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TOPICS OF THE DAY.

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TOPICS OF THE DAY. If there is truth in the rumour that Prince Bismarck is likely to barter his recent annexations in the Pacific for Heligoland we can see no good reason why the exchange should not be effected. Heligoland is a singularly worthless possession to England, but it is perfectly intelligible that the Chancellor should desire its cession to Germany, not because it is valuable in itself, but because it is almost within sight of the German shores. The Watford magistrates recently earned an unenviable notoriety by opposite decisions in connection with lamps on tricycles. At first they tined two riders for not using them, but on a test case being got up they decided" according to law," and rescinded the previous fines. They would have done better by sticking to the common-sense interpretation of the law, leaving its subtle- ties to be settled by the judges for if a lamp is requisite on a bicycle it is certainly necessary on the three-wheeled machine. That is the general opinion of all wheelmen, who as a body are anxious to obey any laws made for the benefit of the public. The shipowners are organising the evidence they intend to submit to the Royal Commis- sion this year. Mr Horan has been chosen to speak for the Sunderland shipowners. After the meeting of Parliament a confer- ence of shipowners will be held, at which it will be determined what witnesses shall speak for the various interests of shipping. In their annual report, the Sunderland Shipowners' Society refers as follows to the depression in the shipbuilding trade:—"Seldom, if ever, has there been so great a depression and, under such circumstances, any legisla- tion tending further to depress shipping would cause to the town and its property of every description very serious embarrassment. Sunderland has, however, great recuperative energy, and is not prone to look at the dark side when there are any tokens for good." Where are the "tokens for good ?" "The Captivity of the Nisero crew" (Sampson Low and Co.) is a well-written re- cord of the interesting chapter in British maritime history with which the reader is familiar. The writer has a remarkable story to tell, and he writes it in a picturesque and fascinating style. It is a stirring book of adventure, and the adventures are records of real life. Several excellent wood-cuts illustrate the work, and there is as the frontispiece a well-executed photograph of the survivors of the unfortunate crew. "There has been a most doleful neglect, a most unfortunately intermittent, piece-meal, half-witted jobbing with affairs of the pro- foundest importance, and no doubt it is this, or rather the natural consequence of it, which has brought back upon Mr Gladstone the sickness he suffered from two years ago; the sickness of anxiety. To whatever remorse he may feel for the injury and insult he has brought upon England must be added a bitter sense of personal humiliation, which to men of his combative and amazingly egotistical temperament must be intolerable." We quote from a Conservative paper this gracious manifestation of sympathy with the First Minister of the Crown. Criticism of this kind seems to U3 to raise a simple issue. Are we to expel from political dis- cussion all the usages of decent life ? And is it to be impossible for an aged man, with fifty years of political service upon his head, to suaRr the physical in- firmities not unnatural at the age of seventy- five without being brutally taunted by a political opponent ? Fortunately, the savage manners of this Tory print, although they have been imitated by one or two journals in the country, are not generally characteristic of the newspaper press of England. We sincerely hope they will be- come even less common, or that, at any rate, the aristocratic and fashionable press, the journals written by gentlemen for gentle- men, will retain a monopoly of all such brutality. The town of Berwick, we see, is now petitioning for separate representation under the Redistribution Bill. Berwick has about fourteen thousand people, but under the bill there will be many places with twenty, thirty, or forty thousand which will get no separate representation. It is unfortunate that Berwick and similar places should make these unjust and unreasonable claims— claims based upon no consideration of public policy, but only upon the narrowest local feeling. It is argued in the petition that because Berwick has had two members in the past it should retain one in future. The fact that a town has been enormously over-represented in the past is not quite a logical argument for giving it more that its share of representation now.

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