Mr. Seward to Mr. Taylor.

No. 5.]

Sir: Your very interesting despatch of October 29 (No. 16) has been submitted to the President.

The explanations of the views of the Russian government made to you by Prince Gortchacow, and his assurances of its fidelity and constancy towards the United States, are deeply interesting and eminently gratifying.

Circumstances and positions affect our views of every transaction. The profound apprehension concerning the present safety and future stability of the Union expressed by the prince was, at the time of your conversation with him, a very natural preoccupation of his mind. If I can accurately recall events, the latest information from this country which had then reached Russia left here an insurgent army, which had been only checked in its invasion of Missouri; another similar invading army arrested, but not driven back from its march upon Cincinnati; still another hovering on the borders of Pennsylvania and Maryland; and yet another in front of Corinth, protecting Vicksburg and threatening Memphis. The same information untruly represented the government levies as coming slowly into camp, the public credit declining, and its resources as well nigh exhausted. This was the sensation of the hour here in the early part of the month of October. The daily press is a political daguerreotype. It seizes the existing profile of affairs, fixes it stiffly and darkly upon [Page 466] the plate, and, at the very instant, scatters its impressions broadcast throughout the world.

The same instrument is now giving a very different profile of American affairs to foreign countries. What is now seen is a picture of wasting rebellious armies retreating on every side, an empty treasury, a prostrate credit, sufferings inde scribable, attended by alarms and fears of social revolution. General Burnside is on the advance to Richmond; an army and a fleet are descending the Mississippi; another army, with another fleet, is just moving * * * * *; another army is advancing from Nashville towards East Tennessee, and an iron navy is nearly ready to reduce the last remaining insurrectionary ports into federal occupation. Of all the insurgent menaces which lowered upon us so thickly in September and October there is only one that now gives us anxiety, and that is the invasion by iron-clad vessels, which are being built for the insurgents by their sympathizers in England. In regard to that danger, we must believe that the preparations of this government, whose resources are as ample now as that of any nation, are at least equal to the emergency of defence at home against such steam naval forces as the insurrection can send across the Atlantic ocean.

Naturally the first thought which, in a time of apparent danger to our country, occurs to a foreign friend, is the desirableness of an adjustment or arrangement of the strife. This suggestion is enforced by a contemplation of the calamities and sufferings which are wrought upon the battle-field. The generous mind, glowing with friendly zeal, refuses to admit the fact, however obvious, that composition of such troubles is impossible. This has been the case especially with the excellent Russian minister plenipotentiary here. He has for some time pressed upon us the same sentiments which were expressed to you by Prince Gortchacow. Mr. Adams has informed us that Baron Brunow, at London, has equally urged them, though with great delicacy, upon him.

The Russian government need not doubt for a moment that the President will hail the first moment when any proposition of peace can be made which will arrest the strife without a sacrifice of the nation’s constitution and life. That period cannot now be far off. Whatever the insurgent leaders may say of their determination, it is not possible for the masses they represent to persevere much longer without direct foreign aid. Much as we deprecate such aid, we have nevertheless had experience enough of war to know, what all the world sees, that to attack the United States, even in their present divided and distracted condition, is an attempt no one foreign nation is likely to undertake, while reason, nature, interest, and moral duty forbid an alliance for such a purpose. It is indeed a fearful drama which the almighty Ruler of nations has appointed us to enact. But it does not surpass the powers he has given us to sustain the performance. Not only friendly nations but human nature itself is interested in its success, and must not be disappointed.

I am, sir, your obedient servant,


Bayard Taylor, Esq.,&c., &c., &c.