Part 4 out of 11
he would do so, but that he was going to speak all over the country
in support of the unauthorized programme. He did sit, and a very
fine picture was the result.' [Footnote: Now at the National
Portrait Gallery, to which Sir Charles bequeathed it.]
'On Saturday, June 13th, I presided at the Cobden Club dinner, at
which Chamberlain was also present, and our speeches attracted some
attention.' [Footnote: Sir Charles from the chair advocated
'destroying the monopoly in land,' and 'establishing an Irish
control of Irish affairs.' Chamberlain advocated 'some great measure
of devolution by which the Imperial Parliament shall retain its
supremacy, but shall nevertheless relegate to subordinate
authorities the control and administration of their local business,'
and added: 'I think it is a consolation to my right hon. friend as
well as to myself that our hands are free, and that our voices may
now be lifted up in the cause of freedom and justice.']
'On Tuesday, the 16th, we had a meeting of the leaders, at which
were present Lords Selborne, Northbrook, Carlingford, Derby,
Kimberley, Mr. Gladstone, Harcourt, Childers, Chamberlain, Lefevre,
and myself. Salisbury, through Arthur Balfour, had verbally asked
for (1) priority for Supply; (2) if we would, supposing that we
opposed their Budget, support them in borrowing by Exchequer Bills.
We decided to make as little reply as possible. In Winston
Churchill's Life of his father he says we promised "facilities," but
'Randolph Churchill sounded me to know if in the event of his taking
office he could sit for Birmingham, and Chamberlain answered: "If R.
C. takes office _without_ coercion, we should not oppose him. If
_with_, I should certainly fight to accentuate the betrayal."
'On the afternoon of June 16th I had a serious talk with Chamberlain
about manhood suffrage, which he had advocated in a speech, pointing
out to him that this question of manhood as against adult suffrage
(i.e., including women) was the only one on which we differed, and
the only question which seemed likely to divide us. The outcome of
our talk was that we should postpone as long as possible the
inevitable difference, and make it last as short a time as possible
by postponing it till the very moment when the thing was likely to
be carried. When the time came that our people should be raving for
manhood suffrage, and that I should have to join the Tories in
carrying adult suffrage as against it, I might, if in office, have
to go out by myself, but this could not be avoided.' [Footnote: A
memorandum on this subject by Sir Charles, published by the Society
for Promoting Adult Suffrage, in the last years of his life, is
quoted on p. 409 of this volume.]
'On the 16th, also, I wrote to Grant Duff that there was "no liking
for Ireland or the Irish," but "an almost universal feeling now in
both parties that some form of Home Rule must be tried. My own
belief is that it will be tried too late, as all our remedies have
'I told him how I had written to solicit a peerage for him, and that
the Liberals would be in office again in "January," and when his
term of office was to expire--a true prophecy.'
'On June 18th there was another Cabinet of the outgoing Ministers,
although Hartington and Lord Granville were not present. There were
present Mr. Gladstone, Lord Selborne, Carlingford, Northbrook,
Kimberley, Derby, Rosebery, Harcourt, Childers, Trevelyan, Lefevre,
Chamberlain, and myself. Mr. Gladstone had heard on the previous
night from the Queen, enclosing a letter from Lord Salisbury to her,
asking for an undertaking that we would support him on his Budget
and in Supply, as he could not now dissolve. We again refused to
give any but very general assurances.
'On June 19th, Randolph Churchill having blown up Northcote' (who
had been removed to the Upper House), 'and shown his power by making
himself Dictator, now wished for freedom and some excuse for
preventing the formation of a Government, and a curious letter from
him was forwarded to me by Chamberlain. In Chamberlain's covering
letter there is the first allusion to our proposed tour in Ireland.
'On Saturday, June 20th, there was a last Cabinet or "full meeting"
of outgoing Ministers, all being present except Spencer and our two
racing men--Hartington and Rosebery. We further considered the
question of "assurances," at the renewed suggestion of the Queen,
and finally declined to give them. Though this was called as a
Cabinet, Mrs. Gladstone was in the room. Saturday to Monday I spent
in a last visit to the smallpox camp at Darenth. On Monday, the
22nd, I made a fighting speech at a meeting at the Welsh chapel in
Radnor Street at Chelsea; [Footnote: The speech advocated not merely
Home Rule, but Home Rule all round. Sir Charles expressed a wish to
"study in Ireland a plan for the devolution to Welsh, Scottish, and
Irish bodies of much business which Parliament is incompetent to
discharge, and which at the present time is badly done or not done
"The principles of decentralization which ought to be applied are
clear to those who know the two kingdoms and the Principality, but
the details must be studied on the spot. As regards Wales and
Scotland, no great controversial questions are likely to arise. But
as regards the Irish details, it is the intention of Mr. Chamberlain
and myself to inquire in Ireland of those who know Ireland best.
Officials in Ireland, contrary to public belief, are many of them in
favour of decentralization, but still more are the Bishops and
clergy of various denominations, legal authorities, and the like.
Some writers who have recently attacked a proposal which has been
made to abolish in Ireland what is known as 'Dublin Castle' are
unaware, apparently, of the fact that not only officials of the
highest experience, and many statesmen on both sides who know
Ireland well, are agreed on the necessity for the abolition, but
that those who have had the most recent experience in the office of
Viceroy are themselves sharers in the decentralization view which
now prevails."] and on Wednesday, June 24th, I left my office.
'My successor was Arthur Balfour, and I initiated him into the
business of the Local Government Board at his request, after a first
interview at Sloane Street. As late as June 21st Harcourt had made
up his mind that the Tories would be unable to form a Government,
and that it was his painful duty to come back; and he wrote to me
that he had informed Mr. Gladstone that "I would stand by him if he
agreed to come back _whatever might happen_." Chamberlain wrote on
this that it was impossible if Spencer remained. "It will be bad for
us and for the settlement of the Irish question."
'Chamberlain and I were now intending to visit Ireland, but Manning
declined to give us letters, and wrote on June 25th: "What am I to
do? I am afraid of your Midlothian in Ireland. How can I be
godfather to Hengist and Horsa?" I replied:
'"Dear Cardinal Manning,
'"I fear I have made myself far from clear. You speak of a
Midlothian. I should not for a moment have dreamt of asking you for
letters had not that been most carefully guarded against. We are not
going to make a single speech or to attend any dinner, meeting, or
reception, in any part of Ireland. Our journey is private, and our
wish is to visit the Catholic Archbishops and Bishops and to find
out what they want. It has sprung from your own suggestion, and from
my conversation, held also at your suggestion, with Dr. Walsh. It
would not conduce to any possibility of settlement and of future
peace if, after proposing, at your suggestion, to go to men like the
Archbishops Croke and Walsh, we should have to state that we
renounce our visit because they refuse to receive us. You know what
passed as to Dr. Walsh, and you know that if Mr. Gladstone had
reformed his Government we had made that matter one of our
conditions. Surely that was pretty clear evidence of our desire to
act with you in a matter which is certainly above all party. But it
is 'now or never.'"
'On the same day Chamberlain wrote proposing that we should meet
Trevelyan and Lefevre at fixed and short intervals to produce
concerted action, and consulting me as to whether we should include
Morley. The first consultation took place at my Royal Commission
office at noon on July 4th, and Morley was present as well as
Trevelyan, and I think Lefevre.'
'On June 27th I had a last fight with Mr. Gladstone. The outgoing
Government had given a baronetcy to Errington, personally my friend,
but a baronetcy given under circumstances which I thought
politically discreditable, and I protested strongly. I told Mr.
Gladstone that it had long been my opinion that there is
insufficient consultation of the opinion of the party, as well as of
Cabinets and ex-Cabinets, on questions of the deepest moment. "For
example, since I have been a member of the 'Inner Circle,' many
decisions of the gravest moment as to Irish affairs have been taken
without reference to the general opinion of the leaders or of the
party. When Mr. Forster first induced Lord Granville to give letters
to Mr. Errington, I stated my own view in favour of the appointment
of an official representative of this country to the Roman Church,
if there was work which must be done between the Government and that
Church. I always protested against the secret arrangement, and the
last straw has been the resistance to Walsh." Such was my private
'Chamberlain wrote: "Mr. G. has yielded to Lord G., and has done an
act unfair to us and without notice. I have seen O'Shea. I think the
'visit' may yet be all right." I wrote to Mr. Gladstone:
'"I feel bound to express my dismay at seeing this day that honours
have been conferred on that excellent fellow Errington at a moment
when it will be felt by the great majority of people who do not see
round corners that he is rewarded for the fight made by him on
behalf of the defeated policy of resistance to the selection as
Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin of the accomplished gentleman on
whom the whole Irish Roman Catholic clergy and people had set their
hearts. I have already described to Lord Granville in your presence
what I thought the fatal results of this policy of interference
against a unanimous Irish sentiment in the choice of the great Roman
Catholic dignitaries in Ireland--a policy which has, in the belief
of the thoughtful men of all parties, among whom I may name
privately the new Lord Chancellor of Ireland, [Footnote: Mr. Gibson,
afterwards created Lord Ashbourne.] undone the effects of your Land
Acts of 1871 and 1881, and made the resistance to the Union stronger
and more unanimous than it ever was before. Surely such an intention
as that to specially honour Mr. Errington at such a moment might
have been named to me when I so strongly expressed before you and
Lord Granville my opinion of the policy. Mr. Forster, the initiator
of the Errington policy, has returned to the Liberal front bench,
and sat next to me there. I fear I must take the opportunity of
leaving it, as I do not see how I can fail to express the opinion I
hold of the conferring of special honour at such a moment on Mr.
Errington." [Footnote: A letter from Mr. Gladstone to Mr, Errington,
dated June 30th, 1885, is given in the _Life of Granville_, vol.
ii., p. 292.]
'Mr. Gladstone replied:
'"1, Richmond Terrace,
'"_June 27th_, 1885.
'"My Dear Dilke,
'"I feel that the coincidence of the Walsh appointment with the
Errington baronetcy is unfortunate, but I think that the grant of
the baronetcy or of something in that sense is unavoidable. I regard
Gibson's confidential disclosure to you as an absurd exaggeration
indulged in for party purposes. The policy, and any ingratitude to
an agent of it, are wholly different matters; and your disapproval
of the first never conveyed to my mind the idea of speaking to you
about the second. You are aware of the immense stress laid by
Spencer on the Errington mission, which Granville more traditionally
(as I think) supported. For my part, I never did more than acquiesce
in it, and I think it highly probable that no such thing will be
renewed. As to 'diplomatic relations' with the Pope, I am entirely
opposed to them.
'"W. E. Gladstone."
'I was not opposed to diplomatic relations with the Pope, but to the
extraordinary anomalies involved in the Mission that was no Mission.
My conversation with Gibson had been at a party at Lady Ridley's,
where I congratulated him upon his high office. He began with a
laugh: "I am popular with all parties. Whose congratulations do you
think were the first that I received?" A happy inspiration struck
me, and I at once answered "Walsh"--a lucky guess which completely
puzzled him, for he said, "Who told you?"
'Chamberlain wrote the next day: "Reflection confirms me in the
opinion that Mr. Gladstone has not treated us well. I cannot resist
the conclusion that on both occasions he concealed his intentions,
knowing that we disapproved of them, and in order to force our
hands. I would cordially join in a protest against this, although,
as I have already told you, I do not think the last proceeding--in
the matter of Errington--will justify a formal secession. People
generally, especially in the country, cannot understand the
importance of the matter, and would not back up our quarrel."
'Chamberlain, writing on June 27th or 28th, [Footnote: It was on
June 17th that Mr. Chamberlain had delivered his famous denunciation
of Dublin Castle, and had declared that "the pacification of Ireland
depends, I believe, on the concession to Ireland of the right to
govern itself in the matter of its purely domestic government." He
went on to speak of an Irishman being at every step controlled by
"an English official, appointed by a foreign Government."] said: "On
the greatest issue between us and the Whigs Mr. G. is on our side,
and has told Harcourt that if he stands at the General Election he
will make this a prominent feature in his platform, and will adopt
in principle our scheme--Local Government and devolution. This will
immensely strengthen our position if we finally decide to press the
matter. I say 'if' because I wait to have more positive assurances
as to Parnell's present attitude. If he throws us over, I do not
believe that we can go farther at present, but O'Shea remains
confident that matters will come right."'
On June 29th, Sir Charles replied to Mr. Gladstone:
'My Dear Sir,
'Harcourt, Chamberlain, and Lefevre, have all lectured me, and the
former tells me that you have accepted a proposal to stand again for
Midlothian. This is so great a thing that smaller ones must not be
allowed to make even small discords, so please put my letter of
Saturday in the fire, and forgive me for having put you to the
trouble of reading and replying to it. I fancy that overwork and
long-continued loss of all holidays except Sundays have told upon
me, and that I must be inclined to take too serious a view of
'Charles W. Dilke.'
'On June 30th Chamberlain wrote: "Ireland. I heard some days ago
from the Duchess of St. Albans, and replied that we would certainly
call if anywhere in her neighbourhood" (near Clonmel). "Next time I
see you we may make some progress with our plans. I have a most
satisfactory letter from Davitt--voluntary on his part, and assuring
us that _United Ireland_ [Footnote: _United Ireland_, then edited by
Mr. William O'Brien and Mr. T. M. Healy, discouraged the visit.]
does not represent the views of the Nationalist party. See also an
article in the _Nation_, and Davitt's own speech at Hyde Park.
[Footnote: Davitt's leanings were always much stronger towards
English Radicalism than those of most among his colleagues. But the
decisive attitude was that of Mr. Parnell, whose power was then
paramount, not only in Cork, but throughout all Ireland. He
discussed the project with one of his colleagues, Mr. John O'Connor,
to whom he expressed the view that Mr. Chamberlain was aspiring to
replace Mr. Gladstone in the leadership, and that he would do
nothing which could assist him in this purpose, because he thought
that he "could squeeze more out of Gladstone than he could out of
Chamberlain."] I shall reply rather effusively. I cannot altogether
acquit Parnell of duplicity. I think he fears our visit, and that we
may cut him out. I am sure that neither he nor anyone else will
succeed in boycotting us. Parnell does not admit this feeling, but I
am losing confidence in his honesty. We can go to Ashley's and
decline Cork."' [Footnote: Mr. Evelyn Ashley, who had been Under-
Secretary of the Colonies in the Gladstone Government, had a house
and property at Classiebawn in Sligo, which had once belonged to
'I hear very encouraging accounts of the feeling in the country. I
am assured that we (the Radicals) never held so strong a position--
that the counties will be swept for the Liberals, and that the whole
atmosphere of the House of Commons will be changed after November. I
firmly believe that this is true. A little patience, and we shall
secure all we have fought for.'
'On June 30th I wrote fully to Mrs. Pattison, who was ill of typhoid
in the Madras hills, but without my yet knowing it. "I've been
thinking over grave words I would say to you about politics." I went
on to say that politics were not to me amusement. "I could not have
heart to live such a life at all if the religion of life did not
surround my politics. I chat the chatter about persons and ambitions
that others chat, and, in my perpetual brain fatigue, shirk the
trouble of trying to put into words thoughts which I fancy you must
exactly share. How can you share them if you are never shown they're
there? Dear Lady, please to try and feel, however unable I am to
express it, that my life is now one, and that there are not things
to pick among, and things to be cast aside, but duties only, which
are pleasures in the doing of them well, and which you must help me
do. It is in old age that power comes. An old man in English
politics may exert enormous power without effort, and with no drain
at all upon his health and vital force. The work of thirty or forty
years of political life goes in England to the building-up of
political reputation and position. During that long period no power
is exercised except by irregular means, such as the use of threats
of resignation. It is in old age only that power comes that can be
used legitimately and peacefully by the once-strong man. I'm still
young enough, and have of illusions yearly crops sufficient to
believe that it can be used for good, and that it is a plain duty so
to use it, and I would not remain in political life did I not think
OUT OF OFFICE
After Lord Salisbury had formed, in June, 1885, what was called the
'stop-gap Government,' charged with carrying on business till the
General Election fixed for the following winter, the heads of the
Liberal party began to mature their plans. It soon became evident that
the cardinal fact to be decided was whether Mr. Gladstone should
continue to lead. This, again, was found to depend upon the policy
adopted in relation to Ireland.
The Irish Question was at the moment in an extraordinary position. Lord
Salisbury had appointed Lord Carnarvon, a known sympathizer with Home
Rule, as Viceroy. Further, the Tory leaders in the House of Commons were
refusing to take any responsibility for the actions of Lord Spencer,
which were challenged especially in regard to the verdict upon one of
the men sentenced for the Maamtrasna murders. This put Sir Charles and
Mr. Chamberlain, who had always disapproved the policy of coercion, in a
very difficult position, the more difficult because Mr. Trevelyan, a
member of their inner Radical group, was jointly concerned with Lord
Spencer to defend these actions.
'On July 4th I received from Maynooth a letter of thanks from Dr.
Walsh for my congratulations on his appointment to the Archbishopric
of Dublin, and he expressed the hope that we should meet in Dublin
when I came over with Chamberlain. On the same day, Saturday, July
4th, there took place at noon at my office a meeting of Chamberlain,
Trevelyan, Lefevre, John Morley, and myself, in which we discussed
the proposed mission of Wolff to Egypt, resolving that we would
oppose it unless the Conservative Government should drop it. We were
wrong, for it afterwards turned out that they meant evacuation. Next
the proposed movement on Dongola, which we did not believe to be
seriously intended; then the proposal to increase the wine duty,
which I was able to announce (on Foreign Office information) that I
knew that Lord Salisbury would drop; then the succession duties,
with regard to which we decided to support a motion to be brought
forward by Dillwyn; then police enfranchisement, we deciding that I
was to move an instruction on going into Committee to extend the
Bill, so as to shorten the period of residence for all electors.'
'Before we separated we discussed the inquiry proposed by the Irish
members into the Maamtrasna business. Trevelyan thought that he was
obliged in honour to speak against inquiry, but we decided that he
must not press for a division in resistance to the Irish demand.'
'On Monday, July 6th, I presided over my Royal Commission in the
morning, and in the evening dined at Grillion's Club. In the
afternoon Mr. Gladstone sent for me, and told me that whether he
would lead that party or would not, at the dissolution, or in the
new Parliament, would depend on whether the main plank in the
programme was what I called Home Rule or what Chamberlain called the
National Council scheme, or only the ordinary scheme of Local
Government for all parts of the United Kingdom. If the latter alone
was to be contemplated, he said that others would suffice for the
task. Parnell's acquiescence in the Home Rule scheme he thought
essential. If Parnell, having got more from the Tories, was going to
oppose, he, Mr. Gladstone, could not go on: and he evidently thought
that I should have the means of discovering what would be Parnell's
attitude. Parnell had, of course, been for what I believe was really
his own scheme, suggested to Chamberlain by O'Shea. But he was now
in league with R. Churchill and Lord Carnarvon. I advised Mr.
Gladstone to deal directly with Parnell, but he said that he would
not, and I noted in my diary that he and Parnell were equally
tortuous in their methods. Mr. Gladstone, failing me, as he said,
would deal with Grosvenor and Mrs. O'Shea. But it was clear to me
that he had already tried this channel.'
'On the next day I received interesting letters from Dr. Walsh and
Sir Frederick Roberts. The latter completely destroyed the foolish
War Office plan of preparing for a campaign in the Black Sea, and
once more laid down the principle that England must go to war with
Russia rather than permit her to occupy any portion of Afghanistan
in face of our interest and of our pledge to the contrary.
'Dr. Walsh wrote that in going to Rome he was by no means determined
to accept the archbishopric. "I am not Archbishop; acceptance is an
essential point, and I have a view of certain matters to set before
His Holiness before that stage is reached. I have sent on to Rome a
written statement of my views, that the matter may be considered
before I arrive there. I am thoroughly convinced that there is
another position in which I could be far more useful both for Church
and country. The Archbishopric of Dublin, now that it can be dealt
with as a purely ecclesiastical matter, can be very easily provided
'I suppose that Dr. Walsh wished to be Papal Legate. He went on to
'"As to the Bishops you should see, I would say, in the South, as
you begin there, Cashel and Limerick (Cloyne, unfortunately, is very
deaf; otherwise I should like you to meet him). In the West,
_Galway_, Elphin, Achonry. In the North, Raphoe (of whom Mr.
Childers can tell you something), Clogher, Ardagh, Meath, and Down
and Connor. In this province of Dublin our Bishops are either very
old or very young in the episcopacy: they could not give you much
information. All I have mentioned are generally on the popular side.
Of those on the less popular or nonpopular side, we have Cork,
Kerry, and _Coadjutor of Clonfert_. Clonfert himself is on the most
advanced National lines. But his views are rather general. It might
be well to see him. He is a great admirer of Davitt's.
'"I remain, my dear Sir Charles,
'"William J. Walsh."
'I sent this letter to Chamberlain, who replied that it was very
'On Saturday, July 11th, we had another meeting of our "party," I
again being in the chair, Chamberlain, Lefevre, and John Morley,
being present, and Trevelyan absent. We decided that Chamberlain,
Lefevre, and Dilke should see Mr. Gladstone as to the Maamtrasna
inquiry, in which we were strongly opposed to Spencer. With regard
to the organization of the Liberal party, which meant the adoption
of Schnadhorst by the party, Chamberlain, Lefevre, and Dilke, were
also to see Mr. Gladstone.
'On Saturday evening I went down to Dockett, where I stayed till
Monday, Cyril Flower spending with me the day of Sunday, July 12th.
On Monday, July 13th, I again presided at my Royal Commission, and
again dined at Grillion's.
'On the same day Chamberlain, Lefevre, and I, saw Mr. Gladstone.
After talking over Maamtrasna, I repeated a statement which O'Shea
had made to me, namely, that Fottrell [Footnote: Sir Charles, during
his visit to Dublin, had been much impressed by Mr. Fottrell, who
had acted as intermediary between the Castle and the Nationalists
(see p. 140). He wrote to Mrs. Pattison that Mr. Fottrell and Sir
Robert Hamilton were the only two men who counted in that city.] had
had a two-hours interview with Randolph Churchill on Home Rule. I
also informed Mr. Gladstone that O'Shea had shown me a letter from
Alfred Austin,' (afterwards Poet Laureate) 'a hot Tory leader-writer
on the _Standard_, asking to be introduced to Parnell for the
benefit of the country. Lefevre having gone away, Chamberlain and I
talked with Mr. Gladstone as to organization. It was decided that we
should have an interview with him on the subject (Grosvenor to be
present) the next day.
'I was going out a good deal this week, and on the Wednesday was at
parties at Lady Salisbury's, at the Austrian Embassy, and at the
Duchess of Westminster's, and at one of them met Harcourt and
arranged for a meeting on Thursday, July 16th, at my Commission
office in Parliament Street, with Chamberlain and Harcourt, to
discuss Schnadhorst; Harcourt favouring our view that he should be
adopted by the party, which was done, and the National Liberal
Federation installed at Parliament Street. But the Whips "captured"
it! On Friday, July 17th, Chamberlain and his son dined with me to
meet Harcourt and Gray of the Irish party and _Freeman's Journal_.
'On Saturday, July 18th, we had our usual cabal, Trevelyan being
again absent, and the same four present as on the previous Saturday.
We discussed the proposed Royal Commission on the depression of
trade; land purchase, Ireland; party organization; and the land
'On July 22nd I heard from Mr. Gladstone:
'"1, Richmond Terrace,
'"_July 21st,_ 1885.
'"My Dear Dilke,
'"I cannot forbear writing to express the hope that you and
Chamberlain may be able to say or do something to remove the
appearance now presented to the world of a disposition on your parts
to sever yourselves from the executive, and especially from the
judicial administration of Ireland as it was carried on by Spencer
under the late Government. You may question my title to attempt
interference with your free action by the expression of such a hope,
and I am not careful to assure you in this matter or certain that I
can make good such a title in argument. But we have been for five
years in the same boat, on most troubled waters, without having
during the worst three years of the five a single man of the company
thrown overboard. I have _never_ in my life known the bonds of union
so strained by the pure stress of circumstances; a good intent on
all sides has enabled them to hold. Is there any reason why at this
moment they should part? A rupture may come on questions of future
policy; I am not sure that it will. But if it is to arrive, let it
come in the course of nature as events develop themselves. At the
present moment there appears to be set up an idea of difference
about matters which lie in the past, and for which we are all
plenarily responsible. The position is settled in all its elements,
and cannot be altered. The frightful discredit with which the new
Government has covered itself by its treatment of Spencer has drawn
attention away from the signs of at least passive discord among us,
signs which might otherwise have drawn upon us pretty sharp
criticism. It appears to me that hesitation on the part of any of us
as to our own responsibility for Spencer's acts can only be
mischievous to the party and the late Cabinet, but will and must be
far more mischievous to any who may betray such disinclination. Even
with the Irish party it can, I imagine, do nothing to atone for past
offences, inasmuch as it is but a negative proceeding; while from
Randolph, Hicks Beach, and Gorst, positive support is to be had in
what I cannot but consider a foolish as well as guilty crusade
against the administration of criminal justice in Ireland; which may
possibly be defective, but, with all its defects, whatever they may
be, is, I apprehend, the only defence of the life and property of
the poor. It will be the legislation of the future, and not this
most unjust attack upon Spencer, which will have to determine
hereafter your relations with Ireland, and the 'National' party. I
may be wrong, but it seems to me easy, and in some ways
advantageous, to say: 'My mind is open to consider at large any
proposals acceptable to Ireland for the development and security of
her liberties, but I will not sap the foundations of order and of
public right by unsettling rules, common to all parties, under which
criminal justice has been continuously administered, and dragging
for the first time the prerogative of mercy within the vortex of
party conflict.' I dare say I may have said too much in the way of
argument on a matter which seems to me hardly to call for argument,
but a naked suggestion would have appeared even less considerate
than the letter which I have written, prompted by strong feeling and
'"W. E. Gladstone."
'I sent the letter to Chamberlain, asking whether he thought he
could say at Hackney, where he was about to speak, anything
flattering to Spencer, and he replied: "I am not certain that I
shall say anything about Spencer; at most it would be only a
With these words ends the story of Sir Charles Dilke's official
relations with his party.
* * * * *
Looking back on that story, Sir George Trevelyan writes: 'I never knew a
man of his age--hardly ever a man of any age--more powerful and admired
than was Dilke during his management of the Redistribution Bill in
1885.' This influence had been built up by the long years of sustained
work, of which the story has been told in his own words.
He combined two unusual characteristics: he was one of the Radical
leaders at home, and he also carried extraordinary authority on the
subject of foreign affairs both here and on the Continent.
The depth of his convictions as a Radical is attested by a note to Mr.
Frank Hill, [Footnote: Undated, but evidently written about this time.]
editor of the _Daily News_: 'As a _man_ I feel going out on this
occasion very much indeed, but Chamberlain and I are trustees for
others, and from the point of view of English Radicalism I have no
doubt.' Yet Radicalism never fettered his capacity for working with all
men for the great questions which are beyond party, and uniting their
efforts on big issues of foreign policy.
It was this gift which frequently made him more the spokesman of the
House of Commons than of party in Government counsels. The approval of
the House of Commons was, in his opinion, essential to the development
of foreign policy, and his views as to the undesirability of unnecessary
concealment were strong. While recognizing that everything could not be
disclosed, he thought that the House of Commons should be in the
Government's confidence as far as possible in diplomatic relations, and
he looked on the tendency to surround all official proceedings with
secrecy as more worthy of a bureaucrat than a statesman. Bismarck, Dilke
said in 1876, was the diplomatist of foreign Europe who was never
believed because he told the truth. He had no sympathy with the
isolation of Great Britain, which had been a feature of our policy
during his early career. But when Lord Beaconsfield would have plunged
into a war with Russia in 1878, without an ally or a friend, he opposed
that policy as suicidal. Of that policy he said at that time: 'English
Radicals of the present day do not bound their sympathies by the Channel
... a Europe without England is as incomplete, and as badly balanced,
and as heavily weighted against freedom, as that which I, two years ago,
denounced to you--a Europe without France. The time may come when
England will have to fight for her existence, but for Heaven's sake let
us not commit the folly of plunging into war at a moment when all Europe
would be hostile to our armies--not one Power allied to the English
cause.' [Footnote: Vol. I., Chapter XVI., p. 239.] The keynote of his
policy was friendship with France. His experience in the Franco-German
War had for ever changed the friendly impression which led him first to
follow the German forces into the field.
Germany at war and Germany in a conquered country taught him in 1870-71
a lesson never to be forgotten, and affected his whole attitude to that
Great Power. It has been seen how in the eighties he opposed, to the
point of contemplated resignation of office, the Governmental tendency
to accept German aggression--'to lie down' under it, as he said; and he
fought for the retention of the New Guinea Coast and Zanzibar in
1884-85, as later he fought against Lord Salisbury as to the surrender
of Heligoland. [Footnote: _Present Position of European Politics_, p.
It was this courage as well as consistency of policy that bound Gambetta
to him, and made Bismarck wish that he should be sent to Berlin at a
critical moment in 1885 'to have a talk.' [Footnote: _Life of Lord
Granville_, vol. ii., p. 439.] Strong men recognize one another.
JULY, 1885, TO JULY, 1886
[Greek: ou thruon, ou malachaen avemos pote, tus de megistas ae druas ae
platanous oide chamai katagein.]
[Footnote: It is not the rush or mallow that the wind can lay low, but
the largest oaks and plane-trees.]
Lucian in "Anthologia."
When Mr. Gladstone's Ministry left office in the summer of 1885, there
seemed to be in all England no man for whom the future held out more
assured and brilliant promise than Sir Charles Dilke. He was still
young, not having completed his forty-second year; in the Cabinet only
Lord Rosebery was his junior; he had seventeen years of unremitting
Parliamentary service to his credit, and in the House of Commons his
prestige was extraordinary. His own judgment and that of all skilled
observers regarded his party's abandonment of office as temporary: the
General Election would inevitably bring them back with a new lease of
power, and with an Administration reorganized in such fashion that the
Radicals would no longer find themselves overbalanced in the shaping of
policy. The Dilke-Chamberlain alliance, which had during the past five
years been increasingly influential, would in the next Parliament become
openly authoritative; and, as matters looked at the moment, it was Sir
Charles, and not Mr. Chamberlain, who seemed likely to take the foremost
Chamberlain's dazzling popular success had been of the kind to which a
certain unpopularity attaches. Moderate men of both parties were prone
to impute it to demagogism, and Dilke was in the fortunate position of
seeing those Radical principles for which he stood advocated by his ally
with a force of combined invective and argument which has had few
parallels in political history, while to him fell the task, suited to
his temperament, of reasoned discussion. Those who denounced
Chamberlain's vehemence could hardly fail to point a comparison with
Dilke's unfailing courtesy, his steady adherence to argument, his
avoidance of the appeal to passion. Some strong natures have the quality
of making enemies, some the gift for making friends, outside their own
immediate circle, and Sir Charles Dilke possessed the more genial
This capacity for engendering good-will in those whom he encountered
certainly did not spring from any undue respect of persons. Members of
the Royal Family, whose privileges he had assailed, were constant in
their friendliness; high Tories such as Lord Salisbury, whose principles
he combated on every platform, liked him, and were not slow to show it.
On the other hand, the friendship which Sir Charles inspired did not
proceed, as is sometimes the case, from a mere casual bounty of nature.
In Parliament his colleagues liked him, but this, assuredly, was not
without cause. No member of the Ministry had given so much service
outside his own department. Lord Granville wrote at this time: 'I have
not seen you alone since the smash, or I should have told you how much I
feel the support you have given me both when we were together at the
F.O. and quite as much since. I shall not soon forget it.' Sir William
Harcourt at the Home Office, Sir Henry James in the conduct of the
Corrupt Practices Bill, had been beholden to him for no ordinary
assistance. Moreover, as he was good to work with, so he was good to
work under. Those who served him at the Local Government Board remember
him as in no way prompt to praise; but if a suggestion was made to him,
he never failed to identify it with the suggester, recognizing its
source in adopting it. If he made a mistake and was set right, he
admitted his error--a trait very rare in Ministers, who feel that they
have constantly as amateurs to direct the decision of experts, and are
therefore chary of such admissions. Sir Charles always gave his men
their due, and he took care that they should not be treated as machines.
When colleagues called on him at his office, and found him with one of
his staff, he never allowed the subordinate to be ignored in greetings.
The Minister in a hurry would be stopped with, 'I think you know
So-and-so.' These are small matters to set down, but by such small
things men indicate their nature; and one of the oldest servants in that
office summed up the matter in a sentence which is not the less
interesting because it brings in another name. 'When Sir Charles Dilke
was at the Local Government Board,' he said, 'the feeling towards the
President, from the heads of departments down to the messengers in the
hall, was the same as it was in the time of Mr. Walter Long, and I can
say no more than that.'
Nobody, perhaps, has a better right to be counted fortunate than a man
who can feel that he is strong, that he is liked, and that he is
successfully promoting principles of government for his fellow-
countrymen in which he sincerely believes. In July, 1885, Sir Charles
Dilke had all these grounds for satisfaction, and in no common measure.
Of course there were anxieties, politically speaking; Mr. Gladstone's
future course of action was uncertain, and Mr. Gladstone was so great a
force that he might at any time derange all calculations--as, in point
of fact, he did. Still, time was on the side of the Radicals, and from
day to day they held what they called 'cabals' of the group formed by
Chamberlain, Shaw-Lefevre, Trevelyan, Morley, and Dilke himself. At
these meetings Sir Charles regularly presided.
The work of the Commission on Housing was in its last stages; its
chairman was able to announce on July 1st, when laying the foundation-
stone of some artisans' dwellings in Hoxton, that the Commission's Bill
would be introduced in the Lords by Lord Salisbury, and that he himself
would have charge of it in the Commons. For a man who had so laboured
during the past five years such duties as these were child's play, and
Sir Charles was able for the first time for many months to take his
share in social enjoyments. He dined repeatedly at Grillion's; he went
to parties at famous houses both of his political allies and political
opponents; above all, he found time for restful days upon his beloved
river. He went to Henley in that July with his old rowing comrade
Steavenson 'to see Bristowe's fine Trinity Hall eight'; he spent Sunday,
July 12th, at Dockett in company with Mr. Cyril Flower; and for the next
Sunday, the 19th, he was engaged to be at Taplow Court with Mr. W. H.
Grenfell, famous among oarsmen. But of that day more has to be written.
Throughout the month one dark cloud had hung over him: Mrs. Pattison was
grievously ill in the Madras hills, and not until the fourth week in
July did he know even the nature of her illness. It was typhoid, and it
left her weak to face what had to come, like a 'bolt from the blue,'
upon her and her future husband. Her first marriage had brought her
discipline rather than happiness; now in the middle years of life her
vivid nature was blossoming out again in the promise of union with a man
before whom there lay open an illustrious career. Illness struck her
down, and while she lay convalescent there came to her as black a
message as ever tried the heart of any woman.
* * * * *
On the evening of Saturday, July 18th, Sir Charles Dilke was entertained
at a dinner given by the Reform Club--a very rare distinction--to
celebrate the passing of the Redistribution Bill into law. From this
ceremony, which crowned and recognized his greatest personal
achievement, he returned late, and found at his house a letter from an
old family friend who asked him to call on the following Sunday morning
on grave business. He then learnt that the wife of a Liberal member of
Parliament had volunteered a 'confession' to her husband, in which she
stated that she had been unfaithful to him with Sir Charles immediately
after her marriage.
His note in his private diary on Sunday is: '19th.--Early heard of the
charge against me. Put myself in hands of J. B. Balfour, and afterwards
of Chamberlain and James.'
Later Sir Charles Dilke went down to Taplow, and spent the day there.
This accusation found him separated from his future wife by many
thousand miles; worse than that, she had been dangerously ill; the risk
to her of a telegraphed message must be great; yet there was the chance
from day to day that newspaper rumour might anticipate direct tidings
from him to her. He was 'in as great misery as perhaps ever fell upon a
He returned next morning to preside at the last meeting of the
Commission on Housing, when, he says, 'the Prince of Wales proposed a
vote of thanks to me in an extremely cordial speech.' From that attitude
of friendliness the future King Edward never departed.
'I had a dinner-party in the evening, which was one of several in
preparation for our Ward meetings in Chelsea, which I had to
continue to hold in spite of my private miseries.
'I was engaged on the one night for which none of these dinners had
been fixed to dine with Lord and Lady Salisbury, and to attend the
Princess of Wales's Ball at Marlborough House, and I wrote to put
off my engagements, for which I was much blamed; but I think that I
For three or four days Sir Henry James, Mr. Chamberlain, and Mr. J. B.
Balfour, the Lord Advocate of Mr. Gladstone's Ministry, moved to secure
a court of inquiry which would act without prejudice to the right of
legal action. But within the week it was certain that public proceedings
would be taken.
The blow had come suddenly; it came with dramatic incidence at the
moment when Sir Charles's prestige was most effectively recognized; and
from the moment that it fell he knew that the whole tenor of his life
was altered. On Thursday, July 23rd, four days afterwards, he wrote in
his Diary of the time this judgment:
'Left for the last time the House of Commons, where I have attained
some distinction. It is curious that only a week ago Chamberlain and
I had agreed, at his wish and suggestion, that I should be the
future leader, as being more popular in the House, though less in
the country, than he was, and that only three days ago Mr. Gladstone
had expressed the same wish. Such a charge, even if disproved, which
is not easy against perjured evidence picked up with care, is fatal
to supreme usefulness in politics. In the case of a public man a
charge is always believed by many, even though disproved, and I
should be weighted by it through life. I prefer, therefore, at once
to contemplate leaving public life.'
Upon the first sentence of this he added in a marginal note, written
after his marriage with Mrs. Mark Pattison, and after he had, in spite
of that first decision, returned to the House of Commons: 'Chamberlain
overpersuaded Emilia, and, through her, me, but he was wrong.'
Of honourable ambition Sir Charles Dilke had as much as any man. Yet in
the innermost record of these days--in those letters which, not yet
daring to despatch them, he wrote to his future wife--there is not a
hint of his personal loss, not a word of the career that he saw broken.
These things had no place in the rush of feeling which overwhelmed him,
and left him for the moment unable to trust his own judgment or assert
his own will.
Through the months of Mrs. Pattison's absence in India one note had been
constant in his letters--the reiterated anticipation of what he hoped to
bring her. Up to the middle of July his letters, apart from the news of
his daily life, are filled with joyful forecast, not of his own
happiness, but of his and hers together--of his happiness in seeing her
happy. When the stroke fell, the note, even though it changed, was the
same in essence: 'I feel this may kill you--and it will kill me either
if it kills you or if you don't believe me.'
That was written down within an hour after he had the news. Never
afterwards did he consider the possibility of her failing him.
The next day he wrote:
'Taplow Court, Taplow,
'The only thing I can do in future is to devote myself entirely to
_you_ and helping in your work. To that the remainder of my life
must be dedicated. I fancy you will have the courage to believe me
whatever is by madness and malevolence brought against me....'
He wrote again:
'The less you turn from me, and the more you are true--and of course
you will be all true ... --the more misery and not the less is it to
me to bring these horrors on you. This thing is not true, but none
the less do I bring these horrors on you.'
So desperate was the tumult in Sir Charles Dilke's mind that Mr.
Chamberlain strove to tranquillize him by a change of scene. Some spot,
such as is to be found in Sir Charles's own holiday land of Provence, at
first occurred to his friend, though this would have meant the
cancelling of all Mr. Chamberlain's public engagements at that most
critical moment in politics. But Sir Charles instead went down to
Highbury, where he passed his days much in the open air, playing lawn
tennis and riding with his host's son, Mr Austen Chamberlain.
Here he rapidly came back to something of his normal self. As news had
been telegraphed of Mrs. Pattison's gradual recovery, it was decided to
inform her of what had happened. Mr. Chamberlain undertook the delicate
task of wording the communications. She telegraphed back at once that
full assurance of her trust and of her loyalty on which Sir Charles had
counted. But it was characteristic of her not to stop there. A telegram
from Mrs. Pattison to the _Times_ announcing her engagement to Sir
Charles Dilke immediately followed on public intimation of the
proceedings for divorce. Lord Granville wrote to Sir Charles: 'I wish
you joy most sincerely. The announcement says much for the woman whom
you have chosen.'
Yet days were to come when the storm was so fierce about Sir Charles
Dilke and 'the woman whom he had chosen' that few cared to face it in
support of the accused man and the wife who had claimed her share in his
When those days came, they found no broken spirit to meet them. Through
his affections, and only through his affections, this man could be
driven out of his strongholds of will and judgment; when that inner life
was assured, he faced the rest with equanimity. He writes:
'_August 28th._--I continue to be much better in health and spirit.
I was five and a half weeks more or less knocked over; I am strong
and well, and really happy in you and for you, and confident and all
that you could wish me to be these last few days.'
Mrs. Pattison, before she left Ceylon on her way to England, sent him a
telegram, the reply to which was written to meet her at Port Said:
'Nothing ever made me so happy.... Though it has been a frightful blow,
I am well now; and the blow was only a blow to me because of you.'
At first sympathy and support were proffered in ample measure. On being
formally notified of proceedings in the divorce case, he wrote at once a
letter to the Liberal Association of Chelsea, in which he declared that
the charge against him was untrue and that he looked forward with
confidence to the result of a judicial inquiry; but at the same time he
offered to withdraw his candidature for the seat at the forthcoming
election, if the Council thought him in the circumstances an undesirable
candidate. To this offer the Council replied by reiterating their
confidence in him. About the same time, yielding to Chamberlain's
advice, he returned to the House of Commons while the Housing Bill was
in Committee, and took part in the proceedings as usual.
The Prince of Wales, to whom he communicated news of his engagement
before the public announcement, wrote warm congratulations and wishes
for dispersal of the overhanging trouble. Mr. Gladstone, who had
frequent occasion to write to him on public business, in one of these
political letters added congratulations on the engagement, though he had
made no allusion to the Divorce Court proceedings. But Mr. Gladstone's
chief private secretary, Sir Edward Hamilton, had written at the first
publication of them this assurance:
'You may depend upon it that your friends (among whom I hope I may
be counted) are feeling for you and will stand by you; and, if I am
not mistaken, I believe your constituents will equally befriend you;
indeed, I am convinced that the masses are much more fair and just
than the upper classes. Anything that interfered with your political
career would not only be a political calamity, but a national one;
and I do not for a moment think that any such interference need be
This letter represented the attitude that was generally observed towards
Sir Charles Dilke by political associates till after the first trial.
Mr. Chamberlain's support was unwavering, though there were some who
anticipated that the misfortunes of the one man might disastrously
affect the political career of the other.
It is true that by the amazing irony of fate which interpenetrated this
whole situation the Tories gained in Mr. Chamberlain their most powerful
ally, and that Sir Charles had to encounter all the accumulated
prejudice which the 'unauthorized programme' had gathered in Tory
bosoms. But none of these things could be foreseen when Chamberlain,
then in the full flood of his Radical propaganda, invited Sir Charles to
make his temporary home at Highbury. Here, accordingly, he stayed on
through August and the early part of September, breaking his stay only
by two short absences. There still lived on at Chichester old Mr.
Dilke's brother, a survivor of the close-knit family group, preserving
the same intense affectionate interest in Charles Dilke's career. To him
this blow was mortal. Sir Charles paid him in the close of August his
yearly visit: ten days later he was recalled to attend the old man's
funeral in the Cathedral cloisters.
In the middle of September he crossed to France, and waited at Saint
Germain for Mrs. Pattison, who reached Paris in the last days of the
month. On October 1st Sir Charles crossed to London; she followed the
next day, and on the 3rd they were married at Chelsea Parish Church. Mr.
Chamberlain acted as best man.
Return to England meant a return to work. The General Election was fixed
for November; and from August onwards Dilke had been drawn back by
correspondents and by consultations with Chamberlain into the stream of
politics, which then ran broken and turbulent with eddies and cross-
currents innumerable. Chamberlain, sustaining alone the advanced
campaign, wrote even before the marriage to solicit help at the earliest
moment; and from October onwards the two Radicals were as closely
associated as ever--but with a difference. Circumstances had begun the
work of Sir Charles's effacement.
When the election came, his success was personal; London went against
the Liberals, his old colleague Mr. Firth failed, so did Mr. George
Russell in another part of the borough, which was now split into several
constituencies; but Chelsea itself stood to its own man. The elections
were over on December 19th. Before that date it was apparent that the
Irish party held the balance of power, and Mr. Gladstone had already
indicated his acceptance of Home Rule. [Footnote: Chapter XLV., p. 196.]
Parliament met early, and by January 28th, 1886, the Tory Government had
resigned. Mr. Gladstone, in framing his new Administration, thought it
impossible to include a man suffering under a charge yet untried, and
'_February 2nd_, 1886
'My Dear Dilke,
'I write you, on this first day of my going regularly to my arduous
work, to express my profound regret that any circumstances of the
moment should deprive me of the opportunity and the hope of
enlisting on behalf of a new Government the great capacity which you
have proved in a variety of spheres and forms for rendering good and
great service to Crown and country.
'You will understand how absolutely recognition on my part of an
external barrier is separate from any want of inward confidence, the
last idea I should wish to convey.
'Nor can I close without fervently expressing to you my desire that
there may be reserved you a long and honourable career of public
'Believe me always,
'W. E. Gladstone.'
Less than a fortnight later the divorce case was heard: the charge
against Sir Charles was dismissed with costs, the Judge saying expressly
that there was no case for him to answer.
The Prime Minister's attitude made it inevitable that while the case was
untried Sir Charles should be excluded from the new Ministry; but not
less inevitably his position before the world was prejudiced by that
exclusion. Had Parliament met, as it usually meets, in February; had the
whole thing so happened that the judgment had been given before the
Ministry came to be formed, exclusion would have been all but
impossible. We may take it that Mr. Chamberlain would have insisted on
Sir Charles's inclusion as a condition of his own adherence; it would
have been to the interest of every Gladstonian and of every follower of
Chamberlain to maintain the judgment. As it was, the effect of Sir
Charles's exclusion had been to prepare the way for a vehement campaign
directed against him by a section of the Press.
By the law a wife's confession of misconduct is evidence against
herself, entitling the husband to a divorce; but if unsupported by other
witnesses it is no evidence against the co-respondent. But a question
arose which afterwards became of capital importance. Should Sir Charles
go into the witness-box, deny on oath the unsworn charges made against
him, and submit himself to cross-examination? His counsel decided that
there was no evidence to answer; they did not put their client into the
box, and the course was held by the Judge to be the correct one.
In reply to the Attorney-General's representation that there was no case
whatever which Sir Charles Dilke was called to answer, Mr. Justice Butt
said that he could not see the shadow of a case. In his judgment he
said: 'A statement such as has been made by the respondent in this case
is not one of those things which in common fairness ought for one moment
to be weighed in the balance against a person in the position of Sir
Charles Dilke. Under these circumstances, I have no hesitation whatever
in saying that counsel have been well advised in suggesting the course
which they have induced Sir Charles Dilke to take, and the petition, as
against him, must be dismissed with costs.'
Dilke himself notes: 'On Friday, February 12th, the trial took place,
and lasted but a short time, Sir Henry James and Sir Charles Russell not
putting me into the box, and Sir Charles Butt almost inviting them to
take that course. Lord Granville had written to me: "Will you forgive my
intruding two words of advice? Put yourself unreservedly into the hands
of someone who, like our two law officers, unites sense with knowledge
of the law." I had done this, and had throughout acted entirely through
James, Russell, and Chamberlain. In court and during the remainder of
the day, Chamberlain, James, and Russell, were triumphant....'
For the moment it seemed as if misfortune had ended in triumph.
Congratulations poured in upon both Sir Charles and his wife; the
official leaders welcomed the judgment. Mr. Chamberlain sent an express
message to Downing Street: 'Case against Dilke dismissed with costs, but
the petitioner has got his divorce against his wife.' Mr. Gladstone
answered: 'My dear Chamberlain, I have received your prompt report with
the utmost pleasure.' Sir William Harcourt wrote direct:
'Dear Dilke,--So glad to hear of the result and of your relief from
your great trouble.--Yours ever, W. V. H.'
Lady Dilke's friends wrote to her, congratulating her on the reward that
her courage and her loyalty had reaped.
But in Sir Charles's Diary of that date, where notes of any personal
character are few indeed, this is written on the day after the case was
heard, in comment on the action of a certain section of the Press:
'Renewed attempt to drive me out of public life. But I won't go now.
In July I said to Emilia and to Chamberlain: "Here is the whole
truth--and I am an innocent man; but let me go out quietly, and some
day people will be sorry and I shall recover a different sort of
usefulness." They would not let me go. Now I won't go.'
A man other than innocent would have rested on the strong judgment in
his favour and let agitation die down, but the attacks continued and
Dilke would not wait their passing. Chamberlain was included in these
attacks, 'for having kept me out of the box,' and wrote in reply to Sir
Charles: 'I was only too glad to be able in any way to share your
burdens, and if I can act as a lightning conductor, so much the
better.... Of course, if _you_ were quite clear that you ought to go
into the box, it is still possible to do so, either by action for libel
or probably by intervention of the Queen's Proctor.'
'This was the first suggestion made to me of any possibility of a
rehearing of the case ... and though Hartington, James, and Russell,
were all under the impression that I should find no further difficulty,
it was the course which I ultimately took,' and which he pressed on with
characteristic tenacity. And here laymen may be permitted to marvel at
the fallibility of eminent lawyers. 'No one, of all these great
lawyers,' foresaw the position in which he would be placed as a result
of his application. Yet from the moment that this procedure was adopted
it was possible that he might be judged without those resources of
defence which are open to the meanest subject charged with an offence.
In March Sir Charles Dilke applied to the Queen's Proctor for his
intervention in order that the case might be reheard. The application
failed. In April he moved again, this time by a public letter, and this
time the Queen's Proctor yielded. Application was made in the Court of
Probate and Divorce to the President, Sir James Hannen, that Sir Charles
Dilke should be made a party to the intervention or reinstated in the
The President laid down that Sir Charles was no party to the suit, and
had now no right to appear except as a witness, and might not be
represented by counsel. The question was then taken to the Court of
Appeal, but, on strictly technical grounds, the Court held that Sir
Charles was no longer a party, and that he could not be allowed to
intervene. Thus the first judgment, by declaring him innocent and
awarding him costs as one unjustly accused, led straight to his undoing.
He had been struck out of the case; he was now a mere member of the
general public. There never were, probably, legal proceedings in which
from first to last law and justice were more widely asunder.
Sir Charles Dilke was, in fact, in the position from which Sir Henry
James had sought to protect him--the position described in the course of
his pleading for reinstatement:
'I have no desire to put forward any claim for my client other than
one founded on justice, but I cannot imagine a more cruel position
than that in which Sir Charles Dilke would be placed in having a
grave charge against him tried while the duty of defending his
interest was committed to hands other than those of his own
The consequences which flowed from the technical construction put upon
the situation were these: In reality Sir Charles Dilke was the defendant
on trial for his political life and his personal honour. Yet although
Sir Henry James and Sir Charles Russell were there in court ready
briefed, neither was allowed to speak. Dilke's case against his accuser
had to be dealt with by the counsel for the Queen's Proctor, Sir Walter
Phillimore, who, though a skilled ecclesiastical lawyer, was
comparatively inexperienced in the cross-examination of witnesses and in
Nisi Prius procedure, and was opposed by Mr. Henry Matthews, the most
skilled cross-examiner at the bar. Sir Walter Phillimore also stated
publicly, and properly, that it was not his 'duty to represent and
defend Sir Charles Dilke.' So strictly was this view acted upon that Sir
Charles did not once meet Sir Walter Phillimore in consultation; and
witnesses whom he believed to be essential to his case were never
called. But that was not all. According to the practice of that court,
all the information given by Dilke was at once communicated to the other
side; but as Sir Charles was not a party to the suit, the Queen's
Proctor did not communicate to him what he learned from that other side.
In an ordinary trial the witnesses of the accusers are heard first. And
this order is recognized as giving the greatest prospect of justice,
since if the defence is first disclosed the accuser may adjust details
in the charge so as, at the last moment, to deprive the defence of that
fair-play which the first order of hearing is designed to secure. The
only possible disproof which Sir Charles could offer was an alibi. It
was of vital importance to him that the accusation should be fixed to
dates, places, days, hours, even minutes, with the utmost possible
precision. Then he might, even after the lapse of years, establish the
falsity of a charge by proof that he was elsewhere at the time
specified. But in this case, owing to the form that the proceedings
took, the opportunity which of right belongs to the defence was given to
the accuser. The accusation being technically brought by the Queen's
Proctor, who alleged that the divorce had been obtained by false
evidence, Sir Charles Dilke was produced as his witness, and had at the
beginning of the proceedings to disclose his defence.
Further, and even more important, the issue put to the jury was limited
in the most prejudicial way.
'On the former occasion,' said Sir James Hannen, 'it was for the
petitioner to prove that his wife had committed adultery with Sir
Charles Dilke.' (This, as has been seen, the petitioner failed to
prove against Sir Charles Dilke; the petitioner had to pay Sir
Charles's costs.) 'On this occasion it is for the Queen's Proctor to
prove that the respondent did not commit adultery with Sir Charles
How this negative was to be proved in any circumstances it is difficult
to see, and under the conditions Sir Charles had no chance to attack the
accusation brought against him.
Sir Charles's own comment in his Diary of the time was:
'_July 16th_--My case tried again. I not a party, and--though really
tried by a kind of Star Chamber--not represented, not allowed to
cross-examine, not allowed to call witnesses; and under such
circumstances the trial could have but one result, which was that
the jury, directed to decide if they were in doubt that the Queen's
Proctor had not established his case, would take that negative
course. The trial lasted from Friday, 16th, to Friday, 23rd,
inclusive, and the jury decided, as they could not have helped
deciding, and as I should have decided had I been one of them.'
The situation may be thus summed up:
In the first trial the petitioner failed to produce any legal evidence
whatever of the guilt of Sir Charles Dilke; in the second the Queen's
Proctor failed to prove his innocence. [Footnote: Technically the
verdict, by dismissing the Queen's Proctor's intervention, confirmed the
original judgment, which dismissed Sir Charles from the case.]
The verdict of the jury at the second trial was not a verdict of Guilty
against Sir Charles; it was a declaration that his innocence was not
proven, the question put to the Jury by the clerk after their return
into Court following the words of the Act of Parliament, and being
whether the decree nisi for the dissolution of the marriage of the
petitioner and the respondent was obtained contrary to the justice of
the case by reason of material facts not being brought to the knowledge
of the Court. The Jury's answer followed the same words. [Footnote: See
report in _Daily News_, Saturday, July 24th, 1886.] When we add to that
the conditions under which the question was tried, we see that they were
such as to make the proof of innocence impossible.
Those about Sir Charles at this time remember how even at that bitter
moment he began to look round for any method by which his case might be
reheard. He wrote to Sir Henry James that it would be a proper course
for himself to invite a trial for perjury; and though Lady Dilke was so
ill 'from sick and sleepless nights' that she had been ordered at once
to Royat, he waited for three weeks before accompanying her abroad, to
give time for action to be taken, and wrote to Sir Richard Webster (then
Attorney-General) practically inviting a prosecution.
He did not abandon hope of a rehearing, and worked for many years in the
trust that the evidence accumulated by himself and his friends might be
so used, nor did he cease his efforts till counsel in consultation
finally assured him 'that no means were open to Sir Charles Dilke to
retry his case.'
Sir Eyre Crowe, a friend valued for his own as well as for his father's
sake (Sir Joseph Crowe, to whom Sir Charles was much attached), wrote at
the time of Sir Charles's death: 'How he bore for long years the sorrow
and misfortunes of his lot had something heroic about it. I only once
talked to him about these things, and was intensely struck by his Roman
attitude.' It was the only attitude possible to such a man. Placed by
his country's laws in the situation of one officially acquitted by a
decision which was interpreted into a charge of guilt; forced then, in
defence of his honour, into the position of a defendant who is debarred
from means of defence; assured after long effort that no legal means
were open to him to attempt again that defence, he solemnly declared his
innocence, and was thereafter silent.
'By-and-by it will be remembered that as a fact the issue was never
fairly represented and never fairly met,' was the estimate of Sir
Francis Jeune, afterwards President of the Divorce Court. And from the
first there were many lawyers and thinking men and women who would have
endorsed it. From the first also there were those who believed Sir
Charles's word. Among such faithful friends, Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice,
Sir Robert Collins, Mr. Cyril Flower, Mrs. Westlake and Mr. Westlake,
Q.C., Mr. Thursfield of the _Times_, Mr. Chamberlain, Sir Francis and
Lady Jeune, Sir Charles's old college friend Judge Steavenson, stand out
in memory. He himself says: 'I received after the trial ... a vast
number of letters from people who wrote to express their belief in me.
Some, as, for example, from Dr. Hatch' (the eminent Oxford theologian)
'and his wife, and from Dr. Percival, Head-master of Rugby, [Footnote:
Dr. Percival was President of Trinity College, Oxford, till 1887, when
he went to Rugby. He became Bishop of Hereford.] and his wife, were from
firm friends of Emilia, brought to me by their belief in her; some from
friends, some from political foes, of all sorts--all breathing
confidence and devotion.'
Mr. Chamberlain wrote: 'I feel bitterly my powerlessness to do or say
anything useful at the present time.' In such a case the testimony of
intimates is weighty, and Sir John Gorst sent in June, 1913, his
recollection of words used by Mr. Chamberlain in the autumn of 1886: 'I
assure you that, as a man of honour, I don't believe the charges made
against him. If you had been in and out of his house at all times as I
have been, you would see they were impossible.'
Then as now there existed a certain body of opinion which would have
discriminated between a man's private honour and his public usefulness,
holding that the nation which throws aside a great public servant
because of charges of personal immorality is confusing issues, and
sacrificing the country's welfare to private questions. Whatever is to
be said for this view, it was one to which Sir Charles Dilke wished to
owe nothing. He did not share it, and those whose adherence he
acknowledged were those who believed his word. From different sources,
then, Sir Charles had found confidence and support, but they were small
stay in that gradually accumulating torrent of misfortune.
As the Press campaign had developed in the spring, he found himself
avoided in Parliament and in society. In the House, where a few months
before he had again and again been the Government spokesman and
representative, he was retired into the ranks of private members. This
short Parliament of 1886 came to an end in June, and, in the General
Election which followed, London went solidly against Home Rule; and Sir
Charles, though as compared with other Gladstonian Liberals he did well,
found himself rejected by the constituency which had stood by him in
four contests. Such a reverse occurs in the life of almost every
prominent politician, and, though harassing, is of no determining
import. For Sir Charles Dilke at this moment it was a cruel blow. The
personal discredit against which he had to fight coincided with the
discredit of his party; and when the jury came to their decision in
July, after a week in which the newspapers had been filled daily with
columns of scandalous detail, public feeling assumed a character of
bitter personal hostility.
'Sir Charles's fall,' says the chronicler of that period, Mr. Justin
McCarthy, 'is like that of a tower. He stood high above every rising
English statesman, and but for what has happened he must have been Prime
Minister after Gladstone.' [Footnote: This article appeared in a
Canadian journal after the second trial.]
THE RADICAL PROGRAMME _VERSUS_ HOME RULE
JULY TO DECEMBER, 1885.
[Footnote: This chapter and the next cover the same dates as the
preceding chapter, which contains the record of other than political
events, while these deal with the political history of the time.]
The period between July, 1885, and July, 1886, determined the course of
English history for a generation. At the beginning of this period, Sir
Charles Dilke was one of the three men on the Liberal side who, after
Mr. Gladstone, counted most, and he commanded more general approval than
either Chamberlain or Hartington. But from the first rumour of his
personal misfortune his influence rapidly dwindled; when the period
closed, many of those who had been his political associates had left
him, and from Mr. Chamberlain, in political life, he was irretrievably
In July, 1885, the much-talked-of visit of the Radical leaders to
Ireland was abandoned, owing, it appears, to the change in Sir Charles's
personal fortunes. Meanwhile the first-fruits of the Tory alliance with
Parnellism had begun to appear, and on July 21st Mr. Gladstone had made,
as has been seen, [Footnote: See p.158] a powerful appeal to his Radical
colleagues for support of Lord Spencer--addressing it, after his
invariable custom, to Dilke. It was the last time that he did so, and he
wrote then without knowledge of the blow which had already fallen on Sir
In the end Mr. Gladstone's appeal was disregarded, and, when Lord
Spencer's policy was assailed in the House, the Press noted the
significant absence of Dilke and Chamberlain from the front bench. It
would have been more significant had not Sir Charles been then engrossed
with his personal concerns. Not until the last days of August was he
'sufficiently recovered from the blow to be able to take some interest
in politics'; and then it was merely to take an interest, not to take a
part. Yet already the crucial question for Liberal policy had begun to
On August 24th, Parnell, speaking in Ireland, declared that the one
plank in Ireland's platform was National independence. In reply, Lord
Hartington, speaking at Waterfoot in Lancashire, declared his confidence
that no British party would concede Parnell's demand. But Lord
Hartington did not confine his speech to this
'A speech by Hartington in Lancashire read to Chamberlain and myself
like a declaration of war against the unauthorized programme and its
author; and when Rosebery wrote to me to congratulate me on my
coming marriage, I replied in this sense. I had a good deal of
correspondence with James as to what should be the nature of
Chamberlain's reply at Warrington on Tuesday, September 8th, James
trying to patch up things: "The ransom theory [Footnote: Mr.
Chamberlain on January 29th, 1885, at Birmingham: "I hold that the
sanctity of public property is greater than even that of private
property, and that, if it has been lost or wasted or stolen, some
equivalent must be found for it, and some compensation may fairly be
exacted from the wrongdoer." See Chapter XXXVIII., p. 105.] startled
a good many people, and dissent from it was to be expected. But
surely such dissent does not cause a man to be unfit to be in the
Liberal ranks...." James also sent me a memorandum from which I
extracted the following sentence: "If it be once introduced as an
admitted principle that no man can take office without stipulating
for the success of every question to which he may have given a
support, and if every man in Government is to be bound to reject all
concessions to those with whom he has on any point ever differed,
the practical constitution of this country would be overthrown...."
On September 5th Chamberlain had received a letter from Harcourt
which I afterwards considered with him "I set store by your
declaration that you will try to be as moderate as you can. You have
no idea how moderate you can be till you try. I am not the least
despondent about the state of affairs. The Liberal party has a
Pentecostian gift of tongues, and the Parthians, Medes, Elamites,
and others, require to have the gospel preached to them in very
different languages.... I suppose that Bosebery reported to you his
phrase that 'he had expressed himself on the land question more
clumsily even than usual!' It is impossible to be angry with such
Lord Rosebery had written at the same time to Sir Charles that the real
trouble arose from 'clumsiness of arrangement,' and quoted Lord
Hartington's words as accepting this view.
'John Morley wrote also on September 4th to Chamberlain that Goschen
was rather wrathful that Hartington should be so slow and infrequent
in speaking while he, Chamberlain, was so active, but that he did
not believe Hartington meant war.'
None adverted to the difficulty, which was nevertheless the central one,
of reaching an agreement concerning an Irish policy. Mr. Morley was
right when he said that there was not going to be 'war' in the Liberal
party over questions of English reform. The question which was to split
the party was Ireland, and Chamberlain in his Warrington speech joined
Hartington in repudiating Parnell's demand. But Mr. Chamberlain saw what
Lord Hartington did not, that a Liberal party must have a positive
policy, and his conception of a Liberal policy during these months was
to force the pace on social questions and leave Ireland alone.
At these critical moments of August and September, 1885, Sir Charles was
a guest in Mr. Chamberlain's house, and was in consultation with him;
but it was a consultation to which one of the two brought a mind
preoccupied with his own most vital concerns. Scarcely a month had gone
by since the petition had been filed, in July, 1885; much less than a
month since he had been on the very edge of a complete breakdown. He had
been dragged back, almost against his will and against his judgment,
into political life by that imperious personality with which he had been
so long associated in equal comradeship. Under the old conditions Sir
Charles and Mr. Chamberlain would have inevitably influenced each
other's action, and it is at least possible that Sir Charles's gift for
bringing men together and concentrating on essentials might have altered
the whole course of events. But it is clear, from what followed later,
that under the conditions which existed there was no thorough discussion
between them, since the line which Sir Charles took on Ireland when the
dividing of the ways came was a surprise to his friend.
'On September 10th, 1885, there came a letter from Mr. Gladstone,
addressed to Chamberlain and myself. Chamberlain replied, after
consultation, in our joint names.'
They developed their views as to their programme of English as distinct
from Irish reforms.
'Mr. Gladstone wished to issue an address (to his constituents with
a view to the General Election), and had got Hartington to ask him
to do so, and he now wanted us also to ask him. We stipulated that
we must have (1) power to local authorities to take land for
housing, allotments, and so forth, and (2) free schools: otherwise,
while we could not object to his issuing his own address, we could
not offer to support or join a future Government.'
'On the 15th Chamberlain wrote to me to Paris that he gathered Mr.
G. intended to issue immediately, without waiting his reply.'
He would write, however, asking for further allusions to compulsory
powers for taking land, and asked Sir Charles to write direct about
On September 20th Mr. Chamberlain wrote again, enclosing a copy of his
letter to Mr. Gladstone, and stating his opinion that the manifesto was
bad, and that he regarded it, especially the part referring to free
schools and education, [Footnote: Mr. Gladstone was never at any time in
harmony with the views of the more advanced section of his own party on
education. See the account of the curious controversy between him and
Lord Russell during the last days of the latter's leadership of the
Liberal party (_Life of Granville_, vol. i., pp. 516, 517).] as a slap
in the face to himself and Sir Charles. He added that he had written
frankly to Mr. Gladstone, telling him that he was dissatisfied, and
expressed his opinion that Mr. Gladstone would give way, and that his
reign could not last long. Through the somewhat involved phraseology of
Mr. Gladstone's letter, it seemed possible to extract some hope in
regard to extra powers for local authorities, and a revision of taxation
in favour of the working classes. He concluded by saying that if his
party could get a majority, he would make their terms on joining the
Government, and regretting that Sir Charles was not still staying with
The letter to Mr. Gladstone spoke of the manifesto as a blow to the
Radical party, and went on to say that, in the event of the Liberal
party returning in full power to office, he would offer loyal support,
as far as possible, to any Government that might be formed, but that the
joining any Administration formed on the narrow basis of the programme
now presented would be impossible. It ended with the words: 'Dilke has
left me, but, from a letter I have received from him, I am justified in
saying that he shares my views.'
'I told Chamberlain that in my first speech (and I had two to make
shortly after my proposed marriage in October) I intended to attack
Reform of the House of Lords from the Single Chamber point of view.'
He replied urging Sir Charles to give this question prominence and
importance, and to do so in the name of the Radical Party, as expressing
their policy, for fear that even Radical candidates should be under some
misapprehension. He also authorized him to use his (Mr. Chamberlain's)
name, as concurring in the views expressed.
'On the 25th I received a letter from Chamberlain containing Mr.
'"My Dear Chamberlain,
'"Were I engaged (which Heaven forfend) in the formation of a new
Liberal Government, and were your letter of yesterday an answer to
some invitation to join it, then _I_ should have read the letter
with great regret; but I pointed out to you (as I think), in a
previous letter, that it would (as far as I could judge) be an
entire mistake to lay down a _credo_ of Liberal policy for a new
Government at the present juncture. You and Hartington were both
demurring in opposite senses, and I made to each the same reply. My
aim was for the election only, in giving form to my address. As to
what lies beyond, I suppose the party will, so far as it has a
choice, set first about the matters on which it is agreed. But no
one is bound to this proposition.
'"Bright once said, with much force and sense, that the average
opinion of the party ought to be the rule of immediate action.
'"It is likely that there may be a split in the party in the far or
middle distance, but I shall have nothing to do with it, and you, I
am sure, do not wish to anticipate it or force it on. What I have
said may, I hope, mitigate any regret such as you seem to intimate.
'"I am at present busy on private affairs and papers, to which for
six years past I have hardly given one continuous hour. Later on I
should like much to explain to you my personal views and intentions
in conversation. It would be difficult to do so in writing. They
turn very much upon Ireland--the one imperial question that seems at
present possible to be brought into immediate view. But, for
Liberals generally, I should have thought that there was work enough
for three or four years on which they might all agree. So far as my
observation and correspondence go, I have not found that non-Whig
opinion is offended.
'"W. E. Gladstone.
'"P.S.--A letter received from Dilke speaks pleasingly about the
'"I may say that I was quite unconscious of interfering with your
present view, which I understood to be that none of your advanced
proposals were to be excluded, but all left open for discussion.--W.
'On the passage with regard to Ireland I noted: "He means that he
would go on as Prime Minister if he could see his way to carry the
larger Local Government (Ireland) scheme, and not otherwise." But he
Sir Charles also wrote suggesting that Mr. Chamberlain should, in his
correspondence with Mr. Gladstone, go into the question of the Whig
composition of Liberal Cabinets, and the latter promised 'to say just
what you suggest.'
Those who occupied the centre position in the Liberal party were
bewildered by divided counsels.
'On September 28th I received from Chamberlain a letter enclosing
one from Harcourt.... He (Harcourt) dwelt upon the delicacy of Mr.
Gladstone's position. "He (Mr. Gladstone) says, if he is not wanted,
he will 'cut out,' and he doubts, I think, if either you or
Hartington want him. But I hope in this he is mistaken; for he is
wanted, and neither section can do without him.... When I spoke at
Plymouth I knew nothing of the contents of his address, nor indeed,
that it was about to appear so soon, though, oddly enough, it came
out the next day. I therefore spoke like a cat in walnut shells, and
had, like a man who makes a miss at billiards, to 'play for safety.'
I am quite with you on the subject of the acquisition of land by
local authorities, and also on free education, which seem to be your
two _sine qua nons_. As to what you say about remaining outside a
new Liberal Government, forgive me for saying that is all nonsense.
If a Liberal Government cannot be formed with you and Dilke, it
certainly cannot be formed without you. You have acquired the right
and the power to make your own conditions, and I am sure they will
be reasonable ones."'
Sir William Harcourt omitted to consider the possibility of a Government
being formed--as actually happened--while the charges against Sir
Charles were still untried. Politically, he made an omission which was
less natural; once more there is no reference to the Irish problem and
its effect. Yet in Mr. Gladstone's mind it was daily becoming more
'On September 28th Chamberlain wrote enclosing a letter from Mr.
Gladstone, and his reply:
'"My Dear Chamberlain,
'"I felt well pleased and easy after receiving your note of the
21st, but there is a point I should like to put to you with
reference to your self-denying ordinance making the three points
conditions of office.
'"Suppose Parnell to come back eighty to ninety strong, to keep them
together, to bring forward a plan which shall contain in your
opinion adequate securities for the union of the Empire, and to
press this plan, under whatever name, as having claims to precedence
(claims which could hardly be denied even by opponents), do you
think no Government should be formed to promote such a plan, unless
the three points were glued on to it at the same time? Do you not
think you would do well to reserve elbow-room for a case like this?
I hope you will not think my suggestion--it is not a question--
captious and a man-trap. It is meant in a very different sense. A
Liberal majority is assumed in it.
'"W. E. Gladstone."'
When that letter reached Highbury, Sir Charles was in France, awaiting
Mrs. Pattison's arrival from India. Mr. Chamberlain's reply was written
without consultation on September 28th. In it he said that he had
assumed that Local Government would be the first work of a Liberal
Government, and that Bills for the three countries would be brought in
together. Mr. Parnell's change of front would, he thought, have limited
the proposals to the establishment of County Councils, with certain
powers for the acquisition of land by Local Authorities. He thought it
unlikely that Parnell would bring forward a scheme that any Liberal
Government could support; but if he did, he would do all he could to
assist the Government in dealing with it, whether from inside or outside
Chamberlain further urged Dilke to lay stress on the determination of
his party not to be 'mere lay figures in a Cabinet of Goschens.' He
regarded his party as indispensable, and if the Government tried to do
without them, they were determined to make trouble. He expressed an
earnest wish that Sir Charles Dilke could be working with them; but he
did not press this at the moment, if Sir Charles was taking a holiday
after his marriage.
Dilke took the briefest of holidays; on October 6th, three days after
his wedding, he spoke at Chelsea. After dwelling at length on
Chamberlain's proposal to give powers of compulsory land purchase to
local authorities, he asked for the widest form of elective self-
government for Ireland consistent with the integrity of the Empire,
[Footnote: 'In my individual opinion, the natural crowning stone of any
large edifice of local government must sooner or later be some such
elective Local Government Board for each of the three principal parts of
the United Kingdom and for the Principality of Wales, as I have often
sketched out to you. As regards Ireland, we all of us here, I think,
agree that the widest form of elective self-government should be
conferred which is consistent with the integrity of the Empire. No one
can justify the existence of the nominated official Boards which at
present attempt to govern Ireland. I care not whether the Irish people
are or are not at the moment willing to accept the changes we have to
propose. If the present system is as indefensible as I think it, we
should propose them all the same. If they are not at first accepted, our
scheme will at least be seen and weighed, and we shall be freed from the
necessity of appearing to defend a system which is obnoxious to every
Liberal principle. I would ask you to remember some words in Mr.
Ruskin's chapter on "The Future of England," in his _Crown of Wild
Olive_, which are very applicable to the situation:--"In Ireland,
especially, a vicious system has been so long maintained that it has
become impossible to give due support to the cause of order without
seeming to countenance injury." The bodies which would deal with
education, with private Bills, with provisional order Bills, and with
appeals from local authorities in matters too large for county
treatment, in Wales and Scotland and England itself, if I had my way, as
well as in Ireland, would, I believe, make the future government of the
United Kingdom, as a United Kingdom, more easy than it is at present.']
and went on to assume that the first session of the new Parliament would
be 'a Local Government session.' In the following week 'I made an
important speech at Halifax on Local Government which attracted much
attention.' 'Halifax will be all Local Government,' he wrote to Mr.
Frank Hill, 'which is necessary, as it is clear that Balfour and
Salisbury have cribbed my last year's Bill.'
'I may note here that on October 6th, at my Chelsea meeting, George
Russell told me that he had on the previous day induced Mr.
Gladstone to send for Chamberlain to Hawarden. On October 7th
'"My Dear Dilke,
'"I was sent for here, but up to now I do not know why.... My
present object is to say that you made a capital speech, and that I
approve every word of it except the part about London Government.
But as to this I suppose that Londoners must have their way and
their own form of municipal government though I doubt if it will not
prove a fatal gift. Why will the papers invent differences between
you and me? I verily believe that if I spoke your speech, and you
spoke mine, they would still find the distinguishing characteristics
of each speaker unchanged. I thought your last part admirable and
just what I should have said. Yet the _Standard_ thinks it quite a
different note to the South London and Bradford speeches. Mr. G.
thinks Mr. Parnell's last speech more satisfactory I confess I had
not perceived the improvement. He (Mr. G.) is still very sweet on
'On October 9th Chamberlain wrote:
'"I am not quite certain what was Mr. G.'s object in sending for me.
I suppose he desired to minimize our conditions as far as possible.
He was very pleasant and very well, with no apparent trace of his
hoarseness. He spoke at considerable length on the Irish Question;
said he was more than ever impressed with the advantages of the
Central Council scheme, and had written strongly to that effect to
Hartington. But I do not gather that he has any definite plan under
present circumstances. He thought Parnell's last speech was more
moderate (I confess I do not agree with him), and I suppose that if
we get a majority his first effort will be to find a _modus
vivendi_, and to enter into direct communications with this object.
'"As regards Radical programme I stuck to the terms of your speech,
namely, first, compulsory powers for acquiring land to be inserted
in the Local Government Bill. Second, freedom to speak and vote as
we liked on questions of free schools. He boggled a good deal over
this, and said it was very weakening to a Government; but I told him
we could not honestly do less, and that I expected a large majority
of Liberals were in favour of the proposal. We did not come to any
positive conclusion, nor do I think that he has absolutely made up
his mind, but the tone of the conversation implied that he was
seeking to work with us, and had no idea of doing without us. At the
close he spoke of his intention to give up the leadership soon after
the new Parliament met. I protested, and said that if he did this
our whole attitude would be changed, and we must and should ask from
Hartington much larger concessions than we were prepared to accept
from him. I expect the force of circumstances will keep him in his
place till the end, though I believe he is sincerely anxious to be
free."' [Footnote: Mr. Gladstone's account of this interview is to
be found in Morley's _Life of Gladstone_, vol. iii., p. 224.]
On October 17th Chamberlain wrote 'on another letter of Mr. Gladstone's,
which I do not possess:
'"I do not think it is wise to do anything about Mr G.'s letter on
Ireland. I agree with your recollection of the matter. But Mr. G. is
not far wrong, and we have our hands full of other things. The Irish
business is not the first just now."
'About this time I was taken as arbitrator in a considerable number
of disputed candidatures, in most of which I acted by myself, and in
one, the Walworth case, with Chamberlain and John Morley.'
