Imágenes de página

stress upon, I think nothing of them; love and friendship do not spring up between the like, but the unlike; as for the interests of the two nations, they need never clash-their spheres are separate and distinct. Even as military nations they need not be jealous or make invidious comparisons. They each are incomparable in their own department; that is why an Anglo-French army appears so irresistible. At Alma they proved this. Each army was the complement of the other. The British performed the service required with such an utter indifference to death and danger, that they plucked grapes whilst waiting for the word to advance-the French performed a climbing feat, wonderful in itself, before their breathless squadrons fell irresistibly on the enemy. The sight of each other was enough to insure their victory. I certainly am prepared to trust France very far indeed, for I must say we have very severely tested her, or at all events her ruler's patience, before this war broke out, and when we were comparatively unarmed at the time. I allude to the abuse of Louis Napoleon, and the contempt expressed for the French nation at the time of the coup-d'état. Whatever its moral qualities may have been, it is impossible to deny that the French people took upon themselves the responsibility of that act, so as to make an insult to their ruler an insult to them. Louis Napoleon knew that the Times was not England, or in some shape he would probably have resented it. He could well have done so by a quiet agreement with Russia to divide Turkey in spite of us. Now the same journals cannot go too far the other way-they are even servile, and, in appreciation of the Emperor's alliance, would whitewash his political morality-a course perhaps justifiable, but at all events superfluous.

IRENEUS.-You have said nothing as yet to prove that peace is not better than war in its effect at home and among ourselves. War unites us, it is true, but it checks national improve ment and healthy growth, and fixes our minds on an unhealthy and unnatural source of excitement. TLEPOLEMUS.-As for improvement, men should improve themselves, and

the community will be the better for it. I do not quite think we use improvement in the same sense. No matter! I say that war unites us, which you yourself allow-makes us feel we are countrymen, brothers, friends, and neighbours, all of us (not Quakers only), while peace sets us all together by the ears like hounds in an ill-regulated kennel.

IRENEUS.-I do not feel this. As long as peace is kept abroad, I can sit under my own vine; none makes me afraid.

TLEPOLEMUS.-Can you? then you are a happy fellow. You have a happy constitution. You are not plethoric, but you are eupeptic. Mrs I. is no curtain-lecturer; you pay all your bills at Christmas; you are chary of your signature—in fact, never use it except when it is absolutely necessary. You are right. I heard of a man who had two sons; he left the elder a fine estate, the younger a small allowance with this advice, "Never put your name to paper." The younger throve and the elder died in gaol. You are no merchant venturer, no railway stag. Your money is all safe in the Funds or invested in acres; your goods are in peace, and the strong man armed has his eye on them. But what do you say to all that goes on about you? What do you say to the struggle of society to get on, to get rich? It is like the operacrush (beg your pardon, you don't frequent it). It is like a rush to a bank that is stopping payment-vide Hogarth's picture, and think of the disappointed sailor with the big stick swearing and thundering at the door. All want to be first, for the first alone can get anything, and are likely enough to be late. In you go. Goodbye, manners! Pluck your neighbour in front by the coat-tail-jam your right-hand neighbour against the railing-punch your left-hand neighbour in the ribs-kick out behind. This is the everyday life of a peaceful commercial society; this is peace, if you like, but seasoned, whether you like it or not, with envy, hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness. You are at peace only because you decline to take part in the selfish scramble. What say you to the mad ventures of merchants of straw, and their outrageous

