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FRASER'S MAGAZINE.

NOVEMBER 1880.

SH

POLITICAL LEADERS AND THE POLITICAL FUTURE.

HORT as has been our experience of the present Parliament, and the character of its legislation, it may be possible to infer the political material of which it is made, and how far it contains elements of strength or hope for the political future. No question can be so important for the United Kingdom as the quality of its forthcoming statesmanship; and it is impossible for anyone who takes a large and enlightened view of the prospects of the country to say that this prospect was, during the last Parliament, an encouraging one. It was not only that the statesmen then in charge of the Government could not, on the most flattering hypothesis, be regarded as approaching any ideal of greatness; no men would be more astonished at being supposed to have any claims to such a title than some of the most sensible of the late Ministry; but it was that not a few members of the Ministry before them had become discredited, both by failure of political effort and lack of mutual understanding and sympathy. No Ministry ever fell more helplessly than the Ministry of Mr. Gladstone in 1874. The blow which displaced them literally knocked them to pieces, and they parted as the dissevered members of an ill-jointed column which not merely lies overthrown, but splintered into numerous fragments. How far the great leader may have been responsible for the result it is not our present purpose to inquire. No one, certainly-not even the most indiscriminate admirer of Mr. Gladstone-can maintain that he acted a great or heroic part in the emergency which ensued, and which, while it carried Mr. Disraeli to power with a Cabinet of respectable country gentlemen and business officials, shattered and dispersed, as if by. rout, the great Liberal party. In the moment of its recent exaltation this dismal rout has been forgotten, and it is perhaps well that it should be so. But it is the part of the journalist, who writes not merely for the hour, and who believes that politics form a great art as well as a clever game, to look both before and after, and to study political forces not merely as they emerge into sight, but as they live and grow with a past as well as a future before his eyes. No. 611 (NO. CXXXI. N. s.)

PP

insufficient to accommodate present members of the University. It will be a very doubtful act of charity to admit those talked of Oxonians of the future, with their limited incomes, for the purpose of enriching the lodging-house keepers of the present type. First let the house be set in order, and then it will be time enough to invite additional tenants.

But, a college bursar once told us, even on the present system of charges a college loses by each undergraduate. We should be rather inclined to say that the colleges lose by their present system of management. An inordinate amount of money is spent in many colleges. Where does it go to? When we are informed in one quarter that the college cook or kitchen farmer receives an annual fixed salary of 300l., in addition to a considerable percentage of the profits of the kitchen; in another, that a butler resigned his situation in order to become a college shoe-black, on the ground that the latter was the more lucrative situation; and when, in addition to this, we see college servants and petty tradesmen at Oxford rapidly acquiring fortunes, the question is easily answered. Our own impression is that twenty years hence the economical arrangements of many of our colleges will have had to undergo some very sweeping reforms, or the majority of Oxford undergraduates will figure in the calendar as non-ascripti, and will resist the encroachments of the licensed lodging-house keepers by associations formed on the principle of the present St. Catharine's Club. It is for the powers that be in Oxford to decide whether such a state of things be at all desirable.

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The spirit of Reform is, as we have said said, breathing over the University of Oxford, and amongst its partisans are to be found the names of many of Alma Mater's most distinguished sons. There is every reason to hope that the changes in the matter of the Schools,' &c., which are being gradually introduced, will, under their guidance, prove to be changes for the better. And if a University education has, as no doubt it has, a beneficial effect on those who receive it, by all means let the privilege be extended as widely as possible. But the first and the most essential step towards opening the universities to the poorer classes of society must consist in giving the means of economising to such of the present class of undergraduates as have the will, and that can only be done by a considerable reduction of academical expenses.

NOTICE TO CORRESPONDENTS.

Communications to the Editor should be addressed to him at 39 Paternoster Row, E.C.

As the Magazine has an ample staff of Contributors, MSS. are not invited without previous correspondence, and uninvited MSS. cannot be returned except at the convenience of the Editor. No copies of verses can be returned.

FRASER'S MAGAZINE.

NOVEMBER 1880.

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POLITICAL LEADERS AND THE POLITICAL FUTURE.

HORT as has been our experience of the present Parliament, and the character of its legislation, it may be possible to infer the political material of which it is made, and how far it contains elements of strength or hope for the political future. No question can be so important for the United Kingdom as the quality of its forthcoming statesmanship; and it is impossible for anyone who takes a large and enlightened view of the prospects of the country to say that this prospect was, during the last Parliament, an encouraging one. It was not only that the statesmen then in charge of the Government could not, on the most flattering hypothesis, be regarded as approaching any ideal of greatness; no men would be more astonished at being supposed to have any claims to such a title than some of the most sensible of the late Ministry; but it was that not a few members of the Ministry before them had become discredited, both by failure of political effort and lack of mutual understanding and sympathy. No Ministry ever fell more helplessly than the Ministry of Mr. Gladstone in 1874. The blow which displaced them literally knocked them to pieces, and they parted as the dissevered members of an ill-jointed column which not merely lies overthrown, but splintered into numerous fragments. How far the great leader may have been responsible for the result it is not our present purpose to inquire. No one, certainly-not even the most indiscriminate admirer of Mr. Gladstone-can maintain that he acted a great or heroic part in the emergency which ensued, and which, while it carried Mr. Disraeli to power with a Cabinet of respectable country gentlemen and business officials, shattered and dispersed, as if by rout, the great Liberal party. In the moment of its recent exaltation this dismal rout has been forgotten, and it is perhaps well that it should be so. But it is the part of the journalist, who writes not merely for the hour, and who believes that politics form a great art as well as a clever game, to look both before and after, and to study political forces not merely as they emerge into sight, but as they live and grow with a past as well as a future before his eyes. No. 611 (No. CXXXI. N.S.)

PP

No Liberal who loves his country more than his party can be proud of the Liberal party during the first years of the late Administration; and if it were vain to look for statesmanship in a Ministry which hardly made the pretence of being formed of statesmen, it was hardly less vain to look for it in the dispirited and broken ranks of what had been the great Gladstonian Cabinet of 1869. It is marvellous how little greatness of intellect or character has sometimes gone to the government of England; but hardly ever was the absence of greatness more conspicuous in our public men than in 1874. Neither Government nor Opposition (in so far as there was any Opposition) was such as the country could be proud of. With a brilliant but bizarre and false genius at the head of the former, an astute lawyer at the woolsack, and two names besides of great but unsatisfactory ability, there was nothing else but a combination of mediocrities, of which no official experience or expertness could make statesmen; while, with one or two exceptions, the most prominent and powerful of the former Administration had gone their several ways unmindful of the State and its exigencies. The results of such a political collapse, which seemed to many for the time a state of much needed repose by the country, proved ere long to be so disastrous that we trust, whatever fate may await the great Liberal party in the future, it may never again so much neglect its duty of vigilance and discipline as it then did. Providence has no doubt been kind to England in many an emergency: it has grown great and powerful with very little brain sometimes at its head; but the experiment is a dangerous one in times like these, and our last trial of a Cabinet of mediocrities, even with a dazzling figurehead, is not an encouraging one. We must be saved in the future, if possible, from the quarter sessions type of political mind, which, like clay in the hands of a clever potter, can be moulded to any shape or purpose which a scheming but unsound genius may suggest.

The late House of Commons, apart from the political leaders on either side, showed no special capacity of any kind. It was a dull and ill-organised body, the majority of which faithfully obeyed the Conservative whips; but it developed no political genius, and hardly developed any power at all save a clever and ingenious policy of obstruction. It is unfortunately possible now for a public man in the House of Commons, or out of it, to make himself conspicuous by simply standing in other people's way, and becoming as much as possible a nuisance in the social or political world. Some of our modern Parliamentary heroes have no further claim to notice save what comes from conduct of this kind. By sheer insistance in ways of their own they obtain notoriety, and gradually, by the help of the newspapers, rise to be something of the nature of Parliamentary forces that must be reckoned with. The last Parliament was sufficiently fruitful in this sort of development, and the late election time brought not a few of the same calibre to the front whom the course of our

political progress will yet declare more fully. We are not likely soon to fail in leaders of this kind.

But the great question for the country is, Have we gained in the new Parliament in a higher kind of leaders, men of thoughtful and vigorous statesmanship, whose work will be an honour to the State, and whose name it will not willingly let die'?

There is good reason to believe that we have gained substantially in this direction. One distinct and obvious gain we have made in the reunion and expansion of the Liberal party. This union, indeed, had been largely effected before the elections. However honestly Mr. Gladstone may have intended to retire from public life in 1874, it soon became evident that he could not carry out his intention. Neither his own temperament nor the circumstances admitted of this; and as the unhappy foreign policy of the late Government showed itself more plainly in its true colours, and the peace-loving and righteous instincts of the country rose against this policy more decidedly, he became, as he could not fail to become, the eloquent and powerful voice which at once interpreted the feeling of the country, and intensified it by giving back its indignation with redoubled heat. One by one the old leaders returned to the standard; one of them especially, as we shall see, having grown largely both in comprehension and capacity of statecraft.

With a single exception, it may be said that the political leaders who encircled Mr. Gladstone in 1874 again surround him. The exception, indeed, is a conspicuous one; and the elevation of Mr. Robert Lowe to the peerage and a seat in the House of Lords is unquestionably a loss to the political intelligence of the House of Commons. No clearer, firmer, or more incisive mind ever helped to rule the deliberations of that assembly; no mind more straight, if sometimes narrow in its impulses, and more really free and generous and large-thoughted, if yet frequently—as if under some strange and uncontrollable perversion-doing injustice to its higher instincts. Scorn, which is always more or less near to a straight vision of the facts of life and the tangled aspect of public affairs, was the fatal flaw in the use of Mr. Lowe's great powers. He could not accommodate himself to opposing interests, and talk tenderly with those "in the gate.' He liked to tear the veil from pretences of all kinds, and, having got hold by strength of insight of a true side of things, he could see for the time no other side, and delighted to pour his merciless contempt over what seemed to him unreal or merely conventional. While full of political enlightenment and manly conviction, Mr. Lowe was in consequence always more or less dangerous in political harness. He was apt to bolt, or to drive the knife of his keen wit or the blunt hammer of his logic through some fence that he need not have touched, and which was perhaps quietly sheltering his party from assault. He knew very well of this tendency himself, and latterly was on his guard against it. But this effort to go straight in harness was too awkward for him. It would have been

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