Lloyd George and the Coup d'État

I

THE fall of the Asquith Ministry and the accession of Mr. Lloyd George to supreme power is a momentous event in more senses than one. It expresses a phase of anxiety in regard to the war that is new, general, and very deeply felt. Neither Parliament nor the country, it is true, had any direct part in the crisis that led to the bouleversement. The disruption came from within the Cabinet, but it could not have succeeded had there not been both in Parliament and in the country a general sense of disquiet.

That disquiet was the inevitable consequence of the singular turn of events which followed on the intervention of Roumania in the war. The uninterrupted story of failure on the part of the Allies in 1915 had been followed in 1916 by an almost equally uninterrupted story of success. The German failure at Verdun, the Austrian failure in the Trentino, the Russian advance in Galicia, and the Anglo-French offensive on the Somme seemed together to give an absolute assurance of ultimate and even speedy victory. The Central Powers, to all appearance, were at last securely held. The Allies had overtaken them in equipment and more than overtaken them in man-power; the pressure of British sea-power was exercising an increasing influence upon the economic position of Germany, and all the evidence went to show that the temper of the enemy had been seriously lowered. The announcement that Roumania, after trembling on the brink of war for nearly two years, had at last joined the Allies seemed to complete the hopefulness of the outlook. When Roumania comes in, said every one, the end will be in sight. And for a moment the forecast seemed assured of fulfillment. The advance into Transylvania apparently added a new and formidable threat to the Central Powers, and the retirement of Bulgaria from the struggle was anticipated, nowhere so strongly as in Roumania itself. But the promise was extraordinarily delusive. There is no doubt that Roumania intervened in a rather headlong fashion, on her own initiative, with her own strategic conceptions, and at a moment when the Germans, after checking the Russian advance in Galicia, were in a position to release men and material for the Roumanian theatre.

Hindenburg, who at this moment superseded Falkenhayn as head of the German General Staff, seized his opportunity with a masterly grip. He had always been the advocate of a policy of action in the East and of defense in the West, and with the German failure at Verdun he was given a free hand. He used it to crush the newcomer. Material, military, and political considerations alike sanctioned the stroke. The defeat of Roumania would make the Balkan position secure and strengthen Constantine’s hand in Greece; it would revive the drooping prestige of German arms; it would threaten the Russian left and the position of Russia on the Black Sea, and it would give Germany what she badly needed — new supplies of corn and oil. The stroke was brilliantly planned and brilliantly executed. It created a profound reaction in the mind of England, which had come to regard the tide of the war as having finally turned. At the same time, the renewal of the submarine campaign on a new and more menacing plan added to the public disquiet, and the general complaint that the government were slow to act gathered volume and impetus and prepared the way for Mr. Lloyd George’s coup.

That that coup had been long contemplated is matter of common knowledge. In the early months of the war Mr. George, like all the statesmen and politicians, had been overshadowed by the prestige of Lord Kitchener; but with the ‘shell’ episode of May, 1915, he emerged into prominence as the active and bustling spirit of the struggle. His genius accommodated itself to a world in convulsion more readily than that of any of his colleagues. That world gave him the conditions of free action which appealed most to a mind imperious, wayward, empirical, impatient of tradition and restraint. During the four years preceding the war he had made politics in England a thrilling and unprecedented drama of action. The impetus of ins genius, at once emotional, supple, and incalculable, had swept the Liberal chariot out of its traditional path across new and virgin territory. The old school, attached to their doctrines and their principles, watched the astonishing adventurer with admiration qualified by many disquiets; but the agility of the performer overcame all resistance. It was the very necromancy of politics.

But the disquiets continued, and there were plenty who saw party disruption approaching. Mr. George saw it more clearly than any one. He hated the restraints of party and his impatient sciolism chafed under the dominance of theories, precedents, and tradition, His political heroes were the adventurers like Chamberlain, the rude invaders of the comfortable parlors of thought, not the Burkes and Gladstones who reverenced the past and saw society as an august growth of liberty, widening out from precedent to precedent, but always true to the spirit of its ancient root. His touch with historic Liberalism was casual and superficial, the product of his Welsh upbringing, of the hatred of a village boy brought up under the shadow of an agrarian tyranny, and of a Nonconformist resentment against the pretensions of a privileged Church. It was alien alike to the Whiggism of Burke and the modern conceptions of Liberalism of which Charles James Fox was the author and inspirer. It was equally remote from the doctrinairism of the Socialists. Anything like theory, in short, was the very east wind to his spirit of impulsive opportunism, and it was observed during the fiscal controversy that he was the least convinced and least convincing exponent among the Liberals of the free-trade position which rested upon a foundation of economic thought and upon principles rather than expedients. In a word, his conception of politics was revolutionary and empirical, and it was characteristic of him that the one historical period on which his mind dwelt was the French Revolution, particularly the years from 1793 to 1797.

Even before the war there had been much speculation about a new alignment of parties, the break-up of the old party system, and the emergence of a new National Party which was to be neither Tory nor Liberal, neither Socialist nor Monopolist, but a mixture of all interests, based on practical necessities and bargainings rather than upon principles, with ‘ business’ as its watchword and activism as its driving wheel. Mr. George and Mr. Churchill were known to be coquetting with this idea, though it seemed only an academic exercise of adventurous and wayward minds.

But the war made the idea a practical possibility. I think there is no doubt that, almost from the beginning, Mr. George was seized with the notion of scrapping the old party system and creating out of the debris a new engine of political activity of which he would be the natural expression and director. The obstacle in the path was the Old Guard of the Liberal Party, of which Mr. Asquith, Sir Edward Grey, and Lord Haldane were the representative figures. They must be removed if the Liberal Party was to be thrown into the melting-pot and the way made clear for a new political dispensation. Given the purpose and a willingness to use any means to achieve it, the circumstances of the tune made it relatively easy of accomplishment. Burke once said that to tax and be popular was as impossible as to love and be wise. Certainly, to govern in war-time and be popular is an achievement which is unthinkable in a democratic society.

In the early stages of the war the agitations and alarms were too insistent for much internal conflict, and the Liberal government, by general consent, dealt with an unprecedented situation with great success.

But with the ‘shell’ episode and the conflict at the Admiralty between Lord Fisher and Mr. Churchill over the Dardanelles the signs of disruption appeared. Behind the apparent conflicts, the real conflict was becoming visible to the farsighted. It was a conflict between Mr. Asquith and Mr. George. In such a conflict waged in such an atmosphere of rumors, alarms, and passions, the odds were all in favor of the younger man. Mr. Asquith was singularly detached and aloof from the popular mind. He neither used the press, nor placated it. He was the least demonstrative man who ever appealed to a democracy, and was not so much indifferent to the limelight as contemptuous of it. Mr. George, on the other hand, had an extraordinary popular genius, used the press with great skill, had an incomparable gift of réclame, and was always in the public eye and on the crest of every wave. He had already come into touch with Lord Northcliffe, and all the enormous engine which the press monopolist controlled began to work against the government. The government fell, but the end aimed at was not achieved. Mr. Asquith did not resign, but reconstructed his Cabinet on the basis of a coalition. In that Coalition he included representative men of all parties. He was dominated by the single idea of preserving the unity of the country in the face of the enemy, and the measure of his devotion to that idea may be gathered from the fact that he consented to exclude from his Cabinet his life-long friend Lord Haldane, on whom an attack of peculiar virulence and malevolence had been concentrated.

The meaning of that attack was not obscure. The historic Liberal Party rested, as has been said, upon a triumvirate consisting of Mr. Asquith, Sir Edward Grey, and Lord Haldane. If the party was to go, the triumvirate must be broken up, and Lord Haldane was chosen as the subject of attack because he was the most vulnerable. He had had intellectual sympathies with German philosophy and German methods in the past, and it was easy to travesty those sympathies and to organize a mob campaign against him on the ground that he was a proGerman. It was calculated that, if he fell, Sir Edward Grey, who was his most devoted friend, would go with him. Mr. Asquith yielded to the clamor, and we know now that Sir Edward Grey wished to retire. Had he gone, Mr. Asquith could hardly have survived, and the object of the attack would have been accomplished at once. Sir Edward Grey, however, finally consented to continue in office and the Coalition started, apparently with every prospect of public approval.

But that prospect hardly survived a day. The new government was instantly subjected by the Northcliffe press to a ceaseless and reckless attack, directed now against this member of the Coalition, now against that, but always against those who were known to be Asquith men. Even the Conservatives, like Mr. Balfour and Mr. Bonar Law, did not escape, for they had committed the unforgivable offense of falling under the influence which the magnanimous and public-spirited attitude of Mr. Asquith exercised over his colleagues. Once the attack o’er-leaped itself. Lord Northcliffe measured swords with Lord Kitchener and came instantly to grief. But the campaign against the government within and without the House was not checked. As Mr. Duke, a responsible and respected member of the House of Commons, observed, every afternoon produced a new cabal and every other day a new crisis. No weapon was too gross to use against the government, no disaster too serious to be exploited for the same end, no position too delicate to be outraged for a placard and a headline. The trick of learning what the government intended to do in this direction or that, then raising a loud clamor for it, and, when it was accomplished, claiming a new victory over the ‘wobblers,’ was employed with astonishing unscrupulousness.

Mr. Asquith staggered on with his vast burden. His patience was unfailing; his determination to keep the government together survived every new assault. It has been said truly enough that he failed to deal with the press terrorism, and that, failing to deal with it, his fall was inevitable. But he knew that if he suppressed Lord Northcliffe he would have to face an open rupture with Mr. George, whose association with the great newspaper-owner was now notorious. Mr. Asquith would not face that rupture. He was convinced that it would be fatal and that it would lead to disruption in the country, to the growth of faction, the strengthening of all the anti-war influences, and fatal reactions on the solidarity, not only of the nation, but of the Allies. It was this fear, joined to his habitual scorn of the press, that through nearly eighteen months allowed his enemies an undisputed field of operations.

They had ample material for their task. The waging of war is always a gamble with the unknown, and even the most triumphant war is only a balance between great successes and great failures, in regard to which a just verdict cannot be delivered until the last shot has been fired. The possibilities of failure in the present war were on an unprecedented scale. The Allies were geographically separated; their interests were extraordinarily diverse; their forms of government ranged from autocracy to republicanism. No power was in the position, as in the case of the Central Empires, to impose its strategy and its will on its Allies. There were innumerable failures due to these causes, and all of them, no matter who was responsible, were visited on the government, or rather on that section of the government which stood by Mr. Asquith.

Take the case of Greece. The Allies have had throughout the war no more fatal stumbling-block than Constantine. The extent to which he has deflected the course of events cannot be overestimated, and it is one of the unsolved mysteries of the war why he was treated with such amazing toleration. When the facts can be revealed, it will be found that it was not England which feared a republic in Greece; but it was Sir Edward Grey who bore all the odium attaching to the license allowed to Constantine. Mrs. Pankhurst’s sandwich-women paraded Palace Yard daily with venomous attacks on the Foreign Minister, and we had the amazing spectacle of anti-government processions organized by that lady out of funds supplied by the Ministry of Munitions, and passing along the Embankment or Whitehall to the salutations of Mr. Lloyd George.

But these powerful undercurrents were overborne by the events of the spring and summer. Mr. Asquith seemed to bear a charmed life. His dominion over the House of Commons remained unchallenged; and the confidence of the country, especially of the working classes, in his plain undemonstrative character survived the daily avalanche of vituperation. After each crisis he was found standing erect and triumphant. It is true that he was always yielding ground that the Liberals reverenced, as on the conscription issue, but he yielded it so obviously only at the challenge of political or military necessity, that he carried with him the main body of Liberal and Labor opinion. With the apparent success of the attack on the Somme it seemed that at last the government had passed into relatively calm waters. The death of Lord Kitchener had opened the way for Mr. George to the War Secretaryship, and it was felt that in this new office his energies would find a sufficient field for their exercise. But it soon became apparent that all was not well and that a new storm was brewing. And, significantly enough, at this moment it was found necessary to commandeer the National Liberal Club for war purposes. This action created a profound sensation. The National Liberal Club was unlike any other institution in London. It was not so much a club as the central ganglion of the Liberal Party in the whole country. Its fall seemed like the shutting up of the power-house of the great organization which had been the active force in the making of modern England.

Then, with the tragic reverse of fortune in Roumania, — which, according to formula, was duly attributed to Sir Edward (now Viscount) Grey and Mr. Asquith, — and the concern at the new submarine menace, the storm burst. It would be absurd to suggest that there were no grounds of honest complaint and even alarm. The machinery for conducting the war was still lacking in rapidity; there were delays in arriving at decisions, conflicts between this minister and that, this department and that. All this, shouted in headlines and on placards, and directed against the Prime Minister and his Liberal colleagues, prepared the way for the coup. It came with startling suddenness. On Friday, December 1, there was a meeting between Mr. George, Mr. Bonar Law, Lord Northcliffe, and one other newspaper proprietor, at which it was decided that the moment to strike had come. Mr. Bonar Law’s position in the affair was equivocal. He did not want the government to fall, but he is a timid man, overawed by Sir Edward Carson, who was always able to threaten him with the withdrawal of Conservative support to his remaining in the Coalition, and he took the plunge as the easiest way out of an impossible situation.

