Chapter 2: The Civil War Origins of the FRUS Series, 1861–1868

Despite its evolutionary character, the 1861 Foreign Relations volume marks an important starting point for understanding the modern history of U.S. diplomatic documentation. This chapter explores the specific conditions surrounding the 1861 volume and the reaction to it, as well as the production of and response to subsequent volumes issued during the Civil War. Several broad conclusions emerge: these volumes represent a mature expression of the checks and balances between the executive and legislative branches established over the previous seven decades, the editors selected documents with an eye to both domestic and overseas audiences, the volumes tell modern historians what the Lincoln administration wanted U.S. citizens to know about its foreign policy, and the volumes continued a longstanding commitment to promote government openness despite the controversy such efforts generated.

The extant documentation does not indicate to what extent principals like President Lincoln and Secretary of State Seward participated in the selection of the documents and the publication of the volumes, but one can reasonably surmise that they supported the initiative. It is difficult to imagine important documents being released without their concurrence, or at least their knowledge. In Frederick Seward’s account of his father’s tenure as Secretary of State, he writes that William Seward had a hand in preparing the text of Lincoln’s message, but no mention is made of how the attached documentation was compiled.1 Nevertheless, we can infer Seward’s involvement based on context. The Department of State was quite small during the Civil War, with only 42 domestic employees in 1860. A project of this size and visibility could not have escaped the notice of the Secretary.2 The archival record, however, does not identify who edited these volumes or what procedures they employed.

Evidence for Seward’s opinion about the series, however, is directly available from his own pen. Two years after the release of the first volume, Seward explained the necessity of the publication in an exchange with Charles Francis Adams, U.S. minister in London during the Civil War. On February 11, 1864, Adams sent a despatch to Washington noting that “publication of the Diplomatic papers . . . has elicited much comment in Parliament.” Adams expressed a wish that if diplomatic correspondence were to be published, it would at least be done with adequate context so that his own actions would not come under question in London.3 Seward responded with a lengthy justification. For Seward, publishing documentation had a solid Constitutional basis that harkened back to precedents set as early as the 1790s: “The Constitution of the United States requires the President from time to time to give Congress information concerning the state of the Union.”4 Beyond this Constitutional obligation, Seward noted, “our foreign affairs have . . . been a subject of anxiety as deep as that which is felt in regard to military and naval events.” This widespread interest demanded a response. “The Government continually depends upon the support of Congress and the People, and that support can be expected only in the condition of keeping them thoroughly and truthfully informed of the manner in which the powers derived from them are executed.” Seward linked the publication directly to the exercise of democracy; because the authority of the government derived from the people, the people deserved to see the correspondence which revealed how policy was being carried out.5

Seward reiterated practices and principles enshrined during the early republic, telling Adams that “Congress and the country” had a “right” to see the documents that had caused Adams such consternation. Since “history would be incomplete without that account,” the President had a “duty to communicate it, unless special reason of a public nature existed for withholding it.” Seward did not believe that his correspondence with Adams qualified for this exception, and even if it did, sufficient time had elapsed to justify release: “the question which had called out this dispatch had been for a time put at rest.” Indeed, for Seward the greater error would have been not to release the documents. Failing to publish the correspondence “would have seemed to imply a confession that it was improper in itself, while to practice reserve on so great a question would be liable to be deemed an abuse of the confidence which Congress and the people had so freely reposed in the Government.” Congress and the American people needed to make an open and honest assessment of the government’s foreign policy, and the publication of these documents enabled the Constitutional framework of accountability to function.6

The novel aspect of the 1861 volume lay in its comprehensive scope and unified presentation, which enhanced both the utility and the visibility of the documents. For the first time, documents about a variety of subjects all over the globe were presented under a single cover, rather than being published in an ad hoc manner.7 Benjamin Moran’s reaction to the publication illustrates the kind of change the inaugural FRUS represented. Moran served as a secretary in the U.S. legation at London. He complained that “Mr. Seward has introduced an unheard of precedent by publishing despatches from all our ministers with the President’s Message, and the folly arises from his pride of authorship—and that alone.”8 Moran certainly knew that diplomatic correspondence had long been published. Indeed, he lamented the state of the legation’s library.9 Moran’s criticism suggested that collating foreign policy documents and attaching them to the president’s message represented a novel aspect in that it created a higher profile for the volumes. That heightened visibility carried with it risks for current diplomacy. As Secretary of State Seward remarked to Adams, “it is impossible when writing to you, (however confidentially) to feel sure that when what is expressed, shall ultimately become public, it will not be thought to have been written for effect or to produce an impression upon the British Government.”10 Nevertheless, Seward continued and vigorously defended the longstanding practice of documentary releases, even in time of war.

Evidence from the legislative branch supports Seward’s arguments. Congress certainly exhibited concern about foreign relations during the Civil War and expected to receive documentation reflecting the administration’s actions. Appendix B demonstrates that the nation’s legislators approved tens of thousands of copies to be printed at the public expense. Seward’s defense of publication and the actions of Congress demonstrate that FRUS represented an important element in the federal government’s system of checks and balances: the executive branch carried out foreign policy, but the legislative branch reserved the right to monitor that policy via these requests for documentation.11

Origins of the Inaugural Volume

In the usual manner, during 1861 the Congress asked for documents, and the executive determined how, when, and whether to comply. Executive branch denials included a refusal to comply with a March 25 Senate resolution requesting the “despatches of Major Robert Anderson to the War Department during the time he has been in command at Fort Sumter.” Lincoln responded the next day that he had “examin[ed] the correspondence thus called for” and decided that it would be “inexpedient” to publish.12 As late as December 4, the day after the promulgation of the first FRUS volume, the House requested documentation on the “intervention of certain European Powers in the affairs of Mexico.” Seward responded five days later that the documentation would not be provided.13

Nevertheless, a trio of congressional resolutions asking for documentation, which passed over a two-week span in July 1861, spurred the publication of the inaugural Foreign Relations volume.14 All three resolutions demanded to see the diplomatic correspondence, and all three deferred to the President’s judgment about whether or not it would be in the public interest to release the documentation. The long history of document releases in the pre-Civil War period meant that the Congressmen had every expectation that, absent a substantial reason to withhold, their requests would be satisfied. Two House resolutions came from Democrats and one Senate resolution from a Republican, indicating bipartisan interest in the issues as well as the prerogatives of congressional oversight.

Lincoln and Seward opted not to respond immediately. Seward replied that it would not be appropriate to share “the correspondence called for” in July 1861.15 Instead, over the next several months, the Department prepared what became the first FRUS volume to be ready by the beginning of the subsequent Congressional session. On December 3, Lincoln sent his message (which included the “usual reservations” statement) and a note to the House of Representatives that stated that he was fulfilling the request of the July 13 resolution, quoting its text that the documentation covered “rights of blockade, privateering and the recognition of the so called Confederate States.”16 The correspondence was forwarded to Congress, launching the Foreign Relations series.

Selling the War at Home

The contents of the inaugural volume indicate what the government wanted its citizens to know about foreign policy. The papers relating to foreign affairs, 425 pages in length, were attached to Lincoln’s annual message.17 In his message, Lincoln covered a range of topics and wrote briefly about foreign affairs. The principal topic of concern was whether the nascent Confederacy had obtained recognition from any other country. Lincoln expressed confidence about Union diplomatic efforts: “The disloyal citizens of the United States who have offered the ruin of our country, in return for the aid and comfort which they have invoked abroad,” he wrote, “have received less patronage and encouragement than they probably expected.” Lincoln noted that all the Confederacy had to offer to foreign countries was the prospect of commerce. As yet, foreign nations were not ready to “discar[d] all moral, social, and treaty obligations” in order to maintain trading relations.18 For the time being, the Union’s overseas ministers had successfully fended off Confederate advances to other countries’ governments.

The correspondence demonstrated the government’s effort to prevent recognition of the Confederacy by foreign countries. The first document in the volume indicated continuity from the previous administration. In a circular from James Buchanan’s Secretary of State, Jeremiah Black, to ministers abroad on February 28, 1861, Black characterized the November 1860 election as a victory for the “candidate of the republican or antislavery party.” The election “had been confined almost entirely to topics connected, directly or indirectly, with the subject of negro slavery,” and Lincoln was as popular in the North as he was despised in the South. Black noted that President Buchanan “expected” America’s representatives to prevent Confederate agents from gaining recognition.19 Seward’s first circular, dated March 9, confirmed the goals of his predecessor.20 After a brief section of circulars, the balance of the volume presented a country-by-country selection of correspondence with U.S. representatives in 24 states.21 Some of the chapters comprised only a few pages, while others provided expansive coverage. The volume featured Seward’s initial directions, bold in tone, specific to each country.22 Seward’s son Frederick, who served as Assistant Secretary of State, recalled in 1891: “Seward saw, at the outset of the war, that the first and indispensable step toward convincing European Governments that the Union would stand, was to show that he believed it himself.”23 The correspondence conveyed his conviction.

Seward focused on outmaneuvering Confederate envoys. To the minister to Spain, Carl Schurz, Seward wrote that preventing the Confederacy from gaining recognition was “your chief duty, and no more important one was ever devolved by the United States upon any representative whom they have sent abroad.”24 Even in countries of lesser import, the Secretary urged ministers to be on guard. Although Seward did not believe that the Confederates would attempt to gain recognition immediately from Denmark, he wrote to the U.S. representative there that “political action even of the more commanding or more active States is influenced by a general opinion that is formed imperceptibly in all parts of the Eastern continent. Every representative of the United States in Europe has, therefore, a responsibility to see that no effort on his part is wanting to make that opinion just, so far as the true position of affairs is in his own country is concerned.”25 Likewise to the minister to Switzerland: “You are in a region where men of inquiring mind and active habit seek a temporary respite from severe studies and exhausting labors. The world’s affairs are discussed freely, and the sentiments and opinions which influence the conduct and affect the prospects of nations are very often formed in the mountains and dells of Switzerland.”26 The Union could not afford to let Confederates gain a foothold anywhere and wanted its representatives throughout Europe on alert. This meant that ministers would need to know about events in the United States. Seward urged Norman Judd in Berlin to “fix your attention in the first instance, and to keep it constantly fixed, on the actual condition of affairs at home” rather than being consumed with events in Prussia.27

Seward issued country-specific directions in some cases and indicated what information he required from abroad. To Thomas Corwin in Mexico, the Secretary wrote worriedly that “the actual condition of affairs in Mexico is so imperfectly understood here that the President finds it very difficult to give you particular and practical directions for the regulation of your conduct during your mission.”28 He instructed Corwin to reassure the Mexicans that the United States would not approve of any effort to incite revolution in Mexico.29 He told Charles Francis Adams, minister to Great Britain, not to apologize or make excuses for the present condition of the country: “You will make no admissions of weakness in our Constitution, or of apprehension on the part of the government. You will rather prove, as you easily can, by comparing the history of our country with that of other states, that its Constitution and government are really the strongest and surest which have ever been erected for the safety of any people.”30 Seward understood that some conservatives in Europe would delight in the collapse of the republican experiment; he wanted U.S. representatives to give such sentiments no comfort.31

The instructions encouraged ministers not to let discouraging news from America cloud foreigners’ perceptions of the war effort. “You will hear of a reverse of our arms in Virginia,” Seward wrote to Adams after the Battle of Bull Run in an instruction marked “Confidential.” He encouraged the minister to think little of it: “The vigor of the government will be increased, and the ultimate result will be a triumph of the Constitution. Do not be misled by panic reports of danger apprehended for the capital.”32 He likewise wrote to William Lewis Dayton in France: “Treason was emboldened by its partial success at Manassas, but the Union now grows manifestly stronger every day.”33 Foreigners could get their news from any number of sources, and ministers must stand ready to put a positive “spin” on events.

The volume also printed despatches from ministers abroad. Some shared good news of support by foreign governments. From Belgium, Henry Shelton Sanford reported that the Confederate government would “receive no sanction by any act of Belgium” because it would violate the Belgian policy of “strict neutrality.”34 From Great Britain, George Mifflin Dallas reported that “there was not the slightest disposition in the British government to grasp at any advantage which might be supposed to arise from unpleasant domestic differences in the United States.”35 From Austria, Jehu Glancy Jones noted that the country “hoped to see us re-united” and, not surprisingly given the European upheavals of 1848–1849, “was not inclined to recognize de facto governments anywhere.”36 In Turkey, the minister of foreign affairs assured the American representative of “the most friendly sentiments towards the government of the United States, and expressions of warm sympathy” for the country.37

Other governments hedged their positions. Mexico held a unique position since it shared a border with the Confederacy. Corwin reported that the government was “well affected towards us in our present difficulties” but would be “unwilling to enter into any engagement which might produce war with the south, unless protected by promise of aid from the United States.”38 From France, Dayton reported that while the French Government was “not in the habit of acting hastily upon such questions” as recognizing de facto governments such as the Confederacy claimed to be, the French representative was “equally bound to say that the practice and usage of the present century had fully established the right of de facto governments to recognition when a proper case was made out for the decision of foreign powers.”39 In Caracas, Edward Turpin succeeded only in convincing Venezuelan President Pedro Gual Escandon that Confederate ships should not be allowed in Venezuelan ports in any case other than distress; “I could not obtain from him their complete denunciation as pirates,” he wrote.40 King Kamehameha IV of Hawaii issued a notice that declared Hawaiian neutrality in the conflict and prohibited subjects “from engaging, either directly or indirectly, in privateering against the shipping or commerce of either of the contending parties, or of rendering any aid to such enterprises whatever” except in cases of distress.41 This apparent even-handedness actually legitimatized the Confederates and could not have pleased Seward.

Other ministers shared news from the public or other statesmen. In Berlin, Joseph Albert White reported that he was “in the receipt of hundreds of letters and personal calls seeking positions in the American army, and asking for means of conveyance to our shores. So numerous, indeed, are the applications, that I have been compelled to place on the doors of the legation a notice to the purport that ‘This is the legation of the United States, and not a recruiting office.’ ”42 Dallas forwarded newspaper clippings from the London press featuring debates on the war.43 From Sweden, Benjamin Franklin Angel noted that “so far as my reading and observations extend, the better informed European statesmen express the opinion that those charged with the administration of public affairs have acted with the greatest moderation” and that the Union “will have the sympathy and best wishes of all conservatives on this side the Atlantic.”44 One month later, James Samils Haldeman noted that “quite a change is visible in diplomatic circles,” and that diplomats in Sweden “speak out openly that the government of the United States should act vigorously and efficiently” and that the “rebellion should be annihilated by force and not by compromise.”45

Although the volume reproduced only excerpts of some of the letters, moments of bluntness survived whatever editing the Department of State employed to ensure protection of “the public interest.” In an instruction to Adams in May 1861, Seward noted pointedly that “this government considers that our relations in Europe have reached a crisis.”46 Seward also confided to the U.S. representative in Switzerland, George Gilman Fogg, that other European nations would enjoy the downfall of the United States: “I could easily imagine that either Great Britain, France, Russia, Austria, Prussia, Belgium, Spain, or even Denmark, might suppose that it could acquire some advantage, or at least some satisfaction to itself, from a change that should abridge the dominion, the commerce, the prosperity, or influence of the United States. Each of them might be believed to have envious sentiments towards us, which would delight in an opportunity to do us harm.”47 Printing this message warned the American people that certain other countries might cheer the Union’s downfall.

The volume also outlined the frustration that Union officials felt over Great Britain’s willingness to treat the Confederacy as a belligerent power. Although falling short of full recognition, London’s position tacitly abetted the rebellion.48 The volume exposed British actions to American citizens. Adams reported to British officials that the Americans were “irritated” by the Queen’s neutrality proclamation, which was seen as “designed to aid the insurgents by raising them to the rank of a belligerent state.” Although Adams demurred that he himself did not believe that the British intended to treat the Confederate states as equal to the Union, he went on to point out that the presence of Southern “pseudo commissioners” presented a continued aggravation. The British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Earl Russell, responded that “it had been the custom both in France and here to receive such persons unofficially for a long time back. Poles, Hungarians, Italians, &c., &c., had been allowed interviews, to hear what they had to say. But this did not imply recognition in their case any more than in ours.”49 That response did not satisfy U.S. officials, who also rejected offers of British mediation. Another letter from Seward refused the idea of European arbitration: “we cannot solicit or accept mediation from any, even the most friendly quarter.”50

The Issue of Slavery

Although many historians have argued that North and South “denied at the war’s beginning that slavery was the central issue,” references to slavery appear throughout the inaugural FRUS volume.51 Seward readily acknowledged that the Slave Power and designs of slave owners lay behind the war, even if the war itself was not about emancipation. Slavery certainly received credit for causing the war. Seward emphasized that the rebelling states operated against the will of the entire people. “The Union was formed upon popular consent and must always practically stand on the same basis,” he told Norman Judd in Berlin.52 But slavery was the root cause of the desire to break with popular consent. “The attempted revolution is simply causeless,” Seward wrote to Dayton in France. “It is, indeed, equally without a reason and without an object, unless it be one arising out of the subject of slavery.”53 Seward instructed the U.S. representative in Russia, where Czar Alexander II had emancipated serfs on private landed estates and in domestic households on March 3, 1861, that although slavery had existed in all the states at the time of the Revolution, “it was expected that under the operation of moral, social, and political influences then existing the practice of slavery would soon cease.” The “cause” of the rebellion was the fact that the slave states, having suffered defeat at the polls, “took an appeal from the verdict of the people, rendered through the ballot-box, to the sword, and organized a revolution with civil war.”54 The volume also included despatches from posts reiterating this point.55 There could be no denying slavery’s role in causing the conflict.

Excisions, Excisions

Examining the material excluded from publication in the early FRUS volumes provides another way to substantiate the conclusion that they were in part designed to fulfill a public affairs function. Printed in an era before federal law or departmental directive indicated how the public should be informed of excisions, the volumes feature lines of asterisks to indicate excised material. Although we do not know the editorial policy that governed those decisions, a systematic examination of material deleted from despatches can offer some clues. Records from London provide the most important case study, since Great Britain constituted a critical target for the Confederacy. Comparing the London and Washington originals to the copies printed in FRUS reveals editorial patterns, especially important categories of redaction such as information about efforts to supply the Union with arms, clues about where Adams got his information and his connections with the British Government, tidbits of British politics and gossip, and candid assessments of British opinion about the Union.56

Clearly, some aspects of the war effort were too sensitive to publish. In a despatch of August 16, 1861, Adams wrote that a Mr. Schuyler had arrived and would be overseeing “the whole matter of the selection and supply of arms in Europe as well as of the payment for them.” Adams noted that he had promised Schuyler any assistance he could offer. In his September 2 response, Seward noted that he was “pleased” to learn that Schuyler had arrived, and noted that he “can scarcely be too active or efficient.”57 Another sensitive issue concerned defectors from the Confederate cause. In 1863, FRUS published a statement from Clarence R. Yonge, who served on the C.S.S. Alabama, the British-built commerce raider that attacked Union shipping. Yonge’s deposition was included in the volume, but a portion of Adams’s assessment of his character was excised: “I think I can say this, that so far as his testimony is concerned, it appears to me very strongly confirmed by all the evidence heretofore received aliunde, as to the departure, outfit and adventures of the gunboat 290 [i.e., the Alabama]. He seems not to be wanting in intelligence or ability to tell the truth, when he has a mind to. . . . Possibly he might be made useful in spite of the circumstances which necessarily impair confidence in his permanent fidelity.”58 Yonge’s defection was important enough to include, but Adams’s assessment was trimmed.

The editors also withheld passages that revealed where and how Adams got his information as well as his connections to the British Government. Adams’s despatch of May 17, 1861 noted an upcoming debate in the House of Lords on the Queen’s neutrality proclamation. Adams wrote that “the tone” of the newspaper report on the debate was not “generally such as I could wish,” and that he would be energetic in applying the appropriate pressure. Excised from the passage was Adams’s recounting of his meeting with William Forster, “the leading opponent of the measure, who is inclined to the opinion that it may ultimately subside altogether; if so, it will be a proof of greater discouragement on the part of the Confederate Commissioners than I believe now to exist.”59 That Adams was at work on taking the temperature of the British debate was left in; the precise information about his contacts was left out. Another example of the editors removing information about Adams’s sources comes from a despatch written in late September 1861. The editors redacted most of its contents, including all of the details about how Adams received an unexpected invitation from Earl Russell to Abergeldie Castle in Scotland. The published version notes that the conversation took place at Abergeldie, but only reproduces that Adams registered a complaint about the “reception of the insurgent privateer, the Sumter” by “authorities at Trinidad.” The majority of the despatch was excised. In it, Adams described his travel, the fact that the journey afforded him “abundant opportunity for full and free conversation” with Russell, a lengthy discussion of European interest in Mexico, and British complaints about “seizure and imprisonment of British subjects.” Adams concluded the despatch by noting that “during the whole of my stay at Abergeldie Castle I thought I perceived the symptoms of a more friendly and cordial feeling than had ever been manifested to me before,” which “fully compensated me for the length and fatigue of the journey.” In this case, the details of Adams’s protest about the friendly treatment afforded Confederate ships was more important (or less sensitive) than his views of how he was treated by the English or discussion of Mexico.60 In 1863, Adams introduced a letter “which had been transmitted to me by one of many active friends of peace in this country.” But in the original document, Adams named the source: “Mr. Patter, the President of the Union and Emancipation Society at Manchester, who writes me that he had had no acquaintance with the author but that he had reason to believe him to be a man of character.”61 Once more, the source of Adams’s information was excluded.

The editors also removed gossip or analysis of British politics. Adams wrote in 1861 that “it is generally known that the Queen has been affected by the loss of her mother, to such a degree to render her extremely indisposed to appear or take part in any public proceedings.” Despite the Queen’s condition, Russell arranged for Adams to have an audience with her, which to Adams was too “friendly to admit of any possibility of misconstruction.” The printed portion noted that these arrangements put “an end . . . to all the speculations which have been set afloat in some quarters” about the “probable position of the minister of the United States at this court.” The editors included the good news about Adams’s reception but discreetly left out the information about the Queen.62 Political gossip was excluded in 1863, when Adams reported the “singular . . . prevalence in the city of a rumor that Lord Russell had threatened resignation”; the rumor was not published.63

Another category of excluded material concerned the opinion of British leaders about the American war effort. In 1863 Adams described the feelings of Prime Minister Lord Palmerston: “Of the nature of His Lordship’s feeling towards America generally I have never had a doubt since the first day I came to England; but as between the two parties to the struggle I fancy he is indifferent and therefore impartial.”64 To have included this statement might have detracted from the more attractive documents included with Adams’s despatch: a series of antislavery resolutions.65 In 1862, editors removed Adams’s assessment of Gladstone. Although the printed portion acknowledged that there was “little doubt on which side his sympathy was,” the editors excised a darker passage:

Whilst his tone of affected sympathy and compassion of the Free States about to be subjected to an inevitable mortification in which he can scarcely suppress his satisfaction; seems to me far more discreditable to him, considered in his present situation; than if he had spoken out his sentiments in round terms. The real idea at bottom is the selfish calculation of an English Statesman which counts upon the disruption of the United States as the source of additional strength to Great Britain. I should have thought better of him if he had not attempted to disguise it with fine words.66

The first FRUS volume contained notable excisions about British public opinion that suggest the sensitive nature of this topic in the volatile early stages of the war. On June 21, 1861, Adams sent to Washington a wide-ranging assessment of divisions in British opinion. Adams’s basic conclusion, “that the British desire only to be perfectly neutral, giving no aid nor comfort to the insurgents,” was published, but the lengthy reporting which led to this conclusion was excluded. To be sure, Adams assessed, there were many who opposed slavery, yet “those who sympathize the most with the position of the Free States as unfavorable to the extension of domestic slavery are the least inclined to favor their policy of war against the Slave States.” Rather, British opponents of slavery seemed to agree with the Confederacy; that there should be a “permanent and peaceful separation” of North and South. The reason? British opponents of slavery “fear a reunion of our States because they think it cannot be effected excepting at the expense of principle. They favor a separation because they think it will keep the Free States consistent and determined enemies of Slavery.” Such arguments must have struck the editors of the 1861 messages as potentially corrosive to Union morale. Into another category fell the “merchants and the manufacturers,” who also “look with great favor on a permanent separation of the States” and assessed the “difficulties” of the United States “in their purely material aspect and in the single interest of their own country.” Yet a third category of opinion was “purely political and purely English.” Here Adams found conservatives who saw the conflict as “the realization of all their predictions of the failure of republicanism in its most portentous form.” This portion of the population “have no preference” for the Union or Confederacy but wanted them to “continue to devour each other.” Adams noted that these three sectors of opinion represented the “very large proportion” of the British population. By contrast, the portion of the population “who really understand the nature of the question at issue and who advocate the cause of the United States as identical with the progress of free institutions all over the world is comparatively insignificant.” Only this last group, Adams noted, saw the war as a “necessity”; all others “consider it as more or less the offspring of mere passion.” Perhaps the Lincoln administration feared the effect on Union morale of suggesting that a large portion of the British population would have been satisfied with Confederate independence. Whatever the reason for its exclusion, the editors deleted Adams’s long discussion of British opinion, along with his statement that Seward’s strong reaction to any “proclivity to a recognition” produced the desired effect. Only the conclusion that Adams was “earnestly assured” that the “sympathy with the government of the United States is general” made it to publication, preserving the appearance of support at the expense of conveying a more complex political situation.67

The editors also took care to redact documents dealing with battlefield reverses. On August 16, 1861, Adams wrote that the effect of Union defeat at Bull Run was more damaging because of the “ridicule it exposes the country to” rather than the “positive loss” stemming from the battle itself. Reports in the European press did not help the Union cause. Adams noted that the “military spirit of Europe does not reconcile itself to such scenes as have been distinctly painted by the European correspondent of the London Times, and the American press, as well as caricatured in Punch.”68 In the portion of the despatch published in the volume, Adams refers to instructions he received to speak to Russell about the blockade.69 In the deleted portion, Adams admitted that were he to take a “strong tone” in the midst of such ridicule regarding Bull Run, he would “scarcely likely do more than to provide a smile” on the faces of his interlocutors. Rather, Adams wrote, he should “await an hour doubtless not far distant when the people of the United States will have redeemed their reputation for judgment and skill and courage” and have proven that they can survive war “without the guidance or control of the military or civil officers of the slaveholding States.” The editing process for the volume retained the demand for a conference and its topic, but excised the embarrassing reasons for Adams’s delay.

Finally, editors of the early volumes excluded some of Adams’s more pointed criticisms of the United States. Regarding the Alabama, editors left out Adams’s comment that “For the depredations actually committed by this vessel it seems to me there is almost as much responsibility of omission to prevent them on the part of the United States as of Great Britain. The information sent from this side ever since the month of June last was surely of a nature to be a full warning of the consequences of not being provided with vessels on the ocean competent to pursue and destroy this ship immediately upon her departure from this coast.”70 The editors deemed Adams’s assignment of blame in the contentious Alabama issue too problematic to publish.

Thus, exclusions from the documents could radically alter the message. The editors could accept Adams’s reports of neutral British opinion, but not the reasoning or lengthy study which led to his basic assessment. Likewise, it was acceptable to publish material on Adams’s willingness to approach the British about vessels on the high seas, but not his embarrassing reason for delaying the meeting, given the Union performance at Bull Run. And, in the case of arms procurement or defectors, some matters were better left out of the public—and potentially Confederate—eye altogether.

Despite the questions raised by excisions, modern readers can assess the early FRUS volumes as a sign of what the Lincoln administration wanted the American public to know about its foreign relations efforts during the first months of the conflict. The editorial approach developed during 1861 continued through the remainder of the war. The volume communicates several clear themes. Seward immediately wrote to representatives abroad and instructed them to resist the efforts of Confederate agents to secure recognition and to demand that countries refuse Confederate ships succor at their ports. The correspondence reveals a range of responses from around the globe: some governments declared their support for the Union, others pledged a neutrality that partially legitimized the Confederates. The documentation from the ministers illustrated the arguments used to sway foreign governments. Moreover, the records indicate that several ministers, as well as Seward himself, placed slavery at the center of the factors causing war.

Reaction to the First FRUS Volume

The first volume attracted significant attention in the press, almost all of it positive. Prior to the publication of the annual message, newspapers speculated about the coverage of foreign affairs in Lincoln’s address; both the New York Herald and the New York Times anticipated that the message would include correspondence about the Trent affair.71 In this hope they would be disappointed, but newspapers along the Eastern seaboard published accounts of the correspondence shortly after the Lincoln administration released the message and documents to the public. On December 6, three New York newspapers (the Times, Commercial Advertiser, and Herald), three Philadelphia newspapers (the Public Ledger, North American, and Inquirer), and the Baltimore Sun published similar accounts, each reporting on the number of pages released and highlighting some of the documents. The next day, the Albany (New York) Evening Journal and Boston Daily Advertiser printed long synopses of the papers. The Norwich (Connecticut) Morning Bulletin printed a much shorter item, and praised the publication: “The diplomatic correspondence submitted to Congress by President Lincoln, reveals as favorable a condition of our relations with foreign Powers as could have been anticipated. This is doubtless owing in a great degree to the firm and decided position maintained by Secretary Seward in his official intercourse with these Governments.” In Madison, Wisconsin, the Weekly Wisconsin Patriot lauded Lincoln’s message, but the attached correspondence had clearly not yet made it over the telegraph lines: “He refers to the correspondence with foreign powers,” the paper noted, “but does not discuss them in detail, or even give us a clue to their contents. So the public must wait for information on that score, till the diplomatic correspondence be published, and they may not be gratified in that respect, as Congress may not consider the public weal sufficiently guarded by their publication.”72 The publication continued to make the news in the following weeks.73 Newspapers began to publish additional documents, particularly those relative to relations with France.74

The assessments of Northern newspapers indicate the volume succeeded as a public relations tool. The Baltimore Sun reported on December 9 that the correspondence was “receiving that close attention from persons skilled in diplomacy and public law which belongs to its distinguished source and the magnitude of the subject in question.” Papers praised the publication of the correspondence and the contents of the documents. The Keene New Hampshire Sentinel reported that “in the whole of this correspondence, the Secretary of State exhibits marked ability as a statesman and diplomatist.”75 Others took heart from the correspondence that Seward would continue to act appropriately in the future. “The masterly ability which Gov. SEWARD has shown in his instructions to our Foreign Ministers,” opined the Albany Evening Journal, “induce strong confidence that he will conduct the correspondence likely to grow out of the MASON and SLIDELL affair, to a successful and satisfactory issue.”76 By January 1862, the volume had reached the West Coast; the San Francisco Daily Evening Bulletin reported that the diplomatic correspondence was “quite voluminous” and “highly interesting.” Seward again came in for praise: his “high-toned” and “courteous” messages were “as nearly perfect models of diplomatic correspondence as are to be found on the pages of modern history.” The correspondence with Adams and Dayton “have swept to the winds all the aspersions of those who have accused him of favoring a timid and wavering policy in dealing with the rebels.”77

Other newspaper reports suggested that the publication of the correspondence would improve the standing of the United States abroad. The New York Daily Tribune opined that British newspapers painting Seward in an unfavorable light “would be surprised if the contents of this volume could be fairly laid before them. In vain would they turn page after page in eager quest of the passages whereon the criminations of their favorite journals were based; they do not appear because they do not exist.” The paper praised Seward for his “assured and firm” tone and his faith that the country, “reunited, will be stronger and more prosperous than ever before.”78 According to those newspapers, at least, Seward acquitted himself well.79

The publication of the correspondence even attracted notice in the Confederacy.80 The Columbus (Georgia) Daily Enquirer discussed the correspondence with France under the headline “Whom the Gods Wish to Destroy, They First Make Mad.” Naturally, the paper put a different spin on the correspondence; rather than depicting Seward as standing strong in the face of an unfavorable British and French response, the paper focused on the response itself: “It will thus be seen that the relations between the United States and Great Britain and France were far from being securely amicable before the arrest of Mason and Slidell, that there were issues between them of great irritation and danger, and that Great Britain and France are united in the policy to be pursued in reference to political troubles on this continent.”81 The New Orleans Daily Picayune sneered at the correspondence with France from June 1861, noting that it came from a time when “arrogant confidence” about a speedy end to the war was “universally felt at the North,” before “the fervor of the Southern passion for independence” and the subsequent “holy war” had been fully experienced.82 In these documents, Southerners saw hope for their cause in Europe because Union leaders appeared to be grasping at straws.

The extent of newspaper response to the 1861 volume illustrates the important domestic function that FRUS served. Newspapers across the country—including the Midwest and the West Coast—printed the correspondence directly (or an analysis of it), and many papers praised Seward, the decision to publish the correspondence, and the contents of the publication. Created in response to a request from Congress, the volume fulfilled its domestic purpose by informing the national discussion about Union diplomacy.83

The Continuing Value of Openness

Given that the war only heightened the traditional congressional expectations about executive branch release, and the positive reviews of the first volume, almost all observers strongly supported continuing the publication. Although the extant archival record does not indicate precise numbers, it is clear that Congress approved printing many thousands of copies of FRUS throughout the Civil War.84 The Department and Congress each ordered at least 2,000 copies of the 1861 volume.85 The 1862 FRUS print run was probably 20,000 copies, and at least 10,000 copies of each of the two volumes produced for 1863 were printed. In 1864 Congress ordered the Public Printer to produce a minimum of 4,000 copies of each volume for the Senate and 7,000 copies for the House, although the print run was likely twice that figure.86 In addition to the demand for more copies, the amount of correspondence published grew as well. The 1862 volume encompassed 910 pages, more than twice the length of its predecessor. William Seward himself noted the growth; when presented with the “bulky” volume, he commented: “There seems to be a difference between this and the Confederate State Department. I see Toombs is reported as saying he can ‘carry the whole business of his department in his hat.’ It is as much as I can do to carry the business of mine in my head.”87 In 1863, the correspondence expanded to fill two volumes.88 The Department produced four volumes for both 1864 and 1865, exceeding 5,400 pages of documentation.

