Following the American Civil War Sesquicentennial with day by day writings of the time, currently 1863.

Post image for Diary of Gideon Welles.

Diary of Gideon Welles.

October 10, 2013

Diary of Gideon Welles

[October 10,] Saturday. Lord Lyons, who returned last night, called on me to-day with Admiral Milne and staff, accompanied by Secretary Seward. Admiral Milne has a pleasant face, more Scotch than English. He is tall, —six feet two, —strongly built, not fleshy yet not spare, — a good physique in every respect. While we were conversing, Mr. Seward interrupted to say he had referred the Spanish claim of maritime jurisdiction to the King of Belgium. I asked whether the King of Belgium was an authority on international law and impowered to decide questions of this character so as to make them binding on others. His decision might be conclusive against Spain if he should adhere to the marine league, but were he to decide otherwise, his decision would conclude no government but the United States. I did not believe Great Britain would yield to the dictum of the King of Belgium against tradition and usage and the established law of nations, if the United States did. She would therefore approach Spanish territory to within three miles, while we, by this submission, would be excluded for six miles by the decree if against us.

Seward was a little nonplused. Both Lord Lyons and Admiral Milne exchanged significant looks at this singular reference, which jeopardized our rights and secured us nothing.

Dining at Lord Lyons’s this evening, Admiral Milne, who sat next me, stated that he is the first British admiral who has visited New York since the government was established, certainly the first in forty years. He said that it had been the policy of his government to avoid such visitations, chiefly from apprehensions in regard to their crews, their language and general appearance being the same as ours. There were doubtless other reasons which neither of us cared to introduce. He was exceedingly attentive and pleasant. Said he had tried to preserve harmony and good feeling, and to prevent, as far as possible, irritation and vexatious questions between us. Complimented the energy we had displayed, the forbearance exercised, the comparatively few vexatious and conflicting questions which had arisen under the extraordinary condition of affairs, the management of the extensive blockade, and the general administration of our naval matters, which he had admired and in his way sustained without making himself a party in our conflict.

There were some twenty or twenty-five guests, including the Prussian, Spanish, and Brazilian Ministers, the Secretary of State, the Attorney-General, and myself of the Cabinet. The whole was well-timed and judiciously got up for the occasion, and with a purpose. It is, I think, the harbinger of a better state of things, or rather of a change of policy by the English government.

Chase has gone to Ohio preparatory to the election, which takes place next Tuesday. Great interest is felt throughout the country in the result. Chase is understood to have special interest in this election.

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