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Emancipation Amid a Sea of Blood

England observed from a distance the violent clash in America over the colonial economic system they themselves had imposed many years earlier, and perhaps wondered why the North, apparently so fanatical regarding the freedom of the black man, did not offer a peaceful, compensated emancipation as they had done themselves. The British witnessed Lincoln using the very same emancipation rhetoric they had used in 1775 and 1814, which in reality was a cover for initiating race war and murderous slave uprisings in the American South.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Emancipation Amid a Sea of Blood

“In a speech delivered in the House of Lords, February 5th, 1863, Earl Russell said: — “There is one thing, however, which I think may be the result of the struggle, and which, to my mind, would be a great calamity – that is, the subjugation of the South by the North.” After some comments he added: — “But there may be, I say, one end of the war that would prove a calamity to the United States and to the world, and especially calamitous to the Negro race in those countries, and that would be the subjugation of the South by the North.”

Mr. W.E. Gladstone, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, said in a public speech at Newcastle, October 7th, 1862: –“We may have our own opinions about slavery; we may be for or against the South; but there is no doubt that Jefferson Davis and the 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. (Loud cheers) . . . We may anticipate with certainty the success of the southern States so far as regards their separation from the North. (Hear, hear). I cannot but believe that that event is as certain as any event yet future and contingent it may be.”

[Here is] an extract from a long speech by the same distinguished gentleman, in the House of Commons, delivered June 30th, 1863, while he was still a member of the Government: — “Why, sir, we must desire the cessation of this war. We do not believe that the American Union by force is attainable. I believe that the opinion of this country is unanimous upon that subject. But I will go one step further, and say I believe the public opinion of this country bears very strongly on another matter upon which we have heard much, namely, whether the emancipation of the Negro race is an object that can be legitimately pursued by means of coercion and bloodshed.

I do not believe that a more fatal error was ever committed than when men – of high intelligence I grant, and of the sincerity of whose philanthropy I, for one, shall not venture to whisper the smallest doubt – came to the conclusion that the emancipation of the Negro race was to be sought, although they could only travel to it by a sea of blood.”

(The Secret Service of the Confederate States in Europe, James D. Bulloch, Sagamore Press, 1959, pp. 360-361)

Canadian Slave Transaction

The erroneous belief in today’s popular culture that the American South was the only region in North America tainted by African slavery is contradicted by Carter Woodson’s writings. He states “[In] my article on “The Slave in Canada,” printed in The Journal of Negro History for July, 1920, (Vol. V, No. 3), several instances of Negro slavery in Canada were given. The latest is mentioned in Le Bulletin des Recherches Historiques for October, 1927, (Vol. XXXIII, No. 10), at p. 584. I translate it from the French the article referred to.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Canadian Slave Transaction

“Honorable William Renwick Riddell, Justice of Appeal, Ontario.

In July, 1748, Jean-Pierre Roma, Commandant for the (French) King at the island of St. Jean (now Prince Edward Island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence), on his passage to Quebec, made a singular gift to his friend, Fleury de la Gorgendiere, (the younger). He gave him a mulatto girl, five months old and named Marie.

The gift made to Mr. Fleury de la Gorgendiere is explained by the fact that the mother of the child, the slave of Roma, died in giving it birth. Roma not being able to charge himself with raising the orphan, preferred to give it to M. Fleury de la Gorgendiere.

The deed of gift was drawn up by the Notary, Jean-Claude Panet, July 15, 1748; and in it is the stipulation that in case of the death of Fleury and his wife, the mulatto will return Mdll. Roma (her grandmother). If she cannot take her it is stipulated that she will receive her freedom.

Such sales of the creatures of God may seem curious – they were, however, according to the customs of the time and were made almost in every country.”

(Journal of Negro History, Carter G. Woodson, editor, Vol. XIII, No. 2, April, 1928, page 207)

War to Recover the Southern Export Trade

War to Recover the Southern Export Trade

During 1862, Washington was constantly threatened with capture by Lee and Jackson’s men, not to mention some very tense moments for Lincoln as the North’s ironclad dueled with the CSS Virginia.  The latter was poised to sail up the Potomac after destroying anything wooden that she came across in the Chesapeake Bay which sent Lincoln’s Cabinet into emergency session. The capture of Washington would have likely triggered European recognition of the South.

Secretary of State William Seward had unmistakably suggested that should England or France recognize the Confederacy, war would result – though Lincoln could ill-afford to take on additional enemies.  His subsequent cultivation of friendship with the Russian Czar was created simply for an ally to stand with him against Europe; ironically both Czar Alexander II and Lincoln freed serfs and slaves simultaneously while crushing the independence movements of the Poles and the South, respectively.

The growing might of Lincoln’s navy was a great concern to England as Lord Palmerston and Earl Russell both saw their assistance in building Confederate war vessels as a way to combat this.  Emperor Napoleon III of France was prepared to recognize the Confederacy for much the same reason as well as seeing the cause of royalist Mexico as identical to the cause of the South. Confederate Commissioner John Slidell obtained a fifteen million dollar loan at very favorable terms from French financier Baron d’Erlanger, and hopes were that an independent Confederacy would look favorably upon French ships carrying their trade.

The underlying reason for the North’s war on the South is well-presented by Bank of England agent John Welsford Cowell in his “France and the Confederate States, published in 1865.  He observed that “The vast proportions which [the North’s] maritime power has assumed during the last fifty years have sprung entirely from the monopoly which the Southerners accorded to them of the carrying trade of their raw produce in cotton, tobacco, etc., and of the commercial returns to it.”

Cowell explains the economic contrast of North and South in 1860: “[In the last year of the Union, the total exports of the whole Union, omitting the gold of California, amounted to the value of 70 [million pounds] in round numbers. Separating this total into two parts, and distinguishing between Northern and Southern products . . . the value of exported Northern products . . . did not exceed 18 [million pounds] while the value of exported Southern produce exceeded 50 [million pounds].”

He adds that “The Protective Tariff of 1816 practically threw into the hands of Yankee shippers the transport of all Southern products . . . Now, connecting these several points together, it becomes obvious that not less than two-thirds of what was the mercantile marine of the Yankees in 1860 had been called into existence to supply the transportation of Southern exports and imports, and that this portion of their marine must cease to exist as theirs, when the transport of Southern produce is withdrawn from their hands.”

It now becomes clear what the North was fighting for and to maintain.  As the South, through the tariffs paid on imported and exported goods, was paying nearly ninety-percent of the monies flowing into the federal treasury, it becomes clear what the South was trying to break free of.

Cowell continued and exposed the Northern drive for war.  “It is to recover possession of this grand instrument of political power and of private profit that the Yankees are now murdering men, women, and children throughout the South, being determined, as is at last manifest to all, to exterminate the Southerners altogether (unless they will return to that fiscal, commercial and maritime subjection to the Yankees from which they emancipated themselves in 1861), and to occupy their lands and houses themselves.”

With the South lacking the ships to carry their produce to distant markets, both England and France could take the place of the Yankee merchant marine if the Confederacy held its own. Cowell states that “But while one of the two main objects of the Yankees in their war against the South is to repossess control of Southern exports, essentially necessary for the support of two-thirds of their marine, it is in the absolute pleasure of the South, having no ships of their own, to bestow this great instrument of power and wealth upon whichever nation she may choose.”

The North also fought to maintain is the South’s is their tariff protective system which Cowell describes as being adopted “unreservedly, and founded on it the future fortunes of their usurped domination over the rest of the Sovereign States of the Union.” The South was catching on to the system in the mid-1820s and began to chafe – secession was threatened in the early 1850s and by late 1860 the Southern withdrawals from the unequal Union began.

When the North “awakened to the terrible effect of the Southern secession on their artificial prosperity, they rushed to war, and the war has, for the moment, provided much of their invested capital with temporary employment. Thus far the war has staved off for a very short time the ruin which must inevitably overtake them . . .

Thus are brought into light the two governing points in the position of the Yankees – viz., the recovery of the Southern carrying trade and the recovery of the monopoly of the Southern market.”

Mr. Cowell refers to the national character of the Yankee, pointedly the New Englanders. He described the “narrow, fanatical, and originally sincere puritanism of their ancestors [which] has, in the course of six generations, degenerated into that amalgam of hypocrisy, cruelty, falsehood, unconsciousness of the faintest sentiment of self-respect, coarseness of self-assertion, insensibility to the opinions of others, utter callousness to right, barbarous delight in wrong, and thorough moral ruffianism, which is now fully revealed to the world as the genuine Yankee nature, and of which Butler, Seward [and other high Northern political leaders] are pure representative Yankees, [and] afford such finished examples.”

 

May 25, 2015 - Foreign Viewpoints    No Comments

Driving Canada to Confederation

Both Canada and England feared the increasing military strength of Lincoln’s war machine and constant talk of annexation Canada in the Northern press. Already Seward, Grant and Meade were overheard discussing an invasion of Canada after Maximilian was dealt with in Mexico. Canadians viewed Confederation of the provinces as a barrier to conquest by the power-intoxicated North.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Driving Canada to Confederation

“If we are not blind to our present position we must see the hazardous situation in which all the great interests of Canada stand in respect to the United States. I am no alarmist, I do not believe in the prospect of immediate war. I believe that the common sense of the two nations will prevent a war; still we cannot trust to probabilities.

The government and legislature would be wanting in duty to the people if they ran any risk. We know that the United States at this moment are engaged in a war of enormous dimensions; that the occasion of a war with Great Britain has again and again arisen and may at any time in the future again arise. It would then be too late, when war had commenced, to think of measures for strengthening ourselves or to begin negotiations for a union with the sister Provinces.

At this moment, in consequence to the ill feeling which arisen between England and the United States — a feeling of which Canada was not the cause — in consequence of the irritation which now exists owing to the unhappy state of affairs on this continent, the reciprocity treaty, it seems probable, is about to be brought to an end . . . and at any moment we may be deprived of permission to carry our goods through United States channels . . .” Ourselves already threatened, our trade interrupted, our intercourse, political and commercial, destroyed, if we do not take warning now when we have the opportunity . . . ”

It is the fashion now to enlarge on the defects of the Constitution of the United States . . . we can now take advantage of the last seventy-eight years during which that Constitution has existed, and I am strongly in the belief that we have in a great measure avoided in this system which we propose for the adoption of the people of Canada the defects which time and events have shown to exist in the American Constitution.

By adhering to the monarchical principle we avoid one defect inherent in the Constitution . . . By the election of the president by a majority and for a short period, he never is the sovereign and chief of the nation. He is never looked up to by the whole people as the head and front of the nation. He is at best the successful leader of a party.

This defect is all the greater on account of the practice of reelection. During his first term of office he is employed in taking steps to secure his own reelection, and for his party a continuance of power. We avoid this by adhering to the monarchical principle — the sovereign whom you respect and love. [This sovereign] who is not elevated by the action of one party nor depressed by the action of another; who is the common head and sovereign of all.

Ever since the [American] Union was formed, the difficulty of what is called “State rights” has existed, and this had much to do with bringing on the present unhappy war in the United States. They commenced, in fact, at the wrong end. They declared by their Constitution that each State was a sovereignty in itself, and that all the powers incident to a sovereignty belonged to each State, except those powers by which the Constitution were conferred upon the general government and Congress. Here we have adopted a different system. We have strengthened the general government.”

(MacDonald on Canadian Confederation, February, 1865; The World’s Famous Orations, William Jennings Bryan, editor, Funk & Wagnall’s, 1906, pp. 9-13)

 

May 25, 2015 - Foreign Viewpoints    No Comments

Drive the Yankees Beyond the Susquehanna

London Times correspondent William H. Russell interviewed leaders in both North and South in early 1861, though his accurate reporting on the Northern rout at First Manassas left him unwelcome in Lincoln’s country afterward.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Drive the Yankees Beyond the Susquehanna

“I mentioned [to President Jefferson Davis on May 9th] that I had seen great military preparations through the South, and was astonished at the alacrity with which the people sprang to arms. “Yes, sir,” he remarked . . . We are not less military because we have had no standing armies. But perhaps we are the only people in the world where gentlemen go to a military academy who do not intend to follow the profession of arms.”

Mr. Davis made no allusion to the authorities in Washington, but he asked me if I thought it was supposed in England that there would be a War between the States? I answered that I was under the impression the public thought there would be no actual hostilities. “And yet you see we are driven to take up arms for the defense of our rights and liberties.”

As I saw an immense mass of papers on his table, I rose and made my bow, and Mr. Davis, seeing me to the door, gave me his hand and said, “As long as you may stay among us you shall receive every facility it is in our power to afford you, and I shall always be glad to see you”

The news that two more States had joined the Confederacy, making ten in all, was enough to put [Secretary of War Walker and General Beauregard] in good humor. “Is it not too bad these Yankees will not let us go our own way, and keep their cursed Union to themselves? If they force us into it, we may be obliged to drive them beyond the Susquehanna.”

Being invited to attend a levee or reception held by Mrs. Davis, the President’s wife, I returned to the hotel to prepare for the occasion. On my way I passed a company of volunteers, one hundred and twenty artillerymen, and three field pieces, on their way to the station for Virginia, followed by a crowd of “citizens” and Negroes of both sexes, cheering vociferously.

The band was playing that excellent quick-step “Dixie.” The men were stout, fine fellows, dressed in coarse grey tunics with yellow facings and French caps. The Zouave mania is quite as rampant here as it is in New York, and the smallest children are thrust into baggy red breeches, which the learned Lipsius might had appreciated, and are sent out with flags and tin swords to impede the highways.”

(America Through British Eyes, Allan Nevins, Oxford University Press, 1948, pp. 272-273)

Few Patriots Found in New York City

Tammany Hall’s Boss Tweed brokered a deal with local politicians to solve Lincoln’s problem of obtaining soldiers after the draft riots of July 1863. Locating substitute recruits for drafted city residents, he would use the city treasury to pay whatever signing bonus the competitive market required and tap a special $2 million substitute fund financed by Wall Street bonds. Should a resident get caught in Lincoln’s draft net, he could either use the fund to buy his way out, or join the army and keep the money. With this scheme, Lincoln used Tammany Hall to run his draft in New York, though Tweed’s recruitment drive eventually attracted scandal with abusive bounty brokers, unqualified soldiers (from local prisons or immigrants literally straight from Europe) and middlemen who made fortunes from graft.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Few Patriots Found in New York City

“For four days terror reigned, marked by a series of grisly lynchings. A mob even swarmed onto a British ship in the harbor, and despite the Captain’s protests, cruelly beat up the foreign Negroes among the crew. The police were barely able to save the Tribune Building from total destruction. Men searched for the Tribune’s editor, singing, “We’ll hang Horace Greeley from a sour apple tree.”

A Negro orphanage on Fifth Avenue was burned to the ground. Looters had a field day, among them screeching women who opposed conscription. Troops were rushed from Gettysburg [immediately after the battle]; cadets from West Point came to aid the police; the entire naval force in the region was called upon to quell the disturbance. Finally, in desperation, the military raked the streets with cannon fire. But what really stopped the rioting was a posted notice: “the draft has been suspended in New York City and Brooklyn.”

The newspapers carried the word in huge print. Order was finally restored. According to the Tribune of July 25, some 350 people had been killed; but other estimates went much higher. Casualties, including the injured, amounted to 1,000 and private property damage was estimated at $1,500,000. Republican newspapers claimed the outbreak had been sparked by Confederate agents. But Democratic party feeling and a sincere desire for peace were mingled with race prejudice and resentment against what the anti-Lincoln papers called the “incompetence” of the Administration.

Men resented fighting against their convictions and were indignant at “governmental “frauds and profiteering.” Apparently, from the magnitude of the outbreak, the London Times had not been far wrong in predicting that if the South won in Pennsylvania, Jefferson Davis and General Robert E. Lee would

receive a rousing welcome along Broadway. Soon after the tumult subsided, the Democratic City Council of New York voted that the exemption [from military service] money of four hundred dollars for impecunious draftees would be paid from the city treasury. To meet Governor [Horatio] Seymour’s charge that the conscription as practiced was “unequal, fraudulent and a disgrace,” President Lincoln reduced the New York quotas [for troops].

When the draft was resumed a month later, he took the precaution of sending 10,000 infantrymen and three artillery batteries from the Army of the Potomac to see that the business went off quietly.

During New York’s bloody pandemonium, [British Colonel Arthur] Freemantle had been surprised to hear everyone talking of the “total demoralization of the Rebels.” To him it sounded absurd, since only a few days previously he had left Lee’s army “as full of fight as ever,” much stronger and more efficient from every military point of view than when it had crossed the Potomac to invade Maryland the previous September. In the Colonel’s opinion, Lee’s army had “not lost any of its prestige at the battle of Gettysburg, in which it had most gallantly stormed strong entrenchments defended by the whole Army of the Potomac.”

Freemantle took ship for England and completed his book of observations at sea. “The mass of respectable Northerners,” he wrote, “though they may be willing to pay, do not very naturally feel themselves called upon to give their blood in a war of aggression, ambition and conquest . . . The more I think of all I have seen in the Confederate States of the devotion of the whole population, the more I feel inclined to say with General Polk—“How can you subjugate such a people as this?”

[And] even supposing that their extermination were a feasible plan, as some Northerners have suggested, I never can believe that in the nineteenth century the civilized world will be condemned to witness the destruction of such a gallant race.”

(Jefferson Davis, Confederate President, Hudson Strode, Harcourt, Brace & Company, 1959, pp. 458-460)

Lincoln's Scarce But Well-Compensated Patriots

Lincoln’s Scarce But Well-Compensated Patriots

Russian Minister to Washington Baron de Stoeckl supported his government’s intrigues with Lincoln’s regime but privately believed a negotiated settlement between North and South and Confederate independence was preferable to the bloodbath instigated by Lincoln and the Radicals.  It is said that he had easy access to Secretary of State William Seward’s office — the latter was obviously courting Russian favor and an alliance against England and France, both of which came close to recognizing the Southern Confederacy.

With his unique position to view internal American affairs, “Stoeckl persisted in his belief that the North could never subjugate the South. The Union, he felt, could not endure . . . he was sure it was divided forever. “It is difficult to witness events without being convinced that a return to the old system is impossible.” His communiques during the war are well-preserved and one excellent source is “Lincoln and the Russians” written by Albert A. Woldman in 1952.

When Washington was again in danger of attack in mid-1862, Stoeckl wrote that “General Halleck has been ordered to Washington to take charge of military operations.” He wrote that Lincoln was experiencing great difficulty in replenishing the depleted military ranks and “the government has been compelled to offer a premium of $25 a man.” Later he reported that premiums up to $50 have been offered, yet there are few volunteers. Two weeks later, Lincoln issued another call for volunteers, with premiums up to $300.

“Mr. Lincoln told me himself one day that in case of necessity he could count upon two or three million men. Experience has demonstrated that such estimates are inaccurate . . . at the outset the armed services absorbed the adventurous types, the poor, the unemployed laborers and the foreigners who filled the large cities. Not many of these classes remain. The new recruits must come from the farmers, businessmen and, in general, the prosperous classes who are opposed to the war.”

He added that “those who volunteered at the outset never dreamed of the dangers and privations which awaited them. It was generally believed that the mere presence of the Northern army would coerce the South into rejoining the Union. The ever-increasing number of mangled, sick, crippled or maimed soldiers who have returned to their homes has opened the eyes of the Northerners to the horrors of war.

Men no longer volunteer for military service. Bonuses of $250 to $300 are being offered to volunteers without spurring enlistments. As a result, the government was forced to resort to conscription . . . But it is doubtful if the government will succeed in recruiting the number Lincoln has fixed in his call.”

