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London: Saturday, October 31, 1863

The Illustrated London News, vol. 43, no. 1228, p. 434.

October 31, 1863

London: Saturday, October 31, 1863.

It appears that, after all, the Eagle of Tartary and the Eagle of Washington understand one another, and that the terrific threats which were discharged at the New York banquet were not merely the extra effervescence of the very objectionable liquid called catawba. Moscow has indorsed the declarations made at that remarkable dinner. We read in a Moscow paper that the eight Russian frigates were not sent to New York simply because the winter that is approaching would make it convenient for them to be at a station where ice would not impede their movements. This was the amiable solution offered to the British public by prophets who prophesy smooth things, and it was rather readily accepted, for our grand quarrel with Russia was so recently made up that we hate to believe she is inclined to reopen it. And John Bull always believes well of anybody whom John has soundly beaten. But the solution is rejected, and we are informed, ex auctoritate, that the Russian "fleet" has been sent to New York that it might be ready to aid the Americans, morally at first, but afterwards immorally. It is held by St. Petersburg, first, that England and France will be less likely to do any act unfriendly to the Northern States while a Russian fleet is beside them, and, next, that if hostilities should break out in the Old World the Russian fleet would be able to hold in check the commercial marine of the two nations. So, with this declaration in hand, we may acquit the American speakers of rhodomontade, and deliver ourselves over to all the terrors which the new ornithological alliance must excite in a well-constituted mind.

It may be some time before the "Delight of Mankind"--more usually known as the Emperor of Russia--gives further utterance to his feelings in favour of the Northern States. It is convenient at times to leave matters in such a position that an unofficial intimation can be made either the point whence advance can be made, or that whence retreat is practicable. We do not suppose that Russia has undertaken to give support to Mr. Lincoln under any circumstances, or that she would accept the recognition of the South, by France for instance, as a declaration of war against herself. That would be truly affectionate but rather inconvenient, because in three days from that acceptance there would be another recognition, and French armies on the road to Warsaw. We may be allowed to suppose that though Russia, in her intense love of freedom, hates the Southern slaveowners much, she must, in her equally intense love of empire, hate the Polish patriots more. She will not play into their hands unless it entirely suits her, and will at all events let European and not American events guide her in her Transatlantic policy. So that the Lincoln Government can scarcely, we imagine, rely upon any immediate aid from Prince Gortschakoff.

To be sure, Mr. Lincoln has just announced that he wants a trifling addition to his armies. He desires 300,000 men. Owing to circumstances, to which it is not now necessary to refer, he does not purpose to raise these soldiers by a conscription, however happy the Irish in New York would be to hear of such an invitation, and however devoutly their Archbishop would persuade them to respond to it peaceably, as before. This time the President asks volunteers to come forward and fill up the ranks which have been so fearfully thinned by the blundering of drunken and incapable Generals, and by the misfortunes of leal and skilful commanders, who have been driven into these misfortunes by his own interference and Mr. Seward's. There appears to be considerable doubt whether this appeal will be answered as Mr. Lincoln desires, although, curiously, he endeavours to raise the martial spirit of the country by an encouraging, official assurance that Lee has not crossed the Potomac. Washington is officially declared to be almost as safe as Richmond. The citizens of the North, though we believe that they naturally desire the success of their own side, consider that they have already made tremendous sacrifices in its favour, and they are too dissatisfied with the conduct of the war to care about intrusting their lives or the lives of men dear to them to the leadership of tipsy braggarts, or of good soldiers who are under the command of Generals Lincoln and Seward. So long as the scum of the cities was to be bought, the North was quite ready to purchase that article, and perhaps sent it out with a sly hope that it might conquer, if possible, but might, at all events, abstain from coming back. But the lives of valuable, and educated, and wealthy citizens are another matter. Mr. Lincoln has an immense population to appeal to; but it is exceedingly unlikely that he will obtain these 300,000 volunteers, or a quarter of them. Now, could not the Russian friend step in? Could not the volunteering be tried in Russia? Suppose that the Emperor lent Mr. Lincoln a few thousands of Cossacks to help him to put down the South. That would be friendly in the highest sense of the term. And these brave Russians have had so much practice in the reducing a free people to slavery that they would come to their work like masters, not novices. The spirit of the war waged by the North against the South may be the same as that waged by St. Petersburg against Warsaw; but the execution of the work in the New World has been immeasurably inferior to the artistic performance of the agents of Old-World despotism. Butler, indeed (for whom Mr. Beecher has a good word to say), approaches somewhat near the Russian model; but he is far short of Mouravieff. He could insult the ladies of New Orleans by menacing them with the treatment accorded to the vilest of their sex, but he never flogged them, so far as we know. He confiscated, it is true, and in one sense improved upon the Russian lesson, for he confiscated a good deal to his own use; whereas the cruel but honest Russian commanders burn the property they might appropriate; but Butler never did this sort of thing on a large scale. It was not his fault that he did not, and it is clear, from the reward he met with, that he pleased his chiefs; but how much more effectively a Mouravieff would have managed matters. It is impossible to recount all the advantages which the North would gain if the "Delight of Mankind," really in earnest, would send Mr. Lincoln a Russian contingent. While waiting for a more legitimate opportunity of joining the President in an offensive alliance, the Autocrat might thus lend all the moral force of his Government to that of Washington--so called after George Washington.

We must, of course, be prepared for the results of the alliance. We certainly think that the Emperor has done an unguarded thing in allowing so many frigates to come out of their safe harbours, because it is quite certain that, if hostilities broke out, not one of them would return to the Northern Sea. Russian soldiers fight nobly at times, but Russian sailors are not the most terrible mariners on record; and we are afraid that both the English and the French crews, who have been "snubbed" in New York while the Russians were fêted, may have been irreverent enough to be amused at the idea of the eight frigates being much of a menace. We shall probably be able to give a good account of some of these interesting vessels when the time comes, and the French may be trusted to look after the balance. But if all the swagger at New York, and the shipbuilding, contrary to treaty, in the Euxine, and the articles in the Russian papers really mean what they seem to mean, why, the storm-drum has been hoisted, and we are ready for bad weather.

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