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the attention of himself and his colleagues that further
remonstrance is useless, goes on to say " The time
has arrived when it is incumbent upon us, in the
exercise of our powers of self-government, to initiate
legislation, in connection with the colonies whose
interests are alike affected, for our common protec-
tion." He then announces that the Victorian Govern-
ment has invited the co-operation of each of the other
colonies interested, with a view to framing a measure
" prohibitive of all intercourse whatever with Western
Australia," " in order that her position as the only
convict colony may be distinctly marked : " further,
he gives notice that the Victorian Government will, at
the expiration of six months from the ist November,
cease to contribute to the annual mail packet sub-
sidy, unless upon the condition that the packets shall
not touch at any port in Western Australia.

Such is the point at which this painful controversy
has arrived. And now can anyone doubt what will
be its termination ? Absolute unanimity, it seems,
prevails on the subject in all the Eastern colonies.
Under these circumstances, is it conceivable that the
Home Government should persist in forcing on a
quarrel with our own kindred in such a cause-
that they may have the privilege of discharging at
their doors the scum of our criminal population ? Of
course no such fatuous act will be committed. Of


course the Home Government will succumb. But
what a comment does this supply on " the beneficent
suzerainty ! " In North America the British colonies
have initiated action among themselves to form a new
state. This may be an act of sovereignty, but it is,
at all events, a neutral act ; but how shall we charac-
terize a proceeding in which colonies meet together
to concert measures distinctly and avowedly to nullify
the policy of the imperial state ? Supposing these
colonies were formally independent, what other course
would they, in like circumstances, pursue than that
which they are now actually pursuing namely, look
out for alliances amongst communities similarly
affected, to counteract a policy which aggrieved them ?
Look, then, at the position in which we stand.
We have abandoned all the objects for the sake of
which our colonial empire was founded. We are
unable to impress our will upon our colonies in any
particular, however in itself reasonable, or just, or
apparently necessary for their safety or ours. Wholly
irrespective of our wishes, they enter into alliances,
unite and separate, dispose of their lands, recast their
constitutions, and even combine for the avowed pur-
pose of thwarting our designs. W T hen things have
reached this pass, it seems rather idle to ask Are
we to retain our colonies ? Retain our colonies !
What is there left to retain ? Retain the privilege
of spending yearly ,4, 500,000 sterling on their pro-
tection, and receive in requital prohibitive tariffs and
" ironical allegiance " ! But I shall not be guilty of
the presumption of venturing further into an argu-
ment which has already been exhausted by the writer


who has made this subject his own. Two years have
just passed since Professor Goldwin Smith, in a
series of letters, which for argumentative ability,
masculine eloquence, and satiric verve, have rarely
been equalled in the literature of politics, forced this
subject on the attention of the people of this country
forced it on their attention, let me say, with true
patriotic boldness, at a time when "leading" journalists
thought only of tabooing it as an inconvenient topic,
and judicious politicians gladly avoided a question
from which, while no political capital was to be gained,
much unpopularity might easily be incurred. Pro-
fessor Smith may congratulate himself upon a triumph
speedier and more complete than often falls to the
lot of political innovators. Before six months had
passed, the Ionian Islands, if not in deference to his
teaching, at all events in perfect conformity with the
policy he had just propounded amid the all but
universal protests of the Press, were conceded to
Greece amid the not less general applause of the
nation. This, it must be owned, is a singular testi-
mony to political forecast ; and the whole course of
events in the two years that have since elapsed, has
but served to strengthen it. Already some of our
statesmen of greatest promise have given in their
adhesion to his views ; * and the " leading journal,"

* For example, Lord Stanley, in his recent speech at King's Lynn,
thus expressed himself: "In British North America there is a strong
movement in progress in favour of federation, or rather of union in some
shape. In Australia I believe the same feeling exists, but not so deeply ;
and though it has not assumed a practical form, I think that tendency
ought to be encouraged in both one and the other case (hear, hear).
We know that those countries must before long be independent states.


which rebuked him with even more than its wonted
loftiness, now, with characteristic versatility, adopts
his opinions as those " which have constantly found
utterance in the Times"

The British Empire let me here state for what
it is worth the conclusion to which serious reflection
has guided me the British Empire, such as it has

We have no interest except in their strength and well-being." Times,
2Oth October, 1864.

* " The power we desire to exercise [over the North American colonies]
is entirely a moral one, and, strong or weak, the dependency that wishes
to quit us, has only solemnly to make p its mind to this effect. ....
The Admiral was severe on those who entertain the opinions which have
constantly found utterance in the Times, that the colonies and the mother
country will cease to be united when the common interest ceases." Times,
15th October, 1864.

A union between political societies, based upon community of interest,
to be dissolved at the wish of either party, and to be enforced exclusively
by moral sanctions this (by whatever name it may be called) constitutes
in fact an alliance between independent nations, not the relation of an
imperial to a dependent state. (See Austin's "Jurisprudence," vol. i.
pp. 208, 209, and Lewis's " Government of Dependencies," pp. 2, 3.)
Such was the relation subsisting between the states of ancient Greece and
their independent colonies ; such is that into which any two sovereign
states of Europe may at any time enter, without derogation from the
sovereignty of either ; and such, in fine, has been that which has been
contemplated and distinctly described by those who have advocated
" colonial emancipation."

The form in which, two years ago, the above opinions " found utterance
in the Times" was as follows : "We may as well declare at once, for the
benefit of Americans and Spaniards, Russians and lonians, Sikhs and
Sepoys, that England has no thought of abandoning her transmarine
possessions;" and then, with a delicate allusion to the moral force
doctrine, " So far from believing in her own decline, England believes
that she was never more powerful than new, or more capable of holding
what she has won." Times, 4th February, 1862. It is true the writer,
at the conclusion of a long tirade conceived in this spirit, adds the
remark : " No one, we believe, in this country desires to keep them
against their will." But this is merely a specimen of the self-stultification
into which writers fall, who, without any clear and self-consistent view,
charge themselves with the task of finding arguments in defence of pre-
vailing prejudices.


hitherto been known in the world, has reached its
natural goal. That British power, or that the in-
fluence of British ideas, will in consequence suffer
declension, is what at least I, for one, do not believe.
Contemplating our career, as a whole, it seems to me
that we have outgrown the restraints and supports
of our earlier state, and are now passing into a new
phase of existence. Instead of a great political, we
shall be a great moral, unity;* bound together no
longer indeed by Imperial ligaments supplied from
the Colonial Office, but by the stronger bonds of
blood, language, and religion by the common in-
heritance of laws fitted for free men, and of a litera-
ture rich in all that can keep alive the associations
of our common glory in the past. Thus sustained
and thus united, each member of the great whole
will enter without hindrance the path to which its
position and opportunities invite it ; while all will
co-operate in the same work of industrial, social, and
moral progress ; exchanging freely let us hope, in
spite of some present indications to the contrary-
exchanging freely our products and our ideas in
peace good friends and customers, and firm allies
in war.

* " If people want a grand moral unity, they must seek it in the moral
and intellectual sphere. Religion knows no impediment of distance.
The dominions of science are divided by no sea. To restore, or pave the
way for restoring, the unity of long-divided Christendom, may seem the
most chimerical of all aspirations, yet perhaps it may be less chimerical
than the project of founding a world-wide state." The Empire, p. 86.



IT is with feelings of no ordinary diffidence that I
appear before you this evening diffidence inspired at
once by the distinguished audience in whose presence
I find myself, and by the topic which I have under-
taken to treat. For I am not ignorant that I now
address an audience whose ears have become familiar
with strains of eloquence, such as I can have no
pretensions to utter ; and I know that I have to deal
with a topic, not only of extreme importance and deli-
cacy, but one respecting which the sympathies of the
public have already taken a decided course, and that
course in a direction, I deeply regret to think, the re-
verse of that in which my own sympathies run. So
strongly, indeed, do I feel the force of this consider-
ation, that, were I to consult my own taste merely,
" the Revolution in America " is certainly not the sub-
ject which I should have selected for this occasion.
It has, however, been intimated to me that it is the
wish of your Association that I should address you

* A Lecture delivered before the Dublin Young Men's Christian Asso-
ciation, October 1862.


upon this question; and, under these circumstances, I
do not conceive the question being one to which I
have given some study that I should be justified in
resisting your flattering request. I propose, therefore,
to bring under your notice this evening the Revolution
in America. I undertake the task I say it with the
most unaffected sincerity with a profound sense of
my own utter inability to do it justice, but still with a
hope that I may say enough to induce some of those
who hear me to reconsider their opinions ; and I do
so in the full confidence that I shall receive at your
hands that indulgence which an honest attempt to
speak the truth on an important subject seldom fails to
meet with in an Irish assembly.

It will, I think, conduce to a clearer apprehension of
what is to follow, if here, at the outset, I state frankly
the conclusions which I have myself come to respect-
ing the matter in hand. I hold, then, that the present
convulsion in America is the natural fruit and inevi-
table consequence of the existence of slavery in that
continent ; and, as slavery has been the cause of the
outbreak, so I conceive slavery is the stake which is
really at issue in the struggle. I hold that the success
of the North means, if not the immediate emancipation
of slaves, at least the immediate arrest of slavery, and,
with its immediate arrest, the certainty of its ultimate
extinction ; and, on the other hand, that the success
of the South means the establishment of slavery on a
broader and firmer basis than has hitherto sustained
it, combined with a menace of its future indefinite
extension. I hold, moreover, that the form of society
which has been reared on slavery in the Southern


States is substantially a new fact in history being in
its nature at once retrograde and aggressive ; retro-
grade as regards the human constituents which com-
pose it, and aggressive as regards all other forms of
social life with which it may come in contact a system
of society which combines the strength of civilization
with all the evil instincts of barbarism. Such, I con-
ceive, is the phenomenon now presented by the
Southern Confederacy : and the struggle which we
witness is but the effort of this new and formidable
monster to disengage itself from the restraints which
free society in self-defence was drawing around it, in
order to secure for its development an unbounded

These, in few words, are the conclusions at which
I have arrived on this momentous matter. I shall
now proceed to state, as succinctly as I can, the con-
siderations by which I have been led to them.

I maintain, then, in the first place, that the war
has had its origin in slavery ; and, in support of this
statement, I appeal to the whole past history of the
United States, and to the explicit declarations of the
Confederate leaders themselves. What has been
the history of the United States for the last fifty
years ? It has been little more than a record of
aggressions made by the power which represents
slavery, feebly, and almost always unsuccessfully, re-
sisted by the Free States, and culminating in the
present war. The question between North and
South is constantly stated here as if it was the North
which was the aggressive party as if the North had
been pursuing towards the Southern people a career


of encroachment and oppression, which had reached
its climax in Mr. Lincoln's election ; and as if the
act of secession were but an act of self-defence, forced
upon a reluctant people whose measure of humilia-
tion was full.

Now the facts of the case are precisely the re-
verse of this. It is not the North, but the South,
which for half a century has predominated in the
Union. It is not the South, but the North, which
has drunk the cup of humiliation. Southern men
and Northern nominees of Southern men have filled
the President's chair, have monopolized the offices of
state, have represented the country at foreign courts,
and have shaped the whole policy of the Union. The
whole course of domestic policy in the United States,
from the passing of the Missouri compromise to its
repeal, and from its repeal to the conspiracy of se-
cession, hatched under Mr. Buchanan's government,
and carried out by men who had sworn allegiance to
the Union, has been directed to the same end the
aggrandizement of Southern interests and the con-
solidation of Southern power. And such as its do-
mestic policy has been, such also has been its foreign
policy. That policy is written in the Seminole war,
in the annexation of Texas, in the conquest of half of
Mexico, in lawless attempts upon Cuba, in the invasion
of peaceful states in Central America, in the defence
of the slave trade against the vigilance of British
cruisers. Wherever we turn, there is the same restless
and aggressive spirit at work, employing now intrigue
and now violence, now conniving at filibustering raids,
and now waging open war, and always in the same


cause the cause of the South and of slavery. It is
to this end that for half a century the whole power
and influence of the United States have been di-
rected ; and let us observe with what results. In
1790, three years after the Union was established, the
Slave States comprised an area of 250,000 square
miles ; in 1860 that area had grown to 851,000 square
miles. In 1790 the number of slaves in the Union
was less than three-quarters of a million ; in 1860
that number had increased to upwards of four

Such has been the material progress of the Southern
institution ; and still more striking has been its pro-
gress as a political and social power. When the
Union was founded, slavery was dying out in the
North, and was looked upon as doomed in the South.
It was tolerated, indeed, in consideration of the im-
portant interests which it involved, but tolerated with
shame. The very name excluded from the public
documents, and the thing itself absolutely prohibited
in those districts in which it was not already actually
established it was, in all the circumstances of its
treatment, branded as plainly at variance with the
fundamental principles of the Republic. This was the
position of slavery, in a moral and political point of
view, when the Union was founded ; but what is its
position when the Union is dissolved ? No longer
content with a local toleration as an exceptional and
tabooed system, it claims a free career over the area
of a continent ; it aspires to become the basis of a new
order of political fabric, and boldly puts itself forth as
a model for the imitation of the world.


The struggle, therefore, which now convulses Ame-
rica, is not the struggle of an oppressed people rising
against its oppressors, but the revolt of a party which
has long ruled a great republic to retrieve by arms a
political defeat the rising of the apostles of a prin-
ciple, which has long been working its way to supre-
macy, to consummate a long series of triumphs by a
last effective blow.

I have said that the purpose of the Southern revolt
is to establish a new order of political edifice, of which
slavery is to be the basis. This statement is, I am
aware, vehemently denied in this country ; but on this
point it is for yourselves to decide between the decla-
rations of the Confederate leaders, addressed to their
own countrymen, and those of writers who on this side
of the Atlantic, and before an English audience, advo-
cate their cause. I hold in my hand a paper of rather
curious significance : it is entitled the " Philosophy of
Secession." It is from the pen of an eminent Southern,
the Hon. L. W. Spratt of South Carolina, a gentleman
who has for some years taken a prominent part in the
political affairs of the South. Mr. Spratt is the editor
of the Charleston Mercury, one of the most influen-
tial papers in the South, if not the most influential.
He represented Charleston in that South Carolina
Convention which first gave the watchword of secession ;
and the confidence reposed in him by the people of
South Carolina may be inferred from the fact, that he
was one of the commissioners appointed by that the
leading secession State in the most critical juncture of
* its history, to expound its views before the other insur-
gent Conventions. The Hon. Mr. Spratt, occupying


this position, may, I think, be taken to speak the views
of the South with some authority. I ask you, then, to
attend to Mr. Spratt's exposition of the cause at stake
in the present war.

" The South," says Mr. Spratt, " is now in the formation of
a Slave republic. This, perhaps, is not admitted generally.
There are many contented to believe that the South, as a
geographical section, is in mere assertion of its independence ;
that it is instinct with no especial truth pregnant of no dis-
tinct social nature ; that for some unaccountable reason the
two sections have become opposed to each other ; that, for
reasons equally insufficient, there is a disagreement between
the peoples that direct them ; and that from no overruling
necessity, no impossibility of co-existence, but as a mere
matter of policy, it has been considered best for the South to
strike out for herself and establish an independence of her own.
This, I fear, is an inadequate conception of the controversy.

" The contest is not between the North and South as geogra-
phical sections, for between such sections merely there can be
no contest ; nor between the people of the North and the people
of the South, for our relations have been pleasant, and on
neutral groundsthere is still nothing to estrange us. We eat
together, trade together, and practise yet in intercourse, with
great respect, the courtesies of common life. But the real
contest is between the two forms of society which have become
established, the one at the North and the other at the South.
Society is essentially different from government as different
as is the nut from the bur, or the nervous body of the shell-
fish from the bony structure which surrounds it ; and within
this government two societies had become developed as
variant in structure and distinct in form as any two beings in
animated nature. The one is a society composed of one race,
the other of two races. The one is bound together but by the
two great social relations of husband and wife and parent and
child ; the other by the three relations of husband and wife,
parent and child, and master and slave. The one embodies
in its political structure that equality is the right of man ; the

P. E. F


other that it is the right of equals only. The one, embodying
the principle that equality is the right of man, expands upon
the horizontal plane of pure democracy ; the other, embody-
ing the principle that it is not the right of man but of
equals only, has taken to itself the rounded form of a social

aristocracy Such are the two forms of society which

had come to contest within the structure of the recent Union.
And the contest for existence was inevitable. Neither
could concur in the requisitions of the other; neither could
expand within the forms of a single government without
encroachment on the other The slave trade sup-
pressed, democratic society has triumphed. More than five
millions from abroad have been added to their number;
that addition has enabled them to grasp and hold the govern-
ment. That government, from the very necessities of their
nature, they are forced to use against us. Slavery was
within its grasp, and, forced to the option of extinction in
the Union, or of independence out, it dares to strike, and it
asserts its claim to nationality and its right to recognition among
the leading social systems of the world. Such, then, being
the nature of the contest, this Union has been disrupted in
the effort of slave society to emancipate itself." *

The object of the South, then, is to found a Slave
republic a republic which has taken to itself " the
rounded form of a social aristocracy." But there is
one feature in the prospective policy of this Slave
aristocracy upon which the " Philosophy of Secession,"
as expounded by Mr. Spratt, throws so strong a light,
that I must avail myself of one more quotation before
taking leave of his able essay I mean the position
taken by the Confederacy with reference to the
African slave trade. We all know that the Mont-

* " The new constitution has put at rest for ever all agitating questions
relating to our peculiar institution African slavery as it exists among
us the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was
the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution." (Mr.
A. H. Stephens, Vice-President of the Southern Confederation.)


gomery Convention, in drawing up the Southern
constitution, introduced a clause prohibiting this trade.
There are writers in this country who would have us
believe that this prohibition is conclusive as to the
views of the Southern leaders on this subject. But,
knowing something of the history of this Southern
party, and of the circumstances under which this
constitution was drawn up, I confess that I, for -one,
have always had considerable doubts as to the bona
fides of this prohibition, and these doubts have
not been removed by the speculations of Mr. Spratt.
" Then why adopt this measure ? " he asks. " Is
it that Virginia and the other Border States require
it ? They may require it now, but is it certain
they will continue to require it ? .... It may be
said that without such a general restriction the value
of their slaves will be diminished in the markets of
the West. They have no right to ask that their slaves,
or any other proditcts, shall be protected to itnnatural
value in the markets of the West. If they persist in
regarding the negro but as a thing of trade a thing
which they are too good to use, but only can produce
for others' uses and join the Confederacy, as Penn-

Online LibraryJohn Elliott CairnesPolitical essays → online text (page 5 of 27)