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of the gilded chamber, or will the Prime Minister guide the House of Commons to accept at the hands of the House of Lords a provision which only the pressure exercised by himself and his colleagues induced it to reject?

The longer the House of Commons sits, and the harder it works, the less it seems to do! More serious even than all this lamentable waste of time is the increasing popular disrespect in which its conduct is involving it. How can it be otherwise? Yet primarily the fault is not in the House itself. It is in the absence of a wise and high-minded guidance of Parliament for great public ends that the discredit and the danger of the situation really lie. Before examining the prospect which Mr. Gladstone now holds out to an irritated, overdriven, and apparently helpless popular chamber, let us glance at the very recent past.

It must be admitted that the Home Rule Party acquired office at a time, and in a manner, which made it difficult for them to achieve, as compared with their predecessors, any very conspicuous success. The six years' rule of the Ministry of Lord Salisbury, rendered possible only by the cordial alliance and patriotic co-operation of Conservatives and Liberal Unionists, had been singularly productive of benefit to the nation. In Ireland, law had been justly and firmly maintained, tenant farmers had been converted, and were being converted, by thousands into proprietors of the land they tilled, and a wise generosity on the part of Parliament had enabled the Irish Government to contend with some success against the chronic distress which always in greater or less degree affects the over-populated districts of the south and west. With the return of public confidence had come its usual accompaniments, increased prosperity and growing contentment. Yet the Irish Nationalist members of Parliament remained as hostile as ever to the Unionist policy; indeed, their hostility even increased, as they perceived in the success of the policy of their opponents the overthrow of that argument of despair upon which so inany timid politicians in England had based their acceptance of Home Rule. The better Ireland is governed under a United Parliament, so much the worse in the eyes of every Irish Nationalist for the cause of Ireland a nation. Here, however, was a Government and Parliament which had shown both the will and the power to govern Ireland, which, not content with maintaining amongst Irishmen full protection of person, of property, of individual liberty, as they are enjoyed in England, extended to the farming peasantry of

that island, at the expense or on the credit of the taxpayers of the United Kingdom, material advantages such as no one ever dreamt of bestowing upon the farmers of England. The Unionist Parliament had proved that it possessed the power to govern Ireland firmly and justly, which some men had been foolish enough to doubt, and that it was at the same time ready to act with at least as much sympathy and consideration for the trials and distresses of the Irish people as for those of the people of England and Scotland.

Abroad, and in its general policy, the late Government was equally successful. Wars great and small had been avoided, and the country had been kept free from those strained relations with other powers which have so often proved the cause of vast expenditure and the seeds of future mischief. Year after year, Mr. Goschen's budgets lightened the burdens which annually fall upon the shoulders of the taxpayer, and especially lightened them upon the shoulders of those who were least able to bear them. By his successful conversion of the National Debt, the annual charge for interest was greatly reduced, whilst Mr. Goschen was able to boast that he had paid off a larger part of the debt itself than had been paid off in any equal period of our history. Yet, during his reign at the Exchequer, the State established Free Education, the army was fully maintained, and for the navy a great scheme of construction was carried through, but for which the reasonable uneasiness now felt as to the strength of our navy, when compared with that of France, would have risen to a veritable panic. The principle of popular representation in the local government of counties was adopted both in England and Scotland, and a local government bill almost identical in its principles with the Scottish Act was offered to Ireland. The present generation has not known a Government more successful in administration, or a Parliament more fruitful in useful legislation, than the Government and Parliament which began their career in the summer of 1886.

With the accession of Mr. Gladstone to office this era of rational progress came to an end. With him it was true enough that Home Rule blocked the way.' Yet Home Rule, the moment it ceased to be a mere party cry, and took upon itself the character of a definite policy clothed in the language of the parliamentary draughtsmen, not only roused in a high degree the antipathy of the British people, and drove the prosperous and protestant and loyalist population of Ireland to prepare for vigorous resistance, but seemed

even to lose much of its old charm with Irish Nationalists themselves. Mr. Gladstone and the Anti-Parnellite members of Parliament alone showed any zeal to amend, in the Gladstonian sense, the Provision for the Government of Ireland.' No great meetings were held in England in support of the Bill; no audible lamentations, no language of patriotic indignation, reached us from Ireland when it was rejected. Even Irish political agitation seemed to be paralysed by the shock. Yet the keen emotions of the Irish people, whether of anger or of grief, are not usually experienced in silence. In short, the Bill was dead as soon as it was printed. The Home Rule cry had done its work, a majority had been got together for Mr. Gladstone, and after years of agitation in the country, after months of weary debating in the House of Commons, what was the result? A measure which, in the language of Mr. Courtney on the third reading, 'no self'respecting legislature could pass.' It did pass the House of Commons, however, which, if it retained its own self-respect, assuredly in passing it lost the respect of the country!

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No government and no majority can afford to suffer defeat in its main policy. Mr. Gladstone came into office with the professed intention of carrying Home Rule. He fails. It is clear that not only is his scheme lost for a session, but that it is annihilated for the duration of the present Parliament. The pride of a Minister and of his colleagues has generally led them to prefer resignation to the retention of office after they had become powerless to carry into effect their principal policy. They had, as an alternative to resignation, the power to dissolve Parliament. But Mr. Gladstone, with a truly magnificent courage, informed his constituents in Midlothian that to advise a dissolution would be to commit high treason against our recognised principles of popular government! *

The Ministry has been defeated, but it still believes that it can do what it likes with the House of Commons. Has not that assembly already proved, by the surrender of its right-nay, of its duty-of debate, by its readiness to pass fundamental changes in the Constitution, without one word of discussion, that it will obey the orders of its master, whatever they may be? He has at his command a party majority, of what elements it is composed it may be worth while to consider. This, apparently, is sufficient for the Prime Minister, and he announced with the utmost confidence that

* Mr. Gladstone in Edinburgh, September 27, 1893.

in an autumn session of a few weeks before Christmas the Parish Councils Bill and the Employers' Liability Bill will be passed into law. As every one conversant with House of Commons procedure foresaw, this project has failed. Mr. Gladstone refuses either to lighten the Local Government Bill or to conciliate the Opposition, orders the House to sit every day of the week, sometimes even on Saturdays, up to Christmas, when he allows them three days' holiday, after which he again requires their attendance till their allotted task is complete. The majority once more does his bidding. Is the spectacle, we ask our readers, of legislation under duress an edifying one? Let us consider the methods adopted, and to what result procedure of this violent kind is tending.

The Parish Councils Bill is applicable to England only. A considerable majority of English members are strenuously opposed to the provisions of the Bill which affect the administration of the poor law, and they hold also views opposed to the latest phase of Ministerial opinion on the subject of parish charities. Three hundred members of the House of Commons are absent from Westminster, having for the most part paired, and having thereby disentitled themselves from taking part in the further consideration of the Bill. The Irish Nationalist cohort, in sufficient numbers, remains. They, of course, care nothing for the Bill, which does not affect them; but their votes are in the pocket of the statesman who has promised them Home Rule. Without their assistance he cannot maintain office for a day! Without their help an English Bill would be modified to suit English ideas! The Minister must play to the gallery. He must court the more bitter section of nonconformist Radicals; he must dangle before the eyes of the rural peasantry the prospect of operating upon the poor-rate. Through what is becoming little more than the rump of a Parliament he will force his Bill! It is not easy to characterise in becoming language either the indecent violence of the Minister or the abject submission of his followers.

And what is the object of all this violence? Why are the traditions of the House of Commons as to times and seasons to be flung aside? Are we in the midst of some great national emergency which justifies the overriding of our recognised Parliamentary customs? Is it an imperative national object that the Parish Councils Bill should pass in a limited number of weeks, and precisely in the condition desired by her Majesty's Ministers? It is impossible to palm off on the public so transparent a pretence. No! As

VOL. CLXXIX. NO. CCCLXVII.

8

with the Home Rule Bill, so with the Parish Councils Bill, our Ministers are not inviting the House of Commons seriously to legislate for the good of the country. They are asking their majority to play a part which may stand them in good stead, when they can postpone no longer the dreaded day of dissolution. Electioneering, to the exclusion of statesmanship, is the business which occupies the present advisers of the Queen.

It is supposed to be essential to the interests of the Gladstonian Party that heated conflict should arise between the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Mr. John Morley, on November 8, declared that the combination 'between British Radicals and Irish Nationalists is one that 'will endure. We have each a common object, and one 'common enemy, the House of Lords, which has been the 'centre and the mainspring of Irish misgovernment.'* Historically, the statement that the House of Lords has been the mainspring of Irish misgovernment is untrue; but Mr. Morley is guilty of a more serious fault than the now common one of basing historical conclusions upon their suitability to the exigencies of present party conflict. What men grieve to see in those who rule them is the utter want of responsibility to the nation as a whole, which is displayed in the language we have quoted. Mr. Morley is a Cabinet Minister, one of the immediate advisers of the Crown; yet he speaks of enmity to the House of Lords,' one of the branches of our Legislature, as if that were by itself a glorious sentiment, which almost sanctifies the political alliance between British Radicalism and the men declared by Mr. Gladstone to be marching through stages of plunder and rapine to the disintegration and dismemberment of the Empire. Is it a light thing to bring the Constitution to at least a temporary dead-lock ? To set the Houses of Parliament in violent antagonism to each other? To produce a strained condition of public affairs out of which, without revolution, it is difficult to foresee the issue? Mr. Morley's position in the State is a high one. He owes it to his countrymen and to himself to use the language of an English statesman, rather than that of a Sunday spouter in Hyde Park.

There is at the present time no question before the country as to reforming the House of Lords. It may well be that changes may be required in the constitution of the Upper Chamber, which will increase its usefulness by

*Speech at Manchester.

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