Page images

cherish in its full force that hostility against the land which has been the animating principle of his financial career. It is idle now to inquire into the origin of that feeling. It lies in the political history of the last twenty years, and, on the ancient principle of 'odisse quem læseris,' the feeling gains a fresh impulse with every fresh expression of it, and so necessarily gathers force with time. The particular remission of the Malt-tax is one that the landed interest will never extort from a hostile Chancellor of the Exchequer. It can always be baffled by an appeal to the prejudices of Scotch and Irish members. County electors waste their strength in exacting from Liberal candidates pledges upon the Malt-tax. The mere fact that a candidate supports Mr. Gladstone, in effect designates him as one who supports the continuance of the Malt-tax. He may, when the motion is brought forward, register a perfunctory vote against the tax, but he gives his Parliamentary support to the only finance Minister who has both the power and the will to maintain it. It needs not only a successful agitation, but a friendly Government, before this burden on the land can be relieved. With apparently this exception, Mr. Gladstone expressed to his admirers of the Liverpool Financial Reform Association, a general preference for direct over indirect taxation. It is not likely, however, that he will ever be permitted to bring this abstract preference into a concrete form. The Income-tax payers have suffered much at his hands, but their watchfulness has been aroused by the past, and they are strong enough to protect themselves.

The real and pressing danger of Mr. Gladstone's leadership will undoubtedly be his newly-formed views upon Reform. Or rather, to put it more generally, they will be the dangers arising

Liberal majority when once the restraining influence of Lord'Palmerston is taken away. It must not be forgotten that the Liberal party differs from the Conservative party in this, that it is not a homogeneous body. In the Conservative party there may be here and there individual eccentricities: but the whole is not divided into two strongly marked sections, differing diametrically upon points of the utmost moment, and viewing each other's movements with jealous suspicion. It is an old remark that the Whigs and the Radicals differ more from each other, in point of political opinion, than the Whigs and the Conservatives : but the remark received new illustration from the Reform debate of the present year. The Whig speakers who conducted the resistance to Mr. Baines's Bill, scarcely fell short in anything of the sentiments which the stoutest Conservative would desire to express on such an occasion. On the other hand, nothing could exceed the wrath expressed by the Radicals at the


from any

U 2

desertion of their nominal allies. If the expressions that were used by them towards the Whigs and towards the Government, both in the House of Commons and the press, are to be looked upon as the utterances of political friends, political friendship must be a very stormy kind of passion. Mr. Bright's address, again, to his constituents at Birmingham, is a composition that can scarcely be called affectionate in its tone. • Betrayal,

treachery,' violation of solemn pledges,' 'neglect of first duties,' are among the endearments with which its few sentences are filled. It is evident enough from many pregnant indications, that the Radicals are tired of the Whig alliance upon its present terms. If they are again to form part of a Liberal majority, they will require some other consideration for their services than a seat in the Cabinet for Mr. Milner Gibson. They will insist upon a hearty co-operation in some measure of Reform, which shall place Radicalism permanently in power, and supersede the necessity of begging for Whig patronage for the future.

Will the Whigs consent to the demand ? If any considerable number of them refuse, the position of affairs will be much simplified : for a Liberal majority will be impossible. But will their virtue be equal to the trial when this result of it is fairly before their eyes? Till the moment for decision comes it will be impossible to predict whether wounded pride or genuine fear for the Constitution will gain the mastery. The struggle will be

That lowest form of partisanship which prefers rather to change opinions than to change companions is not extirpated from the House of Commons, and perhaps prevails more strongly among the Whigs than in any other part of it. It is impossible to forget that in 1852, and again in 1859, rather than sacrifice their majority, they yielded to pressure upon this very point, and consented to legislation to which they were notoriously

Their weakness of conviction and their intense tenacity of power are the great danger of the present crisis. Neither of these weaknesses can be imputed to the Radicals; and it is from their superiority in this respect that they derive their influence. But few of them have ever consented in recent years to sacrifice their opinions for the sake of office. The Whigs, first intent on place, and only giving an afterthought to the Constitution, have hitherto yielded easily to the bold, uncompromising convictions of their allies. And the probability unhappily is that under the same temptations they will pursue the same course again. It may at all events be taken for certain that the yielding will not come from the other side. If, in the coming Parliament, the Liberals form a strong and united party, it will be with Mr. Gladstone for their leader and a Radical policy for their pro

a severe one.



gramme. And if, with a Parliamentary majority to back them, their leaders again occupy the Treasury Bench, it will be under a pledge,—which this time cannot be bought off by the sacrifice of the Paper-duties,—to effect the degradation of the suffrage

We need not dwell upon the evils of this change. We have done so very recently; and those who have read the admirable speeches of Mr. Lowe and Mr. Horsman will find in them a perfect thesaurus of arguments against democratic reform. We believe that the convictions of the large majority of the electors throughout the country are in harmony with the doctrines laid down in these speeches. But the urgent need of the present moment is not to strengthen these convictions by arguments, but to give effect to them by acts. In the hands of the Conservatives the precious deposit of the Constitution may be safely trusted. During the last five years all the questions of permanent importance that are likely to occupy public attention have been discussed in the two Houses of Parliament, and the opinions of the Conservative leaders freely expressed in those discussions are consequently well known. They have expressed themselves in opposition to all bare degradation of the suffrage, to all alterations in it that can in any degree increase the democratic element in the Constitution, with a frankness which leaves no room for misconstruction. Upon every occasion they have stood firmly by the interests of the Established Church, from whatever quarter the attack against her may have proceeded ; and to the energetic party action taken under their guidance her rescue from more than one enemy who seemed just on the point of triumphing is to be ascribed. It is of no use to attempt to divide the men from the parties they lead or the measures they support. It would be ridiculous for a Liberal to support a Conservative candidate, because he happened to have a personal admiration for Lord Derby or Mr. Disraeli; and it is equally absurd to wish well to Conservative measures, to desire the maintenance of the Church in her rights, or to look with apprehension at the insidious approaches of democracy, and from some personal preference or friendship to withhold political support from the statesmen who have devoted all their powers to carrying these objects into effect. It is evident from Mr. Bright's address that he has bated neither heart nor hope. I trust,' he says, the result of the coming election will show that, notwithstanding the treachery of official statesmen, and the indifference of the expiring Parliament, the cause of freedom, based on a true representation of the nation, is advancing with irresistible force to its final triumph.' It is for us to show that the cause of true freedom,' as we


understand it, that is to say, the Government not of numbers, but of property and intelligence, is not missing its final triumph through the languor and carelessness of those who know its value. In this special juncture of affairs, the attitude assumed by England will do much to influence the course of opinion throughout the world. The delusion that the particular tyranny which consists of the despotism of the multitude could be a source of freedom is passing rapidly away. It has lain heavily upon the world for more than a century. It has blinded some of the acutest intellects, some of the most earnest lovers of their kind who have appeared on earth, while its power lasted. It has furnished an instrument for the intrigues of many an unworthy ambition, and has frequently served to disguise the greed of adventurers or the venom of disappointed pride. It has been the pretext of more than one bloody revolution ; it has armed popular envy against those who had no crime, but that they had been born to inherit wealth or honour ; by its help professional politicians and professional conspirators have in more than one country trampled free institutions into the dust. But its course is almost run. The logic of events has demonstrated what one might have thought that the logic of theory would have foretold; and has shown that despotism in no hands, least of all in the hands of the most ignorant and the hungriest, can be otherwise than deadly to human freedom. Instructed by France and America, men are lawaking to the fact, which, under some strange delusion, philosophers have sought to ignore, that uncontrolled power is as fearful an instrument of oppression when it subserves the passions of a class, as when it executes the will of a Sultan or a Czar. But at such a juncture, the opinion of the civilised world naturally turns to England. Reflecting men instinctively ask how these events are interpreted, how these problems are solved, in the land where modern freedom was cradled, and has produced the most marvellous fruits of prosperity, and happiness, and peace.

A great responsibility lies upon the governing classes of this country at a moment so critical in the history of political opinion.

If we, at such a moment, weakly yield to the theories, now worn out and antiquated, which would confer supreme power on the multitude, we may throw back the cause of true freedom for half a century. If on the other hand we can by our example persuade those who to preserve the mere blessings of social order have taken refuge in autocracy, or in Cæsarism, that regulated freedom does not mean the supremacy of ignorance and poverty, we may hope to see the shackles removed which in many a land lie upon thought, and speech, and industry. In questions of political


right England exercises an enormous influence over the whole of the civilised world; and the question which England is called upon to determine is whether those, who above all things desire that industry shall have its free course, and that trade shall not be disturbed by tumult, may trust to free institutions to give them a security which in some countries they are beginning to imagine can only be conferred by military rule. If England at such a moment is deluded enough so to alter her franchise as to yield the government of the country to the Trades' Unions, men will conclude that constitutional systems are only part and parcel of the delusion of the democratic theory, and that strong Governments are the only hope of those who desire to pursue their own industry in peace.

This is the issue which the constituencies of this country have to decide. They must judge between the Conservatives and the Radicals. The Whigs constitute only an accidental compromise due to the matrimonial arrangements of a few great families, with the peculiarity that many of them are willing to sacrifice the interests of their class, in order to promote the personal ambition of those who belong to their family connection. But their number diminishes with every election. It is obvious that in course of time those merely personal conditions of association must be overruled ; and the members of the party which tries to serve two masters must take their place upon one side or the other. The true battle is not with them. It is not between them and the Conservatives that the electors have to decide. The issue is a far broader one, and cannot be obscured by the paltry intrigues of parties, or the selfish trimming of personal ambition. The question is, whether England shall be governed by property and intelligence, or by numbers. Those who prefer the first alternative will vote for the Conservative candidate ; those who prefer the last will vote for the Liberal. There is no middle term between the two. It is the great controversy of modern society, the great issue upon which the hopes of freedom, and order, and civilisation depend. To the electors of Great Britain this issue is committed ; and may God defend the right!


« EelmineJätka »