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the international situation. The letter comes Wilson by t'is nominally Hughes' propato us from William Stearns Davis, of Minne- ganda apolis, Minnesota. Mr. Davis, who is the " The same politicians who were thus makauthor of " A Friend of Cæsar” and other ing 'tariff' and 'rural credits' the leading historical novels, is a member of the De- issues of the campaign heaved a sigh of partment of History of the University of relief when it appeared that Mr. Roosevelt Minnesota.

had been headed off from visiting these parts

to bring his whips against the hyphen. A CHANCE IGNORED

“One year ago an intelligent campaign of He writes in part :

education won over the majority of the vot“I am an Eastern man and my opinions ers of the Northwest to a belief in the need as to the duty of Americans touching the of reasonable military preparedness despite great war are substantially those of The strong Bryanite predilections.

predilections. A similar Outlook ; but, after witnessing the manner effort could more readily have made it clear in which the Republican leaders in the North- to the prairies why it was needful to take a west have handled the international problem, firm stand on foreign issues, even if such a I was not in the least surprised that Mr. stand might cost something ; but where the Hughes seems to have carried this State voters obviously required a clear proof they by a very small majority.

were given only vague and dubious hinting. “The real question of course in the election “ The men of the Northwest are quite as was the problem of the future foreign policy willing to fight and die for the old flag as the of America. About this the ordinary Scandi- men of the East, but, thanks to their geonavian-American citizen knew little, and, bar- graphical remoteness, the European war has ring a calamity which came home to him not wrought on their imaginations as it has personally, he cared less. The sinking of the on those of their Eastern brethren. They can Lusitania was like the sinking of the Titanic- be made to understand the great internathe act of an inscrutable Providence, very tional issues now convulsing the world by a deplorable no doubt, but, like the great floods course of careful education and information, in China, something which did not touch him but this was utterly withheld from them by the keenly. Nothing but a careful campaign of Republican leaders. If Minnesota has given education could have made this population Mr. Hughes a very scant plurality, and North understand that it was best to vote against a Dakota, its sister State, has given no plurality policy which said, in the last analysis, ' Let well at all, it is because they have heard the old enough alone.' This education was never protective tariff tom-tom being beaten as if given. The Republican leaders crawfished' it were the chief tocsin of the campaign, and and pussyfooted ' in dealing with the Euro- all that was said of Mr. Wilson's foreign polpean question in a manner that did little icy were scattered hints about his . vacillacredit to their courage or practical insight. tion.' Mr. Hughes personally may not have In the vain hope of catching a few pro- been to blame for this, but his lieutenants German votes they set up the stoppage of and campaign managers will not escape the American mails as a grievance equal to if not full responsibility that comes from a policy greater than the murder of Americans, and of deliberate silence and cowardice. Verily hemmed and hawed a little about the Lusi- they have their reward. tania when in the same speeches they were " The voters of the Northwest did not make shouting themselves black in the face about a deliberate choice between peace at any the sins of the Underwood tariff.

price' and National honor' in the last “ Even the American rights issue was not election. They were not given the chance." placed as Eastern voters rightly perceived it. I have myself seen a circular avowedly in The writers of the letters which we have the Hughes interest attacking Wilson, not be- quoted voted for different candidates, and cause he did so little about the submarine for different reasons; but behind all their murders, but because he did so much! I criticism and explanation of election returns doubt if such documents turned more than there seems to be one thing in common: a very few ballots away from the President ; they all wanted to vote Nationally and they all the German vote seems to have divided · 50- wanted to vote progressively. We repeat that 50;' but I know for a fact that a great many these letters contain hopeful portents for the pro-Ally votes in Minnesota were turned to future political development of the country.

MR. ASQUITH AND THE ENGLISH

POLITICAL CRISIS

1

BY SYDNEY BROOKS

F

66

TOR an Englishman the cabled des

patches from London during the past

few days had so familiar a sound as to bring on almost an attack of homesickness. “ Asquith Must Go." Revolt Against the British Premier.” “ Cabinet Dissensions : Will Asquith Resign ?”—so ran the headlines. And below them were columns of more or less shrewd, more or less excited speculation as to whether this, the fifth or sixth, attack in force against the Prime Minister since the war began would succeed, and, if it did, who would take his place ? It was all, as I have said, very familiar. We in England have lived on that sort of diet pretty constantly in the past two and a half years. We have been wrought up time and again to a state of high expectancy over changes in the Cabinet and in the Premiership. The changes in the Cabinet, or some of them, have taken place. There is to-day, as there has been for eighteen months and more, a national and non-party Government, while in August, 1914, there was a Cabinet wholly composed of Liberals. No one could possibly have foreseen when the war broke out that it would be waged in December, 1916, by the men who a bare week ago actually formed the British Ministry. As in all the belligerent lands, some men have unexpectedly collapsed beneath the touchstone of war, and others, not less unexpectedly, have risen above themselves to the full height of its demands. I think I am right in saying that only one British Cabinet Minister was holding last week the office he held at the beginning of the war. That Minister was Mr. Asquith. Repeatedly assailed, derided, criticised, and against a growing volume of conviction that his temperament and training are not those that make him an ideal pilot for a storm, he still remained the head of the British Cabinet. But now has he gone? Has a great Premiership closed in dissension and defeat ?

What has been the note of his career ? More than anything else, I should say, the note of Mr. Asquith's career is a consistent capacity for rising to the occasion.

He has never, to my knowledge, failed in anything he has been

* Mr. Brooks is a well-known English writer and correspondent, now in this country, who knows English political life intimately.—THE EDITORS.

called upon to undertake. One gets, indeed, almost a sense of monotony from a survey of his achievements. As a boy he captured all the school prizes; as a youth he won the Balliol, took a double first, became President of the Oxford Union, and carried off the Craven ; a few years later, after a wholesome period of struggle and difficulty, he was recognized as one of the most effective of English advocates ; in Parliament he attracted Gladstone's favoring notice with almost his first speech. And it has all been done without theatricality or self-advertisement, with no attempt to dazzle his contemporaries or force their applause, and without the least assistance from those advantages of birth, wealth, and social connections that in the England of the pre-war days, more perhaps than in any other country, smoothed the path of political and legal ambition.

Asquith's career is as fully a structure of his own rearing as Lloyd George's or John Burns's; he has made his own way on his own merits; he might have stood alongside of the present Minister for War and the exPresident of the Local Government Board as a product and representative of that newer England in which even before the war men were being judged and rewarded for what they were and for what they did, and not for the non-essentials of lineage or means or social position ; and yet he has never touched the imagination of the country as they have done, or roused in it a passion either of enthusiasm or of detestation. There is something of coldness in the popular conception of, and attitude towards, the late Premier ; he is not one of the men, as Lloyd George most decidedly is, whom you are violently for or violently against; even his own followers regard him with pride, respect, admiration, and an implicit confidence in his all but unfailing adequacy, rather than with affection. I never, indeed, think of him and of his relations to public sentiment without also thinking of another very great man, like him a lawyer, an administrator, and a statesman of the highest competence, and yet, like him, somewhat shut off from the innermost hearts of men-I mean Mr. Elihu Root. Mr. Asquih is not a bit more sparing than is Mr.

Root of the fuss and flourishes that democ- are just as good as any public speaking can racies love. Both men would probably stand be that has not behind it a genuine oratorical higher in the judgment of the unthinking, inspiration. They are models of clearness easily tickled mob if they had not so rigidly and precision ; few speakers, indeed, can pack eschewed the artifices that most politicians so much into so few words as Mr. Asquith; cultivate even to ostentation. One can im- they are full of vigorous thought, of trenchaginé neither man indulging in a beau geste. ant and sonorous diction; they are admirably Both are as deliberately undramatic and non- arranged; stroke follows upon stroke without sensational as human beings can be. You hesitation and with direct and compelling look in vain for purple patches in the career force; and yet they are as unmistakably not or the oratory of either. Both make the oratory as George Eliot's verse is not poetry. mistake of doing things, or appearing to do The reason, I think, is that Mr. Asquith has them, too easily. With a slightly different himself too completely in hand, knows to a temperament, Mr. Root's position in Ameri- nicety just what he is going to say and how can public life would long ago have been on he is going to say it, and is never for a moa par with his unique capacities. Of Mr. ment in danger of being carried out of himAsquith, as of Sir Robert Peel, posterity may self. The color and rhythm, the exaltation say that if only his personality had equaled and abandon, of oratory are not for him. his performances he would have been the There is something, indeed, almost mechanigreatest of all British Premiers.

cally impersonal about Mr. Asquith's air on As it is, the real Asquith, whose praises a public platform and when he rises to are sung by his friends, whom all children address the House. He seems independent instinctively delight in—the man of quick, of all emotional communion with his audience. vivid, and hearty emotions, of genial consider- I have often wondered, while listening to ateness, of warm and tolerant humanity- him, whether he would not speak equally goes almost unsuspected by the general pub- well to no audience at all or to one of broomlic; and Lord Rosebery never surprised Eng- sticks. land more than when he went bail for it that And yet, even as I write that, I am conMr. Asquith possessed qualities of heart even scious of doing him less than justice. For more remarkable than his qualities of head. in the past two and a half years I know of The average man remains to this day un- no one who has stated the British case or convinced. He finds in Mr. Asquith few appraised the issues between Germany and of those amiable and attractive weaknesses the Allies in language more majestic, more and accomplishments that irresistibly engage powerful, or more pertinent than his. The the popular interest. Nobody disputes the war has not implanted in him the native fire genuineness of his abilities or affects to deny of eloquence that is of the essence, for exthat he has amply earned every success he ample, of Mr. Lloyd George's whole being. has won.

