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sense give way, in the eagerness to clutch at sudden wealth. In a bubble season, the ordinary rules of morality lose their controlling power for a while, under the temptation of the day. The main current of public and private morality in England, probably flowed as deep and strong as ever, both before and after the South Sea frauds, when Cabinet ministers and Court ladies, and some of the highest personages in the realm ran mad after dishonest gains, and this in England's Augustan age. Lord Granville in reply observed that the “ early legislation of England, in such matters, [Railways,] was not so free from reproach, as to justify us in attributing the bribery in America solely to the democratic character of the government,” and the biographer of George Stephenson furnishes facts which abundantly confirm the truth of this remark. After describing the extravagant length to which Railway speculation was carried in that country in 1844–1845, Mr. Smiles proceeds :
“ Parliament, whose previous conduct in connection with Railway legislation was so open to reprehension, interposed no check, attempted no remedy. On the contrary, it helped to intensify the evil arising from this unseemly state of things. Many of its members were themselves involved in the mania, and as much interested in its continuance as even the vulgar herd of money-grubbers. The railway prospectuses now issued, unlike the Liverpool and Manchester and London and Birmingham schemes, were headed by peers, baronets, landed proprietors, and strings of M. P.'s. Thus it was found in 1845, that not fewer than one hundred and fiftyseven members of Parliament were on the list of new companies, as subscribers for sums ranging from two hundred and ninety-one thousand pounds sterling [not far from a million and a half of dollars] downwards! The proprietors of new lines even came to boast of their parliamentary strength, and the number of votes they could command in the House. The influence which landowners had formerly brought to bear upon Parliament, in resisting railways, when called for by the public necessities, was now employed to carry measures of a far different kind, originated by cupidity, knavery, and folly. But these gentlemen had discovered, by this time, that railways were as a golden mine to them. They sat at railway boards, sometimes selling to themselves their own land, at their own price, and paying themselves with the money of the unfortunate stockholders. Others used the railway mania as a convenient, and to themselves inexpensive, mode of purchasing constituencies. It was strongly suspected that honorable members adopted what Yankee legislators call log-rolling ;' that is, you help me to roll my log, and I will help you to roll yours.' At all events, it is a matter of fact that, through parliamentary influence, many utterly ruinous branches and extensions, projected during the mania, calculated only to benefit the inhabitants of a few miserable old boroughs, accidentally omitted from schedule A, were authorized in the memorable session of 1844-45.” *
These things, be it remembered, took place, not in a newly gathered republic, just sprouting, so to say, into existence on the frontier, inhabited by the pioneers of civilization, who had rather rushed together, than grown up to the moral traditions of an ancient community; but they took place at the metropolis of one of the oldest monarchies in Europe, the centre of the civilized world, where public sentiment is propped by the authority of ages; heart of old English oak encased with the life circles of a thousand years. I was in London at the height of the mania ; I saw the Railway King, as he was called, at the zenith of his power; a member of Parliament, through which he walked quietly, it was said, “ with some sixteen railway bills under his arm ;” almost a fourth estate of the realm ; his receptions crowded like those of a Royal Prince ; — and I saw the gilded bubble burst. But I did not write home to my government, that this marvellous “ state of things” showed the corruption which springs from hereditary institutions, nor did I hint that an extension of the right of suffrage and a moderate infusion of the democratic principle were the only remedy.
* Smiles's Life of Stephenson, p. 371.
I have time for a few words only on the “unscrupulous and overbearing tone” which is said by Lord Grey to “mark our intercourse with foreign nations.”
“If any one European nation," he observes, “were to act in the same manner, it could not escape war for a single year. We ourselves have been repeatedly on the verge of a quarrel with the United States. With no divergence of interest, but the strongest possible interest on both sides to maintain the closest friendship, we have more than once been on the eve of a quarrel; and that great calamity has now been avoided, because the government of this country has had the good sense to treat the government of the United States much as we should treat spoiled children, and though the right was clearly on our side, has yielded to the unreasonable pretensions of the United States. There is danger that this may be pushed too far, and that a question may arise, on which our honor and our interests will make concession on our part impossible.”
No one is an impartial judge in his own case. If we should meet these rather indiscreet suggestions in the only way in which a charge without specifications can be met, — by a denial as broad as the assertion, — the matter would be left precisely as it stood before; that is, each party in its national controversies thinks itself right and its opponent wrong, which is not an uncommon case in human affairs, public and private. This at least may be added, without fear of contradiction, that the United States, in their intercourse with foreign governments have abstained from all interference in European politics, and have confined themselves to the protection of their own rights and interests. As far as concerns theoretical doctrines on the subjects usually controverted between governments, a distinguished English magistrate and civilian pronounces the authority of the United States “to be always great upon all questions of International Law.”* Many of the questions which have arisen between this country and England, have been such as most keenly touch the national susceptibilities. That in discussing these questions, at home and abroad, no despatch has been written, no word uttered, in a warmer tone than might be wished, is not to be expected, and is as little likely to have happened on one side of the water as the other. But that the intercourse of the United States with Great Britain has, in the main, been conducted, earnestly indeed, as becomes powerful States treating important subjects, but courteously, gravely, and temperately, no one well acquainted with the facts will, I think, deny.
* R. Phillimore's International Law, vol. iii, p. 252.
It would not be difficult for me to pass in review our controversies with England, and to show that when she has conceded any portion of our demands, it has not been because they were urged in “an unscrupulous and overbearing tone,” (an idea not very complimentary to herself,) but because they were founded in justice and sustained by argument. This is not the occasion for such a review. In a public address, which I had the honor of delivering in this hall last September, I vindicated the negotiations relative to the Northeastern Boundary, from the gross and persistent misrepresentations of which they have been the subject; and I will now only briefly allude to by far the most important chapter in our diplomatic history. I go back to it, because, after the lapse of a generation, the truth has at length pierced through the mists of contemporary interest and passion, and because it will sufficiently show by one very striking example, whether