Mr. Russell's third letter to the London times.
Washington, April 9th.
The critical position of the Federal Government
has compelled its members to preserve secrecy.
Never before under any Administration was so little of the Councils of the Cabinet
known to the public or to those who are supposed to be acquainted with the opinions of the statesmen in office.
has issued the most stringent orders to the officers and clerks in his department to observe the rules which heretofore have been disregarded in reference to the confidential character of State papers in their charge.--The sources of the fountains of knowledge from which friendly journalists drew so freely are thus stopped without fear, favor, or affection towards any. The result has been much irritation in quarters where such ‘ "interference"’ is regarded as unwarrantable, or, at least, as very injurious.
The newspapers which enjoyed the privilege of free access to dispatches are hatching canards,
which they let fly along the telegraph wires with amazing productiveness and fertility of conception and incubation.
Hence the monstrous and ridiculous rumors which harden into type every day — hence the clamors for ‘"a policy," ’ and hence the contending accusations that the Government
is doing nothing, and that it is also preparing to plunge the country into civil war.--Each member of the Cabinet
has become a Burleigh, every shake of whose head perplexes New York with a fear of change; every Senator
is watched by private reporters, who trace ‘"the day's disasters in his morning's face."’ If a weak company of artillery is marching on board a ship, its movements are chronicled in columns of vivid description, and its footsteps are made to sound like the march of a vast army.
The telegraph from Washington
has learnt its daily message about Fort Sumter
and Fort Pickens
by heart, and the world has been soothed daily by the assurance that Gen. Bragg
is ready, and that the South Carolinians can no longer be restrained.
But there is always a secret understanding that Gens. Bragg
will be more ready still next day, and that the people will be more unrestrainable by next telegram.
When I landed in New York, the first news I learnt was that Fort Sumter
would be evacuated next day; if not, that the supplies would be cut off and that the garrison would be starved out. I have learnt how to distrust prophecy, and I am going South in the hope that the end is not yet. The Southern Commissioners state that the Government
here has promised them no efforts shall be made to reinforce Fort Pickens
without previous notice to them — a very singular promise.
The Government, however, denies that it has been in communication with them.
must be considered as gone, for there is no disposition apparently on the part of the Government
to hazard the loss of life and great risk which must inevitably attend any attempt to relieve or carry off the garrison, now that the channels are under the fire of numerous heavily armed batteries, which the people of South Carolina
were permitted to throw up without molestation.
The operations of a relieving force would have to be conducted on a very large scale by troops disembarking on the shores and taking the batteries in reverse, in conjunction with an attack from the sea; and, after all, such expedition would be futile, unless it were intended to occupy Charleston
and try the fortune of war in South Carolina
--an intention quite opposed to the expressions, and I believe, the feelings of the Cabinet
, not to speak of the people of the Border States
, and large remnants of the Union
From your correspondent at New York, you will receive full particulars of the movements of troops, and of naval preparations which are reported in the papers, and which create more curiosity than excitement among the people I meet.
My task must be to describe what I see around me.
It may be as well to state in the most positive terms that the reports which have appeared in the American
papers of communications between the English Minister
and the American Government
on the subject of a blockade of the Southern
ports are totally and entirely destitute of foundation.
No communication of any kind has passed between Lord Lyons, on the part of the English Government
, and Mr. Seward
or any one else on behalf of the Government
It would be a most offensive proceeding to volunteer any intimation of the course to be pursued by any European Power respecting a contingency of action on the part of the United States
; nor would it be necessary, in case a blockade were declared, to formulate a supererogatory notice that it must be such a blockade as the law of nations recognizes.
The importance of a distinct understanding on that point is all the greater in connexion with the stories which are afloat that the naval preparations of the hour are intended to afford the Federal Government
the means of blockading the mouths of the Mississippi
and the Southern
ports, with the object of collecting the Federal
revenue.--If anything is clearer than another, in the doubt and perplexity which prevail, it is that Government will do nothing whatever to precipitate a conflict.
It would ill become me, in such a crisis, to hazard any authoritative statements as to the conduct of the Administration under the very great variety of complications which may arise hereafter.
Of this, however, be assured; Not a ship, or a gun, or a man, will be directed to make any attack, or to begin an offensive movement against the Confederate States
If any promise was made by the Buchanan Administration
to inform the members of the Southern Government
or its representatives of their course of action, it will not be considered binding on the consciences of Mr. Lincoln
's Cabinet, composed as it is of men who look on their predecessors as guilty of treason to the State
An attempt may be made to reinforce Fort Pickens
; but neither that nor any other position occupied by the Federal
authorities will be voluntarily abandoned.
Once for all, let it be impressed on the minds of the English
people that, whatever reports they hear, and however they may come — no matter whence or in what guise — there is no truth in them if they indicate the smallest intention on the part of Mr. Lincoln
to depart from the policy indicated in his inaugural address.
As strongly as words can do it, I repeat that the forces which have been assembled are only intended for the reinforcement of the strong places at Tortugas
and Key West
, which have been left short of every necessary of occupation and defence, and for the establishment of posts of observation, which are essential in case of hostility, and to guard against surprise or treachery.
I have dwelt in previous letters on the obvious policy of the Government
of the United States
, and I beg your readers to have firm faith that there will be no departure from it. By concentrating forces at Key West
very valuable political results are obtained in face of the present disputes, and material strategical advantages in case those disputes should lead to a rupture, which will not be initiated by the Cabinet
.--These places are within a few hours' sail of the coast; they are healthy, and can be easily supplied, as long as the United States fleet can keep the sea and cover the movement of its transports.
Their occupation in force cannot be taken as an act of open war, while it is undoubtedly an alarming menace, which will keep the Confederates
in a state of constant apprehension and preparation, leading to much internal trouble and great expense.--By a confusion of metaphor which events may justify, the eye to watch may be turned into an arm to strike.
The Virginia State Convention yesterday passed the following resolutions by a vote on division of 75 to 63:
in the opinion of this Convention, the uncertainty which prevails in the public mind as to the policy the Government
intends to pursue towards the seceded States is extremely injurious to the commercial and industrial interests of the country; tends to keep up an excitement which is unfavorable to an adjustment of the pending difficulties, and threatens a disturbance of the public peace: Therefore, be it.
That a committee of three Delegates be appointed to wait on the President
of the United States
, and respectfully ask him to communicate to this Convention what course he intends to pursue.
‘"That the people of Virginia
hereby declare their consent to the recognition of the separate independence of the seceded States; that they shall be treated as independent Powers, and that proper laws shall be passed to effect their separation."’
Messrs. W. Ballard Preston
, Conservative; Alexander H. H. Stuart
, Unionist; and Geo. W. Randolph
, Secessionist, have been appointed to wait on Mr. Lincoln
, and have arrived for that purpose.
The Southern Commissioners are still here, but they are still unable to procure even a semi- official recognition of their existence, and all their correspondence has been carried on through one of the clerks.
It is, perhaps, not necessary to add that Mr. Seward
has no intention of resigning, as has been stated, and that there is no dissention in the Cabinet