How has England
looked on this contest?
Strange enough has been the course she has taken.
She will hardly be able hereafter to explain it to others: it is doubtful if she can do it now even to herself.
lives in America
to-day, and is dying at home.
is clinging to her sepulchres,—and she may well do it; for the places where her great ones repose are the greenest spots on her island.
cheated ourselves most egregiously when we thought England
—once the head of the slavetrade, and only a few years ago the front of the abolitionism of the world—would turn her slavery-hating back on the only organized band of slavery propagandism on the earth!
Poor fools we!
Just as though the British aristocracy
—the true name for the British Government
—meant anything but interference and trouble for us when her Grace the Duchess
chaperoned the gifted Harriet Beecher Stowe
through the court of her Majesty, simply because Mrs. Stowe
, by writing a great dramatic novel against slavery, could be made a cat's-paw to pull the chestnuts of the British
aristocracy out of the fire!
Yes, abolitionism suited the purposes of the British
aristocracy just then;
and lords and ladies swarmed at negro-emancipation gatherings at Exeter Hall.
On all such occasions three standing jokes were played off, to the infinite amusement of dukes and duchesses,—duchesses more particularly.
First, there must
be a live American negro,--the blacker the better, sometimes; but they generally got one as little
black as possible, and an octoroon threw them into the highest state of subdued frenzy admissible in the upper classes.
The aforesaid negro must have escaped from the indescribable horrors and barbarities of slavery in the Southern States
,—gashed, manacled —if he showed the manacles, so much the better—a sample of American barbarism, and a burning shame on the otherwise fair cheek of the goddess of American liberty.
‘Oh, yes,’ said my lord Brougham; ‘nothing stands in your way now but negro slavery.
Abolish that, and every heart in England
is with you.’
Secondly, at these Exeter Hall meetings they must
have a live American abolitionist,—once a slaveholder who had emancipated his slaves.
Here they found their man in the noble Judge Birney
, as in the first
they found a splendid specimen of a runaway octoroon in Frederick Douglas
,--and who, bythe-by, made a better speech by far than any aristocrat in England
Thirdly, and last of all, some ecclesiastic gentleman bestowed upon the proceedings the benediction.
This would have been well enough,—certainly so far as the benediction was concerned,—had not future events proved beyond a doubt that, at the very moment these curious things were occurring, the whole prestige
of the British
empire was invoked to sanctify and adorn a spirit of hostility to the Government
of the United States
, and that the solemnities of our holy religion were also invoked in the same cause.
But to my unpractised eye it looked at the time very much as later events have shown it,—a thorough hatred of America
by the ruling classes of England
At one time Lord Brougham presided; again, O'Connell
; and again, the venerable Thomas Clarkson
: they even got his Royal Highness Prince Albert
to do it once, on a somewhat narrower scale,—where even tender young duchesses could attend with impunity—the American
negro always being present, like Tom Thumb in Barnum
's chief amusements—and, being fortified with a supply of highly-perfumed kerchiefs, the young duchesses managed generally to live it through and revive after reaching the open air!
These farces were played off all through the British Islands
; and the poor British people—who, from long habit, I suppose, go where ‘their betters’ go, when allowed to—joined in the movement, and ‘American
anti-slavery societies’ were everywhere established.
Even chambermaids and factory-girls contributed to raise a fund to send ‘English missionaries’ over here ‘to enlighten the North
about the duty of the South
to abolish slavery.’
Some of these scenes were sufficiently vulgar; but they were sometimes got up, in some respects, in fine taste.
One occasion I recall with the highest pleasure, which, although ostensibly an anti-slavery dinner, was limited chiefly in its company to the literary men of London
It was a noble enthusiasm among the people; but it was—anybody could see through it, for it was the veriest gauze—all an aristocratic sham.
It did not mean anything for human freedom.
It meant hostility to the United States
. It was got up by British politicians
. Sir Robert Peel
and the Duke
had no part or parcel in it, unless it were through sheer courtesy to the men of their class.