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T is a remark of John Stuart Mill's, in dealing with
the causes of human progress, “that the point in which, above all, the influence of remarkable individuals is decisive, is in determining the celerity of the movement. In most states of society it is the existence of great men which decides even whether there shall be any progress.”
A curious proof of the justice of this observation is afforded by the effect of the action of Mr. Gladstone in proposing to grant what is called "Home Rule” to Ireland. To the dispassionate observer of the course of politics it must have been long evident that a change in the relations of Great Britain and Ireland was inevitable. Mr. Gladstone has brought the question to the very front of the political battle. From being a possibility “Home Rule,” notwithstanding the result of the general election, has become a certainty. The minds of large numbers of the electors and even of thoughtful politicians have become reconciled to a change, from which a few months
ago they would have recoiled as visionary and imprudent.
That protests should be made by political opponents against the personal ascendancy of the Prime Minister, and that his motives and his character should be assailed with the grossest virulence, was only to be expected. But in fact the question whether a great concentration of power in the hands of one member of the Cabinet is or is not dangerous has nothing to do with the issue before the country. Whether. Mr. Gladstone is a false Achitophel,
“ Resolved to ruin or to rule the State,” or a great and honest statesman, the “imperial brilliance” of whose mind is fit to be “a steadfast light to England,” is irrelevant to the question whether his scheme of self-government for Ireland is a good or a bad scheme.
“The Ministers have advised and her Majesty has been pleased to sanction the dissolution of Parliament for the decision by the nation of the gravest and likewise the simplest issue which has been submitted to it for half a century.” So said Mr. Gladstone in his address to his constituents. That the issue was grave was admitted by all; that it was simple was not so readily conceded.
And yet it is quite true that, so far as the electorate was concerned, the issue was simple. Home Rule in some form corresponding to the main outlines of Mr. Gladstone's measure is even now the only practicable