Washington, D. C.
Paris, November 29, 1863.
My Dear Sir,—My departure for Europe was so sudden, and my contemplated stay here so short, that I hardly thought it worth while to apprise you of my voyage to London and Paris, and to offer you my services in both places.
During the four days that I remained in London I have, however, had opportunities to meet and converse with several members of the ministry and leading men in Parliament. The general tone of all these gentlemen was much more friendly to the cause and position of our government than I had anticipated. From all I could gather, there is certainly no danger that England will join France in any movement toward recognition of the South.
The ministers seem fully aware of the mistake they committed in allowing the Alabama to proceed to sea, and they are determined, at all hazards, to stop the sailing of the iron-clads. Laird has put in a plea, first, that they were destined for a French house, and then that they were for the Pasha of Egypt—the government has proofs in hand that both these statements are false.
Lord Russell will probably ask for more ample powers from Parliament immediately after its meeting, to enable him to stop these vessels and enforce a strict observance of neutrality by British subjects. Both he and Mr. Villiers, brother of Lord Clarendon, and one of Her Majesty’s Privy Council, have expressed themselves in very flattering terms with regard to Mr. Evarts, whose mission, they said, was very beneficial and useful, as he gave them very valuable information about many points bearing upon our neutrality laws. Your friend and agent has evidently left a very good impression in the government circles.
I am informed by people who are apt to know, that, with the exception of Gladstone and Palmerston, the members of the cabinet are all in favor of the North. Still, we must not shut our eyes to the fact that the taking of Vicksburg, and our successes last summer, have a good deal to do with this attitude of the British cabinet, and that any serious reverses of our armies in Virginia or Tennessee would be followed by a strong pressure on the ministry for recognition, not only by the opposition at home, but also by France.
There is one point in connection with this which I wish to recommend to your earnest consideration. The sensitiveness on the part of Englishmen of all ranks, with reference to every thing which is said, done, and written in America, is most extraordinary, and the attacks in our papers against the British government have not only the effect to estrange the good-will of our friends, but also to strengthen the hands of the opposition. Even the small matter of the discussion in regard to our inviting the French and English officers to the banquet lately given in New York to the Russians, had ruffled the temper of every Englishman I came in contact with.
To give you an instance of the interest with which every information from America is received, I will only mention to you that upon the arrival of Sir Henry Holland, about ten days ago, Lord Palmerston immediately sent him a telegraphic dispatch inviting him to Broadlands, and within an hour afterward he received a similar invitation to Pembroke Lodge, from Earl Russell. I am told that Sir Henry speaks in the kindest terms of the reception he received, and that he is very much pleased with his interview with you and the President. My object in mentioning to you these details is to suggest to you how far it might appear practicable and advisable to you to exert the influence of the government with our leading papers to adopt a more conciliatory tone toward England—this I should think you could easily accomplish with such papers as the New York Times and other organs of the Republican party.
The London Times continues its bitter vituperations against us, but it does not represent its government and its party, and the best way to neutralize its pernicious influence is not to notice its attacks.
I have not been in Paris long enough to form a correct opinion of what is going on here, still, thus far all confirms me in the impression which I had formed during my last residence here, viz., that the French Emperor is the principal person from whom danger to us is to be apprehended. Luckily, it seems as if he was to have his hands full in Europe. The Polish question has assumed a very threatening aspect, and I don’t see how it can be solved without a war. Thus far the British government seems determined not to join France in a war, but the English people are all very strongly in favor of Poland, and public opinion may force the Palmerston ministry as it did, seven years ago, that of Lord Aberdeen. Apart from the Polish cloud, the Emperor finds his policy in Mexico to become daily less popular with the French people, and I have no doubt but what he has already, ere this, very much modified his brilliant aspirations of French trans-atlantic power. Added to this is the deficit in the budget, which will make a resort to a new loan more than probable, a measure not at all desirable in the present state of the money market and the low prices of the “Rentes.” Nearly all the governments on the Continent are likely to want money very soon, and so a general uneasiness pervades financial circles. With such a state of things there is not much danger that Napoleon will think of interfering with us. The government has stopped the further construction of the four war vessels which were being built in French ports for the Confederates.
Notwithstanding all this the Secessionists here, and their number is legion, are very confident of an early recognition and assistance on the part of France. It is said that their Vice-President, Stephens, is expected here, when he will make the most liberal offers for recognition and alliance. He will even, it is expected, go so far as to agree to a gradual emancipation of slavery, on the part of the Richmond authorities. It is impossible to trace these rumors to any trustworthy source, but it is certain that the rebel agents here are as active as they are numerous and unscrupulous.