Civil War Diplomacy - Pressure and counterpressure on britain and france




Seward understood that British policy would be decisive in Europe, and he was pleased that in the patronage battles, he had succeeded in having Charles Francis Adams, the son and grandson of former American ministers to the Court of St. James, appointed to Britain. Lincoln's choice, William Dayton of New Jersey—John C. Frémont's running mate on the Republican ticket in 1856—went to France instead. Adams had his first interview with Russell on 18 May. Seward had been outraged by the British neutrality proclamation and the granting of belligerent rights to the Confederacy, and Adams complained to Russell. Russell only assured Adams that Britain had no intention at that time to move to the next step of recognizing Confederate independence.

Seward also reacted harshly to the willingness of Russell to meet, even informally, with the Confederate agents. He sent Adams his notorious Dispatch No. 10, dated 21 May 1861, instructing Adams to break off all relations with the British government if Russell continued to meet with the Confederate commissioners. Seward had wanted Adams to read the message to Russell, but Lincoln wisely insisted that Seward change the instructions so that Adams had discretion in his discussion with Russell and was to use the document only for his own guidance. Adams had the good sense to soften the dispatch by presenting only noninflammatory parts to Russell. Russell, as it happened, had already decided to have no further discussions with the Confederate commissioners.

By late summer Yancey, Rost, Mann, and their colleagues had had enough success in arousing British and French support to alarm both Adams and Dayton. Hunter, who had replaced Toombs as Confederate secretary of state, saw great potential in the use of propaganda and decided to formalize the propaganda effort by appointing journalists Henry Hotze and Edwin De Leon to promote the Confederate cause in London and Paris, respectively. Hotze established a weekly journal, the Index, that was highly successful. After De Leon ran into difficulties, Hotze took over the French propaganda operation as well.

Whatever success these agents had in shaping opinion, however, Britain and France refused to move from their neutral policies. Yancey remained confident that a military victory and lack of cotton would bring about British support, and he was relieved when Lincoln emphasized that the Union had no intention to abolish slavery. All of the elements he believed necessary for tangible British support were in place by midsummer 1861. The Confederates scored a stunning military success on 21 July at Bull Run, Virginia, and distress was already apparent in the cotton manufacturing areas. When, however, the Confederate agents requested an unofficial meeting with Russell, he put them off and informed them that Britain would remain neutral. Both British public opinion and the cabinet remained divided, and whatever Lincoln's position on slavery, British abolitionists and Union sympathizers emphasized that the Confederacy was based on slavery and its expansion. Neither Prime Minister Lord Palmerston nor Foreign Minister Russell were willing to appear as champions of a slave nation or to contribute to its perpetuation and expansion.

Shortly after Russell's response, Davis and Hunter decided to take a more aggressive approach and establish formal diplomatic missions in Britain, France, Spain, and Belgium. The previous passive policy was clearly not working; Yancey submitted his resignation to Davis and prepared to return to Alabama. Davis ordered Mann to open a diplomatic mission in Belgium, and he sent Rost to Spain. More significantly, Davis selected James Murray Mason of Virginia to establish a mission in London and John Slidell of Louisiana, a highly experienced and able diplomat, to go to Paris.

Following Adams's assumption of his duties in London, Anglo-American relations proceeded smoothly until the end of the year. Adams deftly handled Seward's Dispatch No. 10, and Russell's decision to have no further meetings with the Confederates resolved the matter raised by the dispatch. For the most part, Adams attempted to counter the increasingly effective Confederate propaganda campaign and to gather information on the activities of Confederate agents. The only major diplomatic issue was the unsuccessful negotiation on the Declaration of Paris.

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