February 23, 1863: The French

The Blockade of Charleston

The New York Times reports that the French swear they’re not about to break the blockade of the South. But they
might be lying.

Our Relations with France.

We find the following paragraph, in immense type, in a Washington newspaper, and also in the special correspondence of the Boston Journal:

“The statement made by the NEW-YORK TIMES that France is about to break the blockade, is not credited by those who have the best means of information, and we are authorized to say that the rumor has no foundation in fact.

The language of Count MERCIER, the French Minister, is of the most friendly character, and entirely inconsistent with any such purposes as are attributed to his Government. We are also assured that his relations with Secretary SEWARD are constant, and always cordial.”

We are delighted, and not in the least surprised, to hear it. Count MERCIER’s “language” has always been “of the most friendly character.” We never heard that his relations with Secretary SEWARD were anything but “constant and cordial.” Count MERCIER is a diplomatist, and a French diplomatist at that. Gentlemen of that school are not in the habit of telling the world all they know and think, nor do they deem it necessary to bluster and shake their fists in the faces of Government officials whom it is their business to circumvent.

The Washington Republican is “authorized” to say that the rumor of France being about to break the blockade, “has no foundation in fact.” We have heard of no such “rumor.” We expressed the opinion that France would attempt to break the blockade before many weeks, — and we gave the reasons which led us to that belief. Those reasons may or may not be sufficient to warrant it. Of that, every person who read them can judge for himself. But we know of nobody, at Washington or elsewhere, who has any “authority” to say that they “have no foundation in fact,” — unless it be the French Emperor. Mr. SEWARD may not believe that France has any such intention. He may have been told so by Count MERCIER, though we don’t believe he has. But that would by no means make it certain. There may be persons who confide in the perfect frankness and veracity of all assurances of a diplomatic character from the French Government; possibly Mr. SEWARD may be one. But before we put implicit faith in them, we should like some explanation of one or two past transactions in this department.

On the 9th of November, M. DROUYN DE LHUYS, the French Foreign Secretary, assured Mr. DAYTON, in the most direct and explicit terms, that the French Government had done nothing about intervention or mediation, — that it had not even resolved on anything in connection with the subject: — while his letter, proposing mediation to England and Russia, had been written and sent a fortnight before. What was the ob-object of this direct and unmistakable falsehood? After that project had failed, the French Secretary assured Mr. DAYTON, and through him our Government, that the matter would not be pursued — that there was no intention of following it up — that France had nothing more to say or suggest upon the subject. On the very heel of these assurances, namely, on the 9th of January, comes the Emperor’s advice to our Government to confer with the rebels upon the terms of reunion, or of separation. All this may be very “friendly.” Possibly we ought to be very grateful for it, and especially for the very polite and considerate phrases in which it is all couched. Upon this point every one is entitled to his own judgment. But we venture to think that these repeated denials of any intention to do what is actually or immediately done, may fairly excite distrust of similar denials in future. If France does intend to break the blockade, Count MERCIER would hardly feel called upon just now to inform Mr. SEWARD of it.

Whether we are to have trouble with France or not, is a matter of opinion. We adhere to the opinion we have already expressed. Unless he shall find England immovably hostile to it, and unwilling to pledge herself to a permanent neutrality, — or unless the insurrection in Poland shall have created distrust at home, or unless decisive Union victories promise the speedy close of the war, we believe that within three months LOUIS NAPOLEON will demand, and, if necessary, force the delivery of cotton already purchased by French agents, to be delivered at Southern ports. We shall be very glad to find ourselves mistaken. But we trust Congres will not adjourn without proper preparation for such a contingency.

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