MR. GLADSTONE'S MODERATION.
IT is quite clear that nothing which Mr. Gladstone can say or do will please the Tory Press, or, indeed, what Mr. Glad- stone so happily called the " Temporising Press" in his speech on Tuesday at West Calder. These papers would be in the highest degree indignant with him if he were as bitter in his attacks on Lord Salisbury's Government, as many of the members of Lord Salisbury's Government are in their attacks upon him. But in some sense these papers are even more disgusted with his moderation, for that moderation deprives them of the pleasure of invective, and obliges them to attack him, not for what he proposes to do, but for what they are morally con- vinced that either he himself or his successor will ultimately be compelled by the Radicalism of his followers to do, at some date which it is as yet impossible to fix, and on some question which it is as yet too early to name. Now, our readers will be well aware that there are proposals floating about among the Radical Party with which we have little sympathy, though no one certainly is likely to class the Spectator with the " Temporising Press? And the reason why we have so strictly avoided the line of the " Temporising Press " is precisely this, —that, in our opinion, nothing would be less likely to conduce to the success of a policy of moderation than either the com- plete victory of the Tories, or the victory of the Liberals by so small a majority as would render them practically dependent on Tory or Parnellite support. What Moderate man can doubt, when he reads such a speech as Mr. Gladstone's at West Calder, a speech studiously fair to Lord Salisbury in every respect,— studiously fair not only to his endeavour to protect Bulgaria, which Mr. Gladstone heartily endorses, but also to his personal attitude towards Lord Spencer at a time when Lord Salisbury's lieutenants in the House of Commons had certainly played him false,—that the policy of moderation will be best secured by giving Mr. Gladstone the initiative in the next Parliament I Let us only compare what the chances of violent change would be, first, in the case of Lord Salisbury's complete triumph ; next, in the case of Mr. Gladstone's inadequate success ; and last, in the case of Mr. Gladstone's secure success. In the case of Lord Salisbury's triumph, as Mr. Gladstone himself has so often pointed out, he would have two strong parties to conciliate, —the discontented Tories, who would look for a very different policy from Lord Salisbury with a majority behind him from any they would look for from Lord Salisbury with a minority behind him ; and the Parnellites, who would at once feel that they were in the position of influence for which they have played so high. The Tories would cry for Protection and a. " strong " policy in Egypt. The Parnellites would cry for Home-rule and Protection to Irish trade. Between the two some concession to the policy of Protection,—a concession to which it is clear that Lord Salisbury himself is not at all averse,—would be very probable, if not almost inevitable. Further, it is certain that Lord Salisbury, if he got a majority, could not possibly propose any large and liberal measures of local self-government. That he would disintegrate London to begin with, he has all but promised. And it stands to reason that he would not be able, consistently with the views of his followers, to propose any measure for the local government of our counties which the Liberal Party would accept. The result would be a long period of bitter disappointment among the newly enfranchised classes, and a reaction before the end of his reign which must result in returning to power a very advanced party indeed, to carry out proposals very different from those to which Mr. Gladstone has given his sanction. Nor would this be the worst. Lord Salisbury, as we have said, would be at Mr. Parnell's mercy ; and that means that he could not administer intim in Ireland with a firm hand, and would be obliged to concede either Home-rule, or the ready means of obtaining Home-rule,—a new and large item in the score of opprobrium which such a Government would soon accumulate for itself in Great Britain.
Now let us take the second case, the case of Mr. Gladstone's return to power with a majority inadequate to secure his Government real independence. In such a case there cannot be a doubt that there would be a double current of feeling in his Cabinet,—one tending towards a policy pleasing to the Conservatives and supposed likely to detach votes from the Con- servatives, another tending towards a policy pleasing to the Home rulers and supposed likely to detach votes from the Home-rulers. We will not say that either tendency would be consciously encouraged by Mr. Gladstone himself. But the mere exist- ence of this double current of feeling would necessarily make government very difficult, and make the country feel that the position was one of unstable equilibrium, always en the edge of a crisis. And nothing can be less likely to tend to true moderation than such a condition of things as this. The first condition of real moderation is full strength and full responsi- bility. Without full strength there cannot be full responsi- bility, and without full responsibility there cannot be the conditions of wise judgment. A Government which knows that it can do whatever it will do is the only responsible Government ; and it takes a responsible Government to be in the- highest sense a conscientious and wise Government. We are far from saying that the Liberal Cabinet would necessarily make either weak concessions to the Tories or weak conces- sions to the Parnellites ; but the mere sense of insecurity, the- mere sense of constant danger, would tend almost involuntarily to render the deliberations of such a Government unsatisfac- tory, and its decisions either rash or timid.
And now, suppose Mr. Gladstone to gain such a majority as will render him secure against the combinations of all other parties, what security should we have then for a policy of moderation ? In the first instance, this, that he has pledged himself and his Government to a course which they all approve, and for which he would have a direct popular commission from the people which nobody could dispute ; while any deviation from it in a direction of extreme measures would be as difficult to excuse to popular opinion after Mr. Gladstone's declara- tions, as it would be impossible to Mr. Gladstone to desire it.. But, it may be said, that will only apply as long as Mr. Glad- stone himself keeps the reins in his own hands, that when he resigns it may be perfectly.possible for the Minister who succeeds him to recommend to the country a much more revolutionary policy. No doubt that will be so ; but which is better for the- policy of moderation,—that such a Minister should succeed a genuinely Liberal Government which, so far as it went, had given. the people satisfaction, and satisfied the first rush of Liberal feel- ing ; or that he should succeed either a Tory Government which. had cheated popular expectation, or a weak and divided Liberal Government which had only whetted the appetite which it was, impossible to appease ? What seems to us so certain is, that if we are to have a moderate policy, the first Government elected under the new franchise ought to be a genuinely popular Government, which would neither anger the people with a. policy of reaction, nor tantalise them with hopes half fulfilled and half disappointed. Nothing, of course, that Mr. Glad- stone or any other Minister can do can secure us against wilder proposals in time to come. But it is possible to commence the. new regime with a strong, moderate, and honest policy of sub-.
stantial reform,- a policy which shall fulfil the expectations raised, without in any way stimulating popular passions, or setting class against class. To begin a new era of our national life with a strong, moderate, and just Administration is, at all events, quite the best guarantee we can have for strength, moderation and justice in the future. No guarantee for the future is worth very much. The future must in any case take care of itself. But a good first step is at least thus far important, even for the future,—that while a bad first step irritates, and by irritating excites the people to a more passionate trial of their own strength, a good first step trains them for their work, inspires a habit of confidence in self- restrained and moderate leaders, and sets before them a standard by which to measure their progress and to test the character of their chiefs.
And what can be better for the purpose of recommending moderation than Mr. Gladstone's singularly wise, reticent, and moderate speeches in-Midlothian His opponents were very fond of attacking him for the alleged violence of the Midlothian cam- paign before the dissolution of 1880, though those who did so probably never read a series of great speeches so completely free from personal invective. So far, no doubt, as the foreign policy of Lord Beaconsfield was concerned, there was so much to condemn and so little that could even be passed over without moral censure, that it was not possible in 1880 to spare strong criticism. But now even the most Tory or " temporising " politician cannot find anything in Mr. Gladstone's attitude towards Lord Salisbury to condemn. They can only impute to him that he is moderate because he knew how difficult was the situation which he handed over to Lord Salisbury. And, in fact, Mr. Gladstone has been hearty in his praise where praise was due ; and where he has blamed, has blamed the Tories only for deserting their own principles, and that, too, on points where he had set them the example of holding fast by them. Mr. Gladstone not only gives Lord Salisbury full credit for what he has done that is right during his short term of office, bat passes over with the utmost lenity what he thinks wrong ; and in placing before the nation what he himself desires to do, he adheres as much as possible to aims in which even Conservatives can to some extent sympathise ; though, if they were to attempt to embody them in legislation, we all know that they would be almost com- pelled by their position, while they kept the word of promise to the ear, to break it to the hope. Can any prospect of moderate counsels be better than that which a complete success for Mr. Gladstone would produce ?