LORD BURY'S EXODUS OF THE WESTERN NATIONS.* IT is a
pity that Lord Bury, in dropping the paradoxical title under which his work was at first advertised, did not choose a less pretentious one than that under which it has finally gone forth. Apart from all sacred associations, which may inspire an instinctive caution in the use of the word, an " exodus " surely implies an abg, and the term but ill expresses the straggling away by a thou- sand different routes, at first absolutely at haphazard, during the course of nearly four centuries, of emigrants from all the different nations of Europe, Still less can one understand why, after first unduly stretching the meaning of the word in question, the noble lord should have arbitrarily restricted its application under that meaning. The " exodus " of Portugal has been at least as much towards Africa and Asia as towards Brazil ; of Holland, towards the Cape or the Eastern Islands as towards Guiana ; that of England has been of late years in great measure towards Australasia. Yet it is only of American colonization that Lord Bury treats, and even of this with a singular want of completeness. Thus the West Indies (after the stock account of Spanish cruelties in St. Domingo) are deemed by him sufficiently disposed of by means of a chapter on the "Buccaneers," even the revolt of Hayti, which might seem to have at least an incidental beating on his pur- pose, being overlooked. So indeed is also, within the very sphere in which alone he seems at home, the curious monopoly of the Hudson's Bay Company. In short one cannot help feeling from beginning to end of his two big volumes that one is in presence of a. man who has had glimpses of a great subject, but either from defect of power, undue haste, or carelessness, has failed to master it. The real purpose of his work is in fact set forth in his opening chapter
"We look in vain for a work showing the connection between events in the Old World and the New. . . . No writer has as yet disregarded the fictitious boundary line of the Atlantic, and given us the Old and New World in the same picture, the action of Providence working through physical laws and human nature on America and Europe contemporaneously."
And although he declares that "to write such a story according to the requirements of modern historical science would be the labour of a life-time, and demand qualities to which the writer of these pages lays no claims whatever," it is difficult to rise from the perusal of his work without suspecting that he did attempt the task before measuring its magnitude, but at a given period threw up the attempt in despair, and contented himself with casting upon the world his incomplete and half-digested matgrials, spoiling perhaps a good pamphlet without writing a good book. It is impossible to be severe on a man who speaks of himself in such humble terms as those above quoted. But when he presents the public with nearly a thousand octavo pages, it is necessary to warn the said public that, whilst obviously everywhere perfectly sincere, the noble author is too often quite unreliable in matters of history. How, for instance, can one trust a man who insists upon it that Venice (to say nothing of Genoa) is in Tuscany?
• Exodus of MI Wester,' Natiouu Two vols. By Viscount Burs, M.P. London Bentley. 1866.
"All the cities of Tuscany in early times formed themselves into republics, of which Florence, Venice, and Genoa were the most remark- able. In course of time most of the free cities of Tuscany were con- quered by the Genoese; Venice and Lucca were the only two which still retained their independence."
This is of course only a slip, but one which could not have been overlooked twice in two consecutive periods by an ordinarily accurate writer, and unfortunately similar slips and blunders abound, especially in the first volume, to say nothing of mis- spellings, false grammar, &c. The great defect of the work, however, is the thorough inability of the winter to digest his matter. The same facts are repeated over and over again, some- times obviously in mere forgetfulness, more often, however, through a sort of incapacity to preserve historical sequency, which makes him jumble dates and centuries together in the most wearisome manner, carrying one back to the Edward's and the Henry's when one thought one had well done with Louis XIV.
One is the more vexed at Lord Bury's having taken pains to produce an unreadable book, that he really has qualities to write a readable one. His style is clear, and he now and then throws off a vivid picture, as, for instance, that of the taking of Louisburg in 1745 (Vol. IL, p. 184), or still better, the cutting out of the Caroline, ibid., p. 375. He has thoughts of his own—a thing for which one should be devoutly thankful in an ex—and no doubt future—legislator. And though too apt to rely on second-hand authorities, he has certainly worked at his subject, though unfor- tunately not in such a manner as to make his labours really instructive to others. Still, when we sift his mass of matter we may find something of value at the bottom of it. What Lord Bury really knows about and has thought out for himself is our policy towards our North American Colonies during the last and the pre- sent century. That is the real core of his book, and it is to be found in the first chapter of his first volume, and in some scattered chapters besides the few last of his second.
Curiously enough, however, although the noble lord has just claims to colonial experience, his views on colonial subjects do not appear to be the fruit of that experience. He was, he tells us, in Canada during the latter part of the administration of the Earl of Elgin, and in the early years of that of Sir Edmund Head, holding the combined offices of Civil Secretary and Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs, the former office being the only civil one except that of the Governor himself held directly from the Crown. Since then, again, "circumstances have made him acquainted with most of the lead- ing public men in our other North American Colonies, and with many in both the Northern and Southern States of America." But although the conclusions which he offers to the publie appear to himself "to be the logical result of an inquiry conducted with every desire to be impartial," he candidly informs us that they differ entirely from the opinions which the writer entertained when he began his task three years ago," i. e., years after his colonial experience had been acquired, —an avowal of which the modesty conveys a wholesome rebuke to the self-assumed infallibility of those colonial reformers who, because they happen to have been in a colony, look down on all who have not, and a useful encourage- ment, on the other hand, for all who wish well to our colonies to study the subject for themselves.
Lord Bury's main historical thesis appears to be, first, that the original Thirteen States of the American Union were practically independent before they so declared themselves ; second, that our North American Colonies are now in the same position as were the thirteen provinces before the declaration of independence, — from which he deduces the conclusions that the former must sepa- rate from the mother-country as did the latter, and that this separation should be prepared for beforehand ; in prevision of which he himself sets forth what he terms "Articles of separation to be agreed to between Great Britain and British North America."
- In speaking of colonial " separation " Lord Bury does but echo the prevailing language on the subject. At bottom, however, he is haunted by another and a very opposite idea, which indeed but few politicians have as yet clearly set forth to themselves. When he proposes to grant to the "new nation" the Union Jack for "national standard," and to guarantee to its inhabitants "all the rights of citizenship which may now be exercised by a native-b8rn subject of Great Britain," including expressly the right "to sit in the Imperial Parliament," it is really not separation which he is urging, but a higher, broader, more organic imperial unity, to which he is groping his way. Such indeed is the colonial question of the day. Not cold, heartless estrangement between the different members of the greatest of earth's family,—not a turning adrift of the son by the father because he costs too dear, or is big enough to shift for himself,— not a breaking loose of the son from the father because he will no longer brook control,—but the knitting together of the whole full-grown family in free awl harmonious fellowship.
Strange is it indeed that England, with her interest fully kindled in the claims of foreign "nationalities," should have so little realized as yet those of her own, the noblest of all,—that the same men who heartily admire the struggles of the Italian race for political unity, grow indignant over the unrealized talk of the German about it, take a deepening interest in the blind stumblings towards it of the Slav, should too often speak with indifference of the dropping off of England's most English colonies from her, habitually view the Anglo-Americans as foreigners, and rejoice even in their internal divisions. The fact is that on colonial questions there still lingers a bad fag-end of the old competitive political economy of the mere laissez-faire school—selfish, heartless, unnational. Over these the truer social doctrines, the doctrines of mutual helpfulness and harmonious fellowship of work, have to win another victory. The day will surely come when the talk of a North American federation aa a preliminary to separation from England will merge in the effort to organize the great federation of the English Empire, in which there will be dependencies no more, but members large and small of one great body, under one head, equal in rights and duties, working together for all common objects in that freedom which has, so to speak, its home in a voluntarily accepted law. In that day even the idea of customs' duties between any one member of the federation and another may become obsolete, and there may be but imperial excise duties where necessary, imposed by the vots of a truly imperial parliament or council, in which every member of the federation may be duly represented.
And beyond ? Well, beyond there is still something great, of which the late Detroit Convention may convey to some the first hint,—the final achievement of the organic unity of the Anglo-Saxon race, by the restoration of fellowship between its two great branches, the English and the American. Whilst the American war has,. been to many amongst us a matter of callous indifference or hateful rejoicing, whilst our politicians have un- derstood it so little that Lord Bury, for instance, has written his two whole volumes in the full faith that the South would achieve its rebellious autonomy, and ludicrously talks of inducing amongst other powers "the Confederate States of America" to guarantee the independence of his proposed "new nation," there are others, and thank God ! the great mass of the true English people, to whom that war has brought home the unity of raoe be- tween themselves and our republican kinsmen as it never had been brought before, who have felt them in very truth to be bone of their bone and flesh of their flesh.
But before such views can cease to seem anything but the wildest Utopian dreams, many stages of national thought and feeling have to be passed through. The great puzzle of the day for England is really her colonial puzzle. She must see through that, and make up her mind respecting it. To this end some chapters of Lord Bury's book may not be without their use.