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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 12

The International Era

The International Era.

The last, outside, all-embracing circle of human society is now forming rapidly. It has taken more than five thousand years to reach this point of social intercourse in the commonwealth of mankind. First came the private family, then the clan or tribe; then the family of tribes, or of small communities, called a nation, and there the social principle stuck in the mud for several centuries. During this period patriotism showed itself intensely local and selfish. Nations were just on speaking terms with each other, and often very polite, and bowed and scraped at their diplomatic interviews with a good deal of polished and superficial grace. But there was no steady and generous fellow-feeling or friendship between them. It was the great merit and ambition of their leading statesmen to be intensely national; to think of nothing that might work for the good of any country but their own. In these later years another class of men has arisen; a new era has dawned; it may be said that it came in with Richard Cobden. It is the international era, and its leaders are the international men; men who have enlarged the disk of their vision to take in the universal good of mankind; who inaugurate principles equally valuable and applicable to all nations, and inevitably binding them together by new bonds of peace and amity. The lives of such men are valued by different countries, as if they were a common stock of beneficence; whose deaths spread an equal sorrow over Christendom, each nation feeling as if it had sustained the largest loss in the bereavement.

It is very remarkable and promising withal, how rapidly this international era develops itself The first Peace Congress on the Continent in 1848, was the first public and decided manifestation of it. In 1851, it showed itself more fully in the Great Exhibition. From that time to the present moment it has gone on, developing new features and conditions of international fellowship, and these the most marked between England and France, two countries that once seemed to represent the most obstinate and hereditary antagonisms that could exist between two nations. The change in their relations and mutual attitudes presents one of the most remarkable transformations the world has seen. First came a series of intimate co-partnerships in enterprises of great moment, and they worked together in these with such confidence in each other honour, that in all matters of peace and war, present or perspective, this co-operation began to resemble a page 563 habit. Then the new Treaty of Commerce added its great bond to these other relations, and before it had been at work two years, such fraternisations as took place between the two nations would have filled the mind of the most enthusiastic optimist of the last decade with utter astonishment. Suppose any member of the great Peace Congress in Exeter Hall in 1851, had prognosticated such a Bal Mobile of the giants as came off at Portsmouth between the English and Trench, navies, would not the London Times of that day have come down upon with a fell swoop of satire for his visionary imagination? True it was a dance of the giants in mail; but as Bunyan said of one of his pilgrims, they "footed it well." They forgot their swords and spears, their iron-sides and steel-snouted rams as they sat two by twos at the banquet or tripped "the light fantastic toe" together to the strains of the midnight music. Then another demonstration of this international sentiment followed hard upon the Cherbourg and Portsmouth fraternisations. These had been the handshakings of Mars and Vulcan; the arm-in-arming of the great naval powers of the two nations. But the one that succeeded was one of the prettiest things ever done in international neighborhood; a natural, cosy, pleasant thing, showing how our social sympathies may be expanded to any circumference within the family circle of mankind. Cherbourg and Poole, having been recently brought into neighborly relations by the establishment of steam communication between them, have been taking a friendly cup of tea with each other in the most natural and kindly way imaginable. The descriptions both in English and French of these social re-unions are charming. They were brimful and running-overfull of downright heartiness; of that large hearted hospitality which is always more graceful and delicate than the most studied politeness. One of the Cherburghers had his poetic genius stirred to the following effusion at the banquet. We subjoin it literatim to show how the very languages of the two countries are beginning to fraternise with each other. Already the French has taken into itself scores of English words without modification, as "public meeting," "toast," &c.—

Je veux, lame encoro tout èmuo
Do l'accueil qu'ici l'on nous fait,
Célébrer notre bienvenue,
En improvisant un couplèt.
Que chacun remplisse son verre.
Et s'apprète â battre des mains,
Je porto un toast a nos voisins—
Hurrah! hurrah! pour l' Angleterre!

Loins de nos coeurs les jalousies,
Qui nous couterent tant de sang,
L'Angleterre et la Franco unies
Doivent briller au premier rang.
Je voue dans l'avenir prospére,
Poole à Cherbourg serrer les mains:
Portons un toast a nos voisins,
Hurrah! hurrah! pour l'Angleterre.

Here, then, are a few of the golden streaks of that new morning which seems to be rising upon the two nations; and if this be the morning, what shall be the noonday?

E. B.