NEWS OF THE WEEK.
-" ACCORDING to the salutary principle of the constitution," as Mr. Disraeli phrases it, the new Ministers begin their official career with a trip into the country—a sort of constitutional walk, to fortify them for their fatigues. Sir John Pakington cannot un- dertake the Colonies in presence of the Commons without a visit to Droitwich ; Mr. Disraeli must consult his neighbours in " our " county-hall; and Lord John Manners must eat oysters at their na- tive town, before he can be armed for the fight. At a pleasanter season of the year the pleasure would have been more welcome ; . but a holyday alitays pleasant, and in the snug boroughs or congenial counties to which, under the sanitary principles of the constitution, the Protectionist Ministers resort, the holyday has been uninterrupted by any rude electioneering. They have en- joyed the appointment to the fag-end of a Parliament with- out any invidious reality of resistance. According to the theory, although elected by a particular constituency eaeh Member represents the whole country : it is remarkable that when appointment to imperial office makes a Member more than ever the agent for the whole country, then, precisely at that junc- ture, he should find it incumbent upon him to take the railway and go down to ask the pleasure of certain respectable residents in Buckingham or Midhurst. In the last of the works which Lord John Russell has bequeathed to enrich the library-shelves of Par- liament, he had inserted a provision that servants of the Crown should not be obliged to make this reference on being simply pro- moted or translated to higher office ; a ',revision which bears in- ternal and interesting evidence as to the continuance of a belief in the author's mind, even to so late a day, that the family party would remain in office for ever ; since the measure makes no pro- vision to Bove such trouble on a new entry, but only on promotion or exchange. We would go yet further than Lord +John, and would give to each Minister a seat in virtue of his office ; which would have saved our newly-appointed friends the trip down to the sources of the oyster-market, or even to some " inaccessible " place like lifidhuist, where no oysters are, to be found, but the natives take them for a species of water-cress. • Under the existing constitution, however—may its shadow never be less !—newly-appointed officials are expected to go through this expensive form of picnic ; and it is also expected of them under circumstances like the present, that they should hasten tc: seize the opportunity of making a declaration of their policy. Nay, under the present circumstances it was peculiarly expected, since nobody can divine what it is possible for the present Minis- ters to do, and therefore everybody felt an especially keen curiosity to know what they intend to do, besides the comparatively easy task of being. Terrible disappointment ! the addresses disclose nothing. -You might infer from them that Ministers intend to try whether the farmer mind cannot be content with the existence of a Protectionist Ministry in office, as an honorary distinction, with- out exacting any practical results : but we doubt whether the farmer mind is yet cultivated to that degree of refinement. We do not believe that it is cultivated enough to appreciate the ad- dress issued by Mr. Disraeli, who might have been singularly ex- pected to make a disclosure, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, the leader of the House of Commons, the mind of the Ministry, and eminently an artist in words. No disclosure, save the thought- concealing avowal, that, not now, "but at no distant period, we hope, with the concurrence of the country, to establish a policy in conformity with the principles which in Opposition we have felt it our duty to maintain." How will Farmer Hawthorn construe that? He may understand it to mean, that as Ministers will not enforce their principles now, so likewise "at no distant period "— not at any distant period will they do so—never! Something more explicit was looked for than a dissolving picture of words, which at Aylesbury may seem to hint Protection and at Manchester may seem to hint the avoidance of Protection.
It is remarkable that the two opposite parties to be conciliated have felt an alarm opposite to that anticipated. The local, indi- genous, field-grown Protectionist, turns pale as the thought comes upon him, at last, that Protectionistimlly he must die, without rescue from any Disraeli ex machina. Manchester construes the insinuating suggestion of pliability to cover a threat of renewed Protection, and at once meets the supposed challenge by resuming its arms out of the museum of the Anti-Corn-Law League. The want of explicitness was a natural provocation: a frank avowal on the part of leading Protectionists, that the responsibility of office had chased from their minds the last lingering relics of hope for their quondam doctrine, might have soothed Free-trade into the continued slumber to which the Whigs had lulled it; a frank avowal of continued resolve to attempt Protection, might have caused a flutter; but the chance of having to deal with an "organized hypocrisy" suggests the idea of more trouble—of a machinery fit for agitation to cover all contingencies. The League is provided, reequipped for the fight. Its trumpet-note sounds to the tune of "twenty-seven thousand pounds subscribed in twenty- seven minutes,"—as though a political victory were a thing to be bought! The Protectionists might bid before the national auc- tioneer, and name a higher figure ; but, alas ! they are "distress- ed," "burdened," crushed, and cannot show sovereigns against the millowners.
The Free-traders are great at League-organizing and thousands- subscribing; but we are not sure that they are equally felicitous in the course of action that they suggest, or in the grounds on which they rest it. Ministers, says Mr. Cobden, must not be allowed time, lest the enemy should practise deceptive arts and the enthusiasm of the people should cool. But time cannot be re- fused for certain routine business in Parliament; and to fear lest the spirit of the people evaporate, is surely to confess a weakness? They desire a " final " settlement; which can only be attained, however, when the settlement is made to rest on a natural basis, without artificial, structures to prop or artificial stimulants to ex- cite public opinion. The question rests on a natural basis now, since Lord Derby confessedly cannot stir it at present. To preci- pitate a general election, might only unsettle that which is virtually settled. The course is by no means clear of doubts. Will the Queen, acting under advice of those nearest to the Throne, consent to an immediate dissolution? We do not presume the negative; we only hesitate to presume the affirmative until we know in what form the question of dissolution may present itself. Will a gene- ral election certainly return a Free-trade majority P Will the League, like Lord Derby, abide by the decision of the next election as " final " if it should be adverse to Free-trade ? We suggest these questions for the reflection of the leading Leaguers, without anticipating the replies. Mr. Cobden will very soon have an opportunity of meeting the tactics of the new Ministry in the regular Parliamentary way. Concealment and the Budget are things incompatible. The Income-tax is now within a few days of its legal death ; for its being so, Mr. Disraeli is himself answerable. By his own act in supporting Mr. Hume's motion of last year, the Income-tax must come under review almost immediately, and he, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, must deal with it. But he cannot deal with so important an item in the financial scheme without explaining his whole plan : he cannot propose, he cannot postpone the In- come-tax, without explaining. Or if he should attempt it, such an unusual and unreasonableevasion would justify the Commons in any course to stop a fraudulent Ministry, even by stopping the Supplies.