17 APRIL 1880, Page 9


NOTHliNG seems to be more capricious than the qualities which recommend candidates to English electors, —we are not now speaking of either Scotch or Irish electors, because, in many respects, both Scotch and Irish electors seem to choose rather more in accordance with political considera- tions, and less in accordance with local and personal considera- tions, than the English. The Scotch will often take an Eng- lishman who is a mere stranger, because he represents their opinions ; the English hardly ever, unless he comes very well introduced, and touches their fancy, too. The Irish Catholics will even prefer a Protestant, if he serves their purpose better. The English Protestants will hardly ever choose a Catholic, how- ever well he may serve their purpose. There are certainly a great many more humours in the choice of most English constituen- cies than in the choice of either Scotch or Irish constituencies. Undoubtedly the local principle,—the recommendation of local note and familiarity, tells a vast deal more on English constituen- cies than on either Scotch or Irish. And yet it is very often difficult to say in what particular way this principle will act. There is the case of Mr. Mills, who represented Exeter for nearly seven years, between November, 1873, and the Election that has just taken place. Why, we wonder, did the Conservatives of Exeter put him lower on the poll than Mr. Northcote, who was new to them as a candidate ? We suppose because their familiarity with and regard for Sir Stafford Northcote made them prefer the Chancellor of the Exchequer's son, even to their own old Mem- ber; but it was certainly hard on their own old Member, who has, in consequence, lost his seat to Mr. Northcote, rather than to the successful Liberal. In the same way, it seems highly pro- bable that the enthusiasm for Mr. Gladstone at Leeds may result in bringing in his son for the spare seat, though there are many good Liberals to whom Leeds must owe much personal honour which the electors will never have the opportunity of paying. Apparently, with the English, strong as the feeling of habit and familiarity is as a political force, it is almost as much a feeling for the family as a feeling for the individual. It is rather the familiar name, the sense of knowing where the man comes from, of liking the associations of the family, taking pleasure that a new member of it has turned up who may be liked in the old way, than any strong individual loyalty to personal friends as such, which influences the election. This is, no doubt, partly the explanation of the triumphant return of Major-General Feilden for North Lancashire, who, in the funny speech which everybody has been laughing over,—himself, no doubt, amongst the heartiest of the laughers,—told his constituents very plainly that God created his father, who was much the best man of the two, leaving it to be surmised that the evidence failed as to the divine share in his own emergence into being. But Major- General Feilden did not appeal only to the liking of the North Lancashire men for his father, and for him on his father's account. He showed in a dumb sort of way a very good in- stinct as to the other qualities which county electors like to find in a candidate. He had not an idea of making a speech, but he contrived to blurt out, all the same, the qualifications which would go most to the hearts of the electors. His good- humoured bonhomie he made evident, by saying that they could not think less of him than he thought of himself. He added that he was very rich, had plenty of property in land, that he was a Major-General in the British Army, that the landed pro- prietors respected him " by force of circumstances and capacity, and excellent position," that the last thing he wanted to be was a Member of Parliament, but that he was told it was his duty to become one, by people whose judgment he clamed to ; that Ile loved the Church, wished to back up the Throne, did not care much as between the two parties, but was quite against changing the Government at the present moment. Now, all these characteristics were qualities to recommend themselves, so far as they went, to the Tory electors. They were sure Major-General Feilden would vote straight ; they were sure he would vote with "the laud ;" they were sure he wanted nothing of thent which they were not inclined to give; they were many of them inclined to think that they might, per- haps, obtain from him what he was well inclined to give—the neighbourly offices of a rich proprietor, who was fond of Black- pool, and even disposed to buy a house there. As for his oratory, what did it matter ? How could the House go on without silent votes, and a disciplined party ? Major-General Feilden would add to the silent votes, would increase the discipline of the party, and would be a good, wealthy neighbour into the bargain, with a sense of obligation on his mind towards those of them who were not so wealthy. How could Tory electors do better than vote for him ? We are by no means sure that the Tory electors did wrong. If, indeed, Parliament consisted in too large a degree of mute votes, deliberation would become impos- sible and, debate would be uninstructive. But there is no

danger of that. The danger is rather the other way,—of too many and too discordant voices. And while it is so, a few dumb representatives, on either side, of steady character and no pretence to political mind, would not be amiss.

