TOPICS OF THE DAY.
THE FLEETS AT CHERBOURG.
THE alliance with France is not perhaps the one which, were the world before them, English statesmen would deliberately choose. Liberals at least cherish a dream of another and a stronger one, to be formed when the clouds of to-day have swept out of sight, when two peoples divided only by mutual ignorance have learned to know each other, when the flags of four nations sprung from one race and speaking one tongue may float side by side, and the Anglo- Saxon alliance secure to the world one century at least of advance unimpeded by wars or threats of armed invasion. It looks like a dream just now, but dreams are sometimes realized, and twenty years hence, -when the petty bickerings of to-day are forgotten, and intercourse with America is as rapid and as uninterrupted as the intercourse between Lon- don and Edinburgh, it may need but the rise of an idea to bind together two Governments which will then control eighty millions of English-speaking men, and are even now so strong at sea that, were they united, they could limit the area of any war, or prohibit by a word an attempt at trans- oceanic conquest or attack. It looks like a dream, but two nations alone in their hearts desire peace and freedom for all mankind, and those two, one in ideals, in lan- guage, in literature, and in blood, separated only by dif- ferences of social organization, and daily rubbing those differences away, have gained even now a position in which their agreement would make them the referees of the world. Sooner or later, and sooner rather than later, for clouds move and the sunshine remains, they will recognize the truth, and then the small intrigues of little Sovereigns will be recorded with much of the tolerance parochial quarrels now enjoy. Such quarrels do not greatly distress even parishioners, for they are sure of the ultimate reference, and that the decree will be at once just and final. That, however, is in the future, and though we trust this generation may live to see it, and see with it all seas made free, and all continents pacified, and mankind at last free to do and say what lies in it to say and do, without let or hindrance, we acknowledge the dream is not yet within the domain of practical polities. For the hour Britons and Americans dread, and suspect, or detest each other, or rather fancy they do, almost as much as English and Scotch once did, and the indefinitely smaller French alliance is therefore of moment, both to this country and the world. The festival of the fleets at Cherbourg is, we imagine, intended to show Europe that this alliance is not only unbroken, but is warming up again into the entente cordials which, according to the Ilioniteur, the French Minister of Marine has toasted with so effusive a cordiality. The meeting supplies in the courtesy of Governments the place which an invitation to dine supplies in that of individuals, both being in themselves unimportant, but ac- quiring after a fit of estrangement a well-understood significance.
It is not easy to comprehend how politicians in either country who seriously care for the peace and security of the Continent should object to the only alliance which can form a power strong enough to arbitrate between nations, but there is a party among us which regards the entente cordiale with a strong though latent dislike. Their real reason probably is the belief, as old as modern history, that France and England can have no interests in common ; but when pressed, they always allege that the adherence of Great Britain makes the Emperor of the French too strong. He, they argue, is not seeking peace, or the triumph of civilization either, but direct advantages for his dynasty and his people, and we are simply instruments through which he hopes, while playing for very great stakes, to limit his liability. If he played his game alone his alternatives would be victory or destruction, but with England for an ally he is always cer- tain that his opponent, defeated or victorious, will be glad to make peace. This, they add in illustration, is at this moment his policy in the most pressing of his engagements. He is playing in Mexico for an imperial stake, and if he played it alone must either win or be ruined, but with England by his side he not only doubles his chance of ultimate success, but if unsuccessful is sure that his adversary will be too hardly pushed to follow up his good fortune. And this, say these critics, is what the Emperor always does. If we had joined him in Poland he would either have created a new France upon the Danube, or have retreated, certain that no Continental affiance would venture to pursue. If we would have granted the terms upon which he offered to protect Denmark, he would either have gained the Rhine, so termi- nating opposition to his dynasty, or have retired, quite sure that Austria at least, with the British in Venice, would not have entered France.
Those objections are worth a hearing, if only because they - represent the latent feeling of politicians who only wait an opportunity to speak out, but they are not, we conceive, wet/ founded. Of course if they were true as to Mexico, if it were, a condition of the entente cordials that England should guar- antee Maximilian, if in short we were about to purchase French alliance at the cost of an American war, there woukd. be an end of discussion. Napoleon would have done precisely what his critics assert he is always trying to do—won an im- perial stake by risking British gold. But we deny that it is. true, believe the whole story to be an injurious fable, born of Southern irritability and Northern sensitiveness about inter- ference. The Government has not promised to stand by France in Mexico, for the very good reason that if it had it would cease to be a government. Lord Palmerston is.
powerful, and the Cabinet has a majority, but in England. wars are made by the people, and the people have made up their minds that they will fight the Union when the Union attacks or threatens them, and not one minute before.. They would as soon think of fighting for Mexico as of fighting for Cochin China, and care less for the balance of power in North.
America than the balance of power on the Plate. They would not join Napoleon in Mexico when adhesion involved no risk,, and will certainly not join him now, when it would involve a.
long and utterly fruitless war. The idea is a bugbear, which could only have gained credence even among Americans during a momentary lull in politics, and apart from Mexico the English alliance has always restrained Napoleon. It has brought him additional strength, but it has also modified the
direction in which that strength could be used. The Emperor
would have expelled the Austrians from Italy whether we liked it or not, but left alone he would have replaced one foreign dominion by another. Villafranea was nullified because England, while still allied to France, made au united Italy the condition of its alliance. That necessity of going on to the end which Napoleon if left alone
might feel is not a security for peace, but an assurance that every war will end in a grand catastrophe. No gamester
plays so recklessly as the man who dare not lose, nor is any battle so savage as that in which quarter is sure to be refused. Napoleon beaten could get no terms, Napoleon plus England. can always get them, and acquires with his additional strength, that moderation of which strength is the root. The Emperor is compelled to carry out ideas, originally at once dreamy and selfish, within the limits imposed by English moderation and sense of rectitude. The argument therefore that the alliance- strengthens too greatly a power already aggressive and for- midable is delusive, and in every other aspect it is an unmixed. gain. In the far East it acts as an insurance, distributing the losses involved in the victory of civilization ; in the near East it arrests the squabble for the sick man's inheritance until the true heir is found ; and in Europe, politically so called, it prevents that triumph of wrong which always follows the neutralization of France. With England and France distrustful of each other, three men, all despots by training, by conviction, and by circumstance, have the nations at their feet, and can propose to each other, as they have- recently done, sales of their own subjects—and of nations which retain not only the moral but the technical right to be free. If the Kaiser may sell the Duchies for a guarantee of Venetia, or Prussia forbid a Scandinavian union for secure possession of Posen, or Russia offer Warsaw as the price of security in her remaining plunder, why should not the three combine in a new Holy Alliance, fatal if not to the map of Europe, at least to the freedom of its inhabitants They cannot, because they are faced byan alliance stronger than their own, which if not from instinct, then from policy, is favourable alike to freedom and the nation- alities. The coolness between England and France was followed by the execution of Poland, their coldness by that of Denmark, and a quarrel between them would be
the signal for a sentence on Italy. It is because we believe the entente cordiale prevents a repetition of crimes like these, and not because Napoleon is the best possible English ally, that we welcome cordially the drama now enacting at Cher- bourg. The alliance is beneficial in itself, more beneficial in the publicity such a fete will give to its existence.