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The fact is simply this. No Ministry which has done half so much as the present Ministry can hope to escape unpopularity, and no set of men however able can hope to administer the affairs of a great country like England for five years without a mistake. Let them be judged by results,—the Irish Church; the Irish Land; Purchase of Commissions ; National Education; the Railway Regulation Act; the Judicature Act; Ballot. The measures passed by the present Ministry on these seven subjects will make Mr. Gladstone's tenure of office a period ever to be remembered with satisfaction in the history of the country.
But, we are entitled to ask, if this great party-leader, this master of Parliamentary warfare, divests himself of his academical robe to put on the boxing-gloves of politics, why does he show no better fight for his party ? Has he nothing to offer by way of programme, or does he agree with another great thoughveiled' authority who says that the only proper employment of Parliament is to pass measures about which both sides are agreed ? We look in vain through this manifesto for anything manifest except the fact that its author is forced to rely on a masterly inactivity, and confines himself to announcing opposition to the extension of the County Franchise. That is hardly a cry for a General Election ! And yet there is nothing else; for once admit the principle that Parliament is to confine itself to uncontested legislation, and the great fabric of Party Government collapses. But this is, in effect, what Toryism is coming to. A mere policy of obstruction; an assertion and assumption that nothing is to be done for the further improvement of the laws under which this great country is governed. No change is to be attempted lest an interest should be harassed' or 'worried, no reform undertaken because that would imply that the Constitution is valetudinarian. But the circumstances of the country are constantly changing, there is a ceaseless flux of public opinion, there are continual modifications of the relation in which classes stand to each other; and if we never alter our institutions we shall be much more likely to find them out of ‘rapport' with those who live under them, than if we study by gradual modification to regulate and improve. These may seem to be, and indeed are, sentiments of the stalest possible nature, but when great orators and leading organs of public opinion lay down the maxim that reform is to cease, it is time to repeat sentiments which are of the very elements of political wisdom.
There is another assumption of the Glasgow speech which
appears to us to merit the gravest reprehension. It takes for granted that if a ministry is unpopular, either they are to blame for their acts or the people at large are to blame for their reception of those acts. But it is perfectly possible that a ministry may be right, as we believe the present Ministry have been right in their leading measures, and yet incur unpopularity, while those whose favour they have for the moment lost may still be excusable on the ground that their particular interests not having coincided with the interest of the public at large, they really have been sufferers while the country has benefited by measures which have incurred in turn the disfavour of those affected by them. And when these measures have affected in succession several of the leading interests of the country, each interest resents interference with itself, though approving interference with its neighbours; so that although on general grounds each interest endorses the conduct of an active and energetic ministry like the present, on grounds relating to itself it denounces that conduct, and thus a group of inconsistent and partial disapprobations make up general unpopularity.
If popularity is to be the test of merit, farewell patriotism. Between 1860 and 1865 a Liberal Ministry reduced the charges for Naval, Military and Civil expenditure from 38,200,0001. to 31,200,0001., or seven millions of money. Between 1865 and 1867, under a Tory Administration the same charges rose from 31,200,0001. to 34,700,0001., or three millions and a half in two years. It now stands at 32,400,0001. in spite of the general rise of prices. But this reduction implies that many persons who were in various ways profiting by Government expenditure have lost those opportunities of profit, and of course grumble at the economists; so that what was for the public good is the most direct possible cause of unpopularity. It is then much to be regretted that the leader of a great party should rejoice as he evidently does in the alleged unpopularity of his opponents, while he ascribes that unpopularity to acts which are in truth attempts to lessen the burden of taxation and to improve the machinery of the Government. But though this be a matter of regret, it cannot be a matter of wonder. Some of our older readers may remember a clever piece of machinery called the Automaton chess-player. The figure sat silent before the board, and till the time came for playing, motionless as it was silent. Before each move there was a clatter of wheels like clock-work, the hand grasped the piece and transferred it from one square to another, and that was all. No elation at success, and when the infrequent defeat arrived no
between 1865°2nd, 200,0001., and Civil extra reduced the
Government any persons who fe prices. But 7
depression or regret. But the game was played with masterly skill, and the puzzle was how to connect the keen intelligence which certainly directed each move, with a dumb figure which apparently only held wheels and pinions and was in truth nothing more than a kind of clock-case. Not unlike this curious machine is the character of the great Tory leader. Apparently a stranger to all common emotions of humanity, he sits behind a mask. There is never a speech which does not somehow give its hearers the feeling that the arguments are used not because they are sound but because they fit the understandings of those to whom they are addressed, that the sentiments are not those of the speaker but simply what best suit the emergency, that the very satire gives its author little pleasure, and that the praise, if anything or anybody is praised, sounds too much like a distorted jeer. If he speaks on foreign policy, no one can suspect him of speaking with any tinge of insular prejudice. "If he discusses home matters, he does it as he might if he were a citizen of Laputa. If he defends the Church, one sees that he looks upon a clergyman much as he would look upon a dervish. If he attacks Dissenters he does it because it pleases the county members. If he appears at a farmers' dinner or a show of fat beasts in the part of the country squire, surrounded like Hampden by the freeholders of Buckinghamshire, nothing is wanting but the top-boots and the pig-tail of the late Mr. Byng to complete the illusion. Perhaps in nothing does he approach so nearly to a languid feeling of interest in his subject as when he is discussing some question of finance, although in finance he is anything but successful. But, no matter what the subject, there is always a spirit of cynical contempt in his manner of discussing it, just as if he disbelieved his own arguments, and despised others for accepting them.
