War with America a Blessing to Mankind
Citation Information:”War with America a Blessing to Mankind,” Fraser’s Magazine for Town and Country, v. 23, n. 136, 1841. 494-502
We are not about to indulge in any prognostications as to the issue of the existing controversy with the United States. As rational would it be to attempt to predict whether a wolf, about to be let out of his cage, would make his rush to the south, to the east, or to the north. The real power in that country is in the hands of the mob; and who shall venture to surmise the extent or the complexion of a mob’s absurdities? In what other country but the America could a man stand up in an assembly called a “senate,” and use such language as this towards his brother republicans?—”Let an abolitionist come within the borders of South Carolina; if we can catch him, we will try him, and, notwithstanding all the interference of all the governments one earth, including the Federal Government, we will HANG him!” Or who shall imagine it possible to calculate beforehand upon the acts of folly which such brutal madness as this may produce?
We only premise, therefore, that more than one or two causes of angry discussion are now in operation; and that the intercourse between the negotiating parties is daily becoming more and more alarming in its tone and bearing. In fact, while it is quite possible that the cloud may pass over in the course of a few weeks, it is equally possible for even a less space of time to see us irrevocably committed to a desperate struggle.
The question is, therefore—and a more important or interesting question could not possibly be proposed—What should be the mode of attack adopted by England, in her efforts to bring America to her senses?
We say “the mode of attack,”—for, be it remembered that England cannot afford to stand on the defensive. If she engages in war with America, she must, of necessity, put forth a vigorous effort to bring the war to a close. A commercial nation like England, covering the sea with her merchantmen, and having colonies in every part of the habitable globe, can never dream of permitting herself to be at war with a maritime and privateering people like the Americans, for several years in succession. She must bring matters to a point very quickly, or the unseen loss will become far more serious than the seen expense. We ask, therefore, What must be her mode of attack?
And, first, let us consider the ordinary notions which we are daily hearing,—of levying war in the old-fashioned style; getting up expeditions; embarking 10,000 men, supported by sixteen sail of the line; and effecting a landing near New York: in short, just a repetition of the last war, with its burning of Washington; its unsuccessful attempt on Baltimore; and its general failure to do more than to excite a lasting hatred to England throughout the Union.
Now, the fashion at present seems to be, to speak of the power of England and the weakness of America; of our armaments, and their unpreparedness, in a vaunting and exulting tone, which, we must confess, is to us absolutely alarming!
But it is more, it is absolutely foolish. The men who talk of our making war upon a nation of 14,000,000 of free men, unencumbered with debt or taxation; well accustomed to the use of arms; and to be attacked on their own ground, and by their own firesides,—the men, we say, who think it an easy thing for us, by sending out an expedition and burning a few sea-coast towns, to bring such a nation upon its knees, are just about the wildest, the most irrational calculators of the chances of war that ever helped a nation into an inextricable difficulty. Were this, indeed, the prospect before us,—were the only course open to us the making a naval and military war, with horse and foot, and ships and steamboats, upon one of the most powerful nations of the earth,—then sad, indeed, would be our prognostics for the future,—melancholy, in the extremist degree, would be our anticipations of the ultimate termination of such a contest!
For it is useless to shut our eyes to certain collateral issues and necessary contingencies which would speedily mix themselves up with the main question. The first maritime power in Europe, with about 25,000,000 of people, but encumbered with debt, goes to war with its only rival on the seas, a nation of 14,000,000; proud, uplifted, and far too strong to be easily overwhelmed by a coup de main. And as the more powerful of the two proposes to attack the other by sending expeditions across the Atlantic, the inequality of their forces becomes considerably diminished, and the probability of a protracted struggle grows still more apparent.
Now, supposing this to be the state of things, must we not remember that our next-door neighbour, the great and warlike nation of France, is burning for an opportunity of wiping off the disgraces of the last war; and has given many most significant token of late, of her eagerness to seize the first favourable opportunity of striking a blow at her ancient enemy? And, further, can we avoid hearing, by each mail from Ireland, the plainest threats that ever were couched in language,—that so soon as England shall be fairly entangled in a foreign war, the Romish faction in that country will claim, and, if necessary, will seize upon, the sovereignty of that portion of the empire?
Nor is this all. Do we not know, by abundant proofs, that the Russian emissaries are unceasingly employed in fomenting mischief in the East; and that the very moment that saw England fully occupied in other directions, would see a Russian force on its way to Northern India? On all these grounds, then, and on others, which might be added, we should look upon our entanglement in a protracted warfare with America as the too probable commencement of our national humiliation, dismemberment, and ruin. Of all such plans and projects, then, we can only say, May God forbid!
But is this the only view that can be taken of the probable issue of a contest with America? Far from it. On the contrary, while we contemplate a struggle between Englishmen and Americans, whether on land or water, with the deepest apprehension, and with the certainty of some evil resulting; we see, in another quarter, and by conducting the contest in a totally different way, a probability, nay, almost a certainty, or arriving at a short and easy conclusion of the struggle; a conclusion in every way honourable and advantageous to England, and in the highest degree desirable to the whole human race.
America, in one respect, is the most sinful nation in the world; and in her sin, as divine and retributive justice ordinarily provides, she finds her weakness and her punishment. She hold nearly three millions of unoffending human creatures in the most cruel bondage; in a thraldom infinitely worse than Egyptian, Turkish, or Selavonian. In fact, we doubt if the annals of the human race afford an example of any system of oppression at all approaching to that which is proved, on the clearest, fullest, and most irrefragable evidence, to exist in a country, which vaunts itself to be the freest nation on the face of the earth. It follows, however, that to hold in her grasp three millions of slaves, and to treat those slaves with cruelty, is to retain within her borders three millions of foes; who cannot but long for the moment when resistance might be attempted without the certainty of defeat.
We have said that America’s slaves are America’s foemen; and this fact we deduce from another, which seems to us to be established on the clearest evidence,—that the treatment of those slaves is the most cruel and oppressive that can be conceived. We draw this conclusion chiefly from a volume recently published, which contains the replies of Americans themselves to certain inquiries addressed to them from this country.
The picture drawn therein is so dreadful, and at the same time so elaborately drawn out, and so fully established by proof, that we shall find some difficulty in compressing it into the limited space which we may be able to afford. We must give merely an outline, premising that he evidence in support of each point is most abundant:—
“The ways,” says this report, “in which the slaves suffer are almost innumerable: we can specify only those which are most prominent.
“They suffer from being overworked, from hunger, from want of sleep, from insufficient clothing, from inadequate shelter, from neglect in the various conditions of feebleness and sickness, from lust, and from positive inflictions.”—P. 77.
Let us consider each of these items separately. And first, of
Overworking.—Under this head a vast mass of evidence is given, from which we can only select a passage or two:—
“Dr. Demming, a gentleman of high respectability, residing in Ashland, Richland county, Ohio, state to Professor Wright, of New York city,—
“ ‘That during a recent tour at the south, while ascending the Ohio river on the steam-boat Fame, he had an opportunity of conversing with a Mr. Dickinson, a resident of Pittsburg, in company with a number of cotton-planters and slave-dealers from Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi. Mr. Dickinson stated as a fact, that the sugar-planters upon the sugar coast in Louisiana had ascertained that, as it was usually necessary to employ about twice the amount of labour during the boiling season, that was required during the season of raising, they could by excessive driving day and night during the boiling season, accomplish the whole labour with one set of hands. By pursuing this plan, they could afford to sacrifice a set of hands once in seven years! He further stated, that this horrible system was now practised to a considerable extent! The correctness of this statement was substantially admitted by the slaveholders then on board.’ “—P. 85.
“When they go to these southern states, the average existence is only five years.”—P. 87.
“The law of Louisiana provides for the slave but two and a-half hours in the twenty-four for rest.”— Ibid.
They suffer greatly from hunger. Here, too, we have a mass of proofs, such as these, and all from American pens:—
“The slaves down the Mississippi are half-starved; the boats, when they stop at night, are constantly boarded by slaves, begging for something to eat.
“The slaves are supplied with barely enough to keep them from starving.
“As a general thing on the plantations, the slaves suffer extremely from the want of food.”—P. 88.
“The slaves go to the field in the morning; they carry with them corn meal wet with water, and at noon build a fire on the ground, and bake it in the ashes. After the labours of the day are over, they take their second meal of ash-cake.”—P.93.
They suffer from want of clothing:
“Mr. Bouldin said, ‘he knew that many negroes had died from exposure to weather; and added, ‘they are clad in a flimsy fabric, that will turn neither wind nor water.’
“The slaves, naked and starved, often fall victims to the inclemencies of the weather.
“We rode through many rice swamps, where the blacks were very numerous; great droves of these poor slaves, working up to the middle in water, men and women nearly naked.
“In every slaveholding state many slaves suffer extremely, both while they labour and while they sleep, for want of clothing to keep them warm.
“It is shocking to the feeling of humanity, in travelling though some of those states, to see those poor objects (slaves), especially in the inclement season, in rags, and trembling with the cold.”—P.93, 94.
They suffer from bad lodging:—
“The houses for the field slaves were about fourteen feet square, built in the coarsest manner, with one room without any chimney or flooring, with a hole in the roof to let the smoke out.
“The descriptions generally given of negro quarters are correct; the quarters are without floors, and not sufficient to keep off the inclemency of the weather; they are uncomfortable both in summer and winter.
“When they return to their miserable huts at night, they find not the means of comfortable rest; but on the cold ground they must lie without covering, and shiver while they slumber.
“The dwellings of the slaves are usually small open log huts, with but one apartment, and very generally without floors. “—P. 100.
They suffer from the infliction of numberless brutal cruelties:—
“A bare enumeration of the various modes of torture known to be practised in the planting states, must convince the most incredulous, that our picture of slaveholding cruelty has not been overdrawn. In contemplating the following, it is difficult to resist the conviction, that a more profound and malicious cunning than belongs to mere man has been employed in contriving such a diversity of hellish torments to plague mankind; at the same time we must confess that their invention displays no more of the fiend than their application, which is daily made by beings wearing the form of men.
“The slaves are suspended by the wrists, with their toes just touching the ground; their ankles having been tied, a heavy log or fence rail is thrust between their legs, in this situation, naked, they are flogged with a cow-hide till their blood and bits of mangled flesh stream from their shoulders to the ground. Again, they are stretched at full length upon the earth, their faces downwards, each of their wrists and ankles is lashed to a stake driven firmly into the ground. Thus stretched, so that they cannot shrink in the least from the descending blows, they receive sometimes, hundreds of lashed on their naked backs. So protracted is the flogging frequently, that the overseer stops in the midst of it to take breath, and rest his tired muscles, only to resume it with increased violence. In such cases, the back of the slave presents to the beholder one mass of clotted blood and mangled flesh. Sometimes, instead of lashing the ankles and wrists to stakes, the overseer orders four strong slaves to hold the victim. The persons selected to do this are sometimes, through a refinement of cruelty, the relatives of the sufferer. Again, the slaves are stripped, and bound upon a log, and in this position they are tortured with heavy paddles bored full of holes each of which raises a blister at every stroke; or infuriated cats are repeatedly dragged backwards from their shoulders to their hips. After either of the forgoing modes of lacerating the flesh, spirits of turpentine, or a solution of salt, or cayenne pepper, or pulverized mustard, is rubbed into the bleeding wounds, to aggravate and prolong the torment.
“Sometimes the slaves are buried to their chins in holes dug in the damp ground, just large enough for them to stand erect with their arms close by their sides. They are so fastened in the stocks for several successive night, being released during the day for work, or confined both night and day. Instead of stocks, the feet are sometimes thrust between the rails of the fence.
“The slaves are beaten with heavy clubs over the head, arms, shoulders, or legs. Walking canes are broken over their heads, sometimes fracturing the skull, or causing permanent insanity, or even death. In moments of passion, the planter or overseer seizes any instrument within reach, often prostrating the slave at a blow; and then stamps upon him till his fury is spent. During these paroxysms of rage the slaves frequently suffer the most frightful mutilations and fractures. Their limbs are broken, joints dislocated, faces bruised, eyes and teeth knocked out, lips mangled, cheeks, gashed, ears cropped, slit, or shaved close to the head; fingers and toes cut off, red-hot branding irons, with the initials of their masters, are stamped into the cheeks, the fleshy parts of the thighs, and legs, and shoulders. They are maimed by gun and pistol-shots, and lacerated with knives.
“Again, they are handcuffed, manacled, loaded with chains and balls; iron yokes are fastened about their necks, with long prongs extending outward and upward, or meeting above the head, where a bell is suspended.
“They are punished by confinement in loathsome dungeons, by starvation, by nakedness, by protracted watchings, by long separation from their companions night and day (as husband from wife), by being forced to flog the naked bodies of their own relatives (as sons their mothers, or fathers their own daughters).
“Woman, in her most delicate condition, is subjected to humiliation and suffering, by being driven, up to the day, and sometimes to the moment, of her delivery, to labour with the promiscuous gang, and to feel the overseer’s lash in case she lags behind.
“When runaways are discovered, and attempt to flee, they are fired upon, and maimed or killed. They are pursued by trained dogs, which worry them and tear their flesh—not unfrequently taking their lives. When retaken, though worn by their struggles and faint with the loss of blood, they are attached by a long rope to their master’s saddle, and furiously dragged homeward, while an attendant, riding behind, plies the bloody lash. They often fall dead on the road in the midst of these forces marches.”—Pp.129-131.
Amidst all this horrible cruelty, it of necessity sometimes happens that the poor slave is maddened to fury, and turns upon his oppressors. Then it is that scenes are witnessed, in broad daylight, in populous towns, and amidst a people proud of their freedom, their intelligence, their philanthropy, and their religion, which can hardly be paralleled in the darkest annals of the middle ages.
We will adduce only a sample or two of what seems a common practice in the slave-states of America!—
“Some time during the last week a Mr. M’Neilly having lost some clothing, or other property of no great value, the slave of a neighbouring planter was charged with the theft. M’Neilly, in company with his brother, found the negro driving his master’s waggon; they seized him, and either did or were about to chastise him, when the negro stabbed M’Neilly, so that he died in an hour afterwards. The negro was taken before a justice of the peace, who waved his authority, perhaps through fear, as a crowd of persons had collected to the number of seventy or eight, near Mr. People’s (the justice) house. He acted as president of the mob, and put the vote, when it was decided he should be immediately executed by being burnt to death. The sable culprit was led to a tree, and tied to it, and a large quantity of pine-knots collected and placed around him, and the fatal torch applied to the pile, even against the remonstrances of several gentlemen who were present; and the miserable being was in a short time burnt to ashes.
“This is the SECOND negro who has been THUS put to death, without judge or jury in this county.
“On the 28th of April, 1836, in the city of St. Louis, Missouri, a black man, named Macintosh, who had stabbed an officer that had arrested him, was seized by the multitude, fastened to a tree in the midst of the city, wood piled around him, and in open day, and in the presence of an immense throng of citizens, he was burnt to death. The Alton (Ill.) Telegraph, in its account of the scene says:—
“ ‘All was silent as death while the executioners were piling wood around their victim. He said not a word, until feeling that the flames had seized upon him. He then uttered an awful howl, attempting to sing and pray; then hung his head, and suffered in silence, except in the following instance:—After the flames had surrounded their prey, his eyes burnt out of his head, and his mouth seemingly parched to a cinder; some one in the crowd, more compassionate than the rest, proposed to put an end to his misery by shooting him; when it was replied, ‘That would be of no use, since he was already out of pain.’ ‘No, No,’ said the wretch, ’ I am not; I am suffering as much as ever; shoot me, shoot me!’ ‘No, no,” said one of the fiends who were standing about the sacrifice they were roasting, ‘he shall not be shot. I would sooner slacken the fire, if that would increase his misery!’ And the man who said this was, as we understand, an OFFICER of JUSTICE!’
“The St. Louis correspondent of a New York paper adds:—
“ ‘The shrieks and groans of the victim were loud and piercing; and to observe one limb after another drop into the fire was awful indeed. He was about fifteen minutes in dying. I visited the place this morning, and saw his body, or the remains of it, at the place of execution. He was burnt to a crump. His legs and arms were gone, and only a part of his head and body were left.’
“Lest this demonstration of ‘public opinion’ should be regarded as a sudden impulse merely, not an index of the settled tone of feeling in that community, it is important to add that the Hon. Luke E. Lawless, judge of the circuit court of Missouri, at a session of that court in the city of St. Louis, some months after the burning of this man, decided officially that since the burning of Macintosh was the act, either directly or by countenance, of a majority of the citizens, it is ‘a case which transcends the jurisdiction’ of the grand jury! Thus the state of Missouri has proclaimed to the world, that the wretches who perpetrated that unspeakable diabolical murder, and the thousands that stood by consenting to it, were her representatives, and the bench sanctifies it with the solemnity of a judicial decision.”—Pp. 125-126.
“In the fall of 1837, there was a rumour of a projected insurrection on the Red River, Louisiana. The citizens forthwith seized and hanged nine slaves and three free coloured men, without trial. A few months previous to that transaction, a slave was seized in a similar manner, and publicly burnt to death, in Arkansas. In July 1835, the citizens of Madison county, Mississippi, were alarmed by rumours of an insurrection, arrested five slaves, and publicly executed them without trial.”—P. 128.
After all these proofs of the innumerable cruelties of the system—the whole, be it remembered, resting on American testimony—we need scarcely add, that any kind of release would be eagerly seized upon by these poor victims of oppression:—
“A gentleman of the north, who spent some years as a school-teacher in Eastern Virginia, states that on one occasion, when the planter with whom he was boarding had driven off with his family to a camp-meeting, and just as he had mounted his horse to follow, a large number of the planter’s slaves surrounded him, and besought him most earnestly to tell them which way Canada lay. Under the conflicting emotions of fear for himself and sympathy for the slaves, he put spur to his horse and galloped away.”—P. 36.
“We have before us, in the Grand Gulf (Mississippi) Advertiser for August 2, 1838, a list of runaways that were then in the gaols of the two counties of Adams and Warren, in that state. The number of runaways thus taken up and committed in these two counties is forty-six. The whole number of counties in Mississippi is fifty-six: many of them, however, are thinly populated. Now, without making this the basis of our estimate for the whole slave population in all the state, which would doubtless make the number much too large, we are sure no one who has any knowledge of facts as they are in the south will charge upon us an over-estimate, when we say that of the present generation of slaves probably one in thirty is of that class, i. e. has at some time, perhaps often, run away, and been retaken. On that supposition, the whole number would be not far from NINETY THOUSAND.”—P. 37.
Ninety thousand runaways, in a country where the advertisements generally state, “To be taken, dead or alive;” and “The same reward will be paid, on satisfactory evidence of his having been killed.”
Such, then, is the SIN and the WEAKNESS of America. It may be a doubtful point, how far another nation would be justified, in a time of peace, in embarking in a crusade of philanthropy, and endeavouring to coerce an independent people into the relinquishment of a national sin. But what possible doubt can exist as to the propriety, the expediency—nay, the absolute duty, of making a war subservient to the great and pre-eminent object of freeing these three millions of cruelly oppressed human beings?
Policy, too, not less than philanthropy, prescribes such a course of warfare. By this mode, and this only, a war with America might be brought to a speedy and inevitably triumphant close. As we have already observed, a struggle between the people of England and their descendents in America must be a fearful, a protracted, and a lamentable one. But if assailed in this quarter, a vital part is instantly and surely reached—the Union is dissolved, and the war is at an end.
Among the three million of slaves, we may fairly calculate the adult males at nearly one million. Every man of all this multitude would eagerly rush to embrace an emancipating invader, and within a few days’ sail of their coast repose the free and happy blacks of Jamaica. In one morning a force of ten thousand men might be raised in this quarter, for the enfranchisement of their brethren in America. Such a force, supported by two battalions of Englishmen, and supplied with 20,000 muskets, would establish themselves in Carolina, never to be removed. In three weeks from their appearance, the entire south would be in one conflagration. The chains of a million of men would be broken, and by what power could they ever be again riveted?
We say that this course is dictated alike by policy, by self-preservation; and by philanthropy. By policy; for nothing would render our own possessions in America so secure as the dissolution of the Union,—an inevitable result of this line of action. By self-preservation; for England must not venture, amidst her other difficulties, to involve herself in a protracted contest in a distant quarter of the globe. By philanthropy; which tells us that if, contrary to our own inclinations, we are dragged into this unnatural war, it is our duty at least to endeavour to bring good out of evil. In whatever way, then, we contemplate the subject, we come to this conclusion: If we must have a war with America, let us make it a war for the emancipation of the slaves; so shall our success be certain, and our triumph the triumph of humanity.
We are well aware, however, of an application of our argument which has already been made, and which is well calculated to alarm the timid; although, when calmly and fearlessly considered, it tells in favour of, and not against, our proposition. The O’Connellites eagerly catch at our words, and repeat them, exchanging America for Ireland. We, they tell us, as well as America, have some millions of slaves among us. The “people of Ireland” as well as the negroes in Virginia, demand justice, and beg for freedom; and if America would be made to plunge into a war with three millions of inveterate foes located within her territory, what would England be, if she commences hostilities without yielding “justice to Ireland?” This mode of applying the argument is already very common; and, as we have said, it makes the timid and unthinking start. Let us patiently examine, then, what substantial bearing it has upon the point at issue.
And first, then, we remark, that there is no appeal whatever to conscience in the case. It was not so in our last contest with America. We dared not, then, arouse the negroes of the southern states, inasmuch as we had slaves of our own; and “he who lives in a glazed house must be careful of throwing stones.” To have called upon the slaves of Virginia to revolt, while in Jamaica we scourged or shot their brethren for revolting, would have been a monstrous offence against the best feelings of the civilised world. It would also have been an act of madness, inasmuch as Virginia could not have revolted without Jamaica catching the infection.
But while all this is at an end in our West Indian colonies, in Ireland it never has existed; nor does it now exist, save in the measureless fictions of O’Connell and his followers. It may serve him for a rhetorical flourish, to address his besotted followers as “hereditary bondmen;” but both he and they know full well, that in all the main features which indicated real and substantial slavery, the people of Ireland are no more entitled to the name than the people of Prussia, or of France, or of Scotland.
The deep and terrible miseries of which we have spoken, in the case of the negro slaves of America, have no existence in Ireland; except in so far as poverty brings, alike to Popish Ireland and Protestant Scotland, the privation of needful food and clothing. The Irishman and the Highlander may often suffer want, as does the silkweaver of Bethnal Green—because he is unable to find employment. But the negro slave of Virginia is fully, urgently, cruelly employed; flogged to his work, and while at his work; and kept at hard labour for sixteen hours a-day; and yet is half-starved with hunger and cold by those who are working him to death! This it is that draws a line of distinction, broad and clear, between the mere destitution of Ireland and Scotland, and the cruelties and oppressions of the southern states of the Union.
But the grand difference still remains; that the Irishman is left in the full enjoyment of his own liberty, to go where he will, and when he will, in search of any imaginable chance of improvement; while the negro slave, if he attempts the same course, is pursued with bloodhounds and rifles, and either deliberately shot in his flight, or brought back to tortures compared with which a mortal blow would be mercy.
All this is well understood; and the effect on the minds of the two races is proportionate. The negroes of Virginia only need to have an opening made, and they would rise as one man to cast off—not their figurative, but their real, chains. The people of Ireland, if left to themselves, and uninfluenced by O’Connell and the priests, would repel an invader, man our fleets, and recruit our armies; as they have often done in times gone by, when their condition was more pitiable, and their “slavery” more galling, than it has been for some years past.
The danger, then, lies, not in the felt slavery of the Irish people; not in any substantial injuries or oppressions experienced by them; but simply in the power of the priests, and of O’Connell, their instrument. This power, however, we by no means wish to underrate. It is considerable; it is matter of grave and serious apprehension to every reflecting statesman; and it is also matter of the deepest condemnation to those who have fostered and created it! But—let it be remembered—its existence and its exercise are wholly independent of an America war, and will not be in the least degree affected by the mode in which we may carry on that war; except, indeed, that the less effective and the more embarrassing to ourselves our proceedings may be, just so much the more will those proceedings advance their purpose. For it is mere folly to forget, or even to suffer to slip out of our view, the fact, about which there can be no manner of doubt; that every Irish popish priest is the sworn enemy of England; and desiderates nothing so much as that day when it may be practicable and feasible to drive at once the “heretic” churchmen and the “Saxon oppressors” from the shores of the green isle. Not one among their number is there, who does not fully believe that the time is at hand when “the true faith” shall again be enshrined in the cathedrals and the churches of Ireland; and when church and state shall be wholly and entirely “Catholic.” Most fervently do they all look forward to this period; and most perseveringly do they labour to hasten its approach.
Nor can our statesmen be so entirely blind as to overlook this certain and most obvious fact. The wonder is—a wonder of folly and infatuation—that they take no decided course, but go on temporising, while the enemy goes increasing his strength. A very small amount of common sense is sufficient to shew that one of tow courses ought to be taken: Either, if it is seriously intended to yield Ireland to the Papists, to do so frankly, liberally, and with a good grace; or, if not, to deal with the priests and their agent, O’Connell, as with known and implacable enemies, whose every movement must be counteracted; whose every purpose must be sedulously frustrated.
But to return to the matter in hand. O’Connell has given us frequent and most explicit warnings, that the very moment England gets entangled in any foreign contest he shall abolish the Church of Ireland. One of his latest speeches had this sentence:—”One-fourth of the tithes are gone already; and the very first gun that is fired, away go the other three-fourths.”
Now the remaining three-fourths of the tithes in Ireland are paid by Protestant owners to their Protestant clergy. It is not to relieve the Romanist peasantry of an impost, that O’Connell aims at the abolition of the tithe rent-charge; it is simply in order to drive away the Protestant clergy. He knows full well that their little persecuted flocks could never maintain them on the voluntary system; and that to take away their settled maintenance is to banish themselves. By this course, therefore, Popery would become, in most parts of the land, the only religion; and Protestantism would be limited to a few of the large towns, where a little gentle coercion, administered by the reformed corporations, might do much in the way of conversion. And thus, in a comparatively short space of time, the priests—of whom O’Connell is but the instrument—might have the whole kingdom of Ireland absolutely in their power. And does any one suppose that, when so possessed of the entire rule, they would tolerate for an hour the least subjection to the heretics of England?
Such is the course very plainly marked out, and it will be sedulously followed. It is not our “proclaiming liberty to the captive” in Virginia that will accelerate it a single hour. All the priests want, is a fitting and covenient opportunity. This they will find whenever England gets embarrassed in any lengthened contest, either with America or with any other power. The only question, then, for us, would be, How best to bring any quarrel in which we may be involved to a rapid termination? In a contest with America, any other course than that we have here counselled might lead to an interminable struggle. This course—a quick, effectual, and utterly confounding blow in the south—would end the war in a few short weeks. And therefore it is, that, as far as Ireland is concerned, it is the safest, wisest, and most prudent one.
There is another topic which is closely and necessarily connected with the above. Is is one which, whether peace is maintained with America or not, ought to be seriously dealt with by the British government.
England is at this moment expanding not much less than four hundred thousand a-year in a fruitless struggle against the African slave-trade. She most laudably makes it one of her chief objects to destroy this nefarious and atrocious system. But not only has she heretofore failed, but so much worse than failure has been the result, that the slave-trade thrives and increases, both in extent and in wickedness, in spite of all the ships, and munitions, and lives, that we are constantly expending in the contest.
The fact, then, is now fully established,—that the slave-trade can never be put down by any thing less than the entire abolition of slavery. In that way it would, of course, come to an end; but in no other. Now England could, if she chose, very speedily put an end to slavery.
The three great markets for slaves—to supply which the trade is kept up—are the United States, Brazil, and Cuba. The first of these, we feel persuaded, will be broke up whenever a war breaks out; and even without a war, the system would lead to some dreadful internal convulsion before long. But the last of three—Cuba is open to our approaches even at this moment.
Cuba belongs to the crown of Spain. But what is the crown of Spain? A shadow.
It is abundantly obvious that England could add Cuba to her colonies to-morrow, if she chose to do so. But could she do so with justice and with honour?
Most unquestionably she might. Has not England expended upon Spain, within the last twenty years, many millions of sterling money? Much of this has been advanced by private persons; but much, also, by the government. In one year (1836) the value of the military stores forwarded to Queen Christina’s request, by our government was L579,000.
Now, is there the least rationality in the abandonment of all this property, whether by the English government on its own account, or as acting for its merchants? Would there be any thing irreconcilable with the strictest justice and probity, in our foreign minister’s demanding of Spain, and enforcing the demand,—either an actual repayment of these loans and advances, or the surrender of Cuba as an equivalent?
But further. It might be said that this valuable colony would be more than an equivalent. Could this be shown, it would be an act of wise economy in our government to pay even millions as a balance, so that this grand blow at the slave-trade might be struck.
Doubtless the proposition will be called Quixotic by some, and aggressive by others, but it is neither. Instead of being Quixotic, it is a cool, business-like plan, for saving money, and for saving it in a fair and honourable way. And as to aggression,—after making war upon the Pasha of Egypt on behalf of our ally, the Sultan, and upon the Emperor of China on behalf of the opium-dealers,—surely it cannot be called aggression if we merely look after our own affairs, in a quarter which is of far greater interest to us than either Syria or Chusan!