2 DECEMBER 1865, Page 7


IT is difficult to conceive a position more embarrassing than that which has been created for Europe by the aggression of Spain on Chili. It is quite evident from the juscatory circular of Senor Bermudez De Castro, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, that Admiral Pareja has not exceeded his instructions, that he was ordered to exact satisfaction from Chili, and that this " satisfaction " was intended to involve a technical humi- liation for the South American Republic, which those who insisted on it knew could only result in war. It is also evi- dent that Spain had no justification whatsoever for her demand. , Accepting, as we are bound in fairness to do, the Continental . notion of honour—which differs greatly from the English, being more chivalric and less sensible—the Spanish Govern- ment has still no insult to bring forward, no indignity to

. endure. Senor Bermudez De Castro says indeed that she has, but when it comes to the proof he can only state three incidents, none of which would wound the honour of any nation except Spain. The Spanish flag was, he says, degraded by the populace of Chili, and it is true that a mob did raise some kind of yell at it, but since when has a Spanish Government cared for the expressions unac- companied by acts of the loafers in a foreign street ? He also alleges that the newspaper called El Sant Martin, a scurrilous little journal of the Satirist kind, had made insulting remarks upon "the personification of Spanish institutions," that is, in plain Spanish, on Queen Isabella, but the Courts were open, the journal is dead, and months after the publica- tion of the offensive paragraph the Queen forwarded to the President of Chili those complimentary intimations, such as of her safe accouchement, which are understood in the etiquette of Europe to indicate amity and technical equality. Lastly, Chili had permitted enlistments for Peru, and declared coal contraband of war, which benefited Peru. These are offences rather than insults, and have never yet been declared sufficient cause of war. Moreover, even if they had been, they were condoned by the formal agreement between Senor Tavira and the Cabinet of Santiago, in which the plenipotentiary accepted certain arrangements in satisfaction of all demands. The Government of Spain no doubt had a right to decline to . ratify that agreement, but to declare that a petty dispute already adjusted by an accredited agent is cause of war is an unprecedented act of violence. Spain, however, has done it, has blockaded Chili, stopped the advance of the only pro- gressive State among her former dependencies, attempted to blockade a coast 2,000 miles long, really blockaded Valparaiso, broken up a trade of sixteen millions, and spread the deepest alarm through Spanish America, in order that by so doing she may once more appear before the world as a formidable power. And yet what remedy ? England has remonstrated, and her remonstrance has elicited nothing except the assurance that Spain does not intend to reconquer her colonies, which, the Union having been re-established, is slightly superfluous, and

a quiet menace that Her Majesty's Government "has resolved not to permit its dignity, causelessly and gratuitously affronted, to remain without the just reparation to which it is entitled," while Chili has issued a formal declaration of war. If England goes a step farther than advice, it is very doubtful whether the Spanish nation, morbidly proud and sensitive, aware that its trade is of minor importance, and conscious that at the worst it could lose to us only the Philippines, would not accept the challenge. Short of force there appears no remedy, and no English Ministry would willingly give the signal for what might prove a general European war, more especially while a false precedent, still unremoved, would allow Spain to cover every sea with American Alabama*. Even if France joined us Spain might be restive, and no English Ministry would like to give France a pretext for marching an army into Spain. War with limited liability is still only a possibility of the future, and war with unlimited liabilities involves too dreadful a risk to be encountered for anything less than national interest or honour. The high police of Europe, as the Economist has pointed out, is for the hour suspended, and the sole alternatives left for nations are force or submission. Chili, it is clear, has not at present the force necessary to pro- tect herself." It is no doubt true that if the fifteen sovereign States which have been carved out of Spanish America could unite, they could maintain a fleet with which none but a first-class maritime power would be competent to deal. But Spanish America is not only far from a federal union of the kind, but farther than she has ever been in any period of her history. There is indeed a feeling of rage perceptible at the aggressions of Spain, and a party in Peru is willing to assist Chili, but the jealousies, and fears, and poverty of the majority of the States prevent anything like cordial union. The very vastness of their territory prohibits identity of feeling or of interests, and the Spaniards and semi-Spaniards who rule the various States are as jealous of honour and position and each other as Bermudez De Castro himself. The Spanish American Federation is, we fear, a dream, and the only remaining hope, the interference of the United States, may not be realized. Mr. Johnson may feel it necessary to warn the Latin nations that although his Government for the hour tolerates French troops in Mexico, the Union does not intend to permit new European aggressions, but then he also may not. America is anxious for peace and diminished outlays, and though interested in preventing the conquest of Chili, is not specially interested in the safety of the trade which European merchants have established at Valparaiso. If the President decides on non-intervention Spain can to all appearance go forward, until finally stopped either by a collapse in her finances,—which can hardly be brought on by the cost of a squadron, or an internal revolution,—which is possible, but the probability of which is exaggerated ; or by the accession of some Premier to power with a policy radically different from that of Marshal O'Donnell. The blockade of Valparaiso of course cannot last for ever, but for all that appears it can last long enough to ruin Chili, to destroy a commerce, and to modify radically the position of Europe in respect to its copper coinage and copper manufacture generally. Chili is the largest exporter of raw copper in the world, and the blockade has already raised the price of the metal 40/. per ton.

The only remaining hope is in the people of Spain, and it is difficult to believe that the Liberals of Madrid can always fail to perceive the terrible blunder they have made. No country perhaps ever had such an opportunity of rising a second time into the front rank of nations as Spain has wantonly thrown away. Within the last twenty years her population and revenue have risen to a level with those of Prussia, and, excluding the cost of the debt and of the navy, she has at this moment as much money to spend as Great Britain herself. Her army is an excellent one, over-office-red, it is true, but well disciplined, brave, and capable under the conscription of great numerical extension. Her resources have but begun to develope them- selves, and a change in a tariff, a general reduction to 15 per cent, ad valorem, would not only double or triple her wealth, but provide for the interest on her debt, which, much as it has been talked about, is still barely five millions a year. Had her Government, instead of joining in the Mexican expedition, and seizing Dominica, and plundering Peru, and menacing Chili, declared for free trade and solvency she might at this moment have ranked as the sixth great power, for she had an external resource almost without compare. A continent is ruled by men who speak her language and are proud of her blood, who accept her creed, and are still unfamiliar with any literature but her own. Every Spanish American State needed protection, guidance, and effective representation in Europe, and had Spain honestly respected their independence she might have supplied all three. She would in fact have become the federal head of a race which, after all its tremend- ous losses, still owns one entire continent, probably the richest of the six great divisions of the world, and still numbers six- teen millions at home, and governs twenty millions abroad. Close to the centre of activity and intelligence, well organized and solvent, with a homogeneous population, and an almost im- pregnable territory, seamen whom Nelson pronounced danger- ous, and soldiers perhaps as good as any in Europe, Spain might have taken the lead in an affiance which would have affected the fate of the whole world, would have secured to herself a boundless territory for emi- gration, the preference in a trade already immense, and a position which would have satisfied even her raging pride. She has sacrificed all this in order to be visible once more upon the stage of the world, has in fact flung away fortune in the hope of attaining notoriety. Her Foreign Minister is compelled to protest that although she invades it is without thought of conquest, her Finance Minister tries in vain to raise a loan at twelve per cent., her Minister of the Interior reports disaffection from every province, and her Admiral, after threatening to bombard Callao, retracted his pledge because a little American schooner lay between him and his mark. Is there no force left in Spain to reverse a policy which has results like these