TOPICS OF THE DAY.
As we feel in " standing up " during an obstinate rain, watching delusive gleams of light with an anxiety that only tantalizes it- self, until the very confession of weariness becomes a part of the tedium, so now the universal dulness of the political world is aggravated by the complaint it provokes. It has so long been " fiat, stale, and unprofitable," that the very phrase, thoroughly worn out, has become its own description. The worst of it is, that the infliction is not mere want of interest in observing : we feel the fatigue practically, in the inability to do many things which it is necessary to do. Independently of great questions that have been solved, like Protection and Free-trade, but which still hang on hand with a kind of posthumous existence because certain of our millions have not yet quite come up to the solution, and can- not yet make up their minds to say good-bye to old favourites,— independently of other great questions that too manifestly involve a conflict of party or of interests, like Reform in Parliament or the imposition of taxes,—there are things to be done which yet we cannot get done, simply because men have not the energy or the will of conscience to buckle to. Every section of a party, is pro- posing its own plan of operations, but flinches from enforcing that plan. We have movements, agitations, meetings, petitions, out of doors, multiplied and repeated until we are sick of the very names of the subjects ; and then we have it all reflected by Parliament, in debates, resolutions, bills, and amendments, until we are as- sailed with an antistrophe of nausea; and yet " nothing is done." Then we set to in good earnest, announcing to ourselves how, although " something must be done," yet " nothing is done " ; which we trace analytically to " the disruption of parties," popu- lar indifferentism conflict of opinion, dead-lock, superannuation of statesmen, " want of a man," and so forth, until at last we are fairly tired out with talking of our tiredness.
At such a time we might hail the interruption of a holyday. When men are spoiled for work, our instinct tells us that the best thing to do is to leave off—to go and play, to forget business, to take a journey into the country, to go to sleep. But we have tried that, without success. Vacation after vacation, recess after recess, and we are where we were. After the night's rest, again down tO that same table, covered with the same red-taped packets of the same time-dishonoured bills, the same blue books, the same ad- dresses to the public, the same committee-lists, the same corre- spondence from the same people, the same "refreshers." And the unrefreshed eyes set doggedly to work, with no hope of getting on. The holyday does no good ; Easter is in vain. As we have so strong a sense of this paralyzed condition, and so strong a desire to get out of it, the reason why we cannot must be outside of ourselves—outside of that routine in which we are vainly toiling with those old packets of red-taped papers. We must look for the causes beyond the pale of that which we are pleased to. call practical politics. Perhaps the causes have not been readily dis- cerned precisely because they are near and vast. They may be i found in certain gigantic ideas which are coming over us, but have not yet so far developed their vast proportions to our sight that we can comprehend them. Gigantic ideas, gigantic facts, gigantic agents, are amongst us ; but we cannot compass them, any more than the insect can compass an idea, impromptu, of the human being whose shadow arrests it in its sunny path. Canning said that the next war in Europe would be a "war of ideas : the war is proclaimed ; but the half-conscious nations cannot yet give definite expression to the ideas that move them. Reaction is growing throughout Europe, and ruling the Continent of old civilization with the heavy dragoon-sword- not old feudalism, not ancient military glory, not noble birth, but a huge official cliquery, with standing army for its chivalry—hard, calculating, mechanical, inexorable : but we have not vet a formula to bring the idea of it as a whole to our minds, in order to definite conclusions and practical action. The newest-born of the hydra- eagle—quasi-Imperial France—is still struggling in its hideous parturition.
The counter idea exists, but too vaguely even to,be named. The "peace-arbitration " system, the " solidarity of the peoples," the " Anglo-American alliance," the " European republic," the " ocean postage," are phrases which mark the impatience of more ardent minds Za embody the idea in a name ; but it still stands too little unfolded to be known. It is a something, connected with the fact that the body of each nation is becoming capable of forming opinions as to alliances and combinations, as well as the official Persons who have hitherto monopolized that function. America is unquestionably the nursery of this great embryo idea ; but what it is to be when quite unfolded, who amongst us can tell? We must wait. We only know enough of it to know that it is useless to lay down laws that cannot outlast the practical intervention of that coming idea. Protection and Free-trade have settled their difference, and vir- tually the ideas are accomplished ; but behind them, just rearing its crest above the level of the waters of uncertainty, is the more huge Labour question. The " Amalgamated " are beaten, and got rid of ; but not the question which they moved under, in a half- blind unconsciousness.
And, as if to rebuke premature conclusions with the most palpable reproof, Providence is flooding the world with gold, newly discovered in every quarter, to supersede the old coutrover- ales and squabbles, the "currency" hallucinations and childish
dreams of prices, with facts stranger than dreams. Who knows but what the time is coming when you may have change for a shilling in twenty sovereigns, and the wandering potboy, who awakens the dim byeways of town and suburb with his melody, may bear a foaming cargo of unadulterated beer in golden vessels ? —But no, that can never be ! pale silver can never, even for rarity, outvalue rich ruddy gold. How useless, then, to make our calculations before we have our facts !
There is no time-serving in the compulsion to await the unfold- ing of events : if we want light for our work, we must await the dawn ; and if the night seems long to our weak feverish impa- tience, let us go back to the faith that is at the bottom of every heart, and repose in trustful hope; for the dawn will be vouch- safed.