THERE- is one fact in regard to the past fortnight about which all men are agreed—the pre-eminence of Mr. Baldwin. His handling of the strike was great as a whole, and great in every particular. Without any calculation, without any ambitious intent, without any effort of self- centred will, he has leapt into a position—or rather the British people have taken him upon their shoulders and lifted him into a position—such as no Prime Minister has occupied since the days of William Pitt. He is the pilot who has weathered the storm. To him the old words apply as well as to the man of whom they were first written. If once again the dark clouds should gather the hopes of the good and the fears of the wise will turn to him.
Mr. Baldwin, in his short civil war, like Lincoln in the three years' agony of the American Republic, had a double allegiance to fulfil—his allegiance to the country as a whole and his allegiance to his own side and his own principles. A man so placed has got to strike as hard as he knows how, whenever and wherever he does strike ; but lie must never forget that he is dealing with his own flesh and blood, and that he can never enjoy triumph in the success even of a good cause. The wise statesman hates to vanquish and overcome his enemies in a fratri- cidal war, and yet he dare not prolong the strife by failing to put out his full strength. There may be no harm in giving rein to fierce indignation in a foreign war, when a nation is being attacked by an enemy eager for domination and unscrupulous in the attainment of his ambitions. But such indignation must be repressed in civil strife, lest it give a victory that will prove only less evil than defeat.
Mr. Baldwin came gloriously through this hard ordeal. And now the whole nation, those who failed and those who succeeded in the struggle, acclaim him as he would like to be acclaimed—not as a victor, but as a conciliator; not as the man who defeated, but as the man who persuaded. He proved himself to possess the unconquerable mind, by a gentleness equal to his valour and by a kindliness of nature proportionate to his strength of soul.
What was it that enabled Mr. Baldwin to accomplish this task and to awaken in the British nation a spirit which in many ways is alien to its nature ? The British people, though they are steadfast and loyal, are not by nature enthusiastic and do not make heroes easily. The answer, we believe, is to be found in two things. First, in the -man's natural magnanimity. Character is Mr. Baldwin's long suit. Through long days, and nights of incessant toil and distraction, he had to balance, not only between him- self and those whom he would rather have died than call his enemies, but between the various sections of his supporters. Yet, in spite of all these provocations, he showed a perfect temper both to friends and opponents.
We have the personal assurance of those who saw him at work that never once did he lose his complete self- command or let anger, however much justified, take control of himself and the situation. He exhibited this admirable temper, not because, like Lord North, he did not realize the tragedy of the situation, but because be had that true good nature which does not think evil of others, and can attribute sincerity to an opponent.
There were certain things which he felt that he must do, and certain things which lie felt he could not do. In these matters he was adamant : but he showed his determina- tion, not by the prophet's fiery curse, or by reprobation, fierce or pedantic. He strove to teach, but he never " preached," never humiliated. The facts and better re- flections might induce regret and remorse in the other side, but they would not he provoked by his words. He would not bully men or sting men into the better way, but only lead them.
With all this there was neither weakness nor hesitation in his words or in his deeds. He put into action those precepts of the Scriptures which ought to gove►nr the con- duct of every politician in civil strife. He obeyed exactly the injunction of St. Peter. " Be pitiful, be courteous : not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing." But in his pitifulness there was no patronage, no stooping, no con- descension, nothing of the schoolmaster ; but only a deep appreciation of " the sense of tears in mortal things " and a supreme desire not to make a mere convention of the admonition to temper justice with mercy. As for courtesy, he made it throughout, not a grace, but a virtue.
Just as Lincoln would not talk about " rebels " he did not talk about revolutionaries. Though he took counsel, he remembered, or instinctively adopted, the Bible's advice not to consult with " an envious man of thankful- ness ; nor with an unmerciful man touching kindness." Above all, he remembered the injunction, " let the counsel of thine own heart stand ; for there is no man more faithful unto thee than it. For a man's mind is sometime wont to tell him more than seven watchmen, that sit above in a high tower." We are not attempting here to make any sly hit at the Cabinet Committee which assisted Mr. Baldwin. The responsibility in the last resort was bound to be his. It could not be put off on others. Such is the nature of the august and tremendous office held by a British Prime Minister. Since Mr. Baldwin is a man with an inexhaustible sense of good humour, he might tell us that we should have taken one more word of practical and political wisdom out of the Bible—" Great men are not always wise." That, of course, is abundantly true.
The other thing that helped Mr. Baldwin to win his victory, not only for common sense but for the whole nation, was his ardent, well-founded belief in, and loyalty to, the democratic principle. There is no man who under- stands what true democracy means better than he does. None realizes more than he that in all ordinary cases you have got to go by the will of the majority, and that you must not attempt to alter it except by persuasion. The use of trickery or force is the unforgivable crime against the sovereignty of the people. Here was Mr. Baldwin's strength. It was his profound belief in democracy that gave him that quietness and confidence which were his strength.