« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
that it ought to be restored fighting, and recognise the now, and that Mr Chamber- absolute independence of the lain, when a member of Mr Transvaal,-they must know, Gladstone's Government nine- we say, that by giving utterteen years ago, thought so too. ance to such views as these It is strange he did not see the they are only encouraging the answer with which, of course, Boers to prolong a hopeless rehe was promptly met. A sistance, and dooming thousands statesman is not inconsistent to death whom a timely submisbecause the policy which he sion might have saved. This approved under one set of con- miserable party spirit is not ditions he is obliged to re- only exposing their own country nounce under another. The to the risk of further heavy independence which Mr Cham- losses ere her ultimate object be berlain would have recognised achieved, but is also preparing in 1881 did not mean the a retribution for their Dutch establishment of the Boers as friends which will be all the the dominant race in South heavier the longer the rebellion Africa, or the creation of a lasts. When terms of peace Dutch republic on the ruins of come to be finally arranged, a British colony. As this de- their severity will be in proporsign became evident, Mr Cham- tion to their cost. If the Boers berlain's opinion changed. Sir have ever heard of "the blessWilliam Harcourt conveniently ings of the evil genii which are forgot this little difference, and, curses," they will know how to as Mr Chamberlain put it, describe the encouragement bejumped over all that had oc- stowed upon them by their Libcurred between Majuba Hill eral allies in Great Britain. and Mr Kruger's ultimatum.
It is, indeed, deeply to be regretted that the responsible leaders of what is still an important political party, men who have been and may be again servants of the Crown, should in their eagerness to discredit a political opponent have given all the moral assistance in their power to the enemies of the country. They must know perfectly well that by calling the war an unjust
war, an unnecessary war, an unprovoked war, and by suggesting that when the Boers have retired from Natal we should surrender to them the prize for which they have been
Of course the Liberals are too acute and too experienced not to couple all their attacks upon the Government with loudly expressed wishes for the success of our arms and fervent assurances of their intention to support the Government in the prosecution of this unjust and unnecessary war. But what is the value of such assurances when those who make them do all in their power to nullify them? The debate on the Address unmasked all their professions of patriotism, and showed party spirit at bottom as bitter and as reckless as ever. The Opposition, with some honourable exceptions, have followed
the worst precedents of the off his nose to be avenged worst period of Whiggism, and in some respects they have gone beyond their masters. The Whigs in the Revolutionary war did not pretend to wish for British victories. But the Liberals at the present moment have a better way. They abuse the Government and sympathise with the Boers, and declare at the same time their readiness to support the war. They hope to gain popularity by the one proceeding, and to serve a party purpose by the other. This double dealing is really too transparent. They will not be allowed to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds in this fashion-of that
they may be sure.
In spite of all that has been said, the impression left upon the public mind by a comparison between the Government and the Opposition is overwhelmingly in favour of the former. A majority of 213 in a House of 491 clearly shows what Parliament thought about the matter. The great Unionist victory at York, the record of 1800 Unionist votes by the University of London, and the unbroken Unionist majority at Newark, proclaim in equally unmistakable tones what the public are thinking about it. Our working-class constituencies are not likely to be deeply read in military history. But the British artisan and the British peasant have an untaught sagacity of their own, enabling them fully to appreciate the old vulgar proverb which forbids a man to cut
VOL. CLXVII.—NO. MXIII,
on his face. They are convinced that for many reasons the Boer conspiracy must be not merely scotched but crushed. They know they have a Government in office determined to effect this object, supported by a powerful and unanimous party, animated to a man by the same spirit, and able to ensure success. They are at the same time well aware that no Government taken from the other side of the House could possibly answer this description. No Liberal Government could now take office with even a nominal majority at its back one quarter as numerous as Lord Salisbury's. Of these, a moiety at least would be only half-hearted supporters of an Imperial policy; and though a Unionist Opposition would, of course, lend their aid to the Government, everybody knows the difference between a Ministry kept in office by such means as these, and one which relies on a compact majority drawn exclusively from its own supporters, and in harmony with itself on general political principles, as well as on a single question. The people understand this difference, and can calculate which of two such Governments is the better able to give effect to the national will. Having made up their minds on this point, they will not be deterred from supporting the present Ministry either by the rant of the Opposition or by those military reverses which do but show us the way 2 G
to more complete victory in the end. The English democracy has so far shown itself remarkably free from the inherent vice of democracy in general,-we mean impatience of delay, which some knowledge of history is usually required to correct. But the British people by their own natural common-sense seem to have reached practically the same conclusion as the student arrives at by the study of past campaigns. Our defeats under William taught us how to conquer under Marlborough. Our disasters in Holland helped to educate the general who drove the French armies out of Spain. The many disasters through which we fought our way to victory in Afghanistan are fresh in the recollection of the present generation, and the working man has learned from them what are the difficulties of mountain warfare against an enemy familiar with the country. This much knowledge of military history he does possess, and if we can trust the evidence afforded by the last six months, he is prepared to act upon it.
But we would not have the Government forget that, for the next six months at least, they will be on their trial. If past errors are condoned, Government must succeed in showing that they know how to profit by experience, and are conscious of being engaged with an enemy to whom we cannot afford to give points. The people at large are willing to let bygones be bygones, and as
long as they continue in that frame of mind, which will be as long as Government do their duty, so long may Ministers smile at the taunts of their opponents. Of course what we have said does not apply to the whole Opposition, though it applies to its recognised leaders in both Houses of Parliament. We refer, however, only to those who, while allowing that the war must be vigorously carried on, nevertheless denounce it as a blunder, represent English diplomacy rather than Boer duplicity as the immediate cause of it, and affect to believe that it was an English conspiracy against the Boers, rather than a Boer conspiracy against England, which originally provoked, and now justifies, the rebellion. This cheerful and patriotic sentiment was echoed by the Opposition leaders when a private member moved for a new inquiry into "the Raid," though they had previously declared themselves perfectly satisfied with the investigation which was granted by the Government, and partly conducted by themselves. The blow, of course, was aimed at Mr Chamberlain, who smote his assailants hip and thigh. But it was the worst exhibition of party spirit which the session has yet witnessed, and fully bears out all that we have said upon the subject. Besides these veterans, the regular Opposition army, heroes of a hundred faction fights, there will always be in every party a few soured and disappointed individuals, both in
and out of Parliament, who have learned from recent delook on a Government diffi- bates is to cease indulging in culty as their own opportunity, those utopian visions of politiand use it to pay off old scores. cal magnanimity which still Peace to all such. We name continue to haunt us as often no names. But none of our as public affairs seem to stand readers who know anything of in need of it. The party system Parliament or the press need is still the machinery by which have much difficulty in supply- parliamentary government is ing the omission for themselves. worked; and where party is, To retrace our steps, there- there will party spirit be also. fore, for a moment. The first It is always with us, and though lesson which we learn from it burns at some times less the recent debate is the danger fiercely than at others, it never which Governments incur by goes out, and is ready to leap neglecting to take account of up again at a moment's notice. the warmth of public feeling in How often do we hear it said any great national emergency. that such and such a question Under our present constitu- is not a party question. We tion, the people, as Lord have been told that the South Sherbrooke said, are our mas- African war ought not to be a ters, and Ministers must an- party question. But we may swer to the spur. Lord Pal- depend Lord Pal- depend upon it that while merston understood this in the system lasts questions of less democratic days than our peace and war always will be own, and so did Lord Beacons- made party questions, as well field. And the worst of it is, as every other debatable point that if at the beginning of the which is capable of being session, and in circumstances turned into one. Speaking in like the present, Ministers make support of the vote of want of a bad start, they may be some confidence which turned out time in recovering their lost Lord Derby's Government in ground, during which everything 1859, we have the testimony of they do will be looked at with that very eminent Liberal consuspicious eyes, and with stitutional authority, Sir G. readiness to find fault, by Cornewall Lewis: "I fully which the stoutest Government admit that this motion is a is liable to be unnerved. If Ministers had "caught on when Parliament met, and by a timely display of sympathetic enthusiasm had put themselves thoroughly in touch with the national sentiment, they would have escaped some difficulties which they now seem likely to
The second lesson which we
party move. But I must be permitted to remark that all great questions in this House have been decided by party moves. Lord Beaconsfield said the same thing, and also that there was no alternative between party government and falling back on some form of personal government. Professor Courthope seems to have got into his
head some idea that a compromise is possible, and that Imperial affairs might be withdrawn from the operation of party, domestic and constitutional interests being left to its tender mercies. We are afraid this suggestion smacks a little of the academic atmosphere. That Parliament would ever consent to see Imperial questions withdrawn from its cognisance, especially when from time to time they demand a large expenditure of public money, seems to us so improbable as to be beyond the range of practical consideration. It is part of the argument that large sums would often be required in time of peace. Would the House of Commons vote them on the word of "a Minister for the Empire," responsible only to the Crown? We are often assured that the House of Commons would vote anything whatever which Ministers had the courage to ask for. But under our present system Ministers will not, and cannot, always have the necessary courage. It is only just two years ago-March 7, 1898-that, at a meeting of the National Liberal Federation, the Liberal party were solemnly advised to lose no opportunity of embarrassing her Majesty's Government, to oppose the slightest increase in our military and naval forces, and to regard the statesmen who asked for it as so many "horse-leeches." Now, suppose a Government in office to whom the support of that party which represents the National Liberal
Federation was indispensable, how could they come down to the House in time of peace and ask for the sums required to keep the army and navy on a footing of efficiency? If they could not do it now, still less could they do it under such a system as Mr Courthope suggests.
Nevertheless, it is quite certain that the party system, which answered its purpose well enough under a more or less aristocratic constitution, does not work nearly so well under a democratic one. It is sometimes said that if Ministries were formed by uniting the best men of all parties, that would be the deathblow of the present system, and so it would. But is not such a remedy a dream? Down to 1832 it might not have been impossible. It is conceivable that Mr Pitt might have done it had he lived twenty years longer. The leading statesmen of that day differed from each other chiefly on questions which did not necessarily divide them into hostile camps. On the Roman Catholic question, for instance, and on parliamentary reform, Whigs and Tories were intermingled, and could have sat together in the same Cabinet without great practical inconvenience. In the second place, such men were comparatively independent of their constituencies, who in their turn were but little exercised in mind by the multitude of questions-social, commercial, and religiouswhich interest the working class to-day. How long would a