« НазадПродовжити »
Liberals they would have intervened, not as between the Porte, which deserved no protection, and its enemy, but as between Russian ambition and the rights of Europe. The rights of Europe, or rather of the civilised world, would have been prejudiced in Liberal eyes by the Russian mastery of Constantinople. An English Liberal Government, before such a crisis could have impended, would have raised a European barrier between the Russian army of the Balkans and the Bosphorus. English Conservatives, forgetting, or even mocking, at English principles of fair-dealing at home, thought it fair to secure a private advantage from a State which they loudly proclaimed the ward of Great Britain in particular and of Europe at large. English Liberals, because they are Liberals, could not have persuaded themselves to such an insolent use of British power. Much less could they have bought, as it were, the bodies and souls of a people from its peculating rulers. English Conservatives deemed it not unworthy of Englishmen to cut and carve provinces and populations, with regard not to their advantage, but in deference to their own fears. English Liberals, as Liberals, would at Berlin have felt it their first and supreme duty to consider what demarcations and boundaries would offer to Bulgarians the fairest chance of national development. English Conservatives have been rejoicing over the cession of Bosnia and Herzegovina to Austria as brands plucked from the fire of Slav independence. In Conservative eyes Austria has still the tradition attaching to her of an oppressor of nationalities. That with them is, if a demerit, yet one proceeding from political propensities which they esteem very useful to European order. English Liberals respect the progress of Constitutional liberty in the Austrian Empire. They believe that Bosnia and Herzegovina under the Austrian sceptre have a reasonable prospect of prosperity and promotion to free institutions.
But as Liberals they cannot approve of the overriding of the will of a population from motives which, though their results may not turn out to be inconsistent with its welfare, have nothing necessarily to do with it. In time foreign Liberals may learn to weigh against the conscientious fetters which hinder English Liberals from favouring particular European combinations, and from assenting to particular European acts of their Conservative Government, the contemptuousness of English Conservatives in foreign policy for the restraints of English prejudices in favour of liberty and generosity. When they bave struck the balance, they will, we believe, be disposed to reconsider the grounds on which they have extolled the vigour of Lord Beaconsfield's foreign policy, and lamented that Mr. Gladstone reserves his courage and high spirit for domestic legislation.
English Conservatives claim to have a settled foreign policy, and accuse English Liberals of having none. Foreign Liberals, in the course of the controversy on the Eastern Question, appeared to have been almost beguiled into accepting the clain, and believing the accusation. English Conservatives hold to the odd jumble of covetousness and timorousness which they brandish about the heads of their opponents as traditions and ideas. Lord Salisbury is thei
representative, with his talk about British interests, his allegations of the obligation upon Great Britain to be a great European Power, and his vaunts of British influence in the councils of Europe. Their consciences are curiously elastic in interpreting the legitimacy of special means for the continuation of their traditions and the realisation of their ideas. English Liberals are compelled by their principles to be as punctilious in their choice of means as of ends. They are unable to reject the claims of a population to freedom, because another population, or other populations, are only anxious to interpose a rampart between themselves and a common enemy. There is a taking simplicity in the concoction of a common foreign policy between an English Conservative Government and Continental Governments when all alike are agreed on being panic-struck by real or alleged Russian aspirations. Far from having to confront opposition from Continental Liberals, Conservative diplomatists, British and foreign, met till lately with nothing but approbation from Advanced French Radicals and German Liberals. At last Frenchmen and Germans are beginning to remark how the edifice, based on selfishness and contempt of equity and the rights of peoples, is already tumbling about the ears of Europe. In time they may be prepared to do justice to the English Liberalism which they censured for protesting against any policy which sacrificed the rights of one country to the fears or jealousies of another.
English Liberals have borne as best they might Continental criticisms on their inability to admire in foreign policy activity divorced from equity. They must also endure to be taxed with political lukewarmness for the reserve in the sympathy they extend to the domestic policy of Continental Liberals. Ăn English Conservative may make a hero of a saviour of society, and grow enthusiastic over tyrannical excesses, which he terms acts of vigour. An English Liberal is obliged by his faith to test programmes of Continental policy as he tests programmes of British policy. Where they do not conform to the standard of measured British liberty, he may excuse, he cannot admire. Continental Liberals are apt to discover something insular in his praise and in his blame. If they consider the general tenor of English Liberal opinion on foreign politics, they will perceive that its praise and blame may be trusted to be on the whole on the side of progress and liberty.
