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cedence given to them over the Corrupt Practices measure, so that the House of Lords, from which more practical and searching criticism where land questions are concerned, is to be expected, might have full leisure to consider them. We trust the Government does not intend to treat the Upper House, with respect to the Agricultural Holdings Bills, in the same fashion of arbitrary discourtesy that it showed in the case of the Irish Land Act. The Lords are quite entitled to demand ample time for the consideration of measures sent to them from the Lower House. They are by no means dilatory in the despatch of business; but it is an encroachment upon their privileges, as an independent Chamber of the Legislature, to send up important bills at a period of the session when they have no alternative except to scurry over them or throw them out. An altercation with the hereditary legislators would come so handy to Mr Gladstone and his colleagues in their present ebbing state of popularity, that they will doubtless be glad to embrace any constitutional means of compassing a quarrel before the commencement of the recess. The Ministry would with little regret see the Agricultural Bills lost either in the Lords or the Commons, provided they could extract from the failure an outcry by means of which they might reconcile themselves with the land-reforming Radicals, whose gloomy looks have begun to occasion the Government manifest uneasiness.
It would seem, however, as if the Ministry are not quite so confident of their capacity for agrarian legislation as they were two years ago. The position which the Government took up towards Lord George Hamilton's demand for a revision of the purchase clauses of the Irish Land Act not only be
trayed doubts of its own ability to remedy the defects of its Irish experiment, but showed that the Liberal views regarding the grievances of the Irish cultivators had undergone a marked change. The speech in which the Irish Secretary replied to Lord George is notable as containing an implied admission that the Liberals are now satisfied of the danger of seeking to conciliate Irish clamour by material concessions.
"The warmest admirers of the Land Act of 1881," said Mr Trevelyan, "would admit that, however necessary it might have been, it was nevertheless looked upon by the people of Ireland as being the fruit of political agitation. Nor could any one deny that the people of Ireland entertained the idea that by similar agitations in the future they would be able to get handed over to them portions of property which the landowners still looked upon as belonging to themselves. That was one of the
gravest political dangers of the future." We look upon Mr Trevelyan's admission as the frankest confession we have yet heard from any member of the Government that Mr Gladstone's remedial Irish policy has proved a failure in the past, and has created a menace for the future. It was Mr Gladstone's Government who, by yielding to agitation, taught the Irish people its success; and whatever evils spring to Ireland now from the still unsatisfied appetites of the Irish people, or whatever danger there is in the future, must, on Mr Trevelyan's own showing, be set down to the fact that the Liberal Government bent before agrarian agitation, and may therefore reasonably be expected to again prove pliable if only sufficient pressure be exerted.
The chief political divertissement* of the past month has been the descent of Mr Bright from his stilts at Birmingham to his marrow
bones at Westminster. Mr Bright has always been a privileged person in politics, and has had a greater licence allowed his tongue by all parties than has been conceded to any other contemporary statesman. The troubles in which his unruly member has nevertheless so frequently involved him might have been expected at his age to have taught him wisdom; but in his habits as in his ideas, he has never advanced beyond the corn-law era of his existence. Both Mr Gladstone and Earl Granville have long ago experienced the difficulties in which Mr Bright's vituperative powers involve his friends and his party; and both have had before this time to disclaim both him and his language. Mr Bright's recent remarks on the Opposition, and the sequel to them in the House of Commons, recall his famous letter to the secretary of the Liberal Association in Birmingham on the House of Lords and the former Irish Land Bill; and the humiliation to which he was exposed on that occasion was not more complete than was the penance which Sir Stafford Northcote compelled him to perform for his mendacious statements regarding the Conservative party acting in alliance with the Irish Home-Rulers. It may be asked why the leaders of the Opposition, who know Mr Bright so well, and who have had so many opportunities of forming a correct estimate of the weight which the public attaches to his statements, should have thought it worth while to challenge him to make good his words. It is not, however, the first time that an attempt has been made by the supporters and organs of Government to create an impression that the Opposition has been acting in concert with the Irish malcontent members to obstruct the legislative work of Government; and it was decidedly the
