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Conservatism has not already accepted. But these are early days for Cabinet-making. The new party must be formed before it takes shape in an administration. The dominating fact of the present position of affairs is that, to use Mr. Chamberlain's words, the cleavage in the ranks of the Liberal party has become complete and irretrievable.' We ourselves foresaw and foretold in an article published two years ago, and entitled 'The Parting of the Waters,' that a schism was impending and inevitable between those politicians who were ready to ally themselves with a revolutionary faction and those statesmen who adhere to the old traditional principles of the Whig party.
This complete and irretrievable cleavage (if such it be) is, it is curious to reflect, the work of the man to whom the Liberal party had entrusted its interests and existence, and who two years ago solemnly declared that he remained in public life simply to guard it from injury. On June 29, 1885, Mr. Gladstone wrote to the Chairman of his Committee that he had not expected to ask re-election from his Midlothian constituents. But he went on to say: 'I am not at this moment released from my duties to the party which has trusted me, and the first of these duties is to use my strongest and most sedulous efforts to pre'vent anything that may mar the unity and efficiency of 'that great instrument which, under Providence, has chiefly and almost wholly made our history for the last fifty years.'* That great instrument has broken in Mr. Gladstone's hands, because he attempted to use it for a purpose for which it was never framed, and for which it was not suited. He has remained in public life not to prevent anything which might mar the unity and efficiency of the Liberal party, but absolutely to destroy its unity and to paralyse its efficiency, and indeed to put it out of existence altogether. The measure of the responsibility which he felt for its maintenance as the Providential instrument for the national well-being measures the responsibility which will attach to him for its destruction. It is given to few men to destroy great historic works. Mr. Gladstone is the Herostratus of politics. He is an 'architect of ruin.' Mr. Gladstone will scarcely pretend even now that in 1885 he held that Home Rule, in Mr. Parnell's sense, suggested itself to him as the best means of maintaining the unity and efficiency of the Liberal party. Indeed, it stands on
* Annual Register for 1885, p. 134.
record that he desired an absolute Liberal majority in the House of Commons in order that he might deal with the Irish question independently of the Irish vote. The Liberal party, in its unimpaired unity and efficiency, was to frame such a scheme as seemed to it just to Ireland. His majority not sufficing for this purpose, Mr. Gladstone reversed his procedure, and endeavoured, through the providential instrumentality of the Irish vote, to force upon the Liberal party a settlement in harmony with Mr. Parnell's ideas of what was just and expedient. Mr. Gladstone, whose resources whether of civilisation or anarchy are not easily exhausted, not being able to coerce the Irish vote by a Liberal majority, tried to coerce the Liberal majority by the Irish vote. Whatever explanation may be offered, Mr. Gladstone has, by his own showing, been untrue to his supreme political duty-to the one obligation for the discharge of which he remained in political life. He has betrayed the confidence which the Liberal party reposed in him, to hand down in unimpaired efficiency to his successors that great historic and providential instrument of good of which the guardianship had been placed in his hands. He has acted as if he were the owner of the Liberal party and not its trustee, its master and not its agent; as if it were at his discretion to guard or to destroy it; to leave the instrument to rust unused or to break it by misuse, or to employ it for any purpose which personal ambition or the caprice of the moment might dictate. We will say frankly that in our view Mr. Gladstone's conception of his relations to the party betrays a profound moral obliquity. He,' Coleridge somewhere says, who begins by loving Christianity more 'than truth, will go on by loving his own sect more than Christianity, and will end by loving himself more than ' either.' So he who begins by loving his party more than his country, will go on by loving his faction more than his party, and end by loving self more than either. We cannot help thinking that the later years of Mr. Gladstone's life illustrate this moral decline.
The Liberal party, which was the great instrument of Providence, was destroyed because it refused to be the instrument of Mr. Gladstone's personal ambition. If not a great man of action, Mr. Gladstone is at least a man of great activity. The necessity of being conspicuously employed in some world-resounding exploit has grown upon him with advancing years, until at last it has absorbed his whole nature. He has been surrounded by men who have
humoured him into the idea that, as the court is where the king is, so the Liberal party is where Mr. Gladstone is; that he constitutes it, that he is it. Lord Wolverton, who has a singular faculty of making foolish speeches, denounces as traitors those politicians who, to use Mr. Bright's phrase, decline to turn their coats simply because Mr. Gladstone has turned his coat. This criticism, if that can be so called which is mere abuse, corresponds to a feeling which gives to the project of Home Rule an apparent popular sanction that does not belong to it. If a Liberal is to be defined as a follower of Mr. Gladstone, of course any one who declines to follow Mr. Gladstone ceases thereby to be a Liberal. If the Liberal creed is the creed which Mr. Gladstone for the moment professes, if any opinion which he adopts becomes immediately an article of faith, an old Liberal ceases to be a Liberal at all, just as an old Catholic, who refuses the Vatican decrees, ceases in the Pope's view to be a Catholic. It is this servile doctrine of the purely personal basis and obligations of party that keeps the Gladstonians together. The Dissentient Liberals, as Mr. Gladstone calls those who adhere to the old Liberal creed, have done a service only second to that which they have rendered in saving the Union, by revolting against and breaking down this abject superstition. A demagogic dictatorship is the great danger of English politics, and a return to principles, even though it should break up parties, may be essential when parties have become simply the retainers of great political chiefs. If anti-vaccinationists, female suffragists, local optionists, antiState-churchists, feel themselves at liberty to make test questions of the several principles--we will not call all of them fads-expressed in these names, and to vote for or against Liberal or Conservative, Radical or Whig, as they accept or refuse the required pledges, surely the maintenance or surrender of the Parliamentary union is an alternative which may far more legitimately decide party alliances and combinations. In it and in its far-reaching consequences the most vital issues are concerned. The idem velle, idem nolle de republica, which is the only legitimate basis of political connexion, could never be more legitimately invoked; for the question is whether the State shall continue to exist in the form to which a thousand years of history have brought it, and which it has for nearly a century exhibited, or whether a disjointed federation of mutually jealous and semi-hostile provinces shall be substituted for it. But this is not all. In the address, which a large number of
VOL. CLXVI. NO. CCCXXXIX.
the most eminent graduates of the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, members of the Liberal party, counting in their number men of European eminence in every department of scholarship, science, and speculation, have presented to Lord Hartington, they rather imply than distinctly express their approval of his opposition to Mr. Gladstone's scheme of Home Rule. They single out for emphatic commendation his endeavours to save the name of English Liberalism 'from being perverted to describe a doctrine of lawlessness,' and from being soiled by connivance with that abuse of the forms of the House of Commons and that waste of its 'time which threaten to bring our Parliamentary insti'tutions into contempt.' The tone of many of Mr. Gladstone's recent speeches, and the whole spirit of his review, in the Nineteenth Century,' of the last two volumes of Mr. Lecky's masterly History of England in the Eighteenth 'Century,' show his tendency to the Jacobinical spirit of the French Revolution. This spirit has long been subtly working within the Liberal party, and Mr. Gladstone's declaration in favour of Home Rule has simply given occasion for its display. That was a concession to rebellion against the authority of Parliament and the law, and it has speedily developed into principles hostile to legal order and constitutional government. However lamentable the result may be with respect to the fame of the greatest Englishman of his generation, whom history, however, will judge not by the closing years of his career, which for the moment we can alone take into account, but by its whole course, we cannot regret that the matter should have been brought to a clearly defined and decisive issue. Mr. Gladstone has become the captive of the Home Rule party, and in subscribing to their end he has adopted their doctrines and methods.
The future will decide not merely whether Ireland shall be separated from England, but whether England shall be governed on Irish-American principles. It is absurd to say, as Mr. Gladstone does, that Ireland objects even to beneficent laws when they come to it clothed in a foreign guise that is to say, when they are invested with the authority of that Imperial Parliament in which Ireland has more than a fair representation. Neither Ireland at large, nor Irish members, have ever shown the slightest indisposition to receive, or even extort from, the Imperial Parliament all that they can get, and to use it to the utmost. What they object to is the authority of Parliament and of law. They would exhibit the same hostility to the enactments of a legislative body in
Dublin, and to the enforcement of those enactments by the judicial and executive powers, if they were not to their mind, that they show to the Imperial Parliament and the Queen's authority. They have been taught the lesson of rebellion and disorder by Mr. Gladstone, or rather they have taught it him, and been confirmed in it by his conversion, and they will better the instruction when they are confronted by feebler powers of resistance. Disaffection on this side. of the Channel has been encouraged by the preaching here of the doctrine of anarchy and revolt by which Ireland has been demoralised. The danger can be met only by the consolidation into one party of all the supporters of Parliamentary rule, and of the supremacy of law and social order. It is fortunate that England possesses in Lord Hartington a statesman whose position and personal qualities make him the natural head of such a party. Mr. Gladstone's withdrawal from the Liberal leadership in 1875 gave Lord Hartington for the first time the opportunity of showing the remarkable gifts of intellect and character by which he is distinguished. Mr. Gladstone's adoption of the Separatist projects of Mr. Parnell, and his capitulation to the anarchic and factious doctrines of the Irish revolutionary party, have enabled Lord Hartington to display yet more signally the highest qualities of statesmanship. The hour has brought the man. Mr. Gladstone's fault is half redeemed by the disclosure which it has made to the nation of the security which it possesses against danger in the strong and sagacious intelligence, the upright character, and the steady and disinterested purpose of Lord Hartington. He is the best type of the English politician, and the nation trusts him absolutely. He will be true to that trust, because he cannot be untrue to himself. Mr. Gladstone's latest device of a provisional and sham retention of Irish members at Westminster, while giving them a parliament in Dublin, which, practically independent from the first, would soon become formally so, is simply trifling with the subject and the nation. With the help of Sir George Trevelyan it seems temporarily to have imposed on some hundreds of the electors of Spalding. The words in which Lord Hartington concluded his speech at Blackburn express, however, we feel sure, the conviction and purpose of the nation :- No 'solution is admissible which does not subordinate whatever 'local autonomy it may grant to the maintenance of one Imperial Parliament, competent to deal as it pleases, and in what manner it pleases, in the way it thinks right and