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with great loss in men and stores; nor did the fact that there was no Sedan really detract from the brilliancy of the victory. What that victory meant has now been proved by one of the greatest and most sanguinary engagements which history records. The Czar and his advisers, distracted by the prolonged series of misfortunes which the Russian army has encountered since the beginning of the conflict, seem to have been in sore doubt after the loss of Liao-yang as to their proper policy. There were serious disagreements at St. Petersburg as to the chief command of the forces in the Far East. Both Alexeieff and Kuropatkin were threatened with disgrace, and it was even hinted that a Grand Duke was to be appointed as Generalissimo in Asia. In the end, however, saner counsels prevailed, and Kuropatkin was retained in his post, but apparently on one condition. That was, that, instead of retreating to Harbin, he should reorganise his army, which had been heavily reinforced, at Mukden, and, taking the offensive, attack the Japanese in their positions around Liao-yang. It was candidly admitted by friends of the Russian Government that political reasons made this change of tactics necessary. The open pretext was the desperate state of Port Arthur. The real reason seems to have been the unpopularity of the war in Russia itself, where even the peasants have revolted against a diet of continuous defeats. But, whatever may have been the real reason for the abandonment by General Kuropatkin of his defensive policy, and his attempt to turn the tide of victory which had so long rolled in favour of the Japanese by an attack upon the latter in their entrenchments, the movement has failed most completely. The Japanese have not been driven back; on the contrary, they have forced the huge army of Russia once more to retire. It is perfectly true that, both in attacking the Japanese positions and in guarding their own retreat, the Russians have shown an admirable valour and resolution. Not since the great Napoleonic wars has there been any fighting like that which was witnessed at the battle of Sha-ho-a battle which lasted for more than a week, and in which the casualties amounted to scores of thousands. But, bravely as they fought, the Muscovites were both out-fought and out-generalled by the foe whom they can no longer despise. The terrific engagement ended in the retirement of the whole Russian army, with losses so prodigious that even the spectators in the outside world stand aghast at the tale. Where the story of bloodshed and defeat may end it is impossible at the moment at which I write to say. The accounts of the operations which have reached Europe are meagre and confused. We can only guess at the demoralisation which must afflict the beaten army, unless it is unlike any other army the world has ever known. We may admire the obstinacy with which it contests every inch of ground with the victorious enemy. There is, indeed, no reason to utter a word of disparagement of either of the combatants.
But facts are even more stubborn than Russian courage; and the main fact in the history of the month, so far as the war is concerned, is that General Kuropatkin's onward movement against the foe has not only been checked, but reversed, and that the chief question with regard to his army is at what point the retreat forced upon it will be stayed, and an attempt made to reconstitute its shattered organisation. The advantages gained here and there on the immense battlefield by the Russian army, though not unimportant so far as their moral effect is concerned, cannot outweigh the great victories achieved by Japan, and Sha-ho cannot be regarded as anything but a crushing Russian defeat. Its political effects cannot at present be calculated. The stake of Russia in the conflict is of such vital importance to her that it seems hopeless to expect that she will accept the verdict of the stricken field, even after her recent disasters; yet, to the eye of the expert it seems impossible that she can retrieve the situation in which she is now placed. But her resources are not exhausted, and it is bare justice to her to admit that her spirit is unbroken. We cannot, therefore, anticipate that the horrors of recent weeks, which, to use Mr. Kruger's phrase,' stagger humanity,' will induce the Czar and his Ministers to seek for some way of escape from a tragical situation. As for the idea of mediation, it receives no countenance from either of the belligerents, and the end of the bloodiest struggle of modern times is evidently not yet in sight.
