Imágenes de páginas

good fighting material as can be found when drilled and disciplined, the balance of power in Western Asia would be altered if it should be found feasible to pour these levies into Asia Minor.

From all this it is apparent that the issues are very serious, the crisis a very grave one, and our mistakes not few. Germany, as we have seen, is very justly exasperated, and in consequence of our mistakes France has some valid arguments against us. She is, moreover, naturally more irritated at our attempt to assist the Congo State to violate her treaties than if we had ourselves gone in and taken the country. Sir Edward Grey stated that the French Government had given no undertaking not to invade the leased territory pending discussion with Great Britain of the points at issue. This means, of course, that if she does not advance on Dem Suliman towards the Northern Sudan, she will at least attack and oust the Congo State forces north of the 4th degree-setting aside Turkish rights on the precedent of our initiative. As we are pledged to King Leopold, and he is merely our lessee, such action will be an overt act of hostility towards England, at any rate east of long. 30°. West of long. 30° there appears no course open to us but to acknowledge that our lease to the Congo State is in violation of the treaty between France and the State. In the actual valley of the Nile (east of long. 30°), it is essential that we should substantiate our claims, defend our rights, and fulfil our pledges to King Leopold (whom we have placed in an awkward position) by at once sending an expedition into the country from Uganda. This portion was leased to the king,

and not to the Congo State. As regards the Northern Sudan, we can only preserve it from French occupation by at once reconquering it from Egypt as a base, or by constructing the Suakim-Berber railway and occupying it in our own right from that base on the Red Sea. There is no doubt that the latter course would be infinitely preferable, for the rule of Egypt is detested in the Sudan, and an attempt to re-establish it would meet with the combined hostility of Mahdists and tribes alike; whereas British rule would probably be welcomed and assisted by the tribes as a relief from the oppression of the Mahdi. It could therefore be established at a less cost and with less bloodshed. Moreover, if we held the Sudan up to Wady Halfa as a British possession, we should completely safeguard our position in Egypt, for that country would not then be tenable by any other Power. If, however, we occupy the Sudan as an Egyptian province, our tenure is dependent only on our occupation of Egypt, and ceases with that occupation. We argue, in fact, that a British occupation of the Nile Valley above Wady Halfa would be a final solution to French intrigue in Egypt.

These views may appear "advanced," but we are face to face with a very grave crisis. It is no longer a question of the expenditure of a few thousand pounds to occupy Lado as it was two years ago, but of averting a contingency which may cost us many millions and many lives. This is not the place to enlarge upon the great benefits to British trade, or the real blow to the worst forms of slave-trade which are now at stake. The former was ably dealt with in a recent paper read by

[ocr errors]

Mr Wylde before the Manchester Chamber of Commerce. The latter can be gauged from Father Ohrwalder's accounts 1 and Gordon's and Gessi's books.

A Brussels paper of June 16 states that King Leopold's forces have never effectively occupied either Lado or Wadelai, but only pushed reconnaissances to those places, whence they were driven back by the attacks of the dervishes. Our claims, as we have emphatically stated, depend in the event upon effective occupation, and it is a new proof of the haphazard way and lack of information with which this treaty was framed, that its very raison d'être is now found to be chimerical;

while the news affords but a new argument for immediate action on the spot ourselves.

Such, then, is the dilemma in which the present Government's policy has landed us, and such is the cost of the parsimonious régime which two years ago grudged a few thousand pounds to hold Uganda, and disregarded the urgent representations of those who had local knowledge, and who proved the necessity of at once occupying Equatoria at a merely nominal cost. The alternative is to "eat dirt" with dishonour, and to stand by and see the whole Nile Valley, to the frontiers of Egypt, pass into the hands of France, and our final ejection from Egypt assured.

1 Wingate's Ten Years with the Mahdi.

[merged small][ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

THE position of the Government at the present moment abundantly justifies all the predictions concerning the progress of public business which were uttered by political writers at the commencement of the session. The public were then given to understand that there were three measures which the Ministry certainly intended to carry through the House of Commons before Parliament was prorogued three at least- -the Registration Bill, the Evicted Tenants Bill, and the Welsh Disestablishment Bill. These stood first, and constituted the fixed programme from which there was to be no departure. Next to these came the Scotch Local Government Bill and the Scotch Disestablishment Bill, which were represented as having strong claims on the Government, and fair prospects of being sent up to the Lords before the session was concluded. Then came the Local Veto Bill, the Equalisation of Rates Bill, and such other "pretty little tiny kickshaws as William Cook might see his way to serving up. On the top of them all we were to have a highly sensational Budget, which would, it was believed, impose such heavy additional burdens on an already overburdened interest as to call for the most strenuous opposition on the part of the Conservatives; and all this work was to be accomplished in little more than four months with a majority of only twenty-six, liable at any moment to be reduced to seventeen. We have now reached the beginning of July. The Budget Bill is still in Committee, and only one of the leading Government

[ocr errors]

measures has been read a second time.

Ministers have not yet announced their intentions with regard to the arrears of legislation. But if they are to carry through the Commons any other measure of importance after the Budget is disposed of, it can only be by an unsparing application of the closure, or by a supplementary session in the autumn. It is generally understood that they have abandoned all idea of the latter, and are very unwilling to have recourse to the former. Yet if their financial business is not concluded before the middle of July, and they neither gag the House of Commons in August nor assemble it again in November, they must throw over their whole programme to another year; and this, it now seems likely, is what they are prepared to do. Whether in that case a dissolution would take place at once, or be deferred till next April or May, is a point with regard to which every succeeding day brings its fresh crop of rumours. Ministers may be of opinion that, with the Budget in one hand and Conservative obstruction in the other, they may cut as good a figure before the public as they are likely to do at any other time; and it is quite upon the cards, therefore, that they may resolve on a dissolution when the Budget is once out of danger. But of a Government which is at the mercy of every petty clique in the House of Commons, and obliged to twist and double like a hare before the greyhound, it is waste of time to attempt to calculate the course. It is enough that they are now where we always said they neces

sarily must be by the middle of the session; that the bubble has burst, and that the sessional programme is discovered to be a heartless hoax.

