Turning from the Member for Birkenhead to the noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Office, he, who in the case of the acknowledgment of belligerent rights had proceeded with such remarkable celerity, such undue and unfriendly haste, amply compensated for it when he came to the question of the Alabama, by his slowness of procedure. And this is a strange circumstance, which even the noble Lord's Colleagues have never been able to explain, that although he sent orders to Cork to stop the Alabama if she arrived there, he allowed her afterwards, when she had gone out of the jurisdiction of the Crown in these islands, to go into a dozen or a score of ports belonging to this country in different parts of the world. It seems to me that this is rather a special instance of that feebleness of purpose and of action on the part of the noble Lord which I regret to say has on many occasions done much to mar what would otherwise be a great political career. I will not detain the House on the question of the rams. The hon. Member for Birkenhead, or the firm or the family, or whoever the people are at Birkenhead who do these things, this firm at Birkenhead, after they had seen the peril into which the country was drifting on account of the Alabama, proceeded most audaciously to build those two rams; and it was only at the very last moment, when on the eve of a war with the United States on account of those rams, that the Government happily had the courage to seize them, and thus the last danger was averted.
I suppose there are some shipowners here. I know there are many in London—there are many in Liverpool—what would be the feeling in this country if they suffered in this way from ships built in the United States? There is a shipowner in New York, Mr. Lowe, a member of the Chamber of Commerce of New York. He had three large ships destroyed by the Alabama; and the George Griswold, which came to this country freighted with a heavy cargo of provisions of various kinds for the suffering people of Lancashire, was destroyed on her return passage, and the ship that destroyed it may have been, and I believe was, built by these patriotic shipbuilders of Birkenhead. These are things that must rankle in the breast of a country which is subjected to such losses and indignities. Even to-day I see in the newspapers that a vessel that went out from this country has destroyed ten or eleven ships between the Cape of Good Hope and Australia. I have thought it unnecessary to bring continually American questions before the House, as some Gentlemen have done during the last two or three Sessions. They should have asked a few questions in regard to these ships; but no, they asked no question upon these points. They asked questions upon every point on which they thought they might embarrass the Government and make the great difficulties of the Government greater in all their transactions with the United States.
But the Members of the Government have not been wise. I hope it will not be thought that I am unnecessarily critical if I say that Governments are not generally very wise. Two years ago the noble Lord at the head of the Government and the Attorney-General addressed the House. I asked the noble Lord—I do not often ask him for anything—to speak, if only for five minutes, words of generosity and sympathy to the Government and people of the United States. He did not do it. Perhaps I was foolish to expect it. The Attorney-General made a most able speech. It was the only time that I have listened to him, ever since I have known him in this House, with pain, for I thought his speech was full of bad morals and bad law. I am quite certain that he even gave an account of the facts of the case which was not as ingenuous and fair as the House had a right to expect from him. Next Session the noble Lord and the Attorney-General turned quite round. They had a different story about the same transaction, and gradually, as the aspect of things was changed on the other side of the Atlantic, there has been a gradual return to good sense and fairness, not only on the part of Members upon the Treasury Bench, but on that of other Members of the House.
Now, Sir, I would not willingly say a word that would wound either the noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Office or the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because I do not know amongst the official statesmen of this country two men for whom I have greater sympathy or more respect; but I have to complain of them. I do not know why it is that they both go down to Newcastle—a town in which I feel a great interest—and there give forth words of offence and unwisdom. I know that what the noble Lord said was all very smart, but really it was not true, and I have not much respect for a thing that is merely smart and is not true. The Chancellor of the Exchequer made a statement too. The papers made it appear that he did it with exultation; but that is a mistake. But he made a statement, and though I do not know what will be in his Budget, I know his wishes in regard to that statement—namely, that he had never made it.
Those Gentlemen, bear in mind, sit, as it were, on a hill; they are not obscure men, making speeches in a public-house or even at a respectable mechanics' institution; they are men whose voice is heard wherever the English language is known. And knowing that, and knowing what effect their speeches will have, especially in Lancashire, where men are in trade, and where profits and losses are affected by the words of statesmen, they use the language of which I complain; and beyond this, for I can conceive some idea of the irritation those statements must have caused in the United States. I might refer to the indiscriminating abuse of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Sheffield; and I may add to that the unsleeping ill-will of the noble Lord the Member for Stamford. I am not sure that these two Members of the House are in the least degree converted yet. I think I heard the hon. Member for Sheffield utter to-night some ejaculation that looked as if he retained all his old sentiments. [Mr. Roebuck: 'Exactly.'] I am sorry it is so. I did expect that these things would be regretted and repented of; and I must express my hope that if any one of you who have been thus ungenerous shall ever fall into trouble of any kind that you will find your friends more kind and more just than you have been to your fellow- countrymen—for I will still call them so—at the other side of the Atlantic. And as to the press, Sir, I think it is unnecessary to say much about that, because every night those unfortunate writers are now endeavouring to back out of everything they have been saying; and I can only hope that their power for evil in future will be greatly lessened by the stupendous exhibition of ignorance and folly which they have made to the world.
Now, Sir, having made this statement, I suppose the noble Lord the Member for Stamford, if he were to get up after me, would say: 'Well, if all this be true—if we have done all these injurious things, if we have created all this irritation in the United States—will it not be likely that this irritation will provoke a desire for vengeance, and that the chances of war are greatly increased by it?' I do not know whether the chances of war are increased, but I will say that not only is war not certain, but it is to the last degree improbable.
But, Sir, there is another side to this question. All England is not included in the rather general condemnation which I have thought it my duty to express. There is another side. Looking to our own population, what have the millions been saying and doing—the millions you are so much afraid of?—especially the noble Lord the Member for Stamford, who objects to the transference of power to those millions from those who now hold it, and, from his position, naturally objects. I beg leave to tell the House that, taking the counties of Lancashire and Yorkshire— your great counties of population—the millions of men there, whose industry has not only created but sustains the fabric of your national power, have had no kind of sympathy with the views which I have been condemning. They have been more generous and more wise; they have shown that magnanimity and love of freedom are not extinct. And, speaking of the county from which I come—the county of many sorrows, whose griefs have hung like a dark cloud over almost every heart during the last three years—all the attempts which the agents of the Confederacy have made there by money, by printing, by platform speeches, by agitation, have utterly failed to get from that population one expression of sympathy with the American insurrection. And, Sir, if the bond of union and friendship between England and America shall remain unbroken, we shall not have to thank the wealthy and the cultivated, but those laborious millions whom statesmen and histories too frequently take little account of. They know a little of the United States, which Gentlemen opposite and some on this side the House do not appear to know. They know that every man of them would be better off on the American continent, if he chose to go there, and would be welcome to every right and privilege that the people there are in possession of. They know further that every man may have from the United States Government a free gift of 160 acres of the most fertile land in the world. [A laugh.] I do not understand that laugh, but the gift, under the Homestead Act of America, of 160 acres of land is a great deal for a man who has no land. I can tell you that the Homestead Act and the liberality of the American Government have had a great effect upon the population of the North of England, and I can tell you further—that the labouring population of this country—the artisans and the mechanics— will never join heartily in any policy which is intended to estrange the people of the United States from the people of the United Kingdom.
