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THE COMING STRUGGLE.

Down to the beginning of the present session Mr Asquith had maintained a position which, whatever we may think of his opinions, was not altogether unworthy of an English statesman. He had proclaimed a bold and straightforward policy, coupled with pledges which sustained the confidence of his party, and secured him his return at the last election. How, in a brief space of time, has all this been changed! A ruined reputation, an ignominious surrender, a recantation at the bidding of a disloyal faction of all the promises and professions by which, as leader of a great party, he had bound himself— a slave, in fact, instead of a master,—is all that we see left of one who but a few months ago boasted that he would change the constitution, defy the aristocracy, and if necessary beard the crown. And now, forsooth, after all the humiliations he has suffered, and all the insults he has borne, financial business of the highest importance is to be shelved, the public interests to be openly sacrificed, to save Mr Asquith's "dignity."

The archangel took nine days in falling from heaven. As Mr Asquith had not quite so far to fall, he only took six. We all know what kind of receptacle awaited the former. Whether the latter has alighted in more comfortable quarters is a question not

to be too hastily answered in the affirmative.

The King's Speech at the opening of Parliament was a beautiful example of that economy of truth which has marked the behaviour of the Ministry from the first hour of its existence. But the ambiguity of the language in which the House of Lords is referred to is even less remarkable than the fate of the "guarantees" which Mr Asquith pledged himself to demand. His language on the subject, after it had once served its purpose, grew fainter and fainter every day, till now at last it is almost forgotten. These promised guarantees, which were never asked for, and on the strength of which the Minister raised a good deal of support, remind us strongly of a character in one of George Eliot's novelsDunsey Cass, namely, in 'Silas Marner,'-whose only idea of seourity was something by which you made a man believe that you intended to pay him when you didn't.

One thing, however, is clear enough, and that is that Mr Asquith, after many changes, has finally sold his sword to Mr Redmond, which means that down with the Veto and up with Home Rule will now be the watchwords of the Liberal party. The two things

-the abolition of the Veto and the disruption of the Empireare, in Mr Redmond's mind, inseparable.

The second is

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wrapped up in the first, and on the two together, the Government -and not only the Government, but the Liberal party-must stand or fall.

This, then, is the first great truth for the electors of Great Britain to realise when next they are appealed to. The true question before them will be Home Rule or not, just as plainly as it was in 1886. Other parties may desire abolition of the Veto for different reasons: some on abstract democratic grounds; some no doubt because they see their way through it to further Radical innovations. But the Nationalists want only one thing, which is well known and thoroughly understood, and has got beyond the stage of dissertation and speculation. For democracy in the abstract we don't suppose the Irish care one button,—they use it as a means to an end; but as for that high-flying hatred of the hereditary principle in itself, and that adoration of democratic despotism by which some of our political progressives profess to be inspired, we doubt if Mr Redmond would walk across the room either to dethrone the one or to crown the other. To gain their object the Nationalists have placed their forces at the service of the Government, and the Government, to carry out the compact, must destroy or disable the House of Lords. That is the situation and it cannot be repeated too often-which the electors will soon have to face. Don't let

them allow the Government to blind their eyes by mixing it up with other questions in order to conceal its true proportions. Home Rule is enough by itself to occupy all the attention they have to bestow on politics. If it steals upon them unawares, under cover of some high-sounding phrases about aristocracy and democracy, about Free Trade and Protection, about poor laws and land laws, it shall not be for want of due warning. These things can be considered afterwards. Let them at present turn a deaf ear to all such distracting topics, and bear steadily in mind that the one thing they have got to do is to preserve the integrity of the empireand to prevent the establishment of a semi-independent and wholly hostile state alongside of Great Britain. If there are those among the British people who doubt whether this is a true description of Ireland under Home Rule, let them read for themselves the organs of the Nationalist party and study their speeches, delivered not in the English Parliament, but to audiences of their fellowcountrymen, with whom they need practise no reserve. This great danger being averted, other popular reforms will follow in due course. But the safety of the Empire must stand first.

Mr Balfour, in his speech at Merchant Taylors' Hall on the 4th of last month, laid great stress on this impending peril. He told his hearers what they had to expect if the Veto were

shire among the number-foresaw that the establishment of Home Rule in Ireland would be the signal for similar demands elsewhere, all tending to generate that "prodigious complexity" to which Mr Balfour referred in the speech already mentioned, but which it is superfluous to dwell at this moment, when more formidable breakers are ahead.

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abolished. But he did not tell said on this subject, which them all. The importance of was said both in 1886 and the issues involved, he said, in 1892. Wise and cautious "touching national defence, statesmen-the Duke of Devonfair finance, the Constitution of England and Scotland separately and jointly, were issues affecting every man and his children for generations." Fiscal independence, which will be demanded as a matter of course by the Nationalist Parliament, means Ireland with its own import duties, its own customs barriers, and with all the accessories which necessarily attach to financial independence. If we submit to Home Rule, we are going to destroy "the whole fabric of the United Kingdom," and with it to threaten the stability of the British Empire. The gentry and landowners attached to the Union are already leaving Ireland in great numbers. Home Rule would fill up their cup. The Nationalists, as we know, are drawing large pecuniary supplies from the avowed enemies of Great Britain. Will these never ask for their reward? The presence on Irish soil of a certain number of resident proprietors many of whom still retained the respect of the people has hitherto been some check, at all events, on the misguided passions of political rebels. With this influence removed, they are likely to get the upper hand, and then, when it is too late, we shall regret the precipitate destruction of the one security which stood between us and bitter, perhaps crushing, calamities.

There is much more to be

We have now to consider the all-important point whether the Reform of the House of Lords as projected in Lord Rosebery's Resolutions is to precede or to follow the settlement of the Veto. It does not require any lengthened argument to answer this question. If the Veto is abolished first, we have no assurance of reform afterwards. The Reform Bill of '84-'85 is a case in point. Mr Gladstone was anxious to pass a measure for the extension of the franchise before introducing a Bill for the redistribution of seats. "No," said the Opposition; "let us see your whole scheme before we pass any part of it beyond recall. Before we agree to an extended franchise, let us see what use you are going to make of it." On the second reading of the Bill, the House of Lords passed a resolution to that effect, which was carried by a majority of fifty-nine, and saved the country from even a more dangerous experiment than the one which was actually adopted; for it was by no

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means certain that any Redistribution Bill at all would have been proposed had the franchise been carried without it; and this by itself, without any rearrangement of seats, might have been infinitely mischievous.

There cannot, therefore, be a doubt that it is the duty of the House of Lords to secure a measure of reform before the Veto is destroyed. It is well known that those who are most anxious for the one are most thoroughly opposed to the other; and that, were the Veto once annulled, we should never get a stronger second chamber while the Liberals had anything to say to it. Lord Rosebery, be it noted, requires not so much a more efficient chamber as a stronger one. He thinks the House of Lords a perfectly efficient instrument for all those purposes which the Constitution assigns to it. But, owing to a carefully fostered prejudice against hereditary privilege, he thinks the House loses some moral weight by resting on that principle alone. It is there fore to the formation of a stronger senate that he invites the attention of the Peers-a senate comprising commoners as well as lords, chosen from amongst the most distinguished for personal abilities and public services which the country has to show. But this proposal, if it really gave us a better second chamber, would make the value of the Veto even greater than before. Lord Rosebery would not have a stronger House, but a weaker

one, if it were abandoned. He would have laboured in vain. A houseful of philosophers would not compensate for the loss. Wisdom is wasted if it is barren; and no institution can be strengthened if forbidden to exercise its strength. What would Mr Keir Hardie or Mr Lloyd George care for the mere brutum fulmen of a Bacon, a Newton, or a Locke, if at variance with Radical demands? If the newly constituted House could not appeal to the nation in support of its own judgments-fortified by the sanction of the wisest men in the country-what would be the use of them? No-the power of the Veto would be just as necessary to give effect to the voice of a reformed House of Lords as to that of an unreformed one, or, as we say, even more so. Without it, either the one or the other is a sham. And therefore we repeat that in Lord Rosebery's scheme of reconstruction, or any other of the same kind, the preservation of the Veto must form an integral part. It must be an absolute condition of any such measure being passed.

The debate on Lord Rosebery's Resolution was sustained at a high level throughout. Some parts of his Lordship's speech we have already anticipated. The doom of reform, if the Veto is abolished first, his Lordship regards as settled. What the Radicals would leave us is a House at once unreformed and emasculated-soon, of course, to become an object of popular contempt. He also

dwelt, as we did last January, on the danger of leaving no intermediate body between the Crown and the Commons, to soften or prevent any collision between the two. But he carried his remarks further than we ventured on. And in introducing what he called the Cromwellian analogy, he reminded us of what followed on the Resolution of February 6, 1649, abolishing the House of Lords. On the very next day another Resolution was carried, declaring that "the office of King in this nation was unnecessary, burdensome, and dangerous to liberty, and ought to be abolished." Lord Rosebery does not suppose that any immediate or direct danger would threaten the throne were the Upper House destroyed. But it was "important for any student of history to consider what was the direct sequence of events at that time, and to remember that when a body once amputates one branch of the Legislature it will find it desirable to try that sort of operation again, and that the Throne itself, without anybody to intervene between it and the Commons, might be at any rate in a precarious position." Precisely our own words three months ago.1 Cromwell's own opinion of a single chamber as "the horridest arbitrariness that ever was known in the world" we commend to the attention of Mr Keir Hardie and his friends.

The probable effect of the abolition of a second chamber

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"I say only that I think a very good case can be made out for the hereditary principle on the ground of proven utility in the service of the State. If it would be absurd to say that the hereditary principle justifies the House of Lords, it may fairly be contended that the House of Lords justifies the hereditary principle." It has given us a House of Lords which, as its past history can testify, has never been wanting in independence and courage. And what is perhaps equally important, it gives us an upper class trained to public business and the responsibilities of government from its youth. These qualifications are doubly precious at the present time when they are every day becoming more and more rare in the House of Commons. When we consider the amount of work that is now done in Committees, we must see that the presence of such men in both Houses of Parliament is almost indispensable. It is not the frothy demagogue to whom we can look for substantial and well-matured administrative reforms.

1 Maga,' Jan. 1910, "What will the Country say to it?" p. 157.

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