17 APRIL 1880, Page 4



IT is amusing to see the struggles made by the journals which are not Liberal, but which strive (rather fruitlessly) to accommodate themselves to the final decision of the country, to solve the problem of the future Cabinet in a fashion which would at once save them the humiliation of seeing Mr. Gladstone where they have denied him the right to be, and yet satisfy, partially at least, the demand of the people. Their own wishes and the people's wishes being absolutely opposed, they cannot, of course, be really reconciled ; but all sorts of futile and make-believe attempts can be made to recon- cile them ; and, indeed, actually are made. Mr. Gladstone must, of course, be in the Cabinet, but he might be Minister without portfolio and without salary, which would save him, amongst other advantages, the trouble of re-election. Mr. Gladstone must be in the Cabinet, but he must make the last great sacrifice which can be required of a true patriot,—he must descend to some lower office, having held the highest, and show his loyalty to the men who have succeeded him. Or, Mr. Gladstone must be in the Cabinet, but he must leave the Lower House to the lead of Lord Hartington, and go to the House of Lords, where he can have the satisfaction of meeting his old adversary in single combat. Of course, such solutions are all nonsense, and those who put them forth know them to be nonsense. Everybody knows that there is no real choice between a Government without Mr. Glad- stone,—that is, one which, if he were so inclined, and perhaps even without any inclination on his part, he might some day involuntarily upset,—and a Government of which he shall be the head, and the head in the Commons. The reasons for this are exceedingly simple, so simple that those who offer these false solutions of the difficulty which they find within themselves (for it does not exist in reality at all), never really forget them, though they are always trying to think they have evaded them, and they are these. In the first place, the foreign policy for which the people have declared, is the policy of Mr. Gladstone, a policy sketched by Mr. Gladstone when the present leaders of the Liberal party did not see their way to supporting him in that policy, but threw cold-water upon it. In the next place, the Leader the people have declared for, in every way in which it is possible to declare themselves, is Mr. Gladstone. They have been told persistently for years that Mr. Gladstone is not a-true Liberal, but a Radical. They have been told that the great moderate Liberal party so widely scattered through- out the country, were alienated by Mr. Gladstone's course, and would not support any policy of which he was the representa- tive. In answer to that appeal, borough after borough, and county after county, have declared themselves enthusiastically for the leader of the Midlothian campaign ; and there is, as far as we know, no section of the new Liberal party—no group in it, however small—which would have been re- turned, if the members of it had avowed their disaffection to Mr. Gladstone, and their adhesion to some central party rejecting his lead. This being so, and the declare- tion of the people having been given in the most explicit manner, both for Mr. Gladstone's foreign policy and for the Liberals who acknowledge Mr. Gladstone,—who are, as we heartily admit, the same who acknowledge Lord Granville and Lord Harlington, for these latter have always warmly declared their loyalty to their former leader,—the relegation of Mr. Gladstone to any place in the Government except the chief place, would leave the instability of the Cabinet exactly where it would be if he remained outside the Government altogether, or perhaps even leave the Cabinet still less stable. For if he remained outside the Govern- ment altogether, Mr. Gladstone would certainly make great allowances for considerations known to the Cabinet which were not known to him, and might, therefore, often feel it his duty to suppress criticisms which, in the Cabinet, he would find it absolutely essential to press. We can, indeed, imagine no falser position for Mr. Gladstone than any place in a Liberal Cabinet except the chief place. The notion which those who dread his influence seem to entertain, that the views which they think more moderate than his, would have more influence if they were advocated in the Cabinet by men of higher nominal responsibility than his own, is probably the very reverse of the truth. Were Mr. Gladstone the acknowledged leader, and were a view different in any essential respect from his own urged upon the Cabinet by one of his colleagues, it would, we believe, have its full weight on his mind, perhaps even more than its full weight, when he remembered, as he would of course remember, that be who urged it might have been the leader, if the country had not recalled him to his old place by so decisive an expression of its will. But were it otherwise, were a view different from his own pressed upon him from above by those who had official precedence of him, though every one knew that they had not half his influence with the country, there would, we think, be much less probability that a mind like Mr. Gladstone's would give the full weight to such considerations. The truth is that the genius of an acknowledged leader and a great leader is in an unnatural position, and almost neces- sarily under disturbing conditions, when it has to act in a subordinate position. Such a one so placed, instead of giving the true weight to the considerations which tell against his own view, is always apt in such cases to invest with even adventitious significance the views he is asked to waive. We can easily imagine, not Mr Gladstoneonly, but any great and conscientious statesman. who had been accustomed to lead in council, but who in the crisis at issue was holding office, say without portfolio, feeling it a positive duty to resign his place in a Cabinet which was disposed to overrule his policy, although, if he had been the leader, and had listened to the very same debate with the clear knowledge that his was the final voice, his judgment might have been far more deeply influenced by the opposite view than it could be under the disturbing influence of a false position. It is not the third or fourth position, but the first, which gives the natural and healthy sense of responsibility to the man who knows that he has the power to have his own way. The knowledge that he can overrule the issue ulti- mately only deranges his judgment, if he has not got the power of deciding immediately. The power of deciding im- mediately is exercised with all the more caution and reserve, from the knowledge that all the ultimate forces which are at any one's disposal are at his, and that if he fails, the responsi- bility of failing cannot be fairly divided with any one else. Ifthose who distrust Mr. Gladstone's judgment really wish to give Lord Granville, or Lord Harlington, or whomever they may specially happen to trust, the largest power to influence his judgment in the Cabinet, let them place Mr. Gladstone in his natural position of Liberal Chief. They may be quite sure that in any other position, the views which may be in any sense peculiarly his own, will assume, and must naturally and inevitably assume, a higher importance than they otherwise would, and be more likely to speak with the perhaps factitious authority of an inexorable conscience. Mr. Gladstone can have no natural place in any Liberal Cabinet but the first, and it is always a hazardous experiment,—an experiment which even the ascetic experience of the monastery and the convent have proved to be hazardous in the case of purely individual self- discipline,—to force yourself into a position of artificial humility. The common-sense of the matter comes to this :—A Cabinet without Mr. Gladstone would be wanting, and most gratuit- ously wanting, in the popular support which the Elections have proved that the Liberal party has received from the nation. A Cabinet with Mr. Gladstone, but with Mr. Gladstone in any position but that of Prime Minister, would have far less external popularity than one in which he held his natural place. But that would not be the worst. By divorcing the nominal authority from the real centre of popular power, it would place both the nominal leaders and the real representative of the people in a false position,— would aggravate the difficulties of calm deliberation,—and probably ultimately diminish instead of increasing the weight attaching to the views of those who, while occupying the first place in the Government, had not obtained the first place in the confidence of the people. Finally, a Cabinet in which Mr. Gladstone was Prime Minister, but sat as Prime Minister in the House of Lords, would be regarded as a bad imitation of the last, in one of its worst features,—that of attempting to transfer power from the Commons to the Lords.