Foreign Intervention


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, February 15, 1862

We have been collecting Harper's Weekly Civil War Newspapers for over 20 years. We are pleased to make these historical documents available online for your research and study. These old newspaper provide perspective on the War that is simply not available anywhere else.

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Civil War Ships

Civil War Ships

Foreign Intervention

Trent Affair

British Respond to Trent Affair


The Merrimac

Map Hatteras Inlet

Hatteras Inlet Map

"Nashville" and "Tuscarora"

Slave Torture

Slave Torture

Hatteras Inlet

Hatteras Inlet

British Atrocities

British Atrocities in India

British Atrocities

British Atrocities

Disaster of the Burnside Expedition

Disaster of the Burnside Expedition

William Russell Cartoon

William Russell Carton



Shipwreck of the "City of New York"









[FEBRUARY 15, 1862.




AT length we hear of firing at or near Newbern and Roanoke Island, which indicates that the Burnside expedition, having worked its way through the shallows of Hatteras Inlet, has divided its force, and struck out boldly to the north and south simultaneously. Before these lines reach the public eye full details of the operation will probably have arrived.

We have reason to believe that the main object of Burnside's expedition was to cut off railway communication between Virginia and the Gulf States by occupying Weldon, while General Thomas seized the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad in the neighborhood of Greenville.

If this theory be sound, the attack on Roanoke Island is a false one, and the movement upon Fort Macon and Newbern the real aim of the expedition. It is possible that General Burnside may at present proceed no further than these two points, securing them as a base for future operations into the interior. Many military strategists deem it unlikely that he will advance so far as Weldon into an enemy's country with only 12,000 men. But reinforcements are at hand, and if we hear of him at Fort Macon and Newbern next week, it will be easy to swell his force to 25,000 men in a week.


QUITE a hubbub was created last week by a few articles in obscure London journals suggesting an armed intervention of the great Powers of Europe in our quarrel. The papers in question are not known, even by name, to the bulk of our readers, and their utterances are entitled to no more notice than would be paid here to the disquisitions of any of our fourth or fifth rate political sheets. Yet our people are so absurdly sensitive to every thing that is said of them abroad, and foreign papers are somehow regarded as so much more reliable than journals at home, that the idle nonsense of the London Observer and the Manchester Guardian disturbed men's digestion, and caused a general decline in the stock market.

It is hard to see what either England or France would gain by intervening in our quarrel. What they want is cotton in the first place, and a market for cotton and silk goods in the second: in other words, they want to see their old commercial relations with this country restored. No one surely supposes that they can achieve this by becoming parties to the war. They can not bombard us into buying their manufactures, nor can they expect to import cotton from the Southern States in the teeth of our privateers and our armies. The war has already deprived them of one half their customers in this country ; intervention would strip them of the other half. Their true policy is to hasten a peace; and as soon as our armies begin to "earn their living," as Secretary Stanton says, they will perceive that this can best be done by ceasing to afford shelter to Southern privateers and to lionize rebels. No other kind of intervention would be either safe or politic, or reconcilable with the interests of their commerce.

International usage is very clear in regard to the intervention of one power in the domestic quarrels of another. Seventy-five years ago such interventions were common, and England, the great bully of the world, was excessively prone to them. She spent over $5,000,000,000 in an intervention against Napoleon the First. France, again, in 1823, intervened in Spain, and the fall of the Bourbon dynasty was partly due to the odium the measure reflected on the French Government. In 1827, France, England, and Russia intervened in Greece, and secured its independence. The consequence of this intervention was the Crimean war. In fact, there has not been an intervention of any kind for a century which has not been productive of injury to the nation intervening. This principle is so well understood in Europe that non-intervention has long been a cardinal principle of European international polity. Some of the British papers draw fancied analogies between the affair of Greece and Turkey and the rebellion of the Southern States. If the analogy existed it would afford the best possible reason for letting us alone, for every European statesman is well aware that Navarino was a gigantic political blunder. But the cases are, in fact, widely dissimilar. Greece had been struggling for freedom against a brutal, God-forsaken, Moslem despotism for six long years, and for many months before the battle of Navarino the Turkish general, Ibrahim Pacha, had been causing the blood of all Christians to curdle in their veins by cropping the ears of every male Greek upon whom he could lay his hands, and selling the young girls into Turkish harems—dealing with his enemy, in fact, much as the officers of the British army dealt with their enemy in the Indian rebellion of 1857. Even our English critics will admit that no such horrors have taken place here.

A favorite falsehood of the British newspaper writers is to assert that France is urging England to break the blockade. Not a line or a word in support of this theory is to be found in any French paper ; and there is, in fact, no reasonable ground for supposing that the sagacious sovereign of France is really pursuing so unwise a course. The silk manufacturers of Lyons are distressed, it is true, by the falling off in the demand for French silks at the North. But it is hardly the right way to remedy this mischance to go to war with us about it. In illustration of the real sentiment of France, we beg to refer to the following article from a late number of the Paris Charivari—a paper which, though professedly humorous, always contains a serious political article in every number, and which is probably the most popular and astute journal in Paris :

[From the Paris Charivari, January 11.]

The Anglo-American quarrel has been terminated by the surrender of Mason and Slidell; peace is secured, and the British aristocracy, which was bent on war for its own purposes, is going to be somewhat embarrassed by this unexpected turn of fortune's wheel. The American democracy has won a substantial victory. It has proved that politics are not, as the vulgar imagine, a sacred and occult science, which none but the descendants of a long line of nobles can comprehend; but that men in plain coats, without orders or decorations, and in the habit of going down to their offices in an omnibus, can often give lessons, in this respect, to titled and high-born dignitaries.

The British Government eagerly seized upon the pretext of the Trent affair to go to war. This pretext has now been removed. It is said that another will be discovered, but this will not prove as easy as is supposed. The war party in England showed its hand too soon, and too plainly. Every body now perceives that England wanted war for the sake of her own interests. Public opinion in Europe will be unanimous against her if she tries, by some new trick or other, to reopen the quarrel. An Anglo-American war is impossible for some time to come. The Americans, by acknowledging their error, and taking reason for their guide instead of passion, have secured this result and proved themselves a strong people.

Thus freed from apprehensions of foreign interference, the Northern States can pursue undisturbedly their war with the South. The Trent affair has, in fact, placed them in a better position in regard to the war than they occupied previously, for it has led Congress to adopt a more decided course in regard to the slavery question. This matter of slavery is now directly in issue between the North and the South, and the Governments of Europe are forced to face directly a principle which they have for many years emphatically recognized and proclaimed. Under these circumstances none of them can recognize the slave confederation, and the Government of England is bound hand and foot. Such is the situation to-day !

Let there be no more talk about foreign intervention, and no more concern about foreign opinion. If we attend to our own business and perform the work we have in hand with energy, foreigners will let us alone. Our people have been sadly disappointed by the course pursued by Great Britain ; but after all, perhaps we expected too much. If we succeed in our enterprise, we shall feel all the better for having had no help, even of a moral kind, from abroad. If we do our own work rightly, foreign opinion will very soon range itself on our side.


JOHN STROTHER, the father of our correspondent "PORTE CRAYON," who is now an engineer in the United States Army, died at Berkeley Springs, Virginia, on the 16th of January. A week before, the Confederates under Jackson and Charles J. Faulkner, late Minister to France, made a descent upon Berkeley Springs, destroyed the cottage of "Porte Crayon," and cut to pieces many of his paintings. They took possession of the large hotel of the elder Strother, destroyed much of his property, using chairs and bureaus for fire-wood, although the village is in the midst of a wood—Mr. Strother lying ill in the house at the time. "Mr. Strother," writes one who knew him well, "was one of the noblest and most unselfish of men ; one of the most loyal to the cause of right ; one of the bravest and most unflinching supporters of what he believed to be the truth. He was always a decided Unionist, and a dauntless opponent of Secession. It was at the suggestion of Faulkner that the property of the Strothers was occupied and destroyed. For thirty years he and John Strother had lived in the village of Martinsburg, and had much to do with each other — Strother as clerk of the Courts, and Faulkner as a practicing attorney. Faulkner, than whom a more unprincipled and cunning scoundrel does not live, had often been foiled in his villainies by Strother, who stood between him and his intended victims, and thus earned his undying hate, which he sought the earliest moment to gratify, even while his foe lay at death's door. And so it has ended—for the time. The good man dies in the midst of his wasted and outraged property, while the knave, and traitor to the country whose representative he had just been, jaunts off with the rebel army in which he acted as volunteer aid. But a day of reckoning is at hand."



FOR the last few months it has been a proverb that to go to Washington is to be disheartened. There was a cheap wit current in the spring that the Government had not yet found out that there was a war. And the other evening, when the music and the dance were unconfined at Willard's, a gloomy man passed beneath the hall and declared that he should like to throw stones at the windows. There is no earnestness here, said a desponding

friend to the Lounger, as they watched the officers caracoling upon their horses or whirling in the waltz.

But of course in every war there are a thousand interests of the purest selfishness. There are all the contracts, the jobs, the chances of private emolument. These are to be settled and secured at the capital. And therefore you see so many sharks shoveling through society there. Then the gay young foreign officers of the staffs over the river, who take part in our war, not from any particular knowledge or conviction, but from the desire of military experience and the love of adventure, bring with them all the military traditions of Europe, love and gayety fringing the skirt of war, and they frolic, and dance, and sing :

" Why, soldiers, why,

Should we be melancholy boys,

Whose business 'tis to die?"

And where there are gay young foreign officers, and gay young domestic officers, with all the freshness and none of the sorrow of martial prestige, will there not be glittering throngs of girls and women, whom nature made to love epaulets—not because they are epaulets, but because they are the symbols of danger and heroism and glory?

These are all thrown up upon the very surface of Washington; they are the flashing bubbles on the stream, until it may easily seem to you to be all foam and flash.

But there are deeper currents which may trouble you. The difference of conviction as to the conduct of the war makes bitter accusation and recrimination. The sincerest and most loyal men differ so strongly about methods, and talk so sharply, that you begin to think they value success less than their own way of success. This creates seeming division, until again you understand why so many are disheartened who come to Washington.

Yet a little reflection before you arrive will have prepared you for all these things. The earnestness of every war is to be sought and found in the homes of the people, not in the bureaus of the Government. Whoever goes to Washington remembering this, and reflecting that the Declaration of Independence is at last tolerable political doctrine at the seat of Government, must be resolved upon despair if he return disheartened.


THE case of Senator Bright will have an interest long after it is formally decided. The debate was one of the most interesting that has been witnessed in the Senate. Only two instances are upon record in our early history of the expulsion of Senators—William Blount in 1796, and John Smith in 1808. But the present case had a peculiar interest because of the critical condition of the country.

Jesse D. Bright, the Senator from Indiana, is a heavily-built man, with a smooth round face, with little hair upon his head, and an expression which is certainly neither winning nor conciliatory. Throughout the important debate, which was of the nature of a capital trial, for the charge was no less than treasonable sympathy, he sat erect in his chair, one arm generally thrown back, the hand hanging down behind the chair, and his face, with a slight air of sullen defiance, turned upon the Senator who had the floor. Occasionally Mr. Bayard, of Delaware, or some other extreme partisan friend, sat in the chair by his side and conversed with him, but generally he remained in an almost painful isolation.

The interest of the galleries was profound. They were crowded on all sides, and during the speech of General Lane, of Indiana, the colleague of Mr. Bright, the involuntary applause which followed one of his passionate rhetorical periods caused one gallery to be cleared. But it was presently refilled, and offended no more. The Senate itself is surely a most trying body to address. The members are incessantly walking about, talking, unfolding and reading newspapers, writing letters, clapping for the pages, franking books and documents, and doing every thing but listening to the speaker. Frequently the Senator who is addressing the Chair, wishing to bring a point or a reply sharply home upon a previous, speaker, turns toward him with upraised finger, only to find his adversary out of his seat, or closely engaged in chatting with other Senators, or intently reading a pamphlet with his back to the orator. One Senator, immediately before whom sat two of his colleagues quietly conversing while he was speaking, suddenly exclaimed, in a low tone, "Stop that talking!" and the Vice-President's warning hammer thumps his table often at the most interesting moment of a speech to stop the hum of inattention.

When Mr. Bright rose to address the Senate in his own defense there was general silence. He was evidently full of mingled emotions of anger, doubt, and apprehension. He stood erect, and with a high, exasperating, and monotonous voice began. It was universally admitted that his speech greatly injured his cause. Its tone was contemptuous even to insolence; and whoever heard him that day heard the last expiring strain of the domineering style of the Southern orators—the latest wheeze of the slave-driving Senatorial manner. There are dogs in Italy that outlive both their teeth and voices, but not their viciousness. When they can no longer run, they lie upon the ground and make all the movements of barking, but emit no sound. Mr. Bright fiercely shook his finger at Senator Sumner. "I have had no personal relations whatever with the Senator from Massachusetts: and that Senator would not have dared—no, Sir, he would not have dared" (and here the voice of the speaker became thick with hate)—" to say the things he has said of me here to-day, except that he knew that I stood alone and friendless, and he surrounded by his allies." Later he spoke of the "mad abolition horde led by that Senator," which had ruined the country.

Oh, Jesse D. Bright, of Indiana, Senator Sumner spoke of you calmly in debate; but when you and your allies possessed the Capitol, the city, the District, the neighboring States, and, as you fondly

believed, the whole country, you and your allies entered that chamber, and struck to the floor with a bludgeon the Senator whom you now accuse of wounding you with words !

The position of Senators Harris, of New York, and Foster, of Connecticut, with Cowan, of Pennsylvania, and Ten Eyck, of New Jersey, was very trying. They are all most loyal men, and the first two most earnest Republicans. They were all members of the Judiciary Committee, which reported against Mr. Bright's expulsion unanimously, with the exception of Mr. Trumbull, of Illinois. The pressure upon these four gentlemen to change their votes was extreme. But they had an honest conviction that, however treasonable Mr. Bright's sympathies might be, the evidence of the letter was not sufficient to establish it. It was, so far, a judicial question. For to their minds the point was not whether Mr. Bright was an unsafe counselor for the President, but whether the letter proved it. As Senator Harris said, "If this were a political question I should certainly vote with my friends."

To one who heard the debate, and who remembers the circumstances of the time and the antecedents of Mr. Bright, all of which must be taken to interpret the letter, it is clear that when he sent a man with improved fire-arms to "His Excellency, Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States," and spoke of "your capital," he sent them to a person claiming authority incompatible with that of this Government, and who could use the arms only against his own Government or some other. Circumstances forbid the supposition that they could have been meant for any other. If used at all, therefore, they must be turned against the United States. Is the person who does not deny that he did this a fit counselor for the President?

Whatever the vote of the Senate may be, the question remains.


THE disaster to the Burnside expedition will help fix our eyes upon the fact that the race is not always to the swift. Our great danger is in losing sight of the arduous character of the work we have in hand. We are, practically, an invading power. We hope and expect, of course, to develop some National movement in the rebellious section, but we are first to make good our hold upon it. Developments of that kind follow success only, not the effort at success. As yet, our coast operations at Hatteras Inlet, at Port Royal, and Ship Island, are good as far as they go. But they are none of them blows which resound through the Southern country and re-echo in a shout of awakening patriotism.

The misfortune to the last expedition is slight and momentary, but it illustrates the risks we run all the time. General Napier said, "a General is the slave of fortune." We have put all upon the event of a great movement of which Burnside's fleet was the left wing. The left wing flaps uncertain, for a moment. How if the right and centre do the same ? It is not enough to collect and equip your army. The weather, the country, the roads, the sun, the winds, disease, panic, all these are to be taken into the account, and all these are incalculable.

Of course it is so, and even more so, for the other side ; but we are first of all to see where we are weak ourselves, and then look out for the weakness of the enemy. We must always suppose that he knows where we are weak, and is strong enough to strike us there. For the work we have undertaken we need every resource, every weapon we can command. It is even not enough to win victories. The foe must feel that we win them with hopeless superiority.

It will not be unfortunate for us, therefore, if the delay at Hatteras shall enforce upon us the necessity of subordinating every question to that of speedily achieving the supremacy of the Government. The gentlemen in Congress and out of it who so laboriously strive to support the thesis that Abolition is secession, ought to remember that there comes a time when to insist that there is any thing which must not give way before the necessity of maintaining the Government, is to insist that the Government shall be destroyed. The institution of slavery, like the right of life and property and personal liberty and free speech, is strictly and utterly subordinate to the national salvation. To talk of carrying on the war "constitutionally," as if that implied that the system of slavery was to be untouched, is as silly as to declare that, if a rebel is shot in the field, the war is not conducted "constitutionally." For his right to his slave is certainly no more protected by the Constitution than his right to his life.

Let every reverse, then, abate the fervor of our differences upon this point, and unite us all in the great resolution, that, if the right of the habeas corpus, and of property, and of life shall not interfere with the suppression of the rebellion, neither shall the right of holding slaves. And there is no harm in saying so if you think so.


IF you should happen to go to Washington during the war do not fail to see the bakery at the Capitol. It is by no means the least interesting of the public institutions. It certainly is not the least useful.

Remember that you enter it from the outside. A party of Loungers tried to find some inner descent from the upper floor, but it was impossible. So we went down the main steps, and turned in behind the little pond, which is kept in a marble case, and looked inquiringly at the door of what, in buildings not so grand as the Capitol, we should call the basement. A courteous somebody, in military garb, smiled and said, "Come in!" Then we advanced boldly, and the military somebody passed us over, with an amused air, to a serious civic and civil gentleman who most kindly accompanied us through the bakery. (Next Page)




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