Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 4/Last week (March 16, 1861)


Thirty years of the sternest tyranny and oppression which the brains of Russian statesmen could conceive, and the arms of Russian soldiers carry out in practice, have been insufficient to destroy the national spirit of the Poles. We have been sympathising of late with the miseries of the Hungarians and Italians, but every one seemed to hold the opinion that the designs against the national life of Poland had succeeded only too well, and that she had become actually absorbed into the huge bulk of the Russian Empire. The nobles and leaders of the country had fallen on the battle-field, or had paid upon the scaffold the price of their patriotism: the middle classes had fared no better, though, as being more numerous, they had supplied a greater number of victims to the firing parties and to the executioner; all interest in the soil, where it was possible (and a good deal has been possible to the Russians in Poland for the last thirty years), had been transferred into the hands of Russian holders; the Polish language had been proscribed; the literature of the country condemned as dangerous—to sing a Polish song in Poland was an overt act of treason! Poland was gorged with Russian troops, and covered with police spies. The commonest intercourse of domestic life afforded matter for suspicion. To speak implied guilt, and silence was pregnant proof of a plotting mind. For thirty years this system has been continued. Another generation, and yet another, has grown up since “order was restored at Warsaw,” and these had been brought up after the strictest fashion of the Moscovite. So it happened that we had all arrived at the conclusion that there had been a death in the great family of European nations—that the grass was growing thick and rank over the grave of what once was Poland. Men mentioned her name with a shudder, and a nameless feeling, that years ago a terrible crime had been worked out down by Warsaw, and they went about their business, thinking that all this sorrow and misery were of the past.

This is not so. Of Poland we may say, “She is not dead, but sleepeth.” All the shedding of innocent blood, the banishments, the scourgings, the hangings, the proscription of the national language, the confiscation of the soil, have proved of no effect. The Russian soldiers and Russian spies—although they did their work thoroughly enough to all appearance—have made but a half job of it after all. A nation which still reaches the number of 15,000,000 of souls requires a great deal of killing before the land is disencumbered of the human lumber. Cholera could do more than a field-marshal, but even cholera would fail to accomplish such a task as this in six campaigns. It turns out that the pulse of Poland beats strong as ever. Now, when the military system of Russia has been shrewdly shaken by the results of the Crimean campaign; and the young Emperor is settling accounts with his serfs throughout the empire; and the Slavonic populations of the East of Europe, whatever may be the national name they bear, are beginning to arise against their oppressors; and the political conditions of the time are such that France is armed to the teeth, and ready to make her profit of the greatest or of the smallest blunder of Russia, of Austria, or of Prussia; and when the sympathies of England are warmly with the nations, which have been so long and so cruelly trampled under foot,—Poland in the fulness of time again stands forth to ask account of Russia for all the sufferings she has undergone, and for the blood of her murdered children. Where the great secret of “nationality” has been so long preserved, and in the teeth of such appalling dangers and difficulties, we may be sure that the sentiment of patriotism is no sickly shrub. No one has marked its growth, but it stands revealed at once a stately tree. Not the dew of Heaven, but the heart’s blood of Poland’s best and bravest sons has refreshed its leaves—the soil into which it has struck its roots so firmly has been fertilised with all that was mortal of the remains of three generations of unyielding men. It will not be withered up with the first chill blast from the north, nor yield readily to the blows of the Russian axe, no matter how strong may be the arms which poise the blow. We must not, however, in such a case as this be carried away overmuch by feeling. Save in the case of foreign intervention—and this means French intervention—any attempt at a national insurrection would again be quenched in blood. The heart of Poland beats as firmly, and the arm of Poland is as strong as ever; but without arsenals, magazines, artillery, organised forces, and, above all, financial credit, what could the Poles hope to accomplish against the Russian regiments, even thinned as they have been by the events of the Crimean War? If, indeed, the serious complications, which many persons anticipate, were to take place in Hungary; if the Russians, by some consummate blunder, were to expose themselves to such a catastrophe as Europe has already witnessed some half century ago, there might come a moment when a great enterprise might be attempted which would, if successful, undo that work of the cruel Triumvirate, which is known as the Partition of Poland. Otherwise the favourable chances are small. As many of us as remember the fatal days of Warsaw, which followed upon the French Revolution of 1830, would be slow to indulge in expressions of sympathy which might raise hopes which we could not fulfil. We left Hungary to her fate, and Italy too, in 1849, notwithstanding that the great bulk of the British nation sympathised most heartily with the cause of the Italians and the Hungarians. Even more recently the moral support afforded by Great Britain to the Italian Revolution has been of most efficient aid; but we should not have gone to war for the sake of the Italian Peninsula, and Europe knows it! Were the Poles so ill advised as to rely upon British enthusiasm for more than a good subscription, they would find themselves grievously mistaken, and their last condition would be worse than their first. It was good news, as far as it went, which was published in London on Friday last, to the effect that the party in Poland which was for open insurrection, was but small. The Poles, generally, were convinced that any such movement which was not supported by foreign intervention, could not ultimately succeed. Prince Gortschakoff, who seems to have acted throughout with considerable moderation and forbearance, had appointed a delegation of twenty-four citizens of Warsaw, eight of whom were to sit at the Town Hall, alternately, for the purpose of maintaining the public tranquillity. True it is, that the telegram concluded with the following ominous words, “The garrison at Warsaw is being nightly increased by other troops.” It is, however, better that it should be so, if nothing is to be expected from insurrection. Better is it that such a force should be concentrated on the spot, as should extinguish all hope, than that a movement should be taken in hand in which thousands would be compromised without any hope of a beneficial result.

