Is It So?
Chicago Times, June 29, 1861
The newspapers which supported the late republican party are, many of them, engaged in an attempt to prove that England feels peculiarly friendly to the United States at the present juncture. These journals speak authoritatively, as they think they have a right to do—for all the world knows that England has been bitterly opposed to slavery, that Mr. Seward dined with the Queen, and that Charley Sumner was made a great deal of by the English aristocracy. So there is no doubt that the editors of the late republican press are much better informed concerning the intentions of Great Britain than common mortals are; but, notwithstanding all this, we cannot shut our eyes to events which are significant in their nature, and are occurring in the open daylight before the whole world. From the moment the news of the fall of Fort Sumpter reached England to the present day, there has been an unvarying course of events calculated to arouse our suspicions and put us on our defence as a nation. It is true that there have been many philanthropic generalities said in regard to the evils of slavery, and that a class in England have endeavored to misrepresent the war in this country as one against that institution. In this they have been aided, to a certain extent, by journals in the United States; but the uniform course of the British government has been indifferent,—selfish,—we may add, in view of late events, hostile. The truth is, that England does not desire the abolition of slavery. She tried the experiment in the West Indies, and is fully satisfied that, however pretty it was as a philanthropy, it has been financially a failure. She understands, as well as we do, that the rice and cotton fields of the South would soon be deserts if the negroes were freemen, and that, therefore, slavery is an actual benefit to her. To induce her, then, to believe that the war is against slavery, is simply to arm her against the Republic, and to throw her into cooperation with the rebels. Let her once understand that slavery is not to be abolished—that the people will not suffer it to be—that the instant it is attempted by our government, party lines will be drawn in the war with greater strictness than ever,—let her understand this, we say, and her alarm will vanish, and her selfishness will melt into renewed kindness. But, as matters are now situated, she does not understand the truth. She does not know how abolitionism, in all its forms, is loathed and hated by the American people. She, perhaps, thinks that Greeley, Sumner and Wendell Phillips are true exemplars of American sentiment, and she is afraid that they are too much in earnest in their malignity against slavery to be either pleasant or profitable allies for her, in the present uncertain state of the cotton market.
But, whatever her motive,—and we see none more satisfactory than her pecuniary interest in slavery,—she is upon the record against us in so many ways that the attempt of her friends of the press in this country to create a belief in her friendship to us is alike unwise and criminal. The people ought to know the truth in these matters. It is for information that they take the daily papers, and not to be misled by the preferences of the editors of them. Now what are the facts in regard to England? We will repeat them distinctly, and leave people to decide for themselves:
First,—The heads of her Ministry declared in Parliament, soon after the Fort Sumpter news reached them, their determination to be "neutral"—to treat both parties to the quarrel alike,—thus practically acknowledging the independence of the Southern Confederacy. Indeed, Lord Palmerston spoke of the dissolution of the Union as a fixed fact.
Second,—The Queen's proclamation styles the revolted States "belligerents," and therefore extended to them the usual treatment of people in that condition.
Third,—The armed ships of both parties to the quarrel are placed on the same basis. The privateers of the Southern Confederacy and the naval vessels of the Republic are alike prevented from bringing prizes into her ports.
Fourth,—She treats the blockade as the act of one independent nation against another, and not as the act of a sovereign power entitled de jure to control its own ports and to compel obedience to its own laws.
Fifth,—Her Minister at Washington has passed rebel emissaries back and forth from Europe,—thus aiding the cause of treason, and committing positive hostility against the United States.
Sixth,—She has arranged to throw a large force of regular troops into Canada and Nova Scotia, while the volunteers of those provinces are being put upon a war footing.
Seventh,—She has dispatched a strong fleet to our shores to decide the effectiveness of the blockade, and to break it whenever her naval officers deem that it is not sufficient.
Now, editors of newspapers, who are related to England through Charles Sumner and William H. Seward, may discover a great deal which is comfortable and encouraging in these symptoms, and may feel justified in telling the people that England loves the North and hates the South,—that all her sympathies are against slavery, and that therefore we have nothing to fear; but we cannot indulge this view. It is well enough to believe her friendly, but it is an insuperable necessity to prepare to meet her. The dream of her anti-slavery sympathies has vanished, and she stands before us now a cold, pitiless rival, ready to take advantage of the distractions of our country. If this is not true, why these fleets and armies? Why this studied treatment of each party to the quarrel as if each was a sovereign nation? Let persons who have been fascinated by England's anti-slavery pretensions answer these questions, and in some manner explain her position.