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Doc. 84. National Enlistments in Canada.

Letter from Arthur Rankin.

Mr. Rankin was arrested for an alleged violation of the neutrality laws, and bound over to [188] take his trial at the assizes in Toronto; but he explained his position in the following letter addressed to the Toronto Leader, in which he makes a strong point in reference to the enlistment of Englishmen in foreign service, and the proper interpretation of the Queen's proclamation:

Toronto, October 5, 1861.
To the Editor of the Leader:
sir: No one could be more willing than I am to concede to the journalist the right to comment upon the current events of the day, or on the conduct of public men, in so far as that conduct has any bearing upon public interests; but there are limits within which even the members of the privileged “fourth estate” ought to confine themselves. That you have overstepped those limits I shall endeavor to show.

On the arrival of the Leader of the 3d inst. at Windsor, my attention was directed to its leading article. headed “Violation of the neutrality laws.” In that article you indulge in a strain far more likely to injure yourself in the estimation of any one whose good opinion is worth caring for, than to damage me, even if your statements were all true, instead of being, as most of them are, as false as they are malicious.

In the first place, sir, permit me to ask, What do you know about my private circumstances, or what right have you to make my private affairs the subject of public comment? You may have heard statements about me, which, if you had been fully and correctly informed, you would have discovered to be wholly inaccurate.

Again, you say — speaking of my connection with the Federal Government of the United States--“A large sum was placed to my credit, and that I received instructions to draw to an indefinite amount in furtherance of the scheme;” and to give additional force to these falsehoods, you add, “These are facts, which admit, we believe, of being clearly established, and to those who are familiar with the career and circumstances of Mr. Rankin, we need not point out the motives of his real,” &c., &c., &c. Now, sir, upon what ground have you permitted yourself to make these assertions? They are not only false, but ridiculous; and pray, what do you know of my motives? and from whom did you get your information? It will be evident to any one, upon a moment's reflection, that your representations are founded, at best, upon mere suspicion. Pray what are your motives? Are you quite disinterested in your advocacy of slavery and the interests of your friend and patron, “Jeff. Davis” ? Has your philanthropic and truly British mind become so enamored of the “peculiar institution,” for the suppression of which Great Britain has expended untold millions, that you are now prepared — as atonement for the errors of such men as Wilberforce and his colleagues in the cause of humanity — to turn knight-errant in the cause of “Southern chivalry” ?

Sir, I shall not take upon myself to say what your motives are, and certainly your very slight knowledge of me, and your utter ignorance of my character, do not warrant you in presuming. to make the comments you have indulged in.

Suffice it for me to observe, that, should I live to take an active part in the struggle now going on between the contending parties in the adjoining republic, my motives will be developed at the proper time. Meanwhile I shall not trouble myself by reply, or in any other way concern myself about any future work of fiction with which your inventive genius may prompt you hereafter to endeavor to deceive or amuse the public. It is now pretty well understood by men of the world, that the advocacy of the class of public writers to which you belong is a purchaseable commodity, which can generally be secured for a very moderate consideration. By and by, I trust, those capitalists who invest their means in printing establishments will discover the impolicy of employing persons of your stamp, and then we may look for some improvement in the tone of the Canadian press.

When English subjects took part, on either side, in the civil war in Portugal, it was considered no offence; and when, at a later period, the British Legion, under Sir De Lacy Evans, took part in a war of the same character in Spain, their conduct was not only regarded without disfavor, but absolutely applauded, and even to this day, not to mention the thousands of English subjects who flocked to the standard of Garibaldi, are there not numbers of Englishmen in the Austrian, the Prussian, and even in the Turkish service? Why, then, should it be treated as a crime for Canadians to enter the American service? Is the objection founded in reason, or upon prejudice? Is not the cause of the United States the cause of civilization and free government? Has any struggle so largely affecting the welfare of mankind in general taken place in any other country on the face of the earth within the present or any former age?

And as to the Queen's proclamation, I maintain that it distinctly recognizes the right of every subject to dispose of himself in any manner he may think proper. It simply intimates it to be the policy of Her Majesty's Government (as a government) to preserve a strict neutrality, and warns all subjects that if, in the exercise of their unquestioned rights as free men, they think proper to take part on either side, they must do so on their own individual responsibility; but it does not even hint that any imputation will be cast upon their characters, either as subjects or as members of society. You, sir, however, not content with slandering me, must carry your vulgar vindictiveness so far as to endeavor to cast a slur upon the character of those gentlemen from Toronto, in every way your superiors, who, animated by motives above your sordid comprehension, have recently enrolled themselves in the cause of freedom and enlightenment — the cause of the North against the South. Let me tell you, sir, notwithstanding [189] your puny efforts to the contrary, there will be no lack of Canadian gentlemen, not only willing, but eager, to avail themselves of the opportunity now presented to then of achieving an honorable distinction which cannot fail to secure them not only the applause of their countrymen, but the appreciation of their sovereign.

That there are some “Provincialists,” as you are pleased to call them, who will join with you in your absurd cry about the Queen's proclamation, I have no doubt; but no man of common sense, and common honesty, can construe that proclamation otherwise than I have done; and in conclusion I have only to add, that I have done nothing, and shall do nothing, inconsistent with my duty, or such as to subject me to the forfeiture of my rights either as a British subject or a member of the Canadian Parliament; and when Parliament assembles I shall be at my post, prepared to perform my duty both to my constituents and to the country at large, independently, and to the best of my ability.

And now, sir, should you think proper to honor me with any further notice, I trust you will confine your strictures to my conduct, without presuming to deal in insinuations as to my motives, of which you are in utter ignorance, and which, though they be condemned by you, are nevertheless such as every generous mind would approve. I am, sir, &c.

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