Foreign wars are sometimes unavoidable. We ourselves, in the course of natural merchandising and laudable business, have now and then got into ambiguous situations; into quarrels which needed to be settled, and without fighting would not settle. Sugar Islands, Spice Islands, Indias, Canadas, these, by the real decree of Heaven, were ours; and nobody would or could believe it, till it was tried by cannon law, and so proved. Such cases happen. In former times especially, owing very much to want of intercourse and to the consequent mutual ignorance, there did occur misunderstandings: and therefrom many foreign wars, some of them by no means unnecessary. With China, or some distant country, too unintelligent of us and too unintelligible to us, there still sometimes rises necessary occasion for a war. Nevertheless wars--misunderstandings that get to the length of arguing themselves out by sword and cannon--have, in these late generations of improved intercourse, been palpably becoming less and less necessary; have in a manner become superfluous, if we had a little wisdom, and our Foreign Office on a good footing.
Of European wars I really hardly remember any, since Oliver Cromwell's last Protestant or Liberation war with Popish antichristian Spain some two hundred years ago, to which I for my own part could have contributed my life with any heartiness, or in fact would have subscribed money itself to any considerable amount. Dutch William, a man of some heroism, did indeed get into troubles with Louis Fourteenth; and there rested still some shadow of Protestant Interest, and question of National and individual Independence, over those wide controversies; a little money and human enthusiasm was still due to Dutch William. Illustrious Chatham also, not to speak of his Manilla ransoms and the like, did one thing: assisted Fritz of Prussia, a brave man and king (almost the only sovereign King I have known since Cromwell's time) like to be borne down by ignoble men and sham-kings; for this let illustrious Chatham too have a little money and human enthusiasm,--a little, by no means much. But what am I to say of heaven-born Pitt the son of Chatham? England sent forth her fleets and armies; her money into every country; money as if the heaven-born Chancellor had got a Fortunatus' purse; as if this Island had become a volcanic fountain of gold, or new terrestrial sun capable of radiating mere guineas. The result of all which, what was it? Elderly men can remember the tar-barrels burnt for success and thrice-immortal victory in the business; and yet what result had we? The French Revolution, a Fact decreed in the Eternal Councils, could not be put down: the result was, that heaven-born Pitt had actually been fighting (as the old Hebrews would have said) against the Lord,--that the Laws of Nature were stronger than Pitt. Of whom therefore there remains chiefly his unaccountable radiation of guineas, for the gratitude of posterity. Thank you for nothing,--for eight hundred millions _less_ than nothing!
Our War Offices, Admiralties, and other Fighting Establishments, are forcing themselves on everybody's attention at this time. Bull grumbles audibly: "The money you have cost me these five-and-thirty years, during which you have stood elaborately ready to fight at any moment, without at any moment being called to fight, is surely an astonishing sum. The National Debt itself might have been half paid by that money, which has all gone in pipe-clay and blank cartridges! "Yes, Mr. Bull, the money can be counted in hundreds of millions; which certainly is something:--but the "strenuously organized idleness," and what mischief that amounts to,--have you computed it? A perpetual solecism, and blasphemy (of its sort), set to march openly among us, dressed in scarlet! Bull, with a more and more sulky tone, demands that such solecism be abated; that these Fighting Establishments be as it were disbanded, and set to do some work in the Creation, since fighting there is now none for them. This demand is irrefragably just, is growing urgent too; and yet this demand cannot be complied with,--not yet while the State grounds itself on unrealities, and Downing Street continues what it is.
The old Romans made their soldiers work during intervals of war. The New Downing Street too, we may predict, will have less and less tolerance for idleness on the part of soldiers or others. Nay the New Downing Street, I foresee, when once it has got its "_Industrial_ Regiments" organized, will make these mainly do its fighting, what fighting there is; and so save immense sums. Or indeed, all citizens of the Commonwealth, as is the right and the interest of every free man in this world, will have themselves trained to arms; each citizen ready to defend his country with his own body and soul,--he is not worthy to have a country otherwise. In a State grounded on veracities, that would be the rule. Downing Street, if it cannot bethink itself of returning to the veracities, will have to vanish altogether!
To fight with its neighbors never was, and is now less than ever, the real trade of England. For far other objects was the English People created into this world; sent down from the Eternities, to mark with its history certain spaces in the current of sublunary Time! Essential, too, that the English People should discover what its real objects are; and resolutely follow these, resolutely refusing to follow other than these. The State will have victory so far as it can do that; so far as it cannot, defeat.
In the New Downing Street, discerning what its real functions are, and with sacred abhorrence putting away from it what its functions are not, we can fancy changes enough in Foreign Office, War Office, Colonial Office, Home Office! Our War-soldiers _Industrial_, first of all; doing nobler than Roman works, when fighting is not wanted of them. Seventy-fours not hanging idly by their anchors in the Tagus, or off Sapienza (one of the saddest sights under the sun), but busy, every Seventy-four of them, carrying over streams of British Industrials to the immeasurable Britain that lies beyond the sea in every zone of the world. A State grounding itself on the veracities, not on the semblances and the injustices: every citizen a soldier for it. Here would be new _real_ Secretaryships and Ministries, not for foreign war and diplomacy, but for domestic peace and utility. Minister of Works; Minister of Justice,--clearing his Model Prisons of their scoundrelism; shipping his scoundrels wholly abroad, under hard and just drill-sergeants (hundreds of such stand wistfully ready for you, these thirty years, in the Rag-and-Famish Club and elsewhere!) into fertile desert countries; to make railways,--one big railway (says the Major [Footnote: Major Carmichael Smith; see his Pamphlets on this subject]) quite across America; fit to employ all the able-bodied Scoundrels and efficient Half-pay Officers in Nature!
Lastly,--or rather firstly, and as the preliminary of all, would there not be a Minister of Education? Minister charged to get this English People taught a little, at his and our peril! Minister of Education; no longer dolefully embayed amid the wreck of moribund "religions," but clear ahead of all that; steering, free and piously fearless, towards his divine goal under the eternal stars!--O heaven, and are these things forever impossible, then? Not a whit. To-morrow morning they might all begin to be, and go on through blessed centuries realizing themselves, if it were not that--alas, if it were not that we are most of us insincere persons, sham talking-machines and hollow windy fools! Which it is not "impossible" that we should cease to be, I hope?
Constitutions for the Colonies are now on the anvil; the discontented Colonies are all to be cured of their miseries by Constitutions. Whether that will cure their miseries, or only operate as a Godfrey's-cordial to stop their whimpering, and in the end worsen all their miseries, may be a sad doubt to us. One thing strikes a remote spectator in these Colonial questions: the singular placidity with which the British Statesman at this time, backed by M'Croudy and the British moneyed classes, is prepared to surrender whatsoever interest Britain, as foundress of those establishments, might pretend to have in the decision. "If you want to go from us, go; we by no means want you to stay: you cost us money yearly, which is scarce; desperate quantities of trouble too: why not go, if you wish it?" Such is the humor of the British Statesman, at this time.--Men clear for rebellion, "annexation" as they call it, walk openly abroad in our American Colonies; found newspapers, hold platform palaverings. From Canada there comes duly by each mail a regular statistic of Annexationism: increasing fast in this quarter, diminishing in that;--Majesty's Chief Governor seeming to take it as a perfectly open question; Majesty's Chief Governor in fact seldom appearing on the scene at all, except to receive the impact of a few rotten eggs on occasion, and then duck in again to his private contemplations. And yet one would think the Majesty's Chief Governor ought to have a kind of interest in the thing? Public liberty is carried to a great length in some portions of her Majesty's dominions. But the question, "Are we to continue subjects of her Majesty, or start rebelling against her? So many as are for rebelling, hold up your hands!" Here is a public discussion of a very extraordinary nature to be going on under the nose of a Governor of Canada. How the Governor of Canada, being a British piece of flesh and blood, and not a Canadian lumber-log of mere pine and rosin, can stand it, is not very conceivable at first view. He does it, seemingly, with the stoicism of a Zeno. It is a constitutional sight like few.