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.
the Government by Derby in the House of Lords.  Derby approved the stopping of the Rams but sought to prove that the Government had dishonoured England by failing to act of its own volition until threatened by America.  He cited Seward’s despatch of July II with much unction, that despatch now having appeared in the printed American diplomatic correspondence with no indication that it was not an instruction at once communicated to Russell.  The attack fell flat for Russell simply replied that Adams had never presented such an instruction.  This forced Derby to seek other ground and on February 15 he returned to the matter, now seeking to show by the dates of various documents that “at the last moment” Adams made a threat of war and Russell had yielded.  Again Russell’s reply was brief and to the effect that orders to stop the Rams had been given before the communications from Adams were received.  Finally, on February 23, a motion in the Commons called for all correspondence with Adams and with Lairds, The Government consented to the first but refused that with Lairds and was supported by a vote of 187 to 153.[1038]

Beginning with an incautious personal and petty criticism of Russell the Tories had been driven to an attempt to pass what was virtually a vote of censure on the Ministry yet they were as loud as was the Government in praise of Adams and in approval of the seizure of the Rams.  Naturally their cause was weakened, and the Ministry, referring to expressions made and intentions indicated as far back as March, 1863, thus hinting without directly so stating that the real decision had then been made, was easily the victor in the vote[1038].  Derby had committed an error as a party leader and the fault rankled for again in April, 1864, he attempted to draw Russell into still further discussion on dates of documents.  Russell’s reply ignored that point altogether[1039].  It did not suit his purpose to declare, flatly, the fact that in April assurances had been given both to Adams and through Lyons to Seward, that measures would be taken to prevent the departure of Southern vessels from British ports.  To have made this disclosure would have required an explanation why such assurance had been given and this would have revealed the effect on both Russell and Lyons of the Northern plan to create a cruising squadron blockade by privateers. There was the real threat.  The later delays and seeming uncertainties of British action made Adams anxious but there is no evidence that Russell ever changed his purpose.  He sought stronger evidence before acting and he hoped for stronger support from legal advisers, but he kept an eye on the Rams and when they had reached the stage where there was danger of escape, he seized them even though the desired evidence was still lacking[1040].  Seward’s “privateering bill” plan possibly entered upon in a moment of desperation and with no clear statement from him of its exact application had, as the anxiety of British diplomats became pronounced, been used with skill to permit, if not to state, the interpretation they placed upon it, and the result had been the cessation of that inadequate neutrality of which America complained.

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