NEWS OF THE WEEK.
THE Parliamentary campaign opened on Monday; • when a simul- taneous attack was made :upon both wings of the Ministerial crmv, upon the plan of operations concocted at the council of war held lcet week in Chesham Place.
• Acoordingly, Mr. Villiers took tiss...initiative in the House of Commons. Recounting, in a speech distinguished by fulness of in- formation and quiet strength, the actual position of the Free-trade policy, now become the law of the land, he called„upon the Chan- cellor of the Exchequer to tell the House distinctly, whether it was intended, under any pretence, to reimpose a duty on foreign corn? Mr. Disraeli's answer to this categorical demand was, and is, felt to have been an egregious failure both in matter and man- ner. After repeatedly declaring that he would give a straightfor- ward answer to the question, he sat down without doing so. lie diverged into irrelevant topics ; and so far forgot the conventional decorum of the Minister, as to call upon the Opritition to declare what they intended to do Evasive, yet scarcely reserved—angry and flippant, yet irresolute and subdued in his tone—he showed that, formidable in mere oiatorical aggression, he lacks strength and courage to maintain calmly a defensive position, when, laden with the burden of responsibility, he bides his time to act. The " leak er" was feebly and tamely supported by his colleagues. The rigour and animation came forth on the other side : Lord John Russell demolished Mr. Disraeli's claims to indulgence on the :core of entering office unexpectedly ; Mr. Gladstone and Lord Palmerston granting time for needful measures, called for a de- cision of the country on the Government and its policy before granting any right to active legislation ; and Sir James Graham, entering the fight like a great knight in the battles of old chivalry., an army in himself, grasped the Ministry in his strong hand and held it clown to the pledge, for which Lord Derby's high honour was gage, that it should not stay in office without subjecting the Free-trade question to the trial by battle at the election—that gage which pledged the band to confront inevitable defeat.
In the House of Lords, Ministers waged a less unequal battle. Lord Beaumont, who led the onset, was sensible and spirited ; some weight is due to Lord Harrowby's adhesion to Free-trade; and Lord Powis's timid appeal to impartial men betrayed fear. But Lord Derby revelled m his powers of speech; winning ad- miration even from opponents, whom it was impossible that his reasons could satisfy. Those indications of his intentions which he allowed to escape were not of a nature to improve his position. While professing an unaltered conviction that protection for agri- culture is necessary, he disclaimed a general protective policy. He admitted that to restore the Navigation-laws is impossible. He revealed more distinctly than he ever before did the hesitation• with which he is inclined to fight the battle of Protection. He declared that even though he should obtain a Protectionist ma- jority at the general election, he would not consider himself en- titled to make use of it unless it were a decided majority, unequi- vocally representing the opinions and wishes of the public at large.
It is, however, daily becoming more apparent that the election struggle cannot be narrowed to the ground of Free-trade alone. Other questions are obtruding themselves. The resolution of Ministers to take up Law Reform heartily might strengthen them, but their betrayal of reactionary tendencies in other respects has a contrary effect. Questioned by Lord Clanricarde, Lord Derby admits that he contemplates a change that would revolutionize the system of National Education in Ireland. His idea appears to be, that greater concessions to clerical interference may strengthen Pro- testantism: more likely, it would revive what is called "Pro- testant ascendancy" in some plutHe Ireland, and extend the power of the Itomish priesthood in the rest. The declarations of Ministers on the field of English education strengthen the fears excited by. Lord Derby's Irish threats. On Wednesday, the Manchester and Salford Education Bill was before the House of Commons. A rival scheme, by which certain clergy-
men and ministers of religion had appropriated, in order to thwart, many ideas of the Public Education scheme which previously ori- ginated in the same town, it was rather smiled upon by the late Ministers, though they withheld, any. hazardous support : Mr. Milner Gibson opposes it on behalf of the original educationists,' and he now carried a motion that it be referred to a Select Com- mittee. In supporting that motion, however, Mr. Walpole hinted doubts as to the provision of an education-rAe, and as to permit- ting the slightest separation of secular from religious instruction; in short, his doubts were directed precisely against the more libe- ral, popular, and practicable ,portions of this half-popular half- reactionary bill.
Still, Ministers are for "reforms"—for even they, Conservatives as they are, fall into the cant of the day—" reforms upon which the people have set their heart" ; and so, adopting the St. Alban's Disfranchisement Bill, and holding that the number of Members for the House ought to be full at the general election, Mr. Disraeli proposes to " distribute " the four Members taken. from St. Alban's and Sudbury to other constituencies, not specified. He promises to do so in a manner that shall satisfy the great body of thepeople : but what right has the Ministry of a minority to use its influence for the time in thus disposing of seats P: In another curious particular Ministers prefer the policy of the late Ministry to"their own : in Opposition, seven of them voted for Mr. Reynolds's motion to. render justice to the depositors in the Cuffe Street savings-bank; in office, one of ihe seven only adheres to that honest view, and Govertnient continues the denial of justice.
Altogether, the result of the week's discussions has been damaging to the new Government, not because the Opposition has shown itself strong in union resources, or tactics, but because Ministers have shown themselves weak, wavering, wanting in self- reliance not less than open honesty. Out of doors, many advocates of Lord Derby's policy express in no measured tern */ their re- luctance to act under the leadership -of Mr. 'Disraeli, and hint without reserve that the effect of this reluctance will be felt in the elections.