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1 It has amazed those who were familiar with Lord John Russell's public history that he should have trifled so heartlessly with the great issues of civilization and free government at stake in this Rebellion. This shuffling cost him the confidence of the great middle class in England and the respect of the world. If the following letter addressed to him may seem to be unlike letters usually written to titled men, I consider it quite respectful enough to the man who struck hands with pirates and became pimp to the propagandists of negro slavery. Although written more than eleven years ago, I see no occasion for retracting a syllable or cancelling a word.my Lord:—We have a habit you are not much accustomed to,—of straight talk and honest dealing: so you need not be amazed if we speak very plainly in this despatch. You have all your life been a place-seeker or a place-holder. To get power and money, you have always turned your back on your friends, and let your Reform measures go to the dogs. Whenever you have been an ‘out,’ and any American question came up, you were a warm advocate of our Republic. When you were an ‘in,’ you changed your tone. When Liberty was at stake in a foreign nation, or at home, you have been its noisiest champion,—if an ‘out.’ If an ‘in,’ you have done your best to crush it, in Ireland, Hungary, Italy, Spain, and Poland. It was with a pang that you saw even old Greece become free. For half a century, if an ‘out,’ you have brawled for Freedom and Free Governments; if an ‘in,’ you have resorted to the very last trick to keep there. You have, if an ‘out,’ always paraded your friendship for the United States, and virulently assailed any Tory or Conservative ministry. ‘In’ again, you first veered, then hesitated, then tacked, and then attacked us, our Government, and all American things. You know our Republic has never had any fair play from any ministry except the Tories or Conservatives. All Americans involuntarily say of British politicians of your stripe, ‘Save us from our friends, and we will take care of our enemies.’ But you have reserved the meanest and most bare-faced tergiversation of your public life till you were pressing the verge of your mortal existence. After pointing a thousand times with exultation to our great and prosperous nation, and deploring the two wars waged against us, you are now gloating over the prospect (as you deem it) of our speedy disruption and downfall. After hobnobbing with every abolitionist and feting every run-away American negro who managed to reach England, and imploring Britons no longer to use slavegrown cotton and sugar, you now take sides with the ‘nigger-driving’ secessionists of the rebel States, who are trying to break down freedom in America, and extend the area of that accursed institution, and sanctify the revival of the African slavetrade. You are threatening war against the United States unless we will surrender two intercepted traitors on their way to your abolition arms and sympathies, the chiefest emissaries which the slavery you have always pretended to hate, could send to your shores. O John Russell! how unworthy is all this of the descendant of your great ancestor, who sealed with his blood on the scaffold his life-long devotion to the cause of justice and human freedom! Why must you, just as you are ending your career, rob your proud name of that ancient halo which has gathered around it, by expending your last efforts in trying to blot out Free Government, for which the founder of your race so nobly died, and perpetuating on our virgin soil African slavery, which the world is clamoring to see blotted out? My lord, do you plead that the necessity of slave-grown cotton calls for so dastardly a betrayal by yourself of all the souvenirs of your life? And will you, to accomplish this purpose, trample on all the canons of international law, and become public robber and go and steal this cotton? If you attempt it, will you succeed? How much cotton would you get before your ministry went down?—Before you lost a market for your commerce with twenty-three million freemen?—Before our breadstuffs, which are now keeping the wolf away from British doors, would reach your shores?—Before bread-riots would occur throughout the British Islands which would make you turn pale?—Before all seas would swarm with our privateers,—now twenty-fold more numerous than in 1812, when you found them too fleet and too strong for you?—Before you encountered, in addition to two millions of our native soldiers and sailors, half a million of adopted citizens,—able-bodied men, formerly British subjects, and burning to avenge the wrongs of centuries inflicted on their devoted Island? My lord, do you plead that the exigencies of statesmanship demand that you should turn the arms of the earth against you? Do you suppose that Napoleon would lose such a chance for avenging Waterloo? Or Russia for taking Constantinople? Or all despotisms for crushing your supremacy? Or all the peoples of Europe for crushing monarchy? It would seem that England should be willing, at least, to let us manage our domestic affairs, since she has incurred a quarter of her national debt in interfering with them;—that she should not now take to her arms ‘the foul corpse of African slavery on our soil,’ when it cost her five hundred million dollars to get rid of it in her own territories! Should not the Founder of Modern Liberty be glad to see how prosperously the brood of her young eagles had founded an empire-home in the New World's forests, and not writhe, and chafe, and bark at and hawk at our nest, till she could come here and tear it to pieces? The time had gone by, we hoped, when England, our own mother, would try to become our step-mother! Why could she not have been proud in the pride of her daughter, and let her wear the jewels she had herself so nobly won? And yet malicious people say that England acts like some old dame, who, after parting with the title to a daughter's estate, feels that she has still some reserved right left to interfere in what no longer concerns her, and casts now and then an envious glance at beauty yet unshrivelled, and conquests forever beyond her reach. Can it be, my lord, that such unworthy feelings as these can now enter your heart as an English statesman? We cannot believe it. Can you desire to put one more great trouble on the heart of your beloved, widowed queen? We will not believe it. My lord, you should be engaged in doing some good to the people of your own empire, rather than in trying to hurt a great, a kindred, and a friendly nation. After attempting so long to be a statesman, do not finish by being only a ministerial bully. I am, my lord, your obedient servant, C. Edwards Lester.
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