Shall We Be Prepared?

Detroit Free Press, May 25, 1861

If the declarations of Lords PALMERSTON and RUSSELL in the British Parliament on the 8th instant are indices of a policy, (and who shall say that they are not?) it behooves the States of the northern border to make the amplest preparations for their own safety. Such a policy on the part of the English Cabinet means war with America. It may be that they do not entertain such a policy—that subsequent diplomatic explanations will shed new light upon their intentions; but unless something of this kind shall happen, we shall be involved with England before the summer is over. Her first effort to reduce the declarations of her Ministers to practice will place the two countries face to face in warlike array. However much we may regret this, and while we deem it proper to exhaust all honorable means to maintain the amicable relations now existing with Great Britain, we must not forget that the greatest safety is preparation, and that a vigorous efficiency is the best method of insuring peace. If war is forced upon us by the present British Ministry, Michigan and the other border States will be compelled to bear a great share of its evils. In anticipation of what the future may develop, we should have the nucleus of an army in the field. The Governor should exercise the large powers recently vested in him by the Legislature.

We must confess that we see nothing in the present aspect of affairs to prevent the assumption of a hostile attitude by England. It is folly to trust to Exeter Hall sympathy with the negro. It always has been a cheap sentimentalism, which we cannot hope will override the potent logic of pounds, shillings and pence. Four or five millions of starving operatives in a thickly populated and free country, where discontent has as ample opportunities for organization and expression as in our land, are arguments before whose might Exeter Hall will crumble to dust, and the whole abolition fervor of Great Britain sink to icy coldness. British statesmen are and must be practical men. They cannot take the liberties and try the experiments. tolerated by the people in this country. They must subserve the true end of government, which we think may literally be said to center in the property and stomachs of the governed. We cannot expect magnanimity from idle, unfed, discontented work people, nor that a great nation (not over-scrupulous in adherence to her own interests) will hesitate upon any point of conscience as to where she will stand in a quarrel so nearly affecting her prosperity. In the present state of the tariff, her interests are almost entirely dissevered from the North. Northern ships and seamen are her only formidable commercial rivals on the face of the earth. The northern States are the only serious drawback to the rapid settlement and development of her powerful and loyal Canadian colonies. On the other hand, the South has no navy—no seamen—no manufactures—nothing, in fact, which competes with British labor. So far, then, she is dependent upon Great Britain, and this dependence is strengthened and reciprocated by the cotton crop of the South, which alone is necessary to the prosperity and tranquil[l]ity of the British people. If this is true, (and who can doubt it?) will it not be folly to trust to the anti-slavery sympathies of the English people in the present contest? It is well enough for political effect to say that the sympathies of the world are against slavery, and will hedge it in and conquer it in any struggle for expansion or supremacy; but we have yet to learn that the paramount sympathies of great civilized nations do not center in themselves, and that in all the strifes of modern Europe an intense selfishness has not been the single motive of national action.

We have, then, the great rebellion at home, which must be crushed, and we believe will be crushed as certainly as that it exists. We soon may have a contest with the strongest power of the earth, which, if forced upon us, we must meet with all the vigor possible to nations and to men. We trust that the last may not be added to our national difficulties. We would avoid it with honor, if it can be avoided. We must meet it with resolute spirit, if we are compelled to meet it at all. There must be no seeking it—no shrinking from it. It must come as a necessity when it does come. But our internal difficulties must not abate the high standard of American patriotism, bravery and honor. Our advice, then, to the northern border States of the Union is to prepare. Avoid the contest if possible, but be ready, lest we cannot avoid it.