CHAPTER VI. BULL RUN; CONSUL BUNCH; COTTON AND MERCIER

Bunch had issued to Mure a paper which the latter regarded as a passport, as did the United States. This also was made matter of complaint by Adams, when on September 3 the affair was presented to Russell. America complained of Bunch on several counts, the three principal ones being (1) that he had apparently conducted a negotiation with the Confederacy, (2) that he had issued a passport, not countersigned by the Secretary of State as required by the United States rules respecting foreign consuls, (3) that he had permitted the person to whom this passport was issued to carry letters from the enemies of the United States to their agents abroad. On these grounds the British Government was requested to remove Bunch from his office. On first learning of Mure's arrest Lyons expressed the firm belief that Bunch's conduct had been perfectly proper and that the sealed bag would be found to contain nothing supporting the suspicion of the American Government[356]. The language used by Lyons was such as to provide an excellent defence in published despatches, and it was later so used. But privately neither Lyons nor Russell were wholly convinced of the correctness of Bunch's actions. Bunch had heard of Mure's arrest on August 18, and at once protested that no passport had been given, but merely a "Certificate to the effect that he [Mure] was a British Merchant residing in Charleston" on his way to England, and that he was carrying official despatches to the Foreign Office[357]. In fact Mure had long since taken out American citizenship papers, and the distinction between passport and certificate seems an evasion. Officially Lyons could report "it is clear that Mr. Robert Mure, in taking charge of the letters which have been seized, abused Mr. Bunch's confidence, for Mr. Bunch had positive instructions from me not to forward himself any letters alluding to military or political events, excepting letters to or from British officials[358]." This made good reading when put in the published Parliamentary Papers. But in reality the sending of private letters by messenger also carrying an official pouch was no novelty. Bunch had explained to Lyons on June 23 that this was his practice on the ground that "there is really no way left for the merchants but through me. If Mr. Seward objects I cannot help it. I must leave it to your Lordship and H.M.'s Government to support me. My own despatch to Lord J. Russell I must send in some way, and so I take the responsibility of aiding British interests by sending the mercantile letters as well[359]." And in Bunch's printed report to Lyons on Mure's arrest, his reply as to the private letters was, "I could not consider him [Mure] as being disqualified from being the bearer of a bag to Earl Russell, by his doing what everyone who left Charleston was doing daily[360]...."

Officially Lyons, on September 2, had reported a conversation with Belligny, the French Consul at Charleston, now in Washington, writing, "I am confirmed in the opinion that the negotiation, which was difficult and delicate, was managed with great tact and good judgment by the two Consuls[361]." But this referred merely to the use of Trescott and its results, not to Bunch's use of Mure. The British Government was, indeed, prepared to defend the action of its agents in securing, indirectly, from the South, an acknowledgment of certain principles of international law. Russell did not believe that Lincoln was "foolhardy enough to quarrel with England and France," though Hammond (Under Secretary of Foreign Affairs) "is persuaded that Seward wishes to pick a quarrel[362]." Enquiry was promptly made of France, through Cowley, as to her stand in the matter of the consuls at Charleston, Russell intimating by an enquiry (later printed in the Parliamentary Papers), as to the initiation of the Declaration of Paris negotiations, that it was Thouvenel who had first suggested the approach to the South through the Consuls[363]. This was an error of memory[364], and Cowley was perturbed by Thouvenel's reticence in reply to the main question. The latter stated that if a like American demand were made on France "undoubtedly he could not give up an Agent who had done no more than execute the orders entrusted to him[365]." This looked like harmony, but the situation for the two countries was not the same as no demand had been made for the recall of Belligny. Cowley was, in reality, anxious and suspicious, for Thouvenel, in conversation, attributed Seward's anger to Bunch's alleged indiscretions in talk, and made it clear that France would not "stand by" unless Seward should protest to France against the fact of a communication (not a negotiation) having been held with the Confederacy[366]. Before the French reply was secured Russell had prepared but not sent an answer to Adams, notifying him that the bag from Bunch, on examination, was found not to contain "correspondence of the enemies of the Government of the United States" as had been suspected, and transmitting a copy of Bunch's explanation of the reason for forwarding private letters[367]. In another letter to Adams of the same date Russell avowed the Government's responsibility for Bunch's action on the Declaration of Paris, and declined to recall him, adding:

     "But when it is stated in a letter from some person not 
     named, that the first step to the recognition of the Southern 
     States by Great Britain has been taken, the Undersigned begs 
     to decline all responsibility for such a statement.