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might be of disturbance of the present order of things, they denoted no immediate agitation. Changes and movements were talked of but prospectively. Indifference seemed to be more and more the leading characteristic of the bulk of the people-of the great body of the middle classes at all events—and political and social agitators strove in vain to strike a spark out of them, with any real flame in it, upon any subject whatever. Only on the Prince's illness did the national pulse give evidence of active life in any direction save the making of money. And all this, strange to say, in the face of ample evidence of the truth of the allegation that every institution of the country is being in turn put upon its trial.
In this condition of public feeling, or the absence of it, quiet observers could not but attach but little importance, as far as Parliamentary prospects are concerned, to the increasing unpopularity which Mr. Gladstone and his Government had undoubtedly incurred, and were aggravating every day. On the eve of the meeting of Parliament a general feeling of irritation had been widely spread. An active section of the Dissenting body, having engaged in a violent agitation against some of the provisions of the Education Bill, threatened, unless its demands were conceded, to withdraw its allegiance from the Ministers. A larger portion of the community resented the evasion of a recent Act of Parliament which regulated appointments to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council; and the Prime Minister had, unwisely, confirmed the unfavourable impression by his perverse disposal, in violation of the spirit of another statute, of an ecclesiastical benefice. The recent loss of the “Megæra” had thrown a slur on the administration of the Navy; and, above all, the apparently imminent miscarriage of the Washington Treaty tended to discredit the Government by which it had been negotiated. Its best friends were of opinion that perhaps no administration of our time had ever yet got into so many political scrapes as the present Government was in now.
“It has made,' said a leading Liberal journal, in summing its history, "some very bad blunders. It has had some fearfully bad luck. Its best actions have not yet reaped their reward, and the delay is making weak people doubt whether they were good actions; and its worst actions have reaped a good deal more than their natural penalty. The anarchy at the Admiralty is shocking every body; the Collier scandal has seldom been equalled for superfluousness as well as bad judgment; the Ewelme Rectory scandal seems likely to reinforce the Collier scandal; the American claims are raising a great prejudice against what was, not without reason, thought one of the shrewdest departments of the Government, for not expressly excluding from the scope of the Treaty arbitration on those enormous “indirect' claims which in spirit had certainly been waived by the American Government; the Education policy of the Government-its greatest claim to public gratitude in England at least-has brought about something very like a secession of the Nonconformist party; Mr. Bruce's weakness—his moral prostration
before the victuallers—chafes the country; and even Mr. Lowe's good luck in getting so large a revenue is turned into a reproach on the financial pessimism which made him lay on the additional 2d. of incometax. Altogether there is hardly a department withouta Parliamentary sorrow and fear of its own, and the Prime Minister is personally involved in at least two of the most serious discredits. Yet, in spite of all, though it is hard to find one thoroughly loyal section of the Liberal party—the Moderates being alienated by the Army reform, the Collier scandal, and the fear of Mr. Goschen's Local Rating Bill, and the left wing by the Education policy and the expenditure on the Army-and though the Conservatives are "exceedingly mad' against the whole Administration and its leader, there is a very curious concurrence of hopes rather than expectations that the Government may yet be saved. The Tories are declaring everywhere that the time is not come for them to appeal to the country -one reason being that they are nervous as to the licensing question, and do not want to face the clergy if they give in to the licensed victuallers, or to face the licensed victuallers if they give in to the clergy-while the Nonconformists at Manchester are exhorting each other most eagerly, though not very successfully, to be temperate, and to give even Mr. Forster a second chance if he will take it. Thus it happens that while very few love the Government and very many hate it, no one is anxious to overthrow it; and every member is asking how far he can go in embarrassing and harassing the Government without overthrowing it. Many would like to knock over Lord Hatherley, many to expel Mr. Forster, many to rid the Government of Mr. Bruce, many to hurt Mr. Lowe, most of all, perhaps, to humiliate Mr. Gladstone. But they all want to know how this can be done without causing a dissolution or change of Government. It is a spiteful problem in maxima and minima-how to inflict on the Government the maximum of discredit with the minimum of immediate result. The censors of the Government are like a dueller who declares he does not want to kill his antagonist, but only to 'give him a lesson that he will remember to the day of his death.' That, however, is a very delicate feat to achieve when you are playing with deadly weapons. You may wish to 'wing your adversary, and send a ball just through the heart. And the great question now is--Can the Government, even with the cordial help of its many open enemies and insincere friends, manage to receive the tokens of the accumulated dislikes of so many different sections and yet survive the Session ?”
The conclusion was that it was next to impossible. But the greatest proof of the indifferentism of which we have spoken is that, though the Government only added fuel to the fire throughout the ensuing session ; though, in the general opinion, they redeemed no blunders and made more; though the results of the Geneva Arbitration on the Alabama claims (with which we shall deal exclusively in a separate chapter) caused something more nearly approaching a popular outcry than anything else, being, as it was,
brought home to our pockets through the forfeiture of three millions of good money to no apparent purpose and with no apparent justification—though the session was to be signalized by a Bill more directly affecting the “liberty of the subject” than perhaps any measure which has been passed in constitutional days—that though all this and yet more happened, the end of the session found the Government where it was at the beginning, just as well abused, and just as little shaken.
As in England, so in Ireland, the signs of great and increasing material prosperity were to be set for what they were worth, at the beginning of this year, against evidences of political discontent. At the annual meeting of the Belfast Chamber of Commerce, the president, Mr. Spotten, made a statement which is worthy of attention, and supplies some additional proofs of the progress of that thriving portion of the empire. He remarked with satisfaction that there are few towns in the kingdom which exhibit more hopeful signs of commercial prosperity or enjoy a larger share of public confidence. There had been of late years some disasters consequent upon the reaction which followed the abrupt termination of the American war, but they were few and unimportant, and at present there is not a loom or spindle in the North of Ireland which cannot be employed to advantage. The linen trade has seldom been in a more healthy state. “Spinners, manufacturers, and merchants are foresold for a considerable time; stocks of yarns and linens there are none of any importance, unless those held in the bleached and finished state," and “the staple trade is likely to enjoy for some years a fair share of uninterrupted progress and profit. He stated that wages never were so high, and the people never had greater cause to be contented and happy. The exports of goods from Belfast during the past year were 2,300,0001. in excess of 1870, and 3,400,0001. in excess of 1869, while the amount of capital now employed considerably exceeds 5,000,0001. sterling. Although the progress in manufactures is considerable, that in population outruns it. Belfast in 1861 numbered 121,000, in 1871 175,000. Buildings still grow up with marvellous rapidity, and houses are inhabited as quickly as they are built. He expressed regret that the short acreage and diminished yield of the flax crop in 1871 had seriously curtailed the supply of flax. The diminution last year, as compared with 1870, amounted to about 62 per cent. in production and 19} per cent. in area of cultivation. As to the future, the report of the Flax Supply Association was encouraging. He referred to the provision trade as another important element of prosperity, and stated that it is in a sound and healthy state. Another branch of local industry was shipbuilding, which was carried on most successfully by Messrs. Harland and Wolff. They had just launched three new ships for the White Star line of American packets, and finished two which they had launched last year.
The average tonnage of the five was 10,000 gross register. They had also in hand two steamers of 3000 tons each for a Liverpool house, making eighteen steamers which they had turned out, besides sailing-vessels. The tonnage of vessels entering the port last year was 1,350,810, being an increase of 10 per cent. over the previous year, and these ships were so increasing that the extended dock accommodation was quite inadequate, and they would have to build new graving and floating docks. He noticed with satisfaction that the cotton trade is reviving in Belfast. Referring to the general prosperity of the country, he pointed out the remarkable increase of the note circulation of the Irish banks within the past year. The circulation of all the Irish banks on the 28th of January, 1872, was 7,810,6361., and at the corresponding period of 1871, 7,392,625l., showing an increase of 418,01ll. The circulation of the three Belfast jointstock banks on the 28th of January, 1872, was 1,868,3191., and at the same time, in 1871, 1,784,7801., showing an increase of 83,5391. The return recently made by Dr. Hancock with respect to Irish savings' and other banks was another noticeable fact. « From this it appears that the aggregate investments of the Irish people in Government joint-stock banks and savings' banks on the 31st of December, 1870, were 63,55:3,2511., and on the 31st of December, 1871, 67,331,7781., showing an increase of 3,778,5271., or 6 per cent.-a very striking fact. This does not include investments in foreign securities or in railways; and if these could be traced, Dr. Hancock is of opinion it would present a still more favourable result."
Such facts as these certainly tend to show that all the country must want is to be allowed to pursue this career of prosperity without the distraction and disturbance of political chimeras. But these chimeras had certainly not been dispelled by recent legislation. The “ Home-Rule” agitation was extending more and more, and two parliamentary vacancies in Galway and Kerry gave the agitators chances not to be neglected; the Home-Rule candidates, Captain Nolan and Mr. Blennerhassett, standing high in the popular favour. Captain Trench and Mr. Dease stood forward as their opponents. Into the advocacy of the popular cause in Galway other motives entered besides Home Rule. There it was in great measure a struggle between the power of the landed gentry and the Roman Catholic clergy. The attitude of the prelates and the priesthood in the West was widely different from that which they had assumed in the South. In Galway all were arrayed, from the Archbishop of Tuam down to the youngest curate, on the side of Captain Nolan, the favourite of the populace and out-and-out Home-Ruler, while the principal landed proprietors, Conservative and Whig, united in support of Captain Trench. In Kerry the Bishop and some of the most influential parish priests were enlisted on the side of Mr. Dease, along with many of the owners of property. The majority of the younger clergy were heart and soul with his antagonist, the champion of Home Rule, while some of the landed gentry kept aloof from the contest, and refrained from using, or attempting to use, any influence with their tenantry to induce them to support
the Anti-Repeal candidate. The greater number, however, were in his favour. Dr. Moriarty, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Kerry, addressed a solemn warning to the people on the subject of the election and “ Home Rule.” While allowing to the priests their liberty of judging for themselves, he feared that his silence might be interpreted as concurrence in their opinions, and he therefore stated his deliberate conviction that the agitation for “Home Rule” is, in the present circumstances of the country, most mischievous. He believed that they have been deluded by a section of the so-called National Press, which, in exchange for their patronage, gives them evil counsel and endeavours to sap the foundations of their faith and social order. They are deluded by men whom they should not trust. Among both leaders and followers of the policy there are many of the purest public and private virtue, but those who form the motive-power of this agitation, those who are at the bottom of it, are their enemies. He concluded his address with the following observations:
“ You do not always know your friends. Stand by a Legislature which has given to your property a security and prosperity which your fathers never hoped for, and which, in the disturbed districts of Ireland, has given effectual protection to the farmer's life by depriving assassins of their liberty. Again, we say, farmers of
, Kerry, beware! It is not the place of Parliament which these agitators so much desire to change. It is the representation of the country that does not please them. If you give them their way, you
will have household suffrage, and then manhood suffrage; and then your labourers and servant boys, and the journeymen of your towns, will choose your representatives and become your masters, and then- We see it stated by the ablest and honestest advocate of the measure, that the Irish House of Lords is to be restored. Do you complain that the votes of the Irish Representative Peers have been outnumbered by the votes of the Liberal Peers of England ? The time may come when the old feud between Catholic and Protestant shall have been forgotten in religious equality; when a common interest, well understood, shall have obliterated the antagonism between landlord and tenant; when Ireland shall have a united people, north and south; but in her present state of disunion self-government could only be a war of faction and of class.”
Another recruit on the side of order in Kerry was found in the once popular champion, the O'Donoghue, who ranged himself openly and strongly against the friends of Home Rule, and quoted in his support the following letter from a greater tribune of the people, Mr. Bright:
My dear O'Donoghue,—It is said, some persons engaged in the canvass of the county of Kerry have spoken of me as an advocate of what is termed Home Rule in Ireland. I hope no one will venture to say anything so absurd and untrue. If it has been said by any one of any authority in the county, I will feel obliged if you contradict it. To have two representative Legislative Assemblies or Parliaments