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the Baltic as they came hither, and that our vessels alone trusted to their own navigators.
Italy has sent two battleships of the Sardegna class, two of the Andrea Doria class, and several smaller craft. The vessels are good and excellently kept, and the men are perhaps the most neatly dressed in the whole of the combined fleet. I have noticed, too, in the Italian vessels many small material improvements such as have not hitherto been adopted by other nations. Yet, strange to say, no one, be he British, French, American, or German, seems to have the slightest confidence in the fighting value of the Italian Navy. One fault of the men certainly lies in their ignorance and superstition. Many cases might be quoted to show that when placed in a 'tight corner' they are as likely to fall upon their knees and appeal to the saints as to haul upon a rope, or do what may be necessary; and, granting that prayer is an excellent thing, it must still be admitted that even the least exacting and most benevolent of the saints like human beings to lend them a helping hand.
The United States' squadron, consisting of the very powerful armoured cruiser New York, the protected cruisers Columbia and San Francisco, and the cruiser Marblehead, has won golden opinions on account both of its personnel and of its material. Concerning the American officer little need be said. Every one recognises his ability and fitness. But few among us know the men and their ways. Ι dare say that the semi-military German seamen have been horrified. I dare say even that some of our own British seamen have opened their eyes at the apparently casual nature of American methods. But it seems to me that no ship in the world is better kept than an American man-of-war, and that in no ship is the work done more easily, or with more ungrudging and honest application of muscle and goodwill. There is no doubt about the fighting value of such fellows: no doubt about their self-reliance.
The Russian squadron includes the much talked-of cruiser Rurik, which to my eye is spoilt by the fact that she is masted in the old style, and that most of her guns are indifferently protected. The officers are excellent; the men are semi-intelligent machines. Probably they are much less susceptible than the French are to panic and to all outside influences, but their chief merit seems to reside in their discipline. I can find no trace of resourcefulness and no promise of initiative.
Chief among the squadrons of the second class should be ranked the Austrian. In its way it is hard to beat. It includes three fine modern protected cruisers and a torpedo gun-vessel, all in admirable order, and all officered and manned in a manner which greatly impresses the careful observer. The Spanish squadron is good so far as ships are concerned, but, with few exceptions, very indifferently officered and manned; nor are the ships as well kept as one would like to see them. Denmark sends a fairly smart little contingent, and the small contingents of Sweden and Norway are of much the same character, so far as the men are concerned; but I have been disappointed with the two Dutch vessels, and as for the representative craft of Portugal, Roumania, and Turkey, there is not, I fear, much to be said that is favourable.
It is as yet too early to estimate what effect, if any, this great international congress of men-of-war will have upon the political situation in Europe. I think that among the French officers and men who were here the anti-German feeling has been considerably abated owing to the especial kindness and forethought employed, sometimes in face of great difficulties and very exasperating incidents, by the Emperor and Prince Henry, and to the amicable attitude of the people; but, unhappily, three French warships do not constitute France, and the huge lump of French Chauvinism needs more leaven than can possibly be supplied to it by the few persons who, during the last week, have discovered that Germany is not quite what the Boulevard journalist declares it to be. And the French have rendered doubly difficult the pacific overtures of the Kaiser by their ostentatious and almost exclusive association with the Russians. The French and Russian squadrons met outside and came in together; each day there have been tails of French boats hanging on to the Russian ships, and tails of Russian boats hanging on to French ones; and although the two squadrons have not gone out together, it is understood to be the intention of the French Admiral, who departed in the small hours of this morning, to wait near at hand for Admiral Skrydloff, and to take part with him in some mild demonstration of the continued solidarity of the Franco-Russian Alliance. Kiel does not seem to have been the proper scene for this rather childish behaviour. If the French had politely refused to attend the festivities, little barm would have been done; but, since they accepted the invitation, they would have shown better taste bad they, for the time at least, put aside their animosities and comported themselves more like the Danes and the Austrians. I admit that the situation cleared from day to day, and that it was better last night than it had been during the previous week; but at the same time I feel that the attitude of the French cast a cloud orer the entire celebration, and that during the whole period every one present was haunted by a vague fear that the cloud might burst angrily and break up the party.
W. LAIRD CLOWES.
The Editor of THE NINETEENTH CENTURY cannot undertake
to return unaccepted MSS.
No. CCXXII- AUGUST 1895
THE GENERAL ELECTION
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
The results of the General Election have come as a surprise both to the victors and the vanquished. There has been nothing within the last thirty years to correspond with it. The majority of the Government will be larger than that of Mr. Gladstone in 1868, of Mr. Disraeli in 1874, of Mr. Gladstone again in 1880, and of Lord Salisbury in 1886. The retrospect may seem at first sight sufficient to revive the courage of those despondent Liberals who fancy that the end of all things is
But even the consolation to be derived from this review is considerably qualified when we examine the special circumstances of the present rout of the Liberal party. There may probably be what in journalistic slang is described as a record majority. But even that will be an imperfect index of the dismay and alarm which have been so widespread. Liberal journalists, who might have been expected to speak words of inspiration and hope, seem to have been overwhelmed in the presence of a political earthquake, in which all the calculations of their meteorology have been baffled, and all the counsels of their wisdom proved to be utter foolishness. All attempts to explain away the portentous facts were so utterly futile that in sheer despair some of them seemed to find a melancholy satisfaction in magnifying the extent of the catastrophe. Never, indeed, was the political seer more utterly at fault. The prevalent idea, on the eve of the elections, was that though there would be a Conservative majority, neither party would have such a preponderance as to secure an effective Government. VOL. XXXVIII—No, 222
It is clear, as I write, that Lord Salisbury will have a majority such as no Minister on his side has had since the Reform Bill of 1832. Paradoxical as it may sound, my own conviction is that the hope of Liberalism lies in the very size of that majority.
The significance of the figures is emphasised by the incidents of the election. The hand of the destroyer has fallen in almost unprecedented fashion upon the members of the late Ministry. The defeat of Sir William Harcourt, as it was the opening disaster of the campaign, has given a character to all the rest. It was a great Conservative victory over the Liberal leader in what had been regarded as an impregnable stronghold. Day by day have followed the capture of other fortresses and the rejection of other Ministers. So frequently have these occurred as to suggest that there must have been a special vehemence in the attack on these leaders, and also some peculiarly favourable conditions for the assailants in these great constituencies, where hitherto Liberalism has been predominant. Very remarkable, also, is the hostile verdict pronounced by the London constituencies and accentuated by the very striking agreement of the West and the East. Even the most enthusiastic admirers of the metropolis will hardly contend that this is due to the superior intelligence of the voters in all these districts. Whatever claim may be set up on behalf of some of those western boroughs where an unopposed return showed the absolute supremacy of Conservative feeling, it will scarcely be urged for the voters, say, of the riverside divisions. The unanimity of the two classes, at the opposite ends of the social scale, is the crucial fact, whatever the influences which have contributed to produce it. A like phenomenon is seen in the country. Manchester agrees with London, and Bradford and Newcastle are in harmony with Manchester and Liverpool ; and if Bristol, Edinburgh, and Glasgow are divided, the voice of Birmingham is, as all expected it would be, singularly loud and determined.
What does it all mean? The future of the victorious party will largely depend upon the clear intelligence which it brings to bear upon the facts, and the judgment with which it interprets them. It is manifest that no hasty induction, such as may be formed by partisan observers, is likely to be satisfactory. For no sooner is a theory started, and a number of facts are adduced in its support, than its advocates are confronted with a number of others which apparently point to an entirely opposite conclusion. The situation is so complex that it is not surprising if a variety of explanations are afloat. It is quite possible that there is truth in all of them, and that no one of them exhausts the truth.
Earnest Liberal Unionists, whose adherence to the coalition is largely-in many cases almost exclusively—due to their convinced opposition to Home Rule, will naturally regard the elections as pronouncing what ought to be a final verdict in that protracted controversy. And yet a somewhat extended observation leads to the belief that the Irish question has played a comparatively subordinate part in the preliminary discussions. Were I a special pleader on behalf of Home Rule, I should be disposed to argue that in reference to that particular issue the elections were indecisive. I should be forced to admit that there was not such enthusiasm on its behalf as would avail to overcome the opposition aroused by other parts of the Liberal programme. I should be constrained to go even further and confess that, if there had been no strong outburst of antagonism to Home Rule, it was because other causes of hostility to the late Government were in active operation, and it was assumed that its overthrow would mean the disappearance of the question from the political arena. But having conceded thus much, I should argue all the more strongly that, if there had been such passionate opposition to the Irish claim as Liberal Unionists allege, the evidences of it would be much stronger and more convincing. It is far from being clear that had the verdict been given on Home Rule alone it would have been so decisive, or that it would have been given at all in the Unionist sense. Certain it is that the signs of Tory reaction have become more manifest as Home Rule has receded into the background.
The same conclusion is suggested by the figures in special cases. Lancashire is conspicuous in the revolt against Lord Rosebery and his policy. Does anyone suppose that this is due to a change of view on the Irish question ? Is it not generally conceded that the Indian cotton duties have played a much more important part in deciding the elections? Or if this be questioned, must it not at least be conceded that they have so far affected the minds of the electorate as to disturb any positive conclusions which might be drawn from the results ? But these duties were not the sole factors. Causes which have had a determining influence in other constituencies were, surely, not less operative in Manchester. Yet the Conservative majorities were not overwhelming-in one or two cases exceedingly small; so small that it would be worse than rash to assume that, due as they were to various influences, they expressed any intense popular feeling against Home Rule in particular.
But whatever plausibility there may be in such reasoning it is not convincing. Whatever colour may be put on the facts in general, it remains true that the Liberal Unionists have had the key of the situation.
Their outward and visible influence is potent enough. Birmingham and the entire Midland district are absolutely under their sway. But even where they do not return a representative of their own, and, in fact, are hardly known to the world, they have an influence greater than is generally recognised. They might, I believe, easily have turned the tide of war. But they have been faithful to the