« PreviousContinue »
may be buried beside the bones of the Mammoth and the Mastodon, as relics of a primeval age, which will never return to the sons of men. Strange as it may appear to any one who is either versed in the annals of nations, or has read the book from which they are all taken, the human heart, these ideas are not only common, but, with few exceptions, universal, in our manufacturing towns. Mr Cobden never expressed an opinion which met with a more cordial response in the breasts of a great majority of his auditors in Free-Trade Hall, Manchester, than when he said, two years ago, that all danger of war had now passed away; that nothing could now withstand commercial interests and the influence of capital; and that our real wisdom would be to sell our ships of the line, disband our troops, dispose of all the stores in our arsenals, and trust entirely to the Peace Congress for the decision of the disputes of nations.
If other governments and people could be brought to take the same view of this subject, the doctrines of the Manchester School of politicians would perhaps be well founded, and the world in general, discarding all idea of wars or rumours of wars, might rest in tranquillity, in the well-founded expectation of perpetual and universal peace. But if other nations are not animated with the same ideas-nay, if their warlike propensities are every day increasing in ardour, while ours are declining, our situation, it must be evident to every considerate observer, is daily becoming more alarming. Our wealth, upon which we so much pride ourselves, and to the increase of which we are willing to sacrifice everything, I would then become the main source of our weakness-our fame, which alone has hitherto protected us, the greatest increase to our danger. The first would excite cupidity, from the prospect of gratifying it without danger; the second inspire revenge, from the hope of achieving it without disgrace.
Now no man can look around him and not see, not only that the chances of war are great, but that they are imminent. The peacemakers have undone the work of their own hands:
the ascendancy, even for a brief season, of their political friends, has closed for a century to come the practical application of their principles. The Revolution succeeded in Parisit succeeded in Berlin-it succeeded in Vienna; and what has been the result? Just what, under similar circumstances, might be expected in London, Manchester, or Glasgow. The Revolutionists, among all their professions of love for peace, proved the most warlike of mankind in their deeds; and armaments greater, and wars more bloody, and passions more violent, than had ever before arisen, followed immediately the triumph of the self-styled apostles of peace! And in what state is Europe, at this moment, four years after the first explosion of the revolutionary volcano by the overthrow of Louis Philippe? Fifteen hundred thousand armed men are arrayed round the standards of the European sovereigns; the efficient warlike force of the great military nations on the Continent has been doubled; and the military spirit developed in them all to an extent never witnessed since the fall of Napoleon. Such has been the result of the political measures of the peace
If these vast warlike armaments were confined to Continental operations, and destined only for mutual slaughter by the Continental nations, they might be, comparatively speaking, an object of indifference to the British public; and valuable only to the historian, or the distant observer of events, as an example of the inevitable tendency of democratic revolutions to awaken the warlike passions, and postpone, if not prevent, the reign of peace upon the earth. But, unfortunately, this is very far from being the case; and if there is any one thing more certain than another, it is that we ourselves are the principal object of all these armaments, and that we are more immediately threatened with attack than any state on the Continent. The reason is, that we are at once the richest, the most inviting, and the most unprepared. Our immense riches, in great part centred in London in a form susceptible of immediate seizure, both invite attack and hold out the prospect of impunity to
the spoiler. There is no other capital which presents anything like the prizes which London would afford to a conquering enemy, or could with so much ease be reached by his armies. Vienna and Berlin, comparatively poor and worthless as the objects of plunder, can only be reached after long and fatiguing marches, and when the forces of a confederation, which can array 500,000 admirably disciplined troops around its standard, have been subdued. But London can be reached in three days from the coast of Sussex: it could only be defended at present by a force so inadequate to the task of protecting it, that future ages will be lost in astonishment at the infatuation of a nation which, with such resources at its command, has left its metropolis in so defenceless a state; and the battle of Hastings has taught us that a great disaster on the coast, even when the nation was far better prepared than it is now, comparatively speaking, to repel aggression, speedily renders further resistance in the interior hopeless. There is no other nation but this which, within a day's sail and three days' march, presents to the enemy a Bank with twenty millions of sovereigns in its coffers, a metropolis from which double that sum might be levied by military contributions; an undefended arsenal, containing artillery and the muniments of war for 200,000 men, and a military force at the very utmost of 12,000 disposable effective men to defend the whole!
Add to this that England is the Country against which the military jealousy of France from the very earliest period has been most strongly directed, and on the head of which disasters the most serious, and disgraces the most galling, have to be visited by our warlike, gallant, and thoroughly prepared neighbours, the moment the hour for retribution is thought to have arrived. If the French, or rather the Normans, can point with just pride to the battle of Hastings as a proof of the comparative ease with which England, when taken unawares, and slumbering in fancied security, can be conquered by a single victory, a series of subsequent triumphs, gained by the
conquered nation over its conquerors, when the national strength was once fairly roused, tells them in a voice equally loud and distinct the risk they run, if advantage is not taken of the defenceless state of a particular moment to complete our ruin. The series of defeats subsequent to the one and only triumph of Hastings, inflicted by the English on the French through four centuries, is unparalleled in military annals; it even exceeds those gained by the French over the Austrians. Michelet, in his History of France, confesses with a sigh that all the great days of disaster and mourning to France subsequent to the battle of Hastings, even on land, have come from the arms of England; and the fact that it is so, is so notorious that it is known to every tyro in history. Tenchebray, Cressy, Poitiers, Azincour, Verneuil, Minden, Gibraltar, Egypt, Talavera, Salamanca, Vittoria, Orthes, the Pyrenees, Toulouse, Waterloo, constitute a series of land triumphs, which the French, a military nation, and passionately fond of military glory, can neither forget nor forgive. A French king has rode captive through London; a French emperor been buried a state captive in the English dominions. Twice has Paris been taken by the armies of England; the English horse in one age have marched from Calais to Bayonne, in another from Bayonne to Calais. Can these things ever be forgiven? When the lover shall forget his adored, the mother her child, France may forget them-but not till then.
The conduct of Prince Louis Napoleon, since he obtained the command in Paris, is sufficient to convince us that he is perfectly alive to these views, and only prevented by prudential considerations from giving effect to them at this time. Against whom was the great naval display and grand review at Cherbourg, two years ago, directed? Were the stately threedeckers, the huge war-steamers with their sides bristling with batteries, intended as a demonstration against Belgium or Prussia? What was the object of the frequent great reviews, and late grand demonstration of military strength at Paris on the 18th of May? Was it against the distant
capitals of Vienna or St Petersburg, or the near capital of London, that the 80,000 men then assembled on the Champ de Mars were directed? Which would they rather march against? St Petersburg or Moscow with their millions of paper roubles, defended each million by a hundred thousand men? or London with its twenty millions of gold sovereigns, defended each million by one thousand? We acquit Louis Napoleon of every wish, so far as he is a free agent, to engage in hostilities with this country. He is too well aware of the spirit which would be roused in England, if the national apathy was dispelled by the thunder-clap of London being taken. But is he a free agent? Is he not the head of a great military republic, placed there, like his predecessor Clovis, by the acclamations of the soldiery, and, like him, constrained to yield to whatever the voice of the soldiers in a decided manner demands of him? And what object could ever be so popular with the French army as that which promised such plunder, such glory, the wiping out of such disgrace, at so little serious risk to themselves, as a war with England in its present undefended state?
There is an additional reason why, when the military spirit of France is so high, and its armed forces so great, a war with this country, whatever dynasty gets possession of the throne, may be reckoned on at no distant period as a matter of almost certainty, and that is this-not only a throne, and that the greatest in the world, on this side of the water, but one on the other side, will be the prize of success in it. There are now three families bidding for the suffrages of the French nation; and whichever takes London is certain of the support of Paris. If either Louis Napoleon, Henry V., or the Duke of Orleans, wrest the crown from the brow of Queen Victoria, he is perfectly certain to fix that of Clovis on his own. The French will forgive everything to the family which shall wipe out the disgrace of Waterloo, and retaliate upon their conquerors the contributions of 1815. The throne of Louis XIV. is the prize of the contest: Changarnier, Lamoricière, Cavaignac, would be
equally secure of it, if their reign were inaugurated by a similar triumph. Louis Napoleon has by seven millions of Frenchmen been invested with supreme power, because he inherits the glories of his uncle and represents his principles; but what glory on his part would be so great as that of destroying the empire which destroyed his great predecessor? and what principle was so strongly impressed on that predecessor's vast mind as the necessity of subduing the country which alone stood between him and universal dominion? Prince Louis Napoleon, like his uncle, is very superstitious, and always carries an amulet taken from the tomb of Charlemagne on his person. He is known to have said in this country, long before he left it to accept the presidency of the French Republic: "It may appear presumptuous in me to wear that amulet, but I have an inborn conviction in my mind that I am one day to be the ruler of France. When I am so, I shall first extinguish the license of the press in Paris, and then attack England. I shall do so with regret, for I have been kindly received there, and it contains many of my best friends; but I must fulfil my mission, and carry out that which I know my uncle had most at heart-I owe that to his memory." In pursuance of these views, he has just decreed 80,000 men to his regular army; and while, in the English Parliament, the greatest possible resistance is made by a factious Opposition to an addition of 80,000 Militia to a regular army in the British islands of 60,000 men, France has no difficulty in adding 80,000 regular soldiers to its regular force of 400,000.
Great as is the regular army at the disposal of the nominal French President and real French Emperor, it is rendered still more formidable by another circumstance which is little known, and still less attended to, in the British islands. This is the fact, that by the constitution of the French army, as with the Prussian, a considerable part of the troops are annually discharged from the ranks, and their place supplied by conscripts, in like manner entitled to their discharge at the end of a stated period. In this way 70,000 men perfectly drilled and
disciplined are every year discharged from the ranks of the regular army; but as they retain their military habit and experience, they are capable of being by beat of drum recalled to its standards. In this way the French regular army of 500,000 is capable of being any day increased to a million of men, independent altogether of nearly an equal number of national guards, to whom a great part of the home and garrison service might on a crisis be safely intrusted. Can any one doubt, that if the "Army of England" were, after the expiration of half a century, re-established on the heights of Boulogne, it would quickly attract multitudes of this armed nation to the brilliant project, and that the prospect of "beauty and booty" would be as powerful in attracting armed and disciplined adventurers to the standard of Napoleon, as a similar project was in concentrating the military army of France, eight hundred years ago, around the ensign of Norman William? And it is in presence of SUCH A POWER, possessing such resources, and actuated by such passions, that the Manchester School still go on dreaming about a Peace Congress, which all mankind ridicule except themselves, and the most violent resistance is made to the ministerial plan of raising 80,000 militia to aid the scanty array of 50,000 effective men, who alone are on foot, to aid in the defence of the entire British islands, with the metropolis, seaports, and arsenals, by an Opposition in Parliament, whose conduct is an object of mourning to every man in existence except our enemies.
The great objection always made to any increase, however small, to our National Defences, is that it adds to the expense of the army, and that the nation is not in a condition to bear it. Take it in that view; consider it as a matter of mere pounds, shillings, and pence. The additional outlay required is £400,000 a-yearcall it half a million, or a whole million; the strength of this argument will, as Malthus said of the arithmetical and geometrical progression, admit of any concession. What do the Manchester School suppose the French would do, if they took London or Manchester? Just what they did in 1806,
when they captured Berlin; what we did in 1815 when we took Paris. In the first case, they levied a contribution of £24,000,000 on Prussia, a sum at least equal to £150,000,000 sterling on England with its wealth and population; in the second case, we ourselves levied a contribution of £60,000,000 on France, equivalent to at least £100,000,000 on Great Britain. Would the French not instantly retaliate upon us the exactions we made from them in the days of their mourning? Rely upon it they would: their ambition, their revenge, their love of glory, would be alike gratified by it. We attach no blame whatever to them for so doing; we ourselves, and all mankind in similar circumstances, would do the same. The persons we do blame are our own countrymen, who will not see the danger. They will perhaps see it when the Lord Mayor and Aldermen of London are sent for, and told they must produce £20,000,000 in three days, in gold and silver, or the metropolis will be given up to pillage; or when the magistrates of Manchester and Glasgow are dismissed by a French general at the head of 20,000 men, with the information that £2,000,000 in hard cash must be produced next morning, to save those cities from a similar devastation.
The gentlemen of the Manchester School are great advocates for direct taxation, but such enemies to Protection that some of them have not scrupled to declare, and they did so in large meetings without interruption, that they would rather see the country conquered than a Protection ministry for six weeks in power. Well, take them in their own view of the case. Let us put national independence, honour, and security, entirely out of view, to be considered as antiquated prejudices, never to be resuscitated so long as the sun shines upon the earth. By all means consider the matter, in a pecuniary point of view, as an affair of pounds, shillings, and pence only. Suppose the preliminary war-contribution of £100,000,000 levied in a single year on Great Britain, (for even the French could extract little from Ireland,) and got over-What would follow this foretaste of the
sweets of conquest? Would they treat us better than they do themselves? Unquestionably they would not. The very best we could hope would be, that they would put us on their own level, and treat us in every respect the same. Now, the French all pay an impôt foncière, or land-tax, which, as rated according to the cadastre or valuation, amounts to fully a property tax of fifteen, sometimes twenty, per cent; and the personal contribution, or income-tax on trades and professions, is five per cent. These charming burdens would at the very outset, and to a moral certainty, be instantly laid upon us. But perhaps the Manchester school would be consoled for their weight by seeing that odious thing Protection entirely abolished? Undoubtedly they would do so: it would be buried in this country alone, and kept up in all others. ALL PROTEC
TIVE DUTIES WOULD BE ABOLISHED.
That of twelve or fifteen per cent, which, amidst all their declamations about universal Free Trade, the Manchester gentlemen have contrived to keep on the articles of their own manufacture, would be at once swept away. They would be too happy if they could retain an ad valorem duty of two and a half per cent, with which they make the mockery of protecting the farmer. French silks, gloves, cotton goods and cambrics, jewellery and cutlery, would be sent in upon us ad libitum, with no protective duty; while our exports to them would be saddled with a protective duty of at least thirty per cent. We think we see the faces of the Manchester gentlemen when, amidst this prostration of our own, and deluge of foreign industry, the tax-gatherer coolly calls for payment of the land-tax of fifteen, or the personal tax of five per cent.
What makes this insensibility to certain pecuniary danger (for, in arguing with these opponents, we lay all other considerations aside) the more extraordinary is, that it occurs at a time when, according to their account of the matter, the country is in a state of the most unbounded prosperity, and better able to bear additional taxation than in any former period of its history. Listen to the
Free-Traders when they are descanting on the state of the nation, the blessings of their system-not the expense requisite to insure their continuance. Never was anything so prosperous; never were the rich so affluent, the middle class so thriving, the working classes so contented, well fed, and happy. We are thriving on every side: the emigration of 300,000 every year is nothing but a happy exodus, alike beneficial to the country, the landlords, and the emigrants themselves. Be it so. We are all contented and happy. Agriculture is thriving, manufactures in full activity, commerce prosperous; it is hard to say whether the profits made on our import or export trade are most considerable-whether our merchants are the most rich, our farmers the most prosperous, or our labourers the best fed and contented. Such being our fortunate condition, and such the boundless riches at our command, where is the ground for all this cry about the necessity of economy in the national expenditure? During the war, when the nation was under the ruinous systems of Protection and a plentiful currency, a population of eighteen millions in the British islands, without difficulty, and without driving more than a few hundreds or thousands a-year into exile, had a million of men in arms, of whom nearly 300,000 were regular soldiers or regular militia; and the national expenditure rose to £72,000,000! How has it happened that then, when we were on all sides impoverished by bad government and a ruinous mercantile system, eighteen millions of British subjects raised such stupendous armaments, and provided, by taxation, for so immense an expenditure?—and now, when we have for twenty years been blessed with the good government of a reformed Parliament, and for six enriched by the true mercantile policy, a population of twentyeight millions should have the utmost difficulty in raising fifty millions annually by taxes, and the most violent resistance should be made to adding 80,000 militia to a regular army in the British islands of only 60,000 men, and adding only £400,000 to army estimates-the whole force on foot