‘Imperialism’ by A Christian Democrat (6 March, 1880)

The following is an editorial that appeared in the ‘People’s Journal’ under the name ‘A Christian Democrat’. The newspaper endorsed the Gladstone’s Liberals in the 1880 general election.

“In their long defence of slavery in the British Colonies; in their open sympathy with the slaveholding confederacy; in their treatment of the black men in Jamacia [sic]; in their defence of the lash in the army for the back of the common soldier; in their constant insulting treatment of Irishmen, this Tory spirit has been manifested.”

Sir,—Imperialism is a hateful word to every true friend of liberty. Events have proved that the change in the style of the Sovereign was only too faithful a symbol of the change in the policy of Britain. Our Government has become Imperial in the very worst sense of that unwelcome word. The Ministers of England used to boast of her justice. Now they parade her power. Our statesmen used to speak of the duty England owed to humanity, of her homage to morality, her sympathy with freedom the world over. Now we hear only of British interests. War is declared, respective of the people. They are only consulted after a policy is adopted; and war is defended, not because the duty of making it could not be denied, but solely because some supposed interest of Britain required bloodshed.

The whole power of England is hurled against barbarous nations. Warriors are sent by express to ravage and destroy, and when they return from their inglorious work of devastation they are sent post haste to Balmoral to receive the congratulations of the Empress of India, and are awarded the honours of the State. Thus the Government ministers to the vainglory of the thoughtless who control elections thus they flatter the army and win favour from a Court which has always felt Constitutional Government, especially in foreign affairs, less to its taste than Imperial sway. More even than blundering misgovernment has this haughty, domineering, Imperial temper alienated and embittered the spirit of the Irish people, and turned millions of men into our bitter enemies. In India this same domineering spirit has now full scope.

Surely justice and wisdom alike should dictate a policy of kindliness, moderation, and goodwill. But this boastful Government, for the sake of displaying military glory and physical force, fling away moral influence, and pursue a course which ever reminds India of her subjection. Young Indian men are being educated in thousands. Their quick intellects will perceive that England desires constantly to remind them of their subjection as a conquered and inferior race. Every public document, every proclamation of the Government, every stamp of the Post Office will tell them that they are not our fellow subjects under a Constitutional Sovereign, herself subject to law, but that they are the conquered races who are dominated by an Empress.

Sir, I protest against this unchristian and unwise system of Government repugnant to every idea of justice and opposed to the whole spirit of the British Constitution. Shall I be told that I am putting an interpretation upon this new title which it will not bear; so the Liberals were told who protested against it at the time. Let the events which have taken place since the title was assumed bear witness to the truth of my interpretation of this ominous and hateful symbol. This spirit has been exhibited now and again, but was never allowed to sully the lustre of the Crown till now. In their long defence of slavery in the British Colonies; in their open sympathy with the slaveholding confederacy; in their treatment of the black men in Jamacia [sic]; in their defence of the lash in the army for the back of the common soldier; in their constant insulting treatment of Irishmen, this Tory spirit has been manifested. Edmund Burke devoted his noble life to rebuke this spirit in Indian administration, and never since he died has any Government dared to parade this domineering Imperialism still this Tory Government has avowed it.

Sir, we are making ourselves hated with a bitterness which will bear fruit. This policy is destructive to commerce and injurious to trade; diminishes the wages of our artisans and increases their burdens. America, at this hour under the influence of the Irish vote, is very unfriendly, and free trade is delayed, not so much for financial reasons, as because Protection is irritating to British interests. All over the world we are making enemies. In Central Asia, in China, in the North West of India we are giving no other reason for our course of cruelty and wrong than that British interests require it. I suppose with as good reason and with similar effrontery the Pharoahs [sic] pled Egyptian interests as their excuse when they flung the men children into the waters of the Nile. In this way future danger to Egyptian interests was averted, but it has been reserved for the nineteenth century and for Christian Britain to parade national interests as an adequate excuse for sending fire and sword, the halter of the hangman, and the torch of the incendiary into defenceless villages, and for letting loose a soldiery, which Dr Russell (who should know) is utterly ashamed of, upon helpless populations. Sir, I call upon all Christian men to repudiate a system so destructive to British influence, so dishonouring to the British name. Temporary success may for an hour dazzle the thoughtless, please the army, or delight the Court, but millions of men are rising up to avenge this defiance of justice, this outrage upon humanity.

That the good town of Dundee should have been dragged forward to support a Government like this is grievous indeed. It is well that the M.P. who has so sullied her political reputation dare not face his constituents. We are not to be insulted as wanting in patriotism because we refuse to become partakers in this boastful and bloody policy of the Tories. It is because I love my country, because I would see her influence grow and her name held in honour and reverence for justice and for righteousness; it is because I would have England loved by every race subject to her sway that I repudiate this Imperialism which is destroying her influence and sapping the true foundations of her power. I call on the men of Dundee, of Inverness, of Perthshire, to let their voice be hearted with no uncertain sound in this crisis of our history. I care not whether it be by a proud majority in Parliament, by a military caste, or an ambitious Court, or by all combined, that this policy so unworthy of the great past of British history is pursued, I enter my protest against it, and I call on all British men to stamp this arrogant assumption of Imperialism beneath their feet. Sir, I point the Imperialists to St Helena after a generation of gunpowder and glory. I ask them to turn their eyes towards St Petersburg and witness the terrible condition to which Imperialism has brought the best man that every tried to work their detestable system of Government, which is the curse of Russia. Sir, I ask them to remember Sedan and Chislehurst, and tremble for the fate of Emperors. Especially I call upon all Christian Democrats who love Britain and are friends of freedom to quench this arrogant inflammatory spirit, and to put an end to this Government which excuses hideous crimes under pretence that British interests require their committal, and which is raising up hatreds which shall plunge future generations into the horrors of avenging wars, and is bringing on England the curse of every people who have to submit to a cruel, unrighteous, and domineering away.

A Christian Democrat.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s