Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

soldiering, ard had kept up their state militia systems with an energy and exactness which the business men of the North had neither the time nor the inclination to imitate. The Southern Militia systems were splendid training schools for arms, and became the nucleus each ot an excellent army when at last the war broke out. The Northern government had yielded to a popular cry, and made a premature movement on Richmond, in Virginia, now the Southern capital. It was not very surprising, therefore, that the South should have won the first battle. It was not very surprising either if some of the hastily raised Northern regiments of volunteers should have proved wretched soldiers and should have yielded to the sudden influence of panic. But when the news reached England, it was received by vast numbers with exultation, and with derision at the expense of the “Yankees." It had been well settled that the Yankees were hypocrites and low fellows before; but now it came out that they were mere runaways and cowards. The English people, for a brave nation, are surprisingly given to accusing their neighbors of cowardice. They have a perfect mania fo: discovering cowardice all over the world. Napoleon was a coward to a past generation; the French were for a long time cowards; the Italians were cowards ; at the time of the Schleswig-Holstein war the Germans were cowards; the Russians still are cowards. In 1861 the Yankees were the typical cowards of the earth. A very flame of enthusiam leaped up for the brave South, which, though so small in numbers, had contrived with such spirit and ease to defeat the Yankees. Something of chivalry there was, no doubt, in the wish that the weaker side should win; but that chiv. alry was strongly dashed with the conviction that, after all, the South had the better fighters and was sure to succeed in the end ; that the American Union was in some mysterious way a sort of danger to England, and that the sooner it was broken up the better. Mr. Cobden afterwards accused the

English government of having dealt with the United States as if they were dealing with Brazil or some such weak and helpless state. It is important, for the fair understanding and appreciation of the events that followed, to remember that there was, among all the advocates of the South in England, a very general conviction that the North was sure to be defeated and broken up, and was therefore in no sense a formidable power. It is well also to bear in mind that there were only two European states which entertained this feeling and allowed it to be everywhere understood. The Southern scheme found support only in England and in France. In all other European countries the sympathy of people and government alike went with the North. In most places the sympathy arose from a detestation of slavery. In Russia, or at least with the Russian government, it arose from a dislike of rebellion. But the effect was the same : that assurances of friendship came from all civilized countries to the Northern States except from England and France alone. One of the latest instructions given by Cavour on his deathbed in this year, was that an assurance should be sent to the Federal government that Italy could give its sympathies to no movement which tended to the perpetuation of slavery. The Pope, Pius IX., and Cardinal Antonelli repeatedly expressed their hopes for the suc. cess of the Northern cause. On the other hand, the Emperor of the French fully believed that the Southern cause was sure to triumph, and that the Union would be broken up; he was even very willing to hasten what he assumed to be the unavoidable end. He was anxious that England should join with him in some measure to facilitate the suc. cess of the South by recognizing the government of the Southern Confederation. He got up the Mexican intervention, of which we shall have occasion presently to speak, and which assuredly he would never have attempted if he had not been persuaded that the Union was on the eve of

disruption. He was not without warning. Many eminent Frenchmen well acquainted with America urged on him the necessity of caution. His cousin, Prince Napoleon, went over to America and surveyed the condition of affairs from both points of view, talked with the leaders on both sides, visited both camps, and came back impressed with the con. viction that the Southern movement for independenc would be a failure. The Emperor Napoleon, however, held to his own views and his own schemes. He had afterward reason to curse the day when he reckoned on the break-up of the Union, and persuaded himself that there was no occasion to take account of the Northern strength. Yet in France the French people in general were on the side of the North. Only the Emperor and his government were on that of the South. In England, on the other hand, the vast majority of what are called the influential classes came to be heari and soul with the South. The government was certainly not so, but it can hardly be doubted that the government allowed itself sometimes to be overborne by the clamor of a West End majority, and gave the North only too much reason to suspect that its defeats were welcome to those in authority in England. Lord Palmerston made some jest. ing allusion in a public speech to the “unfortunate rapid movement" of the Northern soldiers at Bull Run; and the jibe was bitterly resented by many Americans.

At first the Northern States counted with absolute confidence upon the sympathy of England. The one reproach Englishmen had always been casting in their face was that they did not take any steps to put down slavery. Not long before this time Lord Brougham, at a meeting of a Statistical Congress in London, where the American Minister happened to be present, delivered a sort of lecture at him on the natural equality of the black with the white. All 'Eng. and had just been in a state of wild excitement about the case of the tugitive slave Anderson. An escaped slave,

who had taken refuge in Canada, was demanded back by the United States government-at that time, be it remembered, still a Southern government-because in trying to escape he had killed one of those who strove to stay his flight and capture him. The idea seemed monstrous to Englishmen, that any British or colonial court of law should give back as a criminal a man who had only done that which English law would warrant him in doing-resisted, even to slaying, an attempt to make him a slave. The fugitive was not given up to the United States. The colonial courts discharged him from custody on the ground of some informality in the warrant of detention, and he came to England. But the Court of Queen's Bench here had already issued a writ of habeas corpus to bring him before it, on the ground that his detention in Toronto, even while waiting the decision of the colonial court, was illegal; and if it had not so happened that he was released from custody before the writ could interfere, some very important and difficult questions in international law might have had to be decided. It this country public opinion was warmly in favor of the release of Anderson, and would have gone any length to save him from being surrendered to his captors. Public opinion was expressing itself soundly and justly. It would have amounted to a recognition of slavery if an English court had consented, on any ground, to hand over as a criminal a man who merely resisted an attempt to drag him back into servitude. This was just before the accession of Mr. Lincoln to office. It was the common expectation of the Northern States that England would welcome the new state of things, under which the demand for the return of a fugitive slave was never likely to insult them. The English government had had for years and years incessant. difficulties with the government of the United States, while the latter was in the hands of the South. Colored subjects of the queen had been seized in Charleston and carried of

into slavery, and it was not possible to get any redress. For years we had been listening to complaints from our governments about the arrogance and insolence of the American statesmen in office, who were all more or less under the control of the South. It is easy to understand, therefore, how Mr. Lincoln and his friends counted on the sympathy of the English government and the English people, and how surprised they were when they found English statesmen, journalists, preachers, and English society generally, deriding their misfortunes and apparently wish. ing for the success of their foes. The surprise changed into a feeling of bitter disappointment, and that gave place to an angry temper, which exaggerated every symptom of ill well, distorted every fact, and saw wrong even where there only existed an honest purpose to do right.

It was while this temper was beginning to light up on both sides of the Atlantic that the unfortunate affair of the Trent occurred. The Confederate go vernment had resolved to send envoys to Europe to arrange, if possible, for the recognition of the Southern States. Mr. W. L. Yancey, an extreme advocate of the doctrine of state sovereignty, had already been in Europe with this purpose; and now Mr. Davis was anxious to have a regular envoy in London and another in Paris. Mr. Slidell, a prominent Southern lawyer and politician, was to represent the South at the court of the Emperor Napoleon, provided he could obtain recogni. tion there, and Mr. James Murray Mason, the author of the Fugitive Slave Law, was to be dispatched with a simi. lar mission to the court of Queen Victoria. The two Southern envoys escaped together from Charleston, one dark and wet October night, in a small steamer, and got to Havana. There they took passage for Southampton in the English mail steamer Trent. The United States sloop-of-war San Jacinto happened to be returning from the African coast about the same time. Her commander, Captain Wilks,

« AnteriorContinuar »