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CHAPTER XXXIV.: the american war—fortification schemes—international law. - John Morley, The Life of Richard Cobden 
The Life of Richard Cobden (London: T. Fisher Unwiin, 1903).
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the american war—fortification schemes—international law.
When Cobden returned to England his public position had more than recovered the authority and renown which had been seriously impaired by his unpopular attitude on the Russian War, and his devotion to the thankless questions of Retrenchment and Peace. It was felt that the reproach of sentimental statesmanship could not well be applied to a man who had conducted so tough and laborious an undertak ing as the negotiation of a tariff. The commercial class1861.
As his correspondence shows, Cobden did not at first seize the true significance of the struggle. There were reasons why he should be slow to take the side of the North. One of them was that he could not for a time bear to face the prospect that the community which had hitherto been the realization on so great a scale of his pacific ideals, should after all plunge into war just as a monarchy or an oligarchy might have done. The North, by refusing to allow the South to secede, seemed to him at first to be the author of the strife.1861.
The interest in the conflict soon took a practical turn. The circumstances of the war very speedily raised great questions connected with the maritime rights of belligerents and neutrals, and Cobden threw himself energetically into a discussion which was to vital importance to Great Britain. His activity between the date of the Commercial Treaty and the time of his death was principally directed to two objects; the improvement of international law as it affects commerce in time of war, and the limitation of expenditure upon 1862.
In the course of 1862 Cobden made one of his most determined and systematic onslaughts upon Lord Palmerston’s policy of national defence. He carried on very effective skirmishing during the session, until at the close of it (Aug. 1), as an eye-witness describes it, they engaged in a regular single combat.4 The House was thin, the conclusion was foregone, and no effect followed from Cobden’s undaunted perseverance. Perhaps more was done by a pamphlet which he published earlier in the same year, The Three Panics, a strenuous and humiliating narrative of the incoherent alarms of invasion which had seized successive Governments in 1848, in 1853, and in 1862.5 Mr. Gladstone thought that the narrative laid more than the full share of blame upon Governments 1862.
He deplored the absence from the scene of his steadfast ally,1862.
Cobden’s correspondence during these final years touches other topics, but the fortunes of the war in America, international maritime law, and national expenditure, were the subjects which now filled the largest space both in his thoughts and in his public addresses.
“April 26, 1861. (To Mr. W. S. Lindsay.)—In your letter upon maritime law in time of war, you shirk the pinching point of the whole question, by omitting allusion1861.
“Looked at in this light, the question is much more simple than you assume it to be, for you put the alternative of going back to the state of things before the Paris Congress, as though the consent of England to that Congress were a voluntary choice and not an inevitable necessity. Viewed in this manner, there cannot be a doubt in any sane mind that it is our interest to go on even to the extent stipulated for by President Buchanan in his late letter on the subject. With the European law as it now stands, it merely offers the carrying trade to the United States in case of a war between England and any other maritime state sufficiently powerful to keep a few fast steamers at sea. Anybody who opposes your proposal to put England and America on the same footing in case of war, does not understand our present situation.
“P.S. The peace-at-any-price party (if there be one) are not so much interested as the war people in putting us on a par with the United States in case of hostilities with a maritime power; for in the present state of things a war with France, whatever might be the ultimate result, must involve tenfold sacrifices to England, as compared with what would be the case if your plan were acceded 1861.
“July 27, 1861. (To Mr. W. S. Lindsay.)—I have read the debates on the iron-cased ships in the Times. It is important only so far as it elicited a most able and statesmanlike speech from Disraeli, which will bear fruits.7 .... You were wrong in throwing overboard your Paris authority, and giving in your adhesion to the Secretary of the Admiralty. There was no necessity to contradict him until you had the disproofs. But I would have waited for the answer from the other side. My maxim has been to distrust the Treasury bench at all times, and never admit myself wrong in a controversy with the Government, until I have better evidence than their assertions. Old Saddletree’s example in the Heart of Midlothian is worth remembering. When hard pressed by an opponent in an argument, who asked, ‘There, can ye deny that, Master Saddletree?” he replied, “No; but I’m not going to admit it, neither.’”
British Policy in China
“—1861. (To Mr. Hargreaves).—You will have seen1861.
On Lord Brougham
Inconvenience of a sectarian organ
“Midhurst, October 17, 1861. (To S. Lucas.)—I said in one1861.
Tocqueville on the right of Secession
“June 22, 1861. (To W. Hargreaves, Esq.)—I am glad to see that as yet there is no serious fighting in America. Until there has been a bloody collision, one may hope there will be none. I have been reading Tocqueville’s Democracy in America. In his chapter on the influence of slavery his sagacity is, as it frequently is, quite prophetic. He seems to regard it as the chief danger to the Union, less from the rival interests it creates, than from the incompatibility of manners which it produces. It is singular too that he takes the Southern view of the right of secession. He says, ‘The Union was formed by the voluntary agreement of the States; and in uniting together they have not forfeited their nationality, nor have they been reduced to one and the same people. If one of the States chose to 1861.
The Trent Affair
“Midhurst, Dec. 3, 1861. (To Lieut.-Col. Fitzmayer.)— .... In reference to our latest complication with the United States, it is I hope possible the Government at Washington may disavow the act of their officer.9 If not, it will I expect be nothing more than a diplomatic and legal wrangle. I think, however, the American Government are very foolish to take such a course. I confess I have not much opinion of Seward. He is a kind of American Thiers or Palmerston or Russell—and Talks to Bunkum. Fortu nately, my friend Mr. Charles Sumner, who is Chairman of1861.
