Nonfiction > James Ford Rhodes > History of the Civil War, 1861–1865 > Page 280
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James Ford Rhodes (1848–1927).  History of the Civil War, 1861–1865  1917.
 
Page 280
 
 
these vessels; and in pursuance of these communications, Earl Russell conscientiously set affairs in train to ascertain for whom the rams were building, his design being to stop them should there be warrant for such action under the law. While their construction was a matter of common knowledge, and while, as the Times remarked, “ninety-nine people out of a hundred believe that these steam rams are ‘intended to carry on hostilities sooner or later against the Federals,’” Captain Bulloch, the able naval representative of the Southern Confederacy, who had contracted for these war-ships, as well as for the Alabama, and had been enlightened by the seizure of the Alexandra, was managing the business astutely, with the sympathetic coëperation of the Lairds. To a report that they were for the Emperor of the French, Palmerston, in an allusion in the House of Commons, gave some credence: when this was shown to be without foundation, it was stated to the English government that they were for the viceroy of Egypt. This was in turn denied. Representations were then made to the officials who were investigating the matter that they were owned by a firm of French merchants, and for this there was a legal basis, inasmuch as Bulloch, fearing the seizure of the vessels, had sold them in June to a French firm who had engaged to resell them to him when they should get beyond British jurisdiction.  33
  Earl Russell caused all the facts which were submitted to him to be sifted with care by the Law officers of the Crown who gave him two positive opinions nearly a month apart, that there was “no evidence capable of being presented to a Court of Justice,” that the ships were intended for the Confederates, but that, on the other hand, the claim of French ownership seemed to be legally sustained: they could not, therefore, advise the government to detain the
 

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