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COBDEN AT HOME.
Cobden and Bright were forcible and their reasoning cogent, while it is to be noted that they were often far-reaching and embraced many other matters of advanced political significance which have since that date come to the front not only in theoretical but in practical politics. It need scarcely be said that Cobden had been an advocate of peace as a necessary means of retrenchment and material and social progress before the topic became concreted by the outbreak of the Crimean war. It was remarkable that that war, which he thought, and justly thought, should emphasize all these utterances, was the occasion of the whole nation becoming deaf to his representations, and even retorting upon him with suspicion and with indignant accusations.
Cobden at that time may be said to have retired to his new home at Dunford, near Midhurst, where he spent all his time (and he had little leisure) which was not occupied in parliament, in attending meetings, or in making journeys to advocate or explain those principles in which he was constantly interested. His business had not been successful and had therefore been closed, a considerable proportion of the sum of money subscribed for him as a national testimonial having been devoted to the payment of outstanding claims. The house which he had purchased with part of the remaining amount was no mansion nor was the domain extensive. On one occasion, when addressing a meeting at Aylesbury on the relations of landlord and tenant, he illustrated some remark by referring to his own small property. A man in the crowd interrupted him by shouting the inquiry how he had got his property. The answer was unhesitating and simple enough:-"I am indebted for it to the bounty of my countrymen. It was the scene of my birth and infancy; it was the property of my ancestors; and it is by the munificence of my countrymen that this small estate, which had been alienated from my father by necessity, has again come into my hands and enabled me to light up afresh the hearth of my father, where I spent my own childhood. I say that no warrior-duke who owns a vast domain by the vote of the imperial parliament holds his property by a more honourable title than I possess mine."
This was, of course, before the death of the Duke of Wellington; and though his reference to the enormous rewards conferred on the great soldier may at first seem somewhat harsh, it was not intended to have a special personal application. In 1852, after the funeral of Wellington, he wrote to Mr. Sturge:
"The death of the duke would, one thinks, tend to weaken the military party. But if the spirit survive it will find its champions. After all, if the country will do such work as Wellington was called on to perform, I don't know that it could find a more honest instrument. He hated jobs and spoke the truth (the very opposite of Marlborough), and although he grew rich in the service it was by the voluntary contributions of the parliament and government. If he had been told to help himself at the exchequer his modesty. and honesty would never have allowed him to take as much as was forced upon him. I who saw with what frenzy of admiration he was welcomed by all classes at the Exhibition can never honestly admit that, in what the legislature and government had done for him, they had exceeded the wishes of the nation."1
These few words are singularly suggestive, and naturally lead to a deeper consideration of Cobden's political views than would be occasioned by many a longer but more superficial extract from his speeches. He also seems to have mellowed, and his views to have become wider if not clearer, amidst the rural pleasures and repose which he was able to enjoy at Dunford, before he was for a time almost prostrated by a great domestic calamity-the sudden death of his eldest son, and the painful condition to which the shock of that bereavement reduced Mrs. Cobden. It is worth while to pause for a moment to read his own description of the place which he had made his home during the summer months, for it shows not only the gentle nature of the man, but how simply and yet
The reader who would learn more fully the character and opinions of the eminent free-trader and peace advocate will best find them displayed in Mr. John Morley's excellent work, The Life of Richard Cobden, where the biography of the man is furnished no less by selections from his speeches, letters, and conversation than by the careful comments which accompany them.
remain there a good while. So far, therefore, for the calculations of our forefathers, and for the results of that enormous expenditure which they have saddled upon us.
"We object to these great armaments as provoking a war spirit. I should like to ask what was the object of the Chobham Exhibition? There were special trains at the disposal of members of parliament, to go down to Chobham the one day, and to Spithead the other. What was the use of our pointing to the President of the French Republic two years ago, who is the emperor now, and saying that he was spending his time at playing at soldiers in his great camp at Satory, and in making great circuses for the amusement of his soldiers? We, too, are getting into the way of playing at soldiers, and camps, and fleets, and the object of this is to raise up in the spirit of the people a feeling antagonistic to peace, and to render the people the deluded, hard-working, toiling people satisfied with the extortion of £17,000,000 annually, when, upon the very principles of the men who take it, it might be demonstrated that one-half of the money would be amply sufficient for the purposes to which it is devoted. What observation has been more common during the discussion upon Turkey than this-Why are we to keep up these great fleets if we are not to use them? Why have we our Mediterranean fleet lying at Besika Bay, when it might be earning glory and adding to the warlike renown of the country?' This is just what comes from the maintenance of great fleets and armies. There grows up an esprit de corps-there grows a passion for these things, a powerful opinion in their favour, that smothers the immorality of the whole thing, and leads the people to tolerate, under those excited feelings, that which, under feelings of greater temperance and moderation, they would know was hostile to their country, as it is opposed to everything which we recognize as the spirit of the Christian religion.
"Then we are against intervention. Now this question of intervention is a most important one, for this reason, that it comes before us sometimes in a form so attractive that it
invites us to embrace it, and asks us by all our love of freedom, by all our respect for men struggling for their rights, to interfere in the affairs of some other country. And we find now in this country that a great number of those who are calling out loudest for interference are those who, being very liberal in their politics, are bitterly hostile to the despotism and exclusiveness of the Russian government. But I should like to ask this meeting what sort of intervention we are to have? There are three kinds-one for despotism, one for liberty; and you may have an intervention like that now proposed, from a vague sense of danger which cannot be accurately described.
"What have our interventions been up to this time? It is not long since we intervened in the case of Spain. The foreign enlistment laws were suspended; and English soldiers went to join the Spanish legion, and the government of Spain was fixed in the present queen of that country, and yet Spain has the most exclusive tariff against this country in the world, and a dead Englishman is there reckoned little better than a dead dog. Then take the case of Portugal. We interfered, and Admiral Napier was one of those employed in that interference to place the Queen of Portugal on the throne; and yet she has violated every clause of the charter which she had sworn to the people; and in 1849, under the government of Lord John Russell, and with Lord Palmerston in the foreign office, our fleet entered the Tagus and destroyed the Liberal party by allowing the queen to escape from their hands, when they would have driven her to give additional guarantees for liberty; and from that time to this she has still continued to violate every clause of the charter of the country. Now let us come to Syria; what, as Admiral Napier said, about the Syrian war? He told us that the English fleet was scattered all about the Mediterranean, and that if the French fleet had come to Cherbourg and had taken on board 50,000 men and landed them on our coasts, all sorts of things would have befallen us. But how happened it that Admiral Napier and his friends got up the quarrel with the French? Because we
MR. BRIGHT'S MANIFESTO.
interfered in the Syrian question when we had no business to interfere whatever. The Egyptian pasha, the vassal of the sultan, became more powerful than the sultan, and threatened to depose him and place himself as monarch upon the throne of Constantinople; and but for England he would assuredly have done it. Why did we interfere? What advantage was it to us to have a feeble monarch in Constantinople, when you might have an energetic and powerful one in Mehemet Ali? We interfered, however, and quarrelled with France, although she neither declared war nor landed men upon our coast. France is not a country of savages and banditti. The admiral's whole theory goes upon this, that there is a total want of public morality in France, and that something which no nation in Europe would dare to do or think of doing, which even Russia would scorn to do, would be done without any warning by the polished, civilized and intelligent nation across the Channel."
In reading this speech delivered six months before the Napier banquet, who can avoid the suspicion that Lord Palmerston had it in his memory when he eulogized the admiral, and that his resentment of Mr. Bright's remonstrances was sharpened by the recollection.
"But," Mr. Bright asked in continuation, "if they are the friends of freedom who think we ought to go to war with Russia because Russia is a despotic country, what do you say to the interference with the Roman Republic three or four years ago? What do you say to Lord John Russell's government, Lord Palmerston with his own hand writing the despatch, declaring that the government of her majesty the Queen of England entirely concurred with the government of the French Republic in believing that it was desirable and necessary to re-establish the pope upon his throne? The French army, with the full concurrence of the English government, crossed over to Italy, invaded Rome, destroyed the republic, banished its leading men, and restored the pope; and on that throne he sits still, maintained only by the army of France.
