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

Bunch's formal denial to Lyons of the charges made against him by the United States was confined to three points; he asserted his disbelief that Mure carried any despatches from the de facto government at Richmond; he protested that "there was not one single paper in my bag which was not entirely and altogether on Her Majesty's service"; and he explained the alleged "passport" was not intended as such, but was merely "a certificate stating that Mr. Mure was charged by me with despatches," but he acknowledged that in the certificate's description of Mure as a "British merchant" a possible error had been committed, adding, however, that he had supposed anyone would understand, since the words "British subject" had not been used, that Mure was in reality a naturalized citizen of America[376]. This explanation was received by Russell on October 21. Lyons' comment on Bunch's explanation, made without knowledge of what would be Seward's final determination, was that if Bunch had any further excuses to make about the private letters carried by Mure he should drop two weak points in his argument. "I mean the distinction between B. merchant and B.S., and the distinction between a document requesting that the bearer 'may be permitted to pass freely and receive all proper protection and assistance' and a passport[377]." Russell, on receipt of Bunch's explanation was also dissatisfied, first because Bunch had violated Lyons' instructions against entrusting despatches to persons carrying private correspondence, and second, because Bunch "gives no distinct denial" to the newspaper stories that he had gossiped about his activities and had stated them to be "a first step toward recognition[378]." These criticisms were directed entirely to Bunch's conduct subsequent to the overture to the South; on the propriety of that act Russell supported Bunch with vigour[379]. October 26, Seward read to Lyons the instruction to Adams on the revocation of Bunch's exequatur. The ground taken for this, reported Lyons, was an evasion of that charge of communicating with the South for which Russell had avowed responsibility, and a turning to the charge that Bunch was personally unacceptable longer to the United States because of his partisanship to the South, as evidenced by various acts and especially as shown by his reported assertion that Great Britain had taken "a first step to recognition." "Never," wrote Lyons, "were serious charges brought upon a slighter foundation." "No one who has read Mr. Bunch's despatches to your Lordship and to me can consider him as in the least degree a partisan of the Southern cause." "When Mr. Seward had finished reading the despatch I remained silent. After a short pause I took leave of him courteously, and withdrew[380]."

As will have been noted, Lyons had foreseen the American decision against Bunch on purely personal grounds, had been relieved that this would be the issue, and had fore-warned Russell. His despatch just cited may be regarded as a suggestion of the proper British refutation of charges, but with acceptance of the American decision. Nevertheless he wrote gloomily on the same day of future relations with the United States[381]. At the same time Russell, also foreseeing Seward's action, was not disturbed. He thought it still "not off the cards that the Southern Confederates may return to the Union.... Our conduct must be strictly neutral, and it will be[382]." Upon receipt of Lyons' despatch and letter of October 28 Russell wrote to Palmerston, "I do not attach much importance to this letter of Lyons. It is the business of Seward to feed the mob with sacrifices every day, and we happen to be the most grateful food he can offer[383]." For Russell saw clearly that Great Britain could not object to the removal of Bunch on the purely personal grounds alleged by Seward. There followed in due course the formal notification by Adams on November 21, just six days before he learned of the Trent affair, which had occurred on November 8. That alarming incident no doubt coloured the later communications of both parties, for while both Adams and Russell indulged in several lengthy argumentative papers, such as are dear to the hearts of lawyers and diplomats, the only point of possible further dispute was on the claim of Great Britain that future occasions might arise where, in defence of British interests, it would be absolutely necessary to communicate with the Confederacy. Adams acknowledged a British duty to protect its citizens, but reasserted the American right to dismiss any British agent who should act as Bunch had done. On December 9, Russell closed the matter by stating that he did "not perceive that any advantage would be obtained by the continuance of this correspondence[384]." Bunch was expected to leave Charleston as soon as a safe conveyance could be provided for him, but this was not immediately forthcoming. In fact he remained at Charleston until February, 1863, actively engaged, but official papers were signed by his vice-consul. In the excitement over the Trent, he seems rapidly to have disappeared from the official as he did from the public horizon[385].