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English opinion and feeling about capture of Mason & Slidel.
letter, McIlvaine, Chase, England
McIlvaine, Charles Pettit, "Letter to Mr. Chase from C.P. McIlvaine" (1861). Charles Pettit McIlvaine Letters. 304.
London Dec. 9, 1861
My dear Mr. Chase,
Before I come to general statements and views I will journalize a little-- We reached Liverpool on Saturday morning the 7th. Came to London [?] might [?] [?] at a house (private house) where I have twice had them before-- the next room (parlor) to ours is occupied by a Philadelphian, but a Southerner by sympathies-- who is visited often by [Yoncey]-- We have not and shall not see them, as in England persons may live months in such proximity and never see each other-- but they known I am here-- yesterday (Sunday) I had a startling manifestation- from the pulpit- first we [?] to St. Paul’s Cathedral. The sermon was preached by one of the Canons. [?] of the Dean, (Milman), on “With Whatever ye mete, it shall be measured to you.” It had evident reference to the tremendous excitement of the public mind as to the [Marm] and [Shielde] capture, of which you will have seen enough in the English papers. His main position touching this muster was that if the people gone [?] to resentment and should act unjustly, they must expect to receive a corresponding penalty under God’s providence. As we came on this way to our lodgings, we saw a place of worship which I thought I recognized as an Episcopal Church of certain peculiarities and imagining that the service was over, we went to look at the interior. The sermon was still in progress and we found it a Baptist Chapel. There was a large congregation with [?] [?]. The preacher at once interested me by evidence of force and function. But what was [?] surprise to find that, thus, by apparent accident, we had come upon a most admirable treatment of the spirit in which Christians should demean themselves in the present crisis-- the text was [?] cxii [?]. “He shall not be afraid of evil things. His heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord.” The sermon was perhaps two thirds through when we entered, but apparently first getting to the crisis of the times. The first we heard was the importance of life in “God’s sight, that the son of our savior” came not to destroy but to save. In view of the impending danger of now, he said that to perceive men’s lives, or to prevent war, God uses human instruments and that every one of them [the congregation] might be and was found to be in his sphere an instrument for the preservation of peace. He was firm and decided for the maintenance of every first right and for standing fast for the honor of the Nation, but he deprecated all spirit of revenge and war. Proceeding for some time and admirably in this strain, and speaking strongly of the awfulness of a war with a nature so nearly allied with England, he [?] individual and united prayer that God may so guide the [?] of our nations that peace may be present. He then patiently urged his people to pray for the President of the US, for the congress, for the press, and the pulpit, and the people of the US and also for the People of England and the Cabinet and the pulpit of England and concluded by announcing a meeting for prayer for these objects in his Chapel this (Monday) Eve. During a point of this discourse, I was standing at the far end of the church-- the impulse to try to get an opportunity of [?] to what was said was inevitable; so I walked up the whole length of the Chapel, stood at the foot of the pulpit stairs, while the preacher was proceeding. Mentioned my desire to do as an American clergyman first [?] to a question in an [?] few. He felt such to another who took his place at the pulpit stairs-- it was [?]. We men dreaming attention-- but the minster closed and came down before anyone could be given-- I was asked to see him in “his room,” what he would call his Vestry room-- meanwhile they knew not who, or what, I was, except an American clergyman. When the minister met me and I mentioned my name and what I had desired, he at once grasped my hands and said, “O dear I know Bishop McIlvaine, I have had his books and if I had known it was you and what you desired I would have been so happy to have had you speak.” I then told him how entirely I sympathized with all he had said and how perfectly he had expressed the spirit of our people in regard to the prospect of war. I have no doubt he has told his people all about it since. But that was not the last indication. I went in the afternoon to the Temple Ch. the venerable church, you know, of the Benches of the Queen’s Temple-- There was a large congregation. The preacher was a Canon of Letchfield. Mr. Landsdale, of the Bp. of Letchfield. His text was “Love worketh no ill to his [?]; for love is the fulfilling of the Law.” It was soon manifest that he was coming to the present crisis. The sermon was carefully and well thought and composed. He said there were many duties not specially treated in the Scriptures, and which are left to be determined on general principles of religion [?] instances that of [?]. He said that, to love the soil we were born on was a very natural affection, deserving no praise, almost an instinct. He then described a common idea of patriation. A man shares a certain affinity and to all within no matter how [?] and opposite in every moral feature, he conceives he is bound by this of regards and service-- whilst to all without that circle, he supposes there is no such obligation. Such was not real [?]