“I look upon it as quite impossible that the North in addition to their life and death struggle at home can desire a rupture with this country. It is to assume that they are mad. Doubtless there are plenty of Irish and plenty of Southern sympathizers in the Northern States, who would be delighted with a war with England. But ninety-nine hundredths of the honest citizens of the North must above all things desire to avoid a quarrel with us at the present moment, and they will I fear only interpret our accusation of a contrary design as a proof that we wish to pick a quarrel with them.
“Nothing is more clear to me than that the world is underrating in this struggle the power of the North. I have paid two visits to that country at an interval of twenty-four years between the first and second trip. I do not believe anybody without two such visits can form an idea of the power and resources and the rapid town growth of that people. As for the Slave States I look upon them as doomed in any case to decay and almost barbarism. If Christianity is to survive, there can be no future for slavery. But those Free States where slavery is prohibited will in all human probability contain more than one hundred millions of people in the lifetime of persons now born. Is it wise with us who have an India, as they have their slaves, to give cause to that great future nation to remember with feelings of hatred and revenge our successors to remote generations? Ought not we most carefully and generously to guard ourselves against the possibility of being shown hereafter to have taken advantage of the North in the hour of its trial?
“Midhurst, Dec. 6, 1861. (To Mr. Bright.)—Your admirable address cannot fail to do good.1 But it is a mad world we live in! Here am I in the midst of extracts from Hansard, &c., to show up the folly or worse of the men who have been putting us to millions of expense to protect us from a coup de main from France, and now we see the same people willing to rush into war with America, and leave us exposed to this crafty and dangerous neighbour! Might we not be justified in turning hermits, letting our beards grow, and returning to our caves!...
“Has it occurred to you that this war is now nearly a year old, and the South has rather gained than receded on the Potomac, having stopped the navigation to the Federal capital? How long will foreign powers look on if nothing decisive be done? I doubt whether another year’s blockade will be borne by the world. What say you? If you agree, you should let Sumner know. My own conviction is that if there is to be no early compromise and settlement between North and South, and if the North do not voluntarily raise the blockade, there will next year be an intervention in some shape. A Bordeaux merchant came here to me a few days ago. He says the export of wine and spirits from that port to New Orleans was 30,000 tuns per annum, which is cut off to a gallon. He says also that their trade in liquors and fruits with New York, &c., is nearly destroyed by the Morrill tariff. He tells me the feeling is very bitter in France, and that the Emperor would be supported if he were to join1861.
“Midhurst, Dec. 14, 1861. (To M. Chevalier.)—There is considerable reaction in the public mind, I think, on the American question. Some large public meetings have passed resolutions in favour of arbitration; and the religious congregations have been also making demonstrations for peace. I expect the Americans will propose either to restore the status quo, and let the United States Admiralty Courts decide, or else refer to arbitration. I hope the Emperor will offer his mediation if an opportunity occurs. Neither party will be in the humour to refuse. It is high time that we had a revision of these so-called international maritime laws. They are merely traps laid for nations to fall into wars. I do not believe in a war. Palmerston likes to drive the wheel close to the edge, and show how dexterously he can avoid falling over the precipice. Meantime he keeps people’s attention employed, which suits him politically. But I hope this game is nearly played out. I am quite sick of it.”
“Jan., 1862. (To Mr. Paulton.)—Palmerston ought to be turned out for the reckless expense to which he has put us. He and his colleagues knew there could be no war. From the moment they were informed of the course France, Prussia, and Austria were taking in giving us their moral support (and they knew this early in December), a war was, as they knew, impossible. Then came Seward’s despatch to Adams on the 19th December, which virtually settled the matter. To keep alive the wicked passions in this country as Palmerston and his Post did, was like the man, and that is the worst that can be said of it.
“I can’t see my way through the American business. I don’t believe the North and South can ever lie in the same 1861.
But our friend Bright will not hear of anything against the claims of the North. I admire his pluck, for when he goes with a side it is always to win. I tell him that it is possible to wish well to a cause without being sure that it will be successful. However, he will soon find in the House that we shall be on this question as we were on China, Crimean, and Greek Pacifico wars, quite in a minority! There is no harm in that if you are right, but it is useless to deceive ourselves about the issue. Three-fourths of the House will be glad to find an excuse for voting for the dismemberment of the great Republic.”
“Nov. 29, 1861. (To Mr. Charles Sumner.)—I hear that the law officers of the Crown have decided that you are not within the law in what has been done. I leave your lawyers to answer ours. The question of legality in matters of international law has never been very easily settled. However, the only danger to the peace of the two countries is in the temper which may grow out of this very trivial incident. The Press will, as usual, try to envenom the affair. It is for us and all who care for the interests of humanity, to do our otmost to thwart these mischief-makers. You may reckon on Bright, myself, and all our friends being alert and active in this good work, and we reckon on the co-operation of yourself and all who sympathize with you. Though I said in my other letter that I shall never care to utter a word about the merits of a war after it has begun, I do not the less feel it my duty to try to prevent hostilities occurring. Let me here remark that I cannot understand how you should have1861.
P.S.—Since writing the accompanying, we have the details of the capture of Mason and Slidell in our packet vessel. You may be right in point of law, though, perhaps, in technical strictness, the lawyers may pick a hole. But I am satisfied you are wrong in point of policy. There is an impression, I know, in high quarters here, that Mr. Seward wishes to quarrel with this country. This seems absurd enough. I confess I have as little confidence in him as I have in Lord Palmerston. Both will consult Bunkum for the moment, without much regard, I fear, for the future. You must not lose sight of this view of the relations of the two countries. Formerly England feared a war with the 1861.
“Dec. 6, 1861.—Since writing my letter of yesterday’s date, I have read General Scott’s admirable letter. It contains a passage to the following effect: ‘I am sure that the President and people of the United States would be but too happy to let these men go free, unnatural and unpardonable as their offences have been, if by it they could emancipate the commerce of the world. Greatly as it would be to our disadvantage at this present crisis to surrender any of those maritime privileges of belligerents which are sanctioned by the laws of nations, I feel that I take no responsibility in saying that the United States will be faithful to her traditional policy upon this subject, and to the spirit of her political institutions.’”
“Dec. 12, 1861.—The Times and its yelping imitators are still doing their worst, but there is a powerful moderate party. I hope you will offer promptly to arbitrate the question. There is one point on which you must absolutely define your platform. You must acknowledge the South as belligerents to give you a standing-ground on the Trent affair. Some of your newspapers argue that you have a right to carry off a rebel from an English vessel, which means that Austria might have seized Kossuth under similar circumstances. Were you to take such ground, there would be war.”
“Dec. 19, 1861.—Everybody tells me that war is inevitable, and yet I do not believe in war. But it must be admitted that there are things said and done on your side that make it very difficult for the advocates of peace on this1861.
“Jan. 23, 1862.—It is, perhaps, well that you settled the matter of sending away the men at once. Consistently with your own principles, you could not have justified their 1862.
In the same letter, after arguing for the raising of the blockade by the North, he says:—
“All the reflection I have been able to give the subject confirms me in the view I expressed in my former letter. Propose to Europe a clean sweep of the old maritime law of Vattel, Puffendorf, and Co.; abolish blockades of commercial ports on the ground laid down in Cass’s despatch which you sent. Get rid of the right of search in time of war as in time of peace, and make private property exempt from capture by armed vessels of every kind, whether government vessels or privateers. And, as an earnest of your policy, offer to apply the doctrine in your present war. You would instantly gain France and all the continent of Europe to your side. You would enlist a party in England that can always control our governing class when there is a sufficient motive for action; and you would acquire such a moral position that no power would dream of laying hands on1862.
“Midhurst, Feb. 2. (To A. W. Paulton.)—I hope to see you on Wednesday evening. I have an idea (about which we can talk) of occupying ground in the House upon the subject of rights of neutrals by giving notice early of something of this kind: ‘That in the opinion of the House the questions affecting belligerent rights and the rights of neutrals are in an unsatisfactory state, and demand the early attention of her Majesty’s Government.’
“A Committee on Shipping in 1860 reported in favour of adopting Marcy’s plan of exempting private property altogether from capture by Government ships as well as privateers, but nothing was done.
“Now, I think such a motion must be agreed to, because all parties are dissatisfied with matters as they were left at Paris in 1856. In my speech I should advocate:—
“1st. The making of private property sacred from capture by armed ships of all kinds.
“2nd. Exempting neutral ships from search or visitation in time of war as in time of peace.
“I could make it clear that England is beyond all countries interested in carrying out these points.
“Have you been reading anything about International Law? If so, give me the benefit of your observations. What I shall want is standing-ground to show the absolute necessity for a change. Are there not great discrepancies between Lord John’s present doctrines and our former supposed principles? For instance I thought all our authorities, including Phillimore’s last book, agreed that a belligerent could take a neutral ship anywhere, and carry her into port for adjudication.”
The Commercial Class
“Feb. 7, 1862. (To Mr. Henry Ashworth.)—I am quite happy to see you at the head of the Chamber of Commerce. With many faults and shortcomings, our mercantile and manufacturing classes as represented in the Chambers of Commerce are after all the only power in the State possessed of wealth and political influence sufficient to counteract in some degree the feudal governing class of this country. They are, indeed, the only class from whom we can in our time hope for any further beneficial changes.
“It is true they are often timid and servile in their conduct towards the aristocracy, and we must wink at their weaknesses if we are to keep them political company. But there is always this encouragement to hope better things—that they have no interest opposed to the general good, whilst, on the contrary, the feudal governing class exists only by the violation of sound principles of political economy, and therefore the very institution is hostile to the interests of the masses.
“I wish we could inspire the mercantile manufacturing community with a little more self-respect. The future of1862.
Maritime Law in the House of Commons
“Feb. 14, 1862. (To M. Chevalier.)—I have not yet secured an evening for my motion. We have to ballot for the first chance, and there are always a good many candidates at the commencement of the session. I intend to move the resolution on the other side. If this be affirmed by the House, as I have no doubt it will be, the Government will be obliged to take some steps in the matter, and when once they begin, I defy them to stop without completing my programme.
“P.S.—Mr. Cobden to move:—
That the present state of international maritime law, as affecting the rights of belligerents and neutrals, is ill-defined and unsatisfactory, and calls for the attention of her Majesty’s Government.
“But I fear it will be some weeks before I can secure an evening.”
“March 4. (To M. Chevalier.)—After I had given notice of my motion in the House, Mr. Horsfall, the Tory M.P. for Liverpool, complained that I was poaching on his domain, as he had announced his intention in the previous session to bring the subject of maritime law before Parliament. On referring back to the proceedings of last year, I found he was correct, and as it is a sort of etiquette in the House not to encroach on each other’s territory, I yielded at once. Mr. Horsfall has adopted my exact words, and I shall second his motion. The debate stands for next Tuesday, the 11th. I am very 1862.
“March 17. (To M. Chevalier.)—In all my political life I have never suffered a more vexatious disappointment than in being prevented from speaking last Monday. I had taken great trouble to prepare, and should have had a good opportunity of being universally read in the papers, for much attention has been called to my intention to speak. But I was seized with a sudden hoarseness arising from a cold, and on Monday was unable to articulate. The consequence was that the debate to my mind was kept to too narrow a basis. However, enough was said and admitted on all sides to prove that we cannot remain where we are, and as nobody seriously proposes to go back, it is quite clear we must go forward. I am convinced that the result will be, after the usual agitation out of doors, that public opinion in England will pronounce for a complete revolution in the maritime law. We have more to gain than any other people from the complete removal of all restrictions on freedom of commerce whether in time of peace or war. But we have our battle to fight as usual with our own feudal governing class. I am writing this in my bedroom, and cannot, therefore, say much. As respects the postage question, I will not lese sight of it.”2
“Athenœum, London, March 18. (To M. Chevalier.)—You will see1862.
“Midhurst, August 7, 1862. (To Mr. Hargreaves.)—I have found your letter on coming here. If Bright could have been by my side during the last six weeks of the Session, I think we could have silenced Palmerston. He had laid himself open to attack, and the events of the Session had made him very vulnerable. However, I hope I have spoilt his game as a popular demagogue a little for the recess. But he has a terrible run of good luck; and then I am afraid of the tricks he may be allowed by his obsequious colleagues to play before we meet again. Nothing could be so unfavourable to the public interest as the 1862.
“August 7, 1862. (To M. Chevalier.)—Our Government, as you know, is constantly declaring that we have the greatest interest in maintaining the old system of belligerent rights. Lord Russell considers that we must preserve the right of blockade as a most valuable privilege for ourselves on some future occasion, and you will see that almost the very last words uttered by Lord Palmerston at the close of the Session were to assert the great interest England had in maintaining these old belligerent rights. In fact we are1862.
“Manchester, Oct. 1862. (To M. Chevalier.)—England cannot take a step with decency or consistency, to put an end to the blockade, until our Government is prepared to give in their adhesion to the principle of the abolition of commercial blockades for the future. This our antiquated Palmerstons and Russells are not willing to do. They have a sincere faith in the efficacy of commercial blockades as a belligerent weapon against our enemies. They are ignorant that it is a two-edged sword, which cuts the hand that wields it—when that hand is England—more than the object which it strikes. Lords Palmerston and Russell feel bound to acquiesce in the blockade, and even to find excuses for it, because they wish to preserve the right for us of blockading some other power.
“I am against any act of violence to put an end to the war. We should not thereby obtain cotton, nor should we coerce the North. We should only intensify the animosity between the two sections. But I should be glad to see an appeal made by all Europe to the North to put an end to the blockade of the South against legitimate commerce, on the ground of humanity, accompanied with the offer of making the abolition of commercial blockades the principle of international law for the future. But this, I repeat, our own Government will not agree to at present. We have a battle to fight against our own ruling class in England to accomplish this reform. I am by no means so sure as Gladstone that the South will ever be a nation. It depends on the “Great West.” If Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota sustain the President’s anti-slavery proclamation, there will be no peace which will leave the mouth of the Mississippi in the hands of an inde 1862.
The Cotton Famine
“Nov. 6, 1862. (To Lady Hatherton).—Few people can realize the appalling state of things in this neighbourhood. Imagine that the iron, stone, and coal were suddenly withheld from Staffordshire, and it gives you but an imperfect idea of what Lancashire, with its much larger population, is suffering from the want of cotton; it reverses the condition of the richest county in the kingdom, and makes it the poorest. A capitalist with 20,000l. invested in buildings and machinery, may be almost on a par with his operatives in destitution, if he be deprived of the raw material which alone makes his capital productive. Bad as is the state of things, I fear we are only at its commencement, and unhappily the winter is upon us to aggravate the sufferings of the working people. The evil is spreading through all classes. The first effects will be felt on the small shopkeepers; the weak millowners will come next. I met a magistrate yesterday from Oldham, and he told me that at the last meeting of the Bench four thousand assessments were exempted from payment of poor rates on the plea of inability of the parties to pay! How rapidly this must aggravate the pressure on the remainder of the property of the Union! There will be another meeting of the Manchester Committee next Monday, at which it will be proposed to extend it to a National Committee, and the Queen will be solicited as Duchess of Lancaster to allow her name to appear as its patron. An energetic effort will then be made to cover the whole kingdom with local committees, and then institute a general canvass for subscriptions. By this means we may keep matters in tolerable order till Parliament meets, but there is a growing opinion that we shall have to apply to Parliament for imperial aid. People at a distance, who learn that the1863.
Debate on Turkey
“London, June 2, 1863. (To M. Chevalier.)—We had a debate in the House on the Turkish question last Friday, à propos of the bombardment of Belgrade by the Turks.2 I took a part, and send you enclosed an extract from my speech, in which I alluded to the policy which ought to be pursued in the East on the part of France and England. As you will see, the doctrine, though somewhat new to the House, was very well received. I was very much struck with the altered feeling towards the Turks. They have not a friend, except Palmerston and his partial imitator, Layard. Pal 1863.
The Polish Insurrection
“June 22, 1863. (To M. Chevalier.)—My dear friend, I do not understand what good can come from an interference by force of arms in the Polish business.3 I can see how very great injury could arise to ourselves. We draw food for two or three millions of our people yearly from Russia. If your nation goes into such a war it will of course be with the hope of getting some extension of territory out of the squabble. That would no doubt be the case. Germany would fall into confusion, and another ‘confederation’ would arise, in which France would of course have a voice, and her good will must be propitiated by a concession on the Rhine. To this I have no objection. But our Foreign Office would go into convulsions at such an audacious rupture of its cherished traditions. Then as we are not in want of further territory, and could not therefore share in the spoil, the danger is that we should quarrel with you. I hope the chimerical scheme will not be persevered in.”
The American war
“July 11, 1862 (To Mr. Sumner.)—It is a long time since1863.
“Feb. 13, 1863. (To Mr. Sumner.)—If I have not written to you before, it is not because I have been indifferent to what is passing in your midst. I may say sincerely that my thoughts have been almost as much on American as on English politics. But I could do you no service, and shrank from occupying your over-taxed attention, even for a moment. 1863.
“April 2, 1863. (To Mr. Sumner.)—There are certain things which1863.
“May 2, 1863. (To Mr. Sumner.)—I am in no fear whatever of any rupture between the two countries arising out of the blockade, or the incendiary language of the politicians or the Press on both sides of the Atlantic, though these may help to precipitate matters on another issue. But the fitting out of privateers to prey on your commerce, and to render valueless your mercantile tonnage, is another and more serious matter. Great material interests are at stake, and unless this evil can be put down the most serious results may follow. Now I have reason to know that our Government fully appreciates the gravity of this matter. Lord 1863.
“May 22, 1863. (To Mr. Sumner.)—I called on Lord Russell, and read every word of your last long indictment against him and Lord Palmerston, to him, He was a little impatient under the treatment, but I got through every word. I did my best to improve on the text in half an hour’s conversation. Public opinion is recovering its senses. John Bull, you know, has never before been a neutral when great naval operations have been carried on, and he does not take kindly to the task; but he is becoming graciously reconciled. He also now begins to understand that he has acted illegally in applauding those who furnished ships of war to prey on your commerce. It will not be repeated.”
“Midhurst, Aug. 7, 1863. (To Mr. Sumner.)—Though we have given you such good ground of complaint on account of the cruisers which have left our ports, yet you must not forget that we have been the only obstacle to what would have been almost a European recognition of the South. Had England joined France, they would have been followed by probably every other State of Europe, with the exception of Russia. This is what the Confederate agents have been seeking to accomplish. They have pressed recognition on England and France with persistent energy from the first. I confess1863.
“Midhurst, Jan. 8, 1863. (To Mr. Paulton.)—.... Do you remember when that old slave-dealer, the Confederate envoy, breakfasted with you last spring, and we were discussing the vast preparations then making by the Federal government, that he remarked with considerable emphasis, when alluding to the incapacity of the Washington government, ’sir, I know these men well, and I tell you they are setting in motion a machine which they have not the capacity to control and guide.’ I have often thought of the truth of this remark when witnessing the frightful mismanagement at headquarters among the Federals during the last twelve months. If it were not for the negro element I should think it the most wild and chimerical dream that ever entered the human mind to think of subjugating the vast region comprised in the Southern Confederacy. But I have a suspicion that the much-despised ‘nigger’ is going to play the part of arbiter in this great conflict Neither party wishes to use him or consult him in the matter. Both parties will tolerate his intervention with bout equal disgust. But the North stands in the position of being able to make the first use of some half-million of men who are capable of being drilled into good soldiers, and bear the climate of the battle-ground without the average losses from disease.
“These black troops in posse will be more and more the temptation of the North to make the plunge for complete 1863.
“Midhurst, Jan. 18, 1863 (To Mr. Paulton.)—.... I join with you in all your horror of this vulgar and unscientific and endless butchery in America. Before the first shot was fired I wrote to Sumner to say that if I were a New Englander I would vote with both hands for a peaceful separation. But since the fighting began I have regarded the matter as beyond the control of reason or moral suasion, and I have endeavoured to keep my mind as free as I could from an all-absorbing interest in the struggle—simply on this utilitarian principle—that I can do no good there, and I want my faculties and energies to try and do something here.
“My only absorbing care in connexion with the civil war is to endeavour to prevent this country from interfering with it. To this end I think the anti-slavery direction in which the war is drifting will be favourable. I am not much afraid of any widespread acts of violence on the part of the Negroes. They are generally under religious impressions, and are not naturally ferocious. They will grow unsettled, and some of them unmanageable, and there will be great confusion and swaying to and fro. But though I don’t expect them to rise and commit desperate crimes, it is quite evident that Jefferson Davis feels all the force of the emancipation measure as a strategical act. He has allowed his passions to master him in the eyes of the world, as shown1863.
“It will be a strange working of God’s Providence if the negro turns the scale for the North, after the whites on both sides are exhausted. It is clear that the able-bodied blacks will be a cheap resource for soldiers for the North for Southern stations. I hope you and Hargreaves have agreed not to get into an excitement on the subject.4 The issue is beyond European or human control now, and will go on to the bitter end.”
Visit to the Fortifications
“Midhurst, Feb. 3. (To Mr. Paulton.)—.... I went last week to Portsmouth to see the fortifications. I spent a couple of days in the neighbourhood. Starting by train from Chichester, I stopped at Havant, where a couple of officers from Portsmouth met me, and we went thence in a fly over the Downs by Portsdown Hill to Fareham, and then from the latter place to Gosport.
“Our road along the downs passed beside the great inland chain of forts covering all the high ground within four or five miles of Portsmouth. It is necessary to see these things to understand them. The South Down forts are not designed for defence against a landing. They, as well as an inner system of forts between the Downs and the sea, are planned on the theory that an enemy has beaten us at sea and landed in force, and having worsted an army on shore, these forts are to prevent the foreign force from taking up a position on the downs, and shelling the docks at four or five miles off. Of course the theory implies that the enemy is free to go elsewhere, and the reasonable inference may be that he would prefer going to London, or at least coming to rob our henroosts who live under the downs! The pro 1863.
“My companions were Captain Cowper Coles, R.N., the inventor of the cupola ships, and Colonel Williams, of the Marine Artillery, who has a pension for wounds, though a young man.
“I saw all that was going on in the dockyards, and came away with the conviction that we are now wasting our money on iron-cased vessels with broadsides, whilst a new invention is in the field which will entirely supersede them. Captain Coles is building a vessel with four cupolas, or rather is superintending the alteration of one on a principle which it is clear must render broadside guns useless.”
“April 22, 1863. (To Mr. Bright.)—There is a great and growing uneasiness about our relations with the United States, and there is so wide an interest taken by our friends from America—of whom there is an influential gathering just now drawn to this side by an apparent fear of some impending mischief—as well as by English people, that I feel quite oppressed with a sense of the responsibility, and write to say that I entreat you to come to town, if only on Friday to return on Saturday. 5 Besides the confidence you give me when we are together, I feel quite sure that the fact of your being present with the power of reply exerts a restraining influence on Palmerston and the other speakers on the Treasury bench, and it is especially important that1863.
“Sept 8, 1863. (To Mr. Bright.)—The tide of battle seems to have set in so strongly for the North, that I don’t think the friends of freedom need feel any anxiety about the result so far as fighting is concerned. There is, of course, a tremendous difficulty beyond, but there is something more than accident which seems in the long-run to favour the right in this wicked world, and I have a strong persuasion that we may live to see a compensating triumph for humanity as the result of this most gigantic of civil wars.
“I confess I cannot penetrate the mystery of French politics in connexion with the United States question. I suppose the Emperor has been very strongly pressed by Slidell and other interested parties to take some step to encourage the South. His unwise Mexican expedition, about which he must have daily more of doubt and misgiving, has placed him in a false and dangerous position on the continent of North America; and we all know how in public, as in private life, one false step seems only to necessitate another. I have no doubt that his Mexican embarrassment is plied with consummate tact and unscrupulous daring by the Confederate agents. The Richmond government will offer any terms for the French alliance. Fortunately they are in such straits themselves, that they have little to offer as a temptation to an ambitious but cautious mind like Napoleon’s. The influential people who surround the Emperor, such as Fould and Rouher, are of course opposed to any interference in the American quarrel..... After all, our chief reliance for the maintenance of a non-intervention policy by France and England is not in the merits or justice of that course, but—it is sad to say it—in the tremendous warlike power 1863.
“I always take for granted the government will not allow the ironclads to leave Laird’s, unless they know their real destination. The progress of the Federal arms will help the Cabinet over some of the legal technicalities of the enlistment act.”
“Midhurst, Oct. 12, 1863. (To Mr. Bright.)—I have nothing to say, but that Mr. Whiting, who is here as successor to Mr. Evarts as legal representative of the Washington government, has been visiting me, and from a rather confidential conversation with him, I find that you must have been misinformed as to the correspondence or communications that have been taking place between Adams and our Foreign Office. The President, from what I gather from Mr. W., who seems to be in the most confidential relations with him and his Cabinet, is determined whatever happens, short of a direct intervention, not to have a rupture with England or France during the Civil War. And he has not authorized Adams to give any notice of leaving his post even if the1863.
“Mr. Whiting tells me that Mr. Adams had no assurance up to the last from our Government that the Rams would not leave, and even when our semi-official papers were announcing that they had been arrested, he gave expression to a fear that he might get up any morning and find the ships had escaped. Now that I see by yesterday’s paper that the broad arrow has been put upon the Rams, I suppose the matter is settled.”
“Midhurst, Oct. 17, 1863. (To Mr. Bright.)—I return Aspinall’s and Chase’s letters. I was pleased with Chase when I saw him in Ohio, where he was governor of the State in 1859. He is in his physical and mental traits not unlike Sumner—a massy, stately-principled man, but more practical and less of the rhetorician than his Massachusetts colleague. He is altogether a different type of Seward.
“I have a letter from Evarts by the last mail. He seems well pleased at the detention of the Rams. He had a passage in his letter which seems rather to corroborate your information about Lord Russell. He says, ‘From information which I have of the severity and uncertainty of the final struggle with your ministry, Earl Russell was discreditably slow and unsteady in coming to the right decision. I am sure that when the communications of proofs as to the destination of these ships of war made to your government are made public, common sense on both sides of the water will be shocked at the stumbling hesitancy of the ministerial council in face of the facts, and at the narrow escape the two nations have had from at least partial hostilities.’”
“I hope you were pleased with the compliment paid us in California.6 There is a poetical sublimity about the idea of associating our name with a tree 300 feet high and 60 feet girth! Verily it is a monument not built with men’s hands. If I were twenty years younger I would hope to look on these forest giants; great trees and rivers have an attraction for me.”
Political torpor of the day
“April 5, 1863. (To Mr. Hargreaves.)—How do you admire the reception given to the ‘Feargus O’Connor of the middle classes’ in Scotland?7 For the Town Councils and their addresses I can find excuses; they are privileged flunkies, and nothing else could be expected from them.1863.
“There is a remarkable fact in the political movement, or rather political torpor of our day, that the non-electors, or working men, have no kind of organization or organ of the Press by which they can make their existence known, either to help their friends or prevent their body being used as was done in Glasgow, to strengthen their enemies—for the latter effect has no doubt been produced by the address from the working class presented to the Premier.
“I observe what you say about Bright’s powers of eloquence. That eloquence has been most unsparingly used since the repeal of the Corn Laws—now going on for nearly twenty years—in advocating financial economy and parliamentary reform, and in every possible way for the abasement of privilege and the elevation of the masses. If he could talk till doomsday he would never surpass the strains of eloquence with which he has expounded the right and demolished the wrong cause. Yet see with what absolute lack of success!
“Now if you have ever the chance of bringing your influence to bear on him in this connexion, let it be, I entreat you, to urge him to take any opportunity that the working class may offer him to tell them frankly that nobody can help them until they are determined to help themselves. Let the responsibility be thrown back on them in a way to sting them into an effort, if self-respect fail to excite them. They should be told plainly that old parties have coalesced on the ground that no further parliamentary 1863.
“Oct. 6, 1863. (To Mr. Bigelow.)—In 1854, on the breaking out of the Crimean war, a communication was sent by England and France to the American Government, expressing a confident hope that it would, ‘in the spirit of just reciprocity, give orders that no privateer under Russian colours shall be equipped, or victualled, or admitted with its prizes, in the ports of the United States,’ &c. It has occurred to me to call your attention to this, although I dare say it has not escaped Mr. Dayton’s recollection. But I should be curious to know what answer the French Government would now make if its own former language was quoted against the course now being taken, at Brest in repairing, and I suppose ‘victualling,’ the ‘Florida.’ If the answer be that this vessel is not a ‘privateer’ but a regularly commissioned ship-of-war, then I think the opportunity should not be lost to put on record a rejoinder to this argument, showing the futility of the Declaration of Paris against privateering; for if a vessel sailing under one form of authority issued by Jefferson Davis, and called a ‘commission,’ can do all the mischief to your merchant-vessels which another could do carrying another1863.
Mr. George Hope, the well-known tenant-farmer (of Fenton Barns), gives an account in one of his letters of he way in which Cobden used to be received in the House:—
Published in his Collected Writings, ii. pp. 5–22. The three changes which he there proposes are those enumerated in the letter to Mr. Paulton, below, p. 395.
Speeches, ii. 279. Oct. 25, 1862.
“There they stood,” said Mr. Grant Duff, “unreconciled and irreconcilable—the representatives of two widely different epochs, and of two widely different types of English life. The one trained in the elegant but superficial culture which was usual among the young men of his position in life at the beginning of this century, full of pluck, full of intelligence, but disinclined, alike by the character of his mind and by the habit of official life from indulging in political speculation, or pursuing long trains of thought; yet yielding to no man in application, in the quickness of his judgment, in knowledge of a statesman’s business, and in the power of enlisting the support of what has been truly called ‘that floating mass which in all countries and all time has always decided all questions.’ The other derived from nature finer powers of mind, but many years passed away before he could employ his great abilities in a field sufficiently wide for them. There he stood, an admirable representative of the best section of the class to which he belongs, full of large and philanthropic hopes, and full of confidence in his power to realize them.” &c. Mr. Grant Duff’s Elgin Speeches, p. 25—See his Speeches, ii. 257.
Collected Writings, vol ii.
The case against Cobden’s view was well put in a letter addressed to him by Lord John Russell:—
“Pembroke Lodge, April 2, 1861.
“My dear Mr. Cobden,—The question you raise in your letter to me of the 22nd March is a very serious one, and so we must both consider it.
“Lord Palmerston, it appears from the Times, has said that the policy of France has been for a length of time to get up a navy which shall be equal if not superior to our own. Lord Palmerston does not complain of this policy, but he says that to deny it is to shut our eyes against notorious facts, and he defends a policy which is meant to provide for our own security against this notorious policy of France. As to the facts, I do not pretend to enter into details of rival navy estimates, but I will mention what is notorious. It is notorious that two or three years ago France had a number of line-of-battle ships exceeding by one that in the British navy. It is notorious that France is now building a number of iron-cased ships more or less rapidly, exceeding that which we are building. It is notorious that having these ships she has between 30,000 and 40,000 seamen, inscribed in a register, whom she can add to her present number of sailors, which exceeds 33,000. Such being the state of facts, I will mention to you that two years ago I stated to the Count de Persigny, then Ambassador of France, that our maritime strength was essential to our existence as a nation; that in 1817 Lord Castlereagh had stated to a Select Committee that Great Britian ought to have a navy equal to the two strongest navies in the world, that the nation had accepted this dictum as a practical maxim always to be kept in view.
