James Ford Rhodes (18481927). History of the Civil War, 18611865 1917.
to discuss the question? My instructions are positive, Lyons replied, and leave me no discretion. If the answer is not satisfactory and, particularly if it does not include the immediate surrender of the prisoners, I cannot accept it.1 On the morning of December 23, the delay having occurred to suit Sewards business engagements and his wish to master the question completely, Lyons called again, read the despatch and left with the Secretary a copy of it: from this day, the seven days of waiting began to run.
As long as the English public required that their government present an ultimatum, it could not have been couched in words more considerate to the susceptibilities of the American people, nor could the instructions in the private letters have been bettered. Lyons carried out the spirit as well as the letter of his instructions; doubtless he was glad to be supported in his sympathetic consideration for the Secretary of States difficult position. When announcing the seizure he wrote to Earl Russell, To conceal the distress which I feel would be impossible; and during the period of suspense his attitude of reserve was irreproachable. I have avoided, he wrote, the subject of the capture on board the Trent as much as possible, and have said no more than that it is an untoward event which I very much regret.2
Apparently the President submitted the question to his Secretary of State. As long as Seward could not bring himself to Sumners, Adamss and Blairs position and advise the immediate surrender of Mason and Slidell, he conducted himself in an exemplary manner. Reticent of speech, he was receptive of information and advice which came to him from many quarters abroad and at home;
Note 1. Lyons I, 65. I have frequently changed the indirect to direct narration. [back]