Goldwin Smith.

England and America: a lecture, delivered ... before the Boston Fraternity, during his recent visit to the United States online

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OXFORD, January 16, 1865.


The lecture delivered before the Boston Fraternity,
and published in the Atlantic Monthly, which you propose to
reprint, and which I shall be most happy to see circulated
under your auspices, is obviously the work of one who does
not regard America as a foreign nation, alien to our political
concerns, but as the great colony of England, accidentally and
temporarily estranged from the mother country by the acts of
George III., Mr. Grenville, and Lord North acts against which
Chatham protested and in which the English people had no
share. This view, and the sentiments which correspond to it,
may be erroneous, but they involve no want of loyalty or
affection to our own country.

There are two lines of policy which may be pursued towards
the great Anglo-Saxon community on the other side of the
Atlantic. One is to treat it as a natural enemy, and do all
in our power to break it up and destroy its greatness. The
other is to treat it as our natural friend, to show on every
proper occasion and in every way consistent with our honour



(that honour without which there can be no worthy friendship
on either side), that we are sensible of the tie of blood which
unites us to it, and to divest American greatness of danger to
us by making it our own. The present current of events seems
to show that the line of policy last mentioned, though rejected
by great diplomatists, is likely to prove the more practicable
as well as the more genial of the two. In fact, their geo
graphical position, the great channels of commerce, such as the
Mississippi and other navigable rivers, which traverse their
territory, and mutual interests too manifest to be disregarded,
added to their common race and language, can scarcely fail to
reunite the inhabitants of Northern America, in the lon run

> Q

into one confederation, even though a temporary disruption
should take place. No State has been more loyal to the
Federal Government during this rebellion, or shown its loyalty
in a more effective way, than California; and the separation
of the West from the East, so confidently predicted here,
seems to observers on the spot improbable in the highest

The two portions of the Anglo-Saxon race have now been
brought pretty close to the verge of a fratricidal war for a
fratricidal war it would be, in the literal sense, not perhaps to
our aristocracy, but to that very numerous class of our people
which has kinsmen on the other side of the Atlantic. Our
French rivals, I see, are beginning to reckon upon this war as


certain to ensue, and to exult in the prospect of it. And
French imperialists well may exult; for it would be the
greatest blow that the cause of human freedom could possibly


The influences which impel us towards this disaster on both
sides are too powerful : but on both sides they are alien not
only to the interests, but to the deepest feelings of the great
body of the people, and such as true patriots, actuated not
by love or hatred of any class or order, but by desire of the
general welfare, ought to struggle, and may yet successfully
struggle, to control.

On our side there is the antipathy of our aristocracy and
hierarchy, the feudal and Koman elements of our polity, to
the free institutions of New England an antipathy so natural,
so inevitable, that it ought to move no resentment, unless it
breaks out into injurious acts, and sacrifices the public welfare
to the interests of a particular order. The slaveowning aristo
cracy, oppressors of a helpless race, torturers of women, authors
of a slave code which sets Christian sanctity as well as justice
at defiance, would scarcely have received the sympathy of St.
Louis, Bayard, or the Black Prince, much less that of the
good bishops of the Middle Ages. The pedigrees of a great
many of them are not more historic than those of overseers or
sharp Yankee traders. Still they are an aristocracy of a certain
kind ; at all events the government which they are struggling


to overthrow is a government of the people. Besides this class
antagonism, there is the danger arising from the unpatriotic
cupidity of some of our commercial men, fitters out of priva
teers for the South, and blockade runners, for whose gains, the
nation, though it has no share in them, may pay in tears and

Every Anglo-American has at the bottom of his heart some
thing of a filial feeling towards Old England. But the Irish,
in America, are, with too much reason, our mortal enemies ; and
as they vote together with clanish compactness, they are able to
exercise a very disproportionate influence on the councils of the
State and the conduct of public men. The slaveowners hated
us with equal malignity, though we are now exhorted to take;
them to our bosom ; and the Democratic party, of which they
were the chiefs, and the Irish the rank and file, during its long
domination, succeeded in creating a factitious Anglophobia, in
which almost all politicians and public writers, more or less,
shared or pretended to share, and which, though its cause being-
withdrawn, it will probably soon subside, has not yet ceased to
poison the judgment of the American people.

Profligate journalists on both sides have laboured to inflame
the mutual animosity; and if the result should be a war, per
haps the world will begin to moralize upon the irresponsible
agencies which can bring such calamities on nations. Foremost
in virulence on our side, and perhaps unparalleled in disregard


of truth, has been the wealthiest of English journals, and 1
one which most affects the air of a great public instructor, abc
the feelings of ordinary partizanship and the passions of the
people. The mischief done by the leading articles has be *
equalled, or even exceeded, by that done by the letters of -U
chosen or perhaps too well chosen correspondents, who, bei
men incapable of observing and recording a great revolutL
have filled their letters with slanderous gossip, collected some
times in the most discreditable manner, to gratify the lowi
prejudices of their English readers.

