12 DECEMBER 1885, Page 5


IT is quite natural that a defeated party should seek to console itself by the assertion that it ought to have triumphed, and that, as usual in this complex universe, force has prevailed over merit ; and we would not for the world deprive beaten opponents of a conviction which mitigates the bitter- ness of their sorrow. It would be too hard, when they are railing at Fate, to remind them that the only Fate is Provi- dence, which they thus implicitly admit to be on the Liberal side ; or to urge, when they complain of " the big battalions," that to raise big battalions is often a proof of the highest military ability. It was not because he was an incompetent General that Napoleon usually outnumbered his foes. The special consolation, however, which the Tories are for the moment taking to themselves is just a little ludicrous. They affirm in all their journals, almost in the same words, that "the intelligence of the country " has condemned the Liberals. But for the farm labourer, they say, Mr. Glad- . stone would have been defeated, and poor Hodge is in their eyes an ignorant lout, voting for he knows not whom, to gain some unfair advantage, he scarcely can say what. All that is splenetic nonsense. A little while ago the Tories were never tired of contrasting" the ricketty and undersized " artisan of the towns, whose ready ear was given to every agitator, with the " sturdy and shrewd " tiller of the soil, who knew that his own interests and those of the landlord were in- separably bound together ; and even now we suppose they would, as regards one-third of England, reiterate that opinion. The labourer who has voted for the Tories must, in Tory opinion, be competent to vote,—more than competent, high- principled, for he resists the hope of gain. The Liberals might reply to Punch's taunt that, even if some of the Tory diatribes were true, the labourers who turned the balance for their side are at least the intellectual equals of the half-skilled Irish workmen, and servants of workmen, who in the boroughs turned it for the Tories ; while it is simple folly to assert that outside those two classes a superiority in intelligence rests with the Conservative Party. The Liberal Cabinet is stronger in ability than the Tory, the Reform Club would face the Carlton before the Civil Service Examiners, and the Liberal Members are at least the equals in culture of their Tory rivals. If the Conservatives have won London, with its keen-witted popula- tion, great wealth, and varied interests, we have won Scotland and the best educated population in the Three Kingdoms, not to say in Europe. The Liberals may fairly quote Yorkshire as at least as " bright" as Lancashire, and set off the Mid- lands, whence the greatest minds have come, against the Home counties, filled to the neck with the overspill of London vulgarity and wealth. If the thousands of men in the rural districts who are not labourers could be sub- mitted to mental tests, it would, we believe, be found that in weight of character, in force of will, and in positive knowledge, the Liberals were slightly superior to their adver- saries,—superior, first, because the dissident from any pro- sperous system must be individual ; and superior,because for generations they have been fighting such an uphill fight. Any marked " character " in the countryside in almost any grade is twice in three times a strong Liberal with a fad at the back of his head. There is one fact, at least, which nobody can doubt, and that is that outside London the Liberals everywhere support the more intelligent journals, a provincial paper of the higher class being almost of necessity Liberal. In truth, however, all such comparisons are as useless as they are disagreeable. A broad suffrage in every country will include, and is intended to include, large classes of men who cannot form an intelligent opinion upon complicated or difficult questions of politics, but who can and do decide wisely on whom to rely as guides. In this country those guides belong to both parties, and the intel- lectual difference between them is probably very small. Except upon economic questions, on which the Tory mind even among statesmen appears habitually to fail, men are not Liberals or Tories because of comparative ability, but because either of

inherent bias, or because of their interests, or because of their judgment upon the questions placed by the parties before them. The greatest Europeans of this generation have been Tories and Liberals in nearly equal proportions; and it is not in brain so much as in character that the present party leaders in England strike careful observers as so ill-matched. We have always thought, on the one hand, that Mill was wiser when he said there was a case not yet argued out for a non-progressive society than when he called the Tories " the stupid party ;" and, on the other band, we do not believe that the cause of progress ever appeals strongly to the unintelligent.

The revolt of the counties—and there has been revolt, for outside the Home counties the Liberals, even when beaten, have hardly anywhere been placed in a hopeless minority— has been due, in the main, we believe, to three broad causes. First and foremost has been the different spirit in which the Liberals have worked. There have always, even in the counties, been considerable Liberal minorities ; but except in times of strong excitement, they have shrunk from contests which were excessively expensive, which exposed them to much social persecution, and which the voting seemed nearly always to show were from the beginning hopeless. They did not care to fight a locally unpopular cause without a chance. This time, aware that they might win, if only the new recruits stood firm, they came out in their full strength—the rural Dissenters being especially in front—and hundreds voted and worked who in ordinary elections would have effaced themselves from despair. The second cause was no doubt the liberalism of the labourers, who did not believe in three acres or any other bribe, but who did believe that if they voted against the old monopolists of power a better time might arrive for them, like the rest of the world. They had a chance for the first time of expressing their discontent. in what they considered not only a respectable, but a most honourable way—it is the one point on which testimony is unanimous, that the labourers are delighted with the vote—and they used their chance, and will use it again, until their condition has improved. This discontent has been denied, in spite of the steady emigration from the counties, of the eagerness with which labourers grasp at any prospect for their children of quitting labour " on the land," and of the declarations of the great Labourers' Union ; but it will not be questioned again. It will be recognised henceforth for years as a force in politics, and as the justification of innumerable pro- posals, some of which will succeed. And the third cause, steadily ignored by the majority of writers on the sub- ject, was the extraordinary, almost inexplicable, influence of Mr. Gladstone. He has not done much for the labourer beyond giving him the vote, has said very little about him, and has offered him neither three acres nor any other bribe ; but his name has fixed itself into their minds as the concrete symbol of good. The labourers know little even yet of Mr. Chamberlain, and nothing whatever of other Liberal leaders ; but they know of Mr. Gladstone, and they express the feeling towards him entertained by the Scotch peasantry. That he is good, that he is on their side, and that he will to the extent of his power make their lives happier, are with them convictions, only rivetted the more firmly by the contempt which many of the upper class and some of the Clergy cast upon his name. While the artisans were abandoning him under some dream of Fair-trade, or dislike of his foreign policy, or weariness, it may be, of Aristides, the labourers showed a fresh enthusiasm for him which amazed —and, we rather fancy, startled—a good many of the more Radical candidates. These were, we believe, the broad causes of the revolt, which, as we said last week, of all recent move- ments will most deeply affect the politics of the future. Every county seat is now open to capture, the self-derived power of--- the great families having been cut up by the roots ; but as time goes on, it will be seen that Liberals sitting for counties will differ in some respects materially from Liberals sitting for boroughs. They will be far more determined, far less inclined to sentiment, and, we suspect strongly, far more influenced by the old patriotism. The Irish cause," for example, loses heavily in the rush of county Liberals into the House of Commons.