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

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  much of it was excellent. 1 In his communication to Adams, of November 27, he had explained to him that Captain Wilkes had acted without any instructions whatever and that the United States intended no action until “we hear what the British Government may have to say on the subject.” 2 It was undoubtedly between the two interviews with Lyons, if not before, that Seward came to the conclusion that the commissioners must be surrendered; thenceforth he conducted the affair in his most skilful manner. His own decision made, he had to convince the President, “the overruling authority” necessary “to consult in all cases.” 3 “Governor Seward,” Lincoln said, “you will go on, of course, preparing your answer, which, as I understand it, will state the reasons why they ought to be given up. Now I have a mind to try my hand at stating the reasons why they ought not to be given up. We will compare the points on each side.” 4 The President made a draft of a despatch in which he expressed his unwillingness to believe that Great Britain would now “press for a categorical answer”; he would like the question left open for discussion in order that the United States might present her case; she would then be willing to submit the question to a “friendly arbitration”; but if Great Britain would not arbitrate and, after listening to the American case, still insisted on the surrender of Mason and Slidell, the surrender would be made, provided this disposition of the matter should serve in the future as a precedent for both countries. The key to the President’s attitude lay in his words, “We too, as well as Great Britain, have a people justly jealous of their rights.” 5 Obviously, the draft did not satisfy
Note 1. See Bancroft, II, 234. [back]
Note 2. O. R., II, II, 1102. [back]
Note 3. Seward, III, 43. [back]
Note 4. Bancroft, II, 234; Seward, III, 25. [back]
Note 5. N. & H., V, 33. [back]