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Charles Sumner and foreign relations of the United States during the Civil War

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This thesis, having been approved by the
special F a c u lty Committee, is accepted by
the Committee on Graduate Study o f the
University o f W yom ing,
in p a rtia l fu lfillm e n t o f the requirements
.
fo r the degree
Chairman o f the Committee on Graduate Study.
Secretary.
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Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
Charles Sumner and Foreign Relations
of the
United States during the Civil War
by
Victor H. Cohen
Thesis submitted to the Department
of History and the Committee on
Graduate Study at the University
of Wyoming, in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree
of Master of Arts.
Laramie, Wyoming
1940
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U M I N um ber: E P 2 4 0 9 4
IN F O R M A T IO N T O U S E R S
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
Chapter
I.
Page
"Stop Seward," 1861
Introduction
..............................
1
Chairman of Senate Committee on Foreign
Relations
.............................. 5
The English Mission ........................
7
Sumner vs. Seward
9
........................
Queen’s Proclamation of Neutrality,
May 13, 1861
.
.
.
................... 1 9
Blockade versus Closing of the Ports
. . .
21
July Session of C o n g r e s s .................... 24
II.
The Trent Affair, November to December, 1861
Two countries run a war fever
.
O.uestion of Sumner's first attitude
.
.
III.
.27
. . .
Seward's reply to the British ultimatum
Sumner's speech, January 9, 1862
.
.
29
.
38
. . . .
41
. . . .
51
Diplomacy and Anti-Slavery, 1863
Recognition of Hayti and Liberia
............
54
Emancipation Proclamation ..................
56
Suppression of the slave trade
Attack on Seward in December................. 61
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IV.
Menace of European Intervention, 1862-63
British and French plans of mediation
and i n t e r v e n t i o n ....................
The building of Confederate cruisers
Letters of mardue and reprisal
. . . .
...............
66
70
72
The Peterhoff m a i l s ............................. 79
V.
Change in Sumner’s Attitude toward England, 1863
Various possible motives for speech
Speech on foreign relations
. . . .
..................
84
89
Effects of speech on Sumner’s relation
with E n g l a n d ................................ 91
VI.
Sumner's attitude on Foreign Affairs, 1864-65
French in M e x i c o ............................... 100
Capture of the F l o r i d a ......................... 103
Canadian relations
.
106
Conclusion................................
112
Bibliography
114
.
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CHAPTER I
"Stop Seward," 1861
A biography of Charles Sumner as chairman of the Sen­
ate Committee on Foreign Relations during the Civil War is
a history of the foreign affairs of the United States dur­
ing that period.
Admirers of Sumner honored him as "the
1
greatest American statesman since the Revolutionary time,"
for his contributions to both domestic and foreign problems.
Such a generalization now seems of more than doubtful val­
idity.
Sumner entered the Harvard Law School in September,
1831, and under the stimulating influence of the great
jurist, Judge Story, he became well schooled in national
and international law.
In 1835 Sumner, in the absence of
Judge Story, was given an instructorship in the Law School.
An important part of his education had been his visits to
Europe where he acquired a knowledge of foreign languages
(French, German, and Italian), foreign politics, and for­
eign statesmen which were of infinite value later.
Because of Sumner's activity as an orator and his ac­
tivity in the political anti-slavery movement of the 1 8 4 0 's
he was elected by Massachusetts in 1851 to succeed Daniel
Webster in the United States Senate.
As a platform orator
1. For a typical example see Hoar, George F . , "Sumner,"
F o rum. XVI (1894), pp. 549-552.
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of distinguished culture he compared favorably with his
predecessor, Webster, although he himself endeavored to
measure up to the standards of the great English orator,
Edmund Burke.
Sumner had a remarkable capacity for rap­
idly devouring the contents of books.
His lengthy ad­
dresses were devoid of humor, full of erudition, and
many times over-burdened with biblical, classical, and
historical references, but at his best he had a remark­
able power over audiences.
Sumner's claim to fame was his indefatigable perseverence as a crusader for moral causes and in opposing
injustice, especially the absolute wrong of slavery, on
which subject he became a fanatic.
Carl Sandburg, Pulit­
zer prize winner for Abraham Lincoln's biography, referred
to Sumner as a "one-idea man, and the idea was to abolish
3
slavery."
This attitude was accounted for in part by the
attack of Preston Brooks of South Carolina in 1856 which
incapacitated Sumner for work for some four years and made
him in his own eyes and that of radical anti-slavery people
in the North a martyr to the cause.
To the South he be­
came the perfect personification of what they wanted to
secede from.
The slavery question as we shall see influ­
enced also Sumner's handling of foreign affairs.
3. Sandburg, Carl, Abraham Lincoln:
I, p. 106.
The War Years, (1939),
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3
The earlier picture of Sumner, painted by his biograph3
ers
who typify the anti-slavery attitude, was that of a
man who attracted the confidence of men and who was a spec­
imen of physical, intellectual, and moral manhood ready to
suffer for honorable causes in spite of weaknesses, such as
a tremendous and harmless vanity.
This picture has been
changed by recent historians and biographers of this middle
4
period of United States History.
These writers, very crit­
ical of Sumner, describe him as an egotist, a genius for
arousing antagonisms by the assumption of infallibility,
impatient of contradiction, a person having no considera­
tion for the feelings and opinions of others, a social
flunky, and one who could never perceive the force of his
own words.
Such attributes, they say, made him the man
despised most by his colleagues in the Senate chamber.
With such conflicting attitudes on the part of Sumner's
contemporaries and later historians, it is difficult to
reach any representation of his true character.
Sumner was restored to health after Brooks' attack
just in time to participate in the campaign of 1860 and
the victory of the Republican party he had helped to found.
3. See especially Pierce, Edward L., Memoirs and Letters
of Charles Sumner. (4 vols., 1874, 1893).
4. See, for example, Milton, George F . , The Eve of Con­
flict : Stephen A. Douglas and the Heedless War (1934),
and Bowers, Claude G . , The Tragic Era (1939).
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Because of his qualifications Sumner doubtless felt he
5
should be Secretary of State in the new Cabinet.
But
he knew that William H. Seward, by a general concensus
of opinion, was the most logical person for the position.
Seward and Sumner had been anti-slavery colleagues and
friendly since the beginning of the latter's political
career.
Seward as prospective "premier" used his influ­
ence in the crucial winter of 1860-61 to conciliate the
South as far as he dared in order to save the dissolving
Union.
He was supported in these endeavors by Charles
Francis Adams in the House of Representatives.
Sumner,
however, was opposed to any conciliation and denounced
both men as traitors to the anti-slavery cause.
He was
indeed apparently more than reconciled to the secession
of enough states to leave the Republicans in power.
Sum­
ner was even toying with the idea of annexing Canada to
6
make up for the loss of the slave states.
When the withdrawal of Southern senators gave the
Republican party control of Congress, Sumner received his
5. As early as November, 1860, the New York Evening Post
reported that Massachusetts intended to press Sumner for
the State Department but didn't. White, Laura A., "Sumner
and the Crisis of 1860-61," in Craven, Avery, e d . , Essays
in Honor of William E. D o d d , (1935), p. 174.
6. See White, "Sumner and the Crisis of 1860-61," loo.
cit., pp. 152 f f .
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reward in his appointment as chairman of the Senate Com7
mittee on Foreign Relations.
The choice was obviously
a fitting one as he was clearly the outstanding Repub­
lican in Congress, both for his knowledge of interna­
tional law and his wide and intimate acouaintance with
leaders of European opinion, occupants of government of­
fices, and law professors in English, French, and German
universit ies.
Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy dtiring the Civil
War, wrote later that
Mr. Sumner was a scholar, and better read on
the subject of our foreign relations, international
law, our treaties and traditions, than any other
man in Congress. He better filled the position of
chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations than
any of his associates could have done.
Sumner's appointment was hailed by England, and the
London Star, in an elaborate article, praised him as a
9
statesman and as an exponent of the cause of freedom.
7. Sumner had been nominated for a position on this im­
portant committee in 1857 but "was defeated by the action
of Seward who wanted this position for himself." Haynes,
George H . , Charles Sumner (1909), p. 318.
8. Welles to Fowler, Nov. 9, 1875, quoted in Baber,
"Johnson, Grant, Seward, Sumner," North American Review,
CXLV (1887), p. 78. The question of Sumner's efficiency
as chairman became an important factor in the story of
his removal from the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
in 1871.
9. Quoted (without date) in The Works of Charles Sumner
(1874), V, pp. 484-85.
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John Bright and Richard Cobden, members of the
British Parliament, were unhesitating and fearless cham­
pions of the Northern cause.
These two influential En­
glishmen reported to Sumner drifts of English public
opinion, stated our difficulties as they appeared to the
English people,and suggested points for modification.
Among other eminent Englishmen, the Duke and Duchess of
Argyll wrote often to Sumner, who had been received on
intimate terms at Argyll Lodge and Inveraray Castle when
he visited England.
The Argylls were personally sym­
pathetic to the Northern cause, although at the begin­
ning of the war they had little faith in Northern mili-
10
tary success.
The Duke, a member of the British cabinet, enabled
Sumner to know the trend of the British government
opinion, and the Duchess reflected the views of her
husband in her correspondence with Sumner.
The Senator
frequently visited the State Department to study the
correspondence with England and France.
He also cor­
responded with United States representatives in foreign
countries.
With this great correspondence Sumner had
his hand on the pulse of foreign opinion toward the
American Civil War.
10.
Sumner's reliable information
Pierce, op. cit.. I?, p. 148.
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from Europe, especially England, was of immense value
to the government of the United States.
Letters to him
were shown to Lincoln, Seward, and many other important
people in Washington for guidance in their actions.
Sumner's letters to his English friends also were cir­
culated in influential circles there.
As chairman of this most important committee Sumner
was,next to the President and the Secretary of State,
the most important man in the country on questions of
foreign relations and necessarily came into frequent con­
tact with both of them.
It was of course of the utmost
importance that he should work in complete harmony and
cooperation with both . 1 As things worked out it was only
less important that he should be on intimate terms with
the American ambassador to Great Britain.
It was extremely
unfortunate both for Sumner and for the country that his
relations with Seward had already become strained and were
quickly to become more so.
Sumner had scarcely recovered
from his first pleasure in his new position when that
pleasure was marred by events attending the appointment
of an ambassador to Great Britain.
Sumner's English friends had always looked forward to
the time when he would represent the United States in
England.
In March, 1861, Sumner's intimate friends in
Massachusetts began a correspondence to secure the appoint­
ment for him, and Sumner himself was eager for it.
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The
movement failed because Seward successfully secured the
11
position for Adams.
Sumner and his biographers later
concealed his defeat by maintaining that he preferred
the chairmanship of the Senate Committee on Foreign Re13
lations to any foreign appointment.
But Sumner was
deeply hurt over the affair and thus began his important
work on foreign relations in this crucial period with a
feeling of distrust and resentment against these two
important co-workers.
So far as is known, Sumner never again had any deal­
ings at all with Adams, which proved to be bad for both
sides.
When Adams left for England he went without let­
ters of introduction from Sumner to his influential
13
English friends.
Such letters would have undoubtedly
smoothed the Ambassador's path.
Biographers of Sumner have asserted that "for eight
years he was to work for the most part harmoniously with
11. White, "Sumner and the Crisis of 1860-61," loc. cit..
pp. 178 ff. Adams was appointed as "the result of Governor
Seward's personal friendship; he [Adams] did not know that
Senator Sumner had opposed it." Adams, Henry, The Educa­
tion of Henry Adams (1918), p. 110.
12. Pierce, op. cit.. IV, p. 25, and Storey, Moorfield,
Charles Sumner (1900), p. 194.
13. White, "Sumner and the Crisis of 1860-61," loc. cit.,
pp. 181-182.
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14
Seward as Secretary of State"
and that the two men "were
generally in accord as to the foreign policy of the govern15
ment
These generalizations, as will he shown, seem dubious.
It is probable that because of their public duties and fre­
quent necessary contacts their personal relations ostensibly
remained agreeable.
Sumner, with a greater historical know­
ledge of American diplomacy and international law than Sew­
ard, could easily find cause for criticism of a person like
Seward who did not have a legal mind, never gave any particu­
lar attention to international law, and who admitted that
although called upon to deal with intricate international
16
issues he never opened the treatises on these subjects.
Charles Francis Adams, Jr., later wrote:
"Sumner, whose own
conceptions of international usage were distinctly nebulous,
averred that Seward knew nothing of it; and apparently
14. Haynes, op. cit., p. 344. Pierce (op. cit. , I, p. 28)
stated that "Sumner as chairman of the Committee on Foreign
Relations and Seward as Secretary of State were for the next
eight years to remain in agreeable personal relations, and
to cooperate in public business and friendly offices."
15. Whipple, E. P., "Recollections of Charles Sumner,"
Harpers. LIX (1879), p. 277.
16. The Diary of Gideon Welles (1911), entry of April 17,
1863, I, p. 275. Montgomery Blair, Postmaster-General, said
Seward knew "less of public law and of administrative duties
than any man who ever held a seat in the cabinet." Ibid.
Edward Bates, Attorney-General, pronounced him "no lawyer
and no statesman." Quoted in Adams, 0. F., Jr., "Declara­
tion of Paris Negotiation, 1861," Massachusetts Historical
Society Proceedings. XL7I (1912), p. 43.
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10
without consulting so familiar an authority as Wheaton,
the Secretary of State depended for his conclusions on
17
the chief clerk
of the department and a few unofficial
18
advisers of Questionable authority."
During most of the year 1861 Seward was feared and
disliked in England and by the foreign diplomats in Wash­
ington.
As early as 1860, when the Prince of Wales had
visited the United States, Seward was alleged to have
stated to the Duke of Newcastle, who headed the Prince’s
suite, that if he became Secretary of State it would "be19
come my duty to insult England, and I mean to do so."
This story was told all over England, and whether a threat
or a jest, serious speculation was aroused in England as
to Seward’s hostility to that country.
Seward's speech
in 1860 favoring the annexation of Canada as compensation
for any loss of Southern states had also added to Britain's
distrust.
Before Seward's appointment to the State Depart­
ment, Lord Lyons, British Ambassador to the United States,
17. "Mr. Seward was assisted by his chief clerk who was
therefore the quintessence of the wisdom of the foreign
affairs; a man not even mastering the red-tape traditions
of the department, without any genuine instruction, without
ideas." Gurowski, Adam, Diary (1862), entry of June, 1861,
I, p. 52.
18. Quoted in Adams, "Declaration of Paris Negotiation,
1861," loc. cit., XLVI, p. 43.
19. Quoted in Adams, C. F., Jr., Charles Francis Adams
(1900), p. 165.
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11
wrote to Earl Russell, British Foreign Secretary, Febru­
ary 4, 1861, that with regard to Great Britain he would
20
be a dangerous Secretary of State.
Repeatedly Lyons
later characterized Seward as 11arrogant and reckless to21
ward foreign powers."
Lyons and other foreign diplomats thought Seward un­
friendly and apparently set out deliberately to use Sum­
ner, with whom they were on friendly terms, to check Sew­
ard.
On May 21, 1861, Lyons wrote Earl Russell that Sum­
ner had great influence in foreign affairs and if he was
convinced by his correspondence from England that Seward’s
proceedings were doing harm he might do a great deal to
22
stop them.
Apparently Russell followed Lyons' advice
and on June 10, 1861, the Duke of Argyll wrote to Sumner
as follows:
I . . . earnestly entreat that you will use your
influence and official authority to induce your gov­
ernment, and especially Mr. Seward, to act in a more
liberal and less reckless spirit than he is supposed
here to indicate towards foreign governments, and es­
pecially towards ourselves . . . But Mr. Seward knows
Europe less well than you do; and the very natural
20. Adams, Ephraim D . , Great Britain and the American
Civil War (1925), I, p. 60.
21. Lyons to
D., op. cit.,
that""Seward,
peace policy,
a foreign war
Russell, May 2, 1861, quoted in Adams, E.
I, p. 125. On May 20 Lyons wrote Russell
having lost strength by the failure of his
is seeking to recover influence by leading
party . . ." Quoted in Ibid., I, p. 128.
22. Quoted in Lord Newton, Lord Lyons. A Record of British
Diplomacy (1913), I, p. 41.
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12
state of violent excitement of your people just now
leads many of us to fear that he may be disposed to
do high-handed and offensive things which would neces­
sarily lead to bad blood, and perhaps finally to rup­
ture.
I rejoice that at such a critical time you are
at the head of the body which on foreign relations is
able to control the government, because I know how
anxious you will be to be just and considerate in
your dealings . . .23
The foreign diplomats were justified in fearing Sew­
ard's hostile attitude toward foreign countries.
During
the first few months of Lincoln's administration he was
possessed with a "foreign war panacea."
His plan was to
pick a quarrel with England or some other power, as he be­
lieved that a foreign war would result in the uniting of
the alienated sections against a common foe.
Unknown to
the foreign diplomats, this panacea was officially proposed
to Lincoln on April 1, 1861, in an extraordinary state paper
24
called "Some Thoughts for the President's Consideration."
As a policy in dealing with foreign nations, Seward
would seek explanations from Spain, France, Great Britain,
and Russia.
If satisfactory explanations were not received
from Spain and France, Congress was to be convened and war
declared against them.
Lincoln's reply placed Seward gently
23. Quoted in Pierce, op. cit., 17, p. 31. "Hr.
has been fretful, irritable, and acrimonious; and
too much to suppose Mr. Sumner has been useful in
irritation." Russell, William H. , My; Diary North
(1863), entry of July 31, 1861, p. 377.
Seward
it is not
allaying
and South
24. This is quoted in Nicolay, John G., and Jay, John,
Abraham Lincoln (1890), III, pp. 447 ff.
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13
in his place and somewhat dampened his ambition to be
the power behind the throne.
Seward's notorious despatch Ho. 10 of May 21, 1861,
was perhaps a further step in the pursuit of his "foreign
war panacea."
It was also an attempt to prevent foreign
recognition of the Southern Confederacy.
The original
despatch stated that official or unofficial intercourse
with the Confederate commissioners would be construed as
a recognition of the Confederacy and "British recognition
would be British intervention to create within our own
territory a hostile state by overthrowing this Republic
itself.
When this act of intervention is distinctly per­
formed, we from that hour shall cease to be friends and
become once more, as we have twice before been forced to
25
be, enemies of Great Britain."
If Seward expected Lincoln to approve his "foreign
war panacea" in May after rejecting it in April he was
sorely dissappointed.
In addition to other deletions,
Lincoln crossed out the last sentence of the above quota26
tion as being too hostile and threatening.
Apparently the despatch Ho. 10 was not brought before
the Cabinet and "knowledge of its details seems at the time
25.
Quoted in licolay and Hay, o£. cit., 17, p. 273.
26. Seward's original despatch of May 21, 1861, showing
Lincoln's corrections is quoted Ibid.. pp. 270 ff.
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14
to have been confined to the Secretary, Mr. Lincoln, and
Mr. Sumner, chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign
Relations, who was consulted by the President in regard
27.
to it."
Sumner, often consulted by Lincoln, was in
Washington at the time and was thought to have advised
28
Lincoln to modify and delete obnoxious passages.
Sum­
ner apparently told the story to Rudolph Schleiden, Min­
ister of the Republic of Bremen, and perhaps to Lyons.
On May 32 the latter heard rumors of the belligerent May
despatch.
Schleiden, who was very intimate with Sumner,
27. Adams, C. F., Jr., "Declaration of Paris Negotiation,
1861," l o c . .cit.., XLVI, p. 43 note.
See also Adams, E. D. ,
o p . cit. , I, p. 127 note 1.
28. Russell, referring to the despatch of May 21, which he
thought was written in June, recorded the following in his
Diary on July 3, 1861:
"The importance of maintaining a
friendly feeling with England appeared to me very strongly
impressed on the Senator’s DSumneiO mind. Mr. Seward has
been fretful, irritable, and acrimonious; and.it is not too
much to suppose Mr. Sumner has been useful in allaying ir­
ritation.
A certain despatch was written last June, which
amounted to a little less than a declaration of war against
Great Britain.
Most fortunately the President was induced
to exercise his power."
O p . c it. . p. 377.
After the May despatch incident the following relate
the kind of things Sumner or his friends said:
(l) Mr. Seward
felt humiliated at Sumner's superior influence with the Pres­
ident and when the latter once answered him with an opinion
from Sumner the Secretary of State exclaimed that "there were
too many Secretaries of State in Washington"
Quoted in Sand­
burg, op. cit., II, p. 238, and in Pierce, op . ci t . , 17, p.
121. 12) John B. Alley, a Congressman from Massachusetts,
wrote that Lincoln wouldn't allow Seward to send any des­
patch to England until he had shown it to Sumner.
One day
Seward wrote a despatch to which Sumner objected and Lincoln
erased and interlined parts of it saying that he feared war
with England.
Quoted in Rice, Allen T., e d . , Reminiscences
of Abraham Lincoln by Distinguished Men of his Time (1886 )T
p. 579.
This note was furnished by Miss White, director of
this thesis.
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15
knew the exact facts of the despatch on May 34.
9Q
The
leak was evidently due to Sumner who often indiscreetly
babbled Cabinet s e c r e t s . ^
Sumner immediately reacted against Seward's aggres­
sive policy.
Sumner evidently told the story of the lay
despatch to Moncure D. Conway who later reported that Sum­
ner protested directly to Seward against his aggressive
policy and said,
In the name of the merchants of America and Eng­
land I protest against this course . . . The issues
of peace and war between England and America do not
rest with you, and henceforth every statement put
forth from Tfashington concerning European powers will
be carefully watched.
Sumner, when Lyons feared that the May despatch was per­
haps another of Seward's schemes to annex Canada,32 allowed
British censure to fall solely on Seward's shoulders.
Sum­
ner, who had favored the annexation of Canada in 1860 and
the early part of 1861 as compensation for the loss of
Southern states, now remained quiet on the subject while
29.
Adams, E. D . , o p . cit. , I, p. 130.
30. For example, Charles Francis Adams, Jr., wrote that
after Sumner's appointment as chairman, "He talked of Seward
and the diplomatic corps; and told us all the secrets of the
Cabinet so far as he knew them." Autobiography. 1835-1915
(1916), p. 103.
31. Quoted on Conway, Moncure D . , Autobiography (1904), I,
p . 350.
33. Lyons, fearing that Seward's hostile policy might mean
war, warned the Governor of Canada, May 22, to make defensive
preparations.
Adams, 1. D . , o£. cit. . I, p. 139.
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16
Seward was censured.
Sumner now had ammunition to prove that Seward was
an incapable and hostile Secretary of State distrusted by
foreign diplomats.
Edward L. Pierce, Sumner's official
biographer, says:
It is not true . . . that he [Sumner] sought to
undermine the Secretary in correspondence with English
friends and in conversation with foreign diplomats.
On the other hand he did his best in that correspondence
to make it appear that Seward, whatever expression he
might have used, was not in fact hostile to England.33
A great amount of evidence, however, proves that there is
no question that Sumner did criticize Seward.
After the President approved the May despatch with
34
its moderations,
Sumner went back to Boston in such a
frame of mind that Richard Henry Dana, United States Dis­
trict Attorney, whom he met shortly afterward, wrote to
Adams, June 4, 1861, that Sumner was
full of denunciation of Mr. Seward as ever . . .
He
cannot talk five minutes without bringing in Mr. Sew­
ard, and always in bitter terms of denunciation. I men­
tion this to you because I have reason to believe that
his correspondence with England (which is large, and in
influential quarters) and his conversations with for­
eign diplomats at Washington are in the same style . . .
33.
Pierce, op. cit., IV, p. 32.
34. Even after Lincoln modified the Despatch, it was re­
ceived with alarm by Adams, who wrote in his diary June 10,
1861: "The Government seems ready to declare war with all
the powers of Europe . . .
I scarcely know how to under­
stand Mr. Seward . . .
It seems to me like throwing the
game into the hands of the enemy." Adams, 0. F . , Jr.,
'^Seward and the Declaration of Paris," p. 21, reprint from
Massachusetts Historical Society Proceedings. XLVI, pp. 2381, quoted in Adams, E. D . , op. cit.. I, p. 127.
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17
He represents him as distrusted and overruled in the
Cabinet, and disliked and distrusted by the diplomats,
and as pursuing a course of correspondence, language,
and manner calculated to bring England and France to
coldness, if not to open rupture.35
About a month later, July 2, 1861, Charles Francis Adams,
Jr., wrote to his father, who was in London, reiterating
Dana's accusations.
"There are rumors and pretty well
authenticated, that Seward is losing ground in Washington
and in New York very fast.
Sumner has been denouncing
him for designing, as he asserts, to force the country
36
into a foreign war . . . "
Sumner said the same thing
to foreign diplomats in Washington.
"I do not doubt,"
he wrote to Schleiden, "that England will settle down
into just relations to our government if she is not pre37
vented by sinister influences."
There is no doubt that
the sinister influence was the Secretary of State.
Bright
and other acquaintances of Sumner were also aware of the
strained and bitter relationship between Sumner and
38
Seward.
35. Quoted in Adams, C. F. , Jr., Richard Henry Dana (1895),
II, pp. 258-259.
36. Ford, Worthington G., ed., A Cycle of Adams' Letters,
1861-1865 (1920), I, pp. 15-16.
37.
June 2, 1861, quoted in Pierce, op. cit., IF, p. 37.
38. To John Bright in England Sumner wrote that in order
to keep the peace between England and the United States
he was "obliged to oppose the Secretary of State, who has
been disposed to a course of much harshness." Oct 15, 1861,
quoted in Pierce, op. cit. , IF, p. 48. See also Norton to
Curtis, April 29, 1861, Letters of Charles Eliot Norton
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18
By the end of 1861 Sumner's criticisms of Seward
became public knowledge by an article published in the
New York Herald on December 31, 1861:
Senator Sumner's malignant envy of the Secretary
of State is well known. As chairman of the Senate
Committee on Foreign Affairs, his word is supposed to
have weight, and he has employed it diligently to fos­
ter the erroneous ideas that have lately prevailed in
Great Britain. He is in continual correspondence with
abolitionists on the other side of the Atlantic through
whom it has been easy for him to delude the English
public . . . That Senator Sumner and his factious
abolitionist allies have strained every nerve to pro­
cure Mr. Seward's overthrow, is beyond a question;
that he has insidiously and unfairly misrepresented
Mr. Seward's policy and motives to influential states­
men at the Court of London, we have the best of reasons
for believing . . .
. Meantime without any consultation with Sumner (during
his stay in Boston) the important question of the blockade
had been decided.
There had been some controversy over
naval blockade versus closing the Confederate ports by law
or proclamation.
Welles and other members of the Cabinet
favored the latter method on the obvious ground that a
blockade, which could only exist in a state of war, was a
recognition of Southern belligerency.
Closing of the ports,
they argued, was the best means of weakening the South with­
out acknowledging a state of war or elevating the Confed­
eracy to the status of a belligerent.
On this question
Seward had more influence than the majority of the Cabinet.
(1913), I, p. 332; Russell, op. cit. . entry of July 3, 1861,
p. 377; Edward Everett's Journal, entry of Aug. 33, 1861,
quoted in Frothingham, Paul R., Edward Everett. Orator and
Statesman (1935), pp. 432-33; and Adams, C. F . , Jr., Auto­
biography, p. 85.
39.
This note was furnished by Miss White.
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19
Probably influenced by Lyons' representations against clos­
ing of the oorts as a possible cause of war with foreign
40
countries,
Seward urged Lincoln to issue a blockade or­
der which would be less likely to lead to foreign compli­
cations.
Lincoln adhered to Seward's advice and on April
19, 1861, he proclaimed a blockade of the Southern ports.
Sumner, who had the attitude of criticizing everything
Seward did, committed himself to favor closing the ports.
Authoritative reoorts on Lincoln's blockade oroclama41
tion reached England on May 4, 1861.
That, together with
the Confederate proclamation of April 17 calling for priv­
ateers, was sufficient evidence of belligerent status to
warrant action by the British government for the protection
of its commercial interests.
On May 13, it decided to take
notice of the affairs in America and accordingly issued the
"Queen's Proclamation of Neutrality."
This action was not
a recognition of Southern independence but a recognition of
belligerency.
It placed the Confederacy on the same plane
with the United States on the sea, it recognized their flag
on the high seas, it gave them the right to send out priv­
ateers and commerce destroyers.
It also raised Southern
morale, stiffened their resistance, and gave them hope for
40.
Adams, E. D., op. cit., I, pp. 344 ff.
41. Bailey, Thoma.s A. , A Diplomatic History of the American
People (1940), p. 349.
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20
later recognition of independence.
Britain's example was
soon followed by France and other nations of the world.
The proclamation was promulgated on the very day, May 13,
that Adams arrived in England, thus giving the impression
that it was issued hastily in order to forestall his pro­
tests.
When news of the Queen’s proclamation was received
in the United States the people were greatly angered at
what they considered Britain's first hostile act toward
42
the North.
Seward blew up at the news and Sumner later
wrote that 3ae "never saw Mr. Seward more like a caged
tiger or more profuse of oaths in every form that the
English language supplies than when he pranced about the
room denouncing the proclamation of belligerency, which
43
he swore he would send to hell . . . "
Sumner, who later
was to make so much of the British proclamation of bellig­
erency, apparently remained placid about it in 1861.
He
wrote to Bright, June 2, 1861, that "England will settle
down into just relations to our government if she is not
42. Lincoln attempted to maintain from the beginning that
the conflict was merely a domestic disturbance, but he
seemed unable to realize that he was the first to recognize
Southern belligerency by his blockade order.
43. Sumner to General ________ , July 26, 1869, New York
Historical Society (photostat copy). This note was furnished
by Miss White.
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21
44
prevented by sinister influences."
Sumner's later indictment of England in 1863 and his
chief grievance against that country in 1869 centered in
the British proclamation of belligerency which he said had
prolonged the war for two years and for that England should
be made to pay.
Sumner was apparently so concerned with
keeping Seward from getting us into a foreign war in 1861
that he had no time or disposition to criticize England
himself.
If he felt critical I have found no evidence in
any of his letters available to me.
In June, 1861, a month before Congress convened, the
45
plan for closing the Southern ports
was revived. Sumner
was apparently involved in the movement.
He wrote to
Francis Lieber, a professor at Columbia College, New York,
June 23, 1861, that he had everything prepared in advance
for the special session of Congress which was to start on
July 4, 1861, and one of the important points in his program
was the introduction of a "Bill of embargo and non-intercourse
for the whole Southern coast in lieu of the blockade, which
46
is a great mistake."
But when Congress convened Sumner
44. Quoted in Pierce, op. cit., IY, p. 37. Schleiden agreed
with Sumner that any report as to English recognition of the
so-called Southern Confederacy would for some time be humbug.
Schleiden to Sumner, Aug. 31, 1861, Sumner MSS (Harvard Uni­
versity Library), vol. CXXXV. This note was furnished by
Miss White.
45.
See above, p. 18.
46.
Quoted in Pierce, op. cit., IY, p. 38.
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22
never introduced his hill for the closing of the ports.
The measure, however, was embodied in the fourth section
of "A bill further to provide for the collection of duties
on imports, and for other purposes," which originated in
the House of Representatives.
The "Southern Ports Bill,"
as it was commonly called, was referred to the Senate Com­
mittee on Commerce and not the Committee on Foreign Relations
as might have been expected.
It was quickly passed as an
important measure on July 13, and it gave the President
the discretionary power by proclamation to close the South­
ern ports as ports of entry irrespective of the blockade.
Sumner voted for the bill.
Three days after its passage Lyons wrote privately to
Russell that he was disturbed over its possible conseouences
4?
since "even Sumner was for it."
On the other hand,
Schleiden, according to E. D. Adams, "reported Seward as
objecting to the Bill and Sumner as 'vainly opposing' it."
Adams continues:
Sumner had in fact spoken publicly in favor of
the measure Chi s affirmative vote in the Senate?^.
Probably he told Schleiden that previously he was
against it. Schleiden reported Sumner as active in
urging the Cabinet not to issue a proclamation clos­
ing the ports . . . Mercier [French Minister to
WashingtonJ later informed Thouvenel [French Foreign
MinisterJ that Sumner declared the Bill intended for
the Northern public only, to show administration
'energy,' and that there never was any intention of
47.
Quoted in Adams, E. D., op. cit. . I, p. 348.
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48
putting it into effect.
One possibly suspects that Sumner was critical of the block­
ade because Seward was responsible for it and he therefore
committed himself to the closing of the ports.
But perhaps,
finding on his arrival in Washington that all the diplomats
were earnestly convinced that closing the ports would bring
on a war with foreign countries, he tried to explain away
his vote for the ”Southern Ports Bill” and diminish the im­
portance of the measure.
I have found no evidence that Sum­
ner ever urged Lincoln to use the authority given him to
change from the blockade to the closing of the ports.
Cer­
tainly Seward persuaded Lincoln not to take such action and
he wrote the American ministers abroad that the government
49
would not exercise its discretionary power in the matter.
50
Count Adam Gurowski,
the explosive radical abolition­
ist, flayed Sumner as chairman of the Committee on Foreign
Relations for not making an issue of the ouestion of the
closing of the Southern ports.
By his silence, Gurowski
argued, Sumner had endorsed an act that granted belligerent
48. E. D. Adams (op. cit., I, p. 248 note 3) cites Schleiden
to Senate of Bremen, July 10 and 19, 1861, Schleiden Papers,
and F. 0., France, 1394. No. 931. Cowley to Russell, Aug.
1, 1861.
49.
Ibid., p. 250.
50. He was a Polish exile employed as a clerk in the State
Department and had a profound contempt for Washington poli­
ticians, especially Seward whom he criticized persistently
even while working under him. See references to his pub­
lished diary throughout this study.
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24
51
rights to the Rebels.
From this time on throughout the
war some of the radical abolitionists and their newspapers,
such as the Boston Commonwealth, were impatient and crit­
ical of Sumner for not coming out openly and taking the
lead in a public attack on Seward even at the risk of a
breach with the administration.
Unless most of the questions pertaining to foreign re­
lations were discussed in secret session, Sumner and his
Committee on Foreign Relations left nothing of great im­
portance on record during the Senate sessions of 1861.
His
first diplomatic act as chairman was. his report on the San
Juan question.
This was the disputed boundary line between
Vancouver Island,a British possession, and the American
continent.
During the special Senate session of 1861 he
recommended arbitration of the dispute by the Republic of
Switzerland.
The time, however, was not very propitious
for the arbitration of a boundary dispute and therefore
52
the question was postponed.
There was a general disposi­
tion during the short session of Congress, July 4, to Aug­
ust 6, 1861, to limit their actions to matters relating di­
rectly to the prosecution of the war.
Sumner, as chairman
51. Gurowski to Sumner, Oct. 15, 1861, Sumner MSS (Harvard
University Library), vol. CXXXVI. This note was furnished
by Miss White.
52. The boundary line was not settled until the Treaty of
Washington, 1871.
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25
of the Committee on Foreign Relations, recommended post­
ponement of questions relative to the protection of the
fisheries adjacent to the northeastern coast and the is­
lands of North America, and the resolutions of the New
York Legislature concerning a reciprocity treaty with
53
Great Britain.
Many people thought that the real trouble with Eng­
land and France during the first year of the Civil War
was the Morrill tariff of March 2, 1861.
The duties of
this tariff almost prohibited the importation of a large
amount of English manufactured articles.
Sumner knew how
important its influence was on English opinion and how the
protectionism of the North was alienating the friendly feel54
ings of Great Britain.
True to his policy of maintaining
the good will of that country, he opposed an increase of
ten per cent on all foreign duties during the tariff debate
55
of July 29, 1861, but he was unsuccessful.
Thus throughout 1861 Sumner seems consistently to have
opposed Seward and tried to keep the peace with England.
53. Congressional Globe, 3? Cong., 1 Sess., 1861, pp. 226
and 253.
54. Argyll to Sumner, June 4, 1861, quoted in Rhodes, James
F., History of the United States (1900), III, p . 430.
55.
Congressional Globe, 3? Cong., 1 Sess., 1861, p. 317.
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CHAPTER II
The Trent Affair, November to December, 1861
A diplomatic incident which brought England and the
United States to the brink of war was the famous Trent af­
fair of 1861.
A mass of historical writing has been pub­
lished on this subject and therefore it will suffice for
my purpose to give merely a brief account of the events.
Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States
of America, appointed James Murray Mason of Virginia and
John Slidell of Louisiana as commissioners to Great Bri­
tain and France.
Both men had recently been members of
the United States Senate.
Their new mission was to secure
the recognition of the Confederacy.
The envoys successfully
ran the blockade to Havana and on November 7, 1861, they
embarked on the Trent, a British mail packet.
The comman­
der and all the officers of the Trent were aware of the char1
acter and purpose of the two men.
At that time the United
States steamer San Jacinto was returning from a cruise on
the western coast of Africa.
Captain Wilkes of that ship
heard at Cienfuegos, on the south side of Cuba, that the
Confederate envoys were to sail from Havana and he be­
came determined to intercept them.
He consulted the
1. Seward to Lyons, Dec. 26, 1861, ouoted in Official Re­
cords of the War of Rebellion, second series, II, p. 1145.
Hereafter this shall be referred to as War of Rebellion.
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2?
available authorities on international law such as Kent,
Wheaton, and Vattel, besides various decisions of Sir Wil­
liam Scott and other British admiralty judges.
Convinced
that he had a legal right to stop, board, and search the
Trent, Wilkes ordered his ship to what is known as the Ba­
hama Channel, through which the Trent had to pass.
On Nov­
ember 8, a day after leaving Havana, the Trent was stopped
by the San Jacinto in the Bahama Channel and Mason and Sli­
dell, together with their secretaries, were transferred to
the San Jacinto which proceeded with its prisoners to the
United States, arriving there on November 15.
The news of the capture was immediately flashed over
the country and the North went wild with joy.
Since the de­
feat of Bull Run in July the people were yearning for a vic­
tory and the capture of the two men, who were thoroughly
hated as secession conspirators, caused rejoicing as if a
great battle had been won.
uproar.
"The United States went into an
Yankee Doodle tore his shirt.
The eagle was brought
out to scream.
’The Star-spangled Banner’ blared its sonor2
ous patriotism from multitudinous brass instruments."
The
public press praised Captain Wilkes, and Secretary of the
Navy Welles congratulated him on his great public service:
"Your conduct in seizing these public enemies was marked
by intelligence, ability, decision and firmness and has the
2.
Sandburg, op. cit., I, p. 362.
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28
3
emphatic approval of this Department.”
Welles added, how­
ever, that failure to take the vessel into port was not to
'be permitted to constitute a precedent for infractions of
neutral rights.
Although the seizure of Mason and Slidell occurred on
November 8, 1861, and the news reached the American people
on the 15th of the same month, it was not until November 27
that the news reached England causing a storm of indigna­
tion equal in intensity to the enthusiastic approval of the
Americans.
On the 13th of December the news of the British
excitement reached the United States, and finally on the
19th of the same month Seward learned informally from Lyons
that his government demanded the immediate release of Mason
4
and Slidell.
During the four weeks, November 15 to December 12,
from the time of learning of the capture to hearing of
Great Britain's attitude, the American people momentarily
lost their senses and approved an act that was, in the light
of later developments, clearly a violation of neutral rights
on the high seas.
Many men in the public eye who at first
approved Wilkes' act, upon hearing of the British attitude,
suddenly became wise after the event.
It has long been the
3. Welles to Wilkes, Nov. 30, 1861, quoted in War of Rebel­
lion. II, p. 1109.
4. Adams, 0. F., Jr., "The Trent Affair," American Histor­
ical Review, XVII (1912), p. 544.
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29
accepted story that Sumner, immediately on hearing of the
seizure, said that Mason and Slidell would have to he sur­
rendered.
He has been given the chief credit for keeping
the United States out of war with England during this cri­
sis.
Sumner and Postmaster-General Blair, historians have
said, were the only two important people in the Government
who rose to the occasion and immediately advised disavowal
of Wilkes' unauthorized act.
According to this story Sum­
ner was in Boston when the news of the seizure of Mason
and Slidell arrived, and without hesitation he said, "We
5
shall have to give them up."
The only evidence, apparently,
upon which the story was based was an article by G. H. Mon-
6
roe in the Hartford Courant of November 22, 1873.
This
statement was written twelve years after the event and
therefore is scarcely satisfactory as proof.
Contemporary evidence for Sumner's first attitude
seems to be scanty.
On November 17, two days after the
news of the seizure of Mason and Slidell reached the United
States, he wrote to Seward from Boston about
5. Pierce, op. cit. . IV, p. 52; Haynes, op. cit. . p. 252;
Storey, Moorfield, Charles Sumner (1900;, p. 209; Reminiscenses of Carl Schurz (1907).II. p. 317; Bigelow, John,
Retrospections of an Active Life (1909), I, p. 401; Adams,
C. F., Jr., "The Trent Affair," Mass. Hist. Soc. Proceed­
ings . XLV (1911), £>. 62; Rhodes, op. cit. . Ill, p. 522; and
many others. The one exception is Anna Laurens Dawes. See
below, p. 32 .
6.
See Pierce, 0£. cit.., IV, p. 52.
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30
Two precedents bearing directly upon the case of
Mason and Slidell.
(l) The seizure by the British of
Henry Laurens, President of the Continental Congress,
on his way to Holland . . .
(2) This case is beyond
question. Prince Lucien Bonaparte, brother of the Em­
peror, having embarked in 1810 at Cinta Yecchia on board
the American ship Hercules, Captain West of Salem was
overhauled by a British man of war . . . The Prince
was detained as a. prisoner and sent to Genoa . . .
This certainly indicates that Sumner did not believe from
the very beginning that Mason and Slidell should be immed­
iately surrendered; he would scarcely have hunted up prece­
dents justifying Wilkes’ act if he had not approved of it,
— still less written of them to Seward.
What looks like a further indication that Sumner at
first approved appears in a letter written by his brother,
George, whose mind and attitudes at this time ran in the
same channels as his own.
The letter, which appeared in
the Boston Transcript on November 19, 1861, stated that,
"The act of Commodore Wilkes was in strict accordance with
the principles of international law recognized in England,
8
and in strict conformity with the English practice,” and
rested heavily on the Laurens case of which Charles had
written to Seward.
Both brothers would know that it would
7. Sumner to Seward, November 17, 1861, Washington, State
Department, Miscellaneous Letters. Copy furnished by Miss
White.
8. Quoted in Adams, "The Trent Affair," American Historical
Review, XLVII, p. 553. Adams says this letter was written
to the New York Tribune on Nov. 22. Evidently the Tribune
copied it from the Transcript.
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31
be taken for granted that George was expressing Charles'
ideas.
But when the London Times accused Sumner of in­
spiring this letter, he denied any association with it and
wrote that it "was written in my absence from Boston, and
9
I first saw it in a newspaper which I read on the train."
One still has doubts whether Sumner did not first see the
letter before he left Boston.
It appeared in the Transcript
on November 19 and must have been written between the 15th
and 18th.
Sumner's letter to Seward was dated from Boston
on November 17.
On the 17th Schleiden wrote Sumner, prob­
ably from Washington, that the Trent affair was serious and
urged him to come to Washington as soon as possible in or­
der to assist the Government with his moderation on this
delicate Question which might lead to dangerous complica-
10
tions.
Sumner must have received this letter by the 19th,
the day the Transcript appeared.
He lectured in Boston on
November 25 and two days later he gave a speech in New York.
It thus seems that Charles was in Boston when George's let­
ter was published.
Both men lived in the same house and
the former doubtless realized that it was not fitting for
a man in his position to speak publicly on the subject be­
fore Lincoln or Seward had done so.
It probably would have
9. Sumner to Cobden, Dec. 31, 1861, quoted in Pierce, op.
cit., IV, p. 61.
10. Schleiden to Sumner, Nov. 17, 1861, Sumner MSS (Harvard
University Library), vol. CXXXVI. This note furnished by
Miss White.
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33
looked to the people as though George, a private citizen,
had done it for him.
Anna Laurens Dawes, daughter of a Massachusetts Con­
gressman during Sumner's time, wrote in her biography of
Sumner:
Himself [SumnerJ sympathizing strongly with the
American feeling that Captain Wilke's had won a great
triumph, he was at first desirous of upholding him.;
but whether through the influence of Seward and Lin­
coln, or by reason of his own research, or because
much of the responsibility lay with him, and he was
never so rash in action as in speech, he speedily saw
that the position was untenable, and set himself to
make the country see it also. 1
One suspects that Miss Dawes was right and that Schleiden1s
letter forboding trouble probably caused him to change his
attitude.
The country was rushing into war and he doubt­
less again felt it to be his duty to keep the peace with
England.
Then at least Sumner must have realized that it
12
was better to keep still until he got to Washington.
Sumner arrived there, after his New York speech, on the
13
last day of November
and learned from the diplomats the
truth of what Schleiden had written.
On December 13, 1861, British newspapers brought the
news of English excitement to Sumner.
11.
Subsequent letters
Dawes, Anna L., Charles Sumner (1892), p. 165.
12. Sumner wrote to Cobden, Dec. 31, 1861: "The question
was not touched in the Cabinet. It was also kept out of the
Senate, that there might be no constraint upon the absolute
freedom that was desired in meeting it. I may add that I
had cultivated with regard to myself the same caution."
Quoted in Pierce, op. cit., 17, p. 61.
13. See Hale, Edward E., "Memories of a Hundred Years,"
Outlook. LXXII (1902), p. 85.
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33
from England all emphasized the danger of war if Mason and
Slidell were not surrendered.
Again the old English fear
of Seward was revived and reiterated,— the belief that he
was wantonly provoking a war and that Sumner must save the
14
day.
Whatever his first opinions may have been Sumner
now without question bent all his efforts toward keeping
the peace.
He made full use of the English letters he was
receiving, especially those of Bright and Cobden.
Sumner
told Lincoln that war with England would involve the fol­
lowing:
Acknowledgment of the Rebel states by England and
France; breaking the blockade; a British blockade of North­
ern ports; the sponging of American ships from the ocean;
establishment of Southern independence; and the opening of
15
the South by free trade to British manufacturers.
Sumner on this side of the water and men like Bright
and Cobden in England were thinking a great deal of arbi16
tration as a solution of the difficulty.
They did not
know that the British Government had ruled out any such
14. Bright to Sumner, Dec. 5, 7, 14, 1861, in Mass. Hist.
Soc. Proceedings, XL? (1911), pp. 150-155. Cobden to Sum­
ner, Nov. 29, 1861, quoted in Rhodes, op. cit., III, pp.
532—33.
15. Sumner to Lieber, Dec. 24, 1861, quoted in Pierce,
op. cit.» IV, p. 58. "More than once," W. H. Russell re­
corded in his diary under the date of Dec. 26, 1861, "He
[Sumner] has said to me, ’I hope you will keep the peace;
help us to do so,1— the peace having been already broken
by Captain Wilkes and his Government." 0j>. cit. , p. 592.
16. Bright to Sumner, Dec. 5 and 7, 1861, quoted in Mass.
Hist. Soc. Proceedings,XL?, pp. 150-154; Cobden to Sumner,
Dec. 19, 1861, quoted in Morley, John, Life of Richard Cob­
den (1881), II, p. 393; and Sumner to Lieber, Dec. 24, 1861,
quoted in Pierce, op. cit. , I?,p. 58.
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34
solution toy its despatch of November 30, 1861, which had
instructed Lyons to close his legation within seven days
17
if Mason and Slidell were not surrendered.
On December
19 Lyons informally acquainted Seward with the contents of
the despatch but upon Seward's reouest he withheld formal
presentation of it until December 23.
Seward asked Lyons
what would happen if he made a proposal to discuss the
question and the British minister replied that if the
answer did not embody the surrender of Mason and Slidell
18
he could not accept it.
After being informed about the
English demand, Sumner wrote Bright that he had proposed
arbitration to Lincoln but "it was necessary that the case
19
be decided at once."
Sumner probably was not informed of the despatch until
Christmas day when Lincoln and his Cabinet, met to consider
the British ultimatum.
As chairman of the Committee on
Foreign Relations he was invited to attend the cabinet dis­
cussions and he read the letters that he had received from
Bright and Cobden, liberal members of the British Parliament
17. Russell to Lyons, Nov. 30, 1861, quoted in War of Rebel­
lion, II, pp. 1110-1111.
18. Lyons to Russell, Dec. 19, 1861, auot ed in Lord Newton,
op. cit., I , p. 66.
19. Sumner to Bright, Dec. 30, 1861, ouoted in Pierce, op.
cit., IV, p. 59.
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35
30
and devoted friends of the Union.
They did not know
about the ultimatum but they stressed the imminent danger
of war.
"The unfavorable symptom," wrote Bright, December
14, "is the war preparations of the government and the send­
ing of troops to Canada and the favor shown to the excite­
ment which so generally precedes war.
This convinces us
either that this government believes that you intend war
31
with England, or that itself intends war with you . . . "
Cobden wrote, December 12:
We in England have ready a fleet surpassing in des­
tructive force any naval armament the world ever saw . . ,
This force has been got up under false pretences . . .
France was the pretence, and now we have plenty of people
who would be content to see this fleet turned against
you. 23
While the Bright and Cobden letters were being discussed,
a despatch from Thouvenel to Mercier was presented to the Cab­
inet.
Thouvenel agreed with the English government that the
seizure of Mason and Slidell was a breach of inter nation 3.1
law and in order to prevent an imminent conflict between
the two powers concerned he advised the United States to re23
lease the prisoners.
These letters and Sumner’s arguments
30. Beale, Howard K., ed., "Diary of Edward Bates, 18591866," in American Historical Association Annual Report, 17
(1930), entry of Dec. 25, 1861, p. 214, and"“Sumner to Cob­
den, Dec. 31, 1861, quoted in Pierce, ojo. cit., 17, p. 59.
21.
Q.uoted in Mass. Hist.
Soc. Proceedings. XL7, p. 154.
32.
Q.uoted in Rhodes, op.
cit,., Ill, p.
33.
Thouvenel to Mercier,
Dec. 3, 1861,
Rebellion, II, pp. 1116-1118, and "Diary
entry of Dec. 25, 1861, loo. cit. , p. 215.
535.
quoted inWar of
of EdwardBates,"
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36
undoubtedly influenced Lincoln to reach a. decision satis­
factory to the British Government.
Sumner left the Cabinet
meetine; with the feeling that the Trent difficulty would be
24
amicably settled.
On December 26 the Cabinet and the President continued
their discussion of the English despatch, while Sumner was
in the Senate trying to prevent a premature discussion of
the question from embarrassing the administration.
Senator
Hale introduced a resolution that all papers relating to
the Trent affair should be submitted by President Lincoln
to the Senate and he also took this occasion to denounce a
surrender of Mason and Slidell as a surrender of our national
25
honor which was worth protecting by a war.
Sumner briefly
and effectively replied that Hale had no evidence on which
to distrust the fidelity of the administration:
"I have my­
self a firm conviction that this question will be peaceably
and honorably adjusted . . .
I am not authorized to say
anything on the ouestion.
I content myself with repeating
26
what I have aLready said, that it is in safe hands.”
Sum­
ner was congratulated by many for his timely rebuke of Hale.
The period of wild excitement had been succeeded by more
24. ”The immediate pending question will be settled.’1 Sum­
ner to Lieber, Dec. 25, 1861, Sumner MSS (Harvard University
Library). Note furnished by Miss White.
25.
Cong. Globe, 37.Cong., 2 Sess., 1861-62, pp. 176-177.
26.
Ibid., p. 177.
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sober reflection, and numerous people throughout the
country were now favoring any policy that would oreserve
27
the peace with foreign countries.
On the day of Sumner's reply to Hale, the Cabinet dis­
cussion ended with a unanimous agreement to approve Seward'
28
draft for yielding to the British ultimatum.
Sumner's
part in making the government see the necessity of surrend­
ering Mason and Slidell must not be overemphasized.
When
Lyons formally read Russell's despatch to Seward on Decem­
ber 23, the latter already knew the hostile state of Euro­
pean opinion and the anger of the British from his minister
29
and friends in England.
It was probably between the two
interviews with Lord Lyons, December 19 and 23, that Seward
came to the conclusion that Mason and Slidell must be sur­
rendered.
His decision made, the Secretary of State then
had to convince the President and the rest of the Cabinet.
In this connection Sumner was helpful at the Cabinet meet­
ing of the 25th in accomplishing this.
It is not improb­
able that it was Seward who wanted him at the meeting for
27. John B. Alley to Sumner, Dec. 27, 1861, and William
Claflin to Sumner, Dec. 27, 1861, both in Sumner MSS (Har­
vard University Library), vol. LIF. Notes furnished by
Miss White.
28* Diary of Bates, entry of Dec. 25, 1861, (also includes
the news of the following day), loc. cit., p. 216.
29. Adams to Seward, Dec. 3, 1861, quoted in War of Rebel­
lion, II, pp. 1115-1116; Weed to Seward, Dec. 2, 4, 6, 10,
1861, quoted in Seward, Frederick f ., Seward at Washington
(1891), II, pp. 27 ff.
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this purpose.
In his efforts to prevent war, Sumner even
tried to mollify British feeling toward Seward.
«le are
in earnest for peace," he wrote to Cobden, December 31,
1861:
I can speak for the President and his Cabinet.
If there have been incidents or expressions giving
a different impression, they must be forgotten . . .
Seward said he had no memories for injuries, and that
in surrendering Mason and Slidell he did it in good
faith.30
Seward's reply to the British ultimatum was presented
on December 27 to Lord Lyons (in the form of a communica­
tion) .
It did not contain an apology but the statement
that Mason and Slidell would be released was accepted as
a sufficient apology.
The reply was immediately given by
Seward to the newspapers because the greater part of it
was for home consumption.
The Secretary had to release
the prisoners in such a manner as not to arouse the Ameri­
can resentment over the surrender, not to offend the House
of Representatives which had passed a resolution thanking
Wilkes, nor to humiliate Secretary Welles for his congratu­
latory letter to Wilkes.
were as follows:
Briefly, Seward's conclusions
First, he held that Mason and Slidell
as well as their despatches were contraband of war, and he
quoted Sir William Scott, a great English jurist on mari­
time law, as saying that "you may stop the ambassador of
30.
Q,uoted in Pierce, op. cit., IY, p. 60.
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39
your enemy on his passage11; second, that Captain Wilkes
had a right hy the law of nations to detain and search the
Trent; third, that Wilkes exercised the right of search in
a lawful and proper manner; fourth, having found the sus­
pected contraband on board the Trent, Captain Wilkes had
a right to capture the same; but the Secretary justified
the surrender of the prisoners on the ground that Wilkes
left the capture unfinished by not bringing the Trent into
port for judicial examination, as only prise courts could
31
lawfully establish the existence of contraband.
For
home consumption Seward included in his communication to
Lyons the statement that the action of the United States
in surrendering the envoys had committed England to Amer­
ica's most cherished principles and the abandonment by Eng­
land of her own precedents.
Seward added, "In coming to
my conclusion, I have not forgotten that if the safety of
this Union reouired the detention of the captured persons
it would be the right and duty of this Government to de32
tain them."
Most Northerners, who did not know any international
law (nor the soundness of his arguments), greeted Seward's
reply joyously and felt that it removed all question of
31. Seward to Lyons, Dec. 26, 1861, quoted in War of Rebel­
lion, II, pp. 1145 ff.
33.
Ibid., p. 1154.
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40
fear or humiliation,
Seward's answer was received by the
people as a whole with prompt, generous, and universal ap33
proval.
Such a reception of Seward's reply did not pre­
vail among those who knew the real legal issues involved
and were acquainted with international law.
Hamilton Fish,
vfc o later succeeded Seward in the Department of State, wrote
to Sumner, December 29, as follows:
In style it is verbose and egotistical in argument;
flimsy; and in its conceptions and general scope it is
an abandonment of the high position we have occupied as
a nation upon a great principle. We are humbled and
disgraced, not by the act of the surrender of four of
our own citizens, but by the manner in which it has
been done, and the absence of a sound principle upon
which to rest and gratify it. We might and should have
turned the affair to our credit and advantage; it has
been made the means of our humiliation.®4
Seward's reply is criticized by contemporary writers of the
diplomatic history of the United States as illogical and
confused and as revealing his lack of knowledge of inter­
national law.
How he ever managed to reach his conclusion
that England was at last adopting American principles of
35
maritime rights is still a problem.
After the United States had surrendered Mason and
33. Hew York Herald (anti-English), Dec. 31, 1861.
furnished by Miss White.
34.
Note
Quoted in Pierce, op. cit., 17, p. 54.
35. See, for example, Bailey, op. cit., p. 356; Latane,
John H . , A History of American Foreign Policy (revised edi­
tion, 1934), p. 378; and Bemis, Samuel F., A Diplomatic His­
tory of the United States (1934), pp. 371-72.
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41
Slidell, Sumner gave a speech on the Trent affair, January
36
9, 1862.
One suspects that Sumner had worked vigorously
to get his material ready for a speech and was hound to give
it although the occasion for it might seem past.
Sumner
himself seemed to find it necessary to give a reason for
making a speech after the affair was all over.
His avowed
purpose was "to do something for peace; hut I was obliged
to arouse the patriotism and self-respect of my own country37
men hy associating the surrender with American principles."
But a great many people had already been reconciled to the
38
surrender by Seward's reply.
One is led to the suspicion
that Sumner regarded this as an opportunity to let the world
judge as to whether he or Seward seemed better fitted to
head the State Department.
Sumner agreed with the con­
clusions in Seward's letter to Lyons, namely that the
surrender was in conformity with American principles,
but, as will be shown, the two differed, in their
36. Sumner had felt that "We must extract as much as poss­
ible for maritime rights out of the unfortunate 'Trent' af­
fair. I shall do what I can. The attention which the sub­
ject has received will prepare the way for reform." [’But he
did not do anything toward reform ~1 Sumner to Cobden, Dec.
31, 1861, quoted in Pierce, op. cit.., 17, p. 61.
37.
Sumner to Bright, Jan. 9, 1862, quoted in Ibid. , p. 62.
38. The lew York Tribune of Dec. 30 said: "We believe the
administration is stronger with the people today than if
Mason and Slidell had never been captured or their surrender
had been refused." Quoted in Bancroft, Frederick, The Life
of William H. Seward (1900), I, pp. 243-44.
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42
line of argument in reaching this conclusion.
Sumner gave his speech on January 9, 1S62, to a
thronged Senate. Chamber whose galleries were filled with
a distinguished audience of foreign ministers, public of39
ficials, and many other important people.
In his speech
Sumner stated that there were four main points in the Brit­
ish complaint:
1. That the seizure of the Rebel emissaries, with­
out thking the ship into port, was wrong, inasmuch as a
navy officer is not entitled to substitute himself for
a judicial tribunal;
2. That, had the ship been carried into port, it
would not have been liable on account of the Rebel emis­
saries, inasmuch as neutral ships are free to carry all
persons not apparently in the military or naval service
of the enemy;
3. Are despatches contraband of war, so as to ren­
der the ship liable to seizure?
4.
Are neutral ships, carrying despatches, liable
to be stopped between two neutral ports?40
Sumner said that the first question was the pivot of
the British.complaint and gave it special attention.
He
made an analogy between the case on hand and the hated
British practice of impressment of the early 19th century.
Whereas the British complained that Captain Wilkes substi­
tuted himself for a judicial tribunal, Sumner tried to
39. See extracts from leading newspapers quoted (without
dates) in Sumner, Works. 71, pp. 219. ff.
40.
Ibid., pp. 177-178.
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prove that the British navy officers also set themselves
up as judicial tribunals or floating judgment seats when
they impressed American citizens and foreigners who were
under the protection of the American flag.
If it were ac­
cepted that the seized men were British subjects then the
case became identical with that of Captain Wilkes.
Sumner
characteristically supported his contentions with a nass
of utterances by American and British public officials all
to the effect that international law prohibited captured
property from being adjudged without a fair trial before
a competent tribunal and that before the war of 1812 such
trials became the will of petty British naval commanders.
Sumner thus showed that in the Trent affair the American
arguments formerly employed against the intolerable Brit­
ish pretensions were invoked by England against the error
of taking two rebel emissaries from a British ship.
Sum­
ner perhaps thought that Seward did not state clearly or
emphasize sufficiently the important relationship between
British impressments and the Trent affair.
In answer to the second point in the British complaint
Sumner contradicted the Secretary of State without referrin
directly to him.
Seward had held that the Trent was liable
to capture because of the Rebel emissaries on board, and
that Captain Wilkes' error was not of substance but of form
The correct form was to take the captured vessel before a
prize court.
Sumner, on the other hand, maintained that
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44
in the first place the Rebels were not subject to capture
and that only men in the military or naval service aboard
a neutral ship were liable to capture.
Mason and Slidell,
therefore, not in either service, were not liable to cap­
ture.
The whole proceeding in the Trent affair was wrong,
Sumner said, as the ship was morally but not legally guilty
in receiving those men on board.
According to American
principles, the ship was legally innocent, but if argued
by British authorities it might be held otherwise.
He sup­
ported his views by quoting James Madison, who had shaped
a large part of our policy on maritime rights, to the ef­
fect that any person not in the military service of an
41
enemy could not be taken from neutral vessels.
This
policy had been re-affirmed in many treaties negotiated
by the United States with foreign nations prior to the
Civil War.
Referring to the third point on the question of des­
patches, the Senator found it again necessary to differ
from Seward, who followed British authorities for declar­
ing the despatches carried by Mason and Slidell as contra­
band of war, thus justifying the halting of the Trent.
Sumner would not accept the estimation of these authorities
because it would mean a reversal of American principles
and practices which acknowledged that "a ship was not
41. Madison to James Monroe, Jan. 5, 1804, quoted in Sumner, Works, VI, p. 195.
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42
liable on account of despatches on board.”
