Page images

the necessity for keeping our navy ahead of that of the French, but this was sufficient at the time for a House excited by the alleged enormous increase in the French navy, and the money was voted by a large majority.



Mr. Bright and the United States. --Secession of Southern States.—Outbreak of

the Civil War.–Neutrality of England.—The Affair of the Trent. Surrender of Messrs. Slidell and Mason.--Mr. Bright on the American Struggle.—The Duty of England.—The Cotton Famine. - Debate on the Affair of the Trent. The Condition of International Law.-Mr. Bright at Birmingham.-Speech on the War and the Supply of Cotton.—He justifies the Policy of the North. Slavery and the South.--Birmingham Chamber of Commerce. --Speeches of Messrs. Scholefield and Bright.—Meeting at Rochdale.—Northern Sympathy with the Distress in Lancashire.-Speech of Mr. Bright.—Meeting on the American Question in 1863.-Mr. Bright at St. James's Hall.–At the London Tavern.-Debates in the House of Commons.—Mr. Roebuck's Motion for recognizing the Southern Confederacy.-Eloquent Speech by Mr. Bright.Public Breakfast to Mr. Lloyd Garrison.-A noble band of Abolitionists. Appreciation of Mr. Bright's Defence of the Northern Cause.-President Lincoln's Staff bequeathed to Mr. Bright.

statesman of eminence has ever spoken in

such unstintedly generous terms of the United States as Mr. Bright. He has watched the growth and development of the American Union with peculiar interest; and from the tenor of his convictions and opinions, he has naturally regarded with admiration the free institutions of that great Republic. But he has done more than this. Mr. Bright was the steadfast friend of America in the moment of her deepest peril; and when many English statesmen were predicting the dissolution of the Union at the time of the Civil War, Mr. Bright never lost faith in the

future of America, but stood forward as the uncompromising champion of the cause of the North. We know now how that struggle ended; although the North fought in the outset for union, and not emancipation, yet, had the South been victorious, the hateful institution of slavery would still be flourishing, and the triumph of freedom might have been delayed for many generations.

The shadow of the coming struggle between the Northern and Southern portions of the United States was felt before the commencement of the year 1861. Towards the close of the preceding year South Carolina had led the way in seceding from the Union, and in the course of two or three weeks her example was followed by Mississippi and several other important States. The conflict now began. The attitude of England was regarded with keen interest, but the Government discountenanced debates which might tend to compromise the neutrality of the country. On being consulted, the law officers of the Crown decided that the Southern States must be treated as belligerent. It was resolved, however, that the policy of England should remain strictly neutral, and in May, 1861, a proclamation was issued announcing such neutrality, and forbidding all British subjects from aiding either side, directly or indirectly. Orders were issued to prohibit armed ships of the belligerents from carrying their prizes into any British port; and it was resolved to despatch a force of three thousand men for the protection of Canada. Even

at this early period there were those in England who called for the recognition of the Confederate States, and much excitement prevailed throughout the country. Speaking at a meeting at Rochdale on the 1st of August, Mr. Bright referred to the loss of cotton as a result of the war, and said that the safety of the product on which the county of Lancashire depended rested far more on the success of the Washington Government than upon its failure. On the general question, he held that the Union must be maintained; and observed that the people of England, if they were true to their sympathies, to their own history, and to their great act of 1834, would have no sympathy with those who desired to build up a great empire on the perpetual bondage of millions of their fellow-men.

On the 7th of November, 1861, an incident occurred which nearly led to a war between England and the United States. It appeared that the Trent, a packet belonging to the British Mail Steamship Company, and being therefore a neutral vessel, had taken on board at Havannah (a neutral port) four passengers who were envoys from the Confederate States to London and Paris. They embarked, however, simply as private passengers. On the date above mentioned the ship was stopped in the old Bahama Channel by the United States' steamer San Jacinto, commanded by Captain Wilkes, who demanded to see the list of the passengers.

This was refused, and he then announced that his orders were to take Messrs.


Slidell and Mason, and their companions, who were known to be on board. They were taken by force on board the San Jacinto, in spite of their own protest and that of the British Admiralty agent, Commander Williams, R.N. A curious international question arose, and war was imminent between the two countries; but eventually the Commissioners were surrendered, when it was found that the British Government would accept no compromise. Great irritation ensued on both sides, but the prospect of war happily passed away.

At this time Mr. Bright attended a banquet given to him by his fellow-townsmen of Rochdale, who were anxious for an exposition of his opinions on the civil war generally, and on the duty of England in respect thereto. Having made acknowledgment of the kindness of his reception, Mr. Bright remarked upon the war struggles which had recently taken place in Europe, and then said: "Now our eyes are turned in a contrary direction, and we look to the West. There we see a struggle in progress of the very highest interest to England and to humanity at large. We see there a nation which I shall call the Transatlantic English nation—the inheritor and partaker of all the historic glories of this country. We see it torn with intestine broils, and suffering from calamities from which for more than a century past—in fact, for more than two centuries past—this country has been exempt. That struggle is of especial interest to us. We remember



« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »