NEWS OF THE, WEEK.
1F4ORD CAIRNS, even of whose indisposition the public had not heard, died at Bournemouth, of congestion of the longs, —a disease to which he had always had a certain tendency,—early -on Thursday morning, in the 66th year of his age. He was the second son of Mr. William Cairns, of Cultra, in the County Down, and had not originally intended to practise at the English Bar; but the barrister with whom he read in London formed so very high an opinion of his talents that he urged him to practise in the English Courts, where his rapid success soon justified the hopes formed of him. In 1852 ho contested Belfast, and was returned for that borough ; but it was not till 1808 that he made a great Parliamentary reputation by his speech, as Conservative Solicitor-General,—an office to which he was appointed in 1858,—on the Onde policy of Lord Canning, and Lord Ellenborongh's censure of it. He increased this reputation by a speech of very considerable ability on the Conservatiie Reform Bill of 1859. In 1868 he replaced Lord Chelmsford as Mr. Disraeli's first Lord Chancellor, and was ever afterwards understood to be Mr. Disraeli's manager in the House of Lords. Indeed, he led the Tory Party in the House of Lords during a considerable part of three sessions. On the whole, however, probably both the Duke of Richmond and Lord Salisbury have exerted more of the influence of a leader in the Lords than Lord Cairns. It is as adviser of the Tory party that his influence has been most salutary, and that its loss will be most keenly felt. Lord Cairns was not only a great, but a very finished and artistic lawyer.
The Foreign Office has, it is believed, received a despatch, in which Russia agrees to leave the delimitation of the Afghan frontier to the Joint Boundary Commission, and accepts the English idea of the limits within which that Commission must work. The Government does not yet, however, consider the danger past, more especially as Lord Dufferin and the Ameer only met for business on Thursday, at Rawul Pindi ; and naval preparations are still advancing sharply. On Tuesday, moreover, Lord Hartington, in answer to Sir S. Nortbcote, read aloud a carefully-prepared answer, in which he declined to give any information, stating that not only were matters of fact and policy at issue, but the feelings of both countries were highly roused, and any " unguarded " word which could be interpreted into menace would strengthen the " very strong military opinion which exists in Russia," or help to precipitate a collision on the Afghan frontier itself. Lord Hartington added that there was a third party to the negotiations besides England and Russia, and this was the Ameer, whom we were pledged to support, but upon conditions which must be " strictly " defined, and were being defined in the Conference at Rawul Pindi. Mr. Lowther and Mr. Onslow said a few words, intimating that they distrusted the Government, principally, it would appear, for allowing negotiations to linger on ; bat the Houser as a whole
showed self-command, and recognised that much informplion must be before the Cabinet about which it was impossible to speak. One of the difficult points, it cannot be doubted, is the character of the measures which, in the Ameer's judgment, it will be necessary to take, in order to place Herat beyond risk of a future coup de main.
The French have sustained a severe defeat in Tonquin. General Briere de l'Isle, who on March 26th telegraphed from Hanoi that General Negrier, though repulsed by the Chinese, was safe in Langson, and needed no reinforcements, was on the 28th compelled to telegraph that his subordinate had been constrained to evacuate Langson, that the Chinese Army in three columns was driving Colonel Herbinger from the hill positions, and that the enemy was constantly increasing on the Song-Koi. General Briere de l'Isle added the ominous words, "Whatever happens, I hope to be able to defend the Delta," and concluded by an urgent request for reinforcements. This telegram reached Paris on Sunday, and was published ; and while the people believed that much had been kept back, the Government admitted that they held the news to be most serious. The French Commander in-Chief was evidently powerless at Hanoi, while large bodies of Chinese had thrust themselves between the hills and Hanoi,
and threatened General N6grier's retreat. It wan understood that the actual losses in men had been heavy, and deduced from a telegram which had previously excited no attention, that a third Chinese column had entered Tonquin from Yunau. All accounts spoke of the enormous masses of the enemy, and of their able leadership, which was attributed to the presence of Europeans.
