James Ford Rhodes (18481927). History of the Civil War, 18611865 1917.
wrote Cockburn, it became in my opinion the duty of the Commissioners of Customs at once to direct the seizure to be made. Misled by advice which they ought to have rejected as palpably erroneous, they unfortunately refused to cause the vessel to be seized.
In the meantime Adams had sent the affidavits, Colliers opinion and many other papers relating to the case to Earl Russell. I ought to have been satisfied with the opinion of Sir Robert Collier, wrote Russell in after years, with a candor which does him honor, and to have given orders to detain the Alabama at Birkenhead.
Now ensues an episode which, useful as it would have been to the writer of an opera-bouffe libretto, or to Dickens for his account of the Circumlocution Office, completely baffles the descriptive pen of the historian. The papers received from the Commissioners of Customs and those which Adams had sent to Russell were submitted to the law officers of the Crown, one set reaching them July 23, the other July 26; that is to say, they reached the senior officer, the Queens Advocate, on those days. Sir John Harding, who was then the Queens Advocate, had been ill and incapacitated for business since the latter part of June; in fact, his excitable nerves and weak constitution had succumbed to the strain of work, and he was now verging on insanity. At his private house these papers lay for five days. Work on the Alabama went on briskly, and everybody in the kingdom was satisfied with having done his duty. The collector had referred the matter to the Commissioners; the Commissioners had referred it to the Lords of the Treasury; the Lords and Earl Russell had referred it to the law officers of the Crown. The papers on which perhaps depended war or peace between two great nations either received no notice whatever or were examined only by a lawyer who was going mad.