The principal point of dangerous contact is Canada; the co o-
nists of which, or a large part of them, have been stimulated by
our Tory press and by the military demonstrations made by the
government on their frontier, into an attitude of irritating
hostility to their neighbours : whence the gathering of Southern
refugees and emissaries in that territory, the Raids, and the
notice now given by the American government of its intention
to place an armed flotilla on the lakes. The Americans have
no wish to annex Canada, the addition of which to their vast
territories would only increase the difficulty of securing a com
pact nationality, the grand object of their present wishes : bur
they of course appreciate it as a battle-field, and they are
perated at seeing it made a den of bandits and buccan-.
Nassau is also a great source of ill feeling; for though block
ade running may be lawful, it is bitter to see a distant p


sheltering on your very coast, beneath the guns of an outlying
fortress, the vessels which sustain and prolong a civil war.
When all this is over, the reason of the English nation will
perhaps begin to reflect on the value of distant dependencies,
which cost us a good deal, yield us nothing, and entangle us in

The effects of war to the Americans will be the ruin of their
finances, which the inexperience of their financiers has already
brought into a most critical condition ; and which can be restored
only by the^ revival of their trade, the opening up of their
internal communications, and the influx of emigrants to con
vert, by their labour, the dormant resources of the country
agricultural and mineral into actual and taxable wealth. As
a consequence of financial ruin, and of the prolongation of mili
tary government, the constitution will assuredly be brought into
serious peril. Canada might be partly overrun : but the
Canadians would be thereby made the deadly enemies of
the United States, and the ready instruments of foreign aggres
sion for a century to come.

As to this country, our literary incendiaries are beginning
themselves to see the gravity of the position into which they
have brought us. Our commerce would be swept from the sea,
as that of the Americans has already been. The American
navy now numbers about five hundred vessels, of which a large
proportion, built in the first instance against the blockade-


nmners, are equally adapted for preying on peaceful trade.
The scene of war would be Canada, three thousand miles from
our resources, almost inaccessible during five months in the
year, and commanded by great lakes on which the Americans
can in a very short time put an overwhelming force ; while
the Canadians are destitute of any effective armament, and
would be compelled to throw themselves entirely on our hands.
It is a common notion in this country that we could bombard
the great cities on the American seaboard : but seamen say
and anyone who has seen the approaches to New York and
Boston will readily believe, that this notion is quite unfounded.
A blockade of so extensive a coast, with its ports full of vessels
of war, must be allowed to be utterly hopeless.

The Canadians have already been warned of their fate by
the withdrawal of the troops, which were totally inadequate to
guard the whole frontier, into the fortresses of the Lower
Province ; an intimation that, in the event of a war, the Upper
Province is to be abandoned to the invader.

Such would be the immediate effects to all parties of a war
between England and America. But the immediate effects
would be as nothing compared with its ultimate effects in
marring the glorious future of the Anglo-Saxon race, and
imperilling the principles of which the members of that race
are now almost the sole depositories in the world. Against
the currents which are drawing us towards this abyss, the pen

of a private writer is as a straw against the rapids of Niagara;
out much may be done by combined action, and not a little
=ias been clone and it is to be hoped may still be done by
lie association of which you are the head.

I am, my dear sir,

Very faithfully yours,


TJie President of the Manchester Union and
Emancipation Society, Manchester.


I CAME to America to see and hear, not to lecture. But when I
was invited by the Boston "Fraternity" to lecture in their course,
and permitted to take the relations between England and America
as my subject, I did not feel at liberty to decline the invitation.
England is my country. To America, though an alien by birth, I
am, as an English Liberal, no alien in heart. I deeply share the
desire of all my political friends in England and of the leaders of
my party to banish ill-feeling and promote good-will between the
two kindred nations. My heart would be cold if that desire were
not increased by the welcome which I have met with here. More
than once, when called upon to speak (a task little suited to my
habits and powers), I have tried to make it understood that the
feelings of England as a nation towards you in your great struggle
had not been truly represented by a portion of our press. Some
of my present hearers may, perhaps, have seen very imperfect
reports of those speeches. I hope to say what I have to say with
a little more clearness now.

