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was the most earnest and determined of their liberators. more from jealousy of the Russians than from love of the Bulgarians, much more as attorney and trustee for the British empire than as a Divine Figure of any descriptionthat must be owned. But when we think of the intriguings, and dragoonings, and kidnappings that the Bulgarians had immediately to fight through, we find the trustee's morality as good as any in that affair. And at the same time we mark, in a possible confederation of free States against Russian absolutism, an appreciable service to what in the time of that trustee was still the greatest as well as the freest empire in the world.
What I should like to dwell upon most, however, I must be content to put in a few words for the reader's own meditation. It all comes into two or three questions. The first is, Whether the policy we have been discussing was dropped because it was bad, or whether it is called bad because it was dropped? The second, Supposing that the policy was dropped because it was bad, was the country left with no policy to succeed it? or if it was followed by a different one, what is the witness to its operation and effects? The old policy was given up many years ago; no Government has acted upon it since Lord Beaconsfield went out of office, or has ever thought of acting on it: that is certain. Can it be said, then,
that the failures, humiliations, and misfortunes which have lately overtaken Britain's prestige and authority are due to the bad abandoned policy? Can this be said fairly if, being found out to be bad seventeen years ago, this policy has never been replaced by a better? In that case, would not the blame lie with those who failed to employ a part of the long interval in devising a safer course, preventive of these very grave failures, humiliations, and misfortunes? If another course has been adopted, these results ensuing, is the blame still Lord Beaconsfield's? If we look only to moral results, is the influence of Russia at Constantinople which either the no-policy or the new policy has let in-a finer moral spectacle than a Turkish Government under a dominant British influence was, and would be?-would have been lately, for example? And was not British influence paramount at the Porte the main point and centre of the Beaconsfield policy?
Other questions related to these, and equally to the purpose, immediately occur to mind. I conclude with a question of a different sort. Upon any answer to the above, can Lord Beaconsfield be righteously condemned by the Radical party, or be handsomely left for condemnation by the other? For both have to answer the interrogations in the preceding paragraph.
THE POLITICAL PROSPECT.
WHEN Parliament was opened on the 19th of January the political horizon was singularly free from clouds. Since that time it has been crossed by several, which, though they may be trusted to disappear without any serious atmospheric disturbance, do nevertheless detract somewhat from the general satisfaction with which Unionists six weeks ago regarded the political outlook. Then the Arbitration Treaty with America seemed on the point of being concluded. Affairs in South Africa had calmed down. It had come to be generally understood that Lord Salisbury's management of the Turkish question had completely restored the prestige of Great Britain in Europe, and that he had succeeded in bringing round all the other Powers to his own views. The last murmur against our policy in Egypt had almost died away before the brilliant success which had attended it. The Venezuelan boundary question had been settled in a suitable manner. At home it is true that some uneasiness prevailed among Churchmen with regard to the coming Education Bill. But it was not supposed that it would survive the introduction of it. On the question of our military defences and increase of the army the Government had public opinion unmistakably on their side. An Employers' Liability Bill, one of the leading measures of the session, was expected to satisfy all but the most ultra-members of the Labour party. An Agricultural Relief Bill satisfactory to the landed interest in general was already on the Statute-Book. The question of old-age pensions had been intrusted to a small Committee of experts, and the work
ing classes could be assured that the matter was in train for settlement. Everything looked peaceful and promising. But "the unexpected" was soon to play its usual part in the evolution of human affairs.
Mr Chamberlain's speech in the House of Commons on Friday, January the 29th, was the first thing which jarred on the general sense of security which had hitherto prevailed. From this it appeared that our relations with the Transvaal were by no means such as to warrant us in believing that no causes for immediate anxiety still existed. If laws have been passed by the Transvaal Government contrary to the terms of the Convention of London, and should there be any intention of enforcing them, a situation will arise, we are told, "requiring all our prudence, all our impartiality, and all our patience." Statesmen do not use such words as these for nothing; while the suggestion, emanating from some irresponsible foreign wiseacre, that the question should be submitted to arbitration, though it may be thought too ridiculous for serious notice, is not to be dismissed as wholly free from dangerous or inconvenient consequences.
Mr Chamberlain's speech was followed almost immediately by the news that the Anglo-American Arbitration Treaty was in danger of rejection, or at least that its acceptance depended on our consent to such amendments as robbed it of all its value. The Cretan rebellion has assumed such serious proportions during the current month that it must be ranked among the events which have cast a shadow on the scene; though in its present phase and in the atti
tude of the other Powers we have an additional testimony to the continued success of our diplomacy.
In Parliament the very first week of the session witnessed an eruption of spleen in the Conservative ranks, which showed for the thousandth time that political loyalty is not proof against personal disappointment. Sir Henry Howorth has been trying for some time, without much success, to induce the world to take him at his own valuation,-an object not so very difficult of attainment if the aspirant will only avoid being a bore. This precaution the hon. member for Salford has neglected to observe; the consequence being that nobody except himself has ever dreamed of him in connection with Ministerial office, for which, in his own estimation, he is eminently qualified. Sir Henry bided his time, and watched for his opportunity; and on the 22d of January he supposed it to have arrived. But he only furnished another example of the man who goes out to gather wool and comes back shorn. He insinuated that the release of the dynamiters by the Home Secretary was the result of a corrupt bargain by which was purchased the support of the Irish members for the Land Bill of last session. Mr Balfour flayed him alive. And then the unhappy man only made matters worse by saying that he meant nothing!
"For Michael Cassio
I dare be sworn I think that he is honest."
If it is true that none smart so little as the foolish, the culprit on this occasion was a decided exception.
For he felt his punishment keenly; and when, on the Monday following, the Ministerial statement completely satisfied the House, everybody saw how well he
VOL. CLXI.NO. DCCCCLXXVII.
had deserved it. But though the principal offender on this occasion came out of his enterprise in such a sorry plight, the mere fact that he snarled at his master, and found others sitting near him to hound him on, indicates the existence of a spirit in the Unionist ranks which, though confined at present to a few comparatively insignificant members, requires watching, as any real or serious mistake on the part of the Government might cause it to become troublesome a possibility which received some illustration from the effect of Mr Balfour's speech on the 1st of February in introducing the Financial Resolution preliminary to the Education Bill. In this case the mistake was a real one; but it is only on very rare occasions that the mistake of a Minister can excuse mutiny in a party.
During the whole autumn and winter it had been fully understood that the bill was to be passed in time for the voluntary schools to reap the benefit of it during the present year. Mr Balfour had many opportunities of correcting this impression, and of moderating expectations based upon the language of himself and his colleagues, if he had thought it necessary to do so. But he never uttered a word of caution, or dropped the slightest hint that the Government had not made up their minds to pass the bill by that date. When, therefore, he was heard to say that he doubted whether it would be possible to do so, something like consternation was felt in the ranks of the party, not very much alleviated by his subsequent expression of "a hope" that the bill might pass by that time, or by his assurance that Government would make an effort to accomplish that object. It seems at present
doubtful whether that effort will be successful; and if the bill is not to be carried by the end of the financial year, the raison d'être of a short and simple measure confined to voluntary schools falls to the ground. It seems idle to say that they will be no losers by the postponement of the promised relief for another twelve months. But there are more reasons than one for making the despatch of this measure a matter of the gravest urgency. The loss of money to the schools is perhaps the least among them. It is in the loss of reputation by the Government that we see the greatest cause for anxiety. Failure to pass the bill by the appointed date must necessarily be imputed either to mismanagement or indifference, for Ministers had the whole autumn in which to make their calculations, and could have called Parliament together when they pleased; nor can Mr Balfour plead a second time that he was unprepared for the kind of opposition which the bill encountered. The retirement of the Government from the ground which they were universally understood to have taken up will everywhere be interpreted as sign of weakness. In connection with the collapse of last session, we cannot help being afraid that it will produce a most unfavourable impression on the public mind. Its influence is to be traced at Romford and Walthamstow. And though Bridgeton is reassuring, the behaviour of two English constituencies on which the Unionists confidently relied is even still more significant. The result no doubt was due to a combination of causes. But that this was one of the most influential seems to be generally acknowledged.
