MR. BALFOUR AND HIS OPPONENTS.
WE wish the Secretary for Ireland were a little less of a philosopher, and a little more of a vain man. It is an odd wish to express perhaps, but it is one we sin- cerely entertain, for if it were gratified, Mr. Balfour would become aware of his one intellectual fault. He would recognise the extraordinary literary merit of his own speeches, and would be aware that they do not need that flavour of scorn with which he apparently cannot help giving them an additional relish. Macaulay used to do just the same thing in his essays. Though personally one of the kindest of men, he never could quite content himself with pulverising an opponent, but must put in a sentence or two indicating that he thought him, on the whole, almost too feeble or too foolish to be worth pulverising. That did. not signify in an essayist, except that he need- lessly increased the number of his personal enemies ; but it does signify in a statesman who has risen so near the top that a sneer from him has, entirely without his own intention, some of the effect of mocking. A King's rebuke should crush, not scarify, and so should that of a statesman, especially in England, where average electors do not understandpersiflage, and always exaggerate a jeer into a sort of insult. This defect, upon which we have remarked before, came out again for a moment in the speech of Tuesday night. It is hardly possible to exaggerate what we may call the literary merit of parts of that speech. Mr. Balfour had sat through three nights of debate, in which he had listened to every variety of charge, had been pelted with almost every variety of small story, and had been assailed with arguments so diverse in kind and so different in value, that it seemed as if a reply would occupy a Blue-Book. Mr. Balfour answered them all in an hour, in a speech so full of condensed point that merely to read it is, to men who appreciate that kind of oratory,—now almost the rarest of all, and next to that eloquence which brings an audience to its feet, perhaps the most valuable of all,—an intellectual delight. Mr. O'Brien had accused the Secretary for Ireland of unfairness in " hanging back " in the debate,—that is, of delaying his speech in order to have the last word. The accusation caught the ear of the House, always desirous that the great guns would fire soon, and so relieve the intolerable tedium, and Mr. Balfour therefore answered it. " Hon. Members will perhaps recollect that this is a vote of censure upon her Majesty's Government, that the member of the Government chiefly incriminated is myself, and that the least you. can do for an incriminated person is to allow him to hear the accusation against him before you make him liable. In obedience to that elementary principle of justice, I have waited through Friday's debate, through Monday's, and through the speech of the right hon. gentleman who has just sat down, in order that I might hear what was the justification for this vote of censure, and I am obliged to confess that I still wait." Only a few gentle words, and there is an end of that charge. Mr. Shaw-Lefevre had accused the Secretary of unfairness in not arresting him, though he had travelled in Ireland and had made speeches there, implying that his exemption was due to the fact that he was an English Member. Mr. Balfour, after telling him that his principal speech had " damped " instead of firing the people, said :--" The substance of the right hon. 0.entlernan's complaint was this,—that I had not meted out to him the same measure that had been meted out to others. That is what it comes to. But I bear in mind a most sensible remark that fell from the hon. Member for the City of Cork in the course of his speech. He said truly that you have not merely to consider the character of the act, but the condition of the district in which the act is done.' And the right hon. gentleman has been wisely and rightly careful never to deliver any speech in any place where it was calculated to do the slightest injury to the cause of law and order." That is a " smashing " rejoinder, in the Parliamentary sense ; but it is also a solid argument, and a valuable account, few as the words are, of the policy which guides the Irish Govern- ment in the most difficult and delicate of their functions, the selection of speeches as subjects for prosecution. Mr. Parnell had spoken of the landlords' combination in Tipperary as if of itself it justified the combination called the " Plan of Campaign," and even inveighed against the Member for South Hunts as using the money of the tenants of Tipperary to oppress the tenants of Mr. Ponsonby. " Was there ever anything," said Mr. Balfour, " more Irish than such a statement ? The money which my hon. friend gets from his Tipperary tenants is not their money, but his money." Was ever a whole essay on the difference between the just view of rent and the Parnellite view of rent boiled down into a line before ? Mr. Parnell had repeated the old defence of boycotting, that it was only avoidance, and there- fore no crime,—a statement quite contrary to the fact, but always effective in England, where it is a habit to punish social offences by a social avoidance, for which society has invented the rather absurd word " cutting ;" and this is-the Secretary's reply :—" The essence of boycotting is intimi- dation. The reason why it was employed by the hon. Member for Cork and his friends was that it might intimi- date. That was the reason why they concentrated upon one unfortunate man all the power of the locality to injure him, refusing him the necessaries of life, refusing him what was necessary to maintain his business, making life in- tolerable, poverty inevitable, and death possible. That was boycotting. Exclusive dealing,' I hear the right hon. gentleman say. What is the difference between exclusive dealing and the boycotting which I have described and which he has described ? Of course I admit that where the law is vigilantly administered the crime which accom- panies boycotting may be kept in check, and is largely kept in check. But the suffering which boycotting inflicts is inherent in the very system of boycotting, and that is not inconsistent with the fact that boycotting in too many cases is accompanied by other forms of crime. I say that every- thing which makes life intolerable is itself a form of crime of the deepest and gravest character, and if it be allowed to prevail in any society, that society cannot long stand." The speech positively bristles with such passages, so full of flavour and " bite," as well as powerful argument, that hearer or reader alike feels only regret when the speaker condescends to a scorn which, however allowable in the orator, is, we are convinced, in the statesman who governs, a mistake. Mr. Shaw-Lefevre, no doubt, pro- voked attack ; but he could have been disposed of, and was disposed of, without calling him or Mr. Stansfeld—the latter a perfectly consistent man about Ireland—" the rival managers of two strolling companies," or saying of the former : " The right hon. gentleman is at liberty to use what epithets he likes towards my rule and my government of Ireland, but I would not willingly give him the chance of saying that the administration of the Crimes Act has been rendered ridiculous by arresting him." To call those words, as the Daily News does, insults, beyond the rules of society or Parliament, is nonsense. Nobody would have noticed them in an inferior speaker or in a Quarterly Reviewer ; but uttered by the representative of a Govern- ment, in criticism on an opponent of that Government, they involve, we are convinced, an error of judgment all the more patent because Mr. Balfour, when speaking of his Irish calumniators, has repeatedly proved himself not only judicial, but, especially in one striking defence of himself, even kindly. They are mistakes because they suggest the utterly false idea that the momentum which gives Mr. Balfour his force is scorn, and create that English prejudice against what some of our peasantry call " fleering," of which Lord Beaconsfield took advantage when he uttered his celebrated description of Lord' Salisbury as " a master of flouts and jeers." We give prominence to Mr. Balfour's personality in the debate on Mr. Parnell's amendment because its essence .was an attack on him individually, and for the rest have only one question to ask. What do the Gladstonians really think that, till they themselves come into power, during this interregnum as they regard it, the Govern- ment should do ? We do not want the Parnellite answer, which is simply, Let us do as we like, and do you keep Colonel Saunderson down,' but the Gladstoman. Well. Let us question Mr. Campbell-Bannerman, certainly as fair a representative as could be found of Gladstonian ideas—a man, in his rather heavy way, anxious to be just, and marked for his practicality—and what do we find ? So far as we can see, for one thing a request that the "Plan of Campaign" should be tolerated as a possibly im- moral but at all events most effective plan for the pacification of Ireland. Here are his words, as reported in the Times :- "There were districts where the people were contented and satisfied, in which this state of things had been produced by the combination of the tenants, because by the Plan of Campaign' or by showing their .power they had secured a settlement of their claims from the landlord. Why in the smaller part of the country had there been war and strife ? It was not on account of the Plan of Campaign.' Where the 'Plan' had been successful two things could be seen. In all cases where a settlement had been come to, the tenants had been from the first willing to submit their claims to arbitration, and, secondly, the settlement which they had achieved was quite as favourable to them, if not more so than that which they had offered to the landlord. Why was it that this war was maintained on estates like the Ponsonby and Olphert estates ? It was on account of the spirit in which certain landlords viewed the Plan of Cam- paign." Do the Gladstonians accept that ? In other words, do they really mean that debtors are to take the money ready for their creditors, and admittedly owing to their creditors, in order to resist the creditors' just claim, and that the State is to give no redress ? Mr. Campbell-Bannerman says the landlord is not an ordinary creditor, and that is absolutely true, he having under recent legislation become a partner with the tenant in ownership of the estate. But how does that alter the facts ? Mr. Campbell-Bannerman and Mr. Parnell might be partners in a stone-quarry, and yet if Mr. Campbell-Bannerman seized Mr. Parnell's share, and held it to pay for legal proceedings to deprive Mr. Parnell of that share, he would by any law in the world be a punishable man. What is there in Ireland, in its virtues, or its failings, or its circumstances, to make the toleration of such an act, admitted to be "immoral," expedient for the State ? We suppose the answer will be—at least it is the answer given through- out this debate—that to punish it causes irritation, whereas to condone it might create " love ;" but what sort of an answer is that when the very party making declares that the business of the State is not to create either animosity or affection, but to do indifferent justice ? Of all suits on •behalf of the State, prosecutions under the Education Act probably cause the most irritation and the least love ; but we suppose the Gladstonians would act -under that statute just as Conservatives do. If not, their principle would speedily abolish law altogether, an object of which we entirely acquit them even in regard to the hated commodity called " land." Then, says Mr. CampbellaBannerman, amidst cheers, you are preventing tenants from combining to better their condition, and you ought not to do it. Why not ? Be- cause you allow Trade-Union combinations. Certainly we do, very properly ; but then, where is the analogy, except in the word " combination ?" Do the Gladstonians hold all combinations sacred,—a combination of taxpayers, for example, to keep back customs duties in order to defend any smuggler who may chance to think that but for the duties he would be a comfortable man 9 They would repudiate the suggestion with anger, and yet of all offences in this world, smuggling is the one most entirely due to the law. And, finally, what do they really want about the Resident Magistrates ? They are always abusing those gentlemen, who, we dare say, make mistakes occasionally ; but what do they want done with them ? That they should be made independent ? They are as inde- pendent as London Stipendiaries, who are the beet magis- trates of summary jurisdiction in the -world. That they should be elective ? The Gladstonians would, we think, recoil from that proposal, but if they do not, why do they not embody it in a Bill ? There is but one third thing that they can wish, and that is that every Resident Magistrate ,should be told always to acquit, and we do not think they will approve, much less formulate, that proposition. No, no,' they will say ; we only want Resident Magistrates to be appointed without any party bias.' So do we, most heartily; but then, we cannot forget, as they do, that two- thirds of the Resident Magistrates were appointed by the party which—unjustly, as far as the evidence goes—com- plains of their party bias.