Garibaldi And Lincoln


I say this is not the intention of the Federal Government. But it is to maintain its power and dignity—put down rebellion and insurrection, and restore to the Government her ancient prowess at home and throughout the world. You have lived in the United States; and you must readily have observed what a dreadful calamity it would be to throw at once upon that country in looseness, four millions of slaves. But if this war be prosecuted with the bitterness with which it has been commenced, I would not be surprised if it result in the extinction of slavery in the United States, no matter what may be the circumstances.


Quiggle forwarded copies of his correspondence with Garibaldi to Secretary of State Seward. But he did not stop at this point, even though he and his wife were packing to leave Antwerp. In another letter to Garibaldi he muddied the negotiations by saying that the Italian general would be receiving a formal invitation to go to the United States “with the highest Army Commission which it is in the power of the President to confer.” The implication of the top command was underscored with the false statement that President Lincoln had thanked Quiggle for initiating the offer.

At this point Secretary Seward undoubtedly discussed the Quiggle correspondence with President Lincoln. They were aware that the departing Quiggle had overreached his authority as a consul, yet were tantalized by the possibility of obtaining the services of the famed Italian camicia rossa , the red-shirted general, especially after the scare at Bull Run. Now Quiggle had to be pushed out of the picture and the offer tendered and negotiated by more professional diplomats. Through channels—Quiggle’s next above, the minister to Belgium, Henry Shelton Sanford—the consul in Antwerp was summoned to Brussels. Sanford politely thanked Quiggle on behalf of Seward and, at the same time, warned him to keep his mouth closed thereafter. As Sanford reported back to Seward, he informed Quiggle that he should behave “with strict injunctions of reserve.” The actual offer was entrusted to two experienced diplomats—George Perkins Marsh, first American minister to the new kingdom of Italy, and Sanford himself. Both were highly intelligent. Marsh, one of the great scholars in American diplomatic history, was a linguist who could handle Icelandic as easily as Italian. Between posts he lectured on philology and etymology at Columbia University and the Lowell Institute, and his book, The Earth as Modified by Human Action , is still regarded as a fountainhead of the conservation movement. While a Whig congressman from Vermont he shared a common bond with Congressman Lincoln of Illinois: both had opposed the Mexican War. He had been around the Mediterranean for many years, serving in Turkey and Greece before being appointed by President Lincoln to the capital in Turin.


As for Sanford, he had started out as an attaché at St. Petersburg, moved up in Frankfurt, and served as chargé d’affaires in Paris until deciding to resign because a new American minister wanted him to dress more formally on the job. As the minister in Brussels he proved valuable in keeping an eye on Confederate agents and purchasing military supplies for the Union. Marsh and Sanford were men whom the Secretary of State could expect to carry out a delicate mission.

Now came the specific authorization from Washington. On July 27, 1861, Secretary of State Seward sent written instructions to Minister Sanford, enclosing a copy of the correspondence between Garibaldi and Quiggle. At the same time Seward forwarded his instructions to Minister Marsh in Turin so that they could coordinate their efforts to obtain Garibaldi’s services. The key passages in Seward’s instructions went:

I wish you to proceed at once and enter into communication with the distinguished Soldier of Freedom. Say to him that this government believes his services in its present contest for the unity and liberty of the American People, would be exceedingly useful, and that, therefore, they are earnestly desired and invited. Tell him that this government believes he will, if possible, accept this call, because it is too certain that the fall of the American Union, if indeed it were possible, would be a disastrous blow to the cause of Human Freedom equally here, in Europe, and throughout the world. Tell him that he will receive a Major-General’s commission in the army of the United States, with its appointments, with the hearty welcome of the American People. Tell him that we have abundant resources, and numbers unlimited at our command, and a nation resolved to remain united and free.


President Lincoln’s name was not mentioned in the instructions, even though (later evidence proved) he had been consulted by Secretary Seward; only the President could confer the rank of major general. Nor would the wise Lincoln, weighing the nuances in the tangled field of foreign relations, communicate in writing with Garibaldi. The closest Lincoln came to personal involvement in the offer was indicated in a confidential communication from Secretary Seward to Sanford: