Sunday, July 31, 2016

William Cullen Bryant to Ferdinand E. Field, December —, 1861

New York, December —, 1861

It is some satisfaction to me to know that, if you and I took the same view of the facts, we should not differ so much in our conclusions as you suppose. The British newspaper press has not given all the facts to its readers. In all the States in which the civil war was raging, at the date of your letter to me, there was an ascertained majority in favor of remaining in the Union. These States are Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Missouri. These States the rebellion attempted to wrest from us. You will agree that the war on behalf of the majority of their citizens was a just one on our part.

We claim, also, that there is a majority in favor of the Union in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas; in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida, and perhaps in Mississippi; in short, that there is no State in which the secessionists possess a clear majority, except it be South Carolina. In none of the slave States was the question whether they desired to remain in the Union submitted to the people. We of the North said to them: First show that your own citizens are in favor of separating from the Union. Make that clear, and then bring that matter before Congress, and agitate for a change of the Constitution, releasing you in a peaceful and regular way from your connection with the free States. There is no hurry; you have lived a great many years in partnership with us, and you can certainly now wait till the matter is thoroughly discussed. They refused to do anything of this nature; they had for the most part got their own creatures into the State legislatures, and into the governors' seats; they rushed the vote for separation through these legislatures; they lured troops; they stole arms from the Government arsenals, and money from the Government mints; they seized upon the Government navy yards and Government forts; in short, they made war upon the Government. Taking the whole of the Southern States together, this was done by a minority of the people.

You will agree with me, I am sure, that we could not honorably abandon the friends of the Union in these States. You would not have the British government, if a minority in Scotland were to seize upon that country and set up a mock parliament at Edinburgh, give up the country to the insurgents.

As to the Star blockade, it strikes everybody here as singular that the British government and public should be so ill-informed in regard to that matter. Several rivers find their way to the ocean in the channels that lead to Charleston Harbor. Some years since, the channels being too numerous, and becoming more shallow, the Government was at the expense of filling them up, which made the others, particularly Maffit's Channel, deeper. The Government has now filled up another channel, which makes Maffit's Channel still deeper, which is an advantage to the harbor; but, in the mean time, the blockade is more easily enforced, because there is one channel the less for us to watch. If the obstructions we have placed do any mischief, they may be removed. The rebels are doing the same thing at Savannah, yet your press makes no complaint. They have obstructed one of the channels leading to their city, and we have just taken them up. Set that against what we have done at Charleston.

You see, then, the entire groundlessness of the unfavorable conclusions formed in England. As for the Trent affair, that will be settled, and I will not say what I might concerning it, except to remark that the preparations for war with which your government accompanied its demand have left a sense of injury and insult which, I fear, will not soon pass away. But none the less do I cling to my pleasant memories of England and the excellent people I met there.

SOURCE: Parke Godwin, A Biography of William Cullen Bryant, Volume 1, p. 157-9

No comments: