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THE CONVULSIONS OF AMERICA.
EVERYBODY who has thought, absolve us from the necessity of talked, and read much about Ame war; for previous insults from the rica of late, must feel that English same quarter still remain unatoned opinions on the subject, as rendered for: and now that we have, at enorby the tone of our press, have been mous cost, and with patient and qualified by the medium that trans- self-denying efforts, amassed an mits them. Nobody in private life armament which adequately repretalks about our Transatlantic kins- sents the power of England, we men,”—nobody desires to claim should have no objection to employ peculiar ties with the performers in it in administering a sharp chastisethe absurd and barbarous dances ment to the vainglorious people who which the American nation executes have so often cheaply defied us. round its idols of the hour, any more Sentiments, conciliatory even to than with the worshippers of Mum- poltroonery, and pacific even to bo Jumbo. Our conversation on disgrace, are frequently ascribed to the topic is not silly or sentimental. us; yet they have no real origin in We do not speak of the least san the heart of the nation. It would be guinary of civil wars as the ter- impossible for the national vanity rible and fratricidal struggle which of America, hungry as it is, to exis drenching America with blood.” tract any nourishment from what is It is not a fact, as is sometimes as expressed on the subject in the conserted in print and public speeches, versation of intelligent Englishmen. that every Englishman worthy of When they read the speeches of the name deplores the separation American public men, and the artibetween North and South. The cles of American newspapers, they view commonly taken by English- feel only scorn for the blind fol. men, who do not on that account lowers to whom such blind guides consider themselves unworthy of the are possible. They are unable to name, is, that every day tends to see anything peculiarly tragical in kjustify the judgment and policy of the fact that half-a-million of men the South in withdrawing from a have been brought together in arms system, the results of which are to hurl big words at each other what we contemptuously witness. across a river.
Nor do we see any. We do not desire above all things thing in the circumstance that Amethat the struggle should be at once rica was first colonised from our own concluded, no matter how; because shores, to induce us to treat with a conclusion which would leave the extraordinary indulgence the comSouth at the mercy of a vindic-posite population with whose mantive, unfair, and ungenerous enemy, ners, customs, and character, we have would gratify nobody. We do not so little in common. What truth can lament over the unexampled display there be in the plea of relationship of weakness made by the great Re as an inducement to conceal our public, because we knew that such real sentiments, when we so loudly weakness existed, and it was not for derided our own fellow-subjects of the interest of truth nor of the world the Irish Brigade, who went forth that it should any longer be dis- from among us to make themselves guised, or allowed to vaunt itself as ridiculous ? And why should we matchless force. Nor do we, as a conceal our contempt when absurdipeople, desire to accept any slight, ties far more mischievous, and on shifty pretence of reparation for the an immensely extended scale, are recent ruffianly outrage, which may committed by those whom twadbe held by some among us, to whom dling sentimentalists term our honour is but a fantastic name, to American cousins"?
There is always in England a jealousy, dislike, and intolerance, party remarkable for its excess of which the Americans evince for us, candour in self-abasement. Like could scarcely be aggravated by the Mawworm, it likes to be despised. statement of our real opinions. On Its sense of what is due to an ad- the other hand, we believe that the versary “o'erleaps itself and falls on serious attention which we have the other side." Especially, when bestowed on their doings has had the nation is committed to a course no inconsiderable share in perpetuwhich demands united action, there ating the self-delusions in which is sure to come some set of noodles they wrap themselves, especially with their preposterous array of their ability to subjugate the South, arguments for the other side. We the magnificent spectacle which believe these men would regard the they are exhibiting to the civilised virtue of their mothers and the world, and the general awe which honesty of their fathers as open is felt of their might by European questions—that, if the family hon- Powers. It is a remarkable fact, our were assailed, they would calmly and one that may puzzle future hisprepare to argue the matter, with a torians, that, in the same year, we, bias towards the assailant—that, if a people having no more sympathy a ruffian were to spit in their face, with mob-rule than with despotism, their first impulse would be to viewed the downfall of despotic dyafford him an opportunity of re nasties not only without pity but moving the stigma by presenting with derision and contempt, yet prehim with their own pocket-handker- served a respectful demeanour while chief. They are allowed to assert a worse and more hopeless tyranny themselves without much contra was every hour growing more desdiction, because some of those who picable and ridiculous. We discuss despise them give them credit for the statecraft of the Americans as being well-meaning though weak if it really were directed by statesand foolish; and others think their men capable of planning and exesilliness so transparent that to re- cuting operations of finance and fute it would be beating the air. policy. We speak of the operations Such palpable dissenters from pub- of their army and the designs of its lic opinion, though they may pass leaders as if they had established a among foreigners for more than claim upon the consideration of a they are worth, can never be seri- sensible people who have some reously received anywhere as express- putation in war. We repeat or reing in any appreciable degree the fute the assertions, prophecies, and spirit of the nation. It is not of denunciations of their orators and these we speak as having misinter- journalists, as if any human being, preted our feelings in the present even the speakers and writers themcase. It is of the general depreca- selves, could consider them entitled tory tone adopted by our journalists to a particle of credit. The appaand public speakers, for this year rent consequence is, that they imapast, in discussing American affairs. gine they are impressing the old No doubt their intention has been decried and worn-out Powers, who to appear as conciliatory as possible have so long regarded their great to a people with whom we have and free institutions with envy, such extensive commercial relations, with a profound respect for their and whose impatience of censure is military skill, their wonderful sagaonly equalled by their disregard of city, the unrivalled perfection of the national feelings of others. But, their political system, and their inwhile it is an error in any case to disputable claim to be regarded as suppose that commerce between foremost among the nations of the nations is dependent on sentiment, earth. Through their politicians, in the present instance we have their journals, their public meetample proof that the feelings of ings, and their actions, they frankly
write themselves down as they are, trality, the operation of which was in the broadest characters, yet we unfavourable, even unfair, to the refrain from accepting the descrip- South. They have seen us foregotion given on such undeniable au- ing our undoubted right to recogthority It is in vain that they nise the Southern Confederacy, and gesticulate, tumble, and perform the permitting them to enforce an inmost extravagant antics : we persist effectual blockade which was most in regarding the dreary farce as a injurious to our interests, and which grand melodrama, or even a tra- the law of nations would have wargedy. We, who ground our best ranted us in disregarding; and they claims to consideration as a nation have heard us professing a desire on the great men, great actions, for peace above all things. They great works, and great principles remember the patience with which which illustrate the massive volume previous insults have been borne by of our history, grant the claim of us, and they take a childish delight this people to greatness on the in shaking their fist in the face of a single ground of material prosperity. great strong country. And, accusAnd although happily we are as far tomed to hear us deprecate, as someremoved from universal suffrage as thing scarcely to be thought of, an from autocracy, and although the appeal to arms, the natural conseaspect in which Republicanism ap- quence is, that when they have gone pears unmistakably in America has so far as to place themselves in the caused the democratic tendencies of predicament of having to choose our own institutions to be power- between humiliation and war, they fully arrested, yet we continue to are almost universally persuaded appear reluctant to draw from pass- that we shall bear this insult like ing events deductions which would the rest. Had our language been seem to reflect upon democracy. different from the first-had we
This course we believe to have given them plainly to understand been injudicious and unfortunate. that we meant to use our strength Had the Americans been permitted on due provocation, even the mob to see the true reflections of our that originates, and the cabinet that minds—had they been aware of the conveys, their vulgar affronts would extent and depth of the contempt lower their tone of defiance, and with which we have regarded their would never have pushed matters doings-it could scarcely have fail to their present extremity. ed to modify their conduct of the Lest we should be wrongly civil war. Nor, as a question of thought to confound a whole people policy when we would avoid war, in one contemptuous verdict, we do we think it advisable to dwell cannot too often reiterate the fact, on our pacific disposition as the that the best class of Americans key-note. To profess a disinclina-y would be an honour to any country. tion to fight is not the best way to# They are often men of extensive deal with a bully. Even were it reading, thought, and information. true that we would sacrifice every. They have generally travelled much, thing for peace, and that Messrs studied much, and learnt much, Bright, Cobden, and Joseph Pease and are consequently free from the were the great representatives of intolerance and arrogance that chaEnglish feeling, it would be impo- racterise their less cultivated counlitic to say so. But when we are trymen. Their taste in literature giving proof of our readiness for is often fine, and improved by an
on sufficient occasion, there acquaintance with the classics of seems more than ever reason to re many nations. They take wide and gret that we had not given the liberal views of public affairs, which Northern Americans the word more they discuss in a tone equally replainly before the blow. They have moved from superciliousness and seen us solicitous to observe a neu fanaticism. These should be the
A pity the same cant to suid of Englidman lauttan)
natural leaders in their own coun- nations than the obscure and comtry; and were they, we need hardly monplace man whose decrees now say that we should speak with re stand in the place of public law in spect of the policy and public the North? It may be said that at opinion that bore the impress of least he is the choice of the nation. their minds. But it is precisely But was he chosen by the intelligence because these men are excluded of the nation? Or, to take lower from public life that we contemn ground, does he represent the mathe system that rejects them. Con- terial interests and responsibilities stituted as the political arena is, of the nation ? Not at all ; he is they cannot enter it, nor would the choice of a numerical majority they if they could. They would of a people who have derived the shrink from the idea of wading principal accessions to their numthrough the mire that surrounds bers from the scum of Europe.
the Cabinet and the Presidency. Every four years the constitution 1 None discern so clearly as these is in travail—all mankind are in
men the faults of American insti- vited, or rather commanded, to tutions; they feel even more strong- watch the interesting event—all is why than ourselves all that is most convulsion—the throes of the mounadmirable in our own; and de- tain are prodigious, and the latest mocracy is detested by none more result is-Mr Abraham Lincoln. cordially than by those who have The great achievement in self-govbeen deprived, by its agency, of ernment of this vaunted democracy, their birthright. Let it be under- which we have been so loudly and stood that, in speaking of the poli- arrogantly called on to admire, is, ticians and governing classes of to drag from his proper obscurity America, we separate these men, an ex-rail-splitter and country atwho possess ability, refinement, torney, and to place what it calls its liberality of view, and honesty of liberties at his august disposal. No
purpose, altogether from the mob country furnishes so many examples i and the political adventurers who as England of great men who have
mutually give and receive the im- risen from humble beginnings. But pulses that determine the course of it would have been impossible for the nation.
him, or any of his Cabinet, to have We have said that, in our view, emerged, under British institutions, it is to be regretted that the appa- from the mediocrity to which narent faults of democracy should be ture had condemned them, and so tenderly treated. We are all from which pure democracy alone ready to join in reprobation of was capable of rescuing them. Are absolute government; but when the best Americans willing to acdid any civilised absolute govern- cept Mr Abraham Lincoln and Mr ment show less claim on our indul- W. H. Seward as their best men ? gence than the American Republic? If not, can they substitute betWhat despotism has displayed so ter men ? If they cannot, what little moderation in prosperity, so other proof is needed of the ineffilittle dignity in adversity, less self- cacy of their boasted institutions ? control, less wisdom in council, less An imbecile executive above, a courage in the field ? Is King Mob restless, purposeless multitude bea more agreeable or remediable low, linked together like a kite tied despot than King Francis ? The to a balloon, and drifting at the gravest charge against absolutism is, mercy of the air-currents, while rethat it may place the liberties of the spectability, moderation, and sense people and the conduct of public are pushed aside, or dragged helpaffairs in the hands of weak and in- lessly along,—such is the spectacle capable men. But to what country presented, in the first storm, by shall we look for hereditary princes the Model Republic. A gallant less fit to wield the destinies of army, whose energies have been
displayed chiefly in flight—a free that other Presidents no better than country, whose judges are over- he had got on very well, and that looked by sentries - disinterested he only bargained to be, like them, patriotism, that requires to be the captain of a fair-weather ship. bribed with eight per cent—a On such a plea be may possibly be united nation, where the elements absolved of presumption, but the of dissolution are rife—a practical absolution of the President is the people, who are spending more than condemnation of the system that they possess for an object which renders him possible. they cannot define, such are a few When the council of a nation of the results of those remarkable meets, we and other countries that institutions that have been recom- enjoy any degree of political freemended for our imitation as im- dom expect to listen to men capmense improvements on our own. able, not only of expressing, but of
Of course we do not blame Mr guiding and controlling popular Lincoln for being President. But opinion. Many, of course, may be we venture to pity him. No man found in the assembly whom the is more unfortunate than he who is nation would be unwilling to accept in a conspicuous position for which as the exponents of its spirit. But he is manifestly unfit. What had there will also inevitably be many this ill-starred man done to merit who are marked for eminence, and such a visitation as to be set at the none, as a rule, can command attenhead of an unruly nation that is tion or gain influence, except in going to pieces in convulsions? His proportion to their abilities. But antecedents are respectable though no man looks for light or guidance, not illustrious. He is said to have or self-control, to the Congress that exhibited considerable dexterity has just assembled. The vote of and muscular power in the split- approval of the buccaneering attack ting of rails. He may possibly be on the Trent stamps the character a good attorney, though we should of that assembly. In most countries never have selected him as a legal the approbation of the people and adviser. Had we done so, we should of the Senate is the highest reward have expected to find him an oracle to which a citizen can aspire. But of the clondiest kind, and, as a rule, what man of real merit or character arriving at a clear comprehension could be incited to action by the of the facts a few weeks after the prospect of praise which he must case was decided. In his public share with a Wilkes, and which has compositions he is distinguished thus become degradation ? It is chiefly for a disregard of grammar true that the political system of and an infatuated fondness for America may answer the end prometaphor. He gets laboriously on posed by all representative instituto a figure of speech, which gene- tions, and that President, Cabinet, rally runs away with him, and, after and Congress may truly reflect the exhibiting him in various eccentric spirit of the nation. But how can postures, leaves him sprawling in the most bitter enemy of their inan attitude highly unbecoming in stitutions add to the strength of the the President of a great Republic. case contained in the two facts, that Still, to find metaphors unmanage the American people can elect such able is no great crime. A man may men as they please, and that such are be unskilled in composition, or even the men whom they please to elect ? an indifferent lawyer, without merit If it were necessary that an Ameing such a fate as that which we rican idol should perform anything deplore in Mr Lincoln. It may be really great in order to justify the said that he sought the post which panegyrics of his countrymen, we he so uncomfortably occupies, and should look on General M'Clellan has no right to complain of its in- as the most unfortunate man alive. conveniences. But he may reply, He cannot, unless he be more than