Wilfrid Richmond.

The Americana: a universal reference library, comprising the arts ..., Volume 10 online

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majority larger than had been known since
1832. Lord Salisbury's new Ministry, which in-
cluded some Liberal Unionists, had to grapple
with a succession of difficulties — the Venezue-
lan affair, complicated by President Cleveland's
message, Dr. Jameson's raid in South Africa,
complicated by Kaiser Wilhclm's famous tele-
gram, oppression and anarchy in Crete and many
parts of the Turkish Empire, and the campaign
against the Dervishes on the Upper Nile.

To these matters we cannot advert. We can
point out here only two chief facts in the
4 political history of the century — the gradual
effacement of the old party lines, and the
curious periodicity in the political life of Great
Britain. To dwell on the latter of these, it is
clear that the main tendency has been toward
democracy and industrial development by peace-
ful means — a tendencv dominant in the periods
1816-1848, 1866-1874. 1*880-1886, 1892-1895. The
intervening years were marked either by the
quiescence which comes naturally after great con-
structive efforts, or by the striving after national
security and the consolidation of the Empire
which results inevitably from the insular posi-
tion and expansive force of a virile people. The
century closed, as it began, amidst what may be
termed the imperial impulse, of which indus-



trialism has been the unconscious but all power-
ful feeder. The era of great production,
coinciding as it does with one of militarism and
protection on the Continent of Europe, imposes
on England the need of looking and living be-
yond the seas to an extent unimaginable to the
men of Nelson's generation. In this dualism of
her interests, democratic and imperial, lies the
great problem of her political life — a problem
never to be solved but ever keeping her faculties
tense and keen.

Bibliography, — We can name here only a few
of the chief works dealing with the outstand-
ing events of British political life and with the
men who made history in the 19th century.
Besides the text books on the English history of
the period written by Dr. Bright and Dr.
Gardiner, there are ( History of England —
i8oo-i8i5> and <History of the Thirty Years'
Peace — i8i6-i846 ) by Harriet Martineau;
< History of England from i8i5 > (6 vols.) by
Sir Spencer Walpole (continued up to 1900) ;
( A History of Our Own Times ) by Justin
McCarthy, (continued up 'o 1900, 4 ^^ls.):
c Social England > (vols. V. and VI.) edited by
Dr. Traill ; <The Political History of England,*
vol. XI. (1801-1837) by Hon. G. C Brodrick
and J. K. Fotheringham ; vol. XII. (1837-1901)
by S. J. Low. Also the following biographies:
< Pitt ) by Lord Rosebery (1 vol.) -also by J. H.
Rose (2 vols.) ; <Life of Nelson* by Captain
Mahan (2 vols.) ; <Life of Wellington > by Sir
Herbert Maxwell (2 vols.) ; < George Canning*
by H. W. V. Temperley; <Peel> by J. R. Thurs-
field; <Life of Palmerston> (1 846-1 865) (2 vols.)
by Hon. Evelyn Ashlet; ( Life of Lord John
RusselP by Spencer Walpole (2 vols.); <Life
of Cobdcn> and ( Life of Gladstone > (3 vols.)
by John Morley; ( Life of Lord Granville* by
Lord Fitzmaurice (2 vols.) : <Life of Lord
Randolph Churchill > by Winston Churchill
(2 vols.).

J. Holland Rose,
Author of < The Development of the European
Nations, i870-i900. )

8. (b). Great Britain — The Political Par-
ties. Party government begins, in primitive so-
ciety, with the struggle for power, the nature of
which is determined in each case by local and
tribal conditions, and by the influence of men
who are or aspire to be leaders. At a later
stage, when abstract logic is applied to questions
of policy, the parties begin to argue from
principles; they profess themselves friends of
the people, friends of the better class, and so
forth. The principles invoked are not scientific
propositions ; they are rather forms of language,
such as are received with favor in a mixed
assembly ; the party-leader uses them so as to
combine opinions and interests, to draw to-
gether a working majority. Each party borrows
freely what seems to be effective and popular in
the programme of its opponents. Moderate
men of all parties think very much alike; they
are kept apart by the personal struggle for
power.

These general truths are well illustrated by
the contest between Whigs and Tories in the
17th century. The Whigs were an aristocratic
party, reiving on the nobles, the landed gentry,
and the City of London. Their principle was,
the supremacy of the law : they were determined



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GREAT BRITAIN— THE POLITICAL PARTIES



that the courts which administer the law, and
the high court of Parliament which makes the
law, should be freed from the arbitrary inter-
ference of the King. Moderate Tories did not
undervalue the law; they argued that by law
the King was entitled to obedience, and that the •
King then reigning had done nothing to forfeit
his claim. The Whies carried their point in
1688, by bringing in a foreign king, a capable,
magnanimous man, not less firmly attached to
his royal prerogative than the Stuart Kings had
been. With the advent of the House of Han-
over in 17 14, Whig principles came once more to
■ the front; for the first George and his son were
Germans; they needed an interpreter between
the King and the people ; and the statesman who
could manage the House of Commons was not,
like Strafford or Clarendon, dependent on the
support of his royal master. George III. on the
other hand was a patriotic Englishman; he
thought himself strong enough to choose his
own ministers and to throw off the yoke of the
Whig nobles. If he had possessed the admin-
istrative talent of Frederick the Great, he might
have made himself the head of the Government
and set himself above the parties. But King
George was neither a great statesman nor a
great soldier; he relied too much on the smaller
arts of political management ; and in the middle
of his long reiem he came under the influence of
a minister whose commanding character ex-
cluded the king from the personal conduct of
national business. It is to Pitt that we owe the
outline of our modern constitution. At Wind-
sor he was the servant of the Crown, arguing,
often in vain, against the obstinate purpose of
his master. In the Cabinet he was himself
master; he chose his colleagues, and dismissed
them when they opposed his policy. In the
House of Commons, which was still an aristo-
cratic body, his ascendency was never seriously
disputed, and he filled the House of Lords with
peers of his own creation. So it was that Pitt,
by birth and training a Whig, became the
founder of the new Tory party.

Pitt's opinions were those of an official
Liberal. He wished to reform the electoral
system, to remove religious disabilities, to relax
the rigor of laws which prevented the expansion
of trade. But the fates had imposed upon him
the task of steering the ship of State through a
period of wars and revolutions: the work of
reform was postponed to the necessities of
foreign and domestic policy. When the great
minister died, his unfinished schemes fell into
the hands of men with whom postponement was
a settled habit. During the long Tory adminis-
tration of Lord Liverpool there was, in prin-
ciple, but little difference between the parties.
The middle classes were impatient, and some
of them joined the workingmen in declaring
that neither of the aristocratic parties could be
trusted. These independent men called them-
selves radical reformers, and they sympathized
with the aspirations of democracy in America,
in Ireland, and on the continent of Europe.

The Reform Act of 1832 was a Whig com-
promise; it failed to satisfy the Radicals, but
it gave them a foothold which they never lost.
It was indeed the first attempt to applv abstract
principles to the English constitution, and it
started a momentous process of change. Tra-



dition was dethroned, and the old party names
had become unpopular. The Whigs began to
call themselves Liberals, a name which some of
them declined, because it suggested humanitarian
tendencies with which they were not in sym-
pathy. Macaulay, for example, would not call
himself a Liberal, because, as he said, he was in
favor of "war, church establishments, and hang-
ing.* The Tories in their turn became Con-
servatives ; they accepted the results of 1832, but
deprecated any further change in fundamental
institutions. The Radicals of that day were
middle-class men, disciples of Bentham; they
stood for cheap government, freedom of contract,
and individualism. Socialism made its appeal
to the unenfranchised laborers, but as yet with-
out much visible success. The Factory Acts,
for example, were carried by Tory humani-
tarians, against the opposition of Radical manu-
facturers. Free trade, when it came, was the
work of a Conservative administration; the
Liberals approved; the older Whigs, like Lord
Melbourne, thought that Peel had betrayed the
landed interest. Lord Derby, a hereditary Whig,
was carried over to the conservative Tories by
his fears for the Church and his dislike of
free trade.

The conflicting tendencies of the half-century
after the first Reform Act are summed up in
the careers of two men who were to take a
leading part in the transition to democracy.
Disraeli entered life as a Radical ; he was always
hostile to the Whig oligarchy. His sympathies
were with the Tories ; his father, a quiet scholar,
had taught him to take the side of the Stuart
Kings, and to regard the old nobility as the
true leaders of the people. If Peel had given
him office, he might have become an orthodox
Conservative; but the leaders of that party had
no place for an able Jew, who lacked the public
school and University stamp. Disraeli took his
revenge by attacking Peel and his free-trade
policy; his merciless wit gave him the ascend-
ency, even with men who still distrusted him;
he gained the confidence of Lord Derby, and in
alliance with him began the construction of
what was really a new party, the party of Tory
democracy. In 1867 the new Tories took their
famous "leap in the dark* by establishing
household suffrage in the boroughs. The im-
mediate result was a crushing Liberal victory;
but in 1874 the forces of Tory democracy were
strong enough to place their leaders in power.
Six years later, the pendulum swung back, and
Mr. Gladstone was once more supreme.

Lord Beaconsfield died in the moment of de-
feat, but his genius presides over the party
which he formed, and profoundly effects the
mind of the nation. He never concealed his
belief that the conduct of public affairs, espe-
cially foreign affairs, must be left to sovereigns
and statesmen. At the same time, he was al-
ways in sympathy with the aspirations of the
workingmen. He was the only public man of
his generation vho perceived that Benthamite
Liberalism was certain, sooner or later, to be-
come unpopular, and he prepared the way for
that modified socialism which is now the ac-
cepted creed of both parties: And again he
perceived that Englishmen, without distinction
of class, are conscious of their position as an
imperial power, and determined to maintain it



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GREAT BRITAIN — THE POLITICAL PARTIES



Disraeli himself, in his earlier days, had taken
the narrower views of England's responsibility
to India and the colonies; his later speeches are
full of the sentiment of empire. Englishmen are
all (to some extent) socialists now; and are
all (in one sense or another) imperialists.

Mr. Gladstone began his career as the rising
hope of Oxford Toryism. He was honestly
afraid of Radicalism; he distrusted the Whigs;
the mission of the Tory party was to a main-
tain truth" by supporting the Church of Eng-
land. At the age of 30 he published his book
on * The State in its Relations with the
Church > — a noble vindication of the Church
as a spiritual society, pledged to maintain her
conflict with sin and selfishness, a society to
which the support of the State is not essential,
but may, under proper conditions, be useful.
It was in the interest of the State that Glad-
stone argued for the establishment and endow-
ment of the Church. His argument was coldly
received; the qualified approval of Peel, the
scornful criticism of Macaulay, began to work
a change in Gladstone's political mind. No
criticism touched his ideal; but in the present
age of the world the ideal was, perhaps, un-
attainable. If Whigs and Conservatives were
equally unable to rise to his conception of the
Ojurch, if the price of establishment was to be
subordination to the State, what then? The
Church, to preserve her freedom and purity,
might withdraw from the alliance, surrendering
those of her privileges which might be found
inconsistent with abstract political justice.
.Within a few years after the publication of his
book, Mr. Gladstone was discussing the possible
advantages of disestablishment.

Sir Robert Peel was not pleased to see an
able young party man so preoccupied with
ecclesiastical questions. He drew Gladstone into
his ministry, placed him at the Board of Trade,
and worked him very hard. In the transition
to free trade, master and pupil moved steadily
together. While Peel was leader, there could
be no doubt as to Gladstone's party connection ;
when that guiding influence was removed, he
was carried about by various kinds of doctrine.
Though more than half a Liberal, he was still
afraid of Radicalism. He approved of Lord
Palmerston's passive resistance to the extension
of the franchise, but this was his only link of
sympathy with the coming leader of the Liberal
party. There was much agreement between
Gladstone and Lord Derby; both were Oxford
Tories, and devoted Churchmen; but by this
time Lord Derby was identified with Disraeli,
and the Peelites would not serve under the man
who had planted so many barbed arrows in the
sensitive spirit of their chief. After long hesi-
tation, Mr. Gladstone threw in his lot with the
Liberals. In June 1859 he supported Lord
Derby in a critical division; ten days later he
took office under Lord Palmerston.

As a member of a Liberal Government, Glad-
stone stood committed to parliamentary reform.
His Whig colleagues discovered with alarm that
this late convert was not merely a reformer; he
was a democrat. He declared, from the Treas-
ury bench, that the laboring class had a moral
right to come within the pale of the Constitu-
tion. There was now only one link between the
Liberal champion and the Toryism of hh youth;



he was still member for the University of Ox-
ford. That link was severed when the Uni-
versity rejected him in 1865. Mr. Gladstone
appealed to the people of Lancashire, and en-
tered on the first of those oratorical campaigns,
which were to change the face of English poli-
tics.

The franchise question was settled, for a
time, by the Tories in 1867, and the popular vote
of 1868 was a personal vote for Mr. Gladstone.
With a wide and varied electorate, and many
interests competing for notice, the people are
easily persuaded to accept the supremacy of one
man, who, like General Jackson, ff acts always
for the good of the country.* Under such con-
ditions, the leader of opposition, if he knows
his business, has his rival at a disadvantage. It
is the men in power who have to make terms
with foreign governments, and to protect the
national purse; however well they do, it is
always easy to show that they might have done
better. Mr. Disraeli made good use of his op-
portunities, and in 1873 the tide of Liberal suc-
cess was ebbing rapidly. Mr. Gladstone was
alarmed, and he would fain have made his de-
feat on the Irish University question an excuse
for bringing his opponents into office. Disraeli
saw the snare and avoided it, and the wisdom of
his tactics was justified by the Conservative
victory of 1874. As a leader of opposition,
Mr. Gladstone disregarded what were then sup-
posed to be the conventions of party life. He
retired from responsible leadership; returned
to the field just at the moment when his action
was most likely to embarrass his successors;
and finally presented himself to the country as
a candidate for power. In the election of 1880
his success was complete, and the death of
Lord Beaconsfield left him without a personal
rival. But once more the tide ebbed as rapidly
as it had risen. In a few years it became evi-
dent that the Liberal party was hopelessly
divided on three issues of cardinal importance —
disestablishment of the Church, Home Rule
for Ireland, and the schemes of modified social-
ism advocated by Mr. Chamberlain. Old badges
and cries were out of date. Mr. Parnell was
forming an Irish party, so severely disciplined
that no member ot it could break away or dis-
obey orders. For a few eventful months there
was also a Fourth Party, a small band of Tories
who obstructed their own leaders, addressed
themselves in a democratic spirit to the con-
servative rank and file, and made themselves so
strong that in 1885 Lord Salisbury was com-
pelled to take them into partnershio.

At the general election of 1885, Mr. Glad-
stone endeavored to keep his party undivided
by postponing all troublesome questions. He
did not declare against Home Rule, but he
pointed out the danger of allowing Mr. Parnell
to hold the balance of power. This was his
reason for asking the country to give the Lib-
erals a majority large enough to make them
independent of the Irish vote. In the event,
parties were so distributed that the Conserva-
tives and Parnellites, if combined, would be
equal or superior in number to the Liberals.
Mr. Gladstone accepted Home Rule. It would
be quite unfair to reoresent his conversion as
a bia for power and nothing more. The argu-
ment for Home Rule was a strong one, and



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both the Rreat parties were studying it in a
practical spirit But, with a-1 his vast experi-
ence of affairs, Mr. Gladstone was subject to
illusions. He believed that the Irish demand,
as presented by him to the electors of England
and Scotland, would prove to be irresistible. In
this belief he cashiered those of his supporters
who refused to follow, and when the House of
Commons rejected his proposals, he hurried on
a *penal dissolution 1 * and went again to the
country. The ^classes,* he said, were against
him; he appealed to the ^masses." The masses
responded by placing the Unionists in power.

In the Parliament of 1886-92 the Liberal
Unionists occupied a position somewhat analo-
gous to that of the Peelites in 1850. They were
stronger in ability than either of the great
parties; they sat on the Liberal benches, and
co-operated steadily with the Conservatives.
Lord Salisbury in office did himself no dis-
credit; but he had to make himself responsible
for unpopular measures. The Crimes Act of
1887 was in itself a moderate measure, but it
was a deep disappointment to many who had
besrun to hope that Ireland might be governed
without repressive legislation. A good many
independent Liberals fell quietly into line with
their old party ; the swing of the pendulum was
felt. In 1892 Mr. Gladstone became Prime
Minister for the fourth time, and entered
buoyantly on the task of framing a second
scheme of Home Rule. When the scheme ap-
peared, his party saw plainly that it was not an
improvement on the Bill of 1886. Discipline
was maintained; the Bill of 1893 was carried
through the House of Commons, and it was
darkly intimated that the House of Lords must
accept it, or take the consequences. The Lords
rejected the Biii by a very large majority. Mr.
Gladstone was at the end of his physical re-
sources; and Lord Rosebery was not the man
to succeed where the old leader had failed. The
election of 1895 vindicated the shrewd forecast
of the Lords and restored Lord Salisbury to
office.

From this time forth the Liberal Unionists
were identified with the Conservatives; but in
consenting to share the spoils of victory they
did not withdraw the Liberal or Radical
opinions which they had professed. Mr. Cham-
berlain, for example, has not withdrawn his
objection to church establishments; he cannot,
of course, give effect to his opinion so long as
he retr.ins his connection with the Unionist
Party, which is pledged, as a party, to the de-
fence of two established Churches. On that
question no difficulty has arisen, but, at the
height of its success, the party has been broken
up by the controversy initiated by Mr. Cham-



berlain's attack on € one-sided free trade. 1 # As
conceived by its author, the plan of modified
protection has two aspects, socialist and im-
perialist. It aims at securing constant employ-
ment for the British workingman, and at
consolidating home interests with those of the
colonies by means of preferential tariffs. The
plan has been advocated in a series of speeches
which could hardly be excelled for clearness
and force; but the electors are not convinced.
In January 1906 the fiscal question held the
field; and free trade carried all before it. The
Unionist Party is left, for the moment, in a
helpless minority: its leaders find comfort in
recalling the precedents of 1841, 1874, and 1886
— the years in which the Conservative party
recovered its ground after an apparently crush-
ing defeat.

The Government in power is supported by
the Whig Liberals and by the Radicals, who
combine Manchester doctrines with modified
socialism as best they can. In former Parlia-
ments, labor members were few, and voted with
the Liberals. They still prefer Liberals to
Unionists, but their support is given in return
for concessions which put a strain on the
Liberal members of the Cabinet. t On Irish
questions, the Nationalists vote with Govern-
ment, on the understanding that Mr. Glad-
stone's policy will be revived at an early date ;
but where Catholic schools are concerned that
vote is hostile to the educational policy which
commends itself to most Liberals. The Union-
ists' opposition is seriously embarrassed by dif-
ferences of opinion in regard to free trade.
Amid these currents and cross-currents, the
leader of the moment must steer the best course
he can; at any moment forces now in conflict
with one another may combine to sweep him
out of his place. We still defer to the notion
that there are two great parties in the State;
but the House of Commons has in fact become
a collection of groups, like the Reichstag or the
Chamber of Deputies.

Bibliography. — Green, ( A Short History of
the English People > (part IV) ; McCarthy, <A
Short History of Our Own Times 5 ; Paul, <A
History of Modern England* (5 vols.) ; Morley,
( Life of William Ewart Gladstone* (3 vols.) ;
Churchill, <Lord Randolph Churchill* (2 vols.)
Sidney and Beatrice Webb, <The History of
Trade Unionism* (chaps. 6 and 7) ; Dicey, lec-
tures on the Relation Between Law and Public
Opinion During the Nineteenth Century. >
Thomas Raleigh,
Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, formerly
Legal Member of the Viceroy's Council in
India.



THE MECHANISM OF GOVERNMENT.



9. Great Britain — Parliament. The Brit-
ish Parliament has its roots deep in the past.
It has legislated continuously for a period of
more than 600 years, a record unapproached in
the history of the world. It has been developed
by successive stages from the Great Council
of the Norman and Angevin Kings. Much of
its ceremonial dates from Plantagenet times.



The foundations of this procedure are imbedded
in Elizabethan Journals. It holds its sittings
in a royal palace, which, though for the most
part modern in its structure, is venerable in its
associations. The New Palace Yard, through
which members of the House of Commons
hurry to their daily duties, is the yard of the
new palace which William Rufus built, and



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which is still represented by Westminster Hall.
There is scarcely a feature of Parliament which
can be adequately described without long his-
torical explanations.

Parliament consists of the King, the House
of Lords, and the House of Commons, or, as
described in the enacting formula of Acts of
Parliament, the King's most excellent Majesty,
the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and the
Commons. These are not as is often, but
erroneously, supposed, the three Estates of the
Realm, ihe clergy, who once counted as a
separate Estate from the Lords and Commons,
have long ceased to do so. The bishops, or



Online LibraryWilfrid RichmondThe Americana: a universal reference library, comprising the arts ..., Volume 10 → online text (page 10 of 185)