Yet nobody is really thrilled by A man possesses that gift by right of birth him. A somewhat hard, self-centered embodi- or he does not possess it at all. But the ment of all the efficiencies; one whom it is great struggle and his own great part in it difficult to think of as ever having been have wrought upon Mr. Asquith until his young. expansive, and indiscreet; not without speeches have been lit by a glow and pasa touch of Oxford arrogance ; apt to treat stu- sion unfelt, or at any rate unexpressed, bepidity as a crime ; a first-class fighting man, fore. Let me quote from what he said on always at the top of his form and able at any the second anniversary of the war—it is a moment to bring all his powers into play, yet fair sample of the Asquith style: somehow spoiling the effect of his triumphs “ Early in the war I quoted a sentence by the dry and unsympathetic self-assurance which Mr. Gladstone used in 1870. • The with which he enters the lists and the me- greatest triumph of our time,' he said, "has chanical regularity with which he routs his been the enthronement of the idea of public antagonists-it is in such ways as these that right as the governing idea of European polithe British public, no wiser than any other tics.' Mr. Gladstone worked all his life for public in judging its leaders, thinks of Mr.

that noble purpose.

He did not live to see Asquith.

its attainment. By the victory of the Allies The deficiency which I am trying to bring the enthronement of public right here in out-it is more readily felt than expressed- Europe will pass from the domain of ideals is palpable in Mr. Asquith's speeches. They and of aspirations into that of concrete and

1916

MR. ASQUITH AND THE ENGLISH POLITICAL CRISIS

803

never

achieved realities. What does public right after one or the other or both of his brilliant mean? I will tell you what I understand it lieutenants had committed some characteristic to mean—an equal level of opportunity and indiscretion that must have jarred on no one's of independence as between small states and nerves more than on his. Mr. Asquith was great states, as between the weak and the

“ brilliant." He was quite content to strong ; safeguards resting upon the com- be outshone by colleagues more restless than mon will of Europe, and, I hope, not of himself or with a more taking manner on a Europe alone, against aggressioa, against public platform. But there was never any international covetousness and bad faith, real doubt among those on the inside of against the wanton resort in case of dispute things as to where lay the true seat of power to the use of force and the disturbance of and authority. His political opponents prepeace; finally, as the result of it all, a great tended to doubt it. For years they were partnership of nations federated together in busily assuring the world that the Prime Minthe joint pursuit of a freer and fuller life for ister was a mere figurehead in his own Cabicountless millions who by their efforts and net, that the real control of affairs was in Mr. their sacrifice, generation after generation, Lloyd George's or Mr. Churchill's hands, and maintain the progress and enrich the inheri- that Mr. Asquith, besides being the shuttance of humanity.”

tlecock of more forceful spirits, was the Those, obviously, are the words of a man obsequious slave of Mr. Redmond. And of intellect and culture, not without vision, thousands no doubt believed it, because in not without sympathy, but—who does not politics people will believe anything. Yet feel it ?—with his emotional side held severely there never was a more fantastic misapprecaptive to his brain. They are impressive, hension. but they do not thrill. They are weighty, I venture, indeed, to say that there has but they are not vital. I hope posterity will been no stronger Prime Minister than Mr. read them. But for myself I would far Asquith since Gladstone's resignation—no sooner have heard Mr. Lloyd George han- Prime Minister, I mean, more sure of himdling the same theme in his own incomparable self, more competent to impose his will, with style. For Mr. Lloyd George answers Pascal's a greater instinct for leadership, or with a test. You forget, when sitting beneath him, firmer grasp over policy and administration that you are listening to a speech. You alike. If there is one thing Asquith never remember only that you are listening to a has been and never could be, it is a timeman. You hardly ever remember that when serving politician. In the old days of his you are listening to Mr. Asquith ; and it is Home Secretaryship—now nearly twentythis habitual self-repression that very largely five years ago—when for a while he was the accounts for the fact that the ex-Premier idol of labor, when he was stretching all the is a greater figure in Parliament than in the powers of his office in the cause of social country, and that among the masses of the and industrial reform, and when he was fillpeople his personality has never been the ing the nation with a new sense of its reinvaluable asset that Gladstone's was.

sponsibilities, he none the less on three cruThere have been many occasions in the cial questions did not hesitate to stand up to past eight years of his Premiership when Mr. labor in the country and to his political Asquith has gained far more than he has lost allies in the House of Commons when he by having been pitched in a minor key. Our was convinced that the public interest denormal British preferences in normal times manded it. A flabby and squeezable person are for men with a certain energetic modera- is precisely what Asquith is not. Look at tion of speech and bearing. Mr. Asquith the record of his Cabinet from 1908 to possesses this quality as few men have ever 1914. He presided over a Government possessed it; and it repeatedly stood out in unique in British annals for the many-sided the days before the war in piquant contrast energy of its reforming vigor. He conducted to the harangues and demeanor of some of a profound constitutional revolution to a suchis colleagues. Vehemently as the Tories cessful issue; and in 1911 he faced and and the Protectionists and the Irish Unionists quelled the most surprising and sinister outmight fulminate against him, they at least break of social and industrial discontent that preferred him to Mr. Lloyd George or Mr. has ever threatened the internal peace of the Winston Churchill ; and one of their stock British Isles. amusements was to heckle him in the House But there is one set of values in time of

peace and another and a very different set It is the essence of the charge against Mr. in time of war. What a democracy needs Asquith that he has been too dilatory and at the head of its affairs when it is engaged legalistic, not sufficiently resourceful, unwillin a fight for sheer existence is a man who will ing or unable to take the leaps in the dark take big risks and make sharp decisions, who that have to be taken in such times as these, will rouse and rely upon its heroic potenti- and too slow to cut adrift from the notion alities, who will mirror its martial soul. These that a war can be run by a debating society. are functions which Mr. Asquith is by no Hence a Cabinet much too large for quick means as competent to discharge as Mr. executive action. Hence a tendency to conLloyd George. He is getting on in years; sider measures, not from the standpoint of he is past the time of life when a man still winning the war—which is the only thing the has a large reservoir of energy to draw upon nation cares about—but from the standpoint in a crisis ; there is in him an inclination, not of whether or not a good case could be made towards indolence—he is and always has out for them in Parliament. Hence, too, been a hard worker—but towards doing no hesitations, a lack of sure grip, and a failure more than is necessary; he has a natural to impress the people that every ounce of relish for the pleasant relaxations of life; administrative energy was being brought diwork with him is a habit, but it is not, as it rectly to bear on the problems of the war. is with Mr. Lloyd George, an instinct ; he But, in spite of everything, Mr. Asquith has prefers, if he can, to find a way out of diffi- the very highest claims on the gratitude of culties rather than through them; he is rather the British nation. He has stated, as I said, too apt to trust to his unrivaled Parliamentary the British case in language of rare nobility. dexterity as a means of evading a trouble- He has never once shown the smallest signs some situation and then to persuade himself of nervousness or despondency. His courthat because he has evaded it it will trouble age has had the solidity of a rock. Amid him no more; as a lawyer his preferences the appalling anxieties and the grievous disare all on the side of taking one step at a appointments of the war he has maintained time, with the minimum of violence to consti- an unfaltering front, always cool, always tutional usage, established customs, and the master of himself, the very embodiment of precedents of peace ; something is always sturdy British strength.

sturdy British strength. Moreover, practicounseling him to avoid making a decision caily the whole management of Parliament, to-day if it can possibly be postponed till at a time when parties were in a chaos of to-morrow.

dissolution, when new issues were forcing Mr. Asquith showed these attributes almost every day new alignments, and when clearly enough before the war. They were not merely Cabinet Ministers but the entire conspicuous, for instance, in his treatment theory and practice of Cabinet government of the Ulster movement organized by Sir had to be sacrificed, has fallen on his shoulEdward Carson. They have been, as one ders. I do not think they could have fallen would naturally expect, not less conspicuous on better shoulders. For Mr. Asquith has since the outbreak of the war. With another not only a rich and varied assortment of type of leader in control, the British nation Parliamentary gifts and experience, can not would have accepted universal military serv- only present a case to the House of Comice long before it did, would have shut down mons in the way most likely to insure its on the drink traffic completely and at a success, but has also the confidence and the stroke instead of partially and by slow de- respect of the Assembly to a degree that no grees, would have adopted with enthusiasm other man approaches. His judgment, his a programme of enforced economy, and character, his intellectual power, and his preswould by now have arrayed itself down to tige have been assets that the country could the last able-bodied man and the last able- not have done without. For winning the bodied woman for compulsory war work. war, for inspiring the nation to keep to the The fatal words, “ Too late," which have had heroic pitch, for real and consistent insight so often to be written as the finis to British into the emotions of the people, for audacity enterprises in this war might never have both in methods and in conceptions, for moral been written at all had the Prime Minister leadership, and for flaming and contagious been a man of bigger imagination and greater energy Mr. Lloyd George is the better man. driving power and more skilled to read and But he might not on that account and in appeal to the fighting temper of the nation. every respect prove the better Prime Minister.

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