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themselves, on more than one occasion, to a policy of nonintervention until, at all events, some favourable opportunity for mediation should occur. In a document very clearly and precisely worded, Lord Derby specified to the Russian Government the Suez Canal, the Persian Gulf, and the Bosphorus, as the points at which British interests would be touched ; and Prince Gortchakoff no less distinctly replied that England should have no ground of complaint. An alarm raised that Parliament was to be asked for a large and special grant of money for the raising of troops, similar to that which was demanded and made in the Franco-German War, proved to be unfounded; and when dangerous conclusions were drawn from the despatch of the fleet to Besika Bay, and questions suggested by those conclusions asked in Parliament, Lord Derby answered that the Mediterranean garrisons were below their full complement, and it was thought desirable to strengthen them to the extent of about 3,000. In the House of Commons the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave a similar explanation. A brief reference to all further debate upon the question of the year will be sufficient for our present purpose. Much bad been said and written about the conditions of our neutrality with regard to Constantinople, and on the eve of the recess, Mr. Monk, alarmed at the prospect of six months' ministerial autocracy, asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether Her Majesty's Government would consider the temporary occupation of Constantinople by Russian troops so far inconsistent with British interests as to disturb the relations of amity between England and Russia. A question like this produces at once an instinctive feeling that it cannot be answered, and so, when the Chancellor of the Exchequer declined to answer it, his reply was received with loud cheers. But when Mr. Monk brought up the subject once more, he had the advantage of being able to make a speech. He protested against a war to prevent a Russian occupation of Constantinople, and stated his belief that the downfall of the Ottoman Power was not far distant, and that no efforts on the part of Europe could long prevent it. The most effective answer to Mr. Monk came from Sir Henry Wolff, who a few days before had desired to extract from the Government an equally inexpedient pledge about the closing of the Dardanelles. Lord Palmerston, said Sir Henry Wolff, declined to answer hypothetical questions, "and this appeared to be a hypothetical question, for the Russians are not at Constantinople, and we do not know that they will ever get there, or that they want to get there.” “The great danger," continued the speaker, " incurred in answering the question of the hon. member would be that the answer would give encouragement to one party or the other.” The Government might encourage the Russians, or it might encourage the Turks, and the latter might reject terms of peace that would otherwise be accepted by them.
In a speech which may be taken as summarising the Opposition attitude for the recess, after denying a report of an arrange
ment between the Front Opposition Bench and the Government to prevent the discussion of foreign affairs, Mr. Forster admitted that Lord Hartington and the Liberal leaders thought it right to respect the opinion of the Queen's Ministers that present discussion would be disadvantageous to the national interests. The Government were undertaking a great responsibility in desiring Parliament to separate without any special information with regard to the present critical position af affairs. “But, speaking for myself and others, we should not have assented to this course had we any reason to fear that the Government were likely between now and the opening of Parliament to drag the country into war, or to involve it in any breach of neutrality. We have most carefully considered everything that has been written and said by the Government, and, looking at their last Despatches, we feel convinced that they intend to abide by a policy of strict neutrality.” Such, indeed, said the “ Times,” in commenting upon the debate, must be the conclusion of everyone who takes the trouble to separate what the Ministers have said and done from what is said for them and anticipated about them by confident supporters.
The Budget of the year was singularly uneventful in its nature and surroundings, and caused neither curiosity nor much comment. It was brought forward before a thin and not very interested house, from which Mr. Gladstone, for the first time for many years, on the occasion of a Budget speech, was conspicuous by his absence. It was on April 12 that the Chancellor of the Exchequer made the Financial Statement of the year. Dealing first with the figures of last year, he stated that, while the Budget estimate of Revenue was 78,412,0001., the actual amount received was 78,565,0361., showing an increase of 153,0361. On the other hand, the estimated expenditure being 78,043,8451., the actual amount expended was 78,125,2271., being an excess of 81,3821., so that the estimated surplus of 368,0001. has actually turned out to be 443,0001. This, though not a brilliant result, he thought was satisfactory, considering the continued depression of trade. Passing to details, he mentioned that there has been a decrease on the Customs of 328,0001., and on the Stamps of 110,0001. ; while there have been excesses on the Excise of 112,000l. ; Land Tax and House Tax, 32,0001.; Income Tax, 12,000l.; Post Office, 50,0001.; Crown Lands, 15,0001.; and Miscellaneous Revenue, 390,0361. The revenue from spirits has fallen off on the Customs from 5,956,000l. to 5,769,0001., and on the Excise from 15,150,0001. to 14,875,000., though the increase in malt, from 7,750,0001. to 8,040,0001., converts the deficiency on the Excise into an excess. There are also fallings off on wine and tea, and increases on currants and raisins. In the Miscellaneous Revenue there is a large increase in the extra receipts from the Civil Service and Revenue Departments. The interest on Public Loans shows an increase of 54,0001., and the Fees from County Courts bave also increased 140,0001. Giving similar details as to the expenditure, he men
tioned that the Supplementary Estimates, which would have brought the expenditure of the year up to 79,020,000l., had been balanced within 8,0001, by the savings. The Army expenditure had been 170,2451. less than the estimate, the Navy was less by 8,0001. than the estimate, and the Miscellaneous Civil Services showed a decrease of 617,0991. Passing to the coming year, he thus stated the estimated expenditure :
£ Permanent Charge for Debt
28,000,000 Interest on Local Loans
220,000 Charge of Suez Loan
200,000 Other Consolidated Fund Charges
14,538,700 Home Charges of Forces in India
1,000,000 Army Purchase
10,979,829 Civil Services
13,726,198 Customs and Inland Revenue
2,767,165 Post Office
3,261,461 Telegraph Service
1,232,814 Packet Service
Total Expenditure £78,794,044 This shows an increase on the expenditure for last year of 668,8171. As to the revenue, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that though, looking to the falling off in the last quarter, it was impossible to take a sanguine view, there was no reason to despond. The resources of the country were still untouched, the consuming power of the people had not been exhausted, although for the moment it was less powerful. Bearing this in mind, he estimated the revenue for the coming year thus :
This is a net increase on the estimates of last year of 454,9641. On the Customs the Chancellor of the Exchequer estimated for a decrease of 72,0001., on the Excise for a decrease of 235,0001., and on the Telegraph Service for a decrease of 5,000l. On Stamps there is an estimated increase of 30,000l., on Land Tax and House Duty of 28,0001., on Income Tax of 260,0001., on the Post Office of 100,0001., and on the Miscellaneous Revenue of 349,9641. The estimated Revenue being 79,020,0001., and the expenditure 78,794,0001., it follows that there is a surplus of 226,0001., and this state of things, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, presented him with a “ready-made Budget.” It was pretty clear that there was no necessity to add to the taxation of the country, nor was it possible to take any tax off. “Let well alone,” therefore, would be the motto for the
year. In touching upon various topics connected with the Budget, the Chancellor of the Exchequer showed that of the 78,000,0001. odd, at which he estimated the expenditure, more than 13,000,000l. are for such items as the Post Office, Crown Lands, and other charges, which are only matters of account, and that the sum actually taken from the pockets of the taxpayer is no more than 65,070,0001., and he announced also that it was his intention to make a change in the mode of showing the accounts for miscellaneous revenue, particularly by separating the interest on local loans from the other multifarious items. Dealing with the Debt, he showed that during the past year 1,592,0001. of debt, has been cancelled, and with regard to the new Sinking Fund, its operation has been very successful, inasmuch as 939,7281. has been cancelled by it, and it is estimated that 900,000l. will be cancelled in the course of the coming year. During the three years in which the present Government has held office, the funded and unfunded debt of the country has been reduced by 3,693,0001., and, in addition to this, 15,621,0001. have been invested in such objects as the Suez Canal, loans to local bodies, barracks, and fortifications, army purchase, telegraph services, &c. Taking a comprehensive review of both sides of the account, he calculated that the National Balance is better by 15,200,0001. than when the Government came in. He proposed to do something in regard to the annually increasing deficit in the Savings' Bank account-not on the extensive scale of former propositions, but simply to stop the leak. Each year he proposed that the difference between the interest paid to depositors and the interest actually earned should be ascertained and voted by the House of Commons, and that the sum thus earned by the Post Office Savings Bank should be paid into the Exchequer. Finally, he repeated that, though the Budget was not a brilliant one, it was a safe one, in the circumstance of continued commercial depression, and with regard to our general fiscal system, he claimed that it was sound and wholesome; that the burden of taxation which it proposed was not oppressive, and that it would maintain us in a position of financial strength.
