Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

REBEL EMISSARIES.

Memorandum.

March 15, 1861. Mr. John Forsyth, of the State of Alabama, and Mr. Martin J. Crawford, of the State of Georgia, on the 11th inst., through the kind offices of a distinguished Senator, submitted to the Secretary of State their desire for an unofficial interview. This request was, on the 12th inst., upon exclusively public consideration, respectfully declined.

On the 13th inst., while the Secretary wras preoccupied, Mr. A. D. Banks, of Virginia, called at this Department, and was received by the Assistant-Secretary, to whom he delivered a sealed communication, which he had been charged by Messrs. Forsyth and Crawford to present to the Secretary in person.

In that communication Messrs. Forsyth and Crawford inform the Secretary of State that they have been duly accredited by the Government of the Confederate States of America as Commissioners to the Government of the United States, and they set forth the objects of their attendance at Washington. They observe that seven states of the American Union, in the exercise of a right inherent in every free people, have withdrawn, through conventions of their people, from the United States, reassumed the attributes of sovereign power, and formed a government of their own, and that those Confederate States now constitute an independent nation de facto and de jure, and possess a government perfect in all its parts, and fully endowed with all the means of self-support.

Messrs. Forsyth and Crawford, hi their aforesaid communication, thereupon proceeded to inform the Secretary that, with a view to a speedy adjustment of all questions growing out of the political separation thus assumed, upon such terms of amity and good will as the respective interests, geographical contiguity, and the future welfare of the supposed two nations might render necessary, they are instructed to make to the Government of the United States, overtures for the opening of negotiations, assuring this government that the President, Congress, and people of the Confederate States earnestly desire a peaceful solution of these great questions, and that it is neither their interest nor their wish to make any demand which is not founded hi strictest justice, nor do any act to injure their late confederates.

After making these statements, Messrs. Forsyth and Crawford close their communication, as they say, in obedience to the instructions of their government, by requesting the Secretary of State to appoint as early a day as possible, in order that they may present to the President of the United States the credentials which they bear, and the objects of the mission with which they are charged.

the Secretary of State frankly confesses that he understands the events which have recently occurred, and the condition of political affairs which actually exists in the part of the Union to which his attention has thus been directed, very differently from the aspect in which they are presented by Messrs^ Forsyth and Crawford. He sees in them, not a rightful and accomplished revolution and an independent nation, with an established government, but rather a perversion of a temporary and partisan excitement to the inconsiderate purposes of an unjustifiable and unconstitutional aggression upon the rights and the authority vested in the Federal Government, and hitherto benignly exercised, as from their very nature they always must so be exercised, for the maintenance of the Union, the preservation of liberty, and the security, peace, welfare, happiness, and aggrandizement of the American people. The Secretary of State, therefore, avows to Messrs. Forsyth and Crawford that he looks patiently but confidently for the cure of evils which have resulted from proceedings so unnecessary, so unwise, so unusual, and so unnatural, not to irregular negotiations, having in view new and untried relations with agencies unknown to and acting in derogation of the Constitution and laws but to regular and considerate action of the people of those states, in cooperation with their brethren in the other states, through the Congress of the United States, and such extraordinary conventions, if there shall be need thereof, as the Federal Constitution contemplates and authorizes to be assembled.

It is, however, the purpose of the Secretary of State on this occasion not to invite or engage in any discussion of these subjects, but simply to set forth his reasons for declining to comply with the request of Messrs. Forsyth and Crawford.

On the 4th of March inst., the newly-elected President of the United States, in view of all the facts bearing on the present question, assumed the executive administration of the government, first delivering, in accordance with an early, honored custom, an Inaugural Address to the people of the United States. The Secretary of State respectfully submits a copy of this address to Messrs. Forsyth and Crawford.

A simple reference to it will be sufficient to satisfy those gentlemen that the Secretary of State, guided by the principles therein announced, is prevented altogether from admitting or assuming that the states referred to by them have, in law or in fact, withdrawn from the Federal Union, or that they could do so in the manner described by Messrs. Forsyth and Crawford, or in any other manner than with the consent and concert of the people of the United States, to be given through a National Convention, to be assembled in conformity with the provisions of the Constitution of the United States. . Of course the Secretary of State cannot act upon the assumption, or in any way admit, that the so-called Confederate States constitute a foreign Power, with whom diplomatic relations ought to be established.

Under these circumstances, the Secretary of State, whose official duties are confined, subject to the direction of the President, to the conducting of the foreign relations of the country, and do not at all embrace domestic questions, or questions arising between the several states and the Federal Government, is unable to comply with the request of Messrs. Forsyth and Crawford, to appoint a day on which they may present the evidences of their authority and the objects of their visit to the President of the United States. On the contrary, he is obliged to state to Messrs. Forsyth and Crawford that he has no authority, nor is he at liberty to recognize them as diplomatic agents, or hold correspondence or other communication with them.

Finally, the Secretary of State would observe that, although he has supposed that he might safely and with propriety have adopted these conclusions without making any reference of the subject to the Executive, yet so strong has been his desire to practise entire directness and to act in a spirit of perfect respect and candor towards Messrs. Forsyth and Crawford, and that portion of the Union in whose name they present themselves before him, that he has cheerfully submitted this paper to the President, who coincides generally in the views it expresses, and sanctions the Secretary's decision declining official intercourse with Messrs. Forsyth and Crawford.

IMMIGRATION.—RIGHTS OF ALIENS.

Washington, August 14, 1862.

Sir: I have received your letter in which you express an apprehension of a deficiency of labor in the country, resulting from our large military operations; and you very properly speak of the desirableness, under present circumstances, of an increase of immigration. You observe in this connection, that it would be important that persons proposing to emigrate should have some official assurance that they would not be required to perform military service.

In reply, I have to observe that I some time ago instructed our representatives in foreign countries to make known, as well as they conveniently can, the lucrative rewards which the country is now offering to emigrant laborers. I can hardly suppose that there exists, anywhere in the world, the erroneous belief that aliens are

! liable here to do military duty. If you think otherwise, there will be no objection to your giving any publication you please to this communication.

Note.—Mr. Seward, in a circular to consuls, issued in February, 1862, called their attention to the Homestead act, and desired them to make public in their districts the various reasons why, " in no country in the civilized world are such opportunities afforded, as in the United States, to active, industrious and intelligent men, for the acquisition of abundant means of support and comfortable homesteads for themselves'and their families."

This circular attracted much attention abroad ; it was held to show a spirit not often found in a nation so embarrassed as the United States were. An article in the Paris Steele styled it "The most important measure which any government has ever taken towards the application of the principle of the universal fraternity of nations. In calling upon the proletary class of Europe to go in search of property to America, the United States remember their origin, remember how they were peopled, and how the oppressed came thither in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to seek liberty there. They are true to their traditions."

Washington, July 11, 1862.

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the reception of your note of June 23, accompanied by a copy of resolutions which were unanimously adopted by the General Convention of Congregational Ministers and Churches recently assembled at Norwich.

In compliance with your request, these resolutions have been submitted to the President of the United States.

I am instructed to express his cordial thanks for the assurances of confidence and support thus tendered to him by a body so deservedly respected and so widely influential as the Congregational Church of Vermont. The President is deeply impressed by the fervent and hopeful patriotism and benevolence which pervade the resolutions. It is the Union and the Constitution of this country which are at^ stake in the present unhappy strife, but that Union is not a mere stringent political one, nor is that Constitution a lifeless or spiritless political one? The Union is the guaranty of perpetual peace and prosperity to the American people, and the Constitution is a mark of civil and religious liberty for all classes and conditions of men. .

Who that carefully reads the history of the nations for the period that this Republic has existed under this Constitution and this Union, can fail to see and to appreciate the influence it has exerted in meliorating the condition of mankind? Who that justly appreciates that influence will undertake to foretell the misfortunes and despondency which must occur on every continent, should this Republic desist all at once from its auspicious career, and be resolved into a confused medley of severed, discordant, and contentious states? The duty of the Christian^ coincides with that of the patriot, and the duty of the priest with that of the soldier, in averting so sad and fearful a consummation.

"When all that has been said and wrote and thought by Mr. Seward about American affairs shall have been gathered up into one consistent whole, it will be known how capacious was that range of vision that took in the whole, past, present, and future of the Republic, and how strong was that faith in man, which m the very turmoil of civil war could cheerfully prophesy the complete success of those great ideas and institutions on which the Union will rise to the foremost rank among the nations of the earth." — Rev. A. D. Mayo, 1872.

A VINDICATION By Rev. Joseph P. Thompson, D. D., Editor Of The "N. Y. Independent."

Dr. Joseph P. Thompson in an article for the "Independent," from Berlin, Prussia, under date of October 15, 1872, presents to the public two letters of the late Hon. William H. Seward, which at the time had never before been published. Appended is the substance of the article, with the letters of Mr. Seward in full : —

"The death of Mr. Seward has absolved me from the injunction not to publish the following correspondence. Having guarded it with sacred privacy for years, I feel that it now belongs to history. It was in the last days of President Buchanan's administration. Treason had avowed itself in the Senate of the United States and was more than suspected in the Cabinet. The South was arming. Port Sumter was threatened. General Scott was making such show of preparation for putting down rebellion as the crippled resources of the War Department and the hinderances of the executive had left to him, and the nation was drifting into war. The horror of bloodshed and the fears of commercial and financial men gave new strength to the old counsels of compromise, and there was danger that the Senate would once more succumb to the dictation of the slaveocracy, from which Seward, Sumner, Hale, and their compatriots had barely emancipated it. The 'Union-savers ' were ready to yield to any demand of the South as the condition of peace. At this moment it was announced that Mr. Seward would make a speech. 'The irrepressible conflict,' in which he had borne so conspicuous a part, was approaching its final issue. He was known to have accepted from Mr. Lincoln the post of Secretary of State, and his utterances were awaited with breathless interest, as foreshadowing the policy of the incoming administration. Mr. Seward spoke, but the grand pleas for freedom which had awakened the midnight echoes of the Senate Chamber were no longer heard. He too argued for Union and only for Union, as if there were no such thing as slavery in the land. The first feeling of the friends of freedom was one of surprise and disappointment; and this was almost instantaneously followed by distrust and indignation. Mr. Seward was denounced as an apostate; the most abusive epithets were heaped upon him, and the most anxious forebodings were indulged concerning his influence upon Mr. Lincoln's administration.

"Of course, the 'Independent' must notice his equivocal utterances; but what to say? Suddenly it dawned upon me to read the speech 'between the lines,' and there might be discovered a far-reaching sagacity that showed Mr. Seward to be consistent with himself and master of the occasion. Being supported in this view by a counsellor the penetration of whose wisdom always answered to the integrity of his principles (Dr. Joshua Leavitt), I wrote an interpretation of Mr. Seward's speech and a vindication of its author quite at variance with the current construction of republican and anti-slavery journals. This article was the basis of the following correspondence :"

Washington, February 23, 1861. My Dear Sir: The American people in our day have two great interests. One, the ascendency of freedom over slavery; the other, the integrity of the Union! The slavery interest has derived its whole political power from bringing the latter object into antagonism with the former. Twelve years ago freedom was in danger and the Union was not. I spake then so singly for freedom that shortsighted men inferred that I was disloyal to the Union. I endured the reproach without complaining, and now I have my vindication. To-day, practically, freedom is not in danger, and Union is. With the loss of Union all would be lost. With the attempt to maintain Union by civil war wantonly brought on there would be danger of reaction against the administration charged with the preservation of both freedom and the Union. Now, therefore, I speak singly for Union, striving, if possible, to save it peaceably; if not possible, then to cast the responsibility upon the party of slavery. For this singleness of speech I am now suspected of infidelity to freedom. In this case, as in the other, I refer myself not to the men of my time, but to the judgment of history. I thank you, my dear Sir, for having anticipated what I think history will pronounce.1

But do not publish or show this letter. Leave me to be misunderstood. I am not impatient. I write to you only because I would not be nor seem to be ungrateful. Faithfully your friend, William H. Seward.

"A few months later an absurd rumor was started that Mr. Seward was responsible for certain delays and disappointments in the prosecution of the war, and he was even accused of disloyalty. In the absence of the responsible editors a paragraph to this effect crept into the ' Independent.' In their next issue the editors promptly repudiated it; and this correction called forth from Mr. Seward the following letter : " —

Washington, November 15, 1861.

My Dear Sir: Accustomed to leave misapprehensions of my motives, action, and character to find their corrections in the course of events, I forebore from all notice of the statement in the late number of the "Independent," which was calculated to bring my loyalty to the Union in question, although it excited my profound astonishment. But the rule of self-restraint to which I have adverted does not forbid me from acknowledging good offices rendered to me from motives of patriotism or the love of truth. I give you, therefore, my sincere thanks for your magnanimous contradiction of that erroneous statement. This correction having been made in the absence of any complaint on my part, it comes to me as an agreeable surprise.

Permit me to add that it is a source of much pleasure thus to learn that the editors and proprietors of the " Independent," who have so long deservedly enjoyed my respect and confidence as patriotic and benevolent men, are not so easily misled in the impatience of the war as to suppose that I could abandon oiNchange the principles and sentiments of my past life in the very moment when my country, under a sense of danger, has called me into her service, with a view that I shall carry them into full effect.

Dear Sir, I am very respectfully and faithfully your friend and obedient servant. William H. Seward.

"The first of these letters was written by Mr. Seward's own hand, and the italics are his. The short, crisp sentences show with what earnestness of feeling he was then moved. The second letter was dictated to an amanuensis and signed by Mr. Seward, and is more in the vein of formal politeness. Yet both exhibit that dignity of conscious rectitude and that patience of self-control which were among the most remarkable characteritics of this most remarkable man."

MR. SEWARD AND HIS OFFICERS.

Correspondence.

Washington, March 3, 1869. To The Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State:

The undersigned, officers in the Department of State, cannot allow the occasion of your retirement from the position of Secretary of State to pass without expressing their cordial appreciation of the uniform and considerate kindness which you have manifested towards them while in the discharge of their humbler duties. They feel that it would not be altogether proper, and might even be deemed presumptuous, in them, to speak of the manner hi which, during a period in the i See vol. iv. p. 118, "Whittier." 651.

« AnteriorContinuar »