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necessity to put your hand to the plough at all. If you choose to see the land lie fallow sooner than inconvenience yourself, that is your concern. But if you once recognise the duty of seeing that the land is ploughed, and take part in the ploughing, and then grow weary of your labour before the soil is turned up and the furrows set straight, you are not unjustly held up to reproach. So it is with the Liberal Unionists. If having put their hands to the plough they turn back before the work is done, their record will be one of failure without credit.
The warning thus given is not, I fear, unneeded. A certain section of the Unionist Liberals seem, at present, to have nothing more at heart than to show that they are Liberals after all, and that they have nothing in common with the Conservatives. Yet, if they are right in their contention, I fail to see how they can possibly justify their reason of being. If the battle for the Union was over, then there would be no objection to their proving, if they thought fit, that though they had fought and conquered together with the Conservatives, their alliance ended with the attainment of their common victory. But the battle is not over, it is only just begun; and at the outset of a campaign it is indiscreet, to say the least, to remind the allies on whom you must rely for victory that you intend to repudiate their alliance the moment they have served your purpose. It is obvious that within a very short time the informal coalition between the Conservatives and the Unionist Liberals will be exposed to a very severe strain. As soon as Parliament reassembles in earnest, Lord Salisbury will be compelled to formulate his policy about Ireland. Now, for my own part, I utterly disbelieve in the possibility of discovering any compromise which will at once satisfy the Irish demand for self-government, and yet preserve intact the authority of the Imperial Parliament. Either the concessions offered will fail to give the Nationalists increased power in Ireland, and in that case they will be rejected; or the concessions will give the Nationalists increased power, and in that case they will be employed to subvert the Union. This being so, no Conservative Government, with all the good-will in the world, can do anything to satisfy the agitation for Home Rule. Yet, failing such satisfaction, the agitation will be revived with renewed activity; and its revival must of necessity be met by coercive measures. It is quite true that to assert the supremacy of the law, to uphold the authority of the courts, and to protect individual liberty against organised terrorism, can only be called coercion by a shameless perversion of language. But coercion is the term which will be applied by the Gladstonian party to all measures for the preservation of law and order in Ireland ; and these measures cannot be carried into effect unless the Liberal Unionists are prepared to support the Government by which they are proposed, and thus to expose themselves to the reproach of being
advocates of coercion. The difficulty of joint action in supporting a policy of so-called coercion will be infinitely greater for the Liberal Unionists if they sit on the Opposition benches, than it would be if they were sitting on the benches of the Administration and voting openly and boldly as its supporters.
Upon Irish questions, however, the necessity for joint action is so manifest and so imperative, that in the end the Liberal Unionists will, I believe, feel themselves compelled, however reluctantly, to go into the same lobby with the Conservatives. The real danger to the continuance of the informal alliance, whose existence is essential to the defence of the Union, will arise upon questions not directly connected with the Irish difficulty. I shall certainly not be credited with placing any unduly high estimate on Mr. Gladstone's ability or statesmanship, but I should be the first to do justice to his astuteness as distinguished from ability, and to his statecraft as opposed to statesmanship. Now it is matter of notoriety that, since his defeat at the polls, Mr. Gladstone has exerted all his influence and ingenuity to hinder the Liberal Unionists from forming an open coalition with the Conservatives, and to keep alive the contention that they have done nothing to justify their being read out of the ranks of the Liberal party. The mere fact that these tactics find favour with Mr. Gladstone and the Home Rulers would lead me to doubt whether the absence of any open coalition can be regarded as an advantage to the cause of the Union. Apart from this consideration we may take it for granted that in the course of the next session the policy of the Opposition will be to bring forward non-Irish questions on which the Liberal Unionists are likely to be more in accord with their old than with their new colleagues. Far less dexterity than that possessed by the Parliamentary Old Hand’ is required to raise a question on which it will be difficult for members sitting on the Liberal benches and professing allegiance to the Liberal party, to vote with the Conservative Government against the Liberal Opposition. Yet unless they do so vote, the cause of the Union will be endangered.
Whenever such a crisis arises--and it will infallibly be made to arise, if it does not arise of itself—the Liberal Unionists will probably split into two sections. A certain number will vote with Mr. Gladstone, irrespective of what the ulterior consequences of their vote may be. A certain, and I believe a larger, number will feel that the maintenance of the Union is more important than the assertion of their Liberal orthodoxy, and will vote with the Government. The remainder will probably abstain from voting. Now the Conservatives have so close upon a majority of the whole House that the votes of a score of Unionist Liberals would save them from actual defeat. But it is clear that these experiments could not often be repeated, and that a constant struggle between their allegiance to the Union and VOL. XX.–No. 114.
their allegiance to the Liberal cause must soon break up the party of which Lord Hartington is the leader.
