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the house. A Parish Councils Bill for England was the substi.
tute which the Gladstonians brought out to replace Home Rule
for Ireland. -
There is no necessity to dwell here upon the months which
intervened between the defeat of the Ministry in the Lords and
the resignation of the late Premier. Christmas came and found
the defeated Ministry still in office, with Mr. Gladstone as the
leader—we might almost say the dictator—of the Liberal party.
Indeed, amongst his own followers, and even with the public at
large, his individuality during these last months of his public
career was perhaps more potent than it ever had been before.
The very decline in the prestige of the Gladstonian Ministry
tended to augment the prestige of the Premier. His intimates
in political life probably saw symptoms of failing health and
decaying powers. But to the outside world the Grand Old Man
was at once the heart and soul, the brain and the mouthpiece, of
the Liberal party. The faith in himself and in his own policy,
which never swerved ; the exuberant energy with which he
fought a losing battle to the end; the vigour of mind and body,
which seemed to defy the approach of extreme old age, com:
manded the admiration even of those who most disapproved of
his politics, and enlisted popular sympathies in his behalf to
an extent which we think will be found hereafter to account
largely for the apparent apathy of the general public on an
issue involving the dismemberment, if not the destruction, of
the United Kingdom.
When Mr. Gladstone left England for Biarritz early in the
present year, the last thought which presented itself to the
public mind was that his Premiership was about to be cul
short by his own act and deed. One day or other when the
present has drifted into the half-forgotten past, some Greville
of the future will tell the true story of the decline and fall of
the Gladstone administration. What is certain is, that his
resignation was entirely unexpected by the great body of his
followers and even of his colleagues. It seems to be admitted
that in the month of January he had made up his mind to
resign his Premiership at the close of the session; but the
knowledge of , this intention was kept a profound setti,
except to the inmost circle of his trusted adherents. Who
somehow or other a rumour got abroad that the Premier
was meditating an early retirement from official life, to
rumour was authoritatively denied in a letter which, if it
was not actually dictated by Mr. Gladstone, bore unmistak
able evidence of his unequalled skill in devising a statemen.
which, without being absolutely untrue, succeeded in lio
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the truth by a happy combination of the suppressio veri with the suggestio falsi. When Mr. Gladstone returned from Biarritz, he took his place in the House as usual, and on the very eve of his resignation delivered a violent diatribe against the House of Lords, which was understood, and must have been meant to be understood, as a declaration of his intention to lead a crusade against the hereditary Chamber as at present constituted. Yet weeks beforehand Mr. Gladstone is now known to have practically resigned office. We cannot but recall the saying of Talleyrand at a conclave of diplomatists, “Qui est-ce qu'on trompe ici 2' The object of all this secrecy must have been to keep somebody in the dark. All we can suggest is that that unknown somebody must have been one who was likely to resent the arrangements Mr. Gladstone proposed to carry out on leaving office, and who might possibly have raised difficulties in the way of their execution. We would remark here in passing that nothing can be more imbecile than the assertion made so frequently by the organs of the New Liberalism, that Lord Rosebery was forced upon Mr. Gladstone. Mr. Gladstone's own position as leader of the Liberal party was, up to the date of his resignation, unassailed and unassailable. Nobody could have compelled him to resign, and yet his resignation was essential as a preliminary to Lord Rosebery or anybody else being appointed Premier. Again, if, having made up his mind to resign, he had objected to Lord Rosebery as a successor, nothing would have been easier for him than to hinder Lord Rosebery's selection by taking his colleagues and his party into his confidence, informing them beforehand of his intention to resign, and recommending to their acceptance the colleague whom he deemed best fitted to fill his post. If Lord Rosebery reigns in his stead, and Sir William Harcourt and Mr. John Morley are still minor stars in the political firmament, the responsibility for their fortunes rests on Mr. Gladstone. To our minds, the explanation of Mr. Gladstone's choice of a successor is not far to seek. Nothing is further from our intentions than to impute any unworthy motive to the late Premier by the suggestion that when he determined on quitting office he wished to keep open a possibility for his return to power in the event of the terrible physical calamity with which he was then threatened being averted, as there was every reason to hope it might be. Men of great vital energy and intellectual power are very slow to realize the fact that they are growing old, but they realize even more acutely than common humanity the fact that they are growing deaf or blind. It is therefore natural that that Mr. Gladstone should have cherished the belief that, if only the special ailment under which he suffered could be removed, he would be able to resume the Premiership. The desire to retain office is consistent, not only with his own personal ambi. tion, but with his profound belief in the mission with which he has convinced himself he has been entrusted—that of the settlement of the Irish question by the Repeal of the Union. Fantastic as the belief may be, it is none the less profound by reason of its unreality. Moreover, in all Mr. Gladstone's fanaticism there has always been a queer admixture of political sagacity. He is

far too old a parliamentary hand not to have perceived that the

days of his administration were numbered, and that his own authority would stand higher in the future if he had left the helm before, instead of after, the inevitable shipwreck. With restored sight, renewed vigour, and with the prestige of a sort of political resurrection attaching to his personality, he might well reckon on being carried back into power by a wave of popular enthusiasm ; and in order to take advantage of such a reaction in his favour, it was necessary his place should be filled during the interregnum by an Elisha, who, even if he wished, could not retain the prophet's mantle in the event of Elijah's return to earth. We do not say that this theory of ours is correct. All we have a right to say is that it explains much that is otherwise obscure and lacking in straightforwardness in the manner of Mr. Gladstone's retirement. We fully believe that Lord Rosebery's many positive merits weighed with Mr. Gladstone equally with his negative recommendations. All persons, however, who have had any theatrical experience are aware that when a star actor is compelled to leave the stage for a season, he always presets his special parts being filled by an untried novice rather than by a trained ‘under-study'; and we entertain a shrewd suspicion that Lord Rosebery's chief recommendation in the late Premiers eyes lay in the fact that, whatever his political ability might prove to be, he was disqualified by position, by character, and by birth from ever being a successful “under-study’ of his great predecessor. Be this as it may, the news that Mr. Gladstone had resigned and that Lord Rosebery had been commissioned to form Ministry in his place fell like a thunderbolt amidst the Liberal party. They were literally as sheep without a shepherd. The great majority of his supporters had in fact, if not in namo been elected to support Mr. Gladstone. Their duty was to so. ditto to their leader. Suddenly a mass of items were callel upon to think for themselves; and the only consolation o: Ost

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lost leader had left them was the knowledge that he had taken upon himself the trouble to make up their minds for them, as to whom they should select as their new chief. Men who are old enough to remember the days when Palmerston and Russell were the Liberal Prime Ministers, cannot fail to notice the almost complete disappearance of the independent Liberal under Mr. Gladstone's régime. There are no Liberals now-adays outside the ranks of the Ministry who hold anything of the same independent attitude as that held by such men as Cobden, Mill, Bernal Osborne, Roebuck, Lowe, and Duncombe, only to mention the first half-dozen names which occur to our memory. The last of the independents is Mr. Labouchere, and even he never ventures on the freedom of criticism which his predecessors were in the habit of employing. The utter subserviency of the Liberals to a one man rule was shown during the crisis to which we allude, when Lord Rosebery was accepted by the party as their chief almost without discussion, simply and solely because he was understood to be Mr. Gladstone's nominee. The choice—putting all political prejudices aside—seems to us to have been the best possible under the conditions to which this election was necessarily subject. There were indeed certain obvious disadvantages. Lord Rosebery was young, almost a boy, according to our modern standard of political age. He had the merit or demerit of looking even younger than his years. A peer who never had been—and, owing to his having succeeded to his title as a minor, never could have been—a member of the House of Commons, he had necessarily but little personal acquaintance with Parliamentary life. He was a ready speaker, with a command of neatly put phrases, but he had no claim to eloquence. His official experience was pretty well confined to the direction of the Foreign Office, in which he was wise enough to content himself with following the lines of policy laid down by his predecessor, Lord Salisbury. If the fates had removed him from this mundane sphere at any time before Mr. Gladstone's retirement, he would have left behind him the memory of a young nobleman who had given evidence of great industry, who had displayed considerable ability, both as an author and a speaker, but who had never had the opportunity of establishing his claim to the repute of statesmanship. Such, a year ago, would have been the substance of the obituary notices which, in the event of his death at the above period, would have summed up Lord Rosebery's career. On the other hand, there were many potent considerations which designated him as the fittest successor to the vacant leadership. He had always Vol. 179.-No. 358. 2 O been been a staunch and loyal supporter of Mr. Gladstone. He was supposed to have great personal influence in Scotland. He had committed himself as little to Home Rule as was consistent with his character of a Gladstonian Minister; and he had contrived to inspire the public with confidence in his good sense, public spirit, and sterling patriotism. His speeches and his despatches had about them much of the good old Jingo ring which, whatever pedants and saddists may say to the contrary, always goes home to the heart of the British public. His close connection by marriage with the greatest financial firm in England, if not in the world, was a guarantee that the interests of Great Britain, as the centre of the world's trade, would be safe in his keeping. His attitude as Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs was deemed a proof that he was likely to take Lord Palmerston as his model, and that under his Premiership we should have no more of the policy of “muddle and scuttle' which had done so much to destroy the repute and impair the interests of England. And what perhaps told more than all in Lord Rosebery's favour with the public, he was neither Sir William Harcourt nor Mr. John Morley. It is certain that there was a very general sentiment of relief when it was known that Lord Rosebery was to be Premier, His own party were naturally anxious to extol the merits of their new leader. His political opponents were inclined to give him a fair trial. The country was prepared to credit him with all the merits he was supposed to possess. Indeed the consensus of popular opinion in his favour was so strong that even his rivals and detractors felt it politic to keep silence for a time. If our surmise is correct, the chorus of congratulation with which Lord Rosebery's accession to the Premiership was greeted by the public at large, blinded him at the outset to the restrictions under which he had accepted the Premiership, and under which alone he could hope to retain it. His declaration on assuming office that Home Rule for Ireland could never be carried without the consent of England as the predominant partner in the union of the four kingdoms, was either intended as the announcement of a new departure, or else it was a colossal and inconceivable blunder For our part, we incline to the former alternative. But whatever may have been the explanation of this manifesto, as promptly made as it was promptly retracted, Lord Roseber, was soon taught that he had reckoned without his followers. The immediate effect of his declaration, if persisted in, would have been to drive the Irish Nationalists into opposition, an

thereby to place the Ministry in a hopeless minority. o i 15

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