Great Britain and the American Civil War eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 825 pages of information about Great Britain and the American Civil War.

Among the few who thought the withdrawal of Lindsay’s motion, July 18, and the Prime Minister’s comments did not indicate safety for the North stood Adams, the American Minister.  Of Palmerston’s speech he wrote the next day in his diary:  “It was cautious and wise, but enough could be gathered from it to show that mischief to us in some shape will only be averted by the favour of Divine Providence or our own efforts.  The anxiety attending my responsibility is only postponed[740].”  At this very moment Adams was much disturbed by his failure to secure governmental seizure of a war vessel being built at Liverpool for the South—­the famous Alabama—­which was soon completed and put to sea but ten days later, July 29.  Russell’s delay in enforcing British neutrality, as Adams saw it, in this matter, reinforcing the latter’s fears of a change in policy, had led him to explain his alarm to Seward.  On August 16 Adams received an instruction, written August 2, outlining the exact steps to be taken in case the feared change in British policy should occur.  As printed in the diplomatic documents later presented to Congress this despatch is merely a very interesting if somewhat discursive essay on the inevitability of European ruminations on the possibility of interference to end the war and argues the unwisdom of such interference, especially for Great Britain’s own interests.  It does not read as if Seward were alarmed or, indeed, as if he had given serious consideration to the supposed danger[741].  But this conveys a very erroneous impression.  An unprinted portion of the despatch very specifically and in a very serious tone, instructs Adams that if approached by the British Government with propositions implying a purpose: 

“To dictate, or to mediate, or to advise, or even to solicit or persuade, you will answer that you are forbidden to debate, to hear, or in any way receive, entertain or transmit, any communication of the kind....  If you are asked an opinion what reception the President would give to such a proposition, if made here, you will reply that you are not instructed, but you have no reason for supposing that it would be entertained.”

This was to apply either to Great Britain alone or acting in conjunction with other Powers.  Further, if the South should be “acknowledged” Adams was immediately to suspend his functions.  “You will perceive,” wrote Seward, “that we have approached the contemplation of that crisis with the caution which great reluctance has inspired.  But I trust that you will also have perceived that the crisis has not appalled us[742].”

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Great Britain and the American Civil War from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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