« EelmineJätka »
Dr. Newman's Theory of Belief
WALLACE, D. Mackenzie Secret Societies in Russia
Books of the Month
147, 301, 435, 729
No. CXXVII. NEW SERIES.—JULY 1, 1877.
THE DEFEAT OF THE LIBERAL PARTY.
WHAT were the causes of the late defeat of the Liberal party? What was the extent of that defeat, and what was its significance ? Is it expedient that the party should be reorganized ? If so, how can the reorganization be best effected? These are the questions which Liberals are now asking themselves, and which they answer in very different ways. Perhaps, to the eyes of sympathizing onlookers, things may present themselves in a light somewhat different from that in which they present themselves to members of any section of the party. This is likely to be the case especially with regard to the European relations of English Liberalism and the duties of English Liberals to their allies and fellow-labourers in other countries. We venture to think that this is an aspect of the question to which too little attention has been paid. Those English Liberals who went into the lobby with the Tory leaders on the Irish University Bill, and by so doing gave a blow which proved mortal to the Liberal Government, do not seem to have sufficiently reflected on the European consequences of their act. It does not appear to have occurred to them that whatever the shortcomings of the Liberal party and its leaders might be, by its mere possession of the government it kept England in the line of Liberal nations, and that by its overthrow a flag to which the eyes of Europe were turned would be lowered, and discouragement would be spread through the kindred squadrons in every quarter of the great battle-field. Yet there can be no doubt that such has been and was sure to be the result. The Tory victory in England has evidently helped to stimulate reactionary hopes and conspiracies in France;
as on the other hand the calamitous aberrations of the Extreme Party in France manifestly injured the Liberal cause in England and in other countries. No one can help seeing that the unity of Europe, imperfectly consolidated on a wrong basis by the mediæval papacy, and shattered into hostile fragments by the Reformation, is being
gradually restored by intercourse, commerce, science, the sympathies of industry, the prevalence of universal ideas, the pulsation of common social and political hopes, the advance of the undogmatic religion of morality and truth. The nations are every day becoming more closely bound up with each other, and more conscious of their connection; the electric chain which encircles them grows more electric. Servants of reaction may try, for their personal purposes, by railing at “cosmopolitanism” to stimulate into angry activity that spirit of narrow and filibustering nationality, which is as far removed from a large-minded and noble patriotism as any other vice is from any other virtue ; but every expression, practical or literary, of European thought and feeling proclaims the continuance of the movement by which the family was expanded into the tribe, the tribe into the nation, and bespeaks the gradual transfer of man's allegiance from the mere country to humanity.
Looking from the higher point of view over the whole political field, Liberalism has certainly no reason for dissatisfaction or despondency. Within the last half-century what has been the general course of events? Fifty years ago the Holy Alliance was barely dead; it is now an infamy of the past, a name which reaction itself hardly dares to breathe. Fifty years ago Bourbons and Bourbonism reigned in France, in Spain, at Naples. Germany was in bondage to a set of petty despots, the satellites of a despotic and ultramontane Austria. Another set, supported by the arms of the same power, shared with that power itself a great part of Central and Northern Italy, while the remainder still formed the temporal dominion of the Pope and the basis of a reactionary Church by which the reactionary despotisms were at consecrated and combined. Holland was under a reactionary governinent, in sympathy with the general league of despots, and Belgium did not exist. Of course the progress is not uniform nor without relapses. Spain lags behind; yet even she is not the Spain of Philip II.-she is not the Spain of Ferdinand ; she was a republic yesterday; to-morrow, or the day after tomorrow, she may be a republic again. France has paid the terrible price of her military ambitoin. She has undergone a revival of the military empire, and been liberated from it only at the cost of a defeat in which some day she will see a blessing in disguise. But the Second Empire, the close ally and the cynosure, we might almost have said at one time the real "head-centre" of English Toryism, is in the dust; a Republic has risen on its ruins; and, though new perils at this moment are gathering, we feel an instinctive confidence that the moral forces which have prevailed over the Bonapartes are not destined to succumb to the De Broglies. The Republic has passed or:t of the phase of revolution; it has achieved a legality which confronts with increasing effect the influences of legitimacy and dynasticism ; those who assail it are sinking more and more from the level of loyalists and descending more and more to that of conspirators : its defenders have learned to discard violence, and acquired the invaluable power of maintaining with steadiness a constitutional struggle, a proof not merely of wisdom derived from dire experience, but of the calmness inspired by