Page images

President's Consideration." The first proposition in it is, "First, We are at the end of a month's administration, and yet without a policy either domestic or foreign."

At the beginning of that month, in the inaugural, I said: "The power confided to me will be used to hold, occupy, and possess the property and places belonging to the government, and to collect the duties and imposts." This had your distinct approval at the time; and, taken in connection with the order I immediately gave General Scott, directing him to employ every means in his power to strengthen and hold the forts, comprises the exact domestic policy you now urge, with the single exception that it does not propose to abandon Fort Sumter.

Again, I do not perceive how the reinforcement of Fort Sumter would be done on a slavery or a party issue, while that of Fort Pickens would be on a more national and patriotic one.

The news received yesterday in regard to St. Domingo certainly brings a new item within the range of our foreign policy; but up to that time we have been preparing circulars and instructions to ministers and the like, all in perfect harmony, without even a suggestion that we had no foreign policy.

Upon your closing propositions-that "whatever policy we adopt, there must be an energetic prosecution of it.

"For this purpose it must be somebody's business to pursue and direct it incessantly.

"Either the President must do it himself, and be all the while active in it, or

"Devolve it on some member of his cabinet. Once adopted, debates on it must end, and all agree and abide” — I remark that if this must be done, I must do it. When a general line of policy is adopted, I apprehend there is no danger of its being changed without good reason, or continuing to be a subject of unnecessary debate; still, upon points. arising in its progress I wish, and suppose I am entitled to have, the advice of all the cabinet.

[blocks in formation]

Abraham Lincoln, Complete Works (edited by John G. Nicolay and John Hay, New York, 1894), II, 29-30.

98. A Friend in Need (1861)


Bright was a Quaker and one of the leaders of the Liberal party in the British Parliament, and from the first placed himself unreservedly on the Union side, voicing the sympathy of the great nonconformist body. This extract is from a speech delivered at a public dinner during the Trent excitement. - Bibliography as in No. 97 above.


HE question is a very different and a far more grave question. It is a question of slavery,― (Cheers,) — and for thirty years it has constantly been coming to the surface, disturbing social life, and overthrowing almost all political harmony in the working of the United States. (Cheers.) In the North there is no secession; there is no collision. These disturbances and this insurrection are found wholly in the South and in the Slave States; and therefore I think that the man who says otherwise, who contends that it is the tariff, or anything whatsoever else than slavery, is either himself deceived or endeavors to deceive others. (Cheers.) The object of the South is this, to escape from the majority who wish to limit the area of slavery. (Hear! Hear!) They wish to found a Slave State freed from the influence and the opinions of freedom. The Free States in the North now stand before the world the advocates and defenders of freedom and civilization. The Slave States offer themselves for the recognition of a Christian nation, based upon the foundation, the unchangeable foundation in their eyes, of slavery and barbarism.

. . . I say that slavery has sought to break up the most free government in the world, and to found a new state, in the nineteenth century, whose corner-stone is the perpetual bondage of millions of men. . . .

. . . It has been said, "How much better it would be "not for the United States, but" for us, that these States should be divided." .. There cannot be a meaner motive than this I am speaking of, in forming a judgment on this question, — that it is "better for us" for whom? the people of England, or the government of England?— that the United States should be severed, and that that continent should be as the continent of Europe is, in many states, and subject to all the contentions and disasters which have accompanied the history of the states of Europe. (Applause.) I should say that, if a man had a great heart within him, he would rather look forward to the day when, from that point of land which is habitable nearest to the Pole, to the shores

[ocr errors]

of the great Gulf, the whole of that vast continent might become one great confederation of States, without a great army, and without a great navy, not mixing itself up with the entanglements of European politics, without a custom-house inside, through the whole length and breadth of its territory, and with freedom everywhere, equality everywhere, law everywhere, peace everywhere, - such a confederation would afford at least some hope that man is not forsaken of Heaven, and that the future of our race might be better than the past. . . .

. . what is this people, about which so many men in England at this moment are writing, and speaking, and thinking, with harshness, I think with injustice, if not with great bitterness? Two centuries ago, multitudes of the people of this country found a refuge on the North American continent, escaping from the tyranny of the Stuarts, and from the bigotry of Laud. Many noble spirits from our country made great experiments in favor of human freedom on that continent. Bancroft, the great historian of his own country, has said, in his own graphic and emphatic language, "The history of the colonization of America is the history of the crimes of Europe."

At this very moment . . . there are millions in the United States who personally, or whose immediate parents, have at one time been citizens of this country, and perhaps known to some of the oldest of those whom I have now the honor of addressing. They found a home in the Far West; they subdued the wilderness; they met with plenty there, which was not afforded them in their native country; and they became a great people. There may be persons in England who are jealous of those States. There may be men who dislike democracy, and who hate a republic; there may be even those whose sympathies warm towards the slave oligarchy of the South. But of this I am certain, that only misrepresentation the most gross or calumny the most wicked can sever the tie which unites the great mass of the people of this country with their friends and brethren beyond the Atlantic. (Loud cheers.)

Now, whether the Union will be restored or not, or the South achieve an unhonored independence or not, I know not, and I predict not. But this I think I know, that in a few years, a very few years, the twenty millions of freemen in the North will be thirty millions, or even fifty millions, a population equal to or exceeding that of this kingdom. (Hear! Hear!) When that time comes, I pray that it may not be said amongst them, that, in the darkest hour of their country's trials, England, the land of their fathers, looked on with icy coldness and saw

unmoved the perils and calamities of their children. (Cheers.) As for me, I have but this to say: I am one in this audience, and but one in the citizenship of this country; but if all other tongues are silent, mine shall speak for that policy which gives hope to the bondsmen of the South, and which tends to generous thoughts, and generous words, and generous deeds, between the two great nations who speak the English language, and from their origin are alike entitled to the English name.

John Bright, Speeches on the American Question (edited by Frank Moore, Boston, 1865), 26-67 passim.

99. The Trent Affair (1861)


The letter to the British minister at Washington, Lord Lyons, from which this extract is taken on the Trent affair - was Seward's most important and most studied state paper; it expresses the matured judgment of the administration, which was, not to bring on war with England. - For Seward, see No. 22 above. — Bibliography as in No. 97 above.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

NLY the fifth question remains, namely: Did Captain Wilkes exercise the right of capturing the contraband in conformity with the law of nations? . . .

... the question here concerns the mode of procedure in regard, not to the vessel that was carrying the contraband, nor yet to contraband things which worked the forfeiture of the vessel, but to contraband persons. .

But only courts of admiralty have jurisdiction in maritime cases, and these courts have formulas to try only claims to contraband chattels, but none to try claims concerning contraband persons. . .

It was replied all this was true; but you can reach in those courts a decision which will have the moral weight of a judicial one by a circuitous proceeding. Convey the suspected men, together with the suspected vessel, into port, and try there the question whether the vessel is contraband. You can prove it to be so by proving the suspected men to be contraband, and the court must then determine the vessel to be contraband. If the men are not contraband the vessel will escape condemnation. Still, there is no judgment for or against the captured persons. But it was assumed that there would result from the determination of

the court concerning the vessel a legal certainty concerning the character of the men. . . .

In the present case, Captain Wilkes, after capturing the contraband persons and making prize of the Trent in what seems to be a perfectly lawful manner, instead of sending her into port, released her from the capture, and permitted her to proceed with her whole cargo upon her voyage. He thus effectually prevented the judicial examination which might otherwise have occurred.

If, now, the capture of the contraband persons and the capture of the contraband vessel are to be regarded, not as two separate or distinct transactions under the law of nations, but as one transaction, one capture only, then it follows that the capture in this case was left unfinished, or was abandoned. . . .

I have not been unaware that, in examining this question, I have fallen into an argument for what seems to be the British side of it against my own country. But I am relieved from all embarrassment on that subject. I had hardly fallen into that line of argument when I discovered that I was really defending and maintaining, not an exclusively British interest, but an old, honored, and cherished American cause, not upon British authorities, but upon principles that constitute a large portion of the distinctive policy by which the United States have developed the resources of a continent, and thus becoming a considerable maritime power, have won the respect and confidence of many nations. These principles were laid down for us in 1804, by James Madison, when Secretary of State in the administration of Thomas Jefferson, in instructions given to James Monroe, our Minister to England. Although the case before him concerned a description of persons different from those who are incidentally the subjects of the present discussion, the ground he assumed then was the same I now occupy, and the arguments by which he sustained himself upon it, have been an inspiration to me in preparing this reply.

"Whenever," he says, "property found in a neutral vessel is supposed to be liable on any ground to capture and condemnation, the rule in all cases is, that the question shall not be decided by the captor, but be carried before a legal tribunal, where a regular trial may be had, and where the captor himself is liable to damages for an abuse of his power. Can it be reasonable, then, or just, that a belligerent commander who is thus restricted, and thus responsible in a case of mere property of trivial amount, should be permitted, without recurring to any tribunal

« PreviousContinue »