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and to show how it is appreciated by its members and supporters, the following statistics from its balance sheets will not be without interest to those who are unacquainted with them.
Its sales and miscellaneous revenue, progressively, have been as follows:
Thus in seven years the sales have considerably exceeded five millions, and the saving to its members cannot be computed at much less than a million. The question, therefore, naturally arises, How does this immense saving affect the general welfare? The reply is, Most beneficially, as it is not lost to circulation but diverted simply into other channels, possibly amusements, charities, cab fares, &c., which it would not otherwise have reached.
It is hoped that the writer will not be considered hostile to traders, as nothing could be farther from his wish or thought. The co-operative movement was not originated by hostility, but was ushered into existence by the march of events; and if the injury which it has inflicted upon traders can be remedied or lightened by any measure which would not interfere with free trade, it would meet with his most cordial sympathy and support.
J. H. LAWSON.
THE GOVERNMENT AND ITS CRITICS.
If we may credit the leading statesmen of the Opposition, this country has fallen into a state for which the modern world hardly affords a parallel. Since the days of Jeremiah the complaint was never so ceaselessly reiterated as among English Liberals during the past twelve months-The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means, and the people love to have it so.' In this last melancholy confession there is a sharp sting. The people love to have it so!' It is in a gloomy and fretful spirit that most of these vaticinations close with the question, addressed to the English nation: 'What will you do in the end thereof?' The reply is clearly not very encouraging. Mr. Gladstone himself, in the last number of this Review, speaks in doubtful tones. On the other hand, Sir William Harcourt, in his speech at Oxford on the 14th of January, has no misgivings. But Sir William has too much of the 'cocksureness' to which Lord Melbourne objected in Macaulay. His native confidence in himself, reinforced by his forensic habit of assuming his case to be unanswerable, may subserve private complacency' in those of his hearers who thoroughly agree with him, but probably there are few if any who trust the judgment of this slashing partisan enough to accept his estimate of the political situation without making large deductions. The assumption that an appeal to the constituencies would result in the condemnation of all that ministers have done during the past twelve months and in their summary ejection from office is scarcely established by pointing to the Liberal victory at Bristol. Something more is needed to prove that the opinion of the country has changed, or is changing, than the defeat of a Conservative candidate in a Liberal city with the aid of the Home Rule vote.
To the observer looking at the recent course of English politics from the outside, the verdict expressed in the recent Parliamentary divisions may seem conclusive. The policy of the Government was vindicated-not, indeed, in every detail, but in its general scope and intent-as completely during the December session as in the preceding July and August. But Sir William Harcourt is not to be deceived by such appearances. Some men, doubtless, are masters of the social magic which penetrates to the inner thought of their
fellows, and Sir William Harcourt was able to assure his constituents at Oxford that he never saw a minority so confident in the hour of defeat or a majority so downcast in victory.' If it were possible for Sir William Harcourt to be in error, it might be suggested that what he mistakes for confidence' is the levity of irresponsible persons, and that the depression over which he triumphs is the effect of grave and responsible cares. The Opposition, being for the most part without hope of any speedy return to office, and being destitute of any fixed scheme of foreign policy to guide them either in or out of place, may be excused for indulging in demonstrations of activity which have neither purpose nor result. The Ministry, and those who support the Ministry, while holding firmly to the conviction that it was necessary to do what has been done, have not recklessly abandoned vigilance. There is still cause for anxiety, and if ministers and ministerialists were not anxious it would do little credit to their patriotism. But it does not follow that they are downcast,' as Sir William Harcourt alleges, at the prospect of political disaster. Even if the electoral facts' of the last six months showed a much greater balance of gain for the Liberal party than that on which Sir William Harcourt exultingly dwells, the inference that at a general election a Liberal majority will be returned would not be irresistible. What ground is there for the contention that on the broad issues of foreign policy the country will transfer its confidence from the party at present in power to their opponents? In spite of Sir William Harcourt's testimony to the state of feeling in the House of Commonsmost valuable, of course, as a proof of the social popularity of the witness, who knows the secrets of both parties, but less conclusive as to the drift of facts than that of one unconcerned in the strife-the Conservatives are apparently quite willing to encounter their antagonists on the ground chosen by the latter. If the followers of Lord Beaconsfield were secretly disgusted with the course pursued by the Government, they would shift their position rather to the issues on which the constituencies decided in their favour five years ago. But there is no sign that the public interest in foreign affairs is abating, none that the nation has changed its mind about those affairs since the conclusion of the Treaty of Berlin. Mr. Gladstone and other leaders of the Opposition have bewailed the glamour which the ministerial policy threw over public opinion six months ago, and the complaint may be accepted as an admission of the fact, which was indeed sufficiently evident and notorious, that the Ministry was approved and sustained by the great majority of the English people. The illusion, if it were an illusion, would have been dissipated ere now. A strong and solid conviction can endure the strain of adversity and the tests of examination.
If we look at the reasons which prevailed with the mass of the nation when the conduct of the Government was repeatedly approved during the course of last year, we can judge whether it is likely VOL. V.-No. 24. BB
that there has been any important change of attitude since the Parliamentary adjournment. On at least three occasions, it will be: admitted, I think, by impartial persons, there was so marked a preponderance of public opinion in favour of the Government that the activity of the Opposition was sensibly relaxed. The Treaty of San Stefano and Lord Salisbury's circular, in the first place, elicited a manifestation of English feeling which deeply impressed Europe. Comparing the criticism of English policy abroad before and after that period, the difference of tone is striking. It became clear that the English people were determined not to go back to the system of letting foreign affairs take care of themselves; they were tired of affording amusement to a distinguished student of politics, when
He thought with a smile upon England the while
By putting her head under water.
The same lesson was taught by the approval of the Ministry after the Treaty of Berlin, when, in the opinion of competent judges, a dissolution would have secured a large Conservative majority, Again, when Parliament reassembled in December, and the Afghanistan and Central Asia Papers were published, there was a renewal of the resolution not to recede from the positions which had been deliberately assumed. Whatever Sir William Harcourt may have read upon the downcast visages of his Parliamentary friends on the Ministerial side, there is proof incontestable that the country was in no mood to support an attack upon the ministerial policy. Stone-dead hath no fellow,' was the pithy counsel of Essex, when Strafford's fate was debated. The collapse of the agitation promoted by the Afghan Committee' has furnished a decisive answer to the contention that the country disapproved of the war.
Does it follow that on all these occasions the acts of the Ministry were in every particular approved, or even that complete confidence was felt in their future conduct of affairs? By no means. Many parts of the Ministerial policy were strongly censured; many errors were deplored; many of the harsh judgments of the Opposition were admitted to be too just. But two considerations interfered to prevent this disapproval in particulars from hardening into the uncompromising and unsparing condemnation which expresses itself in an adverse vote at a general election. In the first place, it was felt that the intention, the direction, the spirit of the ministerial policy were in accord with the national feeling and the national will. In the second place, and even more strongly, it was felt that the rejection of the Ministry would mean the victory of the Opposition-of a party without a policy, identified at home and abroad with the system of letting Russia have her way and with Mr. Gladstone's plans for the disestablishment of the Turk. These are opinions which cannot be uprooted by any demonstration of ministerial blundering,
and it is by the working of these that the next struggle for the possession of power in this country will probably be decided. Since the adjournment of Parliament Mr. Gladstone has published an elaborate indictment of the Tory' party in the pages of this Review; Mr. Forster has surveyed the political situation at Bradford; and Sir William Harcourt has laid about him, with transpontine energy of sword-play, at the Oxford dinner. Whether depressed or exultant, these Liberal leaders are at one in their suppression of every single phrase which could indicate a change, a welcome change, in the methods and aims of the Opposition, so far as they are concerned with foreign affairs. For a moment, during the debates on the Afghan question, it seemed that the Opposition was prepared to recognise the formidable reality of the Russian danger, and an honest confession of error with a pledge of amendment would have reclaimed the allegiance of not a few Liberals who have been compelled reluctantly to part company with the leaders of their party within the last two or three years. But Mr. Gladstone, Mr. Forster, and Sir William Harcourt have hastened to undeceive us. No three representatives of the Liberalism which occupies the front Opposition bench could be chosen more different in character and habits of thought. Their unanimity is an assurance that the foreign policy which now calls itself Liberal is the same to-day that it was on the morrow of the signature of the San Stefano Treaty, when the notion of resisting the Russian pretensions-by war, if necessary-was scouted by Opposition orators as criminal and insane.
Both Mr. Forster and Sir William Harcourt are troubled with an· uneasy consciousness that when they denounce the policy of the Government they cannot escape the obligation of disclosing their own. It is sheer waste of time to argue that ministers have blundered in this or that, with the object of enforcing the conclusion that those blunders should be punished by the recall of the Liberals to power. The constituencies will first ask whether the aims of the Government, whatever may have been their shortcomings, do not remain, as they have been thrice pronounced, wise and just aims; whether the aims of the Opposition are not in conflict with them; whether, lastly, the errors of the Government are not precisely those of which the Liberal leaders are most likely to exaggerate the mischief. Mr. Forster offered an answer to the question What is the alternative policy of the Opposition; Sir William Harcourt propounded the same question with a generous air of being very glad to answer it, but he escaped adroitly from the difficulty, as lawyers have a knack of doing, by opening another volley of invective against ministers. But fortunately the nation has now time to form its judgment upon solid grounds; after the agitations of nearly three years, it has taken up a position unassailable either by gusts of emotion or tricks of rhetoric.
The question which Sir William Harcourt evades will be asked