Mr. Motley to Mr. Seward
Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your despatches Nos. 123 and 124, of dates of January 30 and February 7, both reaching me by the same post.
The subject which, perhaps, more than any other is causing excitement in the European world at this moment is the late conference between the United States government and the insurrection. The rumors concerning these negotiations, as they are called, have been various, and the comments upon them in many organs of public opinion in Europe occasionally very laughable. For my own part, I have been waiting very patiently for an authentic account, never having an atom of fear that the President could contemplate any compromise on the integrity of the nation and the abolition of slavery, and not entertaining a hope that the ringleaders of the insurrection were yet ready to abandon their attempt to destroy our great republic.
As it is not possible for me to imagine any third result to the war—the only alternative being the absolute success of the insurgents, or their subjugation—I have always believed that the sword must continue to be the only instrument to effect a solution of the terrible problem, which has been given the Americans of the present generation to solve. Four years is a long time in the life of an individual, but it is a mere moment in the life of a great nation; and although every heart is sick with the bloodshed and the sufferings—-worse than death— which this slaveholders’ insurrection has brought upon our once prosperous country, no man capable of thought on great subjects can doubt that the only way to avoid eternally recurring warfare on our continent in future is to make thorough work now.
It is very heroic, no doubt, to talk of resisting subjugation by the United States government, but as you and I and all of us are also subjugated in the same way without much discomfort, and as twenty-five millions of Americans are willingly obedient to the law, there does not seem any great tyranny in enforcing it on a minority who happen to prefer anarchy.
If our fundamental law, the United States Constitution, violates the eternal principles of reason and justice, rebellion against it, with a reasonable prospect of success, would be most virtuous. But as no man ever yet had the hardihood to make such an assertion, it is clearly the duty of the President to maintain the Constitution until rebellion is beaten down, or until bloody treason has trampled out the government of our fathers.
Neither result has as yet been reached, and, therefore, peace seems still impossible. In this empire; as I have always informed you, we have never had to contend with the calumny and malevolence with which America has been so profusely indulged by some other countries.
Here there is an honest desire, I think, both on the part of the government and of a majority of the population, that the insurrection should be suppressed, slavery abolished, and the Union restored. It is not necessary on this occasion to analyze very closely these sentiments, but there is a feeling that the growth of the United States in power and prosperity is not, necessarily, a misfortune for the Austrian empire; and there is also a general conviction that the United States government represents law, order, and civilization, while the slaveholders’ rebellion means barbarism and anarchy.
There is a strong wish expressed here that peace should be restored in America, and the contrast is very great between this sentiment and the panic which raged in England and France at the moment when there seemed a probability that peace was to be suddenly restored in our country.
There is something almost diverting at first sight, and yet, in reality, very melancholy in the public explosions of fear, of hatred, and of irritation at such a possible result on the part of those who have so long been howling over our “wicked, causeless, hopeless war.”[Page 9]
Nothing will suit the American people, when its government is once restored in its integrity, it appears, but an instantaneous onslaught upon Canada on the one side, and upon Mexico on the other.
The American mob, dripping in gore and domineering over a feeble government, (which, however, has become so entirely tyrannical as to have obliterated every vestige of popular liberty,) is about to rush forward to a war with France and England at once, not being half satisfied with the bloodshed of the last four years.
As it is not possible to discover in our own country any respectable source of any such dire forebodings, one is forced to ascribe them to the guilty imaginations of public writers and stump-speakers on this side of the Atlantic. It is thought natural, perhaps, that the Americans, whose national character, public men, current history, whose noblest deeds and highest aspirations, have been during the last four years the object of calumny, hatred, and persistent falsification, altogether without example in history in what used to be called “our mother country,” stung by the memory of those insults and by the material injury inflicted upon their commerce by English pirates, may be disposed to avenge themselves when they feel themselves strong enough. And because the destruction of an unfortunate republic—our next-door neighbor—by the fleets and armies of the first military power in the world, does not seem exactly consonant to our ideas of right and to our national traditions, it is supposed that we shall consider it our duty to dethrone the new emperor by force of arms, even although the Mexicans should unequivocally manifest their desire to be governed by him. I need not say that I have on proper occasions combated all these hysterical suggestions; and until I am otherwise instructed, and until I see very different indications of the national tendencies from such as are now evident to me, I shall continue to maintain that the dearest object of the people and of the government—which are one in the United States—is to preserve peace with all the world, and to have no more bloodshed during this century if it can be avoided.
We shall have enough to do when our civil war is over in cultivating the arts of peace; and as to our European enemies, whose name is legion, it is to be hoped, so long as they refrain from passing from words to blows, that we shall astonish them by a great indifference.
I am glad to see the termination of the Fort Monroe conference and cannot help believing that its result will be to strengthen the government by making manifest the fact—which has, however, always seemed evident enough—that until there is a counter revolution in the insurgent States against the leaders of the rebellion, the idea of peace must be renounced.
The report of the President, together with your despatch to Mr. Adams of February 7, reached me yesterday as published in the New York journals, and I need not say with how much interest I have read them.
I send you a bit of European comment on these various “negotiations” with the Richmond cabal, printed in a great variety of continental journals, and coming originally from an English source. If you have not seen it, it may cause you a laugh in the midst of your labors to see the solemnity with which such childish gabble is uttered by the public instructors of Europe. I cut the slip from a Belgium paper, never having seen the English original. The facts of President Lincoln’s having abandoned the emancipation proclamation, and of the coming incorporation of the rebel army with that of the United States for foreign war, are very refreshing.
Our volunteers by the terms of enlistment being disbanded on peace being made with the insurgents, the United States army will prove but a slender nucleus for the great invading force contemplated.
I have the honor to remain, sir, your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward &c., &c., &c.