« VorigeDoorgaan »
race of their ancient masters is waning-who are not animated by the same feelings of ambition and self-advancement which characterise Europeans-who are for the most part satisfied with a languid life of sensual torpor and the merest competency of subsistence-who ever complain, and are encouraged by the Baptist pastors to complain, of starvation in a country where sea, rivers, and land conspire to furnish all that is absolutely necessary to support life, and where diligent husbandry is repaid tenfold. With such a population, multiplying rapidly, what can be done? What schools can enforce habits which are not in accordance with the popular sentiment? What masters can instil principles which are not recognised in the homes from which the children come? And what masters or mistresses will have the zeal to go out from England and teach these ingrained barbarians? The clergy of all denominations doubtless do all that they can. And we believe that the clergy of the Established Church, and the Scotch and Wesleyan ministers, have considerable influence over the middle and well-to-do classes, and over individuals of the lowest class; but they have comparatively little over the mass of the negroes. These, from the associations of past events and from the peculiar attractions of its discipline, were long ago incorporated with the Baptist church; and for many years the English Baptists had an influence which was often exercised for good, and to which, probably, many of the negroes owe all the religious knowledge which they possess. But that influence—particularly as regards religious feeling and conduct— is on the decline; and the policy which threw the maintenance of the Baptist minister more and more upon the contributions of their flocks drove many of them away, and transferred their posts to illiterate natives, whose fanaticism is on a level with their querulousness. In such a country and under such circumstances it is folly to think of English capitalists or any Englishmen of education consenting to settle. On the whole the prospect is most gloomy. Clouds and thick darkness hang over the future of an island which Providence has blessed with the gifts of unequalled beauty and luxuriant fertility. Were Jamaica under a foreign power-France, or Holland, or the United States-we should not despair. Any one of these powers would not hesitate to apply the necessary remedies, however severe or painful they might be. But the weight of sectarian influence, the prejudices of well-meaning classes, and the interference of fussy Societies, will probably hamper or thwart the action of the English Government, until it becomes impossible for a white man to live in the colony, and until the force of cir cumstances hands over the fairest of the Antilles to a race which
has been driven back to its ancestral barbarism. We hope that when this does occur, the British people will not be taxed for the naval and military protection of this semi-savage community.
An alternative to this dark picture has, we believe, occurred to some of those who recently visited the island. Discovering the incapacity of the negro to advance the industrial prosperity of Jamaica, they have thought that it offers-not in the hot plains, but in the mountain districts-an eligible residence for immigrants from the South of Europe. If a considerable number of Portuguese and Basque emigrants could be induced to settle in the colony, they would perhaps find employment at wages which would suffice not only for their present subsistence, but for the purchase of a homestead and freehold. Whether there would ever be a constant and adequate supply of such labourers is doubtful. And it is more doubtful whether they would continue to work as labourers for any length of time. It is more probable that they would soon become petty shopkeepers and small freeholders. But in this capacity they would be not without their use. They would unite with the more respectable mulatto and negro Creoles in the rural districts, to keep up some appearance of social order, and repress the lawlessness of their idle and thieving neighbours. They would not be English either in their habits or in their national and religious sympathies. This, certainly, would be a defect and an evil. But, on the other hand, they would neither be Indians nor Africans, with midnight howlings and Obeah rites. And it would always be a good thing to have an infusion of honest and industrious tillers of the soil, from whatever race they came.
Nor ought the negro nature to be utterly despaired of, for occasional gleams of that kindness, once deemed a quality of the negro race, shone forth and illumined the dismal horrors of the outbreak. Many of those who, though wounded, effected their escape, owed their lives to the aid of black
ART. IX.-1. A Bill to Amend the Representation of the People in
2. Act for the Re-distribution of Seats.
HE history of the Session now drawing to a close has been marked by a unity which rarely distinguishes the prosaic labours of the English Parliament. It is the history of the beginning and end of Mr. Gladstone's career as Reforming leader of the House of Commons. In the perfect order and
symmetry of its parts, in the completeness of its action, in the brightness of its first promise, and in its tragic close, it would be a fitting subject for an epic. The Muse could not be more fitly invoked than to tell of the versatile man, who after having known many political creeds and the ways of many Parliaments, contrived to ruin one of the finest majorities ever enjoyed by minister, in the shortest space of time ever allotted to any statesman for such a task. And the theme will have this further fitness, that, throughout, the mind is never distracted from the figure of the hero. Every vicissitude in the eventful plot is due to his immediate action. His impetuosity forces the perilous enterprise upon his friends; his passionate resolution sustains their wavering zeal during its chequered course: and it is to his peculiar tactics alone that the disastrous catastrophe is due. Qualis ab incepto is a rule of art never departed from for a moment. Those great qualities which alone could have forced a democratic Reform Bill on a constitutional party, and alone could have changed a majority of 75 into a minority of 11, are as conspicuous at the end of the drama as at the beginning. Fortunately the display of them was more agreeable to bystanders, than their effects are to those whose political fortunes they have ruined. They have redeemed Parliament from the dulness that had become native to it under Lord Palmerston's uneventful rule. Some of Mr. Gladstone's efforts were not unworthy of the imperious attitude he had assumed; and Mr. Lowe's three speeches would alone be sufficient to make this session conspicuous in the annals of the House of Commons. The sustained interest of the close and constant contest, carried on upon both sides with unflinching tenacity and resolution, has not been equalled in Parliament probably since the time of the great Reform Act.
