But there are seasons when the evils of peace, though not so acutely felt, are immeasurably greater, and when a powerful nation, by admitting the right of any autocrat to do wrong, sows by such complicity the seeds of its own ruin, and overshadows itself in time to come with that fatal influence which great and ambitious powers are sure to exercise over their weaker neighbours.
Therefore it is, ladies and gentlemen, that the tree has not its root in English ground from which the yard wand can be made that will measure--the mine has not its place in English soil that will supply the material of a pair of scales to weigh the influence that may be at stake in the war in which we are now straining all our energies. That war is, at any time and in any shape, a most dreadful and deplorable calamity, we need no proverb to tell us; but it is just because it is such a calamity, and because that calamity must not for ever be impending over us at the fancy of one man against all mankind, that we must not allow that man to darken from our view the figures of peace and justice between whom and us he now interposes.
Ladies and gentlemen, if ever there were a time when the true spirits of two countries were really fighting in the cause of human advancement and freedom--no matter what diplomatic notes or other nameless botherations, from number one to one hundred thousand and one, may have preceded their taking the field--if ever there were a time when noble hearts were deserving well of mankind by exposing themselves to the obedient bayonets of a rash and barbarian tyrant, it is now, when the faithful children of England and France are fighting so bravely in the Crimea. Those faithful children are the admiration and wonder of the world, so gallantly are they discharging their duty; and therefore I propose to an assembly, emphatically representing the interests and arts of peace, to drink the health of the Allied Armies of England and France, with all possible honours.
[In proposing the health of the Treasurer, Mr. Dickens said:-]
If the President of this Institution had been here, I should possibly have made one of the best speeches you ever heard; but as he is not here, I shall turn to the next toast on my list:- "The health of your worthy Treasurer, Mr. George Moore," a name which is a synonym for integrity, enterprise, public spirit, and benevolence. He is one of the most zealous officers I ever saw in my life; he appears to me to have been doing nothing during the last week but rushing into and out of railway-carriages, and making eloquent speeches at all sorts of public dinners in favour of this charity. Last evening he was at Manchester, and this evening he comes here, sacrificing his time and convenience, and exhausting in the meantime the contents of two vast leaden inkstands and no end of pens, with the energy of fifty bankers' clerks rolled into one. But I clearly foresee that the Treasurer will have so much to do to-night, such gratifying sums to acknowledge and such large lines of figures to write in his books, that I feel the greatest consideration I can show him is to propose his health without further observation, leaving him to address you in his own behalf. I propose to you, therefore, the health of Mr. George Moore, the Treasurer of this charity, and I need hardly add that it is one which is to be drunk with all the honours.
[Later in the evening, Mr. Dickens rose and said:-]
So many travellers have been going up Mont Blanc lately, both in fact and in fiction, that I have heard recently of a proposal for the establishment of a Company to employ Sir Joseph Paxton to take it down. Only one of those travellers, however, has been enabled to bring Mont Blanc to Piccadilly, and, by his own ability and good humour, so to thaw its eternal ice and snow, as that the most timid lady may ascend it twice a-day, "during the holidays," without the smallest danger or fatigue. Mr. Albert Smith, who is present amongst us to-night, is undoubtedly "a traveller." I do not know whether he takes many orders, but this I can testify, on behalf of the children of his friends, that he gives them in the most liberal manner.