Part 10 out of 11
this date (see supra. Chapter XXVIII., pp. 446, 447).]
'On Monday, the 10th, it again seemed probable that Mr. Gladstone would
resign,' but this time it was in consequence of the loudly expressed
intention of the Lords to throw out the Arrears Bill.
Mr. Gladstone, however, decided not to go; the majority prevailed, and Sir
Charles was able to write on Monday, July 10th:
'I had now given the reply which informed the House exactly of the
steps which would be taken. Guns having been again mounted on the 9th,
the Admiral told the Commander of the troops at daylight on July 10th
of his intention to open fire on the forts at daylight on July 11th.
Exactly one month after the Alexandria riots reparation for those
riots was tardily exacted at the same spot.'
Sir Charles's personal attitude cost him some friends in France. His
brother Ashton wrote to him from La Bourboule a letter (received on July
9th), in which he said: "To judge by the French newspapers, you are as
popular in France as Pitt at the height of the great war." A note from the
Memoir renders this state of feeling explicable: [Footnote: A very
different current in French opinion from that of the newspapers found
outlet in this letter from M. Emile Ollivier:
"_4 Aout_, 1882.
"MON CHER MONSIEUR,
"Vous avez ete si aimable lorsque j'ai eu la bonne fortune de faire
votre connaissance, que vous ne pouvez douter de l'interet sympathique
avec lequel j'ai suivi le brillant developpement de votre carriere
politique. Aujourd'hui je tiens a sortir de mon adhesion muette et a
vous exprimer combien j'admire et combien j'approuve la politique
actuelle de votre gouvernement en Egypte. Commissaire du gouvernement
egyptien aupres de la compagnie de Suez depuis pres de vingt ans, j'ai
etudie de pres ce qui se passait sur le Nil, et je ne crois pas ceder
a un mouvement d'amitie pour le Khedive, en pensant que c'est de son
cote que se trouvent le Droit, la justice, la civilisation. Apres
l'avoir intronise, lui avoir promis de l'appui; l'avoir pousse contre
Arabi, le laisser entre les mains d'une grossiere soldatesque, ce
serait une felonie doublee d'une sottise, car on perdrait ainsi ce qui
a ete gagne sur la barbarie par les efforts de plusieurs generations.
Aucune paix ne vaut qu'on l'achete aussi cher. Votre pays s'honore et
se grandit en le comprenant, et sa victoire sera celle de la
civilisation autant que la sienne propre. En se separant de vous, nos
seuls amis, en ce moment, en abandonnant le Khedive malgre tant
d'engagements repetes, les personnages qui nous gouvernent consomment
la premiere des consequences qu'il etait dans la logique de leurs
idees d'attirer sur nous--l'aneantissement a l'exterieur. Les autres
suivront. Nous ferons une fois de plus la triste experience qu'on ne
supprime pas impunement de l'ame d'une nation l'idee de sacrifice, de
devouement, d'heroisme, pour reduire son ideal aux jouissances de la
vie materielle et a l'amour bestial des gras paturages. Vous etes bien
heureux de n'en etre pas la.
"Je vous felicite chaleureusement de la part que vous avez prise aux
males resolutions de votre gouvernement, et je vous prie de croire a
mes sentiments les plus sincerement cordiaux.
'The French Government having ordered their ships to leave Alexandria
in the event of a bombardment of the forts, I suggested that our
sailors ought to pursue them with ironical cheers, such as those with
which in the House of Commons we were given to pursue those who walked
out to avoid a division.'
From July 11th it was clear that France had decided to do nothing.
England's course of action was still undecided.
'Although reparation at Alexandria was being virtually exacted by the
bombardment, in spite of this having been put only on the safety of
the fleet and the defiance of Beauchamp Seymour's orders, yet it had
not, on account of Mr. Gladstone's opposition, up to this time been
settled that we should land troops. There was now no hope that the
threat which the French had proposed to us, and which we had accepted
in January, declaring that "the dangers to which the Government of the
Khedive might be exposed ... would certainly find England and France
united to oppose them," would be acted upon; but there was still some
idea that Turkish troops might be landed under strict safeguards for
supervision. On July 11th Chamberlain suggested to Lord Granville that
Lord Ampthill should be sent to Varzin to see Bismarck, and ask him
what intervention would be best if Turkish failed. This suggestion was
not accepted, but Lord Granville wrote to the German Ambassador to the
'Mr. Gladstone was in a fighting humour on the next day, July 12th. I
have the notes on which he made his speech, which give all the heads,
and are interesting to compare with the speech as it stands in
Hansard. He put our defence upon "the safety of the fleet" and "safety
of Europeans throughout the East." He was indignant, in reply to
Gourley, about the bondholders, and, in reply to Lawson, about our
"drifting into war," and he certainly believed, as I believed at that
moment, that the Alexandria massacres had been the work of Arabi, for
one of his notes is: "International atrocity. Wholesale massacre of
the people, to overrule the people of that country." [Footnote: Sir
Charles, as has been said, did not adhere to his view concerning
'On July 13th the Foreign Office prepared a most elaborate despatch
from Lord Granville to Lord Dufferin, explaining the whole position of
affairs in Egypt. The despatch was much knocked about by Chamberlain
and myself. It had recited how an officer and two men of our fleet had
been killed, another officer wounded, the British Consul dragged out
of his carriage and severely injured; six British-born subjects
killed, and the Greek Consul-General beaten; but it had omitted the
important fact that a French Consular-Dragoman, and one, if not two
men of the French fleet, and several other French subjects had been
killed. The chief alterations, however, which we made, or tried to
make, in the despatch were in the direction of omitting all reference
to the financial engagements of Egypt, which we were most unwilling to
take upon ourselves in any manner. I actively pursued the question of
the outrages upon British subjects at Alexandria and of compensation.
We went into the case of Marshal Haynau, that of Don Pacifico,
[Footnote: Both cases furnished precedents for dealing with an
instance in which foreigners had been maltreated when visiting or
residing in another country. Marshal Haynau, the Austrian General
infamous for his brutalities in Italy (especially at Brescia) and in
Hungary in 1848, came to England on a private visit in 1850, went to
see Barclay and Perkins' brewery in Southwark, and was mobbed by the
employees. The Queen, in response to indignant remonstrance by the
Austrian Government, pressed the sending of a note of apology and
regret for this maltreatment of "a distinguished foreigner." Lord
Palmerston, then Foreign Minister in Lord John Russell's Ministry,
sent the Note, but added a paragraph which indicated that, in his
personal opinion, the brewery men were justified in their action, and
that Haynau had acted improperly in coming to this country at all,
knowing the feeling against him here.
Don Pacifico, a Portuguese Jew who had settled in Athens, was, as a
native of Gibraltar, a British subject. Having had his house pillaged
by a Greek mob, he appealed to the Home Government, and Lord
Palmerston sent the Fleet to the Piraeus to enforce his demand for
settlement of the claim put in. Greece appealed to Russia and France,
and part of Don Pacifico's claim was referred to arbitration by a
Convention of the Powers signed in London. Our Minister at Athens
continued to take measures which resulted in the Greek Government
giving way, and, in consequence, the French Ambassador was recalled,
while Russia threatened to recall Baron Brunnow. It was in the Don
Pacifico debate that Lord Palmerston made his great speech of five
hours, containing the famous _Civis Romanus sum_, which turned the
House of Commons in his favour, and saved him from defeat by a
majority of forty-six.] and others mentioned in a memorandum printed
for the use of the Foreign Office in August, 1877; but the inquiry
afterwards held broke down our case.
'On July 14th the Admiralty and War Office fell out; the Admiralty
maintaining that they could put down all the trouble in Egypt by the
employment of a few marines commanded by an Admiral, whereas the War
Office had set their hearts upon a great expedition under Wolseley.
'On July 16th the German Ambassador complained of my having stated in
the House of Commons that Germany approved our action, not denying the
fact that she did, but saying that such "announcements made
confidential communications impossible," and I had to reply that,
while Austria had approved and Germany not disapproved, I was not
justified in stating that Germany had approved, although there had
been "circumstances calculated to make me believe that such had been
the case." On July 16th Wolff wrote to me from the country: "I suppose
Bright has resigned. _Si sic omnes_ except yourself." Bright had
resigned, and there were some who were anxious that I should be put
into the Cabinet in his place, but I was not one of them. On July 17th
Wilfrid Blunt was at the window of the St. James's Club in Piccadilly,
and, seeing me pass, cried out to Lord Blandford and others who were
with him: "There's Dilke that has done it all." That seemed to me to
be an answer to those who wanted me put in in the place of Bright.
"The great peace man goes out, and they want-Mr. Gladstone to put in a
man who is looked upon as a war man, although he thinks he is not and
thinks he is right." ...
'On July 18th I received a letter from Labouchere which was
characteristic: "Dear Dilke,--I am one of those who regretted that the
late Government did not seize Egypt.... Many on our side--being fools
--regret that we ever interfered in Egypt.... Personally I think ...
unless you seize upon the opportunity ... to establish yourselves
permanently in Egypt, you all deserve to be turned out of office.
Success is everything. This is the 'moral law' as understood by the
English nation. Bombard any place, but show a _quid pro quo_." There
was, however, no member of the Government, unless it was Lord
Hartington, who held these views, and not one who at this moment even
contemplated a permanent occupation, though I was fearful that unless
the matter was fairly faced, in advance, upon the lines which I had
suggested, a permanent occupation would be set on foot.
'Late on July 18th there was a Cabinet to discuss a proposal from me
to tell Dufferin in a "personal" telegram that we should not object to
Italy being third with England and France; which was afterwards
expanded into a direct invitation, upon my suggestion, for Italy to go
with us without France, which Italy declined. [Footnote: The reason
for Italy's refusal will be found explained in the Appendix to this
chapter (p. 477) in a letter from Baron Blanc, who was Italian
Ambassador at Constantinople.]
'After the sitting Lord Granville told me that Mr. Gladstone's letter
to Bright about his resignation was far from pleasant in tone, and had
put an end to a very long friendship. Morley, in his _Life of
Gladstone_, states the contrary, but he is wrong. [Footnote: _Life of
Gladstone_, iii. 83-90.]
'On July 19th I suggested that Arabi had probably told the people in
Cairo that he had defeated us at Alexandria, and that it would be well
to inform the Khedive, and through him the Governor of Cairo, that
intervention was about to take place on a scale which would make
resistance ridiculous, and Lord Granville asked Sinadino to do this.
'On July 20th the German first secretary came to me about Bismarck's
complaint of my speech, and Lord Granville wrote back in reply to my
report of the conversation: "I do not think much of Stumm's
observations.... There is something in Bob Lowe's maxim, never to
admit anything; but if you do, I have always found it better to shut
the admission against any rejoinder." After all, Count Munster
admitted that we had the "moral support" of Germany, and I could not
myself see much difference between "moral support" and "approval."
Lord Granville even reported in writing that we had Bismarck's "good
wishes, good will, and moral support," and I certainly could not see
that I was wrong. The last position of all of Bismarck was that we
were not justified in saying even "moral support," but that we had his
"best wishes," I think he must have had a touch of gout at the moment
when he read my speech.
'A Cabinet was to have been held early on July 20th to decide to send
out an army corps; Mr. Gladstone forgot to call it, and it had to be
brought together suddenly (some members being absent), and agreed to
the proposal for a vote of credit. Mr. Gladstone informed his
colleagues that he should not meet Parliament again in February, but
should leave the House of Commons after the Autumn Session, if not
before it. Late at night there came the news that Arabi had turned the
salt water from the Lake into the great fresh--water canal, and I had
to go to inform Mr. Gladstone and Childers in their rooms. Their
replies were full of character. Mr. Gladstone dramatically shivered,
and said with a grimace: "What a wicked wretch!" Childers said: "How
'Early in the afternoon of Saturday, July 22nd, when the House of
Commons sat, I was two hours in Mr. Gladstone's room with Lord
Granville, Northbrook, and Childers. There had been a mistake in the
vote of credit, really a blunder of L1,300,000; not of L1,000,000
only, as was afterwards pretended, for the estimate had been cut down
in the meantime. It was entirely Northbrook's fault, ... but Childers,
like a good-natured fellow, in spite of their many quarrels, let it
rest upon his shoulders, where the public put it. In the course of our
conversation it came out that Childers was in hot water with the
Queen, and had sent her a letter of apology on the Friday night, Mr.
Gladstone writing at the same time that he himself had nothing to add
to what Childers said. Childers broke out against the Duke of
Cambridge, who "went chattering about the place, refused to behave as
a subordinate, and wrote direct to the Queen." I guessed that the
trouble had been either about the employment of the Duke of Connaught
or about the sending of the Household Cavalry; both of which had been
decided. The Queen likes the Duke of Connaught to be employed, but
never to run the slightest risk; and in dealing with soldiers this is
a little awkward. The Duke of Cambridge was always a great source of
trouble to Governments, Liberal or Conservative, for even Conservative
Governments have, from the necessity of the case, to desire military
reform. He is essentially not a grandson, as history tells us, but a
son of King George III., just such a man as the royal Dukes whose
oaths and jollity fill the memoirs of the time of the great war. But
the Duke of Cambridge ... knows how to stop all army reform without
incurring personal responsibility or personal unpopularity with the
public. A distinguished General once said to me: "When we are invaded
and the mob storm the War Office, the Duke of Cambridge will address
them from the balcony, and, amid tumultuous cheering, shout, 'This is
what those clever chaps who have always been talking about army reform
and brains have brought us to,' and lead them on to hang the Secretary
of State for War."
'On Monday, July 24th, there was a Cabinet to consider the obstruction
of the French, who were trying to prevent our intervention. I was not
called in, but I believe that my suggestion as to Italy was again
mentioned, for on Tuesday, the 25th, Lord Granville told me that he
had been intending to ask the Italians to go with us, but that the
Queen had objected and caused the loss of a day, and that he thought
he should be able to ask them on the morrow.
'On July 25th I made a speech which was much liked by the House, and
Northcote congratulated me quite as warmly as did our own people. When
Mr. Gladstone was finishing his letter to the Queen late at night,
Chamberlain asked him to let him look at it, which I never had the
"cheek" to do. The phrase about me was "answered the hostile
criticisms with marked ability and with the general assent of the
House," and there was no praise of Chamberlain's own speech, which had
been spoilt by mine. On this occasion, as in the great Zulu debate in
the previous Parliament, when he had been my seconder, it so happened
that I took all Chamberlain's points beforehand, and in almost the
very words in which he had meant to take them. On the other hand, on
occasions when he spoke before me and I had to follow, as, for
example, in the famous debate with Randolph Churchill about the Aston
riots, [Footnote: At the height of Mr. Chamberlain's influence in
Birmingham Lord Randolph Churchill proposed to stand against him, and
held a meeting at Aston. Lord Randolph accused Mr. Chamberlain in the
House of Commons of having hired roughs to break up this meeting.] the
converse occurred. This was, of course, the inevitable result of our
habit of very free and continual conversation.
'When we sounded Paget in advance as to our invitation to the Italians
on this evening, he replied that "if we pressed her, swearing she
would ne'er consent, she _would_ consent." But, although I afterwards
thought and said that I had been amazed at her refusal, my notes of
the moment show that I had anticipated it.
'On July 27th a new element of disturbance was introduced by the
Prince of Wales applying to the Government for leave to take a
military command in Egypt. The Queen at once interfered to stop it;
some members of the Cabinet consulted together at a sudden meeting in
the Cabinet room at Downing Street, to which I was called in,
Childers, Northbrook, and Mr. Gladstone being present, and it was
decided to back the Queen's refusal. It was agreed between Lord
Northbrook, Childers, and myself that for the future I should see all
the Admiralty and War Office telegrams.
'At 5.30 there was a regular Cabinet to consider the tardy consent of
the Turks to send troops at once. They were informed that
circumstances had changed, and that we must go on with our
intervention; but that they would be allowed to occupy forts not at
'One of the first Admiralty telegrams that were brought to me was one
which directed the Admiral to inform the Khedive that we were going to
restore his authority, which was the most emphatic thing which I had
On July 29th M. de Freycinet's Government was defeated on a vote of credit
for money to send ships to protect the Suez Canal, [Footnote: A new
Ministry was formed under M. Duclerc.] and so terminated all possibility
of France's partnership in the enterprise. On the same day General
Menabrea politely refused an invitation that Italy should co-operate.
But the Turks were still disposed to assist, on their own terms, and these
did not yet make it clear what, if they landed, would be their attitude
towards Arabi and his partisans. Accordingly,
'On Monday, July 31st, we had to tell the Turks that if they insisted
on going to Alexandria we should sink them, and matters began to look
like a second Navarino.
'On Thursday, August 3rd, the Cabinet approved our previous proposals
to send instructions to the Admiral not to allow the Turks to land in
Egypt until they agreed to all our terms.
'On Tuesday, August 8th, Childers insisted that if Turks landed in
Egypt they should not be treated as allied forces, but as a portion of
our forces under our General. Lord Granville, Hartington, and
Northbrook thought this too strong, and it was left to the Cabinet to
decide, and on the next day, Wednesday, the 9th, Harcourt expressed
his concurrence with the majority.'
'About this time I had a letter from Dufferin, describing how he had
tried to frighten the Sultan by the bogey of an Arab caliph. But
Dufferin was at this moment in despair; the face of politics changed
too rapidly for Turkish diplomacy, and just as he had succeeded in
getting the Turks to send troops to Egypt, as he had been told to do,
it was so much too late that we had to tell them that we should sink
them if they went--so doubtless the Turks were a little confused in
their minds as to what we really wanted.'
The Memoir now carries the story down to the close of the expedition by
which Sir Garnet Wolseley destroyed Arabi's power in the Battle of Tel-el-
'_August 10th_.--At this moment the Prince of Wales being most anxious
as to what was going on in Egypt, and having again failed to obtain
the telegrams, I promised that I would write to him daily, or whenever
there was anything of importance, and keep him informed, and this I
'On August 16th there was a debate in which we defended the general
policy of the expedition, and I again have Mr. Gladstone's notes for
his reply to Sir Wilfrid Lawson, in which he again asserted that the
supporters of Arabi Pasha were not only rebels, but criminals as well,
accusing them of misuse of a flag of truce, and of deliberately
setting fire to the town of Alexandria.
'On August 17th I had a visit from a brother of the Khedive, Ibrahim
Pasha, who said: "I want to go to Egypt. I should be very glad to go
as a Sub-Lieutenant, although there may be a little difficulty, for I
am a Field-Marshal in the Turkish Army." This modest youth, who looked
like the full moon, had been trained at Woolwich, spoke English well,
and was a devout Mohammedan, thought that he would be of use to us,
but his brother would no more let him land in Egypt than he would any
of the other and abler brothers.'
Parliament was prorogued on August 27th.
'On August 28th Mr. Gladstone thought that we should refuse to make a
Convention with the Turks, which they had now agreed to. But Lord
Granville and I thought that we had better make it for the sake of the
effect in Egypt, and Mr. Gladstone half yielding, our willingness was
telegraphed. On September 5th, however, Lord Granville told me at
Walmer that the Queen was strongly opposed to the Convention, and I
noted that this was the first time when I had ever known the Queen and
Mr. Gladstone to be agreed upon any subject.
'We took time by the forelock as a Government with regard to the
preparation in advance, and, even before our landing in Egypt, for
that which was to happen after the revolutionary movement was put
down. Sir A. Colvin thought that 4,000 men in addition to the military
police would be ample for the security of the country, and Sir E.
Malet appeared to agree. Mr. Gladstone wrote a minute himself upon the
future of the country, in which he proposed to act upon all my ideas.
He suggested the banishment of Arabi, a minimum military force
'(Egyptian),' a large police force, in which Indian Mohammedans were
to be allowed to enlist; but he wished a small British force to remain
temporarily in the country--a point to which I was much opposed,
inasmuch as I felt certain that if we stayed there at all we should
never be able to come away.
'A good deal of Cabinet work fell upon me at this moment because
Harcourt buried himself in the New Forest, and Chamberlain went away
to Sweden, asking me for a full table of instructions as to what he
was to do as to calling upon Kings, inasmuch as, he declared in his
letter, I was his _arbiter elegantiarum_. I went down to Birmingham in
his absence to see my son' (who was living at Mr. Chamberlain's
house). 'Hartington came up to town now and then, but apparently was
soon tired of it, as in the middle of September he wrote to me to ask
what was the meaning of the Cabinet on the 13th which he meant "to
shirk." There were two Governments at this moment--the one consisting
of Childers and Northbrook in London, carrying on operations in Egypt;
and the other consisting of Lord Granville at Walmer and Mr. Gladstone
at Hawarden, connected by the telegraph, explaining them to the
'During the period of the invasion of Egypt by us I used to meet
Childers, Northbrook, and Hartington at the War Office almost every
day, when Hartington was in town, and the other two when Hartington
was away. Tel-el-Kebir was on September 13th, and we met on that day
as well as the days before and immediately after.
'Immediately after Tel-el-Kebir I had from Auberon Herbert a letter,
which began: "My dear successful Jingo, whom Heaven confound, though
it does not appear to have the least intention of doing so.... How I
hate you all! But am bound to admit you have managed your affair up to
this point skilfully and well. The gods, however, do not love, says
Horace, people who have three stories to their houses."'
'The refusal of the Italian Cabinet was afterwards explained to me in a
most interesting letter from Baron Blanc, at that time (March, 1888)
Italian Ambassador at Constantinople, and afterwards (December, 1893)
Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs:
'"The refusal of the Cabinet of Rome in 1882 to intervene, with England
only, as allies in Egypt was a success of French diplomacy, but at the
same time a result of the past policy of England.
'"Nothing on the part of England had prepared the Italian Government to
believe it possible that England would cease to gravitate towards France
in Mediterranean questions, especially when Mr. Gladstone was in power.
The hope that England would join the Italian-German understanding,
concluded in principle in 1882, had remained in these early days merely
theoretic. The Mancini Cabinet, in doing that which Minghetti, Visconti,
Bonghi--the old Right, in short--had not dared to do--that is, in drawing
towards the Central Powers--did not go so far as to understand that the
rupture of the English-French condominium in Egypt--brought about in 1881-
82 by the appearance on the scene of the Arabi party, secretly pushed from
Berlin--offered Italy the chance of leading Gladstone himself to lean on
Italy and her allies, and no longer upon Paris and Petersburg; or, if it
was understood, faith and courage were wanting.
'"It was an axiom with Menabrea, with Nigra, with Corti, that Italy and
England herself could do nothing in the Mediterranean without France,
still less do anything against France. The last conversation of Corti with
Crispi shows plainly his conviction that a real alliance of Italy and
England was a Utopia. How many times after 1870 had not Italy been
disappointed in attempts to obtain from England a share of influence in
Egypt! How many times had not Italy been sacrificed to the private
arrangements of England with France in Egyptian affairs! How could the
idea that Germany was to replace France in the Eastern policy of Italy and
England have entered into the mind of the Cabinet of Rome when it had not
entered into the mind of the Cabinet of St. James's!
