12 DECEMBER 1885, Page 4



THE Elections have ended in a large majority for the Liberals over the Tories ; but either in a tie between the Liberals and the other two parties combined, or in a majority of 1 or 2 against them. We are not in the least disposed to underrate the great majority which the Liberals have gained in Great Britain,—a majority of 100 or 101,—which, if not quite so great as the majority of 1880 in Great Britain, is yet much greater than it was at the close of the last Parliament, when it was only 87. And, moreover, this great majority has been gained under very adverse circumstances, seeing that nearly every. Irish vote in Great Britain has been given against us. It would be ungrateful, therefore, not to recognise that Great Britain is Liberal to the core, in spite both of Mr. Parnell's orders and Mr. Chamberlain's indis- cretions. But it is of no use to deny that the results of our great victory in Great Britain have been neutralised by our great failure in Ireland. There the reforming party has not carried a single seat. There Mr. Gladstone has been told that Irishmen prefer the party who have steadily refused to remedy Irish wrongs, to the party which has striven with all its might to remedy them, but has nevertheless punished crime and resisted revolution with unflinching steadiness. If the Irish cannot have their grievances redressed in their own way, they would, we suppose, rather hug their grievances than have them redressed in any other way. At all events, they prefer the men who gave nothing to the men who gave much, but not all. Still, failure is failure, however we may explain it. Mr. Gladstone has been rejected by Ireland, at Mr. Parnell's order, with so unanimous and peremptory a voice, that it is simply childish to hope that a Liberal Government could undertake the pacification of Ireland,—the very first duty to be done,—with any good hope of success. The Con- servatives are, we think, at least bound to attempt it before we interfere. They have got 18 followers in Ireland, while we have none. The Parnellites have professed loudly a greater confidence in them than in us. If the Liberals accepted power, they could not wield power in Ireland except by Tory help. It is equally true, of course, that the Conservatives, if they remain in office, cannot wield power in Ireland except by Liberal help. But supposing their statesmanship to be wise, —and we must not condemn it as unwise until we know what it is and are forced to condemn it,—there is more propriety in our lending support to a party which has won about half the Ulster seats, than in asking them to lend support to a party which has not won a single seat in the whole island. Of course, we can only lend them support if we approve their plans, and think them for the advantage of both Ireland and Great Britain. But as the stress of the crisis is wholly Irish, we would much rather see Mr. Gladstone lending the Tories all the advantage of his impartial criticism and advice, than insist on his taking the initiative in the solution of a problem so difficult, at the very moment when Ireland has, with osten- tatious ingratitude, repudiated all he has done for her, and declared herself better disposed to make terms with her bitterest antagonists than with him. It is impossible that the political Equilibrium of this Parliament can ever be very stable. With 86 votes always removable at pleasure from one scale to the opposite, stable equilibrium is not to be thought of. But it is obvious that whatever Mr. Gladstone can do,—and we believe he could do much,—to facilitate the inauguration of a better state of things, can better be done from the Oppo- sition benches, by way of moderating criticism, than from the benches of the responsible Government. A very great part is left for him to play. He can make it impossible for the Tories even to propose a dangerous surrender of British interests to Irish interests, or a weak surrender of Great Britain's positive obligation to take care that a policy of confiscation and plunder shall not be implicitly authorised in Ireland. He can also make it impossible to the Tories to refuse any reasonable concession to the Irish claim for self-govern- ment, if that concession endangers neither the Union nor the impartial administration of justice to Ireland. But just as Mr. Gladstone was able to do more for reform when he imposed his own conditions on Mr. Disraeli in 1867, instead of driving him from power, so we believe that he will be able to do more for the relations between Great Britain and Ireland, if he enforces his own conditions on the Tories instead of driving them from power. A party with at least a strong following

in Ulster has a better right to be heard on the present critical situation, than a party whose whole strength lies on this side of the Irish Channel.

And there is this great advantage in the refusal of the Opposition, for the present at least, to take power,—namely, that the conditions which we can impose on the Irish claims will be imposed with far more authority by a party which numbers at least half of the House than they could be by a party which, without its Irish allies, would be in a hopeless minority. The terms to be made with the Irish people can only be made if the Irish people are fully convinced that they can never be in a better position to make terms than they are• now, and that they can get no better terms than Great Britain is willing to offer. As we understand the situation, we ought to drive two convictions into the minds of the Irish democracy, —(1), that the Union is to remain a real and effective- Union, that we are not going to make Ireland a present of the means of putting every possible annoyance upon us, though we retain the full responsibility for protecting Ireland from with- out ; and (2), that we are not going to allow her popular party, predominant though they be, to murder those who enforce the law in that country, or to put all sorts of moral and physical torture upon them, simply because the popular party has proscribed them, and has declared them unworthy to be treated as human beings. If, after passing such an Act as the Land Act, Great Britain allows the Irish peasantry to shoot into every unpopular landlord's house, to beat and strip bailiffs who serve writs upon the tenantry, and send them wandering naked over the mountains ; and, in short, to defy in the most cruel way the very law to which she has compelled the landlords to submit, she will but crown a career of centuries of injustice to. one class with a most shameful desertion of another. Well, what we contend is that the Liberals, sitting on the Opposi- tion benches, can insist on fall and adequate guarantees, both for political order and for social order, with infinitely more force and authority than the Conservatives could. It is the Liberals who passed the Land Act, and who, as Lord Harting- ton justly said in one of his Lancashire speeches, have the moral right to insist that those who suffered by it shall not be further oppressed if they loyally co-operate in working out the policy it imposed. Again, it is the Liberals who can best speak for the people in this country, representing, as they do, a large majority in this country. Surely, then, it is on every account desirable that the Liberals should exact the guaran- tees from the Irish rather than that the Conservatives should try to do so. In the first place, they can exact the guarantees, while the Conservatives could not. In the next place, the guarantees desired by the Liberals will be the kind of guarantees that the country is never likely to dispense with ; while the kind of guarantees desired by the Conservativees would be, very probably, such as a majority of the people might regard with hesitation and distrust. And, indeed, the Irish have, as we said, almost chosen for them- selves that the Liberals should occupy this position of criticising, and moderating, and placing conditions on, their claims, rather than that of advocating them. They have cast us off with an ostentatious scorn which is quite inconsistent with any idea of concerting with us the conditions of the future. They have appealed to the Tories, and to the Tories they should go. It remains for us to guard and limit the terms of the negotiation, not to conduct it.

We have always said that we hoped, in this most difficult and dangerous Irish crisis, that the moderate men of both, parties might act together. If we had obtained a good working majority over the two parties united, Mr. Glad- stone could not, of course, have refused the responsibility of advising Parliament as to the recast of the relations -between Great Britain and Ireland which must follow Mr. Parnell's victory. But as Mr. Gladstone is not now in a position to speak with authority for the majority of the repre- sentatives of the Union, it is only reasonable that the Conserva- tives should take the initiative, and that Mr. Gladstone should revise what they propose, on behalf of the people of this island. Mr. Parnell, after doing all in his power to return the Conserva- tives to power, cannot with any decency disown his chosen allies. And, indeed, as the Conservatives are more in sympathy with the Ulster Conservatives than we are, they really stand between the two antagonists to be reconciled,—their allies, the Parnellites, and their Ulster followers,—and are picked out by the votes of the Irish electors as the natural arbiters of the situation. We are tolerably sure that Mr. Gladstone will recognise this, and that. he will decline to disturb the

present Government in their tenure of office, at least until he is satisfied that they cannot or will not discharge the respon- sible task for which the strange decision of the new democracy has obviously destined them.