Papers Relating to Foreign Affairs, Accompanying the Annual Message of the President to the Second Session Thirty-eighth Congress, Part I
Lord Lyons to Earl Russell.—(Received October 29.)
My Lord: I have the honor to enclose an extract from the New York Herald of the 12th instant, containing a summary, quoted from a southern newspaper, of a correspondence which would appear to have taken place between Mr. Acting Consul Fullarton and the governor of the State of Georgia, respecting the claim of the State to force British subjects to serve in its militia.
I have no other information respecting this correspondence.
I have, &c.,
British subjects drafted for military service in rebel States ordered to throw down their arms.—Georgia and Great Britain.—A Mr. Fullarton, who dates letters from the British consulate at Savannah, who signs himself “Acting Consul,” and who informs the governor of Georgia that he has “submitted his authority to act as British consul to Mr. Benjamin, who [Page 832] duly accorded to him his approval and recognition,” has had the audacity to give formal intimation to Governor Brown that he has advised those residents of Georgia who claim to be British subjects, and who are or may be drafted into the militia under the late call, that if they are required “to leave their immediate homes” or “to meet the United States forces in actual conflict,” in such event they should “throw down their arms.”
Mr. Fullarton goes further than this. While admitting the duty of British residents to defend their homes against “invasion by a foreign power,” he adds, “but not in a civil war like that which now rages on this continent.” Mr. Fullarton has considered the matter, and has judged and concluded—and coolly in forms the governor of Georgia of his conclusion—that Georgia is still a portion of the United States, and is engaged in a civil war against fellow-citizens of other States.
Here we must remark that Mr. Fullarton could not possibly judge or conclude otherwise. He, as acting British consul in Savannah, is not accredited by his government to our government; he knows nothing of our government; if he has any credentials at all, they are addressed to Mr. Lincoln’s government at Washington; and Mr. Benjamin, acting (we must presume) for that government at Washington, has approved and recognized Mr. Fullarton. Here we are in the habit of regarding Mr. Benjamin as secretary of state for the confederacy; but British consuls and their government know him only as a kind of agent for Mr. Lincoln, doing Mr. Seward’s business here for the time the “civil war” may last.
We desire to know—and the country will demand to know—what “authority was submitted” by Mr. Fullarton to Mr. Benjamin, and which the latter found so satisfactory, and upon which he “approved and recognized” a person who is to reside in Savannah and protect the residents of Georgia against the laws of the State, and inform the governor of Georgia that he is a rebel, waging civil war, against his own government, and advise a certain portion of the Georgia militia to throw down their arms if they are expected to defend their State against the enemy. Was that authority thus submitted to Mr. Benjamin an appointment by Mr. Molyneux, the former consul at Savannah? or was it a letter from Lord Lyons, the British minister at Washington? or was it an exequatur granted by Mr. Seward at Washington? All we know for certain is, that it was not any regular appointment of a consul accredited to the Confederate States.
One cannot but admire the patience and courtesy of Governor Brown in dealing with this most insolent “acting consul.” But he does not recede an inch from his position, and the abstract which we append of the essential parts of the correspondence will satisfy our readers that the dignity of the confederacy and of the State are safe in the hands of Governor Brown.
Under date of the 22d July, Mr. Fullarton writes the first letter from the “British consulate,” demanding the exemption of British subjects from the duty of defending the place of their residence, unless against foreign powers. Here is an extract:
“Her Majesty’s government acknowledge the right of a foreign state to claim the services of British subjects resident within its limits, for the purpose of maintaining internal order—in other words, to act as a local police force, and even, to a limited extent, to defend against local invasion by a foreign power the places of their residence; but they deny the claim to service beyond this, and accordingly I have given advice in the following sense to British subjects who have applied to me on the subject of this draft—that militia duty is in general an obligation incident to foreign residence, and that therefore they must not object to render the service required so long as the law requires a militia organization for the maintenance of internal peace and order. But if it shall so happen that the militia, after being so organized, shall be brought into conflict with the forces of the United States, without being turned over to the Confederate States, so as to form a component part of its armies, or if it should be so turned over, in either [Page 833] event the service required would be such as British subjects cannot be expected to perform.”
On the 8th of August Governor Brown replies; informs Mr. Fullarton that he must have misunderstood the objects of that militia force; tells him that the enemy is preparing raids to devastate the country, and exciting insurrections of slaves. He then continues;
“It is needless for me to add that, in case they should be successful in inciting insurrections to this point, the butchery of helpless women and children would doubtless be the result.
