NOT even his self-immolating conduct during the Crimean War outshines the courage and sagacity of Bright's campaign for the American cause in England in the four tragic years of 1861-1864.
True, his was not a solitary voice. Other men of eminence, and of the greatest eminence--the Prince Consort, the Duke of Argyll and Lord Stanley, for example--stood out high above the ruck of folly, prejudice and envy in which English statesmanship grovelled so abjectly while the Republic fought for its life. But Bright's was the clearest, the most distinguished, and finally the most regarded of all the voices that, from the onset of the crisis to the end, never wavered in support of Lincoln and the Union. The brilliant course of his advocacy can be followed in his speeches and in the letters to Sumner. It explains why Bright, who never set foot in America, was of all Englishmen in the ʼsixties the most admired and revered by the American people.
He faced unflinchingly the animosity of ignorance and the contempt of aristocratic presumption even in such eruptions of national passion as the quarrel over the affair of the Trent. But still more remarkable than this heroic temerity were his calm temper and unerring foresight. In a long lifetime Bright gave the world many evidences of political wisdom, but never more immediately and decisively than now did he tear out the core of a question. Stripping the North v. South controversy of all its camouflage of fiscal grievance and constitutional conundrum, he disclosed to the nation its fundamental issue--Freedom or Slavery. By forcing the question of emancipation uppermost in the public mind he performed a signal service to his country and to humanity, for to this question England could give in the long run but one answer. It was the conclusive counterstroke against those powerful social and political elements in English life which, jealous of the advancing wealth and power of America, desired nothing so much as its dismemberment.
Bright might fairly claim to have foreseen long ago not only the