THE TORY LEADER AND THE COMMONS.
of the Government was moulded ; it was a force, which by What makes us still more anxious about this apparent utter shaping the mind of the country, reacted in the way of giving indifference of public opinion to political argument, is that now a new direction to the aims of Ministers ; or if it failed to that Mr. Hardy has become Viscount Cranbrook, there is no affect these, then it showed itself by detaching support from one in the House of Commons who will be likely to tell the the Cabinet, and bringing on them cold warnings and private House plainly what the Government policy points to. Sir remonstrances from some of the most influential of their Stafford Northcote is like the man who said, "I go, Sir," and supporters. But never did this result of debate seem to be went not. If the Opposition will have him go with so small as it is at the present moment. Either the hearts them a mile, he promises profusely to go with them twain, of men are hardened, and what they hear with their ears they —only, as a matter of fact, he does not go with them at fail to understand with their hearts, whether the speakers be all. Neither the House nor the country can ever be- Lord Derby and Lord Carnarvon or Mr. Gladstone and alarmed by Sir Stafford Northcote's language. He has Mr. Bright,—or else Sir Stafford Northcote has struck a new always talked in the style of Lord Carnarvon, and in far more vein of political resource in the manipulation of democracies, pacific style than Lord Derby. But then he has always acted and found that by virtue of using pacific language, and with Lord Beaconsfield. Even at the very moment when he assenting to every argument that is advanced in favour of pacific has been pouring out his pacific hopes to the House, he has been acts, he can not only safely, but even with positive advantage keeping deliberately back from them what he well knew to his popularity, contrive to acquiesce in every resolve that they would have thought in the highest degree ominous tends to war, and that may only too probably bring war. It and menacing. Now it is, to our minds, even more may be that the people are steadily deaf to Lord Derby dangerous to have such a man completely master, and because he is Lord Derby. It may be that they are the sole master, of the situation in the House of Commons, more deeply impressed by Sir Stafford Northcote's pacific than to have him associated there with such a one as voice, because it so clearly is the voice of Jacob, while Mr. Hardy, who did at least now and then blow the the hand appears to be the hand of Esau. But to what- trumpet after a fashion calculated to warn the coun- ever cause it be due,—the indurating tendency of a vehe- try of what he meant. But he is gone, and the ment prepossession, or the soothing tendency of the Chancellor Chancellor of the Exchequer has it all his own way. of the Exchequer's professions,—it certainly does seem that His other colleagues in the Cabinet are, with the debate is lost on the country ; that the biggest constitutional possible exception of Mr. Cross, all mild editions of issues are poohpoohed as the subjects of mere "academical himself. If Sir Stafford Northcote bleats where Mr. Hardy discussions ;" and that if no reason is given for what is done, used to roar, Lord Sandon, the new Cabinet Minister, coos like that reticence seems to be even more effective than in other a wood-pigeon ; the First Lord of the Admiralty builds away times the best reason would have been ; that any criticism is at his cellular ships like a busy bee at her cells ; and Colonel treated as a cavil ; and every new resolve of the Government Stanley talks administrative detail with the cold lucidity with as that which needs no justification, its justification consisting which he would draw out the particulars of a lease on the in the mere fact that it has been done. Somehow or other,— family estates. There is no one on the Treasury Bench (with and how it is we can hardly understand,—discussion goes for the doubtful exception of Mr. Cross), who is in the least likely nothing with the people. If the Government do not defend to alarm the country by talking at all in the vein in which their procedure, but simply affirm that they did what they did, because it seemed to them that they had the right to do it, the effect appears to be quite as good as if they had given the amplest reasons for their course. As the Telegraph very accurately puts the matter, there are " signs abroad that the country is in no mood to have its attention diverted from the great question of our time, by academical discussions on the Constitution,"—the " academical " discussions in question being, let us remember, questions so vital to the power of Par- liament and the policy of the nation as the right of the Administration to enlist Asia against Europe without Parlia- mentary sanction, and to profess to be giving us a true account of our liabilities, and the ways and means by which they are to be met, when they are deliberately keeping back from us one of the most important and one of the most serious of the liabilities already incurred. The mere fact that to find fault with such encroachments as these on the authority of Parliament is regarded as an " academi- cal" cavil, indicative of a petty and litigious spirit, is more significant of the temporary uselessness of Perna- THE translation of Mr. Hardy to the Upper House adds a mentary debate than the special issue of any of the various dia- good debater where there was little need of one, and leaves a cussions about foreign policy. If no attention is paid to the gap where a gap would, under ordinary circumstances, be very arguments against restoring Turkey to independence, we only gravely felt. Sir Stafford Northcote and Mr. Cross are left infer that the people arc prepossessed with the notion that almost alone on the Treasury Bench, to debate questions of anything which baffles Russia is desirable. But if no atten- any great general moment. Even Mr. Cross is rather a plain tion is paid to the arguments