“As a means of accomplishing this object, as well as of destroying public and private property, the enemy is now preparing to send cavalry raids as far as possible into this and other States of the confederacy. These robber bands will, no doubt, burn and destroy property where they go, carry off as many slaves as they can, and attempt to stir up others with whom they come in contact to insurrection, robbery, and murder.
“It is not expected that the 8,000 men called for by my proclamation, and the general order to which you refer, will be used against the regular armies of the United States. The provisional armies of the Confederate States have shown themselves fully able to meet the enemy upon a hundred battle-fields, and to drive them back with severe chastisement, wherever they have not had the advantage of their navy as a support. But it is expected that this home organization, while it may be but little of its time in actual service, will, in case of sudden emergency, assist in repelling the plundering bands of the enemy, which evade contact with our armies and make predatory incursions to our very homes for the purposes already mentioned; and that they will assist in suppressing any servile insurrections which these plundering parties may be able to incite.
“Many who claim to be her Majesty’s subjects, in this State, are large slaveholders, whose danger of loss of property, and of insult and cruel injury to their wives and children, in case of insurrection, is as great as the danger to the citizens of this State, and their obligation to protect their property and their families against the local aggressions of the United States forces is no less.
“While her Majesty’s government has constantly refused to recognize the existence of the government of the Confederate States, her citizens have enjoyed its protection. And while she refuses to hold any diplomatic relations with us, you, as her representative, are permitted to represent her interests here and to be heard for the protection of her subjects and their property. In this state of things, British subjects, who still elect to remain in the confederacy, should not expect to do less than the service now required of them; and, while free egress will in no case be denied them, should they desire to depart from this State, less than the service now required will not in future be demanded, in case they choose to remain in the State and enjoy its protection.”
Whereto Mr. Fullarton replies, on the 17th August. He says it was not he who misunderstood the affair, but Governor Brown:
“I perfectly understood the intentions of the government in organizing the force of 8,000 men for home defence, but I am obliged to conclude that you have misunderstood me when I admitted the right of the State to claim the services of British subjects resident within its limits, for the purpose of maintaining internal order, and even to a limited extent to defend the places of their residence against local invasion by a foreign power. Such service might be rendered by them in the event of a war by a foreign power, but not in a civil war like that which now rages on this continent.
“Her Majesty’s government consider that the plainest notions of reason and justice forbid that a foreigner, admitted to reside for peaceful purposes in a State forming part of a federal union, should be compelled by that State to take an active part in hostilities against other States which, when he becomes a [Page 834] resident, were members of one and the same confederacy. While acknowledging the right of the State, under present circumstances, to the services of British subjects for patrol or police duty, her Majesty’s government object to any further extension of such service. I have consequently, under instructions, felt myself compelled to advise those drafted to acquiesce in the duty until they are required to leave their immediate homes, or to meet the United States forces in actual conflict; in that event, to throw down their arms and refuse to render a service the performance of which would run directly in the teeth of her Majesty’s proclamation, and render them liable to the severe penalties denounced against a violation of the strict neutrality so strongly insisted on in that document.”
And he adds this menace:
“The despatches which I have received from the British government relative to compulsory service are strong. I am instructed to remonstrate in the strongest terms against all attempts to force British subjects to take up arms. Should these remonstrances fail, the governments in Europe interested in this question will unite in making such representations as will secure to aliens this desired exemption.”
To this the governor replies as becomes him:
“You virtually deny that the United States is a foreign power, and claim that Georgia is still a component part of the government of the United States. You have probably been influenced, in your persistence in this error, by the forbearance of the government and people of the Confederate States in permitting her Majesty’s consuls to remain among us in the exercise of the function of a position to which they were originally accredited by the government of the United States. As it is no part of my purpose to enter into an argument to convince you that the United States is a hostile power, foreign to Georgia, I will dismiss this part of the controversy with the single remark that, if your pretensions be correct, your appeal for the protection of British subjects resident within this State should have been made to the government at Washington, and not to me.
“You are pleased to inform us that you have felt compelled to advise those drafted to acquiesce in the duty until they are required to leave their immediate homes, or to meet the United States forces in actual conflict; in that event, to throw down their arms and refuse to render a service the performance of which would run directly in the teeth of her Majesty’s proclamation, &c. It is worthy of remark that the language you employ is ‘to leave their immediate homes, or to meet the United States forces in actual conflict.’ Your advice, then, to British subjects, if I correctly understand it, is that when the United States forces attack the immediate locality of their homes, or their own houses, they are not to defend them, as required by the laws of nations, against such local invasion; but they are to throw down their arms and refuse to fight for the protection of their domiciles. In reply to this, it is my duty to inform you that I can neither be bound by your pretensions that the United States is not a power foreign to Georgia, nor can I admit the right of her Majesty by proclamation to change the laws of nations, and insist upon maintaining her subjects here and exempting them from the performance of the duties imposed upon them by the laws of nations. When the troops now drafted have been turned over to the government of the Confederate States, to be held in readiness to repel local invasion, if they should, upon the approach of a hostile force, follow your advice and throw down their arms, that government will have the power to pardon for such conduct, or to strike their names from its muster-rolls, if it chooses to do so; but if an attack should be made by the enemy upon the immediate locality of their homes while I control and command the forces to which they are attached, and they should be guilty of conduct so unnatural and unmanly as to throw down their arms and refuse to defend their domiciles, [Page 835] they will he promptly dealt with, as citizens of this State would he, should they be guilty of such dishonorahle delinquency.”
Here it is to he observed that it was prudent in the governor to answer only for himself; he knows very well what he will do, while he commands the State militia, to any of the State force who may throw down their arms in face of the enemy; hut he cannot tell what the confederate authorities might do in such a case, with Mr. Benjamin secretary of state.
Mr. Fullarton had asked if there would be any obstacle to the British residents leaving the country, even if already drafted, and intimates that this would deprive the confederacy of artisans and mechanics whose services were of “inestimable value.” The governor responds:
“It is gratifying to know that there is no law of nations, or of this State, which throws any obstruction in the way of the removal of any British subject from the State who is not satisfied with the privileges and protection which he enjoys. You remind me, however, that not a few of them are mechanics, of whose inestimable services at this crisis the confederacy will be deprived in case of their removal. These mechanics have no doubt remained in this State because they felt it their interest to remain. And in reference to them, this State will very cheerfully adopt the rule which generally controls the British government. She will consult her own interest, and will exempt from military service for local defence such mechanics, who are aliens, as choose to remain, and as will be more serviceable in that capacity.”
Mr. Fullarton next begins operations by demanding leave to quit the State for J. D. and F. M. Kiely, “two drafted British subjects.” We give the whole of the governor’s reply, which closes the correspondence, as we find it in the “Atlanta Intelligencer:”
“Marietta, September 14, 1863.
“Dear Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your communication of the 12th instant, in which you request me to issue orders to the commanding officers to grant J. D. and F. M. Kiely, two drafted British subjects, residents of Rome, Georgia, leave to quit the State, and permission to remain unmolested in Rome thirty days, to settle their affairs in that city. This permission will be cheerfully granted upon the production to me of sufficient evidence that the persons named are British subjects.
“By an ordinance of the convention of this State, representing her people and her sovereignty, passed on the 16th day of March, 1861, it is declared:
“‘That all white persons resident in this State at the time of the secession of the State from the United States, with the bona fide intention of making it the place of their permanent abode, shall be considered as citizens of this State, without reference to their place of birth; provided that any persons not born in this State can except him or herself from the operations of this ordinance by a declaration, in any court of record in the State, within three months from this date, that he or she does not wish to be considered a citizen of this State.’
“The ordinance of secession referred to in the above quotation was passed on the 19th day of January, 1861.
“If the Messrs. Kiely were resident in this State on the 19th day of January, 1861, and did not file their declaration in a court of record in this State within three months from the 16th day of March, 1861, that they did not wish to become citizens of this State, they accepted the privileges and obligations of citizenship offered them by the State, and ceased to he British subjects, and are consequently not entitled to the leave to quit the State for which you ask under my letter of the 26th ultimo. If, however, they became residents of this State at any time since the 13th day of January, 1861, or if they were then residents, and filed their declaration, as required by the ordinance, within three months after the 16th day of March, 1861, they will be allowed the thirty days [Page 836] to arrange their affairs, as you request, and permitted to depart from the State at the expiration of that term.
“With high consideration, I am, &c.,
“JOSEPH E. BROWN.
“Mr. A. Fullarton, Acting Consul of Great Britain.”
Bravo, governor! We hope there is not a single governor of a State in the confederacy capable of acting with less spirit and patriotism than Governor Brown.
But what on earth are we to do with Mr. Benjamin and his “consuls?” How long are we to suffer him to “approve and recognize” persons who do not approve or recognize us, who publicly insult the sovereignty of our States, who tell us we are waging “civil war” against our government at Washington, and who officially advise our State soldiers to throw down their arms? Something must be done; and no one will be surprised if the governor of Georgia now finds it to be his duty to draft Mr. Fullarton. The gentleman or his government can ask redress at the hands of Mr. Lincoln.