TOPICS OF THE DAY.
THE PROTECTIONIST PREMIER IN A FALSE POSITION.
LOB.D DERBY seems inclined to be guilty of the affectation, which has been sometimes attributed to literary men in aristocratic so- ciety, of ignoring the special distinction in Virtue of which they find themselves within the charmed circle. He has been mad Prime Minister of England, 'because he is the leader of those who have opposed and would reverse the recent financial policy of the empire ; and he now refuses to pledge himself to any action what- ever having reference to that policy,—as if his previous professions on that head had nothing whatever to do with his elevation, and he were the chief of her Majesty's Government solely because he is the son of his father. He :pea beyond this in his coolness and, turning his back on himself, as Lord Castle- reagh said, ;mats the settlement of the Corn question as a matter of little moment, of no concern whatever to the existence of his Ministry, and as well deferred to a more convenient season as not. In other words, he is in office, and he intends to keep there, by carrying out his Opposition policy if he can—if he cannot, why then, ty dropping it. "Get money—honestly if you can ; at any rate get it." We scarcely expected Lord Derby to have so applied his known familiarity with the classics, and we would recommend him to weigh the philosophy of another line from the cool close satire of the hard Romans, stigmatizing the baseness and folly of those who are willing " propter vitam vivendi perdere causes." For our own parts, we can conceive no object worthy of a Prime Minister's ambition but to carry out in office the princi- ples he has professed in opposition; and no more legitimate object of opposition than to turn out a Minister who refuses to give the country an opportunity of expressing its opinion upon those prin- ciples. The case would be very different had Lord Derby said—" I am- ktiowledge that I am here mainly if not solely to settle this Corn question ; but, called unexpectedly to office at the commencement of a session, I am compelled before I initiate a struggle which may be one of long duration, and must be one of absorbing interest, to ask for the cessation of hostilities in order to pass such measures as are imperatively demanded by the exigencies of the country. The moment those exigencies are satisfied, I will propose to Par- liament such a modification of our recent financial policy as I have for years thought desirable ; and if Parliament then place me in a minority:, I will appeal to the country to decide; and by that decision, given on a definite scheme of protection to agriculture' I as a Minister will stand or fall." Such lan- guage would have met with but one response from men of all parties ; it would have been fair, frank, and sincere : but two conditions were essential. First, Lord Derby must really have had a definite scheme of agricultural protection —a fact implying a knowledge of the commerce and manufactures of the country, and of the general condition of the people, very alien from his own tastes and pursuits ; a knowledge that per- haps would have effectually prevented him from leading" the Oppo- sition for fun," and so attaining his present position, which forces or ought to force him to measures in earnest. Secondly, it would imply that Lord Derby felt such a conviction of the truth and justice of his cause, as to lead him to believe its victory necessarily consequent upon an appeal to the whole people. How far this is from being the case, he betrayed by the peroration of his speech on Monday last, in which he expressly connects his fiscal policy with an assertion of anti-popular principles and an appeal to sec- tarian prejudices. The Minister of Reaction, he shrinks, with a dread very natural to an Englishman, from the responsibilty of his contemplated measures ; and, like the leader of a band of re- bellious schoolboys, he impresses on his backers with reiterated em- phasis, that the audacious deed is no more his doing than theirs, and warns them over and over again that they will be expected to take their share of the blame and punishment. It was this identification of himself with the vague desires and blind fury of his followers that we hinted at a fortnight since, when we urged upon the Opposition the absolute necessity of forcing Lord Derby to a voluntary ultimatum on the Corn question, or to such an interpretation of his silence as should leave no doubt that he intended to undo as much of Sir Robert Peel's financial policy as his majority in the coming Parliament would enable him to undo with safety to himself. It is so manifestly absurd that a Min- ister intending, if the power be given him, to reverse the financial policy of a great empire, should not be prepared and willing to state the extent in that direction to which he thinks it ex- pedient in any case to go, that no opposition having for its object to force explanations on this point can be considered factious. He must by all means be prevented from going to the country with indefinite proposals, capable of as many in- terpretations as there are speakers on the hustings or wishes among the electors. 'Whether the labourer's loaf is to be dimin- ished by one half or one tenth, is of much more importance than how much catechism is to be crammed down the throats of the labourer's children, or how many of his own words Lord Derby is prepared to swallow in reopening the Irish Education question. Let him be as vague as he pleases about all future schemes of mis- cellaneous policy ; but about this, which he has been professing for six years to have made his constant study—a definite- agree- ment on which is presumed to be the keystone of his party—he has no business to be vague, no claim to forbearance, no justifica- tion for silence. It will not be suspected of us, that we have any share in the notion that Lord Derby ought to be removed to make way for the restoration of Lord John Russell : such a notion would be not only factious, but, what is worse, it would be silly; and if it were successful, it would be the more lamentable, for nothing is so silly as silliness triumphant. But to that factions dream Lord Derby gives a colour of verisimilitude while he favours the schemers by holding a position yet worse than their own.