30 DECEMBER 1882, Page 7


THE only English statesman who was once an avowed Republican has just entered the Cabinet, and it is worth while, in the momentary quiescence of active politics, to en- quire what the position of Republicanism in this country really is. To the casual observer, no such thing exists. In England alone of European countries, or alone with the excep- tion of Austria, there is no visible or formulated party, avow- ing its desire to convert the country into a Republic. Here and there a thinker avows openly, as a speculative opinion, that he holds Republicanism to be better than Monarchy ; and here and there, both in London and the northern cities, a group of workmen may be found whose Republican convictions, to judge by their language, are of the strongest kind. They would, if they could, they say, Americanise the United King- dom at once. Republican Party, however, there is none. No leader ever makes an openly Republican speech, No candi- date ever issues a Republican address. No lecturer de- liberately advocates the establishment of a Republic. There is no Republican Club. The great body of the people outside a few cities are scarcely aware what a Republic would- mean, except that there would be no Queen Victoria,—a suggestion which is to them ridiculous or impossible. An intelligent foreigner who happened to be unconnected with Reds might live twenty years among us, and go away con- vinced that the most active and aggressive of Continental opinions had in England neither exponent nor follower, neither Church nor congregation. He would be right, too, in his fact's ; and yet he would not be right, and might be liable, if he lived, to be greatly perplexed by events. He would during his resid- ence in the country have been greatly deceived by the cause which, as we believe, deceives even acute English observers. England is not wholly Monarchist, is possibly not Monarchist in a strong sense at all, but a mass of opinion so immense as to amount to practical unanimity, is Queen Victorian. All varieties of opinion about politics are merged in that, till they become at first-sight imperceptible. A proposal which involved the deposition of the Queen would not throughout Britain receive 5,000 English or Scotch votes, and would, in fact, be regarded by the whole people as an impertinent absurdity. Call it loyalty, personal devotion, gratitude, Cons6rvatism, what you will, the feeling about the existing Sovereign, the distinct wish that she may go one reigning till she is the oldest monarch in our records, is universal, and so deep, that Repub- licanism as a party policy has no meaning whatever. Upon this point there is a unanimity at once conscious and sin- cere, which has no parallel in the most Monarchical States of the Continent ; in Prussia, for example, where the dynasty made the country, or in Austria, where it is the keystone of an arch, and its fall would involve whole

nations in political ruin. The feeling is, like the wish for fine weather, beyond discussion and inextinguishable, and while it lasts there will in this country be no Republican party.

Nevertheless, there is a good deal of Republicanism in England, and there are a great many Republicans. Apart from the feeling about the Queen, about which we have said enough,

theoretic Monarchism is not, as we believe, strong here. There is none of the old hostility to the Throne which ap- peared in 1830, and in a weaker form in 1848, and which was, in great part, a confused reminiscence of Jacobite tra- dition, with its dislike to " the German ;" but the reverence for the system has grown weaker, till Republicans are not hated by the masses—Chelsea elected Sir Charles Dilke while still Republican—till there is a confused and, to us, we confess, preposterous annoyance at any grant, even a dower, to any member of the Royal Family, and till Republicanism has become in the oddest way a sort of political counsel of per- fection. Among educated men, Tories or Liberals alike, two out of three hold that if matters were but a little different, a Republic might 'be better than a Monarchy.Many of them, including some statesmen who are not Radicals, think that the Executive would be stronger,—which is, we imagine, true, as Democracy openly enthroned would dare to do things which are now avoided, lest they might create a dislike of the ruling classes. To give an extreme illustration, a President in Ireland would hang with a freedom which no Viceroy, however de- termined, will ever display. Many more think a Republic would make careers more free, and, by allowing ability to get readily to the top, would supply the nation with mental resources which, in the growing complexity of all earthly• affairs, are becoming daily more necessary to success. And many more, counting, as we believe, thousands, are mentally impatient of the unreality which in some depart- ments taints English political life, of the weight allowed to men for considerations other than their qualities, of the artificial gradations by which all natural forces are obscured, till it has come to this,—that England, governed only by aristocrats or by the very old, is on many sides not really self-governed at all. Theoretically, Lord Salisbury, who would have few votes in a plebiscite, can at any moment veto any law. A dislike for artificialities and shams, and their result, the prepos- terous importance of rank and wealth, is spreading, and that quite as much among Tories as among Liberals, and those who feel it are usually in a sense Republicans. They are not inclined to act on that opinion, even through their votes ; they dislike the notion of breaking with history, and they arc not prepared to assert that any great change would be necessarily beneficial, but they feel, and as matter of conversation acknowledge, that if the Republic did come, the air would be lighter. They would accept it willingly, though they will do nothing for it. It is characteristic of them that they all lay stress on the personal character of the Sovereign, and all assert that "another George IV. would not be borne," a remark which is accepted as a proper and moral truism by thousands, who do not see that in accepting it, the idea of Monarchy as a beneficial institution is given up, and replaced by a Chief Magistracy, not based upon, and indeed adverse to, the hereditary and self-existing character of the Throne. And finally, an opinion has spread among the masses, and shows itself in a thousand ways, that the hier- archical system of English politics keeps them too far from the light ; that, under a Republic, the social force would do more for them than is done now ; and that, at all events, they would cease under a Republic to be looked down upon. The growing hunger for easier social conditions, the thirst for material comfort, and the influence of American feeling, which in some parts of England and Scotland is very great, all tell daily with increasing steadiness in that direction, and may yet, when the Victorian Era is over, create a formally Republican Party, formidable from its numbers, in the great con- stituencies.

We hope it will not, during another generation at least, for the premature rise of a Republican Party would only add one more complexity to the national polities, without exercising any good influence upon the national character. The feel- ing, still so strong among all sensible men, that England is not ready for a Republic, and that even if the people wished for one, it would be mischievous, is the real protection of the Monarchy, and is still substantially sound. Apart altogether from *hat we may call the physical dangers which would attend any political upheaval, and which, though not formid- able in Canada or Australia, might be formidable in a country without spare lands, England, in the present condition of its people, would not, if Republican, be mentally enfranchised, would not judge men by themselves, would not be free of false reverences, but would concentrate them all on money. Snob- bism would be replaced by mammon-worship, which is not an improvement. One of the best features of the national character, its freedom from acrid envy, its disposition to admire rather than hate wealth, if only it is slightly ostentatious,

would facilitate this change ; and we should have the wealthy, luxurious life elevated into an ideal, with the inevitable result of that process, wide-spread pecuniary corruption. Social and political life would become a little baser, instead of a little nobler ; and it is only in the hope of adding some nobleness to life that any serious politician would be justified in even thinking of so dangerous a leap into the dark, or of risking a new cleavage in opinion, lasting possibly, as Jacobitism lasted, for sixty years. We believe this consideration will for a long time to come protect the Throne against anything but a general sense of political inconvenience, not likely to arise, unless by ill-fortune the Throne were filled by an idealogue, an over-obstinate man, or one who crossed the chosen Ministers of the people too often. In that case, the change might be made in some grave and solemn way, with unexpectedly little resistance. The Throne could not, in this country, be protected by sheer force even for a year. Some of us think loyalty very deep ; and practically, towards Queen Victoria, it is so. But loyalty to the dynasty is not so strong as it was in Hanover, and when tested by the popular wish for a united Germany, it was not there an operative force. Hanover sends up, we believe, only two Particularists, i.e., men who still respect the claims of the House which ruled the country with acceptance for a thou- sand years. As a matter of fact, we do not think the contingency will occur, and believe that the Throne, lightened by a single eiange, the removal of contingent heirs from their claim on the Civil List, may go on for generations ; but if it ever occurred, the world would be startled to find how much Republi- canism of the passive and reflective kind had underlain the apparent unanimity of English loyalty. The Throne here is a popular institution, for the moment the most popular of the old institutions, but it is not an irremoveable pivot. Those who remove it, if it is ever removed, will be rash men, possibly utterly mistaken men ; but they will not be anarchists, nor will they produce anarchy.