The Political Writings of Richard Cobden
Volume II, Part III.
MR. COBDEN TO THE REVEREND————.
MY DEAR SIR,—I am afraid you do not overstate the case in saying, that not one in a thousand of the population of this country has ever doubted the justice and necessity of our last war with France. There is all but a unanimous sentiment upon the subject; and it is easily accounted for. The present generation of adults have been educated under circumstances which forbade an impartial judgment upon the origin of the war. They were either born during the strife of arms, when men's hopes and fears were too much involved in the issue of the struggle to find leisure for an historical inquiry into the merits of the quarrel, or after the conclusion of the peace, when people were glad to forget everything connected with the war, excepting our victories and the victors. There are no men now living, and still engaged in the active business of life, who were old enough to form an opinion upon the question, and to take a part in the controversy, when peace or war trembled in the balance in 1792: and our histories have been written too much in the interest of the political party which was at that time in power to enable our youth to grow up with sound opinions upon the conduct of the authors of the war.
But the truth must be told to the people of this country. I have no fear that they will refuse to hear it. Even were they so disposed, it would not affect the final verdict of mankind upon the question. The facts which I have narrated, together with many more leading to the same conclusion, to say nothing of the reserve of proofs which Time has yet to disclose, will all be as accessible to the German and American historians as ourselves. Mr. Bancroft is approaching the epoch to which we refer, and can any one who has followed him thus far in his great historical work, and observed his acute appreciation of the workings of our aristocratic system, doubt that, should he bring his industry and penetration to the task, he will succeed in laying bare to the light of day the motives which impelled our government to join the crusade against the revolution of 1789?
But the whole truth must be told, and the public mind thoroughly imbued with the real merits of the case, not as the solution of a mere historical problem, but in the interest of peace, and as the best and, indeed, only means of preparing the way for that tone of confidence and kindness, which everybody, excepting a few hopelessly depraved spirits, believes will one day characterise the intercourse of France and England. For if in science and morals a truth once established be fruitful in other truths, and error, when undetected, be certain to multiply itself after its own kind, how surely must the same principle apply to the case before us!
If England be under the erroneous impression that the sanguinary feud of twenty-two years, which cost her so many children, and heaped upon her such a load of debt and taxation, was forced upon her by the unprovoked aggression of France, it is, I fear, but too natural that she should not only cherish feelings of enmity and resentment against the author of such calamities, but that there should be always smouldering in her breast dark suspicions that a similar injury may again be inflicted upon her by a power which has displayed so great a disregard of the obligations of justice. The natural result of this state of feeling is that it leads us to remind the offending party pretty frequently of the disastrous results of their former attacks, to thrust before their eyes memorials of our prowess, and to warn them from time to time that we are preparing to repel any fresh aggressions which they may be meditating against us.
If, on the other hand, the real origin of the war be impressed upon the mind of the present generation, and it be known, popularly known, that, far from having been, as we are told it was, undertaken in behalf of liberty, or for the defence of our own shores, it was hatched upon the Continent in the secret counsels of despotic courts, and fed from the industry of England by her then oligarchial government; that its object was to deprive the French people of the right of self-government, and to place their liberties at the disposal of an arbitrary king, a corrupt church, and a depraved aristocracy; then the opinion of the country, and its language and acts, will be totally different from what we have just described. Instead of feelings of resentment, there will be sentiments of regret; far from suspecting attacks from the French, the people of England, seeing through, and separating themselves from the policy by which their fathers were misled, will be rather disposed to level their suspicion at those who call upon them again, without one fact to warrant it, to put themselves in an attitude of defiance against their unoffending neighbour; and in lieu of constantly invoking the memory of their own exploits, or the reverses of their opponents, the English people will, under the circumstances which I have supposed, be anxious only for an oblivion of all memorials of an unjust and aggressive war.
Can any doubt exist as to which of these conditions of public opinion and feeling is most likely to conduce to peace, and which to war?
But, moreover, the truth must be known in order that the people of England may be the better able to appreciate the feelings of the French towards them. The precept "Do unto others as ye would that others should do unto you," is applicable to thought as well as act. Before we condemn the sentiments entertained by the people of France with respect to our conduct in the last war, let us endeavour to form an opinion as to what our own feelings would be under similar circumstances. To do this we must bear in mind that whilst our historians give us a flattering and partial account of the conduct of our government at the breaking out of the last war, the French writers, as may naturally be supposed, lose no opportunity of recording every fact which redounds to our disadvantage. I have abstained from giving quotations from these authorities, because they would be open to the charge of being partial and prejudiced. But it ought to be known to us that not only do these writers make the European powers who conspired against the liberties of France responsible for the war, they invariably assign to England the task of stimulating the flagging zeal of the Continental despots, and of bribing them to continue their warlike operations when all other inducements failed. The least hostile of these writers, M. Thiers, the favourite of our aristocracy, in speaking of our preparations for the campaign of 1794, says—"England was still the soul of the coalition, and urged the powers of the Continent to hasten to destroy, on the banks of the Seine, a revolution at which she was terrified, and a rival which was detestable to her. The implacable son of Chatham had this year made prodigious efforts for the destruction of France." It is to the energies of Pitt, wielding the power of England, that France attributes the tremendous coalitions which again and again brought nearly all Europe in hostile array against her. Thus does M. Thiers describe the spirit which animated him: "In England a revolution which had only half regenerated the social state, had left subsisting a crowd of feudal institutions which were objects of attachment for the court and aristocracy, and of attack for the opposition. Pitt had a double object in view; first to allay the hostility of the aristocracy, to parry the demand for reform, and thus to preserve his ministry by controlling both parties; secondly—to overwhelm France beneath her own misfortunes, and the hatred of all the European governments."
These quotations afford but a faint idea of the tone in which the historical writers of that country deal with the subject. We are held up generally to popular odium as the perfidious and Machiavelian plotters against the liberties of the French people.
But it will probably be asked—and the question is important—what are the present opinions of Frenchmen respecting their own Revolution out of which the war sprang? There is nothing upon which we entertain more erroneous views. When we speak of that event, our recollection calls up those occurrences only, such as the Reign of Terror, the rise and fall of Napoleon, the wars of conquest carried on by him, and the final collapse of the territory of France within its former boundaries, which seem to stamp with failure, if not with disgrace, the entire character of the Revolution. The Frenchman, on the contrary, directs his thoughts steadily to the year 1789. He finds the best excuse he can for the madness of 1794; he will point, with pride, to the generous magnanimity of the populace of Paris, in 1830 and 1848, as an atonement for the Reign of Terror; he throws upon foreign powers, and especially upon England, the responsibility for the long wars which desolated so many of the countries of Europe; but towards the Constituent Assembly of 1789, and the principles which they established, his feelings of reverence and gratitude are stronger than ever; he never alludes to them but with enthusiasm and admiration. This feeling is confined to no class, as the following extract from a speech addressed by M. Thiers on the 29th June, 1851, to that most Conservative body, the National Assembly, and the response which it elicited, will show. It is taken verbatim, from a report published by himself:—
"M. Thiers.—Let us do honour to the men who have maintained in France, since 1789, real civil equality—equality of taxation, which we owe to our admirable and noble Revolution. (Notre belle et honorable révolution.")—(Assent and agitation.)
"A voice on the left.—Settle that with your friends. (Oh, oh! murmurs.)
"A voice on the right.—Don't mistake; it is not the Revolution of 1848 that is referred to.
"M. Thiers.—I speak of the Revolution of 1789, and I trust we are all of one mind upon that. (The left. Yes! yes! laughter.)
"M. Charras.—Talk to the right.
"M. Thiers.—I have a better opinion than you of my country, and of all our parties, and I am convinced that no one will encounter coldness or disapprobation from any quarter when praising the Revolution of 1789. (Marks of approbation from a great number of benches.)"
There is no greater proof of the predominant favour in which any opinions are held in France than to find them advocated by M. Thiers. But whilst employed upon this letter, a recent production from the pen of my accomplished friend, M. Michael Chevalier, has met my eye, in which he speaks of "the immortal principles" of "our glorious Constituent Assembly of 1789." Where two men of such eminent authority, but of such diametrically opposite views upon economical principles, agree in their admiration of a particular policy, it is a proof that it must have irresistible claims upon public approbation. Men of the highest social position in France—even they whose fathers fell a sacrifice to the Reign of Terror—admit that to the measures of 1789 (they were in substance described in my last letter), which have elevated the millions of their countrymen from a condition hardly superior to that of the Russian serf to the rank of citizens and proprietors of the soil, France is indebted for a more rapid advance in civilisation, wealth, and happiness, than was ever previously made by any community of a similar extent within the same period of time.
This feeling, so universally shared, has not been impaired by the recent changes in France; for it is directed less towards forms of government, or political institutions, than to the constitution of society itself. And here let me observe again upon the erroneous notions we fall into as to the state of public opinion in France, because we insist upon judging it by our own standard. Assuredly, if the French have the presumption to measure our habits and feelings by theirs, they must commit as great blunders. Our glory is that the franchises and charters gained by our forefathers have secured us an amount of personal freedom that is not to be surpassed under any form of government. And it is the jealous, patriotic, unselfish love of this freedom, impelling the whole community to rush to the legal rescue of the meanest pauper if his chartered personal liberties be infringed by those in power, that distinguishes us from all European countries; and I would rather part with every sentiment of liberty we possess than this, because, with it, every other right is attainable.
But the French people care little for a charter of habeas corpus; else, during their many revolutions, when power has descended into the streets, why has it not been secured? and the liberty of the press, and the right of association, and public meeting, have been violated by universal suffrage almost as much as by their emperors and kings. That which the French really prize, and the English trouble themselves little about, is the absence of privileged inequality in their social system. Any violation of this principle is resisted with all the jealousy which we display in matters of individual freedom. It was this spirit which baffled the designs of Napoleon and Louis XVIII., to found an aristocracy by the creation of entails. Now, the Revolution of 1789, besides securing liberty of worship, and establishing probably the fairest system of government taxation (apart from the protective policy of the nation) at present to be found in the world, has divided the rich land of France amongst its whole population. It is these measures, coupled with the abolition of hereditary rank, and of the law of entail, which have chiefly contributed to gain for the Constituent Assembly the gratitude of a people so jealous of privilege, and so passionately attached to the soil. Yet it cannot be too strongly impressed upon our minds that it was against the principles of this very Assembly that Burke, in 1790, launched his fiery declamation, in which we find the following amongst many similar invectives:—"You would not have chosen to consider the French as a people of yesterday, as a nation of low-born servile wretches, until the emancipating year 1789;" and we are equally bound to remember that it was with the intention of overthrowing the system of government established by that Assembly that the despotic powers marshalled their armies for the invasion of France, and when, upon the failure of the attack, we threw the weight of England into the scale of despotism. Having fully realised to ourselves the case of the French people, let us ask—what would be our feelings under their circumstances?
Why, I fear, in the first place, we should, like them, still remember with some bitterness the unprovoked attack made upon us by the nations of Europe, and that we should be sometimes tempted to call that country in particular "perfidious," which, whilst professing to be free itself, and to have derived its freedom from a revolution, yet joined the despots of the Continent in a coalition against the liberties of another people: we, who have just paid almost pagan honours to the remains of a general who fought the battles of that unrighteous coalition—what would we have done in honour of those soldiers who beat back from our frontiers confederate armies of literally every nation in Christian Europe, except Sweden, Denmark, and Switzerland? Should we not, if we were Frenchmen, be greater worshippers of the name of Napoleon, if possible, than we are of Wellington and Nelson—and with greater reason? Should we not forgive him his ambition, his selfishness, his despotic rule? would not every fault be forgotten in the recollection that he humbled Prussia, who had without provocation assailed us when in the throes of a domestic revolution, and that he dictated terms at Vienna to Austria, who had actually begun the dismemberment*36 of our own territory? Should not we in all probability still feel so much under the influence of former dangers and disasters as to cling for protection to a large standing army?—and might not that centralised government which alone enabled us to preserve our independence still find favour in our sight? and should we not indulge a feeling of proud defiance in electing for the chief of the state the next heir to that great military hero, the child and champion of the Revolution, whose family had been especially proscribed by the coalesced Powers before whom he finally fell? Yes, however wise men might moralise, and good men mourn, these would, under the circumstances, I am sure, be the feelings and passions of Englishmen—ay, and probably, in even a stronger degree than they are now cherished in France.
What, then, are the results which I anticipate from the general diffusion of a true knowledge of the origin and character of the last French war? In the first place, a more friendly and tolerant feeling towards the French people. The maxim of Rochefoucault, that we never forgive those we have injured, if it be not unjust as applied to individuals, does not certainly hold good with respect to communities. Great nations may be proud, and even vain, but they are ever magnanimous; and it is only meanness which could lead us to visit upon our victim the penalty of our own injustice. Besides, the maxim is not intended to apply, even in individuals, to generous natures, and generosity is the invariable attribute of great masses of men.
But, in the next place, I should expect from a more correct knowledge of our error of sixty years ago, that we shall be less likely to repeat it now. It is certain that the lesson will not be required? Are there no symptoms that we have spirits amongst us who want not the will, if the power and occasion be afforded, to play the part of Burke in our day? He excited the indignation of his countrymen against a republic which had decapitated a King; now our sympathies are roused in behalf of a republic which has been strangled by an Emperor. However inconsistent, in other respects, our conduct at the two epochs may be, we seem in both cases likely to fall into the error of forgetting that the French nation are the legitimate tribunal for disposing of the grievance. To forget this is indeed a more flagrant act of intervention on our part than was that of our forefathers, inasmuch as, whilst they usurped the functions of twenty-four millions of Frenchmen, we are now in danger of treating thirty-six millions with no greater consideration.
I have said that we are not without imitators of the Reflections. A small volume of "Letters of 'an Englishman,' on Louis Napoleon, the Empire and the Coup d'État reprinted with large additions from the Times," is lying before me. I know a cynical person who stoutly maintains the theory that we are not progressive creatures; that, on the contrary, we move in a circle of instincts; and that a given cycle of years brings us back again to the follies and errors from which we thought mankind had emancipated itself. And really these Letters are calculated to encourage him in his cynicism. For here we have the very same invectives levelled at Louis Napoleon which were hurled at the Constituent Assembly sixty years ago. The style, the language, the very epithets are identically the same. Take a couple of morsels by way of illustration, the one speaking of the Constituent Assembly of 1789, and the other of Louis Napoleon in 1852:
So much for a specimen of specific accusation.
Now for a sample of general invective:
Considering that the result of Burke's declamation was a war of twenty-two years, first to put down the French Republic and afterwards Napoleon Bonaparte, both in the interest of the Bourbons; that the war cost us some five hundred millions of debt; and that the result is this present year, 1853, a Bonaparte, whose family we proscribed, sitting upon the French throne, and the Bourbons, whom we installed at the Tuileries, fugitives from the soil of France; remembering these things, and beholding this not altogether unsuccessful attempt at an imitation of the "Reflections," it does certainly afford a triumph to my cynical acquaintance so far at least as to raise a doubt whether progressive wisdom be an element of our foreign policy. I could give many specimens of declamatory writing from the Letters not inferior to Burke in style, and some of them surpassing him in the vigour of their invective. Take the following as an illustration of the lengths to which the writer's vehemence carries him, and let it be borne in mind that these letters have had a far wider circulation than Burke's great philippic, with all its popularity, could boast of. I invite attention to those passages marked by me in italics. "The presidential chair or the imperial throne is set upon a crater; the soil is volcanic, undermined and trembling; the steps are slippery with blood, and the darkening steam of smouldering hatred, conspiracy, and vengeance is exhaling round it. Each party can furnish its contingents for tyrannicide, the assassin dogs him in the street, and even at the balls or banquets of the Elysée he may find the fate of Gustavus. He who has been false to all must only look for falsehood, and is doomed to daily and to nightly fears of mutinies, insurrections, and revenge. Conscience cannot be altogether stifled, and will sometimes obtrude in her horrible phantasmagoria the ghastly corpses of the Boulevards."
Nobody will suppose that I would deny to any one the right of publishing his views upon French or any other politics. So far am I from wishing to restrain the liberty of the press it is my constant complaint that it is not free enough. The press, in my opinion, should be the only censor of the press; and in this spirit I would appeal to public opinion against the evil tendency of these and similar productions. We all know how the strictures of Burke began with criticism, grew into menace, and ended in a cry for war. The "Englishman's" Letters are here again an exact counterpart of their great original. The volume contains ten letters, the two first—penned in a style of which I have given specimens—are furious attacks upon Louis Napoleon and his government, with passing condemnations on the majority of the Legislative Assembly, the Orleanists, the bourgeoisie, the peasantry, the soldiers, and the priests; in fact there is hardly any party in France which escapes his vituperation. Next comes letter the third, headed, most appropriately after all this provoking abuse, "The National Defences," which subject he discusses with his telling style, and upon the whole with great good sense. Having thus provided against accidents, and ascertained that he was ensconced in something stronger than a "glass house," he resumes his vocation of pelting with the hardest and sharpest words he can find in his copious vocabulary of invective, Louis Napoleon in particular, and all sorts of men in general at home and abroad. After indulging himself in this way through four more letters we come to the eighth, which bears the title—somewhat out of place in such company—of "Peace at all price." It would seem that Mr. Burritt and Mr. Fry, having taken alarm at the hostile tone of the English press, had set on foot a scheme for counteracting the mischief. Addresses containing assurances of friendship and peace were drawn up in several of our towns, signed by the inhabitants and forwarded to various places in France. This movement, than which nothing could be more amiable, and certainly nothing more harmless, draws down upon the heads of poor Messrs. Burritt and Fry, and the peace party generally, such a volley of vituperative epithets that they might almost excite the jealousy of M. Bonaparte himself. Speaking of the peace advocates, "they require," says he, "keepers, not reporters. Their place is Hanwell, not the London Tavern, and their chairman should be Doctor Conolly!"
Now in the course pursued by the "Englishman" we have an epitome of the conduct of all such writers. They begin with denunciations of the French Government, they then call for more "defences" as a protection against the hostility which they instinctively feel such language naturally excites, and they end in onslaught upon the advocates of peace because they do not join in the cry.
Before indulging this expensive propensity for scolding, this determination to grumble not only for ourselves but also for thirty-six millions of Frenchmen, it behoves us to ask not only whether any benefit will arise, but whether positive injury may not be done, even to the people we wish to serve, by our uncalled-for interference. It is hardly necessary that I should declare that were Louis Napoleon an Englishman or I a Frenchman, however small a minority of opponents he might have, I should be one of them. That is all I have to say on the matter, for anything more would, in my opinion, be mere impertinence towards the French people, who for reasons best known to themselves acquiesce in his rule. But admitting for the sake of argument all that is said of the tyranny, treachery and wickedness of Louis Napoleon be true, those are precisely the qualities in despotic monarchs to which we are indebted for our liberties. Why should not the French be allowed the opportunity of deriving some of the advantages which we have gained from bad sovereigns? Where would our charters and franchises have been if our Johns and Jameses had not ruled and misgoverned? Nobody pretends that the French emperor is quite so bad as our eighth Henry; yet we contrived to owe to him our Protestantism. If half what is alleged against Louis Napoleon be true the French people will have him at a great disadvantage in any controversy or struggle they may be engaged in with him. One thing alone could prevent this—the popularity which will assuredly follow from continued attacks in the English press such as I have just quoted.
But here let me warn you against the belief into which so many fall, that the hostile tone adopted by writers of this country towards the French Government, and the cry of an invasion, have reference to the present despotic ruler of France only. That is one of the many shapes which the cry has assumed. But it was first heard when Louis Philippe, the "Napoleon of Peace," was on the throne. The letter of the Duke of Wellington to Sir John Burgoyne, which has been made the text-book for panic-mongers ever since, was written when the King of the French had given seventeen years' proof of his pacific policy, and when that representative form of government, which we are now told was the guarantee of peace, was still subsisting in France. It made its appearance in 1847, when we were already spending more upon our warlike armaments than in any of the previous thirty years—more by two millions of money than the most terrified invasionist now proposes to expend. And yet at that time, and under those circumstances, the cry for more defence against the French was as active, and the clamour against the peace party who resisted it, as strong, as at any later time; and the very same parties who now advocate increased armaments to protect our shores against Louis Napoleon, were amongst the loudest of those who swelled the panic cry in 1847.
An allusion to the infirmities of a great mind, however painful at the present moment, is rendered absolutely necessary by those who quote the authority of the Duke of Wellington's declining years in favour of a policy which, in my opinion, tends neither to the peace nor the prosperity of the country. At the time of penning his letter to General Burgoyne, the Duke was verging upon his eightieth year. Now, no man retains all his faculties unimpaired at fourscore. Nature does not suspend her laws, even in behalf of her favourite sons. The Duke was mortal, and therefore subject to that merciful law which draws a veil over our reason, and dims the mental vision as we approach the end of that vista which terminates with the tomb. But the faculties do not all pay this debt of nature at once, or in equal proportion. Sometimes the strongest part of our nature, which may have been subjected to the greatest strain, declines the first. In the Duke's case, his nervous system, his "iron" characteristic, gave way. He who at forty was incapable of fear, at eighty was subject to almost infantine alarms. This was shown on several public occasions; but on none so strongly as in the provision made by him against an insurrection or a revolution during the Great Exhibition of 1851, when, as is known to those who were in authority, or in connection with that undertaking, he was haunted with terrors which led him to change the entire disposition of the army for the year, to refuse to the household regiments the usual retreat to summer quarters, and to surround the metropolis with troops. No one in the full possession of a vigorous intellect could have possibly fallen into the error of supposing that the moment when all people's minds were wound up by a year's previous agitation to the highest pitch of interest in a holiday exhibition would be chosen for a great and combined political demonstration. Human nature, and especially English nature, is never liable to be possessed by two such absorbing ideas at the same time. In fact, such a diversion of men's minds from public affairs as the Great Exhibition afforded is precisely that which despots have employed for escaping the scrutiny of their own misgovernment. But, as is well known, at that moment universal political contentment reigned throughout England.
If, however, as was supposed, the Duke's preparations were levelled at the foreigners who were attracted to London, the absence of a calm and vigorous reason is still more apparent. For at that time political propagandism was dead even on the Continent; their revolutions had failed; universal reaction had succeeded to democratic fever; and England was regarded as the only great country in Europe where political freedom was "holding its own." Besides, a moment's clear reflection would have suggested the obvious answer to such fears,—that the red republicans and revolutionists of the Continent were not the persons likely to find the money for paying a visit in great numbers to England. In fact, so great an obstacle did the expense present, that during the whole year scarcely fifty thousand foreigners, European and American, above the average of annual visitors, reached our shores: and it must be evident that, against any dangers, whether of mischief or spoliation, contemplated by foreigners or English on that occasion, a good police force, which was most amply provided by the Commissioners, and not an army, was the only rational provision.
But I appeal from the Duke's advice in 1847 to his own example, when in complete possession of his mental powers, in 1835. He was a member of Sir Robert Peel's government in the latter year which is memorable for having witnessed the lowest military expenditure since the peace. The estimates of that year are always quoted by financial reformers as a model of economy. The Duke was consulted by Sir Robert Peel, and became an assenting party to those estimates. What was the change of circumstances which warranted so great a revolution in his views in 1847? His letter might lead us to suppose that steam navigation had in the meantime been discovered. Does any one whose memory is unimpaired forget that in 1835 our coasts and narrow seas swarmed with steamers, that our sailing vessels were regularly towed to sea by them, and that we were then discussing the merits of the ports in Ireland from which steamships should start for America? The Duke never afterwards acknowledged that he neglected the defence of the country when he was in power. Nobody, has made such a charge against him. But I and others who have advocated a return to the expenditure of 1835 have been denounced for wishing to leave the country defenceless. I must leave my opponents to reconcile their conduct with the reverence they profess to feel for the authority of the Duke of Wellington.
The Duke's letter has been followed by a shoal of publications, all apparently designed to tempt the French to make a descent upon our shores; for all are, more or less, full of arguments to prove how easily it might be effected. Some of them give plans of our ports, and point out the nearest road to London; others describe in seductive phrases the rich booty that awaits them there. Foremost of these is Sir Francis B. Head, who has given us a thick volume under the title of "The Defenceless State of Great Britain;" then we have "Thoughts on National Defence," by Vice-Admiral Bowles; "On the Defence of England," by Sir C. J. Napier, who tells us that he "believes that our young soldiers pray night and day" for an invasion; "A Plan for the Formation of a Maritime Militia," by Captain Elliot; "National Defences," by Montague Gore, Esq.; "Memorandum on the Necessity of a Secretary of State for our Defences, &c.," by Robert Carmichael Smith; "The Defence of our Mercantile Sea-ports," by a Retired Artillery Officer; and amongst a host of others is "The Peril of Portsmouth," by James Fergusson, Esq., WITH A PLAN; commencing most portentously:—"Few persons are perhaps aware that Portsmouth, which from its position and its extent is by far the most important station of the British Navy, is at present in so defenceless a state, that it could easily be taken by a coup-de-main, either from the sea or by land. Yet such is the undoubted state of the case, and it is further easy of proof, that if it were to fall into the hands of an enemy, the navy of England would, from that very circumstance, be crippled, as a defenceless element at least, to the extent of one-half its power; while the hostile occupation of Portsmouth would render the invasion of England as simple and as easy a problem as ever was submitted to the consideration of any military man, &c. &c." Surely the French must have lost all pretensions to their character for politeness, or they would have long ago accepted these pressing invitations to pay our shores a visit!
There are two assumptions running through nearly all these productions. First, that we have made no provision for our defence, and, therefore, offer a tempting prey to an invader; and next, that the French are a mere band of pirates, bound by no ties of civilisation, and ready to pounce upon any point of our coast which is left unprotected.
The first assumption may be disposed of with a few figures:—we expend every year from fifteen to sixteen millions in warlike preparations; and we have been, ever since the Duke of Wellington's Estimates of 1835, constantly augmenting the number of our armed forces. In that year they amounted altogether to 145,846—at the close of the last Parliament they stood at 272,481;*37*38 thus showing an addition since 1835 of 126,635. The following is a detailed list of the increase from official sources:—
Thus stood matters at the close of the last Parliament in June. But the cry was still "they come." The "invasionists" renewed their annual autumn clamour; and no sooner had the new Parliament assembled in November, 1852, for the short session, than there was a proposal for a further increase of our "defences." The government asked for 5,000 additional seamen; 1,500 marines; and 2,000 artillerymen. The money was voted without a division. Mr. Hume, who had seen many of the popular organs of public opinion joining in the cry, contented himself with a protest; and then, in despair of any other corrective, left the cure of the evil to the tax-gatherer:—and I confess for the moment to have shared his sentiments.
The other argument of the invasionists—that France is ready to assail us upon any vulnerable point, will be successful in proportion only to our ignorance of the character and condition of the French people, and of the origin and history of the last war. Everything in that country is viewed by us through a distorted and prejudiced medium. We regard France as the most aggressive and warlike country on the Continent, because we have all read of her invasions of other countries, without recollecting that they were in retaliation for an unprovoked attack upon her;—we view with alarm the enthusiasm of the French people for their army, but we cannot so far enter into their feelings as to know that it springs from gratitude, because "it was the army," to use the words of the conservative and peace-loving Journal des Débats "which represented her with admirable éclat on fields of battle—that is to say on the spot to which it was necessary that the whole of France should repair in order to defend the new life which she held from 1789." Doubtless there is danger to be feared from this predominance of the military spirit, however created—a danger most to be dreaded by France herself: but let it not be forgotten that we helped to plant and water the upas tree, and have no right to charge with our sins those who are destined to live under its shade.
Besides, we must bear in mind that the strength of the army of France is only in proportion to that of other Continental States; and that her navy is always regulated with reference to our own, generally about in the ratio of two-thirds of our force: "We pay England the compliment," said M. Thiers in the Chamber of Deputies in 1846, "of thinking only of her when determining our naval force; we never heed the ships which sally forth from Trieste or Venice—we care only for those that leave Portsmouth and Plymouth." "Oh, but," I sometimes hear it very complacently said, "everybody knows that England is only armed in self-defence, and in the interests of peace." But when France looks at our 500 ships of war, our 180 war steamers, and hears of our great preparations at Alderney, Jersey, and other points close to her shores, she has very different suspicions. She recalls to mind our conduct in 1793, when, within a twelvemonth after the commencement of hostilities, we had taken possession of Toulon (her Portsmouth) and captured or burnt a great part of her fleet; and when we landed an expedition on the coast of Brittany, and stirred up afresh the smouldering fires of civil war. If we are so alarmed at the idea of a French invasion, which has not occurred for nearly eight hundred years, may we not excuse the people of France if they are not quite free from a similar apprehension, seeing that not a century has passed since the Norman Conquest in which we have not paid hostile visits to her shores? The French have a lively recollection of the terrible disasters they suffered from the implacable enmity of our government during the last war. They found themselves assailed by a feudal aristocracy, having at its command the wealth of a manufacturing and mercantile people, thus presenting the most formidable combination for warlike purposes to be found recorded in the world's history; and, knowing as they do that political power in this country is still mainly in the hands of the same class, some allowance must be made for them if they have not quite made up their minds that peace and non-intervention are to be our invariable policy for the future. Taking this candid view of the case, we shall admit that the extent of the preparations in France must be in some degree commensurate with the amount of our own warlike armaments.
I will add a few remarks upon the present state of France as compared with her condition in 1793, and endeavour to form an estimate of the probabilities of a war between her and this country; or rather, I should say, of the prospect of an invasion of England by France: for I will assume the writers and declaimers about this invasion to be in earnest; I will suppose that they really mean an invasion of England, and not a march upon Belgium, or any other Continental State; I will take for granted that we have not now, as was the case in 1792, to deal with false pretences, to cover other designs, and that' in this discussion of a French invasion, we are not witnessing a repetition of the bold dissimulation on the one side, and gross credulity on the other, which preceded the war of 1793. I will for the sake of argument admit the good faith of those who predict a war with France, and a consequent descent upon our shores: nay, I will go further, and even not call in question the sincerity of that party which foretells an invasion of England without any previous declaration of war.
What are the circumstances of Europe calculated to produce a war? There is one, and only one danger peculiar to our times, and it was foreseen by the present Prime Minister when he thus expressed himself:
"He was disposed," Lord Aberdeen*39 said, "to dissent from the maxims which had of late years received very general assent, that the best security for the continuance of peace was to be prepared for war. That was a maxim which might have been applied to the nations of antiquity, and to society in a comparatively barbarous and uncivilised state, when warlike preparations cost but little; but it was not a maxim which ought to be applied to modern nations, when the facilities of the preparations for war were very different. Men, when they adopted such a maxim, and made large preparations in time of peace that would be sufficient in the time of war, were apt to be influenced by the desire to put their efficiency to the test, that all their great preparations, and the result of their toil and expense, might not be thrown away. He thought, therefore, that it was no security to any country against the chances of war, to incur great expense, and make great preparations for warlike purposes. A most distinguished statesman*40 of France had lately emphatically declared in the French Chamber his desire for peace, but he added that to maintain it he must have an army of 800,000 men. And what he (the Earl of Aberdeen) would ask, could be expected from the raising of such a force but war, or national bankruptcy? He therefore dreaded the intention of those who desired such extensive armaments, notwithstanding the pacific professions they made; and he could not be at ease as regarded the stability of peace until he saw a great reduction in the great military establishments of Europe. Such should be the great object of all governments, and more especially of the government of this country."
Thus spoke Lord Aberdeen in 1849. The evil has not diminished since that time. Europe has almost degenerated into a military barrack. It is computed by Baron Von Reden, the celebrated German statistical writer, that one half of its population in the flower of manhood are bearing arms. It is certain that in the very height of Napoleon's wars, the effective force of the Continental armies was less than at present. For a long time the cuckoo-cry was repeated "to preserve peace, prepare for war;" but the wisest statesmen of our age have concurred with the Peace party, that the greater the preparation the more imminent is the risk of a collision, owing to the preponderance which is thereby given in the councils of nations to those who by education, taste, and even interest must be the least earnestly disposed for peace. At this moment a martial tone pervades the Courts and Cabinets, as well as the most influential classes of the Continental States; and never, even in England, since the war, was the military spirit so much in the ascendant in the higher circles as at the present time. To what then are we to attribute the preservation of peace and the present prospect of its continuance, in spite of this dangerous element, but to the fact that, whilst governments are making unprecedented preparations for hostilities, all the signs and symptoms of the age tend more than ever in the opposite direction? Let us see what are the facts which warrant this conclusion:—
The first safeguard against the employment of these enormous standing armies in foreign wars, is that they are indispensable at home to repress the discontent caused in a great degree by the burden which their own cost imposes on the people. Sir Robert Peel foresaw this result in 1841, when he said that—"the danger of aggression is infinitely less than the danger of those sufferings to which the present exorbitant expenditure must give rise." Their growing intelligence will render the people every year more dissatisfied with the yoke imposed on them; and athwart these armed and drilled mechanical tools of despotism may be often heard low mutterings, which will assuredly swell some day into a shout of defiance. Internal revolutions may be safely predicted of every country whose government rests not upon public opinion, but the bayonets of its soldiers. Those internal convulsions are, however, no longer to be feared as the causes of war; for the world has wisely resolved (and it is one of the lessons learned from the last war) that henceforth every nation shall be left to regulate its own domestic affairs, free from the intervention of strangers. It is true that, whilst during the late revolutionary period, this rule was scrupulously observed towards the Great Powers, it was flagrantly outraged in the case of Hungary, Italy, and Hesse-Cassel, against which acts of injustice to the smaller States the public opinion of the civilised world ought to be brought to bear, unless we are to sit down and acknowledge that the weak are to have no rights, and the strong to be bound by no law. In this change of policy, however, which will certainly be observed towards France, we have a security against a repetition of the offence which led to the last war.
There are not a few persons, especially of the military class, who, ever since the peace, have been haunted with the apparition of the late war, and have advocated a state of preparation calculated to meet as great efforts on the part of France as those put forth by Napoleon himself. They will even go so far as to predict the exact latitude where future Trafalgars or St. Vincents are to be fought, and call for the construction of harbours and basins where our crippled ships may be repaired after their imaginary engagements.*41 Now, without laying myself open to the charge of foretelling perpetual peace—for nothing appears more offensive to certain parties—I must say that I think the very fact of the wars of the French Revolution having happened is an argument against their soon recurring again. For even if I take no credit for the lesson which that bloody and abortive struggle affords, if I admit the unteachable character of nations, still Nature has her own way of proceeding, and she does not repeat herself every generation in extraordinary performances of any kind. Alexanders, Cæsars, Charlemagnes, and Napoleons are happily not annual, or even centennial, productions; and, like the exhausted eruptions of our physical globe, they have never been reproduced upon the same spot. Nowhere is the husbandman more safe against a convulsion of nature than when he plants his vines in the crater of an extinct volcano. The very magnitude of the operations of Bonaparte, by forbidding all attempts at rivalry, is rather calculated to check than invite imitation. "The death of Napoleon," says Châteaubriand, "inaugurated an era of peace; his wars were conducted on so mighty a scale (it is perhaps the only good that remains of them) that they have rendered all future superiority in that career impossible. In closing the temple of Janus violently after him, he left such heaps of slain piled up behind the door that it cannot be opened again." But I must refrain from these flights of a humane imagination, in deference to those who, whilst hoping and desiring universal and perpetual peace, are yet impatient of any arguments which promise the fulfilment of their aspirations.
Let us then, whilst agreeing upon the possibility of such an occurrence, confine ourselves to a notice of those circumstances in the present condition of France which render a war on her part less likely in 1853 than in 1793. Fortunately she would, in common with every other European state, encounter at the first step all but an insuperable obstacle in the want of money. It is true that, in proportion to her resources, the debt of France is less now than it was in 1793. But, at the latter epoch she had vast masses of landed property available for the expenses of the war. The church lands, which by some writers were estimated at a fourth of the soil of France; the confiscated estates of the emigrant nobles; the national domains, and the national forests: this immense property, although valued by different writers at from five hundred million sterling to double that sum, fell in the course of four years into the hands of the revolutionary Government, and was made by them the basis of a paper money, denominated assignats, with which they paid their soldiers, and were enabled to make those gigantic efforts which astonished and terrified the despotic governments of Europe.
There is no doubt that for a time this creation of paper money gave to the French Government all the power which would have been derived from a foreign loan, or the most productive taxes. It seemed in the eyes of the wild theorists of Paris, who were at that time trampling each other down in quick succession in the death struggle for power, that they possessed an inexhaustible mine of riches, and each one resorted to it more freely than his predecessor. For every new campaign, fresh issues of assignats were decreed. When war was declared against England, eight hundred millions of francs were ordered to be created. The result is known to everybody. The more plentiful the assignats were, the less became their value, or in other words the dearer grew all commodities; bloody decrees followed, to keep down prices; but markets were not to be permanently regulated, even by the Reign of Terror. Ultimately, when seven hundred millions sterling of assignats had been issued, they fell to one and a half per cent. of their nominal value; and a general at the head of an army in 1795, with a pay of four thousand francs a month, was in the actual receipt of eight pounds only in gold and silver. But paper money had, in the mean time, enabled the government to overcome Pitt's coalition.
But, in case of a war, in 1853, the French Government would have none of these temporary resources. The domains of the church, the crown, and the aristocracy, divided and subdivided, have passed into the hands of the people. There remain no great masses of landed property to seize for the benefit of the state. The very name of assignat conjures up visions of confiscation. In no country in the world is there so great a distrust of paper money as in France. To raise the funds necessary for entering upon a war the Government of France must now impose taxes on the eight millions of proprietors amongst whom the land is parcelled, and by whom the great bulk of the revenue is contributed. As a declaration of war would be followed by an immediate falling off in the receipts of indirect taxes from customs and excise, this defalcation, as well as the extra demand for warlike purposes, must fall upon the land. The peasant proprietors of France, ignorant as they are in many respects, know instinctively all this, and they are, therefore, to a man opposed to a war; and hence it is, that in all Louis Napoleon's addresses to them (and they in the ultimate appeal really govern France), whether as candidate for the Assembly, the Presidency, or the Empire, he has invariably declared himself in favour of peace.
But, I think I hear it objected that the French often made war pay its own expenses. It is true, and to a great extent the foregoing statement explains how it was accomplished. Wherever the French armies went, they carried with them the doctrine of liberty and equality, and they were received less as conquerors than deliverers by the mass of the people; for the populations of the invaded countries, like the French themselves previous to the Revolution, were oppressed by the privileged classes, and ground down to the earth by inordinate and unjust taxation. Everywhere the invaders found great masses of property belonging to the government, the church, and exclusive corporations; and, in some cases, the monastic orders were still revelling in their pristine wealth and luxury. These great accumulations of property were confiscated for the use of the armies of the "Republic." In some cases considerable sums were transmitted to Paris for the service of the Home Government. Napoleon sent home two millions sterling during his first campaign in Italy; and it is stated that the large amount of specie found by the French in the coffers of the frugal aristocratic government of Berne was of essential service in fitting out the expedition to Egypt.
But how changed is all this at the present time! An invading army, instead of finding governments with a stock of bullion to tempt their cupidity, or a good balance at their banker's, would encounter nothing but debt and embarrassment, which the first shock of war would convert into bankruptcy and ruin; they would find church lands and government domains parcelled among the people; and as any attempt to levy contributions must bring the invaders at once into collision with the mass of the population, it would be found far cheaper and wiser to pay their own expenses than attempt to raise the money by a process which would convert hostilities between governments into a crusade against individuals, where every house would be the battle-ground in defence of the most cherished rights of home, family, and property.
And to increase the difficulty, war itself, owing to the application of greater science to the process of human destruction, has become a much more costly pursuit. So great has been the improvement in the construction of horizontal shells and other contrivances in gunnery that even Sir Howard Douglas, who could recount with the utmost complacency the capabilities of Congreve rockets, Shrapnell shells, grape, and canister, seems struck with compunction at the contemplation of this last triumph of his favourite science. But a still greater discovery has been since announced by Mr. Nasmyth, who offers to construct a monster mortar for marine warfare which shall lie snugly ensconced in the prow of a bomb-proof floating steam vessel, and on being propelled against a ship of war the concussion shall cause an explosion with force sufficient to tear a hole in her side "as big as a church door." Now I attach little importance to the argument that these murderous contrivances will disincline men to war for fear of being killed. When cross-bows were first brought into use the clergy preached against them as murderous. Upon the introduction of the "sight" to assist the eye in taking aim with cannon on board ship the old gunners turned their quids, looked sentimental, and pronounced the thing no better than "murder." But war lost none of its attractions by such discoveries. It is at best but gambling for "glory," and, whatever be the risk, men will always take the long odds against death. But I have great hopes from the expensiveness of war and the cost of preparation, and should war break out between two great nations I have no doubt that the immense consumption of material and the rapid destruction of property would have the effect of very soon bringing the combatants to reason or exhausting their resources. For it is quite certain that the Nasmyths, Fairbairns, and Stephensons will play quite as great a part as the Nelsons and Collingwoods in any future wars, and we all know that to give full scope to their engineering powers involves an almost unlimited expenditure of capital.
Besides, war would now be felt as a much greater inter ruption and outrage to the habits and feelings of the two countries than sixty years ago, owing to the more frequent intercourse which takes place between them. There is so much cant about the tendency of railways, steam-boats, and electric telegraphs to unite France and England in bonds of peace, uttered by those who are heard, almost in the same breath, advocating greater preparations against war and invasion, that I feel some hesitation in joining such a discordant chorus. But when we recollect that sixty years ago it took from four to six days to communicate between London and Paris, and that now a message may be sent in as many minutes, and a journey be made in twelve hours; that at the former time a mail started twice a week only for the French capital, whilst now letters may be despatched twice a day; and that the visiting intercourse between the two countries has multiplied more than twenty-fold; recollecting all this, it cannot be doubted that it would be more difficult now than in 1793 to tear the two countries asunder, and render them inaccessible to each other by war. But these are moral ties, which I will not dwell upon. I come at last to the really solid guarantee which France has given for a desire to preserve peace with England.
If you had the opportunity, as I had, of visiting almost daily the great exhibition, you must have observed that whilst England was unrivalled in those manufactures which owed their merit to great facilities of production, and America excelled in every effort where a daring mechanical genius could be rendered subservient to purposes of general utility, there was one country which, in articles requiring the most delicate manipulation, the purest taste, and the most skilful application of the laws of chemistry and the rules of art to manufacturing purposes, was by universal consent allowed to hold the first rank: that country was France. And it must not be forgotten that her preparation for this world-wide competition was made at the time when her trade and manufactures were suffering great depression and discouragement, owing to the want of confidence produced by recent revolution. And yet, notwithstanding this disadvantage, she carried away the highest honours for that class of manufactures requiring the greatest combination of intelligence and skill on the part of the capitalist and artisan, and the production of which is possible only in a country which has reached the most advanced stage of civilisation. Yet this is the people*42 who we are told will, without previous declaration of war, make a piratical attack upon our shores with no more regard for the retributive consequences to their own interests than if they were a tribe of ancient Scandinavians, who when they made a hostile expedition carried all their worldly goods to sea in their war boats with them.
Let me repeat it, if for the dozenth time. Such an opinion would never be put forth unless by writers and speakers who presume most insultingly upon the ignorance of the public. It really should be a question with the peace party whether they could do a better service to their cause than by giving popular lectures upon the actual state of the population of France. And let them not forget when dealing with this invasion cry how the people were told in 1792 that the French were coming to burn the Tower, and put arsenic in the New River to poison the metropolis, at the very moment when, as we know now, the French ambassador was humbly entreating our government not to go to war. May not the historian of sixty years hence have a similar account to give of the stories now put forth respecting the intentions of the French people? But I promised to give credit to those writers for sincerity, and I proceed to answer them in that spirit—begging pardon of every Frenchman who may read my pages for dealing seriously with such a topic.
France, as a manufacturing country, stands second only to England in the amount of her productions and the value of her exports; but it is an important fact in its bearings on the question before us, that she is more dependent than England upon the importation of the raw materials of her industry; and it is obvious how much this must place her at the mercy of a power having the command over her at sea. This dependence upon foreigners extends even to those right arms of peace, as well as war, iron and coal. In 1851, her importation of coal and coke reached the prodigious quantity of 2,841,900 tons; of course a large portion of it is imported overland from Belgium; of this, 78,900 tons are specially entered in the official returns as being for the steam navy; a frank admission, in reply to our alarmists, that the discovery of steam navigation has given us an advantage over them. The coal imported into France in 1792, the year before the war, amounted to 80,000 tons only. Now in this enormous increase, during the last sixty years, we have a proof of the great development of manufacturing industry; but in consequence of steam power having been applied to manufacturing purposes since the latter date, the importation of coal has increased in a far greater ratio than any other raw material. Whilst cotton wool, for instance, has increased seventeen-fold since 1792, coal has augmented more than thirty-fold. This is a most important fact when comparing the two countries: for whilst the indigenous coal and iron in England have attracted to her shores the raw materials of her industry, and given her almost a European monopoly of the great primary elements of steam power, France on the contrary, relying on her ingenuity only to sustain a competition with England, is compelled to purchase a portion of hers from her great rival.
In the article of iron we have another illustration to the same effect. In 1792 pig iron does not figure in the French tariff; but the importation of iron and steel of all kinds, wrought and unwrought, amounted in that year to 6,000 tons. In 1851 (which was a very low year compared with the years previous to the revolution of 1848) the importation of pig iron amounted to 33,700 tons. And when it is remembered that very high duties are levied upon this article for the protection of the home producer, it must be apparent that its scarcity and high price impose serious disadvantages upon all descriptions of manufactures in France. But the point to which I wish to draw attention is, that so large a quantity of this prime necessary of life, of every industry, is imported from abroad; and in proportion as the quantity for which she is thus dependent upon foreigners has increased since 1792, in the same ratio has France given a security to keep the peace.
But there is one raw material of manufactures, which, in the magnitude of its consumption, the distant source of its supply, and its indispensable necessity, possesses an importance beyond all others. Upwards of two and a half millions of bales of this material are annually attracted across the Atlantic, from the Indian Ocean, or the remotest parts of the Mediterranean, to set in motion the capital and industry of the most extensive manufactures ever known in the world; upon which myriads of people are directly and indirectly employed, who are as dependent for their subsistence on the punctual arrival in Europe, on an average, of seven thousand bales of this vegetable fibre a day, as they would be if their bread were the produce of countries five thousand miles distant from their doors. Tainted as this commodity is to a large extent in its origin, it is undoubtedly the great peace-preserver of the age. It has placed distant and politically independent nations in mutual dependence, and interested them in the preservation of peace to a degree unknown and undreamed of in former ages. To those who talk glibly of war, I would recommend a visit not merely to that district of which Manchester is the centre, but to the valley of the Seine from Paris to its embouchure, and having surveyed the teeming hive employed upon the cotton manufacture, let them ask what proportion did the capital and labour of those regions bear in 1793 to their present amount and numbers, and what would now be the effect of an interruption to their prosperity, by putting an end to that peace out of which it has mainly grown? Is there any object that could possibly be gained by either country that would compensate for the loss occasioned by one month's suspension of their cotton trade?
The importation of this raw material into France amounted in 1851 to 130,000,000 lbs. In 1792 it was 19,000,000 lbs.; the increase being nearly seven-fold. The consumption of that country is about one-fifth to one-sixth of our own, and it ranks second amongst the manufacturing States of Europe. But the quantities of cotton wool consumed in the two countries afford but an imperfect comparison of the number of people employed, or the value of the manufactures produced; for it is well known that whilst we spin a great part of our cotton into yarns for exportation, and our manufacturers are largely employed upon common qualities of cloths, the French convert nearly all their material into manufactures, a considerable portion of which is of the finest quality. It was stated by M. Thiers,*43 in his celebrated speech upon the protective system, that "the cotton industry, which in 1786 represented about a million per annum, represents now twenty-five millions." (I have converted his figures from francs into pounds sterling.) If this be a correct statement, the value of the French productions will be one-half of our own, whilst the raw material consumed is less than one-fifth. I confess I think there is some exaggeration or error in the estimate; but no doubt can exist of the vital importance of the cotton industry to the prosperity of France; nor need I repeat that it is wholly dependent upon the supply of a raw material from abroad, the importation of which would be liable to be cut off, if she were at war with a nation stronger than herself at sea.
The woollen and worsted trades of France are of a startling magnitude. I confess I was not aware of their extent; and have had some difficulty in accepting the official report, which makes the importation of sheep's wool to amount, in 1851, to 101,201,000 lbs., whilst in 1792 it reached only 7,860,000 lbs., being an increase of more than twelve-fold. M. Thiers, in his speech before quoted, estimates the annual value of the woollen cloth made in France at sixteen millions sterling.
But if the rivalry between the two countries in worsted and woollen manufactures leaves a doubt on which side the triumph will incline, there is no question as to the superiority of the French in the next manufacture to which I will refer, and which forms the glory of their industrial greatness; I allude, of course, to the silk trade, on which the ingenuity, taste, and invention of the people are brought to bear with such success that Lyons and Saint Etienne fairly levy contributions upon the whole civilised world; I say fairly, because when all nations, from Russia to the United States, bow down to the taste of France, and accept her fashions as the infallible standard in all matters of design and costume, there can be no doubt that it is a homage offered to intrinsic merit. Nothing is more difficult to agree upon than the meaning of the word civilisation: but in the general acceptation of the term, that country whose language, fashions, amusements, and dress have been most widely adopted and imitated has been held to be the most civilised. There is no instance recorded in history of such a country suddenly casting itself down to the level with Malays and New Zealanders, by committing an unprovoked act of piracy upon a neighbouring nation. Yet we are told to prepare ourselves for such conduct in the case of France! Judging by the increase in the importation of the raw material, the French have maintained as great a progress in the silk as any other manufacture. The raw silk imported in 1851 amounted to 2,291,500 lbs., against 136,800 lbs. in 1792, showing an increase of seventeen-fold. In 1792 thrown silk did not figure in the tariff, but it was imported to the amount of 1,336,860 lbs. in 1851. These large importations, added to the supply from her own soil, furnish the raw material for by far the largest silk manufacture in the world.
Instead of singling out any other articles I will put them in a tabular form, including the foregoing, for convenience of reference, drawing your attention to the enormous increase in the importation of linen thread. I regret that I cannot include dye-woods; for, owing to the account having been kept in value in 1792, and quantity in 1851, no comparison can be instituted.
I have confined myself, in the foregoing accounts, to the imports of those articles which are required for manufacturing purposes, because I wish to point out the extent to which France is an industrial nation, and also the degree of her dependence on foreign trade for the raw material of her manufactures. I have said elsewhere, that whilst governments are preparing for war, all the tendencies of the age are in the opposite direction; but that which most loudly and constantly thunders in the ears of emperors, kings, and parliaments, the stern command, "You shall not break the peace," is the multitude which in every country subsists upon the produce of labour employed on materials brought from abroad. It is the gigantic growth which this manufacturing system has attained that deprives former times of any analogy with our own: and is fast depriving of all reality those pedantic displays of diplomacy and those traditional demonstrations of armed force, upon which peace or war formerly depended.
The tabular statement shows that France has entered upon this industrial career with all the ardour which she displayed in her military enterprises, and with the prospect of gaining more durable and useful triumphs than she won in the battlefield. I have given the quantities imported, in preference to the prices, because the mode of valuation frequently makes price a delusive index to quantity. I may add, however, that the statistical summary of the trade of France for 1851, published by authority, makes the declared value of the imports and exports amount together to 2,614 millions of francs, or £104,560,000; of which the exports are put down at £60,800,000, and the imports £43,760,000. But that which I would particularly allude to is the fact that, of all the countries to which their exports are sent, England stands first. "Pour l'exportation, l'Angleterre se présente en première ligne." "It appears that the exports of all kinds (French and foreign produce) to England amounted to 354 millions of francs, or £14,160,000; whilst the exports of French produce were 278 millions of francs, or £11,120,000, being 20 per cent. increase upon the previous year. I do not know the mode of valuing the French exports; it is evident that their prices do not correspond with the valuation at our custom house.*45*46 That, however, does not affect the question of proportions; and it appears that out of a total of £60,800,000 of exports in 1851, England took £14,160,000, or nearly one-fourth. It might be worth while to ask the honest people who sold us so large an amount of commodities, what they would have to say to the five or ten thousand French marauders, who, we are told, are to precipitate themselves upon our shores some morning, and for the sake of a few hours' plunder, to convert twenty-eight millions of people from their best customers into formidable and avenging enemies.
But I must not omit to notice the part performed by the metropolis of France in the great industrial movement of that country. A most interesting report upon the manufactures of Paris, by my esteemed friend M. Horace Say, has been published, and for which he has received the statistical medal of the Academy of Sciences. It appears that its population has doubled since 1793, and that, including its faubourgs. it contains at present 1,200,000 inhabitants. Few people are aware that Paris contains a greater number of manufacturing operatives than any other city in the world. It appears that there are employed altogether in the various processes of manufacture in that city 407,344 persons, of whom 64,816 are employers of labour, or persons working on their own account, and 342,530 in the receipt of wages; of the latter, 205,000 are men and 137,000 are women and children; and the annual produce of their labour amounts to £58,000,000 sterling. It is estimated by M. Say that 40,000 of these work-people are employed in producing articles directly for exportation. A war with England would not only interrupt the labour of these last, but, by intercepting the supply of raw materials, such as the wood used in cabinet making, &c., and obstructing the export of their productions, would plunge the whole of that excitable metropolis into confusion and misery. It is fortunate for humanity that the interests of so influential a community are on the side of peace, and we may safely leave the blouses of Paris to deal with the 500 French pirates who, in the imagination of the Spectator, were to carry off the Queen from Osborne.
Having thus seen that France is, with the sole exception of ourselves, the greatest manufacturing country in the world, and that in some branches she excels us,—having also seen that in so far as she requires a supply from abroad of coal and iron, she is in greater dependence upon foreigners for the raw materials of her industry than even ourselves, I now come to her navigation; and here in the facts of her mercantile tonnage we shall find a remarkable contrast to the great development of her manufactures; a fact which ought to give ample assurance to a maritime state like England or America against a wanton attack at her hands.
I give below an account of the navigation of France to all parts of the world, and to the fisheries, in 1792 and 1851:—
Thus, whilst, as we have seen, the importations of raw materials for her manufactures have increased in some cases twenty-fold, her mercantile tonnage has not augmented more than 40 per cent., or less than one-half.*47 The increased tonnage, required for this large additional supply of commodities, has chiefly gone to swell the mercantile marines of other countries; as the following figures will show:—
It will be here seen how much greater the increase of foreign than French tonnage has been in the trade of France; a fact which, I may add, ought to make her statesmen doubt the wisdom of the protective system, by which they have sought to cherish their mercantile navy.
The return of the tonnage of British vessels entering inwards and clearing outwards in 1851 is as follows:*49—
Our Custom House records for 1792 were destroyed by fire. But it appears that our tonnage has doubled since 1803. It is, however, in our steam vessels that we have made the greatest relative progress as compared with the French. It was stated by Mr. Anderson, in the House of Commons, that for every horse-power possessed by the French, we had twenty; and yet we are told that the discovery of steam navigation has conferred a great advantage upon France.
The strength of a people at sea has invariably been measured by the extent of their mercantile marine. Judged by this test, there is not even a doubt as to whether England or France be the first naval power. In fact, the French themselves do not question it. It is frankly acknowledged in our favour by M. Thiers, in his speech to the Assembly from which I have before quoted. Nobody in that country has ever pretended that they can, or ought to, keep more than two-thirds of our force at sea. Their public men never believed in the sincerity of our cry of invasion. One of the most eminent of them wrote to me in 1848, and after a frank confession of the deplorable state of their mercantile tonnage, as compared with ours, complained of the cry as a cruel joke, "une mauvaise plaisanterie." Intelligent men in that country cannot believe that we think them capable of such folly, nay madness, as to rush headlong, without provocation, and without notice, into a war with the most powerful nation in the world, before whose very ports the raw materials of their manufactures pass, the supply of which, and the consequent employment and subsistence of millions of their population, would be immediately cut off, to say nothing of the terrible retribution which would be visited upon their shores, whilst all the world would be calling for the extermination of a community which had abdicated its civilised rank, and become a mere band of lawless buccaneers. No, they cannot think so badly of themselves as to believe that others, whose opinion they respect, would ever give them credit for such wickedness or insanity.
But I shall be told that the people of France are entirely at the mercy of one man, and that public opinion is now powerless in that country. There is nothing about which we make such mistakes as in passing judgment upon our next neighbour. Public opinion is as omnipotent there as in the United States, upon matters with which it interests itself; but it takes a different direction from our own, and therefore we do not appreciate it. But it is quite necessary that the people, I mean the mass of our people, should be better informed as to the character and circumstances of the population of France. Teach Englishmen to despise another nation, and you have gone far towards making them quarrel; and there is nothing so sure to evoke our contempt as to be told that a people have not spirit to maintain their rights against the arbitrary will of a usurper. Now, no people have ever clung with more tenacity to the essential principles and main objects of a revolution than have the French. The chief aim of the Constituent Assembly of 1789 was to uproot feudalism; to found an equal system of taxation; and to establish religious equality and freedom of worship, by appropriating to the State the lands and tithes of the Church, and making all religions a charge upon the public revenues; very many other reforms were effected by that body, but these were its leading principles. The abolition of the monarchy was never contemplated by the Constituent Assembly. The death of Louis (which I attribute to the interference of foreign powers) was decreed by the National Convention three years later.
Now, the principles of 1789 have been maintained, and maintained by public opinion only, with more jealousy than we have shown in guarding our Bill of Rights, or Habeas Corpus Act; for the latter has been suspended, whenever it suited the convenience of Tory or even Whig governments. But Napoleon at the head of his victorious legions, the Bourbons with a reactionary priesthood at their back, and the present ruler with all the advantages of a socialist hobgoblin to frighten people into his arms, have been compelled to own allegiance to these principles. Insidious attempts have been made to plant anew the genealogical tree, by the creation of majorats, but the schemes were nipped in the bud by public opinion, and public opinion only.
When told that the present Emperor possesses absolute and irresponsible power, I answer by citing three things which he could not, if he would, accomplish; he could not endow with lands and tithes one religion as the exclusively paid religion of the State, although he selected for the privilege the Roman Catholic Church, which comprises more than nine-tenths of the French people; he could not create an hereditary peerage, with estates entailed by a law of primogeniture; and he could not impose a tax on successions, which should apply to personal property only, and leave real estate free. Public opinion in France is an insuperable obstacle to any of these measures becoming law; because they outrage that spirit of equality which is the sacred and inviolable principle of 1789. Now, if Louis Napoleon were to declare his determination to carry these three measures, which are all in full force in England, as a part of his imperial regime, his throne would not be worth twenty-four hours' purchase; and nobody knows this better than he and they who surround him. I am penning these pages in a maritime county. Stretching from the sea, right across to the verge of the next county, and embracing great part of the parish in which I sit, are the estates of three proprietors, which extend in almost unbroken masses for upwards of twenty miles. The residence of one of them is surrounded with a walled park ten miles in circumference. Not only could not Louis Napoleon create three such entailed estates in a province of France, but were he to declare himself favourable to such a state of things, it would be fatal to his popularity. Public opinion, by which alone he reigns, would instantly abandon him. Yet this landed system flourishes in all our counties, without opposition or question. And why? The poorest cottager on these estates feels that his personal liberty is sacred, and he cares little for equality; and here I will repeat, that I would rather live in a country where this feeling in favour of individual freedom is jealously cherished, than be, without it, in the enjoyment of all the principles of the French Constituent Assembly.
Let us, however, learn to tolerate the feelings and predilections of other people, even if they are not our own; and recollect, we require the same consideration at their hands, for I can vouch from actual experience that the intelligent natives of France, Italy, and other countries, where the Code Napoleon is in force, and where, consequently, the land is divided amongst the people, are very much puzzled to understand how the English submit to the feudal customs which still find favour here. But I have never found with them a disposition to dogmatise, or insist upon making their system our model. I must, however, say that we are egregiously mistaken if we fall into the belief, so much inculcated by certain parties, that we are the admiration and envy of surrounding nations Tell the eight millions of landed proprietors in France that they shall exchange their lot with the English people, where the labourer who cultivates the farm has no more proprietary interest in the soil than the horses he drives, and they will be stricken with horror; and vain will it be to promise them as a compensation, Habeas Corpus Acts, or the right of public meetings—you might as well ask them to exchange their little freeholds for a bon mot, or a song. Let us then spare our pity where people are contented; and withhold our contempt from a nation who hold what they prize by the vigilant exercise of public opinion.
But the point to which I wish to bring the foregoing argument is, as you will at once see, that where public opinion is thus able to guard great principles which make war upon privilege of every kind, it is surely not to be despised in such a question as entering upon hostilities with England. Nobody, I believe, denies that Louis Napoleon received the votes of a majority of the French people. In the election which took place for the presidency, when he was supported by three-fourths of the electors, his opponent General Cavaignac had possession of the ballot boxes, and there could be no fraud to account for the majority. With what view did the French people elect him Emperor? To maintain, in the first place, as he is pledged to do, the principles of 1789; and, in the next, to preserve order, keep the peace, and enable them to prosper. Nobody denies that these are the objects desired by France. Yet we are told that he will, regardless of public opinion, plunge the country into war. The same parties who make this charge accuse him of keeping up 4½ per cents. to 105, by all sorts of nefarious means, in order to maintain an artificial show of prosperity. And this same person, we are told, will make a piratical attack upon England, which would in twenty-four hours bring the 4½ per cents. down to 50, in three months to 30, and in three years to nothing! Last year, we are told, was very inimical to the mental health of the country, owing to the want of electricity: are these invasionist writers under the influence of this meteorological phenomenon?
But the army! The army, we are told, will compel the Emperor to make war upon somebody. I should humbly submit if they wish to fight, and are not particular about a quarrel, or a declaration of war, that they had better march upon Holland, Prussia, or Belgium, inasmuch as they coula march there, and, what is equally important, in the combinations of a good general, they could march back again. It our Government had any fear of the kind, it is quite evident that they would bring to our shores that immense fleet which is amusing itself in the Mediterranean, and which it would take at least a month to recall. There can be no doubt, if an invasion took place, and it could be proved that the Government had expected it, that the Ministers would be impeached. But they keep a fleet, more powerful than the whole American navy, two thousand miles off at Malta, and therefore we may be sure at least that they have no fears.
Now, as I have already said, the army of France, about which we hear so much, is no larger in proportion to her population, than the armies of the other powers of Europe, with which she is surrounded; and, inasmuch as that country was invaded, without provocation, by Prussia and Austria, within the memory of man, it is rather unreasonable to ask her to be the first and only country to disarm. Besides, a large part of her army is in Algiers, surrounded by hostile tribes; and, by the way, when that colony was first seized, we used to console ourselves that owing to that part of the army being liable to be cut off by the sea, and offered as a sacrifice to the neighbouring tribes, we had obtained a great security for peace. But, in a word, everybody who is acquainted with France (and they are unhappily in this country but few in number) knows that the army is not, like ours, fished out of the lees of society, but that it fairly represents the people. It is, in fact, 400,000 of the young men taken 80,000 a year from the farms, shops, and manufactories, and to which they return at the end of their service; and, such being their origin and destination, their feelings and opinions are identical with those of their countrymen.
The French soldier is anxious for the time of his service to expire, that he may return to his little family estate. The discipline and the morale of the army is perfect; but the conscription is viewed with disfavour, as may be known by the price (from £60 to £80), which is paid for a substitute; and anything which tended to prolong the period of service, or increase the demand for men, would be regarded as a calamity by the people. I have never heard but one opinion—that the common soldiers share in the sentiments of the people at large, and do not want a war. But then the officers! Surely after Louis Napoleon's treatment of the African generals, stealing them out of their warm beds in the night, he will not be any longer supposed to be ruled by the officers. His dependence is mainly upon the peasant proprietors, from whom the mass of the army is drawn.
But I must draw this long letter to a close—What then is the practical deduction from the facts and arguments which I have presented? Why, clearly, that conciliation must proceed from ourselves. The people of this country must first be taught to separate themselves in feeling and sympathy from the authors of the late war, which was undertaken to put down principles of freedom. When the public are convinced, the Government will act; and one of the great ends to be attained is an amicable understanding, if not a formal convention, between the two Governments, whatever their form may be, to prevent that irrational rivalry of warlike preparations which has been lately and is still carried on. One word of diplomacy exchanged upon this subject between the two countries will change the whole spirit of the respective governments. But this policy, involving a reduction of our warlike expenditure, will never be inaugurated by an aristocratic executive, until impelled to it by public opinion. Nay, as in the case of the repeal of the corn law—no minister can do it, except when armed by a pressure from without.
I look to the agitation of the peace party to accomplish this end. It must work in the manner of the League, and preach common sense, justice, and truth, in the streets and market-places. The advocates of peace have found in the peace congress movement a common platform, to use an Americanism, on which all men who desire to avert war, and all who wish to abate the evil of our hideous modern armaments, may co-operate without compromising the most practical and "moderate" politician, or wounding the conscience of my friend Mr. Sturge, and his friends of the Peace Society—upon whose undying religious zeal, more than all besides, I rely for the eventual success of the peace agitation. The great advance of this party, within the last few years, as indicated most clearly by the attacks made upon them, which like the spray dashed from the bows of a vessel, mark their triumphant progress, ought to cheer them to still greater efforts.
But the most consolatory fact of the times is the altered feelings of the great mass of the people since 1793. There lies our great advantage. With the exception of a lingering propensity to strike for the freedom of some other people, a sentiment partly traceable to a generous sympathy, and in some small degree, I fear, to insular pride and ignorance, there is little disposition for war in our day. Had the popular tone been as sound in 1792, Fox and his friends would have prevented the last great war. But for this mistaken tendency to interfere by force in behalf of other nations there is no cure but by enlightening the mass of the people upon the actual condition of the Continental populations. This will put an end to the supererogatory commiseration which is sometimes lavished upon them, and turn their attention to the defects of their own social condition. I have travelled much, and always with an eye to the state of the great majority, who everywhere constitute the toiling base of the social pyramid; and I confess I have arrived at the conclusion that there is no country where so much is required to be done before the mass of the people become what it is pretended they are, what they ought to be, and what I trust they will yet be, as in England. There is too much truth in the picture of our social condition drawn by the Travelling Bachelor*50 of Cambridge University, and lately flung in our faces from beyond the Atlantic, to allow us any longer to delude ourselves with the idea that we have nothing to do at home, and may therefore devote ourselves to the elevation of nations of the Continent. It is to this spirit of interference with other countries, the wars to which it has led, and the consequentdiversion of men's minds (upon the Empress Catherine's principle) from home grievances, that we must attribute the unsatisfactory state of the mass of our people.
But to rouse the conscience of the people in favour of peace, the whole truth must be told them of the part they have played in past wars. In every pursuit in which we embark, our energies carry us generally in advance of all competitors. How few of us care to remember that, during the first half of the last century, we carried on the slave-trade more extensively than all the world besides; that we made treaties for the exclusive supply of negroes; that ministers of state, and even royalty were not averse to profit by the traffic. But when Clarkson (to whom fame has not yet done justice) commenced his agitation against this vile commerce, he laid the sin at the door of the nation; he appealed to the conscience of the people, and made the whole community responsible for the crimes which the slave-traders were perpetrating with their connivance; and the eternal principles of truth and humanity, which are ever present in the breasts of men, however they may be for a time obscured, were not appealed to in vain. We are now, with our characteristic energy, first and foremost in preventing, by force, that traffic which our statesmen sought to monopolise a century ago.
It must be even so in the agitation of the peace party. They will never rouse the conscience of the people, so long as they allow them to indulge the comforting delusion that they have been a peace-loving nation. We have been the most combative and aggressive community that has existed since the days of the Roman dominion. Since the revolution of 1688 we have expended more than fifteen hundred millions of money upon wars, not one of which has been upon our own shores, or in defence of our hearths and homes. "For so it is," says a not unfriendly foreign critic,*51 "other nations fight at or near their own territory: the English everywhere." From the time of old Froissart, who, when he found himself on the English coast, exclaimed that he was among a people who "loved war better than peace, and where strangers were well received," down to the day of our amiable and admiring visitor, the author of the Sketch Book, who, in his pleasant description of John Bull, has portrayed him as always fumbling for his cudgel whenever a quarrel arose among his neighbours, this pugnacious propensity has been invariably recognised by those who have studied our national character. It reveals itself in our historical favourites, in the popularity of the madcap Richard, Henry of Agincourt, the belligerent Chatham, and those monarchs and statesmen who have been most famous for their warlike achievements. It is displayed in our fondness for erecting monuments to warriors, even at the doors of our marts of commerce; in the frequent memorials of our battles, in the names of bridges, streets, and omnibuses; but above all in the display which public opinion tolerates in our metropolitan cathedral, whose walls are decorated with bas-reliefs of battle scenes, of storming of towns, and charges of bayonets, where horses and riders, ships, cannon and musketry, realise by turns, in a Christian temple, the fierce struggle of the siege and the battle-field. I have visited, I believe, all the great Christian temples in the capitals of Europe; but my memory fails me, if I saw anything to compare with it. Mr. Layard has brought us some very similar works of art from Nineveh, but he has not informed us that they were found in Christian churches.
Nor must we throw on the aristocracy the entire blame of our wars. An aristocracy never governs a people by opposing their ruling instincts. In Athens a lively and elegant fancy was gratified with the beautiful in art. In Genoa and Venice, where the population were at first without territory, and consequently where commerce was the only resource, the path to power was on the deck of their merchantmen or on 'Change. In England, where a people possessing a powerful physical organisation and an unequalled energy of character were ready for projects of daring and enterprise, an aristocracy perverted these qualities to a century of constantly recurring wars. The peace party of our day must endeavour to turn this very energy to good account in the same spirit in which Clarkson turned a nation of man-stealers into a society of determined abolitionists. Far from wishing to destroy the energy, or even the combativeness which has made us such fit instruments for the battle-field, we shall require these qualities for abating the spirit of war and correcting the numberless moral evils from which society is suffering. Are not our people uneducated—juvenile delinquents uncared for? Does not drunkenness still reel through our streets? Have we not to battle with vice, crime, and their parent, ignorance, in every form? And may not even charity display as great energy and courage in saving life as was ever put forth in its destruction?
A famine fell upon nearly one half of a great nation. The whole world hastened to contribute money and food. But a few courageous men left their homes in Middlesex and Surrey and penetrated to the remotest glens and bogs of the west coast of the stricken island, to administer relief with their own hands. To say that they found themselves in the valley of the shadow of death would be but an imperfect image: they were in the charnel-house of a nation. Never since the eleventh century did pestilence, the gaunt handmaid of famine, glean so rich a harvest. In the midst of a scene which no field of battle ever equalled in danger, in the number of its slain, or the sufferings of the surviving, these brave men moved as calm and undismayed as though they had been in their own homes. The population sank so fast that the living could not bury the dead. Half-interred bodies protruded from the gaping graves. Often the wife died in the midst of her starving children, whilst the husband lay a festering corpse by her side. Into the midst of these horrors did our heroes penetrate, dragging the dead from the living with their own hands, raising the head of famishing infancy, and pouring nourishment into parched lips from which shot fever-flames more deadly than a volley of musketry. Here was courage! No music strung the nerves; no smoke obscured the imminent danger; no thunder of artillery deadened the senses. It was cool self-possession and resolute will, calculated risk and heroic resignation. And who were these brave men? To what "gallant" corps did they belong? Were they of the horse, foot, or artillery force? They were Quakers from Clapham and Kingston! If you would know what heroic actions they performed you must inquire from those who witnessed them. You will not find them recorded in the volume of reports published by themselves, for Quakers write no bulletins of their victories.
Will you pardon me if, before I lay down my pen, I so far presume upon your forbearance as to express a doubt whether the eagerness with which the topic of the Duke of Wellington's career was so generally selected for pulpit manifestations was calculated to enhance the influence of ministers of the Gospel, or promote the interests of Christianity itself. Your case and that of public men are very dissimilar. The mere politician may plead the excuse if he yields to the excitement of the day that he lives and moves and has his being in the popular temper of the times. Flung as he is in the mid-current of passing events, he must swim with the stream or be left upon its banks, for few have the strength or courage to breast the rising wave of public feeling or passion. How different is your case! Set apart for the contemplation and promotion of eternal and unchanging feelings of benevolence, peace, and charity, public opinion would not only tolerate but applaud your abstinence from all displays where martial enthusiasm and hostile passions are called into activity. But a far higher sanction than public opinion is to be found for such a course. When the Master whom you especially serve, and whose example and precepts are the sole credentials of your faith, mingled in the affairs or this life, it was not to join in the exaltation of military genius, or share in the warlike triumphs of nation over nation, but to preach "Peace on EARTH and good will toward MEN." Can the humblest layman err, if, in addressing the loftiest dignitary of the Christian Church, he says "GO THOU AND DO LIKEWISE?"
I remain, yours,
Notes for this chapter
At Valenciennes and Condé.
In addition to this, the army in India amounts to 289,529 men, making altogether 562,010 men. The cost of the Indian army is ten millions, which, added to our fifteen millions, makes £25,000,000—the largest sum paid by any nation for a peace establishment.
[The army estimates voted for in 1865-6 amounted to £14,348,447, those for the navy to £10,392,224. These estimates showed a considerable reduction on the expenditure in 1860-1, which was for the army £18,013,896, for the navy £13,331,668. Since 1859 sums of £2,000,000 and £1,200,000 have been voted for fortifications. The estimates for the Indian army for 1865-6 were £13,754,560 and for the Indian marine charges £538,200.]
Hansard, vol. 107, p. 704
Such arguments have been gravely urged in the House of Commons by naval men; and, what is still worse, they have been acted upon.
It cannot be too strongly impressed upon the mind of the reader that this cry of "invasion without notice" was raised when Louis Philippe was still on the throne, as the following extract from a letter of remonstrance addressed by Sir William Molesworth, January 17, 1848, to the editor of the Spectator, London newspaper, will plainly show:—
"You say that 'the next attack on England will probably be without notice 5,000 [Frenchmen] might inflict disgrace upon some defenceless post; 500 might insult British blood at Herne Bay, or even inflict indelible shame on the empire at Osborne House!' Good God! can it be possible that you, whom I ranked so high among the public instructors of this nation—that you consider the French to be ruffians, Pindarees, freebooters; that you believe it necessary to keep constant watch and ward against them, as our Saxon forefathers did against the Danes and the Nordmen, lest they should burn our towns, plunder our coasts, and put our Queen to ransom? Are you aware that the French are as civilised as ourselves—in some respects intellectually our superiors? Have you forgotten that they have passed through a great social revolution which has equalised property, abolished privilege, and converted the mass of the people into thrifty and industrious men, to whom war is hateful and the conscription detestable? Are you not aware that they possess a constitutional government, with the forms and practice of which they are daily becoming more and more conversant; that no measure of importance can be adopted without being first debated and agreed to in the Chambers; and that the love of peace and the determination to preserve peace have given to the King of the French a constant majority in those Chambers and kept him in peaceable possession of his throne? Can you controvert any one of these positions?"
These writers must be judged not by what they now say of Louis Napoleon's designs, but what they said of the French nation when Guizot was Prime Minister under a constitutional king, and when we were spending two millions more on our armaments than anybody now proposes to spend.
National Assembly, 27th June, 1851.
Our official value of French exports to this country for 1851 is £8,033,112.
[In 1863 the real value of French exports of all kinds amounted to 3,526 millions of francs, of which 834 millions were sent to England. The real value of the exports of French produce amounted to 2,642 millions of francs, of which 620 millions were sent to England.]
[Navigation of the external commerce of France in 1865, fisheries included:—
(1) Vessels with cargoes. Those in ballast, the returns of which are not known for 1865, would, if added, increase the amount nearly a third especially that of the departures.]
This is the only report near this date which I can find.
[The total tonnage of British vessels entering inwards and clearing outwards in 1864 was 18,201,675 tons. In 1864, there were 26,142 sailing vessels, and 2,490 steamers, registered in the ports of the United Kingdom. The total tonnage was 5,427,500 tons. In 1863 the French mercantile navy comprised 15,092 vessels, including 345 steamers; the total tonnage was 985,235 tons. To arrive at a fair comparison, 300,000 tons should be deducted from the British tonnage, being the increase in 1864.
Mr. Kay, in his valuable work on the education and social condition of the people of the Continent, offers this sad reflection in speaking of the state of things at home:—"Where the aristocracy is richer and more powerful than that of any other country in the world, the poor are more oppressed, more pauperised, more numerous in comparison to the other classes, more irreligious, and very much worse educated than the poor of any other European nation, solely excepting uncivilised Russia and Turkey, enslaved Italy, misgoverned Portugal, and revolutionised Spain."
"A Residence at the Court of London." By Richard Rush, Minister from the United States.
Volume II, Part IV, A LETTER TO HENRY ASHWORTH, ESQ.
End of Notes
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