British Sympathy With the Confederacy


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, May 24, 1862

This site contains an archive of all the Harper's Weekly newspapers published during the Civil War. Sit back, relax, and dive into this incredible resource. These old newspapers contain intriguing details of the war you simply will not find anywhere else.

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Norfolk, Virginia

British Sympathy, Trent Affair

British Support of the South

McClellan Criticism

McClellan Criticism

Capture of New Orleans

Capture of New Orleans

Battle of Williamsburg

Battle of Williamsburg

General Hancock

General Hancock

Jeff Davis Cartoon

Jeff Davis Cartoon


New Orleans Naval Battle

New Orleans Naval Battle

New Orleans Expedition

The New Orleans Expedition

Fort John Morgan

Fort John Morgan

Battle of Williamsburg

Battle of Williamsburg Pictures

Yorktown, Virginia

Yorktown, Virginia










[MAY 24, 1862.



SATURDAY, MAY 24, 1862.


MR. GLADSTONE, Chancellor of the British Exchequer, and a leading member of the Palmerston Cabinet, has lately attempted, in a public speech, to show that the contempt which the course of the English with regard to this country has aroused among liberal people of all nations is unjust and unmerited. He admits that Great Britain has sympathized with the Southern rebels. This he justifies, first, on the ground once taken by Earl Russell, that the North is contending for power, the South for independence; and secondly, because it would have been impolitic for England to have made enemies of 8,000,000 Southerners (whereof 4,000,000 are negro slaves) by sympathizing with the North.

Mr. Gladstone's first reason can be disposed of in very few words. The North is not contending for power, but for national unity; and the South is not contending for independence—for it was independent before the contest, and will be just as independent after it has been whipped back into the Union. Southern independence has never been imperiled for a moment. There is, in fact, no such thing as Northern or Southern independence. The whole Union is alike independent. Mr. Gladstone is evidently confounding the case of the Southern rebellion with that of other rebellions in which his interest has been more direct. When the people of Bengal and the Northwestern Provinces of British India rebelled against England in 1857 they were contending for independence; and England, when she sent armies to put them down, to desolate towns and villages, and blow prisoners of war from the mouths of guns, was really contending for power. According to Mr. Gladstone's argument, the civilized world should have sympathized with Nena Sahib.

As to the shop-keepers' argument, that England could not afford to quarrel with 8,000,000 future customers, that is no concern of ours. We would have no right to complain if John Bull chose to toady to the King of Dahomey in order to sell him Birmingham knives to cut his people's throats. But, in effect, the mean fear of offending the South has led the English into a course which has disgusted North and South alike. The present generation of Southerners will never forgive England for having declined to break the blockade; and at the North the anti-English feeling was never so universal. In trying to curry favor with 8,000,000 of our people, the English have made enemies of 30,000,000. It is very sad, and we heartily wish it were otherwise; but the fact is, that there is probably no other point on which so many Americans are thoroughly agreed at the present moment as in cordial hatred of the English.

Mr. Gladstone's speech leads us to believe that it is hardly necessary to explain why this feeling exists. The British conscience admits its justice. When the sword was forced into our hands by the madness of the Southern rebels, we had every reason to believe that, of all foreign nations, England would be sure to sympathize with us in our troubles. We were her best customer and closest ally. We were menaced with national ruin by an institution of which she was the uncompromising foe. It was evident that our success would fatally weaken, as our failure would mightily strengthen slavery, and England was the leading anti-slavery power in the world. The best feeling existed between the two nations; the Prince of Wales had just received, in this country, an ovation as brilliant as that which was granted to Lafayette nearly thirty years ago—the only place which constituted an exception to the general rule of civility and respect being the rebel capital—Richmond.

Yet when the war actually broke out, England did every thing she could do to assist the rebels short of actually declaring war upon us. With indecent haste she recognized the Confederate States as belligerents the very day before Mr. Adams arrived in England. Her newspapers, great and small, with a few bright exceptions, elaborately decried us and vaunted the rebel cause. They derided our army, sneered at our navy, strove vigorously to break down our credit; while, in the same breath, they lauded the rebels, talked of the chivalry of their soldiers, the sagacity of their leaders, and the utter impossibility of subjugating such a people. From being furious abolitionists, they became mild apologists for slavery. Nor was this sort of thing confined to the press. Lord John Russell, Foreign Secretary, gravely injured our cause in the eyes of the world by announcing that we were fighting for power against the poor Southerners, who were struggling for freedom; comparing us, as it were, to Austria, and the rebels to Hungary. Lord Palmerston, Prime Minister, hoped that we would see the folly of our policy, and submit to what Jeff Davis wanted. Lord Stanley, Cabinet Minister, deemed our enterprise utterly hopeless. Mr. Gladstone, Cabinet Minister, justifies England's sympathy with the rebels. As in word, so in deed. The French,

