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for the Government to take reasonable precautions, and having done so, to leave the Irish, in the matter of local government, to work out their own salvation.
On the following day Mr. Chamberlain, who already realised the impending change in his position towards the Liberal Unionists, consequent upon the withdrawal of Lord Hartington from the House of Commons, received a number of deputations, to each of which he addressed a few words of advice or encouragement. To the Edinburgh Liberal Unionists he said that for years they would exist as a third political party in the State: that re-union with the Gladstonians was impossible in view of the personal tone of hostility adopted by the latter, and that a complete fusion with the Conservatives was equally unadvisable. To the fishermen of Moray, Firth, he gave the advice that they should look to the Fishery Board for the redress of their grievances, and should make efforts to secure the reform of that body. To the labourers of Elgin, Nairn, and Caithness he admitted that the condition of their cottages was unsatisfactory, but that by their votes they could determine the action of the County Council and of their Parliamentary representatives. To the representatives of friendly societies he admitted that a voluntary scheme for national insurance was necessarily imperfect, but he deprecated the total shelving of the question because a perfect plan was not forthcoming.
Had Mr. Chamberlain at this point brought his campaign for the year to a close, his position and that of his immediate followers would have been less open to attack. Unfortunately, just before the close of the year it was announced that an arrangement had been arrived at by which the Duke of Devonshire, whilst still retaining the titular headship of the party, should place in Mr. Chamberlain's hands its leadership in the House of Commons. The latter, apparently desirous of marking his accession by an imposing manifesto, addressed (Dec. 29) a letter to a meeting of Welsh Unionists at Ruabon. After expressing the opinion that at the General Election Home Rule would either receive its death warrant, or would stop progress of all other legislation, Mr. Chamberlain went on to say, "I am convinced that the only chance for the speedy satisfaction of the legitimate claims of Welsh Nonconformity is to be found in the defeat of Home Rule. Every Welsh Dissenter who votes for a Gladstonian at the next election votes, first, for the indefinite postponement of Welsh disestablishment and land reform; secondly, for the creation of a Roman Catholic domination in Ireland, which will be dangerous alike to the civil and religious liberties of the Protestant portion of the population; thirdly, for the desertion of his co-religionists in the province of Ulster; fourthly, for civil war and anarchy in Ireland, and for the absolute sterility of English and Scotch legislation. I feel strongly, as a Radical and a Nonconformist, that the continued alliance of the
Gladstonians with Irish Catholics and Home Rule is fatal to the progress of all the reforms in which I am interested, and I therefore earnestly desire the success of the Unionist party."
The fallacy underlying such an argument was at once seized upon by the writer's opponents, and Sir William Harcourt, thanks to an anonymous and possibly mythical "correspondent," was able to have the last word in the political controversies of the year by writing as follows:-"I am obliged to you for your letter. I had already seen with amusement Mr. Chamberlain's encyclical to the Welsh Nonconformists. As a Radical and Nonconformist' he adjures the supporters of Welsh Disestablishment to vote against the Liberal party, because he is convinced that the only chance for the speedy satisfaction of the legitimate claims of Welsh Nonconformity is to be found in the defeat of Home Rule.' He declares that every Welsh Dissenter who supports Mr. Gladstone at the next election votes for the indefinite postponement of Welsh Disestablishment.' I presume, therefore, that Mr. Chamberlain, who is now understood to be the authoritative mouthpiece and organ of the Liberal Unionist party in the House of Commons, feels himself entitled to hold out to the Welsh Dissenters the expectation that if Mr. Gladstone and Home Rule should be defeated at the next election, he and his Tory allies will secure that speedy satisfaction of the legitimate claims of Welsh Nonconformity which the Welsh Dissenters are invited to promote by giving their vote to Unionist candidates. This is, no doubt, an important declaration proceeding from the successor to Lord Hartington at the present juncture; and, as he has so frequently undertaken to promise and vow all manner of reforms on behalf of the Unionist Government, and has professed his desire that every issue should be placed before the constituencies in the most definite form at the next election, the Welsh Dissenters have a clear right to know whether this intimation on the part of Mr. Chamberlain, as the condition of their support, is made with the authority of Lord Salisbury and the present Duke of Devonshire on behalf of the united party; and whether they are prepared to confirm the declaration that the only chance of the speedy satisfaction of the legitimate claims of Welsh Nonconformists rests on the continuance of the present Government in power. If they are not, the Welsh Nonconformists may well think once, twice, or thrice before they accept Mr. Chamberlain's prescription as to the surest method of averting an indefinite postponement of Welsh Disestablishment." "
In other quarters, not usually hostile to Mr. Chamberlain, this bid for the Welsh Nonconformist vote at the cost of the Church Establishment in the principality was severely blamed, not merely as a sacrifice of principle, but as a serious tactical blunder, at a time when the Unionist candidates in all constitu
encies would require the hearty and unanimous help of the Conservative party.
During the closing weeks of the year an interesting series of letters appeared in the Times, some signed by the writer, Mr. Arnold Foster, but others over the signature "Vetus," animadverting on the state of the British Army, and on the administration of the War Office. The former, according to its critics, was barely able to place a single corps d'armée in the field, the home depots being exhausted by the requirements of the regiments in India; the short service system had proved a failure; the cavalry for the most part were unprovided with horses; the artillery in a scarcely better plight; the supply and commissariat departments unprepared, untrained, and wholly inadequate, and we had scarcely any reserves on which to fall back. With regard to the War Office, its constitution was as chaotic as at the time of the Crimean War; the recommendations of Lord Hartington's Committee had been put aside; responsibility nowhere existed; and the personal control of any branch of the service was
The apologists for the Army and the War Office were neither discreet in their recriminations nor happy in their excuses. Mr. Stanhope, the Secretary for War, in a speech at Hammersmith (Dec. 11), carefully avoided all the more serious charges brought against his department, and in a thoroughly optimistic speech maintained that the men were no worse than of old, while the officers of all arms were greatly superior to their predecessors.
The Army of 101,000 men employed in India and the Colonies was, he declared, in splendid order, the men being, in particular, decidedly older than they used to be; while in the Home Army of 103,000 men, only 30,000 were under twenty years of
If that army, however, were employed in the field, 66,000 Reserve men, all mature and fully trained, would at once be added to its ranks. This system of young men with the colours and mature men in the Reserve was the universal system of the Continent, and worked here perfectly well; the men, when summoned, arriving so regularly that the Reserve was, in fact, in the first line of the Regular Army. The number of recruits was ample, though there had been some difficulty about the Artillery, in which trained men were required, and he doubted if higher wages would attract a better class. It was only possible to engage unskilled lads, for skilled workmen of twenty-one had settled to work and would not leave it. If we offered the highest rate, and the men would not come, we should have taken a long step in the direction of a conscription.
Mr. Stanhope admitted that the Reserve upon which he relied would be more dependable and more efficient if it were called out for annual training; but he held out no hope that any step would be taken to give the men even a rudimentary training in the use of those weapons which, in the event of a war,
they would have placed in their hands.
He said nothing, too,
as to the obstacles which stood in the way of reform being adopted in the War Office and the administrative departments of the Army similar to those which existed at the Admiralty. In a word he made it clear by his silence on these points that to whatever extent the Parliamentary responsibility of the Secretary for War might exist, the dual Government of the Army still remained, and to a very great degree was exercised by those who were outside control in what pertained to their respective branches of the service, whilst they were at the same time practically free from any sort of responsibility, except in matters of conduct and discipline. The public at large, it must be admitted, took but little apparent interest in the controversy, which they left to experts on the one side and official apologists on the other. The experience of numerous costly panics, all more or less attributable to the defenceless state of the nation, was insufficient to arouse anything like popular feeling, and Mr. Stanhope was able to withdraw from further controversy without having seriously grappled with any of the criticisms to which his administration had given rise.
The sudden illness of Prince George of Wales, and the expression of public feeling which it called forth, was another proof, added to many others, of the personal ties by which the Royal family was bound up with the daily life of the nation, which claimed to share their joys and their sorrows. Although the Prince's condition never became critical, it was sufficiently bad to awaken the public to the chance of the Crown passing once more through the female line, where the succession had not, by some inexplicable reason, been barred in consequence of the Prince's marriage with a subject. Prince George, however, was barely convalescent when the betrothal of his elder brother, the Duke of Clarence and Avondale, to his second cousin, Princess Victoria of Teck, was officially announced. Seldom, perhaps only in the case of his own father's marriage, was the news of the intended marriage of the Prince in direct succession to the English Crown so thoroughly popular. He was, it was said, going to marry an English woman, born and bred in England and brought up in English ways. Her mother, the Princess Mary, and her grandinother, the Duchess of Cambridge, had for nearly half a century been favourites with all ranks. They had done, as far as possible, within their circumscribed limits to second the Sovereign in her self-constituted and persistently pursued policy of making loyalty popular, and they had had the satisfaction of finding the reward of their blameless and devoted lives in the general esteem of their fellow subjects of every degree. Of the Duke of Clarence (Prince Albert Victor) little was known to the outside world. Neither his position nor his age had given him the opportunity of showing to what extent he possessed the social qualities and tact which were chief requisites
of his station. By those who knew him personally he was spoken of as amiable in character and simple in his tastes. He had shown considerable interest in his work as a sollier, and on the rare occasions on which he had to appear in public alone, he had acquitted himself with eredit. The news, therefore, of the approaching marriage between two such representatives of the Royal Familly was welcomed with general satisfaction, and as the year closed no prospect seemed brighter than eirs: no union was anticipated by heartier god wishes or heralded by more hopeful omens of happiness.
The position of parties at the close of the year Lad, notwithstan ling the administrative successes of the Gonemment, shifted considerably to the vivantage of the Gladstonian Liferals. Te cpening months of the year had found them suddenly durian into confusion by the mature in the Irish party, an i the pers pai hostility of its fimer lader & Mr. Gabione un i lis (lief Bentenants As time went on it was seen in leed that Mr. Farnell Der all-powerfil. in lis place had been maken is those with whom a Literai Paler might have mater hesitation in forming an alian e. Even after the death. Mr. Farnell the of schism was kept up by the two sections into wh allet party had een inled and all personal questions of Mr.
in the future wall le leren prests and lignen leaves the Church ani de secret societies. With Reither section were the Conserv ere the Conservatives prepared to enter inte and a nepantly the Liberis air praised Eme