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division, the Government was apprehensive of finding itself in a minority in the House of Commons.* And in order to influence the waverers, an announcement was made in the Ministerial journals that, if the Government secured a majority, they would abandon their previously arranged project of dis solving Parliament during the recess. This doubtless won for them some votes. It is obvious that if a dissolution were quickly to follow the miserable display of Ministerial incapacity which the present session has witnessed, the supporters of the Ministry would find their re-election seriously imperilled; but by delaying a dissolution, the Ministry hope that they may be able to re-establish their popularity, or at all events that lapse of time may weaken the recollection of their errors and failures. Although defeated in the one House, they have obtained a majority in the other, and thus have escaped total overthrow. But the debate, if not the division, has been a great triumph to the Opposition. The leaders of the Conservative party acted most wisely in bringing forward the vote of censure. It was a right course alike for the party and for the interests of the country." You are desirous," said the more reckless of the Ministerialists, "to proclaim to Europe the humiliation of England." "On the contrary," justly replied the Conservatives," you have misrepresented the opinions of the country
you have adopted a meddling and muddling policy which the country heartily disapproves, and by this vote of censure we mean to announce that fact to the world. Were we to remain silent, then indeed your humiliation would become that of England also; and it is as the only means of saving our country from shame and disgrace that we repudiate your policy and condemn it." The effect of the debate upon public opinion has been remarkable. Even the Liberal journals now admit that the foreign policy of the Ministry is indefensible; and the
Times says that it was an act of sagacity on the part of Lord Palmerston to ask the House, on the eve of the division, not to approve his policy, but simply to condone it. How are the mighty fallen! The whole country is now conscious that the vaunted foreign policy of the Liberals is not only a failure, but has destroyed the just influence of England, and subjected our Government to rebuffs and humiliation unparalleled in the memory of any living man.
There is a curious private history connected with the recent partystruggle, and one which ought to be known if the real character of the issue is to be thoroughly understood. The Premier at first was strongly opposed to Mr Kinglake's amendment. It was a bitter pill for him to swallow, but it was forced down his throat by members of his own side of the House. Mr
* The Times,' which, when the vote of censure was first tabled, affirmed that the Government would have a majority of 25 or 30, on the morning of the last day of the debate reckoned the Ministerial majority at only 4. This estimate was strictly correct at the time it was made. But the Conservatives were so unlucky as to have no less than eleven casualties-i. e., absences of members from personal illness or family bereavements, while the Ministerialists had only one. One Ministerialist was actually carried down to the House, and into the division-lobby, in a litter, and could not even record his vote in the usual manner. Besides the five Conservatives, including Mr Dutton, who voted with the Ministry, there were some others who refused to vote, and whose defection was not known to the whippers-in on either side until within two hours of the division. Among the other "calumnies" connected with the recent contest, it was stated that the Ultramontane Irish members would vote against the Government; but, in actual fact, their votes were equally divided-one-half voting with the Ministry, and the other half against
Kinglake, who has always been opposed to a war between this country and Germany, in bringing for ward his amendment only gave legitimate expression to his own sentiments. But Lord Palmerston knew that these sentiments were not his; he knew that himself and his principal colleagues would have made war upon Germany if they could and it was a humiliation greater than he could bear to accept an amendment which substantially condemned the policy which he had endeavoured, though in vain, to carry out. But he was even made to feel his helplessness. Nine Liberal members, connected with City interests, waited upon him, and said quietly but plainly, "If you do not accept the amend ment, you must not count upon our votes." And it also appeared that behind these gentlemen there was a large party of more extreme views, who would likewise withhold their support from the Ministry, unless the amendment were accepted. A Cabinet Council was held, and doubtless it devolved upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer to beard the old lion, to "bell the cat," and to force the adoption of the amendment upon the Premier. Doubtless he informed the Cabinet that, besides these nine Liberal members, there was the whole body of the Radicals, who were utterly dissatisfied with the policy of the Government, and who would only give their votes to the Ministry on condition that this "Peace amendment' was accepted. The grand old man, the great Minister, of whom all England once was proud, gave way. He preferred to cling to office, and accept humiliation, rather than be utterly defeated, and close his official life under a solemn vote of censure carried in both Houses of Parliament. The manacles were put upon him, and all he could do was to keep them as much as possible from the view of others. It was a pitiable spectacle, and for the sake of a great name
we sincerely regret it. Ought we not to say that we regret it also for the sake of the still greater name of England?
For, let us now ask, for what cause was it that the Radicals supported the Ministry, and saved them from an overwhelming defeat? In the debate, they were the fiercest assailants, the most bitter and contumelious censors of the whole foreign policy of the Government. Why, then, did they record their votes in its favour? On the particular question at issue, as we have seen, they heartily condemned the Ministry. Was it, then, that they chose to regard the question as one of confidence or no confidence in the Ministry, and that by their votes they testified their confidence? Not a bit of it. Confidence in Lord Palmerston !— the Radicals would as soon give a vote of confidence to Beelzebub ! They hate Palmerston of all men, and they regard the present Cabinet as quite as much "obstructives" as a Conservative one would be. Men who are fierce antagonists in the House are frequently very amicable in the library or the smoking-room; and when leading Tory and leading Radical meet together, their exchange of sentiments is often sufficiently frank. "We are for peace," said the Radicals when the late debate was going on-"peace, as you call it, at any price;' and we don't like the constant talk of you Tories about 'the honour of the country.' We have no confidence that you would not go to war some of these days, if you were in office. Palmerston is quite as bad as you-if not worse: that is true; but then we can bridle him. He cannot do without us. He must take our terms. We have him under our thumb." These Radicals do not overstate the case. By forcing the Government to accept the amendment, they have bound over the Government to a policy of peace. The only party which really triumphed in the late division was the Peace party. The
fact is seen and appreciated all over Europe. Strongly opposed as we are to going to war with Germany in this quarrel, we, at the same time, regret that a resolution should have been carried in the House of Commons which not only appears in the sight of Europe as a triumph of the Peace party, but which actually was so. For this the country has to thank Lord Palmerston. The miserable blundering of his Ministry has made our people sick of foreign policy: we have been so humiliated, so isolated, and consequently so helpless, that we have been ready to make a vow never to meddle in European politics any more. The " 'meddling and muddling" of the present Cabinet has done more than anything else could have done to render popular the dangerous crotchets and ignoble policy of the Manchester party. And rather than resign office, Lord Palmerston has actually accepted an amendment which is not only condemnatory of the policy of the Government, but which also gives a notable triumph to the political sect of whom hitherto he has been the heartiest hater and the most uncompromising antagonist.
As statesmen, the Liberal party is now used up. It has destroyed its reputation; its leaders have repudiated many, and abandoned as impracticable all the measures which they formerly advocated. A Liberal Ministry has no longer any raison d'être. Lord Russell has abandoned and buried Reform; the Church-Rates Bill and other measures of hostility to the National Church have one by one been knocked on the head and entombed; and now the mythic reputation of Liberal foreign policy has burst like a bubble, covering the Ministry with disgrace, and involving the country in their humiliation. Even the reputation of Lord Palmerston has vanished. It has been destroyed by his own hands. He is now but the shadow of a great name. It would have been
well for him, and still better for the country, if his love of power had been less insatiable, and if he had retired from official life without waiting for the withering of his laurels. If he has not outlived his genius, he has outlived his age. He finds himself in a new epoch, which is unsuited for his old style of policy, and amid new forces which he cannot rightly appreciate. A Tory for the best half of his life, he has ended by being the last hope of the Liberal party. And with his failure, now only too conspicuous, the long tottering fabric of Liberal prestige and power rushes to the ground, and a long reign of Conservatism will be established upon its ruins. The " great Liberal party is at an end; the Whigs have become an anachronism. The only parties which show vitality are the Radicals, towards whom Mr Gladstone is being attracted, and the strong and united party led by Lord Derby and Mr Disraeli, which still calls itself Conservative, but whose principles are very inadequately expressed by such a term of negation.
The concluding words of the vote of censure expressed regret that the conduct of the Government had diminished the securities for peace. The statement is a truism: it is a self-evident proposition. The public feeling of a country which has been humbled through the conduct of its Government becomes irritable in its relations with other countries. is the last feather which breaks the camel's back; and we have experienced so many humiliations and rebuffs of late that our stock of patience is sadly diminished, and the cup of exasperation is liable to overflow. A few months hence the truth of the statement will be more clearly appreciated. Europe has not seen the last of the Danish question. It is a letting out of waters which may yet bring "the deluge" over Europe. Is Denmark, voluntarily or by force of arms, to be incorporated with Germany? Is
the Swedo-Norwegian kingdom to share the same fate at the hands of Russia? Or is a united Scandinavian kingdom to appear on the scene, emerging from the wreck and ruin of a bloody war? Be the immediate issue of this Dano-German conflict what it may, it will excite the ambition of nationalities and the mutual jealousies of rulers. Are the Duchies to be annexed to their Fatherland, and Venetia not united to Italy? Is Germany to aggrandise herself by the conquest of Denmark, and France have no commensurate extension on the Rhine? Is Germany herself not likely to be torn by internal dissensions? and may not a third Power, a popular confederation, arise in the Fatherland, which will lean on France as a counterpoise to the power which Russia may throw into the scale on behalf of Austria and Prussia? If might is to make right, what hope is there any longer for the independence of little states like Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, and Portugal? Once set in motion the waves of a great war, and old landmarks will be submerged, and Europe will hardly know herself when she emerges from the stormy flood. We fear that Europe is only at the beginning of her troubles, and it behoves England to watch narrowly the conduct of the men who are now at the helm of her affairs.
It is to be expected that, during the recess, Lord Palmerston will seek to regain his credit by some bold stroke of policy. He cannot be content to close his long career in ignominious failure. And it is probable that the course of foreign politics will be such as to offer only too many opportunities, if not temptations, for the Premier to resort to his favourite game of rash but brilliant coups. He can do nothing without the co-operation of the French Emperor. The British Government left the Emperor in the lurch on the Polish question, and again in the matter of the Congress. The Emperor in turn has
left our Government in the lurch on the Danish question. But both parties find it is now high time to make up their differences. The Palmerston Cabinet are humiliated and helpless, and they want the help of France to enable them to assume an attitude in foreign affairs which would re-establish their popularity at home. Napoleon, on his part, sees that the course of Continental politics is taking an unfavourable turn for him, and he is now ready to renew in the closest form his alliance with England. The publication in the 'Morning Post' of the forged despatches of the new Holy Alliance" was a clever stroke to excite apprehensions, and to influence public opinion in both countries in favour of closer relations between the two great Liberal Powers of Europe.
A good understanding between this country and France, and a hearty co-operation in all matters in which we have common interests, is a sound principle of policy. It is a most desirable object; but it must be pursued with caution and within the limits which we have specified. In the changes now in progress or impending on the Continent, France has different interests from those of England, and some which are opposed to ours. object is at present apparent which could compensate us for engaging in a European war; and, to say the least, it is no business of ours to help France to seize the Rhine provinces, to annex Belgium, and to convert Antwerp into an impregnable station for her fleet. We have not forgotten the saying of the First Napoleon, that "Antwerp (then in his possession) is a loaded pistol held at the head of England." Rather than become the ally of France in a European war, we believe Lord Russell would resign. But we are not sure that the Premier and Lord Clarendon, who may soon take Lord Russell's place in the Cabinet, may not drift into acquiescence with the Emperor's
schemes. Lord Palmerston is resolved to hold on to the last; and something must be done to re-establish his reputation and to close his career in credit, if not in a perilous blaze of glory. Hence the necessity of keeping a sharp watch on his policy during the recess. With him as Premier, "the securities for peace are unquestionably diminished." Far be it from us to say that England ought to view with indifference the events on the Continent, or that under no circumstances should she take part in a European war. But it is a matter of the highest importance that England should
not be led into such a war blindfold, or be allowed to drift into it, either through the incapacity of the Ministry or in subservience to its temporary interests. By all means let our friendly relations with France be re-established. It was the fault of the present Ministry that they were interrupted. But let us not pay too dear for the bargain, nor purchase the co-operation of Napoleon in measures for restoring the prestige of the Ministry, by entering into engagements and entanglements which will prove detrimental to the best interests of the country.
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