« VorigeDoorgaan »
MORALS IN POLITICS.
IMPERIAL Politics have become the all-absorbing topic of the times. Whether in private circles, in our journeys to and from business, in our clubs and debating societies, and especially in our elections, municipal or scholastic, imperial politics reign supreme. It is no longer a question of knowledge of sewerage schemes and street lighting, or ability, and economy in expenditure, that wins a seat in the Town Council, but are you a Liberal or a Tory; and according to the opinion of the majority in the town we may live in, on the Eastern Question and the Afghan War, and one's own views on these subjects, so is the chance of success or failure. So, also, in School Board elections, Liberal or Tory is the cry, and every other fitness for the position is sparingly spoken of, or made secondary in face of the all-absorbing imperial policy. Perhaps there has been no period in the history of England, except during the Great Reform and Corn Law agitations, when party feeling ran so high as at the present time. Certainly, there has been no such experience for our young men as they are having now, and it behoves us very much, at such a time, to look well at the principles we affect to hold, and see whether we do so from a pure and high-minded sense of right and wrong, or whether at the bottom of all—the very foundation, as it were-lies a party bias, unopen to conviction, a bitterness of spirit, and a narrowness of mind, which is the well-spring of all our actions. It is astonishing how large a number of the electoral body in a town allow themselves to be carried away by party feeling, so far as to apparently forget the command to live in love and charity with all men, and above all things to speak the truth. And this is the more surprising to those who have been taught to regard those only as fitted to vote and to be elected, whose conception of honour and honesty in a man is based on these principles. But it is evident that much that is the very opposite of this greatly prevails, and it is surely time some protest was made by all right and truth-loving men, against this sinking of principle for the sake of party, this wilful blinding of the eyes, and biassed judgment of men's actions. For example, is it right for one to assert, because he is a Liberal, that Lord Beaconsfield has only one object in his policy, namely, his own aggrandisement, or because one is a Tory, that Gladstone is only a seeker after place and power once again? And yet, take up your paper, and read any one of the political speeches, of which so many have lately been delivered, and, with very few exceptions you will find they all have this bitterness of party animosity, not only suggesting the probability of intent to deceive on the part of their political opponents, but actually asserting that every action is for their own benefit, and that the old motto of " dulce a decorum est pro patria mori” is a dead letter. And occupying in our municipal questions so prominent a position as our imperial politics have been made to do, they have also brought into them the same bitterness, and the same party animosity. Our recent municipal elections in Birmingham may be taken as a fair example. A glance at the speeches, made by and on behalf of the various candidates, will serve to show how insinuations as to corrupt motives underlying the actions of men, who should be the very souls of honour, were imputed and scattered broadcast, and envy, hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness may be said to have been the order of the day.
One is led to wonder whether we shall ever see the day when a man, standing up simply in reliance on the principles he holds essential to procuring the greatest good for the greater number, and his own unimpeachable integrity, and admitting, as far as he knows, a similar rightmindedness of principle in his opponent, will manfully decline to descend to personal abuse and unfounded insinuations. Is it not manifestly the fairest, nay, the only right thing to say, that while our opponent may be upholding that which he thinks best for the community, according to his way of looking at it, we cannot but differ from his opinion, and that upon such-and-such grounds ? It may be argued, "all is fair in love and war," and the fighting of an electoral battle comes under this category; but the answer should be that there are no circumstances under which malice can be rendered justifiable. Our press, unfortunately, is not free from this party passion. Recent cases may be quoted from our local papers; and while the press is such a powerful agent for good or evil in the country, this is all the more to be deplored. Take, for example, the two meetings held on Saturday, the 25th of October, one in Birmingham and the other in Manchesterone Tory and the other Liberal—and compare the reports given in each of our papers of each of these meetings. Looking at their reports of the Birmingham meeting, it is hardly possible to conceive the concoction of two reports of one event more diametrically opposed to each other ; and yet we find exactly the same kind of thing occurring again with regard to the Manchester meeting. Of course, it is patent to everyone, that of these two one must be in the wrong, but which it is not for us to decide; and while we are brought face to face with two such contradictory statements, there is no other course open to us than to conclude that one or other of the writers must knowingly be allowing party bias to override his actions. Where, then, is our political morality? Is the motive power of every man who serves his country, whether imperially or municipally, to be attributed to personal interest, and amenability to corruption ? Surely not. Or is it absolutely necessary for the good of our cause that we should knowingly under-estimate the cause of our opponents? In politics, as in our ordinary daily life, should not one strive, as the Laureate puts it, to
“ Follow the Christ, 'Speak truth, right wrong, else wherefore born." Again, the individual who, for the sake of party, will uphold the election of a man known—not imputed, but known-to be, or have
been, unprincipled in his actions, and not particular as to honesty in business, is a man not fitted to have a vote at all. For he lends his name to fraud and deceit, and gives countenance and encouragement to men who are only too glad to secure an opportunity of vindicating their evil deeds by pointing to those others who have done likewise and still flourish; men to whom it does not seem to occur that two blacks will never make a white. It is difficult to understand how any man can be so far led away by political prejudices as to sink all those main considerations of honesty, truth, and uprightness that should be the groundwork of his political creed, and vote for a man who has sacrificed his character for the sake of a little additional wealth. For such a procedure there can be no excuse. Though both imperially and municipally he may uphold the views which one thinks to be best, yet surely another can be found of like political views; and by all means, however difficult, let us search the wide world through rather than give our support to such a man. Else where is our political morality? These are stirring times, the seeds which are being sown now are planting themselves deep down in the heart of our younger population. Education is making rapid strides; to every man now is given an opportunity of acquiring some knowledge of his country's history, and the prominent part that is played therein by politics. Science is making daily new discoveries, and by her are the pages of nature's book flung open wide. The paths from ignorance to knowledge, which once were open but to the few, are now within the reach of all and it would seem that all that is required to make us an intelligent, progress-loving people, is the establishment of a moral standard, socially and politically, failing which none should be accounted worthy of the name of man. By all means let us establish our institutes, and fling wider still the doors of education ; but in the end, let it not be said of us, "Knowledge comes, but Wisdom lingers."
With a view, then, to political morality, let us first of all strive to assure ourselves that the party and principles we uphold are those in which we see the greatest possible good for ourselves and others; and should any occasion arise when our party advocates principles which our conscience tells us are contrary to our sense of moral right, let us rather sink party than principle, and withhold our support, even if we do not oppose.
Of course, if a man have the interests of his party at heart, it is clear to everybody that hobbies must not be ridden to the death, or union broken up for the sake of petty differences. The moral standard is that which all should maintain, and the answer of a good conscience in every political action of their lives, equally as much as in other social actions. We are daily teaching by that first of all schoolmasters, and the most productive of results-example. The youth of to-day will be standing to-morrow where our leaders now stand, while they (let us hope) from other heights will look down with satisfaction at the result of their examples. It should be their care that they sow not the tempest now lest they reap the whirlwind, The political morality of a nation is the secret of its success or failure. Once do we but lower our standard, and our descent from being the first to being the last of the nations of the world will be by a swifter process than any failure in our agricultural interests or depression of trade could possibly produce. Unquestionably, the path of duty, is still, and always will be, the only way to glory, and as the poet has it :
“ He that ever following her commands,
On with toil of head, and heart, and hands,
A chain of crag-bound crests; a narrow vale ;
A ruder scene, by evening's waning light,
Till o'er the hilltops gleams a silver light,
The vale below, with evening's shades o'ercast,
C. E. G.
THE WORK OF THE SESSION.
The Twenty-third Annual Meeting of the Association was held at the Grand Hotel, Colmore Row, on Friday, October 3, 1879.
The chair was taken by the retiring President, Mr. F. R. Heath, who delivered an address on “ Modern Poetry, and its general relation to modern Literature.” The Annual Report having been read by Mr. H. S. Pearson, and the Treasurer's Report by Mr. W. H. Williams, both were unanimously adopted.