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surplus of £1,904,000. Here one cannot but remark on the method of our Government. We are governed by " the country,” and not more than one person in a thousand, according to Mr Gladstone, reads more than half-adozen lines of summary of speeches in the House. What a brilliant system of political rule! No exact estimate of the expense of the Zulu war could of course be framed, but “a large and a free estimate" should have been taken. Sir Stafford must be the “organ,” not the "author" of the methods of the Government. Real financial control on such methods was becoming impossible. As to the distress of the country, where did Sir Stafford learn to regard that as a reason“ why the public income shall not be made adequate to meet the charge”? As to the via media, Sir Stafford had once called it “a financial nostrum."
Sir Stafford defended himself as best he could. He had not shrunk from adding to the income-tax, nor from retaining that addition. His policy was to try to keep the income-tax steady. Very few other sources of taxation were left,—it was wiser to spread large and temporary expenditure over several years than to disturb taxation. As to "financial nostrums,” that remark of his referred to another and very different condition of things. “I say, then, that it is perfectly legitimate and reasonable for us to take this course, instead of increasing the burdens of the people at this moment, and putting on them the weight of additional taxation. It would depress the commerce and trade of the country at the very moment when we seek to enliven it.” Mr Gladstone himself had spread
his expenditure for fortifications over twenty-five years, and had even postponed, in 1860, £1,000,000 of Exchequer bonds. The position of England must be kept up, expenditure or no expenditure, or must be frankly withdrawn from. “Let us close the chapter—as I think the glorious chapter-in the history of England ; let us frankly say that we can no longer afford to maintain the attitude which we have hitherto endeavoured to maintain.” Or let us pay for it! The attempt to find a via media in the Transvaal, for example, has not been a brilliant success.
I have tried to give as brief and lucid an account as possible of the main arguments on either side as to this Budget of 1879. It is not to be denied that it was far from an ideal arrangement, that Mr Gladstone had fair grounds for his criticism. But, on the other hand, the defence was not devoid of spirit and plausibility. The attack can always occupy the ground of the ideals of what might and should be, and so is always theoretically victorious. Mr Gladstone returned to the charge in the 'Nineteenth Century' (August 1879). With a complimentary reference to Mr Spurgeon, he remarked that “ the stain of blood may be effaced from our coming, but not from our past, annals.” Unluckily, our coming annals, under Mr Gladstone, were to be stained with blood, chiefly our own; and some persons with archaic instincts will add, still unavenged.
The Budget of 1880 was the last that Sir Stafford had to prepare in that period of Conservative rule. It was haunted by the influence of hard times. The estimate of
revenue was disappointed by more than £2,000,000. The Zulu war had cost more than £5,000,000, a prodigious sum to expend in a war with a wild people, armed with stabbing assegais, and muskets with which they could not shoot straight. The votes of credit had covered the expenses, and left a balance of £177,000. This was a grain of comfort. The savings had more than covered the Supplementary Estimates. “The result, therefore, although it is bad enough, is not so bad as might at first sight be thought.” The Excise showed a huge deficiency in the usual consumption of spirits and malt. There was a floating debt of £8,000,000, £6,000,000 of which Sir Stafford proposed to extinguish by the creation of a terminable annuity, to last till 1885. He was compelled to appropriate his New Sinking Fund of about £600,000 to this annuity, and to add to the usual £28,000,000, £800,000 for the next five years, applying that £800,000, with the other £600,000, to the discharge of these annuities. In five years the £6,000,000 would thus be paid off. When the arrangement was complete, he left the Budget with a surplus of £1,841,000, and he hoped for better times (March 10, 1880). Mr Gladstone naturally did not repine over the “immolation of the New Sinking Fund.” On March 15, Sir Stafford denied that he was about to immolate his New Sinking Fund—like a Carthaginian prince sending his first-born through the fire to Moloch. He only meant to use a portion of it for a particular purpose for a certain number of years. “The Sinking Fund would go on all the while.” He was satisfied that the
arrangement was one of the most reasonable that could be submitted, unless they increased taxation. He repeated that the increased expenditure of his administration was due in great part to the action of the preceding Government, as in the Education Act, and other costly “improvements.”
The general election of 1880 ended, of course, Sir Stafford's tenure of office. His apologies failed to satisfy a suffering and ill-contented country, yearning for a change. It is common among early peoples in a similar strait, to kill the king, on a chance of better luck with a new monarch. We changed our Ministry. As for the heavily burdened Chancellor of the Exchequer, perhaps it may be admitted that he made as good a business as might be of an all but impossible task. How to make England stand where she did, without burdening a people which declines to be burdened, was the problem, a problem beyond human adroitness to achieve with complete success. The topic can scarcely be handled with good fortune, so embroiled it is in technical detail, and so lost in wildernesses of figures.
THE TROUBLES IN THE EAST.
FOREIGN POLITICS—A NOTE OF SIR STAFFORD'S ON EASTERN
AFFAIRS — THE MASSACRES IN BULGARIA — MR DISRAELI'S SPEECH — “WHAT IS THERE TO LAUGH AT ?” — BESIKA BAY — CONVERSATION WITH MR BRIGHT — LORD DERBY'S RESIGNATION-SIR STAFFORD'S THEORY-RUSSIAN PROMISES -RUSSIA AT CONSTANTINOPLE — A BLUNDER IN A TELEGRAM - THE SECRET AGREEMENT- ENGLISH SENTIMENT—ANECDOTE OF PIGS AND TRUFFLES — SIR STAFFORD'S SPEECHES
— BERLIN, RUSSIA, AND CABUL—SIR STAFFORD'S DEFENCE OF HIS CONSISTENCY—THE TRANSVAAL.
The whole business of the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been thwarted by the course of foreign politics. Even more than most men the steward of English economy has need to pray for “ peace in our time.” But peace was not granted to us, and Sir Stafford's own views of the famous Eastern troubles of 1875-78, his own share in what was done and said, are matters of high importance in his biography. As it chances, he drew up “Some Notes on the Foreign Policy of the late Government,” chiefly referring to the affairs of Turkey and Russia, shortly after leaving