Diaries and Essays

Early Political Essay 2, Cheltenham Library

1 Only at the end of last week a writer in the Pall Mall Gazette said that there was no war-party: how we must all wish that this were true even though many of us should seem to have been striking strokes in the air of late if it be true: but it is of no use deluding ourselves; it is worse than no use, it is dangerous: and I must needs say it is untrue that there is no war party in England, and that we all know it as well as the man who wrote that article in the P. M. or the editor that allowed it to be published. I say that there is a war party. Nay a party of war at any price: let us look at it thus, tearing from our eye any veil of hypocrisy that might hide the real nature of things from us: let us see what composes this party so that we may know where and [on] what our strokes are falling: trust me not on air, but on a danger real and substantial enough: let us look on our foes and count them: not that we may be discouraged but that we may be encouraged, that we may strike heartily against the things we hate, and now at last it may be make an end of it for ever: let us make those words of the Pall Mall Gazette as true of the future as they are untrue of the present or the past—let us return good for evil, and make that gentleman of the PMG a prophet.

Could we but first push out of our way a sort of friends; good liberals or radicals, who are still lions in the year 48, and think that Russia is no less; who still perhaps have serious hope of the regeneration of Turkey by means of the Ottoman and are the one people in the world, I suppose, who do: what can we say to these men who wish to see Russia the great absolutist power humbled, even at the expense of their allying themselves to all that is reactionary in this country, to men who for their part have no doubt whither their instincts should lead them: I say what can we say

2 liberals who would involve us in a Tory War, the successful result of which would be the restoration of absolutism over peoples armies in just insurrection in a Tory War in order that Russia might be humiliated: I think they ought to listen to us when we say, we who wish that we may never speak again rather than say one word in favor of absolutism in any country, in Russia in Turkey or in England, we liberals we radicals, do not wish to humiliate the Russia that is now freeing her brethren from anarchy sustained by massacre which is carrying order and civilization into wasted and barbarous Asia: and once more I think they ought to listen to us when we bid them look who are their fellows, and what motives what tactics they have: for the others compose but part of the war party, the existence of which the Pall Mall denies are soon told over: first I blush to have to name them a set of men whose interest it is either that we should sustain Turkey at any price, or that we should have a war with some one or another: a knot of men whose mouthpiece is the D.T. [Daily Times]. These are the men who have allied themselves with all that is ignorant and senseless in the country deluding them with bawling out about the decadence of England and the like: these are they whose tireless industry has so sickened us for the last eighteen months, who are so devoid of any show of reason in their arguments that we have all been inclined to pass them by in contempt; thinking can such rubbish as this be dangerous? Unluckily it seems it can be: it appears that there is still a lingering feeling in the country capable of being whipped up into a froth by the geniuses [?]of the D.T. A feeling that it is necessary for England to have an enemy

3 and which seeing no other country that it can put in that position must needs fix upon Russia: I do believe that the loudly expressed hatred of Russia so common in peoples mouths, people of all the ignorant classes you understand has just this base to stand upon, and nothing firmer: and yet we must not think it otherwise than dangerous for all that: Sirs it is this many varied instrument that the D.T. plays upon daily making such sweet music as you all know, and doubtless deceiving people abroad who believe that sound to be the voices of England. Again Sirs this ignorance and rampant lionism if I may so call it that cries out for an enemy a rival on any terms is played upon by another set of men: the set of the cultivated reactionists: they I think believe in the singular virtues of the Ottoman the irreclaimable vices of the Russian to exactly the same extent as those who are fanning the flame of war for the sake of interest but they are genuine in one matter I suppose: that is a deep hatred for all that is on the face of things generous and high minded and at the same time popular: I suppose a great many of us must have acquaintances among these men nor will it be a great effort of our memories to recall the hatred and loathing they were eager to express at the outburst of popular indignation that followed the revelation of the horrors of the Baltak and the rest: they were forced to keep pretty quiet in the public prints they revenged themselves and let out their bile in private: these are the men whose hatred for a great and single hearted statesman for our leader Mr. Gladstone rises to the dignity of a passion nor can I wonder at it remembering his career, and how he had cast aside prejudice after prejudice in favour of naked truth and justice: for these men these Pall Mall Fanatics seem to be influenced by no hereditary prejudice, but have been drawn into their position, by a littleness of soul and narrowness of vision, that I know no parallel

4 for, perhaps I am saying too much about them: perhaps they are not very dangerous enemies: their influence is chiefly over a class of society too cowardly and shamefaced to be either of much harm or good: you remember their representative journal is written by gentlemen for gentlemen nevertheless their malice worries me, and I think it is a shame for us that all we should have to bear it
Ah well I suppose tis wrong to wish an artificially long life even to ones enemies: and yet I sometimes wish some of them could live for a few hundred years to see what will happen to the world after our time.
So much for the blind liberals, for those whose private interests, than to cry out for war, for those whom little-minded and narrow pride of would be intellect constrain to take up that cry: there are left us the great party of the Tories, who, with some, nay I dare say many, honourable exceptions, who as a party ____ have taken up what has turned out to be the side of war. One says sometimes that they need not have made it a party question: and yet their instincts are right; if they had forgone occasion, they would no longer have been Tories, they must have fraternized with the liberal party: take rather the general behavior of their rank and ___ in Parliament; or better still the common talk of the people they represent: and I repeat you will soon find that their instinct was right, that they were ___ to love the poor Turks (as I have heard them called of late) unseemly as that love appears to us: I believe and rejoice in believing that the fall of the curtailing of the Ottoman power in Europe the success for insurrection of oppressed peoples will be a blow to that spirit which still exists among us; nay is so strong that it is possible to have in parliament not merely a cautious and conservative

4 for, perhaps I am saying too much about them: perhaps they are not very dangerous enemies: their influence is chiefly over a class of society too cowardly and shamefaced to be either of much harm or good: you remember their representative journal is written by gentlemen for gentlemen nevertheless their malice worries me, and I think it is a shame for us that all we should have to bear it

Ah well I suppose tis wrong to wish an artificially long life even to ones enemies: and yet I sometimes wish some of them could live for a few hundred years to see what will happen to the world after our time.
So much for the blind liberals, for those whose private interests, lead them to cry out for war, for those whom little-minded and narrow pride of would be intellect constrain to take up that cry: there are left us the great party of the Tories, who, with some, nay I dare say many, honourable exceptions, who as a party in short have taken up what has turned out to be the side of war. One says sometimes that they need not have made it a party question: and yet their instincts are right; if they had forgone occasion, they would no longer have been Tories, they must have fraternized with the liberal party: you must not take the opinions of a few enlightened men, who happen to be in the position of leaders to the party: take rather the general behavior of their rank and file in Parliament; or better still the common talk of the people they represent: and I repeat you will soon find that their instinct was right, that they were bound to love the poor Turks (as I have heard them called of late) unseemly as that love appears to us: I believe and rejoice in believing that the fall or the curtailing of the Ottoman power in Europe the success for insurrection of oppressed peoples will be a blow to that spirit which still exists among us; nay is so strong that it is possible to have in parliament not merely a cautious and conservative

5 party, but even a majority of the very residuum of reactionists, a party whose action if they durst could be represented by the words keep them down: I say that to such a residuum the fall of irresponsible and corrupt rule in Bulgaria, the confirmation of the freedoms of those peoples who have already revolted will be a heavy blow, and if they could prevent the blow falling they would do so as we know by entangling us in foreign war: all the more as they and we well know that amid the confrontation and excitement of such a war many things will be forgotten here at home many reforms put off: nay they may well hope that reaction will flourish amidst the rank growth of unreason and violence that is sure to spring up in the heart of an unjust foreign war.

One more element I must mention as composing the war-party, since I have engaged to speak without hypocrisy; that element is the court; I say we must face the fact, not to me a very dreadful one, that it has thrown what misfortune it possesses into the scale against the influence it possesses against the thoughtfulness of the English Nation.

Let me recapitulate for a moment: let us see what we have against us: first those liberals who fear and hate Russia unreasonably. Next all those who are primarily interested in a war; next the would be intellectual hierarchy, the cultivated reactionists—then the man of ignorance and Philistinian that the industry of these two last have worked upon. Then the Tory residuum, the confused reactionists: finally what is called society and the Court. This is a long list and comprises I doubt some very stubborn and thick skinned persons: yet I do believe there is so great a body of intelligence in the country, so many people that can be moved by an appeal to their love of freedom and sense of justice, that formidable as our list

6 sounds it would not have been very danger but for one circumstance: indeed the great mass of that ignorance and prejudice would scarcely like to take the responsibility of making war on their shoulders pleased as they would be if somebody would declare war for them: now that dangerous circumstance is that our stupidity has put a man over our heads who is perhaps of all men with any pretension to be called statesmen the most unfit to be there at a critical time: a man with scarce any qualities in him but thriftiness and ambition: a man without genius but with a sort of galvanic mockery of it, that makes him the most fantastic object in Europe: it is a shame to us to have to have to talk about such an inconsiderable man: but I say our own stupidity our own sloth have set him where he is and in that position it is he who is the heart of the war-party: if he says yea all his henchmen in the papers write flaming war articles; if he says nay then there is no war-party and all the rest of it: it is hard to believe that he really has any policy in spite of all the hints that have been thrown out from time to time: any policy but one to wear us out and our resistance to folly by shuffling about going on the same ring or ground and forever coming back to the same point again that is the point of the whole thing: it is just that which I chiefly want to say to you: we have nothing for it but to oppose steady patience in resistance to his shiftiness: neither he nor any other ministers I believe would dare to make war with even a large minority strenuously resisting it: but if we tired and show an appearance of not caring about it; out will fly insults to Russia: she will be irritated into something rash; some cause of quarrel will be found something that Lord B will get people to raise a shout over—and—the worst will come perhaps: and who will be able to mend matters after the first shot is fired? Who knows where we shall drift to then. But you above all things I beseech you not to drift: make up your minds to what

7 is fair and right, and stick to that: above all things let us have courage, and believe that every man whether he be what is called political or not may be of some use: do not let any of us allow either down-heartedness or false shame stop him from doing his utmost to get rid of the burden our own folly has laid on our backs: I hope I think that all those meetings held all over the country ending with what we are doing today, what we shall do this evening will do their work and finish with the party of war at any price: what dangers that we have passed through during the past three weeks we shall probably never know the dangers that lie ahead we shall know in a few days: let us meet then calmly and with all determination in the name of peace, good will, and justice

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