But, Sir, we have other securities for peace which are not less than these, and I find them in the character of the Government and people of the American Union. I think the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) referred to what must reasonably be supposed to happen in case this rebellion should be put down—that when a nation is exhausted it will not rush rashly into a new struggle. The loss of life has been great, the loss of treasure enormous. Happily for them, this life and this treasure have not been sacrificed to keep a Bourbon on the throne of France, or to keep the Turks in Europe; the sacrifice was for an object which every man could comprehend, which every man could examine by the light of his own intelligence and his own conscience; for if these men have given their lives and their possessions, it was for the attainment of a great end, the maintenance of the unity and integrity of a great country. History in future time must be written in a different spirit from all history in the past, if it should express any condemnation of that people. Mr. Lincoln, who is now for the second time President of the United States, was elected exclusively by what was termed the Republican party. He is now elected by what may be called the Great Union party of the nation. But Mr. Lincoln's party has always been for peace. That party in the North has never carried on any war of aggression, and has never desired one. I speak of the North only, the Free States. And let the House remember that in that country landed property, property of all kind, is more universally distributed than in any other nation, that instruction and school education are also more widely diffused there than amongst any other people. I say, they have never carried on hitherto a war for aggrandizement or for vengeance, and I believe they will not begin one now.
Canada, I think the noble Lord will admit, is a very tempting bait, not indeed for the purpose of annexation, but for the purpose of humiliating this country. I agree with hon. Gentlemen who have said that it would be discreditable to England, in the light of her past history, that she should leave any portion of her Empire which she could defend, undefended. But still it is admitted—and I think the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Calne (Mr. Lowe) produced a great effect upon those who heard it—the House admitted that in case of war with the United States, Canada could not be defended by any power on land or at sea which this country could raise or spare for that purpose. I am very sorry, not that we cannot defend Canada, but that any portion of the dominions of the British Crown is in such circumstances as to tempt evil-disposed people to attack it with the view of humiliating us, because I believe that transactions which humiliate a Government and a nation are not only disagreeable, but a great national harm.
But, now, is there a war party in the United States? I believe there is such a party. It is that party which was a war party eighty years ago. It is the party represented by hon. Gentlemen who sit on that bench—the Irish party. They who are hostile to this country in the United States are those who were recently malcontent subjects of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tamworth. It is these, and such as these, to whom the noble Lord at the head of the Government offers only such consolation as that of telling them that 'the rights of the tenants are the wrongs of the landlords,' who constitute the only war party in the United States; and it was the war party there in the days of Lord North. But the real power of the United States does not rest on that class. American mobs—and, excepting some portion of the population of New York, I would not apply the language even to them—for the sake of forcing their Congress and their Executive to a particular course, are altogether unknown. The real mob in your sense, is that party of chivalrous gentlemen in the South, who have received, I am sorry to say, so much sympathy from some persons in this country and in this House. But the real power depends upon another class—the landowners throughout the country, and there are millions of them. In this last election for President of the United States, I was told by a citizen of New York, who was most active in the election, that in the State of New York alone 100,000 Irish votes were given, as he expressed it, solidly—that is, in one mass—for General M'Clellan, and that not more than 2,000 were given for President Lincoln. You see the preponderance of that party in the city of New York, and that is the feeling amongst them throughout the State of New York; but, throughout the whole of the United States, it is merely a small per-centage, which has no sensible effect upon the constitution of Congress, or upon legislation or government.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) referred to a point which I suppose has really been the cause of this debate, and that is the temper of the United States in making certain demands upon our Government. I asked a question the other night after the noble Lord had asked a question upon the subject—I asked whether we had not claims against them. I understand that claims were made upon us by the United States amounting to 300,000l. or 400,000l. I am afraid that we have claims against them, amounting probably to as much as that. If any man thinks he has a right to go to law with another, and that other has an answer to his claim, the case must be heard. And so between two great nations and two free Governments. If one has claims against the other, and the other has counter claims, clearly nothing can be more fair than that those claims should be courteously and honestly considered. It is quite absurd to suppose that the English Government and the Government at Washington can have a question about half a million of money which they cannot amicably settle. The noble Lord, I believe, thinks it is not a question for arbitration, but that it is a question of principle. Well, all questions of property almost are questions of law, and you go to a lawyer and settle them if you can. In this case it would be surely as easy to have the matter settled by some impartial person as it was to ask the Senate or other authority at Hamburg to settle a question between this country and the Empire of Brazil. Our most perfect security is, that as the war in America draws to a close—if it should happily soon draw to a close—we shall become more generous to them, and their Government and people will probably become less irritated towards us. And when the passions have cooled down, I am quite sure that Mr. Seward on that side and Earl Russell on this, Mr. Adams here and Sir Frederick Bruce there, will be able, without much difficulty, to settle this, which is, after all, an unimportant matter, as a question of accounts between the two nations.
I have only one more observation to make, and it is this—I suspect the root of all the unfortunate circumstances that have occurred is the feeling of jealousy which we have cherished with regard to the American nation. It was very much shown at the beginning of this war, when a Member whom I will not name, for I am sure his wish is that his name should not be mentioned in connection with it now, spoke of the bursting of the bubble republic. I recollect that Lord John Russell, as he then was speaking from that bench, turned round and rebuked him in language which was worthy of his name, and character, and position. I beg to tell that Gentleman, and anybody else who talks about a bubble republic, that I have a strong suspicion he will see that a great many bubbles will burst before that. Why should we fear a great nation on the American continent? Some people fear that, should America become a great nation, she will be arrogant and aggressive. It does not follow that it should be so. The character of a nation does not depend altogether upon its size, but upon the instruction, the civilization, and the morals of its people. You fancy the supremacy of the sea will pass away from you; and the noble Lord, who has had much experience, and is supposed to be wiser on the subject than any other man in the House, will say that 'Rule Britannia' may become obsolete. Well, inasmuch as the supremacy of the seas means arrogance and the assumption of a dictatorial power on the part of this country, the sooner that becomes obsolete the better. I do not believe that it is for the advantage of this country, or of any country in the world, that any one nation should pride itself upon what is termed the supremacy of the sea; and I hope the time is coming—I believe the hour is hastening—when we shall find that law and justice will guide the councils and will direct the policy of the Christian nations of the world. Nature will not be baffled because we are jealous of the United States—the decrees of Providence will not be overthrown by aught we can do.
The population of the United States is now not less than 35,000,000. When the next Parliament of England has lived to the age which this has lived to, that population will be 40,000,000, and you may calculate the increase at the rate of rather more than 1,000,000 of persons per year. Who is to gainsay it? Will constant snarling at a great republic alter this state of things, or swell us up in these islands to 40,000,000 or 50,000,000, or bring them down to our 30,000,000? Hon. Members and the country at large should consider these facts, and learn from them that it is the interest of the nations to be at one—and for us to be in perfect courtesy and amity with the great English nation on the other side of the Atlantic. I am sure that the longer that nation exists the less will our people be disposed to sustain you in any needless hostility against them or jealousy of them. And I am the more convinced of this from what I have seen of the conduct of the people in the north of England during the last four years. I believe, on the other hand, that the American people, when this excitement is over, will be willing, so far as aggressive acts against us are concerned, to bury in oblivion transactions which have given them much pain, and that they will make the allowance which they may fairly make, that the people of this country—even those high in rank and distinguished in culture—have had a very inadequate knowledge of the real state of the events which have taken place in that country since the beginning of the war.
It is on record that when the author of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire was about to begin his great work, David Hurne wrote a letter to him urging him not to employ the French but the English tongue, 'because' he said, 'our establishments in America promise superior stability and duration to the English language.' How far that promise has been in part fulfilled we who are living now can see; but how far it will be more largely and more completely fulfilled in after times we must leave after times to tell. I believe that in the centuries which are to come it will be the greatest pride and the highest renown of England that from her loins have sprung a hundred millions—it may be two hundred millions—of men who dwell and prosper on that continent which the grand old Genoese gave to Europe. Sir, if the sentiments which I have uttered shall become the sentiments of the Parliament and people of the United Kingdom—if the moderation which I have described shall mark the course of the Government and of the people of the United States—then, notwithstanding some present irritation and some present distrust—and I have faith both in us and in them—I believe that these two great commonwealths will march abreast, the parents and the guardians of freedom and justice, wheresoever their language shall be spoken and their power shall extend.
* * * * *
THE CANADIAN FORTIFICATIONS.
HOUSE OF COMMONS, MARCH 23, 1865. I shall ask the attention of the House for only a few moments. If the hon. Member (Mr. Bentinck) divides, I shall go into the same lobby with him. I am afraid that, in making that announcement, I shall excite some little alarm in the mind of the hon. Gentleman. I wish therefore to say, that I shall not in going into the lobby agree with him in many of the statements he has made. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) said, that he approached the military question with great diffidence, and I was very glad to see any signs of diffidence in that quarter. After that explanation, he asked the House with a triumphant air whether there is any difficulty in defending a frontier of one thousand or fifteen hundred miles, and whether the practicability of doing so is a new doctrine in warfare. But one thousand or fifteen hundred miles of frontier to defend at the centre of your power, is one thing; but at three thousand or four thousand miles from the centre, it is an entirely different thing. I venture to say, that there is not a man in this House, or a sensible man out of it, who, apart from the consideration of this vote, or some special circumstances attending it, believes that the people of this country could attempt a successful defence of the frontier of Canada against the whole power of the United States. I said the other night, that I hoped we should not now talk folly, and hereafter, in the endeavour to be consistent, act folly. We all know perfectly well that we are talking folly when we say that the Government of this country would send either ships or men to make an effectual defence of Canada against the power of the United States, supposing war to break out. Understand, I am not in the least a believer in the probability of war, but I will discuss the question for one moment as if war were possible. I suppose some men in this House think it probable. But if it be possible or probable, and if you have to look this difficulty in the face, there is no extrication from it but in the neutrality or independence of Canada.
I agree with those Members who say that it is the duty of a great empire to defend every portion of it. I admit that as a general proposition, though hon. Gentlemen opposite, and some on this side, do not apply that rule to the United States. But, admitting that rule, and supposing that we are at all points unprepared for such a catastrophe, may we not, as reasonable men, look ahead, and try if it be not possible to escape from it? [An hon. Member: 'Run away?'] No, not by running away, though there are many circumstances in which brave men run away; and you may get into difficulty on this Canadian question, which may make you look back and wish that you had run away a good time ago. I object to this vote on a ground which, I believe, has not been raised by any Member in the present discussion. I am not going to say that the expenditure of fifty thousand pounds is a matter of great consequence to this country, that the expenditure of this money in the proposed way will be taken as a menace by the United States. I do not think that this can be fairly said; for whether building fortifications at Quebec be useless or not, such a proceeding is not likely to enable the Canadians to overrun the State of New York. The United States, I think, will have no right to complain of this expenditure. The utmost it can do will be to show them that some persons, and perhaps the Government of this country, have some little distrust of them, and so far it may do injury. I complain of the expenditure and the policy announced by the Colonial Secretary, on a ground which I thought ought to have been urged by the noble Lord the Member for Wick, who is a sort of half-Canadian. He made a speech which I listened to with great pleasure, and told the House what some of us, perhaps, did not know before; but if I had been connected, as he is, with Canada, I would have addressed the House from a Canadian point of view.
What is it that the Member for Oxford says? He states, in reference to the expenditure for the proposed fortifications, that, though a portion of the expenditure is to be borne by us, the main portion is to be borne by Canada; but I venture to tell him, that, if there shall be any occasion to defend Canada at all, it will not arise from anything Canada does, but from what England does; and therefore I protest against the doctrine that the Cabinet in London may get into difficulties, and ultimately into war, with the Cabinet at Washington; that because Canada lies adjacent to the United States, and may consequently become a great battle-field, this United Kingdom has a right to call on Canada for the main portion of that expenditure. Who has asked you to spend fifty thousand pounds, and the hundreds of thousands which may be supposed to follow, but which perhaps Parliament may be indisposed hereafter to grant? What is the proportion which Canada is to bear? If we are to spend two hundred thousand pounds at Quebec, is Canada to spend four hundred thousand pounds at Montreal? If Canada is to spend double whatever we may spend, is it not obvious that every Canadian will ask himself—what is the advantage of the connection between Canada and England?
Every Canadian knows perfectly well, and nobody better than the noble Lord the Member for Wick, that there is no more prospect of a war between Canada and the United States alone, than between the Empire of France and the Isle of Man. If that is so, why should the Canadians be taxed beyond all reason, as the Colonial Secretary proposes to tax them, for a policy not Canadian, and for a calamity which, if ever it occurs, must occur from some transactions between England and the United States? There are Gentlemen here who know a good deal of Canada, and I see behind me one who knows perfectly well what is the condition of the Canadian finances. We complain that Canada levies higher duties on British manufactures than the United States did before the present war, and much higher than France does. But when we complain to Canada of this, and say it is very unpleasant usage from a part of our empire, the Canadians reply that their expenditure is so much, and their debt, with the interest on it, so much, that they are obliged to levy these heavy duties. If the Canadian finances are in the unfortunate position described; if the credit of Canada is not very good in the market of this country; if you see what are the difficulties of the Canadians during a period of peace; consider what will be their difficulties if the doctrine of the Colonial Secretary be carried out, which is that whatever expenditure is necessary for the defence of Canada, though we bear a portion, the main part must be borne by Canada.
We must then come to this inevitable conclusion. Every Canadian will say, 'We are close alongside of a great nation; our parent state is three thousand miles away; there are litigious, and there may be even warlike, people in both nations, and they may occasion the calamity of a great war; we are peaceable people, having no foreign politics, happily; we may be involved in war, and while the cities of Great Britain are not touched by a single shell, nor one of its fields ravaged, there is not a city or a village in this Canada in which we live which will not be liable to the ravages of war on the part of our powerful neighbour.' Therefore the Canadians will say, unless they are unlike all other Englishmen (who appear to have more sense the farther they go from their own country), that it would be better for Canada to be disentangled from the politics of England, and to assume the position of an independent state.
I suspect from what has been stated by official Gentlemen in the present Government and in previous Governments, that there is no objection to the independence of Canada whenever Canada may wish it. I have been glad to hear those statements, because I think they mark an extraordinary progress in sound opinions in this country. I recollect the noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Office on one occasion being very angry with me, he said I wished to make a great empire less; but a great empire, territorially, may be lessened without its power and authority in the world being diminished. I believe if Canada now, by a friendly separation from this country, became an independent state, choosing its own form of government—monarchical, if it liked a monarchy, or republican, if it preferred a republic—it would not be less friendly to England, and its tariff would not be more adverse to our manufactures than it is now. In the case of a war with America, Canada would then be a neutral country; and the population would be in a state of greater security. Not that I think there is any fear of war, but the Government admit that it may occur by their attempt to obtain money for these fortifications. I object, therefore, to this vote, not on that account, nor even because it causes some distrust, or may cause it, in the United States; but I object to it mainly because I think we are commencing a policy which we shall either have to abandon, because Canada will not submit to it, or else which will bring upon Canada a burden in the shape of fortification expenditure that will make her more and more dissatisfied with this country, and that will lead rapidly to her separation from us. I do not object to that separation in the least; I believe it would be better for us and better for her. But I think that, of all the misfortunes which could happen between us and Canada, this would be the greatest, that her separation should take place after a period of irritation and estrangement, and that we should have on that continent to meet another element in some degree hostile to this country.
I am sorry, Sir, that the noble Lord at the head of the Government, and his colleagues, have taken this course; but it appears to me to be wonderfully like almost everything which the Government does. It is a Government apparently of two parts, the one part pulling one way and the other part pulling another, and the result generally is something which does not please anybody, or produce any good effect in any direction. They now propose a scheme which has just enough in it to create distrust and irritation, enough to make it in some degree injurious, and they do not do enough to accomplish any of the objects for which, according to their statements, the proposition is made. Somebody asked the other night whether the Administration was to rule, or the House of Commons. Well, I suspect from the course of the debates, that on this occasion the Administration will be allowed to rule. We are accustomed to say that the Government suggests a thing on its own responsibility, and therefore we will allow them to do it. But the fact is, that the Government knows no more of this matter than any other dozen gentlemen in this House. They are not a bit more competent to form an opinion upon it. They throw it down on the table, and ask us to discuss and vote it.
I should be happy to find the House, disregarding all the intimations that war is likely, anxious not to urge Canada into incurring an expenditure which she will not bear, and which, if she will not bear, must end in one of two things—either in throwing the whole burden upon us, or in breaking up, perhaps suddenly and in anger, the connection between us and that colony, and in making our future relations with her most unsatisfactory. I do not place much reliance on the speech of the right honourable Member for Buckinghamshire, not because he cannot judge of the question just as well as I or any one of us can do, but because I notice that in matters of this kind Gentlemen on that (the Opposition) bench, whatever may have been their animosities towards the Gentlemen on this (the Treasury) bench on other questions, shake hands. They may tell you that they have no connection with the House over the way, but the fact is, their connection is most intimate. And if the right honourable Member for Buckinghamshire were now sitting on the Treasury bench, and the noble Viscount were sitting opposite to him, the noble Viscount, I have no doubt, would give him the very same support that he now receives from the right hon. Gentleman.
This seems to me a question so plain, so much on the surface, appealing so much to our common sense, having in it such great issues for the future, that I am persuaded it is the duty of the House of Commons on this occasion to take the matter out of the hands of the executive Government, and to determine that, with regard to the future policy of Canada, we will not ourselves expend the money of the English tax- payers, and not force upon the tax-payers of Canada a burden which, I am satisfied, they will not long continue to bear.
* * * * *
THE CANADIAN CONFEDERATION SCHEME.
HOUSE OF COMMONS, FEBRUARY 28, 1867. Although this measure has not excited much interest in the House or in the country, yet it appears to me to be of such very great importance that it should be treated rather differently, or that the House should be treated rather differently in respect to it. I have never before known of any great measure affecting any large portion of the empire or its population which has been brought in and attempted to be hurried through Parliament in the manner in which this bill is being dealt with. Eat the importance of it is much greater to the inhabitants of those provinces than it is to us. It is on that account alone that it might be expected we should examine it closely, and see that we commit no error in passing it.
The right hon. Gentleman has not offered us, on one point, an explanation which I think he will be bound to make. This bill does not include the whole of the British North American Provinces. I presume the two left out have been left out because it is quite clear they did not wish to come in. [Mr. Adderley: 'I am glad I can inform the hon. Gentleman that they are, one of them at least, on the point of coming in.'] Yes; the reason of their being left out is because they were not willing to come in. They may hereafter become willing, and if so the bill will admit them by a provision which appears reasonable. But the province of Nova Scotia is also unwilling to come in, and it is assumed that because some time ago the Legislature of that province voted a resolution partly in favour of some such course, therefore the population is in favour of it.
For my part, I do not believe in the propriety or wisdom of the Legislature voting on a great question of this nature with reference to the Legislature of Nova Scotia, if the people of Nova Scotia have never had the question directly put to them. I have heard there is at present in London a petition complaining of the hasty proceeding of Parliament, and asking for delay, signed by 31,000 adult males of the province of Nova Scotia, and that that petition is in reality signed by at least half of all the male inhabitants of that province. So far as I know, the petition does not protest absolutely against union, but against the manner in which it is being carried out by this scheme and bill, and the hasty measures of the Colonial Office. Now, whether the scheme be a good or bad one, scarcely anything can be more foolish, looking to the future, than that any of the provinces should be dragged into it, either perforce, by the pressure of the Colonial Office, or by any hasty action on the part of Parliament, in the hope of producing a result which probably the populations of those provinces may not wish to see brought about.
I understand that the general election for the Legislature of Nova Scotia, according to the constitution of that colony, will take place in the month of May or June next; that this question has never been fairly placed before the people of that province at an election, and that it has never been discussed and decided by the people; and seeing that only three months or not so much will elapse before there will be an opportunity of ascertaining the opinions of the population of Nova Scotia, I think it is at least a hazardous proceeding to pass this bill through Parliament, binding Nova Scotia, until the clear opinion of that province has been ascertained. If, at a time like this, when you are proposing a union which we all hope is to last for ever, you create a little sore, it will in all probability become a great sore in a short time, and it may be that the intentions of Parliament will be almost entirely frustrated by the haste with which this measure is being pushed forward.
The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I think, in the early part of the evening, in answer to a question from this side, spoke of this matter as one of extreme urgency. Well, I cannot discover any urgency in the matter at all. What is urgent is this, that when done it ought to be done wisely, and with the full and free consent of all those populations who are to be bound by this Act and interested in its results. Unless the good-will of those populations is secured, in all probability the Act itself will be a misfortune rather than a blessing to the provinces to which it refers.
The right hon. Gentleman amused me in one part of his speech. He spoke of the filial piety—rather a curious term—of these provinces, and their great anxiety to make everything suit the ideas of this country; and this was said particularly with reference to the proposition for a Senate selected, not elected, for life, by the Governor-General of Canada. He said they were extremely anxious to follow as far as possible the institutions of the mother country. I have not the smallest objection to any people on the face of the earth following our institutions if they like them. Institutions which suit one country, as we all know, are not very likely to suit every other country. With regard to this particular case, the right hon. Gentleman said it is to be observed that Canada has had a nominated council, and has changed it for an elected one, and that surely they had a right if they pleased to go back from an elected council to a nominated council. Well, nobody denies that, but nobody pretends that the people of Canada prefer a nominated council to an elected council. And all the wisdom of the wise men to whom the right hon. gentleman the member for Oxford has referred in such glowing terms, unless the experience of present and past times goes for nothing, is but folly if they have come to the conclusion that a nominated council on that continent must be better than an elected council. Still, if they wish it, I should not interfere and try to prevent it. But I venture to say that the clause enabling the Governor- General and his Cabinet to put seventy men in that council for life inserts into the whole scheme the germ of a malady which will spread, and which before very long will require an alteration of this Act and of the constitution of this new Confederation.
But the right hon. Gentleman went on to say that with regard to the representative assembly—which, I suppose, is to be called according to his phrase the House of Commons—they have adopted a very different plan. There they have not followed the course of this country. They have established their House of Representatives directly upon the basis of population. They have adopted the system which prevails in the United States, which upon every ten years' summing up of the census in that country the number of members may be changed, and is by law changed in the different States and districts as the rate of population may have changed. Therefore, in that respect his friends in Canada have not adopted the principle which prevails in this country, but that which prevails in the United States. I believe they have done that which is right, and which they have a right to do, and which is inevitable there. I regret very much that they have not adopted another system with regard to their council or senate, because I am satisfied—I have not a particle of doubt with regard to it that we run a great danger of making this Act work ill almost from the beginning.
They have the example of thirty-six States in the United States, in which the Senate is elected, and no man, however sanguine, can hope that seventy-two stereotyped provincial peers in Canada will work harmoniously with a body elected upon a system so wide and so general as that which prevails in the States of the American Union. There is one point about which the right hon. Gentleman said nothing, and which I think is so very important that the Member for Oxford, his predecessor in office, might have told us something about it. We know that Canada is a great country, and we know that the population is, or very soon will be, something like 4,000,000, and we may hope that, united under one government, the province may be more capable of defence. But what is intended with regard to the question of defence? Is everything to be done for the province? Is it intended to garrison its fortresses by English troops? At the present moment there are, I believe, in the province 12,000 or 15,000 men.
There are persons in this country, and there are some also in the North American provinces, who are ill-natured enough to say that not a little of the loyalty that is said to prevail in Canada has its price. I think it is natural and reasonable to hope that there is in that country a very strong attachment to this country. But if they are to be constantly applying to us for guarantees for railways, and for grants for fortresses, and for works of defence, then I think it would be far better for them and for us—cheaper for us and less demoralising for them—that they should become an independent State, and maintain their own fortresses, fight their own cause, and build up their own future without relying upon us. And when we know, as everybody knows, that the population of Canada is in a much better position as regards the comforts of home, than is the great bulk of the population of this country, I say the time has come when it ought to be clearly understood that the taxes of England are no longer to go across the ocean to defray expenses of any kind within the Confederation which is about to be formed.
The right hon. Gentleman has never been an advocate for great expenditure in the colonies by the mother country. On the contrary, he has been one of the members of this House who have distinguished themselves by what I will call an honest system for the mother country, and what I believe is a wise system for the colonies. But I think that when a measure of this kind is being passed, having such stupendous results upon the condition and the future population of these great colonies, we have a right to ask that there should be some consideration for the revenue and for the taxpayers of this country. In discussing this Bill with the delegates from the provinces, I think it was the duty of the Colonial Secretary to have gone fairly into this question, and, if possible, to have arranged it to the advantage of the colony and the mother country.
I believe there is no delusion greater than this—that there is any party in the United States that wishes to commit any aggression upon Canada, or to annex Canada by force to the United States. There is not a part of the world, in my opinion, that runs less risk of aggression than Canada, except with regard to that foolish and impotent attempt of certain discontented not-long-ago subjects of the Queen, who have left this country. America has no idea of anything of the kind. No American statesman, no American political party, dreams for a moment of an aggression upon Canada, or of annexing Canada by force. And therefore, every farthing that you spend on your fortresses, and all that you do with the idea of shutting out American aggression, is money squandered through an hallucination which we ought to get rid of. I have not risen for the purpose of objecting to the second reading of this Bill. Under the circumstances, I presume it is well that we should do no other than read it a second time. But I think the Government ought to have given a little more time. I think they have not treated the province of Nova Scotia with that tenderness, that generosity, and that consideration which is desirable when you are about to make so great a change in its affairs and in its future. For my share, I want the population of these provinces to do that which they believe to be best for their own interests—to remain with this country if they like it, in the most friendly manner, or to become independent States if they wish it. If they should prefer to unite themselves with the United States, I should not complain even of that. But whatever be their course, there is no man in this House or in those provinces who has a more sincere wish for their greatness and their welfare than I have who have taken the liberty thus to criticise this Bill.
* * * * *
THE 'TRENT' AFFAIR.
ROCHDALE, DECEMBER 4, 1861.
[During the excitement caused by the seizure of Messrs. Mason and Slidell, the envoys of the Slaveholders' Confederation, on board the Trent steamer, Mr. Bright's townsmen invited him to a Public Banquet, that they might have the opportunity of hearing his opinions on the American Civil War, and on the duty of England in regard to it. This speech was delivered on the occasion of that Banquet.]
When the Gentlemen who invited me to this dinner called upon me, I felt their kindness very sensibly, and now I am deeply grateful to my friends around me, and to you all, for the abundant manifestations of kindness with which I have been received to-night. I am, as you all know, surrounded at this moment by my neighbours and friends, and I may say with the utmost truth, that I value the good opinions of those who now hear my voice far beyond the opinions of any equal number of the inhabitants of this country selected from any other portion of it. You have, by this act of kindness that you have shown me, given proof that, in the main, you do not disapprove of my course and labours, that at least you are willing to express an opinion that the motives by which I have been actuated have been honest and honourable to myself, and that that course has not been entirely without service to my country. Coming to this meeting, or to any similar meeting, I always find that the subjects for discussion appear too many, and far more than it is possible to treat at length. In these times in which we live, by the influence of the telegraph, and the steamboat, and the railroad, and the multiplication of newspapers, we seem continually to stand as on the top of an exceeding high mountain, from which we behold all the kingdoms of the earth and all the glory of them,—unhappily, also, not only their glory, but their follies, and their crimes, and their calamities.
Seven years ago, our eyes were turned with anxious expectation to a remote corner of Europe, where five nations were contending in bloody strife for an object which possibly hardly one of them comprehended, and, if they did comprehend it, which all sensible men amongst them must have known to be absolutely impracticable. Four years ago, we were looking still further to the East, where there was a gigantic revolt in a great dependency of the British Crown, arising mainly from gross neglect, and from the incapacity of England, up to that moment, to govern the country which it had known how to conquer. Two years ago, we looked South, to the plains of Lombardy, and saw a great strife there, in which every man in England took a strong interest; and we have welcomed, as the result of that strife, the addition of a great kingdom to the list of European States. Now, our eyes are turned in a contrary direction, and we look to the West. There we see a struggle in progress of the very highest interest to England and to humanity at large. We see there a nation which I shall call the Transatlantic English nation—the inheritor and partaker of all the historic glories of this country. We see it torn with intestine broils, and suffering from calamities from which for more than a century past—in fact, for more than two centuries past—this country has been exempt. That struggle is of especial interest to us. We remember the description which one of our great poets gives of Rome,—
'Lone mother of dead empires.'
But England is the living mother of great nations on the American and on the Australian continents, which promise to endow the world with all her knowledge and all her civilization, and with even something more than the freedom she herself enjoys.
Eighty-five years ago, at the time when some of our oldest townsmen were very little children, there were, on the North American continent, Colonies, mainly of Englishmen, containing about three millions of souls. These Colonies we have seen a year ago constituting the United States of North America, and comprising a population of no less than thirty millions of souls. We know that in agriculture and manufactures, with the exception of this kingdom, there is no country in the world which in these arts may be placed in advance of the United States. With regard to inventions, I believe, within the last thirty years, we have received more useful inventions from the United States than from all the other countries of the earth. In that country there are probably ten times as many miles of telegraph as there are in this country, and there are at least five or six times as many miles of railway. The tonnage of its shipping is at least equal to ours, if it does not exceed ours. The prisons of that country—for, even in countries the most favoured, prisons are needful—have been models for other nations of the earth; and many European Governments have sent missions at different times to inquire into the admirable system of education so universally adopted in their free schools throughout the Northern States.
If I were to speak of that country in a religious aspect, I should say that, considering the short space of time to which their history goes back, there is nothing on the face of the earth besides, and never has been, to equal the magnificent arrangement of churches and ministers, and of all the appliances which are thought necessary for a nation to teach Christianity and morality to its people. Besides all this, when I state that for many years past the annual public expenditure of the Government of that country has been somewhere between 10,000,000l. and 15,000,000l., I need not perhaps say further, that there has always existed amongst all the population an amount of comfort and prosperity and abounding plenty such as I believe no other country in the world, in any age, has enjoyed.
This is a very fine, but a very true picture; yet it has another side to which I must advert. There has been one great feature in that country, one great contrast, which has been pointed to by all who have commented upon the United States as a feature of danger, as a contrast calculated to give pain. There has been in that country the utmost liberty to the white man, and bondage and degradation to the black man. Now rely upon it, that wherever Christianity lives and flourishes, there must grow up from it, necessarily, a conscience hostile to any oppression and to any wrong; and therefore, from the hour when the United States Constitution was formed, so long as it left there this great evil—then comparatively small, but now so great—it left there seeds of that which an American statesman has so happily described, of that 'irrepressible conflict' of which now the whole world is the witness. It has been a common thing for men disposed to carp at the United States to point to this blot upon their fair fame, and to compare it with the boasted declaration of freedom in their Deed and Declaration of Independence. But we must recollect who sowed this seed of trouble, and how and by whom it has been cherished.
Without dwelling upon this stain any longer, I should like to read to you a paragraph from the instructions understood to have been given to the Virginian delegates to Congress, in the month of August, 1774., by Mr. Jefferson, who was perhaps the ablest man the United States had produced up to that time, and who was then actively engaged in its affairs, and who afterwards for two periods filled the office of President. He represented one of these very Slave States—the State of Virginia—and he says:—
'For the most trifling reasons, and sometimes for no conceivable reason at all, his Majesty has rejected laws of the most salutary tendency. The abolition of domestic slavery is the great object of desire in those Colonies where it was unhappily introduced in their infant state. But previous to the enfranchisement of the slaves we have, it is necessary to exclude all further importations from Africa. Yet our repeated attempts to effect this by prohibition, and by imposing duties which might amount to prohibition, have hitherto been defeated by his Majesty's negative,—thus preferring the immediate advantages of a few British corsairs to the lasting interests of the American States, and to the rights of human nature, deeply wounded by this infamous practice.'
I read this merely to show that, two years before the Declaration of Independence was signed, Mr. Jefferson, acting on behalf of those he represented in Virginia, wrote that protest against the course of the English Government which prevented the Colonists from abolishing the slave trade, preparatory to the abolition of slavery itself.
Well, the United States Constitution left the slave question for every State to manage for itself. It was a question too difficult to settle then, and apparently every man had the hope and belief that in a few years slavery itself would become extinct. Then there happened a great event in the annals of manufactures and commerce. It was discovered that in those States that article which we in this country now so much depend on, could be produced of the best quality necessary for manufacture, and at a moderate price. From that day to this the growth of cotton has increased there, and its consumption has increased here, and a value which no man dreamed of when Jefferson wrote that paper has been given to the slave and to slave industry. Thus it has grown up to that gigantic institution which now threatens either its own overthrow or the overthrow of that which is a million times more valuable—the United States of America.
The crisis at which we have arrived—I say 'we,' for, after all, we are nearly as much interested as if I was making this speech in the city of Boston or the city of New York—the crisis, I say, which has now arrived, was inevitable. I say that the conscience of the North, never satisfied with the institution of slavery, was constantly urging some men forward to take a more extreme view of the question; and there grew up naturally a section—it may not have been a very numerous one—in favour of the abolition of slavery. A great and powerful party resolved at least upon a restraint and a control of slavery, so that it should not extend beyond the States and the area which it now occupies. But, if we look at the Government of the United States almost ever since the formation of the Union, we shall find the Southern power has been mostly dominant there. If we take thirty-six years after the formation of the present Constitution—I think about 1787—we shall find that for thirty- two of those years every President was a Southern man; and if we take the period from 1828 until 1860, we shall find that, on every election for President, the South voted in the majority.
We know what an election is in the United States for President of the Republic. There is a most extensive suffrage, and there is the ballot- box. The members of the House of Representatives are elected by the same suffrage, and generally they are elected at the same time. It is thus therefore almost inevitable that the House of Representatives is in accord in public policy with the President for the time being. Every four years there springs from the vote created by the whole people a President over that great nation. I think the world offers no finer spectacle than this; it offers no higher dignity; and there is no greater object of ambition on the political stage on which men are permitted to move. You may point, if you will, to hereditary rulers, to crowns coming down through successive generations of the same family, to thrones based on prescription or on conquest, to sceptres wielded over veteran legions and subject realms,—but to my mind there is nothing so worthy of reverence and obedience, and nothing more sacred, than the authority of the freely chosen by the majority of a great and free people; and if there be on earth and amongst men any right divine to govern, surely it rests with a ruler so chosen and so appointed.
Last year the ceremony of this great election was gone through, and the South, which had been so long successful, found itself defeated. That defeat was followed instantly by secession, and insurrection, and war. In the multitude of articles which have been before us in the newspapers within the last few months, I have no doubt you have seen it stated, as I have seen it, that this question was very much like that upon which the Colonies originally revolted against the Crown of England. It is amazing how little some newspaper writers know, or how little they think you know. When the War of Independence was begun in America, ninety years ago, there were no representatives there at all. The question then was, whether a Ministry in Downing-street, and a corrupt and borough- mongering Parliament, should continue to impose taxes upon three millions of English subjects, who had left their native shores and established themselves in North America. But now the question is not the want of representation, because, as is perfectly notorious, the South is not only represented, but is represented in excess; for, in distributing the number of representatives, which is done every ten years, three out of every five slaves are counted as freemen, and the number of representatives from the Slave States is consequently so much greater than if the freemen, the white men only, were counted. From this cause the Southern States have twenty members more in the House of Representatives than they would have if the members were apportioned on the same principle as in the Northern Free States. Therefore you will see at once that there is no comparison between the state of things when the Colonies revolted, and the state of things now, when this wicked insurrection has broken out.
There is another cause which is sometimes in England assigned for this great misfortune, which is, the protective theories in operation in the Union, and the maintenance of a high tariff. It happens with regard to that, unfortunately, that no American, certainly no one I ever met with, attributed the disasters of the Union to that cause. It is an argument made use of by ignorant Englishmen, but never by informed Americans. I have already shown you that the South, during almost the whole existence of the Union, has been dominant at Washington; and during that period the tariff has existed, and there has been no general dissatisfaction with it. Occasionally, there can be no doubt, their tariff was higher than was thought just, or reasonable, or necessary by some of the States of the South. But the first Act of the United States which levied duties upon imports, passed immediately after the Union was formed, recited that 'It is necessary for the encouragement and protection of manufactures to levy the duties which follow;' and during the war with England from 1812 to 1815, the people of the United States had to pay for all the articles they brought from Europe many times over the natural cost of those articles, on account of the interruption to the traffic by the English nation.
When the war was over, it was felt by everybody desirable that they should encourage manufactures in their own country; and seeing that England at that precise moment was passing a law to prevent any wheat coming from America until wheat in England had risen to the price of 84s. per quarter, we may be quite satisfied that the doctrine of protection originally entertained did not find less favour at the close of the war in 1815.
There is one remarkable point with regard to this matter which should not be forgotten. Twelve months ago, at the meeting of the Congress of the United States, on the first Monday in December—when the Congress met, you recollect that there were various propositions of compromise, committee meetings of various kinds to try and devise some mode of settling the question between the North and the South, so that disunion might not go on—though I read carefully everything published in the English papers from the United States on the subject, I do not recollect that in a single instance the question of the tariff was referred to, or any change proposed or suggested in the matter as likely to have any effect whatever upon the question of Secession.
There is another point,—whatever might be the influence of the tariff upon the United States, it is as pernicious to the West as it is to the South; and further, that Louisiana, which is a Southern State and a seceded State, has always voted along with Pennsylvania until last year in favour of protection—protection for its sugar, whilst Pennsylvania wished protection for its coal and iron. But if the tariff was onerous and grievous, was that any reason for this great insurrection? Was there ever a country that had a tariff, especially in the article of food, more onerous and more cruel than that which we had in this country twenty years ago? We did not secede. We did not rebel. What we did was to raise money for the purpose of distributing among all the people perfect information upon the question; and many men, as you know, devoted all their labours, for several years, to teach the great and wise doctrine of free trade to the people of England. The price of a single gunboat, the equipment of a single regiment, the garrisoning of a single fort, the cessation of their trade for a single day, cost more than it would have cost to have spread among all the intelligent people of the United States the most complete statement of the whole case; and the West and South could easily have revised, or, if need had been, have repealed the tariff altogether.
The question is a very different and a far more grave question. It is a question of slavery, and for thirty years it has constantly been coming to the surface, disturbing social life, and overthrowing almost all political harmony in the working of the United States. In the North there is no secession; there is no collision. These disturbances and this insurrection are found wholly in the South and in the Slave States; and therefore I think that the man who says otherwise, who contends that it is the tariff, or anything whatsoever else than slavery, is either himself deceived or endeavours to deceive others. The object of the South is this, to escape from the majority who wish to limit the area of slavery. They wish to found a Slave State freed from the influence and opinions of freedom. The Free States in the North now stand before the world as the advocates and defenders of freedom and civilization. The Slave States offer themselves for the recognition of a Christian nation, based upon the foundation, the unchangeable foundation in their eyes, of slavery and barbarism.
I will not discuss the guilt of the men who, ministers of a great nation only last year, conspired to overthrow it. I will not point out or recapitulate the statements of the fraudulent manner in which they disposed of the funds in the national exchequer. I will not point out by name any of the men, in this conspiracy, whom history will designate by titles they would not like to hear; but I say that slavery has sought to break up the most free government in the world, and to found a new State, in the nineteenth century, whose corner-stone is the perpetual bondage of millions of men.
Having thus described what appears to me briefly the literal truth of this matter, what is the course that England would be expected to pursue? We should be neutral as far as regards mingling in the strife. We were neutral in the strife in Italy; but we were not neutral in opinion or sympathy; and we know perfectly well that throughout the whole of Italy at this moment there is a feeling that, though no shot was fired from an English ship, and though no English soldier trod their soil, yet still the opinion of England was potent in Europe, and did much for the creation of the Italian kingdom.
With regard to the United States, you know how much we hate slavery,— that is, some years ago we thought we knew; that we have given twenty millions sterling,—a million a year, or nearly so, of taxes for ever,— to free eight hundred thousand slaves in the English colonies. We knew, or thought we knew, how much we were in love with free government everywhere, although it might not take precisely the same form as our own government. We were for free government in Italy; we were for free government in Switzerland; and we were for free government, even under a republican form, in the United States of America; and with all this, every man would have said that England would wish the American Union to be prosperous and eternal.
Now, suppose we turn our eyes to the East, to the empire of Russia, for a moment. In Russia, as you all know, there has been one of the most important and magnificent changes of policy ever seen in any country. Within the last year or two, the present Emperor of Russia, following the wishes of his father, has insisted upon the abolition of serfdom in that empire; and twenty-three millions of human beings, lately serfs, little better than real slaves, have been raised to the ranks of freedom. Now, suppose that the millions of the serfs of Russia had been chiefly in the South of Russia. We hear of the nobles of Russia, to whom those serfs belonged in a great measure, that they have been hostile to this change; and there has been some danger that the peace of that empire might be disturbed during the change. Suppose these nobles, for the purpose of maintaining in perpetuity the serfdom of Russia, and barring out twenty-three millions of your fellow-creatures from the rights of freedom, had established a great and secret conspiracy, and that they had risen in great and dangerous insurrection against the Russian Government,—I say that you, the people of England, although seven years ago you were in mortal combat with the Russians in the South of Europe,—I believe at this moment you would have prayed Heaven in all sincerity and fervour to give strength to the arm and success to the great wishes of the Emperor, and that the vile and atrocious insurrection might be suppressed.
Well, but let us look a little at what has been said and clone in this country since the period when Parliament rose at the beginning of August. There have been two speeches to which I wish to refer, and in terms of approbation. The Duke of Argyll, a member of the present Government,—and, though I have not the smallest personal acquaintance with him, I am free to say that I believe him to be one of the most intelligent and liberal of his order,—the Duke of Argyll made a speech which was fair and friendly to the Government of the United States. Lord Stanley, only a fortnight ago, I think, made a speech which it is impossible to read without remarking the thought, the liberality, and the wisdom by which it is distinguished. He doubted, it is true, whether the Union could be restored. A man need not be hostile, and must not necessarily be unfriendly, to doubt that or the contrary; but he spoke with fairness and friendliness of the Government of the United States; and he said that they were right and justifiable in the course they took; and he gave us some advice,—which is now more important than at the moment when it was given,—that amid the various incidents and accidents of a struggle of this nature, it became a people like this to be very moderate, very calm, and to avoid, as much as possible, any feeling of irritation, which sometimes arises, and sometimes leads to danger.
I mention these two speeches as from Englishmen of great distinction in this country—speeches which I believe will have a beneficial effect on the other side of the Atlantic. Lord John Russell, in the House of Commons, during the last session, made a speech also, in which he rebuked the impertinence of a young Member of the House who had spoken about the bursting of the 'bubble republic.' It was a speech worthy of the best days of Lord John Russell. But at a later period he spoke at Newcastle on an occasion something like this, when the inhabitants, or some portion of the inhabitants, of the town invited him to a public dinner. He described the contest in words something like these—I speak from memory only: 'The North is contending for empire, the South for independence.' Did he mean contending for empire, as England contends for it when making some fresh conquest in India? If he meant that, what he said was not true. But I recollect Lord John Russell, some years ago, in the House of Commons, on an occasion when I made some observation as to the unreasonable expenditure of our colonies, and said that the people of England should not be taxed to defray expenses which the colonies themselves were well able to bear, turned to me with a sharpness which was not necessary, and said, 'The honourable Member has no objection to make a great empire into a little one; but I have.' Perhaps if he had lived in the United States, if he was a member of the Senate or the House of Representatives there, he would doubt whether it was his duty to consent at once to the destruction of a great country by separation, it may be into two hostile camps, or whether he would not try all the means which were open to him, and would be open to the Government, to avert so unlooked-for and so dire a calamity.
There are other speeches that have been made. I will not refer to them by any quotation,—I will not, out of pity to some of the men who uttered them. I will not bring their names even before you, to give them an endurance which I hope they will not otherwise obtain. I leave them in the obscurity which they so richly merit. But you know as well as I do, that, of all the speeches made since the end of the last session of Parliament by public men, by politicians, the majority of them have either displayed a strange ignorance of American affairs, or a stranger absence of that cordiality and friendship which, I maintain, our American kinsmen have a right to look for at our hands.
And if we part from the speakers and turn to the writers, what do we find there? We find that which is reputed abroad, and has hitherto been believed in at home, as the most powerful representative of English opinion—at least of the richer classes—we find in that particular newspaper there has not been since Mr. Lincoln took office, in March last, as President of the United States, one fair and honourable and friendly article on American affairs. Some of you, I dare say, read it; but, fortunately, every district is now so admirably supplied with local newspapers, that I trust in all time to come the people of England will drink of purer streams nearer home, and not of those streams which are muddled by party feeling and political intrigue, and by many motives that tend to anything rather than the enlightenment and advantage of the people. It is said,—that very paper has said over and over again,—'Why this war? Why not separate peaceably? Why this fratricidal strife ?' I hope it is equally averse to fratricidal strife in other districts; for if it be true that God made of one blood all the families of man to dwell on the face of all the earth, it must be fratricidal strife whether we are slaughtering Russians in the Crimea or bombarding towns on the sea-coast of the United States.
Now no one will expect that I should stand forward as the advocate of war, or as the defender of that great sum of all crimes which is involved in war. But when we are discussing a question of this nature, it is only fair that we should discuss it upon principles which are acknowledged not only in the country where the strife is being carried on, but are universally acknowledged in this country. When I discussed the Russian war, seven or eight years ago, I always condemned it, on principles which were accepted by the Government and people of England, and I took my facts from the blue-books presented to Parliament. I take the liberty, then, of doing that in this case; and I say that, looking at the principles avowed in England, and at its policy, there is no man, who is not absolutely a non-resistant in every sense, who can fairly challenge the conduct of the American Government in this war. It would be a curious thing to find that the party in this country which on every public question affecting England is in favour of war at any cost, when they come to speak of the duty of the Government of the United States, is in favour 'of peace at any price.'
I want to know whether it has ever been admitted by politicians, or statesmen, or people, that a great nation can be broken up at any time by any particular section of any part of that nation. It has been tried occasionally in Ireland, and if it had succeeded history would have said that it was with very good cause. But if anybody tried now to get up a secession or insurrection in Ireland,—and it would be infinitely less disturbing to everything than the secession in the United States, because there is a boundary which nobody can dispute—I am quite sure the Times would have its 'Special Correspondent,' and would describe with all the glee and exultation in the world the manner in which the Irish insurrectionists were cut down and made an end of.
Let any man try in this country to restore the heptarchy, do you think that any portion of the people would think that the project could be tolerated for a moment? But if you look at a map of the United States, you will see that there is no country in the world, probably, at this moment, where any plan of separation between the North and the South, as far as the question of boundary is concerned, is so surrounded with insurmountable difficulties. For example, Maryland is a Slave State; but Maryland, by a large majority, voted for the Union. Kentucky is a Slave State, one of the finest in the Union, and containing a fine people; Kentucky has voted for the Union, but has been invaded from the South. Missouri is a Slave State; but Missouri has not seceded, and has been invaded by the South, and there is a secession party in that State. There are parts of Virginia which have formed themselves into a new State, resolved to adhere to the North; and there is no doubt a considerable Northern and Union feeling in the State of Tennessee. I have no doubt there is in every other State. In fact, I am not sure that there is not now within the sound of my voice a citizen of the State of Alabama, who could tell you that in his State the question of secession has never been put to the vote; and that there are great numbers of men, reasonable and thoughtful and just men, in that State, who entirely deplore the condition of things there existing.
Then, what would you do with all those States, and with what we may call the loyal portion of the people of those States? Would you allow them to be dragooned into this insurrection, and into the formation or the becoming parts of a new State, to which they themselves are hostile? And what would you do with the City of Washington? Washington is in a Slave State. Would anybody have advised that President Lincoln and his Cabinet, with all the members of Congress, of the House of Representatives and the Senate, from the North, with their wives and children, and everybody else who was not positively in favour of the South, should have set off on their melancholy pilgrimage northwards, leaving that capital, hallowed to them by such associations,—having its name even from the father of their country,—leaving Washington to the South, because Washington is situated in a Slave State?
Again, what do you say to the Mississippi River, as you see it upon the map, the 'father of waters,' rolling its gigantic stream to the ocean? Do you think that the fifty millions which one day will occupy the banks of that river northward, will ever consent that its great stream shall roll through a foreign, and it may be a hostile State? And more, there are four millions of negroes in subjection. For them the American Union is directly responsible. They are not secessionists; they are now, as they always were, not citizens nor subjects, but legally under the care and power of the Government of the United States. Would you consent that these should be delivered up to the tender mercies of their taskmasters, the defenders of slavery as an everlasting institution?
But if all had been surrendered without a struggle, what then? What would the writers in this newspaper and other newspapers have said? If a bare rock in your empire, that would not keep a goat—a single goat— alive, be touched by any foreign power, the whole empire is roused to resistance; and if there be, from accident or passion, the smallest insult to your flag, what do your newspaper writers say upon the subject, and what is said in all your towns and upon all your Exchanges? I will tell you what they would have said if the Government of the Northern States had taken their insidious and dishonest advice. They would have said the great Republic was a failure, that democracy had murdered patriotism, that history afforded no example of such meanness and of such cowardice; and they would have heaped unmeasured obloquy and contempt upon the people and Government who had taken that course.
They tell you, these candid friends of the United States,—they tell you that all freedom is gone; that the Habeas Corpus Act, if they ever had one, is known no longer; and that any man may be arrested at the dictum of the President or of the Secretary of State. Well, but in 1848 you recollect, many of you, that there was a small insurrection in Ireland. It was an absurd thing altogether; but what was done then? I saw, in one night, in the House of Commons, a bill for the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act passed through all its stages. What more did I see? I saw a bill brought in by the Whig Government of that day, Lord John Hussell being the Premier, which made speaking against the Government and against the Crown—which up to that time had been sedition—which proposed to make it felony; and it was only by the greatest exertions of a few of the Members that the Act, in that particular, was limited to a period of two years. In the same session a bill was brought in called an Alien Bill, which enabled the Home Secretary to take any foreigner whatsoever, not being a naturalized Englishman, and in twenty-four hours to send him out of the country. Although a man might have committed no crime, this might be done to him, apparently only on suspicion.
But suppose that an insurgent army had been so near to London that you could see its outposts from every suburb of your Capital, what then do you think would have been the regard of the Government of Great Britain for personal liberty, if it interfered with the necessities, and, as they might think, the salvation of the State? I recollect, in 1848, when the Habeas Corpus Act was suspended in Ireland, that a number of persons in Liverpool, men there of position and of wealth, presented a petition to the House of Commons, praying—what? That the Habeas Corpus Act should not be suspended? No. They were not content with its suspension in Ireland; and they prayed the House of Commons to extend that suspension to Liverpool. I recollect that at that time—and I am sure my friend Mr. Wilson will bear me out in what I say—the Mayor of Liverpool telegraphed to the Mayor of Manchester, and that messages were sent on to London nearly every hour. The Mayor of Manchester heard from the Mayor of Liverpool that certain Irishmen in Liverpool, conspirators, or fellow-conspirators with those in Ireland, were going to burn the cotton warehouses in Liverpool and the cotton mills of Lancashire. I read that petition from Liverpool. I took it from the table of the House of Commons, and read it, and I handed it over to a statesman of great eminence, who has been but just removed from us—I refer to Sir James Graham, a man not second to any in the House of Commons for his knowledge of affairs and for his great capacity—I handed to him that petition. He read it; and after he had read it, he rose from his seat, and laid it upon the table with a gesture of abhorrence and disgust. Now that was a petition from the town of Liverpool, in which some persons have been making themselves very ridiculous of late by reason of their conduct on this American question.
There is one more point. It has been said, 'How much better it would be'—not for the United States, but—'for us, that these States should be divided.' I recollect meeting a gentleman in Bond-street one day before the session was over. He was a rich man, and one whose voice is much heard in the House of Commons; but his voice is not heard when he is on his legs, but when he is cheering other speakers; and he said to me: 'After all, this is a sad business about the United States; but still I think it very much better that they should be split up. In twenty years,' or in fifty years, I forget which it was, 'they will be so powerful that they will bully all Europe.' And a distinguished Member of the House of Commons—distinguished there by his eloquence, distinguished more by his many writings—I mean Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton—he did not exactly express a hope, but he ventured on something like a prediction, that the time would come when there would be, I do not know how many, but about as many independent States on the American Continent as you can count upon your fingers.
There cannot be a meaner motive than this I am speaking of, in forming a judgment on this question,—that it is 'better for us'—for whom? the people of England, or the Government of England?—that the United States should be severed, and that the North American continent should be as the continent of Europe is, in many States, and subject to all the contentions and disasters which have accompanied the history of the States of Europe. I should say that, if a man had a great heart within him, he would rather look forward to the day when, from that point of land which is habitable nearest to the Pole, to the shores of the Great Gulf, the whole of that vast continent might become one great confederation of States,—without a great army, and without a great navy,—not mixing itself up with the entanglements of European politics,—without a custom-house inside, through the whole length and breadth of its territory,—and with freedom everywhere, equality everywhere, law everywhere, peace everywhere,—such a confederation would afford at least some hope that man is not forsaken of Heaven, and that the future of our race may be better than the past.