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Relations of the United States with England.Hon. Mr. Phelps, when the bill for the fortification of the frontiers was introduced, addressed the House in a speech which, if it was not calculated to flatter the prejudices of his hearers, ought certainly to have approved itself to their reason. He first argued against the propriety of substituting a race of extravagance for the present economical inaction. If America armed, England would arm. If the New York shore of the Lakes were to bristle with cannon, the Canadian shore would soon present a similar aspect. A Sebastopol at Buffalo would merely call up another Sebastopol on the opposite border; and, as the longest purse would win, it was probable that Great Britain might carry the day. But after this practical piece of reasoning, Mr. Phelps proceeded to touch on a far more comprehensive and controvertible topic. He not only deprecated the angry spirit and abusive language in which it was customary with Americans to speak of us and our institutions, but he went a step further, and declared, with a candor and boldness almost unexampled in such assemblies, that we did not deserve such treatment, inasmuch as in any international differences we for the most part had been clearly in the right and America in the wrong. He said that in the Trent affair we were proved to be in the right by the concurrent decisions of all European Governments, including those most cordially disposed toward America. Of our attitude during the civil war, he observed that it was certainly as friendly as that of France, to which no exception was taken, while of our general policy he spoke in terms of unreserved commendation. He remarked that in all recent treaties we had permitted America to gain the advantage that we had overlooked in the San Juan affair a piece of conduct on the part of the Americans which they, if the decision had been theirs, would probably have resented by instant war; that we had endured their protective and injurious traffic without retaliating; and that in all such matters we had shown a superior and enlightened liberality. For all these reasons, he thought it inexpedient to express any distrust of Great Britain, or to encourage any ideas of hostility or war by the erection of the defences proposed. It will be thought on this side of the Atlantic that the speech we have thus summarized was but a moderate and impartial exposition of the truth. Such, indeed, is the fact; but it is a very remarkable speech, never the lets. Three months ago it could, perhaps, hardly have been delivered or published with safety, and when we find that on the present occasion it was listened to, if not with assent, at any rate with patience and attention, we are justified in concluding that the tide of American opinion on this subject must be upon the turn. We are confident enough that as passion passes a way and reason prevails the Americans will see that they have no reason to complain of us. Some of the rancor generated by former conflict may still survive, and the vitality, indeed, of these mischievous sentiments ought to suggest to the Americans some misgivings as to the consequences of their own civil war. If they cannot yet forget 1776 and 1812, how long will North and South be in forgetting 1861 and 1862? But of anything like evil purpose to them at this crisis of their national destinies we are certainly innocent. The war was none of our making, nor connected in any way with our policy. We deplored its occurrence, and at first we blamed the seceders for the division they were creating. Then, when we saw more clearly into the case, and discerned that the Declaration of Independence was but the expression of a settled and not unnatural antagonism, we regarded the misch of as irremediable; but we steadily persisted, against our own apparent interests, in standing aloof from the strife. We could not beat nine millions of Americans as rebels and pirates; but we did not recognize them as an independent nation. The practical operation of our neutrality has, of the two, been rather favorable to the Federals than otherwise, and the disappointments of the South, in this respect, have certainly been more serious than those of the North. If we have concluded that the partition of the Union had better be accepted, it is because we cannot see our way to any better end. If the South resolutely persists in its assertion of independence, we do not see how the North can conquer it; nor, if the conquest could be effected, do we see how it could be maintained. It would be better for Americans if they could have maintained the Union; but as they could not do so, and as in falling to do so they have done no worse than other nations before them, we thought it better that they should part with as little harm as possible. The actual course of the war, up to this time, has proved the correctness of our views, and we have little expectation of any decisive evidence to the contrary in the events to come. Our claims, however, at the hands of the Americans are wholly independent of these results, whatever they may be. We claim to have abstained with the most scrupulous care from any cause of offence, to have formed our opinions without prejudice, and to have shaped our policy without the least ill-will. When the Americans can review the case with calm consideration, we are certain that a vast majority of the nation will embrace those opinions of which Mr. Phelpits speech seemed the precursor.
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