LYONS, Lord Richard (1817-1887). Autograph letter signed, as British Ambassador to the United States, to the Earl Russell (Foreign Minister), Washington, 29 July 1864. 13½ pp., 4to, very light foxing on final leaf, otherwise very fine.
"A GREAT MILITARY SUCCESS IN THE FIELD WOULD NO DOUBT ENABLE THE GOVERNMENT TO SHOW VIGOUR AGAIN IN OPPRESSING ITS ENEMIES, OR RATHER ITS POLITICAL OPPONENTS." THE BRITISH AMBASSADOR'S CONFIDENTIAL REPORTS FROM WARTIME WASHINGTON
A fascinating letter from the British Ambassador to Lord John Russell, ranging over the dangerous field of Anglo-American relations, and providing some acid comments on the Lincoln administration's political and military fortunes. "Mr. Seward spoke to me very complacently yesterday of his relations with England, France, Spain and Europe in general," Lyons begins. The American Secretary of State thought "there were only two matters which he thought might cause 'trouble,'" namely the capture of the Confederate raider Alabama and the presence of the British warship the Florida off the coast of Bermuda. Lyons reported that Seward did not think the Alabama matter "constituted any real grievance, but...that it was a matter which troubled popular feeling--and that therefore he was very anxious that...something as civil and conciliatory as possible should be written by Her Majesty's Government--something which would help to set him right with the American People, when the correspondence was published."
Lyons's meeting with Seward ranged over a host of other outstanding diplomatic problems, such as the Reciprocity Treaty and the "San Juan question," which Seward thought could await a resolution "until the military results of the present campaign were more apparent. He spoke as if he was looking for great successes, which would give the Administration so much strength, that they need not fear that a settlement of the San Juan question would be misinterpreted and treated as an undue concession to England...all is now supposed to depend upon Sherman's army before Atlanta. It seems to be admitted that Grant can do nothing without a large increase of force, and no on knows where the increase is to come from. Some people expect wonders from a great mine which has been pushed under one of the principal Confederate works before Petersburgh, and which is said to be exploded next week. Unless it produces a panic, it seems very doubtful whether it will produce any great result at all." Lyons concludes by stressing his disagreement with Seward's relaxed attitude: "Perhaps," he writes," I attach too much to the cases of imprisonment, interference with trade, and wrongs of all kinds...The best sign I see is that as the Election approaches, the arbitrary military measures at New York and other great places seem to be relaxed. A great military success in the field would no doubt enable the government to show vigour again in oppressing its enemies, or rather its political opponents."