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CONSERVATIVE REASCENDANCY CONSIDERED.
OURS is an age of peculiar importance. Events seem to be crowded into a small space of time which, if, spread over half a century, would yet mark the time as one of peril, action, and renown. In the political world we view a rapid succession of exciting scenes. The calm of peace yields to the turmoil of war, and Europe, but lately placid, is now rocked to its very base, and every nation on the Continent seems torn with present evils or convulsed in the contemplation of those to come. The strife of nations has doubtless called forth all the energies of mankind; and though England is removed from the sphere of action, and the immediate influence of the war, yet it cannot be said but that she, too, lies in peril, and partakes the general restlessness of the times. It becomes her, then, to consider in what lies her safety, and into whose hands she should commit the guidance of her affairs at this moment of danger.
Is not England, too, a sharer in this general convulsion? Let us look to her senate, the heart of this great nation, where all the movements by which she is agitated can be seen and analysed. First, we see the Whigs quarrelling amongst themselves, and their consequent fall from power. Next, we see the Conservative party, with the general acquiescence of the country, installed in power. Ten short months have elapsed, and we see that Government, after having conferred, in its short tenure of office, lasting benefits upon the country, now falling, though by a slight majority, before a combination of all those various sects, panting for office, which range between conservatism and turbulent democracy-between Popery on the one hand, and practical atheism on the other; at war amongst themselves, yet combined together against a Government which seemed determined to legislate for the country, and not for the exclusive interests of any one party. Well might the Minister exclaim, as he fell before the machinations of his enemies, prescient of the while contemplating the events
of the present-" England has not loved coalitions." Well might he "appeal from that coalition to that public opinion which governs this country," and before whose searching tribunal that unprincipled combination must soon be brought. If he desired revenge, he has it now. A government of "all the talents," containing, as we are told, within its ranks all the men of official experience, administrative ability, of parliamentary renown, and so forth, calling down upon them the contempt of Parliament and the scorn of the country, succeeds the Derby administration. Forced to abandon measure after measure, fairly vanquished in those with which they proceed, obliged to fall back upon their own imagined talent and ability, which must at any sacrifice of character be preserved at the service of the country, they are evidently, to all men but themselves, and a few of their own devoted adherents, eliciting the pity of their friends and the derision of their enemies. But, then, we are told that it is the war which prevents them from carrying their measures; that last session they carried their budget, India bill, &c., with large majorities, which they regard as a sign that they possess the confidence of Parliament, and that now Parliament and the country, with their attention distracted by the war, simply refuse to legislate. We protest against such arguments as these. It is introducing a dangerous principle, though it may serve as an excuse for clinging to office with a disgraceful pertinacity. But does it not occur to them, that probably the reason they carried their measures last year with such a semblance of triumph, was in consequence of that forbearance-nay, even favour-with which every government, new to office, is regarded; that it was, to a great extent, the result of that disorganisation of their opponents which ever follows defeat; and that the people, dazzled with appearances, were willing to admit that we had a government which was worthy of the confidence of the country. But how
have these feelings been dispelled? Credulity or connivance, disgraceful in such keen-sighted and patriotic statesmen, has done it all-Parliament has lost confidence in them, and the country contemns them. Moreover, blinded by their confidence in their own talents, which has now become a byword among sensible men, they still declare they carry with them the confidence of the country, because in all matters connected with the war they still possess majorities. Such reasoning as this does not hold. The reason that they carry their financial measures so decisively through the House is, that many, who do not feel so strongly as others on the injustice of the measures proposed, are willing to support those measures rather than have it appear on the Continent that the House of Commons has refused the sinews of war at the very commencement of the struggle. It is not the war which prevents their carrying other measures, it is the war which enables them to carry what they do.
testant religion, and justice to all parties in the State. Unity of sentiment amongst the members of a government is of the greatest importance to the happiness and welfare of the people. There never, probably, was a Cabinet in which there were so many "open questions" as the present. Since so many of them are Peelites, we may as well have the opinion of Sir Robert Peel himself on those self-same open questions. We subjoin an extract of a speech delivered in 1840 by that eminent statesman, on a motion of want of confidence in Ministers, in which he refers, without any ambiguity of expression, to the fatality of open questions:
But how has this been brought about?-how is it that this Government has so rapidly lost the favour of the people, and been reduced to the position of being a Government on suf. ferance? The reason is to be found in that general discontent and excitement which from Europe have infected England. Men are excited at what is passing abroad, and distrustful of affairs within. The want of union and mutual distrust which exist in headquarters, is spread throughout the kingdom. Those feelings of distrust and disagreement existing in the Government become every day more apparent, and add to the anxiety with which its motions are regarded. This distrust and anxiety must be prevalent whilst this state of things continues. It is only by the reascendancy of the Conservative party that they can be surmounted, and by the advent to power of men who have confidence in each other, who have unity of sentiment amongst themselves, and who are backed by united followers; who have, each and all, the same objects in view- viz., a firm resistance to Russian aggression and the establishment of a durable peace, the maintenance of our ProVOL. LXXVI.-NO. CCCCLXVI.
"But there is a new resource for an
incompetent Administration-there is the ingenious device of open questions, the cunning scheme of adding to the strength of a weak government by proclaiming its disunion. It will be a fatal policy, indeed, if that which has hitherto been an exception, and always an unfortunate exception in recent times, is hereafter to constitute the rule of Government. If
every government may say, 'We feel. pressed by those behind us-we find ourselves unable, by steadily maintaining our own opinions, to command the majority and retain the confidence of our let us make each question an open quesfollowers,our remedy is an easy onetion, and thereby destroy every obstacle to every possible combination;'-what will be the consequence? The exclusion of honourable and able men from the conduct of affairs, and the unprincipled coalition of the refuse of every party. The right honourable gentleman has said that there have been instances of 'open
questions' in the recent history of this country. There have been; but there has scarcely been one that has not been pregnant with evil, and which has not been branded by an impartial posterity with censure and disgrace. He said, that in 1782 Mr Fox made Parliamentary Reform an open question; that Mr Pitt did so on the Slave-trade; and that the Catholic Question was an open one. Why, if ever lessons were written for your in
struction, to guard you against the recurrence to open questions, you will find them in these melancholy examples. The first instance was the coalition of Mr Fox
and Lord North, which could not have taken place without open questions. Does the right honourable gentleman know that that very fact-the union in office of men who had differed, and conQ
shuffling conduct of unprincipled politicians,'
tinued to differ on great constitutional and vital questions-produced such a degree of discontent and disgust, as to lead to the disgraceful expulsion of that Government? The second instance was that of the Slave-trade; but has not that act of Mr Pitt (the permitting of the Slave-trade to be an open question) been more condemned than any other act of his public life? The next instance cited was that of the Catholic Question. I have had some experience of the evils which arose from making Catholic emancipation an open question. All parties in this House were equally responsible for them. Fox made it an open question; Pitt made it an open question; Lord Liverpool made it an open question; Canning made it an open question. Each had to plead an urgent necessity for tolerating disunion in the Cabinet on this great question; but there cannot be a doubt that the practical result of that disunion was to introduce discord amongst public men, and to paralyse the vigour of the executive government. Every act of administration was tainted by disunion in the Cabinet. Every party was jealous of the predominance of the other. Each party must be represented in the government of that very country which required, above all things, a united and resolute Government. There must be a lord-lieutenant of one class of opinions, a secretary of the opposite, beginning their administration in harmony, but in spite of them selves becoming each the nucleus of a party, gradually converting reciprocal confidence into jealousy and distrust. It was my conviction of the evils of such a state of things- of the long experience of distracted councils, of the curse of an open question, as it affected the practical government of Ireland-it was this conviction, and not the fear of physical force, that convinced me that the policy must be abandoned. I do not believe that the making the Catholic question an open question facilitated the ultimate settlement of it. If the decided friends of emancipation had refused to unite in government with its opponents, the question would have been settled at an earlier period, and (as it ought to have been) under better auspices. So much for the encouraging examples of the right honour able gentleman. They were fatal exceptions from the general policy of Government. If, as I before observed, such exceptions are to constitute the future rule of Government, there is an end to public confidence in the honour and integrity of great political parties, a severance of all ties which constitute party connections, a premium upon the shabby and
Such were the sentiments of Sir Robert Peel with regard to open questions in the Melbourne Cabinet: how much more completely those remarks apply to the present Government it is needless to point out. Again are the open questions in the Melbourne Cabinet vigorously attacked; but this time in the House of Lords, and by a more energetic and fiery orator:
"My Lords, Idem sentire de republicâ' has been in all times, and amongst the best of statesmen, a bond of union at once intelligible, honourable, conducive to the common weal. But there is another kind of union formed of baser materials—a tie that knits together far different natures, the eadem velle atque nolle,' and of this it has been known and been said, ' ea demum, inter malos, est prime amicitia.' The abandonment of all opinions, the sacrifice of every sentiment, the preference of sordid interest to honest principle, the utter abdication of the power to act as conscience dictates and sense of duty recommends-such is the vile dross of which the links are made which bind profligate men together in a covenant of shame;' a confederacy to seek their own advancement at the expense of every duty ;-and this, my Lords, is the literal meaning of
open questions.' It is that each has his known recorded opinions, but that each is willing to sacrifice them rather than break up the government to which he belongs : the velle' is to keep in office, the nolle' to keep out all antagonists; and none dare speak his mind in his official capacity without losing the 'firmitas amicitia, by shaking the foundations of the Government."
Here is a splendid outburst of vehement denunciation. If that could be applied with justice to the Government of Lord Melbourne, if such an invective as that is an index of the state of opinion in the country at that time, with reference to the dissensions in the Whig Cabinet, how much more applicable is it to the Coalition of the present day, with regard to whose members, putting out of sight the question of Free Trade, which is now the law of the land, there is hardly a question of public importance to which we can point as an example that idem sentire de republicâ” is their bond of union. Discontent
and anxiety may well prevail when we have, in times so important as these, a Ministry in power so disunited, and composed of such discordant elements, such base materials as the present, and backed by followers who, true to their nature, are constantly quarrelling amongst themselves. Look at the diversity of sentiment displayed in their recorded speeches on that subjuct which, more than any other, is uppermost in the minds of the people. There is Lord John Russell in the House of Commons inveighing against the criminal ambition of the Czar of Russia, declaring that "this enormous power has got to such a pitch, that even in its moderation it resembles the ambition of other states;" arguing that that power must be checked; telling the people of England that they must be prepared to enter the contest with a stout heart and a willing mind, and then solemnly invoking the God of justice to prosper her Majesty's arms, to defend the right! We have the Home Secretary and the Earl of Clarendon completely subscribing to these sentiments; but we have the Prime Minister, who more than any other man ought, now that war is declared, to be imbued with hostile feelings against Russian aggression, and determined to carry on the war with vigour, eternally whining after peace, and throwing cold water on the ardour of the people by constantly enlarging on the horrors of war and the blessings of peace. They say that old age is second childhood. England seems likely soon to become aware of this fact, through dire experience. Her Premier, on the Continent, is described, and rightly so, as "the apologist of Russia;" the Minister who is supposed to be, more than any other, in the confidence of his Sovereign. Talk of explanation! The very fact of his entertaining sentiments with regard to Russia so ambiguous, so equivocal, and so lenient towards the enemy of his country, that actually in giving expression to them he is mistaken for offering an apology for the Czar, and exposed to the scorn of the country and the distrust of Europe, seems to us to be amply sufficient to disqualify him henceforth for ever being "the first Minister of the first Sovereign in the world" during the eventful period
of war; and the only charitable construction which we can give to the passage is, that he—our helmsman in the storm-has entered upon his dotage, and returned to the proverbial folly of childhood. If his sentiments are the result of mere folly, then he may properly be charged with_credulity; if his friendship for the Czar regulates his conduct, then it is conniv. ance for which he is answerable. In either sense he is unfit for his office. There may be, for aught we know
indeed there probably are others in the Cabinet of the same frame of mind. The man who could denounce Turkey as a country full of anomalies and inconsistencies, and endeavour with all the force of his "sanctimonious rhetoric" to excite an antipathy to that State, and despair at her fate, just at the moment when it was necessary to rouse the people against Russian aggression, was merely supporting the Emperor's theory of the "sick man," and cannot be said to have any definite ideas with reference to the aggressive policy of Russia, to check which we are at war; or any very great sympathy with that country to defend which we are also at war. Here is discordancy in the Cabinet on the most vital question; and there is probably as much on every other question that is brought before the notice of the British Parliament. Here is food for discontent and anxiety to the people of England. Thus may their ardour be damped and their spirits quenched long ere the struggle has concluded. And if we look at the supporters of the Government-the Ministerial party, as they are termed
there, too, we behold the same intestine strife. What has been the attitude of the Manchester party with regard to the Government ?-what the attitude of the Whig statesmen who have been "banished to invisible corners of the senate?"-what of the Whig peers-such men, for example, as Lords Grey, Clauricarde, and others? Mr Bright and the Whig peers are openly, though on different grounds, hostile to the Ministerial policy, the others scarcely less so. The Manchester party rank amongst the regular supporters of the Government, yet they appeal to the Opposition to know "whether they don't occupy a very absurd position" in following men who
will not lead them, and are derisively answered in the affirmative. If they criticise the course of the Government, their opinion is regarded with the greatest indifference and contempt." Thus do matters stand, and yet Ministers have the audacity to affirm that they possess the confidence of Parliament, and that it is the war which prevents the success of their measures. But is this the front which we are to present to our foes? Are we to exhibit to Russia, as our leaders in the etrife, a Government on sufferance notoriously incompetent, whether at home legislation or foreign negotiation? Is not Conservative reascendancy the only salvation of the country? Does not the nation at large pant for something like a Government-one which is followed by a united party-one which is at unison in itself-one of principle and not of expediency? When we see a Government openly hostile amongst themselves, scorned and contemned by the country, beaten on every point by their opponents, obliged to withdraw measure after measure, and retaining one only after it, as has been observed before, has undergone as many metamorphoses as ever Övid described-when we see all this, which we can hardly do without being roused to feelings of indignation, it appears to us necessary to consider how may this be remedied, how may Russia be firmly opposed, how may England be rescued from the pernicious effects of an incapable Government, and how may unanimity be restored to the councils of her Majesty ?
It is very evident, that only by the reascendancy of the Conservative party can these blessings be secured to the country. The tradition of that party is, as its name implies, the preservation of our institutions in Church and State. This is a definite object. That it is a desirable one, is a conclusion which is arrived at by one course of reasoning, the same premises, the same logical inferences, Hence the Conservative party is a united band. A Conservative Minister cannot be a Minister on sufferance; a Whig Minister must. The Whigs are ever desirous of change, and the so-called amelioration of our institutions; but few of them agree together in the paramount importance which attaches
to the reform of any particular abuse, or in the amount of innovation which it is desirable to introduce. Hence they are always at variance with each other when the time for action arrives; and this incapacitates them for carrying on the Queen's government. If popular enthusiasm comes to their aid, and force them on in spite of themselves, then the case is different. The Reform Bill of 1832 was carried triumphantly, but by the people. Popular enthusiasm supplied vigour to the executive. Contrast this with another Reform Bill, of no very distant date, as regards its introduction at least, though few of the present generation are likely to see that bill become the law of the land. The time was unfortunate for Whig administrators, though backed by those who claim to themselves the name of Conservatives. A Russian war carried that enthusiasm, so necessary to the Whigs, through another channel, and exposed in a ludicrous manner the true value of a Liberal Administration, and their dependence upon the popular will. True, there was a large party in the Senate clamorous for reform-perhaps a majority. There was no hesitation amongst members to conclude that reform was necessary, for these are liberal times. How, then, do we account for their ill- success? By adopting a happy description of their worth as statesmen, given long ago: "Their head is at fever heat, but their hand is paralysed." They are not slow to adopt as their own any principle, though calculated to throw the country in a flame, so long as it is traditionally the property of their party. But when the time for action arrives, when that principle is to be embodied in a bill, and that theory is to be reduced to a practical test, then comes division and discontent. One portion objects to this part as too sweeping, while another declares it to be too confined. This wants one remedy, the other declares the wishedfor remedy will only prove an aggravation of the malady. There is no hesitation in adopting any principle, however dangerous. Give them the opportunity-the advantageous opportunity, in the eyes of politiciansof putting their plans into execution, and immediately we behold irresolu