22 JULY 1882, Page 5


BY Mr. Bright's resignation, the Cabinet is reduced to twelve Members, of whom one, Lord Spencer, can, from the nature of his duties, hardly ever be present, though he is, of course, consulted in other ways on all the more important and less urgent of its deliberations. Lord Carnarvon, indeed, in the excess of that repentant zeal which a returning prodigal of Conservatism is apt to show, speaks of the Govern- ment as having lost in succession four of its Ministers ; but in this calculation we suppose that he includes the respectable Lord Zetland, whose defection, as Lord-in-Waiting to the Queen, was perhaps as grave an event as the resignation of any great Lady-in-Waiting, but hardly more so. The loss in mem-

sion of the Duke of Argyll, of Mr. Forster, and Mr. Bright cannot, however, be treated as events of slight significance ; and, of course, there has been an abundance of sugges- tions as to how the gape thus made in the Cabinet could best be filled up, so as to secure something like its old influence as a representative body. One of these missing links has already been supplied, and admirably supplied, by the return of Lord Carlingford to office. And though we do not mean that as a debater Lord Carlingford is a match for the Duke of Argyll, we do not hesitate to say that with Ireland in the foreground of politics, Lord Carlingford has brought the Cabinet far greater strength than ever the Duke of Argyll was able to give,—vastly more knowledge of the special subject in hand, and a far more genuinely Liberal spirit for the proper treat- ment of it. Nevertheless, with Lord Spencer in Ireland, and both Mr. Bright and Mr. Forster gone, it can hardly be denied that the Government does not wield the same weight of popu- lar influence in the country which it wielded a year ago ; and the question is, in what direction to look for the Minister who would be most likely to increase its authority with the people at large.

A great number of suggestions have been made, none of them, so far as we know, with the least vestige of official authority. It has been said, for instance, that the Prime Minister would seize the occasion for laying down the Chancellorship of the Exchequer, but the objection to that is, that Mr. Childers, who has always been deemed his most likely successor, cannot well be spared just now from the War Office where he has done such admirable work, since that would be swopping horses while crossing a stream, with a vengeance. Mr. Goschen, who would be a great accession to the Government as regards questions of foreign policy, is still divided from them by the old difficulty,—his deliberate resolve not to accept responsi- bility for the extension of Household Suffrage to the counties ; and, indeed, it would hardly strengthen the Government which has just lost Mr. Bright, to fill up his place by a Minister who differs from Mr. Bright not only on the subjects on which Mr. Bright's view is somewhat eccentric and sectarian, but on those on which Mr. Bright's conviction has virtually formed the convictions of the great majority of his countrymen. To replace Mr. Bright by Mr. Goschen, would be replacing a tribune of the people by a spokesman of the capitalists. There would not be the same objection to Mr. Forster, for on the questions connected with the suffrage Mr. Forster has always been at once popular in his sympathies and far from conventional. But Mr. Forster's return to the Cabinet would probably further weaken the slight hold of the Govern- ment on Ireland, and, what is much more important, would certainly diminish the influence of Mr. Trevelyan,—who has no seat in the Cabinet—on Irish questions in the House of Commons. At the same time, it is hardly probable that Mr. Trevelyan, admirably as he has discharged his difficult duties during the last two months, will be offered a seat in the Cabinet at present. Lord Spencer would not have the precise position which the Government, when they sent him to Ireland, were desirous to give him, if his Secretary were always present at the Cabinet meetings from which he is necessarily so often absent.

On the whole, we should be inclined to expect that when the vacancy comes to be filled up—if it is filled up at all at present—it will be either by the accession of Lord Derby to the Government, or by the promotion of some distin- guished Radical to the place in the Government vacated by Mr. Bright. The chief objection to Lord Derby is this, that greatly as he would strengthen the influence of the Government in society and amongst Liberals of the more Conservative kind,—an immense good in itself,—he would, at a time when decision and resoluteness are of the first im- portance in foreign policy, add greatly to that cautious and vacillating element which is strong enough in all Cabinets, and certainly not at all deficient in the Cabinet as it is. Again, as to a radical promotion, the objection to the promotion of Sir Charles Dilke is really of the same kind as the objection to removing Mr. Childers at a moment so critical as this from the War Office. Sir Charles Dilke has filled so admirably a most difficult position, that of Under- Secretary for Foreign Affairs, that it would be almost im- possible to supply his place effectually in the House of Commons; and his election would be a loss so great to the debating power of the Government, that it seems to us most improbable that he would be nominally elevated—in reality, by no means elevated—in position at such a cost. Neither is it at all likely that Mr. Playfair, who has undoubt- edly made a serious mistake as Chairman of Committees which may reduce his influence for the future, will be translated to the vacant Chancellorship of the Duchy, even without a seat in the Cabinet. The difficulty in that arrangement is well known. Mr. Playfair's seat for the Universities of Edinburgh and St. Andrew's is a very shaky one. He came in by a bare majority of 74, on a total poll of 4,970 electors, and it is very doubtful indeed whether, if he had to vacate his seat, he could secure his re-election. Nor can it be said that Mr. Play- fair would in any way supply the gap in the Government which Mr. Bright has left. He is a clear-headed and thought- ful man, though he has made one great mistake, but he has as yet gained no hold on the imagination of the country.

For our own parts, we should not be sorry to see the vacancy in the Cabinet filled up by the appointment of Lord Rosebery to the Duchy of Lancaster—with a seat in the Cabinet. No doubt, that would not bring the Liberal party any immediate accession of influence and strength, except in Scotland ; but in Scotland, Lord Rosebery already fills an important place in men's imaginations,—as Under-Secretary for the Home Department, he has had charge of all the political duties formerly intrusted to the Lord- Advocate,—and Scotland has confidence in him. The complaint that Ireland has no sufficient representation in the Cabinet is a perfectly just one, as we have often urged. But it is equally true of Scotland. Except Mr. Gladstone himself, who, Scottish as he is by blood, is not Scottish by local birth or education or associations, Scotland has had no representa- tive in the Government since the defection of the Duke of Argyll. And failing the accession of Lord Dufferin to the Govern- ment at home,—which we cannot expect at such a moment as this, when he is conducting a difficult negotiation with the Porte, —we doubt if any appointment would bring more strength to it eventually than that of the brilliant young Scotchman, who has shown himself to be one of the best speakers of the day, who has youth, wealth, and zeal to devote to the Liberal cause, and who is as thorough-going a Liberal as we could hope to find even in the House of Commons. Lord Rosebery probably has a great future. And it would be a useful thing to introduce a young man of his promise early into the ranks of the higher statesmen. Without professing to have an atom of special knowledge on the subject, we are disposed to think that, under all the difficulties of the case, Mr. Gladstone could scarcely strengthen his Administration more effectually than by giving Lord Rosebery the vacant Duchy of Lancaster, with a seat in the Cabinet.