In one of the earlier chapters of this volume — now some seven or eight chapters past — I brought myself on my travels back to Boston. It was not that my way homeward lay by that route, seeing that my fate required me to sail from New York; but I could not leave the country without revisiting my friends in Massachusetts. I have told how I was there in the sleighing time, and how pleasant were the mingled slush and frost of the snowy winter. In the morning the streets would be hard and crisp and the stranger would surely fall if he were not prepared to walk on glaciers. In the afternoon he would be wading through rivers, and, if properly armed at all points with India-rubber, would enjoy the rivers as he waded. But the air would be always kindly, and the east wind there, if it was east as I was told, had none of that power of dominion which makes us all so submissive to its behests in London. For myself, I do not believe that the real east wind blows elsewhere.
And when the snow went in Boston I went with it. The evening before I left I watched them as they carted away the dirty uncouth blocks which had been broken up with pickaxes in Washington Street, and was melancholy as I reflected that I too should no longer be known in the streets. My weeks in Boston had not been very many, but nevertheless there were haunts there which I knew as though my feet had trodden them for years. There were houses to which I could have gone with my eyes blindfold; doors of which the latches were familiar to my hands; faces which I knew so well that they had ceased to put on for me the fictitious smiles of courtesy. Faces, houses, doors, and haunts — where are they now? For me they are as though they had never been. They are among the things which one would fain remember as one remembers a dream. Look back on it as a vision and it is all pleasant; but if you realize your vision and believe your dream to be a fact, all your pleasure is obliterated by regret.
I know that I shall never again be at Boston, and that I have said that about the Americans which would make me unwelcome as a guest if I were there. It is in this that my regret consists; for this reason that I would wish to remember so many social hours as though they had been passed in sleep. They who will expect blessings from me, will say among themselves that I have cursed them. As I read the pages which I have written, I feel that words which I intended for blessings when I prepared to utter them have gone nigh to turn themselves into curses.
I have ever admired the United States as a nation. I have loved their liberty, their prowess, their intelligence, and their progress. I have sympathized with a people who themselves have had no sympathy with passive security and inaction. I have felt confidence in them, and have known, as it were, that their industry must enable them to succeed as a people while their freedom would insure to them success as a nation. With these convictions I went among them wishing to write of them good words — words which might be pleasant for them to read, while they might assist perhaps in producing a true impression of them here at home. But among my good words there are so many which are bitter, that I fear I shall have failed in my object as regards them. And it seems to me, as I read once more my own pages, that in saying evil things of my friends I have used language stronger than I intended; whereas I have omitted to express myself with emphasis when I have attempted to say good things. Why need I have told of the mud of Washington, or have exposed the nakedness of Cairo? Why did I speak with such eager enmity of those poor women in the New York cars, who never injured me, now that I think of it? Ladies of New York, as I write this, the words which were written among you are printed and cannot be expunged; but I tender to you my apologies from my home in England. And that Van Wyck Committee — might I not have left those contractors to be dealt with by their own Congress, seeing that that Congress committee was by no means inclined to spare them? I might have kept my pages free from gall, and have sent my sheets to the press unhurt by the conviction that I was hurting those who had dealt kindly by me! But what then? Was any people ever truly served by eulogy; or an honest cause furthered by undue praise?
O my friends with thin skins — and here I protest that a thick skin is a fault not to be forgiven in a man or a nation, whereas a thin skin is in itself a merit, if only the wearer of it will be the master and not the slave of his skin — O my friends with thin skins, ye whom I call my cousins and love as brethren, will ye not forgive me these harsh words that I have spoken? They have been spoken in love — with a true love, a brotherly love, a love that has never been absent from the heart while the brain was coining them. I had my task to do, and I could not take the pleasant and ignore the painful. It may perhaps be that as a friend I had better not have written either good or bad. But no! To say that would indeed be to speak calumny of your country. A man may write of you truly, and yet write that which you would read with pleasure; only that your skins are so thin. The streets of Washington are muddy and her ways are desolate. The nakedness of Cairo is very naked. And those ladies of New York — is it not to be confessed that they are somewhat imperious in their demands? As for the Van Wyck Committee, have I not repeated the tale which you have told yourselves? And is it not well that such tales should be told?
And yet ye will not forgive me; because your skins are thin, and because the praise of others is the breath of your nostrils.
I do not know that an American as an individual is more thin skinned than an Englishman; but as the representative of a nation it may almost be said of him that he has no skin at all. Any touch comes at once upon the net-work of his nerves and puts in operation all his organs of feeling with the violence of a blow. And for this peculiarity he has been made the mark of much ridicule. It shows itself in two ways: either by extreme displeasure when anything is said disrespectful of his country, or by the strong eulogy with which he is accustomed to speak of his own institutions and of those of his countrymen whom at the moment he may chance to hold in high esteem. The manner in which this is done is often ridiculous. “Sir, what do you think of Mr. Jefferson Brick? Mr. Jefferson Brick, sir, is one of our most remarkable men.” And again: “Do you like our institutions, sir? Do you find that philanthropy, religion, philosophy and the social virtues are cultivated on a scale commensurate with the unequaled liberty and political advancement of the nation?” There is something absurd in such a mode of address when it is repeated often. But hero worship and love of country are not absurd; and do not these addresses show capacity for hero worship and an aptitude for the love of country? Jefferson Brick may not be a hero; but a capacity for such worship is something. Indeed the capacity is everything, for the need of a hero will produce a hero. And it is the same with that love of country. A people that are proud of their country will see that there is something in their country to justify their pride. Do we not all of us feel assured by the intense nationality of an American that he will not desert his nation in the hour of her need? I feel that assurance respecting them; and at those moments in which I am moved to laughter by the absurdities of their addresses to me I feel it the strongest.
I left Boston with the snow, and returning to New York found that the streets there were dry and that the winter was nearly over. As I had passed through New York to Boston the streets had been by no means dry. The snow had lain in small mountains over which the omnibuses made their way down Broadway, till at the bottom of that thoroughfare, between Trinity Church and Bowling Green, alp became piled upon alp, and all traffic was full of danger. The cursed love of gain still took men to Wall Street, but they had to fight their way thither through physical difficulties which must have made even the state of the money market a matter of indifference to them. They do not seem to me to manage the winter in New York so well as they do in Boston. But now, on my last return thither, the alps were gone, the roads were clear, and one could travel through the city with no other impediment than those of treading on women’s dresses if one walked, or having to look after women’s band-boxes and pay their fares and take their change if one used the omnibuses.
And now had come the end of my adventure, and as I set my foot once more upon the deck of the Cunard steamer, I felt that my work was done; whether it were done ill or well, or whether indeed any approach to the doing of it had been attained, all had been done that I could accomplish. No further opportunity remained to me of seeing, hearing, or of speaking. I had come out thither, having resolved to learn a little that I might if possible teach that little to others; and now the lesson was learned, or must remain unlearned. But in carrying out my resolution I had gradually risen in my ambition, and had mounted from one stage of inquiry to another, till at last I had found myself burdened with the task of ascertaining whether or no the Americans were doing their work as a nation well or ill; and now, if ever, I must be prepared to put forth the result of my inquiry. As I walked up and down the deck of the steamboat I confess I felt that I had been somewhat arrogant.
I had been a few days over six months in the States, and I was engaged in writing a book of such a nature that a man might well engage himself for six years, or perhaps for sixty, in obtaining the materials for it. There was nothing in the form of government, or legislature, or manners of the people as to which I had not taken upon myself to say something. I was professing to understand their strength and their weakness; and was daring to censure their faults and to eulogize their virtues. “Who is he,” an American would say, “that he comes and judges us? His judgment is nothing.” “Who is he,” an Englishman would say, “that he comes and teaches us? His teaching is of no value.”
In answer to this I have but a small plea to make — I have done my best. I have nothing “extenuated, and have set down naught in malice.” I do feel that my volumes have blown themselves out into proportions greater than I had intended; greater not in mass of pages, but in the matter handled. I am frequently addressing my own muse, who I am well aware is not Clio, and asking her whither she is wending. “Cease, thou wrong-headed one, to meddle with these mysteries.” I appeal to her frequently, but ever in vain. One cannot drive one’s muse, nor yet always lead her. Of the various women with which a man is blessed, his muse is by no means the least difficult to manage.
But again I put in my slight plea. In doing as I have done, I have at least done my best. I have endeavored to judge without prejudice, and to hear with honest ears and to see with honest eyes. The subject, moreover, on which I have written is one which, though great, is so universal in its bearings that it may be said to admit, without impropriety, of being handled by the unlearned as well as the learned; by those who have grown gray in the study of constitutional lore, and by those who have simply looked on at the government of men as we all look on at those matters which daily surround us. There are matters as to which a man should never take a pen in hand unless he has given to them much labor. The botanist must have learned to trace the herbs and flowers before he can presume to tell us how God has formed them. But the death of Hector is a fit subject for a boy’s verses, though Homer also sang of it. I feel that there is scope for a book on the United States form of government as it was founded, and as it has since framed itself, which might do honor to the life-long studies of some one of those great constitutional pundits whom we have among us; but, nevertheless, the plain words of a man who is no pundit need not disgrace the subject, if they be honestly written, and if he who writes them has in his heart an honest love of liberty. Such were my thoughts as I walked the deck of the Cunard steamer. Then I descended to my cabin, settled my luggage, and prepared a table for the continuance of my work. It was fourteen days from that time before I reached London, but the fourteen days to me were not unpleasant. The demon of sea-sickness spares me always, and if I can find on board one or two who are equally fortunate — who can eat with me, drink with me, and talk with me — I do not know that a passage across the Atlantic is by any means a terrible evil to me.
In finishing these volumes after the fashion in which they have been written throughout, I feel that I am bound to express a fixed opinion on two or three points, and that if I have not enabled myself to do so, I have traveled through the country in vain. I am bound by the very nature of my undertaking to say whether, according to such view as I have enabled myself to take of them, the Americans have succeeded as a nation politically and socially; and in doing this I ought to be able to explain how far slavery has interfered with such success. I am bound also, writing at the present moment, to express some opinion as to the result of this war, and to declare whether the North or the South may be expected to be victorious — explaining in some rough way what may be the results of such victory, and how such results will affect the question of slavery; and I shall leave my task unfinished if I do not say what may be the possible chances of future quarrel between England and the States. That there has been and is much hot blood and angry feeling, no man doubts; but such angry feeling has existed among many nations without any probability of war. In this case, with reference to this ill will that has certainly established itself between us and that other people, is there any need that it should be satisfied by war and allayed by blood?
No one, I think, can doubt that the founders of the great American Commonwealth made an error in omitting to provide some means for the gradual extinction of slavery throughout the States. That error did not consist in any liking for slavery. There was no feeling in favor of slavery on the part of those who made themselves prominent at the political birth of the nation. I think I shall be justified in saying that at that time the opinion that slavery is itself a good thing, that it is an institution of divine origin and fit to be perpetuated among men as in itself excellent, had not found that favor in the Southern States in which it is now held. Jefferson, who has been regarded as the leader of the Southern or Democratic party, has left ample testimony that he regarded slavery as an evil. It is, I think, true that he gave such testimony much more freely when he was speaking or writing as a private individual than he ever allowed himself to do when his words were armed with the weight of public authority. But it is clear that on the whole he was opposed to slavery, and I think there can be little doubt that he and his party looked forward to a natural death for that evil. Calculation was made that slavery when not recruited afresh from Africa could not maintain its numbers, and that gradually the negro population would become extinct. This was the error made. It was easier to look forward to such a result and hope for such an end of the difficulty, than to extinguish slavery by a great political movement, which must doubtless have been difficult and costly. The Northern States got rid of slavery by the operation of their separate legislatures, some at one date and some at others. The slaves were less numerous in the North than in the South, and the feeling adverse to slaves was stronger in the North than in the South. Mason and Dixon’s line, which now separates slave soil from free soil, merely indicates the position in the country at which the balance turned. Maryland and Virginia were not inclined to make great immediate sacrifices for the manumission of their slaves; but the gentlemen of those States did not think that slavery was a divine institution destined to flourish forever as a blessing in their land.
