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time; that as yet the effort to suppress the insurrection had not been made; that having gotten on our armor, foreign governments must give us a chance at least to see what would come of it. In the course of the conversation upon the general question of settling the maritime law, I spoke of the propriety of France's bringing forward anew, as an independent proposition, the Marcy amendment in reference to the security of private property afloat, not contraband; the settlement more definitely as to what should be embraced under the term “contraband;" the modification of the law of blockades, or their removal altogether. I thought it well to say to him, however, that we would probably have in the future no further interest in these questions than other naval powers because, warned by what had now befallen us, I could not doubt that it would be the policy of our government to enlarge and strengthen its naval force; that we would probably be compelled, in the future, to assume, measurably, at least, a proper position among the naval powers of the world. This statement I knew could not but be agreeable to France; whether it would be equally so to England might be a question.
Our conversation lasted for nearly an hour and a half, though the above matters embrace, perhaps, the substance or more important parts of it. Mr. Thouvenel professed to be much interested in some of my explanations, and I think was really glad to hear what I said upon the subject of the blockade. It helped to relieve his mind from an impression that we were conducting the war in a ruthless, revengeful spirit. I only hope that I have not myself gone further in parts of the above conversation than the facts or purposes of the government will justify. But if so, I have committed nobody but myself, and it is not to be doubted that things had arrived at such a pass here that something must be done. An impression for some days before the above conference was almost universal among a certain class, both in England and here, that the Emperor would indicate a policy hostile to us in his speech of to-day, opening the legislative chamber, and many of our best friends feared it would be so. Indeed, I knew positively that he had recently been making particular inquiries for information on certain points referred to in the above conversation. This conversation was on Friday, and I knew there was to be a cabinet council, the Emperor presiding, on Saturday, at which, I thought, would be settled the character of the address he would deliver, and I felt it important, under the circumstances, to go as far as I rightly could upon the points hereinbefore stated. * * * * *
The opening of the Chamber to-day was a truly imposing scene. The speech of the Emperor is herewith enclosed. You will observe that the brief reference to our country is all that we could ask or expect. The friends of secession feel it as a bitter disappointment.
I shall be most happy to confer with Mr. Adams in respect to the matters referred to in your despatch. It will not, however, be convenient for me, I fear, to go again over to England for the purpose. Perhaps Mr. Adams might be induced to come over to Paris. If not, we may, by corespondence, * * * *
* come to some general understanding upon the line of conduct it will be safest for the government at Washington to adopt, in the event of new complications here. If you shall succeed in . taking possession of and holding the principal seaports, such as Charleston, Savannah, Mobile, and New Orleans, or even New Orleans and one other of those ports, I should consider the danger of recognition or a violation of the blockade as for the present passed. But if weeks more shall pass away, and spring shall open and nothing yet have been done, the impression will, I fear, have become fixed in the European mind that our efforts to suppress the insurrection are hopeless, and that the sooner the struggle is ended the better for ourselves and the world. A large class (combining, to a consid
erable extent, the aristocracy of all European countries) are bent upon seeing in the existing condition of things the destruction of our government and the permanent failure of our institutions. This class we can scarcely hope to conciliate. They have been against us from the beginning and will be to the end, whatever may be the result of our military operations. But there is another class, and a large one, who, without being at all the partisans of republicanism, are disposed to give us and our institutions a fair trial. They see what we have already accomplished for humanity, and feel that the great interests of the world will be best promoted by the ultimate success of our Union. It is among this class of men, thoughtful, intelligent, and progressive, that we have our warmest friends. But although friends, they are not partisans. They will support us only so long as there is evidence that the country and its institutions can support themselves. I have the honor to be, with much respect, your obedient servant,
WM. L. DAYTON. His Excellency William H. Seward,
Secretary of State, fc.
Mr. Dayton to Mr. Seward.
Paris, February 3, 1862. Sır: One of the serious complaints against our blockade of the southern ports, made by the French merchants, is the impossibility of communicating with their business correspondents in that country. They can get no letters to or from them, even though they be sent open. You are aware of the large trade which Bordeaux has at certain ports of the south. I am informed that a member of the Chamber of Deputies from that city brings a memorial to the Emperor, (signed by some three hundred firms,) asking him to despatch a vessel of war to our coast to carry open letters to their friends and correspondents in the several blockaded cities. It seems to me that a plan could be readily matured for the delivery of such open letters, through the department at Washington, to the commander of each blockading squadron, who could have them delivered without difficulty at the post office, or to other authorities of the port blockaded.
A public potice of this kind from your department, or from such other department as may to you seem proper, would, I think, be kindly received, and could not in any material degree affect the stringency of the blockade. With much respect, I have the honor to be your obedient servant,
WM. L. DAYTON. His Excellency William H. SEWARD,
Secretary of State, fc.
Mr. Dayton to Mr. Seward. No. 112.]
Paris, February 12, 1862. Sir: There has, for the last few days, been a lull here in the excitement as to our affairs.
Indeed, since the disappointment experienced by the friends of secession at the late opening speech of the Emperor, they seem to have quite “sub sided." It is surprising how strongly they had been impressed with the conviction that a policy in their favor was to be foreshadowed by the Emperor, and followed by England. I am told by one, in the confidence of their representatives here and in England, that they had what they considered assurances from the most reliable sources that such would be the case. But the quiet of these men is temporary only. They have managed, and will manage, to keep up through the public press a constant excitement, deluding others, and being, I verily believe, to a certain extent, deluded themselves. One hope is not extinguished before another is started.
The inefficiency of the blockade, as illustrated by the alleged passage in and out of four hundred vessels, or five hundred, as Mr. Mason says, will doubtless be strongly pressed in the British Parliament, and perhaps in the French Chambers.
Could we but get the names of those vessels, and their ports of entrance and departure, it would without doubt appear that they were generally mere fishing smacks, or small coasting vessels, against which no blockade ever did or could provide; and that the entrance and departure even of these were generally by some inlet, by-way, or side channel, not open at all to regular sea-going ships.
If blockades are to be maintained at all, neither England nor France, being large naval powers, can afford, I think, to make their efficiency depend on the evasion of the blockade by such craft. It would be equivalent to their abolition altogether. The rule laid down in the declaration of Paris of 1856 certainly never contemplated that an occasional success, even by a sea-going vessel, in evading a blockade by the aid of a storm or a dark night, or some other casualty, should be sufficient in law to destroy its efficiency. The true rule undoubtedly is that which was given by his excellency M. Rouher, the French minister of agriculture, commerce, and public works, in September last, (enclosed by me to you,) which holds, if I recollect rightly, à blockade to be effective if it exposes those who shall attempt an approach to the port to certain danger. No government desirous of sustaining the right of blockade, as England probably is, can, I think, venture to lay down the rule of law as exacting more than this; and up to that point you must certainly have evidence to show you have kept the existing blockade.
Unfortunately, however, this is a question of fact, and a willing power may determine it according to inclination, pretending all the while that she is keeping herself sirictly within the rule of international law.
But it is no part of either my purpose or duty to write you loose opinions upon what the law is or ought to be.
The Emperor, last night, in a brief conversation held with him while at & private ball at the Tuilleries, again expressed his earnest wish that our domestic strife was brought to a close. When I told him that I had sanguine hopes of success at no distant day, he asked me specially about the condition of the roads, and the possibility of turning aside from them into the open country. He referred to the great difficulty of moving wagons, cannon, and the immense materiel essential to a great army over a single road, especially in a wooded country, illustrating it forcibly, as he did, by his own troubles and perplexities in his Italian campaign.
The papers I see deny that you are sinking more "stone ships" in the channel at Charleston. I rather regret this, if true. It was one of those matters on which the public mind here was much against us, and, to a certain extent, is yet so, because, perhaps, its purpose was and is misunderstood.
I explained this in despatch 109, and stated the responsibility I had assumed in repudiating, on the part of our government, any intent permanently to destroy that harbor. The very next steamer following that conversation brought out the despatch from Lord Lyons to his government, which
contained your own explanation to him, and, much to my gratification, confirmed substantially what I had said on this point to Mr. Thouvenel.
So, too, in a late despatch, February 3, I suggested the propriety of maturing some plan for the delivery of letters in the southern country, and within a few days only after that despatch was sent, I learned through the news. papers that you were already engaged in maturing a plan for that purpose. We seem, to a great extent, to have anticipated each other's suggestions, which is some evidence at least of their propriety. "I am, sir, with much respect, your obedient servant,
WM. L. DAYTON. His Excellency WILLIAM H. SEWARD,' .
Secretary of State, fc., 8c., doc.
Mr. Seward to Mr. Dayton.
DEPARTMENT OF STATE,
Washington, February 19, 1862. Sir: The lateness of the hour in which your despatch of January 27 (No. 109) was received rendered a reply by the returning mail impossible.
I am glad that you have had so long and free a conversation with Mr. Thouvenel. Your report of it suggests the points to be noticed in this despatch:
First. The subject of maritime law in regard to neutrals as affected by the present state of affairs in our country.
Second. The obstructions placed in Charleston harbor.
I begin by saying that, in my view, the whole difficulty which prevents correct views being taken on these subjects arises from one cause, namely: the fact that the European states have been from the first impatient of a civil war in America, and have thought that it could soonest be ended by pursuing a policy practically discouraging to this government. This is a mistake, against which we attempted to caution foreign powers in the beginning earnestly, though respectfully. I have only to say upon that point now, that revolutions, especially those instituted on a large scale, and disturbing a government that extends over regions of vast extent, will not accommodate themselves to either the interested desires or the benevolent wishes of those who may be incidentally disturbed by them. Of all human transactions a civil war is that one which most requires to be treated practically, dispassionately, and with patience.
First. The subject of maritime law in regard to neutrals as affected by the present state of affairs in our country.
We remonstrated with the European states against recognizing the insurgents here as a belligerent power, on the ground that it was unnecessary, and would injuriously prolong the civil war. Our remonstrances were disregarded. Let European statesmen now take a retrospection of ten months of war, and say whether we were then in error. The Sumter and the Nashville, outlaws in America, are found disturbing the peace of Europe by piratical depredations on our commerce-the second commerce of the world within sight of European ports. This is the extent of the naval strength of the new belligerent. What have not the European states lost by the terror struck into our commerce? Is it nothing that because of that unnecessary recognition our accession to the treaty of Paris, tendered by an
administration favorable to neutral rights, has been rejected ? Look at the insurrection now breaking down before the mere array of national strength which meets it on every side, and say whether the same result would not have happened three months ago but for the hopes of recognition infused into the insurgents by their recognition as belligerents.
The Trent affair, all the world sees, was an accident for which not the least responsibility rests upon this government. For a time our national pride and passion appealed to us to abandon an ancient liberal policy; but, even though unadvised, we did not listen to it, and we are to-day, after that occurrence, as ready and as willing to join other maritime powers in meliorations of the law, to the extent that France desires, as we were before it happened, and before the civil war commenced. Forced into a belligerent attitude, and treated as such by neutral powers, we, of course, while these hostilities last, must claim for ourselves the rigors which other maritime powers agree to apply to us when we are neutrals. But even to-day, in the midst of this strife, if the other powers, including Great Britain, should agree to abolish naval blockades altogether and forever, and to exempt private property from confiscation in maritime war, we are prepared to consider the propositions. But we can make no proposition except as a whole nation. France and Great Britain, having declared the insurgents a belligerent, are not prepared to treat with us as more than a part of a nation, Is it not clear that the sooner they reconsider that unnecessary step, so prematurely taken, the better it will be for all parties concerned ? "I send you a copy of my rejoinder to Earl Russell on the Trent affair, which will show you more at large our views on this point.
Secondly. The artificial obstructions placed in the channels to the harbor of Charleston.
Hitherto such obstructions have been regarded as an ordinary military appliance of war. No American ever conceived that the human hand could place obstructions in a river which the same hand could not remove. No loyal American citizen has regarded this war as one that can have any other than a brief duration, with a termination favorable to the Union, casting upon the federal government the responsibility of improving the harbors of all the States. We were, therefore, surprised, and even incredulous, when we saw that the placing of obstructions in the channels leading to Charleston was, in Europe, regarded as an act of peculiar and ruthless severity. I observe that my explanations to this effect, made to Lord Lyons, are already published in the European journals. Since they were given I have ascer. tained that there yet remain two of the natural channels leading to Charleston harbor in which no obstructions have been placed or intended to be placed. In making these explanations, I must not be understood as conceding to foreign states a right to demand them.
Third. The present blockade.
It is a legitimate war measure intended to exhaust the insurrection. As I have already intimated, we are willing to conform to the law of nations as it is, or to consent to modifications of it, upon sufficient guarantees that what we concede to other nations shall be equally conceded by them. It is not the blockade that distresses European commerce. It is the insurrection that renders the blockade necessary. Let the European powers discourage the insurrection, it will perish. The blockade has not been unreasonably protracted. The whole coast of the blockaded ports is now falling rapidly into our hands. From the north line of Virginia to and including the Savannah river we, not the insurgents, have military occupation of the roadsteads and harbors. Before a month shall have elapsed we shall be in occupation of all the rest. When this shall have been done, we shall also have pressed the insurgents so closely inland that the insurrection will be