The session, however, has another interest besides the pleasure caused by good debating or the excitement of a well-fought battle. To all students of our system of party Government, it furnishes rich material for investigation and reflection. remarkable issue of a contest in which the two sides were at the outset apparently so ill-matched seems, at first sight, difficult to explain. There was no doubt that Mr. Gladstone came to Parliament with a nominal majority of seventy-five; and that when the last decisive division came the casualties of the session had left him rather stronger than when he started. It was true that the majority had been elected during the lifetime of Lord Palmerston; but it had never shown any aversion to Mr. Gladstone. During the last Parliament, the same majority, less strongly reinforced, had supported Mr. Gladstone through
some of his most questionable measures, such as the repeal of the Paper Duty, in spite of Lord Palmerston's known aversion to the course of his colleague. In 1864 they had voted in a body for the maintenance of peace in the Danish controversy, which was certainly more Mr. Gladstone's than Lord Palmerston's policy. It cannot, therefore, be said that, when Parliament assembled last February, there was any foregone conclusion against Mr. Gladstone's leadership; nor again, could there be said to have been any fixed determination to resist every proposal of Reform. A great portion of the Liberal majority had voted in favour of Reform in 1859 and 1860, and many members of the Conservative party were known to wish for what is called 'the settlement of the question.' It should have seemed that a campaign begun under such auspices was already half won. How came it to issue, after many months of even fighting, in an ignominious defeat?
Undoubtedly, both faults of manner and faults of tactics contributed to this result; but the effect of the faults of manner has perhaps been exaggerated. They certainly exist; and as soon as the contest becomes warm they show themselves prominently. Nor is their effect at all neutralized by an extravagant affectation of humbleness during the intervals of the conflict. The imperiousness which is so irritating to an assembly of English gentlemen has been ascribed by Mr. Gladstone's devoted admirers in the press to a virtuous indignation and a consciousness of superior purity, which will not suffer him to treat with forbearance the meannesses or the follies of his opponents. Perhaps, if the House fully realized this superiority, it might take his rebukes more meekly and kiss the rod that smites them. But they are a sceptical body of middle aged men, not believing much in virtuous indignation, and strongly inclined to suspect all claims to special purity of purpose. And then Mr. Gladstone has a peculiar infelicity in the occasions he selects for delivering what he calls his rebukes.' He does not keep them for set speeches of solemn exhortation, but brings them out at the moment when, if you were listening to a less celestial being, you would say that he was in a rage. The threat that the House should be kept during an autumn sitting to pass the Bill, the announcement upon the night of the final division that the Government would not yield a single iota of the enfranchisement they had proposed, were made, not in moments of serene reflection over the follies of inferior beings, but in moments of most terrestrial and unmistakeable irritation. And the consequence was that the House did not submit to them as 'rebukes,' but resented them as attempts to dictate.
Yet it was no fault of manner that singly or mainly brought the Reform Government to the ground. No doubt Mr. Gladstone's singular dexterity in giving offence to waverers on the eve of critical divisions, may in the case both of Lord Grosvenor's and Lord Dunkellin's motions have sent two or three votes into the wrong lobby. But the House of Commons is not an assembly of women: and whatever the chances of this or that vote may be, its choice of a policy in the long run does not depend upon the personal graces of those who advocate rival propositions. It has been a succession of tactical faults, affecting the whole plan and object of his operations, that has brought Mr. Gladstone's campaign to a disastrous close. His conduct of the Reform question was a capital instance of an error to which ingenious party leaders are specially prone. It was that of appraising the value of support, not in proportion to the fidelity with which it is given, but, on the contrary, in proportion to the difficulty with which it is obtained. Every party is constructed on the plan of a comet, with a fixed nucleus, and a floating tail. On ordinary occasions the votes of the nucleus can be counted on securely, and no thought or trouble is necessary to make sure of them. The chief solicitude of those whose duty it is to marshal the troops, is for the stragglers-to keep them in the right line of march, and prevent them from becoming deserters. No party was ever free from this difficulty, or could boast of a perfectly well-defined and compact phalanx. Men will follow their standard or their leader with varying fidelity, so long as caprice or gregariousness preponderate variously in different minds. But the necessity of incessantly looking after these stragglers is apt to produce a pernicious habit of thought in any leader who is not controlled by hearty political convictions of his own. He comes at last from thinking of them oftener, to think of them as more important than his steady, untroublesome followers. He is engaged in working out problems which always depend on the voting value of a set of variables, and he speedily forgets his constant quantities altogether. But the constant quantities, in spite of their constancy, have beliefs and objects of their own: and after much endurance, some day their patience is tried a little too far, and then they become variables in their turn.
All combinations of men for carrying out any special set of opinions are liable to this embarrassment. But it has been the special affliction of the Liberal party in Parliament, especially during the last ten years. The nebula in this case is not only particularly large, but it has always had a tendency to condense into a separate nucleus, and to go off upon an orbit of its own.