American Affairs in England.
an English Glance at the Stone Fleet.

[from the London times, Dec. 19.]

The longer the civil war in America lasts, the more evident becomes the signs that it is brutalizing at least one of the combatants.--If we had opportunities of watching the deeds of the Confederates as closely as we follow those of the Federals, we might possibly find that the progress towards savage vengeance is not very unequal in both parties. So far, however, as events have publicly transpired, it is the North which is growing fierce and bloodthirsty; it is the high professing Puritians who threaten to murder in cold blood; it is the citizens of New York and Boston, claiming credit for civilization and literary to see, who are exulting in the commission of wanton destruction. War is terrible enough at best, but even war has its mitigations among civilized men. We do not in Europe when we take a city out the throats of all the women and children, as the Taipings have done in China; neither do we burn down the city and sow salt upon the site, as was sometimes done even in Europe in barbarous days. We do not torture our prisoners after the manner described in Mr. Cooper's redskin novels. As civilized and Christian men, we put some bridle over the worst instincts of our animal nature, even in our moments of most intense excitement.--There are things we are ashamed to do in the heat of conflict, and we count that man a mere villain who when there is no fight raging can enjoy revenge without danger and can feel a ferocious joy in the infliction of suffering.

There are bad signs in the recent news from America. Already have the Northern Government threatened to hang up all the prisoners they may take at sea, and already have they filled prisons with condemned victims, whom they boast that they are about to put to death. It is quite clear, according to all laws, Divine and human, that the Federal Government have no more right to hang these men after taking them prisoners at sea than they have to hang any prisoners they take on land. It would be murder to do so. But we much fear that this crime would have already been committed if it had depended solely upon the will of the Northern Republic. The Southerners, however, also have prisoners, and prisoners of note. They have chosen from them by lot a number equal to that of the seamen threatened, who are to undergo the same hardships and to endure the same fate. Here are the first steps taken towards a fiendish emulation in human sacrifices. Meantime the two sets of prisoners are tortured by comfortless dungeons, hard usage, and prison diet. The House of Representatives takes another eager step forward in this downward path, and addresses the President to inflict the torture of condemned cells and starvation upon the captives taken from under the British flag. Of course, this would be but a signal for a farther retaliation, and would but send other officers of the Northern army into close confinement in the prisons of the South. It is a game of torture, the North leading off and the South following suit. Up to the present moment no actual murder has been committed. We may, however, expect every day to hear that some one of these prisoners has died under the hardships he is enduring, and that a prisoner on the other side has been publicly hanged to revenge his death. If this dreadful play of death for death is once begun, it must go on till the prisons are emptied on both sides, and the war between the Anglo-Saxon Americans will be like a war of cannibals.

Again, there are limits to the rights of destruction which even a nation at war may exercise. We read in Grotius, and other writers apon the state of war and peace, that all people who deserve the name of a nation have in all times respected things which are beneficial to the whole human race. Thus there is a rule derived from the authority of Holy Writ that fruit trees shall be spared wherever found. The implements of the husbandman have also been held sacred. To conquer, and not to destroy, is the right of a beligerent nation of civilized beings. Yet we are told, with a dastardly exultation, that fleets have gone forth from New London and New Bedford, laden not with soldiers and arms, but with stones; and that these fleets, ‘"with their stony burthens scuttled broadside, have obliterated, for years to come, the channels of entry by sea to those cursed cities, Charleston and Savannah."’ The object is to strangle these great ports of commerce; not to repossess them, but to destroy them for all time. ‘"Of the effectiveness of such a stone blockade,"’ writes the exulting journalists of New York, "there can be no doubt. The main ship channel leading to Savannah is but two hundred and fifty yards across the narrowest place, and can be perfectly barren by half a dozen of these vessels. Charleston harbor is equally eligible to the same treatment. Once sunk, these old hulks become points for the accumulation of alluvials which the rivers bear down, and of the sands which the tides carry back. There is a natural tendency in such ports to form obstructions, and all we have to do is, as the physicians say, to 'assist nature.'

‘"Becoming thoroughly imbedded in the sand, these accumulations but advance with time, forming unconquerable obstacles to reopening the harbors, and establishing a blockade which the highest pressure diplomacy of the world will be utterly powerless to raise."’--If this be true — and we believe the fact of the attempt is established — it is an act of hostility to the whole human race. The civilized Greek refused to put out ‘"the eye of Greece;"’ the savage American sails in full security to paralyze all the senses by which the Southern States might communicate in all time to come with the outer world. ‘"It must be confessed."’ says this exulting Vandal, ‘"there is something wonderfully gratifying in this silent, resistless piece of Rhadamanthean justice. The calmness of the method is, and a chef d'œuvre in its way; no vulgar theatrical vengeance, no laying of the city in ashes, as those heated braggarts of Charleston threatened, but a silent blight falling on them as though out of the night-- deadly, inevitable — and leaving those perfidous cities in a petrified death in life."’ People who would pluck the sun out of the heavens to put their enemies in darkness, or dry up the rivers, that no grass might forever grow on the soil where they had been offended. Yet such men ask for our sympathies, and there are a scattered few among us who are not ashamed to identify themselves with them and their doings.

Once again, the Government of the North, in the agony of its disappointment and its rage, is evidently about to make an attempt to spread massacre through the unprotected dwellings of their estranged brethren. That the division of these two vast countries must occasion the extinction of slavery no one who looks thoughtfully upon passing events can doubt. Two independent States cannot stand by side without the element of slavery oozing forth.--And this design of the North has nothing to do with slavery as a principle. It contemplates the negro only as an instrument of revenge. It means, not the subjection of armed men in fair fight, but horrible deeds committed upon defenceless whites of every age and sex. Here, again, we believe that the success of the scheme will not by any means correspond with the atrocity of the conception. But it is a terrible act for men calling themselves civilized to have even contemplated. It is terrible alike for whites and for blacks; for it seems that, after exciting these black men to work out this unmanly revenge, the North does not propose to endure their presence. Mr. Lincoln, like one of the despots of the Old World, undertakes to transport the whole race, slave and free, to some territory which no white man desires, but which Mr. Lincoln will buy for them, that he may never more behold a sable face.

All these things are, as yet, but in their commencement. Some are only threatened; others are only tentatively begun. They promise, however, in their development, such scenes of horror as the world has never seen since men fought like wild beasts. Against such methods of war we protest at the outset. Against bloody reprisals, against the wanton destruction of those harbors which a beneficent Creator has given for the enjoyment of all His creatures, against incitations to domestic rapine and murder, we protest in the name of humanity and civilization. There is scope enough given by the laws for ruthless deeds; but acts of mere vengeance never yet decided a great war, and ought not to be parmitted by the guardians of the civilization of mankind.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
China (China) (1)
Charleston Harbor (South Carolina, United States) (1)
hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Lincoln (2)
Grotius (1)
Cooper (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
December 19th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: