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may be Protestant if we please on religious grounds, Protestant on social grounds, but we may not say why. To do that would be insulting to Roman Catholics, as Mr W. Redmond fiercely reminded Mr Samuel Smith in the House of Commons debate, careful as the poor man had been and melting as were his apologies for referring to the confessional. And indeed it is better not to say why, though better above all things never to forget for good and bad influences on citizenship keep their character, and are to-day what they were in the time of Elizabeth. But though we cannot vindicate our Protestant preferences without offence, and will not do so for fear of offending, the Spiritual Court which is about to be set up will know why we cherish certain schoolpolicies, hearth - policies, and what our theories are as to freedom of mind and the making of men. And these things the Spiritual Court will be good enough not to forget amid its jangling interpretings of King Edward the Sixth's prayer-book.
ever, that the offending Minister knew not what he did, being in a state of exaltation usually high. Yet this saying of the Prince Consort's was true in a sense of considerable importance. The solidarity of the Cabinet, its joint and several responsibility, the presentation to the world of its deeds and plans as the plans and deeds of a committee and of no individual, has many great conveniences, of which one is that Ministers are forbidden to make play in the country on their own account: nothing must be done to compromise, to forestall, to overpass their colleagues. Till lately this wholesome rule has been scrupulously observed. Lately, however, the whole system of government in England has been giving way, just as the Prince above-named foresaw when nothing in the country appeared more fixed and stable than its political machinery. Seemingly outworn, it weakens in various ways, but mainly in the sinking of the authority of the House of Commons, and the growing Ministerial habit of going past the House for direct communication with the people. A democratic change, of course, but yet an obvious change for the worse; and a break in the solidarity of Cabinet Government would be a very natural result of it.
The Prince Consort said of our system of Government by Cabinet, that it worked as a check to the personal ambition of individual Ministers. The ambition he had in mind is unknown in England, though it is true that on a certain occasion the government of the country was all but snatched out of the Queen's hands. The explanation of that case is, how
But are there any signs of such a break? There are, though, so far, none of a particularly formidable character. Something of the kind appeared when, at a dark and anxious time, Mr Chamberlain spoke
against an isolation policy and called for a fighting alliance with some great military power. Other though less striking instances will be remembered; none of which, however, prepared the world political for Mr Balfour's letter advocating the institution by the State of Roman Catholic universities in Ireland.
When every other man in the Cabinet is hanged for overindulgence in personal ambition we may begin to suspect Mr Balfour of the weakness. The present belief about him on that score is that he would sooner retire to Whittinghame, and remain there, than play the pushful man in politics even for a day. But that makes the publication of his letter the more remarkable; reducing the explanation of it to a belief that it was a right and a politic thing to do. How many of his friends share that belief, either upon the hypothesis that his colleagues were agreed with him or that they were not? In the one case the presumption must be that the Cabinet, being willing after due consideration to provide Ireland with Roman Catholic universities, but at the same time doubting the popularity of such a scheme, commissioned one of their number to fly the proposal through the press as a suggestion of his own. When fully stated, that is the first hypothesis, and glaringly impossible. It is so impossible an innovation that it cannot be made to look more so, even by the unlikelihood that no member of the Government
could see the mistake of launching a scheme of that character in the midst of a furious Protestant agitation. The other supposition must be the right one; but though in some respects preferable, it is almost as hard to reconcile with the usual and expected. By a positive and even vehement expression of opinion, addressed to the country on a notoriously difficult and inflammatory question, a leading member of the Government forces his colleagues into a position which some of them think wrong, and all may find extremely awkward. Even they say so who wish well to Mr Balfour's proposal, which allows me the satisfaction of speaking farther in language not my own. It is only by carrying out this proposal, says the 'Spectator,' "that the Government can now avoid serious trouble within its own body.
Mr Balfour has in effect told his con"In the strongest possible language stituents that an imperative duty rests upon those who are true Unionists and true Protestants to deal with the
claims of the Irish Roman Catholics in regard to Irish university education." But supposing that the Government "cannot in the end agree to deal with the problem, both Mr Balfour and the Cabinet will be placed four's exercise of the right of free in a terribly false position. Mr Balspeech on Catholic education must look like, and act as, an indictment of the. Cabinet as bad Unionists. . . A certain situation has been created
by his letter and his Manchester
speeches. . . He may have been rash; he may even have acted without due consideration for his colleagues; all we know is that by his recent action he has made it imperative for the Cabinet to deal with the problem." "It is only by placing
To what effect may be read in the words quoted above, which are of general as well as particular application. They show the natural working of the Cabinet system in dissolution, or (to speak in milder phrase) when dropping into habits of "greater freedom and and less responsibility." The 'Spectator's' forecast of consequences on the present occasion may turn out to be exaggerated; but if so, it will be by good luck, for none of those consequences are forbidden by the nature of the case. It is entirely reasonable to expect them; and at another time, and by a less scrupulous Minister, they may be not merely risked but intended and ensured.
When the question comes on for debate, it might be asked how it is that while the Roman Catholic community is spending vast sums of money in building cathedrals, chapels, conventual institutions, and the like in all the three kingdoms, it never seems to think of providing for itself the university that is so much wanted. The answer is, perhaps, that that is properly the business of the State. However, we are not now considering the intrinsic merits of Mr Balfour's plan. I have nothing to say about it, good or bad. Our present concern is with a totally different matter, and not a less important one, I think, if we have here another example of what is to be expected of ministerial Government in future. Were it not supplied by Mr Balfour, leader of the House of Commons, circumspect, considerate, no demagogue, no mere climbing politician, or if he were the first and only practitioner in this new line, little might be thought of it. But he is not the first. What he does he does after witnessing, and presumably pondering, similar performances; and being what he is, that he should follow suit in a manner so deliberate and in a matter so vexed, looks too much like a break-up of the old order in Cabinet government.
