The Solicitor-General’s speech showed that there was no hope for the motion unless it could be made a party question. Of that there was no indication, and the motion was withdrawn. Three days later a similar debate in the Lords was of importance only as offering Russell, since he was now a member of the upper chamber, an opportunity to speak for himself. Lord Campbell had disavowed any intention to attack the blockade since Russell, on February 15, had officially approved it, but criticized the sending to Lyons of the despatch itself. Russell upheld the strict legality and effectiveness of the blockade, stated that if England sided with the South in any way the North would appeal to a slave insurrection—the first reference to an idea which was to play a very important role with Russell and others later—and concluded by expressing the opinion that three months would see the end of the struggle on lines of separation, but with some form of union between the two sovereignties. Russell’s speech was an unneeded but emphatic negative of the pro-Southern effort.
Clearly Southern sympathizers had committed an error in tactics by pressing for a change of British policy. The rosy hopes of Mason were dashed and the effect of the efforts of his friends was to force the Government to a decided stand when they preferred, as the summons of Spence to conference makes evident, to leave in abeyance for a time any further declaration on the blockade. The refusal of Mason and his Southern friends to wait compelled a governmental decision and the result was Russell’s instruction to Lyons of February 15. The effect of the debate on Mason was not to cause distrust of his English advisers, but to convince him that the existing Government was more determined in unfriendliness than he had supposed. Of the blockade he wrote: “... no step will be taken by this Government to interfere with it.” He thought the military news from America in part responsible as: “The late reverses at Fort Henry and Fort Donelson have had an unfortunate effect upon the minds of our friends here....” Spence was opposed to any further move in Parliament until some more definite push on the Government from France should occur. Slidell, anxiously watching from Paris the effort in England, had now altered his view of policy and was convinced there was no hope in France until England gave the signal. Referring to his previous idea that the Continent could be put in opposition to Great Britain on the blockade he wrote: