02 FEBRUARY 1901
If I lived next door to a little man and, lusting for his property, took up a poker and went in to him and battered out his brains, that would be a cowardly murder, and if I were caught I would be duly hanged—unless I had friends in the Government; and the newspapers would thank God the world was rid of a monster—unless I had friends in the Press—and issue stop-press editions with imaginary accounts of my behaviour on the scaffold, and swindle the public out of its ha’pence.
But if I were a Merrie Englander, lusting after the country of a little people, and I went into them and slaughtered them, that would be British Imperialism. I would be dined and winded, and wear laurels on my brow, and the newspapers would call me a hero, and print anecdotes, inserted at half-a-crown apiece, of my gallantry, chivalry, and magnanimity; thanksgiving services would be held for my safe return, and God Almighty politely congratulated by the ministers of religion on his good sense in creating me. The Rev. Dr. Talmage—who is at present troubled in his mind to know whether the Throne of Victoria or the Throne of Heaven was the higher—would possibly dedicate a church to me. Not being an idiot, and knowing I was a cur and an assassin, I would laugh quietly at the cutthroat cowards in top-hats and frock coats who honoured me—scorn them, because they had the murderer’s heart without the murderer’s courage.
I knew a band of scoundrels in my time—men who went out on the road and in the way of business pumped lead without compunction into the body of the wayfarer who held on to his purse. After working hours they were civil rascals, with an aversion to talking shop. I have talked with such men, and I would have joyfully seen them hanged. But to talk with the slimy scoundrels in broadcloth who wave tall hats and howl Hosanna to the assassins, the incendiaries, the outragers of women, the looters, is something I am not strong enough to do. My scoundrels were no hypocrites. When ministers of religion pray for blessings on the murderer and his work who but a reader of the Irish Times thinks for a moment that these whited sepulchres believe in the Crucified?
Hypocrites all. I have lived amongst and worked with these English, and I never knew one of them who wasn’t a hypocrite. While they were waving Yankee flags and singing ‘Yankee Doodle’ a few years ago they were praying to the demon they call God that the Yankees—whom they hate and fear—might be soundly whipped by the Spaniards. They shrug their shoulders and roll their eyes when you mention Paris, but a resurrected citizen of Sodom would sprint back for the Dead Sea after a day in London. Seventy years ago they knocked the shackles off the slave, and you can buy him now from £5 to £15 in Rhodesia. Five years ago they knocked the Sultan of Zanzibar’s police into a cocked hat—and blew the harem to pieces for the satisfaction of the British matron—because the Sultan had Oriental ideas on the slave question. Three years afterwards I stood in the Zanzibar slave market, and watched the poor iron-collared wrist-and-ankle-chained wretched being bought and sold with the Union Jack flapping over their heads. And I sat on the shore and watched the slave dhows with their freight sailing by the roadstead and saluting the British war vessels as they passed. A wonderful people these English, and if we sell them our souls—all they have left us—they may give us in exchange a puppet-show in College-green to amuse us. And Mr. Redmond and Mr. O’Brien will be quite satisfied.
There are two reasons why British Imperialism should lack proselytes. The first is an Irish reason—it is robbery plus murder. The second is an English one—it won’t pay. The experiment of trying to coin dividends out of Boer blood ruined it.