Classic History Books

Great Britain and Her Queen - by Anne E. Keeling

and a trouble, the cause of repeated violent disturbance and the object of a frenzied hate, always deeply
hurtful to those who entertain it.

Other changes and other incidents that now occurred engrossed a greater share of the public attention
than this measure of relief. The rapid march of events in Italy had been watched with eager interest,

divided partly by certain ugly outbreaks of Turkish fanaticism in Syria, and by our proceedings in the

Ionian islands, which finally resulted in the quiet transfer of those isles to the kingdom of Greece. The

commercial treaty with France effected, through the agency of Mr. Cobden, on Free Trade lines, and Mr.

Gladstone's memorable success in carrying the repeal of the paper duty, and thereby immensely

facilitating journalistic enterprise, were hailed with great delight as beneficial and truly progressive

measures. But events of a more gigantic character now took place, which at the moment affected our

prosperity more directly than any fiscal reform, and appealed more powerfully to us than the savagery of

our Turkish proteges or even than the union of Italy under Victor Emmanuel into one free and

friendly State. The long-smouldering dissensions between the Northern and Southern States of the

American Union at last broke into flame, and war was declared between them, in 1861.

The burning question of slavery was undoubtedly at the bottom of this contest, which has been truly
described as a struggle for life between the "peculiar institution" and the principles of modern society.

The nobler and more enthusiastic spirits in the Northern States beheld in it a strife between Michael and

Satan, the Spirit of Darkness hurling himself against the Spirit of Light in a vain and presumptuous hope

to overpower him; and their irritation was great when an eminent English man of letters was found

describing it scornfully as "the burning of a dirty chimney," and when English opinion, speaking through

very many journalists and public men, appeared half hostile to the Northern cause. Indeed, it might have

been thought that opinion in England - England, which at a great cost had freed its own slaves, and which

had never ceased by word and deed to attack slavery and the slave-trade - would not have faltered for a

moment as to the party it would favour, but would have declared itself massively against the

slave-holding South. But the contest at its outset was made to wear so doubtful an aspect that it was

possible, unhappily possible, for many Englishmen of distinction to close their eyes to the great evils

championed by the Southern troops. The war was not avowedly made by the North for the suppression of

slavery, but to prevent the Southern States from withdrawing themselves from the Union: the

Southerners on their side claimed a constitutional right so to withdraw if it pleased them, and denounced

the attempt to retain them forcibly as a tyranny.

This false colouring at first given to the contest had mischievous results. English feeling was embittered
by the great distress in our manufacturing districts, directly caused up the action of the Northern States in

blockading the Southern ports, and thus cutting off our supply of raw material in the shape of cotton. On

its side the North, which had calculated securely on English sympathy and respect, and was profoundly

irritated by the many displays of a contrary feeling; and the exasperation on both sides more than once

reached a point which made war appear almost inevitable - a war above all others to be deprecated. First

came the affair of the Trent - the English mail-steamer from which two Southern envoys were

carried off by an American naval commander, in contempt of the protection of the British flag. The

action was technically illegal, and on the demand of the English Government its illegality was

acknowledged, and the captives were restored; but the warlike and threatening tone of England on this

occasion was bitterly resented at the North, and this resentment was greatly increased when it became

known that various armed cruisers, in particular the notorious Alabama, designed to prey on the

Northern commerce, were being built and fitted by English shipbuilders in English dockyards under the

direction of the Southern foe, while the English Government could not decide if it were legally


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