Sunday, March 31, 2013

Mr. Seward’s Threadbare Compliant of British Recognition

The Lincoln administration entertained many outright fictions from its peculiar ten-percent of a State’s population (in areas occupied by Northern troops) able to establish a new “Vichy” government; creating the new State of West Virginia without the consent of the State in which the area resided; to claiming that its war against the South was waged against mere domestic insurgents and not belligerents entitled to recognition and trade with foreign powers. After the war, the US government pursued claims against England for trading with the insurgents.
Bernhard Thuersam, Chairman
North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial Commission
"The Official Website of the North Carolina WBTS Sesquicentennial"

Mr. Seward’s Threadbare Compliant of British Recognition:

“After sketching the origin of what he calls the “domestic insurrection,” Mr. [Hamilton] Fish [in 1870] says: -- “In such a contest [as the War Between the States], the Government of the United States was entitled to expect the earnest goodwill, sympathy and moral support of Great Britain.” 

After expressing the “painful astonishment” which the manifest absence of that sympathy produced, Mr. Fish gives an elaborate rechauffee of Mr. [William] Seward’s complaints against Great Britain, beginning with the allegation that the Declaration of Neutrality and the admission of the South to belligerent rights were premature and unfriendly to the United States, that they gave encouragement to the “insurgents,” and enabled them to prolong the contest…..

But Lord Clarendon, in his answer, gave some additional reasons why the complaint was in itself unreasonable, and why the grounds upon which it was advanced is untenable...

Lord Clarendon said that at the time when the Queen was advised to issue the Proclamation of Neutrality, hostilities had actually begun, that the Confederate States had established a defacto Government, with all the machinery of civil and military power; that Fort Sumter had fallen, and the Confederate troops were in occupation of the Shenandoah valley, and were threatening Washington; that the Confederate President had called for a levy of 32,000 troops, to which the seceded States had promptly responded; that the Federal President had called for 75,000 volunteers, and then for 42,000 more; that as fast as the regiments could be armed they marched to the defence of Washington, and that the contending armies were, indeed, “face to face.”

In respect to the operations at sea, he said that “on the 17th of April the Confederate President had issued a Proclamation offering to grant letters of marque, and two days after the Federal President had declared the Southern ports to be in a state of blockade; that one or more British ships had actually been captured while attempting to run the blockade; that Confederate privateers were already at sea; that one had been captured on the 8th of May by the [US] ship Harriet Lane; that a few days after the American barque Ocean Eagle, of Rockland, Maine, was captured by the Confederate privateer Calhoun, of New Orleans, and that at the same port the Sumter was fitting out for her cruise.

Lord Clarendon especially drew attention to the following facts: He said: -- “Mr Seward, writing at the time, and previously to the Queen’s Proclamation” (May 4), “characterized the proceedings of the Confederates as “open, flagrant, deadly war,” and as “civil war.” (Congress Papers, 1861, p. 165); It was also judicially decided by the Supreme Court of the United States,  in the case of the Amy Warwick and other prizes, that “the proclamation of blockade was in itself official and conclusive evidence that a state of war existed which demanded and authorized such a measure.”   

In view of the foregoing, Lord Clarendon said: -- “The date at which the Civil War actually commenced has, therefore, been fixed by the published dispatches of the Secretary of State, by proceedings in Congress, by the formal judgment of the United States prize-courts, as well as by the universal assent of all the neutral Powers concerned, and he expresses a very justifiable surprise that Mr. Seward’s threadbare complaint of British Recognition of an accomplished and admitted fact should be revived four years after the close of the war.” 

(The Secret Service of the Confederate States in Europe, James D. Bulloch, Volume II, Sagamore Press, 1959, pp. 368-370)

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