Wednesday, June 17, 2015

June 17, 1861 - Lord Lyons worries about Union declaring war on UK; a secret mission starts to take shape

Lord Lyons portrait in Seward's home
Lord Lyons was the British minister in Washington just before and during the Civil War. Robert Bunch, Our Man in Charleston, provided his key intelligence about events in the South.

June 10, Lyons to Admiral Milne, commander of the British fleet off the American coast, marked Private and Confidential:

    "... I do not regard a sudden Declaration of War against us by the U.S. as an event altogether impossible at any moment. I just mention this confidentially. If I think the danger imminent, and am precluded from telegraphing in cypher I will send you the following Telegram:  'Could your forward a letter for me to Antigua?'"

June 14, Lyons to Lord John Russell, Foreign Secretary. Her Majesty's government, having recognized the rights of both North and South as "belligerents" some weeks earlier, is now anxious for both North and South to recognize the rights of neutrals and the rules concerning blockades as described in the declaration on maritime law issued in conjunction with the 1856 Treaty of Paris, to which neither the Union nor the Confederacy is a signatory. Lyons fears that the Union will recognize the declaration in principle, but still seize ships for ostensible failure to pay duties to the Federal officials no longer in place in the Southern ports:

      "... This is likely to be the practical difficulty with regard to the question of the Belligerent rights of the South. But after all the sentimental difficulty is the great one. The present apparent success of the South in founding an independent Govt is so galling to the North, that anything which implies the admission of this self-evident fact irritates them beyond measure. As you will have seen from the tone of Mr. Seward's Despatches, the recourse is to deny the existence of the fact, not to explain it, to threaten anyone who shall dare to assert it, or even to perceive it....
      "I dread the arrival of the English Newspapers with comment on the articles in the American press. I am still more afraid of the meeting of Congress next month. Unless there are very manifest signs of a change of public feeling, the extreme violent party will have it all their own way, and the members of it will vie with one another in intemperate language. The best sedative will be a manifest readiness on our part to repel an attack, however sudden, and at whatever point it may be made, and to exact immediate retribution for any offense."

June 17 to Consul Archibald in New York: "... Be very cautious [underlined three times] about send any thing South, and still moreso about receiving and forwarding letters thence."

Bust of Seward in the library of his home in Auburn, New York

No comments:

Post a Comment