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employment of some of those extremely vulgar-souled young barristers-at-law who are always ready to vilify Mr. Gladstone and to work the Bradlaugh odium on the lecture platform, to array in the most Liberal districts sufficient force to supplement victoriously the normal strength of the Conservatives in the duller parts. These are present-day, temporary illustrations, but for that reason they will serve all the better to illuminate a present-day, temporary situation. Without arrogance or offence it may be assumed that a dead condition of things in a county is more favourable to the Tories than to the Liberals; but, whoever it favours, deadness is deadness; and we may expect that, when under conditions of newly forced and necessarily maintained life smaller and homogeneous divisions of the counties have to be plied by both parties with speeches, argument, and propagandism, Toryism too will profit in the increased zeal of its supporters and by the disciplinary necessity under which it will be laid of appealing to more intelligent motives and considerations. No part of any county can in future be neglected. All must be well worked in detail, and in competition the organization and the evangelism, so to speak, of each party may be expected to improve. Another great advantage must be the greater freedom of choice of representatives. Sitting for a county will no longer be such an ineffable distinction as it has heretofore been locally regarded. Consequently, standing for a county will require less courage and may be proposed to gentlemen of less exceptional position than used to be looked for. Even under present conditions this consideration has been made too much of. Often when an aristocratic, highly connected personage has been fixed on, because no other kind of candidate would be acceptable to the “county people,” it has been found too late that in his own rank he only excited jealousy and was for various petty reasons socially disliked; while over voters of other grades he could not, and his connections would not, exercise any influence, and there was no sort of popular charm or attraction to be expected either from his manners, his eloquence, or his information. Very often even in a county of the old type a sounder and more expert politician not drawn from the genteel ranks would have created less bad blood among the lofty and more zeal among the lowlier electors. Under the new conditions we may expect good men to be intrinsically sought and chosen for many county divisions. Electioneering will be vigorous and shrewd. Party managers will see that local claims may be best countered by conspicuous competency. Good candidates will therefore be at a premium. The tendency which has made such great boroughs as Hackney, Southwark, and Newcastle seek out and commission a Bryce, a Cohen, a Rogers, a Stuart, and a Morley—the disposition which Birmingham and Bradford have shown to choose in a Chamberlain and a Forster not mere chiefs of local industry, but men of the highest mark in local public life—will certainly be exemplified in the new county districts; and the latter species of selection will take a permanent place in the usages of the country when the counties have received that genuine and well-ordered local self-government which it will be a first duty of the new Parliament to supply them with. The reduction in the expenses of county contests will increase the independence of the constituents. The cost will be easily manageable, especially so long as the present leading county politicians continue, as they may be expected to do, their present rate of contribution, and it will no doubt be further relieved by special contributions from candidates and their friends. Thus will be escaped the slavery of territorial influence, and, what is perhaps worse, the shadow of territorial influence where little, if any, real territorial power exists. For the habit of deference lingers long after there is any necessity for it, and great pains are taken to please this Earl and to consult that Marquis when neither of them really counts for many votes at the polling-booth. Henceforth there will be less of this, or even if it be intensified in particular districts, as it probably will not be, the operation of it will not extend beyond those limits. County voters have hitherto been remote from each other. The only people who could meet to discuss and arrange matters were the county squires and justices. Between these there could be little cohesion, except class cohesion. They could not be keenly or minutely representative of the feelings of the voters in their districts. And if in any part of the county there lay any Radical element of population, not only would these gentlemen think little of it, or think of it only as a nuisance to both sides of politics alike, but in every way such a Radical element would be so far separated from any sympathizing centres in any other parts of the county as to be helpless. It is an important consideration that none of the new county divisions will be too large or too scattered for the growth of a matural and congenial political life. No one, for instance, can survey the divisions of South-West Lancashire without recognizing the improvement in political tone which must ensue. Such prosperous and active districts as Leigh, St. Helens, and Southport have hitherto been represented in county electoral matters by three or four delegates sitting on a committee that met occasionally in an office in Liverpool. There could be little concerted action even under the best management. At an election for the whole county there was much discouragement. A weak place measured the case by its own condition, did not even do its best, and gave up the ghost about two o'clock in the day, just when the deciding struggles were beginning. A strong place was paralyzed by reflecting on the little use of exertion being made by one when nine were supine. When each district has to fight for its own hand it will fight much better and keep itself in much better fighting order. Many in this county prognosticate that all the seven newly constituted districts of South-West Lancashire, or at least five out of the seven, will spring at once and naturally into a healthy political life. To appreciate their special circumstances, it is necessary to remember that they are active and enterprising districts, each having a number of natural social leaders, usually as truly leaders in all that is progressive, socially and educationally, as in the ordinary routine of society and in local business and politics. Each, in fact, is a chief in a smaller district which keeps itself very much to itself. though the districts and the leaders alike co-operate in a businesslike manner whenever there is anything of public utility to be done. Here is an admirable basis for the creation of a sterling political life by the machinery which the Redistribution will supply. Candidates will not be lacking—choice of candidates will not be difficult. The habit of recognizing leadership has already been formed in these districts in the most creditable manner. Following good leaders is a tradition and instinct of the local mind. Give political opportunity to such qualities, put them into regular political harness, and political communities will be formed that in all essential particulars of excellence will bear comparison with any that the history of democracy can produce. And all this, observe, will be an absolute product of the new Reform Bills; for under the old system the good qualities and aptitudes of our South-West Lancashire districts ran almost utterly to waste. What is true of South-West Lancashire must be true, more or less, of all similar places, though in some of them there may have heretofore been more political vitality. In South-East Lancashire, in Cornwall, in Yorkshire, and elsewhere the same things may largely be expected. There may be a little doubt as to the result of division being quite so good in some of the agricultural counties. For instance, North and South Leicestershire, as several close, vigorous contests show, are not unwieldy under present conditions. Under the new arrangements Lord John Manners will be securely intrenched in his Belvoir district, and there political life will be virtually extinct. Lord John Manners and his particular friends will soon be “blue mouldy for want of a beating.” The adjoining district of Loughborough, with its busy manufacturing life, will not lapse into political inactivity, but Ashby-de-la-Zouch and Hinckley and Bosworth form a rather mixed and dubious district, and, with Lutterworth and Market Harborough a separate constituency by their side, will lack the vigour infused into them by Mr. T. T. Paget in his many gallant and successful contests. These are specimen cases which might be multiplied, and the object of citing them is neither to exhibit concern, at this point, for Liberal interests, nor to complain of division as a principle, but to bring under review some of its less desirable results from the point of view of Lord Beaconsfield's admirable vaunt when he said, “We are a free and political people.”
