IN this period of statistics, encyclopaedias, maps, charts, and pictorial and tabular knowledge of all kinds, it is singular that it has not occurred to the ingenuity of any one to make a series of historical maps or tables of what might be called International Affinities. Such tables would not be so difficult to construct as it may at the first blush seem ; not so difficult, for instance, as the construction of those national riseprogress-and-decay maps which geographies used to contain. Every people changes from time to time its moral and intellectual relation to every other. During one century or half-century the international ties are very strong, during the next they become weak, loose their hold, disappear, the period of friendship or dependence being succeeded by one of limitation, doubt, distrust, fear, contempt, ignorance, or hatred. On such a table as we have in mind these friendships, alliances, and estrangements might be represented by the convergence or divergence of imaginary lines of national sentiment. Taking, for instance, England during the last fifty or sixty years, her line of international or popular affinities would first carry her (in close connection with the lines representing Russia and the other powers which took part in the anti-NapoIeonic alliance) directly away from the line representing France, and this divergence would be at its maximum about 1815. The lines would afterwards begin to change their direction, those of England and France converging on the one hand, and diverging at the same time from that of Russia, these alterations of affinity reaching their maximum at the time of the Crimean War, or not long after it.
The line of the United States would be very curious and instructive. About the year 1765 the line of England would gradually divide itself into two ; the angle of divergence becoming greater and greater during the last century and the early part of this ; while the new line representing the United States would approach that of France and remain for a long period almost lost in it. At the same time the line representing Ireland would approach that of the United States, while at a later period the lines of Russia and this country would begin to near one another. In the second quarter of the century, however, the English and American lines would slowly draw nearer one another, the angle of convergence increasing down to the time of the visit of the Prince of Wales in i860. Then there would be a sudden change, English and American lines separating at an angle of about ninety degrees at the date of the recognition of Confederate belligerency, the angle increasing to nearly one hundred and eighty degrees at the date of the escape of the Alabama, and after 1865 beginning to decrease again. Meanwhile the American line would begin to leave the Irish as well as the French, with a marked change of the Irish-American angle about the time of the New York riots, and another at the time of the discovery of the Ring frauds, and quite suddenly, in the year 1870 or thereabouts, it would exhibit a decided tendency towards that of Germany.
By carrying out this scheme conscientiously in detail, we might leave posterity a valuable skeleton record of historical emotions ; of course there would be contemporaneous doubts as to the directions of lines and the size of angles, but there are always such doubts with regard to all historical facts. Some people, for instance, would no doubt question the accuracy of the opinion we have just expressed as to the rapprochement now beginning between this country and England, and the estrangement from Ireland and France. “ What! ” they might say, “friendship with our traditional enemy ! Enmity with our traditional friends ! The names of these countries represent to us ideas. With the name of Ireland, we have been taught from our cradles to connect that of resistance to tyranny, and with her resistance to English tyranny we have always sympathized deeply ; France is the birthplace of democracy, and our long-tried and steadfast friend, in adversity as well as success. But with England we have nothing in common but language, no feeling for her but indignation. When we loved her with a filial love, she oppressed us ; when we admired her afterwards as an equal, she treated us with contemptuous indifference ; when, in a struggle for life, we asked at least for a just neutrality, she helped our enemy. Our love of peace may hereafter lead us to treat her with indifference, but she need expect nothing else. All this talk about healing our wounds by arbitration, or an award of damages, or even by an apology, is politicians’ nonsense, which is perfectly understood on both sides to be nonsense. Even now, with their usual dishonesty, the English are trying to impugn the motives which influenced the Emperor of Germany, in his San Juan award, while one of the arbitrators at Geneva gets off the bench on which he has been masquerading as a judge to declare his real character in a stump speech on behalf of his government. We may forgive, but we cannot forget.”
On the other hand there are numbers of intelligent Englishmen who doubt the possibility of any permanent good feeling between the two countries on different grounds. Mr. Froude’s self-imposed mission to the United States is an indication of the state of feeling on the other side of the water. Mr. Froude comes here, he tells us, to explain the real history of the relations between England and Ireland, because the misunderstanding of those relations in this country has led to a wide-spread and misplaced sympathy for Ireland and the Irish. This sympathy it is which has led to Fenianism and the raids on the Canadian border, and hence to general distrust on the part of England of our professions of good faith. Then, too, there is the old-fashioned belief in the “ irrepressibility” of the conflict between such a form of social existence as that of England and such a form as ours. Besides this there is even among the most bourgeois of the English aristocracy a sincere and natural disgust with what they call the vulgarity and rawness of life here, and for which they still offer the old, foolish, ex cathedra explanation that it is the inevitable result of a democratic form of goverment. All Englishmen were naturally alarmed at the threats of repudiation in which some of our most notorious politicians indulged themselves a few years ago, and are horrified at the general dishonesty and venality of the political class throughout the country, the scandalous behavior of such State governments as that of South Carolina, the anarchy in Louisiana, the large popular following of such men as General Butler in Massachusetts, and O’Brien in New York, the condition of the bench and bar, and many more things at which we are beginning to be a little horrified ourselves.
Nevertheless we think it may be shown that there are many good reasons for believing that the two countries are likely to become better friends as time goes on, — reasons which it would be well for the rabid politicians of both countries, but particularly of our own, to heed.
From a purely political point of view the settlement of the Alabama question and the ridiculous San Juan dispute removes from the field of controversy the more exasperating matters at issue between us. The Irish question may seem to Mr. Froude and Father Burke likely to give rise to grave international difficulties ; and as they are no doubt sincere in their respective opinions, we suppose it will not do to quarrel with them for fanning into a momentary flame the embers of an old quarrel. But the idea that there is any large or influential party among native Americans which desires to take a part in the quarrel between Ireland and England is a sheer delusion. The “ sympathy with struggling nationalities” was at its height thirty years ago. Undoubtedly at that time the best and most influential Americans felt deeply for the wrongs of Italians, Hungarians, Irishmen, or indeed any people that had suffered at the hands of any other. Possibly, if there had been no Irish emigration to this country, we might to-day believe in Fenianism. But having in so many parts of this country of late years been governed by the Irish, we can better understand why England thinks it impolitic and even inhuman to allow them to govern themselves.
That this wild, half-civilized race, barely emerged from the clan condition, being admitted into a civilized foreign state should have actually succeeded, even for a time, in obtaining and controlling with an iron hand the affairs of its chief commercial centre, will, perhaps, one of these days, appear to our descendants what it really is, — one of the curiosities of history. Meantime, contemporary observers have certainly not beheld the results of the Irish invasion with any peculiar satisfaction. W herever in the country the Irish population has got the upper hand, government has shown a marked tendency to sink to a savage level. We have had “ home rule ” in New York.
There is another aspect of the Irish question, too, which it is quite important to consider, though not easy to mention with all the seriousness and gravity it deserves. At the same time that they undertook to do our governing for us, they also took upon themselves the no less delicate though subordinate mission of domestic service, and in service as in politics they have distinguished themselves by the lack of every quality which makes service endurable to the employer or a wholesome life for the servant. In obedience, fidelity, care, and accuracy they have proved themselves the inferiors of every kind of servants known to modern society. In every kitchen in the land, as we may say, there has been at least one of these strange people stationed, doing her best for the last thirty years to wean us from all sentimental attachment to the country she came from. Besides this, the Irish have done their utmost to keep alive the Democratic party, and have proved the main stay of the Catholic religion, — two of the forces most thoroughly organized in this country for opposition to every modern idea. It is to their Catholic bigotry, and to the stupid kind of Protestantism which that bigotry engenders, that we owe the “ Bible in the public schools ” agitation, — an agitation which, turning as it does on the necessity of an amount of a religious instruction not sufficient to be more than mere form, ought long ago to have been ended by the mutual concession of secularization.
In short, in their various capacities of legislators, mayors, laborers, cooks, Democrats, and Catholics, the Irish have themselves been explaining the difficulties of the Irish problem to us in all its details. Perhaps the most fundamental feeling with regard to the Irish in the minds of Americans at the present day is a profound sense of fatigue with the various annoyances their immigration has inflicted upon us, combined with a vague, sad reminiscence of the sentiment of the by-gone days, when we knew them only from the portraits of O’Connell, and the fascinating pages of Charles O’Malley and Harry Lorrequer, or the Irish melodrama, as conceived by English playwrights.
But how is all this consistent with our sympathy with the Fenians and the loudmouthed professions of our politicians at the time of the raids on the Canadian border, and the establishment of the headquarters of the Irish Republic in New York ? Without in the least defending these things, English people ought to remember that it was after all at the hands of the government of this country that the Fenian movement received its death blow. If any real sympathy with the movement for the conquest of Canada had been developed, the movement would be still going on. We have yet to hear of any native American who has ever given a dollar to the support of the Irish cause. There was indeed a good deal of amusement and satisfaction felt here at the raid, because Canada has never been much loved by Americans, and has always been laughed at as a Province, and the Alabama question was then still unsettled, and the Dominion scheme was looked upon by some people as a device by Great Britain for inserting a thorn in the national side. The general spirit of recklessness and love of disorder fostered by our war, then but just over, must be taken into account also. The news of a Fenian raid on Canada was welcomed by many newspapers and politicians as a joke, which they might exaggerate into a “ sensation,” and thus amuse themselves with the fears they excited. That this notion of the function of a newspaper or politician should exist is no doubt a great pity; but it does exist in the United States and in other countries. The mistake made in England is of taking newspapers and politicians of this class as representing the prevailing tendency of the country. It is of course difficult to substantiate general statements of this kind, but we think we speak within bounds when we say that there has been within the past few years a visible diminution in the influence upon the government of those spasmodic and frenetic ebullitions of popular excitement upon which sensational editors and politicians live. That the country is in the best hands, or that it is not threatened with very serious internal dangers, we are far from saying ; but of that peculiar kind of danger which comes of the intentional fostering of civil dissensions among powers with which we are at peace, there is less and less. We may go wrong in international affairs from that spirit of lawlessness exhibited in such matters as the French arms sale and the San Domingo protectorate, or the disregard of decency shown in the preparation of our “case” in the Alabama arbitration ; but the probability of our outraging the feelings of England by any warm sympathy for the wrongs of oppressed Ireland is extremely small. In fact, intelligent people are beginning to understand that in Ireland the Sassenach of to-day is doing all he can to make modern life possible to a people still singularly antique in their feelings, opinions, and customs, and that the main obstacle in the way of the progress of the Irish nation is their own intellectual and moral condition.
But there are other and deeper reasons for thinking that the American anglophobia of the past will probably be succeeded, though not by anglomania, certainly by respect and esteem. It is not only that the political differences of the past are being swept into oblivion, but that a certain amount of rapprochement is going on steadily between the moral and social conditions of the two countries.
In the first place it is a truism to say that the work which was begun by steam is now completed by the telegraph, and England and the Uuited States, which a generation since were in opposite worlds, are now next - door neighbors. The intimate union thus effected must year by year gradually blend together the commercial and intellectual interest of the two divisions of the English-speaking race. Every additional merchant who draws on London or New York is one more guaranty of the peace between the two countries. Every additional English author who writes for American readers, every additional American author whose books go to England, even in the present pitiful condition of the copyright question, make war additionally difficult. Of course this would not be the case if there were any wide diversity of interests. The intimate business connections of the North with the South did not prevent slavery from bringing us to war. But there is no such diversity. Both nations are commercial ; both are Protestant ; both govern themselves through the machinery of representation ; in both are to be found the same general division of the powers of government; and in both speech and opinion are free.
Both countries, too, are every year coming more and more under the influence of capital. In England wealth obtains political power by getting hold of the House of Commons ; in the United States it is working its way into every department of the government, — an inevitable result of breaking down all the barriers which a secure tenure of official positions interposes. In fact, we may say, speaking in a general way, that England is governed by capital, and this country is governed by such politicians as capital sanctions by silence or approval. The Legislature of New York did whatever they were requested to do by Fisk, until Fisk’s own exertions had called into existence a capitalized hostility powerful enough to overthrow him. As soon as a large enough number of stockholders had been defrauded by Fisk, and a large enough number of other capitalists had been swindled by Fisk’s judges, the balance of power was reversed, and Fisk, or rather Fisk’s assigns, were removed from power. Now Vanderbilt’s capital controls the movement of the political machinery. In the same way, the effect of capital upon politics is seen in the total failure of the repudiation scheme of a few years ago ; and in the recent election, it was not questioned that one of the heaviest blows suffered by the Greeley party was the capitalists’ support of Grant. The escape of taxation by large corporations in this country, and in England the expense of Parliamentary elections, point in the same directions. Some of the results are bad, others good ; but the general fact of the steadily increasing influence of capital on politics in both countries, and the tendency of this influence to unite the two countries, cannot be disputed. “ Erie Reform,” it will be remembered, was originally an English movement, stimulated solely by self-interest.
There are people who will insist that the two countries are necessarily foes, because one is democratic and the other an aristocracy. No doubt, if the aristocracy of England were what it was in the days of George III., and the democracy of the United States were throughout a community of New England town governments, there might be some reason to think that there was little hope of an understanding of one country by the other. But although there is still a great difference between the social system of England and the United States, a steady assimilation has been for a long time going on.
In the last hundred years almost everything which made England a representative of mediæval customs and ideas has passed away. Religious freedom has taken the place of intolerance, extended suffrage of rotten boroughs, speech and opinion and trade have won their way to absolute freedom, the crown has been shorn of most of its power, the bench has become in fact, as well as in theory, the dispenser of justice, the press has obtained a power and dignity unknown elsewhere, the foreign policy of the country has become peaceful, while the whole community has thrown itself into commercial pursuits with an ardor that has easily enabled it to distance all competitors. The social hierarchy still exists, and serves to give a fierce zest to the struggle for existence, but it is idle to compare the English aristocracy of to-day with that of the last century. A hierarchy into which the lowest born may find his way if he is successful in art, law, letters, even trade, soon ceases to have many features in common with an historic order which makes military ancestry the test of admission. When, in 1832, the English ministry threatened to force the Reform Bill of that year through the House of Lords by the creation of new peerages, a principle was admitted into the government fatal to the old régime. The English peerage of to-day is a peerage created within the last two hundred years, and of which half the titles are no older than the present century. Such a peerage is no doubt a useful order, but it is not an aristocracy in the old sense of the word.
As regards the relations of employer and employed, England has completely changed her system. Although the manufacturing districts in England are not perhaps even yet the workingman’s paradise, the laborer has Americanized his condition to such an extent that he is almost as well off as if he undertakes to Americanize it by emigration. The purchasing power of wages is so much greater there than here, and the taxation so much more fairly adjusted, that the skilled laborer is perhaps better off in England. It is the unskilled workmen, the poorest kind of laborers, who improve their chances in life now by coming to this country. The difficulty of obtaining skill, accuracy, and fidelity is universally admitted to be one of the most serious obstacles in the way of the pursuit of the higher branches of industry in the United States. Forty years ago this was not so. When Lowell was the seat of the most intelligent factories in the world, the United States could fairly claim the right of advising even the best English artisans to change their citizenship. But everything wears a new face to-day ; our factories are full of unskilled, ignorant hands, while the lesson originally learnt from us the English have made such good use of, that we must now learn it again from them.
In the organization of industry, too, far more progress has been made in England than with us. Whether or not we regard co-operation or trades-unions as the probable ultimate solution of the labor question, it is not difficult to see that both have been most effectually organized in England. Almost the only successful co-operative experiments have taken place there, and the testimony taken by Parliament certainly shows that the trade-union system has obtained a hold upon the public opinion of the working classes which far outstrips anything we have in this country. Should the tradeunion prove, as seems not impossible, the necessary stepping-stone from the contract to the co-operative system, they are nearer by far to one important social goal than we are.
In her vices, too, England has become as modern as she has in other respects. The day of fox-hunting priests, drunken noblemen, and duelling legislators is gone by, but speculation and fraud have come in. Brutality yields the place to cunning, the philistine passion for material comfort has become the general appetite of the country. The “ mean admiration of mean things,” which was never an historic peculiarity of the English race, has been held up to the public for scorn by the chief modern English satirist, as a modern tendency of English society. In the corruption which prevails at elections, too, in the gradual disappearance from Parliament of all oratorical power, and the rise into legislative influence of men whose sole title to such distinction is their wealth, and in the growing power and reckless irresponsibility of corporations, we see the same tendencies which are at work on this side of the Atlantic, and may, too, fur convenience, be termed modern.
While England has been with every year losing its hold upon the past, and really bringing itself under the influence of the spirit which it was the fashion a generation, ago to call “ American,” but which now really belongs to no one country, but is the common spirit which animates civilized society at large, — while England has been moving slowly in this direction, America has been gradually placing herself in a position in which intellectual and moral aid from England is as useful for her further advance.
Naturally enough, at the time of the Revolution, Americans looked to France, not only for sympathy, but instruction ; it is too late now to blame Jefferson and his followers for having gone to France for political metaphysics at a time when France was a great centre of intellectual activity, and when every branch of knowledge, from politics to theology, was based on metaphysical speculation of some sort. The American system was as little dependent for practical construction upon metaphysics, as a tree is for its growth upon a knowledge of organic chemistry on the part of the planter. But the theories with regard to the nature, origin, and province of government made use of by the party which soon acquired control of the machinery, undoubtedly derived their force from the highly metaphysical speculations of the French political writers of the last century. And no doubt, in the existing condition of knowledge, the abstract rights of abstract man, and the social contract, were realities sufficiently solid to build societies upon, or destroy them with.
To-day the case is quite different. We are as much in need now of the anti-metaphysical, positive kind of knowledge, which the experience of England has yielded her, as we then were of the speculative. Both law and the art of government have been raised above the metaphysical level of the past century into the clear light of positive knowledge by the exertions of English students. Whether we think of such writings as those of Austin and Mann and Hare, or such practical discoveries as those of the Irish prison system, or the abolition of political patronage in the civil service, or the immense improvement in the machinery of the administration of justice and the repression of crime, it is impossible not to see that, in many of the matters which concern the deepest interests of society, we must go to England for instruction and advice ; and when we turn to reflect upon the loudmouthed vapidity of the men who have lately called themselves our statesmen, on such custom-houses as those of New Orleans, on such legislatures as those of South Carolina and Louisiana, on such judges and jails as those of New York, on the irresponsibility of our officials, on such recklessness of property and life as we have lately seen in Chicago and Boston, we must admit that the sooner we begin to borrow what we may from the experience of England the better it will be for us.
Intellectual assistance is not the only aid which we may derive from England. There are many moral qualities which are the common inheritance of the Anglo-Saxon race, but which to-day exhibit themselves in the English branch of it far more than in the American. In the furious scramble for wealth which has been going on here for the last generation, our traditional virtues of self-respect, dignity, moderation, reverence, love of law, have been sadly lost sight of. It is useless to attempt to persuade the world that this is true only of a certain class of Americans. The disease breaks out in too many classes not to be epidemic; there are too many politicians exposed, too many railroad-men arrested for fraud, too many insurance companies disappear after great fires, too many lawyers have understandings with judges, too many newspapers publish the evidence of too many editors’ rascality, for the world to believe that there is not throughout the country a wide-spread capacity to exhibit sudden immorality of a very startling kind.
As we have already said, there is plenty of speculation and plenty of commercial immorality in England ; that there is too much self-respect, reverence, and love of decency and decorum in either country we are not inclined to believe ; but no one who is unprejudiced and is at all familiar with English character can doubt that these virtues are more common than with us, or, to say the least, that in the control of public affairs, in the management of business, and giving public expression to the national character in a literary form, those Englishmen who have these qualities have far more influence than the same sort of man has with us.
We have no desire to be prophetic as to the relations of England and America ; and in what we have been saying we have merely endeavored to point out certain considerations, which have an important bearing on those relations, and which from motives of national vanity are frequently kept in the background. It is high time that the cheap philosophy of that patriotism which inculcates it as a duty to frown upon all public criticism of the defects of one’s own nationality should come to an end. For better or for worse, the English race has become cosmopolitan, and cosmopolitan powers cannot indulge themselves in provincial emotions. Neither England nor the United States is an ideal state, but their ideals are so alike, and their interests so closely united, that each may find in the experience of the other the surest guide. During the early portion of the history of this country, England derived many valuable lessons from the “ American experiment.” It is now our turn to learn from England.