The victims of it-the English Radicals, the Irish Home Rulers, and the Welsh Liberationists may make the best of a bad job, patch up the concern, and resolve to give the Government another chance. But what will the nation at large be saying all the time? What the Government require is a great accession of strength. It will be useless for them to come back, after a general election, with only the same majority which they possess now; and it is difficult to suppose that their career during the last two years can have made the public think any better of them than they did before. It

is no wonder, therefore, that they dislike the prospect of a dissolution; and at this moment the prevailing opinion seems to be that they will prorogue Parliament in August, without passing any more of their bills, and trust to something turning up in their favour before the New Year. They are in desperate straits; and there, for the present, we will leave them. We have said enough in previous articles in exposure of their weakness, insincerity, and trickery; of their breaches of faith; of their clumsy and slipshod measures; of their sacrifices of honour and dignity to the sweets of office; and of their contempt for parliamentary precedents. We may on this occasion, perhaps, look a little further forward, and consider what the Unionist party has to offer to the country should the verdict of the constituencies put an end to the existing mockery, and with what degree of cordiality a Conservative programme is likely to be received.

And here we may pause for a moment to point out that the word Conservative is wide enough to cover both Liberal and Conservative Unionists, as distinguished from Destructives, by which name the motley host of Parnellites, Dissenters, Teetotallers, Puritans, and Levellers who support Lord Rosebery's Administration may most fitly be described. By the word Conservative, then, we would henceforth be understood to mean both the followers of the Duke of Devonshire and the followers of Lord Salisbury. The policy of the Liberal Unionists is a Conservative policy in the broadest sense of the term. Mr Chamberlain himself defines true Liberalism to be that "which endeavours to found the great institutions of the country upon the firm basis of the welfare and contentment of every class in the community." If this is true Liberalism, it is certainly true Conservatism. The final cause of Conservatism is the maintenance of the national institutions; and if they do not rest on the welfare and contentment of the people, they cannot be maintained at all. The Destructives, on the other hand, are determined to destroy these institutions-the Church, the House of Lords, and the territorial aristocracy-on a priori grounds; and to facilitate the process, they resist every attempt at improving or reforming them, for fear it should tend to make the people too well contented with them. We shall offer no further apology, therefore, for distinguishing the two parties into which the country is now divided as Conservatives and Destructives.

It will be expected here, perhaps, that we should make some reference to the fact that Mr Chamberlain is not himself in favour of the principle of Estab

lishment. But it is quite evident that he holds the contrary opinion merely in an abstract form, and is not in any way prepared to reduce his theory to practice, if by doing so he is likely to endanger the entente cordiale of which he is so warm a supporter. It may be remembered, also, that Lord Palmerston always voted for Mr Locke King's and Mr H. Berkeley's resolutions in favour of parliamentary reform, merely to acknowledge the principle though he took very good care, as long as he lived, that it should go no further. Now the first thing to be impressed on the working classes of Great Britain is the fact that what the Conservative party can do for them, the party now in office cannot. This was clearly brought out by Mr Chamberlain in his speech at Bradford on the 2d of June last. "I have said enough to show you that, in spite of Lord Rosebery's sneers, there is plenty for Unionists to do, plenty which we are willing and able to do, inasmuch as we are not hampered by the necessity for breaking up the empire, and for mending and ending every one of our institutions.

You cannot expect to get these social reforms," he adds, "from the Gladstonian party, because, even if they are well disposed towards them, it is absolutely impossible for men committed as they are to all these political and constitutional changes to give any attention to social and constructive reform." These words sound the keynote of the argument which ought to be continually addressed to the working men of Great Britain. Mr Chamberlain enumerates four questions on which the Unionists would be prepared to legislate immediately, uninterrupted by schemes for abolishing the constitution and


dividing the empire — schemes which would do the working man no earthly manner of good. These are: Employers' Liability, the Dwellings of the Poor, Old Age Pensions, and the Immigration of Pauper Aliens. He declared that the Employers' Liability Bill introduced by the present Government would only have given compensation in three cases out of ten, and would have left the working man to the chances of litigation.

"Now, my principle-and I believe I am justified in saying that it is the principle of the Unionist party, because I have had the opportunity of talking with the leaders of the Conservative party on the subject—our principle is that every man should have a right to compensation as a certainty and without the necessity of litigation and without wasting money. If you will give us your support, that is one of the first questions to which the attention of the Unionist party will be given."

The second boon which, speaking for Conservatives and Unionists alike, Mr Chamberlain offers to the people, is a great extension of the Artisans Dwellings Acts passed by Lord Beaconsfield's Government in 1875 and in 1879, the greatest step in the right direction which has hitherto been taken. He pronounces the extension of these Acts to be, as it certainly is, a thoroughly Tory proposition. It is so in two ways: because, first of all, it would carry still further the provisions of the Acts aforesaid, giving larger powers to municipalities and local authorities to deal with great areas-crowded and insanitary areas-in their midst, and to clear the ground for the provision of a better class of dwellings; and secondly, because it would also apply to the dwellings of the English poor the principle already applied by

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


« AnteriorContinuar »