28 JULY 1855, Page 12



IF an historical student were asked what characteristic of modern English politics struck him most vividly, there can scarcely be any doubt that he would answer upon reflection, that the weakness of the Government was the most marked difference between our own times and all other periods of history. He might regard the fact as an advantage or the contrary, but the fact he could neither deny nor underrate. And the verdict of the historical student would find an echo in the very general complaint of publio writers and speakers, who harp upon no theme more constantly than upon this weakness of Government, even where their own practical in- fluence is all thrown into efforts which perpetuate and increase the .weakness. There have been times when the action of Government was so repressive of the freedom and happiness of the individual, that to lessen its power, to check its irresponsibility, was the best means of promoting the interests of the nation ; but few persons, except some extreme theorists, would assert that this is in any appreciable degree true now ; and if ever within the last twenty years the advantages of a strong Exe- cutive most undoubtedly, overbalanced any distant and indirect advantage to be derived from its weakness, it must be now, when the nation is engaged in a great war of momentous issues on the future of Europe and of England, and engaged in conjunction with Allies who require no inconsiderable amount of wisdom, firmness, and caution in dealing with them. Both for our friends and our foes a strong Government is the one thing that we English ought most to desire just now, and most to labour after. No sacrifice is too great that would really give us an Executive to whose hands we could with confidence intrust the direction of our vast resources, in the assurance that they would be worthily employed both as regards the interests and character of England, and the future destinies of Europe.

Other Governments may be strong in their vast armies, or the habits of implicit submission among their people. But an English Government can rely upon neither resource. Whatever strength it possesses it must derive from the wisdom of its views, from the ability of its conduct of business, from the talent and character of its members, from the confidence of the nation in its general sympathy with the national sentiment. Frequently, and generally on domestic subjects, such wide differences of -opinion prevail among us that a strong Government—a Govern- ment which is not compelled to compromise and conciliate—is im- possible. Just now, however, we may fairly say that all domes- tic differences are merged in an almost unanimous desire for a vi- gorous prosecution of the war with Russia, and outside the walls of Parliament faction is nearly quiescent. The Government might be, for the first time since the Reform Bill, in accordance with all important political parties upon the one great question of the day. To a great extent this has been felt throughout the session of Par- liament ; and a Government which certainly is not eminent for its command of the ordinary sources of strength, has on all divisions which concerned its existence received the support of a large majority of the House of Commons. Neither the unpopu- larity that attached to Lord Aberdeen's Ministry, nor the sub- sequent secession of the Peelites, nor the want of a fine tact on Lord Palmerston's part in harmonizing his Parliamentary manners with the anxious and serious feeling of the nation, nor the vindictive assaults of Administrative Reformers, Sebas- topol-Committee-men, Peace-at-any-price-men, and Derbyites pure and simple, all combined, have ever seriously threatened the overthrow of the present Ministry. This alone shows how strong the national feeling is on the one question for which the present Cabinet exists. For, unquestionably, the Cabinet does not maintain its ground on any other footing than that it is the only Cabinet, except Lord Derby's, which would carry on the war heartily ; and people in general evince no disposition to believe that Lord Derby's either would or could carry it on better and more honestly than Lord Palmerston's.

This, then, being the state of affairs,—that all attempts to over- throw Lord Palmerston's Government have failed, that the Peel- ites and the Manchester party are daily losing influence through the unpopular proceedings of some of their most eminent lead- ers, that no wish is entertained throughout the country to substitute Lord Derby and his set for the mon we have, that the reoent publication of the Vienna Conference papers has decidedly tended to raise Lord Palmerston and his Foreign Minister, that the latest appointments in the Government are pledges to the broad Liberal party,—nothing would seem re- quired on the part of the Government to establish an entire command of national confidence, but some act which should testify to the nation that its views and wishes in respect to the war will be carried out to the utmost scope which the re- sources of this great and wealthy nation can reach. For it is im- possible _ to deny that the series of revelations, beginning with the honeyed tone of the secret correspondence and ending with John Russell's defection from the decided posi- .tionenjoined on him from home, have not unnaturally thrown a doubt over all public declarations coming from the statesman class. A. vigorous act that should be at once a pledge to England, and an intimation to the German Powers, that henceforth the scabbard was thrown away, and that this country would neither desist from her military efforts till adequate securities for peace were obtained by victory, nor modify those efforts in the slightest

degree in favour of Powers from whom conciliation has gained no- thing but friendly words and measures really hostile in effect though technically neutral—such a step would at once clear the suspicion, and place the Ministry on the 'vantage-ground of con- fidence which is essential to its vigorous and adequate discharge of its duties as a belligerent Government. A Ministry that daily trembles for its own existence, that has to dread every criticism because its standin6 is insecure, must dis- charge its executive duties with uneasy hesitation, and a shrinking from vigorous measures. To be safe must be the main object with a Ministry so placed. It feels itself on its trial, and is more afraid of failure than wisely bold in its pursuit of success. But let it once establish itself in the confidence of the nation whose resources it is wielding, and it can laugh at faction and personal pretensions.

Lord Palmerston's Government has yet this position to win. We see no better means of securing it than by giving an actual pledge

to the nation of its earnestness and ability. An expedition to clear the mouths of the Danube,—a series of attacks on the Rus- sian arsenals in the Black Sea that have not yet been visited,— some effective aid to the Turkish forces in Asia Minor ever in danger of annihilation from their own misconduct and the presence of a watchful enemy,—or, better than all, such offers to Sweden as would charm away the neutrality of that important Power, and enable France and England, if they cannot destroy at least to counter- balance Cronstadt and Sweaborg—any of these movements would assure the nation and the world that the English Government is at last convinced that it has entered upon a new stage of the war, in which no efforts must be spared, and success attained at any cost. The expulsion of the Russians from the lower Danube has been advocated as throwing open to us immense supplies of corn when they are likely to be needed. But, indeed, each of these military movements has its special recommendation. Politically, the alliance of Sweden is unques- tionably most desirable, and it is surely to be obtained by offers,.. of advantage accompanied by securities against Russian ven- geance. The people of Sweden are known to be favourable to the Western Powers, but naturally enough have no disposition to provoke their formidable neighbour, except they are to be protected: and indemnified. But it is not our business to invent military plans, the choice of which must depend on considerations not within our knowledge. All we ask is some vigorous step that shall assure the nation that all half-heartedness has left the Govern- ment with Lord Sohn Russell, that a great war is recognized to be a great war, and treated accordingly. We should rejoice if before the close of the session Lord Palmerston could announce any step which should give the nation this assurance. He might then dismiss his Members with the full conviction that they would find among their constituents a temper which would effectually prevent them next session from attempting to thwart his Govern- ment by factions opposition or crude personal display.