A General Election: Right and Wrong in Politics

THE stir of a general election broke in upon the usual quiet of the old manor house. The squire’s eldest son was a candidate for one of the divisions of the county. The rooms in the old tower were turned into offices, in and out of which flowed daily streams of election business. There were committee-men, canvassers, and wire-pullers to talk and be talked to; addresses; notices of meetings; leaflets, serious and comic; new songs set to old popular tunes; photographs of the handsome young candidate, with his address on the back, to be sent to every elector; and then, as the great day drew on, the thousands of cards to be sent by post, one to every voter, with his name and number and polling-place, and a fac - simile of the ballot paper, with an explanation how it should be used. The candidate’s wife, zealous alike for her husband and for the cause he represented, helped as only a woman can help in such work, rousing a new enthusiasm as often as the crowd met the carriage in which she sat by her husband’s side, or as she came into the meeting with him, while hundreds of voices joined in the March of the Men of Harlech or Wait for the Polling-Day. The candidate himself, while ably supported by the leading men of his party, understood his own work well, from his experience in county business, in which he had for some years taken an active part. The squire wrote leaflets and songs, and took the chair at such of the meetings as were within his reach; and I thought myself fortunate in this my first opportunity of seeing both the serious and the humorous side of a general election. The humor was for the most part, but not always, good humor. The “ civil dudgeon ” sometimes “ grew high, and men fell out, they knew not why ; ” or at least when they would have found it hard to explain why. At one of the meetings to which I went with my friends, a sound like that of carpet-beating, at the further end of the hall, made us on the platform wonder whether the wielders of the sticks were not Irishmen, instead of the young farmers they seemed to be. At another meeting, the candidate’s brother stood for an hour apparently speaking, but with no sound from his mouth being audible. On still another evening, there were ominous signs that our opponents had packed the meeting, and might be expected to storm the platform, when a sturdy farmer arrived with what Mrs. Quickly would have called “ a rescue or two,” and which, with strategical skill, he formed into a wedge, with a chimney-sweep with brush and bag at its point. No one dared face the infinite possibilities of that brush, and the foe was scattered. But our side was generally the popular one ; and on one occasion I was amused at seeing our assailants driven to take refuge behind the candidate’s wife, as she sat fearless on the platform, while they tried to assure her it was for her own safety that they begged her to escape with them through a window six feet from the ground. But for the most part these meetings, of which we had sometimes three in one evening, and often in the open air, as the time was summer, were not only quiet, but enthusiastic, while consisting chiefly of our own party. And I was much struck with the seriousness of the people, enthusiastic as they were; men, and women too, were so evidently desiring to understand the arguments of the speakers, and to learn from what they heard.

The writ had come down to the sheriff, the nomination had been made, and the eve of the polling-day had arrived.

“ Venit summa dies, et ineluctabile fatum.”

At night I went with the squire and his youngest son and daughter to a last meeting, while our candidate and his wife went to another. The enthusiasm was great, yet I saw something serious as well as earnest in the faces before me. We knew that other meetings were being held that night, and that another host was mustering for the morrow, arrayed against us, with hopes no less high than our own. A solemn feeling of suspense, and even of awe, fell upon me, and I doubt not on those with me; and though the battle was to be fought with ballot papers in orderly polling-places, I could not but think that as great issues might be at stake as were at Agincourt, and that there was no unfitness in recalling as I did the words of Shakespeare : —

“ From camp to camp through the foal womb of night
The hum of either army stilly sounds,
That the fixed sentinels almost receive
The secret whispers of each other’s watch :
Fire answers fire, and through their paly flames
Each battle sees the other’s umber’d face;
Steed threatens steed, in high and boastful neighs
Piercing the night’s dull ear, and from the tents
The armourers, accomplishing the knights,
With busy hammers closing rivets up,
Give dreadful note of preparation.”

Then followed that long day of eager hopes and fears and guesses at what must remain unknown till the morrow, while the rival candidates and their wives spent the day in visiting every polling-place in succession. They once or twice met and crossed each other, with the courtesy which seldom fails English gentlefolk under such circumstances.

I am not old enough to recall, but the squire has described to me, the days when the freeholders journeyed from every end of the county to their county town, there to choose two knights of the shire by acclamation at the hustings, or, if need were, by voting, presided over by the sheriff, who kept the poll open day after day, and even week after week, as long as there was a single voter to come in. The several forms, ending with that of the two chosen knights, girded with swords, riding in procession at the head of their supporters, were probably little changed from the days of Hampton, or perhaps even of Simon de Montfort; and though the counties had been divided, and other polling-places added to that of the county town, the main proceedings were still the same, as the squire has told me, before the passing of the Ballot Act. On the hustings, a great wooden structure erected in the open air, the high sheriff presided over a crowd of the freeholders and the larger tenants of the county. The Queen’s writ was read ; the names of the rival candidates were proposed one after another, with the shouts of their several supporters. As nothing turned on the decision of the sheriff, he might be pardoned if he looked to the side of his own party and declared that their ayes had it. His decision was challenged, and the day for the polling appointed. My friend gave me an account of his doings, both as county magistrate and as party committee-man, in his own village, during one such polling-day. There was a pollingplace in the village, and his story was this: —

A few days before, there had been something of an election riot in a large town some ten miles off, and a timid householder in the village, having taken it into His head that the rioters would now march upon his village, made oath to that effect, and demanded the appointment of special constables. The justices could not refuse the demand, and the squire had to swear in the constables, and to provide them with staves, for which the county had afterwards to pay a bill of twenty pounds. A strong body of rural police was also marched in. Their superintendent told my friend — the only magistrate there — that, in the event of a riot, the special constables would be of no use if they were at the time dispersed among the crowd, and that they must be kept together in a body, in ease they should be wanted to act. So my friend locked them all up in the parish schoolroom ; they meekly submitting to an order which probably the magistrate had no legal power to enforce. He sent them in some old newspapers, and all the bread and cold meat which the committee of the rival candidates had left unconsumed in the several public houses; and so they were left, losing their votes and their share in the general fun, till the polling-day was over. The polling began in a wooden shed set up on a bit of open ground in the middle of the village, with a shelter for the officers and their books, — a shelter luckily not wanted, as the day proved to be one of bright autumn weather. The church clock struck eight, and the squire, who was a keen party politician no less than an active magistrate, was the first to give his vote. The incredible muddle-headedness of voters, which is now hid from all but the presiding officer and the personation agent, who sit in secret conclave in the polling-room, could then be witnessed and laughed at in open day. There, for instance, was a freeholder who had never heard of the House of Commons, but whose father had turned a hit of roadside waste into a freehold by building a house upon it, and living there without disturbance from the parish overseers. He had been brought up by the zealous agent of one party, but was now clutched at by him of the other side. When asked for whom he voted, he could only look scared and say that he was a stoutish gentleman with a bald head, but he did not rightly remember his name. And then when the polling-clerk, who had at first forbidden the rival agents to interfere, did at last reluctantly say that each might tell the man the names of their respective candidates, the poor bewildered man replied again and again, " That’s not the name,” till all were exhausted; but then, after there was no other to come, he thought it was the last which he had heard, and so voted, to his own relief and that of every one except the discomfited agent. There were no telegrams in those days, hut a mounted messenger came in every hour from headquarters only to report to the squire’s committee that they were losing everywhere, and to carry back the like had report from them. Still they put a good face on the matter, and kept their own counsel, in spite of the eager inquiries from the other side, who for some reason — perhaps because they were the stupid party — had not provided for keeping themselves informed of their own success. The last incident which the squire told me of was a report to his committee of two voters still left in an outlying village. An omnibus was chartered in hot haste; the voters were brought in before the clock struck four, and one voted on one side, and one on the other. Then the special constables were set free from a custody which had been inflicted on none but themselves ; the crowd of voters and non-voters dispersed in good humor, though still in ignorance of how the day hail gone; and my friend went home to learn the full account of the utter beating his party had received.

But these are memories of an almost forgotten past. Now all these things are shrouded, by the secrecy of the ballot, in a silence which becomes, as I have said, solemn and almost awful to those to whom the election is a serious interest, as the polling-day goes on. At last, then, night had fallen on the fight, which was lost and won, though no one knew how the day had gone. Next morning the counting began in the courthouse of the principal town in the division. The sheriff who presided had given me permission to be among the favored few who were allowed to he present during the counting. These were the candidates and their wives and their agents and the officials who had to count. The seals of the several ballot boxes were examined and broken, and the number of voting papers in each was verified; then the whole were thrown together, “ made hay of,” and finally separated according to the names of the candidates for which they were marked. This separation went on at four tables at once ; and as each packet of one hundred papers was completed, it was filed with a blue or a red label, as that candidate’s color might be, by the counting clerk, and then handed by him to the agent of the opposite side. If he was satisfied with it, he handed it to the other agent, who made a like examination ; and if there was — as sometimes happened — a doubt as to the meaning of the voter’s mark, or any other question as to the reception of the ballot paper, the point was decided by the sheriff. An equal number of red and of blue labels lay on the table, for tying up the successive packets of a hundred ballot papers for one or the other candidate. The keen eyes of our candidate’s wife were the first to discover that the wrappers of her husband’s color were exhausted, while several remained on the other side. The counting was soon finished; the numbers were called out in the room ; and the sheriff proceeded to announce the result to the eager crowd which was waiting outside. Our candidate was elected by a majority of seven hundred and ninety-three votes; and the declaration of the poll was received with enthusiastic shouts by his supporters, while those who were there in the hope of another result slipped silently away. The defeated candidate was not the old member, nor of his party, but the important question had been whether the constituency had, or had not, changed from its old political faith. There could be no doubt that the popular feeling, in so far as it could be shown by public meetings, was in my friend’s favor, but nothing but the actual poll could tell the opinion of the silent voter, who did not go to the meetings on either side. To borrow Burke’s simile, till then we bad heard the voice of the noisy grasshoppers, but the stately cattle were browsing in silence. Now the newly elected M. P. knew that a majority of both were for him. He had to return thanks again and again to the crowd who accompanied him from the town hall to his hotel, from the hotel to the railway station. The carriage in which he and his wife sat was drawn — “ hauled,” as the country people call it — by their enthusiastic supporters through a crowd which numbered thousands, and covered perhaps a mile of ground. We were half an hour in reaching the station, out of which the train could hardly make its way. It was a triumphal progress, for the new M. P. was already well known in his county.

The old squire, with his younger children and his grandchildren, had waited at home for the telegram which was to tell bow the battle had gone. The news had been telegraphed in various other directions. And when we — for I had returned with the new M. P. and his wife — reached the station where our carriage was waiting for us, we were welcomed by a band of music heading a procession from many miles around. The horses were taken out, and the carriage was “hauled” by the enthusiastic crowd through the village, and so up to the old manor house. The people had of their own accord put up triumphal arches. The square’s younger children and grandchildren, after hanging out a great flag on the tower, and smaller ones at every window, had joined the procession on its road ; and it at last entered the gateway through the old battlemented wall, led by some of the principal tenants, while the band played Auld Lang Syne, and the squire stood at the door to welcome his son and his son’s wife. It was a grand sight. I shall be told, and shall grant, that it is common enough on such occasions; but if I am asked why then it seems so striking, I answer that it was a grand sight, and a sight to awake our deepest thoughts and feelings, to see that multitude of faces of men, women, and children, full of gladness and of love for those whom they were rejoicing to honor while sharing their triumph. It was, and from its nature must be, a passing enthusiasm, but it was not the less real for all that; the brightness of the moment must soon fade into the light of common day, but all had been the better as well as the happier that even for a moment they had been raised above themselves ; and to many it would be a memory that would never die. The squire and his son each said a few words of thanks, which were heartily responded to. The shadows of evening were falling as the band again struck up Auld Lang Syne, and the people slowly filed through the archway; when the last had disappeared we went slowly into the house, and I heard the old squire repeat to himself, “Nunc dimittis.”

The newly elected knight of the shire went to London to take his seat at the meeting of Parliament, and the squire and I walked down the avenue and sat again under the shade of Berowne’s oak, while the gentle splashing of the little waterfall sounded in our ears, and accompanied without disturbing our talk. The squire had been laughing at some rather strong abuse of his son in the local paper which represented the defeated party; but as I fancied that he might possibly be more annoyed than he allowed, I said : —

“ It is really too bad that a respectable newspaper should make such grossly false statements as to the moral and intellectual unfitness of the successful candidate, and of his election having been due to promises impossible of fulfillment, and to every other kind of influence which could be exercised over what they now call an ignorant electorate.”

Squire. That is nothing to what the losing party always says, though without rushing to print, in such days of excitemeat as follow a contested election. It is pretty Fanny’s way; and the man who wins can afford to say with the navvy, when they laughed at him because his wife beat him, “ It amuses her, and it does not hurt me.”

Foster. I should say “ ugly Fanny ” and her ugly way. I cannot help feeling more annoyed than you seem to be.

Squire. I am older, and therefore tougher, than you. When men get upon politics, they should allow each other the liberty which each claims for himself, of using words in a parliamentary sense, as the phrase goes. If a correspondent subscribes himself your obedient humble servant, yon do not therefore expect him to wait on you at dinner, or carry your portmanteau to the station. Lord St. Leonards, in his Handy Book on Property Law, says that, though the Court of Chancery will enforce the terms of any contract, it will not hold a vendor to be bound by what it calls the babble of the auction room. The language at an election, like that at an auction, though it may be in the way of blame instead of praise, is high-flown, exaggerated, and has a conventional meaning which it does not bear in ordinary life. I do not defend it; I am sorry for it, and wish it could be avoided, especially as I know that some people do more or less accept such language in its ordinary sense, and so become embittered in feeling, whether they believe the abuse to be true or know it to be false. There is plenty of evil in the world. I am sorry for it, but cannot help it. I know that the day may be rainy and the road muddy; but there is plenty of sunshine, too, and we shall get to our journey’s end, if we do not mind being splashed with mud and getting a little wet on the way. Or you may change the metaphor, and say with the book of Proverbs, “ Where no oxen are, the crib is clean : but much increase is by the strength of the ox.”

Foster. Though I shall he arguing against myself, I can cap your quotation with a passage which I lighted upon in a pamphlet in the library, the other day, and which I think I remember : “ The free expression of opinion, as our experience has taught us, is the safety valve of passion. That noise when the steam escapes alarms the timid ; but it is the sign that we are safe.” And again : “ I have lived now for many years in the midst of the hottest and noisiest of the workshops of constitutional freedom, and have seen that amidst the clatter and the din a ceaseless labor is going on ; stubborn matter is reduced to obedience, and the brute powers of society, like the fire, air, water, and minerals of nature, are, with clamor, indeed, but also with might, educated and shaped into the most refined and regular forms of usefulness for man.”

Squire. You have a capital memory, and the whole passage is worthy of Milton or Burke. The old Parliamentary Hand was young when he wrote that; but fifty years’ experience has evidently only confirmed him in his beliefs. So far as my own observation goes, I should say that the fastidious and sensitive men, who try to keep aloof from the dust and din, and still baser elements of politics, and try to rise above party, always, in practice, sink below it. The only men whom I have known to rise above party are those who, with moral and intellectual earnestness, throw themselves sometimes into one, and sometimes into the other party, as either seems to them right or wrong. That state of negation which the non-party man attains to is, in practice, a dull, half-hearted conservatism, as far inferior to the true conservatism as to the true liberalism. Think, too, of the unconscious selfishness of these men, who live in the enjoyment of all the infinite blessings of civilization, and have no words except of censure and contempt for those by whose hard work, with all its begriming incidents, and by that alone, all those blessings have been won and are still secured for them. “For us was thy back so bent, for us were thy Straight limbs and fingers so deformed ; thou wert our conscript, on whom the lot fell, and, fighting our battles, wert so marred.”

Foster. Our conversation is getting to be as full of quotations as the play of Hamlet; yet I must add another, that I may ask you a question about it. Do you agree with Falstaff that it is better to be on the wrong sale than on none, and do you think it a shame to be on any but one ?

Squire. To a young man, like yourself, I am always inclined to say Yes ; to an old one, No. I do not attempt to discover the laws of the growth, wealth, and disease of the constitution of other nations than our own, by historical generalizations. When Louis Philippe came to the throne of France, in 1831, our “ minute philosophers,” with delight, showed how history was repeating itself. In the French Revolution as in the English, the king, who claimed to be master by divine hereditary right, had been first controlled by statesmen with historical traditions and beliefs, and then deposed and his head cut off by the men who looked and strove for a reign of pure reason. Then came in each case the reaction to a military despotism, followed by a restoration of the old hereditary monarchy, represented first by a shrewd cynic, whose one object was not to have to go on his travels again ; and then by a narrow bigot, who fell in the attempt to bring back the political superstitions and practices of a bygone time, and was succeeded by a new member of the family, a prince of singular prudence and sagacity, while the nearest heir was set aside by the will of the people. All these things ran easily on all fours for those who were content with mere superficial generalizations ; but where are they now ? They were mere toys of the fancy, and were long ago broken and thrown away. I content myself with the study of the British Constitution ; and even here I do not pretend to do more than pick up a few pebbles which the mighty ocean is rolling in. The experience and observation of years lead me to contract rather than enlarge my sphere of possible knowledge. In politics, even the statesman of genius rarely sees more than his next step, and only after he has taken that sees again the next.

Foster. But you will allow that the world, and so the British Constitution, is governed by laws ?

Squire. I do. To me the pursuits of the student of letters or the student of science are far less interesting than those of the young politician who aspires to the realization of his ideals of the constitution under which he lives. His ideal seems to him complete and perfect, and waiting only to be realized in actual life. It is well that a man should begin his study of life in the light of such an ideal, and that he should believe that it is so true and good that any contradiction must be wrong ; and therefore I said, in answer to your former question, that I should say to a young man it was wrong to be on any side but one ; that is, on the one side which represents and embodies his own ideal of the political life of his country. By all means would I have him enjoy this his honest belief ; let him share heartily the triumphs of the party who hold up that ideal, and in the fear that its loss will be the loss of all that a good citizen holds dear. If these things be absolutely true and right, then all that opposes them must be false and wrong. But if he has the wisdom and the courage to look and see how his ideals stand the test of experience, he will again and again see them broken up and set aside by a force which they are unable to resist, while the world not only goes on just as before, but with such manifest advantage that he is obliged, and eventually glad, to confess that his ideal was not the absolute law which governed the world of politics, but only one small and partial representation of it. And so the old man answers the other half of the question, and says that it is not a shame to be on any side but one in politics.

Foster. Then you do not think that there is a right and a wrong side in party polities, nor any such difference between Conservatives and Liberals ?

Squire. Not a pin to choose, so long as the man honestly holds with either. There is often much wrong doing, much that is evil as well as mistaken, in each party; but each party represents one side, one half of the true and the good, while it opposes the other. It does not matter which leg you put into your breeches first, said Dr. Johnson, but don’t stand there getting cold while you are doubting which leg it shall be.

Foster. Yet, squire, I have heard you, at our late meetings, stir the whole audience to enthusiasm by telling them of the merits of your side, and the wrong doings of the other.

Squire. That was counsel pleading for client; but the jury heard the other side, too, before their verdict was given. Judgment followed, not for that constituency only, but for the whole nation, through its representatives in Parliament, and it will be found to be a compromise, or “resolution of forces,” with one step forward on the line so indicated. Politics mean action, not science nor even logic. New things and new conditions of things are constantly coming above the horizon, which had never been dreamed of by our political philosophy. These demand action, not abstract inquiry, and it is only in and by action that the right course is found. To act you must take a side ; you cannot be on both sides at once, though both have to be reckoned with in the end. The final action is really a joint one ; not the triumph of a victor over the vanquished. If there were an absolute right and wrong in politics, it is inconceivable that the opinion of the whole nation should be — as we know it usually is — so nearly divided that the balance of parties is turned by a very small number of votes, and that this minority, though so little less than the majority, always acquiesces in the government of that majority. And so I say that Falstaff’s doctrine, which you quote, is true if properly understood.

Foster. I should call this the philosophy of party. The practical view of Burke, that no political action can be effective unless men act together in a party, and to this end make mutual concessions and compromises among themselves, always seems to me intelligible and true, though one often hears it condemned by those who, as you say, sink below party while professing to rise above it. But when you speak so of the absence of an absolute right and wrong in politics, and of its being the business of a statesman merely to ascertain the next step, and to take that, do you not underrate the work really done by the great men who appear from time to time as the leaders of the nation ? The British Constitution is often compared to an oak ; may it not as properly be compared to a castle, or palace, or cathedral ? May we not, in Ben Jonson’s phrase, say that it is made as well as born, and that art gives the form and fashion to nature ?

Squire. Illustrations prove nothing, though they often throw light on a subject, and make an argument clearer by calling imagination to the aid of reason. Both your illustrations — the tree and the building — are good. Either will answer our purpose here. Let us take the oak. The oak has grown to be what it is in accordance with a law somehow contained in the original acorn. Its growth has somehow (we know not how) depended on the growth of its roots and branches ; and while we cannot say that any one of these, however small, was not necessary to its growth, we may confidently say that it could not have become what it is without the vigorous growth of its greater roots and limbs. The whole is made up of its parts, and could never have existed without them ; yet they have only come into existence, and still exist, as results of the original law in the acorn. And so it seems to me to be with the nation. It is not a mere metaphor to say that the life of a nation is a reality, a fact. This national life is somehow made up of, or is one with, the life of the men of the nation’s successive generations. This life is more, not less, strong and active in our great statesmen than in our ordinary citizens. While we watch the immediate action of some great personality of our own generation. and stand close by him, it seems as if his individual intellect and will were directing and driving the course of events, which he might have made otherwise if he had so chosen ; but when an intervening distance of time enables us to see what the whole course of events has been, we discover that, great as the man was, and great as was his mastery over the events of the hour, he, no less than the least important of the men around him, was working in obedience to an irresistible law. If you are not afraid of the language ot Bacon and Milton, you may say that this law is an idea in the mind of God, which he has called on his Englishmen to carry out in their national life. Anyhow it is a law.

Foster. One question more. I have heard you tell more than one meeting that the ballot is secret beyond doubt; but what do you say of its morality ?

Squire. I have often wished to deal with that point while speaking, or in one of our leaflets, but, like Mr. Parker, have always been deterred by the fear I should make that darker which was dark enough without. The question is one of casuistry, a science, or an art, in which I have little,skill.

Foster. Casuistry has, no doubt, a bad sound, like sophistry and Jesuitism ; yet, if the case be really one of conscience, it must be possible as well as desirable to find some solution of it; and so he must have thought who founded a professorship of casuistry and moral philosophy combined at Cambridge.

Squire. Grote and John Mill had been all their lives in favor of the ballot ; but when it was at last carried they were found in the other camp. The intimidation of the shopkeepers by their customers in the great towns, for which the ballot had been demanded by the older Radicals, had almost died out; and it was therefore surely better to retain the more manly form of open voting. And there are still politicians of the study rather than of the marketplace, who insist on the loss of manliness in secret voting, and who overlook the facts obvious to all who remember the elections by open voting, and know that but for the ballot the voting must be carried on under the protection of soldiers as well as police, or there would be serious rioting.

Foster. Whatever the manliness of open voting under such protection, I think that without it there could be only the traditional manliness of Donnybrook Fair. But what of the farm laborers and the village shopkeepers in the counties ? We have lately heard and seen evidence enough of the great pressure, call it legitimate or undue, put upon these classes by the squires, the parsons, the farmers, and even by their fellowworkmen. It is at their peril if they do not promise their vote to the candidate for whom it is demanded. Ought they to keep that promise when given ?

Squire. I might put you off with some of the old stories of the rustic humorists and their evasions of the question how they had voted : as when one said that when the friends of the red candidate had solicited his vote he had pleased them by his answer; he had no less pleased the Primrose Dame by what be promised her; and when he went to the poll he pleased himself. Or when another told his story thus : “ When the blues asked for my vote, I promised it to them ; then I promised it to the reds when they canvassed me ; and w hen I got into the polling-place by myself, I said ‘ Conscience forever ! ’ shut my eyes, and made a cross somewhere on the paper, and Heaven only knows how I voted.”But I am afraid this will hardly answer your question.

Foster. Not quite. I think no one can read the clauses of the Ballot Act without seeing that the act intends and provides not only that it shall be unlawful for any man to try to find out how another has voted, but also that the voter shall be able to mislead and deceive the man who does make tlie attempt. But is such deception moral as well as legal?

Squire. If the voter’s position is such that he incurs only some social disfavor among his neighbors if he does not deceive them as to his vote, we should only pity his cowardice ; but if he is a poor man, a laborer or a small shopkeeper, who will really lose his work, or the custom on which his livelihood depends, if he is known to have voted against the will of his employer or customer, the case is very different. Should he have no wife or child, he will no doubt take the manlier and the better course if he defies the intimidator and takes the consequence of refusing to say how he voted, though I, at least, will not say that every man is to be condemned who has not the courage to be a martyr. But if martyrdom is the nobler course when the sacrifice is only of the man himself, what if it includes his wife and children ? We know the horrible story of the Scottish Covenanter who was urged to recant, by the torture, not of himself, but of his child stretched on the rack before his eyes. I cannot think that a man is called to endure such martyrdom as that. I say that all the guilt, not part of it, lies on the head of the questioner ; and the voter who is asked how he voted, and knows that the ruin of his wife and children hangs on his answer, not only has a moral right to deceive the man who asks the question, but ought to deceive him.

Foster. Even to telling a direct lie ? I do not know why it is, but we always seem to make a distinction betwen a lie and an evasion, and to shrink from telling a lie, even while we think ourselves justified in resorting to an evasion which we mean to have the exact effect of the lie.

Squire. It is an instinct, or a habit, which keeps us out of much mischief in ordinary life, though the gospel seems to declare that the state of the heart is to be looked to, rather than the outward deed. And here the motive is good, though the act is not so. People who sit comfortably in their armchairs and condemn the wickedness of the poor man who tells his employer a lie as to the way he voted do not look at the whole case. The Constitution gives the man a vote, and it is his clear duty to use it, and that in accordance with his own judgment who is the right man to vote for. It is a plain question of conscience. He is bound to vote, and to vote according to his own belief as to the right side. If his wife and children are not to lose the daily bread which he earns for them, he must promise his employer that he will vote against his conscience. He makes the promise. Is he bound to keep it or to break it ? By the wrongful act of his employer or customer, he has been put in a position in which he must do wrong either way; which course does his conscience require him to take ? On the one hand, he must not only break his original promise, but by any further lie which may be needful conceal the fact that he has broken it ; on the other hand, he will have failed in his duty to his country and his fellowcitizens by voting for the man whom he believes not to be the right one. It is a hard case of conscience. The man in the comfortable armchair will most likely tell you that it. is very easy. To tell a lie, or series of lies, to an actual employer is a plainly wicked act, though the conduct of him who requires it cannot be defended. But to be false to the duty you owe your country is only to he false to a dim, far-off abstraction; and it is surely pardonable to do this as the lesser of the two evils ? I cannot think so. Luther preached against what the reformers called the righteousness of the law, warning the anxious seeker after that righteousness that he must beware that the devil does not get possession of his conscience, and so make him hear the devil’s voice when he thinks he is hearing that of God. It. is a hard case, not to be lightly settled by us who are not called to the responsibility of a decision for ourselves. Mrs. Gaskell, the most moral and most Christian of our novelists, has a tale which might be called The Duty of Telling Lies. And I often think of that story of the Jacobite laird who was saved from the gallows by the false swearing of his old servant, who, when he was afterwards asked by his master how he, a God-fearing man, could have declared to such falsehoods in God’s presence, replied, “ I would rather trust my soul with the Lord than your body with the Whigs.”

Foster. “ Splendide mendax, et in omne virgo nobilis ævum. ’

Squire. After all, our illustrations do not run on all fours with the thing illustrated. May it ever remain dishonest to an Englishman to tell a lie. But, “Woe to him through whom the offence cometh.”

Edward Strachey.