The death of Sir William Harcourt is an event that deserves more than merely passing notice in these pages. He had played for so many years so prominent a part in English politics that his sudden removal has created an unmistakable blank even in the minds of those who were not to be counted among his admirers. There is no more wholesome feature in the public life of England than the readiness with which men unite to praise a political opponent when the hand of death removes him from the arena. It is as though they wished to testify to the fact that political differences are, after all, only skin deep, and that men can do justice to each other in spite of them. Certainly this characteristic has been very conspicuous in the case of Sir William Harcourt. His most outspoken and vehement antagonists in Parliament have been the foremost in deploring his loss and commending his virtues, whilst journals which a few months ago could only speak of him in terms of almost brutal —and entirely undeserved—contempt have lauded his memory to the skies. Apart, however, from these elegiac tributes from his opponents, Sir William must be counted happy in the moment of his death. The great fighter passed away in his sleep, leaving behind him no sad memories of the sick-bed. He died in the house which had been the home of his race for generations, and of which, at the close of his life, he found himself the owner, whilst his impending
retirement from Parliament, which only a few months ago he notified to his constituents, had stilled the voice of controversy, and given him a foretaste of the deeper peace into which he has now entered. His was a curiously complex character, and it was one which had so important a bearing upon the political history of his time that it would be unfair both to him and to his contemporaries to be content with the mere acceptance of the panegyrical commonplaces of an obituary notice. No one ever questioned his ability. Long before he entered Parliament he was a conspicuous figure in society and the legal world. His reputation as a wit stood as high forty years ago as it did at the time of his death. As a matter of fact, he was one of the recognised brilliant talkers' of London
When the circle of diners is laughing with Fane,
Nobody imagined, when this couplet was written, that the Harcourt of the dinner-table was to become one of the idols of the Radicals, in days more Radical than any that were then dreamed of. He made his real mark, however, by his work on the Saturday Review and the letters of Historicus' in the Times. In writing to myself, some years ago, he used a happy phrase. “Youth, he said, “is the age of Wegotism ;' and no young man ever wielded the thunders of the journalist more effectively than he did.
It was something of a surprise to the world at large when people learned that · Historicus' was Mr. Vernon Harcourt. The air of authority he assumed could not have been greater if he had been a septuagenarian. But, despite this affectation, his letters were both sound and brilliant, and did something to redeem the character of the English upper classes in their treatment of the controversies connected with the American Civil War. It seems strange that a man so gifted and so conspicuously able should not have been universally popular; but, as is proved by a well-worn anecdote of forty years ago, the contrary was the case. When he got into Parliament, in 1868, high expectations were formed of him by men of all parties. It was a surprise to some that he should have adopted with so much thoroughness the Radical creed, but I think it distinctly unfair to attribute to him anything like insincerity in doing so. The Tory party of that day had been for the time broken up by the revolutionary policy of Mr. Disraeli. The Peelites had found shelter under the newly-raised Gladstonian umbrella, and the Whigs, towards whom natural affinities might otherwise have drawn him, were manifestly effete. Radicalism, on the other hand, was a living faith, well calculated to enlist the sympathies of a comparatively young man who wished to find himself abreast of the times. It was not, it must be borne in mind, the Radicalism of to-day. Its leaders were such men as Bright, Forster, Stansfeld, and John Stuart Mill;
and these were men with whom even Mr. Vernon Harcourt might be proud to be associated. It was my good fortune to hear his maiden speech, and I can well recall the interest that was excited by his first appearance in the arena in which he was to play so conspicuous a part. But, speaking after the lapse of more than thirty years, I can also recall the fact that the prevailing opinion in the House after he had spoken was that his effort, though successful, had been too elaborate, and that he had put forth more vehemence, both in rhetoric and argument, than the occasion demanded. It was, as everybody knows, a proposal to abolish the statute of Queen Anne making the re-election of Ministers of the Crown necessary on appointment upon which he directed his formidable artillery on this occasion ; nor need I remind my readers that he was himself the first Minister in modern times to lose his seat under the provisions of the constitutional law which he defended with so much vigour. But in that maiden speech he made his mark as a Parliamentary debater, and thenceforward his rise in the opinion of the House of Commons was certain and swift. Yet even then he did not secure that absolute confidence from his fellow-members which is so essential to ultimate and abiding success. He was independent enough to take his own line, and could hardly, in those days, have been regarded as one of the elect followers of Mr. Gladstone, although before the fall of the Government of 1868 he had accepted the office of Solicitor-General. It was after the Liberal débâcle of 1874 that for the first and only time in his life he came into something like open collision with his chief. That Mr. Gladstone felt his action keenly was proved by the severity of the castigation that he inflicted upon the honourable gentleman who was, I believe, my SolicitorGeneral,' on the floor of the House of Commons. The scene made a deep impression upon all who witnessed it, and in no case was that impression deeper than in that of Sir William himself. He never ran the risk of another rebuff of the same kind. Yet it is only just to him to say that the line he took in opposing Mr. Gladstone on this occasion was founded upon no petty or personal motive, but upon
that staunch adherence to the cause of Protestantism in the English Church to which he was loyal to the end of his days. Many, many years ago, I heard Mr. Bright, when discussing the Church of England, refer to some action taken by Mr. Vernon Harcourt and remark that even he, "forgetful of the rock from which he was hewn,' had been moved to protest against certain features in the Church in which his grandfather had been an archbishop. Whatever doubts men at times might feel as to Sir William's sincerity upon other questions, no one has ever ventured to doubt the genuineness of his devotion to the cause of Protestantism,
In that troubled time in the history of the Liberal party which followed Mr. Gladstone's resignation of the leadership in 1875, Sir William became one of the most active associates in the informal committee which, under the leadership of Lord Hartington, managed the affairs of Liberalism. I have seen a letter, written by Lord Granville about the time of Lord Hartington's election to the leadership, in which the veteran Earl, enumerating the difficulties of the thankless office, gave the chief place amongst them to 'Harcourt's restless ambition;' so that thus early he was proving himself to be what the French term 'a bad bedfellow' to his colleagues in the high quarters of the party. To ignore this indisputable fact would be to travesty the whole story of Sir William's career, and to leave unexplained many subsequent events. He had great gifts, and year by year, as his experience of Parliament grew, he became more and more an admired and formidable figure in that assembly. No one was happier in his power of making friends, and his public utterances, though they were more unrestrained than the older traditions of Parliamentfseemed to permit, never made him an enemy. He was a magnificent fighter, and the breath of battle was sweet in his nostrils. The Liberals justly came to regard him in time as one of their most valuable assets, and it seemed as though any honour and any office to which he aspired should be within his reach. But all the while the misfortune that made him a mauvais coucheur dogged his career, and it was this misfortune which, in the end, deprived him of the prize he coveted so eagerly. No wise man is likely to regard Sir William's inability to work smoothly with his intimate colleagues as being due to any positive vice in his nature. It was a characteristic of his temperament for which he himself could hardly be held responsible. In private life, or in private relationships with public men, he was genial, generous, and full of the spirit of goodfellowship, even though his tongue at times ran away from his discretion, stimulated by his keen love of humour and by his sense of his own undoubted intellectual powers. But in the give-and-take of Cabinets, where he had to meet men on equal terms, he was conspicuously deficient in tact. Whilst still a young politician he had not been afraid to measure swords with Mr. Gladstone, and if he never again openly entered the lists against the great man, it was probably because he had not come off victor in the sharp encounter. But nothing restrained him when dealing with men who were not Mr. Gladstone. These found in time that he was one of those very able, very accomplished, and, in the main, well-intentioned persons with whom it was almost impossible to work in mutual confidence and harmony. I have seen a great deal written since his death as to the reason of his being passed over in 1894, when the Premiership became vacant through Mr. Gladstone's resignation, and have read the old stories hashed up again of the imaginary intrigues--intrigues with the Court, intrigues with the Liberal Imperialists, intrigues