It is a common observation, that our friends in America are very irritable. And I think it is very likely, of a considerable number of them, to be quite true. Our friends in America are involved in a great struggle. There is nothing like it before in their or in any history. No country in the world was ever more entitled, in my opinion, to the sympathy and the forbearance of all friendly nations, than are the United States at this moment. They have there some newspapers that are no wiser than ours. They have there some papers, which, up to the election of Mr. Lincoln, were his bitterest and most unrelenting foes, who, when the war broke out, and it was not safe to take the line of Southern support, were obliged to turn round and to appear to support the prevalent opinion of the country. But they undertook to serve the South in another way, and that was by exaggerating every difficulty and misstating every fact, if so doing could serve their object of creating distrust between the people of the Northern States and the people of this United Kingdom. If the Times in this country has done all that it could do to poison the minds of the people of England, and to irritate the minds of the people of America, the New York Herald, I am sorry to say, has done, I think, all that it could, or all that it dared to do, to provoke mischief between the Government in Washington and the Government in London.
Now there is one thing which I must state that I think they have a solid reason to complain of; and I am very sorry to have to mention it, because it blames our present Foreign Minister, against whom I am not anxious to say a word, and, recollecting his speech in the House of Commons, I should be slow to conclude that he had any feeling hostile to the United States Government. You recollect that during the session—it was on the 14th of May—a Proclamation came out which acknowledged the South as a belligerent power, and proclaimed the neutrality of England. A little time before that, I forget how many days, Mr. Dallas, the late Minister from the United States, had left London for Liverpool and America. He did not wish to undertake any affairs for his Government, by which he was not appointed,—I mean that of President Lincoln,—and he left what had to be done to his successor, who was on his way, and whose arrival was daily expected. Mr. Adams, the present Minister from the United States, is a man whom, if he lived in England, you would speak of as belonging to one of the noblest families of the country. His father and his grandfather were Presidents of the United States. His grandfather was one of the great men who achieved the independence of the United States. There is no family in that country having more claims upon what I should call the veneration and the affection of the people than the family of Mr. Adams.
Mr. Adams came to this country. He arrived in London on the night of the 13th of May. On the 14th, that Proclamation was issued. It was known that he was coming; but he was not consulted; the Proclamation was not delayed for a day, although there was nothing pressing, no reason why the Proclamation should not have been notified to him. If communications of a friendly nature had taken place with him and with the American Government, they could have found no fault with this step, because it was perhaps inevitable, before the struggle had proceeded far, that this Proclamation would be issued. But I have the best reasons for knowing that there is no single thing that has happened during the course of these events which has created more surprise, more irritation, and more distrust in the United States, with respect to this country, than the fact that that Proclamation was not delayed one single day, until the Minister from America could come here, and until it could be done, if not with his consent, or his concurrence, yet in that friendly manner that would probably have avoided all the unpleasantness which has occurred.
Now I am obliged to say—and I say it with the utmost pain—that if we have not done things that are plainly hostile to the North, and if we have not expressed affection for slavery, and, outwardly and openly, hatred for the Union,—I say that there has not been that friendly and cordial neutrality which, if I had been a citizen of the United States, I should have expected; and I say further, that, if there has existed considerable irritation at that, it must be taken as a measure of the high appreciation which the people of those States place upon the opinion of the people of England. If I had been addressing this audience ten days ago, so far as I know, I should have said just what I have said now; and although, by an untoward event, circumstances are somewhat, even considerably, altered, yet I have thought it desirable to make this statement, with a view, so far as I am able to do it, to improve the opinion of England, and to assuage feelings of irritation in America, if there be any, so that no further difficulties may arise in the progress of this unhappy strife.
But there has occurred an event which was announced to us only a week ago, which is one of great importance, and it may be one of some peril. It is asserted that what is called 'international law' has been broken by the seizure of the Southern Commissioners on board an English trading steamer by a steamer of war of the United States. Now, what is international law? You have heard that the opinions of the law officers of the Crown are in favour of this view of the case—that the law has been broken. I am not at all going to say that it has not. It would be imprudent in me to set my opinion on a legal question which I have only partially examined, against their opinion on the same question, which I presume they have carefully examined. But this I say, that international law is not to be found in an Act of Parliament—it is not in so many clauses. You know that it is difficult to find the law. I can ask the Mayor, or any magistrate around me, whether it is not very difficult to find the law, even when you have found the Act of Parliament, and found the clause. But when you have no Act of Parliament, and no clause, you may imagine that the case is still more difficult.
Now, maritime law, or international law, consists of opinions and precedents for the most part, and it is very unsettled. The opinions are the opinions of men of different countries, given at different times; and the precedents are not always like each other. The law is very unsettled, and, for the most part, I believe it to be exceedingly bad. In past times, as you know from the histories you read, this country has been a fighting country; we have been belligerents, and, as belligerents, we have carried maritime law, by our own powerful hand, to a pitch that has been very oppressive to foreign, and especially so to neutral nations. Well, now, for the first time, unhappily,—almost for the first time in our history for the last two hundred years,—we are not belligerents, but neutrals; and we are disposed to take, perhaps, rather a different view of maritime and international law.
Now, the act which has been committed by the American steamer, in my opinion, whether it was legal or not, was both impolitic and bad. That is my opinion. I think it may turn out, almost certainly, that, so far as the taking of those men from that ship was concerned, it was an act wholly unknown to, and unauthorized by, the American Government. And if the American Government believe, on the opinion of their law officers, that the act is illegal, I have no doubt they will make fitting reparation; for there is no Government in the world that has so strenuously insisted upon modifications of international law, and been so anxious to be guided always by the most moderate and merciful interpretation of that law.
Now, our great advisers of the Times newspaper have been persuading people that this is merely one of a series of acts which denote the determination of the Washington Government to pick a quarrel with the people of England. Did you ever know anybody who was not very nearly dead drunk, who, having as much upon his hands as he could manage, would offer to fight everybody about him? Do you believe that the United States Government, presided over by President Lincoln, so constitutional in all his acts, so moderate as he has been—representing at this moment that great party in the United States, happily now in the ascendancy, which has always been especially in favour of peace, and especially friendly to England—do you believe that such a Government, having now upon its hands an insurrection of the most formidable character in the South, would invite the armies and the fleets of England to combine with that insurrection, and, it might be, to render it impossible that the Union should ever again be restored? I say, that single statement, whether it came from a public writer or a public speaker, is enough to stamp him for ever with the character of being an insidious enemy of both countries.
Well, now, what have we seen during the last week? People have not been, I am told—I have not seen much of it—quite as calm as sensible men should be. Here is a question of law. I will undertake to say, that when you have from the United States Government—if they think the act legal— a statement of their view of the case, they will show you that, fifty or sixty years ago, during the wars of that time, there were scores of cases that were at least as bad as this, and some infinitely worse. And if it were not so late to-night—and I am not anxious now to go into the question further—I could easily place before you cases of extreme outrage committed by us when we were at war, and for many of which, I am afraid, little or no reparation was offered. But let us bear this in mind, that during this struggle incidents and accidents will happen. Bear in mind the advice of Lord Stanley, so opportune and so judicious. Do not let your newspapers, or your public speakers, or any man, take you off your guard, and bring you into that frame of mind under which your Government, if it desires war, may be driven to engage in it; for one may be almost as fatal and as evil as the other.
What can be more monstrous than that we, as we call ourselves, to some extent, an educated, a moral, and a Christian nation—at a moment when an accident of this kind occurs, before we have made a representation to the American Government, before we have heard a word from it in reply— should be all up in arms, every sword leaping from its scabbard, and every man looking about for his pistols and his blunderbusses? I think the conduct pursued—and I have no doubt just the same is pursued by a certain class in America—is much more the conduct of savages than of Christian and civilized men. No, let us be calm. You recollect how we were dragged into the Russian war—how we 'drifted' into it. You know that I, at least, have not upon my head any of the guilt of that fearful war. You know that it cost one hundred millions of money to this country; that it cost at least the lives of forty thousand Englishmen; that it disturbed your trade; that it nearly doubled the armies of Europe; that it placed the relations of Europe on a much less peaceful footing than before; and that it did not effect one single thing of all those that it was promised to effect.
I recollect speaking on this subject, within the last two years, to a man whose name I have already mentioned, Sir James Graham, in the House of Commons. He was a Minister at the time of that war. He was reminding me of a severe onslaught which I had made upon him and Lord Palmerston for attending a dinner at the Reform Club when Sir Charles Napier was appointed to the command of the Baltic fleet; and he remarked, 'What a severe thrashing' I had given them in the House of Commons! I said, 'Sir James, tell me candidly, did you not deserve it?' He said, 'Well, you were entirely right about that war; we were entirely wrong, and we never should have gone into it.' And this is exactly what everybody will say, if you go into a war about this business, when it is over. When your sailors and soldiers, so many of them as may be slaughtered, are gone to their last account; when your taxes are increased, your business permanently—it may be—injured; and when embittered feelings for generations have been created between America and England—then your statesmen will tell you that f we ought not to have gone into the war.'
But they will very likely say, as many of them tell me, 'What could we do in the frenzy of the public mind?' Let them not add to the frenzy, and let us be careful that nobody drives us into that frenzy. Remembering the past, remembering at this moment the perils of a friendly people, and seeing the difficulties by which they are surrounded, let us, I entreat of you, see if there be any real moderation in the people of England, and if magnanimity, so often to be found amongst individuals, is absolutely wanting in a great nation.
Now, Government may discuss this matter—they may arrange it—they may arbitrate it. I have received here, since I came into the room, a despatch from a friend of mine in London, referring to this matter. I believe some portion of it is in the papers this evening, but I have not seen them. He states that General Scott, whom you know by name, who has come over from America to France, being in a bad state of health—the General lately of the American army, and a man whose reputation in that country is hardly second to that which the Duke of Wellington held during his lifetime in this country—General Scott has written a letter on the American difficulty. He denies that the Cabinet of Washington had ordered the seizure of the Southern Commissioners, if found under a neutral flag. The question of legal right involved in the seizure, the General thinks a very narrow ground on which to force a quarrel with the United States. As to Messrs. Slidell and Mason being or not being contraband, the General answers for it, that, if Mr. Seward cannot convince Earl Russell that they bore that character, Earl Russell will be able to convince Mr. Seward that they did not. He pledges himself that, if this Government cordially agreed with that of the United States in establishing the immunity of neutrals from the oppressive right of search and seizure on suspicion, the Cabinet of Washington will not hesitate to purchase so great a boon to peaceful trading-vessels.
Now, then, before I sit down, let me ask you what is this people, about which so many men in England at this moment are writing, and speaking, and thinking, with harshness, I think with injustice, if not with great bitterness? Two centuries ago, multitudes of the people of this country found a refuge on the North American continent, escaping from the tyranny of the Stuarts and from the bigotry of Laud. Many noble spirits from our country made great experiments in favour of human freedom on that continent. Bancroft, the great historian of his own country, has said, in his own graphic and emphatic language, 'The history of the colonization of America is the history of the crimes of Europe.' From that time down to our own period, America has admitted the wanderers from every clime. Since 1815, a time which many here remember, and which is within my lifetime, more than three millions of persons have emigrated from the United Kingdom to the United States. During the fifteen years from 1845 or 1846 to 1859 or 1860—a period so recent that we all remember the most trivial circumstances that have happened in that time—during those fifteen years more than two million three hundred and twenty thousand persons left the shores of the United Kingdom as emigrants for the States of North America.
At this very moment, then, there are millions in the United States who personally, or whose immediate parents, have at one time been citizens of this country. They found a home in the Far West; they subdued the wilderness; they met with plenty there, which was not afforded them in their native country; and they have become a great people. There may be persons in England who are jealous of those States. There may be men who dislike democracy, and who hate a republic; there may be even those whose sympathies warm towards the slave oligarchy of the South. But of this I am certain, that only misrepresentation the most gross or calumny the most wicked can sever the tie which unites the great mass of the people of this country with their friends and brethren beyond the Atlantic.
Now, whether the Union will be restored or not, or the South achieve an unhonoured independence or not, I know not, and I predict not. But this I think I know—that in a few years, a very few years, the twenty millions of freemen in the North will be thirty millions, or even fifty millions—a population equal to or exceeding that of this kingdom. When that time comes, I pray that it may not be said amongst them, that, in the darkest hour of their country's trials, England, the land of their fathers, looked on with icy coldness and saw unmoved the perils and calamities of their children. As for me, I have but this to say: I am but one in this audience, and but one in the citizenship of this country; but if all other tongues are silent mine shall speak for that policy which gives hope to the bondsmen of the South, and which tends to generous thoughts, and generous words, and generous deeds, between the two great nations who speak the English language, and from their origin are alike entitled to the English name.
* * * * *
THE WAR AND THE SUPPLY OF COTTON. BIRMINGHAM, DECEMBER 18, 1862.
I am afraid there was a little excitement during a part of my honourable Colleague's speech, which was hardly favourable to that impartial consideration to which he appealed. He began by referring to a question— or, I might say, to two questions, for it was one great question in two parts,—which at this moment occupies the mind, and, I think, must afflict the heart of every thoughtful man in this country—the calamity which has fallen upon the county from which I come, and the strife which is astonishing the world on the other side of the Atlantic.
I shall not enter into details with regard to that calamity, because you have had already, I believe, meetings in this town, many details have been published, contributions of a generous character have been made, and you are doing—and especially, if I am rightly informed, are your artisans doing—their duty with regard to the unfortunate condition of the population amongst which I live. But this I may state in a sentence, that the greatest, probably the most prosperous, manufacturing industry that this country or the world has ever seen, has been suddenly and unexpectedly stricken down, but by a blow which had not been unforeseen or unforetold. Nearly five hundred thousand persons—men, women, and children—at this moment are saved from the utmost extremes of famine, not a few of them from death, by the contributions which they are receiving from all parts of the country. I will not attempt here an elaborate eulogy of the generosity of the givers, nor will I endeavour to paint the patience and the gratitude of those who suffer and receive; but I believe the conduct of the country, with regard to this great misfortune, is an honour to all classes and to every section of this people.
Some have remarked that there is perfect order where there has been so much anxiety and suffering. I believe there is scarcely a thoughtful man in Lancashire who will not admit that one great cause of the patience and good conduct of the people, besides the fact that they know so much is being done for them, is to be found in the extensive information they possess, and which of late years, and now more than ever, has been communicated to them through the instrumentality of an untaxed press. Noble Lords who have recently spoken, official men, and public men, have taken upon them to tell the people of Lancashire that nobody has done wrong, and that, in point of fact, if it had not been for a family quarrel in that dreadful Republic, everything would have gone on smoothly, and that nobody can be blamed for our present sufferings.
Now, if you will allow me, I should like to examine for a few minutes whether this be true. If you read the papers with regard to this question, you will find that, barring whatever chance there may be of our again soon receiving a supply of cotton from America, the hopes of the whole country are directed to India. Our Government of India is not one of to-day. It is a Government that has lasted as long as the Government of the United States, and it has had far more insurrections and secessions, not one of which, I suppose some in this meeting must regret, has been tolerated by our Government or recognised by France. Our Government in India has existed for a hundred years in some portion of the country where cotton is a staple produce of the land. But we have had under the name of a Government what I have always described as a piratical joint-stock company, beginning with Lord Clive, and ending, as I now hope it has ended, with Lord Dalhousie. And under that Government I will undertake to say that it was not in nature that you could have such improvement as should ever give you a fair supply of cotton.
Up to the year 1814, the whole trade of India was a monopoly of the East India Company. They took everything there that went there; they brought everything back that came here; they did whatsoever they pleased in the territories under their rule. I have here an extract from a report of a Member of Council in India, Mr. Richards, published in the year 1813. He reports to the Court of Directors, that the whole cotton produce of the district was taken, without leaving any portion of the avowed share of the Ryots, that is, the cultivators, at their own free disposal; and he says that they are not suffered to know what they shall get for it until after it has been far removed from their reach and from the country by exportation coastwise to Bombay; and he says further, that the Company's servants fixed the prices from ten to thirty per cent, under the general market rate in the districts that were not under the Company's rule. During the three years before the Company's monopoly was abolished, in 1814, the whole cotton that we received from India (I quote from the brokers' returns from Liverpool), was only 17,000 bales; in the three years afterwards, owing, no doubt, partly to the great increase in price, we received 551,000 bales, during which same three years the United States only sent us 611,000. Thus you see that in 1817, 1818, and 1819, more than forty years ago, the quantity we received from India was close upon, and in the year 1818 it actually exceeded, that which we received from the United States.
Well, now I come down to the year 1832, and I have then the report of another Member of Council, and beg every working man here, every man who is told that there is nobody to blame, to listen to one or two extracts from the report. Mr. Warden, Member of the Council, gave evidence in 1832 that the money-tax levied on Surat cotton was 56 rupees per candy, leaving the grower only 24 rupees, or rather less than 3/4d. per pound. In 1846 there was so great a decay of the cotton-trade of Western India, that a committee was appointed in Bombay, partly of Members of the Chamber of Commerce and partly of servants of the Government, and they made a report in which they stated that from every candy of cotton— a candy is 7 cwt. or 784 lbs.—costing 80 rupees, which is 160 shillings in Bombay, the Government had taken 48 rupees as land-tax and sea-duty, leaving only 32 rupees, or less than 3/4d. per pound, to be divided among all parties, from the Bombay seller to the Surat grower.
In 1847 I was in the House of Commons, and I brought forward a proposition for a select committee to inquire into this whole question; for in that year Lancashire was on the verge of the calamity that has now overtaken it; cotton was very scarce, for hundreds of the mills were working short time, and many were closed altogether. That committee reported that, in all the districts of Bombay and Madras where cotton was cultivated, and generally over those agricultural regions, the people were in a condition of the most abject and degraded pauperism; and I will ask you whether it is possible for a people in that condition to produce anything great, or anything good, or anything constant, which the world requires?
It is not to be wondered at that the quality of the cotton should be bad—so bad that it is illustrated by an anecdote which a very excellent man of the Methodist body told me the other day. He said that at a prayer-meeting, not more than a dozen miles from where I live, one of the ministers was earnest in supplication to the Supreme; he detailed, no doubt, a great many things which he thought they were in want of, and amongst the rest, a supply of cotton for the famishing people in that district. When he prayed for cotton, some man with a keen sense of what he had suffered, in response exclaimed, 'O Lord! but not Surat.'
Now, my argument is this, and my assertion is this, that the growth of cotton in India,—the growth of an article which was native and common in India before America was discovered by Europeans,—that the growth of that article has been systematically injured, strangled, and destroyed by the stupid and wicked policy of the Indian Government.
I saw, the other day, a letter from a gentleman as well acquainted with Indian affairs, perhaps, as any man in India,—a letter written to a member of the Madras Government,—in which he stated his firm opinion that, if it had not been for the Bombay Committee in 1846, and for my Committee in 1848, there would not have been any cotton sent from India at this moment to be worked up in Lancashire. Now, in 1846, the quantity of cotton coming from India had fallen to 94,000 bales. How has it increased since then? In 1859 it had reached 509,000 bales; in 1860, 562,000 bales; and last year, owing to the extraordinarily high price, it had reached 986,000 bales, and I suppose this year will be about the same as last year.
I think, in justification of myself and of some of those with whom I have acted, I am entitled to ask your time for a few moments, to show you what has been not so much done as attempted to be done to improve this state of things; and what has been the systematic opposition that we have had to contend with. In the year 1847, I moved for that Committee, in a speech from which I shall read one short extract. I said that, 'We ought not to forget that the whole of the cotton grown in America is produced by slave labour, and this, I think, all will admit,— that, no matter as to the period in which slavery may have existed, abolished it will ultimately be, either by peaceable means or by violent means. Whether it comes to an end by peaceable means or otherwise, there will in all probability be an interruption to the production of cotton, and the calamity which must in consequence fall upon a part of the American Union will be felt throughout the manufacturing districts of this country.'
The committee was not refused;—Governments do not always refuse committees; they do not much fear them on matters of this kind; they put as many men on as the mover of the committee does, and sometimes more, and they often consider a committee, as my honourable Colleague will tell you, rather a convenient way of burying an unpleasant question, at least for another session. The committee sat during the session of 1848, and it made a report, from which I shall quote, not an extract, but the sense of an extract. The evidence was very extensive, very complete, and entirely condemnatory of the whole system of the Indian Government with regard to the land and agricultural produce, and one might have hoped that something would have arisen from it, and probably something has arisen from it, but so slowly that you have no fruit,—nothing on which you can calculate, even up to this hour.
Well, in 1850, as nothing more was done, I thought it time to take another step, and I gave notice of a motion for the appointment of a Royal Commission to go to India for the express purpose of ascertaining the truth of this matter, I moved, 'That a Royal Commission proceed to India to inquire into the obstacles which prevent the increased growth of cotton in India, and to report upon any circumstance which may injuriously affect the economical and industrial condition of the native population, being cultivators of the soil, within the Presidencies of Madras and Bombay.'
Now I shall read you one extract from my speech on that occasion, which refers to this question of peril in America. I said, 'But there is another point, that, whilst the production of cotton in the United States results from slave labour, whether we approve of any particular mode of abolishing slavery in any country or not, we are all convinced that it will be impossible in any country, and most of all in America, to keep between two and three millions of the population permanently in a state of bondage. By whatever means that system is to be abolished, whether by insurrection,—which I should deplore,—or by some great measure of justice from the Government,—one thing is certain, that the production of cotton must be interfered with for a considerable time after such an event has taken place; and it may happen that the greatest measure of freedom that has ever been conceded may be a measure the consequence of which will inflict mischief upon the greatest industrial pursuit that engages the labour of the operative population of this country.'
Now, it was not likely the Government could pay much attention to this, for at that precise moment the Foreign Office—then presided over by Lord Palmerston—was engaged with an English fleet in the waters of Greece, in collecting a bad debt for one Don Pacifico, a Jew, who made a fraudulent demand on the Greek Government for injuries said to have been committed upon him in Greece. Notwithstanding this, I called upon Lord John Russell, who was then the Prime Minister, and asked him whether he would grant the Commission I was going to move for. I will say this for him, he appeared to agree with me that it was a reasonable thing. I believe he saw the peril, and that my proposition was a proper one, but he said he wished he could communicate with Lord Dalhousie. But it was in the month of June, and he could not do that, and hear from him again before the close of the session. He told me that Sir John Hobhouse, then President of the India Board, was very much against it; and I answered, 'Doubtless he is, because he speaks as the mouthpiece of the East India Company, against whom I am bringing this inquiry.'
Well, my proposition came before the House, and, as some of you may recollect, it was opposed by the President of the India Board, and the Commission was consequently not granted. I had seen Sir Robert Peel,— this was only ten days before his death,—I had seen Sir Robert Peel, acquainted as he was with Lancashire interests, and had endeavoured to enlist him in my support. He cordially and entirely approved of my motion, and he remained in the House during the whole of the time I was speaking; but when Sir John Hobhouse rose to resist the motion, and he found the Government would not consent to it, he then left his seat, and left the House. The night after, or two nights after, he met me in the lobby; and he said he thought it was but right he should explain why he left the House after the conversation he had held with me on this question before. He said he had hoped the Government would agree to the motion, but when he found they would not, his position was so delicate with regard to them and his own old party, that he was most anxious that nothing should induce him, unless under the pressure of some great extremity, to appear even to oppose them on any matter before the House. Therefore, from a very delicate sense of honour, he did not say what I am sure he would have been glad to have said, and the proposition did not receive from him that help which, if it had received it, would have surmounted all obstacles.
To show the sort of men who are made ministers—Sir John Hobhouse had on these occasions always a speech of the same sort. He said this: 'With respect to the peculiar urgency of the time, he could not say the honourable Gentleman had made out his case; for he found that the importation of cotton from all countries showed an immense increase during the last three years.' We know that the importation of cotton has shown an 'immense increase' almost every three years for the last fifty years. But it was because that increase was entirely, or nearly so, from one source, and that source one of extreme peril, that I asked for the inquiry for which I moved. He said he had a letter in his hand—and he shook it at me—from the Secretary of the Commercial Association of Manchester, in which the directors of that body declared by special resolution that my proposition was not necessary, that an inquiry might do harm, and that they were abundantly satisfied with everything that these lords of Leadenhall-street were doing. He said, 'Such was the letter of the Secretary of the Association, and it was a complete answer to the hon. Gentleman who had brought forward this motion.'
At this moment one of these gentlemen to whom I have referred, then President of the Board of Control, Governor of India, author, as he told a committee on which I sat, of the Affghan war, is now decorated with a Norman title—for our masters even after a lapse of eight hundred years ape the Norman style—sits in the House of Peers, and legislates for you, having neglected in regard to India every great duty which appertained to his high office; and to show that it is not only cabinets and monarchs who thus distribute honours and rewards, the President of that Commercial Association through whose instigation that letter was written is now one of the representatives of Manchester, the great centre of that manufacture whose very foundation is now crumbling into ruin.
But I was not, although discouraged, baffled. I went down to the Chamber of Commerce in Manchester, and along with Mr. Bazley, then the President of the Chamber, I believe, and Mr. Henry Ashworth, who is now the President of that Chamber, and many others, we determined to have a Commission of Inquiry of our own. We raised a subscription of more than 2,000l.; we selected a gentleman—Mr. Alexander Mackay, the author of one of the very best books ever written by an Englishman upon America, The Western World—and we invited him to become our Commissioner, and, unfortunately for him, he accepted the office. He went to India, he made many inquiries, he wrote many interesting reports; but, like many others who go to India, his health declined; he returned from Bombay, but he did not live to reach home.
We were greatly disappointed at this on public grounds, besides our regret for the loss of one of so much private worth. Some of us, Mr. Bazley particularly, undertook the charge of publishing these reports, and a friend of Mr. Mackay's, now no longer living, undertook the editorship of them, and they were published in a volume called Western India; and that volume received such circulation as a work of that nature is likely to have.
In the year 1853 there came the proposition for the renewal of the East India Company's charter. I opposed that to the utmost of my power in the House of Commons, and some of you will recollect I came down here with Mr. Danby Seymour, the Member for Poole, a gentleman well acquainted with Indian affairs, and attended a meeting in this very hall, to denounce the policy of conferring the government of that great country for another twenty years upon a Company which had so entirely neglected every duty belonging to it except one—the duty of collecting taxes. In 1854, Colonel Cotton—now Sir Arthur Cotton, one of the most distinguished engineers in India—came down to Manchester. We had a meeting at the Town Hall, and he gave an address on the subject of opening the Godavery River, in order that it might form a mode of transit, cheap and expeditious, from the cotton districts to the north of that river; and it was proposed to form a joint-stock company to do it, but unfortunately the Russian war came on and disturbed all commercial projects, and made it impossible to raise money for any—as some might call it—speculative purpose, like that of opening an Indian river.
Well, in 1857 there came the mutiny. What did our rulers do then? Sir Charles Wood, in 1538, had made a speech five hours long, most of it in praise of the government of the East India Company. In 1858—at the opening of the session in 1858, I think—the Government brought in a Bill to abolish that Company, and to establish a new form of government for India. That was exactly what we asked them to do in 1853; but, as in everything else, nothing is done until there comes an overwhelming calamity, when the most obtuse and perverse is driven from his position. In 1858 that Bill passed, under the auspices of Lord Stanley. It was not a Bill such as I think Lord Stanley approved when he was not a Minister; it was not a Bill such as I believe he would have brought in if he had been permitted by the House and the Cabinet to have brought in a better Bill. It abolished the East India Company, established a new Council, and left things to a great extent much in the same state as they were.
During the discussion of that Bill, I made a speech on Indian affairs, which I believe goes to the root of the matter. I protested then as now against the notion of governing one hundred and fifty millions of people—twenty different nations, with twenty different languages—from a little coterie of rulers in the city of Calcutta. I proposed that the country should be divided into five or six separate, and, as regards each other, independent Presidencies of equal rank, with a governor and council in each, and each government corresponding with, and dependent upon, and responsible to, a Secretary of State in this country. I am of opinion that if such a Government were established, one in each Presidency, and if there was a first-class engineer, with an efficient staff, whose business should be to determine what public works should be carried on, some by the Government and some by private companies—I believe that ten years of such judicious labours would work an entire revolution in the condition of India; and if it had been done when I first began to move in this question, I have not the smallest doubt we might have had at this moment any quantity of cotton whatever that the mills of Lancashire require.
Well, after this, I am afraid some of my friends may feel, and my opponents will say, that it is very egotistical in me to have entered into these details. But I think, after this recapitulation, I am at liberty to say I am guiltless of that calamity which has fallen upon us. And I may mention that some friends of mine—Mr. John Dickinson, now Chairman of the Indian Reform Association, Mr. Bazley, one of the members for Manchester, Mr. Ashworth, the President of the Chamber of Commerce of Manchester, and Mr. John Benjamin Smith, the Member for Stockport—present themselves at this moment to my eyes as those who have been largely instrumental in calling the attention of Parliament and of the country to this great question of the reform of our Government in India.
But I have been asked twenty, fifty times during the last twelve months, 'Why do you not come out and say something? Why can you not tell us something in this time of our great need?' Well, I reply, 'I told you something when speaking was of use; all I can say now is this, or nearly all, that a hundred years of crime against the negro in America, and a hundred years of crime against the docile natives of our Indian empire, are not to be washed away by the penitence and the suffering of an hour.'
But what is our position? for you who are subscribing your money here have a right to know. I believe the quantity of cotton in the United States is at this moment much less than many people here believe, and that it is in no condition to be forwarded and exported. And I suspect that it is far more probable than otherwise, notwithstanding some of the strange theories of my honourable Colleague, that there never will again be in America a crop of cotton grown by slave labour. You will understand—I hope so, at least—that I am not undertaking the office of prophet, I am not predicting; I know that everything which is not absolutely impossible may happen, and therefore things may happen wholly different to the course which appears to me to be likely. But I say, taking the facts as they are before us—with that most limited vision which is given to mortals—the high probability is that there will never be another considerable crop, or one available for our manufactories, from slave labour in the United States.
We read the American papers, or the quotations from them in our own papers, but I believe we can form no adequate conception of the disorganization and chaos that now prevail throughout a great portion of the Southern States. It is natural to a state of war under the circumstances of society in that region. But then we may be asked, What are our sources of supply, putting aside India? There is the colony of Queensland, where enthusiastic persons tell you cotton can be grown worth 3s. a pound. True enough; but when labour is probably worth 10s. a-day, I am not sure you are likely to get any large supply of that material we so much want, at a rate so cheap that we shall be likely to use it. Africa is pointed to by a very zealous friend of mine; but Africa is a land of savages, and with its climate so much against European constitutions, I should not entertain the hope that any great relief at any early period can be had from that continent. Egypt will send us 30,000 or 40,000 bales more than last year; in all probability Syria and Brazil, with these high prices, will increase their production to some considerable extent; but I believe there is no country at present from which you can derive any very large supply, except you can get it from your own dependencies in India. Now if there be no more cotton to be grown for two, or three, or four years in America, for our supply, we shall require, considering the smallness of the bales and the loss in working up the cotton—we shall require nearly 6,000,000 of additional bales to be supplied from some source.
I want to put to you one question. It has taken the United States twenty years, from 1840 up to 1860, to increase their growth of cotton from 2,000,000 bales to 4,000,000. How long will it take any other country, with comparatively little capital, with a thousand disadvantages which America did not suffer from—how long will it take any other country, or all other countries, to give us 5,000,000 or 6,000,000 additional bales of cotton? There is one stimulus—the only one that I know of; and although I have not recommended it to the Government, and I know not precisely what sacrifice it would entail, yet I shall mention it, and I do it on the authority of a gentleman to whom I have before referred, who is thoroughly acquainted with Indian agriculture, and whose family have been landowners and cultivators in India for sixty years. He says there is only one mode by which you can rapidly stimulate the growth of cotton in India, except that stimulus coming from the high prices for the time being,—he says that, if the Government would make a public declaration that for five years they would exempt from land-tax all land which during that time shall grow cotton, there would be the most extraordinary increase in the growth of that article which has ever been seen in regard to any branch of agriculture in the world.
I do not know how far that would act, but I believe the stimulus would be enormous,—the loss to the Government in revenue would be something, but the deliverance to the industry of Lancashire, if it succeeded, as my friend thinks, would of course be speedy, and perhaps complete. Short of this, I look upon the restoration of the prosperity of Lancashire as distant. I believe this misfortune may entail ruin upon the whole working population, and that it may gradually engulf the smaller traders and those possessing the least capital. I do not say it will, because, as I have said, what is not impossible may happen,—but it may for years make the whole factory property of Lancashire almost entirely worthless. Well, this is a very dismal look-out for a great many persons in this country; but it comes, as I have said,—it comes from that utter neglect of their opportunities and their duties which has distinguished the Government of India.
Now, Sir, before I sit down I shall ask you to listen to me for a few moments on the other branch of this great question, which refers to that sad tragedy which is passing before our eyes in the United States of America. I shall not, in consequence of anything you have heard from my hon. Friend, conceal from you any of the opinions which I hold, and which I proposed to lay before you if he had not spoken. Having given to him, notwithstanding some diversity of opinion, a fair and candid hearing, I presume that I shall receive the same favour from those who may differ from me. If I had known that my hon. Friend was going to make an elaborate speech on this occasion, one of two things I should have done: I should either have prepared myself entirely to answer him, or I should have decided not to attend a meeting where there could by any possibility of chance have been anything like discord between so many— his friends and my friends—in this room.
Since I have been Member for Birmingham, Mr. Scholefield has treated me with the kindness of a brother. Nothing could possibly be more generous and more disinterested in every way than his conduct towards me during these several years, and therefore I would much rather—far rather—that I lost any opportunity like this of speaking on this question, than I would have come here and appeared to be at variance with him. But I am happy to say that this great question does not depend upon the opinion of any man in Birmingham, or in England, or anywhere else. And therefore I could—anxious always, unless imperative duty requires, to avoid even a semblance of difference—I could with a clear conscience have abstained from coming to and speaking at this meeting.
But I observe that my hon. Friend endeavoured to avoid committing himself to what is called sympathy with the South. He takes a political view of this great question,—is disposed to deal with the matter as he would have dealt with the case of a colony of Spain or Portugal revolting in South America, or of Greece revolting from Turkey. I should like to state here what I once said to an eminent American. He asked me if I could give him an idea of the course of public opinion in this country from the moment we heard of the secession of the Cotton States; and I endeavoured to trace it in this way,—and I ask you to say whether it is a fair and full description.
