Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that “all men are created equal.” We now practically read it, “all men are created equal except negroes.” When the Know-nothings get control, it will read, “all men are created equal except negroes and foreigners and Catholics.” When it comes to this, I shall prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty–to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy.
ABRAHAM LINCOLN, letter to Joshua F. Speed, Aug. 24, 1855
SHADOWED so long by the storm-cloud of danger,
Thou whom the prayers of an empire defend,
Welcome, thrice welcome! but not as a stranger,
Come to the nation that calls thee its friend!
Bleak are our shores with the blasts of December,
Fettered and chill is the rivulet’s flow;
Throbbing and warm are the hearts that remember
Who was our friend when the world was our foe.
Look on the lips that are smiling to greet thee,
See the fresh flowers that a people has strewn
Count them thy sisters and brothers that meet thee;
Guest of the Nation, her heart is thine own!
Fires of the North, in eternal communion,
Blend your broad flashes with evening’s bright star!
God bless the Empire that loves the Great Union;
Strength to her people! Long life to the Czar!
So Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote in 1871 in honor of the visit of Grand Duke Alexei, fourth son of Tsar Alexander II, as a good will ambassador to the US. He encountered in the Northern states a vast reservoir of good will towards Russia for its steadfast support of the Union during the Civil War. Russia and Great Britain were enmeshed in the cold war known as the Great Game for control of Central Asia. The Russians viewed the United States as a power traditionally hostile to Great Britain and viewed the Civil War with alarm as a possible diminution of the power of the United States, along with a potential Anglo-Confederate alliance if the South achieved independence. From the beginning the Russian government publicly proclaimed its support for the Union and its opposition to any attempt by other powers to intervene in the conflict.
Lincoln at the outset of the War told the Russian ambassador to the US:
“Please inform the Emperor of our gratitude and assure His Majesty that the whole nation appreciates this new manifestation of friendship. Of all the communications we have received from the European governments, this is the most loyal.” (more…)