« PreviousContinue »
The non-hostility of interests,' says M. Louis Blanc, removes to a further distance the causes of war, but it is reciprocity of sympathies which makes alliances genuine and lasting.'
Still more emphatically M. Esquiros thus expresses the same truth:
• It is an easy task for statesmen to form on paper treaties of alliance; but so long as peace is not constituted in the minds, so long as two great neighbouring and rival nations have not learned to know and esteem each other, so long even as they have not come to an agree ment on the spirit of certain institutions which rule civil life, and the character and genius of the people, these treaties are effaced and torn by the slightest breath of discord that springs up.'
In point of fact, so little do commercial interests in themselves serve as effective guarantees of peace, that of the three countries in the world, Russia, China, and the United States of America, with which, previously to the commercial treaty with France, Great Britain had the most extensive trade, we in our time have been at war with two; and that the dire calamity of war with the third has been happily averted is less due to the wisdom of statesmen than to the latent sympathies which bind together kindred races, tracing their varying institutions from the same deep roots in ancestral laws. Alliances of political interests are still more subject to the disturbance of accidents; the interests themselves vary from year to year with the quick mutations in the modern system of Europe. In Heeren's Treatise on the Foreign Policy of Great Britain' (one of the ablest existing works on the balance of power, by a writer who united the research of an accomplished scholar with the judgment of a philosophical statesman), it is laid down as an axiom that the safety of the world consists in keeping England and France in separate scales of the balance; that out of the generous emulation between those two great but essentially rival powers the grand results of European civilisation have been wrought; that the natural allies of a maritime power like England are the Germanic races and the empires of Austria and Russia, while the natural allies of a military power like France are even less the Latin races than the smaller Scandinavian kingdoms, whose ships and seamen form invaluable auxiliaries to her navy.
It is needless to show how completely in our day this elaborate and well-argued scheme of international policy is scattered to the winds. We must accept the facts as we find them. England at this moment stands without one ally, except her old rival France; and if that alliance be nothing more than political, it is as liable to sudden dissolution as those long since sundered with Russia and Austria, and even with the half-kindred populations which are comprised in the warlike races of Northern Germany.
Yet we cannot disguise from ourselves the fact that in reversing the traditional policy for which Heeren so strenuously contends and placing England and France in the same scale of the balance, the prophecies by which the alliance was commended to statesmen have been notably falsified. 'Let England and France be allied,' said those not unpopular theorists who reason upon human events without reference to human nature, and they become the police of the world. No other nations will dare to confront the civilised opinion represented by the combined intellect and maintained by the united force of two powers so wise and so mighty. Their alliance is the peace of Europe.' Unhappy for the logic of theory is the logic of fact. Rarely in Europe have wars been so great and so important, as since the date in which the alliance between England and France left the whole notion of a balance of power a theme for the ridicule of sciolists. And the reason was clear from the first to minds trained in the science of practical statesmanship. The reason is this. The moment the continental powers saw that England abjured all jealousy of her hereditary rival, that her trident was cast in the same scale as the sword of the Gaul—they were seized by an alarm unconceived before. Appalled by the disasters of Russia, convinced that England would not stir to help them if menaced by France-Austria armed, Prussia armed, even Republican America became secretly hostile to England. The bitterness of spirit infused by the Government of the United States into the misunderstanding with England, which led to the dismissal of our diplomatic Minister, Mr. Crampton, is traceable mainly to the unquiet feeling with which the statesmen of the American Republic saw that alliance between England and France which the traditional policy of the republic deemed dangerous to the unity of its commonwealth and menacing to the growth of its power.
The primary result of the alliance between England, the first naval, France the first military, power, was the preparation for war in those European communities which anticipated the desertion of England if they should be menaced by the ambition of France. They armed at any cost. Questions between itself and the national creditor a great nation can contrive to settle ; questions between its own independence and the foreigner are but to be decided by the mouth of the cannon: therefore Europe armed. But whenever a state raises great armies it resembles the wizard condemned to find employment for the spirits he invoked. And in the preparations for self-defence, nations discontented with their existing boundaries collect the means for self-aggrandisement. Piedmont armed quickly and noisily, as is the Italian temperament; Prussia armed slowly and silently, as is the Germanic. The statesmen of Piedmont said, -The alliance between England and France Vol. 120,-No. 240.
must result in our benefit. France must side with Italian freedom-France, in return for bayonets, may ask for dominions which we could well spare in return for those her bayonets will help us to acquire; England has abandoned her hereditary ally, Austria ; England will send us good wishes, and follow in the wake of France.'
Prussia, the mightier Piedmont of the Teuton race, thought, through the minds of her Statesmen, ‘Prussia must arm in defence of the Rhine-and, by the armies so collected, her dominion in Germany may be enlarged till she no longer need the alliance of England to cope with the forces of France.'
Hence the alliance between England and France has been the date, in Europe, of wars which have destroyed her ancient map. And hence, though the results of those wars are not uncongenial to that Civilization of which England aspires to be a leading representative, though Civilization and its companion Freedom march on the side of an united Italy and an united Germany, yet the mind of England becomes anxious and disturbed. She sees herself alone in the world, not only having lost her old alliesthe
powers that supplied the battalions which her institutions as well as the character of her population forbid her to raise from her own soil—but through some error in the statesmanship which has presided over her councils, while there is among those old allies no rancour against France, there is against England; and the rancour against England is the more dangerous because it is combined with a sentiment of disdain. England has been made to assert a doctrine which deprives her friendship of value and her enmity of dread—the doctrine, not of non-interference in the quarrels of her neighbours, but of non-participation in the dangers her interference creates or augments. We now see in some of the most popular of our intellectual journals the practical result of a Whig foreign policy. We are conjured not only to amend our military system, but to accommodate the whole of our political system --reversing all the hereditary habits of a free and an insular people-to the alleged necessities of selfdefence. Self-defence against whom?- the sole ally we possess. And self-defence, how ?-by the impossible imitation of the Prussian military system. No doubt the details of our military system can be improved; no doubt we must have some plan of defence, thoughtfully preconcerted and carefully matured, less against invasion than as against that idea that we can be safely invaded, which diminishes our authority in the councils of Europe and disturbs by a vague alarm our own hereditary reliance on the immunity of our shores. But we hold it to be the vainest of chimeras to attempt the fusion into one standing army of the three grand sections of our defensive corps-the militia, the
yeomanry, and the volunteers ; any scheme towards that object would at once make all three as odious and ineffective as they are now popular and efficient. No less do we regard as a perilous delusion the theory which has been broached, of withdrawing from our colonies the forces dispersed throughout them, and seeking to concentre within the three kingdoms the whole of our available military strength. This, practically speaking, would be the relinquishment of a mighty empire for the parade of a standing army at home, incompatible with the noble jealousies of parliamentary government. The result would soon be visible. The moment the panic subsided, the army so hastily collected would be as hastily reduced ; these islands would not be strengthened, and the empire they wield would be abjured. That our military system imperatively needs reforms we concede; but they must be reforms suitable to a free people, indisposed to aggressive warfare, and placing its main defence in the decisive superiority of its maritime power.
We have been led into these remarks, which may seem digressive, by the necessity of withdrawing, from a clear comprehension of our present position in Europe, the false media suggested by the counsels of an irrational panic. We do not desire to graft upon England the Prussian system. England can best guard herself by remaining English.
Now, though the alliance between England and France has been attended with the primary consequences we have just named, the alliance itself must be regarded by all sound politicians as a fact accomplished. Left with but one ally, it is the obvious interest of England not to provoke quarrels with him : and, in this case, with the more practical or the less noble interest, the considerations of honour, and of that wisdom which constitutes real statesmanship, are combined. Never has sovereign or people had a more frank and loyal ally than France, under the empire of Napoleon III., has proved to the crown and people of England. And we might cite instances in which the Emperor's Government has exhibited a generosity which an English Government has returned by the affront of a suspicion couched in the mock dignity of a sarcasm. Where an alliance once established is honourably maintained by the one party, the honour of the other party is pledged to respect the maintenance. And whatever may hitherto have been the drawbacks to the French alliance, we have no doubt that its inherent advantages, under the administration of a government at once manly and sagacious, would soon become an ample compensation. But certainly the genuine advantages of the French alliance cannot be fully attained by proclaiming to the world our distrust of it. It is not without reason that M. Louis Blanc, half in lamentation, 2 0 2
and half in ridicule, comments on our chronic alarm of the French cannon, and pithily exclaims, · England is less separated from her ally by the Channel than she is by suspicion.' The day when the English shall cease to distrust France will be a great day for the world. Yet the best way to banish that suspicion is to maintain the strength which places us above fear. That strength we can never find in vain attempts to equal France in military armaments. It was truly said by Mr. Fox that our military policy has never been to raise great bodies of men from our own comparatively small and commercial population. We have not relied on our own numbers ; we have relied on the civilization which gave us skilful generals and vast pecuniary resources. When war with a state so powerful as France unhappily arose, alliances sprung out of the occasion, for the peril to England was the menace to Europe. If we had recourse to subsidies and loans, those subsidies and loans called forth in other nations the levies which neither our habits nor our laws permitted us to raise from our own population. At the battle of Blenheim, it does not appear that there were more than 10,000 English soldiers out of the forty-eight battalions and eighty-six squadrons in that glorious left wing commanded by the Duke of Marlborough. When again, under Chatham, England triumphantly put forth her warlike might, she contributed genius, intellect, and money, but she recruited her ranks upon German soil. And in the last great war with France, it was not the larger armies of England that placed her at the head of the European confederation: it was her wealth and her intelligence, the skill of her officers, the renown of her general ; her contributions of mere food for the jaws of the cannon were comparatively small.
If we are to attempt now to vie with nations that can put into the field 600,000 trained soldiers, it must be by the advantages we can proffer to allies by whom 600,000 soldiers can be raised. Unquestionably, in our relations with the Continent, we have in our day an advantage unknown to our fathers: that France, which was once our dreadest enemy, is now our most intimate friend. Yet if that advantage be not rightly understood, it becomes a perilous loss-a perilous loss if it is to cost us every other friend in the world. By that loss distrust against France herself is conceived; and thus we live with our friend, constantly haunted by the idea that he may one day be our enemy.
This is the real danger bequeathed to the English statesmen of our day by errors in the diplomacy of their predecessors which it has become their object to redeem. Cherishing the most cordial relations with France, abjuring with sincerity the pitiful policy of unjustified suspicion, the present state of Europe demands