"My honourable friend has referred to the time when Russia crossed through the very principalities we hear so much about, and
entered Hungary. I myself heard Lord Palmerston in the House of Commons go out of his way needlessly, but intentionally, to express a sort of approbation of the intervention of Russia in the case of Hungary. I heard him say in a most unnecessary parenthesis, that it was not contrary to international law or to the law of Europe for Russia to send an army into Hungary to assist Austria in putting down the Hungarian insurrection. I should like to know whether Hungary had not constitutional rights as sacred as ever any country had-as sacred, surely, as the sovereign of Turkey can have upon his throne. If it were not contrary to international law and to the law of Europe for a Russian army to invade Hungary, to suppress there a struggle which called for, and obtained too, the sympathy of every man in favour of freedom in every part of the world,— I say, how can it be contrary to international law and the law of Europe for Russia to threaten the Sultan of Turkey, and to endeavour to annex Turkey to the Russian Empire?
"I want our policy to be consistent. Do not let us interfere now, or concur in or encourage the interference of anybody else, and then get up a hypocritical pretence on some other occasion that we are against interference. If you want war, let it be for something that has at least the features of grandeur and of nobility about it, but not for the miserable, decrepit, moribund government which is now enthroned, but which cannot last long, in the city of Constantinople.
"They tell us that if Russia gets to Constantinople Englishmen will not be able to get to India by the overland journey. Mehemet Ali, even when Admiral Napier was battering down his towns, did not interfere with the carriage of our mails through his territory. We bring our overland mails at present partly through Austria and partly through France, and the mails from Canada pass through the United States; and though I do not think there is the remotest possibility or probability of anything of the kind happening, yet I do not think that in the event of war with these countries we should have our mails stopped or our persons arrested in passing through these countries. At any rate it would be a much
It is not to be supposed that Cobden had any strong expectations that his proposals to open negotiations with other countries for the reduction of armaments would be accepted. He firmly believed that the principles on which he had always opposed war were true, and he doubtless hoped that they would one day receive full recognition. He had persisted in advocating free-trade, and the corn-laws had been repealed, while there was a continued tendency to abolish or to diminish taxes on articles of necessary consumption. The same result might ultimately be achieved with regard to the mitigation of one of the chief causes of the burdens on the people of England and of other countries, and it was his duty not to let the subject rest whenever he had an opportunity of reviving it. When everybody was talking about the "Palace of Peace," and the results that might be expected from the Great International Exhibition, he estimated such probabilities at a lower value than many of those who two years afterwards were among the foremost advocates of war. What he did was to propose that the foreign minister should take advantage of the favourable opportunity to open negotiations with France for reducing the armed forces, and so setting an example to Europe. It was admitted that it would be a glorious consummation of the great peace congress, and one devoutly to be wished. Lord Palmerston and the majority of the government and the houses of parliament were ready to endorse the sentiment warmly enough, but to carry it into practice was quite another matter. The maxim that the best security for peace was to be always prepared for war had been too long accepted to be easily relinquished, although as a matter of fact England was not prepared for the war with Russia, and had to adopt a foreign enlistment bill in order to meet the sudden call for men to go to the Crimea. Cobden's complete doctrine condemned the recent subscription to foreign loans for military purposes. He had in 1848 declared that if Lord Palmerston had firmly protested against the Russian invasion of Hungary the czar would never have given his aid to Austria, and he denounced with all his energy the Austrian and
Russian loans, amounting respectively to seven and five and a half millions of exported capital to be lost in foreign wars. Such a course he contended was contrary not only to the principles of political economy but to the claims of morality. What paradox could be more flagrant than for a citizen to lend money to be the means of military preparations on the part of a foreign power when he knew, or ought to have known, that these very preparations for which he was providing would in their turn impose upon himself and the other taxpayers of his own country the burden of counter-preparations to meet them? What man with the most rudimentary sense of public duty could pretend that it was no affair of his to what use his money was put, so long as his interest was high and his security adequate? Austria with Russia had been engaged in a cruel and remorseless war, and then came stretching forth her blood-stained hand to honest Dutchmen and Englishmen, asking them to furnish the price of that hateful devastation. Not only was such a system a waste of national wealth, an anticipation of income, a destruction of capital, the imposition of a heavy and profitless burden on future generations; but it was a direct connivance at acts and a policy which the very men who were thus asked to lend their money to support it, professed to dislike and condemn, and had good reason for disliking and condemning. The system of foreign loans for warlike purposes by which England, Holland, Germany, and France were invited to pay for the arms, clothing, and food of the belligerents was a system calculated to perpetuate the horrors of war. Those who lent money for such purposes were destitute of any of those excuses by which men justify a resort to the sword. They could not plead patriotism, self-defence, or even anger, or the lust of military glory. They sat down coolly to calculate the chances to themselves of profit or loss in a game in which the lives of human beings were at stake. They had not even the savage and brutal gratification which the old pagans had, after they had paid for a seat in the amphitheatre, of witnessing the bloody combats of gladiators in the circus.
"PATRICIAN BULLYING FROM THE TREASURY BENCH."
Derby's government. I regret the result of that motion, for it has cost the country a hundred millions of treasure, and between thirty and forty thousand good lives." This was a strong declaration, but it has since been endorsed by a large number of thoughtful men who never acknowledged that the results of the Crimean campaign were other than extravagantly purchased. Cobden, however, was not of course opposed to a protective force, or as he said in a letter to Colonel Fitzmayer, "to the maintenance of a disciplined force to serve as a nucleus in case of war, around which the people might rally to defend their country. But there is," he continued, "hardly a case to be imagined or assumed in which I would consent to send out a body of land forces to fight the battles of the Continent; and last of all would I agree to send such an expedition to the shores of Russia."
Such emphatic declarations were not likely | in 1855, "to the vote which changed Lord to be palatable to city capitalists, nor to those who could not or would not go deeply enough into the question to prevent their asking why, if money was a commodity, they might not trade with it without asking the purpose for which it was to be used, looking only to the mercantile value to be placed upon it. This question, it will be seen, did not really touch Cobden's position, since he could have replied by denying the moral right so to deal with any commodity whatever; but there was a far different question which men who agreed with many of his political and most of his moral principles had to ask, What were the circumstances which justified interposition in foreign affairs, and what were the grounds for refusing material aid in money or in arms for the support of a just cause? Both Cobden and Bright would have answered this question by referring to those wars in which we had interposed for the alleged purpose of preventing the tyranny of a stronger over a weaker power, and by showing that in such cases prompt and decided expression of opinion would have prevented hostilities which mostly arose from the neglect of such an arrangement of just interests as could be effected by wise and truly moral arbitration. It may perhaps be said that supposing the grounds of interference had been the
same, the difference between Cobden's and Palmerston's policy was that one would have been a serious and emphatic appeal to moral obligations, and the other a strong representation of the demands of international law with a threat of punishment for the breach of it. One represented the serious remonstrances of the onlooker ready to arbitrate; the other the sharp protest of the policeman with his hand on a truncheon.
Of course the inevitable inquiry was how would a ruler like the czar receive a moral remonstrance unaccompanied by the implied threat, that in case of refusal it might be followed by a resort to compulsion? Cobden himself gave some colour to this question by representing that had the proper steps been taken at first Russia would have receded, because she would not have dared to provoke hostilities. "I look back with regret," he said
Cobden, although he advocated peace, had a very shrewd notion of the way in which we might have commenced war. He was quite opposed to Palmerston's opinion that 60,000 French and English troops would, with the co-operation of the navy, take Sebastopol in six weeks, and he also stated, even if the fortress were to be taken and destroyed, it would neither give a disastrous blow to Russia nor prevent future attacks upon Turkey. He said truly enough that we knew nothing about the real strength or strategical importance of Sebastopol, and added that he thought he could have obtained full information on the subject at an earlier period of the war for the cost of a few thousand pounds. were to defend Turkey against Russia it should be by the use of the navy and not by sending a land force to the Crimea. It will be seen, therefore, that he was not only opposed to Lord Palmerston and those who supported his policy in believing that these hostilities might have been prevented, but in the opinion that they had been misconducted. This kind of opposition was irritating enough no doubt, and probably Palmerston felt it to be so. At any rate it seems to have given occasion for an exhibition of that "patrician bullying from the treasury bench" to which Disraeli