Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

Mr. Courtney has also, we have no hesitation in saying, served his country well, and assuredly the country has given him very little thanks for his paing. Yet the House of Commons without Mr. Courtney will be much the poorer. He was necessarily and by nature always in a minority and the strenuous advocate of the rights and of the cause of minorities. In a democratic age King Majority is absolute monarch. He is surrounded with courtiers, and flattery is the easiest road to favour. Nevertheless, as with the olderfashioned absolute monarchies that the world has known, it is not an altogether happy condition of affairs when men are silenced for giving advice which is unpalatable to the powers that be. However little they may have agreed with Mr. Courtney's views, members of both parties will miss in him a most able, thoughtful, and conscientious man, whose frequent interventions in debate never failed to raise its tone and deeply to interest the whole House. The Conservatives and Liberals have each lost an able speaker who will be greatly missed in the House of Commons, and not only by their own political friends; but Sir Edward Clarke and Mr. Birrell are certain to find their way back to Westminster very shortly if they wish to return there; and, on the whole, the new Parliament does not show many gaps among those to whom its predecessor lent a delighted ear.

Rarely has Prime Minister received such a testimony of public confidence as has been awarded to Lord Salisbury in the years 1895 and 1900. He makes again a fresh start with a great majority in both Houses of Parliament, and a free hand. He need not surely bring any reproaches now against the British Constitution! The difficulties which he has to encounter lie in the problems themselves, not in any defects inherent in our system of government. The people have done their part, and it is now the duty of the Prime Minister and his colleagues to do theirs and to justify the confidence reposed in them.

With the end of the war South African politics have entered upon a new stage. Nothing is to be gained by the reiteration of mutual complaints by Dutch and English as to the real cause of the war. Statesmen have to accept facts. The Republics have been conquered and annexed, and a situation exists which many wise and patriotic Englishmen were deeply anxious to avert. The end to be attained the establishment of just and equal and free government for the whole of South Africa under the British flag-can only come with time, and as a result of the reconciliation of two races now of necessity bitterly hostile. Mr. Rhodes is reported to have reminded the South African League at Capetown on October 10 that it was against Krugerism, not against the Dutch, that they had fought. Would that this lesson could have been enforced upon them earlier! How different were the two things all who have read the admirable letters of Sir Henry de Villiers must recognise. He and many another British subject of purely Dutch blood in Cape Colony, with entire loyalty, did their very best to resist Krugerism, and so to avert the war which they more than any others in South Africa looked forward to with horror. Since the war it will be for a time more difficult than ever for Englishmen and Dutchmen to make the best of each other; but however difficult, that is what they have to do, and what a prudent statesmanship may greatly help them in doing. Whatever temporary arrangements are found necessary in the annexed States, Cape Colony has the same system of free constitutional government as the other great colonies of the Empire; and no parliamentary system can be expected to work smoothly or satisfactorily while the electorate is torn asunder by the bitterest sentiments of racial animosity. So far the Government of the Cape, supported by Mr. Schreiner and the majority of the Parliament, has not shown any vindictiveness or desire to go beyond what is necessary for the restoration of law and order in the districts where war (practically civil war) prevailed. In some respects for a time more difficulty may be found in Cape Colony than in the annexed States; but so far the action of the Cape Ministry and Parliament promises well, and is such as to encourage the well-wishers of South African constitutionalism. Taking South Africa as a whole, it is clear that the ultimate restoration of a feeling of common citizenship between Dutch and English will depend far less upon any cut and dried so-called settlement of the conquered territories than upon the firmness, patience, sympathy, and tact shown by those who represent the conquerors. We have to substitute a sense of fellow-citizenship among South Africans for the unhappy relation of conqueror and conquered, inevitably the immediate, but, we hope, only the transitory, result of the war. The task before us is no easy one. We began, to our cost, by greatly underrating the difficulties of conquering the Transvaal; do not let us now make a similar mistake as to completing the pacification of South Africa.

How will the Government and Parliament carry out that part of the national. mandate' which relates to strengthening the military and naval power of the Empire ? Here, also, the Government has a perfectly free hand, no sort of pressure in favour of any special measures having been attempted. The dissatisfaction with the War Department is natural, and out of it much useful reform may come; but it is well to recognise that the public has expected from the Department, in the South African war, very much more than it was provided with means to perform. Previous Governments and Parliaments considered, rightly or wrongly, that a very large army was not required for the defence of the Empire, and that we were doing all that was necessary in making ready to send and maintain abroad an army of 50,000 or 60,000 men. That it has been possible to provide at all, at short notice, an army of 200,000 men, and keep them fully supplied, at a distance of many thousand miles across the seas and many hundred miles inland, and that there has been nothing in the nature of a breakdown, reflects great credit not only upon the spirit of the British race all over the world, but upon Lord Lansdowne and those who have assisted him in the arduous work of administration. What the British public now requires is to make provision on a very much larger scale than heretofore against the danger of foreign war. In truth, it is not so much that the War Department has been to blame as that our need for a larger army has now been realised, the inadequacy of our old arrangements having been forced upon the public mind by recent events.

How the very reasonable demand of the country for greater security is to be satisfied, it is for the Government in the first instance to consider. There is no desire to rival the great military empires in the number of the forces which we can put in the field. To the popular mind the problem. to be faced does not appear an insoluble one. The United Kingdom and the Empire have to be made practically secure against attack. In our favour is our insular position. We have a very powerful, and we may have, if we choose to pay for it, an overwhelmingly powerful fleet. As regards our military strength, we have a willingness to serve amongst all ranks of the community, as the last eight months have conspicuously demonstrated. There is, after all, a foundation of truth in the foolish old ' Jingo’song. The means of defence seem ample if capacity is forthcoming to organise and utilise them.

It is unnecessary to consider the details of the General Election, which are given and discussed ad nauseam in the daily press. No reasonable man can suppose that the overwhelming majority for the Government reflects a permanent preference for Conservatism or Unionism in the party sense at all proportional to the vote. It was expedient, and in our opinion right, not to delay the verdict of the constituencies, and to strengthen at the earliest possible moment the hands of the Government. There is little reason to suppose that a General Election in January of next year would have produced results at all different from this one in October. And it was clearly desirable, to say nothing of the general inconvenience of a January General Election, that the national will should not be left in doubt a moment longer than necessary. Nevertheless, the result of the elections has been largely caused by the passing circumstances of the time, and it would be jumping to a very rash conclusion indeed to suppose that it proves the steady growth in popular favour of the Conservative or Unionist party, The prosperous condition of trade was much on the side of the Government. The verdict was asked for and given almost on a single issue, and this will certainly not be the issue at another General Election; from which reflection Radicals and Home Rulers may perhaps draw some consolation in this day of their gloom.

Apart from the question of the moment, it is interesting to watch the political prescriptions offered from time to time by well-meaning advisers to cure the sickly condition of the Liberal party. Three years ago * we called attention to the laudable anxiety of half-a-dozen Oxford men'to discover a principle of wide application, easily understood, to serve as a basis upon which party Liberalism might raise again a noble structure. In Liberalism and the Empire,' published on the very eve of what is described as a coming

khaki election,' we find the three essayists protesting, with no less fervour than that of the Oxonians of 1897, that the honour-nay, the safety-of the nation requires that its destinies should be in the keeping of the Liberal party.' They lose all sense of proportion in their conflict with the modern monster-Imperialism. Now it may be at once admitted that 'Imperialism’ may be, and sometimes is, little better than vulgar swagger; that gentlemen whose

• Edinburgh Review, October 1897.
† Essays on Liberalism, by Six Oxford Men. London, 1897.

real interest in politics is financial may try to turn to their own advantage the genuine patriotism of an unsuspecting nation, and that the people do require to be warned of the danger of yielding to the reckless ambition of territorial expansion. It may well be that consolidation rather than expansion is the policy best calculated to increase the strength and welfare of the Empire. To paint the map red may tickle the popular fancy, but it is not necessarily an end at which a wise and patriotic policy must aim.

But the Liberalism of our three essayists is not content with this, for they are determined to prove that in every difficulty in recent years—with the Khalifa at Khartoum, the French at Fashoda, the Boers in the Transvaal—the nation, or rather those who have led it, have been not so much mistaken, as influenced by miserable motives and low ideals. The partisanship which, treating the events of a century ago, can write of Pitt as 'the statesman who sold ' his soul and his country to the war party, Continental

despotism, and the Court,' may be expected, in the heat of living controversy, to be blind indeed to the actual circumstances and forces of its own day. If this is Liberalism, it is no less certainly partisanship of the narrowest kind. Advocacy such as this does a positive injury to what there is of good and there is some good) in the cause the essayists espouse. It is not unworthy of notice that, if the position of our essayists could be established, the first result would be the expulsion of Imperialist Liberals—who after all count for something—from the ranks of the Liberal party!

We are told in the preface to these essays that there is no sentiment so dangerous, there is no sentiment so easy to stimulate, as the false excess of patriotism. There is probably no country in the world from China to Peru in which the sub-conscious voices of national egotism do not persistently whisper in men's ears the same intoxicating tale: “We are the pick and flower of nations, and in one sense or another) the chosen people of God! Various foreigners may or may not have their good points, but only we are really whole and right and normal. Other nations boast and are aggressive; only we are modest, and content with our barest due, though it is obvious that we are by nature specially qualified for ruling others, and no unprejudiced person can doubt that our present territories ought to be increased. That our yoke is a pure blessing to all who come under it is a plain fact, proved by the almost unanimous testimony of our own citizens, our historians, our missionaries, our soldiers, our travellers, and only denied out of spite by a few envious foreigners whom no one believes." A caricature, of course, even of the self-satisfied jingoism

« ForrigeFortsett »