“Acting on these general views, we do not care whether France has or not 400,000 soldiers in arms, with 200,000 more ready drilled and capable of joining their colours in a fortnight, but we do care when we see her cherishing, nursing, and increasing her naval forces. We therefore endeavour to provide a navy adequate to maintain our character, our position, and our safety. We are willing to stake our existence as a Ministry on the grant of the number of men for the navy we have asked for. I am aware that the expense is great, the burden is irksome, and that the French are irritated by our obstinacy in being determined to defend ourselves. But all these considerations yield to the paramount consideration of national security.
“Upon this ground whenever you raise the question we shall be ready to stand.
“Allow me before I close to ask you to reflect on the suggestions which are made to you and Mr. Lindsay, and not to Lord Cowley, Col. Claremont, and Commander Hore, by the French Ministers. These suggestions appear to me to betoken a desire on the part of France to raise in Parliament an opposition to armaments of a defensive character, in order to ensure French supremacy. This policy would not be unnatural, nor would it be new. Lord Macaulay, in giving an account of the instructions of Lewis to his Ambassador, Count Tallard, when he came to England after the peace of Ryswick, says, ‘In the original draft of the instructions was a curious paragraph which, on second thoughts, it was determined to omit. The Ambassador was directed to take proper opportunities of cautioning the English against a standing army as the only thing which could really be fatal to their laws and liberties.’
“We are very glad to enter with the French into improved commercial relations, and very grateful to you for your labours in this direction. But when they advise us against arming for our defence, while they do not ‘bate a jot of their preparations military and naval, the instinct of the British nation distrusts the friendship which appears in so suspicious a guise.
I remain, yours very faithfully.
The subject of the discussion was the naval competition between England and France. Mr. Disraeli’s point was that there could be no reason why the two Governments should not come to an understanding as to the relative proportion of the naval forces to be maintained by the two Powers; and that if the march of science compelled fresh efforts to establish adequate naval forces, the leading statesmen of each country ought at least to do all in their power to enlighten the public as to the true meaning of what was going on. Lord Palmerston, instead of laying stress on the revolution in naval affairs, always left people to suppose that an insane competition for supremacy at sea was going on between two rival nations. (Hansard, olxiv. 1678). This was only one of several admirable speeches made by Mr. Disraeli at this time, which justified Cobden’s preference of him over Lord Palmerston. But Mr. Disraeli in power thirteen years afterwards adopted Palmerston’s policy and his vices in the Levant, in India, and in South Africa.
Brougham, as has been seen, had been very unfriendly to the League (see vol. i. p. 262). For many years there was no communication between him and Mr. Bright. With Cobden he kept up an occasional correspondence, and in 1856, when Mr. Bright was ill, Brougham, says Cobden in a letter of that date, “wrote to me speaking in the most affectionate terms of Bright, and offering him the use of his house at Cannes. I sent the letter to Bright, who of course met his advances with open arms, and they have been exchanging great civilities. He seems anxious to heal all his ancient enmities. Could a better use be made of his declining years?” —To G. Moffatt. June 4, 1856.
Messrs. Slidell and Mason, two Commissioners from the Confederate States to Europe, were passengers on board the West India mail steamer Trent. Captain Wilkes, of the United States war-vessel San Jacinto, stopped the Trent by firing a shot across her bows, took the Commissioners forcibly out of her, and sailed away with them (Nov.8). After an interchange of correspondence between Lord Russell and Mr. Seward, and the despatch of British troops to Halifax, the men were given up, and reached England on January 29. (See Irving’s Annals, p. 614.)
Mr. Bright spoke on the Trent Affair and on the American War generally, at Rochdale, December 4, 1861.—Speeches, i. 167.
The debate was resumed on March 17 by Mr. Lindsay, who began by expressing a hope that Cobden would be able to speak before the end of the evening. His hoarseness, however, remained intractable, and Mr. Bright spoke instead.
When Servia acquired what was practically her independence, Belgrade was one of five fortresses which the Turks continued to occupy. In the summer of 1862 an affray, such as was frequent enough, took place between some Servian citizens in Belgrade, and some soldiers of the Turkish garrison in the citadel. The Turkish Pasha proceeded to bombard the town, and European diplomacy was once more stirred by the relations between Turkey and her dependencies. In the debate in the House of Commons, May 29, 1863, Mr. Layard made an elaborate defence of the condition and prospects of the Turkish Government. Cobden replied in a particularly able statement of the case against Turkey and the traditional policy of the British Foreign Office. To this Mr. Gladstone replied in turn, not taking Mr. Layard’s line, but rather deprecating “a general crusade against Turkey,” and hoping for the best—Hansard, clxxi. p. 126 etc.
In the beginning of 1863, in consequence of the shameless brutality of the Russian conscription, an insurrection had broken out in Poland, The Emperor of the French proposed that our Government should join him in remonstrating with Prussia for aiding Russia. Lord Palmerston, however, for once took Cobden’s view, and “declined to fall into the trap”
Mr. Paulton, like Mr. Lindsay, Mr. Moffatt, and one or two other of Cobden’s intimate friends, did not sympathize with the cause of the Union.
This refers to an important speech of Cobden’s on the duty of enforcing the Foreign Enlistment Act. It was made on April 24.
The names of Cobden and Bright were inscribed respectively on tablets on two of the giant trees of the Yosemite valley.
Lord Palmerston was installed as Lord Rector at Glasgow, March 30, and had a very triumphant reception. See Irving’s Annals of our Time, p. 644.