Abraham Lincoln, Volume I eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 338 pages of information about Abraham Lincoln, Volume I.

The English demand came quickly, forcibly, and almost offensively.  The news brought to England by the Trent set the whole nation in a blaze of fury,—­and naturally enough, it must be admitted.  The government sent out to the navy yards orders to make immediate preparations for war; the newspapers were filled with abuse and menace against the United States; the extravagance of their language will not be imagined without actual reference to their pages.  Lord Palmerston hastily sketched a dispatch to Lord Lyons, the British minister at Washington, demanding instant reparation, but couched in language so threatening and insolent as to make compliance scarcely possible.  Fortunately, in like manner as Mr. Seward had taken to Mr. Lincoln his letter of instructions to Mr. Adams, so Lord Palmerston also felt obliged to lay his missive before the queen, and the results in both cases were alike; for once at least royalty did a good turn to the American republic.  Prince Albert, ill with the disease which only a few days later carried him to his grave, labored hard over that important document, with the result that the royal desire to eliminate passion sufficiently to make a peaceable settlement possible was made unmistakably plain, and therefore the letter, as ultimately revised by Earl Russell, though still disagreeably peremptory in tone, left room for the United States to set itself right without loss of self-respect.  The most annoying feature was that Great Britain insisted upon instant action; if Lord Lyons did not receive a favorable reply within seven days after formally preferring his demand for reparation, he was to call for his passports.  In other words, delay by diplomatic correspondence and such ordinary shilly-shallying meant war.  As the London “Times” expressed it, America was not to be allowed “to retain what she had taken from us, at the cheap price of an interminable correspondence.”

December 19 this dispatch reached Lord Lyons; he talked its contents over with Mr. Seward informally, and deferred the formal communication until the 23d.  Mr. Lincoln drew up a proposal for submission to arbitration.  But it could not be considered; the instructions to Lord Lyons gave no time and no discretion.  It was aggravating to concede what was demanded under such pressure; but the President, as has been said, had already expressed his opinion upon the cardinal point,—­that England had the strength of the case.  Moreover he remarked, with good common sense, “One war at a time.”  So it was settled that the emissaries must be surrendered.  The “prime minister of the Northern States of America,” as the London “Times” insultingly called Mr. Seward, was wise enough to agree; for, under the circumstances, to allow discourtesy to induce war was unjustifiable.  On December 25 a long cabinet council was held, and the draft of Seward’s reply was accepted, though with sore reluctance.  The necessity was cruel, but fortunately it was not humiliating; for the President had pointed

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Abraham Lincoln, Volume I from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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