As soon as this news was known in Paris, the great city began to show its usual signs of revolutionary excitement. Crowds gathered in the streets denouncing the Ministry, cries were heard menacing M. Ferry, and the Chamber assembled under the strongest excitement. The Premier at once rose, and after an optimist account of the situation—contradicted by subsequent telegrams published on Thursday—stated that 8,000 men would be .immediately despatched, and demanded a credit of £8,000,000 sterling. M. Clemenceau immediately replied ; and in a furious speech declared that debate was at an end, and that the Chamber was dealing, not with Ministers, but with accused criminals. This violent language was highly applauded ; and when M. Ferry demanded priority for his credits, he was bluntly refused, by 308 to 161. M. Ferry at once announced the resignation of his Government ; and a motion was even brought forward for its impeachment, but urgency was refused for this by 304 to 161. The journals all denounced him in the bitterest manner, and he was in danger of personal violence in the streets. As we have explained elsewhere, the specific charge against him is that of having culpably misrepresented the state of affairs, and especially the danger of war with China; but, of course, his real offence is ill-success.
President Gravy asked M. Brisson, President of the Chamber, to form a Ministry ; but he refused, and the work was entrusted to M. de Freycinet, the Premier who deserted Lord Granville in the Montenegro affair. It was at first believed that the task would be easy ; but M. de Freycinet does not wish for too many Opportunists in his Cabinet, and the Opportunists insist ou their right to control the Administration. They are, they say quite truly, the largest group in the Chamber, and they will have some portfolios. M. de Freycinet, therefore, submitted a list to the President, in which M. Sarrien was Minister of the Interior, M. Sadi-Carnot Minister of Finance, himself Foreign Minister, and General Delebecque Minister of War; but according to the latest rumours, this arrangement has broken-down, and M. de Freycinet has thrown-up the task. If this is the case, which is still uncertain, President Gr6vy mast look round for a littleknown man, for he cannot call in avowed Opportunists ; and M. Cl6menceau could not take power without openly abandoning M.
Ferry's forward policy. It is probable that M. de Freyciuet will be accepted at last; but he will be felt to be a stop-gap, and his Ministry will not have the necessary strength.
All kinds of rumours are in circulation in Paris as to negotiations with China ; but they are as yet untrustworthy, the effect of the Chinese successes not having been thoroughly understood in Pekin. What seems to be certain is that Sir Robert Hart had been employed to discover a practical base for negotiation, and had discovered one; but there is no evidence that the War Party or the Empress have agreed to it.
The debate on the Financial Agreement with regard to Egypt was continued and concluded yesterday week. Sir Michael Hicks-Beach denounced the arrangement both for its dilatory character, financially speaking, and for its political surrender of English influence. Mr. Chamberlain replied in a very able speech, in which he treated the Opposition as desiring to present an ultimatum to Europe instead of to negotiate, and reproached them with wishing to abrogate all the concessions to Europe which their own Government had been the first to make. Mr. Chamberlain asserted that the kind of challenge to all Europe which was advocated might be very courageous, but meant defiance. " C'est magnifique," he said, varying the French sentence passed on the Balaclava charge ; " mais c'est la guerre." It might be possible to arrange with other nations if we are prepared to take the Bondholders' debt upon us, and to annex Egypt. As it is, though we have made concessions, other Governments have made concessions to us at least equal in importance. They concede the taxation of Europeans ; they concede a higher estimate than they had previously acquiesced in for the cost of the army of occupation ; they concede that a loan of £9,000,000 is needful ; and they concede a delay of two years before instituting another financial investiga: tion. In the opinion of the Government, a delay of two years would open the way to a financial reform which would render further inquiry needless.
Another remarkable speech was delivered by Mr. Goschen, who strongly desired the consent of the House to the financial arrangement made by the Government. Mr. Goschen held that this was not the first step in the internationalising of Egypt, but the last. He very much desired that England could have resisted this internationalising, and pleaded her own sacrifices in Egypt ; but, at all events, nothing would be gained, and much lost, by refusing to ratify the agreement of the Government. Mr. Goschen wished for English preponderance in Egypt ; but if English preponderance were impossible, then he wished to have it well understood that we are not going to assume any individual and single responsibility. Mr. Childers, in closing the debate, spoke very hopefully of being able to obtain a balance of the Egyptian Budget within the two yeas allowed, and to avoid all opening for a future recurrence to international investigation. The division showed a majority of 48 for the Government (294 against 246), a considerably increased majority above that of the Vote of Censure.
Lord Rosebery made a speech in the Free-trade Hall, Manchester, on Wednesday, in which he pointed out that the objects with which a forward military policy in Egypt was determined on after the fall of Khartoum are quite inseparable from the campaign against Osman Digna. If any settled form of government is to be established in Khartoum, if the slave-trade is to be discouraged there, if Egypt is to be protected from the inroad of the fanatics, then the advance on Berber and the making of the railroad is essential to that policy. Moreover, Lord Wolseley had declared that this forward movement on Berber was essential, whether the Nile Army advanced on Khartoum or retired on Egypt. Neither operation could be safely carried through without an attack on Osman Digna's force.
On the subject of the Bondholders and their tenacious gripe on Egypt, Lord Rosebery's remarks were very amusing. "Egypt might well be represented as a walking protocol, clothed in a mortgage, and chained to its creditors." Our position in Egypt is " ac if you were to invite a man to a ball to show him a great number of charming partners, and ask him to dance with all, at the same time telling him, All this is at your feet, a glorious evening's amusement is before you, on one sole condition—a simple and trivial condition—that you remain bound hand and foot as long as you remain in the ball-room.' " On the subject of Russia, Lord Rosebery was cautious. He did not give much encouragement to the idea of arbitration ; but he was much too prudent to explain why he would not accept that solution. He remarked, however, that Great Britain had been the great friend of arbitrations ; that she had appealed to arbitration on several occasions ; and that, so far as he could recollect, all the arbitrations had been given against us ; and it was not very cheering to a nation to pay £3,000,000 for 'Alabama ' claims to the United States, and then to observe that the Government of the United States had the greatest possible difficulty in finding proper recipients for the damages we had thus paid.
Mr. John Morley made a speech at Newcastle on Wednesday, the drift of which was that we ought to retire from the Soudan as soon as possible, and that we ought to submit the differences with Russia to arbitration, if they could not be settled in any other way. It seems to us, as we have elsewhere said, that the Radicals of Mr. John Morley's school do much mischief by thus weakening the hands of a Government in which they ought to have confidence. We are sure of this, that the Government will retire from the Soudan whenever they think that Egypt can be better protected from within, than it can be from without. Aud they will agree to any reasonable mode of settling their dispute with Russia, whenever they see that the true point at issue is the fair settlement of that dispute, and is not the doubt in Russian minds whether or not we are able to protect Afghanistan from Russia the moment she chooses to attack that country. Our Radical friends seem to forget that we shall not increase the weight of Liberal Governments in this country by always deserting-them at a pinch, on the plea that they have not made public the grounds on which thev call for the assistance of the nation, and the exercise of the full power of the Empire. It is seldom that these gronnds can be fully made public without betraying confidence which the Government have no right to betray. In the meantime, are they to be paralysed for all action by the pedantic distrust of their advanced followers?
The news from Suakim is confused. The native spies recently reported Osman Digna in retreat; and this was so far believed that the Army considered active operations over. Some cavalry, however, sent out to reconnoitre, reported the enemy in force at Tamai ; and on Thursday General Graham with 9,000 men started for that place, the intention being to camp in the neighbourhood for the night, and attack on Friday morning. On arrival, however, at the place fixed for the encampment, it was discovered that Osman had retreated to Tamanheb, as his forces did last year, whither the Expedition will pursue him. Whether he will make a stand there is not known ; but if he does not, the Expedition must either seize the wells or be forced by want of water to return to Suakim, leaving Osman Digna to begin again. The truth should be known in a few hours, as it must not be forgotten that in all these advances, which seem so difficult, the English troops have never penetrated fifteen miles from the coast. Sir Gerald •Graham telegraphs that, whatever the plan of the Arabs, he shall specially guard against surprise.
The Canadian Dominion is again worried by a rising of the French half-breeds on the northern branch of the Saskatchewan, some 400 miles west of Lake Winnipeg, under their old leader, Louis Riel. Their grievances are not clear, though the base of them is their desire to keep a large territory wild; but they have killed a number of police, have been joined by the whole Indian population, 15,000 strong, and intend, it is believed, to wage a long guerilla war. The movement is the more formidable because the district is difficult of access, and because many Irish are hastening to assist Riel. The Government has set all the troops at its disposal—about 2,500 in number—in motion to crash the rebels, and thousands of volunteers are coming forward ; but the great distances, and the difficulties of transport, render the affair a troublesome one. It will be remembered that the last rising was subdued by General Wolseley, who transported 600 soldiers in boats up the Red River; but Riel had not on that occasion been joined by so many Indians. The rising is not politically formidable, and has no chance of success ; but it may prove as annoying and as costly as a Maori war, the rebels being encouraged by the comparative ease with which, if defeated, they can retreat into the United States.
Mr. Shaw:Lefevre on Tuesday introduced his Bill establishing sixpenny telegrams from August 1st, but it was not warmly re. ceived. The Department does not like risking money, and consequently, while giving twelve words for a sixpence, insists on counting in not only the sender's address, which is right, but the receiver's address, which is wrong. The former is for the benefit of the sender, but the latter for the benefit of the Post Office. The address consumes so many words that the benefit to the public will hardly be worth the financial risk, and the experiment will get no fair-play. It would be far better, if money cannot be spared, to throw the address in, and charge a penny a word for every word over six, leaving sixpence the minimum ; but we cannot help thinking that, as in the case of the penny-post, much depends upon audacity. The Department should give the address, charge a halfpenny a word, the minimum being sixpence, and set itself stubbornly to cheapen delivery, The cost of the boys is the difficulty, not the cost of the wires, or their manipulation.
Central America is all in confusion. The Guatemalan President Barrios, defying the warning of the United States and Mexico, invaded San Salvador with 15,000 men ; but on March 30th was defeated by the San Salvador troops with a loss of 1,500 men. President Barrios will, therefore, probably subside, or fly ; but another difficulty has arisen. A Mr. Preston has recently headed an insurrection in Panama, and the United States of Colombia sent troops to suppress him. They succeeded; but in the fighting Aspinwall was burnt, the piers were destroyed, and the Panama Railroad practically closed. The Washington Government, being bound. by treaty to keep the road open, has found this too much for its patience, has informed the Colombian Government that it will use force, and has despatched ships and Marines to Aspinwall. Great rights of way are clearly not safe property for little people. Before all is done, Europe and America will have to place the interoceanic canals and railroads in the hands of an International Tribunal, with power to keep the routes open, and to hang as pirates anybody attempting to interfere with them. We may reason as much as we like, but the great transits will not be left at the mercy either of Egyptians or of halfcaste Spanish-Americans for any long period. There are no more international canals to be cut ; but there are railroads to be built, and some general scheme for their protection must be incorporated in public law.
General Grant, who has been dying for months of that most terrible of complaints, cancer of the tongue, was on Thursday evening not expected to live through the night. His immense services to the Union, his great misfortunes, and his sad end have obliterated in the minds of his countrymen his grave faults, and his death will awaken strong feeling not only among the soldiers whom he led to victory, but the whole body of the American people. He was a great General, and probably an upright, though self-interested statesman ; but like our own Duke of Wellington he was a narrow-minded politician, and unlike him had a tolerance for jobbery and corruption which made his Administration, on the whole, a source of evil. We shall know more about him after his death ; but his history leaves the impression that he was a good deal like our own Sir Robert Walpole, a man of great powers, but radically coarse fibre, who willed good ends, but believed that most men were self-seekers, and that in a corrupt world a Government, to get along at all, must use or tolerate corruption. His own hands were clear of it, as the issue showed; but he certainly could bear with rascals to a Spanish extent.
