Part 7 out of 11
in organizing the victory of Mr. Adam, the principal Liberal Whip in the
House of Commons, whose services were generally considered to have been
very insufficiently recognized by Mr. Gladstone.] Moreover, the confidence
and friendship which led to constant consultations on every point between
the two men guaranteed an added power to Sir Charles behind the scenes,
and to him power, and not the appearance of power, was the essential
thing. But Dilke's position also as a Parliamentarian, his acknowledged
power and insight on questions both of Home and Foreign Affairs, his
following inside and outside the House of Commons, had created a claim of
long standing to Cabinet rank, and its abandonment made the "false
position" to which Lord Fitzmaurice alludes. Although Mr. Disraeli was
reported to have said, apropos of Sir Seymour Fitzgerald, that an Under-
Secretary for Foreign Affairs with his chief in the House of Lords holds
one of the most important positions in a Ministry, nevertheless the Under-
Secretary is the subordinate of his chief, and Lord Granville's reputation
as Foreign Minister was great.
That personal difficulties at least were overcome is shown by a note of
Lord Granville, written when Sir Charles left the Foreign Office in 1882,
but the note is in itself a commentary on the "false position":
"_December 27th_, '82.
"MY DEAR DILKE,
"As this is the day you expect to go to the Local Government Board, I
cannot help writing you one line. I will not dwell upon the immense
loss you are to me and to the Office. You are aware of it, and I have
no doubt will continue to help us both in the Cabinet and in the
House, and will be ready to advise the Under-Secretary and myself. I
must, however, say how deeply grateful I am for our pleasant
relations, which might easily have been a little strained from the
fact that it was a sort of fluke that you were my Under-Secretary
instead of being my colleague in the Cabinet. As it is, nothing could
be more satisfactory and more pleasant to me, and the knowledge we
have obtained of one another will strengthen and cement our
Sir Charles's acknowledged authority in foreign affairs made his
appointment a matter of congratulation among foreign diplomatists. It was
welcomed on the ground that it would correct Mr. Gladstone's presumed
tenderness towards Russia, and, above all, would make a bond of union with
France through his personal relations with Gambetta, who wrote on April
"Merci pour votre lettre de ce matin. Je trouve votre determination
excellente, et si la depeche de 4 heures qui annonce votre entree dans
le Cabinet, en qualite de sous secretaire d'etat aux Affaires
Etrangeres, est vraie, vous serez universellement approuve.
"Pour ma part, je vous felicite bien cordialement de la victoire que
vous venez de remporter, car je sais qu'avec des hommes tels que vous
on peut etre assure que c'est une victoire feconde en resultats pour
la civilisation occidentale et le droit europeen.
"Votre presence au Foreign Office est bien decisive pour dissiper les
dernieres apprehensions et effacer jusqu'aux souvenirs les plus
"Mais vous devez avoir autre chose a faire qu'a lire des lettres
"Je vous serre les mains,
The letter was 'couched in such terms as to make it desirable to answer
him with some statement of the views of the Government,' and Sir Charles
consulted Lord Granville about his reply, which would 'really be a
despatch,' and must 'say something about 1870' and the period of Lord
Granville's previous tenure of the Foreign Office. With recollections of
that time in their minds, and of England's entry upon the Black Sea
Conference without the presence of a French representative, French
politicians had commented very jealously upon some references to Gambetta
in a speech delivered by Lord Granville at Hanley in March of this year.
Lord Granville accordingly sent Dilke a memorandum in his own hand,
suggesting words for the reply. Gambetta was to be told that a speech
"made before the election" had been interpreted by some of his supporters
in the Press "as of a personal character against him," that Dilke knew
this to have been "the reverse of the speaker's intention," and that he
would be glad to have a talk with Gambetta on the subject of Lord
Granville's policy during the war when he next had the opportunity of
meeting him in Paris.
'But it was indeed difficult for Lord Granville to say anything about his
policy during the war which would please the French.' Gambetta's official
reply was, however, that, having read Lord Granville's speech, he found it
"proper under the circumstances and impartial," and that, although "absurd
ideas with regard to our recent elections had been ascribed to himself,"
he had "desired nothing in those elections" except Sir Charles's personal
triumph. To this Lord Granville rejoined: "Please thank M. Gambetta for
his friendly message. I presume you will not tell him that Lyons says his
assertion about the elections is a tremendous cracker."
Sir Edward Malet, Resident at Cairo, [Footnote: Afterwards Ambassador at
"We have had one Under-Secretary after another" (at the Foreign
Office) "who knows nothing about these affairs, and who has therefore
never been able to exert the legitimate influence to which his
position entitled him. It will now be different, and I hope soon to
recognize the thread of your thought in the texture of the Government
M. Gennadius, the Greek Charge d'Affaires, while the matter was still
open, implored him not to decline. "All your Greek friends consider our
country's cause as dependent on your acceptance. You have done much for us
already. Make this further sacrifice."
Sir Charles entered upon his functions on Thursday, April 29th, when his
colleague, the Permanent Under-Secretary, Lord Tenterden, took him round
to be introduced to the heads of the various departments. For his private
secretary he chose Mr. George Murray, [Footnote: Now the Right Hon. Sir G.
Murray, G.C.B.] "an extraordinarily able man." But in a few weeks Mr.
Murray was transferred to the Treasury, and afterwards became secretary to
Mr. Gladstone, and, later, to Lord Rosebery when Prime Minister.
'I found' (from Bourke, his predecessor, who had written to him with
great cordiality) 'that as Under-Secretary for the Foreign Office, I
had the Cabinet key--or most secret key that at that time there was:
another still more secret key being introduced after I was in the
Cabinet, and confined to the Cabinet itself. I found in the Foreign
Office that if I liked I might have got back the "Department" which
Lord Derby took away from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary in 1874,
leaving him only the Commercial Department. [Footnote: The
"Department" assigned to the Parliamentary Under-Secretary before 1874
was 'control of' some branch of foreign affairs in its details. See
also below, p. 349.] But I at once decided that I would not have it,
as I wanted to concern myself with the Parliamentary business and with
the important business, instead of doing detailed work at the head of
one section of it.'
On the evening of his first day in office Sir Charles gave a dinner at
Sloane Street to several of his colleagues. There were present
'Fawcett, just appointed Postmaster-General, Lord Northbrook,
Childers, Forster, Hartington, and Goschen.... Chamberlain was at my
dinner, having taken up his quarters with me for a week....
'Hartington after dinner showed me Indian despatches which were very
startling. Mr. Goschen told us that he had refused the Governor-
Generalship of India and the Embassy at Constantinople, but he
afterwards took Constantinople. He appeared at this moment to have
made up his mind to stay in the House of Commons to oppose
equalization of the franchise and redistribution of seats....
'Forster told us that he was starting for Ireland to see whether he
could avoid some renewal of coercion; and Chamberlain and I told him
that he _must_ avoid it. This was the cloud no bigger than a man's
Sir Charles goes on to tell how he stayed for a time its development:
'On the night of May 13th, between one and two o'clock in the morning,
I did a thing which many will say I ought not to have done--namely,
went down to a newspaper office to suggest an article against the
policy of another member of the Government. Under the circumstances, I
think that I was justified. I was not a member of the Privy Council or
of the Cabinet, and the interests of the party were at stake, as
subsequent events well showed. There was no shade of private or
personal interest in the matter. The effect of what I did was to stop
the policy of which I disapproved for the year, and might easily have
been to stop it for ever. I had found out in the course of the evening
that Forster was in favour of a Coercion Bill, and that the Cabinet
were likely to adopt it. I went down to the _Daily News_ office, and
told Hill, not even telling Chamberlain until two years afterwards
what I had done. The result of it was that the _Daily News_ had an
article the next morning which smashed Forster's plan.'
Chamberlain had written on May 4th to Mrs. Pattison: "The charmed circle
has been broken and a new departure made, which is an event in English
political history." But although the circle was broken, only one man had
found his way to the innermost ring; and in the composition of the
Ministry the Radicals were overwhelmingly outnumbered. Such a situation
did not lead to the stability of the Government, and by his reluctance in
the admission of Radicalism to office Mr. Gladstone had created
difficulties for himself. In the House his personal authority was
overridden in a matter which came up at once.
'In the morning of May 3rd I received a note from Lord Frederick
Cavendish, the Secretary of the Treasury, asking me to be at the House
at two, as there would be trouble about Bradlaugh's application to
affirm instead of take the oath. It had been decided by the Cabinet
that "Freddy" Cavendish, [Footnote: Lord F. Cavendish was Financial
Secretary to the Treasury.] who was leader of the House in the absence
of the Ministers who had gone for re-election, should move for a
Committee, and I spoke in support of that view.'
Sir Charles never took part again in any debate upon this once famous
struggle. He supported Mr. Gladstone's view in favour of allowing
affirmation, but he did so without heartiness, disliking 'the trade of
living on blatant atheism,' and finding in himself tendencies which led
him to fear that he was 'clerically minded.' He had always an extreme
dislike of talk or writing that offended legitimate susceptibilities.
The completion of the Ministry inevitably left some personal claims
'On May 1st I had John Morley to dinner to meet Chamberlain, who was
still staying with me. We talked over the men who had been left out.
Edmond Fitzmaurice was one, but Mr. Gladstone did not care about
having brothers. [Footnote: Mr. Gladstone was believed in 1868 to have
declined to have Lord Clarendon and his brother, Mr. Charles Villiers,
both in the Cabinet. See _Life of Granville,_ vol. i., p. 537. In the
new Government Lord Lansdowne was Under-Secretary for India, but
resigned in the course of the year on the Irish Land Question.] At
Chamberlain's wish Courtney had been offered the Secretaryship of the
Board of Trade, which, however, he declined. He would have taken the
place of Judge Advocate General, but it was not offered to him.
Chamberlain told us that the Cabinet were unanimous for getting rid of
Layard, the Ambassador at Constantinople, but that the Queen was
trying hard to keep him. The result of this difference of opinion
ultimately was that Goschen went to Constantinople on a special
embassy, without salary, and keeping his place in the House of
Commons, and that Layard continued to draw the salary without doing
A large section of the Liberal Press was at this period very independent,
and helped to frustrate Mr. Gladstone's determination to exclude Radicals
Sir Charles's relations with Mr. Hill, then editor of the _Daily News,_
were close, as also was the alliance between the two Radical Ministers and
Mr. John Morley, who had just then become editor of the _Pall Mall
'On May 14th John Morley asked me to see him to give him information
as to the general position of foreign affairs, and I consented to do
so. "It would be worth silver and gold and jewels," he said, "if I
could have ten minutes with you about three times a week."'
Chamberlain gave him the same privilege concerning domestic policy--a
privilege 'which he used so well that no complaint ever arose in regard to
it.' Chamberlain was much in touch with 'Escott of the _Standard_ and the
It was suggested at the dinner of May 1st that Mr. Courtney might succeed
Sir H. Drummond Wolff on the Commission for Reforms, appointed under
Article XXIII. of the Treaty of Berlin, for the European provinces of
Turkey and Crete; but this too Mr. Courtney declined, and the place was
eventually filled by Lord E. Fitzmaurice. Mr. Trevelyan was not included
in the Ministry. [Footnote: See the _Life of Goschen_, by the Hon. Arthur
Elliot, vol. i., pp. 215, 216; T. E. Holland, _The European Concert in the
Eastern Question_, pp. 291, 292; also _Turkey_, No. 15 (1880). Lord E.