When the House of Representatives passed a bill authorizing the President to arm 150,000 Negroes, Stoeckl reported that “the Democratic Party regarded this measure as humiliating for the nation” since it was an admission that “an army of a million men cannot win without the help of some 100,000 Negroes.” Stoeckl continues, “Mr. [Thaddeus] Stevens, the author of this measure, said that the federal army . . . scarcely numbered 500,000 men under arms; that half these troops were scheduled to return home soon since their term of service expired next May; that volunteers are no longer enlisting; and that conscription was so unpopular that the government hesitated to invoke it again.”

“At the beginning of the war men came forward in large numbers. It is difficult to procure volunteers even by offering them bounties of $700 to $800. This state of affairs is not surprising. All the adventurous spirits that there were — all the unemployed in the great cities — immigrants brought here from Europe by poverty, have been absorbed by the army. Only force will be able to drag (the prosperous classes) away from their homes, and it is doubtful they will submit willingly to it.”

His perspective on Radical Republican leaders was revealing: Stoeckl wrote that “Peace, no matter what the terms, is the only means of resolving this situation. But the leaders in charge of affairs do not want it.  Thier slogan is all-out war.  Any compromise would endanger their political existence. They are politicians of low-caliber — men without conscience, ready to do anything for money . . . They constitute the swarm of speculators, suppliers of material, war profiteers through whose hands pass a large portion of the millions of dollars spent daily by the federal government.  Aside from these and some fanatics, practically everybody else desires the cessation of hostilities.”

Baron de Stoeckl held a low opinion of Lincoln’s commanding general, Ulysses Grant.  Grant earned the nickname “butcher” as a general who could count on limitless recruits to hurl against the enemy.  Stoeckl wrote Russian Prince Gortchakov in late May 1864 that “General Grant has so far given no proof of being a great strategist. It appears that he undertakes no maneuvers, and that he simply drives his masses of men against the fortified positions of Lee trying to crush him by sheer superiority of numbers.”

Lincoln's Muscovite Friends

Lincoln’s Muscovite Friends

The lack of foreign recognition, especially from England and France, during the War Between the States is often cited as a primary reason for the fall of the Southern Confederacy. It is commonly related by historians that those two countries and others would not support the South after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of January 1863 as anti-slavery sentiment was ascendant internationally.

Though Radical Republicans viewed the proclamation as a diplomatic trump card which assured no European recognition for the American South, it was seen abroad for what it was – incitement to race warfare and virtually identical to England’s two previous emancipation proclamations. The first was issued by Virginia’s Royal Governor, Lord Dunmore, in November 1775; the second proclamation was made by Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane in 1814. Both had freed slaves who flocked to His Majesties banners and were intended to bring colonists to their knees as their slaves reverted to massacre as occurred in Santo Domingo.

Lincoln was aware that he held no authority as president to interfere with a State’s labor force and policies, but his proclamation was simply a war strategy designed to strike at the agricultural strength of the South. This is why invading Northern forces seized African workers and carried them off – thus denying the South of the ability to plant and harvest crops.

The Russian minister at Washington, Baron de Stoeckl, expressed dismay over Lincoln’s proclamation to Secretary of State William Seward, and referred to it “as but a futile menace” because “it would set up a further barrier to the reconciliation of the North South – always the hope of Russia.” Writing to his government, Stoeckl charged the radical Republicans with forcing Lincoln to issue the decree out of desperation, and with plans to inaugurate a reign of terror to silence critics of their regime.

Stoeckl questioned the Emancipation Proclamation’s intent as it offered the protection of Lincoln’s government as a premium to slave owners who remained loyal to his regime, and was simply a military weapon rather than an important document proclaiming human liberty.

It is worth pointing out here that Lincoln could have played a more humane trump card by encouraging a convention of the States to settle the problems of the Union in 1861 – much the same as was done in 1787 to revise the Articles of Confederation that some said were not effective – and the new federated arrangement agreed upon in 1789. The convention would have found a peaceful solution to a more perfect union, or unions.

A more plausible explanation for the reluctance of the British and French to intervene on behalf of the South is not well known, but very well-documented in several important volumes. The most revealing is James Morton Callahan’s “Russo-American Relations during the American Civil War” published in January, 1908 in West Virginia Studies in American History, Series 1, Number 1. In this paper Callahan begins: “After the grand and sudden emancipation of [twenty million] serfs by the Czar” on March 3, 1861, “the admiration for Russia was assiduously cultivated in the North for intimate political reasons.”

Foremost among the reasons behind this Northern interest in Russia was the neutral attitude of England and France in 1861, as well as later British shipbuilding aid to the Confederacy and the offer of French mediation – not to mention French intervention in Mexico for unpaid debts.

The Czar applauded Lincoln’s efforts to suppress an internal rebellion which he equated with the independence-minded Poles resisting Russian troops. Ironically, both the Czar and Lincoln were emancipating serfs and slaves respectively while crushing independence movements with an iron hand.

It should be kept in mind that despite Russian serfdom being somewhat different than the African slavery inherited from British colonialism, Czar Alexander II was well-aware of the numerous serf uprisings that had caused his father, Nicholas I, such anguish, especially after the 1848 socialist revolts in Europe. Alexander saw more revolts inevitable and used an autocratic decree to hasten the act after his nobles could not agree upon a gradual solution. Perhaps Lincoln was influenced by the Czar’s actions and concluded that slavery could only be abolished if the Union was saved – even by fire, sword and a million perishing in the act.

Though many heralded the Czar’s humanitarianism toward the lowly serf, former Cornell President Andrew Dickson White, who served for a time in St. Petersburg in 1855 and 1892-94 wrote that “I do not deny the greatness and nobleness of Alexander II . . . [but] feel obliged to testify that thus far . . . there is, as yet, little, if any, practical difference between the condition of the Russian peasant before and since obtaining his freedom.”

As Lincoln’s minister at St. Petersburg, Cassius M. Clay, began his diplomatic duties in June 1861 and soon reported to Secretary of State Seward that the Czar was earnest in “the hope of the perpetuity of friendship between the two nations” which was “increased by the common sympathy in the cause of emancipation.” Clay suggested to Seward the potential alliance of Russia, Mexico and the United States in an effort to discourage European recognition of the Confederacy. He reasoned that if France or England dared recognition, they would have to face the Russian fleets in addition to Lincoln’s ever-increasing war machine.

Clay added in his message to Seward that the United States “could not trust England with our national life,” and that in “Union with Russia land and army at no distant day to settle accounts with her in China and the Indies.”

General Simon Cameron of Pennsylvania was selected to succeed Clay in St. Petersburg in January 1862, and according to a published statement by Senator James Harlan of Iowa, Cameron was secretly charged by Lincoln to interview Czar Alexander II. Lincoln was troubled by “the possibility of interference by England or France in behalf of the Confederacy” and subsequently received the Czar’s assurance that in the event of intervention, the friendship of Russia for the United States will be known in a decisive manner, which no other nation will be able to mistake.” The Crimean defeat administered by England and France was not forgotten.

After Northern defeats and reverses mounted by October 1862 and France sought British and Russian aid in mediating the American conflict, Lincoln wrote the Czar in search of an alliance should European recognition of the South become reality. He was assured that Russia would not be a party to any mediation, and that Lincoln could rely upon Russian support.

In May 1863 Clay returned as minister at St. Petersburg and found that England, Austria and France were desirous of mediating the Polish-Russian conflict on behalf of the Poles, and with hopes that the United States would join. Clay was instructed by Seward to refuse any and all intervention into Russian affairs which of course pleased the Czar, and the United States was rewarded with a grant of a charter for a telegraph line through Russian territory

In his “Lincoln and the Russians” Albert A. Woldman notes that years before in Springfield, Illinois, Lincoln took a leading part in protesting against “the foreign despot” Russia who “in violation of the most sacred principles of the laws of nature and of nations” had conquered Hungary with an unwarranted armed intervention when she was fighting to break free of Austrian tyranny.

Lincoln may have held some sympathy with the rebellious Poles, but the need for a strong Russian ally to help defeat his own “rebellion” modified previous views. He and Seward issued an official statement that “Polish grievances would be righted by the liberalism, sagacity and magnanimity of Czar Alexander II.”

Lincoln’s refusal to help mediate the Polish uprising drew sharp criticism from the Missouri Republic, charging in an editorial that “the pale corpse of Poland’s murdered liberty” would continue to haunt Lincoln for years to come. Britain’s Punch magazine characterized Lincoln as collaborating with the Russian bear, and the French depicted Lincoln shaking the bloody hand of the Czar.

The French newspaper La Patrie of January 12, 1864 wrote “is it right that fifty million Muscovites should unite to retain ten or twelve million Poles under a detested yoke? Is it right that twenty million Northern Germans and Irishmen [the North’s immigrant population] should unite to impose on eight million Southerners an association they spurn?”

The strong international denunciations of his ruthless Polish campaign caused the Czar concern regarding the possibility of war and reminded him of his fleets bottled up in the Baltic and Mediterranean by the British and French navies in the Crimean War ten years earlier. He made secret arrangements to send his fleets to the open sea and friendly ports of the United States, which would then be in “a favorable position for cruising against British commerce in the Atlantic and Pacific, should war suddenly break out over the tempestuous Polish question.”

Those fleets were ordered to remain in American ports and await the outcome of negotiations regarding Poland. Though nothing in the fleet admirals’ orders referred to assisting Lincoln in his war upon the American South, the inference was clear that Britain and France should not interfere with the conquest of the South lest they hasten war with Russia.

At the same time it was clear to Lincoln, Seward and Clay that an alliance with Russia against England and France would be beneficial in thwarting French designs on Mexico. Clay wrote Seward in September 1863 that “the time had come for all America to unite in a defensive alliance to sustain the Monroe Doctrine.”

Callahan writes that “While rumors of contemplated Franco-English intervention in favor of the Confederacy were still afloat, Russia sent a fleet under Admiral [Andrei Alexandrovich] Popov to San Francisco, and soon thereafter (September 11 and 24) sent another under Admiral S.S. Lessoffsky to New York.

Americans in both cities and across the North interpreted this show of naval force as evidence “of sympathy and encouragement for the Union,” and both San Francisco and New York held endless “receptions, processions and various festivities” which “finally ended in a great Russian ball in honor of the guest.” Harper’s Weekly opined that the United States had outgrown Washington’s policy against entangling alliances and that diplomatic relations and an alliance with Russia would prevent European interference in US affairs and “mark an important epoch.”

In a further gesture of friendship with his new ally, Seward provided navigation charts for the American coast to the Russian fleets. Additionally, the governor of Rhode Island invited Admiral Lessoffsky to visit that State with his fleet; on December 5, 1863 Seward welcomed the same fleet after it had ascended the Potomac to Washington.

The Continental Monthly of February 1864 commented upon Northern enthusiasm for their new friends and especially New York City, which “had gone mad over the Muscovites, forgetting the woes of Poland while they kissed the hands of the knout-bearers of the Czar, and agitated for alliance between what they called the twin sister empires of the future . . . “

Admiral Lessoffsky and his officers were given a grand banquet at Boston in June 1864 with an oration by the renowned New Englander, Edward Everett.

Some questioned the true purpose of the Russian visit with Charles Sumner of Massachusetts writing a friend in October 1863 that “foreign intervention will introduce a new, vast and incalculable element . . . You will observe the hob-nobbing at New York with the Russian admiral. Why is that fleet gathered there?”

Callahan tells us that “it was believed that Lessoffsky had secret orders to place his fleet at the disposal of the President in case the United States should be attacked by France and England. There is no doubt the appearance of the fleets in American harbors caused apprehension in the European courts as they saw the Russians posturing for war. In his memoirs, Cassius Clay wrote of the Russian fleets: “Whatsoever may have been the ultimate purpose – Russia thus made a masterly exhibition which broke up the Mexican invasion [by France] and prevented a foreign invasion of the United States.”

New York banker Henry Clews related (Literary Digest, March 5, 1904) that Seward had informed him that when Confederate armies threatening Washington, he had requested a Russian fleet be sent to New York as a shrewd manner of demonstrating to Europe a Russo-American alliance.

There is no doubt that both Lincoln and Seward were well aware of Russian intentions and that their “action toward us . . . were but moves made by her upon the chessboard of European diplomacy,” though both “took full advantage of the fortuitous circumstance and used it astutely for the best interest of the Union cause.”

An interesting commentary on Lincoln’s wartime leadership came from another foreign observer, Rudolf M. Schleiden, Minister to the United States from the Bremen Republic. In February 1864 he mentioned in a dispatch “that Lincoln said to a Judge Thomas, of Massachusetts, that he would be satisfied if his successor was elected from the Republican Party. If that did not take place [Lincoln] feared that he would spend the rest of his life in jail for repeated violations of the Constitution.” (Rudolf Schleiden and the Visit to Richmond, April 25, 1861, Ralph Haswell Lutz, American Historical Association Annual Report, 1915, Washington, 1917, pp. 212-216)

The appearance of Russian friendship at that time was described by the Odessa-born American historian Frank A. Golder in 1915: “It was a most extraordinary situation, Russia had not in its mind to help us but did render us distinct service; the United States was not conscious that it was contributing in any way to Russia’s welfare and yet seems to have saved her from humiliation and perhaps war [with England and France]. There is probably nothing to compare with it in diplomatic history.”

As a postscript to the Russo-American friendship, Callahan notes the 1867 treaty whereby Russia transferred Alaska to United States control which few understood the logic of. Given the anticipation of war, those like Charles Sumner saw Russia “stripping for the contest with England,” providing North Pacific ports for the American navy and setting the stage for American absorption of Canada.

Intimately informed of Russian motives, Clay wrote from St. Petersburg that “the Russians hoped the cession might ultimately lead to the expulsion of England from the Pacific.” Secretary Seward, interviewed shortly after the Alaska purchase explained that it was an effort “to limit England’s coast line on the Pacific, strengthen American influence in British Columbia,” and to hasten the destiny of Canada into political union with the United States.

For the same purpose of hostility toward England, Northern politicians suggested the acquisition of Greenland and Iceland from Denmark as a further step toward “hemming in” Great Britain. The Alaska cession was viewed by many in the North as the beginning of a new national policy which would continue with annexation of British Columbia and Canada, the Sandwich Islands and naval stations for the US Navy on the coasts of China, Japan, West Indies and Caribbean. Seward’s nationalist energies had now broadened as he envisioned the United States joining the major powers of the world and pursuing even grander opportunities.

Keeping in mind that the 1867 Act of Confederation [strongly influenced by former Confederate Secretary of State Judah Benjamin] was prompted by fears of a two million-man Northern war machine marching northward after 1865, and Russia’s hatred for England, Canadian motivations seem clear.

Though it seemed the United States was doing Russia a favor by purchasing Alaska, American consul to France John Bigelow said in 1867 that “I doubt if there was any member of either house of Congress who supposed the government then had any other motive in the purchase of Alaska than to recognize its obligations to the Czar.”

