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FRESH FOREIGN INTERCOURSE. - Harriet Martineau, Harriet Martineau’s Autobiography, vol. 2 and Memorials of Harriet Martineau 
Harriet Martineau’s Autobiography and Memorials of Harriet Martineau, ed. Maria Weston Chapman (Boston: James R. Osgood & Co., 1877). 2 vols. Vol. 2.
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FRESH FOREIGN INTERCOURSE.
“It is easier to change many things than one.”
— Lord Bacon.
“Am I, therefore, become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?”
I learn from all her journals and letters of this period, as well as by her communications to myself, how deeply her American intercourses touched her heart and mind. She felt that they were not mere formal or flattering expressions, but testimonies of grateful remembrance and regard from the members of the American Antislavery Society to their co-worker of so many perilous years both in England and in America; and they kept alive in her mind the recollection of the years during which she had cherished the purpose of living with them in their own land. The value of that constant co-operation was more and more appreciated, as the news of her hopeless illness from time to time reached the United States; especially as communicated by her American friend, Mr. Pillsbury, who enjoyed the hospitalities of The Knoll shortly after her consultations with Dr. Latham.
At the annual meeting of the Antislavery Society at Boston in 1856, Mr. Garrison, on behalf of the business committee of the meeting, reported the following resolution: —
“Resolved, That, since the briefest historical retrospect of the last quarter of a century would be imperfect without an expression of feeling in view of one great and holy life which the world has seen so unreservedly and strenuously devoted to the welfare of mankind; and since that whole noble life, now approaching the term that gives freedom to speak the whole truth concerning it, has a peculiar claim on our hearts, we feel privileged by our cause, to express to Harriet Martineau, while yet there is time, our deep, affectionate, and reverential gratitude for the benefit of her labours, the honour of her friendship, and the sublime joy of her example.”
And the whole audience stood up in affirmation.
Her illness at this time subjected her to very severe suffering. The frequently recurring suspension of the heart’s action was very alarming. Her recovery from each attack seemed at the time as doubtful as resuscitation after drowning. “Really and truly,” said her friend Lord Houghton, who was accidentally present at one of these sudden seizures, “we may use St. Paul’s words, ‘She dies daily.’ ” She was more than ready, — she was even joyful in the prospect of sudden departure. All her affairs had been settled, her will made, her friends remembered, as soon as Dr. Latham’s warning was given, and while her subsequent condition was becoming more and more hopeless. But she wrought on unremittingly, at every possible moment, with her Autobiography; and when that was finished, resumed her political, antislavery, and literary labours, while more than cheerfully, gladly, waiting for death. Thus life went on, kept in motion, probably, by the quietness of her spirit as well as the great care of her young family friends, till 1859, when her American friends felt the need of her more immediate assistance. For with the increase, in general estimation, of the importance of the great enterprise to which their lives had been devoted, grew a new responsibility, — that of making known on both sides of the sea whatever in relation to it might concern the two great English-speaking nations. To do the needed work effectually, it was felt that the enterprise could no longer be treated topically. It would require the trained power of thought and observation, the political intuition and accomplishment, the historic faculty and knowledge, which it is always the standing difficulty on either side of the Atlantic to combine, and the common despair of both to find united. The great antislavery enterprise of the century demanded, in addition, a universal and impartial sympathy, and a proved power to forego all things else, for the opportunity of usefulness to the world. All these deeply felt needs turned the antislavery mind to Harriet Martineau. She was a member of the Antislavery Society, and it was one of her delights to look at her certificate of membership, forwarded in behalf of the women of Lynn, by Abby Kelly,* their secretary. Long before that time she had devoted herself to the cause. She was one of the earliest abolitionists. She knew the ground and the subject thoroughly in all its bearings; and the executive committee entreated her once more to give the cause the benefit of her co-operation in their own country. Signs of a coming change in the affairs of the nation then began to be seen and felt. The work of wellnigh thirty years began to tell, and to require additional processes in aid of old principles.
Harriet Martineau’s preliminary reply was that such was the corruption that slavery had brought about in our country, and such the defects in our statesmanship, that the difficulties in the way of her compliance would be very great. The more severe and uncompromising we had been in dealing with slavery, its defenders, the apologists for its longer continuance, and its tongue-tied minions whipped into silence, the greater was her sense of the responsibility that must devolve upon herself if she accepted the proposal. But she did accept it, only, however, on condition that whenever her communications did not meet the approval of her American friends they should at once inform her of it. She replied thus: —
March 10, 1859
My dear Friend, —
I have received and read with great pleasure your letter of February 22, containing an invitation to me to write semi-monthly letters to the “Standard” on political subjects, with the object of inducing such interaction as may be possible between the European and American peoples for the extinction of slavery. It has long appeared to me that a link was wanting by which much benefit to your cause was lost; namely, a comparison of the doings of the two continents, as they affect the destinies of the oppressed, and of the negro race in particular. I perceive that our antislave-trade and West India debates and action are reported in your newspapers without any application to your own great national case, and that American transactions are detailed in our journals without any apparent consciousness that any universal interest is at all involved in the case. It is but little that one person can do towards establishing any recognition of a common interest between the two parties, and my power is much impaired by my state of health. But I have experience. I have long endeavoured to make your case understood here; and I am most heartily disposed to try what I can do on the converse side. I will send a letter to the “Standard” by next week’s mail, and will devote my best attention to the consideration of how I may most effectually carry out your wish. The drawback in this transaction is the pain of taking money for my work. I would not do it if I could help it. My friends on the committee know me well enough to know that. If I were not ill and helpless (as to my mode of living), I would beg you to accept my services as a free gift. As it is otherwise, I can only engage to make my service as good as study and care can make it, and entreat you to speak frankly, and without the slightest scruple, if, for any reason whatever, you should wish to dissolve our agreement. I trust you to do so, with or without reason assigned.
If you think proper, will you communicate to your committee (all of whom I regard as dear friends) what I have now said.
Believe me, ever yours affectionately,
Her mind and time were then very full of army work, and the book she was just preparing for the press in aid of Florence Nightingale’s objects, and the critical state of affairs in Europe bound her to the “Daily News.” But it always seemed as if her heart were large enough.
“To take in all, and verge enough for more.”
She accompanied her official consent with a private note, urging still more strongly, in underlined sentences, her earnest desire to be immediately notified of any change in their wishes: —
March 10, 1859.
. . . . That letter of yours gratifies me much; and I am less troubled than usual on such occasions, about my fitness and responsibility. One great thing is that I absolutely trust your fidelity to the cause, to say nothing of my claims on you for honest treatment, to tell me in the plainest and broadest way if I do not answer the committee’s expectations, or aid the cause to such a degree as to make the engagement worth while. . . . .
Understand that you are simply to say ‘stop.’
In another month my book will be out, and I can have some real long talks with you. M— will tell you that I cannot to-day. You see how critical our European affairs are; and I must give what help I can here.
She always bore in mind Lord Bacon’s opinion, — “letters are the things,” — and it was agreed between the friends that the articles should appear in this form, as insuring greater ease and freedom of expression, and as to plainness of speech and choice of topics, the committee gave her carte blanche.
She wrote some ninety letters in “The National Antislavery Standard” during the three succeeding years, learning from time to time, through the editor, “that the friends of the cause on both sides of the Atlantic might,” in his opinion, “will felicitate themselves, for the cause’s sake, that the ‘Standard’ was in future to have the benefit of her guidance in respect to European politics.” He adds: —
“Do not hesitate, I pray you, to utter any word of counsel that may be from time to time suggested by the course of the American abolitionists. Your intimate relations with the cause, and your long-continued and faithful devotion to it, will command for you the respectful attention of all its friends on this side of the water. Exercise the freedom and frankness of speech that pertains to the most intimate and friendly relations.”
And he disapproves of a disposition to magnify mere differences of judgment as to individual character, and a too great unwillingness to admit of sincerely offered aid for the cause working in political or other channels than the Antislavery Society.
“Any views which you may be moved to express in relation to these matters would, I am sure, be well received by all concerned.”
While the first year’s letters were appearing, as had been agreed, over the signature of “H. M.,” the youth of the cause used to call Harriet Martineau “Her Majesty,” as an expression of their satisfaction. But by and by some were offended.
The first occasion was the warning she gave that the friction of debate about individual antislavery character, which was using up the time of the meetings at a moment when change was impending over the nation, was working ill to the society and to the cause.
“Why could not these valued friends [and personal friends of her own, too, some of them were] work apart by themselves, in their own way, if they found themselves unable to work any longer with their own acknowledged and chosen leaders?”
But these friends, being unaware of the technical parliamentary use of the word “leaders” in English politics, where it implies neither disparagement of the members nor abatement of political independence, were exceedingly indignant. “God is our leader! we have no other!”
Other some felt it an indispensable duty to tolerate intolerance; and declared their conviction that the meetings would lose their charm if these brethren should not be sustained. It was the duty of the hour. So the framing and debating of proscriptive resolutions went on.
A very interesting debate followed on the presentation of one, at a great meeting of the abolitionists. The Rev. Samuel May opposed them, and Mr. William Lloyd Garrison, the president of the Antislavery Society, seconded him. “I agree with my friend May,” he said; “as a matter of conscience and from a sense of duty, I cannot vote for these resolutions.” There was a long debate, the result of which was, that the proscriptive resolutions were laid on the table by a large vote, and the society adjourned sine die; and Harriet Martineau congratulated those with whom she was in correspondence upon the event. “It is a good thing that your standpoint remains unchanged.”
The society did indeed remain uncommitted to the incorporation into its records that Mr. Greeley, the editor of the “New York Tribune,” and Mr. Cheever, the pastor of the New York Church of the Puritans (the one active in the Republican party, and the other engaged in organizing a New York Church Antislavery Society), were enemies of the antislavery gospel; but the movers and supporters of these resolutions felt it their duty to carry them through the country, and so debated them as to convey the accusation that Mr. Garrison, the founder, the leader, the president, and the representative man of the society had, by not acting in accordance with them, “lowered the standard” and “betrayed the cause.”
The next “H. M.” letter was as follows: —
It is no part of the object of our correspondence that I should engage in a controversy about any American affairs; and least of all about what concerns your association. Justice seems to require, however, that I should say in reply to a suggestion in the “Standard” that letters are written by our friends in the United States to bias our judgments, that I, for one, refer altogether to the published reports of your proceedings when I comment on any of them. I derived my impressions from published documents, and the speeches on the points they embraced. All I have to say is, that your friends here have always understood the strong point of your association to be that it was not doctrinal in any direction; that it set up no test of opinion and allowed none to be set up; that (as Dr. Follen used to explain to me) it had not even any plan, but that it left opinion free, requiring only that its members should earnestly desire and work at the abolition of slavery, by the means which should present themselves at each passing moment, — the object perdurable, the aim steady, the means whatever time and change should offer. We still understand such to have been the original character of your organization. If we are mistaken we shall be grieved; because the failure of associations grounded on or subjected to opinion is assured in the nineteenth century. When, therefore, a few members attempting to introduce a new principle and method require assent to points of opinion in which unanimity is wellnigh impossible, it seems to us that those who propose to change are the party to withdraw. They say, “We believe this and that, and we must be faithful to our convictions.” By all means; let them say what they think of persons and parties; but surely it is directly contrary to the principles of your association that they should require other members to think as they do, or say whether they do or not. To declare by resolution the demerits of various persons and parties is a direct enforcement of a test in a matter of individual opinion and an infringement on the liberty of every member of the body. Any man has a right to say, on his own account, that he believes A to be as bad as B or C; but when this opinion is pressed as a resolution, the natural objection arises that it is no part of the business of the society to pronounce on such a matter. If the movers go on to intimate that, whereas A is as bad as B and C, D is as bad as either of them if he does not admit it, a further encroachment on liberty is made; for this is forcing D and his friends to assent or dissent. If they do not dissent, they may create a false impression; and if they do, they are compelled to appear as opponents of those with whom they do not desire to dispute. This seems to us a wrong on the one side and a hardship on the other. In salaried agents of the society it seems something graver than impolicy. To us there is no manner of doubt about the prodigious advance of the cause. We see Americans enough, and read and hear enough of what goes on, to be able to compare the tone of united speech at this day with what it was ten, five, three years ago. An association which has to work on through such changes as you have experienced and we have watched, must necessarily be what we have always been assured that yours is, free to act according to the circumstances of the time, sympathizing with all who are doing any thing for the abolition of slavery, and not concerned with the shortcomings of any body else when once you have obtained an open course for yourselves.
As I have said before, and as nobody will dispute, the church stands on a different ground from any other portion of the community, because it assumes to be master of the spiritual and moral situation at all times and under all circumstances; and its false pretensions in the particular case must be exposed, because the abolition of slavery is its primary and express duty, and the omission of its proper and peculiar business is a perilous hypocrisy. There is and can be no case analogous to this; and there is, I suppose, no difference of opinion in your association about it. Those members who think it right to “criticise” colleagues for opinions which they force them to declare, or for a procedure on which every man must judge for himself, cannot be displeased at criticism on such an occasion as their attempt to shift your association to a new basis. That all are faithfully and fervently devoted to the object of your association, no one, I believe, on either side of the water, ever had a moment’s doubt.
The foregoing letter, as well as the preceding one, had been submitted to the editor of the “Standard” in the following letter: —
August 1, 1859.
My dear Sir, —
Let me beg the favour of you to consider carefully (with my friends of the committee, if you like) whether to print the last section of my letter, especially the parts in pencil brackets. My desire is to aid in establishing the principle of your association as we understand it here, and I should be heartily grieved to do any harm. So allow me to put that part of my letter absolutely under the veto of my friends. Of course I don’t wish the part to be altered. That is of course out of the question. But the omission of all that section, or of the parts I have marked, will not in any way vex me. We all have one object. To me it seems well to explain thus far, but I may be mistaken, and unable to settle the expediency at this distance, though I feel sure of my principle.
Yours very truly,
The editor’s conclusion was: —
“I could not see that there was any thing calculated to do harm to the cause or to any individual; and could see no good reason for withholding what was evidently written in charity to all concerned.”
By this time the political signs were threatening in the United States, and Mrs. Martineau became more and more careful to avoid at such a crisis all small issues, while desirous to keep open whatever communication might be deemed useful, and she again took counsel, as follows: —
Ambleside, August 15, 1859.
Mrs. H. G. Chapman.
My dear Friend, —
As you were before the medium of communication between your committee and myself on the subject of my correspondence with the “Standard,” I ask leave to transmit through you an inquiry which new circumstances call upon me to make.
I do not suspect my friends on the committee of forgetting my request that they would speak frankly and without the slightest scruple, if for any reason whatever they should wish to dissolve our agreement. But it is necessary to my own satisfaction that I should repeat this request at the present stage of the correspondence. I hardly need explain that the occasion is the letters . . . . in the “Standard” . . . . which suggest to me the possibility that the committee may think my correspondence no longer likely to be profitable to the cause we all have at heart. It may be that they think so, or that they think otherwise. I wish to know their pleasure, which I am ready and anxious to obey.
I have only to say this, further. If I go on, it must be in frank fulfilment of my engagement to write whatever I believed would promote a mutual understanding and interaction between your country and mine in regard to the antislavery cause. If I stop, it must be publicly and clearly made known that the arrest of the correspondence is by the committee’s desire, and not mine.
My single desire is to do what is best for the cause. On so great a question as that of changing the principle of the American Antislavery Association I could not but remark, while obeying the invitation of your committee; but I am equally willing to speak or be silent, as they may now instruct me. Till I hear from them, I shall write as usual; and under all circumstances and arrangements I shall remain their hearty well-wisher and affectionate friend in the cause.
This letter having been read to the committee, the result was the adoption of the following expression: —
Voted, That it is the unanimous desire of this committee that Mrs. Harriet Martineau should continue her correspondence with “The Antislavery Standard,” exercising the largest liberty of thought and expression according to her own perceptions of right and duty, with reference to whatever may seem to affect the interests of the American Antislavery Society, or the welfare of our cause at large; and that her continued co-operation is deemed of essential service to that cause on both sides of the Atlantic.
From the records
SAMUEL MAY, Jr.
On receiving this vote, Mrs. Martineau immediately replied to Mr. May, conveying her grateful acknowledgments to the executive committee, and expressing the satisfaction and pleasure it would give her to continue the letters: —
I shall fulfil my welcome duty with fresh animation, now that I have received decisive proof that my friends of the committee and I are of one mind as to the necessity of a perfect freedom in our acts and words while working for the gravest and greatest cause now agitating human society.
With cordial esteem and regard, I am yours faithfully,
The scene between antislavery and proslavery might have now reminded the beholders of that at Bothwell Brigg, when the hosts were about to close in front while the preachers were wrangling in the rear; for the slaveholders’ rebellion, confusion, and civil war were at hand.
First came the enterprise of John Brown. The “H. M.” letters deprecated the act, as precipitating the conflict and placing the North at a disadvantage; while deeply moved with admiration for the saintly heroism of the man, she questioned his political sagacity.
Then followed, as topics, the antislavery and friendly feeling of England; the duty of American abolitionists to sustain the United States government the moment it should take its rightful position; the importance to a nation, in process of being renovated, of getting rid of a protective tariff; the course of damaging diplomacy adopted by Mr. Seward; the neutrality of England not hostility: on all of which a statesmanlike view was taken, which, in the opinion of so many, time has since justified, though some of the American coadjutors were much dissatisfied at the moment.
Still, as no official disapprobation came from the antislavery committee, the “H. M.” letters went on. Noticing, however, in the “Standard” here and there, slight signs of the discontent, the correspondent again sought information of the editor of the “Standard” as to the desirability of discontinuance. “I trust, for one,” he replied, “that the committee will never discontinue them.”
The next “H. M.” letter spoke thus: —
“I had hoped that a recent paragraph of my American letters would be noticed as an explanation of my method. I remarked that I need say but little of the discontent with myself; I do not wish to occupy your space in such a way. Every practical purpose will be answered by a brief explanation of my point of view. My course has always been to fight your battles on this side the water to the utmost extent that truth will allow, while speaking the plain truth on the other side on all matters which relate to the principle and conduct of the cause of human freedom. This is not the way to gain popularity, it is the way to insure displeasure on both sides. But that is a small matter in comparison with the least good that may be done in either country. I certainly think that it is the course most conducive to peace and a clear understanding between the two nations. I shall go on as long as I live with that part of the work which lies here. As to the other half, it rests with you, as you are aware, whether I continue it. You know that I wait upon your pleasure in regard to corresponding with the ‘Standard,’ as I have always done. A word from you, at any time, will bring my farewell, as I have repeatedly reminded you and the committee.”
Meanwhile, she had learned the empty condition of the Antislavery Society’s treasury, and thought, besides, that if dissatisfaction existed in a single mind among her associates, it were better to remove all pecuniary considerations out of the way; and she wrote to the general agent of the American Antislavery Society declining further payments.
The reply to this was a vote from the committee assuring her that “her generous offer to continue her correspondence without pay if the committee will be pleased to accept the service, is fully appreciated, and that she be requested to continue her letters to the ‘Standard,’ but upon the same terms as during the past year.”
The secretary, Mr. May, went on to say that her “clear eye and vigorous hand enable us to see many things which are transpiring in Europe which otherwise we might not and probably should not see; and we need,” he added, “your continued criticism here; . . . . trusting you may long be spared and be strong to do the work which so much needs to be done, of encouraging and directing the labours of those who would build justly and benevolently, and of watching and thwarting those whose law is selfishness and whose measures are oppression.”
Finally came the seizure of the Rebel commissioners from beneath the British flag. Congressional and State approbation immediately followed the bursts of popular acclamation and the banqueting in honour of the deed. The commercial newspapers were forward in checking anxiety as to any ill consequences. They knew “what Great Britain always does in such cases will be done now: she will protract negotiations till the affair is forgotten.” Still anxiety did arise in some minds, and there was talk in the outside row of politicians surrounding men in office, of sending acute observers to watch, in England, the temper of the times; and Everett, Beecher, Thurlow Weed, and others were mentioned as the right sort of men to report from thence the actual feeling of the hour.
Harriet Martineau wrote instantly to the “Standard” that England was arming; but with the deepest feeling against going to war, and with the strongest self-control and the most earnest desire — submitting passion to law — that America might recede, England awaited the alternative.
Thereupon the editor of the “Standard” says, “You cannot imagine the storm about my ears!”
Remonstrants had rushed into the office, demanding the suppression of the letter. It was the long, legal, just, eloquent, and, above all, the much-needed one that should have been welcomed by wise men, to turn back the tide of popular emotion that does not distinguish between a casus belli and a self-gratification.
The editor was able, however, to clear himself from the charge of “misusing the society’s funds by paying for such letters.” “The letters are a gift,” he said to such as accused him of malappropriation of funds. But he was obliged to suppress the very letter that would have given the needed information about the public mind and assured course of England in case the action of the American public as displayed in Congressional votes, popular eulogy, and the praises of the press should not be reversed.
An abstract of the suppressed letter will show that no abolitionist need have been dissatisfied. It was the very echo of the antislavery voice and spirit, and it was no more severe upon the American government and people in this exigency than the reform voice had been ever wont to be.
It affirmed that this was not a case for the protracted negotiations that the commercial newspapers had predicted; that the right of asylum had been violated, and the English nation compelled with loathing to become the champion and protector of the slaveholding commissioners; that, while awaiting the alternative of peace or war with controlled passion and earnest demand for legal direction, England’s dock-yards and barracks and line-of-battle ships were all alive with preparation; that a terrible condemnation was the due of the Everetts, the Websters, the Sewards, the Bigelows, and all who in past times and present had misled the American people on international duties and morals; with scathing rebuke of the commander of the American naval ship whose absurd folly the American people seemed to be hailing as “pluck” and “dash,” closing with a fervent blessing on the American abolitionists, and a call to them to come to the front with such counsel for immediate emancipation as they in England longed to hear. “This and this only can avail. This and this only will secure foreign sympathy, while a foreign war in the hope of thereby uniting North and South would be madness, and the negroes would be the sacrifice. If ever men deserved the blessing of redemption from a national curse it is the abolitionists.”
But happily the “Standard” was not “H. M.’s” only American correspondent, nor her warnings confined to the antislavery office; and all English letters and despatches confirmed her information. The Washington government was wise in time; and they who had cried at banquets, “Off coats and fight!” now cried, “Off hats and apologize!”
It would have been absurd indeed at such an hour of impending civil war for any antislavery committee to debate over this or any other incidental action. The day of free speech was over, and the day of martial law had begun; and so thought Harriet Martineau. She merely said: —
“I am sorry for them that are so angry, but for myself I have seen a great many such American displays: they must, however, insert a letter of leave-taking from me (as far only as writing for the ‘Standard’ is concerned), but my work for you will go on here just the same; and, happily, I have great opportunities to do it.”
And, in effect, her writings on behalf of the United States as against the Confederates became more and more frequent and influential.
She wrote at this time, besides occasional articles in second-rate periodicals, in four leading organs of English public opinion.
Her respect for Mr. Garrison was, if possible, increased by the way in which he had borne himself under the attempts, which she had rebuked, to brand him as unfaithful to the cause. She received many entreaties on both sides of the ocean to reprint the “H. M.” letters in book form, but she constantly refused.
“It would defeat my plan to grant such requests. I see our friends have not observed my previous paragraph, which would explain why I refuse; and they do not remember that I am one of their comrades.”
It should here be remembered that from her earliest political action Harriet Martineau’s method had been the same, — to use her influence on both sides.
Previous to the exclusion of the “H. M.” letters, their treatment of the subject of “protection” had given to some readers much dissatisfaction.
The letters had strongly urged the abandonment of the protective policy as the highest expediency and the truest morality: “The sin of the North is ‘protection,’ as the sin of the South is slavery.” If the letters had said the guilt of the two sections on these different grounds was equal, the indignation could hardly have been greater; and persons brought up upon the Assembly’s Catechism to be aware that some sins are less heinous than others, and yet classed as sins in the Ten Commandments, were now laying it down as a grievous offence that here were things mentioned in the same sentence that ought not to be mentioned in the same week; and although the committee had given the letters carte blanche, it was loudly affirmed that they were “off the platform.”
Some of Harriet Martineau’s correspondence of this period is subjoined, in illustration of her opinions on the subjects of protection and American politics.
Now, as ever, was manifest Harriet Martineau’s unshaken reliance — the consequence of her long experience — on the expediency of the frankest communication between individuals and nations in cases of misunderstanding. On receiving from William W. Story (the sculptor, the poet, the traveller, the biographer, the student of jurisprudence, and the son of her old and dear friend, Judge Story) a long argument on the American side of the pending questions, with the request to procure for it insertion in the “Daily News,” she immediately sent it to the editor with an introduction from herself, urging the importance of a knowledge of the American view to England, as well as of the English view to America; and, long as it was, it was inserted at full length. Her heart having been so long given to the United States for their freedom and their peace, the “Daily News” did but become the more effectual in accomplishing these two ends, as the change of standpoint made in the “Standard” released her from its columns. The benefit of her influence in England in favour of the Union was felt and acknowledged by many.
In the words of “Harper’s Weekly,” a magazine of very extensive circulation under the editorship of the Hon. George W. Curtis, —
“Our children’s children may well gratefully remember this course of the London ‘Daily News.’ ”
It is time, before going further, to complete the story of the Trent.
The Rebel commissioners were carried to the North, and imprisoned at Fort Warren in Boston harbour. One of them was of that widely known Mason family which had received Harriet Martineau with so much enthusiasm half a lifetime before, now separated from her by her life of opposition to him.
A sumptuous banquet was prepared next day in Boston at the Revere House (hotel), to do honour to the deed of Commodore Wilkes in seizing the rebel commissioners. Among the men of note who assisted at it were Governor Andrew of Massachusetts and his staff, the Mayor of Boston, the president of the Board of Trade, and other leading men. “Wilkes did right!” they all said.
When, long afterwards, Mr. George Thompson was demonstrating the friendliness of England before a great public meeting in Boston, by statistics of the vast gatherings of Englishmen all over their country; by the universal adhesion of the labouring classes, especially the population of Lancashire; by the unvarying course (with but here and there an exception) of the press; by the steady refusal of the government to acknowledge the Confederates; by the constant support in that refusal received from Parliament, he added, —
“For certain Confederate sympathizers among our aristocracy, defeated as they were, I offer no excuse. You can afford to pardon them.”
Governor Andrew, who sat near Mr. Thompson on the platform, here interrupted, half rising and touching Mr. Thompson’s arm: “Say no more, my friend! We all have need of pardon.”
A further portion of Mrs. Martineau’s previous and subsequent correspondence is subjoined, illustrating her political principles.
May 16, 1861.
I am glad you encourage me to answer Greeley, and that you think Mr. Johnson will print my reply. I don’t want to throw away a bit of work that I hope may be useful. I do wish your people would attend a little to a subject which involves so much of moral and material importance, and so affects their national repute. But I doubt whether any body there has really studied the subject at all. Greeley certainly does not understand it. All his mistakes cannot be dishonesty. A more flagrant piece of nonsense could hardly be pointed out since men began setting up fancies against knowledge and science, in political economy. . . . . It would be a great thing to bring your nation up to simple principles which should preclude class legislation and insure justice all round.
Tell me what you think of my answer when you see it. There will be nothing for you to be ashamed of, for I decline noticing personalities. I see that — — and — — are both clearly unaware of my position in regard to political economy generally, and free trade in particular, and I shall not in any way refer to it. True, I ought to tell the editor, who may not be aware that I speak with any authority; but it is not a pleasant thing to do, and I had rather not. Very likely you have.
Well! I am glad you anticipate an answer. It gives me more spirit to do it; and I trust it may be of use. I don’t understand the objection to my criticism which you mention, — “of my country being a sinner like the United States.” This is not so. We have not a penny of protective duty now; and we began to reform the system as soon as Adam Smith showed us where we were wrong. Your tariff is a plunge back again into barbarism, when even the late king of Naples and such like had been removing protective duties.”
Her niece’s postscript is to the effect that her aunt is more than usually ill, but is at work on one of her articles.
May 29, 1861.
. . . . To day I am happier than I have been yet about your war. Russell’s letter to the “Times” ends with a paragraph — date, May 2 — which seems to show that the South will collapse on hearing of the spirit of the North. O, the “instant turning tail” is delightful! . . . .
What a wretched figure the “Times” cuts in its leaders beside Motley’s exposition! The latter is a great benefit here; just what was wanted. It feels so strange to me, — every body now coming round to me on American affairs. . . . .
Do you know I am very glad of your sort of assurance that my answer to Greeley will appear. It is a very long letter, but I shall be really sorry if it does not appear entire, because of the importance of the subject and the desirableness of showing that Greeley does not understand it. The Spitalfields catastrophe must go into my next, — the finest illustration of the case that events could furnish. The rapid conversion of the French manufacturers is excellent too. It is regretable that the South should have this handle against the North, owing to (it seems to me) the blank ignorance of society on the question. What does Greeley think of Motley’s mention of it, I wonder.
I will say something about sanitary care of your precious soldiers in my “Standard” letter of Monday next.
After remarking that Mr. Russell’s situation precludes his writing full letters: —
“One good consequence is, however, that, poor as they may be, they will dispose forever of the cry that your rupture is the result of ‘Democratic institutions.’ ”
June 13, 1861.
. . . . The feeling here is changed, — not at all in favour of the South; but what a pity it is that your journalists and envoys and others have no notion of political rationality and propriety! Cassius Clay and Burlingame at Paris, and Seward at Washington, and bullies every where, have made sad confusion of your cause and reputation. . . . . If it were the bigotry of a high-principled, narrow nation there would be something respectable in the rancour, and it would be appreciated here. But coming from the most profligate political writers and speakers and actors in the world, it is wholly disgusting; and the good people and the best parts of your case are involved in the general disgrace. Clay, Burlingame, and the speakers and writers on this question have not the remotest conception of the principles of science on the one hand, or of honour on the other, on which government is carried on in a European monarchy. There is, also, a style of imputation which shows the level of the writers’ conceptions. So it is in the motives found for me by Mr. Greeley and others. It really seems to be so with every speaker and writer on any part of the subject. The conception of a principled, consistent, independent national policy, such as is a matter of course under a constitution like ours, and which our statesmen are bred up to, is altogether beyond their ken. But you abolitionists will be able now to abate these vulgar disgraces of the Republic. You mention Cobden and “protection.”
You seem to lament that a very good man is not a very great one. He is so far great, however, as to be equal to his work, a very high order of work indeed, — a diffusion of social justice which tends to international peace.
“Protection.” Is not protection a sin? It involves more sin, and a greater variety of it, than any system I know of, except slavery.
It would astonish some folk not a little to learn what relation the system (in any form or degree) bears to sin.
Mr. Adams is liked thus far, because less puerile, more moderate, not frantic in preaching and proselyting. . . . . He must speak out, decidedly and honestly, and then his self-command will tell.
How I have run on politics! very needlessly, for I know you think just what I have been saying.
June 26, 1861.
. . . . As to the protectionist matter, I need only say that we see more and more plainly that the subject is not understood; which is quite natural among a flourishing new people. Mr. Greeley ought to understand it, if he tries to make tariffs; but he clearly does not, nor do those who have any doubt about the “sin.” I wish they knew how the degradation of our peasantry (who are now rising hourly), the crime of our cities, the brigandage of our coasts, the deprivation of our poor-law system, and the demoralization of whole classes have been occasioned by the protective system, which they seem to consider an optional matter, with only some considerations of expediency, pro or con. “Protection” has ruined more of our people, body and soul, than drink. Your people cannot, in this age, be so overridden as ours was before the world was better; but if you judge wrong on this point, you will settle the point of progression or lapse. You will establish an influence, second only to slavery, in debasing the common morals and manners. I know that this is not perceived; but there is our experience and the French for younger folks’ benefit. The rowdy and vagabond and plundering element will acquire a terrible ascendency if any ground is afforded for illicit trade.
July 11, 1861.
About the “Standard.” . . . . I am very sorry it is in need of funds. Command me if I can do good by still writing. I will send you a monthly letter (gratuitous) till you bid me stop. You see by this time that there is no cotton-homage here. There is a total absence of all regards to it in the conduct of both government and people. Every thing has been said and done as if no cotton existed. The South has been as completely out in her reckoning, as the North in her judgment and temper about us. The sympathetic interest is over here, — in the public, I mean. Nothing can at present restore the feeling of last spring, because nothing can restore the confidence in American judgment or even perception of facts. Having made up their minds that England would be mercenary, the North concluded, without evidence, that she was mercenary. And then, finding that she was not so, fancied that she had altered! The despair of the American case is in the vices of democratic government, which render steadiness and consistency impossible. This is more fatal than even the quarrelsome temper; and I cannot but fear great mischief from it during this session of Congress.
Talking of low preconceptions, I observe every where, in all the American newspapers, the same notion, — that we judge the Northern policy of protection by the rate of duty on iron and woollens that we have to pay. It does not enter into the heads of even liberal and moral writers that we can have any other objection to the principle than its affecting our purse. They are wholly ignorant of the aristocratic and pillaging character of the system, and of its damning influence on the character and reputation of a democratic republic; and they see no further than the damage to Britishers, and assume that that is what the Britishers are thinking about.
It was no vague impression, no mere wish, the parent of the thought, that dictated this assurance that England would not break the blockade on account of cotton.
She was then in the midst of the distress occasioned by the blockade, and witness to the noble way in which it was borne; and while writing to her American friends assuring them of English sympathy, she was daily engaged in such correspondence as the following, — counselling, planning, co-operating, and giving money.
For example: correspondence with Blackburn about food and clothing in mitigation of distress and abatement of the intolerance which was excluding Unitarian dissenters there from relief; the same correspondence with Ashton-under-Lyne, — the intolerance, however, being on the other side, manifested by insulting resolutions excluding clergymen and ministers of religion; correspondence, with aid to Denton Rectory; correspondence, with aid to Hulme, for Workingmen’s Institute; correspondence, with aid to relief fund, Burnley Borough; correspondence, with aid to Stockport, through central relief committee; correspondence, with aid to relief fund, Oldham; correspondence, with donation of clothing, London; correspondence, with donation to Lancashire Emigration Society, Manchester; donation to Denton Rectory; to relief committee, Salford; to relief committee, Old-field; to cooking-schools, Manchester.
Again from Manchester, entreating a letter of counsel about the management of emigration.
The following was her appeal in behalf of the distress in Lancashire, in response to the entreaty to “aid us with your pen and influence.”
To the Editor of the “Daily News.”
I have just seen something which impresses me so much that I hope you will grant me space to describe it, and to commend the facts to my countrywomen, on behalf of the sewing-schools of Lancashire and Cheshire.
I need hardly explain that these sewing-schools furnish at once a safe refuge for the unemployed factory-girls, a good training in domestic needlework, and the means of buying clothing exceedingly cheap. The plan is in every way admirable; and to sustain and multiply these schools is to do unmixed good. While some people send money (and much money is wanted) others cannot do better than send materials for clothing. The cry for material is very urgent; and it is about this that I write. Whatever is sent should be good and suitable. It would be a cruel mockery to send rubbish, when cold weather is coming on, and substantial warm clothing is becoming a necessary of life. But there are ways of getting good materials cheap. For children’s dress particularly this is easy; and the children have the very first claim if Lord Palmerston’s advice is to be taken, and the present dreary opportunity is to be used for keeping every boy and girl at school.
The other day a friend of mine went forth with £5 in her pocket, to see how much good sound clothing material she could get for that sum. I have just been looking over her package, before it goes to the Blackburn Sewing-School, and I find the contents to be as follows: —
A good supply of tapes, linen, buttons, and hooks and eyes.
It will be asked how such a purchase was achieved, and this is what I have to tell.
My friend went to a shop (kept by a good-natured tradesman, which is an important element in the case) where there was likely to be a remainder stock at the close of each season of the year. She explained her object, and was shown remnants of flannel and calico, dresses out of fashion, out of season, or soiled (being washable) or faded. Pieces too short for a gown would serve for a frock; odd ends of stuff would make bonnets; the discarded fashions in linseys yield excellent warm petticoats very cheap. There were no cheap shawls in stock, nor cloaks; but in a town these might probably have been obtainable. So might the list and cloth selvages from clothiers’ and woollen-drapers’ shops, from which warm capes may be made, in a way which every needlewoman knows.
Now, there are good-natured shopkeepers every where; and wherever there is a draper’s shop of any consideration there are remnants, and faded and old-fashioned articles of dress. Ladies who have hours to spare can do much to serve their Lancashire sisters by trying, as my friend has done, how much they can get for £5. Fifty ladies, doing this, might go a long way towards clothing the women and children of the suffering districts. And why should there not be fifty and twice fifty ladies doing this thing within a week?
I may remind them that there is little time on the spot, and little space and resource of convenience; and that therefore every thing should be sent in readiness for the needle. The unbleached calico should be washed out, the garments should be cut out, in breadths at least, if not to fit; and each sort should be ticketed, each parcel of gowns, petticoats, &c., being separate, and ticketed with the number and quantity.
It will be a great kindness to put in half-worn clothes. As I said before, no rubbish. But there are few houses in which there are not some articles of dress which can be spared before they are nearly worn out. I will only say further that every charge of carriage should be paid by the sender, and as little trouble given as possible. It will add a grace to the gift if every thing that can be wanted is put into the parcel, — linings, tape, buttons, hooks and eyes, thread, and even needles and pins. The very completeness will be a lesson to the girls, and will give pleasure in places where pleasures are very rare at present.
HARRIET MARTINEAU TO MRS. CHAPMAN.
July 25, 1861
With regard to raising money in Europe to sustain the “Standard,” I don’t see any probability of success whatever. The people would be astonished at being asked, at a time when the American nation is up in arms (as is understood here) on the very question, and when the government asks such enormous sums wherewith to battle for the right, and £100,000,000 are being levied to sustain an antislavery revolution and war; why should Europe send you a few hundreds? So they will ask, and I think it will not be easy to answer. But I shall not desert the “Standard.” I will, as I said, send a monthly letter (if able) till you or the editor bid me stop. And I certainly shall not take any payment . . . . no use talking about it. I wish you would just forget it. I shall not, of course, be able to give my annual £5 to the cause, but my letters I can give, and you will be welcome to them. As to Dr. Follen’s saying of having no plan, — which I myself quoted last year, — I think I know what he would have said to the proposal that the managers of a revolution and civil war should have no plan. I know what he would have said to applying to such a case a proposal suitable enough for a little band of moral apostles beginning to feel their way to the nation’s heart. So, again, — —’s notion that no serious moral principle is involved in the financial regulation of industry and commerce! Supremely silly, however, is the confounding a censure of a political system with personal impertinences. Of course there is no sort of doubt about it, political action is a proper subject for discussion, censure, denunciation. Nobody here comprehends such soreness as is shown by Greeley and others. Every political scheme here is discussed with all possible freedom, and nobody dreams of being offended. But the moment any man passes from the matter in question to insult any body personally, he is simply regarded as a blackguard (excuse the term) and sent to Coventry accordingly. Nobody would speak to Greeley here after reading those letters. You will see I have dealt with the whine about personalities in two lines. I hardly liked stooping to do it, but as they really did not seem to see the distinction in the case, I just said there could be no personality on my side, as I did not know who were the parties responsible for the policy.
Dear friend, don’t either be or seem sensitive on my account. I don’t like being insultingly treated, so entirely as I am unused to it here, but it is of no real consequence. I must keep clear of further controversy; not only that I am too ill for it, but I see it is useless. As to what you say of Clay and Burlingame, I don’t think any thing of diplomatic traditions, etiquette, court-manners, and all that. These things signify less and less, and are not expected of republican ministers. It is the utter unfitness for political counsel that amazes us in those men; the absence of judgment, temper, and decent manners. They misapprehended the plainest transactions going on before their eyes, went into a groundless passion, assumed the function of agitators, and tried to play upon the supposed jealousy between France and England; getting only laughed at by both sides, because the two were exactly of one mind. “A pretty sort of ambassador!” the world cries. I need not say what qualities are indispensable in grave negotiation and in protecting the honour and interests of one’s country; nor need I say that B. and C. have shown a most remarkable deficiency in those qualities.
The function of the “Times” (self-assumed) which you speak of I take to be, leading the most popular surface sentiment or notion of the moment, without the slightest regard to truth or right or consistency. As there is the utmost ignorance there, it is often getting wrong and always supposing a lower class (morally) than the real one to be the majority.
[* ]Afterwards Mrs. Foster.