister has possibly stated that the recent events in St. Domingo have been caused by the acts and threats of Hayti, which forced the Dominicans to call in the aid and claim the protection of Spain. There have been several attempts from time to time to induce France to assume the dominion of its former possession, and it is not unlikely that an excellent understanding exists between the Court of Madrid and the Emperor Napoleon in reference to the subject. The report that the Mexicans have made, or contemplate making, an attack on Texas, is scarcely worthy of credence. As to the Morrill tariff, I can only repeat what I have already said. It must be borne till results show that it cannot be persisted in. Then only will it be repealed or modified. The theory of the Government is, that the United States always takes far more from Europe than it can pay for. ‘"If the revenue is collected there is no ground for complaint. The English and French manufacturer will be satisfied, as well as the Northern population. If the revenue is not collected, then the tariff must be repealed, and that will be done within the year if the mischief is serious."’ Birmingham, Wolverhampton, and Manchester must make the best they can out of the doctrine.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.