I said—and my hon. Friend has admitted this—that when the revolt or secession was first announced, people here were generally against the South. Nobody thought then that the South had any cause for breaking up the integrity of that great nation. Their opinion was, and what people said, according to their different politics in this country was, 'They have a Government which is mild, and not in any degree oppressive; they have not what some people love very much, and what some people dislike,— they have not a costly monarchy, and an aristocracy, creating and living on patronage. They have not an expensive foreign policy; a great army; a great navy; and they have no suffering millions discontented and endeavouring to overthrow their Government;—all which things have been said against Governments in this country and in Europe a hundred times within our own hearing,'—and therefore, they said, 'Why should these men revolt?'
But for a moment the Washington Government appeared paralyzed. It had no army and no navy; everybody was traitor to it. It was paralyzed and apparently helpless; and in the hour when the government was transferred from President Buchanan to President Lincoln, many people—such was the unprepared state of the North, such was the apparent paralysis of everything there—thought there would be no war; and men shook hands with each other pleasantly, and congratulated themselves that the disaster of a great strife, and the mischief to our own trade, might be avoided. That was the opinion at that moment, so far as I can recollect, and could gather at the time, with my opportunities of gathering such opinion. They thought the North would acquiesce in the rending of the Republic, and that there would be no war.
Well, but there was another reason. They were told by certain public writers in this country that the contest was entirely hopeless, as they have been told lately by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I am very happy that, though the Chancellor of the Exchequer is able to decide to a penny what shall be the amount of taxes to meet public expenditure in England, he cannot decide what shall be the fate of a whole continent. It was said that the contest was hopeless, and why should the North continue a contest at so much loss of blood and treasure, and at so great a loss to the commerce of the whole world? If a man thought—if a man believed in his heart that the contest was absolutely hopeless—no man in this country had probably any right to form a positive opinion one way or the other—but if he had formed that opinion, he might think, 'Well, the North can never be successful; it would be much better that they should not carry on the war at all; and therefore I am rather glad that the South should have success, for by that the war will be the sooner put an end to.' I think this was a feeling that was abroad.
Now I am of opinion that, if we judge a foreign nation in the circumstances in which we find America, we ought to apply to it our own principles. My hon. Friend has referred to the question of the Trent. I was not here last year, but I heard of a meeting—I read in the papers of a meeting held in reference to that affair in this very hall, and that there was a great diversity of opinion. But the majority were supposed to indorse the policy of the Government in making a great demonstration of force. And I think I read that at least one minister of religion took that view from this platform. I am not complaining of it. But I say that if you thought when the American captain, even if he had acted under the commands of his Government, which he had not, had taken two men most injurious and hostile to his country from the deck of an English ship—if you thought that on that ground you were justified in going to war with the Republic of North America, then I say you ought not to be very nice in judging what America should do in circumstances much more onerous than those in which you were placed.
Now, take as an illustration the Rock of Gibraltar. Many of you have been there, I dare say. I have; and among the things that interested me were the monkeys on the top of it, and a good many people at the bottom, who were living on English taxes. Well, the Rock of Gibraltar was taken and retained by this country when we were not at war with Spain, and it was retained contrary to every law of morality and honour. [A Voice: 'No! No!'] No doubt the Gentleman below is much better acquainted with the history of it than I am, but I may suggest to him that very likely we have read two different histories. But I will let this pass, and I will assume that it came into the possession of England in the most honourable way, which is, I suppose, by regular and acknowledged national warfare.
Suppose, at this moment, you heard, or the English Government heard, that Spain was equipping expeditions, by land and sea, for the purpose of retaking that fortress and rock. Now, although it is not of the slightest advantage to any Englishman living, excepting to those who have pensions and occupations upon it; although every Government knows it, and although more than one Government has been anxious to give it up, and I hope this Government will send my friend, Mr. Cobden, to Madrid, with an offer that Gibraltar shall be ceded to Spain, as being of no use to this country, and only embittering, as statesmen have admitted, the relations between Spain and England,—and if he were to go to Madrid with an offer of the Rock of Gibraltar, I believe he might obtain a commercial treaty with Spain, that would admit every English manufacture and every article of English produce into that country at a duty of not more than ten per cent.;—I say, do you not think that, if you heard that Spain was about to retake that useless rock, mustering her legions and her fleets, the English Government would combine all the power of this country to resist it?
If that be so, then I think—seeing that there was a fair election two years ago, and that President Lincoln was fairly and honestly elected— that when the Southern leaders met at Montgomery in Alabama, on the 6th of March, and authorized the raising of a hundred thousand men, and when, on the 15th of April, they attacked Fort Sumter—not a fort of South Carolina, but a fort of the Union—then, upon all the principles that Englishmen and English Governments have ever acted upon, President Lincoln was justified in calling out seventy-five thousand men—which was his first call—for the purpose of maintaining the integrity of that nation, which was the main purpose of the oath which he had taken at his election.
Now I shall not go into a long argument upon this question, for the reason that a year ago I said what I thought it necessary to say upon it, and because I believe the question is in the hand, not of my hon. Friend, nor in that of Lord Palmerston, nor in that even of President Lincoln, but it is in the hand of the Supreme Ruler, who is bringing about one of those great transactions in history which men often will not regard when they are passing before them, but which they look back upon with awe and astonishment some years after they are past. So I shall content myself with asking one or two questions. I shall not discuss the question whether the North is making war for the Constitution, or making war for the abolition of slavery.
If you come to a matter of sympathy with the South, or recognition of the South, or mediation or intervention for the benefit of the South, you should consider what are the ends of the South. Surely the United States Government is a Government at amity with this country. Its Minister is in London—a man honourable by family, as you know, in America, his father and his grandfather having held the office of President of the Republic. You have your own Minister just returned to Washington. Is this hypocrisy? Are you, because you can cavil at certain things which the North, the United States Government, has done or has not done, are you eagerly to throw the influence of your opinion into a movement which is to dismember the great Republic?
Is there a man here that doubts for a moment that the object of the war on the part of the South—they began the war—that the object of the war on the part of the South is to maintain in bondage four millions of human beings? That is only a small part of it. The further object is to perpetuate for ever the bondage of all the posterity of those four millions of slaves. [A few cries of 'No! No!'] You will hear that I am not in a condition to contest vigorously anything that may be opposed, for I am suffering, as nearly everybody is, from the state of the weather, and a hoarseness that almost hinders me from speaking. I could quote their own documents till midnight in proof of what I say; and if I found a man who denied it, upon the evidence that had been offered, I would not offend him, or trouble myself by trying further to convince him.
The object is, that a handful of white men on that continent shall lord it over many millions of blacks, made black by the very Hand that made us white. The object is, that they should have the power to breed negroes, to work negroes, to lash negroes, to chain negroes, to buy and sell negroes, to deny them the commonest ties of family, or to break their hearts by rending them at their pleasure, to close their mental eye to but a glimpse even of that knowledge which separates us from the brute—for in their laws it is criminal and penal to teach the negro to read—to seal from their hearts the Book of our religion, and to make chattels and things of men and women and children.
Now I want to ask whether this is to be the foundation, as it is proposed, of a new slave empire, and whether it is intended that on this audacious and infernal basis England's new ally is to be built up. It has been said that Greece was recognized, and that other countries had been recognized. But Greece was not recognized till after she had fought Turkey for six years, and the Republics of South America, some of them, not till they had fought the mother country for a score of years. France did not recognize the United States of America till some, I think, six years, five certainly, after the beginning of the War of Independence, and even then it was received as a declaration of war by the English Government. I want to know who they are who speak eagerly in favour of England becoming the ally and friend of this great conspiracy against human nature.
Now I should have no kind of objection to recognize a country because it was a country that held slaves—to recognize the United States, or to be in amity with it. The question of slavery there, and in Cuba and in Brazil, is, as far as respects the present generation, an accident, and it would be unreasonable that we should object to trade with and have political relations with a country, merely because it happened to have within its borders the institution of slavery, hateful as that institution is. But in this case it is a new State intending to set itself up on the sole basis of slavery. Slavery is blasphemously declared to be its chief corner-stone.
I have heard that there are, in this country, ministers of state who are in favour of the South; that there are members of the aristocracy who are terrified at the shadow of the Great Republic; that there are rich men on our commercial exchanges, depraved, it may be, by their riches, and thriving unwholesomely within the atmosphere of a privileged class; that there are conductors of the public press who would barter the rights of millions of their fellow-creatures that they might bask in the smiles of the great.
But I know that there are ministers of state who do not wish that this insurrection should break up the American nation; that there are members of our aristocracy who are not afraid of the shadow of the Republic; that there are rich men, many, who are not depraved by their riches; and that there are public writers of eminence and honour who will not barter human rights for the patronage of the great. But most of all, and before all, I believe,—I am sure it is true in Lancashire, where the working men have seen themselves coming down from prosperity to ruin, from independence to a subsistence on charity,—I say that I believe that the unenfranchised but not hopeless millions of this country will never sympathize with a revolt which is intended to destroy the liberty of a continent, and to build on its ruins a mighty fabric of human bondage.
When I speak to gentlemen in private upon this matter, and hear their own candid opinion,—I mean those who differ from me on this question,— they generally end by saying that the Republic is too great and too powerful, and that it is better for us—not by 'us' meaning you, but the governing classes and the governing policy of England—that it should be broken up. But we will suppose that we are in New York or in Boston, discussing the policy and power of England. If any one there were to point to England,—not to the thirty-one millions of population in these islands, but to her one hundred and fifty millions in India, and nobody knows how many millions more in every other part of the globe,—might he not, whilst boasting that America has not covered the ocean with fleets of force, or left the bones of her citizens to blanch on a hundred European battle-fields,—might he not fairly say, that England is great and powerful, and that it is perilous for the world that she is so great?
But bear in mind that every declaration of this kind, whether from an Englishman who professes to be strictly English, or from an American strictly American, or from a Frenchman strictly French,—whether it asserts in arrogant strains that Britannia rules the waves, or speaks of 'manifest destiny' and the supremacy of the 'Stars and Stripes' or boasts that the Eagles of one nation, having once overrun Europe, may possibly repeat the experiment,—I say all this is to be condemned. It is not truly patriotic; it is not rational; it is not moral. Then, I say, if any man wishes the Great Republic to be severed on that ground: in my opinion, he is doing that which tends to keep alive jealousies which, as far as he can prevent it, will never die; though if they do not die, wars must be eternal.
But then I shall be told that the people of the North do not like us at all. In fact, we have heard it to-night. It is not reasonable that they should like us. If an American be in this room to-night, will he feel that he likes my honourable Friend? But if the North does not like England, does anybody believe the South does? It does not appear to me to be a question of liking or disliking. Everybody knows that when the South was in power,—and it has been in power for the last fifty years,— everybody knows that hostility to this country, wherever it existed in America, was cherished and stimulated to the utmost degree by some of those very men who are now leaders of this very insurrection.
My hon. Friend read a passage about the Alabama. I undertake to say that he is not acquainted with the facts about the Alabama, That he will acknowledge, I think. The Government of this country have admitted that the building of the Alabama, and her sailing from the Mersey, was a violation of international law. In America they say, and they say here, that the Alabama is a ship of war; that she was built in the Mersey; that she was built, and I have reason to believe it, by a member of the British Parliament; that she is furnished with guns of English manufacture; that she is manned almost entirely by Englishmen; and that these facts were represented, as I know they were represented, to the collector of customs in Liverpool, who pooh-poohed them, and said there was nothing in them. He was requested to send the facts up to London to the Customs' authorities, and their solicitor, not a very wise man, but probably in favour of breaking up the Republic, did not think them of much consequence; but afterwards the opinion of an eminent counsel, Mr. Collier, the Member for Plymouth, was taken, and he stated distinctly that what was being done in Liverpool was a direct infringement of the Foreign Enlistment Act, and that the Customs' authorities of Liverpool would be responsible for anything that happened in consequence.
When this opinion was taken to the Foreign Office the Foreign Office was a little astonished and a little troubled; and after they had consulted their own law officers, whose opinions agreed with that of Mr. Collier, they did what Government officers generally do, and as promptly,—a telegraphic message went down to Liverpool to order that this vessel should be seized, and she happened to sail an hour or two before the message arrived. She has never been into a Confederate port—they have not got any ports; she hoists the English flag when she wants to come alongside a ship; she sets a ship on fire in the night, and when, seeing fire, another ship bears down to lend help, she seizes it, and pillages and burns it. I think that, if we were citizens of New York, it would require a little more calmness than is shown in this country to look at all this as if it was a matter with which we had no concern. And therefore I do not so much blame the language that has been used in America in reference to the question of the Alabama.
But they do not know in America so much as we know—the whole truth about public opinion here. There are ministers in our Cabinet as resolved to be no traitors to freedom, on this question, as I am; and there are members of the English aristocracy, and in the very highest rank, as I know for a certainty, who hold the same opinion. They do not know in America—at least, there has been no indication of it until the advices that have come to hand within the last two days—what is the opinion of the great body of the working classes in England. There has been every effort that money and malice could make to stimulate in Lancashire, amongst the suffering population, an expression of opinion in favour of the Slave States. They have not been able to get it. And I honour that population for their fidelity to principles and to freedom, and I say that the course they have taken ought to atone in the minds of the people of the United States for miles of leading articles, written by the London press,—by men who would barter every human right,—that they might serve the party with which they are associated.
But now I shall ask you one other question before I sit down,—How comes it that on the Continent there is not a liberal newspaper, nor a liberal politician, that has said, or has thought of saying, a word in favour of this portentous and monstrous shape which now asks to be received into the family of nations? Take the great Italian Minister, Count Cavour. You read some time ago in the papers part of a despatch which he wrote on the question of America—he had no difficulty in deciding. Ask Garibaldi. Is there in Europe a more disinterested and generous friend of freedom than Garibaldi? Ask that illustrious Hungarian, to whose marvellous eloquence you once listened in this hall. Will he tell you that slavery has nothing to do with it, and that the slaveholders of the South will liberate the negroes sooner than the North through the instrumentality of the war? Ask Victor Hugo, the poet of freedom,—the exponent, may I not call him, of the yearnings of all mankind for a better time? Ask any man in Europe who opens his lips for freedom,—who dips his pen in ink that he may indite a sentence for freedom,—whoever has a sympathy for freedom warm in his own heart,—ask him,—he will have no difficulty in telling you on which side your sympathies should lie.
Only a few days ago a German merchant in Manchester was speaking to a friend of mine, and said he had recently travelled all through Germany. He said, 'I am so surprised,—I don't find one man in favour of the South' That is not true of Germany only, it is true of all the world except this island, famed for freedom, in which we dwell. I will tell you what is the reason. Our London press is mainly in the hands of certain ruling West End classes; it acts and writes in favour of those classes. I will tell you what they mean. One of the most eminent statesmen in this country,—one who has rendered the greatest services to the country, though, I must say, not in an official capacity, in which men very seldom confer such great advantages upon the country,—he told me twice, at an interval of several months, 'I had no idea how much influence the example of that Republic was having upon opinion here, until I discovered the universal congratulation that the Republic was likely to be broken up.'
But, Sir, the Free States are the home of the working man. Now, I speak to working men particularly at this moment. Do you know that in fifteen years two million five hundred thousand persons, men, women, and children, have left the United Kingdom to find a home in the Free States of America? That is a population equal to eight great cities of the size of Birmingham. What would you think of eight Birminghams being transplanted from this country and set down in the United States? Speaking generally, every man of these two and a half millions is in a position of much higher comfort and prosperity than he would have been if he had remained in this country. I say it is the home of the working man; as one of her poets has recently said,—
'For her free latch-string never was drawn in Against the poorest child of Adam's kin.'
And in that land there are no six millions of grown men—I speak of the Free States—excluded from the constitution of their country and its electoral franchise; there, you will find a free Church, a free school, free land, a free vote, and a free career for the child of the humblest born in the land. My countrymen who work for your living, remember this: there will be one wild shriek of freedom to startle all mankind if that American Republic should be overthrown.
Now for one moment let us lift ourselves, if we can, above the narrow circle in which we are all too apt to live and think; let us put ourselves on an historical eminence, and judge this matter fairly. Slavery has been, as we all know, the huge, foul blot upon the fame of the American Republic; it is a hideous outrage against human right and against Divine law; but the pride, the passion of man, will not permit its peaceable extinction. The slave-owners of our colonies, if they had been strong enough, would have revolted too. I believe there was no mode short of a miracle more stupendous than any recorded in Holy Writ that could in our time, or in a century, or in any time, have brought about the abolition of slavery in America, but the suicide which the South has committed and the war which it has begun.
Sir, it is a measureless calamity,—this war. I said the Russian war was a measureless calamity, and yet many of your leaders and friends told you that it was a just war to maintain the integrity of Turkey, some thousands of miles off. Surely the integrity of your own country at your own doors must be worth as much as the integrity of Turkey. Is not this war the penalty which inexorable justice exacts from America, North and South, for the enormous guilt of cherishing that frightful iniquity of slavery for the last eighty years? I do not blame any man here who thinks the cause of the North hopeless and the restoration of the Union impossible. It may be hopeless; the restoration may be impossible. You have the authority of the Chancellor of the Exchequer on that point. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, as a speaker, is not surpassed by any man in England, and he is a great statesman; he believes the cause of the North to be hopeless; that their enterprise cannot succeed.
