THE PROBABILITIES OF A WAR WITH AMERICA.
THE idea that the United States will, the moment peace is proclaimed, declare war on Great Britain is rapidly becoming fixed. The Times proclaims or refutes it in every successive edition, the Lords allude to it in every debate, the Premier deprecates any chance word which may by possibility bear on it, the Stock Exchange credits it till the funds droop with every Northern victory, and it influences almost avowedly the distribution of the fleet. No idea could be more dangerous, for none is more capable of realizing itself. Let the people of this country once get it fairly into their minds that war with America is a mere question of time, that there exists at Washington a fixed resolution to attack us whenever oppor- tunity serves, that the ruling men of the Union are determined to advance untenable claims in order that we may resist them, and we shall soon have a party among us clamouring for war. Indeed we are not certain that the nation will not be clamour- ing, for when America is concerned, when the dream is not of a local war, but of a conflict waged over earth wherever a ship can swim, of commerce interrupted in all quarters at once, and colonial capitals to be defended in the five -sections of the globe, an armed neutrality is scarcely more -endurable than a war. Had the panic terror of France lasted three months longer, had it produced only expenditure instead of an army of volunteers, we should have had war with France, war embraced almost with eagerness as a :relief from the intolerable suspense. The constant expectation of any catastrophe excites in all brave men a wish to meet it, a desire to see the worst that they may realize it, and realize with it their own power of resistance, and beneath the English tendency to panic, a tendency born ohiefly of a fear lest our prosperity should be-too great to last, lies a dauntless
courage. The ruling class is just as likely to make a deadly charge on America out of sheer pluck and determination to be quit of vague apprehensions as to await quietly the turn of events, would, we verily believe, make it, but that its leaders, like all men trained in the aristocratic school, have an acquired faculty of patience. All admit nevertheless that a war between England and America would be one of the greatest calamities which could happen to civilization, would partake in many ways of the character of a civil war, would and could result in nothing save mutual and useless exhaustion of men, and ships, and treasure. It is well therefore to examine for a moment /rankly and freely the probabilities, the real chance as statesmen estimate chances, of America declaring war upon us, or which is the same question, persisting in demands inevitably leading to war.
Let us take the probabilities in favour of war first. There is no doubt whatever that the American people, or rather that class of them whose opinions alone we hear, think they have a real grievance against this country. We have, they say, preserved a neutrality which has been in practice advantageous to the South, our merchants have broken the blockade, our manufacturers have kept "rebels" supplied with arms even to the extent of furnishing at least two Blakemy guns, our press has talked of recognition, and our rulers have acknowledged " rebel " belligerent rights. In spite of municipal laws apparently fair and impartial, our shipbuilders have constructed vessels intended to prey on Federal commerce, our sailors have manned them, and our colonial ports have been used to furnish them equipment, tilt Ainerican trade, unassailed by any enemy with a port, has almost ceased to exist. These acts, moreover, they allege have not been accidental, but dictated by a spirit of real though covert hostility. The people have been on the- whole against the Union, have heard of Northern defeats with pleasure and of Northern victories with an- noyance, supported their Government in the affair of the Trent, and received Captain Semmes as if he had been a national hero. The Government has not concealed its wish that the war should terminate in partition, members of Par- liament have assailed the Union with impunity, and above all the press, which in America means the Times, has " belittled " Northern efforts with the hearty applause of its readers. There is real soreness of feeling, a soreness greatly exasperated by the neighbourhood of a very wide, very weak, and on the whole unsympathizing dependency of Great Britain. The prospect of conquering Canada and thereby at once punishing Great Britain, extending American dominion to the North Pole, and so increasing the North as once for all to overweight and outnumber the South and the Southern sympathizers, is, or may be taken to be, a powerful temptation. Add to these feelings the rooted belief of all Americans that the "Monroe doctrine" is essential to their future and the desire to find employment for the soldiery, and we have a fund of dislike sufficient to support almost any demand by war.