press have well depicted, in the contemptuous language it deserved, the fiery haste with which England tried to force us into a war on the Trent affair—at a time when our every nerve was strained to keep the rebels in check; and the savage fury with which the British rulers and most of the people learned that their prey had escaped them—when Mason and Slidell were surrendered. But for the aid afforded by British officials, privateering would have died out by mid-summer 1861. But the British port of Southampton gave willing shelter to the privateer Nashville, laden with the spoil of one of our merchant ships which she had burned; British men-of-war convoyed her to a safe distance in the channel; the British port of Gibraltar gave refuge to the privateer Sumter, and kept her there in spite of the Queen's proclamation; the British islands, Bermuda and Bahamas, have been nests of privateers ever since the war began; British flags and British registers have been at the service of the rebels whenever they were needed. So with arms. Belgian arms, bought for the Federal Government at Brussels, and sent to England for shipment to this country, were not allowed to leave the kingdom; while the Merrimac was armed with British cannon, British Enfield rifles are taken from the rebels in every battle; and every rebel fort contains some guns made in England, and shipped to the South since the war broke out. Whatever support, moral or material, the English could afford to the cause of the rebellion without actually declaring war upon us, has been freely tendered to Jeff Davis and his allies.

Lord Stanley, in a speech delivered not long since, argued that it was unreasonable to charge England with rebel sympathies, as she had no interest in the success of the rebellion. He was right, but his countrymen didn't see it. They have thought all along they had a deep interest in the division of this powerful country into two feeble, jarring republics, which would have no weight whatever in the family of nations. They have thought that, by the successful establishment of the Southern Confederacy, they would obtain an open market for their goods, with, as Mr. Gladstone says, 8,000,000 consumers. And they have thought, moreover, that the ruin and collapse of the great American Republic would prove so pregnant a warning to European democrats, that Old World monarchies and rotten aristocracies would derive a new lease of power from the event. These are the reasons why the English people have sympathized with the rebels.

There are men in England who have taken a broader view of the question than this, and who have granted us their hearty sympathy. John Bright, John Stuart Mill, Mr. Forster, and other prominent men, have bravely done battle on our behalf; not so much from love of us as from regard for truth, justice, and honor. But who are they? The leaders of British democracy—as heartily hated and feared by the rulers of England as ourselves; men who argue that no one is born with the right of governing his neighbor, and who, consequently, are traduced and scorned by the leading British journals, and have no more influence over the British Government than so many Choctaws. If these men were in power in England, there might be a hope of soothing the present angry temper of our people. But for aristocratic England the present generation of Americans will go down to their graves before her deeds in 1861 have been forgotten or forgiven.



MR. GLADSTONE is one of the most brilliant, accomplished, and humane of English statesmen. He is an eminent scholar, an eloquent orator, and a successful man of affairs. He offers a series of "budgets" to English squires and three volumes upon, Homer to English scholars with an equally enthusiastic welcome. In the Church a Tory, in the State a Conservative, Liberal, or Peelite, he is a man of many sympathies, and as good a representative Englishman as the times furnish.

Mr. Gladstone has lately made a speech at Manchester about American affairs. It is not a stupid speech, as Bulwer's was; nor a foolish speech, like Gregory's and the other allies of Slavery in the British Parliament; nor a consciously false and malignant statement, as the editorials of the Times are; but it is a curiously-mistaken speech, and it shows once more the mysterious incapacity of intelligent Englishmen, as a body, to understand the American question. John Stuart Mill, John Bright, and Mr. Forster are the conspicuous three who have shown that knowledge of our political history and system without which all opinion is visionary. Nor do we complain that men like Gladstone are ignorant; but we may justly wonder that, being ignorant, they are not also silent. Nor, again, shall we affect indifference to what such men as Gladstone say. Nations, like individuals, can not dispense with sympathy or intelligent appreciation, and may properly desire that their motives and their conduct should be understood.

Mr. Gladstone says that our expectation of sympathy was extraordinary. But why? If, as he says in the same part of his speech, England would have been content to see us expand—and if, as we all know, the essential cause of both nations is the same, namely, constitutional liberty—why is it strange that we should think, as was said in this paper a year ago, that England would see that her

interest in this country lay in the success of the Government? His answer is, that to have expressed sympathy would have alienated the six or ten millions of men who might become an independent people. But if this were the question, why should England have alienated twenty millions who were already an independent people? Granting that the rebels succeeded, Mr. Gladstone did not doubt that we at the North were to remain a separate power, and therefore he must allow that England considered the friendship of the rebel section more valuable; in which case the theory of impartiality falls, and John Bull, cotton-spinner, stands clearly unmasked.

To suppose, which is his only alternative, that the United States ought not to have resented the proclamation of equal belligerence, is to assume that the British people would not have resented our recognition of Smith O'Brien's attempted or Nena Sahib's actual revolt against British rule. Moreover, Mr. Gladstone knows, and nobody better than he, that there was no serious chance of the rebels becoming an independent people if all nations friendly to the United States had treated this revolt as powers friendly to great Britain have always treated the Indian and Irish and Canadian troubles.

Mr. Gladstone's sneer at the possibility, or, as he thinks, probability of a compromise with the rebels, leaving slavery untouched, is to be excused by his ignorance of the real feeling of the great mass of the citizens of this country whom he naturally compares with the mass of English people, and it is justified by what he observes of the course of certain newspapers professedly loyal—by the presence of such persons as Vallandigham, Saulsbury, Powell, and Bayard in Congress—and by the votes and words of Union men like Garrett Davis and Wadsworth.

He proceeds to repeat Lord John's platitude that one side is fighting for supremacy and the other for independence; but not even Gladstone's golden lips can make it less a platitude. For is it not the case in every rebellion that authority tries to maintain itself, and the recusants to overthrow it? There can be no doubt of the fact, the question lies in the causes, Have men a right to take up arms to destroy a government against which they allege no oppression, but only a probable intention to oppress? For the American principle is not, and never was, in the mouth or in the pen of any proper expounder, the right of revolution. It is the rights of man, and resort to forcible revolution only when those rights are threatened, and when there is and can be no peaceable redress. The right of any number of people to refuse to obey the laws merely because they don't choose to obey them, is not, never was, and never could be, an American any more than an English doctrine. It belies the genius of the race, and contradicts its civilization. The rebels in this country are fighting for independence of a Government which, by their own admission, never oppressed them, which they have always controlled, and which provides peaceable remedies for every wrong. On what grounds does Mr. Gladstone, a civilized, Christian, educated Englishman, compare them with the people of the English colonies in 1776, who stated their grievances, and appealed and petitioned for redress—who had no voice whatever in the Government, and who had no Constitutional remedy? Gregory, Lindsay, Fergusson, the Times, and the Herald, and Slidell, Mason, Yancey, and W. H. Russell, LL.D., Barrister-at-Law, may say such things, but Mr. Gladstone is of another kind.

He adds, that we may conquer but can not conciliate—that if the rebels really wish to go they will go—and he falls back upon the analogy of the Revolution. The prophecy, of course, is to be proved by time; but the analogy fails utterly. The Government of the United States repressing a rebellion within its borders can not successfully be compared with that of Great Britain endeavoring to subdue colonies three thousand miles away.

Finally, Mr. Gladstone declares that history will record that civilized nations never before endured so generously the real misery occasioned by the civil and municipal quarrels of another state. And yet does not the event show that if those nations had originally regarded this rebellion as the causeless insurrection which we knew it and represented it to be, it would have been suppressed long before that misery became real? The rebellion has been strong in the hope of foreign aid—a hope justified by the indecent haste of England and other foreign states to recognize the rebels as belligerents.

The spring of this year will reveal to those states their fatal mistakes of a year ago. They treated us as death-stricken, because they wished us dead. They hated the democratic principle, for its triumph was their defeat. They feared the expanding nation; for united America was the arbiter of the Future. They dreaded war in the States lest the cotton supply should be endangered, and the want should breed trouble at home. Therefore they did all they could, short of aiding the rebels with arms, to force their success, to divide the Union, and to make war hopeless. But the delay which they interpreted as defeat was the necessary recoil for the decisive blow. The overthrow they saw at Bull Run was but the fall of Antaeus to the ground. At Port Royal, at Mill Spring, Fort Henry, Donelson, Roanoke, Pea Ridge, Newbern, Winchester, Pittsburg Landing, Pulaski, New Orleans, Macon, Yorktown, Williamsburg—and, probably before these lines are read, at Richmond—they will see that Antaeus has risen again invincible.

Great Britain has wantonly thrown away the friendship of this country, and Mr. Gladstone and the English Cabinet are directly responsible for it. The year convicts them of incompetent statesmanship; and in his effort to apologize and explain the adroitest orator in England stumbles and stammers, and the pitiful weakness, jealousy, and rage of Britain stand hideously exposed.