'I had been to see Manning, at his wish, with my wife, and he had
spoken kindly about Chamberlain, on which I wrote to Chamberlain
about him; and Chamberlain replied:
'"Our experience in the Irish Question has not been encouraging. We
understood the Cardinal cordially to approve of my scheme of
National Councils and to be ready to use his influence in any way to
promote its acceptance. On our part we were prepared to press the
question at any sacrifice, and to make the adoption of our scheme a
condition of our membership of any future Government. And yet, when
the time came to ask the Cardinal for his help, he refused
categorically so small a matter as an introduction to the Irish
Bishops, and, as I understood, on the ground that the Conservatives
were in office. Would not the same influence prevail in the matter
of education? Besides, I do not see what Cardinal Manning has to
offer. The majority of English Catholics are Conservative, and no
concession that it is in our power to make would secure their
support for the Liberal party. I am therefore of opinion that the
differences between us can only be decided by the constituencies."
'The Cardinal wrote concerning Chamberlain:
'"Mr. Chamberlain was good enough to send me his scheme for Local
Government in Ireland, in which in the main I agree, and did all in
my power to promote its acceptance. The Government went out, and you
asked of me to promote what I called a 'Midlothian in Ireland,'
under the eyes of the new Lord Lieutenant. (I wrote on this to
Chamberlain: 'I answered this at the time and have done so again
now.') Did Mr. Chamberlain understand my agreement with his scheme
as carrying any consequences beyond that scheme or any solidarity in
such an aggressive action against any party whatsoever in power?...
In the matter in which he was courteous enough to make known his
scheme to me, I have promoted it where and in ways he does not
'In a day or two there came another letter from Manning:
'"It is true you did disclaim a Midlothian; but I told you that I
know my Irishmen too well, and believe that even Paul and Barnabas
would have been carried away. Moreover, if you had been silent as
fishes, the moral effect would have been a counter-move. Your
humility does not admit this. So you must absolve me for my one
Mr. Chamberlain commented in strong terms on the diplomatic methods of
the great ecclesiastic. The 'countermove' implied that there had been a
Tory move in the direction of Home Rule with a view to securing Irish
support. Manning believed, as Mr. Gladstone also believed, that the
Tories meant business; later it became clear that they had no
constructive Irish policy at all. Yet the question grew daily more
'At the end of October Chamberlain wrote:
'"I had a note from Mr. G. this morning urging unity, and saying he
had an instinct that Irish questions 'might elbow out all others.'
This makes me uneasy. I hear from another source that he is trying
to get Parnell's ideas in detail. It is no use."'
To Mr. Gladstone, Chamberlain wrote, on October 26th, that he could not
see his way at all about Ireland. He emphasized his view that Ireland
had better go altogether than the responsibilities of a nominal union be
accepted, and that probably the majority of Liberals would not give more
than English Local Government; and that, if possible, Irish and English
Local Government should be dealt with together. Unless the principle of
the acquisition of land by local authorities was accepted, neither he
nor Dilke nor Morley, nor probably Lefevre, could join the Government.
The strife between Chamberlain and Hartington was maintained, and Mr.
Gladstone interposed by a letter to the Chief Whip, in which he advised
the intervention of Lord Granville in view of 'his great tact, prudence,
and experience.' On November 5th Mr. Chamberlain wrote to Sir Charles,
enclosing Mr. Gladstone's letter, and adding:
'Mr. G.'s is the most definite proof I have had yet that he does not
mean to quarrel with us. Lord Granville has just been here. He told
me nothing about Ireland, but _I am convinced_ that Mr. Gladstone
has been trying to make a treaty all to himself. It must fail.'
No such treaty was made, and on the eve of the General Election of
November, 1885, Parnell issued an instruction that the Irish in England
should vote Tory.
'On Tuesday, November 24th, our poll took place in Chelsea, and on
Wednesday, November 25th, the count, which showed that I was
returned, although only by a small majority.... The Irish had voted
for Whitmore, the Conservative candidate, my opponent, in
consequence of the issue at the last moment of the bill, "Mr.
Parnell's order--Vote for the Conservative, Mr. Whitmore. Irishmen,
do your duty and obey your leader."'
'I had been summoned by Chamberlain, who desired a meeting of our
party within the party, in a letter in which he said:
'"It does not look as if the Tories would have the chance of doing
much mischief; but I should much like them to be in for a couple of
years before we try again, and then I should 'go for the Church.'"'
Dilke notes that Chamberlain was persuaded to drop this line of attack,
on which he had already embarked. Disestablishment of the Church of
England had proved to be anything but a good election cry; the ransom
doctrine had not brought in more votes than it lost; and the 366 certain
Liberal seats with twenty-six doubtful ones which Mr. Schnadhorst
counted up at the end of October were now an illusion of the past. The
election was generally taken as a set-back to the extreme Radicals.
'On Saturday, December 5th, we met at Highbury, and remained in
council until Monday, December 7th. Mr. Gladstone, we were informed
(that is Morley, Lefevre, and myself), had presented a Home Rule
scheme to the Queen, who had shown it to Lord Salisbury, and
Randolph Churchill had told Lady Dorothy Nevill, who had told
Chamberlain, but no statement had been made by Mr. Gladstone to his
BEGINNING OF THE HOME RULE SPLIT
DECEMBER, 1885, TO FEBRUARY, 1886
After the meeting of Radicals, December 5th to 7th, at Highbury, Sir
Charles went back to London.
'On Wednesday, December 9th, I spoke at the Central Poor Law
Conference.... I carried the assembly, which was one of Poor Law
Guardians, and therefore Conservative, along with me in the opinion
that it was desirable to elect directly the whole of the new bodies
in local government, instead of having either a special
representation of Magistrates or any system of indirect election or
choice of Aldermen.'
He argued in the belief that the next session might still see a Tory
Government in power. 'If the Conservatives propose a Local Government
Bill,' he said at Chelsea, 'it will be our Local Government Bill which
they will propose.' He notes: 'They proposed two-thirds of it, and
carried one-third, in 1888.'
'At this moment, not knowing how far Mr. Gladstone was willing to go
in the Home Rule direction, and that there was, therefore, any
chance of his securing the real support of the Irish party, I was
opposed to the attempt to turn out the Government and form a Liberal
Administration resting on the support of a minority, and I spoke in
that sense to my constituents. My view was that it would be
disastrous to advanced Liberalism to form a Government resting on a
minority, as it would be impossible to carry any legislation not of
a Conservative type.'
'Chamberlain wrote to me on December 15th, with regard to one of my
speeches, that I was too polite to the Tories. "This," he added, "is
where I never err."
'On December 18th I received some copies of important letters. Mr.
Gladstone's scheme had got out on the 16th, [Footnote: Lord Morley's
_Life of Gladstone_, vol. iii., pp. 264,265, shows that the "scheme
got out" owing to Sir Charles Dilke's speech to his constituents.
Mr. Herbert Gladstone came to town on the 14th partly in consequence
of a speech "made a few days before by Sir Charles Dilke," and the
talk it caused. The speech was "taken to mean" that the two Radical
leaders preferred keeping the Tories in power "in the expectation
that some moderate measures of reform might be got from them, and
that meanwhile they would become committed with the Irishmen.
Tactics of this kind were equivalent to the exclusion of Mr.
Gladstone, for in every letter that he wrote he pronounced the Irish
Question urgent." Accordingly, on December 16th there came the
unauthorized version of Mr. Gladstone's scheme, given to the Press
through his son.] and on the 17th he wrote to Lord Hartington a
letter of which the latter sent me a long extract. [Footnote: The
letter, which has been printed both by Lord Morley and by Mr.
Bernard Holland, is that in which Mr. Gladstone detailed the
"conditions of an admissible plan" of Home Rule, and expressed a
determination "on no account to do or say anything which would
enable the Nationalists to establish rival biddings between us." It
is so germane to this discussion that part of it is again printed in
the appendix following this chapter (p. 208).]
'At the same time I received a letter from Chamberlain in which he
'"Have I turned round? Perhaps I have, but it is unconsciously.
Honestly I thought you went beyond us in your speeches, but I feel
that your judgment is very likely better and certainly as good as
mine, and I should have said nothing but for the flood of letters I
'"The situation changes every minute. The announcement of Mr. G.'s
plan makes it much more serious; and I altered my speech somewhat
to-night to meet it, but unless I have failed in my endeavour I have
not said anything which will embarrass you, and I had you constantly
in mind throughout. Please read it carefully and let me know exactly
what you think and how far I have succeeded. I would not put you in
a hole for a King's ransom if I could avoid it.
'"I agree entirely with you as to dissolution. The Tory game is to
exaggerate Mr. Gladstone's performance and to go to the country on
the 'integrity of the Empire.' I have endeavoured to reserve our
position, and, as to taking office, to make it clear that we are
opposed to it, unless we can get a big majority, which is
impossible. Unless I am mistaken, the Gladstone business will
exclusively occupy attention the next few days, and my speech will
pass without much notice. But again I say that I have tried (and I
hope and believe I have succeeded) to avoid anything which may
appear like contradiction or opposition to your line.
'"Finally, my view is that Mr. G.'s Irish scheme is death and
damnation; that we must try and stop it; that we must not openly
commit ourselves against it yet; that we must let the situation
shape itself before we finally decide; that the Whigs are our
greatest enemies, and that we must not join them if we can help it;
that we cannot take office, but must not offer assistance to the
Tories publicly; that we must say all we can as to their shameful
bargain and surrender of principle; that even if they bring in good
measures they will also bring in bad, which we shall be forced to
oppose; and that the less we speak in public for the present, the
'I had told Chamberlain that his speech had given the impression
that he had turned round.'
Sir Charles, in a further speech to his constituents at Chelsea,
reaffirmed the principles which he had already publicly laid down.
'In speaking on the night of Friday, December 18th, at Chelsea, I
declared that we ought not to allow ourselves to be driven either
forward or backward from the principles that we had put forward with
regard to Ireland, and that our course should be to continue to
propose the measures which we had previously proposed without
reference to the Parnellite support of Conservative candidates. The
scheme which I had put forward at the General Election was the one
to which I adhered. If it had been generally adopted when first
suggested, it would have received very large support in Ireland.'
He then quotes from the report of his speech this sentence: 'We are told
that now it is too late, but for my part I should not be inclined to
recede from it because it does not meet with general support.'
On this Chamberlain wrote:
'_December 19th_, 1885.
'My Dear Dilke,
'The papers this morning seem to show that I have succeeded in
avoiding any kind of conflict with you. Your own speech was most
judicious. What a mess Mr. G. has made of it! What will be the end
of it all? Why the d---- could he not wait till Parnell had
quarrelled with the Tories? I fancy that a large number, perhaps the
majority, of Liberals will support _any_ scheme of Mr. G.'s, but I
doubt if the country will endorse it. The Tories, if they are wise,
will throw everything else aside and go for the "Empire in danger,"
dissolving at the earliest possible opportunity. The Liberals would
be divided and distracted, and I think we shall be beaten into a
cocked hat. Our game--yours and mine--is to avoid definite committal
for the moment. Circumstances change every hour. Harcourt is coming
to me on Saturday and Sunday.'
'On the next day Chamberlain sent me a copy of a letter to him from
'"_December 18th_, 1885.
'"My Dear Chamberlain,
'"I thank you very much for your references to me in your speech