On New-Year’s Day, when everybody was making the compliments of the season, Messrs MASON and SLIDELL were quietly conveyed from Fort Warren and placed on board the British war-steamer Rinaldo, which forthwith put to sea; and if the hurricane which blew the whole night did not send DAVIS’ “ambassadors” to Davy’s locker, they are now on the fair way of completing the voyage which Captain WILKES cut short six weeks ago. It having been decided in the great Council of Trent, that England has a right to the two worthies, the corpora delictorum have been cheerfully yielded up by the Government; and as the “mob,” that dreadful creation of the London Times’ fancy, which it was predicted would sooner see the country smashed than the prisoners given up, has not interposed any obstacle, but, on the contrary, has shown itself most languidly indifferent to their taking off, the strange episode in the history of the times with which the names of MASON and SLIDELL are connected, may be considered as ended.
It is curious to contrast the intense excitement caused by the news of the arrest of the rebel “Ambassadors” with the perfect indifference felt at the announcement of their departure. But there is nothing illogical in the two sentiments. The whole country rejoiced at the arrest of two notorious rebels who had been engaged in plotting their country’s ruin, and were going abroad the more effectually to carry on the work. But it was presently seen that their arrest, on board an English vessel, was an act which concerned England as well as ourselves. Accordingly, with that inquisitive temper that marks the American mind, the whole North organized itself into a vast Court of Inquiry and a thousand Presses canvassed the case in all its bearings in view of International Law. It may be that, under the first excitement of the capture, we were somewhat forgetful of our traditional American policy in the matter of neutral rights, and this led us to look too exclusively into British principles and precedents. But as time passed, and the case opened up more fully, a recollection of our larger and more permanent interests in the great question, and how they would be jeopardized should we insist on justifying the arrest, added to a growing conviction of what Mr. SEWARD has called the “comparative insignificance of the individuals concerned,” operated a marked change in the views of the thoughtful; so that when the policy of the Government was announced, it found the public in a great measure prepared to acquiesce in their decision for the surrender of the prisoners. And if an imperfect appreciation of all the motives that prompted the Administration to take the step it did, left with some a sense of humiliation, it has already wholly disappeared under the influence of Secretary SEWARD’s admirable logic.
The result is that nobody feels the slightest interest in the two wretched traitors, of whom the country is now happily rid. In fact, the more personalities of MASON and SLIDELL have become so overslaughed by theoretic questions of International Law, that a good many people have begun to regard them as a good deal of a myth.