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of the country, it was his interest as well as his duty to do everything possible for the increase of her greatness. It is not necessary, however, to pursue such investigations into motive, for he cannot be charged with the abandonment of one faith and the adoption of another. The root of Radicalism or Liberalism never had a place in him. With the steady pursuit of broad and Liberal policy by well-ordered methods he never had, it would be fair to say—it was not in his nature to have—the faintest sympathy. He was an Oriental in every fibre of his nature, and the chief marvel of his career is that, with such tendencies dominant within him, he was able to place himself at the head of the proudest aristocracy of the West. The negotiations of the last two years at Constantinople have done much to show how disastrous was his influence in Eastern politics, but the full tale has not yet been told. Possibly the present generation will never know all the mischief which has resulted from the introduction of this strange personality into the ruling forces of the nation.
This much has been said of Lord Beaconsfield because his success was due to circumstances which have a curious parallel in our own case. His opportunity was found in the dissolution of a great party, owing to a reversal of the policy of his life by the leader. But for the surrender of Sir Robert Peel to the force of reason and the stress of circumstances Mr. Disraeli had little prospect of becoming head of the great Tory party and Prime Minister of England. Party has its many disadvantages, but at least it does something to restrain the excesses of overvaulting personal ambition. A system of groups, on the contrary, is peculiarly favourable to its development. Among them intrigue can have its perfect work. Adroitness in pandering to the ambitions of the different sections, and skill in playing one off against the other, become the highest qualities of statesmanship. Consistency becomes a thing to be laughed at, as the weakness of men so intent on doing the right that they lose the power which falls to the lot of men whose resolute purpose is not sicklied o'er' by respect to antiquated scruples. The play of this opportunism is often extremely entertaining, but it cannot secure the admiration of those who have faith in principle and adhere to it under every variety of circumstance.
To any one who, like myself, believes that party organisation is essential to real legislative progress there is much that is disappointing in the present position of the Liberal party. The party is shattered— Tories would fain persuade us, beyond hope of recovery, and there are timid Liberals half disposed to believe them. Pessimism of this kind is ludicrously overdone. It is easy to conceive of a number of events any one of which would put a very speedy end to the present condition of disintegration, and rally all the forces of Liberalism to some determined efforts for the recovery of political power. Under these circumstances it is well to exercise patience, and yet in that patience to be vigilant, to be on the outlook for opportunities, to be unfaltering in loyalty to great principles, and earnest in their advocacy. One point which the self-confident adherents of the present Government would be wise to remember is that the apparent weakness of the party does not imply a corresponding decay of Liberal opinion. There has been a recrudescence of an Imperial sentiment which may be Jingo in its tendencies, but which has in it some better elements. Undoubtedly it is favourable to Conservatism, and of it the Ministry have taken the utmost possible advantage. Then, the unhappy action of the Independent Labour party has not only sometimes caused division in the constituencies, but has either detached from the Liberal ranks some of its most solid supporters or seriously chilled their enthusiasm. But it is well to distinguish between Liberalism and the party, and to recognise the fact that to-day there are multitudes of Liberals who at present are not of the party, but are ready to rally to its flag whenever it shall be uplifted by a competent leader.
The extraordinary contrast between the electoral power of Liberalism in the country and the weakness of the Opposition in Parliament is the crucial fact of the situation. It is not often that we have such distinct evidence of a strong reaction in the country as the recent elections have supplied, but there is nothing in them to suggest that when Parliament meets there will be more resolution and spirit shown by the Front Opposition Bench than there was in the last session. It certainly cannot be said that the leaders have contributed much to the revival of which we have had such significant indications. The most notable deliverance from Sir William Harcourt has been one of congratulation for a victory already won, and few of his followers would dissent from the opinion that it had, better never have been given. Indeed, the difficulty is to understand how a politician occupying so responsible a position could have been betrayed into an utterance so undignified. It is true that it was a reply to an attack if possible even more unworthy of a man of light and leading, and was followed by a retort equally lacking in judgment and courtesy. But the wisest men in the Liberall party would prefer to leave Mr. Chamberlain and his friends in undisturbed enjoyment of a monopoly in such polemics. They do not advance any cause, and they are never less necessary than in the hour of unexpected triumph. But the ill-advised sally was one of the few reminders which Sir William Harcourt has recently vouchsafed to the party he is supposed to lead. Despite, therefore, of these abundant evidences of vitality and vigour which Liberals have given, there was some justification for the sneer on which Lord Salisbury ventured at the recent Unionist demonstration at the temporary paralysis which bad overtaken his opponents. As regards the leaders, whom alone he condescends to notice, he is correct. A wise man might have adopted a different tone; but, after all, a jibe may be the best way of covering a defeat which it is impossible to deny. If his Lordship does not recognise the significance of these electoral defeats, he is probably the only sane man in his party who does not; and it may be that he may yet be rudely enlightened by some of his own colleagues.
Mr. Chamberlain certainly has not failed to appreciate them, and he has rightly interpreted, to some extent at least, their true inwardness. The speech which expressed his own bitter mortification, and which seems to have angered Sir William Harcourt, was sufficiently rude and insulting, but it contained a good deal of truth. The election of 1895 certainly did not express the conversion of all who voted for Unionism to the Unionist faith. With multitudes who had been lifelong Liberals it was an expression of temporary spleen and nothing more. They were angry with the Government and the party. In their haste they pronounced them deceivers, and they gave effect to their feeling by voting against them. But it was not long before the process of disillusion began, and it has gone on so rapidly that it might be regarded as almost complete were it not that new developments of Ministerial folly are day by day adding to the number of those who keenly regret that they ever helped to instal the Unionist party in power. They fondly hoped that they were going to correct the excesses into which a rampant Radicalism had been betrayed, but they did not mean to replace it by a reactionary Toryism mad enough to dream of undoing the work of the last half-century. What they hoped for was the formation of a really National party, which would combine the forces working for national progress on both sides of the House; which would recognise the changed conditions of the country and adapt itself to them; which would eschew 'faddists' of all varieties and colours, and would, in fact, establish a régime of wise and judicious patriotism. With numbers the disenchantment has had its perfect work, and with others it is proceeding as rapidly as could be desired.
The blunders of the Government have supplied the most effectual weapons to the Opposition. That they have not told for more is due to the failure of the Liberal leaders to profit by their own opportunities. The secret cry of numbers during the last session must have been, 'Oh for one hour of Gladstone!' Lord Salisbury, indeed, seemed half disposed to throw upon his opponents the responsibility for the blunders of his own colleagues. In a single sentence he sets forth the real fact of the situation. When we had to face Mr. Gladstone, no one talked about muzzled dogs.' He was severe upon the Opposition leaders, but he was still more severe upon his own colleagues. It has been their good fortune that their critics failed so egregiously in the Parliamentary struggle. But surely that is not to be given as a reason why they have committed such a series of
amazing blunders. Even now they seem more disposed to admire their own marvellous wisdom than to confess their repeated mistakes. *Compulsory self-approval' is the purgatory to which, according to one of their leading journals, they are unhappily doomed, and while they indulge in this blind self-complacency each successive blunder is causing some of their supporters to fall away from their side.
That which the palmerworm hath left hath the locust eaten, and that which the locust hath left hath the cankerworm eaten, and that which the canker worm hath left hath the caterpillar eaten.' Many who were not disturbed by the Education policy were offended by the Agricultural Rating Act; those who were satisfied with that have proved restive under the Workmen's Compensation Act. A large body of the Liberal-Unionist wing in particular who have done their utmost to reconcile themselves to the prancing of Mr. Chamberlain as the dictator of our Colonial Empire have been staggered and provoked by his trifling with the principle of Free Trade; and those who have survived all these shocks, perhaps hardly been affected by any of them—the most stolid and unimpressible of the whole Ministerial host, the genuine London Tories--have been moved to an extent which as yet can hardly be measured by the Prime Minister's too manifest desire to get rid of the London County Council. The hatred of a great municipality which this maladroit sally expresses is very unworthy of a great statesman, but its folly is even more evident than its reactionary narrowness. For the Council includes a considerable number of his Lordship’s own followers, who have learned to like the position and to be interested in the work. If a 'Progressive' majority had been in possession and been working out their policy at full swing, the impression produced by the fierce attack of the Tory chief might have been very different. But this is not the case. These Moderates' have their full share of position and influence, and they cannot be expected to regard a proposal to sweep all away except with an aversion they do not even care to disguise. What is more, they are hoping (on what grounds I know not) that after next March they will be masters of the situation. That at this crisis their own leader should place them in so compromising a position is too much for the patience of ordinary mortals.
No doubt they and their supporters have been ready enough with their diatribes against the Council and all its works. But they never intended them to be taken seriously. They were only the bitter cry of the 'outs' who desired to become the ins. Even if they entered on their work prejudiced against the Council, those hostile feelings have gradually disappeared. They like its excitement, perhaps even its gossip: the municipal parliament is a convenient training-school in which they prepare themselves for the Imperial Legislature to which many
of them aspire. They are annoyed and angry at this illtempered and blundering utterance, which must necessarily tell against themselves and their hopes of supremacy in their local chamber. It required some ingenuity to commit such a blunder, and it would be rash to say that the great Marquis has exhausted his capacity and come to the end of his achievements in that direction. Some mistake of the kind may easily produce a situation within the Ministry whose strain will become absolutely intolerable. We are assured, indeed, that never was a Cabinet more united; but successive strokes of ill-fortune, naturally provoking discussion as to where the responsibility for them rests, may disturb the perfect harmony even of the best of well-regulated Cabinets.
But into such speculations about the probabilities of an unknown future I do not care to enter. So far as it is possible to judge, few events are less to be desired by the Liberal party than an early election, followed by their own return to office. There may arise some emergency in foreign affairs which might make it necessary in the interests of the country that the helm of State should be transferred to other and stronger hands. Under such conditions party interests would become a matter of very subordinate importance; but, apart from any event of the kind, an early change of the Ministry is greatly to be deprecated. During the last year it has certainly been doing Liberalism more service than has been rendered by its professed representatives. The country had really known nothing of Toryism for half a century. There have been Conservative Ministries, but their most popular leaders have not been Conservatives in the true sense of the term. No one, indeed, would apply that description either to Sir Robert Peel or Lord Beaconsfield. The one was a Progressive, ever learning, though he may not ever have attained to the full knowledge of the truth; the other, a brilliant freelance who used the prejudices which he did not share, and the ambitions of a party to which he rendered no true allegiance, to work out the dreams of his own genius or to promote the ends of his own ambition. Lord Derby was the one Tory Premier of the period, and, though he held office for brief intervals, he was never really in power. In truth, during the short terms in which the Tory Ministry has held the reins the party has been practically muzzled by orders as stringent as those of Mr. Walter Long. During the last two years the country has had an entirely novel experience. It has seen Toryism in its true character, and it has learned to its cost that, like the Bourbons, it has forgotten nothing and it has learned nothing. This is said with a clear recognition of all that is implied in the so-called revolt of Lord Londonderry and his sympathisers. That they are dissatisfied with what they are pleased to regard as the Liberalising tendencies of the Ministry only shows how insatiable are the demands of the old Toryism, and how hopeless must be the attempt to govern the country on the lines of its policy. Concessions, indeed, are made to the democracy in the hope of catching votes. There is scarcely an attempt to conceal