2 SEPTEMBER 1876, Page 7


TN the days when the Liberal Party held undisputed posses- sion of the present, and to all appearance, of the future, its abstention from interference in the affairs of foreign nations was among the most be-praised of its merits. Other Governments might embroil themselves and their subjects in useless wars, and the Conservative party might cherish a mild ambition to see England blessed with a Ministry that would go and do likewise. But England under Liberal rule was contented to exercise a moral influence on the world, and complacently to leave all those who in- sisted on taking the sword to the certain doom of perish- ing by the sword. To a party which felt no concern about foreign politics, a foreign policy could be nothing but a superfluity. Natural causes had made England safe against attack, and as defensive wars were the only wars that the Liberal party were prepared to tolerate, there could be no need to think about foreign affairs until Great Britain had somehow ceased to be an island. Sympathies Englishmen were allowed to have. They might take pleasure in seeing Italy united, or Austria humbled, or Germany raised to the dominant place in Europe, but under no circumstances would these sympathies be allowed to guide their action. England was nothing and meant to be nothing but a constant and candid critic of all other nations. She. would tell them—no one so freely—what she thought of their doings, but she would do nothing to support, or check, or control them. This attitude, it may roughly be said, was steadily maintained from the time of the Crimean war until the fall of the last Liberal Administration. It was the mode in which it suited Lord Palmerston to do penance in his old age for the very opposite doctrines held in his hot youth,. it suited Mr. Gladstone's intense horror of -war, and it saved Lord Granville from the trouble of forecasting how to deal with contingencies that might never happen. That England neither had nor ought to have a foreign policy was an essential article of the regular Liberal creed down to the moment when Mr. Gladstone thought that the repeal of the Income-tax was a phrase to conjure with, and rowna # his cost that a nation which has been taught to care for nobody's interest but its own cannot always be trusted to judge its own interest aright. Nothing seemed more improbable a year ago than that this very want of a Foreign policy would prevent the Liberals from making any use of the only opportunity they have had since the Conservatives were in office, and the best they are likely to have for many a day to come. That a great English party should be without an opinion on one whole side of national life might be a misfortune for the country, but it had never threatened to be a misfortune for the party itself. If there were any chance for the Liberals in matters not distinctly associated with Home politics, it was rather that the Conserva- tive Government might inadvertently involve themselves in ,-.:me Continental quarrel, and so lead Englishmen to look back with yearning regret to the -halcyon days when England cared for nobody, and nobody cared for her. The acts of a few thousands of brutalised Turks have completely changed the prospect. The Conservative Government have made a great mistake, and the Liberal party are unable to make any capital out, of it, by reason of the very want which we have repeatedly, but vainly, tried 'to bring home to their consciences. It is by its foreign policy that the Conservative Government will be hereafter judged, and it is against its foreign policy that the Liberal party finds it so hard to bring an in- dictment. The events of the last few months have shown plainly enough that however the Liberal party may have per- suaded themselves to the contrary, Englishmen desire that their rulers shall have a foreign policy, and that they think a bad policy better than none at all. Even in the first ex- citement of the General Election, the Conservatives were never so popular as when their leaders bought the Suez-Canal Shares, and made Europe for a moment believe that they no longer meant to leave the Eastern question to be settled by time and chance. When the event showed that if ever the Government had thought of an English Protectorate in Egypt, they had awaked from their pleasant dream, they were saved from the fall in popular estimation that would certainly have overtaken them by the discovery that they had a policy at Constantinople. It was not a great or a brilliant policy ; in fact, it was nothing more than a second dressing under changed conditions of Lord Palmerston's Eastern policy after the Crimean war. But for all that, it was a policy, and with a nation which was heartily sick of Liberal panegyrics on the beauty of moral activity in combination with physical laziness, it commanded acceptance for this reason, if for no other. The refusal to concur in the Berlin Memorandum, with the check which it inflicted on the plans of the Northern Powers, and the despatch of the fleet to Besika Bay, were wel- comed as evidence that England had come out of her corner, and had once more claimed her place in Europe. The Eastern Question had unexpectedly presented itself for settlement, and the Conservative Government had been ready with a solution. That solution might be the weakest conceivable, the one that most rested on the refurbishment of words that had lost their meaning, the one that least pro- mised to do anything more than postpone the evil day. But it had, at all events, the merit of purporting to be, if not of actually being, a solution, and as such the country accepted it. Lord Derby's popularity rose again to the full height from which his irresolution about Egypt had threatened to drag it down, and the Liberals had another testimony supplied them of their misconception of public opinion.

Suddenly the Eastern policy of the Government has passed under a cloud. England alone, of the great Powers, has been supporting the Turk at Constantinople, and Mr. Schuyler's Report tells us what the Turk has in consequence been doing in Bulgaria. If England had shown no interest in the affairs of the Porte, if she had declined to express any opinion about the Andrassy Note or the Berlin Memo- randum, the fate of Turkey might by this time have been decided. If the intervention of the great military Powers had come too late to prevent the outrages in Bulgaria, it would, at all events, have come in time to avenge them. The English Government have very properly refused to treat the Eastern Question as a matter in which they have no concern, but by a disastrous misreading of the particular form which their un- doubted concern in it ought to take, they have saved the Porte from intervention, without subjecting it to control. There is no need to dwell upon the result ; it is known un- happily as far as the records of human crime are carried by the exercise of human ingenuity. The moral which we Trish to convey to the Liberals lies in the fact that with this un- taralleled blunder on the.4,0f the Government lying ready to heir hand, they are unable as a party to take advantage of it. They cannot appeal to the country to judge between the policy of the Government and their policy, because they had not while they were in office, and consequently cannot, except with the utmost difficulty, set up while they are in opposition, any alternative policy to take the place of the Ministerial policy. The Eastern Question has been before the world for the last twenty years. The Crimean war did not pretend to settle it ; it only claimed to hang it up until a better-informed generation should find a satisfactory solution. From 1856 to 1876 the Liberal party had, to say the least, the lion's share of power and influence. Throughout that time the Eastern Question stretched across the political horizon as a thunder- cloud symbolising tempest. Yet in all those years we can recall no serious effort to lay even the foundation of a Baffle- ment. Consequently, when the Conservatives present them- selves with the mere parrot-like repetition of, the watch- words of 1854, they have the advantage over us that they have at least the fraction of a policy, while the Liberals have as a party no policy at all. Where units are not, fractions count as kings, and to a nation which has grown accustomed to Liberal common-places about non-intervention and moral is even yet, indeed, not as nutritious as it ought to be, for on influence, even the Conservative policy in the East has this point the Irish peasant is too self-denying, but it is very an air of decision and almost of grandeur. If it were only much better than of old. The houses, again, are certainly the party that suffered by this strange turning of the not such as sanitary science approves, and in the poorer parts of tables, it would matter but little. Unhappily, on this the country especially the hovels are deplorably wretched. In occasion, when the Liberal party suffers, the nation the bogs, for example, one frequently sees cabins with a damp and humanity suffer at the same time. A Government earthen floor, a roof so low that a tall man could touch it, no which knows that it ought to strike for something, but does windows, and a hole in the thatch for a chimney. But these not know for what, has used the strength of England to build up lairs of fever and rheumatism are far less numerous in pro- a system of whose working Bulgaria has witnessed the natural, portion than they were. Generally speaking, there is a decided, if not the inevitable results. And the Liberal party sees itself though very insufficient improvement in the houses, and the compelled to sit by in silence, because when it had the strength general health is marvellous, the death-rate of Ireland, according of England at its disposal, it taught itself, and wrongly believed to the official return just published, being only 19 per 10,000. it had taught the country, that that strength was only to sit Altogether, then, as we have said, there is a marked rise in