18 DECEMBER 1880, Page 6


NOTHING is more certain, to those who study the country papers, than that there is not an iota of evidence in favour of the statement, made at almost every Tory meeting, that the country is already beginning to regret the result of the elections of last spring, and to drift back into sympathy with the party then so emphatically condemned. On the con- trary, whether you take elections like the recent Scotch and Welsh elections, or whether you take the tone of Liberal meetings, nothing is more obvious than that the names of Mr. Gladstone, Lord Granville, and Lord Hartington are received with all, if not more than all, the enthusiasm of the spring; and that even on the subjects on which the supporters of the Govern- of the Irish Disturbance Bill and Mr. Bradlaugh,—nay, on the subject of the refusal of the Government to re-enact coercion in Ireland before bringing in its reform of the land-law,—it is simply impossible to elicit from any great Liberal meet- ing the smallest indication of dissatisfaction with Mr. Gladstone's policy. To take one or two random illus- trations. At Sir Charles Dilke's meeting in Chelsea, on Monday night, Mr. Childers, who happening to be in the ante-room, was discovered there by Sir Charles Dilke, and invited to come up on the platform, was received with the most enthusiastic cheering by the audience as representing the Cabinet ; and when, in the remarks which he after- wards made, he asserted that the proposals of her Majesty's Government in relation to Ireland would be " thoroughly in accordance with the wish of the great Liberal party in the country," the audience,—who, of course, knew that the Government had steadily refused to let coercion precede reform,—interrupted him with enthusiastic cheers. Again, take the meeting held at Cardiff on Tuesday by the constituents of Sir E. J. Reed,—formerly the Chief Con- structor of the Navy,—to hear his review of the last Session and of the political situation. Sir E. J. Reed did not shrink from a very menacing reference to the conduct of the House of Lords last Session, which we quote, in order to show how it was received :—" We are told," he said, "that the aristocracy are trained to a large degree in the profession of politics. We hear a great deal, on the other hand, of the desirability of a representation of the working-classes in Parliament,—that is, special representation for the working-classes. But I should like to ask if any special representation of the working-classes would have brought about any result so deplorable. Then they might ask, what are the advan- tages of the aristocratical training, and when they found that this political training was attended with such results, may consider whether it would not be well to get rid of the training and the aristocracy also. (Loud cheers.) I do not, however, think that we have, or are likely to have, this neces- sity forced upon us, because, fortunately, we have on our side of politics noblemen with an aristocratic training for the pro- fession of politics, as distinguished for their political training as any man. (Hear, hear.) I believe there does not exist in this country two men more worthy of respect than Lord Granville and Lord Hartington. (Loud cheers.) Therefore, I do not think that it will be necessary for us to be very pre- cipitate in excluding the aristocracy from our political system altogether. (Load laughter)" It is clear enough that the Cardiff meeting felt nothing but indignation with the House of Lords for their rejection of the Irish Bills last Session, and were delighted with Sir E. J. Reed's sarcasm on the bad effects of aristocratic training, and his suggestion of the possible contingency that it might some day be well " to get rid of that training and the aristocracy also." The more rash such a suggestion may appear, the more remarkable it is that it should have been received with so much favour at a time when, as we are told, the country is already beginning to be sick of the weakness and timidity of the Liberal Government in relation to Irish affairs. Sir E. J. Reed, in a later part of his speech, re- ferred expressly, and with severe condemnation, to the con- duct of the House of Lords in rejecting Mr. Forster's Disturbance Bill, and was interrupted by ejaculatory anathemas on the House of Lords for their conduct, and the most enthusiastic applause of his remarks on the sub- ject of the Irish land-law. But the instances of the support accorded by the Liberals of the country to Mr. Gladstone's Government, not only in general, but especially as regards its Irish policy, are to be counted by scores. Note, for in- stance, the reception given to Mr. Whitbread's speech at the Corn Exchange, Bedford, on Thursday. When he cen- sured the levity of Mr. Lowther's recent speech on Ireland at West Hartlepool, the sympathy of his audience was emphatic. When he spoke of the extreme reluctance of Mr. Gladstone to try coercion before it was absolutely necessary, he was interrupted with enthusiastic cheering. When he insisted that the time had come when coercion must be associated with reform,, he was listened to quietly, but with something of that suspense of judgment attaching to a matter on which the Government had not as yet declared its mind. Indeed, though we could record a few instances of hesitations and reserves on the part of sitting Members, in relation to the Irish policy of the Government, we could not record one of any popular feeling in favour of such hesitations and reserves. meat m Parhament.were least unanimous, even on the subjeots- And with regard to the hesitations and rewrites • themselves,

this is to be noticed,—that instead of having grown more numerous of late, as the condition of Ireland has become more serious, they have decidedly grown less numerous. We do not hesitate to say that numbers of Members who went down to the country in a vacillating condition of mind, and dis- posed to give a very ambiguous support to the Government, especially on Irish questions, will return to Westminster next month with their minds much clearer than they were, and without the doubts and hesitations in which they were then disposed to indulge.

In a word, the Liberal feeling of the country is unanimous in its confidence in the Government. It respects the resolve to accompany any repressive legislation that may be- necessary for Ireland by thorough remedial legislation, and yet there is nothing but disgust and condemnation for the terrorism which prevails in Ireland. The country, however, has learned a lesson. It sees that repressive legislation in Ireland has been the regularly returning refrain of almost every decade of Irish legislation, and has come to no good in the end. If the evil is to be cured, it must be cured by something deeper than coercion ; and Mr. Gladstone's Govern- ment is, in the belief of the Liberals of Great Britain, the best judge of what that legislation should be, and how it should be presented. The vacillating Liberals,—the Liberals who condemn the Government for not anticipating reform by co- ercion, have found no encouragement at all amongst their constituents.