4/05/2012

Seward's foreigners (fin)

When we last left Seward, he was recruiting foreign officers for a "people's war" and our good friend George B. McClellan received word by letter that he was to vacate his general-in-chiefdom to make way for Gy├Ârgy Klapka (a future major general in the Prussian Army).

Klapka, for those too lazy to click the links I painstakingly provided yesterday, was a close, later associate of Louis (Lajos) Kossuth, the leader of the Hungarian Revolution, 1848-1849, and recipient of what would later be called a tickertape parade in New York in 1851.

Philip Figyelmessy (pictured), an ADC to Kossuth in '59 (during Garibaldi's Sicilian campaign), "came to America in 1861 to offer his sword to the Union. He was well supplied with letters of introduction, among which was one from Kossuth to Secretary Seward." So we read in Hungarians in the American Civil War.

The same source gives us this peek at a Seward-Kossuth interaction:
It is known that Secretary of State Seward conceived the idea of sending to Europe, in an unofficial capacity, three representative and influential men to meet the impending danger of foreign intervention. He chose for this mission Archbishop Hughes, Bishop McIlvaine and Mr. Thurlow Weed. It is less well known that he also sought to enlist the aid of Louis Kossuth.

This was a very natural idea, for, while he could not know then the inner history of Kossuth's relations to Napoleon and Cavour, he [Seward] did know that, in 1859, Kossuth had prevented the intervention of Great Britain in the Austro-Italian conflict through his speeches at public meetings in England and Scotland and his influence with the British Liberals, which caused the downfall of Lord Derby's cabinet.
Emphasis added!

Seward was recruiting veterans of the revolutions in Europe to gain political leverage with political celebrities who influence liberal opinion. The offers he made were to people close to opinion shapers.

Now let's do some speculation applying spotty memories. This is a blog, after all.

You recall I proposed that foreign conservatives were given to McClellan as staff and that revolutionaries went to Fremont. From what we remember about such assignments, a pattern seems to emerge.

The conservative foreign adventurers seem to represent kingdoms outside the nexus of intervention (Britain, France) and in fact number among those states generally opposed to France and Britain geopolitically. Consider Rosencrantz of Sweden, various Prussians, the French princes (pretenders to the throne of Napoleon III), the Russians and their fleets, which visited the North in displays of solidarity.

Seward was playing both internal politics and geopolitics against the potential interventionists. He strove for a grip on the liberal opposition within France and Britain while at the same time building influence with the conservative states that might work in combination with him against Franco-British designs.

Interesting, surely.

You shouldn't have to read material like this in a blog, for heaven's sake, but that's where we are in Civil War history.

(Part 1, Part 2)