In the desultory discussion which followed, Mr. Childers expressed an opinion that the general financial condition of the country would require serious consideration, and doubted whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Estimates of Revenue had sufficiently allowed for the consequences of the stagnation of trade, which would be more perceptible next year than in the laj. Mr. Baxter took the same view and protested strongly against the continuous increase of expenditure. Mr. Gorst, however, showed that of the increased expenditure this year, 300,0001. was for the reduction of Debt, and 127,0001. for Local Loans-besides other items which were merely matters of account. Mr. Mundella echoed Mr. Childers's gloomy vaticinations as to the revenue of next year
The Resolution on the Income Tax was accepted, and it was agreed, in answer to an appeal from Mr. Goschen, that the further discussion should be taken on the Tea Duty Resolution. Subsequent debates, however, produced no important modification in the financial scheme, nor was the financial position of the country in any way altered. We now turn to a very different subject.
The sitting which began at four o'clock on Tuesday, July 3!, will be memorable in the History of the House of Commons. We say began, because it was not till after six on the next evening that it ended, having lasted twenty-six hours and a half. It was the crisis in a strange plot developed for the first time in the walls of St. Stephen's by a little band of Irish members, who made themselves known as the Obstructives, and endeavoured through an abuse of the rules of the House to clog altogether the wheels of legislation. The students of our political history know that the rules and standing orders of the House of Commons, by which that body are self-governed, are framed with great elasticity, upon the principle of mutual forbearance, with a view to securing as far as possible the rights of minorities, and on the assumption of courtesy and fairness on all sides. Freedom of action is the basis of the English principle, which has secured for us an amount of order and regularity of procedure which the many legislative assemblies founded upon its pattern have failed to attain in anything like the same degree. One of these rules provides that no opposed business shall be taken after a certain hour of the night. By another, any single member might move for an adjournment of the House or of the Debate without restriction, of which Sir Erskine May has said that “repeated motions to that effect in opposition to the general desire of the House cannot be restrained unless the House should alter their rules with reference to such motions.” As there is further no limit to the number of verbal amendments which may be proposed upon each successive clause of a Bill, it is clear that only a sense, both of self-respect and of what is due to the Honse, can restrain a member from a dangerous abuse of his political privileges. It speaks highly for the character of the House of Commons that till the present session no grave abuse of this kind has been recorded. During the debates on the first Reform Bill, and sometimes since, an obstinate minority has availed itself of its power of obstruction, to delay the progress of a distasteful measure; but when in 1832 Sir Charles Wetherell divided the House upon dilatory motions until after daybreak, the majority could be tolerant of demonstrations which served as a safety-valve and could not defeat a great piece of legislation. There was nothing, in short, in our past parliamentary history to indicate that the practice of obstruction would ever take the form of an intolerable nuisance. Nothing worse need be feared, it was thought, than that minorities would do in future what they had done in the past; and that the patience of majorities would be tried, as formerly, up to but not beyond the limits of endurance. A few