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.

If the South was indignant at British inaction the North was correspondingly pleased and after the seizure of the Laird Rams was officially very friendly—­at least so Lyons reported[1117].  In this same private letter, however, Lyons ventured a strong protest against a notion which now seems to have occurred to Russell of joint action by England, France and Spain to withdraw belligerent rights to the North, unless the United States formally “concede to their enemy the status of a Belligerent for all international purposes.”  Why or how this idea came to be taken up by Russell is uncertain.  Possibly it was the result of irritation created by the persistence of Seward in denying that the war was other than an effort to crush rebellious subjects—­theory clearly against the fact yet consistently maintained by the American Secretary of State throughout the entire war and constantly causing difficulties in relations with neutral countries.  At any rate Lyons was quick to see the danger.  He wrote: 

“Such a declaration might produce a furious outburst of wrath from Government and public here.  It cannot, however, be denied that the reasoning on which the Declaration would be founded would be incontrovertible, and that in the end firmness answers better with the Americans than coaxing.  But then England, France and Spain must be really firm, and not allow their Declaration to be a brutum fulmen.  If on its being met, as it very probably would be, by a decided refusal on the part of the United States, they did not proceed to break up the Blockade, or at all events to resist by force the exercise of the right of visit on the high seas, the United States Government and people would become more difficult to deal with than ever.  I find, however, that I am going beyond my own province, and I will therefore add only an excuse for doing so[1118].”

Lyons followed this up a week later by a long description of America’s readiness for a foreign war, a situation very different from that of 1861.  America, he said, had steadily been preparing for such a contingency not with any desire for it but that she might not be caught napping[1119].  This was written as if merely an interesting general speculation and was accompanied by the assurance, “I don’t think the Government here at all desires to pick a quarrel with us or with any European Power—­but the better prepared it is, the less manageable it will be[1120].”  Nevertheless, Lyons’ concern over Russell’s motion of withdrawing belligerent rights to the North was great, and his representations presumably had effect, for no more was heard of the matter.  Russell relieved Lyons’ mind by writing, November 21: 

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