February 17, 1864: London Herald on Lincoln

Lincoln

The Richmond Daily Dispatch reports on the London Herald’s view of Lincoln’s message to Congress. It’s not clear to me how much of this is verbatim, and how much is paraphrased. In any case, it appears that the London Herald is not a Lincoln supporter.

The London Press on Lincoln’s Message.

The London Herald says Congress has met and elected a Republican Speaker in the House of Representatives; and President Lincoln’s Message has been published, less to the edification of the public than could have been expected, even from him. It is remarkable chiefly for the cool impudence of the passages, which are probably dictated by Mr. Seward, concerning the relations of the United States with foreign powers. Lord Russell will be glad to know that his eager servility in the enforcement of his own interpretation of the Foreign Enlistment Bill will be met with that approval which he prefers to the commendation of his own country; and that, in consideration of the vexations proceedings taken against the Alexandra, of the frantic demonstration against the steamships at Birkenhead, and of the illegal seizure of the Pampero, at the instigation of Federal spies and hired informers, the Federal Government suspends for the present its intention of calling Great Britain to account for her previous want of zeal in its cause. The Emperor of the French will appreciate exactly at its value the compliment awarded to him.

The message is accompanied by a proclamation which is much more worthy of notice, being, in fact, the most wonderful State paper that ever emanated from a bewildered brain and a vindictive heart, since James II just before he was driven from Ireland, offered to pardon the majority of his subjects if they would at once expel the Prince of Orange and come to tender their submission at the feet of their lawful master. Mr. Lincoln however, is not king by right divine, but the Chief Magistrate, with very limited authority, of a united Confederation, and those to whom his proclamation is addressed are not rebellious subjects but sovereign States. The moral enormity of his ukase, therefore, is without precedent, while its practical absurdity has no parallel save in that crowning act of folly which annihilated the last hope of the last of our Stuart Kings.

Abraham Lincoln offers mercy and restoration to the States of Virginia, North and South Carolina, and their Confederates, if they will lay down their arms, fulfill the terms of his emancipation edict, and return to the Union. He will pardon all citizens who shall take an oath of allegiance to the Federal Government, swear to obey all acts of the Federal Congress, and swear submission to that decree which pretends to liberate four millions of slaves; but to this gracious offer of mercy there is a terrible list of exceptions extending from Jefferson Davis down to the junior clerk in the public service and the jailor general in the army; in plain English, this proposal, made not to the conquered foes, but to a powerful nation, victorious in nearly every battle, and having 300,000 men under arms, amounts to this: “I will hang every man of eminence or note among you; every one who has served your Government, in field or in council — perhaps some four or five hundred of the best men in the country. I will confiscate two thirds of your property, and destroy the value of the remainder.”

“After that, if you will swear allegiance to an authority to which you never owed allegiance, and forswear your fidelity to that State Constitution under which you were born and have been brought up; if you will declare your intention to obey a series of acts which no court of law dare pronounce valid, and acquiesce in an usurpation without parallel. In the history of political revolutions, you may retain the wrecks of your property and your liberties, and even enjoy the privilege of recording your votes for members of Congress, side by side with the slaves whom my will has made your equals.”

We need not dwell either on the astonishing folly of such an offer to an unvanquished and undaunted enemy, or on the devilish malignity which dictated the list of exceptions. “This is not an amnesty; it is a proscription” It offers nothing which could be withheld if the last Southern town had been taken, and the last Southern regiment out to pieces; it promises merely to none whom it would be practically possible to hang, if the South were absolutely at the merely of the Yankee terrorists. It is such an edict as might have been drawn up by Beecher and Charles Sumner, and countersigned by Robespierre and {???}

One little fragment of practical meaning is discernible amid the frantic ebullition of ferocious insolence and blood-thirsty menace. The President has taken the sinister but subtle advice often tendered to him by some of his more sooner friends, and is about to carry into effect a notable device for insuring his own re-election and the apparent re-construction of the Union. “Manhattan” has pointed out that without the Southern States, it will be, in all probability, impossible to obtain a legal majority either in the Electoral College or in the House of Representatives for any President. The North would, therefore, be placed, in 1865, in a serious dilemma, being compelled either to acknowledge that the Southern States are no longer in the Union, or to forage the election of a legally qualified Chief Magistrate.

To avoid this difficulty, Mr. Lincoln proposes to constitute a fictitious South; to establish a pseudo State Government wherever he can find a secure foothold in a Southern State, and collect there a decent number of voters. As fugitive slaves, camp-followers, and soldiers, will be admitted, it will not be difficult to get up a pretense of the presence of “one tenth of the whose number” of electors in several Southern States; and any embarrassment that may arise will be smoothed away by judicious manipulation of the battle-box. Thus Florida, Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina, will, by the mouths of invading soldiers, sutlers, thieves, and negroes vote themselves back into the Union; and, with is still better, choose Presidential Electors pledged to cast their votes for Abraham Lincoln. The scheme is transparent enough; but it will do for the Yankees, for Mr. Seward’s diplomacy, and for the European organs of the Federal Government; and if Lord Russell will only present to be deceived by it, it will have fully accomplished the almost hopes of the originators.

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