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cannot fight on the same certain lines as a party which consists of a solid whole.' Here is a key to the action of the late Government. It is worse than idle, it is contemptible, for those who were silent at the time, to condemn it now. What might have been done by more bold and resolute movement against the House of Lords is a mere matter of conjecture. As a matter of fact it was impossible. The Irish question had so long blocked the way that there were clamours on every side for British legislation, while at the same time the Irish on their side were impatient of delay. The different sections may have been agreed as to the several items of the programme, but they differed as to the order in which they should be taken ; and it certainly would have been difficult to persuade them that it was necessary to postpone all until the instrument for legislation had itself been perfected. A leader of commanding authority like Mr. Gladstone might have been able to secure this unanimity, though even for him it would have been a task of no ordinary difficulty. But alas ! Mr. Gladstone was no longer in the field.
In this undoubtedly is to be found one explanation of the Liberal defeat. It is to a very large extent a measure of the enormous influence of that commanding personality. Not until the secret history of the period can be studied will it be known how tremendous was the loss which the Liberal party sustained by withdrawal from the strife of a leader who towered head and shoulders over all his associates. Every day Parliament became more conscious of it, and men felt how much interest had been subtracted from its deliberations, how much authority lost to its decisions, in consequence of his absence. So in the country, men longed for the inspiration which his words never failed to communicate. While he was in the fray, his very greatness exposed him to more frequent and bitter attacks. But now that he is in retirement, even those who were his keenest critics confess his greatness. It is only those, however, who are familiar with the inner life of politics who can understand Low grievously the lack of his influence has been felt. It is useless to mourn over the inevitable, but it is only fair to his successors to remember the difficulties of the situation in which the termination of his marvellous career placed them. I, at all events, am not content to join in the ungenerous comments which are sometimes passed upon them. Nothing is easier than to point to a number of mistakes which they have committed. The world is full of men of unappreciated genius, who are ready at a moment's notice to prove that they could have made straight the things which have been left crooked. The Liberal party include many of the type. But if these leaders have failed it is not easy to say who would have succeeded. The number of Cabinet ministers who have failed at the polls would seem to suggest that the Government has been personally unpopular. This may be so, but, if so, it only shows what effect may be produced by persistency in unscrupulous and malignant attack. It is one of the evils of a general election that it lets loose the worst passions of violent partisans, and that in the fierceness of the conflict they descend to acts of meanpess and baseness from which at any other time they would shrink with intensest abhorrence. But the fierce attack on the Liberal chiefs has not been left to the time of conflict. For weeks and months past they have been baited with a ferocity the reason for which it was not easy to discover. Had they been mere weaklings, they could hardly have been treated with more contempt. Had they been traitors, the epithets piled upon them could not well have been more insulting. They have left behind them a record of which no Ministry needs to be ashamed. In foreign policy they have maintained the honour of the country. Despite the Opposition, which has thwarted so many of their projects, their legislative achievements have not been contemptible, and in administrative work they have maintained a high state of efficiency. It is true they have offended the classes, but true Liberals can hardly regard that as an unpardonable iniquity. On the other hand, it may be safely said of them that they have done more to improve the condition of the workers than any previous Administration. The reward they have got is a verdict of condemnation, and that at the hands of those on whose behalf they had so diligently laboured, such as seldom, if ever, has overtaken any Ministry before. No doubt they had faults, and grievously have they answered them. But the hour of misfortune is not the time for raking up unpleasant memories. Rather should we seek to imitate the virtue of the old Romans, who, in the hour of crushing disaster, thanked the defeated generals who had not despaired of the Republic.
There are some features in the election which no thoughtful man, whatever his party, can contemplate with satisfaction. Such sudden and violent changes are not pleasant symptoms, and they do not become more hopeful when they are subject to careful analysis. The most obvious suggestion is that a whirlwind of passion will subside as rapidly as it gathered. It may be so; but it would not be wise for those who care for the interests of true progress readily to accept this consolation. There are many things which indicate rather that we are at the beginning of a new political era, One journal suggests that the Liberal party is dead, another that this is the fate which has overtaken the Liberal Unionists, a third that it is the old Toryism which has been consigned to the grave. There is a sense in which probably they are all right. It seems as though we were about to enter on an entire reconstruction of parties. Liberalism in the best sense will certainly not die, was never more likely to live. On the other hand, even Lord Salisbury and Mr. Balfour together cannot galvanise the old Toryism into life. At present they may be exulting in their majority. But their difficulties are before them, and the old Toryism cannot get rid of these. The 'Liberal though a Unionist’ says ‘England (notwithstanding Disraeli) does love compromise, and what is political compromise in practice but alliance or coalition ?' Precisely; but that means a distinct change of policy in both parties. At present there is no sign of this. Lord Salisbury has conceded much to the Liberal Unionists in office, but there is no sign of any surrender of opinions. On the contrary, recent utterances from some of his most trusted followers point to a policy of reaction. There are doubtless some in his own party who will clamour for such a display of energy, and it remains to be seen how far Mr. Chamberlain has either the inclination or the power to restrain their fiery zeal. Extremists and faddists are not the monopoly of either party. Now is the opportunity for those who are among the supporters of the Government, and if they prevail there will be nothing of that spirit of compromise which a Coalition Government is properly supposed to represent. Their predominance would assuredly render the task of the Opposition more easy. But speculation as to the probabilities of the immediate future would be singularly valueless at present. The extraordinary revolution in the state of parties has, for the moment, produced a general state of unrest and uncertainty, and we must be content to wait the development of events. Soberminded Liberals, of all people, have no reason to lose faith and heart. If there seems to be a check to the cause of progress, it is easily to be explained by the mistakes which have been committed by those of its friends who seem to have studied neither human nature nor history. Many who maintained their loyalty to the party through evil report and good report, have long been anxious as to the issue, and our worst anticipations have been more than fulfilled. The present lesson is a very severe, but it may prove a salutary one, if it teach us to rely more upon the education of the people in sound political principles, and less upon appeals to a miserable selfishness. Both parties, indeed, need to understand the danger of making lavish promises which may win a temporary success, but which cannot be redeemed, and will in all probability prove the ultimate ruin of those by whom they have been made. It is pitiful to see how the appeal is constantly made to these lower sentiments of the nature, rather than to the nobler instincts of a true patriotism. The Liberal party, in particular, is bound to adopt this better part, and the more faithful it is to this higher wisdom the more assured will be its revival.
