THE BRIGHTON ELECTION.
WE hear, on the whole with satisfaction, that Sir George Trevelyan has not accepted the invitation of both sections of the Liberal Party at Brighton to stand as
the Liberal candidate in the approaching election. In the first place, we do not suppose that he would have been at all likely to be returned, and we do not wish to see our best statesmen fighting hopeless contests unless there be a very clear cause behind them, and a great result to be gained by having that cause, even though it be a losing one, strongly represented. In the next place, we do not think that Sir George Trevelyan could possibly have occupied a posi- tion that would have satisfied himself, if he were to fight and win such an election ; and as for fighting it only for the sake of showing fight, this is not a case in which it ought to be done. To say the truth, we do not think that those Liberals who desire to give Home-rule to Ireland ought to support a Unionist at the present crisis ; and we do not think that if they did, they would reap anything bat mortifica- tion from the result. No one can regret more deeply than we do that Mr. Gladstone has hoisted the standard of Home-rule. But as he has hoisted it, we fully agree that the battles of the immediate future must take place on that issue ; and it is an issue of such vast importance, that every man, whether Liberal or Conservative, should take his part frankly, either in support or in resistance to Home-rule. Those who try to trim their course between the two policies will only confuse the minds of the electors, and this is just a matter on which confusion of mind is almost more mischievous than a mistaken view. The danger lies even more, as we think, in the wish for some impossible via media between the ideas of Mr. Gladstone and the ideas of Lord Hartington, than in the prospect of a wholly wrong decision.
Let us clearly understand the two courses between which we are deciding, and we shall probably decide rightly. Let us hoodwink ourselves as to the rational alternatives, and the danger is that we shall stumble into an illusory scheme first, and thence descend by easy steps into a fatal decision.
We can enter heartily into the frame of mind with which the managers of Liberal Associations see the great split in the Liberal Party. It is a humiliating thing, after fighting so long and so enthusiastically under so great a leader as Mr. Gladstone, to have to avow your alarm at his pro- posals, and your inclination to support even a political turncoat like Lord Randolph Churchill, rather than give Mr. Gladstone the majority he desires for a separate national Legislature in Ireland. We can quite under- stand that generous-minded Home-rulers would catch at the chance of voting for so moderate a Unionist as Sir George Trevelyan, if it held out the hope that the Liberal Unionists of Brighton would all vote with them, and that so the Liberal Party in Brighton might seem once more united. But would it be more than a seeming ? Is there any chance. that if, when elected to the House of Commons, Sir George Trevelyan had taken the course the Unionists hope, he would not' have bitterly mortified his Gladstonian supporters ? Is there any chance that if he had satisfied in any degree his Glad- stonian supporters, he would not have bitterly mortified his Unionist supporters? And, again, is there the smallest hope that any other question would supervene more important than the Home-rule Question, on which he and all his supporters would have been agreed, while they Conservatives would have been opposed to him To all these questions, as it seems to us, we must give a negative reply; Sir George Trevelyan could not have opposed Mr. Gladstones policy without making Home-rulers repent bitterly that they had ever voted for him. He could not have supported that policy without making his Unionist supporters bitterly repent that they had voted for him. And there is no. chance whatever at present that some other question on which all Liberals and all Conservatives would be opposed to each other, as in the olden time, will come to the fronli and overshadow the great Irish Question. In fact, rebel as we may against the _disagreeable necessity of supporting a Minister, who, like Lord Randolph, daily eats his own strongest words, and even eats them with appetite, we can
hardly conceal from ourselves that Mr. Gladstone's last great Reform Bill has virtually put an end to the natural political antagonism between the two great parties, and has rendered it almost impossible that for the future one party should take its stand on trust in the people, and the other on trust in the richer classes. For the future, we may be very sure that both parties alike will become what., in days gone by, only the Liberal Party was,—that is, eager to please the masses of the United Kingdom, and anxious to show that their oppo- nents are not going the way to please them. Though the old names will linger yet for a time, the old ideas represented by those names are changing already. The Tories may cling to the House of Lords and the Church, and the Radicals may attack both ; but if the Tories cling to them, it will be because, in their belief, a majority of the people love those institutions, and would not willingly let them die ; and if the Radicals attack them, it will be in the hope and conviction that they can persuade the masses to desert the old traditions. One thing is oertain,—that a party which cannot make a respectable stand at the polls, a party without large popular support, has become impossible under the last Reform Bill, and that nothing which the great majority of the people of the United Kingdom disapprove, will be. defendedfor any length of time by either party. This being so, we may be sure that the organisation of party must depend for the future more on its attitude towards the chief issue of the day, and less on its asserted confidence in the people. Both parties equally will claim to feel that confidence. Both parties will try to prove that they do feel it. What. we should expect for the future is a crystallisation of more or less temporary parties on particular issues. FOr a long time, it will be the question of the Union which will divide us, the so-called Conservatives and Liberal Unionist@ necessarily fighting on one aide and the Home-rulers on
other. When When that. is solved, the House of Lords or thi:, Church question may come up ; and we may be sure that many , who fight on the so-called Conservative side now as regards Home-rule, will fight again on the so-called Liberal side as. regards the House of Lords ; and then once more, perhaps, pass over to what is now called the Conservative side as regards the Church. Others, again, who. are now or the- so-called Conservative side, like Mr. Chamberlain, will pro- bably pass to the advocacy of change both on the Church question and on the House of Lords. question. But what is clear is this,—that on all these questions the Conservative, if we choose to call them so, will take up a position which can, be defended as the popular position, and will alit dream of entrenching themselves again within the-lines of clam' -privilege. Thus' while we heartily respect the feeling which has induced the Brighton Liberals to attempt to obtain as ,a candidate a statesman who had so spoken and acted concerning-. Ireland that there were passages in his speeches with which. each side in turn could sympathise, we do not think that theii" attempt could possibly have led to anyeatisfaotory result. Foig. the present, the issue must be." Home-rule, or No Home-ru1aft75 and we are quite sure. that any _attempt to find a via need" between these alternatives will-not only fail, hat do miseirT by confusing the issue. On the other hand, any attempt to,, give the Horne-rulers a representative who fights ageiitek Home-rule, or to, give the Unionists a representative.gives up up the Union, will only issue in disappointments an
recriminations which are perfectly needless and. had- muck better be avoided.