The decision once made, events were developed with Mr. George’s characteristic intrepidity. The point of attack chosen was the War Council, its constitution and its powers. Again, obsessed with the idea of unity, Mr. Asquith made large concessions to his colleagues, and the interview on Sunday between the two ended, on the part of the Prime Minister, in the conviction that an accommodation had been reached. But when he opened the Times on Monday morning Mr. Asquith saw a construction put upon the agreement which shocked him and made him realize that no settlement had been reached. The Times was obviously inspired; it indicated that the Prime Minister had been practically obliterated. Mr. Asquith drew Mr. George’s attention to the Times leader and pointed out that its contents showed it to be inspired. Mr. George replied that he had not seen the leader, and disclaimed any authority over Lord Northcliffe. That (Monday) afternoon in the House of Commons a question was addressed to Mr. Asquith about the ‘Food Dictator.’ Mr. Asquith said he knew of no such title. Then he paused and added, ‘I do not like the word dictator.’ The action, the pause, the words, startled the House. Mr. Asquith is such a master of precise meanings that the significance of the remark could not be misunderstood. It was felt that the end had come. Within an hour Mr. George had resigned. Mr. Bonar Law and his Conservative colleagues met and agreed that they must resign, too. That night Mr. Asquith placed his resignation in the hands of the King.

The coup was perfectly timed. The reaction from the confident hopes of the summer and early autumn had reached its lowest ebb with the spectacular advance of Mackensen in Roumania. The general public did not realize that that adventure was a forlorn hope, a desperate attempt to create by a dazzling triumph a favorable atmosphere for an offer of peace. In high places that offer had been expected, and the manner of its reception had been the subject of discussion and sharp controversy in governing circles for some time. But the general public did not know this and could not know. Had they known, there could have been no crisis. Had the coup been delayed a week there would have been no coup, for within a week the whole sky had changed. Within a week Germany had asked for peace negotiations. Within a week the world knew that the patient, far-sighted policy which Mr. Asquith and Lord Grey had pursued in the face of an infamous campaign of misrepresentation and artificial pessimism had come within sight of victory. Mr. Lloyd George had snatched the helm from his captain at the last moment when that achievement was possible.

Perhaps the severest comment on that achievement was made by the Spectator, which throughout the war has ably represented the sanest and most responsible judgment of the nation. It took the form of a quotation, and the art of quotation was never used with more effect. The passage quoted by the editor in addressing Mr. George was the following extract from Lincoln’s famous letter to General Hooker: —

I have placed you at the head of the Army. Of course, I have done this upon what appear to me to be sufficient reasons, and yet I think it best for you to know that there are some things in regard to which I am not quite satisfied with you. You have confidence in yourself, which is a valuable, if not an indispensable, quality. You are ambitious, which, within reasonable bounds, does good rather than harm; but I think that during your predecessor’s command, you have taken counsel of your ambition, and thwarted him as much as you could, in which you did a great wrong to the country and to a most meritorious and honorable brother-officer.

I have heard, in such a way as to believe it, of your recently saying that both the Army and the Government needed a dictator. Of course, it was not for this, but in spite of it, that I have given you the command. Only those who gain successes can set up dictators. What I now ask of you is success, and I will risk the dictatorship.

I much fear that the spirit, which you have aided to infuse into the Army, of criticizing their commander and withholding confidence from him, will now turn upon you. I shall assist you as far as I can to put it down. Neither you nor Napoleon, if he were alive again, could get any good out of an army while such a spirit prevails in it. And now beware of rashness. Beware of rashness, but with energy and sleepless vigilance go forward and give us victories.

The Spectator added no comment, and none was needed, for every word of that immortal letter rang like a word of unanswerable judgment.

II

The request of the King to Mr. Bonar Law to form a ministry was, of course, only a formality. He was the leader of the Conservative Party, but he did not command a majority of the House; and in the absence of the support of his late Liberal colleagues he wisely declined to invite the fate of the government that had fallen. The crisis had been the work of Mr. George and Lord Northcliffe, and the fruits of the victory must go to them. Mr. George promptly accepted the King’s invitation, and formed a ministry on a plan unknown to the Constitution and out of materials of an extraordinarily disparate kind. It included none of his Liberal colleagues in the late Cabinet. Only one of them (Mr. Herbert Samuel) was asked to serve, and he preferred to follow Mr. Asquith into opposition, to exercise, not a hostile, but a friendly criticism of the new government. But some of the minor offices were distributed among unofficial Liberals. In the same way the sanction of Labor was secured by large promises of reform, the creation of a Ministry of Labor, a pledge as to the representation of Labor at the Peace Conference, and an increase of ministerial appointments for Labor members. The Labor Party vote on the question of the acceptance of office was so close as to spell the disruption of the organization. The war had severely tried its unity, and the acceptance of Mr. George’s bid made its dissolution inevitable. The disruption of the Liberal Party was less complete. The party organization, the Liberal press, and the main body in the House remained with Mr. Asquith and his colleagues, but there was a sufficient withdrawal to mean future weakness.

Meanwhile Mr. George’s idea of smashing the party system and constructing out of the débris, not a coalition, but a National ministry — nonpolitical, with a strong ‘business’ element and with an entirely empirical attitude to affairs — had the inevitable effect of enormously rehabilitating the party to which he had been opposed and of which he had been the most dreaded enemy. His Liberal and Labor supporters were only camp-followers. The business men he brought in — Lord Rhondda, Lord Devonport, Sir Albert Stanley— are mere departmental heads and will have no influence on policy. The appointments of Mr. H. A. L. Fisher, Principal of Sheffield University, to the Board of Education, and of Mr. R. E. Prothero to the Board of Agriculture are excellent selections, but they have no relation to the larger issues of the war or of government. For all practical purposes the new government is a Conservative government presided over by a Radical. All the commanding positions are held by Conservatives. Mr. George’s colleagues in the War Council are Lord Milner, Lord Curzon, Mr. Bonar Law, and Mr. Henderson. The last-named, it is true, is a Labor representative, but it is no disrespect to him to say that he is not a serious balancing force against his colleagues. Sir Edward Carson is the First Lord of the Admiralty, Lord Derby the War Secretary, Mr. Balfour (whose exclusion from the old War Council was one of Mr. George’s main points in the crisis) the Foreign Secretary, and Lord Robert Cecil the Minister of Blockade. No other positions mattered, and it will be seen that, apart from Mr. Henderson and Mr. George himself, the Conservatives hold all the keys of power. The continuance in office of Mr. Balfour and Lord Robert Cecil furnishes the mystery of the combination. They had fought hard to keep the Coalition together, they had been notoriously Asquith men; they had been bitterly attacked by the Northcliffe press. The announcement that they were in the new government brought out the Press King against them.

HOW TO LOSE THE WAR MR. BALFOUR AND LORD ROBERT CECIL

were the headlines of the Daily Mail, and we seemed, even before the new government was well formed, to be threatened with a revival of all the old savageries. Then the campaign ceased as suddenly as it had begun. What had happened? By what miracle had the muzzle been put on that loud and vulgar mouth ?

But it is the appointment of Lord Milner which most clearly indicates the character of the new government. There has been no more ominous figure in British public life in this generation than this able and solitary man. Born in Germany, of mixed German and English ancestry; bred in Germany, with close German affiliations, he came to England and created a considerable reputation at Oxford. Hard, unteachable, indoctrinated with the Prussian conception of Imperialism, his career has been a record of tragic failures. He has the Prussian passion for intellectual freedom, allied to the Prussian hatred for political freedom— its scorn of the humanities and its love of the machine and the iron hand. South Africa has been said to be the grave of reputations, but the political tomb of Lord Milner towers there over all the rest. Every forecast he made was false, every act of policy he initiated prolonged and embittered the war; the scheme for introducing Chinese labor into the mines ended in a violent repudiation by the conscience of the whole world; his attempt to overwhelm the native population with an inundation of English settlers ended in a costly failure. When the war was over he was the bitterest foe in the House of Lords of Campbell-Bannerman’s policy of reconciliation and self-government — a policy that was destined to have a miraculous justification. In the great internal struggle that began with the Budget of 1909 he was among the most extreme of the ‘ wild men ’ in the Lords, and it was he who uttered the mandate to that body to throw out the Budget and ‘damn the consequences.’ No reputation seemed to be more finally extinguished; but he represented all the extreme elements of reaction, was the idol of the Morning Post and the Northcliffe press; and his selection as one of the two chief lieutenants of Mr. George is the most startling indication of the true meaning of the coup and the direction of Mr. George’s mind.

The third figure in the triumvirate (for Mr. Law is to be only an occasional member of the War Cabinet, doing ‘ sentry duty at the door, ’ as Mr. George said, and Mr. Henderson is little more than a lay figure) is not less eloquent of the character of the new Administration. Lord Curzon is a man of great capacity and industry, but he is an Imperialist of the most autocratic type, and his viceroyalty in India, in spite of much capable paternalism, reduced the dependency to a state bordering on rebellion. The partition of Bengal was an act of unprecedented provocation, conceived in the spirit of what Charles James Fox called that devil’s maxim of government ’ — Divide et impera. It was only by the repudiation of that policy that Lord Morley and Lord Hardinge restored the confidence of India in the good faith of British rule. Yet Lord Curzon’s Imperialism is less morbid and doctrinaire than that of Lord Milner. It is informed by the English rather t han the Prussian spirit, is not inaccessible to ideas, or entirely without the note of humanity.

But even more significant than the personnel of the new Cabinet is the daring departure which Mr. George has made in its relation to Parliament and the machine of government. He has not only concentrated the executive power in the hands of the triumvirate: he has divorced the triumvirate alike from Parliament and the administrative departments. None of The Three is responsible for the conduct of any great administrative office. M. Briand has reformed his War Cabinet in France and has diminished its numbers, but the members of it still represent the chief departments of the State. In the new British War Cabinet, on the other hand, neither the War Minister, nor the Foreign Minister, nor the First Lord of the Admiralty has a seat, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer has only an occasional seat. They will be invited to be present when their opinion is wanted, but apparently they will have no part in formulating policy. Yet that policy must necessarily conform to the needs, interests, aims, and capacities of the various departments, considered not in isolation, but collectively as parts of one instrument of power. No doubt there were delays and conflicts in the past, owing to the rival demands and necessities of the various departments. Those delays and conflicts irritated the impatient spirit of Mr. George. He has sought to obliterate them by separating the Executive from the departments, and the departments from themselves, but it remains to be seen whether he has not obliterated a wholesome symptom of trouble rather than the trouble itself. The clash of the departmental interests will remain; what will disappear is their effective expression, their power of coördinating themselves for a common purpose by mutual hammering, discussion, and agreement.

Mr. George’s idea of a war cabinet is a court which shall call witnesses and issue edicts without regard to this department or that. The Cabinet is not a cabinet at all in the constitutional sense. It is a directorate. It will work in isolation from the machine. The chief engineers will be outside the door, and they will not be expected to collaborate. They will work in watertight compartments, although, as Mr. George jocularly observed in his speech in the House of Commons, they may qualify their separateness by ’a weekly dinner.’ Not only are The Three divorced from the departments and the departments from themselves, but Parliament is divorced from both. None of the triumvirate will appear in the House of Commons, for Mr. George has intimated that all his time will be occupied with the War Cabinet. The sole means of intercourse between the Directorate and Parliament is Mr. Law, the in-and-out member of the Cabinet. who will lead in the House of Commons. Again one is compelled to leave Mr. Henderson out of the calculation. The heads of the departments, it is true, will still sit in Parliament and answer questions, but they will no longer speak with the authority of the Cabinet. They will appear as departmental officials working under the instructions of the Directorate, responsible for the efficiency of their particular enginerooms, but having no concern with the larger issues of government, or the correlation of the parts to the whole.

In these circumstances, it would seem that the influence of Parliament upon the Executive is completely paralyzed. That influence during the war has been sufficiently small, for the British Parliament has nothing comparable with the French system of Parliamentary commissions, before which the heads of the departments have to appear and explain details of policy which cannot be discussed in the open Chamber. But with the concentration of power in the hands of a directorate, with the reduction of the heads of departments to the status of work managers, and with the absenteeism of the only men who really matter, it would seem that Parliament as an instrument of government is obliterated. It is simply a discussion class. There has been no such daring experiment in government in Great Britain since Cromwell set up his system of major-generals. It has arisen out of circumstances of unprecedented public anxiety, and at the inspiration of a politician of equally unprecedented audacity. But the great fact for democracy is that it could not have been made without the driving power of a press campaign of unbridled ferocity. Mr. Asquith has been dethroned and Mr. George reigns in his stead by virtue of the will of Lord Northcliffe. A throne occupied on such a tenure will not be a comfortable seat. As a war measure, Mr. George’s experiment will be judged on its merits. As a political tour de force it will have its place in history. But the great currents of national life have not been diverted; and Parliament, the Constitution, and even the party system, will in due time assume their authority in the nation.