TOPICS OF THE DAY.
THE NEW GOVERNMENT.
AS we expected, Mr. Gladstone has accepted office, and has, with rather less than tha usual difficulty, formed a working Cabinet. There have been the usual troubles about personal claims, the usual difficulties in fitting round men into square holes, and the usual attempts on behalf of this or the other prominent politician. The Cabinet, how- ever, has been made without any of the expected delays ; and so far as its capacity is concerned, it is a strong Cabinet. Lord Hartington is politically a heavy loss, but Mr. Gladstone, Lord Granville, Lord Spencer, Mr. Chamberlain, Sir W. Harcourt, Mr. Trevelyan, and Mr. Childers, make up a group of experienced statesmen by whom the country has been content to be governed ; and the three new men are all recognised as potential sources of political strength. Mr. Morley has risen with a rapidity which, considering how little he is known to the country at large, of itself suggests ability, and undoubtedly brings to the Council- room the aid of a keen insight and a mind stored with all that knowledge which it is the customary defect of Radicals not to possess. We dread the historic ignorance of some of the rising men much more than their rashness in innovation, and of historic ignorance Mr. Morley can never be accused. Mr. Campbell- Bannerman, though a mere name to the country, has created in the House and among his colleagues an impression of unusual strength, and certainly possesses much of that decision and good-humoured indifference to attack in which modern statesmen begin to be lamentably deficient. All the newspapers of the United Kingdom might be shrieking, and Mr. Campbell-Bannerman would pass on his way, not con- temptuous and not deaf, but placidly indifferent. There is something elephantine about his character, and he may prove to have elephantine weight. Lastly—for Mr. Mundella, though new to the Cabinet, is an experienced Minister, who has ful- filled our presage of his administrative success—Lord Rose- bery is the object of a general confidence not yet wholly explained, unless it be by his obvious possession of the wit so wanting in English politicians, and his unusual success in life. Peers of pedigree do not often rise, but he has risen ; all Scotland believes in him, Mr. Gladstone believes in him, and it is said Prince Bismarck believes in him. That is sufficient to justify any Premier in giving him a full trial, and he is to be tried in the office for which circumstances fit him best, and at a time when his office furnishes the grandest opportunities. We confess to a decided distrust,—perhaps a prejudice,—of any man who believes in a Federation of the Empire ; but Lord Rosebery may steer us wisely through the dangerous Eastern channel, strike rock under that Chinese quicksand which it is becoming clear we shall have to wade through, and by possi- bility even drag us out of the Egyptian morass. It is nerve which is now needed in the Foreign Secretary, and all men say that Lord Rosebery possesses nerve.
If Lord Hartington and Mr. Goschen were in the Ministry, the Cabinet would he as able as it could be; and we do not know that the allocation of men to offices is much more surprising than usual. No doubt the selection of Sir W. Harcourt for the Ex- chequer has something of a comic effect, Sir William having been a candidate for the Lord Chancellorship, and knowing as much or as little of finance as any other successful barrister. He has, however, the power of getting up anything it is con- venient that the adlatus of the First Lord should be next to him at the Treasury ; and if serious financial questions should present themselves—as they certainly will, for there is an Expropriation Bill on the anvil, and an exasperating Budget to produce—Mr. Gladstone, whom even Tories trust in finance, must look into the questions for himself. Sir Farrer Herschell will be as strong a Lord Chancellor as Liberals have had for twenty years, and an immense help in the House of Lords, where the best men are ageing, and debate may this time grow hot. The crux of the situation is the power of the Lords, if they choose, to compel an appeal to the country. Earl Spencer has been a successful President before, and will, in the circum- stances of the day, be a tower of strength in Council. Lord Granville will govern the Colonies, as he once did before, Mr. Childers is trained enough to make no mistake at the Home Office—men who have lived in Australia are never sentimental about criminals—and Mr. Campbell-Bannerman is in his right place as Minister for War, an office which he knows through and through. The Marquis of Ripon is, we fear, out of place at the Admiralty, where they need a heavier hand, but the
Indian Viceroyalty always develops at least the wish to rule ; and Lord Kimberley, when at the India Office, governed very well before, and did not receive half the credit he' should have done for the cool sense and thorough knowledge he showed as to Frontier affairs. Mr. Trevelyan is always acceptable to Scotch- men, and he may be able to explain to them what at present seems to us an inexplicable departure from his avowed policy. Mr. John Morley and Mr. Chamberlain are, from the point of view. of this Government, precisely in their places. Not only can Mr. Morley defend Home. rule, but he is nearly the only member of the Cabinet who in defending it will have no words to eat or to explain ; while Mr. Chamberlain's schemes of Expropria- tion can only be carried out by the office of which he is the head.
Alas lit is that point of view, and not the capacities or the motives of the Cabinet, which we distrust. Mr. Gladstone must have been strongly resolved when he appointed Mr. Morley Secretary for Ireland ; and considering all that is past, all that must be visible to every statesman in the position of affairs, and Mr. Gladstone's evident ascendancy—for who but he could have secured Earl Spencer and Mr. Trevelyan for a Cabinet which Mr. Parnell will support or shield I—it is im- possible to doubt that this is a Ministry prepared to concede Home-rule. We do not say that Home-rule will be conceded, for the true difficulties are only just in sight ; but the Cabinet must be prepared to look to that as an ideal. It is a Home- rule Cabinet in intention, though Home-rule remains un- defined; and we shall be surprised if it is not found to be tinged also with the new Radicalism, which regards the State as a fountain of plenty, instead of a serene arbiter, and believes that all poverty, it may be even all sin, can be cured by judicious loans. We cannot believe in any of those things. No good ever came of handing over a country to such a party as that which surrounds Mr. Parnell, or of shrinking from duty—and the first duty of rulers is to rule—because it had become too troublesome to do it. We would not conquer Ireland for the first time, any more than India ; but as we are there, and have been there for ages, voluntary abdication is a voluntary surrender of a trust still unfulfilled. The policy of the Cabinet, so far as it is understood, seems to us to involve this surrender, and therefore, in spite of its great capacity, its unusual homo- geneousness, and our own sympathy with many of its objects, we regard it with a watchful distrust, not removed by Mr. Chamberlain's acceptance of the Local Government Board. Almsgiving may often be a duty, but no man, and no nation, was ever regenerated or made stronger by re- ceiving alms ; and the whole distinctive policy of the new Radicals is the giving of alms from the National Treasury to an expectant people. There is no salvation and no hope in a revival of the old Poor-law, which is all that we shall get out of these compulsory allotment schemes, and we await, therefore, the expected declarations of policy with much more fear than hope. If they are what we expect, the last hope will be the appeal to a people which for a thousand years has made up for all its deficiencies—and they are many, deficien- cies both of morale and of imagination—by aid of one great quality, strong political sense. If that is gone, English history is broken.