The Ashburton Guardian, COUNTY AGRICULTURAL & SPORTING RECORDER TUESDAY, MAY 25, 1880.
Of course, it could never for one moment be imagined that the people of Great Britain could become weary of a Conservative Government because of its doings. Such a possibility could never arise. So apparently thinks Earl Beaconsfield. When he gathered hia friends around him on Thursday last to bemoan the most emphatic “dishing” his party has ever sustained at the hands of their opponents, he glossed over the whipping with a very tame explaining away, to the effect that the change had been brought about simply by a desire for change that had suddenly come upon the country. Yes, the electors are very capricious, no doubt, and they give about their votes in a strange and unaccountably inconsistent fashion sometimes. But one wants more than the reason given by Benjamin Disraeli when one seeks for the cause of the Conservative collapse. Had Mr. Disraeli returned from the constituencies just slightly in the minority, with a few seats lost amongst the boroughs, whose fidelity to either side cannot always be relied upon, we could have accepted his explanation of implied caprice. But Conservatism has been dethroned in its strongholds —in the counties where many-acred squires, who represented constituencies of yeomam-y bound to Conservatism by all the interests and instincts and traditions of landlord and tenant, have been unseated, in some instances by men of pronounced and even advanced Liberal views. The Liberal gains have been enormous, and Mr. Gladstone’s following is a solid and a powerful one ; it is recruited, not to bo sure from the Conservative ranks, but from Conservative constituencies that have most emphatically become Liberal. And why ? Not from the caprice that Mr. Disraeli hints at. Not because the people were idle and frivolous, and wanted a change for change’s sake. But because there never has been more cogent reason amongst the the farmers of Britain for a change of Ministry than existed just at the time agricultural constituencies brought that change about. During the last three years the whole population of Great Britain have been under a wave of adversity. First manufactures came to a standstill and thousands of toilers verged on starvation. That was the time when, our readers will remember, Sir George Grey’s loyalty to his parent land impelled him to offer room amongst the almost equally distressed New Zealand working men for GOOO of the English unemployed. The manufacturing dullness was felt in every corner of the land, and scenes of want were visible in every centre of population that have not been heard of in their intensity and frequency within this generation. Then agriculture suffered, and suffered as it never did before within the memory of living man. Hundreds of farmers have been ruined, and hundreds more are only kept upon the land by large concessions on the part of the landlords. In almost every county farms can at this moment be rented at a figure far less than the most far seeing could have prophesied. The competition of American wheat kept the price low of what little grain was raised, and our own Southern contributions thrown into the scale kept the balance even for the English consumers, and prevented the British farmer from benefiting in price by the scarcity. In Ireland there was literally a famine that the heart of ever}” Briton throughout the world was appealed to to relieve ; hut we have no need to recapitulate the sufferings of that unfortunate people. While this distress and poverty were rioting at home, Disraeli’s Government were carrying on wars in Afghanistan and at the Cape, and troubling themselves about the affairs of the east—spending money and lives, and intensifying the suffering. Against these wars Mr. Gladstone never ceased to declaim. The Commons of the last Parliament supported Mr Disraeli in his foreign policy, “ spirited ” in the extreme, if not always in the right, and readers of the Commons debates and divisions must have fancied that the foreign policy of.the Conservatives was the policy of the peo*ple if the House of Commons was any criterion. But the elections just closed have shown, and shown conclusively that the last Parliament did not represent the people, whose opinions had changed as they felt the grinding power of adversity. It is all very well to talk of patriotism, to sound out warlike phrases about the honor of the flag, and the dignity of our country’s name ; but with hunger gnawing the very vitals of the nation, and famine stalking with gaunt front over the land, and a voice like AY. E. Gladstone’s sounding condemnation of the wars at every opportunity, it is not difficult to understand why the people should desire the cessation of hostilities, and oppose at the polling booths the party that was continually flaunting the war flag, and sounding the martial trump. Had the Conservative policy been more peaceful it would have been more popular, and the multitude would have borne with it better. But the real loss Conservatism has suffered is in the yeomanry, who are now beginning to see that their inter* sts will be best fostered under a Government led by Mr, Gladstone, and bis LiberaPcolleagues, than under a Ministry drawn from the squirocracy Earty of the land. Mr. Gladstone has egun early, for we find in a cablegram of May 22, from Calcutta, that the Viceroy, in accordance with the views of the Liberal party, has been officially instructed to close the campaign in Afghanistan as soon as possible. Its end is, however, considered doubtful, owing to hostile tribes still continuing fighting, although not of a very serious nature.
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