TOPICS OF THE DAY.
TEE NEW OPPOSITION.
A STAND-STILE if not a break-down in the Government, through the failure of the official departments, is a state of things at headquar- ters which first created surprise, then extreme uneasiness, and at last calls forth every appearance of a formidable public movement. It is almost avowed that the course of proceedings at Vienna now hinges upon the results attained at Sebastopol. The country has exhibited something much below its old vigour in arms, and consequently something proportionately beneath its old influence in congress. How the Executive takes these things we do not know : it puts a bold front upon the matter ; it treats questioners in Parliament cavalierly ; and yet it seems threatened with a damaging loss of influence in both Houses, as well as on the Con- tinent and with the British public. The signs would imply almost as much uneasiness behind the veil which is east over the condi- tion of Downing Street as there is outside. It is under these circumstances that the public begins to move, and the agitation concentrates itself upon the definite object of Administrative Reform. The stir has not been brought about by the planning of any particular clique. It is more like a
genuine public movement than anything that we have witnessed for many years. The idea is not a new one : it has appeared in our own pages several times, on several occasions, and it has engaged the attention of intelligent officials; but that al- most technical view of the subject is not the idea which has now taken a firm hold on the public mind. It is now the much simpler and broader proposition, that the want of vigour in the Executive Government and its branches is entailing upon the country, waste of its resources, discredit, and possible humilia- tion; and that this failure of the Executive is owiug to the sys- tem which limits the selection of Ministers to "a few families," and the subordinate posts to the nominees of those families. The threatened movement is a middle-class insurrection against "the aristocracy," not as despotical, but as being exclusive, effete, and inefficient. Discontent with those who take the round in the oc- cupation of office concentrates itself into an attack upon the offices, in order to a thorough reform of the whole system.
The signs that this feeling is assuming a substantial and practical
form are neither few nor faint. The virtual cooperation of several independent Members of Parliament has been apparent for some time. Individuals have not always acted with discretion ; they have frequently spoiled their own position, and the cause they sought to advance, by very gross mistakes ; but the facts of which they now have hold have an inherent force in them which rescues even the erring individuals from entirely losing themselves. Some of the men who have hitherto kept still are manifestly taking their stand by the side of the more impatient. Some ten or a dozen men are pointed out in the House of Commons as more or less showing, by their actions, speeches, and questionings, that they have anticipated the public, which now they may be said to represent. Such a movement within the House of Commons was comparatively unimportant while it remained the only pub- lic manifestation. The Metropolis, however, has made an advance, in the advertisement convening a public meeting at the London Tavern for this day. We see in the adver- tisements such names as Gassiot, Morley, Powles, Ingram Travers, Lindsay, and others, whose indorsement, though not of first-rate City rank, will at once be admitted to stamp the meeting as being neither a party nor a hole-and-corner affair. In- deed, some of its leading men are identical with those who deter- mine elections in the Cit7. Several of the chief towns have al- teady made movements similar to those of the independent Mem- bers in the House of Commons ; but several of those Members re- present other places that would manifestly be prepared to act if there were any general movement; and lo ! the general move- ment is at hand, or has come. There was the previous readiness of Birmingham, Glasgow, Newcastle, Sheffield, and other places, to supply a local agitation ; and now there is the general stir, which will probably bring into play Manchester, Bristol, Edinburgh, and the towns that give the impress of nationality. The adhesion of the Times newspaper itself is "a great fact."
These signs are all publicly- apparent ; but of course no move-
ment of this kind can make even the earliest stages of progress without a certain breeze of expectation preceding its march ; and already we have anticipative hints as to certain steps that the com- bined body will take. The object of the Anti-Corn-law League, which this most nearly promises to rival in Beale, was very specific and was independent of party divisions. The present Association promises also to be independent of party ; but, applying as it does to the divisions of Government, its own plan to a certain extent corresponds with those divisions. It is said that its leading or- ganization will be departmental—particular men in its direction taking under their own charge special departments corresponding to those into which the branches of the Executive are divided ; and it is to be inferred that at least some of those " Ministers " of the Association will he Members of Parliament. The contemplated arrangements imply that the combination is not intended to have a party character. With regard to its ramifications throughout the country, it is expected very much to follow the plan of the Anti- Corn-law League. Its settled purpose may be understood by a certain moderation' yet fixity of intent, that has already marked its action. Several weeks ago, leading men in this combination had an interview with the Prime Minister,
and urged upon him the policy of doing away with the ne- cessity of such movements. It is understood that some subse- quent appointments and acts of the Government are regarded as a negative answer to that urgent representation. The first duty will be to detect and specify abuses, but the Association will be constructive as well as destructive. It has under its consideration plans of reorganizing, including the last which has been pro- pounded, and to which we recently alluded ; comprising a consoli- dation of the public service, a concentration of authority with ex- act subordination of one officer to another, power of reward and punishment, and systematic reporting.
This is a new Opposition. Usually it is understood that when an Opposition is organized, having the tendency, as unquestionably this has, to overthrow a Ministry, its leading men are prepared to replace that Ministry. At present there is no sign, from the position of the men who are active here, that they intend to pro- ceed upon that rule ; but, as the Anti-Corn-law League grew to have its official representatives, so there is no saying how high this movement may rise, even until it have its Cabinet in posse. Who can tell, for example, that Lord John Russell himself, borrowing the phrase of Richard and of Palmerston, may not say "I'll be your leader !"