22 AUGUST 1885, Page 7


MR. KENNEDY is certainly not the kind of instructor who does credit to the Christian faith. But when his Bishop scourges him so severely for the lies he had advised his parishioners to tell rather than to vote contrary to their convictions, Dr. Hervey Goodwin might, we think, also have directed a little of his moral indignation against the sin which the clergyman in question had denounced as even worse than lying,—that of voting contrary to the voter's conscience, as well as that of applying a moral pressure to the elector which may result in his so voting. The following was the passage in Mr. Kennedy's address which the Bishop of Durham condemned, and condemned not a bit too vehemently ; for undoubtedly it would be understood by the rural voters Mr. Kennedy was addressing as a direct sanction to the practice of voting one way, and then telling their master or employer that they had voted the other :—" Be not befooled. Sons of toil, do not in politics trust a Tory. No, not if he came to you in an archangel's garb, and on banded knee before God's high altar, swore by the sign of man's redemption that he only meant you well. If you have any cause to fear him, deceive the deceiver,—I advise you, in plain terms, of the two evils to choose the least. If he must have an answer, tell your master a lie with your tongue in preference to marking with your pencil a terrible lie against yourself, your family, your class, your country, and your God." No rural voter who read that could doubt that if he voted one way and asserted that he had voted the other, Mr. Kennedy at least would think him quite excusable. And for our own parts, we would rather that a man never formed a political conviction in his life than that he formed one only to become the focus of a career of duplicity. Therefore, we entirely join the Bishop in his very sharp denunciation of Mr. Kennedy's address. But we must say that we think the Bishop extremely remiss in not appending to his stern disapprobation of Mr. Kennedy's discreditable advice, disapprobation at least as stern of the sin which Mr. Kennedy was aiming at when he tendered that advice,—namely, the giving a dishonest vote in order that the voter might be able to give safely an honest account of I's vote. We are not casuists, and hardly feel able to decide either with or against Mr. Kennedy as to the relative moral evil of the two cases supposed. Each alike is entirely revolting to true manliness. But we certainly will not under- take to say that if one had to compare the sin of voting against one's conscience in order to be able to declare honestly which way one had voted, with the sin of lying as to the vote one had given, that vote having been given according to one's con- science, we could declare the latter sin the worse of the two. Either alike is a cowardly and evil action, and we have always held it to be the vice of the ballot, or secret voting, that it too often needs a lie to make it even a superficial protection against tyranny. We have never concealed our dislike to the ballot on this very ground, and we shall never think Democracy really triumphant till it is able to abolish the ballot, and to require every elector to declare openly the political creed which he secretly holds. In tha mean- time, entirely as we concur in the Bishop of Carlisle's invective against Mr. Kennedy, we must say that it contains only the half of what he was bound to say if he had dealt adequately with the case. Mr. Kennedy gave very immoral advice ; but then the advice that he gave was not only immoral, it was also condemnatory of a very great immorality, which he may have been right in thinking even greater than the ina- morality he excused. Say what you will, there will be many voters, even in 1885, who will prefer to give votes which they sincerely disapprove rather than lie as to the votes they have given, and who will feel quite certain that they will have either to lie as to the votes they have given or to suffer seriously for declaring them, if they vote according to their consciences. Now, would not the Bishop have had far more chance of preventing this tyrannical and immoral attempt to tamper with the consciences of the poor and ignorant, by con- demning those who ask how a poor man has voted, than he has of preventing lying by condemning Mr. Kennedy ? Of course he was right in condemning Mr. Kennedy, but equally of course he was wrong in not expressing his full concurrence with Mr. Kennedy in denouncing the cowardice and selfishness of those who would rather give a vote they disapprove than run the risk of suffering for giving the vote they approve. And certainly the Bishop would have been more heeded by those who may be inclined to put pressure on the poor man's conscience, than he is at all likely to be heeded by those on whose consciences the pressure may be put. The farmers or landlords who may perhaps be tempted to inter- fere in this way with the political consciences of their labourers, would very often listen with respect to the Bishop's strong re- monstrance against so immoral a course. But the labourers who will generally be the subject of the pressure, are exceedingly likely never to hear of the Bishop's condemnation, or to think it too remote from their hearths and homes to regard it as seriously affecting them. We say, then, that the Bishop has missed the true moral of the occasion when he forbore to point out that Mr. Kennedy's advice, bad as it was, was directed against a real sin, though it was couched in the form of an excuse for another real sin. It is perfectly true that in speaking to a class which is not as yet highly trained, either intellectually or morally, it is the gravest possible wrong to recommend as the least of two evils a very serious moral offence ; for the untrained conscience is sure to accept such a recommendation as complete absolution for the commission of that least of two sins. None the less, the sin which the Bishop seems to pass over as if it were un- worthy of mention—the sin which Mr. Kennedy was so passionate in condemning—namely, the giving of a vote which the mind disapproves, is, to our mind, quite as grave as the sin which the Bishop is so justly indignant with Mr. Kennedy for appearing to recommend. It is virtually very nearly as much a lie as the lie which denies the vote after it is given. And it is certainly an offence which, if multiplied by hundreds of thousands, as it is not unlikely to be, might have even wider and more disastrous results. Of course we are not assuming, as Mr. Kennedy in his wild wrath against Toryism appears to assume, that no rural voter can honestly be anything but a Liberal. For our own parts, we suspect that many thousands, perhaps many scores of thousands, among the rural voters will be honestly Conservative ; and we hold that they would be just as cowardly and mean if they gave a Liberal vote to win the favour of a Liberal master, being at heart Conservative, as they would be if they gave a Tory vote to win the favour of a Tory master, being at heart Liberal. Whichever way a man votes against his conscience, he degrades himself,—and degrades himself, as we think, quite as much as he does by lying about his vote after voting as he thought right. But while the Bishop vigorously condemns the last sin,—not more vigorously than was right,—he appears to have been wholly silent about the former sin, which was the sin against which Mr. Kennedy fulminated his dan- gerous and mischievous exhortation. We submit, then, that the Bishop failed in his duty. The truth- is that what- ever may be said for the ballot, the best we can really say for it is in the nature of an excuse. It may protect a timid class against the tyrannical and unjust interference of those who have no right to interfere, until the timid class can get up courage to set interference at defiance. But it cer- tainly is not in all cases an adequate protection unless it is supplemented by a lie which is more disgraceful than secrecy itself. Surely, then, those moral and spiritual authorities who are so justly indignant against any apology for a lie,should be as justly indignant against men who make the apology possible, by trying to elicit, contrary to the intention of the law, what the political action of their poorer neighbours may have been.