gambling as lately disclosed-men, many of them, of religious profession, platform-orators, Record-readers, horror-struck at whist, and petrified at the mention of a quadrille-men of intense respectability, yet gamesters on a larger scale than any yet found in the Seine, and laid out at the Morgue? These poor Parisian gamblers were only their own enemies; those beggar their friends, spend their wives' portions, and leave their children penniless in a country where poverty is a crime. Does mercantile speculation stir up no evil passions? What do you say to the railway mania of 1847? There was greed surpassing that of the Bashi-Bazouks in quest of plunder. War has made many families desolate now, and filled them with a noble mournfulness; but war has never, and will never, afflict society with the anxiety, the madness, the degradation, the want of self-respect, which that railway mania did. It made, for the time, the length and breadth of our green land a great roulette-table, presided over by avarice and meanness, stamping the faces of steady city-men with the abstraction, the ferocity, the unnatural joy, sorrow, and despair, of the habitués of Homburg or Baden. That madness became most mournful because most ridiculous, when it was proposed to set up an image of the great "Croupier" of that gigantic gambling-table. Let it pass, and may such times never return again. A country desolated by war is not a paradise, but a country infected with such plague-spots is a pandemonium. And after that reckless time, what a period of sorrow and abasement came! It was a repentance like that of Ajax weeping among the slaughtered flocks, though somewhat less noble. Unlucky speculators were haunted by the ghosts of extinct railway schemes ghosts which called them again and again, and insisted on being answered at whatever expense; upsetting with a printed circular the hope of economy year by year, making the dying railway sting like the benumbed wasp which you put your hand on unawares on the window-sill. Was that peace? And has there been no religious war, though not with swords?-no feud be tween High Church and Low Church, Free Kirk and Establishment? Was

not " versus " supposed by one of the uninitiated to be part of the title of a bishop from its frequent conjunction with his name in the reading of lawsuits? As for contested elections, and bribery, and disfranchisement of boroughs, all that is a trifle, and part, no doubt, of the constitution of a free country, but it is not exactly in the spirit of peace. And what do you say to the whole history of strikes, and the general discomfort of the relations between employer and employed? In the worst cases there have been two rival camps of the worst kind, each striving to outstarve the other, capital fighting with savings and subscriptions, and the victory eventually belonging, not to the strongest battalions, but the longest purse; peace at length restored, but heart-burnings innumerable perpetuated. Talk of the horrors of war!—these, and such as these, are the horrors of peace. But why dwell on public and notorious instances? What is our daily life but a struggle and a combat against swindling and deception of every kind, and a very unequal struggle on the part of the consumer? The seller wages a war of selfishness against the buyer. The necessaries of life are not exempted, or one might avoid unpleasantness by avoiding luxuries. Not only your wine merchant drugs your port, but your grocer sands your sugar; your milk comes from Chalk Farm, your baker puts alum in your bread, and shortens your life by shortening the measure of its staff, so that you are almost inclined to wish him the fate of Pharaoh's.


To so great a degree has this system of falsification been carried, that, on the evidence of a leading medical journal, we appear to eat, drink, and smoke little else but solid, liquid, and gaseous lies. If we are true men with such a diet, it tells much in favour of our bringing-up. Yes, the shopkeeping spirit is far too strong amongst us as it is, and no wonder that Nicholas was induced to believe that John Bull would not quit his hold on his money-bags to go to war: he thought of us probably as Cyrus spoke of the Lacedemonians in Herodotus, when they wished to interfere with his taking

a natural guarantee from Croesus, the sultan of that time. "I am not afraid

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

of a set of men who have a place marked out in the middle of their city, where they take oaths and deceive one another; to whom, if I am of sound mind, not the misfortunes of others will be matter of consideration, but their own." Cyrus, you see, had little respect for men who higgled in a market-place; and Nicholas evidently thought the same of us. This I cannot help thinking the principal cause of his aggression on Turkey, combined with the license of invective in which our journals and even Ministers indulged against the French Emperor, making his future friendship seem impossible; and last, not least, the extreme respect with which our Government treated the Czar's overtures. I believe, if he had known us better-if he had been able to judge of the feelings of our silent classes, the aristocracy, the gentry, the yeomanry and peasantry of Britain-he would never have been so misled. He mistook Manchester for Great Britain, and Messrs Pease, Sturge, and Co., for the United Services. The day of the Alma has told him that, though Manchester is large, England is larger, and that there is a certain people north of the Tweed wearing "petticoats," with whom, notwithstanding their appearance, his boasted Imperial Guard decline to cross bayonets. But it is not for the lesson it has given the Czar that I lay so much stress on this glorious but dearly-bought battle; it is that, by mingling the hopes and fears of England and France, as it mingled the blood of their sons, it is an earnest of the lasting pacification of Europe, and, through Europe, of the world.

IRENEUS.-But, friend, I thought you were just arguing that war was better than peace; in fact, was nothing but peace plus bayonets, sabres, artillery, wounded and slain, and that peace was the real war.

TLEPOLEMUS.-You mistake my meaning-I hope not wilfully. I only wished to show that peace has its horrors as well as war, and that war is not so black, or peace so white, as it is painted. With respect to their effects on the human heart, they are

nearly on a par; if anything, the advantage appears to me on the side of war, if we except its actual operations. I look on war as a mighty disaster, as I look upon famine or a shipwreck, but one that we must sometimes accept, even seek, to avoid worse. But even then our efforts ought to be mainly directed to the establishment of peace, real and not nominal. The end I propose is the same as yours; we only differ as to the means. I would not sit down to dinner, as Damocles did, with the sword-blade hanging over my head, as you would bid us do: in fact, I have not sufficient physical or moral courage to adopt your principles; but just as I have bolts and bars and a great dog in the yard to keep out thieves, so I would keep up fleets and armies to repel aggressive tyranny, whether proceeding from the single ambition of a despot, or the collective covetousness of a republic. If, as is much suspected now, this power of Russia turns out a mere nightmare which Europe had only to wake to shake off, and if we and France continue friends, there is no reason why the foundations of a solid European peace should not be laid; for England and France together are strong enough to bind nearly all the world over to keep the peace. When Russia is settled, France may safely abate her army, and England her navy: but neither must disarm; if they do, not only will other powers cease to respect them, but they will cease to respect each other. We must still be able to say "No" to our lively young brother across the Atlantic, if he wants Cuba without paying for it, or takes any other little vagary into his head. A war establishment may be expensive-and I believe, if the truth were known, that is the chief objection of the peace-mongers-but so is life insurance, which you, as the father of a family, allow to be a very proper thing. A fighting establishment, in time of peace, is nothing more than a system of insurance, by which we secure to those who come after us those vaunted liberties which have taken so many generations to

A Russian officer-prisoner said that he was glad one of the Guards had struck him down, and not one of the people in petticoats.

grow up, and which we have seen, from abundant experience elsewhere, are not to be invented in a night, or conquered in a day.

IRENEUS.-There is much in what you say; but I cannot yet see why this war, of which the battle of the Alma is the beginning, is necessary to effect a hearty friendship with France. TLEPOLEMUS.-Because, although amity might exist among civilians, the services of the two countries always regarded each other as possible, even probable foes, till now when they have beheld each other's prowess, and shed their blood on the same field, looking the same way. As the feeling of antipathy between England and France was born of war, so in war it was destined to die. No less a price than that paid could have brought about this desirable consummation. Many an old hatred was buried with the Allied slain on those Crimean heights. On that stern day French and British fought side by side, companions in honour, danger, death, and victory. Each fought under the eyes of the old enemy, like the knights of old under the eyes of their mistresses. They regarded, and have recorded, each other's deeds of heroism with a romance of admiration enhanced tenfold by the ancient feud. In fact, they have rushed into each other's arms like two lovers in a novel who have lived in mutual misunderstanding and misery through two volumes and a-half, till towards the close of the third the truth is flashed upon them at once by some scene of danger or difficulty, and the future beholds them happy. Now they cannot do too much, or say too much, to atone for the coldness and unkindness of past days. It is in this sense I hail the day of Alma to England as the day of Metaurus to Rome, a clearing of the political horizon; partly because it has dissipated any misgivings that may have arisen as to the permanence of the spirit of our ancestors, chiefly because it was the

day of reconciliation with France-a reconciliation which we may now fairly hope will last for ever, or at any rate as long as the old enmity! France and England ought to be friends; for them to be otherwise is sheerest folly. They are the complement of each other, as the Zouaves are the complement of the Foot-guards in a perfect infantry. In war, they are both masculine enough. In peace, the British genius is masculine; the French feminine. I mean no offence. I say not effeminate, but feminine. I heard a friend once say that the most manly characters must have a feminine element to make them loveable. No wonder. Such an union of nationalities is a kind of union of moral strength and artistic beauty; or, in the language of the laureate―

"Perfect music exalts noble words."

France and England want each other; they have much to learn from one another. We may borrow of France symmetry and decorum; France may borrow from us ballast and solidity.

I am not qualified to speak of commercial advantages resulting from such a friendship; and as to the highest influences of all, I shall content myself with observing, that while a mutual knowledge may produce more energetic practice, it will undoubtedly engender a larger charity. But the train is stopping, and I get out here. I feel rather ashamed of having had all the talk to myself-and I fear that I have been rather unfairly aggressive on the man of peace.

IRENEUS.-You have not given me a chance. I have just got my arguments in order, and you run away. For shame! but good-bye! Often have I seen an Oxford skiff carried on a truck, oars and all; never till now did I know that the arrangements of the Great Western Railway included accommodation for men-ofwar. That accounts for the size of the Paddington terminus. Good-bye again, Tlepolemus!


ALTHOUGH several months have elapsed since war with Russia was formally declared—since our fleets were sent out to the Baltic and the Black seas and since the flower of our army left the British shores to encounter a new and most formidable enemy, it is not until now that most of us have been able thoroughly to realise our position, or to appreciate to their full extent the terrible responsibilities of such a struggle. Those who were merely infants when the discharge of cannon from our castles and forts announced the crowning victory of Waterloo, have advanced far in life without beholding any of the great Powers of Europe arrayed in arms against each other. There have been, indeed, from time to time, revolutions and insurrections on the Continentdynasties have been overthrown, and provinces have risen in rebellion against a yoke which had become too oppressive to be borne-but amidst all these convulsions Britain has been enabled to preserve tranquillity at home, and to maintain pacific relations with her neighbours. With the casual exception of the affair of Navarino, it has been only in India and the far East that our forces were actively engaged in contests, which no doubt were bloody and severe, but which, from their remoteness, could not be expected to impress us with the same awe and excitement which we have just experienced in receiving the account of the first great victory achieved by the allied armies of Britain and France on the heights of the Alma. But now the messenger has arrived with tidings, glorious indeed to the nation, but such as bring sorrow, and agony, and bereavement to many a hearth. A great blow has been struck a great victory won, but it has been dearly purchased for the country by the blood of its bravest and its best!

Such are the sacrifices of war; and by a people not intoxicated with military glory, with the lust of conquest, or the passion for unbounded dominion, they are felt, and felt deeply, even in the hour of triumph. But sacrifices they are, in the highest and

truest sense, when offered in the cause of justice, freedom, and humanity. Not upon us does the responsibility for broken peace and for cruel carnage rest. Not against us can the charge be made that we were too hasty in assuming arms-too rash in espousing the cause of an invaded European power. The error, if error there has been, lay on the other side. Our Ministers, from the commencement of the Eastern embroilment, trusted by far too much to the efficacy of diplomatic negotiations, which after all were but as cobwebs when opposed to the iron will and fixed determination of the Czar-they used words of compliment and of faint dissuasion, when they should have employed the language of stern remonstrance and of solemn warning-they were ambiguous and weak when they ought to have been resolute and strong. The stereotyped phrases of diplomacy are not suited for English use. They are essentially hollow and hypocritical, and sound ill at a time when the best interests of the nation are at stake. What Britain has to say upon any great question should be conveyed in language brief, emphatic, and unmistakable, in language such as Cromwell uttered when he made the might of England felt and feared throughout the Continent. It is impossible now to read such despatches as those of Lord John Russell without feeling that their tone was infinitely below that which the dignity of the country demanded, or the emergency of the crisis required; and without perceiving that they were calculated to foster in the mind of the Czar the impression that our opposition to his designs against Turkey would rather be passive than active, would end in official protest instead of absolute hostile resistance. In no capacity has Lord John Russell, unsuccessful in many, failed so signally as in that of Minister of Foreign Affairs. He committed the egregious mistake of addressing the Czar as if he were the bugbear which he affected to be, thereby acknowledging as a fact what in reality was a gross delusion, which it was the policy of Russia to palm upon

« AnteriorContinuar »