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In that last hour,
When the almighty power
Of that Great Chief above shall signal make,
The sea shall yield her dead,
And all that sleep in ocean deep shall wake.
No error then
No orders strange to men
Who here with honest earnest hearts have striven:
And judge, his life below,
And to each soul its meed of praise be given;
In His prevailing love,
To erring men has opened highest heaven.
All held their breath
When those sad words of death
Were flashed the waves beneath,
And kindness owed,
With ready hand bestowed,
On those who husband lost, or sire, or son.
And if with tears
Were mingled secret fears
Of fate deserved, or blame we could not hide:
Let no harsh word be said
Of him, who cannot now the doubt decide :
For this we know,
Nor need we farther go
One brave soul erred where all were brave—and died.
EDW. H. HORNE.
VOL. CLVI.NO. DCCCCXLVII.
SESSION OF 1894.
THE defeat of the Evicted Tenants Bill on the 14th of August, and the withdrawal of the Eight Hours Bill on the next day, were appropriately followed by the Ministerial Whitebait dinner, which took place on the evening of the 15th. That the revival of the banquet scandalised the saints, may easily be believed. But after their long and stormy voyage, "rolled to starboard, rolled to larboard," Ministers, no doubt, felt that they had a right to take their ease in their inn, and to make up with champagne and burgundy for the very small beer to which they had lately been accustomed. The session was virtually over. All talk of prolonging it into September had died away. Ministers had apparently made up their minds that of the two evils between which they had to choose the sacrifice of certain measures to which they nominally stood pledged, and the prolongation of the session a second time so far beyond its usual limits the latter was the greater; and they wisely resolved to cut a knot which they found it impossible to untie, and terminate parliamentary business at an early date. This is how the situation presents itself to the cursory spectator. But there is a good deal more behind it, which must be dragged into the light of day before we can give a clear view of the session which has just closed. When we speak of the Government having resolved on this or that course of action, we must not be understood to mean that the result was due to any sudden or even recent determination. The two alternatives must have been before them even as long ago as when they framed the Queen's Speech.
We have maintained all along that if they had really been in earnest about placing any of their measures on the Statute Book before Parliament was prorogued, they would never have acted as they did. They have had two strings to their bow throughout; and what occurred during the last few weeks of the session abundantly confirms what we wrote at the very beginning of it.
Parliament, after a recess of only a few days' duration, reassembled on the 12th of March 1894. They had at that time been sitting with very brief intervals from the beginning of February 1893, and the fatigue had told severely on both sides of the House. It was felt to be impossible that the experiment should be repeated, and it was thought probable therefore that Government would undertake no more than could be conveniently performed between the middle of March and the middle of August. Never was a greater mistake. When the Queen's Speech appeared it was found to be loaded to the brim with measures of a most contentious character, some of which would have required, even under ordinary circumstances, a whole session to themselves; how much more so when the House was already worn out with a session of exorbitant length, separated only by a few days from the one just commencing, and when Government had in their pocket a Budget of so monstrous and mischievous a character as must certainly monopolise more than half the time they had at their command. And so it proved: the Finance Bill occupied the whole time of the House from the 16th of April to the 17th of July. With this
prospect before them, what could be the intention with which experienced statesmen represented her Majesty as recommending to the attention of Parliament a list of ten measures, of which seven at least were of first-class importance, while two out of the seven involved a fundamental change in the constitution; all this work presumably to be completed by a jaded Parliament in a short session, of which threefifths was to be occupied with a sweeping financial revolution!
The outburst of astonishment, incredulity, and ridicule which this announcement immediately provoked was not lost upon Ministers, who found it necessary to descend a little from the high ground they had assumed, and to put a somewhat different colour on the Queen's Speech. So Lord Rosebery, with his usual felicity, christened the policy of the Government a policy of indication. The mention of these measures, he said, did not imply that Government meant to carry them; they merely "indicated" a tone of thought, a general bias, in a particular direction. Unhappily, however, this shadowy policy proved substantial enough to cause very considerable delay in the proceedings of the House of Commons. The Welsh Liberationists did not at all like being told that Disestablishment was only something towards which the party might be gravitating. The Scotch Nonconformists thought the same. The English Radicals had to swallow a similar explanation, which they did with very wry faces; and when the end came it was found that of the whole number of measures enumerated in the Speech from the Throne, only two retained a spark of vitality. Registration Bills, Scotch and Welsh Disestablishment Bills, Local Veto Bills, Evic
ted Tenants Bills, Factories Bills, Conciliation Bills, had all perished in the crush, and only the Equalisation of Rates Bill and the Scotch Local Government Bill were found to have survived the ordeal.
At the end of July eight or ten nights in hand would have been invaluable to the Government. They might, in that case, have been saved, if they wished it, from the necessity of invoking the closure, and time enough might have been found for the adequate consideration of the Evicted Tenants Bill, and the elaboration of some compromise which the Unionist party could accept. These eight or ten nights they might have had, and more too, could they have stooped to anything so commonplace as cutting their coat according to their cloth. Four whole nights were given up to the Registration Bill; three to the Conciliation Bill; one to Welsh Disestablishment; half a one was thrown away on the statement of public business, made so needlessly aggressive by Sir William Harcourt, when an hour in ordinary cases would have been sufficient; and, as a necessary consequence, as much more was obliged to be devoted to the debate on the closure resolution, which never need have occurred at all had Government managed their business in a practical manner with a view to actual legislation, and not with an ulterior object which is now universally recognised.
For, after all, was actual legislation" what they really wanted? One is obliged to criticise their conduct partly on the supposition that it was, and partly on the supposition that it was not. Did they wish the Evicted Tenants Bill to pass the Lords? We have already answered this question. They did not care. That we believe to be the true state of the case.
they passed the bill in its original form, they satisfied the Irish. If the House of Lords threw it out, they had a new cry. One result was almost as useful as the other. But our own impression is that of the two they preferred the latter. And the whole course of the session seems to show that they have been, and are still, playing for a good Radical cry in England, just holding the Irish in hand the while by as much as will keep body and soul together. Whether their allegiance will stand the strain much longer, or share the fate of Duncan M'Girdie's mare, is a question we need not enter on at present.
It is absolutely necessary to put these things carefully on record before they are forgotten, since that no House of Commons has ever experienced such treatment from any Government before from the Revolution downwards. Every party in turn except one has been used as a catspaw, and, if we do not mistake, has found the chestnuts scalding hot. In return for their complaisance, Government has given them "a bias" to chew, like a quid of tobacco to stay the pangs of hunger. They have not seemed to find it a very palatable process; and when the time comes for repeating it, as come it must, since Government can only do one thing at a time, we shall watch the effect with curiosity. Ministers may congratulate themselves on their temporary success in silencing the discordant sections. But they have only been laying up for themselves a store of trouble in the future. It is quite clear from the discontent which broke out again during the last few days of Supply, that the Ministerial arrangements for next session are in danger of serious interruption. The Chancellor of the Exchequer
will find himself confronted with three distinct parties, all clamouring for precedence the Welsh Liberationists, the Irish Nationalists, and the English Radicals. The Welsh have been promised the first place, and have only refrained from open opposition on that understanding. But the other two parties seem evidently prepared to contest it with them, and to demand priority for a new Eviction Bill and a declaration of war against the Lords. Sir W. Harcourt has five months to consider how best he can reconcile these rival claimants, or which he can prefer without provoking the open hostility of the others. They have all threatened it: and our own opinion is that they will keep their word.
One party, certainly, has been heavily bribed, and has got good value for its silence. We mean the Ultra-English Radicals represented by Mr Labouchere. But even they are not satisfied. They have got the death duties. But that is only an instalment. Sir W. Harcourt is not suspected of any sneaking tenderness for Lord Rosebery. But his language on the subject of the House of Lords will have to be different next session, if he is to retain the confidence of this suspicious clique.
The Radicals must always be exposed to disappointments of this kind as long as they retain for their leaders men whose secret sympathies are all with the existing order of society, as Sir William Harcourt's are very well known to be. That he will go all lengths if it is absolutely necessary to the retention of office is no doubt equally certain. But he will go no farther than he need, and no faster than he can help. At the age of sixty-seven a cynical patrician, imbued with all the instincts and sympathies of his own
class, cannot be expected to be very much in love with democracy, or very much in earnest about destroying established institutions. That he should profess great zeal in the cause is essential to his safety; but it is in the secret hope that it will fail. Indeed he and Mr Labouchere remind us of no one so much as Jem Ratcliffe and Mr Sharpitlaw in the 'Heart of Mid-Lothian.' Sir William Harcourt has taken service with the
Radicals, but he has no goodwill to the job, and he has to be kept up to the collar pretty tightly by the Sharpitlaws below the gangway. He can fool his own party to the top of their bent by passing measures which the House of Lords will reject; and then, when they do reject them, he can make additional capital out of his wellfeigned indignation at seeing the will of the people overidden.
The Radicals, however, have given him a taste of their quality, which no doubt he has taken well to heart. No sooner had he become leader of the House of Commons than he was defeated on the Address, and told to take it back again and write a new one. When a man meekly submits to have his nose pulled, it does not augur well for his success in any very arduous undertaking. But Sir W. Harcourt was given to understand pretty plainly that he would have to undergo the operation a second time, and take back his Budget as well, if he didn't obey his masters. This is the secret of the death duties. A vigorous backhanded blow at the landed proprietors would secure the support of the Radicals for his financial scheme, and this, if successful, would wipe out the moral effect of his defeat on the Address. Something had to be done also to dwarf in the public eye the loss
of the Registration and Disestablishment Bills; and having this task laid upon him, we would not deny that he piloted the bill through the House with some boldness and dexterity. But what may redound to his credit for the moment as a parliamentary tactician will lower his reputation for life as an English statesman. It has not hitherto been the custom for English Ministers to force measures upon Parliament to serve a temporary purpose which they knew could not stand the test of experience, and were certain, therefore, to be repealed or remodelled at no distant date. What Mr Gladstone's successor has really done is to plunge our whole financial system into the direst confusion, and to leave to his own successor a legacy of difficulties which he had neither the resolution nor the ability to face himself. The death duties cannot possibly remain upon their present footing; and to undo the mischief of which Sir William Harcourt has been guilty will cost far more trouble than would have sufficed to find the money by some other means. There is no ingenuity, no economic science, displayed in Sir W. Harcourt's way of raising the wind. It is perfectly simple. The victorious general who levies a requisition on a conquered town has just as much right to call himself a great financier.
The Budget Bill was read a first time in the House of Lords on the 19th of July, a second time on the 26th, and a third time on Monday the 30th. It is not our business on this occasion to discuss the provisions of the measure one by one. That has already been done once for all in an article which we published last May, and which was the first criticism that laid bare with startling plainness the gross unfairness of the Bill. With regard