England and America.
Any one who has made a practice of perusing the orations of American Ministers at Lord Mayor’s dinners in London, or of British Ministers in Washington, or who has listened to the oratory at Mr. PEABODY’S Star and Garter dinners, or, in fact, at any festive gathering in which Englishmen and Americans find themselves in company, and feel called upon to make a speech, will perfectly understand us when we say that we are heartily sick of “fraternizing” in the ordinary acceptation of the term. We find it absolutely nauseating to be told anything more about the identity of origin and of language of the two peoples. We know very well that SHAKESPEARE is ours, and MILTON is ours, and JACK CADE and OWEN GLEDOWER are ours. We known that we drew a long bow at Cressy, and spurred very hard at Agincourt. We know that we extorted Magna Charta from John at Runnymede, and had our throats cut in the Wars of the Roses. All this, and a great deal more of the same sort of intelligence, is poured into our cars every day by benevolent individuals who are, no doubt, sincerely anxious that the two countries should be united in the bonds of harmony and good feeling, but who, we must say, are yearly becoming greater bores. The great truth that American and England are more closely united in all sorts of ways than any two countries in the world, is now so well established that we earnestly counsel all postprandial orators to leave the theme alone, and find some more interesting topic on which to expend their energies.
There is one branch of the subject, however, which has not been, by any means, so well explored, and on which a good deal of light might be thrown, if our journalists were a little more honest, and our politicians a little less knavish. We commend most cordially to the attention of all “representative me,” whose tongue may be loosed by good food and good wine, the delusion so rife in this country, that the English are devoured by jealousy of us, and are forever plotting our detriment and damage. It is high time we got rid of this terrible incubus. It has as yet served no purpose on earth expect to furnish a ladder for demagogues to climb into power, and to enable the unscrupulous and ambitious to trade in our fears and our hates. We were glad to gind that Lord NAPIER addressed himself to this point, at the St. George’s Dinner, with great force and felicity, and we hope his example may do something toward driving hackneyed compliments out of use. He said:
“GENTLEMEN: I have, since my arrival, sometimes observed an impression in the United States, that the development of this country is regarded with jealousy by England. Gentlemen, this is an erroneous opinion. [Cheers.] You will hear me out in the assertion that the last vestiges of former prejudice, founded on the animosities of two unhappy wars, are being very rapidly extinguished. The peaceful and legitimate expansion of the United States forms a matter of satisfaction and pride to every reasonable Englishman. That expansion forms the best resort and relief for our superabundant population; it forms the triumph of our labor and our arts, of our language, our religion, and our blood. [Loud cheers.] No thoughtful Englishman can contemplate this unparalleled spectacle off future predominance without emotions of thankfulness and praise. No thoughtful foreigner can regard it without a sigh, because Providence has not reserved the future empire of the world for his own tongue and his own race.” [Cheers.]
No one who possesses the slightest familiarity with the current opinions of English society upon American progress and institutions, can avoid feeling the truth and force of these remarks. Our absurd estimate of our own importance has prevented a great number of good people in this country from getting hold of the very obvious and simple truth, that it is possible for the same events to wear very different aspects on different sides of the Atlantic; that the importance of almost every incident in history is an importance purely relative, and that the less deeply our interests are involved, the less strongly are our passion roused. It is a common weakness of vain persons to supposed that the attention of the public is absorbed by their doings, their sayings, and looks. When Jones, the dry goods clerk, walks down Broadway in the morning he fancies every one he meets is horrified by the annoying pimple which but yesterday sprang up on his nose, just as he imagines that his boots or his coat are just the objects of universal admiration. There is just as much that is undignified and pitiful in constantly suspecting people of hating us, and plotting against us, as in suspecting them of envying and admiring us. Both spring from over-susceptibility to outward influences and want of self-confidence.
The War of Independence was, by no means, as stupendous an event for the English as for us. The most of the people in England knew and said little about it. Those who did were violently opposed to it. The ablest orator that England ever had spent his last breath in protesting against it. It was essentially a way begun and carried on by a corrupt oligarchy for base and corrupt motives.
It has left no impression except a purely historical one upon the minds of the English public. English school histories speak of it with marked disapprobation. English boys read of Bunker’s Hill and Lexington with almost as hearty a sympathy for the Colonists as they ever feel for CLIVE on the field of Passy, or NAPIER at Moodkee. Americans are not their natural enemies. They do not fight them on the play-ground. They are taught to recite PATRICK HENRY’S speeches with fervor, and place WASHINGTON in the same category with HAMPDEN and FALKLAND and SYDNEY. No Englishman ever speaks of the father of his country to a foreigner without a touch of pardonable pride at the taught that he was of English origin and English habits, and might have been transferred to an English hunting-field or the English House of Commons, without affording any perceptible indication of the fact that he was not from top to toe an English gentleman. The United States have been tenfold more profitable to the Mother Country as an independent nation, than they could ever have been as dependent Colonies. Everybody in England knows of all this. If we owned the whole of the continent from Greenland to Cape Horn, no one would profit more by the extension of our dominion than England herself. Wherever the star-spangled banner waves, it waves over a good and rapidly increasing market for English goods. The whole tendency of the British Colonial policy for the last twenty years has been to render the Colonies independent of her, or abandonthem to their own devices. As far as self-government goes, Canada is to-day in as good a position as the United States, plus some thousands of soldiers for the defence of her frontiers, supported out of the British treasury. This certainly does not indicate much desire on the part of the Crown to repress our growth. To allow the process of assimilation to go on in one of her own Colonies lying on our frontier, without affording the slightest evidence of qualm or misgiving, is certainly not evidence of hatred of our institutions, or jealous of our progress. We certainly cannot think at this moment of anything in the present state of public feeling more discreditable and more wounding to our pride, than the fact that the meanest stump-orator has only to mouth denunciations of Great Britain in bad English, to call down thunders of applause from assemblages of the freest and most enlightened people on the globe.