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Family Notices


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THE GOVERNMENT AND ITS OPPONENTS. Party strife, in matters political, is com- mon to all countries under the sun where anything in the shape of constitutional government exists. There are Conservatives and Liberals, Rights and Lefts, or by what- ever distinctive names they may be desig- nated, in the French Chamber, the German Reichstag, the Spanish Cortes, and the Legislative Assemblies of our Colonies as well as in the British Parliament. These hostile parties are so strongly attached to the opposite policies they support that, when one of them is in office," the great effort of the other is to drive them out again. The struggle lies between ins and outs, outs and ins. When fairly waged, in an open and straightforward manner, this hostility of parties keeps the political life of the country in a healthful state, insures the thorough shifting of measures that are in- troduced into Parliament ^before they become law, and prevents Ministries, to whichever party they belong, from yielding to the temptation of seeking to conduct public affairs with too high a hand. It is necessary, above all things, for the sake of the poli- tical healthfulness to which we have referred, that the fighting should be fair, and that no attempt should be made to undermine the stability of the Government in power by statements or charges purport- ing to be true when they are only surmises or inventions. But fairness is not always a characteristic of the tactics of the Tory party when it is the Liberals who are directing and controlling the destinies of the nation. The active spirits of the party do not stick at trifles in trying to excite among the constituencies a feeling of distrust in the stability of the Government. An example of this style of reprehensible tactics was recently afforded by a high-class London Conservative journal, which more than insinuated that there are irreconcilable differences between the Whig and Radical elements in the Cabinet, and that it was im- possible, accordingly, that it could cohere for any length of time, although the Prime Minister himself might be regarded as a compound of Whiggism and Radicalism. But the fact is, that the very thing charac- terized as an element of weakness is an element of strength. It would have created dissatisfaction among the advanced Liberals throughout the country if there had been too great a preponderance of Whig members in the Ministry; but the Premier has done his best to balance the two forces, and the composition of the Cabinet gives now the impression of greater strength and durability than it had at any previous time since Mr Gladstone re- turned to the head of affairs. The members of the Cabinet have a sufficiently strong sense of their responsibility to know how to bear and how to forbear. It is absurd to imagine, or try and make it be believed, that Lord Derby will not find it possible to listen quietly to the suggestions of Sir Charles l)illce, or that Mr Chamberlain will loose all patience with the caution enjoined in the counsels of the Marquis of Hartington. If the member for Chelsea had felt that there was no likelihood of much agreement be- tween himself and lord Derby at Cabinet meetings he would not have felt inclined to change from the Under-Secretary ship of Foreign Affairs to the Presidency of the Local Government Board. All the members of the Ministry, whether Whig or Radical, agree in the general policy which the Government has pursued, is pursuing, and intends to pursue, and there is no ground whatever for insinuating the existence of differences, or predicting speedy disintegra- tion. The truth is that the Liberal party in Parliament, though it consists of what I are thought to be two separate sections, is really more united than the Conservative party is at the present moment. There were indications, during the supplementary autumnal session, that it was all at "sixes and sevens for want of a competent leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons. There was no love lost between Sir Stafford Northeote and Lord Randolph Churchill, and yet both of them had their backers and fol- lowers. In the House of Lords last seson a similar want of harmony was ex- hibited, as tho Conservative peers showed no inclination to be led—wherever he wished them to go -by the Marquis of Salisbury. The restiveness of the Conservatives in the Upper House arises from th o imperiousness of the head of the party, and in the House of Commons from th want of thoroughness and decision shown by the leader of the Op- position. At th9 beginning of the supple- mentary session £ Lord Randolph Churchill manifested a decided inclination to "take the bit between his teeth and to have his own way but though he subsequently sub- sided into a quieter mood, there is no saying what renewed efforts he may put forth in the ensuing session, now close at hand, "to shunt Sir Stafford Northcote to the back- ground. The want of harmony among the Conservatives w?s also apparent by the con- troversial papers, written by leading members of that party, which appeared in one of the chief monthly reviews. This condition of I disagreement, which does not exist amon^ the Liberals, arises n-ituralty and inevitably from the wa.nt of a distinctive policy on the part of the Conservatives, except wha.t consists in decrying whatever their opponents say and do. The existing dis- PP c) agreements among the Conservatives are "I m also a s:gp. that the party was considerably 3 demoralized by the unexpected defeat inflicted upon it at the last general election —a defeat from which it has not yet quite recovered. In order to assist this recovery and to restore harmony it is rec^ssa^y that the party should be kept in a hopeful frame of mind and this helps t) account for the attempts being made to represent the Liberal Government as being liable to dissolution at any moment from internal differences of opinion. The writers and speakers who take this cue are wise enough in their generation to be aware that in order to produce harmony it is necessary to create a feeling of hopefulness. The Outs will cease to quarrel among them- selves, and will join hand in hand in close amity when they have an impression that they are speedily to become the Ins. If an opposite impression were allowed to prevail, the disagreements would be apt, not only to continue, but to grow embittered, and the local associations might lapse into a spirit of listlessness which would not prove beneficial to the Conservative causa when another general election did at last come round. All the organizations are more likely to be kept in good working order, ready for action, when there is the possibility of a Ministerial crisis occurring any day. But if any expectation of this kind —engendered by the misleading insinuations or statements of ingenious journalists— exists in the minds of Conservatives it is utterly delusive, though entertaining, and may help to keep them in better spirits. The Gladstone Government was never more stable or secure than it is at the present moment, as it enjoys the full confidence of the great majority of the electors through- out the United Kingdom. The desire is general and strong that it shall continue in power, and until thosa great measures of political, municipal, and social reform are brought forward and carried through Par- liament, which have been under promise for some time, and of which the country stands greatly in need, the constituencies know well enough that it is in vain for them to look for any such measures from a Conser- vative Government. The extension of the household franchise to counties, accompanied by a redistribution of seats, would not be undertaken by the Conservatives, though it was Mr Disraeli who obtained the credit of conferring household suftrage upon the boroughs. But he would never have done so had his hand not been forced by the reso- lute attitude of the Liberal party in the House of Commens. Household franchise in boroughs, however, is one thing, and household franchise in the counties is another thinir, so far as the Conservatives are concerned. They might assist in establishing the one when cajoled into it by a chief whom they always implicitly obeyed; but the extension of the same- franchise to the counties is something that they will be prepared to resist with might and main. In their estimat:on its certain effeetwoald be to diminish their territorial influence on the occasion of general I elections, and thereby to weaken the power of the party. Whether, as regards the franchise, the land question, the reform of countty government, or the creation of a grea metropolitan municipality, it is above all things desirable that the Liberal I Government shall continue to have the guidance and control of public affairs.




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