TOPICS OF THE DAY.
MR. GLADSTONE AT LIVERPOOL.
MR. GLADSTONE'S speech at the Liverpool banquet was a good blow well struck at Mr. Lowe, and a very fair answer to those who desire to resist Reform altogether, but that is all it was. It brings neither consolation nor convic- tion to those Liberals who, contending for a wide Reform—a Reform which shall bring the main body of workmen within the pale—still demur to intrust the entire State to the hands • of a single class. Mr. Lowe has certainly contrived in his letter to the electors of Caine to put himself in an untenable position, and it is clever of Mr. Gladstone, though a little un- worthy of the leader of the Commons, to make the insecurity of his opponent's standing-ground visible to the world. It is very absurd of Mr. Lowe to say that the lower electors are venal, violent, and drunken, and also that non-electors have often great prudence, self-reliance, and perseverance, as if the franchise could in any way diminish those qualities, and Mr. Gladstone made the point with his usual incisive- ness. It is also very fair to tell anti-Reformers that the promises now seven times repeated are of themselves a suf- ficient reason for the introduction of a Bill, and to taunt moderate Tories with the fact that their own leaders brought in a Bill at least as wide. But in all this there is no answer to the really formidable antagonists of the Government—to those who, like Earl Grosvenor and Mr. Bouverie, say they will vote for no Bill which is not complete, or those, like ourselves, who say that the object of Reform is to perfect representation, and that this Bill not only does not do it, but prevents its ever being done. It is these people the Cabinet has to answer, and with these it steadily, and, so to speak, warily declines to cope. What is the use of answering Tories? The Government can vote them down, and Mr. Lowe with them if necessary, and in any case arguments will make with them no manner of difference. The point is to answer the objections raised on all sides by those who, beingRef ormers, see neither principle nor expediencyin this measure, who cannot alone defeat it, but who, marching before a more numerous band, will undoubtedly either coerce the Government into a compromise, or drive it temporarily from the field. Mr. Gladstone's present argument does not touch them at all. It simply amounts to this, that the workman is worthy of the franchise, which no one among us all ever attempts to dispute. Indeed we should go further, and say that if he were clearly unworthy, his unworthiness ought only to affect the amount of representation conceded to him, and not his right to any representation at all. What we contend is, that being worthy, he should be represented in such a way as to give him as much direct and appreciable power as he can have without injustice to the claims of every other class in the nation. To secure that end we propose the Government scheme plus a provision securing finality, minus the provision ensuring corruption. In other words, we want household suffrage in all the large boroughs—household suffrage being simple and final, while a 71. rental is complex and temporary—and the exclusion of little boroughs from the measure. What answer does Mr. Gladstone make to the principle so embodied, the principle, that is, of admitting the workmen wherever they are independent, and omitting them wherever they are not ? Simply none at all, merely an asser- tion that they are excellent people, which is the very basis of our objection, that Mr. Lowe is self-contradictory—which is a matter of course when a democrat talks Toryism, and that Government is bound by its pledges,—which is very true, very moral, very satisfactory, and nothing to the immediate purpose. Government has not pledged itself to any form of Reform Bill. We do not suppose Mr. Gladstone fancies that the mere word "Reform" is a charm without reference to its meaning, that the country can be saved, like the soul of a Neapolitan peasant, by an endless repetition of the Credo. Nobody on our side of the discussion questions that faith is good, the point is, faith in what 7—in representative institu- tions or democracy, government by noses or government by intelligences? Mr. Goschen, in his extremely adroit speech, said, "I deny that we can arrive at good government apart from representation." We accept that sentence in its meaning most cordially, though it goes too far in form,—the universe not being governed on constitutional principles—but it remains to define representation. We have done it till we are tired, and prefer this time to quote the words of one of the truest, heartiest, and, as we think, ablest democrats who ever liTect a man whom even the Star would not dire to accuse of crypto- Toryism, M. Louis Blanc :—" Many persons fancy that the sovereignty of the people is realized by the government of the greatest number, no matter how that government is organized or how it exercises its authority. For my part, I confess that. I know few errors of a more dangerous character. Sovereignty cannot be a mere question of addition. A nation is something more than a cypher. What really constitutes a nation, what. makes its greatness, what creates its power, is what it contains, of ability, experience, reason, and intelligence. The giving movement to these living forces, for the common benefit, is what is meant by its sovereignty ; and if universal suffrage deserves to have its excellence eulogized, it is because it fur- nishes, under certain given conditions, the best means that can. be devised for placing the administration of public affairs in, the hands of the most capable and most worthy. A demo- cracy in which the sway of numbers tends to annul the action of men of intellect, instead of tending to confide to them the direction of the State, is not a democracy. It is but a many- headed, blind, and blundering despotism, a despotism, irrevo- cably doomed to perish, sooner or later, by its own hands.'" That ideal, the only true ideal, cannot be reached through_ universal suffrage, and is not approached through a Bill which_ reduces the suffrage without attention either to circumstances. or to principles, to the fact that low suffrage in Manchester and Caine are radically different things, and to the principle that "the rightful liberty of every man ends where the right- ful liberty of his neighbour begins." This is what the Liberals who agree with us want to secure, this is not secured by the Bill, and if they are firm they will when the Bill comes on do one of two things, either throw it out on Earl Grosvenor's motion, by far the bolder course, or pass in Com- mittee an amendment "That no part of this Bill shall apply to any borough returned in the Census as of less than 50, 00(1 inhabitants."
On redistribution neither Mr. Gladstone nor Mr. Goschen said one word, and the objections to a Bill without schedules remain just what they were, namely, that it compels the House to vote for a great transfer of the sovereign power before it knows the extent of the transfer, or to whom it will be made.