22 SEPTEMBER 1866, Page 7


Under-Secretary for the Colonies, 1. has been giving his constituents in North Staffordshire a little dissertation on the importance and value of brotherly love in Parliament. He is hurt at the frequency with which Mr. Bright imputes the worst motives to his Tory opponents, and believes for his part that all the members of Parliament, however much they may differ from each other, always act on the highest motives. " Even in those cases in which they most differed and struggled one party against the other, he believed, and he was sure every man in that room believed, that they all had one object in view—the interests of the country—and that they all sought the welfare and advantage of the country. They took different views, but they were all desirous to arrive at that common end. There were no men who injured their cause more effectually than those who regarded the men who differed from them as essentially their enemies and opponents, and who could not think that men who

took different views held them honestly and carried them out faithfully." " As for Mr. Bright, he said of him that he took his own peculiar views, but he held them with strict integrity ands with honesty and honour "—(does this include or not his views concerning the motives of his opponents?) "All he said was that he wished men would generally see that they took a line most detrimental to their own cause, when they assumed that men who differed from them could not be honest in their opinions."

Mere honesty is not quite the question, we think. Mr. Adder- ley's first assertion,—and we think that was what he intended,—

was that all parties in Parliament should be given full credit for being not only honest, but disinterested, for motives in short directed solely to promote the welfare of the country. A

thoroughly selfish motive may be quite honest, and we think we have heard plenty of Parliamentary orators whom no one would charge with want of honesty, but whom many reasonable men would charge with thorough selfishness. Mr. Adderley explained himself, however, more distinctly, when he went on to say that " the Jamaica Committee, by arrogating to them- selves the honour of being the only persons who, above all others, had embodied the principle of liberty, and earnestly prosecuted schemes of justice, and by presuming to make themselves the exclusive admirers of liberty in this country, had taken a course which showed them to be the greatest enemies of liberty, and had raised opposition and hostility to their own body which would never have existed if they had only believed in the same honour in the breasts of those who differed from them which they claimed for themselves." This means, as we understand Mr. Adderley, that the wise and right attitude for all Parliamentary debate is,—to leave motives wholly alone, or rather to assume that all motives are equally high, pure, and patriotic, and take issue solely on the rational ground of how far a special course of policy will at- tain the end which the highest motives set before us, or on the contrary fall short of that end. He would have states- men and politicians always mutually complimenting each other in the blandest way on their disinterestedness of purpose, nay, more than this, as we understand him,—f or even the strongest believers in despotism, even some of the strongest advocates of slavery, may well be, and often are, like Mr. Carlyle, disin- terested in their advocacy,—on the very same strength of love for " liberty " which they feel in themselves, and debating with each other solely on the best mode of securing to the country what they themselves most prize. In short, Mr. Adderley would turn Parliamentary debate into a criticism of the means proposed by the different parties to it for carrying out most effectually an assumed common purpose, which pur- pose is to include all that any speaker happens to think valuable, and to ignore altogether the question whether the different parties have or have not equally noble and equally wise ends in view. You are to assume that your antagonist has as high and true a conception of the ends of government as you have, and to debate with him only his proposed method of attaining it.

We entirely differ from this apparently charitable proposal of Mr. Adderley's, and maintain, on the contrary, that the most valuable parts of the Parliamentary debates, those which have most politically educating influence on the people of England, and most modifying effect on the character of Parliament itself, are those in which the discussion of the political motives, high or low, illustrated by the various speeches and votes of the dif- ferent members, is the most effectual and searching;—though of course we do not mean to say in which it is most passionate, for we quite agree with what Mr. Adderley probably wished to say, that the wild and passionate attributing of motives which so often flies quite wide of the true mark, is confus- ing, mischievous, and altogether darkening to Parliamentary counsel. As there is mistake enough in measuring the effect of mere legislative means, so there is often greater, graver, and more disastrous mistake in gauging the character of the ends which different parties and different individuals really propose to themselves. But it does not follow that because the criticism passed upon Parliamentary motives is often mis- taken and unjust, it should cease altogether,—which is indeed impossible and the mere ad captandum proposal of a speaker who has recently been a little roughly handled himself in the political arena. The beat reason in the world why Parliamentary criticism could not afford to ignore the motives and morale of the different members and parties, or to assume that the motives and morale of all persons and all parties were equally good, is that such an assumption would in almost all cases destroy the very function of Parliament, would ignore the fact that Parliament is nothing but the great vessel in which the various confused ends and rudimentary wishes of the nation are rudely sifted and reduced to something like distinct order, and would confound it with such a deliberative body as the Cabinet, whose duty it may be said to be to carry out the views at which this larger, coarser, and ruder deliberative assembly have arrived. Consider almost all the most important de- bates, and the most critical speeches in those debates, of the few past sessions. What has been the secret of their importance ? Not that they have shown us more clearly how to get what we do wish, but what we really ought to wish for. Take the Reform debate, and the speeches of Mr. Gladstone, Mr. Lowe, Mr. Mill, Sir Bulwer Lytton, Mr. Bright, Lord Cranborne, Mr. Coleridge, and Mr. Hughes. The reason why this debate was important, and why these speeches in the de- bate were especially important, is that each one of these speeches threw a strong light on the motives and spirit either of the struggling Parliamentary parties, or of the external bodies of the people who were agitating for a change. Mr. Gladstone's irrelevant intellectual, but most effective political dictum, that the classes asking for enfranchisement were " of the same flesh and blood " as ourselves, was the most telling sentence uttered in the whole debate, and yet it had absolutely no meaning at all as a defence of the machinery or the details of the Bill; its effect was so large because it threw light on the motive of the Liberals,—the wish to forget all distinctions of social rank, except so far as they might be essential to a perfect representative system. So Mr. Lowe's great speeches were great precisely because they expounded with so much force the double political motive which actuated his party, of intellectual scorn for the ignorant classes, and the bourgeois or capitalist scorn for the hand-to-mouth classes. Mr. Coleridge's speech was effec- tive, on the other hand, precisely because it analyzed so keenly the vulgar worship of material civilization which Mr. Lowe cloaked beneath so keen and polished a style of eloquence ; and Mr. Hughes was instructive because he delineated so truthfully the real moral and intellectual aims of the opera- tives who were crying for admission,—both their wild dreams and their sober practical standards of conduct. And so, too, of all the other speakers we have named. There was not one of them who did not bring forward some special moral standard by which to judge the movement, and demand for it a higher appreciation than the House was inclined to give it. And it is really by the blending or the conflict of such political motives as these, some high, some low, some pure, some selfish, some wise, some silly, some powerful in the country, some impotent even to command a hearing, that the moral judgment of Parliament actually forms itself. Who would have thought of stopping the mouth of Tory members denouncing Mr. Bright night after night for setting and wishing to set class against class ? That might be very unjust, but it was the sort of accusation warranted by Mr. Bright's seeming motive in such letters as that which summoned the Birmingham people to a demonstra- tion against the selfishness and corruption of Parliament, and even if it did not really hit Mr. Bright, it hit many who might otherwise be inclined to adopt the same violent course from far impurer motives. Again, who would think of stopping the mouth of Mr. Bright in denouncing the selfish- ness and immorality of the intimidation practised by dukes and landlords, or the bribery practised by selfish and worthless millionaires $ It may overshoot the real mark of their moral guilt, but that no man can estimate ; and that the habit of using such corrupt influences is deeply rooted in our aristo- cratic and wealthy classes is certain. How are we to purify Parliamentary morality at all without laying a finger at once on the first indication of low political motive, whether of the corrupt, or of the mean and vulgar, or of the angry and passionate, or of the insincere and hollow sort, which we find there ? Mr. Adderley is talking neither like a moralist nor like a man of the world, when he asks all politicians to forbear imputing bad motives, even though bad motives have left their clear mark on the politics of the day.

No doubt Mr. Adderley might have said something not only true but valuable on the subject, if he had asked all poli- ticians, before denouncing the motives of other politicians, to ask themselves how far their own words and actions would be open to unfavourable criticism from the opposite side, and how far such unfavourable criticism might be justified. That would be the true limit to put upon the imputation of motives, —that men should habituate themselves to judge their own motives severely, and then they would not be in much danger of judging other men's too severely. Even Mr. Adderley, while he condemns the Jamaica Committee for arrogating to themselves all the love of liberty in the country, might ask himself if he does not arrogate to himself and his party almost all the respect for lawful authority in the country. His last speech in the House on the subject was a very foolish and intemperate one, showing that he understands at least as little what the accusers of Governor Eyre uphold as the true mode of dealing with our colonial governors, as they understand Mr. Adderley's position. It is not the rose-water exchange of complimentary expressions between political opponents that will purify Parliament ; it would probably add infinitely to its worst and vulgarest elements ; it is rather the habit on the part of all politicians of trying to judge themselves by standards as strict as they love to apply to their opponents.