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the means of estimating precisely the improbability of explanation by chance. We have shown that after making the most ample allowance for all ascertainable sources of error—the number of these experiences remains far greater than the hypothesis of chance coincidence will account for ; thus confirming the conclusions already arrived at by Mr. Gurney in the thirteenth chapter of Phantusms of the Living.

And, finally, in italics, they say:

Between deaths and apparitions of the dying person a connexion exists which is not due to chance alone. This we hold as a proved fact. The discussion of its full implications cannot be attempted in this paper-nor perhaps exhausted in this age.

OLIVER LODGE.

1909

WHAT SHOULD THE GOVERNMENT DO?

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It is now three years since the Liberal party were returned to power by a large majority of the electorate, and with an immense majority in the House of Commons after ten years of exile in the desert of Opposition. Many useful laws have been passed during these three years, and much admirable administrative work has been set on foot. But no one will pretend that anything like all the larger objects of policy placed before the country at the General Election of 1906 and approved by the country at that election have been yet accomplished. The defence of Free Trade was no doubt one of the ruling ideas in the mind of the country during that great election. But there were also several great constructive pledges given by the Liberal leaders and endorsed by the country. In so far as it has lain in the power of the Government to carry out those pledges—as, for instance, with the repatriation of the Chinese labourers in South Africa—they have been faithfully observed. No Government in modern times has, within its powers, more conscientiously observed the pledged faith of a General Election. But on the legislative path there has been a lion standing, and wherever it has happened that the Government has been compelled to tread that path in order to carry out its larger designs that Lon has hitherto held its ground. The House of Lords, in other and plainer language, has blocked the way.

Among the most prominent constructive pledges of 1906, for instance, were undoubtedly the Reform of the Education system set up by Mr. Balfour in 1902, and the strengthening of the laws limiting the sale of intoxicating liquor. Next in order, without doubt, came such measures as the Abolition of Plural Voting, and the Reform of the Scotch Land system. Along all these lines the Liberal Government has been checked. The House of Lords has resisted, and has sustained its resistance. Legislatively, it is only in finance measures, such as Old-age Pensions, that the House of Commons has exhibited and vindicated real governing power. Beyond that limit its forward movement is entirely subject to the caprice and calculation of the assembly which is now openly and seriously spoken of as 'the Upper Chamber.' Such is the bare and simple statement of the political situation at the opening of the year 1909. There is no mistake as to its significance. No great political party can afford to accept the doom of sterility, but it is precisely that doom with which the House of Lords threatens the Liberal party. Its aim is nothing less than this—to challenge the power of a Liberal Government to govern. That challenge is expressed in various forms and phrases of scepticism as to the volume of public opinion which lies behind each individual measure, but it is really an attempt to shatter the authority of public opinion itself. That attempt is based upon a number of astute calculations, such as the presumed fickleness of a great democracy, its liability to fatigue and indifference, or its sectional and class divisions. It rests fundamentally on a shrewd perception of the fact that on any but a few supreme questions public opinion can easily be wearied. The public mind-such seems to be the calculation-will, if it is thwarted after one or two vigorous expressions, soon cease to strive after the objects for which it was at first enthusiastic. This is supplemented by a solid and abounding hope of public ingratitude. It is believed that British public opinion possesses the unpleasant characteristic of revenging itself upon the wrong person. The nation, it is confidently expected, will punish the Government that has been thwarted in place of the Chamber that has thwarted it.

It would be a perilous blunder, indeed, to underrate the cleverness of these tactics. The Machiavellian attitude of the House of Lords towards Labour measures shows that the Government is face to face with a really formidable enemy. The policy of isolating the middle class, and of defending the particular interests of the House of Lords by sacrificing other interests for which it has a less fond regard, is certainly not lacking in a form of astuteness. Lord Lansdowne may not be one of the world's great men, but he is certainly a very clever and a very shrewd leader. His leadership has revealed the fact that the British aristocracy are still capable of producing a chieftain of considerable parts, and of following him loyally, even at times to their own hurt. The ascendency of Lord Lansdowne is a new factor in our politics of first-rate importance. It is gradually superseding the shadowy directorate of Mr. Balfour. It has eclipsed the importance of the Opposition in the House of Commons, and is turning the House of Lords into the citadel of the Conservative forces. It threatens not only the very existence of the Liberal party but also the relative position of the House of Commons in the British constitution.

For the action of the House of Lords during these years raises a question far deeper and broader than either Education, Licensing, Land, or any of the matters involved in the several acts of rejection upon which that body has ventured. It raises the whole question of the right of a majority of the House of Commons to govern the country unless that majority has also behind it a majority of the House of Lords. We can hear in imagination the speeches at the

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next General Election. “Liberals ! What is the use of returning them? They can do interesting little things in administration, but can they legislate? See what happened in 1906, after all your trouble! Did they settle the Education question ? Did they give you your promised Licensing law? Did they give you any real Land Reform ? No, they did nothing of these things. What is the moral ? Why, to vote for those who really can legislate, and take what they like to give you.'

It requires no gift of imagination for us to hear that cry of the assailing party sounding on the hustings of the next General Election in every part of England. There is only one real counter-cry by which it can be drowned. The Liberal party will undoubtedly fall into grave peril unless it can defeat the anger of a thwarted people. There is only one real way to avert the blame from the House of Commons; that is, to throw it on the House of Lords. The policy of the Liberal Government, if they wish to escape annihilation, must, from this time forward, be aimed at that one object.

It may be said that the Liberal Cabinet has already done its best to make this clear. 'Has not,' we may be asked, “Mr. Asquith made

' a speech in which he declared that the House of Lords should be the “ ”

dominating issue" ? Has not Mr. Lloyd George thrown down his gage of battle at the gates of Lansdowne House ? Has not Mr. Winston Churchill trailed his coat and dared the House of Lords to trample upon it?' All that is true. As far as speeches go the Liberal Cabinet has done its duty. But the real crisis is one of action and not of speech. The real policy has to be decided not on the platform, but in the Cabinet councils which are being held at the present moment, and will continue until Parliament is reopened on the 16th of February.

As to the general lines of the policy which is required for the situation, the Liberal party throughout the country are, I imagine, agreed on several points. One is that the Liberal Government have exposed their front to quite enough unrequited blows. The policy which Mr. Asquith once described as “ ploughing the sands' will certainly lead in 1909, as in 1895, into a quicksand. The party in the country as a whole are willing to acquiesce in the decision against an immediate dissolution, but if a dissolution is not sought, they profoundly object to the pursuit of a policy which has no proper climax except a dissolution. They object to being made fools of, and they are not sufficiently Christian to be ready to fight the House of Lords by the simple method of ' turning the other cheek.' They are willing to give the Liberal Government full latitude as to the choice of a time for the General Election, and they entirely sympathise with the Government in its refusal to be hustled into so vital a decision at the time which best suits the House of Lords. But, admitting these conditions, they wish that the House of Commons campaign should be carried on with at least as much astuteness as is shown by the House of Lords, and

VOL. LXV-Xo. 381

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that the interval between this and the next election should be occupied not by accepting defeats, but in planning and delivering blows. Their general instruction to the Government is that they should choose the lines of advance along which victory is possible, and not those along which the Liberal columns will be certain to fall into inevitable ambushes.

For there is one great law which governs politics, and which it behoves the Liberal Government to remember at the present moment. It is the law that “ Nothing fails like failure.' The English people will never accept any excuse for confessed impotence. The British party fight is very largely a gladiatorial show, and the thumbs go down very easily against the swordsman who pleads for mercy. Grown-up Englishmen are very largely governed by the laws of their public schools, and in adolescence, as in youth, they have a rooted aversion to the boy who comes forward with the plea, ‘Please, sir, it was the other boy.' The very fact that our Constitution is flexible introduces a peculiar elasticity into the rules of English public life. The result is that no party can permanently find refuge in the apology—“We could not do this or that, the Constitution was too strong for us.' The answer of the average English elector, bound by no written Constitution, is perfectly simple and straight-Why not change the Constitution ? ' One of our stock subjects of humour in English life is the workman who blames his tools. One of our favourite subjects of mirth is the gentleman at Mr. Pickwick's skating party who blames his skates. The Liberal party will get very little mercy from the electorate if it goes back to the country with empty hands and vague denunciations of the House of Lords.

'What then'-the question will inevitably be asked—what then do you suggest ? You are against a dissolution, and you are against ploughing the sands.” What third course remains ? '

There is a third course. There is a furrow to plough which is not a furrow of the sands, but a furrow of gold, and over that furrow the House of Lords has no power. The most striking success of the Government at the present moment, perhaps, is the Old-age Pensions Act. That is only a mere essay, a mere experiment in that branch of reform which is called financial, but which includes some of the greatest possible achievements along the lines of social change. It may perhaps be regretted in some quarters that the House of Lords should drive the energies of the present Government entirely into financial channels. But they have elected to do so, and they must stand by their choice. If the Lords really wish to carry their defiance even to the point of throwing out a Budget, then the Government will be fighting on the safest possible grounds. They may safely cry with Mr. Winston Churchill, Do it if you dare !' For if there is one characteristic of the Englishman on which the politician may to some extent rely, it is that he will always, however suspicious he may be of change,

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