CHAPTER XII. THE EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION

This was no prevision of an emancipation proclamation; but it was assertion of the value of a higher "moral issue." Meanwhile, on July 24, Seward still fearful of the effects abroad of emancipation, wrote to Motley, asking whether he was "sure" that European powers would not be encouraged in interference, because of material interests, by a Northern attempt to free the slaves[914]. Motley's answer began, "A thousand times No," and Adams repeated his plea for a moral issue[915]. September 25, Adams met Seward's "material interests" argument by declaring that for Great Britain the chief difficulty in the cotton situation was not scarcity, but uncertainty, and that if English manufacturers could but know what to expect there would be little "cotton pressure" on the Government[916]. Thus leading diplomats abroad did not agree with Seward, but the later advices of Adams were not yet received when the day, September 22, arrived on which Lincoln issued the proclamation. On that day in sending the text to Adams the comment of Seward was brief. The proclamation, he said, put into effect a policy the approach of which he had "heretofore indicated to our representatives abroad," and he laid emphasis on the idea that the main purpose of the proclamation was to convince the South that its true interests were in the preservation of the Union - which is to say that the hoped-for result was the return of the South with its slaves[917]. Certainly this was far from a truthful representation, but its purpose is evident. Seward's first thought was that having held up the threat of servile insurrection he must now remove that bogie. Four days later his judgment was improved, for he began, and thereafter maintained with vigour, the "high moral purpose" argument as evinced in the emancipation proclamation. "The interests of humanity," he wrote to Adams, "have now become identified with the cause of our country[918]...."

That the material interests of Great Britain were still in Seward's thought is shown by the celerity with which under Lincoln's orders he grasped at an unexpected opening in relation to liberated slaves. Stuart wrote in mid-September that Mr. Walker, secretary of the colony of British Guiana, was coming from Demerara to Washington to secure additional labour for the British colony by offering to carry away ex-slaves[919]. This scheme was no secret and five days after the issue of the proclamation Seward proposed to Stuart a convention by which the British Government would be permitted to transport to the West Indies, or to any of its colonies, the negroes about to be emancipated. On September 30, Adams was instructed to take up the matter at London[920]. Russell was at first disinclined to consider such a convention and discussion dragged until the spring of 1864, when it was again proposed, this time by Russell, but now declined by Seward. In its immediate influence in the fall of 1862, Seward's offer had no effect on the attitude of the British Government[921].

To Englishmen and Americans alike it has been in later years a matter for astonishment that the emancipation proclamation did not at once convince Great Britain of the high purposes of the North. But if it be remembered that in the North itself the proclamation was greeted, save by a small abolitionist faction, with doubt extending even to bitter opposition and that British governmental and public opinion had long dreaded a servile insurrection - even of late taking its cue from Seward's own prophecies - the cool reception given by the Government, the vehement and vituperative explosions of the press do not seem so surprising. "This Emancipation Proclamation," wrote Stuart on September 23, "seems a brutum fulmen[922]." One of the President's motives, he thought, was to affect public opinion in England. "But there is no pretext of humanity about the Proclamation.... It is merely a Confiscation Act, or perhaps worse, for it offers direct encouragement to servile insurrections[923]." Received in England during the Cabinet struggle over mediation the proclamation appears not to have affected that controversy, though Russell sought to use it as an argument for British action. In his memorandum, circulated October 13, Russell strove to show that the purpose and result would be servile war. He dwelt both on the horrors of such a war, and on its destruction of industry: