CHAPTER XIII. AN APOLOGY FOR THE WAR.
I think it may be received as a fact that the Northern States, taken together, sent a full tenth of their able-bodied men into the ranks of the army in the course of the summer and autumn of 1861. The South, no doubt, sent a much larger proportion; but the effect of such a drain upon the South would not be the same, because the slaves were left at home to perform the agricultural work of the country. I very much doubt whether any other nation ever made such an effort in so short a time. To a people who can do this it may well be granted that they are in earnest; and I do not think it should be lightly decided by any foreigner that they are wrong. The strong and unanimous impulse of a great people is seldom wrong. And let it be borne in mind that in this case both people may be right - the people both of North and South. Each may have been guided by a just and noble feeling, though each was brought to its present condition by bad government and dishonest statesmen.
There can be no doubt that, since the commencement of the war the American feeling against England has been very bitter. All Americans to whom I spoke on the subject admitted that it was so. I, as an Englishman, felt strongly the injustice of this feeling, and lost no opportunity of showing, or endeavoring to show, that the line of conduct pursued by England toward the States was the only line which was compatible with her own policy and just interests and also with the dignity of the States government. I heard much of the tender sympathy of Russia. Russia sent a flourishing general message, saying that she wished the North might win, and ending with some good general advice proposing peace. It was such a message as strong nations send to those which are weaker. Had England ventured on such counsel, the diplomatic paper would probably have been returned to her. It is, I think, manifest that an absolute and disinterested neutrality has been the only course which could preserve England from deserved rebuke - a neutrality on which her commercial necessity for importing cotton or exporting her own manufactures should have no effect. That our government would preserve such a neutrality I have always insisted; and I believe it has been done with a pure and strict disregard to any selfish views on the part of Great Britain. So far I think England may feel that she has done well in this matter. But I must confess that I have not been so proud of the tone of all our people at home as I have been of the decisions of our statesmen. It seems to me that some of us never tire in abusing the Americans, and calling them names for having allowed themselves to be driven into this civil war. We tell them that they are fools and idiots; we speak of their doings as though there had been some plain course by which the war might have been avoided; and we throw it in their teeth that they have no capability for war. We tell them of the debt which they are creating, and point out to them that they can never pay it. We laugh at their attempt to sustain loyalty, and speak of them as a steady father of a family is wont to speak of some unthrifty prodigal who is throwing away his estate and hurrying from one ruinous debauchery to another. And, alas! we too frequently allow to escape from us some expression of that satisfaction which one rival tradesman has in the downfall of another. "Here you are with all your boasting," is what we say. "You were going to whip all creation the other day; and it has come to this! Brag is a good dog, but Holdfast is a better. Pray remember that, if ever you find yourselves on your legs again." That little advice about the two dogs is very well, and was not altogether inapplicable. But this is not the time in which it should be given. Putting aside slight asperities, we will all own that the people of the States have been and are our friends, and that as friends we cannot spare them. For one Englishman who brings home to his own heart a feeling of cordiality for France - a belief in the affection of our French alliance - there are ten who do so with reference to the States. Now, in these days of their trouble, I think that we might have borne with them more tenderly.
And how was it possible that they should have avoided this war? I will not now go into the cause of it, or discuss the course which it has taken, but will simply take up the fact of the rebellion. The South rebelled against the North; and such being the case, was it possible that the North should yield without a war? It may very likely be well that Hungary should be severed from Austria, or Poland from Russia, or Venice from Austria. Taking Englishmen in a lump, they think that such separation would be well. The subject people do not speak the language of those that govern them or enjoy kindred interests. But yet when military efforts are made by those who govern Hungary, Poland, and Venice to prevent such separation, we do not say that Russia and Austria are fools. We are not surprised that they should take up arms against the rebels, but would be very much surprised indeed if they did not do so. We know that nothing but weakness would prevent their doing so. But if Austria and Russia insist on tying to themselves a people who do not speak their language or live in accordance with their habits, and are not considered unreasonable in so insisting, how much more thoroughly would they carry with them the sympathy of their neighbors in preventing any secession by integral parts of their own nationalities! Would England let Ireland walk off by herself, if she wished it? In 1843 she did wish it. Three-fourths of the Irish population would have voted for such a separation; but England would have prevented such a secession vi et armis, had Ireland driven her to the necessity of such prevention.