Let us now, however, quit the general outlook from which we regard the result to the national political health, without reference to party advantage. Let us consider how far the Liberal party will be benefited by the change. I instance first a minor advantage which it might seem ungenerous to mention, but that I am not a wire-puller, and desire to see extreme men in Parliament rather than excluded from it. I mean the opportunity that the new boroughs will afford for finding convenient places for gentlemen who, under strong conscientious impulses, do not hesitate to divide the Liberal interest, or whose appearance as candidates has that effect. Some say that the result will be to increase the embarrassment, because it will no longer be possible to yoke together as candidates for one constituency two Liberals of different schools. This, however, was never an agreeable proceeding. There were always suspicions of bad faith and other drawbacks, to say nothing of an excess of compromise and policy in speech. And very often, when there was no possibility of the method of pairing Liberal candidates being adopted, a pushing or muchpushed politician of a type not acceptable to the majority of the constituency has hung upon the skirts of the local managers in such a manner as to render their efforts hopeless and to entangle them in imbecile inaction or mistakes. In future, opportunities will usually be found to place a candidate of this kind as candidate in a district where not only will he cease to be inconvenient to his party at large, but he may prove the best possible man to fight its battle and may obtain an honourable entrance upon parliamentary usefulness. Liberal interests in this matter must, however, be looked at in a much larger spirit. What we may mainly hope for as a result of the more equal representation of numbers will be more continuity of progressive force. The abolition of the old small boroughs means the extinction of the most wavering element of the representative body. Politicians who think it worth while are always discussing which side really was in a minority at particular general elections. When we see such startling revulsions as have taken place it certainly suggests that there must have been some specially variable element in our electorate. Now it was largely due to the small boroughs, happily about to be extinguished, that the Tory wave of 1874 had the *fect that it had. Again, it was the coming back of the "oroughs that gave the Liberals their signal majority in s we find that the English boroughs under 50,000 of
population in 1874 returned 94 Liberals and 92 Tories, giving a Tory majority of two. In 1880 the same boroughs returned 125 Liberals and 61 Tories, a Liberal majority of 84, or a difference altogether between the two elections of 62 votes, counting 128 on a division, derived from only 164 seats. It shows how much less easily and completely large constituencies are moved, to notice that in places above 50,000 the net Liberal gain in 1880 was only 21. Of course it is assumed here, and might easily be proved, that the 1874 election was almost as great a reversal of the previous election as 1880 was of 1874.
What are the causes of this especial variableness ? Or this point it would be rash to dogmatize, and it matters less because we have now done with many of these boroughs for ever. But it may be suggested that they are more subject to panic, to cries, to extreme and sudden feelings of all sorts, than are larger constituencies. Probably this may be because they get them at second-hand like their fashions from London, and are not as it were present at the making of them. When the element of fitfulness which they contribute to our political system has been got rid of, we may expect that whatever general tendency in our politics is otherwise most permanent and uniform will have more continuous play. That element, judging by the past, is Liberal. The force of Liberalism will therefore, under the new system, be seldomer interrupted or depressed. Q.E.D.
All the very small constituencies are merged into larger ones. They will lose their factitious and abnormal importance, to which even great Ministers have lent countenance, especially at “byelections," at critical junctures. Change in the electorate will be less spasmodic. Larger constituencies will be less easily impressed by impact of enthusiastic onslaught. Large dense bodies are capable of more resistance, and are difficult to dislodge from any position which they may take up.
Prophecy is vain, but taking the boroughs as at present, and the new constituencies as sharing the sentiments of the neighbourhoods out of which they are formed, and supposing the more fluid element which came of the small boroughs to be neutralized, the Liberal party may fairly expect a substantial majority at the General Election, without taking into account the very doubtful agricultural labourer.
To anticipate the invigorated Liberal policy of the future, to speculate as to what will be done, and which thing first, has been no part of the object of this paper. The aim has rather been to estimate the probable working of the system created by the Seats Bill as a going machine. The machine has been improved by getting