establishing the need of a proper Quarter-sessions speaker than a considerable debater ; while Parliamentary sanction for a great and novel extension of the Colonel Stanley is not brilliant,and Mr. Smith decidedly homely. military influence of the United Kingdom within the boun- But it does not follow that the loss of Mr. Hardy will be gravely daries of Europe, it is clear that the people must trust their felt. There has never in our days been a time when debate Ministers more than they trust their own Representatives, and affected the issues of political purpose so little as it does now, are willing to regard the Government as if it had been elected It is, indeed, perfectly true that on questions of any moment by a plebiscite, instead of owing its power to the confidence of to the balance of parties, it has always been contended that the very Parliament which it now so contemptuously ignores. hardly a single vote was ever changed by the most convincing Such unmeaning and unwarrantable indifference as this speech which the House of Commons has ever listened to. to the privileges of the only body directly elected And no doubt this opinion is, in the main, a just one. by the people may be grateful to the Government, Let the debate be ever so able, yet as a rule the since it undoubtedly very much enlarges the sphere of division list remains as it would have been if the their discretion and diminishes that of their accountability ; division had been taken before the debate, instead of but just as it is a bad sign for Parliament itself, which loses after it. But admit this to the full, and still it is true that strength exactly in proportion as the people lose their jealousy debate at present affects the issues of political purpose far on its behalf, so it is a still worse sign for the nerve and less than it has ever done within our recollection. For till quite strength of a Parliamentary Government. A Government lately, debate had a very great effect,—not so much on the which is so carelessly and negligently treated that it is not immediate division, as on the country, on the influx of letters to challenged when it oversteps its powers, can hardly count on Members from their constituents, and on the private reports of strenuous and loyal support when it most needs such support. the " Whips " on both sides to their Chiefs. In other words, it The confidence which is given without being weighed, will be affected greatly the way in which, from day to day, the policy taken away without being forfeited.
of the Government was moulded ; it was a force, which by What makes us still more anxious about this apparent utter shaping the mind of the country, reacted in the way of giving indifference of public opinion to political argument, is that now a new direction to the aims of Ministers ; or if it failed to that Mr. Hardy has become Viscount Cranbrook, there is no affect these, then it showed itself by detaching support from one in the House of Commons who will be likely to tell the the Cabinet, and bringing on them cold warnings and private House plainly what the Government policy points to. Sir remonstrances from some of the most influential of their Stafford Northcote is like the man who said, "I go, Sir," and supporters. But never did this result of debate seem to be went not. If the Opposition will have him go with so small as it is at the present moment. Either the hearts them a mile, he promises profusely to go with them twain, of men are hardened, and what they hear with their ears they —only, as a matter of fact, he does not go with them at the Government are acting, so that we may get to the very verge of war while the House of Commons is listening to nothing but smooth words, though they may be smooth words that prevent the ear from catching the clashing of the sword. No one can reasonably doubt, indeed, that if the Chancellor of the Exchequer were really as pacific as his language, he has now the policy of the Cabinet under his own control. He is not only the leader, but the only possible leader in the popular House; and if he were to refuse to sanction any particular policy, the Government must be dissolved before that policy could be pursued. But this complete mastery of the situation,—which would be so hopeful, if Sir Stafford Northcote were not week after week assenting to deeds the very opposite of those which his words suggest, —becomes a fresh danger rather than a fresh source of hope, when we consider that while he talks so mildly and peacefully, he assists those who talk bigly and danger- ously. He sends the Fleet to Constantinople, and treats it as a peace measure. He calls out the Reserves, and says we were never doing anything so harmless. He explains the Budget, and suppresses one very large item which he well knows it ought to contain. He begs the House to go in peace to enjoy its Easter holidays though he knows how little it would enjoy them, if it only knew what he knows. And then, after the vacation he speaks of the summons of the Indian native troops to Europe as a little affair of no consequence, in which the Crown alone was interested, and which the Govern- ment did not think it either right or wise to confide to the House. This being Sir Stafford Northcote's notion of duty, we confess that we begin to fear his soft and honeyed words almost more than we fear the military alarum of Lord Cranbrook. The latter at least gives a shock to the nerves of the country, and warns them what is coming. Sir Stafford Northcote administers a sedative, and while his audience are dozing off, cocks his pistols under the table. That is the more dangerous character of the two. The incarnation of sweet reasonableness with its hand on its dagger, is twice as dan- gerous as one who waves the standard in your face and blows the trumpet into your ears. The country will not listen to debate, but it did get a clear inkling of what Mr. Hardy meant, while it hardly even yet- believes that Sir Stafford Northcote can be taking step after step towards war, while he speaks forth words of such smooth soberness.