THE PROSPECTS OF THE GOVERNMENT.
IN parting with Lord Carnarvon and Lord Derby, and still more in ordering the Fleet to Gallipoli, if the Daily News' information that the Fleet has been ordered to Gallipoli can be trusted, the Government of Lord Beaconsfield has drawn a very heavy draft on the confidence of the country. And we shall soon see, either by the tone of the House on Mon- day, or by the way in which the proposal of Monday is received
in the country, how far that draft is likely to be honoured.
There is something so showy and tricky in the policy of Lord Beaconsfield, that we never know exactly whether what he does, means what it seems to mean, or something quite different. Like the visitor to Messrs. Maskelyne and Cooke, the English politician has always to ask him- self whether what Lord Beaconsfield has just done is an essential part of the show, or only something to distract ob- servation from the essential part of the show. And for anything we know, the country may shortly be told that Lord Carnarvon 's and Lord Derby's resignations had no real significance ; that they, in fact, resigned only because they were so perverse as not to understand that the Government was a great deal more pacific than they were, and that the sending of the Fleet to Gallipoli, if it has been sent to Gallipoli, was in the most literal sense a peace measure. But whether the explanations which we have yet to receive are warlike or simply bewildering, or what is not improbable, both at once, we take it that the impression made on the mind of the country will be very much the same. The constituencies are asked to place confidence hi a Ministry which has just lost its most trustworthy elements, and to place confidence in it either for a war policy, or for a braggadocio policy, or for an enigmatic policy ; and our own impression is that for any one of these kinds of policy, the constituencies will at once decline to trust the truncated Govern- ment of Lord Beaconsfield. They have before them the broad fact that from beginning to end this Government hitherto has never known its own mind ; that it has always been shaking the fist of one hand at Russia while it was smoothing her gently down with the palm of the other ; and that even as late as the opening of Parliament, the Queen's Speech was rendered ridiculous by a paragraph which the Government first adjectived and conditioned till it only retained, like a fossil, the vestiges of a life that had once been in it, and then elaborately explained away. Now they have asked leave to explain away these explanations, and to restore life to the brutum fulnzen of the Royal Speech. What will the House of Commons, what will the country say, to that very modest request
We must remember, first, that though Lord Derby has seemed to those who have studied his despatches the most- vacillating of the vacillating, yet the country at least still retains its confidence in Lord Derby,—recognising what alone the mass of popular politicians really hear, the conspicuous moderation and good-sense of his public utterances,—while Conservative Lancashire almost looks to him as its hereditary chief. Now the real kernel of the late Conservative vic- tories was in Lancashire. It was of the conquest of Lanca- shire that the Government was justly proud, and it was by the loss of Lancashire that the Liberals lost the key to the position. If Lord Derby, then, persists in his resignation, will Conservative Members from Lancashire meet Sir Stafford North- cote's proposals with even a grudging assent ? If they do not, will the Government carry its vote at all ?—for it is not only by Lancashire, but by London and other great boroughs, that a considerable proportion of its strength is contributed ;—and if they do, will the constituencies ratify the decisions of their Members? And no insignificant element of the power of the Government has always been represented not only by Lord Derby, but by Lord Carnarvon. It is Lord Carnarvon who, by his large and thoughtful and humane colonial policy, has gained not only the admiration of Conservatives, but the warm support of the best Liberals. Mr. Forster has more than once defended that policy against the criticism of some of his own party. And we venture to say that what Lord Carnarvon did both in Natal and in Bar- badoes has won him more sympathy amongst the Conservative- Liberals of the country than has been accorded to any other Mem- ber of the Government, unless it were to Lord Salisbury, during the brief period of his Constantinople mission. If Lord Derby's departure is sure to alienate the support of the common-sense Conservatives, Lord Carnavon's will estrange all those hesi- tating moderate Liberals who are never willing to desert even a hostile Government at periods of crisis. The issue, as the country will perceive, is a most momentous one. Whether Lord Beaconsfield is juggling or in earnest, —whether he is preparing for us a new "pill that is very good against an earthquake," or launching us into a great war, he is equally committing the country to a line of action which will be full of momentous consequences for the power and influence of Great Britain. If the Government is only flourishing, and does not mean busi- ness, it is endangering our moral influence, making us a laughing-stock, abusing our position in Europe, and indeed not improbably involving us, through its very display of imbecility, in a war on which we should enter under the worst auspices, after such signs of levity. If it is perfectly serious, and intends to embark us in war on the strength of its hypothesis as to the views of Russia, it is using our influence and resources, and pledging the influence and resources of the future for an indefinite period, on the wrong side. In either case, we believe that the Government, deserted by its most trustworthy members,will lose the confidence of the country, and not improbably even the con- fidence of the present House of Commons. And what will be the forces on the Liberal side ? As far as we can judge, if the vote of Monday is really proposed, and Gallipoli really occupied by our ships and blue-jackets, the Liberals will be united as one man in resistance. Every one knows Mr. Gladstone's magic influence with the masses, and Lord Hartington's growing authority over the Moderates of the House of Commons. If, then, the Government part with two out of the three men whom the country trusted for their sobriety and the rectitude of their sympathies, and the influence of Mr. Gladstone is heartily sustained by the influence of Lord Harlington, if all the Liberals in the country, enthusiasts or moderates, nationalists or adherents of the Peace Society, economists or humanitarians, pull together to get rid of a Government which is wielded by a political mountebank playing with edged tools, the issue is tolerably certain. There may, indeed, be a few Gallic Reds,—Mr. Cowen is the only one who occurs to us at the present moment,—who may desert to Lord Beaconsfield as the enemy of Russia. Perhaps here and there a man who hates to be common-place more than he hates war in a wrong cause, like Mr. Roebuck, may give in his adherence too. But it is hard to think that we shall lose by such defections a quarter of the votes which we shall gain from the Conservatives by the adherence of the followers of Lord Derby and of Lord Carnarvon.
The real issue is this,—Either this is a theatrical move, or it is a war move. If it is a theatrical move, it is self-condemned. The country does not like a histrionic policy, though that is what Lord Beaconsfield usually means when he airs what he prefers to call a historic policy. If it is a war move, then the country would like to have the administration wielded by a deliberate, a strong, a united Administration, an Adminis- tration that knows what it means to do, that can do what it means, and that means the same thing in all its minds. Can that be said for a moment of a Cabinet which, like that other Cabinet used at a spiritualistic sdance, has sometimes opened to show us the theatrical mouthing of Lord Beaconsfield, sometimes the long, nervous fingers of Lord Salisbury, and sometimes the floating guitar of Lord John Manners's troubadour-like muse ? This Government has no deliberate policy ; it does not know what strength means ; it does not know what union means. And to such a Government the country will never confide the control of a dangerous war, which far more than half of the inhabitants of the United Kingdom disapprove with all their hearts and souls, as well as depre- cate with all the strength of their sober judgment.