Bust of John Passmore Edwards

The Autobiography of John Passmore Edwards



One of the memories I cherish is interwoven with some articles I wrote entitled "Two Sisters," the first of which appeared in the People's Journal, September 23rd, 1848. The two sisters were England and France, and the articles were written to show that there was no shadow of reason or necessity that the two nations should look at each other with smouldering suspicion or as "natural enemies," as many, on the platform and in the Press, strongly maintained at the time; but there was abundant reason and necessity why they should regard each other as natural friends. I said: "Why should two nations whose geographical positions were so contiguous, whose history moved on somewhat parallel lines, whose institutions were moulded by similar forces, who inherited and enjoyed a common civilisation, and who could, with equal advantage, and in a variety of ways, promote each other's welfare -why should two such nations look at each other with jealous or angry eyes and make vast preparations to check, counteract, or crush each other? Because, as nations, they have not consulted their best interests, or appreciated each other's nobler qualities."
The articles were not altogether fruitless. Portions of them were, with the timely assistance of Joseph Sturge, translated into French and sent to French newspapers, and in several instances got friendly notice. This was followed by a collective visit of British workmen to Paris, which was succeeded by a return visit of two hundred Frenchmen to London. These were the first visits of the kind, and we are now happily getting familiar with them. It was very different when the articles on the "Two Sisters" were written fifty-seven years ago. Then, in vindicating the international sisterhood of England and France, it was as difficult to move against the stream of opinion as it is now getting easy to move with it. If so much progress has been effected in such a comparatively short space of time, are we not justified in expecting similar progress in future?
The general good feeling and understanding between England and the United States of America carry with them an alluring prospect. Though conflicting opinions and occasional frictions may arise between the two countries, another war between them is well-nigh impossible; and this condition of things may be accepted as a permanent conquest of civilisation. What has been done by pacific inclinations and tendencies between England and the United States may be accomplished by England and France. Then England would be enabled to shake hands in perpetual friendship with the great Republic across the Atlantic and with another great Republic across the British Channel, and so present to the world another historic product of progress.
And what England, France, and the United States may do during the present generation, other nations, to their immeasurable advantage, may imitate in riper times. 6
Though the war spirit and war methods of destruction abound and press heavily on civilisation, they are hopefully assailed in many ways from many directions. Internationalism gradually gains ground. Numerous social and political activities, the conquering march of science around the world, reciprocal civic, economic, and journalistic hospitalities, mutual labour greetings and movements, and ever-increasing demands for political freedom in several nations, are all pacific in character and tendency. A scientific discovery in Germany or the United States soon becomes the inheritance of all nations. A notable book published in Russia or Norway or Holland is anticipated from sea to sea, and soon gets translated into half a dozen or half a score different languages. A remarkable work of art produced in one nation, whether it be picture, poem, musical or dramatic composition, elicits cosmopolitan smiles and cheers. The yearly Nobel £8,000 Peace Prize is, in seen and unseen ways, producing excellent results. Few things are more certain than the progress of democracy in many nations, and as a rule peace and democracy go hand in hand. The socialists of Germany say they will not fight and kill the socialists of France; and it is within the limits of possibility that professing Christians, in the name of their Master, the Prince of Peace, may, as circumstances ripen, make a similar declaration. Industrial development, a commanding fact and factor, is unmistakably pacific in effect; and the Labour Party-a great and growing party-is charged with a similar spirit. In fact, civilised peoples are, year by year, getting more civilised, and kings, presidents, cabinet ministers, and ambassadors are, from necessity as well as inclination, getting more and more conciliatory in their active policy. Much, if not most, of what is best in human nature is making for what is best for human nature, and the altruistic dreams of one age ripen into realisations in succeeding times.
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April 18, 2005
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© Dean Evans 2003