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Title: Earl Russell and the Slave Power

Creator: England) Union and Emancipation Society (Manchester

Release date: July 3, 2021 [eBook #65753]

Language: English

Credits: hekula03, Martin Pettit and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This file was produced from images generously made available by the Library of Congress)

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The Mayor of Manchester.
Thomas Bazley, Esq., M.P.
E. A. Leathem, Esq., M.P.
P. A. Taylor, Esq., M.P.
James Kershaw, Esq., M.P.
W. Coningham, Esq., M.P.
Charles Sturge, Esq., Mayor of Birmingham.
G. L. Ashworth, Esq., Mayor of Rochdale.
Lieut.-General T. Perronet Thompson.

Professor J. E. Cairnes, A.M., Dublin.   |   R. Gladstone, Esq., Liverpool.
Professor Jno. Nichol, Glasgow.   |   John Patterson, Esq., Liverpool.
Professor Goldwin Smith, Oxford.   |   J. R. Jeffery, Esq., Liverpool.
Professor F. W. Newman, London.   |   C. E. Rawlins, jun. Esq., Liverpool.
Professor Beesly, London.   |   Charles Robertson, Esq., Liverpool.
Hon. and Rev. Baptist W. Noel, London.   |   Robert Trimble, Esq., Liverpool.
Rev. Thos. Guthrie, D.D., Edinburgh.   |   Charles Wilson, Esq., Liverpool.
Rev. Newman Hall, L.L.B., London.   |   Wm. Shaen, Esq. London.
Rev. James W. Massie, D.D., L.L.D.,   |   Duncan M’Laren, Esq., Edinburgh.
        London.   |   Handel Cossham, Esq., Bristol.
John Stuart Mill, Esq., London.   |   S. C. Kell, Esq., Bradford.
Thomas Hughes, Esq., Barrister-at-law.   |   Richard C. Rawlins, Esq., Ruabon.
F. G. Haviland, Esq., Cambridge.   |   J. S. Barratt, Esq., Southport.
W. E. Adams, Esq., London.   |   Thomas C. Ryley, Esq., Wigan.
George Wilson, Esq., Manchester.   |   R. S. Ashton, Esq., Darwen.
Dr. John Watts, Manchester.   |   Eccles Shorrock, Esq., Darwen.
Mr. Edward Hooson, Manchester.   |   John Crosfield, Esq., Warrington.
Alderman Robert Kell, Bradford.   |   Jacob Bright, Esq., Rochdale.
Alderman Henry Brown, Bradford.   |   John Petrie, Esq., Rochdale.
Alderman William Harvey, J.P., Salford.   |   Oliver Ormerod, Esq., Rochdale.
Alderman Thomas Livsey, Rochdale.   |   J. C. Dyer, Esq., Burnage.
Councillor Murray, Manchester.   |   George Crosfield, Esq., Lymm.
Councillor T. Warburton, Manchester.   |   F. Pennington, Esq., Alderley.
Councillor Geo. Booth, Manchester.   |   J. B. Foster, Esq., Manchester.
Councillor Clegg, Manchester.   |   Jas. Galloway, Esq., Manchester.
Councillor Williams, Salford.   |   Charles Cheetham, Esq., Heywood.
Councillor Butterworth, Manchester.   |   J. Cowan, jun., Esq., Newcastle-on-Tyne.
Councillor Ogden, Manchester.   |   Rev. Samuel Davidson, L.L.D., London.
Councillor Ryder, Manchester.   |   Rev. Francis Bishop, Chesterfield.
Max Kyllman, Esq., Manchester.   |   Rev. J. Parker, D.D., Manchester.
S. P. Robinson, Esq., Manchester.   |   Rev. J. Robberds, B.A., Liverpool.
H. M. Steinthal, Esq., Manchester.   |   Rev. M. Miller, Darlington.
Francis Taylor, Esq., Manchester.   |   Rev. T. G. Lee, Salford.
Thomas Thomasson, Esq., Bolton.   |   S. Pope, Esq., Barrister-at-law.
Joseph Leese, Esq., Bowdon.   |   E. Jones, Esq., Barrister-at-law.


SAMUEL WATTS, Jun., Esq., Manchester.



Authorized Agent of the Society.



Offices, 51, Piccadilly, Manchester.

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On the 20th December, 1860, South Carolina signed her address to the other Slave States, declaring her own secession from the Union on the ground that slavery must inevitably be overthrown if Abraham Lincoln’s party remained in power. After arguing on the certainty of that result, if the South submitted to him, she invites all the Slave States to join her in forming “a great Slave-holding Confederacy, larger than all Europe.” The result was, within twenty-two days, the seizure of thirteen fortresses, with great navy-yards and arsenals. To this they were emboldened by the fact that the garrisons had been purposely withdrawn by the treason of President Buchanan’s ministers, while the Northern forts and arsenals had been emptied of their arms and ammunition, expressly in order to afford a prize to the South. All the State authorities who ordered the attack, were under oath of allegiance to the Union.

Unless one could suppose the English ambassador at Washington guilty of unparalleled negligence, or to have no duties, he must have informed Earl Russell of these facts, which were notorious to us by the common newspapers.

No great power can afford to patronize official treasons in foreign governments. If the English government has no interest in republicanism, if it has become indifferent to freedom and slavery, it has interest in fidelity to official oaths. Earl Russell had a right, by International Law, without offending its minutest punctilio, to offer to Mr. Lincoln, on the day of his assuming the Presidential chair, any fifty ships of the British navy which he chose to pick, with all their accoutrements and stores, and any amount of Armstrong guns and Enfield rifles which he desired, to be paid for within twelve months, and delivered to the President in whatever parts he directed.[Pg 4] It is more than possible, that this offer would have subdued the rebellion and have saved the bloodshed, before war became a reality. If not, it would at least have hindered the revolt of Virginia and seizure of Norfolk Harbour. It would have given to the North six valuable months, which they lost in making arms. It would have won for us for another century the warm attachment of the Free North, which for all defensive purposes we should have virtually annexed to the English empire. The immense discouragement to the South would have reinforced the Unionists of the Slave-States. The whole mountain population from Western Virginia to East Tennessee, and thence westward towards the Mississippi, might have resisted Jefferson Davis long enough for the North and the loyal Kentuckians to march into Eastern Tennessee before the summer of 1861. In that case the war could not have outlasted the year, nor would England have ever been gravely distressed for cotton.

But considering, on the one hand, the peculiar and unparalleled interest in a foreign market, which England has had in American cotton; on the other, the inhuman end avowed and the treasonable means employed, by the slave oligarchy in their revolt; no foreign power could or would have blamed England, if we had gone further into the war on the side of the North.

After we had received the great official speech of March 21st, 1861, made by the Confederate Vice-President, Mr. Stephens, in which he avows slavery to be the end of the new Confederacy, the sacred cornerstone of the new edifice; let us suppose that (with the consent of Parliament) the English government had made direct alliance with the government at Washington, to enter the war as secondary, on the following terms:—“If you cannot terminate it in three months, we will aid you with 50,000 infantry, and with a fleet of 80 ships; provided only, that you engage to abolish slavery for ever in all the rebel territories.” If anything can be certain in such calculations, it is certain that, unless the fact of this alliance forced Jefferson Davis to flee for his life, (and then there would have been no war,) the war would have been finished before Michaelmas, 1861, with freedom to the slaves, and very small bloodshed. For, no Liverpool merchants would have armed the South, no capitalist would have advanced 100 dollars to it; and without arms from England, it would long ago have been subdued.

As to the international question; Lords Russell and Palmerston,—who, (to the disgust of France,) took leave in 1840 to expel Ismael[Pg 5] Pasha from Syria at the invitation of the Sultan,—could have no difficulty on this head. (Russell was in 1840 the Premier, and Palmerston Foreign Secretary.) Nor did these same ministers even remonstrate, when the Emperor Nicolas lent 200,000 men to Austria in 1849, in order to crush the freedom of Hungary, after Hungary had won her victory over Austria. Lord Palmerston then volunteered to say in Parliament, that Hungary was a nation fighting for its rights. Those were actually treaty-rights. Hungary had a national history as old as England. It was a cause of freedom, of free religion, and of hereditary law. The mass of the nobility and the church were as warm in the cause as the meanest gipsy, peasant, and Jew. England had actually mediated in 1710 the peace between Hungary and Austria, as between independent belligerents; which peace Austria broke in 1848 by treachery and massacre. Yet Lord John Russell refused to pronounce Hungary “belligerent,” and thereby hindered the Sultan from acknowledging her as such; which stopped Hungary from getting arms, and caused her overthrow. When he went so far in 1848 in the interest of Austria, who had called in Russian aid against the Hungarian nation, insurgent in a just cause; the same Russell cannot have imagined any international objection to England aiding the Government of Washington against a strictly traitorous conspiracy, organized in the worst of causes, inhuman and detestable.

Nevertheless, (what pre-eminently condemns English policy,) the idea of England aiding the North in this war was never even mooted as among things possible or imaginable. Contingent English interference was among all public men, assumed to mean, interference on the side of the South! The certainty, that we must at last help them, was urged among the Southern conspirators as a grand argument for secession; and if the English ministry had intended to lure them on, to the utmost possible bloodshed of North and South, it could not have conducted itself more skilfully.

The English campaign opened, by Earl Russell proclaiming the South “belligerent” when she had not a ship on the seas, and excluding the war-ships of the North from our harbours: at the same time the London press gave tongue with very few exceptions in favour of Disunion as the great desideratum of America, and its inevitable destiny. The two daily papers which peculiarly have been regarded as under Lord Palmerston’s inspiration, (the Morning Post and the Times,) were not only no exception, but might seem to have been conducted by Southern agents; whose cue[Pg 6] it was, to vilify the North by slander and disparagement cunningly tempered to English prejudices and English credulity. The tone then assumed has changed little to this day; and at a very early time gave immense encouragement to the South, with proportionate exasperation to the North, whose enemies and dangers it multiplied.

About the same time, Mr. Massey, a nominee of the Government, spoke at Salford a speech intensely hostile to the North, utterly ignoring the treason of the South and its execrable objects, and aiming to stir up the working men to desire hostilities against the North. It is not possible to blame Earl Russell primarily, but we must blame the Cabinet collectively and him as the second personage in it, for this speech. For inevitably the public, both here and across the Atlantic, understood it to be a ministerial effort to excite a war spirit against the North; and though it utterly failed with the working men, it must be counted among the causes which have made the ministerial press so pertinaciously hostile to the cause of freedom.

In 1856 at the Congress of Paris the allies who were making peace proposed in the cause of humanity to forbid Privateering. The powers there present renounced it in their own name, and undertook to endeavour to obtain a renunciation of it from all other maritime powers. They were successful with the smaller states; but not so with the great American Union. Mr. Marcy, in the name of the President, said that as they had a vast mercantile navy and no great war fleet, they could not renounce the right of defending their merchants by private war vessels, unless England would join in assuring safety to merchant vessels on the high seas in spite of war; in that case, but only in that case could he adopt the clause of the Congress. Earl Russell, who was already in his present post, accepted this reply as a refusal. But no sooner was Mr. Lincoln in power, than Mr. Seward sent to Earl Russell an unconditional acceptance of this clause for the extinction of privateering; not that Mr. Seward agreed with the English Government in thinking privateering inhuman, but because it would expose the unarmed Northern merchantmen to the attack of stray ships, while the South was unable to build a fleet that should meet the Northern ships of war. To the exceeding surprise of the American Ambassador, Earl Russell replied that the right of privateering must be reserved for the South, but Mr. Lincoln was free to renounce it for the North. He assigned as his final and decisive reason, that, as he had already declared the South “belligerent,” he could not help reserving its right of [Pg 7]privateering. He builds wrong upon wrong. What had been an inhuman practice, while it was believed to be the strength of the Union, is suddenly patronized as a right of rebels, (who are not yet recognised as a nation,) as soon as it becomes a cruel danger to the innocent merchants of the Union, with whom we are in beneficial commerce! Will this lessen the opinion of the South, that we are a set of hypocritical Pharisees?

In consequence, when an English built privateer, which has been sold to Jefferson Davis for Southern paper, takes refuge from a Northern war ship in any harbour, in any part of the world, belonging to England,—the Northerner is warned off by our authorities. On one occasion, Lord Palmerston sent two ships of war expressly to watch the Federal vessel Tuscarora off Southampton; and see to it, that when the privateer Nashville escaped, the Tuscarora did not pursue without giving her twelve hours’ start. What more could we do, if we held it a right of these privateers to plunder and burn at sea (as they do, against all international precedent) the merchantmen of the Northerners, without even the adjudication of a prize court? Worst of all, the English port of Nassau is a permanent rendezvous for steamers watching to break the blockade. All this is, according to Earl Russell himself, merely a logical deduction from his having (most gratuitously) declared the South belligerent. And then it is pretended by our press, that “belligerence” is a “mere matter of fact,” which we cannot help acknowledging! These steamers from Nassau, by the arms and ammunition they have brought to the South, have alone sustained for eight months past the “fratricidal war” about which our Southern sympathisers whimper. English policy alone has lent vitality to the war.

In the summer of 1861 Earl Russell publicly gave utterance to his celebrated sentence, that the North is fighting for empire, the South for independence. England now understands what the “independence” means. Mr. Forster, M.P. interpreted it well,—freedom of robbery, rape, murder, and lynch-law. The “empire” for which the Union fights, is simply its own country, vital to its national existence, not a distinct adjunct, such as to England is Canada, against which Earl Russell made war “for empire” in 1838. His words had the effect of proclaiming, that in his opinion the cause of the South was a righteous one; and the inference was, that he would be glad to aid it, whenever he could.

In the same summer a large reinforcement was sent to Canada;[Pg 8] and the Times at once explained, that this was intended to strengthen the province against the North in certain contingencies. It was inevitable for South and North alike to infer, that the English ministry was on the look-out for an opportunity of striking a blow in favour of the South, and therefore wished first to make Canada safe. For none but a madman could imagine that President Lincoln in that crisis would volunteer to attack England. Thus the South was still further lured on to believe that we should help her at last.

The exasperation of the North by all these events rose higher and higher, so that, when Captain Wilkes boarded the English Steamer Trent and carried off two eminent traitors, a general jubilee arose; especially as America remembered (what most of us have forgotten) that England far six years together had harassed the Union by boarding its ships to look for Englishmen,—(which caused the War of 1812,)—had solemnly refused to renounce the “right” when she made peace, and even in 1856 did not renounce it. But President Lincoln was not so carried away. He and Mr. Seward knew that Captain Wilkes’s deed was indefensible on American principles, however justifiable by English practice. From Mr. Seward’s dispatch of Nov. 30th, 1861, we learn that the American ambassador had already warned Lord Palmerston that the two nations were drifting into war, and had obtained from him far more satisfactory assurances than before. In a very friendly spirit it states, that they have just heard of Captain Wilkes’s exploit and that he had acted without instructions. Mr. Seward guarantees that his Government will receive with the best dispositions any thing that the British Government has to say.—Of course Mr. Seward desired to elicit from Earl Russell a condemnation of the practices which had so aggrieved America in 1812. Mr. Adams read this letter to Earl Russell. Meanwhile the warlike excitement in England had become intense. Day and night without cessation preparation for war went on in the docks. Merchant shipowners could get no freights. American funds fell low in the market and great losses wore sustained by sellers. Suddenly the news transpired, that a friendly dispatch from America had been received, and for one day the funds were favourably affected by it. Next day the Morning Post officially denied that there had been any such dispatch. The agitation re-commenced; the Morning Star asserted and re-asserted that there had been such a dispatch; nevertheless, it was three weeks before Earl Russell was pleased to produce tranquillity by at last publishing it. Why was this? Was it[Pg 9] thought politic to keep up the public exasperation,—on the hypothesis of the Times, that the “mob” in America would overrule the President and force a war? or was some one in England trying to exasperate that “mob” and the mob of the English gentry too, in hope that the exasperation must, somehow or other, at last bring us into a war?

When the excitement was at its worst, a deputation from the Peace Society waited on Earl Russell, recited the clause of the Congress of Paris, which declared, that in any future disagreements, the Great Powers will use arbitration before resorting to war. The Earl is said to have replied, that in the present case arbitration was impossible, because our honour was here concerned! We now know what letter he wrote in demand of redress; a letter as from one wholly unaware that England had boarded scores of American ships and violently taken many hundreds of men out of them, men alleged by us and denied by them to be English subjects. His words were smooth as a razor, and had as their comment, the ships of war on their way to Canada, and our furiously continued preparations. An American has thus moralized on these events. “The law you are applying to the case of the Trent is as like lynch-law as the act of a nation can possibly be. That you do not see it thus yourselves, does but show your excitement. The British government, a party in the cause, takes opinion of its own counsel on a case submitted by itself, and is proceeding to enforce their view of its own rights vi et armis, and without hearing the defendant.” It is only to weaker powers, like Burma, China, Athens, Brazil, that our Government thus acts. While the Union was unbroken, Earl Russell tamely bore the outrages on our coloured sailors from South Carolina and the Gulf.

No sooner had Mr. Seward frankly yielded every thing in the matter of the Trent, than Earl Russell proceeded as if to pick a new quarrel about the ships laden with stores sunk in Charleston harbour. Never was any thing more impertinent. The river of Savannah is to this day encumbered by a ship, which the English Government sunk there for its own military purposes in the first war. President Lincoln had as much right to block up the harbour of Charleston, as the Queen would have to block up the Avon, if Bristol were to revolt. To the commerce of the world he had already opened Port Royal, a neighbouring and far better harbour, which was always previously closed.

Before long followed a decisive event, which, though it caused a burst of impotent rage from Lord Palmerston against stout[Pg 10] General Butler, has wonderfully improved the conduct, if not the temper, of the English Government The Northern fleet captured New Orleans! It is easy to see, that our ministers thoroughly appreciated the weight of the fact. Before, several of them stimulated the movement against the North; since then, their general policy has been far better than the London clubs have wished. Would that one could say more!

But in the course of last summer it was attested, that the Confederates had received large numbers of new Enfield rifles with the Queen’s symbol unobliterated. These must have been sold or given by connivance of the Queen’s servants; and subordinates in England never take such liberties, unless they fully believe that it will be acceptable to their superiors. The Alabama was manned by the Queen’s artillerymen, who had been trained for the Queen’s own service. After an affair so exasperating to the American merchants, contrition rather than self-laudation would be the tone suited to ministers who sincerely desire to avert war. In fact, the Alabama was suffered to escape, when a quarter of the energy which was used against Hale’s rockets or against the arms at Galatz would have stopped her. Are the Americans to be permitted to conclude, that connivance is now to do the work, for which open force is no longer thought prudent?

Earl Russell acknowledged that the Alabama is an unlawful ship; but excused himself to the American ambassador, on the ground that the law did not give him power to stop it; as if this could be any satisfaction to the foreigner! When he acknowledged the affair to be illegal, was it not his duty to ask or to take power to stop it, or else, to rescind the proclamation about “belligerence?” If the king of Burma had made such a reply, an English squadron would have been sent to do the work, to which the king avowed himself unequal.—And the Alabama which fraudulently carries the English flag,—which by burning one ship lures another to destruction, and hereby teaches sailors to leave others to perish unaided,—is still systematically sheltered in our harbours! What is this, but infamous?

The South and our Southern sympathisers are so delighted with the doings of the Alabama and with Earl Russell’s punctiliousness, that a fleet of 40 or 50 ships of war is said to be far advanced in English ports, and a Southern loan of three million sterling has been contracted in London to pay for them. Earl Russell gave lately a most[Pg 11] cold reply to a remonstrance against them. Let Englishmen meditate what will follow, if these ships also get out.

Since the above was written, a telegram from New York gives words of the New York Times as follows: “It is certain, that war will come, sooner or later, unless these wrongs are stopped by England.” “Before many years, some bold party-leader will utter the watchword, Indemnity from England, or War.” The conduct of our Ministers might seem Satanically guided to ensure that the enemies of England shall get the upper-hand in the next American elections, to the horrible calamity of both nations and of the civilized world.

Once more ministers have spoken in each house. Earl Russell in reply to Lord Stratheden, has declared that he would not like to see England interfere on the side which is not that of freedom; yet adds, that circumstances at any moment may arise which would justify Her Majesty’s Government in departing from their neutral position. Are we to rejoice that the Earl has at length discovered that the South is not fighting for freedom? or to feel disgust, that no one understands “departure from neutrality” to mean (by any possibility) aid to the cause of Right and Freedom? While many were meditating how much comfort could be extracted from Earl Russell’s words, the debate in the Commons on Mr. Forster’s motion against pirate-ships, has elicited from the Solicitor-General and from the Prime Minister speeches which glorify their own good conduct, attack Mr. Lincoln’s Government for alleged misconduct of the Slave-Power in past Presidencies, and indicate a resolution to persist in giving to the pirate-ships all legal advantage.

Palmerston and Russell may be in their graves before retribution comes on us. Do Englishmen mean tamely to accept from them a legacy of curses? America is scourged for the sin of allowing the slaveowners to work their wicked will in the last 50 years. If the blood of Canada, and Afghanistan, and China, and Scinde, and Burma, and Oude, and Persia, guiltily shed by Britain, has not yet come down upon us in curse; all their blood may be exacted in one payment of that generation which connives at burning American ships for the benefit of the Slave Power. How much longer shall we be able without shame to call ourselves Englishmen?

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