Mr Adams to Mr. Seward,.

No. 533.]

Sir: I have to acknowledge the reception of despatches numbered from 738 to 746 inclusive, and of two notes of the 26th of October, one marked private, and the other confidential.

Some of these treat of subjects the condition of which has been essentially modified by events which have happened on this side since the date of your writing. I refer more particularly to Nos. 739, 740 and 743. The note of Lord Russell to me of the 29th ultimo, transmitted with my despatch No. 530, of last week, implies an intention to make explanations through Lord Lyons in regard to the transactions at Cape Town, which must have the effect of retaining the discussion of them altogether in your own hands. I shall so regard the matter until further advice. I propose, however, to send to him a copy of the journal of the officer of the Alabama, which I have caused to be reprinted from the South African Advertiser and Mail of Cape Town, in a form for circulation among leading persons here. A number of these will be transmitted to you in the bag that carries this despatch.

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[Page LIII]

On the whole my impression is that matters just now stand pretty well here. report of a speech of Mr. Villiers will be sent to you by the present steamer. He is the brother of Lord Clarendon, and one of the liberal members of the cabinet. His disposition has always been understood to be friendly.

I have the honor to be, sir, your obedient servant,


Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.


Lord Palmerston, who on rising was received with loud and protracted cheering, said: My lord mayor, ladies and gentlemen, for myself and my colleagues I beg to return most sincere thanks to you—my lord mayor, for the manner in which you have been kind enough to propose, and to you, ladies and gentlemen, for the manner in which you have been good enough to receive the toast. Those who are charged with the conduct of the affairs of this country must always feel the highest gratification in being permitted to be present at the splendid hospitalities of this great city of London. (Cheers.) And not only do we receive personal gratification, but we feel that on these occasions, what takes place cements that union between the different classes of the community which is so important to the interest of the whole. It is well that those who are engaged in carrying on those commercial transactions on which the wealth, the strength, and the happiness of this great country depend, should mix from time to time with those who, as responsible advisers of the crown, are engaged in conducting the political affairs of the country. I do not mean to say that on these occasions, when we meet at the festive board, matters of importance are discussed, for we are too much occupied in enjoying the festivity and hospitality which surround us for that; but acquaintances are formed on those occasions which ripen afterwards into friendships. It is well known that the transactions of business are made much easier when those who meet to carry them on know and like each other; and therefore I say that these meetings are of great political importance in bringing together those who are connected with the commerce of the country and those who are responsible for its political government. (Hear, hear.) There have been occasions when it has been the lot of those who have had to explain the state of political affairs to congratulate you upon the tranquil state of the civilized world. I am afraid I cannot do that on the present occasion; for although I trust that there is nothing in the horizon which can grow into a cloud of war, yet we see on all sides—in the far west and in the distant east—struggles going on of the most lamentable character, and scenes enacted which make us shudder for humanity and feel deep compassion for the countries in which those events are taking place. (Hear, hear.) In the far west we see a nation of the same race and the same language, and the same religion and the same manners, and the same literature as ourselves, split into two, slaughtering each other by hundreds of thousands, and carrying on a contest the result of which it is impossible to foresee, and the end of which now, after more than two years’ duration, he would be a bold man indeed who said he could predict. (Hear, hear.) Lamenting that state of things, the government of this country have felt it their duty not to yield either to the entreaties or the objurgations of one party or the other. (Cheers.) Blandishments on the one side, and threats on the other, have been equally fruitless to direct our course. (Cheers.) We have felt it our duty to abstain from taking any part in that lamentable contest. If, indeed, we had thought it was in our power to put an end to it by friendly intervention, no [Page LIV] efforts would have been wanting to accomplish so holy an end—(hear, hear)— but we felt that interference would be vain, and we deemed it our duty—and in that respect I am sure we followed the wishes of the country—to maintain a strict and impartial neutrality. (Loud cheers.) In the distant east, events which are also of a lamentable character are taking place. We there see on the one side a barbarous system of deliberate extermination carried on, and on the other side revenge venting itself in murder and assassination. We endeavored to enlist the opinions and the feelings of civilized Europe in joint remonstrances, and so far we succeeded; but those remonstrances have failed. We have done our duty, and we can only hope that those who have the conduct of affairs in the Russian empire may, at length, cease to pursue that course which has thrown upon them the condemnation of Europe, and that peace may be restored upon terms of equity and justice to an unfortunate country. (Cheers.) Well, my lord, although abroad things look ill, and much misery and calamity are sustained, yet, as you have just observed, this country forms a happy exception to that which seems to be the prevailing condition of nations. (Hear, hear.) We have been blessed by Providence with an abundant harvest; we have been preserved by the government and the good sense of the country from the calamities of war; our population are contented and loyal, feeling that for a long course of years the legislature of the country has been occupied in remedying grievances, in removing defects in our laws, and in casting away those obstructions which the less enlightened policy of former times had thrown in the way of the productive industry of the country; and I am happy to say that I believe the commercial and material prosperity of the country is brighter now than it has been at any former period. Those who know the course of the commerce of the world will tell you that year by year this great city of London is growing more and more the centre of the commercial transactions of other States; that bills are drawn upon London to pay debts all over the world, and that commodities destined for other countries are sent here for deposit—a tribute paid by the people of other nations to the industry, the good management, the integrity, and the high honor of the commercial community of this land. My lord, I congratulate you on this happy state of things, and I trust that the people of England will feel that they are greatly indebted for it to the reign of that beneficent sovereign under whose mild and enlightened rule they have the happiness and good fortune to live. My lord, I beg again, on behalf of my colleagues and myself, to return you our most sincere thanks, and to assure you that we derive high gratification from being allowed to be present at your festive board on this occasion. (Loud cheers.)

The Right Hon. C.P. Villiers, M.P., on the policy of the government.

On Monday night Mr. Villiers and Mr. Weguelin addressed their constituents at a dinner given at Wolverhampton to the retiring mayor, Mr. H. H. Fowler.

Mr. Villiers, in responding to the toast of her Majesty’s ministers, said it was not for a cabinet minister to be less sensible of the good opinion of his fellow-men than any one else should be. On the contrary, there was great reason why he should be more so; for if he had to state the result of his own experience in that position, it would be that, looking at the trouble it entailed and the responsibility which it involved, no reward would be sufficient compensation but that which resulted from hoping that he had deserved and would receive the gratitude and good opinion of the country. (Hear, hear.) Every man in this country [Page LV] had not only the power but also the inclination to form and to express his opinion of public matters, but it was very difficult to obtain a general agreement upon politics, and still more difficult to secure a union of opinion with respect to any particular government. And when the merits of the ministry could be alluded to and received so favorably in a promiscuous assembly, like the one he was then addressing, it was highly satisfactory to the members of that ministry, and he could not but say that it was peculiarly gratifying to himself. He was told that all politics were abjured from such assemblies as the one in which he was then taking part, and he should, therefore, not think of adverting to any topic that would provoke question or dissent. But he hoped he might express his satisfaction at the friendly tone in which he had observed persons deservedly held in estimation in the country, but of opposite politics to the government, refer on frequent occasions to the present administration. (Hear, hear.) At meetings composed of persons of an entirely opposite party to the ministers there had been marked manifestation of feeling against doing anything to displace the present government, or rather men of such large experience in public affairs as were Lord Palmerston and Lord Russell—(cheers)—or men of the very great talent of Mr. Gladstone. (Loud cheers.) When such testimony in favor of a government, was borne by persons who did not agree with the politics of the government, he hoped that he might infer that there was something in the policy of the present administration which was not distasteful to the country, but that it had been with something like public spirit that they had discharged the duties of their office. (Hear, hear.) Great events of national importance had transpired during the last four years, and the government had been required to decide upon them with promptitude. It was possible to refer to some consequences following the acts of the present administration that might account for the state of public opinion in regard to that administration. Peace had been maintained when the honor of the British flag had been brought in question and our great maritime rights had been disputed by the Americans; but these the ministry had vindicated with spirit and success. (Cheers.) There had been the most strict observance of the pledge of neutrality. (Hear, hear.) Duties counted by millions of pounds sterling, and restrictive of trade, had been removed and the revenue unimpaired at a time when the country had been suffering from the shock to trade which immediately followed upon the breaking out of the painful conflict which still raged on the continent of America. These facts might account, not for political contentment, but for the political calm which prevailed throughout the country; and this state of things might account for the opinion of many, that now would not be the happiest moment to disturb the peaceful pursuits of men by exciting the feelings which an angry political contention was sure to provoke. (Hear, hear.) Other circumstances there might be which would tend to account for the prevailing wide contentment, and chief among them was the recent bountiful harvest—the most bountiful that the oldest person living could recollect. Cheap and abundant food had been the result of that harvest. (Hear, hear.) Now, supposing that the crisis in the cotton trade had occurred at a time when the people were dependent for their supply of food, as they were for their supply of cotton, upon one source—supposing that such a restrictive policy as once prevailed relative to the supply of food had been in operation at the close of the three very bad harvests by which the last very bountiful one was preceded, and that at such a time the calamity of a cotton dearth had befallen the country, any man might easily conclude what, in such a state of things, would have been the condition of Great Britain. (Hear, hear.) It was fortunate that a timely wisdom induced Parliament to rely on the resources of the whole world before the period came when, but for that wisdom, a double misfortune would have befallen the nation. (Cheers.) The present state of this country was a fair subject of gratulation, not only on account of the great prosperity which the people now enjoyed, but also on account of the [Page LVI] general soundness of their opinions and sentiments. (Hear, hear.) He believed that there had been no time in the history of the United Kingdom when the opinion of the people was sounder than it was at the present period. There never was a time when Englishmen were more sensitive of the honor of the country or more ready to defend its honor, or at which they clung more tenaciously to the institutions of the country. (Cheers.) There never was a time when there was a more evident desire for the moral elevation of the humbler classes—(hear, hear)—and he would say that although they were living in times when they more than ever deprecated the calamity of war, and were more than ever in love with peace, there never was a time, should any sad exigency require it, when the country was better prepared to defend its shores and to resist its enemies in any part of the world. (Loud cheers.) And he would say, further, that there never was at any time more satisfaction than at present with the constitution, never more satisfaction with a liberal constitution and government, which those who enjoyed it conceived to be suitable to most civilized nations, and especially to those of Europe; and never were the people of this country more sympathetic with the nations who were struggling to follow our example. (Cheers.) But never was the conviction more profound in the minds of the people, that it was not in the province of this country to interfere in such struggles. (Hear, hear.) The principle of non-intervention was a principle which had sunk deeply into the minds of Englishmen. All history and all recent experience showed them that interference in the internal affairs of other countries was provocative of more disappointment and more disapprobation than any other course of procedure. (Cheers.) Whenever the time arrived for such a sketch to be written of the conduct of the present government as they sometimes saw in print the morning after the decease of distinguished persons who had occupied public positions, nothing would be remarked upon with more satisfaction than the circumstance that the government had offered continued resistance to the carrying into effect of an opposite principle to that of non-intervention—had, in fact, resolutely maintained the observance of that principle. (Cheers.) Non-intervention was nothing but the practical observance of the sound views which all sensible people entertained in private life, namely, that one neighbor should not meddle in the affairs of another. (Hear, hear.) He only wished that this forbearance could be fully carried through, and that they could be very careful of their criticism—(hear, hear)—that nations would be more careful of saying respecting one another anything which would be likely to provoke hostile feelings. Severe measure had been meted out to the Americans in their misfortunes. He had heard the bitterest remarks made against the President of the Union for endeavoring to maintain the Union, and also against the southern States for their attempting to retain possession of their “ property.” During the first ten years that he was in Parliament a question was being discussed which excited great interest. That question was the repeal of the Union. Those persons who advocated it stood in the same relation to this country as the southerners now stood to the north. He never saw one English member who was not ready to oppose it, and who was not prepared to admit that he should be guilty of treason if he voted for it. (Cheers.) So (continued Mr. Villiers,) in the ten years before I entered Parliament, I heard language with respect to Lord Brougham and other philanthropic advocates of negro emancipation, as violent and as reproachful as, for the same reason, the confederates now address to the federals. We should have been indignant had any foreign country interfered with us upon either of these occasions, or if they had addressed to us the language that is used towards the Americans at the present day. We were allowed to settle those matters as we thought best, and we have been satisfied with the mode in which they were settled. (Hear.) I think the Americans ought to be allowed to settle their own affairs without more interference, and we must trust to their speedily coming to a conclusion that will be just. (Cheers.)

[Page LVII]

Mr. Weguelin said it had been a common complaint that the discussions of the House of Commons had been fruitless of results—that politics had become languid and the members flaccid—(a laugh)—that, content with the leadership of one great man, they had shunted their responsibility, and were content to look on from a siding at the express train of affairs which ran by them. (Laughter.) But though there had been an absence of party spirit, that state of things was to be attributed to other causes. General questions had of late years been settled by the triumph of those principles which had established civil and religious liberty, had extended self-government, and placed it on a wider basis, and had regulated trade, currency, and finance. (Hear, hear.) But if party spirit had been dead in late years, they should all rejoice that the spirit of trade was reviving. (Hear, hear.) He believed that the prevailing prosperity was sound, but they would let him, as an old merchant, address to them a few words of warning, because there were a few indications that the prosperity in which they were rejoicing might be based on even much sounder foundations than that upon which it now rested. He referred to the sudden drain of bullion, and the consequent rise in the rate of interest. He thought it was not wise to neglect these indications. It might be that, after a time, owing to the measures taken by the Bank of England, the drain of bullion would cease, and the coin which had been issued for the internal wants of the country return; but as far as his experience went, a drain of bullion and a rise in the rate of interest were indicative of something unsound in the state of trade or credit. It was therefore desirable that not only individuals, but especially banking corporations, should take the earliest possible opportunity of checking any undue extension of credit. (Hear.) When they considered that the Bank of England reserve, which now amounted to not more than six or seven millions, was practically the only unemployed capital of the country, and that it was the only source by which a balance of trade could be secured, they would see that there was good reason why they should be careful not to give stimulus to other than necessary transactions. He made these observations, not because he thought that a monetary crisis was at hand, but because they might tend to those healthy restrictions which, if generally observed, would go far to ward off misfortunes of a serious nature, and place trade on a wholesome and permanent footing. He concluded by acknowledging the toast of the members of the borough.