LORD STANLEY AS A FOREIGN MINISTER.
rErBeams now but little doubt, whether we look to ntErinsic probabilities or -to the assertions of political rumour, that Lord Stanley is to be Lord Derby's Foreign mister, whatever in other respects may be the character of ' the new Cabinet. There is just as little that this appoint- ment will be the strong one of the new Government, perhaps the only one as to which many Liberals and many Tories are likely to agree that we shall have changed absolutely for the better, and of course therefore the one most likely to conciliate support to the new Ministry, and to uphold it, if anything can uphold it, as long as the war lasts. As far as we can see, this is a true estimate ; though there are, we believe, some dangers into which, in shaping our foreign policy, Lord Stanley might in some contingencies be more liable to fall than even the old school of diplomatists whom he supersedes. Fortunately, however, both for him and for England, these contingencies are at present remote, while the political conditions with which it would be his first duty to deal are those for which he seems by temperament and by judgment both most competent and most likely to deal exactly as we all wish.
For what we do all wish at present, and are likely, as far as we can see now, to wish for some time to come, is to hold absolutely aloof from the complications of European polities, to abstain from all counsel even which savours of obligation, and resolutely to avoid every shadow of international engage- ment that might limit our freedom for the future. Now, of all men that one could select for this special purpose, Lord Stanley would seem to be, as far as we can judge a priori on such a matter, the very best. His international sympathies are cold ; his preferences even are slight, and determined more by a caustic+ instinct of antagonism to popular enthusiaeres than by.any political emotion; his judgment is strong, cold, sober, and determined chiefly by utilitarian considerations ; his weight in counsel is great, and sufficient to give every advantage to his own opinion; his whole estimate of Govern- ment and its duties is slightly depreciating and cast in the- laissez-faire school ; he has very little, if any, desire to extend the national influence in Europe; how not to do anything great in European policy may probably be his principal ambition ; in a word, instead of belonging to the 'providential' school of statesmen,—those, we mean, who like to intervene with heal- ing suggestions and dramatic combinations to save Europe, he will probably be the first Foreign Minister of this country who will take real pride in making it clear that he has no wish for an opportunity of dictating anything whatever to Europe, whether peace or anything else. Lord Aberdeen was a mild and pacific Foreign Minister, as much given to laissectfaire as any during the last hundred years. But still he had all the old diplo- matic traditions pretty strongly impressed upon him.. He disliked urgency and imperiousness, but he did not bleak up the avenues to .a position in which urgency and imperiousness might become essential, as, for example, in the case of the Eastern question. Lord Stanley is likely to be far more imperious than Lord Aberdeen. He rather likes saying curt and frigid things, but then, if he has given us any true fore- shadowing of his policy, he will use all his imperiousness, all his curt and frigid modes of thought and speech, in guarding against the growth of ties which might lead us into grave in- ternational obligations and alliances almost before we were aware. With regard to the past, there is probably no single poli- tician of the same eminence who has committed himself to so few opinions on foreign affairs as Lord Stanley,—probably, as we said just now, because he has felt so few predominant sympathies. He carefully refrained from indicating his leaning—if he had one, which is doubtful enough—in the American war, unless an almost scientifically impartial pre- diction that the power of the North was likely to prevail, but that its main difficulties would begin with the end of the war, can be regarded as indicating a leaning. On Denmark and the Schleswig-Holstein war he was only eager to condemn the intervention of England, and this he did in stronger terms than were used by any other of the Tory party. ' It would have been an act "not of impolicy, but of insanity," he said, for us to interfere. Perhaps only on Italian unity has Lord Stanley shown any distinctly characteristic feeling. And that was, as might be expected, so far as it went, grudging to the enthusiastic aspirations of the Italians. In a speech to his constituents at King's Lynn about two years ago he expressed his opinion that Italy had been premature in her aspirations for unity, and his impression that the political phenomena told in favour rather of a dual kingdom of separate North and South Italian States, than of unity under Victor Emanuel. Lord Stanley's mind is a sort of political condensing chamber (such as Watts invented for his low- pressure engines), for warm patriotic emotions of all kinds. A thin stream of his cold intelligence makes great columns of enthusiasm such as will move armies 83 easily as steam moves the piston of an engine, shrink at once into a few drops of feverish blood, so that under the influence of his mind the imagination seems to lose all belief in the reality of these popular motive-powers. And the transformation that he thus effects is perfectly scientific, did he not sometimes forget that those few drops of feverish blood of which he makes so little, may easily be re-transformed again into the same mighty columns of vapour which he took so much pleasure in re- ducing to their least expansive and least impressive form. But this coldness of imagination is a power as well as a weak- ness. Certainly in connection with the Eastern question we may be quite sure that Lord Stanley will never commit us to a war on behalf of Turkey such as Lord Palmerston com- menced and Earl Russell would be not disinclined, if need were, to commence again. Indeed we can scarcely conceive any European question which Lord Stanley, if he keeps to his announced opinions, would not be disposed to see others " muddling " to the very highest degree of conceivable turbidity, rather than meddle in it himself with any view of clarifying it.
