Page images

far more dangerous now, be- mote." This is in the Premier's cause, whatever the particular favourite style. And he regrievance which had moved peated what the Liberals have their passions for the moment, never attempted to deny, for their leaders would have ulterior the assertion is plainly unobjects in view, and would use answerable, that the people are them as tools for effecting it. not likely to be in any great There is no saying to what hurry to destroy an institution extremities such disorders might the effect of which is to prevent proceed before either the soldiers sudden revolutions from being were called in, or the County sprung upon them against their Council for very shame directed own convictions, and he gave the police to act. Such are the Fox's India Bill and the Home beginnings of all revolutions. Rule Bill of 1893 as instances. And it is this consideration If the House of Lords will not which forms the strongest abdicate, it can only be deposed ground of all for the new Lon- by violence-in other words, by don Government Reform Bill. a revolution, which might or might not mean civil war. However, according to Mr Asquith, speaking again on the 17th December, the Liberal party has quite made up its mind to face all risks, in order to deprive the people of the only political court of appeal which they now possess. said it was quite unnecessary to go into any details, the truth being that he had none to go into. The Liberals, who are all agreed, he says, are nevertheless as much at a loss to explain how the thing is to be done as Lord Salisbury himself. It may be that the "inextinguishable faith" with which Mr Asquith accredits them is to be sufficient by itself. faith can remove mountains, why should it not remove the House of Lords? The Liberals have certainly nothing else to rely upon.

The Opposition have been too much occupied with internal dissensions to keep up their customary attacks on the Government during the parliamentary vacation. And hardly a single Radical speech has attracted much attention except Mr Asquith's, to whom we ought all to be grateful for the opportunity of enlivening a rather dull recess which it afforded to Lord Salisbury and Mr Chamberlain. The dry sarcasm with which the Prime Minister treated the proposed abolition of the House of Lords, and the smart but logically correct description given by the Colonial Secretary of Mr Asquith's "new congregation," were both of the best. "It seems to be a commonly received opinion," said Lord Salisbury, "among our opponents that the House of Lords is to be swept away. I do not know how it is to be done, because the prospect of the House of Lords itself lending any assistance to that operation is re



We are afraid, however, that the age of miracle is past, and that Mr Asquith will soon have to dispense with another somewhat cumbersome vestment for

which he has no further use. Home Rule, Local Veto, and Welsh Disestablishment are already gone; and if the party goes on stripping itself at this rate, it will soon be stark naked. But to that we are coming. "Mr Asquith," says Mr Chamberlain, "seems to be addressing a new congregation, from which Irishmen, Teetotallers, and Nonconformists are excluded, and only the great Liberal party is to remain." There was once upon a time an advocate, who after pleading the cause of a worthless client with great ability, and bestowing many eloquent eulogies on his numerous virtues, looked round to the place in court where he had been sitting. He had vanished. He could not stand it. Half the orator's panegyric had been lavished upon nothing. And such is likely to be the case with Mr Asquith's eloquent tribute to "the imperturbable patience and loyal subordination" of the great Liberal party. If he looks over his shoulder for it, he will look in vain. Seriously speaking, if we deduct Home Rulers, Teetotallers, and Liberationists from the whole motley array, we take out all the substance and leave only the idea. It is often said that a party without ideas is in a poor way. an idea without a party is even more to be pitied. The Liberal idea has lost its way, and is wandering about through forests and deserts in search of some material garment wherewithal to clothe itself.


The above pages were written before the publication in the

'Times' (January 17) of a letter from Mr Goldwin Smith, which to a certain extent travels on the same lines. But though it may very probably point to a consummation to be expected at no remote date, it is not to be looked for immediately. Supposing, as the writer says, that the party system is moribund, it is not yet dead; and its last expiring struggles we may be sure will be attended by violent convulsions. The few warning words uttered by Lord Salisbury at the Constitutional Club are perhaps even better worthy of remembering at such a crisis as the present than in ordinary times. We are not to imagine, he says, that the helpless condition of the Liberal party at the present moment is necessarily permanent. They are few in number, without unity, without a policy, and without a leader; they are rent by schisms which only some overpowering temptation can temporarily smother. we must not be led away by appearances to suppose that we have nothing more to fear from them. them. The sting of the wasp that is scotched but not killed is always the sharpest. The groups which now stand apart from each other may be reunited at any moment, and they remind Lord Salisbury of the divided groups of tribes which in Egypt and India threaten us from over the border:


"These groups seem to be utterly divided among themselves-to have no common leader, perhaps no common Egyptian border opportunities shall object; but if on the Afghan or the occur, and they shall see some chance

of carrying out a holy war or securing much-desired loot, they may at once in one moment be gathered together by the prestige and the force of some leader that may arise among them. And so it is with the enemies we are confronting. At any moment a Mahdi or a Mad Mullah may arise, and they will bear down upon you to carry out the Jehad and to carry away the loot. I therefore entreat you, notwithstanding these flattering symptoms, to remain in your ranks and to keep your powder dry. There may be plenty for you to do much sooner than you expect."

