CHAPTER XVIII. THE KEY-NOTE OF BRITISH ATTITUDE
Equally outspoken were a few public men who early espoused the cause of the South. Beresford Hope, before a "distinguished audience" used language insulting to the North, fawning upon the South and picturing the latter as wholly admirable for its aristocratic tendencies. For this he was sharply taken to task by the Spectator. More sedately the Earl of Shrewsbury proclaimed, "I see in America the trial of Democracy and its failure. I believe that the dissolution of the Union is inevitable, and that men now before me will live to see an aristocracy established in America." In all countries and at all times there are men over-eager in early prophecy on current events, but in such utterances as these there is manifest not merely the customary desire to stand in the limelight of assured knowledge and wisdom, but also the happy conviction that events in America were working to the undoing of the Radicals of Great Britain. If they would not be supine the Radicals must strike back. On December 4, at Rochdale where, as the Times asserted, he was sure of an audience sympathetic on purely personal grounds, Bright renewed his profession of faith in the American Republic and sang his accustomed praises of its great accomplishments. The battle, for England, on American democracy, was joined; the challenge issued by aristocratic England, accepted.
But apart from extreme factions at either end of the scale there stood a group holding a middle ground opinion, not yet sure of the historical significance of the American collapse. To this group belonged Gladstone, as yet uncertain of his political philosophy, and regretful, though vainly, it would appear, of the blow to democracy. He wrote his thought to Brougham, no doubt hoping to influence the view-point of the Edinburgh.
"This has without doubt been a deplorable year for poor
'Democracy' and never has the old woman been at a heavier
discount since 1793. I see no discredit to the founders of
the American constitution in the main fact of the rupture.
On the contrary it was a great achievement to strike off by
the will and wit of man a constitution for two millions of
men scattered along a seaboard, which has lasted until they
have become more than thirty millions and have covered a
whole continent. But the freaks, pranks, and follies, not to
say worse, with which the rupture has been met in the
Northern States, down to Mr. Chase's financial (not
exposition but) exposure have really given as I have said the
old lady in question such a heavy blow and great
discouragement that I hope you will in the first vigour of
your action be a little merciful and human lest you murder
On this middle group of Englishmen and their moral conceptions the American Minister, Adams, at first pinned his faith, not believing in 1861 that the issues of democracy or of trade advantage would lead Great Britain from just rules of conduct. Even in the crisis of the Trent affair he was firm in this opinion: