Mr. Cameron to Mr. Seward.

No. 8.]

Sir: Your despatch (No. 6) of July 23, in answer to my communication of June 26, has been received. I regret that you do not feel at liberty to grant the application therein contained, since other and more pressing reasons, in addition to those already given, oblige me to repeat it. The climate of St. Petersburg has proved so unfavorable to the health of my wife that her condition causes me serious anxiety, and the season is every day becoming more harsh and inclement. My own health suffers also from the same cause, though I should not urge this reason were there any immediate necessity for my presence at this court. Thus, while my motives for desiring leave of absence have somewhat changed since I first applied to you, the necessity for my return has become still more imperative. I shall remain here as long as possible, hoping that a favorable answer may reach me [Page 455] before the approach of winter obliges me, for the sake of my family, to leave. I feel assured that the President will not refuse my application when he understands its urgency, and if his answer should be delayed I believe I should only be anticipating it by my return. In such case I should leave the affairs of the legation in charge of the secretary, who is familiar with my views, ready to act according to their spirit, and fully qualified by his acquaintance with the business and interests of the legation to conduct them in a manner entirely satisfactory to the government.

Even were this climate as favorable to the health of my family as it is the reverse, I should feel wanting in my duty towards my country to be willingly absent at this most critical period. Although at the time I left home I was determined to demand a vindication of my acts from that branch of the government which aspersed them, I feel now that I can safely leave such vindication to time. The generous action of the President in my behalf, with the course of events since then, has already so far justified me that I am not now called upon to let even the care of my personal reputation interfere with the graver duties of Congress. With no desire to fill any public station, I am yet anxious to support the Union in this hour of trial with all the means given to me by the experiences of my life.

In compliance with the request contained in your despatches Nos. 5 and 6, I called to-day upon Prince Gortchacow to communicate to him the gratification of the President with the friendly expressions which attended my presentation and the farewell of my predecessor. I took occasion, at the same time, to express my confidence in the steadfast attitude which Russia has assumed in regard to our internal struggle. The prince emphatically confirmed me in this confidence. He stated that the article in the Journal de St. Petersburg (a translation of which is contained in my despatch No. 6) was prepared in the foreign office by his direction, as an authoritative declaration of the sentiments of Russia. The United States need have no fear, he assured me, that these sentiments would change. He furthermore stated that the report of a meeting of sovereigns at Berlin next month was premature, no intimation of such a meeting having yet come to the notice of the Emperor. “If it should take place,” said he, “the United States can have no objection to Russia being represented, since they will then be certain of having a friend in the council.” He frankly expressed his regret, however, that the expectations raised when our vast army of volunteers took the field have not been realized—that the recent reverses have shaken the confidence of our friends in our ability to suppress the rebellion. The tone of his remarks indicated an unfavorable opinion as to the military conduct of the war.

The rumor to which you allude of a combination of the powers for intervention in the affairs of the United States is, therefore, unfounded, so far as Russia is concerned. The danger of such intervention by other powers seems to be suspended for the present, but is far from being removed. On the contrary, unless the war is so conducted during the coming four months that the end of the rebellion can be foreseen by enemies as well as friends, the outcry for mediation will be renewed with irresistible force—and mediation then may mean active, armed intervention. Everything I have hitherto said on this point I am obliged to reaffirm more emphatically than before. The patience of our friends and the impatience of our enemies will alike give way if the strain be much longer continued. The necessity of an immediate assumption of the most vigorous measures which the government can devise is most imminent.

Looking from this distance it is painfully evident that there is not loyalty enough in any of the rebellious States to stay the swiftness or temper the severity of their punishment; that the equivocal attitude of the border [Page 456] States, by delaying a sterner policy, has embarrassed the government and weakened its legitimate power; and that unless speedily overthrown by more successful military operations, that institution which is both the cause and the strength of the rebellion must be made a weapon to destroy it forever. I have thus stated not simply my personal conviction, but—so far as I can ascertain it—the average judgment of intelligent Europeans. As you have directed my attention to this subject, I have felt myself bound to give you the frankest and most explicit expression of what I believe to be the truth. There has been no period, since the commencement of our troubles, when our citizens abroad have felt such painful suspense as at present.

I have the honor to be, with sentiments of the highest respect, your obedient servant,


Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State.