Sunday, September 18, 2016

John Stuart Mill to John L. Motley, September 17, 1862

Saint-Virain, Avignon,
September 17, 1862.

My Dear Sir: I value the permission you gave me to correspond with you much too highly not to avail myself of it thus early, although I have very little to say that will be new, and at the same time interesting, to one whose thoughts are engrossed as yours must be. If you see “Macmillan's Magazine,” which has from the beginning been steadily on the right side in American affairs, you must have remarked the “Notes of a Journey in America,” which have been in the course of publication for some months, ending with a general summing up in the September number. This last paper especially appears to me excellent, and likely to do much good in England. The whole series has been reprinted in a volume, with the name of the writer, Mr. Edward Dicey, author of a recent book on Italy and Rome. You will probably see the “Westminster Review” of next month, which will contain an article of mine on the American question, apropos of Mr. Cairnes’s book. It is hastily written, and slight, for such a subject, but “every little helps,” as the nursery proverb says. I am not at all uneasy about public opinion here, if only the North is successful. The great number of well-meaning people and sincere enemies of slavery, who have been led into disapproving of your resistance to the South when carried to the length of war, have been chiefly influenced by thinking the reconquest of the South impossible. If you prove it to be possible, if you bring the slave States under your power, if you make use of that power to reconstitute Southern society on the basis of freedom, and if finally you wind up the financial results without breaking faith with any of the national creditors (among whom must be reckoned the holders of depreciated currency), you will have all our public with you, except the Tories, who will be mortified that what they absurdly think an example of the failure of democracy should be exchanged for a splendid example of its success. If you come well and honorably through one of the severest trials which a nation has ever undergone, the whole futurity of mankind will assume a brighter aspect. If not, it will for some time to come be very much darkened.

I have read lately two writings of Northern Americans on the subject of England, which show a very liberal appreciation of the misdirection of English opinion and feeling respecting the contest. One is Mr. Thurlow Weed's letter, which was published in the newspapers, and in which those just and generous allowances are made for us which many of us have not made for you. The other is the Rev. Dr. Thompson's “England during our War,” reprinted from the “New Englander,” which is even over-indulgent to our people, but too severe on our government. I believe that our government has felt more rightly all through than a majority of the public.

We shall be at this address until the end of November; afterward at Blackheath Park, Kent. I need hardly say that if your occupations would allow of your writing to me it would not only give me great pleasure, but would make me better able to be of use to a cause which I have as much at heart as even yourself.

I am, my dear sir,
Very truly yours,
J. S. Mill.

SOURCE: George William Curtis, editor, The Correspondence of John Lothrop Motley in Two Volumes, Library Edition, Volume 2, p. 281-3

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