To confirm
this contention he cited M. Hautefeuille, the French champ­
ion of neutral rights, as his authority;
We must be permitted to protest against the pre­
tension set up by the Americans {especially Seward"]
of considering the transportation of despatches as an
act of contraband, and consequently of maintaining
that the stopping of the Trent is justified by the
fact that there were found on board despatches of the
Confederate Government. This pretension, which has
always been maintained by England, and which even at
the present day is still avowed by its journals, is
whol|g contrary to all principles of international
law.
In considering the fourth point Sumner pointed out
that, according to British precedents, despatches on board
a neutral ship sailing between two neutral ports were held
to be contraband and liable to capture.
American practice,
on the other hand, Sumner maintained, has repudiated the
rule.
The long-established American principle is that
articles of contraband are subject to confiscation only
44
when the trade is "with the enemy, not with a neutral."
Seward had maintained that the question of the destination
of the vessel would not modify any right of a belligerent
captor.
Present day writers on international law, previous
to the world chaos of today, maintain that an essential
42.
Sumner, Works, 71, p. 204.
43. Hautefeuille, Questions de Droit International Maritime
Affaires du Trent et du Nashville, p. 13, quoted in ibid.
44*
Ibid., p. 206.
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46
45
element of contraband is its ultimate enemy destination.
In the conclusion of this lengthy speech Sumner men­
tioned that his whole argument was based on the assumption
that the Rebels were belligerents as was held by Great
Britain.
He concluded as follows:
The seizure of the Rebel emissaries on board a
neutral ship cannot be justified, according to de­
clared American principles and practice. There is
no single point where the seizure is not questionable,
unless we invoke British precedents and practices,
which, beyond doubt, led Captain Wilkes into his mis­
take . . .
In this surrender of Mason and Slidell ,
if such it may be called, the National Government does
not even 'stoop to conquer,' It simply lifts itself
to the height of its own original principles . . .
Thus is the freedom of the sea enlarged in the name
of peaceful neutral rights, not only by limiting the
number of persons exposed to the penalties of war,
but by driving from it the most offensive pretension
that ever stalked upon its waves. Farewell to kidnap­
ping and man-stealing on the ocean1 To such conclusion
Great Britain is irrevocably pledged . . .
If Great
Britain has gained the custody of two Rebels, the
United States have secured the triumph of their prin­
ciples.46
In my opinion it was Sumner's speech and not Seward's
reply to Lyons that helped win for America the abandonment
by Great Britain of the odious right of search and the claim
for impressing her own subjects off neutral vessels.
Seward
had reached his conclusions by subordinating the principles
45. Fenwick, Charles, International Law (revised edition,
1934), pp. 554-55, and Briggs, Herbert W . , The Law of Na­
tions : Cases. Documents and Notes (1938), p. 938.
46. Sumner, Works. VI, pp. 210-312.
is in Ibid.. VI, 169-318.
Sumner's whole speech
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of his own country and resorting to British decisions.
The reception of Sumner’s speech differed in England
and the United States.
In the United States it was com­
pared of course with Seward's reply and important people
who knew international and maritime law applauded the
speech for placing the subject proudly and correctly be­
fore the world instead of allowing Seward's reply, which
was "far less strong, less dignified and less honor48
able . . . ,"
to stand as the American answer. Thomas
D. Woolsey, writer on international law, congratulated
Sumner for having "tacitly exposed some of Seward's er49
rors."
Newspapers, statesmen, judges, lawyers, clergy­
men, authors, and others throughout the country applauded
the speech and wrote that it "exhibited his capacity to
regard public affairs with the eye of a genuine states50
man."
Hostile papers, such as the Boston Courier, did
not fail to point out that Sumner's speech was too late
to be of any importance, even if it had any particular
value, as the Government had already given its decision
48. Reminiscences of Carl Schurz, II. pp. 310-311. See
also Hamilton Fish to Sumner, quoted (without date) in
Sumner, Works, VI, p. 231.
49. Woolsey to Sumner, quoted (without date) in Ibid.,
VI, p. g34.
50. A correspondent of the New York Herald, quoted (without
date) in Ibid. p. 220. For extracts from other newspapers
and letters of congratulation see Ibid., pp. 219, ff.
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48
51
on the case.
English opinion in regard to Sumner's speech was much
less favorable.
Sumner doubtless hoped that the Inglish
press, at least his English friends, would praise it.
But
the London Times, which was hostile to the North, bitterly
52
attacked the speech for its rebuke of England.
Mr. Vernon
Harcourt, a very able writer on international law who wrote
for the London Times under the pseudonym of "Historicus,"
generally condemned and blasted Sumner as follows:
It is impossible to read such performances as the
•Great Speech of Hon. G. Sumner' without drawing a
gloomy augury for the future of a nation among whom
such a man can occupy a chief place. In all the symp­
toms of decadence which the recent history of the Amer­
ican Republic exhibits, there is none more conspicuous
and apparently more irreparable than the decline in
capacity and character of her public men. The men bred
under the shadow of the English colonial system were of
a very different stamp from the race which progressive
Democracy has spawned for itself . .
But now, whether we turn to the puerile absurdities
of President Lincoln's message, or to the confused and
transparent sophistry of Mr. Seward's despatch, or to
the feeble and illogical malice of Mr. Sumner's oration,
we see nothing on every side but a melancholjr spectacle
of impotent violence and furious incapacity. 3
51.
Article of Jan. 10, 1861.
Note furnished by Miss White.
52. " . . . It is of no great consequence to us what clouds
of dust American statesmen may choose to raise in order to
escape their difficulty . . . The case of the Trent has not
made any . . . clash with any precedent upon which in modern
times we ever did or could have intended to rely." London
Times, Jan. 25, 1862, quoted in Sumner, Works, VI, p. 225.
53.
Quoted in Ibid., p. 227.
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49
Henry Reeve, an English friend, wrote Sumner, January
28, 1862, that he had mistaken the English case and that
the argument on impressments was irrelevant inasmuch as
England had not the slightest intention of ever exercising
54
the barbarian right again.
Even the friendly Duke of Ar­
gyll had little but criticism for Sumner's speech.
"But it
is curious," wrote Argyll to Adams, Jan. 25, 1862, "that
Sumner should not see, what is obvious from his own state­
ment of the case, that we might (logically) resume the prac­
tice
of imoressments
without acting inconsistently with
55
anything we have said or done in the case of the Trent."
Richard Henry Dana, district attorney of the United
States at Boston, summed up the situation when he wrote
Sumner that one of the letters he had received from England
said that Sumner's speech " . . .
56
England."
has cost him his favor in
The Trent affair and British criticisms of Sumner's
speech perhaps were responsible for a change in Sumner's
attitude toward England.
He now realized the unfriendli­
ness of the British press and public men who, as he said,
took advantage of the United States by making a "casus
belli at once on a point of law, when we are embarrassed
54. Quoted in Mass. Hist. Soc. Proceedings, XLVII (1913),
p. 95.
55.
Quoted in Ibid., XLV, pp. 137-138.
56. Quoted in Dana to Sumner, and the letter itself is
quoted (without date) in Sumner, Works, VI, pp. 228-229.
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50
57
by domestic difficulties."
Seward, on the other hand,
emerged from the Trent affair with much improved relations
with Lyons and Russell.
"You will perhaps be surprised,"
Lyons wrote to Russell, December 23, 1861, "to find Mr.
Seward on the side of peace.
He does not like the look of
the spirit he has called up.
Ten months of office have
dispelled many of his illusions.
I presume he no longer
believes . . .
in the return of the South to the arms of
58
the North in case of a foreign war . . . "
57. Sumner to Bright, Jan. 9, 1862, quoted in.Hieree, op.
cit., 17, p. 62.
58. Quoted in Lord Newton, pp. cit.. I, p. 69. "I do not,"
wrote Russell to Gladstone, January 26, 1862, "believe that
Seward has any animosity to this country. It is all buncom."
Quoted in Adams, E. D., pp. cit.„ I, pp. 235-236.
Whether Seward recovered his balance and dealt with
foreign countries in a better tone by June 8, 1861, or after
the Northern defeat at Bull Run, July 21, 1861, or after the
Trent affair is a point of dispute. For sound discussion of
this see Adams, 1. D., op. cit., I, pp. 130 ff., and Ban­
croft, pp. cit., II, pp. 179 ff.
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CHAPTER III
Diplomacy and Anti-Slavery, 1863
Senator Sumner, at all possible opportunities, champ­
ioned the cause of the Hegro race.
His great anti-slavery
feeling influenced his attitude on problems of foreign re­
lations.
The question of the recognition of Hayti and Li­
beria, two Hegro republics, presented an opportunity to
champion the colored man.
Although the President has the
power to recognize foreign governments, Lincoln, in this
instance, desired Congressional action.
So long as the
slave interests were strong in Congress, the government
would not tolerate "Black Republics," as the slave states
consistently refused to have the fruits of successful in­
surrections exhibited in the United States.
1
After overcoming bitter opposition in his committee,
Sumner was able to present the Senate, February 4, 1862,
with a bill authorizing the President to appoint diplomatic
representatives to the Republics of Hayti and Liberia,
When
the subject came up before the Senate for discussion, the
chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations gave a speech
urging the recognition of the independence of those coun­
tries.
Sumner based his arguments on the commercial and
political advantages to be gained by recognition.
American
commerce had suffered from discriminatory duties and hostile
1.
Pierce, op. cit., IV, p. 69.
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£3
legislation, and recognition followed by a commercial
treaty would safeguard American commerce from sudden
changes in local laws and the regulations to which it was
subject.
Out of sixty countries tabulated by Sumner,
Hayti stood twenty-seventh, and Liberia twenty-ninth, in
volume and importance of commerce with the United States.
The political importance of recognition, Sumner said, was
to provide a check on undue predominance in the West In2
dies by any foreign power.
He tried to impress the Sen­
ate with this danger by reading a letter from Seth Webb,
United States commercial agent in Hayti:
I deem it my duty to call the earnest attention
of the [State] Department to the activity of European
powers in this place, and to the determined and con­
certed attempt which is apparently being made to drive
American trade from the island and to destroy our in­
fluence among the Haytien people . . . Few Haytiens
will now charter an American vessel, or transact their
business with American houses unless absolutely neces­
sary. And . . . this feeling is growing.
Sumner objected to the appointment of consular agents
instead of diplomatic representatives inasmuch as the former
were inferior in immunities, power, and influence.
The
chief opponent of recognition, Senator Garrett Davis of
Kentucky, who was also a member of the Committee on Foreign
Relations, favored the appointment of consular agents and
2.
Cong. Globe, 3? Cong., 2 Sess., 1861-1862, pp. 1773-1776.
3. Webb to Seward, Dec. 12, 1861, quoted in Ibid., pp. 18141815.
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53
attacked Sumner’s bill as a deliberate plan to assail the
institution of slavery in all slave states.
He also ab­
horred the thought of full-blooded legro diplomatic repre­
sentatives in Washington society.
Sumner denied that he made his appeal for those coun­
tries, though he asserted that Negroes knew how to act in
society.
This was scarcely convincing to any one.
Al­
though Sumner averred that his bill was not presented to
the Senate as a step in the contest against slavery, it
was not so regarded by anti-slavery men.
"The law when
passed," wrote Governor Andrew of Massachusetts to Sumner,
"will be a recognition of the colored man, not merely of
4
Hayti.
It is a jewel in your crown."
Sumner's bill fin­
ally passed by a majority vote of 32 to 7 and his promotion
of the measure received recognition from Liberia and Hayti.
In 1871 the latter country showed its gratitude by awarding
Sumner a medal for his efforts on behalf of the Republic.
Sumner felt obliged to decline the medal which was then
given to the Governor of Massachusetts and deposited in
5
the library of the State-House.
Another step in Sumner's crusade for the oppressed
Negro was his activity in promoting the ratification of a
4. Quoted (without date) in Pearson, Henry G ., "The Life
of John A. Andrew" (1904), II, p. 8. See also Joshua Leav­
itt to Sumner, ouoted (without date) in Sumner, Works, VI,
p. 471.
5.
Ibid. VI, pp. 472-73.
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54
treaty with Great Britain for the suppression of the Afri­
can slave trade.
The negotiation and ultimate promulgation
of the treaty is an instance when the Secretary of State
and the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee were
able to cooperate.
As early as July, 1861, Sumner was
thinking of introducing a bill in the Senate for the sup-
6
pression of the slave trade,
but apparently he had not
yet gotten to it when Seward made the subject the basis
of treaty negotiations with Great Britain.
Seward con­
ferred with Sumner and later signed a treaty with Lord
Lyons on April 7, 1862, for a restricted right of search
of American vessels by British warships who were hunting
slavers.
The United States, however, permitted this prac­
tice only in certain seas.
Sumner was present at the State
Department and witnessed the signing of the treaty and then
managed its approval by the Senate.
Such a treaty had long been desired by Great Britain
but it had been constantly refused owing to the opposition
of the South and the sensitiveness of the United States on
any concession of the right of search, especially to Great
Britain, after the impressment of Americans on the high
seas before the War of 1812.
In the recent Trent affair,
Sumner told the Senate on April 24, 1862, in his speech
6. Robert Murray to Sumner, Jan. 25, 1862, Sumner MSS
Harvard University Library), vol. LXV. This note furnished
by Miss White.
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55
favoring the treaty, that Great Britain "openly renounced
that tyrannous pretension which so stirred the soul of the
whole American people, never again to assert it . . .
fore on this account there need be no solicitude.
There­
Conceding
search for the suppression of the slave-trade, we furnish no
excuse and open no door for that other search always so
7
justly offensive . . . "
After the debate in the Senate, April 34, Senator Sum­
ner hastened to Seward's home and exclaimed, "The treaty
8
is ratified unanimously,"
joy.
whereupon Seward jumped with
In a letter home the Secretary said, "If I have done
nothing else worthy of self-congratulation, I deem this
9
treaty sufficient to have lived for."
When the Senator
told Lord Lyons that it had passed unanimously he (Sumner)
10
"was moved to tears."
Sumner considered the treaty as a
pledge of good will between the United States and Great
11
Britain
but the British government viewed the act as a
7. Sumner, Works. VI, p. 483. Secretary Welles, however,
felt differently on the subject and opposed the treaty for
binding the United States "to surrender for a specific pur­
pose the general belligerent right of search in the most im­
portant latitudes." Welles, Diary, entry of Oct. 10, 1862,
I, p. 167.
8.
Sumner, Works. VI, p. 485.
9.
April 28, 1862, quoted in Seward, op. cit., II, p. 85.
10. Lyons to Russell, April 25, 1862, quoted in Lord Newton, op. cit.. I, p. 85.
11. Sumner to Lieber, April 25, 1862, Sumner MSS (Harvard
University Library). This note was furnished by Miss White.
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56
12
"weak attempt to secure British sympathy."
One of Sumner's greatest services in championing the
cause of the oppressed colored race was his constant ef­
forts from the beginning of the war to secure a proclama­
tion emancipating the slaves.
Such a measure, Sumner
urged, besides striking a blow at Southern resistance, was
absolutely necessary to enlist foreign sympathy and prevent
European intervention and recognition of the Confederacy.
From his English correspondence Sumner realized that it
was difficult to expect European sympathy when the admin­
istration repeatedly asserted that the war was only for
13
the preservation of the Union.
To the English this meant
but a war of conauest.
But the freeing of the Negroes
14
would stir their sympathies.
Sumner's ideas on the subject were well known to his
12.
Adams, E. D . , op. cit., II, p. 90.
13. "Those who have long watched American politics," wrote
the Duchess of Argyll to Sumner, Dec. 1, 1861, "and have
seen how surely though slowly the Anti-Slavery cause has
been becoming the all important one might be expected to
see that this war might become a war of liberation; but I
do not think Americans have any right to expect the world
in general to believe that it is, what many of its leaders
are asserting that it is not." Quoted in Mass. Hist. Soc.
Proceedings. XLYII, p. 92.
14. "Sumner showed me several English letters of much in­
terest which he had just received from Bright, from the
Duke of Argyll, and from the Duchess of Argyll, all relat­
ing to our politics, and pressing Emancipation." Emerson,
Edward W . , and Forbes, Waldo E., editors, Journals of Ralph
Waldo Emerson (1913), entry of Feb., 1862, IX, p. 393.
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15
friends
and to the English public through his speeches.
President Lincoln, despite frequent pleadings by Sumner
and others, delayed action on emancipation for fear of
dividing the North and especially of driving the loyalslaveholding border states from the Union.
The administra­
tion considered the support of these states of greater im­
portance than securing the anti-slavery support in England
and France.
The bitterness of the anti-slavery people
against Lincoln is almost indescribable.
Finally on Sep­
tember 33, 1863, after the victory at Antietam, Lincoln
issued his preliminary emancipation proclamation which
announced that on January 1, 1863, all slaves in regions
persisting in the rebellion would be free.
Slaves in
loyal border states were not to be affected.
Sumner received the announcement with profound
satisfaction, being quite content with the grounds
on which the proclamation was based, and making no
complaint of its limitations of territory to States
and parts of States still contumacious, which were
sure to giye way before political and military nec­
essities. 6
He ascribed the delay in the issuance of the proclamation
to the Secretary of State.
“In the cabinet it was at first
opposed strenuously by Seward, who from the beginning has
15. See, for example, Sumner to Bright, Oct. 15, 1861,
quoted in Pierce, op. cit. , I?, p. 48. " . . . I see no
chance for closing the war without striking at slavery."
16.
Ibid., p. 65.
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17
failed to see this war in its true character . . ."
The
hostility of the abolitionists toward Seward was still fur­
ther intensified when the diplomatic correspondence for
1861 was published and they found among the despatches to
Adams and William Dayton, United States Minister to France,
the statement that "no moral principles were to be brought
into discussion before foreign governments, and that the
condition of slavery would remain just the same whether the
18
revolution should succeed or fail."
The preliminary proclamation at first made little im­
pression in England and France where it was regarded by the
pro-Southern group as a war measure issued after the milit­
ary conquest of the South had failed and designed to free
only the slaves in the Confederacy.
said:
The London Spectator
"The government liberates the enemy’s slaves as it
would the enemy's cattle simply to weaken then in the com­
ing conflict . . .
The principle is not that a human being
cannot justly own another, but that he cannot own him unless
19
he is loyal to the United States."
Despite reverses in
17. Sumner to Bright, Oct. 28, 1862, auoted in Pierce, op.
cit., IV, p. 106. For Seward's opposition to the emancipa­
tion proclamation in the Cabinet meeting of July, 1863, see
a memorandum in Secretary Stanton's handwriting, quoted in
Nicolay and Hay, op. cit. , VI, p. 128. Secretary Welles
recorded in his Diary""(entry of Sept. 22, 1862, I, p. 144)
that, "There is an impressiop that Seward has opposed, and
is opposed to, the measure [Emancipation Proclamation] . . .
But in the final discussion ne has as cordially supported
the measure as Chase."
18.
Bancroft, op. cit. , II, p. 361.
19.
Oct. 11, 1862, quoted in Bancroft, op. cit. , II, p. 339.
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59
the elections of 1862 and Northern defeat at Fredericks­
burg, Lincoln remained firm and issued the final procla­
mation on January 1, 1863.
When this news reached England
there was a fresh outburst of indignation from the friends
of the South, but British anti-slavery forces, previously
on the defensive, were aroused and enthusiastic.
Gobden
set forth the significance of the Emancipation Proclamation
in letters to Sumner.
"Our old anti-slavery feeling," he
wrote, February 13, 1863, "began to arouse itself and has
been gathering strength ever since . . .
The vast gather­
ing at Exeter Hall has had a powerful effect on our news­
papers and politicians.
It has closed the mouths of those
20
who had been advocating the side of the South."
This
wave of exultation which swept anti-slavery England did
not extend to Government circles.
Earl Russell, in a let­
ter to Lyons, condemned the Proclamation:
ery at once legal and illegal.
"It makes slav­
There seems to be no declar­
ation of a principle adverse to slavery . . .
It is a meas21
ure of war of a very questionable kind . . . "
Sumner, who
" . . . both Seward and Russell were regarding emancipation
in the light of an incitement to servile insurrection, and
both believed such an event would add to the argument for
foreign intervention." Adams, E. D. , op. cit.., II, p. 98.
20.
Quoted in Morley, op. cit. , II, p. 406.
21. Russell to Lyons, Jan. 17, 1863, quoted in Rhodes, op.
cit., 17, p. 357. Four years later Russell publicly with­
drew these criticisms of the Emancipation Proclamation.
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60
had been insisting that emancipation would bring the immed­
iate favor of the English Government, must have been deeply
disappointed.
