Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, Transmitted to Congress, With the Annual Message of the President, December 3, 1888, Part II
Mr. Phelps to Mr. Bayard.
London, November 2, 1888. (Received November 13, 1888.)
Sir: Referring to your instructions* by cable message of October 26, 27, and 30, and to my several replies† thereto, I have now the honor to acquaint you that on Saturday, October 27, I had an interview with Lord Salisbury, Her Majesty secretary of state for foreign affairs, in which I laid before him the purport of your instructions and expressed to him the desire of the United States Government that Lord Sackville, the British minister at Washington, should be recalled. I referred to the letter addressed by Lord Sackville to Murchison and published in the American newspapers; and also informed Lord Salisbury that I was instructed by you that Lord Sackville had in correspondence and interviews intended for publication impugned and gravely reflected upon the motives of the President and Senate in their action touching the subject of the Canadian fisheries; that public sentiment in the United States was strongly aroused thereby; and that in the opinion of the United States Government Lord Sackville’s usefulness as minister at Washington was ended.
Lord Salisbury in reply expressed the opinion that the Murchison letter having been intended to be private, did not of itself afford ground for any action by Her Majesty’s Government. He further remarked that [Page 1677] without being, apprized: of the language used by Lord Sackville, and giving him an opportunity for explanation or disavowal, Her Majesty’s Government could not act. He observed that a recall by his own Government would be ruinous to Lord Sackville, whereas such a result would not necessarily follow if he was dismissed by the Government to which he was accredited, and that for such a course there were precedents. Further general conversation ensued not material to be repeated. I became satisfied that the British Government would take no immediate action in the premises, but would await the reception of further information and the explanation of the minister; and while no direct intimation of their probable course was given me, I was not encouraged to believe that it was likely to be decisive, and I inferred from the remark above mentioned that the British Government would prefer that action should be taken, if at all, by the Government of the United States. It is proper, however, to add that this inference was based only upon the remark above quoted, and though I believe it to be correct, was not justified by any more direct expression of Lord Salisbury.
I therefore sent you cable dispatches of October 28* and 29.
On receipt of your instruction by cable of October 30,† communicating the action of the President in respect to Lord Sackville, I addressed a note under date of October 31 to Lord Salisbury, informing him of the purport of that instruction, and addressed to you a cable dispatch of the same date.
On yesterday I received from Lord Salisbury a note in reply to mine of October 31, to which I have this morning sent an answer, and have sent you by cable the substance of both notes.
I inclose herewith copies of my cable dispatches to you of October 26,‡ 28,§ and 29, and of this date; of my notes to Lord Salisbury of October 30 and of this date, and of his note to me of November 1.
I inclose also various editorial articles on the subject in leading London newspapers that have from time to time appeared. You will observe that previous to the dismissal of Lord Sackville it was generally conceded in these newspapers that it was impossible that he should remain longer at Washington as British minister.
Since the action of the President some of them have characterized the manner in which the British minister was treated and the publicity given to it as an affront to Great Britain.
I presume you will deem it proper to furnish me with the details of the language used by Lord Sackville and the attendant circumstances desired by Lord Salisbury, and which I have promised to furnish to him when received.
I have the honor, etc.,
Mr. Phelps to Mr. Bayard.
London, October 29, 1888.
Mr. Phelps states that it is conceded by the London press that the British minister must leave. Prompt action advised.
Mr. Phelps to Mr. Bayard.
London, October 31, 1888.
Mr. Phelps informs Mr. Bayard of the reception of his telegraphic instructions of the 30th instant, and of their communication, in substance, to Lord Salisbury.
Mr. Phelps to Mr. Bayard.
London, November 2, 1888.
Mr. Phelps states that on the preceding evening he received from Lord Salisbury a note in reply to his announcement of the dismissal of Lord Sackville. Lord Salisbury stated that not having been informed of the language used by the minister, he was unable to form a judgment upon the request of the United States for Lord Sackville’s recall or upon his subsequent dismissal.
Mr. Phelps to Lord Salisbury.
London, October 31, 1888.
My Lord: I have the honor to acquaint you that I received at a late hour last night instructions from the United States Government to communicate to your Lordship that, by direction of the President, the Secretary of State on yesterday informed Lord Sackville, Her Majesty’s minister at Washington, that for reasons heretofore made known to your lordship his continuance in that official position was no longer acceptable, and would consequently be detrimental to the relations between the two Governments, and that a passport to facilitate his withdrawal has therefore been issued to Lord Sackville.
And I am further instructed to express the hope of the President that another representative from Her Majesty’s Government may be accredited to the Government of the United States.
I have the honor to be, etc.,
Lord Salisbury to Mr. Phelps.
Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge your letter of yesterday’s date, intimating to me that Mr. Bayard had informed Lord Sackville, Her Majesty’s minister at Washington, for reasons heretofore made known to me, his continuance in that official position was no longer acceptable, and would be consequently detrimental to the relations between the two Governments, and that in consequence his passports had been sent to him.
On Saturday last, when I had the honor of an interview with you, you informed me that the Government of the United States desired the recall of Lord Sackville; and you stated that the ground for that application was not the letter to a California gentleman which has been much canvassed in the newspapers, but the language which Lord Sackville had employed to certain reporters who “interviewed “him, and which, in the judgment of your Government, imputed discreditable motives to the President and the Senate of the United States.
I asked if you could give me a copy of the speech or speeches to which exception was taken—but you had not received them; I refer to this interview on account of the intimation which, as you inform me, the Secretary of State conveyed to Lord Sackville, [Page 1679] that the reasons for which his lordship’s continuance was no longer acceptable had been heretofore made known to me. Nothing has been made known to me except what you did me the honor to communicate on Saturday evening, and by that communication I was only made acquainted with the interpretation which Mr. Bayard put upon certain speeches made by Lord Sackville. What those speeches contained, or to whom they were made, were circumstances not included in your communication; and indeed were, as I gathered, not known to yourself. I have not since received any further information on these points; and therefore I am unable to form any judgment upon the considerations which dictated the request which I received from the United States Government on Saturday, or the action which they took on Tuesday.
I have the honor to be, etc.,
Mr. Phelps to Lord Salisbury.
London, November 2, 1888.
My Lord: I have had the honor to receive your note of yesterday.
My recollection of what passed between us in the conversation of Saturday last differs slightly from that of your lordship in one particular. I did not intend to be understood as saying that the letter of Lord Sackville formed no part of the reasons, of the United States Government for desiring his recall; though I did say that the principal reason was the published imputation by Lord Sackville to the President and to the Senate of discreditable motives in their action touching the subject of the Canadian fisheries.
As the instructions I had received from the Secretary of State of the United States had been by cable message only, I was not then and am not now in possession of the precise language attributed to Lord Sackville nor the particular circumstances under which it was used; but only of its general purport and effect as communicated by me to your lordship in the conversation above mentioned.
I have, however, transmitted a copy of your lordship’s note to the Secretary of State, and have requested to be furnished with all details of language and circumstances, and on receipt of his reply I shall lose no time in placing them before your lordship.
I have the honor to be, etc.,
It seems to be certain that the Government of the United States have taken a step which must render it impossible to continue Lord Sackville at the head of the British legation at Washington. An intimation has been conveyed, it is stated, to Her Majesty’s foreign office to the effect that a good understanding between the two countries would be promoted by a change in the person of the British representative. Even if no formal communication had been made on the subject, the disturbance of public opinion in the United States would be sufficient to settle the question. An ambassador or minister accredited to a foreign Government can be only useful so long as he remains a persona grata to those with whom he has to transact business. It is a part of international comity to pay attention to the hints of sovereigns in this matter, and to withdraw diplomatic representatives who have the ill-luck to provoke dislike or friction at the courts they have to do with. In the United States the sovereign people claim the same right, and insist upon it without much regard for the dictates of good manners. That, however, is the affair of the Americans themselves. We have only to deal with the fact that a vehement outcry has been raised against Lord Sackville, whose indiscretion has been, unfortunately, indisputable and indefensible, and we can come to no other conclusion than that Her Majesty’s Government are bound to replace him by a diplomatist whose name can not be dragged, by the utmost perversity of rancour or prejudice, into the party strife of the United States. When the fury of the Presidential contest has spent itself, which, we take it, will be at the latest about forty-eight hours after the election of to-morrow week, important negotiations must be resumed between the British and American Governments, and it would be improper to confuse and complicate them by permitting the importation into the controversy of any paltry personal question. It is for this country to do what is right and becoming in the circumstances of the case, without wasting time or temper over [Page 1680] the conduct of the Americans. About that conduct, indeed, there can hardly be two opinions among intelligent and fair-minded men; and, if the Americans were not at the present moment in the thick of the demoralizing quadrennial struggle for the spoils of office, it is possible that some of them would enter a protest in public against the undignified vulgarity and interested unfairness shown by both their political parties throughout the whole transaction.
Lord Sackville’s indiscretion, though a few weeks old, has been brought to light just in time to create a stir which may last till the Presidential election is over. The whole business, indeed, appears to be what is styled, in vulgar parlance, a “plant,” originating, we are told, in the enterprise, unincumbered by scruples, of a smart Californian reporter, who undertook to “draw” the British minister and succeeded probably beyond his utmost expectations. In reply to a letter purporting to come from a British naturalized citizen settled at Pomona, Sir Lionel Sackville-West, as he then was, wrote, at considerable length, on the 13th of September, giving his advice, marked “private,” to his unknown correspondent on the question whether a well-wisher of England might vote for the Democratic ticket in spite of President Cleveland’s recent message. The British minister’s letter contained nothing that had not been published over and over in hundreds of newspapers, nothing that any shrewd observer living in the United States might not discern for himself. He pointed out that “any political party which openly favored the mother country at the present moment would lose popularity,” and that “the party in power was fully aware of the fact;” but while declining to predict President Cleveland’s course, should he be elected, in the matter of retaliation, he expressed his belief that the Democrats were “still desirous of maintaining friendly relations with Great Britain.” The substance of this letter, it will be seen, was the most harmless commonplace, but it is equally obvious that it never ought to have been written by a diplomatist, who should be careful in any country, and especially in a Democratic country, to avoid even the appearance of interfering in domestic politics. The case was not made better, but worse, by Lord Sackville’s belief that he was writing to a British subject who had become a naturalized American citizen. The Americans are very jealous of any assertion by foreign Governments of rights over the naturalized citizens who form so large a proportion of the population of the United States, and they have been persevering in their diplomatic efforts to put an end to the system of double allegiance. Nor is it any answer to objections to say that Lord Sackville was entitled to form his private opinions and to express them in his private correspondence. It is evident that the British minister was appealed to by the supposititious British resident at Pomona as the representative of British interests in the United States, and in that character—not as a private individual, for as such he was unknown to the querist—he must be regarded as having written his answer. This was manifestly an indiscretion. We are not prepared to censure Lord Sackville because he formed no suspicion that the letter was a sham one, intended to extract from him, as it did, some declaration favorable to the Democrats which might be used against them by their opponents. A British minister, whether at Washington or elsewhere, must be an English gentleman, and may be forgiven if he is not up to all the dirty tricks of American politicians.
But when all has been said that ought to be said of Lord Sackville’s error, and when it is admitted that the fuss which has been made about it has disastrously impaired his usefulness in the United States, we may ask what is to be thought of the conduct of those who have turned an occurrence, in itself of no conceivable significance, to the basest purposes of party warfare? What sense of the honor of their nation or of the obligations of truth can exist among men who deliberately endeavor to work up popular animosity to England on the ground that Lord Sackville’s trumpery letter is “an unpardonable affront to the intelligence and patriotism of the country,” and an “official attempt on the part of the British minister to array citizens of English and Canadian birth against the Kepublican party?” Those who write such stuff as this can hardly expect to obtain credence for what they assuredly do not believe themselves, yet the chance of injuring their opponents among the most ignorant of the Irish voters is too precious to be lost. Mr. Blaine, with the cynicalirony which he has often shown in his public conduct, has delivered an impassioned harangue, denouncing Lord Sackville’s interference in American affairs, at a mass meeting in New York, presided over by Patrick Ford and addressed by Patrick Egan. The behavior of the Democratic politicians is quite as contemptible and dishonest. They were, at the outset, inclined to pooh-pooh the affair, but they have taken alarm at the vigor with which the Republicans have begun to beat the big drum, and they have taken all the pains imaginable to show that they are not more well-disposed towards England than their rivals. To be charged with being “still desirous of maintaining friendly relations with Great Britain” is an imputation which, it seems, is not to be borne in view of the elections of to-morrow week. During the President’s flying visit to New York on Saturday, he had interviews with the leading politicians of his party, among them “two prominent Boston Irishmen, Messrs. John Boyle O’Reillv [Page 1681] and Patrick Collins,” and it was decided that something positive must be done about the “Sackville incident.” The Democratic newspapers cry “Sackville must go” as loudly as the Republicans. Both parties, we presume, will claim the honors of victory when the withdrawal of the minister is announced, and each will possess the internal satisfaction of having seized, for party purposes, on a trivial error in judgment, and so distorted it and exaggerated it as to create a public scandal, if not to run the risk of setting up an international quarrel. It is our most sincere desire that the English and American peoples should remain always united by the ties of amity and concord; but for the maintenance of that happy state of things no thanks will be due to professional politicians of either party in the United States.
If the interests of two of the greatest communities in the world were not at stake, the treatment of what is called “the Sackville incident” by the politicians of the United States would merely excite a passing sensation of amusement. A more ridiculous spectacle has rarely been witnessed in any civilized country than the flurried and unmannerly haste with which the Government of President Cleveland has endeavored to put a slight on this country, obviously for electioneering purposes, before Her Majesty’s ministers could deal, one way or other, with the alleged indiscretion of the British representative at Washington. It is perfectly plain that the Democrats have been put upon their mettle to show that they are not less uncivil and overbearing in the conduct of diplomatic negotiations than the rudest of their Republican critics. Mr. Bayard has had the satisfaction of proving to the world at large that he can be as contemptuously disregardful of the decencies of international intercourse and of the dignity of the nation he represents as Mr. Blaine himself. Whether he will be repaid or not by securing the Irish vote for his party at the Presidential election next week is a matter of supreme indifference to Englishmen. We have a strong conviction that the masses of the American people are animated by sincere good will towards the mother country, and are well aware that a quarrel between the two main branches of the Anglo-Saxon race, whatever its issue, must be disastrous to civilization and progress. But we have also been taught by experience that American politicians, whether Republicans or Democrats, are ready, during the degrading traffic of a Presidential contest, to put all such considerations behind their back, and to engage deliberately, and, we believe, insincerely, in a scandalous competition to win the support of the Irish vote by devising means to insult the British Government. Self-respecting Americans are to be commiserated for their ill-fortune—which is, to a large extent, their own fault—in being politically represented by persons thus careless both of the best traditions of diplomacy and of the interests of two kindred nations. So far as this country is concerned, there is nothing more to be said. It was never denied that Lord Sackville’s indiscretion, even apart from the impolite and ungenerous outcry raised against it in the United States, constituted a reason for removing him from a position in which he could not continue to be useful when he had become the object, not so much of popular distrust, as of partisan misrepresentation. The announcement that the P3ritish minister at Washington has obtained or is about to obtain leave of absence, and that at the end of his leave he will not return to his present post, is what was, in the circumstances, unavoidable. The American Government can have had no serious doubts upon the subject, and if Mr. Cleveland and Mr. Bayard had thought it necessary or expedient to adhere to the usual practice of civilized states, they would have waited, at all events, to be sure that Her Majesty’s Government intended to do nothing, before beating, with an absurd show of peremptory vehemence, at an open door.
The report of the American Secretary of State, reciting the reasons for Lord Sackville’s recall, is the more remarkable, because it is in direct contradiction with the very proper sentiments expressed by President Cleveland two or three days ago in the course of an interview with a representative of the principal Democratic newspaper in New York. Mr. Cleveland said truly that the matter was “one of great delicacy;” that the Government “must do all these things with all due dignity, in accordance with the amenities which must prevail between two Governments on friendly terms with each other,” and, he added, “without unseemly haste.” How far these excellent views are in harmony with Mr. Bayard’s blustering report to the President and his dispatch, sent off in hot haste, in order to intercept and anticipate any action on the part of Her Majesty’s Government, the British public are in a position to judge for themselves. It must be remembered that Lord Sackville’s unfortunate letter to his bogus correspondent in California was only published a week ago, and Mr. Bayard’s first communication to the British Government on the subject was of still later date. Yet in sending Lord Sackville his passports Mr. Bayard conceives, or asserts, that all the requirements of international comity have been fulfilled. The Democrats [Page 1682] did not, at first, bestow any great attention on Lord Sackville’s error, which the President himself traces to a “campaign trick;” but when they found that their opponents were making capital out of it, they set to work to show that they could make as much noise about an insignificant piece of business as any fire-eating follower or Mr. Blaine or any ardent disciple of Patrick Ford. The President’s reserve appears to have melted at the Cabinet council held on Tuesday, when, no doubt, electioneering arguments were freely applied, and when Secretary Bayard’s dispatch to Mr. Phelps was sanctioned. The leaders of the Irish Americans who still adhere to the Democratic side—Ford and Egan have linked their fortunes with those of the Republican party—will now be able to assure their followers that England has had a slap in the face. Lord Sackville will not continue to represent the British Government at Washington, a fact of which, though Mr. Bayard ignores it in his published report, every intelligent man must have been assured from the moment the circumstances of the case were brought to the knowledge of Her Majesty’s Government. No self-respecting state can desire to force on another country a persona non grata as a diplomatic representative; but Mr. Bayard ought to understand that Lord Salisbury, in dealing with Lord Sackville, can not use the “unseemly haste” which President Cleveland deprecated before he had to yield to the remonstrances of the Democratic wire-pullers.
It seems not improbable, after all, that this undisguised pandering to the exigencies of electioneering may do the Democratic cause more harm than good. The most powerful and widely-circulated newspaper in the United States rebukes the Secretary of State for the tone of his report, and remarks that if so unpleasant a thing was to be done, it should have been done “quietly and decently, without bluster.” Mr. Cleveland is recommended to get a new Secretary of State without delay instead of one “who scolds like a hysterical woman,” and makes the Government of the United States “ridiculous in the face of the whole world” We do not take much interest in these recriminations. Mr. Blaine would probably be as indifferent to diplomatic decencies, if he saw it to be his interest to conciliate the Irish vote, as Mr. Bayard. We trust that when the Presidential contest is over, the native good sense of the American people will keep the State Department in order, and prevent professional politicians from embroiling two great nations who have no really antagonistic interests. The controversy about the Canadian fisheries, which has been unhappily prolonged and widened by American electioneering, would easily be closed if the disputants would be content to dismiss excited feelings and to grapple with the plain facts of the case. Even so able and well-informed an advocate as Mr. Hurlbert is led, as Sir George Baden-Powell, in a letter we publish this morning, shows, into some extraordinary errors, and if his countrymen are under the influence of the same misconceptions, it is not surprising that the settlement of the question has been grievously impeded and delayed. Mr. Hurlbert, for instance, asks, in the letter we recently published from him, how the provisions of the treaty of 1818 were suspended, and hints that this was effected by some mysterious “order in council.” If the rights thereby secured to Canada were modified by any subsequent treaty, why, he contends, are not those modifications still operative and in force? Sir George Baden-Powell points out that the modifications in question were introduced by special conventions for a limited term of years, which in each case were brought to an end by the action of the United States in 1866 and 1885. A third attempt to arrange the matters in dispute by an alteration of the treaty of 1818, the Only treaty now in force, has failed through the domination of party interests in the Senate. Canada, while determined not to be coerced by her great neighbor into the abandonment of the British connection, has been, and is, willing to forego her strict rights for the sake of peace, and to concede, as was arranged in the convention negotiated by Mr. Chamberlain, all that the American fishermen can legitimately demand.
Her Majesty’s minister at Washington has been writing a letter on American politics. The mere announcement of such an act is enough to make our old and departed diplomatists turn in their graves. If there is one elementary rule more rigid than another in the canons of international custom and law, it is that which forbids an envoy to interfere in any manner with the internal politics of the country in which he resides. We should think a French or Russain embassador had taken leave of his senses if, on the eve of a general election here, he were to express an opinion in favor of Lord Salisbury or Mr. Gladstone. We are not, as a people, quite so sensitive in this matter as the French, the Germans, or the Americans, but John Bull is still ready to resent anything like suggestion from abroad as to the management of his affairs. During the great debate in 1850, when Lord Palmerston was accused of carrying [Page 1683] matters with a high hand on the continent, and thus making England unpopular, he referred to the allegation that he had used English influence in France against M. Guizot. He denied the fact, and added that such conduct would defeat itself. “For if the people of any country,” he continued, “believed that one of their statesmen was persistently assailed by the envoys of a foreign power, it would induce them not to desert but to rally round him.” His hearers, applying the words to himself, cheered again and again, since there was no doubt that Lord Palmerston’s popularity in England was greatly due to the fact that, above all our foreign ministers, for many years he was most disliked by Russian, Austrian, and French rulers. This kind of irritable jealousy of all “foreigners,” simply because they are not Englishmen, has greatly faded away with us, but it is to this day rampant abroad. It flourishes in France, where M. Ferry is still an object of distrust, because, when in power, he worked cordially with Prince Bismarck. A recent painful controversy indicates how Germans dislike any claim of superiority by English over native men of science or skill. The Americans have had this feeling ever since the colonies coalesced into a state. They believe that England is plotting here and conspiring there, and that, whether she denounces slavery, or befriends the Confederates, or attacks the protective system, her one aim is to cripple and paralyze the Great Republic. The caricature is obvious, yet there are Senators, Representatives, and leading journalists who speak and write as if this picture of John Bull were a true portrait.
Dealing with a people so preposterous in their prejudices and sensibility, Lord Sackville might certainly have been more guarded in the expression of his opinions on the Presidential contest. It appears that a British naturalized citizen wrote to him for information to guide him as to his vote in the impending contest. Lord Sackville answered him privately, but he should not have answered him at all. The letter was addressed to him as British minister, and it is not the business of our representative at Washington to guide American citizens, of English birth or otherwise, in their political acts. It may be said that correspondence is sacred, and that, as the letter was marked “private/’ the recipient had no right to publish it. This would be a legitimate excuse if Lord Sackville had written to a friend; but his correspondent was a complete stranger, and therefore the letter does not come under the category of ordinary communications from one gentleman to another in the unreserved intercourse of private life. Moreover, Lord Sackville is well aware of the customs and manners of American politicians during a Presidential campaign. He knows that nothing is sacred to the managers on these occasions, and that they would publish their own or their enemy’s most confidential love-letters—and, if necessary, forge them—if thereby they could affect the issue. The moment he received the inquiring epistle he ought to have suspected a trap, and have left it unanswered, or else answered it declining to give advice. Instead of this obvious course, he sat down and penned a letter expressing his opinion that notwithstanding President Cleveland’s threat of retaliation, the Democratic party is “still desirous of maintaining friendly relations with Great Britain, and of settling all questions with Canada which have been unfortunately reopened since the retraction of the treaty by the Republican majority in the Senate, and by the President’s message ‘to which you allude. * * * There is every reason to believe that, while upholding the position he (President Cleveland) has taken, he will manifest a spirit of conciliation in dealing with the question involved in his message.” This English certificate to the character and good intentions of one of the candidates has of course been eagerly seized by the opposing party as a convincing proof of his depravity. One Republican journalist says: “The British minister is right in his facts—the President is England’s man. He stands for foreign rather than for American interests. But it is an unpardonable affront to the intelligence and patriotism of the country that Lord Sackville, in the pending elections, should take advantage of his official position to influence the naturalized citizens of his own nationality. Americans want no advice from the representatives of foreign courts respecting their political affairs, and they must resent official attempts on the part of the British minister to array citizens of English and Canadian birth against the Republican party.” This indignation is, of course, assumed. Lord Sackville’s letter is really one of the most precious documents that Republican election agents can command. Already they have denounced Mr. Cleveland as England’s nominee. They have published forged extracts from leading London papers expressing an anxious desire for his election. They represent English manufacturers gloating over their gains when, on the reduction of the American tariff by the free trade party, they will pour in their goods, undersell and ruin the rising native manufacturers, and drive to starvation and misery the American workingman. Now, however, they need not rely on inferences and forgeries; they have Lord Sackville’s own words intimating his preference for “Cleveland” and his objection so “Harrison.” We suppose that the British minister is not at heart a friend to the Republicans, but if he were he could not have helped them better than by allowing it to appear in an official, though private, letter, that he was a partisan of the Democrats. We must acquit [Page 1684] him of such disingenuousness, but at the expense of his acuteness and common sense.
The extent to which public men in America pander to the national prejudices is illustrated in an amusing way by some recent utterances of Senator Ingalls to the inevitable interviewer. This wild Senator, whose position alone gives his words some claim to attention, said: “England is the only enemy we have among the nations, and sooner or later we shall be compelled by self-respect, if not for self-preservation, to obliterate every vestige of British power from this hemisphere. There is no alternative. The guns of Halifax and Vancouver are pointed at us. The Canadian Pacific Railroad, built by England’s subsidies, makes our northern frontier more vulnerable than our sea-coast. Great Britain, jealous of our supremacy, is inexorably opposed to our territorial expansion toward the pole and the equator. Her circumvallation is complete. Her navy stations and fortresses menace us from every point of the compass.” It is perhaps impossible to cram into a short space a greater amount of inflammatory nonsense. Every Englishman knows that there is no concession we would not make, consistent with honor, to avoid what all would consider a most painful calamity—a war with the United States. It would be ungrateful, as well as unnatural, if any Englishmen regarded with jealousy the growth and prosperity of the Great Republic, for it may some day be the sphere of his own exertions or the home of his own children. In fact every English-speaking man has an interest in the future of America. As to hindering the expansion of the United States towards the equator, not we, but Mexico, stands in the way, and the worst enemies of the Yankee race could not wish it a worse fate than an attempt to incorporate the most troublesome people on the face of the earth. As to the north pole, it is the Canadians, with ideas and interests of their own, who object to annexation. If America inarches, as the Senator says, on Montreal or Quebec, she will attack England in form, but Canada in fact, and she has to thank her tariff if Canada ha3 developed national manufactures of her own. Every threat of political force or commercial retaliation intensifies the feeling of Canadian nationality, not against us, but against the Republic itself. As to the issue of the Presidential contest, it is no longer of any great interest to people in this country. Although General Harrison is a protectionist President Cleveland is not a free trader, while the retaliation message and recent jobs show that in pandering to international jealousies, and in the arts of political corruption, there is not much to choose between the two parties. An Englishman abroad may write a silly letter, but Englishmen at home care very little who enters the White House next year.
By the ignoble little electioneering trick lately played in America, a diplomatic difficulty has been created between the United States Government and that of Great Britain, which is causing a turmoil ludicrously out of proportion to the importance of the matter. A Republican wire-puller with more cunning than honesty wrote, as ail know, an innocent-looking letter to the British minister at Washington, representing himself as a naturalized Englishman, and inviting advice as to the course which such a voter should pursue between the rival claims of Mr. Cleveland and General Harrison. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred such a dodge would have had no success with any experienced diplomat, and least of all with our minister in the States, who has an established reputation at the foreign office for caution and reticence. The simplicity of the stratagem, however, bet rayed Lord Sackville; in an unguarded instant he seized the pen lying before him and gave a frank opinion on the subject to his absolutely unknown correspondent, marking the communication private.” Of such a word the person concerned took, of course, no sort of notice; what binds the lips of honorable men could have no force of sanctity for him; the thief who said that “a locked carpet bag makes my knife laugh” must have felt about as much hesitation as this Californian “politician.” He instantly published the unfortunate avowal of sympathy with the Democratic side, and then “the fat was in the fire.” Nowise loth to profit by the trick thus practiced, the Republican journals instantly blazed out against the embassador and “England’s man,” as they denominated Mr. Cleveland, and raised a demand that Lord Sackville should be at once sent home. He himself, being an English gentleman as well as an envoy, instantly acknowledged the hapless letter, with expressions of natural chagrin at having been both deceived and betrayed. Meantime the American President’s Cabinet could not well ignore the incident. In the present disgraceful condition of subserviency to the Irish vote in the States, nobody wants to be suspected of friendliness to this country. Upon the two questions of home rule and protection, there are stratagems, tergiversations, and intrigue current on the other side of the Atlantic which would make the [Page 1685] least conscientious election agents among ns blush, and would disgust a caucus. Something, however, had to be done to wipe off this stain of English good opinion, and accordingly Secretary Bayard suffered himself to say: “It is still to be hoped that we will be able to settle the issue involved in the pending canvass without the importation of foreign interference or intermeddling in our domestic affairs.” Mr. Bayard is further reported to be greatly annoyed about the affair, and to have observed, after an interview with Lord Sackville: “The persons who dug the pit for the embassador to fall into will find it a costly experiment. I do not think any fair-minded man can be influenced by it. So far as the Presidential campaign is concerned, I have no fear. What to me is inexplicable is the ease with which Lord Sackville allowed himself to be drawn into the snare. It would seem to me he had lived in America long enough to imbibe at least a little of our Yankee smartness, but it seems he has not.”
All this, of course, has to be reduced to diplomatic and official fact and record before Her Majesty’s Government can take any cognizance of it. Lord Salisbury can have no knowledge of, and no concern about, a private communication of Lord Sackville’s addressed to an eastern “sharp,” any more than if it had been the reply to a begging letter or the payment of a hatter’s bill. When, however, as seems inevitable now, the matter emerges, by the avowal of our minister of his indiscretion and by the fuss made over it in Washington, into an international “difficulty,” then certain considerations must arise. The Americans have somewhat odd and special ways of handling these affairs. Twice before, in the brief history of their States, they have requested a British representative to leave without much notice, and he has quitted his post accordingly. Yet in such cases the embassadorial career of a public servant guilty of no fault was not marred; on the contrary, means have been found to render the undeserved dismissal a fortunate event for its object in his subsequent service. If, therefore, the United States Government should demand the withdrawal of our representative, it is likely that the personal effect of their too ready compliance with the bad and bitter spirit of the contest would end there, and Lord Sackville might find his indiscretion purged by their forcible action. It is quite another thing when an embassador’s own Governmen directs the retirement of an envoy. This is in a high degree serious, and must have for its consequences the official “black-marking” of the injudicious diplomatist. Were it to issue even in such a pass, Lord Sackville would be, like the ancient Roman, “happy in the opportunity” of his fall; for he has just come into a peerage, and the family money which his predecessors willed away to the maids of honor has been, it is said, declined by those high-minded ladies. There is a third possibility midway between dismissal by Mr. Cleveland’s cabinet and withdrawal by our own foreign office; that is, the resignation of the minister himself, and of course, were it felt necessary or desirable, Lord Sackville would have hastened ere now to place the offer of retirement in the hands of Lord Salisbury. We are half ashamed to discuss so gravely the alternatives which spring from so ignominious a trick, for a trick it certainly was. Investigation at Los Angeles, Cal., has shown that no such a person ever lived there as the correspondent purporting to sign the missive. The plot was laid by Californian Republicans to catch the Irish vote. The Republican press throughout the country, however, declare that Lord Sackville’s action was both impudent and dangerous. One journal goes so far as to say, “The letter is not only an impertinent interference in American affairs on the part of a foreign official, but in its terms it is so grossly insulting to the people of the United States and to public men of both parties, from the President down, that the best thing the writer can do is to leave Washington forthwith. If he does not leave of his own accord, he should be put under compulsion.” Language like that renders the affair more difficult, of course, to compose with dignity. The character of the agitation raging around the unfortunate simplicity of our representative may be gathered from the fact that Mr. Blaine spoke, on October 23, at a meeting organized by Patrick Ford, who presided. Mr. Blaine made the letter the chief topic of his speech, and appealed to the Irish electors of the country to vote against the candidate approved by the British minister. The speech is described as the lowest kind of demagogic harangue, the following being a fair sample: “The letter has done its perfect work. It was written for Mr. Cleveland; was written to aid him to bring the whole of the naturalized English voters to his support. Are we to have the British minister installed at Washington, giving his opinion as to what we should do in this country in our political and domestic contests?” Nobody knows better than Mr.Blaine how absurd all this is; but it is a season of brazen humbug just now in the States, and the Republican wire-pullers would employ if they could the “thirty pieces of silver” of Judas himself.
The line to take in this country should, it seems to us, be one of the amused and good-tempered indulgence. Nothing can excuse the incontinence of Lord Sackville’s pen, except his transparent good faith and candor, and these unhappily exaggerate while they qualify the indiscretion. Diplomatically the blunder, once avowed, is pardonable only by the two parties in the States, one of which can not and the other will not condone it. In the long run, we believe that thousands of honest [Page 1686] Americans will be too much disgusted at the disgraceful trick played on behalf of General Harrison to allow the flatterers of the Irish voters to profit by it. Nevertheless we can all understand without admiring the course taken by Mr. Cleveland’s Cabinet, who have good electoral reasons for wishing to be relieved from Lord Sackville’s dangerous patronage. It may be hoped, therefore, that the ignominious plot of the Californian Republicans will not be crowned by talk on this side of offended dignity, or such demonstrations as would force Mr. Cleveland into fresh testimonies of his terror of English friendship. Underneath all the foolish turmoil there is a compliment to Great Britain implied in the prodigious weight attached to our opinion of the struggle. The dishonest rogue who penned the false letter, and broke the sanctity of the private seal in the reply, may find his party lose more than it gains by the frank declaration of Lord Sackville. He can not, however, after such a bétise, be allowed to embroil the two nations, and we doubt not that a suitable way will be found to close with propriety and a fair amount of satisfaction the ridiculous event, which might prompt whole volumes of political satire, and has nothing to match it in its disproportion between the circumstances and their outcome since the famous “bucket of Modena.”
Nobody will be astonished, although many may be amused and some few offended, at the step to which the letter of a Californian trickster has driven President Cleveland and his Cabinet. Since the disclosure of the British minister’s indiscretion currents of telegrams have passed backwards and forwards across the Atlantic between the White House and Mr. Phelps, and the latter, as all know, has been in close communication with Lord Salisbury. It would probably have best suited the authorities at Washington if the prime minister here, being also secretary of state for foreign affairs, had advised Her Majesty to recall Lord Sackville, but for the reasons explained in a previous issue this was, of course, out of the question. The faux pas committed by our minister at Washington was personal, and takes what color of trouble and mischief it possesses from circumstances beyond the official cognizance of Her Majesty’s Government. It is very intelligible, therefore, that if the United States minister pressed for the recall of Lord Sackville during his stay at Hatfield, or subsequently, reasons of a commanding nature were explained to him which forbade the possibility of any such course. Indeed, it may be doubted if the Washington Cabinet could for a moment expect that the British Government would even entertain the idea of recalling a representative more sinned against than sinning, whose first false move, after a long service of perfect propriety, was to fall into a mean and malignant snare, carefully baited to catch an honorable and frank-minded man. Mr. Phelps accordingly had to cable to Mr. Bayard that whatever had to be done must be done by the United States authorities. We should like to believe that not only Mr. Cleveland and his Cabinet, but all the more honest members of the Republican party, would have been glad to do nothing at all, or, at the most, to disown Lord Sackville’s dreadful imputation of friendship to England in a way to show they were ashamed of the means by which it had been made public. The terror inspired by the use which Republican wire-pullers were making of the letter has, however, proved too great for the instincts of chivalry and courage which will return when the Presidential election is over. “Sackville must go” had become a cry on one side and a necessity on the other, so that on Tuesday night it was announced far and wide that the President had given our representative his congé. By Mr. Cleveland’s order the American Secretary of State informed Lord Sackville that, “for causes heretofore made known to Her Majesty’s Government, his continuance in his present official position in the United States is no longer acceptable to this Government, and would consequently be detrimental to the relations between the two countries.”
If under these circumstances Lord Sackville should be inclined to think his political peccadillo harshly visited, Mr. Bayard, in a communication to the President, has done his best to blacken it into the dimensions of something absolutely heinous. The innocent and confiding word “private” is transformed into a diplomatic sin. Under this cover, writes the American Secretary, “Lord Sackville undertook to advise a United States citizen how to exercise the franchise suffrage in an election for the Presidency and Vice-Presidency of the United States, and through him, as the letter suggested, to influence the votes of others.” How many votes, forsooth! A dozen, or half a dozen, for certainly nothing was further from our good, honest representative’s mind than that his letter should be used as an electioneering manifesto. This, therefore, is palpably absurd, and equally senseless is the charge that “Lord Sackville, in responding to inquiries from representatives of the press, had added to the impugnments already made upon the good faith of the American Government in its public action and international dealing by not disavowing or correcting his statements, notwithstanding that his attention had been called to them.” Was our minister, [Page 1687] then, to enter upon a series of palinodes with every editor who asked for explanations, and sit on the stool of repentance in all the newspaper offices of the States? The idea is ridiculous, and the Washington Cabinet would have acted more wisely in issuing their notice to quit to our unlucky representative without “painting the town red” in this undignified fashion. It is a farce all round, except upon the side of Her Majesty’s Government, which preserves a wise attitude of observant regret, and everybody in America understands the mot pour rire in the matter, and plays his part demurely. Mr. Cleveland must go through with his role of aggrieved horror at the bare charge of being just minded towards England; General Harrison and his party must keep up the comedy of pretending that an incautious note, marked “private,” could influence the casting of millions of votes; and all the world knows all the time that if the precious revelation had been made next Wednesday instead of last week, nobody would have taken notice of it. That Mr. Cleveland and his cause will not profit by preferring electioneering tactics to simplicity and manliness is shown in the statement sent by our special correspondent from the other side of the Atlantic. The New York Herald expresses the general feeling in the States that the action of the White House comes too late and too ungraciously. Mr. Bayard, in his communication to the President, inquires if it be not necessary “for the American Government to consider whether, as the guardian of its self-respect and the integrity of its institutions, it could permit further intercourse with Great Britain through the present minister.” It evidently occurs to many Americans to ask whether the self-respect of the United States Government might not have been better consulted by treating the ignoble dodge of the Californian rogue with contempt, and Lord Sackville’s slip with a reasonable indulgence. The intrinsic innocence of it was plain; but to “twist the tail of the British lion” was a policy the profits of which could not be abandoned to the Irish voters and their friends, so all the good work and guarded conduct of our minister forgotten in a moment, and this inconsiderate measure resolved upon. It is not, and it can not, happily be turned into anything serious. The elements of the farcical and the fictitious abound in the situation, which has no danger because it has no dignity. We confess ourselves, however, far too much the friends of the Great Republic to enjoy the spectacle of its Government being driven by an ignoble trick and by an election howl to heave good manners and great principles overboard, and for the sake of a handful of votes to adopt a course which in private life would be called by painful names.
