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misunderstandings among their opponents. Powerless as they are, however, to enforce their own general ideas of policy, they had special advantages for settling the one question, the differences on which among their rivals alone rendered their own continuance in office possible. A large majority of the middle classes are impatient, many of them foolishly impatient, for a settlement—ready to clutch at anything which gives any promise of terminating an agitation which they regard with mingled apprehension and dislike. They have been brought reluctantly to the conviction that there must be a Reforn Bill, and their one desire is that it should be as trivial and harmless as possible. They have been irritated by the demands of the workpeople, whom not a few of them regard as mere hewers of wood and drawers of water who ought to be kept in their own place. On the other hand, they have been alarmed by the power wielded by trades unions, and their fears have been confirmed by such orations as those of Mr. Lowe, until they have settled down into the belief that the industrial classes are a formidable and hostile host whom it may be wise to propitiate by some apparent concessions, but to whom it were madness to give any substantial share in the government of the country.
How widely this feeling is diffused, how largely it has affected those who have hitherto been faithful adherents of the Liberal cause, how it has encouraged a disposition to look favourably on the proceedings of the Derby ministry, is well known to all who mingle in middle-class circles, especially in the metropolis. A wise Conservative administration would have taken advantage of this, and have shown its desire to facilitate a settlement by abandoning some of its old notions, and proposing a Bill which, if not perfectly satisfactory, might at least have been accepted as securing real progress. The most formidable danger, indeed, which sincere Reformers had to fear was that they would, with a specious show of liberality, impose upon the country by the help of their Adullamite allies, and in reliance upon the secret Conservative sympathies of numbers in the Liberal ranks, a measure which should amount to little or nothing. The folly of the government has delivered us from this. Of all the courses open to them they have probably chosen the very worst. They might have refused to deal with the question altogether, and if they had, in consequence, provoked an adverse vote of the House of Commons, they would, at least, have fallen with dignity. They might have proposed such a scheme as we have indicated above, and had it been at all reasonable and fair, have succeeded in passing it, to the undoubted advantage of their party, and to the satisfaction of a large section of their opponents. Even if by such a procedure they had lost a certain amount of their Parlia
er their pave to grapp. one of the
mentary power, it would have been more than compensated by the fact that they had removed one of the greatest difficulties with which they have to grapple, and which, while it remains, must render their prolonged tenure of office impossible. That they have not taken a course, recommended by so many obvious considerations, but have, on the contrary, preferred the vague, hesitating, and unsatisfactory expedient proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, is another proof added to the many they have given before, that the strong aristocratic prejudices of the party prevent them from understanding the real temper of the country, or inaugurating those sound constitutional changes rendered necessary by its altered circumstances.
To English gentlemen, and especially to gentlemen claiming to represent the aristocracy and chivalry of England the present position of the Conservative government must be eminently painful and humiliating. For ministers to abandon their own proper functions and evade the responsibility which, by all precedent, they are bound to accept, to confess their own impotence and appeal to the charity and pity of the House, asking it to express its will, and professing their readiness to become an obedient executive, is certainly a novelty, and one which we should think cannot be very gratifying to the feelings of some who are required to play this extraordinary rôle. The great value of office to an earnest, high-minded man, is the opportunity which it affords him for carrying out his own views of national policy. But here is a ministry which, if it has a policy, is afraid to avow it, and which, therefore, must either involve all its designs in mystery, or borrow the ideas of its opponents. At variance with the majority of the House of Commons, with the feeling of the country, with the spirit of the age, it can do literally nothing except draw salaries and distribute patronage, in return for which it attends to the details of administration. Of course it would be thought very uncharitable to insinuate that gentlemen of such standing could be accessible to such a vulgar consideration as a desire for place and the prestige it confers, but it is really hard to see what other reason can induce this eager clinging to office when the position brings with it no power, and is not the fruit of the triumph of the principles the government professes to hold. Nor can we be blamed for such an opinion, since Lord Derby himself, evidently irritated by the way in which personal claims had been pressed upon him, very plainly intimated that he accepted his high position in deference to the wishes of a party clamorous for the rewards of political struggle.
But while their position is very undignified, and unworthy of the ministers themselves, it is certainly unfortunate for the country. Some of our newspaper critics are so very quick in detecting the signs of incipient revolution in other countries that we wonder they have never discovered the thoroughly revolutionary tendency of a proceeding which so greatly enfeebles the proper position and influence of the executive among ourselves. Our constitutional theory, not the less clear and certain because it is not expressed in any distinct formula, is that the minister is the representative of the majority of the House of Commons, and it cannot be violated without altering the whole character of our government. It was set at defiance by William Pitt, but the circumstances were extremely exceptional, and were soon altered by means of a dissolution. Yet it has always been felt by candid historians that the proceeding was a very doubtful one, and was attended with serious inconveniences. The position of the present government is different from his, but not less contrary to constitutional precedent and not less serious in its consequences. Pitt held office in virtue of the favour of the Crown, and the strong sympathies of the people disgusted with the conduct of the Parliamentary majority. Happily, in our own days, the sovereign does not take the position of a partisan, and if Lord Derby thinks he has the support of the people, we should strongly advise him to see what an appeal to the country will do in his favour. He has not on former occasions shrunk from dissolving Parliament when he expected to reap any party advantages by the step, and he cannot do better than make the experiment again. But no—he understands perfectly that weak as he is in the House, he is weaker still in the country, and that the only result of a dissolution would be to compel him to face a majority, more earnest in spirit, and more thoroughly united from having been purged of that element on which his sole reliance is placed.
Lord Derby, in truth, is the minister not of the Parliament, and still less of the country. He is not even a minister chosen by the Tory party, for theTories have no more power to choose the Prime Minister for England than has Louis Napoleon. He is the minister of the Adullamites, who, havinginstalled him in office, are, if we may trust to rumour, but half satisfied with the work of their hands. Whether it is accordant with the first principles of honour for gentlemen elected on the ground of their Liberal profession, to become instruments in the establishment of a Tory government, we leave for them to judge. We quite admit that many of them gave no very distinct pledge on the subject of Reform, and that of course all of them were at perfect liberty to criticise freely the details of the Government Bill. But there are such things as party obligations, which a man is not at liberty reck
lessly to cast aside. He appeals to a constituency as an adherent of the Liberal party. He enlists all the sympathy and employs the resources of local Liberal organizations in his support. He receives Liberal votes, and by these he enters the House of Commons. Is there, then, no obligation on his part ? Is he at liberty to indulge some little whims of his own, to subordinate party to purely personal considerations, to take umbrage at some real or supposed slight, to nurse his wrath and to vent it in some act of disloyalty to the principles which he has been elected to maintain ? Is he to allow his own petty feelings or trivial differences of opinion to lead him to intrigue with his opponents and become one of their auxiliaries, all the more effective because he has not openly joined their ranks? If we were to grant all that has been alleged by Liberal seceders in their own defence, if we were to attribute Mr. Gladstone's earnestness and intensity to petulance, and to admit that a little more tact might have disarmed some of the bitter opposition directed against him; if we were even to confess that the Reform Bill required improvement, not the less should we reprobate the Adullamite tactics. They acted as intriguing enemies, not as friends desirous to find terms of agreement. They laboured to defeat, not to amend, the measure to which they objected. They sought the counsel not of their own party, but of their natural opponents. And, as the result, they have brought about that condition of ministerial feebleness and utter confusion from which we are suffering at present.
If these Adullamite proceedings are to be justified and construed into a precedent, government by party becomes impossible in this country. To some this may seem a very desirable thing, for superiority to party seems a loity attainment, and they do not see whither this effort to break down all Parliamentary organization really tends. Let the old notions of party relations be abandoned, and let it be understood that each member does what is right in his own eyes, fettered neither by faithfulness to his hustings pledges, nor loyalty to his leader, and it is not difficult to see that strong government will be impossible. Each little section or, in fact, each individual will assert his own indepence on every occasion, and the government, instead of being the guides, must be content, as Lord Derby's ministry now are, with the much humbler position of followers. Whether this degradation of the executive be expedient and salutary, it is not necessary for us to argue here, since these dwellers in the Cave always speak of it as one of the most serious evils to be apprehended from the progress of Democracy. In accusing others they have condemned themselves. They deprecate all revolutionary measures, and yet they are lending themselves to one of the most perilous innovations, the government of a minority. They insist on the necessity of a strong administration, and they have set up and carried out theories of party obligation which would render such an administration impossible. It is they who are really enemies to our constitutional practices, and who are furnishing a precedent, of which others may avail themselves for purposes they little anticipate. It is always easy for a certain number of men, though forming a only a small section of a party, by taking up what is called an "independent” position, either to dictate their own terms, or to betray their friends into the hands of their enemies. A more determined man than Mr. Gladstone might probably have adopted the first course, and kept his place at the cost, not of his own reputation only, but of a “heavy blow and great discouragement” to the principles he represents. He chose the more manly alternative, and the consequence is a state of political anarchy and uncertainty, at the very time when the circumstances of the country call for peculiar wisdom and decision at head-quarters.
We have dwelt so long on the Adullamites, partly because of the conviction that the full extent of the mischief they have done has not yet been fully appreciated, and partly because -now that some of the consequences begin to appear—those who were most earnest in cheering them on, seem very anxious to shift to others the responsibility that must in all fairness be made to rest upon themselves. But Lord Derby and Mr. Disraeli are not to be absolved from blame for forming a ministry with the full consciousness that they could not govern on Tory, and were not prepared to govern on Liberal, principles. The Speech from the Throne was sufficient to indicate their perplexity and reveal their weakness. Of course it promised a great deal, very much in the fashion that weak parents do, when, in order to induce a child to give up some coveted pleasure, they offer all other kinds of indulgences. They will reform workhouses, amend bankruptcy laws, re-organize the army, extend the factory acts-in fact do anything but abandon a single aristocratic privilege or redress a real wrong. They want to maintain old class distinctions, both in Church and State; and if they are only allowed to do that, they are ready for any other sort of service. A great deal of praise has been awarded to them for the spirit and energy they have shown ; but it is only the vigour of men who know that they are baulking the country in the things on which its heart is set, and who vainly dream that they can thus provide some compensation.
It is on the question of Reform, however, that they have most egregiously erred, and erred quite as much in their mode of