"DEAR MR LOOKER - ON,This is to inform you, who may have commands for me, that I too came to town for the meeting of Parliament.
"The 'something in the atmosphere,' which in most places where men are assembled tells of any general predominant thought or emotion, is stronger in the House of Commons than anywhere else. You must have felt this. How the common feeling gets into the atmosphere, or how to explain the wordless communication of it to the stranger in the gallery, is beyond us, I suppose. But so it is. In a full House, and on occasions when attention is concentrated on a matter of extraordinary interest, the stranger is almost as conscious of the drift and shift of feeling
"Remembrance of this sharpened the wish to be present at the first meeting of a House which on one side had fallen to pieces and then had been entirely re-made up. That it would fall to pieces was revealed to many; that it did fall to pieces was known to all; that it had been brought together again was generally understood. But neither in my neighbours nor my newspapers could I find any sensible knowledge of how the re-make had been accomplished. Blinds were drawn down upon that subject-which seemed strange, but not unaccountable. There is lack of knowledge, and there is lack of acknowledgment-a state of feeling better known as a disposition to ignore.' We who have lived in affairs have learnt that such a feeling may be universal, and yet without any understanding to make it so. No man says to another, 'Let us keep this matter dark,' but darkness there is an unspoken agreement even between friend and friend to speak not of it. So it seemed to be in the matter of the ranching of the Liberals, who had gone wild and leaderless, and how it was done and by whom. All knew it, none spoke of it; but, thought I, in the House of Commons on the first night of meeting it is a silence that will speak for itself; and I'll be there to hear.
in the mass of silent members to the Speaker's left hand. as if it were a visible stream. Thence could I look down upon the unhappy remnant seated there-attenuate, futureless, their leaders falling out and falling away, their very principles a spoil to the enemy and yet not unhappy now. There was so little misery in the look of them, indeed, that my first thought, after contemplating them awhile, was of my cat basking in the unexpected sunshine of a winter day. If it was not hope that gave them that appearance (which could hardly be) it was relief. Sensible of being a coherent party again, now that they had two leaders the less, they were conscious of what had made them whole though it had left them weak; and it was a consciousness that filled the air about them in a speaking silence of complacency. in a horn of gunpowder may be separated by a paralysing intermixture of coal-dust, so these poor gentlemen had been divided from each other; but now, now they could come together again in working order, because that which divided them was withdrawn, dissolved, washed out. Home Rule might now be thrown off by the many with whom it was always a livery at best, and no longer was it essential to good Radicalism to play the Little Englander. A word had gone forth which, even though it sounded as the voice of 'personal proscription' to here one and there another (or so they said), was emancipation to thousands: a lightening of hearts, an easing of consciences, reconciliation with the master-spirit
"And I was fortune and a right honourable member giving me a place in the House with a commanding view of the benches
As the grains
of the country, and therewith a call to closer union among themselves.
"That it must have been all this seemed plain and certain even to such retired folk as your servant who now addresses you. If it lacked acknowledgment, we knew how naturally acknowledgment might be withheld. Yet that it could not be concealed wherever two or three erstwhile Gladstonians were gathered together might as easily be suspected; and gladly I found at Westminster, as I tell you, that it was not concealed because it could not be. It may last little longer than the sunshine of a winter day, but there it was— it would beam through. The lightened hearts and the eased consciences sang together as the stars sing in their courses, and I heard them: believe me or believe me not. But if you ask what audible or visible recognition there was of him whose word had brought this blessed change to pass, I am constrained to say that there seemed to me not much. But here also there were natural reasons for silence at presentprudential reasons, kindly reasons, and such as most fitly commend the saying De mortuis. It is something, too, that Lord R. (I name no names) shuns rather than seeks recognition, apparently. And then, again, and to conclude, gratitude for service rendered is so much more easily dissembled than joy in its receipt.
"Now it is not at all in my way to prate of politics, but these impressions taken in the
House of Commons on the day of a new departure may interest you perhaps as confirming your own. We shall not agree,
however, if you think that the greater compactitude, confidence, cheerfulness of the Radical Opposition betokens a victorious time for it. What can a conquered party do when all its more respectable or more fascinating principles are gathered up and carried off?
"From harmony to harmony. Music was the second great object of my visit to town— music and certain pictures; as to which a good judge and possessor of such treasures had written to me, 'If it would please you to view in one day the most exemplary display of masculine and feminine art that was ever looked upon in this world, come and see the Rembrandt collection in the morning and the Burne-Jones exhibition in the afternoon. The contrast is perfection and the lesson beyond price.' And so it was; and perhaps it is there still for willing minds to profit by. But for me it was both bad and good; for having a natural inveterate dislike of Sir Edward's pictures, a dislike which lies deeper (I know) than judgment ever reaches, and is even (I think) rather animal,—it was not well that this gentle if unreasonable passion should be warmed into hate. There is a sort of music that corresponds with the Rossetti and BurneJones picture, but no one ever said that it was great or even true; and in that fact I find some justification for the pre