24 NOVEMBER 1866, Page 6


R. HUGHES is being praised all over. .the country, by 11 Tories and Radicals alike, and it is very discreditable. If political courage were not almost extinct among us, he would be considered simply to have done his duty, and to have done it rather gently than otherwise. All he has done this week has been •to tells constituents that he. thought Lord Derby quite right in re-opening the Alabama question with a view. to a settlement, and that he was deeply ashamed to find a habit of using false weights and measures prevalent among them. Now, if there is one question in the world of imr. portance to the nation as apart from any party within the nation, it is this of the "Alabama claims," for it includes, first, the probability of a gigantic war, in which neither party could hope to obtain • any advantage ; and, secondly, a further delay of years in the construction of that Anglo-Saxon alliance which is the ultimate hope of freedom throughout the world. Yet because Mr. Hughes is elected by a constituency which dislikes Lord, Derby's internal policy, it is considered very courageous in him to congratulate the electors upon a new chance of avoiding a; great calamity. If there is one form of fraud more. despicable than another, it is that of cheating the poor of their• full weights, robbing defence- less persona through. a Jong series of transactions by means of the c,onfidenee reposed in. the , robber's character. The very pickpockets ,will: not steal the pence_out. of a blind man's tray, yet that is what. the." highly respectable" tradesman does who makea up the • Saturday "packets of tea, and sugar, and tobacco a little "short," or puts the brown paper into the scale before he weighs the ounce, or sticks a lump of was under the scale, or files away the weights' side of his balance. If a member is not allowed 'to say that he will not - " repre- sent " that kind of,swindle, but will put it down if he can with a stnang hand, what, is he allowed to say ? That Spain ought not, to repudiate, and that the Mexican Government is very untrustworthy ? Yet, because, a great many voters in Lambeth arc small tradesmen Mr, Hughes, for simply per- forming a diity much clearer than that of paying his taxes or going, to church, is considered wonderfully courageous. And, the worst of it is that he was so, that so utterly base is the servility of moat members towards the ten-pounders—who in Tory opinion never oppress their representativee—that not one man in a hundred would have ventured to make Mr. Hughes's frank speech. As well expect the clergy to tell their congre- gations, not, that all men are sinners, but that Meg are, they, the John Smiths there present, and smiling over the satisfac- tory doctrine,which, condemning all alike, wounds no self-love. If an ordinary member had alluded to the subject at all, it would have been to declare that " the body .of small trades-, men ought not to be condemned for the faults of a few," or to condemn; the " rage• for cheapness," or deliver him- self of some other " soothing;" and " reasonable " piece of lying. Mr. Hughes told his constituents the plain truth, just as he would have told his volunteers that they were doing their work carelessly, and in the applause with which his out-spokenness has been received is the condemnation of the majority of his colleagues. The notion that a candi- date, and still more • a member, ought to, be a leader of opinion, that he has, a moral obligation laid on him to speak the truth, whether pleasant or the reverse, seems to be dying out from araongais, and is replaced by a policy of smoothness which destroys the very possibility of leadership. If speeches, eapecially speeches outside the House of Commons, are not intended to lead opinion, what are they for ? and how is leadership to be created when the speaker knows, and his, audience know, and he knows that his audience know, that he, ia either, avoiding the, points really present to his own mind, or sayiug things in-which at heart he does not believe ? The. _very notion of leadership dies, and the constituencies crowd to hear their members, just as well-to-do Englishmen- crowd, on a railway platform to buy the Times, because they expect to see their own ideas given back to them in a tolerably plausible form. Opinion consequently stagnates, and the work of progress either, stands still, as it is doing just now, or is left to irresponsible and over-enthusiastic outsiders.. We- will be bound to say, for, example, that there is not a metro- politan member who does not at heart consider the mass of London Guardians ill educated, low-bred, and hard-hearted persons, whose administration is a disgrace to the great city, and who consequently ought to be relieved, of their functions as summarily as possible. If they said this straight out, they would find that the vast body of their constituents, now silent for want of leadership, would follow them, and the reform would be, accomplished; but they are all afraid. They know the guardians will be very angry, they know all who hope to be guardians will be angrier still, and even in London they dare not trust to the good sense and. kindliness of the majority, and so either hold their tongues, or- utter palliatives which they hope the county members will disregard. The amount of cowardly fibbing which goes• on in:; that way about topics like the Maynooth Grant, and the Per- missive Bill, and all Sabbatarian questions is enough to make : observers almost despair of the future. There never, were tern members out of Ireland who thought it possible to repudiate the Maynooth contract ; there are not now ten honestly favour-- able to the Permissive Bill ; there are not five who really believe Jewish legislation binding on the nineteenth century, yet we nearly broke faith with the priesthood about that un- lucky grant, shall in ,all human probability try some discredit- able scheme of .protecting workmen from their own thirst, and shall keep on session after session choking off Sabbatarians, with smooth little, objections which may be true enough, but which have nothing_ in the world to do with the votes: given, " The country," apologize; members, " will not tolerate,out-if spoken rejection of its favourite prejudices," and (41 come it will not, while ignoraut that its leaders have rejected them-. While they accept, or• seem to accept, the masses accept too, their own better reason being• crushed• down by the apparent' conviction of. those to whom they look for; guidance. If only one-half of those who believe in compulsory education would simply say so straight out, compulsory education woald be a, popular faith in a month, Ana civilization advanced a quarter of a century ; but men are :afraid that in speaking out they might forfeit the support of, this .or that clique, and cannot seee that they would gain ten votes.for every one lost.

That is the most provoking part of all this dissimulation. It is with one exception, to be noted hereafter, as, unnecessary as it is timid. There is probably no population in the world which requires to be flattered so little as "the English, or:. which bears unpleasant truths if good-humouredly put with such respect for, the speaker, It is very much aecustomed. to suspend its judgment until it has heard what its leaderse say,, and as a rule accepts their opinion when sufeeiently tinct• as almost final. It is accustomed, too, to a certain brutal; plainness of speech, is tickled by it, sees, something.comic it, and has a most suspicious. aversion • to what, it calls butter4 If. Mr. Lowe, irtstea4 of• assailing workmen in the House of: Commons, had told a, large audience good-humouredly theta. there were plenty of; drunkards and, bribe,takers among there,. they would have laughed, and cheered just as Mr. Hughee, audience did, and would have forgotten the abuse almost the moment, it was uttered. In every great community thee pressure of an individual interest is. very slight, and for:: one vote lost by attacking, it, ten, are conciliated by the: apparent honesty of the member . who incurs the risk. Even those who. are, affected, unless their amour proprft; :s. touched. unendurably—a question mainly of manner: —have usually so, much conscience as to respect the. man who. has. denouneed them to themselves.. The trades?, men convicted in. Lambeth do not in their hearts expect; their; member to approve short weights, think that his demur- elation: of short• weights,. though, very annoying, is evidence, that they can trust him., upon, points where their consciences, are clear. Above all, the quiet masa of mankind like to belt led, to follow, some one who can give the word of command;: loudly, who does not ask.their opinion first, but has got one..2. of his own, and intends visibly to act: on it. We see that.L. most visibly in America, where the highest praise which can be given to a statesman is to say that he can put, his..foota, down "—that he has a will and purposes of his own, and :is not simply a servant of those who elect him. Of course, there are crises wherein a strong national feeling renders argument either dangerous orimpossible, when to quit the track is to go off the.rails to a catastrophe. But in those cases the member has really ceased to be a representative, and ought to say so, and accept the consequences. The best thing Mr. Bright ever did in his life was to denounce the Crimean War, knowing as he did that that denunciation would cost. him his seat. He could not turn the people, but, he doubled his influence with all honest men. In religious,matters there is no doubt a very peculiar difficulty in the way of out-spokenness, arising from, it may be, temporary causes special to the British people. It is not considered quite respectable to speak too plainly about matters of creed ; heresies, more particularly sceptical heresies, being clued. by Englishmen among those secrets known to all Men which it is considered expedient not to discuss in public. That curious state of feeling will, no doubt, pass away, but there is :another and still deeper cause for reticence. The British public really believes not only that " the wisdom of the wise is fool:lain:was to the Lord," which is, quite true, both in its real, and. its pulpit meaning, but that the fool- ishness.. of the foolish is . wisdom to the Lord, which is quite false; that_ human knowledge is, in religious affairs a "snare," Consequentlyraen who know nothing think themselves better qualified to_ judge. than those who know a little—a Dissentingicongregation, for example, holding that, on the in- spiration of the Scriptures it is because of its ignorance likely to know more than,. say, Dr. Arnold, because of his learning. The conditions of leadership are in that case inverted, and the moral duty,of.leading can only arise when not to lead at any coat is to assent to falsehood. On the infinite majority of questions{ however, indeed on all political questions, it is, we sincerely believe, safer to speak exit, to rely on the instinctive reverence. of mankind for truth, and justice, and courage, and to utter smootlinesses only when the speaker happens to bey lieve in them. There is need for, tact in telling, the truth, and above all there is need, and will be more need, for not confounding, ruth and spite, as, women and clubmen so often do ; but there. is ,no need for that habitual reticence which makes .a statement by,Mr. Hughes, that he disapproves theft, seem anextraordinary effort of political courage. As we have said, the praise given to the member. for Lambeth is for once thoroughly: discreditable to those, who praise