Part 3 out of 11
Colonial troops were offered about this time, and the Diary contains
the entry, February 20th: "The sending of a Colonial force to
Suakim. Hartington and Derby had snubbed the Colonists, and were
snubbed by the Cabinet in consequence."] then that of Egyptian
Finance, on which Harcourt broached his scheme by which the United
Kingdom was to pay the difference caused by a reduction of the rate
of interest, to which scheme Chamberlain and I were opposed. We were
informed that the Queen "most strongly protested against our binding
ourselves to leave Egypt."'
Meanwhile the Radicals in the Cabinet considered their concerted action
in view of a change of leadership.
'We settled during the Cabinet that Trevelyan, Chamberlain, and I
should meet at my room at the Local Government Board, directly the
Cabinet was over, to discuss the terms on which we would join a
Hartington administration; and we did so, finding Egypt and my
proposed inquiry into the Civil List the only real difficulties. The
Civil List could be got over, as it was certain that the Whigs would
give in to pressure from us upon this point. But Harcourt had
informed us that our Egyptian policy made the formation of a
Government impossible, as Hartington would not consent to accept
office on our Egyptian policy.'
It was very difficult to come to an agreement about Egypt. Lord Derby
had declared that the only alternatives were guaranteed neutrality or
annexation. Dilke and Chamberlain stood for the former, considering
their duty done if they prevented occupation by any other European
Power, and took steps to establish internal order--which meant
completing the organization of an Egyptian army. There was a third
policy; for Lord Hartington, who repeatedly in public repudiated the
idea of annexation, insisted upon the retention of a single control
during a prolonged occupation. In this he had the strongest backing from
'Chamberlain at our meeting added a fresh proviso--namely, that
Parnell or some other Irishman should be Chief Secretary. I
afterwards informed Harcourt of Chamberlain's views, adding that
Chamberlain was willing to avoid all personal questions, although he
much wished that John Morley should be in the Cabinet, [Footnote:
Sir Charles had noted his own strong wish to this effect in the
previous year.] that he wholly rejected Harcourt's plan for Egypt as
being a bribe to buy off the Powers, forced on us by unworthy fears.
Chamberlain wished, if his own Egyptian policy was not adopted, to
simply evacuate the country.
'Chamberlain, I was empowered to say, had also mentioned the English
land question, and was opposed to allowing Lord Salisbury to come
in,' as this, he said to Sir Charles, 'would surely be a hopeless
confession of weakness, and give him a chance with the new electors.
'I argued against Chamberlain's Egyptian policy, not on the merits,
but on the chances of our getting our own way.
'"I doubt our getting our way as to bankruptcy, and am not sure that
we ought to put that forward as sole or chief cause for not joining
Hartington." To this Chamberlain replied: "True. But how can we join
another Government without any settled policy about Egypt?
Harcourt's alternative is impossible; then what is there? I should
refuse to join Hartington unless we can agree as to Egypt policy,
and if we do agree, there can in that case be no reason for letting
Egypt was in Sir Charles's view the main, but not the only, difficulty.
The Government policy of 'lying down to Germany' was another. At the
'January 7th, Chamberlain and I had a conference with regard to
Samoa, in which I pointed out that if we quarrelled with France
about Egypt she would have all Europe behind her, whereas in our
dealings with Germany about Samoa, Zanzibar, and other matters,
Germany would stand alone.' [Footnote: A letter to Lord Hartington
from his secretary, Mr. Brett, which is quoted by Mr. Bernard
Holland (_Life of Duke of Devonshire_, vol. ii, pp. 38, 39),
suggests that the Hartington section had difficulty in reconciling
Sir Charles's attitude on other Imperial matters with his Egyptian
policy: "It would indeed be a farce, after all the fuss about the
Cameroons and Angra Pequena, to allow Suakim, which is the port of
Khartoum, and the Nile to pass into the hands of foreigners." The
answer is, first, that Sir Charles would certainly never have
consented to let any port in Egypt or the Soudan pass into the hands
of any European Power: his proposal was neutralization of Egypt
under international guarantee; and, secondly, that the questions
were governed by different conditions, which he set out in
conference with Mr. Chamberlain about Samoa.]
January 9th, 'I had decided that if I resigned, or if I refused to join
a Hartington administration, I should mention four subjects--Egypt,
Samoa, Zanzibar, and (probably) the Civil List inquiry (if I were not
completely satisfied). On the same day I was at work on our draft
despatch to Sir Edward Malet as to Zanzibar, which had been settled on
the 8th after the Cabinet of the 7th, but which did not go off until the
14th. On January 14th I noted in my Diary, "The Zanzibar despatch went.
Seven days' delay. I know that two days' delay was caused by the
necessity of sending to Osborne and to the Prime Minister, but why seven
'On January 21st the first matter discussed was that of New Guinea,
in which we found ourselves in difficulties caused by absence of
jurisdiction over foreigners, and we agreed in consequence to
The situation with Germany was undoubtedly grave, but ought not, Sir
Charles maintained, to entail the sacrifice of Zanzibar. On February
24th Count Muenster, the German Ambassador, told Mr. Alfred de Rothschild
that he expected to be withdrawn, but that New Guinea was the only
serious matter in dispute.
'On Tuesday, February 24th, I breakfasted at Alfred de Rothschild's
house, to meet the German Ambassador, Count Muenster, at the latter's
wish. Alfred de Rothschild did not sit down with us, and we were
_tete-a-tete_. Muenster was very free in his remarks about Bismarck.
"No one ever contradicts him." "He sees none but flatterers." "His
life is a period to be got through."'
Two March entries are apposite here:
'On Wednesday, March 4th, Rosebery wrote to me to ask me to dine
with him to meet "Herbert Bismarck," who had suddenly arrived, but I
was engaged to the Speaker's dinner, and had to put off seeing young
Bismarck till Thursday, the 5th. He had come over to try to force us
to dismiss Lord Granville and Lord Derby. I noted in my Diary:
[Footnote: Sir Charles's Diaries, to portions of which certain
biographers had access, are at this point quoted by Lord Edmond
Fitzmaurice in his _Life of Lord Granville_, vol. ii., p. 430. The
passage runs: "Negotiations with Germany on the vexed colonial
questions were meanwhile proceeding, more particularly with regard
to New Guinea. Sir Julian Pauncefote proposed a plan which it was
hoped might satisfy the German Chancellor, and Count Herbert
Bismarck reappeared as co-negotiator with Count Muenster in London.
Lord Rosebery, who had just joined the Cabinet as Lord Privy Seal,
also took part in the negotiations. 'Herbert Bismarck came over
again,' Sir Charles Dilke noted; 'if at his former visit he had only
tried to get us to dismiss Lord Derby, on this occasion he wanted us
to dismiss Lord Granville and Lord Derby.'"] "He puts us in a
difficult position as individuals, for how can we say to this
personally friendly fellow that we do not think Lord Granville's
speech in the Lords on Friday foolish, or how say that we think that
the allusion to old Bismarck's dislike of Muenster in a recent
despatch from Malet ought to have been published."
'On Friday, March 6th, I saw Herbert Bismarck again twice.... I
having expressed anxiety about Zanzibar, he told me that his father
had directed him to say that he "considered Zanzibar as independent
as Turkey or Russia." It is to my mind shameful that, after this,
Lord Granville should have begun and Lord Salisbury have rapidly
completed arrangements by which the Zanzibar mainland, the whole
trade of which was in our hands, was handed over to Germany.'
'On March 7th we discussed Herbert Bismarck's views on the
Cameroons, on German claims in New Guinea (on this head we settled
with him), and on Pondoland.'
While the difficulties with Germany were being discussed, differences as
to Egyptian policy and our relations with France continued.
On January 20th, Egypt once more threatened to break up the Government.
France had proposed an international Commission of Inquiry into the
'We discussed a French proposal which, as I wrote to the Chancellor,
had at least one advantage--namely, "that it re-forms the majority
in the Cabinet by uniting two of the three parties--yours and mine."
Mr. Gladstone, Lord Granville, Kimberley, Derby, Harcourt, the
Chancellor, Trevelyan, and Dilke, eight in all, supported taking the
new French proposals as a basis. Chamberlain was absent ill.
Northbrook, Hartington, Childers, to my astonishment, and
Carlingford were against us. After the Cabinet Hartington wrote to
Mr. Gladstone to say that he "could not accept the decision," and
Northbrook supported him.' Next day, however, 'when we turned to
Egyptian finance, Trevelyan went over from our side to the other.
Mr. Gladstone announced that what we had decided on the previous day
was not to prevent our arguing against the French proposed inquiry,
and thus Hartington was kept in.'
'On January 23rd I forwarded to Chamberlain a letter from
Sandringham, which showed that the Queen had been alarmed at the
possibility that my proposed Civil List inquiry might affect not
only new grants, but also the Civil List arrangements made at the
beginning of the reign. Chamberlain made a Delphic reply that, on
the one hand, inquiry would be a farce if it did not include the
existing Civil List, but that on the other hand there could be no
intention to make any change in the arrangements with the Queen.'
'On January 28th, I heard from Sandringham that the Prince of Wales
was going to Osborne the next day, and would broach to the Queen his
friendliness to the idea of a new settlement of the Civil List.
Chamberlain was anxious that no difficulty should be made by us on
the occasion of the marriage of Princess Beatrice. He wrote: "_If
alone_, I should wait for something or somebody to turn up. Before
Prince Edward wants an allowance who knows what may happen? But I am
perfectly ready to follow your lead or to lead to your prompting."'
All arrangements were being made on the assumption that Lord Hartington
would become Prime Minister.
'I had been left by Mr. Gladstone in a certain doubt as to whether I
was to be completely responsible for the Redistribution Bill, or
whether Hartington was to share the responsibility. I wrote to
Hartington: "Mr. Gladstone sends me everything on Redistribution,
and expresses no opinion of his own. Northcote and Salisbury write
to me only, and the whole thing is more and more in my hands. If I
let things drift, it is clear that I shall practically have sole
charge of the Bill, for no one else will know anything about it. I
do not shrink from this at all. It is work I like. But, as you will
probably be called on to form an Administration immediately after
the passing of the Bill, don't you think it would look well, and
that our people and the Press and the country would like it, if you
were to take charge of the Bill? If so, I had better have two or
three days' work at it with you."
'Hartington had asked me to stay with him at Hardwick to talk it
over, but it was only a Saturday to Monday visit from January 10th
to 12th, and there were many people in the house, and our whole
conversation was but very short; and Hartington continued to show
but little desire to work at the detail, and the Bill could only be
handled by those who knew its detail.'
Although the Opposition leaders had accepted the compact, it was at this
time quite uncertain whether the House of Commons would consent to the
Redistribution scheme--affecting as it did the interests of every
member. The Fourth Party had not been consulted in the arrangement, and
inevitable friction followed.
'On January 27th I had a correspondence with Northcote in reference
to some mischief which had been made by Randolph Churchill.
Northcote had been told by the Conservative Chief Whip, "Dilke told
Randolph that the Government would have given more grouping if we
had pressed for it." The Conservative party being angry at the
absence of grouping of the boroughs, Northcote had taken up the
point, but he now wrote: "Whatever Churchill said must have been in
the nature of an inference of his own from what had previously
passed, from which he had probably gathered that the Government were
ready to concede grouping." But there was a lady in the case who had
gossiped about what Northcote had said to her, and he promised to
write to the offender.'
'On January 13th Mr. Gladstone wrote as to the Redistribution Bill:
"The difficulty as I see it about communication with Northcote is
that he seems to have little weight of influence, and to be afraid
or unwilling to assume any responsibility. I have usually found him
reasonable in his own views, but obliged to reserve his judgment
until after consulting his friends, which consultations I have found
always to end badly. On the other hand, it is, of course, necessary
to pay him due respect. What may prove to be best under these
circumstances is--(1) not to be bound always to consult HIM, (2) to
consult him freely on the easier and smaller matters, but (3) in a
stiff question, such as the numbers of the House may prove to be, to
get at Salisbury if possible, under whose wing Northcote will, I
think, mostly be content to walk, (4) Or, if Salisbury cannot be got
alone, then Northcote and Salisbury would be far preferable to
All these difficulties had to be met by Sir Charles. When the Bill
actually came before the House, 'Mr. Gladstone instructed James to
assist me in the conduct of it. But practically I had it to myself.'
Lord Hartington had rendered invaluable service in the preliminary
negotiations. But for such laborious work of detail as was needed to
carry through this Bill, neither temperament nor surroundings had fitted
him. His Hardwick home is thus described by Sir Charles in a letter
which he wrote to Mrs. Pattison:
'I am writing in my bedroom, which is--bed and all--that of Mary
Queen of Scots, who was the prisoner of Bess of Hardwick. It is a
wonderful house, indeed--enormous, and yet completely covered with
the tapestry and the pictures of the time.... The casement windows
have never been touched since Queen Elizabeth was here, and are
enormous. (There is a local proverb which speaks of the hall as "all
window and no wall.") The result is that, in spite of heavy hanging
curtains, the candles are blown out if you go near the windows....
The portrait of the first Cavendish--who was usher of Cardinal
Wolsey, and who married Bess of Hardwick, the richest lady of the
day--is exactly like Hartington, but a vulgar Hartington--fat and
greasy--a Hartington who might have kept a public-house.'
Mr. Chamberlain wrote to Sir Charles at Hardwick concerning his host:
'The true Whig tradition is to keep abreast of the movement which
they would willingly restrain, and do nothing to quicken, but it is
difficult for a man of Hartington's temperament to make the
sacrifice of pride which these tactics require.'
Mr. Chamberlain's Ipswich speech had made its mark, and Sir Charles
notes 'the beginning of the terror caused by the unauthorized programme'
in 'a letter which I received from Lord Salisbury, who was at Florence,
as to my draft Report of the Housing Commission.'
'Lord Salisbury had greatly changed his views since he had sketched
out socialistic proposals for me in his own hand. He now complained
of that which I had said on "the burning questions of expropriation,
betterment, and land tenure," and thought that Chamberlain's
evidence had affected the report, and that such views "must now be
considered in the light of the doctrines as to land he has recently
That letter, received on January 30th, must have been written two days
earlier, and evidently at that moment there were plans of forming an
administration which should exclude the Radicals.
'On January 28th Harcourt told me that he had stopped the Queen
deciding to send for Goschen to form a Whig Ministry if we were
beaten or if Mr. Gladstone resigned by telling her that Goschen
would refuse, or that, if he consented, no one would join him.'
On January 29th, at Birmingham, Mr. Chamberlain made reply to his
critics in a speech which added to the Ipswich programme manhood
suffrage and payment of members, and which further declared that the
sanctity of public property far exceeded that of private property. If
land, for instance, had been 'lost or wasted or stolen,' some equivalent
for it must be found, and some compensation exacted from the wrongdoers.
[Footnote: 'The ransom theory,' afterwards alluded to (see Chapter
XLIV., p. 182).]
These utterances from a member of the Cabinet were not likely to pass
'On Monday, February 2nd, Chamberlain telegraphed to me that he was
coming up on the next day, Tuesday, the 3rd, on purpose to see me on
an important matter; and on the morning of the 3rd I received in a
secret box the letters about which he was coming. There was one from
Mr. Gladstone complaining of the unauthorized programme, and a draft
proposed reply, and Chamberlain added: "Take them (Mr. Gladstone's
letters and enclosures from the Whigs) in connection with the
_Times_ articles. There is to be a dead set evidently.... There are
three possibilities. (1) Mr. Gladstone may wish me to resign. (2) A
vote of censure may be proposed in the House of Commons and carried.
(3) Mr. Gladstone may defend me, and in so doing may to all intents
and purposes censure me in such a way as to entail my resignation.
The first would not, I think, do me any harm. The second would do me
good. The third would not be pleasant. My object in proposed reply
is to make Mr. G. speak more plainly, and to let me know where I
stand. I have spoken in the first person because (until I see you) I
have no right to assume that you will accept a joint responsibility.
But I think you will, and then if we go out or are forced out there
will be a devil of a row. I have been speaking to Schnadhorst to-day
on the possibility. He says (you must take the opinion for what it
is worth) that it would strengthen us in the country.... I assume
Trevelyan would go with Mr. G.... I shall want to know what you
think of it all, and whether you have any alterations to propose in
'I noted: "I, of course, make common cause. The Whigs want to force
him into a row with Mr. G., who, they think, will break him in place
of his breaking Hartington after Mr. G. is gone." I admitted to
Chamberlain when we met on February 3rd that there was, as he said,
a dead set at him, and that the _Pall Mall_ for a wonder was backing
it up. On his first point I was sure that Mr. Gladstone did not wish
for his resignation, and knew that I should go too. On the second, I
doubted any member being ready to bell the cat; and on the third
point I was sure that Mr. Gladstone's defence of Chamberlain would
not be such as to entail his resignation.'
Sir Charles thought, and told Chamberlain, that the object of the Whigs
was to force them 'to war with Mr. G. who is strong, and not with
Hartington,' against whom the Radicals would hold winning cards. 'We
therefore play into their hands by going NOW.' Meanwhile, he took up a
fighting attitude towards the rest of the world.
'I had written to Mr. Gladstone very strongly backing up
Chamberlain's right to express his individual opinion upon the
questions of the future, and pointing out his patience in not
repudiating some of Hartington's remarks, and saying that I could
not let him go out alone.'
'On February 4th I heard from Chamberlain ... thanking me for
getting Carrington, who represented my Department in the Lords, to
make a pro-Chamberlain speech.'
This was the more valuable because the whole Press was against the
"unauthorized programme." At the same time, Sir Charles did not fail to
point out that their position was an unsound one, writing first:
'Our words as to the future are too wide. They would cover my
preaching a Republic for two years hence, or your preaching the
nationalization of land without compensation for the next
He urged also that the precedent which Mr. Chamberlain sought to
establish was two-edged.
February 5th, 'At night I gave Chamberlain a hint that some day others
might turn against him that freedom of speech which he claimed as
against Hartington; and he prepared a document which, under the form of
standing out for full right of free speech, really yielded the whole
point. He covered his retreat with great skill, and the document as
corrected by me would be valuable if it could be found. I have no copy,
but have memoranda which passed between us, in one of which I begged him
to keep the draft with my corrections as representing our joint view,
inasmuch as it might be important in the future. Chamberlain notes, in a
minute which I have, his acceptance of the general doctrine, with a
declaration that the present was an exceptional period; that there was a
new departure under the franchise reform, that it was essential to give
a general direction to the discussion, that his actual proposals were
moderate, and such as only to point to, firstly, a revision of taxation
which Mr. Gladstone himself had advocated, details being open, but the
principle being to secure equality of sacrifice; secondly, the extension
of power of local authorities on lines already conceded in Ireland.'
The two allies were fighting a hard fight at a critical moment. At such
times even the closest friends naturally seek to reassure each other,
and to a letter from Sir Charles Mr. Chamberlain made this reply,
'The malice and ingenuity of men is so great that I should be afraid
they would some day break our friendship if it had not victoriously
stood the strain of public life for so many years. I will swear that
I will never do anything knowingly to imperil it, and I hope that we
are both agreed that if by any chance either of us should think that
he has the slightest cause of complaint he will not keep it to
himself for a day, but will have a frank explanation. In this case I
shall feel safe, for I am certain that any mistake would be
immediately repaired by whoever might be in fault.'
THE FALL OF KHARTOUM AND THE PENJDEH INCIDENT
'On the morning of Thursday, February 5th, 1885, at 3 a.m., Brett
went to Lord Granville with the news of the fall of Khartoum. He
used to tell how he had been wholly unable to find the old
gentleman, and how the servants had ultimately asserted that their
master was at Walmer--which he was not. At the same hour the news
was sold by a War Office messenger to one of the News Agencies. The
resident clerk at the War Office had written to Thompson, of the War
Office, in an unsealed envelope, instead of putting the despatch
into a box. It did not matter much on this occasion, but it might
matter in a great European war. A Cabinet was immediately summoned
for the next day. [Footnote: The following correspondence between
Mr. Brett (now Viscount Eslier) and Sir Charles throws light on the
summoning of the Cabinet:
Thursday morning, 3 a.m.
Here is some bad news.
No Ministers in town, except you and Chamberlain!
Have tried Lord G. and Lord Northbrook. No results!
So things must take their chance. There ought to have been a Cabinet
to-morrow; but suppose it is not possible.
Please return enclosed. Will send you a copy later. Have you any
suggestion to make?
You will see that W. proposes to keep this secret. Not possible for
long in this Office.
_Sir Charles Dilke to Mr. Brett._
Telegraph to _Mr. G. and Hartington to come up to-day_, and call a
Cabinet for to-morrow at 11 a.m. Make Hamilton telegraph to all
Ministers at once. I'm prepared to take it on myself if you like,
but you can send this to Chamberlain if he agrees.
I agree certainly.--J. C.
Local Government Board,
February 5th, 1885.
It is absurd not to make them come up _to-day_ in face of Wolseley's
"_It is most essential that I shall have the earliest possible
decision._"] Only three subjects were discussed: Khartoum, secrecy,
and the question of the Italians as against the Turks in the Red
On February 7th, 'The next matter was Wolseley, who had confused us by
greatly varying his statements.... Next came a proposal that Gordon
should be bought from the Mahdi.'
'On February 9th Mr. Gladstone mentioned his intention to bring in
Rosebery and Lefevre as members of the Cabinet. It was decided that
the Italians should be allowed to go to Kassala--a decision which
was afterwards reversed. The French views on Egyptian finance were
named, the despatch of Indian troops to Suakim again discussed.
Wolseley having asked that General Greaves should be sent to Suakim,
Childers said that the Queen and Duke of Cambridge had stopped that
officer's promotion because he "belonged to the Ashantee gang"
(Wolseley's friends), and that the Duke had now complained that he
did not know him. Chamberlain proposed that we should invite the
Canadian Government to send a force to Suakim; and, finally,
Childers was allowed to mention finance, which had been the object
for which the Cabinet was called.
'On February 10th I wrote to Chamberlain that Rosebery and Lefevre
would help the Cabinet with the public, but would weaken us in the
'On February 11th there was another Cabinet, five members being
absent--namely, the Chancellor, Carlingford, Spencer, Chamberlain,
and Trevelyan--owing to the suddenness of the call. It was on the
Suakim command, Mr. Gladstone being very obstinate for Greaves, as
against Graham with Greaves for Chief of Staff--a compromise. I
supported Hartington--I do not know why--and we beat Mr. Gladstone
by 5 to 4. Both officers were inferior men, and Graham did but
badly. Probably Greaves would have done no better....
'Mr. Gladstone complained that he and Hartington had received at
Carnforth on the 5th a disagreeable telegram _en clair_ from the
Queen, and Mr. Gladstone was very anxious to know whether the Tories
had found it out, asking anxiously, "What are the station-master's
'February 13th ... I was with Harcourt when Rosebery came to be
sworn in, so I took the opportunity of making Rosebery help us to
make Lord Derby uncomfortable for proposing to refuse the troops
offered by the colony of New South Wales.
'We began to discuss our Soudan policy with some anxiety.
'Courtney and Morley had insisted in private letters that we should
only rescue, and not attack the rebels, and the _Times_ agreed with
them--unless we intended to stay in the country and establish a
Government. Wolseley's policy would be represented as one of "smash
and retire," and it was for this reason that Chamberlain pressed
negotiations with the Mahdi, as he thought we should be stronger if
we could show that the Mahdi had rejected a fair offer. It was on
February 13th that Hartington most strongly pressed his proposal for
the Suakim railroad, and invited me to be a member of a Cabinet
Committee to consider the proposal.'
'On Monday, February 16th, the first matter discussed was the
Russian answer as regards Egyptian finance. The Soudan was put off
till the next day, Chamberlain making a strong speech first upon our
policy. Hartington asked for five million, to include the cost of
his Suakim-Berber railway, and for leave to call out reserves.
'On February 19th I had an interview with Mr. Gladstone, and found
him anxious to be turned out on the vote of censure. Indeed, he was
longing for it, in the firm belief that, if turned out, he would
come back after the dissolution in November, while, if not turned
out, he would be more likely to be beaten.
'On February 20th the subjects discussed were Egypt (Finance and
Suez Canal) and the sending a colonial force to Suakim. Chamberlain
had developed to Childers at the same meeting a proposal that
Hartington should form a Ministry to carry on the Soudan War, with
the loyal support of those of us who went out with Mr. Gladstone.
'On February 25th, Goschen having asked for assurances as to the
Berber railway, Chamberlain wrote to me saying that if Hartington
gave them, it might be a sufficient cause for our resignation, as we
were not prepared to commit the country to establishing settled
government in any part of the Soudan. Chamberlain proposed that we
should resign before the division, and that the Government being
beaten, there should then be brought about the establishment of what
he called the combination or patriotic Government, which meant a
Hartington administration. I, on the whole, preferred to go on as we
were, so I stopped a box of Hartington's which was going round the
Cabinet, and proposed an alteration of form which prevented
Chamberlain going out on these assurances.
'During the debate I went away to dine, and, not having heard the
middle of Harcourt's speech, asked Chamberlain whether Harcourt had
tried to answer any of Goschen's questions, to which Chamberlain
answered, "Not one. He asked questions in turn," which is a good
description of Harcourt's style. I then wrote on a slip of paper,
"Forster is taking notes"; and Chamberlain replied, "Forster--
against slavery, against Zebehr, [Footnote: Zebehr was arrested in
Cairo on the ground of treasonable correspondence with the Mahdi,
and interned at Gibraltar, but later was allowed to return to Cairo.
He died in January, 1903.] and of course generally in favour of a
crusade," a note which is also characteristic--of both these men.
'At four o'clock in the morning of February 28th, when we got our
majority of 14, after the first division, Mr. Gladstone, who wanted
to go out, said to Childers and myself, "That will do." This was
indeed a Delphic utterance.'
Sir Charles himself spoke, at Mr. Gladstone's request, at great length
in the third day's debate on February 26th, but it was 'only a debating
'After we had had a sleep, we met in Cabinet on Saturday, February
28th. Lord Granville and Childers now anxious to go. Harcourt, who
had at night been against going, was now anxious to go. This was a
curious and interesting Cabinet. Lord Granville and Lord Derby, who
were at loggerheads both with Bismarck and with their colleagues,
were strong that we should resign, and they got some support from
Chamberlain, Northbrook, Childers, and Hartington. Lefevre,
[Footnote: Lord Eversley, then Mr. Shaw Lefevre, had joined the
Cabinet after the news from Khartoum. Lord Rosebery had accepted the
Privy Seal. Lord Eversley says that on February 28th opinions were
evenly divided, but that one member refused to express an opinion on
the ground of his recent admission. See, too, _Life of Granville_,
vol. ii., pp. 421-422.] who had only just come in, and Trevelyan
were strong for staying in, as was Carlingford; but the other
members of the Cabinet either wobbled backwards and forwards, or did
not care. At last it was decided by the casting vote of Mr.
Gladstone, if one may use the phrase when there was no actual
voting, that we should try to go on at present so as to carry the
Seats Bill ourselves.
'We then turned to the Berber railway, and decided that it should be
a temporary or contractor's line made only so far as might be
necessary for purely military reasons. We then decided that Wolseley
should not be allowed to make himself Governor-General of the
'After the Cabinet Chamberlain and I continued our discussion as to
his strong wish to resign. I told him that I wanted to finish the
Seats Bill, that I thought Lord Salisbury might refuse or make
conditions with regard to coming in, that Mr. Gladstone would not
lead in opposition, and that we should seem to be driving him into
complete retirement, and I asked whether we were justified in
Meantime the financial business of the year had to go on, and part of it
was a demand for increased naval expenditure, to which, as has been seen
already, Mr. Gladstone was opposed.
'The Navy Estimates were first discussed, and then the Army, and a
sum asked for for the fortification of coaling-stations was refused,
and also a sum asked for for defending the home merchant ports. We
all of us were guilty of unwise haste on this occasion, for the
demand was right; but the chief blame must fall rather on Childers,
Hartington, and the others who had been at the War Office than upon
those who sinned in ignorance.'
This decision against naval expenditure was a cause of embarrassment to
the Government in the country, for a strong 'big navy' campaign
followed. The real question at issue in the Cabinet became that of
taxation. On March 2nd, and again in April, Sir Charles 'warned Mr.
Gladstone against Childers's proposed Budget'--the rock on which they
finally made shipwreck. 'Mr. Gladstone replied: "The subject of your
note has weighed heavily on my mind, and I shall endeavour to be
prepared for our meeting." I now sent him a memorandum after
consultation with Chamberlain.'
What Sir Charles wrote in 1885 is nowadays matter of common argument; it
was novel then in the mouth of a practical politician:
'I stated at length that, as head of the Poor Law department, I
ought to have knowledge of the pressure of taxation upon the incomes
of the poor. As Chairman of the Royal Commission on the Housing of
the Working Classes, I had had to hear a great deal of evidence upon
the subject of the income of the working classes, and as Chairman of
the recent Conference on Industrial Remuneration had had special
opportunities of further examining the question. It was my opinion
that the position of the agricultural labourers had declined, and
that the Whig or Conservative minority on my Commission, represented
by Mr. Goschen and Lord Brownlow, admitted this contention of mine
as regarded the south of England. The labourers of the south were
unable to procure milk, and relied largely on beer as an article of
food. Their wages had but slightly increased in the twenty years
since 1865, and had decreased considerably since 1879. Food had
slightly risen in price, clothes were nominally cheaper, but the
same amount of wear for the money was not obtainable, and house rent
(where house rent was paid by the labourers) had greatly risen. An
enormous proportion of the income of the rich escaped taxation:
fifty millions a year of their foreign income at the least. The
uncertainty of employment placed the labourer even lower as a
partaker in the income of the country than the statisticians placed
him. The calculations of employers, upon which the estimates of
statisticians were based, were founded upon the higher earnings of
the best workers; and when the matter was examined, it was found
that variation of wages, loss of time, and failure of work, much
lowered the average earnings. The taxation of the working classes
rose to a higher percentage than that of the upper and middle
classes. Mr. Dudley Baxter, who was a Conservative, had admitted
this, and had advocated a reduction in the tobacco duty and the malt
tax. Since that time the tobacco duty had been raised, and the
duties pressing upon beer had been rather raised than lowered.'
Sir Charles's insistence upon this matter is all the more notable
because foreign complications were rapidly accumulating, and they were
of a gravity which might well have seemed to dwarf all questions of the
incidence of taxation.
There were not only the difficulties with Germany. There was also the
Soudan, where a large body of British troops was engaged, in a country
the perils of which England had now to realize.
'On March 7th there was a Cabinet as to the Suakim-Berber railway.
Northbrook and I, soon joined by Harcourt and Chamberlain, were in
favour of stopping our impossible campaign. I argued that when we
decided to destroy the power of the Mahdi, it was on Wolseley's
telling us that he hoped possibly to take Khartoum at once. For some
weeks after that he had intended to take Berber. Then he had told us
that he at least could occupy Abu Hamed. Now he was in full retreat,
and both his lines of supply--namely, that up the Nile and that from
Suakim--seemed equally difficult. The Chancellor wrote on a slip of
paper for me: "We seem to be fighting three enemies at once. (1) The
Mahdi; (2) certain of our people here; (3) Wolseley." Nothing was
settled, and we passed on to Egyptian finance.'
March 11th, 'In the evening a despatch was circulated in which Wolseley
said: "Please tell Lord Granville that I cannot wait any longer, and I
must issue proclamation, and will do so on my own authority if I do not
receive answer to this by the 14th. I hope I may be allowed to issue it
'I at once wrote, "I understood that we had _decided_ that he was
not to be Governor-General, and that the proclamation should not be
issued in the terms proposed"; on which Lord Granville wrote, "Yes.
'On Thursday, March 12th, the first matter discussed was that of the
arrest of Zebehr. Then came Wolseley's proclamation, which was
vetoed. We decided that he should not be allowed to make himself
Governor-General of the Soudan.'
It now seemed more than likely that the British Government would have
work on its hands which would render the employment of an army in the
Soudan very undesirable; for more serious than the Mahdi's movements on
the Nile, more serious than the operations of German Admirals in the
Pacific, was the menace of a Russian advance upon Afghanistan.
Arrangements had been made for the demarcation of the Afghan frontier
which Sir Charles had persistently urged. A British Commissioner had
been appointed in July, 1884, but at the end of the following November
Russia was still parleying on questions of detail. These, however,
seemed to have been at length resolved; and in January, 1885, the
British Commissioner was waiting in the neighbourhood of Herat for the
Russian Commissioners to join in the work of fixing the boundaries. But
the Russians did not appear; they were, says Sir Charles, 'intriguing at
Penjdeh, and preparing for the blow which later on they struck against
the Afghans.' The Amir evidently felt this, for he renewed the proposal
that he should pay a state visit to the Viceroy, and on January 23rd
Dilke wrote to Grant Duff that this had been accepted.
February 4th, 'On this day I received a letter from Sir Robert Sandeman
at Quetta, in which he thanked me for the assistance that I had given
him in the retention of Sibi, Pishin, and the Khojak. "It was greatly
due to your support of my representations on the subject that our
influence on this frontier is at present all-powerful."'
On February 5th, a few hours after the fall of Khartoum was published,
'there was a meeting of Ministers as to Central Asia. We decided on
a reply to Russia drawn up by myself and Kimberley, Lord Granville
and Northbrook somewhat dissenting, and Fitzmaurice and Philip
Currie taking no part.
'On February 18th we had a meeting of the Central Asia Committee at
the Foreign Office with regard to the Russian advance in the
direction of Penjdeh, Lord Granville, Hartington, Northbrook,
Kimberley, myself, Fitzmaurice, and Currie. We ordered Sir Peter
Lumsden' (Chief of the Boundary Commission), 'in the event of a
Russian advance on Herat, to throw himself and escort into that
city, and to aid the Afghan defence.'
On March 12th, after deciding to limit Lord Wolseley's schemes in the
Soudan, 'we took a decision that war preparations against Russia should
be made in India.'
'On the 20th we decided that if the Russians continued to advance,
20,000 troops should be concentrated at Quetta. We next gave
instructions to Lord Dufferin with regard to what he was to say to
the Amir of Afghanistan at the interview which was about to take
place between them, and authorized him to renew our guarantee. There
was either a regular or irregular Cabinet on March 24th. We decided
that if the Russians advanced upon Herat, the advance should be
treated as a _casus belli_, and orders to this effect were sent to
Dufferin. At the meeting on April 2nd the Viceroy, Lord Dufferin,
assured the Amir in the presence of his Prime Minister, of Mr.
Durand, and of Captain Talbot, "that a Russian advance on Herat
should be met by war all over the world."'
'On April 8th, in public durbar, the Amir, without contradiction
from Lord Dufferin, said: "The British Government has declared it
will assist me in repelling any foreign enemy."'
Sir Charles was now discussing by letter with Sir Frederick Roberts the
proposals which were preferred by the Defence Committee in India for the
defence of the North-West Frontier, with special emphasis on the further
question whether there was any point at which England could strike at
Russia. [Footnote: See Appendix following on this chapter, pp. 122,
Early in April sittings of the Housing Commission in Scotland occasioned
Dilke's absence from a Cabinet at which important phases of the Central
Asian question were discussed.
April 4th, 'Chamberlain wrote to me an account of all that passed,
pointing out that the Russian answer bade us "give up everything, and
they offer us absolutely nothing by way of concession in return. This
attitude really leaves us no alternative. I am very uncomfortable about
it, because the more I study the matter the more I think that the
Russians are right both in form and in substance--i.e., they have the
pretexts on their side, and they also have a strong argument in favour
of their line, both on the matter of territorial right, and also on the
ground that this line is the only one which insures any chance of
permanent peace. But we cannot have the pill forced down our throats by
Russia without inquiry, or discussion on equal terms.... Harcourt
declares that we have 'closed the door of Peace and opened the door of
War.' The only difference between us is that he is inclined to accept
the alternative of the Russian zone which has been already refused, and
as to which the present Note says in effect that, though they are ready
to go back to this zone, yet it will be of no use, as they are
determined in the end to stick to their line."'
'On Thursday, April 9th, there was a Cabinet, which I also missed,
and which considered the conflict at Penjdeh.' [Footnote: On March
20th, General Komarof with a Russian force had attacked and routed
an Afghan army in the valley of Penjdeh.]
Every day now had its Cabinet. On April 11th, 13th, and 14th evacuation
of the Soudan was discussed, but Lord Hartington, by a threat of
resignation, secured repeated postponements.
'This question was mixed up by some members of the Cabinet with that
of Afghanistan, inasmuch as they said that we could not fight Russia
in Afghanistan, and go on in the Soudan as well; upon which Mr.
Gladstone said of the Soudan, "I am not prepared to go on upon any
terms, Russia or no Russia."
A new trouble was added when the Egyptian Government suppressed the
_Bosphore Egyptien_, a local paper published in French, and closed the
printing office. Against this the French protested, and in the course of
the quarrel actually broke off diplomatic relations with the Egyptian
Government, which, considering the relations between that Ministry and
the protecting force of Great Britain, pushed unfriendliness very far.
Ultimately the _Bosphore_ was allowed to appear and to print what it
chose, until it died a natural death.
'On Monday, April 13th, came a proposal from the Russian Ambassador,
made through Lefevre and Brett, but which was really from Stead;
Brett meaning Stead. Curiously enough, it was a proposal of
Chamberlain's, of which he had previously told us, which had come
back to him in this way. Chamberlain consulted me as to whether he
should tell Mr. Gladstone that it was his, and I told him that I
thought he had better not, as I thought it was more likely to be
successful as coming from the Russian Ambassador and Stead than as
coming from him. It virtually amounted to the plan of Arbitration
which was ultimately adopted, although as a fact the Arbitration
never took place.'
'On Wednesday, 15th, there was an informal Cabinet, at which I was
not present, because the Seats Bill was in Committee in the House at
the same time. A form of words with regard to the Soudan was agreed
upon which united Hartington with the others.'
'On Thursday, the 16th, Mr. Gladstone misinformed the House of
Commons--the inevitable result from time to time of his habit of
answering without notice questions upon dangerous subjects. A
meeting had taken place between Lord Granville, Kimberley, and
Philip Currie on our side, and Staal, the Russian Ambassador, and
Lessar, the Russian expert, at which Lord Granville showed that we
meant to let Penjdeh go. Lessar paid a newspaper for its support by
telling them. Mr. Gladstone was asked, and replied that he knew
nothing about the matter, while he suggested that Penjdeh was not to
be given up.'
'On the 18th the Queen agreed to retirement from the Soudan, with
reservation of future liberty of action.' Whatever happened about
Penjdeh, it was certain that resistance would be offered to Russia.
'On this day, Monday, April 20th, there was a Cabinet, at which it
was decided to ask for eleven millions in the vote of credit. We
then discussed Lumsden's despatch of explanation as to the Penjdeh
incident, which we decided should be published. The vote of credit
was really partly for Russia and partly for the Soudan, and a
question arose whether it should be proposed as one or as two, and
we decided for one. After which we went back again to the Budget,
and the minority proposed a penny increase on the income tax as
against the increase on beer, after which the Budget was adjourned
to April 30th, it being decided then that the vote of credit should
be taken first.'
'On April 20th I received from the Communalist General Cluseret a
long letter in which he offered, on the ground of his profound
sympathy, his services to England against Russia in the event of
war--a document which would have done him little good had it seen
the light when he afterwards stood successfully for my electoral
division in the Var, at a time when French sympathy for Russia was
'On Tuesday, April 21st, after the Cabinet, I had told Mr. Gladstone
that I could not agree to the increase of the taxation on beer, and
Mr. Gladstone wrote to me twice on that day about the matter. I was
not very sure of Harcourt standing by us, and knew that the pressure
was great, inasmuch as, in addition to the two letters from Mr.
Gladstone, I received one from Edward Hamilton, also dated the 21st,
in which he made the strongest appeal to me on personal grounds not
to worry Mr. Gladstone by resignations. He said that Mr. Gladstone
was overburdened, and that it would take very little to break him
down. Edward Hamilton wrote: "It is a peculiarity of his ... that,
while he can stand the strain of a grave political crisis such as a
question involving peace or war, he succumbs to the strain of a
personal question.... Mr. Gladstone, I know, feels that any
secession, especially of one who has a reputation not confined to
this country, would necessarily weaken greatly the Government, and
from a national point of view this is of all times a moment when
there ought to be a strong Government which can confront Europe and
face the varied difficulties. No one would more gladly escape from
office than Mr. G. himself; but the more attractive is the prospect
of freedom, the less does he dare allow himself to contemplate it."'
Mr. Gladstone wrote saying that such a secession at such a time would be
serious for the Government, but also, he thought, serious for the
seceder, and Sir Charles replied:
Local Government Board,
April 21st, 1885.
'I should always let the consideration of what was due to my friends
weigh with me as much as any man, I feel sure, and I am also certain
that considerations of personal loyalty to yourself are as strong
with me now as they are with any member of the Cabinet. I should
never let the other class of considerations--i.e., those personal
to myself--weigh with me at all. Because I am fond of work I am
supposed to be ambitious; but I fancy few politicians are less so,
and I do not mind unpopularity, which, after all, generally rights
itself in the course of years. I knew that this matter would be a
very serious one before I went into it, and I should not have said
what I did had I not felt forced to do so.
'If others go with me, the extent of our unpopularity and consequent
loss of future usefulness will depend on our own conduct, and if we
do our duty by firmly supporting the Government through its foreign
and general difficulties, I do not think that even the party will be
ungenerous to us.'
But Sir Charles finally yielded, and drove a bargain.
'On April 24th I had decided at Chamberlain's strong wish to yield
to Childers as to the beer duty; Childers promising in return to
take the Princess Beatrice Committee of Inquiry demand upon himself.
'May 9th, the Queen now wished for immediate inquiry--that is, in
other words, preferred the Parliament she knew to the new
Parliament. The Government proposed "next year." It was agreed that
the Government were to guide the Committee whenever it might sit,
and that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should be in the Chair.
'Mr. Gladstone wrote me a letter to ease off my surrender on beer
duties, by pointing out the importance of the proposals which were
being made to put realty in the same position as personalty as to
Death Duties. "This must in all likelihood lead to a very serious
struggle with the Tories, for it strikes at the very heart of
class-preference, which is the central point of what I call the
lower and what is now the prevalent Toryism."'
In the great debate of April 27th, in which Mr. Gladstone proposed a
vote of credit for eleven millions, of which six and a half were for war
preparation in view of the collision between the Afghans and Russians at
'Mr. Gladstone made perhaps the most remarkable speech that even he
ever delivered, and I have his notes for it with a map I drew for
him before he spoke, to show him the position of the various places.
[Footnote: On this speech see the _Life of Gladstone_, vol. iii., p.
184; _Life of Granville_, vol. ii., p. 440.] At this time I wrote to
Hartington to suggest that if we were forced into war with Russia we
should attack the Russians at Vladivostock, and the Intelligence
Department wrote a memorandum upon the subject. I also sent round a
paper pointing out that we should fight at the greatest advantage
from a Pacific base, that the help of China would be of moment, and
that Chinese troops drilled and officered by Englishmen would be
irresistible; and Northbrook strongly backed me up. Lumsden was
sending us most violent telegrams, and while I was preparing for war
I was also asking for the recall of Lumsden in favour of Colonel
Stewart. Lord Granville wrote: "Lumsden was a bad appointment, and I
for a moment wished to recall him. But it would be condemned here as
an immense knock-under." [Footnote: See the _Life of Granville_,
vol. ii., pp. 441, 442.] I also suggested that the engineers for
whom the Amir had asked should be carefully picked, and should have
a private Indian allowance for keeping us informed of what passed at
Kabul, and Lord Granville conveyed the suggestion by telegraph to
Lord Dufferin. (This was afterwards done.)'
Russia unexpectedly withdrew.
'On May 2nd there was a sudden Cabinet on the Russian acceptance of
arbitration, Harcourt, Chamberlain, and Carlingford being absent.
Kimberley, the Chancellor, Northbrook, Derby, and I were for
immediate acceptance of the offer; Hartington against; Lord
Granville for amiably getting out of it; Trevelyan and Lefevre
silent; Rosebery late. Mr. Gladstone at first sided with Lord
Granville, then came half way to us, and then proposed that we
should wait a bit till Condie Stephen reached us. I replied by
showing that Condie Stephen was a Jingo, the friend of Drummond
Wolff and of Bowles of _Vanity Fair_, and would make things worse.
Then Mr. Gladstone came completely to our side. Childers drew up in
Cabinet the form for the declaration as to the Select Committee on
the Civil List, and I agreed to it. I wrote what had passed to
Chamberlain, who was at Birmingham, and he replied on the next day
that he trusted that the information about Russia would be
immediately communicated to the House, and went on: "But, then, what
becomes of the vote of credit and the Budget? It seems cheeky to ask
for 6 1/2 millions of Preparations when the matter is practically
'On May 7th the Herat boundary was discussed and a line settled, and
it was decided that either the German Emperor or the King of Denmark
should be named as the Arbitrator about Penjdeh.' Later, 'There was
a meeting of the Commons Ministers to discuss the situation created
by the refusal by Russia of the German Emperor as Arbitrator, the
Queen having previously refused the King of Denmark. The Queen had
ultimately to yield. But, as I have said, the arbitration, although
agreed on, never took place at all.'
The demarcation of frontier for which Sir Charles had so long contended
was carried through without any marked incident, largely owing to the
skill of Sir J. West Ridgeway, who had succeeded Sir Peter Lumsden.
The Memoir gives the following account of the proposals made for defence
of the North-West Frontier in India in the spring of 1885, and some
observations arising from them:
'The general idea was to hold the northern route by an entrenched
position, and, as regards the southern or flank road, to fortify the
mountains before Quetta. Roads and railways were to be made for
concentration in the direction of Kandahar, and Sir Frederick
Roberts afterwards very wisely noted, "It is impossible to threaten
Russia's base, but we should do all in our power to keep it as far
away as possible." Unfortunately, Sir Frederick Roberts afterwards
forgot this, and suggested the possibility of advance upon Herat
with the view to attack Russia at her Sarakhs base. The suggestions
made in 1885 with regard to Kashmir and the Gromul Pass were acted
upon in 1890. Sir Donald Stewart, however, went on to recommend a
railway extension from Peshawur towards Kabul, and Sir Frederick
Roberts, with greater judgment, on succeeding him, vetoed this
scheme. Lord Kitchener revived it, but was not allowed to complete
his work. Sir Donald Stewart's committee recommended the tunnel at
the Khojak, which was carried out. Roberts reported against it, and
he was right.
'On the whole, when Sir Frederick Roberts sent me his view on the
defence proposals, I was struck with the contrast between the
completeness of the manner in which a defence scheme for India has
been considered, and the incompleteness, to say the least of it, of
all strategic plans at home. Sir Charles Macgregor put on record at
the same time his view that a mere offensive on the North-West
Frontier of India would be folly, if not madness, and that it would
be necessary also to undertake offensive operations against Russia.
Quite so, according to all rules of war, and if ultimate defeat is
to be avoided. Unfortunately, however, it is not easy to attack
Russia, and the proposals made by Sir Charles Macgregor would not
bear investigation. Sir Frederick Roberts himself afterwards tried
his hand at proposals of his own in a Memorandum entitled, "What are
Russia's vulnerable points?" But I do not know that he was more
successful, and I fear that his first question, "Has Russia any
vulnerable points?" must, if we are looking to permanency, and not
to merely temporary measures, be answered in the negative, except as
regards Vladivostock--a case I put. After much correspondence with
me on this last memorandum, Sir Frederick Roberts quoted me, without
naming me, as having, to his regret, informed him that English
public opinion would oppose a Turkish alliance, that a Turkish
alliance would not be of much use if we could obtain it, and that
apart even from these considerations we could not obtain it if we
The importance which Sir Charles attached to Vladivostock, as the
vulnerable point at which Russia could be attacked in time of war,
explains his regret when Port Hamilton, which threatened Vladivostock,
was abandoned. [Footnote: See _Life of Lord Granville_, vol. ii., p.
440; and _Europe and the Far East_, by Sir Robert K. Douglas, pp. 190,
'May, 1885.--The Port Hamilton matter began about this time. We had
seized it, and, as Northbrook and I agreed, "for naval reasons we
ought to keep it." Northbrook also wrote that he was laying a cable
from Shanghai to Port Hamilton, which he thought a most important
precaution in time of war; but Port Hamilton was afterwards given up
because the sailors found it dull--an insufficient reason.'
REDISTRIBUTION: COERCION AND DEVOLUTION
The year 1885 saw the Seats Bill, with its numerous compromises in
detail, passed into law, but not without attendant difficulties.
'On Ash Wednesday, February 18th, I saw Sir Stafford Northcote, and
settled with him, in view of the meeting of the House on the next
day, the whole course of affairs for the 19th and 20th, under guise
of discussing details of the Seats Bill. After we had parted,
Northcote wrote to me that on consideration he had come to the
conclusion that he must give notice of a vote of censure, but our
amicable communication continued on the next day. "On
consideration," with Northcote, always meant "After bullying by
In the process of settlement there were constant meetings with Lord
Salisbury and Sir Stafford Northcote together, with Lord John Manners,
with Sir Michael Hicks Beach; while on the Conservative scheme for Irish
'I saw Healy for them, to discover if the thing could be done by
general consent; and, although Healy did not oppose right out, the
prospect of an agreement on details was far from promising. Healy
and I took the opportunity to discuss the Parnell-Chamberlain Irish
National Board scheme, of which I had written to Grant Duff on
January 23rd, "Chamberlain has a grand scheme for an Irish Board."'
March 6th.--'Healy having told me that he was sure Lord Salisbury had
"rigged" the Irish Boundary Commission, and I having written this to
Spencer, I received an indignant denial. "If indignation were justified
at anything that Healy says, I should indignantly deny his accusation."'
'Between March 11th and 13th the Conservatives had given me a good
deal of trouble by trying, under pressure from their friends, to
vary the Seats Agreement upon several points.... They then attacked
the two-member towns in England, which, it may be remembered, had
been insisted on by Mr. Gladstone against my wish; and Northcote
wrote: "Lord Salisbury and I never liked that _privilegium_, and
wished to have single-member constituencies everywhere"; he tried
hard to get me to reopen the question, knowing doubtless that I was
with him on the merits. He continued to press the question as late
as March 15th, when he wrote: "Our men are getting hard to hold,
and, having twice walked through the lobby almost alone, I have no
taste for repeating the operation." Conference with Lord Salisbury
followed, and the final stages were reached: from Monday, March
23rd, I had the Seats Bill in Committee four days a week.'
The essential fact in these dealings is that emphasized by Mr. Howel
Thomas, Secretary to the Boundary Commission:
'No political or other pressure would induce Sir Charles--and the
strongest pressure was used again and again--even to contemplate a
departure from the spirit of the compact. When once an agreement
became possible, he would spare no trouble to modify details. But
without agreement, however strong the argument for a change, nothing
was listened to.'
'On May 6th I received from Sir John Lambert, the retired Permanent
Secretary of the Local Government Board, a most grateful letter
about the Privy Councillorship, which had been announced to him by
Mr. Gladstone, and which no man ever more greatly deserved as an
honour, or by his character more greatly honoured.' [Footnote: John
Lambert's letter to Sir Charles contained these words: 'I have had
the opportunity of assisting you in a work which has placed you in
the very foremost rank of statesmen, and I have formed a friendship
which is one of the most gratifying incidents of my declining
'On the morning of May 9th I received a letter from Northcote,
congratulating me on the manner in which I had conducted the
Redistribution Bill "through its difficult stages.... Let me thank
you once more for the great consideration, as well as the perfect
loyalty, with which you have dealt with the numerous questions, and
congratulate you on having brought your ship so well into port."'
[Footnote: Upon a table in the larger drawing-room at 76, Sloane
Street there stood always a bronze 'Victory' sent by Sir George
Trevelyan to Sir Charles to celebrate the passing of the
Redistribution Bill, with these words:
'Dear Dilke,--The bronze is a Victory on a globe. The Victory is
obvious. The globe below signifies the manner in which your conduct
of the Redistribution Bill got the Tory Press under your feet. I am
pleased to think that, as a work of art, it may pass muster even
before such an artist as the future Lady Dilke.... It is a copy of a
Herculaneum bronze.... I cannot help hoping that you will think it
not unworthy of the event which it is meant to commemorate.']
But 'port' was not finally reached till after the fall of the Ministry
Work on the Housing Commission was also practically completed.
Throughout the year the Report had been under discussion.
On February 16th 'I told Chamberlain that the Labourers' Ireland
Committee had "advised taking of land under compulsory powers in order
to attach it to cottages"--a proposal which was afterwards carried; to
which Chamberlain replied: "And your Commission?" and I answered: "We
_shall_, I hope, but Lord Salisbury is jibbing since your speeches" (on
the unauthorized programme).
'On March 11th, at the meeting of my Housing Commission, Lord
Salisbury proposed what Goschen at once described as "Revolution,"
and Broadhurst "Socialism." He wanted to give public money out of
taxes to London. It may have been silly, but it was not either
revolutionary or socialistic.'
When it came to the point of acting on the Report, the Tory leader was
very far from revolutionary; on June 4th,
'I was also seeing Lord Salisbury as to the Housing Commission
Bills, which he was to introduce into the House of Lords, [Footnote:
Sir Charles was to take charge of the measures in the Commons.] He
was strongly opposed to putting it into the power of Boards of
Guardians "to build out of the rates as many cottages, with half-
acres attached, as they like, taking for the purpose any land
they please." In another letter he wrote: "I should provide that--
(1) The Local Authority must pass a petition to the Local Government
Board to apply the Acts. (2) The Local Government Board must send
down and inquire with a long notice. (3) If the Local Government
Board inspector reports (i.) that the poorer classes of the parish
are not, and are not likely to be, sufficiently housed without the
application of the Acts; (ii.) that the Acts can be applied without
ultimate loss to the ratepayers, then a vote of the local
authorities should be sufficient to apply the Acts. It would be
better that a sufficient interval should be passed in these
processes to insure that the second vote should be given by a newly
elected local authority."'
On April 4th to 9th the Housing Commission visited Scotland.
'On the evening of April 4th I dined with the Lord Provost of
Edinburgh. On Easter Day I attended the Kirk with the Lord Provost,
hearing a magnificent sermon by Principal Caird, and in the evening
dined with the Lord Advocate. On Easter Tuesday I dined with the
Convention of Royal Burghs. On Thursday, April 9th, we left
Edinburgh for London.'
There remained only the question of inquiring and reporting with regard
to Ireland, and here perplexities abounded.
As far back as February 7th at the Cabinet, 'the third matter discussed
was that of the proposed visit of the Prince of Wales to Dublin as a
member of my Commission, or, by himself, in advance of the visit of the
Commission. It was decided that Parliament could not be asked for his
expenses without trouble with the Irish.'
April 9th.--'I now began discussing with Spencer the conditions on which
the Commission was to appear at Dublin, with regard to which there were
great difficulties. Gray was on the Commission, but could not be
Spencer's guest in any way, although, on the other hand, he and his
friends were willing to receive me in spite of my being a member of the
Government. [Footnote: Mr. Dwyer Gray, Nationalist member for Carlow in
1885. In 1886 he represented St. Stephen's Green, Dublin.] Spencer, in
inviting me to stay with him, wrote: "I do not think you will fear the
denunciation of _United Ireland_."
'On April 17th I entered in my diary, after the meeting of the Royal
Commission at which we signed our report: "Pleasures of Ireland. If
we stay with Spencer, the Irish witnesses say that they will not
appear before the Commission; and if we do not, I am told that the
'loyalists' will not appear." On this day I wrote to Grant Duff: "I
may go" (out) "with Chamberlain over Budget [Footnote:
Correspondence with Mr. Gladstone on the Budget and the Beer Tax has
been given in the previous chapter, pp. 118-120.] or over Irish
Coercion." He replied, and my rejoinder will be found below.'
[Footnote: Sir Charles's summary of this letter will be found in
this chapter (p. 143).]
Trouble had arisen also over Mr. Childers's wish to increase the duty on
sparkling wines. This Sir Charles strongly opposed
'on the ground that it would upset the French and make them withdraw
the most favoured nation treatment which I had won, and the matter
'On Saturday, May 16th, there was another Cabinet. Childers proposed
to raise the wine duties, to reduce by one-half his proposed
increase on spirits, and to limit to one year his increase on beer.
We all agreed, against Childers, to postpone any announcement of
changes for three weeks, and Childers, thinking that this meant that
we had agreed not to take his proposals, said that he would resign.'
April 24th.--'I had now received Spencer's consent to my quitting the
Viceregal Lodge, when at Dublin at Whitsuntide, for one evening, to
attend a party at Gray's, which was the virtual condition of our not
being boycotted by the Nationalists.'
Negotiations between the Irish party and both English parties were at
this time in the air, and it will be seen that this visit to Ireland
became connected with political issues quite different from its
ostensible and non-controversial object.
Early in 1885 anti-Irish feeling, which to some extent had been allayed,
was again roused by dynamite outrages. One bomb was exploded in the
Tower of London, and two in the precincts of Parliament. The general
temper may be judged by an entry of February 7th:
'I remonstrated with Harcourt as to the restrictions at the House,
which he and the Speaker had agreed on, so far as they affected the
Press. I said that it was ridiculous to shut out little Lucy, the
"Toby" of _Punch_, and Harcourt gravely assured me that Lucy was a
man who would willingly bring dynamite into the House himself; after
which I had no more to say.'
It was in face of this feeling that Mr. Chamberlain had drafted a scheme
giving very large powers of self-government to an Irish popularly
When Sir Charles was declaring for resignation, he received a
communication which made the Irish matter pressing.
'On April 22nd Cardinal Manning wrote to me that he had some
information of importance which he wished for an opportunity of
making known to me, and he begged me to come to him on my way to
Whitehall on the morrow. I had to see Lord Salisbury and Sir
Stafford Northcote as to the Seats Bill, and it was not until the
afternoon that I was able to see the Cardinal. He spoke in the name
of Croke and another Roman Catholic Irish Archbishop, and of five
Irish Roman Catholic Bishops who had been staying with him, the
latter being a deputation of five to Rome who represented "the 14
Bishops." He said that Croke had become frightened of the extreme
Nationalists. The Cardinal declared that the Roman Catholic clergy
were ready to pacify Ireland if we would pass Chamberlain's Local
Government Ireland Scheme, with a Central Board such as Chamberlain
proposed. The Bishops and clergy would be prepared to denounce, not
only separation, but also an Irish Parliament. I had reason to know
that Lord Spencer was unfavourable to any negotiation with Cardinal
Manning, but on the 24th, having that day again seen Manning, who
put the dots on the "i's" and volunteered that if the Irish Bishops
got the elective board for Ireland they would denounce as
revolutionary an Irish Parliament, I wrote to Mr. Gladstone stating
Manning's views, and suggesting that Chamberlain should see the
Cardinal on the morrow. [Footnote: See the next two pages, where
accounts of these interviews and correspondence occur.]
'I said in my letter to Mr. Gladstone: "I knew that the Pope, in
sending for the Bishops to Rome, had acted on Manning's advice. I
also knew that Manning bitterly resented Errington's visits to Rome.
This was all I knew on the subject until to-day, when Manning
suddenly proposed to me to bring about peace and good-will in
Ireland on the basis of Chamberlain's Local Government and Central
Board Scheme.... Manning has got a pledge from the Roman Catholic
Bishops, including even Archbishop Croke ... and from Davitt, to
denounce separation. He has got from the Bishops, including Croke, a
declaration against an Irish Parliament, provided they obtain the
Local Government Central Board. I suggested that he should see
Chamberlain at once, and learn secretly the details of his
proposals. He said nothing of coercion, and I, of course, avoided
the subject, as I did not know whether a coercion Bill is to be
proposed. I should suggest that Manning be encouraged to let the
Pope have Chamberlain's scheme."
'I sent this memorandum to Chamberlain and to Lord Spencer, as well
as to Mr. Gladstone, and Chamberlain wrote: "I am quite willing to
call on the Cardinal if Mr. Gladstone approves." Lord Spencer wrote:
"The question of Mr. Chamberlain's seeing the Cardinal with a view
of his scheme being made known to the Pope is for Mr. Gladstone's
decision, but I would venture to say that he should not disclose his
plan to the Cardinal unless the Cabinet agree to it." This last
memorandum from Lord Spencer is dated the 25th, but on the 24th
Chamberlain, Mr. Gladstone having consented, had seen the Cardinal.
I also saw the Cardinal again on the 25th, and he told me that in
his opinion it was essential that Dr. Walsh should be made
Archbishop of Dublin. He also told me that he was going to see
Parnell on the Chamberlain scheme. On April 30th the Cardinal saw
Parnell, and told him that the Bishops would support Chamberlain in
the Local Government of Ireland scheme. Parnell promised that he
would support it, and would not obstruct the Crimes Bill. So O'Shea
told me, and showed me a paper unsigned, which purported to be, and
which, knowing the hand, I believe was, Parnell's writing, somewhat
to this effect. On the 28th a Committee of the Cabinet had been
appointed on Chamberlain's Irish Local Government and Central
Council scheme. On May 1st the Cardinal told me of his interview
with Parnell, and of a more completely satisfactory interview
between himself and Sexton.
'The scheme was one which proposed the establishment in Ireland of a
national elective Council, to which were to be referred matters at
present in the hands of some four Boards at Dublin Castle. Mr.
Gladstone's consent to Chamberlain's interview with the Cardinal had
been given in conversation at the House of Commons on the 23rd, and
I have a letter from Mr. Gladstone stating this. I had probably, for
some reason which I forget, both written and spoken to him after my
first interview with Manning on the 22nd, and put the matter again
in a letter (possibly to go to Spencer) on the 24th. I have also a
letter from Chamberlain on the 24th, saying that his interview with
Manning "quite confirms your minute, and the position is hopeful."
With regard to the Cardinal's insisting upon Walsh, and his anger at
Errington's interference, I had a letter which I sent to Lord
Spencer, and which he kept, but returned my minute referring to the
Cardinal's letter, endorsed only "S. 25-4-85." Chamberlain also
wrote on the same day, again stating that his interview with the
Cardinal had been highly satisfactory, and adding: "Do not let Mr.
Errington meddle with the Archbishopric of Dublin." On April 26th
the Cardinal had again written to me about the Errington business
and the See of Dublin, and this second letter on the subject I kept.
The only new point in it was that contained in the following phrase:
"I have an impression that efforts have been made to represent Dr.
Walsh as a Nationalist. He is not more so than I am; and whether
that is excessive or obstructive you will judge."
'On Tuesday, April 28th, the Cardinal again spoke to me as to the
archbishopric, expressing his great vexation as to Spencer's action
through Errington. I sent a minute to Spencer which he returned,
writing, with regard to Manning's moderate opinions: "I wish it may
be so. Responsibility does wonders. Maynooth is so bad that the Pope
is now discussing it with the Bishops." Dr. Walsh, Manning's
candidate, was President of Maynooth. I sent Spencer's minute to
Chamberlain, who returned it with a strong minute of his own for
Spencer, who again wrote: "H.E. the Cardinal is wrong in his
estimate of Dr. Walsh." On April 30th Manning wrote mentioning a
further conversation with Parnell, and adding: "The result is that I
strongly advise the prompt introduction of the scheme I have in
writing. It cannot be known too soon. But both on general and on
particular reasons I hope that neither you nor your friend will
dream of the act you spoke of. Government are pledged in their first
Queen's Speech to county government in Ireland. Let them redeem
their pledge. All the rest will follow." The "act," of course, was
'At the Cabinet Committee of May 1st on Ireland, Carlingford and
Harcourt, in Spencer's interest, violently attacked Chamberlain's
scheme; Hartington less violently; Childers, Lefevre, and Trevelyan
supported. Spencer seeming to waver, Harcourt rather turned round,
and Mr. Gladstone afterwards told Chamberlain that Carlingford's
opposition did not matter.
'On May 1st I again saw Manning, who told me of further interviews
with Parnell and Sexton. I noted in my diary: "2nd to 6th. The Irish
row--Mr. Gladstone between Chamberlain and Spencer: the deep sea and
the devil, or the devil and the deep sea--continues."
'On May 7th the Cardinal wrote: "How can the _Standard_ have got the
Irish scheme? Nothing is secret and nobody is safe. My copy of it is
both safe and secret." On May 8th I wrote to Grant Duff:
"Chamberlain and I have a big Irish Local Government scheme on hand,
which is backed by the R. C. Bishops--which may either pacify
Ireland or break up the Government." On the 9th, Harcourt having
come over, Chamberlain's scheme received the support of all the
Commoners except Hartington, and was opposed by all the peers except
Lord Granville. Mr. Gladstone said to me in leaving the room:
"Within six years, if it pleases God to spare their lives, they will
be repenting in ashes." At night he wrote to Lord Spencer and to
Hartington that he intended to go out upon this question.
'During Sunday, May 10th, Harcourt tried hard to patch matters up on
the basis of "No Home Rule, no coercion, no remedial legislation, no
Ireland at all."'
On May 13th 'Cardinal Manning dined with me, and we further discussed
the position of Chamberlain's scheme.'
Then suddenly a new and complicating factor was introduced:
'On Friday, May 15th, there was another Cabinet, from which
Trevelyan was absent through illness. A Land Purchase Ireland Bill
was suddenly presented to us, to which I expressed strong
opposition, unless it were to be accompanied by "Chamberlain's Local
Government scheme"; and a Coercion Bill was also presented to us,
against which Chamberlain, Lefevre, and I, protested. We, however,
declared that we would yield as regards some points in the Coercion
Bill provided the Land Purchase Bill were dropped or the "Local
Government measure" introduced.' [Footnote: A Land Purchase Bill had
been proposed in the end of April, 1884, by Lord Spencer, which
after preliminary consideration by a Committee was discussed in
'I opposed the whole thing. Lord Derby gave five reasons against it,
all five unanswerable, and then supported it. Northbrook agreed with
me. Childers, supported by a unanimous Cabinet committee, proposed a
scheme of Chamberlain's suggestion for advancing the whole purchase
money. Spencer proposed three-fourths. Mr. Gladstone had a scheme of
his own which nobody could understand. Spencer insisted on counting
heads. Lord Granville, who would, of course, have supported Mr.
Gladstone, had gone away. Trevelyan, who had been called in, was not
allowed to vote, and the result was that the majority pronounced
against Chamberlain's scheme; Spencer who was for three-fourths, and
I against the whole thing, voting together with Carlingford,
Northbrook, the Chancellor, Hartington, and Dodson--a scratch
lot--against Mr. Gladstone, Childers, Harcourt, Kimberley, Derby,
'On Sunday, May 17th, I dined with Edward Levy Lawson, [Footnote:
Afterwards the first Lord Burnham.] and met the Prince of Wales and
Randolph Churchill; and Randolph told the Prince and myself that
which he had previously told the Irish members--namely, that
Salisbury had promised to have no coercion; but I noted in my diary
that I did not believe this. I was wrong, for Salisbury afterwards
said at Newport that his mind had been made up against coercion long
before the change of Government. I knew that Randolph had seen
Parnell, as I had twice seen them together in Gosset's room, which
only Randolph and I ever used before 5 p m.'
There were now two separate subjects of division leading to resignations
in the Cabinet. There were those who would resign unless coercion was
renewed, and there was the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was
resigning because he could not get his way as to the Budget. His
resignation was 'suspended'; but Mr. Gladstone was evidently anxious to
be out of it all.
'On the Sunday Childers informed us that he would go on for three
weeks. On Wednesday afternoon, May 20th, Mr. Gladstone spoke to me
at the House, and told me that he would go on until the end of the
Session, and would then resign, and that Hartington would try to
form a Government, although he might fail in getting one that could
agree on Irish proposals. Mr. Gladstone said nothing about land
purchase, but in the course of the afternoon he suddenly announced
publicly the introduction of a Land Purchase Bill, thinking, I
believe, that he had Chamberlain's consent to a Bill limited to one
year. I at once wrote him a letter of resignation, and then sent off
for Chamberlain, Lefevre, and Trevelyan.
'Chamberlain's interview with Mr. Gladstone that had misled the
latter had taken place after the Cabinet of Saturday--I think on the
morning of Monday, the 18th--and their meeting was on the subject of
Childers's Budget proposals. Chamberlain, writing to me about it,
said: "We are likely to want four millions less money. Therefore,
says Childers, let us have a new Budget and clap an additional tax
of L300,000 on wine." Chamberlain also wrote to me, after his
interview with Mr. Gladstone, on the Monday afternoon, telling me
that Randolph Churchill was going to give notice of a Committee to
inquire into the state of Ireland, that Churchill thought that we
should be out by that time and supporting him, and that he
contemplated a separation from his own leaders, and a union, on a
Radical Irish policy for "Local Government," and against coercion,
of the two sides from below the gangway. Chamberlain added that, if
the Russian matter "were out of the way, Mr. Gladstone would let us
go, and I think _we must go_." This correspondence had left me
unaware of any change in Chamberlain's view, if there was any, about
the Land Purchase Bill. As soon as Chamberlain reached the House on
the 20th, and heard from me what I had done, he also wrote a letter
of resignation; but he was not pleased, and perhaps rightly, at my
having taken so strong a step without consulting him on the precise
'In Chamberlain's letter, which was sent at 6 p.m. on the 20th, he
said: "Dear Mr. Gladstone,--I have heard with great surprise that
you have this afternoon given notice of the introduction of a Land
Purchase Bill for Ireland, unaccompanied by any reference to the
large scheme of Local Government, the promise of which for next year
was the condition of the assent given by Sir Charles Dilke and
myself to the proposal for dealing with Land Purchase during the
present Session. I am convinced that a measure of the kind suggested
by Lord Spencer will have a distinct tendency to increase the
agitation for a separation between the two countries, and at the
same time will seriously prejudice the success of any such scheme of
Local Government as I have submitted to the Cabinet.... In the
circumstances I feel that I have no alternative but to place my
resignation in your hands."
'On the morning of May 21st Lefevre informed us that he should go
with us, and also wrote a letter of resignation, in which he said
that he did not agree with us as to Land Purchase, but that as we
went he must go, too, on coercion.
'Mr. Gladstone sent for me on the 21st, and I suggested a way out,
in our acceptance of the Land Purchase Bill, with a promise of "the
Local Government Scheme" for 1886. Mr. Gladstone fell in with this
view, and proposed that at Dublin, for which I was starting on
Friday morning, May 22nd, I should try to get Spencer's consent to
the limitation of the new Coercion Bill to a single year, and the
promise of the "Local Government Bill" for 1886. On the 21st Mr.
Gladstone wrote to me several times, as did also Chamberlain. Mr.
Gladstone had written to Chamberlain on the night of the 20th: "I
have never been in greater surprise than at the fresh trouble
developed this afternoon. I believed myself to be acting entirely
within the lines of your and Dilke's concurrence, and surely I am
right in thinking that you could not have supposed that the notice
of an intention to bring in a Bill offered the occasion on which to
refer to the distinct though allied subject of Local Government.
What I understood to be your and Dilke's procedure was to agree to a
Land Purchase Bill with a provision of funds for one year, which
would leave the whole measure ... dependent on a fresh judgment
which might be associated with Local Government as its condition. It
seems to me to be a matter which we may perfectly well consider, and
hope to arrange, in what terms reference shall be made to Local
Government when the Bill is brought in. Will not that be the time to
part, if part we must, which I do not believe? I send a copy of this
to Dilke, and will only add, to the expression of my surprise, my
'When I received a letter from Mr. Gladstone, enclosing a copy of
his to Chamberlain, I replied (first showing my answer to Lefevre
and sending it to Chamberlain) to the effect that the proposal to
introduce a Land Purchase Bill had been discussed by and rejected by
the Cabinet, that I could not concur in the reversal of its
judgment, and that, thinking as I did that a deliberate opinion of
the Cabinet had been disregarded without warrant, and having, so
thinking, resigned, I should be unable to attend any meeting of the
Cabinet if one were summoned. I have a letter from Chamberlain to Mr
Gladstone dated 21st, and two later ones from Mr. Gladstone to
myself. Chamberlain said:
'"My Dear Mr. Gladstone,
'"I fear there has been a serious misapprehension on both sides with
respect to a Land Purchase Bill, and I take blame to myself if I did
not express myself with sufficient clearness. I certainly never
imagined that the promise of introduction would be made without
further reference to the Cabinet, or without some definite decision
as to Local Government. I doubt very much if it is wise or even
right to attempt to cover over the serious differences of principle
that have lately disclosed themselves in the Cabinet. I think it is
now certain that they will cause a split in the new Parliament, and
it seems hardly fair to the constituencies that this should only be
admitted after they have discharged their functions, and when they
are unable to influence the result.
'They _did_ "cause" a split in the new Parliament, but Spencer the
Coercionist and Chamberlain the Nationalist had changed places!'
'I do not know which of Mr. Gladstone's two letters dated the 21st
is the earlier. In the one Mr. Gladstone wrote: "I hope that my note
may have shown you that the time for considering your difficulty (if
there be one) has not arrived. Please to tell me if this is so, as
if it were not I should have to summon the Cabinet this afternoon to
report what has happened. The messenger will wait for an answer.--
Yours sincerely, W. E. Gladstone.--This is also for Chamberlain." I
replied somewhat curtly that if there were a Cabinet I could not
attend. The other letter referred to a conversation which had taken
place between Hamilton and Chamberlain, and said that the latter was
"willing that his letter should stand as _non avenu_ until after the
recess--i.e. (so I understand it), we should, before the Bill is
introduced, consider in what terms the subject of Local Government
should be referred to when the Bill is introduced. I am not trying
to bind you to this understanding, but if you and he will come here
at 3.0 we will try to get at the bottom of the matter." My reply
'"I certainly cannot withdraw my resignation unless the incident is
explained to the whole of the members of the Cabinet. If you could
see your way to circulate a box explaining that we were not
consenting parties to the reversal of the opinion of the Cabinet,
then I would try to help find some way out. I am, however, hopeless
as to the wisdom of doing so. We differ so completely on the
questions which will occupy the time of Parliament for the remainder
of the Session that I feel that the Cabinet cannot hold together
with advantage to the country. Lefevre strongly agrees with this
view Northbrook and Hartington, who, with Lefevre, were against
Chamberlain and myself on the merits, evidently felt as amazed as we
were at the reversal of the decision."'
'At this moment Chamberlain wrote to Mrs. Pattison' (in India) 'to
say that the times were "most anxious. Mr. Gladstone is certainly
going to retire soon, and the influence which has held together
discordant elements will be removed with him. Fortunately, we know
our own minds, and are not deficient in resolution, but it is not
always easy to see clearly the right times and way of giving effect
to our decisions. I do not myself believe that the struggle between
us and the Whigs can be long postponed. It has nearly come over the
question of Ireland, and even now we may be compelled to break off
on this vital point. In any case we shall not join another
Government nor meet another Parliament without a decision; and if it
is against our views, the split will be final and complete, and we
shall be out of office until we can lead a purely Radical
Administration. We must win in the end, but the contest will be a
bitter one, and may lead us farther than we contemplate at
present.... I was dining last Saturday with Lord Ripon, who
professed to be well pleased ... and declared his full adhesion to
the new gospel; but the majority of his class and school are getting
thoroughly frightened, and will probably quicken and intensify the
movement by setting themselves against it, instead of trying to
guide and direct it. A good deal depends on Lord Hartington. He is
constitutionally contemptuous of, and unsympathetic with, the
democratic sentiment of the times."
'By our telegrams of May 21st, I saw that on the 20th Sir John Kirk,
our man at Zanzibar, had been snubbed by Lord Granville, and I felt
that if I went out upon the Irish Question I should be able at least
to speak my mind as to the manner in which we had pandered to the
Germans on the Zanzibar coast.
'On May 21st I wrote to Grant Duff: "Mr. G. will resign at the end
of the session. I rather doubt Hartington being able to form a
'On the morning of Friday, May 22nd, I left for Dublin, and by
teatime was at the Viceregal Lodge.'
On the previous day Sir Charles had written:
'Local Government Board,
'May 21st, 1885.
'My Dear Grant Duff,
'Off to Ireland, where I expect to be Boycotted by both sides
[Footnote: It turned out the other way.]--by the Nationalists
because I stay with Spencer, and by the Orangemen because we sit at
the Mansion House.
'Chs. W. D.'
'As Mr. Gladstone at our last interview had bid me convert Spencer
if I could, and virtually promised that he would support our views
if Spencer would, I had asked Trevelyan and Harcourt to back me up
in letters. Harcourt made delay. Trevelyan wrote on the 23rd: "I am
sorry the whole thing is in the newspapers, and see in it another
reason for getting it settled. If you and Chamberlain make it a
point to have the Bill for a year, I should be glad to see the
concession made. The concession on the part of those who take
another view would not be greater than was made by those of us who
objected to have a Land Bill that was not based upon a new system of
'Early in the morning of Saturday, the 23rd, before the meeting of
my Commission at the City Hall, I had had a long talk with Spencer,
and I felt, more strongly than I ever had before, that his position
in Dublin was untenable, and that he ought to be allowed to go. On
Whit Sunday I attended church with Spencer, and in the afternoon
took him for the only walk which he had enjoyed for a long time. We
passed the spot where Lord Frederick Cavendish was killed, and
accompanied by a single aide-de-camp, but watched at a distance by
two policemen in plain clothes, and met at every street corner by
two others, walked to the strawberry gardens, and on our return, it
being a lovely Sunday when the Wicklow Mountains were at their best
and the hawthorn in bloom, met thousands of Dublin people driving
out to the strawberry gardens on cars. In the course of the whole
long walk but one man lifted his hat to Spencer, who was universally
recognized, but assailed by the majority of those we met with shouts
of, "Who killed Myles Joyce?" [Footnote: One of several men hanged
for the Maamtrasna murders. All the other men sentenced protested
that Myles Joyce was innocent, and died protesting it. Strong
efforts were made to gain a reprieve for this lad.] while some
varied the proceedings by calling "Murderer!" after him. A few days
later, when I was driving with Lady Spencer in an open carriage, a
well-dressed bicyclist came riding through the cavalry escort, and
in a quiet, conversational tone observed to us, "Who killed Myles
Joyce?" At his dinner-party on the Sunday evening Spencer told us
that a Roman Catholic priest [Footnote: Father Healy, parish priest
of Bray, and most famous of modern Irish talkers.] who was present
(the Vicar of Bray, I think, but not _the_ Bray) was the only priest
in Ireland who would enter his walls, while the Castle was boycotted
by every Archbishop and Bishop. On Monday morning, the 25th, Whit
Monday, I paid a visit to the Mansion House at the request of the
Lord Mayor of Dublin, taking by Spencer's leave the Viceregal
carriages there, where they had in his second viceroyalty not been
before, and was received by the Lord Mayor in state, which consisted
in much exhibition of the most gorgeous porter (in green and gold)
that my eyes had ever beheld. I afterwards went on to see Hamilton,
[Footnote: Sir Robert Hamilton, who had succeeded Mr. Bourke as the
permanent head of Dublin Castle.] the Under-Secretary. He offered us
as a maximum County Boards plus a Central Education Board for
Ireland, to administer all the grants with rating powers, and to be
called a great experiment to be extended if it answered. In the
evening I discussed this with Spencer, who went a little farther,
and offered, in addition to County Boards, four elective Central
Boards for Ireland, to discharge much the same duties which
Chamberlain's scheme gave to the Central Board; but Spencer
obstinately refused to take the plunge of making the four Boards
into one Board. It was on this point that we broke off; and he never
got farther forward until after the Government had gone out. He has
since declared that his conversion to a more advanced Home Rule
scheme than that of Chamberlain, which he had refused, was caused by
the return of a certain majority of Nationalist members; but he was
perfectly aware at this time what that majority would be, and I
confess that I have never been able to understand why Hamilton and
Spencer should have held out as they did in May against the moderate
scheme, and have supported the extreme one as early as July, which I
believe to have been the case. Had Spencer yielded at this moment,
it is at least possible that the Irish question would have been
settled. At all events, there has never been in our time so fair a
chance of settlement.
'On Tuesday, the 26th, I heard from Lefevre, who wrote strongly
against the Coercion Bill for Spencer's benefit, but added in a
separate letter that he regarded the notice in the _Birmingham Post_
as indicating that Chamberlain had been talking freely about the
dissensions in the Cabinet, and that if this was so he considered it
unfortunate, as tending to increase the difficulty of getting any
further concessions from Spencer or other members of the Cabinet who
'On Tuesday evening the Commission dined with Gray, and met Dr.
Walsh, the new Archbishop; but at Dr. Walsh's wish I had gone to
Gray's house half an hour before dinner to see the Archbishop
privately, and to be thanked by him for the part that I had taken in
trying to prevent opposition to the choice. In the evening Gray had
a party at which both sides were represented, Chief Justice Morris
being among those present. Gray's house, although the Spencers
disliked him, was one at which the parties always met as much as is
possible at all in Ireland. When Gray came out of gaol after his
imprisonment he gave a small dinner, at which were present the Judge
who had sentenced him, the gaoler who had had him in custody, and
the prosecuting counsel. The most interesting man at Gray's was
Fottrell, the man whose memoirs ought to be interesting, for he had
acted as intermediary between the Castle (that is, Hamilton) and
Parnell at the time when secret communications were passing between
them, although openly they were at war.
'Dickson, the Ulster Liberal member, [Footnote: M.P. For Dungannon,
Tyrone, 1880-1885. He afterwards became a leading Unionist.] was at
Gray's, and he announced that he had at last come over to
Chamberlain's scheme. Now, Hartington was crossing the next day to
stay at the Viceregal Lodge, and was to speak at Belfast under
Dickson's auspices, and the announcement of Dickson's change of
front was a startling blow to him and Spencer.
'On the morning of Wednesday, the 27th, I wrote to Grant Duff: "A
pretty pass you Whigs have brought this country to! I really think
we Radicals ought to be allowed to try. We certainly could not do it
_worse_. 'Poland' has been a byword, yet Poland is far less of a
weakness to Russia than Ireland to us, and the Russians have now the
Polish peasantry with them, if they have the towns and nobles
against them. _We_ have _no_ friends in Ireland. All our policy has
aimed at conciliating at least Ulster, and now Ulster is fast
becoming as Nationalist as Cork. The Liberals carried Belfast
freeholders in the late Antrim election to the cry of 'Down with
coercion!' and 'No special legislation!' Hartington comes to-night,
and I shall try to arrange some compromise with him and Spencer as
to the future--probably an Irish elective education Council."
'On the evening of the 27th I had a long conference with Hartington
and Spencer, in which I "worked" Dickson much. Before this I had had
the third meeting of my Commission, and then a public meeting in
connection with the Dublin Ladies' Central Association, a body
dealing with the Housing of the Working Classes. On the morning of
May 28th Spencer came into my bedroom before eight o'clock, and told
me that Hartington was very ill, suffering from sleeplessness and
fever, and that it would be quite impossible for him to make his
Belfast speech.... Dickson soon came to the Viceregal Lodge, and
earnestly begged me to go to Belfast in Hartington's place, but
under the circumstances I felt that it was impossible that I should
do so, although he promised me that a special train should be
waiting at the last moment if I would change my mind.
'I received this day a letter from Cardinal Manning strongly urging
that Chamberlain, Lefevre, and I, should stay in. "If you and the
like of you leave the Whigs, they will fall back and unite in
resisting you. So long as you are in contact with them, they will
yield to reason. These are the thoughts of an Old Testament
Radical." But the Old Testament Radical went on to make proposals to
me with regard to the Roman Catholic vote in Chelsea which would
have astonished the Old Testament prophets.
'Another letter which I received this day was from O'Shea about
Parnell's opinions on the Coercion Bill, but it is so obscure that I
can make nothing of it. It was on a suggestion of Lefevre's with
regard to bringing the Coercion Bill into force only by
"proclamation." It shows, however, if O'Shea is to be believed, that
Parnell was willing to accept a coercion measure of some kind, or,
at all events, to haggle about its terms, if publicly resisting it
as a whole.
'By the same post I received a letter from Heneage [Footnote: Mr.
Edward Heneage, for many years M.P. for Grimsby, and for a short
time Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in 1886. He was afterwards
a leading Unionist.] professing to state the general view of the
House of Commons, and pronouncing in favour of a liberal policy
towards Ireland. "(1) Non-renewal of the Crimes Act. (2) Amendment
of the jury laws. (3) Amendment of the purchase clauses. (4)
Abolition of the Lord Lieutenancy. (5) Improvement of Local
Government." This I showed to Spencer, with a memorandum of my own
in which I said that it was "a curious letter from a Whig." Spencer
wrote on my memorandum in returning the letter: "It is an odd
letter.... He wrote to me the other day about the abolition of the
Lord Lieutenancy, rather apologizing for bringing it on. I replied
deprecating any movement which might not go with action. To denounce
an office without at once abolishing it would weaken the hands of
him who filled it."
'I wrote to Lefevre and Chamberlain that Hartington had come very
well, and was very well at dinner, but bored at having to speak.
"Walker told him what I told him as to the unwisdom of speaking in
favour of coercion in Belfast immediately after the anti-coercion
speeches of the Liberals at the Antrim election; and to-day he is
ill. I do not know how far the two things are connected; but the
papers will _say_ they are."
'I lunched with Sir Edward Guinness and sat in the Speaker's chair
of the Irish Parliament; dined with Sir Robert Hamilton at the Yacht
Club at Kingstown; slept on board the boat and crossed next day;
spent Saturday to Tuesday at Dockett Eddy; and on Tuesday was at the
State Concert, where several of us tried to patch up some means of
being able to meet in Cabinet on June 5th. On Thursday, June 4th, I
had a long talk with Mr. Gladstone, and, on his agreeing to support
the Heneage-Lefevre-O'Shea proposal, now supported by Chamberlain,
for only bringing the Coercion Bill into force by a proclamation,
agreed to attend the Cabinet the next day, but without withdrawing
my resignation, which remained "suspended."
'I began on the 3rd and ended on the 5th June a letter to Grant Duff
in reply to one from him bidding me not break off from the
Government on any but a clear and obvious issue. I told him that (1)
Radicals in a minority would only ever get their way by often
threatening to go, even on secondary points, and that they must not
threaten unless they "meant it." (2) Mr. G. insisted he was "going."
"Therefore we have to count with Hartington. We doubt if we can form
part of a Hartington Government, and we can't do so if we do not ...
impose our terms by threats.... This is why I have been forcing the
pace of late.... Chamberlain is a little timid just now, in view of
the elections and the fury of the _Pall Mall_. I could not drive
Chamberlain out without his free consent, so I am rather tied.
Still, we shall (June 5th) get our own way, I fancy, at to-day's
'On the morning of June 5th my position in attending the Cabinet was
weakened, if not made ridiculous, by a letter from Spencer in which
he refused the Heneage-Lefevre-O'Shea compromise. But I went all the
same, for I was not supposed to know what he had written to Mr.
Gladstone. The first matter discussed was the Budget. I opposed the
proposed increase of the wine duties from 1s. to 1s. 3d., and from
2s. 6d. to 3s. (all bottled wine to be at the 3s. rate). I carried
with me at first all except Mr. Gladstone against Childers, and at
last Mr. Gladstone also. Childers then left the room; Mr. Gladstone,
Lord Granville, Harcourt, and the Chancellor, one by one, went after
him, but he would not come back. The Guards at Alexandria were
mentioned, and then Spencer's letter to Mr. Gladstone against the
proclamation clause read, whereon Chamberlain and I protested
against coercion as a whole, and no decision upon any point was come
'On June 6th I dined at Harcourt's Queen's Birthday dinner, and
afterwards attended Lady Granville's Foreign Office party, but these
were expiring festivities.
'On Monday, June 8th, there was a Cabinet, at which the first matter
was Irish Coercion and the proclamation clause. Spencer now offered
proclamation by the Viceroy (i.e., not by the Government in
London, which was our proposal) for all the Bill except the
intimidation part, but refused to have it for the boycotting clause.
Trevelyan now joined Chamberlain, Lefevre, and myself, in opposing
Spencer; the others supported him, but tried to make him yield. We
decided that if he yielded we should ask that a statement to the
Cabinet should be promised to precede proclamation.'
On June 8th Mr. Childers moved the second reading of his Budget Bill,
which was met by an amendment moved by Sir Michael Hicks Beach,
condemning the proposed increase upon beer and spirits without any
corresponding increase on wine, and declining to increase the duty on
real property until promised changes were made in regard to local
'I made a good debating Budget speech, of which Sir John Lambert
wrote "In Tea, Domine, spero," and I replied: "Since the time of Sir
Thomas More all these profane 'good things' have come from devout
Other leading men followed, and Mr. Gladstone summed up by saying that
you must tax either alcohol or tea and sugar. But the division went
against him: 6 Liberals voted with the Tories, and 76 were absent. The
majority against the Government was 12. The end had at length come.
FALL OF ADMINISTRATION
JUNE TO JULY, 1885
On June 8th, as has been seen, the Government were defeated by a
majority of 12.
'On June 9th there was a further Cabinet. We had been beaten on the
Budget, but in the meantime Spencer had yielded, and Mr. Gladstone
was very anxious to be able to say that we were all agreed.
Therefore we discussed a Coercion Bill in the first place, but the
four of us at once refused to agree to Spencer's concession as
sufficient.' [Footnote: Namely, that the Coercion Bill should only
have effect after a special proclamation had been issued. Sir
Charles Dilke notes, September 20th, 1891, the receipt of a letter
from Mr. Chamberlain, thanking him for extracts from his Memoir of
1884-85 on Irish affairs, and saying that where it dealt with the
same points it tallied exactly with his recollections.] 'It passes
my understanding, therefore, how Mr. Gladstone is able to pronounce,
as he has done, "unfounded" the statement that the Cabinet was at
odds upon the Irish question at the moment of its defeat. Three of
us had resigned on it, and our letters were in his pocket. The next
matter discussed was resignation, which did not take a minute; and
then the question of what Customs dues should be levied....
'After the Cabinet there was a levee, at which I had some
conversation with Lord Salisbury as to the Redistribution Bill in
the Lords, and his reply showed that he meant to form a Government.'
'On June 10th my discussions with Lord Salisbury as to the
Redistribution Bill were continued, and it was decided that the Bill
was to go forward in spite of the Ministerial crisis, although this
was resisted by the Fourth Party in the House of Commons.'
On the previous evening Sir Charles Dilke addressed an audience at the
City Liberal Club in a speech of unwonted passion. Confidently
anticipating that the Redistribution Bill would go through in spite of
any change of Ministry and the resistance of the Fourth Party, he dwelt
on the magnitude of the change for which he had so long wrought. But the
central point of the speech was a eulogy of Mr Gladstone, which
reflected the temper of a scene that had passed in the House of Commons
the same day, and he demanded in the name of Liberalism that the battle
should be won, 'not only with his great name, but under his actual
This was the declaration of the Radicals against all thought of a
Hartington Administration. Referring to the speech, he writes:
'I was greatly congratulated on this day on a speech which I had
made at a house dinner of the City Liberal Club on the 9th.
Chamberlain wrote: "Your speech was admirable, and I have heard from
one who was present that the effect was electrical. You never did
better in your life." He went on to agree with me in my wish that
Herbert Gladstone should be appointed Chief Whip for the Opposition,
and then to say that we must be very careful what we did, or "we
shall destroy the Tory Government before it has done our work." I
had asked him to sit to Holl for a portrait for me, and he said that