« AnteriorContinuar »
“CONSERVATIVE REACTION” -INSTALLED IN OFFICE.
MR. DIsraeli was not long in forming a Ministry. He reduced the number of the Cabinet in the first instance to twelve. Lord Cairns became Lord Chancellor. Lord Derby was made foreign Secretary, an appointment which gratified sober-minded men. Lord Salisbury was intrusted with the charge of the Indian Department. This too was an appointment which gave satisfaction outside the range of the Conservative party as well as within it. During his former administration of the Indian Office, Lord Salisbury had shown great ability and self-command, and he had acquired a reputation for firmness of character and large and liberal views. He was now and for some time after looked upon as the most rising man and the most high-minded politician on the Conservative side. The country was pieased to see that Mr. Disraeli made no aceount of the differences that formely existed between Lord Salisbury and himselt, of the dislike that Lord Salisbury had evidently felt toward him at one time, and of the manner in which he had broken away from the Conservative Ministry at the time of the Reform Bill of 1867. Lord Carnarvon beca Colonial Secretary: Mr. Cross, a Lancashire lawyer, who had never been in office of any kind botore, was lifted into the position of a Home Secretary. Mr. Gathorne Hardy was made Secretary for War, and Mr. Ward Hunt First Lord of the Admiralty, Sir Stafford Northcote, who
had been trained to finance by Mr. Gladstone, accepted the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Duke of Richmond as Lord President of the Council made a safe, inoffensive, and repectable leader of the Government in the House of Lords.
The Liberals seemed to have received a stunning blow. The whole party reeled under it, and did not appear cap. able for the moment of rallying against the shock. Nothing could be more disheartening than the appearance of the tront opposition benches during a great part of the session. To accumulate the difficulties, Mr. Gladstone suddenly an. nounced his attention of retiring from the position ot leader of the Liberal Party. In a letter to Lord Granville, dated March 12th, 1875, he explainod that “for a variety of reasons personal to myself," he could not contemplate any unlimited extension of active political service," and that it might be necessary “to divest myself of all the responsibili. ties of leadership at no distant time.” For the present he held the rank of leader only in a sort of conditional way, and he had frankly announced to Lord Granville that he could not give “ more than an occasional attendance in the House of Commons” during that session. This seemed the one step needed to complete the disorganization of the party. They were many complaints, not loud but deep, of the course taken by Mr. Gladstone. It was contrasted openly as well as secretly with the perseverance, the unwearying patience, which Mr. Disraeli had shown in keeping his place at the head of his party during long years of what must often have seemed a hopeless struggle. Mr. Gladstone pleaded his advancing years; but it was asked, are not the years of Mr. Disraeli still further advanced ? Who brought us, some discontented Liberals asked, into all this difficulty ? Who but the man who now deserts us in the face of the enemy?
The opposition were for a while apparently not only
without a leader, but even without a policy or a motive for existence. For a while it seemed as if, to adopt the correct and concise description given by Mr. Clayden in his “England under Lord Beaconsfield,” “the opposition had nothing to oppose." The Ministry had succeeded to a handsome surplus of nearly six millions. It would be hardly possible under such circumstances to bring in a budget which shoul? be wholly unsatisfactory. Mr. Ward Hunt contrived indeed to get up a momentary scare about the condition of the navy. When introducing the navy estimates he talked in tones of ominous warning about his determination not to have a fleet on paper or to put up with phantom ships. The words sent a wild thrill of alarm through the cou
ry. The sudden impression prevailed that Mr. Hunt had made a fearful discovery–had found out that the country had really no navy; that he would be compelled to set about constructing one out of hand. The whole of the surplus at least, people said, would have to be given up to make a beginning; nor did men forget to point to the cheerful possibility of some foreign enemy taking advantage of the opportunity to assail England's unprotected coasts. Mr. Ward Hunt, however, when pressed for an explanation, explained that he really meant nothing. It appeared that he had oniy been expressing his disapproval on abstract grounds of the maintenance of inefficient navies, and never meant to convey the idea that England's navy was not efficient. The country breathed again ; the surplus seemed safe, and the coasts. The idea of Germany or Russia coming down upon defenceless England, like Archilles on the unarmed Hector in Troilus and Cressida, passed away.
Two new measures belonging to the same order disturbed for a while what Sir Wilfrid Lawson jocularily called "the almost holy calm" which prevailed in Parliament now that the Consevatives had it all their own way, and the Libera's were crushed. One was the bill for the abolition of Churcia
patronage in Scotland; the other, the Public Worship Bill for England. The Church Patronage Bill, which was introduced by the Government, is well described by Mr. Clayden as “a Liberal measure which had become a reactionary scheme by being brought into the world a generation behind its time." It took away the appointment of ministers in the Church of Scotland from lay patrons, but only to give it to the male communicants of the parish kirk, not to the whole body of the parishioners. The patronage system was the cause of that great secession from the Church of Scotland under Dr. Chalmers which has been described in an early chapter of this history. Such a measure as that now introduced by the Government, or at least a measure having such a general purpose, would have prevented the secession in 1843 ; but it was useless for any purpose of reconciliation in 1874. Moreover, the measure of 1874,, by confining the power of appointment to the actual communicants of each church, took a way the national character of the Church of Scotland, and converted it into a sectarian organization. In a historical sense, the passing of the measure can have little importance unless as it may have given an impulse to the question of disestablishment in Scotland. Its introduction became of some present interest to the House of Commons, because it drew Mr. Gladstone into debate for the first time since the opening nights of the session. He opposed the bill, but of course in vain. Mr. Disraeli complimented him on his reappearance, and kindly expressed a hope that he would favor the House with his presence as often as possible; indeed was quite friendly and patronizing to his fallen rival.
The bill for the Regulation of Public Worship was not a Government measure. It was introduced into the House of Lords by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and into the House of Commons by Mr. Russell Gurney. It was strongly disliked and publicly condmmed by some members of the
Cabinet; but after it had gone its way fairly toward success Mr. Disraeli showed a disposion to adopt it, and even to speak as if he had had the responsibility of it from the first. Once or twice it would almost seem as if he had forgotten that it was not a measure of his own proposing. The bill illustrated a curious difficulty into which the Church of Eng. land had been brought, in consequence partly of its connection with the State. We have already traced in these volumes the history of the Oxford movement, which was in. tended to quicken the State Church with new life and fresh. ness, and which before long sent some of the greatest divines of that Church into the ranks of the Church of Rome. The influence of the movement made itself felt in other ways as well. It set thought stirring everywhere within the Church. It appealed to much that was philosophical, much that was artistic and ästhetic, and at the same time to much that was sceptical. One body of Churchmen were anxious to maintain the unity of the Christian Church, and would not admit that the Church of England began to exist with the Reformation. They claimed apostolical succession for their bishops; they declared that the clergymen of the Church of England were priests in the true spiritual sense. Thus the Tractarians, as they were called for a time, were thrown into direct antagonism with the Evangelicals. The latter maintained that the Bible was the sole authority; the former held that the New Testament derived its authority from the Church. The Tractarians therefore claimed a right to examine very freely into the meaning of doubtful passages in the Scriptures, and insisted that if the authority of the Church were recognized as that of the heaven-appointed in. terpreter, all difficulty about the reconciliation of the scriptural writings with the discoveries of modern science would necessarily disappear. The Tractarian party--we call them by that name now merely as a means of distinguishing them from their opponents, and not with the intention of suggest.