Page images
[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]


The Editor of the ANNUAL REGISTER thinks it neces-
sary to state that in no case does he claim to offer
original reports of speeches in Parliament or else-
where. For the former he is greatly indebted to the
Editor of the able and impartial summaries of “Ross's
Parliamentary Record,” which when necessary have been
supplemented by the more extended reports of “Han-
sard's Debates," and in rarer instances of the Times,
Standard, etc. He has also to express his appreciation
of the obliging courtesy of the Editors of the Spectator
and the Guardian for their permission to make use
of the summaries of speeches delivered outside Parlia-
ment appearing in their columns.

THE position of Great Britain in the councils of Europe had
been considerably altered by the events of the preceding year;
but, whilst the new year opened under aspects externally peace-
ful, there was in reality little relaxation of the tension which
had lasted so long. The Czar's invitation to induce the statesmen
of Europe to make peace the primary aim of their policy was
regarded as delusive, or denounced as chimerical. On the other
hand, the hope of a better understanding with the United States
of America, and the prospect of establishing more cordial relations
with their politicians seemed the dawn of a brighter period for
Great Britain, of which the isolation in the European Concert
was more than ever patent. The Nile campaign with its corol-
lary, the Fashoda incident, had stirred the permanent but latent
ill-will of France, where a war-cry was anxiously awaited which
would unite the contending factions. In Germany the word had
been given from high quarters that British policy in South
Africa and elsewhere was to be supported, but public sentiment
was as hostile as ever, and trade rivalry as keenly pressed.
Towards Russia, which with one hand was signing invitations
to a peace congress and with the other was threatening the
existence of the Chinese Empire, no cordial co-operation seemed
possible so long as the words of her ruler and the deeds of his


ministers were at variance. Turkey was momentarily unobtrusive, and had become once more the open field of foreign financiers, seeking from their respective Governments support for their rival schemes. The European Concert had, after much delay, succeeded in obtaining the reality, and not merely the form, of an autonomy for the Cretans, and the island was at length placed under the responsible government of a Christian ruler. South Africa was still the most unsettled portion of the empire, the racial differences of the British and Afrikander settlers becoming more accentuated as questions of supremacy or preponderance arose. In the Transvaal, where the feeling was most marked, a growing feeling of impatience was noticeable on both sides; and the murder of a British subject, and the subsequent acquittal of the murderer, further embittered the relations of the two nationalities.

Little apparent change had come over the position of political parties at home. The withdrawal of Sir Wm. Harcourt and Mr. Morley from the counsels of the Liberal leaders had been received with equanimity by the rank and file of their own party. Lord Rosebery's chief aim was to mark his dissociation from their views on foreign policy, whilst reserving to himself the right to act with them in the criticism of the domestic policy of the Government. By general consent the question of the party leadership was left in abeyance until the meeting of Parliament; in other words, until arrangements could be made by which her Majesty's Opposition could be rendered most effective during the ensuing session. The most noteworthy incident of this campaign was the issue of a manifesto by the long-dormant Cobden Club in favour of the policy of the "open door," which, if necessary, was to be blown open by artillery. Whilst recognising the right of foreign Powers to settle their own tariffs in their own way in their own territories and possessions, “we cannot recognise that they have a similar right in countries now passing from under their control, and where Englishmen have already established interests.” How far the Cobden Club represented any body of opinion in Lancashire or elsewhere it would be difficult to say, or whether this manifesto was merely the personal opinion of Lord Farrer, who made use of the name of a great economist to give weight to his own opinions. If the Cobden Club had any existence as a political influence, and had endorsed its president's views, it was only evidence that the Liberal party was more imperialist in its sentiments than the detractors of Lord Rosebery imagined. It was not unreasonable, however, for the representatives of British manufacture to desire to see their interests better protected than had been the case in Madagascar, where our treaty rights were deliberately set aside by the French. They were therefore anxious that in the general scramble for “derelict” territory all over the world the acquisitions of continental Powers should not be fenced in with protectionist barriers. From this point of view the Cobden

« PreviousContinue »