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British and French Mediation Considered

Rarely mentioned as a decisive deterrent to Anglo-French recognition of Southern independence was the presence of Russian fleets in San Francisco and New York from September 1863 through March 1864. The British and French were both stood puzzled as the Czar and Lincoln emancipated serfs and slaves while at the same time crushing independence movements in Poland and the American South.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

British and French Mediation Considered

“Ultimately the South’s hopes for independence marched with its armies, and indeed when the Army of Northern Virginia invaded Maryland in the fall of 1862, [British Lords] Palmerston and [John] Russell became convinced of the depth and potential of Southern separation.

On September 14, Palmerston wrote to Russell about Anglo-French mediation and “an arrangement upon the basis of separation.” Russell responded, “I agree with you that the time has come for offering mediation to the United States Government, with a view of the recognition of the Independence of the Confederates – I agree further that in case of failure, we ought ourselves to recognize the Southern States, as an independent State.”

In accord with these convictions, Russell informally approached his counterpart in Paris, Antoine Edouard Trouvenel, and discussed with Palmerston a date for a meeting of the cabinet to approve the mediation scheme. Russell was still firm in this policy on October 4, when he wrote Palmerston, “I think unless some miracle takes place this will be the very time for offering Mediation.”

And on October 7, Chancellor of the Exchequer William Gladstone let the cat out of the bag. Speaking at Newcastle, Gladstone affirmed, 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.”

Then, just a quickly as the mediation enthusiasm had developed in England, it evaporated. [Though as important as the Sharpsburg battle and Lincoln’s abolition proclamation] were, other considerations contributed to England’s return to nonintervention. Mediation was attractive to free-traders who resented the Federal blockade, to liberals who supported self-determination, to conservatives who felt a kinship with landed aristocrats in the South, and to some varieties of nationalists who looked with favor upon the dissolution of the United States.

But these attractions were essentially abstract. In the end British statesmen had to face the hard reality of what might follow an unsuccessful offer of mediation and subsequent recognition of the confederacy: they had to ponder the consequences of a North American war. And if the British should be drawn into an American war, they wanted to support the winning side. In this regard, [Sharpsburg] and abolition] were indecisive; neither event broke the American impasse to reveal a victor.”

(The Confederate Nation, 1861-1865, Emory M. Thomas, Henry Steele Commager & Richard B. Morris, editors, Harper & Row, 1979, pp. 179-180)

Nov 5, 2014 - Pleading for Peace    No Comments

Jefferson Davis, Last of the Senate Giants

Jefferson Davis was a Unionist and struggled to his last days as a Mississippi Senator to push Congress toward a peaceful solution to the sectional crisis. He belonged to the Calhoun school which saw preserving the rights of the South in the federal Union as paramount; he viewed secession as a last resort of the States in order to preserve their sovereignty and liberties, should the Constitution ratified voluntarily in 1787, and its federal agent, became destructive of those rights.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa 1865

 

Jefferson Davis, Last of the Senate Giants

“The theory of State Rights and the belief in secession had been understood in both sections equally, when advantage dictated understanding: as late as 1846 the State government of Massachusetts had been willing to secede, had passed resolutions to that end, in opposition to the Mexican War.

The North alone now repudiated State sovereignty because it had no interest to serve with its support. After the Republican senators had rejected the Crittenden Compromise, which gave to them every eventual advantage and to the South nothing in the end, they would not listen to a proposal of a convention of the States; they were then challenged for a compromise proposal of their own, but not a Republican replied.

At this distance it is certain that the deadlock exactly suited the North, for its purpose was to subdue the South at all costs; in a policy that conceded nothing and demanded everything, the North meant to “ride over the South rough-shod.”

The South was willing at this time to accept any measure that guaranteed it even less than its Constitutional rights in the territories; but the North no longer desired equality of sectional power; the North was bent on domination. By refusing to budge from this position, the North forced the South to act for its preservation, and by means of the slavery issue the shrewdness of the Yankee succeeded, as always, of putting his enemy in the wrong.

There was probably not a single phase of the conflict that Mr. Davis failed, in a sense, to understand; and yet, in the end, he could not see why men would not follow the law, or why the inflamed sections would not abide by compromises.  Men sometimes act reasonably, but never logically; this was a distinction that Mr. Davis, being logical, could not grasp.

[After his final speech and resignation from the United States Senate after Mississippi had seceded, Davis] painfully moved through the crowded Senate chamber out into the street, [and for him] the old Constitutional republic came . . . to a dramatic end. There would no longer be a Union in the exact sense of that word; there would be a uniformity; for one of the two types of American civilization must absolutely prevail.  Davis left the Senate smaller; it would never be so large again; he was the last of the Senate giants.

All the night of January 21 he suffered, sleepless; the nervous strain of the last six months had broken him down. His neuralgia had spread film over one iris; he was almost blind in that eye.  Mrs. Davis, anxious in the next room, heard him say, again and again, in a tone of agony:

“May God have us in His Holy keeping, and grant that before it is too late peaceful councils may prevail.”

(Jefferson Davis, His Rise and Fall, Allen Tate, Minton, Balch & Company, 1929, pp. 12-13)

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