Imágenes de página

condemning the Peace, it was necessary for them to inorease their strength in the House of Lords. In the House of Lords at this time there was what we should now call a Tory cave, a small party, led by Lord Nottingham, dissatisfied with Government on various grounds, but all equally bent on carrying the Occasional Conformity Bill. Here were clearly materials for "a deal." The Whigs accordingly approached Lord Nottingham with a tempting offer. They undertook to let the Occasional Conformity Bill pass, in flat contradiction of all their most cherished principles and most indignant protests, if he on his part would join in condemning the Peace and fly in the face of all his own convictions. The bargain was soon struck. An amendment to the Address censuring the terms of the Peace was moved by Lord Nottingham himself, and carried against Government by a majority of six. Queen Anne consented to the creation of new peers in sufficient numbers to ensure the approval of the Treaty, and twelve new members were added to the House of Lords. It will be observed that this measure was adopted in order to counteract a most dishonest and unprincipled transaction, not to enforce one. The nation was decidedly in favour of the Peace, and the opposition to it has long been allowed to have been a purely party move. To gratify their party feelings, to embarrass the Government, and possibly to turn them out of office,

were the objects for which the Whig Opposition were prepared to sacrifice the great principles to which they had so constantly pledged themselves.

Mutatis mutandis, the scene is again before us. Here we have one party ready to accept a measure which they cordially detest, in return for the acceptance by another of one that is equally repugnant to all their former professions. The acceptance of Home Rule by the Government is the acceptance of the Occasional Conformity Bill by the Whigs. The cessation of opposition to the Budget by Mr Redmond is the cessation of opposition to the war by Nottingham. It remains to be seen whether both parties to this nefarious combination will have reason to be equally satisfied with it. The Whigs in Anne's reign were beaten on the war, and had the satisfaction of reflecting that they had perjured themselves in vain. But Nottingham got his price. His Bill was passed. Will Mr Redmond be equally successful? The question recalls Marmion's answer to James IV. The ancient Constitution of this country will not go down without a blow struck in its defence. The disruption of this Empire will not be finally accomplished till after an exhausting strife. Mr Asquith has got what he bargained for. The passage of the Budget depended only on the House of Commons. But the degradation or abolition of the House of Lords and the establishment of Home Rule depend on many other forces outside

of Parliament, and Mr Redmond, if he ever gets it, will have "to wait for his money." The similitude between the present situation and the state of parties at the end of Queen Anne's reign is confined to the motives of the actors, and the equality of conditions which characterised the bargain between them. Between the objects at stake there can be no comparison whatever. We

are now faced with threatened changes compared with which the Peace of Utrecht and Occasional Conformity are not worth a moment's thought. But the passions at work on each occasion, the sacrifice of principle, the reckless and cynical abandonment of livelong connections, are the same in each. And to recall the one is to hold up the mirror to the other.

Printed by William Blackwood and Sons.



JUNE 1910.



IF the security wherewith Edward VII. was enshrined in the hearts of his people and of the world had been for a moment in doubt, the spontaneous expression of heartfelt grief which his death evoked would instantly have dispelled it. Never has a King been more widely or more sincerely deplored. There was in the universal sorrow a sense of personal loss which monarchs, by the very tenure of their office, can rarely inspire; an intimate consciousness of bereavement, which comes to us only at the cessation of a long friendship. England, in truth, felt that she had lost not merely her King, but a friend; and our Dominions oversea, with the continent of Europe, shared, as in loyal duty bound, the loss of England.

Thus it is that we understand the place which Edward VII. has made for himself in history, separate and apart. He interpreted the duties of the Crown in the most liberal spirit. He put no trust in the mysteries of state. With a kindly hand he tore down the veil of secrecy which has hedged the life and person of our Kings. He came forth to share the pleasures and pursuits of his people. He was familiar to all men, not only in the trappings of state, the importance of which he never underrated, but in the simplicity of a citizen, a sportsman, and a man of the world. Wherever he went he carried with him the same quick sympathy, the same ease of manner which have served him in the conquest of his own kingdom. And abroad as at home, he had grappled to his heart with hoops of steel a thousand friends, he had won the attachment of men who recked not of politics, or who forgot in his amiable smile the jealousies of rival nations. In brief, he had become, without premeditation or sacrifice, the most popular man in the world, and thus VOL. CLXXXVII.-NO. MOXXXVI. 3 E

achieved a position unique in the experience of history. The place which he held in France need be embellished with no decorative phrase. For some years he had been toasted in the United States as "the King," such a tribute of instinctive respect as has been paid to no other monarch.

It was, before all things, his temperament to which he owed this triumph over life. He had a rare faculty of displacement. In whatever station he had been born, he would have attracted the notice and admiration of his fellows. He imposed himself upon others naturally and without effort. And the gifts, born in him, were nurtured and improved by a wise education. At the outset he was subjected to the severest discipline. When he reached the age of eighteen he was "formally emancipated from parental authority and control." The right path had been shown him: it was for him to take it. His mind had been "strengthened" against the seduction of flattery: it remained for him to preserve the triple brass of his pride and self-esteem. At Oxford and Cambridge, in the Army, at the Courts of Europe, he learned the lessons which were to fit him for the craft of kingship. He travelled wisely and with discretion. He made himself familiar with the languages, the policies, the minds of other men; and, while he did not neglect the weightier matters, it was to the art of life that he devoted his hours of deepest study. At twenty-one he was a finished citizen of the world. Not merely was he known from one end of Europe to the other; he had made a triumphal progress through the Dominion of Canada, and he had stood, the heir to the throne of Great Britain, bareheaded before the statue of Washington. Thus, while he enlarged the boundaries of his experience, he touched the general imagination, and long before he was called to sit upon the throne, the Prince of Wales had definitely impressed himself upon the consciousness of the world.

A sense of grandeur, in truth, early pervaded his career. The journey to India, no doubt, was Disraeli's inspiration. But no sooner was the idea breathed into the Prince's mind, than he recognised what it might mean, imaginatively, to the history of the Empire. Never since the age of myths had West and East been so splendidly associated. There was a splendour, even a touch of poetry, in this visit paid by the heir to the Throne to our greatest dependency. It was plain to all that the Prince of Wales assumed the duties of his station in a spirit of magnanimity which none of his predecessors would have understood. He recognised the importance of knowing all those over whom one day he might be called to govern, and thus he seemed a living man, and no mere vision, to all the world.


Such, in truth, was the secret of his universal popularity. was a popularity bred of knowledge. At home the affection of his people was based on other grounds as well. By a stern convention of our life, the Prince was debarred from taking an

« AnteriorContinuar »