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not to fit out naval armaments upon the Canadian lakes. There were also some indications that America desired to terminate the Treaty of Commerce between the States and the provinces of British North America. The Fenian rising at this time added another disquieting element in the situation, and one which it was believed would result in great embarrassment in case of a rupture between England and the United States. Something of a panic ensued in the public mind in England, and the defences of Canada became one of the leading topics of the session. Mr. Bright endeavoured to calm the feelings of the people on this question, and when the danger blew over it was seen that his advice from the first had been right and wise.
The English Government, while themselves deprecating alarm, nevertheless directed a report to be prepared by an engineer officer, Colonel Jervois, upon the existing state of the province as to the means of defence against invasion, and as to the measures and expenditure required to place the frontier in a complete state of security. On the assembling of Parliament, attention was called to the matter; but Lord Palmerston entreated the House of Commons to abstain from discussion of these topics at the present moment, and not gratuitously to assume that the people of the United States were hostilely disposed towards this country.
Further debates, however, took place in both Houses; and on the 13th of March Mr. Seymour Fitzgerald formally introduced the whole subject in the Commons. In the course of the debate Mr. Cardwell said our relations with the United States were perfectly friendly; but if the time ever came that Canada was at war, war with Canada would be war with England. Mr. Disraeli did not see that there was any immediate danger of our being placed in collision with the Americans owing to our connexion with Canada. Lord Palmerston said he trusted that the two countries and Governments would both feel it to be their interest by every honourable means to preserve peace, and that the subjects indicated were not such as to be incapable of amicable adjustment.
Mr. Bright, in a very elaborate speech, unfolded his views generally upon our relations with Canada. The question was one of delicacy, he said, for it referred to the possibility of war between this country and the United States. The difficulty was that if there were a war party in the United States, it had a strong temptation to enter without hesitation on a war with England, because it might feel that through Canada it could inflict a great humiliation upon this country. It was perfectly well known, moreover, that there was no power whatever in this United Kingdom to defend successfully the territory of Canada against the power of the United States. Now, would Canada attack the States ? Clearly not. Would the States attack Canada ? Clearly not. There was not a man of any influence in the United States in favour of this, with a view to the forcible annexation of Canada to the Union. The ruffians from the South, who had made a raid in Northern territory, had been far too leniently treated. There had been nothing done previous to this raid, but the moment these troubles arose, then there was a call for further defence, and everything was done.
What is the state of things now?' asked Mr. Bright. There is the greatest possible calm on the frontier. The United States have not a word to say against Canada. The Canadian people have found that they were in the wrong, and have now returned to their right mind. There is not a man in Canada at this moment, I believe, who has any idea that the United States Government has the smallest notion of attacking them, now or at any future time, on account of anything that has transpired between the United States and Canada during these trials. But if there comes a war in which Canada shall suffer and be made a victim, it will be a war between the Government of Washington and the Government of London.' This he considered was a most improbable event. Our history for two hundred years back had been a record of calamitous wars, but England had now become wiser. She was not at this moment in favour of war, and if war arose out of which Canada should suffer, he believed honestly that it would not come from this country. But was the United States for war ? On the contrary, no Government that had ever existed in America had been so favourable to peace with all foreign countries, and especially
England, as the Government of which Mr. Lincoln was the head. Whence, then, came the anxiety which undoubtedly to some extent prevailed ?
may be assumed even that the Government is not wholly free from it, for they have shown it in an almost ludicrous manner by proposing a vote of £50,000. It is said the newspapers have got into a sort of panic. They can do that any night between the hours of six and twelve o'clock, when they write their articles. They are either very courageous or very panic-stricken.
'It is said that “the City"joins in this feeling. We know what “the City" means—the right hon. gentleman alluded to it to-night. It means that the people who deal in shares—though that does not describe the whole of them—“the moneyed interest” of the City, are alarmed. Well, I never knew the City to be right. Men who are deep in great monetary transactions, and who are steeped to the lips sometimes in perilous speculations, are not able to take broad and dispassionate views of political questions of this nature.
'As to the newspapers, I agree with my hon. friend the member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) when, referring to one of them in particular, he intimated that he thought its course was indicated by a wish to cover its own confusion. Surely, after four years' uninterrupted publication of lies with regard to America, I should think it has done pretty much to destroy its influence on foreign questions for ever.'
As to the meddlesomeness of the House of Lords on foreign questions, and their general neglect of legislation, Mr. Bright went on to say: The Commons did little in the way of work, and the Lords absolutely nothing. Members would remember a couplet, taught them in their younger days, and intended to inculcate the virtue of industry:
Satan finds some mischief still
and he did not believe that men, however high in station, were exempt from that unfortunate effect which arose to every one from a course of continued idleness. With regard to the origin of the public anxiety on this question, was there not a consciousness in our heart of hearts that we had not behaved generously to our neighbour—a pricking of conscience that tended to make us cowards at this particular juncture? Mr. Bright then reviewed the course of events of the past four years, observing that the Government had accorded belligerent rights to the Southern Confederacy with unfriendly haste; they had acted in the case of the Trent in a manner that was not likely to remove difficulties and improve the feeling between the two nations; and had permitted the Alabama to be built, supplied with munitions of war, and manned in this country.
In connection with the affair of the Alabama came this spirited attack on Mr. Laird :
'I do not complain that the member for Birkenhead bas struck up a friendship with Captain Semmes, who may probably be described, as another sailor once was of similar pursuits, as being “ the mildest mannered man that ever scuttled ship.” (Laughter.) Therefore I do not complain of a man who has an acquaintance with that notorious person ; and I do not complain, and did not then, that the member for Birkenhead looks admiringly upon the greatest example which men have ever seen of the greatest crime which men have ever committed. I do not complain even that he should applaud that which is founded upon a gigantic traffic in living flesh and blood-a traffic into which no subject of this realm can enter without being deemed a felon in the eyes of our law, and punished as such. But what I do complain of is this, that the hon. gentleman the member for Birkenhead, a magistrate of a county, a deputylieutenant-whatever that may be,-a representative of a constituency, and having a seat in this ancient and honourable assembly,—that he should, as I believe he did, concerned in the building of this ship, break the law of his country, by driving us into an infraction of international law, and treating with undeserved disrespect the proclamation of neutrality by the Queen. (Hear, hear.)