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Chivalrous England

Chivalrous England Pamphlet

Cover of Civalrous England Pamphlet The Germans are carrying on a violent campaign against English policy and the English people. The English policy, according to them, is a commercial, cynical], ferociously realistic policy. The English are beings devoid of every generous idea and even of any moral scruples.

The French public made short work of these calumnies; but the German campaign has not been without its influence on certain neutrals; and, as Germany has addressed herself more especially to the neutrals, is it not incumbent on the neutrals to reply? It. is just because the author of these lines is a Swiss and the citizen of a free country That he finds it impossible to remain silent.

Truly, English policy requires no justification, and the present war has offered a striking proof of the nobility of the British character. But the English have long been misunderstood, and prejudice dies slowly. Many, while they honour Anglo-Saxon honesty, continue to ignore the idealistic side of English policy. The Eng lish nation has had its hours of expansion and ~ conquest. But Imperialistic England must not _ obscure chivalrous England for us. We must not conclude that the English are incapable of justice and generosity, because they have carved out a vast Empire for themselves, which, indeed, they govern with true liberalism. They have been thrilled by a sincere love of liberty, and on many occasions they have striven to submit their policy to the exigencies of morality.

The Englishman, as a rule, abstains from any invocation of ~the great principles that govern ~ his conduct. He has a sense of modesty in ~ all that touches his most intimate feelings. ; Rhetoric and theatrical flourish are so repugnant to him that he always fears he may exaggerate his Thought and fail in sincerity to e himself. Moreover, his idealism differs entirely from that of the Latins. The Frenchman is full ~ of enthusiasm for ideas as such; he loves theories --and abstractions. The Englishman is the very c reverse of an ideologist; but this does not prevent him from being an idealist. His phlegmatic exterior often conceals a passionate soul. His religious turn of mind causes him to look at life in its moral aspects; he respects the soul. His sentimental life, which is no less delicate than intense, makes him sensitive to the pain of others. If he is somewhat indifferent to philosophical considerations, he is moved at once when he finds himself in presence of an injustice, and he cannot rest until he has caused it to disappear. The Englishman would not vote for the Declaration of the Rights of Man, but he would be ready to devote all his powers to the suppression of slavery in the colonies, and would kindle in the cause of the independence of Greece.

We may answer the German calumnies by invoking the conduct of England during the present war. Do not the millions of volunteers, who have come from the United Kingdom and all parts of the British Empire to offer their lives for the Mother Country, give an admirable example of the spirit of sacrifice? And as to Sir Edward Grey's policy, has it not been remarkable for its scrupulous respect of international law and its constant desire to consider The just susceptibilities of neutrals? But we will not dwell on the present war; the examples it offers are familiar to all. We prefer to appeal to the past history of England. It abounds in striking episodes which reveal an idealistic, chivalrous people, deriving a profound sense of human solidarity from religion.

Take, for instance, the anti-slavery movement. England, after the Roman Catholic Church, may claim the honour of having struggled with the greatest energy against slavery. As early as the seventeenth century, George Fox pronounced definitely against the slave trade. In 1727 the Quakers declared it to be contrary to the law of God. Writers and poets such as Steele, Pope, Thomson and Cowper, economists like Adam Smith, preachers like Wesley, condemned it severely. But it was in the second half of the eighteenth century that the movement gained alike in intensity and extent. Certain fervent Christians, Granville Sharp, Clarkson and Bennett Langton organised a regular campaign against the slave trade.

They were violently attacked, for they came in conflict with important interests. Fortunately, they found a powerful ally, in the House of Commons, in the person of William Wilberforce. On May 12th, 1789, he, with the support of Pitt, Fox, and Burke, carried twelve resolutions in the Commons, condemning the slave trade; but he was defeated when he tried to bring in a Bill against the infamous traffic.

Not losing courage, he returned continually to the charge, his friends meanwhile rousing public opinion by revelations of the sufferings of the slaves. After eighteen years of incessant effort, the slave trade was finally abolished in 1807, and vigilant citizens saw to it that the law should not become a dead letter. It was the English who, at the Congress of Vienna in 1815, demanded and obtained a general declaration against the slave trade. But the antislavery party was not yet satisfied. They had still to suppress slavery itself.

In 1823, Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton demanded an enquiry into the state of the slaves in English colonies. In 1828, the free blacks were placed on a footing of equality with The whites. Though the planters defended themselves with savage energy, public opinion urged the total abolition of slavery with growing insistence. Parliament was inundated with petitions; great meetings were held in all parts of the country. In 1834, the law emancipated 800,000 slaves at an enormous sacrifice. The State, respecting vested rights, paid to planters an indemnity of 20,000,000, an immense sum for that period. The emancipated slaves were granted complete independence, after an apprenticeship of five yearn.

But the blacks were not the only victims of oppression. Many Englishmen were filled with indignation at the exploitation of women and children in factories.

Two Christian philanthropists, Lord Ashley and Sir Robert Inglis, undertook their defense. In 1844, a Bill was passed, limiting the hours of labour for women and forbidding the employment of children under a certain age. This Bill was only the first in a long series; the laws passed by Liberal and Conservative Governments alike, for The protection of the weak, make English social legislation. one of the most generous codes in the world.

Wherever injustice is committed at any point of the globe, there is nearly always an Englishman to resist it. In 1850, Gladstone was taking a holiday at Naples. He visited the Neapolitan dungeons, and was deeply moved by the condition of the political prisoners. Immediately after his return to London, he wrote a stirring letter to Lord Aberdeen, demanding the inter- vention of England. The publication of this letter roused the indignation of the public; the English Government intervened in favour of the prisoners, and protested against the treatment to which they were subjected. I know few document.s so full of eloquent sincerity as this letter of Gladstone's. "The claims, the interests I have in view," he cries, "are not those of England. They are as broad as The extension of the human race and long-lived as its duration." Gladstone protests, in the name of The divine law, against the injustices he had witnessed. "Unwritten laws, eternal and divine, are trampled under foot by this violation of human and written law."

Whenever an oppressed nationality has sought deliverance from foreign domination, or has seen its liberty threatened, it has found warm sympathy in England. While the politicians of the Holy Alliance were laying an iron yoke upon their subjects, England was enthusiastically following the war of independence of the Southern States of America and the revolt of the Greeks against the Turks.

Read the speeches made in the British Par- liament from 1818 to 1828 by Canning, Peel, Brougham, Hume, Lord Suffield, and many others. Study the pamphlets of the day. You will see with what sincere and truly chivalrous sympathy the struggle of the oppressed against their oppressors is followed. Distinguished Englishmen went so far as to offer their services to the Americans and the Greeks. Admiral Lord Cochrane consented to re-organise the Chilean navy. The Spanish Viceroy at Lima was indignant and expressed his surprise that a British nobleman should so far lower himself as to espouse the cause of rebels. To this Cochrane made the proud reply: "A British nobleman . . . has a right to adopt any country which is endeavouring to re-establish the rights of aggrieved humanity." Shortly before, Cochrane had been offered the position of Admiral in Spain, with a large salary. He preferred an ill-paid and perilous post in a distant country. And the British noble saved Chile, forcing the garrison of Linia to capitulate.

In 1827, we find Cochrane in Greece, fighting against the Turks. He was associated with several of his compatriots, among them Byron, the great English poet, who died before Missolonghi, and Sir Richard Church, the hero of Lepanto.

England remained the faithful friend of Greece. Stratford Canning, the English envoy at Constantinople in 1830, obtained the VoloArta frontier for the youthful kingdom. In 1862, England ceded the Ionian Islands to King George as a. coronation gift. In 1880, Gladstone brought about the restitution of Thessaly and a portion of the Epirus to Greece.

England, moreover, has always favoured the small States. When Belgian revolted in 1830, her two most faithful friends were France and England. It was these two Powers which secured the recognition of Belgian independence at the Conference of London.

In 1847, Switzerland was threatened with a civil war between Catholics and Protestants. Austria and Prussia were eager to take advantage of the crisis, and intervene; Guizot hesitated. England, happily, was on the alert. Palmerston, her Foreign Secretary, energetically opposed any intervention by the Powers; he secretly advised the Federal Diet to take swift action against the dissidents. Thus warned by England of the danger that threatened Switzer land, the Federal authorities showed great vigor. General Dufour put an end to the Separate League, or Sonderbund, after a short campaign. All pretext far foreign intervention had thus disappeared, and Switzerland was saved.

The efforts of the Italians to throw off the Austrian yoke were followed with lively sympathy in England. The English understood the ardent, generous and noble traits of this people, which has given humanity some of the greatest geniuses of the race. At the Congress of Troppati in 1820, we find England already combating all idea of foreign intervention in Italy; she also opposed the Austrian intention of sending troops into the Kingdom of Naples. In 1847, divining that the Habsburg monarchy was making ready for war, Palmerston sent Lord Minto to Italy, who assured the King of Sardinia of England's friendship, put an end to the civil war in Sicily! and concluded a Customs Union treaty between the Papal States, Sardinia, and Tuscany. The following year, Palmerston caused arms to be conveyed to the Sicilians who had risen in revolt against the King of Naples. At the Congress of Paris, in

1856, he demanded the evacuation of Tuscany by the Austrians.

True, Palmerston, though he was sincere in his hatred of despotism, was, in the main, absorbed in the interests of England. He was not an idealist like Gladstone. But the secret of his ascendancy over the British people, until his death, lay in the fact that he understood how to appeal to their chivalrous feeling. As Mr. Sidney Low tells us in his Politica4 History of England*: "His countrymen felt proud of a statesman who upheld the weak against the strong, and constitutional rule against autocracy."

And let it not be said that England is only idealistic and chivalrous when it is to her interest to be so. England was long the strongest supporter of Turkey. It suited her to protect the decrepit Empire of the Osmanlis. And yet, in 1876 and in 1895, the Government had the greatest difficulty in resisting the popular movement in favour of energetic action against Turkey. In 1876, all England was deeply moved; the Daily News had just revealed the atrocities committed by the Turks in Bulgaria. Carlyle, Ruskin, Froude, Freeman and Burne-Jones associated themselves with Gladstone to urge the prompt intervention of the Government. In 1895 and 1896, the Armenian massacres took place. Public opinion was again violently agitated. Meeting followed meeting. The other Powers refused to take action, but Gladstone, supported by a majority of Liberals and several Conservatives, demanded that England should act alone, if necessary, to put an end to the scandal. On August 16, 1895, Gladstone, the " Grand Old Man," as the English call him, made an eloquent speech against the Turks at Chester. In September, 1897, when he was eighty-eight years old, he again spoke at Liverpool to an audience of over 6,000 persons. The Conservative Lord Mayor of the city, Lor& Derby, made a point of presiding himself at the meeting. The support, given to the Sultan by the Emperor of Germany, unhappily prevented any effectua1~ intervention on the part of England, but British opinion had given a noble proof of disinterested idealism.

But more than this: whenever an English Government has been guilty of an injustice, there has always been a party of courageous men in the country to resist it. At the time of the famous war known as the Opium War, made to force the Chinese to agree to the importation of the fatal commodity (1840), Lord Ashley proposed the suppression of the opium trade; Gladstone, Sir James Graham and Peel denounced the action of the Government. They all but gained the support of Parliament, for the motion of censure was only rejected by a majority of nine votes out of five hundred. In 1857, Cobden was even more successful.

At the end of the autumn of 1856, war broke out with China. Canton was bombarded by the British Fleet. But a great many Englishmen thought that the Chinese were in the flight, and. that the Government had acted unjustly. Lord Derby in the House of Lords, and Cobden in the Commons, moved a vote of censure against the Government.*

The debate lasted four nights. The Government put up the best defense at its disposal; the English flag bad been insulted; it was necessary at any cost to safeguard British prestige and support Her Majesty's Commissioner * in the House of Lords, Lord Derby, the leader of the Conservative Party, was beaten by a small majority. In his speech, he dwelt upon the harm the immoral policy of the Government would do to the Christian Missionary movement. at Hong Kong, who had thought it his duty to begin hostilities. It was impossible to draw back now that the Chinese had massacred several Europeans and burnt houses of business. The House of Commons knew that the Ministry was very popular in the country, and that it was quite capable of replying to a vote of censure by the dissolution of Parliament. Nevertheless, it voted Cobden's motion. When we study the speeches delivered on this occasion, it is impossible not to be struck by their moral elevation. Cobden's speech breathes a deep love of justice; but the great apostle of Free Trade is famous as an idealist, and one is ready to look upon him as an exception. But let us hear Bulwer Lytton, the celebrated writer: "In his opinion," he said, "the policy of the English Government violates the law of nations, and the spirit of English honour. I charge the Government with lending the authority of the Crown to homicide under false pretences, belying the generous character of our country and offending every sentiment of right and justice which our nature receives from Heaven."

Or again, listen to Lord John Russell, a former Prime Minister, who was once more to hold that position: "We have heard much of the interests of commerce," he said. "We have heard much of late-a great deal too much, I think-of the honour of England. The character, the reputation and the honour of our country are dear to us all; but if the prestige of England is to be separate from these qualities, if it is to be separate from the character, from the reputation and from the honour of our country, then I, for one, have no wish to maintain it. To those who argue: 'It is true we have a bad case; it is true we were in the wrong; it is true we committed injustice, but we must persevere in that wrong; we must continue to act unjustly, or the Chinese will think that we are afraid,' I say: Be just and fear not. Whatever we lose in prestige, of which I do not pretend to be a judge, I am convinced that the character and honour of this country will be raised higher fly such a policy. Never will England stand higher in the world's estimation than when it can be said that, though troublesome and meddlesome officials prostitute her arms and induce a brave admiral to commence hostilities, yet the House of Commons, representing her people, have indignantly de dared that they will be no parties to such injustice, and that neither for commercial advantages nor for political advantages, nor for any other immediate advantages to their country will they consent to stain that honour, which, after all, has been and must be the sure foundation of her greatness."

Lord Robert Cecil, the future Lord Salisbury, declared that England ought not to provoke weak States like China, and that English statesmen should always be ready to repudiate any illegitimate act of aggression. Gladstone once more manifested his chivalrous spirit in one of the finest speeches of his life. In the final voting, the motion of censure was carried by 263 against 247 votes, and the extraordinary spectacle of a House of Commons generously undertaking the defence of a people at war with England was given to the world I The Government dissolved Parliament, and the electors proved themselves less idealistic than their representatives by returning a ministerial majority. But in 1880, the exact opposite happened; a tempest of idealism shook the country and swept through the House of Commons. Gladstone, whose party had been in a minority for several years, organized a vast electoral campaign at the end of 1879, attacking Lord Beaconsfield's Government in the name of a singularly lofty conception of international policy. The eminent Liberal statesman's criticisms were not all well founded, for Lord Beaconsfleld had done good service in the consolidation of the Empire, but the inspiration, which animated the Gladstonian campaign, was admirable. Gladstone constantly exhorted the Government to respect the rights of others. "~ Large and small States should be treated with the same justice and the same respect," he cried, at Edinburgh. "Remember he said in a speech at Glasgow, "that the, sanctity of life in the bill villages of Afghanistan . . . is as inviolable in the eye of Almighty God as can be your own. Remember that He, Who has united you as human beings in the same flesh and blood, has hound you by the law of mutual love." And the people of Great Britain, whom the Germans would have us believe to be a coldly utilitarian people, responded to Gladstone's passionate appeals by returning him to power a second time. The elections of 1880 were, in fact, a brilliant victory for the Gladstoniana.

The English conscience, then, is a vital force, so much so that it may become dangerous at times, when combined with an ill-balanced mind. By dint of considering everything from the moral standpoint, Englishmen occasionally become over-scrupulous. They confound the absolute with the relative. They become doctrinaires not through ideology, but through hypertrophy of the moral sense. They are so afraid of compounding with their duty and coming to terms with injustice, that they recoil from the most legitimate measures of self-defense undertaken by their Government. On the occasion of the revolt of a part of Canada in 1837, Molesworth, who afterwards became Colonial Secretary, dared to express a wish in the House of Commons for the defeat of British arms, on the ground that the rebels had acted within their rights. He could not see that this revolt was really the work of a handful of agitators, and that moreover, the defeat of England would have been no less disastrous for Canada than for the Mother Country.

Freeman, the famous historian, did not hesitate to say at a great meeting in St. James's Hall on December 8th, 1876: "Perish the interests of England, perish her domination in India, rather than that she should intervene on behalf of Turkey, on behalf of the wrong against the right." Bright, the great Nonconformist statesmen, left Gladstone's Ministry in 1882 through an excess of pacifism; he refused to sanction the bombardment of Alexandria, a measure which the disturbed state of Egypt rendered necessary.

This generous bat misplaced hatred of compromise is nothing but the perversion of a truly English quality, fidelity to duty. In England, political life, which is the domain of compromise par excellence, others many noble examples of this sense of duty. Men like the Conservative Peel and the Liberal Gladstone have not hesitated to sacrifice all to the cause they considered just. Peel knew quite well that he was ruining his political career when he passed the Bill for the abolition of the corn duties, in opposition to the majority of his own party. Gladstone, beaten in the elections of 1886 on the question of Irish autonomy, preferred to make his return to power very doubtful rather than renounce the policy of Home Rule.

"England expects every man to do his duty," said Nelson shortly before his death. It is this love of duty which has transformed thousands of Englishmen into Apostles. But this love of duty is in itself only an effect. Its cause must be sought in the depths of the English spirit, in those mysterious regions where the soul holds commune with God. The Englishman is not chivalrous in the name of some vague humanitarian sentiment. He is so in the name of his religious faith. Hitherto, the majority of English statesmen of marked idealistic tendencies have been Christians, and Christians who drew the inspiration of the Apostolate from their faith. In this respect there is a profound difference between the revolutionaries of 1789 and the English social reformers. Whereas the former had only the Rights of Man in view, and only too often thought mainly of liberating the human spirit from divine authority, the latter combated injustice in the name of the rights of God and the duties of man. The leaders of the Anti-Slavery Movement, Clarkson, Wilberforce, and their fellows, were all tried Christians who fought against the traffic in the name of the Gospel. Lord Granville. the English Prime Minister, exclaimed in the House of Lords, in the course of a speech against the Slave Trade on June 24th, 1806: "My Lords, it is a duty you owe to your Creator, as you hope for His mercy, to do away with this monstrous system of oppression." The Duke of Gloucester declared in January, 1807, that the Slave Trade was an offence against the Almighty. "I shall vote for its immediate extinction," he said, "on the ground of policy, of justice, and above all~ on the ground of religion." Lord Ashley, the champion of women and children, Lord Suffleld, the apostle of the prisons, were distinguished by their deep, if narrow, piety. Peel, Lord Salisbury, and Lord John Russell were sincere Anglicans; Bright was a strict Nonconformist. Lord Ripon, one of the most generous statesmen of the nineteenth century, became a convert to Catholic4~m in 1874, at the risk of compromising his career. As to Gladstone, the great democrat was, in religion, the champion of traditional Anglicanism against rationalism and atheism. His political career was to him a veritable vocation, and he spent long hours in prayer when he had an important speech to make in the House. He it was who, in 1886, wrote these admirable words: "I heartily desire that, unless the policy I am proposing be for the honour of God and the good of His creatures, it may be trampled under foot and broken into dust."

It is, indeed, difficult for an unbeliever to understand England, and it is certain, in this connection, that the Catholic revival, which is taking place in France~ will tend to strengthen the Anglo-French alliance. No affiance is better calculated to be fertile in results. France and England complete one another in a marvelous manner. The one lives primarily by the intelligence, the other by the feelings; one excels in speculation and theory, the other in practical realization. Uniting their admirable qualities, the two nations might accomplish a magnificent work. Both have the sense of the spiritual life, a respect for moral values, the love of justice~ a desire to serve God. Moreover, the great English idealists have always loved France. In January, 1860, Gladstone wrote that the alliance with France was the true basis of peace in Europe, for France and England would never embark on any really unjust enterprise. May a neutral and a Swiss express the hope, in the interests of Europe and of the world, that this alliance may be a lasting one, "for the honour of God and the good of His creatures!"