“It is pretty evident that a devastating and villainous war is to be waged on our commerce by English capital and English men under the Rebel flag with the connivance of the English Government, which will, and is intended to, sweep our commerce from the ocean,” wrote Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy under President Abraham Lincoln in his diary entry of March 31, 1863. “We are in no condition for a foreign war… [I]f we are to have a conflict with England, letters of marque and every means in our power must be put in requisition against that faithless nation.”
Gideon Welles was suggesting the use of privateers by the Union. Two could play at the “privateers” game. England pretended to be neutral about the American Civil War, but in fact sided with the Confederacy. (Background: “Privateers, Then and Now”, Ersjdamoo’s Blog entry of April 12, 2013)
“Earl Russell gives us to understand the English Government do not intend to interpose to prevent the Rebels from building, buying, and sending out from England cruisers, semi-pirates, to prey upon our commerce. In plain language, English capital is to be employed in destroying our shipping interests.” (Gideon Welles Diary, March 31, 1863)
But the “Earl Russell” mentioned by Gideon Welles is even more infamous in another matter: the Great Famine, also known as the Irish Potato Famine.
The “Earl Russell” mentioned by Gideon Welles was Lord John Russell. In Ireland, between 1845 and 1852, approximately 1 million people died and a million more emigrated from Ireland. Lord John Russell proved to be incompetent in dealing with the Irish famine. Russell’s ministry introduced public works projects as his solution to the disaster. The Public Works were “strictly ordered” to be unproductive — that is, they would create no fund to repay their own expenses. Many hundreds of thousands of “feeble and starving men” were kept digging holes, and breaking up roads, which was doing no service.
Lord John Russell is remembered in a song by a New York City based celtic rock band with Irish Republican sympathies, Black 47. In their song of the same name Russell is cursed:
God’s curse upon you, Lord John Russell.
May your black hearted soul rot in hell.
There’s no love left on earth, God is dead in heaven
In the dark and deadly days of Black 47.
Another of those cursed by Black 47 is Sir Charles Edward Trevelyan, a British civil servant and colonial administrator. It was Trevelyan, in charge of the administration of Government relief to the victims of the Irish Famine, who limited the Government’s actual relief because he thought “the judgement of God sent the calamity to teach the Irish a lesson”.
Black 47 has this to say about Sir Charles Edward Trevelyan:
God’s curse upon you, Lord Trevelyan.
May your great Queen Victoria rot in hell.
‘Til England and its empire answer under heaven
For the crimes they committed in Black 47.