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Chapter 50:

  • Management of the Confederate Administration.
  • -- importation of arms. -- permitted under International law. -- blockade Ineffective the First year. -- Federal Government obtained all arms Wanted from abroad. -- failure of Confederate Government in that respect. -- inefficiency of the agent. -- no arms forwarded during 1861. -- Administration occupied with manufacturing arms at home. -- nitre beds. -- purchase of a Navy. -- ten First-class steamers offered to the Confederate Government in May, 1861. -- offer declined. -- attempts to build ironclads, and late obtainment of a few ships. -- object not to raise the blockade, but to assail the Federal mercantile marine. -- efforts inefficient. -- financial operations. -- sale of time bonds in Europe secured by cotton, our true Resource.—$75,000,000 offered to the Confederates in London and Paris for time bonds secured by cotton. -- Administration resorted to constant issue of Treasury notes, not redeemed. -- compulsory funding in bonds. -- destroyed credit of Confederate States. -- diplomacy. -- consisted of arguments about rights and dependence of England on American cotton. -- Confederate Administration made no offer of commercial advantages by treaty. -- low duties and navigation laws. -- no diplomacy. -- defence of territory, population, and supplies. -- progressive losses. -- effect on public opinion and feeling. -- Confederate conscription, instead of State troops. -- impressment Makeshifts, instead of efficiency in Commissary and Quartermaster Departments. -- causes concurring to produce a disastrous end. -- the South after the War. -- present attitude in the Union. -- the future in store. -- memory of the late struggle.

In bringing this book to a close it may be pertinent and profitable to the reader in search of truth, to pass briefly in review the management of the Confederate government in several matters vitally affecting the issue of the cause. To do this it is necessary to note our success or failure in providing the ways and means of defence. These consisted: first, in the importation of arms and munitions of war from Europe; second, in the purchase of a navy; third, in the financial operations of the government; fourth, in its diplomacy with foreign nations, especially England and France. As a result following the action of the administration in these particulars, it is important to observe the progressive failure of the government in defending the territory, population, and supplies of the Southern States. With correct ideas on these subjects [417] and a knowledge of public opinion and feeling concerning the management of Confederate affairs, the materials will be present for judging of the causes which led to the disastrous end. Thus is the web of fate woven. But, in touching upon these grave topics, which control military events and shape history, no more can be attempted here than a brief, if suggestive, outline.

1. It was patent to every man of intelligence in the country that arms, ammunition, accoutrements, soldiers' clothing, shoes, and blankets must be procured from Europe. The Confederate government was established in February, 1861. War was declared in the latter part of April. During three months there was not the slightest obstacle to the obtainment of arms and munitions. And, after declaration of war, the laws of nations authorized the citizens of neutral powers to sell to belligerents articles contraband of war, and to supply gunpowder and every description of arms. These laws were specifically confirmed by decrees of the courts of England and of the United States. Neutrality and a recognition of the belligerent rights of the Confederate States were soon assured by England, France, and other nations of Europe. And the blockade attempted of the Southern seaports was, for six months, no more than nominal, and thereafter very imperfect, to say the least of it, up to the close of the war.

On the 1st of May, 1861, the British Minister at Washington was informed by the Secretary of State, Mr. Seward, that he had sent agents to England, and that others would go to France, to purchase arms for the United States. This fact was communicated to the British Foreign Office, which interposed no objection. The government of the United States managed to receive in safety all the warlike supplies which it induced British manufacturers and merchants to send, and its arsenals were replenished from British sources. A reference to the bills of entry in the custom-houses of London and Liverpool shows that from May 1st, 1861, to December 31st, 1862, vast shipments of implements of war were made to the Northern States. The official customhouse returns set forth that 341,000 rifles, 41,500 muskets, 26,500 flint guns, 49,982,000 percussion-caps, and 2250 swords were exported to the North. And from one-third to one-half as much more was shipped as ‘hardware.’

Meantime, the head of the Confederate administration, elected on account of his acquaintance with military no less than civil affairs, [418] a graduate of West Point, distinguished as a colonel in the Mexican war, and afterwards Secretary of War, and familiar with the personnel of the United States army—a man who expressed his conviction that the North would certainly make war upon the South, and urged military preparations for defence—picked out Major Caleb Huse and sent him to England, as agent, to purchase arms. Major Huse was also a graduate of West Point, of the class of 1847, from Newburyport, Mass., and, since the war, has been, and still is, principal of a preparatory school at West Point, N. Y. He did not go abroad until after war was declared, and ran the blockade from the harbor of Charleston, with instructions to buy ten thousand (!) rifles.1 On the 30th of December, 1861, he wrote: ‘Not able to send anything.’ It seems, however, to have been held by the Confederate administration that Major House displayed prodigious energy when he sent the information that he ‘had in a warehouse at St. Andrew's Wharf, Liverpool, 25,000 rifles, 2000 barrels of powder, 500,000 cartridges, 13,000 accoutrements, 226 saddles, with blankets, socks, etc.;’ these ‘guarded by government watchmen, and the wharfingers ordered not to ship or deliver without acquainting the Board of Customs.’ So much for the commercial caution and skill of this select agent, whose repute is assuredly that of an estimable citizen, but not that of an active, enterprising, and practical man. If there were other agents sent to Europe by the Confederate government to purchase and ship arms the fact has not been published. The competent agency of John Frazer & Co., of Liverpool, might have been obtained by the government, and that of Confederate officers, one or more, who furnished the Russian government with arms during the Crimean war of 1855, and had information of the available arms in Europe. But their knowledge and experience were not utilized. Most of the wholly insufficient supply of arms that was obtained came through the private enterprise of merchants shipping at their own risk, and were sold to the government after landing. A large number were also acquired by capture on the fields of battle.

While the timely importation of what we sorely needed from abroad received comparatively insignificant and inefficient attention, the energies and agents of the administration seemed chiefly occupied in the preparation, within the Confederate States, of [419] nitre beds and other elaborate arrangements, which required time, and therefore accomplished little before the tide of war was fatally turned against us.

Of men willing to engage in the defence of their country Mr. Davis himself testifies there were many more than the government could arm. There were very many out of the army who were anxious to enter it, but for whom the government had no arms. Three hundred and sixty thousand offered their services to the government before it moved from Montgomery, at the end of May, 1861. In 1862 accepted regiments were encamped at Richmond which had been awaiting their arms for several months. The chief anxiety of General Albert Sidney Johnston at Bowling Green was to procure arms and men. Half of his troops were imperfectly armed, and whole brigades remained without weapons during the autumn of 1861. Importunate cries went up to the government from the West for the supplies which would enable patriotic citizens to defend their homes. Here, there, everywhere, the difficulty of the Confederate administration was the want of arms. The first Secretary of War, General L. P. Walker, after vainly urging the importation of arms by the hundred thousand, resigned, because it was determined by the President not to put into camps of instruction, for the campaign of 1862, the large number of troops on which the Secretary insisted.

2. In the procurement of a navy the Confederate administration was not more successful. An appropriation of ten millions of dollars in bonds, invested in cotton, would have enabled the Government to obtain a sufficient number of first-class steamships, to prevent a blockade; and such a proposition was actually made to it. When the East India Company surrendered to the Crown its control of British India it had for sale a fleet of swift and stout steamers, built for armament, to secure the Company's interests in the Indian seas, and for long voyages. These vessels, of great size and power (then recently built) were ten in number— four first-class, and six, for our purposes, scarcely inferior. They could have been bought in England at less than one-half the cost, and could have been equipped, manned, armed, and put on the coast of the United States within six months after the formation of the Confederate government 2—that is, by August or September, [420] 1861—for $10,000,000, or covered by 40,000 bales of cotton. The owners were willing to receive cotton or such other payment as might be convenient. Mr. Charles K. Prioleau, of the Liverpool branch of the house of John Frazer & Co., made this negotiation of his own accord;3 and an agent of the firm went from Charleston, S. C., to Montgomery with his proposition, that the Confederate government should buy these vessels on the terms mentioned. But the proposal was declined. This occurred about three months after the organization of the Confederate government, and constitutes a strange commentary upon the predictions of a terrible war, and the anxiety of Mr. Davis to prepare for it. Mr. Prioleau is a man of high standing, socially and commercially, and the correctness of his statements cannot be doubted.

The season of 1860 was a fine one for cotton, and a large crop was made. The people of the Cotton States were prosperous and rich. There were very many who did not need their crops for their immediate support, and there were very many who had money for investment. Although a good deal of cotton was shipped abroad, as usual, a considerable amount was held in the interior, and it was freely at the disposal of the government in exchange for its bonds, payable at a distant day. Recognizing the importance of preventing the closure of the Southern ports, it was early proposed and urged by men of prominence to purchase cotton with bonds of the Confederate States. VicePresi-dent Stephens suggested 2,000,000 bales of the crop of 1860, and 2,000,000 more from the crop of 1861. With this cotton, or any considerable part of it, either got out before the ports could be effectually closed by blockade, or in hand and pledged, a large number of the best steamers, ironclads or others, could have been bought, or contracted for and built, in Europe. This line of policy would have enabled the government to procure a number of ships by the end of 1861, and in no long time a navy vastly superior to that of the United States. The blockade might have been prevented, and Northern shipping—which was the weak point of the North—might have been swept from the ocean; all the cotton we had to export might have been convoyed across the sea; all needed supplies might have been procured; the credit of the Confederate States might have been established, while that [421] of the United States might have been crippled, by the prevention of duties from imports and exports; and, by the development of such power and resources, the Confederate States might have secured the recognition of their established place among the independent nations of the world. But the administration failed to discover the true policy, or had not the capacity and energy to carry it out. That which is highly practicable for some men is wholly impracticable for others. Hence, the successes and failures that checker life mark the difference between men of eminent competence and those who bear the brand of signal incompetence on great occasions.

The blockade—at first a mere semblance—was allowed to grow gradually, and, by great and intelligent effort on the part of the North, became more efficient and real, although never perfect. Meanwhile, the Confederate administration expended its energies and resources, thus cramped, in a few partially successful attempts at building ironclads at the South, and had an agent in England to buy ships for the purpose of attacking Northern commerce on the seas. The frigate Merrimac, raised from the water at Norfolk, was by March, 1862, converted into the ironclad ram Virginia, with a draught of twenty-two feet. She was not seaworthy, and was unable to drive the Federal fleet out of the shallow waters of Chesapeake Bay; and when the peninsula was evacuated she had to be burned, on Craney Island, within two months after her completion. The steam-ram Mississippi, at New Orleans, was not finished when that city fell. The Louisiana, from defective machinery, was of little account. The North Carolina and the Raleigh, constructed at Wilmington, went to the bottom at the entrance of the Cape Fear River, without accomplishing anything. The Palmetto State and the Chicora, at Charleston, had home-made machinery, none having been imported by the government. This was so inadequate that what was effected with the vessels hardly merits a special mention. There was— we might say—one exception: the Arkansas, saved from destruction by the forethought of General Beauregard, but whose short and glorious career was due to the intrepidity of her commander, his officers and crew, and not to her own strength and capacity. None of these Confederate vessels or ironclads were, in the strict sense of the word, seaworthy, and, beyond river and harbor defence, none of them could render effectual service. [422]

The agent of the Confederate government in Europe for the obtainment of ships was Captain J. D. Bullock. How late he went is not known. On the 24th of August, 1862, he got the Alabama afloat, under the famous Semmes——not to raise the blockade, but to assail the mercantile marine of the North. And up to that period the Alabama and the Florida had been the only ships of any consequence secured. The latter commenced her career from Mobile Harbor, under Captain Maffit. The Sumter and the Jeff. Davis, two frail, indifferent craft, extemporized for cruising from merchant-ships in Southern ports, had already closed their brief careers. The Nashville, a coasting steamer, made a voyage across the ocean in 1863, under Captain Pegram, and was run ashore on the coast of Georgia, to save her from capture. In 1864 the Shenandoah was bought in England, and placed under command of Captain Waddell; the Georgia, under Captain Maury. The Tallahassee and the Chickamauga—blockade-running screw-propellers had run into Wilmington—were also bought, and sent out with the Confederate flag, under Captains Wood and Wilkinson respectively, in 1864. What was done by the Confederate government to raise the blockade, on the one hand, and to sweep the commerce of the North from the ocean, on the other, was accomplished, almost exclusively, by the few ships mentioned. Such were the tardy and feeble efforts made, which show the extent of the failure to procure a navy. Meanwhile, we had naval officers of superior ability—one admiral, twelve captains, thirty commanders, and one hundred and twelve lieutenants—all ready and anxious for service. The principal officers had belonged to the navy of the United States common to both sections before the war, and among them were men of world-wide renown.

3. In regard to the financial operations of the Confederate government, it was believed by many that Treasury notes, payable for all public debts, except duties, could be used to the amount of from $100,000,000 to, possibly, $200,000,000. But, beyond that limit, it was unquestionable that such issues must exceed the necessities of business and bring about want of confidence, speculation, and depreciation. At best Treasury notes were simply a form of credit, based upon income or funds derivable from certain sources. And it was obvious that for the actual means of carrying on the government and meeting the requirements of a [423] great war we were necessarily dependent upon three resources: duties on imports and on exports; direct taxation; and the sale of bonds for money, or for cotton, which, in the markets of the world, commanded gold.

With a blockade interfering to prevent imports and exports it was plain that duties would yield but little revenue; and so long as such a state of things continued to exist that source must be of small avail.

With a blockade the marketing of the staple products of the country was also interrupted; and when, besides this, our people were urged to plant less cotton and to grow food crops, it was manifest that direct taxation would prove, not; merely onerous, but, in the emergencies of the government, utterly inadequate.

The practical resource of the Confederacy, therefore, consisted in the sale of bonds, payable in ten, twenty, thirty, or forty years.

The people of the South were earnest and patriotic in their efforts permanently to establish their government; and, so far as they had means available for investment in bonds, they were willing to invest their money and their cotton. Their private resources were far ampler than those of their ancestors in 1776 and in 1812, when the blockade was complete; and they were able to make such investments to sustain the government. But, for the pressing exigencies of a great war, it was evident that the Confederate government must obtain means through large loans on time from bankers abroad, as is commonly done.

The sale of bonds abroad depended on the security offered. The Confederate government, newly set up, was involved in a struggle of vast proportions. Capitalists are proverbially cautious, and it could not be expected that the moneyed men of Europe would lend the large amounts needed upon the bare stake of the success of the Confederate States in achieving independence. But the people of the South raised cotton in large amounts, which, in the markets of the world, was equivalent to specie, and there was a general willingness to transfer a large portion of it to the Confederate government in exchange for bonds bearing 8 per cent. interest, and payable at a distant day. With this cotton, from the crops of 1860, 1861, and 1862, to sell or to pledge in Europe, funds necessary to carry on the war effectively, and to keep up the credit of the country, could have been obtained. And, using cotton as a tangible collateral security, [424] the Confederate government might have arranged to get the benefit of an advance of price.

It should not be forgotten that, in the summer of 1862, the British consul at Charleston, Mr. Bunch, made this official statement concerning the efficiency of the blockade: ‘Authoritative accounts and commercial letters, submitted to me by my government, prove that any vessel in Europe destined for a Southern port could be insured, with her cargo, at a premium of 7, 10, 15 per cent.’ And to show, beyond a reasonable doubt, the practicability of this policy and the financial failure of the administration, a single additional fact may be cited. As late as March, 1863, when the Treasury notes of the Confederate government were worth but twenty-five cents on the dollar, a loan of $15,000,000 was asked on Confederate bonds, secured by cotton, to be delivered at Charleston, Savannah, Mobile, or New Orleans, or within ten miles of a railroad or stream navigable to the ocean. The applications in London and in Paris to take the loan exceeded $75,000,000; and it stood in the London market at 5 per cent. premium. For this fact Mr. Davis is our authority.

The United States, during the war, had no such substantial basis on which to issue currency or to negotiate loans on time bonds. Their credit rested solely on their progress and prospective success in reducing the South by force of arms. And the helplessness manifested by the Confederate administration in utilizing its superior advantages in financial position gave strength and potency to the efforts of the Northern government, which borrowed, from time to time, all that it required.

That the Confederate government should purchase, With its bonds, the cotton in the South, and ship it or pledge its delivery, as above suggested, was proposed and pressed in the early days of its organization. But the policy was neither appreciated nor acted upon.

The customs collected up to August 1st, 1862, amounted to only $1,437,400. And the people had been harassed by a direct tax, from which, to that date, only $10,539,910.70 had been realized; $15,000,000 were raised on bonds, secured by a duty on the exportation of cotton of one-eighth of a cent per pound; and $22,613,346.61 were raised on 8.20 bonds. A resort to the issue of Treasury notes and call certificates to the amount [425] of $248,106,116.61 covers nearly all the financial operations effected up to the date mentioned.

The permanent constitution of the Confederate States went into effect on the 22d of February, 1862; and in this constitution it was provided that Congress should appropriate no money from the Treasury except by a vote of two-thirds of both Houses, taken by yeas and nays, unless it were asked and estimated for by some one of the heads of departments, and submitted to Congress by the President. Therefore, unless the Executive asked for appropriations for any purpose, it was hardly possible to pass them, and, if passed, they were subject to the President's veto. So that the administration, and not Congress, was chiefly responsible for the financial operations.

By December, 1863, the currency put out by the Confederate government amounted to over $600,000,000, or much more than threefold the sum required by the business of the country.

The scale of depreciation was as follows:

Confederate currency.

October, 1861 $1.00 at par.
November, 1861 1.10 below
December, 1861 1.16
January, 1862 1.20
February, 1862 1.30
March, 1862 1.50
April, 1862 1.55
May, 1862 1.50
June, 1862 1.50
July, 1862 1.50
August, 1862 1.50
September, 1862 2.00
October, 1862 2.00
November, 1862 2.50
December, 1862 2.50
January, 1863 3.00
February, 1863 3.00
March, 1863 4.00
April, 1863 5.00
May, 1863 1.50
June, 1863 6.50
July, 1863 9.00
August, 1863$14.00 b. par.
September, 1863$14.00
October, 1863 14.00
November, 1863 15.00
December, 1863 20.00
January, 1864 21.00
February, 1864 21.00
March, 1864 23.00
April, 1864 20.00
May, 1864 19.00
June, 1864 10.00
July, 1864 21.00
August, 1864 23.00
September, 186425.00
October, 1864 26.00
November, 1864 39.00
December, 1864 49.00
January, 1865 50.00
February, 1865 56.00
March, 1865 60.00
April, 1865 100.00

The administration relied mainly on the issue of Treasury notes and call certificates, which it could not redeem, and then on the [426] compulsory funding of these in bonds. The result of this financiering was constant embarrassment, followed by a steady decline of credit. Only $11,000,000 were due abroad when the Confederate government went down. The true resource of the country was neglected, and very little money was obtained in Europe.

4. The diplomacy of the Confederate administration consisted of arguments as to rights, and appeals to precedent. The arguments set forth the origin, construction, and federal character of the government of the United States under its Constitution, supplemented by the right claimed by all free people, under the Declaration of Independence, to alter or abolish their forms of government, and to institute such new governments ‘as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.’ These were expected to justify the secession of the Southern States, and the formation of the new republican government of the Confederate States. On this presentation of the case appeals were made to the monarchical governments of Europe—not at all in love with republicanism—to recognize the independence of the Confederate States, at whatever cost, as a matter of moral sentiment. It was further insisted, with confidence, that ‘cotton is king,’ and that the nations of Europe were dependent on the South, with its annual crops of cotton. England, especially, with her eight millions of factory hands, could not afford to have our ports closed, and must, of necessity, recognize our separate existence and raise the blockade. At the same time it was persistently sought to keep the Confederate States commercially independent of all the nations of Europe, and to confer no advantages in trade. The fact seems to have been wholly lost sight of by the administration that England had large interests in the cotton culture of her East Indian Empire; that the ruin of the Confederate States and the depression of rival cotton production would stimulate and promote British independence of American cotton; and that, unless compensatory and overbalancing interests in trade were tendered, England might seek commercial freedom by noninter-vention.

The efforts of the Northern States to preserve the Union were not inspired by love of the Southern people. The value of the Union to them was in the great interests developed through the powers of the general government, exercised by the Northern majority and involving Northern prosperity. The war was waged [427] against the South by the North to retain the enormous benefits derivable through discriminating and prohibitory tariffs, exclusive navigation laws, and unequal and profligate appropriations from the common treasury.

The people of the South had long struggled for ad valorem duties laid for revenue, and against duties discriminating for the benefit of classes at the North. In 1833 the Union was nearly dissolved on the ground of the unconstitutionality, inequality, and oppression of such taxes. And, in framing the Confederate constitution, it was carefully provided that ‘no duties or taxes on importations from foreign nations shall be laid to promote or foster any branch of industry, and all duties, imports, and excises shall be uniform throughout the Confederate States.’

It should be remembered that, during eighteen months, the question of African slavery was no obstacle to foreign relations. The United States government had declared, in despatches sent to its ambassadors abroad, that the war was made to save the Union only, and to maintain all the rights and institutions of the States unchanged. The United States Congress announced to the Confederate States and to the world the same policy. Thus did the United States government stand before the foreign powers, no less than before the South, as the supporter of African slavery, until September 22d, 1862. Then, as a war measure to cripple the South and assist the North in keeping the seceded States in the Union, President Lincoln issued his Proclamation of Emancipation. When this was done the time for the Confederate States to establish friendly relations with foreign nations had passed.

The fact should not be overlooked that the great Conservative party of England—which, to a considerable extent, represented the land-holding and agricultural interests of the country, formerly led by the Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel, and latterly by the Earl of Derby and Mr. Disraeli—sympathized deeply with the conservative attitude of the people of the Confederate States. Although not in power during the war, the Tory party was strong and vigorous. It retired from control of the government, Lord Derby and Mr. Disraeli resigning in June, 1859, on account of the question between Austria and Italy, and it came into office again, succeeding the Palmerston-Russell Administration, in June, 1866. The parties were nearly balanced, and any [428] blunder on the part of one placed the other in almost immediate power.

Soon after the government was organized the Confederate Congress unanimously voted the appointment of commissioners, to be sent to Europe to negotiate for a recognition and, in the event of war, possibly, for assistance. The Constitution ordained that the President ‘shall have power, by and with the advice and consent of the Congress, to make treaties, provided two-thirds of the Congress concur; and he shall nominate and, by and with the advice and consent of the Congress, shall appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, etc.’ Thus was the treatymaking power vested in the President; and Congress had no authority to instruct the commissioners or to shape their negotiations.

Statesmen of the South expected that the commissioners would be sent as plenipotentiaries, instructed to propose, as conditions of our recognition and alliance, to England, France, and other nations that the Confederate States, for twenty years, would lay no higher duties on their productions imported than, say, 20 per cent. ad valorem; that for the same period no tonnage duties would be laid on their shipping, entering or leaving our ports, except what should be sufficient to keep in repair our harbors and rivers; that the coast navigation between ports of the Confederate States, during this time, should be free to them, subject only to police regulations; that upon the productions and tonnage of all nations refusing to recognize our independence there should be imposed a discriminating duty of, say, 10 per cent. additional; and that, if necessary—but not otherwise—the Confederate States government should make a league, offensive and defensive, with special guarantees—for instance, a guarantee to Great Britain of British America.

The tender of such treaties would have offered immense advantages to England and to France. With their great capital, and cheaper and more skilful labor, low duties for twenty years, with a discrimination of 10 per cent. against their competitors for the markets of the Confederate States, would have enabled them to furnish our supplies at enormous profits; and a tariff of 20 per cent. ad valorem would, according to experience, have yielded to our government the largest obtainable revenue, without in any way oppressing our people. The lucrative carrying trade of the Confederate States on the high seas, and the coasting [429] trade, hardly less remunerative, would have been chiefly theirs, with less cost to our people.

Would the Palmerston-Russell ministry have ventured to decline such a proffer of mutual benefits, and to persist in the policy of non-intervention? If it had, then the subject would have been taken straight into Parliament, with almost a certainty that the Whig ministry would have been speedily voted down, and the Conservative administration of Lord Derby and Mr. Disraeli placed in power. And there can be little doubt that that administration would promptly have entered into such a treaty. Even the Whig Foreign Secretary, Lord John Russell, openly expressed the opinion that the dissolution of the American Union would be permanent, and the Confederate States successful. John Bright, the Quaker Radical, and Richard Cobden, the Independent Liberal of the Manchester School of politics, then supporting the Whig administration, represented manufacturing constituencies, and were noted advocates of free-trade and low duties. It is more than likely that, in view of such benefits, their prejudices against the South and partialities for the North would have been nullified and overridden by the calls of unmistakable and gigantic interest to the people of England. The Emperor of the French, Louis Napoleon, was friendly in feeling to the South, and would gladly have joined England in such a programme. Without such inducements he proposed a mediation in October, 1862.

Under the action of the Confederate Congress the President appointed commissioners to Europe, with the Hon. William L. Yancey at the head of the commission, to go to England. But the instructions given him were not such as the past policy and political position occupied by the South naturally suggested; not such as Mr. Yancey expected; not such as the Secretary of State, the Hon. Robert Toombs, advocated; and not such as other leading Southern statesmen deemed of vital importance to the cause. Instead of seeking to use the power of leaving duties and passing navigation laws, to conciliate the support of foreign nations; instead of using the treaty-making power, which was paramount to the legislative, to obtain the recognition of the independence of the Confederate States, the President gave no authority to the commissioners to make commercial treaties, or to agree to confer special trade or navigation interests. The commission went without [430] powers. It had nothing to propose and, therefore, nothing to treat about. The administration seemed to have no comprehension of the importance of appealing to the interests of foreign nations for the establishment of our independence. In addition to abstract disquisition it appeared to rely chiefly on compelling England by her dependence touching the supply of cotton for her manufactories. If there was really superior sagacity in forecasting the magnitude of the struggle in which the South was involved—which has been claimed, but which plain facts go far to refute—then the only explanation of this unexpected and ultimately fatal policy, on the part of President Davis, appears to have been the entertainment of a design by him to foster manufacturing classes in the Confederate States, and, for that purpose, to hold in the hands of the government the power of discrimination in laying duties on foreign commodities to the utmost extent practicable, and free from committals by treaties. This idea has support from the course of the administration in regard to the obtainment of arms and munitions of war, and the procurement of a navy.

When the Confederate commission presented itself in London it was received by the British Minister for Foreign Affairs, and interviews were held between them. But Mr. Yancey, as we have seen, was powerless. He had nothing to propose or to treat about. So when the minister of the United States, Mr. C. F. Adams, on the 12th of June, 1861, expressed the ‘great dissatisfaction’ of his government, coupled with a threat to retaliate, if such interviews continued, the British Minister, having ascertained that it was the policy of the Confederate government to use the commercial dependence of England to obtain compulsory recognition, and to make no treaties conferring advantages in trade or commerce, cut short further official intercourse. Not until November, 1861, were Messrs. Mason, Slidell, Mann, and Rost sent over to Europe. And they, too, had only arguments to offer concerning legal rights and precedents unacceptable to monarchies; and they accomplished nothing. Our attempts at diplomacy were an egregious failure. In the language of the Chairman of the Committee of Foreign Affairs, in the Confederate Senate, from 1862 to 1865 —the Hon. James L. Orr—‘the Confederate States had no diplomacy.’

In defending the territory, population, and supply resources of [431] the Southern States the success or failure of the Confederate administration may be judged by a brief presentment of cardinal points. By the devoted courage and unsurpassed endurance of our volunteers, accepted in insufficient numbers, ill-fed, ill-clothed, and ill-armed, but led by officers of ability, brilliant victories had been achieved over the invading forces of the North; and drawn battles, hardly less distinguished, had been fought against heavy odds. But, although the armies of the United States had received terrible repulses on various occasions, they certainly made considerable progress in occupying important portions and positions of the Confederacy. In 1861 were fought the battles of Bethel, June 10th; Manassas, July 21st; Ball's Bluff, October 21st—in Virginia; and in Missouri the battles of Springfield, August 10th; Lexington, September 21st; Belmont, November 7th. In 1862 the battle of Seven Pines, May 31st; Port Republic, June 8th; the seven days battles near Richmond, at the end of June; Cedar Run, July 19th; second Manassas, July 29th, 30th, 31st—in Virginia; followed by Boonsboroa and Sharpsburg, on the 14th and 17th of September. In the West there were fought the battle of Elkhorn, in Arkansas, March 5th; Fort Henry and Fort Donelson, Tennessee, on the 5th and 16th of February; and Shiloh, in North Mississippi, on the 6th and 7th of April. The Confederate States lost the harbor of Port Royal, South Carolina, November 7th, 1861; Norfolk, with its Navy Yard, May, 1862; and also Pensacola—these constituting the finest ports on the Southern coast. Of the cities, St. Louis and Louisville were lost in 1861; Nashville, in February, 1862; New Orleans, in April; Galveston, in May; Memphis, in June. Besides these, the Mississippi River was lost, and also the three States of Missouri, Kentucky, and Tennessee, whose young men, generally, were with the Confederacy in feeling, and—if they had had encouragement and timely assistance—would have recruited the Southern armies with thousands of brave soldiers. These states were all the more important on account of their large production of grain crops, meat, horses, and mules; and their loss was a series of severe blows to the Confederacy. The prime causes of these disasters may be noted in what has heretofore been pointed out.

It is notable that before September, 1862, public opinion concerning the management of Confederate affairs had undergone a decided change, and that grave doubts respecting the competency [432] of the Executive to guide the destinies of the South were entertained by many who had the opportunity of knowing what was done and what was omitted.

Fearing the result of such a feeling, Congress—which, upon the formation of the government, had never resorted to secret sessions except on very important occasions—began to transact no small amount of its business with closed doors; and secret sessions, heretofore the exception, now became almost the prevailing rule. There doubtless were circumstances under which it was eminently right to keep the North from knowing what took place in the legislative halls of the South. In war secrecy is often an element of success. But on many other occasions, and when there was no necessity to conceal anything from our enemies, the people of the Confederate States were kept in ignorance of their own affairs, and of the views and opinions of their representatives. Thus was the formation of public opinion restricted, if not altogether obstructed, and criticism on the conduct of the business of the people, in a degree, suppressed; thus was the power of the government gradually brought into the hands of the President, who was already possessed of enormous patronage, not to speak of the veto power. The people were cut off from the opportunity of finding a remedy for errors, no matter how gross and vital they might be. But there were results so patent that they could not be withheld from sight; and in some of these the public could not help perceiving a mismanagement which could only lead to disaster.

In the war of 1812 with England, and in the Mexican war of 1846, the general government called upon the states for troops needed in addition to the regular army; and the state authorities organized, officered, and sent forth their respective quotas. During the late war the Federal government again called upon the governors of the states for the soldiers required, and received them, officered, at their hands. But the President of the Confederate States, after declining to accept the services of thousands upon thousands of volunteers tendered, and after opposing bills offered in Congress, in January, 1862, authorizing him to call for troops from the states, to the number of fifty thousand and upward, as late as March, 1862, drove Congress, on the plea of necessity, to pass an act of conscription, which set aside the authority of the states, and gave the Executive power to conscribe the peopie [433] and appoint the officers. This arbitrary and unwarranted step, taken without the least foresight or sagacity—wholly unnecessary and unpopular—did not strengthen the administration or the cause with the people of the South. To this was afterwards added unjust impressments of private property for the use of the government—makeshifts odious to a free people, and resorted to, in a great measure, to assist the notorious incompetency of many appointees of the administration—most conspicuous among whom was the well-known and proverbially inefficient CommissaryGen-eral of the Confederate States.

As events rolled on, foreshadowing the inevitable effects of persistently recurring causes, anxiety and distrust of the Confederate government, which the Executive head had all but absorbed and jealously controlled, pervaded the minds of all intelligent men who were informed and were not blinded by partiality or warped by personal interest. And the dreaded result at last came. The weight of numbers—though not that weight alone; the prestige of reputed constituted Federal authority abroad—though not that prestige alone; but, concurring with these, want of sagacity, inefficiency, improvidence, and narrow-mindedness on the part of the administration; egotism and illiberality; culpable loss of time and of opportunity—these, altogether and combined, brought on the annihilation of the hope of Southern independence.

At the close of hostilities between the two contending sections the picture was a dark one. Civil strife, whatever be its cause, whatever its purpose, carries with it ruin, and is followed by cruel remembrances. During nearly six years after the furling of the Confederate battle-flag there was added to the mortification of defeat for the South the disheartening reality of humiliation and distinctive oppression. Power and the sense of victory achieved are not always accompanied by conciliation, justice, and generosity. Yet the South was earnest in laying down her arms, and accepted the result of the war with a brave and honest spirit. Time, the great soother of all human woes, has begun and is advancing with its work of pacification and obliteration. It is now a fact that the Southern States are as faithful supporters of Federal government as any of the Northern States of the Union.

Notwithstanding the cloud that has darkened its political horizon, a great future lies before the whole American republic. Gradually emerging from her ruin, and without slavery, the South [434] possesses her peculiar agricultural advantages, and is becoming both manufacturing and commercial in character. In the days of renewed prosperity to come this book may aid in recalling to mind and to honor the patriot soldiers and the statesmen who made every sacrifice in what they conscientiously believed to be the defence of constitutional liberty. Among these will be numbered General G. T. Beauregard.

1 See Chapter V., Vol. I.

2 See Chapter V., Vol. I.

3 See Mr. Prioleau's letter to General Beauregard, in Chapter V., Vol. I.

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