NON-INTERVENTION AND BRITISH POLICY.
IT is very remarkable how rapidly the enunciation of a Doctrine is followed by the appearance of a sect of Doctrinaires. The fa- mous doctrine of non-intervention has not escaped this fate. There is among us a tribe of doctrinaires as much devoted to their shibboleth as a Mahomedan is to the tomb of Mahomed. With them the doctrine has already become an axiom from which cer- tain conclusions may be drawn in argument, and to these conclu- sions, they argue, events, the practical course of politics, ought to conform. If they do not, so much the worse not for the doc- trine, but for the facts. It is of little use protesting against this, because history has abundantly shown the tendency of certain minds to follow logical formulas to any length, and to trust a for- mula of this sort in preference to the solidest array of facts.
Lord John Russell's despatch of the 27th of October has brought out the Doctrinaires of non-intervention in their true colours. One would think, to hear what they say, that non-intervention is an end. and not a means to an end ; a sort of eleventh com- mandment not to be violated under any circumstances ; a final doctrine applicable in all times and at every place. We demur altogether to this view of non-intervention. If it were admitted that in no case might any external power intervene in the domes- tic quarrels between subjects and sovereigns, we should be cut off from active sympathy with nations struggling to acquire the rights we possess ourselves, and which we possess because we utterly disregarded the interpretation now placed upon the doctrine of non-intervention. Our ancestors held, that they had a right to call in the aid of a neighbouring power between whom and our- selves there were certain political affinities, and we hold that the people of Naples and the Roman States had a right to call in the aid of Victor Emmanuel, and a stronger right than our ancestors, because the Roman and Neapolitan people did not call in a foreign but an Italian power. It is amazing that anybody should think that because Lord John's justification of the invasion of the Ro- man States and Naples are different from those of Count Cavour, Lord John, in any way, sets them aside as minor considerations. Lord John's reasons are the reasons for us; Count Cavour's rea- sons are the reasons for him. One set is formulated from the foreign, the other from the domestic point of view. Yet Lord John is said to be indiscreet, and grave doctrinaires express grave disapproval, be- cause he broadly justifies, from the facts of British history and international law, the conduct of Victor Emmanuel. We ex- plained last week why we thought it fitting that Lord John should set forth the views of England at a critical moment. Yet we are told that, in the face of the lowering-tempest, the open censure of several powers, and the equivocal proceedings of one power, "there was no need to write at all." Lord. John has done many things, and the Government to which be belongs has done many things of which we cannot approve ; but we heartily go with the policy which dictated the despatch, and with the substance of the despatch itself.
Lord John Russell is accused of the following offence ; that he has laid down "first, that when a people is really misgoverned and oppressed they are entitled to ask assistance and liberation from a foreign Potentate, and that it is just and right in him to grant that succour ; and, secondly, that the people, and the peo- ple only, are to judge whether they are really misgoverned and oppressed." And, it follows from this, so the argument of the indignant critic runs, that intervention is right on behalf of sub-
ieets and freedom, and wrong on behalf of sovereigns and despot- ism; or, from the despotic point of view, right on behalf of au- thority and wrong onbe.half of insurrection. To such lengths will wholesale verbal legm,lead a publicist The error lies in regarding non-intervention as a sacred moral principle and in assuming that, being a me* principle, like "Thou shalt do no murder," it is uniitpr§aily, applicable ; consequently, that all in- tervention, no matter what the circumstances may be, is wrong. Now, non-intervention is far from being anything so sacred. It is not a principle at all ; it is a policy, right at one time, wrong at another. Intervention and non-mtervention must be judged like any other acts ; the justification for action or inaction must be found in the motives.and objects of each. Non-intervention, like intervention, may be a crime. It is for us to judge whether we ought to interfere or abstain, and, our judgment must be founded on the broadest considerations of justice and expediency. If we err in our estimate of them, our action or inaction will be erro- neous, and we shall pay for it in the long run. As a constitu- tional nation, we are bound to promote the spread of constitutional freedom, not in season and out of season; that is the doctrinaire view of our obligations; but solely in season and on just and prac- ticable grounds. It seems to us right to sympathize with the Italians' it seems to the Austrian wrong,. but we are not to ae- eept the Austrian judgment, and. belie our history and political faith. It might seem to us right and necessary to intervene on behalf of the Italians, it would seem wrong to the Austrian and Russian ; but that would not make their view right. We hold that it is wrong for sovereigns to intervene on behalf of sove- reigns against the clearly expressed wish of the people ; and we hold it right to intervene on behalf of the people. That is the Bri- tish faith. The morality or immorality of non-intervention is to be judged of by the circumstances, and is not in itself good or bad, in every ease, we must determine the justice or expediency of the course to be adopted. If the Irish were to call in the French, and the French obeyed the call, the reslilt would be war with France. Lord John's critic says that in such a ease we could not complain. No; the time for complaining would. be gone and the time for action would be come. So, if the Venetians called in the Emperor Napoleon and he went in,. Austria would go to war with him. The rights and wrongs of the proceeding would depend upon many considerations, and not at all upon the fact of intervention.
" The principle of non-intervention is gone ! " is the sad ejacu- lation of our contemporary, after perusing Lord John's despatch. That which never existed, as a "principle," except in the brains of theorists, v be gone, and ought to go. That which existed as a policy, before the said theorists got hold, of it and turned it into a principle, remains. Lord John Russell's despatch does not "justify anything that anybody wishes to do." All he does, in that document, is to justify, from our principles and our history,. the conduct of Victor Emmanuel. He no more justifies interven- tion on behalf of wrong than, a rightful arrest justifies wrongful imprisonment ; than the administration of justice in England is a warrant for the late administration of injustice in Naples. The bald, cold, heartless doctrine of non-intervention never could sur- vive in a healthy community of nations. The policy of non-inter- vention will continue to be adopted as often as it presents the greater show of expediency and practicability. If Lord John's despatch has killed the doctrine, or "principle" as it is affec- tionately called, all we have to say is " bon voyage!"