CHAPTER XIV. ROEBUCK'S MOTION

In late May both necessity and fortuitous circumstance seemed to make advisable another Southern effort in Parliament. The cotton loan, though fairly strong again because of Confederate governmental aid, was in fact a failure in its expected result of public support for the South; something must be done to offset that failure. In Polish affairs France had drawn back; presumably Napoleon was again eager for some active effort. Best of all, the military situation in America was thought to indicate Southern success; Grant's western campaign had come to a halt with the stubborn resistance of the great Mississippi stronghold at Vicksburg, while in Virginia, Lee, on May 2-3, had overwhelmingly defeated Hooker at Chancellorsville and was preparing, at last, a definite offensive campaign into Northern territory. Lee's advance north did not begin until June 10, but his plan was early known in a select circle in England and much was expected of it. The time seemed ripe, therefore, and the result was notification by Roebuck of a motion for the recognition of the Confederacy - first step the real purpose of which was to attempt that 'turning to the Tories' which had been advocated by Spence in January, but postponed on the advice of Gregory[1073]. The Index clearly indicated where lay the wind: "No one," it declared "now asks what will be the policy of Great Britain towards America; but everybody anxiously waits on what the Emperor of the French will do."

     "... England to-day pays one of the inevitable penalties of 
     free government and of material prosperity, that of having at 
     times at the head of national affairs statesmen who belong 
     rather to the past than to the present, and whose skill and 
     merit are rather the business tact and knowledge of details, 
     acquired by long experience, than the quick and prescient 
     comprehension of the requirements of sudden emergencies....

     "The nominal conduct of Foreign Affairs is in the hands of a 
     diplomatic Malaprop, who has never shown vigour, activity, or 
     determination, except where the display of these qualities 
     was singularly unneeded, or even worse than useless.... From 
     Great Britain, then, under her actual Government, the Cabinet 
     at Washington has nothing to fear, and the Confederate States 
     nothing to expect[1074]."

Of main interest to the public was the military situation. The Times minimized the western campaigns, regarding them as required for political effect to hold the north-western states loyal to the Union, and while indulging in no prophecies as to the fate of Vicksburg, expressing the opinion that, if forced to surrender it, the South could easily establish "a new Vicksburg" at some other point[1075]. Naturally The Indexwas pleased with and supported this view[1076]. Such ignorance of the geographic importance of Vicksburg may seem like wilful misleading of the public; but professed British military experts were equally ignorant. Captain Chesney, Professor of Military History at Sandhurst College, published in 1863, an analysis of American campaigns, centering all attention on the battles in Maryland and Virginia and reaching the conclusion that the South could resist, indefinitely, any Northern attack[1077]. He dismissed the western campaigns as of no real significance. W.H. Russell, now editor of the Army and Navy Gazette, better understood Grant's objectives on the Mississippi but believed Northern reconquest of the South to the point of restoration of the Union to be impossible. If, however, newspaper comments on the success of Southern armies were to be regarded as favourable to Roebuck's motion for recognition, W.H. Russell was against it.