Puslapio vaizdai

true. It is equally true that Mr Asquith and his friends were not sent to the House of Commons to put the Socialists in power. He knows well enough the risk he runs-it is not very great; and he must arrange matters as best he may with his own conscience. He denied with considerable emphasis that "they were all there hungering and thirsting for office; that they were prepared to pay any price in order to retain, to regain, or for the first time to gain, office; that they were prepared to pay any price, even at the sacrifice of decency and honour, for the purpose. Assuredly there is no doubt that the Socialists are prepared to pay a high price for office. Ever since the polls were declared, they have taken it for grantca that they are to govern the country. They have sketched out cabinets, they have distributed portfolios, they have, in brief, cut up the skin before they killed the bear, and we hope they will not be disappointed. And as for Mr Asquith, we shall remember his loud words when he begins to manœuvre for the position which the Socialists will presently quit.

[ocr errors]

For let there be no mistake, the sojourn of Mr MacDonald and his friends in what Mr Asquith calls the seats of the mighty will not be long. Having informed Mr MacDonald of his kindly patronage, Mr Asquith left him in no doubt about the future. If the Liberals are kind enough to help

Mr MacDonald to turn the Conservatives out, they do not pledge themselves to keep the Socialists in. Their office is the office of the wrecker, which they can discharge well enough so long as they hold a balance between the two. It is not a lofty office, such as serious men would care to discharge. But Mr Asquith has never been a serious man. All that he says and does is marked by the levity of the politician, and at this crisis of our history he has done what was expected of him. He is not worth grave thoughts nor big words. He is playing the game of politics as he has played it for thirty years, and should surprise nobody. He finds nothing in the King's Speech hostile to his principles, and so without hesitation he supports those whose opinions he says he believes are destructive to the peace and prosperity of the country; and having wrecked one Government, he thinks he can wreck another when he will.

There is, in truth, no question of a blank cheque. "Nothing can be more absurd," says Mr Asquith, "than the contention that because by voting for this amendment you turn out the present Government, the House of Commons is giving a blank cheque, a free letter of licence, to the successors of the Government to do what they please with the interests and the institutions of the country. Nobody knows better than the Leader of the Labour Party that that is an


[ocr errors]

absurd contention.” Clearly, then, if Mr Asquith and his friends cry a plague on both Parties," they would be wise and logical if they voted for neither. They would thus avoid the responsibility of either danger and save the country, for a time at least, from a hazardous experiment. That prudent course would not suit Mr Asquith. He wants to use the power which accident has put in his hands. "We of the Liberal Party," thus Mr Asquith goes on, are deeply and sincerely pledged to give no more countenance to Socialistic experiments than to a Protectionist policy." And so he votes for the Socialists, in order to drive from office the Conservatives, who went to the country for a mandate of Protection, and having failed to get it, have no desire to force their unwanted policy upon the electorate. How Mr Asquith squares his words and his deeds is left unexplained. One thing only is clear that in proposing to wreck both the other Parties, he will assuredly destroy his own. And the destruction of the Liberal Party will be an unmixed blessing. Its selfish, unenlightened, sectarian policy lay like a blight upon the nineteenth century. The tenets of Manchester, the parrot-criesfreedom of speech and the dissidence of dissent, the craving for a little England, the eagerness to surrender in Ireland, in South Africa, anywhere where Englishmen were thwarted or massacred, these are the con


tributions of the Liberal Party to political thought and political action. And the Liberal Party is being led by Mr Asquith down into the gulf, where it will disappear unwept and unregretted.


Meanwhile, under Mr Asquith's auspices, a Party will come into power, supported by foreign gold and pledged to take its orders from an international society, to put the war of classes above the safety of the Empire. It is a strange Party, of which many of the members did their best to thwart England when she was at war, and which, by a grotesque irony, has fixed upon itself Labour for a label. It is very little practical knowledge that it has of labour. True, it has used the workingclasses for its dupes, but that is no proof either of sympathy or understanding. The leaders of the Socialists are typical specimens of the middle-class intelligentsia. They are in character and disposition the very men whom on the platform they affect to despise. They have soft hands, high brows, and polished foreheads. Some of them have passed some time in Ruskin College, that cemetery of thought and independence, and some have not. Very few of them have any touch with reality. They have lived and worked in the vicious circle of political agitation. They have prepared themselves for the government of the world, not by attempting to gain any knowledge of the world, but

by speaking and listening to the speeches of others. Their lives have been passed either on a soap-box or very near it, and they have been disqualified by their training, by all the strong tea they have drunk in Eccleston Square and other places, where the kettle is always on the hob and mild treason is distilling, from understanding the practical needs of practical men.

The Trade Unionists, who have been permitted to find the money which put the doctrinaires in office, will (we imagine) have short shrift given them. And this we regret. If we are to be ruled by "Labour," we would rather be ruled by real working men, who have learned the real lessons of life and toil in the pit or the workshop, than by black coated members of the middle class, who have exploited what they call the worker," and have deliberately seceded from the class into which they were born. Mr E. D. Morel (or if he prefers to be called M.


[ocr errors]

Deville) is the kind of man who fishes naturally in troubled waters, and whom you would expect to find in a revolutionary movement. It is a pity he was not invited to return to his native land after he had sojourned in an English prison. And how have Messrs Ponsonby and Trevelyan won their place in the working-classes? Have they delved or have they spun ! Have they denied themselves the luxuries which they forbid in others? Will they surrender their country houses and their futile pleasures at the bidding of Mr and Mrs Webb! However, there they are, a motley crowd, as we have said, which has been at the greatest pains to conceal its views, if any, while the debate went on in the House of Commons, and which has left us with one dominant impression-that if the Socialists come into office, France had better look out for herself. Will they, then, the sworn brothers of the Conchies, provoke a war with our closest ally?

Printed in Great Britain by WILLIAM BLACKWOOD AND SONS.



MARCH 1924.


[ocr errors]




IN his Peking days, having found ease after warre" and a quiet haven of contemplative philosophy after much wandering on stormy seas, M'Quigg was content (as I have said elsewhere) to watch the human comedy in the spirit of one who has paid for his box at the play after a good dinner, and looks forward to sleeping peacefully in his bed when the performance is over. His interest in the players was that of a sophisticated but discerning critic, of one who had no further ambition to find himself facing the footlights in any interlude of love

The wild asses at his gates might stamp, and legions thunder by, without ever disturbing the serene detachment of his outlook on life. close and sympathetic contact with the Chinese, his mind had become imbued with their VOL. CCXV.-NO. MCCCI.


rugged racy humour, and in the process had acquired something of that instinctive stoic quality which cheerfully accepts an inexplicable scheme of things, but declines to take it, or any human atom thereof, too seriously. Peking was his spiritual home, and he revelled in its atmosphere of ancientry and patriarchal traditions; but at the same time I think that a good deal of the humorous enjoyment, with which he savoured the wellmatured wine of life in his snug angulus under the wall of the Tartar city, was derived from daily observing the fussy little activities, the punctilious pomps and vanities of the Legation cosmos, a little world which took itself seriously enough in all conscience. From his comfortable box, looking down on the stage, he had seen many a starred and ribboned


Excellency emerge to strut and fret his little hour upon these dusty boards and leave his polite audience wholly unimpressed; but the earnest futility of the performance and the infinite variety of its comic business never failed to afford him entertainment. He perceived-none better-the deep significance of the silent struggle, the predestined clash of irreconcilable systems, implied by the intrusion of top-hats and gold-laced trousers into the Forbidden City; but whereas Their Excellencies were apt to regard themselves as heavensent makers of momentous his tory, M'Quigg, like the Chinese, preferred to consider this clashing of systems in the light of centuries rather than of days. In the past history of the race he sought and found justification for the hope that their venerable civilisation would persist and flourish when the last top-hat had been laid to rest in a museum.

Naturally, being an Ulsterman-that is to say, instinctively cautious and having business relations with several of the Chancelleries, it was not his wont to wear the inner heart of his philosophy on his sleeve for daws to peck at, but in that heart he refused to take seriously the little Tin Gods of Legation Street or to see the dawn of a new era in their manifold traffics and discoveries.

In this respect, as in most others, old Kuan was of one mind with his master. His unperturbed acquiescence in the

activities of foreigners, as transient phenomena obviously ignorant of the canons of the Sages and menacing the felicity of the Celestial system, was not inspired by study of historical precedents, but simply by an atavistic, inarticulate faith in the inevitable triumph of that system over all barbarians and powers of darkness. It might require æons of painful regeneration, but, through them all, the protective law of compensation would always run, like a bright thread of gold through the dark pattern woven of the gods; and, at the long last, the Yang would surely emerge triumphant, the Yin be swallowed up in victory, and wisdom be justified of her children. To this simple faith he held as confidently as the Chosen People cling to their belief in a Messiah Who shall lead Israel out of captivity, give them lordship over the Gentile, and rebuild the Temple in Zion. Thus, like M'Quigg, though by a different road, he had achieved the state of stoic equanimity, which denotes and befits the Superior Man, fortified against the slings and arrows of Fortune by a philosophy invulnerable. Far behind him, on his long trail of years of faithful service, he had left "those hard taskmasters, the passions"; the kindly serenity of his homely wrinkled features had become the outward and visible sign of a mind secure against all buffetings of Fate.

Nevertheless, his philosophy being of the East and founded

« AnkstesnisTęsti »