Well, he is quite welcome to that opinion, and so is anybody else. I do not hold the opinion; but the facts are before us all, and, as far as we can discard passion and sympathy, we are all equally at liberty to form our own opinion. But what I do blame is this. I blame men who are eager to admit into the family of nations a State which offers itself to us, based upon a principle, I will undertake to say, more odious and more blasphemous than was ever heretofore dreamed of in Christian or Pagan, in civilized or in savage times. The leaders of this revolt propose this monstrous thing—that over a territory forty times as large as England, the blight and curse of slavery shall be for ever perpetuated.
I cannot believe, for my part, that such a fate will befall that fair land, stricken though it now is with the ravages of war. I cannot believe that civilization, in its journey with the sun, will sink into endless night in order to gratify the ambition of the leaders of this revolt, who seek to
'Wade through slaughter to a throne, And shut the gates of mercy on mankind.'
I have another and a far brighter vision before my gaze. It may be but a vision, but I will cherish it. I see one vast confederation stretching from the frozen North in unbroken line to the glowing South, and from the wild billows of the Atlantic westward to the calmer waters of the Pacific main,—and I see one people, and one language, and one law, and one faith, and, over all that wide continent, the home of freedom, and a refuge for the oppressed of every race and of every clime.
* * * * *
SLAVERY AND SECESSION. ROCHDALE, FEBRUARY 3, 1863.
[This speech was delivered at a public meeting held in the Public Hall, Rochdale, for the purpose of passing a resolution of thanks to the merchants of New York, for their generous contributions to the relief of the suffering population of the cotton districts.]
I feel as if we were in our places to-night, for we are met for the purpose of considering, and, I doubt not, of agreeing to a resolution expressive of our sense of the generosity of the merchants of New York, and other citizens of the United States, who have, in the midst of so many troubles and such great sacrifices, contributed to the relief of that appalling distress which has prevailed, and does still prevail, in this county.
I regard this transmission of assistance from the United States as a proof that the world moves onward in the direction of a better time. It is an evidence that, whatever may be the faults of ambitious men, and sometimes, may I not say, the crimes of Governments, the peoples are drawing together, and beginning to learn that it never was intended that they should be hostile to each other, but that every nation should take a brotherly interest in every other nation in the world. There has been, as we all know, not a little jealousy between some portions of the people of this country and some portions of the people of the United States. Perhaps the jealousy has existed more on this side. I think it has found more expression here, probably through the means of the public press, than has been the case with them. I am not alluding now to the last two years, but as long as most of us have been readers of newspapers and observers of what has passed around us.
The establishment of independence, eighty years ago; the war of 1812; it may be, occasionally, the presumptuousness and the arrogance of a growing and prosperous nation on the other side of the Atlantic—these things have stimulated ill feeling and jealousy here, which have often found expression in language which has not been of the very kindest character. But why should there be this jealousy between these two nations? Mr. Ashworth has said, and said very truly, 'Are they not our own people?' I should think, as an Englishman, that to see that people so numerous, so powerful, so great in so many ways, should be to us a cause, not of envy or of fear, but rather of glory and rejoicing.
I have never visited the United States, but I can understand the pleasure with which an Englishman lands in a country three thousand miles off, and finds that every man he meets speaks his own language. I recollect some years ago reading a most amusing speech delivered by a Suffolk country gentleman, at a Suffolk agricultural dinner, I think it was, though I do not believe the speeches of Suffolk country gentlemen at Suffolk agricultural meetings are generally very amusing. But this was a very amusing speech. This gentleman had travelled; he had been in the United States, and being intelligent enough to admire much that he saw there, he gave to his audience a description of some things that he had seen; but that which seemed to delight him most was this, that when he stepped from the steamer on to the quay at New York, he found that 'everybody spoke Suffolk.' Now, if anybody from this neighbourhood should visit New York, I am afraid that he will not find everybody speaking Lancashire. Our dialect, as you know, is vanishing into the past. It will be preserved to future times, partly in the works of Tim Bobbin, but in a very much better and more instructive form in the admirable writings of one of my oldest and most valued friends, who is now upon this platform. But if we should not find the people of New York speaking Lancashire, we should find them speaking English. And if we followed a little further, and asked them what they read, we should find that they read all the books that we read that are worth reading, and a good many of their own, some of which have not yet reached us; that there are probably more readers in the United States of Milton, and Shakespeare, and Dryden, and Pope, and Byron, and Wordsworth, and Tennyson, than are to be found in this country; because, I think, it will probably be admitted by everybody who understands the facts of both countries, that out of the twenty millions of population in the Free States of America, there are more persons who can read well than there are in the thirty millions of population of Great Britain and Ireland.
And if we leave their literature and turn to their laws, we shall find that their laws have the same basis as ours, and that many of the great and memorable judgments of our greatest judges and lawyers are of high authority with them. If we come to that priceless possession which we have perhaps more clearly established than any other people in Europe, that of personal freedom, we shall find that in the Free States of America personal freedom is as much known, as well established, as fully appreciated, and as completely enjoyed as it is now in this country. And if we come to the form of their government, we shall find that it is in its principle, in its essence, not very dissimilar from that which our Constitution professes in this kingdom. The difference is this, that our Constitution has never yet been fully enjoyed by the people; the House in which forty-eight hours hence I may be sitting, is not as full and fair and free a representation of the people as is the House of Representatives that assembles at Washington. But, if there be differences, are there not great points of agreement, and are there any of these differences that justify us or them in regarding either nation as foreign or hostile?
Now, the people of Europe owe much more than they are often aware of to the Constitution of the United States of America, and to the existence of that great Republic. The United States have been in point of fact an ark of refuge to the people of Europe, when fleeing from the storms and the revolutions of the old continent. They have been, as far as the artisans and labouring population of this country are concerned, a life- boat to them; and they have saved hundreds of thousands of men and of families from disastrous shipwreck. The existence of that free country and that free government has had a prodigious influence upon freedom in Europe and in England. If you could have before you a chart of the condition of Europe when the United States became a nation, and another chart of the condition of Europe now, you would see the difference, the enormous stride which has been made in Europe; and you may rely upon it that not a little of it has been occasioned by the influence of the great example of that country, free in its political institutions beyond all other countries, and yet maintaining its course in peace, preserving order, and conferring upon all its people a degree of prosperity which in these old countries is as yet unknown.
I should like now to speak specially to the working men who are here, who have no capital but their skill and their industry and their bodily strength. In fifteen years from 1845 to 1860—and this is a fact which I stated in this room more than a year ago, when speaking on the question of America, but it is a fact which every working man ought to have in his mind always when he is considering what America is—in fifteen years there have emigrated to the United States from Great Britain and Ireland not less than two million four hundred thousand persons. Millions are easily spoken, not easily counted, with great difficulty comprehended; but the twenty-four hundred thousand persons that I have described means a population equal to not less than sixty towns, every one of them of the size and population of Rochdale. And every one of these men who have emigrated, as he crossed the Atlantic—if he went by steam, in a fortnight, and if he went by sails, in a month or five weeks—found himself in a country where to his senses a vast revolution had taken place, comprehending all that men anticipate from any kind of revolution that shall advance political and social equality in their own land—a revolution which commenced in the War of Independence, which has been going on, and which has been confirmed by all that has transpired in subsequent years.
He does not find that he belongs to what are called the 'lower classes;' he is not shut out from any of the rights of citizenship; he is admitted to the full enjoyment of all political privileges, as far as they are extended to any portion of the population; and he has there advantages which the people of this country have not yet gained, because we are but gradually making our way out of the darkness and the errors and the tyrannies of past ages. But in America he finds the land not cursed with feudalism; it is free to every man to buy and sell, and possess and transmit. He finds in the town in which he lives that the noblest buildings are the school-houses to which his children are freely admitted. And among those twenty millions—for I am now confining my observations to the Free States—the son of every man has easy admission to school, has fair opportunity for improvement; and, if God has gifted him with power of head and of heart; there is nothing of usefulness, nothing of greatness, nothing of success in that country to which he may not fairly aspire.
And, Sir, this makes a difference between that country and this, on which I must say another word. One of the most painful things to my mind to be seen in England is this, that amongst the great body of those classes which earn their living by their daily labour—it is particularly observable in the agricultural districts, and it is too much to be observed even in our own districts—there is an absence of that hope which every man ought to have in his soul that there is for him, if he be industrious and frugal, a comfortable independence as he advances in life. In the United States that hope prevails everywhere, because everywhere there is an open career; there is no privileged class; there is complete education extended to all, and every man feels that he was not born to be in penury and in suffering, but that there is no point in the social ladder to which he may not fairly hope to raise himself by his honest efforts.
Well, looking at all this—and I have but touched on some very prominent facts—I should say that it offers to us every motive, not for fear, not for jealousy, not for hatred, but rather for admiration, gratitude, and friendship. I am persuaded of this as much as I am of anything that I know or believe, that the more perfect the friendship that is established between the people of England and the free people of America, the more you will find your path of progress here made easy for you, and the more will social and political liberty advance amongst us.
But this country which I have been in part describing is now the scene of one of the greatest calamities that can afflict mankind. After seventy years of almost uninterrupted peace, it has become the scene of a civil war, more gigantic, perhaps, than any that we have any record of with regard to any other nation or any other people; for the scene of this warfare is so extended as to embrace a region almost equal in size to the whole of Europe. At this very moment military operations are being undertaken at points as distant from each other as Madrid is distant from Moscow. But this great strife cannot have arisen amongst an educated and intelligent people without some great and overruling cause. Let us for a moment examine that cause, and let us ask ourselves whether it is possible at such a time to stand neutral in regard to the contending parties, and to refuse our sympathy to one or the other of them. I find men sometimes who profess a strict neutrality; they wish neither the one thing nor the other. This arises either from the fact that they are profoundly ignorant with regard to this matter, or else that they sympathise with the South, but are rather ashamed to admit it.
There are two questions concerned in this struggle. Hitherto, generally, one only has been discussed. There is the question whether negro slavery shall continue to be upheld amongst Christian nations, or whether it shall be entirely abolished. Because, bear in mind that if the result of the struggle that is now proceeding in America should abolish slavery within the territories of the United States, then soon after slavery in Brazil, and slavery in Cuba, will also fall. I was speaking the other day to a gentleman well acquainted with Cuban affairs; he is often in the habit of seeing persons who come from Cuba to this country on business; and I asked him what his Cuban friends said of what was going on in America. He said, 'They speak of it with the greatest apprehension; all the property of Cuba,' he said, 'is based on slavery; and they say that if slavery comes to an end in America, as they believe it will, through this war, slavery will have a very short life in Cuba.' Therefore, the question which is being now tried is, not merely whether four millions of slaves in America shall be free, but whether the vast number of slaves (I know not the number) in Cuba and Brazil shall also be liberated.
But there is another question besides that of the negro, and which to you whom I am now addressing is scarcely less important. I say that the question of freedom to men of all races is deeply involved in this great strife in the United States. I said I wanted the working men of this audience to listen to my statement, because it is to them that I particularly wish to address myself. I say, that not only is the question of negro slavery concerned in this struggle, but, if we are to take the opinion of leading writers and men in the Southern States of America, the freedom of white men is not safe in their hands. Now, I will not trouble you with pages of extracts which would confirm all that I am about to say, but I shall read you two or three short ones which will explain exactly what I mean.
The city of Richmond, as you know, is the capital of what is called the Southern Confederacy. In that city a newspaper is published, called the Richmond Examiner, which is one of the most able, and perhaps about the most influential, paper published in the Slave States. Listen to what the Richmond Examiner says:—
The experiment of universal liberty has failed. The evils of free society are insufferable. Free society in the long run is impracticable; it is everywhere starving, demoralizing, and insurrectionary. Policy and humanity alike forbid the extension of its evils to new peoples and to coming generations; and therefore free society must fall and give way to a slave society— a social system old as the world, universal as man.'
Well, on another occasion, the same paper treats the subject in this way. The writer says:—
'Hitherto the defence of slavery has encountered great difficulties, because its apologists stopped half way. They confined the defence of slavery to negro slavery alone, abandoning the principle of slavery, and admitting that every other form of slavery was wrong. Now the line of defence is changed. The South maintains that slavery is just, natural, and necessary, and that it does not depend on the difference of complexions.'
But following up this is an extract from a speech by a Mr. Cobb, who is an eminent man in Southern politics and in Southern opinion. He says:—
'There is, perhaps, no solution of the great problem of reconciling the interests of labour and capital, so as to protect each from the encroachments and oppressions of the other, so simple and effective as negro slavery. By making the labourer himself capital, the conflict ceases, and the interests become identical.'
Now, I do not know whether there is any working man here who does not fully or partly realize the meaning of those extracts. They mean this, that if a man in this neighbourhood (for they pity us very much in our benighted condition as regards capital and labour, and they have an admirable way, from their view, of putting an end to strikes)—they say that, if a man in this neighbourhood had ten thousand pounds sterling in a cotton or woollen factory, and he employed a hundred men, women, and children, that instead of paying them whatever wages had been agreed upon, allowing them to go to the other side of the town, and work where they liked, or to move to another county, or to emigrate to America, or to have any kind of will or wish whatever with regard to their own disposal, that they should be to him capital, just the same as the horses are in his stable; that he should sell the husband South,— 'South' in America means something very dreadful to the negro,—that they should sell the wife if they liked, that they should sell the children, that, in point of fact, they should do whatsoever they liked with them, and that, if any one of them resisted any punishment which the master chose to inflict, the master should be held justified if he beat his slave to death; and that not one of those men should have the power to give evidence in any court of justice, in any case, against a white man, however much he might have suffered from that white man.
You will observe that this most important paper in the South writes for that principle, and this eminent Southern politician indorses it, and thinks it a cure for all the evils which exist in the Old World and in the Northern and Free States; and there is not a paper in the South, nor is there a man as eminent or more eminent than Mr. Cobb, who has dared to write or speak in condemnation of the atrocity of that language. I believe this great strife to have had its origin in an infamous conspiracy against the rights of human nature. Those principles, which they distinctly avow and proclaim, are not to be found, as far as I know, in the pages of any heathen writer of old times, nor are they to be discovered in the teachings or the practice of savage nations in our times. It is the doctrine of devils, and not of men; and all mankind should shudder at the enormity of the guilt which the leaders of this conspiracy have brought upon that country.
Now, let us look at two or three facts, which seem to me very remarkable, on the surface of the case, but which there are men in this country, and I am told they may be found even in this town, who altogether ignore and deny. The war was not commenced by those to whom your resolution refers; it was commenced by the South; they rebelled against the majority. It was not a rebellion against a monarchy, or an aristocracy, or some other form of government which has its hold upon people, sometimes by services, but often from tradition; but it was against a Government of their own, and a compact of their own, that they violently rebelled, and for the expressed and avowed purpose of maintaining the institution of slavery, and for the purpose, not disavowed, of re-opening the slave trade, and, as these extracts show, if their principles should be fully carried out, of making bondage universal among all classes of labourers and artisans. When I say that their object was to re-open the slave trade, do not for a moment imagine that I am overstating the case against them. They argue, with a perfect logic, that, if slavery was right, the slave trade could not be wrong; if the slave trade be wrong, slavery cannot be right; and that if it be lawful and moral to go to the State of Virginia and buy a slave for two thousand dollars, and take him to Louisiana, it cannot be wrong to go to Africa, and buy a slave for fifty dollars, and take him to Louisiana. That was their argument; it is an argument to this day, and is an argument that in my opinion no man can controvert; and the lawful existence of slavery is as a matter of course to be followed, and would be followed, wherever there was the power, by the re-opening of the traffic in negroes from Africa.
That is not all these people have done. Reference has been made, in the resolution and in the speeches, to the distress which prevails in this district, and you are told, and have been told over and over again, that all this distress has arisen from the blockade of the ports of the Southern States. There is at least one great port from which in past times two millions of bales of cotton a-year have found their way to Europe—the port of New Orleans—which is blockaded; and the United States Government has proclaimed that any cotton that is sent from the interior to New Orleans for shipment, although it belongs to persons in arms against the Government, shall yet be permitted to go to Europe, and they shall receive unmolested the proceeds of the sale of that cotton. But still the cotton does not come. The reason why it does not come is, not because it would do harm to the United States Government for it to come, or that it would in any way assist the United States Government in carrying on the war. The reason that it does not come is, because its being kept back is supposed to be a way of influencing public opinion in England and the course of the English Government in reference to the American war. They burn the cotton that they may injure us, and they injure us because they think that we cannot live even for a year without their cotton; and that to get it we should send ships of war, break the blockade, make war upon the North, and assist the slave-owners to maintain, or to obtain, their independence.
Now, with regard to the question of American cotton, one or two extracts will be sufficient; but I could give you a whole pamphlet of them, if it were necessary. Mr. Mann, an eminent person in the State of Georgia, says:—
'With the failure of the cotton, England fails. Stop her supply of Southern slave-grown cotton, and her factories stop, her commerce stops, the healthful normal circulation of her life- blood stops.'
Again he says:—
'In one year from the stoppage of England's supply of Southern slave-grown cotton, the Chartists would be in all her streets and fields, revolution would be rampant throughout the island, and nothing that is would exist.'