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Abraham Lincoln, Volume I by John T. Morse

Chittenden asserts that he knows that Mr


The

decision of the President and the secretary of state was thoroughly wise. Much hung upon it; "no one," says Arnold, "can calculate the results which would have followed upon a refusal to surrender these men." An almost certain result would have been a war with England; and a highly probable result would have been that erelong France also would find pretext for hostilities, since she was committed to friendship with England in this matter, and moreover the emperor seemed to have a restless desire to interfere against the North. What then would have been the likelihood of ultimate success in that domestic struggle, which, by itself, though it did not exhaust, yet very severely taxed both Northern endurance and Northern resources? It is fair also to these two men to say that, in reaching their decision, instead of receiving aid or encouragement from outside, they had the reverse. Popular feeling may be estimated from the utterances which, even after there had been time for reflection, were made by men whose positions curbed them with the grave responsibilities of leadership. In the House of Representatives Owen Lovejoy pledged himself to "inextinguishable hatred" of Great Britain, and promised to bequeath it as a legacy to his children; and, while he was not engaging in the war for the integrity of his own country, he vowed that if a war with England should come, he would "carry a musket" in it. Senator Hale, in thunderous oratory, notified the members of the administration that
if they would "not listen to the voice of the people, they would find themselves engulfed in a fire that would consume them like stubble; they would be helpless before a power that would hurl them from their places." The great majority at the North, though perhaps incapable of such felicity of expression, was undoubtedly not very much misrepresented by the vindictive representative and the exuberant senator. Yet a brief period, in which to consider the logic of the position, sufficed to bring nearly all to intelligent conclusions; and then it was seen that what had been done had been rightly and wisely done. There was even a sense of pride in doing fairly and honestly, without the shuffling evasions of diplomacy, an act of strict right; and the harder the act the greater was the honor. The behavior of the people was generous and intelligent, and greatly strengthened the government in the eyes of foreigners. By the fullness and readiness of this reparation England was put under a moral obligation to treat the United States as honorably as the United States treated her. She did not do so, it is true; but in more ways than one she ultimately paid for not doing so. At any rate, for the time being, after this action it would have been nothing less than indecent for her to recognise the Confederacy at once; and a little later prudence had the like restraining effect. Yet though recognition and war were avoided they never entirely ceased to threaten, and Mr. Chittenden is perfectly correct in saying that "every act of our government was performed under the impending danger of a recognition of the Confederacy, a disregard of the blockade, and the actual intervention of Great Britain in our attempt to suppress an insurrection upon our own territory."

FOOTNOTES:

[168] Lord John Russell was raised to the peerage, as Earl Russell, just after this time, _i.e._, in July, 1861.

[169] An effort was made to carry out this theory in the case of the crew of the privateer Savannah; but the jury failed to agree, and the attempt was not afterward renewed, privateersmen being exchanged like other prisoners of war.

[170] Mr. Welles declares that Seward at first opposed the surrender; but Mr. Chittenden asserts that he knows that Mr. Seward's first opinion coincided with his later action; see Mr. Welles's _Lincoln and Seward_, and Chittenden's _Recollections_, 148.


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