After Russell’s despatch was printed he wrote
to Bright that it "was cold and unsympathizing, and deter22
mined not to see the difficulties of our terrible struggle."
Despite Government disfavor, Henry Adams had been able
to write from London that "The Emancipation Proclamation has
done more for us here than all our former victories and all
our diolomacy.
It is creating an almost convulsive reaction
23
in our favor all over this country."
The proclamation
committed the North to the cause of abolition; it helped
nerve the British workers to withstand the hardships from
the blockade and the lack of cotton; it supported the friends
of the North in England who were trying to keep the country
neutral; and it demonstrated that the masses in England
would disapprove of intervention long contemplated and dis­
cussed by the Government.
Meantime the anti-slavery forces opposed Seward
reached fever pitch in 1862.
Seward’s early opposition
to the Emancipation Proclamation, his supposed attempts
to influence the President in favor of a compromise policy,
and his refusal to say in his despatches that the conflict
22.
Mar. 30, 1863, quoted in Pierce, op. cit.., IV, p. 130.
23. Henry Adams to C. F. Adams, Jr., Jan. 23, 1863, quoted
in Cycle of Adams Letters, I, p. 243.
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61
was one of opposing moral principles were heinous crimes
in their eyes.
When the Democratic successes in the elec­
tion of 1863 and the Northern defeat at Fredericksburg
plunged Republicans into deepest gloom, a crisis was pre­
cipitated in December, 1862, in a movement, of which Sum­
ner was one of the leaders, for Seward's removal from the
Cabinet.
On the 16th of that month a caucus of Republican
Senators, which included Sumner, passed a resolution demand­
ing that the President dismiss Seward from the Cabinet.
As
a matter of expediency and to get unanimity the resolution
was changed the following day and the caucus passed another
one requesting Lincoln to reconstruct the Cabinet.
Although
Seward's name was not mentioned in the new resolution, the
24
intention of the Senators remained clear.
Senator King
informed Seward of the Senatorial caucus and the Secretary
immediately sent his resignation to Lincoln.
Upon Sumner's resolution a committee was appointed on
Deoember 19, of which he was a member, to urge upon the
President changes in the Cabinet which would give it unity
and vigor.
That same evening, in accordance with Lincoln's
request, the committee and the Cabinet, with the exception
of Seward, met together.
Sumner addressed the President
and "commented freely upon Mr. Seward's official corres-
24. Fessenden MS, in Fessenden, Francis, William Pitt Fes­
senden (1907), I, p. 236, and licolay and Hay, ojc. cit. , 71,
p. 264.
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62
pondence, averring that he had subjected himself to ridi­
cule in diplomatic circles at home and abroad; that he had
uttered statements offensive to Congress and spoken of it
repeatedly with disrespect in the presence of foreign min­
isters; that he had written offensive despatches which the
President could not have seen or assented to.
Mr. Sumner
instanced a despatch . . . placing the Confederates and
the majority of Congress upon the same levels.
It was
25
dated (I think) July 5 1862 ."
The despatch referred
to was written to Adams and had been published toward the
end of 1862.
The offensive statement was as follows:
It seems as if the extreme advocates of African
slavery and its most vehement opponents were acting
in concert together to precipitate a servile war—
the former by making the most desperate attempts to
overthrow the Federal Union, the latter by demanding
an edict of universal emancipation as a lawful and
necessary, if not, as they say, the only legitimate
way of saving the Union.86
When Lincoln’s attention was called to this despatch by
Sumner he said that it was Seward's habit to read des­
patches to him before they were sent but he did not have
27
any knowledge of this particular one.
The Cabinet,
25. Fessenden MS, in Fessenden, op. cit. . I, p. 242.
"Senator Sumner . . . blamed him Seward for the publi­
cation despatch of July 5 , as unnecessary and untimely,
and denounced as untrue Seward's charge that the two ex­
tremes had united to stir up servile insurrection." Diary
of Edward Bates, entry of Dec. 19, 1862, p. 270.
26. Seward to Adams, July 5, 1862, quoted in Bancroft, op.
cit., II, p. 365.
27. Fessenden MS, in Fessenden, op. cit., I, p. 242; Ban­
croft, op. cit. , II, p. 265; Pierce, op. cit., IV, p. 111.
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63
including Chase who was one of the leaders in the movement
against Seward, defended their absent colleague and after
a stormy conference Lincoln took a formal vote on the ad­
visability of dismissing the Secretary of State.
Senators
Sumner, Grimes, Trumbull, and Pomeroy were the only ones
28
to say "Yes."
Despite these Senatorial objections Presi­
dent Lincoln refused to accept Seward's resignation and on
December 20 ordered him to resume his duties.
One factor
influencing the President in this whole matter was his de­
sire to prevent any part of the Legislative Department from
encroaching on the rights and prerogatives of the Executive.
The news of the Cabinet crisis had leaked out and had
become a national scandal.
Speculation was rife as to who
should succeed Seward if his resignation were accepted.
Senators Sumner and Fessenden were considered the most
likely candidates, and Sumner could hardly have failed
to note that Fessenden received much the more favorable
29
comment.
Yet many were sure that Lincoln would offer
30
Sumner the appointment and wrote urging him to accept.
Boston Daily Journal reported on December
28.
Nicolay and Hay, op. cit., VI, p. 266.
29. Washington Correspondent Agate, despatch of Dec. 19,
1862, to the Cincinati Daily Gazette. This note furnished
by Miss White.
30. See, for example, James C. Welling to Sumner, Dec. 21,
1862, Sumner MSS (Harvard University Library), vol. LXI.
This note furnished by Miss White.
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64
22, 1862, that Sumner was generally assumed to he Seward’s
successor and his appointment would he "a marked appreci­
ation of his unequalled knowledge of foreign affairs and
his high reputation abroad— qualities immensely important
31
at this' time.”
The Washington correspondent, Agate, of
the radical Cincinnati Daily Gazette, on the other hand,
wrote, December 30, that "Sumner is talked of hut it is
doubtful whether he ought to have it if he would . . .
his position and character make the tender of it to him
32
of doubtful expediency in any event.”
I believe that ever since the organization of the
Cabinet Sumner had hoped that some day he would be of­
fered a position in it as Secretary of State.
He had
known in 1861 that Seward was entitled to that position
but that did not prevent him from biding his time until
the country became aware of Sewa.rd* s incapacity and in­
efficiency in handling the foreign relations of the United
States.
As has been shown, Sumner himself promoted such
an opinion of the Secretary of State.
His scarcely con­
cealed eagerness comes out clearly in a letter at this time
to the poet Longfellow:
Cabinet.
"Many talk of inviting me into the
Of course I would not shrink from any duty re­
quired of my by my country.
But I much prefer my present
31.
This note furnished by Miss White.
32.
This note furnished by Miss White.
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65
33
place . . ."
In this latest attack Sumner's chief indictment against
Seward had been his incapacity and inefficiency in the hand­
ling of official correspondence, and no direct mention, as
far as can be ascertained, was made of Seward's hostility
to England.
Sumner was doubtless well aware that Seward
had long since given up his "foreign war panacea" and doubt­
less aware too that Seward's relations with the foreign
diplomats had greatly improved.
During the Cabinet crisis
Lyons wrote to Russell, December 22, 1863:
"I shall be
sorry if it ends in the removal of Mr. Seward.
We are much
more likely to have a man less disposed to keep the peace
than a man more disposed to do so. I should hardly have
34
said this two years ago."
When the crisis was past,
35
Russell wrote:
"I see Seward stays in.
I am glad of it."
This change in attitude toward Seward changed also the im­
portant role Sumner had played in the diplomatic game in
1861.
It seems likely that this also contributed to the
change that was gradually taking place in Sumner's attitude
toward England.
33. Sumner to Longfellow, 1862, Craige House.
furnished by Miss White.
34.
This note
Quoted in Adams, E. D., op. cit. , II, p. 72.
35. Russell to Lyons, Jan. 3, 1863, quoted in Adams, E.
D., op. cit.. II, p. 72.
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CHAPTER I?
Menace of European Intervention. 1863-63
Probably the greatest danger to the North during the
Civil War was the threat of foreign intervention and re­
cognition of the Southern Confederacy.
Recognition meant
the breaking of the Northern blockade by European powers
to secure Southern cotton.
If England or France had re­
cognized the Confederacy it would have spelled defeat for
the North.
By September 17, 1862, the British ministry, taking
French approval for granted, decided to press actively
mediation of the American conflict.
On that day Russell
Wrote to Prime Minister Palmerston that " . . .
the time
has come for offering mediation to the United States Gov­
ernment with a view to the recognition of the independence
of the Confederates.
I agree further that in case of fail­
ure, we ought ourselves to recognize the Southern States
1
as an independent State."
Palmerston, however, was wait­
ing for advices from Washington for the exact moment which
he hoped would be the Confederate success in the Antietam
campaign.
Upon hearing of Southern defeat in this battle
he became doubtful whether the right time had arrived and
advised delay in offering mediation.
1.
Russell and Palmerston
Quoted in Rhodes, op. cit.. , IV, p. 338.
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6?
still continued to toy with the idea hut they realized by
October, 1862, that intervention in the American conflict
meant war with the North, and the British Government did
2
not want to run that risk.
During that month France proposed joint action with
Great Britain and Russia in offering their mediation to
end the war.
The British Government had already decided
3
against such a move and declined the invitation.
Russia,
sympathetic with the North, also declined so that Napoleon
III of France decided to proceed alone.
In January, 1863,
Napoleon, thinking that the recent Northern defeat at Fred­
ericksburg offered an opportunity for a hearing, made a
formal offer of mediation to the Lincoln government.
4
ard politely and firmly declined the offer.
Sew-
When the French offer and Seward's reply were communi­
cated to the Senate, Sumner's motion to refer the corres­
pondence to the Committee on Foreign Relations was approved.
On February 28, 1863, he reported a series of resolutions
2. For a discussion of the resumption of the policy of non­
intervention in Oct., 1862, see Adams, E. D., o p . cit.. II,
pp. 49 ff., and Rhodes, op. cit., III, pp. 342 ff.
3. "I can assure you," wrote Bright to Sumner, December 6,
1862, "that the refusal of Lord Russell to unite with France
in that matter has been cordially approved thoughout the
country . .
Sumner MS quoted in Rhodes, pp. cit.. IV,
p. 347, note 2.
4. "Peace proposed at the cost of dissolution would be im­
mediately, unreservedly, and indignantly rejected by the
American people . . . "
Seward to Dayton, Feb. 6, 1863,
quoted in Bancroft, o p . cit., II, p. 312.
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6-8
drawn by him.
These approved foreign mediation or arbitra­
tion of international questions but pronounced it unreason­
able and inadmissable in domestic controversies.
Any for­
eign interference in the Rebellion, they declared, will be
looked upon by 11Congress . . . as an unfriendly act, which
it earnestly deprecates, to the end that nothing may occur
5
abroad to strengthen the Rebellion . . . "
The resolutions
also attributed the vitality of the Rebellion to the hope
of foreign intervention and deplored the fact that foreign
governments had not given the leaders of the Confederacy
to understand that any new government with slavery as a
corner-stone could never expect recognition.
Although the United States had objected to the French
offer of mediation, Sumner's resolutions were probably de­
signed to add Congressional strength and approval to the
administration's reply to France that under no circumstances
would mediation be allowed.
Seward appeared anxious to
secure indorsement of his handling of the affair and went
to Sumner on March 2, 1861, and "expressed the desire that
I ^Sumner] should press them
. .
the resolutions
to a vote .
The President, I understand, is pleased with them.
My
hope was to do something to lif«fc the tone of our foreign
6
relations."
The following day Sumner's resolutions
5.
Cong. Globe, 3? Cong., 5 Sess., 1862-63, p. 1360.
6. Sumner to Jay, March 2, 1863, quoted in Pierce, op. cit. ,
IV, pp. 124-125.
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69
passed both houses of Congress and were then communicated
to foreign governments.
The lew York Evening Post reported
that the resolutions, "which receive the cordial approval
of the President and the Cabinet, will deepen and justify
the feeling in our favor.
They define our position with a
distinctness that has not always been attained in our of7
ficial acts . . . "
Sumner's statement to Lieber that his
resolutions were an attempt "to lift the tone of our for­
eign relations," and the last sentence of the above Quo­
tation leads one to suspect that perhaps Sumner's resolu­
tions were a criticism of Seward's handling of the French
proposal of mediation.
The firm stand against intervention taken by the Ex­
ecutive and Legislative branches of the United States Gov­
ernment, the Emancipation Proclamation which secured the
sympathy of the masses of England, and the Union victories
at Gettysburg and Vicksburg ended all chance of foreign
recognition of the Confederacy.
During these same crucial months of 1862-63 when the
Union Cause was so gravely imperilled, relations with
England became still worse by the building of Confederate
7. Quoted (without date) in Sumner, Works, VII, pp. 311312. Lieber wrote of the resolutions as "one of the calm­
est, most collected, most faultless" of historical docu­
ments. Lieber to Sumner, March 5, 1863, quoted in Pierce,
op. cit., IV, pp. 124-125.
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70
cruisers in British ports.
Although the British neutral­
ity law as embodied in the Foreign Enlistment Act of 1819
was designed to prevent the building of belligerent war­
ships, the law could easily be evaded by arming and equip­
ping the vessels outside of England.
Through such a loop­
hole in the British neutrality laws the Florida and the
Alabama. the first two Confederate warships built in Eng­
land, steamed out to sea, one in March and the other on
July 29, 1862, and began their careers as commerce destroy8
ers.
Adams had protested to Russell that the Alabama was
destined for the Confederate navy and presented him with a
mass of affidavits he had collected as to her true charac­
ter.
The evidence was finally sent, on July 23, to the desk
of the Queen's Advocate, who meanwhile had gone insane.
The
papers lay on the desk for five days before they were re­
trieved.
On July 29 the law officers of the Crown recom­
mended seizure of the Alabama— but the ship had left Eng­
land.
Many English people regretted the sailing of the
8. The depredations■on Northern commerce by the Alabama
and other like vessels became (after the war) the subject
of a heated cbntroversy between the United States and Great
Britain. It is not in the realm of this study to treat the
subject of the Alabama claims which was submitted to arbi­
tration in accordance with the Treaty of Washington, 1871.
Sumner practically held up the treaty negotiations and al­
most brought the countries to war over his claim that Eng­
land owed the United States $15,000,000 for the depreda­
tions of the cruisers; $110,000,000 for the ruin of the
American merchant marine; and $4,000,000,000 for the pro­
longation of the war caused in part by the cruisers.
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71
9
Alabama and did not blame America for resenting the act.
The failure of the British Government to detain the
Alabama was strongly resented in the United States as an
10
unfriendly act.
As far as can be ascertained, Sumner's
first reference to these ships was in a letter to the
Duchess of Argyll, November 13, 1862:
. . w e are
startled by the news of rebel ships built and equipped in
the Mersey and Clyde on an unprecedented scale.
I hope
that these will not be allowed to aggravate our foreign
11
relations."
His one thought was still apparently to
orevent war from any cause.
"Pray let us keep the peace
12
in all things as completely as possible."
Before the Alabama had escaped and at the time when
there was little hope of its seizure by the British Gov­
ernment, and shortly after Washington had received news
that other vessels, later known as rams, were planned by
9. See, for example, Duke of Argyll to Sumner, April 34,
1863: "As regards the Alabama. I fully admit that irri­
tation on this point is natural . . . »
The Duchess wrote
to Sumner, April 29: "You know that I think the escape of
the Alabama was a great misfortune." Both letters quoted
in Mass. Hist. Soc. Proceedings. XLVII, pp. 74-76.
10. "The British ministry had not connived at her escape,
as was widely believed at the time in the United States . . .
but tergiversation, negligence, hesitation and delay . . .
had allowed the vessel to get out." Bemis, op. cit. , p. 379.
11.
Quoted in Pierce, op. cit., 17, p. 107.
12. Sumner to the Duchess of Argyll, Nov. 12, 1862, Quoted
in Ibid.
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.
72
the Laird Brothers, builders of the Alabama, a bill author­
izing the President to issue letters of marque and reprisal
at his discretion was introduced in the Senate July 13,
1863, by Senator Grimes of Iowa.
tion by Seward.
He was urged to this ac­
It was not seriously discussed, but at
the next session, December 1, 1863, to March 3, 1863, it
was introduced again and this time the feeling aroused by
the cruisers gave it a sinister significance.
On February
17, 1863, after many postponements, Senator Grimes made a
speech on the subject and a heated debate ensued.
Refer­
ring to privateers as the militia of the seas, the Senator
clearly stated that privateers were needed to combat the
Confederate ships being built in England to break the
13
Northern blockade.
Sumner, though his own feelings had begun to change
toward England, thought the measure unwise and sure to
precipitate a war and from the beginning contested Grimes
in the debate.
He referred to Privateers, armed private
vessels commissioned by letters of marque to cruise against
enemy vessels, as licensed sea-rovers supposed to attack
a non-existent rebel commerce.
The Alabama and other
pirate ships, he said, that were built in England did not
afford any booty, the pay of all privateers, hence there
was no incentive for privateers to pursue such vessels.
Cong. Globe, 37 Cong., 3 Sess., 1863-63, pp. 1019-1030.
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73
The objection which concerned him most was the possibility
that privateers, exercising the much disputed right of
search of neutral vessels on the high seas, might embroil
the United States in a foreign war to the detriment of the
Northern cause.
"By virtue of this right," Sumner told
the Senate on February 17, 1863,
every licensed sea-rover will be entitled to stop and
overhaul on the ocean all merchant vessels, under what­
ever flag. If he cannot capture, he can at least an­
noy. If he cannot make prize, he can at least make
trouble, and leave behind a sting . . . Every exer­
cise upon neutral commerce of this terrible right of
search by a privateer will be the fruitful occasion
of misunderstanding, bickering, and controversy at a
moment when, if I could have my way, there should be
nothing to interfere with that accord, harmony, and
sympathy which are due from civilized States to our
Republic in its great battle with barbarism."
Senator Dixon of Connecticut supported Sumner’s opposition
to the bill and when all seemed lost he tried to get the
bill referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations but
the Senate refused to agree to his motion.
Sumner failed
in his efforts to defeat the bill or restrict its opera­
tion by amendments.
The bill concerning letters of marque,
prizes, and prize goods passed the Senate on February 17
as an administration measure and only eight Senators joined
15
Sumner in voting against its passage.
The House of
14.
Cong. Globe, 37 Cong., 3 Sess., 1862-63, p. 1021.
15. Ibid,, p. 1028. Sumner later wrote to Cobden, March
16. 1863, "I found myself powerless against it in the Sen­
ate, for there was a 'war fever' and you know how irresistable and diabolical that becomes." Quoted in Pierce, op.
cit.. IV, p. 129.
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74
Representatives approved the bill on March 2, and Lincoln
signed it the following day.
As soon as the bill was passed Seward acted as if he
were going to put it into effect and prepared regulations
for letters of marque.
Sumner, however, failing in Congress,
appealed to Lincoln and ’’advised most strenuously that no
commissions should be issued, and that the law should re16
main a dead letter.”
To support his appeals Sumner was
fortified by a letter from John Bright.
”1 hope the Pres­
ident will remain firm against the letters of marque, so
long as oeace is preserved. They will do no good and only
17
tend to war.”
The President was impressed with Sumner's
representations and invited Sumner to address the next
Cabinet meeting, but he deemed it more expedient to discuss
18
the matter with the members individually.
Sumner found
Seward and Chase were strong advocates of the measure,
Bates and Blair were receptive to Sumner’s views, and
Welles actively opposed the measure.
When Sumner visited
Welles the latter found him sensitive on the subject of
19
privateers and ”much dissatisfied with Mr. Seward.”
16.
Sumner, Works. VII, p. 300.
17. April 4, 1863, in Mass. His. Soc. Proceedings. XLVI,
p. 115. Sumner also appealed to the newspapers and wrote
them a letter in the hope of preventing any action on the
law of Congress which authorized letters of marque. See
Sumner, Works, VII, pp. 313 ff.
18.
Sumner, Works. VII, p. 300.
19.
Welles, Diary, entry of April 2, 1863, I, p. 251.
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Sumner urged Welles to send a letter the latter had written
to Seward opposing the issuance of letters of marque.
Welles'
objections were the same as Sumner's, namely, there were no
rebel commercial ships to entice privateers and reckless men
clothed with letters of marcue would be likely to involve
20
the United States in a war with England.
Welles was pre­
vailed upon to send the letter to Seward who turned it over
to the President upon the latter's request.
Lincoln then
called in Sumner and the two discussed the question of
privateering.
According to Welles' testimony this inter­
view, together with a conference between Lincoln and him­
self on the application of a Mr. Sybert for a letter of
marque, "terminated the privateering policy, and closed
the subject of letters of marque and reprisal during the
21
rebellion."
Sumner thought that by his opposition to Seward, who
had been responsible for the passage of the bill for let22
ters of marque and reprisal,
he had again saved the
United States from a foreign war.
"My policy," he wrote
to the Duchess of Argyll, April 26, 1863, "has at last
prevailed.
20.
There will be no letters, at least for the
Welles, Diary, entry of April 2, 1863, I, pp. 251 ff.
21. Welles, Lincoln and Seward, p. 154, quoted in Haynes,
op. cit., p. 269.
22. "The original idea is Seward's who drew the first bill."
Sumner to Cobden, Mar. 16, 1863, quoted in Pierce, op. cit.,
17, pp. 129-130.
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76
23
present.
Mr. Seward has been obliged to yield."
Sum­
ner's great public service in this instance was perhaps
only a figment of his own imagination.
Because of his
strained relations with Seward the two men did not usually
confide in each other on public questions and consequently
at times, to the detriment of the country, worked at cross
purposes.
Seward's purpose in urging the passage of a
bill granting the government the power to issue letters
of marque and reprisal was apparently to have a weapon
with which to threaten England if it did not stop the
building of Confederate cruisers in English ports.
himself stated this motive ouite clearly.
He
Lyons reported:
"Mr. Seward said that he was well aware of the inconvenience
not to say the danger of issuing Letters of Marque:
That he
should be glad to delay doing so, or to escape the neces­
sity altogether; but that really unless some intelligence
came from England to allay the public exasperation[about
the Confederate cruisers], the measure would be unavoid24
able."
Seward himself wrote: "But we are by no means
23. Quoted in Pierce, op. cit., IY, p. 138. "Seward's
madness of letters of marque is at last quieted." Sumner
to Lieber, April 17, 1863, Sumner MSS (Harvard University
Library). This note furnished by Miss White. Sumner told
Welles that on the subject of letters of marque "the Pres­
ident . . . spoke very complimentarily of me." Welles,
Diary, entry of April 6, 1863, I, p. 262,
24. Lyons to Russell, Mar. 10, 1863, quoted in Adams, E.
D *» °P« cit., II, p. 126.
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7?
blind to the danger of a collision with Great Britain . . .
So far as Letters of Marque are concerned it is a weapon
which it is necessary for the government to have on re­
serve.
You need not fear that it will be rashly or in25
discreetly employed.”
Seward did not now desire war
with England; his war-like feelings toward that country
had slowly changed since the latter part of 1861 or per­
haps even earlier.
Meanwhile Sumner was working toward the same goal
as Seward, namely, to prevent the sailing of the Confed­
erate cruisers from England by earnest letters to his in­
fluential friends in England, impressing them with the
gravity of the issue.
These letters are in marked con­
trast to his earlier ones, those of 1861-62.
On April
7, 1863, he wrote to the Duchess of Argyll that he still
hoped for peace and opposed any action threatening its
disruption, "although I feel keenly the force of the re­
mark that 'war has already begun with hostilities all on
oneCEnglandJ side.'
Our commerce is newt to the largest
which the world has ever seen, and this is about to be
driven from the ocean by ships in which every plank and
rope, and every arm, from the knife to the cannon, and
the crew, are British, and nothing but the pirate officers
25. Seward to M. Le Compte A. de Gasparin. May 5. 1863,
Hational Archives, State Department. Domestic Letters, vol.
60. This note furnished by Miss White.
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rebels.
This in itself is an important fact, and must
have corresponding consequences.
If I write thus freely
to you, it is because I wish you to see the occasion of
26
my anxiety."
When this letter arrived in London the
Duchess was in Scotland and the Duke, realizing its im­
portance, because of Sumner's position and influence,
answered it himself, repudiating the idea that the English
Government was hostile.
It was a mere accident that the
Alabama was not stopped, he wrote, but even if it had been
seized it would have been doubtful whether its supposed
object and destination could have been proved illegal un­
der British neutrality laws.
The American Government, he
continued, had no right to expect his Government to act
more arbitrarily in respect to ships than in respect to
rifles which the United States had bought in large quan­
tities from British manufacturers.
"Foreign nations are
perpetually getting ships built here," the Duke continued,
"'every plank, every rope, every spar,'— and yet they be­
come French, or Dutch, or American, by virtue of the na­
tionality of those who buy her or employ her . . .
The
Alabama was built by a private builder for sale to for­
eigners, who paid for her, and for all her fittings, who
26. Quoted in Pierce, op. cit., IV, p. 132. Sumner had
conveyed these same thoughts to Gobden, Mar. 16, 1863, and
to Bright, March 30 and April 7, 1863. The letters of these
dates are quoted in Ibid., pp. 139 ff.
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79
armed her beyond British waters, and are her bona fide
owners and employers.
It is against all reason to talk
of her as British in any sense which involves the British
27
Government responsibility."
Sumner, totally unconvinced
by the Duke's arguments, continued to warn his English
friends about their country's unfriendly attitude toward
the United States, and his letters became more heated and
violent.
The case of the Peterhoff mails in 1,863 serves as an
example of the changing attitudes of Sumner and Seward to­
ward England.
Ironically in this instance Seward was in­
tent upon appeasing England and Sumner now criticizes him
for kotowing to that country.
The British merchant steamer, Peterhoff. was cap­
tured on February 25, 1863, by the U. S. S. Vanderbilt
for attempting to break the blockade.
Lord Lyons asked
that the mails aboard the Peterhoff should be forwarded
to their destination unopened in accordance with a commun­
ication made by Seward to the Secretary of the Navy on
October 31, 1862, and made known by Seward to the minis­
ters of foreign governments in Washington.
Seward had
said:
27. Duke of Argyll to Sumner, April 24, 1863, in Mass.
His. Soc. Proceedings. XL VI I, pp. 73-76. When the Duchess
of Argyll read Sumner's letter of April 7 upon her arrival
from Scotland she replied on April 29 with the same senti­
ments as her husband. Quoted in Ibid.. pp. 76-77.
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80
It is thought expedient that instructions he
given to the blockading and naval officers that, in
case of capture of merchant vessels suspected or found
to be vessels of the insurgents or contraband, the
public mails of any friendly or neutral Power, duly
certified and authenticated as such, shall not be
searched or opened, but be put, as speedily as may
be convenient, on their way to their designated des­
tinations. This instruction, however, will not be
deemed to protect simulated mail-bags, verified by
forged certificates or counterfeited seals. 8
On learning Lyons' request Welles protested vigor­
ously.
He replied that he had considered the communica­
tion of October 31, at the time of its issuance, as a
passing suggestion and refused to issue instructions to
naval officers which seemed to him "so manifestly in con­
flict with all usage and practice, and the law itself,
and so detrimental to the legal rights of captors, who
would thereby be frequently deprived of the best, if not
the only, evidence that would insure condemnation of the
29
captured vessel . . . ”
Welles refused to take orders
from Seward and opposed the surrender of the mails with­
out search.
With Seward and Welles deadlocked on the
issue, it became necessary for the President to direct
them both to submit arguments for his decision.
Seward
said that the surrender of the mails was necessary to
28. North America, No, 5 (1863), pp. 5-6, quoted in Bax­
ter, James P., "Some British opinions as to Neutral Rights,
1861-1865," in American Journal of International Law, XXIII
(1929), p. 524.
29. Welles to Seward, April 13, 1863, auoted in Welles,
Diary, I, p. 371.
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81
keep the peace with England and that the United States
was establishing a precedent to which England would later
be bound to abide.
Welles stated that the subject should
be determined by the courts and that the British Govern­
ment had no claim except the concession made by Seward in
his letter of October 31 which was a surrender of American
30
rights without an equivalent concession from England.
Desirous of allaying any possible antagonisms with Eng­
land, Lincoln approved Seward’s order for the surrender
of the mails of the Peterhoff without opening them.
Sumner throughout the affair had been fully in ac­
cord with Welles' views.
"Seward,” he fSumner] avers,
knows nothing of international law and is wanting in
common sense, treats questions lightly and without com31
prehending their importance and bearings.”
On April
27 Sumner showed Lincoln newspaper clippings which opposed
the surrender of the Peterhoff mails.
He found the Pres­
ident confident that a declaration of war by England would
follow the opening of their mail bags.
"Of this idea of
a war with England, Sumner could not dispossess him by
argument, or by showing its absurdity.
Whether it was
32
real or affected ignorance, Sumner was not satisfied."
30.
Welles, Diary, Entry of April 21, 1863, I, pp. 278. ff.
Ibid., entry of April 23, 1863, I, p. 285.
32.
Ibid., entry of April 28, 1863, I, p. 287.
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82
Sumner, however, later did realize from Bright's letter of
May 2, 1863, that the case of the Peterhoff mails could
have become more serious.
"Here, there has been attempted
to be made a grievance out of the seizure of the Peterhoff,
and the opening of the letter bags; but two days ago our
Government learned that the bags were to be forwarded to
33
their destination unopened."
According to Welles, Sumner later expressed his re­
grets to Lord Lyons that he should have made a demand con­
cerning the mails "that could not be yielded without na­
tional dishonor," and Lord Lyons disavowed even having
made a demand and that he had "made it a point to reduce
all matters with Seward of a public nature to writing,
that he had done so to the mail of the Peterhoff, and
34
studiously avoided any demand."
Sumner disliked Seward's
handling of the whole affair and wrote to Lieber, May 23,
1863, that " . . .
His tSeward's} course about the Peter­
hoff has been a most wretched blunder of ignorant egotism,
33.
In Mass. Hist. Soc. Proceedings. XLVI, p. 117.
34. Welles, Diary, entry of April 30, 1863, I, pp. 288-89.
Francis H. Upton, counsel for the captors of the Peterhoff,
wrote to Sumner,.April 27, 1863: "I was no less astonished
and mortified than yourself . . . in the matter of the mail
of the 'Peterhoff>•' . . . I cannot but feel with you that
the concession under such circumstances, urged and made in
the manner which it was, was a wound to the national honor,
which even a final .condemnation cannot fully heal." Sumner
MS, quoted in Baxter, "Some British Opinions as to Heutral
Rights, 1861-1865," loo. cit., XXIX, 526-527, note 36.
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83
ready to sacrifice his country to save his own consist35
ency . . . "
Certainly both Sumner and Seward had
changed radically since 1861.
35. Sumner MSS (Harvard University Library).
by Miss White.
Note furnished
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CHAPTER V
Change in Sumner1s Attitude Toward England, 1865
Sumner had been slowly noting the unfriendliness of
many in England to the United States which in turn caused
him to become less friendly toward that country.
In 1861
he had rationalized England's coldness toward the United
States by ascribing it to Seward's hostility toward that
country.
The following year England was still not sympa­
thetic with the North despite the change for the better
in Seward's attitude.
Sumner, still trying to keep on
friendly terms with England, again tried to account for
that country's feelings by the lack of a Government an­
nouncement that the war was to end slavery and not for
empire.
In 1863, after the English had for the most part
lost their fear of Seward, and after the Emancipation Pro­
clamation had established the anti-slavery character of
the Rebellion, Sumner had hoped for an improvement in
England's attitude toward the United States.
He wrote
to the Duchess of Argyll, April 26, 1863, "After much
seeming uncertainty, you have its anti-slavery character
openly announced . . . Meanwhile we await the change in
1
England."
But England's unfriendliness was still mani­
fested in the building of Confederate cruisers.
1.
Quoted in Pierce,
ojd.
cit. . IV, pp. 137-138.
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85
Although the masses of English workers sympathized
with the North, the Government had remained cold and crit­
ical.
Gladstone, Chancellor of the Exchequer, had openly
declared in October, 1862, that the Southern states had
2
succeeded in making a nation.
Sumner considered Glad3
stone's speech as a mistake of England.
Lord Russell's
letter on the Emancipation Proclamation was "cold and un4
sympathizing,” and his other letters were also "bad and
5
mischievous, and seem intended to provoke.”
Palmerston's
speech of March 27, 1863, in the House of Commons defend­
ing his Government's procedure in allowing the Alabama to
6
leave England made Sumner "sad again."
Sumner's fear of
Palmerston was doubtless increased when Bright wrote:
"Palmerston, I am convinced, is no friend of your country,
and his cold and hostile neutrality is well liked by the
7
great aristocratic party and class, of which he is chief."
2. "There is no doubt," Gladstone said, "that Jefferson
Davis and other leaders of the South have made an army;
they are making, it appears, a navy; and they have made
what is more than either— they have made a nation." Quoted
in Rhodes, op. cit. , I?, p. 339.
3.
in
Sumner to Duchess of Argyll, April 13, 1863, quoted
Pierce, op. cit. . IV, p. 134.
4.
Sumner to Bright, Mar. 30, 1863, quoted
in Ibid., p.
130.
5.
Sumner to Bright, April 7, 1863, quoted
in Ibid., p.
131.
6.
Sumner to the Duchess of Argyll, April 13, 1863, quoted
in Ibid., p. 135.
7. Bright to Sumner, April 4, 1863, Sumner MS, auoted in
Rhodes, op. cit., IV, p. 369 note 2.
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86
Sumner’s anger against the building of Confederate
cruisers had mounted continuously until it became for him
a question of war or peace.
By April, 1863, he was writ­
ing that "If the war comes which England now menaces, . . .
the United States shall be absolutely without reproach,
and that the terrible resoonsibility shall be on the side
8
of the supporters of slavery.”
Months later he was still
writing that American relations with England were a cause
of anxiety and ”Your government,” he wrote Bright, "reck9
lessly and heartlessly seems bent on war.”
Sumner was not only disappointed at the unfriendliness
of the British Government, but he had been also sorely
grieved by the criticisms of his Trent speech and the ad­
verse opinion of several English friends.
Such friends
as fharncliffe, Brougham, the Grotes, Henry Reeve, Joseph
Parkes, and many others were not sympathetic to the Horth
and ”it was a surprise and grief to Sumner to see English
10
opinion run so strongly against us.”
Such adverse opinion and unfriendliness from England,
8. Sumner to the Duchess of Argyll, April 17, 1863, Quoted
in Pierce, op. cit. , 17, p. 135. Four days later he again
wrote to the Duchess: "Two objects I have had at heart:
First, the extinction of slavery; and secondly, peace, es­
pecially with England; and both seemed about to be defeated
through the English government.” Quoted in Ibid., pp. 135136. Sumner's constant charge against England was its sym­
pathy for the supporters of slavery.
9.
10.
August 4, 1863, quoted in Ibid., p. 143.
Ibid., p. 150.
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87
the country he admired, and the fact that there was no
sign that the Laird rams would he prevented from sailing
were some of the factors, I believe, that influenced Sum­
ner to turn against England in his speech on the foreign
relations of the United States on September 10, 1863.
His avowed purpose was twofold.
"First, because it seemed
to me that the country needed light; that the people were
groping from ignorance of what England had done . . . And,
secondly, I spoke in the hope of reaching France and Eng11
land,— people and cabinets."
I will try to show that
Sumner, although professing that his speech was pleading
for peace, was not always a good judge of the force of his
own words.
The fact that his actions cannot be justified
from the point of view of statesmanship makes it necessary
to seek Sumner’s real motives.
The people of the United States were not ignorant,
as Sumner.implied, of what England had done.
Ever since
the "Queen's proclamation of Neutrality" Americans high
and low had been enraged at England.
Their wrath had been
increased in the Trent affair and by the building of Con­
federate cruisers in England.
The American people needed
no enlightenment from Sumner as to the "wrongs" at the
hands of England.
11. Sumner to Lieber, Sept. 15, 1863, quoted in Pierce,
op. cit., IV, p. 166.
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88
There is a possibility that Sumner was thinking in
1863 that perhaps his name might be mentioned for the
12
Presidency in the following year.
In pursuit of this
objective he might have decided to show the country his
ability and capacity for public work and to convince
people that he was not pro-English as so commonly charged.
Or perhaps Sumner really believed that war was coming be­
tween England and the United States and he wanted to be
on the popular side so that people could not accuse him
13
of being pro-English.
Sumner also thought that his speech would persuade
the English Government to stop the sailing of the Laird
rams.
The United States was in a panic for fear that if
the rams ever got to sea they would break the Northern
blockade and thus cause the defeat of the North.
Sumner
knew from letters he had received frequently all through
1863 that Lord Russell was sorry that the Alabama had
escaped and that he was "really anxious to prevent fur14
ther mischief."
Despite the news of Earl Russell's
13. "Sumner spoken of as a candidate for the Presidency.
Spoken of by some devotees and by himself. He believes
he will be the candidate of the eleventh hour, and that
Chase and Fremont will transfer to him their votes. OhI"
Gurowski, Diary, entry of Feb. 22, 1864, III, p. 114.
13. If unsuccessful in his last efforts for peace, Sumner
"trusted that his speech would be a vindication of his
country on the issue forced by England." Sumner, Works,
VII, p. 474.
14. Bright to Sumner, May 2, 1863, in Mass. Hist. Soc.
Proceedings. XLVI, p. 118. On the same day Cobden also
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89
good intentions, without consulting Lincoln or Seward,
and without consulting Adams in England to know whether it
was wise to make a public utterance at this time (Adams
would have said no), Sumner gave his speech on
Our foreign relations showing present perils
from England and France, nature and condition of in­
tervention by mediation and also by recognition, im­
possibility of any recognition of a new power with
slavery as a corner-stone, and wrongful concession
of ocean belligerence.15
Sumner indicted England on four main counts.
First,
he condemned the unfriendly British despatches and the hos­
tile declarations of government officials, notably Russell
and Gladstone, who had openly encouraged the Rebellion by
proclaiming the conflict to be one of empire versus inde­
pendence, instead of liberty versus slavery.
Secondly, he
criticized the building of Confederate cruisers with which
the British Government was closely associated;
Powerful ships are launched, eauipped, fitted
out, and manned in England, with arms supplied at sea
from another English vessel, and then, assuming that
by this insulting hocus pocus all English liability
is avoided, they proceed at once to rob and destroy
the commerce of the United States. England is the
naval base from which are derived the original forces
and supplies enabling them to sail the sea . . .
Of
these incendiaries, the most famous is the "Alabama,"
wrote, "He Lord Russell was bona fide in his aim to pre­
vent the Alabama from leaving, but he was tricked, and was
angry at the escape of that vessel." In American Historical
Review. II, p. 311. See also Duchess of Argyll to Sumner,
Dec. 3, 1862, in Mass. Hist. Soc. Proceedings, XLVII, p. 100.
15.
Full title from Sumner, Works. VII, p. 327.
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90
— with a picked crew of British seamen with "trained
gunners out of her Majesty's naval reserve," . . .
without once entering a Rebel Slavemonger port, but
always keeping the umbilical connection with England,
out of whose womb she sprung, and never losing the
original nationality stamped upon her by origin. . .
Accordingly, slavery is helped by English arms, Eng­
lish gold, English ships, English speeches, English
cheers.1®
Thirdly, there could be no foreign intervention by media­
tion or recognition in the domestic concerns of another
nation or where the pretended power is composed of Rebel
Slavemongers seeking to establish an independent power
with slavery as a "corner-stone."
Fourthly, he pointed
out, "The absurdity and wrong of conceding ocean bellig­
erence to a pretended power, which, in the first place,
is without a Prize Court, so that it cannot be an ocean
belligerent in face,— and, in the second place, even if
ocean belligerent in fact, is of such an odious charac17
ter that its recognition is a moral impossibility."
Mixing morals with international law Sumner flayed Eng­
land for issuing the "Queen's Proclamation of Neutral­
ity" of 1861 which had placed slavery on an equality, on
sea as well as on land, with the United States,
"here
was a blunder," he said,"if not a crime, not merely in
the alacrity with which it was done, but in doing it at
18
all."
16.
Sumner, Works, VII, pp. 352-355.
17.
Ibid., p. 335.
18.
Ibid., p. 451.
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91
Passing on to France, Sumner indicted that country for
taking sides against the United States "in at least four im19
portant public acts, positively, plainly, offensively.”
They were French recognition of ocean belligerency of "Rebel
20
Slavemongers," the invasion of Mexico,
attempted media­
tion, and an open declaration that Napoleon desired to rec­
ognize the independence of the Rebel South.
In conclusion Sumner made a final parting remark on
English and French neutrality which granted belligerent
rights to the Confederacy:
The mistaken sympathy which foreign powers bestow
upon Slavery,— or it may be, the mistaken insensibil­
ity*— under the plausible name of "neutrality," which
they profess, will be worse for them than for us. For
them it will be a record of shame, which their child­
ren would gladly blot out with tears. For us it will
be only another obstacle vanquished in the battle for
Civilization, where, unhappily, false friends are ming­
led with open enemies. Even if the cause seem for a
while imperilled by foreign powers,yyet our duties are
none the less urged. If the pressure be great, the
resistance must be greater . , ,®1
Sumner's popular speech was welcomed by the press and
public at home.
The usually hostile New York Herald wrote:
The very voluminous speech of Mr. Senator Sumner
is a remarkable production. His exposure and denuncia­
tions of hypocritical pleadings and false pretences of
the British Government, in justification of its sneak­
ing and perfidious neutrality in this war, are well ad­
ministered, and, considering the rapidly dissolving
Davis Confederacy, these views of the learned Senator
19.
Sumner, Works, VII, p. 367.
20.
See below p. 100.
21.
Sumner, Works, VII, pp. 469-470.
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92
at this time can hardly fail to make a decided sensa­
tion, not only upon the public mind of England, but
upon the rhinoceros hides of the British Cabinet.2
Sumner also received numerous letters of congratulation
23
from citizens and public men.
Seward wrote:
You have performed a very important public serv­
ice in a most able manner, and in a conjuncture when
I hope that it will be useful abroad and at home . . .
You are on the right track. Rouse the nationality of
the American people.*34
This congratulatory letter may have been an effort to
smooth the relationship between Sumner and Seward.
Later,
when the latter received news of the bad effects of the
speech in England he wrote to Adams, in an attempt to pre­
vent a breach in the friendly relations with England, that
"The United States can never have a motive to commit un25
provoked offense against Great Britain."
Seward had taken
22. Quoted (without date) in Sumner, Works, VII, pp. 47475. The Boston Journal wrote: "The speech is the most able
and elaborate ever delivered by Mr. Sumner. . . Let us hope
it will help open the eyes of the people of England and France
to the treachery of their rulers to the progress of civiliza­
tion and the spirit of the age." Quoted without date in
Ibid., p. 476. For extracts from the lew York Times. Bos­
ton Transcript, and other newspapers, see Ibid., pp. 474 ff.
23. Senator Anthony wrote: "Everybody says it is one of
the best things that even you have done. It must have a
large and beneficial effect, not only here, but in Europe,
where your reputation will secure for it the consideration
of those who control public affairs and mould public opin­
ion." Quoted (without date) in Sumner, Works, VII, p. 480.
For other letters see Ibid., pp. 478 ff.
24.
Quoted (without date) in Ibid., p. 478.
25. Oct. 9, 1863, in National Archives, State Department,
Diplomatic Correspondence, This note furnished by Miss White.
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93
pains to show his friendliness toward the foreign diolo26
mats by taking them on a summer excursion
through New
York and would not risk a breach of the peace.
Sumner's speech naturally had a hostile reception in
England where it was severely criticized.,
People could
hardly believe that Sumner, long the friend of England,
could make such an antagonistic speech indicting their
country.
They considered the speech an important one as
it was made by a man holding the high and important posi­
tion of chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Rela­
tions.
The English at first thought that the administra­
tion had sanctioned Sumner's speech because it had decided
that war was inevitable.
It was made, however, without
any advance consultation with Lincoln or Seward and while
Congress was not in session.
Lincoln and Seward probably
felt the same things Sumner had publicly uttered, but they
were more discreet and better statesmen than to openly con­
demn English hostility at this crucial moment when Adams
was conducting very delicate negotiations with England
over the sailing of the Laird rams.
Sumner might have
ruined the negotiations had it not been for the ironical
fact that two days before the speech, and of course un­
known to Sumner, Russell had written to Adams that "in­
structions have been issued which will prevent the departure
26.
Seward, 0£>. cit. . II, pp. 184-186.
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94
37
of the two iron-clad vessels from Liverpool.”
Hews of Sumner's speech reached England just after the
decision to detain the ironclads had been made.
This of
course added to the bad effect it received there.
Even
Sumner's best friends who had been most sympathetic and
friendly to the North were grieved at Sumner's speech and
deeply disappointed in him.
They could not understand
what reasons he could possibly have had to justify his
speech.
Oobden wrote:
I was I confess rather beset with the feeling of
cui bono . . . Instead of bringing an indictment
jointly against France and England for their misdeeds,
would it not have been better to have shown in the most
favorable colors consistent with truth, the strength of
the alliance between the masses in England, led by so
much of the intellect and the moral and the religious
worth of the kingdom, and the Federals, and to have
demonstrated the impossibility of the aristocracy, with
all.their hostility, drawing us into a war with each
other. You were I suspect speaking under the impression
that the ironclad rams would be allowed to leave. I was
sure, as I told Evarts and Forbes again and again, that
those vessels would not be allowed to sail.
At the same time Cobden, expressing a typical English crit­
icism, stated that Sumner's speech was more hostile to Eng­
land although France had. been ready to recognize the South
and had been so much more unfriendly.
gyll, full of grief, wrote:
The Duchess of Ar­
"Alas, that it has come to
27. Sept. 8, 1863, in Papers Relating to Foreign Affairs,
1863-1864, House of Representatives Executive Document, No.
1, 38 Cong., 1 Sess., part 1, p. 418.
28. Cobden to Sumner, Oct. 8, 1863, in American Historical
Review, II, pp. 313-314.
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95
this— that you should have felt it right to charge England
as you have done in a public assembly.
hot already?
Was the fire not
I have been thankful for your frankness to
29
me, but I could not read your speech without much pain.”
Bright, probably angry at Sumner, did not write for a long
time.
Sumner probably was deeply hurt when British newspapers
flayed his speech as unstatesmanlike.
The Halifax Reporter
stated that "A sagacious statesman at this critical period
would rather seek to allay than incur the irritation that
now unfortunately exists in the North against the mother
30
country."
The London Daily News, friendly to the North,
also reported that Sumner by his speech showed himself to
31
be no statesman.
Such criticisms of Sumner's statesman­
ship were omitted from the numerous notes to Sumner's speech
in his edition of his Works.
Sumner's grand indictment of England centered in her
32
proclamation of belligerency.
As far as I could ascertain
29. Duchess of Argyll to Sumner, Sept. 22, 1863, in Mass.
Hist. Soc. Proceedings, XLVII, p. 83. The Duke of Argyll
also deprecated the speech but said, "Pray continue to write
as freely as ever." Duke of Argyll to Sumner, Sept. 30,
1863, in Mass. Hist. Soc. Proceedings, XLVII, pp. 85-86.
30. Sept. 24, 1863, clipping from Sumner's Scrap Book.
This note furnished by Miss White.
31. Sept. 29, 1863, clipping from Sumner's Scrap Book.
This note furnished by Miss White.
32. This position Sumner now took on belligerent rights
became one basis for his charge of "indirect claims" during
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96
Sumner had not denounced the Queen's proclamation at the
time it was issued on May 13, 1861.
The first indication
that I could find of any reference to it by him was in a
letter to Bright dated April 7, 1863:
Our only present anxiety comes from England. If
England were "really neutral," our confidence would be
complete. But this is no contest for "neutrality,"
and here is the mistake made at the beginning. It be­
longed to England to declare at once that a disgusting
slave-erapire . . . could not expect fellowship. But
the moral element has been ignored . . . " * *
This letter was written at the time when Sumner was cer­
tainly turning from his friendship with England.
He would
not, however, have admitted this at the time but would have
said that out of his love for England he was trying to bring
her back to the true faith by convincing her of the error
of her ways.
Early in 1863 when Sumner was changing and
deciding to make his speech, he was fighting Seward's pro­
posal for issuing letters of marque and reprisal because if
the Alabama claims negotiations with England in 1869. Ac­
cording to Sumner the British proclamation of belligerency
was responsible for prolonging the Civil War and for allow­
ing the cruisers, as the Alabama. to be built in England.
Therefore England should be made to pay for perpetuating
the war at a great cost to the United States and for the
depradations of these ships on American commerce. It seems
clear that Sumner's claims which so startled both England
and the United States gre?<r directly out of his arguments of
1863.
33. Quoted in Pierce, op. cit.. IE, p. 131. On April 13
he again referred to the proclamation in a letter to the
Duchess of Argyll. "Let me say frankly and most kindly
where I think England has erred . . . First, she declared
neutrality between the two parties,— fatal mistake . . . "
Quoted in Ibid., p. 134.
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97
war should result from that it would be the fault of the
United States, but with that out of the way a war would
become England's responsibility mainly on account of the
British proclamation of belligerency.
Perhaps realizing
that he had not said anything against the proclamation when
it was issued, Sumner later rationalized this by saying
that he made his complaints later when the Confederate
cruisers proved that the proclamation of belligerence had
34
been the expression of unfriendliness to the United States.
Sumner's attack on England seemed to be on moral grounds
rather than on legal.
He had contended that England ought
not to have granted belligerency to a government based on
slavery.
Over and over England protested against this but
without any effect on Sumner's thinking.
The Duke of Ar­
gyll later wrote:
It is no use now disputing about belligerency.
I don't see the force of your "therefore" when you
say that, because the cause of the South was bad and
even an immoral cause, therefore we had no right to
recognize them as belligerents. We recognized a fact,
and we could not have recognized your own proceedings
unless we had done so.35
34. "I never thought him [Sewardj sufficiently clear on
the question whether the Proclamation alone was ground of
damages or the Proclamation with the instrument from the
ships and blockade runners. The latter has always been
my ground." Sumner to General ________ , July 36, 1869,
film copy from the New York Historical Society. Film in
possession of Miss White.
35. Duke of Argyll to Sumner, July 7, 1865, in Mass. Hist.
Soc. Proceedings, XLVII, p. 89.
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98
Sumner never mentioned in his speech of September 10 that
the fundamental justification of the proclamation had been
that the United States itself had first recognized Southern
belligerency by the blockade of the Southern ports.
One good effect attended Sumner's speech, it induced
Lord Russell to make a speech in reply.
It is not usual
for a British Foreign Secretary to answer an American
speech, but evidently he thought it important.
It was
also an indication that he recognized Sumner's importance.
England was especially outraged at Sumner's attack on the
proclamation of belligerency and ?<?hen Russell replied to
Sumner at Blairgowrie on September 26, 1863, he defended
England's concession of belligerent rights to the South.
It was impossible to look on the uprising of a
community as a mere petty insurrection, or as not hav­
ing the rights which are at all times given to those
who, by their numbers and importance, or by the extent
of the territory they possess, are entitled to these
rights. Well, it was said '[by Sumner] that we ought
not to have done that, because they were a community
of slaveholders.36
Sumner's speech of September 10 marked a change in
his attitude toward England.
On February 17, 1863, he had
told the Senate that privateering should not interfere
"with that accord, harmony, and sympathy which are due
from civilized states to our Republic in its great battle
36. Quoted in Sumner, Works, VII, p. 489. The Duke of Ar­
gyll wrote Sumner, Sept. 30, 1863, that there were no two
opinions in England on the inevitability of recognizing
the South as belligerents. In Mass. Hist. Soc. Proceedings,
XLVII, p. 85.
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99
with barbarism.
Even if we are not encouraged to expect
these things from Europe, I hope that nothing will be done
37
by us that will put impediments in their war.”
Sumner
did not remain true to this declaration and his September
speech was perhaps the greatest impediment of this period
to securing English accord, harmony, and sympathy.
The
British criticisms of his speech and their failure to see
the evil of the proclamation of belligerency were, I be­
lieve, the chief causes for his assumption thereafter of
a hostile attitude toward England,
vfriting to William
Wetmore Story on Hew Year’s Day, 1864, Sumner declared
that England would yet regret every act or word of her
11semi-alliance with slavery,” and reiterated as he always
did after this that Hthe concession of Belligerency to
38
Slavery in arras was insufferably wicked.”
From now on
Sumner was working himself and encouraging others to col­
lect every scrap of evidence, every argument, and every
precedent that could be used against England for her mis­
deeds .
37.
Cong. Globe, 37, Cong., 3 Sess. 1862-63, p. 1021.
38. James, Henry, William Wetmore Story and His Friends
(1903), II, p. 159.
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CHAPTER VI
Sumner1s Attitude on Foreign Affairs, 1864-65
Throughout the Civil War Sumner's attitude toward
French intervention in Mexico remained firm and clear.
He would not do anything that might result in difficulties
with France to the detriment of the Northern cause.
I have
nothing new to add on this subject that cannot be found in
1
published studies,
so a brief resume will suffice for my
story.
Behind the smoke screen of Civil War battles Napoleon
III took the opportunity to make French influence paramount
in Mexico, but the time he had chosen made the scheme more
offensive to the North.
Napoleon's excuse for intervention
had come in July, 1861, when the Mexican government had
suspended its financial obligations.
In October the rep­
resentatives of France, England, and Spain had signed a
tripartite agreement for a joint military expedition to
collect the debts in default.
A rift in the ranks of the
allies had soon developed and the British and Spanish
withdrew from the enterprise leaving the scheming Napoleon
with a clear field.
In 1861 and the early part of 1862
Sumner and Seward had favored a treaty giving Mexico fin­
ancial assistance in order to prevent foreign intervention
but the Senate had refused to sanction this proposal.
1. See, for example, Perkins, Dexter, The Monroe Doctrine,
1836-1867 (1933).
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101
During the years 1863 and 1864 Mexico found its
champion in Senator McDougall of California who proposed
early in 1863 that the United States render efficient aid
to Mexico and resist by force of arms the extension of
3
French power in that country.
Sumner objected strenu­
ously to any act likely to imperil the peaceful relations
of the United States with foreign countries.
Assuming the tone of friendship to Mexico, they
[McDougall'ilresolutions practically gave to the
Rebellion a most powerful ally, for they openly
challenged war with France. There is madness in the
proposition . . . The present war is surely enough
without adding war with France . . . The policy of
the Senator from California must excite the hostil­
ity of France, and give to the rebellion armies and
fleets, not to mention that recognition and foreign
intervention which we deprecate. 3
On February 4, 1863, the Senate approved Sumner's motion
that McDougall's resolutions lie on the table.
The lat­
ter, however, still persisted on the subject and on Jan.
11, 1864, he introduced resolutions demanding war against
France if its armed forces did not withdraw from Mexico
before March 14, 1864.
These belligerent propositions
were referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations where
they were buried and never reported to the Senate under
3.
Cong. Globe, 37 Cong., 3 Sess., 1863-63, pp. 94 ff.
3. Ibid.. p. 695. Sumner wrote to Lieber, Jan. 23, 1863
"Is it not wretched for McDougall to bring forward these
resolutions about France and Mexico? He has entreated me
to let them be taken up and discussed. I shall stop the
discussion if I can, and so told him.” Quoted in Pierce,
op. cit.» IV, p. 114.
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102
Sumner's judicious chairmanship.
McDougall later confessed
his inability to resist by the power of vote the tide of
4
Sumner's power in the Senate.
Again Sumner prevented any
action from being taken against France until the Rebellion
ended by pigeon-holing in his committee the resolution of
the House Committee on Foreign Affairs denouncing French
intervention in Mexico.
"You notice,” Sumner wrote to
Lieber, May 4, 1864, "that the House resolution has already
caused an echo in Europe.
I have kept it carefully in my
committee room, where it still sleeps.
My idea has been
that we were not in a condition to give Louis Napoleon any
exercise for hostility or recognition or breaking the block­
ade.
At another time I shall be glad to speak plainly to
France, or rather to its ruler;bbut I would not say anything
now which cannot be maintained, nor which can add to our
5
present embarrassments."
While preventing action against French intervention
in Mexico, Sumner had been preparing a bill for the pay­
ment of the "French Spoliation Claims."
The claims were
private ones arising out of spoliations that had been com­
mitted by the French against Americans prior to July 31,
1801.
These claims had been assumed by the United States
as a release from its important obligations to France.
Cong. Globe, 38 Cong., 1 Sess. 1863-64, p. 3339.
5.
Quoted in Pierce, op. cit.. IT, p. 193.
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103
On April 4, 1864, he gave an elaborate and exhaustive re-
6
port on that bill.
Although the "French Spoliation Claims"
had been reported upon some eighteen or twenty times in
different Congressional sessions and at different periods,
Sumner's report became the authoritative exposition of the
case.
No immediate action was taken on Sumner's bill and
payments did not start until 1891.
The report served as
an indication of Sumner's great ability and capacity.
The seizure of the Confederate cruiser, Florida, by
the United States vessel, Wachusett. in the neutral waters
of Brazil on October 7, 1864, afforded Sumner another op­
portunity to point to England's hostility toward the
United States and to repeat again his indictment of Eng­
land's proclamation of belligerency.
Before the United
States made any statements on the subject, the British
press, without waiting, denounced the capture as an out­
rage and declared that "events such as these will speed­
ily force European nations to interfere in the American
7
difficulty for their own security."
Sumner likened the
cry against the United States in the case of the Florida
6. The report filled nearly 100 pages of Sumner's Works
(VIII, pp. 244-346), and the strenuous work on it tired
him a great deal.
7. Quoted in an article on the "Case of the Florida: Il­
lustrated by Precedents of British Seizures in Neutral
Waters," in the Boston Daily Advertiser. Nov. 29, 1864,
signed Amer icanus (it was common knowledge that Sumner
was the real author), given in Sumner, Works, IX, p. 144.
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104
to that in the Trent affair.
"The same swiftness occurred
in the matter of the Trent.
The parallel will be complete
8
if Earl Russell sends us a letter of complaint."
He cited
twenty British cases of seizures in neutral waters as a jus­
tification for the capture of the FIorida and showed that
at least on one occasion restitution was refused by a Brit­
ish minister, while in other incidents it was avoided by
9
the destruction of the captured ships.
Sumner distinguished
the Florida case from the others on two grounds.
First, the Florida was illegitimate and piratical
in origin and conduct . . . born contrary to the Law
of Nations . . . Secondly, the Florida pretended to
belong to a Rebel combination of slave-masters . . .
Though certain foreign powers, including Brazil, have
conceded to this Rebel combination what are called
"belligerent rights," yet the extent of this concession
8.
Sumner, "Case of the Florida," loc. cit., IX, p. 144.
9. Ibid., p. 164. When Sumner published his article on
the Florida case in the Boston Daily Advertiser. Nov. 39,
1864, "the British Foreign Office asked the Admiralty to
have a memorandum drawn up 'showing how far these instances
are correctly represented.1 In transmitting the informa­
tion requested concerning British seizures in neutral waters,
the Lords of the Admiralty observed, that they saw 'no reason
to doubt that the cases with some exceptions are correctly
stated . . . and they have only to observe that although
neutral rights and territory were undoubtedly violated in
several instances they do not find any parallel case to that
of the "Florida" since that vessel had undoubtedly claimed
the protection of an independent neutral power and was cap­
tured in direct violation of the Engagement entered into by
the United States consul that the neutrality of the Port
would be respected.' Adm. 1/5903. Hammond to Admiralty,
Dec. 30, 1864. Separate minute, Jan. 3, 1865, Quoted in
Baxter, "Some British Opinions as to Neutral Rights, 18611865," loc. cit.., XXIII, p. 530, note 51.
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105
is undecided. Of course it is much less than a recog­
nition of national independence. Every presumption
must he against such a Rehel combination, having such
an object. The indecent haste with which "belligerent
rights" were originally conceded cannot be forgotten
now . . .10
Sumner's views on the case of the Florida, were criti­
cized by many Englishmen.
Oobden became exasperated at
Sumner's frequent recourse to British precedents for the
justification of many American exploits.
I confess I am very jealous of your taking a course
which seems to hold up our old doings as an excuse for
your present short-comings . . . Had you returned the
"Florida" to Bahia fa bay in Brazil] without a moment's
delay . . . your friends would have felt some inches
taller here. That would have been the answer to the
taunts of our Tory press, and not the disinterment of
the misdeeds of our Tory Government to show that they.
did something almost as bad as the Federal commander. 1
Goldwin Smith, an English friend of the United States,
severely criticized Sumner for suggesting that the United
States could have been relieved of the embarrassment of
being asked to surrender the Florida by burning or scuttling
12
the ship.
The question of returning the Florida to Brazil,
10.
Sumner, "Case of the Florida," loc. cit., IX, p. 165.
11. Oobden to Sumner, Jan. 11, 1865, quoted in Morley,
op. cit., II, pp. 459-460.
12. Despatch of Goldwin Smith, Dec. 10, 1864, to the Lon­
don Daily News. This note furnished by Miss YOiite. SmxTfh
had reference to Sumner's statement that, "He [the American
commanderJ might have burned the Florida or scuttled her at
once and his offense would have been no greater than now,
while, according to the precedents, his Government would
have been relieved from embarrassment." Sumner, "Case of
the Florida," loc. cit. , IX, p. 164.
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106
as a consequence of an illegal seizure of a ship in a neutral
port, was fortunately solved by the ship itself.
The Flor­
ida sprang a leak and sank and Brazil accepted the United
States Government's apology for the violation of her sover­
eignty.
Another incident showing Sumner's hostility toward Eng­
land was his report of December 30, 1864, for giving notice
to Great Britain of the termination of the Canadian Reci­
procity treaty of June 5, 1854.
The treaty provided for
its termination at the end of ten years upon one year's
notice from either party and Sumner believed that the time
had come to abolish its unequal operation.
In the Senate
debatedof January 11, 1865, he maintained that the revenue
of the United States had suffered by the importation of
many Canadian products free of duty and that during the
ten year operation of the treaty the United States paid
|16,803,963 to Canada in the form of duties and Canada
13
paid only |930,447.
This disadvantage, Sumner said,
counterbalanced any advantage secured by the other provi­
sions of the treaty which gave Americans fishing rights
in Canadian waters and the right of navigation of the St.
Lawrence River.
The opposition senators pointed out that
the treaty increased the amount of trade between the United
States and Canada and abrogation would also mean the loss
13.
Sumner, Works, II, p. 184.
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107
of the long sought fishing rights and. right of navigation
of the St. Lawrence.
Senator Hale of lew Hampshire opposed
the abrogation of the treaty on the ground that such a step
would be looked upon by Great Britain and Canada as a meas­
ure of retaliation springing out of resentment for some
wrongs suffered by the United States.
He also added that
such a step would weaken the hands of the friends of the
14
Northern cause.
But Sumner's appeal to fiscal considera­
tions, that if the United States could tax Canadian imports
and thus increase the national income for carrying on the
war, and the unfriendly demonstrations on the Canadian bor15
der
resulted in the termination of the reciprocity treaty
by the Senate, January 12, 1865, by a vote of 33 to 8.
Sumner was criticized in England and the United States
for urging abrogation of the treaty.
The London Daily News
reported it incredible that any officious politician should
have proposed such a retrograde step without recalling? the
16
bad conditions before the treaty.
A. Pell wrote to Sum­
ner that he was dissatisfied with his course and reasoning
on the subject and, if Sumner had known of the enormous
remittances by Canadian bankers and the enormous inconven­
ience and loss to the United States, he would have waited
14.
Cong. Globe, 38 Cong. 2 Sess., 1864-65, pp. 205-206.
15.
See below pp. 109 ff.
16. Feb., 1865 (?), Sumner Scrap Book.
by Miss White.
This note furnished
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108
17
for further information as Senator Hale had suggested.
Surely Sumner was not representing the interests of
his constituents in Massachusetts in his appeals for abro­
gating the reciprocity treaty which benefited Massachusetts
commerce more than perhaps any other treaty in American his18
tory.
However if the people of Massachusetts became very
angry over the loss of the treaty Sumner knew that the
United States had a full year in which to negotiate a new
treaty.
Sumner’s desire for abrogating the treaty was prob­
ably for retaliation and to have a weapon against England’s
unfriendliness to the North.
The notice [terminating the treatyl will leave
us "master of the situation" to this extent at least,
that we shall be free to act according to the require­
ments of the public good. Without this notice there
will be no foothold for diplomacy or legislation; but
the notice will be a foothold from which we may ac­
complish whatever is proper and just. The treaty may
be reconsidered and then adopted anew, or it may be
entirely changed, and we shall have a year for this
purpose.
Sumner's interest in Canadian annexation was another motive
in his desire for the abrogation of the treaty.
He had re­
peatedly received news that if the Canadians were made to
feel more dependent on the United States, especially for
17. Jan. 20 and 25, 1865, Sumner MSS (Harvard University
Library), vol. LXXII. These notes furnished by Miss White.
18. Hart, Albert B., ed., Commonwealth History of Massa­
chusetts , I?, p. 306 (article by J. F. Sly). This note
furnished by Miss White.
19.
Sumner, Works, IX, p. 190.
Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
109
commercial treaties, they would separate from England.
Joshua Giddings had written to Sumner, April 5, 1864, that
” . . . if Congress refuses to enter into any treaty Cwith
CanadaJ the effect now seems to operate cit once in favor
of annexation.
This policy is openly talked of by business
men who declare they must have the favor of the United
States even if it be obtained by annexation . . .
if an
end were put to the reciprocity treaty the whole business
20
population of Canada . . . would vote for annexation . .M .
I feel sure that Sumner himself was thinking of Canadian
annexation during the discussions on the termination of
the reciprocity treaty.
In 1860-61 he had talked of the
annexation as compensation for the loss of Southern States.
Again in 1869 he favored the annexation of Canada in pay­
ment for the indirect claims arising from the depredations
of the Confederate cruisers.
Although Sumner was critical of England he would not
sanction any action likely to involve the United States in
a war with that country, or, if a war occurred, he wanted
to make sure that no responsibility would be placed on the
United States.
On December 19, 1864, Senator Doolittle of
Wisconsin introduced a bill enabling the President to spend
|10,000,000 to build fortifications for the defense of the
northern border and the commerce of the Great Lakes against
20. Sumner MSS (Harvard University Library).
furnished by Miss White.
This note
Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
the attacks of hostile expeditions organized in the British
provinces by the enemies of the United States.
Desirous
of preventing any incident likely to lead to British in­
terference, Sumner asked that the hill he referred to his
committee as it concerned the foreign relations of the
United States.
He cited a raid hy Confederate agents from
Canada on the village of St. Albans, Vermont, and warned
the Senate that their object was to embroil the United
States with Great Britain.
The government behind these
men, Sumner said, hoped that the American people would be
aroused against the country where the raids had their ori­
gin and that some collision might ensue.
"For myself,11 Sum­
ner told the Senate, 11. . . I am determined not to be caught
in any such trap.
There are many things Great Britain has
done since the outbreak of our Rebellion which to my mind
are most unfriendly; but I am willing that nothing should
be done on our side to furnish any seeming apology for that
foreign intervention which has been so constantly menaced,
and which was foreshadowed in the most hasty and utterly
unjustifiable concession of ocean belligerence to rebel
21
slavemongers . .
The senators favoring the bill for
the fortification of the Great Lakes declared it necessary
for protecting American vessels from seizure on the Great
Lakes by armed bands who would turn them into Confederate
21.
0ong. Globe, 38 Cong., 2 Sess., 1864-65, p. 58.
Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
Ill
warships.
After a long and heated discussion the hill
was finally referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations
22
where "it was allowed to sleep."
Meanwhile the administration, angered by the raid on
St. Albans and the organization of raiding parties in Can­
ada, had given Great Britain notice on November 23, 1864,
of its intention to terminate the treaty of 1817.
This
was the famous Rush-Bagot agreement which resulted from an
exchange of notes between the United States and Great Bri­
tain, but they were of such importance that the Senate
ratified them as a treaty.
It provided that neither
country should maintain a naval force on the Great Lakes
except for small revenue cutters, and that either party
could annul the agreement upon six months’ notice.
The
purpose in ending the treaty was to fortify the Great Lakes
against the hostile expeditions organized in Canada against
the American commerce on the Lakes.
On January 18, 1864,
the Senate considered a joint resolution for the termina­
tion of the treaty of 1817 and Sumner reported an amendment
approving the notice already given by the President as
though it had been authorized by Congress.
On the same
day, after a discussion as to whether Congress or the
President could terminate treaties, the Senate passed
22.
Sumner, Works, IX, p. 177.
Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
113
33
Sumner’s amendment and the joint resolution.
Fortunately,
however, the outrages along the Canadian border quieted
down and the administration in March, 1865, rescinded its
intention to terminate the treaty.
Sumner had disapproved
of the bill for the fortification of the Great Lakes and
favored the termination of the treaty of 1817 which would
result in the fortification of the Lakes.
My only expla­
nation for this inconsistency is that the United States
had a legal right to terminate the treaty of 1817 by a six
months’ notice which could offer no cause for British in­
tervention, and if war ensued as a result the United States
would be free of responsibility.
#
*
*
#
*
At the close of the Civil War Sumner remained a most
powerful Senator and was still trying to keep the peace
with England but he took every opportunity, short of pro­
voking England to war, to censure that country for its
unfriendliness to the United States.
By the end of the
war Sumner and Seward had completely reversed their re­
lationships with England.
In 1861 British statesmen used
Sumner to check Seward's hostile policies.
In 1864-65 it
was Seward who was friendly to England and Sumner who was
33.
Cong. Globe, 38 Cong., 3 Sess., 1864-65, pp. 811 ff.
Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
113
the dangerous person in the eyes of many Englishmen.
After
Lincoln's assassination and the attempted murder of Seward,
Bruce, who had succeeded Lyons at Washington, wrote to Rus­
sell, April 24, 1865, that "he was extremely anxious that
Seward's recovery might be hastened, fearing the possibil­
ity of Sumner's assumption of the Secretaryship of State.
'We miss terribly the comparative moderation of Lincoln and
24
Seward.'"
Goldwin Smith, after a visit to the United
States, wrote to Charles Eliot Norton, December 29, 1864:
. . . If that man (jJumner) ever gets into power
he will under some highly moral pretence, sacrifice
the highest public interests to his personal position.
Of all your public men, he is the one for whom I have
brought away the least respect.
24.
Adams, E. D. op. cit., II, p. 262.
25.
In Mass. Hist. Soc. Proceedings. XLXX (1915), p. 115.
Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
BIBLIOGRAPHY
General Histories
Bailey, Thomas A., A Diplomatic History of the American
People. Hew York, F. S. Crofts and Co., 1940.
Bemis, Samuel F., Diplomatic History of the United States.
New York, Henry Holt and Co., 1936.
Bowers, Claude G., The Tragic E r a .
Mifflin Co., 1929.
New York, Houghton
Channing, Edward, History of the United States.
New York, Macmillan Co.,11935.
Fish, Carl R . , American Diplomacy.
and Co., 1915.
6 vols.
New York, Henry Holt
Latane, John H . , American Foreign Policy. New York,
Doubleday, Doran and Co., 1937.
Mclaster, John B., History of the People of the United
States during; Lincoln* s Administration. New York,
D. Appleton and Co., 1927.
Milton, George F., The Eve of Conflict: Stephen A. Douglas
and the Needless War. New York, Houghton Mifflin Go.,
1934.
Randall, J. G., The Civil War and Reconstruction.
York, D. C. Heath and Co., 1937.
Rhodes, James F., History of the Civil far.
Macmillan Go., 1917.
New
New York,
_______ , History of the United States. 8 vols. New York,
Macmillan Co., 1900-1919. Especially good for Sumner
letters.
Monographs and Special Studies
Adams, Brooks, **The Seizure of the Laird Rams,” Massachu­
setts Historical Society Proceedings. XL? (1912),
pp. 243-333.
Adams, Charles F . , Jr., "The Trent Affair," American His­
torical Review, X?II (1912), pp. 540-562.
Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
115
_______ , "The Trent Affair," Massachusetts Historical
Society Proceedings, XL? (1912), pp. 35-148, 522-530.
_______, "Declaration of Paris Negotiation, 1861," Massa­
chusetts Historical Society Proceedings, XL?I (1912),
pp. 23-84.
Adamov, E. A., "Russia and the United States at the Time
of the Civil War," Journal of Modern History, II
(1930), pp. 586-611.
Adams, Ephraim D., Great Britain and the American Civil
War. 2 vols. New York, Longmans, Green and Co.,
1925. This is a most important work on the subject.
Baxter, James P., "Some British Opinions as to Neutral
Rights, 1861-1865," American Journal of International
Law. XXIII (1929), pp. 517-537.
Blinn, Harold E . , "Seward and the Polish Rebellion of 1863,"
American Historical Review. XLI? (1940), pp. 828-833.
Callahan, J. M . , "The Northern Lake Frontier during the
Civil War," American Historical Association Annual
Report. I (1896), pp. 337-357.
Dana, Richard H . , "The Trent Affair: An Aftermath,"
Massachusetts Historical Society Proceedings. XL?
(1912), pp. 508-522.
Harris, Thomas L., The Trent Affair.
Merrill Co., 1896.
Indianapolis, Bowen-
Lutz, Ralph H . , "Rudolph Schleiden and the ?isit to Rich­
mond, April 25, 1861," American Historical Associa­
tion Annual Report. for 1915 (1917), pp. 207-216.
Milne, A. T., "The Lyons-Seward Treaty of 1862," Ameri­
can Historical Review. XXX?III (1933), pp. 511-525.
Owsley, Frank L., King Cotton Diplomacy.
versity of Chicago, 1931.
Chicago, Uni­
Parker, J., "The Trent Affair," North American Review,
XC? (1862), pp. 1-56.
Tarbell, Ida M . , "Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclama­
tion," McClure *s Magazine, XII (1899), pp. 514-26.
Temple, Henry 1., "William H. Seward," in Bemis, Samuel
F . , ed., American Secretaries of State and their
Diplomacy (vol. % 10 vols. New York, Alfred A.
Knopf, 1927-29.
Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
116
White, Laura A., "Charles Sumner and the Crisis of 186061," in Graven, Avery, eh., Essays in Honor of William
E. Dodd. Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1935.
Biographies
Adams, Charles F., Jr., Charles Francis Adams.
Houghton Mifflin Co., 1900.
_______, Richard Henry Dana.
Mifflin Co., 1895.
3 vols,
New York,
New York, Houghton
Baber, George, "Johnson, Grant, Seward, Sumner," North
American Review, CXLY (1887), pp. 69-80.
Bancroft, Federick, Life of William Henry Seward.
New York, Harper and Brothers, 1900.
2 vols.
, "Some Radicals as Statesmen: Chase, Sumner, Adams,
and Stevens," Atlantic Monthly, LXXXVI (1900), op. 277383.
Beveridge, Albert J., Abraham Lincoln.
Houghton Mifflin Co., 1928.
2 vols.
New York,
Chaplin, Jeremiah and J. D. Chaplin, Life of Charles Sumner.
Boston, Lothrop and Co., 1874.
Dawes, Anna L., Charles Sumner. New York, Dodd, Mead and
Co., 1892. Differs with other biographers of Sumner
on the Trent affair.
Dictionary of American Biography. 30 vols.
Charles Scribner's Sons, 1928-37.
New York,
Fessenden, Francis, William Pitt Fessenden. 2 vols. New
York, Houghton Mifflin Co., 1907. Good for the story
of the attempted removal of Seward in Dec., 1862.
Frothingham, Paul Revere, Edward Everett, Orator and States­
man. Boston, Houghton Mifflin Co., 1925.
Haynes, George H . , Charles Sumner.
and Co., 1909.
Phil., George W. Jacobs
Hoar, George F., "Charles Sumner," North American Review.
0XXVI (1878), pp. 1-26.
_______, "Sumner," Forum. XVI (1894), pp. 549-559.
Longfellow, Samuel, Life of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
vols. New York, Houghton Mifflin Co., 1899.
Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
3
117
Lothrop, Thornton X. , William Henry Seward.
Houghton Mifflin Co., 1896.
New York,
Morley, John, Life of Richard Oobden. 2 vols. New York,
Macmillan Co., 1881. Contains some letters of Cobden
to Sumner.
Lord Newton, Lord Lyons; A Record of BritishDiplomacy;.
3 vols. London, Edward Arnold, 1913.
Nicolay, John G., and John Hay, Abraham Lincoln.
New York, Century Co., 1890.
Pearson, Henry G., The Life of John A. Andrew.
New York, Houghton Mifflin Co., 1904.
10 vols.
3 vols.
Pierce, Edward L ., Memoir and Letters of Charles Sumner.
4 vols. Boston, Roberts Brothers, 1893. This is
the official biography of Sumner. Volume 4 was es­
pecially useful."
Sandburg, Carl, Abraham Lincoln: The War Years.
New York, Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1939.
Seward, Frederick W . , Seward at Washington.
York, Derby and Miller, 1891.
Storey, Moorfield, Charles Sumner.
Mifflin Co., 1900.
4 vols.
2 vols.
New
Boston, Houghton
"Charles Sumner," Living Age. CXXXVI (1878), pp. 579-606.
Warden, Robert W . , Salmon Portland Chase.
Wilstach, Baldwin and Co.., 1874.
Welles, Gideon, "Lincoln and Seward,"
(1873), pp. 794-95.
Cincinnati,
The Galaxy. XVI
Autobiographies, Diaries, Letters,
Reminiscences, and Collected Works
(Entries in this classification are according to subject)
Adams, Charles F., Jr., An Autobiography, 1835-1915.
York, Houghton Mifflin Co., 1916.
Adams, Henry, The Education of Henry Adams.
Houghton Mifflin Co., 1918.
New
New York,
A Cycle of Adams Letters, 1861-65, ed. by Ford, Worthington
C. 2 vols. New York, Houghton Mifflin Co., 1920.
Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
118
"Letters of the Duke and. Duchess of Argyll to Charles
Sumner," ed. by Pearson, Henry G., Massachusetts
Historical Society Proceedings, XLVII (1913), pp.
66-106.
"Diary of Edward Bates," ed. by Beale, Howard K . , Ameri­
can Historical Association Annual Report, 1930, vol. 4.
Bigelow, John, Retrospections of an Active Life.
New York, Baker and Taylor Co., 1909.
5 vols.
"Bright-Sumner Letters, 1861-1872," Massachusetts Histor­
ical Society Proceedings, XLVI (1912), PP. 93-166.
"Letters of Richard Cobden to Charles Sumner, 1862-1865,"
American Historical Review, II (1897), pp. 306-19.
Conway, Moncure D . , Autobiography.
Houghton Mifflin Co., 1904.
2 vols.
New York,
Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. by Emerson, Edward
W., and Waldo E. Forbes. 10 vols. New York, Houghton
Mifflin Co., 1913.
Guro’wski, Adam, Diary. 3 vols.
Washington, 1862-66.
Boston, New York, and
Hale, Edward E., "Memories of a Hundred Years," Outlook,
LXXII (1902), pp. 79-91.
"The Diary of a Public Man," North American Review, CXXIX
(1879), pp. 259-273.
Russell, William H. , My; Diary North and South. Boston,
T. 0. H. P. Burnham, 1863. He was the American
correspondent for the London Times and his Diary con­
tains many comments on diplomats and diplomacy.
The Reminiscences of Oarl Schurz.
McClure Co., 1907-08.
3 vols.
New York, The
"Letters of Goldwin Smith to Charles Eliot Norton," Massa­
chusetts Historical Society Proceedings. XLIX (1916),
pp. 107-160.
The Works of Charles Sumner.
Shepard, 1874-1883.
15 vols.
Boston, Lee and
Marquis de Chambrun, "Personal Recollections of Charles
Sumner," Scribners, XIII (1893), pp. 153-164.
Johnson, Arnold Burges, "Recollections of Charles Sumner,"
Scribner1s Monthly, VIII (1874), pp. 475-490.
Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
119
Whipple, E. P., "Recollections of Charles Sumner," Harper1s
Magazine, LIX (1879), pp. 269-382.
Diary of Gideon Welles. ed. by Morse, John T., Jr.
lew York, Houghton Mifflin Co., 1911.
3 vols.
Government Publications
Compilation of Reports of Committee on Foreign Relations,
United States Senate, 1789-1901. 8 vols. Washington,
Government Printing Office, 1901 (Serial Numbers 40474054).
Congressional Globe for the 37th and 38th Congresses, 18611865.
Papers Relating to Foreign Affairs, 1863-64, House of Rep­
resentative Executive Document Ho. 1, 38 Congress, 1
Session, part 1.
Senate Journal. 37 Congress, 1 Session, 1861 (Serial Num­
ber llll), and 38 Congress, 1 Session, 1863-64 (Ser­
ial Number 1175). These were the only two volumes
available to me.
Department of State gullet in, vol. 1, No. 13, publication
1377„ Sept. 16, 1939, and vol. 1, No. 13, publication
1380, Sept. 2 3 , 1939.
War of the Rebellion: . . . Official Records of the Union
and Confederate Armies. 128 vols. This is arranged
in four series. Volume 3 of the second series was
found especially useful for the Trent affair.
Miscellaneous
The American Annual Cyclopedia and Register of Important
Events. 14 vols. New York, D. Appleton and Co.,
1862-75.
Bemis, Samue 1 F., and Grace Gardner Griffin, Guide to the
Diplomatic History of the United States. 1775-1921.
Washington, United States Government Printing Office,
1935.
Briggs, Herbert W . , The Law of Nations, Gases, Documents,
and Notes. New York, Crofts and Co., 1938.
Fenwick, Charles G., International Law. New York, D. Appleton-Century Co., revised edition, 1934.
Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
120
Harper1s Weekly, 1861-65.
relations.
Has little value on foreign
Moore, Frank, The Rebellion Record; a Diary of American
Events, with Documents, Narratives, Illustrative
Incidents, etc. 11 vols. New York, G. P. Putnam,
1862-68.
Pfankuchen, L . , A Documentary Textbook on International
Law. New York, Farrar and Rhinehart, 1940.
Scattered items from letters, newspapers, etc., not
available to me in the original were loaned to me by Miss
White, director of this thesis.
A few items cited only once in this study are not
included in this bibliography.
Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
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