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London: Saturday, May 23, 1864

The Illustrated London News, vol. 44, no. 1261, p. 514.

May 28, 1864

London: Saturday, May 28, 1864.

Parliament having now enjoyed the last of the legitimate holidays conventionally allowed to it, must delight the triple mind of its most eloquent member by seeing only three courses open. It must either debate, adjourn, or take refuge in counts-out....

But as regards the three courses which we have indicated, it is very doubtful which the House of Commons will choose. The Lords will have a good debate or two, but can do little legislatorial work unless it please the other House to supply the material to work upon. The Commons have the matter in their own hands. Up to the present time they have shown no very strong inclination to injure their health by late hours at Westminster, though we are unaware that society, which keeps even later than Parliamentary hours, has been deprived of the advantage and ornament to be derived from the presence of an able-bodied Legislature. We perceive that a judicious excuse for the brief sittings and the frequent counts-out is being insinuated with much friendly dexterity. It is stated that we all feel so disturbed by the terrible scenes which are enacting in America that it is impossible for the deliberative body to do its duty. Now, we own that if the business of the journalist were only to provide ideas which the historian might, sometime later, put into graceful and didactic form, this statement would be a valuable contribution to his pages. It will be edifying to read, as our grandchildren will read, that "towards the middle of the reign of the good Queen Victoria, a fearful civil war broke out in the United States, and that the fratricidal contest was marked by such appalling features that they spread agitation among all classes in Great Britain; and that even the Legislature, usually as calm as the Roman senators when the Gauls stormed the Eternal City, was compelled to suspend its duties until such horrors should be terminated." The sentence will be effective for the general reader, and useful as an exercise in dictation at female seminaries. But we who live in the times which are to be thus credited with sentiment are unfortunately aware that nothing of the kind is the case. We have seen times of war, when the Legislature and the public were alike deeply agitated, when the necessary duties of the former were performed with rapidity and with gravity, and when the public and private pleasures of the latter were discontinued, to the honour of all. These were the days when the flower of our youth and manhood was being wasted in a glorious but ill-conducted war, and when we were hearing how a bad system was wounding us far worse than the Russian sword could do. At that time such an excuse was indeed valid. But now, it would be cant to say that the public mind of London is much more impressed by the American war than the public mind of New York. We write deliberately, for we do approach a terrible subject with becoming reverence, whereas the American press appears to take a pride in vaunting that fashion and pleasure cease none of their excesses, even though the cannon can almost be heard in Washington; and the very last of the file of papers that have reached us contains a few flippant leading paragraphs on the war, and, in equally large type, a long and elaborate article upon the management of the Opera-house. At least, we write sadly of the carnage among those who are our kinsmen and who speak our language. But to say that the American war is disturbing us, and making it impossible for the Legislature to do its duty, is one of those fictions that would be pleasant if pleasure had a right to mix itself up with such a topic....

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