Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

to alter the constitution. Cobdenism was part of a general system of laisser-faire, a principle abandoned by the Government in other than fiscal matters. The Unionist policy would have to face great difficulties in domestic legislation, in Colonial and Indian administration, and in fiscal reform ; though he thought the dangers ahead in fiscal reform far less serious than in social reform; but the party must not stand aside and leave the work to others. He closed with an earnest appeal to the Free-Food and Tariff-Reform wings respectively to co-operate with the main Unionist body.

On the same day the women suffragists advertised their cause by one of the eccentric demonstrations that grew more familiar as the year went on. While a Cabinet Council was being held at the Prime Minister's official residence in Downing Street about a dozen women attempted to surround him as he entered. They were kept off by the police, but some shouting “Votes for women,' chained and padlocked themselves to the area railings, while two entered the house, but were stopped. Eventually Mrs. Drummond, Miss New, and three others were arrested, and, refusing to enter into recognisances, they were sent to prison for three weeks.

Their fellow-agitators had taken an active part against the Liberal candidate in Mid-Devon; and next morning the Ministerial position received a severe shock on the declaration of the poll. The constituency had been strongly Liberal since its formation in 1885 : but the Unionist candidate, Captain Morrison Bell, now converted a Liberal majority of 1,289 in 1906 into a Unionist majority of 559. No doubt he lived in the division and had become locally popular, but his opponent, Mr. C. R. Buxton, was an extremely able candidate, and had been regarded as certain of victory. On both sides the election was keenly contested, and the vigour manifested occasionally degenerated into serious rowdyism, especially on the declaration of the poll. The Tariff Reformers were specially energetic, the travelling vans sent out in the autumn proved useful to them here as elsewhere. One argument in the contest which seemingly proved cogent was that food had risen in price under a Liberal Government. The suffragists claimed the largest share in the Liberal defeat; and it was mortifying to the Liberals to find that the votes given to their candidate were actually fewer by 447 than at the general election.

Another Liberal disaster was the death from pneumonia on January 17, after two days' illness, of the Attorney-General, Sir J. Lawson Walton, K.C., an able expositor of Ministerial measures and a skilful and effective debater.

The defeat in Mid-Devon, however, was made light of by Mr. Winston Churchill, in a speech delivered at the National Liberal Club on January 18, the day after his return from his African tour (ANNUAL REGISTER, 1907, p. 426). He described the election as a storm in a teacup, and sketched the past and prospective work of the Ministry, predicting taxation of land values in 1909, and a measure dealing with the Lords' veto in the following year. He then gave an interesting account of his tour, arguing that first-hand knowledge was valuable to all who were responsible for taking a share in the large decisions of Colonial policy, and that it was important to convince officials on the spot-to whose energy and self-sacrifice he paid due tribute—that the tremendous transference of January, 1906, did not mean any falling off in sympathy or interest at headquarters. He had been astonished at the beauties and the climate of parts of the East Africa Protectorate and Uganda—the latter he described as a garden—but was careful to point out the drawbacks of these districts regarded as a white man's country. Our African possessions would need grants-in-aid for some time to come, but he believed this expenditure would prove reproductive. It was, however, most important that we should be faithful to our responsibilities as trustees for the native races, and he gladly bore testimony to the way in which our civil and military officers construed their duty towards them. He spoke very highly of the civilisation of Uganda, and freely acknowledged the debt we owed to missionary enterprise. On the British Indian difficulty he held that the action of the Transvaal Government, however regrettable, was entirely within their powers. At the same time, he hoped that some compensation might be offered by the opening of certain areas in the equatorial protectorates to the enterprise of Indian colonists.

Mr. Birrell, speaking at Reading on Tuesday, January 21, devoted most of his speech to Ireland. He understood that the Irish policy of the Government was to be the subject of fierce attack; but he was not at all afraid to meet the Opposition. He did feel anxiety as to the future of Ireland, especially the problem of the breaking up and distribution of the grass lands. Chief Secretaries were quickly used up—he had twelve predecessors living, while no other Minister had more than five; but so long as he remained in Ireland he would remain in the interests of the country as a whole. He was there to represent the goodwill, good feeling, and honest desire of the democracy of England and Scotland to give fairplay to Ireland. He referred also to the British Indians in the Transvaal, and asked what reception 50,000 of them would get in the North of England as immigrant workers; we could not dictate on such matters to self-governing Colonies. Finally, he touched briefly on the sessional programme, and, though his speech had been much interrupted by suffragists—who had come from outside Reading-he declared that he would continue to advocate women's suffrage nevertheless.

Mr. Churchill was similarly interrupted during an address on Free Trade at Manchester on the same evening, and replied by ridiculing the idea that great causes could be advanced simply by throwing large meetings into confusion. He showed

atta did feel and breaking upay used

the enormous growth of the cotton trade since 1903, in which spinning profits had risen by leaps and bounds, and the production of goods 22 per cent.; and mentioned that the increase in British export trade in 1904-7 had been 13.9 per cent., in that of the United States 10:7 per cent., of Germany 6.9 per cent., and of France 3.5 per cent. Next day he severely criticised the claim to “parental right” in education, and declared Liberalism to be a middle party between reaction and revolution, whose task was to build up a minimum standard of life. On the 20th, Lord Avebury, speaking at Dundee, had declared that, if carried to its logical conclusion, protection of British industry would be synonomous with the destruction of British commerce, and that if all the rest of the world became Protectionists we should still be wise to remain Free Traders.

Sir Henry Fowler's speech to his constituents at Wolverhampton on January 20 was chiefly remarkable for its energetic denial of the newspaper rumours of conflicts in the Cabinet and for its equally energetic denunciation of Socialism in so far as Socialism meant the nationalisation of the means of production, sale and exchange. Mr. Gladstone, he stated, had said of land nationalisation, “If you mean to pay for the land it is folly; if not, it is robbery.” On the other hand, a manifesto was published on the same day from 100 ministers of the Established and other Churches (among them the Hon. and Rev. James Adderley, the Rev. R. J. Campbell and the Rev. William Tuckwell), declaring that their “ Christian Socialism ” involved the public ownership and management of the means of production, distribution and exchange, that it was the same Socialism as that generally held, and that they believed it was implied by Christianity. Two days later the Labour Conference at Hull, after rejecting by a majority of ten to one a motion identifying the Labour party with Socialist aims, adopted another Socialist formula, moved by the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, and declaring that the Labour party should have as a definite object the “socialisation of the means of production, distribution and exchange” and social and economic equality between the sexes. This was passed by 514,000 to 469,000 votes. The first resolution was rejected on tactical grounds as breaking the party's alliance with non-Socialist members : the second was strongly opposed by Mr. Shackleton, M.P. The difference, if any, was that the second resolution made the aim rather more remote than the first. The conference had previously resolved that women's suffrage on the existing property qualification would be a retrograde measure, and had declared for equal adult suffrage by 784,000 to 257,000. An amendment declaring the extension of the suffrage to working women to be urgent was defeated by 791,000 to 224,000.

Meanwhile the danger of Socialistic measures was being insisted on by Mr. Balfour, who, with his fellow-member for

the policy ated and thout was sort of the on ind

the City, was entertained at luncheon by the City of London Conservative Association in Merchant Taylors' Hall on Thursday, January 23. In reply to the toast of their healths, Mr. Balfour spoke of the contrast between Unionist prospects at that moment and when he last spoke in that hall (Feb. 12, 1906). He had then expected a revulsion in public feeling, but not one like the Mid-Devon election. He would not triumph over its result, but its lesson was the great interest excited by tariff reform. When he last spoke, everything about the policy of the Government was cloudy; now the fog had been dissipated and their policy throughout was little qualified to benefit anybody, but was always well devised to injure somebody. Social reform was part of the Unionist programme, but the greatness of a country depended on individual initiative and that depended on the security offered to the results of private enterprise. He specially instanced the Scottish Land Bill. He thought the conflict in the future would be between Unionists and Socialists ; there was little scope for the oldfashioned Liberal. Whatever social legislation might be, it must be based on the security of property.

Mr. Asquith replied to this speech at Norwich next day by denouncing the mendacious placards of the Mid-Devon election, and declaring that the Liberal aim was to assert against particular class interests and privileges the overriding claims of the good of the community as a whole. The Edu. cation Bill put the nation first, and the Churches and sects afterwards; the Licensing Bill aimed at recovering for the community the control of that monopoly in the liquor trade which it had itself created and should never have parted with.

Of the Opposition leaders, Mr. Lyttelton, speaking at Oswestry on January 24, described the state of Ireland as scandalous, and that of the British Indians in the Transvaal as worse than under President Kruger. Their case placed Great Britain in a serious dilemma between incurring Indian resentment and interfering with a self-governing Colony; and this dilemma was the creation of the Government. He endorsed Mr. Balfour's appeal for Unionist union. Mr. Austen Chamberlain, speaking on the same evening at Birmingham, treated the Mid-Devon result as a reaction against the view pressed on the electorate by Liberal speakers, that a Liberal Government must mean cheap food. Tariff reform would increase employment, and that was more important than any small cheapening of commodities.

A forecast of the outlook had been given on the previous day by Mr. Winston Churchill at Birmingham. After references to the Free-Trade controversy and to South Africa, he said that he did not expect a general election for three years, but that the House of Lords might precipitate it at any moment, and he insisted on the necessity of limiting the Lords' veto. This year there would be Government Bills on temperance and education, from which the Ministry would lose as well as gain, but the pièce de resistance would be the old age pension scheme, which would not be immediate and universal. He thought also that there was room for a considerable increase in the proportion and amount of direct taxation.

In anticipation of Mr. McKenna's Education Bill, a deputation of clerical and lay Churchmen, organised by the Churchmen's Union, waited on the Prime Minister and the President of the Board of Education at Downing Street on January 23, to press for “ simple Bible teaching” as the solution of the education difficulty. The deputation included the Bishops of Hereford and Ripon, several masters in secondary schools, and some well-known clergy (chiefly Broad Church) and Conservative laymen. It was described as representing a large body of clerical opinion and an overwhelming body of lay Churchmen. They received sympathetic replies, Mr. McKenna in particular pointing out that ethical instruction, desired by secularists, was impracticable under existing conditions without the Bible as a basis, and that the parents as a whole had been quite satisfied with the Bible teaching of the School Boards. The organ of the National Society, however, declared that the deputation was unrepresentative of Church feeling, and the Dean of Canterbury asked (in The Times) if “simple Bible teaching” meant specifically Christian teaching, or only ethical teaching, since the National Council of Free Churches had repeatedly affirmed that it was only to mean the latter. It may perhaps be said that the deputation, and those who thought with them, were prepared to accept simple Bible teaching as a basis for more specific religious instruction, in the belief that, since most teachers had been trained under Church supervision, it would in the great majority of cases be Christian in character.

The Bishop of Hereford, in a letter to The Times, had commended Mr. McKenna's regulations for secondary schools ; but the case against these and the training college regulations, had been forcibly summed up by the Warden of New College, Oxford, in a letter published by that paper in January.

Replying on January 26, in a speech at Whitfield's Tabernacle, Mr. McKenna contended that the conditions of Government aid to training colleges and secondary schools had never been regulated by legislation, and that the new regulations had been discussed and sanctioned by the House of Commons both in Committee of Supply and on the Appropriation Bill. He added that the Church in 1839, through Archbishop Howley, had prevented the establishment of a national training college; but the conscience clause for elementary schools, introduced in 1870, had established itself in the conscience of the nation, and for training colleges it would probably establish itself likewise.

The land policy of the Government was defended against 2ÂÒ 2ņ22ū2\/2/►ū2/2/2/22 \\22\\2\2?2 ?22ņŻūtiâŻūtiņģēmēģŻū2 ūti to him and Mr. Harcourt at the National Liberal Club on

« AnteriorContinuar »