CHAPTER XVIII. THE KEY-NOTE OF BRITISH ATTITUDE
"Yet Mr. Bright is consistent. He has one master passion and
his breast, capacious as it is, can hold no more. That master
passion is the love of that great dominant Democracy. He
worshipped it while rising to its culminating point, and he
is obliged to turn right round to worship it while setting.
He did not himself know, until tested by this great trial,
how entirely his opinions as to war and peace, and slavery
and freedom, and lust of conquest and hatred of oppression,
were all the mere accidents which hung loosely upon him, and
were capable of being detached at once in the interest of the
ruling passion of his soul for that great dominant Democracy.
Nor need we wonder; for if that great Democracy has been a
failure, then men will say that the life of Mr. John Bright
up to this time has been but a foolish dream."
Evidently Bright's speeches were causing anxiety and bitterness; but an "if" had crept into the estimate of the future of American democracy, caused less by the progress of the war than by the rising excitement of democratic England. The Times editorial just quoted appeared when the faith was generally professed that Lee was about to end the war through the invasion of Pennsylvania. In the reaction created by the arrival of the news of Gettysburg and Vicksburg, Adams still again warned his Government against either a belligerent or interfering attitude toward Great Britain, but stated plainly that Northern victory was of supreme importance in Europe itself. "We have a mission to fulfill. It is to show, by our example to the people of England in particular, and to all nations in general, the value of republican institutions." There was still a general belief in the incompetency of those institutions. "The greatest triumph of all would be to prove these calculations vain. In comparison with this, what would be the gain to be derived from any collision with the powers of Europe?"
It is strange that with so clearly-expressed a division of English opinion on American democracy few in America itself appreciated the significance of the British controversy. J. M. Forbes, who had been on a special mission to England, wrote to Lincoln, on his return:
"Our friends abroad see it! John Bright and his glorious band
of English Republicans see that we are fighting for Democracy
or (to get rid of the technical name) for liberal
institutions; the Democrats and the liberals of the old world
are as much and as heartily with us as any supporters we have
on this side.
Our enemies too see it in the same light; the Aristocrats and
the Despots of the old world see that our quarrel is that of
the People against an Aristocracy."