The maintenance of slavery was, I think, a political mistake — a political mistake, not because slavery is politically wrong, but because the politicians of the day made erroneous calculations as to the probability of its termination. So the income tax may be a political blunder with us — not because it is in itself a bad tax, but because those who imposed it conceived that they were imposing it for a year or two, whereas, now, men do not expect to see the end of it. The maintenance of slavery was a political mistake; and I cannot think that the Americans in any way lessen the weight of their own error by protesting, as they occasionally do, that slavery was a legacy made over to them from England. They might as well say that traveling in carts without springs, at the rate of three miles an hour, was a legacy made over to them by England. On that matter of traveling they have not been contented with the old habits left to them, but have gone ahead and made railroads. In creating those railways the merit is due to them; and so also is the demerit of maintaining those slaves.
That demerit and that mistake have doubtless brought upon the Americans the grievances of their present position; and will, as I think, so far be accompanied by ultimate punishment that they will be the immediate means of causing the first disintegration of their nation. I will leave it to the Americans themselves to say whether such disintegration must necessarily imply that they have failed in their political undertaking. The most loyal citizens of the Northern States would have declared a month or two since — and for aught I know would declare now — that any disintegration of the States implied absolute failure. One stripe erased from the banner, one star lost from the firmament, would entail upon them all the disgrace of national defeat! It had been their boast that they would always advance, never retreat. They had looked forward to add ever State upon State, and Territory to Territory, till the whole continent should be bound together in the same union. To go back from that now, to fall into pieces and be divided, to become smaller in the eyes of the nations, to be absolutely halfed, as some would say of such division, would be national disgrace, and would amount to political failure. “Let us fight for the whole,” such men said, and probably do say. “To lose anything is to lose all!”
But the citizens of the States who speak and think thus, though they may be the most loyal, are perhaps not politically the most wise. And I am inclined to think that that defiant claim of every star, that resolve to possess every stripe upon the banner, had become somewhat less general when I was leaving the country than I had found it to be at the time of my arrival there. While things were going badly with the North, while there was no tale of any battle to be told except of those at Bull’s Run and Springfield, no Northern man would admit a hint that secession might ultimately prevail in Georgia or Alabama. But the rebels had been driven out of Missouri when I was leaving the States, they had retreated altogether from Kentucky, having been beaten in one engagement there, and from a great portion of Tennessee, having been twice beaten in that State. The coast of North Carolina, and many points of the Southern coast, were in the hands of the Northern army, while the army of the South was retreating from all points into the center of their country. Whatever may have been the strategetical merits or demerits of the Northern generals, it is at any rate certain that their apparent successes were greedily welcomed by the people, and created an idea that things were going well with the cause. And as all this took place, it seemed to me that I heard less about the necessary integrity of the old flag. While as yet they were altogether unsuccessful, they were minded to make no surrender. But with their successes came the feeling, that in taking much they might perhaps allow themselves to yield something. This was clearly indicated by the message sent to Congress by the President, in February, 1862, in which he suggested that Congress should make arrangements for the purchase of the slaves in the border States; so that in the event of secession — accomplished secession — in the Gulf States, the course of those border States might be made clear for them. They might hesitate as to going willingly with the North, while possessing slaves, as to sitting themselves peaceably down as a small slave adjunct to a vast free-soil nation, seeing that their property would always be in peril. Under such circumstances a slave adjunct to the free-soil nation would not long be possible. But if it could be shown to them that in the event of their adhering to the North compensation would be forthcoming, then, indeed, the difficulty in arranging an advantageous line between the two future nations might be considerably modified. This message of the President’s was intended to signify that secession on favorable terms might be regarded by the North as not undesirable. Moderate men were beginning to whisper that, after all, the Gulf States were no source either of national wealth or of national honor. Had there not been enough at Washington of cotton lords and cotton laws? When I have suggested that no Senator from Georgia would ever again sit in the United States Senate, American gentlemen have received my remark with a slight demur, and have then proceeded to argue the case. Six months before they would have declared against me and not have argued.
I will leave it to Americans themselves to say whether that disintegration of the States will, should it ever be realized, imply that they have failed in their political undertaking. If they do not protest that it argues failure, I do not think that their feelings will be hurt by such protestations on the part of others. I have said that the blunder made by the founders of the nation with regard to slavery has brought with it this secession as its punishment. But such punishments come generally upon nations as great mercies. Ireland’s famine was the punishment of her imprudence and idleness, but it has given to her prosperity and progress. And indeed, to speak with more logical correctness, the famine was no punishment to Ireland, nor will secession be a punishment to the Northern States. In the long result, step will have gone on after step, and effect will have followed cause, till the American people will at last acknowledge that all these matters have been arranged for their advantage and promotion. It may be that a nation now and then goes to the wall, and that things go from bad to worse with a large people. It has been so with various nations, and with many people since history was first written. But when it has been so, the people thus punished have been idle and bad. They have not only done evil in their generation, but have done more evil than good, and have contributed their power to the injury rather than to the improvement of mankind. It may be that this or that national fault may produce or seem to produce some consequent calamity. But the balance of good or evil things which fall to a people’s share will indicate with certainty their average conduct as a nation. The one will be the certain sequence of the other. If it be that the Americans of the Northern States have done well in their time, that they have assisted in the progress of the world, and made things better for mankind rather than worse, then they will come out of this trouble without eventual injury. That which came in the guise of punishment for a special fault, will be a part of the reward resulting from good conduct in the general. And as to this matter of slavery, in which I think that they have blundered both politically and morally, has it not been found impossible hitherto for them to cleanse their hands of that taint? But that which they could not do for themselves the course of events is doing for them. If secession establish herself, though it be only secession of the Gulf States, the people of the United States will soon be free from slavery.
In judging of the success or want of success of any political institutions or of any form of government, we should be guided, I think, by the general results, and not by any abstract rules as to the right or wrong of those institutions or of that form. It might be easy for a German lawyer to show that our system of trial by jury is open to the gravest objections, and that it sins against common sense. But if that system gives us substantial justice, and protects us from the tyranny of men in office, the German will not succeed in making us believe that it is a bad system. When looking into the matter of the schools at Boston, I observed to one of the committee of management that the statements with which I was supplied, though they told me how many of the children went to school, did not tell me how long they remained at school. The gentleman replied that that information was to be obtained from the result of the schooling of the population generally. Every boy and girl around him could read and write, and could enjoy reading and writing. There was therefore evidence to show that they remained at school sufficiently long for the required purposes. It was fair that I should judge of the system from the results. Here, in England, we generally object to much that the Americans have adopted into their form of government, and think that many of their political theories are wrong. We do not like universal suffrage. We do not like a periodical change in the first magistrate; and we like quite as little a periodical permanence in the political officers immediately under the chief magistrate; we are, in short, wedded to our own forms, and therefore opposed by judgment to forms differing from our own. But I think we all acknowledge that the United States, burdened as they are with these political evils — as we think them — have grown in strength and material prosperity with a celerity of growth hitherto unknown among nations. We may dislike Americans personally, we may find ourselves uncomfortable when there, and unable to sympathize with them when away. We may believe them to be ambitious, unjust, self-idolatrous, or irreligious; but unless we throw our judgment altogether overboard, we cannot believe them to be a weak people, a poor people, a people with low spirits or with idle hands. Now to what is it that the government of a country should chiefly look? What special advantages do we expect from our own government? Is it not that we should be safe at home and respected abroad — that laws should be maintained, but that they should be so maintained that they should not be oppressive? There are, doubtless, countries in which the government professes to do much more than this for its people — countries in which the government is paternal; in which it regulates the religion of the people, and professes to enforce on all the national children respect for the governors, teachers, spiritual pastors, and masters. But that is not our idea of a government. That is not what we desire to see established among ourselves or established among others. Safety from foreign foes, respect from foreign foes and friends, security under the law and security from the law, this is what we expect from our government; and if I add to this that we expect to have these good things provided at a fairly moderate cost, I think I have exhausted the list of our requirements. I hardly think that we even yet expect the government to take the first steps in the rudimentary education of the people. We certainly do not expect it to make the people religious, or to keep them honest.
And if the Americans with their form of government have done for themselves all that we expect our government to do for us; if they have with some fair approach to general excellence obtained respect abroad and security at home from foreign foes; if they have made life, liberty, and property safe under their laws, and have also so written and executed their laws as to secure their people from legal oppression — I maintain that they are entitled to a verdict in their favor, let us object as we may to universal suffrage, to four years’ Presidents and four years’ presidential cabinets. What, after all, matters the theory or the system, whether it be king or president, universal suffrage or ten-pound voter, so long as the people be free and prosperous? King and president, suffrage by poll and suffrage by property, are but the means. If the end be there, if the thing has been done, king and president, open suffrage and close suffrage, may alike be declared to have been successful. The Americans have been in existence as a nation for seventy-five years, and have achieved an amount of foreign respect during that period greater than any other nation ever obtained in double the time. And this has been given to them, not in deference to the statesmanlike craft of their diplomatic and other officers, but on grounds the very opposite of those. It has been given to them because they form a numerous, wealthy, brave, and self-asserting nation. It is, I think, unnecessary to prove that such foreign respect has been given to them; but were it necessary, nothing would prove it more strongly than the regard which has been universally paid by European governments to the blockade placed during this war on the Southern ports by the government of the United States. Had the nation been placed by general consent in any class of nations below the first, England, France, and perhaps Russia would have taken the matter into their own hands, and have settled for the States, either united or disunited, at any rate that question of the blockade. And the Americans have been safe at home from foreign foes; so safe, that no other strong people but ourselves have enjoyed anything approaching to their security since their foundation. Nor has our security been at all equal to theirs, if we are to count our nationality as extending beyond the British Isles. Then as to security under their laws and from their laws! Those laws and the system of their management have been taken almost entirely from us, and have so been administered that life and property have been safe, and the subject also has been free, under the law. I think that this may be taken for granted, seeing that they who have been most opposed to American forms of government have never asserted the reverse. I may be told of a man being lynched in one State, or tarred and feathered in another, or of a duel in a third being “fought at sight.” So I may be told also of men garroted in London, and of tithe proctors buried in a bog without their ears in Ireland. Neither will seventy years of continuance, nor will seven hundred, secure such an observance of laws as will prevent temporary ebullition of popular feeling, or save a people from the chance disgrace of occasional outrage. Taking the general, life and limb and property have been as safe in the States as in other civilized countries with which we are acquainted.