'"A thousand financial, journalistic, parliamentary connections attached
to France both the Gladstone Cabinet and the Ministry of Mancini--the
legal counsel of M. de Lesseps. The dream of treble condominium in Egypt
was strong in Mancini and Depretis, as in Minghetti, Visconti, and
Cairoli. This dream was encouraged by the Cabinet of Paris, which kept
Italy in tow by this vain hope, and also by the fear of fresh French
enterprises in Africa, for the French threatened Italy with renewing in
Tripoli the precedent of Tunis if Italy broke towards French policy in the
East the bonds contracted between them in the Crimean War and the treaties
'"The reserve, the abstention of Germany and Austria, which Powers
pretended to disinterest themselves from the Egyptian question, and opened
to France in Africa a chance of compensation for the loss of Alsace,
helped to keep Mancini and Depretis, tied also by party connections to the
French democracy, in the absurd idea that Italy could keep herself in
stable equilibrium between two alliances--an alliance with Germany in
Continental affairs, and with France in Mediterranean questions. This idea
had for its result to render unintelligible for the Italian public the
alliance of Italy with the Central Powers, sterilized and perverted
through not being boldly applied by Italy to the affairs of the
Mediterranean and of the Levant. But once again Italy did not believe
herself strong enough to overcome the indifference which England showed
for Mediterranean questions--more and more thrown into the background in
English minds by the interests of the British colonial empire in distant
seas. Australia seemed looked upon at London as more important than Turkey
or Egypt itself, and the idea that the first line of defence of India is
at Constantinople, the seat of the Khalifat, seemed forgotten by the
successors of Disraeli. It took seven years for the idea, born in 1881, of
making Italy a connecting link in an Anglo-German alliance, to become a
practical one at Home, as it did under Crispi.
'"To return to the question of the refusal of Italy to intervene alone
with England in Egypt in 1882, it is necessary to know that when the
French Government was informed of the drawing together of Italy and of the
Central Powers, France hastened at the end of 1881 to exercise pressure
upon the Mancini-Depretis Cabinet by threatening it, not only with fresh
enterprise in Tripoli, but with direct hostility if Italy took sides
against France in those Egyptian affairs which were at that moment
becoming complicated. The Radical Committees of France and Italy were
threatening armed movements in the former Papal States, and French money
was spent in the Italian elections of 1881. The greater part of the
Italian Press was bought up by a Gambetta-Wilson group in such a way that
Italian opinion was directed from Paris by the Italian newspapers, as it
had already been by the Stefani-Havas Agency. The effect of this
preparation was seen when the bombardment of Alexandria was taken as the
text for a general opening of fire on the part of the Italian and French
Press against England. When Freycinet refused the English proposal for
treble intervention, he caused it to be known at Rome that France would
look upon it as an act of hostility on the part of Italy if that Power
should take in Egypt the position which belonged to France, and occupy,
without France, any portion of Egyptian territory.
'"He also used as a bait to Mancini the idea of a treble condominium, by
making him believe that Italy and Russia could, by procuring for a treble
intervention the adhesion of the whole concert of European Powers, prevent
it becoming dangerous from the point of view of the two-faced policy of
which Germany was suspected at Rome. To act so that France could, without
the fear of a snare on the part of Germany, intervene in Egypt with Italy
and England--such was the part which France proposed to Mancini that he
should play, and which he accepted and did play in the Constantinople
conference. The outward and visible sign of this programme was that
wonderful patrol of the Canal which was adopted in principle on the motion
of Corti, and was intended to lead up to the treble condominium by the
treble occupation of the Suez Canal with a mandate of Europe. 'Success
seemed certain,' funnily declared the Mancini telegrams of the moment,
when came the British invitation to Italy for a double intervention.
Neither Menabrea, nor Mancini, nor Corti, took this invitation seriously,
and they saw in it only the hesitation of England, a Power which they
supposed entirely incapable of such boldness as isolated action. They
never believed for a moment but that the refusal by Italy of a double
intervention would have for effect a treble occupation. You know how this
illusion of a treble occupation died a wretched death in the ridiculous
appearance of Italian and French ships in the neighbourhood of the Canal
just at the moment when Wolseley seized it before Tel-el-Kebir.
'"The same idea of becoming the binding link in Mediterranean affairs, not
between Berlin and London, but between Paris and London, continued to
animate Mancini and Depretis even after England had become the sole power
in occupation of Egypt. The expedition to Massowah in 1885 was an
expression of this tendency. From the beginning of 1884, in face of the
Hicks disaster, of the prolongation of the British occupation, of the
return to power of Nubar, France considered a plan for disembarking at
Massowah troops recalled from Tonquin, where she was supposed to be safe
after the success of Sontay. In order not to leave without some
counterweight in the Red Sea the consolidation of British domination in
Egypt, France would have returned to Egypt by Massowah and the Soudan.
When she decided to suspend this operation, she advised it to Italy as a
means of giving expression to the Franco-Italian view of the
internationality of the Canal and Red Sea. Mancini, whom the Italian
Chamber blamed for having not taken part in the colonial fever which had
affected Germany herself in 1884-85, adopted the idea of an expedition to
Massowah at the moment when Wolseley seemed likely to enter Khartoum.'
'"We have not as yet been able to get out of this trap in which we are
caught, and in which the Russians and French try to keep us paralyzed.
Capital and disastrous blunders, evident contradictions with the idea of
the alliance of Italy with the Central Powers, completed by the
understanding with England! But England herself, is she without fault? Is
her Egyptian policy more clear and more strong? Is she not herself in
Egypt also taken in the toils of Franco-Levantine influences, as dominant
at Cairo as they are at Constantinople? It is not on the national and
Mohammedan spirit that England in Egypt leans, but on Franco-Levantine
cliques and Graeco-Armenian cliques sold to French finance. Hence the
decline of British influence in the Levant. The memorandum which I have
sent shows what a different line Italy and England may follow if they do
not wish the Mediterranean to become a Franco-Russian lake, and the
Khalif, in the character of a new Bey of Tunis, lending the flag of the
Prophet to Russia for the conquest of India and to France to complete her
'The memorandum enclosed by him to which he refers was sent by him for the
purpose that it should be communicated by us to friends in Rome who were
likely to bring it before Crispi, whose Foreign Minister in 1893 Blanc
ENTRY INTO THE CABINET
SEPTEMBER TO DECEMBER, 1882
Part of Sir Charles's routine was his morning bout of fencing. [Footnote:
Sir Charles's fencing seems to have dated from 1874, during his stay in
Paris after his first wife's death. Fuller reference to fencing at 76,
Sloane Street and to his antagonists will be found in Chapter XLVII. (Vol.
II., pp. 233, 234). ] This was the relaxation which he managed to fit into
his crowded daily life, but his weekly holiday he spent upon the river. He
notes, just before the Parliamentary crisis due to the bombardment of
'At this time I had given up the practice of going out of town to stay
with friends for Sundays, and I did not resume it, for I found it
better for me to get my work done on the Saturday night and my Foreign
Office boxes early on the Sunday morning, to go to the Abbey on the
Sunday morning at ten, and after this service to go on the river, and
go to bed at eight o'clock at least this one night in the week, and I
bought a piece of land at Dumsey Deep, near Chertsey, with the view of
building a cottage there.'
It was not here, however, that he built his riverside house, but close by,
at Dockett Eddy, which he bought in the following summer. [Footnote: A
fuller account of life in his riverside home is to be found in Chapter LI.
(Vol. II., pp. 317-324).] The two pieces of ground were connected by a
long strip of frontage which he acquired, thereby saving the willows and
alders which then sheltered that reach, and made it a windless course for
sculling. Even more perfect was it, by reason of its gravelly bottom, for
another form of watermanship. On Sunday, October 22nd, 1882,
'after Westminster Abbey I went down to Teddington, and took a lesson
in punting from Kemp, the Teddington fisherman, and from this time
forward became devoted to the art, for which I gave up my canoeing.'
His resolve to spend his Sundays in retreat on the river did not pass
without protest from his friends, as is shown by a characteristic letter
from Sir William Harcourt:
"_August 28_, 1882."
"Don't be an odious solitary snipe in the ooze of the Thames, but come
down here at once and nurse Bobby.
"Yours ever, W. V. H."
"Bobby" was Mr. Robert Harcourt, now M.P. for the Montrose Burghs.
"LALEHAM FERRY (_for this night only.
I shall be at the P.O. every day this week_).
"MY DEAR HARCOURT,
"I went to bed on Saty. night at dark and on Sunday night at dark.
Last night I was late from London, and sat up till nearly 9! Bobby
himself can hardly beat that, can he? On the other hand, he does not
get a swim in the Thames at 5 a.m., or breakfast at 6, as I do.
"It is very good of you--and like old times--for you to press me to
come down, and, believe me, I should like my company. But when, as
now, I am splendidly well, and only want to make up arrears of sleep,
the river is the best place for me. I shall go to Walmer next week,
but then that is sea, and sea is sleepy too; and I have all my work
there with the telegraph in the House, and messengers four times a day
as if I was in the F.O., so I can be away--and yet be on duty--as I
promised to be till 19th or 20th Septr....
"... This is the longest letter that I was ever known to write in all
my life, except perhaps once or twice to you in the old days."
It had now been decided that Wentworth Dilke, being eight years old,
should go to school and leave Mr. Chamberlain's house, of which he had
been an inmate for some eighteen months.
'On the day of Tel-el-Kebir I received a very pleasing letter from
Chamberlain, thanking me for what I had said to him about his
reception for so long a period at Highbury of my son. It was a
touching letter, which showed both delicacy and warmth of affection.'
On September 21st Sir Charles Dilke went to Birmingham to take his boy to
Mrs. Maclaren's school at Summerfields, near Oxford. 'Then crossing to
Waterford, spent five days in the South of Ireland--and afterwards went
straight to St. Tropez to stay with M. Emile Ollivier.' "Il faut fermer la
boutique et alors on se trouve tout de suite bien," is his comment as he
started on one such journey.
'During my visit to Ollivier I explored the south coast of the
mountains of the Moors, along which there was no road, and bought some
land at Cavalaire, against the possible chance of a boulevard being
made through my land at Toulon in such a way as to cut me off from the
sea. I walked from Bormes to the Lavandou upon the coast, and fancied
I found the path by which St. Francis journeyed when he landed to save
Provence from the plague. It is hollowed out by feet, in some places
to three feet deep through the hard quartz and schist, and everywhere
at least six inches, so its age is evidently great, and it must have
been a path in the days of Saracen domination, if not even in or
before the Roman times, for the two villages were ever small.
'At Ste. Claire, the first bay eastward from the Lavandou, I had seen
a funeral in which all the crucifixes were borne before the corpse by
women, and the coffin carried by women. Ollivier's father was still
living--Demosthene, born under the First Republic, and a deputy under
the Second: an old Jacobin of an almost extinct type. Ollivier's house
is as pretty as the whole coast. It stands on a peninsula with perfect
sands, one or other of which is sheltered for bathing in any wind, and
instead of the usual parched sterility of Provence, springs rise all
round the house, which is lost in a dense forest of young palms. The
views are not from the house, but from the various shores of the
peninsula, all these, however, being close at hand. I had for escort
in my trips about the coast the famous Felix Martin, founder and Mayor
of St. Raphael and of Valescure, a railway engineer who was known as
the American of Provence, and who, in fact, is the most desperate and
the most interesting and pleasant speculator of France. Speaking to me
of Frejus, my favourite town, and its surroundings, Martin called it
"the Roman Campagna on the Bay of Naples," a very pretty phrase,
absolutely true of it, for the scenery is that of the plain between
Naples and Capua, but the ruins and the solemnity of the foreground
were those of the outskirts of Rome till Martin spoilt it. At the spot
where I bought my land eighty boats of Spanish and Italian coral
fishers were at anchor. I picked up Roman tiles upon my ground, and
found a Roman tomb in the centre of my plot.'
'I was struck with some of the old chateaux in the woods as I returned
along the coast to Toulon. Near Bormettes there are two which were
nationalized at the Revolution, and the families of the buyers, having
turned Legitimist and put stained glass into the chapel windows, are
now becoming nobles in their turn, at all events in their own
estimation, and thriving upon cork and American vines.[Footnote: The
piece of land at Cavalaire was never built on by Sir Charles, but he
remained owner of it till 1905, when it was sold by him. His
friendship with the Ollivier household continued till the end of his
'It was during this visit that Ollivier made use of a phrase which I
have repeated: "When one looks at the Republic one says: 'It can't
last a week--it is dead.' But when one looks at what is opposed to it,
one says: 'It is eternal.'"'
The true inner history and genesis of the Franco-Prussian War formed
matter for talk with Ollivier, who was among the half-dozen men in Europe
best able to inform Sir Charles on the question. The Memoir records a
reminiscence told by M. Ollivier.
'When the war broke out, he naturally asked the Emperor about his
alliances. The Emperor, who was singularly sweet and winning in his
ways, smiled his best smile but said nothing, walked to a table,
unlocked a drawer, and took out two letters-one from the Emperor of
Austria, and the other from the King of Italy, both promising their
alliance. But, although this was Ollivier's story, the Italian letter
must have been conditional. Ollivier set down the defeat to this
slowness of action, and supineness, due first to the Emperor's firm
belief that Austria would move, and then to his stone in the bladder
and refusal to let anyone else command. At a later date I became aware
of the true story, which was that afterwards told by me in
_Cosmopolis_. [Footnote: "The Origin of the War of 1870," by Sir
Charles Dilke, _Cosmopolis_, January, 1896.] Austria had declined to
join in a war begun in the middle of the summer. It had been fixed for
May, 1871. Bismarck found this out from the Magyars, and made the war
To the detail thus gained at first hand Sir Charles Dilke added another in
the next year. On February 1st, 1883, he met at Sir William Harcourt's
house the Italian Ambassador Count Nigra, who had been in 1870 Minister in
'He told me that in 1866 the Italians had sent to Paris to ask whether
they should join Prussia or Austria, both of whom had promised to give
them Venice, and how the Emperor had told them that Italy was to join
Prussia as the weaker side, and that when the combatants were
exhausted he intended to take the Rhine. Nigra also told me that in
1870 the Emperor had told him that he meant peace, and that it was
Gramont on his own account who had told Benedetti to get from the King
of Prussia the promise for the future. This was all superficial, as we
now know that Nigra was, as the Empress Eugenie said in 1907, a "false
friend." Nigra said that Bismarck had made the war by telegraphing his
own highly coloured account of the interview; for the French official
account, which had only reached Paris (according to Nigra) after war
had been declared, had shown that the King had been very civil to
Benedetti, although the French Ambassador had persisted in raising the
question no less than three several times.... [Footnote: The famous
interview at Ems between the King of Prussia and M. Benedetti, the
French Ambassador at Berlin, is referred to. See Benedetti, _Ma
Mission en Prusse_, chap. vi.; _Bismarck, His Reflections and
Reminiscences_, translated from the German under the supervision of A.
J. Butler, vol. ii., chap, xxii.; _Life of Granville_, vol. ii., chap.
'On my return through Paris in September, 1882, I had interviews with
Duclerc, the French Prime Minister, and with Nubar, as well as with
Gambetta. Duclerc I found a cross old man, who was furious because I
mentioned Madagascar. On the Tunis capitulations I found the French
willing to come to an agreement; but Egypt, the Suez Canal, the Congo,
the Pacific Islands, and Newfoundland were all of them difficult
questions at this time....
'In a talk with Gambetta on October 19th he said to me that it was his
intention, "whether _I_ liked Duclerc or not," to keep him in power,
whether he does what he ought, does nothing, or does what is
ridiculous. The curse of France is instability. Duclerc is an honest
man.' Gambetta was 'aged and in bad spirits.'
Sir Charles communicated this expression through Mr. Plunkett, the British
Charge d'Affaires, to M. Duclerc. "I gave him the third alternative in
more diplomatic language," Mr. Plunkett wrote, "but he understood me, and
we laughed over the idea."
A general reflection of this year is that 'Gambetta hates fools in theory,
and loves them, I think, in practice.'
In London during the autumn session Sir Charles records some interesting
gossip, to which may be added this first entry of earlier date:
'Lord Granville was a most able man, who did not, in my opinion,
decline in intellectual vigour during the many years in which he took
a great part in public affairs. He always had the habit of
substitution of words, and I have known him carry on a long
conversation with me at the Foreign Office about the proceedings of
two Ambassadors who were engaged on opposite sides in a great
negotiation, and call "A" B, and "B" A through the whole of it, which
was, to say the least of it, confusing. He also sometimes entirely
forgot the principal name in connection with the subject--as, for
example, that of Mr. Gladstone when Prime Minister--and had to resort
to the most extraordinary forms of language in order to convey his
meaning. The only other person in whom I have ever seen this
peculiarity carried to such a point was the Khedive Ismail, who sent
for me when I was in office and he in London, and when the Dervishes
were advancing upon Egypt, to say that he had an important piece of
information to give the Government, which was the name of a spot at
which the Dervishes might easily be checked, owing to the narrowness
of the valley. He kept working up to the name, and each time failing
to give it, so that I ultimately went away without having been able to
get from him the one thing which would have made the information
useful. Each time he closed his speech by saying, "Le nom de ce point
important est--chose--machine--chose," and so on...
'On Thursday, November 2nd, I breakfasted with Mr. Gladstone to meet
the Duc de Broglie. We discussed the question of the authorship of the
pretty definition of Liberal-Conservatives as men who sometimes think
right, but always vote wrong. But even Arthur Russell, who was at the
breakfast with his wife, could throw no light upon the matter. Madame
Olga Novikof was also present, and, of course, the Duc de Broglie took
me into a corner to ask me if it was true that Mr. Gladstone was
absolutely under her influence. She announced her intention of going
the next day to Birmingham, and Mr. Gladstone asked Chamberlain to go
with her, although he did not know her and although there was a
Cabinet; but Chamberlain refused.
'In the evening of November 15th there dined with me John Morley, Lord
Arthur Russell, and Gibson, afterwards Lord Ashbourne, Huxley, the
Rector of Lincoln, and some others; and, thanks to Gibson, who was
very lively, the conversation was better than such things often are.
He was deep in the secrets of Randolph Churchill...
'I was asked from 24th to 27th to stay with the Duke and Duchess of
Edinburgh at Eastwell Park, but was also asked to Sandringham.
'The Princess of Wales told me a story of the Shah which had amused
her. Walking with her at the State Ball, he had clutched her arm, and
with much excitement asked about the Highland costume which he had
seen for the first time. Having thus got the word "Ecossais" into his
head, and afterwards seeing Beust with his legs in pink silk
stockings, he again clutched her, and exclaimed: "Trop nu--plus nu
The business of the autumn Session was limited, by agreement, to
determining the new "Rules of Procedure."
'On Friday, October 20th, there was a Cabinet which decided to stick
to our first resolution on procedure--that is on the closure--without
change; or, in other words, to closure by a bare majority.'
When the matter came to a vote in the House, the Government were saved
from defeat by the support of Mr. Parnell and his adherents, who were
determined not to have closure by a two-thirds majority, which could in
practice be used only against a small group.
'On Monday, October 23rd, the Cabinet considered the principle of
delegation of duties from Parliament itself to Grand Committees, to be
proposed in the procedure resolutions.'
This was the beginning of what is now the ordinary procedure in all Bills,
except those of the first importance. It was introduced expressly as an
experiment on six months' trial; and it appears that it was not adopted
without much opposition in the Cabinet, for the Memoir records:
'On November 21st Hartington and Harcourt tried hard to induce Mr.
Gladstone to drop his idea of Grand Committees, and I noted in my
diary: "If they are dropped now they are dead for ever--that is, for a
year at least. 'Ever' in politics means one year."'
On November 13th Lord Randolph Churchill, in a discourse upon the right to
make motions for adjournment, contrived, by way of happy illustration, to
refer to the "Kilmainham Treaty." The phrase in itself was a red rag to
Mr. Gladstone, but Lord Randolph added to the provocation by describing it
as "a most disgraceful transaction, so obnoxious that its precise terms
had never been made known." Mr. Gladstone charged fiercely at the lure,
denied that there had been any "treaty," and challenged the Opposition to
move for a Committee of Inquiry.
On November 14th, between two meetings at Lord Granville's house, at which
'Kimberley, Northbrook, Carlingford, and Childers were present with
myself, there was a discussion at lunch as to Mr. Gladstone's promise of a
Committee on the Kilmainham Treaty, at which all his colleagues of the
Cabinet were furious.'
On November 16th:
'a Cabinet was suddenly called for this afternoon to consider Mr.
Gladstone's extraordinary blunder in granting a Committee on the
Treaty of Kilmainham. The whole of his colleagues had been against him
when he had previously wished to do it, and now he had done it without
asking one of them. Grosvenor, the Whip, thought it would upset the
Government. Mr. Gladstone expressed his regret to his colleagues that
he had been carried away by his temper. Harcourt said that no two of
the witnesses would give the same account of the transaction, and that
while Mr. Gladstone might force Chamberlain, as his subordinate, to
make a clean breast of it, it was hard on Parnell.
'There was later in the day a private conversation between Chamberlain
and Harcourt and Grosvenor as to the Kilmainham Committee, Chamberlain
declaring that if called before a Committee he must read all the
letters, and Harcourt saying that if they were read he should resign.'
When the Session opened on October 27th, the Memoir indicates that the
Prime Minister's retirement was expected.
On November 4th there was a dinner at 76, Sloane Street, at which Mr.
Gladstone, Lord Granville, the Dean of Westminster, Mr. Balfour, and
others, came to meet the Duc de Broglie. In the course of the evening,
'Mr. Gladstone told me that he had finally decided not to meet
Parliament again in February. The gossip was that Hartington was to be
Prime Minister, that Fawcett would resign if not put into the Cabinet,
and Chamberlain and I had agreed to insist on county franchise '(which
meant a very large extension of the suffrage),' and to withdraw our
opposition to Goschen, it being understood that he gave way on county
franchise. It was far from certain that Mr. Gladstone meant Hartington
to be leader on his retirement. The Duchess of Manchester had told me
just before my dinner on Saturday, November 4th, that Mr. Gladstone
had written to Lord Granville to tell him he should not meet
Parliament again, saying that he wrote to him as he had been leader
when the party had been in Opposition. The letter had been shown to
Hartington, who was much irritated at the phrase. The letter was also
sent on to the Queen, and the Duchess thought that the Queen had said
in reply that if Mr. Gladstone resigned she should send not for Lord
Granville, but for Hartington.
'On Monday, November 6th, I heard more about the proposed resignation
of Mr. Gladstone. He had declared that he would not take a peerage,
but had promised not to attend the House of Commons, and I thought
that Hartington would make his going to the Lords, or at least leaving
the Commons, a condition. I pressed for the inclusion of Courtney in
the Cabinet in the event of any change.'
Although one of Mr. Gladstone's junior colleagues from 1880 onwards, Sir
Charles Dilke had been frequently in disagreement with him, and in 1882
had refused to accept the Irish Secretaryship. Yet it was to Sir Charles
that Mr. Gladstone in 1882 was beginning to look as his ultimate successor
in the lead of the House of Commons. A passage in Lord Acton's
correspondence shows how Mr. Gladstone's mind was working at this time. A
breakfast-table discussion between Miss Gladstone and her father is noted
by her, at which, on the assumption of Mr. Gladstone's retirement and the
removal of Lord Hartington to the House of Lords, the names of possible
successors to the leadership of the House of Commons were discussed. The
Chief's estimate of Dilke was thus given:
"The future leader of H. of C. was a great puzzle and difficulty. Sir
Charles Dilke would probably be the man best fitted for it; he had
shown much capacity for learning and unlearning, but he would require
Cabinet training first." [Footnote: _Letters of Lord Acton_, p. 90.]
It followed, then, that if Mr. Gladstone seriously contemplated
resignation, he was bound to insure that Sir Charles got without more
delay the "Cabinet training." It was absurd that the Minister in whom Mr.
Gladstone saw the likeliest future leader of the House of Commons should
be kept technically, and to some extent really, outside the inner circle
of confidence and responsibility.
By the middle of November the hint of Mr. Gladstone's retirement had
leaked out, and conjecture was busy with reconstruction of the Cabinet.
Apart from the question of the Prime Minister's position, speculation was
kept active by the fact that since Mr. Bright's retirement in June no
appointment had been made to the Chancellorship of the Duchy of Lancaster,
that office having no very urgent or definite duties. There was also the
widespread feeling that Sir Charles Dilke's admission to the Cabinet was
overdue, and men guessed rightly at the cause of the delay. Meanwhile the
leaders of the party were considering how far these causes still operated.
On November 16th Sir Charles was approached by the Chief Whip.
'Lord R. Grosvenor, after the Cabinet, came to me, and asked me if I
thought that the Queen was now willing to have me in the Cabinet. I
said that so far as I knew the trouble was at an end. He replied that
he had had two accounts of it. Harcourt told him that both the Prince
of Wales and Prince Leopold had said that she had made up her mind to
take me; but Hartington said that she had told him a different story.
I said I did not know which was right; but that she could take me or
leave me, for not another word would I say.
'Sunday, November 19th, I spent at Cuffnells, Lyndhurst--the home of
"Alice in Wonderland," Mrs. Hargreaves, Dean Liddel's daughter--with
the Harcourts, and Harcourt told me that he believed in Mr.
In the last days of November Sir Charles was at Sandringham with Mr.
'Chamberlain told me that Lord Hartington and Lord Granville were
going to insist with Mr. Gladstone that he should stay as nominal
Prime Minister, Hartington taking the Exchequer and dividing the lead
of the House with him, and Rosebery and I being put into the Cabinet.
'On December 1st there was a Cabinet, before which Lord Granville told
me that I was to be put into the Cabinet at once if the Queen
consented. When they met at two o'clock the Cabinet were told of this
and strict secrecy sworn, but two of them immediately came and told me
that it was settled I was to be Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.'
The Chancellorship of the Duchy presented itself to Sir Charles Dilke as a
kind of roving commission to help other Ministers with the detail of
measures. But the Queen took the view that this place was a "peculiarly
personal one," and should be held by someone whom she considered a
"moderate" politician, and who need not be in the Cabinet. On December 4th
'the Queen, who had been informed that she was still a free agent with
regard to me, had hesitated with regard to the Duchy of Lancaster,
which had, of course, been conditionally accepted by me on the
understanding that I was to be man-of-all-work in the Cabinet. It was
understood on this day that Childers was to be Chancellor of the
Exchequer if his health allowed it, and a delay was granted for his
decision or that of his doctors; and it was understood that Lord Derby
was to come in in Childers' place. Evelyn Ashley was suggested for my
place; and Edmond Fitzmaurice, Henry Brand, or Brett for Ashley's'
(that of Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade).
On December 7th it was settled that
'Hartington was to go to the War Office if the doctors pronounced
Childers well enough to take the Exchequer, and this would leave the
Under-Secretaryships for the Colonies and India, as well as for
Foreign Affairs, open between Fitzmaurice, Ashley, Brand, and Brett.
'Harcourt wrote on the 7th about Mr. Gladstone: "The resignation
project is for the present adjourned _sine die_."
'On Saturday, December 9th, Childers came to me from Mr. Gladstone to
ask if I objected (as we had settled that it would be improper for me
to invite a contest in Chelsea on the old register in the last month
of the year) to letting my appointment be known before it was made,
and I consented, although this would have had the effect, in the event
of opposition, of giving me a twenty days' fight instead of one of
Mr. Gladstone now put forward a different proposal:
'On Monday, the 11th, I saw the Prince of Wales with regard to my
appointment. On the same day Mr. Gladstone had some trouble with the
Queen about the Primacy, as he told me on December 12th.... On the
12th I wrote to Chamberlain that Austin Lee had told me that the Queen
had some days earlier told our friend Prince Leopold that she was
willing that I should be in the Cabinet, but not in the Duchy, and it
was this that she had said to Mr. Gladstone on the 11th about which he
sent for me on the 12th. He said that he thought it would be possible
to get over this objection in time, but that there was another
possibility about which he asked me to write to Chamberlain, but not
as from him. I wrote: "Would you take the Duchy and let me go to the
Board of Trade, you keeping your Bills? This would be unpleasant to
you personally, I feel sure, unless for my sake, though the Duchy is
of superior rank. It would, of course, be a temporary stopgap, as
there must be other changes soon. It is not necessary that you should
do it, else I know that you would do it for me. So that please feel
you are really free. I told Mr. Gladstone that I could only put it to
you in such a way as to leave you free. You had better perhaps write
your answer so that I can show it him, though I suppose he will
suppose himself not to have seen it!"'
On December 13th the Prince of Wales sent for Sir Charles to advise his
pressing this course on Mr. Chamberlain. But on that same day Mr.
Chamberlain replied from Highbury:
"MY DEAR DILKE,
"Your letter has spoilt my breakfast. The change will be loathsome to
me for more than one reason, and will give rise to all sorts of
disagreeable commentaries. But if it is the only way out of the
difficulty, I will do what I am sure you would have done in my place--
accept the transfer. I enclose a note to this effect which you can
show to Mr. G. Consider, however, if there is any alternative. I
regard your _immediate_ admission to the Cabinet as imperative, and
therefore if this can only be secured by my taking the Duchy, _cadit
quaestio_, and I shall never say another word on the subject. Two
other courses are possible, though I fear unlikely to be accepted: (1)
Mr. Gladstone might tell the Queen that I share the opinions you have
expressed with regard to the dowries, and intend to make common cause
with you--that if your appointment is refused I shall leave the
Government, and that the effect will be to alienate the Radical Party
from the Ministry and the Crown, and to give prominence to a question
which it would be more prudent to allow to slumber. I think the Queen
would give way. If not we should both go out. We should stand very
well with our party, and in a year or two we could make our own terms.
Personally I would rather go out than take the Duchy.... (2) Has the
matter been mentioned to Dodson? He _might_ like an office with less
work, [Footnote: Mr. Dodson was President of the Local Government
Board.] and he _might_ be influenced by the nominally superior
rank.... Now you have my whole mind. I would gladly avoid the
sacrifice, but if your inclusion in the Cabinet depends upon it, I
will make it freely and with pleasure for your sake."
'The result was that Dodson "put himself in Mr. Gladstone's hands."
There was, however, an interval of ten days, during which things went
backwards and forwards much.'
The probability of the Queen's refusal to accept Mr. Chamberlain for the
Duchy made his threat of resignation more serious, and a letter came to
Sir Charles from Mr. Francis Knollys deprecating this vehemently on behalf
of the Prince of Wales. Its last sentence is worth quoting, as it endorsed
what was known to be Dilke's own special wish:
"What he would like to see would be Lord Northbrook at the India
Office and you at the Admiralty."
'On December 14th I saw Mr. Gladstone, but a new opening had arisen,
for Fawcett was very ill, and supposed to be dying, and Mr. Gladstone
determined to wait for a few days to see whether he got better....
'On December 16th Mr. Gladstone pledged himself to me in writing with
regard to putting me immediately into the Cabinet in some place, and
on December 17th the Queen agreed that a paragraph to that effect
should be sent to the newspapers. On the 18th, however, she declined
to entertain the question of taking Chamberlain for the Duchy. On
December 20th Mr. Gladstone wrote that he was "between the devil and
the deep sea." I do not know which of the two meant the Queen, and
whether the other was myself or Chamberlain. On December 21st
Chamberlain came up to town to see me. On the 22nd the Dodson plan
went forward in letters from Mr. Gladstone to Sir Henry Ponsonby, the
Queen's Secretary, and from Lord Hartington, to the Queen. On the 22nd
at night Dodson accepted it, and on the 23rd I was formally so
informed, and virtually accepted the Presidency of the Local
Government Board, which I nominally accepted on December 26th.'
Before Sir Charles vacated the seat by his letter of acceptance, the
Tories in Chelsea had met and decided not to oppose him. Among the letters
of congratulation none gratified the new Minister more than one from Lord
Barrington, Lord Beaconsfield's former private secretary, who wrote, even
before the appointment was officially confirmed:
"I like watching your political career as, besides personal feeling,
it makes me think of what my dear old chief used to say about you--
that you were _the_ rising man on the other side."
On December 27th Lord Granville sent from Walmer Castle a letter of
characteristic courtesy and charm.[Footnote: The letter given in Chapter
XX., p. 311.] It crossed an expression of gratitude already despatched by
"MY DEAR LORD GRANVILLE,
"Having received Mr. Gladstone's letter with the Queen's approval, I
write to thank you for all your many kindnesses to me while I have
been under your orders. I shall continue to attend the office until
the Council, but I cannot let the day close without trying to express
in one word all that I owe to you as regards the last thirty-two
"CHARLES W. DILKE."
But it was much later, when the Government had fallen, that this "one
word" came to be developed.
"76, SLOANE STREET, S.W.
"_Tuesday, July 14th_, 1885.
"MY DEAR LORD GRANVILLE,
"I am glad you feel as you do about me. Malicious people and foolish
people have both so long said that I wanted to be S. of S. for For.
Affs. myself that I never expect to be believed when I say the simple
truth--that in my opinion it ought to be in the Lords as long as there
are Lords, and that my only wish was to be of any help I could. I can
only think of the Errington-Walsh business when I think over points on
which we have differed, and I cannot help scoring that down to Forster
and the silly Irish Government, and not to you, though you are so
loyal a colleague that when you have accepted you always actively
"I do not suppose I shall ever, if again in office, have such pleasant
official days as those I spent in the F.O. under you, but the next
best thing would be at the Admiralty--the office to which all my life
has always inclined me--to obey your orders from the F.O.
"I am sure you will believe this even if no one else will, and believe
me also ever
"Yours very affectionately and sincerely,
"CHARLES W. DILKE."
'Trevelyan, in sending his congratulations from the Chief Secretary's
Office at Dublin, asked me for the earliest possible draft of heads of my
Local Government Bill for England: "in case it is settled that we are to
bring one in--a move which I have come to think is necessary. They need
not run on all fours, but there are points on which it would not do to
adopt a different policy."'
To the Secretary of State's congratulations, Sir Julian Pauncefote,
permanent head of the Foreign Office staff, added his tribute:
"How we all deplore your departure, _none so much as myself_. You will
leave behind you a lasting memory of your kindness and geniality, and
of your great talents."
Other friends, among them Mr. Knollys, assumed as a matter of course that
the promotion would bring a change from congenial to uncongenial work.
They were right. "I shall be in the Local Government Board by Wednesday,
as I shan't, after Chamberlain's kindness, put him in a place which he
will like less than the Board of Trade. Shan't I hate it after this
place!" Sir Charles Dilke wrote. "But," he added, "it will 'knock the
nonsense out of me.'" That was the view put to him, for instance, by Lord
Barrington. "In the end it is well that a Minister should go through the
comparative drudgery of other offices. It gets him 'out of a groove.'"
Mr. Gladstone, on making what Sir Charles Dilke calls 'the formal
announcement' on December 23rd, wrote:
"Notwithstanding the rubs of the past, I am sanguine as to your future
relations with the Queen. There are undoubtedly many difficulties in
that quarter, but they are in the main confined to three or four
departments. Your office will not touch them, while you will have in
common with all your colleagues the benefit of two great modifying
circumstances which never fail--the first her high good manners, and
the second her love of truth....
