NEWS OF THE WEEK.
THE preoccupation of the week has been a dangerous dis pute with Russia, which has not ended yet. The officers of the Boundary Commission have reported to the Government that the Russians, pending the demarcation of the Afghan frontier, have claimed Penjdeh, a tract believed to be in Afghanistan, and seized the Zulficar Pass on the Hari-Rud, which threatens Herat. Abdarrahman Khan, the Ameer, has also made the same report, and has demanded assistance. The Viceroy of India has accordingly arranged an interview with the Ameer in the Rawul Pindee district, and has or'der•ed 20,000 troops to be present to lend dignity to the ceremonial, and to form a movable emu; d'armee ready for immediate action. At the same time, the Government at home has requested that of St. Petersburg to withdraw its troops, and on its refusal has informed it that the Ameer will resist further aggression by force, and will be supported in that resistance by her Majesty's Government. These grave facts were communicated to Parliament on Tuesday, by Lord Granville in the Lords, and Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice in the Commons ; and information was also given to the papers that the situation in respect to Russia, though far from desperate, included "dangerous points." The Funds immediately fell ; but it was noticed that Russian Stocks did not fall, buyers in Berlin sending large orders, under the obvious impression that the dispute would not end in war. This is not, however, quite the feeling in the British Departments, where an unusual activity is perceptible, suggesting that Government is collecting all its resources. The whole Army, for example, has been examined as to its fitness for immediate service.
The unfavourable facts as to this new danger• are that the Russian Government should have advanced troops while the. Boundary Commission, to which it had assented, was at work' that it has refused to withdraw these troops ; that the Ameer of Cabal, a man of nerve and dignity, is genuinely alarmed ; and that Germany and France would obviously be delighted if England and Russia went to war. The favourable facts are that the Indian Government is perfectly ready; that Lord Dufferin understands both the ideas and the resources of the Russian Court ; that with the aid of the Quetta Railway, we can, if needful, send the Ameer fifty thousand good troops in quicker time than the Russians can march them from their nearest railway-point ; and that the Ameer Abdurrahman has his people under control, and the fighting strength of Afghanistan at his disposal. It is further
a most favourable point that the case is clear, and that the United Kingdom, as a whole, is prepared to support the Government. It seems incredible that the Russian Government, under such unfavourable circumstances, with its finances in confusion, and with the chance at least of an insurrection in Turkestan, should desire a war, which will not, as matters stand, help it to Constantinople. At the same time, the existence of a War-party in St. Petersburg cannot be denied, or the prevalence of a feeling that the internal situation is too bad to bear, and that an unsuccessful war would end it as well as a successful
We have no means, without publishing a map, of placing the geographical questions in dispute exactly before our readers ; but they may, we believe, take these two facts as ascertained. One is, that the Russians have advanced exactly to the points which they would need if they intended to attack Herat from the North as well as the West; and that, in the judgment of her Majesty's Government and of the Ameer, they have entered Afghanistan. Moreover, if there were doubt, that doubt would be settled by the joint Boundary Commission, to which they assented, but which they now override.
The debate on the Vote of Censure was concluded yesterday week in both Houses. In the House of Lords, after various vigorous speeches,—amongst others, from Lord Carnarvon against the Government,—Lord Granville quizzed the Duke of Richmond, recorded Lord Beaconsfield's remark in answer to Prince Bismarck's advice to take Egypt, that "he would not take it as a gift," and expressed his strong opinion that England is bound in honour to defend Egypt Proper against the Mandi, and to do all in her power to sustain her faithful adherents in Dougola and further up the Nile. But he declined to give pledges as to what this country would do under all possible circumstances, Lord Salisbury replied in a vigorous attack on the irresoluteness and half-and-half mind of the Government, declaring that the Soudan ought to be held long enough to establish firmly in power the native Government left behind us, and that the Lords, if they differed from the Commons, would nevertheless represent as truly as the Commons the matured opinion of the country. That, of course, Lord Salisbury can only kuow by intuition or inspiration. One House being representative and the other not, it requires either intuition or inspiration to be sure that the House which is not representative represents the country, and the House which is representative does not. Iu the House of Lords, the Censure was carried by a very large majority, 189 to 68, majority, 121.
In the House of Commons, the principal speakers were Sir Michael Hicks-Beach, Lord E. Fitzmaurice, Mr. E. Clarke, Mr. Forster, and Lord Hartington ; but the interest of the debate is already so completely passed that we can but barely refer to one or two points. Mr. Forster, who followed Mr. flu ke, was moderate, declaring that the exceeding bitterness of Mr. Clarke's language would not be justified by the opinion of either the country or the House. Nevertheless, though he was not bitter, he was anxious to show that the delay of the British Government had caused General Gordon's betrayal. Gordon would not have been betrayed, he said, if the Expedition had arrived in time to prevent the complete investment of the city. Unless there had been a powerful army without the walls, it would not have been worth a traitor's while to open the gates. He deprecated any editing of General Gordon's "Diaries," and insisted that they should be published word for word. Referring to a taunt cast upon him by Mr. LabouChere, Mr. Forster said that, many as were the epithets of blame which had been showered upon him, he never remembered having been called a Whig before. He taunted Mr. Gladstone once more with his great mastery of " distinctions and differences." And he struck a blow at Mr. Courtney. Mr. Courtney had declared that he
knew the real mind of the Prime Minister on Egypt ; but, in spite of his great eloquence, great sincerity, and great knowledge, Mr. Courtney, said Mr. Forster, also believes that he possesses much more knowledge than he really has. At all events, Mr. Forster professed himself quite unable to fathom the policy of the Government. They would not look forward from one step to the next; they would not recognise that one step rendered another necessary. As he could not support a policy of vacillation, he must vote against the Government.
Lord Hartington's reply was not interesting, but it was firm and manly. He refused to give any sort of pledges that the Government would engage to do effectually this, that, or the other, before retiring from the Soudan. They would do all in their power to leave a Government of a real kind behind them. They would do all in their power to secure the position of their Arab allies. They would do all in their power to put an end to the slave-trade. But they would not bind themselves beforehand to do all sorts of things which it might be simply impossible to achieve under circumstances which at present no one can foresee. After this speech, and a short reply from Lord John Manners, the Vote of Censure was negatived by 302 votes against 288, the Parnellites voting in a solid body, over forty strong, with Sir Stafford Northcote. Immediately afterwards they turned round and voted with Mr. John Morley against any further occupation of the Soudan, Mr. Morley obtaining 112 votes for his amendment, which was defeated by 4.55 votes to 112 (majority, 314 We have enumerated elsewhere the names of the leading Liberals who voted against the Government, and the names of the more important of the absentees. The discussion, on the whole, was not in either House up to the highest standard of recent debates.
On Saturday there was a Cabinet Conn cil, at which, of course, the House of Commons' vote of the early morning was taken into consideration ; and rumour will have it that the counsels were divided as to the proper course to take,—to resign, or to retain office. It was decided to retain office ; and so obvious is it that this was the right decision, that we are very loth to believe that any member of the Government was willing to justify a different conclusion. Resignation is justified only when it is reasonable to expect the formation of a stronger Government as the consequence of resignation. It is as certain as anything can be that no such result could have followed in the present case. Lord Salisbury is profoundly distrusted by the nation, and for eight months to come could not even have dissolved to test the extent of that distrust. Mr. Goschen has no Liberal following of any moment so far as he is at issue with the Government ; and certainly would not have carried any appreciable force with him to support a coalition between him and the Tories. On the whole, the division showed a very great fidelity on the part of all the Liberal Members who in any way represent large constituencies, and a very considerable amount of fidelity even on the part of the members for those constituencies which are to be merged in county divisions. As for the pendulous Parnellite party, no conceivable Government would command its confidence. Mr. Gladstone's decision to remain has met with almost universal approval among the Liberals, and with very general acquiescence, we believe, among the Conservatives.
On Sunday the Lord Mayor of Dublin was betrayed into language, at a public meeting in Phcenix Park, which he subsequently found reason to regret. He said, in relation to the Prince of Wales's visit, that " since he came to the Mansion House he had always kept the civic flag flying, but the day the Prince of Wales landed at Kingstown he would take down the flag." This declaration provoked vast discontent among the tradesmen of Dublin, who did not wish to lose the advantages which the gaieties of the Prince's visit might be expected to produce ; and on Monday the Lord Mayor was much badgered at the Common Council about his declaration, but was very cautions in his replies. On Thursday, however, a retractation appeared in the morning papers, sent to them by telegraph. " I will feel much obliged," writes the Lord Mayor to the Times, "by your permitting me to express, through the Times, my " sincere regret for having, under the excitement of a mass meet" ing, used language in reference to the visit of the Prince "and Princess of Wales which is justly liable to censure, as " offering disrespect to their Royal Highnesses. Nothing was "further from my intention than to do so, and I trust to your
"courtesy to publish this apology." We trust a great deal of the violence of Irish language is as far from the "intention" of those who utter it as the Lord Mayor assures us that his own was. But who shall answer for the mind which rules its tongue so loosely, that the tongue contradicts the purpose P At a meeting of the National League on Wednesday, the Lord Mayor was, in fact, reprimanded for his apology, a resolution being carried warning the Municipal representatives to " preserve a dignified neutrality," and not to be guilty of treason to the chosen King of Home-rule. The dynamite party have, it is said, sent the Prince of Wales a letter, promising to do him and the Princess no harm, but anonymous promises are not of great value. Welcome, or not welcome, the Prince of Wales is going, and, we suspect, will receive a much heartier welcome than the fierce Parnellites will approve. As to Mr. Parnell, who shall by searching find out his attitude towards the Prince ?
London was amazed and a little dismayed on. Monday by hearing that Lord Wolseley had recalled General Brackenbury's force when almost within sight of Aboa Hamad, and indeed after it had crossed the 'river for the final march and attack. No reason for the recall has yet been published, the official explanation that the object of the expedition was only to punish the murderers of Colonel Stewart being palpably absurd, and it is possible that General Wolseley may have received some information not before the public. It is more probable, however, that Lord Wolseley, finding an attack on Berber impracticable from want of transport, saw little gain in the seizure of Abon Hamad, and resolved to concentrate his forces as near the Egyptian frontier as he could manage. He has, therefore, it is stated, resolved to wait the hot weather out at Old Dongola, holding, however, other points further south which will be of value when be next advances. The delay will somewhat dishearten the troops ; but it will enable all preparations to he made complete, and will allow of heavy reinforcements. Of course, the attack on Osman Digna from Suakim will go on, and the troops to make it are rapidly assembling. There is a report of want of water at Suakim ; but there must be condensing-engines at Aden, which could be speedily brought up.
We are happy to see that the Ministry are at last beginning to refuse to answer questions about war preparations. A Parliamentary Government cannot keep many secrets, but it is simply impossible for a General to conduct a war while he is placed by politicians under a microscope. It is not wise to publish even the contract with Messrs. Lucas for the Suakim Railway, while to state the date for its completion is to warn the Mandi when he will be attacked ; and, what is worse, for how long he may be fearless about his line of retreat if he marches Northward. If the House does not trust the Minister for War, let it turn him out ; but if it does, let him have full discretion as to what he will say and not say. Information as to past events is already as full as it can be ; and to ask what a General means by a movement of retreat or concentration, is to invite the enemy to attack him. We question even if such exact accounts of numbers are prudent ; but if Govern. ment cannot keep the newspapers quiet, it can hold its own tongue, and, when necessary, should.
The irritation, real or simulated, of Prince Bismarck with England found expression on Monday in a long speech delivered by the Chancellor to the Reichstag. In this speech he accused Great Britain of unfriendliness, shown in the publication of conversations with the British Ambassador of the " most confidential character," which were never meant to be reported, and by statements that he had advised Great Britain to take Egypt. He had given no such advice. He had volunteered nothing ; but when pressed by the British Ambassador to give him a hint of his opinion, he had stated that were he Minister of Great Britain he should not annex Egypt, and thus produce a tension among the Powers, but should obtain a " lease" of Egypt from the Sultan. This would avoid excitement in the Mussnlman world, and would conciliate the French financiers, while it would leave all treaties intact, and would give England the security needful to her in a connecting-link between her European and her Asiatic possessions. The Chancellor, however, added, that "if England should prefer to annex Egypt, we should not regard it as part of our duty to prevent her. Friendship with England is more important for us than the future fate of Egypt." The German Chancellor, however, while making these declarations, anxiously disclaimed all unfriendliness to the English nation. He even went the absurd length of stating that " he attached great importance to the continuance of good relations between England and France "—whom he is striving to set by the ears—and wound-up his speech by saying that " he should do all in his power, in the most conciliatory manner, sine ird et studio, to restore our relations to that footing of calm and friendly intercourse which has always existed between us and England, and which is natural to both countries, neither having vital interests that conflict with those of the other." He hardly believed that the British Government would continue to oppose his Colonial policy, "as it has done in the Cameroons, as well as in Australia, New Guinea, Fiji, and other places." It is noticed that since this speech Count Herbert Bismarck, acknowledged to be his father's most confidential agent, has been in England, nominally on a visit to Lord Rosebery, and has been closeted with Lord Granville, and it is supposed, therefore, that some final proposals have been made. To outsiders, who see quite well that the Chancellor is, as usual, employing his fatal frankness to conceal something, the only reflection which occurs is the instinctive one,—" What the devil is the man at ?" He is driving at something which is very near to his heart, but what is it P Certainly not to give stout young Germans, who might make food for cannon, an opportunity of dying of fever in New Guinea and the Cameroons.
Mr. Cleveland, the new President of the United States, was sworn-in on March 4th, and made a speech, which, though not free from the vagueness characteristic of Royal Speeches and Presidential Addresses, was in parts of a high tone. He is obviously inclined to peace, Free-trade, and economy, but is sensible that such questions must be decided by the Legislature rather than himself. Moreover, while in his Messages he must give advice, in his Address he is speaking, not to Congress, but to the whole people. He was most clear and decided about Civil Service Reform, and upon the final settlement of the position of the Negroes within the Union. They "are citizens, and entitled to all rights." His Cabinet is considered in America to be well selected, Mr. Bayard being Secretary of State,—or, as we should say, Premier, with the foreign portfolio. He is detested by the Irish, whose advocate in the Senate has moved to disallow the appointment. The Finance Minister is Mr. Manning, of whom little is known except that he is sound on currency, and, like the President, opposed both to paper-money and the further coinage of silver dollars. _ _
New South Wales is enthusiastic over the departure of its regiment for the Soudan. The day (March 3rd) was observed as a public holiday, and the Governor made an address, in which be declared that they had volunteered " to suppress a system of unspeakable cruelty, and for the establishment of order and justice in a misgoverned country." Many among them were rich men, who had seized the chance of service in a bloody was' "in order to show to the world the unity of the mighty and invincible Empire of which they are members." " Our earnest wish is that you may come back crowned with England's gratitude as you are now encompassed by her sympathies." Lord A. Loftus speaks in a slightly rhetorical tone ; but the enthusiasm is evidently most fervent. The Colony votes the whole expenses, and will provide for the families of those who fall; while the ranks of the regiment are full of men of fortune and standing in the Colony. It is said that no fewer than eight officers have enlisted as privates to share in the Expedition.
We published an account on September 20th, 1884, of a proposal made in the Canton Vaud to impose a progressive property-tax on personalty only, land being exempted, nominally because it yields little, but really because the peasants would not tax themselves. The tax begins with fortunes of 22,000, and may be roughly taken as equal to a two-shilling income-tax on all possessed of personalty above that amount. As this is in addition to a heavy communal tax on personalty, the Vaudois owner of £-2,000 will pay directly a fourth of his income to the State, while the peasant-proprietor nearly escapes, and intends to sweep away most other taxes. The proposal was opposed to the Constitution of the Canton ; but a Constituent Assembly agreed to it, and it was then submitted to the people. We have just heard that it has been accepted by a large majority. This is the first instance, we believe, in which direct confiscation of personalty
only has been ordered by a Democracy, though repudiation. in some of the Southern States of America, has involved the same principle.
" Society " has been greatly interested this week in a suit brought by the Earl of Durham. praying the Divorce Court to declare his marriage with Miss Ethel Milner null. He asserts that she was either mad or fatuous at the time of her marriage, and therefore incompetent to give consent. There is no doubt the lady is insane now ; but the question is as to her insanity at the time of her marriage, and upon this point all testimony turns. Some evidence has been taken is eamerei, but the body of testimony produced in Court is, as yet, in Lady Durham's favour. Lord Durham's relatives think her shyness and silence proofs of insanity, as does be himself,—though he could not have thought so at the time.—but her relatives and friends, the latter of whom include people beyond suspicion, say she was till some time after the marriage very retiring, but otherwise like everybody else. The case is watched with a certain malicious interest, and certainly does not tend to dissipate the old impression that frivolity is not an educating profession.
"Proportional representation " is snuffed-out, at all events for the present. On Monday, Sir John Lubbock moved an instruction to the Committee on the Redistribution Bill which was intended to raise the subject, and supported it by an able speech of the usual kind, denying that in large constituencies the element of chance in the Hare scheme could have any appreciable effect, and urging the danger of representing the Irish Loyalists as less strong in Ireland than they really are. Mr. E. Leatham made an able speech against the proposal expressly on the ground which we have so often urged, that the first quality necessary for a good electoral system is simplicity, and that to allow second and third preferences to determine elections would be introducing a non-political and fancy element into the matter, pregnant with the greatest possible dangers. Sir Charles Dilke, who bad once favoured the system, also spoke against it, as also did Mr. Shaw-Lefevre.
On Tuesday, when the debate was resumed, Mr. Courtney made a most eloquent appeal in its favour, but quite failed to interest the House, which grew the more hilarious the more ardent Mr. Courtney became. Was Mr. Courtney's proposal to weight the Government against the possible crotcheteers which minority representation might produce, by counting them, as the billiard-markers say, "fifty-up," before beginning to reckon the votes on a division, serious, or was it an elaborate joke? Whether serious or jocose, we cannot imagine a proposal more carefully calculated to take all the weight out of Mr. Courtney's speech than one intended to give a false bottom, as it were, to the strength of the Government in the House of Commons. If the proposal were serious, Mr. Courtney would be ruined as a statesman. If it were jocose, his levity would be held to be very damaging to him. The division showed 31 for Sir John Lubbock's motion, and 131 against it. Of the 33 who, including the tellers, voted for it, 16 were Conservatives and 17 Liberals.
The Oxford Convocation is to be asked next Tuesday,—rather by surprise, for the proposal has been forced rather rapidly through the preliminary stages,—to vote a further sum of 2500 a year to the 1Vynplate Professor of Physiology for the use of his physiological laboratory. Those who disapprove of engrafting Vivisection on the normal practices of a great University intend to oppose this grant until a decree shall be formulated which will prohibit what they object to, and impose the fitting conditions on the use to which a Universitylaboratory should be turned. We trust the resistance may be successful. It is neither accurate nor fair to represent it as purely obstructive, for its purpose is definite,—to obtain a restrictive decree imposing reasonable conditions on the use of the Laboratory. It is true that Professor Burdon Sanderson has promised not to use Vivisection for teaching purposes, though his promise does not bind his successors. But even such a promise as that is not enough. He retains the right to use it for private investigation. Now, painful experiments on living animals should not be permitted in the University at all. Whether the practice be wrong, as we believe, or right, it is in the highest degree unsuitable for a University, and certain to exercise a mischievous influence on the characters of the students of both sexes.