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on the hearts of a people is not to be cancelled in an hour. To the present writer it has always appeared that it would be found necessary to make some concession to patriotic feeling in Ireland ; but that the best concession would be not a separate set of central institutions for Ireland, which would inevitably lead to discord and ultimately to disruption, but a measure of decentralization for the three kingdoms at once, leaving the supreme authority intact in the united Parliament, but relieving it of the mass of subordinate business which now clogs the wheels of legislation, and, perhaps, also of certain questions which from the local differences of circumstance and religion might be more readily and happily solved by local assemblies than by the central legislature.
Like the Roman Catholics, the Jews followed the Liberal camp so long as they had disabilities to be removed. When no material disability remained, they began to gravitate towards the party of wealth. It was natural that they should do so. Judaism, apart from Asian mysteries and rhapsodies, is simply a surviving relic of the primeval world. It is a tribal religion, the greatest and most memorable of the group; but still a tribal religion, from which the spiritual and universal element has disengaged itself in the form of Christianity, leaving, with a tribal god, a tribal law of morality far better than other tribal laws, yet clearly enough belonging to the ages before humanity. Such a survival cannot be expected to have much sympathy with progress, while, as a money power, its natural tendencies are obviously plutocratic. The election of a Jew Conservative was one of the events of 1873. He declared himself an advocate of religious education, though he might have found some difficulty in arranging with the bishops the form of religion to be taught in schools.
Conquest and the means by which the conquered were held in submission have always exercised a retributive influence on the political character of the conquerors. They have not failed to do so in the case of England. There is in certain quarters a visible decline of the two great Liberal sentiments—the love of justice and the love of humanity. We saw this plainly enough in the Jamaica case, which showed a marked change of feeling in England, both as to constitutional right and as to the sanctity of human life, since the time of Wilberforce, Burke, and Pitt. Language is now held in some organs of the party of aggrandisement which would probably have shocked the more liberal and humane among the Romans. Mr. Gladstone thunders against the Bulgarian atrocities apparently without perceiving that there are a good many people for whom cruelty, perpetrated for the maintenance of arbitrary power, or in the supposed interest of England, has lost much of its horror. Owing mainly, perhaps, to the influx of wealth and the stimulus
imparted by it to the national sense of power and the national pride, there has been of late years a remarkable revival of the spirit of aggrandisement, which, among other proofs of its ascendancy over the minds of statesmen, has suggested the addition of a fine imitation gem, in the shape of the title of Empress of India, to the crown of Alfred and the Edwards. Unless this spirit abates, the prospects not only of Liberalism, but even of liberty, are somewhat dark. The law of moral reaction is inflexible; and it is hard to say what may be the ultimate results of its operation. One natural result of the system of aggrandisement is to give birth to a number of adventurers burning for new enterprises, who make it their business, on every critical occasion, to stimulate the passion for empire, and to denounce moderation as cowardice and treason. It has been said that England is a great Mahommedan power; under the present auspices she is in a fair way to become so.
Another influence adverse to Liberalism was the panic created by the doings of the Commune, which had hardly died away at the time of the last general election. It is the more important to note this because it shows that if the French Liberals act well at the present crisis, and gain a constitutional victory, their success will help us all.
Such in the main were the more general influences which operated against Liberalism in the election of 1873. Besides these, there were the harassed interests-above all that of the publican. Considering that the Liberal Government had merely cut off an hour from the drinking at night, a simple measure of moral police, involving no attack upon the trade, and welcome, it is understood, to the more respectable of the tavern-keepers themselves, who do not want to have their houses made the scenes of drunkenness and brawls, the vengeance taken by the licensed victuallers was a startling proof at once of their temper and of their power. Their power, organized as they are, and systematically pushing as they do the influence of drink into every corner of the land-into every spot where two or three cottages arise-must be held to present a very formidable aspect. Even those who recoil most from sumptuary legislation, and most decidedly prefer the natural action of the moral forces, may find themselves constrained to support the permissive movement as the only hope of emancipation from the political yoke of beer.
The clergy had been specially exasperated and alarmed by the disestablishment of the Irish Church. But it would be expecting a contradiction in nature to suppose that an Established Church, especially one of the hierarchical type, can ever be otherwise than reactionary in politics. An Established Church is a creature of privilege, and sulsists by a stationary creed; in both respects it
feels itself threatened by progress.
If this has hitherto been less manifest in the case of the Church of Scotland than in the case of the Church of England, it is because the Church of Scotland has happened to agree closely with the belief and temper of a very logical but not very speculative nation ; so that the Church and the nation have in Scotland been almost one. In England the history of the Established Church from the time of Elizabeth has been a continual struggle, thrice carried to the length of kindling a civil war, against the political progress of the nation. Those excellent men who deprecate disestablishment on religious grounds forget that the Church is not only a religious but a political power, and that in its political capacity it always has come, and always must come, into collision with the progressive party. The conflict with it cannot be evaded. At the last general election it had the misfortune to go to the poll with beer; not, assuredly, that any clergyman wished to protect intemperance; but that when you are once in the camp of reaction you find yourself led to battle against improvement of all kinds. On this occasion the political character and motives of the clergy were brought into full relief by the contrast between the religious position of the Liberal leader, a sincere High Churchman, and that of his Tory rival, whose palpable attempts, with his “ Maundy Thursday” letters and solemn appearances at Church celebrations, to use, for the purpose of his tactics, a clergy at whose pious ardour he laughs in his sleeve, ought, it would be supposed, to arm against him whatever of religious self-respect may linger in their hearts. But we had all this before in the time of Sacheverel and Bolingbroke.
The army had been harassed by army reform and the civil , service by economy; both, perhaps, by the renunciation of that policy of aggrandisement which, whatever it may cost the nation, is good for the trade of the soldier and the administrator. Journals of great ability gave expression to the resentment of the civil service and especially to its almost frantic hatred of the Liberal Prime Minister; while military men all over the country worked against the Government as electioneering agents with an effect out of proportion to their numbers. A moral may be drawn in both cases as to the operation of the party system, which enables a Government office to punish frugality in the Government, and military malcontents to visit a minister with the penalty of dismissal for introducing into the army reforms now admitted to have been essential to the safety of the nation.
Of course there had also been errors on the part of the Government: all governments commit errors, which are remembered against them at the elections, while their good deeds are forgotten, especially if the errors affect individuals, while the good deeds only affect the
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public. Economy itself, though honest, was hardly in season at a time when the nation was overflowing with wealth. It is alleged also that dangers of a personal kind to which a Liberal party, full of individuality and individual aspirations, is more exposed than a party bound together by interest and satisfied individually if the collective interest is secured, had not been studied, or had not been studied with success. But, perhaps, the most conspicuous and damaging miscarriage was in the case of the Alabama treaty. It is true that
the Liberal Government to have to eat the leek which Tory friends of slavery had planted. It is true also that the leek had to be eaten or much worse would have happened, and that Lord Derby's treaty with Reverdy Johnson would have come practically to the same thing as the treaty concluded by Lord Granville. Still it must be admitted that the matter was not happily managed, and a needless wound was inflicted upon the pride of the nation. The Fenian claim, if it was to be brought forward at all, ought surely to have been pressed, and the indirect claims ought to have been more promptly rejected. It was also a weak measure to take a commissioner from the ranks of the Opposition, with the apparent view of disarming parliamentary criticism, and the result was wholly unfortunate. The way to compel the Opposition to concur in the necessity of atoning for their own acts, and thus to place the responsibility of the humiliation on the right shoulders, was, if at all, by some resolution or vote of the House of Commons.
Finally the dissolution itself was manifestly a false move, so far is the interest of the party was concerned. To go to the country because at the moment you doubt your popularity, is a step which the most obvious rules of strategy condemn, and which no rule of public morality requires. The popular mood changes from day to day, and a minister ought to say to himself that his policy is founded on right principles, and that if it does not commend itself to the people to-day it will commend itself to-morrow. The promise of a reduction of taxation, besides being questionable in point of dignity, was sure to be ineffective; because the people knew that, there being a large surplus, whichever party was in power taxation must be reduced. On the other hand, we must do justice to Mr. Gladstone. His position, after his defeat on the Irish University Bill, was a very equivocal and a very trying one. As a man indifferent to mere office, and caring for power only so long as he could carry his measures, he might well say that he was resolved to ascertain, without further delay, what he had behind him, and whether he was the leader of a majority in Parliament or not. Certainly no right of upbraiding him can be claimed by those who, on a question so secondary as the mode of teaching history in an Irish University,
when they might have discharged themselves of responsibility by a strong declaration of opinion, chose, by a coalition with the Tories, to give a fatal blow to the Liberal Government, and take England out of the line of Liberal nations. What have they done, what could they believe themselves capable of doing, to make up for the injury inflicted on their cause? They could not form a government; and they could hardly dream that Lord Beaconsfield, having got into power by their help, would remain under their influence and carry out their policy, even with regard to the teaching of history in the Irish University. That they acted conscientiously, no one doubts; but we repeat they can cast no stone at the Liberal chief.
There are some who fancy that the Liberal party was ruined by want of organization, and Mr. Gladstone in one of his speeches at Birmingham seemed to fall in with this view. The absence of organization on the Liberal side and its presence on the other side were indeed conspicuous on the eye of the election; they struck so forcibly the mind of an old adherent of the party who happened to be revisiting England after a long absence, that he could not help addressing to one of the Liberal leaders a letter of warning, which, however, had hardly been penned when the dissolution burst upon us. But if it was a mistake not to organize, it would be a still more fatal mistake to ascribe too much to organization and to carry it to excess. Mere organization, without the spontaneous enthusiasm produced by great and animating objects will soon assume the guise of coercion; a recoil will be provoked; the machinery will break up and the latter end will be much worse than the first. Some political organization a Liberal party must have to put it on a par with the stringent social organization by which a plutocracy, especially a landowning plutocracy, represses all independence in its own body, and which renders the action of the Tory phalanx in the House of Commons as mechanical as that of a regiment; but organization should never be
;; carried anywhere near the verge of tyranny, nor should it ever be used as a substitute for spontaneous forces, but only as the means of bringing them to bear.
This leads us to the practical questions, Is it desirable that the Liberal party in Parliament should be reorganized; and, if so, How is this to be done? The second question belongs to the leaders of the party. One or two remarks may, perhaps, without presumption be made upon the first.
Among the morals deducible from these events appear to us to be the equivocal character of the party system generally, and the impossibility of looking to party as a permanent organ of government or of progress. People must combine of course in politics, as in other fields of action, to carry a certain point, or to combat a particular evil; but this is a totally different thing from a standing