« НазадПродовжити »
and tobacco. But from the sparse and needy colonists of the Cape of Good Hope and the neighbouring settlements no money can be extracted except on the principles recognised by his Satanic Majesty in the great case of 'much cry and little wool.'
It is of course premature to attempt to calculate the amount of pecuniary burden which these two wars will bring upon the shoulders of the British taxpayer. But whether greater or smaller, we have the consolation of knowing that, with Mr. Gladstone as Chancellor of the Exchequer, this burden will be promptly dealt with. Making things pleasant all round never answers in the long run; and we believe that, after all, it is not a popular policy. The householder, happily for him, and thanks to previous Liberal legislation, has but a small, and in most cases a self-imposed, burden of taxation to bear. But he has given no sign, and those who speak for him have given no sign, of desiring to repudiate. He has confidence in the present administrators of public affairs, and we do not believe that he will attempt to thwart them in their honest endeavour to pay the bill which their predecessors have left behind. It is true that we are in a very different financial position from that which we occupied in the spring of 1874. Then we were somewhere near the top of the Hill Difficulty. Now we find ourselves at the bottom. Then Sisyphus had almost succeeded in his task. Now
The huge round stone, resulting with a bound,
But one thing at all events we know, and this is, that whatever can be done in the skilful and honest management of the Exchequer will be done.
The weeks which remain of the Parliamentary Session are now so few that it is hopeless to expect much to be done for the present in the way of domestic legislation. There are, however, two important matters which must certainly come before Parliament. The one is the question of Burials, the other the renewal and amendment of the Ballot Act. The Speech from the Throne has already pointed to a definite settlement of the former of these questions, so often in past years discussed in both Houses of Parliament. It is hardly likely to occupy much further time, or to be seriously delayed in its passage. We hope, at all events, that we shall hear no more about sentimental as being unreal grievances. A sentimental grievance, or, in other words, a grievance which affects the feelings, not the pocket, is oftentimes the most real grievance of all. The English and Welsh Nonconformists deserve to have their strong feelings on this subject respected; and when the change of law takes place, we trust that the Bishops, who are mostly men of the world, will give the mot d'ordre to their clergy to accept the change with cheerfulness and good feeling. There ought in the new Burials in unconsecrated places of interment as will be accorded to their Dissenting brethren in parish churchyards.
The Ballot Act requires renewal during the present Session. Perhaps it is too much to bope that those clauses which in very rare cases admit the disclosure of votes might disappear from an amended Bill. Only in two election petitions was any disclosure made in the last Parliament, and it seems not worth while to damage the apparent secrecy of the ballot for the sake of ascertaining how one voter in many thousands gave his vote. The rule de minimis non curat lex, ought to be true de paucissimis. But there is one amendment proposed to be inserted in the Ballot Act which, with reservations, we trust we shall see carried. It is some provision as to the closing of public-houses in Parliamentary boroughs during some at least of the later hours of polling. After one o'clock in boroughs where the poll closes at four; and between one and three and from four to eight where the poll closes, as in London, at eight o'clock, would seem to be a judicious curtailment of public-house hours. It might be inconvenient to close these houses all day, but a provision of this modified kind might surely be adopted.
What is to be done in the matter of Ireland we cannot accurately anticipate, but we rejoice to find that the Government has determined that it will not be necessary to renew the Peace Preservation Act, that there is to be an extension of the Irish borough franchise, and that, if necessary, more will get be done to relieve distress in Ireland. In passing we cannot help observing that Mr. Forster's acceptance of the office of Chief Secretary to the Lord-Lieutenant reflects as much credit upon his patriotism as the offer of it does on Mr. Gladstone's discrimivation. There could not be a better appointment, and great results may be anticipated from it.
There is no session of a Parliament in which unforeseen business does not crop up; but the questions we have enumerated would of themselves supply plenty of employment for the fragmentary weeks which remain, even if the attention of the House of Commons were confined, as we cannot expect it will be, exclusively to these. For future sessions, material of work exists in lenty, and fresh material will be continually and from time to time supplied. The finances of the country must occupy immediate attention. We may be sure that the great master of the art of finance who now presides at the Exchequer will make this subject one of the most prominent in the list of subjects to be dealt with. And rightly so. The amount of the unfunded debt, nearly five times what it was six years since, is, if not a matter of anxiety, at all events one which calls for prompt notice. The country is in the position of a landowner who, having encumbered his estate by way of mortgage, pays off some small portion of that mortgage by means of money raised by notes of hand. These notes of hand it is true make the amount of the mortgage debt rather smaller, but they diminish the power which the landowner possessed of raising money for temporary purposes, and in no respect lighten the total amount of bis incumbrance. Nay, the larger their amount, the more difficult they are to be floated ; or, in other words, the higher the rate of interest at which they have to be borrowed. The funds,' are an investment which suits the temporary as well as the permanent invester. Exchequer bonds, Treasury notes, or whatever they may be called, only suit the man who wants to dispose of his money for a short time—a much smaller class of capitalists, excluding almost all trustees and public bodies. It follows then that the demand for Exchequer bonds is sooner met than the demand for the three per cents, and as soon as that demand is met, or nearly met, the price of these securities must fall, or, in other words, the Government borrows at a higher rate. Whether the manipulation of this part of finance may not be accompanied or closely followed by a fresh arrangement of the public securities of the country, such as was attempted some thirty years since, is beyond our power to foretell; but it seems not impossible.
| There is a tradition that Bunhill Fields, the burial place of so many Nonconformist worthies, is consecrated ground. The writer has been present at a funeral
There is one great advantage in a large majority like the present. It enables a Government to deal with a class of subjects such as cannot safely be touched when parties are nearly balanced. Such, for instance, is a subject which has never yet been successfully handled, the Government of London. The Corporation of London, the City Companies, the various Trusts and Boards and Vestries, the Gas Companies and Water Companies and Dock Companies, have hitherto been too wily or too strong for the Executive, and it is only when the Executive is backed by an exceptionally strong majority in the House of Commons that it can hope to deal with these enormously powerful vested interests. The last Government might have dore something, but it had merely what naturalists call a 'notochord' instead of a backbone; besides which, if it had made all its bargains on the scale of the Water Companies job, the poor ratepayer or taxpayer would have had small cause for thankfulness.
The Land Question has already come to the front. There seems at last to be a chance of dealing with it, to some degree at all events, irrespective of party. When we see a Tory Lord Chancellor introducing a Bill such as Lord Cairns introduced in the House of Lords, and a Tory member proposing to make the Agricultural Holdings Act compulsory in the House of Commons, there is good hope ; particularly as the squires are beginning to see that unless they do something they will lose, as they already have to some extent lost, their hold on the counties. Closely connected with the question of the tenure of land is the question of the devolution and transfer of real
? No fewer than three notices of Bills to amend the Agricultural Holdings Act were given on the first day of the meeting of Parliament, by Mr. Chaplin, Sir Alex.
property; and if the late Chancellor and the present can only get to see alike on the main principles of any scheme of land transfer, we may look for some practical results of great value.
When Lord Selborne and Mr. Chamberlain sit in the same Cabinet, it may be thought that the subject of Church Reform could not be touched with any hope of agreement. We do not think so. There is a vast field for reform outside disendowment and disestablishment. The abuses of Church patronage are becoming daily more unpopular, and it is clear that the time is at hand when they may be dealt with to good effect. And in their view of these abuses the whole Liberal party might well be united, and carry with them many of those who sit opposite. Men like Mr. Walpole know that the best way to protect any institution is to purge it of its defects.
There are two questions, not at first sight apparently connected, which still have an element in common, and which perhaps might be discussed as forming part of one scheme of local government. These questions are (1st) the claim of the ratepayers to a greater share than they at present possess in the disposal of the funds raised by rate. This is a claim urged through their advocates by the ratepayers themselves. (2nd) The claim of the ratepayers to regulate certain trades, notably the beer and spirit trade, in special localities. This is a claim urged for the ratepayers by persons outside. Both these claims affect the status of the county magistrates, and each has something to be urged in its favour. With regard to the first, however, it is to be remembered that the interest of the ratepayer as tenant is confined to the term of his holding, and that all rates are ultimately allowed for in the rent. With regard to the second, it will have to be proved that the present licensing body is less considerate than a body of ratepayers would be, whilst care will have to be taken lest a committee of ratepayers might not turn out to be the secret agents of the publican.
Such are some of the questions which are sure to occupy the attention of the present Parliament. But there is another question, or rather group of questions, which has perhaps a stronger claim for notice than any we have enumerated. It is not likely that the question to which we refer will be taken up till towards the natural terın of the life of the Parliament, as, whenerer it has been settled, the Parliament must of necessity cease to exist. Our readers will see that the question we refer to is that of the suffrage, involving that of the redistribution of seats, and necessitating a Boundary Commission, which cannot well begin its labours before the completion of the next census. It seems probable that the Boundary Commission will be appointed in 1882, and not report till the next year. In this case the question of the redistribution of the seats could not well be discussed till 1884; nor the question of the suffrage till the following year. It is to be remembered that the suffrage question involves issues of a very complex character. What is to be done with the freeholder ? to be excluded ? It appears as if an occupation franchise would be the best solution of the difficulty. One of the best changes effected by the Reform Bill of 1831 was the striking out of all non-resident freemen in boroughs. If it had extended to non-resident freeholders in counties, all the scandal of faggot votes would have been done away with. It is to be hoped that the next opportunity of effecting this reform will not be lost. It never has been the theory of the Constitution that parliamentary votes should be proportionate to the wealth of the voter, and it is mainly in consequence of improved facilities of locomotion that faggots have multiplied. Sturges Bourne's Act may be all very well for ratepaying elections, but in parliamentary or even in municipal voting larger issues are involved, and the voting power of each elector is not to be measured by the amount at which his house or his factory is rated to the poor.
The fact that this paper has been devoted to a kind of vaticination of future political events has given it rather a fragmentary character. We trust, however, that our readers will observe that we have throughout endeavoured to point out those measures which may fairly be expected, not only to engage the attention of Liberal politicians, but to secure the support of the whole Liberal party. Our opponents are very fond of twitting us on our differences. We may much more fairly twit them for their unanimity. Stet pro ratione voluntas may be a very good motto for a despot, but it is a very bad one for a body of representatives, and we trust it will never be that of those who support Liberal opinions in the House of Commons. If the Liberal party loses its traditions of free discussion, founded on free thought, the sooner it surrenders its claim to guide the country the better. It is all very well for our opponents to rush violently down the steep places of household suffrage at the suggestion of a leader who has educated them out of their most cherished convictions, and landed them in a minority of a hundred. The Liberal party will not adopt measures against their convictions simply at the bidding of a leader however gifted ; and if they meet with political misfortunes, as they have done more than once, they trust to the returning good sense of the constituencies, which, sooner or later, are sure to retrieve temporary error and to show that the voice of the people, if not so inspired as the common saying would have us believe, is upon the whole a less uncertain guide than many are apt to imagine.
NOTICE TO CORRESPONDENTS,
Communications to the Editor should be addressed to him at 39 Paternoster Row, E.O.
As the Magazine has an ample staff of Contributors, MSS. are not invited without previous correspondence, and uninvited MSS. cannot be returned ex