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CHAPTER XXIII

THE BLOCKADE AND FOREIGN RELATIONS

HISTORIANS of the Civil War. have described military operations in great detail, but they have paid little attention

to the blockade and to the attitude of foreign The blockade and governments. During the first two years of the foreign war the Southerners had decidedly the advantage relations

in the field and scarcely anybody in the Confederacy and very few foreign observers believed that the North would ever succeed in conquering the South. The outcome was in fact the result of the naval supremacy of the North and the failure of foreign governments to intervene.

In 1860 the Southern States produced about seven eighths of the world's supply of cotton, and the mills of England and

France, with their thousands of hands, were Faith in the supremacy dependent upon the cotton crop of the South.

In view of these facts, it is not surprising that the Southern people believed that Cotton was King and that any attempt on the part of the North to keep it from the markets of Europe would result in the speedy intervention of England and France and the recognition of the Confederacy. It was this belief, held with an infatuation from which the actual failure of foreign negotiations alone could release them, that caused the Southerners to enter upon the war without any naval preparation and without taking into consideration the possibilities of the blockade, which was in the end destined to be the determining factor in the contest.

of cotton

Blockade

On April 19, 1861, President Lincoln, acting, he said, "in pursuance of the laws of the United States and of the Law of Nations,” proclaimed a blockade of the Bloc Confederate ports from South Carolina to Texas, and belligerand eight days later extended it so as to include ency the coasts of North Carolina and Virginia. On May 13 the Queen of England issued a declaration of neutrality, which was followed by similar declarations from France and other maritime powers. This action did not commit the powers to a recognition of the independence of the Confederacy, nor to the reception of diplomatic agents. It merely extended to the Confederates the rights of belligerents, that is, it entitled their flag to recognition on the high seas, and their ships of war and commerce to the same privileges in neutral ports as were accorded the ships of the North. The action of England was deeply resented in the United States and was made the subject of reiterated complaint. It was considered an unfriendly act, and the first step toward ultimate recognition of Confederate independence.

Before the outbreak of hostilities the Confederate government had taken steps to gain admission into the family of nations. In March, 1861, Robert Toombs, secre- The Contary of state, sent abroad a commission headed federacy

in seeks recogby W. L. Yancey with instructions to go to London and thence to the other European capitals dependence to press the claims of their country to full recognition as an independent power. On May 3 the commissioners were granted a private interview by Lord Russell, the British foreign secretary, but they received little encouragement. It was at once clear that his policy was to delay recognition and to await the outcome of the struggle.

At Paris they found the attitude of the Emperor Louis Napoleon more favorable, and they were informed that recognition was a mere matter of time, but that England and France had agreed to pursue the same course and to act together.

of in

the Trent

In a dispatch to Toombs, the commissioners expressed confidence that neither England nor France was averse to the disintegration of the United States, but they feared that public opinion against the Confederacy on the slavery question would embarrass the governments in dealing with the question of recognition. On August 29, 1861, President Davis appointed James M. Mason of Virginia as special commissioner to England and John Slidell of Louisiana 'as special commissioner to France.

Mason and Slidell ran the blockade at Charleston October 12 and proceeded to Havana, whence they sailed November

7 on the English mail steamer Trent, for SouthMason and Slidell taken ampton. On the following day when passing from aboard through the Bahama Channel, the Trent was

overhauled by the United States man-of-war San Jacinto, commanded by Captain Wilkes, and the Confederate commissioners, together with their secretaries, were forcibly removed and taken to Fort Warren in Boston Harbor. The act of Captain Wilkes met with almost universal approval at the North. He was officially commended by the secretary of the navy, fêted at Boston and New York, and given a vote of thanks by the House of Representatives. Neither Seward nor Lincoln appeared to realize at the time that the seizure of Mason and Slidell was not sanctioned by the law of nations.

On December 20 Lord Lyons, the British minister at Washington, made a formal demand on Mr. Seward for the

surrender of Mason and Slidell. The United Great

States was given seven days to make a reply. If, demands

at the end of that time the British demand was

not complied with, Lord Lyons was instructed to close the legation and leave Washington. At the same time England made extensive naval preparations and sent 8000 troops to Canada. The British note was couched in polite and conciliatory terms, and Lord Lyons communi

Britain

their release

cated it to Secretary Seward in a most friendly and tactful way.

On December 26 Seward replied that Mason and Slidell would be surrendered on the ground that the case was not clearly covered by existing international law, though he argued at length that they might be considered either as contraband or as the embodiment of dispatches. The Confederates were greatly disappointed at the outcome, as they had hoped that the controversy would lead to a rupture between England and the United States.

Mason and Slidell were transferred to a British man-ofwar in January, 1862, and reached London in February, where they were granted an unofficial interview Attitude of by Lord Russell, the British foreign secretary. England In giving a report of this interview, Mr. Mason said: “On the whole, it was manifest enough that his personal sympathies were not with us, and his policy inaction.” In a communication addressed to Lord Russell, Mr. Mason discussed at length the blockade and inclosed a list of vessels entering and clearing from Cuban ports engaged in commerce with the Confederate States. He argued from these facts that the blockade was not effective, and was therefore a violation of the Declaration of Paris, and that consequently England and France were under no obligation to observe it.

As a matter of fact, the United States found it impossible at the outset to blockade the entire coast of the Confederacy, and it was more than a year before the blockade was anything like effective. Thus England and France had sufficient grounds for ignoring it, but they did not wish to get into a war with the United States, and refrained from taking advantage of the situation.

The French emperor when approached on the subject agreed that the blockade was not effective and said that he would long since have taken the necessary steps to put an end to it, but that he could not obtain the consent of the

British ministry and that he was unwilling to act alone. He
declared that he was prepared to send a formidable fleet to
Attitude of the mouth of the Mississippi if England would
France

send an equal force; that they would demand free ingress and egress for their merchant vessels with their cargoes of goods and supplies of cotton which were essential to the world. In July, 1862, Mason and Slidell addressed formal notes to the British and French governments asking for recognition of Confederate independence. Lord Russell replied that in view of the capture of New Orleans and the advance of the Federal forces up the Mississippi, her Majesty's government were still determined to wait. The French government again declined to act without England.

Pope's defeat at Bull Run August 30, 1862, and Lee's advance into Maryland soon drew the attention of the British

ministry again to the subject of recognition, and led The Crisis

to a very interesting correspondence between the prime minister, Lord Palmerston, and Lord Russell. On September 14 the prime minister wrote that the Federals "got a very complete smashing,” and if Washington or Baltimore should fall into the hands of the Confederates, he asked whether England and France should not "address the contending parties and recommend an arrangement upon the basis of separation." Russell replied: "I agree with you that the time has come for offering mediation to the United States government with a view to the recognition of the independence of the Confederates. I agree further, that, in case of failure, we ought ourselves to recognize the Southern States as an independent State." Palmerston decided to await the outcome of the Antietam campaign, but that still left matters in doubt and caused further delay.

On October 7 Gladstone, who was chancellor of the Exchequer, made a speech at Newcastle which attracted wide attention. In it he said: “There is no doubt that Jefferson Davis and other leaders of the South have made

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