Part 9 out of 11
'The only subjects upon which the Prince of Wales agreed with any
Liberals were (1) detestation of Randolph Churchill; (2) the
government of London. But then, as I personally, although assailed by
Randolph Churchill and not then on speaking terms in consequence, did
not dislike him, there remained only the government of London, and the
topic became well worn between us, for we had found by experience that
it was the only one upon which we could safely talk.'
One correspondent, the length of whose letters was 'fabulous,' was Sir
Robert Morier, then Minister at Lisbon, 'an old friend.'
'He had more brains than all the other Foreign Office servants put
together (excepting Lord Lyons and 'old White' and Lord Odo Russell),
but, although "impossible" in a small place, he was afterwards a
success at St. Petersburg.... He used to send ultimatums to any weak
Government to which he was despatched, and he used to treat the
Foreign Office almost as badly, for he was the only Minister given to
swearing at the Office in despatches.'
Comment on this is afforded by a note of Lord Granville's to Sir Charles
in 1884, when the Embassy at Constantinople was vacant: "The Turks had
been behaving so badly, we should send Morier, to pay them out." Sir
Charles's respect for his friend's 'immense ability' led to his taking
great trouble in dealing with Sir Robert Morier's difficulties, put before
him in a voluminous correspondence, both private and public, and in return
he received 'a veritable testimonial on February 22nd, 1881: "You have
done the right thing at exactly the right moment, and this is to me so
utterly new a phenomenon in official life that it fills me with admiration
and delight."' He had previously noted a letter in which, describing
himself as "a shipwrecked diplomat on the rocks of Lisbon," Morier wrote:
"To have for once in my life received help, co-operation, and
encouragement in a public work from a man _in the Office_, instead of
the cuffs and snubs I am used to, is so altogether new a sensation
that you must excuse my being gushing."
In an earlier letter of the same year there is complaint of the "utter
absence of co-operation" between the Foreign Office at home and its
"You who are still a human being and able to see things from the
general home point of view, will be over-weighted by two such
bureaucrats as ---- and ---- ."
Morier's plea for reorganization which should ensure "intercommunion and
intercommunication" was emphasized a few weeks later by
'a letter from White, then our Minister at Bucharest (afterwards our
Ambassador at Constantinople), which concluded with a general grumble
against the Foreign Office:
'"... Servants kept in the dark--thorough darkness--as to proceedings
in the next-door house cannot be profitable servants, and such is,
'"Yours ever truly,
'"W. A. White.'"
The idea bore fruit in Dilke's mind to this extent, that in
'1890 I was able to give evidence before a Royal Commission in favour
of amalgamating the two services, and the Ridley Commission accepted
my view and recommended the amalgamation. It was not carried out.'
Sir Robert Morier suffered, in his own judgment, more than anyone else
from this lack of intercommunication, and this is probably true because he
was restlessly fertile in suggestions, and when these raised opposition he
turned to Sir Charles for help. Having just concluded the negotiation of a
treaty respecting Goa, he was now pressing hard for another respecting
Lorenco Marques and Delagoa Bay, in which he discerned the future gate of
the Transvaal, and was projecting arrangements with regard to Portuguese
West Africa. In these projects Sir Charles helped him indirectly, as he
did in a larger proposal which the Minister at Lisbon was making.
'Morier's letter contained the draft of a proposed Congo treaty, which
was afterwards put into shape, which I strongly favoured, and which in
1883, after I had left the Foreign Office, was virtually stopped by
the House of Commons. The House and country were wrong, and the
Foreign Office right.' [Footnote: This treaty would have associated
Great Britain with Portugal in maintaining the freedom of the Congo
River and in policing its waters, while it would have established a
joint control of the whole Congo basin by the European Powers which
had subjects settled in that region. Such an agreement would have
altered the course of history in tropical Africa, and the Congo State
would never have come into being. See _Life of Lord Granville_, vol.
ii., pp. 341-354.]
Lord Ripon was Sir Charles's regular Indian correspondent, and a letter
from the Viceroy in this year begs him not to intermit his communications
whenever he could make time to write. To Lord Ripon another correspondent
was now added:
'Grant Duff, having accepted the Governorship of Madras, asked me to
write to him regularly in India, which I promised to do, and did, and
in thanking me he said that my opinions would have interest for him,
since among other things I knew was "that strange wild beast--the
House of Commons." This saying was pathetic from him, for there never
was a man who more utterly failed to understand the House of Commons
than Grant Duff....'
DIFFICULTIES OF THE LIBERAL GOVERNMENT
The close of 1881 virtually terminated the protracted negotiations with
France which had occupied most of Sir Charles Dilke's time, and had kept
him for long periods absent from London. In the new year he was more
closely concerned with the general business of the Government, and
especially with its attempts at legislation.
Two important subjects mentioned in the Queen's Speech of 1882 were the
reform of local government in the counties, [Footnote: This was
foreshadowed in a note of November 11th, 1881: 'Local Government (Boards
in all the three kingdoms on a tax-paying basis) will be the chief
measure.'] and the proposed recasting of London's system of government,
which appealed to Sir Charles both as a municipal reformer and as a
metropolitan member. In the previous summer Mr. Gladstone had shown
himself to Dilke as 'very keen' on this latter measure, and proposals to
undertake it were actually put before the Cabinet on Lord Mayor's Day,
1881. The choice of a date seemed
'dramatic and courageous.... We all dined with the Lord Mayor, and as
the men came in I felt that, knowing what I did as to Harcourt's
resolution, we were there under false pretences.'
This project began to take shape when Ministers reassembled after
'On the morning of January 3rd, 1882, I saw Harcourt about his London
Government scheme, of which he had sent me a rough sketch asking for
my criticisms. I found that he had adopted all the ideas of Beal and
Firth and of myself. [Footnote: Mr. Firth was Sir Charles Dilke's
fellow-member for Chelsea. Mr. James Beal, a Chelsea man and a veteran
reformer, was Honorary Secretary of the Metropolitan Municipal
Association, which existed to advocate the creation of a general
municipality for London.] We formed a committee, consisting of the
four, which met daily at Harcourt's house for some time.
'On the 6th regular Cabinets began, and Chamberlain came to stay with
me, although he offered to go to the hotel, "as there is no crisis on
hand just now." Hartington, who had a shooting party at Hardwick, ...
scandalized his colleagues by declaring that he was too lazy to come
up for the first Cabinet, although it had been fixed for between a
fortnight and three weeks....
'On January 7th a Committee of the Cabinet on the London Government
scheme was appointed, but it met only once, for the informal committee
of Harcourt, Beal, Firth, and myself did the whole work....
'On January 11th the single meeting of the London Government Committee
took place, Harcourt, Spencer, Childers, Chamberlain, and myself being
present. But instead of discussing London Government, we discussed the
Borneo Charter, to which all present were opposed.'
Over and above this work of preparation on another Minister's Bill, Sir
Charles had a variety of occupations outside his own official duties.
Thus, he notes on February 12th that he 'had a quarrel with Dodson' (then
President of the Local Government Board) 'as to a rating question'; and a
few weeks later, on April 28th:
'I was very busy at this moment because I had the Corrupt Practices
Bill and the Ballot Bill on hand in the House, as well as Foreign
Affairs debates.' [Footnote: In these measures he was helping Sir
Henry James, Attorney-General.]
The main difficulties immediately in hand were those caused by
Parliamentary procedure, and Mr. Bradlaugh, who had been re-elected during
the Recess, and now proposed to take the oath; but the House was unwilling
to let him do so, thus bringing itself into sharp conflict with the
'It was reported by the Prime Minister to the Cabinet of January eth
that the Queen refused to open Parliament on the ground of health....
The Queen and Prince Leopold (who was about to marry) had urged that
an additional allowance to the Prince should be voted before the
discussions on the forms of the House began; but Mr. Gladstone
insisted, and the Cabinet decided, that it was to come only after the
Address, after the Bradlaugh business (upon which the Cabinet felt
certain that we should be beaten), and after the reform of the
procedure of the House--that is to say, at Easter at the earliest.'
When Mr. Bradlaugh presented himself to be sworn, Sir Stafford Northcote
moved to prohibit his taking the oath. To this motion the Government
opposed a motion for the 'previous question,' and were beaten. Feeling ran
high, and the House of Commons as a whole would have endorsed a saying of
Lord Winchilsea's. Having been asked to subscribe to the Northampton
Horticultural Show, he replied:
'"A town which enjoys the flowers of Mr. Labouchere's oratory and the
fruits of Mr. Bradlaugh's philosophy can need no further horticultural
No one quite knew how to deal with the situation which was now created by
Mr. Bradlaugh's hurried advance up the floor of the House, when he
administered the oath to himself.
'On February 22nd there was a Cabinet at one o'clock, at which there
was a tremendous disturbance about Bradlaugh, Chamberlain and Mr.
Gladstone standing alone against all their colleagues, most of whom,
under Hartington's lead, had proposed expulsion, and wanted Mr.
Gladstone himself to move it. While Mr. Gladstone was addressing the
Cabinet, Harcourt wrote a paper, and got Hartington, Childers, and
Dodson to sign it. Forster was in Ireland, and Bright was away with a
cold. Harcourt did not ask Chamberlain to sign his paper, which,
Chamberlain thought, probably suggested that Mr. Gladstone should
himself propose some middle course, but Mr. Gladstone turned round
angrily and hissed through his teeth at Harcourt "I cannot!" When the
time came, even Northcote did not dare to move expulsion, which showed
how foolish our people must be to long to go further in an anti-
popular sense than the Tories themselves.'
There was also the other question of reform of Parliamentary procedure.
'On January 7th the Cabinet discussed the Closure, which was warmly
supported (in the strongest form) by Harcourt and Chamberlain.
Hartington walked in in the middle of the afternoon.
'On February 1st I had a chat with Manning, who says the Church
applied the Closure at the Vatican Council to put down the minority
against the Promulgation of the Doctrine of Infallibility, and that it
must therefore be a good thing.
'On February 9th I was consulted by Harcourt and Chamberlain as to
what I thought about sticking to Closure in the face of the great
probability of defeat. I advised making it a question of life and
death, but advised that if beaten we should immediately prepare for
dissolution by bringing in the County Franchise Bill, and if the Lords
threw it out, stop in to carry it. On a vote of confidence the Tories
could not turn us out, so that we could play the game with them as
long as necessary to carry County Franchise.
'On March 26th we learnt our majority on the power to close debate was
far from certain, and that on Sir John Lubbock's amendment we very
probably should be beaten. Mr. Gladstone began to wish to bow before
the storm, but Chamberlain and others were for holding to our
proposals at all risks.
'On March 31st there was a Cabinet, at which Mr. Gladstone, thinking
with the Whips that we should be beaten on the Closure, again wished
to give way. It was decided to make no fresh declaration of standing
or falling by our rule.'
The question of Procedure remained till the Autumn Session, a constant
embarrassment to the Government. But a difficulty, personal to Sir
Charles, and affecting the Government only through him, arose on the Civil
'On this day (March 31st) the Queen wrote to Lord Granville to
complain of my having walked out on the division on the annuity to
Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany, and Sir Henry Ponsonby also wrote. I
refused to give any further explanation, and on April 1st Lord
'"MY DEAR DILKE,--I thought Chamberlain had voted in the majority. The
Queen appears to me to have a _prima facie_ right to complain of any
of her servants refusing to support a Government measure which she and
the administration think necessary for her comfort and position. But
if you stated to the Prime Minister on taking office that you did not
intend to vote for these grants, your responsibility ceases.
Resignation is not in question either with the Queen, yourself, or
Gladstone. The thing to consider is how to put the matter best in
answer to Ponsonby's letter. I do not mind the bother in the least.
A reply from Sir Charles explained to Lord Granville why Mr. Chamberlain's
name had come in. Although he had voted for the grant
"neither he nor I would ever be likely to let the other resign alone. Our
relations are so close that I should resign with him if he were to resign
because he thought Forster did not have his hair cut sufficiently often."
This explanation was promptly endorsed by Mr. Chamberlain.
'Chamberlain wrote on April 2nd two letters, one for me and one for me
to show to Lord Granville.... In the latter he said:
'"I am very sorry to hear that any notice has been taken of the
absentees in the vote for Prince Leopold's grant. Considering the
strong views held on this subject by the Radical party in the country,
I think their representatives in the Government made great sacrifices
in order to maintain unity of action as far as possible. You and
Fawcett and Trevelyan have on previous occasions, both by speech and
vote, and on strictly constitutional grounds, opposed these grants,
and you could not have supported the present one without loss of self-
respect and of public reputation. For myself, I agree in your
opposition, but having never taken any public part in reference to the
question, and having never voted against the grant itself, I felt
myself free to yield my opinion to that of the majority, and to vote
with the rest of my colleagues in the Cabinet. In your case such a
course was impossible, having regard to the prominence which, through
no fault or desire of your own, has been given to your past action in
the matter, and which has made you in some sort the chief
Parliamentary representative of objections which are widely felt to
the present mode of providing for members of the Royal Family. When
the Government was formed I mentioned this point to Mr. Gladstone, and
told him you could not vote for any grant of the kind. He asked me if
I was equally pledged, and I replied that this was not the case. Mr.
Gladstone then said that, of course, a divergence of opinion in a
member of the Cabinet would be more serious than in a Minister outside
the Cabinet, and I took it for granted that under the circumstances
you, at least, would not be expected to vote at all. I assume that
although the subject has now been referred to, there is not the
slightest intention or suggestion from any quarter that you should
resign on such a matter. If there were, I have not the least
hesitation in saying that I should make common cause with you; and I
cannot conceive that any Radical would consent to hold office in a
Government which had expelled one of its most popular members, and one
of the few representatives of the most numerous section of the Liberal
party, for such a cause. But I cannot believe in the possibility of
any such intention. If I did I might end with Lord Hartington's
celebrated postscript, and 'Thank God we should soon be out of this
'I received further letters about the matter from Lord Granville, who
ultimately replied on April 4th that "Gladstone does not admit your
contention." But he said, "The case is not likely to arise again for
some time.... In the meantime he approves my writing to the Queen off
my own bat," and this was done accordingly, the letter not being shown
to me, so that I do not know what was in it. But the whole matter came
up again in the autumn, when it was proposed to put me in the
Sir Charles wished on public grounds to get rid of questions as to these
grants, the recurrence of which must always lead to trouble, and to do
this by settling them on a principle. But also he was desirous to forward
the wishes of the Prince of Wales, and in the month of May he devised a
method for meeting the difficulty, which might be proposed by the Prince
'On Friday Mr. Gladstone talked for an hour to me about the Royal
Grants question, and the conversation was satisfactory on both sides,
for he told the Cabinet yesterday that it had been satisfactory to
him. In the course of it he said that many years ago a memorandum on
the provision for the younger branches of the Royal Family had been
agreed upon by the Cabinet, and shown to the chiefs of the Opposition.
He added that this was a course perhaps not so wise as would have been
the appointment of a Select Committee of the House of Commons. I at
once told him that the consideration of the subject, which had not
been discussed by the Civil List Committee at the beginning of the
reign, by a later Select Committee, would in my opinion have prevented
all but most unreasonable opposition to the various grants. There are
many years to spare, and I only write because the matter is fresh in
my mind.... My suggestion is that when provision is proposed for the
establishment of the eldest son of H.R.H. the Prince of Wales, for
whom a liberal provision would be made without reasonable opposition,
as he is in the direct line of succession, it should (at the same
time) be stated by the Government of the day that the question of the
extent of the provision for the younger children of the Prince and
Princess of Wales should be, on the motion of the Government,
considered by a Select Committee. On that Committee all shades of
opinion ought in prudence to be represented, and to it as much
information be given as is given to the Civil List Committee at the
beginning of the reign. Its decisions would be respected by all who
value Parliamentary methods, and much unseemly wrangling would be
prevented for many years. The fate of this plan, however prudent it
may be, would be certain if it came from anyone except His Royal
Highness himself or the Prime Minister of the day.'
Sir Charles embodied this suggestion in a letter to Mr. Knollys of May
9th. The proposal was agreed to in principle by Mr. Gladstone's Government
in 1885, and it was adopted later on.
'On May 3rd I had heard from Knollys that the Prince, who had
frequently been restive about not getting Foreign Office information,
which Lord Granville would not allow him to have for fear he should
let it out, had made Knollys write to Sir Henry Ponsonby to ask him to
beg the Queen to direct Lord Granville to send the Prince the
confidential telegrams.... On the 7th Knollys sent me Sir Henry
Ponsonby's "not very satisfactory reply," and a copy of his answer.'
In the reply Mr. Knollys pointed out that the Prince was under the
impression that the Queen would have wished him to know as much of what
was going on as possible. The question whether telegrams were to be shown
to the Prince depended entirely on Her Majesty, as Lord Granville would
not be likely to raise difficulties in the matter if the Prince put his
wishes before him. The fact that the private secretaries of Cabinet
Ministers had Cabinet keys, and therefore had access to all confidential
documents, was quoted as showing the curious position of the Prince.
The Queen persisted in her objection, and Sir Charles supplied the lack of
official access to the papers by keeping the Prince privately informed
from day to day in critical moments. He spent the first Sunday in February
of this year at Sandringham,
'where the company was chiefly sporting, even the clergyman who
performed the service being the famous "Jack" Russell, eighty-seven
years of age, known in Devonshire as "the hunting parson"....
'On March 21st the Prince of Wales invited me to go with him to see
the Channel Tunnel works, and to bring the map of Central Asia, and to
explain to him the matters that we were discussing with the Russians.
But I was unable or unwilling to go--probably unwilling because of
overwork, and dislike to commit myself to the Channel Tunnel project.
I was one of those who thought that the Channel Tunnel was far less
important in a commercial sense than was generally believed, and, on
the other hand, I feared that the creation of it might lead to
Later: 'I converted the Prince of Wales to oppose the Channel Tunnel.'
The one matter which, Sir Charles notes, still caused serious friction
between himself and his Chief came up in this Session. On February 12th
'I was still fighting about Borneo and about a Garter Mission to the
King of Saxony, which I thought a waste of public money, and I was in
a difficulty with the Cabinet as to Errington's mission--of the
details of which I was not kept informed.
'Wolff, who evidently had been told something by Errington himself,
gave notice of a question to ask Hartington whether communications had
taken place with the Papal See as to prelates in India, and Lord
Granville directed me to answer that no such communications had been
made by Her Majesty's Government. As, however, I thought that
communications had been made by Errington, I felt that this would be a
virtual lie, and wrote to Hartington to ask him. Hartington then took
the answer upon himself, and in his reply to me he said that there had
been some discussions on a closely connected matter, but not exactly
on that mentioned in the question, and that nothing had been done by
him in the matter. Who, then, instructed Errington?... The Errington
mission led for a moment to strained relations between Lord Granville
and myself, and one of my letters he said was evidently intended to be
"wholesome in Lent." "The tone of it is hardly that of two members of
the same Government, more particularly when they are excellent
Sir Charles apologized frankly and cordially for the tone of his certainly
peremptory letter, but
'I had to stick to my text....
'It was evidently monstrous that I should be made to answer questions
about negotiations of which I knew nothing, thus leading the House of
Commons to believe that I was in some sense responsible to them for
what passed, when as a matter of fact I was not informed, except
privately, and in strict confidence, by Errington himself. One result
of the concealment as to the whole Errington business was that Mr.
Gladstone on one occasion gave an answer in the House of Commons which
was untrue, although he did not know that it was untrue, and that on
another occasion the same thing happened to Courtney, who as Under-
Secretary of State for the Colonies denied that a Roman Catholic
question affecting the Colonies' (the proposal for a cathedral at
Gibraltar) 'had been discussed, when Errington himself told me that it
had. The Colonial Office did not know.'
'There never was a more discreditable piece of business than the whole
of this Errington matter. Errington himself is an excellent fellow. I
have not a word to say against him. It is the Government and not
Errington that must be blamed.
'At this time I received a pamphlet from Auberon Herbert on the title-
page of which he had drawn a picture of Gladstone in the fiery pit
beckoning me, and I, winged and crowned as an archangel, falling from
heaven to him, with the inscription: "Lapsus e coelo; or how C.D.
accepted an invitation."'
Notwithstanding his attention to domestic politics, Sir Charles was first
and foremost the representative of the Foreign Office, and during the
spring of 1882 he was ceaselessly concerned in the negotiations which were
in progress between the Russian Government and the British India Office,
over which Lord Hartington then presided.
'I had received from the India Office on January 6th a private
communication suggesting arrangement with Russia as to the
delimitation of the new Russo-Persian frontier. The India Office were
inclined to hand over Merv nominally to Persia, regardless of the fact
that the Russians would not consent to any proposal of the kind. I
wrote to Lord Granville on the 9th, "I must say I don't like it at
all," and he answered: "It appears to me that some of the permanent
Jingoes in the I.0. want to establish that they are always pressing
the F.O. to do spirited things, and constantly thwarted. I rather
agree with you that it is better to do nothing than to do that which
is not really effective, but Hartington is very anxious not to be
'On January 17th I had the first of a series of important interviews
with Brett, Hartington's secretary, with regard to Central Asian
affairs. He gave up Merv, and in return I agreed with him that the
Foreign Office should propose to the India Office to ask Russia to
define the Persian frontier by an English-Russian-Persian Commission,
and the Afghan frontier by an English-Russian-Afghan Commission. Lord
Granville was unfavourable, Lord Hartington favourable to this view,
which after a great number of meetings at the Foreign Office
prevailed, the Russians ultimately accepting the Afghan delimitation,
a matter to which I shall have to return. The policy to which I have
always adhered was on this occasion stated in a paper which we drew
up--a secret "Memorandum on the question of the undefined frontiers
between Persia, Afghanistan, and Russia"--in words which, referring to
the probability that without an agreement Russia would establish
herself at Herat, went on:
'"Peace might be maintained for a time, but it would always be a
precarious peace, for the direct influence of Russia, backed by her
show of military force, would in time overawe the Afghans, and give
her a preponderance of which we should feel the effects, either in the
necessity for costly defensive preparations and a large increase of
the garrison of India, or in the danger to the tranquillity and
permanence of our rule.... Secure on a strong line, flanked at one end
by Balkh and at the other by Herat, covered towards Kabul by a zone of
friendly Hazara tribes ... and connected by rail and steam with her
bases in the Caucasus and on the Volga, she could afford to laugh at
threats from India, and might deal at leisure with Afghan tribes and
Two later jottings on the manuscript follow:
'"This is still true in 1906."
'"In 1908 I approved the main lines of an agreement with Russia."
'On February 20th (1882) a conference took place between Lord
Granville, Lord Hartington, Tenterden, and myself as to Central Asia.
Hartington wanted to pay Persia to hold the Turcoman oasis--a most
'On the next day, the 21st, a telegram was written to go to India,
which was so drawn by Hartington as to make the Foreign Office approve
his absurd Merv scheme. I got it altered, and Merv left out, and
guarding words put in.
'On February 22nd the Russian Ambassador promised Lord Granville that
we should be allowed to carry out my idea of a joint commission for
the Afghan frontier.
'On March 10th there was a meeting between Lord Hartington and Lord
Granville and myself as to Central Asia.'
Lord Ripon wrote from Simla on May 15th to condemn Lord Hartington's
'"trying to interpose Persia as a buffer between Russia and the
Afghans.... I do not believe either in the strength or in the good
faith of Persia," said Lord Ripon. "...I am afraid that the India
Office have by no means got rid of the notions which were afloat in
Salisbury's time." On the other hand, Lord Ripon was in favour of a
treaty with the Afghans, to which I was opposed except in the form of
a mere frontier delimitation.'
The India Office, however, never caused Dilke so many heart-burnings as
sprang from his concern with those African and Australasian matters on
which the Foreign Office was obliged to secure co-operation from the
'On January 13th, in addition to further trouble about Borneo, a new
controversy sprang up between me and the Colonial Office. It was, I
think, on January 6th, 1882, that I received from Mr. Gladstone the
letter which began: "Cameroon River, West Africa. Mr. Gladstone. Dear
Sir, We both your servants have meet this afternoon to write to you
these few lines of writing, trusting it may find you in a good state
of life, as it leaves us at present. As we heard here that you are the
chief man in the House of Commons, so we write to you to tell you that
we want to be under Her Majesty's control." It ended: "Please to send
us an answer as quick as you can. With kind regards, we are, dear sir,
your obedient servants, King Bell and King Akua."
'Lord Kimberley had absolutely refused; but I, holding that this spot was
after all the best on the West Coast of Africa, and the only one where a
health station could be established, urged acceptance, without being able
to get my own way. Lord Granville wrote concerning Lord Kimberley' (not
without a retrospective glance at his own Under-Secretary): '"Perhaps he
fears Cameroon cold water too much in consequence of the scalding water
from Borneo." Being entirely unable to get my way, I proposed that the
letter of the Kings should be "made official," and sent to Lord Granville;
that he should officially invite the opinion of the Colonial Office on it,
and that if the Colonial Office wrote a despatch against it we should
refuse, but not refuse without the Colonial Office opinion being on
official record. The offer of the cession of the Cameroons having been
renewed later, and I having again most strongly urged acceptance, a consul
was sent to the country to investigate the matter, when the Germans
suddenly interfered; snapped it up, and made it a new colony. Kimberley
was entirely responsible, as I had persuaded Lord Granville to agree with
Among the passages which carry on the Parliamentary narrative come sundry
jottings and observations. Those for the first session of 1882 concern
themselves mainly with two names--Bismarck and Gambetta.
'On January 14th I heard from Germany that the Crown Prince had
suddenly broken away from Bismarck on the issue of the last rescript,
and that he had sent his secretary to the Liberal leaders to tell them
that he had first heard of the rescript when he read it in the paper.
Writing to Grant Duff, I added that the Crown Prince "swears that
nothing will induce him to employ Bismarck when he ascends the
throne." This was but a passing feeling caused by Bismarck's attacks
on the Princess.'
"Herbert Bismarck is coming to see me in Paris at his father's
"_18th_.--He is confined to his bed in London; I am to see him there
instead of here."
'On January 20th Herbert Bismarck dined with me--a man to whom I took
a liking. I had not seen much of him before this date, but from this
time forward we had continual meetings--a man of far stronger ability
than that for which the public gives him credit. He had a special
aversion to being called "Herbert," and insisted on being called the
Count of Bismarck-Schoenhausen.
'On Sunday, January 22nd, I dined with the German Councillor of
Embassy... and met again Count Bismarck. I wrote in my diary on this
day: "Bismarck is a chip of the old block: not a bad sort of brute,
with a great deal of humour of a rough kind. He saw through ----, an
Austrian, who is a toad-eater, in a moment, and stopped a pompous
story of his about ----. As soon as we were told by the narrator, with
a proper British shake of the head, that he 'drank,' Bismarck shouted
at the top of his voice: 'Well, that is _one_ point in his favour.'
----, disconcerted, went on and said: 'He fell from the landing and
was killed.' 'Ah,' cried Bismarck, 'what a wretched constitution he
must have had!'" In an aside to me Bismarck violently attacked
Papists, and broke out against the Confessional in the tone of
Newdegate, or of Whalley, or of General Grant. To the whole table he
stoutly maintained that it was right that no Jew should be admitted
into the Prussian Guards or into clubs. One man at table said: "But
you had a Jew in the Guards"; to which Bismarck replied: "We precious
soon hunted him out." The man hunted out was the son of Prince
Bismarck's banker, the Rothschilds' agent, British Consul at Berlin,
and Bismarck's confidential adviser at the time of the treaty of
Versailles. I added in my diary of young Bismarck: "He is only 'sham'
'On March 29th I received a letter from Crowe [Footnote: Of Sir Joseph
Crowe, British Commercial Attache, Sir Charles says:
"Joseph Archer Crowe had been known to me as _Daily News_
correspondent in Paris when I was six years old in 1849, and when my
grandfather was managing the _Daily News_. Many years afterwards I got
to know of a Crowe, a great authority on Italian Painters, but I had
not the least idea that this Crowe was the same person as the other
Crowe. When I entered the Foreign Office I became aware of the
diplomatic and consular work that had been done by J. A. Crowe, but I
was not aware of his identity with either of the others till we sat
together on the Royal Commission. After ceasing to be a young painter
in Paris, Crowe became _Illustrated London News_ correspondent in the
Crimea, and then accepted an art appointment in India. He was at
Bombay during the Mutiny. Subsequently he went through the Franco-
Italian campaign of 1859 as the war-correspondent of the _Times_,
being present at the battle of Solferino. He was appointed in 1860
Consul-General for Saxony. Few men wrote four languages so well, and
while I never heard him speak German I'm told that it was as good as
his English, and his French was as good as either."] from Berlin,
saying that the Chancellor was weak in health and prophesying ultimate
war. In sending it to Lord Granville, I wrote: "I obstinately refuse
to believe that the Russian Emperor will go to his destruction at the
behest of his revolutionists." And Lord Granville wrote back: "I
agree. Herbert Bismarck confirms the account of his father's weakness.
Cannot walk eighty yards without sitting down."'
In France, the greatest of French statesmen had been turned out of office
on January 26th. [Footnote: The Gambetta Ministry fell by a vote on
Scrutin de Liste on January 26th. The Freycinet Ministry succeeded to
office on January 31st. On January 31st, 1882, Sir Charles wrote to Mr.
Frank Hill: "No member of the new French Government is taken from the
majority that overthrew Gambetta. All who are deputies voted in the
Minority. All who are senators would have so voted."] But already people
were saying that Gambetta must be President, and that by 1886, the date of
the next Presidential election, he would have recovered all his
popularity--or lost it for ever. 'The alternative of death,' says Dilke,
'had not occurred to them; yet it was death, coupled with popularity, that
The friends had not met since Gambetta's fall, but
'Gambetta found time to write and thank me for my speech, as well as
for what I had said to him about his fall. He again promised a visit
to London in one of these letters.'
"_Le 31 Janvier_, 1882.
"MON CHER AMI,
"Je vous remercie de votre bonne et forte parole. Elle me plait par-
dessus tout venant de vous, qui etes bon juge en fait de dignite et
"Je ne regrette en partant qu'une seule chose--de n'avoir pu terminer
le traite. Mais j'ai grand espoir d'avoir porte les choses assez loin
pour empecher les successeurs de reculer.
"Quand vous reverrai-je? Je compte bien que ce sera e Londres, qui
sera toujours en beau quand vous y serez.
'But the visit was destined never to take place,' though for years it had
been continually talked of between them. About August, 1876, when it was
almost settled, Sir Charles had noted:
'Gambetta never came to England in his life but once (about 1869), and
that was on a curious mission, considering what the future was to
bring forth; for he came under the Empire as the representative of the
Republicans to enter into consultation with the Orleans Princes for
the overthrow of Louis Napoleon. This interview would no doubt be
denied if mentioned by many of Gambetta's friends, but he told me of
On April 16th, 1882, Sir Charles, on his way back from spending the Easter
recess at Toulon, breakfasted with Gambetta, who told his friend 'that he
was "unique among fallen Ministers, for others, once fallen, are
forgiven," whereas he was "worse hated and more attacked than when in
He was none the less witty. There was talk of reforms in Russia--reforms
that had been suddenly obliterated by the murder of the reforming Tsar.
"What did Russia want with a 'Parlement'?" (Gambetta asked). "She has two
Generals who provide her with it. Skobelef, _Parle_; et Ignatief, _Ment._"
'On the 21st January, 1882, Alfred de Rothschild came to see me to
tell me that Bontoux had been to "Alphonse" [Footnote: The head of the
Paris house.] to ask him to help the Union Generale, which had been a
Catholic alliance against the Jews, and was now on its last legs. On
the next day Alphonse de Rothschild decided that he would not, as was
indeed to be expected, unless he had very strong, purely financial,
reasons the other way. He ultimately helped enough to save the
brokers, but not enough to save Bontoux or the rest. I found that,
ever since the Battle of Waterloo, the Rothschilds in London and in
Paris have been in the habit of writing to one another long letters
every day, and from time to time I saw these letters from Alphonse
when they bore upon political affairs.'
Sir Charles was not impressed by the political insight of those documents,
which seemed to him 'extraordinarily uninteresting,' expressing old-
fashioned Conservative ideas, though 'the Rothschilds all think they are
The jottings end with a definition of diplomacy:
'On the 24th January, 1882, I dined at the French Embassy, where Baron
Solvyns, the Belgian Minister, amused me with the saying that diplomacy
meant "to pass one's life a expliquer les choses sans les comprendre."'
[Footnote: Adapted from Beaumarchais, who thus describes "la politique" in
'Le Mariage de Figaro,' Act III., Scene ii.]
THE PHOENIX PARK MURDERS
Ireland and Egypt fill the most important places in the history of 1882.
That was the year, in Ireland, of the Kilmainham Treaty, the resignation
of Mr. Forster, and the Phoenix Park murders; in Egypt, of the riots in
Alexandria, followed by the bombardment, which caused Mr. Bright's
resignation, and the battle of Tel-el-Kebir.
They had their roots far back in preceding years. But the abrupt
development of the trouble in Egypt was due to an accident; that of the
Irish question was of no sudden or casual growth. The Parliamentary
difficulty as to procedure of the House was only part of Parnell's
deliberate design to paralyze legislature and executive alike. [Footnote:
Sir Charles notes: 'In 1890, when I wrote out these diaries, I showed them
to Chamberlain, and gave him a copy of some part, notably that relating to
the Kilmainham Treaty and that relating to Egypt (1882). His remembrance
of events agreed with the notes made by me at the time.']
Government, for the moment, was trying to suppress Parnell and his
associates. The Irish leader himself had been in gaol since October 12th,
1881; Mr. Dillon, Mr. Sexton, Mr. Davitt, and many hundreds of lesser men,
had been imprisoned without sentence or form of trial. Sir Charles Dilke,
whom nobody believed to be an adviser of coercion, experienced as a member
of the Government manifestations of Irish displeasure.
'On January 31st I addressed my constituents. The Irish attacked the
meeting, and one East-Ender came at my private secretary with a chair,
howling Mr. Bright's phrase: "Force is no remedy!" As a very violent
breach of the peace had been committed, the police came in and cleared
the room, and after that our people came back again, and I was able to
make my speech quietly.... Congratulations upon my speech on all hands
were warm, especially those of Chamberlain and Lord Granville.
Chamberlain had written to me before the meeting to recommend a free
resort to "chuckers-out," and on my informing him of the use made of
Bright's maxim, he amused himself by communicating it to Bright, who
was only grim upon the subject.'
Irish discontent could count on sympathy and support from the rulers of
America. On March 31st, 1882, the Memoir notes: 'It was settled to tell
the Americans that those suspects who would leave the United Kingdom and
engage not to return might go.'
'On April 20th I had to point out to Lord Granville the fact that the
Irish had shown on the previous day that they had got hold of the
condition which we had attempted to make with the Americans as to the
liberation of American suspects, a condition which the Americans had
All these things affected public opinion in Great Britain. At this moment
the Radical wing was demanding a change of policy in Ireland, while Mr.
Forster was pressing hard for renewal of the Coercion Act, which, having
been passed in 1881 for a year only, was now expiring. The Radicals won,
and the change of policy was inaugurated by the so-called Kilmainham
'At this moment' (April, 1882) 'Parnell was let out of prison, at Mr.
Gladstone's wish, to go to Paris to attend a funeral, but he was away
from prison, also at Mr. Gladstone's wish, unnecessarily long, and,
staying in London with Captain and Mrs. O'Shea, was seen by
Chamberlain at the wish of Mr. Gladstone (expressed on April 20th),
with the view that Chamberlain should offer him leave of absence from
prison with the view of concocting some arrangement (for his release
and for the pacification of Ireland) between him and the Government.
On the 21st Chamberlain and I met and decided that we would resign if
it was proposed to renew the Coercion Act, or the power of arbitrary
arrest in its then naked form.
'On April 22nd, 1882, Chamberlain obtained from the Cabinet, by a
majority, Mr. Gladstone being strongly with him, his own way in the
Irish Question, with full leave to enter into negotiations with
Parnell through O'Shea, but to be disavowed if he failed. Mr.
Gladstone reported the Cabinet of the 22nd to the Queen, stating that
the decision of the Cabinet was to the effect that it was wise "to
strengthen the law in Ireland." This was one way of putting it. What
the Cabinet really decided on April 22nd was to let out Parnell and
his friends, and to drop arbitrary arrest, although they did decide to
have a new Coercion Bill on minor points, to which Coercion Bill
Parnell himself was favourable. The statement that Parnell was
favourable would be denied, but O'Shea showed me a draft Bill, which
was, so he said, in Parnell's writing. I knew the hand, and it seemed
to be so.
'On April 25th Chamberlain reported to the Cabinet the result of his
interviews. Lord Cowper had already resigned the Lord-Lieutenancy, but
Forster's resignation (for some reason which I have never understood)
was kept back for a little. It is a curious fact that the Duchess of
Manchester told me in the middle of March that Lord Spencer was to
succeed Lord Cowper; but the first the Cabinet heard of it was on
'On April 26th, Parnell having returned to gaol, leave was given to
Captain O'Shea to go and see him at Kilmainham with full powers, but
nothing in writing. On the same day a letter, which was sent me by
Chamberlain, after Forster had seen it and sent it on to him, shows
that Forster was still acting, or at all events being treated by Mr.
Gladstone as though he was going forward with his policy. But on the
28th Chamberlain told me that Forster would resign. In my diary I say:
"The Chancellor and Lord Kimberley may go with him. In this case the
Irish Secretaryship would be offered to Shaw" (member for Limerick,
Mr. Butt's successor as leader of the moderate Home Rulers), "but he
would refuse because he could not get his county to return him. Then
it must come either to Chamberlain or to myself. I said I should wish
in this event that he should take it and I succeed him at the Board of
Trade. He said that my appointment would make less row than his. I
admitted this, but said that his would be the best for the public
service. Besides, my opinion in favour of Home Rule would form a grave
difficulty in my way." It will be seen that it never occurred for a
moment to either Chamberlain or myself that the Irish Secretaryship
would be offered without a seat in the Cabinet; but we counted without
remembering Mr. Gladstone's affection for Lord Spencer.... It will
also be seen that I did not count Chamberlain as being a Home Ruler
'On the 29th Forster told Harcourt at the banquet of the Royal Academy
that he should resign "if it is decided to let out the men." It is
necessary to be careful about one's history of this moment, for no
authorities are to be trusted. My diary was written at the time from
information chiefly supplied by Chamberlain, and Chamberlain has since
seen and agreed to this record (1906). On Sunday, April 30th, the
_Observer_ gave an account of what had passed at a Cabinet of the
previous day; but no such Cabinet was held, and on May 1st the _Times_
also gave an account of what passed at "Saturday's Cabinet"!
'On May 1st I saw Chamberlain before the Cabinet. Parnell had written
to Justin McCarthy to promise that if let out he was ready to advise
payment of rent and cessation of outrages, but McCarthy would not
allow the letters to be made public. Forster insisted that he should
give a public promise. I suggested to Chamberlain that to call on
Parnell to give a public promise was to recognize Parnell as the
Government of Ireland. Chamberlain agreed to argue that the promise
should be a private one so far as Parnell was concerned, but that the
Government should state that such a promise had been made. After the
Cabinet Chamberlain told me that at the Cabinet of the next day
Forster would resign; but he thought that the Chancellor, who was
restive about the remedial legislation proposed in the shape of an
Arrears Bill, would "go" too. I fancy the Chancellor had promised to
resign, but he didn't.'
This reference to Lord Selborne is supplemented by the Memoir for 1893,
where Sir Charles has a detached note:
'Our former Chancellor at eighty-two is "not less" prosy in the Lords
than he used to be, for he was always "slow." When W. E. Forster
resigned in 1882, Lord Granville left the Cabinet room to go down to
tell the Queen. Then, and then only, Lord Selborne said: "But I agree
with him, and must resign also." "It is too late," said Harcourt, "it
would not now be respectful to the Queen as Granville has started." So
the Chancellor did not resign.'
The Memoir continues: 'On May 3rd Chamberlain, who had decided to take
the Irish Secretaryship if offered to him, was astonished at having
received no offer. At 11.30 p.m. on the same day, the 3rd, I found
that the appointment had been offered to and declined by Hartington;
but the offer to, and acceptance by, his brother, Lord Frederick
Cavendish, came as a complete surprise both to me and to Chamberlain.
'In the night between May 4th and 5th the Queen telegraphed to
Harcourt: "I can scarcely believe that Davitt, one of the most
dangerous traitors, has been released without my having been
consulted, as I was in the case of the three members." The fact was
that Harcourt had so impressed upon the Queen the wickedness of
Davitt, at the time when he withdrew Davitt's ticket-of-leave, that it
was rather difficult for him to explain to the Queen his very sudden
change of front.
'On the 5th I had an interview with Mr. Gladstone as to royal grants.
I carefully abstained from giving any pledge as to future action, and
at the Cabinet of the 8th' (after Lord Frederick Cavendish's murder),
'when the question of my being offered the Chief Secretaryship with
the Cabinet came up, Mr. Gladstone stated to the Cabinet that I
'On May 6th I heard from Brett and from the Duchess of Manchester that
Hartington had proposed me in the Cabinet for Chief Secretary, with a
seat in the Cabinet, and that both Mr. Gladstone and Lord Granville
had said: "Dilke won't do." The Duchess asked me what this meant, and
I said that it was the Queen's objection on account of the Leopold
grant, which it was; but Mr. Gladstone was glad to give Spencer his
own way without a Chief Secretary in the Cabinet.'
At half-past six that afternoon, May 6th, Lord Frederick Cavendish and Mr.
Burke, the permanent Under-Secretary, were murdered in the Phoenix Park,
within sight of the Viceregal Lodge.
'On the night of May 6th the scene at the party at the Admiralty was
most dramatic. Mrs. Gladstone had come there from a dinner party at
the Austrian Embassy, not knowing of the murder, while everybody else
in the room knew. At last she was sent for suddenly to Downing Street
to be told, and went away under the impression that the Queen had been
shot, for she was assured that it was very dreadful, but "nothing
about Mr. Gladstone."
'Early on Sunday morning, the 7th, Parnell came to see me with Justin
McCarthy. He was white and apparently terror-stricken. He thought the
blow was aimed at him, and that if people kept their heads, and the
new policy prevailed, he himself would be the next victim of the
secret societies. [Footnote: In the letters of Justin McCarthy to Mrs.
Campbell Praed (_Our Book of Memoirs_, p. 97) there is an account of
what happened in London on that Sunday. There was a gathering of Irish
leaders at Parnell's rooms.
"Then Parnell and I talked together, and we thought the best thing for
us--we two--was to go and consult some of our English friends. We
started out, and went first to see Sir Charles Dilke. Our impression
was that either Dilke or Chamberlain would be asked to take the post
of Irish Secretary. Indeed, the general impression was that either one
man or the other would have been asked at the time when Lord Frederick
Cavendish was appointed.... We saw Dilke. He was perfectly composed
and cool. He said that if Gladstone offered him the post of Irish
Secretary, nothing that had happened lately would in the least deter
him from accepting it....
"He went on to say that he was a Home Ruler _quand meme_; that he
would be inclined to press Home Rule on the Irish people, even if they
were not wholly inclined for it, because he so fully believed in the
principle, whereas Chamberlain would only give Home Rule if the Irish
people refused to accept anything less. But on the other hand,
Chamberlain was an optimist in the matter, and thought he could do
great good as Irish Secretary; and he (Dilke) was not so certain,
seeing the difficulty of dealing with the Castle and the permanent
officials, and therefore they agreed that as far as they were
concerned it was better Chamberlain should go.
"He said, 'If Chamberlain goes, he'll go to smash things'--meaning the
Dublin Castle system.
"Then we went to Chamberlain and had a long talk with him. We found
him perfectly willing to go to Ireland, but he said he must have his
own way there and he would either make or mar--by which we understood
the Castle system...."]
'On this day, May 8th, I noted that I thought it most unlikely that
Mr. Gladstone would send Chamberlain to Ireland, inasmuch as to do so
would be to admit that he had been wrong in not sending him in the
previous week. To Grant Duff I sent the reason for Mr. G.'s decision:
"Spencer wishes the policy to be _his_ policy, and does not want his
Chief Secretary in the Cabinet." At three o'clock Chamberlain sent a
note across to me from the Cabinet: "Prepare for an offer." I was
somewhat surprised at this, because Chamberlain knew that I would not
take it without the Cabinet, and that I would take it with the
Cabinet, whereas his note seemed to imply a doubt. At four he came
across himself, and the first difference that had ever occurred
between us took place, because although he knew that I would not
accept, he urged acceptance of the post without the Cabinet. He argued
that it carried with it the Privy Council, that it established great
personal claims upon the party, and that it afforded a means of
getting over the difficulty with the Queen. I declined, however,
without hesitation and with some anger. It was obvious that I could
not consent to be "a mere mouthpiece." Mr. Gladstone and Lord
Carlingford then sent back to say, personally from each of them, that
I was to be present at the Cabinet at every discussion of Irish
affairs; and I then asked: "Why, then, should I not be in the
Cabinet?" Carlingford came back to the Foreign Office again and again,
and cried over it to me; and Lord Granville came in twice, and
threatened me with loss of prestige by my refusal, by which I
certainly felt that I had lost Mr. Gladstone's confidence. I was angry
with Chamberlain at having placed me in this position.... Had he acted
on this occasion with the steadiness with which he acted on every
other, he would have told the Cabinet that the offer would be an
insult, because he knew that this was my view. The ground on which the
refusal of the Cabinet was put to me was the impossibility of having
both myself and Spencer in the Cabinet. Lord Granville came in
finally, and said in his sweetest manner (which is a very disagreeable
one) that he had vast experience, and had "never known a man stand on
his extreme rights and gain by it." This I felt to be a monstrous
perversion of the case, and I was glad on the morning of the 9th to
find that my reasons were very fairly stated in the _Standard_, the
_Telegraph_, and the _Daily News_. Chamberlain had seen Escott of the
_Standard_, and Lawson of the _Telegraph_, and I had seen Hill of the
'That the Cabinet position towards me was dishonest is shown by the
fact that they had given Lord Spencer Cowper's place when they had
still reason to suppose that Forster was going to continue in the
Irish Secretaryship and in the Cabinet, and had afterwards asked
Hartington to take the Chief Secretaryship.
'An honourable (I trust) defence of myself is in a letter in the
possession of Grant Duff under date "May 5th, closed on 11th."
The letter to Sir Mountstuart Grant Duff, which has separate brief
jottings on May 5th, 6th, and 7th, has so far been reproduced almost
textually from Sir Charles's Memoir. The rest runs as follows:
"_8th_.--Mr. Gladstone is determined not to send Chamberlain to
Ireland, and does not want a Chief Secretary in the Cabinet, and to
send Chamberlain and so have a Chief Secretary in the Cabinet would be
to admit that the decision of last week was wrong. I, of course,
refused to go. I should have had to defend any policy that Spencer
chose to adopt without having a voice in it. Acceptance would not have
been only a personal mistake; it would have been a political blunder.
Outside the Cabinet I should not have had the public confidence, and
rightly so, because I could not have had a strong hand. I should have
inherited accumulated blunders, and I was under no kind of obligation
to do so, for I have never touched the Irish Question. Never have I
spoken of it from first to last. Many of the measures rendered
necessary by the situation are condemned by my whole past attitude;
but they have really been made inevitable by blunders for which I had
no responsibility and which I should not have been allowed to condemn.
"CHS. W. D."
"Closed on 11th."
He wrote also this month in a letter to Mrs. Pattison:
"In a matter of this sort it is essential to have the look of the
thing in view, when a question of personal courage is involved. Of
course, I know that I have personal courage, but the public can only
judge from the look of things. The reason why Chamberlain even doubted
if I ought not after the murder to go--though I was not to have gone
before it--lay in the doubt as to how the public would take the look
of it. It has turned out right, but it might have turned out wrong. If
the public had gone the other way, I should have said I ought to have
taken it, and resigned."
But, as Sir Mountstuart Grant Duff pointed out when replying to the letter
of May 11th, in the state of things then existing in Ireland a Minister
could hardly have resigned without the gravest embarrassment to the
Government, and he cordially approved Sir Charles's refusal: "You could
not have accepted the Secretaryship without a seat in the Cabinet." That
refusal was also approved and understood by the heir to the Throne:
'On the 8th the Prince of Wales wrote to me through Knollys to ask me
as to the Chief Secretaryship, and on my informing him how matters
stood, replied: "If you had accepted the post without a seat in the
Cabinet, your position, especially at the present moment, would be a
very unsatisfactory one. If the policy, whatever it is, prove a
success, I doubt whether _you_ would have obtained much credit for it;
and if it turned out a failure, you may be quite sure that a great
deal of the blame would fall upon you without your having been
responsible for the initiation of the steps that were adopted."'
The Phoenix Park murders having immediately followed the appointment of
Lord Frederick Cavendish, those who had always pressed for further powers
of police now asserted themselves with vehemence. Sir William Harcourt
spoke strongly on Ireland and the necessity for coercion in the House of
Commons. Mr. Gladstone, in whom the Radicals had always found a mainstay
against these tendencies, was broken in spirit and suddenly aged. All
relations in the Cabinet were jarred and embittered, as the successive
entries in this Memoir show:
'In the night between May 11th and 12th the Irish, although angry at
Harcourt's coercion speech, sent O'Shea to Chamberlain at 3 a.m. with
the olive-branch again.
'On May 13th Mr. Gladstone again stated privately that he intended to
give up the Exchequer on account of his advancing years.
'On this day the Cabinet unanimously decided to give an extradition
treaty to Russia--to my mind a most foolish proposal.
'On Monday, May 15th, Mr. Gladstone sent Chamberlain to O'Shea to see
if Parnell could be got to support the new Coercion Bill with some
changes. When Harcourt heard of this, which was done behind his back,
he was furious, and went so far as to tell me: "When I resign I shall
not become a discontented Right Honourable on a back bench, but shall
go abroad for some months, and when I come back rat boldly to the
other side." This reminds me of Randolph Churchill on Lord Derby, "A
man may rat once, but not rat and re-rat."
'On Tuesday, May 16th, Mr. Gladstone wrote, on Chamberlain's
suggestion, to Harcourt to try to smooth him over, and proposed a
Cabinet on the matter for the next day, Wednesday, May 17th, at which
Harcourt declared that if any change was made in the principle of his
Coercion Bill he would resign; but then nobody knew what was the
principle of the Bill. At this Cabinet Harcourt ... told the Cabinet
that the Kilmainham Treaty would not be popular when the public
discovered that it had been negotiated by Captain O'Shea, "the husband
of Parnell's mistress." He informed the Cabinet that ... after this it
would hardly "do for the public" "for us to use O'Shea as a
negotiator." I wrote to Grant Duff on this day (closed 18th) as to
Parnell's relations to Mrs. O'Shea as disclosed in Cabinet.
'On Friday, May 19th, Lord Derby said to me: "You were right to refuse
the Chief Secretaryship; still Mr. Gladstone must say to himself:
'Surely I am about to die, for I am not obeyed.'" On Monday, the 22nd,
Mr. Gladstone was very strongly in favour of accepting Parnell's
privately suggested amendments to the new Coercion Bill, obtained
through O'Shea, but Hartington going with Harcourt against touching
the Bill, Mr. Gladstone got no support except from Chamberlain.
'On May 25th Chamberlain was anxious to resign on account of
Harcourt's position as to coercion; but the fit passed off again.
'On June 5th I noted in my diary that I heard that Goschen was soon to
be asked to become Chancellor of the Exchequer.
'On the 9th Lord Granville told me that the hatred of Mr. Gladstone
for Goschen was such that he had point blank refused to make him
Chancellor of the Exchequer; but this proved to be untrue, for an
offer was as a fact made to him, although perhaps very privately.
'At this time I received a letter from Lord Ripon in India as to the
Kilmainham Treaty, in which he said that he was convinced that
Forster's policy had completely broken down, and went on: "But between
ourselves is not the Government still ... on a wrong track in its
coercive measures? I do not like the suspension of trial by jury....
Again, if Reuter is right, it is proposed to take a power to expel
dangerous foreigners. I am too much of a Foxite to like an Alien Bill,
and, besides, if you are not very careful, the expulsion of foreigners
will land you in a very disagreeable state of relations with the
United States." These, I noted, were exactly the arguments which
Chamberlain was using against Harcourt without avail.'
On June 11th Mr. Chamberlain wrote that the Cabinet had decided on some
important changes in the Prevention of Crimes Bill, and that things looked
But on that day the Alexandria riots took place, and opinion was sharply
divided as to the measures which should be taken. Here Sir Charles Dilke,
and with him Mr. Chamberlain, were strongly for forcible action, while Mr.
Bright, who in the matter of Ireland had come round towards the side of
coercion, opposed the use of force in Egypt. On July 5th there was a
stormy meeting of the Cabinet, which two days later had its echo in
'Mr. Gladstone, mixing Ireland and Egypt together, broke out in the
House of Commons on July 7th, and afterwards privately told his
colleagues that he intended to resign!'
The occasion of this outbreak was a debate on the Prevention of Crimes
Bill, which the Tories were seeking to render more drastic. The Prime
Minister declared with emphasis that if coercive powers which he did not
seek were to be thrust upon him, he must "consider his personal position."
The words were at once in debate construed as a threat of retirement, and
there was a critical position in the Cabinet.
'Bright would follow Mr. Gladstone; and Chamberlain and I decided that
if this were so, although we were against him about Egypt, which would
be one of the causes of his resignation, we must go with him all the
same and refuse to join the new administration. Although I concurred
in this view, after discussion, it was not mine. On this occasion I
thought it was our duty to stay. But after discussion, as I have
stated, I came round to Chamberlain's view so far as this--that we
decided that we would not join the new Government if Mr. Gladstone
were outside it in the House of Commons; although the case might be
different if he quitted political life or went to the Lords, and if we
were satisfied with the new bill of fare.
'At this moment Chamberlain and I were anxious to get Courtney into
the Cabinet, and Mr. Gladstone having asked us, after Playfair's worst
mess, if we thought Courtney would take the place of Chairman of Ways
and Means, we told him that we thought he would only if it was
understood that it was not to lessen his chances of obtaining Cabinet
office. [Footnote: Sir Lyon Playfair, Chairman of Committees, had
suspended eighteen Irish members on July 1st.]
'When the House met at nine o'clock [Footnote: This means after the
dinner interval, for which at this time the House used to adjourn.] on
Friday, July 7th, I sounded Trevelyan' (then Chief Secretary for
Ireland) 'as to his course, and found him most anxious to stop in at
all hazards. I then saw Childers, who had walked home with Hartington
at seven. He said that he had urged Hartington not to form a weak Whig
Administration, and had told him that if Chamberlain would stay he,
Childers, would go on, but that he thought that to go on without
Chamberlain would be fatal, and that it would be far better to let the
Tories come in, and help them through with Egypt, and then make them
go to their constituents. At ten o'clock Grosvenor came and told me
that he thought that Mr. Gladstone would stay on. Chamberlain, who
still thought that Mr. Gladstone would resign, told Hartington that in
the event of the formation of a new Liberal Ministry he should insist
that Goschen should not be put in, and that the vacancies should be
filled up by myself, Courtney, and Trevelyan. At midnight the storm
had blown over.'
A Bill to prevent eviction for arrears of excessive rents had been
demanded by the Nationalist party as a necessary amendment to the Land Act
of 1881, and it had been introduced by the Government, and was carried
through _pari passu_ with the new measure of coercion. It was furiously
opposed by the high Tories, and a new crisis seemed imminent.
'On Monday, July 10th, it again seemed probable that Mr. Gladstone
would resign. The intention of the Lords to throw out the Arrears
Bill, at Lord Salisbury's dictation, was loudly proclaimed, and it was
said by Mr. Gladstone's friends that Mr. Gladstone would at once
resign, and that if Lord Salisbury refused to form a Government, Mr.
Gladstone would retire from public life. Chamberlain was determined
then to insist with either Lord Granville or Lord Hartington for
myself, Courtney, and Trevelyan, on the ground that a Liberal
Government with a Whig Prime Minister must be Radical.'
It was the apprehension of such an increase of power to the Radicals that
made the threat of Mr. Gladstone's resignation formidable both to Whigs
Mr. Gladstone, however, did not resign, though Mr. Bright did, after the
bombardment of Alexandria had taken place. On the contrary, by July 12th,
'so belligerent was the Prime Minister that he had now decided, in
face of the prospect of Lord Salisbury throwing out the Arrears Bill,
unless Lord Waterford on behalf of the Irish landlords begged him not
to do so, to prorogue, have another Session a week after, and pass the
This quarrel between the Houses remained open till August 8th, when Lord
Salisbury, under pressure from the Irish landlords, was forced to content
himself with acquiescence under angry protest. But in the meanwhile the
Government were in other difficulties. After the bombardment of Alexandria
it was still necessary to deal with the rebellion against the Khedive,
whose authority England was seeking to support; and the Tories, allied
with a section of the peace party, offered strong resistance to any
'On Wednesday, August 2nd, I had a conversation with Mr. Gladstone,
who agreed in my view that if beaten we should force the county
franchise, and dissolve only if the Lords would carry that. It began
to look as if we should sit till Christmas.
'On Monday, August 7th, I had an interesting talk with Brett. Knowing
his great influence with Hartington, I complained to him of his
chief's folly in always acting as the leader of a Whig section instead
of as deputy-leader of the whole party. Brett agreed that it was
foolish in the particular case of franchise, "as he must give in at
last." I replied: "But he has given in already, and gone back again."
Brett answered: "He declares he never voted for it." This is a curious
example of Hartington's complete detachment from politics and want of
interest in them, for he had not only voted, but had made a long,
strong, and elaborate speech, explaining his reasons for so doing, and
then absolutely forgotten the whole thing, and thought that he was
still committed to opposition. At the Cabinet of the 5th he had
declared against a Franchise Bill.'
When the Session ended on August 27th the question of Sir Charles Dilke's
personal position came up. Neither his refusal of the Chief Secretaryship
nor his attitude of opposition to Mr. Gladstone's own wishes as to Egypt
had in the least impaired his standing, and promotion was felt to be his
due. The old difficulties, however, were still in the way, and Sir Charles
refused to buy his way into the Cabinet by a sham recantation. The matter
accordingly stood over, as appears from this entry:
'At this moment there were fresh discussions as to my saying something
to the Queen to get over her difficulty about receiving me into the
Cabinet. Lord Granville, in congratulating me upon the way in which I
had done the Foreign Office work, said that Mr. Gladstone had been
unable to say anything to the Queen because I had hot given him enough
upon which to go. Mr. Gladstone then wrote to me a long letter in
favour of my making some statement to my constituents, but he went on
to admit in writing what he had previously admitted in conversation--
namely, that a Committee' (to inquire into the Civil List) 'would be
wise. Therefore I at once insisted that I should have the distinct
promise of this Committee before I said anything. Mr. Gladstone's
letter came very near a promise, as he said that when any new set of
cases came forward the question of a Committee would naturally come
up, and would, he hoped, be favourably entertained. I again called in
Chamberlain, and acting with him, declined to make any statement, as I
had in no way changed my opinion, but I pressed the appointment of the
Committee, or at least the promise of one. Mr. Gladstone again
promised to communicate with the Queen.'
JANUARY TO SEPTEMBER, 1882
At the beginning of 1881 the form of government which Europe had set up in
Egypt was but young. Tewfik, the Khedive chosen by the French and British
Governments to replace Ismail, had occupied his position for less than two
years. Riaz Pasha, head of the Ministry after the fall of his predecessor
Nubar, [Footnote: There is a note of October 13th, 1880: 'I saw Nubar
Pasha about Egypt, and I had received an extremely able long letter from
Rivers Wilson asking me to interfere to restore Nubar to power, but I did
not as a fact discuss Egypt with the French.'] had brought about a mutiny
of officers early in 1879, and was carrying on public affairs with
difficulty. He had been forced to sacrifice his War Minister to the second
mutiny (of February, 1881) which followed on the arrest and secured the
release of Arabi. In the spring of the year the smouldering discontent of
the army was fanned into flame by the advance of the French to Tunis.
'On May 12th' (1881--the very date on which the French Expeditionary
Force constrained the Bey of Tunis to accept French suzerainty) 'steps
were taken on behalf of Lord Hartington, Lord Granville, and myself to
see whether, now that France had knocked another bit out of the bottom
of the Ottoman Empire by her attack on Tunis, we ought to try to get
any compensation in Egypt for ourselves. Hartington was to consult the
India Office upon the question, and I wrote to Sir Edward Hertslet,
asking him to consider how we stood with reference to the despatch of
troops through Egypt in the event of (1) a rising in India, (2) an
invasion of India by Russia.'
On July 28th, 1881, there took place at the Foreign Office the first
meeting of a Committee 'to consider the affairs of Egypt, consisting of
Tenterden, myself, Pauncefote, Malet, Scott the Judge, young Maine, and
Reilly.' Sir Charles Rivers Wilson, who had been Finance Minister under
Ismail, was called in from time to time.
'My own endeavours on this Committee were directed against increasing
internationally in Egypt, as I thought the Governments of England and
France would be driven sooner or later to occupy the country with a
joint force, and that internationality (which would mean German
influence) would then be a great difficulty in the way.'
The need for intervention soon grew urgent. On September 9th, 1881, a
large body of troops, headed by Arabi, threatened the Khedive's palace,
demanding the dismissal of all the Ministers, the convocation of a
parliament, and a great increase of the army. Again the mutiny succeeded,
and this time, in Sir Edward Malet's words, "it was more than a mutiny, it
was a revolution." Riaz Pasha was replaced by Cherif, but all real power
was in the hands of the soldiery.
The question now came to be, Who should step in to establish order? The
Sultan of Turkey, who saw a chance of making his nominal suzerainty real,
proposed to despatch troops, but confined himself to sending envoys. As a
counter-demonstration, France and England each sent a warship to
Alexandria; and Gambetta's accession to power in November meant a great
reinforcement to the policy of joint intervention.
Sir Charles was then in Paris engaged in the commercial negotiations
already described, and he chronicled in his diary a sporting suggestion:
"_September 19th_, 1881.--After the seventeenth sitting of the Treaty
Joint Commission I had an interview with Delia Sala, the Italian who
is an Egyptian General, and governs the Soudan. He is a great fencer,
and has killed his man before now. He declares himself willing to put
down insubordination in the Egyptian Army by calling out three of the
Colonels in succession. A more practical but hardly less bold
suggestion of his is that he should be allowed to increase his anti-
slavery regiment of 600 men, and then to use it as a bodyguard for
Malet instead of the putting down of slavery."
'On December 27th, 1881, Lord Granville asked me by letter to discuss
with Gambetta all the possible alternatives, and especially joint
occupation (to which Lord Granville saw objection), and a Turkish
intervention under the control of England and France (to which French
opinion was opposed): "The more you can get out of Gambetta without
committing us the more grateful we shall be." I have no recollection
of having discussed Egypt with Gambetta.'
'Malet wrote from Cairo to Paris, telling me that he still had
confidence in the moderation of the progressist party represented by
Arabi and the Colonels, and that he was managing them through Wilfrid
Blunt, who was acting as a go-between; but a little later on the
relations between Blunt and Malet became such as to show that each had
thought he was using the other as a tool.'
"Moderation" is an ambiguous term. When the Chamber of Notables met at the
end of December, 1881, the army put forward through the Minister for War a
demand for an increase of 18,000 men. This increase the European
controllers refused to sanction, on the ground that the country could not
afford it. Thus came to pass a conflict between the national movement and
the joint European control upon an issue which united the interests of the
military party with the aspirations of the parliamentarian Nationalists
for the power of the purse. Gambetta, however, was now dominant in France,
and Gambetta had no tolerance for the pretensions of what he called a
"sham assembly." A Joint Note, dated January 6th, 1882, was issued by the
two Powers, in which England and France declared their intention to "guard
by their united efforts against all cause of complication, internal or
external, which might menace the order of things established in Egypt."
Another phrase in the Note attributed the exchange of views between the
Powers to "recent circumstances, especially the meeting of the Chamber of
Notables convoked by the Khedive," and this was naturally construed by
Nationalists to mean that parliamentary institutions were internal causes
The issue of this Note is one of the marking-points of modern Egyptian
history. It asserted the determination of the joint Powers to make their
will obeyed in Egypt, by force if necessary. According to general
admission, its issue was due to the overmastering influence of Gambetta.
Dilke, whom everyone knew to be Gambetta's intimate, was in France almost
continuously from the time when Gambetta became Prime Minister on November
10th, 1881, till the eve of the issue of the Joint Note. In 1878, while in
Opposition, he had publicly advocated a policy of annexation in Egypt, and
it was inevitable that critics should fasten upon him a special
responsibility for the course pursued.
Yet, as the Memoir makes clear, in 'this weighty affair' Dilke had
virtually no voice. He was not in the Cabinet, and he was absent from
Paris for nearly the whole of December, taking a holiday in Provence from
commercial negotiations. Only on his return, on December 27th, did he
receive Lord Granville's letter--which was dated December 21st--asking him
to discuss with Gambetta the possible alternatives. But although the two
men met repeatedly between December 27th and January 2nd, when Dilke left
Paris, Gambetta refrained from discussing Egypt. The Memoir says, under
date January 7th, 1882:
'The Cabinet had before it the state of affairs in Egypt, and resolved
upon agreeing on Gambetta's policy of a Joint Note on the part of
England and of France in support of the Khedive against the
revolutionary party. Mr. Ashmead Bartlett, misled by the dates of
interviews, has asserted from that time to this (1890) that the Joint
Note was arranged in Paris between Gambetta and myself. I have
repeatedly denied that statement, for curiously enough it so happens
that the Joint Note was the only important matter relating to Foreign
Affairs which happened while I was at the Foreign Office in which I
was not consulted. Gambetta never broached the subject with me, and I
knew nothing of it until it was done. As we talked a little about
Egypt, I suppose that he had reasons for not wishing to speak of the
Joint Note to me, but I do not know what they were.'
Sir Charles Dilke's policy for Egypt differed from that of his chief, who
always inclined to leave Turkey to undertake the necessary coercion, under
the surveillance of England and France. Dilke, with Gambetta, desired
joint intervention. [Footnote: Lord Cromer wrote to Sir Charles Dilke
asking him about a letter of M. Joseph Reinach's of July 28th, 1909, in
which the latter spoke of his doubts as to the complete sincerity of the
English Government at the time of the Gambetta Ministry. At that moment
Dilke, in whose company he had breakfasted at Gambetta's with MM. Rouvier,
Spuller, and other guests, did not, in spite of his great friendship for
Gambetta, believe in the duration of his Ministry, any more than the
English Government did. M. Reinach thought that Sir Charles Dilke's Diary
would throw an interesting light on the point as to whether, foreseeing
Gambetta's fall, the English Government did not foresee the probability of
their sole intervention in Egypt.
Sir Charles's comment was as follows:
"My diary (agreed to by Chamberlain after he had changed the opinions
he held at the time described) shows that permanent occupation was not
thought consistent with British interests by any who took a leading
part in the Cabinet action. I was not in the Cabinet until after Tel-
el-Kebir, but, as you know, I was--from the time of the riots at
Alexandria--of the 'inner Cabinet' for such purposes. Of course, all
men knew that the Gambetta Cabinet was dead before its birth. Hanotaux
... is right on this. But we wanted the Turk to go for us, and,
failing the Turk (under our lead), then Italy in place of France,
after France backed out....
"There was no moment up to '96--or perhaps '98--when if France had
known her mind and meant business she could not have had her way--
"Gambetta's policy was dominated by hatred of Russia. 'I will seek my
alliances--n'importe ou, meme a Berlin'--meant anywhere except at St.
Petersburg.... Say to Reinach that I tell you that I don't mind
_showing_ him the governing passages in my diaries if he wants to
_see_ them, but that they are dead against him."]
'On January 15th, 1882, I started the idea that England and France
should not act as England and France only, but should ask Europe for a
mandate, and on the 16th Lord Granville took it up, and wrote to Lord
Lyons in its favour on the 17th. I sent to Lord Granville notes of
what I proposed to say in a speech on Egypt. I pointed out that I had
been one of those who had opposed the creation of the Anglo-French
control, but that it was the invention of our predecessors. Lord Derby
had created, when Conservative Foreign Secretary, a mild form of
control, which had been raised into the sharper form of control by
Lord Salisbury, who had refused successively to Germany, to Austria,
and to Italy, any share in the control. Lord Salisbury was wholly
responsible for it; but, however great its political dangers, from the
Egyptian and the economical point of view it had worked well, and,
being there, must be maintained, as it was the only thing between us
and anarchy. It was due to the controllers that the country had been
relieved from arbitrary rule. The co-operation with France
deliberately created by Lord Salisbury must be loyally maintained.
'Lord Granville wrote back praising the proposed statement, but
suggesting that I should not run down the control so much, and not
initiate an attack upon our predecessors. Although I slightly toned
down my observations upon this occasion, when we were afterwards
attacked on the matter in the House of Commons I more than once said
everything that I had proposed to say against the control and our
responsibility for its existence.'
'On January 18th Sheffield' (Lord Lyons's secretary) 'came to see me.
He said that Gambetta was angry with Malet, as Malet was under the
influence of Wilfrid Blunt, which meant that of Arabi Bey. I wrote a
minute of our conversation upon this point, and Lord Granville
replied: "Gambetta must not drag us into too arbitrary a way of
dealing with the Egyptians. He is _tres autoritaire_." On the 20th
Lord Granville received a private letter from Lord Lyons, who would
not hear of the mandatories of Europe plan for Egypt, which, however,
Mr. Gladstone had approved. It was from Lord Lyons's reply that I
discovered that Lord Granville had given the credit of the scheme to
Malet. I had never heard Malet mention any such idea; but on the next
day, January 21st, Malet did telegraph the plan, and I could not help
wondering who had sent it to him.
'On the 26th Lord Granville informed me that at the Cabinet of the
previous day my Egyptian "Mandatories" proposal had been considered,
and had been opposed by Lord Kimberley, but had received pretty
On January 26th an event happened which destroyed the chances of joint
intervention. Gambetta fell. The policy of joint intervention in support
of any menace to the established order in Egypt, to which both Powers were
committed by the Joint Note of January 6th, now passed into the hands of
Lord Granville and of M. de Freycinet, concerning whom Sir Charles wrote
on March 9th, 1882:
'I noted that Freycinet had begun his official career by doing what he
had done when in office before--namely, asking Bismarck's consent to
every act. He was so anxious to stop the Turks from going to Egypt
that he was willing at this moment to agree even to Italian
intervention in the name of Europe; and he was personally anxious for
reconciliation with Italy.'
Meanwhile in Egypt there had been a new ministerial crisis. Cherif Pasha
was deposed from the Presidency of the Council, and Arabi was made the
Minister for War. The control, according to Sir Edward Malet, "existed
only in name." In the provinces there was anarchy. Either the order of
things established in Egypt must disappear, or intervention in some shape
'On February 1st there was a Cabinet upon the Egyptian Question. Lord
Granville wrote to me before it met to say that the Cabinet had
complained that we had not told them anything about Egypt, to which he
had replied that they had received the telegrams if they had not read
them.... At this day's Cabinet Hartington alone was in favour of
Anglo-French intervention, and he fell out with Lord Granville over
it, and they were on bad terms for some time. Some of the Cabinet
wanted English intervention, and some wanted Anglo-French-Turkish
'On March 4th there was a Cabinet, at which Hartington made a great
fight against all his colleagues, who were unanimous against him upon
the question of Anglo-French intervention in Egypt.
'On March 20th the new French Ambassador Tissot came. I had previously
known him when he was the Agent of the Government of National Defence
inhabiting the London Embassy, virtually as Ambassador but without a
staff. On this occasion he immediately startled us out of our senses
by proposing that we should depose the Khedive and set up Prince
Halim. He had converted Freycinet to this madcap view.'
Halim, the heir by Mohammedan law, was Arabi's candidate for sovereignty.
During Sir Charles's visit to France in the middle of April this
suggestion became fully official, as he learnt on returning.
'France had proposed to us to depose the Khedive and set up Halim, and
we had refused on the ground of breach of faith. On April 20th the
Cabinet decided absolutely and unanimously against any suggestion with
regard to Halim.'
Since the policy of united intervention in the name of Europe, to which
Sir Charles had sought to fix the Powers, had no longer any support in
France, and since the French proposal of a new Khedive had been rejected,
the plan of Turkish intervention which Lord Granville had always
preferred, as being the least bad, was now formally put forward.
'On April 23rd Lord Granville invented a plan of sending three
Generals to Egypt, because the French had told him that we had refused
their plan without having one of our own. The idea was that a Turkish
General should go with full powers, and accompanied by a French and an
English General, the full powers not to be used by the Turk unless his
French and English colleagues should agree.
'On Friday, May 12th, I noted in my diary that the French had suddenly
"caved in" to us about Egypt, and declared that a Turkish intervention
at the request of England and France would not be Turkish
intervention; and on Saturday, May 13th, I found Lord Granville ten
years younger than on the 12th in consequence. But the French
afterwards not only got out of this, but pretended that they had never
done anything of the kind.'
The decision to call in Turkey was not publicly announced, and the
situation at Cairo grew daily more threatening. Sir Edward Malet
telegraphed that a fanatical feeling against foreigners was being
sedulously fostered. The Governments then, says Lord Cromer, "authorized
their Consuls-General to take whatever steps they considered possible to
insure the departure from Egypt of Arabi and his principal partisans, and
the nomination of Cherif Pasha to be President of the Council." [Footnote:
Lord Cromer's _Modern Egypt_, vol. i., chap, xv., p. 273.] Acting on this
instruction, Sir Edward Malet and his French colleague, on May 25th, 1882,
handed in an official Note to the President of the Council, which
demanded, first, the temporary withdrawal of Arabi from Egypt, and,
secondly, the resignation of the Ministry. On May 26th the Egyptian
Ministry resigned. Thereupon the French Government decided that the need
for Turkish intervention had passed.
'Late on Tuesday afternoon, May 23rd, Lord Granville was in such a
hurry to adjourn the House of Lords, and bolt out of town for
Whitsuntide, that he let the French send off our Identic Note to the
Powers in a form in which it would do much harm, although this was
afterwards slightly altered. On the next day, Wednesday, the 24th, Mr.
Gladstone brought Lord Granville up to town again, and stopped his
going to the Derby, and at 1.30 p.m. they decided to call for
immediate Turkish intervention in Egypt. The necessity for it had been
caused by the childish folly of the French in trying to conceal the
fact that they had proposed in writing to us, through Tissot on the
12th, to send six ships to Alexandria, and that if in addition troops
must be employed on shore, they should be Turkish. The agreement
between England and France was useless unless it was to be known, but
if known, would have prevented the need for intervention. The most
foolish course possible was that adopted by the French in first
agreeing, and then concealing. On May 24th, at night, we proposed to
the French to call in the Turks at once, and Freycinet went to bed to
'On Friday, the 26th, Tissot wrote to Lord Granville, "M. de Freycinet
telegraphs to me that he is better, and will call the Cabinet together
for to-morrow to submit to it your proposal"; and on Saturday, May
27th, accordingly, the French completely sold us, and we once more
realized the fact that they are not pleasant people to go tiger-
He quotes from his diary of the moment the comment:
'"The French tried to throw us (and themselves) over as to Turkish
intervention. I wanted to say so in the House. Lord Granville
'On May 30th I strongly urged that we should tell the truth and say
so, and a Cabinet was called for the next day, and on the 31st decided
that we were not to say so; but Hartington agreed with me, and made
himself very disagreeable to Lord Granville and Mr. Gladstone, who
held the opposite opinion.'
Sir Charles's entry of the moment was--"Lord G. and Hartington fell out
even rather more than usual."
'On June 1st, in the House of Commons, I half said what I meant, but
Mr. Gladstone spoilt the whole debate. I noted in my diary: "When Mr.
Gladstone begins to talk on foreign affairs it is impossible to tell
what he will say--witness his revelations of a cock-and-bull telegram
of Malet's to-day as to the immediate proclamation of Prince Halim by
Arabi." On the same day, it having been decided on the previous day
that we should send ships to Egypt, Tenterden and I sent off a
telegram _en clair_ to Lord Lyons about it in order that the French
should know what we were doing....
'The Parliamentary difficulties of the Government upon the Egyptian
Question at this moment were considerable, as the Opposition were
taking with much vigour two inconsistent lines; Wolff and Chaplin
violently attacking us upon Jingo grounds because we did not intervene
by force in Egypt, and Bourke threatening us at every sign of
Meanwhile the Khedive had failed to form another Ministry, and on May 28th
Arabi had been reinstated, with the result that his supporters redoubled
their confidence and that panic was general among the European residents.
'On June 13th we received full information with regard to the riots
which had happened in Alexandria on the 11th' (there being a British
and a French fleet there), 'in which several British subjects had been
assaulted and our Consul severely beaten. I formed a clear opinion
that it was impossible for us not to take active steps in intervention
after this, [Footnote: A private letter of this date gives the
estimate that "there is an overwhelming public opinion here for very
strong measures; that the great majority of the Cabinet share that
view; that France is most unpopular; and that Lord Granville, Mr.
Gladstone, and Mr. Bright will apparently bow to the storm."] as we
had been acting strictly within our rights along with France and
representing joint control. If the French would not go with us in
restoring order or allow the Turks to do so, I felt that we must do it
for ourselves, but I was clearly of opinion, and have always remained
so, that it was undesirable to embark upon a prolonged occupation of
Egypt. I thought, and still think, that anarchy could have been put
down, and a fairly stable state of things set up, without any
necessity for a British occupation. The riots, however, were the cause
on my part of a considerable error. I believed on the information
furnished me from Alexandria and Cairo that they were the work of the
revolutionary leaders in the capital. A long time afterwards I
gradually came to think that this had not been so, and that they had
been purely local and spontaneous. This does not, however, affect my
judgment upon the need for intervention.
'On Wednesday, June 14th ... brought me a telegram from Wilfrid Blunt
to Arabi ... "Praise God for victory." This abominable telegram
naturally had much to do with exciting the suspicions that I have just
mentioned as to Arabi having organized the riots. But I now believe
that the English sympathizer was more extreme than the Egyptian
revolutionist. In my diaries I wrote: "Our side in the Commons are
very Jingo about Egypt. They badly want to kill somebody. They don't
know who. Mr. G., who does not like the Stock Exchange, sent 'Egypts'
up 3 1/2 per cent. by a word in his speech." [Footnote: Mr. Gladstone
on June 14th: "... The ends we have in view ... are well known to
consist in the general maintenance of all established rights in Egypt,
whether they be those of the Sultan, those of the Khedive, those of
the people of Egypt, or _those of the foreign bondholders_."] At 6.30
in the afternoon there was a Cabinet on Egypt, Chamberlain and
Hartington pressing for action, and I being most anxious that action
should take place. As there was now to be a conference at
Constantinople upon Egyptian affairs, I urged without success that
Rivers Wilson should be sent out to assist Lord Dufferin, on account
of his incomparable knowledge of Egyptian affairs, Lord Granville
refusing on the ground that "there's great jealousy of him among the
Egyptian English. He is under the charm of that arch-intriguer Nubar."
But we needed Nubar to get us out of our difficulties, and had
ultimately to call him in as Prime Minister.
'On June 15th the French Ambassador came to fence at my house at ten,
and I reported to Lord Granville: "He volunteered the statement that
Freycinet was 'an old woman'; in fact, talked in the sort of way in
which Bourke used to talk of Lord Derby in '77-'78."
'In the evening I met Musurus Bey at the French Embassy, and had a
conversation with him, which I reported and he afterwards denied, but
I don't think much importance was attached to his denial. I need not
discuss the matter, as the despatches were laid before Parliament.
'On the next day I wrote to Lord Granville: "The one thing we have to
fear is the murder of Malet or of the Khedive. If the Khedive obeys
the Sultan and returns to Cairo, it is very difficult to keep Malet at
Alexandria. I think we ought to tell the Sultan that we are sorry to
hear of the direction given to the Khedive to return to Cairo, and
tell the Khedive and Malet that we have said so. Also privately tell
the Khedive not to move." This I think was done.
'On June 17th I decided that I would resign if no steps were taken
with regard to the Alexandria massacre; but in the evening Lord
Granville telegraphed to Lord Ampthill: [Footnote: Lord Odo Russell
had become Lord Ampthill, and was still Ambassador at Berlin.] "No.
130 ... it is impossible that the present state of things should be
allowed to continue, and if the Sultan is unwilling to do anything,
some other means must be found." On the 18th, after much pressure and
a threat of resignation from me, Lord Granville telegraphed to Lord
Ampthill: "No. 131. Intimate to Prince Bismarck ... that sharing as he
does the strong wish of H. M. G. to avoid unnecessary complications,
he must feel that, even if H. M. G. did not object, as they do, public
opinion would prevent them permanently acquiescing in any arrangements
in Egypt, especially after the late massacres at Alexandria, which
would destroy not only the prestige of this country, but also of
Europe, in the East...."
'The French having, according to Count Hatzfeldt, stated to the
Germans, as reported by Lord Ampthill in his No. 214, "that to
sanction Turkish intervention in Egypt would be to commit suicide," I
proposed that we should direct Lord Ampthill to read to him Tissot's
communication of May 12th. in which the French had agreed to the use
of Turkish troops. Lord Granville assented. On June 19th Lord
Granville repeated, through Lord Ampthill, to Prince Bismarck, "the
strong warning contained in my 131 of yesterday." I afterwards found
out, however, that at the last moment, on June 17th, Lord Granville
had telegraphed withdrawing the word "must" in his No. 130, and
substituting the word "should." He afterwards telegraphed again,
resubstituting "must," and wrote to me: "I have let the word stand, as
Hartington and you attached importance to it, and as it had been
already sent." There was great trouble about this change afterwards,
for Lord Granville was not exact in saying that he had let the word
"stand." What he had done was, as I say, first to withdraw it, and
then to resubstitute it upon our strong pressure.
'On June 19th there were two meetings of the Cabinet about Egypt, to
which I was called in; one at two, and another at six o'clock. I
simply said, like the servants when they fall out: "Either Arabi must
go or I will."
'On June 20th another meeting of the Cabinet took place at half-past
three. Lord Hartington called attention to the fact that Lord
Granville had altered "must" into "should" in No. 130, for the
telegram had after all been printed for the Cabinet and the Embassies
with the word "should." The Cabinet sat for four hours, and then
adjourned to the next day, on a proposal by Northbrook and Childers to
ask the French whether they would go halves with us in sending 15,000
men to guard the Canal. On June 21st I came down a little from my
position of the previous day, and stated that I would go out with
Hartington if he liked, but that if he would not, and I stood alone,
then I would swallow Arabi on the ground that the oath to take him out
was sworn by England and France together, and that if France would not
do her half, we could not do both halves, provided that they gave me
(1) protection of the Canal, (2) a startling reparation for the
murders and the insult to our Consul at Alexandria.
'At two o'clock the Cabinet met again. Lord Granville had in the
meantime written me a letter ... as to the leaving out of "must" and
inserting "should." He said that if we changed our minds or had to
adopt palliatives, such as the defence of the Canal and reparation at
Alexandria, "our nose would be rubbed in 'must.'" I wrote back that
our position was not the same, inasmuch as he was evidently looking
forward to having to defend in Parliament a complete surrender, which
I was determined I would not do. On the same day, however, we
exchanged very pleasant letters about an accident to Lady Granville,
of which Lord Granville wrote: "It frightened me out of my wits."
'The Cabinet decided on the instructions to Dufferin for the
Conference, adopting proposals with regard to them which were made by
Chamberlain, and which were, in fact, mine. Lord Granville refused to
take them from Chamberlain, but Mr. Gladstone, with some slight
changes, made them his own, and then Lord Granville took them
directly. Northbrook went off delighted to continue his transport
preparations. Hartington warned Indian troops without consulting his
colleagues, but escaped censure. On June 23rd I suggested that
somebody should be appointed to assess damages to property at
Alexandria by the riots, as a ground for a claim against the
revolutionary Government, and suggested Lord Charles Beresford for the
work; but Lord Granville refused the man though he accepted the thing.
I obtained his consent to telegraph that we should insist on payment
of money to the relatives of the eight British subjects killed, of
money for the men hurt, of damages for the destruction of property, on
the execution of the murderers, on a salute to our flag at Alexandria,
and a salute to our flag at Cairo.
'On Saturday, June 24th, as I was only getting my way from day to day
upon these points by continually threatening resignation, Lord
Granville wrote to me in solemn reproof: "Nothing should be so sacred
as a threat of resignation." But I cannot see, and never could, why if
one intends to resign if one does not get one's way about a point
which one thinks vital, one should not say frankly exactly what one
means. I never blustered, and never threatened resignation except when
I fully meant it.
'On Sunday, June 25th, there came a curious telegram from Dufferin,
stating that the Sultan was "quite prepared to hand over to us the
exclusive control and administration of Egypt, reserving to himself
only those rights of suzerainty which he now possessed. In fact, what
he offered was an Egyptian convention on the lines of the Cyprus
convention." Lord Granville and Mr. Gladstone took upon themselves to
decline this offer without laying it before the Cabinet, and on
Tuesday, the 27th, the Queen sent to Hartington to express her anger
that the Sultan's offer of Sunday should have been declined without
consultation with her. I certainly think that a Cabinet ought to have
been called, but the Cabinet would have backed the refusal, though
they afterwards regretted it.
'On June 28th I was again sent for to the Cabinet, which discussed a
proposal from the Sultan to send troops.
'On June 30th I dined with the German Ambassador, who told me that
Musurus had said to him exactly what he had said to me at the French
Embassy, and that he had placed the conversation upon record. On the
same day two additional British gunboats were ordered to the Canal.
'On July 1st I had one of the most difficult tasks to perform that
were ever laid upon me. I had wanted to get off the Cobden Club dinner
fixed for that day; but, Lesseps having come over as a flaming Arabist
for the express purpose of making a ferocious Arabi speech at this
banquet, I had to go in order to propose his health, to sit next him
at the dinner, to frighten him out of making his speech, and to make
such a speech myself that he could not without provoking his audience
mention Egypt at all. In all this I succeeded. I told him privately
that, after the massacre of eight British subjects at Alexandria and
the promise by England and France that they would jointly keep order
in Egypt, if he introduced the subject I would speak again after him
and raise the audience against him. The old gentleman was very angry,
but he made a different speech, and the matter passed off
successfully. Lord Derby was in the chair, and gave me great
assistance, because, through Lord Granville, he allowed me to inform
Lesseps that if he began to deliver the speech which he had in his
pocket, he should rise and tell him that it was contrary to the rule
of the Club to introduce controversial topics likely to lead to
violent discussion, and, in fact, make him sit down. Lesseps brought
me a telegram from his son, who was at Ismailia, stating that there
could be no danger in Egypt unless there were an armed intervention,
and threatening us with the destruction of the Canal if intervention
should take place.
'On July 3rd there was a Cabinet on a proposal by Italy for the free
navigation of the Canal. This was most unnecessary, as a virtual
neutralization in practice existed, but the Italians wanted to do
something, and after an enormous deal of discussion they ultimately
got their way upon this unimportant point.
'On Monday, July 3rd, I received from Bourke, my predecessor, the
first warning of strong Tory opposition to British intervention in
'On the 4th Mr. Gladstone, Hartington, and Childers met to decide
whether the reserves should be called out and the troops sent forward,
but just before their meeting I saw Lesseps come past my door and go
to Mr. Gladstone's room at the House of Commons, which was next to
mine, and going in afterwards to Mr. Gladstone I saw the effect that
Lesseps had produced. Lesseps had a promise from Arabi to let him make
a fresh-water irrigation canal without payment for the concession, as
I afterwards discovered.
'On this day I wrote a memorandum on the subject of intervention (I
have an impression that it was based on Chamberlain's views, but I am
not sure). I pointed out that many Liberals thought that intervention
was only contemplated on account of financial interests--that if we
intervened to protect the Canal and to exact reparation due to us for
the Alexandria outrages, this feeling need not be taken into account;
but that if we were going to Cairo, we ought to make our position
clear. As far as Arabi personally was concerned, his use of the phrase
"national party" was a mere prostitution of the term. But there was in
Egypt a very real desire to see Egyptians in office, and a certain
amount of real national sentiment, and that sentiment we might
conciliate. I thought that if we intervened by ourselves the control
might be considered dead. The intervention must be placed on the
ground either of the need for settled government at Cairo, in order to
make the Canal safe and our route to India free, or else on that of
the probable complicity of the revolutionary party in the Alexandria
massacres, or on both. But in the event of such an intervention I was
of opinion that we should say that the recommendations of the Notables
for the revision of existing institutions would be favourably
considered, with the proviso, however, that the army should be either
disbanded or diminished, the only military force necessary in Egypt
being one for the Soudan and a bodyguard for the Khedive. To these
views I have always adhered, and while I strongly supported an
intervention of this kind, I was always opposed to an intervention
which made us in the least responsible for Egyptian finance, or to an
intervention followed by an occupation.
'Late on this afternoon of July 4th I secretly informed the Khedive,
through Rivers Wilson, of the instructions that had been given to
Beauchamp Seymour to bombard the Alexandria forts if the construction
of new earthworks erected against our ships were not discontinued; for
I felt that the man's life was in danger. I had been refused leave to
tell him, and I did it without leave. When I saw Wilson he told me
that Lesseps had officially informed him--Wilson being one of the
British directors of the Suez Canal, and Lesseps Chairman of the
Company--that we by our action were endangering the Canal. This was
evidently a French menace on behalf of Arabi, and I took upon myself
not to report it, as it would have only further weakened the minds of
men already weak. Lesseps was not truthful. He told Mr. Gladstone that
the Khedive had informed him that he was satisfied with the existing
situation. We immediately telegraphed to the Khedive, through
Sinadino, his Greek banker, who was representing him in London, to
ask him whether this was true, and the Khedive answered by sending us
all that had passed between him and Lesseps, from which it was quite
clear that it was not true....
'On July 5th there was a Cabinet as to the sending forward of troops,
at which it was decided to somewhat "strengthen our garrisons in the
Mediterranean." Chamberlain afterwards told me that before this
Cabinet Lord Granville had begged his colleagues to remember who Mr.
Gladstone was, and not push him too hard. On this day, however, Mr.
Bright, Lord Granville, and Mr. Gladstone stood alone against the rest
of the Cabinet in supporting a let-alone policy.'
On the 7th, as has been told in the last chapter, Mr. Gladstone, under the
combined irritation of Irish and Egyptian difficulties, used words in
debate which indicated his intention to resign, and "the two
representative Radicals," Dilke and Chamberlain, had to consider what
their course would be if he went out.
They agreed, as has been seen, to go with Mr. Gladstone and Bright; to
refuse to join a new Administration should Mr. Gladstone be outside it; to
reconsider their position if--Mr. Gladstone going to the Lords or quitting
political life--they were satisfied with the new Government's programme;
but the storm blew over. [Footnote: The full diary dealing with the
difficulties of this moment has been given in the chapter on Ireland of