236.-letter of Cassius M. Clay to the London times.
The reply of the times.
We call attention to the letter of Mr. Clay
, Minister from the United States
to St. Petersburg
This lively letter-writer proposes six questions--three relating to his own country, three relating to England
The first question he is more successful in asking than answering--“What are we fighting for?”
“We are fighting,” says Mr. Clay
, “for nationality and liberty.”
We can understand a fight for nationality between different races, but a fight for nationality between men of the same nationality is to us, we candidly confess it, an inexplicable enigma; nor can we better understand how a people, fighting to put down rebellion, to force their fellow-citizens to remain in a Confederacy which they detest, and to submit
to institutions which they repudiate, can be called the champions of liberty.
If the South
seriously threatened to conquer the North
, to put down trial by jury, freedom of the press, and representative government, the contest must be for liberty; but, as this is not so, the introduction of such topics is mere rhetorical amplification.
“Can you subdue the revolted States?”
“Of course we can,” says Mr. Clay
So on that point there is no more to be said.
“Can you reconstruct the Union
when one-half of it has conquered the other?”
“Nothing easier,” says Mr. Clay
The victim of to-day will become the confederate of to-morrow: the traitor will be cast out, and the Union
firmer than ever — witness the happy results of the conquest of Ireland
, repeated over and over again, and always repeated in vain.
Having answered the questions which he supposes to be addressed to him by England
, Mr. Clay
becomes the questioner, and asks us where our honor would place us in this contest.
Clearly by the side of the Union
, because, he says, if slavery be extended in America
, it must be restored in the West Indies
If any one doubts the force of this demonstration we are sorry for it, for Mr. Clay
has no other to offer.
Our examiner next asks us to consider our interest.
Clearly, he says, it is to stand by the Union
, because they are our best customers, and because, though they have done all they can, since the separation of the South
gave them the power, to ruin their trade with us, they will, in spite of their own hostile tariff, remain our best customers.
Lastly comes the momentous question, “Can England
afford to offend the United States
“Certainly not,” says Mr. Clay
, “for in half a century they will amount to a hundred millions of people, and will have railways four thousand miles long.”
But is Mr. Clay
quite sure that, if we should offend them now, the people of America
will bear malice for half a century; and, if they do, is he quite certain that his hundred millions must all be members of one Confederacy, and that we may not then, as we might now, secure either half of the Union
as our ally in a war against the other?
must really allow us to give our own version of the honor and interest of England
Our honor and interest is to stand aloof from contests which in no way concern us, to be content with our own laws and liberties, without seeking to impose them upon others, “to seek peace and insure it,” and to leave those who take to the sword to fall by the sword.
In war we will be strictly neutral; in peace we will be the friends of whatever Power may emerge out of the frightful chaos through which Mr. Clay
sees his way so clearly.
And that neutrality which is recommended alike by our interest and our honor, we will not violate through fear — no, not of a hundred millions of unborn men. Let Mr. Clay
and his countrymen look well to the present, and they will find enough to occupy their attention without troubling themselves with long visions of humiliation and retribution, which no man now alive will ever see accomplished.--London Times
, May 20.
In order to estimate the character and quality of the letter of the American Ambassador
to St. Petersburg
, which appeared in The Times
of last Monday, and which naturally attracts a good deal of attention, it is necessary to consider who the writer is, what position he holds in public affairs, and why he wrote that letter.
Mr. Cassius M. Clay
is a Kentucky man, and a relative of the late Henry Clay
; but he has never followed the political track of his eminent relative.
used to boast that it was by his doing that Kentucky
was a slave State.
At the time of its organization as a State, a majority of the inhabitants desired to emancipate their negroes, and encourage the immigration of free labor; but Mr. Clay
discountenanced the notion, and used his influence with success, to induce his neighbors to follow the Southern
practice in regard to the tenure of labor.
To do this in such a country as Kentucky
was to incur a very grave responsibility.
The inhabitants have never taken heartily to Slavery with one accord; their soil and climate are favorable to the employment of white as well as free negro labor; they have seen, across the river, Ohio
rising into high prosperity, while Kentucky
made little or no progress; and there have been not a few citizens in Mr. Clay
's State who have always felt that he was answerable for its inferiority in numbers, wealth, and intelligence, to the States on the opposite bank of the Ohio
Among those who have asserted the higher principles on which the State
ought to have been organized, and on which it must have flourished beyond perhaps any other region in the Union
, Mr. Cassius M. Clay
has been the most prominent.
For a long course of years he has testified against the false policy of his State, at the risk of his life, and to the great injury of his fortunes.
He has been hunted out of the State
: he has been imprisoned, prosecuted, threatened, and brought within an inch of his life by Lynch
law: and his property has been thrown into the Ohio
, burnt, or broken up: but nothing could daunt his spirit, or silence his protests.
His Southern habits of self-defence, and his Northern habits of political reasoning, have, on the whole, made him too strong for his enemies.
He was an accursed Abolitionist; yet he has lived to come to Europe
as an Ambassador.
He never belonged to the small body of Abolitionists proper; but, though he carried pistols, and walked about in the style of the Kentucky
giants, he was so far an Abolitionist that he early emancipated his own slaves, and has ever since fought a stout battle, by his own printing-press
, public speaking, and whole course of life, on behalf of the liberties of whites and blacks, all over the Union
Such is the man who now, having just landed in England
on his way to Russia
, is evidently struck with surprise at the ignorance he meets with, or is led to infer from the tone of some of the newspapers on the great American question.
