« ElőzőTovább »
ART. VII. – LATER PHASES OF ENGLISH FEELING.
Correspondence on the Present Relations between Great Britain and the United States of America. Boston : Little, Brown, & Co.
Ved The thin, handsome volume whose title we have quoted is an interesting monument of a state of feeling which, we trust, is passing rapidly away. It consists of a bona fide correspondence between gentlemen* of professional culture, connected by intimate friendship, writing in mutual respect and courtesy, and alike lamenting the estrangement between the kindred nations, which had so nearly proved a calamity of the first magnitude, both to them and to the world. It ranges over nine months of the past year, — from January to October ; covering in its commencement the moment of perhaps the deepest animosity on one side and resentment on the other, and reaching in its close to the first marked symptoms of that reaction in the public mind abroad, compelled by the development of events here, which we trust is the pledge of a firmer alliance and a closer kindred than ever of old.
It is impossible to read this correspondence — though it is couched in phrases not merely of strict courtesy, but of sincere and cordial friendship without being struck by the difference in tone of the two writers. The American pleads earnestly, as for the welfare and honor of a native land in peril, — confessing its past errors and guilt, but contending manfully for its national life, and feeling that every blow struck at that is one which stabs him also. The Englishman, by comparison, handles the argument in a certain distant and dilettante way; he is very cool on every point that does not touch his personal honor as a Briton, or his personal feeling of the single moral point involved in slavery ; there is an unmistakable something in his tone, that shows he is not in earnest in considering the point in debate as one really to be seriously argued at all. This lawyer-like style of treatment is very evident in most of
* Hon. Charles G. Loring, of Boston, and Edwin W. Field, Esq., of London.
the arguments we have seen from our English friends. If they have not absolutely prejudged the case, at least they have taken their brief, and are rather annoyed than helped by any suggestions that interfere with the plausible making-up which it is their business to offer the court. Tant pis pour les faits. It seems an impertinence to them, that an American should seriously argue his own side as if he believed in it.
It is this tone among our friends, even more (we are tempted to think) than the bitter insolence of our open enemies in the English public, which has so deeply grieved and estranged us. Whatever the patience, even friendliness and courtesy, with which our remonstrances were heard, it was with an air that told us,
if words did not, that we were children, our vexations and griefs real to ourselves, no doubt, and natural under our afflictions, but nothing more. Like children, we must grow older and wiser. Of course, we should fail. Of course, we had made a very great blunder in undertaking the struggle at all. It was very provoking, too, to them, and a very uncomfortable, nay, an intolerable and unpardonable thing, that our fighting for existence should be carried on with so little consideration to their convenience. In fact, for them to keep neutral in the great battle of republican freedom and slaveholding despotism — not to interfere for the triumph of the latter - has been so often held forth as the acme of political honor and magnanimity, for which we should be loudly and humbly grateful, that some of us almost forgot that we had the common law of nations on our side, or any political rights which English logicians “ were bound to respect.
It is a cheering thing, and one which does infinite honor to the better sense of the British nation, that — as we fully and gratefully believe — the tide is turning there in favor of liberty and justice as we have understood them all along. Of course this change has much to do with the emancipation policy which our government have been reluctantly compelled to adopt, — reluctantly, because in conflict with our traditions of constitutional law; not less, perhaps, with that ferocity of tone with which the South has answered back to the last summons and threat of the authority it had defied. A policy that not only mercilessly sacrifices the negro, but threatens to hang
white prisoners, and hunts white women down with bloodhounds,* is justly outlawed from the comity or the compassion of mankind. We think, however, that, as soon as the better feeling is secured, a better judgment also will confess that there was something in the phrases national integrity and constitutional law, which our critics abroad have so long insisted had, and could have, no sense or meaning to us. We think, also, that the restored clearness of vision will discover facts that have long been willingly covered or disguised, — facts that told as plainly at the first as now, what was the nature of the struggle which the South had deliberately provoked. All these things will come in time. And it is better for our English friends to find them out for themselves, than to take them at any compulsory showing of ours.
What we wish to recognize now, frankly and gratefully, is the nobleness of temper — showing, in its stanch persistency through so many months of obloquy, the very finest qualities of British manliness — which is beginning to be victorious over prejudice that had seemed quite impregnable. In the words of one of the speakers † at the late magnificent meeting held (January 29) in Exeter Hall: “The good sense of the British people, and the inherent justice of our cause, are likely to take from us all chance of being martyrs, or of being said to advocate the cause of justice under unfavorable circumstances. The cause of justice and of the North, so far as my observation goes, is increasing in vigor every day.” | We quote also from private correspondence these cheering words of a noble and brave defender of our republic. “Let us take courage. The heart of the millions beats as true as ever, and sympathizes with you. ..... I never seemed to see so clearly a Divine hand overruling man's folly, as in this war. I long, I sigh, I pray, for the early and complete success of your just cause.” In the words of still another, - always friendly and
* If we can believe the recent terrible reports from Northern Alabama. † Mr. Taylor, M. P. for Leicester.
| From the report in the London Star. The Leeds Mercury of January 30 contains a report of a meeting held at the same time at Bradford, with a full report of the noble speech of Mr. W. E. Forster, M. P.
In the London Inquirer of January 24.
just, except for the sort of pre-judgment we have spoken of,
Though the tide of antislavery feeling seemed to have ebbed, the ocean which supplied it is as full as ever, and the waters are again rising in their ancient channels.” It is not merely from an unmanly leaning on foreign opinion, and courting of foreign favor, that we hail these symptoms with gratitude so deep and so devout. It is because we have regarded the estrangement of these two powerful and kindred peoples as a dishonor to one, and a calamity to both ; as a dark and terrible menace hanging over the future fortunes and hopes of free humanity. When certain designs of France upon this continent craved countenance from the insidious phrase “ rehabilitation of the Latin races," it was time to remember — then, if not before — by what families of mankind the durable triumphs of constitutional freedom have been won; and to long, even passionately, for the restoring of harmony, and mutual understanding, and consent of policy and purpose, between those nations most solemnly pledged by their past history to the welfare and the progress of mankind.
It is a pity to see how much of the ancient love and honor we used to feel towards England has faded out in the disputes of the last two years. We will not go over the melancholy story of it again. But it is easier now, and it is pleasant, to remember how much has been honorable in the life of England in the past, — how much there is, even now, to win rather our sympathy than our distrust. The magnificent courage and endurance of her people, even in the shadow of sickness and starvation, and the terrors of approaching winter, we have already alluded to.* And besides, - with all the jealousy and ill-will and half-concealed hostility which she has seemed to show towards us as the one formidable and organized democracy among the nations, — with the same jealousy and illwill and half-concealed hostility is England herself regarded by the despotisms of the Old World, as the citadel of free thought, as the champion of liberty in the forms of law. She has well earned the honor of that hate. Genuine British thought is the natural foe of tyranny.
* See note, page 293.
Not all the world, as we sincerely think, has shown so noble and rich a literature as England in these past thirty years, — that is to say, the truest representative expression of her truest representative minds. And this, not merely because of learning, genius, eloquence, imagination, or philosophical depth. In each of these there may have been higher examples elsewhere, or in other times. But because the great questions which lie at the heart of man's belief and life and hope have been more frankly met than elsewhere, illustrated with greater wealth of thought, and ripeness of culture, and nobleness of principle, and have lain more at the heart of that literature, which is the most genuine expression of the English mind. England has grown the ripe and mellow fruit, from the seeds of which much of our best planting has come. We do not forget or refuse to honor her now for that..
And yet again. It seems to us that, by the irresistible doom of Providence, England is set to working out those practical problems which touch nearest our own thoughts and prospects of the future. We do not forget the political follies, the political crimes, of which England has been guilty; still less can we forget the wicked and unjust threats that have been cast against us from her in our time of trouble, or the deliberate malice with which her wealth has been spent to cripple us, by moneyed speculators in piracy, ignored by official indolence at Liverpool, and cheered by official insolence at Kingston and Nassau. But neither do we forget the heroism of that struggle, centuries long, by which the liberties of England, and through them ours, have been won. We do not forget the gallant conflict that goes on there, year after year, from generation to generation, - the conflict against the abuse of power, the hardships of law, the ingrained wrong in institutions that have been growing old these thousand years. The relations of law and justice, of labor and capital, of population and land, of machinery and men, have nowhere led to so sharp and obstinate contentions, to such earnest hopes and bitter fears, as there. We have trusted that, in the providence of God, England should yet solve more of the terrible questions that press on the heart and hopes of humanity, as she nobly settled that of slavery thirty years ago; and we have thought that,