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Title: Lord Randolph Churchill
Author: Churchill, Winston, 1874-1965
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration: _Lord Randolph Churchill._









New York


_All rights reserved_


Set up and electrotyped. Published January, 1906.

Norwood Press
J. S. Cushing & Co.--Berwick & Smith Co.
Norwood, Mass., U.S.A.







_Deed of Trust Regulating the Papers of the late Lord Randolph

50 Grosvenor Square in the County of London by these Presents send
Greeting WHEREAS I am possessed of various Political and State Documents
Correspondence and Papers which are now contained in Tin boxes deposited
in my name at the Westminster Branch of the London and Westminster Bank
Limited and in Tin boxes and Drawers at No. 50 Grosvenor Square
aforesaid NOW I BY THESE PRESENTS DO assign transfer and make over from
and after the date of my decease the above mentioned political and State
documents correspondence and papers unto George Richard Penn Viscount
Curzon M.P., of 23 Upper Brook Street in the said County of London and
Ernest William Beckett M.P., of 138 Piccadilly in the said County of
London UPON TRUST that they the said George Richard Penn Viscount Curzon
and Ernest William Beckett shall from and after the date of my decease
deal with and use the said Political and State documents correspondence
and papers for any purpose which they in their absolute discretion may
think well PROVIDED that no such Political or State documents
correspondence or paper relating either to the Department of the India
Office or the Department of the Foreign Office shall be printed
published or used in any way either directly or indirectly without the
written consent of Her Majesty’s Secretary of State for either of the
said Departments for the time being AND I HEREBY DECLARE that these
presents are executed by me in triplicate one Copy whereof is deposited
with the Right Honourable the Earl of Rosebery K.G., P.C., Her Majesty’s
Principal Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, the second Copy is
deposited at the Western Branch of the Bank of England, Burlington
Gardens in the name of my Solicitor Mr. Theodore Lumley and the third
Copy is retained by me

AS WITNESS my hand and seal this eighth day of March One thousand eight
hundred and ninety-three.

  Signed Sealed and Delivered  }
    by the above named Randolph}
    Henry Spencer-Churchill in } RANDOLPH S. CHURCHILL.
    the presence of            }


  37 Conduit Street, Bond Street, W.


In the spring of 1893 Lord Randolph Churchill, feeling that he had
slender expectations of long life, placed all his papers, private and
official, under a trust-deed which consigned them at his death to the
charge of two of his most intimate political friends, Viscount Curzon
(now Earl Howe) and Mr. Ernest Beckett (now Lord Grimthorpe). As he made
a practice of preserving almost every letter he received, the number of
documents was sufficient to fill eleven considerable tin boxes. Subject
to the conditions prescribed in the trust-deed in regard to matters
affecting the India Office or the Foreign Office--which have, of course,
been strictly observed--these papers were placed in my hands by my
father’s literary executors in July 1902, for the purpose of my writing
a full account of his life and work. I am deeply sensible of the
confidence implied and of the honour conveyed in that commission, and
during the three and a half years which have passed since I accepted it,
I have diligently laboured--in spite of some political distractions--to
discharge it to the best of my ability.

Sir Michael Hicks-Beach (having consulted with the late Lord Salisbury)
and Lord Rosebery have expressed the opinion that the story of Lord
Randolph Churchill’s life may now be fully told without impropriety
towards individuals or the public. Indeed, it is high time to do so.
Lord Randolph’s part in national affairs is not to be measured by long
years of office. No great legislation stands in his name upon the
statute book. He was a Chancellor of the Exchequer without a Budget, a
Leader of the House of Commons but for a single session, a victor
without the spoils. No tangible or enduring records--unless it be the
Burma province--exist of his labours, and the great and decisive force
which he exerted upon the history of the Conservative and Unionist party
might be imperfectly realised by a later generation, unless it were
explained, asserted, and confirmed by the evidence of those who came in
contact or collision with his imperious and vivifying personality.

For a thing so commonly attempted, political biography is difficult. The
style and ideas of the writer must throughout be subordinated to the
necessity of embracing in the text those documentary proofs upon which
the story depends. Letters, memoranda, and extracts from speeches, which
inevitably and rightly interrupt the sequence of his narrative, must be
pieced together upon some consistent and harmonious plan. It is not by
the soft touches of a picture, but in hard mosaic or tessellated
pavement, that a man’s life and fortunes must be presented in all their
reality and romance. I have thought it my duty, so far as possible, to
assemble once and for all the whole body of historical evidence required
for the understanding of Lord Randolph Churchill’s career. Scarcely
anything of material consequence has been omitted, and such omissions as
have been necessary are made for others’ sakes and not his own.
Scarcely any statement of importance lacks documentary proof. There is
nothing more to tell. Wherever practicable I have endeavoured to employ
his own words in the narration; and the public is now in a position to
pronounce a complete, if not a final, judgment.

I have been fortunate in the abundance of the materials supplied me. In
addition to Lord Randolph Churchill’s tin boxes with their ample stores,
there was at hand an invaluable series of scrap-books, containing every
conceivable newspaper comment and cartoon, collected by his sister, Lady
Wimborne, and covering the whole period of his active political life.
But most of all I am indebted to those many friends, irrespective of
political party, who either by allowing their letters to be printed, or
by reading the proof-sheets, have enabled me to compile what may,
without presumption, be called an authoritative account. I accept, of
course, in the fullest sense, exclusive responsibility for whatever is
written here; but to Sir Michael Hicks-Beach, first of all, my grateful
acknowledgments are due, for not only has he with the greatest care and
pains thoroughly revised the whole book, but furnished me, besides, with
extensive memoranda in respect of those chapters with the events of
which he was specially concerned.

The biographer of an English statesman is often able to conduct his hero
prosperously through the recognised educational experiences, and to
instal him at an early age in some small office, whence his promotion in
due course is assured. It is otherwise with the life of Lord Randolph
Churchill. No smooth path of patronage was opened to him. No glittering
wheels of royal favour aided and accelerated his journey. Whatever power
he acquired was grudgingly conceded and hastily snatched away. Like
Disraeli, he had to fight every mile in all his marches. And this
account will, I think, be found to explain in almost mechanical detail
the steps and the forces by which he rose to the exercise of great
personal authority, as well as the converse process by which he

I have naturally been led to deal more fully with his public career than
with his private life. With the exception of the first two chapters and
the last, this story lies in a period of only ten years--from 1880 to
1890, and not less than half of its compass is concerned with the
succession of fierce political crises which disturbed the years 1885 and
1886. The epoch is brief; but so crowded is it with incident and
accident, so full of insights and sidelights upon the workings of party
and constitutional machinery in modern times, that it deserves the
closest examination. And I hope it may be attributed to the author’s
failings, and not to the actions and character of Lord Randolph
Churchill, if the reader is not attracted by an authentic drama of the
House of Commons.


_November 1, 1905_.








Blenheim--Woodstock--Birth and parentage--Childhood--Cheam--Eton--The
family borough--Merton--The Blenheim harriers--Life at Oxford--Cowes
1873--Miss Jerome--The Woodstock election--Marriage.....1




The Parliament of 1874--A maiden speech--A social quarrel--Ireland--At
the Little Lodge--FitzGibbon and Howth--The Historical Society--Irish
politics--Butt and Parnell--The beginnings of obstruction--An unguarded
speech--Irish education--The Eastern question--Correspondence with
Sir Charles Dilke--The County Government Bill--The Irish Famine
Fund--Ministerial embarrassments--Lord Beaconsfield’s letter to the
Duke of Marlborough--The General Election of 1880--Mr. Gladstone’s




Position of parties--Tory depression--Bradlaugh--The origin of
the Fourth Party--The four friends--The Employers’ Liability
Bill--Fourth Party tactics--Differences with leaders--Sir Stafford
Northcote--Activities of the Fourth Party--The Fourth Party and
Lord Beaconsfield--Lord Salisbury at Woodstock--Correspondence with
Wolff--Joyous days.....119



IRELAND UNDER STORM PAGE Outbreak of the storm--The Parnell
movement--Irish speeches--The Compensation for Disturbance Bill--The
winter of 1880--The Land League--The revolt of the Boers--Coercion--Mr.
Forster’s misfortunes--The Kilmainham Treaty--The Closure--Lord
Beaconsfield gone.....172




The war in Egypt--The Conservative leaders--Minor tactics in the House
of Commons--Correspondence with Sir Stafford Northcote--The Beaconsfield
statue--Lord Randolph’s letter to the Times--Party displeasure--Elijah’s
mantle--The Affirmation Bill--The Primrose League--An Ishmaelite at
bay--His father’s death--An interlude.....224




A period of crisis--Conditions in the House of Commons--Conservative
paralysis--The new champion--Power and popularity of Lord Randolph
Churchill--The Tory Democrat--A ‘Trilogy’ at Edinburgh--The
Blackpool speech--The Birmingham candidature--‘Peace, Retrenchment
and Reform’--Tory democracy and Fair Trade--Tory democracy and the
Constitution--The Church of England--The main achievement.....268




A daring enterprise--The Fourth Party: final phase--The National
Union and the Central Committee--The conference at Birmingham--The
proceedings of the new council--Dispute with Lord Salisbury--Lord
Randolph elected chairman--The ‘charter’ letter--‘Notice to quit’--A
declaration of war--Close fighting--Lord Randolph resigns--Satisfaction
in the House of Commons--Dismay in the Conservative party--Intervention
of the provincial leaders--Lord Randolph reinstated--Progress of the




Embarrassments of the Ministry--‘Too late!’--The advent of the
Reform Bill--Divisions in the Conservative party--Lord Randolph and
reform--The ‘mud cabin’ argument--Power of Lord Randolph Churchill
in the House of Commons--The second vote of censure--The Reform Bill
in the Lords--Conflict between the two Houses--The conference of
the National Union at Sheffield--Lord Randolph’s victory--Agreement
with Lord Salisbury--The autumn campaign--Aston riots--The Aston
debate--Correspondence with Chamberlain--Differences with Gorst--An
Indian voyage.....332




1885-1785: a comparison--Increasing weakness and perplexities of the
Ministry--Lord Randolph returns--His authority over the Conservative
party--Penjdeh and the Vote of Credit--Correspondence with Lord
Salisbury--Lord Randolph’s attacks upon Mr. Gladstone and Lord
Granville--The Crimes Act--A mortal blow--Strange constitutional
situation--Relations with the Irish party--Defeat of the
Government--A threefold crisis--Formation of Lord Salisbury’s First
Administration--Lord Randolph refuses to join--The _Interregnum_--Lord
Randolph’s own account of these transactions--Appeals of various
kinds--At the Inns of Court--A Parliamentary incident--Sir Stafford
retires--Euthanasia of the Fourth party--_Moriturus te saluto_.....375




Lord Salisbury’s difficulties--The last of the Woodstock elections--The
new ministry--A truce at Westminster--A legislative feat--‘Maamtrasna’
and its consequences--Lord Carnarvon’s opinions--The ‘empty house’
meeting--The Prime Minister’s reticence--The Conservative Cabinet and
Home Rule--The election campaign--General confusion--The ‘unauthorised
programme’--Parnell’s demand--The lines of battle--Lord Randolph’s
exertions and activities--A visit to Dublin--‘Come over and help
us’--Dispute with Lord Hartington--The ‘boa-constrictor’ speech--The
contest in Birmingham--Popularity of the Conservative Government--The
poll--Victories of Tory Democracy in the boroughs--The loss of the
counties--The Birmingham Election--‘Low water-mark’.....423




A serener sphere--The Council of India--Lord Randolph in office--Railway
development in India--Mr. Moore--The Russian crisis--The Afghan
boundary--Correspondence with the Queen--Increase of the British and
Native Armies in India--Appointment of Sir Frederick Roberts--The
Indian Budget in the House of Commons--Lord Randolph and Lord
Salisbury as letter-writers--The Bombay command--Resignation of Lord
Randolph Churchill--Correspondence--Lord Salisbury yields--Settlement
of the dispute--Conquest and annexation of Burma--The New Year’s


I. THREE ELECTION ADDRESSES, 1874, 1880, 1885.....527


THE REFORM BILL, 1884.....550




1. Lord Randolph Churchill, 1886 (Photogravure).....Frontispiece

2. LORD RANDOLPH AT ETON AND AT OXFORD (_Photogravure_).....12

HIS MOTHER}.....28

4. LADY RANDOLPH CHURCHILL (_Photogravure_).....72

5. MEMBER FOR WOODSTOCK (_Photogravure_).....108

6. THE FOURTH PARTY (’_Vanity Fair_’), by Leslie Ward.....

7. ATHWART THE COURSE (_Cartoon from ‘Punch’_).....232

8. A DREAM OF THE FUTURE (_Cartoon from ‘Punch’_).....252


10. THE WAITS (_Cartoon from ‘Punch’_).....472

    ‘Heard are the voices,
     Heard are the sages,
     The worlds and the ages;
     “Choose well; your choice is
     Brief and yet endless.

     Here eyes do regard you,
     In Eternity’s stillness:
     Here is all fulness,
     Ye brave, to reward you;
     Work and despair not.”’



The cumulative labours of Vanbrugh and ‘Capability’ Brown have succeeded
at Blenheim in setting an Italian palace in an English park without
apparent incongruity. The combination of these different ideas, each
singly attractive, produces a remarkable effect. The palace is severe in
its symmetry and completeness. Nothing has been added to the original
plan; nothing has been taken away. The approaches are formal; the wings
are balanced; four equal towers maintain its corners; and the fantastic
ornaments of one side are elaborately matched on the other. Natural
simplicity and even confusion are, on the contrary, the characteristic
of the park and gardens. Instead of that arrangement of gravel paths, of
geometrical flower-beds, and of yews disciplined with grotesque
exactness which the character of the house would seem to suggest, there
spreads a rich and varied landscape. Green lawns and shining water,
banks of laurel and fern, groves of oak and cedar, fountains and
islands, are conjoined in artful disarray to offer on every side a
promise of rest and shade. And yet there is no violent contrast, no
abrupt dividing-line between the wildness and freshness of the garden
and the pomp of the architecture.

The whole region is as rich in history as in charm; for the antiquity of
Woodstock is not measured by a thousand years, and Blenheim is heir to
all the memories of Woodstock. Here Kings--Saxon, Norman, and
Plantagenet--have held their Courts. Ethelred the Unready, Alfred the
Great, Queen Eleanor, the Black Prince, loom in vague majesty out of the
past. Woodstock was notable before the Norman Conquest. It was already a
borough when the Domesday Book was being compiled. The park was walled
to keep the foreign wild beasts of Henry I. Fair Rosamond’s Well still
bubbles by the lake. From the gatehouse of the old manor the imprisoned
Princess Elizabeth watched the years of Mary’s persecution. In the
tumults of the Civil Wars Woodstock House was held for King Charles by
an intrepid officer through a long and bitter siege and ravaged by the
victorious Roundheads at its close. And beyond the most distant of these
events, in the dim backward of time, the Roman generals administering
the districts east and west of Akeman Street had built their winter
villas in that pleasant, temperate retreat; so that Woodstock and its
neighbourhood were venerable and famous long before John Churchill, in
the early years of the eighteenth century, superimposed upon it the
glory of his victories over the French.

[Sidenote: 1849]

Randolph Henry Spencer-Churchill, commonly called Lord Randolph
Churchill, was born in London on February 13, 1849. His father was the
eldest son of the sixth Duke of Marlborough by his first wife, Lady Jane
Stewart, daughter of George, eighth Earl of Galloway. The Marquess of
Blandford, as he then was, had married on July 12, 1843, the Lady
Frances Anne Emily Vane (of whom more hereafter), eldest daughter of the
third Marquess of Londonderry, by whom he had five sons and six
daughters. Of these sons three died in infancy, the elder of the
survivors ultimately succeeded to the title, and the younger is the
subject of this account.

[Sidenote: 1857 ÆT. 8]

In his father’s lifetime Lord Blandford lived at Hensington House, an
unpretentious building outside the circumference of the Blenheim Park
wall and about half a mile from the palace. Here his numerous family
were brought up. Their childhood must have been a very happy one, with
such a fine and ample place for a playground, many dear playmates and
parents who watched over them with unremitting care. The boy grew up
with his brother and sisters, as little boys are wont to do; and when
his father became, in 1857, seventh Duke of Marlborough, they all moved
into the palace at the other end of the great avenue, and this became
for many years their home. Randolph was sent to Mr. Tabor’s school at
Cheam when he was eight years old. This was very young for one who had
so much space and happiness at home; but he seems to have been most
kindly treated and to have been quite content. He did not prove
exceptionally clever at his letters, though he made steady progress at
school. He had an excellent memory, and was fond of reading books of
history, biography, and adventure. But much more pronounced than any
liking for study were his passion for sport and his love of animals. By
the time he was nine years old he rode well, and even at that early age
he showed decision and determination in his ways. In those days the
telegraph was some miles distant from Blenheim and the telegraph boy
used to ride in with his messages upon a ragged, wiry little pony called
‘The Mouse.’ Once he had seen this pony, Lord Randolph wearied his
father and family with requests to buy it and never rested till it was
his own. After the pony was purchased, he trained it and called it his
hunter. The next step was to go hunting.

[Sidenote: 1860 ÆT. 11]

On an autumn afternoon in 1859 he waylaid Colonel Thomas, the tenant of
Woodstock House and an old and valued friend of the family, on his
return from a day with the Heythrop hounds, and, riding up to him,
persuaded him to ask his father’s permission to take him out hunting.
This was the beginning of a friendship between these two which lasted
through life. To the next meet of the Heythrop they accordingly repaired
together. The day was fortunate. Lord Randolph, carried to the front by
‘The Mouse,’ was in at the death in King’s Wood, was presented with
brush or pad, went through the ceremony of being ‘blooded,’ and returned
home in great delight, with glowing cheeks well besmeared with fox’s
blood. From that day he became passionately fond not merely of riding
to hounds but of hunting as an art.

A glimpse of his later days at Cheam has been preserved by a schoolboy
friend who, early in 1860, under the fostering wing of an elder brother,
was entered as the youngest and newest of sixty-two boarders at the
school. ‘Randolph Churchill,’ he writes, ‘was then very near, and before
he left I think he reached, the headship of the school. He and my
brother were “chums,” whereby I was brought into closer touch with him
than otherwise would have been the case. His good-natured and somewhat
magnificent patronage of my shivering novitiate has imprinted on my
memory a few incidents characteristic of his personality. At any rate,
he must have bulked large in my regard, as I have of him a far more
vivid recollection than of any other boy, through the whole six years of
my Cheam schooling.

‘From the nature of the case my recollections are not of the class room.
He was in “the first class,” as the top form was styled; I was in “the
sixth,” or lowest. The general muster in the big schoolroom, or the
recreations of the playground, were the scenes in which I chiefly saw
him; and, of course, whatever of his doings I noticed, are glamoured by
the small boy’s reverence for the big. I cannot “place” him in either
cricket or football; but there are some things with which he is in my
memory so closely associated that I cannot even now see their like
without recalling him in liveliest imagination. Thus I can never see
children playing at “horses” without the instant recollection of the
showy four-in-hand which Randolph Churchill “tooled” round the
playground, or of which he was an interchangeable part. Besides himself
the team and coachman consisted of Curzon, Suirdale (afterwards Lord
Donoughmore), and the two brothers Gordon (one of whom is now Lord
Aberdeen). The harness with which they were caparisoned belonged, I
remember, to the elder Gordon. But in my recollection Randolph Churchill
shares with him pre-eminence in the quintette. There was a large
magnificence about his Cheam days that impressed me with the idea that,
no matter how well another boy might acquit himself, Randolph Churchill
would always “go one better.”

‘He was always ready with some surprise in the Sunday texts and
exercises for which Mr. Tabor assembled us in big school on Sunday
afternoons. I can never open the book of Ecclesiastes without recalling
the breathless astonishment with which I heard him recite, with that
vehemence he always showed in speech, those eight verses which tell us
that “to every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose
under the heaven.” For me Churchill achieved a wonder. No boy, and I
should think hardly a man, is likely to have much more than an abstract
and somewhat perfunctory interest in the Thirty-nine Articles. But I can
never glance at the sombre sentences of the Article on Predestination
and Election without the passages ringing with his declamation as he
repeated the whole, _ore rotundo_, without hesitation or the tremor of
an eyelash. At that time there was at Cheam one of those holy and
blameless boys who come sometimes to sanctify the rough brutalities of
schoolboy life. He was Mackworth Dolben, from Finedon, in Northants,
where his memory is still kept green. He used once a week to assemble in
his cubicle a few of us, with whom he would read the Bible and pray. He
had enrolled my brother in the _coterie_, and through my brother,
myself. Churchill was one of the little band; and I can see him now,
kneeling down by the bed, with his face in his hands resting on the
white coverlet, leading us in fervent prayer.

‘I have alluded to his vehemence of speech; but I should be wrong if I
were thought to mean violence of language. He always at that time spoke
open-mouthed, with a full voice and great rapidity of utterance, as if
his thoughts came faster than his words could follow; the impression
conveyed being that he was determined to overbear all opposition and
gain the mastery of argument.

[Sidenote: 1863 ÆT. 14]

‘Once when I had disfigured an Ovid which I had borrowed from my
brother, who came to reproach me in the playground, it was Churchill who
convinced me of the enormity of my offence, and it is his eager and
animated face that lives in my memory of the little scene. There was, I
think, in my boyish mind (I was little more than eight, and I never saw
him after he left Cheam) a distinct, if indefinite, sense of vigour,
fluency, masterfulness, and good-nature in his character. Living, as
boys do, in the present, I am sure that I had no idea of his

When Lord Randolph was in his fourteenth year he went in due course to
Eton, where he was placed in the form known as ‘Remove,’ and in the
house of the Rev. W. A. Carter. A year later he was moved into Mr.
Frewer’s house, and there continued while at Eton. His career
henceforward was chequered, for he had already developed a will of his
own and a considerable facility in expressing it. I submit to the reader
the first extracts from the many letters which this story will

        _Lord Randolph to his Mother._

Eton College, Windsor, 1863.

     I am very sorry I did not write you before, but I wrote one letter
     to you and I cannot find it anywhere, and I have not had a bit of
     time since, for I had to bring a hundred lines every day to Mr.----
     for cutting my name on the new table in the new schools. Mr.---- is
     such a horrid man; I had one or two punishments for him yesterday
     and I put them in his pupil room and somebody must have taken them
     away for he said he never saw them. He has been rude too; he called
     me a ‘little blackguard’ the other day just because I was sitting
     with my legs on the form, and he is always calling the fellows
     names. I shall never do any good with him, he is so unjust.

     There is smallpox in the barracks and half Eton is being
     vaccinated. They offered to perform on me, but I declined. The
     Queen came to Windsor from Osborne on Thursday night and rushed off
     on Friday morning to Balmoral, which struck me as being rather
     eccentric. There has not been much going on here, though they have
     had a grand reformation of the rifle corps. They made everybody
     re-enlist and they had to take a sort of oath and sign their names
     to a lot of nonsense.

And another:--

          _To his Father._

Eton College: March 11, 1863.

     It was not my fault that my letter did not reach you before, for I
     gave it to the servant the same day to post, and she forgot all
     about it. I have written to you about the reception on Saturday; I
     will now tell you about the fireworks on Monday and the wedding

     On Monday night we were all ordered to be present in the
     school-yard at nine o’clock. When we were all there we formed fours
     and marched up Windsor with a large body of police before us (which
     rather spoilt the fun) to clear the way. Then we got into the Home
     Park by the South Western Station, just under the windows of the
     State Rooms, and there we stood all the time the fireworks were
     going on. I luckily had the forethought to take my great-coat, or
     else I do not believe I should have got home, it was so dreadfully
     cold. The fireworks were very pretty, only there was such an awful
     lot of rockets and too few catherine-wheels and all that sort of

     The Princess Alexandra having never seen fireworks before, they
     were on Monday night instead of on Tuesday night, because she
     wanted to see them. We did not get home till nearly twelve o’clock.
     There was no illumination that night. Yesterday morning was a whole
     holiday without any early school or chapel. We were all mustered in
     the school-yard about eleven o’clock, and then marched up Windsor
     into the Castle by Henry the VIIIth’s gate. There we had to stand
     for a tremendous time without anything coming. (It luckily was fine
     and not very cold.) At last the first procession came; it was the
     King of Denmark and all those people. We had a beautiful view of
     all the people. Then we had to wait about a quarter of an hour,
     and then came the Princess Royal. She was sitting on our side, and
     she bowed away as hard as she could go. (I think her neck must have
     been stiff.) And then came the Prince; he looked extremely
     gracious. I never saw him put his hat on, and he held it about an
     inch from his head, and kept bowing, always in the same place. And
     last of all came the Princess. And then there was such a row, in
     spite of the Queen’s express commands that there was to be no
     cheering. I never heard such an awful noise in all my life. I
     think, if the Queen heard it, she must have had a headache for a
     long time afterwards. We were not allowed to go into the chapel, or
     into the courtyard by the chapel. A whole lot of us charged the
     policemen and soldiers to get in, but it was no use; they managed
     to keep us back that time. But we had our revenge afterwards. After
     they had come back we went back into college. Then at three o’clock
     we all came to see the Princess go away. She did not come till
     about a quarter past four in the afternoon--the Prince and Princess
     in an open carriage; and then came the squashing. We all rushed
     after the carriage. (I was right in the front of the charge; it was
     a second Balaclava.) Nothing stood before us; the policemen charged
     in a body, but they were knocked down. There was a chain put across
     the road, but we broke that; several old _genteel_ ladies tried to
     stop me, but I snapped my fingers in their face and cried ‘Hurrah!’
     and ‘What larks!’ I frightened some of them horribly. There was a
     wooden palisade put up at the station (it was the Great Western),
     but we broke it down; and there, to my unspeakable grief, I was
     bereaved of a portion of my clothing, viz. my hat. Somebody knocked
     it off. I could not stop to pick it up, I shrieked out a convulsive
     ‘Oh, my hat!’ and was then borne on. I got right down to the door
     of the carriage where the Prince of Wales was, wildly shouting
     ‘Hurrah!’ He bowed to me, I am perfectly certain; but I shrieked
     louder. I am sure, if the Princess did not possess very strong
     nerves, she would have been frightened; but all she did was to
     smile blandly. At last the train moved off while the band played
     ‘God save the Queen.’ I am sure I wonder there were no accidents,
     we were all so close to the carriage. There I was, left in the
     station, ‘hatless.’ I met Lord Churchill there, who told me Lady
     Churchill was in waiting. I was introduced to lots of soldiers by
     one of the masters who caught me. And then I began to search for my
     hat; but it was in vain, for I never saw it again. I was told to
     get another one, for I had no other to wear. At last I got home,
     and in the evening we went out again to see the illumination. There
     was not much to see. I think I have given you a full account of the
     wedding and the reception.

Believe me ever to remain
Your affectionate son,

     P.S.--My holidays begin on the 27th of March.

The letters which Lord Randolph received from his father during these
Eton years were affectionate and pleasant, and were evidently intended
to exert a considerable influence upon his education. Besides ordinary
family news and the accounts of sport, of partridges and pheasants, of
the health of dogs and ponies, of the exertions of the Heythrop
hounds--always industrious, and sometimes successful--there was
generally allusion to some more serious or public event, a political
opinion, an account of an election at Woodstock, or a few sentences
about Mr. Disraeli. Often the Duke would take pains to impart a lesson
in conduct under the guise of information. ‘Your aunt,’ wrote this
devout, yet not intolerant, man, ‘who is with us now is most unhappy;
for I fear she is a Roman Catholic at heart, and does not like to say
so. If this be true, it would be much better for her to declare her
mind; and then, of course, however we might be grieved, the matter
would never be alluded to in conversation.’ He encouraged his son always
to confide in him; nothing mattered so much as what could not be told;
and when it was necessary, as it often was, to reprove some schoolboy
misdemeanour--pert speeches to masters, an overbearing manner, the
unwarranted fagging of small companions, or the breaking of other
people’s windows--he never founded his rebukes upon authority; but
always upon reason, arguing the matter quite fairly with his son,
pointing out to him the consequences of his actions, and appealing to
his good sense, his self-respect, and the love and honour in which he
held his parents. The care and patience thus displayed were not
unrepaid, and both Lord Randolph and his elder brother, throughout lives
strongly marked by an attitude of challenge towards men and things,
preserved at all times an old-world reverence for their father.

Considering that mischief and a disposition to argue were the gravest
crimes imputed to the boy, the paternal rebukes were frequently rather
severe. They followed, if I may judge by old letters, a regular course.
First, on receiving the bad report, the father would, with much
deliberation, ask his son what he had to say in defence or in excuse.
Lord Randolph would reply with a long, carefully-written letter of
justification, defending himself with freedom and ingenuity. Next the
Duke, now duly in possession of both sides of the case, would take up
his largest pen and deliver majestic censure. ‘To tell you the truth,’
he wrote on one occasion, ‘I fear that you yourself are very impatient
and resentful of any control; and while you stand upon some fancied
right or injury, you fail to perceive what is your _duty_, and allow
both your language and manner a most improper scope.’ The third stage of
these estrangements would be a frank letter of submission and promises
for future improvement, after which complete forgiveness and the return
of sunshine.

[Illustration: _Eton_ _Oxford_]

These are simple chronicles, and I have tried, so far as possible, to
use the actual words in which they have come to me; but it is well to
notice how early a strong, masterful character develops. How much can
parents really do? One would think that the future lay in their hands.
They are at the beginning supreme. They control with authority, from
which there is no appeal, all early impressions and actions and every
avenue of experience. It would not be strange if they could shape and
mould the child according to their fancies. Is it not, on the contrary,
wonderful how comparatively powerless they so often are? The tiny child,
scarcely out of the cradle, asserts his personality. This schoolboy,
pausing unembarrassed on the threshold of life, has made up his mind
already. Nothing will change him much. Lord Randolph’s letters as a boy
are his letters as a man. The same vigour of expression; the same
simple, yet direct, language; the same odd, penetrating flashes; the
same coolly independent judgments about people and laws, and readiness
to criticise both as if it were a right; the same vein of humour and
freedom from all affectation; the same knack of giving nicknames, which
often stuck and sometimes stung--all are there. His mind, indeed, gained
knowledge and experience from instruction; but his essential character,
changing hardly at all by contact with the world, unfolded with
remorseless and unalterable persistency, as every seed brings forth in
its proper season its own peculiar flower.

‘He had,’ wrote his mother a few months before her death, ‘a wonderful
faculty for making firm friends, who remained through life devoted to
him. He was very constant and decided in his attachments, and
outspoken--often imprudently--in his likes or dislikes. He was always
pertinacious in his opinions. He never wavered in his plans, and,
whether right or wrong, he carried them out. This enabled him to succeed
in life, but also often brought him into trouble.... When I look back in
sadness to his youth, and remember his ready wit, his warm affection,
his bright spirits, and his energy in carrying out any undertaking, I
feel how great was the want of foresight and intellect on my part in his
training and management; for one of his most endearing qualities was
extraordinary affection for his father and me, and his constant interest
and pride in his family from his earliest days.... Alas!’ she wrote in
unmerited self-reproach, ‘had I been a clever woman, I must have had
more ability to curb and control his impulses, and I should have taught
him patience and moderation. Yet at times he had extraordinary good
judgment, and it was only on rare occasions that he took the bit between
his teeth, and then there was no stopping him.’

Lord Randolph himself seems to have dreamed no dreams at Eton. He lived,
with his faithful bull-dog, entirely in the present, obeying with
spontaneity the varied impulses of a boisterous yet amiable nature. ‘He
was,’ we are told, ‘an easy lower boy to catch, for his whereabouts
could be ascertained by his incessant peals of laughter. There was not a
boy in the school who laughed so much or whose laughter was so
contagious. There was scarcely one who was so frolicsome. His preferred
method of descending a staircase was to skate down it with a rush; and
if he had to enter the room of another lower boy, he would sooner bound
against the door and force it open with his shoulder than go through the
stale formality of turning the handle.’[1] He is furthermore described
as ‘very fond of collisions with “cads”’ when there was any event
drawing crowds at Eton or Windsor; but ‘he would single out antagonists
much older or bigger than himself.’

Two other fleeting impressions have been preserved.[2] ‘I can just
remember young Churchill,’ writes a well-known Eton authority, ‘as a
striking, whimsical personality, with full, large, round, astonished
eyes and a determined bull-dog type of face. He was addicted to dressing
loudly, and I vividly recollect his appearance one day in a daring
violet-coloured waistcoat. Botham’s Hotel was in those days a favourite
resort for Etonians, in the way of succession to Coningsby’s
“Christopher,” where the friends entertained each other at sumptuous
breakfasts and luncheons. A special feature of this hostelry, as well as
a powerful attraction to the younger boys, was a spacious fruit-garden,
celebrated for the size and flavour of its strawberries. During a
certain summer this Elysian enclosure was so pillaged as to cause the
proprietor to complain to the headmaster, Mr. Balston. As a consequence
Mr. Austen Leigh was despatched to watch, and, if possible, to catch the
offenders _in flagrante delicto_. That representative of the highest
Eton authority very soon flushed a large covey of juvenile depredators.
All of them, however, got away, except Randolph Churchill, who jumped as
far as he could towards the road with his pursuer close upon him. They
both fell together into the ditch, Mr. Austen Leigh uppermost. Lord
Randolph, seeing that any further attempt at escape would be useless,
crawled out, much scratched and bruised, into the middle of the road,
where, incensed at his own discomfiture, he deliberately sat down,
crossed his legs, glared at Mr. Leigh, and with all the vehemence of
enraged fourteen, exclaimed, “You beast!” How he escaped the birch after
this adventure tradition does not relate.’

‘I can recall him at Eton,’ wrote ‘J. S.’ in the _Realm_ of March 1895,
‘but only for one amazing moment. It was a summer evening, just before
“lock-up,” and the whole wall, the little old wall so fitted for the
height of small boys, which separates the public road from the borders
of Upper School, was thronged with youths, resting after the labours of
the day. Even they felt the charm of the stillness. There was no
drumming of heels on the wall, only chatter and occasional laughter. On
the other side of the road, gathered at the top of Keate’s Lane, where
in those days was an iron bar for the “seat of the scornful,” were the
“Swells.” Between these awe-inspiring _aristoi_ and us urchins
indiscriminate on the wall lay the empty road. Down the middle of that
road alone, ringing discordant music from a Volunteer’s bugle, marched a
boy in jackets. It was Churchill, wending homeward to Frewer’s. As I
recall the “Swells” of that time, this progress of a boy in jackets, on
his right a long line of his fellows, on his left, for one awful minute,
that sublime group at the corner, I feel once more the breathless wonder
at audacity so magnificent.’

I cannot set down with exactness the time when Lord Randolph’s parents
began to realise that their son possessed and was, underneath an
exuberance of animal spirits, developing character and qualities of an
unusual order; but, at any rate, before he left Eton they had begun to
hope that some considerable career lay before him. Henceforth they
neglected nothing that might stimulate his interest or his ambition. A
degree at Oxford in history and law, suitable and extended tours on the
Continent, frequent contact with men of affairs, seemed the most obvious
steps which were first required in preparation for political life. And
meanwhile the family borough of Woodstock was watched by the Duke with a
jealous and reflective eye. Its representation had lately caused him for
various reasons many heart-burnings.

Woodstock possessed a Parliamentary history of such curious distinction
that perhaps no other seat in England could rival the interest of its
chequered fortunes. From the earliest beginnings of popular
representation to the Reform Bill of 1832, it had returned, with some
intermission, two members to the House of Commons; and among these
William Lenthall, the famous Speaker, was its representative in the Long
Parliament; William Eden, afterwards the first Lord Auckland and
Governor-General of India, sat for it in the Parliament of 1774; Charles
Abbot, also Speaker, in 1802; Sir John Gladstone, father of the famous
Prime Minister, in 1820; and the great philanthropist, better known as
the seventh Earl of Shaftesbury, from 1826 to 1830. Down to the time of
Queen Anne the members for Woodstock had most often been drawn from the
old families of the neighbourhood; but after the delivery of the Manor
of New Woodstock to John, first Duke of Marlborough, and the building of
Blenheim, the seat practically became the property of the Churchills and
its representatives were uniformly the nominees of the reigning Duke.
This dominion, though always maintained, was not seldom challenged; and
the bitter and unscrupulous contests which were fought when some Indian
nabob or other wealthy champion made an effort to wrest the borough from
the great local influences under whose shadow it reposed were an almost
incredible source of profit to the electors.

In April 1844 Lord Randolph’s father, then Marquess of Blandford, was
elected member. Although always a staunch Conservative, he immediately
developed progressive tendencies in social and economic questions and
became a steady supporter of Free Trade measures. This speedily brought
him into collision with the Duke, whose interest in the Corn Laws was by
no means theoretical; and since he remained altogether unyielding, he
was forced in April 1845 to apply for the Chiltern Hundreds and to
retire from Parliament. The vacancy was filled (May 1) by Viscount
Loftus, a trusty Protectionist; and on his becoming Marquess of Ely, in
December, Lord Alfred Churchill was brought forward without opposition
in his stead. The question of the Corn Laws having been swept into the
past by the decisions of Parliament in 1846, domestic differences were
once more composed, and at the General Election of 1847 Lord Blandford
was again elected, and continued to sit for the borough at the General
Elections of July 1852 and March 1857, until in July 1857 he succeeded
as seventh Duke of Marlborough.

[Sidenote: 1867 ÆT. 18]

Lord Alfred Churchill, his brother, now became again the member for
Woodstock. For two years all had been smooth and satisfactory; but after
the General Election of 1859, and during the year 1860, Lord Alfred
began to manifest an increasing sympathy with the Whigs and Liberals,
and finally became ranged with the supporters of Lord Palmerston. His
vote in favour of Mr. Gladstone’s famous Budget of 1860 was the first
definite step and it instantly drew a strong protest from the Duke, who
seems to have been less an admirer--after succeeding to great position
and estate--both of political independence and of Free Trade measures.
Lord Alfred explained that he considered his vote perfectly consistent
with his character as a Conservative. ‘I really should like to know,’
replied his brother severely, ‘by what change of terms a measure can be
called “Conservative” which substitutes direct for indirect taxation,
which has been prepared by Mr. Cobden, proposed by Mr. Gladstone, and is
the avowed policy of a Liberal Government.’ The correspondence was not
on either side so couched as to repair the differences which had opened
between the brothers, and Lord Alfred’s subsequent conduct produced a
complete estrangement. The Duke, a stalwart Churchman, had long been
warmly interested in the question of Church Rates. They were to him a
pet and special subject and he had publicly expressed on various
occasions a high Tory view. Lord Alfred now began to give Church Rates
his careful attention, and, as the result of his studies, he proceeded
to introduce into the House of Commons a Bill dealing with the whole
subject in an extremely Liberal--not to say Radical--spirit. He
expounded his plan with elaboration in a letter and forwarded it with
his Bill to his brother as a suggested ‘compromise’ greatly to be
desired in the public interest. This was decisive. The Duke replied that
he understood an affront was intended, and that he hoped, whatever line
of politics Lord Alfred might pursue in the future, he would not
consider it necessary to consult him upon it. Through the medium of
various persons it was presently arranged that, as no one could force
Lord Alfred to retire, he should be free to act as he pleased till the
General Election; and that at the election, as the Duke would once more
be the master of the situation, another candidate should be brought
forward. There the matter rested, to the extreme dissatisfaction of both
parties. So embittered were the relations between the brothers that,
when the departing Lord Alfred was entertained by his constituents in
Woodstock in 1864, the Duke would not attend the dinner, but sent Lord
Randolph in his place; and this schoolboy of fifteen, with impressive
gravity and unfaltering utterance, delivered--or, rather, recited--the
necessary speeches, and so made, under rather a lowering sky, his first
embarkation upon the uncertain waters of party politics.

In 1867 Lord Randolph left Eton in order to obtain some education from a
private tutor before going to Oxford. In spite of these precautions his
first attempt to pass the entrance examination was unsuccessful; and it
was arranged that he should work for six months under the care of an
accomplished clergyman, the Rev. Lionel Dawson Damer, who lived at
Cheddington, near Aylesbury.

          _Lord Randolph to his Father._

Cheddington: March, 1867.

     I wrote to you in my last that we did not intend to go to Oxford,
     but we changed our minds and went yesterday. It was a horrid day,
     snowing and blowing from the East, and dreadfully cold. As we were
     getting into the train we met Mr.---- to whom you offered the
     living at Waddesdon. He seemed really a charming man, so very
     gentlemanlike and quiet. I am sure you would like him very much. He
     tells me he had at first declined the living, but now, having seen
     it, he thought that if certain things were done he would accept it,
     if you had not offered it to anyone else already. He wants to get
     back into this neighbourhood, and really I should think he would be
     a capital person from all Mr. Damer says, and from what I saw. I
     asked Mr. Damer to go and call upon Dr. Scott. I thought he might
     find out something about me. Dr. Scott told him a different story
     from what he told you. He said that my papers as a whole gave the
     Dons the idea that I made tremendous guesses at everything, and
     that they thought they could not on that let me in. He said nothing
     about the essay at all. I do not think he is much to be relied on.

     We also called upon Dr. Marsham. He was very civil and seemed to be
     pleased at our calling. He was very glad he said at your taking
     office, and said he would be able to offer me rooms in October, so
     I think we did no harm by calling, but that he thought it very
     civil. I only saw Dalmeny and Donoughmore, everyone else was out.

     I think General Peel’s speech very clear and intelligible. I
     suppose he will be a much greater loss than Lord Carnarvon or Lord
     Cranborne. How very troublesome the Fenians are! I suppose you have
     complete information now about it all. I am afraid the Whigs are
     getting very disagreeable, but I hope their machinations will not
     succeed. I think Dizzy gave it to Gladstone well.

     I am going out with the Harriers to-morrow.

          _Lord Randolph to his Father._

Cheddington: March, 1867.

     I must say I think it very kind of Dr. Marsham letting us know so
     soon that he can give me a room, for he said nothing about a chance
     vacancy, so that I expect he has made some other arrangement.

     I cannot tell you how delighted I was when you wrote and told me
     that you had accepted the office of Lord President of the Council.
     I think it is just the office that you would like best. Do you know
     who is to be Lord Steward? Do you at all expect a split in the
     Cabinet? I do hope you will be able to do something now, as it
     seems perhaps that the Conservatives have been placed in rather a
     humiliating position. I am so glad you are in the Cabinet; but Mr.
     Damer and I look forward to a change in the Cabinet policy.

     There has been very little to do here. I assisted Mr. Damer at some
     penny readings the other night in the school here, as he had been
     thrown over by a clergyman he had asked to come and read. I read
     ‘Reminiscences of Margot’ and the ‘Ingoldsby Legends.’ They were
     very much applauded. Mr. Damer and I have got a charming plan, I
     think you will approve of it. He says that after the 20th of June,
     which is the Choral Festival at Aylesbury of which he has the
     management, he will be quite free, and we thought we might make a
     very pleasant trip abroad for two months, beginning about July to
     the end of August, if you did not mind. I should have passed the
     examination for Merton and just come back in time for the October
     term. Mr. Damer says he would like it very much. But should you

     Do you think you would be able to run down here some Saturday
     afternoon and stay Sunday? I am afraid you will have a tremendous
     lot to do now. I wish I could be your Secretary.

[Sidenote: 1868 ÆT. 19]

The Continental tour commended itself to the Duke, and Lord Randolph was
allowed to roam through Switzerland and Italy at his pleasure for two or
three months. On his return he matriculated and took up his residence at
Merton, under the tutelage of Dr. Creighton, afterwards Bishop of
London. It must have been with relief and satisfaction that he exchanged
the rough bigotry of school life for the free and generous atmosphere of
a famous University. At Eton he had gained neither distinction in games
nor profit from studies. He had learned to row and swim, without
aspiring to renown; and as for cricket and football, he heartily
detested them both. But Oxford opened opportunities of all kinds. Its
proximity to Blenheim enabled him to live practically at home. The happy
companionship of his family and the sporting possibilities of a landed
estate were both within easy and constant reach. His nature responded to
the glory and romance of Oxford; and in its cloistered courts, so rich
in youth and history, he found a scheme of life more varied, tolerant,
and real than any he had ever known.

Meanwhile Lord Randolph had long outgrown ‘The Mouse’; and even while an
Eton boy, upon a new and quickly distinguished animal called ‘Pillbox,’
with occasional mounts from his elder sisters, he had begun in his
holidays to acquire some glory in the Oxfordshire fields. He is
described at sixteen as ‘a very bold and good horseman, who also took
the greatest interest in the hunting.’ Aided as he was by the light
weight of youth and his native knowledge of the country, few in the hunt
could beat him. His love of the art of venery grew into worship. At
fifteen the ownership of two beagles, the gift of his father,
transported him with delight. They proved the humble forerunners of a
pack which is not yet forgotten in Oxfordshire. Within the next two
years he became possessed of ‘two or three hounds, kept in some pigsties
at the back of the gardens, under the care of a somewhat ragged and
disreputable “Boy Jim,” whom he called his “whipper-in,”’ and of an old
retired keeper--one of the Duke’s pensioners--who, with his wife,
discharged the duties of ‘feeder.’ But it was not till he went to
Merton, in the autumn of 1867, that he aspired to a higher state and
created, in all the serious purpose of nine couple of hounds and the
pomp of ‘a whip well mounted and in livery,’ the celebrated ‘Blenheim
Harriers.’ September 21, 1867, is the first entry in his hunting-book,
thenceforward kept with the utmost regularity throughout the three years
of his Oxford life.

  |Date      |Horses  |Hounds |Weather       |Meet     |Hares Killed |
  |Sept. 21, |Lady Di |7½     |Cloudy,       |Bladon   |   1         |
  |1867      |        |couple |rain overhead |toll-bar |             |


     ‘First time of taking out the hounds--rather wild and did not run
     together.... Found in Margett’s grass field, and ran a ring with a
     bad scent. Jumped up in the middle of the pack, and ran a straight
     line across the Hensington Road and Taylor’s Farm, where three of
     the hounds, getting away quietly (Resolute, Blameless, and
     Careful), ran into her. Others got wrong. Cheerful not up at the
     death. Did not find again, but went home at once. Fencer and
     Blue-cap lame next day. Ground very hard. Scent very bad.--R. H. S.

And so on through many pages of neat, compact handwriting, with which,
since these episodes are more diverting in the enterprise than in the
chronicle, the reader need not be concerned. The reputation, the
popularity, and the fields of the Blenheim Harriers grew steadily. ‘I
became,’ wrote Colonel Thomas, ‘very proud of the way in which he hunted
his own hounds, as I never knew a more patient persevering Huntsman,
with great determination, self-confidence, and quickness in taking any
advantage that might occur.’ ‘Killed altogether last season,’ writes
Lord Randolph contentfully at the end of February 1868, ‘twenty-nine
brace of hares and one fox. Season commencing September 8, 1868.’

The harriers required attention in the summer, and the eye of the Master
was never long astray. The pack steadily improved in numbers and
quality. Some were bred at the Blenheim kennels, others were purchased.
One hound he bought from Lord Granville, who sent an amusing letter with
him, explaining that he was called ‘Radical.’ Lord Randolph’s
correspondence at this time seems to have been chiefly concerned with
these important matters. Here is a specimen letter:--

          _Lord Randolph Churchill to Mr. Blake, one of
his father’s tenants._

_Gloster Hotel, Cowes, Isle of Wight._

     Dear Sir,--You were kind enough in the spring to say that if you
     could overcome Mrs. Blake’s objections you would bring up a puppy
     for me. I have a very promising litter now by Dexter out of Crazy,
     that are quite old enough to go out ‘to walk,’ and should be so
     very much obliged to you if you would take care of one for me. I
     have altogether seven couple of puppies, and shall have great
     difficulty in finding walks for all of them. If you will let Mr.
     Napier know you will take one, he will send you one, and by doing
     so you will greatly oblige

Yours faithfully,

Lord Randolph soon became one of the best-known and best-liked figures
in the county. He was tactful and considerate to the farmers, whose
hospitality he enjoyed, and courteous and composed with his field. Many
are the stories of merry lunches at farmhouses, of mournful tumbles into
muddy brooks, of jaunts and jollities and every varied chance or
mischance of the chase over all that pleasant countryside. Whenever the
responsibilities of the harriers permitted and a horse was fresh and
fit, he hunted besides with the Heythrop, the Bicester and other
neighbouring packs.

But the world did not always smile upon him. It is odd how often persons
who in private life, and indeed on all other occasions, are the mildest
and kindest of men, develop, when engaged in equestrian sport, an
unwonted severity and even roughness of manner. Tom Duffield, the Master
of the Old Berkshire Hounds, was, like so many good sportsmen, somewhat
addicted to the use of firmer language in the hunting-field than the
occasion always required. One day, early in the winter of 1868, when
Lord Randolph was nearly twenty years old, he had the misfortune to ride
too close to the Old Berkshire Hounds and to incur the displeasure of
their Master, who rated him in a very violent fashion before the whole
company. Lord Randolph was deeply offended. He went home at once; but,
as he said nothing at the moment, the incident was for a while
forgotten. Towards the end of the season, however, a hunt dinner was
held in Oxford, to which Mr. Duffield and many of the Old Berkshire
field were bidden, and at which Lord Randolph was called upon to propose
the toast of ‘Fox-hunting.’ He described himself as an enthusiast for
all forms of sport. Fox-hunting, he said, in his opinion, ranked first
among field sports; but he was himself very fond of hare-hunting too.
‘So keen am I that, if I cannot get fox-hunting and cannot get
hare-hunting, I like an afternoon with a terrier hunting a rat in a
barn; and if I can’t get that,’ he proceeded, looking round with much
deliberation, ‘rather than dawdle indoors, I’d go out with Tom Duffield
and the Old Berkshire.’ There was a minute of general consternation,
which the orator complacently surveyed. Then the company, overcome by
the audacity of the speaker, burst into laughter, led by Mr. Duffield
himself. The story has become a local classic, and, surviving the worthy
sportsman against whom it was directed, is still preserved among the
farmers from Banbury to Bicester.

[Illustration: _Lord Randolph & his Father_ _Lord Randolph & his

For three successive seasons (1867-1869), with unimportant intervals
occasionally filled by study, Lord Randolph harried the hares of
Blenheim and enjoyed himself hugely. His brother, Lord Blandford, to
whom he was much attached, was serving in the Blues. His sisters were
growing up, and the eldest three were already ‘out.’ He became the
autocrat of the family circle, and, like a wise ruler, took an intense
interest in all that concerned his subjects. What balls they had been
to, whom they had danced with, and all the similar incidents of a girl’s
life were the constant objects of his inquiries; and upon all points he
expressed his approval or disapproval in the clearest possible terms.
Although the Duke might still assert a disciplinary control, there is no
doubt that his younger son was from this time forward increasingly
petted and beloved by his mother and sisters, to whom in return he
showed all the gay and affectionate sides of his nature. ‘He was,’ wrote
his mother, ‘the soul of wit and fun and cheerfulness in those happy
days.’ He made some good friends at Merton--not many in number, but
staunch and true. His Eton acquaintance with Lord Dalmeny (afterwards
Lord Rosebery) ripened at Oxford into a life-long friendship. Dalmeny’s
rooms in the Canterbury quadrangle of Christ Church were within a
stone’s-throw of Merton. The two young men were close companions in the
adventures and vicissitudes of undergraduate life and Lord Randolph used
often to bring his friend over to Blenheim. Here they met on many
occasions Mr. Disraeli, and the great Minister, who loved young people,
would talk and joke with them by the hour together. He seems to have
been delighted with both. His regrets were undisguised when, ten years
later, Lord Rosebery threw himself into the tides of the Midlothian
campaign. ‘I remember,’ wrote the Duchess of Marlborough, ‘that he first
told me (in 1869) that it rested with Randolph to become a distinguished
man. From that time he was ever friendly to him, and he watched with
interest his early efforts in Parliament, and always wrote to
congratulate me when he approved them.’

[Sidenote: 1869 ÆT. 20]

Besides the harriers, Lord Randolph’s greatest amusement at Oxford was
chess; and he soon acquired, for an amateur, more than ordinary skill in
the game. In conjunction with several friends he founded the University
Chess Club; and on the first visit of Mr. Steinitz, the champion
chess-player of the world, he conducted one of the boards at the
blindfold exhibition. Although his play necessarily lacked the strength
derivable from book knowledge and experience, it is described in this,
as in other affairs, as being ‘original, daring, and sometimes
brilliant.’ His game with Mr. Steinitz has been recorded; so that
competent persons may judge of his quality for themselves:--

  Game No. 1 (published in the _Chess Players’ Quarterly Chronicle_,
  vol. ii., p. 110).


     White.           Black.        |     White.              Black.
  Mr. Steinitz.    Lord Randolph    |   Mr. Steinitz.      Lord Randolph
   (blindfold)       Churchill.     |                        Churchill.
   1. P--K 4        P--K 4          |  18. B × R           Kt × B
   2. P--K B 4      P × P           |  19. R--K sq         P--Q Kt 3 [d]
   3. Kt--K B 3     P--K Kt 4       |  20. R × P (ch)      K--Q sq
   4. P--K R 4      P--K Kt 5       |  21. B--Q B 4        B--Q Kt 2
   5. Kt--K 5       Q--K 2 [a]      |  22. R--Kt 4         Kt--K Kt 3
   6. P--Q 4        P--Q 3          |  23. P--R 5          Kt--K 2
   7. Kt × Kt P     Q × P (ch)      |  24. R--K sq         Q Kt--Q B 3
   8. Q--K 2        P--Q 4          |  25. P--Q 5          Kt--Q Kt 5 [e]
   9. Kt--K 5       Kt--K R 3 [b]   |  26. P--Q B 6        B--Q B sq
  10. Kt--Q B 3     B--Q Kt 5       |  27. R--K Kt 7       Kt--Q B 3
  11. Q × Q         P × Q           |  28. P × Kt          Kt × P
  12. B × P         Kt--K B 4       |  29. B--Q Kt 5       B--Q Kt 2
  13. Castles       B × Kt          |  30. R--Q sq (ch)    K--K sq
  14. P X B         Kt--Q 3         |  31. R × Q B P       K--B sq
  15. P--Q B 4 [c]  P--K B 3        |  32. R--K B sq (ch)  K--Kt sq
  16. P--Q B 5      P × Kt          |  33. B--Q B 4 (ch), and mates in a
  17. B × P         Kt--K B 2       |             few moves.

[a] This was once a common defence to the Allgaier opening, but it seems
to entail the loss of the gambit pawn.

[b] B--R 3 would not have done, for White would then have exchanged
queens, and played B--Q B 4, &c.

[c] This move loses White a piece, but he obtains for it a full

[d] Black should have lost no time here in getting his pieces out; B--K
3, followed by K--Q 2 seems the best play.

[e] Kt--Q R 4 would be, perhaps, better; but in any case he must have
the worst of it.

It is not worth while to dwell on college scrapes, though of these some,
at any rate, have been recorded. Thus we learn that Lord Randolph
Churchill was fined ten shillings for the offence of smoking in his cap
and gown; that he broke the windows of the Randolph hotel; that he was
taken into custody by the police, with the rest of a noisy supper party,
and charged with being drunk; that, infuriated by such an accusation,
which was not sustained in court, he brought an action for perjury
against the police witness; that the college authorities appealed to the
Duke of Marlborough to stop the legal proceedings; that the Duke of
Marlborough replied that, on the contrary, they had his entire
concurrence; that learned counsel were brought by both parties from
London; but that in the end the summons was dismissed and the officer
exonerated of any wilful intention to deceive. We are also told that one
day he was sent for by the Warden to be rebuked for some delinquency. It
was winter, and the interview began with the Warden standing before the
fireplace and the undergraduate in the middle of the room. By the time
the next culprit arrived Lord Randolph was explaining his conduct with
his back to the fire and the Warden was a somewhat embarrassed listener
in a chilly corner. Such are the tales.

Until he was in his twentieth year Lord Randolph’s studies seem to have
been fitful. He had, indeed, enjoyed the ordinary education of an
English gentleman. He had consumed a vast number of hours at Eton and
elsewhere in making those intricate combinations of Latin words and
syllables which are perhaps as useful or as harmless a form of mental
training as youth can receive. He had--in addition to any acquaintance
with classical learning which these exercises may be supposed to impart,
and the wide but discursive reading of history and poetry that his
tastes had prompted--a peculiar, exact, and intimate knowledge (made
effective by an exceptional memory) of the Bible, Gibbon, and
‘Jorrocks.’ From these books--not so ill-assorted as they sound--he
could recite in an extraordinary manner whole pages at a time. In the
strong, simple, homely words and phrases, sonorous sentences, and veins
of rough spontaneous mirth which characterise the style and language of
his rhetoric and writings, the influence of these three varied
fountains, quaintly, yet not incongruously, intermingled, can be plainly

Although it is much better for the brain, and for the practical purposes
of life, to know and understand one book than to have read a hundred,
such an educational outfit was no title to academic distinction; and
after he had been three years at Merton Lord Randolph determined to work
seriously for an honours degree in history and law. He forthwith
proceeded to put away his ‘toys,’ as he called them; and the Blenheim
Harriers were given up without delay. The county gentlemen and farmers
who had followed their fortunes with pleasure, if not with profit,
determined to mark their appreciation of the pack and its youthful
Master by the customary British ceremony of a dinner. A banquet was
accordingly held at the Bear hotel in Woodstock at which Lord Randolph
was hospitably entertained and generally praised. He replied to the
toast of his health simply and briefly, as one speaking in his own place
to his friends and neighbours.

‘Now that the harriers are gone,’ he said, ‘the future seems rather a
blank. Perchance, in the course of time and events, I may find myself
separated from these scenes of my youth. But you may rest assured that
my Oxfordshire home and my Oxfordshire friends will ever be present and
dear to my mind; and that, in whatever quarter of the world I may find
myself, among whatever people, or pursuing whatever occupation, you,
gentlemen, who have asked me here to dinner this evening, the happy
hours I have spent among you, the fields and pastures of our well-known
and favourite hunting grounds, and, last but not least, the old pack of
harriers, will remain amongst those pleasant and gratifying
recollections of days that are gone by, upon which I shall at all times
delight to dwell.’

After this he began to work in earnest. The time which intervened before
the December examinations was all too short to repair the well-spent
idleness of previous years. It was fortunate that in these busy months
he came under the influence of that good and eminent man Dr. Creighton,
who took the greatest interest in him and aided and encouraged his
exertions by every means. ‘He was always amenable to expostulation, when
wisely administered,’ wrote Bishop Creighton in a letter to Mr. Escott
in 1895, ‘and consulted me with freedom on all matters relating to the
daily conduct of his life. At first he did not read much, having a habit
of going to sleep in his chair after dinner, often for hours, which he
only gradually overcame. But from the first I was interested to see his
growing appreciation of the value of history, especially on its legal
and constitutional side. He would take up a subject and talk about it
till he had reached its bottom. As his interest grew he read more....’

The Bishop proceeds to relate an incident which seems to have impressed
him. ‘My attention was called to his marked ability for practical
politics early in his career. Soon after he came to Merton he deemed it
his duty to write a letter in defence of his father, who had been
attacked on some question of Woodstock politics. Before sending the note
he brought it to me. I was greatly impressed by its dignity and its
dexterity--the former as the composition of a son about his father, the
latter in the administration of a reproof without leaving a loophole of
escape.’ Dr. Creighton advised him not to enter into political
controversy at his time of life. Lord Randolph’s answer was: ‘I have
thought it over, and decided that point for myself. What I came to ask
you was if you saw anything in the letter which you thought unbecoming.’
On this Dr. Creighton admitted, ‘If you are going to send a letter at
all, you could not send a better one.’

‘That incident gave me,’ writes the Bishop, ‘a real insight into
Churchill’s character, and showed me his capacity for practical
politics. He made up his own mind; having well reflected, he chose his
ground of attack, and then took every pains about the form of
expression. He sought no advice about what he was going to do, but was
anxious to do it “as well as possible.”’

[Sidenote: 1870 ÆT. 21]

_Dr. Creighton to the Duchess of Marlborough._

November 14, 1870.

     I only wish that greater numbers took the same interest that you
     and the Duke do in your son’s proceedings at Oxford, and then its
     results might be greater than they are.

     As regards Lord Randolph, I still think that he is wise in going in
     for examination now rather than in the summer. It is, of course,
     always difficult to predict the result of an examination; but I
     think that it would be very improbable, so far as my experience
     goes, that he should get any lower class than a second: some of his
     subjects he knows remarkably well--quite up to the standard of a
     first class--others he is not so much interested in. At present he
     is quite in earnest with his work, and has vigour and freshness in
     his treatment of it. He might no doubt, and probably would, be
     better prepared in six weeks’ time; but the interval of six months
     would be too long, and would give him temptations to listlessness
     and idleness which might leave him in a worse position at the end
     of that time than he is now.

     I shall, however, require from him a rigorous account of what he
     does in examination; and if I think he has not done himself
     justice, I shall advise him to remove his name before the end, and
     so put off his examination to the summer. Do not, however, suggest
     this to him as a possibility. It is bad for anyone to have an
     alternative before him, and it were better that I judged after the
     event than that he thought of it during the process. At present I
     certainly think he will get a second class at least.

Lord Randolph himself was hopeful:--

          _Lord Randolph to his Mother._

Merton College: Tuesday.

     I hope you won’t hope for too much when I tell you that yesterday
     and to-day I have been doing much better in my examination, which
     has been chiefly about what I have been reading this term; so I
     have been able to do it. I am very much afraid Saturday’s work
     will go against me. A great deal depends on how I do to-morrow
     morning, which is the last day. There is no more writing work; it
     is what they call _viva voce_ and that is the hardest. I hope that
     I will have a little luck and be asked what I know best and then
     perhaps it will come right, but even if it does the whole thing has
     been a dreadful scramble and I see now, too late, that I had much
     better have waited until June. However, I saw Creighton yesterday,
     and he was all against my scratching, and thinks I shall get
     through all right. I shall know by three or four o’clock to-morrow
     and shall telegraph. I am not very sanguine, but shall be
     dreadfully disappointed.

     I shall not be able to come home until Saturday or Monday anyhow,
     as I must keep my term. Poor little Wasp died yesterday. I am very
     much distressed, for she was so nice and was the first dog I had
     you did not object to. I do not think I shall get another, they all
     seem to die.

     Gladstone is safe to be beaten they say to-day. The Conservatives
     are beginning to pick up a little now, but we shall be in a
     shocking minority. I think Papa will be glad to get out of it
     though, and that is the only thing that consoles me. The papers
     seem to be in a dreadful fright for fear the Queen should send for
     Lord Granville. How spiteful they are!

Dr. Creighton’s forecast was, however, justified by the result:--

          _Dr. Creighton to the Duchess of Marlborough_,

December 15.

     I must own I was sorry when I heard how narrowly Lord Randolph
     missed the first class: a few more questions answered, and a few
     omissions in some of his papers, and he would have secured it. He
     was, I am told by the examiners, the best man who was put in the
     second class; and the great hardship is, as your Grace observes,
     that he should be in the same class with so many who are very
     greatly his inferior in knowledge and ability.

     It is rather tantalising to think he came so near; if he had been
     further off I should have been more content. Still I am glad he
     went in for examination this time. I think he would only have idled
     the six months before the next examination.

     On the whole I think he has learned a good deal during his time at
     Oxford, and I do not think he regrets his residence here. I am
     sorry to lose him.

After leaving Oxford Lord Randolph made (1870) another and much longer
tour in Europe. He liked few things better than to prowl about at his
leisure from one new place to another, seeing all the sights, the
galleries, the monuments, the circuses, and above all the zoological
gardens, with eyes that never lost their interest even for the smallest
trifles. Through France, Italy, and Austria he rambled light-heartedly;
and when, after an absence of nearly a year, he came back to Blenheim he
had enlarged his fancy and extended his education in various directions
beyond the limits of a University curriculum. Behold him now at
twenty-three, a man grown, markedly reserved in his manner to
acquaintances, utterly unguarded to his intimate friends, something of a
dandy in his dress, an earnest sportsman, an omnivorous reader, moving
with a jaunty step through what were in those days the very select
circles of fashion and clubland, seeking the pleasures of the Turf and

This interlude was soon ended.

[Sidenote: 1873 ÆT. 24]

In August of 1873 Lord Randolph went to Cowes upon what proved to him a
memorable visit. In honour of the arrival of the Czarewitch and the
Czarevna the officers of the cruiser _Ariadne_, then lying as guard-ship
in the Roads, gave a ball, to which all the pleasure-seekers who
frequent the Solent at this season of the year made haste to go in boats
and launches from the shore and from the pleasure fleet. Here for the
first time he met Miss Jerome, an American girl whose singular beauty
and gifted vivacity had excited general attention. He was presented to
her by a common friend. Waltzing made him giddy, and he detested dancing
of all kinds; so that after a formal quadrille they sat and talked. She
was living with her mother and eldest sister at Rosetta Cottage, a small
house which they had taken for the summer, with a tiny garden facing the
sea. Thither the next night, duly bidden, he repaired to dine. The
dinner was good, the company gay and attractive, and with the two young
ladies chatting and playing duets at the piano the evening passed very
pleasantly. She was nineteen, and he scarcely twenty-four; and, if
Montaigne is to be believed, this period of extreme youth is Love’s
golden moment. That very night Miss Jerome told her laughing and
incredulous sister of a presentiment that their new friend was the man
she would marry; and Lord Randolph confided to Colonel Edgecumbe, who
was of the party, that he admired the two sisters and meant, if he
could, to make ‘the dark one’ his wife.

Next day they met again ‘by accident’--so runs the account I have
received--and went for a walk. That evening he was once more a guest at
Rosetta Cottage. That night--the third of their acquaintance--was a
beautiful night, warm and still, with the lights of the yachts shining
on the water and the sky bright with stars. After dinner they found
themselves alone together in the garden, and--brief court-ship
notwithstanding--he proposed and was accepted.

So far as the principals were concerned, everything was thus easily and
swiftly settled, and the matter having become so earnest all further
meetings were suspended until the Duke of Marlborough and Mr. Jerome,
who was in America, had been consulted. Lord Randolph returned to
Blenheim shaken by alternating emotions of joy and despondency. He had
never been in love before and the force and volume of the tide swept him
altogether off his feet. At one moment he could scarcely believe that
one so unworthy as he could have been preferred; the next he trembled
lest all his hopes should be shattered by circumstances unforeseen. Nor
indeed was his anxiety without reason; for many and serious obstacles
had yet to be encountered and smoothed away. From Blenheim he wrote to
his father.

          _To his Father._

Blenheim: Wednesday, August 20, 1873.

     I must not any longer keep you in ignorance of a very important
     step I have taken--one which will undoubtedly influence very
     strongly all my future life.

     I met, soon after my arrival at Cowes, a Miss Jeannette Jerome, the
     daughter of an American lady who has lived for some years in Paris
     and whose husband lives in New York. I passed most of my time at
     Cowes in her (Jeannette’s) society, and before leaving asked her if
     she loved me well enough to marry me; and she told me she did. I
     do not think that if I were to write pages I could give you any
     idea of the strength of my feelings and affection and love for her;
     all I can say is that I love her better than life itself, and that
     my one hope and dream now is that matters may be so arranged that
     soon I may be united to her by ties that nothing but death itself
     could have the power to sever.

     I know, of course, that you will be very much surprised, and find
     it difficult to understand how an attachment so strong could have
     arisen in so short a space of time; and really I feel it quite
     impossible for me to give any explanation of it that could appear
     reasonable to anyone practical and dispassionate. I must, however,
     ask you to believe it as you could the truest and most real
     statement that could possibly be made to you, and to believe also
     that upon a subject so important, and I may say so solemn, I could
     not write one word that was in the smallest degree exaggerated, or
     that might not be taken at its fullest meaning.

     I hope you won’t feel any annoyance with me for not having
     consulted you before saying anything to her. I really meant to have
     done so; but on the night before I was leaving Cowes (Friday) my
     feelings of sorrow at parting from her were more than I could
     restrain, and I told her all. I did not say anything to her mother,
     but I believe that she did after I was gone; for she wrote to me
     just as I was starting (I did not, after all, leave Cowes till the
     Monday), and she said in her letter that her mother could not hear
     of it. That I am at a loss to understand.

     I told Mama when I got here and should have written at once to tell
     you; but I was so wretched and miserable at leaving thus, I was
     quite incapable of writing quietly.

     I now write to tell you of it all, and to ask you whether you will
     be able to increase my allowance to some extent to put me in the
     position to ask Mrs. Jerome to let me become her daughter’s future
     husband. I enclose you her photograph, and will only say about her
     that she is as nice, as lovable, and amiable and charming in every
     way as she is beautiful, and that by her education and bringing-up
     she is in every way qualified to fill any position.

     She had an elder sister, and one younger, who is not yet out. Mr.
     Jerome is a gentleman who is obliged to live in New York to look
     after his business. I do not know what it is. He is reputed to be
     very well off, and his daughters, I believe, have very good
     fortunes, but I do not know any thing for certain. He generally
     comes over for three or four months every year. Mrs. Jerome has
     lived in Paris for several years and has educated her daughters
     there. They go out in Society there and are very well known.

     I have told you all I know about them at present. You have always
     been very good to me, and done as much and more for me always than
     I had any right to expect; and with any arrangement that you may at
     any time make for me I shall be perfectly contented and happy. I
     see before me now a very happy future, almost in one’s grasp. In
     the last year or so I feel I have lost a great deal of what energy
     and ambition I possessed, and an idle and comparatively useless
     life has at times appeared to me to be the pleasantest; but if I
     were married to her whom I have told you about, if I had a
     companion, such as she would be, I feel sure, to take an interest
     in one’s prospects and career, and to encourage me to exertions and
     to doing something towards making a name for myself, I think that I
     might become, with the help of Providence, all and perhaps more
     than you had ever wished and hoped for me. On the other hand, if
     anything should occur to prevent my fondest hopes and wishes being
     realised (a possibility which I dare not and cannot bring myself to
     think of), how dreary and uninteresting would life become to me! No
     one goes through what I have lately gone through without its
     leaving a strong impress and bias on their character and future.
     Time might, of course, partially efface the impression and
     recollection of feelings so strong as those I have tried to
     describe to you, but in the interval the best years of one’s life
     would be going, and one’s energies and hopes would become blunted
     and deadened.

     I will not allude to her. I believe and am convinced that she loves
     me as fully, and as strongly if possible, as I do her; and when two
     people feel towards each other what we do, it becomes, I know, a
     great responsibility for anyone to assist in either bringing about
     or thwarting a union so closely desired by each.

     Good-bye. I have written to you all I have done, all I feel, and
     all I know.

Anxiously wishing for an answer from you,
I remain
Ever your most affectionate son,

The Duke was very seriously disturbed at the news of his son’s intention
and declined to commit himself to any expression of approval until he
had made searching inquiry into the standing and circumstances of the
Jerome family. He deplored the precipitancy with which the decision had
been taken. ‘It is not likely,’ he wrote upon August 31, ‘that at
present you can look at anything except from your own point of view; but
persons from the outside cannot but be struck with the unwisdom of your
proceedings, and the uncontrolled state of your feelings, which
completely paralyses your judgment.’ His rebuke was supported by his
wife, who urged affectionate counsels of caution, patience, and
self-restraint, and was pointed by a set of witty and satirical verses
from his brother, Lord Blandford, setting forth the unhappy fate of
those who marry in haste and repent at leisure.

It will easily be understood how this attitude--most Americans being
proud as the devil--raised corresponding objections on the other side.
Mr. Jerome was himself in many ways a remarkable personality. He had
made and lost and made again considerable fortunes in the enterprise and
struggle of American life. He had founded the first two great American
racecourses, Jerome Park and Coney Island Jockey Club, and divides with
Mr. August Belmont the claim to be the father of the American Turf. He
owned and edited the _New York Times_. A vehement Federalist in the
Civil War, he was said to have subscribed nearly half his fortune to the
Federal war funds. When in 1862 the war party in New York was
discredited by the disasters of the campaign, and riotous mobs attacked
the _Times_ office, Mr. Jerome--having purchased a battery of cannon and
armed his staff with rifles--beat them off, not without bloodshed.
Altogether he was a man of force and versatility. He had at first,
indeed, written a conditional assent to his daughter’s engagement, but
he withdrew it with promptness as soon as he heard a murmur of
opposition. Mrs. Jerome and her daughters retreated to France; and all
interviews, and even communications, were forbidden by all the parents.
Randolph Churchill, however, knew his own mind in many things, and most
especially in this. Such was his vehemence that the Duke was soon
persuaded, for the sake of his son’s peace of mind and of his own
authority, to acquiesce--at any rate, provisionally--in a formal
engagement. But he insisted upon delay. Nothing, he declared, but time
could prove an affection so rapidly excited; and with this decision,
supported and emphasised by the Jeromes, the lovers had perforce to be

The control of parents over grown-up children was in those unregenerate
days much more severe than now. Letters were indeed allowed to pass
freely between the lovers; but visits were grudged and restricted. Only
at intervals of a month, or even six weeks, were they permitted to see
each other, and in these circumstances it may be imagined that both pens
were busy. In this field the young lady had a great advantage. The
placid succession of the duties and amusements of country life--the
round of shooting parties, the varying totals of slaughtered hares and
pheasants, the mornings on the Woodstock bench, and descriptions of
relations and county folk--however vivacious, were inadequate materials
to set against days spent in Paris during the autumn of 1873, when the
gossip of the world was reviving after the gag of the war, when Bazaine
was upon his trial for his life, when Gambetta declaimed in the
Assembly, and when the drawing-rooms, even of foreigners, were full of
Royalist and Bonapartist whisperings. For the most part his letters were
strictly confined to the subject of main importance. They told over and
over again, in the forcible, homely English of which he was a natural
master, the oldest story in the world. Indeed, but for the contributions
of Miss Jerome the correspondence would certainly have lacked variety.

Towards the end of September the Duke committed himself with preciseness
to the opinion that one year’s delay was necessary. To this Lord
Randolph was far from agreeing and he conceived himself possessed of a
lever which might be used to shorten considerably this weary period of

          _To Miss Jerome._

Blenheim: Tuesday, September 23.

     I cannot tell you what pleasure and happiness your letter gives me;
     it makes me feel quite a different being, so you really must not
     threaten me with a long silence. You certainly have great powers of
     perception, and I cannot but own that there is a good deal of truth
     in what you say about my being one moment very despairing and
     another moment very sanguine. I cannot help it; I was made so.

     My father has been away for a few days, and yesterday I got a
     ‘piece’ from him on the subject of his consent. After a good deal
     of unnecessary rigmarole and verbosity he says:

     ‘The great question is still unsolved, whether you and the young
     lady who has gained your affections are, or can be, after a few
     days’ acquaintance, sufficiently aware of your own minds to venture
     on the step which is to bind you together for life. What I have now
     to say is that if I am to believe that your future is really bound
     up in your marriage with Miss Jerome you must show me the proof of
     it by bringing it to the test of time. I will say no more to you on
     this subject for the present, but if this time next year you come
     and tell me that you are both of the same mind we will receive Miss
     Jerome as a daughter, and, I need not say, in the affection you
     could desire for your wife.’

     Now these are his words, but I do not mind telling you that it is
     all humbug about waiting a year. I could, and would, wait a good
     deal more than a year, but I do not mean to, as it is not the least
     necessary; for though we have only known each other a short time, I
     know we both know our own minds well enough, and I wrote a very
     long and diplomatic letter to my father yesterday, doing what I
     have never done before, contradicting him and arguing with him and,
     I hope, persuading him that he has got very wrong and foolish
     ideas in his head. You see, both he and my mother have set their
     hearts on my being member for Woodstock. It is a family borough,
     and for years and years a member of the family has sat for it. The
     present member is a stranger, though a Conservative, and is so
     unpopular that he is almost sure to be beaten if he were to stand;
     and the fact of a Radical sitting for Woodstock is perfectly
     insupportable to my family. It is for this that they have kept me
     idle ever since I left Oxford, waiting for a dissolution. Well, as
     I told you the other day, a dissolution is sure to come almost
     before the end of the year. I have two courses open to me: either
     to refuse to stand altogether unless they consent to my being
     married immediately afterwards; or else--and this is still more
     Machiavellian and deep--to stand, but at the last moment to
     threaten to withdraw and leave the Radical to walk over. All tricks
     are fair in love and war.

These desperate expedients were not, however, necessary. The parents on
both sides only wished to be assured that the attachment of their
children was no passing caprice, but a sincere and profound affection;
and as the weeks grew into months this conviction was irresistibly borne
in upon them. In October the Duke was willing to admit that the period
of probation might be considerably curtailed. But he still had strong
reasons for not wishing the marriage to take place immediately. The
dissolution was certainly in the air. By-election after by-election had
gone against Mr. Gladstone’s Government. Greenwich, Stroud, Dover, Hull,
Exeter, East Staffordshire, and Renfrewshire had renounced their
allegiance; Bath had been barely retained, and the Solicitor-General,
whose victory at Taunton had been a much-paraded compensation, was
threatened with a petition for bribery. It was most important that
Woodstock should be held for the Conservatives. No one could possibly
have so good a chance as the young cadet born and bred on the soil, who
knew half the farmers and local magnates personally, whose excursions
with the harriers had made him familiar with all parts of the
constituency, and whose gay and stormy attractiveness had won him a host
of sworn allies.

Yet he had often in words and in letters expressed a disinclination for
public life. It is curious to notice how even in the days of buoyant
unconquered youth, moods of depression cast their shadows across his
path. Although possessed of unusual nervous energy, his whole life was a
struggle against ill-health. Excitement fretted him cruelly. He smoked
cigarettes ‘till his tongue was sore’ to soothe himself. Capable upon
emergency of prolonged and vehement exertion, of manifold activities and
pugnacities, of leaps and heaves beyond the common strength of men, he
suffered by reaction fits of utter exhaustion and despondency. Most
people grow tired before they are over-tired. But Lord Randolph
Churchill was of the temper that gallops till it falls. An instinct
warned him of the perils which threatened him in a life of effort. He
shrank from it in apprehension. Peace and quiet, sport and friends,
agricultural interests--above all a home--offered a woodland path far
more alluring than the dusty road to London. The Duke felt, and with
reason, that unless Lord Randolph were member for Woodstock before his
marriage, not only would the borough be seduced to Radicalism, but that
the son in whom all the hopes and ambitions of his later life were
centred might never enter Parliament at all.

Lord Randolph was very grateful for the friendly attitude his family had
now assumed and was quite prepared to repay concession by patience in
one direction and by energy in another:--

          _To his Father._

Blenheim: Thursday, October (?), 1873.

     I write by an early post to acknowledge your letter and to thank
     you very much for it. It is indeed a most kind letter and I am most
     grateful to you, as it is all I could have expected. Mama tells me
     that you got up early in the morning to write it, and indeed I
     thank you very much indeed for writing to me as you have done, and
     I only hope you did not tire yourself very much before your long

     I go to London to-day and to Paris to-morrow. I enclose you a
     letter from Hawkins about the registration, which seems to be
     satisfactory. I am sure you need not fear my doing my very best to
     get in, and therefore to be some credit to you. I feel that in this
     you have acted very kindly to me and I feel very grateful to you,
     although I know there are circumstances now which would have led
     some people to very different conclusions. I am, however, perfectly
     confident that ultimately you will never regret for a moment having
     acted as you have done.

          _To Miss Jerome._

Blenheim: Monday, October (?), 1873.

     I was so happy to see your handwriting again; it is next best thing
     to seeing you. As you will have seen from my letter of Friday, we
     have no cause now to be disappointed or to be in bad spirits;
     everything goes on as favourably as we could expect, and my father
     does not wish, for a moment, to prevent my seeing you as often as I
     can, and has promised to give his consent to our marriage when he
     is sure we are fond of each other. As to the year, I have every
     right to say that I do not think they will insist on it....

     The clouds have all cleared away, and the sky is bluer than I have
     ever seen it since I first met you at Cowes. It is exactly six
     weeks to-morrow since we met on board the Ariadne, and I am sure I
     seem to have lived six years. How I do bless that day, in spite of
     all the worry and bother that has come since; and I am sure you
     will not regret it. I have not had a further conversation with my
     father since I wrote to you, for I think it is best to leave things
     for the present as they are. Our early golden dreams of being
     married in December won’t quite become realised, but still it won’t
     be very long to wait; and I shall be able to see you from time to
     time, and write as often as I like; in fact, we can be regularly
     engaged, and all the world may know it....

     It is curious what an effect books have on me; I have two old
     favourites. When I feel very cross and angry I read Gibbon, whose
     profound philosophy and easy though majestic writing soon quiets me
     down, and in an hour I feel at peace with all the world. When I
     feel very low and desponding I read Horace, whose thorough
     epicureanism, quiet maxims, and beautiful verse are most
     tranquillising. Of late I have had to have frequent recourse to my
     two friends, and they have never failed me. I strongly recommend
     you to read some great works or histories; they pass the time, and
     prevent you from worrying or thinking too much about the future.
     Novels, or even travels, are rather unsatisfactory, and do one no
     good, because they create an unhealthy excitement, which is bad for
     anyone. I wonder whether you will understand all this, or only
     think me rather odd.

     There are three new elections to come off, owing to death
     vacancies; and if they go against the Government, as they very
     probably will, we are sure to have a dissolution, and then I shall
     become member for Woodstock. But, after all, public life has no
     great charms for me, as I am naturally very quiet, and hate bother
     and publicity, which, after all, is full of vanity and vexation of
     spirit. Still, it will all have greater attractions for me if I
     think it will please you and that you take an interest in it and
     will encourage me to keep up to the mark.

     I hope your sister is quite well, comforts you, and sticks up for
     me when you abuse me to her or doubt me.

[Sidenote: 1874 ÆT. 25]

A fortnight later he insisted that he should be allowed to visit the
Jeromes in the middle of December; and this having been agreed to, the
process of counting the days began. But upon the eve of departure an
unexpected misfortune intervened. His aunt Lady Portarlington was taken
dangerously ill. The family were hurriedly summoned to Emo, and the
delightful anticipations of a fortnight in Paris under such
circumstances were exchanged for the melancholy reality of nearly a
month in Ireland, watching in daily uncertainty a painful and unavailing
struggle with death. It is easy to imagine the vexation of such delay
and the longings which possessed him to leave the house of mourning. But
the family leant on him and, while his presence was of real use and
value, he felt bound to wait wearily on from day to day. The course of
the illness was varied: once recovery seemed almost certain; but after
many relapses the end came in the middle of January. Immediately after
the funeral--which was celebrated with much Catholic pomp--Lord Randolph
tore himself away, crossed the Irish Channel the same night, and was
about to proceed the next evening to France, when another even more
imperative call arrested him. Parliament was dissolved.

This event, long looked for, often rumoured, had come at last with the
suddenness of surprise. But Woodstock was not unprepared. The Duke of
Marlborough had waited impatiently for the first General Election after
his brother’s lapse to regain his control over the representation of his
borough. When Parliament had been dissolved in July 1865, Lord Alfred
Churchill, according to his agreement, did not open his candidature; and
Mr. Henry Barnett, the Squire of Glympton Park, a well-known London
banker, was put forward as the Conservative candidate and (let it not be
overlooked) ducal nominee. A Liberal was found in Mr. Mitchell Henry,
afterwards better known as the Home Rule member for Galway; but the
Squire carried the election by 24 votes, and, having been again
successful in 1868, was the sitting member at the time when another
cadet of the great house had ripened to a Parliamentary age.

Mr. Barnett now, as it turned out, very conveniently, expressed an
earnest wish to relinquish the toils and responsibilities of public
life; and the ancient borough, with an imperturbable solemnity and a
conservative reverence for the form in which things should be done, was
prompt in sending a regular requisition for Lord Randolph’s services.
The electors, according to this document, declared that no one could
better champion their cause at this crisis, or more fitly represent
their views in the ensuing Parliament. They urged him to stand; and in
view of the fact that there happened to be that very afternoon a
coursing meeting in the Park which all the local farmers were expected
to attend, he had to set off for Blenheim without delay.

The series of letters to Paris was sadly broken into by the contest, and
for the most part only telegrams had to fill the gap: but here and there
a moment could be snatched.

          _To Miss Jerome._

Blenheim: Monday.

     It was perfectly impossible for me to get any letter off by last
     night’s post, as I have not had a moment to spare. Since ten this
     morning I went and saw several people at Woodstock, and had, on the
     whole, satisfactory answers and assurances of support. It was a
     most fortunate circumstance that the Annual Coursing Meeting, which
     my father allows every year in the Park, had been fixed for to-day;
     all the farmers were there, and as they had a good day’s sport were
     all in great spirits. I took the chair at their dinner at the Bear
     hotel, and you cannot imagine how enthusiastic they were for me.
     They all go as one man. I hear nothing certain as to any
     opposition; there are no end of rumours, but no one as yet has
     appeared publicly; I suppose we shall know for certain to-morrow.

     I am now off to a part of the borough four miles distant, to see
     more people, and I have a large meeting of my committee at four in
     Woodstock. I think I may say that for the present everything is
     satisfactory. There are 1,071 voters, and I do not think more than
     800 will poll; out of these I calculate at least on 460, which will
     be enough. But this is, of course, mere guess-work; it is all still
     very uncertain, and I am glad I lost no time in arriving.

Blenheim: Tuesday.

     The radical candidate, Mr. Brodrick, arrived this morning; I made
     his acquaintance, and we shook hands and were very friendly. The
     contest will be a hard one and the result doubtful; it is
     impossible to say how the labourers will go. However, I have made a
     very good start, and have nothing to complain of as yet.

Blenheim: Saturday.

     I am sure it is not necessary for me to excuse myself for not
     writing to you; you would not believe what work it is. We had a
     great meeting last night, which was very successful; we had a good
     speaker down from London, and I made a speech. How I have been
     longing for you to have been with me! If we had only been married
     before this! I think the reception you would have got, would have
     astonished you. The number of houses I have been into--many of them
     dirty cottages--the number of unwashed hands I have cordially
     shaken, you would not believe. My head is in a whirl of voters,
     committee meetings, and goodness knows what. I am glad it is
     drawing to an end, as I could not stand it very long; I cannot eat
     or sleep.

     I am now off again, 10 A.M., to see more people.

Blenheim: Sunday.

     At last I have a pretty quiet day; but I have been very busy this
     afternoon, and, in spite of its being Sunday, I have been active
     among several little odd fellows whom it is important to pick up.
     How this election is going I really can form no opinion, and the
     excitement and uncertainty of it make me quite ill. Yesterday I was
     canvassing all day in Woodstock itself. People that I think know
     better than anybody, tell me it will be very close. You see, with
     the ballot one can tell nothing--one can only trust to promises,
     and I have no doubt a good many will be broken. Our organisation
     and preparations for Tuesday are very perfect, and the old borough
     has never been worked in such a way before. You have no idea how
     this election gets hold of me. One can positively think of nothing
     else except voters and committees, &c., till one’s brain gets quite
     addled and in a whirl. I have a presentiment that it will go wrong.
     I am such a fool to care so much about it. I hate all this
     excitement.... I saw my opponent to-day in church. He looks awfully
     harassed. I feel quite sorry for him, as all his friends here are
     such a dreadfully disreputable lot; and as I have got the three
     principal hotels in the town, he has nothing except a wretched,
     low, miserable pot-house to stay in.

Unfortunate Mr. Brodrick! The result of the election in no way belied
the quality of his accommodation.

     Ever since I met you everything goes well with me--too well; I am
     getting afraid of a Nemesis. I always hoped I should win the
     election, but that under the ballot and against a man like Brodrick
     I should have that crushing, overwhelming majority [of 165 out of
     973 voters] never entered into my wildest dreams. It was a great
     victory--we shall never have a contest again. The last two
     contests--‘65 and ‘68--were won only by 17 and 21 majorities; so
     just conceive the blow it is to the other side. You never heard
     such cheering in all your life. The poll was not declared till
     eleven, and the hours of suspense were most trying; but when it was
     known, there was such a burst of cheers that must have made the old
     Dukes in the vault jump. I addressed a few words to the
     committee--and so did Blandford--and was immensely cheered; and
     then they accompanied us, the whole crowd of them, through the town
     and up to Blenheim, shouting and cheering all the way. Oh, it was a
     great triumph--and that you were not there to witness it will
     always be a source of great regret to me....

     There is nothing more to be done except to pay the bill, and that I
     have left to my father.

The Woodstock election being out of the way, the road was cleared for
more important matters. The Duke, his political anxieties laid to rest,
journeyed to Paris, saw the young lady for himself, and, returning
completely converted, withdrew all remaining stipulations for delay. But
further difficulties presented themselves. The question of settlements
proved delicate and thorny. Mr. Jerome had strong and, it would seem,
not unreasonable views, suggested by American usage, about married
women’s property and made some propositions which Lord Randolph
considered derogatory to him. Although he was to benefit considerably
under the arrangement proposed, he refused utterly to agree to any
settlement which contained even technical provisions to which he
objected; and after an embarrassing discussion went off to prepare
determined plans to earn a living ‘in England or out of it,’ as fortune
should dictate, for himself and his future wife--‘a course in which,’ so
he wrote to his father, ‘I am bound to say she thoroughly agrees with

Face to face with this ultimatum--the first of any importance and not
the least successful in Lord Randolph’s forceful career--Mr. Jerome, who
after all only wished to make a proper and prudent arrangement,
capitulated after twenty-four hours’ consideration. A satisfactory
treaty was ratified, and it only remained to fulfil the conditions. The
negotiations had already extended over seven months and the ceremony was
appointed without further delay. The Duke, though unable to be present
himself, sent his blessing in a most cordial letter. ‘Although, my dear
Randolph, you have acted in this business with less than usual
deliberation, you have adhered to your choice with unwavering constancy
and I cannot doubt the truth and force of your affection.’ On April 15,
1874, the marriage was celebrated at the British Embassy in Paris, and
after a tour--not too prolonged--upon the Continent, Lord Randolph
Churchill returned in triumph with his bride to receive the dutiful
laudations of the borough of Woodstock and enjoy the leafy glories of
Blenheim in the spring.



    Minutely trace man’s life; year after year,
    Through all his days let all his deeds appear,
    And then, though some may in that life be strange,
    Yet there appears no vast nor sudden change;
    The links that bind those various deeds are seen,
    And no mysterious void is left between.
           CRABBE, _The Parting Hour_.

A profound tranquillity brooded over the early years of the Parliament
of 1874. Mr. Gladstone was in retirement. A young Irishman, Charles
Stewart Parnell, had been beaten at the General Election in his Dublin
candidature and did not enter the House of Commons or make a nervous
maiden speech till the spring of 1875. Mr. Chamberlain, a new though
already formidable English politician, had, as a Radical, vainly
attacked Mr. Roebuck, the Liberal member for Sheffield, and was not
returned as a representative of Birmingham till 1876. The Irish party
was led sedately along the uncongenial paths of constitutional agitation
by Mr. Butt; Radicalism was without a spokesman; and the Liberals
reposed under the leadership of Lord Hartington and the ascendency of
the Whigs. For the first time since the schism of 1846 a Conservative
Administration was founded upon a Conservative majority. The fiscal
period had closed. All those questions of trade and navigation, of the
incidence of taxation and of public economy, which had occupied almost
the whole lives of political leaders on both sides, were settled. New
strains, new problems, new perils approached--but at a distance; and in
the meanwhile the Conservative party, relieved from the necessity of
defending untenable positions, freed from controversies which had proved
to them so utterly disastrous, received again the confidence of the
nation and the substantial gift of power.

The reasons which had induced, or perhaps compelled Mr. Disraeli to
refuse to form a Government on the defeat of Mr. Gladstone’s Irish
University Bill early in 1873, seemed conclusive at the time. They were
certainly vindicated by the subsequent course of events. The Liberal
Ministry never recovered its credit. Nonconformist wrath at the
Education Act and Radical disdain continued fierce and enduring. Harsh
demands for social reforms began to come from Birmingham and grated on
the ears of the Whigs. The dissensions in the governing party cast their
shadows upon the Cabinet. Vexatious quarrels broke out among Ministers.
No reconstruction availed. Not even the return of Mr. Bright to the
Administration could revive its falling fortunes: by-elections were
adverse and the House of Commons was apathetic. The Government of 1868
had been in its day very powerful. Scarcely any Prime Minister had
enjoyed the support of such distinguished colleagues as Mr. Gladstone
had commanded in the noonday of his strength. Few Administrations had
more punctually and faithfully discharged the pledges under which they
had assumed office. The statute-book, the Army, and the finances bore
forcible testimony to their reforming zeal. But their usefulness and
their welcome were alike exhausted and the nation listened with morose
approval to the charges which Mr. Disraeli preferred. ‘For nearly five
years,’ he wrote to Lord Grey de Wilton, October 3, 1873, on the eve of
the by-election at Bath, ‘the present Ministers have harassed every
trade, worried every profession, and assailed or menaced every class,
institution, and species of property in the country. Occasionally they
have varied this state of civil warfare by perpetrating some job which
outraged public opinion, or by stumbling into mistakes which have been
always discreditable and sometimes ruinous.’

Yet it is alleged that a cause much more personal than political
precipitated the dissolution. Mr. Gladstone had at the late
reconstruction become Chancellor of the Exchequer as well as First Lord
of the Treasury. Had he therefore vacated his seat by accepting an
office of profit under the Crown? The Opposition was alert; the law
officers were as doubtful in their published opinion as the constituency
of Greenwich in its temper. The question lay outside the control of the
Government and their supporters. If Mr. Gladstone sat and voted when the
session opened, he could be sued in the courts for substantial
penalties; and none could forecast the decision. On the other hand, the
defeat of the Prime Minister, as the culmination of a long series of
ill-fated by-elections, would be at once a personal humiliation and a
political disaster. It must therefore be reckoned almost a fortunate
coincidence that the Estimates both of the Admiralty and the War Office
to some degree exceeded the limits within which Mr. Gladstone had hoped
to confine them and that the Ministers responsible for those departments
should have been reluctant to reduce them. Who shall pronounce upon the
motives of men--in what obscure and varying relations they combine or
conflict, in what proportion they are mingled? Something of the vanity
of a great man irritated by a personal difficulty, something of the
weariness that waits on generous effort not acknowledged, something of
physical revolt from the interminable wrangles and compromises of a
Cabinet, much consideration, let it be said, for the proud dignity of
which the British Government should never be divested, induced Mr.
Gladstone in the first days of 1874 to advise the dissolution of

The Conservatives reaped the advantage of their leader’s self-restraint.
A year before they had rejected office. They now appealed for power.
Instead of coming hat in hand, a defeated, discredited, and degraded
Ministry who had held their places for a few months in order to wind up
a session at the contemptuous toleration of a hostile majority, they
presented themselves with authority and reserve to the good opinion of
the public. The result was decisive. In vain Mr. Gladstone promised the
abolition of the income-tax, the diminution of local taxation, and the
reduction of burdens upon articles of general consumption. In vain the
financial and administrative triumphs of Liberalism were paraded. The
elections resulted in a Tory majority of fifty--‘really,’ according to
Mr. Gladstone, ‘of much greater strength’; and that strange prophet of
Israel who for thirty years had wandered in the wilderness of fiscal
heresy, led his astonished or doubtful followers back to the land of
place and promise.

Liberal recriminations occupied the morrow of disaster. Mr. Gladstone
was blamed for an impulsive and precipitate dissolution. Mr. Chamberlain
described his address and its financial allurements as ‘the meanest
public document that had ever, in like circumstances, proceeded from the
pen of a statesman of the first rank.’[3] Other critics asserted that
all would have been well had he waited till after the Budget with its
noble surplus, or till the genial weather of the summer-time, or till
some period still more remote. Under all ran a current of satire and
suggestion about the double office, the Greenwich election, and their
influence upon greater decisions. Mr. Gladstone for his part was not
backward in rejoinder. ‘Not from anger, but because it is absolutely
necessary to party action to learn that all the duties and
responsibilities do not rest on the leaders, but that followers have
their obligations too,’ he announced his retirement from the Liberal
leadership and his determination to secure some interval of private life
‘between Parliament and the grave.’ From this intention not the
consternation of his party, nor the appeals of his friends, nor the
taunts of his detractors could move him further than to promise a
limited and occasional leadership, which in the course of a session was
found to mean no leadership at all.

Notwithstanding the risk of being forced to form a future
Administration, several eminent men stepped forward to the gap; but the
issue quickly narrowed itself to a contest between Mr. Forster and Lord
Hartington. Mr. Forster had, it seemed, the advantage in talent and
authority and the gift of speech. He may be described as the first of
the Liberal-Imperialists and on more than one occasion--notably the
Crimean War, the Volunteer movement, and the prosecution of Governor
Eyre--he had come into sharp conflict with the Manchester school.
Although at heart one of the kindliest and most benevolent of men, his
personal independence, a certain Yorkshire roughness of manner and an
ill-concealed dislike of doctrinaire Radicalism had made him many
enemies; and not even the Ballot Act, which he had carried in the teeth
of Conservative opposition, could redeem the mortal offence his
Education compromise had caused the Nonconformists. His enemies
prevailed; and in the early days of 1875 Lord Hartington was duly
installed in the vacant place.

If the Opposition in 1874 were without a leader, the Government they
confronted was without a policy. The Conservatives owed their success at
the polls to the divisions and exhaustion of their opponents rather than
to any action or even to any promises of their own. The new Prime
Minister did not allow the violent attacks he had lately made upon the
conduct of his predecessors to lead him into any reversal of their
measures. The composition of the Cabinet was suited to a policy of
‘honest humdrum.’ With the exceptions of Lord Salisbury and Mr.
Gathorne-Hardy, Mr. Disraeli’s old colleagues were regarded as ‘safe’
rather than brilliant; and the one new man who joined them, Mr. Assheton
Cross, did not seriously alter the prevailing impression.

At the head of a victorious party, with a substantial majority and an
overflowing Exchequer, Mr. Disraeli could afford to be generous and was
inclined to be conciliatory. He took occasion on the Address to pay a
handsome tribute to Mr. Gladstone’s long public service and personal
fame. The Queen’s Speech announced little more than a continuance of the
non-contentious part of the programme of the late Liberal Government.
The administration of the Irish Viceroy and Lord Northbrook’s policy in
India were praised and endorsed. The Chancellors, new and old, consulted
together upon the reform of legal procedure. Sir Stafford Northcote bore
witness, in terms almost of panegyric, to the accuracy of Mr.
Gladstone’s financial anticipations; and Mr. Gathorne-Hardy accepted in
their entirety Lord Cardwell’s arrangements for the Army.

In this last instance at least some disappointment was caused to their
supporters by the complaisance of the new Ministers. The proposal to
make Oxford one of the new territorial military centres had agitated the
University ever since the adoption of the Cardwell scheme of Army reform
in 1872. In October of that year a memorial, signed by nearly the whole
of the teaching staff, had vigorously protested against a plan which it
was somewhat fancifully alleged would prove detrimental by example to
University discipline and undergraduate morality. Lord Salisbury, as
Chancellor, had initiated a debate in the House of Lords in June 1873;
and in May Mr. Auberon Herbert had moved in the Commons for a select
committee. Mr. Cardwell, however, explained that the site was to be two
miles from Oxford, that the number of officers and men to be stationed
there was small, and that other University towns contained garrisons;
and Mr. Auberon Herbert’s motion was defeated (May 23, 1873) by 134 to

Upon the accession of a Conservative Government and especially of a War
Minister who had himself strongly supported Mr. Herbert only a year
before, the motion was renewed on May 22 by Mr. Beresford Hope--not
unreasonably, as it would seem--with greater expectations of success.
Lord Randolph Churchill, who had taken the oath and his seat at the
beginning of the session (March 6), seized the opportunity to deliver
his maiden speech. Unlike the usual form of such productions, it was
prepared at very short notice and was a rather crude debating effort.
The Secretary of State, Mr. Gathorne-Hardy, explained that, since the
land had been bought and the contractor was at work, he could not now
reverse the decision to which his predecessor had come. He was supported
by Mr. A. W. Hall, one of the members for Oxford City, who enlarged on
the advantages of the place as a military centre, and complained that
the University had already succeeded in keeping away the Great Western
main line and the railway works.

Lord Randolph spoke from the University point of view. The proposal, he
declared, amounted to the turning of an ancient University into
something like a modern garrison town, the mingling of learned
professors and thoughtful students with ‘roystering soldiers and
licentious camp followers.’ If it were adopted, Oxford might take the
place of Aldershot. The opinion of the City ought not to override that
of the University. The University of Oxford had made the City of Oxford.
The City depended for its very existence upon the University; and while
it could forget, it could not forgive, that fact. To save 52,000_l._ the
reputation and the future of the University were to be sold. What
comparison could be made between the University of Oxford and the
Universities of London, Dublin, and Edinburgh? Dublin was full of
soldiers ‘from the notorious disaffection and insubordination of the
Irish people’; London because it was the Metropolis of the United
Kingdom; and Edinburgh because it was the capital of Scotland. But the
Universities of Oxford and Cambridge were founded before standing armies
were known or garrison towns existed. The ablest and the most
experienced leaders of the University had boldly said that, if they
could prevent it, they would not have Oxford turned into a manufacturing
town; they had protested against the town being overrun with railway
roughs and navvies; they now objected to its being converted into a
military station crowded with disorderly soldiers. Leave their quiet
cloisters undisturbed and Oxford would remain the greatest University
city in the world.

Sir William Harcourt, who followed, complimented the new member upon the
ability of his speech. He professed himself greatly shocked that one who
bore a name so inseparably associated with the glories of the British
Army should have permitted himself to speak of ‘roystering soldiers,’ or
that one who was elected to the House by a majority all of whom did not
belong to the upper classes, should have spoken of ‘railway roughs.’ The
Lord Mayor of Dublin, who spoke later, complained of what he described
as an unfounded slander upon his constituents conveyed in the suggestion
that a large army was stationed in Dublin for the purpose of keeping
down a disloyal and disaffected population; and another member, a
graduate of Trinity College, protested against the sneers at Dublin
University which he said Lord Randolph’s speech had contained. The
motion was rejected by 170 to 91; and it is fair to say that none of the
evils anticipated have yet occurred. The barracks have proved too far
from Oxford to interfere practically with its life, though their
presence is a convenience to University candidates for the Army, and the
officers form a valuable addition to academic society.

Although it had chanced that Lord Randolph’s first speech was against
the Government, Mr. Disraeli hastened to write a friendly account of it
to the Duchess of Marlborough:--

2 Whitehall Gardens, S.W.: May 23, 1874.

     Dear Duchess,--You will be pleased to hear that Lord R. last night
     made a very successful _début_ in the House of Commons. He said
     some imprudent things, which was of no consequence in the maiden
     speech of a young man, but he spoke with fire and fluency; and
     showed energy of thought and character, with evidence of resource.

     With self-control and assiduity he may obtain a position worthy of
     his name, and mount. He replied to the new Conservative member for
     Oxford City, who also is a man of promise. I am going to Hughenden
     this morning, and am very busy, or I would have tried to have told
     you all this in person.

Yours sincerely,

[Sidenote: 1875 ÆT. 26]

But the course of the session and of the years that followed offered few
opportunities to young members for winning Parliamentary distinction.
The waters of politics flowed smoothly and even sluggishly. The Public
Worship Regulation Bill brought Mr. Gladstone promptly from his
retirement with six resolutions and much moving eloquence. During its
passage political leaders were thrown into novel combinations and
discords and the ordinary lines of party cleavage altogether
disappeared. The House of Commons, with an unconscious disregard of its
own rules, wrangled over the debates in the House of Lords. The Prime
Minister described the Secretary of State for India as a ‘master of
gibes and flouts and jeers.’ Mr. Gladstone and Lord Salisbury on the one
hand confronted Sir William Harcourt and Mr. Disraeli on the other. But
with this exception the sessions were dull and formal. Now and then an
incident or a scene, like Mr. Plimsoll’s outburst or Mr. Biggar’s
four-hour speech, excited a momentary interest or irritation. The
purchase of the Suez Canal shares or the Royal Titles Bill or an
academic debate upon Home Rule produced from time to time interesting
discussions. The mild dissipation of Mr. Gladstone’s surplus by his
successor at the Treasury provoked a spurt of censure; but the
temperature of public life continued low and its pulse languid.

Even in a period of political activity there is small scope for the
supporter of a Government. The Whips do not want speeches, but votes.
The Ministers regard an oration in their praise or defence as only one
degree less tiresome than an attack. The earnest party man becomes a
silent drudge, tramping at intervals through lobbies to record his vote
and wondering why he came to Westminster at all. Ambitious youth
diverges into criticism and even hostility, or seeks an outlet for its
energies elsewhere. Lord Randolph took scarcely any part in the
Parliament of 1874. During its first three years he did not occupy more
than an hour and a half of its time or attention. If he spoke at all, it
was usually on matters connected with Woodstock. A question here and
there, a few uncontroversial words during the debates on the Public
Worship Regulation Bill, a sharp little impromptu speech on a motion for
the release of Irish State prisoners in protest against an unkind
comparison drawn by Mr. O’Connor Power between the soldiers who had
become Fenians and the conduct of the first Duke of Marlborough in
deserting William of Orange--these are almost the only references to his
existence that ‘Hansard’ contains.

At the end of May 1875 Sir Charles Dilke moved for a return of the
unreformed Corporations of England, making special reference to the
circumstances and behaviour of the excessively unreformed borough of
Woodstock. He attacked its self-elected corporation, which gave no
account of its dealings with its property and contributed apparently
only a small proportion to public purposes. He denounced its Mayor--the
landlord of a small public-house, let to him at an absurdly low rate by
the Corporation--who, having been summoned and convicted under pressure
from the inhabitants for permitting drinking on his premises after
hours, had said: ‘I have always had a great respect for the police, but
I shall never have again.’ This cruel indictment brought Lord Randolph
to the rescue in an amusing speech, in which he exhibited such
unexpected debating powers that it was alleged, and I dare say not
without some truth, that he did not hear Sir Charles Dilke’s speech for
the first time in the House of Commons. He explained that the Foresters
had met at the King’s Arms and that ‘their business had been so
important as to last beyond closing time.’ The application for the
summons, he said, had been delayed because the police had been kept busy
by the Shipton-on-Cherwell railway accident; the fines imposed had been
trifling, and the Mayor had really said, ‘I have always thought highly
of the police of Woodstock, and shall henceforth think more highly of
them than ever’--a version of his remarks which, it must be admitted,
would seem to have indicated a very high degree of civic virtue. Lord
Randolph then justified the expenditure of the Corporation, and
deprecated ‘the vivisection of an unfortunate Mayor and the persecution
of a few poor Aldermen.’ ‘The great beauty of this speech,’ said Sir
William Harcourt, in reply, ‘was that the noble lord, having admitted
all the most damaging facts against himself, persuaded the House that
they were of no importance whatever.’ But at any rate Lord Randolph was
successful in saving his constituents from inquiry, and the debate ended
amid much good-humour on all sides. Indeed, when Sir Charles Dilke
renewed his motion in the following year, there was quite a considerable
attendance of members who had laughed at the first dispute and wanted to
hear another sparring match.

For the first year after Lord Randolph’s marriage he and Lady Randolph
lived in a small house in Curzon Street and indulged in all the gaieties
and festivities of the London season, which in those days was much
fuller and more prolonged than it is now. Balls and parties at great
houses long since closed; Newmarket, Ascot, Goodwood, Cowes, and
Trouville; filled the lives of a young couple in merry succession.
Little else was thought of but enjoyment; and though the member for
Woodstock liked discussing politics and took an intelligent interest in
affairs, his attendances at the House were fitful and fleeting. The
winter at Blenheim was occupied in hunting with the Heythrop Hounds and
varied by occasional visits to Paris, where Lady Randolph’s family was
living. There he mixed in French society and met politicians and
writers, and it was at this time that he formed a friendship with M. de
Breteuil, which, like most of his intimate friendships, lasted the rest
of his life. It was also during these days that he cultivated a taste
for French novels, which ended by making him a fair French scholar, with
that comprehensive, peculiar, and correct knowledge of the subtleties
and idioms of the language which is often to be noticed in his letters.

[Illustration: _Lady Randolph Churchill_]

In the spring of 1875 Lord and Lady Randolph installed themselves in a
larger house in Charles Street, where they continued their gay life on a
somewhat more generous scale than their income warranted. Fortified by
an excellent French cook, they entertained with discrimination. The
Prince of Wales, who had from the beginning shown them much kindness,
dined sometimes with them. Lord Randolph’s college friend, Lord
Rosebery, was a frequent visitor. One night Mr. Disraeli was among their
guests, and an anecdote of his visit may be preserved. ‘I think,’ said
Lord Randolph, discussing with his wife their party after it had broken
up, ‘that Dizzy enjoyed himself. But how flowery and exaggerated is his
language! When I asked him if he would have any more wine, he replied:
“My dear Randolph, I have sipped your excellent champagne; I have drunk
your good claret; I have tasted your delicious port--I will have no
more”!’ ‘Well,’ said Lady Randolph, laughing, ‘he sat next to me, and I
particularly remarked that he drank nothing but a little weak
brandy-and-water.’ In August 1875, Lord Randolph went with his wife to
America to spend ten bustling days at the Philadelphia Exhibition; and
in the United States, as in Paris, he made the acquaintance of many
politicians and persons of public note.

Thus for two years his days were filled with social amusements and
domestic happiness.

    ’ ...All the world looked kind
     (As it will look sometimes with the first stare
     Which youth would not act ill to keep in mind).’[4]

[Sidenote: 1876 ÆT. 27]

He was embarrassed chiefly by the necessity, which time imposed, of
having to select from a superfluity of pleasures. The House of Commons
was but one among various diversions. His occasional attendances
contributed an element of seriousness to his life, good in itself,
attractive by contrast, that provided, moreover, a justification (very
soothing to the conscience) for not engaging in more laborious work. But
for the recurring ailments to which his delicate constitution was
subject and the want of money which so often teases a young married
couple, his horizon had been without a cloud, his career without a care.
But in the year 1876 an event happened which altered, darkened, and
strengthened his whole life and character. Engaging in his brother’s
quarrels with fierce and reckless partisanship, Lord Randolph incurred
the deep displeasure of a great personage. The fashionable world no
longer smiled. Powerful enemies were anxious to humiliate him. His own
sensitiveness and pride magnified every coldness into an affront. London
became odious to him. The breach was not repaired for more than eight
years, and in the interval a nature originally genial and gay contracted
a stern and bitter quality, a harsh contempt for what is called
‘Society,’ and an abiding antagonism to rank and authority. If this
misfortune produced in Lord Randolph characteristics which afterwards
hindered or injured his public work, it was also his spur. Without it he
might have wasted a dozen years in the frivolous and expensive pursuits
of the silly world of fashion; without it he would probably never have
developed popular sympathies or the courage to champion democratic

When Mr. Disraeli formed his Government, he had asked the Duke of
Marlborough to go to Ireland as Viceroy. But the Duke, whose income
could ill support such pretended magnificence, and who was quite content
at Blenheim, declined. In 1876 the Prime Minister renewed his offer, and
urged the special argument that if the Duke took his younger son with
him the resentment in London would the sooner blow over in Lord
Randolph’s absence. Thus urged, the Duke reluctantly consented. Blenheim
was handed over to housekeepers and agents and its household was bodily
transported to the Viceregal Lodge. His father hoped that Lord Randolph
could become the regular private secretary to the Lord-Lieutenant; but
various difficulties interposed, and in the end it was decided that the
appointment must be unofficial and unpaid. It was certain that his
acceptance of ‘an office of profit’ would involve the expense of another
election at Woodstock. It was uncertain whether, even after being
re-elected, that particular post could be held jointly with a seat in
the House of Commons.

          _Sir Michael Hicks-Beach (Chief Secretary
to the Lord-Lieutenant) to the Duke of Marlborough_

Chief Secretary’s Lodge, Phœnix Park: Tuesday.

     My dear Lord Duke,--The Irish Lord Chancellor is _very doubtful_
     whether the office of Private Secretary to the Lord-Lieutenant is,
     or is not, a ‘new office.’ I believe it appears from old almanacks
     that Lord-Lieutenants had private secretaries before the date of
     the Act, as one would naturally suppose. But in one case a _Bishop_
     appears to have held the appointment; and the Lord Chancellor
     thinks that since that time there may have been such changes made,
     either in the duties of the office or in the mode in which its
     holder is paid, as technically to make it a ‘new office.’ This,
     however, is to a great extent a question of fact; and I have
     therefore asked Sir Bernard Burke, who is _the_ authority here upon
     such things, to look into the point and let me have his views in
     the shape of a memorandum, which I will forward to you.

     Please let me know whether you have _quite_ settled to come over on
     Monday night, 11th, reaching Dublin on Tuesday morning; as I must,
     in that event, summon a Privy Council for Tuesday. And I hope you
     have got the ‘Queen’s letter’ and your patent, or will have them by
     that time.

Your Grace’s very truly,

And again:--

Rockingham, Boyle: November 28, 1876.

     My dear Lord Duke,--I fear you will think my letters a decided
     nuisance; but it is not my fault if I have to convey unpleasant

     At my request Lord Chancellor Ball has given me the enclosed
     opinion as to Lord Randolph’s position. You will see that it does
     not in so many words touch the question whether Lord Randolph, if
     re-elected, could hold the office of your private secretary
     together with a seat in Parliament; but it rather implies that he
     could. I will, however, on my return to Dublin on Friday next, ask
     the Lord Chancellor to look into this point also.

     I am bound to say that I attach great importance to any view which
     the Lord Chancellor may take on such a subject. Perhaps the only
     lawyer in Ireland whose opinion on it might be more valuable is,
     oddly enough, Mr. Butt. But his opinion could only be formally
     taken, and it would be hardly wise to do this.

Believe me
Your Grace’s very sincerely,

[Sidenote: 1877 ÆT. 28]

The state entry of the new Viceroy was conducted with its usual ceremony
on December 11, 1876. Lord Randolph, who with his wife and child
followed in the procession, made, amid the bustle and discomfort of this
day, a life-long friend. Mr. FitzGibbon filled in 1877 the peculiar
office of ‘Law Adviser’ at the Castle. The proper duty of the ‘Adviser’
was to answer legal questions put by justices of the peace all over
Ireland, but he had also to give advice and opinions to all and sundry
at the Castle, in the constabulary, lunacy, valuation, and a dozen other
of the queerly-conceived and oddly-entangled departments through which
the Government of Ireland is administered. ‘After the Duke’s public
entry,’ writes Lord Justice FitzGibbon, ‘the legal maid-of-all-work
attended with the rest of the officials in the throne room, to be
presented. When I had made my bow I went back to my “files.” Presently
the door opened, and Kaye, the Assistant Under-Secretary, came in with a
young man whom he introduced as “the Lord-Lieutenant’s son,” who “wanted
to ask the Law Adviser a question.” So he left us. A footman had
jibbed--I suppose he did not like the look of Dublin Castle--and Lord
Randolph wanted to know whether he could “sack” him without paving his
fare back to London. He wanted to do this “as a lesson.” I told him
that, whatever the law was, the Lord-Lieutenant’s son couldn’t do it;
and so began an acquaintance which ripened soon into a friendship that,
full though it was of almost constant anxiety and apprehension, is one
of the dearest memories of my life. How it grew so fast I can hardly
tell. I suppose electricity came in somewhere....’

Five minutes’ walk from the Viceregal Lodge, on the road to the
Phœnix Park, there stands, amid clustering trees, a little, long,
low, white house with a green verandah and a tiny lawn and garden. This
is the ‘Little Lodge’ and the appointed abode of the private secretary
to the Lord-Lieutenant. By a friendly arrangement with that gentleman
Lord Randolph was permitted to occupy it; and here, for the next four
years, his life was mainly lived. He studied reflectively the jerky
course of administration at the Castle. He played chess with Steinitz,
who was living in Dublin at this time; he explored Donegal in pursuit of
snipe; he fished the lakes and streams of Ireland, wandering about where
fancy took him; but wherever he went, and for whatever purpose, he
interested himself in the people and studied the questions of the
country. Disdaining the Ward Stag-hounds as not true sport, he hunted
earnestly each winter with the Meath and Kildare. Often on a summer’s
afternoon he would repair to Howth, where the east coast cliffs rise up
into bold headlands which would not be unworthy of the Atlantic waves.
Here in good company he would make the ‘periplus,’ as he called it--or,
in other words, sail round ‘Ireland’s Eye’--in the 16-foot boat of
FitzGibbon’s mate, Frank Lynch (the ‘Admiral’ of his letters), catch
lobsters, and cook and eat them on the rocks of the island. In the
evenings he played half-crown whist in Trinity College or at the
University Club or dined and argued with FitzGibbon and his friends. ‘He
was,’ writes FitzGibbon, ‘always on the move. He had the reputation of
an “_enfant terrible_.” Before long he had been in Donegal, in
Connemara, and all over the place--“Hail fellow, well met” with
everybody except the aristocrats and the old Tories; for he showed
symptoms of independence of view and of likings for the company of “the
Boys,” which led to some friction with the staunch Conservatives and
strong Protestants who regarded themselves as the salt of the earth.’

FitzGibbon’s Christmas parties at Howth--an institution justly
celebrated since, but misunderstood by many, as a gathering of notable
men--had begun in the bivouac of six close friends in a half-finished
house on Innocents’ Day, 1875. The number grew as the years passed by.
Lord Randolph came first in 1877 and was accepted as its youngest member
into a circle which included David Plunket, Edward Gibson, Baillie-Gage,
Webb-Williamson, Professor Mahaffy, Morris Gibson, Father James Healy,
Dr. Nedley, and other wise and merry Irishmen. The nights were consumed
with whist, chaff, and tobacco; and the intervening days spent in
climbing the Hill of Howth or listening to the ‘words of wisdom from
Morris’ which became one of the constant features of the entertainment.
These parties were always a great delight to Lord Randolph and during
the rest of his life nothing, which could by any effort be thrust aside,
was ever allowed to stand in the way of his visit.

Lord Randolph had not been very long in Dublin when he was invited to
move a resolution at the annual meeting of the Historical Society of
Trinity College. This was a function of no little importance. The
Historical Society may be said to correspond to the Oxford Union and
members of the one are honorary members of the other. But it is the
custom of the Irish body to inaugurate the session of each year with
special ceremony. The President of the year, the Auditor, as he is
called, presents and reads an address which he has himself prepared, and
this then forms the subject of the speeches, in which various
resolutions are moved. A distinguished company assembles. The platform
is occupied by the leading figures of the Irish Church, Bench and Bar,
and the body of the great dining-hall is filled to overflowing with
keen-witted and usually uproarious undergraduates. Before this
audience--the most critical outside the House of Commons he had yet
ventured to address--Lord Randolph was now called.

The Auditor of the year, Mr. C. A. O’Connor, had chosen for his address
‘The Relation of Philosophy to Politics,’ a subject not inappropriate in
a University that, as it proudly asserts, had ‘nurtured the philosophic
mind of Burke and cradled the patriotism of Grattan.’ The first
resolution, of which the Attorney-General had charge, was one of thanks
to the Auditor, and Lord Randolph was required to propose the second:
‘That the Auditor’s address be printed and preserved in the archives of
the society.’ He began by suitable acknowledgments of the honour of the
invitation and in praise of the address. The Auditor, he said, had
deprecated the slenderness of the connection between politics and
philosophy at the present day and looked forward to a time when politics
would be subservient to philosophy. Well, but philosophy was a very
comprehensive word, and one would like to know to what system of
philosophy the Auditor referred. There had been in the ancient world
three principal schools of philosophy: there was the school of the
Stoics--a most disagreeable school; the school of the Platonists--a most
unintelligible school; and the school of the Epicureans--a most
attractive school.

‘Perhaps,’ he continued, ‘I may be permitted to think that there is a
connection, almost an intimate connection, between the philosophy of the
Epicurean school and what is known as Conservative politics. To let
things alone as much as we can; to accustom ourselves to look always at
the brightest side; to legislate rather for the moment than for the dim
and distant future, gratefully leaving that job to posterity, and thus
making all classes comfortable--these are, as I understand them, the
maxims of what we know as Conservative politics.’ He went on to speak of
Ireland in 1877 and to praise ‘New Ireland,’ a book by Mr. A. M.
Sullivan, then lately published, which had excited much attention. All
this and more, delivered with much grace and humour, made a most
favourable impression on the assembly. The newspapers in their articles
and accounts the next day were flattering to the orator and the
confidence, which his Irish friends were beginning to feel in his
abilities, was sensibly increased.

Before Lord Randolph had been many months in Ireland he began to form
strong opinions of his own on Irish questions and to take a keen
interest in politics. He was soon in touch with all classes and parties.
He watched Irish administration from the inside, and heard what was said
about it out-of-doors. All the official circle were quite ready to
impart their information to the son of the Lord-Lieutenant. At Howth and
in FitzGibbon’s company he met all that was best in the Dublin world. He
became an active member of the Dublin University Club and a frequent
guest at the Fellows’ Table in Trinity College. His relations in
Ireland, the Londonderrys and Portarlingtons, impressed him with the
high Tory view. He became very friendly with Mr. Butt, who with Father
Healy often dined at the Little Lodge and laboured genially to convert
Lady Randolph to Home Rule. Indeed, he saw a good deal more of
Nationalist politicians than his elders thought prudent or proper. The
fruits of this varied education were not long concealed by its green

A sentence at the end of a speech which he made during the session of
1877 on some small matter of Irish administration reveals the general
current of his mind. He expressed his regret for having said--in his
maiden speech three years before--that Dublin was ‘a seditious capital.’
‘I have since learned to know Ireland better.’ It was time indeed that
some Englishman should ‘learn to know Ireland better.’ Under a glassy
surface forces were gathering for a violent upheaval. Mr. Butt’s
leadership of the Irish party gave no pleasure to his countrymen. He had
united the various sections of Irish members in a policy of conciliatory
agitation for Home Rule. He had, indeed, invented the name ‘Home
Rule’--since become the very war-cry of prejudice--to soothe and
reassure British minds likely to be offended by the word ‘Repeal.’ His
authority was now to be seized by a young man of very different temper.

Parnell was a squire, reared upon the land, with all those qualities of
pride, mettle, and strength which often spring from the hereditary
ownership of land. Butt was a lawyer, and his world was a world of
words--fine words, good words, wise words--woven together in happy
combinations, adroitly conceived, attractively presented; but only
words. Butt cherished and honoured the House of Commons. Its great
traditions warmed his heart. He was proud to be a member of the most
ancient and illustrious representative assembly in the world. He was
fitted by his gifts to adorn it. Parnell cared nothing for the House of
Commons, except to hate it as a British institution. He disliked
speeches. He despised rhetoric. Butt trusted in argument; Parnell in
force. Butt was a constitutionalist and a man of peace and order;
Parnell was the very spirit of revolution, the instrument of hatred, the
agent of relentless war.

The conduct of English parties did not strengthen the position of Mr.
Butt. They listened to his arguments with great good-humour, and voted
against him when he had quite finished. He was regarded as an exemplary
politician and his Parliamentary methods were considered most
respectable. Ministers paid him many compliments. They and their
followers and their Liberal opponents contributed cogent and interesting
speeches to the Home Rule debates which he inaugurated year after year.
Mr. Disraeli in particular made a very brilliant and witty speech upon
the subject in 1874. But they conceded him nothing. No British
Government could have desired a more temperate, courteous, or reasonable
opponent. Never were courtesy and reason more poorly served. The Irish
legislation for which Mr. Butt pressed was neglected by the Government
and disdained by the House. Session after session proved barren. At
every meeting of Parliament Mr. Butt was ready with his programme. At
every prorogation he departed empty-handed. The debates on Wednesday
afternoons were so largely occupied with his proposals that the Cabinet
and the Conservative party were wearied with perpetual Irish
discussions. ‘What am I to say to this?’ asked the Law Officer, on one
of these occasions, of the Prime Minister. ‘Speak,’ replied Disraeli,
‘for fourteen minutes and say nothing’--a modest request well within the
compass of a semi-legal, semi-political functionary. This was typical of
the attitude of power towards Irish affairs.

In the session of 1876 nine Bills dealing with land, education, rating,
electoral reform, Parliamentary reform, judicial and municipal
reform--all burning Irish questions--were introduced by the Irish party.
Few were considered. All, except two of minor importance, were cast out.
The claims of Ireland upon Parliament were real and urgent. The Chief
Secretary pressed upon the Cabinet earnestly, but in vain, the necessity
for land legislation. Neither the Parliamentary force nor time could be
found. Mr. Butt introduced a Land Bill of his own--very tame by
comparison with subsequent enactments. It was rejected by 290 votes to
56. Nearly thirty measures dealing with the land question alone, brought
forward by Irish members between 1870 and 1880, perished in the

It should not be inferred that no Irish Bills were carried by the
Government. Indeed, some of the measures passed during this Parliament
are still the law on the matters to which they relate. But the Chief
Secretary was the youngest member of the Cabinet, and the Irish Tories
in the House, led by Mr. Kavanagh, being more numerous and even more
powerful than in our own time, were able to make anyone who displayed a
liking for change sensible of their severe displeasure. On one occasion
indeed, when Sir Michael Hicks-Beach had extended Government support to
the ‘Municipal Privileges Bill’ and to a Bill for assimilating the Irish
municipal franchise to the English, they lost no time in sending a
round-robin to the head of the Government requesting him to dismiss the
delinquent Minister. Disraeli returned a suitable reply to this; but the
Chief Secretary was forced to refuse the concessions he had desired to
make. And although from year to year he succeeded in passing a series of
Bills dealing with such subjects as Licensing, Public Health, Lunacy,
Jury Qualifications, Prisons, County Courts, and Intermediate Education,
he could not free Irish Parliamentary action from discredit in Irish

Mr. Butt was patient; he believed in patience; he counselled patience to
his followers. The majority of them were willing to accept his views. He
was opposed to ‘a policy of exasperation.’ He thought that reason would
prevail and that violence of any kind would estrange ‘our best friends
in England.’ He believed, not without foundation, that to injure a
representative institution was to strike democracy at its heart.
‘Gentlemen first, patriots afterwards’ was the motto of his followers.
And in return they received that form of respect which, being devoid of
the element of fear, is closely akin to contempt. Had the Government of
Mr. Disraeli been gifted with foresight beyond the scope of ordinary
British Administrations they would by timely concessions, by some few
substantial gifts, have vindicated constitutional agitation. But they
went their way, living from hand to mouth and from week to week, meeting
their daily troubles with such expedients as came to hand. ‘If pure
advocacy--able, earnest, courteous--could have won the Irish cause,’
writes Parnell’s biographer, ‘Mr. Butt would have succeeded. It could
not, and he failed hopelessly.’[5] A new leader with new weapons was at

Judged by all the available standards, Mr. Butt’s position as leader of
the Irish party at the beginning of 1877 was secure. He was the most
brilliant Irishman in Parliament. He had defended, at much personal
sacrifice and with immense ability, the Fenian prisoners of the
‘sixties. He was the founder of the Home Rule League and apparently its
perennial president. The whole Irish party in the House of Commons was
at his back. Whatever of Parliamentary prestige can be enjoyed without
executive power supported him. Moreover, in all the personal relations
of life he had great advantages. He was genial, tolerant, and kindly,
with a smile and a handshake for all, and generous to a fault with his
personal friends. Parnell had nothing to offer. He was almost unknown
and, even so, distrusted as a landlord. He was a young man with a
forbidding manner and almost inarticulate. In a nation preternaturally
eloquent he could scarcely jerk out his most familiar thoughts. No
conflict could well have appeared more unequal in conditions or more
contrarily decisive in result than the duel between these two men.

Obstruction was an ugly novelty to the Parliament of 1874. Some ominous
improprieties had marked the resistance to the Irish Church Bill, the
Ballot Bill, and the Bill for the Abolition of Purchase in the Army,
during Mr. Gladstone’s Administration; but no serious deadlock had
arisen. Suddenly the House of Commons awoke to the fact that
half-a-dozen of its members were persistently and deliberately engaged
in paralysing its business. The procedure of those days offered a virgin
field. No closure terminated the debate. No Supply rule regulated
financial business. No restriction was imposed upon the right of members
to move to adjourn the debate or the House or to report progress in
Committee. The minority was restrained only by custom and awe. It now
appeared that a few members were resolved to destroy conventions which
had been consecrated by centuries of observance.

The mutineers were so few in number that they excited almost as much
surprise as irritation. Public reprobation, newspaper abuse,
Parliamentary disgust, were directed upon them in vain. The leaders of
the Opposition vied in terms of condemnation with Her Majesty’s
Ministers. The Irish party was shocked and silent. Nothing availed
against men whose only object was to inflict an outrage upon Parliament,
and who gauged their success by the indignation and sorrow they created.
At length, during one weary sitting, in an evil hour for his own
authority, Mr. Butt was persuaded to denounce the obstructives and to
declare, amid resounding English cheers, his deep detestation of their
tactics. But the censure which was so general in England awoke its
counter-cry across St. George’s Channel. The measure of British hatred
and contempt became the measure of Irish sympathy and partisanship.
‘Parliamentarianism,’ writes Mr. Barry O’Brien drolly, ‘was apparently
becoming a respectable thing. It might be possible to touch it without
being contaminated.’ The Fenian organisations, long disdainful of Mr.
Butt’s constitutional methods and confronted at every session with their
utter futility, turned with interest to the new man who moved with
unconcerned deliberation into the centre of the stage and dealt with
others as though it was his birthright to command and theirs to serve
him. Delicate and subterranean negotiations followed with secret
societies who were reluctant to compromise the purity of their
revolutionary creeds by any paltering with half-measures or
pseudo-constitutional agitation. Sympathetic acquiescence--if not,
indeed, actual co-operation--was at length almost unconsciously
conceded. In two years Mr. Butt was broken. The Home Rule Confederation
cast him off; his friends sorrowfully but unhesitatingly deposed him;
his followers enlisted with the conqueror. Mr. Butt’s end was
melancholy. Hunted and harassed by debt and illness, worn with prolonged
exertions and mortified by supersession and defeat, he lived only to see
his authority exercised by another and the land for which he had
laboured, not unfaithfully, darkened by famine and smouldering with
revolt. He died early in May 1879 and the usurper strode forward to
encounter many adventures and a still more tragic fate.

Lord Randolph Churchill was a silent, though not unmoved, spectator of
the early stages of this drama in the House of Commons, and in the
autumn, at the dinner of the Woodstock Agricultural and Horticultural
Show (September 18), he expressed his opinion upon them with unguarded
freedom, much to the astonishment and displeasure of his family. This
speech is the first which reveals the perfectly independent movement of
his mind and the shrewd insight which guided it. He could not vote for
Home Rule, he said, because without the Irish members more than
one-third of the life and soul of the House of Commons would be lost.
‘Who is it, but the Irish, whose eloquence so often commands our
admiration, whose irresistible humour compels our laughter, whose fiery
outbursts provoke our passions?’ Banish them, and the House of Commons,
composed only of Englishmen and Scotsmen, would sink to the condition of
a vestry. ‘I have no hesitation in saying that it is inattention to
Irish legislation that has produced obstruction. There are great and
crying Irish questions which the Government have not attended to, do not
seem to be inclined to attend to, and perhaps do not intend to attend
to--the question of intermediate and higher education, and the question
of the assimilation of the municipal and Parliamentary electoral
privileges to English privileges--and as long as these matters are
neglected, so long will the Government have to deal with obstruction
from Ireland.’ Truths, he said, were always unpalatable, and he who
spoke them very seldom got much thanks; but that did not render them
less true. England had years of wrong, years of crime, years of
tyranny, years of oppression, years of general misgovernment, to make
amends for in Ireland. The Act of Union was passed, and in the passing
of it all the arsenal of political corruption and chicanery was
exhausted, to inaugurate a series of remedial and healing measures; and
if that Act had not been productive of these effects, it would be
entitled to be unequivocally condemned by history, and would, perhaps,
be repealed by posterity. It was for these reasons that he should
propose no extreme measures against Irish members, believing as he did
that the cure for obstruction lay not in threats, not in hard words, but
in conciliatory legislation.

This speech attracted attention in various quarters. Mr. Parnell, who
spoke three days later in Paisley, alluded to it at some length and
declared that if the Government would pass certain measures dealing with
the questions mentioned, they would not be disturbed next session by
Irish obstruction. The _Morning Post_ expressed its displeasure in a
leading article. ‘This is the language of Mr. Parnell and his
colleagues, and it is the argument on which the Home Rule movement as
well as the Obstructionist movement is based.’ As to Lord Randolph’s
remarks about the Union--‘It is no exaggeration to say that neither Mr.
Parnell nor Mr. Butt could have used stronger language in support of
their respective lines of action. But it is not an Irish Rome [_sic_]
Ruler or an Irish Obstructive who has used it. It is the Conservative
representative of an English borough and the son of the Lord-Lieutenant
of Ireland.’ But it was Sir Michael Hicks-Beach who read Lord Randolph
with the greatest surprise. He lost no time in writing a remonstrance to
the Duke of Marlborough.

          _The Duke of Marlborough to Sir Michael

Guisachan: September 25, 1877.

     My dear Beach,--The only excuse I can find for Randolph is that he
     must either be mad or have been singularly affected with local
     champagne or claret. I can only say that the sentiments he has
     indulged in are purely his own; and, more than this, I was as much
     amazed as you in reading them, and had no conception that he
     entertained such opinions. The conjuncture is most unfortunate and
     ill-timed; but at the same time it must be remembered that though
     my son, and occupying by leave P. Bernard’s house, he is not in any
     way officially connected with me, and the assumption therefore that
     he represented my opinions would be both unwarranted and unfair. I
     quite appreciate your consideration in making no allusion to his
     remarks, and perhaps, unless it should be absolutely required, the
     less notice drawn to them the better. Should you, however, feel it
     to be necessary to correct misapprehensions consequent on his
     speech, I conceive you are perfectly entitled to do so. I can only
     repeat that I am extremely annoyed at the folly of his utterance,
     which I believe on reflection he will regret himself. Perhaps, if I
     might suggest, a letter from yourself to him in your official
     position and responsible for Irish business in Parliament might be
     the best way of dealing with the occurrence.

Yours very sincerely,

These chronicles do not record the explanations or rebukes which must
have followed; but Lord Randolph by no means withdrew or modified what
he had said, and is found writing a few days later to the _Morning Post_
in a most impenitent mood:--

Junior Carlton Club: September 22.

     Sir,--In your article of this morning on my speech at Woodstock you
     say: ‘But what is even more faulty in Lord Randolph Churchill’s
     speech is the assertion, which he indirectly makes, that the Act of
     Union had not been productive of those remedial measures which, as
     he rightly contends, are the only justification of the means by
     which it was passed.’ Owing to an omission in the report of my
     remarks you have unintentionally misrepresented me. I said that the
     Act of Union was intended to inaugurate, _and had inaugurated_, a
     series of healing and remedial measures, and I intimated that
     perseverance in a course of conciliatory legislation for Ireland
     might be a sure cure for obstruction, and a still further defence
     of the methods used to pass the Act of Union.

     Again, you say I not only extenuated the conduct of the
     obstructionists, but justified it. Nothing that I said at Woodstock
     admits of this construction. I never even discussed the conduct of
     the obstructionists; I merely discussed the remedies for
     obstruction which had been proposed by many public men and by a
     great portion of the English press. Surely you would not have said
     that Liberal members, in advocating the Irish Land Act and the
     Irish Church Act, were extenuating and justifying the Fenian

     You remark, further, that what I called ‘unpalatable plain truths’
     were certainly unpalatable, but were not true. Yet the
     misgovernment of Ireland before the Act of Union, and the methods
     used to pass that Act, are now matters of history. These were two
     of my ‘plain truths’; and the third, that the great questions on
     which Irish feeling is most deeply interested have been neglected
     during the last four years, is in my opinion equally undeniable.
     You accuse me of forgetting the Judicature Act, the improved
     position of the National school teachers, the grant of 10,000_l._
     towards the Irish fisheries. I do not for a moment forget them, but
     would think it a mockery to say much of them to a people hungering
     for moderate progressive reform, such as we have had in this
     country, of their political, municipal, and educational

     It was because I hope that these questions may be settled by the
     Conservative party, and not by the Liberal party or the Home Rule
     party, that I made the remarks on which you have animadverted;
     little dreaming, however, that the utterances of so obscure an
     individual as myself, in the quiet rural locality of Woodstock,
     would attract the attention of any portion of the Metropolitan
     press. As, however, they have attracted your comments, I am
     confident that you will, with your usual love of fair play, insert
     this attempt of mine at explanation.

I remain, your obedient servant,

As the differences between Butt and Parnell widened and developed into
the supremacy of the latter, Lord Randolph seems to have been more
amenable to his father’s influence; for in 1879 he voted _against_ a
resolution for the assimilation of Irish to English privileges, and
explained that, although the theoretic argument was overwhelming, the
immediate extension of the franchise in Ireland would destroy the
moderate and constitutional Home Rulers and secure the ascendency of the
more lawless and embittered classes.

During the winter of 1877 Lord Randolph devoted himself, with the
assistance of a young Dublin graduate, to the study of Irish
intermediate education. He took the question up deliberately, as the
first step in public life and a lesson in political work. He spared no
pains. He sounded every well of information. He consulted every shade of
Irish opinion. He questioned a host of Irish pedagogues and wrote to all
the headmasters of the English public schools. An evidence of his
activities is provided by a letter from him to the _Freeman’s Journal_,
published on the last day of the year, on the extinction of the Irish
diocesan schools. These had been set up by Queen Elizabeth under the Act
of 1570. They were ‘diocesan’ only because the diocese was a more
convenient division than a county and were not meant to be under Church
control. The masters were to be appointed by the Lord-Lieutenant and the
endowment was in the form of a charge on the property of the Church. But
the system had only been partially established and the Irish Church Act
of 1869 had, by a strange blunder, treated the schools as Church
property, and, as amended in 1872, it allowed the masters to compound
like incumbents, a proportion of the commutation money accruing to the
‘Church Surplus.’ Money had therefore actually been diverted from
education and Lord Randolph was intent on reclaiming an equivalent sum
for intermediate instruction.

[Sidenote: 1878 ÆT. 29]

But the main purpose of his labours was to draw up a pamphlet taking the
form of a letter to his friend Sir J. Bernard Burke, Ulster
King-at-Arms--who, it appears, had first interested him in this
question--and dealing completely with Irish intermediate education. This
letter was finished in the beginning of 1878, was published in Dublin,
and sold at 6_d._ It showed, on the evidence of various Royal
Commissions, that intermediate education in Ireland was positively
declining, yet that a system of intermediate education had existed since
the days of Elizabeth, in the shape of Royal Free Schools, the Diocesan
Grammar Schools, and the Erasmus Smith Schools, which only required
rearrangement and development. It proposed to extend the system of Royal
Free Schools and to provide more money out of the Church surplus. The
religious difficulty was to be surmounted by appointing lay Catholic
masters in Catholic districts and Protestant masters in Protestant
districts, with a conscience clause, control by local boards (chiefly
lay) and a scholarship system, so as to enable the religious minority in
any district to get education elsewhere. This plan, admirable in itself,
would probably have been found to underrate the religious difficulty and
especially the reluctance of the Roman Catholic Church, evinced in every
country, to tolerate education that it does not absolutely control.

Lord Randolph’s early efforts in the cause of Irish education were not
confined to Ireland or to pamphleteering. From the day when he took it
up to the close of his life, he never ceased his endeavours to promote
progress and reform and to satisfy real wants and aspirations in that
department. In the session of 1878, with a perseverance and persistence
which disgusted the Irish Tories, he brought forward a motion (June 4)
for a Select Committee of the House of Commons to inquire into the
condition and management of the endowed schools of Ireland, with
instructions to report ‘how far those endowments are at present
promoting, or are applicable to the promotion of, intermediate education
in that country, without distinction of class or religion.’ In support
of this he delivered a considerable speech, moderate and argumentative
in tone and crowded with figures and quotations, to prove the many
abuses and anomalies of the Irish education system and the urgent need
of co-ordination and reform.

He had induced Mr. Chamberlain, with whom he was already on friendly
terms, to second the motion; and the case unfolded in these two speeches
was sufficiently strong to impress the Government and the House. The
Irish Nationalists were profuse in their expressions of pleasure that
English members should display so keen an interest in an Irish question.
The O’Conor Don expressed his deep obligation and that of all the
members connected with Ireland, to Lord Randolph for the manner in which
he had introduced the motion. The Government, through its Chief
Secretary, Mr. Lowther (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach having by this time been
transferred to the Colonial Office), offered, in lieu of a select
Committee, a small Commission specially appointed to inquire into the
condition, management, and revenues of the schools; and this being
thought generally acceptable, the motion was withdrawn. The Commission
was duly appointed, Lord Rosse being Chairman and Mr. FitzGibbon and
Lord Randolph both among its members. It laboured zealously and Lord
Randolph travelled all over Ireland--north, west, and south--collecting
information and examining schools. In what manner its researches issued
ultimately, but not until 1885, in an Act of Parliament will presently
be related.

The session of 1878 was dominated by the Eastern Question. The Russian
armies were at the gates of Constantinople. The British fleet lay at
Besika Bay. The early months of the year were passed under the shadow of
imminent war. Resignations broke the Cabinet circle; patriotic choruses
resounded in the streets; the Reserves were called out, native Indian
troops were brought to Malta, and a vote of credit of six millions was
granted by the House of Commons. The course of British diplomacy and
action in Lord Beaconsfield’s hands was tortuous and dramatic.
Absolutely supreme in the Cabinet after Lord Derby’s withdrawal, the
Prime Minister led an enthusiastic party and a puzzled nation through
the Salisbury-Schouvaloff secret agreement and the Anglo-Turkish
Convention to the Congress of Berlin, to the acquisition of Cyprus, to
‘Peace with Honour’ and the Knightsbridge banquet. It is not my purpose
to comment on this or to compare it with that other note which now began
again to resound with ever-growing vehemence and intensity through the
land, until it broke in a storm of passionate appeal and triumphant
eloquence from Midlothian. Never in their life-long conflict were Mr.
Gladstone and his great antagonist so fiercely opposed. Their
differences cut down to the roots of thought. In policy, in principle,
in feeling, in aspiration, they clashed together at every point, large
or small, of political method or morality, and behind them all Britain
was divided into two furious camps. On both sides their colleagues in
Parliament faded into insignificance. On both sides their followers in
the country were whole-hearted in their allegiance. The Conservative
majorities in the House of Commons were tremendous and inflexible on
every issue. The great newspapers, the powers of fashion and clubland,
the pledged partisans in the constituencies, had never before found a
leader so much to their temper as Lord Beaconsfield. Outside Parliament,
with its baffled and divided Opposition and triumphant Ministry, the
Liberal electors hung upon Mr. Gladstone’s words as though he were, as
he often seemed, inspired. And while the imposing array of Toryism
marched proudly and confidently forward, enormous multitudes gathered
eagerly and not less confidently to encounter them.

It is perhaps only in these great stirrings of the national mind that a
man may discover to which of the main groupings of political opinion he
naturally belongs. In all this conflict Lord Randolph Churchill took no
public part. An occasional sarcasm used at some small function, an
unadvertised abstention from some important division, might have
revealed his personal inclinations. But he did nothing to attract public
notice and it is only from his private letters that we may learn how
decided were his sympathies and by what circumstances he was prevented
from action which might easily have altered his whole career.

Parliament met in January 1878, amid conditions of the keenest
excitement and of grave crisis, and the Government forthwith demanded
their vote of credit for six millions to make special naval and military
preparations. Having listened to Ministerial explanations Mr. Forster
moved a reasoned amendment amounting to a flat refusal.[6] After a
debate extending over a week, disturbed by the wildest reports from the
East, Mr. Forster was glad to withdraw his amendment, and, upon the
motion to go into Committee the Government, obtained a majority of more
than three to one (295 to 96).

          _Lord Randolph Churchill to Sir Charles Dilke._

St. James’s Club, Piccadilly: February 7, 1878.

     My dear Sir Charles Dilke,--As I suppose this debate will come to a
     close with an enormous and disproportionate majority for the
     Government, and as I think the Opposition have made their stand on
     unfortunate ground, and that another fight might yet be fought with
     far greater chances of commanding sympathy in the country, I want
     to know whether, if an Address to the Crown, praying Her Majesty to
     use her influence at the Conference in favour of the widest
     possible freedom to Bulgaria, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Thessaly, and
     Epirus, and in favour of totally and finally putting an end to
     direct Turkish Government in these provinces, was moved by me from
     the Tory side of the House, it would be supported by the Liberal
     party. I think I could almost make sure of a strong Home Rule vote
     on this. I think some Conservatives would support it. If Northcote
     does not give some very clear information as to what is going to be
     the policy of the Government, I think a motion of this sort should
     be made on the Report. The real cry for the country is--not
     sympathy with Russia, still less with Turkey, but complete freedom
     for the Slav and Hellenic nationalities.

     I am off to Ireland to-night. I don’t care enough for the
     Government to vote for them.... I shall see Butt in Dublin and
     shall sound him on what I have written to you. My address is
     Phœnix Park, Dublin.

Yours truly,

And the next day:--

The Castle, Dublin: February 8, 1878.

     Many thanks for your two letters. As you say, while everything is
     in such an uncertain state nothing can be done. The Government have
     too great an advantage; but I think if we are led into taking any
     decisive steps hostile to Russia a great effort should be made for
     an authoritative declaration that the ultimate aim and object of
     any move on our part is the complete freedom and independence of
     the Slav nationality, as opposed to any reconstruction of the
     Turkish Empire. This, I am sure, should be the line for the Liberal
     party and not the ‘Peace-at-any-price’ cry, which it is evident the
     country will not have. In this I shall be ready to co-operate
     heartily as far as my poor efforts can be any good. It is just
     possible that if any movement of this kind be made, it would be
     better to originate it from the Conservative side of the House. I
     regret to see so much excitement getting up among the masses. It is
     dangerous material for Beaconsfield to work on. Will you think me
     very foolish or visionary if I say I look for a Republican form of
     government for Bulgaria, Bosnia, and Herzegovina as far more to be
     preferred to setting up some Russian or German Prince as a puppet
     under the name of a constitutional monarchy? Perhaps if these ideas
     seem at all to your liking, and if you think they will command the
     support of the Liberal party, you would advise me what would be the
     most favourable moment for bringing them forward. I shall have some
     conversation with Butt, and have great hope of securing a solid
     Irish vote on any proposition which might seem to favour the
     principle of self-government for nationalities.

A few days later, he telegraphed to Sir Charles Dilke:--

Careysville, Fermoy.

     I shall be in London Monday morning. Am not ambitious of taking any
     prominent part, unless it might contribute to the advantage of
     ideas which we have in common, that a motion should be made from my
     side of the House. I leave it absolutely to your judgment.


On this, Sir Charles Dilke wrote to Lord Granville, who replied:--

18 Carlton House Terrace.

     My dear Dilke,--Such a motion as Lord Randolph Churchill proposes,
     supported by a certain number of Conservatives, might be well worth
     consideration, but I doubt his getting any Conservative support,
     and a contingent of Home Rulers would hardly justify us for making
     another attack on Plevna just now, with the probable alternative of
     a crushing defeat or withdrawal in the face of the enemy. I gather
     that you are doubtful. What did Hartington think?

Yours sincerely,

Meanwhile Lord Randolph wrote again:--

          _Lord Randolph Churchill to Sir Charles Dilke._

February 15, 1878.

     I have sent you a telegram which I think you will understand. I am
     sure that my views, whatever they are worth, are in accordance with
     your speech and Harcourt’s and Gladstone’s on the question of the
     future policy of this country. I am convinced under the present
     circumstances no motion should be unduly hastened on. There is lots
     of time. If I were asked to move a resolution, my speech would be
     an attack on Chaplin, Wolff, and the rest of the pro-Turkish party,
     confidence in the Government, and an invitation to the Liberal
     party to act as a whole. I feel I am awfully young to endeavour to
     initiate such a motion; but I am so convinced of the soundness of
     our view that I would risk a smash willingly to have that properly
     brought forward. If only your party would agree as a whole to
     support such a resolution moved from my side, the Government would
     at the best have only a majority of 80 after 190; and that would be
     a check. I shall see Butt before arriving in London and endeavour
     to make him take up a position on this question. The Government
     seem to be doing their level best to keep the peace, and perhaps
     another debate would not be unwelcome to them.

Lord Hartington, however, agreed with Lord Granville that it would be
useless to attack again without assurance of substantial Conservative
support. Sir Charles Dilke accordingly pressed Lord Randolph as to who
might be expected to vote with him; but Lord Randolph could not be sure
even of one, though he hoped that Mr. Spencer Walpole, the ex-Home
Secretary, would do so. The question of balloting for a private
members’ night seems also to have been considered.

          _Lord Randolph Churchill to Sir Charles Dilke._

Castle Bernard, Bandon.

     My dear Sir Charles,--I shall be over in London on the 26th
     instant, and I think it will be time enough then to make my motion.
     I should not like to make it unless it would command the support of
     a large number of members. Such support could only come from your
     side. I think the Conservative party are gone mad. Their speeches
     are calculated to provoke war. As it is so uncertain whether we
     shall go to war or a conference, I think I had better wait a little
     as--though the motion should, I think, be made in any case--the
     terms would vary very much according to either alternative.... I
     know of no one but Forsyth whom I could ask to ballot for me. If it
     commands much support, I should like to press it even to a
     division. Cowen’s speech and the vociferous cheers of the
     Conservative party evidently show that the idea of the integrity
     and independence of the Turkish Empire is still predominant on our
     side; and against that I would try to go a great way. I send a
     sketch of the motion and I should of course be very glad if you
     would second one of this nature.

Yours very truly,
Randolph S. Churchill.

     _Draft of Motion._

     That, in view of the extreme suffering so long undergone by the
     Slav, Bulgarian, and Hellenic nationalities of Bosnia, Herzegovina,
     Bulgaria, Thessaly, and Epirus, and considering that the Turkish
     rule over these provinces has now been definitely put an end to,
     the efforts of Her Majesty’s Government should in the opinion of
     the House of Commons be principally directed towards the
     establishment of complete freedom and independence for the
     population of these provinces.

All this, however, remained unknown. The Conservative Administration
pursued their course, with the unbroken assent of their followers and
amid the acclamations of London Society, through a succession of
diplomatic sensations and Parliamentary triumphs, towards a vast
electoral disaster.

Devoted as he was to his party, Lord Randolph was by this time
thoroughly out of sympathy with them in their Irish and foreign policy.
The great Minister whose talk had fascinated him at Blenheim ten years
before inspired him no longer. He describes Lord Derby’s resignation as
‘a thunderclap.’ ‘I cannot,’ he writes to his father, ‘like the war
tactics. Calling out the Reserves is like throwing down the glove to
Russia, and I fear she will not hesitate to take it up.’ He was
irritated by the movement of Indian troops to Malta. His college friend,
Lord Rosebery--the partner of those early conversations--was now the
ardent supporter of Mr. Gladstone’s Midlothian campaign. A very little,
I think, at this time might have led Lord Randolph into open quarrel
with the Government. Indeed, it is not improbable, had he in fact moved
his resolution as he wished, that he would have been driven out of the
Conservative ranks altogether. When even Radicals and Liberals like
Cowen and Roebuck were proud and glad to swim with the stream, when
every man who stood against it, was liable to be called a ‘Russian’ or
even a traitor, a single Tory-Democrat must have been overwhelmed. Lord
Randolph no doubt realized this; for he must have felt that, unless he
could take striking and decisive action, it was useless taking any
action at all. But he seems to have looked for an occasion to strike at
the Government safely, and for a victim to appease his wrath. He found
the first in the County Government Bill and the second in Mr.

The rejection of this measure, which proposed to transfer county
government from Quarter Sessions to boards elected partly by the county
magistrates and partly by Boards of Guardians, was moved, upon its
coming into the Committee, by Mr. Rylands (March 7) from the Liberal
benches. Lord Randolph seconded the motion on totally different grounds
and in a different tone. Inspired by a strong hostility to the
Government, he made his attack from that quarter most dangerous to a
Conservative Minister. The Bill was contrary to Tory principles. The
Cabinet were not responsible for it. All their time had been taken up by
considering how they could possibly get the Fleet into the Dardanelles,
and now their whole time was taken up in considering how they could
possibly get the Fleet out of the Dardanelles. In these agitating
circumstances it would be highly unfair to hold them responsible for
‘the legislative freaks of a minor colleague.’

Wrath was concentrated on the President of the Local Government Board,
who would annihilate Quarter Sessions and descend in all the pomp of
Ministerial authority and ‘a double-barrelled name,’ so often associated
with mediocrity, upon some unfortunate and over-awed Board of
Guardians. A President of the Local Government Board might deal, if he
chose, with amendments to the Poor Law or with sanitary questions, or
with the salaries of inspectors of nuisances. He should not come down to
the House, with all the appearance of a great lawgiver, to reform
according to his own views and to improve in his little way the leading
features of the British Constitution. He urged the Conservative party
not to barter away the old institutions of the country for such
‘Brummagem trash.’ Lord Randolph professed himself utterly unable,
though he had ransacked the whole arsenal, to find words in which to
characterise the measure. In default he described it as ‘just the sort
of little dodge that would be proposed by a President of the Local
Government Board called upon to legislate on a great question;’ ‘another
of those futile attempts to make that impossible mixture of Radical
principles and Conservative precautions;’ and ‘to conciliate the masses
by the concession of principles dear to them, which concessions were
immediately nullified or modified by the details of the legislation.’
‘The Government think the populace will be deceived. They are themselves
the only dupes. “O infortunati nimium sua si mala norint.”’ ‘I have
raised,’ he concluded, ‘the last wail of the expiring Tory party. They
have undergone a good deal. They have swallowed an immense amount of
nastiness. They have had their banner dragged along many a muddy path.
It has been slopped in many a filthy puddle, until it is so altered that
nobody can possibly recognise it. I shall cry “No!” when this motion is
put from the Chair; and if I can only get any support--I care not whence
it comes or from what motive it is given--I should be prepared to offer
an opposition to this most Radical and democratic measure, this crowning
desertion of Tory principles, this supreme violation of political

Such language had not been heard in the House of Commons since Lord
Cranborne had fought the Franchise Bill, and, coming as it did from a
member who so seldom addressed the House, at a time when party
discipline was so good and the prestige of the Government so high, it
created quite a commotion. Mr. Chamberlain, in following, criticized the
Bill from the extreme Radical’s standpoint, but was markedly friendly in
his reference to Lord Randolph’s speech. By the time he had finished,
the surprise of the Ministerialists had subsided sufficiently to reveal
their wrath, and they protested at once against the attack. Mr. Chaplin,
whose political antagonism to Lord Randolph was fated to develop early,
retorted roughly that if such were his opinions he should ‘lose not a
moment in going over to the other side of the House’--advice which is
often given and sometimes accepted. The unfortunate Mr. Sclater-Booth
had hardly the spirit to reply. The Bill had passed its second reading
by a large majority. Its further progress was delayed by Nationalist
obstruction and Ministerial apathy. It was never again debated by the
House, and on July 15 was definitely dropped by the Government. The Duke
of Marlborough does not seem to have been very stern in his rebukes on
this occasion, and no doubt a large and influential section of the
Conservative party secretly rejoiced at the fate of the Bill. ‘I do not
think,’ wrote Lord Randolph to his father, ‘the Government is at all
ill-disposed towards me for my speech against them. I have found them
lately singularly civil. Nobody regrets the Bill, except Sclater-Booth,
who is unapproachable on the subject.’ Thus for the first time the House
of Commons had learned that this silent youth could bite.

[Sidenote: 1879 ÆT. 30]

[Illustration: _Member for Woodstock._]

For the rest of the Parliament Lord Randolph was mute. Scarcely a
mention of his name occurs in the ‘Debates.’ He was absent from many
important divisions. His relations and feelings towards the Government
seem somewhat to have improved as the Russian war crisis receded, and he
remained an impassive spectator of their doings in Afghanistan, in
Zululand, and the Transvaal. Meanwhile the reader may be reminded of the
swift passage of time and of the considerable period which this account
has already covered.

          _To his Mother._

Ireland: April 15, 1879.

     I write to wish you very many happy returns of your birthday
     to-morrow, which is also, as perhaps you may remember, our
     wedding-day; and having been married five years I begin to feel
     highly respectable.

     This weather is certainly very wintry and does not seem to lend
     itself to anything congenial, while anything more odious or
     unfortunate for fishing cannot be well imagined. I fished for two
     days in the Suir and never moved a fish, nor did anyone else.
     However, I have added another Irish county (Tipperary) to my
     peregrinations in this island.

     This is now the fifth birthday you have spent in Ireland and I am
     sure it must be satisfactory to you to look back on the years you
     have spent there. I do not think you can recollect a _contretemps_
     or a cross; and I am sure, if I may say so, no one deserves a
     pleasanter retrospect: and believe me, I sincerely hope next 15th
     of April will find you as happy and untroubled as I hope you will
     be to-morrow.

The wet summer of 1879 produced something like a ‘food and fuel famine’
in the South and West of Ireland. The potatoes failed, grain would not
ripen, and the turf could not be dried. The Government met the danger by
offering the landlords loans on easier terms than those recognised by
law, and cautioned the Irish Poor Law authorities to be ready to
administer additional relief. But official aid was wholly insufficient
without private charity and in these straits, the Duchess of Marlborough
came forward and appealed to the public. She was a woman of exceptional
capacity, energy, and decision, and she laboured earnestly and
ceaselessly to collect and administer a great fund. Its purposes were to
supply food, fuel, and clothing, especially for the aged and weak; to
provide small sums to keep the families of able-bodied men in temporary
distress out of the workhouse; and thirdly, while carefully guarding
against any kind of proselytism, to give grants to schools, so as to
secure free meals of bread and potatoes and, if possible, a little
clothing for the children attending them. The plan unfolded in her
letters to the _Times_ was welcomed not only by the Irish Conservative
press, but by the _Freeman’s Journal_, which then supported Mr. Butt’s
policy and which bore handsome testimony to the efforts made by the
Viceregal family to become acquainted with the Irish people, and to
their great popularity even in the disturbed district near
Portarlington, which was their country seat. The ultra-Nationalist
papers were less kindly, but the fund was warmly supported and grew
apace. The Queen sent 500_l._ and the Prince of Wales 250_l._ By the end
of the year 8,300_l._ had been subscribed; by March the receipts were
88,000_l._; and, before the Viceroy left Ireland (April 21) on the
change of Ministry, the fund was 117,000_l._ Although many subscriptions
were diverted to a separate fund raised by the Lord Mayor of Dublin, the
Duchess of Marlborough’s fund ultimately reached 135,000_l._ Its
administration was entirely free from sectarian or party influence,
Roman Catholics and Protestants being equally represented on the
Committee. Upwards of 80,000_l._ was distributed in relief to the local
committees, 37,000_l._ expended in seed, and 10,000_l._ upon clothing.
The working expenses were under 1,700_l._ In all this Lord Randolph bore
an active part. His whole time was given up to the work of organisation
and distribution and before he left Ireland in the spring of 1880 he had
visited nearly every Irish county and had come into intimate contact
with every class in Irish life. His knowledge of Ireland was soon to be
of service to him.

[Sidenote: 1880 ÆT. 31]

The Government of Lord Beaconsfield approached the election of 1880 with
some inward misgivings. Their party was united and contented. The
_Times_ declared that Mr. Gladstone’s language was extravagant and out
of proportion to any feeling that might exist in the country. The
by-elections were not especially unfavourable to Ministers. But
nevertheless there were causes for anxiety. The lustre had gradually
faded from the ‘spirited foreign policy’ and from the Imperialism of
Lord Beaconsfield and Lord Lytton. Taxation had been increased; deficits
had taken the place of surpluses; no legislative achievements could be
discovered. In India and South Africa useless bloodshed, clotted by
disaster, seemed to be the outcome of British activities. The policy of
the Government in the Near East was stridently asserted by its opponents
to be a failure, if not a fraud. Trade depression, as a reaction from
the ‘boom’ after the Franco-German war, was continuous. Revival was
delayed by the uncertainty of the European situation. Economic weakness
followed diplomatic strength and military exertion. There had been
serious strikes in 1878, and the winter of 1878-9 was marked by acute
distress. The elements of Nature were adverse. Agriculture was vexed
with wet summers and bad harvests and low prices. All Ireland was dark
with gathering storm. There was, no doubt, sufficient reason for
apprehension; but no one foresaw the extent of impending defeat.

‘Lord Beaconsfield,’ wrote Lord Randolph Churchill in 1883,[7] ‘was very
old and very worn when he got to the top of the tree, and he was but
indifferently served by some of his colleagues. Advancing years, an
enfeebled constitution, a singularly exhausting and painful form of
disease, had compelled him to give way to a disposition naturally
indolent and unsuited to the constant mastery of dry administrative
detail. He must often have thought that he had done nearly enough; that
he might with justice allow himself to seek in the distractions of
London society a pleasure and a repose to which, during most of his
life, he had been a stranger. Only the most captious mind could blame
him for this; but this it was, nevertheless, which greatly conduced to
the downfall of his Government. What time he gave to public affairs was
absorbed in studying, with the assistance of the Foreign Secretary, the
various phases of the Eastern complication. All else was neglected.
Finance was left entirely to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in whose
unaided hands deficits and floating debts grew apace. The other heads of
departments were all allowed to go their own way, doing what seemed good
in their eyes. There was no master mind pervading and controlling every
branch of the Administration. Election affairs and organisation went to
the dogs. The care, the experience, the personal supervision which Mr.
Disraeli, assisted by a few practised hands, had bestowed upon the
preparations for the General Election of 1874 disappeared. A weak but
wide-spreading centralisation enervated the vigour of the provincial
organisation. A stupefying degree of over-confidence, a foolish contempt
for the adversary, a fatally erroneous estimate of the revived
influence of Mr. Gladstone--these causes, and these alone, all of them
preventable, slowly but surely worked the ruin.

On March 8, 1880, Sir Stafford Northcote announced to the House of
Commons its approaching dissolution. The next morning there appeared in
the papers Lord Beaconsfield’s letter to the Duke of Marlborough,
assigning to Ireland the foremost place among the perils and
embarrassments of British dominion. The memorable and prophetic words of
this celebrated document, familiar though they be, require to be
recorded here:--

‘Nevertheless, a danger, in its ultimate results scarcely less
disastrous than pestilence and famine, and which now engages your
Excellency’s anxious attention, distracts that country. A portion of its
population is attempting to sever the constitutional tie which unites it
to Great Britain in that bond which has favoured the power and
prosperity of both. It is to be hoped that all men of light and leading
will resist this destructive doctrine. The strength of this nation
depends on the unity of feeling which should pervade the United Kingdom
and its widespread Dependencies. The first duty of an English Minister
should be to consolidate that co-operation which renders irresistible a
community educated, as our own, in an equal love of liberty and law.

‘And yet there are some who challenge the expediency of the Imperial
character of this realm. Having attempted, and failed, to enfeeble our
Colonies by their policy of decomposition, they may perhaps now
recognise in the disintegration of the United Kingdom a mode which will
not only accomplish, but precipitate, their purpose.

‘The immediate dissolution of Parliament will afford an opportunity to
the nation to decide upon a course which will materially influence its
future fortunes and shape its destiny.’

Members of Parliament were forthwith scattered to defend their seats and
above the tumult and babel which arose from so many contests little was
heard except the reverberating thunders of Midlothian. Lord Randolph
hurried back to Woodstock and arrived, as we may judge from the account
he gave his mother, none too soon. The Blenheim estates had suffered
from the absence of their owner and those dependent upon them felt
acutely the diversion to Ireland and Irish purposes of that personal
sympathy and care without which the administration of landed property
becomes so often at once wasteful and harsh.

          _Lord Randolph Churchill to his Mother._

Blenheim: March 21, 1880.

     I have to thank you very much for your many letters, which have
     been so welcome to me. I have now been round the constituency and
     seen everybody, except a few people in Woodstock whom I have not
     yet seen, and a few in other parts who were not at home when I
     called. I shall take them all up this week, but the work will be
     easier now, and I shall have some time for writing to you.

     I assure you it has been hard work, and I have not spared time or
     trouble; every day this last week I was out by nine and not home
     till eleven at night. The results of the canvass will be arrived at
     to-morrow when the Chairmen of the various Committees hand in their
     reports, but I have no doubt the result will be satisfactory to
     you. Every day, however, confirms what I wrote last week; the
     continual expression of the labourer in Stonesfield, Coombe,
     Handborough, and Bladon is, ‘Yes, I voted for you last time, but I
     have been very badly served since,’ and then follows half an hour’s
     complaint. The other Party admit that they would never have tried
     again, had it not been for these complaints of the labouring men
     and the great scarcity of employment.

     I know well how difficult, almost impossible, it is to please poor
     people. Nor do I blame your agent for not doing all they ask or for
     not finding employment for them; that no doubt was out of his
     power. What I do blame him for, and what I am sure my father and
     you will blame him for, is for having provoked against himself a
     great deal of ill-will, and having treated these poor people, and
     farmers, with rudeness and worse than rudeness, and this, too,
     during your absence, and at a time when the greatest discretion and
     temper were wanted for the management of a great estate.

     You cannot think how people are looking forward to your return
     here; they feel quite jealous of all you are doing and have done in
     Ireland. You have made for yourself a great name among the Radical
     working men, several of them have spoken to me about you. Several
     of them who perhaps would have gone for Hall will vote for me, or
     rather for you; but at the same time I feel as I never felt before
     how greatly this place and all the neighbourhood depends upon your
     care and my father’s attention.

     I have a public meeting, probably the last, to-morrow night in
     Kidlington. The election will be on April 2, but much work is
     needed for the proper preparation and organisation for polling day,
     so that the Liberals may this time get their ‘quietus.’

     I hope you liked my speech at Woodstock. I was prepared for a row,
     but though I had no one with me to help, and although the other
     Party was there in great force, helped by a preacher and stump
     orator, they heard me with the greatest patience for forty minutes.
     The preacher asked some questions and made some remarks, but I am
     told that what I said on the Foreign Policy and Home Questions
     pleased them much, and that I was considered to have had the best
     of the preacher.

     I feel so sorry for all this expense coming on at such a time, but
     I hope things are going to mend this year. The weather has been
     perfect--fine, bright, cold days, worth pounds to the farmers, who
     are cleaning their fields with great activity and advantage. A good
     harvest this year will do much to set things going; but the serious
     part of the matter is that the farmers are so much worse off in
     point of capital, and in addition the land is four years to the
     bad, suffering from weeds and reduced manure. I fear that even with
     good harvests the future is full of difficulties to the landlords.

     The outlook here at the outset was very alarming, but it is
     clearing rapidly. I think I must attend more regularly this
     session. Hall hit me rather hard on account of my slack attendance.
     I think the Party will keep a fair majority, but they cannot expect
     to have quite so many as they had nor do I think it would be a good
     thing. I am afraid you will think I have become rather Jingo, but
     any lukewarmness at such a moment would be most dangerous.

The election at Woodstock took place on the second day of the polling
(April 1), and Lord Randolph Churchill was returned--in a total
electorate of 1,060--by 512 votes to the Liberal candidate’s (Mr. W.
Hall, of Lancing, Sussex) 452. Thus Woodstock was snatched from the
burning; but throughout the kingdom general disaster overwhelmed the
Conservatives. In the first four days the Conservative majority had been
destroyed by their losses in the boroughs. The counties endorsed and
even emphasised the decision. When the returns were complete, Mr.
Gladstone had obtained a Liberal majority of 54 over all other sections
in the House. The dissolved Parliament had numbered 351 Conservatives,
250 Liberals, and 51 Home Rulers. The new Parliament assembled with 353
Liberals, 237 Conservatives, and 62 Home Rulers.

In two chapters two-thirds of Lord Randolph’s life have been described.
Starting with many advantages, he was still at thirty-one obscure. Four
or five speeches in as many years had made no particular impression, and
the House of Commons had scarcely formed an opinion about him. Stirred
on the one hand by liberal and pacific sentiments and restrained on the
other by affection for the Conservative party, to which he was bound by
so many ties of friendship and tradition and above all by respect for
his father, he was prevented during those years from taking any clear or
decided action which might have enlisted sympathy or commanded
attention. Out-of-doors among the people he was unknown. Adverse social
influences denied the recognition of such ability as he had shown. His
party was now humbled in the dust. His own family borough lay under the
shadow of an approaching Reform Bill. New Ministers and new measures
occupied the public mind. Grave and violent dangers beset the State and
no one troubled to think about an undistinguished sprig of the nobility.
Nevertheless his hour had come.



    His birth, it seems, by Merlin’s calculation,
    Was under Venus, Mercury, and Mars;
    His mind with all their attributes was mixt;
    And, like those planets, wandering and unfixt....
    His schemes of war were sudden, unforeseen,
      Inexplicable both to friend and foe;
    It seemed as if some momentary spleen
      Inspired the project and impelled the blow.
            HOOKHAM FRERE, _The Monks and the Giants_.

Great expectations were entertained of the Parliament of 1880 by the
Liberal members who assembled at Westminster after the election. Indeed,
the position of their party was one of immense strength and advantage.
The Government enjoyed the support of a majority in the House of Commons
who outnumbered the Conservatives and the Irish combined by more than 50
votes and amounted for practical purposes to between 100 and 130. In the
House of Lords they could count upon the wealth and talents of the great
Whig houses, the influence of the Cavendishes and the Russells, the
experience of Lord Granville, and the eloquence of the Duke of Argyll.
They were led by the finest Parliamentarian of this or any other age,
whose incomparable powers had won him an almost superstitious
veneration; and around him were gathered a band of men of distinguished
ability, well known to the country, practised in public affairs and
yielding ready subordination to the genius of their chief. Upon the
Treasury Bench were seated statesmen like Mr. Bright, Mr. Forster, and
Lord Hartington. Sir Charles Dilke and Mr. Chamberlain represented the
growing Radicalism and the future hope of their party. And when the view
was extended from the walls of Parliament to the larger arena of the
electorate no less powerful resources were displayed. The tendency of
the day was strongly progressive. The ability and authority of the
Press--whether Metropolitan, provincial, or local--were ranged in
overwhelming preponderance upon the Liberal side. Scotland and London,
almost all the great cities, nearly every centre of active political
thought--Edinburgh, Birmingham, Glasgow, Manchester, Leeds, Bradford,
Sheffield, Bristol--sent their representatives in vast majority to
uphold the new Administration; and a Reform Bill promised an almost
equal advantage in the counties. Many active and vigilant societies and
a multitude of political clubs stimulated the energies of the rank and
file; and the whole was bound together and directed to a common end by a
formidable and opulent organisation.

The position of the Conservative party, upon the other hand, was weak
and miserable in the extreme. The sympathies and the intellect of the
nation were estranged. Lord Beaconsfield, the only man who could touch
the imagination of the people, was withdrawn from the popular assembly.
Many of the Tory strongholds--family boroughs and the like--were
threatened by approaching Redistribution. The Front Opposition Bench,
cumbered with the ancient and dreary wreckage of the late
Administration, was utterly unequal to the Government in eloquence or
authority. The attendance of Conservative members, as in all dispirited
Oppositions, was slack and fitful.

Outmatched in debate, outnumbered in division, the party was pervaded by
a profound feeling of gloom. They had nothing to give to their
followers, nothing to promise to the people: no Garters for Dukes, no
peerages for wealth, no baronetcies or knighthoods or trinkets for
stalwarts. Although the new spirit created by Disraeli--_Imperium_
abroad, _Libertas_ at home--still lived in the Tory party, it had been
profoundly discouraged by the results of the election; and many of those
who swayed Conservative counsels could think of no plan of action except
an obstinate but apathetic resistance to change. Jeered at as ‘the
stupid party,’ haunted by profound distrust of an ever-growing
democracy, conscious that the march of ideas was leaving them behind,
these desponding counsellors could discern in the future no sign of
returning fortune and seemed to find the sole function of the
Conservative minority in delaying and restricting the movements of the
age by means of electoral inequalities, by Parliamentary procedure, and
through the prejudices of interest and of class.

What political prophet or philosopher, surveying the triumphant Liberal
array, would have predicted that this Parliament, from which so much was
hoped, would be indeed the most disastrous and even fatal period in
their party history? Or who could have foreseen that these dejected
Conservatives in scarcely five years, with the growing assent of an
immense electorate, would advance to the enjoyment of twenty years of
power? It needed a penetrating eye to discover the method, and a bold
heart first to stem and finally to turn the tide. Who would have thought
of breaking up the solid phalanx of Liberalism by driving in a wedge
between the Radicals and the Whigs; or dreamt of using the Irish to
overthrow the great apostle of reconciliation between peoples; and who
without the audacity of genius would have dared to force the
Conservative party to base the foundations of their authority with
confidence upon the very masses they dreaded and to teach those masses
to venerate and guard the institutions they had formerly despised?

The Liberal majority, who had arrived at Westminster in such excellent
spirits after their victory at the polls, were enabled quite early in
the session to take part in a Government defeat. The electors of
Northampton, which was in those days reputed the most Radical town in
England, had returned Mr. Bradlaugh as one of their representatives.
Charles Bradlaugh came to the House of Commons by strange paths of
thought and action. Forty-seven years before he had been born in a
religious family, the son of a very poor solicitor’s clerk. For a time
he was a teacher in an Evangelical Sunday-school; but he began to ask
many questions about his faith and its foundations, which appear to have
been indifferently answered by a clergyman to whom he applied. Later he
was a Chartist, and spoke often at open-air meetings, at first on the
Christian side; but after a public disputation with an anti-Christian
opponent he became a declared atheist and found shelter for a while in
an anti-Christian family. Harassed by poverty he enlisted in the East
India Company’s army, was exchanged into the British Service, served
with credit several years in the 7th Dragoon Guards, and bought his
discharge with a legacy that had come to him from an aunt. Next he was
an office-boy to a solicitor, whence he rose soon to manage the common
law department of the firm. These harsh and varied experiences had
inflamed his mind against many established institutions, human and
divine. As a bold and effective platform speaker, or under the pseudonym
of ‘Iconoclast,’ he was accustomed to set forth what occurred to him
against Christianity, the Bible, and the House of Brunswick, to the
severe displeasure of the more prosperous or more contented classes in
the nation. In the year 1877 he intruded upon still more dangerous
ground and made himself responsible for the republication of a pamphlet
about over-population, its evils and its remedies and other Malthusian
topics, which, being among the most tremendous of natural problems, have
long been judged unfit for public discussion. The pamphlet is said to
have attained a sale of 180,000 copies, and the publisher was sentenced
to six months’ imprisonment, from which he only escaped through the
timely discovery of some legal flaw. Mr. Bradlaugh’s struggles against
authority, penury, and obloquy were now to be transferred to a more
brightly-lighted stage.

On May 3, 1880, Charles Bradlaugh presented himself at the table of the
House of Commons and claimed to affirm instead of taking the oath. The
Speaker, whom he had acquainted with his intention some days earlier,
decided on his own responsibility to leave the question to the decision
of the House, and Lord Frederick Cavendish, representing the Government
in the absence of Ministers--whose seats had been vacated by taking
office--moved accordingly for a Select Committee of Inquiry. Sir
Stafford Northcote, the Leader of the Opposition, being as it appears
personally willing to substitute an affirmation for the oath, seconded
the motion. When the House met again (May 5) Sir Henry Wolff gave notice
that he would oppose the reference to a committee; and when it was
nominated he moved (May 11) ‘the previous question,’ on the ground that
to proceed to general business before the Queen’s Speech had announced
to members the reasons for which Parliament was summoned would be to
invade the Royal Prerogative. He was supported by Mr. Gorst, the member
for Chatham. A debate ensued, in the course of which some prominent
Conservatives deprecated Sir Henry Wolff’s motion, and several of the
Conservative leaders abstained from the division in which it was
defeated by 171 to 74. But the question had already begun to excite
attention. The delay was fatal to its settlement. If Mr. Bradlaugh had
been content to take the oath unostentatiously among a crowd of members
at the beginning of the session, it is almost certain that no question
would have been raised. He chose instead in the most public manner to
cast down a challenge. It was eagerly accepted. From the caprice that
prompted one private member to stir a smouldering fire and the chance
interposition of another who happened to observe him arose a protracted
and ferocious controversy, which, in Mr. Morley’s words, ‘went on as
long as the Parliament, clouded the radiance of the party triumph, threw
the new Government at once into a minority and dimmed the ascendency of
the great Minister.’

By a majority of one the committee decided against Mr. Bradlaugh’s claim
to affirm. He thereupon wrote to the newspapers that he considered it
his duty to accept the mandate of his constituents and that if to do so
he had to submit to a form less solemn than the affirmation, so much the
worse for those who forced him to repeat words which were to him sounds
conveying no clear and definite meaning. Having by this, as he no doubt
supposed, settled the matter to the extreme discomfiture of his
opponents, he repaired to the House on May 21--the third day of its
meeting for regular business--resolved to take the oath in the usual
form. But in the meantime Sir Henry Wolff had not been idle. With the
assistance of Mr. Grantham--now one of His Majesty’s Judges--he had
studied the legal aspect of the question and had drafted a resolution.
He had consulted with his friends and in particular with the young
member for Woodstock, with whom he had struck up a friendly acquaintance
in the last Parliament and of whose talents he had formed a high
opinion. Mr. Bradlaugh’s letter had, moreover, produced an astonishing
effect. The House--almost irrespective of party--was profoundly offended
and even outraged by his words and by the action he intended. Anger
flamed in the Lobbies. Ministers were justly apprehensive of the
difficulties that might arise if the question of Mr. Bradlaugh’s right
to take the oath was held to be one for the determination of the House.
They held a council in the Speaker’s Library, and proposed to meet the
hostile motion, which was now certain when Mr. Bradlaugh should present
himself, by moving ‘the previous question.’ But the Whips reported that
the feeling in the House was ‘uncontrollable.’ The Liberal majority
could not be relied on to support ‘the previous question’ and the Prime
Minister was forced to content himself with proposing a new committee to
search for precedents.

When the hour came, Mr. Bradlaugh advanced to the table to take the
oath. Thereupon Sir Henry Wolff sprang up and objected to its being
administered to him. Mr. Dillwyn, a Liberal member, intervened,
submitting that it was out of order to question the right of any member
to take the oath; but the Speaker, adhering to the intention he had
expressed in private, ruled--although in very doubting language--in
favour of Sir Henry Wolff. The Speaker directed the member for
Northampton to withdraw while Sir Henry Wolff explained his reasons.
These were, in short, that Mr. Bradlaugh’s declared opinions upon
religion and Royalty necessarily rendered any oath of allegiance that he
might take meaningless in form and valueless in fact.

The Prime Minister made an effort to narrow the issue to the simple
judicial question of whether a duly elected member could be prevented by
the House from fulfilling his statutory obligations and he proposed his
Select Committee. The debate which followed was long, serious, and
savage. Two views, both held with intensity, prevailed about the man:
first, that he was a blatant contumacious atheist who made a living by
blasphemy, republicanism, and indecent literature, and sought in
Parliamentary honours a fresh advertisement for his hateful trade; and,
secondly, that he was a martyr gone wrong, whose zeal and
convictions--honest, albeit pernicious--had caused him to suffer in
private prospects and public life. The unfavourable view predominated in
the House and was adopted with vehemence by the Conservative party.
There was a third view--that the House of Commons was no judge of such
matters, that it had received no evidence but common report, and even so
had no business to exclude members because of their opinions. But such
arguments, although urged by orators like Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Bright,
found little acceptance. Extracts were read from ‘The Impeachment of the
House of Brunswick’ and ‘The Fruits of Philosophy.’ Mr. Bradlaugh’s
declaration that an oath was to him an idle and meaningless ceremony was
repeated over and over again. Was the House to connive at an act of
blasphemy? Mr. Gibson from the Front Opposition Bench, taking the Bible
in his hands from the table on which it lay, read out impressively the
solemn words which were to be mockingly invoked. Mr. F. H. O’Donnell, a
militant Irish Catholic, spoke in unmeasured abhorrence of the Bradlaugh
doctrines, which he said would degrade human love and human wedlock to
something lower than union of beast with beast. The speech of Mr. Walter
of the Times, which, although favouring the appointment of a Select
Committee, declared that Mr. Bradlaugh could not be permitted to go
through the form of taking the oath, was regarded as representing an
important element of moderate Liberal opinion.

Partisanship was not slow to perceive its opportunity. Sir Stafford
Northcote and the whole Conservative party made haste to support Sir
Henry Wolff. Opposition speakers sought to identify the Liberal party
and Mr. Gladstone himself with the member for Northampton. He had been
their candidate, he was now their comrade. The division, according to
one gentleman, would be between those who were on the side of atheism,
disloyalty, and immorality and those who were not. Amid such fury many
very wise and worthy exhortations to preserve a judicial spirit were
overwhelmed. Lord Randolph Churchill resumed the debate on May 24. For
the first time he addressed a crowded House and was supported by the
cheers of a great party. There was in his character a strong element of
religious feeling. He spoke with a kind of half-restrained passion which
commanded attention. He opposed the appointment of a committee. The
matter was simple. Let it be decided by what Lord Beaconsfield had
called ‘the unerring instinct of the House of Commons.’ Like others who
had spoken, he quoted from the Bradlaugh writings. He stood at the
corner seat of the third bench below the gangway and when he had
finished reading the extract beginning ‘I loathe these small German
breast-bestarred wanderers,’ he cast ‘The Impeachment of the House of
Brunswick’ upon the floor and stamped upon it, to the surprise of the
assembly. Although this was his first entry into the dispute, he seems
at once to have been accepted as a principal. Henceforward, upon the
Bradlaugh question, he took his natural place as a leader and before two
years had passed he was credited by the public with having begun the
whole controversy.

Sir Henry Wolff’s motion was rejected in favour of the Ministerial
amendment proposing a committee by 214-289. There was another dispute on
May 28 over the names of the committee, Lord Randolph being ironically
or mischievously anxious that Nonconformists should be more numerous on
it. Mr. Gladstone, in reply, concerned himself almost entirely with the
arguments of Lord Randolph and Sir Henry Wolff. The committee was
appointed. Its search for precedents was barren. It reported that Mr.
Bradlaugh could not take the oath, but recommended that he should be
allowed to affirm at his own risk, in order that the matter might be
settled in the Courts. The Government accepted the view of the
committee. On June 21, therefore, Mr. Labouchere moved that his
colleague be permitted to affirm. Sir Hardinge Giffard, in the name of
the Conservative party, met this by an amendment which declared that Mr.
Bradlaugh should not be permitted either to affirm or swear. After two
days’ debate (June 21 and 22) the first great division of the new
Parliament was taken. Mr. Labouchere’s motion, although supported by the
whole Ministry, was rejected by 275 votes to 230 and Sir Hardinge
Giffard’s amendment was adopted in its stead. In the clamorous
excitement which followed the declaration of the numbers some have
discovered the joy of the Tory party at their first revenge for

The account of this episode need not be pursued in detail. How Mr.
Bradlaugh presented himself the next day and claimed to swear; how the
Prime Minister, his solution having been rejected, refused his guidance
to the House; how the Speaker called upon Mr. Bradlaugh to withdraw; how
he resisted; how he was heard at the Bar; how he was expelled; how he
was committed to the Clock Tower upon the motion of the Leader of the
Opposition; how action was taken against him in the Courts for sitting
and voting without statutory qualification, are upon record. How he was
unseated and re-elected, and in what manner he finally took the oath,
must presently be described. The Bradlaugh case was inexhaustible in
scenes and sensations. It recurred almost month after month throughout
the Parliament, and whenever it occupied the stage the Government was
powerless; the leadership of the House was abandoned by its first and
greatest member; the overwhelming majority of the Midlothian campaign
became divided and untrustworthy. The credit of the Ministry was injured
in Parliament and in the country the Liberal party and its leaders were,
not unsuccessfully, represented as the champions of Bradlaugh and his
abominated doctrines.

The Fourth Party grew out of the Bradlaugh incident. To Wolff belonged
the merit of discovery. The others in coming to his aid had learned the
value of co-operation. They had seized an opportunity while regular
leaders hesitated. They had helped each other to use it with
determination. The whole party had in the end been glad to follow their
lead and great and admitted advantage had ensued. They resolved
forthwith to make permanent that comradeship which had proved so happy
on occasion. Three of them already sat on the Front Bench below the
gangway, and during the early days of the session Lord Randolph
abandoned his perch on the back benches and came forward to sit with
them. An old and respected member of the Conservative party had been
accustomed to sit in the corner seat. In a few weeks he departed to
serener quarters, saying to Sir Henry Wolff, ‘This is getting too hot
for me’; and Lord Randolph thenceforward was regarded as the rightful
owner of that coveted place. The compact which bound the ‘Fourth Party,’
as they were soon called by general consent, was simple and elastic. No
questions of policy or leadership arose. Each was free to act in perfect
independence; but it was agreed that, whenever one of them was attacked,
the others should defend him. Upon these conditions was created a
Parliamentary group which proved, in proportion to its numbers, the most
formidable and effective force for the purposes of Opposition in the
history of the House of Commons.

The four men who had thus come together were, each in his own way,
remarkable. The first mention of Sir Henry Wolff in Lord Randolph’s
letters occurs in 1879. ‘I am dining to-night at the Garrick with Sir
Henry Wolff and a large party of M.P.’s.’ Then again, a few months
later, ‘Wolff and I are going to London together in order that the
questions of the leadership of the party may be complicated by our
presence.’ When the Parliament of 1880 assembled they seem to have
become already fairly intimate friends. Sir Henry Wolff, the son of a
distinguished traveller and scholar whose name in the early ‘forties was
respected in many countries outside his own, had entered Parliament as
member for Christchurch in 1874, and had already, by his knowledge of
foreign affairs and diplomatic methods, gained a reputation in the
House of Commons. He was now member for Portsmouth. He was fifteen years
older than Lord Randolph and possessed a large and varied fund of
experience and information. Shrewd, suave, witty, and imperturbable,
versed in Parliamentary procedure, fertile in schemes, clever at
managing people, a master of smoothly-turned sentences and plausible
debating points, a ready speaker, an industrious politician, old enough
to compel respectful treatment from the House, young enough to love
fighting and manœuvres for their own sake, Sir Henry Wolff was, at
the beginning of 1880, just the kind of man to make a Ministry
uncomfortable. If he contributed notably to the strength of the Fourth
Party in public, he added still more to the gaiety of its secret
councils. He rallied generously to the chaff in which Lord Randolph
always delighted, and the comradeship which grew between them was
abiding. No cloud darkened, no conflict of interests or opinions
disturbed it. Of the intimate relations between these four allies, the
friendship of Lord Randolph and Sir Henry Wolff was the only one to
survive unimpaired the vicissitudes of political life.

Mr. Gorst possessed temper and talents of a different kind. His mood was
serious, his ability distinguished, his industry enormous. His career in
the past had been more noteworthy than that of any of his companions. He
was a rapidly rising lawyer. He had sat in Parliament as early as 1866.
He had been entrusted with the reorganisation of the Conservative party
machinery after the defeat of 1868, and Mr. Disraeli always regarded the
victory of 1874 as largely due to his arrangements, and treated him with
special favour and confidence. He probably knew more about politics,
public and secret, than all his three colleagues together, and his
knowledge of law proved on repeated occasions of inestimable value to
the rest. In conjunction with Lord Randolph Churchill his abilities
became doubly effective. A few years later Sir Henry James publicly
complained, in a Standing Committee, of such an alliance. It was, he
said, a poacher’s combination--a pointer to find game and a greyhound to
run it down.

The career of the remaining member of the Fourth Party is not yet
complete. Mr. Arthur Balfour in 1880 was an affable and rather idle
young gentleman, who had delicately toyed with philosophy and diplomacy,
was earnest in the cause of popular concerts, and brought to the House
of Commons something of Lord Melbourne’s air of languid and well-bred
indifference. How he came at all to be drawn into that circle of fierce
energy which radiated from Lord Randolph Churchill was a puzzle to those
who knew him best. In the early days of the Fourth Party no
one--certainly not his comrades--regarded him as a serious politician.
Lord Randolph, who delighted in nicknames, used to call him
‘Postlethwaite,’ and made him the object of much harmless and friendly
chaff. In private life he already exercised that personal charm and
fascination which in later years were curiously to deflect the course of
great events. But he seemed so lacking in energy, so entirely devoid of
anything like ambition, so slenderly and uncertainly attached to
politics at all, that his friends feared he would withdraw altogether,
and none recognised or imagined in this amiable, easy-going member for a
family borough the calculating, tenacious, and unwearying Minister who
was destined through so many years to control the House of Commons and
shape the policy of the State.

The Employers’ Liability Bill afforded the new confederacy a wide and
fertile field for their exertions. The law, as it had been formed by
judicial decisions, was, according to modern ideas, strangely harsh upon
the workman. The employer was liable for any injury done to third
parties by the negligence of his servants but not for injuries done by
one servant to another. If, for instance, there occurred at his mills an
explosion which killed and wounded both outsiders and his own workmen,
the employer might be sued for damages in respect of person or property
by the outsiders or their representatives, but injured fellow-workmen
had no legal claim because they were in what was called ‘common
employment.’ Complaint against this anomaly had been loud and long. Two
extreme remedies were proposed by the respective interests. On the one
hand, the employers desired to be free from all liability for injuries
done, except by themselves personally; on the other, the workmen
demanded the abolition of the doctrine of ‘common employment’ and an
assertion of the consequent liability of the employer to all alike. A
Bill had been introduced in the preceding Parliament by Mr. Brassey, a
private member, which proposed a middle course. It sought to extend the
liability of the employer by nullifying the plea of ‘common employment’
whenever the injury was caused by a defect in the machinery, by the
negligence of an authorised superintendent, or as the result of
obedience to the employer’s rules or bye-laws. When the new Ministers
assumed office the session was already advanced; and under a hasty
necessity for providing a certain legislative pabulum for the activities
of Parliament, the Government adopted, with very scanty examination, Mr.
Brassey’s Bill. The complications in which this plan involved them were
numerous. It had not originated in the great departments of the State
and was, both in principle and drafting, an amateurish suggestion which
might, indeed, sound very plausible and accommodating; but which had not
been clearly thought out in a scientific spirit with the advantages of
official information. No division was taken upon the second reading; but
the debate aroused the Ministers in charge of the measure to the
consciousness that they were committed to a confused and ill-considered
proposal. It was necessary to move that the Bill should be re-committed,
and before it reappeared it was almost entirely rewritten. Its general
character as a compromise was, however, preserved.

The Fourth Party held deep council as to their policy upon this
measure. They saw that a Bill had practically been thrown to the House
to be moulded into shape by debate. They resolved to address themselves
conscientiously to the task of perfecting the crude conceptions of the
Government. But they resolved further the direction in which their
influence should be exerted. The manufacturers and capitalists, who in
those days were numerous and influential in the Liberal party, were
already greatly perturbed at the extent to which their liability was to
be increased, and the Government was constrained to listen to their
grumbles. Sitting immediately behind Ministers, Sir Henry Mather Jackson
groaned forth his anxieties. Not so the Fourth Party. They approached
the question with open minds, as independent persons who desired only to
do right between man and man and cared nothing for the sordid interests
involved. Whereas Ministers had expected that Tory opposition would
naturally take the form of a defence of the employers’ position, the
Fourth Party proceeded to criticise the measure entirely in the
interests of the working class. This secured them two advantages, which
it may be presumed they desired equally. First, it was in accordance
with the spirit of Lord Beaconsfield’s progressive Toryism and would
really benefit the labouring people, for whose sake the Bill was
designed. Secondly, nothing could be more embarrassing to a Liberal
Government than Conservative opposition on the grounds that the Bill did
not go far enough. ‘Be thorough,’ exclaimed these Tories to the
Government. ‘Fulfil your election pledges. If you intend to deal with
industrial questions let it be in an honest and courageous spirit.’ The
Government was gravely disconcerted. They found themselves between two
fires. Below the gangway the Radicals stirred uneasily at such
unanswerable argument; and behind the Treasury Bench the wealthiest
supporters of the party were gnashing their teeth at such reckless

Whenever the subject came before the House the four friends were in
their places. There was not a single sitting from which they were
absent, or a single clause which they did not amend, or seek to amend.
It is, moreover, true that many important alterations in the scope and
detail of the measure were conceded to their insistence and that many of
their proposals, though rejected by the Government of 1880, have now
become the law of the land. The unforeseen complexity of the measure
afforded an indefinite scope to their ingenious minds. All sorts of hard
cases were propounded, to which the Government could find no
satisfactory reply. An employer was to be liable for accidents which
occurred through his defective plant or stock. Did this include animate
as well as inanimate things? The Ministers in charge had not made up
their minds. They had contemplated in the word ‘stock’ a stack of timber
or bricks which might fall and cause injury through negligent stacking.
They were now invited to consider the case of live-stock. Lord Randolph
said that a farmer might have a horse which he knew perfectly well had
a disease of the foot and was liable to come down at any moment. Would
the workman riding home from plough and injured by the fall be secured
compensation under the Bill? ‘No,’ replied the law officers, ‘for the
disease of the foot would not be due to the negligence of the employer.’
‘But suppose,’ asked Mr. Balfour, ‘the employer had thrown down the
horse and broken his knees, and that on a subsequent occasion, in
consequence of the horse having been thrown down by his carelessness,
his servant was thrown and broke his arm, what then?’ And it then
appeared there might be liability.

And what was a defect in ‘stock’? The bricks or timber might be stacked
so as to cause injury and yet be themselves most excellent materials.
The defect was not in them but in the person who stacked them. Someone
recollected that the rays of the sun had ignited lucifer matches lying
in a shop window, which in turn set fire to gunpowder and produced a
serious explosion. Where was the defect? If anywhere, it was in the
glass which had concentrated the rays of the sun. Amid such questionings
and the utter confusion to which they led, Mr. Dodson and his friends
passed many uncomfortable hours. Lord Randolph and Mr. Gorst were very
profuse in regrets for the slow progress of the Bill. But when the
Government themselves did not understand their own measure it was
necessary to be very careful indeed--and, after all, there was plenty of
time; better sit till November than scamp public duties and pass
slovenly or unworkable legislation.

Another dilemma was supplied by the case of domestic servants. Mr.
Balfour and Lord Randolph together protested against their exclusion
from the benefits of the Act--‘merely because they had no votes.’ ‘What
is the special characteristic of footmen or chambermaids,’ asked the
latter, ‘which disentitles them to compensation?’ No answer could be
discovered except that the risks of such persons were not great. Lord
Randolph suggested the case of the man who worked both in the house and
in the stable: injured in the house, he received no compensation,
injured in the stable, it was his right. How could it be contended that
domestic servants ran no risks? ‘Suppose,’ inquired the member for
Woodstock, in a speech which caused keen irritation to the Ministers and
almost equal amusement to the House, ‘an explosion of gas. An employer
comes home late at night. He does not, perhaps, altogether know what he
is doing. He blows out the gas. An explosion results, and the servant is
seriously injured; ought he not to receive compensation?’ ‘And what of
lifts?’ chimed in Mr. Gorst. There were lifts in hotels as well as in
factories. Suppose through some defect in the machinery of the lift a
servant at a hotel was injured, why was his claim to compensation less
good than that of the workman injured through a similar defect in a
similar lift in a factory? To the reproach that zeal for the working
classes was a new-found virtue in the Tory party and had not been
apparent in the conduct of the late Government, Mr. Balfour replied
tartly that the late Government had not been formed from members below
the gangway, and that if it had the claims of the working classes would
no doubt have been met.

So through all the sultry days of August the discussion went forward
tirelessly. But it should not be supposed that these objections of
detail were advanced frivolously with no general purpose behind them.
Lord Randolph had, early in the debates, denounced the doctrine of
‘common employment’; and on the third reading Mr. Gorst moved the
re-committal of the Bill in the name of the Fourth Party, on account of
its multifold inequities and anomalies, and urged the recognition of
some simple general principle which would equally govern the rights of
all classes of outsiders, or workmen or servants, whether in factories,
private or Government employ, whether in or out of doors. This
conclusion is one which modern legislation has already largely secured
and which its progress must ultimately achieve.

As with the Employers’ Liability Bill, so with Hares and Rabbits, and so
with Burials, though the task of perfecting these two latter measures
seems principally to have been discharged by Mr. Balfour and Sir Henry
Wolff. At every point the Fourth Party were armed with facts and
arguments; on every question they had a plan, in all difficulties they
sustained each other. The Government were repeatedly exhorted to spare
no labour for the public weal. Legislation of an important character,
they were reminded, could not be passed in haste, or without proper
intervals for reflection on the part of those who were responsible for
it. Whenever the Government and their partisans showed signs of
impatience--and, judging by the interruptions which are sprinkled in the
columns of ‘Hansard,’ this was not infrequent--a motion, or the threat
of a motion, to report progress or to adjourn was found an admirable
weapon to employ; while all the time the House as a whole was kept in
subjection and often in good-humour, by the excellent quality of the
speeches, the wit by which they were adorned, the fertility of resource
which distinguished them and the reality of the arguments advanced.

Not content with discharging--however conscientiously--the functions of
criticism, the Fourth Party aspired to legislate constructively. With
the object of encouraging private thrift and ready-money transactions,
Lord Randolph introduced in 1881 a Small Debts Bill which sought to make
debts of under one hundred pounds irrecoverable after one year from the
date of their being contracted. Sir Henry Wolff carried a measure
satirically described by Sir William Harcourt as the ‘Bournemouth Reform
Bill,’ which enabled the inhabitants of seaside resorts to let their
houses for short periods without impairing their voting qualification.
In every Parliamentary incident, great or small, the four allies were
prominent, if not supreme. The question of erecting a monument in
Westminster Abbey to the Prince Imperial of France, killed in the Zulu
War, produced differences in the Government, and from the division by
which the proposal was rejected several Ministers abstained by
withdrawing to the two small rooms behind the Chair which are used for
the minor consultations of colleagues or opponents. Sir Henry Wolff at
once raised a debate upon this alleged impropriety and, although Sir
Stafford Northcote deprecated his action, a long wrangle followed, from
which the Government emerged with ruffled plumes. When Mr. Dodson, the
President of the Local Government Board, by an absurd mistake got
himself elected for a second constituency without having previously
applied for the Chiltern Hundreds, it was Lord Randolph Churchill who
drew attention to the irregularity; and as the procedure of the House
rendered it difficult to debate the matter without some artful device,
he himself moved for a new writ for the borough of Chester, while Mr.
Gorst--by collusion, as Mr. Gladstone unwarrantably asserted--gave
notice of an amendment which would have brought the discussion within
the bounds of order.

Nothing could excel the industry of the Fourth Party in Supply. They
presented themselves nightly as the vigilant guardians of the public
purse. No item of expenditure was too small to be criticised; no economy
too petty to be cherished. ‘If,’ said Lord Randolph Churchill, with a
paternal look at Sir Stafford Northcote and his colleagues, ‘the late
Tory Government had been more attentive to the principles involved in
paltry matters of expenditure, they might still be sitting on the
Treasury Bench.’ On one warm evening when the bulk of the Conservative
party was scattered on its holidays--in pursuit of grouse according to
tradition, indulging their wives and families at the seaside according
to fact--and when the weary Ministerialists gasped amid the parching
streets of London, Lord Randolph Churchill subjected to the most minute
examination the grants-in-aid accorded to various learned societies. He
inquired about the Meteorological Office and canvassed the value of
weather reports. He compared the weather forecasts of Greenwich with
those of America. Satisfied upon this, he turned to the Academy of Music
and raised further important points for the Minister, Lord Frederick
Cavendish, to explain. When the diplomatic vote was taken, Mr. Balfour
and Sir Henry Wolff were at hand with stores of knowledge and that keen
thirst for information which is only to be gained by personal
experience. With only seventeen men to go into the Lobby with them, the
Fourth Party were formidable and feared. Nothing could provoke them to
anger or to levity. Their dignity and politeness were undisturbed by
charges of obstruction. They desired only to further public business and
to aid the Government in their responsible duties; and they moved to
report progress lest ill-temper should result from the natural
impatience of weaker and less conscientious legislators. Under these
inflictions the Liberal party groaned and its champions grunted.[8]

It was inevitable that disagreements should spring up between the
official leaders on the Front Opposition Bench and the active group
below the gangway. At first, to the amusement of the House and later
somewhat to its irritation, the Fourth Party claimed to be totally
distinct from and independent of all existing parties. ‘There are two
great parties in the State,’ said a member one night. MR. PARNELL:
‘Three.’ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL: ‘Four.’ (Laughter.) Fortified by this
assumption, the Fourth Party moved whatever amendments and took whatever
course seemed good to them, upon any and every question. As they did not
consult their leaders, it often happened that differences arose about
their tactics. And when, as we have seen, the influence of these
free-lances was so often employed in making Liberal Bills more Radical,
it was not surprising that the old Tories and ex-Ministers began to view
their busy allies with apprehension.

The leader of the Conservative party in the House of Commons was an old
and distinguished man. Sir Stafford Northcote had held high office,
first as Secretary of State for India, afterwards as Chancellor of the
Exchequer, under Disraeli in 1867 and in 1874. He had led the Commons
upon Mr. Disraeli’s retirement to the House of Lords. Upon finance he
enjoyed a reputation second only to that of Mr. Gladstone. He is said to
have possessed the common virtues in special excellence. Although Mr.
Gladstone, with that marvellous power great men acquire of looking at
things only from their own point of view, described him as ‘not strong
enough to convince his party that they were wrong,’ he also spoke of him
as admirable in good-temper, self-sacrifice, quickness, sound knowledge,
and general integrity. This eulogy was not undeserved at Mr. Gladstone’s
hands. Sir Stafford Northcote had in ancient Corn Law days, when Peel
was the honoured leader of the Conservative party, been private
secretary to Mr. Gladstone at the Board of Trade. The reverence in which
he held his former chief was undiminished by the passage of years, and
his natural amiability of character led him to express it and display it
on many suitable and unsuitable occasions. But the virtues of Sir
Stafford Northcote were not those most needed in the stormy times amid
which he closed his long career.

‘His gentle disposition and good intentions,’ said Lord Randolph long
afterwards, ‘would have saved anyone from attack except a leader of
Opposition.’ The very qualities which endeared him to his friends and
family and won him the compliments of his opponents, disheartened,
irritated, and paralysed his followers in the House of Commons. The
deference which he delighted to show to the Prime Minister, offended a
party which had just struggled back, smarting and reduced, from a
crushing electoral disaster. His lack of enterprising vigour was from
the first session of the new Parliament painfully apparent even to his
most faithful friends--and all of those who sat below the gangway were
not his friends. His speeches were tame and ineffective. When party
rancour festered to hate, when crisis at home followed hot on crisis
abroad, the mild expostulations with which Sir Stafford was accustomed
to conclude the debates, disappointed his followers. The Opposition,
always hopelessly outmatched in their official spokesman, were never
more plainly at a disadvantage than when their leader undertook to
encounter Mr. Gladstone. Sir Stafford Northcote’s character was
estimable, his talents were distinguished, his experience had been long;
but scarcely any Parliamentary chief has been more unequal to the
particular work he had to do. And yet though his strength failed year by
year and extraordinary physical disabilities oppressed him with
increasing severity, his fingers, nerveless for aught else, closed
tenaciously upon the reins of power. Unfit for any serious exertion or
important business even in private life, he was willing--not, indeed,
from any selfish or sordid motive, but from a high sense of public
duty--to fill the most arduous offices of State. In a condition when, as
a doctor, lawyer, or business man, he would have been unable properly to
discharge his duties, he was prepared to form Governments, to grapple
with Mr. Gladstone at the head of a great majority, and to guide the
Conservative party through the fiercest political tumult of a hundred
years. Heedless of the warnings of Nature and blind to the plainest
teaching of fact, he struggled gallantly forward until he died in
harness beneath burdens he was utterly unable either to relinquish or

The Fourth Party were soon openly antagonistic to Sir Stafford Northcote
and took no especial pains to conceal their feeling. In private they
invariably called him ‘the Goat.’ This was at first a personal allusion
to his beard, but it was afterwards more generally applied to all
Conservatives who were thought to be ‘weak-kneed.’ They found themselves
hampered in their conflicts with Mr. Gladstone by those who should have
led the onset. They viewed the line of ex-Ministers on the Front Bench
with those feelings of impatience which are natural to able men who see,
or think they see, great opportunities of warfare cast away by persons
much less able. They suspected Sir Stafford himself of being anxious to
form a coalition with the Whigs; and, although they carefully preserved
in public an air of elaborate politeness towards their leader, their
true disposition was not in doubt.

Their opinions were held by many others in the Conservative party before
the session of 1880 was ended; and, as always happens under such
circumstances, there grew up a counter-faction in Sir Stafford
Northcote’s support. This was the beginning of strife. It would be
profitless to attempt to trace the petty differences upon which mutual
dislike was founded. But by the time the recess drew near disagreements
were rife. The Fourth Party decided openly to condemn the want of energy
and foresight which marked the leadership of the Opposition. The
opportunity presented itself at a party meeting held in the Carlton
Club on August 20. The plan was drawn up by the four colleagues in
convivial conclave at the Garrick Club. It was arranged that Mr. Balfour
should, in the name of his colleagues, indicate the failure of Sir
Stafford Northcote to lead the party in the House of Commons to the
satisfaction of its more active adherents. In pursuance of this Mr.
Balfour made a very clever speech, in which he contrived to deliver a
most damaging criticism of Sir Stafford Northcote’s methods without
actually mentioning his name or using any discourteous phrase. He
obtained a considerable measure of assent from the meeting.

On the same day Mr. Balfour, by arrangement with his three friends,
attacked the Government for their conduct of public business. His
indictment had been carefully drawn up by the four partners, and
involved a comprehensive survey of the whole session. He complained that
the attempt of Ministers to cram too much into a limited time had
resulted in general confusion and in the most improper invasion of
private members’ rights, and he moved that it was inexpedient that
‘important measures should be brought under the consideration of the
House at a period of the session when it is impossible that they should
receive adequate discussion.’ Mr. Gladstone was absent through illness
and Lord Hartington undertook to reply to these reproaches. He read out
to the House some figures, which had been prepared, of the activities of
the Fourth Party during the four months since the dissolution. From this
it appeared that Mr. Gorst had spoken one hundred and five times, and
had asked eighteen questions; that Sir Henry Wolff had made sixty-eight
speeches and had asked thirty-four questions; and that Lord Randolph
Churchill had made seventy-four speeches and had asked twenty-one
questions. This statement caused much amusement; and after Sir Stafford
Northcote had defended the Conservatives at length from the general
charge of obstruction which had been urged on behalf of the Government,
Lord Randolph rose to vindicate the honour of the Fourth Party. He had
prepared himself for this not unexpected duty by a careful study of an
article written by Mr. Gladstone when in Opposition in 1879, justifying
or at any rate excusing obstruction. Some of the quotations were very
effective. ‘The public,’ wrote Mr. Gladstone, ‘has lately heard much on
the subject of obstruction in the House of Commons.... But to prolong
debate even by persistent iteration on legislative measures is not
necessarily an outrage, an offence, or even an indiscretion. For in some
cases it is only by the use of this instrument that a small minority
with strong views can draw adequate attention to those views.... There
are abundant instances in which obstruction of this kind has led to the
removal of perilous or objectionable matter from legislative measures,
and thus to the avoidance of great public evils.’ Lord Randolph
proceeded to read a sentence which seemed to have been specially
conceived in advance to protect the Fourth Party. ‘Now, if a great party
may obstruct, it is hazardous to award narrower limits to the small
one; for it is precisely in the class of cases where the party is small
and the conviction strong that the best instances of warrantable
obstruction may be found.’ Lord Randolph declared that these passages
would be the charter of himself and ‘those who acted with him.’ He
deplored the absence from the House of the Prime Minister and pleaded
that, acting upon the sanction of his great Parliamentary experience,
the Fourth Party ought to have escaped Lord Hartington’s rebuke. He
ended by exhorting the Government to cultivate ‘the magic of patience.’

The last appearance of the Fourth Party in the session of 1880 was upon
the third reading of the Appropriation Bill, which was not reached till
September 4. Notwithstanding the heat of the season and the exhaustion
of the House, the member for Woodstock and his friends preserved an air
of unrelenting vigilance. Lord Randolph Churchill moved an amendment
dwelling on the gravity of the defeat at Maiwand, which he sought to
prove, by an elaborate argument based upon the Blue Books, to have been
‘mainly attributable to want of foresight, of military knowledge and of
caution on the part of the Indian Executive.’ His criticisms drew from
Lord Hartington a reasonable and weighty reply. Both Sir Henry Wolff and
Mr. Balfour spoke at later stages in the debate, and thus the session
reached its close. ‘The rise of a small body of Conservative free-lances
below the gangway,’ said the _Times_ (September 7), in its review of the
session, ‘of whom Lord Randolph Churchill and Mr. Gorst are the chiefs,
is a curious incident, and has originated the half-serious nickname of
the “Fourth Party.”’

Such were the circumstances attending the rise of the Fourth Party in
the beginning of the new Parliament. It must be admitted that Mr.
Gladstone was at once their most powerful antagonist and their mainstay.
His quick eye discerned very early in the session the menace that was
growing below the gangway, and he hastened to respond to the challenge.
Perhaps, if he had not been a great and famous Parliamentarian, he would
have tried to treat with disdain the arguments of unproved or youthful
opponents. He would have left the House during their speeches or,
ignoring their criticisms altogether, have contented himself with
replying only to the ex-officials on the Front Bench. But his nature
prompted him to meet the strongest opposition from whatever quarter it
might be offered. His generous care for the life and vigour of the House
of Commons drew from him a frank recognition of talent wherever or
however displayed. He had his favourites on both sides of the House, and
he rallied with measureless good-temper and all his most formidable and
glittering weapons of debate to the attacks of the Fourth Party and
especially of their leader. Often and often he riddled them and crushed
them and pulverised them or reasoned with them patiently or cast them
aside with a stern rebuke; and as often they returned by other paths
unwearied to the attack.

The Prime Minister was indeed on various occasions the innocent cause
of delaying his own legislation. He was always delighted to expound
obscure or difficult questions for the benefit of friends or opponents.
Of this amiable weakness Lord Randolph and his friends took, we may be
sure, the fullest advantage whenever the pace of Government business
seemed to be undesirably rapid. In his most insinuating manner the
member for Woodstock--‘Woodcock,’ it was irreverently called on one
occasion--would rise in his place and request the Prime Minister to
explain some clause or subsection of a Bill to the Committee. Mr.
Gladstone would invariably respond to this invitation with evident
alacrity and frequently at considerable length. The wealth of fact and
argument with which in a single unpremeditated speech he often enriched
the debate served lesser mortals with new ideas. When these were
exhausted, Mr. Gorst would get up and thank the Prime Minister for his
lucid exposition, which he would say had made everything perfectly
intelligible to him, with the exception of one point, upon which he
would be most grateful to receive further information. When Mr.
Gladstone had made a second lengthy speech upon this, it was Sir Henry
Wolff’s turn to state how clear all had been made to his comprehension
also--with a single exception. ‘If you speak again,’ growled Sir William
Harcourt, a sterner partisan, on one celebrated occasion to his chief,
‘we shall be here till morning.’ But it should not be supposed from this
account that Mr. Gladstone lost by his invariable practice of giving his
best to the House. Although now and then his opponents may have
snatched some trifling advantage from the superabundance of his
strength, no qualities but his own could have surmounted the amazing
perplexities of the ‘80 Parliament or have guided the Liberal party
through its perils. So long as his light lasted the House of Commons
lived, and amid the fiercest passions and even scenes of violence
preserved its hold upon the sympathies and the imagination of the whole
world; and at his death it sank at once, perhaps for ever, in public

The proceedings and progress of the Fourth Party in the House of Commons
did not escape the attention of Lord Beaconsfield and that great man
regarded them from the first with high approval. Sir Henry Wolff had
already consulted him upon the Bradlaugh controversy. He had known Lord
Randolph since Oxford days. He was on friendly terms with all the four
friends; but it was Mr. Gorst with whom his relations were most
intimate. He took a keen interest in all their Parliamentary
manœuvres. He liked to feel himself in touch with the new men and
especially with the young men whom the Parliament was bringing into
notice and, so far from frowning on their independence, he encouraged
them with advice and approbation. He did not often revisit the House of
Commons after his elevation to the peerage; but one of these rare
excursions was for the purpose of watching the Fourth Party at work and
to hear Lord Randolph speak. He made particular inquiries as to what was
thought of the Fourth Party in Ministerial circles. In the early spring
of 1881, immediately before the commencement of his last illness, he met
Sir Henry James at a dinner given by Sir William Harcourt. ‘Well,’ he
said, ‘what do you think of Randolph?’ Sir Henry James praised his
Parliamentary instincts and aptitude. ‘Ah, yes, you are quite right,’
rejoined Lord Beaconsfield, ‘when they come in they will have to give
him anything he chooses to ask for and in a very short time they will
have to take anything he chooses to give them.’ During the autumn Lord
Beaconsfield invited Mr. Gorst to visit him at Hughenden, and talked to
him with much freedom about the policy and influence of the Fourth
Party, about Ireland and the general political situation.

‘Lord B.,’ wrote Gorst to Lord Randolph Churchill (November 9), ‘was in
his talk anything but Goaty: he generally expressed great confidence in
us, thought we had a brilliant future before us, and promised to help
and advise us as much as he could. I can in a letter only state
dogmatically what the oracle said, without giving all his arguments:--

     ‘1. We ought _not_ to pledge ourselves to support the Government in
     any coercive measures for Ireland. They have encouraged agitation:
     they have adopted dilatory and inefficient proceedings: and they
     don’t deserve the confidence of Parliament. We should therefore
     hold ourselves free to take what course we think best when the
     Government lay their proposals before us. B. will prevent
     Northcote, if he can, from making any more pledges. Meanwhile our
     attitude may be ostentatiously one of reserve. There is a precedent
     for suspending the Habeas Corpus to suppress Ribbon outrages in the
     Westmeath Act of 1871. ‘2. B. himself broached the idea that
     Gladstone may buy off the Irish landlords. He thinks this would be
     to us a very dangerous move. But there is no use in talking about
     it either in public or private. Nor can we say how the matter
     should be dealt with till the move is made. B. has always been in
     favour of the purchase by the tenant under Bright’s clauses: Lord
     Salisbury has always supported an extension of this.

     ‘3. He scouted the idea of Northcote thinking of coalition or being
     inclined to Derby; and did not bear out what Wolff said about his
     supporting Derby in the late Cabinet. We need not consult Northcote
     when Parliament is not sitting. It would be good policy to abuse
     Government for not summoning Parliament to consider the state of
     Ireland, and to say that their object in not doing so was to
     conceal their Eastern policy. We should always courteously inform
     N., through the Whip, of any step we are about to take in the House
     of Commons, and listen with respect and attention to anything he
     may say about it; his remarks, even when we disagree with him, will
     be well worth attention. But just at present _we need not be too
     scrupulous about obeying our leader_. An open rupture between us
     would, however, be most disastrous; but Lord B. thinks if we are
     courteous and firm Northcote will make no open rupture, and will
     not throw us over....

     ‘4. Upon alteration of the rules of the House there is to be the
     most absolute and unyielding resistance. Cairns has agreed to this,
     and they will force N. to be firm. There was a committee on the
     subject twenty years ago, which took some very interesting
     evidence, including that of M. Guizot on the _clôture_, which we
     ought to look up.’

Mr. Gorst was not the only member of the Fourth Party who was encouraged
by the Tory leader. ‘Lord Beaconsfield,’ writes Sir Henry Wolff, ‘whom I
had known nearly from my childhood, having asked me to call, I went in
the autumn of 1880 to the house in Curzon Street where he was then
living and where the next year he died. We discussed the situation and I
explained how the action of the Conservative party was crippled by the
over-caution--not to say indecision--of Sir Stafford Northcote, which
led him constantly to throw us over. He replied almost word for word as

‘When Mr. Gladstone announced his withdrawal from public life I fully
believed his statement, which was confirmed to me from special sources
in which I placed the most implicit reliance. I thought that when he was
gone Northcote would be able to cope with anyone likely to assume the
lead on the other side, and I wanted rest. I now much regret having
retired from the House of Commons, as Mr. Gladstone, contrary to my firm
persuasion, returned. I fully appreciate your feelings and those of your
friends; but you must stick to Northcote. He represents the
respectability of the party. I wholly sympathise with you all, because I
never was respectable myself. In my time the respectability of the party
was represented by * * * a horrid man; but I had to do as well as I
could; you must do the same. Don’t on any account break with Northcote;
but defer to him as often as you can. Whenever it becomes too difficult
you can come to me and I will try to arrange matters. Meanwhile I will
speak to him.’

The countenance and kindness thus shown to a rebellious group by so
great a man as Lord Beaconsfield filled the hearts of the Fourth Party
with a sense of elation. They reflected with satisfaction upon the
events of the session. With astonishing rapidity they had risen to a
position of influence in Parliament; their action attracted every day an
increasing interest from the public. They commanded the serious
attention of the Conservative party and enjoyed the favour of its famous
leader. Ministers and ex-Ministers eyed them with equal apprehension.
Older members were inquisitive about their plans. They looked forward to
the brightest future. Yet there were already gathering clouds.
Jealousies in a numerous troop had followed closely on success. Their
own contemporaries in the party were quick to resent the formation of a
clique and still more the prominence which was accorded to it. The great
Tory newspapers laboured assiduously to ignore their existence and, when
compelled, alluded to their proceedings only with a sneer. The life and
soul of the Tory Opposition, they were freely represented as hostile to
its interests. Sir Stafford Northcote seems from the beginning to have
scented danger. ‘I am inclined to think,’ he wrote complacently to
Gorst, as soon as Parliament had risen (September 15, 1880), ‘that the
Fourth Party has done enough for its fame, and that it will be the wiser
course for its members now quietly to take their places in the main
body, where they will have work enough and to spare.’ Gorst, in reply,
descanted on the advantages of combination. Each member of the Fourth
Party felt stronger for the support and wiser for the counsel of his
friends; and he assured Sir Stafford that together they would form a
weapon of political warfare which could not fail to be formidable ‘in
his hands.’

Thus Mr. Gorst to his leader. But the next day a new plan presented
itself to him and this he imparted half in fun to his friends. It was in
effect that Sir Stafford’s proposition should be solemnly embraced, that
the Fourth Party should after mature deliberation, at his request, give
up the idea--which they had never seriously entertained--of a separate
party and ‘take their places in the main body,’ by sitting immediately
behind their leader on the second bench above the gangway. From this new
position, adopted at Sir Stafford’s special desire, Mr. Gorst thought
that the conduct of the Opposition could be much more effectively
directed than from below the gangway and that its leader would very soon
fall completely under the control of the masterful men behind him. Lord
Randolph Churchill and Sir Henry Wolff both scouted this proposal and
supplied a number of reasons against it. Sir Henry Wolff was greatly
perturbed at the idea of relinquishing ground which seemed to give the
right to treat with party leaders, as he described it, _de puissance à
puissance_; and he pointed to Sir Stafford’s anxiety as a proof of the
advantages of independence. Mr. Balfour’s argument was single,
substantial, and conclusive. The length of his legs made it
indispensable to his comfort that he should sit upon a Front Bench and
nothing would induce him to change his quarters. So the matter was
settled accordingly; but it is curious that in after-years Lord
Randolph used often to relate this story as an instance of Mr. Gorst’s
Parliamentary knowledge and shrewdness and would frankly admit that if
his advice had been followed all legitimate objects might have been
attained without the friction and disturbance that ensued.

The Fourth Party had other friends beside Lord Beaconsfield.

          _Sir Henry Wolff to Lord Randolph Churchill._

Cromwell House, Putney: September 29, 1880.

     My dear Randolph,--After you left yesterday I received two very
     handsome tributes to the Fourth Party--one from Lord Cadogan, who
     said that he would look with dread at its being done away with, as
     being the only portion of the Conservative party that did any good
     at all--the other was from a man whose name I cannot recollect, and
     who came up to me in St. James Street to say he had been staying
     with Chenery, the Editor of the _Times_, who had expressed himself
     very warmly as to the future of the Fourth Party. I shall try and
     see Chenery; and as Burrows was sent to the Wali’s forces I shall
     endeavour, I hope with better success, to confirm his fidelity,

Ever yours sincerely,
H. D. W.

While opinions were thus divided it was not unnatural that Lord Randolph
and his friends should wish to give some public demonstration of their
influence and to show that they were not without friends in high places.
Mr. Balfour became their ambassador and Lord Salisbury, probably after
consultation with Lord Beaconsfield, accepted an invitation to address
a meeting at Woodstock. Just outside the Woodstock gate of Blenheim Park
the road passes through a considerable courtyard, surrounded on every
side by lofty walls and pierced only by the gateway. A temporary roof of
tarpaulins erected over this converted the highway into a spacious hall;
and here on November 30, 1880, Lord Salisbury and Lord Randolph
Churchill first appeared together in political association. The meeting
attracted much notice in the country and the attitude of the Tory
leaders in the House of Lords towards the independent group which had so
severely hustled their colleagues in the House of Commons was, of
course, the subject of much comment and speculation. This delicate topic
was, however, handled with dexterous caution by the principal speakers.
Lord Randolph Churchill, who took the chair, enlarged upon the loyalty
of himself and his friends to Lord Beaconsfield but avoided all mention
of Sir Stafford Northcote’s name. Lord Salisbury, on his part, was
careful to pay an ample tribute to the ‘sagacious guidance’ of Sir
Stafford early in his speech and then he proceeded to praise the energy
and ability of the member for Woodstock. The meaning of the
demonstration was variously interpreted by the newspapers. The Liberal
organs regarded it as a further proof of the growing power of the Fourth
Party. The Conservative papers believed, or affected to believe, that
the rebellious partnership was now dissolved and that the erring friends
had been welcomed back to the party fold. ‘It appears,’ said the
_Times_, ‘that Lord Randolph Churchill and Sir Henry Wolff are not bent
on forming a new party with the assistance of Mr. Balfour and Mr.

The correspondence of the Fourth Party is extensive and would be highly
diverting to anyone who knew the Conservative side of the House of
Commons in the early ‘eighties. Lord Randolph’s private letters do not
lend themselves to publication as readily as those of some other eminent
persons. They are spontaneous and scrappy. They deal with the little
ordinary commonplaces of the writer’s life. They reflect his mood at the
moment. They are full of personal allusions which would be pointless
without names and much too pointed with them. He abominated priggishness
in all its forms. No one ever wrote to his friends with less regard to
ceremony or with more unaffected frankness. Any piece of gossip, any
quaint conceit or joke or piece of solemn drollery, any sharp judgment
that occurred to him, went upon the paper without an after-thought.
Every passing shadow or gleam of sunlight which fell upon him marked his
pages with strong contrasts of feeling often extravagantly and
recklessly expressed. Nevertheless his correspondence with Sir Henry
Wolff has an air of gay and generous friendship, strong with an
attractiveness of its own. But there runs through it a recurring sense
of weariness and of disgust at politics, which seems to have alternated
with his periods of great exertion even during these most merry and
successful years of his life.

[Sidenote: 1880-1884]

He delighted in receiving Wolff’s letters at all times: ‘The only fault
I find with them is that they are too short; I should like several
volumes.’ ‘Your letters are to me like a glass of the best
champagne--exhilarating and stimulating.’ ‘You have such an entrancing
style, even when writing about the simplest matters, that one recognises
at once the statesman and the man of letters.’ ‘It is only your
versatile and brilliant genius which could produce such lively
correspondence in the dull season.’ He paints his own oratorical
achievements in glowing colours: ‘I had a most warm welcome at Oldham.
The meeting numbered some six hundred--all working men. I spoke for
fifty-five minutes--quite entrancing (my speech). What would you have
given to have heard it!!! I will, however, declaim it to you when we
meet. Fair Trade and taxing the foreigner went down like butter. How the
latter is to be done I don’t know....’ (September 10, 1881.)

[Sidenote: 1880-1884]

And a few weeks later: ‘Well! Hull was a triumph. I never had such a
success with a large audience. Every point told surprisingly. In my
second speech my reference to your successful contest with Bradlaugh
provoked the greatest enthusiasm. I was received yesterday at the
Carlton _à bras ouverts_. I see the Radical provincial press is beside
itself with indignation’ (November 3, 1881). ‘I received the Glasgow
invitation--most politely worded it is, and I have accepted it. I only
hope it may turn out well, and that you are not trying me _au dessus de
mes forces_. It seems a presumptuous thing to go and preach to a lot of
Scotchmen on home politics, which they probably understand much better
than I do. However, _de l’audace_, &c.’ (October 24, 1882.)

When Lord Randolph was abroad--as he often was for his health, or in
1883 during his retirement after his father’s death--Wolff kept him
informed about political things. These did not always allure him. ‘All
your news,’ he wrote in January, 1882, from Monte Carlo, ‘about your
conversation with various distinguished people concerning myself is very
pleasant reading, but my disinclination to return to England for the
meeting of Parliament grows stronger every day and I seem to have lost
all interest in things political. I am happy in Capua, and the thought
of once more engaging with Goats and Gibsons _et hoc genus omne_ makes
me sick. Old * * * came and bored me yesterday for more than an hour,
and I had a providential escape from * * * the other day; and yet it is
this class of individual of whom the great Tory party is mainly
composed. I think I shall copy Gladstone and take to reading Dante and
Homer--after,’ he adds prudently, ‘I have got through one or two French
novels I have by me.’

He always followed his friend’s doings with attention. ‘I have just
risen,’ he writes July 31, 1883, ‘in a state of singular emotion after
perusing your Demosthenic oration at Portsmouth’; and again, ‘I wonder
how things are going to-night. I dare say you are delivering a telling
speech. (It is the dinner hour, 8.30 P.M.!) How I wish I was there to
listen and cheer!’ And again (August 17, 1883): ‘You appear to have been
sustaining the whole weight of Opposition. I hope you mean to take a
good holiday when it is all over. I am quite clear that W. E. G. has
been very much bothered by your Suez Canal questions.’ At another time
he counsels reserve: ‘I read with interest both your speeches at Banbury
and at Portsmouth, and think that they were as good as the occasion
admitted of or demanded. At the same time I wish I could convince you of
what Chief Justice Morris calls “the energy of silence.”... Gorst and I
took a walk on Sunday on Hampstead Heath. I have never been there
before. There is a capital inn there called “Jack Straw’s Castle,” where
Gorst and I agreed the Fourth Party ought to go for Saturday and Sunday
during the Session to recruit their strength’ (October 2, 1882). He was
bitterly offended by the opposition which on various grounds--partly, no
doubt, to annoy him--was threatened against his brother’s candidature
for the Carlton Club. ‘I am more vexed,’ he wrote from Gastein, ‘than I
can tell you about this business of Blandford and the Carlton Club. I
wrote to Dyke before starting, particularly enjoining on him the
necessity of making no move unless the consent of the committee was
assured. And now how can anyone occupy a more unpleasant position than
Blandford does? He has publicly changed his politics, to please me more
than for any other reason, and owing to H. Chaplin’s action his
overtures to the Conservatives are spurned.... H. Chaplin and Baron de
Worms together will soon make the Tory party too hot to hold me. I shall
certainly take my name off the Carlton when I return to town, and a very
little would make me consummate H. C.’s and B. de W.’s joy by retiring
altogether from the party and Parliament. They do not know how easy it
would be to get rid of me. I am sick of politics, which only play the
dickens with one’s health, and are a dreadful tie. I think the party
occupies a worse position now than it did in 1880. But its leading
members are so purblind, so given over to the most utter infatuation,
that I believe they are of opinion that the country would replace them
in power. I only trust, for the sake of the country, that they are as
mistaken as I believe them to be.’ (August 8, 1883.)

Here is the account of a most famous event of which Gastein was the

‘You will be glad to hear that the Emperor of Germany had the honour of
being introduced to me on Saturday last at a tea-party at Count
Lehndorff’s. This Count, I must tell you, is a Prussian who owns the
_bicoque_ which I am inhabiting with my suite. He waited on us on
Saturday afternoon, and with almost Oriental deference begged that we
would honour the Emperor by meeting him. I write all this, lest you
should see garbled accounts in the newspapers. The Emperor, I must
admit, was very guarded in his conversation, which was confined to
asking me how long I had been here and whether I had come for my health.
I imitated his reserve. My wife, however, sat by him at tea, and had
much conversation, which, I have ascertained, was confined to the most
frivolous topics. I have reason to believe, though it is humiliating to
confess it, that the fame of the Fourth Party has not yet reached the
ears of this despot. I must say he is a very fine old fellow, and the
Germans seem really to love him. There were several other Prussians and
Austrians present; but I was rather bored on the whole and so was my
wife. They wanted us to go the next night, when they had arranged some
_tableaux_ for the old boy; but I sent an excuse on the ground that I
was in deep mourning. We did not come here to kowtow to monarchs.

       *       *       *       *       *

‘I have just been reading a book on cribbage and I find that in all the
games we have played together we have played wrong. The non-dealer at
the commencement has the right to mark three holes as compensation for
his not having the crib. This you have never allowed me to do. Please
therefore send me, by return of post, a cheque for 25_l._, being the
amount you have unjustly and illegally taken from me.’ (November 14,

Sometimes his letters take a graver tone:--

Blenheim Palace: October 30, 1883.

     My dear Wolff,--Your suspicions of intrigues are apparently so
     deep-rooted that they do not even exclude me from the range of
     their operations. I have not seen or heard of Chenery since he
     dined with me last June, nor should I at any time have any
     communication with him of which you would not be fully cognisant.

     I cannot explain the sentence in Saturday’s _Times_ which seems to
     have exercised you so much; but, in any case, I wonder that you do
     not see that these recurring speculations or statements anent the
     Fourth Party, as to whether it is alive or dead, whether it is
     united or disrupted, is a strong testimony to its value as a
     political instrument, and as to the proof of the interest and
     curiosity of the public in its proceedings. The more Chenery or
     others in the Press make statements about it, the more I am
     pleased. I will be at the Carlton at eight o’clock on Thursday.

Yours ever,

And here is a rebuke:--

Blenheim Palace: December 31, 1883.

     My dear Wolff,--I have had a very curious letter from the Queen,
     which I will not show you when we meet.

Yours ever,

Blenheim Palace: January 2, 1884.

     My dear Wolff,--You are not generally slow to take a hint,
     therefore your failure to understand my letter which you received
     on New Year’s Day is, I think, a pretence. In political friendships
     confidence must be mutual, and measure for measure the rule. You
     wrote to me that you had received a very curious letter from Lord
     S., and that you would show it to me when we met. When I receive
     ‘very curious letters from political personages’ I have hitherto
     sent them to you without delay. Your cautious behaviour about Lord
     S.’s letter seemed to call for similar caution on my part. I
     therefore wrote to you that I had received a very curious letter
     from the Queen, which I should not show you when we met, and I
     shall not.

Yours ever,




_Reproduced from Leslie Ward’s Cartoon, December 1st, 1880, by
permission of the proprietors of “Vanity Fair.”_]

Lord Randolph’s correspondence with Sir Henry Wolff has carried the
reader somewhat in advance of the regular course of the narrative. His
letters in 1883 and 1884 belong to a region of more serious disputes
than those with which this chapter deals. The swift unravelling of
events was to bring varied fortunes and many adventures to the four
friends who now delighted to ‘act together.’ They were to play a
decisive part in great affairs. Yet it is probable that the early
sessions of their comradeship were the joyous days of the Fourth Party.
‘Politics,’ wrote Lady Randolph, ‘seemed more like a game of chess than
the life-and-death struggle it was so soon to become for some of them.’
Plots and ambuscades prepared with severe impartiality, amid fun and
laughter, against both Front Benches; stormy battles in the House;
generous comradeship and glorious discomfiture of foes; miniature
Cabinet Councils; toy whitebait dinners, filled the years with merry
excitement. One single enormous sofa could contain the whole
party--leaders and followers--at once. They were cartooned together in
_Vanity Fair_--Lord Randolph speaking from his famous corner seat, the
others and Mr. Balfour (who travelled from Scotland in order to be
painted) sprawling on the Bench beside him. Dinner with the Fourth Party
was regarded as a rare distinction and justly restricted in its scope.
Their political action was not always the result of long premeditation.
‘On one occasion,’ writes Sir Henry Wolff, ‘Balfour gave a dinner at his
house, to which he invited the Fourth Party and some other members of
Parliament, amongst them Sir R. Cross and Mr. Pell. Someone at length
said, “We must return to the House on account of the Bill,” of which I
do not remember the subject. Randolph said, “We will all go and all
speak.” Cabs were sent for, and the one I drove in was a few minutes
later than his. When I arrived at the House he was already speaking.’
Sometimes their fiercest opponents, Sir William Harcourt or Sir Charles
Dilke, shared their board; though not, it is presumed, their secrets.
Nay, Mr. Chamberlain himself was invited, though this greatly shocked
the Duke of Marlborough, who did not understand how his son could
cultivate social relations with a person of such pernicious opinions,
and was quite sure House of Commons traditions must have greatly changed
since he succeeded. One member of the Government, mentioning to the
Liberal Whips that he was dining with the Fourth Party, was told that
‘so long as he kept those four fellows away he could stay any length of
time he liked.’ Lord Randolph’s house, in St. James’s Place, was _next
door_ to Sir Stafford Northcote’s; but luckily the walls were thick; and
here we see the Fourth Party gathered in festive council round the
dining-room table, amid the haze of countless cigarettes. Wolff has
discovered some new intrigue among the ‘Goats’ or the Radicals or the
Parnellites. Gorst has a plan for meeting it. Their leader examines it
all with a gay and brilliant vivacity which made his companionship
precious to those to whom it was frankly given; and in the background,
rather silent, ready enough with chaff and counsel, but difficult to
rouse to action, sits Arthur Balfour, dreamily revolving longer
calculations of his own.

Here, then, for the present we may leave them and their leader, happy in
the enjoyment of active and pugnacious irresponsibility, tasting the
first pleasures of success and fame and displacing with the haughty
assertions of youthful ardour the tame acceptances of age. It is time to
turn to those grave events which marched in crowded and uninterrupted
procession from almost every quarter of the Queen’s dominions, to the
embarrassment and perplexity of her Ministers.



     ‘Your oppression taught them to hate--your concessions to brave
     you; you exhibited to them how scanty was the stream of your
     bounty, and how full the tribute of your fear.’--LORD JOHN RUSSELL
     (_Speech_, Feb. 7, 1837).

The decision of the constituencies in 1880 had no reference to Ireland.
Lord Beaconsfield’s warning letter was regarded as a somewhat
transparent attempt to divert attention from the record of his
Government. Politicians were absorbed by controversies upon foreign and
colonial affairs, upon Turkish atrocities, Afghan disasters, and South
African annexations. The Prime Minister seemed to be under the
impression that the Irish Question had been settled, so far as he was
concerned, by the Church Act of 1869 and the Land Act of 1870. The
Queen’s Speech contained no suggestion of Irish Land legislation; and
the supporters of the Ministry had assembled at Westminster eager to
discuss every subject--from the Treaty of Berlin to the shooting of
hares and rabbits--except the subject of Ireland. They soon found
themselves debating little else. ‘I frankly admit,’ said Mr. Gladstone
four years later, ‘I had had much upon my hands connected with the
doings of the Beaconsfield Government in almost every quarter of the
world, and I did not know the severity of the crisis that was already
swelling upon the horizon and that shortly after rushed upon us like a

For more than three years Irish conditions had been growing steadily
worse. The yield and value of the crops had dwindled under three
successive bad seasons and the number of evictions had increased. There
was a deep and general feeling of unrest and discontent among the
peasantry. All the permanent elements of revolt were nervously awake. A
new man had seized upon the national leadership; a new movement was
gathering behind him. The Fenian societies and the Clan-na-Gael had long
been hampered in practical action by the purity of their principles.
Armed insurrection for the sake of national independence is a spirited
and uncompromising creed, but the opportunities in which it can be
carried into actual practice must necessarily be rare. Meanwhile it
blocked the way of less heroic expedients. The Fenians contained within
their ranks many men who were willing, ‘when the time came,’ to risk or
cast away life and liberty in their country’s cause. They could not be
accused of insincerity. But ‘the hour’ lagged; the time did not come;
and nothing remained but to keep alive from year to year, in all its
orthodox integrity, the Fenian doctrine.

The process, when maintained over a considerable period, of professing
opinions and intentions for the execution of which no occasion is
afforded, is apt to become artificial. The most blood-curdling oaths and
sentiments tend to degenerate into ritual. They may preserve in all
their vivid squalor the hateful memories of the past; they cannot be
said to exert much influence upon the politics of the present. Had the
flag of Ireland been unfurled in civil war, the Fenian societies would
have assumed a gigantic importance. Pending that event, they stood aside
and allowed the English Government to proceed on its path unmolested.
They had long despised Parliamentary agitation. They regarded the House
of Commons, not without reason, as a school for Anglicising Irishmen.
They expelled from their order any man who took the Parliamentary oath.
They abhorred constitutional methods, however effective they might be,
as involving some tacit recognition of British institutions. They paid
no attention to social movements or to agrarian conflicts. Looking with
profound distrust upon all who would not go the whole way with them,
they remained a great, secret, silent army, gathered around the
watch-fires of unquenchable hatred, morosely forecasting the chances of
a battle on which the day would never dawn.

The rise of Parnell in Parliament and the anger which his obstructive
tactics evidently excited in England filled these fierce dreamers with a
new interest. The impression which his reserved yet commanding
personality made upon all who were brought into contact with it, was
intense. The deepening discontent and distress of the peasantry seemed
to herald the approach of a new opportunity. Fenian opinion was
perplexed and divided. Some scorned the hateful alliance with
constitutionalism. ‘Freedom comes from God’s right hand.’ A pretence of
loyalty, but in reality treason all along the line, would dishonour a
national movement and end in sham loyalty and sham treason. Others urged
with Davitt that unless the Fenians threw their hearts into the real
stirrings of the Irish people, and helped them in their immediate and
material need, they would cease to represent the life of their country.
In 1879 the principles of doctrinaire treason were preferred. In 1880 a
more practical view prevailed and the ‘new departure’ was sanctioned.

The situation was not brought into being by any deliberate or definite
action on the part of individuals. It developed of itself in the
mysterious unravellings of events. First came Mr. Butt with his
organised party of constitutional Home Rulers, then Parnell with his
band of fighting obstructives, then Michael Davitt with his schemes of
‘agrarian agitation,’ and finally the failure of the potato and the
cruel severity of the winter of 1879. Economic well-being often takes
the heart out of racial animosities. The cause of nationality may excite
the educated revolutionist; but the pinch of famine is required before
the humble tiller of the soil can be enlisted in his thousands. A
political movement to be dangerous must find its substance in social
evil. It was the combination of agrarian with national aspirations and
the gathering together of all their several forces in one determined
hand that imparted sinister and terrible a complexion to Ireland in
1880. Scarcity and poverty supplied the impulse, and misery brought
forth her progeny of outrage.

All this formidable movement had already become defined and was rapidly
developing when the change of Government occurred. The elections in
Ireland had returned sixty pledged Home Rulers to the House of Commons,
and a majority of these elected Mr. Parnell as their leader. Mr.
Forster, the new Chief Secretary, found many causes for anxiety in the
accounts which were given him at the Castle. The sufferings of the
winter of 1879 had roused a spirit of violent discontent among the
people. The numerous tenant defence societies had been formed by Michael
Davitt into the one great organisation of the Land League. Mr. Parnell,
after some hesitation, had thrown in his lot whole-heartedly with the
agrarian agitation. In his speeches at Westport and Limerick he had
urged the farmers to keep ‘a firm grip on their homesteads’ and not to
allow themselves to be dispossessed. One thousand and ninety-eight
evictions, or more than double the number of 1877, had been carried out,
amid scenes of riot and misery, in 1879. A furious animosity against the
landlords convulsed the tenantry; and the Fenian and Parliamentary
leaders openly declared their intention of using the driving power of
the land movement as the means by which national independence was to be

In the face of these facts the first decision of the new Minister, or
that forced upon him by his colleagues in the Cabinet, was singularly
ill-judged. The Peace Preservation Act which had been passed in 1870,
and continued amended by the late Government in 1875, would expire on
June 1. It was a mild but not ineffective measure which provided for the
compulsory attendance of witnesses, for taxing localities with the
payment of compensation, for the suppression of seditious newspapers;
and prohibited the carrying of arms in party processions--and other
similar regulations. Certainly nothing in the state of Ireland disclosed
by every channel of official information, either in regard to agrarian
discontent or secret associations, justified its being allowed to lapse.
The draft of the Bill for its renewal, prepared by his predecessor,
confronted the new Minister on his arrival at the Castle. Out of
sixty-nine resident magistrates consulted, sixty-one had declared the
re-enactment indispensable and eleven of these had asked for further
powers. The growth of agrarian crime told its own tale. But Lord
Beaconsfield’s letter, though it had not produced much impression on
British electors, had at least had the effect of throwing the Irish vote
in the English boroughs solidly on to the Liberal side. Many sympathetic
speeches and friendly offices had been exchanged between Liberal
candidates and Irish politicians, many lofty sentiments about the rights
of nationalities had been uttered, and all had proceeded together to the
poll as the equal friends of freedom. It would have been awkward after
this--as the late Government in fixing the date of the dissolution may
have uncharitably foreseen--to inaugurate the new era for Ireland by
‘exceptional legislation in abridgment of liberty.’ The Royal Speech
accordingly announced that the Peace Preservation Act would not be
renewed and that the Government would rely ‘upon the provisions of the
ordinary law, firmly administered, for the maintenance of peace and
order.’ Thus, at a time when measures of exceptional precaution,
together with large remedial legislation, were both indispensable, the
existing securities of the law were relaxed and remedial legislation was
entirely neglected. The failure to deal with so vast and complicated a
question as Irish land on the part of Ministers who had just taken
office may be understood. The abandonment of the Peace Preservation Act
in the face of growing danger cannot be defended. It was immediately
condemned in the House of Lords by the Duke of Marlborough fresh from
his Lord-Lieutenancy, and it was generally believed that the Cabinet had
not come to their decision without considerable misgivings.

All illusions as to the comparative unimportance of Irish troubles were
quickly dispelled as the session advanced. The state of the country grew
worse from day to day. The Irish members maintained an unrelenting
clamour in the House of Commons. The good harvest of 1880 left the
peasantry still hampered with arrears and in many cases quite unable to
pay the rents demanded of them. More than a thousand evictions had
already been effected during the first six months of 1880. In June a
‘Compensation for Disturbance Bill’ was introduced by Mr. Forster with
the object of staying, or at least diminishing, the other evictions
which were threatening in hundreds all over the country. This Bill--‘a
ten minutes’ Bill, if ever there was one,’ as Lord Randolph Churchill
called it--‘an after-thought, not a deliberately counselled measure; an
inspiration, but not from above’--could be justified only by the acute
and imminent danger of the Irish situation. And as yet public opinion in
England was not sufficiently impressed with that danger. The Bill was
fiercely disputed in the House of Commons, the Fourth Party ever in the
forefront of the battle; and although Lord Hartington supported it in a
speech of exceptional power, many Liberals were absent from the division
when it passed and more than twenty voted with the Conservative party.
It was summarily rejected by the House of Lords.

Upon this measure Lord Randolph delivered the first of those Irish
speeches which, in the course of the next three years, were to win him
acceptance as an authority upon Irish questions. The importance of
enterprise and pertinacity in the conduct of Parliamentary Opposition
cannot be underrated when Ministers have to be harassed and minorities
inflamed. But mere activity, however bold and tireless, will never by
itself make a Parliamentary reputation, and the readiest tactician in
the House of Commons will lack real influence unless he is master of
some important subject upon which he can add to the information and
distinction of debate. Lord Randolph’s training in Ireland--official and
unofficial alike--equipped him as scarcely any other English member was
equipped for the discussion of the one vast and predominant question of
the day. He took rank almost at once among those to whom Parliament
would most gladly or most gravely listen upon Irish affairs, and in his
speeches he revealed a range of thought, an authority of manner, and a
wealth of knowledge which neither friends nor foes attempted to dispute.

‘I happened,’ he said (July 5), ‘for a period of ten weeks, when the
distress was at its height, to be associated with a committee that was
relieving that distress on a very vast scale, and my work in connection
with it occupied me from eight to ten hours a day. I was in constant
communication with the Local Government Board and its inspectors and
with the inspectors employed by the committee and with chairmen of
boards of guardians in all parts of the country. If any person, free
from official responsibility and perfectly unprejudiced, had an
opportunity of ascertaining the extent of the distress, I was that
person; and I do not hesitate to say that, although it was severe at
times and in certain districts, and would have been disastrous but for
the timely relief afforded; yet it never at any time justified, and does
not now warrant, the introduction of a Bill of this kind. Not only was
food distributed in enormous quantities, but clothes and bedding, and
excellent seed which would contribute to prepare for a return of former
prosperity. But although the distress was great, the fraud and imposture
which sprang up alongside of it were also great. If Ireland, under God’s
providence, is this year favoured with a good harvest, the Irish people
will, I believe, be able to extricate themselves from their
difficulties, without recourse being had to any such legislation as is
now proposed.’

Having described the Bill as ‘the first step in a social war,’ and
criticised it in correct and elaborate detail, he made an attack on the
Chief Secretary as true as it was unkind. ‘When the right honourable
gentleman took office, he somewhat rashly accepted the popular verdict
that in so doing he conferred a great honour upon Ireland. He seemed to
be under the impression that his acceptance of the post would change the
face of the country and the nature of the people; that from the mere
fact of his disembarkation at Kingstown would result a state of things
in which the inhabitants of the country would be found contented, and
that law, order, property, and life would become immediately secure. He
declared that with himself at the helm, legislation of a coercive nature
was no longer necessary, that he could with ease carry on the government
of Ireland by means of the ordinary law. His conduct seems to resemble
the conduct of a miner going into a fiery and explosive mine and
declaring that safety lamps were unnecessary, that an ordinary tallow
candle was good enough for him. Meeting with difficulties at the
outset, the Chief Secretary came to the conclusion that the best thing
to do was to repair to the House with a policy of appeals. He appealed
to the Protestants and Catholics of Ireland to unite in an hysterical
embrace in celebration of his accession to office. He made a pathetic
appeal to the Irish members and landlords to help him; the whole burden
of the business being, “For God’s sake, keep the country quiet, or what
trouble I shall be in!” The policy of appeals not proving altogether
satisfactory, the Chief Secretary produced the policy of bribes--a
policy which was marked by the generosity which is characteristic of
people who are dealing with the property of others. I fear that the next
phase of the Government policy will be one of repression.’

The rejection of this Bill, although not unexpected, was a heavy blow to
Mr. Forster and the signal for a fierce accession to the Irish
agitation. The Government pocketed the affront which had been offered
them and had perforce to content themselves with promising a Land Bill
next session. Most disquieting reports continued to come from Ireland.
Evictions led to riots; tenants who took the places of evicted occupiers
were assaulted, their ricks were burned, their beasts were mutilated;
arms were stolen from a vessel in Queenstown Harbour; and rumours of
secret brotherhoods and of dynamite conspiracies were rife. So the
Parliamentary session came to an end.

The winter of 1880-1 was cruel. In the very beginning, in a speech at
Ennis (September 19), Mr. Parnell prescribed the methods of the Land
League. ‘Depend upon it,’ he said, ‘the measure of the Land Bill next
session will be the measure of your activity and energy this winter.’ He
then explained his new invention; ‘better than any 81-ton gun,’ as it
was afterwards described by enthusiastic followers. ‘When a man takes a
farm from which another has been evicted, you must _show_ him on the
roadside when you meet him [a voice ‘shun him’], in the streets of the
town, at the shop counter, in the fair, in the market place, and even in
the house of worship, by leaving him severely alone, by putting him into
a moral Coventry, by isolating him from his kind as if he were a leper
of old--you must show him your detestation of the crime he has

The advice was taken. Three days later Lord Erne’s agent, a certain
Captain Boycott, served ejectment notices upon a number of tenants. His
servants left him. The local shopkeepers refused to serve him. The
blacksmith and the laundress declined his orders. His crops remained
ungathered on the ground. He was ‘left severely alone.’ The tale of
these doings spread to Ulster. One hundred Orangemen offered to march
with arms to his relief and to the rescue of his crops. The Government
consented. Under protection of infantry, cavalry, and two field guns,
and amid the taunts of the cottagers, the harvest was gathered in and
the process of ‘boycotting’ was advertised to the whole world. It
spread throughout Ireland. Nothing was more unexpected than the
precision with which an impulsive and undisciplined peasantry gave
effect to this new plan. Whole counties conspired together to make it
complete. Every class in the population acquiesced. Public opinion
supported the Land League and no moral force sustained the government of
the Queen.

Behind and beneath this strange system of excommunication came outrages
of various kinds upon property, upon animals, and upon life. There were
in 1880 10,457 persons evicted compared with 2,177 in 1877, and 2,590
agrarian crimes compared with 236 in the earlier year. ‘It rained
evictions,’ says Mr. Parnell’s biographer; ‘it rained outrages. Cattle
were houghed and maimed; tenants who paid unjust rents or who took farms
from which others had been evicted were dragged from their beds,
assaulted, sometimes forced to their knees while shots were fired over
their heads, to make them promise submission to the popular desires in
future. Bands of peasants scoured the country, firing into the houses of
obnoxious individuals. Graves were dug before the doors of evicting
landlords. Murder was committed. A reign of terror had in truth

‘I must say,’ wrote General Gordon, who visited the West of Ireland in
1880, ‘that the state of our fellow-countrymen in the parts I have
named, is worse than that of any people in the world, let alone Europe.
I believe that these people are made as we are; that they are patient
beyond belief; loyal, but broken-spirited and desperate; lying on the
verge of starvation in places where we would not keep cattle.’

Amid such grim and gloomy surroundings the Lord-Lieutenant and his Chief
Secretary passed the winter. As early as October they were asking the
Cabinet for special powers. Strong reinforcements of troops were moved
into the island. In the first days of November a State prosecution was
instituted against Mr. Parnell and other leaders of the Land League.
Late in that same month the Viceroy, Lord Cowper, intimated that, unless
power was taken to suspend the Habeas Corpus Act, he must resign. In
December he reiterated his intention and pressed that Parliament should
be called together. National and even international attention were
riveted upon Ireland. Cabinets were frequent, protracted, vexatious, and
indecisive. The harassed Chief Secretary hurried to and fro between the
two capitals.

‘What more lamentable and ridiculous spectacle,’ exclaimed Lord Randolph
Churchill at Preston (December 21, 1880), ‘has ever been presented than
this great Liberal statesman from Bradford, tossed like a shuttlecock
from the Irish Executive on to the English Government, tossed back again
contemptuously by the English Government on to the Irish
Executive--arriving in Dublin and being immediately seized by that
horrid, choking nightmare, Revolution--flying back to London and,
finding himself amongst its peaceful citizens and busy streets, fancying
that he had been the victim of a bad dream, laughed out of his
convictions by his sneering colleagues--and tearing back again to
Dublin, only once more to become a prey to hideous realities!’

The two Ministers who were responsible for Ireland united in a demand
for the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act and eventually, after
struggles which nearly broke up the Cabinet, they procured the assent of
their colleagues. The remedy was desperate, unwarranted, and ill-chosen.
Shocking as were the outrages, they were the least part of the dangers
that threatened the fabric of society. They were, moreover, much
exaggerated by the official figures. Only seven persons were actually
murdered during the winter. The statistics were swollen by 1,300
outrages which proved on examination to consist merely of threatening
letters and notices. Many more were trivial annoyances. What rendered
them formidable were the temper of the people and the constant
apprehension of some fearful outburst. Boycotting was the weapon of the
Land League, and indeed it may be said that its sinister efficiency was
in great measure a preventive of worse crime. In one fashion or another
evictions were greatly diminished. Landlords did not dare to assert
their rights. The unwritten law of the Land League, supported by public
opinion, superseded the law of the land, backed as it was only by
physical force.

It was not easy in 1880, though the science of Coercion has made some
progress since, to discover what remedies Mr. Forster should have
chosen. It is certain that the remedy he chose was wrong. He seems to
have imagined that the agitation depended for its vitality upon certain
local leaders; that a comparatively small number of ‘village ruffians,’
against whom no legal proof existed, but the strongest moral suspicion,
were the indispensable and irreplaceable agents of the whole movement.
If they were removed, he believed the whole apparatus of terrorism would
collapse. If he could obtain power to arrest these men, who were
notorious, peace and order would ensue. No greater misreading of the
situation was possible. In dealing with a movement which was formidable
only because of its almost universal character, he struck at individuals
of minor prominence. He encountered profound communistic stirrings,
bitter racial hatred, and intense national aspirations by methods which
might have been effective against the rowdy larrikins of a slum. In face
of widespread lawlessness, principally petty in its character, the head
of the Irish Executive fell back on that supreme abrogation of civil law
which authorises arrest and imprisonment without trial. Staking his
official existence upon a demand for the suspension of the Habeas Corpus
Act, he prevailed upon a shivering and reluctant Cabinet.

Parliament was summoned to meet on January 7. ‘How,’ asked Lord Randolph
Churchill (Preston, December 21), in a speech which, from the fact that
it was the first of his speeches to be reported _verbatim_ in a
Metropolitan newspaper, attracted much attention, ‘will this Government,
who have been only eight months in office, meet Parliament; and what
will be the message which they will have to announce? They will have to
acknowledge the fact that Ireland is in open and successful rebellion;
that another government, which knows not the Queen, has supplanted the
Government which the English and Scotch people recognise; that this
alien government is now, with impunity, directing the destinies of
Ireland, issuing its decrees to the Irish people, and has, for six
months or more, suspended the liberties, confiscated the property, and
imperilled the lives of hundreds and of thousands of the Queen’s
subjects. They will have to announce that this alien government has its
own revenues, its own executive, its own courts of justice, in which
persons are arraigned, tried, and condemned, and that persons who are
not provided with the passports of that government and who have not
enrolled themselves as its subjects, are unable to obtain the
necessaries of life and are cut off root and branch from the society of
their fellows. They will have to acknowledge that this alien government
is the growth of the brief period during which they have held office;
that nothing like it has yet been seen in the history of Ireland; and
that, before it, the Government of the Queen recoils paralysed and

The turbulent course of Irish affairs and Mr. Forster’s policy laid the
Government open to damaging attack from every quarter. Of this their
regular opponents took the fullest advantage and among them no one was
more prominent than Lord Randolph Churchill. It was not difficult for a
Conservative--or, indeed, for an economist--to find fault with the
Compensation for Disturbance Bill of 1880, or the Land Bill of 1881; and
the Fourth Party encountered both with zeal and ingenuity. But the
repressive measures, involving as they did immense abridgments of
liberty and wholesale suspension of the most elementary civil rights,
offended deeper instincts in Lord Randolph’s nature. If as a party man
he disliked the Government, he hated Coercion for its own sake; and this
double tide of antagonism carried him to lengths which, for a time,
disturbed and even destroyed the harmony of the Fourth Party.

‘People sometimes talk,’ he said, ‘too lightly of Coercion; it means
that hundreds of Irishmen who, if law had been maintained unaltered and
had been firmly enforced, would now have been leading peaceful,
industrious, and honest lives, will soon be torn off to prison without
trial; that others will have to fly the country into hopeless exile;
that others, driven to desperation through such cruel alternatives, will
perhaps shed their blood and sacrifice their lives in vain resistance to
the forces of the Crown; that many Irish homes, which would have been
happy if evil courses had been firmly checked at the outset, will soon
be bereaved of their most promising ornaments and support, disgraced by
a felon’s cell and by a convict’s garb; and if you look back over the
brief period which has been necessary to bring about such terrible
results, the mind recoils in horror from the ghastly spectacle of
murdered landlords, tenant-farmers tortured, mutilated dumb animals,
which everywhere disfigure the green and fertile pastures of Ireland.
It is to me, and many others who, like myself, have had the good fortune
to live amongst the people of that country, to discover their high
qualities and their many virtues, and to know that, under a firm and
statesmanlike government, immense prosperity must have been their lot,
as it is their due--it is, I say, appalling to reflect that all this
promise has been for a time blotted out, all progress arrested, and all
industry thrown back by one reckless and wanton act on the part of a
Government who, at the outset of their career and in the heyday of their
youth and of their strength, knew no higher object and had no nobler aim
than to obtain at any cost a momentary and apparent advantage over their

The troubles of the Ministry did not come singly. The storm in South
Africa, like the storm in Ireland, was gathering fast when the change of
Government occurred. In both countries the new Ministers were the heirs
of error or neglect; in both their own policy was unfortunate. The
freedom of races was perhaps the main inspiration of Midlothian. The
annexation of the Transvaal in 1879 had been denounced by Mr. Gladstone
again and again in terms of eloquent and indignant candour: ‘A free
European Christian republican community “transformed” against the will
of more than three-fourths of the entire people’ into ‘subjects of a
monarchy.’ ‘Is it not wonderful,’ he asked (December 29, 1879), ‘to
those who are freemen and whose fathers have been freemen and who hope
that their children will be freemen and who consider that freedom is an
essential condition of civil life and that without it you can have
nothing great and nothing noble in political society, that we are led by
an Administration ... to march upon another body of freemen and against
their will to subject them to despotic government?’ These were important
declarations, and they had been unmistakably approved by the nation. Was
it strange that the Boers were led to expect from a Government headed
and controlled by the man who had uttered them the restoration of the
liberties of which they had been deprived?

Moreover, much could be urged in favour of the annexation of 1879 which
could not be urged in favour of its continuance. While the Transvaal and
Natal alike lay under the shadow of the great Zulu power, it may have
been a practical necessity to assume some control over the dealings of
the Boers with their terrible neighbour, lest a quarrel recklessly or
wrongfully provoked should not only bring massacre into the Transvaal,
but also upon those who dwelt within the Queen’s dominions. Great
Britain was perhaps forced, in the interests of the white man in South
Africa, to afford protection to the Boers, and where she extended
protection she had a right to claim obedience. But the danger was now
removed; the Zulu power was broken; Cetewayo was a prisoner and his
armies and military system destroyed. With the close of the Zulu War the
all-important argument for annexation disappeared.

The British Government had already carried forward a considerable
account with the Boers. ‘They are,’ said Mr. Gladstone, ‘a people
vigorous, obstinate, and tenacious in character, even as we are
ourselves.’ Driven ever northwards--across the Orange, across the Sand,
across the Vaal, by abiding dislike of British rule and organised
Government; retreating, like the game they hunted, from the noise of the
township and the whistle of the train, the huge white tilted ox-waggons
with their nimble horsemen had found a resting-place in a wilderness
more savage, more perilous, than any into which the white man had
broken. For nearly forty years they had lived alone--fierce, ignorant,
and devout, with no law but their rifles, no books but their Bibles and
scarcely any occupation but the chase. Gradually, in the valleys, by the
drifts of the rivers, under the shelter of gigantic boulders, farms and
tiny villages had crept into being. Gradually the long arm of the
detested Government, tampering, protecting, enfolding and at last
controlling, had embraced them--even here. Was it to be borne? Boer
prejudices, Boer sullenness, Boer obstinacy, were bywords. Boer
marksmanship was as yet unknown.

To give back the country to the Boers would no doubt have provoked a
noisy conflict in Parliament. But the Minister was, partly for that
reason, provided with a large majority. The policy of retrocession was
right in principle; it would have proved eminently wise in practice; and
had Mr. Gladstone’s Government acted in office up to the spirit of their
declarations in Opposition, South Africa might have escaped a long
concatenation of disasters.

Ministers were ill served by their agents. On November 19, 1880, Sir
Owen Lanyon, in a despatch to the Colonial Office, stated that
three-fourths of the population were secretly in favour of the continued
annexation and that the excitement was the work of a few agitators.[10]
Less than a month afterwards nearly the whole male population of the
Transvaal was in arms. On December 20 the deadly rifle-fire at Bronker’s
Spruit proclaimed the beginnings of serious war. The few regular troops
available hurried to the scene, were badly led and soundly beaten. What
the Government had denied to justice, they conceded to force. During a
series of small combats negotiations were actively pressed and reached a
successful termination a few days after the flight of the British
detachments from Majuba Hill (February 27, 1881). By this arrangement
all the disadvantages of every conceivable policy--and all abounded in
disadvantage--were combined. Territory was abandoned; reconciliation was
not achieved. The Boers owed little gratitude to the great Power from
whom they had shaken themselves free. They rejoiced in the victory of a
chosen race over the Midianites. Their Dutch kinsfolk throughout the
Colony were naturally proud of their unexpected victories. The British
settlers were everywhere humiliated. The British flag was in South
Africa associated only with surrender. The loyalists who had fought and
risked their all in faith of British power and justice were left to
shift for themselves. The attempt to make a virtue of necessity failed
ignominiously. And at home in England powerful classes, smarting under
insult and unaccustomed shame, sat down to nurse revenge.

These errors or misfortunes were hardly to be retrieved. Time might have
healed all scars--was already, after fifteen years, in a fair way to
heal them--but a more tragic and tremendous history awaited South
Africa. When the Transvaal and its rugged inhabitants would have been
forgotten, they became famous. The rocks of their wilderness turned, in
the perversity of fortune, to gold and diamonds, and a scattered folk
who beyond all others shunned the eye of civilisation were thrust into
the very centre of the world’s affairs. Their notoriety revived a
slumbering shame. Their new-found wealth armed at once their own
resentful ambition and directed upon them the envy and the malevolence
of their British neighbours; and from an unjust annexation and a
dishonoured peace there hung an unbroken chain of ever-expanding and
ever-darkening events.

The circumstances of the military operations and of the Majuba peace
were vehemently denounced in Parliament by the Conservative party. Lord
Randolph Churchill seems to have taken little part in these debates.
Three years afterwards he condemned the Boers in strong terms for their
treatment of the natives, and when the Majuba peace had passed out of
the circle of real and burning questions and had become part of the
ordinary stock-in-trade of party patter and recrimination, he seems to
have bestowed upon it more than one passing taunt. But at the time,
vigilant as he was to seize every foothold for attacking Mr. Gladstone’s
Government, he neglected this large opportunity. His silence finds an
explanation in the following curious letter to Sir Henry Wolff, written,
be it remembered, at a time when England was ringing with denunciations
of Boer ‘treachery’ in the ‘massacre’ at Bronker’s Spruit:--

University Club: December 27, 1880.

     I attach the greatest importance to this news from South Africa,
     and am of opinion that the question of reducing the Boers will
     divide the Liberal party by a sharper and more insuperable line
     than any Irish question. The arguments that formerly were of force
     for the annexation of the Transvaal, can no longer be used with
     effect. The Zulus are broken, and Secocoeni and his tribe gone, and
     there is no danger of a native irruption into Natal. The Boers, on
     the other hand, cannot be said to have ever ceased to be an
     independent nationality, and are showing now their perfect fitness
     to take care of themselves.

     Your natural and marvellous ingenuity will show you how the
     strength of this position may be developed. Courtney, if he decides
     to oppose the ‘coercion’ of the Boers, will have a great following
     of Liberals and the entire Irish party. The Fourth Party are
     individually and collectively unpledged to the annexation of the
     Transvaal, and it occurs to me one of us (like a thunderbolt in a
     clear sky) should on the Address pronounce for the independence of
     the Boers, and protest against British blood and treasure being
     wasted in reducing a gallant nationality which is perfectly able to
     take care of itself, taking into consideration the immense
     difficulties which beset the Home Government in Ireland, the East
     of Europe, Afghanistan, and Basutoland. Think this over in your
     ‘anxious mind,’ and consider the numerous advantageous features
     which the position offers.

Sir Henry Wolff was not to be persuaded into such a course. He reminded
his friend of the events of 1857, when Palmerston, confronted on the
China War by an adverse majority of Radicals and Conservatives, raised
the cry of the ‘Honour of England,’ dissolved Parliament, and was
returned to power by ‘a rattling majority.’ His counsels prevailed, and
the thunderbolt remained unexpended; but the sentiments expressed by
Lord Randolph, although partly concealed under the form of partisan
tactics, are not to be mistaken. And even the forecast that ‘the
question of reducing the Boers will divide the Liberal party by a
sharper and more insuperable line than any Irish question’ was in the
end to prove not wholly unfounded. His opinions seem to have been
strengthened by time, and ten years later, when he visited South Africa,
Lord Randolph wrote[11]:--

[Sidenote: 1881 ÆT. 32]

‘The surrender of the Transvaal and the peace concluded by Mr. Gladstone
with the victors of Majuba Hill were at the time, and still are, the
object of sharp criticism and bitter denunciation from many politicians
at home--_quorum pars parva fui_. Better and more precise information,
combined with cool reflection, leads me to the conclusion that had the
British Government of that day taken advantage of its strong military
position and annihilated, as it could easily have done, the Boer forces,
it would indeed have regained the Transvaal, but it would have lost
Cape Colony.... The actual magnanimity of the peace with the Boers
concluded by Mr. Gladstone’s Ministry after two humiliating military
reverses suffered by the arms under their control became plainly
apparent to the just and sensible mind of the Dutch Cape Colonist,
atoned for much of past grievance, and demonstrated the total absence in
the English mind of any hostility or unfriendliness to the Dutch race.
Concord between Dutch and English in the Colony from that moment became

Lord Randolph could not foresee in 1891 the Raid of 1896 or the greater
catastrophe that lay behind it. Yet the forces which produced both were
steadily, though subterraneously, at work; and the Jameson
incursion--surprising, detached, eccentric though it appeared at the
time--was itself only one vicious consequence of a fatal past.

Let us return to the session of 1881.

Before Parliament met it was known that Ministers had prepared a
Coercion Bill and that the Houses were summoned to meet as early as the
first week in January for the express purpose of passing it. But the
nature of the powers for which Mr. Forster would ask, was a well-guarded
secret. The Fourth Party took counsel together betimes. Lord Randolph
proposed that they should move an amendment limiting the duration of the
Act to one year. The plan was audacious. It would have enabled all the
forces opposed to the Government--from whatever cause--the Irish
Nationalists, the Conservative party, the dissentient Radicals and
Liberals, to vote together. The passage of the Bill must have been
rendered more difficult and protracted than ever. And as in all
probability Mr. Gladstone would have had to submit to a yearly limit as
a compromise, the whole grim business must have been undertaken again in
the next session, after hanging like a sword over the Government in the
intervening months. On the other hand, it was a dangerous policy for a
Conservative party of law and order to adopt. The matter was long
debated by the four partners. It was at length decided to consult Lord
Beaconsfield; and Mr. Gorst, entrusted with this mission, laid the plan
before him on the last day of December 1880. Lord Beaconsfield at first
seemed not at all unfavourable. He listened attentively, and
acknowledged the idea to be shrewd and good. He asked for time to
consider it and promised to send a definite answer in a few days. On the
eve of the session the four friends dined together in state and, as no
negative reply had arrived, Lord Randolph was full of hope that his plan
would be adopted by the official leaders of the Conservative party.
Great was his disappointment when the next day Lord Beaconsfield decided
that the proposal, however good in itself as a Parliamentary
manœuvre, was not practicable for a Conservative Opposition.

The Fourth Party accepted Lord Beaconsfield’s decision as final; not so
Lord Randolph. He had manufactured what he called ‘political dynamite.’
He knew it to be deadly. With or without Lord Beaconsfield’s approval,
he was prepared to go on. But he failed to persuade the others and in
the process their disagreement developed into a regular quarrel. He
seems at length to have been prevailed on by his father to give up the
idea and, although he said (February 4) in debate that he was very
strongly in favour of the Act being allowed to expire in 1882, by which
time the Coercion measures of the Government, coupled with their
remedial legislation, should have pacified the country, no such
amendment ever appeared on the order paper. But for the first three
months of the session of 1881 the Fourth Party, greatly to the
satisfaction of the Government, practically ceased to exist as a
political force or even as a friendly association. Not until the renewal
of the Bradlaugh debates was their comradeship restored.

The Queen’s Speech of 1880 had contained only a passing reference to
Ireland and the intention of the Government to rule without exceptional
legislation. The Queen’s Speech of 1881 referred to little else but
Ireland and the intention of the Government to adopt measures of
Coercion. The course of the session followed the lines of the gracious
speech. Ireland monopolised attention. Coercion Bills were forced
through the House of Commons in the teeth of frantic Nationalist
opposition. Scenes and suspensions were the order of the day. A
forty-one hours’ sitting was terminated only by the arbitrary and
extraordinary intervention of the Speaker. New rules of procedure,
lopping off Parliamentary liberties cherished for ages, were devised.
The Land Bill took four months to pass. Armed with his new powers,
which enabled him to lock up everyone and anyone he pleased, Mr. Forster
swept several hundred alleged ‘village ruffians’ into Kilmainham, where
they lived together in great comfort, consulted freely, received visits
from their friends, transacted their business, and even wrote letters to
the newspapers. They thus achieved cheaply-won martyrdom, often crowned
with Parliamentary honours, and their places were eagerly filled by
others. The land agitation increased in vehemence and outrages in
number. The measure, to obtain which so much had been sacrificed, proved
utterly futile.

Through all this turmoil Lord Randolph pursued his wayward course alone.
After the Speaker’s _coup d’état_ (February 2) he spoke in support of
the Nationalist motion for adjournment, because, as he said, ‘one
section of the House was greatly irritated, another section greatly
fatigued, and a third greatly alarmed’ by what had happened. On this Mr.
Balfour at once declared his intention of voting with Sir Stafford
Northcote in the Government Lobby, though he contrived to defend Lord
Randolph from the criticisms which his speech drew upon him from the
highly strained nerves and tempers of the forces of law and order. On
the 4th Lord Randolph spoke on the first of the Coercion measures--the
Protection of Persons and Property Bill.

‘I support this Bill,’ he said, ‘with reluctance and distrust. I am
confident that a proper and vigorous administration of the ordinary law
last summer and last autumn would have saved us from this Bill. I
cannot with satisfaction entrust extraordinary powers to a Minister who
has proved unequal to the administration of the ordinary law of the
land. I know that those powers require to be administered with firmness
and decision. The more these qualities abound, the sooner the necessity
for extraordinary powers will cease; but I fear that we shall have
indecision and timidity and consequently injustice and protracted

On the 15th he supported an amendment to provide every person arrested
under the new Acts with a copy of the warrant and a statement of the
crime or crimes of which he was suspected, making at the same time a
contemptuous reference to ‘members who still called themselves Liberals,
while they supported a Bill for the suspension of the liberties of the
Irish people.’ On the 16th he voted for an amendment providing that
persons arrested on mere suspicion should be treated differently from
ordinary prisoners while incarcerated without trial. This was conceded
by the Government after much discussion. On the 18th he urged that the
arrest of members of Parliament under special legislation should in all
cases be reported to the House. Indeed, throughout these discussions his
conduct was considered very reprehensible and shocking.

If Mr. Forster’s policy was unfortunate, his position, although
supported by overwhelming majorities of both great parties, was
certainly unenviable. It is hard to cope with revolution; but to attempt
to do so without offending the susceptibilities of a Liberal Cabinet or
a democratic party surpasses the wit and patience of man. The reports
which reached him every day from magistrates and police, were alarming.
His office table at the Castle was littered with letters of fierce and
tragic reproach. Indignant landowners claimed imperiously that
protection for life and property which even the basest of civilised
Governments have rarely denied. The widow wrote from beside the body of
her murdered husband, declaring that his blood was upon the head of the
recreant Minister. The country seethed with sedition. Tales of tyranny
and terror lacerated the warm heart of the Chief Secretary; and although
police and detectives dogged his steps, his life was in constant
jeopardy. In Parliament he was the object of frantic and virulent abuse
from the Nationalist members. Many Chief Secretaries have faced that
form of attack since then. English ears have become accustomed to
it--and even deaf to it. But Forster was the first example, and an
impression was produced that he was a man specially repugnant to Irish
feeling. He was exposed to galling attack from every quarter.

‘It is unfortunate for Ireland,’ observed Mr. Parnell, ‘that the Tories
are not now in office. If they were, Parliament would not have seen this
measure of Coercion, because in that case the Irish would have had the
assistance of the united Whig and Radical parties. We should have had
all those platitudes as to the love of liberty which the Liberal party
entertain and all those stock phrases which do Liberal Cabinets such
good service when they are out of office. The two great parties are now
united, but only for one purpose--namely, to crush, put down, and bully
a poor, weak, and starving nation....’ But although the Government were
supported in their repressive legislation by both parties and openly
opposed by scarcely any English or Scottish members, the dissatisfaction
against them on both sides of the House grew steadily as the session
advanced. The regular Opposition neglected nothing that could discredit
the Ministry, whether by accusing them of being responsible for the
disorder, or by cavilling at their remedies and pointing out how
inconsistent these were with their principles.

Although he allowed himself to be persuaded against making a hostile
motion, Lord Randolph’s detestation of the Coercion Bill grew as he
watched its course. ‘This Bill,’ he said (March 11, 1881), ‘is now
passing away from the House, and with it disappears all that
liberty-destroying machinery--urgency, _clôtures_, _coups d’état_, and
dictatorships--never, I hope, to return again. We shall now be told to
turn our attention to remedial legislation. I make no remark beyond
this--that remedial measures which are planted under the shadow of
Coercion and watered and nourished by the suspension of the
Constitution, must be from their nature poor and sickly plants of
foreign origin, almost foredoomed to perish before they begin to grow.
It was upon their capacity to give contentment and happiness to Ireland
that the Liberals relied to gain for themselves immortal credit and to
secure a perpetual lease of power. The Chief Secretary went to Ireland
in April last, bearing with him the hopes and blessings of an
enthusiastic and victorious party. He gave us all to understand that he
was to become an emancipator greater even than O’Connell; and within
twelve months of office he has come to the House to ask for powers more
stringent and more oppressive than were ever granted to or demanded by
Lord Castlereagh, the Duke of Wellington, or Lord Grey. I wish the Chief
Secretary joy of these beautiful Bills; but I may tell the right
honourable gentleman that he has acquired by them the undying dislike
and distrust of the Irish people. While I have never denied that some
measure of this kind, owing to the conduct of the Government, and that
alone, was only too necessary for Ireland--and while I have always
admitted that as to the nature and extent of that measure her Majesty’s
Government, who were the culprits, must be the judges--I still
recollect, with unqualified satisfaction, that Coercion is a
double-edged weapon and has before now fatally wounded those
Administrations which have been compelled by their own folly to have
recourse to it.’

Sir William Harcourt, as Home Secretary, was put forward by the
Government to reply to this. ‘It is difficult,’ he said, ‘to treat the
noble lord the member for Woodstock as a serious politician, or to
discover to which of the four parties he belongs. He once belonged to
his own--the Fourth Party; but he has managed by his conduct during the
discussion of this Bill to dissolve that minute party; and his feats in
that respect only afford a fresh illustration of the infinite
divisibility of matter.’ Sir William went on to say, amid general
approval, that, being no more leader of the Fourth Party, Lord Randolph
had become adviser to the Third Party (the Nationalists).

But, for all that, the undercurrents of disapproval of Ministerial
policy flowed ever more strongly in Parliament, and nothing less than
Mr. Gladstone’s unparalleled authority and skill could have sustained
the Irish Secretary through the session. His colleagues in the Cabinet
were doubtful, and some actively hostile. There was a feeling of
suppressed resentment in the Liberal party against the Minister who had
been responsible for forcing them into courses so obnoxious to their
principles and so damaging to their reputation. Radicals below the
gangway became increasingly outspoken in their attacks. A considerable
section of the party press was openly hostile. Under these many
anxieties and embarrassments the hair of the Chief Secretary grew
visibly grey.

Whatever may have been the demerits of the Land Bill of 1881, it was
sufficiently large and effective to threaten to take the agrarian wind
out of the sails of the revolutionary movement. Unable to oppose openly
a measure which conferred real benefits upon the tenants, Parnell
resolved to obstruct its working and to prevent the tenants from
resorting to the Land Courts. So soon as this intention was made clear
the Government seem to have decided upon his arrest. The Prime Minister
delivered a preparatory onslaught upon him at Leeds, where he charged
the Irish leader with ‘standing between the living and the dead--not,
like Aaron, to stay the plague, but to spread it’; and he hinted that
the resources of civilisation were not exhausted. Parnell replied
savagely at Wexford. ‘If you are arrested,’ inquired apprehensive
friends, ‘who will take your place?’ ‘“Captain Moonlight” will take my
place,’ replied Parnell. Two days later he was imprisoned in Kilmainham.
In the ten months preceding the Coercion Act (March-December 1880) the
number of outrages was 2,379; in the ten months which followed, 3,331.
The gravest increase was in crime affecting life. Murders and attempts
to murder were more than trebled. The Land League, when suppressed, was
replaced by an even more sinister and even less responsible
organisation. The failure of Mr. Forster’s repressive measures was

[Sidenote: 1882 ÆT. 33]

The arrest of Mr. Parnell may be regarded as a single exception. As the
months slipped by the prisoner at Kilmainham began to grow uneasy. He
had regular and perfect information of the state of the country. He
found the control of the agitation passing from his hands into those of
unknown and desperate people. Captain Moonlight was exercising and
delegating his sovereignty. New associations, secret and deadly in their
purposes, were sprouting. Parnell required his liberty, and he resolved
to treat. Nothing could exceed the satisfaction of the Prime Minister
when this was conveyed to him. The mood of the principals being
agreeable, ambassadors were found on both sides to arrange conditions.
Upon the basis that no sort of agreement existed, Mr. Gladstone
undertook to introduce an Arrears Bill and the Irish leader promised to
‘slow down the agitation.’ A delighted Cabinet ratified the non-existent
bargain. Parnell and his colleagues were released; the Lord-Lieutenant,
Earl Cowper, and the Chief Secretary, who remained stubbornly
unconvinced, resigned. Such was the Kilmainham Treaty. Parnell, free
once more, set to work to gather up the threads of authority. It was too
late. He was released on May 2. On the 6th, the day of Earl Spencer’s
entry as Lord-Lieutenant, Lord Frederick Cavendish, the new Chief
Secretary, and Mr. Burke, the Permanent Under-Secretary, were murdered
in the Phœnix Park.

Mr. Forster’s political fate was reached with the inexorable precision
of Greek tragedy. If ever a good man was overwhelmed with successive
waves of adversity, it was he. Called at a moment’s notice to an office
with which he had no special acquaintance, and confronted with dismal
alternatives, he had chosen wrongly at the first. An evil fortune dogged
his steps. Had he assumed power a year earlier he might have guarded
against the outbreak; a year later he would have been free to stem it
without any accusation of responsibility for its cause. As a Tory Chief
Secretary he might have achieved a glorious reputation as a Coercionist.
As a Liberal Minister he was ruined. His errors of judgment were not
small. He was, wrote Mr. Gladstone, ‘a very impracticable man in a
position of great responsibility.’ The style and tenor of his letters
lend some sanction to this opinion. But, whatever may be thought of his
wisdom or, what is of more importance in politics, of his instinct, the
courage and integrity which he displayed, command the tribute of all who
review, however briefly, his public conduct. What a worthy Englishman
might do, he did. No labour was too exacting; no peril deterred him. He
faced obloquy and assassination with equal calmness. He chased away the
vigilant guards by whom he was surrounded. Almost alone and unprotected
he penetrated the most distracted regions, talking to the people face to
face and striving with hopeless optimism to allay by argument the
passions of centuries.

‘If I had thought,’ he said in the House of Commons in introducing his
Coercion Bill, ‘that this duty would devolve on the Irish Secretary, I
would never have held the office; if I could have foreseen that this
would have been the result of twenty years’ Parliamentary life, I would
have left Parliament rather than have undertaken it.’ ‘If you think,’ he
wrote to Mr. Gladstone, April 4, 1881, ‘that _from any cause_ it would
be for the advantage of the public service or for the good of Ireland
that I should resign, I place my resignation in your hands. You might
come to this opinion ... without any disagreement with my official
action; and I earnestly beg of you not to allow yourself to be
influenced, for a moment, by any personal consideration for me of any
kind whatever. For instance, I must request you to pay no regard to the
fact that I should probably appear discredited--to have failed,’ &c.,
&c. On the morrow of the tragedy in the Phœnix Park he offered to
return to Ireland and fill his old place, so speedily made vacant. But
the Prime Minister had come to the conclusion that Ireland was no place
for his talents or his virtues. He passed for ever out of the Ministry,
to become during the rest of the Parliament one of its most dangerous
and vigilant opponents. He was neither the first nor the last able man
to be crushed between Irish national passions and English party needs.

In all these moving events Lord Randolph bore little part. At the
beginning of the session of 1882 he was in his place with his three
allies, all thoroughly reunited and intent upon the Government’s
misdeeds. Upon the Address the Fourth Party made a combined attack, in
which Mr. Forster was accused, with a good deal of evidence, of having
illegally transgressed even the wide limits of executive power which the
special legislation had assigned him. On February 21 there was another
Bradlaugh scene. The member for Northampton, advancing suddenly to the
table, produced a book, said to be a Testament, from his pocket, and
duly swore himself upon it, to the consternation of the members. Lord
Randolph was the first to recover from the surprise which this act of
audacity created. He declared that Mr. Bradlaugh, by the outrage of
taking in defiance of the House an oath of a meaningless character upon
a book alleged to be a Testament--‘it might have been the “Fruits 1882
of Philosophy”’--had vacated his seat and should be treated ‘as if he
were dead.’ In moving for a new writ he implored the House to act
promptly and vindicate its authority. Mr. Gladstone, however, persuaded
both sides to put off the decision till the next day. On the 22nd
therefore a debate on privilege ensued. Sir Stafford Northcote merely
moved to exclude Mr. Bradlaugh from the precincts of the House, thus
modifying Lord Randolph’s motion for a new writ. Lord Randolph protested
against such ‘milk and water’ policy and urged the immediate punishment
of the offender. After a long discussion, in which the temper of all
parties was inflamed by Mr. Bradlaugh’s repeated interruptions, Sir
Stafford substituted for his simple motion of exclusion a proposal to
expel Mr. Bradlaugh from the House; and this being carried the seat for
Northampton was thereby vacated.

Lord Randolph seems to have gained much credit in Tory circles for the
promptness and energy with which he had acted; but it was to be almost
his last intervention in the debates of the session. At the end of
February he was afflicted with a long and painful illness and lay in
bed--at first at Wimborne House and afterwards at a little cottage near
Wimbledon--for nearly five months. His absence was a grievous loss to
the Opposition during the Irish crisis. The public announcement that the
imprisoned members had been released was accompanied by a well-founded
rumour of some political bargain between the Government and Mr. Parnell.
Mr. Forster’s explanations exposed the fact that the Kilmainham
negotiations, whatever their nature, had been conducted independently of
the Irish Secretary by Mr. Chamberlain. Upon all this came the terrible
news of the murders in the Phœnix Park. The new Minister, ‘an
innocent man’ even to the fiercest Fenians, a man honoured and liked by
all who knew him, the envoy of peace and reconciliation, was stabbed to
death on the very day of his landing. The excitement throughout England
was tremendous. After the dead had been buried with every circumstance
of national grief and indignation the ‘Kilmainham Treaty’ came under
pitiless review. The Fourth Party headed the attack. They pointed out
Mr. Chamberlain as the mysterious ‘Number One’ of the Fenian inner
circle; and Mr. Balfour, speaking with altogether unexpected power,
denounced the ‘Kilmainham Treaty’ as ‘an infamy.’ This was the first
speech he ever made that commanded general attention, or gave any
promise of his future distinction. So intense was the feeling in the
House that it was freely stated, and acknowledged even on the Liberal
benches, that had Lord Randolph Churchill been at hand to strike the
blow the Government might have fallen.

It was not until the autumn that he was strong enough to return to the
House of Commons. Irish obstruction had reached its inevitable
conclusion; and Parliament was assembled for a renewal of the session at
the end of October to effect a drastic revision in its procedure. Mr.
Gladstone’s ‘new rules’ were ingenious and comprehensive. All sorts of
liberties and privileges of debate were ruthlessly lopped off or
deformed in the attempt to destroy the abuses by which they had been
encumbered. There were restrictions upon dilatory motions of all kinds
and devices for checking irrelevance or repetition in debate; but the
Closure--_clôture_, as its opponents called it with elaborate foreign
accent--was the most formidable instrument upon which the Government
relied. Into the discussion of all these grave and novel questions Lord
Randolph threw himself with a recuperated strength. The members had no
sooner met together than he was in possession of the House with a
constitutional protest--based on precedents going back to ‘the ninth
year of King Henry the Fourth’--against the impropriety of taking
Government business after the Appropriation Act for the year had been
passed. And thenceforward, late and early, on small matters and on
great, he and his nimble friends were the tyrants of debate.

Before the session was a week old it was everywhere admitted that the
whole conduct and temper of the Opposition had undergone a change and
that that change was ultimately connected with Lord Randolph’s return.
Mr. Gladstone had barely had time to offer him some courteous
congratulations upon his recovery when they were engaged together in the
liveliest of disputes. He contrived over and over again, by repeated
allusions to the ‘Kilmainham Treaty’ (an expression which Mr. Gladstone
always regarded with extreme disfavour), or to the course of affairs in
Egypt (to which reference will presently be made), to provoke the Prime
Minister into indignant declamation. He jeered at the Liberal party--who
had been exhorted by their Whips not to take too much part in the
discussion--‘for assisting in the capacity of mutes at the funeral
obsequies of free speech.’ Irritated by various motions for adjournment
upon Irish and Egyptian affairs, the supporters of the Ministry covered
the notice paper with ‘blocking notices,’ then a newly discovered
device, relating to almost every conceivable subject. Lord Randolph
deliberately described these as ‘bogus motions put down to prevent
discussion of _bona-fide_ motions.’ ‘Oh!’ said Mr. Labouchere, much
shocked, ‘I move that those words be taken down.’ ‘I second that,’
rejoined Lord Randolph instantly, and forthwith proceeded to repeat the
expression. The usual squabbles, unavoidable perhaps--certainly not very
earnestly avoided--soon sprang up between the solemn elders of the Front
Opposition Bench and the clever energetic men who impelled them forward
while they were supposed to follow. One night Mr. Gibson voted against
an amendment, proposed by the Fourth Party, to prevent the debate on
motions for adjournment being confined solely to the question of whether
the House should or should not adjourn. When, on the very next day, the
restricting rule having been passed with his concurrence, he was himself
called to order for breaking it, Lord Randolph’s joy was unconcealed.

But a more serious difference arose on the question of the closure.
Lord Randolph Churchill wished the Conservative party to meet this with
an utterly uncompromising resistance. He wrote (November 4) a fiery
letter to the _Times_ urging the Opposition, under the euphonious phrase
of making ‘a determined use of the rights of Parliamentary minorities,’
to bring about a dead-lock before their powers were for ever destroyed
by the new rules, and so to force Mr. Gladstone to appeal to the country
against a Conservative cry of ‘freedom of speech for the Commons.’ ‘It
is not altogether astonishing,’ observed the _Times_ (November 6), ‘that
the prospect of fighting a stout battle with ten times as many followers
as Mr. Parnell ever commanded should have a fascination for the ardent
spirit of Lord Randolph Churchill.’ The leaders of the Conservative
party, however, resolved to assume a temperate and reasonable manner in
the hopes of obtaining larger concessions from the Government. In this
praiseworthy spirit Mr. Gibson moved an amendment, not challenging the
principle of the closure, but requiring the vote of two-thirds of those
present to make it operative. Lord Randolph delivered on this occasion
(November 1) one of those speeches by which his Parliamentary reputation
was established. At the moment it commanded absolutely the attention of
the House and its conclusions have been sustained by the practice of all
the years that have followed.

‘The _clôture_,’ he said, ‘has been called an innovation--a foreign
practice--but it appears to me that a proportionate majority, or what is
called a two-thirds _clôture_, is a much greater innovation than the
_clôture_ itself, and is absolutely foreign to all our principles,
ideas, or customs. I know of nothing in the history of this country, or
in its laws, or in its Constitution, which can be adduced as a precedent
or as an analogy for the proposal in the amendment that the House should
require two-thirds of its members to affirm any proposition. We do not
require proportionate majorities for the election of our
representatives, nor would any proposition to that effect have the
slightest chance of being accepted by the country. London, Manchester,
Liverpool, Birmingham, and Glasgow can return members to this House for
a period of seven years by simple majorities, and the member so returned
is as fully and as firmly the member of that constituency as if he had
been elected unanimously. And I think that the election of a member for
a great constituency for a period of seven years is a much more
important matter and would seem to require a much stronger title, than
the closing of an occasional debate in the House of Commons. We know,
moreover, that many of the greatest reforms in our laws have been
carried by majorities which did not number double figures; and it is
undoubtedly, in theory, in the power of Parliament, by a majority of
one, to change the Constitution of this country from a monarchy into a
republic--which, again, I should say, would be a much more important
matter than the closing of an occasional debate. I own I am a firm
believer in the general infallibility of simple majorities: they have
practically governed the British Empire from time immemorial; and I
must express my surprise that the Tory party, or the Constitutional
party, which recoils with horror from the Radical innovation of the
_clôture_, should propose with eagerness, with anxiety, almost with
desperation, the much greater Radical innovation of a two-thirds

‘I imagine that many of those who support this amendment are animated by
a secret conviction that the palmy days of Tory government are over, and
that the Tory party have nothing to look forward to but a long period of
endless opposition, perhaps occasionally chequered by little glimpses of
office with a minority. I believe that view to be not only incorrect,
but absurdly incorrect. That it is held by many I have no doubt, and
those who hold it propose by this amendment to build, as it were, a
little dyke, behind which they fancy that they will be able to shelter
themselves for a long time to come. A more hopeless delusion never
before led astray a political party. How many times does anyone in this
House think that the present Prime Minister would permit the Tory party
to refuse him the necessary two-thirds majority for getting on with his
business? I think he might allow it twice, perhaps three times; but, as
sure as he sits there, after the third time, he would come down to this
House and declare that the state of public business was deplorable, that
the session was one of discomfort and disaster, and that the two-thirds
majority must be exchanged for a simple majority; and within a
fortnight or three weeks from the date of that declaration this precious
little dyke, which was to shelter the Tory party for a long time to
come, this little exotic which was so carefully introduced, nurtured,
and protected so that the Tory party might repose under its shade, would
be abolished, cut down, and swept away into the great dustbin of all
modern constitutional checks. The best protection, the best
constitutional check against a Liberal Minister which the Tory party can
look to is the House of Lords; yet how often does the House of Lords,
with its centuries of prescription, with all its vast territorial
influence, venture to stand in the way of a Liberal majority? And yet,
with this historic caution, not to say timidity, on the part of the
House of Lords in your minds, and before your eyes, does anyone really
seriously imagine that this wretched device, this miserable safeguard of
a two-thirds majority, could for one moment arrest the tide of popular
reform, a safeguard compared with which Don Quixote’s helmet was a
miracle of protection, or Mrs. Partington’s mop a monster of energy and

‘But let us look a little further ahead. No one will deny that there are
great and burning questions coming on rapidly for settlement--questions
relating to the franchise and to the representation of the
people--questions relating to the revenue and to trade--questions
relating to the land and agriculture--questions affecting the relations
between Great Britain and Ireland. Is the Tory party prepared--is it
determined--to abdicate and renounce all title to the initiative of
legislation on these great questions? Is the attitude of the great Tory
Democracy, which Lord Beaconsfield’s party constructed, to be one of
mere dogged opposition? And is it true, what our foes say of us, that
Coercion for Ireland and foreign war is to be the ‘be-all and the
end-all’ of Tory Ministries? I think not; and yet it is on the ability,
and not only on the ability, but on the rapidity, with which, in the
face of unscrupulous opposition, you may be able to legislate on these
questions that your title to power and that your tenure of office will
mainly depend. Nevertheless, here you are, under the influence of an
Hibernian legal mind, elaborately and laboriously endeavouring to forge
for yourselves an instrument which, if you do come into office, will
paralyse you so effectually that your power will be as tottering as a
house of cards, your tenure of office as evanescent as a summer’s day.
No, sir, oppose the _clôture_ if you will; defeat it if you can; resort
for that purpose, if you have the courage, to all those forms and
privileges which a Parliamentary minority still possesses, in order, if
possible, to compel the Prime Minister to abandon his project, or to
appeal to the country to decide between you and him; but, whatever you
do, for Heaven’s sake do not be seduced by interested counsels into
following foreign fancies, and do not be persuaded by any desire to
think only of the moment, and to disembarrass yourselves of all care for
what is to come.’

There was great discontent among the Conservative party at this speech.
Its force was undeniable, and the members recognised reluctantly and
uneasily that they had been led, in support of a vicious compromise, on
to ground equally unsuited for defence or attack. All the more were they
inclined to resent the proof of their leaders’ unwisdom. Mr. Balfour
lost no time in making it clear that he disagreed with Lord Randolph
Churchill, and when he rose next day to renew the debate he declared
himself definitely in favour of the principle of the two-thirds majority
to enforce the Closure. Mr. Goschen had praised Lord Randolph’s
arguments and Mr. Balfour, after alluding to the ‘portentous coalition
between a discontented Whig and an independent Tory,’ devoted his speech
entirely to refuting them. In this he was, according to Sir Stafford
Northcote, very successful. ‘My noble friend, the member for Woodstock,’
said the leader of the Opposition naïvely, ‘has somehow or other managed
to elevate himself into a position from which he finds himself capable
of looking down on the Front Benches on both sides and of regarding all
parties in the House of Commons with an impartiality which is quite
sublime. I do not know what can have taken my noble friend into such
heights, or whether he went there to consult the angel Gabriel, or, what
is sometimes suspected, to look for the lost principles of the Liberal
party--some of which have gone to the planet Saturn and some to the
planet Mars--but, whatever may have become of them, his argument seems
to me to have been completely answered by the honourable member for
Hertford, who sits near him, and I do not think it necessary to dwell
further upon it. It certainly seems to me that my noble friend has
overlooked, from the great heights from which he regards these matters,
the real importance of those safeguards which he treats as little lights
which would be very quickly swept away. I can only say that if he is
right, and if they would be quickly swept away, we would not be in a
worse position than if we never had them at all.’

Even this rejoinder could not sustain the fortunes of the debate. The
division showed how ill-conceived the Opposition tactics had been. The
Irish party, who naturally looked upon a Closure which required a
two-thirds majority as a device specially directed against them, voted
in a body against the amendment. The Whigs were somewhat divided, but
the greater number followed Mr. Goschen into the Government lobby. The
Fourth Party, consisting of three persons, abstained. Mr. Gibson’s
amendment was therefore defeated by 322 to 288, or nearly double the
majority that had been generally expected. Thus, against their will and
in spite of their leaders, the Conservative party became possessed of
that great engine of government by which during nearly twenty years of
power they were to silence and overcome their political opponents.

Ever since then, obstruction and Closure have struggled against each
other in a warfare which has respected no neutral boundaries and
recognised no public law. Scarcely any Parliamentary custom or privilege
has escaped their joint depredations. Every device or formality designed
in the careful wisdom of former ages to safeguard the rights of a
minority has been recklessly exploited by the one faction and ruthlessly
demolished by the other. The historic procedure of the House of Commons
has been reduced to the rigid framework which had hitherto served a
purpose only in Continental or Colonial imitations. The whole theatre of
war has been devastated. Almost everything within the range of the
combatants that was destructible has perished--and has perished beyond
repair. So long as the House of Commons contains no body of opinion
which, because more or less independent of party organisations, is
capable of being won or estranged by argument or conduct, the vicious
conflict must run its appointed course. The end is, however, in sight.
The majority must prevail. An elaborate and comprehensive time-table,
fixed no doubt with some impartiality, may soon assign immovable limits
to all debate. The victory of Closure will be complete. Obstruction will
disappear through being at once unnecessary and impossible. But the
remedy may prove more painful than the disease and the strength and
reality of representative institutions may very easily disappear as
well. Certain it is that if the House of Commons is ever to regain its
vanished freedom and to preserve its vanishing authority, it will be by
new and original treatment and not by belated attempts to revive the
systems of the past. A larger and more generous freedom in choosing the
subjects to be discussed might compensate for the mechanical regulation
of the time allotted to discussion. The delegation of financial and
legislative detail to Committees, and the devolution upon local,
provincial, or national bodies of much contentious business proper to
their respective jurisdictions, would abundantly increase the total time
available. And perhaps those more complicated but more scientific
methods of Parliamentary election, generally described as ‘Proportional
Representation,’ will some day secure that detached, august, impartial
element in British councils whose influence and favour all factions
would strive to win.

Lord Beaconsfield’s death early in the year 1881 had been a heavy blow
to the Fourth Party. Great men at the height of their power often, to
their cost, refuse to recognise the ability of new comers. Peel had
scorned Disraeli. Gladstone never understood Mr. Chamberlain’s capacity
till he faced him as a foe. Smaller persons, called from time to time to
the conduct of public affairs, exhibit the same failing in an aggravated
degree with greater regularity and more disastrous results to
themselves. The jealousy and dislike with which the leaders of the
Conservative party in the House of Commons regarded the activities of
Lord Randolph and his friends, had been apparent even before the session
of 1880 had come to an end. From all such feelings Lord Beaconsfield was
free. His character and the hard experiences of his earlier years made
him seek eagerly for the first signs of oncoming power. He was an old
man lifted high above his contemporaries and he liked to look past them
to the new generation and to feel that he could gain the sympathy and
confidence of younger men. If he liked youth, he liked Tory Democracy
even more. He had, moreover, good reason to know how a Parliamentary
Opposition should be conducted. He saw with perfect clearness the
incapacity above the gangway and the enterprise and pluck below it. Had
his life been prolonged for a few more years the Fourth Party might have
marched, as his Young Guard, by a smoother road, and this story might
have reached a less melancholy conclusion. He stood above personal
rivalries. He was removed from the petty vexations of the House of
Commons. Surely he would not have allowed these clever ardent men to
drift into antagonism against the mass of the Conservative party and
into fierce feud with its leaders. He alone could have kept their
loyalty, as he alone commanded their respect; and never would he have
countenanced the solemn excommunication by dulness and prejudice of all
that preserved the sparkling life of Toryism in times of depression and
defeat. But Lord Beaconsfield was gone; and those whom he had left
behind had other views of how his inheritance--such as it was--should be



     ‘Great men are not always wise: neither do the aged understand
     judgment.’--JOB. xxxii. 9.

[Sidenote: 1883 ÆT. 34]

For nearly three eventful years Mr. Gladstone’s Administration had held
power. In the country the popularity and prestige of the great Minister
were still immense. His authority was as unquestioned by the rank and
file of his party as on the morrow of the Midlothian triumph. He was
still ‘the people’s William’ to the crowd. But in Parliament and in the
Cabinet difficulties had arisen which scarcely any other leader could
have stemmed. Bradlaugh, Majuba, Kilmainham, were names full of gloomy
significance to the Liberal party, that promised renewed vexation and
discredit in the future. Colleagues had dropped off one by one. Lord
Lansdowne had left the Government as early as the Compensation for
Disturbance Bill. The Irish Land Act had cost the Prime Minister the
Duke of Argyll. Mr. Forster had fallen rather than consent to the
release of Parnell. A new question was at hand, opening a broad
indefinite vista of embarrassment and disaster and involving at the
outset a far more serious secession.

[Sidenote: 1882-1883]

The gradual withdrawal of European Powers and final retreat of France
left Great Britain alone to confront the growing anarchy in Egypt. A
medley of conflicting impulses and incidents--moral obligations,
material interests, the Suez Canal, the coupons of the Egyptian debt,
Arabi’s national movement and the massacre of June--culminated in the
bombardment of Alexandria on July 11, 1882, by the British fleet. Mr.
Bright resigned from the Cabinet; but the House of Commons broke into
general cheering at the news and only eight Radicals testified to their
principles by their votes. Large military operations followed.
Twenty-five thousand British soldiers descended upon Egypt. Arabi and
his national movement were stamped out under the heavy heel of the
British Grenadier and England became responsible for the fortunes of the
Nile Valley.

Their intervention was to carry the Government further than they
expected. The misrule which had produced in Egypt the national movement
of Arabi had created the rebellion of the Mahdi in the Soudan. The
inhabitants of vast regions were aflame with military fury and religious
fervour. Yusef Pasha had been overwhelmed. The army of General Hicks was
being collected for its fatal effort. The Khedival garrisons were
everywhere cut off and besieged. Khartoum almost alone was accessible
from the north. Inch by inch and hour by hour the Liberal Government was
dragged deeper and deeper into the horrible perplexities of the Egyptian
riddle and the Soudan tragedy. At each detested step they resolved to
go no further. Every act of interference was to be their last. Every day
they looked forward to an early evacuation. To get out of the country in
the shortest possible time and upon any conceivable justification was
their constant and controlling desire; and after every struggle to
escape they found themselves more hopelessly and inextricably involved.

To Lord Randolph Churchill the whole policy of intervention seemed a
flagrant political blunder and a crowning violation of Liberal
principles. He had sympathised from the beginning with the revolt of
Arabi Pasha. He subscribed fifty pounds to the expenses of his defence
before the Egyptian Court Martial. He believed that the popular soldier
and Minister had been the head of a real national movement directed
against one of the vilest and most worthless Governments in the world.
That England should use her power to stamp out that movement, to crush
the army which sustained it, to banish the leader on whom all depended
and to hand back the wretched Egyptians to the incapacity of Tewfik and
the extortions of his creditors, was to him an odious crime. The war
was--in his eyes--a wicked war, an unjust war, ‘a bondholders’ war.’ And
as he felt, so he spoke. While the fighting was actually in progress
criticism was necessarily ineffective; but at the beginning of 1883 the
excitement of Tel-el-Kebir and Kassassin had begun to subside and
Egyptian affairs became a leading subject of Parliamentary debate.

While these embarrassments preoccupied the Ministry, the Conservative
Opposition was disturbed by questions of leadership. Who was to be Lord
Beaconsfield’s successor? Sir Stafford Northcote, as the leader in the
House of Commons, seemed to have the most natural and formal claims.
Lord Salisbury had not then obtained any large measure of public
confidence. He was generally regarded as representing a form of Toryism
highly orthodox and respectable in principle, but rather too rampant and
unyielding for the practical necessities of the political situation. The
epigrams and epithets which slipped so easily from his tongue and pen
had won him the reputation of being rash and violent by nature. His
comparison of Lord Derby to Titus Oates was not soon forgotten; and, for
all the respect in which his character was held, Disraeli’s celebrated
description of him had gained a very wide acceptance. Even in the House
of Lords there had been at first some doubt as to his leadership. Lord
Cairns, the Duke of Richmond and the Duke of Marlborough seem all at
times to have been considered as safer alternatives. Since his authority
had been conceded or asserted in the Upper Chamber some mistakes in
tactics had been made, and Lord Salisbury was thought on more than one
occasion to have committed his party further in resistance to Liberal
legislation than its strength warranted. For two years, however, the
leadership of the party as a whole had been in commission. A kind of
‘dual control’ had been jointly exerted by the leaders in both houses.
Between Sir Stafford Northcote and Lord Salisbury the most pleasant
personal relations prevailed and it will be shown in this account that
they behaved to each other, in many difficult and delicate
circumstances, with unquestionable loyalty. At the same time the great
prize and honour of supreme control, with its almost certain reversion
of the Premiership, lay between them, and only one could win it. As very
often happens in such circumstances, the good faith and good feeling
observed between the principals did not extend to their respective
supporters; and Lord Salisbury’s excellent relations with Sir Stafford
Northcote did not prevent the growth of two sulky and jealous factions
to support their rival claims.

The Fourth Party stood for a long time apart from these activities and
were individually divided as to the course to take. Mr. Balfour’s
opinion was from the outset clear; and his evident wish that Lord
Salisbury, and not Sir Stafford Northcote, should head the Conservative
party may have been his chief reason for associating himself with the
free-lances below the gangway. Mr. Gorst, on the other hand, was much
more friendly to Sir Stafford Northcote. He did not altogether agree
with Lord Randolph Churchill in his very adverse estimate of Sir
Stafford Northcote’s qualities and capacity as a Parliamentary leader,
which is generally reflected in these pages. Between these two choices
Lord Randolph seems long to have hung in doubt. He was much disquieted
by several of Lord Salisbury’s actions in the House of Lords, which
seemed to indicate an attitude of uncompromising resistance to
democratic legislation. On the other hand, the Fourth Party came into
constant disagreement with Sir Stafford Northcote in the House of
Commons, and chafed keenly under his guidance.

The evils of the ‘dual control’ were increasingly displayed as time went
by. The Arrears Bill in 1882 ended in the complete collapse of the
Opposition in both Houses. Lord Salisbury was for rejecting it in the
House of Lords on the second reading and courting a dissolution. In this
course he was supported by an enthusiastic meeting of Peers at his house
in Arlington Street. The leaders in the Commons dissuaded him from such
an extreme measure. It was agreed that the Bill should not be rejected,
but materially amended, and that the amendments should be fought for at
all risks. Lord Salisbury accordingly amended the Bill in the House of
Lords. But Sir Stafford and his friends in the Commons failed to support
him with the necessary vigour. A division of opinion grew rapidly in the
Conservative ranks. At a time when union and decision were both vital to
the success of the operations, neither was to be found. No great effort
was made to rally the party in the House of Commons. Grave doubts were
expressed as to the wisdom of provoking a conflict between the two
Houses. The word ‘dissolution’ seemed full of evil omen. Only 157
Conservatives out of 242 voted in the decisive division for the Lords’
amendments and they were defeated by the crushing majority of 136. The
panic spread to the House of Lords. Lord Salisbury, deserted by the
Peers, was left in a very ignominious position; and, in spite of the
definite arrangement on which he had acted, the party Press resounded
with praise of Sir Stafford’s prudence and blame of Lord Salisbury’s
rashness. The need of a single supreme leader was, through the
occurrence of such incidents, very widely recognised at the beginning of
1883; but whether Lord Salisbury or Sir Stafford Northcote should be
chosen was still a matter of doubt and controversy. The prevailing
opinion inclined strongly towards Sir Stafford Northcote.

Lord Randolph began the session of 1883 in great activity, and the
Fourth Party, with or without the assistance of Mr. Balfour, was
prominent, if not predominant, in almost every Parliamentary event. As a
leader of free-lances, Lord Randolph was for ever seeking for a chance
to drive a wedge into the Ministerial array. To split the Government
majority by raising some issue on which conscientious Radicals would be
forced to vote against their leaders, or, failing that, by some question
on which the Minister concerned would be likely to utter illiberal
sentiments, and bound to justify a policy or a system which the Liberal
party detested, was his perpetual and almost instinctive endeavour. Such
had been his method during the debates on Irish Coercion; it was his
plan upon ‘Parliamentary procedure’; it would have been his course, had
he not been dissuaded therefrom, in regard to the suppression of the
Boer revolt; it was afterwards to be his attitude in much greater degree
upon the unending tangles of affairs in Egypt. If the tactics he pursued
were adroit, the sentiments he expressed were congenial. Alike from
conviction and partisanship he was drawn continually to the more Radical
view of political disputes. No one understood better than he the
difficulties with which Mr. Gladstone had to contend, or the stresses
which paralysed the Cabinet and racked the Liberal party.

‘You are no doubt aware,’ he told a Manchester audience (December 1,
1881), ‘of a curious fact in natural history--that there is an animal
more useful than picturesque, generally to be found in our farmyards,
which cannot swim. Owing to its ungraceful conformation, whenever it is
called upon to swim, it cuts its own throat with its feet; and the
spectacle of the Radical party attempting to govern reminds me
irresistibly of that animal trying to swim. The Radical party are
prevented from governing by what they are pleased to call their
principles; and in the act of governing they invariably commit suicide.
They are unable to govern Ireland because it was by stimulating disorder
that they attained power. They were unable to suppress the revolt of the
Boers, because it is their most sacred principle that any portion of the
Empire must be sacrificed rather than that they should incur the charge
of “blood-guiltiness.” They were unable to retain the valuable
possession of Candahar, which had been gained at a cost of eighteen
millions, because another of their most sacred principles is that we
must rely on “moral barriers.” Their Government is without an ally in
Europe because this is their diplomatic maxim--that foreign policy is
nothing more than an alternate succession of insults and apologies.
They are unable to conclude a treaty of commerce, vital though it be to
this country, because they have gratuitously tied themselves down to the
fetish of limiting Customs duties to six articles of foreign import. So
you see, gentlemen, that whenever they attempt to move in the ordinary
paths of government one of these so-called principles immediately rises
up, paralyses their action, and makes them an object either of mockery
or of compassion.’

He took a grim delight in compelling the Under Secretary for the
Colonies--‘this humanitarian Minister’--and even Mr. Gladstone himself,
to defend or palliate the use of dynamite by the Boers in their warfare
with the natives. When Mr. Evelyn Ashley was stung by much sarcastic
comment into condemning ‘the ill-regulated impulses of humanity’ which
appeared to prompt the Opposition attack, Lord Randolph replied that he
had passed the gravest censure on the Prime Minister, whose whole career
had consisted in giving way to such ‘ill-regulated impulses’ and
persuading the nation to agree with him. Now, as always, he was an
economist. He subjected the Civil Service Estimates to an unremitting
scrutiny. The repair of Royal Palaces, the up-keep of the Royal Mews and
Parks, formed the subject of protracted debate. He attacked the Royal
Buckhounds--‘’Arry’s Hounds,’ as he called them--and declared that only
a Cockney who did not know the difference between a field of oats and a
field of wheat, and no true sportsman, would take part in the pursuit
of a tame animal kept in captivity for the purpose of being hunted over
and over again. Against such criticisms the Liberal Ministers could
furnish no reply satisfactory to their own supporters.

[Illustration: _Reproduced by permission of the proprietors of ‘Punch.’_


R-ND-LPH CH-RCH-LL. (_an aggravating Boy_): ‘In the way again! ’ooray!!’

_Punch_, July 7, 1883.]

Some of Lord Randolph’s maxims in Opposition are well known. He is often
credited with, though he cannot rightly claim, the authorship of the
phrase, ‘The duty of an Opposition is to oppose.’ Lord Salisbury
condemned early in 1883 ‘the temptation, strong to many politicians, to
attempt to gain the victory by bringing into the Lobby men whose
principles were divergent, and whose combined forces therefore could not
lead to any wholesome victory.’ ‘Excellent moralising,’ observed Lord
Randolph, ‘very suitable to the digestions of country delegates, but one
of those Puritanical theories which party leaders are prone to preach on
a platform, which has never guided for any length of time the action of
politicians in the House of Commons, and which, whenever apparently put
into practice, invariably results in weak and inane proceedings.
Discriminations between wholesome and unwholesome victories are idle and
impracticable. Obtain the victory, know how to follow it up, and leave
the wholesomeness or unwholesomeness to critics.’ His second maxim was
as follows: ‘Take office only when it suits you, but put the Government
in a minority whenever you decently can’; and his third, ‘Whenever by an
unfortunate concurrence of circumstances an Opposition is compelled to
support the Government, the support should be given with a kick and not
with a caress and should be withdrawn on the first available moment.’

Lord Randolph always declared that in such things he was sustained by
the example of Mr. Disraeli. In 1852 Mr. Disraeli put Lord John Russell
in a minority by allying himself with Lord Palmerston. In 1857 he put
Lord Palmerston in a minority by allying himself with Mr. Gladstone and
the Radical party. In 1858 he put Lord Palmerston in a second minority
by following the lead of Mr. Milner Gibson and the Radicals. In 1866 Mr.
Disraeli, with the assistance of Lord Cranborne, placed Mr. Gladstone in
a minority by allying himself with the Whigs. Again, in 1873 Mr.
Disraeli placed Mr. Gladstone in a minority by making a temporary
alliance with the Radicals and with the Irish. Fortified by these
examples, the leader of Tory Democracy pursued his devious and
unexpected course, to the bewilderment of his friends and the
discomfiture of his foes.

The chronic friction between the Front Opposition Bench and the corner
seat below the gangway developed in the first few weeks of the session
of 1883 a considerable degree of heat. Lord Randolph’s opinion of the
worthies at the head of his party was not good, and the efforts which he
made to conceal it, were not apparent. They complained of the irritating
laugh with which he would sometimes mark his dissent from their tactics.
He spoke of them collectively in private as ‘the old gang.’ One by one
he fastened upon them nicknames which clung like burrs. Sir Stafford
Northcote had always been ‘the Goat.’ Mr. W. H. Smith and Sir R. Cross
were described as ‘Marshall and Snelgrove.’ Mr. Gibson was ‘the family
solicitor of the Tory party.’ The smoking-room of the House of Commons
was always laughing over some new witticism or sharp saying, faithfully
carried by mischief-makers from one to another till it reached its final
destination and roused the wrath of the potentate concerned. But while
in his conversation Lord Randolph was scarcely restrained by the limits
of decorum, he remained himself perfectly unapproachable. No man dared
to take any liberties with him, and party officials or ex-Ministers who
addressed themselves to him found themselves confronted by a suave and
formal courtesy through which it was impossible to break.

A sharp and open difference with Sir Stafford Northcote grew early in
March out of some small incident of House of Commons tactics:--

          _Sir Stafford Northcote to Lord Randolph Churchill._


House of Commons: March 9, 1883.

     Dear Lord Randolph,--I understand that a good many of our friends
     are annoyed at the appearance of a kind of _communiqué_ in the
     morning papers yesterday to the effect that if I were to move the
     adjournment of the House (as some persons supposed I intended to
     do) the ‘Fourth Party’ would not support the motion by rising in
     their places.

     You will, I am sure, understand that any steps taken with the
     apparent purpose of marking out a separate party within the general
     body of the Conservatives must be prejudicial to the interests of
     the whole, and I therefore call your attention to the matter in
     the hope of preventing similar embarrassments in the future.

I remain
Yours very faithfully,

          _Lord Randolph Churchill to Sir Stafford Northcote._

2 Connaught Place, W.

     Dear Sir Stafford Northcote,--In reply to your letter I have to
     remark that members who sit below the gangway have always acted in
     the House of Commons with a very considerable degree of
     independence of the recognised and constituted chiefs of either
     party, nor can I (who owe nothing to anyone and depend on nobody)
     in any way or at any time depart from that well-established and
     highly respectable tradition.

     I am not aware of any _communiqué_ on the matter about which you
     write and I must decline to be responsible for the gossip of the
     Lobby which may find its way into the daily or weekly Press. I
     would suggest, however, that ‘similar embarrassments’ would be
     avoided for the future, if the small party of Conservatives who sit
     below the gangway were to be occasionally informed beforehand of
     your intentions on any particular matter. They consider that they
     have, during the whole of this Parliament, worked harder in the
     House of Commons than any other members of the party, and they know
     that a very considerable body of public opinion in the country
     approves entirely of the course of action which they have adopted.
     There would be less danger of ‘marking out a separate party within
     the general body of the Conservatives,’ if you would use your
     influence with some of your late colleagues so as to induce them to
     abstain from holding my friends and myself up to ridicule and
     dislike by their speeches in the country, or covertly by inspiring
     that portion of the daily Press which is notoriously under the
     influence of the Front Opposition Bench to attack and denounce us,
     whose only fault is that at all times and by all means we have
     never ceased from attacking, denouncing, and embarrassing the
     present Government. I spoke on this point to Mr. Rowland Winn very
     freely at the end of the autumn session, and I regret to find that
     my so doing seems rather to have increased than modified the

I have the honour to remain
Yours very faithfully,

          _Sir Stafford Northcote to Lord Randolph Churchill._


30 St. James’s Place, S.W.: March 10, 1883.

     Dear Lord Randolph,--I am very sensible of the zeal and ability
     which you and your immediate friends show in your Parliamentary
     work. But to turn your work to the best account you really ought to
     consider the first principles of party action, and, unless you mean
     absolutely to dissever yourselves from the main body, you ought to
     act heartily with it except upon occasions when you feel yourselves
     bound to differ from it; and when those occasions arise, you ought
     frankly but amicably to tell the leaders what your difficulties and
     your intentions are. You may be well assured that I am only too
     glad to confer with all members of the party on these terms, and
     with yourself as frankly as with anyone. What I must object to is
     the apparent maintenance of a distinct organisation within the
     party. It produces infinite soreness and difficulty.

I remain
Faithfully yours,

          _Lord Randolph Churchill to Sir Stafford Northcote._

2 Connaught Place, W.: March 11.

     Dear Sir Stafford Northcote,--I beg to acknowledge the receipt of
     your letter. I do not see my way to complete acquiescence in the
     views which you have been kind enough to express to me. Since I
     have been in Parliament I have always acted on my own account, and
     I shall continue to do so, for I have not found the results of such
     a line of action at all unsatisfactory. It is not in the power of
     any Conservative, however hostile towards me he may feel, to throw
     the slightest doubt upon the orthodoxy of my political views, and
     with respect to what may conduce to the ultimate benefit of the
     Tory party I conceive that the widest latitude of opinion at the
     present moment is not only allowable but, indeed, imperative.

     You have not thought it necessary to allude to the remarks I made
     in reply to your first letter concerning the censure, the intrigue,
     the dislike, open or imperfectly concealed, of several of those who
     appear to be deeply in your confidence, and who may possibly be
     comprised amongst those whom you designate as ‘leaders.’ These are
     matters on which I am perfectly informed and equally unconcerned,
     but at the same time their existence rather weakens the effect of
     the second letter which I have received from you. The parties I
     allude to have a past to get rid of; I have not; and the numerous
     letters which I have for some time received, and which I continue
     to receive, from all parts of the country, and from all sorts of
     individuals and bodies, enable me to be confident that my political
     actions and views are not so entirely personal as you would seem to

     In conclusion, I would observe that I did not commence this
     correspondence, but that, as you have done me the honour to
     communicate to me your opinions on my attitude in Parliament, I am
     under the impression that it would not be respectful to you if I
     were not to avail myself of this opportunity to place clearly
     before you what that attitude will continue to be. It will be the
     same in the future as it has been in the past; and as I have no
     particular personal object to gain, and therefore nothing to lose,
     I can await the result with very considerable equanimity.

I have the honour to remain
Yours very faithfully,

This correspondence heralded a state of war. The Tory leaders affected
to regard Lord Randolph Churchill as a contumacious fellow who
represented no one but himself, and pushed inordinate pretension with
boundless impudence. They continued wilfully blind to the ever-growing
movement in his favour of popular opinion among their own party all over
the country. Lord Randolph, on his part, was not slow or reluctant to
assert his power. In December 1882 he had been visited by a deputation
of the principal Conservatives of Manchester, inviting him to be their
candidate for the then undivided representation of that great city. He
complained openly to the deputation of the feeble conduct of the
Opposition, and these serious gentlemen did not hesitate to greet with
unmistakable approbation censures which he passed upon their own

‘I see no good object,’ he said, ‘to be gained by concealing my opinion
that the constitutional function of an Opposition is to oppose and not
support the Government, and that this function has during the three
sessions of this Parliament been either systematically neglected or
defectively carried out. More than once since the present Government
came into office legitimate opportunities have arisen for conflict,
which ought to have resulted in the overthrow of the Ministry or in
great damage thereto; and those opportunities have been allowed to pass
by unavailed of. I would venture to lay down with confidence the
principle that the healthy vitality of a party is not to be estimated by
great speeches in the country, but only by its action in Parliament;
and if its action in Parliament is observed to fall considerably below
the level of its great speeches in the country, depend upon it there is
something or other not altogether satisfactory in its constitution.’

A more decisive declaration was soon to be required. The statue of Lord
Beaconsfield was now finished, and April 19, as the anniversary of his
death, had been fixed for its unveiling. Towards the end of March the
programme of the ceremony was made public and it was found that the
principal part of unveiling the statue and pronouncing the eulogy had
been assumed by Sir Stafford Northcote, while to Lord Salisbury was
relegated the very secondary function of proposing a vote of thanks to
Sir Stafford for his speech. The general, if tacit, acquiescence of the
Conservative party in these dispositions could only mean that Sir
Stafford Northcote was their recognised and adopted leader and would be
the head of any Conservative Government which might come into being.
Lord Randolph Churchill was so persuaded of the futility of such an
arrangement that he determined at any risk to make a protest, which
should at least prevent its unanimous acceptance. On March 29 a letter,
which was assigned especial prominence and attracted much attention,
appeared in the _Times_, from ‘A Tory,’ complaining that Sir Stafford
Northcote was to unveil the statue and denouncing his selection as the
triumph of a ‘faction’ over the more numerous adherents of Lord
Salisbury. Two days later (April 2) Lord Randolph struck his blow.

He had prepared his statement with deliberation and he showed it
privately to several intimate friends. All, with the single exception of
Mr. Chenery, the Editor of the _Times_, who had a journalist’s eye for
‘copy,’ disapproved of its terms and tone. Some urged him not to publish
it. One such appeal lies before me as I write. ‘Let me beseech you to
stop your letter. I may be presumptuous; I may be importunate; but I am
sincere--so listen to me. Your letter is a libel on your own party; it
lacks finish; it will offend the _whole_ party; it will offend the
public. You impute as an offence the attention paid to tradesmanlike
counsellors. What will the tradesmen think of you? They will be
challenged to reject you, inasmuch as you despise them.... You are now a
power in the party; you have pressed heavily on the leaders; you do so
to-day, and may continue to do so if you will husband your resources.
They don’t like it. If they can blow you out of the way they will, and
your letter gives them the chance they have been waiting for.... You are
attacking them at the wrong moment. Your victim has been ill, sent off
to recruit his strength, is back again at his post supported by good
wishes and receiving sympathy from all. Are you wanting in generosity?
No. _I_ say, “No”; but will the public, will your enemies say “No”?...
Such a letter could only be justified by its success. It will be a
failure. Your best friends will be unable to prove you right; and when
once the tyrant-throne you have raised for yourself, and by yourself,
begins to lose the support of the outside public, your enemies within
the party will hurry to overwhelm you in its ruins.’

The letter was published forthwith. ‘The position of the Conservative
party,’ wrote Lord Randolph,[12] ‘is hopeful and critical. Everything
depends upon the Liberals keeping their leader, and upon the
Conservatives finding one. An Opposition never wants a policy; but an
Opposition, if it is to become a strong Government, must have a leader.
The country, though it may be disposed to dispense with Mr. Gladstone
and his colleagues, is not likely to exchange them for an arrangement
which would practically place the Premiership in commission. The
Conservative party must decide at once upon a name. This is more
important with the modern electorate than a cry; but at the present
moment, when the battle may be joined any day, we have fixed upon

Yet the Conservative party had an ample choice. ‘Lord Salisbury, Lord
Cairns, and Sir Stafford Northcote all possess great and peculiar
qualifications. If the electors are in a negative frame of mind they may
accept Sir Stafford Northcote; if they are in a cautious frame of mind
they may shelter themselves under Lord Cairns; if they are in an English
frame of mind they will rally round Lord Salisbury.’ He proceeded to
review the conduct of the Opposition during the last three sessions.
‘Such a series of neglected opportunities, pusillanimity, combativeness
at wrong moments, vacillation, dread of responsibility, repression and
discouragement of hard-working followers, collusions with the
Government, hankerings after coalitions, jealousies, commonplaces, want
of perception on the part of the former lieutenants of Lord
Beaconsfield, no one but he who has watched carefully and intelligently
the course of affairs in Parliament, can adequately realise or
sufficiently express; and if it be the case that Ministers have lost
ground in the country, they have only themselves to blame, nor have they
the slightest right to cherish feelings of resentment against the
regular and responsible Opposition in the House of Commons.

‘There are many, I know well, among the Conservative party out of the
House of Commons who are convinced that if the present opportunities for
success are neglected or inadequately turned to account, the days of the
Tory party, as we know it, are in all probability numbered; who are
convinced, further, that if these opportunities are handled by
third-rate statesmen, such as were just good enough to fill subordinate
offices while Lord Beaconsfield was alive, they will be neglected or
inadequately turned to account. Many of the party in the country are
determined that their efforts and their industry shall not result merely
in the short-lived triumph and speedy disgrace of _bourgeois_ placemen,
“honourable” Tadpoles, hungry Tapers, Irish lawyers. The Conservative
party was formed for better ends than these....

’ ...Lord Salisbury alone among those who have endeavoured to guide the
action of the Conservative party, has agitated Scotland and arrested the
attention of the Midlands. His name and influence in Lancashire are more
than sufficient to counterbalance any advantages which may have accrued
to the Liberal party from the adhesion of Lord Derby. Even his opponents
admit that he has projected a policy rightly conceiving and eloquently
expressing the true principles of popular Toryism. Against him are
directed all the malignant efforts of envious mediocrity, and it is
essential to the future well-being of the Tory party that these
machinations should no longer be permitted to obscure the paramount
claims of the one man who is capable, not only of overturning, but also
of replacing Mr. Gladstone, and who--partly from a magnanimous trust in
the good faith of others, partly from a very high, perhaps an
exaggerated, idea of political loyalty--is in danger of being sacrificed
to the internecine jealousies of some of the most useless of his former

The publication of this letter excited, as his friends had foreseen, an
outburst of indignation against Lord Randolph Churchill. All sections of
the Conservative party--including many members who were thoroughly
dissatisfied with the conduct of their leaders--united in disowning him
and his opinions. When he went down to the House on the morrow of his
letter scarcely a member would speak to him, and he sat, alone and
abandoned, hunched up in his corner seat. When Sir Stafford Northcote
rose to address some questions to Ministers he received a tremendous
ovation. Even Mr. Gorst publicly signified his allegiance to him on
April 4. On the same day Mr. W. H. Smith denounced Lord Randolph’s
letter as an attempt to sow discord in the Conservative ranks and as a
foul wrong to both Lord Salisbury and Sir Stafford Northcote. Mr.
Chaplin, Mr. Northcote (speaking with the authority of his father), and
Mr. Lowther meted out their heavy and righteous censures. Tory and
Liberal newspapers vied with each other in wrathful or derisive comment.
Two hundred members of the Conservative party attached their names to a
memorial expressing their trust and confidence in Sir Stafford, which
memorial was duly presented to him by one of their most valued
representatives, Sir John Mowbray. Lord Salisbury preserved a golden
silence. Never was politician so utterly isolated, so totally
repudiated, so signally rebuked, by all of those persons of influence
and position upon whose support he must depend.

But the results were curiously barren. The intense irritation at
Westminster and in the Carlton found no encouragement in the
constituencies. The vehement attacks to which Lord Randolph was
subjected aroused no echo in the great provincial centres. Country
newspapers were restrained in their criticism. The _Times_ gave him a
cautious, left-handed, but effective support. Manchester showed no wish
to withdraw its invitation. The working-class electors declined to have
their indignation manufactured from the London clubs and offices; and
the conviction steadily gained acceptance and assertion that, whatever
might be thought of his methods, on the merits of the case ‘Randy was
right.’ So, indeed, he was. In rough but perfectly unmistakable language
he had proclaimed a vital truth. He had declared that which most men
knew in their hearts, even though they would not or dared not admit it.
No amount of memorials or party demonstrations, no loud disclaimers,
could prevail against facts which were every day becoming more flagrant.

For a week Lord Randolph remained silent and solitary in his corner
seat. Then, just as the storm showed signs of abating, just when the
worthies were asking themselves whether, after all, they had not been
too hard on a young man who could be, if he only chose, a powerful ally,
he published his second letter in the _Times_. In this he described the
utter breakdown of ‘the dual control’ by which the Conservative party
was afflicted, how Lord Salisbury had been deserted on the Arrears Bill
and how Sir Henry Wolff had been actually impeded in his original
opposition to Mr. Bradlaugh by Sir Stafford Northcote. ‘The differences
of principle which sever the Conservatives from the Radicals are even
greater and more vital to the future of the nation than those which
agitated the times of Pitt and Fox, or the more recent days of the Duke
of Wellington and Lord Grey. The questions of the continuation of the
monarchy, the existence of an hereditary legislature, the preservation
of a central government for the three kingdoms, the connection between
Church and State, are all more or less rapidly coming within the range
of practical politics.... On all these and such like questions the
Conservative party hold strong opinions, and if these opinions are to
prevail it is essential that they should be represented by, and
identified with, a statesman who fears not to meet and who knows how to
sway immense masses of the working classes and who either by his genius
or his eloquence, or by all the varied influences of an ancient name,
can “move the hearts of households.” Without such a leader the
Conservative party is beaten even before the battle is begun....

’ ...I am not in the least alarmed,’ the writer concluded, ‘by the
violence of the replies to the letter which you were good enough to
insert a week ago. I know well that many of those who are expressing
with so much heat and indignation their disagreement with my views have
themselves on many occasions during the present Parliament been loud in
their condemnation of the apathy and irresolution of the Opposition and
of the fatal influence exercised by one or two of those who surround the
leader. It is because of my belief that the maintenance of the
Constitution and the existence of a strong, resolute, intelligent and
active Tory party are inseparably connected with each other that I have
referred to the incidents of the past with the object of averting grave
disaster in the future. If that object is even approached by my letters
to you, I am only too happy to bear the brunt of a little temporary
effervescence and to be the scapegoat on which doomed mediocrities may
lay the burden of their exposed incapacity....’

Mr. Chenery was very doubtful about this letter and urged Lord Randolph
not to publish it. ‘You have produced,’ he wrote, ‘a great effect by the
first letter, which this, in my opinion, would only undo.’ But Lord
Randolph persisted and the letter was printed. On April 19 Sir Stafford
Northcote unveiled the Beaconsfield statue. Lord Randolph wrote for the
_Fortnightly Review_ of May a reflective description of this event. He
called the article, from which various quotations have already been
made, ‘Elijah’s Mantle.’ He cannot claim in any special degree the gift
of letters. In private he wrote exactly as he would have spoken to his
friends. His public writings were for the most part speeches set forth
on paper. But ‘Elijah’s Mantle’ shows a higher degree of literary
excellence than any other record he has left behind him. In its
picturesque presentment, in its well-chosen words, in the lucidity and
force of the argument, it proved not unworthy of the almost universal
attention which the personality of the writer drew upon it from the
political world.

Lord Randolph described the unveiling of the statue ‘under a murky sky
and amidst splashing rain’; the melancholy change which a few years had
effected in the position and prospects of the once mighty party Lord
Beaconsfield had led; the imposing majority of 1874, now transferred
bodily to the Liberal side; and the sudden and stunning nature of the
catastrophe of 1880. What a surprise it was to the placemen, the rank
and file and ‘the old men who crooned over the fires at the Carlton’!
‘That some malign and venomous genius must suddenly have possessed the
mind of the people’ was their only explanation. And on all this Lord
Beaconsfield’s death--‘the crowning blow sent by a mischievous and
evil-minded fortune.’ While ‘the Chief’ lived, hope had lived too. But
from the hour of his death every Tory, in and out of Parliament, high or
low, rich or poor, had exclaimed, muttered or thought: ‘Oh, if Lord
Beaconsfield were alive!’ That was a monument to the departed leader
more enduring than the bronze on the Abbey Green. Was it not also a
criticism, pointed and unanswerable, upon the conduct of affairs since
his death, which ‘no amount of memorials of confidence, no number of
dinners in Pall Mall, no repetitions, however frequent, of gushing
embraces between the Lord and the Commoner,’ could gainsay?

Lord Randolph thought that Lord Beaconsfield’s career could be painted
in a single sentence: ‘Failure, failure, failure, partial success,
renewed failure, ultimate and complete triumph.’ The victory of 1874 had
given a golden opportunity to the Tories; but owing to the natural decay
of Lord Beaconsfield’s physical vigour, that opportunity had been
wasted. Would it return? ‘The Liberals can afford better to sustain
great disasters than the Conservatives, for there is a recuperative
power innate in Liberal principles--the result of the longing of the
human mind for progress and for adventure--which enables them to recover
rapidly and unexpectedly from misfortunes which would seem to be fatal.
The Tories, though possessing many other advantages, fail in this
respect. As time goes on, their successes will be fewer and separated
from each other by intervals of growing length; unless, indeed, the
policy and the principles of the Tory party should undergo a surprising
development; unless the secret of Lord Beaconsfield’s theory of
government is appropriated, understood, believed in, sown broadcast
amongst the people; unless the mantle of Elijah should fall upon some
one who is capable enough and fortunate enough, carrying with him a
united party, to bring to perfection those schemes of Imperial rule and
of social reform which Lord Beaconsfield had only time to dream of, to
hint at, and to sketch.’

Lord Randolph then proceeded to outline for the first time the
conception of Tory Democracy which had now possessed his mind.

‘Some of Lord Beaconsfield’s phrases will bear any amount of microscopic
examination. Speaking at Manchester in 1871, by the alteration of a
letter in a quotation from the Vulgate he revealed the policy which
ought to guide Tory leaders at the present tune: “Sanitas sanitatum,
omnia sanitas.” Such was the quotation, in which a careful mind will
discover a scheme of social progress and reform of dimensions so large
and wide-spreading that many volumes would not suffice to explain its
details. By it is shadowed forth, and in it is embraced, a social
revolution which, passing by and diverting attention from wild longings
for organic change, commences with the little, peddling Boards of Health
which occupy and delight the Local Government Department, comprises Lord
Salisbury’s plans for the amelioration of the dwellings of the poor,
carries with it Lord Carnarvon’s ideal of compulsory national insurance,
includes Sir Wilfrid Lawson’s temperance propaganda, preserves and
reclaims commons and open spaces--favoured by Mr. Bryce--constructs
people’s parks, collects and opens to the masses museums, libraries,
art-galleries, does not disdain the public washhouses of Mr. Jesse
Collings. Public and private thrift must animate the whole, for it is
from public thrift that the funds for these largesses can be drawn and
it is by private thrift alone that their results can be utilised and
appreciated. The expression “Tory Democracy” has excited the wonder of
some, the alarm of others, and great and bitter ridicule from the
Radical party. But the “Tory Democracy” may yet exist; the elements for
its composition only require to be collected and the labour may some day
possibly be effected by the man, whoever he may be, upon whom the mantle
of Elijah has descended.’

Lord Randolph’s letters had aimed at establishing the leadership of Lord
Salisbury and had constituted an appeal to him to come forward and head
the ‘New Tories.’ They also intimated with tolerable plainness that if
Lord Salisbury were unable or unwilling to don the mantle, there was
another who would not hesitate to assume it. References to ‘a statesman
who fears not to meet, and who knows how to sway, immense masses of the
working classes,’ and who ‘by all the varied influences of an ancient
name can move “the hearts of households,”’ although directly applied to
Lord Salisbury, were obviously capable of an alternative interpretation.
The suggestion was perfectly understood by all and in political circles
a hearty, concerted, but deplorably unsuccessful attempt was made to
laugh it out of existence.

By the end of April it was evident that the outburst against Lord
Randolph Churchill had in no wise injured his position in the country.
In order to meet the difficulties of the Bradlaugh case and the repeated
explosions of passion to which it gave rise, the Prime Minister had
introduced the Affirmation Bill, which would enable persons of no
religious belief to affirm, like Quakers, instead of taking the ordinary
oath. On this Mr. Gladstone delivered one of his most magnificent
orations. When Lord Randolph replied (April 30) he was heard with severe
and respectful attention in all parts of the House. He spoke long and
thoughtfully, and, although no one could maintain the elevation to which
Mr. Gladstone had raised the debate, it was felt that the Minister’s
arguments had been not inadequately met.

[Illustration: _Reproduced by permission of the proprietors of ‘Punch,’_


LITTLE LORD R.: ‘Ah! they’ll have to give me a statue--some day!!’

_Punch_ April 28, 1883.]

‘The present Bill,’ he said, ‘is not for the benefit of the whole
nation; it is for the benefit of one man, and it is brought in in
deference to clamour and violence. Let us consider for a moment who
are the classes outside which are opposed to the representative of
atheism. They are the religious, the moral, the law-abiding, and the
industrious. Who are the personal supporters of atheism outside this
House? For the most part they are the residuum, the rabble, and the scum
of the population; the bulk of them are persons to whom all
restraint--religious, moral, or legal--is odious and intolerable. Why
are we so anxious to give these latter a victory and a triumph over the

‘I take this Bill of the Government and I strip it of all those flimsy
disguises with which the Prime Minister so ingeniously but so uselessly
clothed it and I place it naked before the Parliament and before the
country--a Bill for the admission of avowed atheists into the House of
Commons--and I say that this is a fundamental change in the Constitution
of such vital and momentous importance that the people of this country
will not hastily ratify it and that the opinion of the country must be
ascertained before the Parliament can assent to it.

‘We must not only think of the relief of Mr. Bradlaugh, or of the relief
of this House from a slight difficulty; we must think what would be the
effect on the people of this State of a recognition of unlawful
doctrines, and of giving place in the immediate governing body to a man
who professes and who preaches that the Christian religion, on which our
law has been founded, is false, its morality defective, and its promises
illusory. Shall we not be giving to those doctrines a tremendous
impetus by altering the Constitution of this country, in order that they
may be officially represented in our Councils and may influence our
decisions? Can we contemplate without alarm the revulsion that such an
act might occasion among those masses of the people who, with some hope
of a happier state hereafter, are toiling their weary way through the
world, content to tolerate for a time their less fortunate lot--the
revulsion that would occur if they inferred from the action of the
Legislature that it was even possible for their faith to be false?
Surely the horrors of the French Revolution should give some idea of the
effect on the masses of the State recognition of atheism! It is from
disasters such as those that we have been very probably preserved by the
Christian characteristics of the community. Let me quote the words of
Lord Erskine: “The religious and moral sense of the people of Great
Britain is the sheet-anchor which alone can hold the vessel of State
amidst the storms that agitate the world.”

‘The peculiarity of the English Constitution is that it is founded upon
and incorporated with the Christian morality. It is a characteristic
which is possessed by no other nation, however free or however great;
and does it not occur to you that the extraordinary prosperity and
duration and apparent future of our Empire is not, perhaps, unconnected
with this famous characteristic?

‘You,’ he concluded, pointing to the Liberal party, ‘proudly claim the
task of carrying the cause of religious liberty to its furthest
imaginable limits; be it ours, I reply, nor is it less noble, to
endeavour to restrain your aspirations within the bounds of reason and
of policy.’

The division produced a great excitement. When the numbers were declared
it was found that the Affirmation Bill had upon its second reading been
cast out by a majority of three (292--289).

The satisfaction of the Tory party and of some of the best and worthiest
people in it at this result was enormous. In the House of Commons very
largely, and outside in the Press and among the electors almost
entirely, the credit of the victory was assigned to Lord Randolph. ‘The
best speech he has ever made’ was Sir Henry James’s comment. The _Punch_
cartoon of the week represented him as Ariel urging his hounds to the
pursuit and expulsion of Caliban. Once again he was the hero of the
hour. One among many letters of approval and congratulation must have
given him especial pleasure, and may be quoted here. ‘Though it is years
since we met,’ wrote Dr. Creighton (May 1, 1883), ‘and though I only
live as a vague memory in your mind, I cannot help writing you a few
lines to say how much I admired your speech last night. As an observer
of the course of politics who tries to give them an historical value, I
watch your career with growing interest. It seems to me that you combine
in a remarkable degree the real principles of statesmanship with an
attention to the conditions under which our political life has to be
carried on. It is easy to be a doctrinaire; it is easy to be a purely
party politician; it is not easy to combine the two into a distinct line
of policy. I recognise with admiration your increasing success in this
direction and your genuine devotion to the serious pursuit of politics.’

‘It is indeed a pleasure to me,’ wrote Lord Randolph in reply, ‘to know
that you have not forgotten your former rather unsatisfactory pupil and
that you follow, not without interest and perhaps with some hope, a
course of which Fate has not yet determined the form or the end.’

The ceremony of April 19, 1883, was the origin of a new idea destined to
spread and flourish over an ever-widening area during all the years that
have followed. The Fourth Party had grown spontaneously out of the
Bradlaugh controversy. The Primrose League sprang from the unveiling of
Lord Beaconsfield’s statue. Sir Henry Wolff did not attend in his place
to hear Sir Stafford Northcote’s speech and Lord Salisbury’s vote of
thanks, and he arrived at the House of Commons late in the afternoon.
The well-known superintendent of the members’ cloak-room, Mr. Cove, said
to him, ‘You must have a primrose,’ and gave him one. Thus adorned, Sir
Henry entered the Chamber and found the whole Conservative party
similarly decorated with Lord Beaconsfield’s favourite flower. The fact
impressed him vividly and he said to Lord Randolph Churchill as they
walked home together, ‘What a show of Primroses! This should be turned
to account. Why not start a “Primrose League”?’ Lord Randolph was
instantly interested. ‘Draw up a plan,’ he said, ‘to carry out your idea
and we will see what can be done.’

Sir Henry Wolff set to work at once. He looked for his models to the
Orange Society which was influential in his constituency of Portsmouth,
and to the numerous benefit societies--Foresters, Oddfellows, Good
Templars, and the like--with which he was acquainted. He saw how popular
the badges, grades, and honorary distinctions of these bodies were with
the working classes who supported them. He resolved that the Primrose
League should be inferior to none of these in the variety of its regalia
or the magniloquence of its titles. He discussed all this at length with
Lord Randolph Churchill from day to day; but it was not until the autumn
that anyone else was admitted to their councils. During October and
November the first practical steps were taken. Lord Randolph Churchill,
Sir John Gorst, Sir Henry Wolff, and Sir Alfred Slade met together to
form ‘a new political society which should embrace all classes and all
creeds except atheists and enemies of the British nation.’ All four were
members of the Council of the National Union. They had exceptional
knowledge of the state of Conservative organisations. They saw quite
clearly the failure of the existing Conservative and Constitutional
Associations to suit the popular taste or to succeed in joining all
classes together in defence of the essential doctrines of Toryism. The
constitution of the League, its objects and its machinery were settled
even in detail at meetings held during these two months. Specimen badges
were made. The declaration to be signed by every member of the League
was drawn up by Sir John Gorst in the following terms: ‘I declare, on my
honour and faith, that I will devote my best ability to the _Maintenance
of Religion_, of the _Estates of the Realm_ and of the _Imperial
Ascendency of the British Empire_, and that, consistently with my
allegiance to the Sovereign of these Realms, I will promote with
discretion and fidelity the above objects, being those of the Primrose
League.’ Finally on November 17, in the card-room of the Carlton Club,
these four gentlemen resolved themselves into the Ruling Council of the
League with power to add to their number.

The circle was then gradually increased by the addition of Lord
Randolph’s closest political allies. Colonel Burnaby, Mr. Percy Mitford,
Mr. Dixon Hartland and Sir Algernon Borthwick attended the next few
meetings. Great efforts were being made by the leaders of the
Conservative party in Birmingham to induce Lord Randolph to stand for
that city. Mr. Joseph Rowlands and other prominent Birmingham men were
frequently in London on that errand; all were pressed into the League.
Lord Randolph Churchill’s numerous relations were enlisted. A Ladies’
Grand Council was formed, of which Lady Randolph and Lady Borthwick were
members and the Duchess of Marlborough the President. A humble office
was taken on a second floor in Essex Street, Strand, and the first
public announcement was made December 18, 1883, in the advertisement
columns of the _Times_ and the _Morning Post_, as follows:--

     THE PRIMROSE TORY LEAGUE.--Gentlemen wishing to be enrolled in the
     Primrose Tory League must apply in writing to the Registrar,
     Primrose League, care of Messrs. Lacy, Hartland & Co., Bankers,
     London, E.C., or Messrs. Hopkinson & Sons, Bankers, 3 Regent
     Street, London, by whom all information will be supplied.

The new political society was in its beginnings viewed with sour
distrust by all Conservatives who were officially orthodox, virtuous and
loyal. It was regarded as a dodge of the Fourth Party and a new weapon
of schism. The struggle on the council of the National Union during the
year 1884, which must soon be described, intensified these feelings. The
early Primrose knights and dames wore their badges everywhere in public
and faced in consequence the keenest ridicule. The _Morning Post_ was
their only substantial ally. The statutes and ordinances of the League
excited the derision of almost all of those who, a few years later, were
proud to subscribe to them. The idea in itself was vital; but only the
personality of Lord Randolph Churchill and the hopes and enthusiasms
which he excited, prevented it from being smothered during its first few
months of existence. As it was, only 957 members--including, however,
many persons of influence--had enrolled themselves by the end of 1884,
and 11,366 by the end of 1885. The Home Rule struggle raised these
numbers to 237,283 in 1886 and 565,861 in 1887. A million members was
reached in 1891 and the League claims at the present time, twenty-one
years after its foundation, to have 1,703,708 knights, dames, and
associates upon its rolls; and although its merits as a national
institution must necessarily be variously appraised, its power and
utility as a political engine have never been questioned.

As the session drew on, the warfare in the House of Commons became
fiercer. Day after day Lord Randolph and his friends assailed the
Government with amazing variety and increasing violence. The Prime
Minister was repeatedly forced to defend himself and his colleagues from
reproach and his encounters with Lord Randolph Churchill were of almost
nightly occurrence. ‘You will kill Mr. Gladstone one of these days,’
said some one to Lord Randolph. ‘Oh, no!’ he rejoined, ‘he will long
survive me. I often tell my wife what a beautiful letter he will write
her, proposing my burial in Westminster Abbey.’

[Illustration: Primrose League Diploma of Knighthood certificate]

In all this fighting the hostility of the Front Opposition Bench to the
Fourth Party was very plainly marked. Sir Stafford Northcote repeatedly
dissociated himself from Lord Randolph, repudiated him, rebuked him, and
even supported the Government against him. A Treasury minute had been
issued forbidding Civil Servants to petition the Government through
members of Parliament. Forthwith Lord Randolph announced that on a named
day he would present 250 petitions signed by over 2,000 Civil
Servants. Although Ministers took no action against the signatories,
Lord Randolph raised the whole matter in the House as a question of
privilege. In his speech he attacked extravagantly Mr. Algernon West,
who, as Chairman of the Board of Inland Revenue, had signed the
offending circular. He condemned the practice of Cabinet Ministers--Sir
Stafford Northcote as well as Mr. Gladstone--of appointing their former
private secretaries to important posts in the Civil Service. The
training of a private secretary--‘among the backstairs intrigues and
dirty work of office’--was no fit preparation for departmental
employment. An attack on a public servant ‘who cannot defend himself’ is
always resented by the supporters of a Government. On this occasion Mr.
Gladstone and Sir Stafford Northcote vied with each other in terms of
reprobation. Sir Stafford said he had never heard so many misstatements
in a single speech. Mr. Gladstone regretted that Lord Randolph should
degrade his Parliamentary position by such conduct. The House indulged
itself in that pleasant warmth which comes from righteous indignation.

Lord Randolph had persuaded himself, upon a mass of evidence collected
for him by Mr. Wilfrid Blunt and others in Egypt, that the Khedive
Tewfik was indirectly responsible for the massacre of June 11, 1882,
which he believed had been instigated from the palace in order to
compass the ruin of Arabi and the national movement, and provoke
decisively the intervention of the European Powers. Having adopted this
opinion, he held tenaciously to it, and thrust it upon Parliament with
earnestness and even with passion. Although in the first instance he had
supported the pension to Lord Alcester for his services in bombarding
Alexandria, on the ground that it was a reward to the naval profession
as a whole, he availed himself of the passage of the necessary Bill
(June 8) to bring forward his charges against the Khedive. The House was
astonished at his vehemence. The Prime Minister’s reply was, however,
curiously guarded. He did not absolutely deny the charge. All he said
was that the information in the possession of the Government afforded
not the least confirmation of it. It was a ‘tremendous charge,’ and the
Government would be glad to examine the evidence on which it was based.
Indeed, it was Sir Stafford Northcote who used the hardest language.
While admitting that he considered the warlike intervention in Egypt
wrong and unjustifiable, he expressed ‘extreme regret’ at Lord
Randolph’s attempt to raise such an issue on the vote for a naval reward
to a distinguished officer. ‘I decline,’ he said, ‘to be led by the
noble lord, and I trust the House will decline to be induced by the
noble lord to accept a position which I consider would be degrading to
its honour.’ This, as Mr. Gorst said later in the debate, was a
statement which would have been better made by the Prime Minister than
by the leader of the Opposition, who, however he might view the opinions
of Lord Randolph Churchill, should leave it to opponents to attack him.

The affair proceeded further. One of Arabi’s officers, Suleiman Sami,
was brought before a courtmartial on the charge of burning Alexandria.
The witnesses demanded by the defence were not allowed to appear; the
trial was unexpectedly curtailed; and the prisoner was sentenced to
death. Lord Randolph exerted himself to procure at least delay before
the sentence was executed, in order that the irregularities at the trial
might be exposed. He declared that Suleiman Sami was himself a witness
whose death would be ‘a god-send to the Egyptian Government.’ Plied with
questions and appeals, the Government undertook to make inquiries; but
before any satisfactory information was obtained and while the House was
still under the impression that the matter was in suspense, Suleiman
Sami was hanged. On this being known the feeling in the Conservative
party was so strong that Sir Stafford himself moved the adjournment of
the House to discuss the conduct of Ministers in regard to the
execution, which Lord Randolph furiously described as ‘the grossest and
vilest judicial murder that ever stained the annals of Oriental
justice.’ In this attack the Fourth Party were supported by the great
mass of Conservative members.

At Mr. Gladstone’s invitation, Lord Randolph laid before him a quantity
of evidence which he had obtained in support of his assertions. This
evidence was examined by Ministers and officially rejected; but it is
remarkable that the Government took no steps, by rebutting it in detail,
to discredit their pertinacious assailant. They could not tell how far
a fearless and impartial inquiry into the labyrinth of sanguinary
intrigue which had cumbered the field of Egyptian politics before the
British intervention might carry them. They wrapped themselves in a
silence of prudence or disdain, and Lord Randolph continued to repeat
his statements with undiminished assurance. He forwarded formally to Sir
Stafford Northcote, among others, a copy of the evidence he had sent to
the Prime Minister. The style and superscription of the acknowledging
letter afford a key to their relations at this period:--

30 St. James’s Place: July 1, 1883.

     Dear Lord R. Churchill,--I am much obliged to you for sending me a
     copy of the papers you have submitted to Mr. Gladstone.--I remain
     faithfully yours,


The Bill for the Suppression of Corrupt and Illegal Practices at
Parliamentary Elections brought the Fourth Party together almost for the
last time. As it passed through the Committee stage in the beginning of
July, all the four friends spoke frequently upon it and supported each
other. One night, July 3, having dined together at Lord Randolph’s
house, they descended upon the House of Commons rather late and, not
having heard the early part of the discussion, demanded with perverse
audacity that the Chairman should read the clause, as it stood amended,
from the Chair. Sir Henry Wolff was the first to make the request and he
threatened to move to report progress unless it was granted. Mr.
Gladstone--always in attendance on the House--did not deny the right of
members to make such a demand; but hoped that an evil precedent would
not be established. Lord Randolph appealed to the Chair. The Chairman
intimated that, having read the clause twice, he would read it no more.
Mr. Balfour then made a conciliatory speech, proposing that as a
compromise the Attorney-General, Sir Henry James, should read the
clause. Sir Henry James refused. Sir Henry Wolff thereupon moved to
report progress. By this time the House was very full. Sir Stafford
Northcote supported the Government and urged Sir Henry not to persist.
Lord Randolph then, under repeated interruptions from Ministerialists,
amid growing excitement, attacked the Government and Mr. Gladstone and
Mr. Herbert Gladstone ‘brought in to cheer the Prime Minister’ and all
their works; but to Sir Stafford he was very polite and deferential and
he expressed in modest language the hope that the leader of the
Opposition would, after all, support them in their protest. The appeal
was, however, fruitless.

On one occasion about this time Lord Salisbury himself seems to have
expostulated with Sir Henry Wolff. But the member for Portsmouth had his
own methods of defence. ‘I do not understand,’ said Lord Salisbury as
they walked together one day, ‘what your real political position is.’
‘Oh, I am a “Smithite,” Lord Salisbury,’ replied Sir Henry
reverentially,--‘a convinced “Smithite” in politics.’ ‘But what is your
object?’ inquired the Tory leader. ‘To do good,’ was the bland
response,--‘simply to do good’; and the conversation passed on to other

From these contentions Lord Randolph was suddenly withdrawn by a solemn
and unexpected event. On June 28 the Duke of Marlborough persuaded the
House of Lords to reject by a narrow majority (145--140) the Deceased
Wife’s Sister Bill upon its third reading. His speech was perhaps the
best he had ever made. It was also his last. On the night of July 4,
when he went to bed, he seemed in the best of health and spirits. Early
the next morning he was found dead by his servants, struck down by that
same swift, unheralded affection of the heart which was a few years
later to end the life of his heir. Lord Randolph was profoundly shocked
and grieved by his father’s death. He passed many hours reading over his
father’s letters, all carefully preserved from his boyhood days. That
strong religious strain in his nature to which reference has already
been made, afforded him consolation in this season of trouble and,
though always a devout man, he became much more regular in devotional
exercises than at any other period of his life. He had in his hands the
threads of half a dozen political enterprises, for the success of which
his constant presence in the House of Commons was necessary. He cast
them all away from him and retired at once to Blenheim. Many appeals
were made to him to return to the arena, where his absence was instantly
felt and regretted even by those in his own party who were antagonistic
to him. But nothing would induce him to go near Parliament for the rest
of the year. ‘You are very kind,’ he wrote to Wolff, ‘wanting me to come
back to the House; but it is quite impossible. I am not up to it
physically or mentally, and am longing to get away abroad.... It is very
melancholy here--sad recollections at every moment. Nothing can be nicer
than Blandford to everyone.’

The two brothers were very closely drawn together by their common
mourning, and all bitterness faded at once out of the political world.
Sir Stafford Northcote wrote, in the gentle courtesy of his nature, a
generous and affectionate letter of sympathy and regret and a private
correspondence followed between them which stands in pleasant contrast
to the general course of their relations and shows that in modern times
personal kindness and good feeling lie never very far below the sullen
surface of English politics.

Lord Randolph hurried away with his wife and son to Gastein before the
month was out and here his spirits gradually regained their usual
buoyancy. His brother joined him late in August and they dawdled home
together through Switzerland, visiting its beautiful places, climbing
the Rigi ‘like the meanest and commonest of Tow Rows,’ and so back to
Blenheim. During the autumn and winter the Duke of Marlborough persuaded
Lord Randolph to start again his pack of harriers; and this
pursuit--together with the project, about which the new master of
Blenheim was keenly excited, of bringing the railway from Oxford to
Woodstock--proved so absorbing that politics seem for a time to have
been almost abandoned.



     ‘The Tory party in this country is the national party; it is the
     really democratic party of England. It supports the institutions of
     the country, because they have been established for the common
     good, and because they secure the equality of civil rights without
     which, whatever may be its name, no government can be free, and
     based upon which principle every government, however it may be
     styled, is, in fact, a democracy.’

B. DISRAELI: _A Vindication of the English Constitution_.

[Sidenote: 1882-1885]

The conditions of British politics during the Parliament of 1880,
whether in the House of Commons or abroad in the country, were
peculiar--perhaps unprecedented. Mr. Gladstone’s Administration,
outwardly so powerful alike in the capacity of its members and the
number and fidelity of its supporters, was divided by zig-zag, oblique,
inconsistent yet fundamental dissensions. Nor were these disturbances
the temporary or accidental effect of particular men or measures. There
were important measures. There were earnest, ambitious men. But
something more lay behind the unrest and uncertainties of the day. Not
merely the decay of a Government or the natural over-ripeness of a party
produced the agitations of 1885 and 1886. It was the end of an epoch.
The long dominion of the middle classes, which had begun in 1832, had
come to its close and with it the almost equal reign of Liberalism. The
great victories had been won. All sorts of lumbering tyrannies had been
toppled over. Authority was everywhere broken. Slaves were free.
Conscience was free. Trade was free. But hunger and squalor and cold
were also free; and the people demanded something more than liberty. The
old watchwords still rang true; but they were not enough. And how to
fill the void was the riddle that split the Liberal party. It happened,
moreover, that at this very time, already so critical, a Liberal
Government had been forced to deal with all kinds of affairs for the
efficient conduct of which their formulas furnished no clue. They were
compelled to intervene by force of arms in Egypt, to repress popular
movements, to banish popular leaders, to hang revolutionaries, to devise
ingenious instruments of Coercion, to mutilate Parliamentary procedure
and to curtail the freedom of debate. And thus, while half the Cabinet
were ransacking the past for weapons of Executive authority, others were
groping dimly towards a vague Utopia.

All this confusion was still worse confounded by the imminence of a
further extension of the franchise. The ‘ten-pounder’ and the
‘householder’ had been stages of growth. The evolution was now to be
completed, or practically completed. The government of a world-wide
Empire was, for the first time in human experience, to be thrown
unreservedly to the millions. And no man could predict the results of
that experiment. There seemed to be no reason to assume that any large
body of working-class electors would ever vote Tory. Who could possibly
have foreseen that whether from conscious choice between men and parties
or from the unsuspected operation of irresistible forces till then
latent, the millions would peacefully hand back their powers to
political organisations and so to established authority; that
enfranchised multitudes would constitute themselves the buttresses of
privilege and property; that a free press would by its freedom sap the
influence of debate and through its prosperity become the implement of
wealth; that members and constituencies would become less independent,
not more independent; that Ministers would become more powerful, not
less powerful; that the march would be ordered backward along the beaten
track, not forward in some new direction; and that after a period of
convulsion and flux, twenty years of Tory Government would set in? Who
would have listened to such paradox with patience?

The differences of mood and aim which racked the Ministerial party were
reflected, only less vividly, in the Tory ranks. A Conservative
Opposition smarting under what they regarded as most undeserved defeat
and hampered by leaders to whose defects no one could be blind, had been
forced constantly to support their antagonists upon the main issues of
their policy. They found the Liberal Government engaged in assertions of
authority, at home and abroad, with which all their deepest instincts
inclined them to sympathise. The enforcement of the sternest forms of
Coercion in Ireland, the suspension and suppression of disorderly
members at Westminster, the launching of great warlike enterprises
across the sea, were all public objects which upon the highest patriotic
grounds commanded Tory assent. Upon the other hand they hated with the
fiercest animosity of faction the Ministers who directed these affairs.
They knew that a crisis was approaching. They feared--not without
reason--the formidable union of Gladstone and democracy. They believed
that he was ruining the country and was prepared to dishonour the
Empire. Yet they found themselves repeatedly compelled to vote with him;
and even when opportunities of legitimate attack were offered, no one of
their champions seemed able to strike the blow.

The hesitancy and incompetence which marked the conduct of the
Conservative Opposition--although to some extent due to very lofty
motives of public duty--filled with exasperation the militant Tories in
the country. Members of Parliament, confronted week after week by
definite issues on which votes had to be recorded, found themselves
drawn inch by inch into supporting whole spheres of Governmental action.
Their friends outside took a more general view. They saw what they took
to be a succession of feeble surrenders before Mr. Gladstone’s prestige.
They saw their representatives, bewitched by his authority and
eloquence, in the same Lobby with their arch-enemy. They saw the
Liberal Government staggering ponderously forward, in spite of
disunion, difficulty, and peril, through a succession of mismanaged
warlike undertakings to a series of pernicious domestic reforms. And no
man apparently to stand in their path! And then, all of a sudden, a man
arose alone, or almost alone, to do battle on their behalf. They watched
him struggling day after day against overwhelming odds, overthrown a
score of times, deserted and even tripped up by those who should have
sustained him; yet always returning with inexhaustible activity to the
attack and gaining from month to month substantial and undoubted

The Conservative party outside Parliament had as little real liking for
much that Lord Randolph Churchill said about Ireland and Egypt as their
leaders and representatives in the House. They could not find any
sympathy for the followers of Mr. Parnell. They did not enjoy being told
that British troops had been used in Egypt to collect the bondholders’
debts, or the description of such thrilling episodes as the bombardment
of a city by an ironclad fleet, a cavalry charge by moonlight, or the
storming of an entrenched position as ‘tawdry military glories.’ They
could not join whole-heartedly in eulogies of a Pasha whom British
justice had condemned to life-long exile, or in attacks upon the
morality and humanity of a Khedive whom British bayonets had replaced
upon his throne. All this, even while they cheered, seemed to them
unpatriotic. But they could not overlook the commotion which Lord
Randolph Churchill’s denunciations wrought in the Gladstonian ranks, or
the embarrassments in which they involved the Radical supporters of the
Ministry. They loved their country much, but they hated Gladstone more;
and they consoled themselves with the belief (which did Lord Randolph
Churchill less justice than he deserved) that he did not really mean all
he said; that it was only his way of beating the Grand Old Man; and
that, after all, he was Jingo and True Blue at heart.

During the years which had passed since the new Parliament had met, the
working-class supporters of the Conservative party, particularly in the
great towns, had come to look with especial favour upon Lord Randolph
Churchill. To these were added a considerable defection from those who
had hitherto counted themselves Liberals. He touched the imagination of
the English people; and he appealed especially to their youth. ‘The
young men of England,’ he exclaimed, ‘are joining the Tory party in
great numbers. The youth of England is on our side.’ He was, indeed,
soon forced to defend himself from the assumption ‘that any expression
of opinion from a person who has no claim to the monumental age of 101,
is a breach of decorum, almost an act of indecency, and an indication of
incurable vice.’ ‘Youth,’ he said (Edinburgh, December 20, 1883), ‘is no
doubt a great calamity, and it appears to excite all the worst passions
of human nature among those who no longer possess it. But we may, I
think, chase away such depressing reflections by remembering that youth
is a calamity which grows less bitter and less poignant as the years go
by, and that by the sheer and simple process of living and survival we
must, each in our turn, approach the summit of the wave.’

By the end of 1882 he was already unquestionably the most popular
speaker in the Conservative party. In 1884 and 1885 he equalled, if he
did not surpass, Mr. Gladstone himself in the interest and enthusiasm
which his personality aroused. Wherever he went he was received by
tremendous throngs and with extraordinary demonstrations of goodwill. In
times when good Conservatives despaired of the fortunes of their party
under a democratic franchise and even, making a virtue of necessity,
regarded it as almost immoral to court a working-class vote, and when
the chiefs of Toryism looked upon the resisting powers of small shop and
lodging-house keepers, of suburban villadom, and of the genial and
seductive publican as almost the only remaining bulwarks of the
Constitution, Lord Randolph Churchill boldly enlisted the British nation
in defence of Church and State. At a time when Liberal orators and
statesmen, ‘careering about the country,’ as Lord Randolph described
them, ‘calling themselves “the people of England,”’ were looking forward
to an election which should relegate the Conservative party to the limbo
of obsolete ideas, they were disconcerted by the spectacle, repeatedly
presented, of multitudes of working men hanging upon the words of a
young aristocrat; and Radicals, bidding higher and higher to catch the
popular fancy, heard with disgust the loudest acclamations of the crowd
accorded to Lord Randolph Churchill as he denounced ‘the Moloch of
Midlothian’[13] or ‘the pinchbeck Robespierre’[14] for war and tyranny
beyond the sea, profusion and misgovernment at home.

Abuse was retorted on his head in vain. ‘“Yahoo Churchill,”’ ‘Little
Randy,’ ‘Cheeky Randy,’ ‘the music-hall cad,’ ‘the Champagne Charley of
politics,’ were designations which measured at once his popularity and
the rising fury of his foes. His fierce moustache and ‘note of
interrogation’ head lent themselves to caricature. He was drawn as a
pigmy, a pug dog, a gnat, a wasp, a ribald and vicious monkey, so
habitually, that nearly everyone, who had not seen him in the flesh,
believed that his physical proportions were far below the common
standards of humanity; but the contrast between his reputed stature and
the majestic outlines of Mr. Gladstone and Sir William Harcourt only
enhanced his fighting qualities in the public eye. ‘Give it ’em hot,
Randy,’ cried the crowds in the streets and at the meetings, till he
himself was forced to complain that he was expected to salute his
opponents with every species of vituperation. But, to tell the truth, he
responded to the public demand with inexhaustible generosity. He spared
no one. Neither persons nor principles escaped an all-embracing
ridicule. The most venerated leaders of the Liberal party, famous in the
great days of its rise, fared no better at his hands than the crudest
and most violent of the New Radicals. One by one Mr. Bright, Mr.
Gladstone, Lord Hartington, Lord Granville, Sir Charles Dilke, Mr.
Chamberlain, Mr. Bradlaugh, and Mr. Schnadhorst were summoned before
that irreverent tribunal and exhibited to popular censure and derision.

His speeches were effective far beyond the circles of his hearers. As
early as the spring of 1881 the _Morning Post_ began to report him
_verbatim_. Mr. Chenery, always a firm believer in his genius, followed
this example almost immediately. Instead of that paragraph of mutilated
misrepresentation with which so many eminent Ministers and ex-Ministers
have to remain dissatisfied, column after column of the _Times_ was
filled with the oratory of an unproved stripling of thirty-two. The
remonstrances which jealousy suggested did not discourage Mr. Chenery;
for, indeed, Lord Randolph’s speeches were the best of ‘copy.’ His
wonderful memory enabled him to make the most elaborate preparations.
His earlier speeches were almost all written out beforehand and learned
by heart. He had the knack of being able to foresee the occasion and he
wrote not an essay or an argument, but just the kind of harangue that
would fit the mood of his audience. His style was essentially
rhetorical, and much more spontaneous than his peculiar methods of
preparation would imply. He seems to have written with scarcely a single
correction and without hesitation of any kind, as fast as he could set
pen to paper. Indeed, I fancy that he wrote his speeches chiefly for an
exercise of memory and to fix them clearly in his mind and did not by
any means make them up with a pen in his hand. Once written, they could
be repeated almost without notes and quite without alteration. But in
this laborious process they gained a logical sequence which, while it
did not in the least detract from the delivery, added vastly to their
virtues in reproduction.

Above all, they were entirely fresh and original. Wit, abuse, epigrams,
imagery, argument--all were ‘Randolphian.’ No one could guess beforehand
what he was going to say nor how he would say it. No one else said the
same kind of things, or said them in the same kind of way. He possessed
the strange quality, unconsciously exerted and not by any means to be
simulated, of compelling attention, and of getting himself talked about.
Every word he spoke was studied with interest and apprehension. Each
step he took was greeted with a gathering chorus of astonished cries. As
Tacitus said of Mucianus: ‘Omnium quae dixerat, feceratque, arte quadam
ostentator’ (‘He had the showman’s knack of drawing public attention to
everything he said or did’). Before the end of 1882 a speech from Lord
Randolph Churchill had become an event to the newspaper reader. The
worthy, pious, and substantial citizen, hurriedly turning over the pages
of his _Times_ or still more respectable _Morning Post_, and folding it
to his convenience, crouched himself in his most comfortable chair and
ate it up line by line with snorts of indignation or gurglings of mirth.
‘Look what he says about Gladstone. I wonder the _Times_ prints such
things. How lowering to the dignity of public life! I can’t think why
they pay so much attention to this young man. Randolph Churchill,
indeed--preposterous! Give me the paper back, my dear.’

Speeches are--next to leading articles--the most impermanent of
impermanent things. But the character and conceptions of that political
movement to the stimulation of which Lord Randolph Churchill devoted his
life, and by which he was now to be so swiftly carried forward, cannot
be better explained than in his own words; and, moreover, the reader is
entitled to have some opportunities of judging for himself. The winter
at Blenheim, with its diversions of the Harriers and the Woodstock
Railway, seems to have refreshed Lord Randolph’s mind and added to his
stores of fancy. He emerged from his retirement to plunge into a
vehement political campaign. On three successive days in December he
delivered at Edinburgh what he called a ‘trilogy’ of speeches. The first
was upon Egypt. Here are its keynotes:--

     The Court of Chancery repudiates loans made by money-lenders to
     infants even though they may have actually received and spent the
     money. Far more ought this country, acting as a great Court of
     Equity, to protect the Egyptians in any efforts they may make to
     free themselves from this frightful burden [of debt] which is
     strangling the life out of them--these Egyptians whom Sir Evelyn
     Wood so eloquently calls the infants of centuries: this burden for
     the contraction of which they are absolutely innocent, forced upon
     them by the great money-lenders of the Stock Exchanges of London
     and Paris. The other day the poor Egyptians were very near
     effecting a successful revolution; they were very near throwing off
     their suffocating bonds; but, unfortunately for Mr. Gladstone, the
     Prime Minister of Great Britain--Mr. Gladstone, the leader, the
     idol, the demi-god of the Liberal party--Mr. Gladstone, the member
     for Midlothian, came upon them with his armies and his fleets,
     destroyed their towns, devastated their country, slaughtered their
     thousands, and flung back these struggling wretches into the morass
     of oppression, back into the toils of their taskmasters. The
     revolution of Arabi was the movement of a nation; like all
     revolutions, it had its good side and its bad; you must never, for
     purposes of practical politics, criticise too minutely the origin,
     the authors, or the course of revolutions. Would you undo, if you
     could, the Revolution of 1688, which drove the Stuarts from the
     throne, because of the intrigues of the nobles and of the clergy?
     Would you undo the French Revolution because of the Reign of
     Terror? Would you undo the Revolution of Naples because Garibaldi
     might not be altogether a man of your mind? You know you would not;
     you know that those revolutions were justified by atrocious

            *       *       *       *       *

     I advocate, in the first place, the expulsion ‘bag and baggage’ of
     the Khedive Tewfik, with all ‘his Turks and his Circassians, his
     Zaptiehs and his Mudirs, his Bimbashis and Yuzbashis, his Kaimakams
     and his Pashas’[15]--no great number of them in all; two or three
     ships would hold the lot. I advocate the recall of the exiles from
     Ceylon, the resuscitation of the national party, the formation of a
     genuine popular Government, at the head of which shall be placed a
     Prince--either native or European, as you will--who shall be indeed
     and in truth constitutional, enlightened, and just. I advocate a
     great re-arrangement and reduction of the Egyptian national debt
     and a clean sweep of the debts of the victimised, the bankrupt, and
     the ruined fellaheen. I advocate the placing of Egypt under the
     guarantee and guardianship of united Europe, so that no one single
     Power shall be able to exercise there superior influence to
     another, so that collective authority shall restrain individual
     ambition. In a word, I advocate--I plead for--the real emancipation
     of an historic land and the true freedom of an ancient race.

            *       *       *       *       *

     You will be told that Egypt is the high-road to India, and that
     Britain must hold it at all costs. This is a terrible and a
     widespread delusion. Similar delusions have before now led astray
     the foreign policy of this country. At one time it was ‘the balance
     of power’: that has passed away. At another time it was ‘the
     integrity of the Ottoman Empire’: that has tumbled into an
     abandoned and forgotten grave; and now we have ‘the high-road to
     India’ will-o’-the-wisp, which in time will vanish too. Egypt is
     not the high-road to India. The Suez Canal is a commercial route to
     India, and a good route, too, in time of peace; but it never was,
     and never could be, a military route for Great Britain in time of
     war. In time of war there are no well-marked high-roads to and fro
     across the British Empire. The path of Britain is upon the ocean,
     her ways lie upon the deep, and you should avoid as your greatest
     danger any reliance on transcontinental communication, where, at
     any time, you may have to encounter gigantic military hosts.
     (Edinburgh, December 18, 1883.)

The second speech dealt with the question of the extension of the
franchise, and must be considered in its place. The third foreshadowed
the advent of the Home Rule struggle:--

[Sidenote: 1884 ÆT. 35]

     Develop, if you like, in any way you may, the material resources of
     Ireland. Advance public money on the easiest terms for railways,
     tramways, canals, roads, labourers’ dwellings, fisheries, and
     objects of that kind. We owe the Irish a great deal for our bad
     government of them in the past; and if we are not stingy, there are
     few injuries, however deep, which money will not cure. But do not,
     if you value your life as an Empire, swallow one morsel more of
     heroic legislation. By giving a continuous support to the Tory
     party, let the Irish know that, though they cry day and night,
     though they vex you with much wickedness and harass you with much
     disorder, though they incessantly divert your attention from your
     own affairs, though they cause you all manner of trial and trouble,
     there is one thing you will detect at once, in whatever form or
     guise it may be presented to you, there is one thing you will never
     listen to, there is one thing you will never yield--and that is
     their demand for an Irish Parliament, and that to their yells for
     the repeal of the Union you answer an unchanging, an unchangeable,
     and a unanimous ‘No.’ (Edinburgh, December 20, 1883.)

A month later he spoke at Blackpool. Perhaps this speech affords the
best example of his rhetorical methods. Certainly it filled Tory
Lancashire with merriment and satisfaction:--

     Mr. Chamberlain a short time ago attempted to hold Lord Salisbury
     up to the execration of the people as one who enjoyed great riches
     for which he had neither toiled nor spun and he savagely denounced
     Lord Salisbury and all his class. As a matter of fact, Lord
     Salisbury from his earliest days has toiled and spun in the service
     of the State and for the advancement of his countrymen in learning,
     in wealth, and in prosperity; but no Radical ever yet allowed
     himself to be embarrassed by a question of fact. Just look,
     however, at what Mr. Chamberlain himself does. He goes to Newcastle
     and is entertained at a banquet there, and procures for the
     president of the feast a live earl, no less a person than the Earl
     of Durham. Now Lord Durham is a young gentleman who has just come
     of age, who is in the possession of immense hereditary estates,
     who is well known on Newmarket heath and prominent among the gilded
     youth who throng the corridors of the Gaiety Theatre, but who has
     studied politics about as much as Barnum’s new white elephant, and
     upon whose ingenuous mind even the idea of rendering service to the
     State has not yet commenced to dawn. If by any means it could be
     legitimate, and I hold that it is illegitimate, to stigmatise any
     individual as enjoying great riches for which he has neither toiled
     nor spun, such a case would be the case of the Earl of Durham; and
     yet it is under the patronage of the Earl of Durham and basking in
     the smiles of the Earl of Durham, bandying vulgar compliments with
     the Earl of Durham, that this stern patriot, this rigid moralist,
     this unbending censor the Right Hon. Joseph Chamberlain, flaunts
     his Radical and levelling doctrines before the astounded democrats
     of Newcastle.

After Mr. Chamberlain, Mr. Gladstone:--

     ‘Vanity of vanities,’ says the preacher, ‘all is vanity.’ ‘Humbug
     of humbugs,’ says the Radical, ‘all is humbug.’ Gentlemen, we live
     in an age of advertisement, the age of Holloway’s pills, of
     Colman’s mustard, and of Horniman’s pure tea; and the policy of
     lavish advertisement has been so successful in commerce that the
     Liberal party, with its usual enterprise, has adapted it to
     politics. The Prime Minister is the greatest living master of the
     art of personal political advertisement. Holloway, Colman, and
     Horniman are nothing compared with him. Every act of his, whether
     it be for the purposes of health, or of recreation, or of religious
     devotion, is spread before the eyes of every man, woman, and child
     in the United Kingdom on large and glaring placards. For the
     purposes of an autumn holiday a large transatlantic steamer is
     specially engaged, the Poet-Laureate adorns the suite and receives
     a peerage as his reward, and the incidents of the voyage are
     luncheon with the Emperor of Russia and tea with the Queen of
     Denmark. For the purposes of recreation he has selected the felling
     of trees; and we may usefully remark that his amusements, like his
     politics, are essentially destructive. Every afternoon the whole
     world is invited to assist at the crashing fall of some beech or
     elm or oak. The forest laments, in order that Mr. Gladstone may
     perspire, and full accounts of these proceedings are forwarded by
     special correspondents to every daily paper every recurring
     morning. For the purposes of religious devotion the advertisements
     grow larger. The parish church at Hawarden is insufficient to
     contain the thronging multitudes of fly-catchers who flock to hear
     Mr. Gladstone read the lessons for the day, and the humble
     parishioners are banished to hospitable Nonconformist tabernacles
     in order that mankind may be present at the Prime Minister’s
     rendering of Isaiah, or Jeremiah, or the Book of Job....

He proceeded to describe Mr. Gladstone’s method of receiving a
deputation at Hawarden Castle:--

     It has always appeared to me somewhat incongruous and inappropriate
     that the great chief of the Radical party should reside in a
     castle. But to proceed. One would have thought that the deputation
     would have been received in the house, in the study, in the
     drawing-room, or even in the dining-room. Not at all. That would
     have been out of harmony with the advertisement ‘boom.’ Another
     scene had been arranged. The working men were guided through the
     ornamental grounds, into the wide-spreading park, strewn with the
     wreckage and the ruins of the Prime Minister’s sport. All around
     them, we may suppose, lay the rotting trunks of once umbrageous
     trees: all around them, tossed by the winds, were boughs and bark
     and withered shoots. They come suddenly on the Prime Minister and
     Master Herbert, in scanty attire and profuse perspiration, engaged
     in the destruction of a gigantic oak, just giving its last dying
     groan. They are permitted to gaze and to worship and adore and,
     having conducted themselves with exemplary propriety, are each of
     them presented with a few chips as a memorial of that memorable

     Is not this, I thought to myself as I read the narrative, a perfect
     type and emblem of Mr. Gladstone’s government of the Empire? The
     working classes of this country in 1880 sought Mr. Gladstone. He
     told them that he would give them and all other subjects of the
     Queen much legislation, great prosperity, and universal peace; and
     he has given them nothing but chips. Chips to the faithful allies
     in Afghanistan, chips to the trusting native races of South Africa,
     chips to the Egyptian fellah, chips to the British farmer, chips to
     the manufacturer and the artisan, chips to the agricultural
     labourer, chips to the House of Commons itself. To all who leaned
     upon Mr. Gladstone, who trusted in him, and who hoped for something
     from him--chips, nothing but chips--hard, dry, unnourishing,
     indigestible chips....

Gradually the tone changed as the speaker passed from ridicule to
serious attack:--

     The other startling advertisement I wish to allude to was as
     follows: ‘Hawarden Castle.--The Prime Minister attended divine
     service this morning. He was guarded as usual’ ‘Guarded as usual!’
     ‘As usual!’ Gracious Heavens! what a commentary on Liberal
     government in those two words, ‘as usual’! Do you know that from
     the days when first what is called a Prime Minister was invented to
     the present, there has been no Prime Minister about whom such a
     statement could be made? Many Prime Ministers have come and gone,
     good, bad, and indifferent; but the best and the worst have never
     been guarded by aught else save the English people. And has it come
     to this? Are the times so terrible, are bad passions so rife and
     unrestrained, after four years of Liberal rule, that the apostle of
     freedom, the benefactor of his country, the man for whom no
     flattery is too fulsome, no homage too servile, cannot attend
     divine service in his parish church without being ‘guarded as
     usual’? Surely a world of serious reflection is opened up; surely
     the art of government must have sunk to a very low ebb when the
     first servant of the Crown has to be watched night and day by
     alguazils armed to the teeth. I hope and pray that they will guard
     him well, for it would be an indelible stain on our name and our
     fame if a man who has spent fifty years of his life in the service
     of the State, were to be the victim of an infamous assassin. But I
     ask myself, are we to blame humanity for this state of things? Is
     our civilisation all in vain? Is Christianity but a phantom and a
     fiction? Is human nature the awful and incurable cause? Surely not.
     It is more natural to blame the policy of the statesmen who, to
     possess themselves of power, to overthrow a hated rival, set class
     against class and race against race; who use their eloquence for no
     nobler purpose than to lash into frenzy the needy and the
     discontented; who for party purposes are ready to deride morality
     and paralyse law; who, to gain a few votes either in Parliament or
     in a borough, ally themselves equally with the atheist or with the
     rebel, and who lightly arouse and lightly spring from one delirium
     of the multitude to another in order to maintain themselves at a
     giddy and a perilous height. (Blackpool, January 24, 1884.)

[Sidenote: 1884 Æt. 35]

A few days later it became known that Lord Randolph Churchill had
accepted the invitation of the Birmingham Conservatives to contest that
city with Colonel Burnaby at the General Election against Mr. Bright and
Mr. Chamberlain. This unfurling of the Tory flag in the very heart and
centre of militant and organised Radicalism and against the most famous
and the most active of Radical leaders aroused the keenest interest
among Conservative working men all over the country. The Tories of
Birmingham had long been powerless under the rule of their opponents.
For years they had scarcely been allowed to hold a political meeting.
Almost every avenue of civic life and even of municipal employment was
closed against them. Now the fighting leader of Tory Democracy was
coming to their deliverance. It is impossible to describe the enthusiasm
which his bold challenge excited, or the encouragement which it spread
through the mass of the Conservative party. The newspapers were filled
with cartoons of ‘Jack the Giant-killer’ or of a diminutive David going
forth to battle with a vast screw-bearing Goliath. The mention of his
name, or any reference to the contest on which he had entered, drew
forth the loudest cheers at every Tory meeting. Letters of gratitude,
resolutions of confidence and support, poured in upon him from all parts
of the country.

Before actually descending upon Birmingham he sounded a trumpet-call of
defiance from Woodstock. He attacked Mr. Bright and Mr. Chamberlain with
an impartial and unmeasured ferocity:--

     The battle which Mr. Bright has rashly challenged shall be fought
     _sans trève ni merci_. The savage animosity which Mr. Bright has
     breathed into his speeches, has raised a corresponding spirit among
     his opponents. The robe of righteousness with which he and his
     confederates have clothed their squalid and corrupted forms shall
     be torn asunder; naked and ashamed shall they be beheld by all the
     intelligent public, and all shall be disclosed which can be,
     whether it be the impostor, and the so-called ‘people’s tribune,’
     or the grinding monopolies of Mr. Chamberlain, or the dark and evil
     deeds of Mr. Schnadhorst.

A positive fury was excited in Radical Birmingham by these and similar
words. The political predominance of the Liberal party had been
overwhelming and absolutely unbroken in the whole history of the city
since the Reform Bill had enfranchised it. All kinds of criticism had
been suppressed in all kinds of ways and those who had attempted to
voice the opinion of the minority, had found it best to do so with a
prudent politeness. Here was insult in profusion, gross, elaborate, and
designed. ‘The mode of warfare,’ observed Lord Randolph, ‘of the Radical
party resembles that adopted by savage tribes who endeavour to terrify
their opponents by horrid yells and resounding exclamations. I observe
that the reports of the speeches of Mr. Bright and Mr. Chamberlain on
Tuesday were interspersed with “loud and prolonged groans,” “groans,”
“hisses,” “renewed hisses,” and “roars of laughter” and such like. These
resources will no doubt frighten any person of weak nerves and are
calculated to make old women and children run away. But the Tory party
in Birmingham, many thousands strong, will preserve its composure and
the candidate whom they have put forward, will not be intimidated one
little bit.’

Upon April 15 Lord Randolph Churchill opened his campaign in Birmingham
in two speeches delivered on successive nights. He was a man of many
styles. The arguments which he submitted to the electors were the
sincere expression of his deepest convictions; they were in perfect
harmony with the whole of his political life and work, but they were
strange arguments for a Tory to employ:--

     I am not here to deny the services which the Radical party have
     rendered to English civilisation. I believe that the present
     generation is considerably indebted to the struggles which were
     carried on five-and-twenty and thirty years ago by those who were
     then designated the Philosophical Radicals. They enlarged the
     boundaries of freedom, they removed religious and civil
     disabilities, they brought the Constitution into the home and the
     cottage of the artisan, and they taught the people that there were
     in the political life of monarchies and nations higher and nobler
     aims than the perpetual waging of wars or constant striving after
     territorial aggrandisement. The student of English history, fairly
     recognising these lofty results, will not be concerned to discover
     or disclose the faults and the follies--and, indeed, I may say the
     absurdities--which the Philosophical Radicals mingled with their
     creed. Here in Birmingham, amongst your fathers and forefathers,
     those men found their home, their mainstay, and their trusting
     friends. But parties, like Empires and like all human combinations,
     wax and wane. The law of perpetual change, which is the motive
     principle of the Radical, exercises its fatal effect upon the
     Radical himself....

     What was the great motto which expressed all their principles,
     which enabled the Radical party of old days to guide and control
     the course of events, to make and unmake Ministers and Governments,
     to win and retain the confidence of mighty cities such as yours?
     ‘Peace, Retrenchment, and Reform!’--in other words,
     Non-intervention, Rigid Economy, and genuine Progressive
     Legislation. And so long as they adhered to those great rocks with
     the tenacity of limpets, so long was their good name secure--so
     long was their wisdom undoubted; and year by year they could appear
     before you with clean hands and clear consciences to ask from you a
     renewal of your confidence. Chancellors of the Exchequer,
     Secretaries to the Treasury and of public departments, groaned
     under the tyrannical economy of Mr. Hume, but were uncommonly
     careful to give him as little handle as possible for what they
     arrogantly called his cheese-paring mania. The genius and influence
     of Mr. Cobden exercised a diminishing effect upon the estimates of
     the War and Navy Ministers; and Mr. Bright and Mr. Milner Gibson
     either averted or effectually censured unjust and unnecessary war.

The Radical party of those days, he went on, was few in number, with no
representatives in the Government and no Caucus in the country. ‘It was
their great principles,’ exclaimed the speaker, ‘which gave them power,
and which they asserted with obstinacy, irrespective of party, on all
occasions, small or great.’ And now--with half a dozen Radicals in the
Ministry and nearly a hundred members in the House--What had been the
course of events? In 1880 a war in Afghanistan protracted for a whole
year under a Liberal Government; in 1881 the revolt of the Boers, ‘with
which every Radical in England was bound to sympathise,’ met by force of
arms, disgracefully and unsuccessfully applied; in 1882 ‘the struggle
for Egyptian freedom undertaken by Arabi Pasha, suppressed by Liberals,
great towns destroyed, bloody battles fought; and estimates swollen nine
millions beyond those of Lord Beaconsfield’s Administration.’

And what would be the policy of the Conservative party if power were
placed in their hands?

     I have no right, a humble member of the rank and file of the Tory
     party, to declare to a great meeting like this what will be their
     policy. I do not know what will be the policy of the Tory party. I
     am not the least bit in the confidence of the leaders, and I must
     admit that I do not enjoy the high honour of their friendship. Only
     the other night one of them accused me in the House of Commons of
     being in secret and fraudulent alliance with the Prime Minister for
     the destruction of the Tory party. I have not been able to gather
     from their speeches or their acts what would be the policy they
     would adopt if the responsibility of government was placed upon
     them. They have preserved a prudent, perhaps an over-prudent,
     reticence. But though I cannot tell you what their policy will be,
     I think I can tell you what their policy ought to be--and in
     general terms what I will try and make it to be--if ever I should
     represent this powerful constituency. It shall be a policy of
     honesty and courage. It shall be a policy which will grapple with
     difficulties and deal with them, and not avoid them or postpone
     them. It shall be a popular policy, and not a class policy. It
     shall be a policy of activity for the national welfare, combined
     with a zeal for Imperial security.

The Tory democratic movement in the English boroughs was powerfully
aided by and largely interwoven with the spread of Fair Trade doctrines.
In Lancashire especially the persuasive arguments of Mr. Farrer Ecroyd
had gained a wide acceptance, and twenty years have not effaced the
effects of his exertions. Lord Randolph Churchill, eager to attack the
Liberal Government, began in 1881 by urging the Fair Trade cause with
characteristic vigour and happy irresponsibility. As his influence and
knowledge increased, his assurance upon fiscal matters diminished; and
at Blackpool in 1884 he would not commit himself beyond an ‘inquiry into
the present condition of British industry and as to how it is affected
by our present methods of raising revenue for the service of the State.’
But certainly no one could have painted in more vivid colours the
shocking and melancholy condition of British trade. The words have been
often quoted:--

     What is the state of things in the world of British industry? We
     are suffering from a depression of trade extending as far back as
     1874, ten years of trade depression, and the most hopeful either
     among our capitalists or our artisans can discover no signs of a
     revival. Your iron industry is dead, dead as mutton; your coal
     industries, which depend greatly on the iron industries, are
     languishing. Your silk industry is dead, assassinated by the
     foreigner. Your woollen industry is _in articulo mortis_, gasping,
     struggling. Your cotton industry is seriously sick. The
     shipbuilding industry, which held out longest of all, is come to a
     standstill. Turn your eyes where you will, survey any branch of
     British industry you like, you will find signs of mortal disease.
     The self-satisfied Radical philosophers will tell you it is
     nothing; they point to the great volume of British trade. Yes, the
     volume of British trade is still large, but it is a volume which is
     no longer profitable; it is working and struggling. So do the
     muscles and nerves of the body of a man who has been hanged twitch
     and work violently for a short time after the operation. But death
     is there all the same, life has utterly departed, and suddenly
     comes the _rigor mortis_. Well, but with this state of British
     industry what do you find going on? You find foreign iron, foreign
     wool, foreign silk and cotton pouring into the country, flooding
     you, drowning you, sinking you, swamping you; your labour market is
     congested, wages have sunk below the level of life, the misery in
     our large towns is too frightful to contemplate, and emigration or
     starvation is the remedy which the Radicals offer you with the most
     undisturbed complacency. But what produced this state of things?
     Free imports? I am not sure; I should like an inquiry; but I
     suspect free imports of the murder of our industries much in the
     same way as if I found a man standing over a corpse and plunging
     his knife into it I should suspect that man of homicide, and I
     should recommend a coroner’s inquest and a trial by jury.
     (Blackpool, January 24, 1884.)

In any case, even, if free imports were a wise policy, he would not
allow Mr. Bright and the Liberal party the credit of the discovery:--

     Mr. Bright advised his audience at Birmingham to read over again
     the speeches of Mr. Charles Villiers on Free Trade made fifty years
     ago. I advise them to do nothing of the kind, because if they do
     they will lose every shred of veneration and respect which they
     still may feel for the name of Mr. Bright. They will find that the
     great battle of Free Trade, of which Mr. Bright has never been
     tired of boasting loud and long, was fought by Mr. Charles Villiers
     long before Mr. Bright made his appearance in public; that Mr.
     Charles Villiers bore the burden and heat of that protracted and
     lengthened contest; and when Mr. Villiers had won the day Mr.
     Bright and his dear friend Mr. Cobden stepped in and tried to rob
     him of all his glory. All those who read Mr. Charles Villiers’s
     speeches will find that Mr. Bright and his dear friend Mr. Cobden
     were nothing more nor less than two plundering cuckoos, who
     shamefully ejected Mr. Charles Villiers from the nest which he had
     constructed, and who reared therein their own chattering and silly
     brood. (Woodstock, January 31, 1884.)

After all this the Fair Traders were not unnaturally inclined to
complain when in 1887--three years afterwards--Lord Randolph Churchill
having acquired a responsible position, having studied the report of the
Commission on Trade appointed largely at his insistence in 1885, having
reflected upon the voting of the counties in the General Election, and
surveyed the problems of finance from the Treasury chambers, poured
buckets of cold water on their cherished schemes and declined to make
any exertions in their support.

But the central proposition of the Tory Democratic idea was that the
Conservative party was willing and thoroughly competent to deal with the
needs of democracy and the multiplying problems of modern life; and that
the British Constitution, so far from being incompatible with the social
progress of the great mass of the people, was in itself a flexible
instrument by which that progress might be guided and secured.

     The Whigs are a class with the prejudices and the vices of a class;
     the Radicals are a sect with the tyranny and the fanaticism of a
     sect.... The Whigs tell you that the institutions of this kingdom,
     as illustrated by the balance of Queen, Lords and Commons, and the
     Established Church, are but conveniences and useful commodities,
     which may be safely altered, modified, or even abolished, so long
     as the alteration, modification, or abolition is left to the Whigs
     to carry out. The Radicals tell you that these institutions are
     hideous, poisonous, and degrading, and that the divine Caucus is
     the only machine which can turn out, as if it was a patent
     medicine, the happiness of humanity. But the Tories, who are of the
     people, know and exclaim that these institutions, which are not so
     much the work of the genius of man, but rather the inspired
     offspring of Time, are the tried guarantees of individual liberty,
     popular government, and Christian morality; that they are the only
     institutions which possess the virtue of stability, of stability
     even through all ages; that the harmonious fusion of classes and
     interests which they represent corresponds with and satisfies the
     highest aspirations either of peoples or of men; that by them has
     our Empire been founded and extended in the past; and that by them
     alone can it prosper or be maintained in the future. Such is the
     Tory party and such are its principles, by which it can give to
     England the government she requires--democratic, aristocratic,
     Parliamentary, monarchical, uniting in an indissoluble embrace
     religious liberty and social order. And this party--this Tory party
     of to-day--exists by the favour of no caucus, nor for the selfish
     interests of any class. Its motto is--‘Of the people, for the
     people, by the people’; unity and freedom are the beacons which
     shed their light around its future path and amid all political
     conflict this shall be its only aim--to increase and to secure
     within imperishable walls the historic happiness of English homes.
     (Blackpool, January 24, 1884.)

Again and again in these years of strife Lord Randolph Churchill
returned to this central idea:--

     The foundation [of the British Constitution] is totally new, purely
     modern, absolutely untried. You have changed the old foundation.
     You have gone to a new foundation. Your new foundation is a great
     seething and swaying mass of some five million electors, who have
     it in their power, if they should so please, by the mere heave of
     the shoulders, if they only act with moderate unanimity, to sweep
     away entirely the three ancient institutions and put anything they
     like in their place, and to alter profoundly, and perhaps for a
     time altogether ruin, the interests of the three hundred million
     beings who are committed to their charge. That is, I say, a state
     of things unparalleled in history. And how do you think it will all
     end? Are we being swept along a turbulent and irresistible torrent
     which is bearing us towards some political Niagara, in which every
     mortal thing we now know will be twisted and smashed beyond all
     recognition? Or are we, on the other hand, gliding passively along
     a quiet river of human progress that will lead us to some
     undiscovered ocean of almost superhuman development? Who can
     tell?... My state of mind when these great problems come across
     me--which is very rarely--is one of wonder, or perhaps I should
     rather say of admiration and of hope, because the alternative state
     of mind would be one of terror and despair. And I am guarded from
     that latter state of mind by a firm belief in the essential
     goodness of life, and in the evolution, by some process or other
     which I do not exactly know and cannot determine, of a higher and
     nobler humanity. But, above all, my especial safeguard against such
     a state of mental annihilation and mental despair is my firm belief
     in the ascertained and much-tried common sense which is the
     peculiarity of the English people. That is the faith which, I
     think, ought to animate and protect you in your political future;
     that is the faith of the Tory democracy in which I shall ever
     abide. (Cambridge University Carlton, June 6, 1885.)

            *       *       *       *       *

     ‘Trust the people’--I have long tried to make that my motto; but I
     know, and will not conceal, that there are still a few in our party
     who have that lesson yet to learn and who have yet to understand
     that the Tory party of to-day is no longer identified with that
     small and narrow class which is connected with the ownership of
     land; but that its great strength can be found, and must be
     developed, in our large towns as well as in our country districts.
     Yes, trust the people. You, who are ambitious, and rightly
     ambitious, of being the guardians of the British Constitution,
     trust the people, and they will trust you--and they will follow you
     and join you in the defence of that Constitution against any and
     every foe. I have no fear of democracy. I do not fear minorities; I
     do not care for those checks and securities which Mr. Goschen seems
     to think of such importance. Modern checks and securities are not
     worth a brass farthing. Give me a fair arrangement of the
     constituencies, and one part of England will correct and balance
     the other. (Birmingham, April 16, 1884.)

