In all this the Government but pursued that line which is the business of Governments—the preservation of the prosperity and power of the state. With the unexpected prolongation of the war and the British recognition of the Northern “will to conquer” there came, as is evident from a scrutiny of Russell’s diplomatic tone and acts, a growing belief that the North might after all succeed in its purpose, at least of subjugating the South. This would mean the possibility of continuing that policy of friendship for a united America which had been determined upon in the ’fifties. Here was no special sympathy, but merely a cool calculation of benefits to Great Britain, but there can be no question that the general attitude of the Government by midsummer of 1863 was distinctly favourable to a restored Union. A “friendly neutrality” began to replace a “cold neutrality.”
But it is the business of Governments not merely to guard national interests and prosperity; they also must guard their own authority and seek to remain in political power. Here emancipation, never greatly stirring the leaders, whether Whig or Tory, exercised an increasing pressure by the force of public approval. It made impossible any attempt to overthrow the Ministry on the score of non-interference in America, or of favouritism toward the North. It gave to an enthusiastic and vociferous section of the British public just ground for strong support of Lincoln and his cause, and in some degree it affected governmental attitude.
There was, however, another question, much more vital than emancipation in its relation to British home politics, that ran like a constant thread through the whole pattern of British public attitude toward America. It had always been so since the days of the American revolution and now was accentuated by the American war. This was the question of the future of democracy. Was its fate bound up with the result of that war? And if so where lay British interest? Always present in the minds of thoughtful Englishmen, appearing again and again through each changing phase of the war, this question was so much a constant that to have attempted discussion of it while other topics were being treated, would have resulted in repetition and confusion. It is therefore made the subject of a separate and concluding chapter.
[Footnote 1261: Bright to Sumner, Jan. 26, 1865 (Mass. Hist. Soc. Proceedings, XLVI, p. 132).]
[Footnote 1262: To Sumner, Feb. 17, 1865 (Ibid., p. 133).]
[Footnote 1263: Dodd, Jefferson Davis, p. 343]
[Footnote 1264: Mason Papers. Mason to Slidell, March 4, 1865.]
[Footnote 1265: Ibid., Slidell to Mason, March 5 and 6, 1865.]
[Footnote 1266: Ibid., Mason to Slidell, March 15, 1865.]
[Footnote 1267: Mason to Benjamin, March 31, 1865. (Richardson, II, pp. 709-17.)]