There was between England and America the memory of
ancient quarrels, which your national pride did not suffer to sleep,
and which sometimes galled a haughty nation little patient of
defeat. In more recent times there had been a number of dis
putes, the more angry because they were between brethren. There
had been disputes about boundaries, in which England believed
herself to have been overreached by your negotiators, or, what was
still more irritating, to have been overborne because her main
power was not here. There had been disputes about the right of
search, in which we had to taste the bitterness, now not unknown

to you, of those whose sincerity in a good cause is doubted, when,
in fact, they are perfectly sincere. You had alarmed and exas
perated us by your Ostend manifesto, and your scheme for the
annexation of Cuba. In these discussions some of your statesmen
had shown towards us the spirit which Slavery does not fail to
engender in the domestic tyrant ; while, perhaps, some of our
statesmen had been too ready to presume bad intentions and anti
cipate wrong. In our war with Kussia your sympathies had been,
as we supposed, strongly on the Russian side; and we even those
among us who least approved the war had been scandalized at
seeing the American Republic in the arms of a despotism which
had just crushed Hungary, and which stood avowed as the arch
enemy of liberty in Europe. In the course of that war an English
envoy committed a fault by being privy to recruiting in your ter
ritories. The fault was acknowledged ;* but the matter was pressed
by your government in a temper which we thought showed a
desire to humiliate, and a want of that readiness to accept satis
faction, when frankly tendered, which renders the reparation of an
unintentional offence easy and painless between men of honour.
These wounds had been inflamed by the unfriendly criticism of
English writers, who visited a new country without the spirit of
philosophic inquiry, and who, in collecting materials for the amuse
ment of their countrymen, sometimes showed themselves a little
wanting in regard for the laws of hospitality, as well as in pene
tration and in largeness of view.

Yet beneath this outward estrangement there lay in the heart
of England at least a deeper feeling, an appeal to which was never

* On referring to the Blue Book I find that my memory has somewhat deceived
me hero. Our government did not formally acknowledge that its envoy had com
mitted a fault; and it is doubtful whether, legally speaking, he had committed one,
the question turning on the relations hetween municipal and international law.
But Lord Clarendon wrote a despatch (July 16, 1855), frankly expressing regret if
anything had been done amiss, and giving full assurance for the future, which was
transmitted by Mr. Buchanan to the American government " with much satisfac
tion," and which ought to have terminated the affair. The controversy was renewed
by Mr. Marcy (September 5, 1855) in the most offensive tone, and with an object
which it is impossible to mistake. G. S.

nwelcome, even in quarters where the love of American institu-

ons least prevailed. I will venture to repeat some words from a

jcture addressed a short time before this war to the University of

xford, which at that time had amongst its students an English

)rince. "The loss of the American colonies/ said the lecturer,

peaking of your first revolution, "was perhaps in itself a gain to

oth countries. It was a gain, as it emancipated commerce and

ave free course to those reciprocal streams of wealth which a

estrictive policy had forbidden to flow. It was a gain, as it put

,n end to an obsolete tutelage, which tended to prevent America

rom learning betimes to walk alone, while it gave England the

juerile and somewhat dangerous pleasure of reigning over those

vhom she did not and could not govern, but whom she was tempted

,o harass and insult. A source of military strength colonies can

scarcely be. You prevent them from forming proper military

establishments of their own, and you drag them into your quarrels

it the price of undertaking their defence. The inauguration of

:ree-trade was in fact the renunciation of the only solid object for

which our ancestors clung to an invidious and perilous supremacy,

and exposed the heart of England by scattering her fleet and

armies over the globe. It was not the loss of the colonies, but the

quarrel, that was one of the greatest, perhaps the greatest disaster

that ever befell the English race. Who would not give up Blenheim

and Waterloo if only the two Englands could have parted from

each other in kindness and in peace; if our statesmen could have

had the wisdom to say to the Americans, generously and at the

right season, You are Englishmen, like ourselves; be, for your own

happiness and for our honour, like ourselves, a nation? But

English statesmen, with all their greatness, have seldom known

how to anticipate necessity; too often the sentence of history on

their policy has been that it was wise, just, and generous, but too

late. Too often have they waited for the teaching of disaster.

Time will heal this, like other wounds. In signing away his own

empire, George III. did not sign away the empire of English

liberty, of English law, of English literature, of English religion,

of English blood, or of the English tongue. But though the wound

will heal and that it may heal ought to be the earnest desire of

the whole English name history can never cancel the fatal page
which robs England of half the glory and half the happiness of
being the mother of a great nation." Such, I say, was the language
addressed to Oxford in the full confidence that it would be well

And now all these clouds seemed to have fairly passed away
Your reception of the Prince of Wales, the heir and representative
of George III., was a perfect pledge of reconciliation. It showed
that beneath a surface of estrangement there still remained the
strong tie of blood. Englishmen who loved the New England as
well as the Old were for the moment happy in the belief that the
two were one again. And, believe me, joy at this complete renewal
of our amity was very deeply and widely felt in England. It
spread far even among the classes which have shown the greatest-
want of sympathy for you in the present war.

England has diplomatic connections she has sometimes diplo
matic intrigues with the great powers of Europe. For a real
alliance she must look here. Strong as is the element of aristocracy
in her government, there is that in her, nevertheless, which makes
her cordial understandings with military despotisms little better
than smothered hate. With you she may have a league of the
heart. We are united by blood. We are united by a common
allegiance to the cause of freedom. You may think that English
freedom falls far short of yours. You will allow that it goes beyond
any yet attained by the great European nations, and that to those
nations it has been and still is a light of hope. I see it treated
with contempt here. It is not treated with contempt by Garibaldi.
It is not treated with contempt by the exiles from French despotism,
who are proud to learn the English tongue, and who find in our
land, as they think, the great asylum of the free. Let England
and America quarrel, let your weight be cast into the scale
against us, when we struggle with the great conspiracy of absolutist
powers around us, and the hope of freedom in Europe would be
almost quenched. Hampden and Washington in arms against
each other! What could the powers of evil desire more? When
Americans talk lightly of a war with England, one desires to ask
them what they believe the effects of such a war would be on

their own country. How many more Arne n tfivea do thej wish

to make widows? How many more American children do they
wish to make orphans? Do they deem it wise to put a still greater
strain on the already groaning timbers of the constitution? Do
they think that the suspension of trade and emigration, with the
price of labour rising and the harvests of Illinois excluded from
their market, would help you to cope with the financial difficulties
which fill with anxiety every reflecting mind ? Do they think that
four more years of war government would render easy the tremen
dous work of re-construction? But the interests of the great com
munity of nations are above the private interests of America or of
England. If war were to breakout between us what would become
of Italy, abandoned without help to her Austrian enemy and her
sinister protector ? What would become of the last hopes of liberty
in France ? What would become of the world ?

English liberties, imperfect as they may be, and as an English
Liberal of course thinks they are, are the source from which your
liberties have flowed, though the river may be more abundant than
the spring. Being in America, I am in England, not only because
American hospitality makes me feel that I am still in my own
country, but because our institutions are fundamentally the same.
The great foundations of constitutional government, legislative
assemblies, parliamentary representation, personal liberty, self-
taxation, the freedom of the press, allegiance to the law as a power
above individual will, all these were established, not without
memorable efforts and memorable sufferings, in the land from
which the fathers of your republic came. You are living under
the Great Charter, the Petition of Right, the Habeas Corpus Act,
the Libel Act. Perhaps you have not even yet taken from us all 1
that, if a kindly feeling continues between us, you may find it
desirable to take. England by her eight centuries of constitu
tional progress has done a great work for you, and the two nations
may yet have a great work to do together for themselves and for
the world. A student of history, knowing how the race has
struggled and stumbled onwards through the ages until now,
cannot believe in the finality and perfection of any set of institu
tions, not even of yours. This vast electioneering apparatus, with


its strange machinery and discordant sounds, in the midst of which
I find myself, it may be, and I firmly believe it is, better for its
purpose than anything that has gone before it; but is it the crown
ing effort of mankind ? If our creed the Liberal creed be true,
American institutions are a great step in advance of the Old
World ; but they are not a miraculous leap into a political millen
nium. They are a momentous portion of that continual onward
effort of humanity which it is the highest duty of history to trace ;
but they are not its final consummation. Model republic ! How
many of these models has the course of ages seen broken and flung
disdainfully aside ! You have been able to do great things for the
world because your forefathers did great things for you. The
generation will come which in its turn will inherit the fruits of
your efforts, add to them a little of its own, and in the plenitude
of its self-esteem repay you with ingratitude. The time will come
when the memory of the model republicans of the United States,
as well as that of the narrow parliamentary reformers of England,
will appeal to history, not in vain, to rescue it from the injustice
of posterity, and extend to it the charities of the past.

New-comers among the nations, you desire, like the rest, to
have a history. You seek it in Indian annals, you seek it in
Northern sagas. You fondly surround an old windmill with the
pomp of Scandinavian antiquity, in your anxiety to fill up the void
of your unpeopled past. But you have a real and glorious history,
if you will not reject it, monuments genuine and majestic, if you
will acknowledge them as your own. Yours are the palaces of the
Plantagenets, the cathedrals which enshrined our old religion,
the illustrious hall in which the long line of our great judges reared,
by their decisions, the fabric of our law, the gray colleges in which
our intellect and science found their earliest home, the graves
where our heroes and sages and poets sleep. It would as ill become
you to cultivate narrow national memories in regard to the past as
it would to cultivate narrow national prejudices at present. You
have come out, as from other relics of barbarism which still oppress

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Online LibraryGoldwin SmithEngland and America: a lecture, delivered ... before the Boston Fraternity, during his recent visit to the United States → online text (page 1 of 4)