CONFIDENTIAL.] DEPARTMENT OF STATE,
Washington, December 27, 1861.
CHARLES FRANCIS ADAMS, Esq.
SIR: You will receive herewith a copy of the correspondence* with Lord Lyons on the subject of the Trent. The great difficulty in all human enterprises consists in pursuing just and worthy object persistently when the interests and passions of men avail themselves of accidents to embarrass our movements and divert us from our course.
Nothing could have happened so well calculated to electrify the loyal portion of the American people as the capture and confinement of the four persons who were taken from the Trent on their way to Europe to betray their country into the control of ambitious foreign States. But this is no time to be diverted from the cares of the Union into controversies with other powers even if just causses for them could be found. When the affair happened there was no time for the public mind to weigh against the apperent advantages of the capture the probable incompetency of the captured persons as individuals to do any considerable injury to our country abroad, much less to measure the dangers of collision between us and foreign powers resulting from an exchange of our own traditional positions in regard to neutral rights for the British one-one which we had so long and so constistently repudiated. The Government as you will already have learned has not yielded to any such excitement, but has held itself ready to meet and decide the question upon its merits and with reference only to the public welfare in its broadest and most enduring relations.
The President has adopted his decision with the unanimous assent of his Cabinet. We trust and believe that a change or at least a pause will come upon the mind of Europe when it is seen as it now must be that the Unite States have maintained calmness, composure and dignity during all the season which the British people have been so intensely excited, and that in this as in every other case they have vindicated not only their consistency but their principles and policy while measuring out to Great Britain the justice which they have always claimed at her hands. The Union is indeed the paramount interest of the day but the national prestige and character will not be unnecessarily compromised in our efforts to maintains it.
I am, sir, your obedient servant,
WILLIAM H. SEWARD.
DEPARTMENT OF STATE, Washington, December 27, 1861.
M. HENRI MERCIER, &c.
SIR: I have submitted to the President the copy you were so good as to give me of the dispatch addressed to you on the 3rd of December instant+ concerning the recent proceedings of Captain Wilkes in arresting certain persons on board of the British contract mail steamer Trent.
Before receiving the paper, however, the President had decided upon the disposition to be made of the subject which has caused so much anxiety in Europe. That disposition of the subject as I think renders unnecessary any discussion of it in reply to the comments of M. Thouvenel. I am permitted, however, to say that M. Thouvenel has not been in error in supposing first that the Government of the United
*See Seward to Lyons, December 26, p. 1145, Inclosure No. 1.
+For Thouvenel to Mercier, see p. 1116.