European Jacobin Views of a Massachusetts Whig

The visiting Frenchman, Ernst D. de Hauranne, travelled only in the North for his eight months in America and was a strong supporter of the Northern invasion of the American South. Ironically, when confronted by a Radical lieutenant enraged at Americans resisting subjugation, the Frenchman could reel off the specifics of Lincoln’s destruction of liberty, and compared the despotic Northern government to the worst aspects of the French Revolution.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

European Jacobin Views of a Massachusetts Whig

[Diary Entry] June 28, 1864

“Here I found my first expert on American politics, Lieutenant C. He is not only a Republican, he is a Radical, and we have already crossed swords several times. Like all Americans, he pushes adulation of his country well beyond the limits of politeness and acceptability. Democracy is his oracle, his god, and he will never agree that it may not be the same thing as liberty.

If I reply that even the will of the people should have its limits, and that if it exercises in America the absolute reign that he talks about, it is more likely to pave the way to tyranny than to preserve liberty, he answers brusquely that I am French, that I don’t understand anything about freedom and that I have no right to judge his country. “Europeans,” he told me, “are born slaves. They always have been and they always will be. Only America knows what freedom is.”

“Oh,” I replied, “get off your high horse. There are many darks spots on your wonderful picture of American freedom.” Thereupon I ticked off for him the suspension of habeas corpus, the violation of the freedom of the press, the transfer of jurisdiction over many cases from civil to military courts, secret arrests, arbitrary imprisonments and all the other abuses of power that are the sad accompaniments of the Civil War. I asked him if that was what he called freedom.

“It is freedom if we have willed it. Mr. Seward boasts that he needs only ring his little bell to have absolutely anyone put in prison. That is true, but behind him are the American people who direct him. Let him strike down the rebels and traitors . . . We want martial law, do you understand? We want it, and that’s why we are still free.

“[I replied] Revolutionary power is a seed of dictatorship. Watch out that the seed doesn’t take root. You refuse to see the danger; the freedom of your neighbor means little to you! This is the way to lose your own freedom and to rush headlong into despotism one of these days. [Let’s] get to the bottom of it. I know your theories. We practiced them under the [French revolutionary] National Convention. You think you’ve discovered a new idea, but all you do is recite the sophistries of the Committee of Public Safety.”

Are these not strange opinions in the mouth of an American, notions that would fit better with the outlook of a European Jacobin or a Massachusetts Whig? We think the Americans are madly in love with their individual freedom, yet there is a school of thought which springs up to repudiate it in the name of public safety, which views freedom as submission to the multitude. Love of freedom, like all human passions, falls asleep when it is not contested.”

(A Frenchman in Lincoln’s America, Ernst D. de Hauranne, Donnelly & Sons, 1974, Volume I, pp. 67-70)

 

 

The General Sherman Destroyed

French priests increased their efforts to penetrate Korea in the 1830s and were executed for violating Korean law, and Koreans learned that foreign fleets would be sent to enforce the work of the Vatican. More Catholics were executed, and when the French threatened to mount a punitive expedition, Koreans found it incomprehensible: “they told the French that they would understand perfectly the execution of their own nationals in France, should they try to disseminate Korean views there.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The General Sherman Destroyed

“The United States also tried its hand at opening up Korea in 1866, when the merchant schooner General Sherman sailed up the Taedong River toward P’yongyang. A heavily armed ship with a mixed crew of Americans, British and Chinese, it received the message that it was not just Christianity that contravened Korean law but also foreign commerce.

Undaunted, the General Sherman forged ahead. Shortly a hostile crowd gathered on the shore, into which the frightened sailors unloaded their muskets. After that volley the provincial governor, a much respected and temperate official named Pak Kyu-su (who later negotiated the first treaty with Japan), ordered the General Sherman destroyed. The tide obliging receded, grounding the vessel. The Koreans killed all its crew in battle and burned the ship – unwittingly taking revenge for an Atlanta that could not.

It was a dastardly act, the authorities in Washington declared; what an outrageous affront to a peaceable bunch of people who just happened to be sailing a man-o-war up the river to P’yongyang! None other than Secretary of State William Seward, architect of westward expansion, proposed a joint expedition with the French to punish the Koreans . . . But it did not happen until 1871. By then the US government had decided to open Korea’s ports by force . . .

In this famed “Little War with the Heathen,” as the New York Herald called it, the American Asiatic Squadron . . . steamed through the straits near [Kangwha], where it took fire from newly cast Korean cannons. Marines hit the beaches at Kangwha and sought to capture several Korean forts. In the end about 650 Koreans [who battled ferociously] died [but after] some desultory and fruitless negotiations, the Americans withdrew.

The “Little War with the Heathen” was little noted nor long remembered in the United States, but [there exists] the stone monument that marks the spot where the General Sherman burned. It is not far from Kim Il Sung’s birthplace . . . and Koreans of that era thought that their staunch moral virtue had sent the foreigners packing, even if their weapons were technologically backward.”

(Korea’s Place in the Sun, A Modern History, Bruce Cummings, W.W. Norton Company, 1997, pg. 96-97)