THE June days during which Fish perfected his plan for the sale of Cuba to the Cubans witnessed the debut of two American diplomatists, Motley at the English court and Elihu Washburne at that of Napoleon III. These men found that the position taken on the Alabama question by Sumner and the American press had produced a decidedly unfavorable impression in western Europe.
Washburne's predecessor in Paris had been John A. Dix; and when Dix on June 1 took leave of the French Foreign Minister, the Marquis de la Valette, the latter seized the opportunity to speak an earnest word upon Anglo-American relations.1 He begged Dix not to let his countrymen suppose that France would regard a war between England and America as anything less than a crime de lèse-civilization. America, he remarked, had really counted too much upon British forbearance, which after all had its limits. Mr. Sumner's speech had been met in England with a resentment and a unanimity which had probably astonished the Senator. The Americans and British were of the same race; they possessed the same stubborn virtues and perhaps the same defects, and a war between them would be a terrible calamity. To Washburne himself ten days later the Foreign Minister spoke in the same terms. He did not wish Americans to feel that France would rejoice in a war; very much the contrary. It was being argued in the United States that sooner or later Great Britain would find herself hard pressed in Europe, and then Washington would insist upon its claims. But might the time not come when America itself would be hard pressed? These statements were promptly reported by the British ambassador in Paris, Lord Lyons, to Clarendon, to whom they gave great satisfaction. They proved that the French had not yet forgotten their rap across the knuckles in the Mexican affair, and did not relish a hectoring tone on the part of America.
In view of the widespread British resentment, Motley faced responsibilities of the gravest kind; and he lost no time in showing that he was unfitted to meet them. Before leaving Boston he had talked with the senior Charles Francis Adams. That acid gentleman commented____________________