Criminal Wrong We Suffered From England
Gideon Welles

But the ravages of the Sumter, which vessel was hailed with friendly welcome and supplied in British ports, with the subsequent depredatons of the Alabama and Florida - English built, and manned chiefly by Englishmen, aroused the indignation of the whole country. This indignation was increased and aggravated by the conduct of the British government in excluding all United States cruisers from the English ports in China, though the seas of that empire were infested by pirates, and the whole commerical world was interested in their suppression. While our national ships in English ports received only grudging hospitality it was notorious that the semi-piratical vessels with no recognized nationality, though substantially English vessels sailing under the rebel flag were capturing, plundering and wantonly destroying our commerce, and that the injury to us was to the benefit of England. Under these wrongs and outrages our whole commercial marine became greatly excited, and could the country have been united, a war with England, more calamitous than any she had ever known, would have made havoc with her commerce.

But our condition was such that forebearance became a duty, and the government while engaged in prosecuting a war with the rebels was also subjected to a severe trial, in restraining the popular demand for reprisals which would likely have begotten a war with Great Britain; - for though the crown was not unfriendly to the Union it was known that English capital was largely engaged with illicit traffic with the insurgents and in running and evading the blockade. At the same time the unnatural and unfriendly conduct of her ministry, who put forth no arm to prevent, but craftily connived at schemes against the Union was felt, and will be remembered against the Administration of Palmerston and Russell.

It is some gratification to remember now when those dark days are over, that in addition to the award of fifteen millions for the criminal wrong we suffered from England, our navy, without assistance from privateers, captured more than thirty millions of property engaged in illicit traffic and running the blockade, no inconsiderable portion of which was English capital.


Lincoln and Seward by Gideon Welles
Sheldon & Company, New York, 1874, pages 149-151