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From the Speech on Non-Recognition of the Southern Confederacy (1861)

By John Bright (1811–1889)

I ADVISE you, and I advise the people of England, to abstain from applying to the United States doctrines and principles which we never apply to our own case. At any rate, they [the Americans] have never fought “for the balance of power” in Europe. They have never fought to keep up a decaying empire. They have never squandered the money of their people in such a phantom expedition as we have been engaged in. And now, at this moment, when you are told that they are going to be ruined by their vast expenditure,—why, the sum that they are going to raise in the great emergency of this grievous war is not greater than what we raise every year during a time of peace.

They say they are not going to liberate slaves. No; the object of the Washington government is to maintain their own Constitution and to act legally, as it permits and requires. No man is more in favor of peace than I am; no man has denounced war more than I have, probably, in this country; few men in their public life have suffered more obloquy—I had almost said, more indignity—in consequence of it. But I cannot for the life of me see, upon any of those principles upon which States are governed now,—I say nothing of the literal word of the New Testament,—I cannot see how the state of affairs in America, with regard to the United States government, could have been different from what it is at this moment. We had a Heptarchy in this country, and it was thought to be a good thing to get rid of it, and have a united nation. If the thirty-three or thirty-four States of the American Union can break off whenever they like, I can see nothing but disaster and confusion throughout the whole of that continent. I say that the war, be it successful or not, be it Christian or not, be it wise or not, is a war to sustain the government and to sustain the authority of a great nation; and that the people of England, if they are true to their own sympathies, to their own history, and to their own great act of 1834, to which reference has already been made, will have no sympathy with those who wish to build up a great empire on the perpetual bondage of millions of their fellow-men.