As to their personal liberty under their laws, I know it will be said that they have surrendered all claim to any such precious possession by the facility with which they have now surrendered the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus. It has been taken from them, as I have endeavored to show, illegally, and they have submitted to the loss and to the illegality without a murmur! But in such a matter I do not think it fair to judge them by their conduct in such a moment as the present. That this is the very moment in which to judge of the efficiency of their institutions generally, of the aptitude of those institutions for the security of the nation, I readily acknowledge; but when a ship is at sea in a storm, riding out through all that the winds and waves can do to her, one does not condemn her because a yard-arm gives way, nor even though the mainmast should go by the board. If she can make her port, saving life and cargo, she is a good ship, let her losses in spars and rigging be what they may. In this affair of the habeas corpus we will wait awhile before we come to any final judgment. If it be that the people, when the war is over, shall consent to live under a military or other dictatorship, that they shall quietly continue their course as a nation without recovery of their rights of freedom, then we shall have to say that their institutions were not founded in a soil of sufficient depth, and that they gave way before the first high wind that blew on them. I myself do not expect such a result.
I think we must admit that the Americans have received from their government, or rather from their system of policy, that aid and furtherance which they required from it; and, moreover, such aid and furtherance as we expect from our system of government. We must admit that they have been great, and free, and prosperous, as we also have become. And we must admit also that in some matters they have gone forward in advance of us. They have educated their people, as we have not educated ours. They have given to their millions a personal respect, and a standing above the abjectness of poverty, which with us are much less general than with them. These things, I grant, have not come of their government, and have not been produced by their written Constitution. They are the happy results of their happy circumstances. But so also are not those evil attributes which we sometimes assign to them the creatures of their government or of their Constitution. We acknowledge them to be well educated, intelligent, philanthropic, and industrious; but we say that they are ambitious, unjust, self-idolatrous, and irreligious. If so, let us at any rate balance the virtues against the vices. As to their ambition, it is a vice that leans so to virtue’s side that it hardly needs an apology. As to their injustice, or rather dishonesty, I have said what I have to say on that matter. I am not going to flinch from the accusation I have brought, though I am aware that in bringing it I have thrown away any hope that I might have had of carrying with me the good-will of the Americans for my book. The love of money — or rather of making money — carried to an extreme, has lessened that instinctive respect for the rights of meum and tuum, which all men feel more or less, and which, when encouraged within the human breast, finds its result in perfect honesty. Other nations, of which I will not now stop to name even one, have had their periods of natural dishonesty. It may be that others are even now to be placed in the same category. But it is a fault which industry and intelligence combined will after awhile serve to lessen and to banish. The industrious man desires to keep the fruit of his own industry, and the intelligent man will ultimately be able to do so. That the Americans are self-idolaters is perhaps true — with a difference. An American desires you to worship his country, or his brother; but he does not often, by any of the usual signs of conceit, call upon you to worship himself; as an American, treating of America, he is self-idolatrous; that is a self-idolatry which I can endure. Then, as to his want of religion — and it is a very sad want — I can only say of him that I, as an Englishman, do not feel myself justified in flinging the first stone at him. In that matter of religion, as in the matter of education, the American, I think, stands on a level higher than ours. There is not in the States so absolute an ignorance of religion as is to be found in some of our manufacturing and mining districts, and also, alas! in some of our agricultural districts; but also, I think, there is less of respect and veneration for God’s word among their educated classes than there is with us; and, perhaps, also less knowledge as to God’s word. The general religious level is, I think, higher with them; but there is, if I am right in my supposition, with us a higher eminence in religion, as there is also a deeper depth of ungodliness.
I think, then, that we are bound to acknowledge that the Americans have succeeded as a nation, politically and socially. When I speak of social success, I do not mean to say that their manners are correct according to this or that standard; I will not say that they are correct or are not correct. In that matter of manners I have found those with whom it seemed to me natural that I should associate very pleasant according to my standard. I do not know that I am a good critic on such a subject, or that I have ever thought much of it with the view of criticising; I have been happy and comfortable with them, and for me that has been sufficient. In speaking of social success I allude to their success in private life as distinguished from that which they have achieved in public life; to their successes in commerce, in mechanics, in the comforts and luxuries of life, in physic and all that leads to the solace of affliction, in literature, and I may add also, considering the youth of the nation, in the arts. We are, I think, bound to acknowledge that they have succeeded. And if they have succeeded, it is vain for us to say that a system is wrong which has, at any rate, admitted of such success. That which was wanted from some form of government, has been obtained with much more than average excellence; and therefore the form adopted has approved itself as good. You may explain to a farmer’s wife, with indisputable logic, that her churn is a bad churn; but as long as she turns out butter in greater quantity, in better quality, and with more profit than her neighbors, you will hardly induce her to change it. It may be that with some other churn she might have done even better; but, under such circumstances, she will have a right to think well of the churn she uses.
The American Constitution is now, I think, at the crisis of its severest trial. I conceive it to be by no means perfect, even for the wants of the people who use it; and I have already endeavored to explain what changes it seems to need. And it has had this defect — that it has permitted a falling away from its intended modes of action, while its letter has been kept sacred. As I have endeavored to show, universal suffrage and democratic action in the Senate were not intended by the framers of the Constitution. In this respect the Constitution has, as it were, fallen through, and it is needed that its very beams should be restrengthened. There are also other matters as to which it seems that some change is indispensable. So much I have admitted. But, not the less, judging of it by the entirety of the work that it has done, I think that we are bound to own that it has been successful.
And now, with regard to this tedious war, of which from day to day we are still, in this month of May, 1862, hearing details which teach us to think that it can hardly as yet be near its end. To what may we rationally look as its result? Of one thing I myself feel tolerably certain, that its result will not be nothing, as some among us have seemed to suppose may be probable. I cannot believe that all this energy on the part of the North will be of no avail, more than I suppose that Southern perseverance will be of no avail. There are those among us who say that a secession will at last be accomplished; the North should have yielded to the South at once, and that nothing will be gained by their great expenditure of life and treasure. I can by no means bring myself to agree with these. I also look to the establishment of secession. Seeing how essential and thorough are the points of variance between the North and the South, how unlike the one people is to the other, and how necessary it is that their policies should be different; seeing how deep are their antipathies, and how fixed is each side in the belief of its own rectitude and in the belief also of the other’s political baseness, I can not believe that the really Southern States will ever again be joined in amicable union with those of the North. They, the States of the Gulf, may be utterly subjugated, and the North may hold over them military power. Georgia and her sisters may for awhile belong to the Union, as one conquered country belongs to another. But I do not think that they will ever act with the Union; and, as I imagine, the Union before long will agree to a separation. I do not mean to prophesy that the result will be thus accomplished. It may be that the South will effect their own independence before they lay down their arms. I think, however, that we may look forward to such independence, whether it be achieved in that way, or in this, or in some other.
But not on that account will the war have been of no avail to the North. I think it must be already evident to all those who have looked into the matter, that had the North yielded to the first call made by the South for secession all the slave States must have gone. Maryland would have gone, carrying Delaware in its arms; and if Maryland, all south of Maryland. If Maryland had gone, the capital would have gone. If the government had resolved to yield, Virginia to the east would assuredly have gone, and I think there can be no doubt that Missouri, to the west, would have gone also. The feeling for the Union in Kentucky was very strong, but I do not think that even Kentucky could have saved itself. To have yielded to the Southern demands would have been to have yielded everything. But no man now presumes, let the contest go as it will, that Maryland and Delaware will go with the South. The secessionists of Baltimore do not think so, nor the gentlemen and ladies of Washington, whose whole hearts are in the Southern cause. No man thinks that Maryland will go, and few, I believe, imagine that either Missouri or Kentucky will be divided from the North. I will not pretend what may be the exact line, but I myself feel confident that it will run south both of Virginia and of Kentucky.
If the North do conquer the South, and so arrange their matters that the Southern States shall again become members of the Union, it will be admitted that they have done all that they ought to do. If they do not do this — if instead of doing this, which would be all that they desire, they were in truth to do nothing; to win finally not one foot of ground from the South — a supposition which I regard as impossible — I think that we should still admit after awhile that they had done their duty in endeavoring to maintain the integrity of the empire. But if, as a third and more probable alternative, they succeed in rescuing from the South and from slavery four or five of the finest States of the old Union — and a vast portion of the continent to be beaten by none other in salubrity, fertility, beauty, and political importance — will it not then be admitted that the war has done some good, and that the life and treasure have not been spent in vain?
That is the termination of the contest to which I look forward. I think that there will be secession, but that the terms of secession will be dictated by the North, not by the South; and among these terms I expect to see an escape from slavery for those border States to which I have alluded. In that proposition which in February last (1862) was made by the President, and which has since been sanctioned by the Senate, I think we may see the first step toward this measure. It may probably be the case that many of the slaves will be driven South; that as the owners of those slaves are driven from their holdings in Virginia they will take their slaves with them, or send them before them. The manumission, when it reaches Virginia, will not probably enfranchise the half million of slaves who, in 1860, were counted among its population. But as to that I confess myself to be comparatively careless; it is not the concern which I have now at heart. For myself, I shall feel satisfied if that manumission shall reach the million of whites by whom Virginia is populated; or if not that million in its integrity, then that other million by which its rich soil would soon be tenanted. There are now about four million of white men and women inhabiting the slave States which I have described, and I think it will be acknowledged that the Northern States will have done something with their armies if they succeed in rescuing those four millions from the stain and evil of slavery.
There is a third question which I have asked myself, and to which I have undertaken to give some answer. When this war be over between the Northern and Southern States, will there come upon us a necessity of fighting with the Americans? If there do come such necessity, arising out of our conduct to the States during the period of their civil war, it will indeed be hard upon us, as a nation, seeing the struggle that we as a nation have made to be just in our dealings toward the States generally, whether they be North or South. To be just in such a period, and under such circumstances, is very difficult. In that contest between Sardinia and Austria it was all but impossible to be just to the Italians without being unjust to the Emperor of Austria. To have been strictly just at the moment one should have begun by confessing the injustice of so much that had gone before! But in this American contest such justice, though difficult, was easier. Affairs of trade rather than of treaties chiefly interfered; and these affairs, by a total disregard of our own pecuniary interests, could be so managed that justice might be done. This I think was effected. It may be, of course, that I am prejudiced on the side of my own nation; but striving to judge of the matter as best I may without prejudice, I cannot see that we, as a nation, have in aught offended against the strictest justice in our dealings with America during this contest. But justice has not sufficed. I do not know that our bitterest foes in the Northern States have accused us of acting unjustly. It is not justice which they have looked for at our hands, and looked for in vain — not justice, but generosity! We have not, as they say, sympathized with them in their trouble. It seems to me that such a complaint is unworthy of them as a nation, as a people, or as individuals. In such a matter generosity is another name for injustice, as it too often is in all matters. A generous sympathy with the North would have been an ostensible and crushing enmity to the South. We could not have sympathized with the North without condemning the South, and telling to the world that the South were our enemies. In ordering his own household a man should not want generosity or sympathy from the outside; and if not a man, then certainly not a nation. Generosity between nations must in its very nature be wrong. One nation may be just to another, courteous to another, even considerate to another with propriety. But no nation can be generous to another without injustice either to some third nation or to itself.
But though no accusation of unfairness has, as far as I am aware, ever been made by the government of Washington against the government of England, there can be no doubt that a very strong feeling of antipathy to England has sprung up in America during this war, and that it is even yet so intense in its bitterness that, were the North to become speedily victorious in their present contest, very many Americans would be anxious to turn their arms at once against Canada. And I fear that that fight between the Monitor and the Merrimac has strengthened this wish by giving to the Americans an unwarranted confidence in their capability of defending themselves against any injury from British shipping. It may be said by them, and probably would be said by many of them, that this feeling of enmity had not been engendered by any idea of national injustice on our side; that it might reasonably exist, though no suspicion of such injustice had arisen in the minds of any. They would argue that the hatred on their part had been engendered by scorn on ours — by scorn and ill words heaped upon them in their distress.
They would say that slander, scorn, and uncharitable judgments create deeper feuds than do robbery and violence, and produce deeper enmity and worse rancor. “It is because we have been scorned by England, that we hate England. We have been told from week to week, and from day to day, that we were fools, cowards, knaves, and madmen. We have been treated with disrespect, and that disrespect we will avenge.” It is thus that they speak of England, and there can be no doubt that the opinion so expressed is very general. It is not my purpose here to say whether in this respect England has given cause of offense to the States, or whether either country has given cause of offense to the other. On both sides have many hard words been spoken, and on both sides also have good words been spoken. It is unfortunately the case that hard words are pregnant, and as such they are read, digested, and remembered; while good words are generally so dull that nobody reads them willingly, and when read, they are forgotten. For many years there have been hard words bandied backward and forward between England and the United States, showing mutual jealousies, and a disposition on the part of each nation to spare no fault committed by the other. This has grown of rivalry between the two, and in fact proves the respect which each has for the other’s power and wealth. I will not now pretend to say with which side has been the chiefest blame, if there has been chiefest blame on either side. But I do say that it is monstrous in any people or in any person to suppose that such bickerings can afford a proper ground for war. I am not about to dilate on the horrors of war. Horrid as war may be, and full of evil, it is not so horrid to a nation, nor so full of evil, as national insult unavenged or as national injury unredressed. A blow taken by a nation and taken without atonement is an acknowledgment of national inferiority, than which any war is preferable. Neither England nor the States are inclined to take such blows. But such a blow, before it can be regarded as a national insult, as a wrong done by one nation to another, must be inflicted by the political entity of the one or the political entity of the other. No angry clamors of the press, no declamations of orators, no voices from the people, no studied criticisms from the learned few, or unstudied censures from society at large, can have any fair weight on such a creation or do aught toward justifying a national quarrel. They cannot form a casus belli. Those two Latin words, which we all understand, explain this with the utmost accuracy. Were it not so, the peace of the world would indeed rest upon sand. Causes of national difference will arise — for governments will be unjust as are individuals. And causes of difference will arise because governments are too blind to distinguish the just from the unjust. But in such cases the government acts on some ground which it declares. It either shows or pretends to show some casus belli. But in this matter of threatened war between the States and England it is declared openly that such war is to take place because the English have abused the Americans, and because consequently the Americans hate the English. There seems to exist an impression that no other ostensible ground for fighting need be shown, although such an event as that of war between the two nations would, as all men acknowledge, be terrible in its results. “Your newspapers insulted us when we were in our difficulties. Your writers said evil things of us. Your legislators spoke of us with scorn. You exacted from us a disagreeable duty of retribution just when the performance of such a duty was most odious to us. You have shown symptoms of joy at our sorrow. And, therefore, as soon as our hands are at liberty, we will fight you.” I have known school-boys to argue in that way, and the arguments have been intelligible; but I cannot understand that any government should admit such an argument.
Nor will the American government willingly admit it. According to existing theories of government the armies of nations are but the tools of the governing powers. If at the close of the present civil war the American government — the old civil government consisting of the President with such checks as Congress constitutionally has over him — shall really hold the power to which it pretends, I do not fear that there will be any war. No President, and I think no Congress, will desire such a war. Nor will the people clamor for it, even should the idea of such a war be popular. The people of America are not clamorous against their government. If there be such a war it will be because the army shall have then become more powerful than the government. If the President can hold his own, the people will support him in his desire for peace. But if the President do not hold his own — if some general, with two or three hundred thousand men at his back, shall then have the upper hand in the nation — it is too probable that the people may back him. The old game will be played again that has so often been played in the history of nations, and some wretched military aspirant will go forth to flood Canada with blood, in order that the feathers of his cap may flaunt in men’s eyes and that he may be talked of for some years to come as one of the great curses let loose by the Almighty on mankind.
I must confess that there is danger of this. To us the danger is very great. It cannot be good for us to send ships laden outside with iron shields instead of inside with soft goods and hardware to these thickly thronged American ports. It cannot be good for us to have to throw millions into these harbors instead of taking millions out from them. It cannot be good for us to export thousands upon thousands of soldiers to Canada of whom only hundreds would return. The whole turmoil, cost, and paraphernalia of such a course would be injurious to us in the extreme, and the loss of our commerce would be nearly ruinous. But the injury of such a war to us would be as nothing to the injury which it would inflict upon the States. To them for many years it would be absolutely ruinous. It would entail not only all those losses which such a war must bring with it, but that greater loss which would arise to the nation from the fact of its having been powerless to prevent it. Such a war would prove that it had lost the freedom for which it had struggled, and which for so many years it has enjoyed. For the sake of that people as well as for our own — and for their sakes rather than for our own — let us, as far as may be, abstain from words which are needlessly injurious. They have done much that is great and noble, ever since this war has begun, and we have been slow to acknowledge it. They have made sacrifices for the sake of their country which we have ridiculed. They have struggled to maintain a good cause, and we have disbelieved in their earnestness. They have been anxious to abide by their Constitution, which to them has been as it were a second gospel, and we have spoken of that Constitution as though it had been a thing of mere words in which life had never existed. This has been done while their hands are very full and their back heavily laden. Such words coming from us, or from parties among us, cannot justify those threats of war which we hear spoken; but that they should make the hearts of men sore and their thoughts bitter against us, can hardly be matter of surprise.
As to the result of any such war between us and them, it would depend mainly, I think, on the feelings of the Canadians. Neither could they annex Canada without the good-will of the Canadians, nor could we keep Canada without that good-will. At present the feeling in Canada against the Northern States is so strong and so universal that England has little to fear on that head.
I have now done my task, and may take leave of my readers on either side of the water with a hearty hope that the existing war between the North and the South may soon be over, and that none other may follow on its heels to exercise that new-fledged military skill which the existing quarrel will have produced on the other side of the Atlantic. I have written my book in obscure language if I have not shown that to me social successes and commercial prosperity are much dearer than any greatness that can be won by arms. The Americans had fondly thought that they were to be exempt from the curse of war — at any rate from the bitterness of the curse. But the days for such exemption have not come as yet. While we are hurrying on to make twelve-inch shield plates for our men-of-war, we can hardly dare to think of the days when the sword shall be turned into the plowshare. May it not be thought well for us if, with such work on our hands, scraps of iron shall be left to us with which to pursue any of the purposes of peace? But at least let us not have war with these children of our own. If we must fight, let us fight the French “for King George upon the throne.” The doing so will be disagreeable, but it will not be antipathetic to the nature of an Englishman. For my part, when an American tells me that he wants to fight with me, I regard his offense, as compared with that of a Frenchman under the same circumstances, as I would compare the offense of a parricide or a fratricide with that of a mere commonplace murderer. Such a war would be plus quam civile bellum. Which of us two could take a thrashing from the other and afterward go about our business with contentment?
On our return to Liverpool, we stayed for a few hours at Queenstown, taking in coal, and the passengers landed that they might stretch their legs and look about them. I also went ashore at the dear old place which I had known well in other days, when the people were not too grand to call it Cove, and were contented to run down from Cork in river steamers, before the Passage railway was built. I spent a pleasant summer there once in those times: God be with the good old days! And now I went ashore at Queenstown, happy to feel that I should be again in a British isle, and happy also to know that I was once more in Ireland. And when the people came around me as they did, I seemed to know every face and to be familiar with every voice. It has been my fate to have so close an intimacy with Ireland, that when I meet an Irishman abroad I always recognize in him more of a kinsman than I do in your Englishman. I never ask an Englishman from what county he comes, or what was his town. To Irishmen I usually put such questions, and I am generally familiar with the old haunts which they name. I was happy therefore to feel myself again in Ireland, and to walk round, from Queenstown to the river at Passage, by the old way that had once been familiar to my feet.
Or rather I should have been happy if I had not found myself instantly disgraced by the importunities of my friends. A legion of women surrounded me, imploring alms, begging my honor to bestow my charity on them for the love of the Virgin, using the most holy names in their adjurations for half-pence, clinging to me with that half-joking, half-lachrymose air of importunity which an Irish beggar has assumed as peculiarly her own. There were men, too, who begged as well as women. And the women were sturdy and fat, and, not knowing me as well as I knew them, seemed resolved that their importunities should be successful. After all, I had an old world liking for them in their rags. They were endeared to me by certain memories and associations which I cannot define. But then what would those Americans think of them — of them and of the country which produced them? That was the reflection which troubled me. A legion of women in rags clamorous for bread, protesting to heaven that they are starving, importunate with voices and with hands, surrounding the stranger when he puts his foot on the soil, so that he cannot escape, does not afford to the cynical American who then first visits us — and they all are cynical when they visit us — a bad opportunity for his sarcasm. He can at any rate boast that he sees nothing of that at home. I myself am fond of Irish beggars. It is an acquired taste, which comes upon one as does that for smoked whisky or Limerick tobacco. But I certainly did wish that there were not so many of them at Queenstown.
I tell all this here not to the disgrace of Ireland — not for the triumph of America. The Irishman or American who thinks rightly on the subject will know that the state of each country has arisen from its opportunities. Beggary does not prevail in new countries, and but few old countries have managed to exist without it. As to Ireland, we may rejoice to say that there is less of it now than there was twenty years since. Things are mending there. But though such excuses may be truly made — although an Englishman, when he sees this squalor and poverty on the quays at Queenstown, consoles himself with reflecting that the evil has been unavoidable, but will perhaps soon be avoided — nevertheless he cannot but remember that there is no such squalor and no such poverty in the land from which he has returned. I claim no credit for the new country. I impute no blame to the old country. But there is the fact. The Irishman when he expatriates himself to one of those American States loses much of that affectionate, confiding, master-worshiping nature which makes him so good a fellow when at home. But he becomes more of a man. He assumes a dignity which he never has known before. He learns to regard his labor as his own property. That which he earns he takes without thanks, but he desires to take no more than he earns. To me personally, he has, perhaps, become less pleasant than he was; — but to himself! It seems to me that such a man must feel himself half a god, if he has the power of comparing what he is with what he was.
It is right that all this should be acknowledged by us. When we speak of America and of her institutions, we should remember that she has given to our increasing population rights and privileges which we could not give — which as an old country we probably can never give. That self-asserting, obtrusive independence which so often wounds us is, if viewed aright, but an outward sign of those good things which a new country has produced for its people. Men and women do not beg in the States; they do not offend you with tattered rags; they do not complain to heaven of starvation; they do not crouch to the ground for half-pence. If poor, they are not abject in their poverty. They read and write. They walk like human beings made in God’s form. They know that they are men and women, owing it to themselves and to the world that they should earn their bread by their labor, but feeling that when earned it is their own. If this be so, if it be acknowledged that it is so, should not such knowledge in itself be sufficient testimony of the success of the country and of her institutions?
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