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 November 6.)
My Lord: With reference to my despatch of the 16th instant, I have the honor to transmit to your lordship an extract from the National Intelligencer newspaper of the day before yesterday, containing a part of a correspondence which has been published in the southern newspapers, and from which it appears that the so-called confederate government has expelled the British consular officers from the territory subject to it.
I have no other information on the subject.
I have, &c.,
Expulsion of all the British consuls.—We published a few days ago a digest of a correspondence that had passed between Governor Brown, of Georgia, and Mr. Fullarton, British consul at Savannah, in reference to the rights of British subjects who had been impressed into the confederate army. The position taken by Mr. Fullarton on that occasion has brought to a crisis the anomalous question of the position of British consuls in the confederacy; and a correspondence has been published by the rebel state department, in the course of which Mr. Benjamin takes occasion, on behalf of the confederacy, to dispense with the existence of British consular agents.
The first document is a very long despatch addressed by Mr. Benjamin to Mr. Slidell, in Paris. It is dated from the department of state at Richmond on the 18th instant, and, as the point of the whole matter is in the first paragraph, we here quote it:
“The conduct of the British consular agents in the confederacy has compelled the president to take the decisive step of expelling them from our country, and it is deemed proper to put you in possession of the causes which have produced [Page 837] this result, that you may have it in your power to correct any misrepresentations on the subject. To this end it is necessary to review the whole course of the British government and that of the confederacy in relation to these officials.”
Lest the Emperor of the French may misunderstand this action, Mr. Benjamin concludes his despatch with the following paragraph:
“The exercise of the droit de renvoi is too harsh, however, to be resorted to without justifiable cause, and it is proper that you should have it in your power to explain the grounds on which the president has been compelled to enforce it. Lest also the government of his Imperial Majesty should be misled into the error of supposing that the rights of French citizens are in any manner involved in the action of the president, which has been rendered necessary by the reprehensible conduct of the British consular agents, yon are requested to take an early occasion for giving such explanations to M. Drouyn de l’Huys as will obviate all risk of misapprehension.”
We give entire the despatch in which Mr. Benjamin announces to Mr. Fullarton the fact of his dismissal:
“Department of State, Richmond, October 3, 1863.
“Sir: Your letters of the 1st and 3d instant have been received. You inform this government that, ‘under your instructions, you have felt it to be your duty to advise British subjects that while they ought to acquiesce in the service required so long as it is restricted to the maintenance of internal peace and order, whenever they shall be brought into actual conflict with the forces of the United States, whether under the State or confederate government, the service so required is such as they cannot he expected to perform.’
“Your correspondence with the governor of Georgia leaves no doubt of the meaning intended to he conveyed by this language. In that correspondence you state that, ‘under instructions, you have felt yourself compelled to advise those drafted to acquiesce until called from their homes, or to meet the United States forces in actual conflict; but in that event to throw down their arms, and refuse to render a service directly in the teeth of her Majesty’s proclamamation, which would incur the severe penalties denounced in the neutrality act.’
“In a communication from the acting British consul in Charleston to the military authorities, he also has informed them that ‘he has advised the British subjects generally to acquiesce in the State military organizations; but at the same time he informed them that, in the event the militia should be brought into conflict with the forces of the United States, either before or after being turned over to the confederate government, the services required of them would be such as British subjects could not be expected to perform.’
“It thus appears that the consular agents of the British government have been instructed not to confine themselves to an appeal for redress, either to courts of justice or to this government, whenever they may conceive that grounds exist for complaint against the confederate authorities in their treatment of British subjects, (an appeal which has in no case been made without receiving just consideration,) but that they assume the power of determining for themselves whether enlisted soldiers of the confederacy are properly bound to its service; that they even arrogate the right to interfere directly with the execution of the confederate laws, and to advise soldiers of the confederate armies to throw down their arms in the face of the enemy.
“This assumption of jurisdiction by foreign officials within the territory of the confederacy, and this encroachment on its sovereignty, cannot be tolerated for a moment; and the president has had no hesitation in directing that all consuls and consular agents of the British government be notified that they can no longer be permitted to exercise their functions, or even reside, within the limits of the confederacy.[Page 838]
“I am directed, therefore, by the president to communicate to you this order, that you promptly depart from the confederacy, and that in the mean time you cease to exercise any consular functions within its limits.
“I am, &c.,
“J. P. BENJAMIN, Secretary of State.
“A. Fullarton, Esq., Savannah, Georgia”
The Richmond Enquirer has the following among other comments on the above correspondence:
“It ought to have been known here from the first, but was not, that England could be no friend to the confederacy or its cause, although sufficiently an enemy to the United States to desire the final disruption of the Union. We have been long in finding out the truth, and, before we would admit it, have endured some humiliations and insolent airs on the part of that power which surprised us very much, but ought not to have done so. At last the thing has become too clear.
“Be it so; we are content that the right thing is done at last in this most provoking matter. We pay our compliments also to the secretary for the clearness and precision with which he has set forth what he thought it material to place on record; and though some of his views about continuing and revoking exequaturs, and the like, are liable to exception, there is no occasion to controvert them any further on the present occasion. Practically, the right position with regard to the British government is now reached. We may now expect, ere long, to see a British minister at Richmond, and British consuls asking exequaturs from Mr. Benjamin; for England never neglects her subjects, nor leaves them without the shadow of her wing and the guardianship of her flag. The sooner the better. We do not want to hurt either her or her subjects.”