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question is, not what the House of Lords are, or how they got there, but whether they did right or wrong.
It would be no excuse for them if they had not done their duty, to say they have some doubts about the validity of their title to be there. That distinguished assembly over which my right honorable friend the Lord Mayor presides in the city of London, have at least this in common with the House of Lords, that they have been doomed by a distinguished statesman. The decree has gone forth from the lips of Sir William Harcourt that the one shall cease to exist as the decree has gone forth from the lips of Mr. Bright that the House of Lords shall cease to exist; and I think it is quite possible that both assemblies will continue to exist to do useful work for a very long time. If the corporation were to refuse to assemble to-morrow and to perform their ordinary duties, would it be any excuse for them to say, “Oh, we are condemned by Sir William Harcourt, or by any other statesman, and it is perfectly impossible that we can go on performing our duties."
Well, if the House of Lords had not performed what, I think, I have shown to you to be the elementary duty of a second Chamber, to prevent the first Chamber from using its power to filch a perpetuity of political predominance for one party in the state, if the House of Lords had refused to do its duty, on the ground that some Radicals thought that the country had an objection to the principles on which it is formed, would it not have been guilty of the most cowardly and craven action that you can positively conceive? It is a question which we shall be ready to argue when the time
the question as to the constitution of the second Chamber, and what is the best way in which it shall be upheld, and whatever its present theoretical difficulties, you
will not in practice much improve upon the House of Lords.
That has nothing to do with the question we have in hand. The question is, if the House of Lords does its duty, could it have acted otherwise than we have done? What is it after all that we have done? We have seen this strange and sinister spectacle of a minister claiming to resist by the compulsion of the House of Commons the action of the House of Lords. We have seen him, applying that principle, not to ordinary principles of legislation, but to the most vital matter in which a deliberative assembly can be engaged the reform of the constitution. We have seen him tampering with the very springs of political power.
We have seen him do that in a manner unexampled and without precedent, and the House of Lords said to him, “You shall not exercise this unprecedented power; you shall not claim this right of compulsion; you shall not model the constitution according to your will and the interests of the dominant party of the day.” We
e are prepared to resist your power unless you will be able to assure us and prove to us that the people by whom alone you exist, by whose mandate you hold power, sanctions this strange exercise of power, and we utterly repudiate the idea that in assuming that attitude we shall be misconstrued by our countrymen.
I am sure that they will feel that in this, as in so many other cases, liberty has had to fear chiefly from the hands of its professed friends. We have been maintaining the essential conditions on which popular government reposes, and we have been upholding the true and ancient principles of English liberty.
THE EGYPTIAN QUESTION
DELIVERED AT EDINBURGH IN NOVEMBER, 1888
ITH regard to the campaign, the first thing that
strikes you when you look at it as a whole is
wonder that Arabi Pasha, with his force and with his opportunities, should have defied as he did the power of such a country as Great Britain. How is that mystery to be solved? If any nation suffers itself to get into war with a weaker nation which is sufficiently civilized to know the great difference that exists between them, you may depend upon it that there is something in the conduct of that stronger nation which induces the weaker nation to believe that the larger country will never exert its strength.
We have heard a great deal about prestige. I detest the word. It does not really express what we mean. I should rather say “military credit.” Military credit stands in precisely the same position as financial credit. The use of it is to represent a military power, and to effect the objects of a military power without the necessity of a recourse to arms. You know that the man possessed of great financial credit can perform great operations by the mere knowledge of the wealth of which he is master, and that it is not necessary to sell him up, and ascertain if he can pay twenty shillings in the pound, in order to have the benefit of all the wealth he can command.
It is the same with a military nation that is careful to preserve its military credit. If it does so, it may, without shedding one drop of blood or incurring one penny
diture, effect all the objects which, without that military credit, can only result in much waste of blood and treasure.
Now, we were in the position of a financial operator who had raised his own credit by doubtful and dangerous operations. We had squandered our military credit at Majuba Hill, where we took up the position of a power that was willing to submit to any insult that might be placed upon it. We had proclaimed to the world that we were not ready to fight for our military renown, and the tradition of our ancestors was lost to us.
It was a false proclamation, a proclamation that the ministry had no mandate from the nation to make, and which the nation at the first opportunity forced them to disavow. But the disavowal has cost blood and treasure which, if they had been more careful of the reputation of this country, need never have been expended. Three years ago those who maintained such doctrines and insisted on the necessity of the maintenance of your military credit as one of the most precious inheritances of the nation, were denounced as “Jingoes!”
But these Jingoes are justified now. They have her Majesty's government for converts. They have forced her Majesty's government to demonstrate by action that which is their principal contention, that if you suffer military credit to be obscured the fault must be wiped out in blood.
I feel how inadequate I am to deal with a question like this in a place such as this. I know it has been occupied by a much greater artist; and I feel that there has been a loss to the world of splendid specimens of political denunciation, because the misdeeds of the ministry of 1882 are, unfortunately, not subject to the criticism of the orator of 1880. What magnificent lessons, what splendid periods of eloquence we have lost !
Just think that if Mr. Gladstone, when the spirit of 1880 was upon him, could have had to deal with the case of a ministry professing the deepest respect for the concert of Europe, and the deepest anxiety to obey its will — a min- . istry which, with these professions on its lips, assembled a conference and kept it for months in vain debate, and, under cover of its discussions, prepared armaments, asked for leave to invade a country, and then, when a refusal was given and the armaments were ready, calmly showed the conference to the door, and took, in despite of Europe's will, the country which they had asked the leave of Europe to take — if the orator of 1880 had had such a theme to dwell upon, what would he have said of disingenuousness and subtlety?
Or, take another case: supposing that unequalled orator had had before him the case of a government who sent a large fleet into a port where they had no international right to go, and when that fleet was there had demanded that certain arrangements should be made on land which they had no international right to demand, and when these demands were not satisfied had forthwith enforced that by the bombardment of a great commercial port, would you not have heard about political brigandage? What sermons you would have had to listen to with respect to the equality of all nations, of the weakest and the strongest, before the law of Europe; what denunciations would you not have heard of those who could for the sake of British interests expose such a city to such a catastrophe, and carry fire and sword among a defenceless people!
That great artist drew a picture of Sir Frederick Roberts. I cannot help wishing that he had to draw a portrait of Sir