kindness for the Empire, ‘Boulanger means an Imperial system based on universal suffrage and the encouragement of merit, trade, and art.'

"Say rather a Conservative and Catholic Monarchy,' struck in a young student of theology, ' for the General is merely the Monk who is to restore King Philippe the Seventh.'

And in the meantime France is to be handed over to a man who is only fit to play croupier at Monte Carlo!' cried the deputy.

'A Napoleon without the glory, a pretender without a claim, and a dictator without a policy !’ shouted the vehement doctor.

But here the conversation became too rapid as well as too confused to be reported at all. Gredin, coquin, roi des lorrons, miscreants of bourgeois, le Tonquinois, parliamentary corruption, were the only distinct phrases which I could catch in the hubbub.

We finished our coffee hastily, took another sip of chartreuse, and prepared to go our ways.

* And what am I to tell my friends at home?' said I to the printer as we left the house, for he had been almost the only man in the room who had remained a quiet spectator. What am I to think of such confusion of opinion?'

It is not greater than what exists in Paris,' said he, and the issue is quite as obscure.'

So we parted, and I went up the Eiffel Tower to see if I could find a more tranquil horizon.



MORE than three years have passed since the Liberal party, at the instance of Mr. Gladstone and a section of his colleagues, committed itself to the policy of Home Rule. One of the most remarkable phenomena of modern politics was the large measure of assent with which that policy was received by the Liberal electorate, who up to that time had been taught by their leaders to regard Home Rule even under the auspices of Mr. Butt and his aristocratic entourage either as a dangerous conspiracy against the Empire or the fantastic chimera of a handful of political dilettantes. But large and preponderating as was the support given by the Liberal party to the late Prime Minister, and small numerically as was the secession, the nature of that secession marks an epoch, the character of which is best defined by the epigrammatic phrase of Mr. Gladstone—the classes against the masses.'

He would be but a superficial observer of contemporary politics who conceived that Mr. Gladstone's Home Rule propaganda was the causa causans of that wide-spread desertion of modern Liberalism by the upper and middle classes; the movement has been steadily continuous since the introduction of the abortive Reform Bill of 1866, and has been from time to time accelerated throughout the series of democratic measures which marked Mr. Gladstone's administrations : the Home Rule policy precipitated and almost completed an exodus which hitherto had been gradual and therefore less perceptible.

It would undoubtedly be a speculative inquiry of some interest to investigate the various causes which have contributed to the defection from Liberalism of the middle class. One cause, and probably the most considerable, lies on the surface: the battle of the middle class has been fought and won. Free trade, the removal of religious disabilities, the participation and perhaps preponderance of the commercial interest in the work of government have transferred the bourgeoisie from the party of progress to the party of rest. The reforms of the future menace, or appear to menace, the interests of the middle class. Nationalisation of the land, a graduated scale of taxation, free education-in a word, legislative enforcement of the Benthamist doctrine of 'the greatest happiness of the greatest number'--are regarded by

class with apprehension and dismay. The Chartists foresaw this result when they passionately opposed half-measures,' on the plea that if the working class fought the battle of the middle class it would be left unaided to fight its own.

The Home Rule policy may not unjustly be said to have afforded to many a pretext for openly separating from a party with which for long anterior thereto they had been completely out of sympathy. It is not, indeed, in London alone that the middle class has severed itself from Liberalism; the same condition obtains to an almost equal extent throughout the southern and midland provinces, while even in the northern counties the strength of middle-class Liberalism is year by year diminishing. A notable illustration that this is so has been during the last few years afforded in the increasing difficulty that the party managers find in procuring suitable Parliamentary candidates. In the metropolis, not merely in 1886 but also in 1885, the majority of Liberal candidates were men who had but small pretensions, whether intellectual or social, to the honour of a seat in Parliament.

The Nonconformist agitation for religious equality is almost the last tie that binds a section of the middle class to the new Liberalism, while the greater tolerance of the Church and the removal of the more oppressive and invidious distinctions between it and the Nonconformist sects have tended to minimise the aggressiveness of the Disestablishment movement. Now, indeed, for the first time in the history of English politics, we find Liberalism almost exclusively identified with the particular interests of the working class.

It may, of course, be contended that Liberalism presents two aspects, the progressive and the executive or administrative policy that it pursues, and that in its latter aspect it still has claims upon the loyalty of the middle class, which will upon occasion assert themselves and meet with fitting response. Undoubtedly this distinction between the two parties in a measure yet obtains, but it is not a fundamental distinction, but one dependent rather upon the personality of the repective party leaders. The wisdom and expediency of peace and economy must be generally recognised by every government that, as ours, is largely representative of and dependent upon the commercial interest; and indeed the most effective and zealous opposition to military and naval expenditure and departmental extravagance has been found recently on the Conservative benches under the leadership of Lord Randolph Churchill, while Lord Salisbury, whatever his personal predilections may be, has hitherto been effectively restrained by his colleagues from meddlesome interference in European politics.

But while, on the one hand, the new Liberalism has thus alienated the middle class, on the other it is in a deplorable state of disorganisation, scarcely removed from anarchy.

The reason



is not far to seek. Official Liberalism is completely out of touch with the aspirations and aims of modern Liberal thought. With one or two exceptions the titular leaders of the Liberal party are the survivors of an order of things that has ceased to be—in other words, there is no radical distinction between the policy of Conservatism and that of the official Liberalism. It is indeed far otherwise with the rank and file. Within the walls of Parliament there is now slowly, but none the less surely, forming a party far in advance of their titular leaders, and who are kept in subordination only by personal loyalty to Mr. Gladstone. It gossip that the 1888 House of Commons was of so democratic a character that it alarmed its own leaders and to some extent precipitated and enlarged that combination of Whigs and Tories for which the Home Rule policy has been popularly regarded as solely responsible. In the present House a large—it is difficult to define with accuracy what-proportion of the Liberal party is of an ultrademocratic type. The weakness is its want of leadership, and its influence is impaired both in the House and in the country by the objectionable idiosyncrasies of many of those who affect to speak on its behalf. So long, indeed, as Mr. Gladstone remains, his authority will be generally respected by the extreme section; but it is no secret that when he ceases to be leader there will be a distinct demand by the Radical party for a share in the party management and the control of the party policy. It is felt, and has been more or less formally expressed, that the present front bench is conspicuously out of touch with the new Liberalism, and that the apostolic succession to office of hereditary claimants and personal favourites has long since become a political anachronism.

Is there, however, any ground for anticipating for the democratic party an early political preponderance in the Legislature? The indications afforded by recent elections are not altogether favourable to that view. The upper and the upper middle classes retain a strong grip upon the electorate; the average English elector is a long way from being emancipated from the influences of wealth and station. This was abundantly demonstrated at the general election of 1886, notably in the rejection of Joseph Arch and John Wilson, working men of marked ability and eloquence, in favour of Conservatives whose chief claims to consideration were rank or opulence. Again, hitherto the large majority of popular leaders have been found among the upper or at least the middle class, but now it is becoming increasingly difficult to find men of wealth or men of culture and leisure to espouse the new Liberalism, and until the masses are moved by some great question political power is likely to remain with the Conservatives. When that question arises, when the interests of the people are manifestly at issue, then in the same way as the Highland crofters sacrificed their lairds and chieftains to the obscure and humble stranger, so the English constituencies will, irrespective of all other considerations send men to Parliament to vote for the measure and the policy in which their interests are involved.

To those who venture to express doubts as to the electoral prospects of the Liberal party the reply of the official Liberal is that there will be a great wave of political enthusiasm, that will carry everything before it. By those who gaze forth to the political horizon little, if any, sign of this wave can be discerned. One would naturally ask, Of what elements is that wave to be composed ? Is it the Irish question ? Thoughtful Liberals are day by day becoming more impressed with the uncomfortable reflection that the masses are not moved by—are, in fact, wonderfully indifferent to the woes of Ireland.' Racial, social, and religious antipathies are still strong, but above all the English mechanic or labourer has so far at least as his vision extends—no personal interest in Home Rule: it does not concern him ; it is not a question of his right to vote, of his political, social, or religious status. On all these matters he can feel keenly enough, and has acted and will act with courage and decision. But Home Rule at the highest only appeals to his sentiments and his sympathies. To excite these a wider historical knowledge and a closer intimacy with contemporary events than either he or his social superior, the middle-class man, possesses are requisite.

Nor, indeed, from an internal aspect does the scheme of Home Rule meet with unequivocal support from those who favour its principle. The settlement of the agrarian question and the adjustment of the conditions upon which Irish members are to remain in the Imperial Parliament are not matters of mere detail that can be relegated by the country to the sagacity of Mr. Gladstone and the wisdom of Parliament; they are matters of capital importance upon which the electorate is entitled to be informed before it commits itself to the return of a Home Rule Parliament, in which otherwise schism would be followed by disruption and indefinite protraction of the conflict. Unfortunately Mr. Morley, who is destined to play a conspicuous part in the settlement of the Irish difficulty, appears to be hopelessly in antagonism to the bulk of the Radical party upon the land question, while the retention of the Irish members in Parliament constitutes a problem upon which no solution has been afforded by those in authority. Probably the solution is not so difficult as many suppose; the classification of Bills is no new matter, and that classification might with apparent facility be extended to all votes and proceedings in Parliament. But theoretical completeness and symmetry are not to be compassed by human ingenuity, and probably there would be little practical inconvenience in permitting the Irish members to exercise control over our domestic affairs until the other parts of the United Kingdom were ripe for a similar departure in the direction of Home Rule. VOL. XXVI.-No. 150.


« ForrigeFortsett »