PEACE OR WAR.
24th April 1855. , Brit—The space which you allotted in your last number to the letter, of "E. A. F." on the subject of "Pence or War," and the ability with which it is written, make it appear to require an answer on the part of those who think it, as I do, false in reasoning and mischievous in effect.
I might content myself with is out that the value of your corre- spondent's opinion on the war ls neutralized by his admission of the shallow and unreflecting manner in which it was originally formed, and subse- quently altered. He says that "he formerly justified the war" upon cer- tain grounds, which be states categorically, and then proceeds to refute. He then very candidly informs us how he was induced to alter his judgment of their validity : it was by "realizing the horrors" of war, "of which he had previously thought far more lightly, having only read of it in books, or heard of it at a distance." Now, Sir, this is really a state of mind which one might expect to meet with in a child or in a mob, but it is al- most incredible in a thoughtful, educated man. We are to infer that be had thought upon the subject; that he had weighed the arguments pro and con ; that he had Made up his mind that the war is "just and necessary " ; and that now, a year after, he changes it, forsooth, not because that justice and necessity are less apparent, but because he realizes the horrors of war better by reading about them in newspapers than by reading about them in books.
It is not surprising that one whose own judgment was determined by such influences should express the unworthy wish that "the nation may grow weary of the war" ; that is, that it should lay down its arms, not from an enlightened conviction that it is right to make peace, but from a cowardly reluctance to make the efforts and the sacrifices which war in- volves. Where the animus of a reasoner is so clearly shown, it is almost superfluous to discuss his reasons. Yet, I think, a brief exposure of their fallacy may be useful, even in a paper like yours, where the true doctrine has been so often and so clearly expounded. I need hardly say, that of the five reasons which induced E. A. F. to "justify the war" before he had discovered that war is a terrible thing, there is but one which has any weight or importance. The rest are set up, like nine-pins, only to be knocked down. That reason is, "that it is desirable, on European grounds to resist the further advance of Russia." The proposition is not well stated thus, but let that pass ; in substance it constitutes the true and sufficient grounds of the war. That it is not true and sufficient E. A. F. does not attempt to show by an examination of history ; he meets it simply by the dictum "that war is so prodigious an evil, that he can conceive no evil greater but the loss of national liberty." Now, Sir, I pray you to consider how far this doctrine must carry its propounder. Nothing else, he says, is a greater evil than war : not the breach of national faith ; not the destruction of our commerce ; not the en- slavement and reduction to barbarism of the whole human race except our- selves ; nay, if I am right in supposing that he defines "national liberty" to be "the possession of a free press and trial by jury," not the loss of na- tional independence. Sir, a very different doctrine has been held by all the patriots and heroes whose memory mankind has learned to venerate ; and I for one do not think, as E. A. F. does, that "the smallest positive argu- ment may overact the presumption derived from the opinion of any man," or any number of men, however great and wise and good. What would Gustavus Adolphus, what would Elizabeth, what would Cromwell have thought of a man who professed himself "profoundly indifferent" to the greatness and glory of his country ; who considered war a greater evil than anything except the lose of free institutions; and who held that so long as the liberty of a people were not directly assailed it ought to sit tamely by while the rest of the world was enslaved around it ?
But I must come to our case against Russia, although I have not space to do justice to it. E. A. F. deprecates our continuing the war "after the
conciliatory offers made by Russia" ; and he says that she "offers to surrender everything except her national existence and her control over her own territory." What evidence have we of this ? Who can tell with any certainty what Russia offers ? Above all, what guarantee can we obtain of her sincerity and good faith in any offer she may have made ? Again, E. A. F. encourages us by saying that "at the pace at which Russia has advanced hitherto, it will be long before she engulfs the Continent, and we have the unspeakable advantage of being on an island." Very con- soling, truly. I do not know what E. A. F. would consider a "long" period for engulfing Europe ; but I am sure he cannot have compared the map of Russia a hundred years ago with her present territories—territories which, if his doctrines had prevailed, would by this time have extended at least to the Bosphorus and the Mediterranean ; he cannot have studied her far more rapid advance in resources and organization, or considered that marvellous power of absorption by which she has already denationalized Poland, and Esthonia, and Lithuania, and Finland, and the Crimea; or re- flected on the ominous fact, that every Russian, from the Czar to the serf, believes, and does not scruple to avow his faith, that the destiny of Russia is to conquer Europe; I say, he cannot have seriously pondered on these things, or he could hardly help avowing that it is the interest of Europe to stop her somewhere. And where is the stand to be made ? If we give her the Danube, shall we fight for the Rhine ? If we abandon Constantinople, shall we defend Egy? How long would the "overland route" be open, how long would our Eastern empire last, if Russia were supreme from the Euphrates to the Nile, from the Wall of China to the lEgean Sea ? E. A. F. ignores the fact that England is a great Asiatic power, and is therefore more deeply interested than perhaps any other European nation in resisting the establishment of Russian supremacy in the East.
But I forgot : E. A. F. thinks war a greater evil than anything except the loss of liberty. He would not, therefore, defend our Eastern empire at such a price. Our influence in India, like our influence in the Mediterranean, however conducive it may be to the prosperity of our own country and the welfare of those over whom it extends, is "a diplomatic chimera, not worth shedding a drop of blood to preserve." If E. A. F. directed our councils, we should not defend our coloniea or our commerce ; we should calmly look on while public law was abrogated and the world enslaved ; we should renounce all claim to be a great power, and with our greatness all the influence for good which it involves; nay, we should sacrifice our independence, and cease altogether to be a nation, if we could only capitulate on the condition of retaining a free press and trial by jury. I pray that it May and I believe that it will be long before such sentiments and such a policy as these find favour with the people of England.