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MERIONETHSHIRE eHNGltEGA-TIO^AL…

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THE FAILURE OF GOVERNMENT…

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THE FAILURE OF GOVERNMENT BY GROUPS. The following article, from the pen of Mr William Rathbone, appears in the current number of the Fortnightly Review Many of the most experienced and sagacious Liberals heartily agree with Mr Gladstone that the overwhelming defeat of the party at the last elec- tion, if its causes are studied and its Jessons pro- fited by, may prove in the end a benefit to the cause and an aid to the ultimate victory of the principles of steady progress which they advocate. The speeches since the elections of the leaders on both sides have been characterised by a conscious ness of this, but it is difficult for men still engaged in the contest of politics, and anxious not to offend those with whom they mnst work, to speak out as plainly as is necessary, however much they may deplose the mistakes of the past. It does not appear to n e that the main causes of a national change of opinion so decided lutve been clearly brought out; and, as an old hand, the last twenty- five years of whose life has been spent in active work iD Parliament and anxious study of the course of politics, and more than double that per- iod iu sharing the efforts and watching the suc- cesses and failures of Liberal principles, Liberal leaders, and Liberal followers, I may perhaps be allowed to state my views of the mistakes made in the recent past to be avoided in the future. As a Welsh member, I have beea a most anxious I observer of the course of one cf the groups whose action appears to me to have affected most injur- iously the progress of Liberal principles, and threatens) to be disastrous to English parliamen- tary government. I shall refer to the action of some cf the Welsh members repeatedly in the fol- lowing pages, for examples of the most fatal mis- takes of the sections of the Liberal party during the last Parliament. But while, in drawing attention to the lessons of the late Parliament, I shall for brevity's sake take my examples mainly from the Welsh members, English and Scotch groups have also committed the same blunders in attempting to force their sectional interests upon the Government, by as- suming an attitude of apparent readiness to separate themselyes from the Liberal party unless their special demands were conceded. These groups must share with the Welsh the responsibility of the great Liberal defeat, and we must hope will also take to heart the lessons of this bitter experience. During the last two years of the late Parlia- ment I felt continually more and more convinced that our party and the Government were preparing for themselves a signal defeat, though I was hardly prepared for its completeness. Small as the majority was with which the Government commenced, I was satisfied, and a at so still, that they might have carried the majority of their most important measures, certainly through the House of Commons, probably through the House of Lords also, if, having stated their programme they had been allowed, or hai insisted, as they might well have done, on beir:g allowed to work out and bring forward in succession carefully pre- pared measures, instead of being bullied by ex- tremist groups into crowding forward at once a numbpr of hurriedly prepared, ill-considered bills, to be rendered unworkable and unpalatable by concessions extorted to please everyone. It was a case of followers who were always pretending that they would not follow, and of leaders who did not insist upon leading. In the Liberal party there must be difference of opinion, and individual mem- bers, to be honest, must occasionally vote against their party; Jmt that is quite a different thing from the formation of cliques or groups-a fatal system which has destroyed Parliamentary Government in France, and would do so in Eng- land if continued. As a strong Liberal I do not hesitate to say that if our recent crushing defeat gives the death blow to that system in England it will be the best thing that has ever happened to our party. My views of what might have been may seem sanguine, but I would point to the striking fact that until it became evident that by crowding bill upon bill, without bringing any work to comple- tion, no practical results were to be expected, there was a striking absence in the results of the bye- elections of any sign of the country having with- drawn their confidence and hopes from the Liberal Government. It is no paradox to say that if a Radical Reformer means one who goes thoroughly to the roots of a question, and brings forward measures carefully prepared to effect a radical cure for the evils he professes to deal with, the Radical party were turned out by the country because they were not true Radicals, but insisted on forcing the Government to attempt to carry a number of measures so crowded, hustled and bustled, that none of them were thoroughly threshed out or carefully considered. To take the case of the Home Rule Bill. Had the Government stuek to their principle of exclud- ing the Irish members from taking any part in British legislation, except in these subjects which were excluded as Imperial from the powers of the Irish legislature, only allowing their presence in the House of Commons when such subjects were dealt with as were excluded from the scope of the Irish Parliament in the Home Rule Rill; had they further accepted reasonable amendments, such as requiring Imperial sanction to any laws involving the violation of contract, the objections felt in Great Britain to be most fatal to the Bill might have been met. But it seemed to me (as an old electioneered perfectly ridiculous to suppose that a proud nation like the British would allow the Irish to have the power of interfering with and stopping British legislation on subjects with which Z5 Great Britaiu had no right to deal in Ireland, aud thus to be able to extort concessions without in- convenience to themselves by a hand on the throat of our legislation. The blunder would, if possible, have been even more fatal to Ireland than to Great Britain, as their leaders would have been forced by public opinion constantly to devote themselves to extorting money and concessions at Westminster, instead of trying to administer with econcmy and ability the great powers and the pecuniary means placed at their disposal at home. But perhaps the causes of the disastrous failure of the Liberal party in the last Parliament are most strikingly shown by a comparsion of the failure of the Welsh members to carry their measures in it, with their success in doing so in the previous one. When the Conservative Government came into office in 1896, Welsh education was at a very im- portant stage of its development. We had secured our university colleges from the previous Govern- ment, but the Principality way almost destitute of what were more necessary—intermediate schools to prepare pupils for them. It was thought by a number that by perseverance and modera- tion we wight persuade the Conservative Government (if not being a party question) to pass an Intermediate Education Bill; and though we were on the point of failure by the attempts of some members to insist on the iro- t possible, the Conservative Government ultimately 1 supported and passed a Bill, whose substantial provisions corresponded to those of the Bill originally introduced by Mr Muudella, and thus placed Wales quite in the van, instead of in the rear, of the legal completion of the educational ladder from the bottom to the top. The opening of the Parliament of 1892-3 found the Welsh Liberals in the proud p-. sition of having an increased and overwhelming majority, and the Welsh Disestablishment Bill avowedly second on the programme of the Liberal party and Govern- ment. Unfortunately, some of our least experienced and most extreme Welsh members, instead of learning frcm success how to succeed, lost tbeir heads, and carried with them others who bad no intention of splitting away from or embarrassing the Liberal party. I believed then, and I believe now, that had t1,e Welsh members, and the other groups, been wiso in their proceedings, a Welsh Disestablishment Bill might have been t, passed, such as Mr Gladstone would have drawn, founded on the lines of the Irish Bill. which would have given absolute religious equality, but guarding against the crea- tion of new and unfair vested interests. Among the Welsh clergy and influential laymen of the Church in Wales, there n is a 1 consciousness that the present state of the Establishment forms a wall between classes and re- ligious parties, fatal alike to national union and prosperity, and to the interests of religion; and which does much to keep many of the Episcopa clergy in a state of povertv, far greater than would L be tolerated under a well-devised Disestablishment system, which would call forth voluntary efforts and contributions, as Irish Disestablishment has done. I believe, therefore, that both laymen and churchmen, had such a Sill been offered, would have seen the wisdom of adopting the Scriptural injunction, 11 Agree with thine adversary quickly, whilst thou art in the way with him 1" The Church, as a religious body, would have received a new stimulus its clergy would have been better paid, with religious equality secured and though, with a rcore liberal treatment of life interests^ a less sum would have been available for other pur- poses, it would have become available now, in- stead of a generation hence. But instead of realisuig and availin0* themselves of the strength of this posi- tion, and assisting the Government by showing their confidence in the precedence avowedly assigned to the Welsh measure of Dis- establishment, they 1-.egm to pi.s resolutions im!j 9 plying want of congdence. and threatening to take a disloyal course, if they did not receive all sorts of pleiges, which the Government might find it impossible to carry out. They thus set an example, fatally followed by othe groups, of a make-believe of disloyalti and threatened secession, to which I do not believe they ever intended to give effect; indeed, the re suit proved that, except in the case of u very few extremists, they certainly did not. They. how- ever, knocked the bottom out of the Liberal par:y by this unwise course, for they justified the assar- tion of uheir opponents, which gradually came to be believed in the country, that the Liberal party had no cohesion, but v ere ready to split up as soon as the Government resisted the pressure of any extremists in their ranks. I am satisfied, on the contrary, that, had the Government put thiir foot down at once against the dictation of groups, the groups would not have forced on defeat in the House, and their own annihilation in the con- stituencies, by insisting on taking, in every I difficulty, the reins out of their leader's' hands. By careful preparation and determined steering I believe the late Government could have carried most of their measures through the House. I do not say that they could have carried a Liquor i ill, for I do not believe any Ministry could do this, without devoting a whole session to a measure thoroughly thought-out, and with the conviction that it must be carried through both Houses, and before a fresh election. 0 The past experience of both sides amply proves I this. No Bill can deal effectively with this old subject without affecting many interests and falling short of many expectations and unless the House of Commons sees that the measure is so well-considered that it ought to pass and will satisfy reasonable requirements—not merely in its ideal, but in the power of practically enforcing that ideal—it will be dealt with quite as much with a view to a coming election as to its actual provisions and practical effect. The history of the question in this country, and still more in Amer- ica, abundantly proves that the difficulty is not so much in legislation as in administration, and that to pass laws which not only the public opinion but the public will is not educated up "to and pre- pared resolutely to enforce, demoralises both the police and local government, corrupts them and the constituencies, and introduces seven devils as bad as that ef drink, which it thus reinforces, into the very soul of the community. I have ventured emphatically to warn Welsh- men against the danger into which some of their less wise representatives would lead them, of allowing their noble national enthusiasm, which ought to be a great power for good, to narrow itself into provincialism, and reduce Wales into a copy of one of the old petty German Principalities, instead of being what she may be, a most influential partner in the government and resources of the great British Empire. This great opportunity, the love of the Welsh for education, their readi- ness to avail themselves of it. their willingness to sacrifice immediate indulgence for a dis- tant ideal, in all of which they suipass the English, combined with their industry and fru- gality, fit them'to succeed. But for the lesson how to do this they must look to the past history of Scotland and for the dangers of failure, to that of Ireland. At first the union with Scotland was as unpopular, and brought about by the same cor- rupt means as the nnion with Ireland. But the Scotch, with their natural -.shrewdness, stimulated by a large share of Celtic imagination, saw the I aduantage which they, by becoming better edu- cated, might possess. In effect, instead of the greater country annexing the lesser, Scotland annexed England, in so far as she obtained for herself a share altogether out of pro- portion to her population or her resources, of the advantages in wealth, position, and employment throughout the Empire. Everywhere, in India, in England itself, and all through the world, you find an extraordinary proportion of Scotchmen em- ployed as administrators and successful leaders of industry. As long as England and Wales are one people under the same government, the Welsh may look, with the educational advantages now within their power, to obtain, as the Scotch have done, a shaie far larger than their numerical proportion 1 would entitle them to, of the resources, wealth, and advantageous employment, of the united Em- pire. But this would be difficult, if not impossible, if the line of separation between Englishmen and Welshmen weie more sharply drawn, instead of their unity be mide more cemplete than it is at present. A friend, largely connected with business under- takings, who had just returned from a journey throughout the West and other parts of Am' r;ca, in order to form a j udgment of its openings;, said that he found almost everywhere, that where the bosses and managers cf industrial undertakings were not native Americans, they were Scotch, Welsh, and English, rarely Irish, the latter being mainly prominent in electioneering management and corruption, as in New York. Looking at the past misgovernment of Ireland, it is not for us to blame Irishmen for what we must, at least, shere the responsibility of; but I dread for Welshmen any imitation of Irish methods, and their result on character and position. Constantly you find the hardest, roughest work done by Irish- men but except in the Scotch-Irish race, you find them with a far smaller share of desirable and trusted positions than their abilities and genius ought to entitle them to. Having a great admiration for the practical in- telligence of Scotchmen, I have never believed in the cry for Scottish Home Rule. The Scotch are, and I trust the Welsh in future will be, too sensible to wish to dissolve partnership with their capital- ist partner. The alliance has been too profitable in the past, and ought to continue so in the future. If these arguments are souna the experience of the last three years prove conclusively that a practical nation like our own judges its rulers and legislators by the results in steady, well-considered progress, rather than by proposals and promises, I however graud and ambitions, 100 numerous to be successfully carried out within the limits of time into which they are crowded and hurried; and expocts from its statesmen carefully considered schemes and statesmanlike and firm leadership in carrying them to a successful issue. But the most important lesson of all is that the nation will not tolerate the degradation of this Mother of Parliaments by its being split up into groups selfishly intent on narrow local interests and quite inconsiderate of the national warfare.

~tian(indno.