When the Niger Expedition was about to depart for its
pesti- lential destination, we said that a day would come when those who sent it would be called upon to account for the murders which they were about to do. That day is at hand, if not already come : the Niger has sent back the account of the first instalment of murders by the first detachment of shattered invalids. Disease and death were still at work when they left the place.
There was no lack of warning of such results when the expedi- tion was still a project : those who had practical and authentic in- formation laid before the Government of the day the grounds for anticipating that the expedition to civilize Africa would prove nothing but an expedition to kill so many Englishmen. The warning was disregarded, in favour of the heated fancies of enthu- siasts, who appeared to assume that because their motives were great-looking, their enterprise would be so especially under the protection of Divine Providence, that experience and the course of nature would be set aside on their behalf. Reversing Canute's rebuke to his courtiers, they undertook, not to make the Neltietreat
from their standing-place, but to make marsh vapours and pesti- lence retreat before their advance. To the fanatics whO worked
up their own zeal to the expectation of that miracle we have no- thing to say : their case is past dehortation ; and they need the .• morbid excitement of such dallyings with fate, just as the opium- eater lives upon his favourite poison. But a Government cannot plead such influences in its own excuse : if Lord Joint RUSSELL chose to doubt the evidence which was tendered to him, of the hopelessness of the scheme to which he lent himself, he ought at least to have abstained from placing implicit reliance in the un- proved assertions opposed to that evidence-,especially when there was life and death in the case. He made his election : and the bereaved relatives of a score and more of brave men may ask him why he was guilty of such fatal folly ? Compensation it were idle to ask.
But it was not the Government alone that shared the guilt of the Exeter Hall Juggernaut : among the sacrificers to the idol we saw Sir ROBERT PEEL, anxious to share the popular display, and Mr. O'CONNELL, in his vocation. Sir ROBERT especially might have crushed the project when it came before him as an item among the Estimates : he, with the rest of the House of Com- mons, was called upon to reconsider it : he therefore, who now occupies the post at which an account will be demanded, cannot plead ignorance of the wrong. And he may have the satisfaction of reflecting, that before that account is actually extorted, another instalment or two will be added to the list of deaths.