James Ford Rhodes (1848–1927). History of the Civil War, 1861–1865. 1917.

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  Dana, he said, “What provokes me most is that we should consent to take up and to wear Great Britain’s cast off rags.” 1  44   At 11:30 on the night of December 18, the Queen’s messenger delivered Earl Russell’s despatch to Lyons and also two private letters in which full instructions were given in words of tender consideration. Next day Lyons called upon Seward at the State Department, and in accordance with his instructions, acquainted him with the tenor of the official despatch. Seward asked Lyons “informally,” “Was any time fixed by your instructions within which the U. S. Government must reply?” “I do not like to answer the question,” was the response. “Of all things I wish to avoid the slightest appearance of a menace.” Seward still pressed for private and confidential information. On this understanding, Lyons replied: “I will tell you. According to my instructions, I must have your answer in seven days.” Seward then requested a copy of the despatch “unofficially and informally” as “so much depended upon the wording of it that it was impossible to come to a decision without reading it.” To this Lyons replied that if he gave him the copy officially “the seven days would at once begin to run.” Seward suggested that he be given the copy on the understanding that no one but the President and himself should know that it had been delivered. Lyons gladly complied with this suggestion and, on returning to the Embassy, sent a copy of the despatch to the Secretary in an envelope marked, “private and confidential.” This brought an almost immediate visit from Seward, who expressed himself pleased to find that the “despatch was courteous and friendly and not dictatorial or menacing.” Now, he asked in strict confidence, “Suppose that I sent you in seven days a refusal or a proposal
Note 1. Dec. 4, 13. C. F. A. M. H. S., XLV, 93, 95 [back]