TOPICS OF THE DAY.
THE DEATH OF TORYISM.
WE read political history very differently from Mr. Morley. He regards the new Administration as registering the death of Liberal Unionism. We read. it as registering the death of Toryism. Perhaps both names have disappeared, but the one thing which has disappeared is Toryism. We have long held and main- tained in these columns that its end was approaching. Its life was doomed as soon as Mr. Gladstone succeeded, in 1885, in carrying household suffrage in the counties. When the Tory Government of 1886 came in with the Liberal Unionist party supporting it from outside, and giving so much useful yet conditional support,—on which support it was really dependent,—the old Toryism received its second warning. And now it is dead. Individual Tories may survive, but the alliance with Liberal Unionism has completely terminated the epoch of the old Tory Governments. For the future, Tories can never again rule in England. Those who were once Tories, now rule under the sheltering spirit of popular traditions by allying themselves with the most reasonable wing of the popular party. Sir Henry Howorth and his friends, who found themselves in so miserable a minority in relation to the Free Education Bill of 1891, were quite right in the threnody in which they then sang the death- song of Toryism. When Mr. Chamberlain dictated it to the old Tory party, and Mr. Balfour,—who never was an old Tory,—accepted that measure, the old Toryism was on its deathbed. And now it is dead. We may fix the moment of its final dissolution as that when Mr. Chamberlain rose in the House on Wednesday, in Mr. Balfour's absence, as the representative figure of the Liberal Unionists in the new Government, to give his hearty support to Mr. Asquith's Factory Bill, and to lend it the aid of the Unionist party. The Gladstonian papers may cry out as they please that Mr. Chamberlain is re- nouncing the creed of his early days, and may ridicule him for forcing himself on a dynasty which knows not Joseph. The truth is in a very different direction. It is he who has carried the popular spirit to its final victory, and has done so by the very self-restraint which has enabled him to renounce that travesty of popular doctrines which he once supported. The people of England are not revolu- tionaries. They are as much in need of a representative voice which can declare what is venerable and inspiring in the past, as they are in need of a voice which can declare what is intolerable and worn-out in the present. And Mr. Chamberlain has found them that voice, and could not have found it for them without discerning for himself that many of the old sing-song Radical sneers find no real echo in the hearts of the English people; that they really love what is old and strong, not only because it is strong, but also because it is old ; that they are not disposed to cast away the old institutions and old tradi- tions simply because they cannot reconcile them entirely with the accepted formulas of the party of progress ; that they care much more for renewing and restoring the life of the past than they do for rooting it up and superseding it by brand-new arrangements which have no friendly or customary air about them ; and that so long as they can remove old injustices and find a sympathetic leader to heal popular griefs, they are only too glad to keep a great deal which was once unpopular only because it was associated with cruelly superfluous abuses, and to abandon a great many of those exterminating threats, the sting of which lay not in the dislike of majestic traditions, simply because they were more or less inadequate to the new wants, but because that inadequacy had never been discerned and acknowledged by those who loved them well. Punch, and that very clever but yet very purblind caricaturist, " F. C. G.," are quite on the wrong tack when they take every opportunity of treating Mr. Chamberlain as the impersonation of a ridiculous vanity which is false to all popular sympathies. On the contrary, it is he who has given the death-blow to the old Toryism, and rendered it impossible for any future Government to embody its spirit. It is perfectly true that without Mr. Balfour's wise and sagacious aid he could not have achieved what he has. It may be quite true,— we ourselves are inclined to think it is,—that many of his plans for popularising the Conservative policy are too sanguine, are founded more in the breadth of his popular sympathies, than in the justice of his financial calcula- tions; but this, at least, is to our minds certain, that he has revealed to a party that was rapidly wearing out, the possibility of combining a discreetly popular policy with associations that still have a great charm for the English people, and institutions, which, in spite of their abuses, are. very far indeed from extinct. It will be quite a new reve- lation to the English people to see the Colonial Minister of a Salisbury Government recognising fully the just spirit of one of Mr. Asquith's searching administrative reforms, and saving from destruction a Bill the aim of which is the wise regulation of the dangerous and often cruel conditions of labour, and the adaptation of those conditions to the reasonable expectations of the operative class. Since the early days of the late Lord Shaftesbury Conservatism has never grudged its sympathy to the sufferings of the people. But even Lord Shaftesbury would hardly have ventured to persuade a Conservative Government to redeem a measure of confessedly Radical origin from the hands of the destroyer. Nihil humani a. me alienum puto has hardly ever been applied before by even a remodelled Conservative party to the offspring of a Radical Government. No caricaturist, however spite- ful, will take for his subject the salvage by a Unionist Minister of a Radical measure from the wreck of a. Radical Government.
The old Toryism was the political creed of the party of privilege ; and we mean by privilege the ascendency of a class which claims its ascendency not as a trust for the people, but as the appanage of its own social position. We believe that such Toryism can never again take any substantial part in the play of English politics. From the moment when the small but influential Liberal Unionist party held the " makeweight" which turned the scales against the Home-rulers, Conservatism necessarily took that turn which has ended in the formation of a. Unionist Government essentially based on popular principles, though it interprets the word popular, not in the sense of the Radical screamer (who is not really popular at all) but in the sense of the masses who desire to com- bine all that appeals to the imagination of Englishmen with all that softens and civilises the life of the multitude. It does not soften and civilise the life of the multitude to root up vigorous institutions only because they now and then cause them some discomfort, and raise some jealousies, while, for the most part, they add immensely to the significance of the national life, and connect the past with the present of the English State. It does not soften and civilise the life of the multitude to multiply rival Par- liaments and distract by fierce local jealousies the delibera- tions of the various races included in the United Kingdom. But it does soften and civilise the life of the multitude to find their aristocracy deeply concerned for the allevia- tion of popular misery, their financiers diminishing the burden of taxation on the poor to the great inconvenience even of the middle classes, who can no longer get a suf- ficient interest on their savings to render their old age safe and easy, and to find their Governments much more desirous to open a career to the sons of the people, than they are to provide salaries for the cadets of the old families, or to defend class-privileges as the feudal barons defended their formidable castles against the wrath of an indignant people. We believe that the last infusion of a larger popular element into the Conservative party has brought about the final triumph of the Liberal principle over the old Toryism, and that that triumph has been effected by the agency of that Liberal Unionist earnestness and moderation at which Mr. John Morley only scoffs.