One of the harmless vagaries of the American character has been the idea that we could whip all creation in a fight, and that no country could successfully cope with the United States in a war. This has been a very prevalent opinion, fostered and encouraged by the success achieved in the few wars in which we have been engaged with foreign powers, and in no small degree justified by the spirit and energy of our people. We doubt whether any nation in the world has more of military spirit and fire, more of genuine patriotism and national pride; and when these qualities are once aroused, our armies are all but invincible. Still, we confess that our choice, if we must fight all the nations of the earth, would be, to take one at a time, and especially if a war with a first class power is inevitable, to engage in it when we are a united people at home, and prepared to bring all our resources into action.

Prudential considerations of this character do not, however, appear to enter into the calculations of such of our contemporaries as are just now, in addition to the prompt subjugation of the Southern States, eager to vindicate our position before the world, by engaging in a fight with such nations as may hesitate to conform their action to the views of public law entertained by said journals. Accordingly we find in several of the leading Administration papers, and we hear in private circles, expressions of a willingness to apply the same principles of coercion to Great Britain and other nations who may stand in the way of our purposes and aims, that are now being tried upon the Confederate States. The tone of the English press and the action of the British Government as far as known, has not been in accordance with the expectation of enthusiastic men in this country, and hence the declaration at once goes forth, that England too must, if need be, feel the weight of our strong arm.

Now, we confess to a decided preference, if we must have a war, for a struggle with a foreign power rather than a fratricidal combat at home. The idea of exhibiting our prowess in a controversy with the great powers of Europe, would touch our national pride, and raise our military ardor to the highest pitch, provided only we had sufficient cause of quarrel, and could present a case which would bear the scrutiny of impartial observers. When such an exigency shall arise, we may be counted in for zealous supporters of the Stars and Stripes and the warmest defenders of American honor. But we do not yet quite understand that we have such cause for engaging in mortal combat with Old England, and we prefer, before joining in the cry for a war of that magnitude, to understand more fully the grounds upon which such belligerent intentions rest.

We have no right to expect other nations to take up our domestic quarrel and interfere, either on the side of the Government of the United States, or in behalf of those who have cast off their allegiance and set up a separate Government. The quarrel is purely and solely an American one, in which neither England nor France, nor any other power, can rightfully interfere. We have a right to insist that they shall respect the laws of nations, and abstain from all intermed[d]ling in the matter, but we have no right to expect that the principles of public law will be disregarded out of sympathy for one or the other of the parties to the controversy. We do not understand that Great Britain has thus far indicated any purpose to depart from the usages of nations, in the relations which she holds towards the United States, or which she proposes to adopt towards the Confederate States. She has signified her intention to recognize those States as belligerents, entitled to the privileges of legitimate parties to a war, and not to be considered as pirates, outlaws and traitors, to be denied the rights and immunities of countries engaged in civilized warfare. She does not, that we are aware, propose to recognize the independence of the Confederate States, or to interfere with the blockade of their ports undertaken by our Government, or in any other mode to do more than let the question alone, upon the principles which have governed this country in its course towards nations at war with each other, but holding peaceful relations towards the United States.

Undoubtedly the British Government and people look upon the scenes now passing in this country with astonishment, and with feelings widely at variance from those entertained by the immediate parties to the controversy. They behold a community equal in numbers, in resources, in intelligence and in spirit, to many of the respectable powers of the world, seeking to establish a Government of their own, and asking to be “let alone” in the endeavor. They see the territory of the States in question under the almost exclusive control and occupation of the authorities and people thereof, exercising in truth the functions of a de facto government, and able at least to dispute with fair pretensions to ultimate success, the claim of the United States to exercise sovereignty over them. Thus viewing the contest, the other powers can scarcely do otherwise than recognize them as belligerents, reserving the question of acknowledging their independence and receiving them into the family of nations, for future consideration, to be determined by the course of events and the circumstances which may exist when that subject shall demand attention.

In all this we are not able to discover how the English Government has given cause of offence to the United States. Its tone and policy may not be what the latter could desire, but so long as it shall not be at variance with public law and the usages of civilized nations, it is at least prudent for our people to abstain from language of menace and bitterness towards the Government or people of that country. The war now on our hands is quite sufficient for our present convenience, and while we would by no means counsel submission to insult or national humiliation from any foreign power, the occasion is by no means a suitable one for indulging in offensive and threatening language towards other countries. In this, however, as in matters of equal moment at home, the excited state of the public mind precludes the calm exercise of reason, and the press and people thus far so fierce for driving the country into civil war, cannot be expected to exercise greater discretion concerning our foreign relations. We have reason to hope that the Government at Washington is not animated by the same crude ideas; or inspired by the same absurd notions in behalf of a general fight with all the world, which appear to control the minds of enthusiastic New York journalists. The latter may easily inaugurate and possibly maintain a paper war, but the Government will need something more than these harmless missiles, when it shall become involved in a quarrel with the world at large.