12 APRIL 1873, Page 5


R. GLADSTONE'S reply to Mr. Stapleton on Monday in AL relation to the Subscriptions invited by the Westminster Gazette for the Carlist cause in Spain was hardly in the tone that we should have desired. It may possibly be true that the invitation was not absolutely illegal, as our Law Officers appear to have assured Lord Granville, though quite opposite opinions have been given by other and even greater lawyers at other times on the same subject ;—it is probably true that, whether illegal or not, it would be exceedingly difficult to enforce any penalty on the persons who issued that request for subscriptions for the Carlist cause ;—but whether absolutely illegal and only not easily punishable, or not absolutely illegal and therefore not punishable at all, it seems quite clear that the course pursued by private persons in interfering in the complicated quarrels of a foreign country on the strength of what almost must be vague and hearsay evidence as to the true wrongs and needs of that country, is in the highest degree mis- chievous and censurable. We are quite aware that a similar course has often been pursued before on behalf of causes with which there has been a very strong popular sympathy in this country—as, for example, the cause of Garibaldi in the in- vasion of Naples,—and it is further perfectly true that no rational man is at liberty to play fast and loose with his poli- tical principles, and take untenable distinctions between what it is right to do in the case of causes we favour, and what it is right to do in the case of causes we disapprove. If it is wrong for the English friends of the Spanish Pretender of 1873 to try to raise funds for him in England, it was equally wrong for the English friends of the Italian hero of 1860 to try to raise funds for him in England. There is no distinction between the two cases except the different state of our sympathies ; and that is a difference which, even if it would justify us in reproaching the friends of Don Carlos with their perverted political sympathies, certainly would not justify us in reproaching them for acting in accord- ance with those sympathies, supposing their feelings of right to be fixed and ineradicable. We must find a surer ground for condemning what the friends of Don Carlos are doing here than any depending on the shade of their political sympathy, if we are to exercise the least moral influence in discouraging these dangerous and mischievous attempts.

And we confess, it seems to us that such surer ground there really is, and that the experience of the last ten years ought to have convinced us all of the strong reasons which exist for taking it up. Is it not perfectly clear from that experience that the moral responsibility attaching to any practical interference in the internal disputes of foreign nations is exceedingly great, and also that that interference is most likely to be mis- chievous and the cause of grave misfortunes to those who appear to profit by it, as well as to those who appear to suffer by it ? Can anything be more clear than that the help certain Englishmen gave to the Confederate Government was a cause of infinite harm to the Southern States, instead of any good to them,—that complete neutrality would have done infi- nitely more for the true interests of those States than the rash and ill-considered help offered to them ? The truth seems to be this,—that the merits of any civil discord in a foreign State are hardly ever really understood by the citizens of another State, living at a distance, and judging only by onesided and fragmentary evidence of the character of the quarrel ; and that it is, at least, never in any degree safe to assume that they are understood well enough to warrant any sort of interference, unless the facts of the case are both notorious enough to unite almost the whole nation in one opinion, and so grave as to be felt to warrant responsible national action. The sympathy of a mere opinionated section of a people may, of course, be just, but it can hardly be founded on clear and certain data, if it has not the power to infect a great many beyond the limits of that section ; and whether just or not, it cannot be formed with sufficient gravity, if those who share it shrink from any greater sacrifice for the cause they favour than the sacrifice involved in the gift of a little money on its behalf. It is a very serious matter, as we ought all to know by this time, to mix up one nation in the civil quarrels of another. It is a responsibility which ought not to be lightly taken. It may lead to very serious international consequences.

And it can only be justified where the whole nation is openly willing to undergo great sacrifices on behalf of its conviction. No foreigner can contribute towards the success of one party in a civil war without implicating more or less not only himself, but his country. And it may therefore, we think, be fairly laid down that no foreigner who has not a strong enough basis of conviction in his own mind to hazard a good deal more than money in the cause,—his very life itself,—can justify himself in separating his action from the collective action of the nation to which he belongs. We do not shrink in the least from applying these considerations to the case of Garibaldi's insurrection. As it happened, that daring exploit received the subsequent sanction of the people of Italy, and so obtained a sort of posthumous justification. But we deny that any considerable number of Englishmen could have antici- pated this beforehand ; and even if they could, we deny that in- dividual Englishmen had any right to separate their action from the action of their country, unless, at all events, they were also prepared to separate their fate from the fate of their country, and risk their own lives in the cause of their adoption. There are plenty of cases in which it is very much more culpable to give a little help than to give all the help in your power,—first, because if there is really reason grave enough to warrant you in taking separate action on a matter of national concern, it must be grave enough to impose a great sacrifice upon you, and not merely a little one ; next, because you are sure to deliberate with far more adequate and anxious gravity on the merits of a cause in which you are going to risk your all, than on the merits of a cause in which you accept only a very limited and perhaps trivial liability. - Now we are not afraid to say that the conviction which would justify an Englishman in mixing himself up in the intestine strifes of a foreign country ought to be strong enough to justify the gravest acts of self-devotion ; and that anything short of such acts is far too likely to pro- ceed upon the mere contagion of social prepossessions and the most superficial half-knowledge. Take the case of these Carlists, for instance. What do most of the English sympathisers really know of the recent history of Spain ? of the grounds of hope for the various competing pretenders ? of the character of Don Carlos and his advisers if he should succeed of the truth or falsehood of the reports of the bar- barities imputed to his Generals ? of the stability which might be given to the existing Republican Government by the with- drawal of Don Carlos from Spain ? Yet all these things and a great many more should be known, and known well, by Englishmen who presume to mix up their country in the internal discords of Spain. We assert that with the glaring example before us of the mischievous and fatal sympathy given by so many Englishmen to the Southern cause,—of which we had far better means of judging than we can have of the comparative deserts of the rulers and pretenders in Spain,—it is more than rash, it is unprincipled, to identify ourselves with any one Spanish party on the strength of impressions which even to our own minds justify nothing more than pecuniary subscriptions. There is far too much doubt and difficulty hanging over the whole subject to justify any Englishman in taking a part in the matter who has not mastered the issues as he would master the gravest issues of his own life. And in order to guarantee his own sincerity in such a matter, he ought to embark much more than money, if he embarks in this contest at all. We believe that these interferences in the intestine struggles of foreign countries are really illegal, however difficult it may be to enforce the law ; and that every good citizen owes it to his country not to break its laws except on the strength of moral obligations so strong, that he would risk what was dearest to him in the ven- ture. Mr. Gladstone ought to have said much more than he did to discourage morally these effeminate flirtations with foreign rebellion, even if, which we gravely doubt, the opinion of his Law officers on the subject was technically accurate.