THE GENERAL ELECTION
THE ROUT OF THE FADDISTS
The facts speak for themselves. Ten years have come and gone since Mr. Gladstone declared himself in favour of the Repeal of the Union, and since the Liberal party, at his instance, adopted Home Rule for Ireland as the main plank in their political platform. For ten long weary years the country has been distracted by the issue as to whether the British islands should or should not remain a United Kingdom. To recall the vicissitudes of that momentous struggle would be a mere work of surplusage. It is enough to say that in the end the cause of the Union has triumphed, and triumphed decisively. Throughout this contest, and amidst the writers who have been permitted to oppose in this Review what we regarded as the mischievous fallacy of Separatism, it is iny pride to have been allowed to play a part, however humble. I may therefore be excused if, in the hour of victory, I wish to point out how absolute that victory has been, how completely it has justified the contention which, for the past decade, we Unionists have upheld through good and evil days.
Our contention has never varied. We have declared that the British nation was determined to maintain the Union, and that whenever the issue of Home Rule was placed clearly and squarely before the constituencies the answer to the demand for Home Rule would be given in language which there was no possibility of mistaking. At last, after endless delays, after the appeal to the people has been distorted, obscured, and delayed by every art and device, the Liberal party have been compelled to submit their Home Rule policy to the arbitrament of the electorate. Writing as I do, when the returns are not yet complete, I can deal only with the broad results. But this I can say without fear of refutation, that the Unionists have obtained the most overwhelming expression of public confidence ever yet accorded to any political party in the United Kingdom. Our numerical majority is so great, and is likely to be so much greater, that, in the judgment of experienced politicians, its very magnitude may possibly prove a cause of embarrassment. To these apprehensions, even if well founded, I for one attach little importance. Personally, I welcome the popular verdict, not so much because it serves the interests of the party to which I belong, as because it expresses the will of the British nation on the subject of Home Rule. From this point of view the manifestation of public sentiment cannot possibly be too decisive or too unanimous. It is on this account that the composition of our majority is even more significant than its magnitude. In every part of Great Britain, North, South, East, and West, in the counties as well as in the borougbs, in the great centres of population, in the agricultural districts, the choice of the constituencies has fallen on the men who stood up for the Union, and has discarded the men who allied themselves with the Irish Nationalists. With exceptions so rare and meagre as hardly to need taking into account, the Unionist vote has been largely increased even in the contests where the Separatists have continued to hold their own, while the Separatist vote has suffered an even more significant diminution. Not a single Unionist of any eminence has failed to secure re-election, while the leaders of the Separatist party, the men who have made themselves most conspicuous by their advocacy of Home Rule, have sustained defeat in constituencies where till the other day the return of a L'nionist candidate was regarded as an utter impossibility. To put it shortly, the Unionists have triumphed all along the line.
It seems to me all-important to dwell first on this aspect of the General Election, as, after all, the main importance of the popular vote lies in the fact that it deals a deathblow to the Home Rule agitation. It would be absurd to pretend that Home Rule was the sole or even the main consideration which influenced the decision of the constituencies either on one side or the other. At the same time no honest observer can deny that the electorate deliberately and decisively condemned the coalition between the English and Scotch Liberals and the Irish Nationalists, in virtue of which the latter agreed to retain the former in office on condition of their according legislative independence to Ireland. It was obvious to any thinking man, long before Lord Rosebery made his memorable confession, that Home Rule for Ireland could never become a reality until England as the predominant partner in the Union had been converted to a conviction of its expediency. After the outcome of the General Election there is no possibility of this conviction being brought home to the mind of the British electorate within any period with which living politicians need concern themselves. The Irish Nationalists have, therefore, no further motive for bidding for the support of the Liberals, who, even under the most favourable circumstances, could never succeed in carrying a Home Rule Bill into law; while the Liberals bave even less motive for maintaining a coalition which was always intensely distasteful to the bulk of the party, and has already brought them to defeat and discredit. For