Page images
PDF
EPUB

of the Parisian journals, and still more of the debates in the Chamber, became more conciliatory. The Press preached peace between the two Powers as a necessity of civilisation, and urged its minister to meet amity with friendliness. In the Fashoda debate no speaker attacked Great Britain ; and M. Delcassé, the Foreign Minister, even complimented Lord Kitchener on his attitude towards Major Marchand.

The thirteen proposals in which Count Muravieff embodied the great idea of the Czar were not very favourably received by the Press of Great Britain or of Western Europe generally. Briefly summed up, those relating to actual warfare amounted to four proposals—that (1) the Powers should agree not to increase their armaments for a specific period; (2) they should not increase their war budgets; (3) that the provisions of the Geneva Convention with regard to wrecked and wounded should be extended to naval operations, and (4) all scientific improvements in naval construction and the manufacture of matériel should come to an end. The proposals then went on to suggest (5) the acceptance in principle of good offices in mediation, and optional arbitration in cases which lent themselves to such means, in order to prevent armed conflicts between nations ; (6) an understanding on the mode of application and the establishment of some uniform practice in making use of mediation. In order to save the susceptibilities of the Powers having grave questions of difference at stake, it was added that nothing touching the political relations of states or the actual order of things as established by treaties would be discussed at the congress. . The only proviso with regard to the meeting place was that it should not be in the capital of any great Power.

CHAPTER II.

The New Leader of the Opposition-Opening of Parliament-Debate on the

Address—British Policy in China—The Church and Parliament-Land Law Reform-Reform of the House of Lords—Scottish Crofters-Ministers as Directors–Irish Home Rule-Congested Districts—The Bishops and Their Seats-Egyptian Affairs-London Government Bill Introduced-Slavery in East Africa—Mr. Morley on the Soudan Campaign-The Sultan of MuscatThe Education of Children Bill—The Army, Navy and Civil Service Estimates - Affairs in China-Russian Policy–The Outlanders of the TransvaalEastern Africa-Government of London Bill Read a Second Time–The Peers and the Church-Secondary Education Bill Introduced—The Money-lending Bill-Old Age Pensions and other Socialistic Bills—The Telephone Company and the Post Office—Scotch Private Bill Legislation-Bye-elections-National Liberal Federation-Irish Catholic University-Convention with FranceCentral African Settlement-Mr. Rhodes in Europe-Restlessness in the Transvaal-Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman's Defence-Railways Regulation Bill Withdrawn.

THE assembling of Parliament was preceded by a meeting of the members of the Liberal party, held (Feb. 6) at the Reform Club, to elect a successor to Sir Wm. Harcourt, whose resignation of the leadership was declared to be final. The choice of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman was already agreed upon when the meeting came together, the names of Sir Henry Fowler and Mr. Asquith, Q.C., having been withdrawn by their respective supporters. The only significance, therefore, of the gathering, apart from the formal installation of Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman, was the attitude of those Liberals who desired to reserve the leadership for Sir Wm. Harcourt, should he at any time wish to resume it ; and at the same time to publish abroad the domestic squabbles of the party, which had ended for a while in the retirement of its most effective champion. Lord Rosebery's refusal to act again with Sir Wm. Harcourt was too notorious to need expression at the meeting, but Mr. Atherley-Jones (Durham, N.W.), who made himself the spokesman of the anti-Rosebery section of the party, insisted that something more than the usual stereotyped expressions of regret should accompany Sir Wm. Harcourt in his retirement. After a slight display of coyness on the part of the more ardent Roseberyites, the words “expresses its continued confidence in him” were added to the formal resolution. Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman was then formally proposed, seconded and supported by representative members of the various sections of English, Scotch and Welsh Liberal opinion. In reply, Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman made a distinctly favourable impression on his hearers, conveying a sense of the responsibility of the post he was ready to assume. He promised to bring all his powers to maintain and advance the name, fame and power of the House of Commons, and urged his party to make the Opposition a reality by giving the Government a watchful and active, and not a violent or reckless Opposition.

On the following day (Feb. 7) Parliament was opened by royal commission, with a speech from the throne longer and duller than usual. No one anticipated that the assembling of Parliament would add much to the enlivenment of political life. The opposing forces were too unequally balanced to render struggles exciting, and whilst the minority were helpless to promote legislation, the Ministry, secure of their majority, were unwilling to attempt reforms or improvements which, however necessary, might alienate some section of their followers. It was, moreover, well known beforehand that the Ministry were keenly interested in only one of their own bills—that for the better administration of London—and that, however many measures might be promised in the speech from the throne, no intention of pushing them through was to be deduced therefrom ; for, whilst it was politic to satisfy one section of their followers by the introduction of certain measures of domestic and social reform for discussion, it was still more unadvisable to offend another section by pushing such measures to the extent of legislation.

The speech from the throne, read by the Lord Chancellor, read as follows:

“MY LORDS AND GENTLEMEN,

“My relations with other Powers continue to be friendly.

“The expedition against the Dervishes, conducted with brilliant ability by Sir Herbert Kitchener and the officers serying under him, has resulted in the fall of Omdurman, and the complete subjugation of the territories which had been brought under the dominion of the Khalifa. I am proud to acknowledge the distinguished bravery and conduct of the British and Egyptian troops who have won this victory. My officers are engaged, in conjunction with those of his Highness the Khedive, in the establishment of order in the conquered provinces.

“The Powers who have been in the occupation of Crete have delegated the authority necessary for the government of the island to his Royal Highness Prince George of Greece. The restoration of peace and order resulting from the establishment of his Royal Highness' Government has been gladly welcomed by the Cretans of both religions.

“His Imperial Majesty the Emperor of Russia has summoned a conference to consider the possibility of limiting the vast armaments which impose so heavy a burden on every nation. I have gladly signified my willingness to take part in its deliberations.

“A profound impression has been created by the appalling crime which has robbed the people of Austria-Hungary of their beloved Empress. A conference, at which my delegates were present, was summoned at Rome to consider the dangers of the anarchist conspiracy. Though I was not able to concur in all the resolutions proposed at the conference, some amendments in the present laws of the realm upon this subject appear to be required, and will be submitted for your consideration.

“Some of my West Indian colonies have been visited by a hurricane of extraordinary violence, causing loss of life and great destruction of houses and other property. The consequent distress of the poorer inhabitants was promptly relieved, as far as possible, by the strenuous exertions of the local authorities, aided by contributions of money from other colonies and from the United Kingdom.

“I have learned with great satisfaction that the Parliament of the Cape of Good Hope has recognised the principle of a common responsibility for the naval defence of my empire by providing for a permanent annual contribution towards that object.

“In parts of my Indian Empire, I grieve to say, the plague still continues; and though it has diminished in some districts previously affected, it has spread to fresh places in Southern and Northern India. Unremitting efforts continue to be made to relieve sufferers from the disease, to check its spread in India, and to prevent its transmission to other lands. I am glad to be able to inform you that the harvests of the past year have

piracy. Tat the conferenhis subject appear * Bilho, cal instructionthat country ; foses of emergen

been abundant, and that the trade and revenue of the country have recovered with a rapidity and completeness that have surpassed all expectation. “GENTLEMEN OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS,

“ The estimates for the service of the ensuing year will be laid before you. They have been framed with the utmost economy that the circumstances of the present time permit. “MY LORDS AND GENTLEMEN,

A bill for more fully organising the government of the metropolis will be commended to your careful consideration.

A measure for the establishment of a board for the administration of primary, secondary and technical education in England and Wales will be again laid before you.

“You have already partially considered provisions for simplifying the process of private legislation for Scotland. They will be again brought before you.

“A measure will be submitted to you for enabling local authorities to assist the occupiers of small dwellings in the purchase of their houses. :

“Bills will also be introduced for encouraging agriculture and technical instruction in Ireland, and for the relief of the tithe-rent-charge payer in that country; for providing a more complete distribution of water supply in cases of emergency in the metropolis; for the regulation of limited companies; for the prevention of the adulteration of articles of food; for controlling the contracts of money-lenders ; for amending the Factory Acts in certain respects; and for amending the law in respect to agricultural holdings.

"I pray that Almighty God may have you in His keeping, and guide your deliberations for the good of my people."

In the House of Lords the Address was moved by the Duke of Bedford, who in a remarkable speech which attracted much notice boldly declared that it was unreasonable to expect that Russia would refrain from taking advantage of her railway enterprise in Russia, and urged that we should recognise the fact that she must exercise a dominant influence over Northern Asia. The address having been seconded by the Earl of Cawdor, Lord Kimberley commenced by a general review of our foreign relations, touching lightly on the Fashoda incident, although he confessed himself perplexed with regard to our position in the Soudan. The Prime Minister, in one of his recess speeches, had said that the Kitchener expedition had resulted in the complete subjugation of all the territories, and that these had been brought under the dominion of the Khedive. The recently published agreement between England and Egypt, moreover, had practically made the Soudan part of the British Empire, and, although he had no wish to censure the Govern

ment for its action, they had to bear in mind that such an announcement was fraught with very far-reaching consequences for the Queen's dominions. He doubted whether the Soudan might not prove too great a strain for the British Army, and hinted at the dangers inseparable from the occupation of a Mahomedan country by Mahomedan troops. With regard to our position in China, and how far we were able to actively support the claims and rights of our countrymen against Russian and foreign influences, the country was kept very much in the dark. There was even more mystery about the arrangements said to exist between Great Britain and Germany with regard to the maintenance of their mutual and several interests in South - Eastern Africa, and he trusted that the Foreign Secretary would be able to clear up the doubts which had been expressed as to the nature of the understanding. Lord Salisbury, in reply, following the line of the Opposition leader, confined his speech wholly to an explanation of the foreign policy of the Government during the recess. Incidentally he thought Lord Kimberley's criticism of the word “subjugation ” hypercritical, for which he might have substituted the word “conquered.” We held the dominions of the Khalifa by two titles. We held them as forming part of the possessions of Egypt, but we also held them by the more simple, less complicated, and much better understood title of conquest. Lord Salisbury went on to express a hope that the construction of a railway coming up from the south would contribute to the ultimate establishment of the state of things which they desired to see restored. He declined to give details of stipulations with Germany, which, for the time at least, required no action on the part of Great Britain. As to our future policy in China, we had to deal there, as elsewhere, with a Government which was a “ going concern,” and we had only to take care that the treaties which had been concluded with us were fairly carried out and that the interests of our nation were duly regarded. “If the noble Lord wants to know what is the destiny which is impending over China I will ask him to reveal to me what is going on in a certain palace in Pekin, and perhaps on a certain island in that palace. The future of China does not lie in our hands, but in those of the governing body of China.” Meantime the Government would do the best it could for British interests, and so far there had been no want of success on the part of the Government. “I believe, if you carefully examine it, you will find that during the past year the advantages which this country has gained in China are not only greater than have been gained in a similar time before, but are also greater comparatively than have fallen to the lot of any other country, and with that we must be satisfied.” The address was then agreed to, no reference having been made to the domestic legislation of the session.

In the House of Commons, before proceeding to regular

« PreviousContinue »