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Ireland.

If Mr Gladstone had had the fairness and manliness to stand forward, to declare that the Government must bear the whole responsibility of their demand, but that with that qualification and understanding he felt bound to support them, he would have taken a course honourable to himself, in strict accordance with precedent, and one which would have placed him in an impregnable position for future action, whether the demand of the Government afterwards turned out to have been justifiable or the reverse. But although such a course would appear to have been obviously dictated by public duty, although precedent seemed to require it, and as regarded the nature of the Government Bill itself, it was incontestably less stringent than one of a similar character introduced by Mr Gladstone's own Government five years ago, these considerations went for nothing when there appeared on the other side the chance of damaging the "Tory Government." Mr Gladstone threw himself into the bitterest opposition to the measure-he denounced it to the country as a "wanton," "miserable," "insulting," and "disastrous Bill, and by his language and conduct must be held to have made himself responsible for the indefensible tactics by which the measure was opposed in the House of Commons, as well as for the misrepresentations and exaggerations regarding it with which the country has been flooded.

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As far as the merits of the Bill itself are concerned, it may suffice to call three things to our recollection. First, that Lord Selborne, Mr Gladstone's own Lord Chancellor in 1882, who had previously emphatically declared that the Bill of the present session was of a less

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drastic character than that of 1882, demolished the case of the Opposition in a speech delivered upon the Committee stage of the measure in the House of Lords; secondly, that after all the bounce and bluster with which Gladstonian orators, following their leader's example, had denounced the Bill throughout the country, the occupants of the Opposition front bench in the House of Lords (where there were no Irish Nationalists to cheer them, and to interrupt their opponents) shrank from debate when the Bill reached that august assembly, and fared miserably in the debate which was forced upon them; and thirdly, that Lord Hartington has stated, in words which will be indorsed by every impartial man, that it appears to him that there was no reasonable cause for the protracted opposition to the Bill, except the desire to discredit the Government, and to embarrass political opponents by preventing them from taking legislation of any other character." In truth, the Bill was one absolutely necessary to enable the Government to vindicate the supremacy of the law in Ireland, and to show that no authority other than that of her Majesty could be permitted to rule in that country. To call that "coercion" which was introduced in order to free the Irish tenantry from a coercion more galling, more cruel, and more systematic than the history of our country has hitherto recorded, was and is a misnomer of which honest and fair-minded men should be ashamed. The question was one between the "coercion" of criminals or of law-abiding men, and nothing has for many years been so discreditable to the Liberal party and their leaders as the course which they have pursued in order to satisfy their Parnellite

allies upon a question upon which the Government in unmeasured loyal men of all parties should terms for taking a course which have been found standing side by it was absolutely indispensable for side. Whatever may be said by any Government to have taken. way of excuse on their behalf, few thoughtful politicians will doubt that, had Mr Gladstone himself been in office, it would have been impossible for him to have allowed the system of tyranny which has prevailed in parts of Ireland to have continued without let or hindrance. Judging from the past, it is unlikely that he would have hesitated to introduce a measure for the vindication of the Queen's authority in Ireland, had the responsibility of that vindication rested upon his shoulders. Indeed, even if a measure of Home Rule had been in prospect, he must have provided for the security of the community during the interval which would of necessity have elapsed before the new national power could be created to which he proposed to hand over the control of the executive. This could hardly have been done without strengthening the law, and the responsibility of neglect in this particular would have pressed upon Mr Gladstone as much in 1887 as it did in 1882, and indeed in 1886, in which year he has informed us that it had been the intention of his Government to have renewed some portion of the Peace Preservation Act had they continued in office. It can hardly, therefore, be open to question that, had the Gladstonians been in office during the present session, they would have been compelled to apply to Parliament for additional powers to maintain order and enforce the law in Ireland; and it has been with a full knowledge of this fact that they have deemed it consistent with the duty of loyal men and patriotic citizens to denounce

In spite of their obstructive tactics and unscrupulous opposition, the Crimes Bill has indeed become law, and the country will look for its resolute enforcement by the Government. The only success which the Gladstonian faction has achieved has been the delay of necessary legislation, especially for Great Britain, and for this delay they will hereafter be held responsible by the constituencies. Irishmen indeed, unless they differ entirely from ordinary mortals, must perceive that the remedial measures promised by Government with regard to their country have been barred and delayed by the very men who seek to pose as the special champions of Ireland, and that it is the Gladstonians who are responsible for having once more made that unhappy country the battle-field of contending political parties, and this at a crisis of her history at which the best men of all parties were ready to have united in an attempt to settle the questions which peculiarly affect her, upon a sound and satisfactory basis. Upon the one "remedial measure for Ireland, the passage of which could not be prevented by Gladstonian-Parnellite obstruction, we speak with reserve. The "Land Bill" was not a measure which in ordinary times and under common circumstances would ever have been introduced by a Conservative Government. We have to bear in mind that the times and circumstances were wholly exceptional, before we can justify to ourselves the introduction or the provisions of a measure which dealt with the rights of property after a fashion which can hardly have re

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commended itself to the minds of constitutional lawyers or ordinarily honest men.

But the truth is, that the main principles of constitutional law and of ordinary honesty were so roughly invaded and set aside by the Gladstone Land Bill of 1881, that they have ceased to be landmarks for Irish land legislation since that eventful epoch. Parliament at that time entered upon a groove from which extrication has since been difficult, and the fresh "concessions" made to tenants by the Bill of the present year are little more than deductions, more or less logical, from the premisses then laid down. This fact was well expressed in a casual sentence of Lord Salisbury's, which declared the difficulty of introducing "sane" principles into a legislation which was itself "insane." Under the auspices of the Gladstone Government, who saw no way of meeting agitation save by yielding to the demands of agitators, Parliament was induced to depart from the definite principles emphatically laid down by Mr Gladstone in his Irish Land Bill of 1870, and to enter upon a downward course in the legislation of 1881 which was deplored and dreaded by every one who understood the questions under discussion. Not only has there been a facilis descensus since that unhappy departure from sound principles, but it has been one which it has been impossible to avoid, and hence it has arisen that the Conservative Government of to-day have been obliged to introduce a measure which has doubtless been distasteful to many of their supporters. It has, however, been loyally introduced and carried with the object of improving the condition of the Irish ten

ants, and we can but hope that it may not only have this effect, but may also show to the class for whose benefit it is intended that there is no unwillingness on the part of the Conservative Government and the Unionist party to go to the utmost limit of constitutional and equitable concession in order to remove even the semblance of a grievance from the inhabitants of the "sister island."

The Government have been charged with permitting amendments to be made in the House of Lords with a view to satisfying Irish landlords; and it has been alleged by the Parnellites and their allies that the value of the Land Bill has been thereby greatly diminished, and that the Government have actually broken faith by their acceptance of these amendments. But any one who impartially considers the matter will find that these charges cannot be supported. It has been indeed a difficult task to steer between the conflicting interests which are involved in any measure of Irish land legislation; but the Government have acted throughout in that spirit of conciliation by which alone it was possible that the questions at issue could receive a satisfactory solution. We regret, indeed, that Mr T. W. Russell (whose services to the Unionist cause we gladly admit and appreciate) should have deemed it necessary to declare his opinion that too much concession has been made to Irish landlords; but he and those who think with him should bear in mind that there are many who hold an entirely different opinion.

No class in the world, we imagine, has ever received so many and such special legislative gifts as the Irish tenants; and although

we are old-fashioned enough to believe that interference by Parliament with freedom of contract is a departure from sound principle, which cannot be carried out without grave risk to all concerned, and to the community at large, yet when such interference has been deliberately undertaken and carried out, it is well that both parties in the State should have combined to render the working of the system as successful as its nature will permit. The Land Bill of this session has been acknowledged, even by some of the opponents of the Government, to be a measure conceived in a "generous" spirit; and the carping criticisms of the ex-official Gladstonians will not prevent the recognition of that spirit by all who desire to judge fairly and impartially of the matter.

It is scarcely worth while to refer in detail to the other measures of the Government, some few of which have been passed and some withdrawn, because, after all, the session of 1887 will always be remarkable for the completion of three undertakings-viz., the better control by the House of Commons of its own business; the strengthening of the law in Ireland; and the Land Bill to which we have already referred. other legislative attempts, successful or unsuccessful, have really been secondary to the three objects which it was necessary to accomplish, and the accomplishment of which will, it is to be hoped, clear the way for other legislation in the near future.

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Of late years Ireland has occupied far more than her legitimate share of the time of Parliament, and even yet there is foreshadowed a Land Purchase Scheme, which will doubtless require and obtain a further portion of that time.

VOL. CXLII.-NO. DCCCLXIII,

But the courage and determination of the Government in refusing to make their Act for strengthening the law in Ireland a merely temporary measure, and in dealing with the land question in a large and generous spirit, deserve and will doubtless receive their reward in the removal of two subjects which have constantly blocked the path of legislation for many years past, and will enable Parliament to apply its energies to other efforts in the direction of progressive improvement.

So far as we can judge at present, those efforts are not likely to be interrupted by foreign or colonial matters. Under the able and firm administration of Lord Salisbury, a general confidence as regards our relations with foreign Powers has become established in the mind of the public, and it is generally felt that the honour and interests of Great Britain are safe in the hands which now hold the reins of power. There will, of course, from time to time arise clouds in the horizon, and attempts will never be wanting on the part of political foes at home to magnify trifles and to suggest misunderstandings, even where they never existed. But let any man of ordinary discernment contrast the present state of our foreign relations with that which existed under the restless and uncertain spirit which dominated Mr Gladstone's Government, and there will be found ample cause for congratulation upon the happy change which has been effected, and the greater authority and influence abroad admittedly possessed by the British Government.

As regards our colonies, thanks to the conference so wisely suggested and initiated by Mr Stanhope, this year has witnessed the

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visit of very many of our leading colonists to these shores, and the conference itself has proved the means of bringing colonies and mother country into, if possible, a nearer and closer communion than previously existed. Never did there exist a better feeling between those subjects of Queen Victoria who inhabit these islands and those who dwell under the same flag in distant quarters of the globe, and never was greater proof given of that loyal attachment to Queen and Constitution which is indubitably cherished by Britons in every part of the world. And yet, whilst so much has been accomplished during the past few months to weld together the various component parts of this great empire, and specially, moreover, in this Jubilee year of our Queen, to manifest the enthusiastic loyalty with which her crown and person are regarded by her subjects, it is impossible not to feel in some respects an insecurity which, under such circumstances, ought not to exist. Well as Ministers have worked, boldly as they have borne themselves, and faithfully as the Liberal Unionists have supported them in their combat with the common enemy, it must still be frankly owned that the position of the Government and of the Unionist party has not been strengthened during the session which has just concluded. We have never been among those who habitually proclaim 66 peace " when there is no peace;" and we hold it to be far better to tell the truth and face the real position than to attempt to gloss over errors and misfortunes, and to paint the picture in brighter hues than can be justified by the reality. There can be no doubt that at the close of this

session there is more of assurance and vigour in the Gladstonians and of corresponding depression in the Unionist ranks than was the case at its commencement. This has mainly been caused by the result of several bye-elections, which the Gladstonians attribute to the unpopularity of the miscalled "Coercion" Bill of the Government, and the gradual reconciliation of Liberals throughout the country to the Home Rule policy of Mr Gladstone. The triumphs of the Separatist party in the bye-elections really amount to this-that at Burnley, in the Spalding division of Lincolnshire, at Coventry, and in the Northwich division of Cheshire, four representatives who are to be ranked as Separatists or Gladstonians have replaced Conservative or Unionist members; whilst in several metropolitan constituencies the Conservative majority, though considerable, has been less than was obtained at the general election last year. It is true that in one such constituency (Hornsey) the majority was considerably increased; that in one division of Cornwall (St Austell) the Separatist majority was greatly diminished; and that in another division of the same county, as also in the City of London (vacant by the elevation of Mr Hubbard to the Peerage), no Gladstonian candidate ventured to put in an appearNevertheless, the fact remains that there has been a clear loss of four seats to the Ministerial and a corresponding gain to the Separatist party, and of this the latter are entitled to make the most. It is true that, in the Spalding division, the Gladstonian candidate was well known to the constituency-which he was contesting for the third time; whilst his opponent was not only entirely.

ance.

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