I am convinced, therefore, that if the Unionist Liberals, as is deemed probable at the time when I write, decline to form any open coalition with the Conservatives, they will only have succeeded in postponing the necessity of making an unwelcome decision. Sooner or later--and sooner rather than later—the conviction will be brought home to the Unionist Liberals that they must join the Conservatives if they desire to preserve the Union. So long as Mr. Gladstone and the Liberal party are in favour of Home Rule, the real safeguard for the Union lies in the strength of the Conservative Government; and this Government cannot be strong until it can rely, not only on the casual votes, but on the constant and open support of the Unionist Liberals, as distinguished from the Unionist Radicals.
I was taught as a child that if you have got to jump into the sea you had better jump in at once instead of standing shivering upon the steps of the bathing machine. Subsequent experience has confirmed my belief in the truth of this teaching as a rule both for private and public life. For my own part I think the Liberal Unionists would do more wisely to take the leap at once. This, however, is a matter for their own decision. But if they have any claim to political foresight they should make up their minds to the plain hard fact that sooner or later the leap has got to be made.
I know that many of their members cherish the idea that their secession from the Liberal party is as transitory as a lovers' quarrel, and that whenever Mr. Gladstone, by choice or by necessity, retires from public life the Liberals will be once more a happy and united family, of which Lord Hartington, as long as he has not formally abjured his allegiance to Liberalism, will be the natural leader. The idea to my mind is a complete delusion. Nobody is less disposed than I am to underrate the evil that Mr. Gladstone has inflicted on the country by his sudden conversion to Home Rule. But still Mr. Gladstone could never have carried his part with him unless they had long before been indoctrinated with ideas and principles of policy utterly at variance with the old-fashioned Liberalism of which Lord Hartington and the Whigs are the representatives. The divergence between Radicalism and Liberalism has undoubtedly been accentuated by Mr. Gladstone's ill-advised policy, but this divergence is not due to Mr. Gladstone's personality and will survive the removal of that personality from the scene of public life. Remove Mr. Gladstone, blot out the Home Rule agitation, and the forces which have gradually been bringing about a fusion between the Moderate Liberals and the Conservatives will continue in operation and will act as years go by with increased energy.
The subject is far too wide a one to be discussed here. I can only say in passing that I fail to see why the prospect of a fusion with the Conservatives should be viewed with apprehension or distrust by any sensible Liberal. To me, as to all thinking men, it is a matter of supreme indifference by what name my party is called, so long as my party is identified with the advocacy of principles I deem true, and the maintenance of institutions I desire to uphold. Now, as a matter of fact, the existing distinction between a commonplace Conservative and a commonplace Liberal is one of name and of name only. I defy you to name any important measure of home or foreign policy on which there is any substantial difference of opinion between the parties represented by Lord Salisbury and by Lord Hartington. I defy you to name any grave reform likely to be proposed by the Radicals which the Whigs are not as much opposed to in principle as the Conservatives. All important reforms consistent with the preservation of our existing Constitution have practically been accomplished. All future reform must be of a revolutionary character, and involve an attack upon some one of our fundamental institutions. Any such attack would be deprecated alike by Whigs and Conservatives. The time is fast coming, if it has not come already, when the two parties in the State will consist of the defenders and the assailants of our Constitution. This is the simple fact; and in the long run names have to give way to facts. Mr. Gladstone's unsuccessful attempt to effect the repeal of the Union has precipitated the fusion between the two great sections of the Constitutional party; but, even without Mr. Gladstone's efforts, this fusion must inevitably have been brought about by the course of events. To fusion Whigs and Conservatives must come at last. Far from deploring this result, to me it seems a consummation most devoutly to be wished.
Hawarden Castle, Chester:
July 11, 1886.
MR. GLADSTONE presents his compliments to the Editor of the Nineteenth Century, and requests, with reference to an observation hy Professor Huxley on Mr. Gladstone's neglect duly to consult the works of Professor Dana, whom he had cited, that the Editor will have the kindness to print in his next number the accompanying letter, which has this morning been sent to him from America.
Rev. Dr. Sutherland,
My dear Sir, I do not know that in my letter of yesterday, in which I referred you to the Bibliotheca Sacra, I answered directly your question, and hence I add a word. to say that I agree in all essential points with Mr. Gladstone, and believe that the first chapters of Genesis and Science are in accord.
* Yours very truly,
• JAMES D. DANA.
Newhaven : April 16, 1886.'
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