Lord John Russell
Lord John Russell (also commonly referred to as ‘Earl Russell’ from 1861), served as Foreign Secretary in Lord Palmerston’s Government during the American Civil War, making him the first contact for the United States Minister to London, Charles Francis Adams. Russell also met informally with Confederate emissaries, most notably William Yancey and James Murray Mason, with the latter becoming increasingly frustrated with him as the war progressed owing to his unwillingness to receive him after their first meeting. This also caused Russell to be a frequent target of attacks from Confederate Commercial Agent Henry Hotze’s Index during the second half of the war. Equally critical of him were numerous Members of Parliament who felt his approach towards the United States was too soft, particularly when British ships had been suspected of being seized illegally by the Union navy in international waters in the second half of the war. Conversely, US authorities were never able to forgive him for allowing Confederate naval cruisers to be built in British shipyards, setting the stage for the postwar ‘Alabama Claims’.
Although the Earl was far less revealing of his personal feelings towards the American Civil War than were other cabinet members, his private papers and letters do reveal a Southern sympathy and general distrust of Lincoln, Seward, and the Republican Party. In October 1862, Russell informed Lord Palmerston that he was ready to recognise the Confederate States as an independent nation, though he shortly after agreed with the Prime Minister that the time had not yet arrived to take such a step. By the end of the war, his attitudes towards the South had changed sharply, stating he was indifferent towards the possible hanging of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.