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to conceal thought, but to have no thought to conceal. If members of Parliament, like everybody else, were submitted to competitive examination, the sum total of marks would be given to the address which meant nothing at all. But as it may be supposed that some candidates at least have distinct opinions which they could put into language if they chose, the addresses cannot be taken as an indication of any genuine political fact. Their peculiar emptiness does not so much indicate that there are no differences of opinion in the political world as that those opinions have not yet taken the form of any distinct, well-understood proposal to which candidates can be forced to pledge themselves, whether they like it or not. In short, it indicates that we are in a period of interregnum, of which the term is not certainly known; but it gives no security whatever as to the future. That political differences are at present shapeless, and that controversy is seemingly indefinite, speaks to the comparative calmness of the Parliament that is dying ; but when taken into conjunction with the earnestness with which the present contest is being fought, it rather betokens conflict than tranquillity for the future.
One result of the absence of definite subjects of controversy is a tendency in election speeches, and in newspaper articles, to prepare for the new Parliament by fighting over the battles of the old. The little work, the name of which we have prefixed to this article, is only a specimen of a tolerably copious controversial literature of this character. Under ordinary circumstances such discussions might be relevant to the issue that is being decided; but at a moment when we are admittedly passing from an old reign to a new one, they are singularly out of place. Whoever else may succeed to power, it is safe to predict that the Palmerston Administration will not long be the rulers of this country. We do not, therefore, on this occasion care to intrude upon the province of the historian by going deeply into their merits or their errors. They have had undoubtedly one great virtue-a virtue so momentous to the best interests of the country, that it almost casts all their errors into the shade. Willingly or unwillingly they have brought the Reform movement to a deadlock, and have made it almost impossible for any one who comes after them for a considerable number of years to call it into activity again. They have struck at Reform a blow which its honest enemies could never have inflicted upon it. By their insincerity they have destroyed the market of Reforming professions and cries. Those of the non-electors who wish for it will never again be beguiled into trusting bit-by-bit Reformers who offer instalments of democracy. They have sown the seeds
of disorganisation in any future reforming movement. They have suggested to the mind of every suspicious or impatient demagogue to fancy that his aristocratic leaders are only making a profit out of his convictions; and they have put into his mouth the ready justification of his fears : 'You are using us as Lord John Russell, in 1859, used the Reformers of his day.' It is no small achievement to have earned so much discredit by the manoeuvres of that year, that a portion of it will be reflected forward even upon an honest effort on the part of any future Whig leader to degrade the suffrage. For this incalculable service, rendered at the most reckless sacrifice of reputation, we cannot record our gratitude in terms sufficiently emphatic.
For the rest the policy of the Government has been to float easily upon the current of events. Their policy towards America has had the merit of being inexpensive. Whether it will seem so inexpensive to those who look back upon it over an experience of some five or ten years more, it is useless to speculate now. The policy towards Denmark was inexpensive also. But, then, there is no simpler mode of avoiding expense than that of disregarding all engagements which seem likely to be costly; and, if the person to whom they have been made is unable to enforce them, the success of the operation, in a financial point of view, is entirely without a drawback. It must not be supposed, however, that the present Administration have neglected the acquisition of military glory; but, like true economists, they have bought it in the cheapest market. Still, as in former times, it is a luxury of life to which the British lion is passionately attached ; in fact, at certain intervals of time, it becomes almost a necessary of life to him. Happily, the progress of civilisation enables us to command at cheap rates many comforts which, to our fathers, were expensive luxuries; and military glory is among them. It can be obtained among the Chinese, or the Japanese, or the Ashantees, at about a tenth of the price it used to cost when we obtained it from the Russians, or the French, or the Americans ; and we have fortunately concluded treaties with all these Africans and Asiatics, which enable us to get up a war without difficulty, whenever circumstances incline us so to do. But military success does not form a prominent feature of the topics upon which the panegyrists of the Government are disposed to dwell. Except in a very vague manner, they do not say much about foreign politics at all. The Japse of a year, though ample space for the ready oblivion of politicians, has not sufficed entirely to efface the recollection of Denmark from the minds of the people. The very quarrels of the despoilers over their booty, which do not seem likely to reach an early termination, are sufficient to keep
us us from forgetting the cruel wrongs which a diplomacy, at once meddlesome and faint-hearted, has been the means of perpetrating.
The advocates of the Government naturally dwell with greater satisfaction upon the state of our commerce than upon the state of our reputation. If the one is rather decayed, and has evidently seen better days, the other is unquestionably flourishing. The fact is, happily, beyond dispute; but there has been no little controversy as to its cause. I belief appears to prevail, or at all events is assumed in high official circles, that the people of this country cannot be prosperous without the leave of the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and that if their enterprise succeeds, and their trade widens, it must be due to some singular merit in that particular functionary. Mr. Gladstone's contribution to the general prosperity is that by sacrificing the revenue upon a certain number of articles of luxury—the most legitimate of all subjects for taxation,--he induced the Emperor of the French to lower the duties upon some articles of English manufacture, and thereby has considerably increased the amount of English exports into France, especially of woollen goods. So far, the operation has been of great benefit to the trade of the country. But he did not choose to wait till the natural increase of the revenue enabled him to make these changes, which in themselves were undoubtedly beneficial. He was too anxious to discount their political value to endure so patient a policy. As he would not wait, therefore, till he could get the money, he was obliged to take it out of the pockets of some class or other. Accordingly, in spite of the legislative settlement of 1853, in which he himself had induced Parliament to promise that the income-tax should be repealed, he reimposed it at the enormous rate of ten pence in the pound-a rate which has never before been borne by England in time of peace.
From the day of the French Treaty to the present, Parliament has been struggling slowly to escape from the unexampled burden that was then imposed. But up to the present year, Mr. Gladstone never succeeded in reducing the Income-tax to the level to which Mr. Disraeli had reduced it, and at which Mr. Gladstone found it on his accession to his present office. Of course the result of this policy was to give a great stimulus to the particular trades that he benefited by these measures. What he practically did was to take money out of the hands of the payers of Income-tax generally, and put it into the hands of the wool-weavers, and the other traders who received advantage from the French Treaty. That the wool-weavers should have flourished under this policy is only natural. Nothing stimu
lates the operations of a merchant or a manufacturer like putting a large sum of money into his pocket. What became of the people out of whose pockets the money came—the large majority of Income-tax payers, who derived no benefit from the French Treaty, except the opportunity of purchasing weak claret and fragile gloves—is a point upon which every advocate of the Government is eloquently silent. They meekly paid their ten pence in the pound, and whether they flourished or were ruined is unknown to the Statistical officials. The Statistics of the Board of Trade only tell of that kind of wealth which passes through the Custom-House. A genuine stimulus was given to trade; but whether the holders of fixed incomes, at whose expense trade was so largely subsidized, were fairly treated or not, is a matter of less importance in Mr. Gladstone's eyes, as they are not very powerful at the hustings.
These are considerations which might be dwelt upon much more largely, if this were the time for a full discussion of Mr. Gladstone's financial policy. Its fault has always been the intensely political spirit that pervaded it. Its principles are not unsound, but their application has been dictated not by the scientific computations of the financier, but by the exigencies of the hardpressed politician. Justice in taxation and security in calculation have been recklessly sacrificed to the necessity of conciliating serviceable supporters and producing showy budgets. His finance was made to gratify his predilections, to give effect to his antipathies, and to secure his political position; and thus even his most useful measures were deformed by the secondary purposes they were intended to serve, and scarcely ever produced the benefit that was projected to one set of taxpayers without inflicting a needless set-off of injury to another. But the true character of Mr. Gladstone's past finance is not the real question which stands for decision at the present juncture. We have to deal with the future, not with the past ; and the circumstances of the probable future differ so widely from the past that the experience of the one will be of little use in helping us to forecast the other. The French treaty, the Paper-duties, and the heavy Income-tax are matters of history now. However precipitately they may have been adopted, and however much suffering they may have caused at the moment, time has healed it. Our business is with the political position as it stands, and the future that is immediately before us.
Contrary to modern maxims, men are just now of far more importance than measures. So far as the votes at the ensuing election are given from a political motive at all, the vast majority
of them will be given in support, not of a policy, but of a statesman. It is the personal question that must, therefore, take precedence of any other in a discussion of political probabilities. Who are the rulers whom we may expect to have, if the present election should result in favour of the existing Government ? All the Liberal papers are arguing upon the hypothesis that Lord Palmerston will continue to be Prime Minister. Most of the Liberal electors will probably go to the poll under the influence of the same idea. We sincerely hope that no further diminution of Lord Palmerston's health or strength will take place for a long time to come. His strong constitution holds out every hope that he will live for many years to enjoy the honour which men of all opinions will gladly pay to one who has devoted so large a portion of his life and such unwearied assiduity to the service of his country. But it is idle to expect that he can continue to hold the position of First Minister and leader of the House of Commons. He would probably have resigned it many months ago but for the importunate entreaties of his colleagues that he would not forsake them at this crisis of their fate. No man less courageous or less robust could have borne the exhausting burden of such an office at the age to which the Psalmist has ascribed nothing but weakness and sorrow. Not only is it a seat that is unexampled in English history, but no approach to it even can be found. Sir Robert Peel used to say that no man could perform the duties of the office with efficiency after sixty. All honour to the vigour of mind and freshness of feeling which have induced Lord Palmerston to sacrifice to what he believed to be his country's good, so large a portion of the repose which old age may justly claim. But it is obvious that such a marvellous strain upon human powers must at last reach the limit at which they would refuse to answer to the call: and it has been too evident, for many months past, that that limit has been reached. Ever since Easter Lord Palmerston's leadership of the House of Commons has been little more than nominal. He has appeared on a few occasions to answer important questions; and has remained in his place for a short time before dinner. Once or twice he has remained till late in the evening. But with these scanty exceptions the practical leadership of the House has devolved upon Sir George Grey. Yet the actual presence in the House of Commons--a duty which in former years Lord Palmerston used to perform with unremitting diligence-is the lightest of all the labours which the First Minister is called on to perform. If this is beyond his power to accomplish satisfactorily, all the other and more onerous portion of his task must of necessity be laid aside altogether.