TOPICS OF THE DAY.
THE HARTLEPOOL DEFEAT.
IT is certainly not the purpose of that divinity which shapes our political ends, to permit the Unionists to revel in the hope of an easy victory. We have been beaten we believe, mainly, though not solely, on the Irish issue between Mr. Gladstone and Lord Salisbury. It is true that Mr. Furness's promise to exclude non-unionist labour from his shipping—a promise which Sir William Gray refused—had a considerable influence on the result ; but we do not doubt that, on the whole, it was a victory of Mr. Gladstone over Lord Salisbury. So far as we can judge, the majority of the new voters, at all events in the North of England, go with Mr. Gladstone. At Eccles and Hartlepool the decision has been one way, though in the Bassetlaw Division of Nottinghamshire it went the other way ; and we suspect that till the General Election wakes men up to the immediate importance of the issue, Mr. Gladstone's prestige with the democracy will carry the new electors with him in the Northern part of the King- dom, and that, fight as we may, we shall only succeed in polling the greater number of the trained electors who have travelled beyond the point at which the prestige of a great popular name counts for much more than the discredit attaching to a considerable number of secondary names. In a certain sense, the power which really overcomes the dislike and suspicion roused by the proceedings of the Parnellites and Anti-Parnellites, is the power of justifica- tion by faith. Mr. Gladstone wields a most potent spell over the minds of the people, especially those who are only just entering on their political career. The Unionists succeed with a considerable number even of the new voters ; but the Gladstonians succeed with more of them, and succeed by virtue of the talisman of Mr. Gladstone's name. The Pall Mall Gazette on Wednesday, writing before the election, gave the following figures as those which might be expected, allowing for the addition to the register, if the election went as the election of 1885 went on the one hand, or as the election of 1886 went on the other hand :—
As in 1885. As In 1886.
Liberal 4,595 3,325 Tory-cum-Unionist 3,280 4,550 Liberal majority... 1,315 Tory majority... 1,225
As a matter of fact, the poll was heavier than the Pall Mall had expected. No fewer than 8,908 electors were polled, and the result was a Gla,dstonian majority of only 298,-4,603 for Mr. Furness, and 4,305 for Sir W. Gray. Speaking roughly, the result may be said to be half-way between the result of 1885 and the result of 1886. The Unionists gained vastly even on the poll of 1886. when they had only 3,381 voters, though they then beat the Gladstonians by a majority of 912. They therefore added to their poll 924 fresh voters. But the Gladstonians added 934 voters even to their poll of 1885, when their candidate came in by a majority of 1,040, and when they polled 2,134 votes more than they did in 1886. For in 1886, Mr. Richardson, the Liberal can- didate of the previous election, stood as a Liberal Unionist, and secured the whole Conservative, as well as the Liberal Unionist vote. The net result, then, may be said to be that each party added about the same number of voters to its previous maximum, but that the previous maximum of the Gladstonians was the undivided Liberal vote of 1885, whereas the previous maximum of the Unionists was made up of Conservatives and Liberals allied. We infer, then, that the Gladstonians have made up all the losses caused by the defection of the Liberal Unionists from their ranks, and even after that have added to their numbers as largely as the united Unionist Party have added to their poll of 1886. This seems to us to suggest that, unless the selfish squabble between the Trade-Unionists and the free labourers bad more effect on the election than we wish to think, in the North of England at all events, Mr. Glad- stone's name still exerts a mightier spell than the Unionist cause, though whether this will apply to the General Election as it appears to do to by-elections, no one as yet has the means of knowing. The lesson of Committee-room No. 15, of Cork, and of Kilkenny, has certainly not been taken fully to heart by the new electors of Hartlepool. What can we do to make them take it to heart more fully ? We can only ply them with the old arguments, and especially show them how their fellow-workmen of older standing are taking it to heart. For we have done a great deal better at Hartlepool than we did in the Eccles. Division of Lancashire, where the Unionist vote rose only by 137, and the Gladstoniam vote by 589 votes, We are now keeping something like an even pace with the Glad-. stonian increase, reckoning each from its previous maximum,. though even so the Gladstonians have filled up the vacuum caused by the Liberal Unionists' secession, as well as slightly surpassed our own increase. No doubt, as Lord Salisbury truly says, the English are slow to learn a political lesson. It takes a very great deal of pegging away to persuade them that the old leader in whom they have trusted so long has gone astray in his policy, and that they must decide their vote rather by the policy of the competing parties than by fidelity to the man to whom the people feel that they owe the greatest increase of their power and privileges. Still, we believe that the democracy are slowly learning that difficult lesson,. though many of them avail themselves of the comparative insignificance of by-elections to vote once more for the chief whose name touches their heart, rather than for a cause which they do not believe to be yet at stake.. And this applies especially to the North of England, where. Mr. Gladstone's name still exerts a good deal of the charm which it has long wielded in Scotland.
However that may be, we must remember that, as Lord Salisbury says, this is not a campaign which, even a single pitched battle can finally close. We shall have increasingly on our side the long array of experimental evidence of which the story of the last two months is only the first instalment. Even it Mr. Gladstone wins the General Election, and so gains over that balance of waverers who are always for giving a victorious cause what is called a "fair trial," we may be, quite sure of this, that the intense Irish dislike to. acquiesce in the policy of English statesmen will fight far more effectually for the Unionists than they can fight for themselves. The phenomena of Committee-room No. 15 and of the Kilkenny election will repeat themselves at once on a still larger scale. The moment Irish Home-rule comes into any kind of visible practical existence, lesson after lesson will be given us on the impossibility of recon- ciling the Irish to the English vote by any kind of spon- taneous sympathy, or, indeed, of reconciling the vote of Munster, Connaught, and Leinster to the vote of Ulster. Every step that is taken in the direction of Irish Home- rule will develop more and more of this intolerable friction, till even the prudent electors who always insist on giving the victorious party a fair trial, will be brought back to the duty of withdrawing privileges which cannot be exercised without falsifying all the hopes of peace and quietness and political smoothness that Mr. Gladstone has contrived to excite in the sanguine minds of his English followers. There is no short phrase for the converse of the. maxim, Sobvitur ambulando. Perhaps dissolvitur luerendo. would do. But the purely preliminary rehearsal of the last few weeks reveals to all vigilant observers very clearly, and the repetition of these rehearsals will reveal to even the most careless and dim-sighted of observers ten times as clearly as time goes on, that it is not by putting Ireland into open competition with Great Britain, but rather by fusing Ireland more and more completely in Great Britain, that we shall at last overcome the difficulties by which the co-operation of the two countries has been retarded. As we are already learning to overcome the physical misery of Ireland by sharing with her our prosperity, so we shall soon learn to overcome her repulsion to British policy by more and more ignoring the difference between an Irishman and an Englishman, by insisting on giving Ireland a generous proportion of English advantages, a relatively small pro- portion of our burdens, and nothing more than a strictly just proportion of minority rights and privileges.