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Chapter 30: foreign Relations.—Unjust discrimination against us.—Diplomatic correspondence.

Mr. Mason was appointed our Representative in London, Mr. Slidell in Paris, Mr. Rost in Spain, and Mr. Mann in Belgium. I hope Mr. Mann's memoirs, which are very full and written from diaries, will be published, and these will shed much light upon the diplomatic service of the Confederacy.

The Confederate States having dissolved their connection with the United States, whose relations were securely and long established with Foreign Governments, it devolved upon the Confederate States formally to declare to these Governments her separation from the United States. This the Provisional Congress did, but the United States antecedently had claimed sovereignty over the Confederate States, and the Governments of Europe announced that they could not assume to judge of the rights of the combatants. These Governments had fallen into the error, now commonly prevailing, that our [328] separate sovereignty had been merged into one supreme Federal authority, and they therefore announced their neutrality, and merely recognized the existence of a state of war. This decision was in effect hostile to our rights, for if we were, like the United States, belligerents, why refuse us the same privileges of international intercourse accorded to the United States? Under this view European powers recognized for a year a. “paper blockade,” forgetful that “blockades to be binding must be effective.” 1

The Government of the Confederate States remonstrated against this injustice, and was answered by silence.

However, Her Majesty's foreign office published a despatch dated February I , 1862, interpolating into the agreement of the Paris Congress, that if the blockading ships “created an evident danger of entering or leaving” the ports blockaded, that “should be considered a blockade.”

Soon after the right of neutral ships to trade with English ships was abandoned by England. The duty to recognize a belligerent was postponed, and all the recognized neutral rights by which we might have been benefited were alternately waived or asserted, [329] as they might prove of service to the United States.

The commerce of the United States was not protected by its Government, but reclamation for all the loss resultant from the enterprise of the Confederate cruisers was claimed from, and partially accorded by Great Britain, because our vessels were built in her ports. Thus, though the armies of the United States were recruited from the whole world, protection was claimed for her commerce from the same source. Had the English Government not leaned to the side of the United States, the fact that the ballot-boxes used at elections were those of the States, and that the vote for their secession had been unanimous, would have been conclusive against characterizing the war as an “insurrection.”

On October 3, 1862, the French minister of foreign affairs, Monsieur Drouyn de L'Huys, addressed a note to the ambassadors at London and St. Petersburg, proposing that these great powers should arrange an armistice for six months, in view of the blood shed and the equal success of the combatants. The English Government answered that their offer might be declined by the United States Government. The Russian Government answered that their interposition might cause the opposite to the desired effect. For want [330] of co-operation, the effort was not made by France. In May, 1861, Her Britannic Majesty assured our enemies that “the sympathies of this country were rather with the North than with the South,” and on June I, 1861, she interdicted the use of her ports to armed ships and privateers, though the United States claimed this right for themselves. On June 12, 1861, the United States reproved Great Britain for holding intercourse with the Commissioners of the Confederate States, “so-called,” and received assurances that it would not occur again.

On June 14, 1862, Mr. Seward justified himself for obstructing Charleston Harbor and other commercial inlets, by saying that three thousand miles were more than could be successfully blockaded. He could stop up the “large holes” by his ships, but could not stop up all “the small ones.” Her Majesty's minister for foreign affairs, May 6, 1862, said, “this blockade kept up irregularly has injured thousands. Yet Her Majesty's Government have never sought to take advantage of the obvious imperfections of this blockade in order to declare it inoperative.”

Her Majesty's Government interposed no objection to the purchase of arms for the United States, but in May, 1861, Earl Russell entertained the complaint that the Confederate [331] Government was buying arms at Nassau, contraband of war, and the Confederate States vessel was ineffectually seized, because it touched at Nassau, at the instance of the United States, and was made subject to a prosecution, when simultaneously cargoes and munitions of war were openly shipped to the United States to be used in our destruction.

An example of the diplomatic blockade enforced by the United States against our Commissioners is given in a correspondence between Earl Russell and Mr. Mason, and will give some idea of how Mr. Mason and other envoys were met at every turn by rebuffs under Mr. Seward's promptingssometimes with evasion, but more often with the absurd assumption that our organized government, large and efficient army, and united population were rebels, not belligerents.

The Honorable James T. Mason had been unavailingly trying to procure from Europe the acknowledgment of our rights as belligerents before the nations of the world, and had been from time to time met with diplomatic evasions. The astute and watchful ambassador from the United States, Charles Francis Adams, had thus far forestalled every effort to this end by presenting Mr. Seward's exparte statements of the causes, conduct, and prospect of an early termination of the war. [332] Mr. Seward predicted the war would end in thirty days. The English overestimated the readiness of the United States for war, and knew that the affair of the Trent had left on their minds toward Great Britain a bitter sense of injury. The only measure by which Mr. Seward governed his presentation of the condition and conduct of either section of the States, was how much Her Majesty's Government would believe. Our Commissioners were, through his misrepresentation, refused interviews with her ministers, and our assured success seemed to be the only avenue to their intercourse with them. Under these circumstances, the following correspondence took place between Mr. Mason and Lord John Russell:

No. 54 Devonshire Street, Portland Place, London, July 17, 1862.
My Lord:
In late proceedings of Parliament, and in reply to inquiries made in each House as to the intention of Her Majesty's Government to tender offices of mediation to the contending powers in North America, it was replied in substance, by Lord Palmerston and your Lordship, that Her Majesty's Government had no such intention at present, because, although this Government would be ever ready to offer such mediation [333] whenever it might be considered that such interposition would avail, it was believed by the Government that, in the present inflamed or irritated temper of the belligerents, any such offer might be misinterpreted, and might have an effect contrary to what was intended.

I will not undertake, of course, to express any opinion of the correctness of this view so far as it may apply to the Government or the people of the United States, but as the terms would seem to have been applied equally to the Government or people of the Confederate States of America, I feel warranted in the declaration that, while it is the unalterable purpose of that Government and people to maintain the independence they have gained; while under no circumstances or contingencies will they ever again come under a common Government with those now constituting the United States; and although they do not in any form invite such interposition; yet they can see nothing in their position which could make either offensive or irritating a tender of such offices on the part of Her Majesty's Government, as might lead to a termination of the war-a war hopelessly carried on against them, and which is attended by a wanton waste of human life at which humanity shudders. On [334] the contrary, I can entertain no doubt that such offer would be received by the Government of the Confederate States of America with that high consideration and respect due to the benign purpose in which it would have its origin.

I am, etc., J. M. Mason To Lord John Russell.

Foreign Office, July 24, 1862.
I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 17th instant, respecting the intention expressed by Her Majesty's Government to refrain from any present mediation between the contending parties in America, and I have to state to you, in reply, that in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, any proposal to the United States to recognize the Confederacy would irritate the United States, and any proposal to the Southern States to return to the Union would irritate the Confederates.

This was the meaning of my declaration in Parliament on the subject.

I am, etc., Russell. To James M. Mason.

No. 54 Devonshire Street, Portland Place, London, July 24, 1862.
My Lord:
In the interview I had the honor to have with your Lordship in February [335] last, I laid before your Lordship, under instructions from the Government of the Confederate States, the views entertained by that Government, leading to the belief that it was, of right, entitled to be recognized as a separate and independent power, and to be received as an equal in the great family of nations.

I then represented to your Lordship that the dissolution of the Union of the States of North America, by the withdrawal therefrom of certain of the Confederate States, was not to be considered as a revolution in the ordinary acceptation of that term; far less was it to be considered as an act of insurrection or rebellion; that it was, both in form and in fact, but the termination of a confederacy which during a long course of years had violated the terms of the Federal compact by the exercise of unwarranted powers, oppressing and degrading the minority section. That the seceding parties had so withdrawn as organized political communities, and had formed a new Confederacy, comprising then, as now, thirteen separate and sovereign States, embracing an area of 870,616 square miles, and with a population of 12,000,000. This new Confederacy has now been in complete and successful operation for a period of nearly eighteen months, has proved itself capable of successful defence against every [336] attempt to subdue or destroy it, and in a war, conducted by its late confederates on a scale to tax their utmost power, has presented everywhere a united people determined at every cost to maintain the independence they had affirmed.

Since that interview more than five months have elapsed, and during that period events have but more fully confirmed the views I then had the honor to present to your Lordship. The resources, strength, and power of the Confederate States developed by these events, I think, authorize me to assume, as the judgment of the intelligence of all Europe, that the separation of the States of North America is final; that under no possible circumstances can the late Federal Union be restored; that the new Confederacy has evinced both the capacity and the determination to maintain its independence; and, therefore, with other powers the question of recognizing that independence is simply a question of time.

The Confederate States ask no aid from, or intervention by, foreign powers. They are entirely content that the strict neutrality which has been proclaimed between the belligerents shall be adhered to, however unequally it may operate, because of fortuitous circumstances, upon them. [337]

But if the principles and morals of the public law be, when a nation has established before the world both its capacity and its ability to maintain the government it has ordained, that a duty devolves on other nations to recognize such fact, then I submit that the Government of the Confederate States of America, having sustained itself unimpaired, through trials greater than most nations have been called to endure, and far greater than any it has yet to meet, has furnished to the world sufficient proof of stability, strength, and resources to entitle it to a place among the independent nations of the earth. I have, etc.,

J. M. Mason.

To this letter no answer was returned, and after waiting a reasonable time Mr. Mason addressed another letter to the minister:

Mr. Mason to Earl Russell.

No. 54 Devonshire Street, Portland Place, London, July 24, 1862.
Mr. Mason presents his compliments to Earl Russell, and if agreeable to his Lordship, Mr. Mason would be obliged if Earl Russell would allow him the honor of an interview, at such time as may be convenient to his Lordship. [338]

Mr. Mason desires to submit to Earl Russell some views connected with the subject of the letter he has the honor to transmit herewith, which he thinks may be better imparted in a brief conversation.

Earl Russell to Mr. Mason.

Foreign Office, July 31, 1862.
Lord Russell presents his compliments to Mr. Mason. He begs to assure Mr. Mason that it is from no want of respect to him that Lord Russell has delayed sending an answer to his letter of the 24th instant.

Lord Russell has postponed sending that answer in order that he might submit a draft of it to the cabinet on Saturday next. It will be forwarded on Monday to Mr. Mason.

Lord Russell does not think any advantage would arise from the personal interview which Mr. Mason proposes, and must therefore decline it.

No. 54 Devonshire Street, Portland Place, August 1, 1862.
My Lord: In the interview I had the honor to propose in my last note, I had intended briefly to submit the following views, which I thought might not be without weight in the consideration to be given by Her Majesty's Government to the request for recognition of the Confederate States, submitted [339] in my letter of July 24th ultimo. I ask leave now to present them as supplemental to that letter.

If it be true, as there assumed, that in the settled judgment of England the separation of the States is final, then the failure of so great a power to recognize the fact in a formal manner imparts an opposite belief, and must operate as an incentive to the United States to protract the contest.

In a war such as that pending in America, where a party in possession of the government is striving to subdue those who, for reasons sufficient to themselves, have withdrawn from it, the contest will be carried on in the heat of blood and of popular excitement long after its object has become hopeless in the eyes of the disinterested public.

The Government itself may feel that its power is inadequate to bring back the recusant States, arrd yet be unable at once to control the fierce elements which surround it while the war wages. Such, it is confidently believed, is the actual condition of affairs.

It is impossible, in the experience of eighteen months of no ordinary trial, in the small results attained, and in the manifest exhaustion of its resources, that any hope remains with the Government of the United States either of bringing about a restoration [340] of the dissevered Union, or of subjugating those who have renounced it. And yet the failure of foreign powers formally to recognize this condition of things disables those in authority from conceding that fact at home.

Again, it is known that there is a large and increasing sentiment in the United States in accordance with these views; a sentiment which has its origin in the hard teachings of the war as it has progressed.

It is believed (or so confidently affirmed) that there was a large party in the Southern States devoted to the Union, whose presence and power would be manifested there as soon as the public force of the United States was present to sustain it. I need not say how fully the experience of the war has dispelled this delusion.

Again, it was believed, and confidently relied on, that in the social structure of the Southern States there was a large population of the dominant race indifferent, if not hostile, to the basis on which that social structure rests, in which they were not interested, and who would be found the allies of those whose mission was supposed to be in some way to break it up; but the same experience has shown that the whole population of the South is united, as one people, in arms to resist the invader, [341]

A Nothing remains, then, on which to rest any hope of conquest but a reliance on the superior numbers and the supposed greater resources of the Northern States. I think the results of the last (or pending) campaign have proved how idle such expectations were, against the advantages of a people fighting at home and bringing into a common stock of resistance, as a free — will offering, all that they possessed, whether of blood or treasure-a spectacle now historically before the world.

It is in human experience that there must be those in the United States who cannot shut their eyes to such facts, and yet, in the despotic power now assumed by the Government, to give expression to any doubt would be to court the hospitalities of the dungeon.

