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Salomon de Rothschild Tours America (1861)

The Private Diplomat Views the War

Here in Louisiana--and I am told that it is the same in the other states--everyone is rushing to the defense. Everyone old enough to bear arms, from the age of fourteen to seventy-five, is enlisting in the various companies. The young men are at the disposition of the President of the Confederate States, to be sent wherever the service of the state requires. The old men remain in the cities, to defend their hearths against any unforeseen attack.

The young men of the better families, accustomed to a soft and idle existence, are enlisting as privates and, with knapsacks on their backs, are leaving with their company to defend Pensacola, to attack Fort Pickens, or to fight in Virginia. All conversation is about battles, armament, and attack. The women themselves, who without hesitation have given their sons and their brothers to the common cause, work all day sewing sandbags and making cannon-cartridges. Miss Eustace herself made 140 hoods to protect the soldiers against mosquitoes. One company which had just been formed had no time to get its uniforms made; it had received orders to proceed immediately to Pensacola. The governor's wife and twenty other ladies bought cloth, took their sewing machines, embarked with the troops, and when the company arrived at Mobile, it was fitted out. The first ladies of the city--and there are some very pretty ones--have organized to care for the wounded.

In short, there is a strong will here to resist a foreign invasion to the last breath. And, as I say, it is not here only. In Texas, for example, they seized all the forts and several ships of the United States, and they sent here fifty or sixty men who had been captured. These were treated perfectly and sent back to the North.

With the border states, the seceding states would have a population of from ten to twelve million inhabitants; this is almost half of the population of the United states. [Actually it was about one-third.]

Leaving aside the discussion of the federal law which permits or refuses the right of secession, a discussion which each side, with a little quibbling, can turn to its own profit, it seems to me that when America stretched forth its hand to all the peoples who wanted to revolt against their sovereigns, when it upheld with its promises and its writings the rather contested rights of Hungary and of Italy, when its legists and its orators proved that in a case of oppression revolution and rebellion were not a right but a duty, when it declared a hundred times that the states were sovereign and that no state had the right to encroach on the interests of another, how can the North stop thirteen states from seceding when it is in their interest? And even if they didn't have this legal right, there is the natural law which Congress has proclaimed a hundred times. If twelve million want to secede, you won't stop them from it. So the was which the North is going to wage against the South is an impious, barbarous, fratricidal war. In order to save a few pennies for those arrogant manufacturers, members of one and the same family are going to find themselves opposed to each other, old friends will cut each other's throats, and rivers of blood will be shed. The North and the South are going to hurl themselves upon each other like two locomotives driven at full steam and meeting on the same track. There will be no gratification except the brutal passion of vengeance, no result except death and destruction. When the two sides have exhausted all their resources, when they have seen the flower of their youth perish, when they have squandered millions in that bottomless abyss, the Civil War, they will find themselves right back where they started and, furthermore, with a gulf between them.

The war will have to end. They will have to make a treaty; they will have to make mutual concessions, for regardless of who conquers, there will be no conquered, with each side fighting up to the very last moment for the rights it claims to have.

Again, all that the South is asking is that it be left alone and permitted to govern itself as it sees fit. It will not attack except in its own defense; it is therefore senseless to believe that the South can be subdued. Besides, the North's blindness has reached such a point that it wants to fight the South regardless, and hopes to conquer it by blockading its ports. But it is not the South alone that it will harm; it is all Europe, which needs its cotton and its other products.

It is therefore for the sake of its own interests, as well as for those of humanity and civilization, that Europe ought to intervene in one manner or another. It should exert all its efforts to stop this desperate and useless war. The sooner the great European states recognize the Southern Confederacy, which can invoke in its favor the theory of faits accomplis, the sooner they will have fulfilled a mission of peace and humanity. Furthermore, it is in their interest, for the independence of the South brings with it free trade and an immense market for all our products as well as England's. Besides, the longer the war lasts, the more embittered the hatreds will become and the more difficult it will be to reconcile these inimical brothers.

I therefore entreat you to use all your influence to get the Southern Confederacy recognized as soon as possible. I speak in this way with the greatest impartiality, for I do not permit myself to be influences by any other consideration than that of humanity and that of good sense; and if my former ideas have been modified a little, it is because circumstances have changed. Events have moved forward, and personally, and by my own efforts, I have been able to convince myself of everything that I propose.