We see no signs of the new prophet at present. The Liberal party, if it can be said to exist after Mr Asquith's evisceration of it, is in much the same plight as Sir William Harcourt once told us the Armenians were in, after help had been promised them, as he alleged, by England. They must, he thought, be crying out with the lady in Bluebeard, "Sister Anne, Sister Anne, do you see anybody coming?" If all the Liberals can see by looking out of the window is Sir Henry Campbell - Bannerman, truly they are in "a parlous state." Mr Morley has resigned his post, and Mr Asquith cannot leave his briefs. If it were possible for Sir William Harcourt to come back again he would be less able to command the allegiance of the whole Liberal party in the House of Commons than he was before. The compliments recently exchanged between Mr Asquith and Mr Morley are not forgotten in a hurry. If the rent were patched up the sections of the party would be only pinned together, with the probability of the pins running

[blocks in formation]

How can Mr Morley or Sir William Harcourt, a smaller Englander than even his faithful henchman, who, indeed, says that he is not one at all, thereby indicating the existence of another rift, -ever reunite with a section which the member for the Montrose Burghs describes as something between a monkey and a toad, with the tail of the one and the fasting powers of the other? The creature is not a chameleon which lives on insects. It is a Liberal Imperialist like Mr Asquith and Lord Rosebery, who live on open questions; or, to judge by Mr Asquith, on shadows. In this flattering description of Lord Rosebery's following Mr Morley includes the chameleon's power of changing its hues, and on this point Mr Asquith had to listen to an unpalatable truth. He has changed "the broad-brimmed hat and drab attire of the Quaker for the plumes and flashing scarlet of the Crusader." He admits that he made a mistake in condemning the Egyptian expedition when it first set out, and that he now applauds it, because of its brilliant success. His opposition to it was very likely quite honest, but what are we to think of his judgment? The Government who despatched it had no doubt of its success, and they were right. Mr Asquith chose to prefer his own private opinion, and was wrong. With what face can any public man who has made such a dangerous mistake as this

come forward to solicit our confidence in his sagacity or statesmanship? He has given himself away.

We know not how Mr Morley distinguishes between the "pagan pride of empire" and the British pride of those great soldiers and statesmen "who made the the majesty of this realm." Mr Asquith talks much more common-sense when he refers to the conduct of the Rosebery Liberals on the Fashoda question. To show that England was unanimous was the surest means of preventing war. He very naturally resents the imputations thrown broadcast by Mr Morley on his former colleagues, and refutes them with a warmth which augurs ill for any future reconciliation. Pointing to the phantoms of

great Radical changes which may hereafter become living realities, he declares that they can only be carried out by a party which is "catholic, comprehensive, disciplined, and united.” We are glad to hear this, as we may still sleep in peace. And he adds: 66 their midst the strife and animosities of sections and the factions which some people believed existed, they must be trampled down and cast out before the party could once more become a potent instrument of reform.' We commend these words to Mr Morley and Sir William Harcourt. To be trodden under foot by Mr Asquith would be scarcely a political euthanasia. But it is delightful to see how these Radicals love one another!

"If there were in

Printed by William Blackwood and Sons.

[blocks in formation]

My father, Josceline Percy,1 was born in 1784. At thirteen years of age he was appointed as a volunteer of the first class to H.M.S. Sans Pareil, carrying Admiral Lord Hugh Seymour's flag, and joined her at the Nore. His uncle and aunt, the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland, having given him, the former a chest of plate, and the latter a medicine-chest, to take to sea with him, the boy was so laughed at for bringing such luxuries that he threw the medicine-chest overboard, and the plate would have shared the same fate had it not been handed over to the charge of the ship's purser. The Sans Pareil was ironically called the

"House of Lords" from having several noblemen's sons on board of her, and, naturally, these youngsters came in for an extra share of rough treatment. I remember my father saying that for two years he never sat down to a meal, as he and the other lads who had just joined were not allowed to enter the midshipman's mess, but had to snatch their food as best they could.

My father was afterwards appointed to the Victory, under Lord Nelson, on the Mediterranean station, who sent him with private despatches to the Queen of Naples, and letters to Lady Hamilton, which he was instructed to deliver into her

1 Admiral Percy was a son of the Earl of Beverley. His eldest brother subsequently succeeded to the dukedom of Northumberland, on the death, in 1865, of his first cousin, Algernon, the fourth duke.


2 H

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »