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English Opinions on the Fort Sumter affair.

[From the Manchester Guardian.]

‘"Who began it?"’ will, no doubt, be hereafter a question warmly discussed by historians, of the civil war, which is now past praying against, in the United States. This point is not by any means so easy to settle as it may appear to be. * * * It appears that a messenger from the President of the United States conveyed to Gen. Beauregard and Mr. Pickens, the Governor of South Carolina, an announcement that the Federal authorities had determined to proceed immediately to extreme measures for the purpose of introducing reinforcements of men and supplies of provisions into the fortress.

This was an overt step towards coercion which, supposing the seceders to be justified at all in throwing off the authority of Washington, will, we think, be held to vindicate them from the range of blood-guiltiness in their determination to reduce Fort Sumter by force, its peaceable surrender having first been formally refused. It would be a very strained interpretation of the sentiment of humanity to suppose that a nation or a party which has been served with a formal notice of attack, should wait until the threat is carried into execution, for fear of being clothed with the responsibility of aggression.

There is reason for looking at this part of the question rather closely. The only plausible explanation of President Lincoln's conduct is that he has thought that a political object was to be obtained by putting the Southerners in the wrong. This reproach it was hoped that they might be made subject to, if they could be manŒuvred into firing the first shot. We, however, only infer this to have been the calculation, because we do not know any other hypothesis fitted to meet the strange circumstances of the case. Great as has been the manifest and unaffected bewilderment of the Cabinet at Washington since its construction — and of the leading men in the Government before they actually entered upon office — we must decline to suppose them capable of imagining that this affair of the Federal fortresses, within the territory of the seceding States, has been dealt with to the utmost advantage, from the plain and straight forward view of their duty as rulers, which they profess to take. For weeks past it has been rumored, with every appearance of the rumor's being true, that Fort Sumter was to be quietly evacuated. To say nothing of the authority on which this statement was circulated from time to time, people naturally supposed that, had there been any serious intention to maintain the fort, it would have been put in execution as soon as the Lincoln administration came into power. The interval since then having been sedulously employed by the South Carolinians in throwing up batteries and collecting men and material, it has been long known that the place was untenable, even if any political end could be gained by successfully resisting at this point pretensions, the real strength of which would have to be put to the test elsewhere. If there were any doubt as to the soundness of this conclusion on strategical grounds, it would be removed by the event.

From the character which Major Anderson holds, and from the manner in which his duties in the earlier part of this unhappy struggle were performed, there is no reason to question his being a man of resolution; and the soldiers of the American army are as little addicted as any troops in the world to surrendering posts entrusted to them, except under the pressure of necessity. The battle of Charleston, or by whatever name it may be called in history, narrowly escapes, if it does escape, being ridiculous. If the interchange of shots went on, as it appears to have done, for two days and an intermediate night, it would seem hardly possible but that some lives must have been lost; but we are not told that such was the case. All the information vouchsafed is, that none of the officers of the Federal garrison were wounded, and that none of the South Carolinians were killed. -- Whatever ludicrous associations connected with the wars of the Italian States of the middle ages, or of the Spanish American republics, may be recalled by these particulars, it should be a subject of rejoicing to every rational man that the useless horrors of an assault on the fort were spared. As soon as its walls had received a certain amount of damage, the effect of the firing of the wooden structures within the work, Major Anderson struck his flag, like a sensible soldier, and was conveyed with his men to Charleston, where they had doubtless had the most hospitable reception, and the best treatment compatible with their state as prisoners of war. It is worthy of special observation that the fleet off the harbor took no part in the conflict, as we must fairly presume it would have done if any serious intention of resisting the attack of the secessionists had been entertained. The whole affair looks like nothing so much as a refusal on the part of the United States authorities to leave a place in which they did not desire to remain without the application of just as much force as would entitle them to all the advantages to be derived from an action for assault and battery.

It may be premature to say how far the calculations on which this course was taken are likely to be justified by the event. To our limited power of judgment it appears, we confess, to complete the character of Mr. Lincoln's policy as including every known kind of blunder. Having first neglected to fight until the chance of doing so with success had passed away, he has now undertaken and provoked a conflict under circumstances which ensured his being humiliated and beaten, without the possibility of striking an effective blow in return. Morally, he is to the full as responsible as the Government of Montgomery for transferring the matters in dispute between them from the arbitrament of reason to that of arms, for his formal intimation to them that he was about to resort to force was a challenge that they could not be expected to disregard. If he meant what he said, it was the virtual commencement of war; if he did not, it was still more culpable as idle menace. We say nothing in justification of the revolt of the seceding States; we only remark that Mr. Lincoln seems to us to have thrown away, with singular impartiality, every advantage of argument, and of material position, which he possessed over them at the beginning.-- His position was a most arduous one, beyond doubt, but he need not have exerted himself to make the most of all its inconveniences and dangers. He has lost Fort Sumter, which was perhaps necessary; but has he succeeded in exciting in the wavering communities of the Border States the disgust and apprehension which were desired, in order permanently to alienate them from the seceders? Nothing appears less probable. It will easily be made to appear that the Southerners have only taken up the sword when an appeal to it was made inevitable, and that with scarcely any bloodshed, they have inflicted on the United States a conspicuous reverse. In regard both to the moral attractions of their cause, and to their prospects of ultimate success, it may fairly be inferred that they will have been raised in estimation by these events.

[From Wilmer & Smith's European Times.]

Having fared so badly in South Carolina, President Lincoln will doubtless pause before he proceeds further in the same direction.-- Indeed he is likely to have work on his hands at home, for a belief prevailed that the Southern forces would make an attack upon Washington; but their anger, in all probability, has been appeased by the possession of the Federal fort in Charleston harbor; which has thus been secured under circumstances more favorable than could have been anticipated.-- Both the opposing parties have done enough to redeem their pledges.

The spirit of Mr. Lincoln's inaugural has been vindicated by his attempt, however unsuccessful, to relieve Fort Sumter; and the earnestness of the South in the course on which it has entered is seen in its determination to subdue and seize the fort which has been an eyesore since the commencement of these troubles. When it was announced that civil war had actually broken out between the North and the South, a shudder ran through every frame; and if, as we hope, the next arrival brings the consolatory tidings that it began and ended at Charleston, a feeling of intense pleasure will be felt in England and throughout Europe.

Comments of A New York Newspaper.

In an editorial upon the attitude of England, the New York Express, of Friday last, says:

‘ We have at length the first impressions upon the English mind of the bombardment and surrender of Fort Sumter--an event which there, as here, is accepted as the termination of the last attempts to compromise, on the basis of peace, the differences between the free and slave States, and the opening up of a civil war of the first magnitude. Beyond this, however, even the shrewdest of our transatlantic contemporaaies are all at sea. Some of them ridicule the Idea of a forty-eight hours cannonade with ‘"nobody hurt,"’ while others cautiously set down the New York telegrams, with the news, as sweeping exaggerations, of a purely ‘"sensational"’ character, yet, nevertheless, such as to excite on all hands the liveliest anxiety for further intelligence from America.

All the journals, however, it is to be noted, are not thus reserved, and of these exceptions, perhaps, the most noteworthy is the Manchester Guardian, the especial organ of the great manufacturing interests. If Her Majesty's Ministers viewed things through the Guardian's spectacles, the Honorable Mr. Yancey would at once be taken by the hand in Downing street and introduced there as the representative not only of a government de facto, but a government de jurs. The Guardian, in short, is thoroughly impregnated with the se

cession view of the Sumter affair, and as if in natural manifestation of the fellow-feeling always existing between the cotton spinners of the manufacturing districts and the cotton growers of Carolina, hence casts about all the odium of beginning the war upon Mr. Lincoln and his Cabinet. The whole transaction, we are told, ‘"completes the character of Mr. Lincoln's policy as including every known kind of blunder."’ ‘"Morally,"’ moreover, "he is as fully responsible as the Montgomery Government for transferring the matters in dispute between them, from the arbitrament of reason to that of arms, for his formal intimation to them that he was about to resort to force was a challenge, which they could not be expected to disregard. ‘"If he meant what he said, it was the virtual commencement of war; if he did not, it was still more culpable, as an idle menace."’ So, to sum up the argument for the seceding States, the Manchester organ concludes that not only the ‘"moral attractions of their cause, but the prospects of their ultimate success have been materially improved"’ by driving the last vestige of Federal authority from Charleston.

’ Now, we never had a doubt, from the start, that if the Cotton Lords had their way, the Montgomery Government, after a little preliminary affectation of regret that the great American Republic was finally broken up, would be tenderly taken by the hand — free trade, free shipping and an inviting market for manufactures being one and all much stronger arguments with Manchester than any which the professional ‘"friends of freedom and humanity"’ in Exeter Hall can bring forward — but it is now come to be as much a question in England as in the United States, whether cotton is really king. King he unquestionably is in the manufacturing districts, but though a mighty power in the State, the power is not supreme. The great bankers and money kings of Lombard street have something to say on the subject, and we suppose nowhere can it be more authoritatively said than it is in the following article:

[From the London Economist.]

‘ The fall of Fort Sumter must soon, we fear, if we may rely at all on the drift of the recent news, issue in civil war. The rumor that the Southern Confederation intends to anticipate an attack by moving upon Washington is scarcely likely to be true, for President Davis is too sagacious a man to take a step which would so enrage the North as to induce it to enter heart and soul into an internecine contest with the South. If he were wise, indeed, he would not have ventured any active collision at all, such as has taken place at Charleston. It would have been better to trust exclusively to blockade for the reduction of the Federal garrisons in the revolted States. The moral shock of any collision is most dangerous, as the accounts of the frantic excitement in Washington on the arrival of the news of the collision at Fort Sumter, and the surrender of Major Anderson, sufficiently prove.

Under these grave circumstances it is that Mr. Gregory proposes to ask the House of Commons on Tuesday next to affirm the expediency of an immediate recognition of the Southern Confederation. We can imagine no course more disgraceful to England, or less likely to command the assent of the popular body appealed to. Not that we desire to see a civil war in America, even though the North should be completely triumphant. We have often said that unless there were a Union party in the Southern States considerable enough to make some head, even without external assistance, the defeat of the newly-Confederated States by the North, could scarcely lead to any good result. It would be mere military conquest; and a power like the American Union cannot hope to hold together its territory by military force. And seeing that there is, unhappily, but little trace of a powerful Unionist minority among the seceded States, we cannot wish to see a fratricidal strife which would multiply indefinitely the mutual hatreds of North and South, without solving the ultimate difficulty. But this is not the question for us to consider. It has been England's universal rule to acknowledge a de facto revolutionary government whenever it has established its practical independence by incontrovertible proofs — then, and not sooner. Whatever be the wisdom or folly of the war — which there is but too much reason to believe is now declared between the Federal Government at Washington and the revolted States--it is not yet begun, or is only just beginning. There can be no question whatever of the constitutional right of President Lincoln to treat the hostile Confederation as a treasonable rebellion, which, so far as it trenches on Federal property and laws, he may resist by force. This is his present attitude. He hopes, however little we may hope, to suppress the rebellion. He thinks, however little we may think, that he shall be able to enforce the laws enacted at Washington, and to redeem the United States property from the hands of the seceders. This may be sanguine; nay, it may even be a mere hallucination. With that we have nothing to do. We profess always to abstain from judging the rights of a quarrel between a people and its rulers, and to guide our conduct by the plain results of political fact. We are now on the eve of seeing what these results will be. Either war or compromise seems now inevitable. If it be compromise, we shall know how to act. If it be war, we are bound to await the results of that war. A premature recognition of the Southern Confederation would be a departure from the recognized course of England, and could not but therefore express a political bias in favor of the seceders.

We have thus presented the views and opinions of two representative, we might say controlling, classes of Englishmen,--the manufacturing class, and the moneyed class,--and so far as a rational deduction can be drawn from the premiees so markedly discordant, we should say that the rationale of these views and opinions, is just this: ‘"We, Englishmen, have immense interests at stake in both sections of the Union, and it is for our good, therefore, as well as yours, that the Union should be preserved; but if that cannot be done, then it is not less our interest to recognize the Montgomery Government, just as soon as it has shown the world that the revolution it has started can be, and will be, maintained by the sword. Just now, non-intervention is alike our policy and our duty, the near future is big with momentous events, which may work a vast change in the situation of to-day, and until these attain to fruition, for good or evil to America, Great Britain has but one duty to discharge, and that is to remain passive and bide her time."’

There is still another class of Englishmen, however, whose sentiments are not to be looked for in the organs of the cotton mills or the money changers — that will, doubtless, have something to say in deciding the issue, or shaping the policy of the government in a matter of this kind,--a class that gives forth its sentimental utterances for ‘"freedom,"’ ‘"humanity,"’ etc., at the anniversary meetings of the Anti-Slavery Society in Exeter Hall, and who get up great demonstrations and solid contributions for peregrinating abolitionists like Rev. Dr. Cheever. This class has ever made a great noise in its own little world,--and when the proposition comes up, fair and square, to recognize the Cotton Confederacy, it will be strange if it does not make a greater noise than ever against the ‘"slaveholders"’ and the ‘"slaveholding Government."’ The noise, however, will soon subside, we fancy, into a silent whisper, if Jeff. Davis is able to make a respectable fight, and the manufacturers, the ship-owners, and the free-traders can see their way, through his instrumentality, to better markets and more remunerative freights, than the North, with its Morrill Tariffs and its Navigation Laws, is likely to offer. Great Britain, we must remember, has ever been the most liberal patron of slavery, in America, and now that her material prosperity is come to depend so extensively upon the existence of that institution, we must not be too sanguine that her sentimental humanity (for the negro) will subtract her sympathies from the Cotton Republic in this the hour of its need, as summarily as some of our people are prone to anticipate.

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