Prince Bismarck on Wednesday attained his seventieth year. That is not old as times go for a first-class statesman, and the Prince's iron constitution, which has been tried in every possible way, should secure him many more years of life. He has now been fifty years in public service, and has governed Prussia and Germany for twenty. His birthday was as usual kept as a national fête, the Emperor himself visited him, a special honour in Germany, and from the whole Empire, and indeed from all ends of the earth, whither Germans penetrate, it rained magnificent and varied presents. One, which cost more than £100,000, gratified the Chancellor to the core. It was the old estate of Schonhausen, sold by his family fifty years ago, and the possession of which makes him in his own eyes, as much as his history, the chief of his race. "I was Schonhausen," he is reported to have said; "but I am now again Schonhausen of that Ilk." The pride of pedigree is in Europe still as strong as personal pride, even when there are reasons for both, Mr. Shaw-Lefevre made an able and interesting speech at Reading on Wednesday, a good part of which was devoted to the Reform Bill. When he discussed this subject at Manchester in January, 1884, be declared his belief that no measure could be carried which would take more than sixty seats from the small populations to appropriate them to the large, We expressed at the time our belief that Mr. Lefevre very greatly under-estimated the force of opinion iu favour of a .large measure, and our owu conviction that a very much larger one could be carried, if any real reform could be carried at all ; and so it has turned out. Mr. Lefevre himself announced with satisfaction to his constituents on Wednesday that 170 seats would be dealt with in this manner, as compared with only 140 dealt with iu 1832, That has exceeded even our own hopes, as much as our own hopes exceeded Mr. Lefevre's.
On Saturday, Mr. Mundella, presiding at a coufaisence held at the Society of Arts' Rooms, on the subject of self-supporting penny dinners for school children, said that not a Jay passed without new evidence of the advantageous effect of these dinners on the health, physical vigour, and mental activity of the children. Among the really starving children a half-penny dinner had been started, and it was alleged that the half-penny covered the cost of the material of an adequate dinner for a child, though we find this hard to believe. We shall probably receive a comment on these half-penny dinners from the journal of whose convulsionary agonies under any attack on property Mr. Arnold gives such an entertaining criticism in the course of his strange " Comment on Christmas," in the Coutlemporary Review. " Let it imagine property and privilege threatened," he says, " and instantly what a change. There seems to rise before one's mind's eye a sort of vision of an elderly demoniac, surrounded by a troop of younger demoniacs, of whom he is the owner and guide, all of them suddenly foaming at the month and crying out horribly." We suspect that Mr. Mundelles speech on half-penny dinners for school children will cause a recurrence of those alarming. symptoms.
Mrs. Weldon has been convicted of a libel for accusing Mr. Riviere of bigamy, and sentenced to six months' imprlionnient, without hard labour. The Judges, consequently, arc likely to enjoy their Easter holiday. Mrs. Weldon has been a great weight upon them; and the prospect of a six-months' holiday from Mrs. Weldon is almost more refreshing to them thru.the prospect of a short Easter recess. The example which she has set to the public, and especially to the feminine public, of engaging largely in litigation, and conducting her own causes for herself, is a very formidable one; and if it were much followed, we should have the Law Courts breaking-down even more completely under the oppression of a few score Mrs. Weldons, than the House of Commons has broken-down under the oppression of a eertain number of Wartons and Biggers. It is a vezy alarming reflection how very few eccentrics are needed to paralyse the whole working of civilised society.
The Revenue Returns for the financial year certainly do not seem to show that the country is in a very distressed condition. When Mr. Childers increassd the Income-tax in November, he estimated that within the present financial year the addition would only yield him 21,200,000, leaving another £720,000 to be realised after thc 61st March. He has, however, obtained £1,950,000; in other words, he has got within the present financial year more than he expected to get altogether from the extra tax. The whole yield of the Income-tax has been £12,000,000 within the last financial year. We observe that the pessimists regard this as a mere feat of the collectors, and do not suppose that Mr. Childers will get any further yield from his extra Income-tax during the present financial year ; but that is contrary to all analogy. The truth certainly is that we are richer than the Chancellor of the Exchequer supposed, and that every penny of the Income-tax yieldu more than was estimated. Or dare we venture to hope that it is an increase in honesty that brings us the additional income P That would be far more satisfactory.