One feels an inexplicable unreality in the whole proceeding. It is wonderfully clever, marvellously life-like; but that is all. The boy who sat beneath the robes of the automaton and directed the moves had no doubt the common human desires and sympathies : he was hungry, or angry, or tired; but all one saw was the result of keen intellect devoted to one object --the existing contest. So with the great Tory leader, there are no passionate convictions, no keen antipathies, no strong prepossessions, all is veiled except the motive force necessary for carrying on the game of party tactics. And yet who can doubt that the man behind is full of great qualities-genius, wit, sympathy, dramatic power, belief, and enthusiasm ? Who can doubt that behind the veil he appreciates the efforts of the
or a show of embers. If hes he does it
Ministry, although the part he plays makes it necessary for him to glory in their unpopularity ?
It is, however, no matter of regret to the Liberal party that their principal opponent in the House of Commons should be what he is. There is something childlike in the character of
Toryism. A good deal of obstinacy and much ignorance, mingled with affectionate attachments and trusting confidence. It cannot be supposed that there can be much sympathy between such a leader and such followers, nor is there; but he is necessary to them—he knows it, and they know it. This is a great advantage to the Liberal party ; and so long as the Tories have their present leader, it may safely be prophesied that they will not sit for long together on the right hand of Mr. Speaker's chair.
When they have a programme; when they have a leader with whom they can act in perfect sympathy; and when the front bench of the Liberal party have done something really to forfeit the confidence of the country, the present Opposition may hope for a term of office; but so long as they confine themselves to carping at Liberal measures which they dare not propose to repeal, and exulting over Liberal disagreements, which, if they exist, are only partial and temporary matters of procedure rather than of principle, so long they may calculate on acting simply as the brake, and not as the driving-wheel, in the great machine of politics. That, in truth, is the great utility of the Tory party in opposition; and, governed as this country is, by the criticism and control of one party over the acts of another party, we are well content that the Tories should continue to perform that useful part in our national economy. But, if these parts are reversed, everything is thrown into confusion. The machine is upset, and political principles are sacrificed to à vain attempt at a counterfeit Liberalism, which cannot long impose upon the nation.
No. CCLXXXIV. will be published in April.
THE EDINBURGH REVIEW,
ART. I.-1. The Russians in Central Asia Papers trans
lated by T. and R. MICHELL. London : 1865. 2. High Tartary, Yarkund, and Kashghur. By R. B.
SHAW. London: 1871. 3. Lahore to Yarkund. Incidents of the Route and Natural
History of the Countries traversed by the Expedition of 1870. By G. HENDERSON, M.D., and A. O. HUME, C.B. London : 1873. 4. Central Asia. By ARMINIUS VAMBÉRY. London: 1874. THOSE who, knowing that a British Mission has been sent
for important purposes to Eastern Toorkistan,* take up the latest published of the books in our list, with the hope of learning something about the past history or present condition of the country, will find themselves disappointed. Dr. Henderson travelled too rapidly, the stay of his party at Yarkund was too much devoted to ceremonial visits, and to the work of obtaining means of returning, to allow of inquiry on these points; and the first, or descriptive and narrative
* The tract is known by various names. Former European geographers, who wrote about Central Asia, called it Little Bokhara-a name quite unknown to the inhabitants and in the neighbourhood. The Chinese call it the province of the Nan-Loo, or province of the southern road, lying along the south of the Tian-Shan range. The neighbouring Mahommedans call it Alty-shuhur, or Jety-shuhur-hybrid
Toorkee-Persian words for the six cities' and 'the seven cities,' so designated according to the number of cities which it included at the time of speaking. It is sometimes called Kashgharia--a name for which there is no justification at all.
VOL. CXXXIX. NO. CCLXXXIV.