Page 11 - Abraham Lincoln Hearse Narrative
P. 11

The President of the United States and the Archbishop
                                        of the Diocese of New York*

                    Events large and small contribute to the fabric of history, and many small-scale but
             important events become lost in the larger story. Such is the case in regard to a special mission
             to the United Kingdom and France during the early years of the American Civil War.
                    In 1861, President Abraham Lincoln faced three challenges: most Southern states were
             leaving the Union; a civil war broke out; and the newly established Confederate States of America
             (CSA) tried to obtain trade and financial support from powerful foreign nations. To win neutral
             stances from the U.K. and France, he secretly assembled an influential group of men to transmit
             his views. The envoys  he  chose were New York State political powerbroker and  publisher
             Thurlow Weed; recently retired Lt. General Winfield Scott; Roman Catholic Archbishop John
             Joseph Hughes of New York; and Protestant Episcopal Bishop Charles Pettit McIlvaine of Ohio.
             By selecting these individuals, Lincoln was able to represent American political, military, and
             religious interests.
                    As the delegation prepared to sail on November 8, the group and its mission were exposed.
             Yet  they  proceeded,  still  prepared  to  state  the  Lincoln Administration’s  case  for  neutrality.
             Coincidentally, the CSA had just dispatched envoys John Slidell of Louisiana and James Murray
             Mason of Virginia to Europe for financial support and to order warships. On November 16, a
             U.S. Navy vessel, while enforcing a Union blockade of ships, stopped the British mail steamer
             Trent. Slidell and Mason were found on board and sent to prison as enemies of the United States,
             an act that further strained diplomatic relations between the nations.
                    Lincoln’s  selection  of Archbishop  John  Hughes  was  carefully  calculated  to  represent
             American  Roman  Catholics  in  direct  negotiation  with  Emperor  Napoleon  III,  who  ruled
             predominantly Roman Catholic France. The Emperor’s furor had been fueled early in the
             War when Union General George B. McClellan named three princes from the rival House of
             Bourbon-Orleans to his staff. The capture of Confederate envoy Slidell, the loss of commerce
             resulting from the blockade, and the threatened loss of orders for shipbuilders, all combined
             to undermine fragile relations. In addition, rumors circulated that Lincoln intended to appoint
             Italian revolutionary Giuseppe Garibaldi as commander of the Union armies, which would
             insult Italian King Victor Emmanuel, who was under the protection of Napoleon III. Many
             feared that Garibaldi intended to invade the Catholic Papal States, thereby threatening Italy at
             large. Compounding these dangers, in late 1861 Spain, France, and Great Britain deployed their
             naval forces in an attempt to overthrow the republican government of Mexico and replace it
             with a new emperor, who would be sympathetic to the neighboring Confederate government.
                    Facing many obstacles, Archbishop Hughes and U.S. Minister to Paris William L. Dayton
             persuaded Napoleon III to adopt a neutral policy regarding affairs in North America. Their
             success also included redirecting the sale of six French warships not to the CSA but to neutral
             nations, thus undermining the South’s plans to develop a strong navy. They also achieved an
             agreement that France would take a position regarding the CSA only in concert with England.
             Simultaneously, the  Trent  affair  was  settled  peacefully,  and  diplomatic  tensions  eased. As  a
             leading cleric sent by Lincoln, Archbishop Hughes received respect and played an important role
             in persuading the leaders and people of France, England, and other nations that the American
             Civil War was being fought over the moral issue of slavery and its termination in America.
                    *The Lincoln-Hughes relationship is commemorated in a 30’ tall stained glass window
             in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Springfield, IL.. ~  James M. Cornelius, ALPLM

   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13   14   15   16