But though the independent English elector is always ex- ceedingly sensitive to the external position of the man who

asks for his vote,—in a degree far beyond the Scotch elector, while the Irish elector shows no susceptibility whatever to the moral effect of external position,—it would be a mistake to suppose that position, wealth, bonhomie, and political steadiness are all that even the English county elector really cares for. These are enough for the English county elector, and far more than the equivalents of readiness and ability, when taken without position and social weight. But, no doubt, he likes something more, if he can get it. No doubt, Lord Hartington's laughing attacks on Mr. Cross, and the readiness and humour which he showed in his canvas in North-East Lancashire, had not a little to do with his own and his colleague's triumph (though Mr. Grafton, by the way, seems to have been carried by Lord Hartington, without any active oratorical co- operation of his own). Still, we doubt much whether all Lord Hartington's ability as a speaker did him as much good in his canvas for the county, as that silly:attempt of the Tories to damage him by placarding attacks on him for his interest in the Turf. If there is one feature in an English statesman's character which an ordinary county constituency would single out as the one endearing him to themselves, it would be a tendency to. spend too much time and money on the Turf. It is just the sort of irregularity which would touch their hearts,—in one, that is, who had enough position, standing, and social weight to make such an irregularity a matter of the slightest importance. Take it all in all, there is sufficient evidence, we think, that mere intellectual ability and power of speaking count for extremely little in county constituencies. Major- General Feilden is, in this respect, in no minute minority. In our own suburban counties, we had every means of judging the importance attached to mere speaking-power. Take Mid-Surrey. There has not been a cleverer canvas in any county con- stituency than that of Mr. Napier Higgins in Mid-Surrey, but he was not only rejected, but stood slightly lower at the poll than his Liberal colleague, who could hardly speak at all. In Middlesex, Mr. Herbert Gladstone was so popular as a speaker that it was confidently expected he would carry all before him; but when the return appeared, he had not greatly improved even on Lord Enfield's position in 1874. Intellectual capacity of any sort certainly tells as yet very slightly in county elections.

On the other hand, in boroughs it is certain that it tells a great deal. Mr. Bryce, for instance, quite won the heart of the Tower Hamlets by his many intellectual gifts. Nor was it exactly by brilliancy of speaking. Not unfrequently he treated his audience to somewhat severe constitutional disquisition, and they listened with all their ears, anxious to be instructed, rather than to be amused. Granted a certain frankness and bonhomie of manner, which is one of the most essential, we take it, of the qualifications of a candidate for an English seat, the power and will to teach are, we believe, not at all unwelcome to a large borough constituency. Mr. John Morley, who was the favourite with the Liberals of Westminster, has more of the genuine orator in him than Professor Bryce, and less of the College lecturer ; but for that very reason, perhaps, we doubt whether he was ever quite so successful, in proportion to his literary ability, as was Professor Bryce. With the larger borough constituencies, at least, we are inclined to think that the impression of a serene and yet profoundly earnest character tells more than mere power as an orator. Look at Professor Fawcett's popularity at Hackney. Now his speaking, though remarkable for positiveness of doctrine, independence, and gravity, has very little in it of mere eloquence. Again, take the influence of Mr. Mundella at Sheffield. We doubt whether there is in all England a representative who commands so much influence over the genuine working-class,--the shrewd, educated artisan, as Mr. Mundella. But his speaking is simply the natural expression of a sagacious mind, a large range of sympathy, and a profoundly earnest character, without any of the special attractions of oratorical skill. On the whole, we should regard eloquence as the least of all the qualifications which contribute to render a candidate eligible to a county constituency; and though by no means the least, still very far indeed from the greatest, of those which render a man eligible for a large borough constituency. Social position, wealth, and county standing, with bonhomie, are the principal qualifications in the counties. Character, earnestness, with bonhomie, are the principal quali- fications in the large boroughs, to which we may add any other evidence of general power that the candidate may be able to show. Eloquence tells, we believe, rather as one kind of power, than as the kind of power most appreciated. Any other evidence of power, such as great reputation for learning,—Mr. ltaskelyne's reputation for scientific knowledge was, for in- stance, immensely in his favour at Cricklade,—without pedantry, tells almost or quite as much as eloquence itself.