THE visit of the French Minister to Richmond is an old story. But at this moment its meaning is

not revealed. That every body should have a guess about it was most natural. But that the most humiliating of all conceivable interpretations should be put forth and gravely treated as possible by a loyal paper like the New York Times is significant and extraordinary. And as it is a story that may be revived in spirit or terms, it is worth while even now to look at its enormity.

The French Minister, according to the guess of the Times, went to Richmond by order of the Emperor to admonish the rebels that the civilized world sees that their game is up, and that they must lay down their arms, nor attempt a guerrilla warfare. But he assured the rebels that "to save their honor and their existence as a free people, * * * Mr. Lincoln's Administration will be held to a faithful observance of the programme with which he appealed to Europe." He further informed them that "their society shall not be disorganized, their industry shall not be overthrown," for the conscience of "European Governments" does not approve any scheme of immediate emancipation.

This is certainly the most remarkable sensation performance since the outbreak of the rebellion. Translated into the shortest terms, it is simply a statement that Louis Napoleon, affecting to speak for "civilized Europe," has undertaken to settle our difficulties by telling the rebels that they must stop fighting—and the United States Government that, if the rebels do stop, a certain prescribed policy must be pursued toward them.

This policy, indeed, is said to be the one that the President has already indicated; but that does not change the case. If the Republic of Monaco had been split by a rebellion, and Louis Napoleon had said to the rebels, "You must give it up;" and to the Duke, "You must do what you promised," there would be no surprise, because Monaco had no national dignity or importance, or power of independent action. But to suppose that, at the moment of suppressing a sanguinary rebellion of its citizens by means of an invincible army and navy, the Government of the United States would tolerate an agent of any other Government in the world, which should say to it, "Toe this line which you drew," is to suppose an absolute humiliation of the country, which the rebellion in its most promising moment, with all the sympathy of foreign Governments, was unable to effect, and which, at least, is not probable when that rebellion is in the death agony and that sympathy is suppressed.

If the President, under all the circumstances, should think that the national interest required no departure from the course he has already indicated, the interference of the French Emperor is simply a ludicrous impertinence, as any interference of the President's with the Emperor's dealing with his own rebels would be. If the President should think fit to change the policy, then the French Emperor's interference is simply a threat of intervention. In either case it is utterly disrespectful to the Government of this country.

If the Emperor, or the Queen, or any European King should at any time consider that our troubles threatened them greater harm than they chose to endure, they might take the risk of telling us that we endeavored to put down the rebellion at our peril. That is intelligible. That means war. But no other interference which shall not be insulting is conceivable. For there is no ground of mediation. The rebels in arms have by the law of their country forfeited their lives, if nothing more. Should any friendly power say, "We hope that you will not in all cases exact the utmost penalty," it would find that the prayer was unnecessary, because this Government will not be found less wise than the wisest, or less humane than the humanest. But such a prayer as that is very different from this talk about saving the existence of the rebels "as a free people," and of holding this Government to fidelity to its promises. This domineering and insolent tone of superiority upon the part of any power whatever would not be tolerated for a moment by the people of this country. Whoever gravely announces that it has been taken by Louis Napoleon, and that the President and Secretary of State look serene in consequence, only shows what an extraordinary conception he entertains of the character of those gentlemen and of the honor of the nation.

That Louis Napoleon may have seen the sure defeat of the rebels, that he may have admitted the wisdom of the President's policy, and that he may have instructed his Minister to ask permission of our Government to go to the rebel ringleaders and say so is very possible, and that our Government should feel a certain satisfaction at this conduct upon the part of a power that was in such haste to recognize the rebels as belligerents is very natural. That is an obvious and easy explanation of the friendliness between the President and his Secretary of State and the French Minister. But that the President and the Secretary looked happy because the French Minister told Jeff Davis that Louis Napoleon was going to hold the President to his word is the joke of a very funny man.


MR. OWEN LOVEJOY has not been considered a wag, but there was something very amusing in the simultaneousness of his resolution of praise to McClellan and Vallandigham's "democratic" address. The resolution was a wise thing well done. Those who do not like Mr. Lovejoy call it an act of penitence; but an act of penitence is always graceful and praiseworthy; and there is nothing so unusual in human speech as a public confession of error.

We do not remember that Mr. Lovejoy has been conspicuous in sharp criticisms upon "the Quaker General." If he has been, his resolution is all the more honorable to him. That there was a general desire that McClellan should fight is very true. That public confidence in him, even in this city, began to halt is indisputable. But throughout he has had the inestimable gift of silence. Through all the weary winter months in which he was so bitterly abused for not advancing, months in which (Next Page)




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