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his own country required; but this fact did not make his act less courageous or less favourable to the cause of peace. Compelled to retreat upon Holland the ex-President has since had the bitter mortification of learning that all hope of European intervention in his favour is at an end. Already, although he makes spasmodic appearances in public, the fickle populace seems to be paying less and less attention to his movements, and he appears to be left to such consolations as he can receive from those who think that arbitration can be invoked after defeat, even when the defeated belligerent has in the first instance refused it, and those othersincluding a certain number of the Queen's subjects-who cling tenaciously to the belief that in the whole of the events which have culminated in the tragedy of the war Mr. Kruger has been in the right and England in the wrong.
The fact that there are persons amongst us who not only hold this view but maintain it with energy and courage leads to the last topic raised by the events of the past month, the relations of parties and the state of the Opposition. It is not altogether an agreeable topic for a Liberal. I have spoken of the way in which during the general election the electors were asked to believe that the Liberal party was in alliance with the enemies of the country. So far as the overwhelming majority of Liberals were concerned, no greater calumny could have been uttered, and it is difficult to resist the conclusion that the very men who spread it were aware that it was false. But even those of us who resent most bitterly this imputation upon our loyalty and good faith must admit that the members of a certain small section of the extreme left of our party not only justified Tory electioneerers in bringing this charge against them but ostentatiously proclaimed that it was true. To some of us it seems that there is little to choose between the rabid, howling jingo, who was seen at his worst when the war first broke out, and the fanatical pro-Boer who has honestly come to believe that everything that his own country does must be wrong. But there is no doubt as to which of the two extremes is viewed with the greater disfavour by the public at large. The bias of anti-patriotism' is neither a desirable nor a creditable thing at any time. It naturally becomes hateful to the whole community when it manifests itself in attacks upon our soldiers in a war that has stirred the nation to its depths. Even if the censors of their own race do no more than make use of the inevitable horrors and miseries of the battle-field in order to arouse feeling against their fellow-countrymen, they play a part the reverse of noble; but when, not content with this, they repeat without due care or full enquiry the loose stories that are always current at times like the present, and repeat them for the direct purpose of discrediting our soldiers, and others who are risking their lives in our service, they sink to a depth of discredit that can hardly be fathomed.
VOL. XLIX-No. 287
No excuse, not even that of a fanatical and one-sided devotion to what they believe to be the cause of justice, can be pleaded for them. The common instinct of human nature leads us to visit them with an unsparing condemnation. The Liberal party unfortunately for itself has had to bear the obloquy of association with some who have been guilty of this grave offence. One cannot wonder that it has suffered in consequence. But what one does wonder at is the fact that this mere handful of men, full of zeal for what they believe to be truth and justice, but unhappily blinded by the passion of fanaticism, should be allowed to pose as though they represented not a mere fraction but the majority of our party. When the short Session began there were signs that a distinct improvement in the position of the Opposition was at hand, and wise Conservatives were at one with most Liberals in desiring that this improvement should take place. The wish to see Lord Rosebery return to his natural place in the party of which he had been the leader prevailed almost universally. Lord Rosebery himself without taking any formal step acted in the House of Lords, as the Times remarked, like a man who not only has been the leader of a party, but may be again. Everything seemed to be advancing towards the desired solution of a difficult situation. But suddenly the hopes of the friends of Liberalism met with a check. How far it may be true that a desperate intrigue was woven by those who desire any alternative-even the permanent ruin of the Liberal party-rather than the return of Lord Rosebery to the leadership, I do not pretend to say. But at any rate it is certain that the men with whom Lord Rosebery has notoriously no sympathy, the men animated by the bias of anti-patriotism,' pushed themselves to the front in the House of Commons and spoke as though they were the true and only accredited representatives of Liberalism. If their pretensions had been well founded, it would no longer have been possible for any Liberal to denounce the slanders which were used by his opponents at the general election. Everybody knows that this is not the case. The majority of Liberals love their country, and, whatever errors particular Ministers may have committed, long for the end of the struggle in South Africa by the triumph of British arms, being assured that in such a triumph may be found the best hopes for the future happiness alike of the colonies and of the Empire as a whole. These men cannot understand why it was left to the extreme faction to play their dismal part as the slanderers of English soldiers and officers and the avowed partisans of England's enemies, without opposition or repudiation from those who could have spoken with authority as the exponents of the opinion of the majority of their party. It is chiefly owing to this strange inaction that the closing month of the century has found the Liberal party hardly more happily placed than it was a hundred years ago.
A CONSERVATIVE VIEW
THE most striking feature of the short autumn Session of Parliament was the revelation that Her Majesty's Opposition is in a state of collapse. For the present there is no alternative Cabinet to that of Lord Salisbury. The minority has abdicated its constitutional function. It is not merely the business of an Opposition to oppose. Practically, though not theoretically, the party out of office exists in order that it may come into power when occasion requires. It is the real substitute, or should be, for the various checks and balances' on the uncontrolled action of the Executive, which the constitution is supposed to provide, but which are now mostly in abeyance. In the interval between two General Elections there is scarcely anything to prevent a Government, with a strong majority in both Houses of Parliament, from doing, within limits, pretty much what it pleases, unless it has the fear of the Opposition before its eyes. Even the salutary apprehension that it may offend public opinion, and so be beaten when it comes to the polls, is based upon this consideration. To turn out one Ministry means to put in another. But if there is no combination of leading politicians, able or willing to take over the administration, that process cannot be adopted. The Sovereign and the Nation are alike denied their proper and legitimate remedy for what they may regard as the mismanagement of their affairs. It is useless to dispense with one body of officials if it is not possible to replace them, except by those who are practically committed to their own policy, and have, in fact, been sedulously engaged in supporting it. In such circumstances, instead of that healthy change of men and measures, which sends a vivifying breeze through national administration, and is one of the compensating advantages of our party system, we get nothing but a mere shuffling of the cards and a shifting of the personnel; or at the best we can only have a reconstruction, more or less judicious, of the dominant members of the dominant group, all of whom have been working in close association for years. The nation may really be
dissatisfied with its rulers, but it has no means of carrying its convictions into effect unless there is an available Opposition Cabinet. At present it is obvious that this is not the case. Let us assume for a moment that a whole series of disasters in South Africa, or the exhibition of gross incompetency at headquarters, had convinced the country that Lord Salisbury and his colleagues could no longer be safely entrusted with the conduct of the war. Yet how could either the elector, if the question should come before him, or the private member of Parliament, decide to vote for their dismissal? He would naturally say, 'If I do my best to overthrow the Conservative Cabinet, what do I intend to substitute for it? Am I voting for Sir William Harcourt, who opposes the War, or Sir Henry Fowler, who supports it, or Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, who sometimes approves and sometimes opposes and sometimes does both? Is there any likelihood that a combination made up of the genuine admirers, reluctant allies, and candid friends, of these various gentlemen, could do the nation's business satisfactorily at a very critical period?' After all, the Queen's Government must be carried on; and even a Cabinet which has made mistakes is better than none at all, or than one which would only be formed to go to pieces. Indeed it is tolerably certain that if, through any cause, Lord Salisbury's Cabinet were to be expelled from office, its place could not be assumed by a Ministry officially representing the Liberal parties as they appear at present in the House of Commons and the country. There would be nothing for it but to constitute another Conservative Cabinet, with perhaps the addition of one or two Liberal Imperialists, who might abandon a meaningless name, and a party connection that only makes them uncomfortable.
To judge by the utterances of the special organs of this group of the composite Opposition, the Imperialist Liberals are under the impression that they have shown a peculiar and exceptional patriotism during the present conjuncture of affairs. They seem to think that it is rather a fine thing to agree with the Government and to act— ineffectually with its opponents: to believe that Ministers are in the main right, and to associate themselves with those who consider them wholly wrong. It is difficult to see what there is to admire in this curious conduct, or why politicians like Lord Rosebery, Sir Edward Grey, and Mr. Asquith should maintain their alliance with those whose views, on the most pressing set of questions before the country, they must contemplate with abhorrence. They apparently console themselves for the aberrations of their allies by reflecting that on certain subjects, now latent or dormant, they might be in sympathy with them. It must be an odd process of reasoning which could induce Sir Henry Fowler, for example, who is a rather more perfervid jingo than most Tories, to condone the offences of Mr. Bryn Roberts and Mr. Keir Hardie against
Imperialism, because perchance he might possibly accept their ideas on the Taxation of Ground Values and the Enfranchisement of Leaseholds. Domestic legislation of this kind is off the stage, and will so remain till our present international and military difficulties are disposed of. When we have leisure for reform again, there are other topics which will claim attention, and on them the Liberal Right is just as likely to agree with the Conservatives as with its own Celtic and Radical Left. Everything that is practical, immediate, and important, should bind the Liberal Imperialists to the followers of the Government; their ties with the older Liberals are vague, remote, and speculative. To an outsider it would seem that there is nothing to boast of in this preference for names over facts, and in a misplaced fidelity to a party tradition. The divergence between the two sections, not merely on the particular issue in South Africa, but on the whole system of doctrines which is known as Imperialism, is fundamental. It will not pass away when the Boer War is concluded, as optimists like Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman and the Westminster Gazette imagine; for it is based on irreconcilable theories of life, conduct, the duties of a State, and the limits of public, and even private, morality. By attempting to act together, the two wings only doom each other to impotence. The one is all the time eager to advance while the other is anxious to hang back. The result is seen in the singularly ineffective and unreal indictments of the Government in the debates on the Address and the Vote of Credit. No one can deny that some of the speeches made by individual members of the Opposition were extremely able. Sir William Harcourt, Sir Robert Reid and Mr. Bryce delivered attacks on the ministerial policy which, read by themselves, look very damaging. Yet damage they did none at all, nor was it possible they should. For before the bow was bent the barb had been drawn from the arrow. The assailants of the Cabinet knew very well that a powerful contingent of its defenders were laagered within their own lines.
It is a situation which cannot long endure, nor does it seem desirable that it should do so. We need two parties for the proper working of our constitutional machinery-two parties homogeneous and with strongly defined principles. It is of no benefit to the nation that half the occupants of the Liberal benches should be Conservatives in all essentials but the name; nor is the arrangement advantageous to the Tories or even to the Liberals themselves. As for the last-named disturbed congeries of atoms,' it would gain by sacrificing numbers to cohesion. The defection of the Imperialists would leave it numerically very weak in the House of Commons. But it would obtain unity, and internal peace, and, above all, it would have acquired a definite ground of antagonism to the ruling majority. It would form a nucleus around which Liberalism, if ever again it is to become formidable in the constituencies, might gather. And it would offer