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London: Saturday, November 7, 1863

The Illustrated London News, vol. 43, no. 1229, p. 458.

November 7, 1863

London: Saturday, November 7, 1863.

Mr. Chase, the American Finance Minister, may have his own private ideas as to the state of the war--we know that Finance Ministers have occasional crotchets--but it is very difficult for a person who does not read telegrams in a non-natural sense to coincide with that gentleman in the statement that the Confederates are vanquished, or, as he puts it, that "the rebellion is virtually crushed." That he intends it shall be, if possible, is conceivable, although the tortuous course of several leading politicians in the North makes it almost dangerous to assert positively that they desire anything except a continuance of a state of things that keeps them in office and enriches the most worthless, greedy, and ignorant part of the mercantile community. But, assuming that Mr. Chase would like to see President Davis and Mr. Benjamin in La Fayette, and the South electing members to be sent to Washington under escort with orders to shoot a deserting legislator, we can justify his declaration only upon the principles of our courts of equity--namely, that a man is held to have done that which he intended to do. In this sense Mr. Chase, like Tom Thumb, may be allowed to say,

Rebellion's dead, and now I'll go to breakfast.
But, regarded from the ordinary point of view, "rebellion" does not seem to be so dead as Mr. Chase may wish it. In "Cymbeline" the boastful Prince Cloten says that his antagonist would not stand his ground. "No," observed a courtier, aside; "but he fled forward, and towards your face." This is something like the way in which General Lee is flying before the retiring Federals. Early in the week the Federal organs in England were proving in the most triumphant manner that Lee had entirely failed in all that he intended to do, of which they had much better information than either Rosecranz [i.e., Rosecrans], or, indeed, himself, and that his retreat across the Rappahannock must be held to be a throwing up of the sponge. But Lee seems not to have been completely in accord with his friends here, for the latest news, up to the time at which these lines are written, is that he has again come over the river, beaten the Federal cavalry with heavy loss, and then advanced to attack them again. "The object of his movement,"says the New York message piteously, "is unknown." This is probable enough, but if one might hazard a guess, the object is not that of throwing down his arms and asking terms a little milder than those clerical ones which menaced two kinds of fires to the Confederates and their leaders. Moreover, Longstreet has reinforced Bragg, news which must be agreeable to General Meade; and it is said that the Confederates have made an incursion into Kentucky. Now, Mr. Chase may say that rebellion is dead, but "three great oaths (and the Northern clergy are so strong in this department that if you did not know they were preaching you would think they were swearing) will scarcely make that believed," if we may quote from the adventures of Parolles, a gentleman whose name constantly occurs to us in connection with Federal narratives. When we have added that two Confederate divisions had been detached from the front at Chattanooga and were moving on the Federal left, we have made a slight and unnecessary addition to the difficulty which we seem to see in the case of the great manufacturer of greenbacks.

But what the Federals cannot do in the field they certainly effect at the polling-booth. We may interpolate here, by-the-way, the curious admission by the Federal press that the vaunted "secrecy" of the ballot system in America is all nonsense, and that the ballot is simply a machine for enabling votes to be taken "rapidly" and with "precision"--a point which will be useful to Mr. Berkeley in his next monologue. We proceed to allow that at certain elections, especially that one which terminated in the signal defeat of Mr. Vallandigham, the Government has obtained victories of a very complete nature. Whether it was quite worth while to win by such majorities at the price which the newspapers say has been paid--viz., the sending away enormous bodies of soldiers from the army to the poll, and thereby making it easier for the Confederates to beat the crippled leader of the North--is a question for Mr. Lincoln himself, who may be supposed to know whether it is more desirable to have a strong vote or a strong army. But, as Mr. Chase states that the defeat of Mr. Vallandigham will cause "great trouble" in England, we are bound to say that this awful event has caused the utmost dismay here. The Queen has returned to Windsor Castle to be near Lord Russell, the Bank has raised its rate of discount, Admiral Fitzroy has ordered the top cone to be hoisted at the summit of the storm-drum, and the porpoise at the Zoological Gardens has died of grief and fear. In the interest of truth we freely, and at the expense of our national character for courage, present these facts to the Federal newspapers, which have based arguments against us upon incidents far less referable to the matters with which the ingenious scribes have linked them.

As for the Russo-Yankee alliance, the subject is too terrible for calm contemplation. The speeches at the New York banquet have been indorsed by a Moscow journal, which states that the Russian fleet has been sent to America in order to be ready to menace the commerce of France and England, in the event of hostilities. We can only be pleased with the modesty which limits the menace to the mercantile marine, and does not presume to say that the Russian fleet has the slightest idea of coming into collision with our ships of war or the Emperor's. The Sebastopol lesson has not been given in vain, and the Russian Minister of Marine has arrived at the discovery that the prime object of a ship is not the being sunk with expedition. But it will be time enough to talk about this sort of thing when hostilities do break out; and then, as we have a few vessels in the western waters, it will be for the Commanders on those stations to decide which ship he can best spare to tow the Russian fleet into Portsmouth, to be refitted for her Majesty. Englishmen are the last people to swagger, but a menace from Russia on the seas is almost too ludicrous. The hen in the fable, who insisted on swimming because she had wings and feathers like ducks, and urged that--

If my beak is pointed, and their beaks are round,
Is that any reason why I should be drowned?
but came to grief, notwithstanding this irrefragable statement, is the only illustration that occurs to us of Russia taking command of the seas. We hold her myriads of whiskered Paudours and of fierce Hussars in due respect, and we unaffectedly admire the courage of her soldiers; but she is not, to use Mr. Lincoln's elegant image, "webfooted," and we are.

Leaving Mr. Chase and his peculiar views of death, and the terrible alliance between the Czar Lincoln and the President Alexander, we must note that the South has been taking action in a way which Mr. Benjamin has justified at enormous length, and which really does seem to require a good deal of defending. The South has pressed--observe--pressed, a great many subjects of the Queen and of the Emperor of the French into the Confederate ranks. This act is notoriously an offence against us and the French. But, as we do not as yet recognise the authority which has sanctioned it, we have no one to remonstrate with, except that, by Mr. Chase's logic, we should have a right to demand satisfaction of Mr. Lincoln, ruler of the South as well as the North. No, we have not done this; and, as our Consuls and those of the French have advised the pressed men not to slaughter Mr. Lincoln's soldiers, but to throw down their arms, Mr. Davis has ordered the Consuls to leave the Southern Confederacy directly. These gentlemen are accredited to President Lincoln, not to Mr. Davis, of course, and can be thrust out only by the strong arm. The act may be justified by those who lay no claim to impartiality, but it appears to us to be a vicious consequence of a vicious beginning. But, as in the case of the "pressing," to whom is Earl Russell to appeal? Mr. Lincoln is not chargeable with the blame, and we do not know any person of the name of Davis at present, though he is most anxious for an introduction. Of course, if we pleased, we could, with the full concurrence of Washington, reinforce the besiegers of Charleston, and serve out a little Japan justice; but we apprehend that Earl Russell will not see his way to this adaptation of our Oriental habits, though the cases are curiously alike, and the Mikado Lincoln has no more command over Prince Davis than the spiritual Japanese Emperor has over President Satzuma. We imagine that the Consuls will remove, and the matter be left in abeyance until larger matters are settled. There is an Imperial speech to be made in a few hours from our writing, and that will give France and England something else to think about than their Consuls.

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