Papers Relating to Foreign Affairs, Accompanying the Annual Message of the President to the First Session Thirty-eighth Congress, Part I
Mr. Adams to Mr. Seward.
Sir: I have the honor to forward herewith a copy of the Morning Post, of this day, containing a report of the speech made yesterday by Sir Roundell Palmer, the new attorney general, to his constituents, at Richmond, in Yorkshire.
I have the honor to be, sir, your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.
Sir Roundell Palmer at Richmond.
Sir Roundell Palmer arrived in Richmond (Yorkshire) on Tuesday morning last, and on Wednesday evening addressed the electors in the Town Hall. During his stay in Richmond the honorable gentleman was the guest of Mr. Leo. Cooke, Terrace House, ex-mayor of the borough. There was a large attendance at the meeting, which included several ladies.
After being introduced to the meeting by Mr. Leo. Cooke—
Sir Roundell Palmer, after some introductory remarks, referring to his position with his constituents, said that as the office he had accepted and held in her Majesty’s government was a subordinate one, he had not to determine what measures should be taken by her Majesty’s government in public matters, and if he were interested with matters to that extent it would be inconsistent in him to make known to them the intentions of her Majesty’s government before the government themselves were prepared to divulge them. They must not, therefore, expect him to enter into those long discussions connected with politics which were open to gentlemen in office, but not to gentlemen who served the public in the capacity that he did; but he thought it best to advert to what might have passed since he had last the honor to appear before them; and then, if they approved of the conduct of the government to which he had the honor to belong, they would then be enabled to judge, if they could look forward with the same degree of confidence to his conduct in the future. The two years which had passed since he last stood there had been fraught with serious misfortune and great trial to the country. He would mention two particular subjects in connexion with that period, and he did it rather because both of them had been occasions of great trial and great suffering, and yet each of them had been attended with compensating blessings and benefits to the country, which enabled us [Page VIII] to look back with confidence to the past and with hope to the future. (Applause.) In the first place, there was the great affliction which fell upon her Majesty the Queen and the whole country, in the removal from amongst us of that most able and excellent prince who shared her Majesty’s counsels, at the same time he was the centre of all her domestic affections. This loss, indeed, was a national misfortune which none except those who were near the throne could in any adequate degree estimate; but even in that misfortune we were not without a corresponding mitigation, if not benefit. Under the providence of God it had had this effect: it had brought out in a manner not only consolatory to the heart of the Queen, but which, he thought, must produce a permanent and good effect in cementing together sovereign and people, and binding closer than before the bonds of that loyalty by which we have been distinguished as a nation, for it brought out the highest, fullest, and deepest exhibition, which could under any circumstances have been afforded, of intense personal sympathy between the people and the crown. (Applause) This circumstance had shown that if anything should happen under the constitution in which we lived which should try the strength of, the nation, there would be a bond of union between the people and the Queen. (Applause.) The other circumstance to which he had alluded was that of one of the most remarkably calamitous events which had ever occurred in the history of any nation, viz., the loss which had been sustained by our industrial population through the war in America. It had been a calamity which, if we had seen the worst of it, we had not yet seen the end of it. The loss to the cotton industry had, however, been attended by corresponding mitigations, and benefits, and blessings. He would put first and foremost the noble part which had been acted by the people who had been the immediate sufferers under that calamity. (Applause.) He thought that the artisans and the manufacturing population of the cotton trade had exhibited a noble bearing in the midst of their inevitable calamities, and had exhibited a bearing which would have been most noble in people of the highest degree in the land. (Applause.) When they considered how poor, how deficient in all the advantages of education, and many other things, the great masses of the people of this country, who had been suffering, were, their conduct was a spectacle of which for all time the people of England would be proud. But the benefit did not stop there. Their sufferings and distress were such as to demand loudly the sympathy of their countrymen throughout the United Kingdom. That sympathy and support had here and everywhere been afforded by a liberal hand; and as the other calamity tended to bind together the hearts of the Queen and the people, so the effect of this calamity had been to bind together the hearts of all classes of the people. Though sometimes men—actuated by zeal which, perhaps, they considered right—had uttered words in public which had tended to set class against class, yet such an event as that was an answer to all those words, and it showed that there was no such division of classes in this kingdom as should prevent any other class making such calamities their own, and making every amount of sacrifice to mitigate those calamities. That was a benefit, and not a slight one, which had been derived under the pressure of this distress. (Applause.) We had also had a period which had applied a severe test on trade, on our national resources, and our financial prospects. It might have been expected that, under this pressure, they would have given way. But that they had not done so certainly showed that, under all circumstances, if one great branch of our trade had greatly suffered, other branches of our trade had flourished; and on the whole, it may be said that the prosperity of our country, under these most trying circumstances, had not declined. Our revenue had so flourished that even in the third year of the American war, under this great [Page IX] depression of the cotton trade, and after considerable dealings with the revenue, from which some people expected a great deal of evil, a material reduction of the income tax had been effected, and, in addition, the duty had been taken off tea, without, at the same time, any diminution of the means of maintaining the efficiency of our manufactures, and for providing for all our other national wants, and this without putting ourselves into a situation in which we should fear to encounter any exigency which should suddenly come upon us. (Applause.) There was matter for congratulation in all this, and they might be brought more legitimately to consider that in connexion with the responsibility of government different times had different exigencies and different demands. There were times of comparative quiet, and those were periods exceedingly favorable for progress and improvement at home. There were other times when gross abuses demanded a great effort for their reform. These were times when the main duty of those who were intrusted with the government of the country was to keep the foreign, relations of the country in perfect consistency with its safety, its interest, and its honor; and at the same time to maintain in efficiency the public resources and public revenue. Now, he would venture to say here that the country at large considers these last objects as of great importance, and they particularly required at this time constant attention on the part of the government. We lived in a time when there was great difficulty and perplexity abroad, but happily, indeed, peace at home. When any degree of carelessness at the foreign office might at any moment plunge the country into war—a war with regard to which it was difficult to see its limits—any careless dealing with the revenue at such a time might expose the country to such disadvantages as to make it next to impossible to meet an emergency with honor and credit. Now, he appealed to them, to ask them for their verdict, whether the government which now administered the affairs of the country had not done their duty in those two great departments? He would now make a few observations on the subject of the finances, because that was the vital point on which those who opposed her Majesty’s government in the House of Commons had thought it right to attack the government, and insinuate all manner of coming evil from Mr. Gladstone’s dealings with the revenue. When the French treaty was concluded, and the paper duties were taken off, they would remember the gloomy prospects with respect to the revenue which those prophets of evil brought before Parliament. He thought he might ask them in confidence whether events had not falsified those predictions. He would put it to them whether the event did not justify him in asking them to believe whether Mr. Gladstone, in following out with a bold hand the course of free trade, in which a good example had been set him by others, had not been consulting the best interests of the country, both with regard to the condition of the revenue and the interests of the people? Should he have been able to point to the elasticity and surplus of the revenue, if it had not been for the policy which had been practiced, and the fetters which were laid upon the large branches of trade had not been struck off as boldly as they were, and the vacuum left by the deficiency in the cotton trade had not been filled up satisfactorily with the increase of other branches of our commerce from France and other countries? (Applause.) He thought they would all look with some degree of satisfaction on the revenue of the country. He would now go to the other point which he had mentioned, viz., foreign affairs, and here he thought that both the government and people might without shame examine the attitude which this country had maintained during the progress of that unhappy contest in America. (Hear, hear.) Now, it would not be at all proper for him, even if he were so inclined, to enter into an explanation of the question of right or wrong between the two parties [Page X] in America. It would not be proper for him, in the position he held, to express any feelings of partiality on one side or the other, nor even in public to let any private sentiments which he might entertain on that subject be known. But in this case, as in all similar cases, the policy of this country had been strictly and honorably one of non-interference. (Applause) It had been our duty and interest—it was, he believed, the permanent interest of our whole people—not only that this or that branch of trade might possibly profit by a public calamity; for in our view the American war was a public calamity—a misfortune to America, to us, and the whole world—one which we deeply deplored—and one, indeed, the end of which we should be most thankful to see—(applause)—but by every principle which concerned the independence and liberty of nations, we were bound not in any way to interfere between the one party or the other in that contest. (Hear, hear.) If we interfered with their national affairs, of course they would have an equal right to interfere with ours; and so, all the world over, any despot who wishes might trample down liberty on the one hand, and those who love anarchy and disorder might interfere on the other. It was the interest of all the world, and more especially of a free people like ours—a people propagating the principles of freedom throughout the world— it was our interest to say that while we regretted and deeply deplored the war, we would not interfere, but would say to them, “You are proper judges of your own affairs—you are the arbiters of your own destiny.” And if there be a party dissatisfied with that government and claiming an independence, it is for that party to work out an independence for themselves, and other nations have no right to interfere for or against them. (Applause.) Now, if we had fully maintained that attitude as a people and a nation represented by our government, we may very safely disregard any suggestion we have heard on one side or the other, that, because we have shown our sympathies, unfriendly feelings will arise between the two nations. Now, he believed that there was no unfriendly feeling in England towards America; and it was his belief that whatever might be written in newspapers, or uttered in the heat and excitement of public speeches, there was not that unfriendly feeling towards this country on the other side of the Atlantic which some seemed to think. (Hear.) Let us discredit rash words lightly written and lightly spoken, and look at great facts—those facts which tell upon the history and interests of both countries, and those facts which all may appeal to when brought into contact individually with the citizens of either country. (Applause.) Look at the facts relating to the history of the two countries. Are we not, after all, one and the same people? Are we not brothers? Is not their blood our blood? May we not claim and point with pride to everything great or noble amongst them as belonging to us from whom they sprang? May they not point, and do they not point, to everything great in our history and literature at the present day and say, “We have also a share in this?” (Loud applause.) Do ever any of you meet an American in society, and not see that this feeling is one of deeds, not of words? When a real practical test is applied, that feeling, under proper management, on both sides, if the government do their duty, will be the prevailing feeling, and that friendship which the mutual interests of both countries dictated, which the common ties of both countries dictated, would continue; and there was nothing in the world which can gain on either side by that kind of fratricidal war which must inevitably come to pass if two countries were causelessly to quarrel with each other. (Hear.) He might perhaps be permitted to say a very few words in vindication, not of the government merely, but of the people of England, in respect to some complaints made of them on the other side of the water concerning their conduct and attitude in the course of this [Page XI] war. Now, there was no doubt that we are a free-spoken people—that, although the government were bound to practice the strictest neutrality— that, although on his part he did not consider it expedient to give utterance in public to any private feeling he might entertain as to the merits of this great American war, yet no obligation rests on the individual members of the great body of the nation. Everybody was free to think, and was accustomed to speak as he thinks, and no offence should be taken by a free country elsewhere if our opinions as a nation were freely canvassed. Non-interference America had a right to require from us, and they had a right likewise to expect submission from us to all the rules and laws which nations have established to regulate the intercourse between each other during war; but to require more, to require a universal sympathy with the northern view, why, that was a most unreasonable thing, and it would not bear examination for a single moment. In truth, the opinion of this country was very much divided on the subject. A great number of people, perhaps in the upper classes more especially, have sympathies with the south. A great many other people—amongst the great manufacturing centres we may suppose—amongst the masses of the population—if they do not sympathize