“I hope you continue to go on quietly with Seward. I think this is better than any violent demonstrations of friendship which might turn sour like beer if there should be a thunder-storm.
“But I am more and more persuaded that amongst the Powers with whose Ministers I pass my time there is none with whom our relations ought to be so frank and cordial as the United States.”
If relations with the North were now to be so “frank and cordial,” there was, indeed, little remaining hope possible to English friends of the South. Bright wrote to Sumner: “Neutrality is agreed upon by all, and I hope a more fair and friendly neutrality than we have seen during the past two years.” George Thompson, at Exeter Hall, lauding Henry Ward Beecher for his speech there, commented on the many crowded open public meetings in favour of the North as compared with the two pro-Southern ones in London, slimly and privately attended. Jefferson Davis, in addressing the Confederate Congress, December 7, was bitter upon the “unfair and deceptive conduct” of England. Adams, by mid-December, 1863, was sure that previous British confidence in the ultimate success of the South was rapidly declining.
Such utterances, if well founded, might well have portended the cessation of further Southern effort in England. That a renewal of activity soon occurred was due largely to a sudden shift in the military situation in America and to the realization that the heretofore largely negative support given to the Southern cause must be replaced by organized and persistent effort. Grant’s victorious progress in the West had been checked by the disaster to Rosencrans at Chicamauga, September 18, and Grant’s army forced to retrace its steps to recover Chattanooga. It was not until November 24 that the South was compelled to release its grip upon that city. Meanwhile in the East, Lee, fallen back to his old lines before Richmond, presented a still impregnable front to Northern advance. No sudden collapse, such as had been expected, followed the Southern defeats at Vicksburg and Gettysburg. Again the contest presented the appearance of a drawn battle. Small wonder then that McHenry, confident in his statistics, should now declare that at last cotton was to become in truth King, and count much upon the effect of the arguments advanced in his recently published book. Small wonder that Southern friends should hurry the organization of the “Southern Independence Association.” Seeking a specific point of attack and again hoping for Tory support they first fixed their attention on the new trial of the Alexandra, on appeal from the decision by the Chief Baron of the Court of Exchequer. On December 4, Lindsay wrote to Mason that he had daily been “journeying to town” with the “old Chief Baron” and was confident the Government would again be defeated—in which case it would be very open to attack for the seizure of the Rams also. Nevertheless he was emphatic in his caution to Mason not to place too high a hope on any change in Government policy or on any expectation that the Tories would replace Palmerston.