Chapter X: Jackstraws
Jackstraws is a game which most of us have played in our youth. You empty on a table a box of miniature toy rakes, shovels, picks, axes, all sorts of tools and implements. These lie under each other and above each other in intricate confusion, not unlike cross timber in a western forest, only instead of being logs, they are about two inches long and very light. The players sit round the table and with little hooks try in turn to lift one jackstraw out of the heap, without moving any of the others. You go on until you do move one of the others, and this loses you your turn. European diplomacy at any moment of any year reminds you, if you inspect it closely, of a game of jackstraws. Every sort and shape of intrigue is in the general heap and tangle, and the jealous nations sit round, each trying to lift out its own jackstraw. Luckily for us, we have not often been involved in these games of jackstraw hitherto; unluckily for us, we must be henceforth involved. If we kept out, our luck would be still worse.
Immediately after our Revolution, there was one of these heaps of intrigue, in which we were concerned. This was at the time of the negotiations leading to the Treaty of Paris, to which I made reference at the close of the last section. This was in 1783. Twenty years later, in 1803, occurred the heap of jackstraws that led to the Louisiana Purchase. Twenty years later, in 1823, occurred the heap of jackstraws from which emerged the Monroe Doctrine. Each of these dates, dotted along through our early decades, marks a very important crisis in our history. It is well that they should be grouped together, because together they disclose, so to speak, a coherent pattern. This coherent pattern is England's attitude towards ourselves. It is to be perceived, faintly yet distinctly, in 1783, and it grows clearer and ever more clear until in 1898, in the game of jackstraws played when we declared war upon Spain, the pattern is so clear that it could not be mistaken by any one who was not willfully blinded by an anti-English complex. This pattern represents a preference on England's part for ourselves to other nations. I do not ask you to think England's reason for this preference is that she has loved us so much; that she has loved others so much less—there is her reason. She has loved herself better than anybody. So must every nation. So does every nation.
Let me briefly speak of the first game of jackstraws, played at Paris in 1783. Our Revolution was over. The terms of peace had to be drawn. Franklin, Jay, Adams, and Laurens were our negotiators. The various important points were acknowledgment of our independence, settlement of boundaries, freedom of fishing in the neighborhood of the Canadian coast. We had agreed to reach no settlement with England separately from France and Spain. They were our recent friends. England, our recent enemy, sent Richard Oswald as her peace commissioner. This private gentleman had placed his fortune at our disposal during the war, and was Franklin's friend. Lord Shelburne wrote Franklin that if this was not satisfactory, to say so, and name any one he preferred. But Oswald was satisfactory; and David Hartley, another friend of Franklin's and also a sympathizer with our Revolution, was added; and in these circumstances and by these men the Treaty was made. To France we broke our promise to reach no separate agreement with England. We negotiated directly with the British, and the Articles were signed without consultation with the French Government. When Vergennes, the French Minister, saw the terms, he remarked in disgust that England would seem to have bought a peace rather than made one. By the treaty we got the Northwest Territory and the basin of the Ohio River to the Mississippi. Our recent friend, the French King, was much opposed to our having so much territory. It was our recent enemy, England, who agreed that we should have it. This was the result of that game of jackstraws.
Let us remember several things: in our Revolution, France had befriended us, not because she loved us so much, but because she loved England so little. In the Treaty of Paris, England stood with us, not because she loved us so much, but because she loved France so little. We must cherish no illusions. Every nation must love itself more than it loves its neighbor. Nevertheless, in this pattern of England's policy in 1783, where she takes her stand with us and against other nations, there is a deep significance. Our notions of law, our notions of life, our notions of religion, our notions of liberty, our notions of what a man should be and what a woman should be, are so much more akin to her notions than to those of any other nation, that they draw her toward us rather than toward any other nation. That is the lesson of the first game of jackstraws.
Next comes 1803. Upon the Louisiana Purchase, I have already touched; but not upon its diplomatic side. In those years the European game of diplomacy was truly portentous. Bonaparte had appeared, and Bonaparte was the storm centre. From the heap of jackstraws I shall lift out only that which directly concerns us and our acquisition of that enormous territory, then called Louisiana. Bonaparte had dreamed and planned an empire over here. Certain vicissitudes disenchanted him. A plan to invade England also helped to deflect his mind from establishing an outpost of his empire upon our continent. For us he had no love. Our principles were democratic, he was a colossal autocrat. He called us "the reign of chatter," and he would have liked dearly to put out our light. Addington was then the British Prime Minister. Robert R. Livingston was our minister in Paris. In the history of Henry Adams, in Volume II at pages 52 and 53, you may find more concerning Bonaparte's dislike of the United States. You may also find that Talleyrand expressed the view that socially and economically England and America were one and indivisible. In Volume I of the same history, at page 439, you will see the mention which Pichon made to Talleyrand of the overtures which England was incessantly making to us. At some time during all this, rumor got abroad of Bonaparte's projects regarding Louisiana. In the second volume of Henry Adams, at pages 23 and 24, you will find Addington remarking to our minister to Great Britain, Rufus King, that it would not do to let Bonaparte establish himself in Louisiana. Addington very plainly hints that Great Britain would back us in any such event. This backing of us by Great Britain found very cordial acceptance in the mind of Thomas Jefferson. A year before the Louisiana Purchase was consummated, and when the threat of Bonaparte was in the air, Thomas Jefferson wrote to Livingston, on April 18, 1802, that "the day France takes possession of New Orleans, we must marry ourselves to the British fleet and nation." In one of his many memoranda to Talleyrand, Livingston alludes to the British fleet. He also points out that France may by taking a certain course estrange the United States for ever and bind it closely to France's great enemy. This particular address to Talleyrand is dated February 1, 1803, and may be found in the Annals of Congress, 1802-1803, at pages 1078 to 1083. I quote a sentence: "The critical moment has arrived which rivets the connexion of the United States to France, or binds a young and growing people for ages hereafter to her mortal and inveterate enemy." After this, hints follow concerning the relative maritime power of France and Great Britain. Livingston suggests that if Great Britain invade Louisiana, who can oppose her? Once more he refers to Great Britain's superior fleet. This interesting address concludes with the following exordium to France: "She will cheaply purchase the esteem of men and the favor of Heaven by the surrender of a distant wilderness, which can neither add to her wealth nor to her strength." This, as you will perceive, is quite a pointed remark. Throughout the Louisiana diplomacy, and negotiations to which this diplomacy led, Livingston's would seem to be the master American mind and prophetic vision. But I must keep to my jackstraws. On April 17, 1803, Bonaparte's brother, Lucien, reports a conversation held with him by Bonaparte. What purposes, what oscillations, may have been going on deep in Bonaparte's secret mind, no one can tell. We may guess that he did not relinquish his plan about Louisiana definitely for some time after the thought had dawned upon him that it would be better if he did relinquish it. But unless he was lying to his brother Lucien on April 17, 1803, we get no mere glimpse, but a perfectly clear sight of what he had come finally to think. It was certainly worth while, he said to Lucien, to sell when you could what you were certain to lose; "for the English... are aching for a chance to capture it.... Our navy, so inferior to our neighbor's across the Channel, will always cause our colonies to be exposed to great risks.... As to the sea, my dear fellow, you must know that there we have to lower the flag.... The English navy is, and long will be, too dominant."
That was on April 17. On May 2, the Treaty of Cession was signed by the exultant Livingston. Bonaparte, instead of establishing an outpost of autocracy at New Orleans, sold to us not only the small piece of land which we had originally in mind, but the huge piece of land whose dimensions I have given above. We paid him fifteen millions for nearly a million square miles. The formal transfer was made on December 17 of that same year, 1803. There is my second jackstraw.
Thus, twenty years after the first time in 1783, Great Britain stood between us and the designs of another nation. To that other nation her fleet was the deciding obstacle. England did not love us so much, but she loved France so much less. For the same reasons which I have suggested before, self-interest, behind which lay her democratic kinship with our ideals, ranged her with us.
To place my third jackstraw, which follows twenty years after the second, uninterruptedly in this group, I pass over for the moment our War of 1812. To that I will return after I have dealt with the third jackstraw, namely, the Monroe Doctrine. It was England that suggested the Monroe Doctrine to us. From the origin of this in the mind of Canning to its public announcement upon our side of the water, the pattern to which I have alluded is for the third time very clearly to be seen.
How much did your school histories tell you about the Monroe Doctrine? I confess that my notion of it came to this: President Monroe informed the kings of Europe that they must keep away from this hemisphere. Whereupon the kings obeyed him and have remained obedient ever since. Of George Canning I knew nothing. Another large game of jackstraws was being played in Europe in 1823. Certain people there had formed the Holy Alliance. Among these, Prince Metternich the Austrian was undoubtedly the master mind. He saw that by England's victory at Waterloo a threat to all monarchical and dynastic systems of government had been created. He also saw that our steady growth was a part of the same threat. With this in mind, in 1822, he brought about the Holy Alliance. The first Article of the Holy Alliance reads: "The high contracting Powers, being convinced that the system of representative government is as equally incompatible with the monarchical principle as the maxim of sovereignty of the people with the Divine right, engage mutually, in the most solemn manner, to use all their efforts to put an end to the system of representative governments, in whatever country it may exist in Europe, and to prevent its being introduced in those countries where it is not yet known."
Behind these words lay a design, hardly veiled, not only against South America, but against ourselves. In a volume entitled With the Fathers, by John Bach McMaster, and also in the fifth volume of Mr. McMaster's history, chapter 41, you will find more amply what I abbreviate here. Canning understood the threat to us contained in the Holy Alliance. He made a suggestion to Richard Rush, our minister to England. The suggestion was of such moment, and the ultimate danger to us from the Holy Alliance was of such moment, that Rush made haste to put the matter into the hands of President Monroe. President Monroe likewise found the matter very grave, and he therefore consulted Thomas Jefferson. At that time Jefferson had retired from public life and was living quietly at his place in Virginia. That President Monroe's communication deeply stirred him is to be seen in his reply, written October 24, 1823. Jefferson says in part: "The question presented by the letters you have sent me is the most momentous which has ever been offered to my contemplation since that of independence.... One nation most of all could disturb us.... She now offers to lead, aid and accompany us.... With her on our side we need not fear the whole world. With her, then, we should most seriously cherish a cordial friendship, and nothing would tend more to unite our affections than to be fighting once more, side by side, in the same cause."
Thus for the second time, Thomas Jefferson advises a friendship with Great Britain. He realizes as fully as did Bonaparte the power of her navy, and its value to us. It is striking and strange to find Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the Declaration of Independence in 1776, writing in 1823 about uniting our affections and about fighting once more side by side with England.
It was the revolt of the Spanish Colonies from Spain in South America, and Canning's fear that France might obtain dominion in America, which led him to make his suggestion to Rush. The gist of the suggestion was, that we should join with Great Britain in saying that both countries were opposed to any intervention by Europe in the western hemisphere. Over our announcement there was much delight in England. In the London Courier occurs a sentence, "The South American Republics—protected by the two nations that possess the institutions and speak the language of freedom." In this fragment from the London Courier, the kinship at which I have hinted as being felt by England in 1783, and in 1803, is definitely expressed. From the Holy Alliance, from the general European diplomatic game, and from England's preference for us who spoke her language and thought her thoughts about liberty, law, what a man should be, what a woman should be, issued the Monroe Doctrine. And you will find that no matter what dynastic or ministerial interruptions have occurred to obscure this recognition of kinship with us and preference for us upon the part of the English people, such interruptions are always temporary and lie always upon the surface of English sentiment. Beneath the surface the recognition of kinship persists unchanged and invariably reasserts itself.
That is my third jackstraw. Canning spoke to Rush, Rush consulted Monroe, Monroe consulted Jefferson, and Jefferson wrote what we have seen. That, stripped of every encumbering circumstance, is the story of the Monroe Doctrine. Ever since that day the Monroe Doctrine has rested upon the broad back of the British Navy. This has been no secret to our leading historians, our authoritative writers on diplomacy, and our educated and thinking public men. But they have not generally been eager to mention it; and as to our school textbooks, none that I studied mentioned it at all.
Chapter XI: Some Family Scraps
Do not suppose because I am reminding you of these things and shall remind you of some more, that I am trying to make you hate France. I am only trying to persuade you to stop hating England. I wish to show you how much reason you have not to hate her, which your school histories pass lightly over, or pass wholly by. I want to make it plain that your anti-English complex and your pro-French complex entice your memory into retaining only evil about England and only good about France. That is why I pull out from the recorded, certified, and perfectly ascertainable past, these few large facts. They amply justify, as it seems to me, and as I think it must seem to any reader with an open mind, what I said about the pattern.
We must now touch upon the War of 1812. There is a political aspect of this war which casts upon it a light not generally shed by our school histories. Bonaparte is again the point. Nine years after our Louisiana Purchase from him, we declared war upon England. At that moment England was heavily absorbed in her struggle with Bonaparte. It is true that we had a genuine grievance against her. In searching for British sailors upon our ships, she impressed our own. This was our justification.
We made a pretty lame showing, in spite of the victories of our frigates and sloops. Our one signal triumph on land came after the Treaty of Peace had been signed at Ghent. During the years of war, it was lucky for us that England had Bonaparte upon her hands. She could not give us much attention. She was battling with the great Autocrat. We, by declaring war upon her at such a time, played into Bonaparte's hands, and virtually, by embarrassing England, struck a blow on the side of autocracy and against our own political faith. It was a feeble blow, it did but slight harm. And regardless of it England struck Bonaparte down. His hope that we might damage and lessen the power of her fleet that he so much respected and feared, was not realized. We made the Treaty of Ghent. The impressing of sailors from our vessels was tacitly abandoned. The next time that people were removed from vessels, it was not England who removed them, it was we ourselves, who had declared war on England for doing so, we ourselves who removed them from Canadian vessels in the Behring Sea, and from the British ship Trent. These incidents we shall reach in their proper place. As a result of the War of 1812, some English felt justified in taking from us a large slice of land, but Wellington said, "I think you have no right, from the state of the war, to demand any concession of territory from America." This is all that need be said about our War of 1812.
Because I am trying to give only the large incidents, I have intentionally made but a mere allusion to Florida and our acquisition of that territory. It was a case again of England's siding with us against a third power, Spain, in this instance. I have also omitted any account of our acquisition of Texas, when England was not friendly—I am not sure why: probably because of the friction between us over Oregon. But certain other minor events there are, which do require a brief reference—the boundaries of Maine, of Oregon, the Isthmian Canal, Cleveland and Venezuela, Roosevelt and Alaska; and these disputes we shall now take up together, before we deal with the very large matter of our trouble with England during the Civil War. Chronologically, of course, Venezuela and Alaska fall after the Civil War; but they belong to the same class to which Maine and Oregon belong. Together, all of these incidents and controversies form a group in which the underlying permanence of British good-will towards us is distinctly to be discerned. Sometimes, as I have said before, British anger with us obscures the friendly sentiment. But this was on the surface, and it always passed. As usual, it is only the anger that has stuck in our minds. Of the outcome of these controversies and the British temperance and restraint which brought about such outcome the popular mind retains no impression.
The boundary of Maine was found to be undefined to the extent of 12,000 square miles. Both Maine and New Brunswick claimed this, of course. Maine took her coat off to fight, so did New Brunswick. Now, we backed Maine, and voted supplies and men to her. Not so England. More soberly, she said, "Let us arbitrate." We agreed, it was done. By the umpire Maine was awarded more than half what she claimed. And then we disputed the umpire's decision on the ground he hadn't given us the whole thing! Does not this remind you of some of our baseball bad manners? It was settled later, and we got, differently located, about the original award.
Did you learn in school about "fifty-four forty, or fight"? We were ready to take off our coat again. Or at least, that was the platform in 1844 on which President Polk was elected. At that time, what lay between the north line of California and the south line of Alaska, which then belonged to Russia, was called Oregon. We said it was ours. England disputed this. Each nation based its title on discovery. It wasn't really far from an even claim. So Polk was elected, which apparently meant war; his words were bellicose. We blustered rudely. Feeling ran high in England; but she didn't take off her coat. Her ambassador, Pakenham, stiff at first, unbent later. Under sundry missionary impulses, more Americans than British had recently settled along the Columbia River and in the Willamette Valley. People from Missouri followed. You may read of our impatient violence in Professor Dunning's book, The British Empire and the United States. Indeed, this volume tells at length everything I am telling you briefly about these boundary disputes. The settlers wished to be under our Government. Virtually upon their preference the matter was finally adjusted. England met us with a compromise, advantageous to us and reasonable for herself. Thus, again, was her conduct moderate and pacific. If you think that this was through fear of us, I can only leave you to our western blow-hards of 1845, or to your anti-British complex. What I see in it, is another sign of that fundamental sense of kinship, that persisting unwillingness to have a real scrap with us, that stares plainly out of our whole first century—the same feeling which prevented so many English from enlisting against us in the Revolution that George III was obliged to get Hessians.
Nicaragua comes next. There again they were quite angry with us on top, but controlled in the end by the persisting disposition of kinship. They had land in Nicaragua with the idea of an Isthmian Canal. This we did not like. They thought we should mind our own business. But they agreed with us in the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty that both should build and run the canal. Vagueness about territory near by raised further trouble, and there we were in the right. England yielded. The years went on and we grew, until the time came when we decided that if there was to be any canal, no one but ourselves should have it. We asked to be let off the old treaty. England let us off, stipulating the canal should be unfortified, and an "open door" to all. Our representative agreed to this, much to our displeasure. Indeed, I do not think he should have agreed to it. Did England hold us to it? All this happened in the lifetime of many of us, and we know that she did not hold us to it. She gave us what we asked, and she did so because she felt its justice, and that it in no way menaced her with injury. All this began in 1850 and ended, as we know, in the time of Roosevelt.
About 1887 our seal-fishing in the Behring Sea brought on an acute situation. Into the many and intricate details of this, I need not go; you can find them in any good encyclopedia, and also in Harper's Magazine for April, 1891, and in other places. Our fishing clashed with Canada's. We assumed jurisdiction over the whole of the sea, which is a third as big as the Mediterranean, on the quite fantastic ground that it was an inland sea. Ignoring the law that nobody has jurisdiction outside the three-mile limit from their shores, we seized Canadian vessels sixty miles from land. In fact, we did virtually what we had gone to war with England for doing in 1812. But England did not go to war. She asked for arbitration. Throughout this, our tone was raw and indiscreet, while hers was conspicuously the opposite; we had done an unwarrantable and high-handed thing; our claim that Behring Sea was an "inclosed" sea was abandoned; the arbitration went against us, and we paid damages for the Canadian vessels.
In 1895, in the course of a century's dispute over the boundary between Venezuela and British Guiana, Venezuela took prisoner some British subjects, and asked us to protect her from the consequences. Richard Olney, Grover Cleveland's Secretary of State, informed Lord Salisbury, Prime Minister of England, that "in accordance with the Monroe Doctrine, the United States must insist on arbitration"—that is, of the disputed boundary. It was an abrupt extension of the Monroe Doctrine. It was dictating to England the manner in which she should settle a difference with another country. Salisbury declined. On December 17th Cleveland announced to England that the Monroe Doctrine applied to every stage of our national Life, and that as Great Britain had for many years refused to submit the dispute to impartial arbitration, nothing remained to us but to accept the situation. Moreover, if the disputed territory was found to belong to Venezuela, it would be the duty of the United States to resist, by every means in its power, the aggressions of Great Britain. This was, in effect, an ultimatum. The stock market went to pieces. In general American opinion, war was coming. The situation was indeed grave. First, we owed the Monroe Doctrine's very existence to English backing. Second, the Doctrine itself had been a declaration against autocracy in the shape of the Holy Alliance, and England was not autocracy. Lastly, as a nation, Venezuela seldom conducted herself or her government on the steady plan of democracy. England was exasperated. And yet England yielded. It took a little time, but arbitration settled it in the end—at about the same time that we flatly declined to arbitrate our quarrel with Spain. History will not acquit us of groundless meddling and arrogance in this matter, while England comes out of it having again shown in the end both forbearance and good manners. Before another Venezuelan incident in 1902, I take up a burning dispute of 1903.
As Oregon had formerly been, so Alaska had later become, a grave source of friction between England and ourselves. Canada claimed boundaries in Alaska which we disputed. This had smouldered along through a number of years until the discovery of gold in the Klondike region fanned it to a somewhat menacing flame. In this instance, history is as unlikely to approve the conduct of the Canadians as to approve our bad manners towards them upon many other occasions. The matter came to a head in Roosevelt's first administration. You will find it all in the Life of John Hay by William R. Thayer, Volume II. A commission to settle the matter had dawdled and failed. Roosevelt was tired of delays. Commissioners again were appointed, three Americans, two Canadians, and Alverstone, Lord Chief Justice, to represent England. To his friend Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, about to sail for an English holiday, Roosevelt wrote a private letter privately to be shown to Mr. Balfour, Mr. Chamberlain, and certain other Englishmen of mark. He said: "The claim of the Canadians for access to deep water along any part of the Alaskan coast is just exactly as indefensible as if they should now suddenly claim the Island of Nantucket." Canada had objected to our Commissioners as being not "impartial jurists of repute." As to this, Roosevelt's letter to Holmes ran on: "I believe that no three men in the United States could be found who would be more anxious than our own delegates to do justice to the British claim on all points where there is even a color of right on the British side. But the objection raised by certain British authorities to Lodge, Root, and Turner, especially to Lodge and Root, was that they had committed themselves on the general proposition. No man in public life in any position of prominence could have possibly avoided committing himself on the proposition, any more than Mr. Chamberlain could avoid committing himself on the ownership of the Orkneys if some Scandinavian country suddenly claimed them. If this embodied other points to which there was legitimate doubt, I believe Mr. Chamberlain would act fairly and squarely in deciding the matter; but if he appointed a commission to settle up all these questions, I certainly should not expect him to appoint three men, if he could find them, who believed that as to the Orkneys the question was an open one. I wish to make one last effort to bring about an agreement through the Com-mission.... But if there is a disagreement... I shall take a position which will prevent any possibility of arbitration hereafter;... will render it necessary for Congress to give me the authority to run the line as we claim it, by our own people, without any further regard to the attitude of England and Canada. If I paid attention to mere abstract rights, that is the position I ought to take anyhow. I have not taken it because I wish to exhaust every effort to have the affair settled peacefully and with due regard to England's honor."
That is the way to do these things: not by a peremptory public letter, like Olney's to Salisbury, which enrages a whole people and makes temperate action doubly difficult, but thus, by a private letter to the proper persons, very plain, very unmistakable, but which remains private, a sufficient word to the wise, and not a red rag to the mob. "To have the affair settled peacefully and with due regard to England's honor." Thus Roosevelt. England desired no war with us this time, any more than at the other time. The Commission went to work, and, after investigating the facts, decided in our favor.
Our list of boundary episodes finished, I must touch upon the affair with the Kaiser regarding Venezuela's debts. She owed money to Germany, Italy, and England. The Kaiser got the ear of the Tory government under Salisbury, and between the three countries a secret pact was made to repay themselves. Venezuela is not seldom reluctant to settle her obligations, and she was slow upon this occasion. It was the Kaiser's chance—he had been trying it already at other points—to slide into a foothold over here under the camouflage of collecting from Venezuela her just debt to him. So with warships he and his allies established what he called a pacific blockade on Venezuelan ports.
I must skip the comedy that now went on in Washington (you will find it on pages 287-288 of Mr. Thayer's John Hay, Volume II) and come at once to Mr. Roosevelt's final word to the Kaiser, that if there was not an offer to arbitrate within forty-eight hours, Admiral Dewey would sail for Venezuela. In thirty-six hours arbitration was agreed to. England withdrew from her share in the secret pact. Had she wanted war with us, her fleet and the Kaiser's could have outmatched our own. She did not; and the Kaiser had still very clearly and sorely in remembrance what choice she had made between standing with him and standing with us a few years before this, upon an occasion that was also connected with Admiral Dewey. This I shall fully consider after summarizing those international episodes of our Civil War wherein England was concerned.
This completes my list of minor troubles with England that we have had since Canning suggested our Monroe Doctrine in 1823. Minor troubles, I call them, because they are all smaller than those during our Civil War. The full record of each is an open page of history for you to read at leisure in any good library. You will find that the anti-English complex has its influence sometimes in the pages of our historians, but Professor Dunning is free from it. You will find, whatever transitory gusts of anger, jealousy, hostility, or petulance may have swept over the English people in their relations with us, these gusts end in a calm; and this calm is due to the common-sense of the race. It revealed itself in the treaty at the close of our Revolution, and it has been the ultimate controlling factor in English dealings with us ever since. And now I reach the last of my large historic matters, the Civil War, and our war with Spain.
