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ly disguised desire and intention fered so greatly in public estimaof a section of members to discredit tion, he could not have been held the British Parliament, and pre- blameless in the matter, so long as vent the transaction of its business there was no attempt on his part unless and until their own unrea- to exercise his authority over sonable demands are onceded. If those who profess for him such a combination for such a purpose boundless esteem and admiration. really exists, it only renders it Unfortunately, the case can be more desirable that public atten- carried much further, and it is tion should be called to another, impossible to acquit the leader of and that one of the greatest and the Opposition of the charge of saddest causes of the deterioration having directly encouraged the of the House of Commons and its breach of old and healthy parliapractical inability to do the work mentary traditions, and assisted of the nation.
the party of obstruction in a manWe allude to the attitude which ner which has in no small degree has recently been assumed by those added to the loss of prestige and who constitute the “regular Op- character which has fallen upon position,” and their refusal to sep- the House of Commons. arate from party considerations One of the greatest abuses which and the influence of party tactics has arisen of late years in the those questions of order and pro- Lower House is the mischievous cedure which lie at the root of all prolongation of the debate upon the parliamentary government. It is Address in answer to her Majesty's by no means our desire, either now gracious speech in opening Parliaor at any other time, when assail- ment. This is an innovation which ing or defending a principle, to cannot be defended upon any single out individuals for attack, grounds of parliamentary privior to resort to personal criticism lege or public utility. No meawhere such can be avoided. It is sure,
It is sure, of however great importance, impossible, however, to avoid re- can be advanced, because none can ference to Mr Gladstone in the be proposed, upon the debate upon present instance, partly on ac- the Address, and the circumstances count of the position which he has must be exceptional which can leheld, more than once, as leader of gitimately delay the conclusion of the House of Commons, and partly such a debate beyond the first or because of the general recognition second night. Such circumstances of his leadership by the present have undoubtedly from time to Opposition, and his evident inten- time occurred, as, for instance, tion to assume and maintain that when the existence of a Governcharacter. Such being the case, ment has been challenged by an the responsibility for the conduct amendment to the Address, moved of the Opposition in the House of by its political opponents. But the Commons cannot be evaded or moving of multitudinous amenddenied by the veteran statesman ments upon every conceivable subwho alone possesses the authorityject, at a time when no practical requisite to control that conduct, result can by possibility be oband prevent its degeneration into tained, is an abuse of parliamentmisconduct and confusion. Even ary privilege, against which reif Mr Gladstone had taken no per- sponsible statesmen, upon both sonal action in the scenes by which sides of the House, should long the House of Commons has suf- since have set their face, and which
has done much to discredit the extraordinary feat on the Address branch of the Legislature in which to the Throne,” in which “they it has become a custom. It is had surpassed all former perforunderstood, indeed, that Mr Glad- mances; so that, even if they stone himself objects to the prac- yielded to the feeling of the House tice, and he has certainly expressed at that moment, they would still himself strongly against the mov- “ be able to say that they have ing of irrelevant amendments to spent many more days and hours the Address, although he did not of the time of Parliament in opscruple to avail himself of one posing the measures of the Governmoved by “a certain Mr Collings,' ment than has ever been so conwhich had the incidental effect of sumed in any Parliament and by transferring him, at the beginning any representatives before." These of the year 1886, from the Opposi- having been Mr Gladstone's views tion to the Treasury Bench. How- in 1881, one would have supposed ever, when the general election of that he would have felt some symlast summer had placed the Union- pathy with a Government which, ist Conservative Government again during the present session, has in power, Mr Gladstone's objec- been exposed to opposition of a tions to this class of amendments similar nature, and in an aggravatappear to have revived, and his ed form. One would have hoped name was conspicuous by its ab- that an emphatic protest would sence from the division list when have been made by him against the such an amendment had been enormous exaggeration of the evils moved to the Address upon the of 1881, which has occurred in opening of the present session of 1887. Such a protest might or Parliament. Absence from a divi- might not have been effectual; but sion, however, is an undignified it would have shown a respect for and unsatisfactory manner in which the dignity and character of Parto convey the disapproval of a lead- liament, which would have been er of the line of action taken by alike creditable to the man from his followers. Something more is whom it came, and useful to the required in order to give reality cause of order and good governand force to an objection honestly ment. What, however, has been entertained by a person in Mr Mr Gladstone's course? Far from Gladstone's position. In the year rendering any such assistance to the 1881, when he occupied the posi- transaction of public business as tion of Prime Minister, the House might have been afforded by such a of Commons met on the 6th Janu- protest, he has not only refrained ary, and it was not until the oth from any action of the kind, but day of the same month that the has actually taunted the Governdebate upon the Address was con- ment with the delay which his cluded. Upon the 28th, when own friends and supporters have speaking upon Mr Forster's mo- indefensibly caused. The unpretion for leave to introduce a Bill cedented length to which the de“ for the better protection of per- bate upon the Address was exsons and property in Ireland,” Mr tended, the obstructive tactics Gladstone, pleading for the closing pursued by the Opposition during of the debate, remarked that, al- the discussions upon the Rules of though it had only lasted three Procedure, the intolerable repetinights, “on the other hand, hon- tion of speeches identical in form, ourable gentlemen had achieved an substance and ideas, the con
temptuous disregard of the pro- inconsistencies of Mr Gladstone prieties of debate, and the ill- is indeed a superfluous task; but advised sympathy with obstruc- it is almost inconceivable to an tionists which has been evinced ordinary mind how any man who by the most prominent among his had played the part which fell to lieutenants, appear to have aroused his lot in 1881 could have taken the within Mr Gladstone's bosom no course which he has deemed it right more generous feeling than one of to adopt under very similar cirsatisfaction that his political ad- cumstances in the present session. versaries should have been an- There is hardly a single point upon noyed. Indeed, he absolutely con- which he has not contradicted his descends to accuse the Government own teaching, acted in Opposition of not being careful of the time of in a manner directly antagonistie the House, because they have been to that which he followed in office, unable to perform the impossible and discarded all respect for partask of keeping within the reason- liamentary tradition and preceable limits of fair and orderly dent. Contrast for moment debate the unruly and turbulent that appeal of January 28, 1881, body which recognises him as their with the demand made by Mr leader. It is this practical abdica- Gladstone of the present Governtion of the duties of leader of his ment upon the ist April of this party, when that party requires year of grace 1887, that they restraint, accompanied by a readi- should give more time for debate ness to come forward
as their upon the introduction of their spokesman and defender when they Bill for the amendment of the seek still further to delay the busi- criminal law in Ireland. In the ness of Parliament, which cannot first instance, the session had fail to have weakened—and justly lasted from the 6th to the 28th of weakened—Mr Gladstone's posi- January. In the second instance, tion in the country, but which at the session had lasted from the the same time has exercised a most 27th of January to the beginning pernicious influence upon the pro- of April. In the first case, the ceedings of the House of Commons. debate upon the Address had oc
In that debate of the 28th cupied a fortnight, and that on January 1881 of which we have the Protection of Life and Prospoken, Mr Gladstone appealed to perty Bill had lasted three days. his Irish opponents to allow the In the second case, the whole of House to divide, mainly upon the the time from the 27th January ground that, since the meeting of to the first April had been conParliament on the 6th, there had sumed by the debate upon the been, in one form or another, suf- Address, the Rules of Procedure, ficient discussion upon the subject and unusual and desultory discusbefore it. This appeal was refused, sions upon Supplemental Estimand the division was not taken ates, whilst the debates upon the until after a continuous sitting of question whether "urgency" should forty-one hours, which terminated be applied to the Government Bill upon the 2d February. Imme- to amend the Irish criminal law, diately after the division, Mr and whether that Bill should be Gladstone gave notice that the introduced (which practically dealt second reading of his “Coercion” with the same subject), had occuBill would be moved at 12 o'clock pied nine days, and only wanton upon that same day. To expose the obstruction could be served by a
further postponement of the divi- to take a common-sense view of sion. Yet Mr Gladstone pressed occurrences which have transpired for further delay and more debate, before their eyes. They see that and his friends have been hurling the whole time of the House of their denunciations against the Commons has been absolutely Government for having moved the wasted since the meeting of Parsecond reading of their Bill—not, liament—that the Government according to Mr Gladstone's own have not been able to bring forprecedent, at 12 o'clock the very ward their measures, and that day and within two hours of its in- speeches of almost interminable troduction being carried, but after length have been continually made an interval of three days, accom- at times and upon questions which panied by a promise to afford full could lead to no result but delay. time for its discussion.
Seeing this, they will at the same It is absolutely monstrous and time recognise that Mr Gladstone unreasonable to pretend that any has been again and again proundue limit was placed upon the claimed as their leader by the discussion on the motion for leave very men who have been foremost to introduce the Bill. If Mr in this policy of obstruction, and Gladstone and his friends chose they will naturally come to the to debate at great length the de. conclusion that a leader must be mand for urgency made by the more or less responsible for the Government upon their responsi: conduct of his followers. bility, and to employ in their pro- To every impartial mind, and test against granting that demand to every man who cares for the all the arguments which more pro- character and efficiency of the perly belonged to a discussion upon House of Commons, it must certhe measure itself, they have only tainly appear that Mr Gladstone's themselves to blame if the House refusal to exercise his authority and the Government declined to over the unruly obstructionists allow a repetition of the identical who delight to applaud him as tirades which had been already their champion, conclusively proves delivered, and insisted upon allow- that either he fears lest that authoing to the responsible Ministers of rity should be disregarded if atthe Crown, after three nights' de- tempted to be exercised for the bate, that priviledge of laying their legitimate purposes of orderly proBill upon the table which, in the cedure, or that he is unwilling in Upper House of Parliament, is any way to assist the administragranted to any member as a mat- tion of law and order when the ter of right. Of course it will be responsibility for that administradenied that one single unnecessary tion happens to be in the hands of speech has been made, or that the his political opponents. One would Parnellite-Gladstonians have been have imagined that upon such a guilty of obstructive tactics. Above momentous question as that of the all, it will be insisted upon that, protection of the lives and properwhoever else may have been to ties of her Majesty's subjects in blame, the immaculate leader of Ireland, Mr Gladstone, and indeed the “ regular Opposition " is above any man who had ever held office the censure, or even the suspicion, under the Crown, would have felt of ordinary men. But the people bound to cast upon the Governof Great Britain are apt to look ment the responsibility of demandmatters straight in the face, and ing urgency, and of producing at once the measure for which that Bill in that year. Upon the 6th urgency had been demanded. This January he told the House of would have been the true constitu- Commons that it was “the duty” tional course ; and if the provisions of the Government “to state, in of the measure had afterwards ap- the most distinct terms, to Parliapeared to be objectionable, no one ment and to the country," " what could have blamed the Opposition is the real state of the case which for resisting them in every legiti- constitutes the justification for mate manner. This, however, has asking for those powers.” “Our not been Mr Gladstone's plan. It justification,” he went on to say, is all very well for Mr John Mor-. "is, not that we have not sufficient ley to tell the South London Radi- police and military force at our cals that “no leader has ever been command,—not that the stipenmore unjustly charged than Mr diary magistrates are unwilling to Gladstone is now with lending do their duty,—but that whatever himself to obstructive and factious is done by them to give effect to the devices." Will Mr Morly ven- laws for the protection of life and ture to say that no such devices property and to prevent illegal have been attempted, and if so, meetings is frustrated, and that we what are we to think of the leader are totally unable to restore life to who has made no effort to prevent the administration of justice in Irethem, and has gone so far as to ask land through, not the difficulty, for more delay, after nine days' but the impossibility of procuring preliminary debate, upon a ques- evidence." Let any fair man read tion of vital importance ?
these words, and afterwards read Of course this importance is Mr Balfour's speech on introducing denied, and the necessity of any the Bill of the present Government, such measure as that proposed by and ask himself how it is possible Government is treated in the same that the statesman who uttered the way. Just as Mr Sexton told Mr words can now be denouncing the Gladstone in 1881 that there was Bill. Yet so it is : that which in no increase of crime to justify the Mr Gladstone is, we suppose, to be measure which he then introduced, termed a generous and noble inso Mr Gladstone tells us the same spiration, but which in the case of thing in 1887. In the assertion any other living man would be which he makes in a letter pub- called a factious and bitter spirit lished in the Observer' of April of partisanship, prompts him to 10, Mr Gladstone apparently dis- denounce a
less severe putes the statement of Mr Sexton, than one for which he has himself for he says,
" It is the first time been responsible, as “the worst, when coercion has been proposed most insulting, most causeless Cofor Ireland without an attempt by ercion Bill ever submitted to Parthe Ministry to show, what we liament." know they cannot show, a state These are the concluding words of exceptional, flagrant, or grow- of the letter of Mr Gladstone to ing crime.” But, whether or no which we have just alluded, and Mr Gladstone was able to show we cannot avoid the remark that “ an increase of crime" in 1881, it the epithets are much more applicis a fact to be borne in mind that able to the letter itself than to the it was not only, nor even mainly, Bill. For, save and except his upon an increase of crime that wicked
attempt to separate the he based his so-called “ Coercion " "masses " and the " classes (so