CHAPTER XVIII. THE KEY-NOTE OF BRITISH ATTITUDE
"... pandered to the hatred of America among the upper
classes of this country during the present war. Some of us at
least had been taught by what we have lately seen not to
shrink from an extension of the suffrage, if the only bad
consequence of that measure of justice would be a change in
government from the passions of the privileged class to the
passions of the people.... History will not mistake the
meaning of the loud cry of triumph which burst from the
hearts of all who openly or secretly hated liberty and
progress, at the fall, as they fondly supposed, of the Great
Republic." British working men "are for the most part as well
aware that the cause of those who are fighting for the right
of labour is theirs, as any nobleman in your Association can
be that the other cause in his."
The question of democracy as a political philosophy and as an institution for Great Britain was, by 1864, rapidly coming to the front in politics. This was very largely a result of the American Civil War. Roebuck, after the failure of his effort for mediation in 1863, was obsessed with a fear of the tendency in England. "I have great faith in my countrymen," he wrote, "but the experience of America frightens me. I am not ashamed to use the word frightened. During my whole life I have looked to that country as about to solve the great problem of self-government, and now, in my old age, the hopes of my youth and manhood are destroyed, and I am left to reconstruct my political philosophy, and doubt and hesitation beset me on every point." More philosophically Matthew Arnold, in 1864, characterized the rule of aristocracy as inevitably passing, but bent his thought to the discovery of some middle ground or method - some "influence [which] may help us to prevent the English people from becoming, with the growth of democracy, Americanized." "There is no longer any sort of disguise maintained," wrote Adams, "as to the wishes of the privileged classes. Very little genuine sympathy is entertained for the rebels. The true motive is apparent enough. It is the fear of the spread of democratic feeling at home in the event of our success."
The year 1864 had witnessed a rapid retreat by wiser Conservative elements in proclaming the "lesson" of American democracy - a retreat caused by alarm at the vigour with which Radicals had taken up the challenge. Conservative hopes were still fixed upon Southern success and Conservative confidence loudly voiced. Even the pride of the Times in the accuracy of its news and in its military forecasts was subordinated to the purpose of keeping up the courage of the faction it represented. Small wonder, then, that Delane, on receiving the news of Sherman's arrival before Savannah, should be made physically ill and write to Dasent: "The American news is a heavy blow to us as well as to the South." The next day he added: "I am still sore vexed about Sherman, but Chenery did his best to attenuate the mischief." "Attenuation" of Northern progress in arms was, indeed, attempted, but the facts of the military situation were too strong for continued concealment. From January, 1865, only the most stubborn of Southern friends could remain blind to the approaching Northern victory. Lord Acton, a hero-worshipper of the great Confederate military leader, "broke his heart over the surrender of Lee," but was moved also by keen insight as to the political meaning of that surrender.