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

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  recorded in his Diary, “there was great reluctance on the part of some of the members of the Cabinet and even the President himself” 1 to give up the commissioners. In the end, however, from the considerations that Wilkes had acted contrary to our precedents, violated international law and that we could not afford a war with Great Britain, all came to Seward’s position and approved his answer [December 26]. He said at the end of his long despatch to Lyons, the persons in question “will be cheerfully liberated.” 2 The disavowal of the act was accepted as a sufficient apology.  49   Fearing popular excitement, Seward arranged with Lyons that Mason and Slidell should not be delivered to an English vessel in Boston harbor. An American steam tug therefore took them to Provincetown, where they were delivered to a British ship-of-war, which sailed immediately for Halifax, whence they made their way to Europe.  50   There was no excitement in Boston nor anywhere else in the country when Mason and Slidell left Fort Warren. Bates had explained the reluctance of the President and some members of the Cabinet in coming to Seward’s position as being due to a fear of “the displeasure of our own people lest they should accuse us of timidly truckling to the power of England.” 3 They had misread public sentiment. During the forty days that had elapsed between the news of the seizure of Mason and Slidell and their surrender, the sober second thought had asserted itself and the decision of the government was “unitedly and thoroughly sustained by the whole people.” 4 This seemed to indicate that if the President and his Secretary of State had come at once to their final decision, they might have reckoned on having the
Note 1. N. & H., V, 36. [back]
Note 2. The despatch is printed O. R., II, II, 1145. [back]
Note 3. N. & H., V, 36. [back]
Note 4. III, 539. [back]