The impulse was to write to The Times
, to set the case clearly before us, and rectify some current mistakes.
He has met with rather hard measure in return; but a few more days in England
would have shown him that a somewhat closer and clearer statement of his case would have answered better with an audiance which he addresses on the very ground that it is critical instead of sympathetic.
It is certain, however, that The Times
misapprehends Mr. Clay
when it dismisses as mere rhetorical amplification his notice of trial by jury, liberty of the press, and representative government as objects of conflict between North and South. Mr. C. M. Clay
has but too much reason to know what the systematic perversion of justice is, under the influence of the Southern
oligarchy; and we ourselves need look no further than the condition of the Supreme Court, under Southern management, to be aware what the North
has to do in upholding justice.
Fair jury trial is not to be had in half the States: the coercion of the press is as bad as any thing Mr. C. M. Clay
will find in Russia
: and as for representative government, we need only point to the three-fifths suffrage of the slave States, and the virtual exclusion from the polls there of all “mean whites” whose opinions might be supposed likely to be inconvenient.
is certainly justified in saying that the free States are fighting for liberty under these and other forms, as the liberty and the forms have always and everywhere been crushed by Southern rule.
But he must allow for Englishmen being unable to imagine, without due explanation, that such fundamental liberties as these are really to be fought for now in the great Republic.
The successive Southern Governments of recent years have encroached more and more on these common rights, so that they are now actually in question; but Mr. Clay
must remember that, while he has been contending for them at the risk of his life, and to the loss of his fortune, most of us have been supposing them the birthright of every white American, as of ourselves.
The paragraph of Mr. Clay
's letter which cites the demands of the Southern Confederacy is certainly accurate.
Every point of it may be proved by facts within the memory of most of us; and the one truth, that in every instance the Confederate
authorities “have refused to refer their new usurpations to the votes of the people,” should be well considered by any Englishman whose mind is open to evidence in the case.
The demands are essentially barbaric in such a country at such a date; and Mr. Clay
is indisputably justified in saying that the great question of the war is whether this barbarism is or is not to be allowed to swamp the whole Republic.
To smile at such a statement as a rhetorical feat is to manifest the ignorance which Mr. Clay
proposes to rebuke and correct.
As for whether the North
can repress the rebellion, everybody can judge whether Mr. Clay
's confidence is rational or not. This may be decided by the facts of population and the comparative resources of food, stores, money, &c. We are not aware that anybody pretends that there is an approach to equality in the resources of the two sections — even if the Border States
joined the South
, and notwithstanding the enormous embezzlements by which the Federal
treasury has been emptied.
's letter, however, confirms the largest estimates yet made of the strength of the loyal Federal element throughout the country.
Perhaps the most valuable part of his letter is that which he occupies with a statement, not new to our readers, but too much needed generally, of the relation which the people individually bear to the Government
, and with which the States have nothing to do. The real question is, who and how many the rebels are. A little time will show whether there are most Union men or Secessionists in the States over which Mr. Jefferson Davis
professes to bear sway.
If Mr. Clay
is right in believing that any thing like half the citizens are loyal to the Union
, they will soon have the means of declaring themselves, and the contest will be at an end. It is certainly true, as Mr. Clay
points out, that the political party at the North
which is answerable for the long domination of the Pro-Slavery faction at Washington
, has become the most loyal of all parties since its Southern comrades took to rebellion.
Another valuable statement of Mr. Clay
's is that there is no question of the “subjugation” of any State.
Our contemporaries have been raising the difficulty, one after another, of what is to be done with a subjugated territory; and Mr. Davis
, the leader of the aggressive party, who met with long-suffering to the last moment, now invites his followers to declare against “subjugation.”
It is no question of territory or conquest at all. Rebels must return to their allegiance, or obtain terms which do not involve trouble to their loyal neighbors.
They will probably have the choice of going away or living in peace and order under the laws.
We believe Mr. Clay
to be mistaken if he thinks the Constitution
may remain precisely what it is. There must be amendments, by which the free States will be released from all implication with Slavery; and there are other points which will not be again sanctioned.
But his general statement that the Constitution
exists still for the whole country, and that there is no political adversary to subjugate, will be of great use to those who wish to understand the case.
The ignorant complaints of Mr. Lincoln
's supposed indecision or apathy must come to an end, now that people are beginning to remember that he proclaimed a term of grace, during which the Secessionists might return to their
allegiance He had enough to do in the interval; and now the time for action has come.
Meantime, a schism has taken place in each of the Border States
, and in some others, which goes to confirm Mr. Clay
's account of the strength of the loyalists wherever they have the means of asserting themselves.
Considering this, and the command which the Union
forces have, not only of the coasts, but of the Mississippi
, it seems probable that the war will be a short one.
may rely on England
wishing and doing no injury to his country and Government; but, if his letter means that he expects us to take an active part, he will, of course, soon learn better.
Our sympathies will, we trust, be found on the side of right, freedom, and civilization, but we shall not interfere in any way. Mr. Clay
probably refers to privateering invitations to our countrymen, and by this time, lie must have heard of the Queen
If he means more, he had better have waited a few days to learn our policy.
We do not “ignore” good “aspirations” on any hand; but aspirants must work out their own welfare, and there is every possible evidence before the world's eyes that the American
people are abundantly able to do it.--London News
, May 23.