CHAPTER XII. THE EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION
On July 13, Lincoln told Seward and Welles of the planned emancipation proclamation and that this was his first mention of it to anyone. Seward commented favourably but wished to consider the proposal in all its bearings before committing himself. The day following he transmitted to agents abroad a copy of the Bill that day introduced into Congress embodying Lincoln's plan for gradual and compensated emancipation. This was prompt transmittal - and was unusual. Seward sent the Bill without material comment, but it is apparent that this method and measure of emancipation would much better fit in with his theory of the slavery question in relation to foreign powers, than would an outright proclamation of emancipation.
Meanwhile American anxiety as to a possible alteration in British neutral policy was increasing. July 11, Adams reported that he had learned "from a credible source" that the British Cabinet might soon "take new ground." This despatch if it reached Seward previous to the Cabinet of July 22, presumably added strength to his conviction of the inadvisability of now issuing the proclamation. In that Cabinet, Seward in fact went much beyond the customary historical statement that he advised postponement of the proclamation until the occurrence of a Northern victory; he argued, according to Secretary of War Stanton's notes of the meeting, "That foreign nations will intervene to prevent the abolition of slavery for the sake of cotton.... We break up our relations with foreign nations and the production of cotton for sixty years." These views did not prevail; Lincoln merely postponed action. Ten days later Seward sent that long instruction to Adams covering the whole ground of feared European intervention, which, fortunately, Adams was never called upon to carry out. In it there was renewed the threat of a servile war if Europe attempted to aid the South, and again it is the materialistic view that is emphasized. Seward was clinging to his theory of correct policy.
Nor was he mistaken in his view of first reactions in governmental circles abroad - at least in England. On July 21, the day before Lincoln's proposal of emancipation in the Cabinet, Stuart in reviewing military prospects wrote: "Amongst the means relied upon for weakening the South is included a servile war." To this Russell replied: "... I have to observe that the prospect of a servile war will only make other nations more desirous to see an end of this desolating and destructive conflict." This was but brief reiteration of a more exact statement by Russell made in comment on Seward's first hint of servile war in his despatch to Adams of May 28, a copy of which had been given to Russell on June 20. On July 28, Russell reviewing Seward's arguments, commented on the fast increasing bitterness of the American conflict, disturbing and unsettling to European Governments, and wrote:
"The approach of a servile war, so much insisted upon by Mr.
Seward in his despatch, only forewarns us that another
element of destruction may be added to the slaughter, loss of
property, and waste of industry, which already afflict a
country so lately prosperous and tranquil."
In this same despatch unfavourable comment was made also on the Confiscation Bill with its punitive emancipation clauses. Stuart presented a copy of the despatch to Seward on August 16. On August 22, Stuart learned of Lincoln's plan and reported it as purely a manoeuvre to affect home politics and to frighten foreign governments. Where did Stuart get the news if not from Seward, since he also reported the latter's success in postponing the proclamation?
In brief both Seward and Russell were regarding emancipation in the light of an incitement to servile insurrection, and both believed such an event would add to the argument for foreign intervention. The threatSeward had regarded as useful; the event would be highly dangerous to the North. Not so, however, did emancipation appear in prospect to American diplomats abroad. Adams was a faithful servant in attempting to carry out the ideas and plans of his chief, but as early as February, 1862, he had urged a Northern declaration in regard to slavery in order to meet in England Southern private representations that, independence won, the South would enter upon a plan of gradual emancipation to be applied "to all persons born after some specific date." Motley, at Vienna, frequently after February, 1862, in private letters to his friends in America, urged some forward step on slavery, but no such advice in despatches found its way into the selected correspondence annually sent to print by Seward. Far more important was the determination taken by Adams, less than a month after he had presented to Russell the "servile war" threat policy of Seward, to give advice to his chief that the chances of foreign intervention would be best met by the distinct avowal of an anti-slavery object in the war and that the North should be prepared to meet an European offer of mediation by declaring that if made to extinguish slavery such mediation would be welcome. This Adams thought would probably put an end to the mediation itself, but it would also greatly strengthen the Northern position abroad.