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This English crusade against the United States was got up by the British aristocracy in sheer animosity against our Government,—not so much, perhaps, against our people, chiefly because they cared nothing about them. It was our system of government they hated, because it was a standing, growing, and luminous reproof of the blighting and degrading system of England, [412] which starves the masses of her people in order that the privileged few may die of surfeit.

Blackwood's Magazine,’ an authority not likely to be charged with hostility towards the British oligarchy, nor with favoritism towards our republic, said in speaking on this same subject in the same year—1840—

‘It were well if some ingenious optician could invent an instrument which would remedy the defects of that long-sighted benevolence which sweeps the field for distant objects of compassion, while it is blind as a bat to the misery around its own doors.’

Well said! I saw and felt it all when I went through the streets and lanes and cellars of Manchester, where fifty thousand blanched skeleton men, women, and children were, slowly or rapidly, dying of starvation. In that city, also, vast anti-slavery meetings were got up to induce the North to put down slavery in the South. These assemblages were invariably under the auspices of the aristocracy, and they were held where the police were stationed at the doorways to drive off the famishing, lest their plaint of hunger might salute the ears of their bloated task-masters.

There was no lack of cotton in Manchester then. There was something worse than that. It was the same old complaint you will find in any part of England,—the poor over-worked and under-fed to make the rich richer and the poor poorer.

I went up to Paisley, where more than half the population were being fed from soup-kettles,—and pretty poor soup at that. There, too, the abolition of American slavery seemed to be the only thing which drew forth the sympathies or reached the charity of the aristocratic classes. [413]

So everywhere in England it was, ‘that long-sighted benevolence, sweeping the distant horizon for objects of compassion, but blind as a bat to the misery at the door.’

It was not so in 1840 alone. I have been in England several times since, but I never saw a good year for the poor of that oppressive empire.

To show that this was all the poorest of shams, and that England owed us no good-will, let us step from 1840 to 863.

We saw all things the same in England, except in the ‘negro business.’ Here all was changed. British sympathy was shifted from the slave and lavished on his master,—from ‘moral pocket-handkerchiefs and religious fine tooth-combs’ to the overseer's lash and the unleashed bloodhound,—from the maintenance of free institutions to their overthrow,—from civilization to barbarism,–from liberty to bondage.

In 1840, Mr. Stephenson, our Virginia slave-breeding Ambassador near the Court of St. James, became so odious that no chance to snub or insult him was lost by the British Government.

Mr. Adams, holding that same post, and embellishing it with all the great and noble qualities of illuminated talents and Christian philanthropy, was treated with far more neglect and far less cordiality by the same class which pretended to despise Stephenson and feted Harriet Beecher Stowe.

Then England complained of our remissness or shirking in not doing our share towards putting down the slave-trade. Now all her sympathies were with the supporters of slavery itself, which was the only support of slavery on the earth; and her ship-yards and arsenals [414] were taxed to their utmost to build fleets of the strongest and swiftest steam pirates, to help the slave-driving Confederacy in sweeping our peaceful commerce from the sea, once more to inaugurate the traffic in flesh and blood.

The British Government knew, when the Alabama's keel was laid, that she was to become a pirate; and our minister protested against it in vain. Three hundred of the rich merchants of England, in broad daylight, boasted of their purpose, and exulted over its successful execution.

The British Government gave the earliest and heartiest encouragement to the rebellion, by recognizing it as a belligerent power the moment its task-masters reached London. It allowed all the materials and munitions of war the rebels called for to be furnished, and, from the first hour, gave to the Rebellion all the aid and comfort it dared to furnish our enemies, in their atrocious attempt to immolate liberty, and enthrone slavery in the Western world!1 [415]

No jurist will pretend to say that in all this she did not violate the spirit, if not the letter, of her own laws of neutrality, and the laws of nations. No intelligent man will deny that by these acts she prolonged and inflamed that accursed war. No man in his senses supposes for a moment that England would have ventured [416] on such a course of hostility and inhumanity at any other period of our history since the Peace of 1815.

No other thoughts can suggest themselves to impartial men that, while we were going through a domestic trouble,—a great trouble, which filled every true heart in America or elsewhere with a sadness which dragged us ‘down to the depths of the earth.’

Little did England then dream, that within eight short [417] years—and chiefly through the influence of Charles Sumner—she would be forced to yield to arbitration, and branded by an impartial Tribunal as a public enemy of the United States, and condemned to pay exemplary damages for her crime.

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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