CHAPTER IV. BRITISH SUSPICION OF SEWARD
It was an anxious time for the British Minister in Washington. May 22, he warned Sir Edmund Head, Governor of Canada, urging him to make defensive preparation. The following day he dilated to Russell, privately, on "the difficulty of keeping Mr. Seward within the bounds of decency even in ordinary social intercourse ..." and in an official communication of this same day he records Washington rumours of a belligerent despatch read by Seward before the Cabinet, of objections by other members, and that Seward's insistence has carried the day. That Seward was, in fact, still smarting over his reverse is shown by a letter, written on this same May 23, to his intimate friend and political adviser, Thurlow Weed, who had evidently cautioned him against precipitate action. Seward wrote, "The European phase is bad. But your apprehension that I may be too decisive alarms me more. Will you consent, or advise us to consent, that Adams and Dayton have audiences and compliments in the Ministers' Audience Chamber, and Toombs' [Confederate Secretary of State] emissaries have access to his bedroom?"
Two interpretations are possible from this: either that Seward knowing himself defeated was bitter in retrospect, or that he had not yet yielded his will to that of Lincoln, in spite of the changes made in his Despatch No. 10. The former interpretation seems the more likely, for though Seward continued to write for a time "vigorous" despatches to Adams, they none of them approached the vigour of even the amended despatch. Moreover, the exact facts of the Cabinet of May 21, and the complete reversal of Seward's policy were sufficiently known by May 24 to have reached the ears of Schleiden, who reported them in a letter to Bremen of that date. And on the same day Seward himself told Schleiden that he did "not fear any longer that it would come to a break with England." On May 27 Lyons himself, though still suspicious that an attempt was being made to separate France and England, was able to report a better tone from Seward.
British Ministers in London were not so alarmed as was Lyons, but they were disturbed, nevertheless, and long preserved a suspicion of the American Secretary of State. May 23, Palmerston wrote to Russell in comment on Lyons' despatch of May 2: "These communications are very unpleasant. It is not at all unlikely that either from foolish and uncalculating arrogance and self-sufficiency or from political calculation Mr. Seward may bring on a quarrel with us." He believed that more troops ought to be sent to Canada, as a precautionary measure, but, he added, "the main Force for Defence must, of course, be local" - a situation necessarily a cause for anxiety by British Ministers. Russell was less perturbed. He had previously expressed appreciation of Adams' conduct, writing to Lyons: "Mr. Adams has made a very favourable impression on my mind as a calm and judicious man," and he now wrote: "I do not think Mr. Seward's colleagues will encourage him in a game of brag with England.... I am sorry Seward turns out so reckless and ruthless. Adams seems a sensible man." But at Washington Lyons was again hot on the trail of warlike rumours. As a result of a series of conversations with Northern politicians, not Cabinet members, he sent a cipher telegram to Russell on June 6, stating: "No new event has occurred but sudden declaration of war by the United States against Great Britain appears to me by no means impossible, especially so long as Canada seems open to invasion." This was followed two days later by a despatch dilating upon the probability of war, and ending with Lyons' opinion of how it should be conducted. England should strike at once with the largest possible naval force and bring the war to an end before the United States could prepare. Otherwise, "the spirit, the energy, and the resources of this people" would make them difficult to overcome. England, on her part, must be prepared to suffer severely from American privateers, and she would be forced to help the South, at least to the extent of keeping Southern ports open. Finally, Lyons concluded, all of this letter and advice were extremely distasteful to him, yet he felt compelled to write it by the seriousness of the situation. Nevertheless, he would exert every effort and use every method to conciliate America.