Few objections accompanied this significantly increased publication program. After release of the 1862 volume, one pamphleteer accused Seward of prompting the House to ask for records as an excuse for the Secretary to produce a lengthy propaganda instrument. In a complaint that would be voiced repeatedly in subsequent years, the author feared that release of recent, sensitive information damaged U.S. interests by unnecessarily causing affront to other nations. The author, probably a former Buchanan administration official, also criticized Seward’s writing style, evinced pro-McClellan sentiments, railed against the “acrid” abolitionist movement, and lamented that the 1862 volume exemplified “fierce fanaticism” by an overweening executive bent on destroying the separation of powers.89 Diplomats also occasionally muttered privately that the volumes revealed too much information too soon. Moran penned in his diary, “This year’s batch of our Diplomatic Correspondence has been published by Mr. Seward & that Solomon has in so-doing exercised his usual indiscretion.”90 By 1864, a few members of Congress concerned about expenses questioned the need to print so many copies of each volume.91 As the House debated Seward’s 1864 request to print 10,000 copies for Departmental use, the [Washington] Evening Union wondered, “Where on earth will he find so many readers?”92 Rather than criticizing the substance of the policies expressed in the volumes, press complaints focused on what they characterized as the lengthy, trivial nature of the documents. The pro-Democrat New York Herald commented when the correspondence for 1863 was released, “No other diplomat, we dare say, of modern or ancient time, has ever written so much in the space of three years as Mr. Seward.93 The Herald pilloried him again in anticipation of the 1864 correspondence:

Seward is certainly the most industrious of Secretaries, and as his writings have kept all Europe busy reading them, so that neither Palmerston nor Napoleon has had any time to pick a quarrel with us, we must give him the credit of being very successful. . . .94

Despite such occasional criticisms, the advent of war did not impede the tradition of informed debate on the nation’s external affairs; no credible voice on the American political landscape objected in principle to the timely publication of foreign policy documents.

Indeed, the overwhelming majority of commentators marshaled multiple arguments in support of rapid, widespread release of substantial diplomatic correspondence. Members of Congress certainly understood the value of FRUS for mobilizing domestic support, promoting public diplomacy, and informing their own deliberations. Theodore Pomeroy (R–NY) noted, “there is no man in this country who does not know that the public interest within the past year has been more drawn to our foreign intercourse than to any other subject in our political history. Foreign intervention is the rock upon which the world at large and our enemies at home expected us to split. There is no subject upon which to-day the people of this country demand and have a right to demand light more than upon that subject.” Henry Winter Davis (Unconditional Unionist–MD) supported printing Foreign Relations because the diplomatic correspondence

is the only mode that the Government has of stating its case authentically and fully to the nations of Europe. If it is not allowed to state it in that form it will be driven to the very questionable if not disreputable method of buying up the public press of Europe, as the rebels are in the habit of doing continually, for the purpose of manufacturing public opinion. The Secretary thought it better to have an authentic declaration of the opinions of the Government spread before the nations of Europe, official in form, for which we are responsible, and carrying with it the weight of official declarations.95

Davis concluded by noting that the House should support printing as many copies as Seward deemed “necessary for the purpose of stating our case to the nations of the world.”96 The House voted to support Seward’s 1864 request of 10,000 copies for Departmental use by a margin of 118–17.97 Members of Congress also utilized the volumes, comprehensive in scope and bound for ease of consultation, as they discussed key issues such as prosecution of the war and emancipation.98

The distribution of FRUS volumes at home and abroad generated considerable positive feedback.99 The majority of the copies went to Congressmen, who, in turn, sent some to interested citizens. William Greenleaf Eliot wrote to Charles Francis Adams in 1864 that “I spent a good many hours in careful reading of the English part” of the most recent volume. “I cannot refrain from thanking you,” Eliot wrote, “as an American citizen, for your most dignified + successful treatment of the subjects involved.”100 Many volumes also went to government depository libraries that facilitated widespread access by the general public.101 Overseas, the London legation kept a library featuring Foreign Relations volumes for reference to past precedent when examining current events.102 U.S. posts abroad also transmitted copies of FRUS to foreign governments, and American representatives reported that the public release of documents had a positive impact.103 From Egypt, Chargé d’Affaires William Sydney Thayer argued that “public opinion” was “enhanced by the publication of the Department of State’s correspondence with foreign powers, which has dissipated many prevalent errors as to the nature and pretentions of our government, and as to the purpose and ability of our nation to maintain its integrity.”104 Even Charles Francis Adams, who sometimes groused when Seward released correspondence Adams believed too sensitive to publish, found reason to praise the series. Commenting on the 1861 volume, he wrote to Seward that “The publication of the foreign correspondence . . . has materially corrected the old notion of determined hostility on your part to Great Britain, which has been used so mischievously for months past. On the whole, I think, I may say with confidence that matters look better.”105 Newspapers continued to applaud both the release of the volumes and their contents, sometimes excerpting extensive quotations from the published correspondence.106 Pro-Union, pro-FRUS pamphleteers emphasized that the President and Secretary of State possessed the capacity to make sound judgments about what documents to release, and that they had an obligation to inform Congress and the people about the international state of affairs in the midst of war.107 For many, the documentation revealed what the administration hoped, that “there is not a single dissenting voice throughout the whole diplomatic circle, and the verdict of the nations is unanimous in favor of the United States Government.”108

A Sad Duty

The diplomatic correspondence of the Civil War era closed with a volume unique in the series’s history. In addition to the usual diplomatic correspondence published in FRUS, the government produced a separate volume consisting entirely of condolences received following Lincoln’s assassination.109 The editors included correspondence from every corner of the globe. The GPO produced at least 28,500 copies, the largest print run of any Foreign Relations volume in the series’s history.110

The first U.S. president to be assassinated, Lincoln’s death presented a test of the constitutional plan of succession. Some governments noted this fact, signaling the legitimacy of Andrew Johnson’s administration in the eyes of the world community. The response from China, for example, embodied both regret and reassurance that the transfer of power was perceived as smooth. Prince Kung, Chief Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, wrote on July 8, 1865, that the announcement of Lincoln’s death “inexpressibly shocked and startled me.” Nevertheless, the news that “on the same day the Vice-President succeeded to the position without any disturbance, and the assassin had been arrested, so that the affairs of government were going on quietly as usual” seemed to satisfy the Prince’s worry, and he hoped that these facts would also “alleviate your grief at the event.”111

Similar expressions of shock, horror, mourning, condemnation of the crime, and condolence to the American people came from governments the world over. The Ecuadorian Government ordered all employees to “wear mourning for three days, during which time the Ecuadorian flag shall be displayed at half-mast from all the public buildings.”112 British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Earl Russell made démarches both in London and Washington.113 Liberia, recognized (along with Haiti) by the U.S. Government in 1862 at Lincoln’s urging, issued a proclamation mourning a man who “was not only the ruler of his own people, but a father to millions of a race stricken and oppressed.”114

Perhaps one of the most remarkable parts of the volume comes not from the official expressions of sorrow but the messages sent spontaneously from citizens’ groups both at home and abroad. The purpose of FRUS is to publish government documents, but the Lincoln Assassination volume includes a large number of non-official messages from ordinary people. Within the United States, city councils, benevolent societies, spontaneous assemblies of citizens, religious organizations, chambers of commerce, corporation boards of directors, college trustees, social clubs, and veterans’ organizations all submitted declarations, resolutions, and even poems memorializing Lincoln. Some came from groups of immigrants so recently arrived that the messages included translations into English, and others from Mexican, French, or Portuguese expatriates resident in the United States. Condolences even arrived from southern cities, including a resolution passed by an overflow crowd in Savannah, Georgia, which had been occupied by Federal troops for less than four months. A group of Freemasons in France wrote to Johnson that they “wish[ed] to express to you their sentiments of admiration, gratitude, and regret for Lincoln, and their profound sympathy for the government of which you are the head. The blood of your martyred magistrate becomes a fecundating dew to give to liberty a new baptism throughout the entire universe.”115 The Working Men’s Club of Berlin noted that Lincoln was a laborer’s son and “himself a laborer, he took up the fight for the rights of free labor and carried it to a triumphant termination.” While mourning his death, the laborers noted that “the freedom which has thus been sealed with the blood of one of the noblest men” will ultimately be victorious, and that the U.S. flag will represent “the cause of freedom and civilization”116 wherever it flies.

The unusual nature of this volume highlights the unique communications platform that FRUS provided the U.S. government. As an official record, Foreign Relations could send “messages”—to Congress, to the U.S. public, to American diplomats abroad, and to other governments and peoples. Those communications routinely included factual information and policy positions, but FRUS could be used for special purposes as well. The “Lincoln Volume” afforded the opportunity, however tragic the occasion, to combine public affairs and public diplomacy. The volume not only gave voice to a global expansion of solidarity and support, but also demonstrated the resiliency of the American system of government. The peaceful transition of power at a time of national crisis provided an object lesson, and also a demonstration, of U.S. strength.

