TOPICS OF THE DAY.
THE VICTORY, AND ITS CONSEQUENCES.
WE have gained our modest victory at last, and very thankful we should be that we have gained it. But it is certainly a modest victory. That after a war of six months, in which we have suffered many serious checks and one great disaster, we should at last attain, with 4,000 good English troops and 1,100 natives, a decisive victory over a savage African chief, with probably not more than twice thatnumber of soldiers, armed chiefly with assegais,—Mr. Forbes estimates the number of Zulus opposed to us as 10,000, though Lord Chelmsford holds, not on personal observation, but on the ground of information he had received to the effect that twelve regiments of Zulus took part in the conflict, that there might have been as many as 20,000,—is not an exploit to be very proud of. At Plessey, Lord Clive bad but 1,000 Englishmen, and but 3,000 men altogether ; while he had an army of 40,000 infantry, with fifty pieces of ordnance, and 15,000 cavalry, opposed to him. His was indeed an exploit. It was a great exploit, again , when Edward III., with but 40,000 men, defeated at Cressy a splendid French army of 100,000, and still more when Henry V., at Agincourt, defeated another splendid French army, outnumbering his own by at least four to one. But this suc- cess in Zululand, though it is, as we said, one to be very thankful for, is not at all one of this nature. It is, rather, one of so modest a kind that if we had not been capable of it, we should have been compelled to draw very unpleasant inferences as to the deficiency of either the military power, or the military administration, of England. That it has taken us six months to achieve a decisive success against such a military power as the Zulu King, is, indeed, a very great honour to him, though its tardy achievement can- not be regarded as any evidence of growing strength in us. That the difficulties were of a considerable and serious kind, we should be very sorry to deny. But that abler Generals and better organised troops could have overcome them long ago, no one, with his eyes open, will be disposed, we think, to dispute. Still, it is a thing to be seriously thankful for, that we are, probably at least, in sight of land at last ; for the struggle was not one that any- body could lopk upon with either moral or intellectual content. That the final success must go to the credit of Lord Chelms- ford, we are exceedingly glad, though we are not in the least disposed to argue from it that the appointment of Sir Garnet Wolseley was either needless in a military point of view, or premature. Doubtless the knowledge that his superior had landed in Natal, and was preparing to take the field in person, gave that gentle nervous stimulus to Lord Chelmsford which so often helps a man whose defect lies rather in over-anxiety, and the hesitation and changes of purpose to which over- anxiety gives rise, than in any want of soldier-like capacity. What is certain is that Lord Chelmsford was always chang- ing his mind ;—that he led his troops, with the enormous array of provision and ammunition waggons which necessarily accompanied them, by one of the most circuitous and unin- telligible routes imaginable, all round towards Utrecht, far to the west of his goal and back again, till, after three-fourths of the march was completed, they were even then only in the neighbourhood of the scene of the great disaster of January ;—and that nothing seemed to go well with him till after his junction with Sir Evelyn Wood's flying column, which was put under his command by Sir Garnet Wolseley. We rejoice heartily that so brave and, till recently, so successful an officer as Lord Chelmsford, should have done so much to retrieve his reputation. But we cannot doubt that the Government have been fully justified, even by the event, in sending out a superior officer, in whom every one has confidence, to supersede him. Possibly one of the most immediate, though not one of the most important results of the victory, will be its in- fluence on the decisions of the Government at home. We re- gard the Dissolution in the Recess as rendered all but certain by the success in South Africa. Even now it is hardly pos- sible that the war account can be wound up, without producing a very much longer bill than any which Sir Stafford North- cote has provided for ; and it is certain that the next budget, if it is to be a budget defensible on the accepted principles of English finance at all, must provide additibnal ways and means by adding to the taxation. If that be so, it is obviously the policy of the Government to go to the constitu- encies without further delay, with the Afghan peace, and the probable Zulu peace, as well as the Berlin "peace with honour," on what the Yankees call their "record," and...with offers of re- trenchment on their lips. They will certainty not get a better opportunity, and Lord Beaconsfield is not the man to miss a good opportunity, when he sees it. We hold, then, that the moment of the general election is near, and that the defeat of Cetewayo will be treated as a suitable occasion for ask- ing the constituencies to crown Lord Beaconsfield again. And, for our own part, we are not only thankful that the country should be freed from this troublesome South-African danger, but glad that the political battle should be fought out without the false issue which would. have been raised by the dis-
credit of a South-African catastrophe. Say what we may, the Government have done their best to hold in Sir Bartle Frere, and are not responsible for the folly which led to Isandlana. If they delayed far too long in sending out Sir Garnet Wolseley, the hesitation was due to a praiseworthy motive, and should not count too much to their discredit. If they are ready to make peace now, and have enjoined on Sir Garnet Wolseley, as we hope they will be found to have enjoined, to offer reasonable terms, we have less fault to find with the Government at home (as distinguished from the Colonial Govern- ment), than we have had to find in relation to any of the other troubles into which they have launched us. We rejoice that they are now not likely to suffer for blunders for which they were hardly responsible. We rejoice that the constitu- encies will now judge them, without imputing to them guilt for misfortunes of which they cannot rightly be accounted the cause. It is only just that they should be judged by what they have deliberately done, and not by blunders which, to some extent, if not quite as strenuously as they might, they tried to avoid. And they will so be judged now. They will be judged by what they did at Berlin and what they did in Afghanistan, but not by what, they suffered at Isandlana. This is well, even if it saves. the Government from defeat, for a defeat in which they were condemned for the accident of their position, and not for their true policy, would have been mischievous,
instead of useful. As it is, we shall have a clear issue.. If the country really thinks the domestic policy of the Tories good ; if it thinks the treatment of Turkey and of Russia wise and generous ; if it thinks the robbery of a scientific frontier in Afghanistan just,—it will return them to power, and we shall know with what sort of public opinion we have to deal. There is, now at least, no probability that they will be unjustly rejected for a disastrous policy which they did not approve, and which, with slight exceptions, they have done their best to restrain and to.• retrieve.