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WHEN a member of the present Ministry, referring to the defection of the Duke of Argyll, the resignation of Mr. Forster, and the withdrawal of Mr. Bright from the Cabinet of 1880, said that Mr. Gladstone's full strength would never be understood until he had been deserted by all his colleagues, the statement was naturally treated as a mere piece of hyperbole. But recent events have proved it to be little if at all in excess of the truth. In the House of Commons the clever author of this striking diagnosis is the only colleague of any political weight who still adheres to his chief, and his most ardent admirers would hardly say that his resignation would materially affect the position of the Prime Minister. The brilliant array of former members of Liberal Cabinets opposed to him is very imposing; but, however impressive it may seem, it has proved utterly powerless to shake the faith of the people in their veteran leader. His popularity was never so great as at the present time. He has proposed a measure which offers nothing to the English nation, but, on the contrary, wears the appearance of a humiliating surrender to a people whom in their secret hearts they dislike; and yet he has received an enthusiastic support where he might rather have expected indignant and contemptuous opposition.

Some of the results of this extraordinary ascendency of the Prime Minister cannot be regarded with unalloyed satisfaction. It is not good for a party that it should yield itself up so completely to the will of any leader, however trusted and however venerable. It is still worse if this submission is so absolute as to mean the suppression of individual thought. True Liberalism can never flourish under an Act of Uniformity, especially if the conditions of the Act are to be liable to constant change at the will of an individual. The intolerance of all difference of opinion, and the consequent injustice done to men who have always been loyal to Liberal principles, and who but recently were popular idols, are among the most painful features of the present controversy. Six months ago an avowed Home Ruler would have found it difficult to get a patient hearing, and if a Liberal constituency had adopted him as its candidate, it would have been because his personal eminence led it to condone his political heresy.

Now every Liberal is expected not only to accept the Home Rule shibboleth, but to pronounce it exactly as Mr. Gladstone does, at the risk of being condemned as an apostate and cast out of the synagogue. It is doubtful whether this will prove to be good policy, even for the hour; it certainly will not contribute to the solid strength and permanent success of the party.

It is easy, however, to exaggerate the significance of hostile demonstrations against individuals. Strong words have been spoken on both sides, but they only indicate the excited feeling of the crisis, and will soon be forgotten by those who utter them. Whether they will be as easily blotted out of the memory of those who smart under the injustice is more doubtful. The peculiarity of the present outburst of violence against the Radical opponents of Mr. Gladstone's policy is the strong personal element which enters into it. Seldom, if ever, has the supremacy of a leader been so absolute, and it is more so to-day than at any previous period of his own career. His enemies have contributed to this result in hardly less degree than his friends. They have misjudged, misrepresented, reviled, calumniated, harassed, and sought to crush him, and they have succeeded in exciting an admiration as passionate, and possibly in some cases as extravagant, as the relentless hate by which he has been pursued. Demos has keen instincts, and he is not slow to perceive that these fierce attacks are only a tribute to the fidelity of Mr. Gladstone to the popular cause, and that were he less loyal or less formidable he would be less obnoxious. Hence, the wilder the storm of passion which rages round him, the more intense the devotion with which the people seek to shield him from its fury.

Chivalrous sentiment counts for much more in popular contests than cynics seem able to understand. They are pleased to attribute the indifference which the people show to 'the wisdom and intelligence' of the country to the ignorance and stupidity of the masses. But the true explanation is far less flattering to their vanity. The people do not heed them because they do not understand the spirit of those to whom they speak, and, instead of addressing them with arguments against a policy, indulge in angry invectives against a man. This is the course which the Times, as the self-appointed representative of the Unionist' party, has taken throughout. It is to be assumed that it has strong arguments against Home Rule, and had these been urged with the force which the journal has at command, they might have produced their effect. But in vain have men looked to it for such light and leading. They have had the names of Liberal dissentients incessantly paraded before them, with an iteration which has become wearisome, and sometimes with an emphasis which was only ludicrous. They have had the well-worn platitudes about the 'disintegration of the Empire' and the perils of the Ulster Protestants served up with fresh garnishing. Above all, they have been treated to incessant

denunciations of Mr. Gladstone, and the effect has been to strengthen Mr. Gladstone's position. There were not a few of his friends, who at first had misgivings and doubts in regard to his proposals, who have been helped to a decision in favour of them by the railing of the Times. They could not but regard it as a confession of weakness in argument; if it became a question of confidence and they had to choose between the statesman whom they had long followed and the editor who expressed the sentiments of society and the Stock Exchange, they could not hesitate. With the democracy generally the process will be still more summary. When the verdict of the constituencies has to be taken, the friends of Home Rule can desire nothing better than that the issue should practically be reduced to a vote for or against Gladstone.

According to Mr. Matthew Arnold, the people are entirely wrong in their judgment, and have, in fact, mistaken a great orator and pastmaster of parliamentary strategy for an eminent statesman. His opinion of the Liberal party and of its chief is the reverse of complimentary. Though a 'party of movement' it is 'bounded, and backward, and without insight, and is led by a manager of astounding skill and energy, but himself without insight likewise.' 'Insight' is a word which plays an important part in Mr. Arnold's statement. It is a pity that it is not defined. If taken to pieces, is this criticism on Mr. Gladstone anything more than an expression of dissent from his policy? No one who has studied the two men would suppose that there would be political sympathy between them. It is probably true, therefore, that one or other of them is lacking in insight; but it by no means follows that the deficiency is in Mr. Gladstone.