The Purposes, Impact, Value, and Values of Early FRUS

The available evidence supports a reconstruction of the context surrounding the birth of the series that illustrates important themes that recur into the 21st century. The Foreign Relations series did not spring fully formed from the head of Seward or Lincoln, but rather represented an important step in the evolution of a process ongoing since the early republic. Rather than a project conceived in the executive branch to promote its own purposes, the process of sharing information exemplifies checks and balances between the branches of government: the executive formulates and implements foreign policy, while the legislative oversees the conduct and content of that policy. In the early 1860s, Congress and the executive branch regularized a long-standing tradition of request for, and delivery of, documentation relating to foreign affairs, with certain limitations understood by both parties. “Under our form of Government,” Senator James Brooks (D–NY) argued in 1864, “we are entitled to all the information from the Executive which is not detrimental to the public interests.”117 Even though Brooks included the standard public interest caveat, he fully expected to receive sufficient documentation to pass judgment on the executive’s conduct of foreign policy. Indeed, the Department of State released significant quantities of information every year, both before 1861 and after 1865.

Moreover, congressional representatives and Department employees increasingly viewed publication of foreign policy documents as a normative governmental function. Benjamin Moran recognized as much in 1862 when referring to an incident between Adams and Russell: “When the correspondence shall be published, there will be a good deal of sarcastic comment in the newspapers at his expense on this confession that might have been saved.”118 Moran assumed that it was a matter of when—not if—the correspondence would come to light. With little fanfare, the Department of State assumed a responsibility that it continues to hold today: to disseminate foreign affairs documentation, according to a coherent organizational scheme, on a regular basis.

The volumes also performed a multifaceted public affairs/public diplomacy function, indicating what the government wanted both the American people and foreign observers to know about U.S. policy. It is clear from the correspondence written by the Secretary of State in 1861 and subsequent debates in Congress over the cost of printing that the Department intended the volume to serve as a public relations tool. On the one hand, the volume’s contents appealed to multiple domestic audiences. Congress wanted tens of thousands of copies for its own distribution. Newspapers and concerned citizens across the country also read the volumes to judge how their contents reflected the wisdom and competence (or lack thereof) of the Lincoln administration. The documents also played to official and non-elite audiences overseas. The early FRUS volumes painted a picture of Seward firing off instructions around the world, ordering American ministers to parry Confederate advances in other lands. Demonstrating American resolve and exposing the willingness of Great Britain and France to treat the Confederates as legitimate belligerents yielded public relations benefits at home and abroad.

Perhaps most importantly, the volumes represent the high value placed on openness as a fundamental element of democratic governance. Seward’s 1864 missives to Adams justifying publication of sensitive documents on grounds of responsibility to the electorate reflect a profound belief in the importance of transparency in governmental operations. Even in time of war, responsible government required public accountability for actions taken in the name of the people. In a mid-19th century world that featured few representative governments, and in which the European liberal revolutions of 1848–1849 failed, the U.S. Civil War threatened to undermine the principal bastion of republican institutions. As the above quote from Brooks indicates, Americans expected their government to operate transparently, albeit within the bounds of public interest; examining the material excised from early FRUS volumes indicates that the people did not learn everything about foreign policy. That the publication of recently-created foreign policy documents sparked some controversy indicated the health, rather than debility, of the American system. Insofar as the record enables us to judge, Seward seems to have grasped this point, and his views appear representative of the majority of government officials and ordinary citizens during that era.

Nevertheless, a careful examination of material excluded from early FRUS volumes also illustrates the limitations government officials imposed on openness. Put in 21st century terms, the editors censored material that they believed would damage national security, hinder the war effort, reveal information-gathering sources and methods, or violate privacy considerations. The tension between the desire for transparency and the responsibility to protect played out within the confines of the executive branch; Congress and the public had to trust that the President and Secretary of State would share as much information as possible. This enduring dynamic became increasingly problematic during the 20th century, and calculating what constitutes “responsible release” remains a key issue today.

Waging war against the Confederacy required not only fighting on battlefields but also combating their envoys in foreign lands as well as campaigning for support among multiple constituencies at home and abroad. Building on the tradition of publishing diplomatic correspondence that began in the early republic, the first FRUS volumes marked an important stage in the evolution of informing politicians and the public about foreign affairs. The unknown Department employees who created the first volume probably could not have envisioned the massive undertaking that FRUS would become in the 20th century, but they would no doubt applaud the fundamental purpose: to create a public record of U.S. foreign policy, enabling citizens to assess the work of their government. In subsequent generations, the value ascribed to openness and transparency in governmental operations has remained a key factor informing the FRUS series, even as the changing role of America in the world has modified and transformed implementation of those values. The Civil War spawned the “Contemporaneous FRUS,” fostering openness practices that would remain normative for another half-century.

  1. Frederick W. Seward, Seward at Washington, as Senator and Secretary of State: A Memoir of his Life, with Selections from His Letters, 1861–1872 (New York: Derby and Miller, 1891), p. 22.
  2. Department of State, Office of the Historian website, “Frequently Asked Questions: Department Personnel, 1781–2010,”
  3. Adams to Seward, February 11, 1864, NARA, RG 84, U.S. Legation Great Britain, Despatches to the Department of State, Vol. 24. For the assessment of one of Adams’s Legation assistants, see Sara Agnes Wallace and Frances Elma Gillespie, eds., The Journal of Benjamin Moran, 1857–1865 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1949), February 11, 1864, Vol. II, p. 1263. This was not the only time Adams was annoyed by publication; see Moran, Journal, December 22, 1862, Vol. II, p. 1099. But Adams also saw the value of publishing the diplomatic record; as he told Earl Russell in November 1862 regarding the publication of a note from the Russians to the French: “I expressed my satisfaction with the result, because I thought the publication of these papers in America would tend to correct any impressions which had been made of the disposition of France, to the disadvantage of Great Britain.” Adams to Seward, November 15, 1862, NARA, RG 84, U.S. Legation Great Britain, Despatches to the Department of State, Vol. 24.
  4. Seward’s reference is to Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution.
  5. Seward to Adams, March 2, 1864, NARA, RG 59, Diplomatic Correspondence (1785–1906), Instructions to Diplomatic Officers, Great Britain, Vol. 98.
  6. Seward to Adams, March 2, 1864, NARA, RG 59, Diplomatic Correspondence (1785–1906), Instructions to Diplomatic Officers, Great Britain, Vol. 98.
  7. Leopold, “The Foreign Relations Series,” p. 597.
  8. Moran, Journal, December 22, 1862, Vol. II, p. 1099.
  9. Moran noted the poor state of the volumes, stored “over the stables,” susceptible to mildew and dust, for which he blamed “the niggardly spirit of the Gov’t in not providing proper cases for them. All applications for an appropriation have been treated with silent indifference and as a consequence we have no library worthy the name.” Moran, Journal, October 6, 1863, Vol. II, p. 1219.
  10. Seward to Adams, August 2, 1862, NARA, RG 59, Diplomatic Correspondence (1785–1906), Instructions to Diplomatic Officers, Great Britain, Vol. 97.
  11. Moss, “Public Diplomacy,” pp. 4–5.
  12. Basler, Papers of Abraham Lincoln, Vol. IV, p. 299.
  13. Basler, Papers of Abraham Lincoln, Vol. V, p. 61.
  14. Congress was not in session between August 7 and December 1, 1861. The requests for information were intended to produce either an immediate result before Congress adjourned in August, or to signal their expectation that the correspondence would be transmitted upon their return in December. July 13, 1861 resolution by Representative Samuel Sullivan Cox (D–OH), Congressional Globe, 37th Cong., 1st Sess., p. 117. See also Cox, Eight Years in Congress, from 1857–1865; Memoir and Speeches (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1865) and Three Decades of Federal Legislation, 1855 to 1885, Personal and Historical Memories of Events Preceding, During, and Since the American Civil War, Involving Slavery and Secession, Emancipation and Reconstruction, with Sketches of Prominent Actors during these Periods (Tecumseh, Mich.: A. W. Mills, 1885). Cox wrote of Seward that “while the diplomatic correspondence of our Civil War shall remain in the archives of the Nation, that monument of his worth and greatness must far surpass in grandeur any memorial of bronze or marble that genius can conceive or art execute” (Three Decades, p. 274); July 15 resolution by Representative Erastus Corning (D–NY), Congressional Globe, 37th Cong., 1st Sess., p. 129; July 25 resolution by Senator Timothy Howe (R–WI), Congressional Globe, 37th Cong., 1st Sess., p. 253.
  15. Roy Basler, ed., Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Vol. IV (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1953), p. 459. That same day, Lincoln and Seward also declined to provide correspondence with foreign powers relating to maritime rights (ibid., pp. 459–460).
  16. Roy Basler, ed., Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Vol. V (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1953), p. 55.
  17. The volume also included reports, totaling 396 pages, from the Postmaster General and the Interior, War, and Navy Departments. The only other volume to include material not pertaining to foreign affairs was the 1871 FRUS volume, which featured reports from the Postmaster General, the Commissioner of Agriculture, and the Treasury War, Navy, and Interior Departments.
  18. Message, 1861, pp. 3–4.
  19. Message, 1861, p. 31.
  20. Message, 1861, p. 32.
  21. In order of publication: Prussia, Belgium, Mexico, Great Britain, Austria, France, Spain, Rome, Russia, Denmark, Italy, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Turkey, Sweden, Portugal, Peru, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Egypt, Venezuela, Chile, the Hawaiian Islands, and Japan.
  22. Seward, Seward at Washington, 1846–1861, p. 568.
  23. Seward, Seward at Washington, 1846–1861, p. 556.
  24. Seward to Schurz, April 27, 1861, Message, 1861, p. 257.
  25. Seward to Wood, May 1, 1861, Message, 1861, p. 311.
  26. Seward to Fogg, May 15, 1861, Message, 1861, p. 329.
  27. Message, 1861, p. 37. Seward’s instruction to Judd is dated March 22, but Judd did not take over as representative until July 1. Joseph Albert White, Minister since 1857, was Minister until that date, and thus is also represented in the correspondence.
  28. Seward to Corwin, April 6, 1861, Message, 1861, p. 65.
  29. Seward to Corwin, April 6, 1861, Message, 1861, p. 68.
  30. Seward to Adams, April 10, 1861, Message, 1861, p. 76.
  31. Howard Jones, Abraham Lincoln and New Birth of Freedom: Union and Slavery in the Diplomacy of the Civil War (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1999), p. 50.
  32. Seward to Adams, July 29, 1861, Message, 1861, p. 124.
  33. Seward to Dayton, August 17, 1861, Message, 1861, p. 240.
  34. Sanford to Seward, May 26, 1861, Message, 1861, p. 55–56.
  35. Dallas to Seward, April 9, 1861, Message, 1861, p. 81. Seward found the British response inadequate; see Seward to Adams, April 27, 1861, Message, 1861, p. 83.
  36. Jones to Seward, April 15, 1861, Message, 1861, p. 188.
  37. Brown to Seward, June 11, 1861, Message, 1861, p. 389.
  38. Corwin to Seward, May 29, 1861, Message, 1861, p. 70.
  39. Faulkner to Seward, April 15, 1861, Message, 1861, p. 205.
  40. Turpin to Seward, July 27, 1861, Message, 1861, p. 427. Venezuela was itself in the midst of considerable political turmoil at the time.
  41. Dryer to Seward, September 7, 1861, Message, 1861, p. 436.
  42. Wright to Seward, May 26, 1861, Message, 1861, p. 40.
  43. Dallas to Seward, May 2, 1861, Message, 1861, pp. 83–85.
  44. Angel to Seward, June 10, 1861, Message, 1861, p. 396.
  45. Haldeman to Seward, July 28, 1861, Message, 1861, p. 399.
  46. Seward to Adams, May 21, 1861, Message, 1861, p. 87.
  47. Seward to Fogg, May 15, 1861, Message, 1861, p. 329.
  48. For example, Howard Jones states that the British “adhered to international law in equating a civil war with a war between nations and then assuming a position of neutrality.” Through belligerent status, the Confederates gained “credibility,” their raids on Union ships were not considered piracy by the British, and Confederates could do business with British merchants. Jones, Blue and Gray, pp. 51–52.
  49. Adams to Seward, June 14, 1861, Message, 1861, p. 104.
  50. Seward to Adams, June 19, 1861, Message, 1861, p. 108.
  51. See a recent example in Jones, Blue and Gray, p. 3.
  52. Seward to Judd, March 22, 1861, Message, 1861, p. 37.
  53. Seward to Dayton, April 22, 1861, Message, 1861, p. 197.
  54. Seward to Clay, May 6, 1861, Message, 1861, pp. 294–295.
  55. See in Message, 1861, Perry (Madrid) to Seward, June 13, 1861, p. 261; Clay (St. Petersburg) to Seward, June 21, 1861, p. 304; Pike (The Hague) to Seward, June 12, 1861, p. 351.
  56. For example, the exclusion of information on consular appointments did little to change the tenor of the complete volume. See in Message, 1861: Dallas to Seward, March 22 (p. 80); Adams to Seward, June 21, 1861 (pp. 109–110); Adams to Seward, June 28, 1861 (pp. 110–111), and the corresponding records in NARA, RG 84, U.S. Legation Great Britain, Despatches to the Department of State, Vol. 22. The documents also suggest that Seward and Adams may have maintained a separate channel of communication: “Last week I received and acknowledged a Despatch, likewise numbered 876. The mistake I presume to have arisen from attaching a number 874 to a Despatch strictly confidential and evidently not intended to be placed in the ordinary series.” Adams to Seward, April 7, 1864, NARA, RG 84, U.S. Legation Great Britain, Despatches to the Department of State, Vol. 24.
  57. Adams to Seward, August 16, 1861 in Message, 1861, pp. 127–128 and NARA, RG 84, U.S. Legation Great Britain, Despatches to the Department of State, Vol. 22; Seward to Adams, September 2, 1861 in Message, 1861, pp. 140–141 and NARA, RG 59, Diplomatic Correspondence (1785–1906), Instructions to Diplomatic Officers, Great Britain, Vol. 97.
  58. Adams to Seward, April 3, 1863 in Message of the President of the United States, and Accompanying Documents, to the Two Houses of Congress, at the Commencement of the First Session of the Thirty-Eighth Congress, Part I (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1864) (hereafter Message, 1863), pp. 221–226 and NARA, RG 84, U.S. Legation Great Britain, Despatches to the Department of State, Vol. 23.
  59. Adams to Seward, May 17, 1861 in Message, 1861, pp. 85–87 and NARA, RG 84, U.S. Legation Great Britain, Despatches to the Department of State, Vol. 22. For Forster, see Amanda Foreman, A World on Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War (New York: Random House, 2011), p. 95.
  60. Adams to Seward, September 28, 1861 in Message, 1861, p. 159 and NARA, RG 84, U.S. Legation Great Britain, Despatches to the Department of State, Vol. 22. For another case of excising material on Mexico, see Adams to Seward, September 14, 1861 in Message 1861, p. 155 and NARA, RG 84, U.S. Legation Great Britain, Despatches to the Department of State, Vol. 22.
  61. Adams to Seward, March 27, 1863 in Message, 1863, pp. 180–183 and NARA, RG 84, U.S. Legation Great Britain, Despatches to the Department of State, Vol. 23.
  62. Adams to Seward, May 17, 1861 in Message, 1861, pp. 85–87 and NARA, RG 84, U.S. Legation Great Britain, Despatches to the Department of State, Vol. 22.
  63. Adams to Seward, July 3, 1863 in Message, 1863, pp. 349–350 and NARA, RG 84, U.S. Legation Great Britain, Despatches to the Department of State, Vol. 24.
  64. Adams to Seward, March 5, 1863 in Message, 1863, p. 154 and NARA, RG 84, U.S. Legation Great Britain, Despatches to the Department of State, Vol. 23.
  65. Message, 1863, pp. 154–162.
  66. Adams to Seward, October 10, 1862 in Message of the President of the United States to the Two Houses of Congress at the Commencement of the Third Session of the Thirty-Seventh Congress (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1862) (hereafter Message, 1862), pp. 209–210 and NARA, RG 84, U.S. Legation Great Britain, Despatches to the Department of State, Vol. 23.
  67. Adams to Seward, June 21, 1861 in Message, 1861, pp. 109–110 and NARA, RG 84, U.S. Legation Great Britain, Despatches to the Department of State, Vol. 22.
  68. Adams to Seward, August 16, 1861 in Message, 1861, pp. 127–128 and NARA, RG 84, U.S. Legation Great Britain, Despatches to the Department of State, Vol. 22.
  69. Reference is to Seward to Adams, July 21, 1861, Message, 1861, pp. 117–121.
  70. Adams to Seward, November 20, 1862 in Message, 1863, pp. 6–7 and NARA, RG 84, U.S. Legation Great Britain, Despatches to the Department of State, Vol. 23.
  71. New York Herald, December 2, 1861; New York Times, December 4, 1861. On November 8, 1861, the USS San Jacinto seized Confederate Ministers James Mason and John Slidell from the British ship RMS Trent, violating British neutrality. See Jones, Blue and Gray, Ch. 3.
  72. Albany Evening Journal, Boston Daily Advertiser, Norwich Morning Bulletin, Weekly Wisconsin Patriot, all December 7, 1861; Hartford (Connecticut) Daily Courant, December 9, 1861.
  73. The District of Columbia Daily National Intelligencer published a range of documentation over several days at the end of December, for example.
  74. Correspondence with France was published or summarized by the New York Times (December 9, 1861); the New York Herald, Hartford (Connecticut) Daily Courant, Public Ledger (Philadelphia), Boston Daily Advertiser (all December 11); Boston Daily Advertiser, North American, New Hampshire Sentinel (all December 12); and the Cincinnati Daily Enquirer (December 14).
  75. New Hampshire Sentinel, December 12, 1861.
  76. Albany Evening Journal, December 18, 1861. For Mason and Slidell, see note 97.
  77. Daily Evening Bulletin, January 9, 1862. The paper published additional items on January 10, 13, 14, and 31.
  78. New York Daily Tribune, December 18, 1861.
  79. For more praise, see the Trenton (New Jersey) State Gazette, December 20, 1861.
  80. See, for example, Macon (Georgia) Telegraph, January 7, 1862.
  81. Columbus Daily Enquirer, December 23, 1861.
  82. New Orleans Daily Picayune, December 25, 1861.
  83. Although this chapter focuses on the domestic impact of FRUS, one aspect of foreign reaction is worth noting. Shortly after the volume was released, Lord Richard Lyons, British Minister to the United States, sent a copy to Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Earl Russell. Russell received the correspondence on December 25. Lyons obviously attempted to get his hands on the publication as soon as possible: “As the earliest copies did not come from the press until yesterday afternoon,” he apologized, “I have not had time to do more than read somewhat hastily that part of the correspondence which relates to England and France.” He then recounted what he considered the highlights of the documents, chiefly the reaction of the United States to the British and French willingness to treat the Confederacy as a de facto government and Washington’s contention that Confederates should be treated as pirates. Lyons to Russell, December 6, 1861, Message No. 130, p. 115 in Correspondence Relating to the Civil War in the United States of North America, North America, No. 1, Command Papers; Accounts and Papers, Paper No. 2909, Vol. LXII, 1862. The 1861 FRUS volume was promptly reprinted in full under the title Extract of a despatch from her Majesty’s minister at Washington, dated December 6th 1861, inclosing papers relating to foreign affairs laid before the Congress of the United States at the opening of the session in 1861, North America, No. 2, Command Papers; Accounts and Papers, Paper No. 2910, Vol. LXII, 1862.
  84. In addition to the specific citations below, see appendix B.
  85. Letter from William Seward to John D. Defrees, November 29, 1861, p. 520, NARA, RG 59, M40 Domestic Letters of the Department of State, 1784–1906, Vol. 55, Reel 52; letter from Frederick Seward to Defrees, December 12, 1861, p. 22, NARA, RG 59, M40 Domestic Letters of the Department of State, 1784–1906, Vol. 56, Reel 53.
  86. Message, 1862, unnumbered page in the introduction; Annual Report of the Superintendent of Public Printing, January 20, 1863, 32nd Cong., 2nd Sess., H. misdoc. 21. p. 8 (Ser. 1199); U.S. Code, Section 11, 13 Stat. 184 (June 25, 1864) (in force during 1864–1865); appendix B.
  87. Seward, Seward at Washington, 1861–1872, p. 71. Robert Toombs served as the first Secretary of State for the Confederate Government.
  88. In anticipation of the increased size, the District of Columbia Evening Union printed a short item entitled “Weighty Documents,” which noted that the diplomatic correspondence of 1863 would “comprise a printed volume of two thousand pages” (November 25, 1863). By 1865, newspapers could report that “Owing to the time required for copying the diplomatic correspondence with England and France, referred to in the President’s annual message, it is not probable the transcript will be communicated to Congress until after the holidays” (The Sun [Baltimore], December 18, 1865).
  89. A Northern Man, The Diplomatic Year: Being a Review of Mr. Seward’s Foreign Correspondence of 1862 (Philadelphia: n.p., 1863), pp. 12–13.
  90. Moran, February 11, 1864, Journal, Vol. II, p. 1263.
  91. Congressional Globe, 38th Cong., 1st Sess., February 4, 1864, pp. 495–496 and March 3, 1864, p. 926.
  92. [Washington D.C.] Evening Union, February 2, 1864.
  93. New York Herald, February 23, 1864.
  94. New York Herald, December 4, 1864. See also New York Herald, December 1, 1863 and January 25, 1864; Harrisburg (PA) Patriot, January 28, 1864; [Washington D.C.] Evening Union, February 3, 1864.
  95. Congressional Globe, 38th Cong., 1st Sess., February 4, 1864, p. 496.
  96. Congressional Globe, 38th Cong., 1st Sess., February 4, 1864, p. 496.
  97. Congressional Globe, 38th Cong., 1st Sess., January 25, 1864, p. 338; Congressional Globe, 38th Cong., 1st Sess., June 27, 1864, p. 3303; Congressional Globe, 38th Cong., 2nd Sess., January 13, 1865, p. 260.
  98. Both quotes from Congressional Globe, 38th Cong., 1st Sess., February 4, 1864, p. 495.
  99. Most discussions of congressional distribution of documents focus on the post-Civil War era. For a general discussion of this topic, see Schmeckebier, Government Publications, pp. 94–95; and Boyd and Rips, United States Government Publications, pp. 35–36.
  100. Letter from William Greenleaf Eliot to Charles Francis Adams, September 16, 1864, LCM, Adams Family Papers, Part IV, “Letters Received and Other Loose Papers, Chronologically Arranged, 1639–1889,” Reel 572.
  101. In 1858, Congress authorized Representatives and Senators to designate a depository library for their districts. In the first year 98 sites received the designation, and the number of depository libraries increased in subsequent years. In addition, federal agencies, the White House, state and territorial libraries, every land-grant college, the military academies at West Point and Annapolis, and the Library of Congress (including dozens of extras for foreign exchange) also received one or more copies of all government documents. Although precise figures are not available, distribution of FRUS to these sites probably exceeded 300 copies in 1861 and no doubt increased thereafter. By 1900 the number of depository libraries exceeded 500, and in 1908 federal agencies and Congress distributed over 1.7 million documents to them. See H. Rpt. 188, House Select Committee on the Conduct and Accounts of William Cullom, Late Clerk of the House, 35th Cong., 2nd Sess. February 28, 1859, pp. 98–100 (Ser. 1020); Revision of Printing Laws, February 25, 1916, 64th Cong., 1st Sess., Senate Report No. 183, pp. 126–128.
  102. Moran, Journal, Vol. II, December 10, 1861 and June 17, 1862, pp. 921–922, 1022–1023.
  103. The U.S. consulate at Hamburg, for instance, passed on “a couple of volumes of Diplomatic Correspondence relating to the affairs of the United States.” Note from J. Anderson to C. H. Herck, July 14 [n.d.], CL VI, no 16p, Vol 3a, Fasc 9, 111–1 Senat, Staatsarchiv der Freien und Hansestadt Hamburg.
  104. Thayer to Seward, Message, 1862, p. 885.
  105. Adams to Seward, January 17, 1862, Message, 1862, p. 14.
  106. Philadelphia Inquirer, November 15, 1862, December 8, 1862, December 13, 1862, January 20, 1864, December 31, 1864, February 7, 1865; The Sun (Baltimore), December 8, 1862, December 10, 1862, January 21, 1864; Dakota Republican (Vermillion, SD), January 10, 1863; San Francisco Bulletin, January 16, 1863; Trenton (New Jersey) State Gazette, January 23, 1864; Madison Wisconsin Daily Patriot, February 16, 1864.
  107. (Joseph Nunes), A Diplomat on Diplomacy (n.p.: n.d. [probably 1863]); S. Kimber, A New “Sartor Resartus,” Being a Critical Analysis of a Pamphlet Entitled “A Review of Mr. Seward’s Diplomacy” (n.p.: n.d. [probably 1863]).
  108. Philadelphia Inquirer, January 21, 1864.
  109. The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln, Late President of the United States of America, and the Attempted Assassination of William H. Seward, Secretary of State, and Frederick W. Seward, Assistant Secretary, on the Evening of the 14th of April, 1865 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1866) (hereafter Assassination). In 1867, Congress ordered a subsequent edition with an additional 200 pages of documents. No other volume has been dedicated to an assassination in the same way. Khrushchev’s letter to Johnson following the assassination of Kennedy was published in Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, vol. VI, Kennedy-Khrushchev Exchanges, Document 119 (
  110. Appendix B. In addition to the regular distribution of FRUS volumes, Congress stipulated that sufficient additional copies should be printed to supply one to every government and non-governmental association whose tributes were included in the volume. See, for example, Foreign Relations 1868, p. 313.
  111. Assassination, p. 41.
  112. Assassination, p. 47.
  113. Assassination, p. 146.
  114. Assassination, p. 473.
  115. Assassination, p. 60.
  116. Assassination, p. 498.
  117. Congressional Globe, 38th Congress, 1st Session, April 29, 1864, p. 1967.
  118. Moran, Journal, Vol. II, June 20, 1862, p. 1024.