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] SPIRIT OF THE PRESS. j THE OPENING OF PARLIAMENT. The Times observes that the possible miscarriage of the Alabama Arbitration overshadowed all other topics in both Houses of Parliament on the opening night. Compared with it the rest was but "leather and prunella." Lord Derby frankly avowed as much in the House of Lords when he devoted the greater part of his speech to a most careful examination of the embarrassing misunder- standing which has arisen between us and the United States; and Lord Granville's guarded language shewed that he felt everything to be insignificant by the side oi the Alabama complication. Nothing else could be inferred from the course of the discussion in the House of Commons. We find the leader of the Opposition sinking party differences while discussing the meaning of the Treaty of Washington, and Mr. Gladstone defending, in opposition to the American Case, the construction we ourselves have uniformly put on that Convention. Lord Derby very justly said that in taking their stand upon the Washington Treaty as we have interpreted it, the Ministry would have all England at their back. There is, in fact, no difference of opinion on the point. For the first time for fifteen years, according to some—for the first time for this century, we would rather say — there is complete unanimity among all divi- sions of political opinion. There was a minority which stood by Napoleon in the Great War; there was a minority which denounced the Crimean Expedition; there was a minority which thought Lord Granville answered Prince Gortchakoff too stiffly last year but there is no minority to support the interpretation of the Treaty ol Washington embodied in the American case. What faint differences of opinion have appeared have referred to the way in which the American claims should be met, and upon this point a unanimous judgment has been arrived at after the slightest possible interval of hesitation. There were not two opinions expressed on Tuesday night on the subject. The tendency of opinion in Parliament was cer- tainly not to fall short of, though it may not have been to go beyond, the opinion of the country. The Standard observes that there have been many more sage, many more excited debates on the Address than those of Tuesday night, but none more worthy of an English Parliament or of England herself. Seldom have there been greater or more tempting opportunities offered for a sharp and taunting attack on the Govern- ment never had a Government less right to expect for- bearance at the hands of its opponents. But no such attack was made. Parliament met under the shadow of a grave anxiety, a national embarrassment, which, as Mr. Disraeli remarked, absorbed all attention, and which diverted men's thoughts from personal quarrels, party prejudices, and Ministerial shortcomings, and fixed them upon the one paramount issue of the day. Nothing could be more free from all savour of party tactics, from all attempt to make political capital out of a diplomatic fiasco, nothing more thoroughly loyal and patriotic, and at the same time more courteous and considerate towards the Americans, than the language of the leader of the Opposition. The spirit and tone of the Prime Minister's speech were equally creditable. It is on such occasions that the common English qualities and English principles c# our statesmen shew to the best advantage. Mr. I Gladstone took upon himself and his colleagues, with perfect frankness and dignity, the whole responsibility of every step in the late negotiation at Washington, and every line of the treaty, and completely exonerated the Commissioners from every shadow of liability. At the same time, he maintained most positively that the English interpretation of the treaty was the right one, and the only consistent and tenable one; that to hold us to have admitted the indirect claims as a part of the case upon which the arbitrators were to decide would be to impute to us something not far short of insanity; and that the terms of the treaty them- selves could only by straining be made to cover the American demands. In a word, the leaders of both parties combined to enable Parliament to accord a united support to the national policy, and to present a united front to the adversary. Counts which at another time would have given opportunity for a sharp attack were passed over with, at most, an incidental sarcasm, and while no word was uttered which could needlessly wound American susceptibilities, enough was said to make it perfectly plain that no future change of Ministry or cir- cumstance would ever afford them the slightest chance— we do not say of enforcing their "wild and preposterous" claims, but—of obtaining more favourable terms than are offered them by the Treaty of Washington, as inter- preted by her Majesty's present advisers. The Daily News considers that the country certainly has no reason to complain of the manner in which Mr. Glad- stone announced the position of the Government in regard to the Alabama Claims. No ambiguous voice was issued by him. Without one word or hint of harshness or irrita- tion against the United States, he vindicated the justice of England's case, and repudiated all possibility of our entertaining any claim for extravagant and limitless "con- sequential damages." His declaration was echoed by the universal acclamation of a crowded House, when he pro- claimed that England never could submit to pay a tribute such as conqueror never yet exacted from a crushed and helpless foe. The Washington Treaty and its contingencies swallowed up, of course, the best part of the debate. It would, indeed, be unreasonable not to notice the eloquent expressions of congratulation offered to Parliament and th<>country in both Houses on the recovery of the Prince of Wales. In Lords and Commons alike, however, the night might be said to have been devoted to the Alabama. The most emphatic exposition of the Conservative senti- ment in the Upper House was made by the Earl of Derby, who indeed spoke with more of the air and hear- ing of an Opposition leader than did the Duke of Rich mond. In both Houses alike the debate proved less rhetorical and elaborate than its opening portended. We know, however, what the Government proposes to do in regard to the Washington Treaty—a knowledge which is better worth having than the most exhaustive debate. The Session of 1872 could not open, says the Post; with- out some allusion to the anxiety in which the nation was held only a few weeks ago as to the responsibility which might devolve on Parliament in the event of a national calamity which at one time seemed inevitable, and with regard to which the whole country lived from hour to hour through many days in breathless suspense. From the leaders on both sides of the House such ^congratulations on the restoration of the Heir to the Throne from the peril^ in which he lately stood were uttered with an eloquence which met with a deep and heartfelt response. The Prime Minister said with truth that the illness of the Prince of Wales will be remembered in history as a great political event, not only as indicating the loyal attachment of the people to the Throne, but as shewing the veneration in which the English Monarchy is held beyond the limits even of its vast empire. The more immediate danger which attended the sickness of the Prince withdrew public attention from the sufferings of the Queen, but the country will learn from Mr. Gladstone's speech the critical condition of her Majesty's heajtli during the early portion of the recess. When the Queen and her subjects unite in thanksgiving, the country will not forget the suf- ferings which have afflicted a Sovereign who has throughout her reign entered so earnestly into every circumstance which might affect the welfare of her people. The Tehe/raph says that on Tuesday night both parties were fighting with buttoned foils, and both seemed much more anxious not to uncover themselves than eager to touch their opponents. The truth is that the unsettled state of the American controversy overrides all other con- siderations both in and out of Parliament. Till we know exactly how we stand with respect to the United States, party warfare is suspended; and, till the Ministry has explained its exact attitude with reference to this vital question, the Opposition are unwilling to take up any ground of their own. So for the moment there is a truce in the Parliamentary contest; but it would, we think, be a mistake to suppose that the amenities of Tuesday night and the interchange of courtesies between the leaders of the two rival factions, were the harbingers of a peaceful and uneventful session. The Advertiser believes that on questions of general policy and on some personal appointments, the conduct of the Ministry is certain to be severely criticised, and on any one of them a grave issue may be raised. Threats of dis- solution will not avail. Tricks of financial legerdemain will no longer beguile. Rhetorical platitudes and" goody" talk have lost their charm. Even the casting overboard of a political Jonah will not save the ship. The simple fact is that the country is tired of' and disgusted with the present Cabinet of Incapables. They have been tried too long, and they are found fatally lacking. A blunder or twof would have been overlooked. Even one or two serious disasters might have been condoned. But an unbroken round of muddle and confusion, of false economy and actual waste, of mismanagement and blun- dering, of losses and catastrophes, of complaisance to Republicans at home and cringing to foreign Governments have brought the Gladstone party into deserved contempt. Such a lack of ordinary administrative ability—to say no- thing of the higher degree of statesmanship—cannot longer be endured. We do not envy the feelings of certain right honourable gentlemen in looking forward to the actual commencement of a wordy warfare in the House of Commons but they have brought the strife upon them- selves by a want of common sense and of high patriotism, and they must not be surprised if hard measure is dealt out to them by the representatives of a much-enduring and indignant country. 1


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