conscious strength. Not only in France, but elsewhere, we have had those premature and spasmodic movements in advance, those abortive revolutions, which will always more or less attend and mar the course of progress till political effort is regulated by something approaching to scientific method; and opportunities have been thereby afforded to reactionary sovereigns, military adventurers, and political intriguers of playing their own game. But there can be no doubt as to the general tendency of events. Evidently the world is passing into a democratic era. Legitimacy is dead : hardly a monarch in Europe can now be said to hold his throne by that title ; for even where, as in the case of Austria, the family remains, the monarchy has undergone a revolution and is now at least semi-democratic. Not only is it semi-democratic, but it is felt, perhaps even by its possessors, to be provisional, and destined simply to secure order during a critical period of progress and to smooth an inevitable transition. Aristocracy as a political power can hardly be said to exist anywhere but in England. In the other countries it has retained only its titles with more or less of its social position, though its social position carries with it a certain amount of political influence and still more universally keeps alive political tendencies of a reactionary kind in the titular aristocrats, as is testified at the present hour by the crisis in France, where the Republicans, if they should get the upper hand, could be justified in securing once for all social equality against aristocratic conspiracies by the legal abolition of hereditary titles. A Liberal need not shrink from turning his eyes even to Russia. Sir Robert Peel, in the debate on Mr. Gladstone's resolutions, raised a loud Tory cheer by deriding the association of the name of Russia with the cause of freedom; but he forgot that while the Tory aristocracy of England was launching Alabamas in support of American slavery, Russia was emancipating her serfs. Our Turkophilite writers can hardly themselves believe, though their readers may, that the Russia of the philanthropic Alexander is the Russia of the iron Nicholas. It seems in truth not improbable that beneath the autocracy imposed by the necessities of the struggle against the Tartars, and perpetuated by the exigencies of a widely scattered people and a backward civilisation, not only democratic but socialistic forces are growing, the development of which may one day more than satisfy Sir Robert Peel. Plausible reasons may be
given for the conjecture that the desire of merging internaldisquietude in external action has in part formed the motive of the Government and the old Russian party for going into the present war.
There is another quarter in which progress, and most important progress, has been made, though we are apt to leave it out of view. We will not say half a century, but a quarter of a century ago, the United States were a Republic, it is true, but the dominant power there was by no means Republican. It was the slave-owning oligarchy of the South, using as an instrument of its ascendancy the populace of the northern cities, organized in its interest by its confederates there, much as the Tory aristocracy of England is now attempting to use as an instrument of its ascendancy the “residuum” which it enfranchised by its Reform Bill, not without a view to that strategical object. At a fearful, yet, considering the result obtained, hardly an excessive cost, the slave-owning oligarchy and its confederate mob have been overthrown; the Republic is again ruled upon Republican principles; Conservative reforms in a Republican sense, with regard to the judiciary and other institutions, are being accomplished. British Toryism showed its deep interest in the struggle, and it felt the defeat of the slave-owners to its core.
But far more momentous than any overthrow of dynasties, or any political revolution, is the world-wide revolution of opinion, and the collapse of those fundamental beliefs on which all the great institutions of the feudal past have stood. Toryism itself is not the old Toryism : it is an adaptation, as its managers imagine, of dynasticism, privilege, and orthodoxy to the spirit of the age. Its religious element it has almost discarded. In truth, if there is anything to breed misgivings in Liberal breasts, it is not the force of the singular local backstream in the midst of which we find ourselves, or the jubilant notes and flappings of the fowl floating upwards on its waters as they fancy to the Restoration, or the time of Bolingbroke ; it is the restless and resistless might of the main current which is sweeping away with unprecedented and ever-increasing rapidity all the dams and barriers of the past. What was the progress of opinion during the two centuries of the Reformation to its progress during the last twenty, we may almost say the last ten, years ? moment the entire doctrinal foundations of the Established Church of England, an integral portion, as is commonly supposed, of the aristocratic constitution, are overwhelmed by the waters; dispersed fragments of clerical belief-Ritualistic, Evangelical, Rationalist, Agnos. tic-spin and collide with each other in the whirling eddies; while the legal system and the endowments stand for a moment, no longer supported by the beliefs, but propped by the hands of politicians, whose motives, easily discernible and often privately avowed, are of all things the most ominous of the approaching end. The attempt to