Lord Sackville is rather to be congratulated than otherwise upon the excessive emphasis of the policy adopted towards him. It first of all saves him from another alternative; that is to say, resignation or withdrawal. It marks and records the matter as being wholly personal, which of course it is. The diplomatic consequences of a step like the present turn largely upon the question whether the discontent against an ambassador be due to an international difference or an individual offense. In 1809 Mr. Smith, American Secretary of State, quarreled with our envoy over certain phrases which the latter had employed in a correspondence, and he had to leave. Three years before that Madison demanded the departure of the Spanish minister over a boundary question; but the Spaniard staid on at Washington to suit his personal convenience until a vote of the Senate compelled his exit. Indeed, the American Government procured the dismissal of the Russian envoy for entirely personal causes and no doubt it is a well-established international rule that an administration may object to the person of an ambassador, and claim his withdrawal. All these points are clearly exposed in “Wharton on International Law,” if, indeed, there were any need to consult the high authorities on diplomatic practice. But there is none. Bowed out of America for too much simplicity and candor, Lord Sackville will probably not desire to prolong his stay there. The first secretary of the legation will discharge the business until it be convenient for Her Majesty’s Government to appoint a successor who, whatever his other faults, will assuredly never confide his personal sentiments to that seal of privacy which suffices in some countries to protect a well-meaning man. Anybody may make a slip, after years of caution and reticence; and certainly the action of the United States Government is precisely calculated to purge the venial fault of our representative, and to remit him to his official chiefs not in the least disqualified for some high post, if he should aspire to it, where the rules of friendly and civilized intercourse are not liable to be cast aside at the clamor of a faction or to win the “sweet voices” of Irish-American conspirators.
The indiscreet conduct of Lord Sackville has not, as will be seen from our New York telegram this morning, been allowed to pass without diplomatic action. It is not correct to say that the United States Government has already asked for the recall of the British minister at Washington; but it has taken a step little short of that extreme [Page 1688] measure. Mr. Bayard has instructed Mr. Phelps to lay the facts of the case before Lord Salisbury; and as the American minister proceeded to Hatfield on Saturday, some definite announcement on the subject may be expected in the course of a few hours. Mr. Phelps, as we have said, is not authorized to request the immediate withdrawal of our ambassador, but he is clearly empowered to point out to the prime minister that Lord Sackville is no longer a persona grata, to use the technical language of diplomacy, at Washington, and that communications between England and the United States would be more satisfactorily conducted through another channel. This is the substance of the statement which President Cleveland is said to have made on the subject. The initiative of relieving the strain is left with the British Government, but if they decline to take action, we are given to understand that the Americans will act for themselves. It does not, of course, follow that so unpleasant an alternative as the expulsion of our envoy will be resorted to either at all or at once. In an analogous case the ambassador of another European power remained at Washington for six months after his Government had received an official intimation that his withdrawal from the the Federal capital would be welcome. The more blustering politicians in America tell us that Lord Sackville will be allowed less indulgence, and that if a speedy decision be not arrived at by the British foreign office, the State Department will expedite matters by sending him his passports. Of course this is an exaggeration, but in any case the situation is sufficiently delicate. Lord Salisbury finds himself in one of those difficult and trying positions which may well make men of strong will and resolute character shrink from what Macaulay calls “that invidious, that closely-watched slavery, which is mocked with the name of power.” We do not doubt that the prime minister will come to the right decision, nor can we have much misgiving as to what that decision ought to be. We shall not suffer ourselves to be browbeaten; at the same time we are not going to quarrel with the United States Government over Lord Sackville. It is unpleasant for an English prime minister to be called upon to inflict a stigma on a trusted representative of this country, more particularly when nothing can be urged against him but a single act of imprudence, and that, in itself, comparatively trivial. The natural inclination of every foreign minister is to support his subordinates, and to make their quarrels his own. But this praiseworthy loyalty can not be carried so far as to injure the national interests. The Americans have a clear case against Lord Sackville. He committed what they are pleased to consider a grave breach of international comity, and what was, at any rate, an infraction of diplomatic etiquette. When, therefore, they declare that they can not transact business with this ambassador, we are bound to admit that they are, technically at least, in the right, and that the speediest method of ending an embarrassing episode will be to find some other sphere of usefulness for our present representative at Washington.
In saying this, we do not in the least desire to cast any serious reflection upon Lord Sackville. The Americans have made too much of the incident. They are in the thick of a fierce Presidential contest, and in the fever of political excitement which it generates all other interests are temporarily forgotten. It was not to be supposed that either party would fail to make use of so promising a subject. The one faction finds in it an admirable opportunity to inflame that anti-English sentiment which can always be counted upon as a certain force in American politics; the other, anxious to show that its nationalism is no whit less intense, is still more energetic in denouncing the author of the mischief. True no great harm has been done. The chances of General Harrison-and Mr. Cleveland are not in the smallest degree influenced by the fact that an English gentleman has allowed himself to express a cautious and mildly-worded opinion on the merits of the controversy. Nor is there anything in Lord Sackville’s letter to which a large number of American citizens would not willingly subscribe. Indeed, when we recollect the indecent fashion in which American legislatures and officials have openly approved, encouraged, and abetted a dangerous agitation in these islands, we find it difficult to believe in the reality of the anger which finds such vigorous expression in the New York journals. To show a slight and guarded preference for one of the political parties in America is a very different thing from passing votes of condolence with men whom English tribunals have been compelled to punish as criminals. But two blacks do not make one white. We may well believe that the wrath of the Americans is very much in excess of what the occasion demands, and that nothing would have been heard of the affair if it had occurred in connection with anything else than a Presidential election. We may assume, and with abundant justification, that Lord Sackville’s letter is regarded as no more than a missile with which each party can conveniently inflict some damage on the other. None the less, Lord Sackville has put himself in the wrong. It is contrary to all international usage for an ambassador to interfere, even informally, in the internal politics of the State to which he is accredited; nor does the fact that the Americans habitually meddle with our domestic affairs excuse this violation of a useful custom. We do not know that matters are improved by the statement that the letter to which Lord Sackville replied was something very different from what it purported to be. It [Page 1689] probably was a mere ruse, intended to draw from the British envoy an expression of opinion which would be damaging to a party already accused of too much complaisance towards England. Such tricks as these are not very creditable to the American sense of honor. They show considerably more of that quality which the Americans call “cuteness” than of delicacy or integrity. Lord Sackville says that a trap was laid for him by unscrupulous partisans. Possibly. But it was his business not to fall into traps. An ambassador who allows himself to be betrayed into indiscretion by such a clumsy piece of malevolent imposture discredits himself. We sympathize, to a certain extent, with Lord Sackville, but there would have been no occasion for sympathy if he had practiced that habit of reticence which is about the first lesson a diplomatist has to acquire.
By this time, no doubt, Lord Sackville sees all this quite as clearly as his critics. Fortunately, there is one obvious way in which he can make atonement for his error of judgment. The most simple and satisfactory solution of the difficulty be has innocently created would be for him to tender his resignation. This would, no doubt, be accepted, and it would not prevent his further employment in some other office or at some other capital. It would be a pity if the public service were deprived of the knowledge and the experience he has acquired; nor is it likely that he will again offend by writing political memoranda in answer to casual and unknown inquirers. If this course is adopted nobody, not even Lord Sackville himself, will be much the worse for the incident. If it is not, we are not at all sure that the affair, trivial and unimportant as it really is, will pass over without leaving some unpleasant memories behind. The removal of Lord Sackville, if he should fail to see the advisibility of retiring voluntarily, can hardly be effected with the headlong haste which some thoughtless American politicians expect; still, every day that he remains at Washington must add to the difficulties of a situation which is already sufficiently strained. The sooner both parties in America are able to forget Lord Sackville’s indiscretion, the better will it be for them as well as for us; for it certainly can not be in the true interests of the Union that a furious outcry against a foreign and friendly power should be on the programme of an electioneering campaign. The wisest men in America must deplore the outburst of anti-English feeling which has accompanied the present contest for the Presidency. Knowing as we do the conditions under which American party leaders retain their ascendency, and the unfortunate necessity which forces them to court the Irish vote at all hazards, we do not attach undue important to the Chauvinistic clap-trap which has been current in the United States for some months past. For their own part, English men have no other desire than to remain on good terms with their kinsmen beyond the Atlantic; but they can not help feeling that their friendship has been exposed to a rather severe test by the repudiation of the fisheries treaty and the recent acts and speeches of a good many American politicians. There is no necessity to allow any fresh cause of irritation to arise; and since Lord Sackville, in perfect simplicity and good faith, has rendered himself an object of invective and distrust in Washington, the best tiling he can do to make amends for a slight, but very unfortunate, mistake is to offer to withdraw.
We print elsewhere the text of the letter in which Lord Sackville was made acquainted with the wishes of President Cleveland for his withdrawal, and it forbids all further hope that the object of the American Government was not to do an offensive thing in the most offensive way. The matter would have been serious enough had Mr. I3ayard confined himself to informing the British ambassador that he was no longer a persona grata, and that, as a corollary to this, it would promote the easy course of diplomatic relations if some other representative were occupied in his room. But delicacy of this kind was carefully eschewed in the State Department. The art of composition was exhausted in straining after coarse effect. “Lord Sackville,” who was no longer recognized, even in the address on the envelope, in his official capacity, was told, with studied curtness, that his stay at Washington would be detrimental to good relations; and, to point the insult, he was furnished, as an inclosure to the notification, with a letter of safe conduct through the Territories of the United States. There is nothing here to translate; no innuendo to develop; no covert sarcasm to explain. Everything is blunt and plain. The British ambassador is ordered out of the country, and pains are taken to make the order wear the aspect of an unmistakable affront. American diplomacy can be polite when it pleases; in this instance the object was to be disagreeable, and the only fault the critic can find is that the thing was overdone. Of course, there are precedents for the dismissal of an ambassador; but the search for them will take the student into cases of gross provocation and the extreme of enmity between nations. We are less concerned, however, to examine Mr. Cleveland’s reasons than to consider the actual result of his deliberations. [Page 1690] He has done to the minister of Great Britain what British statesmanship would hesitate, save for grave cause, to do to the representative of the smallest State in the world. No option is given; no chance of keeping up dignity and saving appearances. The President is not satisfied to renounce diplomatic intercourse with the accredited agent of a friendly power, hut must needs, of his own motion, strip him of all title to the functions for which he is accredited. He degrades our ambassador before ordering him to leave the country. Lord Sackville is not allowed the ordinary hospitality of American soil; he is told to go, and go at once. If war had been declared between the two nations, the State Department could have done nothing more obtrusively unfriendly. We may even say that in such a case the same care would have been taken to mitigate the personal unpleasantness as, thanks to Mr. Bayard’s trenchant style, has now been taken to emphasize it. Considered as a mere matter of etiquette, the course pursued at Washington will not redound to the credit of American manners. But that, of course, concerns the Americans; for Englishmen it is quite enough to feel that their ambassador is being hustled out of the United States in the most contumelious fashion.
The worst feature in the case is that, outside of political circles, there is not an intelligent man in the United States who considers the incident that gave rise to this discourtesy one which statesmen burdened with any sense of true dignity would have thought worth a moment’s notice. We are glad to observe that, even within the limits of the President’s authority, there are many publicists clear-headed enough to see the absurdity of the figure which Mr. Cleveland and his advisers insist upon cutting in the eyes of the whole world; and it is only just to add that if a Presidential election were not in the air, sanity would not be the exception. Mr. Cleveland, we doubt not, personally despises the follies and the littlenesses which he has to humor by this descent into petty spite. He is the slave of his wire-pullers and managers, and since they think that his Republican rivals may make capital out of the affair, the President, who sincerely desires to be re-elected, must not be too nice about the decencies of diplomacy. During the electoral period everything is at sixes and sevens, and the rules of sound sense and good taste are by common consent suspended. The “narration of facts” which Mr. Bayard has communicated to the American press is welcome, so far as it implies that the Secretary of State is conscious that the course he has taken needs explanation. We gather that the point in Lord Sackville’s conduct on which the Washington cabinet fastens as matter of particular offense is his imputation of personal and partisan motives to the President. It is not so much foreign interference that stings as the incidental comments on the ways of American party men. We should not have thought this, we confess, an adequate or even a colorable excuse. Mr. Phelps and Mr. Lowell have more than once told Englishmen wholesome though unpalatable truths about the tendencies of their domestic politics. Yet neither of them ever received his passport. “The attention of the British Government,” Mr. Bayard continues, “had been drawn, in a spirit of comity, to the conduct of its minister, with an expression of the opinion of the American cabinet in regard thereto, without result.” And because there was no result, in the sense desired, the President, we are to understand, was driven to the extreme step of summary dismissal. It is much to be regretted that the English nation has to depend for material for a judgment on the action of our foreign office on the fragmentary and ex parte statements made at Washington. The English people, who are aggrieved by the insult offered, rightly or wrongly, to their representative, are entitled to know, on the best authority, how far reasonable satisfaction has been offered to the United States. Whether Mr. Bayard be justified or not, the indignity to Great Britain is the same. If Lord Sackville has been rightly treated, we can not reproach Mr. Cleveland; but, in that case, we must certainly blame Lord Salisbury for having exposed us to a public affront. If, on the other hand, our foreign office made such concessions as usage demands to American susceptibilities, it is well that the country should be reassured on the subject. Indignation will not be lessened if it turns out that there was no color of pretext for the wrong of which we complain; but there will be no element of self-reproach to add to our chagrin. There is, of course, a well-understood rule in cases of disputes between two governments, that neither side shall without the consent of the other, disclose the communications that pass between them. Mr. Bayard, though he lays stress upon the rule, appears to have interpreted it very laxly. We do not ask Lord Salisbury to follow his example, but the English people have a right to some official information from our own foreign office regarding a matter which deeply affects our honor, and which is the common property of every politician in the United States. It is possible for a prime minister, in a matter of this sort to be too reticent.
With regard to Lord Sackville personally, we can only say that what is done can not be undone. Under any circumstances he could have had no long stay at a capital where his presence had become distasteful, and we assume that he will not make a feint of staying after he has received an unmannerly congé. The miserable trick out of which the business grew does not fortunately touch in the remotest way on [Page 1691] the general political relations of the United States and Great Britain. Even the fisheries question will not be prejudiced by Lord Sackville’s anticipations that Mr. Cleveland would, in spite of campaigning rhetoric, do whatever fairness and the spirit of conciliation prescribed. But in the meanwhile are we to take no notice of the slight offered to us? Are we to sit down quietly while our ambassador is sacrificed to the exigencies of American party life? We understand too well the origin of the unpleasantness to resent it with any lasting depth of feeling. No one thinks a whit the more harshly of our friends beyond the Atlantic on account of the little piece of unfriendliness into which their domestic rivalries have betrayed them. But, while we keep our resentment strictly within the narrow sphere of the provocation, the question of retaliation is not to be dismissed at once. Mr. Phelps is distinctly popular here; conforming in that respect to the all but uniform precedent set by his predecessors. Still, if the strife of Democrats and Republicans has involved Lord Sackville’s disgrace, it might be deemed proper to show our sense of wounded dignity by tendering Mr. Phelps his passports. Every Englishman would regret the loss of so excellent a guest, and, no doubt, the feeling that we were following about the worst possible example that could be set would, in itself, serve to deter us from taking this course. But the instinct of retaliation does not always wait to argue or to discriminate about the virtues of individuals.
Everybody in England is agreed that we have just received a deliberate affront from the Government of the United States. Now, there are various ways of encountering an insult; but, whatever mode of treating it be adopted, the offended party ought, at least, to make it apparent that his conduct is not inspired by timidity or want of spirit. If he fails to do this, he will naturally become the favorite butt of all those ill-conditioned persons who love to exhibit their insolence when they can do it without fear of retaliation. And what is absolutely true of private individuals is substantially true in an equal degree of nations and communities. It has pleased the republican Government of the United States to put an affront of the most ill-mannered and unwarrantable character on this country; nor does the outrage lose its significance because it was avowedly inspired by the lowest and most unworthy motives of party interest. What ought to be the response of Great Britain to the curt and summary expulsion of Lord Sackville from Washington? Ought we to turn our cheek to the smiter, to send another ambassador across the Atlantic, and to treat the letter of Mr. Secretary Bayard and the act of Mr. Cleveland with contemptuous indifference? We observe that there is a disposition at home to take this line, nor do we for one moment seek to deny that there are abundant elements, both of the grotesque and despicable, in the incident. But it should be remembered that though, in private life, a gentleman may abstain from taking notice of a gratuitous piece of rudeness from some underbred fellow, without laying himself open to the suspicion that he is afraid of entering into a quarrel with a forward adversary, no two nations can occupy a relation of that kind towards each other. England and the United States are supposed to be on a footing of perfect equality; and the moment the idea of equality prevails the obligation of reciprocity is forthwith established. Now, let us ask ourselves, what would have been the reply of the Government of the United States if, on the assumption that Mr. Phelps had done no more than was inadvertently done by Lord Sackville, the American ambassador had been given his passports, and ordered, in a rude letter from Lord Salisbury, to quit London? Does anyone imagine that, under such circumstances, the British minister at Washington would have been permitted to remain thereby the American Government. No: no one does. We all know that he would at once have received precisely the same treatment that had been accorded to the representative of the United States in this country. We should most assuredly have read nothing in the New York journals about the exacting necessities of party politics in England, nor would the Americans have been satisfied with shrugging their shoulders, and saying that John Bull always was rather a testy sort of person. We very much doubt whether the Government of Washington would even have been satisfied with a mere tit for tat. On the contrary, we are pretty sure that it would have replied to the insult by an affront of a yet more offensive character, and that the relations of the two countries would have been seriously endangered.
But it will, perhaps, be said that, notwithstanding Mr. Bayard’s affectation of injury, both he and the President of the Republic, and the people of the United States, are perfectly well aware that Lord Sackville has, in reality, done them no wrong whatever, and that Lord Salisbury and the English nation are expected to understand this and to make allowances for the straits in which American politicians of [Page 1692] the highest rank find themselves, on the eve of a Presidential election. Will it not, therefore, be better, it is urged, to enter into the spirit of the comedy, and not to spoil sport by taking seriously what is not seriously intended? This line of argument is not unintelligible, and, up to a certain point, the English people have a sufficiently keen sense of humor to enter into the joke, vulgar and coarse though it may be. But it is rather a strong proposal to suggest that our good-natured toleration of American Presidential exigencies should go to the extent of allowing the Queen’s representative to be treated, in the face of the whole world, in an offensive, insolent manner. However superior we may think ourselves in the matter of good breeding and seemly behavior, we can hardly, without loss of reputation, permit our ambassador at Washington to be expelled from the United States as though he had been guilty of some heinous crime, or as though no reparation whatever were to be obtained for a trivial indiscretion. Unless it should appear that Lord Salisbury categorically refused to recognize that Lord Sackville had committed an error of any kind, the allegation of Mr. Bayard that ample time had been given to the English Government to consider what course it would pursue is simply a piece of impudent disingenuousness. A glaring offense, concerning which there is no dispute, is visited by prompt punishment. A fault of a trivial character, such as that undoubtedly committed by Lord Sackville, is usually inquired into, by fair and honest men, before any penalty is affixed to it. But, indeed, there is no necessity to argue this point. It is no more denied on the other side of the Atlantic than it is doubted on this, that the Government of the United States jumped at a timely though not even plausible excuse for insulting England, in order to win back the wavering Irish vote for the Democratic party. We recognize, in one sense, the overpowering cogency of the motive. But we should be curious to know if the same cynical experiment would have been ventured upon with Germany, or Russia, or France? No doubt the English minister is the only minister out of whose improper treatment any valuable party capital is to be made. But, if it were otherwise, does anybody believe that Prince Bismarck would have been called on to deal with such an affront as that concerning which Lord Salisbury is now deliberating? If the answer be given in the affirmative, we can only say that Prince Bismarck would assuredly make uncommonly small allowance for the “exigencies of American politics” and Presidential elections, but would quickly show Mr. Cleveland that Germany has not the smallest desire to be civil to the United States, the moment it becomes apparent that the United States is wanting in civility and consideration to Germany. To ask what Lord Palmerston would have done, under similar circumstances, is a waste of breath; for in the days of Lord Palmerston no English ambassador would have been exposed to such scurvy treatment.
We yield to none in the desire that the relations of Great Britain and the United States should be hot only friendly, but intimate and cordial, and in the feeling that a serious quarrel between the two nations would be one of the most deplorable calamities that could befall the world. But we are unable to believe that those relations can be cordial, intimate, friendly, or even tolerably good, while one nation periodically permits itself to assume an insolent attitude, and the other nation tamely submits to the pretension. No doubt, quickness to take offense is the mark of the parvenu, whether among individuals or among nations. England is a powerful and an old-established state, and we can afford to ignore certain breaches of good manners which a younger or weaker nation would be disposed to resent on the spot. But it will not be for our advantage to acquire a character for tamely putting up with affronts and contumely which other states would not suffer for an instant. Neither, in the long run, will it be for the advantage of the United States. For the belief that England may be insulted with impunity will grow with repeated practice, until the American people will come to believe that, under the “exigencies “of their domestic politics, there is nothing in the shape of diplomatic outrage they may not safely attempt against us. At last some intolerable affront will be offered. The recollection of past affronts of a minor character would come into play, and there would be an open quarrel between the two countries. We are all in favor of a calm and composed consideration of insults, real or alleged; but we are by no means in favor of a pusillanimous toleration of them, when they are proved to be insults. In this case, the insult is avowed, deliberate, and calculated—not, indeed, with the object of insulting or irritating us, but of using our good nature or want of spirit for their own domestic purposes. Writing in this most tranquil temper, we are forced to add that Lord Salisbury will either have to devise some means of giving expression to the displeasure of this country, or he will fall below what is expected of him, and what is due to the honor of his sovereign and his nation. Whether Mr. Phelps be or be not left here in peace, some expedient must be discovered for conveying to the Government and the people of the United States our sense of the unfriendliness and unmannerliness of their conduct. Unless this be done, what man of ordinary spirit can be expected to accept the post of representative of the cabinet of St. James at Washington? Who will care to be the successor of Lord Sackville, if the outrageous [Page 1693] affront to which he has been subjected—outrageous because out of all proportion to his offense—be treated as of no consequence I What, coo, will be thought in Canada, in Australia, in India? Even if we were disposed to permit ourselves to be insulted with impunity, it would be necessary to remember that we can not afford to do so.
lord sackville’s letter.
It is announced that the Government of the United States has communicated to Lord Salisbury a remonstrance against the conduct of the English minister at Washington and a request for his recall. To retain a representative in a foreign country where his presence annoys the Executive is practically impossible, and Lord Sackville will in all probability be speedily removed to another post, unless he should prefer to retire from the diplomatic service altogether. Nothing but a sense of duty could make the owner of Knole Park desire to “lie abroad for the good of his country.” But Lord Sackville has served England so faithfully, and has recently done such important work in connection with the great fisheries dispute, that everyone would regret so untoward a termination of his official career. Lord Sackville has been for more than forty years a professional diplomatist. He has been for seven years head of the legation at Washington, and we are not aware that any complaint has ever been made of him before. In June, 1885, when Mr. Gladstone resigned, and Lord Salisbury became prime minister for the first time, Mr. Sackville West, as he then was, received the honor of a knight commandership in the order of St. Michael and St. George. A week ago most people would have described Lord Sackville as one of those valuable agents of international affairs who are so little conspicuous because they are so completely successful. Now our New York correspondent informs us that a popular heading in the American newspapers is “Sackville must go.” If the fishery negotiations had been left to him, instead of being intrusted to a boisterous bungler from Birmingham, it is practically certain that a permanent treaty between Great Britain and the United States would by this time have been ratified by the American Senate. The verse of Menander about the effect of evil communications is something musty. But it would really seem as if Mr. Chamberlain’s bad example had thrown Lord Sackville off his diplomatic balance. That Her Majesty’s plenipotentiary at Washington should advise an American citizen how to vote in an impending Presidential election is one more astounding addition to those “follies of the wise,” which unhappily sometimes occur before the “last scene” where the poet would charitably confine them. Seldom, indeed, has a mischievous act been committed in so transparently innocent a manner and with such a complete absence of adequate motive.
Lord Sackville, we are told, now realizes what he might have suspected before, that the letter of inquiry addressed to him was an electioneering trick. It purported to come from a resident in California named Murchison, who described himself as a natural-born British subject. There was in reality no such person, and Lord Sackville was the dupe of a local reporter. It must be perfectly obvious to the humblest intelligence that the fact of the pseudo-Murchison having once owned allegiance to the Queen would have given him no special claim upon Lord Sackville, and that the last thing he had a right to demand from the British minister was political advice. No man can be at once a British subject and an American citizen, though Lord Brougham is said to have contended that he himself could be at the same time a member of the English House of Lords and the French Chamber of Peers. If “Mr. Murchison “was a British subject he had no right to vote in the Presidential election next month. If he had been an American citizen he would have had nothing to do with Lord Sackville. These are the beggarly elements of international law which has long since abandoned the absurd doctrine that no one can divest himself of his nationality. Lord Sackville, by some extraordinary mischance, “fell headlong into the trap which had been laid for him. He wrote a letter which in a lucid interval he marked “private,” but which the demon of mischief prevented him from tearing up as soon as he came to read it through. In this singular document, “Mr. Murchison” is, with much circumlocution, recommended to vote for President Cleveland’s continuance in office. Lest there should be any mistake about the minister’s meaning, he inclosed an article from the New York Times in support of Mr. Cleveland’s candidature. The publication of what Lord Sackville had so indiscreetly written was of course absolutely indefensible. It is a grossly dishonorable act to print any private letter without the consent of the writer. There is no exception to this rule, which no respectable paper would transgress. But what did Lord Sackville expect? People who play tricks on the eve of elections are not bound by nice scruples of conscience, and he had apparently [Page 1694] never heard of any Mr. Murchison before. His letter has been placarded far and wide by Republicans who care more for the success of General Harrison than for the security of personal correspondence.
Every Englishman must sincerely hope that Lord Sackville’s indiscretion will not in any way affect the great contest in which the United States are about to engage. Our New York correspondent assures us that the respectable leaders of the Irish party despise the attempts to influence their votes by this paltry maneuver. The letter itself is as harmless as such an effusion could be. There is not a word in it about purely American politics, such as tariff reform. There is no reflection whatever upon the Republican party, and no allusion to the Republican candidate for the Presidency. Lord Sackville, in short, could not have done an improper and imprudent thing in a less offensive and objectionable manner. Our correspondent does indeed represent that the President and Mr. Bayard regard as an unpardonable affront the reference to the political object of Mr. Cleveland’s message. But we can not help thinking that this is a misinterpretation on their part. Only boobies believe what Lord Sackville is supposed to have said. It has, indeed, been argued by some too ingenious apologists of Lord Sackville that, as Mr. Cleveland is still President of the United States, the British minister was only upholding constituted authority. But this will not do. Mr. Cleveland was elected for four years, and at the end of that term his commission ceases. He may be re-elected, as several of his predecessors have been. That contingency, however, depends upon a popular vote, which has not yet been taken, which may be hostile to him, and with which Lord Sackville has no legitimate concern. The election will in all probability turn far more upon the financial or economic question, and upon the individual merits of the candidates, than upon the issues in which Lord Sackville is naturally so much interested. We do not believe that there is any party or body of Americans unfriendly to this country, except that most Irishmen, whether they live in the United States or elsewhere, detest and abhor the coercive government of Lord Salisbury. If the Paper Union were worth the dangers and inconveniences it occasions, Englishmen would know how to confront and bear them. It is not worth them. That, however, is a matter to be decided at another election, which can not come too soon. Lord Sackville has done nothing for which an honest man need be ashamed. But there are blunders, as the last Lord Derby was not the first to discover, which are worse than crimes. Lord Sackville’s error is in reality far smaller and of far less consequence than the blazing indiscretions of Mr. Chamberlain. Lord Sackville only believed that everybody was as simple and straightforward as himself. He “remembered to forget” Sir Henry Totten’s famous saying that a diplomatist could cultivate a frank demeanor, and and keep his opinions to himself.
lord sackville and mr. bayard.
Lord Sackville may be congratulated upon having involved his country in the most serious misunderstanding with the United States since the settlement of the Alabama Claims. As we have already said, there was not very much in his letter, apart from the fact of his having written it, which ought to have excited American feeling. But the English minister did not, unfortunately, mend matters by the interviews which he granted to American correspondents at Washington, or by the language which he held on those occasions. The palpable result of departing from diplomatic reticence, if it taught him nothing else, might at least have taught him to hold his tongue. He has succeeded in making bad worse, and has deepened the impression, previously a very slight one, that lie intended to charge the American Government with insincerity in its international dealings. That is an accusation which, even if it were true—perhaps especially if it were true—no high-spirited people would endure from the representative of a foreign power. We have never seen any reason, and we see no reason now, to charge President Cleveland with inconsistency or want of candor in reference to the question of Canadian fisheries. He did his best to procure the conclusion of an honorable treaty. The Senate, in the exercise of its undoubted right, and for causes which, whether good or bad, were relevant, declined to ratify the instrument. Thereupon the President took retaliatory measures, of which we need say no more than that a competent judge might honestly regard them as the best alternative to the rejected treaty. Englishmen ought to be ashamed of the childish pettishness which attributes to the supposed weakness of American institutions every hitch in the business of diplomacy. One of the ablest American journals regrets the undue importance which has been attached to Lord Sackville’s letter, and so do we. But we must take things as we find them, and the man who has made a mistake, however innocently, can not complain of the inevitable consequences. Lord Saulsbury’s Irish policy has inflamed a number of American [Page 1695] citizens, who never forget that they are Irishmen, with hatred of the British Government. The dispute with the Canadians has made the maritime States jealous of any favors shown to British interests. The Republican leaders have rather absurdly represented Mr. Cleveland’s zeal for tariff reform as what Mr. Goschen would call a “surrender” to British principles of free trade. In these circumstances, the President naturally desires to clear himself from all suspicion of courting British support in a matter where this country is not concerned. If he had taken no notice of Lord Sackville’s indiscretion, the election might have been decided by a false and collateral issue, to the serious detriment of American politics.
It is much to be regretted that the American Secretary of State should have acted with an apparent want of personal courtesy towards the British minister. Unfortunately, it is not easy to understand the position or the conduct of Her Majesty’s Government. Mr. Bayard has, it seems, communicated with Lord Salisbury, but has elicited from him no satisfactory reply. Thereupon he has informed Lord Sackville that the latter’s continuance at Washington would not be acceptable to the American Government. This is an extreme step, which is very seldom taken except on quite different and infinitely more serious grounds. But our New York correspondent informs us that it meets with general approval, and that the members of the President’s own party are especially jubilant, It is impossible to form a comprehensive judgment upon Lord Salisbury’s behavior in this delicate matter until he has had an opportunity of describing and explaining his own course. On the face of things, however, it would seem as if the very unpleasant complication into which this extraordinary blunder has now grown might have been avoided by a little more vigor and promptitude in Downing street. Lord Palmerston’s principle of standing by his own subordinates has much to recommend it where attacks are made upon character, and where the truth of the allegations is doubtful. But Lord Sackville’s character is not impugned, the facts are patent to all the world, and the possibility of a minister’s usefulness is gone when he has ceased to be on good terms with the Government to which he is accredited. If Lord Salisbury had recalled Lord Sackville on the first receipt of a complaint from Mr. Bayard, much unpleasantness would obviously have been averted. This is emphatically one of those cases where two heads are better than one. Often as we have had occasion to deplore the combination of two incompatible parts in the person of Lord Salisbury, there has never been a stronger instance of the inconvenience than this incident affords. Every foreign secretary, except Lord Palmerston in his later tenure of the office, has been subject to the control of the prime minister, and when Lord Palmerston became too independent he was finally dismissed by Lord John Russell. There is much in Lord Salisbury’s foreign policy with which we have been able entirely to concur. It is as different as possible from the reckless adventures of Lord Beaconsfield, and we do not wish to make any attack upon it now. But we must once more protest against England’s relations with the world being exclusively determined by a single man.
Mr. Bayard’s view of the matter is plain enough, and it may be found in an interesting passage from his letter to the President, which our New York correspondent has telegraphed to us. Lord Sackville has, according to Mr. Bayard, aggravated his original misconduct, first by repeating the allegations in his letter to representatives of the American press, and secondly by not disavowing his imputations upon the Executive when his attention was called to them by Mr. Bayard. We can not help thinking that Mr. Bayard exaggerates the meaning of Lord Sackville’s letter, which was certainly not directed against the persons who more particularly complain of it. But there is no use in going back upon that now. Lord Sackville can do no more good in Washington, and to keep him there after the President has practically refused to receive him merely adds fuel to the flame. Lord Salisbury is a man of great ability, and as a dispatch writer it would not be easy to surpass him. But his judgment is, not equal to his cleverness, and there are many far duller statesmen in whom the public would feel greater confidence at a crisis like the present. When the New York Times says that “the British authorities failed to act with the promptness which we had a right to expect,” it is disagreeable to feel, but impossible to help feeling, that there may be some foundation for the reproach. Lord Salisbury, however, it must in fairness be remembered, is bound to take the Queen’s pleasure, and Her Majesty is at a considerable distance. Nobody, except perhaps the President, comes out of this quarrel very creditably, and even he had better not have given publicity to his opinion that Lord Sackville is wanting in common sense. Mr. Bayard, who complains of Lord Sackville’s garrulity, was equally garrulous himself; and the New York Herald roundly urges, not the recall of Lord Sackville, but the dismissal of Mr. Bayard. “Lord Salisbury,” says that journal, “has by mere silence gained the advantage for his Government.” Lord Salisbury would certainly have been very wrong to make speeches about international negotiations before they were completed. If, however, Lord Salisbury has pushed his reticence so far as to make no adequate response to the American Government’s demands he has only invited for Lord Sackville additional and avoidable humiliation.
lord sackville’s exit.
The American Government has unfortunately proceeded to the last extremity with the British minister at Washington. On Tuesday afternoon Lord Sackville received from Mr. Bayard a letter which practically amounted to a notice to quit. Lord Sackville was informed that his continuance in his present official situation is not desirable, and that a safe-conduct was therefore forwarded to him. The incident is an unhappy one, and will not improve the relations between the two countries. But it undoubtedly has its comic side. Lord Sackville tried to do a little bit of mild electioneering on behalf of President Cleveland, and the result is that the President sends him packing. As the Presidential election is fixed for next Tuesday, Mr. Cleveland was doubtless pressed for time. Lord Salisbury, on the other hand, “seems to have thought that he had better not make up his mind in a hurry, and that the opportunity was favorable for a series of protracted negotiations. A foreign minister, however, can not always act with the deliberation which befits a judge, and in this case the iron should have been struck while it was hot. The dignity of the country has not in the least been saved, nor the character of Lord Sackville protected by Lord Salisbury’s imprudent hesitation. If the United States had acted with undue precipitancy, or with an insufficient regard for diplomatic propriety, that was their affair and not ours. Rudeness injures the party guilty of it, and not the party against whom it is employed. Individuals are the proper guardians of their own honor, but for a nation to resent a slight in the only substantial way is a grievous crime. As the wildest shrieker of “Rule Brittannia” would not dream of going to war for Lord Sackville, the obvious course—the one dictated alike by self-respect and common sense—was to recall him as soon as his recall was desired by Mr. Cleveland and Mr. Bayard. The usefulness of an ambassador or a minister depends partly upon his acceptability to the court or Government which receives him, and they possess a practical veto upon his retention in office, as well as upon his original appointment. A foolish and ill-bred attack was made in the House of Commons some years ago upon the selection of M. Challemel-Lacour as ambassador of the French Republic in London. It led to a long and acrimonious discussion, in the course of which M. Challemel-Lacour was entirely forgotten. But if M. Challemel-Lacour had been obnoxious to the Queen, or to Mr. Gladstone, or to Lord Granville, instead of to Mr. O’Donnell, his nomination could not have been made, or must have been afterwards canceled.
The suggestion that Mr. Phelps should be treated in the same manner as Lord Sackville is theoretically illogical and practically foolish. It probably results as much from sheer ignorance as from any less respectable quality of the human mind. When nations have determined to fight the departure of one minister is naturally the signal for the departure of the other. A total cessation of diplomatic intercourse is independent of persons, and the motives which apply to the conduct of one belligerent must also direct the proceedings of the other. But because Lord Sackville has given offense at Washington it scarcely follows that Mr. Phelps has made himself intolerable in Loudon. Mr. Phelps has not, so far at least as the public are aware, written to advise a naturalized American of whom he never heard before to vote for a Tory candidate at the next general election, because the Tories were more likely than the Liberals to cultivate a good understanding with America. Nothing could have made Lord Sackville’s singular indiscretion more than a personal matter except Lord Salisbury’s strange inability to appreciate the necessity of speedy action. The wiseacres assure us, with their curious knack of imparting an element of falsehood into the merest platitude, that President Cleveland has yielded to electioneering necessities. Lord Sackville could scarcely have advised even an imaginary person how to vote if there had been no election for him to vote in; and so far we must all bow to the oracle. Let us suppose, however, as a help towards clearing our minds of cant, that the President had taken the serenely dignified course of doing nothing. What would have been the result of his masterly inactivity, his statesmanlike reserve? It would have been said by many, and believed by some, that he was intriguing with the British Government to influence the votes of American citizens. If that were all, it might plausibly be urged that he should have despised such an absurd imputation. But that is not all. Every one might have said, for no one could have denied, that the Democratic candidate for the Presidency, who happens to be also President, had silently accepted the support of Her Majesty’s representative at Washington, and had allowed it to be tacitly inferred that his famous message of retaliation to Canada was not sincere. If, for this or other reasons, Mr. Cleveland had been unsuccessful in the Presidential contest, General Harrison would probably have taken the first opportunity of intimating that Lord Sackville’s room was preferred to his company.
But while we very much regret the stupid attacks which have been made upon Mr. Cleveland, it would be affectation to pretend that American politics are not totally deranged once in every four years. The large, easy tolerance which is even more [Page 1697] characteristic of Americans than the exceptional smartness attributed to them, would certainly not, in ordinary circumstances, either demand or approve such a note as Mr. Bayard has addressed to Lord Sackville. The late General Sheridan’s motto, “Let everything go in,” is remembered at Washington on the eve of the great struggle, when other more important principles are forgotten. The Irish vote is an important element on such occasions, but the Irish vote is not everything. Lord Sackville will have done some good, as well as much mischief, if he reminds enthusiasts that the American Constitution is not perfect. To the ignorant contempt for that “leviathan,” as Hobbes would call it, which formerly prevailed among English Tories has succeeded an equally ignorant admiration. The political heirs of the men who regarded Lincoln as a kind of Elijah Pogram, and were confident that the Yankees would be licked by the gentlemen of the South, now turn fondly to America as a country where Irish members would be shot out of hand. Mr. Balfour has deduced from his profound study of comparative politics the lesson that the United States are the most conservative community in the world; and it is of course true that slavery, which was abolished there more than twenty years ago, can only be abolished once. The magnitude of that revolution, which English conservatism intensely abhorred, has dwarfed all subsequent changes. The election for the American Presidency is not an admirable performance. It is entirely different from what it professes to be, for the electors who are supposed to choose the President are of course merely dummies, pledged to vote for a particular candidate. The choice by an English dean and chapter of a bishop already chosen by the prime ministers is not a more ludicrous farce than the second part of the double process invented as a check upon democracy by the founders of the American Republic. We hear much vague abuse of American politicians. But the misfortune of America is that her citizens are not political enough. When the mass of a people abandon politics to those who make of it a profession or a game, the result may not be jobbery or corruption, which are far less common in the United States than hasty book-makers have asserted; but it is certain to destroy the moral perspective of public men, so that such trifles as the temporary aberration of a respectable diplomatist are enough to convulse half a continent.