Fitzmaurice was subsequently appointed British Plenipotentiary, under
Articles LIV. and LV. of the Treaty of Berlin, to the Conference in regard
to the navigation of the Danube. Both Mr. Courtney and Mr. Trevelyan
joined the Ministry later.]
At the moment Conservative society was inclined to regard the new Ministry
with suspicious wonder, and Sir Charles tells how, on May 5th, a week
after taking office, when he and Chamberlain were dining with the Prince
'most of the Cabinet were present with their wives; also the new
Viceroy of India (Lord Ripon), and Rosebery and his wife. When the
Duke of Cambridge came in, following the Prince and Princess, after
shaking hands with those he knew, he stood staring about, whereupon
Harcourt, nudging Chamberlain and myself, said, "He is looking for
New men were coming to the front; a new political era had begun, and to
the Radicals the situation was summed up by the House of Commons' jest
which stated that B.C. now meant "Before Chamberlain," and A.D. "Anno
The break with the past was real and important: 1880 is a marking date in
the political history of Great Britain, and the change was due to the
AT THE FOREIGN OFFICE
In "a memorandum of later years," quoted by his biographer, Mr. Gladstone
defined his own understanding of "the special commission under which the
Government had taken office" in 1880. "It related to the foreign policy of
the country, the whole spirit and effect of which we were to reconstruct."
Sir Charles's views as to the need for this had long been before the
public, and he threw all his energies into the task of helping to achieve
'The Liberals, having come into office after violent denunciation of
the whole foreign and colonial policy of their predecessors, had a
general wish to reverse it in all parts of the world, and to dismiss
the agents by whom it had been carried out. They were especially
violent against Lytton in India, Layard at Constantinople, and Frere
in South Africa.'
Questions of the Indian frontier and Africa lay outside the immediate
sphere of the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, yet he was constantly
consulted upon both of them, and had his full part in defending the
reversal of Lord Lytton's policy by the new Viceroy, Lord Ripon, who
restored, or perhaps established, the unity of Afghanistan.
In the matter of South Africa, the Boer leaders wrote at once to express
their confidence that the new Government would consist of "men who look
out for the honour and glory of England, not by acts of injustice and
crushing force, but by the way of justice and good faith." They were
answered by promises of local self-government, but such promises had been
made to them before, and the retention of Sir Bartle Frere no doubt seemed
a bad omen. So, at all events, it was regarded by the Radical party. On
'I found that Courtney and my brother, with Dr. Cameron and Jesse
Collings, were getting up an attempt to coerce the Colonial Office and
Mr. Gladstone by preparing a list of between one and two hundred
members who would vote with Wilfrid Lawson for a censure on the
Government for not recalling Frere. Childers had found that it would
be easy to recall him, for Frere had said that he would only go out
for two years, and the two years were over. No doubt Frere, while
blameworthy for the Zulu War, was not responsible for the Transvaal
business, which had been done by Shepstone and Lord Carnarvon before
he went out; but with our people he received the whole discredit for
all that went wrong in South Africa, and it was impossible to wonder
at this when one recalled the language that he habitually made use
'Frere was protected by Mr. Gladstone, and allowed to remain, a
mistake for which we very gravely suffered. As this matter became of
great importance in 1899, I ought to add that Lord Granville backed
Mr. Gladstone in abstaining from rescinding the annexation of the
Transvaal, on the ground that as we were retiring from Kandahar we had
better not also retire from Pretoria.'
When, a few months later, the Boer rising followed, Dilke, with three
other Radical Ministers, Bright, Chamberlain, and Courtney, refused to
defend the Government's action even by a silent vote. 'Everything went as
badly as possible in South Africa, and Lord Kimberley' (the Colonial
Secretary) 'must share the blame with Mr. Gladstone.'
The third instance in which the recall of a man was demanded by Liberal
opinion as essential to the reversal of a policy touched matters in whose
development Sir Charles had a considerable part to play:
'_May 20th._--One of our first troubles in debate was with regard to
Layard's position at Constantinople, we being attacked by our own
people on May 20th, who were more Gladstonian than Mr. Gladstone, as
to the public insults which Layard had heaped upon him. Mr. Gladstone
discussed with me what he was to say, and I have his note which, in
addition to the statement about Layard, contains the curiously large
one, "Statements made in Opposition not to be taken too literally when
Next day Mr. Gladstone wrote: "Thank you for the wonderful despatch you
kindly made in obtaining for me the particulars about Layard's
The new Under-Secretary writes of these early days and first impressions:
'The general opinion of the party was that a Liberal policy was being
pursued in foreign affairs, and that we had in the Foreign Office
carried out that which the country intended us to do. We were able to
bring about joint action on the part of Europe, and by means of it to
settle the Greek and Montenegrin questions; and Goschen's presence at
Constantinople was useful, inasmuch as he fully shared the views of
the Liberal party upon foreign affairs, although he differed from them
in domestic matters. On the other hand, the party were frightened
about India, for, although Lord Lytton had been removed, the
Government refused to make any sign as to the immediate evacuation of
Kandahar, and, as a matter of fact, it was a long time before the
Queen's resistance upon this point could be overcome. She no doubt
felt more able to stand out against Hartington, whom she liked, than
against Lord Granville.' [Footnote: See _Life of Granville_, vol. ii.,
Lord Lytton's policy is thus described:
'The _Allgemeine Zeitung_ for one of the last days of February
contained a remarkable disclosure of the Government scheme for the
settlement of Afghan affairs, which, so far as I know, did not appear
in the English newspapers. It was quoted from some Indian paper, and
revealed the fact that Persia was to occupy Herat, Kabul and Kandahar
being capitals of two separate States. I did not at the time believe
that it was possible that the Government should have absolutely
reversed the past British policy by proposing the cession of Herat to
Persia, but when I came into office at the end of April I made
immediate inquiry into the subject, and found that it was true, and
that they had done so. It was afterwards admitted.'
This proposal, however, had been declined by Persia. Before the fall of
the Beaconsfield Ministry--
'The Amir of Afghanistan had written to tell us that he must be the
friend of Russia, though he would be our friend too. We had replied
(that is to say, the outgoing Government had replied) that Russia had
sworn to us to have no dealings with Afghanistan, but that we should
in any case evacuate his country in October without conditions,
although he must respect our hold on Kandahar. Persia, it was clear
from Lytton's despatches, had acted under Russian influence when
declining Herat on our conditions.'
Under Lord Ripon, the policy of breaking up Afghanistan disappeared. But
although there was a clear intention to abandon all claim to remain in
Kandahar, yet the difficulty which attends any retrogressive movement in
Central Asia was at this moment intensified, because Russia was
threatening to advance on Merv, only 250 miles from Herat; and it seemed
as if the Tsar's troops might occupy one Afghan stronghold at the moment
when the Queen's forces withdrew from another.
'Lord Granville showed me, 15th May, some notes of language which he
intended to hold to Russia as to Central Asia, very strong indeed upon
the question of Merv; but the Cabinet afterwards took all this out,
not a single man being found in the Cabinet to back up Lord Granville
upon this question.'
In the succeeding months Sir Charles maintained a steady correspondence
with the new Viceroy, Lord Ripon, who described his task as a hard one.
"But I will do my best to perform it faithfully, and trust to you to back
me up." In it appears the reason for Lord Ripon's unwilling acceptance of
Abdurrahman, whom he called "the most Russian of the candidates" for the
Afghan throne, but also the inevitable choice. If Lord Ripon broke with
him, no hope appeared of establishing "even a semblance of order" before
the Indian Government withdrew the troops, "as," said the Viceroy, "we
_must_, because the service in Afghanistan, especially in winter, is so
unpopular with the native troops as to be a serious difficulty if it
should continue long. I hate the idea of leaving the Afghans a prey to
anarchy, created to some extent, at all events, by our policy, and I shall
do all I can to avoid it."
The Eastern Question was still dominant. The Treaty of Berlin had left
three sources of discontent in the region affected by its provisions. In
Bulgaria, Turkey complained that the Bulgarians had not fulfilled their
promise to disarm and to raze fortifications. In Greece, evasive
negotiations concerning the promised 'rectification of the frontier' were
being deliberately spun out. On the Montenegrin border, territory
surrendered and evacuated by the Turks had immediately been occupied by
Mohammedan Albanians before the Montenegrin troops could reach it.
'On my first examination of the papers at the Foreign Office, I found
that the black spot was Montenegro; the Roman Catholic Albanians on
the frontier and the Mahomedan Albanians being equally determined not
to become Montenegrin, and the Montenegrins insisting either on the
line of the Treaty, which would give them some Mahomedan, or on the
lines of the "Corti compromise," which would give them some Roman
Catholic Albanian subjects.' [Footnote: The "Corti compromise" was so
named after the Italian Ambassador at Constantinople, who advocated a
frontier line more favourable to Turkey than those previously proposed
(Sir Edward Hertslet's _Map of Europe by Treaty_, vol. iv.).]
Immediate steps were taken to remove the menace to European tranquillity
which arose from what the Austrian Ambassador called "the Porte's long
delays and tergiversation."
'_May 1st._--Pressure at Constantinople had begun this day, the
Cabinet having on the previous day approved an excellent and firm
despatch from Lord Granville to Layard, really written from the first
word to the last by Tenterden, containing the phrase, "While Her
Majesty's Government wish to abstain from anything like menace, any
intimation they give will be adhered to to the letter." The weak point
about the despatch, however, was that the Russians had written us a
despatch in the same sense, and that it might have been made to appear
that we were only acting under Russian dictation. At the same time the
despatch returned to the position of the circular bearing Lord
Salisbury's name, which I have called the April 1st (1878) Circular,
and set up that Concert of Europe which was destined to be kept
together until the Greek and Montenegrin frontier questions had been
'On May 3rd the Cabinet again considered our circular despatch
(calling on the Powers to address an identic and simultaneous note to
the Porte to fulfil its Treaty obligations as regards Greece,
Montenegro, and Armenia) in its final form.... On May 4th I lunched
with Lord Granville, and found that it was finally settled that
Goschen would go as Ambassador to Constantinople and Edmond
Fitzmaurice in Wolff's place.'
Meanwhile France was vigorously backing the new policy. Lord Granville was
deeply engaged in trying to unite Germany with the Powers in carrying out
concerted action, which was constantly evaded by Bismarck.
'_May 7th_.--On this day I had an opportunity of reading quietly a
curious despatch of Odo Russell, dated April 29th, recounting the
views of Prince Bismarck, who seemed to me to have been laughing at
him. The Prince "is even more willing to give his support to any
combined policy of England and France, as for instance in Egypt,
because he looks upon an Anglo-French alliance as the basis of peace
and order in Europe." [Footnote: This despatch is to be found in the
_Life of Granville_, vol. ii., p. 211, where the date is given as May
'On Sunday, May 9th, I had to dinner Leon Say, the new French
Ambassador; Montebello, his first secretary, afterwards Ambassador at
Constantinople; Lord Lyons and his secretary Sheffield; Lord
Tenterden, my colleague at the Foreign Office; my secretary Murray;
Harcourt, and C. E. D. Black, who the week afterwards became
Harcourt's secretary on my recommendation. Leon Say brought with him
from the French "bag" Gambetta's answer to my letter. Gambetta
informed me that the French Government were unanimous in throwing over
Waddington's compromise and giving Greece all that she had been
intended to have; and Gambetta was in favour, and said that his Prime
Minister' (M. de Freycinet) 'was in favour, of taking active steps to
prevent further delay on the part of Turkey.' [Footnote:
"CHAMBRE DES DEPUTES,
"_le 7 Mai_, 1880.
"Les dernieres Elections Cantonales m'avaient si vivement absorbe que
je n'ai pu trouver la minute de liberte necessaire pour repondre a vos
"Permettez-moi d'ailleurs, apres m'etre excuse du retard, de vous dire
que je ne partageais ni votre emotion ni votre point d'impatience. Je
crois fermement que la solution grecque sera prochainement obtenue, en
depit des resistances et des tergiversations qui peuvent se produire
chez les Turcs ou ailleurs. L'important est de maintenir le concert de
l'Europe, de le manifester par l'action commune d'une demonstration
navale; et d'apres tout ce que je sais, j'ai confiance que le
gouvernement de la Republique est reste dans la ligne de conduite et
qu'il y perseverera.
"Quant a la Grece, il convient qu'elle attende aussi, sans faire
mesure, l'effet de cette demonstration. Je suis peut-etre optimiste,
mais je crois a une issue favorable.
"En ce qui touche le traite de Commerce votre lettre m'a fort surpris,
et je ne peux m'expliquer une attitude si contraire aux preliminaires
pris par M. L. Say: je vous prie de ne pas trop vous hater de la
porter a la connaissance du public. Je crois qu'il y a la quelque
malentendu que je serai bien aise de faire disparaitre, si vous voulez
m'y donner le temps.
"Je vais demain a Cherbourg, ou je verrai vos amis qui sont invites
par la Ville, et au retour je vous manderai ce que j'aurai appris sur
les negociations du traite de Commerce qu'il serait si bon de voir
"CHAMBRE DES DEPUTES,
"_le 8 Mai_, 1880.
"MON CHER AMI,
"Je profite de l'intermediaire d'un jeune ami, M. Auguste Gerard, que
vous avez deja rencontre, pour vous envoyer quelques lignes de reponse
a votre aimable derniere communication.
"J'ai vu le President de notre cabinet au sujet de la question
Grecque, et comme vous pensez, le gouvernement est unanime pour
reprendre la question de Janina integralement, en ecartant
definitivement la derniere proposition de Waddington; on accepte la
formation de la commission internationale, chargee de reprendre le
trace au double point de vue diplomatique et technique. On y defendra
le trace qui englobe Janina. Ce qui importerait aujourd'hui serait
d'agir promptement, et de concert. On commettrait une lourde faute en
laissant la Porte atermoyer plus longtemps et epuiser toutes les
forces des diverses nationalites auxquelles elle refuse de donner les
maigres satisfactions fixees par le traite de Berlin.
"M. Leon Say doit avoir recu d'ailleurs a ce sujet les instructions
les plus nettes, et vous l'avez probablement deja vu.
* * * * * * *
"A bientot, je l'espere,
Such a step had already been taken by Great Britain on May 8th, when the
'wrote a despatch to the Courts proposing a Conference at Berlin or
Paris as to the Greek frontier, which led, in fact, to the Conference
summoned at Berlin to consider the fulfilment of the terms of the
On May 10th this activity was resented by the Sultan, who 'telegraphed his
unwillingness to receive Goschen, and great pressure had to be brought to
bear upon him during the next few days to induce him to consent.'
There was another matter arising out of the Russo-Turkish War which had
occupied Sir Charles much while in Opposition--namely, the government of
Cyprus. He did not think that the Foreign Office was the proper department
to administer dependencies, and accordingly, within a few days of taking
office, he raised the question whether there was any ground for keeping
Cyprus under the Foreign Office, and suggested its transfer to the
Colonial Office. In this Lord Granville concurred. But--
'Philip Currie, who as head of the Turkish department was managing the
affairs of Cyprus, did not want to lose it, and asked to be allowed to
prepare a memorandum in the opposite sense, and Lord Granville wrote,
"I do not expect to be converted by Currie's memorandum. Do you? If
not, the Colonial Office will have to bolt it." The Colonial Office
did have to bolt it, for the island was soon handed over to them!'
By the close of the year, as has been seen, Sir Charles was able to report
to his constituents "that, acting under the instructions of Lord
Granville, he had secured a greatly improved administration for this
On May 21st--
'Egypt began to trouble me, and I was not to be clear of the
embarrassment which it caused for several years. I wrote to Lord
Granville to say that I had been sounded through Rivers Wilson as to
how the Government would take the appointment of a Nubar Ministry with
an English Finance Minister,' and Sir Charles again warned Lord
Granville of dissensions between the English representatives in Egypt.
It became the most serious of all the embarrassments which involved Mr.
Gladstone's Government. On May 8th--
'I had to see Lord Ripon, who had appointed Colonel Gordon to be his
private secretary, and to inform him privately that the Foreign Office
feared that he would find him too excitable to be possible as a
secretary, which, indeed, very speedily proved to be the case.'
Gordon resigned before Lord Ripon reached India, and on June 14th
telegraphed to Sir Charles--
'to know whether we would let him take service again with the Chinese.
I saw a friend of his in London, one of the Chinese Commissioners of
Customs, and asked whether Gordon could be got to telegraph that he
would refuse any military command in the event of war between China
and Russia. He said he thought so, and I told Lord Granville, who
wrote back, "I have told the Duke of Cambridge that on these
conditions he might have leave."'
Lord Ripon wrote on his arrival:
"... So, you see, your warnings about Gordon came true. It is
fortunate that the arrangement came to an end before I got here. As it
is, there is no real harm done; we parted the best of friends, and I
learned to my astonishment, after I left him at Bombay, that he was
off for China."
So passes out of sight for the moment, but only for the moment, this
An immediate trouble, however, arose out of the Anglo-Turkish Convention
of 1878, by which Great Britain had been pledged to defend Turkey's
possessions in Asia Minor on condition that necessary reforms in
government were introduced. This pledge made England indirectly
responsible for the character of Turkish rule in Armenia; and Sir Charles
had repeatedly expressed the view that England was committed to more than
she could perform, either as against Russia or on behalf of Armenia. On
May 14th the Cabinet left in the draft of instructions to Mr. Goschen 'a
passage of Tenterden's, in which we recognized the Asia Minor Convention
of our predecessors.... But I induced Lord Granville to strike it out
after the Cabinet on his own responsibility.'
On the other hand, since the Convention existed, Sir Charles held that by
abrogating it they 'might appear to invite the Russians to invade Armenia,
which Russia might proceed to do in the name of humanity.' So far as
Turkey was concerned, it was considered likely that the Porte would wish
to see the Convention annulled, because it could then sell Cyprus to Great
Britain for cash instead of leasing it in return for the Asiatic
guarantee; and Turkish Pashas would be free from any interference about
reforms in Asia Minor. Ultimately the fear of letting Russia in outweighed
the other considerations, and the Convention was recognized, leaving
England with a heavy burden of moral responsibility for all that
subsequently occurred in Armenia under the protection of what Mr.
Gladstone himself had not unjustly called this "insane covenant."
Meanwhile, Musurus Pasha, the Turkish Ambassador, was complaining to Lord
Granville that 'the Sultan had assented to the Convention under a false
impression, not knowing that a portion of his dominions would be given
over to Austrian control, an alienation not contemplated by the Treaty of
San Stefano.' He complained, moreover, that the arrangement went, in
reality, beyond temporary occupation of provinces. 'We (Lord Salisbury)
had given Bosnia and Herzegovina secretly to Austria without reserve.'
The whole Eastern situation was ill-defined and full of difficulties. Mr.
Goschen, before he left England on his mission, came to Dilke to 'bewail
the unwillingness of Gladstone and of Lord Granville to make up their
minds how far they were going in the direction of coercion of Turkey.' On
'Looking about to see how Turkey was to be coerced with regard to the
Greek and Montenegrin questions, I discovered that all reinforcements
and officials were sent, and all money received by the Constantinople
Government, by the sea route, so that a blockade of the Dardanelles
would cut their Empire in two until they came to terms.'
Sir Charles's aim throughout all these frontier negotiations was to
support the claims of Greece, left indefinite by the Berlin Treaty. At
Great Britain's instance, the Greeks had refrained from attacking Turkey
when Turkey was engaged with Russia; but the Treaty of Berlin had only
promised to Greece in general terms "a rectification of frontier." On the
other hand, the Treaty had awarded to Montenegro certain districts of
Albania, which, as already stated; showed great repugnance to accept
Montenegrin rule. Sir Charles now conceived a plan--
"for combining Albanian autonomy with personal union with Greece,
finding that the Albanians were willing to accept the King of the
Hellenes, provided they succeeded in obtaining securities or
privileges for the Roman Catholic Church, to which great numbers of
On May 28th he learnt from the Greek Charge d'Affaires that proposals for
such a personal union had been made to the King of Greece, directly and
very secretly, "on the part of a Turkish statesman." The Southern
Albanians, wrote M. Gennadius, are to all intents and purposes Greeks.
But, the latter added, "the initiative ought to proceed from the
Albanians." A few days later Mr. Goschen wrote from Constantinople that
the proposed union would be a solution "very valuable for Europe," but
that the Turks would struggle hard to outbid the Greeks, and the Albanians
were very strong in the Palace, and were trusted all over the Empire.
Still, autonomy, Mr. Goschen thought, the Albanians "would and must have
in some shape." [Footnote: See also _Life of Goschen_, vol. ii., pp. 215,
In their attempt to reverse the Beaconsfield policy there was one
influence steadily opposed to the Government.
'On June 11th there went out a despatch, which had been for several
days on the stocks, as to the Anglo-Turkish Convention. It had come
back on the 10th from the Queen, who had written by the side of our
words: "The acquisition of Cyprus is, in their view, of no advantage
to the country either in a military or political sense." "I do not in
the least agree in this.--V.R.I." But we sent it, all the same.'
The King of Greece had come to London, and on June 4th Sir Charles went by
his wish to Marlborough House, and had an hour's conversation, 'chiefly
upon the question of personal union with Albania, but partly with regard
to the past, as to which I received his thanks.' 'I thought him a very
able man, an opinion which I have never changed.' All Europe confirmed
this judgment when the King of the Hellenes was struck down more than
thirty years later in the very achievement of his long-planned schemes. In
1880 the note of disparagement was widespread; but Sir Charles was not
alone in his estimate:
'Dizzy was once, after this date, talking to me and the Duchess of
Manchester about him, and the Duchess said to me: "How you Liberals
have deceived that poor little King!" Whereupon Dizzy replied: "It
would take a very clever Government to deceive that youth."'
Elsewhere Sir Charles wrote that the King was a "good talker, but
academic," and, dining at Marlborough House on June 6th, he heard an
estimate of him as the too industrious apprentice:
'A big aide-de-camp of the King of Greece took more champagne than was
good for him, and was extremely funny. Pointing to his King, he said:
"Now, there is my King. He is a good little King; but he is not what I
call a fashionable King." And then, pointing to the Prince of Wales,
he said: "Now, that is what I call a fashionable Prince--_un Prince
vraiment 'chic.'_ He goes to bed late, it is true, but he gets up--
well, never. That is what I call a really fashionable Prince. My King
gets up at six!"'
Sir Charles met the King repeatedly during the next fortnight, to follow
out, with the maps, the military details of the proposed new frontier. As
soon as the French and Austrian Governments had accepted the British
proposal for a Conference at Berlin to settle the question of the
frontiers, and Bismarck had consented to call it, Lord Odo Russell wrote
that he would have to "act on the Greek Frontier Commission, in which
Dilke was better versed than anyone," and begged Sir Charles to "lend him
his lights," 'which,' says the Memoir, 'I had to proceed to do' by an
A naval demonstration in the Adriatic now followed, generally known as
'the Dulcigno demonstration,' carried out by ships of the concerted
Powers, under command of the senior Admiral present, and acting under a
_protocole de desinteressement_. It was imposing rather than formidable,
since France and Italy both instructed their officers in no case to fire a
shot. But it was powerfully reinforced by the threat of independent
British action, on the lines which Sir Charles Dilke suggested, and, so
helped, it did its work, so far as the Montenegrin question was concerned.
The Greek question still remained for settlement.
Phases in the development of this situation are thus chronicled:
'On June 23rd I went to the State Ball, and had a good deal of talk
with Musurus, to try and find out about a curious business which I
noted in my diary as follows: "The Russians and Turks are working
together. The Russians came yesterday to propose to send 20,000
Russian men in English ships to coerce Turkey, and the Turks tell us
to-day that they will yield to an occupation by a European force, but
not to a mere naval demonstration. Both want to raise the difficulties
which this will cause, and to fish in troubled waters."
'On Wednesday, June 30th, at three o'clock, an interview took place
between Lord Granville, Lord Northbrook' (First Lord of the
Admiralty), 'Childers' (Secretary of State for War), 'Sir John Adye'
(Childers' adviser), 'and myself at the Foreign Office as to the means
of coercing Turkey. The War Office wished to place an army corps in
Greece, which, if they were to send a full complement of guns, would
take a month. I suggested the far cheaper plan of a naval occupation
of the port of Smyrna, and the collection and stoppage of customs and
dues. Mr. Gladstone came in a little late, and took up my idea. But,
preferring his Montenegrins to my Greeks, he insisted that we should
first deal by the fleet with the Montenegrin question at Dulcigno.
Both ideas went forward. The Dulcigno demonstration took place, and
produced the cession of territory to the Montenegrins; and we
afterwards let out to the Turks our intentions with regard to Smyrna,
and produced by this means the cession of territory to Greece.
[Footnote: _Life of Granville_, vol. ii., p. 231.]
'On Thursday, July 1st, we had a further interview with the Admiralty
to arrange our naval demonstrations. On this day there came to see me
Professor Panarietoff, a secret agent of the Prince of Bulgaria. He
informed me that his Government intended to press on a union between
Bulgaria and Eastern Roumelia. They did not see any reason why they
should wait. It might suit the English Liberal Cabinet that they
should wait; but from their point of view, why wait? At a party in the
evening I met Borthwick, who playfully assured me that he knew that
our policy was to send one army corps to Greece to support the Greeks
against the Turks, and another to Eastern Roumelia to support the
Turks in maintaining the Treaty of Berlin. The two, after each of them
had accomplished its mission, would probably, he thought, come into
hostilities with one another in Macedonia.'
On July 5th the Austrian Ambassador, Count Karolyi, told Sir Charles that
the Turkish representative at Vienna had been solemnly warned to reckon no
longer upon the possibility of disagreement among the Powers, and to
consider 'the danger which would result if the Powers became convinced
that the Porte had no respect either for their pledges or its own.' This
Dilke hailed as 'a great step in advance on Austria's part,' and on July
7th he called at the Austrian Embassy, at the wish of the Ambassador, who
explained the views of his Government:
'It would send two ships to meet two ships of each Power that chose to
send any, to watch the Montenegro coast with a view to carrying out
the Dulcigno proposal if the Porte would not give effect to the Corti
compromise within three weeks.' Count Karolyi 'then went on to speak
warmly in favour of the future of Greece, and to say that as regarded
the Greek frontier Austria would be willing even to send troops.'
Public feeling in Austria, it appeared, was willing to sanction much
stronger measures in support of Greece than it would tolerate on behalf of
Montenegro. The British Foreign Office now proceeded to utilize the
position of vantage which had been gained.
'On July 16th I noted that, Lord Granville having urged the Queen to
write an autograph letter to the Sultan of a nature to induce him to
give in, the Queen very naturally refused, on the ground that she
dissented from every proposition in the draft sent her. She offered to
write a mild word of advice or recommendation to him to yield without
bloodshed, and this proposal was accepted by the Government. A
telegram based on it was despatched on the 17th, and it asked in the
name of united Europe for a complete fulfilment of the conditions of
the Treaty of Berlin. The Sultan had at this moment despatched a
secret agent, a French advocate at Constantinople, to Gambetta, who
assured him that it was because France was interested in the
maintenance of the Ottoman Empire that it was absolutely necessary to
force Turkey to allow herself to be saved.
'The attitude of the French Government had begun to embarrass us a
good deal. On July 28th I wrote to Gambetta that we could not
understand the hesitations of the French Government, which was
continually putting in reserves. All this was known at Constantinople,
and augmented the resistance of the Porte; the Prime Minister's paper
was attacking us, and Gambetta's paper (the _Republique Francaise_)
giving us no support.... In his telegraphic reply Gambetta used words
of encouragement with regard to the attitude of his Government, as to
which, no doubt, he was himself finding a good deal of trouble. A
little later he sent over one of his private secretaries with a fuller
A conversation with Gambetta would have been valuable to Sir Charles at
this moment, and he regretted having to forgo an opportunity which
offered. He had procured invitations for--
'the Brasseys and Samuelson to the Cherbourg banquet, [Footnote: This
banquet was the occasion of Gambetta's famous Cherbourg speech, a
passage from which is inscribed on his monument in Paris.] which was
to be given to the President of the Republic and the Presidents of the
two Chambers (that is, Grevy, Gambetta, and Leon Say). Brassey asked
me to go with him in the _Sunbeam_. Although I should like to have
gone, I was under engagements in London; and I spent the Sunday
dismally ... instead of at Cherbourg with Gambetta.'
But he sent him messages by Mr. Bernhard Samuelson [Footnote: M.P. for
Banbury; afterwards Sir Bernhard Samuelson.] which were quickly effective.
Also, although public opinion in Austria favoured Greece, Sir Charles had
ground for believing that Italian Ministers kept the Turks perfectly
informed, and that even while advising concession upon Montenegro, they
did so with the suggestion that the Greek claims might be the more easily
resisted. Austria's concern was, of course, with the northern part of the
Illyrian coast; Italy's with the southern. As he noted later in the year,
'the European Concert was about as easy to manage as six horses to drive
tandem.' Nevertheless, by the first week in August, 1880, he was able to
'A collective note had now been presented by the Powers to the Porte,
so that we had carried the Powers with us as fully in our Montenegrin
policy, represented by the collective note, as in our Greek policy,
represented by the previous Identic note--a most considerable success,
contrasting strongly with the failure which our foreign policy met
with two or three years later.'
These impressions were shared by Lord Ripon, who followed European and
domestic affairs keenly, from India. He wrote on August 17th:
"I rejoice to see that the F.O. seems to be distancing all competitors
in the race of success, ... which" (he added) "in regard to some
parliamentary proceedings is not very high praise, you will be perhaps
inclined to say."
Even after the collective note had been presented, the European situation
remained delicate and difficult through the mutual distrust of the Powers.
On August 9th Lord Granville, who through all these negotiations was
exerting his greatest diplomatic skill in keeping Germany in the Concert,
expressed to Sir Charles his conviction that 'Bismarck had spies in the
Queen's household, and knew everything that went on.' On the side of
France matters improved. [Footnote: See _Life of Granville_, vol. ii.,
'On the 8th I received, at last, a reply from Gambetta to my letters--
a reply in which he showed that he fully agreed with me, but that he
was not as a fact all-powerful with the Prime Minister (Freycinet).
The same post, however, brought me a letter from Lord Houghton, who
was at Vichy, and who complained that it was an unhealthy state of
things that Gambetta (who had talked freely to him while in Paris)
"should exercise so much irresponsible power." ... The result of my
attempts to stir up Gambetta upon our side was seen in the report by
Bernhard Samuelson of Gambetta's conversation with him at Cherbourg on
Monday, August 9th, and in an article which appeared on Wednesday,
August 11th, and another on Friday, the 13th, in Gambetta's paper on
the coercion of the Turks. These articles were from the pen of
Barrere, who had been over in the previous week to see me, and were
written at the personal direction of Gambetta; and Adams (Secretary to
the Embassy) wrote from Paris on the 13th that the tone of the French
Government had correspondingly improved.'
But even while France assisted in one direction, she introduced fresh
complications in another by her quickly maturing designs on Tunis--which
had been mentioned to Sir Charles by the French Ambassador, M. Leon Say,
as early as June 8th. French diplomatists claimed an authorization from
Lord Salisbury. [Footnote: See Crispi's _Memoirs_, vol. ii., pp. 98-109
and 121; _Life of Granville_, vol. ii., pp. 215, 270, 436, as to Tunis and
Tripoli.] "How can you," he was reported to have said, during the
conversations which attended the Congress of Berlin, "leave Carthage to
'It was on this day (June 8th, 1880) that I became fully aware of the
terms of Lord Salisbury's offer of Tunis to France, as to which he
misled the public, Lord Salisbury having, when reminded of the
statement, said privately that it was "a private conversation," and
publicly that there was "no foundation for the statement."'
Later Sir Charles made inquiries of M. Say, who gave the dates of the two
conversations as July 21st and 26th, 1878.
'Lord Salisbury made a denial which is on record at the Foreign Office
in his own handwriting in red ink, but this denial is dated July 16th
--_i.e._, before the conversations.'
The trouble developed rapidly. By August 14th, 1880, Italy was threatening
to withdraw her Ambassador from Paris, 'on account of the receipt of
information showing that the French intended to occupy Tunis under Lord
At this moment Sir Charles's health broke down. Two notes from his chief,
Lord Granville, are preserved, the first evidently sent across in the
"MY DEAR DILKE,
"Please don't be a d--d fool. Go home and do exactly what your doctor
And again on August 18th Lord Granville wrote:
"I must formally request you not to leave the house till you send me
the doctor's written statement that he has advised you to do so. I
consider myself an honorary member of the gouty faction, and entitled
to speak with weight on the folly of trying to bully the disorder."
To this friendly dictation the patient submitted till the 23rd, when he
insisted on going to the House to answer questions, but returned to bed,
and next morning underwent an operation. [Footnote: He worked hard during
his enforced confinement to the house, and one of his visitors was M.
Joseph Arnaud, one of Gambetta's secretaries, who was sent by his friend
to reassure him as to the pressure he was using in the Frontier Question.
It is of M. Arnaud that Sir Charles tells a Gambetta story: 'G. was jovial
to-day, November 12th, 1880. Arnaud having said that all the people to
whom tickets were given for the presidential tribune were grateful to
Gambetta, and all who were angry were angry with him--Arnaud--the reply
was: "Tu ne comprends donc pas que tu es institue pour ca?"'] In a few
days he was again in Parliament, where the peace party, headed by Sir
Wilfrid Lawson, had begun to denounce the naval demonstration against
Turkey. In this they were backed by the Fourth Party, who spoke of it as
"the combined filibustering." However, on September 7th, the general
question was raised on the motion for adjournment of the House, and Sir
Charles, 'replying to the peace party on the one hand, and on the other to
Cowen, who attacked them in the name of Albanian nationality,' drew from
Lord Granville this compliment:
"My mother once said that Clarendon--with a slight headache--was the
pleasantest man she knew. I will not say that an operation makes you
speak better, but it certainly does not prevent your speaking as well
The Fourth Party [Footnote: Dilke dates the birth of the Fourth Party at
the beginning of the Gladstone Ministry, and says: 'Gorst was its real
brain, the other two members (for Arthur Balfour hardly belonged to it)
contributing "brass."'] were also busy in denunciation of the Government's
policy in Afghanistan, which had been finally determined on August 7th,
'the Cabinet directed Lord Hartington and Lord Ripon to retire from
Kandahar, although we had now heard of the intention of the Russians
to occupy Merv, a step on their part which was certain to make our
retirement from Kandahar unpopular with those who did not know its
Another circumstance even more certain to add to the unpopularity of the
retirement was not then known to the Home Government. On July 26th, Lord
Ripon, writing to Sir Charles, complained of the "embarrassing
engagements" with which "Lytton's reckless proceedings" had hampered him.
One of these engagements bound him to maintain Shere Ali as Wali of
Kandahar; and on July 27th, Ayub Khan, Shere Ali's rival, defeated at
Maiwand the force under General Burrows which was supporting Great
Britains' nominee. The policy of evacuation met with resistance in a
quarter where such policies were always opposed. On September 7th Sir
Charles left London to stay with Lord Granville at Walmer Castle, and Lord
Hartington joined them on the 9th.
'The Queen had written for the second time to Hartington urging with
great warmth that we should retain Kandahar, although, as Hartington
said, this meant, to India, an expenditure of four millions sterling a
year, on local troops, for no military return.... The Queen ... at
this moment was not only protesting strongly with regard to Kandahar,
but also, in cipher telegrams, against the naval demonstration....
'On September 20th Lord Granville, just starting for Balmoral, came to
see me. He told me that he thought of sending Dufferin to
Constantinople at the end of Goschen's special mission, and Paget to
Petersburg, and Layard to Rome if he could not get a pension out of
the Treasury for Layard.'
The Queen conceived the interests of England as Lord Beaconsfield had
presented them. But Mr. Gladstone did not conceive of English interests as
bound up with Turkish success, and wrote on September 21st:
"If Turkey befools Europe at Dulcigno, we may as well shut up shop
About the same time Chamberlain expressed his mind on questions of foreign
policy in their bearing on party politics:
"Kandahar will have to be given up.... I only hope Hartington will
have the pluck to do it at once and before we get into some fresh
scrape. I observe the papers generally speak well of the session, the
Government, and especially of the Radicals. So far so good. We have
scored very well up to this time."
'In another letter Chamberlain added:
'"What about the Concert of Europe? Will it last through a bombardment
of Dulcigno? I don't much like concerts. Our party of two, with
Dillwyn as chorus, was about as numerous as is consistent with
harmony, and I fear five great Powers are too many to make a happy
In France the great ally of the Sultan's Fabian policy had fallen. M. de
Freycinet found himself forced to resign on September 19th:
'On September 9th I recorded that Gambetta means to turn out
Freycinet. He foretold all this when Freycinet took office, and said
to me at that time: "He will do well enough until he tries to fly. But
one of these days he will set off flying." Gambetta turned out
Freycinet on this occasion, but the day was to come when Freycinet
would turn out Gambetta.'
On the 23rd Sir Charles 'heard from Paris that the fallen Minister "had
been discovered to have been negotiating with the Vatican for months,
without the knowledge even of his own colleagues."'
In the new Ministry, with Jules Ferry as Prime Minister, the Foreign
Office fell to Barthelemy Saint-Hilaire, [Footnote: M. Barthelemy Saint-
Hilaire, born in 1805, the well-known philosophical writer and translator
of Aristotle, was now seventy-five years of age. He entered the Chamber of
Deputies in 1848 as a member of the Left, and became a member of the
Senate in 1876. He was the first Secretaire-General de la Presidence de la
Republique.] and Lord Houghton said: "Think of the old Aristotelian
Barthelemy having the F.O.! Without pretension, I think at my age I am
just as fit for the English one." This was a view in which Sir Charles
inclined to agree, although M. Barrere wrote: "Barthelemy Saint-Hilaire's
tendencies are excellent. He is in complete accord with _us_, and his
views are wholly ours."
Lord Houghton also spoke of an interview with Moltke, who had told him
that 'Russia was the cause of the necessity for the immense arming of
Europe, not France, which at present might be trusted to keep quiet.'
'On September 28th I noted: "Cabinet suddenly and most unexpectedly
summoned for Thursday to sit on Parnell, the Sultan, and the Queen,
about Ireland, Dulcigno, and Kandahar respectively."... [Footnote: The
decisions as to the Irish difficulties are dealt with in the first
portion of Chapter XXII., pp. 343-348.]
'On September 30th Chamberlain, who was staying at Sloane Street, gave
me a note of what passed at the Cabinet. With regard to Kandahar, the
Generals whose names had been suggested by the Queen had been
consulted, and had, of course, pronounced against giving it up. So the
Queen had got her own way sufficiently for the matter to be left over
till after Christmas. The Cabinet were evidently sorry that they had
not more fully and more early adopted my suggestion of British
coercion of the Turks at Smyrna. And on this occasion they agreed to
try to induce the other Powers to agree upon (1) local action, or (2)
the seizure of a material guarantee: (1) meaning a demonstration at
the Dardanelles, and (2) meaning Crete.'
But the Eastern, unlike the Irish, trouble was now nearing a close,
'On October 1st Lord Granville came to sit with me, and was very
gloomy. He thought that Mr. Gladstone was inclined to give in to the
Turks rather than resort to coercion. Harcourt came in also--at one
moment, "Whatever we do, we must not be snubbed," and the next, "After
all, it will be no worse than Palmerston and Denmark."'
Sir Charles's plan for the seizure of Smyrna was now agreed to in
principle by the Ministers in London, but while it still remained
uncertain whether they could carry other Powers with them in this coup,
Lord Lyons, British Ambassador at Paris, had written expressing a wish to
see, Dilke concerning negotiations for a commercial treaty, 'and the
Foreign Office also desired that I should deal with the Danube question
later.' Sir Charles left London on October 11th.
'Before I left, Lord Granville showed me a letter from Hartington from
Balmoral saying that the Queen had not named Kandahar to him, and had
"agreed to the Smyrna seizure project," but was angry about Ireland.
Hartington added that he had pledged Forster to put down Parnell. As
to her not naming Kandahar, Lord Granville said that she never
attacked the policy of a department to its chief.'
At Paris Sir Charles was warned by Lord Lyons that '"you will find the
French Foreign Office in some confusion, as the new Under-Secretary of
State is vigorously employed in 'purging' it of clericals and
reactionaries."' On October 12th he went with Lord Lyons to see Barthelemy
Saint-Hilaire, and also Jules Ferry, the Prime Minister, and Tirard, the
Minister of Commerce, with whom he would be principally brought into
Lord Granville was in London with Mr. Gladstone, bewailing the unhappy
fate of those who have to wait for an Eastern Power to make up its mind.
But at last the Porte's decision to surrender Dulcigno was announced, and
Lord Granville wrote:
"MY DEAR DILKE,
"I accept your felicitations _d'avance_--the Turkish Note has got us
out of a great mess. My liver feels better already. I hope you will
improve the occasion by impressing upon all that it only requires firm
language from all, such as was used by them on Saturday, to make the
"I wonder whether they will be keen about Turkish finance. It is
rather in their line.
"How are we to help our poor friends the Greeks?"
The letter closed by a warning not to write by the post, "unless to say
something which it is desirable the French Government should know."
Caution as to danger of gossip about his frequent meetings with Gambetta
was also urged. [Footnote: Sir Charles notes on 11th November: 'Having had
a telegram from Lord Granville to caution me, I told Gambetta that I did
not want my visits talked about because of the German newspapers. The
result of it was that the _Agence Havas_ stated that I had not seen
Gambetta, and this was copied by Blowitz next day, so that the _Times_
repeated the untrue statement!']
Acting on these suggestions, Sir Charles Dilke during the next four days
discussed with the French Foreign Office and with Gambetta (who had
written on September 28th to say, "Je reviendrai expres de Suisse pour
vous vous en causer a fond"), not only commercial negotiations, but also
Turkish finance and the affairs of Greece. According to Lord Edmond
Fitzmaurice, the interests of Greece were at this time suffering because
Barthelemy Saint-Hilaire was anxious to reconcile the Porte to those
designs "which France was executing at Tunis and contemplating at
Tripoli"; [Footnote: _Life of Granville_, vol. ii., pp. 215, 436.] and in
Sir Charles's notes of these interviews there is repeated mention of
Gambetta's references to what Lord Salisbury had promised or suggested in
regard to Tunis. Gambetta himself was strongly Philhellene, but said to
his friend on October 17th: "Mr. Gladstone has spoilt our European affairs
by putting Montenegro first." He held, and M. de Courcel agreed with him,
that the Concert was for the moment "used up," and that Greece must wait
until it could be reinvigorated. The conclusion which Sir Charles drew and
conveyed to Lord Granville was that 'France waited on Germany, and Germany
on Austria, in regard to the Eastern Question, and consequently that,
Austria being absolutely mistress of the situation, a confidential
exchange of opinions at Vienna was essential.'
The demonstration at Dulcigno was carried out in December, but no further
progress was made then towards helping their "poor friends the Greeks."
Sir Charles's health was not at this time fully restored, but he was hard
at work. Even when he went for a short rest to his villa near Toulon he
was obliged to take a cipher with him, and, having no secretary at hand,
spent much of his time (most grudgingly) in ciphering and deciphering
'On October 25th Lord Granville wrote to me to Toulon, in cipher, to
the effect that Odo Russell thought that "Bismarck was jealous of the
leading part in Europe which we were now taking."'
Later, in November, the Prince of Wales, just returned from Berlin,
confirmed this. At the German Court Sir Charles was regarded as a "most
dangerous man" and as "a French spy." "But," the Prince added, "they say
the same of me." On November 22nd Lord Odo Russell is quoted as saying
'that at the Court of Berlin I was considered a most dangerous man, but
that the Crown Princess fought my battles like a sound Liberal and a true
Briton as she is.'
At the close of the year, addressing his constituents, Sir Charles
delivered a very effective general reply to Lord Salisbury's attacks on
the Government's European policy. It was a little hard to be blamed for
delay in settling difficulties which all sprang from Lord Salisbury's own
"harum-scarum hurry" when he was Foreign Minister and Second
Plenipotentiary of England. Lord Salisbury might say of the naval
demonstration that the Powers might as well have sent "six washing-tubs
with flags attached to them." The fact was that only to the concerted
action of the whole of the Powers had Turkey yielded.
"The European Concert is the first real attempt in modern times to
arrive at such an understanding between the six Great Powers as might
gradually become a basis for partial disarmament, and for the adoption
of a policy which would cease to ruin nations in time of peace by
perpetual preparations for war. In arriving at the idea that when
territorial changes are to be made it is for Europe to arrange them, a
practical step has been taken in the direction of this policy."
"Quite excellent," wrote Lord Granville. "I am delighted, and so, let us
hope, is Salisbury." [Footnote: The complicated story of the negotiations
relating to the Montenegrin and Greek frontier questions will be found in
detail in the _Life of Granville_, vol. ii., chap, vi., and the _Life of
Lord Goschen_, vol. ii., chap. vii. The principal documents, with
illustrative maps, are given in Sir Edward Hertslet's _Map of Europe by
Treaty_, vol. iv.]
HOME POLITICS--COMMERCIAL TREATY--PERSONAL MATTERS
The opening successes of British foreign policy under the Gladstone
Government were to a large extent neutralized by other difficulties in
which the new Administration found itself at once involved. Ireland
carried confusion into the very heart of Imperial authority, and discord
into the counsels of the Government.
On October 30th, 1880, Lord Tenterden wrote:
'Odo Russell says there is a general opinion abroad that the Gladstone
Government will be in a minority when Parliament meets, ... and that
then the policy of England will have to be changed. There will be no
more demonstrations, or concerts, or inconvenient proposals. I told
him that such ideas were illegitimate offspring of Musurus and the
These rumours of coming defeat sprang from the Irish situation. Captain
Boycott's case had given a new word to the language; agrarian murders were
frequent; and the decision to seek no powers outside the ordinary law,
which had been pressed on Mr. Forster, was vehemently challenged by the
Opposition. Radicals wished for a Bill offering compensation to tenants
evicted under harsh conditions; but this proposal bred dissension in a
Government largely composed of great landlords, two of whom, Lords
Hartington and Lansdowne, possessed wide domains in Ireland. On June 13th,
1880, Sir Charles, after dining with Lord Rosebery in company with Mr.
Gladstone, noted that there was disagreement in the Cabinet, 'all the
peers being opposed to an Irish Land Bill, and all the Commoners
supporting Forster in this branch of his proposals.'
'On July 2nd trouble broke out in the Cabinet with a letter from Lord
Hartington advising the withdrawal of Forster's Irish Land Bill.
[Footnote: The Compensation for Disturbance measure.] ... I placed my
conditional resignation in Chamberlain's hands, and he his and mine in
Forster's, in case the latter was inclined to nail his colours to the
mast. I noted in my diary: "I do not care in the least about the Bill,
but I must either go out with these men or climb into the Cabinet over
their bodies, to either become a Whig or to eventually suffer the same
fate, so I prefer to make common cause. I suppose there will be a
compromise once more;" and so, at the Cabinet of the next day,
Saturday, the 3rd, there was.'
The compromise of July 3rd did not terminate dissension. Lord Lansdowne
retired from the Government, and in the first days of August the
Compensation for Disturbance Bill itself was rejected by the Lords, many
of Mr. Gladstone's nominal supporters voting against it.
This was the first revolt of the Whigs. The old order was passing, and
shrewd eyes perceived it. Lord Houghton wrote to Sir Charles from Vichy on
"I told Hugessen [Footnote: Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen had been created
Lord Brabourne in this summer.] that a peer always voted with his
party the first Session as a matter of etiquette; but it seems he does
not think so. The Government will have to decide in the vacation
whether they can govern without the Whigs or not. I am glad that I
have not to decide this point, but I own I am glad that I have lived
in a Whig world. It has been a wonderful combination of public order
and personal liberty. I do not care much for future order, but I care
a good deal for individual liberty, which is slipping away from under
For the moment the House of Lords had given victory to the Whigs; but the
sequel was, in Mr. Gladstone's own words, "a rapid and vast extension of
agrarian disturbance," which grew all through the winter of that famine-
stricken year, presenting to the Chief Secretary the traditional Irish
problem, how to deal with a lawless demand for redress of grievances.
Towards the end of September Mr. Chamberlain wrote:
"Next Session will settle Forster one way or the other. Either he will
pass a Land Bill and be a great statesman, or he will fail and be a
pricked bubble for the rest of his natural life."
Mr. Forster wanted to pass a Land Bill, but he also wanted to deal with
lawlessness by coercive legislation, and, after the Cabinet hurriedly
called on September 28th, Mr. Chamberlain reported:
'"With regard to Ireland, Forster made a strong case for a Coercion
Bill, but the Cabinet thought it best that the insufficiency of the
present law should be thoroughly proved before new powers were asked
'Chamberlain went on:
'"Probably a prosecution will be tried against Parnell and the Land
League for intimidating tenants and others. Even if it fails, it may
divert the attention of the Land League from its present agitation,
and so lead to a cessation of outrages."'
'I added in my diary: "I hope they will not commit the folly of
prosecuting Parnell, which they discussed to-day. I sent for Hill, and
got the _Daily News_ to damn the idea." But my intervention through
the _Daily News_ was not on this occasion sufficiently strong
ultimately to prevent this folly, for I had not, this time, any
following at my back.'
Later in the year he told Mr. Chamberlain that "to try to stop Irish land
agitation by making arrests was like firing a rifle at a swarm of midges."
Mr. Chamberlain replied from Birmingham on October 27th;
"I do not half like the Irish prosecutions, but I fear there is no
alternative, except, indeed, the suspension of the Habeas Corpus,
which I should like still less. Parnell is doing his best to make
Irish legislation unpopular with English Radicals. The workmen here do
not like to see the law set at defiance, and a dissolution on the
'Justice for Ireland' cry would under present circumstances be a
Mr. Forster was eager to suspend the Habeas Corpus Act, and wanted to have
Parliament specially summoned in order to carry through repressive
'On Monday morning, November 15th, on my return to London, I saw
Harcourt, and told him that I should follow Chamberlain in resigning
if a special Irish Coercion Session without a Land Bill were to be
called. I saw Chamberlain immediately after the Cabinet which was held
this day. Bright and Chamberlain were as near splitting off at one end
as Lord Selborne at the other. Mr. Gladstone proposed at the Cabinet
the creation of English, Scotch, and Irish Grand Committees, but
obtained very little support....
'It seemed probable that there would be a Coercion Bill and a Land
Bill, and that the Land Bill (although the resignation of the Lord
Chancellor was threatened) would give what was known as "the three
F's," and that the Government would insist on both Bills. [Footnote:
The "three F's" were "Fair Rent" (_i.e._, judicially fixed rent),
"Free Sale" (of tenant right), and "Fixity of Tenure."] The Lords
would probably throw out the Land Bill, and the Government would
'Chamberlain had dined with me on November 17th, and had given me late
news of the condition of the Cabinet, which had been adjourned until
Friday, the 19th.
'The division was really a division between the Commons' members on
the one side (except Forster and Hartington, but with the support of
Lord Granville), and Forster and Hartington and the Peers upon the
other side; Lord Cowper, the Viceroy of Ireland' (who, although not a
member of the Cabinet, had been called in for the occasion), 'making
common cause, of course, with Forster....
'On the 19th the adjourned Cabinet was held; Forster was isolated, and
all became calm. The Queen had telegraphed on the previous evening to
Lord Granville in a personal telegram, in which she said that Mr.
Gladstone had told her nothing about the dissensions in the Cabinet,
and that she "must request Lord Granville either to tell her what
truth there is in the statement as to dissensions or to induce Mr.
Gladstone to do so!" Mr. Gladstone always held that the Queen ought
not to be told about dissensions in the Cabinet; that Cabinets existed
for the purpose of differing--that is, for the purpose of enabling
Ministers who differed to thrash out their differences--and that the
Queen was only concerned with the results which were presented to her
by, or in the name of, the Cabinet as a whole. This seems reasonable,
and ought, I think, to be the constitutional view; but the Queen
naturally ... hates to have personal differences going on of which she
is not informed....
'On November 23rd I noted in my diary that Hartington ... had grown
restive, and wanted to resign and get Forster to go with him, and that
Forster talked of it but did not mean it. Kimberley and Northbrook had
come over to Mr. Gladstone's side, and the other view was chiefly
represented by Lord Spencer and Lord Selborne; and I could not help
feeling that if, as I expected, the split with Whiggery had to come,
it had better be this split, so that we should have the great names of
Gladstone and Bright upon our side. One could not help feeling that we
had no men to officer our ranks, and that really, besides Mr.
Gladstone, who was an old man, there was only Chamberlain....
Hartington was a real man, but a man on the wrong side, and with
little chance of his getting rid of his prejudices, which were those,
not of stupidity, but of ignorance; with his stables and his wealth it
was useless to expect him to do serious work. Bright was a great name,
and had a power of stringing together a series of sound commonplaces,
so put that they were as satisfactory to the ear as distinct
statements of policy would be; and had a lovely voice, but it was
rhetoric all the same--rhetoric very different from Disraeli's
rhetoric, but equally rhetoric, and not business.'
By November 25th the severity of the crisis may be gathered from a letter
of Sir Charles's to Mrs. Pattison, which describes the grouping of forces.
On the one side were "Gladstone, Bright, Chamberlain, Granville, Harcourt,
Kimberley, Childers, Dodson, Northbrook; on the other Hartington, Forster,
Spencer, Argyll, the Chancellor." "Forster," he wrote, "talks about
resigning, but does not mean it. It is _meaning_ it which gives us so much
'"If Chamberlain and I should be driven to resign alone, we shall have a
great deal of disagreeable unpopularity and still more disagreeable
popularity to go through." His old kinsfolk who cared for him were "hard-
bitten Tories": Mr. Dilke of Chichester; his cousin, John Snook, of
Belmont Castle; and Mrs. Chatfield, if she were still able to follow
political events, would "badger him horribly." Worse still, he would have
to endure "patting on the back by Biggar," to which he would prefer stones
from "a Tory mob."
The lull in Cabinet troubles was only momentary:
'On December 10th, Chamberlain, the stormy petrel, came to stay. When
we were at dinner there suddenly arrived a summons for a Cabinet to be
held on Monday, instead of Thursday for which it stood, and we went
off to Harcourt's. We found that he was not in the secret, and
therefore decided that the Cabinet must have been called at the demand
of the Queen on the suggestion of Dizzy, who was staying with her at
this moment; "but it may have been called on account of Forster's
renewed demand for coercion," as I noted.
'The next morning, December 11th, Lulu Harcourt came, and brought a
note: "Dear Dilke, L. will tell you what he heard from Brett. It is
odd that the Sawbones should know what we are trying to find out."
Lulu reported that Dr. Andrew Clarke had told Reggie Brett,
Hartington's secretary, that Parliament was, after all, to meet before
Christmas. When Lulu was gone, Chamberlain and I decided that if there
was only a pretended and not a real change we would resign, whatever
our unpopularity. In the afternoon of the same day Harcourt wrote to
Chamberlain that he had seen Hartington; that Forster had written to
Gladstone that he could not wait till January 6th' (for extended
powers of coercion). 'Harcourt said that the reports were not much
worse, and only of a general kind; that Hartington thought Forster
worried and ill. "In fact, I think he is like the Yankee General after
Bull Run--not just afraid, but dreadful demoralized. I have only one
counsel to give--let us all stick to the ship, keep her head to the
wind, and cram her through it. Yours ever, W. V. H."
'_Monday, December 13th._--... called before the Cabinet to find out
whether the offer of Chamberlain's place would now tempt me to sell
him! We won, after all!'
Mr. Forster had accordingly to wait till the New Year for the introduction
of his Coercion Bill.
A departmental change in the Foreign Office at this time greatly increased
the responsibilities of the Under-Secretary. Complaint had become frequent
in the House of Commons of an apparently insufficient representation of
the Government in regard to commercial questions, which belonged partly to
the sphere of the Board of Trade and partly to that of the Foreign Office,
with unsatisfactory results. Lord Granville determined, on returning to
office, to make a new distribution of duties, and to take advantage of the
Under-Secretaryship being occupied by a Member of Parliament whose
competence on commercial questions was universally recognized to place the
commercial business of the Office more completely under his control--as
supervising Under-Secretary. [Footnote: This arrangement continued in the
Under-Secretaryship of Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice, Mr. James Bryce, Mr.
Robert Bourke, and Sir James Fergusson, but was subsequently altered. See
also above, p. 314.]
'On Sunday, May 2nd, Lord Granville asked me to take over general
supervision of the commercial department of the Foreign Office, and,
although I should have preferred to keep free of all departmental work
in order to attend to larger affairs of policy, I admitted that there
were strong reasons for my taking the Commercial Department, inasmuch
as the commercial members of the House of Commons were dissatisfied
with its management, and because also it was certain that I should
have to defend in the House of Commons treaty negotiations with
foreign Powers, which would in any case force me to give much time to
the consideration of commercial questions. When I first agreed to take
over the Commercial Department, it was only with the view of keeping
it for a short time, but I was unable to rid myself of it during the
whole time I was at the Foreign Office, and it gave me heavy work.'
The first and chief instalment of this burden consisted in the
negotiations for a new commercial treaty with France.
In January Dilke had learnt from Gambetta that M. Leon Say, late President
of the Finance Committee of the Senate, would come to London as Ambassador
'when the trouble about "Article 7" was ended.' [Footnote: See Chapter
XX., p. 300.] It was in the month of May (when the "trouble" about M.
Ferry's attack on the religious Orders was by no means ended) that M. Say
arrived, charged with an important mission, specially suited to his
qualifications as an ex-Minister of Finance. France was revising her
commercial policy; several commercial treaties, including that with Great
Britain, had been only provisionally prolonged up to June 30th; and M. Say
was instructed to try to secure England's acceptance of the new general
tariff, which had not yet passed the Senate. Gambetta and his friends
still held to the ideals of Free Trade. M. Tirard, the Minister of
Commerce, supported the same view, but there was a strong Protectionist
campaign on foot.
M. Say arrived on May 5th, and on the 6th had his first interview with Sir
'At this moment I was showing my disregard for the old Free-Trade
notions in which I had been brought up by my grandfather, and my
preference for reciprocitarian views, by carefully keeping back all
grievances with the countries with which we were negotiating upon
commercial matters, in order that they might be thrown in in the
course of the negotiations. On this ground I managed to cause the
Colonial Office to be directed to keep all Gibraltar grievances in
'Immediately on taking charge of the Commercial Department, I had sent
a memorandum on the wine duties to Mr. Gladstone, who replied, "I have
never yet seen my way to reduction below a shilling or to a uniform
rate. _At present, we have not a sixpence to give away._ I do not like
bargaining away revenue for treaties, or buying over again from France
what has been bought already.... In my view the treaty of 1860 was
exceptional; it was to form an accommodation to the exigencies of the
French Emperor's position. _We_ never professed to be exchanging
concessions, but only allowed him to say _he_ had done it. I am, of
course, open to argument, but must say, as at present advised, that I
see but very little room for what is called negotiating a commercial
This was discouraging, since it came from the author of the treaty of
1860, who by lowering the duties on light wines had brought into general
popularity the "Gladstone clarets"; and Mr. Gladstone's expression of
opinion, renewed in a second letter of May 11th, caused M. Say to 'let me
clearly understand that as Mr. Gladstone was unwilling to lower the wine
duties, he should resign his Embassy and try to become President of the
Senate,' then vacant by the resignation of M. Martel. In this he
succeeded, much to the regret of Gambetta, who afterwards said to Dilke:
'"People never know for what they are fit. There was Leon Say, the
best possible Ambassador at London, who insists on resigning the
Embassy in order to become a bad President of the Senate."'
But M. Leon Say, even in the act of resigning, advanced the possibility of
a treaty. While visiting Paris in May, to promote his candidature, he
'attacked Mr. Gladstone so fiercely through the French Press for not
offering to lower our wine duties that the Prime Minister, afraid to face
our merchants, gave way.' In the supplementary Budget, proposed on June
9th, provision was made for a reduction from one shilling to sixpence of
the duty on some wines. This new scale, however, was not to take effect
unless compensating advantages were obtained from other countries.
France, of course, was not the only country concerned; and the Portuguese
Minister, M. Dantas, wrote to Sir Charles holding out great prospects of
expansion for British trade if Portuguese wines were let into the English
market at a cheaper rate.
The Prime Minister first demurred, but finally agreed that the Portuguese
might be asked--
'"whether, supposing fiscal conditions allowed us to give a great
advantage to their wines between 26 and 36 degrees of alcoholic
strength, they could engage for some considerable improvements in
their duties upon our manufactures, and what would be their general
character and effect?
'"The Spaniards appear to have been much less unreasonable in their
demands. Please to consider whether the same question should be put to
them. Both probably should understand that _we have_ no money, and
should have to make it, so that their replies respectively would form
a serious factor in our deliberations."
'Here, at last, I had got all I wanted. I merely begged leave to put
the same questions at Rome and Vienna, and, obtaining his consent
("Pray do as you think best about Rome and Vienna.--W. E. G."), I went
Cipher telegrams were despatched on May 28th to Portugal, Spain, Italy,
and Austria--countries which produce strong wines more abundantly than
France--inquiring what corresponding advantages would be offered for a
change in the wine duties; and Sir Charles resumed his discussions with M.
Say, who had returned to London.
For a time there seemed hope of a settlement, based on a new
classification of wines; but when the bases of agreement arrived at were
seen in France, there was violent opposition to the proposed
countervailing 'amelioration,' which was construed to mean 'a lowering of
duties upon the principal products of British industry.' Protectionist
feeling ran too high to accept this.
While Lord Granville left commercial matters entirely to his junior
colleague, every detail of every proposal had to be thrashed out with the
Prime Minister, who was his own Chancellor of the Exchequer. In such a
correspondence there was much for a young Minister to learn; there was
also an opportunity for Mr. Gladstone to take the measure of a man whose
appetite for detail was equal to his own.
One of the minor difficulties lay in the fact that the Portuguese and
Spaniards wanted changes in the wine scale, but not the same as those
which the French required. Owing to the accumulation of obstacles, Mr.
Gladstone, on going into Committee with his Budget, dropped the proposed
alteration in the wine duties for that year. But in October Sir Charles
was sent to Paris in order to open the matter afresh, and on November 11th
Gambetta 'promised commercial negotiations in January in London, and an
immediate declaration in the Senate.' Beyond this nothing could be done in
1880. The details of this first phase of these long-drawn-out transactions
will be found in a very full despatch written by Sir Charles on August
6th, 1880 (and published subsequently in the Blue Book 'Commercial
Relations with France, 1880-1882'), which placed on record the whole of
the dealings between himself and the two successive French Ambassadors.
'On Tuesday, June 1st, Leon Say called on me to settle the words which
he should use before a Commission of the Senate in answer to a
question as to the new treaty. What I think he had really come about
was as to his successor. Challemel-Lacour, a friend of Gambetta, had
forced himself upon his Government; ... and Say came to tell me that
Gambetta did not really want Challemel to come, but wanted Noailles,
if an anticipated difficulty with the Queen could be got over.'
The difficulty was not got over, and so the appointment stood. The Memoir
gives another version of the story, which Sir Charles heard in 1896, when
he was staying with his friends the Franquevilles at Madame de Sevigne's
'Franqueville said that Lord Granville had told him that when the
Queen refused Noailles, the French Government had not meant to send
him, but that he had been proposed only in order that Challemel-
Lacour should be accepted. Lord G. had said: "The fact is that I told
them the Queen would not have Challemel. They said they must send him
or no one. Then said I, Propose Noailles.... She will refuse Noailles,
and, having done that, she will take Challemel! So it happened."'
'Stories were at once set afloat that Challemel had shot a lot of monks,
and various other inventions about him were started.' [Footnote: He had
been in authority at Lyons during the war.] Matters went so far that the
Prince of Wales wrote through his secretary suggesting that Sir Charles
should use his personal influence with Gambetta to have the appointment
cancelled. Trouble broke out in Parliament, where one Irish member put on
the order paper a question specifying all the charges against the new
Ambassador. The question having been (not without hesitation) allowed by
the Speaker, Sir Charles gave a full reply, completely exonerating the new
Ambassador from all these accusations. This, however, did not satisfy Mr.
O'Donnell, who proposed to discuss the matter on a motion for the
adjournment of the House. The Speaker interposed, describing this as an
abuse of privilege, and when Mr. O'Donnell proceeded, Mr. Gladstone took
the extreme course of moving that he be not heard. So began a most
disorderly discussion, which ended after several hours in Mr. O'Donnell's
giving notice of the questions which at a future date he proposed to put
on the matter, but which were never put.
Gambetta wrote to Dilke on June 18th:
"Let me thank you from the bottom of my heart for the lofty manner in
which you picked up the glove thrown down by that mad Irish clerical.
In my double capacity of friend and Frenchman, I am happy to have seen
you at this work."
A few days later the Prince of Wales's secretary wrote to say that the
Prince had received M. Challemel-Lacour, and found him very agreeable. On
this Dilke comments:
'Challemel was delightful when he pleased; but he did not always
please, except very late at night.'
In November of this year Dilke met Rouher, the great Minister of the
'He told me that he had quite dropped out of politics, and was
becoming a philosopher, and that Gambetta was the only man in France,
and could do anything he pleased with it.'
Sir Charles's own opinion of contemporary France was conveyed to Lord
Granville in one of several despatches, which have never been printed,
partly because the Queen raised objection to his writing officially from a
capital at which there was an Ambassador. It gives his impressions of the
state of things under "the Grevy regime," some years later exposed in
connection with the Wilson trial.
"Paris, _October_ 17, 1880.
"Your Lordship asked me to send you any general remarks that I might
have to offer upon the existing state of things in Paris, so that I
may perhaps be permitted to express the conviction which I feel that
at this moment there is an extraordinary contrast between the strength
and wealth of France and the incapacity of those who are responsible
for the administration of its Government. In addition, it is
impossible not to be struck with the atmosphere of jobbery which
surrounds the public offices. Transactions which in England would
destroy a Ministry, in Paris arouse at the most a whisper or a smile.
Something was heard in England of the terrible conversion of 'rentes'
scandal of last year, and there is reason to suppose that the
administration of Algeria by the persons who surround the brother of
the President of the Republic, its Governor-General (Albert Grevy),
constitutes a standing disgrace to France. The venality not only of
the Opposition, but also of the Ministerial Press, is admitted on all
sides, and the public offices are disorganised by the sudden dismissal
of well-trained public servants, who are replaced by the incompetent
favourites of those in power. The lightest suspicion of what is known
as clericalism, even when only a suspicion, based on anonymous and
calumnious denunciation, is sufficient to condemn a functionary. If it
be not trivial to give a simple example, I would quote one which will,
I think, remind your Lordship of the name of an old friend. Monsieur
Tresca, who was for more than thirty years the Assistant-Director of
the Conservatoire des Arts et Metiers, is a member of the Institute,
the most distinguished Civil Engineer in France, and not past work.
The Director having lately died, I expected to find that he had been
succeeded by Monsieur Tresca, but I discovered that this was not the
case. I took an opportunity while sitting next to the Prime Minister
at dinner at Her Majesty's Embassy to mention M. Tresca's name, in
order to see if I could discover the reason for his disgrace. 'Mais il
parait qu'il est clerical,' was the phrase. Monsieur Tresca was a
moderate Orleanist who followed M. Thiers when the latter gave his
adhesion to the Republican form of government, and is certainly not a
man who could be properly described as clerical in his views.
"Strange as it may seem, however, I am not inclined to see in the
existing and increasing degradation of French politics an actual
danger to the form of government which has been adopted in France. It
is, on the contrary, an undoubted fact that the Imperialist,
Legitimist, and Orleanist parties are continuing steadily to lose
ground. But if the Government is not only to last, but to succeed,
those who are responsible for its guidance will have at all hazards to
abandon their present policy of suspicion and exclusion, and to adopt
that of tolerance and comprehension, which, with magnificent effect
upon the power of France, was followed by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1801.
If they continue in their present course, the result must be fatal to
the reputation and to the influence of France."
'I was rather given to interfering in the affairs of other offices,
which is not as a rule a wise thing to do; but then it must be
remembered that I was in the position of having to represent the
interests and opinions of the men below the gangway, and that they
used to come to Chamberlain and to me in order to put pressure upon
our colleagues through us, and that I was the person approached in all
Indian, Colonial, naval, and military questions, and Chamberlain in
In the last week of May, 1880,
'I engaged in a struggle with Lord Northbrook over the proceedings of
some of his ships.... The town of Batanga, on the west coast of
Africa, had been bombarded, sacked, and burnt for a very trifling
outrage; and I succeeded in inducing Lord Northbrook to telegraph for
further information. Ultimately the First Lord reported that--"The
Commodore has only done what was forced upon him, but it is necessary
to look very sharply after our commercial and consular people in those
parts, who constantly want to use force."'
At the beginning of July hostilities between Russia and China seemed
probable, and there was a rumour of a Russian defeat on the Kashgar
frontier. Serious apprehensions were entertained, especially in India, as
to the effect on British trade:
'I went to W. H. Smith, and asked him to ask me whether we would
strengthen the China squadron in view of a possible Russian blockade
of the Treaty ports. I strongly recommended this increase of force,
but had been unable to get our people to agree to it; and through
Smith's question the thing was done....
'On May 31st I was asked to explain why I had taken the unusual course
for a member of the Government of walking out from a Government
division on the Secret Service money. I replied that I thought that
there was room for reduction in the sum, that I knew nothing about
what was spent in Ireland, but that what went abroad was chiefly spent
in America, "in buying Fenians to write reports about other Fenians,
probably at the wish of the latter, who divide the spoils." There was
a Consul at Philadelphia who was perpetually writing to us with plans
of infernal machines, models of bombs, specimens of new kinds of
dynamite, and so forth, and we had to forward all his letters to the
Home Office, and always received from Harcourt the same reply--that we
were very probably being imposed on, but that the matter was so
important that whether we were imposed on or not we must buy; so that
naturally there was a good deal of waste.' [Footnote: In 1881 Sir
Charles again abstained from voting on this question.]
Another note shows how some Secret Service money was expended:
'On December 2nd Sir Henry Thring told me that a great number of the
Queen's telegrams had been sent to be pulped, and that the pulper had
taken them to America, whence they were recovered by a plentiful
expenditure of Secret Service money.'
Dilke maintained his practice of seeing Gambetta every time he passed
through Paris to or from Toulon. But the British Embassy now gave him
another object in these visits, and he notes a pleasant story of the
'As I was passing through Paris on my way to Toulon for Christmas, I
started with Lord Lyons negotiations for the renewal of representation
by England to the Mexican Republic, [Footnote: The Mexican
negotiations were not at this time successful, but in 1883 Lord Edmond
Fitzmaurice, who followed Sir Charles at the Foreign Office, again
raised the matter, and ultimately a representative was appointed. See
_Life of Granville_, vol. ii., p. 304.] which I thought important for
commercial reasons, and which was ultimately brought about. I said to
Lord Lyons as we were walking together across the bridge from the
Place de la Concorde to the Chamber: "If you bring about this renewal
of relations, you will have the popularity in the Service of making a
fresh place--for a Minister Plenipotentiary." "Yes," said he, "but if
I were to jump off this bridge I should be still more popular--as that
would make promotion _all the way down_."'
At the beginning of December Sir Charles received an offer from the Greek
Government of the Grand Cross of the Saviour, which he was obliged,
according to the English custom, to decline.
'But as I afterwards, when out of Parliament, declined the Turkish
Grand Cross of the Medjidieh, I became one of the few persons, I
should think, who ever had the chance of declining those two
His home anxieties in this year had been great. He tells very sadly of the
death of the grandmother who had kept house for him from his childhood.
Shortly after "her little old niece, Miss Folkard," who had always lived
with them, also passed away.
His uncle, Mr. Dilke of Chichester, and Mr. Chamberlain came often to stay
with him, but he was anxious as to the care and education of his little
boy. Early in the new year Mr. Chamberlain proposed that Wentworth Dilke
should come and live with his own children. A year later the boy was
sending messages to his father to say that 'he had made up his mind not to
return to London, but proposed to reside permanently at Birmingham, and
thought that I had better go to live there too.'
It was also for Sir Charles a year of change in one of the more intimate
relations of political life. Mr. George Murray, his secretary at the
Foreign Office, was taken 'by the Treasury, [Footnote: See mention of Mr.
George Murray, Chapter XX., p. 314.] and in his place was appointed Mr.
Henry Austin Lee, formerly a scholar and exhibitioner of Pembroke College,
Oxford.' Also his private secretary, Mr. H. G. Kennedy, who had been with
him for many years, was now in ill-health, and had been much away for two
years. On July 27th, 1880, his place was taken by 'a volunteer from
Oxford,' Mr. J. E. C. Bodley, the future author of _France_--one of the
few Englishmen who has attained to the distinction of writing himself
"Membre de l'Institut."
In November, 1880, Mr. Forster's "resignation" had only been staved off by
the Cabinet's promise to him of coercive powers in the new year, and it
was certain that such a Coercion Bill, when introduced, would be met by
the Irish members with obstruction outdoing all previous experience. The
Land Bill, which was to accompany coercion, went far enough in limitation
of the rights of property to be a grievous trial to the Whigs, and yet to
Radicals such as Dilke and Chamberlain seemed complicated, inconclusive,
Bad as was the Irish trouble, South Africa was worse. Finding no attempt
made by Liberal statesmen to fulfil the expectations of free institutions
which had been held out even by the Tory Government, the Boers rose for
independence in December, 1880. War followed--a half-hearted war
accompanied by negotiations. All was in train for the day of Majuba.
Sir Charles's Memoir shows this ferment working. By January 6th, 1881, he
was back in London from his Christmas at Toulon.
'The Radicals were angry with the weakness of the Land Bill, which,
however, was Mr. Gladstone's own. Oddly enough, both Hartington and
Forster would have gone further, and Hartington certainly even for the
"three F's," though he would have preferred to have had no Bill at
all; but then Hartington did not care about stepping in, and Gladstone
did, and feared the Lords. Chamberlain thought that the Land Bill was
sure to be vastly strengthened in passing through the House....
'I noted on January 7th that I was very restive under Mr. Gladstone's
Irish policy, but I found that if I were to go I should have to go
alone, for Chamberlain at this moment was not in a resigning humour.'
A second element of discord lay in the preparations for the struggle on
the Coercion Bill.
'On January 8th Chamberlain gave me a minute by Hartington, which I
still have (dated the 3rd), proposing a summary method of dealing with
Irish obstruction. Hartington thought that the Speaker, "by a stretch
of the rule against wilful obstruction, might, if assured of the
support of the great majority of the House, take upon himself the
responsibility of declaring that he would consider any member rising
to prolong the debate as guilty of wilful obstruction, and thus liable
to be silenced." If the Speaker exceeded his power, he would
(Hartington thought) only render himself liable to censure by the
House, and if previously assured of its support there was hardly any
limit to the authority which he might not assume. Chamberlain wrote
strongly to Hartington against this proposal. He was convinced that
with a stretch of authority the number of opponents would be
increased. He added: "I believe the time has passed when Ireland can
be ruled by force. If justice also fails, the position is hopeless,
but this is a remedy which has never yet been tried fairly."
Hartington wrote in reply, on January 10th: "If we cannot pass the
Coercion Bill without locking up fifty or sixty members, they must be
locked up." Hartington's view was accepted by the Speaker, and led to
the wholesale expulsion from the body of the House of the Irish
'On January 12th I somewhat unwillingly made up my mind that I must
remain in the Government, as Chamberlain insisted on remaining. I
feared that if I came out by myself I should be represented as
encouraging disorder, and to some extent should encourage it, and
should be driven to act with mere fanatics. In coming out with
Chamberlain I always felt safe that we could carry a large section of
the party with us. Coming out by myself, I feared that that was not
so. Chamberlain's position at this moment was that he personally did
not believe in coercion, but that the feeling in the country was such
that any Government would be forced to propose it, and he was not
sufficiently clear that it was certain to fail to be bound as an
honest man to necessarily oppose it. I received on this day a letter
from a constituent upon the point, and answered that, agreeing
generally as regarded pending Irish questions with Bright and
Chamberlain, I should follow them if they remained united. [Footnote:
The phrase 'pending Irish questions' is important. It excluded Home
Rule.] Should they at any point differ from Mr. Gladstone, or the one
with the other, as to the course to be adopted, I should have to
reconsider my position.
'On January 14th I had a full talk with Bright, trying to get him to
go with me. Bright told me that the outrages had got much worse in
Ireland since the middle of December, as for example that of firing
into houses. He had come round a great deal in the coercion direction.
He now distinctly favoured suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act--that
is to say, did not unwillingly yield to it, like Chamberlain, but
supported it almost willingly, and he evidently had been converted by
Forster to the view that things had grown to be very bad, and that by
locking up a small number of the chiefs the rule of law might be
restored. I did not agree, but his opinion showed me how completely I
was isolated. I seemed trying to put people a point beyond themselves
before they were naturally ready to go, and risked only being followed
by those who are always ready to run on any fresh scent and whose
support is but a hindrance. I felt myself face to face with the
necessity for self-sacrifice of the hardest kind, the sacrifice of my
own judgment as to the right course in the attempt to work with
others. It was clear that few men thought at this time that coercion
was so inexpedient that a single member of the Government would be
justified in venturing on a course which would weaken the hands of
Government itself, increase Mr. Gladstone's difficulties, and retard
or hamper the remedial legislation which I myself thought most
desirable. Moreover, we had weakened the Irish executive in past years
by continually teaching them to rely on unconstitutional expedients,
and it seemed very difficult to choose a moment of great outrage to
refuse them the support which we had long accustomed them to look for
in every similar stress of circumstances.
'The Cabinet of January 22nd dealt with the allied questions of
closure, coercion, and remedial legislation for Ireland. It was
decided to produce a scheme of closure as soon as it was certain that
Northcote was in favour of the principle, and it was left to Mr.
Gladstone to make sure of this, and I noted in my diary, "He had
better make _very_ sure." I was right in my doubt, and this question
of Parliamentary procedure led to such a breach between Mr. Gladstone
and his former private secretary that the Prime Minister told me he
should never in future believe a word that Northcote might say. The
apparent tortuousness of Northcote's conduct was caused by the
weakness of his position as leader of the Opposition in the House of