The foreign policy of the Government will stand any test that
may be applied to it; but it is only every now and then that it attracts the attention of the constituencies, and their eyes are more generally fixed on the conduct of business in the House of Commons. It is by this that the great body of the public form their estimate of Ministerial capacity; and if a notion once gets abroad that the Government of the day is deficient in the practical energy required for this purpose, it takes a series of extraordinary successes to eradicate it, far less likely to follow than a series of disasters. Without ripping up old sores, we may fairly say that the Government are now on their trial, and that unless some qualities are displayed which were thought to be wanting last year, and have not yet been exhibited this year, more seats will be lost, and the prestige of the Ministry seriously impaired before the next prorogation. We hope with other Unionists that the lost ground may be regained. But it is an awkward thing when the stroke oar catches a crab at starting.
We forbear for the present to comment on the scheme for the increase of the Army explained by Lord Lansdowne to the House of Lords on February 5. It is enough to say that it is among the minor disappointments which have dimmed the prospect since the opening of the session. However, if we turn to the brighter side of the picture, we have plenty to reassure us. The clouds still darken the sky in one direction, but there is sunshine in another. England is first in the concert of Europe. There is corn in Egypt.
From the side of their foreign policy, the right wing of their position, the Government are unassailable. That is now fortified against all attack, and the battle of the session must be fought at
some other point. The Turkish papers now published and laid before Parliament last month exhibit the six Powers in agreement on the necessity for coercion policy which Russia for a time resisted, but ultimately recognised, though only to be used in the last resort by all the Powers combined, and in such a manner as to preserve the integrity of the Ottoman empire. Whether this policy is in the abstract the wisest that could be adopted may be thought an open question. But coercion by all the six Powers combined, and coercion by one alone, are two very different things; and it seems to be believed that when once the Sultan is convinced that the Allies are in earnest there will be no necessity to resort to force. At all events, the line taken, and firmly adhered to, by Lord Salisbury is thoroughly in accordance with British public opinion, and closes the door against all serious attacks from the Liberal or Radical party. The commanding position occupied by the Government on the greatest public question of the day may compensate us for the effect of some other mistakes, which we have no intention of minimising, and are all the more at liberty to criticise, after doing full justice to their statesmanship in foreign affairs.
We cannot indeed say that we go the whole length with Mr Chamberlain as to the comparative value of foreign and domestic questions. National institutions and national character act and react upon each other; and nothing that affects the last can ever occupy a secondary position in the eye of a true statesman. And, what is more, it seems to us that our position in the world is mainly dependent on the preservation of that national character to which our domestic institutions, and therefore our do
mestic policy, have so largely contributed.
The debate on Egypt, which ended in a majority of just three to one for the Government on February 5, brought no new arguments into the field, for there were none to bring. But both Mr Morley and Sir W. Harcourt have enriched our political experience with another choice specimen of what an Opposition too weak to be responsible can stoop to in the way of faction. Rather than lose the opportunity of a passing hit, they did not hesitate to make an effort to set England and France, and England and Russia, by the ears, and to represent to both these Powers, with whom we are acting in concert, that her Majesty's Government had insulted them! The Chancellor of the Exchequer made a simple statement of facts which have been patent to the whole world for the last ten years, and which neither France nor Russia has ever called in question. France deliberately withdrew from the joint occupation of Egypt when she might have continued it with great advantage both to herself and others, and left England alone to do the necessary work. Is the mention of this fact an insult? Or if it is, why does Mr Morley himself reproach France with her folly in not accepting Lord Salisbury's offer in 1887, which would have terminated the English occupation? If allusion to the one fact is an insult, allusion to the other is surely a much greater one! It is all very well for dog-fighters to set two dogs at each other by pinching their tails, but it is hardly becoming in a British statesman to seek to embroil his country with a foreign Power by the adoption of a similar device.
But this sort of thing is "all the