Mr. Seward to Mr. Motley.

No. 19.]

Sir: Your despatch of August 25 (No. 7) has been received. I am not aware that you can give any other answer than you have been in the habit of sending to offers of military service. Propositions for employment as [Page 552]officers, and even overtures to supply the country with volunteers, are now being made to the President in all parts of Europe. He appreciates and is grateful for them. They reveal the fact, contrary to the assumptions of even the most careful foreign observers, that all Europe is not prejudiced against and hostile to this representative republic in its struggle for self-preservation and for free government. Practically, however, such offers cannot be accepted; our own laws do not authorize, and international law forbids, the President to enlist men for military purposes in foreign countries. There is no deficiency of officers, though too many who are in commission seem to be inefficient. The inability of foreign military gentlemen to speak the language familiar to the army has prevented even meritorious gentlemen of that class from attaining positions they have very properly desired, and from rendering the services they so cheerfully tendered. All the requisitions for soldiers which the President has hitherto made have either been filled, or are being filled with promptness and alacrity, from among the resident population of the country. Such large draughts upon the population have, indeed, produced a sensible diminution of laborers in the classes of artisans and manufacturers; the prices of labor in every department have risen; and as there has never been any other country where industry was so well rewarded as in the United States, so those rewards are now greater than at any former period in our history. It is not unlikely that any immigrants who may be attracted by these inducements will find vacancies in the army if they shall prefer military to civil pursuits. But the government cannot stipulate for their employment either in the one form or the other. It is, however, willing, and even anxious, that those inducements shall be understood; because, first, the country would derive important advantages from immigration at the present moment; and because, secondly, it offers to suffering populations in Europe an escape from the evils of poverty and famine.

The course of the war, after the close investment of Richmond, was not auspicious. The large volunteer armies of the United States down till that time prosecuted a vigorous and very successful, though a very extensive and elaborate, campaign. But that campaign involved a waste of numbers and means which had not been foreseen, and for the repair of which no provision had been made. The people had begun to assume that the war was coming to a close, and were applying themselves with renewed energy to their industrious pursuits. The army before Richmond, and all the other armies, suddenly called for re-enforcements; but recruiting had either been suspended or enlistments had entirely ceased. The needed re-enforcements were not forthcoming, and it seemed as if they could be raised only with great difficulty and delay. At that very moment the insurgent army was filled by a very sweeping and energetic conscription. It soon became manifest that the insurgents understood the relative condition of the respective military forces.

They projected and prepared an aggressive campaign against not only this capital, but also the loyal States of Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana, while yet our forces were in the very heart of the revolutionary region.

In this emergency the public mind became deeply disturbed and painfully apprehensive. Although it might have been seen that for a short time at least the attitude of the loyal States must be a defensive one, and must continue so until the national forces should be largely augmented, and the new levies should become effective, it was urged upon the President, as a necessary expedient, to meet the crisis with some form of Executive manifesto, or declaration of a purpose to wage the war with great vigor and with new rigors in the insurrectionary States. He thought, on the contrary, that mere declaration of ulterior purposes and designs in a future and distant [Page 553]campaign, while the armies were at the moment retreating towards their bases, would not be calculated to repress the treason or to repel the threatened invasion. The means which he adopted in the emergency were a requisition for six hundred thousand volunteers, with the alternative of a draft if necessary; the bringing together and consolidating of the two separated armies in Virginia upon a line in that State in which they could, in case of need, be the defence of the capital; the augmentation of this consolidated army and of the other national forces, and the placing them in such a position that while we should still retain all the important positions we had already taken, we should be prepared to roll back the threatened tide of invasion, and begin a new campaign on the coast or the Mississippi and in the passes of Western Tennessee. The reverses at Richmond were followed to some extent by the disasters which had been apprehended. The army of Virginia, before it had practically absorbed the army of the Potomac was beaten by the insurgents, and driven back upon the fortifications of this capital. They then proceeded to the fordable passes of the Upper Potomac, crossed the river, occupied Frederick, a quasi capital of Maryland, and invited the people of that State to rise in arms and join the pretended confederacy. While at Frederick they menaced equally this city, Baltimore, and Pennsylvania. In like manner they spread small parties through Kentucky, everywhere raising the disaffected in the rear of General Buell, and marched towards the Ohio river, threatening Cincinnati with invasion. The pretended congress of the insurgents met and solemnly approved this aggressive policy, cheering their traitorous supporters with threats of inflicting all the calamities and horrors of invasion upon the people of the loyal and so-called free States. It was thought that this invasion would alarm and confound the loyal States, and at least induce a recognition of the insurgents by foreign nations. Thus the aggressive policy was inaugurated by the insurgents with an audacity that even lent to it an apparent prestige of success. But in this case, as in others, the bow stretched beyond its power of tension has broken.

The new levies came, and are coming in with alacrity. One hundred and fifty thousand of them are already in the field, and as many more in camp.

The prompt massing of a force of seventy thousand loyal troops at Cincinnati disconcerted the plans of invasion in the west, and the insurgents are reported to be retreating. General McClellan rapidly organized a new army here, followed the invaders into Maryland, and gave them battle, and defeated them on the 14th. They are leaving that State undisturbed in her loyalty, and Pennsylvania is relieved from all fears of invasion. It is supposed that these bold and baffled movements of the insurgents have impaired their strength, and taxed their resources severely, while it is thought by our military authorities that the resources of the Union are adequate, as its credit seems to be, to all the exigencies of a vigorous and decisive conflict.

I am, sir, your obedient servant,


J. Lothrop Motley, Esq., &c., &c., &c.