After three years of great Northern efforts to subdue the South and of Southern campaigns aimed, first, merely toward resistance, but later involving offensive battles, the Civil War, to European eyes, had reached a stalemate where neither side could conquer the other. To the European neutral the situation was much as in the Great War it appeared to the American neutral in December, 1916, at the end of two years of fighting. In both wars the neutral had expected and had prophesied a short conflict. In both, this had proved to be false prophecy and with each additional month of the Civil War there was witnessed an increase of the forces employed and a psychological change in the people whereby war seemed to have become a normal state of society. The American Civil War, as regards continuity, numbers of men steadily engaged, resources employed, and persistence of the combatants, was the "Great War," to date, of all modern conflicts. Not only British, but nearly all foreign observers were of the opinion by midsummer of 1864, after an apparent check to Grant in his campaign toward Richmond, that all America had become engaged in a struggle from which there was scant hope of emergence by a decisive military victory. There was little knowledge of the steady decline of the resources of the South even though Jefferson Davis in a message to the Confederate Congress in February, 1864, had spoken bitterly of Southern disorganization[1197]. Yet this belief in stalemate in essence still postulated an ultimate Southern victory, for the function of the Confederacy was, after all, to resist until its independence was recognized. Ardent friends of the North in England both felt and expressed confidence in the outcome, but the general attitude of neutral England leaned rather to faith in the powers of indefinite Southern resistance, so loudly voiced by Southern champions.

There was now one element in the situation, however, that hampered these Southern champions. The North was at last fully identified with the cause of emancipation; the South with the perpetuation of slavery. By 1864, it was felt to be impossible to remain silent on this subject and even in the original constitution and address of the Southern Independence Association a clause was adopted expressing a hope for the gradual extinction of slavery[1198]. This brought Mason some heartburnings and he wrote to Spence in protest, the latter's reply being that he also agreed that the South ought not to be offered gratuitous advice on what was purely "an internal question," but that the topic was full of difficulties and the clause would have to stand, at least in some modified form. At Southern public meetings, also, there arose a tendency to insert in resolutions similar expressions. "In Manchester," Spence wrote, "Mr. Lees, J.P., and the strongest man on the board, brought forward a motion for an address on this subject. I went up to Manchester purposely to quash it and I did so effectually[1199]."

Northern friends were quick to strike at this weakness in Southern armour; they repeatedly used a phrase, "The Foul Blot," and by mere iteration gave such currency to it that even in Southern meetings it was repeated. The Index, as early as February, 1864, felt compelled to meet the phrase and in an editorial, headed "The Foul Blot," argued the error of Southern friends. As long as they could use the word "blot" in characterization of Southern slavery, The Index felt that there could be no effective British push for Southern independence and it asserted that slavery, in the sense in which England understood it, did not exist in the Confederacy.

     "... It is truly horrible to reduce human beings to the 
     condition of cattle, to breed them, to sell them, and 
     otherwise dispose of them, as cattle. But is it defending 
     such practices to say that the South does none of these 
     things, but that on the contrary, both in theory and in 
     practice, she treats the negro as a fellow-creature, with a 
     soul to be saved, with feelings to be respected, though in 
     the social order in a subordinate place, and of an 
     intellectual organization which requires guardianship with 
     mutual duties and obligations? This system is called slavery, 
     because it developed itself out of an older and very 
     different one of that name, but for this the South is not 
     to blame.

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