duty of the Conservative chief in the Commons to seize the first opportunity of grappling with the charge in a tangible form. It is not unnatural that the copartners to the treaty of Kilmainham should be anxious to make out that the Opposition has no more sense of honour than they themselves have shown; and Mr Bright's indiscretion, if passed over unnoticed, would assuredly have been quoted as a verification of such a theory. The senior member for Birmingham's palinode took the form of a laboured and peevish explanation of his meaning, lighted up by no single spark of generosity or frankness. He practically withdrew his statement that the Conservatives had been acting in alliance with "an Irish rebel party"; and then justified his licence to have made the charge by a singularly infelicitous reference to the Kilmainham treaty, which must have sent a cold shiver through the frames of his late colleagues. If the Conservatives could charge Ministers with having made a treaty " with the disaffected Irish leaders at Kilmainham, argued Mr Bright, why might not he retort by a charge of alliance against the Conservatives, when he found the Home-Rulers voting in the same lobby with them against the Affirmation Bill? There was this difference, that the Conservatives have pleaded hard for an opportunity of substantiating their statements regarding the treaty of Kilmainham, but have hitherto pleaded in vain; and that the Ministry, by its reticence on the subject, and its refusal to allow its conduct to be brought to the test of proof, practically pleaded guilty. On the other hand, Sir Stafford Northcote at once met Mr Bright's accusation by a challenge to make good his statement, and received in reply an explanation that the right honourable gentle
man had used a word which was on having secured a moral victory "liable to two explanations"- -a for the Conservative party. He clumsy apology, if his use of the has saved the Opposition from a word "alliance" had suggested a slander to which, if it had been meaning which he really did not allowed to pass unnoticed, the Libintend to convey. An element of erals would have given general curludicrousness was added to the sit- rency; he has read the Ministerial uation by Mr Bright's appeal to side a lesson as to the extent to the House to bear testimony to his which they may be allowed to carry character for courtesy. Many political vilification; and he has honourable gentlemen opposite have made the vapouring and exultation. known me for a long time-some of the Birmingham celebration end for forty years," pleaded Mr in a fiasco which will quite oblitBright; "and they have never erate the memory of it everywhere known me treat members with else except in that favoured city. discourtesy, and so long as they sit here they never will know it"-an assertion which naturally produced exclamations of "Oh! oh!" We would readily acquit Mr Bright of any intention to be discourteous; but he is naturally so narrow, arrogant, and intolerant, that in political discussion he has no idea where the line between courtesy and discourtesy should fall. Mr Bright told his constituents at Birmingham that "it was greatly wise to talk with our past hours;" had he taken his advice home, he would doubtless have been able to inform himself of many occasions when his acrid judgments of his political opponents had approached what in everyday life would be termed slander. It was doubtless a recollection of this fact, and of the trouble to which he had himself been frequently exposed by Mr Bright's vehemence of speech, that prompted Mr Gladstone to confine himself to technically exempting the Birmingham speech from the cognisance of Parliament, instead of either justifying Mr Bright or aiding him in his somewhat imperfect explanation. In spite of the not very formidable majority which rescued the senior member for Birmingham from the penalties of a breach of privilege, Sir Stafford Northcote must be congratulated
Mr Bright, however, did not stand alone at the Birmingham demonstrations in providing trouble for the perplexed Premier. Mr Chamberlain does not appear to advantage in a secondary position, and it is rarely his fault if he is allowed to remain in the background. The adulation which was so lavishly poured upon his colleague naturally demanded from him, in vindication of his own personality, a more than ordinary effort of assurance; and with all the importance of President of the Board of Trade and a member of the Cabinet, he launched, as the future programme of the Liberal party, a scheme of universal suffrage, equal electoral districts, and payment of members of Parliament. In both Houses a natural curiosity found expression as to whether Mr Chamberlain was speaking on the authority of the Cabinet or of his own personal views; and in both quarters Mr Chamberlain's programme was promptly repudiated. Lord Granville, who, all unconscious of the riot which the tongues of the two principal "celebrators" were to run, had ventured to take part in the demonstrations, drew a distinction between Mr Chamberlain in his Ministerial and Mr Chamberlain in his private capacity, which left the President of the Board of Trade in rather a worse position
than he occupied before. Even with the help of Lord Granville's explanation, that he spoke not as a Minister but as a member, there is, as Lord Salisbury put it, "some difficulty in understanding the divided responsibility of Mr Chamberlain."
"We have no precedent for this in our political history at all," said the Marquis. "Mr Chamberlain, when joined with her Majesty's Government, will repudiate manhood suffrage he will decline equal electoral districts, and will refuse payment to members; but when he goes to Birmingham he will support all these things. I do not understand this plan of splitting Cabinet Ministers in two."
It thus turns out that the result of the Birmingham celebration, which was intended to promote a revival of the flagging energies of Liberalism at its fountain-head, has been to forcibly reveal the want of harmony that prevails inside the Liberal Cabinet, and to bring about the humiliation of the statesman in whose honour the demonstration was organised. When the various sources of "veiled obstruction" come to be enumerated, it must not be for
gotten that the Birmingham speeches of Messrs Bright and Chamberlain, by forcing themselves upon the attention of the House, contributed something to the delay of public business.
Reticent as the Government is on all points connected with its foreign and colonial policy, indications are ever forcing themselves upon public notice which justify a belief that difficulties connected with these departments account in a great measure for the feebleness of the Government in the House of Commons. We all remember the outery which the present Ministers raised against Lord Beaconsfield's Government because it did not, as they alleged, take the
House of Commons into the confidence of its executive policy. Any faults that might have been chargeable against the late Administration on the score of reticence have been repeated in an exaggerated form by Mr Gladstone's Government. Not only has it never spontaneously taken Parliament into its counsels upon any important point of foreign or colonial policy, but it has intrenched itself in the House of. Commons behind such an impenetrable hedge of bureaucratic impertinence, that the usual channels of information have been hopelessly blocked up to questioners. There is this justification for pursuing a course of mystery, that in all points of importance the Government has been compelled to adopt a course directly at variance with the pledges which it gave before entering office. The torrent of indignation which was poured forth over the gratification of imperial views leaves us, when spent, in military possession of Egypt, with no prospect of being again able to abandon the country to native rule. The denunciations of
Jingoism" have been succeeded by a Chauvinistic swagger over the Egyptian campaign, which for party purposes has been magnified into a great war; and our naval and military commanders have been rewarded with peerages and pensions as if their achievements had eclipsed the renown of a Nelson or a Wellington. As to the Ministerial views of the situation in India, where Lord Ripon, by setting race against race, by rousing prejudices which had almost died a natural death, and by governing the country, not in accordance with the views and experiences of Anglo-Indian statesmen, but in the spirit of the "dreamy Radicalism in which his whole life has been spent, has succeeded
in stirring up such a political ferment as has not been witnessed in the East since the days of the Mutiny, and which must throw serious impediments in the path of Indian progress for many years. The subject of Lord Ripon's administration is one on which different views must prevail inside the Cabinet; and we may expect to hear that the diversity of opinion which has been already shown to exist, will on this subject still further intensify the present want of harmony in the Cabinet, and among its supporters. With the troubles which the policy of the Government has stirred up for itself in the Transvaal and in Basutoland, with its protégé King Cetewayo on the war-path in Zululand, and with the fruits of our abandonment of Candahar beginning to ripen in Affghanistan, reasons readily suggest themselves for the Government having to devote its energies to other and more pressing duties than domestic legislation; and it is characteristic of its timidity that it should seek to conceal its foreign troubles from the public, and to put the blame of its parliamentary failure upon a fictitious "veiled obstruction."
Mr Gladstone's last utterance upon the situation does not suggest a cheerful frame of mind on the part of the Premier personally. He writes to his Mid-Lothian constituents, who are still mourning over the money vainly spent last year in providing a reception for him, conveying a vague "hope" that he I will be able to visit them at "a later date" should there be "no impediment"; and he adds
"I hope also that when the time comes I still be able to say, as I can now say, that I do not perceive the action of the disintegrating forces which were visibly at work during the later years of the administration of 1868-74, nor find any reason to believe that the country has altered its mind on the important issue which was decided in 1880."
"Qui s'excuse s'accuse." We may reasonably suppose that Mr Gladstone would not have made such a statement had he not been conscious that the weaknesses of his administration were forcing themselves upon public notice. The assertion contains one of these ambiguities in which the Premier is an unequalled adept. The causes of disintegration which brought about his fall in 1873-4 are of course dead and buried; but there are at the present time other and not less powerful agencies at work underground, if we may judge by the upheavals which every now and then crop above the surface, such as the defection of the Duke of Argyll, the retirement of Mr Forster the repudiation of Mr Chamberlain by his colleagues, and the wholesale withdrawal of Whigs from the Reform and Cobden Clubs. If the popularity of the Ministry is to last until that "later date" arrive when the Premier is to pay his promised visit to his constituents, there is still an indefinite period of office in store for the Liberal Government; but before that time arrives, there is every probability that the country will have stepped in and afforded Mr Gladstone a much more "seasonable release than the Mid-Lothian Radicals gave him last recess.
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