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restore unity between Ritualists and Rationalists by means of a Public Worship Bill is a stroke of statesmanship which is already judged by the result. What better theme could a satirist desire than a professional wizard undertaking to conjure away by a little sleight of hand the second and greater Reformation? It is not, we repeat, the slowness with which the great problems of the future present themselves, nor any trifling delay in the arrival of one of them, but the urgency with which they throng upon us, and the failure of all provisional arrangements to stave off the necessity of solving them, that may well cause anxiety even to the least reactionary of mankind.
The dark parts of the situation, looking from the Liberal point of view, are the magnitude of the standing armies and the military spirit which they at once indicate and feed. It seems as if the command of these legions, aíded by the reactionary panics, which are too sure from time to time to be produced by revolutionary aberrations, might generate a crop of military despots like the Greek tyrants, the usurping lords of Italy, or the despotic monarchies which arose in the dangerous interval between feudalism and the modern era, and which in some countries, notably in Spain, fatally arrested the progress of civilisation. There is no denying that the peril is great. On the other hand, the soldier of the present day is happily much less of a machine and more of a citizen than the Greek bodyguards, the Italian condottieri, or the soldados, truly named, of Philip II. Where military service is compulsory, the army and the nation are almost one, as they were in republican Rome or Athens, though it does not follow even in these cases that the
of a commander might not be successfully abused. Opinion at the present day is infinitely stronger and more penetrative; most soldiers can read : in Italy the army is a school, and so it is to some extent in other countries. Good judges seem to doubt whether, if De Broglie could induce his Marshal to make a treasonable use of the public force confided to him, the army would consent again to become the gaoler and executioner of France.
The very event in English politics which we are now considering, appears to have been a defeat of the Liberal party rather than a defeat of Liberal principles. On certain subjects at all events Liberal principles seem still to have a hold on the country out of proportion to their representation in Parliament. In school board elections Liberalism wins places, while it loses seats in the House of Commons. The Slave Circular and the words of the Prime Minister about the Bulgarian atrocities evoked the popular sentiment of humanity with a force before which in both instances Toryism quailed. In spite of the large majority at its command in Parliament, the Tory Government, while it has nibbled at measures carried by its Liberal predecessors,
and tried to enfeeble them in their operation, has in no single instance as yet ventured on an attempt to reverse them. Till its accession to office it denounced Irish Disestablishment as sacrilege, and the Irish Land Act as confiscation; since its accession to office it has not uttered a syllable against either. As little has it ventured to meddle with the army reforms of Lord Cardwell, anti-aristocratic as they were. It has found itself compelled to embrace and carry forward a system of popular education far short of that which thorough-going Liberals desire, yet far more Liberal than accords with Tory interests or with Tory inclinations. It has passed measures respecting labour found in the pigeon-holes of its predecessors or borrowed from Liberals like Mr. Mundella. In the matter of the franchise it has played the demagogue ; it has played the demagogue with a vengeance, and seems inclined to do it again ; a policy which suits the purpose of those who wish to hold office for the hour, and of which their Tory successors will very likely pay the price. Even the reform of local institutions is no sooner broached by the Liberals than it is pounced on by the Government. A certain minister in former days was said to have “found the Whigs bathing and stolen their clothes,” his public life was described as “one vast appropriation clause,” and he was held up as the paragon of all that is servile, shifty, and mean. Yet that minister was one of the greatest of English public servants; he was the author of a great mass of beneficent legislation, of which the credit could not possibly be denied him, as well as the regenerator of English finance; and, what was more, he was the real and original founder of Conservatism, so far as any man can be said to be the founder of a school or tendency, and first gave currency to the name which throughout Europe has been adopted as the symbol of the attempt to effect a permanent compromise between the past and the future. He was honest in his Conservatism, being not only Conservative both by temperament and connection, but as a great administrator naturally inclined to trust much to administrative reform and little to organic change. His position and the position in which he placed his party were consistent with the strictest law of political morality, and commanded the respect which, unless political morality can be utterly subverted, will always be essential to permanent success.
The mention of Peel's name is enough to reduce to its real measure of importance and significance the defeat of the Liberal party at the last general election. Thirty-five years ago, and on the very morrow of that settlement of the suffrage which experience has shown to be on the whole, and under the present circumstances of English society, most favourable to Liberal opinions, he was completely master of the government, and but for a split in his own party on a purely economical question, of which advantage was taken for the purpose of a personal intrigue, there can be no doubt that he would have retained power to the end of his life, and transmitted it to the group of Conservative statesmen which he had formed around him. There has never been a time since 1846 at which Conservatism, on fundamental questions, was not predominant among the classes which practically elected the House of Commons; there has never been a time, in other words, on which there would not have been a large majority against any serious organic change or anything seriously affecting the ascendancy of wealth. The Whigs were Conservatives; they showed it as soon as the touchstone was applied, by the appearance of a decided Liberal at the head of the party in the person of Mr. Gladstone. Lord Palmerston's administration was Conservative, with just a sufficient semblance of Liberalism on secondary questions to render tenable the moral position of the left wing, and prevent a disruption of the party. To the Conservatives who assisted in overthrowing Sir Robert Peel, Liberals owe it that Liberalism enjoyed for a quarter of a century all the advantages and encouragement which ostensible possession of the government affords; that secondary and administrative questions were still usually decided in a Liberal sense; and, above all, that the people of Europe generally, when they turned their eyes towards the nation which they had been accustomed to regard as their leader in the march of progress, still saw the Liberal flag floating over England. Pcel's Government had been the centre of European Conservatism : the existence of the Conservative Monarchy in France especially had been intimately bound up with it, and the French King had been personally influenced by the sage counsels of the English chief. In all that European Liberalism has gained since 1848, including the overthrow of that great power of European repression—the Austrian despotism, and the conversion of France into a Republic—we may trace, mingling with other elements, the effects of the break-up of the English Conservative party in 1846.
The Liberal tenure of power under these conditions, though fortified by the superior ability of the administrators of whom Conservatism had also made Liberalism a present when it deposed Peel, was evidently precarious. It depended among other things upon the continuance to the Whig houses of the consideration for which, the impulse of 1832 having been spent and Fox forgotten, they consented still to remain within the Liberal lines—that is, the possession of the leadership and the lion's share of the great offices of State. History has now let us into the secrets of the Aberdeen Government, and shown us what were the feelings of the Whigs towards a Liberal Cabinet in which they had only half the power.
To their restlessness on that occasion we may be said partly to owe the Crimean War.
It was enough, therefore, that the leadership had passed into the hands of Mr. Gladstone, who is not a Whig but a Liberal in politics, with a genuine popular fibre, while even his ecclesiastical Conservatism, though it weakens his hold upon thorough-going Liberals, and estranges him from some of those who would politically be his heartiest supporters, is of a kind which forms no bond of union with the Whigs, but the reverse, the heirs of the grantees of the Church lands being Low Church Establishmentarians by a tradition which has become a part of Whig nature. Moreover, the Disestablishment of the Church in Ireland exhausted the programme of Whig reform put forth in 1832; in other words, the list of changes compatible with the continuance of aristocracy and aristocratic government. The Irish Land Act went beyond the programme, but one may do anything in Ireland. A train of Liberal measures began to loom in view, and the language of the leader and of some members of the Cabinet was such as could not fail to breed panic in Whig minds. The Duke of Somerset sounded the signal for a schism in tones of personal emotion mingled with political alarm. A member of an aristocracy gifted at once with the insight clearly to discern into what age of the world he has been born, and with the largeness of soul to feel that the voice of a higher nobility bids him cast in his lot with humanity, and contribute whatever of influence aristocracy retains to the constitution of the rational authority which must rule the future, is a being not unexampled but necessarily rare. As a rule privilege must produce its natural effect. At the last general election the non-official Whigs for the most part withdrew their support from the Liberal chief'; some of them broke into open hostility; and one Whig member of the out-going Government not only criticized his late leader with startling asperity, but offered marked homage to the leader of the enemy. Those Whigs, including the most eminent, who stood firm, may be said to have been tried by fire.
Other causes, however, both general and special, conspired with. the Whig secession, at the time of the last general election, to turn the balance against the Liberal party.
For several years before there had been a vast and unparalleled rush of wealth into the country. This produced its natural effect upon the spirit of the people. It doubled the love of pleasure, the taste for display, the passion for games, shows, luxury, and excitement of all kinds; in the same proportion it turned men's minds from political thought, rendered them indisposed to serious effort of any but the commercial kind, and made them impatient of
“ earnestness which sat on the brow of the Liberal chief. Reform naturally seemed needless and unseasonable when everybody was growing rich. To make money and to enjoy it was the desire
of the hour. All other aspirations fell for the time comparatively into abeyance. History is familiar with such epochs, in which a man having dined heartily wants to play at cards or to go to the theatre, not to turn his mind to his own future, much less to that of his race. Paternal despots well know the use of pleasure as an antidote to political thought, and the mental condition of England four years ago presented something like a spontaneous illustration of the policy of Vienna in former days, or of the French Empire. It is now generally accepted as a fact, about which enlightened men can have no doubt, that the old doctrines about the tendency of great wealth to interfere with our general aspirations are the gloomy reveries of Oriental asceticism, discarded by social science.
But the phenomena of plutocratic society suggest that beneath the forms of Oriental hyperbole and the exaggerations of pulpit oratory to which they have given rise, there may still be a certain measure of truth. High social effort appears to belong to periods in which there is opulence sufficient to lift the mind above sordid and brutalizing necessities, but not sufficient to engross the heart.
With the increase of riches and of the desire of them, came, necessarily, a corresponding increase of the direct influence of wealth, which is almost universally Conservative, in the elections. Boroughs no longer openly put themselves up to sale as one of them did in the last century; but they pretty frankly proclaim that no one need be a candidate who is not able to spend money in the constituency ; and it may be doubted whether constant “nursing" is not at least as subversive of political virtue as occasional bribery. The general election of 1868 was on the surface a great Liberal victory; but those who looked below the surface could not fail to see that it was above all things a victory of wealth. Almost all the good nominations, even on the Liberal side, were appropriated to rich men, while young men of ability and promise, but without wealth, were thrust away to forlorn hopes, where, though some of them fought gallantly, they inevitably succumbed to local power. English millionaires had no objection to the disestablishment of the Irish Church, and as that was the popular measure of the hour they were ready to pledge themselves to it for the sake of obtaining their seats ; but on other questions they remained millionaires. What Carthage may have been, we cannot tell ; but with that possible exception, there has surely never been so complete a plutocracy as England at the present hour. To be able to spend money has become an important condition even of ecclesiastical popularity. We call the dollar almighty, but any one who knew both communities would say, we believe, that the compliment was as well deserved by the pound. In England and America the Anglo-Saxon temperament is much the same; but in America they have not had such a tidal