Saturday, January 5, 2013

The British Counsel

Our rebellion has brought out the oddest developments of British opinion in respect to this country.  Our English cousins mistake us altogether.  They blunder in geography; they have the strangest misconception of our politics; and they do not seem to get the least appreciation of the real character and spirit of the American people.  The present war, instead of enlightening them – as it has proved a marvelous means of self-knowledge to ourselves, only confuses and bewilders them the more, and if the English newspapers of this date represent the ideas of the English people, they may be pronounced essentially muddled on American affair[s].  All the leading papers – from the London Times down or up, as you prefer to take it – those that have been most friendly to our Government not excepted, have fallen in to the hallucination that the recent Union victories will incline our Government and people to consent to the disruption of the Union. – They appear to think we have been fighting for a point of honor, to demonstrate which end of the Union has more pluck, and that point settled, that there is no obstacle to the splitting up of the nation into any number of petty sovereignties.  They really seem to expect that we shall jump at this opportunity to make peace and let the south go, and that there is actually no serious objection to a disruption of the Union.

All this sounds very oddly to us, who know that the determination to maintain the Union intact has strengthened and deepened with every defeat and every success, until now the people of the Free States are unanimous in this purpose, and a suggestion to assent to the secession would be hooted down as the madness of folly and treason.  Yet the English papers tell us our success in maintaining the Union and defeating its enemies has removed the only obstacle to its dissolution.  The London Times naively admits that it desires a division of the Union because Great Britain can better manage two powers on this continent than one, and it attempts to beguile us with the notion that there is plenty of room here for two nations, with the widest scope desirable for growth in population and wealth.  The American people are not to be caught with any such chaff.  They have read European history too well, and they are determined that there shall not be on this continent any such inducement to perpetual war as must inevitably exist between two rival nations occupying the same great rivers and valleys, with no natural boundaries to separate them.  Two nations within the limits of these States is a physical impossibility, and the people are fast making it a political and moral impossibility.  The appeal of our English cousins comes too late, and there is nothing in it to move us in the least degree from our fixed purpose to maintain the Union at whatever cost.  If we could foresee that it would require a thirty years’ war, and burden us with a perpetual tax, such as the English people groan under, it would not shake the inflexible purpose.  How absurd then to suppose that when we are marching on to success in a work held essential to our national existence and to our prosperity and honor, in all coming time, we should pause and abandon out object just as it comes within our grasp.  The English may honestly think us fools, but we know we should prove ourselves so if we could listen for a moment to such a suggestion.

How is it that the English people can suppose we care less for our national integrity than they do?  A few years ago the O’Connell repeal movement culminated in a project to take Ireland out of the “united kingdom” by violence – that is forcible secession, something after the Jeff Davis plan.  It was promptly extinguished by the dispersion of the repeal clubs, the disarming of their members, and the trial and banishment of their leaders.  Why did it not occur then to the London Times, that the Government had demonstrated its power to maintain the National unity, it was just the proper moment to consent to repeal?  Why did not England say to Ireland, we have proved that we can hold you if we will – now go in peace and establish your Irish kingdom?  To ask the question is to answer it.  There was no “repealer” crazy enough to suggest such a solution of the controversy, and no American editor was found stupid enough to volunteer such advice to the British Crown as the Times now offers to our Government.  But it is useless to argue this matter.  There is no cure for British stupidity and misconception but hard facts.  The same process that enlightens the South, will at length open British eyes to the fact that the United States is an actual nation, valuing its own existence and unity, and determined and able to sustain and defend itself.  That fact well established, we shall hear no more kind advice from our English friends to go into national dissolution as a means of living.  Until they comprehend us well enough to withhold all such advice, we must even continue to hold their opinions of us as entitled to not the slightest consideration. – {Springfield Republican.

– Published in The Burlington Weekly Hawk-Eye, Burlington, Iowa, Saturday, April 5, 1862, p. 3

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