Continental Liberalism has for the time been discredited by extravagances committed in its name, though with them it has no natural connection. Still everywhere throughout Europe there may be discerned in operation principles of progress with which English Liberals sympathise, and principles of reaction which attract English Conservatives. First and foremost, French politics have a claim upon the anxious attention of Englishmen, whatever their party badges. The old hereditary enmity of France and Great Britain seems to be altogether obsolete. Within the memory of the existing generation, even since the Crimean War and its entente cordiale, France
dogs. They might be chained and muzzled ; but it was understood that the moment either should find itself at liberty it would be at the other's throat. At the present moment it is almost impossible to imagine that the one country should ever feel itself in mortal danger from the other. It is inconceivable a time could recur when an Englishman's sleep should be disturbed by thoughts of the threats of French colonels. English Liberalism has effected that inestimable change, and guards the fruits of it. English Liberals have no fear of the power of France or of any other country to place their freedom in peril. But they know that jealousy and envy between close neighbours levy the heaviest war taxes upon industry and civilisation. When changes occur in French politics, Frenchmen may trust to English Liberals not to condemn them forthwith as fraught with ruin to France and mischief to Europe. The nature and tendency of the changes may not always make themselves intelligible to foreign critics. At any rate, the English Liberal critic, if he cannot approve, will, until their characteristics have had time to show themselves, preserve a benevolent neutrality.
Lately a wave of panic passed over Europe and English Conservatism at the Ministerial crisis in Paris. The impending substitution of M. de Freycinet for M. Waddington was construed at Berlin, and probably in Downing Street, as betokening fraternity with Communism, and preparations for the recovery of Alsace and Lorraine. No alarm could be more ludicrous; but that was no security against it. English Liberalism understood French Liberalism better, and kept its equanimity. It esteemed M. Waddington as a sound Liberal himself. If it ever had lamented his presence at the Congress, it was only for the contrast French respect for the rights of populations offered in his person to the insolence of British diplomatic selfishness reflected by Lord Beaconsfield and Lord Salisbury. In M. Léon Say English Liberals appreciated as soundly Liberal a financier as was M. Waddington in diplomacy. They perceived, however, the fatal defect in the Waddington Cabinet. Unfortunately, valuable as were its elements, they did not as a whole represent the French nation, because they could not engage its sympathies. M. Waddington and his colleagues of the Left Centre accepted a programme of progress; they did not initiate, and they did not develop it. Had France been handed over to them healed of the wounds left by foreign and civil war, and by Bonapartist jobbery, their administration would have dealt her no new wounds; they would have given no encouragement to social and administrative corruption. Their fault, as of the estimable Left Centre generally, was that they could, as it were, discharge their own debts to France, but could not liquidate the past. Except for the imperative demand of a majority in the Chamber of Deputies, and of several of their own brother ministers, they would probably have been well content to govern without any kind of Amnesty, or any kind of Education Bill. They would have been satisfied that Communism was put down without seeking to absorb disenchanted Communists back
into the bosom of French Liberalism. The chief of a French Cabinet at the present time must, in order to rule the nation and Legislature, have the gift of tracing to their source the circumstances which exploded in the short Communist Reign of Terror. He must be able to appreciate, without partaking, the more generous motives of the misguided visionaries who figured at the head, or on the surface, of that strange political phenomenon. He must reunite, and concentrate, and direct, the various forces of French Liberalism. In such a work there would be ample room for the national and unenthusiastic liberality and administrative talents of M. Waddington and M. Léon Say. But administrative abilities are not sufficient in a leader when the demand is for a man who can do more than lay bricks, who can lay foundations. Such a leader it would be premature to predict that France has found in M. de Freycinet. M. Waddington's warmest friends would allow that he, at all events, did not fulfil the character.
