IT seems clearly understood that the Ministry have resigned, but by no means clearly understood whether their resig- nation will be accepted by the Queen,—whether the Queen will not urge, or has not already urged, the Cabinet to with- draw their untimely though almost compulsory abdication. It is even asserted that a request of this kind has already been telegraphed from Balmoral, though we are told that this assertion must be accepted "with every reserve,"—which means, we suppose, believed a very little and disbelieved very much. At all events it is clearly one of the possibilities, if not of the probabilities, that the Queen may endeavour to persuade the Government to continue in office, in spite of the decisive defeat of Monday. How would that affect its fate and prospects The present Liberal Government may fairly be regarded, in spite of its Conservative elements, like Lord Clarendon and the Duke of Somerset, and in spite of its merely pallid elements, like Mr. Cardwell, as a somewhat eagerly Liberal Government, a Government of popular effer- vescence, a Government that has gained much in popularity in the country, whatever may be the case as to the House and the London Clubs, or even the constituencies, by appeals to popular emotion, which are called by Lord Cranborne "sentimental rant." Its leading members have a very strong sympathy with the people ; its younger members have a very strong sympathy with the people ; and the leading members, together with the younger members, naturally give the character to a Govern- ment, in spite of many neutral and some incompatible shades of political opinion. And all these popular sympathies have been of late much strained, and ruffled, and put on their highest mettle by the tactics of the Opposition. Now, how would a Government of this kind be likely to feel under a Royal request to appeal to the mercy of the Opposition, and take back the life politically forfeited? It would certainly be a very bitter sacrifice of pride and inclination, for it can scarcely be doubted that under present circumstances a con- tinuance in office would mean a consent to drop the Reform Bill, and a breach of the programme of "standing while it stands, and falling when it falls." Mr. Gladstone especially, who has been the great spokesman of this determination,— and without Mr. Gladstone it need not be said that the Liberal Ministry could not possibly continue in office,—would find it exceedingly hard to be compelled to lead a House that had virtually rejected his own chief measure, and rejected it at the dictation of a tricky and unscrupulous Opposition, moved almost as much by personal anger against himself as by politi- cal prejudice. We do not say that Mr. Gladstone is not capable of the sacrifice if the Queen presses it, and he can clearly realize the inconvenience to the country of a change of Ministry. But we doubt whether in that case he would not chafe so 'much under the mortification of riding a horse that had thrown him, that he would burn to re- hearse the struggle with its temper again and again, so that we should have reiterated and irritating little trials of strength,— the Minister fretting under the sense of defeat, and the Opposi- tion teasing in full enjoyment of the power to vex,—till the situation became intolerable, and Mr. Gladstone had frittered away his opportunities of Ministerial influence. If the Reform Bill was the only grievance, its suspension might restore a better understanding in the House, but it is more and more clear that a good deal of personal animosity is levelled at Mr. Gladstone, and that even if the Queen's intercession disposed for a time of the party difficulty, Mr. Gladstone's attempt to ride both parties at once in the Parliamentary circus would never be conducted with the same equanimity and practised intellectual stride with which it has been achieved more than once by Mr. Disraeli. Moreover, Mr. Gladstone, and all the Gladstonians in the Government, are likely enough to feel that the excuse of 'critical foreign affairs,' which would be the Queen's reason for objecting to a change of Ministry, may be as urgent a year hence, or even two years hence, as it is now ; that it may become therefore a gag for the Liberals as long as war con- tinues, and that in this way the popular feeling which has recently been revived will be utterly worn out and extin- guished, and the Parliament of 1865 persuaded to travel the old way of the Parliament of 1859,—the way so well mac- adamized with broken, nay, pulverized, vows. Mr. Gladstone and his followers may feel it their duty to accept this destiny, but it will be no pleasant duty, and we fear scarcely one likely either to prove a tonic to their principles or a sedative to their justly irritated party feeling. Should the Queen, however, not press the Ministry to withdraw their resignation,—or pressing it, fail to con- vince the only members of it whom it is worth while to convince at all,--of course she will send for Lord Derby, and it will then become a question whether we shall have the old Tory Government in power again, or whether Lord Derby may not advise the Queen to try a new combination, by appointing a Prime Minister who might count on a certain amount of steady support from the Liberal side of the House. There will be no little sacrifice of personal feeling required from Lord Derby, if he is again to take power as a long-vacation Minister, with a House of Commons confessedly opposed to him and his party, and not likely to tolerate them much beyond the recess. Time after time has he expressed his strong objection to governing through a minority of the Lower House, and by permission only of his adversaries ; nor doen there seem any sufficient reason why, if he be really opposed to this course, he should not suggest a combi- nation likely to effect a new division of parties somewhat more favourable to Conservatism, according to which the Conservatives might gain over the Conservative Liberals, and be opposed only by the popular party. It may be that Mr. Lowe is too liberal on some points,—chiefly ecclesiastical and social,—too Conservative on one—the lowering of the borough.
franebise,—to take office even under Lord Stanley. Indeed he could scarcely enter any Ministry that should bind itself to undertake a Reform Bill. But if the present Government bad been urged by the Queen to withdraw their resignation at the present crisis, even at the cost of the Reform Bill, and had declined to do so, it would be comparatively easy for a new Ministry, not pledged by any programme, to decline to produce one expressly on the ground that resignations and dissolutions are incidents of all Reform, and are not well adapted to a time of danger. And in that case it is not in- credible that a Liberal-Conservative Ministry would even gain the help of Mr. Lowe,—in some office remote from the dis- cussion of ecclesiastical questions. It is not easy to see why Lord Derby should resume unwillingly a position in which he would be in a minority of 70, if his son could form a.
Ministry with a prospect of steady support from 35 or 40 Liberals, enough to equalize the opposing parties. If Mr.
Disraeli were to lead again in the Commons, with Lord Cranborne and Sir Stafford Northcote for his lieutenants, the character of the Administration would probably be more Tory than ever. At least the keen aristocratic pro- pagandism and cynical ability of Lord Cranborne would give- far more new flavour to the Ministry than the gritty detail of Sir Stafford Northcote's political accuracy would neutralize; and the total effect would be calculated rather to alienate the Con- servative Whigs than to attract them. Only the elevation of Lord Stanley's ostentatiously frigid lucidity to the first place in the Commons could attract the Moderates of all parties.
Indeed if he were at the helm Lord Cranborne's ability might, be used to keep the higher Tories attached to the Adminis- tration, without any fear that his sympathy with the reaction- ary Governments of Europe and his hatred of republics would disturb the neutral feeling of the Administration. Of course- such a solution must involve the assumption of Mr. Disraeli to- the Lords, which, equally of course, it is open to him to decline;. for if he stays, he must lead, and If he leads, the Conservative- party can only count on the strictly Conservative members.
In any case Mr. Disraeli would bethe difficulty. For he would not take a peerage without some really important office to- alleviate its dullness, and foreign affairs are supposed to be Mr. Disraeli's ambition. Yet a great European war would be- sure to tempt Mr. Disraeli into some brilliant and original combination that would strike ordinary men with horror.
The real diplomacy in times of any moment is carried on by private letters, and to have faith in Mr. Disraeli's private letters about the moves on the chess-board would be hard. Mr. Disraeli has indeed always been too diplomatic for the business of diplomacy. He believes too much in the power of words, to give words from his mouth even their ordinary power. But whatever be the result, we cannot help thinking that it- would be best for the Liberal party, whatever it might be for the country, to accept the natural consequences of the recent• defeat. The statesmanship of the moment is likely to consist very much in vigilant inaction. Vigilant inaction is the natural function of the party of inaction, and it even seems. likely,—if not, that nothing will be best done by men without an enthusiasm in their creed,—at least, that men with an en- thusiasm will be fretted and injured by a paralysis which they have themselves courted. The circumstances of the time seem to point to an attempt at political "middlingness" as especially ripe. If there ever was a time when Moderates should flock together, it is when, by the conditions of the problem, it is decreed that all important national reforms are to be aban- doned, and all important relations with other States avoided. Zeal, either Tory or Liberal, seems excluded by the very cir- cumstances of the times. And if we are to drop home poli- tics in order that we may the better stand aloof from foreign politics, how can we meet the occasion more adequately than by giving a chance to the party which thinks that domestic affairs are pretty well as they are, and that foreign affairs ought to mean the affairs of foreigners, rather than any affairs of us with foreigners or of foreigners with us .2: