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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 680 pages of information about Great Britain and the American Civil War.

The finality of the British Cabinet decision in November, 1862, relative to proposals of mediation or intervention was not accepted at the moment though time was to prove its permanence.  The British press was full of suggestions that the first trial might more gracefully come from France since that country was presumed to be on more friendly terms with the United States[846].  Others, notably Slidell at Paris, held the same view, and on January 8, 1863, Slidell addressed a memorandum to Napoleon III, asking separate recognition of the South.  The next day, Napoleon dictated an instruction to Mercier offering friendly mediation in courteous terms but with no hint of an armistice or of an intended recognition of the South[847].  Meanwhile, Mercier had again approached Lyons alleging that he had been urged by Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune, to make an isolated French offer, but that he felt this would be contrary to the close harmony hitherto maintained in French-British relations.  But Mercier added that if Lyons was disinclined to a proposal of mediation, he intended to advise his Government to give him authority to act alone[848].  Lyons made no comment to Mercier but wrote to Russell, “I certainly desire that the Settlement of the Contest should be made without the intervention of England.”

A week later the Russian Minister, Stoeckl, also came to Lyons desiring to discover what would be England’s attitude if Russia should act alone, or perhaps with France, leaving England out of a proposal to the North[849].  This was based on the supposition that the North, weary of war, might ask the good offices of Russia.  Lyons replied that he did not think that contingency near and otherwise evaded Stoeckl’s questions; but he was somewhat suspicious, concluding his report, “I cannot quite forget that Monsieur Mercier and Monsieur de Stoeckl had agreed to go to Richmond together last Spring[850].”  The day after this despatch was written Mercier presented, February 3, the isolated French offer and on February 6 received Seward’s reply couched in argumentative, yet polite language, but positively declining the proposal[851].  Evidently Lyons was a bit disquieted by the incident; but in London, Napoleon’s overture to America was officially stated to be unobjectionable, as indeed was required by the implications of the reply of November 13, to France.  Russell, on February 14, answered Lyons’ communications in a letter marked “Seen by Lord Palmerston and the Queen”: 

“Her Majesty’s Government have no wish to interfere at present in any way in the Civil War.  If France were to offer good offices or mediation, Her Majesty’s Government would feel no jealousy or repugnance to such a course on the part of France alone[852].”

The writing of this despatch antedated the knowledge that France had already acted at Washington, and does not necessarily indicate any governmental feeling of a break in previous close relations with France

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