Page:Dramatic Moments in American Diplomacy (1918).djvu/185
IN AMERICAN DIPLOMACY 165
than consent to the liberation of these men I would sacrifice everything I possess. But I am consoled by the reflection that, while nothing but severest retribution is due to them, the surrender, under existing circumstances, is but simply doing right — simply proving faith- ful to our own ideas and traditions under strong temptation to violate them — simply giv- ing to England and the world the most signal proof that the American nation will not, under any circumstances, for the sake of inflicting jiist punishment on rebels, commit even a technical wrong against neutrals."
This position was courageous and manly. And if Seward had seen the point he could probably have turned the occasion into the in- ternational joke of the century. Perhaps he did see it, but feared the political effect at home of a simple, straightforward admission of error. At all events, his answer was a book full of bad English precedents instead of good Amer- ican law, and long-winded arguments of a na-���