Chapter XII: On the Ragged Edge
On November 6, 1860, Lincoln, nominee of the Republican party, which was opposed to the extension of slavery, was elected President of the United States. Forty-one days later, the legislature of South Carolina, determined to perpetuate slavery, met at Columbia, but, on account of a local epidemic, moved to Charleston. There, about noon, December 20th, it unanimously declared "that the Union now subsisting between South Carolina and other States, under the name of the United States of America, is hereby dissolved." Soon other slave states followed this lead, and among them all, during those final months of Buchanan's presidency, preparedness went on, unchecked by the half-feeble, half-treacherous Federal Government. Lincoln, in his inaugural address, March 4, 1861, declared that he had no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the states where it existed. To the seceded slave states he said: "In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The Government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors. You can have no oath registered in heaven to destroy the Government; while I shall have the most solemn one to preserve, protect and defend it." This changed nothing in the slave states. It was not enough for them that slavery could keep on where it was. To spread it where it was not, had been their aim for a very long while. The next day, March 5th, Lincoln had letters from Fort Sumter, in Charleston harbor. Major Anderson was besieged there by the batteries of secession, was being starved out, might hold on a month longer, needed help. Through staggering complications and embarrassments, which were presently to be outstaggered by worse ones, Lincoln by the end of March saw his path clear. "In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not mine, is the momentous issue of civil war." The clew to the path had been in those words from the first. The flag of the Union, the little island of loyalty amid the waters of secession, was covered by the Charleston batteries. "Batteries ready to open Wednesday or Thursday. What instructions?" Thus, on April 1st, General Beauregard, at Charleston, telegraphed to Jefferson Davis. They had all been hoping that Lincoln would give Fort Sumter to them and so save their having to take it. Not at all. The President of the United States was not going to give away property of the United States. Instead, the Governor of South Caro-lina received a polite message that an attempt would be made to supply Fort Sumter with food only, and that if this were not interfered with, no arms or ammunition should be sent there without further notice, or in case the fort were attacked. Lincoln was leaning backwards, you might say, in his patient effort to conciliate. And accordingly our transports sailed from New York for Charleston with instructions to supply Sumter with food alone, unless they should be opposed in attempting to carry out their errand. This did not suit Jefferson Davis at all; and, to cut it short, at half-past four, on the morning of April 12, 1861, there arose into the air from the mortar battery near old Fort Johnson, on the south side of the harbor, a bomb-shell, which curved high and slow through the dawn, and fell upon Fort Sumter, thus starting four years of civil war. One week later the Union proclaimed a blockade on the ports of Slave Land.
Bear each and all of these facts in mind, I beg, bear them in mind well, for in the light of them you can see England clearly, and will have no trouble in following the different threads of her conduct towards us during this struggle. What she did then gave to our ancient grudge against her the reddest coat of fresh paint which it had received yet—the reddest and the most enduring since George III.
England ran true to form. It is very interesting to mark this; very interesting to watch in her government and her people the persistent and conflicting currents of sympathy and antipathy boil up again, just as they had boiled in 1776. It is equally interesting to watch our ancient grudge at work, causing us to remember and hug all the ill will she bore us, all the harm she did us, and to forget all the good. Roughly comparing 1776 with 1861, it was once more the Tories, the aristocrats, the Lord Norths, who hoped for our overthrow, while the people of England, with certain liberal leaders in Parliament, stood our friends. Just as Pitt and Burke had spoken for us in our Revolution, so Bright and Cobden befriended us now. The parallel ceases when you come to the Sovereign. Queen Victoria declined to support or recognize Slave Land. She stopped the Government and aristocratic England from forcing war upon us, she prevented the French Emperor, Napoleon III, from recognizing the Southern Confederacy. We shall come to this in its turn. Our Civil War set up in England a huge vibration, subjected England to a searching test of herself. Nothing describes this better than a letter of Henry Ward Beecher's, written during the War, after his return from addressing the people of England.
"My own feelings and judgment underwent a great change while I was in England... I was chilled and shocked at the coldness towards the North which I everywhere met, and the sympathetic prejudices in favor of the South. And yet everybody was alike condemning slavery and praising liberty!"
How could England do this, how with the same breath blow cold and hot, how be against the North that was fighting the extension of slavery and yet be against slavery too? Confusing at the time, it is clear to-day. Imbedded in Lincoln's first inaugural address lies the clew: he said, "I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so. Those who elected me did so with full knowledge that I had made this and many similar declarations, and had never recanted them." Thus Lincoln, March 4, 1861. Six weeks later, when we went-to war, we went, not "to interfere with the institution of slavery," but (again in Lincoln's words) "to preserve, protect, and defend" the Union. This was our slogan, this our fight, this was repeated again and again by our soldiers and civilians, by our public men and our private citizens. Can you see the position of those Englishmen who condemned slavery and praised liberty? We ourselves said we were not out to abolish slavery, we disclaimed any such object, by our own words we cut the ground away from them.
Not until September 22d of 1862, to take effect upon January 1, 1863, did Lincoln proclaim emancipation—thus doing what he had said twenty-two months before "I believe I have no lawful right to do."
That interim of anguish and meditation had cleared his sight. Slowly he had felt his way, slowly he had come to perceive that the preservation of the Union and the abolition of slavery were so tightly wrapped together as to merge and be one and the same thing. But even had he known this from the start, known that the North's bottom cause, the ending of slavery, rested on moral ground, and that moral ground outweighs and must forever outweigh whatever of legal argument may be on the other side, he could have done nothing. "I believe I have no lawful right." There were thousands in the North who also thus believed. It was only an extremist minority who disregarded the Constitution's acquiescence in slavery and wanted emancipation proclaimed at once. Had Lincoln proclaimed it, the North would have split in pieces, the South would have won, the Union would have perished, and slavery would have remained. Lincoln had to wait until the season of anguish and meditation had unblinded thousands besides himself, and thus had placed behind him enough of the North to struggle on to that saving of the Union and that freeing of the slave which was consummated more than two years later by Lee's surrender to Grant at Appomattox.
But it was during that interim of anguish and meditation that England did us most of the harm which our memories vaguely but violently treasure. Until the Emancipation, we gave our English friends no public, official grounds for their sympathy, and consequently their influence over our English enemies was hampered. Instantly after January 1, 1863, that sympathy became the deciding voice. Our enemies could no longer say to it, "but Lincoln says himself that he doesn't intend to abolish slavery."
Here are examples of what occurred: To William Lloyd Garrison, the Abolitionist, an English sympathizer wrote that three thousand men of Manchester had met there and adopted by acclamation an enthusiastic message to Lincoln. These men said that they would rather remain unemployed for twenty years than get cotton from the South at the expense of the slave. A month later Cobden writes to Charles Sumner: "I know nothing in my political experience so striking, an a display of spontaneous public action, as that of the vast gathering at Exeter Hall (in London), when, without one attraction in the form of a popular orator, the vast building, its minor rooms and passages, and the streets adjoining, were crowded with an enthusiastic audience. That meeting has had a powerful effect on our newspapers and politicians. It has closed the mouths of those who have been advocating the side of the South. And I now write to assure you that any unfriendly act on the part of our Government—no matter which of our aristocratic parties is in power—towards your cause is not to be apprehended. If an attempt were made by the Government in any way to commit us to the South, a spirit would be instantly aroused which would drive that Government from power."
I lay emphasis at this point upon these instances (many more could be given) because it has been the habit of most Americans to say that England stopped being hostile to the North as soon as the North began to win. In January, 1863, the North had not visibly begun to win. It had suffered almost unvaried defeat so far; and the battles of Gettysburg and Vicksburg, where the tide turned at last our way, were still six months ahead. It was from January 1, 1863, when Lincoln planted our cause firmly and openly on abolition ground, that the undercurrent of British sympathy surged to the top. The true wonder is, that this undercurrent should have been so strong all along, that those English sympathizers somehow in their hearts should have known what we were fighting for more clearly than we had been able to see it; ourselves. The key to this is given in Beecher's letter—it is nowhere better given—and to it I must now return.
"I soon perceived that my first error was in supposing that Great Britain was an impartial spectator. In fact, she was morally an actor in the conflict. Such were the antagonistic influences at work in her own midst, and the division of parties, that, in judging American affairs she could not help lending sanction to one or the other side of her own internal conflicts. England was not, then, a judge, sitting calmly on the bench to decide without bias; the case brought before her was her own, in principle, and in interest. In taking sides with the North, the common people of Great Britain and the laboring class took sides with themselves in their struggle for reformation; while the wealthy and the privileged classes found a reason in their own political parties and philosophies why they should not be too eager for the legitimate government and nation of the United States.
"All classes who, at home, were seeking the elevation and political enfranchisement of the common people, were with us. All who studied the preservation of the state in its present unequal distribution of political privileges, sided with that section in America that were doing the same thing.
"We ought not to be surprised nor angry that men should maintain aristocratic doctrines which they believe in fully as sincerely, and more consistently, than we, or many amongst us do, in democratic doctrines.
"We of all people ought to understand how a government can be cold or semi-hostile, while the people are friendly with us. For thirty years the American Government, in the hands, or under the influence of Southern statesmen, has been in a threatening attitude to Europe, and actually in disgraceful conflict with all the weak neighboring Powers. Texas, Mexico, Central Generics, and Cuba are witnesses. Yet the great body of our people in the Middle and Northern States are strongly opposed to all such tendencies."
It was in a very brief visit that Beecher managed to see England as she was: a remarkable letter for its insight, and more remarkable still for its moderation, when you consider that it was written in the midst of our Civil War, while loyal Americans were not only enraged with England, but wounded to the quick as well. When a man can do this—can have passionate convictions in passionate times, and yet keep his judgment unclouded, wise, and calm, he serves his country well.
I can remember the rage and the wound. In that atmosphere I began my existence. My childhood was steeped in it. In our house the London Punch was stopped, because of its hostile ridicule. I grew to boyhood hearing from my elders how England had for years taunted us with our tolerance of slavery while we boasted of being the Land of the Free—and then, when we arose to abolish slavery, how she "jack-knived" and gave aid and comfort to the slave power when it had its fingers upon our throat. Many of that generation of my elders never wholly got over the rage and the wound. They hated all England for the sake of less than half England. They counted their enemies but never their friends. There's nothing unnatural about this, nothing rare. On the contrary, it's the usual, natural, unjust thing that human nature does in times of agony. It's the Henry Ward Beechers that are rare. In times of agony the average man and woman see nothing but their agony. When I look over some of the letters that I received from England in 1915—letters from strangers evoked by a book called The Pentecost of Calamity, wherein I had published my conviction that the cause of England was righteous, the cause of Germany hideous, and our own persistent neutrality unworthy—I'm glad I lost my temper only once, and replied caustically only once. How dreadful (wrote one of my correspondents) must it be to belong to a nation that was behaving like mine! I retorted (I'm sorry for it now) that I could all the more readily comprehend English feeling about our neutrality, because I had known what we had felt when Gladstone spoke at Newcastle and when England let the Alabama loose upon us in 1862. Where was the good in replying at all? Silence is almost always the best reply in these cases. Next came a letter from another English stranger, in which the writer announced having just read The Pentecost of Calamity. Not a word of friendliness for what I had said about the righteousness of England's cause or my expressed unhappiness over the course which our Government had taken—nothing but scorn for us all and the hope that we should reap our deserts when Germany defeated England and invaded us. Well? What of it? Here was a stricken person, writing in stress, in a land of desolation, mourning for the dead already, waiting for the next who should die, a poor, unstrung average person, who had not long before read that remark of our President's made on the morrow of the Lusitania: that there is such a thing as being too proud to fight; had read during the ensuing weeks those notes wherein we stood committed by our Chief Magistrate to a verbal slinking away and sitting down under it. Can you wonder? If the mere memory of those days of our humiliation stabs me even now, I need no one to tell me (though I have been told) what England, what France, felt about us then, what it must have been like for Americans who were in England and France at that time. No: the average person in great trouble cannot rise above the trouble and survey the truth and be just. In English eyes our Government—and therefore all of us—failed in 1914—1915—1916—failed again and again—insulted the cause of humanity when we said through our President in 1916, the third summer of the war, that we were not concerned with either the causes or the aims of that conflict. How could they remember Hoover, or Robert Bacon, or Leonard Wood, or Theodore Roosevelt then, any more than we could remember John Bright, or Richard Cobden, or the Manchester men in the days when the Alabama was sinking the merchant vessels of the Union?
We remembered Lord John Russell and Lord Palmerston in the British Government, and their fellow aristocrats in British society; we remembered the aristocratic British press—The Times notably, because the most powerful—these are what we saw, felt, and remembered, because they were not with us, and were able to hurt us in the days when our friends were not yet able to help us. They made welcome the Southerners who came over in the interests of the South, they listened to the Southern propaganda. Why? Because the South was the American version of their aristocratic creed. To those who came over in the interests of the North and of the Union they turned a cold shoulder, because they represented Democracy; moreover, a Dis-United States would prove in commerce a less formidable competitor. To Captain Bullock, the able and energetic Southerner who put through in England the building and launching of those Confederate cruisers which sank our ships and destroyed our merchant marine, and to Mason and Slidell, the doors of dukes opened pleasantly; Beecher and our other emissaries mostly had to dine beneath uncoroneted roofs.
In the pages of Henry Adams, and of Charles Francis Adams his brother, you can read of what they, as young men, encountered in London, and what they saw their father have to put up with there, both from English society and the English Government. Their father was our new minister to England, appointed by Lincoln. He arrived just after our Civil War had begun. I have heard his sons talk about it familiarly, and it is all to be found in their writings.
Nobody knows how to be disagreeable quite so well as the English gentleman, except the English lady. They can do it with the nicety of a medicine dropper. They can administer the precise quantum suff. in every case. In the society of English gentlemen and ladies Mr. Adams by his official position was obliged to move. They left him out as much as they could, but, being the American Minister, he couldn't be left out altogether. At their dinners and functions he had to hear open expressions of joy at the news of Southern victories, he had to receive slights both veiled and unveiled, and all this he had to bear with equanimity. Sometimes he did leave the room; but with dignity and discretion. A false step, a "break," might have led to a request for his recall. He knew that his constant presence, close to the English Government, was vital to our cause. Russell and Palmerston were by turns insolent and shifty, and once on the very brink of recognizing the Southern Confederacy as an independent nation. Gladstone, Chancellor of the Exchequer, in a speech at Newcastle, virtually did recognize it. You will be proud of Mr. Adams if you read how he bore himself and fulfilled his appallingly delicate and difficult mission. He was an American who knew how to behave himself, and he behaved himself all the time; while the English had a way of turning their behavior on and off, like the hot water. Mr. Adams was no admirer of "shirt-sleeves" diplomacy. His diplomacy wore a coat. Our experiments in "shirt-sleeves" diplomacy fail to show that it accomplishes anything which diplomacy decently dressed would not accomplish more satisfactorily. Upon Mr. Adams fell some consequences of previous American crudities, of which I shall speak later.
Lincoln had declared a blockade on Southern ports before Mr. Adams arrived in London. Upon his arrival he found England had proclaimed her neutrality and recognized the belligerency of the South. This dismayed Mr. Adams and excited the whole North, because feeling ran too high to perceive this first act on England's part to be really favorable to us; she could not recognize our blockade, which stopped her getting Southern cotton, unless she recognized that the South was in a state of war with us. Looked at quietly, this act of England's helped us and hurt herself, for it deprived her of cotton.
It was not with this, but with the reception and treatment of Mr. Adams that the true hostility began. Slights to him were slaps at us, sympathy with the South was an active moral injury to our cause, even if it was mostly an undertone, politically. Then all of a sudden, something that we did ourselves changed the undertone to a loud overtone, and we just grazed England's declaring war on us. Had she done so, then indeed it had been all up with us. This incident is the comic going-back on our own doctrine of 1812, to which I have alluded above.
On November 8, 1861, Captain Charles Wilkes of the American steam sloop San Jacinto, fired a shot across the bow of the British vessel Trent, stopped her on the high seas, and took four passengers off her, and brought them prisoners to Fort Warren, in Boston harbor. Mason and Slidell are the two we remember, Confederate envoys to France and Great Britain. Over this the whole North burst into glorious joy. Our Secretary of the Navy wrote to Wilkes his congratulations, Congress voted its thanks to him, governors and judges laureled him with oratory at banquets, he was feasted with meat and drink all over the place, and, though his years were sixty-three, ardent females probably rushed forth from throngs and kissed him with the purest intentions: heroes have no age. But presently the Trent arrived in England, and the British lion was aroused. We had violated international law, and insulted the British flag. Palmerston wrote us a letter—or Russell, I forget which wrote it—a letter that would have left us no choice but to fight. But Queen Victoria had to sign it before it went. "My lord," she said, "you must know that I will agree to no paper that means war with the United States." So this didn't go, but another in its stead, pretty stiff, naturally, yet still possible for us to swallow. Some didn't want to swallow even this; but Lincoln, humorous and wise, said, "Gentlemen, one war at a time;" and so we made due restitution, and Messrs. Mason and Slidell went their way to France and England, free to bring about action against us there if they could manage it. Captain Wilkes must have been a good fellow. His picture suggests this. England, in her English heart, really liked what he had done, it was in its gallant flagrancy so remarkably like her own doings—though she couldn't, naturally, permit such a performance to pass; and a few years afterwards, for his services in the cause of exploration, her Royal Geographical Society gave him a gold medal! Yes; the whole thing is comic—to-day; for us, to-day, the point of it is, that the English Queen saved us from a war with England.
Within a year, something happened that was not comic. Lord John Russell, though warned and warned, let the Alabama slip away to sea, where she proceeded to send our merchant ships to the bottom, until the Kearsarge sent her herself to the bottom. She had been built at Liverpool in the face of an English law which no quibbling could disguise to anybody except to Lord John Russell and to those who, like him, leaned to the South. Ten years later, this leaning cost England fifteen million dollars in damages.
Let us now listen to what our British friends were saying in those years before Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation. His blockade had brought immediate and heavy distress upon many English workmen and their families. That had been April 19, 1861. By September, five sixths of the Lancashire cotton-spinners were out of work, or working half time. Their starvation and that of their wives and children could be stemmed by charity alone. I have talked with people who saw those thousands in their suffering. Yet those thousands bore it. They somehow looked through Lincoln's express disavowal of any intention to interfere with slavery, and saw that at bottom our war was indeed against slavery, that slavery was behind the Southern camouflage about independence, and behind the Northern slogan about preserving the Union. They saw and they stuck. "Rarely," writes Charles Francis Adams, "in the history of mankind, has there been a more creditable exhibition of human sympathy." France was likewise damaged by our blockade; and Napoleon III would have liked to recognize the South. He established, through Maximilian, an empire in Mexico, behind which lay hostility to our Democracy. He wished us defeat; but he was afraid to move without England, to whom he made a succession of indirect approaches. These nearly came to something towards the close of 1862. It was on October 7th that Gladstone spoke at Newcastle about Jefferson Davis having made a nation. Yet, after all, England didn't budge, and thus held Napoleon back. From France in the end the South got neither ships nor recognition, in spite of his deceitful connivance and desire; Napoleon flirted a while with Slidell, but grew cold when he saw no chance of English cooperation.
Besides John Bright and Cobden, we had other English friends of influence and celebrity: John Stuart Mill, Thomas Hughes, Goldwin Smith, Leslie Stephen, Robert Gladstone, Frederic Harrison are some of them. All from the first supported us. All from the first worked and spoke for us. The Union and Emancipation Society was founded. "Your Committee," says its final report when the war was ended, "have issued and circulated upwards of four hundred thousand books, pamphlets, and tracts... and nearly five hundred official and public meetings have been held..." The president of this Society, Mr. Potter, spent thirty thousand dollars in the cause, and at a time when times were hard and fortunes as well as cotton-spinners in distress through our blockade. Another member of the Society, Mr. Thompson, writes of one of the public meetings: "... I addressed a crowded assembly of unemployed operatives in the town of Heywood, near Manchester, and spoke to them for two hours about the Slaveholders' Rebellion. They were united and vociferous in the expression of their willingness to suffer all hardships consequent upon a want of cotton, if thereby the liberty of the victims of Southern despotism might be promoted. All honor to the half million of our working population in Lancashire, Cheshire, and elsewhere, who are bearing with heroic fortitude the privation which your war has entailed upon them!... Their sublime resignation, their self-forgetfulness, their observance of law, their whole-souled love of the cause of human freedom, their quick and clear perception of the merits of the question between the North and the South... are extorting the admiration of all classes of the community ..."
How much of all this do you ever hear from the people who remember the Alabama?
Strictly in accord with Beecher's vivid summary of the true England in our Civil War, are some passages of a letter from Mr. John Bigelow, who was at that time our Consul-General at Paris, and whose impressions, written to our Secretary of State, Mr. Seward, on February 6, 1863, are interesting to compare with what Beecher says in that letter, from which I have already given extracts.
"The anti-slavery meetings in England are having their effect upon the Government already... The Paris correspondent of the London Post also came to my house on Wednesday evening... He says... that there are about a dozen persons who by their position and influence over the organs of public opinion have produced all the bad feeling and treacherous con-duct of England towards America. They are people who, as members of the Government in times past, have been bullied by the U. S.... They are not entirely ignorant that the class who are now trying to overthrow the Government were mainly responsible for the brutality, but they think we as a nation are disposed to bully, and they are disposed to assist in any policy that may dismember and weaken us. These scars of wounded pride, however, have been carefully concealed from the public, who therefore cannot be readily made to see why, when the President has distinctly made the issue between slave labor and free labor, that England should not go with the North. He says these dozen people who rule England hate us cordially... "
There were more than a dozen, a good many more, as we know from Charles and Henry Adams. But read once again the last paragraph of Beecher's letter, and note how it corresponds with what Mr. Bigelow says about the feeling which our Government (for thirty years "in the hands or under the influence of Southern statesmen") had raised against us by its bad manners to European governments. This was the harvest sown by shirt sleeves diplomacy and reaped by Mr. Adams in 1861. Only seven years before, we had gratuitously offended four countries at once. Three of our foreign ministers (two of them from the South) had met at Ostend and later at Aix in the interests of extending slavery, and there, in a joint manifesto, had ordered Spain to sell us Cuba, or we would take Cuba by force. One of the three was our minister to Spain. Spain had received him courteously as the representative of a nation with whom she was at peace. It was like ringing the doorbell of an acquaintance, being shown into the parlor and telling him he must sell you his spoons or you would snatch them. This doesn't incline your neighbor to like you. But, as has been said, Mr. Adams was an American who did know how to behave, and thereby served us well in our hour of need.
We remember the Alabama and our English enemies, we forget Bright, and Cobden, and all our English friends; but Lincoln did not forget them. When a young man, a friend of Bright's, an Englishman, had been caught here in a plot to seize a vessel and make her into another Alabama, John Bright asked mercy for him; and here are Lincoln's words in consequence: "whereas one Rubery was convicted on or about the twelfth day of October, 1863, in the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of California, of engaging in, and giving aid and comfort to the existing rebellion against the Government of this Country, and sentenced to ten years' imprisonment, and to pay a fine of ten thousand dollars;
"And whereas, the said Alfred Rubery is of the immature age of twenty years, and of highly respectable parentage;
"And whereas, the said Alfred Rubery is a subject of Great Britain, and his pardon is desired by John Bright, of England;
"Now, therefore, be it known that I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States of America, these and divers other considerations me thereunto moving, and especially as a public mark of the esteem held by the United States of America for the high character and steady friendship of the said John Bright, do hereby grant a pardon to the said Alfred Rubery, the same to begin and take effect on the twentieth day of January 1864, on condition that he leave the country within thirty days from and after that date."
Thus Lincoln, because of Bright; and because of a word from Bright to Charles Sumner about the starving cotton-spinners, Americans sent from New York three ships with flour for those faithful English friends of ours.
And then, at Geneva in 1872, England paid us for what the Alabama had done. This Court of Arbitration grew slowly; suggested first by Mr. Thomas Batch to Lincoln, who thought the millennium wasn't quite at hand but favored "airing the idea." The idea was not aired easily. Cobden would have brought it up in Parliament, but illness and death overtook him. The idea found but few other friends. At last Horace Greeley "aired" it in his paper. On October 23, 1863, Mr. Adams said to Lord John Russell, "I am directed to say that there is no fair and equitable form of conventional arbitrament or reference to which the United States will not be willing to submit." This, some two years later, Russell recalled, saying in reply to a statement of our grievances by Adams: "It appears to Her Majesty's Government that there are but two questions by which the claim of compensation could be tested; the one is, Have the British Government acted with due diligence, or, in other words, in good faith and honesty, in the maintenance of the neutrality they proclaimed? The other is, Have the law officers of the Crown properly understood the foreign enlistment act, when they declined, in June 1862, to advise the detention and seizure of the Alabama, and on other occasions when they were asked to detain other ships, building or fitting in British ports? It appears to Her Majesty's Government that neither of these questions could be put to a foreign government with any regard to the dignity and character of the British Crown and the British Nation. Her Majesty's Government are the sole guardians of their own honor. They cannot admit that they have acted with bad faith in maintaining the neutrality they professed. The law officers of the Crown must be held to be better interpreters of a British statute than any foreign Government can be presumed to be..." He consented to a commission, but drew the line at any probing of England's good faith.
We persisted. In 1868, Lord Westbury, Lord High Chancellor, declared in the House of Lords that "the animus with which the neutral powers acted was the only true criterion."
This is the test which we asked should be applied. We quoted British remarks about us, Gladstone, for example, as evidence of unfriendly and insincere animus on the part of those at the head of the British Government.
Replying to our pressing the point of animus, the British Government reasserted Russell's refusal to recognize or entertain any question of England's good faith: "first, because it would be inconsistent with the self-respect which every government is bound to feel...." In Mr. John Bassett Moore's History of International Arbitration, Vol. I, pages 496-497, or in papers relating to the Treaty of Washington, Vol. II, Geneva Arbitration, page 204... Part I, Introductory Statement, you will find the whole of this. What I give here suffices to show the position we ourselves and England took about the Alabama case. She backed down. Her good faith was put in issue, and she paid our direct claims. She ate "humble pie." We had to eat humble pie in the affair of the Trent. It has been done since. It is not pleasant, but it may be beneficial.
Such is the story of the true England and the true America in 1861; the divided North with which Lincoln had to deal, the divided England where our many friends could do little to check our influential enemies, until Lincoln came out plainly against slavery. I have had to compress much, but I have omitted nothing material, of which I am aware. The facts would embarrass those who determine to assert that England was our undivided enemy during our Civil War, if facts ever embarrassed a complex. Those afflicted with the complex can keep their eyes upon the Alabama and the London Times, and avert them from Bright, and Cobden, and the cotton-spinners, and the Union and Emancipation Society, and Queen Victoria. But to any reader of this whose complex is not incurable, or who has none, I will put this question: What opinion of the brains of any Englishman would you have if he formed his idea of the United States exclusively from the newspapers of William Randolph Hearst.
Chapter XIII: Benefits Forgot
In our next war, our war with Spain in 1898, England saved us from Germany. She did it from first to last; her position was unmistakable, and every determining act of hers was as our friend. The service that she rendered us in warning Germany to keep out of it, was even greater than her suggestion of our Monroe doctrine in 1823; for in 1823 she put us on guard against meditated, but remote, assault from Europe, while in 1898 she actively averted a serious and imminent peril. As the threat of her fleet had obstructed Napoleon in 1803, and the Holy Alliance in 1823, so in 1898 it blocked the Kaiser. Late in that year, when it was all over, the disappointed and baffled Kaiser wrote to a friend of Joseph Chamberlain, "If I had had a larger fleet I would have taken Uncle Sam by the scruff of the neck." Have you ever read what our own fleet was like in those days? Or our Army? Lucky it was for us that we had to deal only with Spain. And even the Spanish fleet would have been a much graver opponent in Manila Bay, but for Lord Cromer. On its way from Spain through the Suez Canal a formidable part of Spain's navy stopped to coal at Port Said. There is a law about the coaling of belligerent warships in neutral ports. Lord Cromer could have construed that law just as well against us. His construction brought it about that those Spanish ships couldn't get to Manila Bay in time to take part against Admiral Dewey. The Spanish War revealed that our Navy could hit eight times out of a hundred, and was in other respects unprepared and utterly inadequate to cope with a first-class power. In consequence of this, and the criticisms of our Navy Department, which Admiral Sims as a young man had written, Roosevelt took the steps he did in his first term. Three ticklish times in that Spanish War England stood our friend against Germany. When it broke out, German agents approached Mr. Balfour, proposing that England join in a European combination in Spain's favor. Mr. Balfour's refusal is common knowledge, except to the monomaniac with his complex. Next came the action of Lord Cromer, and finally that moment in Manila Bay when England took her stand by our side and Germany saw she would have to fight us both, if she fought at all.
If you saw any German or French papers at the time of our troubles with Spain, you saw undisguised hostility. If you have talked with any American who was in Paris during that April of 1898, your impression will be more vivid still. There was an outburst of European hate for us. Germany, France, and Austria all looked expectantly to England—and England disappointed their expectations. The British Press was as much for us as the French and German press were hostile; the London Spectator said: "We are not, and we do not pretend to be, an agreeable people, but when there is trouble in the family, we know where our hearts are."
In those same days (somewhere about the third week in April, 1898), at the British Embassy in Washington, occurred a scene of significance and interest, which has probably been told less often than that interview between Mr. Balfour and the Kaiser's emissary in London. The British Ambassador was standing at his window, looking out at the German Embassy, across the street. With him was a member of his diplomatic household. The two watched what was happening. One by one, the representatives of various European nations were entering the door of the German Embassy. "Do you see them?" said the Ambassador's companion; "they'll all be in there soon. There. That's the last of them." "I didn't notice the French Ambassador." "Yes, he's gone in, too." "I'm surprised at that. I'm sorry for that. I didn't think he would be one of them," said the British ambassador. "Now, I'll tell you what. They'll all be coming over here in a little while. I want you to wait and be present." Shortly this prediction was verified. Over from the German Embassy came the whole company on a visit to the British Ambassador, that he might add his signature to a document to which they had affixed theirs. He read it quietly. We may easily imagine its purport, since we know of the meditated European coalition against us at she time of our war with Spain. Then the British Ambassador remarked: "I have no orders from my Government to sign any such document as that. And if I did have, I should resign my post rather than sign it." A pause: The company fell silent. "Then what will your Excellency do?" inquired one visitor. "If you will all do me the honor of coming back to-morrow, I shall have another document ready which all of us can sign." That is what happened to the European coalition at this end.
Some few years later, that British Ambassador came to die; and to the British Embassy repaired Theodore Roosevelt. "Would it be possible for us to arrange," he said, "a funeral more honored and marked than the United States has ever accorded to any one not a citizen? I should like it. And," he suddenly added, shaking his fist at the German Embassy over the way, "I'd like to grind all their noses in the dirt."
Confronted with the awkward fact that Britain was almost unanimously with us, from Mr. Balfour down through the British press to the British people, those nations whose ambassadors had paid so unsuccessful a call at the British Embassy had to give it up. Their coalition never came off. Such a thing couldn't come off without England, and England said No.
Next, Lord Cromer, at Port Said, stretched out the arm of international law, and laid it upon the Spanish fleet. Belligerents may legally take coal enough at neutral ports to reach their nearest "home port." That Spanish fleet was on its way from Spain to Manila through the Suez Canal. It could have reached there, had Lord Cromer allowed it coal enough to make the nearest home port ahead of it—Manila. But there was a home port behind it, still nearer, namely, Barcelona. He let it take coal enough to get back to Barcelona. Thus, England again stepped in.
The third time was in Manila Bay itself, after Dewey's victory, and while he was in occupation of the place. Once more the Kaiser tried it, not discouraged by his failure with Mr. Balfour and the British Government. He desired the Philippines for himself; we had not yet acquired them; we were policing them, superintending the harbor, administering whatever had fallen to us from Spain's defeat. The Kaiser sent, under Admiral Diedrich, a squadron stronger than Dewey's.
Dewey indicated where the German was to anchor. "I am here by the order of his Majesty the German Emperor," said Diedrich, and chose his own place to anchor. He made it quite plain in other ways that he was taking no orders from America. Dewey, so report has it, at last told him that "if he wanted a fight he could have it at the drop of the hat." Then it was that the German called on the English Admiral, Chichester, who was likewise at hand, anchored in Manila Bay. "What would you do," inquired Diedrich, "in the event of trouble between Admiral Dewey and myself?" "That is a secret known only to Admiral Dewey and me," said the Englishman. Plainer talk could hardly be. Diedrich, though a German, understood it. He returned to his flagship. What he saw next morning was the British cruiser in a new place, interposed between Dewey and himself. Once more, he understood; and he and his squadron sailed off; and it was soon after this incident that the disappointed Kaiser wrote that, if only his fleet had been larger, he would have taken us by the scruff of the neck.
Tell these things to the next man you hear talking about George III or the Alabama. You may meet him in front of a bulletin board, or in a drawing-room. He is amongst us everywhere, in the street and in the house. He may be a paid propagandist or merely a silly ignorant puppet. But whatever he is, he will not find much to say in response, unless it be vain, sterile chatter. True come-back will fail him as it failed that man by the bulletin board who asked, "What is England doing, anyhow?" and his neighbor answered, "Her fleet's keeping the Kaiser out of your front yard."
Chapter XIV: England the Slacker!
What did England do in the war, anyhow?
Let us have these disregarded facts also. From the shelves of history I have pulled down and displayed the facts which our school textbooks have suppressed; I have told the events wherein England has stood our timely friend throughout a century; events which our implanted prejudice leads us to ignore, or to forget; events which show that any one who says England is our hereditary enemy might just about as well say twice two is five.
What did England do in the war, anyhow?
