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The Requirements and Dangers of the Day.
us that those who refuse oaths are the most truthful of all witnesses, and long after our inconsistent liberality has extorted from us the permission to every man to swear after his own fashion;—and committing a host of similar solecisms, all shewing how entirely we are still governed by the ideas and traditions of an obsolete and inapplicable age. In an era of new requirements and encircled by new conditions, we are drawing on the arsenals and speaking in the language of the past; and while young and mighty perils, from hitherto undreamed of quarters, are threatening the precious commonwealth, we are haunted by the ghost of some ancestral enemy, or are gibbetting the carcase and demolishing the tomb of some old danger that was long ago gathered to its fathers.
Our present object is to awaken among our countrymen some degree, not of uneasiness, indeed, but of perception of our dan gers and our requirements, some serious and anxious inquiry into the difficulties which we have to meet and into our means of meeting them. Our foreign and international relations are becoming strangely complicated; and the principles which are to guide them in future require to be considered and decided, that our due influence be not impaired by weakness or vacillation. Our relations with our offsets and dependencies are changing and enlarging with the lapse of time; and the principles which are to regulate our colonial policy for the future must be discussed and laid down in such a manner as to avoid any risk of a disruption of our empire or of dissension among brethren. The social problems which press upon us for solution at home become daily knottier, more urgent, and more complex; and it is essential both to our safety and our welfare that they be neither evaded nor postponed. Finally, the duties of actual administration become every year more difficult and laborious as our wealth and numbers multiply, as our vision of what is needed becomes keener, and as our standard of requirement becomes higher. Now, for all these calls, but most especially for the last, we need statesmen not only of a high but of a peculiar order of talent; and as these calls increase and enlarge we require both more numerous and more able statesmen. Already it is felt that the work in every public department is augmenting and its difficulties thickening in a most perplexing degree. We are opening our eyes to the extent to which we have been misgoverned, and we are rapidly raising our conception of what Government might or ought to be; day by day defects are being discovered and abuses are being ferretted out and exposed in every ministerial office; and the voice of the country demands that they shall be remedied at once and shall be precluded for the future. We need more and exact more from our public men than at any former
period. What means have our public men of meeting this need and these exactions ? and what is our immediate prospect of a supply of statesmen adapted to the functions and equal to the necessities of their position ?
Perhaps there has never been a period in our recent history where so poor a present had the prospect of being succeeded by a still poorer future. Generally speaking, each of the great parties in the State has been able to muster a sufficient number of men to form a Cabinet capable of undertaking the destinies of the country, -men whose views, indeed, we might deem erroneous, but of whose proved capacity there could be no question. Now, it is probable, that if an accident or an epidemic were to sweep off three or four of our oldest and most acknowledged leaders—whose end in the natural course of events cannot be far distant—all parties together could scarcely supply the fifteen ministers needed to complete a cabinet, of individuals whose fitness for such a position has been tried and is admitted by the nation. Our list of actual statesmen is alarmingly scanty ; our list of potential ones is scantier still. Peel and Wellington—the great parliamentary and the great military genius of the age—have both passed off the stage. After a life of toil, the one has found rest and the other is hourly looking forward to it. Who remain to replace them? Of the veterans who, by universal consent, hold a first rank, there are only four-Lord John Russell, Lord Derby, Lord Palmerston, and Sir James Graham. (We need take no account of their contemporaries, for Lord Lansdowne, never brilliant, but always sensible and moderate, is now seventy-two
age, and is weary, broken down, and anxious for immediate retirement; Lord Aberdeen, amiable and honourable, but yielding and inefficient, is now sixty-eight, and may, without disrespect, be spoken of in the preterite tense; Mr. Herries and Mr. Goulburn both verging on their seventieth year, were always more or less so.) But the four above named are all first-rate
We may dissent from their policy, we may oppose their measures, we may dislike their persons, but it is impossible not to admit their full competency. Lord Derby is a gallant and brilliant nobleman; Lord John Russell is a statesman of thorough education and long experience and chivalric honour; Sir James Graham is unquestionably the ablest administrator in Parliament; and Lord Palmerston, beyond rivalship, the most complete and skilful diplomatist of his time. But these four are all of that rank and standing that remain to us; and Lord Derby, the youngest of them, is such a martyr to the gout, as almost, if not quite, to disqualify him for the toils of office. Far from being always ready for any call, he can never foresee whether he will be able to go down to the House on any given day, or whether he
Materials for Future Cabinets.
5 may not, for weeks at a time, be as unfit for business as the first Lord Chatham. Lord John Russell, whose health was never strong, is now sixty years of age ; Sir James Graham the same ; and Lord Palmerston is sixty-eight. When these men fail or disappear, as they soon must, who are they who will step into their places by right of natural inheritance !-the younger statesmen of the second rank.
It is in this class that our poverty is most apparent. It affords only three men qualified by capacity and character for the chief offices of State-Lord Clarendon, Lord Grey, and Mr. Gladstone. On these men
we may soon have to place our main reliance. The first is already marked out by the general voice as our future Premier. He, of all men, would be best fitted to unite all that remains of vigour and adaptability in the old Whig party with the rising talent and bolder views of the more able Radicals, and to command the allied forces. He has high rank and aristocratic connexions; he is noted for firm purpose and conciliating manners; he has shewn first-rate ability, both as a diplomatist and an administrator; whatever he has had to do he has done well; his views are sound, comprehensive, and generous; and he is free from those narrow trammels of connexion and tradition which so often cloud the vision, complicate the measures, and paralyze the energy of Lord John Russell. Moreover, though a man of thoroughly broad and statesmanlike capacity, and nothing of a doctrinaire, he is known to sympathize more largely than any of his class with the opinions of the more sober and reflective of the popular party; he will be freer than any other statesman to act as he deems right, because more exempt than any other from embarrassing antecedents; and the skill and courage with which he has governed Ireland, afford a guarantee of his competency to the far easier task of governing England. Happily he is still young (52,) and may possibly be our pilot for nearly a quarter of a century before his powers decay. His brother, Charles Villiers, fought the battle of the Corn-laws side by side with Richard Cobden, and he himself was known to sympathize largely with the people in that memorable contest.
Mr. Gladstone is a man whom everybody respects, and whom all who know him love. He has many of the qualities of an English statesman-wide knowledge, thorough training, a conservative temper, and singular caution. He is, moreover, a man of unstained and lofty character, gentle and generous feelings, and a most sensitive and elaborate conscientiousness. But the tone of his mind is delicate and fine rather than strong; he is inclined to scholastic niceties which greatly impair his efficiency in political life; and though his mental and moral qualities will
always make him influential, yet his subtle and refining temperament will prevent him from ever becoming a popular statesman. He may be a valuable adviser and a useful moderator, even perhaps a fair administrator, but scarcely a great leader.
Lord Grey raised great hopes of his future eminence and usefulness so long as he was out of office. "Omnium consensu capax imperii, nisi imperasset." Though always deplorably tainted with some of the worst faults of the Whig aristocracytheir narrow sympathies, imperious dogmatism, and cold haughtiness of temper-he was a laborious and thoughtful politician. His views were always worthy of attention, often original, sometimes bold and comprehensive. He promised to become what England so much wants—a philosophical reformer. But office -that great test and touchstone of genuine capacity-has not only lowered his reputation, but we fear has damaged it so effectually as to render him almost unavailable for future service. Not only has he disappointed all hopes, made innumerable enemies, and done nothing well, but all his early defects seem to have been aggravated; and any such improvement as will again qualify him to become a leading statesman can scarcely be hoped for from a man who is too impatient to listen, and too proud to learn.
It may seem strange that in our survey of the prospective servants of the country, we should pass over such members of the late Cabinet as Sir Francis Baring, Mr. Fox Maule, Lord Carlisle, and Mr. Labouchere. But the first has never been esteemed a man either of much diligence or of great capacity, and is understood to have a rooted dislike to the fatigues and annoyances of office. The second is a man of talent and industry, but has scarcely made his way into the category of statesmen. Lord Carlisle, though he has been a laborious and most useful minister in his day, and though his genial manners, genuine, wide, warm benevolence, and ready popular sympathies, will always make him an ornament and a source of confidence to any Cabinet which he may join, is unquestionably not a man of commanding ability. He is an honour to his station and his country, but he would be the first to confess his own incapacity for the position of a leader. Sir George Grey's health is quite broken. Mr. Labouchere is a soft-minded, philanthropic, and honourable man-one of that class of rich, cultivated, noble country gentlemen, of whom England has so much reason to be proud; but his talents are only moderate, and he has far too little ambition to allow us to count upon him as a permanent candidate for office. Two noblemen remain, of whom the highest hopes are entertained by those who know them, and who will probably henceforth take
Materials for Future Cabinets.
among our leading statesmen-Lord Granville and Lord Dalhousie. Both are in the prime of life, and seem endowed with all the needful qualifications; but they can scarcely yet be said to have been sufficiently proved for us to predict their future with any certainty. Of those younger still, three have already appeared above the horizon, and may become stars in time. All are men of talent, and of high name and connexion. The Duke of Argyll has manifested already in his writings comprehensive views and a masterly logical faculty, and seems resolved to devote himself to public life. Lord Stanley, though an inferior man to his father, and though he has most injudiciously and prematurely announced his attachment to the falling cause of protection, is said to possess very considerable powers. Mr. Frederick Peel is cautious, able, and fond of work, and has avoided his father's early fault, ranking himself at once among the moderate but advancing liberals.
Here ends our list of rising and proximate statesmen from all the great parties which have hitherto divided political power between them, and it must be allowed to be an alarmingly meagre one. We do not mean that among the holders, past and present, of the subordinate ministerial offices there are not several men of great ability, whose capacity to render good service to their country we in no way doubt. Lord Stanley of Alderley is a man of respectable powers and business habits, and Mr. Wilson is a politician and administrator of vast industry and no ordinary talent; but the number of such men is not large, and they are not leaders, nor perhaps qualified to be so. “But," it will be asked, " are there in Parliament no other men of capacity and eminence, who, if not yet finished statesmen, are, at all events, fitted to become such ; who, though hitherto undreamed of for official posts, are yet only excluded by virtue of their opinions ; and who, as the country gradually advances in the career of liberalism, will become the exponents of its views, and therefore the natural adıninistrators of its destinies?"-We think not.* Mere opinions exclude men only for a time: character and habits of mind exclude them for ever. In the first case, their day inevitably comes round: in the second, no lapse of years and no change of public sentiments can float them in to power. Now there are at present five men of great weight, and value, and prominence in the House of Commons, whom no one thinks
* This was written before the formation of the present Cabinet, the list of whose members has amazed the world. But we do not feel disposed to alter or qualify any of our observations. With the ption of Mr. Herries, (who is passé), the only known member of that Cabinet in the House of Commons, is Mr. Disraeli, of whom all that can be said is, that, as far as he can be judged of by the past, he unites the maximum of parliamentary cleverness with the minimum of statesmanlike capacity.