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of the platform and the press, which is far in excess of the sober patriotism of the majority of Englishmen. But can this excessive chauvinism or jingoism best be fought by embracing heart and soul on every occasion the cause of our national foes? Let it be granted that the official and unofficial representatives of the opinions of Englishmen, those who are authorised to speak for them and those who profess to do so, are sometimes too little mindful of the prejudices and even of the natural pride of other nations; still it is too much to tell us that in every quarrel Englishmen are always and wholly to blame! Liberal statesmanship would, it seems, have avoided all the wars of the last five years, and we should have remained in happy and peaceful relations with Afridis, Soudanese, and Boers—a view of things hardly warranted by experience, if we recall to memory the halcyon days of Gladstonian rule! Wars are hateful things in themselves. Yet Liberal, Tory, and Unionist statesmen have all found it, in their judgement, at times necessary to wage them. To contemplate the horrors only of any particular war is to incapacitate oneself from passing judgement as to its necessity, possibly even its righteousness. It is mere declamation, and offensive declamation too, to speak of 'the almost motiveless expedition * to the Soudan, with its barren and intoxicating splendour; its necessary weakening of our military power by the locking up of British and Egyptian soldiers to hold a • remote desert; its Oriental pageant of revenges, extended, it is to be feared, even to the wounded, and in one case to the dead.'
More than half of this little volume is taken up by Mr. Hirst's essay on Imperialism and Finance,' in which the easy, but certainly by no means useless, task is undertaken of pointing out the prodigious increase in recent years of the expenditure upon the army and navy. Lord Randolph Churchill, as we are reminded, when Chancellor of the Exchequer, made a stand in favour of economy, and actually retired from the Government because he could not persuade his colleagues to make great reductions in the military and naval expenditure. But, after all, experience is the great test of political wisdom, and, with the light of the last thirteen years, few Englishmen are inclined to reproach their rulers for having maintained a larger military or naval establishment than the necessities of the country required. Sir Michael Hicks-Beach does much more in the cause of economy by persevering in the somewhat thank
less task of preventing waste than ever Lord Randolph did by resigning
Mr. Gladstone once declared that the Chancellorship of the Exchequer was an unpopular office because the Minister necessarily spent his time in saying to those who clamoured for expenditure, “No! no! no!' According to Mr. Hirst, Sir Michael Hicks-Beach should be called 'the yes ! yes ! yes ! Chancellor of the Exchequer, a nickname we recommend to the consideration of the * Departments’ and Members of Parliament in general !
Mr. Hirst's essay is followed by others on the Exploitation of Inferior Races and on Colonial and Foreign Policy.' It is to be regretted, we repeat, that a blind partisanship and very bad advocacy serve to conceal from the public what there is of good in the views the essayists would press upon it. Times will change, and even the cause of national economy and the reduction of expenditure will some day gain a hearing from the public. When that time comes, if our essayists can manage to urge their case without first insulting their audience, they may yet help forward the really good objects at which they are undoubtedly aiming.
To return to the General Election. The towns of Great Britain have declared almost wholly for the Government; and Great Britain, it must be remembered, is becoming yearly more urban. This is one of the most remarkable features of the General Election. No better reply could be given to the old taunt about the classes and the masses,' in which, indeed, from the first there was never anything more than a jingle! That Glasgow should give a solid vote for Lord Salisbury, that the Scotch burghs should return as many Unionists as Liberals to the House of Commons, that Scotland as a whole should show no majority for the *Liberal Party,' must convince the most bigoted of oldfashioned Scottish Radicals that the policy of modern Unionist statesmen is something different from the Toryism' of their younger days, however fondly they as Radicals may cling to the old denunciatory word. From Ireland, as a matter of course, the Nationalist majority greatly predominates, and as usual no members at all are returned who profess any allegiance to the Liberal Party. In Ireland alone has a member of the Government been defeated at the polls, in the person, moreover, of the politician who has worked harder than any one else to soften the party animosity which is the bane of that country, and to bring together
* Essays on Liberalism, p. 40.
men of varying opinions and political connexion to work for the common good. Mr. Plunkett's defeat displays in an unhappy light the difficulties which beset the efforts of a Government influenced by the sole desire of maintaining an impartial rule amidst the jars of faction; and we are afraid that some time must elapse before in that country at all adequate justice is done to the little-requited labours in her behalf of Mr. Gerald Balfour and Mr. Plunkett. What effect among Nationalist rivalries the loss by Mr. Healy's followers of several seats may produce, remains to be seen. For the time being the alliance between Nationalists and Liberals is entirely at an end, and the loss or gain of members to one or the other group of Irish Nationalists in the House of Commons will produce no effect upon the general political situation.
A united party consisting of some 400 Unionists supporting the Government will face on the Opposition benches 190 British Liberals and Radicals, and 80 Irish Nationalists. That is the new House of Commons! The British Liberals in the late Parliament were, as to their political sympathies, sometimes even in their votes, sharply divided among themselves, and it is quite certain that they are not coming back to the new Parliament on any better terms with each other. The Welsh members form a conspicuous element of modern Liberalism, but it is hardly one to which LiberalImperialist reconstructors can look for assistance. Yet, it the Liberal party is to be reconstructed at all in the present state of public feeling, it must be by men such as Lord Rosebery, Sir Henry Fowler, Mr. Asquith, and Sir Edward Grey. For the time being, rightly or wrongly, the country can hardly be brought to contemplate seriously a party dominated by the views of anti-Imperialists. Yet this has to be remembered—a strong party in opposition cannot be formed on the principle of agreement with the Government of the day in its main policy. Many amateur advisers of Liberal statesmen, while constantly expressing their desire to see a strong Opposition asserting itself in the House of Commons, appear to think that its chief function will be to lend a helping hand to forward the policy of Her Majesty's Ministers. Now no Opposition ever was, or ever will be, built up out of anything but opposition to the Government of the day. Well, then, to what conclusion are we compelled ? To this—that at the present time the conditions do not exist which make possible the reconstruction of a strong Liberal party, or a strong party of any sort in opposition,
and that nothing is to be gained by pretending to unanimity of opinion which has no existence in fact.
It does not, however, follow from this that the present Government will last for ever. Times change, sometimes very rapidly. A general election and a huge majority have given to Lord Salisbury's Administration fresh life and strength, but they do not smooth away all the difficulties that stand between the Government and success. The British people are apt to think that when they have shown their confidence in a Government that Government can do what it likes and get what it wants, and are not always as satisfied as they should be when the Government merely does or gets the best which circumstances admit. Lord Salisbury, eminently successful as he has been as Foreign Minister, has already had some little experience of the exacting expectations of the public. An Opposition cannot be constructed artificially and to order, but one is certain to arise when conditions admit of it, when, as is inevitable, mistakes are made and failure comes, and when, as is also inevitable, the people begin to want a change of men. It is the Irish Alliance and the Home Rule policy that still weigh down the present and obscure the future of British party Liberalism. When these are frankly repudiated an Opposition will perhaps again arise capable of taking advantage of a turn of the tide.
No. CCCXCV. will be published in January, 1901.