with, at all events had no feeling against, the south, and have most unquestionably shown by their conduct that they would resist and disapprove any interference of this country in throwing our power into the scale of the south or north, even though the object of our so doing were to mitigate their distresses and to bring supplies of cotton for their mills. If a fair balance was struck, it would puzzle any one to say on which side our sympathies lie. There was an amount of impartiality taken as a whole, but whether there were or not, so long as the government did their duty to the people as a nation it was really no matter what feelings and sympathies private persons may express or entertain. He would venture further to say he did not think there was any justice in the notion, if it were entertained on the other side of the water that all in this country who sympathize with the south were therefore unfriendly with the north. He rather felt that those who sympathize with the south do so for reasons which, be they good or bad, were perfectly consistent with the most friendly feelings towards the north; and whether right or wrong, he was quite satisfied that those who sympathize with the south have as great a detestation of slavery as the strongest advocates of the north have. (Cheers.) The feelings of many persons are such, and they ought really to be understood and have justice done to them in America as well as here. In the first place, we did not forget our own war with the United States themselves when they were achieving their independence. They were our colonies; we thought the greatness of our nation, the glory of our empire, was at stake, and that if we lost those colonies we should dwindle into an insignificant people. We therefore expended much treasure and much blood in an endeavor, prolonged through many years, to subdue those colonies and force them into subjection. All this failed; they achieved their independence, and we have been a greater nation ever since, and derived no small amount of benefit from the greatness which they raised on their own bottom. Many people drew a kind of general conclusion from that—that when any dependency or state, associated with another state, was desirous of independence, and was ripe for independence in this sense—that it could maintain itself in independence—why, then, it was better to part good friends than endeavor by force of arms to subdue and keep it in subjection. That may be a sound or unsound view, but he had no doubt it entered very largely into the feelings of many parties; and he was quite sure that those who were influenced by this view, whether right or wrong, do not on that account show any ill feeling or want of friendliness towards the United States or the northern [Page XII] portion of them. There was another thing: We had seen this war continuing now for three years. We had had our share of suffering, every person was ready to admit, but it was as nothing compared with the suffering endured in America, where we found them pouring out blood and treasure, the north sending armies into the field such as had never been heard of in European warfare, great battles being fought often and with apparently little result but that of enormous loss of life, both parties draining out the blood of their children—which was the greatest loss any country can sustain—(hear, hear)—and at the same time an enormous amount of money being spent, and an enormous debt being accumulated, which would be necessarily followed by enormous taxation, or else by dishonor arising from a process of repudiation. That was not all; for if it continued, the preservation of practical liberty, even on the northern side of the dividing line, would be difficult to maintain; and if the north succeed in conquering the south, the question naturally arose “how are they to manage them afterwards?” These were questions which suggested themselves to the wellwishers of the north as well as of the south; and if they led many such minds to think, “All this is being done with little hope in the end of a satisfactory or successful issue, but leading to an enormous cost of life and money,” would it not be much better for it to come to an end—the end being, naturally, under the circumstances, an amicable separation—a separation that should bring with it a cessation of war between the two parties? (Hear, hear.) The Americans may have an answer to that. They may say, “We think the greatness of our country is at stake; other calamities would be sure to come upon us if we do not maintain the Union,” and they may, after all, be the best judges of their own situation. But all he wished to say to them was, “Don’t judge harshly of our peeple; whether right or wrong in their views, they are not unfriendly to you; they are not hostile to America; they wish to be on the most friendly terms with you, and their advice to you springs from the holiest of motives—to see you saved from the most dreadful of all calamities indefinitely prolonged.” Yet at the same time nobody could help feeling with great men who maintain a gallant contest against great odds; and, therefore, the sympathy with all people fighting for their independence, whether wisely or not, invariably meet with—of course a great deal of that must be given to the south. (Cheers.)
Even the worst enemies of the south could not deny that they had conducted this contest with most remarkable courage and indomitable perseverance, and no wise American ought to blame those in this country who gave utterance to that opinion. He wished to vindicate our own countrymen, and make as far as he could the purity of their motives, whether right or wrong, understood. He was sure that the hatred of slavery was as strong and general in this country as ever it was. (Applause.) If in this contest it should appear upon the surface that many people had not refused their sympathy to that side which openly upheld slavery, he was sure that when the south had achieved their independence—if they should succeed in doing so—our feelings, sympathies, and affinities as a nation must necessarily be with the north, for the obvious reason that England could not possibly be with the States that maintained slavery, but with the free. (Cheers.) There was no inconsistency in this, for the true interests of liberty would not suffer if the south were to achieve their independence. Hitherto an unavoidable condition with the free States was that they were obliged to tolerate slavery in the slave States, and to a great extent adapt their own laws to the maintenance of slavery. But now the frontier of the land of freedom would be advanced. Whereas now the fugitive slave became a free man as soon as he crosses the river St. Lawrence and puts his foot on Canadian soil, he would hereafter be in the same situation as soon as he [Page XIII] crossed the boundary line between the northern and southern States. Although he did not say it was a sound and right judgment that the interests of liberty would be promoted by such a separation, yet he protested against the judgment that all those who feel that the interests of liberty would not suffer by that separation were indifferent to the horrors of slavery. (Hear.) He must add one caution—that in stating to them the views he had done, he was not expressing any opinions of his own; in point of fact they differed with many of the opinions he privately entertained. He was led to express them on behalf of his countrymen, in perfect good feeling towards all parties of people in America, without the slightest hostility to the north, or the slightest unfairness to the great cause of freedom as against the cause of liberty and slavery.
Now he came to the part which our government had taken in the matter. Our government had felt itself bound, in the first place, to recognize facts, and, in the second place, to do nothing to advance them. We heard a great many people say, “the government have recognized the south as belligerents”—that is, as States carrying on lawful war—“why not go and recognize their independence?” Now, he said, those who asked such a question were totally ignorant of the principle on which the government did recognize the south as belligerents, and at the same time ignore their independence. There was no doubt that the southern States were States exercising government for themselves and in themselves for the time being, and that they were carrying on war on their own and sole account. Our government recognized these things as facts established; but be it remembered that they recognized the south as belligerents in so far only that they had no control over events that had led the south to assume that position, and the government were shaping their conduct in the best manner they could according to the laws of their own country and according to the laws of nations. They gave them no privileges as such; they wished to God they were not belligerents, but being so, they did not refuse to take notice of the fact. The Americans themselves—the northerners—who complained sometimes that we had given the south a premature recognition as belligerents, forgot that unless the south were belligerents they could not have maintained the blockade against the south, nor the ships, guns, powder, and all that was known as the munitions of war. Therefore it was necessary for their purposes, as for the purposes of the south, and, above all, for our purposes, that our position should be understood, and not be of an equivocal character. There was nothing more important than that we should mind and regard the laws, rules, and regulations of war as applicable between the parties and ourselves, as a neutral nation, taking no part in their quarrels. As to our recognizing the independence of the south, we should ask ourselves, “Have they established finally their independence?” While there is this furious war raging; whilst battles are being fought from day to day; whilst we see one great city of the south—the city of New Orleans— in the possession of the northerners, and Charleston every day threatening to fall into their hands; when no person can really predict either the duration or the result of the contest, to say that we are to recognize the independence of the south was to say “you must pronounce judgment beforehand”—that we are really to take side, and not to wait and see whether these States can establish their independence or not. (Applause.) Without waiting for the event, we determine that they will and shall be, and consequently call them independent before they are. Those who demanded we should do it, had we done it, would have gone on to say, “What is the use of calling them independent unless you go on and make them so?” (Cheers.) How—in what way—should we be better for that? Should we get more cotton? Should we break the blockade, would the dreadful carnage cease? Giving them [Page XIV] words was not what was wanted. They wanted action; they wanted to stop the war. If we gave recognition in words merely, without altering our conduct in other respects, we should be holding ourselves up to the scorn of Europe, doing very little real benefit to the southerners, and at the same time giving just offence to the northerners, against whom we should be pronouncing a verdict prematurely. If the course of events should really establish their independence; if the hostile armies of the north be withdrawn from their soil; if they should ever get into that situation which, after thirteen or fifteen years of sanguinary contest, our American colonies found themselves when they formed the United States, of course we should then recognize them. But we wanted the fact to be settled first. To recognize their independence before that settled fact was to say we wish to bring about that which has not taken place, and while pretending to be neutral we should be plainly demonstrating that we did not mean to be bound by the conditions of neutrality. The feeling which it was thought existed in this country towards the south was explainable in this way: it was the fashion of Englishmen to sympathize with the brave without troubling themselves very much about close inquiry into politics, especially when the brave were seen to be contending against great odds for liberty and independence. It might be recollected that there was a case in point a few years ago. The government of Hungary was in the hands of insurgents. In many great battles those insurgents prevailed over the armies of Austria, amid almost the universal sympathies of Europe. It was not until another grear power, violating the neutrality it had previously maintained, threw its sword into the scale, that the cause of Hungary was defeated. Did anybody ask that we should recognize the independence of Hungary whilst the contest was raging? Whatever were our sympathies, Hungary could not be independent until it acquired independence—which it never did. And yet, actually, while the contest was raging, the United States sent an ambassador over to Vienna with offers of recognition; and that ambassador had the mortification of finding himself just too late—Hungary in the mean time, having become entirely subjugated. Was this a dignified situation for a great nation? Was that a situation in which England ought to place herself? No, unquestionably not; we must wait patiently, praying devoutly that the unhappy contest in America may soon terminate. And let who will abuse us, whatever pressure may be put upon us, we must be determined to do this, and nothing but this, which we believe our duty, applying the best and fairest test to the case—consider what we should like to be done to ourselves if we were in similar circumstances. (Hear.) Now our government had up to this point acted upon that principle. Our government acted upon this principle when the question arose regarding the assertion of maritime rights—the rights of war by the vessels of the United States against the shipping of this country. We would not for a moment endure that they should invent new powers; that they should transgress the laws of nations, and violate the hospitality of England by attacking upon the wide seas our ships which happened to have on board persons supposed to be on an expedition hostile to the interests of the north. The whole country was prepared, much as we deplored the necessity of it, instantly to vindicate its honor, and to go to war rather than tolerate such a proceeding. They were bound to obey; and when it had come to a question of submitting, on our part, to the established laws of war, ship after ship in attempting to run the blockade having been taken from us, and about which all sorts of stories were told in the papers, though in many cases there might be a real doubt about the justice of the seizure, we had always said, “we will bear for America what America bore for us under the same circumstances; we must have this matter investigated by prize courts according to the laws of nations, and if these prize courts decide [Page XV] against us we must submit to it, unless we can prove some gross and manifest injustice done by them to us which we would not have practiced ourselves.” He was bound to say, in justice to the United States, that our government had not as yet been able to find any such gross or manifest injustice. He did not think the honor of the American States had suffered. He believed they had asserted the laws of war about as strictly as we did, and not more strictly, and we had therefore submitted in good faith. Some of the decisions might seem to us hard when compared with what was done in England with regard to the ships of neutrals when war was carried on by ourselves, and with what we may be obliged to administer again if unhappily war should occur again. It would be very surprising if the statesmen of America do not see we have acted in good faith and in honor towards them, for on their account, as well as for the sake of our own nation, government had endured some obloquy from powerful and wealthy citizens who had an interest in carrying on trade with the southern States, and who endeavor in many instances to carry it on without for one moment considering the trouble and anxiety they cause the government, or the peril in which they put the nation. He believed he might venture to state, however, that the government would rather venture to endure the obloquy, or even relinquish office, than fritter away the nation’s time and strength in an endeavor to put aside the blockade, which unhappily causes so much serious inconvenience and loss to this country, inasmuch as by so doing we should be abrogating the very course we ourselves had adopted when in the position of belligerents, and when to the uttermost we took advantage of those rights of war which some people would deny to the north.