And there has never been a time during the life-time of the present generation when such an imperiously neutral bias as this hit so exactly the attitude of the English people in relation to Continental affairs. It has been said, with great truth and sagacity, in illustration of the utter incompetence of England to judge well of foreign politios,—though we are not quite sure that it does not in one sense rather illustrate the impartiality and truthfulness of our insight,—that if we were to do exactly what we should like best at the pre- sent crisis of German affairs, we should fight with one hand against the other,—sending one army to assist Austria in re- sisting Prussian aggression, and another army to assist Prussia in carrying out her aggressive scheme. In such a condition of the national mind a statesman who keenly and somewhat dictatorially abjures all thought of bias, and may even make a boast of having no opinion, and wishing to have no opinion, in the matter, is as safe as any we can have. With regard to the issue between Italy and Austria, it is quite con- ceivable that Lord Stanley might be even too prudent for the popular feeling, though not perhaps for the practical policy of non-intervention, which we too often wish to reconcile with something very like threatening intervention without intend- ing actually to carry our threat into expensive and incon- venient practice. If Austria were to succeed in beating Italy and recovering her chance of breaking the Peninsula up once more into fragments ruled by the aid of foreign troops, and if any dynastic accident in France prevented the interference of the French Emperor on her behalf, Lord Stanley might pro- bably become exceedingly unpopular through a policy of rigid non-intervention, though competing statesmen might scarcely have either the courage or the power to carry against him the only logically alternative policy, a policy committing us to war rather than to permitting a reactionary step so disastrous to the best interests of Europe. But at present the con- tingency of so great an Austrian success and, in case of such success, of the complete paralysis of the imperial policy in France, is so exceedingly small, that even this conceivable danger to Lord Stanley's popularity is not one of a very practical kind.
Perhaps practically the greatest risk to which Lord Stanley's regime at the Foreign Office would be likely to be exposed, is not so much one of policy at all, as of manner. The very opposite of Lord Clarendon, who writes smoothly and acts weakly, Lord Stanley is likely enough to 'act strongly and write roughly. He is imperious to the very roots of his political nature. No more unjust, unpleasant, or contemptuous docu- ment was ever despatched by a young statesman—Lord Stan- ley was in January, 1859, not thirty-three years of age—to a man of rare political courage and reach of mind, than the contemptuous despatch to Lord Canning, in which, six months after the party battle about the Oudh proclamation wherein Lord Ellenborough fell, Lord Stanley summed up his view of the question and uttered his last scoff at the retiring Governor- General. We never remember to have read a despatch that left an unpleasanter impression on our mind of the character of its writer. Lord Stanley is usually in the highest degree intellectually candid, but his annoyance apparently at the largeness of Lord Canning's policy in that proclamation,— Lord Stanley distrusts the mere appearance of a grand im- perial policy, — seems to have made him in that instance even uncandid ; and at all events no more supercilious rebuke to a great statesman whose policy had been amply justified by the event was ever penned. If Lord Stanley writes to our foreign ambassadors to decline the overtures of foreign Governments in the tone in which he snubbed a Governor-General of India, there will be some show of reason for the absurd importance which some people seem to attach to Lord Clarendon's milk-and-water complaisance. Lord Stanley will probably make it at once his settled policy to detach England from all possibility of European engagements or embarrassments, which must mean in some sense to isolate England. But there are two ways of isolating England,—a way in which England is left completely at liberty at any moment to draw closer to one State than another, as she may conceive that her duty and interest require, for which purpose she must keep thoroughly good relations with all,—end a way in which England may manage to combine against her• the dislike of all the other European Powers. We rlo not say, and should scarcely even fear, that Lord Stanley, with his cool and usually admirable judgment, will isolate England in this latter sense. But we doubt whether he is fully sensible of the under-current of imperiousness which lies at the basis of his political style. Admirably as he is adapted to the immediate emergency of our needs in foreign politics, the one slight set-off against him as a foreign Minister is not un- likely to be the presence in his mind, and therefore in his diplomacy, of a certain hauteur better adapted to carry aggres- sion with a high hand, than to reconcile foreign nations to a policy of strict reserve and no alliances,—a policy which may not unfrequently seem somewhat cynical and can scarcely avoid being unpopular and unwelcome.