Courtesy Reuters

Morley and Compromise

The Future in Retrospect

ON COMPROMISE. By John Morley. London: Chapman and Hall, 1874.

"I FELT that politics was a cursed profession," exclaimed Lord Salisbury, at a bitter moment of the rearrangement of his Ministry in 1887. His old friend Lord Iddesleigh (the former Sir Stafford Northcote), who had been scourged from the Tory leadership in the House of Commons for incompetence, and whom he had just unceremoniously removed from the Foreign Office, had come to say goodbye and dropped dead at his feet of a heart attack.

A thousand aphorisms attest to men's dismay at the harshness of political tasks. "Government is a very rough business," the dry and acute Sir George Cornewall Lewis used to say to the ardent young Gladstone. "You must be content with very unsatisfactory results." Significantly, however, Gladstone, who was to spend 61 years in the House of Commons and head four ministries, never accepted the truism, and his refusal to do so was a major source of his power. For there are two sides to the medal, and the paradoxical fact is that modern men exalt above all other professions this calling that they disparage so strongly. Political life draws a large proportion of the men whom we recognize as our best. By common consent, the chief western contributions to civilization are those which have a political cast -- legal and governmental institutions, and the unwritten laws of forbearance which make self-government possible for large groups of men. Our own era is preëminently an age of politics and political economy. There are few signs among us of a release of the spirit such as marks an age of creative activity in art and literature, or of a generation caught up in a quest for religious truth. The imagination of the era is centered upon finite and worldly problems. In particular, we are intent upon the task of establishing a new order of relationships among the groups called nations. Its immensity is suggested by our awareness that the validity of the

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