French Mediation Proposal in Civil War


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, December 6, 1862

Welcome to our archive of Harper's Weekly newspapers. This collection allows you to study source material formerly only available to professional historians and researchers. We hope you find this information useful.

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General Banks

General Banks

French Mediation Proposal

Habeas Corpus

Habeas Corpus Cartoon

Aquia Creek

Aquia Creek

Richmond Map

Richmond Map

General Banks Biography

General Banks Biography



Confederate Cartoon

Confederate Cartoon

The Passaic

The "Passaic"

Iron Clad Interior

Iron Clad Interior

Prince of Wales

The Prince of Wales


Fredericksburg, Virginia




[DECEMBER 6, 1862.



"Kiss me good-by, my dear!" he said;

"When I come back we will be wed."

Crying, she kissed him, "Good-by, Ned!"

And the soldier followed the drum,

The drum,

The echoing, echoing drum.

Rataplan! Rataplan! Rataplan!

Follow me, follow me, each true man; Living or dying, strike while you can!

And the soldiers followed the drum,

The drum,

The echoing, echoing drum.


Proudly and firmly marched off the men,

Who had a sweet-heart thought of her then; Tears were coming, but brave lips smiled when

The soldiers followed the drum,

The drum,

The echoing, echoing drum.


One, with a woman's curl next to his heart,

He felt her last smile pierce like a dart;

She thought "death in life" comes when we part

From soldiers following the drum,

The drum,

The echoing, echoing drum.





MONSIEUR DROUYN DE L'HUYS, the new French Minister of State, appears to have inaugurated his accession to power by a proposal addressed to the British and Russian Governments, to the effect that they should mediate in our war. We are not yet in possession of the precise terms of the proposal. But we gather from Earl Russell's reply that the French Government, anxious to avert further effusion of blood, and further sufferings by the working-classes in Europe, proposed to the British and Russian Governments that they should jointly tender their good offices as mediators to the Government at Washington, and simultaneously to the insurgents at Richmond, with a view to ascertain whether some adjustment of the pending strife could not be discovered. It does not appear that the French offer went beyond this, for Earl Russell in his reply observes that "a refusal from Washington at the present time would prevent any speedy renewal of the offer of the Government:" from which it may fairly be inferred that it was not proposed to follow up unsuccessful attempts to mediate by armed intervention.

This proposal Great Britain declined to entertain, as appears by a dispatch from Earl Russell dated November 13; for the reason that "there is no ground at the present moment to hope that the Federal Government would accept the proposal suggested." Russia would appear to have simultaneously declined to act upon the French suggestions, though the Czar seems to have promised to support any endeavors which may be made by England and France.

Upon these replies the Moniteur, the official organ of the French Government, remarks that they settle the question of mediation for the present.

We have thus, in any event, a further breathing spell, during which, if we are alive to the emergency, and true to ourselves, we may do enough toward the suppression of the rebellion to secure another and a final adjournment of the mediation scheme.

For our part we have never regarded the foreign intervention bugbear with much concern, nor do we now. Diplomatic offers to mediate will possess no more practical importance than the speeches of Mr. John Van Buren to our "wayward sisters." The only thing we have ever had to fear is actual armed intervention with armies and fleets; and that, at the present time, would be at least as perilous to the nations intervening as to ourselves. Our navy is rapidly assuming proportions, both in regard to the class and the number of the vessels composing it, which will enable us to cope with the combined navies of Europe. Before any combined European military and naval expedition could be got ready and sent across the Atlantic, there is reason to believe that we shall be in possession of every port where they could effect a landing with a view to ulterior operations. We are in a very different position now from what we were when the Trent affair occurred. And though European intervention would of course protract the war, and render our task more severe than it is, it would do at least as much injury to the powers which intervened as to us. If they bombarded Portland, we might bombard Liverpool. If they captured our ships, we should capture theirs. They might try to send the Warrior to "lie broadside to the streets of New York and Hoboken," and she might get there, or not, as the affair turned out. But we know that Farragut could do in the Thames what he did in the Mississippi, and steam up to London Bridge with a fleet of impregnable iron-clads. So of the French. They might do us a vast deal of mischief, no doubt. But if the war began, we fancy that a good many French ports would be demolished before it ended; the tubs

baptized La Gloire and La Normandie would have gone to their last reckoning under the 15-inch shot of our Monitors; and the brave little French army in Mexico would never see la belle France again. Would the game be worth the candle in either case? We think not, and therefore we have never believed in foreign armed intervention. Both England and France know too well what war costs to rush into it without a well-defined and substantial object.

It has been a great misfortune for this country that the Emperor of the French, who is a fair man and naturally well disposed toward the United States, should have been represented here ever since the war began by Monsieur Mercier—a man heartily hostile to us and to our institutions, and cordially friendly to the rebels and their institutions. So little discretion has this Frenchman possessed that he has never made the least secret of his sympathy with the rebels. He has poured into every ear to which he had access his confident predictions of the success of the rebellion, and his joy at the prospect. He has been the foremost of the rebel sympathizers at Washington in deriding our troops, vilifying our Government, sneering at our generals, and eulogizing our enemies. Not even the knaves who abuse us at so much a column in the London Times have been more malevolent and more basely unjust than this French embassador. Equally forgetful of the traditions of his own country and of the respect he owed to ours, as a foreign minister resident here, he has made himself prominent for two years as an apologist for slavery, a foe to freedom, and an ally of the worst enemies the French ever had. We have reason to know—what can be readily believed—that this man's dispatches to his Government have uniformly accorded with his conversation in society. If the Emperor has relied upon him for information about this country, he may honestly believe that all hopes of the restoration of the Union are ended; that the North is on the eve of exhaustion; that our armies will not fight; that our generals do not know how to lead them; that the South is stronger than ever; that theirs is the cause of justice and right, and ours the cause of wrong and oppression. Some of these representations may have been corrected by Mr. Dayton. But there must still have remained a sufficient number uncorrected to create a bias in the Emperor's mind. We do not believe that the Emperor will ever pursue any policy which may have the effect of introducing into the family of nations a state "based on the corner-stone of human slavery." But we might have enjoyed more active sympathy from our old ally, France, had she not been represented here, at this critical time, by a man equally devoid of political wisdom and moral convictions, and possessing neither the decency to refrain from making his embassy a head-quarters for rebel sympathizers, nor the self-respect to withdraw from a court where he is universally and intensely hated and despised.

For us, this mediation scheme should teach us one lesson, and one only—to hasten the work of putting down the rebellion. There is not an hour to be lost. Every day wasted by Burnside, Rosecrans, Grant, McClernand, Banks, Porter, Farragut, and Dupont increases the danger of foreign troubles. If the winter passes without very substantial gains by the Union arms, the suffering poor of Europe, the hostile aristocrats of England, and the rebel sympathizers in France will revive the mediation scheme in the spring, perhaps in a more menacing shape than it has yet assumed. The present is ours: let us use it. The future is in the hands of Fate.


THE Secretary of War has ordered the liberation of all parties at present confined in prison on charges of discouraging enlistments and interfering with the draft. The order would have carried more weight if Mr. Stanton had not commenced his career by denouncing arbitrary arrests, and then proceeded to arrest ten persons for every one arrested by his predecessor. Such as it is, however, it meets a very decided public wish. Nothing has been more clearly proved in the course of the recent canvas and election than the deep-seated aversion of the people of the North to the system of arbitrary arrests inaugurated some eighteen months ago. When the war broke out, and black-hearted traitors at the North menaced us with divisions at home, and transmitted intelligence, arms, supplies, and every kind of aid and comfort to rebels in arms, loyal people were so overwhelmed by the dread of an utter destruction of our nationality that they thought of nothing but the danger, and were ready to acquiesce in any measures, however arbitrary or illegal, which the imminence of the crisis might seem to require. But experience has proved in this, as in all other cases, that it is unsafe to trust any man or set of men with the power to override the law. Of the arrests which have been made by order of the Government within the past eighteen months a few were probably wise and useful; but the great bulk were foolish and injurious. Most of them were well and loyally meant, no doubt; but many were unjustifiable, and very few of them really did good to the cause which they were intended

to serve. Obscure editors and noisy talkers have been locked up, and the wrongs they have endured have given an influence to their disloyalty which it could never have otherwise acquired. Spurious patriots have been enabled to enlist popular chivalry against the Government by feigned fear of Fort Lafayette. In some cases ignorance on the part of subordinate officers of Government, in others malice have inflicted unpardonable wrongs on innocent men. On the whole, Mr. Lincoln can hardly fail to realize that he would have been stronger, and the rebellion would have been no better off, if no one had ever been sent to Fort Lafayette but prisoners of war.

Difficulties, hardly defined as yet, are shadowed in the future in connection with this matter of arbitrary arrests. It is not easy to perceive what may be the upshot of Mrs. Brinsmade's case, of which the enemies of the Government are making good use. But it is well understood that Mr. Seymour, on assuming office as Governor of New York, will hasten to join issue with the Administration on this subject, and an unpleasant collision of authority may ensue. Ex-Secretary Cameron has been once arrested, and held for trial on charges of illegal imprisonment brought against him by a person whom he had sent to Fort Lafayette when Secretary of War; more recently, on his return from Russia, he passed through this city with such circumstances of mystery that it is reported he was fearful of further molestation of a like character. In circles likely to be tolerably well informed, it is openly boasted that Mr. Stanton dare not come to New York, and Mr. Seward himself has been similarly threatened.

We know not how much there may be in these innuendoes and threats, nor what may be precisely the legal responsibility of the members of the Cabinet for acts committed by them under orders of the President. But there is enough in the present aspect of the matter to create grave uneasiness in the minds of those who realize how much comfort dissensions of ours would impart to the enemy, and how much weakness they would involve for ourselves. What is past can not now be mended, however, and we must make the best of it. But it may be hoped that we have seen the last of the exhibitions of fatal zeal which were developed in the arbitrary arrests of the past eighteen months.


THAT nothing may be wanting to complete the alienation of European sympathy from the cause of civil order as maintained by this Government, the London Times has established a Richmond correspondence, and has recently printed the first of a series of letters designed to show the devotion and gallantry of the rebels, the baseness and cowardice of the loyal citizens of this country, and the utter futility and hopelessness of the war. Except for their gun-boats, says the correspondent, the Yankees would long since have been "whipped out of their boots" by a population infinitely inferior in numbers, but overpowering in earnestness of purpose and unity of action. The army of the rebels, he writes, is made up of the blue blood of the Southern aristocracy, that of the North is but a crowd of hired foreigners, who were hurled by the strong hand of General Lee like a flock of "huddled sheep" upon Washington. Meanwhile perfect security, perfect repose, perfect confidence reign in Richmond and throughout the South, while desolation and rapine follow the movements of the Northern barbarians, who regret their dead only because of the longer delay in restoring the vanished Union.

The letter is written with specious skill, and it is an illustration of the greater sagacity with which European sentiment has been manipulated by the rebels. For many years the foreign representatives of this country had been in political sympathy with the South. They were either slave-holders themselves or the apologists of slavery, or they sealed their mouths. When the rebellion declared itself many of these men heartily hoped for its success. John O'Sullivan, late minister to Portugal, has published a work in London fully justifying the rebellion. James Williams, late Minister to Turkey, a man who glories in the fact that he was always a disunionist, and that he always voted the ticket that promised most for the cause of disunion, and who, now that the actual struggle has come, with true "chivalric" instinct gathers his goods and leaves the country forever, has also shot a Parthian arrow, entitled "The South Vindicated." Mr. Stiles, former Minister to Austria, is a Colonel or General in the rebel army. Mr. Ward, Minister to China, is an open rebel. Mr. Faulkner, late Minister to France, is a Virginian ringleader of rebellion. These men and many others had, of course, prepared the European mind for an utterly perverted and false view of the situation.

But besides this, the rebels have taken care to operate directly upon that mind since the rebellion took the field. They have subsidized the foreign press. They have filled Europe with public and private emissaries. In the clubs, in the salons, they have placed accomplished agents, who have faithfully done their work; so that Mr. Mill is entirely correct in saying, in the last number of the Westminster Review, in an article upon the masterly work of Professor Cairnes, that one chief reason of the English hatred of the American cause is to be found in the total ignorance of the facts of the case.

What have we done to counteract this enormous

influence? Mr. Motley, who resided in England when the war began, published his admirable pamphlet, and in the high society to which he had access, most manfully told the truth and maintained the cause of his country and justice. But even he could not delay for a day the issue of the British proclamation of equal belligerence. In Paris the American salons were in full sympathy with the rebellion, and the position of Mr. Slidell has unquestionably entirely overborne in influence that of Mr. Dayton. Mr. Marsh in Turin has been most faithful, intrepid, and able; but he was for a long time embarrassed by a secretary who was entirely false to the country, while Cavour, the great Italian minister, who saw the whole scope of the struggle, died just as it commenced.

One of the eminent hopes of the rebellion was European sympathy. It was as much our duty to combat it as to fight in the field. Whenever and however the enemy appeared and worked, it was our duty to precede and overpower him. We should have established the ablest and most incessant correspondence from America. We should have subsidized the press. We should have filled Europe with able and loyal men, fitted for the special task of affecting opinion. In a word, we should have done, but more amply, exactly what the rebels have done.

Of course, the reason of our remissness is the old reason. We did not believe that there was to be a great war. We did not anticipate the hostility of foreign sentiment. We did not understand the desperate gravity and earnestness of our condition. A dissolution of the Union seemed to us hardly less than a renunciation of religion. It might be threatened, but it was impossible. The attempt, even if made, must be hopeless. Why guard against a shadowy danger, and by the very gravity of our preparation announce our conviction of serious peril? The Secretary of State wrote masterly dispatches to our ministers, which they read to foreign Governments. But they were necessarily powerless to affect public opinion, for they were not published until that opinion was already settling in the wrong direction.

Henceforth our duty is simple enough. Vigor and success in the field; a stern, radical policy in the whole management of the war: these, and these only, will subdue the rebellion and frustrate the consequences of European hostility.


THE rebels claim, not without some show of reason, that the fact that they dare to maintain the strictest military discipline in their army is an evidence of their superior earnestness. They argue that no people accustomed to the habits of liberty would submit to the necessary restraints and hardships of discipline except from the most profound and vital conviction of the importance of their cause. Thus rebel deserters have been shot. Rebel stragglers from the ranks are disgraced and publicly branded. The rebels are willing, in making war, to make it according to the rules of war.

The want of discipline with us is felt not only in the army, but in public sentiment. The national mind comes very slowly to the perception that we must beat or be beaten. The stupid and criminal twaddle about "Wayward sisters" still confuses many minds, Vance was elected "Union" Governor of North Carolina against a "Secession" candidate, at least such a meaning was ascribed to his nomination. But when Governor Stanly sends some proposition of negotiation, Governor Vance replies that "the last drop shall flow," etc. If Governor Stauly did actually make any overtures toward negotiation with rebels in arms, it is to be earnestly desired that he may be recalled.

It is essential to our speedy success that we should be thoroughly persuaded of the cardinal truth that the way of peace is first subjugation and then reconstruction. There is no use in continually besotting our minds with phrases. The great mass of the rebels have of late years always hated the people they called "Yankees." The experience of every observing man is conclusive upon this point. They have not indeed insulted every individual Northerner. But they have despised and somewhat feared the mass of Northerners as peddlers and tinkers; and they have cordially hated the political principle and the social spirit of Northern civilization. This feeling, which may be denied, but which will be acknowledged by the multitude of thoughtful observers in the country, has been exasperated to the last degree by the war. And it is clear that, unless there be treachery upon our part, there will be no possibility of the restoration of any relations whatever with the rebels except after they are subdued by force of arms—that is to say, until they are coerced, conquered, subjugated.

If we are not willing to see that and to say it, then we are not willing to do our work. Our great necessity is the discipline of the national mind by and to that conviction. Let us once thoroughly comprehend that we do not deal strictly with deserters because we do not fully appreciate the deadly earnestness of the war, and either the necessary vigor will at once appear or we shall patiently submit to disgrace and ruin.


MY DEAR NEIGHBOR,—You and I were in the same corridor at the hotel last night, and it is a very narrow corridor and very quiet. You came to bed just after twelve. You saw by the boots at the doors of the neighboring rooms, and by the dark windows over them, that the inmates had gone to sleep. Why did you bang your door until the house shook? Why did you slam your boots upon the floor as if you were trying to drive a hole through it? Why not learn how to shut a door? Why not place your boots quietly? Why should you wake up those to whom sleep may be peculiarly necessary by a perfectly unnecessary noise? Have you ever asked yourself how an ill-bred man would behave if he were going to bed at (Next Page)




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