Page images
[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]
[ocr errors][merged small]


THE old platform of religious exclusives—“ Resolved, 1st, that the earth belongs to the saints; and-Resolved, 2dly, that we are the saints"-was not original with the fanatics to whom it has been imputed. It is, in fact, but a summary of the code of public law which prevailed in Europe at the period when America was discovered. The nations calling themselves Christian assumed the right of seizing and occupying all lands inhabited by barbarians, and in case of a dispute as to boundaries or priority of claim, the Pope was recognized as the supreme judge and divider among them, from whose decrees there was no appeal but to the ultimate arbitrament of arms. A comparison of this simple code with that complicated system of rules by which the intercourse of nations is now regulated, would show the advance which civilization has made in this respect since the Reformation. In modern public law, some apology for the seizure of territories, occupied by barbarians, is deemed necessary, beyond the grants of the Pope, or the natural rights of Christians to the ownership of the whole earth. There were certain rules by which European nations agreed to divide the American continent among themselves, and these are still referred to among diplomatists in discussing questions of boundary and the like. But the validity of the original title is no longer allowed to be drawn into discussion. It is sufficient to say that all America is held under titles derived from the governments of Europe. And all questions of title, except as modified by local law, are decided according to the rules and principles of the European country to whose original sovereignty all rights of individual ownership refer. It is impossible, therefore, to suppress this fact, in any faithful investigation of our relations to Europe.

But in addition to this, we must remember that every civilized community on this continent was originally constituted by

the authority of some European monarch, and for about two centuries was governed by the laws, and disposed of by the will of the mother country. They were mere dependent colonies, having no rights except by the gift of their sovereigns, and, indeed, were held to be owned as the rightful property of those sovereigns, and liable as property to be assigned by one to another, or captured in war from one by another, at will, like any other absolute possession. They were simple appendages of the political system of Europe, liable at any time, without any will or agency of their own, to be involved in the calamities and responsibilities of war, for objects in which they had no interest, and then to have the war ended by treaty in which their welfare received no consideration. Without having any voice in the matter, they could be transferred to new masters, or used in any. other way as mere counters in the settlement of dynastic quarrels, or make-weights in the re-adjustment of the European "Balance of Power."


The Declaration of Independence was the first breath of independent national life on this continent. The United States assumed at once the rank and the responsibilities of a real nation among nations, having the right to govern itself, to make war and peace, and to determine its own policy in relation to other nations, according to its own judgment of its own interests and duties. This new nation was not in Europe, was not subject to the liabilities of the European governments, not interested in the rise and fall of European dynasties, not concerned for the maintenance of the balance of power in Europe, not subject to the calculations and complications of European statesmanship. It was a new sensation, an unsolved problem, to meet face to face an American nation, civilized, Christian, responsible, and respectable, demanding a place among the family of nations, as one of them, and yet separate and aloof from all the machinations of diplomacy, and unconcerned in any of the anxieties of state-craft. No wonder that kings and courts were at a loss and uneasy with such an anomaly. From that day no art or effort has been left untried to bring the United States into their circle, as a new subject for their tricks and maneuvers.

The philosophical student of history, who looks deeply into

[ocr errors]


the springs and currents of national sympathy and antipathy, will be struck with admiration at the completeness of our separation from European politics, so that no friendships ensnared us, no professions seduced us, no fears intimidated us, to swerve from our isolated position. From a century of dependence, we rose by a leap to independence. We had a war with France and a war with England, to prove that we were independent, and to show that we dared and were able to assert and enjoy our rights, as an independent power, unconnected with the political fortunes of European nations. And we began to be understood in Europe. The result was well stated by Mr. Richard Rush, who was our Minister to England from 1817 to 1825. In the second series of his "Memoranda of a Residence at the Court of London," he says:

"Let me here give brief expression to a feeling I often had during my mission; one which is common, I suppose, to every minister of the United States abroad. It is, his feeling of entire independence of the combinations and movements going on among other powers. Properly improved, this makes his personal situation agreeable, as well with the court where he may be residing, as with the entire diplomatic corps. For his country, he has only to be just and fear not. The smaller Powers cannot have this calm assurance; and the representatives of the Great Powers naturally respect the office of American Minister, from a knowledge of the resources and growing power of the nation that sends him; and also (some of them) from dreaming of contingencies which may make the friendship of the United States desirable, though their maxim be, ‘Peace and commerce with all nations, entangling alliance with none.' One of the members of the corps who witnessed the salutations passing between Lord Castlereagh and myself, said to me a few minutes afterwards, ‘How happy you must feel in these times when none of us know what is to happen in Europe!-you belong to us (meaning the corps), yet you are independent.'" pp. 357-8.

Such was the practical estimate formed by diplomatists of the actual situation of the United States among the nations of Európe, as observed by one of the most calm and cautious of our statesmen, with ample experience. We were among them, but not of them; concerned in all that concerned them, on the ground of common humanity and equal civilization; liable to be affected in our interests by all their movements, which we were therefore obliged to comprehend and to watch; but not forming a part of their "system," to be dictated to by their will, to be assigned our place by their arbitrament, or to be disposed of in accordance with their varying interests or arbitrary caprices. We can ap

« PreviousContinue »