"I have entered on these explanations, because it is my fervent
desire, on every ground, to reduce difficulties in such high and
delicate matters to their minimum; and because, with the long years
which I hope you have before you, I also earnestly desire that your
start should be favourable in your relations with the Sovereign."
This was written only a few weeks after the Prime Minister had spoken to
his intimates of Dilke as some day his probable successor in the
leadership of the House of Commons. Mr. Gladstone did not omit to urge
that the new Minister should do his best to conciliate good-will. The
Queen, he said, "looked with some interest or even keenness to the words
of explanation as to the distant past," which Sir Charles himself had--
"not in any way as a matter of bargain, but as a free tender"--proposed to
They were guarded. In an address delivered at Kensington before his re-
election, he dwelt almost exclusively on questions of Local Government,
and coming to the Government of London, he said:
"There were very many subjects upon which one might modify one's
opinions as one grew older; there were opinions of political infancy
which, as one grew older, one might regard as unwise, or might prefer
not to have uttered; but upon the Government of London--the opinions
he expressed in 1867 were his personal opinions at the present time."
This and the closing admission that when he first came before the electors
of Chelsea, he "was only between three-and four-and-twenty years of age,
and was perhaps at that time rather scatter-brained," are all the
allusions to the remote past which the speech contains; but there is every
reason to believe that it was taken as satisfactory. Mr. Gladstone wrote
that the comments of the Conservative press, which were pretty certain to
be read at Osborne, would be useful. Finally, "to integrate their
correspondence," he added this reference to Sir Charles's known wish for
"I passed over the suggestion about clearing the Admiralty (_a_) from
reluctance to start Northbrook's removal to any less efficient place;
(_b_) on account of Parliamentary displacements; not at all because it
was too big a place to vacate and offer."
'All the same,' the Memoir adds, 'I liked the L.G.B.'
The change of office did not mean any severance from foreign policy, which
Sir Charles could now approach in his proper sphere, with the authority of
a Cabinet Minister. He was succeeded by Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice, who had
returned from his mission to Constantinople. Dilke wrote on December 23rd
to Lord Granville: "I should suggest that no time be lost in getting
Fitzmaurice here. He likes work, and will go at these matters like a
'On the last day of the old year Lord Granville, writing from Walmer
to thank me for what I had said about him to my constituents, added:
"I have given the sack to ---- at the end of the five years' limit
which now expires. He would like to keep the appointment on leave for
six months, and might be very useful in advising the office. But would
there be any House of Commons objection to this prolongation?" This
was a specimen of the way in which, after I had left the Foreign
Office, all Foreign Office questions were still thrown on to me; and
as a matter of fact I did almost as much Foreign Office work during
the year 1883 as I had done from 1880 to 1882. Fitzmaurice, however,
was able, and worked very hard, and he gradually acquired an enormous
mastery of the detail of the questions.' [Footnote: Sir Charles notes
how glad he was to induce Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice to continue Mr.
Austin Lee in the post of official private secretary.]
His unopposed return for Chelsea did not take place till January 8th,
1883. Before this he had been formally admitted to the Privy Council.
'I had left the Foreign Office on December 27th, having been there
exactly two years and eight months, and on Thursday, the 28th, I went
down to a Council at Osborne to be sworn; and on the 29th addressed
the principal meeting held in my constituency with regard to my re-
election, and advocated a policy of decentralization in Local
Government affairs. I was rather amused at Osborne by the
punctiliousness with which, after I had kissed hands on being sworn a
member of the Council, the Queen pointed out to the Clerk of the
Council that it was necessary for me again to immediately go through
precisely the same ceremony on appointment as President of the Local
Government Board--a curious point of strict etiquette. I could not but
think that the portion of the Privy Councillor's oath which concerns
keeping secret matters treated of secretly in Council is more honoured
in the breach than in the observance; but when Mr. Gladstone chose,
which was not always, he used to maintain the view that the clause is
governed by the first part of the oath, so as to make it secret only
in respect of the interests of the country and the position of other
members of Council. There is nothing in the oath about any limit of
time, but it has always been held in practice that a time comes when
all political importance has departed from the proceedings of the
Council, and when the obligation of secrecy may be held to lapse.
There is nothing, however, more delicate than the question of where
the line is drawn. Chamberlain was directed by the Cabinet, for
example, at the time of the Kilmainham Treaty, to carry on
negotiations with Parnell which were absolutely impossible except by a
partial revelation of matters discussed secretly in Council; but as
the Prime Minister was a party to this, I suppose that the Queen's
consent to the removal of the obligation would be in such a case
assumed, though it was not in this case real. Another difficulty about
the oath is that it in no way provides for the position towards their
chiefs of members of the Government not members of the Privy Council.
'It is difficult, therefore, to say that the oath in practice imposes
any obligation other than that which any man of honour would feel laid
upon him by the ordinary observances of gentlemen.'
Sir Charles was only thirty-nine when he entered the Cabinet, yet the
general feeling was that his admission was overdue rather than early, and
no one had shown more anxiety for it than the future King.
'During the whole month while my position in the Cabinet was under hot
discussion, I saw a great deal of the Prince of Wales, who wished to
know from day to day how matters stood, and I was able to form a more
accurate opinion both of himself and of the Princess, and of all about
them, than I had formed before. The Prince is, of course, in fact, a
strong Conservative, and a still stronger Jingo, really agreeing in
the Queen's politics, and wanting to take everything everywhere in the
world and to keep everything if possible, but a good deal under the
influence of the last person who talks to him, so that he would
sometimes reflect the Queen and sometimes reflect me or Chamberlain,
or some other Liberal who had been shaking his head at him. He has
more sense and more usage of the modern world than his mother, whose
long retirement has cut her off from that world, but less real brain
power. He is very sharp in a way, the Queen not sharp at all; but she
carries heavy metal, for her obstinacy constitutes power of a kind.
The strongest man in Marlborough House is Holzmann, the Princess's
Secretary and the Prince's Librarian. He is a man of character and
solidity, but then he is a Continental Liberal, and looks at all
English questions as a foreigner! The Princess never talks
politics.... It is worth talking seriously to the Prince. One seems to
make no impression at the time ... but he does listen all the same,
and afterwards, when he is talking to somebody else, brings out
everything that you have said.'
Some letters of this date show how strongly the personal friendship of Sir
Charles Dilke and Mr. Chamberlain had developed during their political
In September, 1881, Mr. Chamberlain writes that he has been "reading over
again a book called _Greater Britain_, written, I believe, by a young
fellow of twenty-five, and a very bright, clever, and instructive book it
is." He petitions for a copy "properly inscribed to your devoted friend
and admirer, J. C." Sir Charles, in acknowledging this, protested against
the word "instructive," and his friend apologized. "But it is instructive
for all that. When you next come to Birmingham you shall inscribe my
copy.... Let me add that in all my political life the pleasantest and the
most satisfactory incident is your friendship."
These expressions were further emphasized by another letter of this date.
Sir Charles, hurrying into Mr. Chamberlain's room in the House of Commons,
had found him busy and preoccupied, and so followed up his visit with a
letter. Mr. Chamberlain replied:
"I am not sorry to have the opportunity of saying how much I
appreciate and how cordially I reciprocate all your kind words.
"The fact is that you are by nature such a reserved fellow that all
_demonstration_ of affection is difficult, but you may believe me when
I say that I feel it--none the less. I suppose I am reserved myself.
The great trouble we have both been through has had a hardening effect
in my case, and since then I have never worn my heart on my sleeve.
"But if I were in trouble I should come to you at once--and that is
the best proof of friendship and confidence that I know of."
About that same time Lord Granville was writing to Sir Charles on foreign
affairs, and diverged into general politics, remarking on the Free Trade
speeches then being delivered. "With what ability Chamberlain has been
speaking! I doubt whether going on the stump suits the Tory party." To
this Sir Charles replied with an enthusiasm rare in his utterances:
"Chamberlain's speech was admirable, I thought. I, as you know,
delight in his triumphs more than he does himself. It is absurd that
this should be so between politicians, but so it is. Our friendship
only grows closer and my admiration for him stronger day by day."
AT THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD
Under the pressure of the excitements of 1882 caused by foreign affairs,
business legislation for the needs of the British community had been
crushed out, but there was agreement that in the New Year time must be
given for Mr. Chamberlain's Bankruptcy Bill to become law; also that the
electioneering question of Corrupt Practices should be dealt with. Beyond
this immediate programme lay two matters of the first importance--reform
of local government in town and in country, and reform of the electorate.
In regard to these, the year was chiefly consumed by Government
dissensions, partly as to the character of the measures, but principally
as to their order of precedence.
As administrator in his new office, Sir Charles turned at once to the
position of the civil servants under his control:
'On New Year's Day I had begun to be bothered about what was called my
patronage at the Local Government Board, which was considerable. At
the Foreign Office I had none at all, and had had the greatest
possible difficulty in getting Lord Granville to give a consulate to
Henry George Kennedy, who had been my secretary for many years, and
who had considerable claims--as he had lost his health in the consular
service before he first came to me, and then recovered his health
after a serious illness. At the Local Government Board I was my own
master, and all the patronage of the office was absolutely at my
disposal, and the first post or two that fell vacant I gave to persons
suggested by Hartington, James, and other colleagues. But I very soon
formed a strong opinion that the patronage of the Local Government
Board ought to be used in a different way from that which had
prevailed ever since the end of Stansfeld's term of office' (1871-
1874). 'Stansfeld had made excellent use of his patronage, but
Sclater-Booth' [Footnote: Mr. George Sclater-Booth, created Lord
Basing in 1887.] (1874-1880) 'and Dodson' (1880-1882), 'and even
Goschen' (1868-1871), 'had used it less well, and had put in men of
the kind that colleagues often force upon one--political partisans or
supporters, not always the best men. I talked the matter over, and
decided to make the service during my term of office a close service,
and to promote men already in the service to all vacancies as they
occurred, making inspectors of auditors or clerks, and giving the good
auditorships to the best men in the inferior ones. As regarded new
appointments to auditorships at the lowest scale, I had a list of men
who were working with auditors without pay on the chance of my giving
them appointments later on, and I brought in several of this kind on
good reports from auditors. Bodley, my Private Secretary, managed the
whole of my patronage for me, and did it extremely well, and after I
had started the system I was able to leave it absolutely in his
He notes later on that one of his colleagues was 'furious' with him
because he would not do a job for the family solicitor, who was also
Parliamentary agent of the colleague's son. A previous President had
'jobbed in a Tory agent,' and the colleague expected that Sir Charles
should follow with the Whig agent. 'I refused, as I intended to promote
one of our best and worst-paid men.'
An illustration of the same principle is the case of Mr. Walter Sendall:
'It was at this time' (November, 1883) 'that I had taken up, as
against Lord Kimberley and Lord Derby, the case of Sendall--an
Assistant Secretary in the Local Government Board, who had been
previously appointed Governor of Natal, and then withdrawn on account
of Natal feeling that he would be too much under the control of Sir
Hercules Robinson, the Governor of the Cape. There being nothing
against Sendall, I thought that we were bound to find him another
Governorship, and Horace Seymour, Mr. Gladstone's secretary, was in
strong agreement with me. The matter was brought to a point at this
moment by the selection of Blake for a Governorship in preference to
Sendall. A strong letter from Seymour pointed out that "heaps of
deserving men in the Colonial service were passed by to make this
appointment, and Sendall, who has a _real_ claim on the Government, is
put on one side. In my opinion an appointment of this kind is most
mischievous, and I sincerely trust that the Healys and the Biggars
will make the most of it, and for once they will have at least my
hearty sympathy...." Seymour was Lady Spencer's brother, and he on his
side and I on mine made the lives of Lord Derby and Lord Kimberley'
(Ministers responsible in regard to the withdrawal) 'so uncomfortable
that we finally got Sendall an appointment. Blake turned out a success
as a Colonial Governor.'
Mr. H. Preston Thomas, C.B., in his _Work and Play of a Government
Inspector_, written after fifty years' experience of the Civil Service,
bears testimony to Sir Charles's work as an administrator, especially by
the introduction of the principle of competition:
"It was during the presidency of Sir Charles Dilke that the staff of
the Local Government Board was reorganized, and for the first time
placed on a more or less satisfactory footing.... A leaven of highly
educated men was much wanted in the junior ranks, and this was secured
by the reorganization of 1884, when eight clerkships of the Higher
Division were thrown open to public competition.... Every one of the
successful candidates had graduated in honours at Oxford or Cambridge,
while two or three were Fellows of their Colleges. The infusion of new
blood acted most beneficially, and the heads of the department were
able to delegate to subordinates some of the duties of which the
enormous mass had fairly overwhelmed them." [Footnote: P. 195.]
The new President threw himself with energy into the administrative work
of his department: the Memoir abounds in references to visits of
inspection to workhouse infirmaries, sewage farms, schools, and training-
ships. One instance in which he personally intervened was that of Nazareth
House at Hammersmith, a Roman Catholic establishment at which there had
been an outbreak of typhus. There were reasons which made Sir Charles
think, after a visit to the house, that the local Medical Officer had been
unjustly severe. Instructions were given as to changes to be made, and a
letter of warm gratitude came from Cardinal Manning, April 27th, 1883, who
spoke of himself as "disabled and shut up, and therefore doubly grateful."
This was endorsed by the action of the Sisters, and Sir Charles's own
phrase, 'I have always continued on intimate terms with the Sisters of
Nazareth House until this day,' gives but a slight idea of the homage
rendered to him and his wife by this community until the end.
When he was standing for re-election in January, his speeches contained
strong protests against over-centralization. Even where he was most
zealous for reform, Sir Charles bore in mind that local bodies are liable
to make mistakes, but that public interest is often best served by
allowing such errors to correct themselves. Here is an instance:
'On August 31st, 1883, I inspected Westminster Union Workhouse, in
consequence of the serious misconduct of the master, who had been
bitterly attacked in the House of Commons, and with regard to whom I
had laid down the principle that it was for the Guardians and not for
me to dismiss him. This was a test case with regard to centralization.
Feeling in the Press was strong against the master, and his acts were
entirely indefensible, but he had the support of the majority of his
Guardians. I made public my opinion, but did nothing else, and
ultimately the Guardians who supported him lost their seats, and the
master was removed by the new Board.'
At this time the unravelling of the conspiracy which had led to the
Phoenix Park murders and dynamite outrages was causing a panic in London
itself. Sir William Harcourt at the Home Office, while he threw himself
into the task of fighting these menaces with energy, demanded exemption
from less engrossing cares. On March 17th
'he told the Cabinet that he was so overburdened with work that he
must hand all the ordinary business over to the Local Government
Board.... I noted that Harcourt thought himself a Fouche, and wanted
to have the whole police work of the country, and nothing but police.
The matter was finally completed during the Easter recess by letter on
a scheme drawn up by Hibbert' (Parliamentary Secretary to the Local
Government Board), 'who knew both offices. It was even proposed at one
moment that a Bill should be brought in to give the Local Government
Board for ever the inspections, such as mines, factories, etc., and
the Artisans' Dwellings Acts and other matters not connected with
Police and Justice; but no legislation took place, as the idea was
hotly opposed by the Home Office, and we went on from hand to mouth by
a mere personal arrangement between Harcourt and myself. [Footnote:
The Diary of this time deals with the Ministry of Agriculture; it was
decided to create an Agricultural Vice-President of the Council, so as
to separate Agriculture from Education, and to appoint 'Dodson as
Vice-President, under Carlingford as Lord President.' 'Some had asked
for the creation of a Ministry of Agriculture and Commerce, as in
France, a wonderful combination.' Sir Charles reported to the Cabinet
the fact that a new Ministry had been unanimously agreed to by the
House of Commons some years before (though no notice had been taken of
the resolution)--a Ministry of Justice.
Sir Charles Dilke was always opposed to the increase of Ministers
Ministries. See "Labour," Chapter LII. (Vol. II., pp. 342-367).]
'On Monday, April 2nd, there came up the question of whether Harcourt
would himself deal with the matter of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade,
which was raised by a debate in the House, and which the Home Office
insisted on his taking. To their disgust, however, Harcourt would not
look at the documents, and sent them all to me in a box for me to deal
Home Office duties, as Sir Charles discovered, are 'highly miscellaneous,'
and at the end of May an item in the 'curious mixture of subjects' that he
had before him was a letter from the Primate, giving the views of a
meeting of Bishops about cemeteries.
The transference of so much business to the Minister of another department
was not pleasing to the Home Office permanent officials. When Lord
Rosebery resigned in the beginning of June, Sir Charles secured the
promotion of Mr. Hibbert, Parliamentary Secretary to the Local Government
Board, to the Under-Secretaryship of the Home Office; [Footnote: Mr. J.
Tomlinson Hibbert, afterwards for many years Chairman of the Lancashire
County Council and of the County Councils Association.] and out of several
names submitted to him by Mr. Gladstone for Mr. Hibbert's place he
selected that of Mr. G. W. E. Russell, who, a short time before this, had
published in one of the reviews an article vehemently attacking the Whig
tradition. Sir Charles notes that Mr. Russell was congratulated by his
kinsman, that great Whig, the Duke of Bedford, as follows:
'After singing Russell's praises, he concluded: "As, my dear George,
you have now not only an official _but also a literary income_, it
will, perhaps, no longer be necessary that I should offer to continue
to pay your election expenses." This story has been denied, but is
'All through the autumn I felt myself in considerable difficulties in
dealing with the important questions which Harcourt had handed over to
me from the Home Office, but as to which in many cases new departure
was evidently needed which I had no authority to take. One such
question was factory inspection. The current work was thrown on me,
and I had to defend what the factory branch of the Home Office did. On
the other hand, although I had the strongest opinion that the
Inspectorate should be increased, and women inspectors appointed for
factories where women were employed, Harcourt would not agree to this,
and kept the patronage in his private secretary's hands, so that I had
no real control.'
It was, however, in Sir Charles's power to appoint women inspectors at the
Local Government Board, and he did so, thus leading the way in the
movement for associating women with public work.
'The same was the case at first with regard to what were known as
Cross's Acts, or the larger scheme affecting artisans' dwellings, as
to which I had at the end of October some correspondence with Cardinal
Manning, who was in Italy. Manning had written, in a letter which I
received on November 2nd: "Without a high-handed executive nothing
will be done till another generation has been morally destroyed, but
construction must keep pace with destruction. Some of my parishes are
so crowded owing to destruction without construction as to reproduce
the same mischiefs in new places. You know I am no narrow politician,
but I am impatient at political conflicts while these social plagues
are destroying our people."
'The matter was brought to a head on the next day by the receipt of a
letter from Mr. Gladstone sending me a letter from the Queen on the
dwellings of the people, with copy of what he had said in reply. The
'"_October 30th_, '83.
'"The Queen has been much distressed by all she has heard and read
lately of the deplorable condition of the homes of the poor in our
great towns.... The Queen will be glad to hear Mr. Gladstone's
opinion ... and to learn whether the Government contemplate the
introduction of any measures, or propose to take any steps to obtain
more precise information as to the _true_ state of affairs in these
overcrowded, unhealthy, and squalid bodies. She cannot but think that
there are questions of less importance than these which are under
discussion, and which might wait till one involving the _very_
existence of thousands, nay, millions, had been fully considered by
'Mr. Gladstone, in reply, said: "Mr. Gladstone will not fail to
communicate with Sir Charles Dilke ... on the subject of your
Majesty's letter. He himself does not doubt that improvements in local
government which he trusts are near at hand will lead to a sensible
'In consequence of this communication from the Queen, I decided to
examine all the worst parts of London for myself, and on November 9th
I wrote to Lyulph Stanley and to Miss Maude Stanley and others for a
list of what they considered the worst places in London, "as we want
to test our administrative powers under the present law. As we have to
show that the Local Authority have 'made default,' it would be best to
take cases as to which the Medical Officers have reported to the
Vestry in the past, and nothing has been done." During the remainder
of the year I met all the Medical Officers of London with the District
Surveyors of the parishes, each man in his own district, and visited
with them all those places on which they had reported without success;
and, making my own notes, I picked out the very worst cases, and when
I was certain that I was on firm ground took occasion to mention them
After some discussion, in which Mr. Gladstone and also Harcourt and
Chamberlain were consulted, it was agreed that Dilke should do what he
pleased in the name either of the Home Office or Local Government Board
'as to fighting Vestries about the dwellings of the poor.' At this moment,
near the end of November, several delicate diplomatic questions were in
hand, upon which, as a member of the Cabinet, Sir Charles was now taking a
leading part. Accordingly Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice, who thoroughly
understood Local Government problems, took charge of the work on the
detail of the Local Government Bill:
'It might be said that Fitzmaurice was doing my work and I was doing
his. Although I was visiting St. Giles and the courts about the
Strand, the worst streets near Judd Street (St. Pancras), Lisson
Grove, and other curious places in Marylebone, Lord Salisbury's Courts
in the neighbourhood of St. Martin's Lane, and the worst slums of St.
George the Martyr, Newington, St. Saviour's, and St. George's in the
East, yet as regarded the preparation of the details of my Bill I
turned the matter over to Fitzmaurice....'
Sir Charles's main interest of these months was making up the case against
those responsible for bad housing, and he fixed responsibility on some who
showed themselves honourably sensitive:
'About this time I received a very strong and detailed anonymous
letter calling my attention to the condition of the Northampton
tenants in Clerkenwell, and I sent it to Lord William Compton--
afterwards Lord Compton, and later Lord Northampton--who was serving
as a clerk in the Turkish Department of the Foreign Office. At my
request he went down to Clerkenwell and looked into the matter for
himself, and found the state of things so horrible that he warmly took
up the question, and I then took him down to Clerkenwell again. I
found Clerkenwell to be my strongest case, as it was the only parish
in which the local authority was entirely in the house-farmers' hands,
and from this time forward I put it in a prominent place in all my
Before departing, on December 20th, for Toulon,
'I had a correspondence with the Archbishop of Canterbury (Benson)
with regard to the condition of the property in London of the
Ecclesiastical Commissioners, which I thought a disgrace to the
Church. He only asked me to send him the facts, which I did, pointing
out that the district "in the Borough" at the meeting of St.
Saviour's, Bermondsey, Newington, and St. George the Martyr, was in a
The outcome of these inquiries was the appointment of the Royal Commission
on Housing. The subject afforded safe ground on which to meet the Queen
when he first went down as a guest to Windsor, and it was supplemented by
another matter, on which much correspondence had passed between him and
Sir Henry Ponsonby--that of certain cement works near West Cowes, the
smoke from which killed the Queen's shrubs at Osborne.
'On Tuesday, November 27th, I dined and slept at Windsor, and the
Queen talked artisans' dwellings and Osborne chemical works. Ponsonby
I thought very able and very pleasant. I suppose I had Dizzy's rooms,
because there was not only a statue of him, but also a framed
photograph, in the sitting-room, while in the bedroom there was a
recent statue of the Empress Eugenie. The Queen was, of course, very
courteous, but she was more bright and pleasant than I had expected.
The Duke and Duchess of Albany were at Windsor, and I had her next me
at dinner. Lorne was also there, and after the Queen had gone to bed
the Duke and Lorne showed me all the curiosities, having had the whole
of the galleries lighted. We sat up very late. Loene is serious-
minded ... through his real attempt to understand his work, and would
do most things well....'
In this year Sir Charles opposed the scheme of "assisted emigration" under
which was offered to the world the amazing spectacle of a Government
paying its own subjects to quit its shores and its flag. Irish peasants,
half starved, clad in garments promiscuously flung out from the slop-shop,
often quite unfit to make their way in a strange country, were induced by
the offer of a free passage (without even inspection to see that they were
decently accommodated on board) to pour in thousands out of a country
whose rulers had no better thing to offer them than this cynical quittance
in full. Sir Charles 'violently opposed the scheme' in one of his first
Cabinets (May 5th), and again on July 25th tried to abolish it, but 'only
succeeded in getting a promise that the second year of it should be the
At the beginning of 1883 his brother Ashton was very ill at Algiers, and
on February 17th the manager of his paper, the Weekly Dispatch, brought to
Sloane Street a communication in Ashton Dilke's own hand, which contained,
amongst other directions to be carried out after his death, the actual
paragraph by which it was to be announced. When the end came, on March
12th, 1883, it meant 'a serious breaking with the past. William Dilke
alone was left to me, if, indeed, at eighty-eight one could speak of a man
as left.' This old grand-uncle, with his military memories of Waterloo
days, whom Sir Charles Dilke yearly visited at Chichester, and who often
stayed at Sloane Street, was also at this moment very ill, and supposed to
be dying; but he recovered, and lived on for more than two years. In April
Sir Charles ordered from Mr. W. E. F. Britten, the painter, whom Leighton
had commended to him, a portrait of his brother, which 'proved very good,'
and which hung always in 76, Sloane Street.
He clung to family ties, and later in the year paid a visit to distant
kindred, the heads of the Dilke family:
'On Saturday, August 25th, I went to Maxstoke, and returned on Monday,
the 27th. There dined on the Saturday night Lord and Lady Norton and
their eldest son, Charles Adderley. The old man said a very true thing
to me about the place. "What a good castle this is, and how lucky that
it has always been inhabited by people too poor to spoil it!" From the
Commonwealth times, when Peter Wentworth plundered the Dilke of his
day for delinquency after the two years during which Fairfax had held
the Castle, they have never had money, and no attempt was ever made to
rebuild the interior house after the two fires by which two-thirds of
it were successively destroyed. They are, owing to Mrs. Dilke having a
little money, a little more prosperous just now, and there is a larger
herd of deer than usual; on this occasion I counted over one hundred
from the walls.'
The loss of his only brother had been preceded by a 'heavy blow.' That
"great and illustrious friend" for whom, in the early seventies, Sir
Charles prophesied that, in spite of the opposition of French aristocracy
and clericalism, he would govern France, had passed away on the last day
of 1882. Gambetta was dead.
On New Year's Day, 1883, Sir Charles, speaking to the electors of Chelsea,
dwelt on the qualities of "the greatest of all Frenchmen of his time"--
"the magnitude of his courage, his tremendous energy, his splendid
oratory, and, for those who knew him in private, his unmatched gaiety and
Among those who wrote to him was Mr. Gladstone, condoling on a death "you
will much feel." To one friend who wrote of Gambetta's "moral power," he
replied: "It seems difficult to speak of 'moral' power about Gambetta. His
kind of power was almost purely physical; it was a power of courage,
energy, and oratory." During his visit to Paris in January, 1883, 'my
first visit after Gambetta's death,' he and Lord Lyons 'talked chiefly
Later, turning--with the detachment of judgment which characterized his
attitude to public life--from his private friendship to his estimate of
the needs of France, he left this estimate of Gambetta and the Republic:
'Much as I loved his society, I did not think him a loss to the
Republic, for he was too dictatorial and too little inclined to let
other men do important work to suit that form of government, except,
indeed, in time of war. It is quite true that his was the only strong
personality of which France could boast, and it was possible that, so
long as he was there, the people would not be likely in a panic to
hunt in other camps for a saviour: but great as was his power--
physical power, power of courage and of oratory--and terrible as was
the hole in France made by his death, nevertheless the smaller men
were perhaps more able to conduct the Republic to prosperity and to
general acceptance by the people.'
The governing fact of English politics at this moment was the general
expectation of Mr. Gladstone's retirement. Since Lord Hartington would
undoubtedly succeed him, the Radical wing, led by Dilke and Chamberlain,
was doubly eager to commit the Government in advance to Radical measures.
Each of the two main subjects contemplated had two subdivisions. Reform of
the electorate included extension of the franchise, to which the Radicals
attached most importance, and to which Lord Hartington was sullenly
opposed; it also included redistribution of seats. Reform of local
government included, first, proposals for a new system of county
government; [Footnote: These had taken some shape, and Dilke found a draft
of them in his office when he succeeded to it; but Mr. Chamberlain agreed
with him in thinking it "a poor thing which I should not like to father."]
secondly, the Bill for the Government of London, which Sir William
Harcourt and Sir Charles Dilke had prepared with the help of Mr. Beal and
Mr. Firth, and this was ready for circulation to the Cabinet.
While Dilke, with his son, was passing Christmas-time at Toulon, Mr.
Gladstone had also come to the Mediterranean coast.
'I went to Cannes, where I dined with Mr. Gladstone twice, and went to
church with him on Sunday, January 21st, 1883.
'While Mr. Gladstone was at Cannes he talked very freely to Ribot and
other Frenchmen in the presence of Mrs. Emily Crawford, the _Daily
News_ correspondent in Paris, about the London Government Bill.
Harcourt had insisted, against myself and Firth and Beal, and against
most of the Commons members of the Cabinet, including the Prime
Minister, on keeping the control of the police in the hands of the
Government. Ribot asked Mr. Gladstone whether we could really trust
London with its police, as few Frenchmen dared trust Paris, and Mr.
Gladstone said that we could and should, a statement which was at once
sent to the _Daily News_, and printed, to Harcourt's horror.'
[Illustration: LEON GAMBETTA.
From the painting by Legros in the Luxembourg Museum at Paris.]
'On February 2nd we had a conference on London Government at the Home
Office, in which the police question again came up. In consequence of
our difference of opinion Harcourt shortly after circulated to the
Cabinet a memorandum on the police authority in the new municipality
'"No competent statesmen and no authoritative body of men have
considered this matter without arriving at the same conclusion--
namely, that there ought to be one police force, and not two, in the
Metropolis. I will therefore take it for granted that it is impossible
to raise an argument against the union of the whole of the police
force in the Metropolis under one control.... There is only one
question worthy of debate--namely, whether the united force shall be
placed under the control of the corporation or of the Government.... A
practical consideration of the case will, I think, demonstrate the
sheer impossibility of vesting in a popular council the discipline and
administration of such a force as the Metropolitan Police.... Suppose,
for example, that news arrived either from America or Ireland which
required instant and secret action by the police throughout London
against a Fenian outbreak. Is it to be contended that a meeting of the
Watch Committee is to be summoned ... a debate to be raised and a vote
taken?... When the Government determined to arrest Davitt, was the
warrant to be canvassed ... in the Watch Committee?..."
'On this I wrote in strong dissent: "Suppose the same news as regards
Liverpool. A case in point was the attack on Chester Castle. Liverpool
was the Fenian centre for this. Liverpool is by far the most Fenian
town in England. Yet all the arrests were made in Liverpool, and all
worked perfectly. If all this argument were really true, there would
be Fenian Alsatias in existence now. We do not find any difference
between town and town. We do not find that the Fenians avoid London,
where Harcourt has all his force and all his powers."
'Harcourt's memorandum went on in extraordinarily violent and anti-
popular language.... To this reasoning neither Mr. Gladstone nor
Chamberlain nor I yielded.'
Extension of the franchise involved Ireland. It was certain enormously to
increase Mr. Parnell's following, and Lord Hartington's opposition to the
proposal was very largely due to this fact. The Whig leader's attitude to
Ireland was expressed in a speech at Bacup, in which he declared that it
would be "madness to give Ireland more extended self-government" unless
they could "receive from the Irish people some assurance that this boon
would not be used for the purposes of agitation."
'Chamberlain wrote to me January 20th:
'"Hartington's speech was very Conservative the other day. I cannot
complain, as he has as much right to talk Whiggism as you and I to
spout Radicalism. Only I don't see how we are to get on together when
Mr. G. goes.... But the general impression left on my mind is that the
country (_our_ country, that is--the great majority of Liberal
opinion) is ripe for a new departure in constructive Radicalism, and
only wants leaders. So if we are driven to fight, we shall easily
recruit an army."'
Speaking at Swansea on February 1st, Mr. Chamberlain said:
"So long as Ireland is without any institution of Local Government
worthy of the name, so long the seeds of discontent and disloyalty
will remain, and burst forth into luxuriant growth at the first
Radicals were already uneasy about Lord Spencer's administration, and
their uneasiness was finding expression in public. Sir Charles notes in
January, 1883, before his brother Ashton's death:
'My brother had in January placed his application for the Chiltern
Hundreds secretly in the hands of his Newcastle friends, to be used so
soon as they had found a candidate, and I managed through Chamberlain
the selection of John Morley. Lord Spencer and Trevelyan were at this
time very hostile to Morley, who was writing against their policy in
the _Pall Mall_, and was supposed to be instigated by Chamberlain. In
sending me a letter of complaint from Trevelyan, Chamberlain wrote:
'"It seems to me devilishly like Forster over again. I think it may
wait without further reply; but I fear there may be more trouble in
store in Ireland yet, and we may have to put our feet down on further
'In a letter of February 2nd, Chamberlain wrote:
'"If Spencer and Trevelyan really believe that I have set Morley
against them, they are very foolish. On the other hand, I have done
all I can to keep him straight, but you know he is kittle cattle to
drive. If I have not converted him, I must admit that he has rather
shaken me, and I have not quite so much confidence in their discretion
as I thought it politic to express last night" (at Swansea). "The more
I think of the prosecutions of the Press and of Members of Parliament,
the less I like them. But I have said nothing of this to Morley. You
will see that I replied to Hartington by implication. I do not want to
have a row, but if it must come I shall not shrink from it.'"
The Radicals were pressing forward a proposal to deal at once with the
extension of franchise instead of with Local Government; but here they
'On this last point of the order of our chief Bills, Chamberlain and I
jointly consulted the Cabinet in writing, with the result that all
pronounced against our view except Mr. Gladstone, who was away and did
not write.' (Mr. Gladstone did not return from Cannes till the
beginning of March.) 'Hartington showed in his minute not only that he
wanted County Government dealt with first, but that he wanted
redistribution dealt with in the same Session with franchise. Lord
Spencer and Lord Selborne strongly agreed with Hartington. Lord
Granville was against binding ourselves to couple redistribution with
equalization of franchise, but thought that to introduce Bills dealing
with one or both of these subjects "would be prematurely hastening the
end of a good Parliament, and would delay the passing of useful
measures, including Local Government. It seems to me important to test
the utility of the new rules of procedure by several non-political
Bills, together with such Bills as the Local Government Bill and the
reform of the municipality of London." Lord Granville, of course, was
anxious to stop in, and was merely finding reasons for not touching a
subject which he thought dangerous.
'Lord Derby agreed with Lord Granville: "The objection on general
grounds to bringing forward a County Franchise Bill in the present
Session seems to me strong. You could not postpone redistribution of
seats, and this latter measure would involve the necessity for
dissolution, either in order to carry it or immediately after it was
carried. Local Government would thus be delayed for several years."
Lord Kimberley wrote: "I agree with Lord Derby. From the time when we
propose the extension of the county franchise until (by some
Governments) the redistribution of seats is carried, there will be a
political crisis, and all other measures will be postponed."