25 JUNE 1892, Page 9


AFIGURE has vanished this week from the House of Commons which has long been one of the most charac- teristic among those of the old Radicals,—Mr. Dillwyn, the Member for Swansea, who has represented that borough ever since February, 1855, or more than thirty-seven years, without any break ; and we doubt whether during the whole of that time he ever asked, or so much as wished to ask, for any favour from any of the Liberal Governments which he has so steadily supported. It was his pride to be entirely independent, while being as ready with his vote and as regular in his attendance in the division-lobby as the most eager and ambitious of those Members who looked to the Liberal Governments of the day for their promotion, and who regarded it as a most fortunate co- incidence that they were able to serve the Liberal cause without in any way neglecting the still more important duty of serving their own private interests. Mr. Dillwyn's sturdy Welsh pride, which was a marked feature of his character, absolutely excluded all such secondary ends from- his political calculations ; and yet he was, we should think, during these thirty-seven years about the most constant of all the supporters of the various Liberal leaders, whether they were in power or in Opposition, the one who was most rarely absent from a division, and most rarely known to desert his own party even on questions which were not, either directly or indirectly, questions of confidence. On one great occasion, indeed, he threw his influence at a critical moment into Mr. Disraeli's scale, when he took the chair in that meeting of Radicals in the- tea-room which virtually determined the success of Mr. Disraeli's Reform Bill in 1867. A large proportion of the Liberal Party of that day condemned his action,—this journal and the present writer among the rest. But we have since been persuaded that his action was as right as it was unwelcome to his party. The question of Reform had then been bandied about between the two parties for nine years,—indeed, if we include Lord John Russell's Reform Bill, which preceded the Crimean War, for a considerably longer time,—and threatened very dangerous consequences if it were to be kept dangling before the eyes of the people for a still longer period. Both parties had admitted by their own acts that Reform was needed, and yet each managed so to defeat the other, that the people began to distrust Parliament almost as much as one party distrusted its rival. It was high time that this playing fast and loose with a question like Reform should cease, and Mr. Dillwyn saw that in the weakness of Lord Derby's Government in the House of Commons, the opportunity had arrived for putting an end to the demoralising rivalry which was going on. The Radicals of whom he was the mouthpiece, determined to give Mr. Disraeli their support in carrying the measure, and in making it a measure which would not keep the word of promise to the ear and break it to the hope. And though he helped Mr. Disraeli and the late Lord Derby on that occasion to " dish the Whigs," he put an end to that popular distrust of Parliament which was springing up out-of-doors, and laid the foundation of the great series of reforms which began with the Disestablishment of the Irish Church, then secured the great boon of Popular Education, and by abolishing Purchase in the Army, inaugurated the great democratic era in administration no less than in legislation. It was a bold step of Mr. Dillwyn's, perhaps the only bold step which he ever took that thwarted the wishes of the majority of his own party, but it was a step which ultimately justified itself even to those who in the first instance disliked and condemned it.

Nevertheless, Mr. Dillwyn was essentially a party man. He inherited the prepossessions and prejudices of a Radical, and was almost as proud of them as he was of his political independence and of his perfect indifference to all official favour. He revelled in his own consciousness that he was more democratic than his leaders, and therefore more "advanced." He indulged in a mild anti-clericalism with something of the same satisfaction with which he indulged his suspicion of everything like superstition, and his distrust of everything like authority. In his personal feelings he was eminently conservative, and never showed this personal conservatism more than when he echoed Radical cries and led Radical attacks on the Church Establishment. For his Radicalism was, as we have said, a kind of inheritance, and he would have been as much of a fish out of water in supporting political Conservatism, as he would have been in ignoring his own personal ties, or breaking with his own personal habits. He had as much inherited political Radicalism as he had inherited his powers of vigilant observation, and his predilections for activity and sport. His distrust of authority, his pride of inde- pendence, his sympathy with popular feelings, were all inherited ; and it would have been as much a break with the past for him to have been a Conservative, as it would have been for him to dismiss an old retainer, or to lay aside his hardy habits of life. He was a Radical in politics because he was a conservative in character, not because he loved change, but because to him the attitude of a political Conservative would have been the greatest and most revolutionary of all changes. In that sense the steadfastness and continuity of his personal feelings were of the very essence and root of his political democracy. When, for instance, he found his political friends and leaders all discovering that . they had not been just to Ireland, and that Ireland was entitled to a greater share of national liberty and independence than the Liberals of the early part of the century had accorded her, he would almost as soon have taken up his stand against this conces- sion, as he would have admitted that it had been a mistake to give household suffrage to the United Kingdom, or to abolish Slavery and the Corn Laws. It was a second nature in him to approve the policy of largest seeming sympathy with the people ; and he would as soon have abandoned Mr. Gladstone because he went on too fast, as he would have abandoned Disestablishment because it proved difficult to achieve. His Radicalism was, no doubt, in great measure a Radicalism of prepossession and prejudice ; but it was all the more intelligible, all the more disinterested, all the more easy to reckon with, gauge, and appreciate on that account. There was nothing in it of the personal motive of a politician who wanted to make his influence felt, nor of the personal irritability and vexation which resented class disabilities. After all, inherited Radicalism is no less honourable, and in times like those in which Mr. Dillwyn's youth was lived, is even more useful, than inherited Con- servatism. At all events, it deserved and inspired much more personal trust than the much commoner Radicalism of ambition, of faction, and of discontent.