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Prospects of the Year

The Illustrated London News, vol. 40, no. 1126, p. 33-34.

January 11, 1862


...Although we believe that there was scarcely an Englishman whose first and warmest feeling was not a determination to hold to the honour of his country and the vindication of international rights, yet it can hardly be supposed that any one amongst us was blind to the sacrifices and the inevitable consequences which must follow a hostile venture of any kind who did not recognise the truth of the saying that peace is the happy, natural state of man, and that it were better that she should be allowed still to go on achieving those victories which are no less renowned than those of war. In short, the point on which the fortunes, the events, and the happiness, more or less, of the new year turned was our relations with the Federal States of America.

If to a certain extent we are still held in suspense in that respect, there is now much, very much, to encourage the hope of a pacific solution of a difficulty, the extent and importance of which we in this country at least have never underrated. In the first instance, as we all know, the matter in dispute did not strike on the American mind with any sense of that real magnitude which has since been somewhat more acknowledged. The palpable change in the feeling, as we believe, which has come over the bulk of those whose influence on the action of the Federal Government could probably not be overrated seems to be the most natural thing in the world. The mind of England was expressed with a unanimity, a directness, and a thorough apprehension of the gravity of the question; the course of her Majesty's Ministers was prompt, the deliberations of a single Cabinet Council resulting in a special address to the Government of Washington, the substance of which it was evident must be in accordance with the voice of public opinion; and at once, and with an activity which spoke well for the condition of our administrative departments, preparations were made for any eventuality. The process of reasoning amongst the Americans must have received its first impulse from these facts; at least the notion that what had occurred was a small matter involving no serious consequences must have been at once disabused. Reaction, arising, not from anything which could be construed into timidity, but from an appreciation of

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the importance of the issue, may reasonably be supposed to have even then commenced in the States. But when it was ascertained that first and foremost France, then Prussia, then Austria, and, as it is said, even Russia, spontaneously expressed opinions that, on principles of international law, the affair of the Trent cannot be justified, it was hardly to be conceived that a nation which the leading Powers of the civilised world in combination declare to be in the wrong could persist in backing up its error even at the cost of a war, which to call disastrous would be employing a very feeble phrase indeed. There never was a [better] situation in which a great people could afford to act gracefully and to bend, with no loss of honour, before an acknowledged law of society. It seems to us that it would have been mere frenzy in the Americans to stick to a quarrel which, in universal international opinion, is deficient in that element of justice which, did it exist, would thrice arm those who espouse it. To the petulant outbreaks on this question of the professors of "bunkum" which some of the latest accounts tell us have not been wanting, even in the comparatively sedate discussions of the Senate, we attached little weight, for we believed they were no longer in accordance with the feeling of the American people at large; and, if the matter in dispute has been settled with less graciousness than might be desired, it will be owing to some such ruder spirits as those who have recently made uncompromising motions in Congress with a want of success which is in itself not a little significant.

Happily we are able to say that the first great cause which must have influenced the destinies of the twelve months into which we have just entered has been removed; that there will be no war...

As we set out, so we conclude, that, when we looked forward to the new year, much, if not all, of its happiness depended on the news we were awaiting from our kindred in the West. Now that we know that there is to be peace between us, we do not reflect with anything but satisfaction on the course which this country adopted, and we think with equal pleasure on the course which has been adopted by the American Government.

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