Saturday, March 18, 2023

Diary of George Mifflin Dallas, January 20, 1861

If we are in turmoil on the western side of the Atlantic, they are not much better off on this eastern side. The King of Prussia has just said to his general officers in Berlin: “The aspect of the times is very serious, and menaces great dangers. Gentlemen, there is a distinct prospect of struggles in which I shall need the entire devotion of your hearts. If I and those other sovereigns wishing for peace do not succeed in dissipating beforehand the coming thunder-storm, we shall want the whole of our strength in order to stand our ground. You will have to strain every nerve if you wish to render the army adequate to the future calls of the country. Gentlemen, do not allow yourselves to be subject to any self-delusion respecting the magnitude of coming struggles. If I do not succeed in obviating war, the war will be one in which we shall have either to conquer or be lost to our position in the world!” What convulsion is it that thus thunders in the index? We hear the cry of “Peace, peace,” in every direction, but we see specially dark clouds in various quarters. Hungary is on the eve of revolt, Denmark is arming to maintain her rights in Schleswig and Holstein, Italy, under the magical inspiration of Garibaldi, will insist upon having, as parts of the temporal sovereignty of Victor Emmanuel, both Rome and Venice. War upon Austria then would seem inevitable, and it cannot fail to draw into its vortex Russia, Prussia, Germany, and, not impossibly, Turkey. But the words of solemnity used by the monarch involve a deeper meaning. They refer to the military avalanche which a breath from Louis Napoleon may precipitate across the Rhine,—his vast force of six or eight hundred thousand, his numerous and formidable ships of war, and his actual position as the chief of the revolutionary movement. The language is portentous, infinitely more so than the address of Baron Hubner on 1st of January, 1859. Where on the face of the earth can the stranger, Peace, take up her permanent abode?

The news from home during this week has been deplorable. On the 10th inst. the President sent a message to Congress which depicts the state of things in the gloomiest colours. South Carolina, at Charleston, has fired repeated volleys at a United States transport carrying troops for Major Anderson at Fort Sumter, and has compelled her to retire. The Brooklyn, a second-class screw steamer of fourteen guns, and the revenue cutter Harriet Lane are about to convoy the troops back again to Charleston on board the Star of the West, and we may expect our next news to announce a bloody fight, possibly a bombardment of the city. Seward has made a speech in the Senate which the Times calls “grand and conciliatory,” but which obviously asserts a determination to enforce the laws. Servile insurrection, too, seems. contemplated in Virginia, some twenty-five barrels of gunpowder having been disinterred from secret hiding places.

SOURCE: George Mifflin Dallas, Diary of George Mifflin Dallas, While United States Minister to Russia 1837 to 1839, and to England 1856 to 1861, Volume 3, p. 430-2

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