previous next

England's supposed decay.

The opinion seems to be very prevalent that England, having lost prestige in the Crimean war, and having been of late bullied and insulted by all the great Powers, under the feeble government of Palmerston, is, therefore, rapidly sinking from her rank as a first--class power. We do not think so. We do not love England, but we nevertheless believe her to be more powerful at this moment than she has ever been since the days of the Conqueror. She is, according to our judgment, only suffering one of those periodical eclipses, the consequence of a feeble Administration, to which she has been subject at intervals for the last two centuries and a half, and which, in times past, have led to precisely the same opinion among outsiders with regard to her decline that is now so generally entertained.

England had never been so powerful and so respected at home and abroad as she was during the reign of Elizabeth. A very few years of misgovernment, during the time of her successor, sufficed to reverse her position among the nations of christendom.--From the most formidable, she became the most contemptible power in Europe.--Every King in Europe dreaded Elizabeth; every King in Europe despised James.--Elizabeth had contended single handed with Spain, that power upon whose dominions the sun never set, and she had come off victorious. James had suffered his own son-in-law to be deprived of his dominions, and driven forth a wanderer upon the face of the earth, without daring to strike a blow in his defence, just as Victoria allows the father-in-law of her son and heir to be shorn of one-fourth of his inheritance by a single operation. England at the death of James had no weight in the councils of Europe, nor was its influence increased by his successor. Yet in a quarter of a century after James had been carried to his grave, and in a single year after his successor had been decapitated, under the vigorous administration of Cromwell, she became more powerful, more feared, and more respected, than she had ever been at any former period of her history.

The long misrule of Charles H. and his brother again caused England to lose all influence abroad. Perhaps her condition was never so pitiable as during the Dutch maritime wars, when the cannon of the enemy were heard at the palace of White Hall. But no sooner had James H. been expelled, and his place filled by William of Orange, a man of great enterprise and consummate vigor and conduct, than she instantly resumed her rank among the foremost States of the world. She relapsed again, about 1761-62, when the reins were taken from the bands of the elder Pitt and placed in those of Lord Bute. The change seems to have been more rapid than it had ever been. In 1760 she was triumphant over France in all parts of the world. In America she had conquered Canada, in the West Indies she had taken Havana, and in the East Indies Clive had presented her with an empire as populous as the half of Europe. In 1771 she was bullied by Spain about the Folkland Islands and dared not resent it. A succession of feeble Ministers had totally destroyed her prestige, and she seemed to have sunk to the condition of a second rate power. The writing's of Junius, and other authors, about that time, clearly demonstrate this fact. Then followed the war with these Colonies, foolishly begun, feebly prosecuted, and ending in utter discomfiture. In 1781, in his "Notes on Virginia, " Mr. Jefferson was so impressed with the rapid decay of Great Britain's strength that he even went so far — If we are not mistaken — as to predict her speedy downfall. Yet twelve years after she entered upon and prosecuted to the bitter end those tremendous wars of the French revolution, which form a series of the most appalling events known to history.

It is not wonderful that England should have made a poor figure in the Crimean war. A long peace, habits of money — making, and the belief carefully instilled into the minds of her people by her writers, that she had proved herself superior to all the rest of Europe, and had but to appear in order to insure success, had rendered her careless of the preparation necessary to success. She awoke from her dream of arrogant superiority to find her prestige gone for the time. But she redeemed herself by the prodigious energy with which she crushed the Sepoy rebellion. And now, under the feeble councils of Russell and Palmerston, she has sunk lower than she ever has been since the days of Charles H. Yet we venture to predict that she will yet show herself, as she has so often done, one of the most powerful nations of the world. We expect to derive no benefit from anything she may do. We think her policy detestable. But we entertain no doubts whatever with regard to her power.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Whitehall (Georgia, United States) (1)
West Indies (1)
Orange Court House (Virginia, United States) (1)
Havana (Illinois, United States) (1)
France (France) (1)
England (United Kingdom) (1)
East India (1)
Canada (Canada) (1)
hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Palmerston (2)
King (2)
James (2)
Victoria (1)
Russell (1)
Junius (1)
Jefferson (1)
Elizabeth (1)
Cromwell (1)
Clive (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
1781 AD (1)
1771 AD (1)
1762 AD (1)
1761 AD (1)
1760 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: