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THE QUESTION OF RECOGNITION.
BEFORE I come to an end, perhaps I ought to express an opinion about recognition. I do not feel very anxious to do so, as my object is simply to show reason for my belief as to which side is in the right, and not to enter upon the question of what is the duty of Government and of Parliament.
I think that, on legal and technical grounds, we ought to recognise the Confederacy. In the last century we recognised four of the States of which it is composed — Virginia, the two Carolinas, and Georgia. In the present century we recognised Texas. Since those recognitions, those States have thought fit, for reasons best known to themselves, to commit the charge of their foreign relations, with which exclusively we are conversant, to the agents of a corporate body, called the United States of America. They have since withdrawn that commission, and instituted a new one. They may or may not have so bound themselves that the withdrawal is illegal; but that is not our business. If it was our business, we ought to call upon President Lincoln's Government to show reasons why we should not recognise and examine those reasons judicially. But if it is not our business, we ought to recognise at once, as a matter of form.*
The other States of the Confederacy, which have been formed either by cuttings of portions of the original States, or by cessions from France and Spain,
* That the fact of the formation of the Union cancels the recognition of the several States, is not a thing to be assumed, but proved; and the onus probandi rests with the foreign Government. It would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to do anyhow. But, as a matter of fact, the different States have been enumerated by foreign Powers in treaties made since the Union, and among them by England. The treaties are not made with the “United States,” but with the States nominatim. I do not know whether any treaty has been made in those terms since the formation of the present Union ; but if it was done under any Union at all, it is enough to prove that the mere fact of a Union does not cancel the original recognitions, unless there has since been some special provision to the contrary. Unless such provision was made with the foreign Powers, the mere fact of the new Union being closer and more stringent than the old one would have nothing to do with it; and it would not be to the point if it had; for the terms of the Union of 1787, instead of being more binding, are less so than those of the Union of 1778, which it superseded. The older one contains the words, “This Union shall be perpetual.” No such provision exists in that which exists, or is by way of existing, at the present day.
may also claim their right to be recognised. Their claims are not quite so clear; and I think it would be a nice point for argument. But, in point of fact, it is not of much importance. All that we are concerned with is the fact of a Confederacy. Whether Kentucky and Louisiana have a legal right to belong to it, is a matter that may fairly be left to themselves to settle. In one of the debates on the subject in Parliament, it was gravely maintained, on the Government side, that recognition was impossible, because the Federal armies occupied certain carefully enumerated points within the Confederate territory. It is not easy to see how this affects the question ; but it answered the purpose of catching a cheer or so; and perhaps that was all that was wanted.
But although, as I say, the Confederates have a right to be recognised, yet it seems very doubtful whether they ought to insist on that right. If we had done so at the first moment, I think it not impossible that it might have prevented the war. But our delay, unjustifiable as it was, brought us into the position in which, if we recognised, we might chance to look as silly as the United States did themselves when, after recognising Hungary as an independent kingdom, they saw themselves stultified by the success of Austria ; and perhaps we were right in declining to run that risk. There is, I suppose, very little doubt now that the danger I mention is past. The .subjugation of the South is about as likely as the reconquest of Naples by the Bourbons. But there is a further question; and that is, whether our recognition of the Confederacy would involve us in war with the North. I fully believe that it would not do so. That the Federals would rant and bluster a good deal, may be assumed as a matter of course. But it is hardly to be believed that they would do more, unless for any other reason it happen to suit them; and if it did so happen to suit, they are hardly the people to be held back for want of a pretext. I fully believe, also, that if they did go to war with us, the result of that war would be all that the most ardent Southerner could desire. And yet, if the Government believes-sincerely, earnestly believes - that war would be the inevitable consequence of recognition, may it not be justified in saying, “ You may be quite right, gentlemen of the South, in saying that you are entitled to recognition. But if we were to do as you ask, we should incur a frightful evil, for which the most glorious success could hardly compensate us ; and it is very doubtful whether it would do you any real good. Fiat justitia, ruat coelum is not a law of universal application.”
I urge this plea with but half a heart, for I don't believe in it myself; and even if I did believe in it, I should be rather ashamed of uttering it. And I should not feel happy if it were accepted; for the concession that this plea is admissible, would give enormously increased force to the further arguments,
“ We will not insist on our right to be recognised, although you do know some of us very well, in spite of your attempt to look as if you had never seen us. But war is a great evil, as we know to our cost; and we should be sorry to impose the risk of it (if you really think it one) upon you. So, if you must do so, stand aloof. Your neutrality laws bear hard upon us, but we will put up with that. We may, perhaps, fairly expect that, considering all things, if a point is ever to be strained, it will be in our favour, and that at any rate our enemies, who already have such enormous advantages on their side, shall not be allowed to go one inch beyond the letter of the law. And although you do not extend to us the courtesy of recognising us as a nation, you will of course make up for this by showing us every other courtesy in your power. You cannot act illegally simply by being civil.” And supposing this speech to be followed by the question, “How have these duties been fulfilled ?" I do not think I should know how to answer. I have some hope that the people of the Confederacy do not identify the English nation with the English Government. If they did, we should be laying up in