. The Gospel knows it not. But the duty of man to his country is there taught under the higher and more comprehensive duty of love to all mankind. In matters of difference between one individual and another one now accustomed to see that duty [?] into experience. Man under, such circumstances, considered, made concessions, exercised patience and long suffering, sought conciliation, tried to arrive at explanations, and counted the cost of collision against its gains. He was sorry to say such was most often the temper between nations. The language often was he had [?] fight it out. “We have been insulted, and must have satisfaction. We must settle the question of mastery. It must be done some day and it might as well be done now.” (The preacher seemed to have in [?] the language of the present in England.) He denied that this way of speech and feeling had any connection with Christian practices. It was not necessary to be in church indeed to be firm or faithful. He then asked the people here for they were prepared to act on the true principle he had taught, to sacrifice national pride and every evil temper and to govern by the spirit of love to all in nations, pushing to the center [?] of country. The true spirit was expressed in the prayer of the Church “for all countries of men” that “all who profess and call themselves Christian may be led with the way of truth and hold the faith in unity of spirit in the hand of peace and in lightness of life.” If the fact of hearing this sermon on the same day, having so decided [?] on the danger of war with the US and all in a kind, conciliating and truly Christian spirit not showing the least disposition to shrink from the maintenance of any position which the country has a sight to take; if this be any indication of what the pulpit is doing and good people are feeling in England at this time, it is a very interesting aspect of matters. Coupled with that I mention not why the prayer meeting tonight in the Chapel mentioned shore, for the express purpose of praying for God’s guidance and government on the minds for Statesmen and cabinets and rulers and the press and c. of both countries. But two other facts of a similar kind-- namely, that in one of the daily papers today appeared a call signed a “Divinatory Minister”, to his Brethren to pray and exhort their people to pray-- and [?] a statement that from many pulpits [?] of the Church of England and of the Dissenting Ladies-- was published yesterday an invitation to a guest meeting for prayer in Exeter for the purpose mentioned above. For what are we to learn from all these indications among the religious people of England, I answer first that there is believed a great danger of war, second, that they apprehend the effect of the excited state of the public mind upon the measurement of the war, third, that there is a bleak feeling of the awfulness and dreadfulness of a war between the two nations as respects the interests of humanity and all that is in common between us, especially as the two nations are so allied in religion, as well as in thought and other ways. Again, that there is a great desire among good people that the question in hand should be approached and studied under the influence of the most peace-loving and just-doing spirit. Faith, that it does not indicate any want of men or detestation to go to war and carry war with the greatest rigor if it cannot be avoided, without it sacrificing of the learning or just rights of the country. As I come to more general observations, derived from a good deal of consideration today with various Englishmen and Americans in business and other relations-- the excitement has been perfectly unprecedented in the history of the mutual relations of the two countries. it is now moderated somewhat under the influence of certain information, such as that Capt. Wilkes acted without orders and on his own judgment, that the feeling in the US is not a disposition to insult England, and that it is a feeling of pleasure in the capture of those men, only if it can be sustained by international law, but most of satisfaction if it is too visible in the nation is a guest ever; if such is to be the price of such captives. The tone of the American papers just rec’d has encouraged the hope that matters will be adjusted in the giving up of the prisoners-- I do not not see that the public mind is at all affected by the authorities quoted or the legal arguments engaged on our side. [Their best] stand in the way of argument is made against the taking of the prisoners out of the [Trent], instead of taking her into port for adjudication. But one thing I hold to be absolutely sure, namely, that unless the prisoners are released (no apology having been, as I heard, demanded), or some mediation be agreed on both sides, such as that of the Emperor of France, there will be war and that at once. With all the [transcended] powers of the British Navy-- and awful and enormous it is-- such war once determined on will carry with it the united power of the people of England. The good will be supported unanimously. It’s preparations are enormous in point of munitions of war; and the spirit of sailors and soldiers to engage in [?] will the Gov’t give up the prisoners? The [?] of every American here, whom I have heard speak in the subject as one hope is, by all around, what are the arguments? First, that our placing inscribed on the English authorities as to [?] rights we are [enforced] by the difficulty that the ship was not taken in, instead of the prisoners being taken out.
Secondly, that in so placing our fort, we stand on ground which however taken by England in times past, we have intended against for the last fifty years and all civilized nations, except England, have contended against [?].
Thirdly, that if we now take England, upon her abandonment of her old claims and her adaptation of our views of belligerent rights, we establish what is here so long sought in vain.
Fourthly, that we avoid a war with a power which we are not at all purposed to meet, whose navies will besiege our harbours-- bombard our towns-- destroy our commerce-- overpower our fleet-- break up our blockades-- open the [?] ports-- liberate their cotton-- make off with their treasury funds and notes-- establish the confederacy-- nullify all that we have done or can do to put down the rebellion greatly beyond measure the Rebels-- give them a power by the success of our divisions of our forces, which may result in the capture of Washington-- at least in making the Potomac the boundary of our Union-- and in deeply humbling, mortifying and casting down the heart of the whole people; and that after all the cost of money and life, already measured to be [?] hereafter. We cannot fight England and the South at once. Our whole cause against Rebellion is gone if we must have both upon us.
But what shall we gain if the prisoners are not released? The approbation, so far as at present it appears, of no European power-- [?] keep prisoners men, who it is believed here, would have done no good harm had they been allowed to have come on their mission.
We gain the praise, whatever it may be worth, of not being afraid to maintain a position, justified only by English authenticity, [?] which we have always [?]. I see no other gain-- is it sufficient to outweigh all the loss? I believe not. So Mr. Adams thinks, so all here who desire the success of our country in her present has against rebellion think, so far as I have learned. It is worth consideration whether our country would not gain in reputation for courtesy and wisdom and lose no reputation for courage and ferociousness, if now, with reference to her long contested principle of belligerent rights, and for peace sake, she should show that she can yield under such circumstances. I believe that it would create a great reaction of feeling here-- if gracefully and freely done and I hope that the discovery of no dispatches and the fact that they were brought by the ladies hither-- thus presenting all proof against mess or madness [?] as bearers of despatches and may afford a reasonable [?] of the act-- counted with the fact that Wilks acted without notes. The greatest [?] is felt lest when the President’s message come, I should show that he has seen matters himself too for to receive God for [?]; and denied in all things. Much is said by the English and believers I felt, as to the alleged hostility of Our [?] to England; and his having indicated to the state of New Castle, when he was in the center States, a disposition to insult England; coupled with his expressed conviction that England would not [?] dare to go to war-- the story of that conversation is too absurd and extravagantly rude and foolish to be enacted for a moment, except-- here--
Now I close this long letter. If you think good would come of making what I have said of the religious feeling public, I have no objection to your giving it to Dr. Butler, to be hashed up as he can and would-- for the religious papers at home.
Goodbye. I have got [?] full work. But it has been said, I learn in the papers here, that [?] were coming in “[?] official” business-- for the Government and capital is [?] to be made out of Hughes, by the Southerners and their allies, by giving it out, in conversation, that he is sent to raise trouble in Ireland.
Yours affectionately with affectionate remembrance to your kind daughters--
Charles P. McIlvaine
London Dec. 9 1861
English spirit and feeling about the capture of Mason and Slidel