« ZurückWeiter »
moneyed commercial, and manufacturing influences,-for a moment tolerate the idea ? To both questions we can have no hesitation in returning an equally unequivocal negative. And moreover, it is manifest that the very act would be the instant signal for the emancipation of the Canadas, and probably all her other North American colonies--the preservation of which is supposed as the very object of such a war.
Some of the Patriots themselves urge these considerations on us, as decisive that we can have nothing to apprehend on this score, but rather every thing to gain. They are right in their premises, but mistaken in supposing us ignorant of them, or insensible to their force. They would also be right in their inference, of what would be the natural course for us to adopt, if they were addressing their arguments to one of the old European powers whose political systems, and principles of policy directing their foreign relations, were essentially different from ours. They may put the case (an impossible one, but still an imaginable one) of the relativ attitudes of the two countries being reversed, and ask, whether England would pursue a similar course to enforce a rigid non-interference, on the part even of the individual, citizen, to the extent adopted by us. And we are willing frankly to answer, that we do not believe she would. Yet does not that admission affect in the least degree the grounds on which we stand ; nor impugn the determination to which we are led, taking counsel only of our own honor, our own good faith, and the consecrated and invaluable principles of our own system of foreign policy.
• The first principles of our foreign policy-the only ones-are peace and good faith. We are a commercial and industrious people, and all we have to desire is freedom of trade, on the principle of reciprocity, undisturbed by any entangling connection, direct or indirect, avowed or implied, with the difficulties and agitations, whether internal or external, of foreign nations. For this purpose we recognize all governments de facto, and treat them with one uniform rule, whether they chance to be the most despotic of tyrannies, or the freest and happiest of republics. Nor ought we to be tempted to a deviation from it, in any instance, by the ardor of approbation and sympathy which the cause of the one party or the other in any domestic struggle may awakerr, from the harmony of the principles on which it may act, and the objects it may pursue, with those most devoutly consecrated in our hearts by our own past history and present experience. Neutrality-noninterference-in one case as in another-must be our moito; and that not in a mere formal and hollow sense, but truly, substantially, practically, and above all in good faith.
And here occurs one of the peculiar distinctive characteristics of our institutions, in contrast to those of other countries. Our govern• ments being all founded on the principles of free consent and the supremacy of the popular will, no such distinction exists with us as with others, between the people and the government; nor can there be an opposition of duties between them. The laws being freely made and modified by the will of the people, a moral obligation to sustain and carry them out is incumbent on the citizen which is not the case where the elements of force and arbitrary power enter into the legislation and government of the country. Every citizen is, under such institutions, not indirectly but directly, a component member of the state; and every duty incumbent on the latter, as a combined and organized whole, ought to be regarded as not less sacred to the former, as one of the constituent parts of which the whole is made up. This duty, then, of non-interference, which no one calls in question on the part of the Government, is plainly equally imperative on the individual; and its violation is a crime of very grave complexion, for which no degree of generous ardor in a cause deemed worthy of such enterprise, can be recognized as affording a sufficient excuse. How much stronger the argument in those cases in which the exciting motive-widely different from the noble impulses of a Lafayette or a Kosciuskomay haply be but a cool calculation of a division of confiscated spoil, or an allotment of conquered public domain.
If this duty is disregarded by any considerable number of citizens, under the influence of either of these motives, or any combination of the two, it is clearly an obligation from which there can be no honorable escape, on the part of the Government, not only to enforce its observance, to the utmost extent possible, but to discountenance and suppress the spirit from which such improper agitation proceeds, hy every means that may seem necessary to that end, within the scope of its constitutional powers. And this obligation is entirely independent of the nature of the contest whose vicinity may naturally give rise to such an excitement; and would be not less operative whether the current of popular sympa.. thy should set in favor of the one side or the other, in the struggle between established civil and military authority, and the efforts of rebellion to cast off its ascendency. There is no escaping from the force of this argument.
It is one of the highest of duties on the part of our Government to prevent this criminal interference with the domestic concerns of a foreign Power with which we are not only at peace, solemnly guaranteed by the sanctity of treaties, but with which it is one of our most important national interests to maintain that relation. If bound to neutrality between the two parties to the contest, it has no right to stand neutral between them and its own citizens, so as to allow the latter unrestrained license to participate in it; and thus to provoke retaliations, from the one party or the other, the immediate effect
of which must be to kindle a blaze of actual war along the whole line of frontier between the two countries, with the most lamentable and irreparable consequences of bloodshed and disaster, even though a national declaration of general war might not take place on either side.
And what was the actual state of things, in which the Government has found itself compelled to undertake the unpleasing and unpopular discharge of this duty ? It was known that a very extensive secret organization was in progress along our line of frontier from Vermont to Michigan, which had invoked the aid of a means especially odious to American ideas, and hostile to the spirit of American institutions—that of secret association, with illegal and anti-national objects. The full extent of this organization cannot, from its secret nature, be known; we have, however, received the assurance from a source entitled to high credit, that it comprised not less than ninety thousand young men-of whom it is to be presumed that the rash and thoughtless adventurers of Prescott were a specimen-enrolled and pledged to this service, when the proper hour and opportunity should arrive. Allowing for a very great exaggeration in this statement, there can be no doubt either of the magnitude or of the imminence of the danger which called for the prompt and energetic action of the Government; and every disinterested and reflecting mind, considering the matter properly in this point of view, must see in it a sufficient justification for the decisive course adopted by it—without having recourse to absurd presumptions, of a pusillanimous dread of the power of England, or a mean subserviency to her influence; or to the still * more absurd one, of an undemocratic sympathy with the cause of authority against that of freedom and self-government.
The following extract from the President's Message ( which has met with the singular ill fortune of receiving about an equal measure of abuse from the two antipodes, of Mackenzie's Gazette and the Montreal Herald) places in as clear a light as any commentary we could give, the broad distinction between that kind of interference by American citizens which we have reprobated, and the indulgence and free expression, in proper manner, of that sympathy in a kindred cause which cannot but be deeply and extensively felt in a Republic founded on rebellion against a similar colonial dominion:
“By no coumtry or persons have these invaluable principles of international law, principles, the strict observance of which is so indispensable to the preservation of social order in the world—been more earnestly cherished or sacredly respected than by those great and good men who first declared, and finally established, the independence of our country. They promulgated and maintained them at an early and critical period in our history; they were subsequently embodied in legislative enactments of a highly penal character, the faithful enforcement of which has hitherto been, and will, I trust, always continue to be, regarded as a duty inseparably associated with the maintainance of our national honor. That the people of the United States should feel an interest in the spread of political institutions as free as they regard their own to be, is natural; nor can a sincere solicitude for the success of all those who are, at any time, in good faith struggling for their acquisition, be imputed to our citizens as a crime. With the entire freedom of opinion, and an undisguised expression thereof, on their part, the Government has neither the right, nor, I trust, the disposition to interfere. But whether the interest or the honor of the United States requires, that they should be made a party to any such struggle, and, by inevitable consequence, to the war which is waged in its support, is a question which, by onr Constitution, is wisely left to Congress alone to decide.”
Thus much for the first topic of which we proposed to give our views, the duties of our Government and people in relation to this msst unhappy contest, of which we fear that we have as yet witnessed but the opening scenes, in the Canadas. We trust that we have made ourselves distinctly understood, in marking out the precise ground on which we place ourselves, and--with all the decided sentiments in favor of the ultimate objects of the popular party in the contest, which are already sufficiently familiar to our readerssustain the strong measures deemed necessary by our Government to suppress the illegal and criminal interference in it, of our own citizens. Thosc measures appear to meet with a very general approval from both political parties; and we cannot doubt that many of those whose personal interests or excited feelings lead them now to place upon them the construction we have here attempted to repel, will themselves, on the “sober second-thought," of which we confess that the benefit has not in this instance been lost on ourselves, perceive their propriety, and the injustice of their own first judgment.
With respect to the question as between the British Government and the Canadian malcontents, considering it in an abstract and speculative point of view, nothing has occurred to change, but much, rather, to confirm the opinions and sentiments freely expressed in our former Article. If it was then opinion, it has now become certainty, that the English colonial ascendency cannot be much longer maintained. The breach is plainly much wider now than it was then. Independently of the events that have occurred to widen it, the total failure of Lord Durham's mission, and the manner and circumstances of that failure, have placed beyond rational question, as it seems to us, the impossibility of effecting any compromise between the two parties that shall restore tranquillity and satisfaction, short of a full concession of the demands of the Canadians. Their principal demand-into which every other may be considered to resolve itself—is for an elective Upper House, and nothing short of that point ever will or can content them; though we confess that on the English side that point would be the concession of every thing. Popular parties, in the pursuit of such objects, never go backward. It is absurd to suppose that in this country and age government can be long maintained on any other basis
than that of the interest and free consent of the governed mass; and the longer the attitude is maintained by the governing power, of refusing a reform claimed by the majority, the direct and sole effect of which must be to enable the mass to govern themselves according to their own views of their own interests, the deeper must become the resentment, and the stronger the determination, of the latter. A community may sometimes be kept for any indefinite period, in a state of passive content with an extraneous governing power, under the institutions bequeathed to it from age to age; and ideas of liberty and self-government may not penetrate the dull depth and breadth of the inert mass, content with their lot, absorbed in their daily industry, and spell-bound by the prejudices and influences of the education of generations,—but when such ideas have once thus penetrated, it is vain to dream that they can ever be either dislodged or stifled. The human breast is too congenial a soil for such seed, to admit of their ever being eradicated. On the contrary, they must grow, and every year must only strike deeper their roots, and mature the fruits which it is their nature to bring forth. How, then, in the present instance, when the popular demand is for the privilege of self-government by elective legislation when the truth has gone abroad through the earth, of the sovereignty of the people—and when the vicinity of such institutions as those of our Union must serve as a perpetual model and incentive-how can the British Government cherish the absurd delusion, of being ever able to appease the agitation once thus awakened, by any thing short of the unreserved concession of such a demand? What can such a refusal imply-there being no natural aristocratic order in the country to be represented in the legislature--but a hostile and antagonist interest to that of the mass? And how can the peaceful acquiescence of the latter be ever expected in the ascendency of such an interest, when thus once made sensible to them?
This view of the matter is quite independent of the question of the nature and extent of the actual practical grievances by which the people may have felt themselves oppressed. The inference would be equally true had the operation of this minority governing power been of the most beneficent and “paternal" character conceivable. It is not our object here to go into this question to any extent. It could not affect in the least the view which every reflecting democrat and sincere American must take of such a contest between the causes of reform and conservatism. It is better for the majority of a people to govern itself badly for a time-thus serving an apprenticeship of experience to the art of self-government—than to continue in contented submission under the arbitrary government of any extraneous power, whether of a foreign country or of a minority faction among themselves. In such a case their content would be the most unhappy symptom of their state; and