One word from the government of Her Majesty would encourage the people to speak, and the civilized world would respond to the truths they would utter, “ that for whatever purpose the war was begun, it was continued now in a vindictive and unreasoning spirit, shocking alike to humanity and civilization.” That potent word would be simply to announce a fact, which a frenzied mind could only dispute, that the Southern States, now in a separate Confederacy, had established before the world its competency to maintain the government [342] of its adoption, and its determination to abide by it.

To withhold it would not only seem in derogation of truth, but would be to encourage the continuance of a war, hopeless in its object, ruinous alike to the parties engaged in it, and to the prosperity and welfare of Europe.

J. M. Mason. To Lord John Russell.

Foreign Office, August 2, 1862.
I have had the honor to receive your letters of July 24th and ist instant, in which you repeat the considerations which in the opinion of the Government of the so-called Confederate States, entitled that Government to be recognized of right as a separate and independent power, and to be received as an equal in the great family of nations.

In again urging the views you represent, as before, that the withdrawal of certain of the Confederates from the Union of the States of North America is not to be considered as a revolution, in the ordinary acceptation of that term, far less of an act of insurrection or rebellion, but as the termination of a Confederacy which had, during a long course of years, violated the terms of the Federal compact. [343]

I beg leave to say, in the outset, that upon this question of a right of withdrawal, as upon that of the previous conduct of the United States, Her Majesty's Government have never presumed to form a judgment. The interpretation of the Constitution of the United States, and the character of the proceedings of the President and Congress of the United States under that Constitution, must be determined, in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, by the States and people in North America who have inherited, and until recently upheld, that Constitution. Her Majesty's Government decline altogether the responsibility of assuming to be judges in such a controversy.

You state that the Confederacy has a population of twelve millions; that it has proved self-capable for eighteen months of successful defence against every attempt to subdue or destroy it; that in the judgment of the intelligence of all Europe the separation is final ;, and that, under no possible circumstances can the late Federal Union be restored.

On the other hand, the Secretary of State of the United States had affirmed, in an official despatch, that a large portion of the once disaffected population has been restored to the Union, and now evinces its loyalty and firm adherence to the Government; that the [344] white population now in insurrection is under five millions, and that the Southern Confederacy owes its main strength to the hope of assistance from Europe.

In the face of the fluctuating events of the war; the alternations of victory and defeat ; the capture of New Orleans; the advance of the Federals to Corinth, to Memphis, and the banks of the Mississippi as far as Vicksburg; contrasted, on the other hand, with the failure of the attack on Charleston, and the retreat from before Richmondplaced, too, between allegations so contradictory on the part of the contending powers-Her Majesty's Government are still determined to wait.

In order to be entitled to a place among the independent nations of the earth, a State ought to have not only strength and resources for a time, but afford promise of stability and permanence. Should the Confederate States of America win that place among nations, it might be right for other nations justly to acknowledge an independence achieved by victory, and maintained by a successful resistance to all attempts to overthrow it. That time, however, has not, in the judgment of Her Majesty's Government, yet arrived. Her Majesty's Government, therefore, can only hope that a peaceful termination [345] of the present bloody and destructive contest may not be distant.

I am, etc., Russell. To James M. Mason, Esq.

Thus was foiled one of our sturdy old envoy's efforts to set his country's cause fairly before a people loving liberty, speaking the same language with us, and from whom we were descended within the memory of those then living. One bold and profound thinker among the English governing class, Lord Lowther, has written an admirable exposition of the dogma of State Rights, but though many other Englishmen understood its binding force, as nations cannot afford, as such, to indulge sympathy for those unable to maintain themselves against an oppressor, they “passed by on the other side.”

Throughout all this unfair discrimination, with the world against him, environed by enemies on all sides, the President of the Confederate States, with admirable temper, pursued his steady efforts to establish relations with foreign Governments, though his maintenance of the strict truth under all circumstances was a disqualification he did not underrate. His despatches are dignified models of advocacy and remonstrance, and were [346] the admiration of the diplomats of his time. His courage was as undaunted when he stood for the right against the world, as his dignity and honesty of purpose were impregnable, and his countrymen and his family do not now wish it had been otherwise. The just verdict of mankind cannot be rendered until all who had formed a preconceived opinion have passed away. Posterity is the just and generous judge to whom Confederates look to write his honored name high on the shining lists of brave and self-sacrificing heroes.

1 The language of the five great powers of Europe in the Congress at Paris, 1856.

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