We may admit it all—the soreness of feeling among the people, the belief that they have a real grievance, the faith in the Monroe doctrine, and the latent desire to extend the Union from the Gulf to the Pole—and still we contend that there is another side, as yet insufficiently heard on this side of the Atlantic. In the first place, as to the irritation. It exists no doubt, but to what extent, and among whom ? Is it greater even with the politicians than the feeling which has a dozen times surged up in France during the last fifty years without once leading to war ? —and the politicians do not govern the Union. The ultimate power in America rests with a class, the freeholders, which we cannot too often re- peat is never reflected in the only American newspapers read in Great Britain, which may be, or may not be, intensely irritated against this country, but of whose opinion on the whole matter we as yet know nothing at all. Englishmen never have known it, have from first to last been deceived by misrepre- sentations of it, statements which reflected not the freeholders' opinion, but that of the politicians about their opinion ; have been told in succession that there would be no war, that the North would win in three months, that the South could never be beaten, that Lincoln would create a monarchy, that Lin- coln would never be re-elected, that peace was immediately at hand, that peace would never return, that peace would make the South a Poland, and that peace would leave the two sec- tions independent of each other. Each of these fancies has been maintained in turn by an American party, and on each the freeholders have put an immoveable veto. Suppose they put one on war with England ? There is no proof that they will, but there is also no proof that they will not, and until, their resolution is known nothing is known, except that Mr. Lincoln4heir chosen and real representative, is not one of those who join in the cry against "perfidious Albion." That the freeholders will fight for a cause is certain ; but cause means with them, as with other men, a great temptation, or an affront to their honour, or an attack on their interests. Their honour has not been assailed by Great Britain except in type, by attacks not half so virulent or so acid as those made by their own journals, for the Government as a Government has been steadily neutral. It has refused to recognize the South, has never attempted to prohibit emigrants, arms, or money from reaching the North, has actively inter- fered with the despatch of steamers to the aid of the Confe- derates, and has maintained in all correspondence a studied though somewhat artificial courtesy. The interests of the freeholders are all the other way. They do not want the excessive taxation which must follow the renewal of war, the cessation of the demand for their produce, the new demand for their children, the stoppage of the emigration which supplies them with labour, the diversion of energy and enterprise into a maritime war. Still less do they want the revival of the influence of the South, the alternative of maintaining a heavy garrison in the recovered States, or of yielding once more to Southern demands for dic- tatorial power. They may want Acadia, and possibly do, but they do not want it more now, when but just seeing the end of a terrible straggle' than they did ten years since, when their strength was unbroken and they were led by the most aggressive knot of statesmen who ever held power over a great country, the fire-eaters of the South. There is no proof whatever that their nature has been suddenly changed, that they have caught any mad fancy for war, that they are unwilling, like other people, and more especially other English- men, to take a long rest after very severe toil. On the other hand, there is proof that they hold the greater part of the currency and the debt which would be destroyed by repudia- tion, and that they intend to pay its interest by a tax, an export duty on cotton, which will be profitless during a maritime war. There is also proof that they can re- absorb any number of their sons and emigrants who have been sent to the war, for they did do it after the Mexican campaigns, the armies and reserves then on foot disappearing into society within six weeks. Their natural instinct when the war is once over will be that which at such times always breaks forth in England, to be a little too weary of strain, to long too ardently for quiet, to be a little too impatient of pre- paration, and taxes, and drafting, and expenditure, and worry generally. It is not the man who works the hardest who feels lassitude least, or is least unwilling to go from one exer- tion to another without an interval of rest. The true way to judge these men is to think of them as average Englishmen afflicted with unusual and, till 1860, unbroken prosperity. What under the circumstances would Englishmen be apt to do ? Surely to feel all irritation soothed by the consciousness of great and acknowledged success, to turn swiftly, almost hungrily, towards their first object in life, the realization of individual prosperity, and to protest, at first gently, then angrily, that they neither could nor would be deluded into becoming a " military people." That is what we did in 1815, that is what the Americans will do, what at all events they are more likely to do, we believe, unless attacked or threatened, than anything else.
But the desire for Canada, and the Monroe doctrine ? The North believes, and with more ground than it suits us at present to acknowledge, that the Canadas will one day be theirs 'by sheer force of gravitation, that no conterminous people speaking English can long resist the attractions of the perfect provincial independence and perfect national security combined in their State system. They may be mistaken, for new elements have entered into the question, but they cer- tainly do not want that warm alliance between the disaffected in Acadia and the disaffected in the South which would inevitably result from invasion, even if invasion proved in the end -successful. As for the Monroe doctrine it has not, and never had, anything to do with Canada. That doctrine is the name given to a policy devised by Mr. Canning, accepted by President Monroe, and since embraced by all Americans and signifies this,—no European State shall be allowed to establish by force a dominion in America. The doc- trine touches France closely, but Great Britain has established nothing since it was promulgated, is establishing nothing now, nay more, is perfectly willing to surrender her ancient dominion at the bidding of its inhabitants themselves. The Canadians have only to vote themselves free to be free without a struggle even of words. As for the Southern offer said to have been made at the interview between Mr. Stephens and Mr. Lincoln, the very papers which make so much of a proposition, only possible because the South had for half a century ruled the Union, announce also that Mr. Lincoln, the man who of all others best represents the freeholding class, quietly and "considerately" rejected it. Finally there is the actual threat of war in the matter of the Alabama. Well, is it less than we should have done ourselves, yet because we should have done it, are we therefore plotting war on the- United States ?
We repeat, it is of course possible that although war could produce nothing but disaster to both sides, although every interest tends to peace and every industry is hungering for emigrants, though the West would be deprived of its only export and the East of all its remaining trade, though it :is• uncertain whether France would not join us and doubtful whether the South would remain tranquil, Americans may for aught we know be contemplating war. All we contend is- that there is no proof that they are, that we know nothing and can know nothing of the opinion which rules the States, and that till we have heard that opinion the- sort of alarm now spreading in English society is un- founded, and may soon become discreditable. Precau- tion is of course sensible. Let us see that our fleet is in order, our .reserves near at hand, our Canadian depots pro- tected, our allies nearer home in good humour, our treasury- fairly full, but to do more than this, to assume war as ine- vitable, to assert that enemies are only awaiting their oppor- tunity, is to invite the calamity we all desire to avoid.