There is no doubt an extraordinary consensus of opinion amongst the leaders of the intellectual world against Mr. Gladstone. It would be entitled to more consideration if these celebrities gave more solid and convincing reasons for their judgment. This is not a subject on which the most distinguished artists or the most accomplished men of science, still less on which the most brilliant generals, can claim to speak with authority. They are entitled to the weight which their arguments possess, and to no more. And that certainly is not considerable. In truth, they do not attempt to reason. No one quotes them for the sake of what they have said, but simply because they have said it. Their charm is in their great name. When they are at their worst they rail with a fierceness as undignified as it is unscientific; at their best they only echo the clamour of the society of which they are such conspicuous ornaments. When they have some new light to shed upon the controversy, all will be eager to welcome it. Till then there is no presumption in doubting their right to give ex cathedra deliverances upon the scheme of the Prime Minister. If it is to be treated as a matter of authority, it would take a small army of artists or scientists to outweigh that of Mr. Gladstone.

It is very cheap to despise the people, but it is possible that they know their own minds better than those who are anxious to think for them. At all events, the leader of a democracy must understand and trust the people. The popular sympathies, because of which all superior persons flout him, are an essential element of his strength. He must keep touch with the people if he is to lead them. If he cannot do it except by the surrender of principle, an honest politician can only stand aside and leave the work to others. But he may preserve a stainless loyalty to principle, while yet choosing his own time for seeking to embody it in practical legislation. There is a sense in which he must be an opportunist. He cannot outrun the convictions of the people, and an attempt to do so would not only mean failure, but would certainly retard the object he has at heart. This does not mean that he is to follow where he ought to lead, but only that, like every great general, he should so carefully study the temper of his army as to know the exact hour at which to strike.

In this lies the secret of wise political management. It does not consist in finesse, or in servile deference to opinion, or in skilful manipulation of political forces, but in a correct estimate of the will of the people. Mr. Arnold gives Mr. Gladstone credit for being a great parliamentary manager, but denies him insight; but this is in truth the very quality by which he has commanded success. There could hardly be a better illustration than is supplied by his Irish policy. The more closely his speeches during the last electoral campaign are studied, the more clearly will it be seen that he, almost alone among our statesmen, perceived how critical a point the Irish problem had reached. Assuredly no such foresight was shown by his rivals, for had they possessed it they would have hesitated before they committed themselves to the tacit understanding with the Irish Nationalists which gave them forty seats but left them a discredited and impotent party. In their eagerness to save a Church which was in no peril they overlooked the real point from which danger threatened the institutions about which they profess such deep concern. According to them Home Rule means the dismemberment of the Empire, and yet Lord Salisbury could not dissemble the joy with which he received the manifesto in which Mr. Parnell breathed out threatenings and slaughter against all Liberals, unconscious that the gain thus secured for his party was at the cost of his country. Could his lordship have foreseen the events of the last six months, he would have adopted another tone and a different policy. He is now insisting on the necessity for twenty years of firm government in Ireland, but when he had the opportunity he showed himself unequal to the strain even of seven months. He and his friends are railing at a movement which they are unable to arrest; but in the fierceness of their invectives, they forget that their own short-sightedness was one of the chief factors in creating the force which has now become irresistible.

Mr. Gladstone, on the contrary, saw as with prophetic eye the situation, and warned friend and foe alike of its perils. He insisted with characteristic emphasis and force on the urgency of the Irish problem, and contended that if it was to be wisely dealt with a Liberal Minister ought to have a free hand, and in order to this a large majority. Some of his critics complain that his subsequent conduct has been in contradiction to this stirring appeal. It has, on the contrary, been in perfect harmony with it. The appeal was refused, a number of Tory seats were secured by the help of the Irish Nationalists, and Mr. Parnell thus became master of the situation, and up to the present moment no one has shown how he can be dislodged from the position. The conditions of the problem were thus changed, and changed chiefly by the action of those who claim to be par excellence the defenders of the constitution. A solution which would have been possible had Liberals been returned for constituencies wrenched from them by the strange combination of Tory and Nationalist votes became simply impracticable, and Mr. Gladstone had to seek another.

It is not within the intention of this article to discuss the merits of the specific provisions in this measure. The debate on the second reading has at all events shown that there is need for a more thorough discussion of some of them. Even in relation to the most important of all, the exclusion of the Irish members from Westminster, it is clear that there has been misapprehension on both sides. There is, therefore, room for legitimate difference of opinion among those who heartily accept its fundamental principle, but no criticism of details can affect our estimate of the courageous patriotism and the farseeing wisdom by which it has been inspired. The great merit of the Bill consists in its frank recognition of the right of the Irish people to self-government, and that recognition is an evidence of the author's insight. He saw that the time was past for any halting measure, and that a generous policy appealing to the gratitude of a warm-hearted people was the course of wisdom and of safety. He saw also that the English people were prepared for a settlement to an extent which was not understood by superficial observers or partisan politicians. The event has justified his forecast. The people have rallied to his side with an earnestness and unanimity which must have astonished even himself. There is no more senseless chatter than the cuckoo-cry about the wire-pulling of the caucus. In a large number of cases the wire-pullers have been on the opposite side, but the popular feeling has been too strong for the Associations and their Committees. What is equally noteworthy is that the feeling in favour of the Prime Minister has been a steady growth, and that it is steadily gathering force and volume. He has once more proved himself able to move the hearts of the people as well as to touch their imagination. If this be not insight, it is hard to say what it is.

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