They go on asking it. The propagandists, the prompted puppets, the paid parrots of the press, go on saying these eight senseless words because they are easy to say, since the man who can answer them is generally not there: to every man who is a responsible master of facts we have—well, how many?—irresponsible shouters in this country. What is your experience? How often is it your luck—as it was mine in front of the bulletin board—to see a fraud or a fool promptly and satisfactorily put in his place? Make up your mind that wherever you hear any person whatsoever, male or female, clean or unclean, dressed in jeans, or dressed in silks and laces, inquire what England "did in the war, anyhow?" such person either shirks knowledge, or else is a fraud or a fool. Tell them what the man said in the street about the Kaiser and our front yard, but don't stop there. Tell them that in May, 1918, England was sending men of fifty and boys of eighteen and a half to the front; that in August, 1918, every third male available between those years was fighting, that eight and a half million men for army and navy were raised by the British Empire, of which Ireland's share was two and three tenths per cent, Wales three and seven tenths, Scotland's eight and three tenths, and England's more than sixty per cent; and that this, taken proportionately to our greater population would have amounted to about thirteen million Americans, When the war started, the British Empire maintained three soldiers out of every 2600 of the population; her entire army, regular establishment, reserve and territorial forces, amounted to seven hundred thousand men. Our casualties were three hundred and twenty-two thousand, one hundred and eighty-two. The casualties in the British Army were three million, forty-nine thousand, nine hundred and seventy-one—a million more than we sent—and of these six hundred and fifty-eight thousand, seven hundred and four, were killed. Of her Navy, thirty-three thousand three hundred and sixty-one were killed, six thousand four hundred and five wounded and missing; of her merchant marine fourteen thousand six hundred and sixty-one were killed; a total of forty-eight thousand killed—or ten per cent of all in active service. Some of those of the merchant marine who escaped drowning through torpedoes and mines went back to sea after being torpedoed five, six, and seven times.
What did England do in the war, anyhow?
Through four frightful years she fought with splendor, she suffered with splendor, she held on with splendor. The second battle of Ypres is but one drop in the sea of her epic courage; yet it would fill full a canto of a poem. So spent was Britain's single line, so worn and thin, that after all the men available were brought, gaps remained. No more ammunition was coming to these men, the last rounds had been served. Wet through, heavy with mud, they were shelled for three days to prevent sleep. Many came at last to sleep standing; and being jogged awake when officers of the line passed down the trenches, would salute and instantly be asleep again. On the fourth day, with the Kaiser come to watch them crumble, three lines of Huns, wave after wave of Germany's picked troops, fell and broke upon this single line of British—and it held. The Kaiser, had he known of the exhausted ammunition and the mounded dead, could have walked unarmed to the Channel. But he never knew.
Surgeons being scantier than men at Ypres, one with a compound fracture of the thigh had himself propped up, and thus all day worked on the wounded at the front. He knew it meant death for him. The day over, he let them carry him to the rear, and there, from blood-poisoning, he died. Thus through four frightful years, the British met their duty and their death.
There is the great story of the little penny steamers of the Thames—a story lost amid the gigantic whole. Who will tell it right? Who will make this drop of perfect valor shine in prose or verse for future eyes to see? Imagine a Hoboken ferry boat, because her country needed her, starting for San Francisco around Cape Horn, and getting there. Some ten or eleven penny steamers under their own steam started from the Thames down the Channel, across the Bay of Biscay, past Gibraltar, and through the submarined Mediterranean for the River Tigris. Boats of shallow draught were urgently needed on the River Tigris. Four or five reached their destination. Where are the rest?
What did England do in the war, anyhow?
During 1917-1918 Britain's armies held the enemy in three continents and on six fronts, and cooperated with her Allies on two more fronts. Her dead, those six hundred and fifty-eight thousand dead, lay by the Tigris, the Zambesi, the AEgean, and across the world to Flanders' fields. Between March 21st and April 17th, 1918, the Huns in their drive used 127 divisions, and of these 102 were concentrated against the British. That was in Flanders. Britain, at the same time she was fighting in Flanders, had also at various times shared in the fighting in Russia, Kiaochau, New Guinea, Samoa, Mesopotamia, Palestine, Egypt, the Sudan, Cameroons, Togoland, East Africa, South West Africa, Saloniki, Aden, Persia, and the northwest frontier of India. Britain cleared twelve hundred thousand square miles of the enemy in German colonies. While fighting in Mesopotamia, her soldiers were reconstructing at the same time. They reclaimed and cultivated more than 1100 square miles of land there, which produced in consequence enough food to save two million tons of shipping annually for the Allies. In Palestine and Mesopotamia alone, British troops in 1917 took 23,590 prisoners. In 1918, in Palestine from September 18th to October 7th, they took 79,000 prisoners.
What did England do in the war, anyhow?
With "French's contemptible little army" she saved France at the start—but I'll skip that—except to mention that one division lost 10,000 out of 12,000 men, and 350 out of 400 officers. At Zeebrugge and Ostend—do not forget the Vindictive—she dealt with submarines in April and May, 1918—but I'll skip that; I cannot set down all that she did, either at the start, or nearing the finish, or at any particular moment during those four years and three months that she was helping to hold Germany off from the throat of the world; it would make a very thick book. But I am giving you enough, I think, wherewith to answer the ignorant, and the frauds, and the fools. Tell them that from 1916 to 1918 Great Britain increased her tillage area by four million acres: wheat 39 per cent, barley 11, oats 35, potatoes 50—in spite of the shortage of labor. She used wounded soldiers, college boys and girls, boy scouts, refugees, and she produced the biggest grain crop in fifty years. She started fourteen hundred thousand new war gardens; most of those who worked them had worked already a long day in a munition factory. These devoted workers increased the potato crop in 1917 by three million tons—and thus released British provision ships to carry our soldiers across. In that Boston speech which one of my correspondents referred to, our Secretary of the Navy did not mention this. Mention it yourself. And tell them about the boy scouts and the women. Fifteen thousand of the boy scouts joined the colors, and over fifty thousand of the younger members served in various ways at home.
Of England's women seven million were engaged in work on munitions and other necessaries and apparatus of war. The terrible test of that second battle of Ypres, to which I have made brief allusion above, wrought an industrial revolution in the manufacture of shells. The energy of production rose at a rate which may be indicated by two or three comparisons: In 1917 as many heavy howitzer shells were turned out in a single day as in the whole first year of the war, as many medium shells in five days, and as many field-gun shells in eight days. Or in other words, 45 times as many field-gun shells, 73 times as many medium, and 365 times as many heavy howitzer shells, were turned out in 1917 as in the first year of the war. These shells were manufactured in buildings totaling fifteen miles in length, forty feet in breadth, with more than ten thousand machine tools driven by seventeen miles of shafting with an energy of twenty-five thousand horse-power and a weekly output of over ten thousand tons' weight of projectiles—all this largely worked by the women of England. While the fleet had increased its personnel from 136,000 to about 400,000, and 2,000,000 men by July, 1915, had voluntarily enlisted in the army before England gave up her birthright and accepted compulsory service, the women of England left their ordinary lives to fabricate the necessaries of war. They worked at home while their husbands, brothers, and sons fought and died on six battle fronts abroad—six hundred and fifty-eight thousand died, remember; do you remember the number of Americans killed in action?—less than thirty-six thousand;—those English women worked on, seven millions of them at least, on milk carts, motor-busses, elevators, steam engines, and in making ammunition. Never before had any woman worked on more than 150 of the 500 different processes that go to the making of munitions. They now handled T. N. T., and fulminate of mercury, more deadly still; helped build guns, gun carriages, and three-and-a-half ton army cannons; worked overhead traveling cranes for moving the boilers of battleships: turned lathes, made every part of an aeroplane. And who were these seven million women? The eldest daughter of a duke and the daughter of a general won distinction in advanced munition work. The only daughter of an old Army family broke down after a year's work in a base hospital in France, was ordered six months' rest at home, but after two months entered a munition factory as an ordinary employee and after nine months' work had lost but five minutes working time. The mother of seven enlisted sons went into munitions not to be behind them in serving England, and one of them wrote her she was probably killing more Germans than any of the family. The stewardess of a torpedoed passenger ship was among the few survivors. Reaching land, she got a job at a capstan lathe. Those were the seven million women of England—daughters of dukes, torpedoed stewardesses, and everything between.
Seven hundred thousand of these were engaged on munition work proper. They did from 60 to 70 per cent of all the machine work on shells, fuses, and trench warfare supplies, and 1450 of them were trained mechanics to the Royal Flying Corps. They were employed upon practically every operation in factory, in foundry, in laboratory, and chemical works, of which they were physically capable; in making of gauges, forging billets, making fuses, cartridges, bullets—"look what they can do," said a foreman, "ladies from homes where they sat about and were waited upon." They also made optical glass; drilled and tapped in the shipyards; renewed electric wires and fittings, wound armatures; lacquered guards for lamps and radiator fronts; repaired junction and section boxes, fire control instruments, automatic searchlights. "We can hardly believe our eyes," said another foreman, "when we see the heavy stuff brought to and from the shops in motor lorries driven by girls. Before the war it was all carted by horses and men. The girls do the job all right, though, and the only thing they ever complain about is that their toes get cold." They worked without hesitation from twelve to fourteen hours a day, or a night, for seven days a week, and with the voluntary sacrifice of public holidays.