On the merits of the details of the policy M. de Freycinet's Cabinet may be supposed to represent, English Liberals are hardly well enough informed to express or even entertain an opinion. They are satisfied its advent to power need not scare Europe with rumours of war. It will not persecute Legitimists or Imperialists, or disdain the co-operation of Moderate Republicans. English Liberals, if they have not fathomed yet the Ministerial capacity of M. de Freycinet, understand too well for such alarms the temper of the majority of the French people who have placed him in power. Until the particular form be known in which his Cabinet will resume the consideration of the three main questions which have been agitating the country since the election of M. Grévy to the Presidency of the Republic, they cannot tell whether to approve or disapprove the new French Ministerial combination. At first glance it must be avowed that the great body of English Liberals concurred with M. Waddington and his Keeper of the Seal in their opposition to a further Amnesty, and to the deprivation of judges by any device of their present irremovability. On the third great matter at issue between the Advanced Left and the various shades of French Conservative opinion, they concurred with the latter. They doubted the expediency, if not the justice, of the famous seventh clause in M. Jules Ferry's Education Bill. So long as a Plenary Amnesty proposition is framed by MM. Victor Hugo, Louis Blanc, and their associates, in a way to threaten the restoration of thieves and assassins to their vocation in Paris, under cover of their political character, English Liberals cannot approve. They have never been able to see even that the desire of political fanatics to rescue a Fenian prisoner justified the murder of a policeman, much less that a breach of public law excuses previous breaches of private rights in life and property. But they do not, like many English Conservatives, begin by censuring M. de Freycinet, on the assumption that he will propose an extension of M. Waddington's Amnesty Act of a nature to shield habitual criminals. If M. de Freycinet's Minister of Justice, M. Cazot,
without confusing the boundaries of enthusiasm and licence, English Liberals will rejoice. They cannot admit that a thief is more worthy of a free pardon, because he has attempted in addition to subvert a Constitution; they are ready to admit that a French Liberal like M. de Freycinet is at least excusable for not thinking a wild project for establishing an impossible Commune in the place of a Republic one year old, deserving of equal reprobation with a conspiracy against a free and consolidated Constitution like that under which English Liberals have the happiness to dwell.
Two successive Ministers of Justice, M. Dufaure and M. le Royer, refused to countenance proposals for removing judges on political grounds. English Liberals cannot avoid being of the opinion of these wise and upright Keepers of the Seal in France. Englishmen value in the front rank of constitutional guarantees the tenure of judicial offices during good behaviour instead of during pleasure. But it is only fair to concede that English experience has known no parallel to the relations of the French judicial bench and the Government which represents the national will. The French Republic must be allowed by the most fiery partisan of the Comte de Chambord, or of Bonapartism, to be the choice of the majority of the French people. That might have been denied by Imperialists while the Duc de Broglie and M. de Fourtou were in power; it cannot be denied now. Opponents may insinuate that the nation has been juggled and cozened into sanctioning the Republic; the fact of the sanction cannot be disputed. In these circumstances the judges of the land, whose single duty it is to uphold the laws of the land and preserve its institutions, notoriously use all the influence at their command to throw contempt upon the Republic. Happily there are very many exceptions; but the rule is that a French magistrate is not merely either a Monarchist or an Imperialist, but an envenomed Monarchist or Imperialist. English judges, in these days, pique themselves on standing aloof from political passions. In France they appear almost to make the opposite conduct their point of honour. In England, unless a judge of the higher courts has served the Crown as a law officer, it would be difficult commonly to specify by what Chancellor, and from what party he was selected. In France a magistrate, from the members of the august Cour de Cassation, at Paris, down to the provincial juge de paix, is vain of placarding himself with the doctrines of the Government and dynasty which appointed him. When English judges, in other and unconstitutional periods, have been partisans, they have been partisans of the Government. They could at least claim to be the supporters of established authority. More chivalrously it may be, but more inconveniently for the transaction of affairs, French judges now publish abroad their dissatisfaction with the very authority under which their decrees are delivered and executed. French Republicans would be tolerant above all other politicians if this kind of judicial mutiny did not exasperate them. But they must pardon English Liberals for not agreeing that to make judicial offices ter