THE NEW LEADER, OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS.
MHE disappearance of Mr. Disraeli will be first and most I severely felt in the House of Commons. The crop of statesmen has not been bounteous of late years, Nature having perhaps exhausted some of her energy in producing poets and scientific explorers, and Mr. Disraeli, like Mr. Gladstone, leaves behind him no unquestioned inheritor of his mantle, and only three who could presume to wear it with acceptance. Among the Tories, as among the Liberals, but few of the younger men are much before the world—though the Tories are the richer in potential statesmen, being able to seat promising boys for counties—and among them only two have risen far towards Cabinet rank. The great knowledge and wide experi- ence of Mr. Bourke do not avail to remove entirely the some- what depressing and solemn effect he produces by speeches which we suspect would have been much better had he held a more independent command, or had gained self-confidence from representing the department—the India Office—to which he naturally belongs. Mr. Lowther would rise in Austria, or even Germany, though in the latter country the Professors would worry him ; but in England his want of sympathy with general thought even in the House of Commons, will always prevent his taking the position to which a certain force apparent under his slightly reckless speech might otherwise entitle him. Lord George Hamilton has had from the first a sucas d'estinte, which he has not as yet succeeded in developing into general confidence. He is amazingly quick, very ready, and has a kind of soldierly courage in debate which is very attractive, but he is bothered by a deficiency which, though we have no wish to speak dis- respectfully of a man who may yet serve the State well, we can only describe as ignorance. He is in the position of a public schoolboy at a dinner-table, whose engagingness is unobserved and his capacity made invisible by his want of knowledge of topics which everybody besides him knows well. Mr. Stan- hope has done very little this year, and indeed could do nothing, as his chief, in spite of all the break-downs of last Session, chose to do his own work, and did it after such a fashion that we do not see how the Cabinet is to avoid relegating Sir Charles Adderley to the Peers. His friends hope much from Mr. Chaplin, who undoubtedly can debate, and who needs nothing but healthy poverty to make him go far ; but he does not take to harness, and of those who do only Lord Sandon and Sir M. Hicks Beach have risen to the possibility of the Cabinet. Of these the stronger is un- doubtedly the second. Lord Bandon has shown the capacity to administer and to manage, and if his chiefs would have let him alone would have been reckoned by this time a most dexterous steersman through Parliamentary quicksands, pilot- ing his boat-load of petroleum-casks without explosions and without exciting hatreds, but Sir Michael can help to govern, and after all is said, it is to the governors that the task of govern- ing drifts. The way he strides along, without minding Orange threats on the one hand or Catholic gatherings on the other, though it excites the wrath of the Irish Tories without attract- ing Irish Home-rulers, creates in moderate men who under- stand Ireland a decided sense of confidence, and to be con- sidered trustworthy in Irish affairs is to perform a most im- portant function in the division of the Imperial labour. Sir Michael Hicks Beach is an individual, and in the Cabinet will be a source of strength, but of course he is as yet out of the question in the running for the Leadership, which must be given to one of three men,—Sir Stafford Northcote, Mr. Gathorne Hardy, or Mr. Cross.
Of the three, we suspect that Mr. Cross may ultimately prove the strongest, though he has for the present wisely been passed over. The Member for Lancashire] has since his admission to the Cabinet performed one of the most difficult of conceivable feats he has definitely risen with the House and the country while holding the office of Home Secretary. That office politically kills all but the robust, and it has in- creased the political vitality of Mr. Cross. He has acquired the art of persuading the House that he really knows not only his business, but his own mind about his busi- ness, a much more important thing. He can keep an ex- tremely stiff upper lip without offending dangerous oppo- nents, and he can see at a glance not only where the shoe pinches, but whether it is possible to remove the pressure. His management of the Artisans' Dwellings Bill showed tact ; he displayed real firmness in defending his Commons Bill, which may not be quite adequate, but affects injuriously an extraordinary number of personal interests ; and he fought for the Vivisection Bill with a zeal which only gave way when further resistance would have blade it impossible to pass any Bill at all. In the most difficult department of his office, the control of the Magistracy, Mr. Cross has done justice without exciting the wrath of the country gentry, and almost alone among English politicians expresses his belief that solid improve-. ments can be made in the existing system, without breaking up entirely the old relation between the gentry and the govern- ment of the rural districts. He has no Mr. Waddington be- hind him, yet he has hanged and pardoned alike without diminishing public respect for his anomalous position as virtual Court of Appeal in all criminal trials. Mr. Cross, however, has still to make his reputation outside the work of depart- mental administration. He rarely speaks on general politics, and on the foreign policy of the country his views are utterly unknown. He must widen his range of subjects before he can lead a historic party entrusted with the government of an Empire. Mr. Hardy, his next competitor, has, we imagine, been set aside, because he represents too strongly the Ultras of the party, the real Tories, who would govern on the lines of Mr. Pitt, and who resent advance and innovation as concessions to the Liberal spirit. Something of this impression may be due to his position as representative of a University, but Mr. Hardy, though he is believed to have governed the Army well, and though he is a fierce and successful General in debate—a little too fierce, perhaps, but very formidable—would make a fitter leader for the Tories pure and simple than for the Tories controlled, as they still are to be, by Mr. Disraeli. A Salisbury. Hardy Administration would be perfectly coherent, but except during a great war, could not govern England. There remains Sir Stafford Northcote, and to him the Leadership has been assigned, upon the whole, wisely. He is moderate, resolute, a good speaker, and sufficiently in sympathy with the House to be enabled to restrain it from any wild or impracticable course of action. He is said, more- over, to possess a sense of humour which never appears in his speeches, but which in this country is an invaluable defence against blunderers and crotcheteers. His difficulties hitherto have been a certain want of self-confidence which is disappearing, and a readiness to accept suggestions from above which, when Mr. Disraeli is no longer present to comprehend the momentary temper of the House and throw over anybody who is in the way, may prove unexpectedly embarrassing. It is difficult enough for any man not Premier to lead the House of Commons, and when the Leader is not only not the Premier, but not the Premier's guide, the difficulty may prove insuperable.
We do not envy Sir Stafford Northcote his new post. Whatever the other consequences of Mr. Disraeli's elevation, these two at least we may with some certainty expect to follow. The Tories in the Lower House will be more difficult to manage, and the Liberals more energetic
in attack. The discontented, the fractious, and the individual Members of the dominant party were all afraid of Mr. Disraeli, did not like to encounter one of his cutting rebukes, and positively feared the epigrams with which he could punish instances of indiscipline: They will not fear Sir Stafford as they feared his predecessor, and it is by no means certain that they will be conciliated by him, more especially when they suspect, as will happen, that their resistance is not altogether condemned within the Cabinet.. Thepublic think of the Tory party as if it were absolutely homogeneous, but no party ever existed in which individuals and cliques were more ready to bolt from the straight course. There is more bottled mutiny in one Orangeman than in ten Members of the Left. On the other hand, the attack will become more vigorous than ever. Explain it how we may, there cannot be a doubt that there is not a man on the front bench of Opposition except Mr. Gladstone who will not feel the freer, the stronger, and the more audacious because he has no longer to dread reply from Mr. Disraeli, no longer to think of the loopholes he may be affording for those poisoned arrows which pierce all but immortal armour. They are Sir Staf- ford Northcote's equals at all events, if they are not Mr. Disraeli's, and they will make him feel that before the next Session is many days old. We do not know that the debating will be any the worse ; on the contrary, the combat may become more sincere, and therefore more interesting; but debate will be improved at the expense of Sir Stafford North- cote, who will feel at first as if he were fighting without the ancient certainty of help out of the clouds. He is the best Leader the Tories could have chosen, but he will have to rise much higher yet before he can fill Mr. Disraeli's place, and leave on the minds of both parties the same sense of a reserve of power sure to be forthcoming at need.