There was one other subject on which the conduct of our government also deserved a remark. We know very well that it is perfectfy lawful for the citizens of a neutral country to trade with both parties if they can. It is also lawful to sell anything which either party would take in the way of merchandise, powder, shot, guns, or any other things; and we had on both sides had customers, and sold a great many articles of that description. But there was, on the other hand, a limit to all that, and it is not consistent with the duty of a neutral nation to supply the means of carrying on war as a government to either party, or to promote warlike exhibitions in its harbors, or send ships-of-war from its shores; and in order to prevent such things being done—which undoubtedly we should have reason to protest against if done to us, and which could hardly be carried on by any nation on a large scale professing neutrality without involving it in war—we had got a law which may or may not be easy to construe, but which certainly was intended to prevent these things. We all knew, as a matter of fact, that the Confederate States had endeavored to make this country the basis of their maritime operations. Our government, in perfect good faith, said this: “We will not permit anything to be done which can be shown to be a violation of our own laws or of the law of nations; we cannot go beyond our laws or of the laws of nations, but we shall do all we can to prevent the evasion of either one or the other, not caring whether one party or the other benefits by it, not balancing the relative strength or trying to alter it, or permitting it to be altered, but simply performing our obligations according to what is dictated by our own domestic legal enactments, and according to the received laws of nations.” (Hear, hear.) The Americans had complained of the escape from this country of the well-known Alabama, which, as we know, had committed great ravages upon their commerce, and of other ships said also to have left England for the same purpose. They spoke as though it was a very easy thing for the government to prevent that sort of thing being done, whereas it was a most difficult thing; and it was remarkable that, although their government in former wars had not shown [Page XVI] any want of will to prevent the same thing occurring, he was not aware that they had ever succeeded in preventing it in one single instance, because, although several cases were brought into their courts of law of ships which had gone out of their harbors commissioned by other belligerent powers and taken prizes on the seas, they were taken notice of only because they had the boldness to come with their prizes into the ports out of which they had in the first instance sailed. Therefore, it would not be reasonable for them to hold our government responsible for every evasion of our laws to their disadvantage. On the other hand, he hoped and believed that the people of the country at large would not be inclined to identify themselves in feeling with those merchants of ours who seemed to think that they were bound by no obligation to our laws at. all, and that it was perfectly fair for them, if they chose, to carry on a trade with a belligerent power, while at the same time they knew that government were anxious, for the sake of the nation, to preserve a strict neutrality. (Hear.) He did not think that was the part of patriotic Englishmen, loyal to their laws, and having a true view of the interests of the country. Though perfectly conscious of the great difficulties of bringing the law to bear by complete and conclusive evidence in cases of this kind, where every article is used for the purpose of disguise and evasion, he had every confidence that the people of this country would approve the government in the measures they had taken to make it clear and plain that those proceedings were perpetrated without the will, connivance, or consent of those who are responsible for the government of the country. (Hear.) Let him, in conclusion, remind them of the two great things which, by the course the foreign policy our government had hitherto pursued in this American war, they hoped to secure—two things which brought to them inestimable blessings if they go together—peace and honor. They desired to maintain peace, but, of course, only upon honorable terms. (Cheers.) He thought that those who had had the advantage of serving under Lord Russell and Lord Palmerston at this most momentous crisis may look back with satisfaction, if not with pride, upon the manner in which the foreign affairs of this country had, on the whole, been administered. They had ever been forward in maintaining the cause of freedom throughout the world, preferring to do so not less by moral influence than by nonintervention, believing it possible to recognize peace at home with honor abroad, but that it was only possible to do so by a policy perfectly disinterested, perfectly self-denying, perfectly upright, straightforward and honorable. They had no by-object, no end or aim of their own to serve. All they wished to do was their duty, and to preserve the peace of their country and the peace of the world. If they could do this, and do it with consistency and honor in these difficult times—it had been done hitherto, and he believed it could be done yet by their persevering in the same course—he was sure we should owe a deep debt of gratitude, whether we acknowledge it or not to the government, and he believed this debt of gratitude is felt and acknowledged by the people at large.
The honorable gentleman resumed his seat amid general cheering.
Alderman Smurthwaite, who described the attorney general’s speech as conspicuous no less for eloquence than for depth of argument and lucidity of statement, moved a vote of confidence in the honorable gentleman, and pledging the electors again to support his return to Parliament as their representative.
Alderman Robson seconded the motion.
The proposition, on being put to the meeting, was carried without a dissentient voice.
A vote of thanks to the chairman terminated the proceedings.