In the Italian peninsula matters are in a far more promising condition than they were ten days ago. If we may trust at all to the signs of the times, the days of the Papacy—as a temporal power—are numbered. The Pope—or rather his advisers—will listen to no compromise, and there certainly does appear a probability that the French garrison may be withdrawn ere long. The French Chambers have declared their opinion strongly enough—and the efforts made in the other direction by the Ultramontane party have rather betrayed the weakness of the Pope’s French adherents than aided his cause. The project for reviving and giving fresh force to the liberties of the Gallican Church is again freely discussed. The speech delivered the other day by the cousin of the French Emperor may not unreasonably be accepted in the main as the embodiment of Louis Napoleon’s own views. We find the offer now made has dwindled down to the proportions of the city on the right bank of the Tiber. Even this proposal will soon be contracted to the dimensions of an offer of a house and garden, unless Cardinal Antonelli should make up his mind that the day for the rejection of compromise is past. Louis Napoleon is still obviously feeling his way. He has not yet quite made up his mind to set his Ultramontane Priesthood, and the ignorant peasants whom they lead, at defiance; but his progress is all in that direction. He might well take a leaf out of the book of the English Premier. To be sure, Lord Palmerston has not so large a stake upon the board as Louis Napoleon, but he is an old man—a very old man, and no doubt he wishes to die First Minister of England. Now, the stability of his ministry is most seriously compromised by the policy which he and his colleagues have pursued upon the Italian question. The Irish Roman Catholics have determined at all hazards to drive him from office on account of the support which he has afforded to the enemies of the Papacy. They are within an ace of success; for it was but a week ago that the present administration were beaten upon a division in a tolerably full House, and only escaped a second defeat upon the same night by giving up the point in dispute. Lord Palmerston does not suffer himself to be diverted one whit from his settled purpose by this formidable opposition. Whatever his personal ambition may be, he appears to see clearly enough that it is better for him to lose power as the great supporter of the cause of Italian independence, than to retain it as the partizan of the Papacy. The Italian question will ultimately cause the destruction of his administration; and yet by a strange anomaly it is the very reason why he is maintained in office for a time. Whilst the French garrison remains at Rome—whilst the future fortune of Italy still remains undecided—the country would not bear to see power transferred from his hands to those of any other statesman. As soon as it is settled, there is no reason why the ordinary laws of Parliamentary life in this country should not recover their force, and why a political party—so grievously divided against itself as is the Liberal party at the present moment—should not make way for its opponents. The Liberals can only recover strength in opposition. Lord John Russell has given up the question of Reform, and as soon as the affairs of Italy are settled, Lord Palmerston’s administration will in all probability be dissolved. All depends, however, upon the turn events may take in Europe during the next few weeks. Should events pass off quietly, it seems probable enough that with the discussion upon the Budget we may see a change of administration. When they are once out of power, the Liberals in their turn will begin to look to the registration with greater assiduity. Grievances which seemed intolerable when the party was in power will be salved over in opposition. The Conservatives in their turn will make blunders, and in due course their rivals, refreshed by adversity, will return to power.

The Italian discussion of Last Week in the English House of Commons was especially marked by the eloquent speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Mr. Gladstone has justly enough earned for himself the reputation of a brilliant orator, but he never speaks half as well as upon Italian affairs. Upon these his feelings are strangely interested,—he has travelled much in Italy,—he has long lived on terms of personal intimacy with the most eminent Italians of the age,—he has visited the dungeons in which the victims of the King of Naples suffered such long and such grievous torture—and when he is speaking of Italy he forgets all those tricks of oratory, and all those hair-splitting distinctions amidst which, upon other occasions, his mind seems to revel.

So many men were associated here—so many others were screwed up in miserable dungeons there, by the orders of the various Italian rulers, because they had expressed, or were suspected of liberal opinions. Mr. Gladstone seems to have the Newgate Calendar of Italy, for the last thirty years, in his mind, and when he once begins upon the subject his memory is inexhaustible. The discussion of Thursday night, in which the British Ultramontanes had taken so prominent a part was—as Mr. Samuel Pepys would have expressed—it, “mightily refreshed” by this plain and earnest speech of Mr. Gladstone. He swept away, with a few broad statements, all the assertions and quibbles of the speakers who had preceded him in the Debate, and rendered the position of those who were to follow him untenable. Mr. Gladstone very often brings embarrassment upon his colleagues, but by his Italian speech he has rendered them a service which may be reckoned as a set-off for many offences.

There is the demonstration at Warsaw—there is this matter of Italy, which may be taken as two of the chief events of Last Week. If we cast about for a third, we have not far to seek. The turn which affairs are taking just now on the other side of the Atlantic is of as much importance, not only to the States—we must no longer speak of the United States—of North America, but to the inhabitants of these islands. Within the last few days we have received the manifesto of Mr. Jefferson Davis, who seems to be accepted as the President of the new Southern Confederation, and the counter declarations of Abraham Lincoln, the new President, as delivered at the various towns through which he passed on his way to Washington, to take his place in succession to Mr. Buchanan. Never did American Ruler have a thornier seat. In his declaration we do not find any suggestions of surrender. He will have nothing to do with invasion, or coercion; but he will only despatch forces to keep possession of the property of the Confederation—as forts, custom-houses, &c., situated in the Southern States. Like the quaker on board the frigate in action, he will not bear arms, but only take an enemy by the collar and hurl him into the sea, with the courteous remark, “Friend, what doest thou here?” Mr. Lincoln will only retain possession of the strong places in the seceding States, and cut them off from all the benefits of the united government until they come to terms—that is all. Of coercion he will not hear one word. Heaven forbid that anybody should ever make use of such a term in connection with Mr. President’s policy towards the free and independent citizens of the confederated States. On the other hand, the manifesto of Mr. Jefferson Davis tells us not much directly; but from its terms we may infer that the Southern States are resolved to go on with the matter they have taken in hand. The manifesto has all the twang of those remarkable State Papers which were put forward by the leaders of the first French Revolution when they were bent upon doing an act of peculiar violence and atrocity. It is full of high-sounding phrases about political independence and pure morality. Ethics are freely discussed in it, but of slavery there is not a word. This is an omission of some importance. It must be confessed at the same time that the Northern States have chosen a most awkward moment for adding complications to their actual position by bringing forward a High Protection Tariff, which, if carried out according to its terms, would shut up the States against the European manufacturer and producer, as far as such a result can be accomplished by tariffs and fiscal regulations. No thought of the per contra appears to have entered into the minds of its framers. It would be superfluous here to discuss again the principles at issue in the two great questions of Negro Slavery and Commercial Protection—but it has been considered that the following figures may assist the reader’s judgment in arriving at some conclusion with regard to the probable results of the present American difficulties. The tables have been very carefully collected, and revised by Mr. Wyld, of Charing Cross, in illustration of a little map of the United States which he has just published, and may be depended upon.

Real and Personal Property in the Free States 4,102,172,108
Ditto in the Slave States, including Slaves 2,936,081,731
Ditto in the Slave States, not including Slaves 1,336,090,737
The Value of the slaves is computed for the whole Slave Population at 500 dollars per head.
Persons holding 1 Slave 68,820
2 to 9 || 105,683
5 to 9 || 60,765
10 to 19 || 54,595
50 to 99 || 6,196
100 to 199 || 1,479
200 to 299 || 187
300 to 499 || 56
500 to 999 || 9
1000 and upwards || 2
The total number of Persons holding Slaves 347,525

States. || White. || Free Colored. || Total Populatn. || Militia.
California || 91,685 || 962 || 507,067 || 207,730
Connecticut || 363,699 || 7,693 || 370,792 || 51,605
Illinois || 846,034 || 5,436 || l,306,574 || 257,420
Indiana 977,154 || 11,262 || 988, 416 || 53,913
Iowa || 191,881 || 333 || 633,549 ||
Maine || 581,813 || 1,356 || 583,169 || 73,552
Massachusetts || 985,450 || 9,064 || 1,132,369 || 153,453
Michigan || 395,071 || 2,583 || 511,672 || 97,094
Minnesota || 150,000 || 42 || 150,042 || 2,003
New Hampshire || 317,456 520 317,976 33,538
New York || 3,048,325 || 49,069 || 3,466,212 || 337,  35
New Jersey || 465,509 || 23,810 || 489,555 || 81,984
Ohio || 1,955,050 || 25,279 || 2,368,0  0 || 176,455
Pennsylvania || 2,258,160 || 83,626 || 2,311,786 || 147,973
Rhode Island || 143,875 || 3,670 || 147,545 || 16,711
Vermont || 313,402 || 718 || 814,120 || 23,915
Wisconsin || 304,756 || 635 || 552,451 || 51,321

States. || White. || Free Clord. || Slaves. || Total Poplatn. || Militia.
Alabama || 464,456 || 2,466 || 374,782 || 841,704 || 76,662
Arkansas || 247,131 || 748 || 83,334 || 331,213 || 36,054
Delaware || 71,169 || 18,073 || 2,290 || 91,532 || 9,229
Florida || 60,493 || 804 || 49,526 || 110,823 || 12,122
Georgia || 571,534 || 3,292 || 439,592 || 1,014,418 || 78,699
Kentucky || 761,413 || 10,011 || 210,981 || 982,405 || 88,979
Louisiana 325,007 18,164 303,800 646,971 91,284
Maryland || 417,943 || 74,723 || 90,368 || 583,034 || 46,864
Mississippi || 295,718 || 930 || 309,878 || 606,526 || 36,084
Missouri || 592,004 || 2,618 || 87,422 || 682,044 || 118,047
North Carolina || 553,028 || 27,463 || 288,548 || 869,039 || 79,448
South Carolina || 274,563 || 8,960 || 384,984 || 668,507 || 36,072
Tennessee || 756,836 || 6,422 || 239,459 || 1,005,717 || 71,252
Texas || 154,034 || 397 || 58,161 || 212,592 || 19,766
Virginia || 1,087,918 || 59,118 || 511,154 || 1,658,190 || 150,000
Dist. of Columbia || 51,687 || 10,059 || 3,687 || 65,433 || 8,201

The whole population of the 33 States, then, according to the above tables, is 27,112,000; the number of the slaves is 3,878,000; the population of the territories, including Kanzas, 384,856. Grand total, 31,374,856.

A careful consideration of the above figures will give a better idea of the relative strength of the parties to this great dispute than pages of comment. The Slave States are mainly for Free Trade—the Free States for Protection. It is difficult for an Englishman to have hearty sympathy with either side.