Mr. Taylor to Mr. Seward.
Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your despatches (Nos. 4, 5, and 6) of the 19th, 22d, and 24th of November, respectively. I need not assure you how welcome were their contents. By referring to my last despatch (No. 21, of November 28) you will understand how much the independent step I ventured in order to revive the confidence of the imperial government in our final success has been strengthened by your official declarations. I rejoice to be able to announce that my efforts have not been wholly unsuccessful, and I am sure that the help you have now furnished to me will be sufficient to restore that faith in their destiny which the United States expect from a friendly power.
Mr. Adams having communicated, in answer to my confidential letter, an encouraging statement of the present attitude of England, I took occasion, in an interview which I had with Prince Gortchacow last week, to read to him some portions of it. This led to a renewed conversation upon American affairs, and it was very soon evident to me that the anxiety which his excellency had manifested on previous occasions was beginning to subside. He still inquired, nevertheless, whether some arrangement with the insurgents which would put an end to the war was not possible. I replied that so long as their professed object was a division of the Union, the federal government could not even take the first step towards such an arrangement. “Would Russia,” I asked, “welcome an immediate peace at the price of separation?” “No,” he answered, [Page 849] after a moment’s reflection; “but what terms would be accepted by the federal government?”
“Unconditional submission to the authority of the Constitution. Nothing more would be required, nothing less accepted,” I replied.
“Would your people be satisfied with that?” the Prince again asked. “Would the government consent to suspend the emancipation of the slaves on the simple acknowledgment by the southerners of the federal authority?”
I assured him that the preservation of the Union was the one great and vital object which the government of the United States had in view. The decree of emancipation was intended solely as a weapon to defend the national life, and its employment or relinquishment depended on the rebels themselves. They knew, I added, that it would be dropped, with all its consequences, if they should now express a willingness to lay down their arms and trust to the magnanimity of the national government. The latter makes no formal proposition to them, for it is not necessary. The door is at all times open for their return.
This assurance seemed to give great satisfaction to the Prince. His tone became more moderate and hopeful. And I was thus enabled to repeat my statements of the improved aspects of the national cause, with the confidence that they would produce the desired effect.
The misstatements of the English press, and even in the United States of northern journals that are not heartily loyal, create impressions here which I am obliged continually to combat. The Journal de St. Petersbourg generally copies its resumé news from the Courier des Etats Unis, probably to save the trouble of translation, and thus the Russians receive their current history of military and political movements in America with the coloring given to it by that particular sheet. Prince Gortchacow had evidently been led to fear that the war was taking the character of a crusade against slavery, and hence that overtures of submission, involving the continuance of that institution in the States where it exists, would not be accepted by the federal government. I trust, however, that I have succeeded in removing this impression from his mind.
After receiving your last despatches I again applied for an interview, which was granted to-day. I informed the Prince that I was authorized to communicate to him the sincere congratulations of the government of the United States on the new and auspicious reform which his Imperial Majesty has decreed. He expressed great pleasure at the fact of my having reported the project, and especially at the prompt recognition of its importance by the President, whose congratulations he accepted as another evidence of the interest which the government of the United States feels in the progress of Russia. “We have stepped from one peaceful revolution to another,” said he, “and my earnest wish is that your revolution could have been accomplished in the same way.”
Your despatch No. 5, of November 22, is so complete a justification of statements which I had ventured to make without special instructions before receiving it, and, moreover, expresses so much reciprocal kindness and consideration for the views of the imperial government, that I made and presented to Prince Gortchacow a copy of it. I stated to him that I was not instructed to do so, but that I was sure its contents would be gratifying to him. He was anxious to know whether I had received any reply to my despatches concerning the proposal of intervention. I told him a reply had not yet arrived, but that I felt confident the action of Russia would be interpreted as he desired. At parting he was unusually cordial. “There will be no misunderstanding,” said he, “so long as you and I act for our governments.”
The steady forward movement of our armies gives more encouragement to our friends here than many such battles as those of Antietam and Perryville. This evidence of a determination on the part of the government to press the war with all possible vigor to a speedy conclusion begins to turn the scale of [Page 850] opinion once more in our favor. At the present crisis in our national fortunes nothing can do us so much damage abroad as inaction, either real or apparent. I most fervently hope that the restoration of confidence, the commencement of which I am now able to report, will not again suffer a relapse.
It has been rumored that Mr. Maury is on his way to this court as an agent of the so-called “confederate” government, and I have, therefore, prepared the way for him by informing Prince Gortchacow of the manner in which he deserted the national service.
The imperial court is still at Moscow, where the Emperor has been received with more than the usual enthusiasm. His addresses to the deputations of nobles and peasants have given new illustrations of the firmness and energy of his character. The rumors of threatened disturbances which were so current last summer have ceased; the peasants are coming to a sober comprehension of the change in their condition, and it appears nearly certain that the critical phase in the working out of so vast a reform has been safely passed.
I have the honor to be, with the highest respect, your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State.