6 JULY 1867, Page 5


LORD RUSSELL'S recantation of his error concerning the nature of the American conflict, at the banquet given -to Mr. Garrison last Saturday, has struck every fair mind with -admiration and respect. Nor can we avoid expressing our own admiration for the candour of a statesman who, at an age when opinion has usually become almost ossified, can thus -openly admit the fundamental mistake of a policy which was, nevertheless, probably more wise and just than any other states- man of Cabinet rank, except the Duke of Argyll, on either :side of the House, would have pursued in his place. Lord Russell has admitted his error, his miscalculation and misun- derstanding of the motive of Mr. Lincoln's policy, and the .erroneous nature of the judgment he founded upon it, that -" the North were fighting for empire, and the South for inde- tpendence." Yet there were few indeed among English +Cabinet Ministers who judged the struggle even as fairly as Lord Russell, and not one, except, as we said, the Duke of Argyll, who showed so steady a sympathy with the anti- slavery element in the war, so far as he clearly discerned it, -as Lord Russell. It was, perhaps, natural enough that the -man who sinned least in that matter should be the first to -express his regret for the error of which he was really guilty. But it is a really curious thing, on looking back to the history .of the contest, and the opinions expressed by English states- men, politicians, and political writers with respect to it, 'to notice how very little of anything that can deserve the :name of prescience was to be found among them. " Out of -the mouths of babes and sucklings," as usual, came much more truth than out of the wise and prudent. " Not many -wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble," had even a glimmering of the truth. Even our great popular minister, who on so many subjects has shown his power to see .deeper into the heart of the people than any of his colleagues, .even Mr. Gladstone was far wider of the mark than ever was Lord Russell, and declared, in October, 1862,—with the utmost .courtesy and kindness of tone towards the North, it is true, 'but also with the utmost positiveness of statement,—that Mr. -Jefferson Davis hid succeeded in making " a nation," and that " we may anticipate with certainty the success of the South, so far as their separation from the North is con- .cerned." Even the late Sir Cornewall Lewis, who, with his 'usual prudence, interfered to save the Cabinet from the rashness of recognizing the South, and protested publicly against that step to his constituents at a very critical moment, -even he was far more widely removed from a sound view of the nature of the conflict than Lord Russell, and wrote with the greatest, scorn in private letters afterwards pub- lished of " that village lawyer's Lincoln's " resources for the great moral, political, and military campaign which the Tillage lawyer nevertheless carried through to so near its -successful termination. Lord Palmerston and Lord Derby were both of course conspicuously Southern in their bias -throughout the war, and the former was in one or two debates .almost insolent to the friends of the North. Lord Stanley, 'with his usual prudence, reserved -his opinion, and even ventured to indicate very early a strong belief in the greater military power of the North ; but he significantly added in the came speech, and not, as we have reason to believe now, with any greater power of prescience than the more outspoken Eng- lish Southerners, that the real difficulties of the North would

only begin whenever their arms might have conquered their opponents. Sir Roundell Palmer vied with Sir Hugh Cairns in the Southern bias of the legal opinions on questions of international law which they advocated in Parliament. Of all the opinions expressed by English statesmen on the American war, the most ingenious, perhaps, and certainly the most absolutely free from any sympathetic twist on either side was Mr. Disraeli's. It was obvious that he held the physical power of the North in the profoundest respect ; and yet he gave it as his deliberate opinion that the process was already beginning in America which centuries ago divided the con- tinent of Europe into different nations of different genius, language, and customs ; — that a straggling Anglo-Saxon colony was on the point of crystallizing into a number of different States, whose power would be balanced against each other in a civilization constituted of varieties as marked as those of the Old World. That was a view which was ingenious and original enough to have deserved to be prescient ; but, like " the wisdom of the Greeks," it turned out foolishness, com- pared with the simplicity of the child-like faith in the power of the good cause to vanquish the bad, in the power of freemen to prevail in the end over the devotees of slavery. And yet in Mr. Disraeli's case at least there was no want of apprehen- sion of the main condition of the political problem,—namely, that the North was really governed not by a commercial democracy, above all things sensitive to the effect of war on personalty and floating capital ; but by a territorial democracy attached to the land, and above all things sensitive, as terri- torialists of all classes always are, to any attack on the strength and durability of the Government. This was a most important condition of the political problem, which many poli- ticians, many statesmen, quite overlooked, but which Mr. Disraeli never overlooked. And yet it did not save him from the error into which he fell in attributing to a conflict caused not by root differences of genius, customs, and manners, but solely by the many differences which radiated from the grand difference between slave institutions and free institu- tions, all the disorganizing and reorganizing characteristics which would be wanted to raise up a group of distinct nations. It is now apparent to every one, that, slavery once forcibly extinguished, there is no clear and matured divergence of political feeling and genius between the various sections of the Union. The apparent vital differences were all bred of that one great difference, and are perishing with it. Mr. Disraeli's error arose not from his intellectual deficiencies, but from his moral deficiencies. He could not appreciate the force of the moral paralysis which destroyed the South. He could not distinguish adequately between differences of genius arising from natural and from moral causes,—from causes which no violent institutional change could eradicate, and from causes capable of real annihilation by one mortal blow at a single vile institution. There was no attempt at what we may call the political diagnosis of the American conflict so acute and ingenious as Mr. Disraeli's. He failed for the same reason for which all our statesmen failed,—namely, that prescience in political and national affairs is a quality scarcely ever due to the head so much as the heart. It arises out of a deep vital sympathy with popular currents of feeling, the growing intensity of which some men can feel almost as distinctly as a physician can feel the reviving force of his patient's pulse. Calculation, without this sympathy, almost always fails to predict the course of even a year or two of national life. Napoleon III. failed even more egregiously than any of our own statesmen in his view of the American struggle, and yet he knows something of popular feeling, at least in France. His prescience, however, has always been limited to the one nation whose most intimate instincts he has studied, and that is a nation but little inclined as yet to sympathize heartily with races lower than its own. The intellectual classes of France no doubt sympathized with the North in the late struggle, but even that was in no small degree be- cause the Emperor was known to favour the South. The masses of the French people have never yet shown them- selves keenly alive to the wrongs of a lower and alien race. Napoleon's mistake was made, like that of Mr. Disraeli, from a radical want of sympathy with the slaves, and a radical error as to the infections character of this sympathy when once launched as a powerful political and conservative force in an Anglo-Saxon society.

Not one of even our wisest statesmen can pretend to have shown a prescience that will for a moment bear comparison with such prescience as Mazzini showed in anticipating the national unity of Italy, or such prescience as Mr. Garrison himself showed, in anticipating,—by the wrong means, it is true,—but still anticipating the extirpation of slavery at an early date on the continent of America. Prescience seems to be given much more to those of comparatively simple natures whose hearts are full of the force of a great principle, than to the most accomplished statesman weighing the effects of the elaborate mechanism of political institutions. If pre- science be a merit at all, it is the merit of minds capable of being fired by the most intense conviction on a single subject, rather than of what we usually call balanced intellects and sagacious judgments. Balanced intellects and sagacious judgments are necessary for the actual execution of any great political work. Without Cavour, Mazzini would have effected nothing. Without Lincoln, Garrison would have been still battling against the world. But still it is the conviction that reaches a white heat that is prescient, not the cool judgment of deliberative minds. Our contemporary the Pall Mall Gazette, in a narrow article, which seems to us utterly unworthy of the masculine thinker and writer to whom, perhaps erroneously, we ascribe it, headed, " Shall we Crown our Fanatics " assents to this view, and proceeds to make as light as possible of the rare and grand moral qualities which belong to men of this white heat of con- viction, not only on the express ground that they are so rarely men of calm, large minds, but, oddly enough, on the ground of the intrinsically smell value of zeal, and self- denial, and self-forgetfulness practised in a noble cause. "The accident," says our contemporary, in its eagerness to depreciate Mr. Garrison's merits, " of having been right, does not make a fanatic less a fanatic." On the contrary, we should have said that the true difference between a fanatic and the highest characters which have given to human nature its greatest dignity and nobility, is the difference between the causes in which zeal is displayed. If the cause is a poor and vulgar one, such as our contemporary quotes, — the Mormon cause,—the prescience, suffering, and self-denial dis- played in its behalf are truly called fanatical. They are means as unworthy of the end, as when a man goes through daily torture to heap up gold which he never wishes to use. If fanaticism mean anything, it means intensity and zeal disproportionate to the end. A fanatic, however keen his prescience, however grand his endurance, is ignoble, because his eyes have been purged to see the drift of events only by a mean motive, and his endurance has been spent in narrowing his own heart to the measure of vulgar aims. But prescience, zeal, self-denial, and self-forgetfulness such as Mr. Garrison's, spent in one of the grandest of human causes, and excited by one of the noblest of human motives, is not fanaticism, or if it be, is a fanaticism which, if it were but wider-spread, would soon extirpate the selfish vices and sins which disfigure human life. No doubt such moral white heat as Mazzini's and Mr. Garrison's also tends to lead men at times into great blunders and great sins, and in Mazzini's case, early in his career, undoubtedly did so. Still more, then, ought we to honour the man who with such an ardent temperament has never been tempted into any violence worse than such violence of invective as men of prophetic fire of nature cannot, perhaps ought not, entirely to suppress. Statesman- like judgment and moderation is an excellent thing, and statesmanlike candour like Lord Russell's is a still more excellent thing ; but our contemporary will not, we hope, easily teach Englishmen to honour either of those qualities so much as those rare virtues of heroic self-denial and self- forgetfulness which are the salt of the earth, and a salt of which there is by no means an abundant supply.