- Russian War. I. House of Commons, December 22, 1854.
- Russian War. II. House of Commons, June 5, 1855.
- Russian War. III. Manchester, March 18, 1857.
- American War. I. House of Commons, April 24, 1863.
- American War. II. Rochdale, November 24, 1863.
- China War. House of Commons, February 26, 1857.
- Foreign Policy. I. House of Commons, June 12, 1849.
- Foreign Policy. II. London, October 8, 1849.
- Foreign Policy. III. London, January 18, 1850.
- Foreign Policy. IV. House of Commons, June 28, 1850.
- Foreign Policy. V. Rochdale, June 26, 1861.
- Foreign Policy. VI. House of Commons, August 1, 1862.
- Foreign Policy. VII. Manchester, October 25, 1862.
- Foreign Policy. VIII. Rochdale, October 29, 1862
- Foreign Policy. IX. Rochdale, November 23, 1864.
- India. House of Commons, June 27, 1853.
- Peace. I. Wrexham, November 14, 1850.
- Peace. II. Manchester, January 27, 1853.
- Policy of the Whig Government. Manchester, January 23, 1851.
- Parliamentary Reform. I. House of Commons, July 6, 1848.
- Parliamentary Reform. II. London, November 26, 1849.
- Parliamentary Reform. III. Manchester, December 4,1851.
- Parliamentary Reform. IV. Rochdale, August 17, 1859.
- Parliamentary Reform. V. Rochdale, August 18, 1859.
- Education. I. Manchester, January 22, 1851
- Education. II. House of Commons, May 22, 1851.
- Education. III. Manchester, December 1, 1851.
- Education. IV. Barnsley, October 25, 1853.
WREXHAM, NOVEMBER 14, 1850.
[The following was a Speech made at a great meeting in Wales, held under the auspices of the Peace Society.]
Of all the memorable meetings I have ever attended in the United Kingdom, I do not think there has been any which, in some respects, is more significant and surprising than that which I have the honour of addressing. The present would be a large assembly in any town, upon any subject; but when I remember the size of Wrexham, and when I remember that the large assembly before me is not admitted within the precincts of this building without payment, and that a tolerably large payment, I think this part of the United Kingdom must contain a very great number of persons who are, at all events, ready to avail themselves of the opportunity of hearing discussed the subject now submitted to their consideration.
I have heard my own name mentioned here several times, and received with more kindness and partiality than I could possibly have expected to attract from such a meeting. But it is my happiness to be half Welsh, and that the better half. Though I never before had the honour of addressing a Welsh audience, I am happy that my first meeting with you should be on a question second in importance to none that can be brought before you. We have met this night to talk about peace and the Peace Congress; and let me once for all say, that when I came here to talk of peace, I did not mean to treat it as an abstraction. I came here as a practical man, to talk, not simply on the question of peace and war, but to treat another question which is of hardly less importance—the enormous and burdensome standing armaments which it is the practice of modern Governments to sustain in time of peace. For I confess to you, what I have before avowed again and again, that I have never felt any alarm about any war in which England should necessarily be concerned. I am quite sure it will be our own fault if we enter into any war, for there is no danger of anybody coming to molest us. Still, I find that we are placed in a state of things hardly different from that of actual war, being, indeed, subject to the burden of war in time of peace.
I am not ashamed to avow that I have approached this question not altogether and exclusively from that point of view from which Mr. Richard has surveyed it. I have been brought to the discussion of the question from another consideration. In dealing with the practical affairs of the country, and especially as a politician and Member of Parliament, whose duty it is to study and control the finances of the country, I have come to my conclusion, apart from those high convictions which Mr. Richard and Mr. Sturge have avowed, and in which I concur, though in their presence I am not the proper person to dilate upon them. I gather my conclusion as one desiring to see that the country is governed with economy, and the people are not burdened with ruinous taxation; that there is a necessity for the people of this country to unite in supporting the principles of peace, as the only means of improving their temporal condition.
Now, I say that I deal with this question as a practical man. I have lately been travelling in the rural parts of Wales, and I find that there is a considerable amount of inconvenience among the rural population, among the farming world, who complain of low prices, and the weight of tithe-rent and taxation. We shall have those questions to talk over next session. The whole question of taxation will then come up. Government and Parliament will then have to deal with a Budget of pretty nearly 50,000,000l. a year, and they will have to vote money to meet this enormous outlay out of funds raised by taxation on the people. Now, while the great mass of the people are in the enjoyment of a large amount of comfort, probably never exceeded in the centres of industry in former times, I do not conceal that there is also another great mass of the population, and not the least important in a political point of view, who are suffering considerable pecuniary uneasiness; and therefore there will be next session a pressure on Parliament for a remission of taxation. Now, it is in order to be able to deal constitutionally and honestly, and not to take the Government or the country by surprise on any vote, that I now wish to record my opinions, and to prove that no sensible remission of taxation can be made, unless the country comes to the principles of the Peace Society, or at all events, goes some length towards its objects, and determines to make a very large reduction in the military establishments.
Will any one, then, dare to say that I am making a Utopia of this Peace question, and that I am not a practical man? Can there be any doubt that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, viewing his position in his retirement and during the recess, must have directed his mind to this question, and that he finds dangers and difficulties impending over him in the enormous amount of taxation he is compelled to demand? There is a Budget of nearly 50,000,000l. to vote next session, and has it never entered the minds of Gentlemen present to analyse what it was composed of? In the first place, we have to provide 28,000,000l. in round numbers out of the taxation, to meet the interest of the funded and floating debt—that debt of nearly 800,000,000l. having been almost every farthing contracted in former wars. Deducting those 28,000,000l., there are left 22,000,000l., about 6,500,000l. of which (I still speak in round numbers) are alone required to carry on the civil government, including the expenses of the courts of law, of diplomacy, consular establishments, official salaries, and everything necessary to cover the charge of civil government. After that, we have to vote about 15,500,000l. (I speak of what was done last year) for the expenses of the army, navy, and ordnance; so that out of 22,000,000l. required of you to pay the current expenditure of the State, more than two-thirds are required for military expenses—for these two-thirds, taken from the taxation of the people, are spent on red-coats, blue-jackets, and their appurtenances—and one-third covers all the other expenses. I cannot but think that I should deserve to be scouted if, talking to the people of financial reform, I advocate the principle of Free Trade, that is, of subjecting all classes to the rivalry of the foreigner, and declare that I wish to see the burden of taxation reduced, and yet conceal from you the fact, that out of our current expenditure about two-thirds go to the army, navy, and ordnance.
I therefore declare, that if you wish any remission of the taxation which falls upon the homes of the people of England and Wales, you can only find it by reducing the great military establishments, and diminishing the money paid to fighting men in time of peace. No doubt the next session of Parliament will open amidst great clamour for the reduction of a great number of taxes; but we cannot reduce taxation unless we reduce expenditure. If the expenditure is kept up, we must have taxes to pay for it; and therefore taxation can only be reduced by coming to a resolution that we will in some way curtail the expenditure. But how am I, as an individual Member of Parliament, to deal with these questions? Motions were frequently brought forward to repeal obnoxious taxes—such as the window-tax, the taxes on knowledge; and one motion last session was to repeal the tax on attorneys, who, we are told, were very oppressed individuals. One hon. Member wanted half the duty on malt taken off; and another, with more reason, wished to repeal half the duty on tea. These motions are submitted, one after the other, to the House of Commons, which is then called on to vote ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ upon them: but I cannot vote for taking off taxes that have been rendered necessary by the expenditure which has been voted, and I have said, ‘Meet a reduction of taxes by a reduction of expenditure.’ But having acted in this way, I have now no hesitation in declaring in these meetings, that if the Government does not do that which the country is told by the organs of military men they are not going to do, if it makes no reduction in military establishments, then, under these circumstances, I shall vote for taking off taxes, and see whether it is possible to pay for the military establishments without money. This, I own, is a clumsy way, and does not recommend itself to my reason; and I would rather go to work as in private matters, and rationally discuss what we can reduce in our expenditure, before taking off taxation; but if I find an unfair, unreasonable resistance to what I believe to be a fair and rational proposition for some reduction, I must adopt the course I have referred to.
I am not liable to the charge of advocating the total and immediate abolition of all our war establishments; but, after such meetings as the present, and after the declarations which I have openly made for many years, I feel I shall be perfectly free next session, with clean hands, and with full consistency and honesty, to vote for the removal of taxation, and leave the Government to cut the coat according to the cloth. I have no doubt that in the volume written by Sir F. Head, the author of ‘Bubbles from the Brunnen of Nassau,’ which has been referred to, we may find some statements which run counter to our principles and reasonings. But I dare say these ‘bubbles’ are just as substantial as the facts in the volume; for there is something in the antecedents of Sir F. Head, and his conduct in Canada, which does not recommend him to me as a good authority in this affair of our finances. But no doubt I shall be told that we are in great danger from other countries keeping up large military establishments and coming to attack us. Now, the answer I give to that is, that I would rather run the risk of France coming to attack us than keep up the present establishments in this country. I have done with reasoning on that subject. I would rather cut down the expenditure for military establishments to 10,000,000l. and run every danger from France, or any other quarter, than risk the danger of attempting to keep up the present standard of taxation and expenditure.
I call those men who write in this way cowards. I am not accustomed to pay fulsome compliments to the English, by telling them that they are superior to all the world; but this I can say, that they do not deserve the name of cowards. The men who write these books must be cowards; for I know nothing so preposterous as talking of a number of Frenchmen coming and taking possession of London. Who is afraid of them? I believe there never was an instance known in the history of the world of as many as 50,000 men in military array being transported across salt water within twelve months. Napoleon, on going to Egypt, had not so many; and France, with twelve months' preparation, could not transport across the sea 50,000 men, with all the appliances and muniments of war. It never has been, and I do not believe that it could be, done in twelve months. But I repeat, that I would run any risk, and not listen to those who would frighten me. I must, however, say that I am not one, because I advocate the reduction of armaments, who would plead guilty to the charge of being a coward, or who would submit to injustice. Many people suppose, that because I do not advocate bullying every nation on the face of the earth, that, therefore, I would necessarily submit to any one who might do me an injury. That is not the character of the Peace Society, nor of the members of the Society of Friends, who constitute the main force of the Peace Association. Read history, and see what great courage had been shown by the Society of Friends, and whether they did not extort from cruel and intolerant Governments toleration before any other sect, not by buckling on armour, but by knowing how to suffer, and by defeating through passive resistance those who attempted to do them injustice and wrong. And I say that those people on the Continent, who have a righteous cause, and wrongs to redress, would do well to imitate the calm endurance and patient long-suffering of the members of the Society of Friends. I know more than one community on the Continent to which this attitude might be adopted—Lombardy has been mentioned—in which was situated that town of Brescia, where were perpetrated those enormities by Haynau, and referred to by Mr. Richard. The population of that country consists of Italians; and men, women, and children all joined in opposition and hatred to the Austrian rule. But what chance had they in conflict with an enemy who possessed all the fortresses and muniments of war? How would it be if the Lombards folded their arms, and profited by the example of the members of the Society of Friends? Might they not by passive resistance alone set at nought the power of the strongest Government in Europe? Let me not be told that I am advocating injustice, and a supine acquiescence to wrong; for I have observed, that those who take up arms to contend against tyranny are not generally remarkable for having any success in the process, and I have a suspicion that the people on the Continent will ultimately find better means of emancipating themselves from their wrongs than by fighting and soldiering, which too often prove disastrous to the cause of liberty.
The best way for us, as Englishmen, to deal with the question, is as politicians, and more particularly as looking at facts from a financial point of view. Everybody can see, and everybody admits, that the course pursued on the Continent cannot be continued for five years longer by any Government. Everybody admits that Austria is bankrupt. When some time ago I went to the London Tavern, and spoke against the Austrian loan, and denounced the Austrians as bankrupts, there was an attempt to oppose my views; but everybody now admits that their bankruptcy is inevitable. Well, let us take France, Prussia, and Russia; and they too, through their enormous military establishments, are hastening to bankruptcy and revolution. And it is by peace meetings, by peace congresses at Frankfort and elsewhere,—it is by such means alone that attention is awakened to the danger of such a course; and by such means alone,—by public meetings, and agitation, and public discussion, is any great reform effected in the affairs of the world.
But when we call attention to these evils, we do not leave them without suggesting practical remedies. We say to the Governments of the world, ‘Cannot you find some other way of settling your disputes, and for guaranteeing peace, than by an array of enormous armaments? Cannot you recognise between Governments the principle of submitting your disputes to the arbitration of a neutral party?’ In France and England, and other countries, instead of keeping up those gigantic forces in time of peace, cannot the Governments of the world in 1850 devise some other means of providing something like a guarantee for the continuance of peace? There is no present quarrel between France and England—no tender question, and no claim that ought to interrupt the professions of eternal peace and concord which are made by both parties. Yet we are told that something might arise which would cause a war; and, therefore, the country must prepare for war. But the contingency of a dispute arising might be prepared for by other means than war; and we, the advocates of peace, say, Let the Governments refer their disputes to the arbitration of some impartial umpire. I ask Governments to do in the case of a nation what we always do in the case of individuals. If a Frenchman living in London commits a crime, the law—and Englishmen may be proud of it—allows him to claim to be tried by a jury, half of whom are foreigners. Now, all I want is, that the nations of England and France, and other countries, should carry the same principle into operation, and that when they have a dispute—when they charge a country, as Greece had been, of being in debt to another, and when that country denies the justice of the claim (and in the case of Greece subsequent events prove she is right), then let the matter be referred to arbitrators, instead of sending out a dozen ships of war, and saying, if another nation does not take our account of the matter, we will compel them. Let two arbitrators, one for each nation disputing, be appointed; and if the two cannot agree, let them appoint an umpire to settle the dispute according to reason and the facts of the case. Thus would be avoided the recourse now had to enormous forces. Is there anything so Utopian in this? The Peace Congress came to a resolution to recommend the nations of the world to enter on a system of disarmament. I have referred to this topic again and again, and I have learned that the only way to instruct men is to do with them as with children, and to repeat the lesson.
We have a Treaty with the United States, according to which only a certain number of ships of war are to be maintained by each nation on the limitary lakes—only one on each lake. Now, what has been the consequence? Why, from the moment of the existence of that treaty, both parties have totally disregarded the maintenance of the force altogether, and there is not at the present moment more than one crazy English hulk on all these lakes, and I do not believe that the Americans have one at all! This occurred from the moment our country showed that she had no desire to run with America that race of national rivalry which Sir F. Head would persuade England to run with France, fitting out a new fleet at Portsmouth, to be followed by an increased French fleet at Cherbourg, and by an augmentation, I suppose, of 100,000 men to the military force of each nation. If England enters with an honest spirit into a treaty with France, similar to that which exists with America, it would, if accepted, be advantageous to the interests of both countries; and if we have not got a Minister for Foreign Affairs who understands his business, and would enter into such an arrangement, then let the English people, who understand their business, advertise for a Foreign Minister, who, instead of following old courses, shall be alive to the spirit of the age, who shall be deemed worthy to have lived in the age of electric telegraphs, railways, and steamboats. It would simplify our foreign policy, if we entered into arrangements with other countries, binding ourselves by previous treaties, in case of dispute and hot blood, not to have recourse to war or violence, but to submit to arbitration. If I could only get the people of England and Wales to feel alive to this question, and to deal with the scorners of the peacemen as they deserved—with that contempt which Englishmen are sure, in the long run, to throw on such offenders,—if I could only get these views implanted into the minds of the people, it would not be long before we should have another Sir Robert Peel to carry them out.
I cannot mention the name of Sir Robert Peel without expressing my deep regret, not for the fame of that statesman,—for, probably, under all the circumstances, he could not have died at a moment more favourable for his fame,—but for the sake of his country. There are many reasons why we should regret that we have lost such a man at such a time. I cannot be expected, of course, to endorse the acts of Sir R. Peel's long political career. Sir R. Peel was in early life placed, before, probably, he had the choice of his own career, in a wrong political groove; but that such a man, after forty years' training in an adverse political school, should at the end of that time have taken the course he did, entitling himself, as he had done, by the last act of his political life, to the lasting veneration of his countrymen, makes me firmly hope that England has great future benefits to expect from the wise counsels of that great statesman. On those questions on which I am now addressing you, and which are agitated by the Peace Congress, I watched Sir R. Peel's course during the last three years, and, as my friends know, predicted that Sir R. Peel was preparing gradually to do for his country what he had done on another question, only secondary in importance to that advocated by the Peace Congress. It was in 1851 that Sir R. Peel was the first to recommend that agitation in which the Peace party and I are now engaged. That statesman then referred to the numerous standing armies, to the danger caused thereby to the finances, and to the consequent risk of revolutions incurred by the Governments of Europe; and he said that those Governments ought to endeavour to come to terms on the basis of a mutual reduction of the military establishments; and he declared, emphatically, that he hoped the Governments would take that course; or, if not, he hoped the different communities of Europe would so spread their opinions as to force their Governments to adopt that plan. I have frequently referred to that declaration as being a direct incentive to the course which is adopted at peace meetings; and I claim for the peace meetings the sanction and approval—nay, I claim for them the origination of the most practical statesman that ever lived.
But this is not all. In the House of Commons, on the 12th of March, 1850, Sir R. Peel spoke as I will presently read; and I well remember the feeling of surprise, not unmingled with a feeling of dissatisfaction, which pervaded that peculiar assembly when the words were delivered. I remember, when they were finished, that half-a-dozen of the Members sitting round me, congratulated me on having again got Sir R. Peel's assistance for a movement in favour of reducing expenditure. The words of Sir Robert Peel, to which I now allude, were these:—
'For what was said about the comparative lightness of taxation I care nothing, for there are many taxes pressing on the energies of the country and diminishing the comforts of the humbler classes; and their repeal, if it could be effected with good faith and public security, will be of inestimable advantage to the nation. Nay, more; I will say, that in time of peace, you must, if you mean to retrench, incur some risks. If in time of peace you must have all the garrisons of our colonial possessions in a state of complete efficiency—if you must have all our fortifications kept in a state of perfect repair,—I venture to say that no amount of annual expenditure will be sufficient; and if you adopted the opinions of military men, who say that they would throw upon you the whole responsibility in the event of a war breaking out, and some of our valuable possessions being lost, you would overwhelm this country with taxes in time of peace. The Government ought to feel assured that the House of Commons would support them if they incurred some responsibility with respect to our distant colonial possessions by running a risk for the purpose of effecting a saving. Bellum para, si pacem velis, is a maxim generally received, as if it were impossible to contest it; yet a maxim that admits of more contradiction, or should be accepted with greater reserve, never fell from the lips of man.'
When Sir R. Peel delivered those words, discrediting the authority of military men, he spoke in an assembly and especially from a side of the House where the military spirit was dominant; and he must have felt those sentiments strongly, or he never could have delivered them in such an assembly and in such an atmosphere. And orators should not forget that statesman's advice, when in after-dinner speeches they propose ‘the Army and Navy,’ and declare that to have peace it was necessary to be prepared for war. That was not Sir R. Peel's opinion; and yet I dare say that many of the men who utter the sentiment about being prepared for war would have shouted for Sir R. Peel, and would subscribe for a monument to him.
I remember, not long ago, a speech delivered by a sheriff of London at the sheriffs' inaugural dinner. I do not remember the sheriff's name; in fact, very few persons ever remember the names of the sheriffs of London, and as the gentleman I allude to happened to be sheriff and alderman of the City of London,—a very corrupt corporation,—it is not to be wondered at that his name has escaped my recollection, though it has been inserted in the columns of that very best champion of peace—Punch, which ought to be seen on the table of every one, both in wealthy drawing-rooms and humble cottages. This gentleman hiccuped out a great deal of incoherent nonsense about Cobden, and also said that he was in favour of armaments to preserve peace, and called the principles of the Peace Society ‘Utopian,’ for that is the standard word. Now, what has the Corporation of London lately done? I must say I had not supposed they possessed so much wit—I had not given them credit for having a joke in their whole body. Why, they have changed their programme of that great children's raree-show on Lord Mayor's-day, and, instead of exhibiting men in armour, they provide in their stead a figure emblematical of Peace, followed by representations of Europe, Asia, Africa, and America. No doubt that was intended as a sly vote of censure on this talkative alderman and sheriff; but it was too bad that, after eating his dinner, they should have gone away and served him such a scurvy trick as that. It was said that the peace which the Peace Society was aiming at, and the reduction of armaments, was Utopian and quite impracticable; but, somehow or other, I find that everybody comes before the public with the pretence of being a lover of peace, and endeavours to point out facts in the world with the view of showing that we were going to arrive at peace. But if it is said, ‘Then let us gather these facts together; let us make use of the railways, and visit different parts, as Paris and Frankfort had been visited, and let us invite people to talk over the question of peace, and see if it cannot be forwarded,’ then these people turn round, denounce and ridicule the peacemen, and affect a great deal of scorn for their reasonings, while they very probably desire peace in their hearts a great deal less than they pretend.
There is a large portion of the community which does not want peace. War is the profession of some men, and war, therefore, is the only means for their occupation and promotion in their profession. 15,000,000l. sterling are spent on military establishments. That is a considerable sum of money spent upon classes who are not very likely to be favourable to peace. Read the United Service and the Army and Navy Gazette. Do you think that these publications are intended to promote peace? Do they not seek the opportunity of exciting jealousies,—pointing to the ships of war of foreign countries, and saying, ‘There are more guns there, and, therefore, we must have more’? Do they not endeavour to produce that rivalry of establishments and armaments which is always tending of necessity to hostile feelings and hostile acts? Again, there is a large portion of the continental community which is similarly situated to the portion of which I have just spoken in this country. Four millions of men—the flower of Europe—from twenty to thirty-three years of age, are under arms, living in idleness. There are often no men in the country parts; the women are doing their farm work, and toiling up to their knees in manure, and amidst muck and dirt, at the age of thirty and forty. They may be constantly seen thus employed, tanned and haggard, and looking hardly like the fair sex. They do this, in order that the muscle and strength of the country should be clothed in military coats, and should carry muskets on their shoulders—a scandal to a civilised and Christian age. Thus there is a large body of men who do not desire peace. I do not believe that peace is their object. I do not know why they entered the army if they did not want war. This is their employment, and they must be idle if they have not war; and, therefore, it is not unfair to argue that they are not altogether favourable to peace, whatever they may say; and consequently I do not believe that all those men who use these cant phrases about peace care for it.
I have endeavoured to show that I have a practical object in view, and that the members of the Peace Society have some sanction from practical men for what is sought after by this Society. What do other men propose—those most opposed to the Peace Society? Do they say that the system which we are opposing will last for ever? Why, every man admits that it cannot last five years. Is there any person prepared to reverse this system of enormous expenditure and ruinous establishments—of waste, bankruptcy, and ultimate revolution? The conduct which the Governments are pursuing is calculated to shake the faith of the mass of the people in the very existence of Government—marching and countermarching troops—and all for mere parade and the exhibition of armed men. It seems to me as if there ought to have been a battle long ago on the Continent, and then, I think, there would have been more chance that this turmoil would have been put an end to. For what purpose does this marching and countermarching of troops serve, unless the secret and covert design of bringing the system into disrepute? And it is coming into disrepute. And if we could only prevent the Governments from ‘raising the wind’ (as Mr. Richard said), we should put an end to it.
I now come to another point of our Peace doctrine, and that is, that we want to prevent people lending money to those bankrupt Governments in order that they may keep soldiers. I said, last August twelvemonths, that the Russian Government, about whose rich and ample resources so much was then uttered, could not make the campaign in Hungary without coming to London or Amsterdam for a loan. I was laughed at; but the campaign was hardly over before a loan was applied for, under the pretence that it was wanted for a railway. I denounced that loan as an Imperial falsehood. I do not mean to say that the Emperor knew so when he signed the decree, but the Emperor knows that to be the case now, and he ought to repudiate it. It was raised to pay for the atrocities perpetrated in the Hungarian war, not from the savings of Barings or Rothschilds, for they are not the people who lent the money, but from the small capitalists in England, who have small savings, and who wish to get five instead of four per cent. They lent that money, by which they as much cut the throats of the Hungarians and devastated their villages as if they had gone there and done it with their own hands. I was asked whether I, as a Free-trader, was consistent with my principles when I denounced this use of money? I was told that a man had a right to lend his money without inquiring what it was wanted for. But if he knew it was wanted for a vile purpose, had he the right of so lending it? I put this question to a City man:—'Somebody asks you to lend money to build houses with, and you know it is wanted for the purpose of building infamous houses, would you be justified in lending the money?' He replied, ‘I would.’ I rejoined, ‘Then I am not going to argue with you—you are a man for the police magistrate to look after; for if you would lend money to build infamous houses, you would very likely keep one yourself, if you could get ten per cent. by it.’ I say that no man has a right to lend money if he knows it is to be applied to the cutting of throats. The whole of this system of enormous armaments is built on the system of lending money; and thereby there are concentrated into one generation those evils of war, which would not have been suffered except successive generations were called upon to pay for them.
The system is indefensible, both on the principles of humanity and political economy; and I believe the time will come—it is coming (for I have heard the principle broached in high intellectual places)—when future generations will raise the question whether they shall be held responsible for debts incurred, often for keeping their own country in slavery, and also for foreign wars, in which they can have no possible interest.
We have all heard of the disturbances in Sleswig-Holstein; and I join both with Mr. Sturge and Mr. Richard in the expression of opinion that our Government is heavily responsible for having meddled in that affair in the way in which it did, and in joining France, Russia, and Denmark in a hostile demonstration against Sleswig-Holstein. We have no business to do so; and I could corroborate every word used by the preceding speakers to the effect, that it had left a feeling of deep alienation among the whole Protestant community of Germany. I do not use that term with a view of instituting an invidious comparison in respect to the Roman Catholics; but the Protestant part of Germany is the most constitutional; it is the part which has been, and most naturally, in sympathy with England; but, in consequence of that proceeding of our Foreign Minister, deep, lasting, if not ineradicable feelings of alienation and indignation have been produced against the Government and people of this country.
But the point to which I wish to refer is this,—Last year these two parties (the Danes and Sleswig-Holsteiners) were in collision, and then there ensued a suspension of arms. In the interval, Denmark raised a loan of 800,000l. That money was spent in preparation for bloody conflicts; and, if it could not have been raised from the English or Dutch, I firmly believe that, from the destitution of the resources of Denmark, peace must necessarily have ensued, and those hostilities, which have caused so much devastation within the last few months, could not have been renewed. So with respect to Russia. We heard of the Emperor dictating to Germany at Warsaw. I believe that the cost of the visits between Petersburg and Warsaw has been defrayed out of the money raised from the English; and if that money had not been raised—if those 5,000,000l. had not been lent out—if English capitalists had folded their arms, or better still, had closed their purse-strings—if, too, they had lent no money for perpetrating atrocities in Hungary, and had declared that henceforth no assistance need be expected from them for wars and deeds of violence, then those armaments must have been reduced, and instead of the Czar, in consequence of being full of money, riding backwards and forwards from one city to another, he would have been kept at home, minding the affairs of his own country and not those of Germany, and we should have been saved this turmoil which will very likely be made an excuse next session for not reducing the army of this country.
Before I sit down, let us prepare for what will be said of this meeting. We shall be called enthusiasts and Utopians, who think the millennium is coming. Now, as the gentlemen who use these phrases are very much at a loss for something new, I will say, once for all, that I am not dreaming of the millennium. I believe that long after my time iron will be used to make the spear, as well as the pruning-hook and the ploughshare. I do not think the coming year is to produce any sudden change in the existing practice, or that the millennium will be absolutely realised in my time; but I think, if the principles of the Peace Society are true, we are engaged in a work in which conscience, and, I believe, Heaven itself, will find cause for approbation. In that course, therefore, I shall persevere, in spite of sneers and sarcasms. I believe we shall not have long to wait before we shall find from our opponents admissions that they are wrong and we right. I have seen some such things before from the same quarters on another question; and I expect to hear the same things again, Those parties tell us that we must look to Free Trade and to other causes to accelerate the era of Peace—those parties who opposed Free Trade. But when I advocated Free Trade, do you suppose that I did not see its relation to the present question, or that I advocated Free Trade merely because it would give us a little more occupation in this or that pursuit? No; I believed Free Trade would have the tendency to unite mankind in the bonds of peace, and it was that, more than any pecuniary consideration, which sustained and actuated me, as my friends know, in that struggle. And it is because I want to see Free Trade, in its noblest and most humane aspect, have full scope in this world, that I wish to absolve myself from all responsibility for the miseries caused by violence and aggression, and too often perpetrated under the plea of benefiting trade. I may at least be allowed to speak, if not with authority, yet certainly without the imputation of trespassing on ground which I may not reasonably be supposed to understand as well as most people, and to say, when I hear those who advocate warlike establishments or large armaments for the purpose of encouraging our trade in distant parts of the world, that I have no sympathy with them, and that they never shall have my support in carrying out such measures. We have nothing to hope from measures of violence in aid of the promotion of commerce with other countries.
Away with all attempts to coerce any nation, whether civilised or barbarous, by ships of war, into the adoption of those principles of Free Trade, which we ourselves only adopted when we became convinced by the process of reason and argument that they were for our own interest. If we send ships to enforce by treaties this extension of trade, we shall be doing more harm than good to the cause we pretend to aid. Such a policy is calculated to react on the people, by imposing on them great burdens, in order to support those armaments by which it is endeavoured to force our views on other nations. I shall have something to say on another occasion about China and Borneo. I will give some facts, and, before long, I will adopt the most effectual mode which I can, and show the people of this country that they are mistaken, in a pecuniary point of view, when they think that they enforce their interests by ships of war or troops. Therefore, as a Free-trader, I oppose every attempt to enforce a trade with other countries by violence or coercion.
I never thanked the Foreign Minister who came with a Treaty of Commerce from China, or Borneo, or St. Domingo, or Russia, binding them to extend their commerce with this country, and to relax their restrictions, should that Treaty be obtained either by force, chicanery, or fraud; for, depend on it, a policy so enforced will react, and we shall never make progress in the principles which we advocate until we leave it to other countries to take the course they believe to be best for their own interest, after calm consideration, and until they have seen by the example England had set, that the Free Trade adopted by her was beneficial to her own interests.
Therefore, on high religious grounds, and on Free-trade grounds, I support the gentlemen who are devoting themselves to the cause of Peace. I think myself that I have done very little in this matter, and I am ashamed when I find myself singled out for obloquy, which I do not deserve, in relation to this cause. I am not ashamed of the title of the "Champion of Peace,"—I only wish I deserved it. I thank the gentlemen who have taken up this cause on all these grounds. I know that they consider no sacrifice too great in order to carry out their conscientious convictions. I thank them for it, and for the opportunity they have afforded me in addressing this meeting, and at the meetings at Frankfort and other places, to address all the countries of Europe, and I entreat them to go on. They are the sons of parents who fought the battle of Catholic Emancipation—(applause)—I meant to have said Slave Emancipation, but the cheer needs not to be recalled, for they were the friends of liberty of every kind, whether to the white man or to the black. Let them not be discouraged by sneers, but let them go on unfalteringly, and, as on the Slave Question, they will bequeath this struggle from father to son until as glorious a result will be accomplished as any yet recorded on the page of History.
MANCHESTER, JANUARY 27, 1853.
[The following is one of the speeches which Mr. Cobden made with the purpose of disabusing the public of a panic which was common some years ago. The second Empire had just been established in France.]
I confess I have listened to those letters from our French correspondents with feelings of shame and humiliation,—shame, that it should be deemed necessary by our well-wishers on the other side of the Channel that they should give us assurances that there is no intention on the part of France to come and, without provocation, to invade our shores; and humiliation, that there should have been a considerable number of the people of this country who could have been deluded by the merest child's cry, the mere baby's talk that we have been listening to, for the last few months, and that they should have believed for a moment that anything so absurd and all but impossible was going to happen.
Now, let me just call your attention to the source from which those assurances come. The outcry that we hear in this country about an invasion from France is levelled at the present Government of France. The parties who are addressing us are not the partisans of that Government. We have had a letter from M. Carnot; he is not a friend of the present Government. I have an extract here from the Journal des Débats, which is a pacific newspaper, not in the interest of Louis Napoleon, but a decided advocate of peace and free trade; and what is the tone in which that paper speaks of this cry of invasion in this country? It says, that ‘whilst the British journals are every day accusing our Government of making large augmentations of its navy, we observe that under this unfounded pretence, England is constantly adding to its fleet and other armaments; and we are led to believe that the English press can have no other object in thus declaiming against the imaginary armaments of France, than to conceal the real preparations that are going on in that country.’ Well, you have had a letter from M. Emile de Girardin; he is not a partisan of the present Government; he was an exile after the last revolution, and he is expressing his doubts whether the preparations we are making for ‘a disembarkation from France without an object'’—for, mind you, with his usual logic, he, in a word, has hit upon the whole point of this absurd outcry,—these preparations, he is rather inclined to think, there must be something else to account for, than the absurd supposition that we are preparing for a descent from France without an object; because nobody has ever professed that there is any object; we have had no quarrel; there is no dispute,—no unsettled boundary, no Spanish marriages, no Tahiti question, no Mr. Pritchard; there is no quarrel at all; and, when I ask our invasionist friends what it is the French are coming here for, I never could hear an intelligible answer. Sometimes they say that some five thousand men are coming here to burn down one of our towns, and yet they admit these men will never go back again! I am as much at a loss as M. de Girardin is to see any logical ground for any such attempt as that.
But you may depend upon it that you are apt to underrate the effect of all this kind of menacing demonstration. The effect will be precisely the contrary of what these alarmists want. Instead of damaging Louis Napoleon, you will unite all parties in France with him as against England. And that is the great evil of such demonstrations as this,—you make every man in France, that has one atom of self-respect, or of French spirit in his blood,—you make him feel indignant that you have lowered him and his country to the rank of savages, in supposing that they are to come here some day, without notice, without declaration of war,—a thing that never happened in any civilised country in the world; that you are assuming that it is going to be done, some day, without any fact to warrant it; and that you are making all the preparation which he sees in your ports, in order to receive those savages. And you find people who are still considered fit to be trusted in the management of their business, whom you meet in the streets every day, who will shake their wise heads, and tell you that they believe that there is some danger of a French invasion. Might not I say, ‘I think there is some danger of somebody attacking me in the street,’—might not I, with just the same logic, prepare myself with a dreadnought club or life preserver; or, perhaps, a brace of pistols, if I deemed it necessary; might not I make any kind of provision against any such imaginary danger as that? But I should be no more rational in doing it than we are as a nation in making these preparations against France.
I wish I could get some of these public instructors and bring them to the test of how far they are in earnest when they write in the way some of these Manchester papers write about a French invasion. Now, to my knowledge, they have been writing in the same way these last five years; I have had them upon me ever since December, 1847, which is about five years ago. They were writing in the same way when Louis Philippe was King of the French, and when M. Guizot was his Prime Minister. I will not let them off on their protesting that all they want now is to guard us against a usurper and a despot. I say they raised that cry as long ago as in 1847, when Louis Philippe was king, as loudly as they do now. They have been five years in this state of panic and alarm; and I say it is high time that such people should take some assurance against the consequences of this invasion, when it comes. Well, now, I am prepared, not only to give them that assurance on moderate terms, but I will put their sincerity to the test. Bring me that public instructor in your town, that has been telling you for the last five years, and upwards, that this invasion is so imminent; bring him to me, and I will make a proposal to him. If he will pay one shilling a week to your Infirmary, as a subscription, I will enter into a legal bond to pay him down ten thousand pounds when this invasion takes place. Well, but you sometimes have your public instructors, who write as though they had some special sources of information from London.
Now, I tell all those writers in newspapers in the provinces, who have joined in this cry of invasion, that they are being heartily laughed at by those in London, who are profiting by the cry. The Government has no belief in any danger of a sudden invasion. I will prove it to you in a moment. If an invasion took place without notice, our Government would be certainly impeached, because they are allowing our largest concentrated fleet—a fleet more powerful than the whole American navy;—now, I am speaking deliberately when I say that we have a fleet before which, if every ship of war which the Americans have were brought, they could not exist for twentyfour hours; and that fleet is now lying at Malta, or amusing itself between Malta and Corfu (with a great expenditure on the part of the officers for kid gloves for their parties and excursions); and I say that if Parliament believed what the Government and the instructors of the people are saying, as though it were derived from some special sources of information, that any Government that ever existed in the country, and which was proved, if an invasion or descent on our shores took place, to have suspected it, to have anticipated it, and to have given a hint of it to some of those public instructors in the country, would inevitably be impeached, and deservedly so, for having left our largest fleet 1,200 miles off, and at such a distance that it could not be collected in less than a month's time. So I assure gentlemen in the provinces who join in the cry, that they are only being heartily laughed at for their pains, and that the Government, which may profit by the cry, is by no means a sharer in the panic. And that is one of the worst parts of the panic—that Governments do manage to tide over a session, and gain time when they can find silly people through the country who will occupy their fellowcitizens by such a cry as this, because those who would be better employed in urging forward the Government to do something, are kept trotting about the country to try to prevent the mischief which these alarmists create. Don't you think, now, that I and others on this platform, who form humble units in the political world, might be better engaged, and might perhaps be troublesome to some party in the Government, if we were not kept on trotting about by this cry of an invasion? It is a very clever contrivance, and is the very thing that despotic Governments are always seeking for—something to keep the country always in a state of agitation, from a fear of invasion by any other Power than themselves. That has been the system that has always been adopted from the very beginning of misgovernment; since Governments will always find not only silly people who will believe them and become their dupes, but also people who will perform the part of impostors to those dupes; for there is quite as much knavery as folly at the bottom of this cry.
Now, I think that we are playing very much the part of bullies in this matter. If I have read history to any purpose at all, we have some atonement to offer to the French people. We are not in a position to put our fist constantly in the face of the French, and accuse them of an intention to come and molest us. The last French war arose out of a gross and unprovoked aggression on our part. The last war on the Continent originated with us, from an oligarchical Government, fed from the resources of this great nation, but carried on against the interests of liberty and in the interests of despotism. But, after that war is at an end, I think we might have expected that if there were any complaints, or accusations, or suspicions, they would more naturally have come from the other side of the Channel. I think that, under the circumstances, when we investigate the origin and character of the last great French war with this country, it is surprising that there is not a greater feeling of resentment and indignation on the part of the French nation against the English. But are the English people in a position to begin again to exasperate the French people by accusing them of an intention to invade us, and of entertaining those base intentions against our shores, when the only example in the memory of living man, is one in which we played that part against them? If there should be suspicion in the minds of any, it should be in the breasts of Frenchmen. If we follow the Christian maxim, of doing as we would that others should do unto us, we should try a different tone, and see what a little conciliation towards France would do.
I will tell you what is at the bottom of the whole of this cry in England about a French invasion. It is ignorance in the minds of the great masses of the people, as to what the real condition and circumstances of the French people are. I have told my friends who are met here from different parts of the country, and who are proposing to take steps for a vigorous agitation on behalf of peace, that the first thing they have to do is to spread four or five lecturers over the face of the land, to enlighten the public mind as to the state of feeling in France. We have no danger, it is admitted on all hands, from any other country. If it was not for this bug-bear of France and the French invasion, there would be lamentation and woe in some clubs in London, for I do not think they could have any excuse for keeping up so large a military and naval force. As to America, they do not give us any excuse for keeping up our navy. If France was out of the way, and we had only to look to and to be prepared for competition with America, or even with Austria or Russia, that would hardly afford us an excuse for keeping up our present armaments. It is France alone that you are threatened with danger from, and I say that the people of this country are alarmed with respect to France, simply because they don't understand the circumstances of that nation; and, being in ignorance, you may persuade them anything. It is like blindfolding a man and spinning him round once or twice. He then does not know where he stands, and you may persuade him that anything in the world is coming to eat him up; but unbandage his eyes, and he is not easily frightened. You must go through the country with lecturers, deluge them with tracts, and show them the actual position of the French nation. I tell you candidly my firm belief is, and I am quite prepared to meet the consequences, that if you will let the people of this country know the whole truth as to the economical and social condition of the millions of France, instead of their fearing that the French people are coming to take anything they possess, they will be themselves possessed of a considerable amount of dissatisfaction that their own condition, as a mass, is not equal to that of the French. The French people coming here, like a band of pirates, to take what the English people have! Why, you have to deal with 8,000,000 of landed proprietors. A very worthy friend of ours, who is now travelling in the south of France, and who is known to most of my friends about me, has written within the last few days to us, that, as the result of his inquiries and investigation, the condition of the rural population of France is very superior to that of the English peasantry. The French peasantry are the proprietors of the land. When the man follows his horse to field there, he is turning up the furrows upon his own soil.
Now, do you think that is exactly the population to run over from their acres and come here on a mere marauding expedition? Our mistake is in judging the French people altogether by our own standard. It is true the French have not yet quite got an appreciation of the representative forms of government according to our machinery, and the habit of association and public meeting, and the freedom of the press which we have; it is because it does not enter into French feeling to appreciate these things. For instance, the French people have no Habeas Corpus Act, as we have in England, to give them the guarantee for their personal liberty. We attach the utmost importance to the inviolability of individual freedom, and I think we are quite right. But the French, though they have had three or four times possession of power in the streets, have never known one of their leaders, when he had absolute possession of their assemblies,—have never seen one of their democratic leaders getting up and inserting a fundamental clause in their Constitution to give them that protection which we have against any arbitrary and undue infringement of our personal liberties. Again, with regard to their habits of association and public meeting, it does not enter into the ideas of the French people to have public meetings such as we have, and discuss such questions as we do. It is not in their habits to do it. No class or party in the country has used it or adopted it with any general success. And, therefore, these things which we prize, the French, up to this time, have not shown that they attach much importance to. Now, the time may come when they may have precisely the same feelings and views that we have with reference to these questions. The time may come. Recollect that hitherto they have been about fifty or sixty years in pretty constant and successive revolutions, so far as the political form of their Government goes. Well, but we had to go through a century of revolution before we settled down. From the time of the commencement of the civil war with Charles I. down to the time of our last civil war in 45, this country passed through a whole century of revolutions. Give them time, and perhaps at some future period the French may have your tastes upon those questions to which you attach so much importance.
And now I'll tell you the lesson I think we ought to learn from the French having parted, apparently with so little reluctance, from their representative form of government, and their freedom of the press; and the lesson, I say, is this—that we English ought to learn—not to stroke our beards and to thank Heaven we are not as other men; but we ought to say, ‘Let us take care that our newspaper press shall be such a useful organ, both in the cause of morality, of truth, but, above all, so useful in the cause of international peace, that the popular mind shall cling to it as an institution, and never allow it to be infringed upon; and let public men, leading statesmen, be so truthful in their representative capacities; and let them show patriotism enough, that the people shall have confidence in them, and cling to their representative system, and not abandon it as the French have done, because probably they have not found those attributes of which I am speaking.’ Now, what the French do, is this. Recollect I am now, with all submission, indicating what I think is the line necessary for peace lecturers to take, and whatever it is absolutely necessary to take, if we are to put an end to this howl of a French invasion. What the French do prize, and we don't prize much, is equality in social rank. The French people have abolished and destroyed feudalism for sixty years, completely. They don't tolerate any arbitrary rank or title, or any entails, or anything which can tend to give social inequality. They carry that principle of equality into their religious concerns; the French people won't tolerate one exclusively endowed religion, even although you had the Church selected that comprises nearly the whole population. All people are treated alike in France. Every religion is put upon a perfect footing of equality. So in the taxation, which is the most equal, fair system of taxation in the world; you could not have in France a probate and legacy duty upon one description of property and not upon another.
Now, I see that France could not have what we have in this country, because public opinion revolts at it. They would not have an hereditary House of Peers. Louis Napoleon would fall instantly—his throne would not be worth twenty-four hours' purchase if he were to attempt anything of the kind. Therefore, they have their tastes, and we have ours. They do not understand our tastes;—I can vouch for it, from being a good deal among them, that they are very much puzzled at our little regard for this principle of equality which they attach so much importance to; but they discriminate, and they say, ‘We envy you your jealousy of personal liberty; we wish we had it; we wish no man might have his personal freedom infringed. But that is not our taste. We have a passion for equality—you have a passion for personal liberty; and we should be better if we perhaps interchange a little and share our respective qualities.’
Well, now, I say, let the English people be told exactly what is the condition of French society. Let them understand, when we are told the French are coming here to rob our banks, that the French have had more silver in the Bank at Paris than we have had of gold and silver in the vaults of the Bank of England at the time that we were treating them as pirates who were coming to rob our Bank. Then we talk of their coming to carry off the various commodities we have in this country. There are more silver forks and spoons in France than in England, a great deal. If you were to go to a roadside publichouse in France, you would get a napkin and a silver fork; and we know in all their private families the class of people who live in that style are much more numerous than they are with us; the spirit of equality keeps up a vast mass there who have not similar tastes or aspirations here; and, therefore, when we hear of the French coming to commit a piratical incursion upon our shores, we are dealing with a people who would not be bringing all their worldly wealth in their canoes, like the New Zealanders or the Malays, but with a people that in many respects are considered by the rest of the world more civilised than ourselves. The rest of the world imitates their dress, their language, their amusements, and not ours. We are dealing with a people having more portable property in their country than they would find here. Well, then, I say, to tell us all that of a people that have never molested us within the lifetime of any living being, is absurd. On the contrary, they have a good right to complain of a most aggressive attack upon their shores on the part of our aristocracy sixty years ago. Well, I say we are placing ourselves in the attitude of an insolent, impudent bully that goes about the streets holding up both his fists, and trying to incite peaceable men to attack him. I hope that we shall not separate until we have organised a plan by which we can spread this information, and a good deal more, through the country, in the interest of peace.
Now, something has been said about the financial reformers. I cannot understand what a financial reformer can be thinking of who expects ever to get any reduction of Government expenditure, or any remission of those taxes which are pressing us in so many places, unless he can hope to effect a reduction in our warlike expenditure. Now, take in round numbers—I won't trouble you with figures, but take in round numbers our expenditure: say eight-and-twenty millions annually go to pay the interest of the debt incurred in past wars,—I am sorry to say, aggressive wars; well, then, we have about twenty-four or twenty-five millions more to pay. Out of that, about sixteen millions go for our present warlike expenditure. Well, these invasionists tell us, that cannot be reduced; and if the interest of the debt must be paid, which we all admit, there you have twenty-eight millions and sixteen millions, which make forty-four millions, that must not be touched. Then the financial reformers find some five or six millions more, which make the whole expense of our civil Government. Ours is not an expensive Government, really, for twenty-eight millions of people. We can find no fault with these six or eight millions. But if the financial reformers join in this great cry for more warlike armaments, and give way to this redherring drawn across our path in the shape of an invasion, then, I think, they ought to close their books and retire from business, and no longer call themselves financial reformers.
Now, gentlemen, if you can only destroy this wicked delusion, that is spread abroad respecting the conduct of France and the intentions of France, there is a very productive mine still to be worked in this large amount of military and naval expenditure. I won't promise you that it shall be quite as productive as the repeal of the Corn-laws, and yet I really don't know but what, if you would give me the amount which, by putting an end to this wicked spirit of animosity which has crept between France and England, might be fairly taken from our warlike expenses, and let me deal with it in the readjustment of taxation, in the reduction of taxation, I think I could so relieve industry by removing its trammels in the shape of custom-houses and excisemen, that I verily believe I could give a new lease to trade, almost as profitable as that derived from the repeal of the Corn-laws. And if you tell me that this invasion cry is founded in common sense and reason, that we must be prepared with our present armaments and then increase them, I should be guilty of the grossest imposture in the world if I were to tell you that any appreciable diminution could be made in the amount of our Government expenditure. You must, in that case, make up your mind to bear it, and I advise those who advocate this expenditure to do it without grumbling, and without making wry faces over it. I would not, if I believed what these people tell me; I would pay my taxes with right goodwill, and be very glad indeed to pay my money for such security.
Well, now, one word upon that which is of most vital importance in any agitation which may be renewed from this time. We are going to make this a revival, gentlemen; this is to be a new start. Now, you will all remember—I am sure my friend, Mr. Sturge, will—in fact, he has said as much to me this very day himself, and, therefore, I need not appeal to him to confirm what I am going to say,—no taunts ever thrown upon me have ever, to this moment, that I am aware of, led me to open my mouth to say that I disavowed the principles upon which the Peace Society is founded, and that I don't profess to go the lengths which the members of the Peace Society go. I have been told, I confess candidly, by political friends as well as political enemies, that I was doing myself a great deal of harm by allowing it to be thought that I was opposed to all defensive armaments. My answer has been:—If anybody believes that of me, and chooses to make that a reproach to me, I don't suppose that if I disabused him it would do much good, for he would be sure to find something else, to invent something else; and, besides, I add, I have so much respect for those gentlemen who belong to the Peace Society, and see that they are doing so much good, that I don't feel disposed at all to say anything that should appear to be construed to imply anything like a slight or disapproval of their conduct. But it is very well known to my friend Mr. Sturge, and others with whom I have acted,—and who know me very well, that although I am as anxious as they are to put an end to war at once and for ever, and see universal peace, yet that I was not educated in the principles of the Society of Friends, and it is generally to our education that we are indebted for our principles. And I have never avowed—I should be hypocritical if I avowed—that I entertained the opinion, that, if attacked, if molested in an unprovoked manner, I would not defend myself from such an act of aggression. Nobody, I presume, who wishes to do me justice, ever dreamed that I would do so. But it was not necessary, because I found every one bullying and crying, ‘We will remind them of Waterloo; we will sing "Rule Britannia;" we will remind them of Trafalgar and the Nile;'’—it was not necessary I should join in reminding them of that. But I hold opinions which are held by the great body of my countrymen, and an unprovoked attack would find, I dare say, as resolute a resistance from me as from many of those who are now crying out in a panic, and who, I suspect, would be very likely to run away from the enemy.
Now, the Peace Society has just as tolerant views towards me as I have towards them. The Peace Society has never attempted to coerce me into their principles of non-resistance. I must say I have never found them attempting to make a proselyte of me. They perfectly understand what my views are on this subject,—that I will put an end to war if I can, but will submit to no injustice if I can prevent it. Now, it is intended from this time that we shall enlarge the scope of this movement. We have met this morning, and we have had a gathering which has reminded me of the good old time of the League. I have seen at the very outset of this agitation noble-minded men put down their names for a sum of money which we were glad to wind up with in our League agitation after five years' struggle—I have seen 500l. put down to one name this morning; and it is proposed that there shall be not a new society, because the Peace Congress Association forms the common ground on which all men may co-operate. We don't propose to found any new society, but we intend to extend the operations of that body which was founded when we began the Peace Congress which visited the Continent, and also sat in London. We intend that there shall be a more abundant supply of the sinews of war placed in the hands of your committee by the addition of some other names in Manchester and elsewhere; and we hope to set at work, not only with a machinery for inundating the country with printed papers for its information and instruction, but we hope to set four or five lecturers to work in visiting every borough in the country, and see whether we cannot counteract the poison that is being infused into the minds of the people. When I met one of my friends in the streets of Manchester yesterday, he said, ‘Why, you have come at a very inopportune time for your Peace meeting; for everybody is in a panic, and thinks you wrong.’ I said, ‘Why, that is the very reason why we are here; there never was a time yet when it was so necessary for the Peace party to redouble their efforts as at present.’ And I venture to predict that the creation of the militia, and the present cry for an increase of our armaments, will give a date for the downfall of this very system which we condemn. This insane and wicked attempt at misleading and exasperating the people will recoil upon its authors—there will be from this time but the beginning of a reaction; and we won't fail to profit by it.
Then our lecturers and our tracts will be directed to disabuse the public mind, in the first place, of the impression which is created with respect to the intentions of France. That is the first thing to be done, because there's where the danger is. Then let them deal with the economical view of the question—I mean the pressure of the enormous burdens on the industry of this country. Let our lecturers go and show what each town pays—why, I heard it stated that Manchester has to pay 200,000l. as its share for our past wars, and for our present preparations. Let them go and show in all our towns and boroughs what are our economical objects. But don't let us lose sight of the still higher motives for peace. I have always been of opinion that the mainspring of this movement must be with those men who look beyond temporary concerns of any kind—who, instead of viewing this as a pounds, shillings, and pence question, or even a question of physical suffering, have an eye to the eternal interests involved in it. I say these are the men who are the mainspring of this movement. If anything be done to destroy the energy, or check the zeal, or to wound the consciences of those men who, from 1815 to the present time, when there was little attention paid to the question, kept the sacred lamp burning in the midst of contempt and contumely—if we do anything to disparage these men, I would not give a button for the prospect of this movement. And, therefore, our lecturers and tracts and publications must not only advocate the cause of peace on the ground of religious duty and the interests of morality, but they must not say one word that shall wound the convictions of those men who conscientiously believe in the inviolability of human life, and who would not resist to the death even to save their own existence.
Now, I know well that our opponents will try to make it appear that it is very inconsistent for men to co-operate together with such different objects, and for those who call themselves members of the Society of Friends to co-operate with others who stop short of their principle. Well, that is a new doctrine, at all events. It was not so when the French war broke out. I find that then the Society of Friends co-operated with Mr. Fox and his colleagues of the Whig party in trying to prevent that most unrighteous and most unhappy war of the French revolution. I find that Mr. Gurney, of Norwich, corresponded constantly with Mr. Fox in the House of Commons, and that Mr. Fox corresponded with Mr. Gurney, entreating him to get up a county meeting in Norfolk, and encouraging him to get up numerous petitions from Norwich; but I certainly never heard anybody among the Whig party saying that Mr. Fox was inconsistent in co-operating with Mr. Gurney to prevent that dreadful war, or saying that Mr. Gurney sacrificed his principles in lending his help to Mr. Fox; although, if they had come together and sought out their points of difference instead of seeking out their points of union, they would have found, very likely, that their principles were quite as opposite, as the principles I hold would be found if compared with those of my friend Mr. Sturge. But we shall not have from the present Ministry, I think, any cavilling—no, nor from their organs of the press either; we shall not, I should think, have any cavilling or criticising as to men co-operating who don't agree on all points.
I recollect that during the debate on the Militia Bill, a certain noble Lord, who is now filling a very important office in the present Government, somehow picked up a pamphlet, written by a gentleman to show the inconsistency of a clergyman joining a rifle club, and the object of the writer was to show that the taking of human life at all, under any circumstances, was inconsistent with a belief of the New Testament; but who, being pushed by his adversary to the logical consequences of his own argument, made sundry admissions which, to those who have not adopted these views, appeared somewhat absurd. Well, this noble Lord, I say, got this pamphlet, and very dexterously turned this pamphlet, written by this gentleman, who, I dare say, was very consistent and very honest in what he wrote—he turned its contents against us who were opposing the militia. Well, that noble Lord is now filling an important office in the Government of Lord Aberdeen. I think I remember when the Earl of Aberdeen was Foreign Secretary under Sir R. Peel, that that noble Lord, from 1841 to 1846, employed a vast deal of his time, when in opposition, in criticising and condemning in no very measured terms, the principles upon which Lord Aberdeen's foreign policy was carried out. But I suppose the noble Lord must now have changed all his views on foreign policy since he took office under Lord Aberdeen; or if he has not, I suppose now that he will contend that it is not impossible for men to co-operate together without having identical views, and without being ready to go to the same extent in their views upon every question. If that be the case, I should hope that the noble Lord will, from the exigencies of his present situation, have learnt toleration for others, and that we shall hear no more of those taunts against men in the House of Commons who advocate the reduction of our armaments, or who resist the increase of those armaments, and who still may no more be identified with all the views of the Society of Friends than the noble Lord would be with all the foreign policy of the Earl of Aberdeen.
Gentlemen, our object here is business. You are here, from all parts of the country; and we have made a beginning in the essential part of our business this morning. At the meeting that has been held since the morning meeting, I think some four or five thousand pounds have been subscribed. It is proposed that it should be made up to ten thousand pounds, and that we go to work at once. Now, let us tell those people who have fancied they have it all their own way, for some time, in calling out for more soldiers, and in threatening us with a French invasion, that we are going to have a good deal to say upon that question, and they may expect to meet us in every borough and town in the kingdom. I presume that our friends who are here will take charge of counties; for instance, suppose my friend Mr. Bowley would take charge of Gloucester,—I was going, almost, as a challenge to him, to take charge of a county myself; but I certainly think that all those who are, as I am, imbued with the conviction that the present is a most critical time in the cause of Peace, should bestir themselves now. I hope they will, and that they will be ready, not only to give their time to it, in all parts of the kingdom, but that they will subscribe the sinews of war; and if it be only known through France that in Manchester, in the centre of the Free-trade agitation, surrounded by the very men who won that battle, there are men here now who are prepared to commit themselves, ay, and to commit liberally of their fortunes, to the agitation of this Peace question, and to the disabusing the minds of the people of this country as to the intentions and as to the condition of the French people,—I believe that if this be known in France, it will have more effect than anything that could possibly be done to counteract the mischievous effects which are being produced by those publications which are now issuing from the press.