previous next

Prophecies and Probabilities.

American gentlemen in London have heretofore, when invited to give a taste of their quality at Guildhall and other civic banquets, been in the habit of uttering a speech after the following formula: “Dear old Mother England-language of Shakespeare and Milton-Magna Charta--America the child of Britannia — peace, good will, fraternization forever!” Then came cheers as hearty as Old Particular by the gallon could make them; and really, one would have thought that turtle and port-wine had usurped the place of the metaphorical milk and honey of the millennium. When our great Rebellion broke out American gentlemen, enthusiastic readers of Milton and Shakespeare, expected that, of course, England would sympathise with our Government, contending not only against treason, but against treason in behalf of human Slavery. They have been undeceived. They [252] have been taught that with England the measure of success is the measure of morality. Very early in the contest which is now so rapidly approaching a happy and honorable conclusion, all sensible men were forced to believe that we had nothing to hope for from English sympathy or forbearance, and that foreign criticism must be disarmed before it would become kindly. We accepted the condition which a frigid diplomatic policy imposed upon us; we have struggled alone through many reverses, and have proved the groundlessness of many apprehensions; and we have now in all sincerity to thank our British detractors for leaving us to rely, through all, upon our own energies and internal resources. We have contracted no entangling alliances in this struggle, and we shall emerge from it in debt only to ourselves. The moral effect of such a triumph is worth all the cost of the war. With victory everywhere illustrating our banners, we can afford good-naturedly to laugh at parliamentary alarmists and dogmatical newspapers. With all other experiences, we have found out the Jupiter Scapin — the Great Thunderer of the European journals; and hereafter, though he may beat his best gong never so sonorously, we shall only laugh, and say, “Well thundered! Very well thundered, indeed!” It is as fatal for a lion to go about in an ass's skin, as for John Donkey to put on the leonine hide; and a man who is in a passion every day of his life, rarely succeeds in affrighting anybody. The London newspapers told us that we could not put down the Rebellion; but that did not [253] deter us from going bravely to work. They now tell us that we have put down the Rebellion. Gentle reader, pray do n't let the admission disturb your equanimity, for a single Union reverse would set them all to croaking at us again. The praise and the blame are of equal value. There never were such fellows as these for foretelling what has already come to pass. Having pretty well put down the Rebellion, it is certainly kind in The Times to admit that we shall probably put it down. Great reputations for sagacity have been made before in the same easy way. But we trust that we shall not painfully dishearten holders of government securities when we tell then, that in the opinion of The Times, though we can crush the revolt, we cannot pay our debts; because we are heartily assured that when we have paid. them, the same far-sighted writers will invent a. brannew bugbear. At present, Bull will have it that although victorious we are insolvent. Really, we do not remember anything cooler than this. With an immense commerce, with an unequalled agricultural production, with small foreign liabilities, with a monopoly of two great staples, and the abundant production of a third, with a people eminently skilled, by the confession of their rivals, in the art of accumulating wealth, with a territory capable of limitless production, with great fisheries and great mines, our public paper, if we may believe The Times, represents nothing, and will soon be good for nothing. .Now, in private commercial circles, the man who studiously undermines his neighbor's credit, is usually [254] regarded as a scoundrel; but perhaps it is more honorable to gratify a jealous spleen by predicting the insolvency of a nation. For this, as for other amiable exhibitions of disinterestedness, we must be prepared. A debt created for the defence of the Constitution, in the opinion of every intelligent citizen, is a debt created for his own benefit, relief, and prosperity; and those who have freely offered their lives in that great behalf, will hardly turn conspirators and traitors to avoid taxation. Out of the same reverence for law, which they have already so abundantly manifested, they will fulfill the pecuniary obligations which the law imposes. What right has the slip-shod speculator, to whom we have been referring, to take it for granted that the same great West, which has so generously and assiduously engaged in the suppression of one variety of treason, will itself petulantly engage in another? Is it manly, is it gentlemanly, is it even old-womanly-this persistence in the sheerest gossip of detraction?--this depreciation against which, if it were but as effective as it is malicious, the credit of no nation could stand for a year And is it for England to assert and maintain the novel doctrine that a great national debt is tantamount to a great national bankruptcy?--for England, with a debt of her own so enormously large that no man has ever proposed any scheme for paying it without being pronounced mad? It is hardly in such a quarter that we shall seek either for advice or example.

The American people, as fully alive to the evils of [255] taxation as they are aware of its necessity, will hardly hug their debt as a blessing, to be sacredly preserved for generation after generation. Once, already, they have blotted out the last trace of public indebtedness with an impatience which nothing but solvency could satisfy; and they have a right to be judged, not by the speculations of an ignorant casuist, but by their own record as it is made up in history. It is hard to write upon this topic without seeming to boast; but, certainly, if a nation is to be thus gratuitously discredited, it has a right to plead previous good character.

There has been more noise made abroad about American Repudiation than the facts, disgraceful as they were, warranted; but the credit of the United States of America has always been as good, is as good to-day, and will be in the future as good as the credit of England; and we think that this is stating the case very mildly — while it is at this moment better than the credit of more than one European power, the downfall of which nobody anticipates. Until, therefore, we commit an act of insolvency, we beg foreign writers, to whom we owe nothing, to possess their souls in peace. We are not utterly deficient in prudence and economy, of the necessity of which we are every day reminded; and he who writes us down fools, before we have proved our incompetency, is himself included in his own accusation. There is an abiding compensation in all our troubles. Through successes and reverses, through doubts and distractions, not less than through encouraging good fortunes, [256] we are making for ourselves an antiquity and a history — we are consolidating a nationality — we are storing up precious traditions — we are, in the midst of war, becoming worthy of the blessings of peace. Those who believe that there is nothing for us but a ruinous and irremediable dissolution, must be shamefully ignorant, or contemptibly besotted by spleen and prejudice. No nation could be more grateful than ours, not for foreign arms taken up in our behalf, but for foreign sympathy; yet if it cannot be ours, without a sacrifice of principle or honor, certainly there is no nation that can better afford to do without it.

June 11, 1862.

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)
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.
Shakespeare (2)
West (1)
John Bull (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.
June 11th, 1862 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: