« PoprzedniaDalej »
ently valueless islands in the Tumen River, which forms the boundary between Korea and Manchuria; and the prohibition of the exportation of cereals to Kwantung Province so long as it remains a leasehold of Japan; but the most serious matter in dispute at the time of writing is the seizure by the Chinese Government of the Japanese steamer Tatsu Maru on the ground that she was carrying arms and ammunition to be used by Chinese rebels. The Japanese claim that the vessel's cargo was legitimate and that the seizure was unwarranted, and a demand was made for the surrender of the vessel and the payment of an indemnity. The Chinese Government professed its willingness to surrender the steamer, but refused the payment of an indemnity, and it offered to submit to the decision of the British admiral on the China station or to The Hague. Japan declined arbitration and insisted upon the payment of the indemnity, and a proper apology for the insult to the flag. If the facts are as stated, Japan is unquestionably entitled to due reparation for the affront to her national dignity.
That the tide is running against the dominant party in Great Britain no one not blind to palpable facts could for one moment dispute, and if the recent by-elections are indicative of the sentiment of the country at large, the fight for tariff reform, which is the English expression for a protective tariff, is measurably nearer. At the recent election in Mid Devon, a Liberal stronghold, the Unionist and protective candidate was elected by a handsome majority over his Liberal and free trade opponent. The vote cast was the largest in the history of the constituency and showed a falling off of about nine per cent. of the Liberal vote and an increase of thirty-seven per cent. of the Unionist, as compared with the last general election, when the Liberals carried the constituency. The contest was made on the straightout issue of protection versus free trade. The constituency is largely agrarian. The conclusion to be drawn from the election is that labor looks with less suspicion on protection than it did a couple of years ago, and that the farmers see the virtue of protecting the home market. If these two elements of the electorate can be won over to the support of protection it will not be long before the fabric that Cobden wove into the economic policy of the English people is simply a tattered memory. The Conservatives say they can win the next election on tariff reform, and they expect the trial of strength to take place within three years. Some of the more optimistic cut it down by one-half, but probably a longer time will elapse before Great Britain. irrevocably commits herself to the principles of Hamilton. But no one
can doubt that eventually protection in some form will be engrafted on the British fiscal system.
Following Mid Devon came Worcester, where the Unionist candidate increased the majority of two years ago by 1,100 votes in a total poll of a little over 7,000. Here also the issue turned on free trade and protection, and it was practically the one topic discussed by the rival candidates. Mid Devon is largely a rural constituency, while Worcester is urban, and the appeal was made to the laborer by the Unionist candidate that protection meant an increase of wages and a general betterment of his condition. The workingman in Worcester, like the agricultural laborer in Mid Devon, was influenced by the argument.
There are some victories that are worse than defeat, and the Liberal victory at South Leeds belongs to this class. In 1906 Sir John Lawson Walton, the Solicitor-General, carried the constituency by a majority of 4,074 over the Conservative candidate, who ran third, and 2,200 over the Labor candidate. This year the Liberal candidate scrapes through by a narrow plurality of 359, who distances the Labor candidate by. 2,500 votes. These figures show an amazing change in sentiment in the last two years and give every encouragement to the Unionists, who believe the constituency could have been carried had their candidate been more outspoken in favor of tariff reform. The election also indicates that there is serious division in the ranks of the Labor party, and that the programme of the socialist wing is displeasing to the Conservatives.
The latest by-election to be held was at Hastings, which is a Unionist seat, and which the party retains. Here also tariff reform was pushed to the front, the successful candidate in his election address beginning his appeal to the voters by declaring that "I am opposed to the policy of the government, and maintain that the most urgent problem demanding attention is that of fiscal reform."
On January 29th King Edward, for the eighth time since he ascended the throne, opened Parliament, and in the speech which it is customary for the King to read on that occasion, and which is really the ministerial programme of the session, announced that bills would be submitted to provide for old age pensions, to amend the licensing law, to regulate the system of public education (it was this bill that the Lords refused to pass last year), to regulate the hours of labor in coal mines, and to amend the law relating to the protection of children. It is evident that Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman appreciates the importance of the alliance with labor and is prepared to go as far as
he can to satisfy its demands. A party that is able to place on the statute books a scheme that would give to every workingman on reaching a certain age a pension paid out of the national treasury might well expect to hold the grateful affection of labor, and it would undoubtedly prove a greater bribe than any promise of higher wages held out by the opposition through the adoption of protection. It is not necessary in this place to discuss the merits of the legislation or to argue whether it is the duty of the state to provide for those who through no fault of their own are incapacitated from work by the infirmities of age; but to a great many persons, among whom are numbered several Liberal members of Parliament, the scheme smacks of socialism and is paternal legislation pushed to dangerous limits. As to the education bill, it will in all probability meet the fate of its predecessor unless it is materially modified, and the Lords will be quite ready to test the courage of the Liberals to ask vindication at the hands of the people. If the Liberals should be sustained and returned to power by a majority emphatic enough to demonstrate that they were sustained by the country, the House of Lords, under the unwritten constitution of Great Britain, would feel bound to accept the measure sent up to them by the Commons.
It has been commented on as curious that the King's speech contained no reference to the reform of the House of Lords, which the Premier last session declared to be necessary so as not to deprive the people's representatives of the power of government. It was expected that with the opening of the present session would begin a vigorous campaign to end or mend the House of Lords, which would have brought about an extremely interesting contest, but evidently Sir Henry sees the futility of engaging in that kind of fight and prefers to make it one of his campaign issues when he next goes to the country.
The fate of the licensing bill introduced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be watched with a good deal of interest because it is one of the greatest blows ever struck at "vested interests" in Great Britain, and it is an attempt to suppress intemperance by decreasing the opportunities for intoxication. In substance, what the bill proposes is to reduce the number of public houses by some 30,000, to recover to the state a monopoly "which has been improvidently allowed to slip out of its control," in the words of Mr. Asquith in introducing the bill, and to put into effect local option. The licensing of saloons in England is in the hands of the local justices, who are supposed-as in point of fact they do to reissue the licenses from year to year in case there has
been no flagrant violation of the law by the holder, but who seldom issue a license simply to create competition. The result is that a license is a monopoly, and an exceedingly profitable one, which the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his speech said had an estimated value of from £100,000,000 to £150,000,000. Under the bill it is proposed gradually to reduce the number of places in which liquor is sold, the basis being one license to every 750 people in the towns and one license to every 400 people in the country. The value of a license extinguished is to be estimated and the holder is to be compensated, and fourteen years is given as the time in which the reduction is to be made. The community will at the expiration of that term, Mr. Asquith added, "recover complete dominion over licenses and unfettered freedom of dealing with them. In that unfettered freedom I include the power of the locality by a popular vote to deal either by way of prohibition or reduction with the state of things for the future." Mr. Balfour asked whether the bill provided for the establishment of local option, to which Mr. Asquith replied that the bill did, and while it would be impossible to lay down the precise conditions and the machinery to govern fourteen years hence, "the right itself is clearly stated in the bill." The British people, it has been noticed for some time, are drinking less beer than formerly, and this bill if enacted into law will still further operate in the interest of temperance. The brewers, as might naturally be expected, are opposed to it, and as they are both wealthy and influential the Liberals will have to count upon the brewing opposition at the next election.
The Kaiser Stirs Up England
Mention the Kaiser to the man in the street in London and it is a good deal like flaunting the matador's red cloak before the bull in the arena. The London Times, which sees red whenever Germany is concerned, recently fired the patriotic heart by revealing the momentous information that the Kaiser had written a private letter to Lord Tweedmouth, the First Lord of the Admiralty, who corresponds to the Secretary of the Navy in the United States. At the time I write, the text of this letter has not been made public, but the Times accused the Kaiser of having endeavored improperly to influence Lord Tweedmouth by attempting to persuade him that the British naval programme, which is nowadays directed with an eye on Germany, was unnecessarily large because Germany was animated by only the most peaceful intentions. The Kaiser was denounced as having written the letter, and Lord Tweedmouth was censured for having regarded it as a
private matter. Now whatever else may be said about the German Emperor he is no fool, nor is he lacking in experience, and only a crass idiot would attempt in such a bungling manner to influence the policy of another nation. Probably it was indiscreet for the Kaiser to have written at all, for letters are always dangerous; but that is the worst that can be said. The Kaiser's letter to Lord Tweedmouth is said to have been prompted by a letter to the press from Lord Esher defending Sir John Fisher, the First Sea Lord, in the course of which Lord Esher wrote, "there is not a man in Germany, from the Emperor downward, who would not welcome the fall of Sir John Fisher." Perhaps it was not unnatural that the Kaiser should have been provoked into committing the indiscretion of defending himself.
An extremely interesting and important speech was made by M. Delcassé, the former French minister of foreign affairs, defending and explaining his policy in regard to M. Jaures, the socialist leader, frankly admitted that the Moroccan problem was too difficult for France to solve and that she should retire from the enterprise. It was to combat this suggestion that M. Delcassé spoke, the first time that he has publicly discussed foreign affairs since his retirement in 1905. At the time when Delcassé retired it was said that Germany demanded it; he must either retire or Germany would make war over Morocco. It was never denied that the threat was made, and now comes M. Delcassé publicly to confirm what everybody in touch with European politics has long known. After explaining that Germany suddenly raised objections to France acting as the protector of Morocco in accordance with the Anglo-French agreement of 1904 and that she demanded an international conference, the former foreign minister said that Germany was annoyed at the progress France was making in the goodwill of other Powers and was alarmed to see Europe escaping from her hegemony. "In this liberated Europe there was France, around which were gathering all the peoples having the independence of Europe at heart and desirous of consolidating that independence." M. Delcassé said he was opposed to the German proposal of a conference, but the French believed its rejection meant war. "No, it did not mean war,” M. Delcassé said, but as a patriot he retired rather than insist upon a policy which he believed to be right.
He then showed that his policy had always been by pacific means to make France more powerful and more respected. With that peculiar art of the Frenchman to make a few words express everything, M. Del