And in later years, after the battle had been won, and when the Tory
leaders had already begun to look upon their new supporters as if they
were an inalienable asset:--

     I cannot but feel that we have nearly realised what was some years
     ago apparently only a dream, the dream of Tory Democracy. You
     remember with what scoffs and scornings and with what sneers and
     ridicule the phrase ‘Tory Democracy’ was received when I first made
     use of it in the House of Commons in the year 1882. Nothing was too
     bad, nothing was too taunting, nothing was too absurd to apply to
     the idea or to those who dared to sustain such an idea in public.
     You in Birmingham were the first publicly to associate yourselves
     with the policy which is contained in the phrase ‘Tory Democracy.’
     What is Tory Democracy? Tory Democracy is a democracy which
     supports the Tory party; but with this important qualification,
     that it supports a Tory party, not from mere caprice, not from
     momentary disgust or indignation with the results of Radicalism,
     but a democracy which supports the Tory party because it has been
     taught by experience and by knowledge to believe in the excellence
     and the soundness of true Tory principles. But Tory Democracy
     involves also another idea of equal importance. It involves the
     idea of a Government who in all branches of their policy and in all
     features of their administration are animated by lofty and by
     Liberal ideas. That is Tory Democracy. (Birmingham, April 9, 1888.)

One more quotation--Lord Randolph’s defence of the Established
Church--shall close this chapter. The speech from which it is taken was
delivered in the course of his Birmingham campaign and comprised a
general vindication of the British Constitution. Let it be remembered
that in those days the demand for organic change was real and fierce.
The vast unsounded problems of Collectivism and Individualism, the
intricate and varying relations between Capital and Labour, the almost
limitless power of combined or accumulated wealth and the racial
deterioration produced by civilised poverty, were issues which might be
considered by philosophers or fought out between master and man but
which approached only remotely the Parliamentary and political arena.
Disputes about forms of government still absorbed the activities of
democracy; and the hall-mark of a good Radical in the ‘eighties was
secular republicanism:--

     I see in the Church of England an immense and omni-present
     ramification of machinery working without cost to the people--and
     daily and hourly lifting the masses of the people, rich and poor
     alike, from the dead and dreary level of the lowest and most
     material cares of life, up to the comfortable contemplation of
     higher and serener forms of existence and of destiny. I see in the
     Church of England a centre and a source and a guide of charitable
     effort, mitigating by its mendicant importunity the violence of
     human misery, whether mental or physical, and contributing to the
     work of alleviation from its own not superfluous resources. And I
     urge upon you not to throw that source of charity upon the
     haphazard almsgiving of a busy and a selfish world. I view the
     Church of England eagerly cooperating in the work of national
     education, not only benefiting your children, but saving your
     pockets; and I remember that it has been the work of the Church to
     pour forth floods of knowledge, purely secular and scientific, even
     from the days when knowledge was not; and I warn you against
     hindering the diffusion of knowledge, inspired by religion, amongst
     those who will have devolved upon them the responsibility for the
     government of this wide Empire.

     But I own that my chief reason for supporting the Church of England
     I find in the fact that, when compared with other creeds and other
     sects, it is essentially the Church of religious liberty. Whether
     in one direction or another, it is continually possessed by the
     ambition, not of excluding, but of including, all shades of
     religious thought, all sorts and conditions of men; and, standing
     out like a lighthouse over a stormy ocean, it marks the entrance to
     a port where the millions and the masses of those who are wearied
     at times with the woes of the world, and troubled often by the
     trials of existence, may search for and may find that peace which
     passeth all understanding. I cannot, and will not, allow myself to
     believe that the English people, who are not only naturally
     religious, but also eminently practical, will ever consent, for the
     petty purpose of gratifying sectarian animosity, or for the
     wretched object of pandering to infidel proclivities--will ever
     consent to deprive themselves of so abundant a fountain of aid and
     consolation, or acquiesce in the demolition of an institution which
     elevates the life of the nation, and consecrates the acts of the
     State. (Birmingham, April 16, 1884.)

‘The work of inspiring a beaten and depressed party with hope and
courage,’ wrote Mr. Jennings in 1888,[16] ‘was substantially left to one
man.’ What had become meanwhile of the acknowledged leaders of Toryism?
Where were the names which in after years were to fill the newspapers
and the Government offices? It is curious to reflect that all this time,
while Lord Randolph Churchill was straining every nerve in the service
of his party, he was the object of almost passionate jealousy and
dislike in its high places. The world of rank and fashion had long been
hostile to him. The prominent people and party officials who formed and
guided opinion at the Carlton Club, on the Front Opposition Bench, and
in the central Conservative offices, regarded him with aversion and
alarm. They could not understand him. Still less could they explain his
growing influence. He was as unwelcome and insoluble a riddle to them as
ever Disraeli had been. To them he seemed an intruder, an upstart, a
mutineer who flouted venerable leaders and mocked at constituted
authority with a mixture of aristocratic insolence and democratic
brutality. By what warrant did he pronounce in accents of command on all
the controverted questions of the day, when men grey in the service of
the State, long installed in the headship of the party, held their peace
or dealt in platitude and ambiguity? By what strange madness of the hour
had this youth who derided Radicals for abandoning their principles and
preached Liberalism from Tory platforms, gained acceptance throughout
the land? The Conservative benches were rich in staid, substantial
merchants and worthy squires. They had their blameless young men of good
family and exemplary deportment who never gave the party Whips an
anxious moment and used their talents only to discover what ‘older and
therefore wiser’ people would wish to have them say. Why was no honour
shown to them? Did not they address meetings in the provinces? Did they
not utter sentiments to which every sensible and patriotic man might
listen with unruffled contentment? And no one marked them! Was there
not enough in these evil days to bear from Mr. Gladstone and his
legions, without this turbulent uprising in their own ranks?

In truth, at this crisis in their fortunes the Conservative party were
rescued in spite of themselves. A very little and they would never have
won the new democracy. But for a narrow chance they might have slipped
down into the gulf of departed systems. The forces of wealth and rank,
of land and Church, must always have exerted vast influence in whatever
confederacy they had been locked. Alliances or fusions with Whigs and
moderate Liberals must from time to time have secured them spells of
office. But the Tory party might easily have failed to gain any support
among the masses. They might have lost their hold upon the new
foundation of power; and the cleavage in British politics must have
become a social, not a political, division--upon a line horizontal, not

There are, without doubt, some who will be inclined to think that no
element of the heroic enters into these conflicts, and that political
triumphs are necessarily tarnished by vulgar methods. The noise and
confusion of election crowds, the cant of phrase and formula, the
burrowings of rival Caucuses, fill with weariness, and even terror,
persons of exquisite sensibility. It is easy for those who take no part
in the public duties of citizenship under a democratic dispensation to
sniff disdainfully at the methods of modern politics and to console
themselves for a lack of influence upon the course of events by the
indulgence of a fastidious refinement and a meticulous consistency. But
it is a poor part to play. Amid the dust and brawling, with rude weapons
and often unworthy champions, a real battle for real and precious
objects is swaying to and fro. Better far the clamour of popular
disputation, with all its most blatant accessories, hammering out from
month to month and year to year the laboured progress of the common
people in a work-a-day world, than the poetic tragedies and violence of
chivalric ages. The splintering of lances and clashing of swords are not
the only tests by which the natural captains and princes among men can
be known. The spirit and emotions of war do not depend upon the weapons
or conditions of the conflict. A bold heart, a true eye--clear, plain,
decided leading--count none the less, although no blood is spilled. ‘To
rally the people round the Throne,’ cried Lord Randolph Churchill, ‘to
unite the Throne with the people, a loyal Throne and a patriotic
people--that is our policy and that is our faith.’ Much of the work that
he did, was turned to purposes very different from his own. His
political doctrines were not free from error and contradiction. But he
accomplished no mean or temporary achievement in so far as he restored
the healthy balance of parties, and caused the ancient institutions of
the British realm once again to be esteemed among the masses of the
British people.



     ‘There is rarely any rising, but by a commixture of good and evil

In the spring of 1883 Lord Randolph Churchill had invited Lord Salisbury
to come forward and head the Tory Democratic movement. In the autumn he
determined to persevere alone. The enterprise which he had matured
during his retirement at Blenheim was perhaps the most daring on which
he ever embarked. It has been stated that he cherished no smaller design
than the ‘wholesale capture of the Conservative party organisation.’ How
far in his secret heart he was determined to go cannot be known; but it
is certain that he now set to work deliberately upon a twofold
plan--first, to obtain the control of the National Union of Conservative
Associations; and secondly to secure for that body substantial authority
and financial independence.

Nothing but Lord Randolph Churchill’s undisputed predominance in debate
and his unequalled popularity in the country could have sustained him
against the forces which he had determined to engage. From one motive
or another, from conscientious and perfectly intelligible distrust, from
vulgar jealousy, from respect for discipline and authority, from a dull
resentment at the disturbance he created, nearly all the most
influential Conservatives in the House of Commons and the Carlton Club
were leagued against him. Lord Salisbury was hostile to him. Sir
Stafford Northcote had good reason to be so. All the old men who had sat
in the late Cabinet, were alarmed; all the new men who hoped to sit in
the next, were envious of his surprising rise to power. Scarcely a name
can be mentioned of those who had held office in the past or were to
hold it in the future, which was not at this time arrayed against him.
And with all of them he was now to come into violent collision.

With the beginnings of this intricate conflict around the party
machinery the Fourth Party entered upon its final phase. It had grown
out of a House of Commons comradeship amid the Bradlaugh debates. It had
soon become the centre and soul of opposition to Mr. Gladstone’s
Government. It had next been drawn into a vehement effort to displace
Sir Stafford Northcote from his primacy in Conservative councils and
instal Lord Salisbury in his stead. In all this Mr. Balfour may be said
to have worked with the Fourth Party more or less formally and to have
sympathised generally and even cordially with their aims. But in the
process of fighting several unexpected things had happened. A new
political situation was created; new forces had been awakened; a new
leader was at hand.

Mr. Gorst and Sir Henry Wolff declared themselves ready to follow Lord
Randolph Churchill further. Mr. Balfour immediately diverged. Although
during the fight for the party machine he continued nominally to act
with the Fourth Party and remained on friendly terms with its members,
he now began to oppose Lord Randolph Churchill. He spoke against him in
the House of Commons. He canvassed against him in the National Union
Council. It has been suggested[17] that Mr. Balfour’s course at this
time was open to the reproach of disingenuousness. Certainly Lord
Randolph Churchill’s correspondence lends no support to such a charge.
He liked Mr. Balfour as a companion. He did not consider him formidable
as an opponent. He was delighted to bear the evils of his antagonism for
the pleasure of his society. Moreover, he saw quite clearly that Mr.
Balfour’s main political sympathy was inseparably attached to Lord
Salisbury. To come into conflict with Lord Salisbury was to come into
conflict with Mr. Balfour. The difference was natural, inevitable, and
legitimate; and no doubt, while it lasted, Lord Randolph was careful to
confine his conversation with his friend only to those subjects upon
which they were still able to cooperate.

After the electoral disaster of 1880 a meeting had been held at
Bridgewater House, under the auspices of Lord Beaconsfield, to examine
the causes of defeat. A committee, formed chiefly of members of the
Carlton Club, had been appointed to consider various methods of
reforming, popularising, and improving the party organisation. This
committee was never dissolved. It continued to exist, and under the
title of the ‘Central Committee’ assumed the direction and management of
all party affairs and controlled the large funds subscribed for party
purposes. The National Union of Conservative Associations, upon the
other hand, was a body formed on a basis of popular representation. Its
branches had spread all over the country and its membership included
many of the more active local leaders of the Conservative party in the
great towns. It was, however, deprived of all share in party government
by the Central Committee and jealously excluded from possessing any
financial independence. Mr. Gorst was already its Vice-President and had
long exercised an influence sustained by an unrivalled knowledge of
party machinery. Sir Henry Wolff was one of its original members. But
Lord Randolph Churchill’s election by co-optation to a seat upon that
body in 1882 had led to an unprecedented division of opinion. His
personal antagonists had banded themselves together and attacked him
upon various ingenious pretexts. One gentleman undertook to prove from
elaborately prepared and complicated statistics that the member for
Woodstock was a Fenian. Another endeavoured to convince the Council
that he was a devoted slave of Mr. Chamberlain--apparently on the
curious ground that he had voted against a plan for making a Channel
Tunnel. When the Council had divided, the numbers for and against him
were exactly equal. The duty of giving a casting-vote fell upon the
Chairman. Although consistently hostile to Tory Democracy in all its
forms and representatives, Lord Percy refused to use his vote to exclude
a distinguished opponent and Lord Randolph Churchill had thus been

The three faithful members of the Fourth Party were thus brought
together. They were not alone or unsupported. The discussions of a year
had disclosed unmistakable discontent on the part of a powerful section
of the National Union. Many active local politicians--men claiming to
speak upon the Council in the name of some of the greatest cities in
England--were profoundly dissatisfied both with the conduct of the
Opposition and the organisation of the party. They resented their utter
lack of influence over either. Themselves above, or at least outside,
the jealousies and cabals of the House of Commons, they regarded the
free-lances below the gangway as the best fighting men in the
Conservative ranks and they looked with enthusiasm to Lord Randolph
Churchill as the one man who could revive the failing fortunes of their
party and beard the majestic authority of the Prime Minister. It was by
the unwavering support of a majority of these gentlemen that Lord
Randolph’s power upon the Council was maintained through the struggles
that followed.

‘The National Union,’ writes Sir Michael Hicks-Beach, ‘was galvanised
into life by a desire very prevalent in the party outside the House of
Commons--or, at least, in the democratic part of it--to support the more
active policy in Opposition of which Lord Randolph was the type, and by
the personal differences which were necessarily connected with that

During the year 1883 Lord Randolph’s position on the Council had been
one of influence but not of power. The selection of Birmingham as the
scene of the Conference of 1883 was a circumstance especially favourable
to him. He resolved to seize the opportunity. ‘I have seen Gorst,’ he
wrote (September 28, 1883) to Sir Henry Wolff, ‘and arranged with him
that at the meeting of the delegates at Birmingham I am to declare war
against the Central Committee and advocate the placing of all power and
finance in the hands of the Council of the National Union. This will be
a bold step--the Austerlitz of the Fourth Party; but I fancy I may be
able to put my views in a manner which will carry the delegates.’

These anticipations were fully sustained at the Conference on October 2.
Lord Randolph laid his case before the delegates with the utmost
candour. He reminded them of the differences his former election to the
Council had occasioned. He wished them quite clearly to understand what
his course would be if he were elected again. He denounced the Central
Committee, which he justly declared had arrogated to itself powers, it
was never intended to possess and was incompetent to exercise. He
described the National Union as kept by this committee ‘in a state of
tutelage, if not of slavery,’ and its delegates as ‘solemnly invited
year by year to elect a Council which does not advise and an Executive
which does not administer.’

‘I wish,’ he said, ‘to see the control and guidance of the organisation
of the Tory party transferred from a self-elected body to an annually
elected body. I wish to see the management of the financial resources of
our party transferred from an irresponsible body to a responsible body.
I say that this so-called Central Committee is an irresponsible and
self-elected body and that the Council of the National Union is a
responsible and an annually elected body, and I wish the control of the
party organisation to be in the hands of the National Union and taken
out of the hands of the Central Committee. There is no instance in
history of power, placed in the hands of a self-constituted and
irresponsible body, being used otherwise than unwisely at first and
corruptly at last.... I hold it is of the last importance that all
finance should be collected and administered by your Council. The
corrupt practices at the last General Election on our own side, when the
organisation was directed by a secret and irresponsible Committee, were
so grave and flagrant that our party in Parliament were absolutely
prevented from exposing the graver and more flagrant corrupt practices
of the Liberal party.... I should like all the finances of the Tory
party to be open for inspection for anyone who may wish to look at them,
be he friend or foe. Where you allow secret expenditure you will
certainly have corrupt expenditure; and where you have corrupt
expenditure you will have vitiated elections, disfranchised boroughs,
party disgrace, and public scandal....

‘There is another point. The great bulk of the Tory party throughout the
country is composed of artisans and labouring classes. They are directly
represented here to-day; they are always directly represented on your
Council; no party management can be effective and healthy unless the
great labouring classes are directly represented on the Executive of the
party. I hope before long to see Tory working men in Parliament....

[Sidenote: 1883 ÆT. 34]

‘Now some of our friends in the party have a lesson to learn which they
do not seem disposed to learn. The Conservative party will never
exercise power until it has gained the confidence of the working
classes; and the working classes are quite determined to govern
themselves, and will not be either driven or hoodwinked by any class or
class interests. Our interests are perfectly safe if we trust them
fully, frankly, and freely; but if we oppose them and endeavour to drive
them and hoodwink them, our interests, our Constitution, and all we love
and revere will go down. If you want to gain the confidence of the
working classes, let them have a share and a large share--a real share
and not a sham share--in your party Councils and in your party

‘I would bespeak your earnest consideration of this grave question of
party organisation. Whatever your judgment may be, I shall humbly
acquiesce in it. If you are satisfied with the present arrangements, if
you think the National Union possesses the power to which it has a
right, if you think that things are going well with us and that the
future is sure and promising--well then, so do I. But if, on the other
hand, you are of opinion, after careful consideration of events since
1880, that we have not yet learnt enough from the experience of the past
to avoid disaster in time to come; if you think that we have not yet set
our house in order, that we are not as well prepared for battle as we
ought to be; if you are dissatisfied and distrustful of our present
arrangements and anxious about the prospects of our party; if you are
ready to consider and carry out needful and timely reforms--well then,
so am I.’

‘We had a real triumph,’ wrote Mr. Gorst to Sir Henry Wolff (October 3),
‘at Birmingham yesterday in carrying without division a resolution
directing a new Council to take steps to secure for the National Union
“its legitimate influence in the party organisation.” They got ----, ----,
and ---- and a whole bevy of Goats to attend; but Randolph, who was
received by the delegates with a regular ovation, made a capital speech
attacking the Central Committee and carried all before him. The
election, however, went off badly. Clarke, Chaplin, Claud Hamilton, and
a lot of other hostile men got elected and it will require the greatest
care and skill in the selection and election of the twelve co-optated
members to secure us the necessary working majority.’

Lord Randolph’s own account was laconic:--

          _Lord Randolph Churchill to Sir Henry Wolff._

October 3, 1883.

     Dear Wolff,--The proceedings yesterday were interesting and, on the
     whole, satisfactory, but I could not give you an account of them in
     a letter--it would be far too long. I shall be in town on Saturday,
     when you must dine with me. Tell Gorst I expect him too, and you
     will hear all about the infant Caucus. The Goats yesterday had got
     wind of our proceedings and came down in great numbers. Ashmead
     Bartlett also went dead against us and ‘entravéd’ our schemes to
     some extent. I made my remarks, which appeared to me not to
     displease the Assembly, though they must have been poison to the
     Goats. R----, who was present at the beginning, sniffing a row,
     prudently recollected he had an engagement and withdrew.

Yours faithfully,

The consequences of the unsatisfactory election were evident in the
protracted and evenly-balanced conflict which broke out at once upon the
new Council. The twelve co-optated members seem to have been upon the
whole favourable to Lord Randolph. Some of them were men of such
influence in the large towns that the Orthodox Conservatives did not
care to oppose them. No doubt much forethought had also been exercised
in their selection. At any rate, from that moment Tory Democracy
secured a small but solid majority upon the Council.

The first meeting was upon December 7. Lord Randolph moved for an
Organisation Committee to consider the best means of carrying into
effect the rider passed at the annual conference. A Committee was
accordingly appointed. It consisted principally of Lord Randolph
Churchill’s friends. Its first act was to exclude the honorary
secretaries of the Council from its deliberations and to elect Lord
Randolph its Chairman. It next resolved unanimously to seek an interview
with Lord Salisbury, and the Chairman was instructed to write to him
with that purpose.

Nothing could exceed the politeness with which the correspondence
opened. Lord Randolph Churchill recounted the events of the Birmingham
conference and the formation of the new Organising Committee, and he
requested on their behalf the honour of an interview with the leader of
the party. Lord Salisbury replied that it would give him great pleasure
to confer with members of the National Union upon any subject which, in
their judgment, was of importance to party interests. Some delay was
caused through the Christmas holiday; but the meeting took place early
in January and was friendly in its character.

[Sidenote: 1884 ÆT. 35]

When, however, the Council of the National Union met on February 1, Lord
Percy complained that Lord Randolph Churchill should have been elected
to the Chair of the Organisation Committee, as it had always been the
custom for the Chairman of the Council to preside at all Committees at
which he was present. Mr. Chaplin then moved that Lord Percy be
requested to resume his position as Chairman of the Organisation
Committee. Other motions of a similar character were made. All were
rejected by the Council after close divisions, and Lord Percy thereupon
resigned the chairmanship. Although Lord Randolph Churchill subsequently
himself proposed and carried a unanimous vote of confidence in him, he
declined to withdraw his resignation. Lord Randolph Churchill and Mr.
Chaplin were then respectively proposed for the vacant office, and Lord
Randolph was elected by seventeen votes to fifteen. But Lord Salisbury,
ignoring this decision, continued to communicate with the Council
through Lord Percy, and the majority was greatly offended thereby.

On February 29 Lord Salisbury, as he had promised, wrote a formal letter
to the Organisation Committee setting forth the views of the party
leaders upon the powers and duties of the Council of the National

          _Lord Salisbury to Lord Randolph Churchill._

20, Arlington Street: February 29, 1884.

     My Lord,--I have the honour to acknowledge your letter of the 17th.
     The pressure of public business must be my apology for not having
     sent you an earlier reply.

     Sir Stafford Northcote and I have carefully considered the matters
     which you mentioned at the small meeting which took place here in
     January. Our task has been rendered more difficult by the
     circumstance that no proposals were put forward on the part of the
     National Union. Their communication was confined to the
     representation that, possessing an efficient organisation, and
     consisting, as it undoubtedly does, of highly competent men, the
     Council had not the opportunity of concurring largely enough in the
     practical organisation of the party.

     It appears to us that that organisation is, and must remain, in all
     its essential features local. But there is still much work which a
     central body like the Council of the National Union can perform
     with great advantage to the party. It is the representative of many
     Associations on whom, in their respective constituencies, the work
     of the party greatly depends. It can superintend and stimulate
     their exertions; furnish them with advice, and in some measure with
     funds; provide them with lecturers; aid them in the improvement and
     development of the local press; and help them in perfecting the
     machinery by which the registration is conducted and the
     arrangements for providing volunteer agency at election times. It
     will have special opportunity of pressing upon the local
     Associations which it represents the paramount duty of selecting,
     in time, the candidates who are to come forward at the dissolution.

     The field of work seems to us large--as large as the nature of the
     case permits--and ample enough to give scope for such co-operation
     as the able men who constitute the Council of the National Union
     may be in a position to offer. But if, on consideration, the
     Council should desire to submit to us any proposal with respect to
     the above matters or to other subjects, it will, of course, receive
     our attentive consideration.

Believe me
Yours very truly,

The arrival of this letter was hailed by Lord Randolph and his friends
with delight, and with elaborate gravity they made haste to accept it
as a ‘charter’ establishing for ever the rights and position of the
National Union. It might seem at first sight that Lord Salisbury’s
utterances were sufficiently vague and guarded; but this was not the
view of the Organisation Committee and they forthwith proceeded to draw
up a report, in which, it must be confessed, the assigned duties of the
National Union seemed to be of a very responsible and definite
character. The next step was, of course, to ask for funds to carry out
such important work, and the report proceeded to indicate the sources to
which the Organisation Committee would look:--

     The Council will, no doubt, perceive that for the proper discharge
     of these duties now imposed upon them by the leaders of the party
     the provision of considerable funds becomes a matter of first-class
     necessity. Your Committee have reason to believe that there exists
     at the present moment a large fund, collected for the general
     purposes of the Conservative party, and collected principally owing
     to the exertions of the Marquess of Abergavenny, from which the
     Council has from time to time received irregular and uncertain
     contributions, more or less of an eleemosynary character. Your
     Committee would strongly recommend to the Council that this
     arrangement, which in view of the new duties now devolving upon the
     Council must be considered as of a most unsatisfactory nature,
     should be modified, and that your Committee should be authorised by
     the Council to claim from the aforesaid fund a certain definite
     allocation, which shall be set apart absolutely for the uses of the
     National Union, and shall, in some measure, enable them to commence
     the effective discharge of their labours. In view, however, of the
     large field of work marked out by Lord Salisbury’s letter, your
     Committee are of opinion that whatever funds they may be able to
     obtain from the aforesaid source should be supplemented by a
     vigorous and earnest appeal to the Conservative party generally
     throughout the country for donations and annual subscriptions.

Lastly, the Committee drew up a number of practical suggestions--some of
which were subsequently followed, with excellent results--for the
purpose of carrying out ‘Lord Salisbury’s scheme.’

Full information of the framing of this report and of its character was
conveyed to Lord Salisbury through a channel which could not then be
traced and he was much taken aback at the construction which had been
put upon his letter. He therefore wrote immediately to Lord Randolph

_Private and Confidential._

March 6, 1884.

     My dear Lord Randolph,--I have been told on good authority that you
     had inferred, as the result of our recent communications, that in
     our contemplation the National Union was in some manner to take the
     place of the Central Committee and to do the work which the latter
     exclusively does now.

     As my letter does not mention the Central Committee, this
     misapprehension (if, indeed, it has arisen) must be due to
     something that passed in our conversation at the Carlton on Sunday.
     I should blame myself severely if I had misled you as to our views
     on this point. The Central Committee are appointed by us and
     represent us: and we could not in any degree separate our position
     from theirs.

     I hope, however, that there is no chance of the paths of the
     Central Committee and the National Union crossing: for there is
     plenty of good work for both to do.

     I am sure you will forgive my giving you the trouble of reading
     this letter--which only issues from my desire that we should all
     work together in good understanding.

Believe me
Yours very truly,

‘With reference to the hope,’ replied Lord Randolph Churchill, ‘which
you express, that “there is no chance of the paths of the Central
Committee and the National Union crossing,” I fear it may be
disappointed. In a struggle between a popular body and a close
corporation, the latter, I am happy to say, in these days goes to the
wall; for the popular body have this great advantage--that, having
nothing to conceal, they can, at any moment they think proper, appeal
fully (and in some measure recklessly) to a favourable and sympathising
public, and I am of opinion that in such a course as this the National
Union will find that I may be of some little assistance to them.’

The report, together with the ‘Charter’ letter, was presented to the
Council at their meeting on the 7th, and their consideration was
adjourned till the 14th. At this adjourned meeting Lord Percy read a
letter which he had received from Lord Salisbury strongly disapproving
of the report and deprecating its adoption. He thereupon moved its
rejection. The Council divided, and Lord Percy’s motion was negatived by
19 votes to 14. The report was then adopted by 19 votes to 7.

The consequences of this decision were surprising. On March 18 Lord
Randolph Churchill received a letter from Mr. Bartley, the principal
agent at the Conservative Central Office, informing him that Lord
Salisbury and Sir Stafford Northcote thought it desirable that the
Central Committee and the National Union should work with separate
establishments, and requesting the National Union to take the necessary
steps for removing their belongings.

It is very easy to see what a great tactical mistake Lord Salisbury and
his friends committed by authorising such a letter to be written. The
premises in question were not the property of Lord Salisbury and Sir
Stafford Northcote and they had no legal power to eject the National
Union. The National Union had since 1872 contributed from their own
funds 175_l._ annually towards the rent and the office expenses.
Moreover--and all this was carefully and forcefully put before the
Organisation Committee by its Chairman--Lord Salisbury had directed such
a letter to be written without waiting for any official information as
to what the action which was complained of really was, and without
communicating, except informally through Lord Percy, with the Council.
The members of the Council therefore, many of whom were able men of
local influence and importance, felt themselves affronted by
discourteous usage. The opinion was expressed that when the leaders of
the party had communications to make to the National Union, those
communications should be made through their Chairman; and the ‘notice to
quit,’ as it was called, was regarded as a cause of deep and undeserved

Lord Randolph Churchill was careful, however, not to make too much at
the moment of this substantial advantage; and he persuaded the Committee
to modify the report in several important particulars, so as to remove
what were believed to be Lord Salisbury’s objections. The revised draft
was then, after several parleyings, forwarded to the party leaders, and
on April 1 Lord Salisbury replied in a letter[18] which strictly limited
the functions of the National Union and provided for its complete
control by the Central Committee:--

     To ensure complete unity of action, we think it desirable that the
     Whips of the party should sit, _ex officio_, on the Council, and
     should have a right to be present at the meetings of all
     Committees. Such an arrangement would be a security against any
     unintentional divergencies of policy, and would lend weight to the
     proceedings of the Union. Business relating to candidates should
     remain entirely with the Central Committee. On the assumption,
     which we are entitled now to make, that the action of the two
     bodies will be harmonious, a separation of establishments will not
     be necessary--unless business should largely increase. There is
     some advantage, undoubtedly, in their working under a common roof,
     for it is difficult to distinguish between their functions so
     accurately, but that the need of mutual assistance and
     communication will constantly be felt.

On the receipt of this letter Lord Randolph Churchill resolved to
abandon all pretence at further friendly negotiation. He summoned
immediately a special meeting of the Organisation Committee, on which,
as has been noticed, his personal influence predominated. Only three
members besides himself--namely Colonel Burnaby, Mr. Cotter and Mr.
Gorst--were able to attend; but these nevertheless took the
responsibility of sending to the leaders of the party what was, as will
presently appear, little less than a declaration of open war.

All these proceedings came before the Council of the National Union at
their meeting on April 4. Lord Randolph Churchill, as Chairman, read Mr.
Bartley’s ‘notice to quit’ letter of March 17, which, he stated, was the
result of an ‘unauthorised, unofficial, and inaccurate communication’ on
the part of some member of the Council to the leaders of the party of
what had taken place at the last meeting. But although the letter was a
great obstacle to amicable intercourse, he had endeavoured to negotiate
with the leaders, and had had many conferences with persons of
influence, such as Lord Abergavenny and Sir Michael Hicks-Beach; and,
finally, Mr. Gorst and he himself had had the honour of an interview
with Lord Salisbury on March 21. The results of the interview had been
very satisfactory, and it was understood that the leaders would
communicate thereafter with the Council; but in spite of repeated
requests, and even visits, no reply of any sort had been received. The
Organisation Committee had therefore drawn up their report, making such
alterations in it as they believed might make it acceptable. On the day
following the circulation of this report to the Council the Chairman had
received the letter from Lord Salisbury of April 1, to which the
Organisation Committee had sent a reply.[19]

This reply, after recalling the proceedings at Birmingham and the
unsatisfactory features in the Conservative organisation--‘the control
of Parliamentary elections by the leader, the Whip, and the paid agent
drawing their resources from secret funds’--suitable perhaps ‘to the
manipulation of the 10_l._ householder,’ but utterly obsolete in the
face of an extended franchise--described the gratification and
encouragement with which the Council of the National Union had learned
that Lord Salisbury was willing to entrust them with large and important
duties. The Council, however, committed the serious error of ‘imagining
that your Lordship and Sir Stafford Northcote were in earnest in wishing
them to become a real source of usefulness to the party.’ They had been
‘rudely undeceived.’ The day after the adoption of their report they had
been ordered to quit the premises they occupied. Their report had been
disapproved on the ground that their activities would trench upon the
functions ‘of an amorphous and unknown body styled the Central
Committee.’ The precise language of Lord Salisbury’s ‘Charter’ letter
had been completely abandoned and refuge had been taken ‘in vague,
foggy, and utterly intangible suggestions.’ In order that the Council of
the National Union might be ‘completely and for ever reduced to its
ancient condition of dependence upon and servility to certain
irresponsible persons who find favour in your eyes,’ it was demanded
that the Whips of the party should sit _ex officio_ on the Council, with
a right of being present at all committees. Finally, in the event of the
Council--representing upwards of 500 affiliated Conservative
Associations and composed of men eminent in position and political
experience, enjoying the confidence of the party in populous localities
and sacrificing continually much time, convenience and money to the work
of the National Union--acquiescing in such a view of its functions, it
might be graciously permitted to remain the humble inmate of the
premises which it occupied.

     We shall lay your letter and copy of this reply before the Council
     at its meeting to-morrow and shall move the Council that they
     adhere substantially to the report already adopted, in obedience to
     the direction of the Conference at Birmingham; that they take steps
     to provide themselves with their own offices and clerks; and that
     they continue to prosecute with vigour and independence the task
     which they have commenced--namely, the _bona-fide_ popular
     organisation of the Conservative party.

     It may be that the powerful and secret influences which have
     hitherto been unsuccessfully at work on the Council, with the
     knowledge and consent of your Lordship and Sir Stafford Northcote,
     may at last be effectual in reducing the National Union to its
     former make-believe and impotent condition; in that case we shall
     know what steps to take to clear ourselves of all responsibility
     for the failure of an attempt to avert the misfortunes and reverses
     which will, we are certain, under the present effete system of
     wire-pulling and secret organisation, overtake and attend the
     Conservative party at a General Election.

Lord Randolph finished reading the letter, and after moving the
appointment of an Executive Committee to carry out the recommendations
of the report, sat down abruptly. He was immediately asked to state the
names of those who had authorised the sending of such a letter, and the
fact that they were only four in number was received with murmurs of
astonishment. Lord Percy and Mr. Chaplin declined to serve upon the
Executive Committee until the letter was withdrawn, and Lord Claud
Hamilton moved at once the following amendment: ‘That this Council
regrets the disrespectful and improper tone of the letter of the
Organisation Committee of the 3rd inst. to the Marquess of Salisbury,
and declines to accept any responsibility for the same.’ This was
seconded by Mr. Stuart-Wortley, M.P., and supported by Mr. Chaplin and
others in an acrimonious debate. The issue appeared doubtful, but Lord
Randolph Churchill waved aside all suggestions of postponement and
insisted upon an immediate decision. So great was his influence that the
amendment was rejected by 19 to 13, and the original resolution
(appointing an Executive Committee) was carried by 18 to 14. The Council
then adjourned till May 2.

The month which followed was a month of intrigue and counter-intrigue.
The majority which Lord Randolph commanded upon the Council, was small.
He had been elected Chairman by a majority of two. The report of the
Organisation Committee had escaped destructive amendment by five votes.
The vote of censure on the Chairman had been rejected by no more than
six and the Executive Committee appointed by no more than four. If two
or three, or even one man, could be detached, the movement might be
crushed and its leader overthrown; and to this end every effort of power
and authority, by appeals, by local pressure, by threats and promises,
was employed. Against this Lord Randolph could set nothing but his
personal influence on the Council and his popularity in the country. It
was evident, moreover, that a great trial of strength between the two
sections of the Conservative party was impending, and moderate men had
to choose once and for all on which side they would be found. It is, to
say the least of it, remarkable that the majority on the Council
remained till the end of April solid and unwavering.

In the face of this attitude Lord Salisbury and his associates prepared
for compromise, and the leaders of Tory Democracy, who knew well how
slender were their resources, showed every disposition to meet them.
Lord Randolph Churchill declared that he would agree to anything ‘which
offered an honourable _modus vivendi_ to the National Union consistent
with the resolution of the Birmingham Conference.’ Lord Salisbury
appeared willing to concede a large part of what was demanded, including
a grant of 3,000_l._ a year to the National Union funds. This compromise
was to have been formally agreed to at the meeting of the Central
Committee on April 29, but at the last minute an unexpected event

Mr. Maclean, the Member for Oldham, had hitherto been one of Lord
Randolph’s consistent supporters on the Council, but his private object
had been[20] to overthrow the dual control of Lord Salisbury and Sir
Stafford Northcote, rather than to place the organisation of the party
upon a democratic basis. If he had to choose, as he conceived himself
compelled to choose, between Lord Salisbury and Lord Randolph Churchill,
his intention was to support the former. He was a man of independent
views, who was not likely to be influenced against his decision by
either faction, and his intervention at this stage was for that reason
all the more effective. He, knowing nothing of the impending compromise,
now placed upon the agenda paper of the Council the following motion:--

‘That, having regard to the paramount importance of complete harmony and
united action between the Central Committee of the Conservative party
and the Council of the National Union, a Committee of the Council be now
appointed to confer with the Central Committee for the purpose of
securing these objects.’ On learning this Lord Salisbury at once broke
off all negotiations, pending the result of the motion. Mr. Edward
Stanhope was put in communication with Mr. Maclean and nothing was
neglected to induce him to persist.

The Council met again on May 2. Lord Randolph informed Mr. Maclean
privately that he would regard his motion, if carried, as a vote of
want of confidence in the Chairman. But Maclean was not to be dissuaded,
and upon a division--several of Lord Randolph’s friends being
absent--his motion prevailed by seventeen votes to thirteen. Lord
Randolph Churchill thereupon immediately resigned the chairmanship of
the Council. He determined to withdraw entirely from active politics,
and it was said that he would seek rest and amusement abroad. He even
prepared a letter to Mr. Satchell Hopkins explaining at length his
reasons for abandoning his candidature at Birmingham.[21]

Awful joy was manifested at the Tory headquarters upon the sudden and
complete suppression of the mutiny. At the Carlton and in the Lobby the
‘old gang’ were full of nervous self-congratulation. They had borne with
him long enough. They had always warned him what the end would be. Now
it had fallen out as they had always foreseen. Was it not sad to see a
young man--of undoubted talent--destroy what might have been a
meritorious career? &c., &c. The _Standard_ chanted a solemn pæan of
triumph. The victorious section upon the Council made haste to publish
glowing accounts of their action, and incidentally communicated to the
press the full terms of the ‘irritating letter’ which had been sent to
Lord Salisbury on April 3, and which was, of course, a strictly
confidential document. Sir Stafford Northcote said in his haste that
Lord Randolph was ‘a bonnet for the Liberal party.’ This mood lasted for
a little while. Then came a chilling reaction.

The news of Lord Randolph Churchill’s resignation became generally known
on May 4, and it was received through all Conservative circles--except
the highest--with something very like consternation. The publication of
his letter to Lord Salisbury made a great sensation, not at all to his
disadvantage. Telegrams, letters, resolutions, deputations poured in
upon him in a stream. Within forty-eight hours a formidable movement in
his favour had begun. The _Times_ supported him in a powerful article
(May 8). ‘The main question at issue between him and the official
leaders of the Opposition is whether the internal organisation of the
party should be for the future established on a popular and
representative or on a secret and irresponsible basis.’ It declared that
the quarrel, until it was repaired, left the country without an
alternative Government. It urged Lord Salisbury not to delay in making
friendly overtures. He had ‘before this effected a not less difficult
reconciliation.’ If he delayed, it was quite possible that he might find
himself ‘in the position not so much of dictating terms of
reconciliation as of accepting them.’ Many other important Conservative
newspapers took a similar view. In the Tory clubs of the large towns it
was freely said that the one man who really knew how to fight Mr.
Gladstone, had been tripped up by the jealous intrigues of an effete,
incompetent clique of aristocrats. A loud outcry was raised against ‘the
back-parlour’ management of a great party.

A more remarkable and effective demonstration followed. On May 8, the
respective Chairmen of the Liverpool, Manchester, Brighton, Sheffield,
Hull, Edinburgh, and Bristol Conservative Associations, representing
300,000 electors, met together in London under the presidency of Mr. A.
B. Forwood. They invited Lord Randolph Churchill to confer with them,
and having heard his views drew up a memorandum to the Council of the
National Union, of which the principal recommendation was that he should
be ‘earnestly requested to withdraw his resignation.’ They added,
moreover, that the National Union was not as representative of the
feeling in the country as it ought to be and urged that immediate steps
should be taken to broaden the basis of its organisation. They addressed
themselves also to Lord Salisbury both by letter and deputation.

Among the many tokens of public goodwill of which Lord Randolph was at
this time the object, there was one which seemed peculiarly welcome. It
was a deputation of undergraduates from the Cambridge University
Carlton, who travelled to London for the purpose of offering what
encouragement lay in their power. A year later, when as a Minister of
the Crown Lord Randolph was able to accept the invitation of this club
to a House dinner, he alluded to the incident in terms which cast an
intimate light upon his feelings at this tempestuous moment:--

‘There was a time last year when it happened to me to be engaged in
something partaking of the nature of a struggle with men of great
position, great responsibility, and great experience, as to the form
which modern Conservative political organisation ought to take. That
difference of opinion at one time became very sharp, and I did not know
what the result of it might be; and I was getting extremely anxious,
more for the sake of the Conservative party than for my own sake. One
evening I came home from the House of Commons very anxious and rather
discouraged, because at the House of Commons, among people whom I ought
to look upon as my political friends, I had met nothing but gloomy
looks; and I felt very much inclined to retire from the game, thinking I
was doing more harm than good, and rather--to use a slang
expression--disposed to cut the whole concern. However, when I arrived
at my house I found there waiting for me a deputation from the
University Carlton. Three gentlemen--three, I will venture to say, of
the most accomplished and able envoys ever sent out on any mission--were
waiting for me; and the only error which they committed was that,
instead of going into my house and waiting for me there, with whatever
accommodation that dwelling might afford, they waited for me in the
street, and had been waiting for me some time. I do not think you can
imagine the effect that expression of sympathy and that cordial
invitation had upon me at the time. Before I received it I felt that I
was very young, very inexperienced, and very much alone, and I did not
know to what extent any portion or fraction of public opinion might be
with me. But the expression of opinion from your club filled me with
hopes that, after all, I was not going so very far wrong--that I might
still persevere a little longer. I did persevere; everything came all
right, everything settled down, both to the harmony and, I think, to the
advantage of the Tory party. That was, to my mind, and must always be,
as far as I am concerned, a most interesting and memorable incident. It
was an encouragement from youth to youth.’

This temper among the rank and file was not lost upon the leaders of the
party. The olive branch was held out publicly, though patronisingly, by
Mr. Stanhope at a Finsbury meeting as early as May 7. Lord Salisbury
replied with grave courtesy to the representations of the provincial
Chairmen. All sorts of busybodies ran to and fro like shuttles weaving
up a peace. On the 9th a party meeting was called at the Carlton Club to
plan the contemplated second vote of censure on Egyptian policy. Upwards
of 170 members of Parliament attended. To the astonishment of many, who
thought he had been drummed out of the Conservative ranks, Lord Randolph
strolled in unconcernedly, was warmly welcomed by the leaders, and,
rising immediately after Sir Stafford Northcote, expressed his entire
approval of the terms of the vote of censure and of the general
arrangement of the debate. The meeting was loud in its satisfaction at
these signs of concord. The negotiations with the Central Committee were
resumed, almost at the point where they had been broken off. When the
Council of the National Union met again on the 16th, it was evident that
the tide of opinion flowed strongly in Lord Randolph’s favour. Upon the
motion of Lord Holmesdale he was unanimously re-elected Chairman. He
thus returned stronger than ever, neither disarmed nor placated, and the
movement which he had launched was driven steadily and relentlessly



    Nullius addictus jurare in verba magistri,
    Quo me cunque rapit tempestas deferor hospes.

    Sworn to no master, of no sect am I,
    As drives the storm, at any door I knock.
          POPE’S _Imitations_.

The Parliamentary session of 1884 began ill for Her Majesty’s Ministers
and its first month was like enough to have been their last. While the
mover and seconder of the Address to the Crown in either House were
purring ceremonious optimism about the improvement of the Egyptian
situation, the news arrived that General Valentine Baker’s wretched army
had been utterly destroyed by Osman Digna in a vain attempt to relieve
Tokar. So little disposed, indeed, were the Government to discuss
Egyptian affairs that they allowed the debate in the Commons to collapse
in a single night without any official reply to the serious attacks
which had been made; and it was only revived next day through Lord
Randolph’s moving the adjournment of the House, in somewhat unusual
procedure, to protest against their silence.

Hard upon the heels of Soudan disaster, and equally unwelcome, came Mr.
Bradlaugh. Judgment had been delivered in the Court of Queen’s Bench
upon the suit Bradlaugh _v._ Gosset, brought by the member for
Northampton against the Serjeant-at-Arms for excluding him from the
precincts of the House. The Court, while admitting the absolute command
of the Houses of Parliament over their own discipline, rules of
procedure, and interpretation thereof, asserted that resolutions of
either House could not affect Acts imposing fines and penalties. The
opportunity was thus presented to Mr. Bradlaugh of testing in the Courts
the value of a self-administered oath followed by a vote in Parliament.
Once again, therefore (February 11), he presented himself at the table.
Once again the members broke into a storm of shouting which drowned his
voice. Once again the Leader of the House sat silent and powerless. But
the battlefield had now become familiar to the Opposition. Sir Stafford
Northcote moved that the member for Northampton be not permitted to go
through the form of repeating the words of the oath. Mr. Labouchere
provoked the House to a division, in which Mr. Bradlaugh voted. Motion
was made forthwith to expunge his vote. Mr. Bradlaugh voted again upon
this. When it was realised that his vote could always be recorded once
oftener than it could be disallowed, the numbers of the first division
were read out and Sir Stafford Northcote’s motion was carried by 280 to
187. A further motion to exclude Mr. Bradlaugh from the precincts of the
House was agreed to without voting. Mr. Bradlaugh thereafter applied for
the Chiltern Hundreds and, his seat being thus vacated, Mr. Labouchere
moved for a new writ. This was granted by the House in spite of Lord
Randolph’s opposition. The electors of Northampton returned Mr.
Bradlaugh without delay by a largely increased majority. Sir Stafford
Northcote again moved his old motion to exclude him from the House and,
although the Prime Minister spoke impressively against it, the motion
was carried (February 26) by 226 to 173.

The Government were scarcely free from the humiliations of this affair
when fresh tidings of massacre and disaster arrived from the Soudan.
Despairing of relief after the destruction of Baker’s army, the garrison
of Tokar surrendered. The garrison of Sinkat perished in an attempt to
cut their way to the coast. While the fate of these places was
inevitably approaching, votes of censure were moved in both Houses of
Parliament. In the Lords the motion of Lord Cairns and Lord Salisbury
was affirmed by 181 to 81. In the Commons the debate followed what was
becoming the usual course. Sir Stafford Northcote made a long, mild, and
moderate speech, to which Mr. Gladstone replied vigorously. The moment
he sat down Lord Randolph Churchill sprang up to attack him in rhetoric
which can only be sustained by passion in few men and on rare occasions.
‘“Too late!”’ he cried. ‘“Too late!” is an awful cry. From time
immemorial it has heralded and proclaimed the slaughter of routed
armies, the flight of dethroned monarchs, the crash of falling Empires.
Wherever human blood has been poured out in torrents, wherever human
misery has been accumulated in mountains, wherever disasters have
occurred which have shaken the world to its very centre, there straight
and swift, up to heaven, or down to hell, has always gone the appalling
cry, “Too late! Too late!” The Opposition cannot but move a vote of
censure upon a Government whose motto is “Too late!” The Liberals should
be chary of giving support to a Government whose motto is “Too late!”;
and the people of this country will undoubtedly repudiate a Government
whose motto is invariably “Too late!”’

The Conservative party, profoundly stirred by tales of blood and shame,
continued shouting at this fierce conclusion long after the orator had

From these embarrassments and humiliations the Government found a happy
escape which for a while entirely transformed the Parliamentary
situation and placed them, in the fifth year of their troubled
existence, once again in a position of great advantage. The story of the
Reform Bill of 1884 may be briefly told. By enlargements of the
household franchise and by assimilation of the county and borough
franchise, two million new electors would be called into being and the
total electorate raised from three to five millions. The momentum which
this ponderous measure acquired was great enough to carry it forward
through all sections of the Liberal party and over all opposition in the
House of Commons, and to throw on one side or the other, as irrelevant
or impracticable, principles as democratic as ‘one man one vote,’ causes
as cherished as ‘Female Suffrage,’ devices as intricate and attractive
as proportional representation. The Bill itself became an object of
paramount desire. ‘It is,’ said Mr. Gladstone in introducing it, ‘a Bill
worth having; again I say it is a Bill worth your not endangering. Let
us enter into no by-way which would lead us off the path marked straight
out before us. Let there be no wanderings on the hill-tops of
speculation or into the morasses and fogs of doubt. What we want to
carry this Bill is union, and union only. What will endanger it is
disunion, and disunion only.’ And so it proved.

The position of the Conservative party had been very ill-defined on the
question of Parliamentary Reform ever since 1867. Mr. Disraeli’s action
had deprived them for ever of the right to oppose large extensions of
the franchise on principle. Tory Democracy, especially in Lancashire,
though hostile to the Government, looked with favour on their proposal.
Reform was a national as well as a party movement. Yet, on the other
hand, some of the strongest and most unyielding forces in the Tory
ranks--the county members in the House of Commons and Lord Salisbury in
the House of Lords--were prepared to offer a stubborn resistance to the

Nor, indeed, were they without grave reason from their point of view.
Hitherto the county Conservatives had been mainly, if not entirely,
selected and returned by farmers and landowners. The great labouring
population had been altogether excluded from political power. Now that
the franchise was offered to them, they welcomed it with greater
earnestness and enthusiasm than they have ever displayed on any other
question. Social reforms were good enough in their way but it was the
_vote_ on which they had set their hearts. There was a temper among them
that no one who understood county politics, could mistake and that
filled the Conservative representatives of a hundred seats with a
profound dismay. The overwhelming electorate that was to be, regarded
the interest of the farmer and landlord as fundamentally antagonistic to
their own. Any representative or candidate who was agreeable to the
farmer, must therefore be an enemy of theirs. Gratitude for the boon
which was offered, threw them still more completely on the Liberal side;
and the country party, once all powerful, long predominant, always
exercising enormous influence, now looked political extermination in the

Lord Randolph Churchill’s course through this memorable controversy is
not marked by that clearness of view or consistency of action which may
be claimed for him during his whole life upon so many important
questions. In a letter written some years afterwards he speaks of it as
‘the only sharp curve’ revealed by his published speeches. But, in
truth, the forces which he employed, as well as those with which he was
contending, were complex and uncertain to a degree beyond description.
Tory Democracy wanted to pass the Bill, yet wanted to destroy the
Government. The Conservative party, as a whole, hated the Bill, hated
the Government, yet were unable to agree upon uncompromising
opposition. These perplexities were multiplied by the struggle for
mastery which was proceeding between the rival Parliamentary groups upon
the Council of the National Union and by the varying relations of Lord
Randolph Churchill towards Lord Salisbury and the official party
leaders. The Fourth Party was fated to perish amid this intricate
confusion. Its members criticised and even attacked one another and,
though they still all sat together in their old places, their old
comradeship was utterly destroyed.

It was known during the autumn of 1883 that the question of Reform was
occupying the Cabinet and would probably issue in a Bill. On December
19, 1883, when Lord Randolph was delivering his ‘trilogy’ at Edinburgh,
he had dealt among other matters with the question of Reform. Attacking
the Government, he was easily led into attacking their project. As the
representative of a small agricultural borough he could not, as he
himself said afterwards, be expected to look upon a measure for the
extinction of Woodstock ‘with any very longing eye.’ The divided state
of opinion in the Conservative party had not then been disclosed. He
believed that they would insist upon fighting the Bill to the death and
he was willing to stand with them in such a struggle. He therefore spoke
against Reform--not, indeed, in principle--but on the ground of (1) the
inopportuneness of the moment chosen and the far more urgent character
of other questions; (2) the obvious risk of any large addition to the
Irish electorate; (3) the transparent design of the Government to
divert public attention from foreign affairs; (4) the absence of any
indication, on the part of the unenfranchised masses, of any great
desire for the voting privilege.[22] His words, though listened to with
attention and respect, were plainly not acceptable to the audience of
Scotch artisans. They wanted to cheer the Tory Democrat: but they also
wanted Reform. A more surprising incident followed. Mr. Balfour and Lord
Elcho, who were on the platform, both thought it necessary then and
there to declare themselves in favour of the assimilation of the county
and borough franchise. Before Parliament assembled the utter lack of
unanimity in the Conservative party against the Bill was evident and all
chance of resisting it consequently perished.

The attempt to overthrow the Government on their Egyptian policy having
failed, the Reform Bill was introduced. Lord Randolph proposed to meet
it on the second reading by moving the previous question--‘that the
question be not now put.’ This form of opposition asserted most of the
objections he had stated at Edinburgh, without committing anyone who
might support it to resistance to Reform on principle. He secured
precedence for his motion. But the Conservative leaders, who were also
unable to meet the Bill squarely, attempted a parry of their own. They
declared that they could not agree to the extension of the franchise
unless it were coupled with provision for a redistribution of seats. A
motion in this sense was placed upon the paper by Lord John Manners in
the name of the Opposition. In so far as this motion allowed it to be
assumed that the leaders of the Conservative party were favourable to
the extension of the franchise, if only it were accompanied by
redistribution, it was plainly a pretence. But there was one element of
grim reality about it. A dissolution upon the extended electorate before
redistribution had taken effect would have been peculiarly injurious to
Conservative interests both in town and country. At Sir Stafford
Northcote’s request Lord Randolph Churchill removed his motion of ‘the
previous question’ from the paper and issue was accordingly joined upon
the motion of Lord John Manners. Even this modified and rather
meaningless form of resistance did not secure the support of the entire
Conservative party. At the beginning of the session the Government
majority had fallen to 17. They carried the second reading of the ‘Bill
for the Representation of the People,’ as it was officially styled, by a
majority of 130 (340-210).

Confronted with such evidences of the impossibility of further resisting
the measure as a whole, Lord Randolph Churchill now abandoned altogether
his opposition. He thought that if the Conservative party were not
prepared to fight the Bill, there was no reason why they should incur
the odium and the hazards, without the satisfactions of war, or the hope
of victory. Moreover, he had in the meanwhile accepted the invitation to
contest Birmingham at the General Election, and in exchanging a large
democratic constituency for a family borough he was naturally freed from
those special reasons connected with Woodstock which had previously
influenced him.

These arguments were no doubt fortified by the progress of the debates
in the House of Commons. It soon became certain that the Bill would pass
and that the Conservative party could offer it no united and general
resistance. It became, moreover, evident that the most bitter opponents
of Lord Randolph Churchill personally and of Tory Democracy as an idea,
were also the most bitter opponents of Reform. The line of cleavage
between the New and the Old Tories ran through the whole question. The
very fact that the ‘old gang’ were obstinately against the measure
influenced Lord Randolph powerfully in its favour and he was not the man
to allow a single precipitate speech to separate him from those
progressive forces in the Conservative party whose representative he
was. ‘An unchanging mind,’ he observed on one occasion, ‘is an admirable
possession--a possession which I devoutly hope I shall never possess.’
He declared publicly that he now regarded Reform as inevitable, and that
the principles of the assimilation of the county and borough franchise
and of equality of political rights between England and Ireland must
henceforth govern Conservatives as well as Liberals. The Fourth Party
therefore, after the second reading, became the friends of the Reform
Bill and genuinely and materially assisted its passage.

While the Bill was passing through Committee the quarrel in the National
Union was at its height, and Lord Randolph and his handful of friends
became increasingly hostile to the Conservative leaders and consequently
more favourable to Reform. He and Mr. Gorst voted and Sir Henry Wolff
spoke against Sir R. Cross’s amendment which affected the principle of
the Bill. The question of the date at which the Reform Bill should come
into force, exercised the Conservative party and was vital to the
position of conditional resistance they had perforce adopted. Sir Henry
Wolff, in the name of the Fourth Party, made a motion which would have
had the effect of postponing the decision upon this point until a later
stage. His suggestion was willingly accepted by Mr. Gladstone in the
interests of a compromise. Colonel Stanley, however, proposed from the
Front Opposition Bench at once to insert words delaying the operation of
the Franchise Bill until Redistribution had been effected. Lord Randolph
Churchill on this said bluntly that he had changed his mind since the
beginning of the session and he argued that while it might have been
possible to fight the Bill with a united party, it was foolish to incur
popular displeasure by futile attempts to wreck it. Colonel Stanley’s
amendment was dismissed by a large majority (276-182).

The tactics of the Fourth Party were supported by a few independent
members, but the serious cleavage in the Tory ranks was revealed more
evidently by the number of Conservatives who failed, during various
divisions in Committee, to sustain the Opposition leaders in the Lobby.
Lord Randolph’s refusal to fight provoked indignant complaints from
those old-fashioned country Tories who, faced by political ruin in their
seats, naturally wished to offer the Bill an unyielding resistance, no
matter at what cost to party interests in general; and, as may be
imagined, they did not neglect to quote Lord Randolph’s Edinburgh speech
against him. To charges of inconsistency which were not indeed denied,
Lord Randolph and his supporters retorted by accusing the Conservative
leaders of being secretly anxious to kill a measure they did not dare
openly to assail. During these debates the separation of Mr. Balfour
from the rest of the Fourth Party became notorious. Lord Randolph,
reproached with having abandoned his attitude of strong opposition to
Reform, adroitly attributed his conversion to Mr. Balfour and Lord
Elcho, who had proclaimed at Edinburgh their dissent from his earlier
opinion. Mr. Balfour replied with some acidness that ‘his noble friend’s
efforts to be in perfect accord with the Conservative party, numerous
and well-intentioned as they were, did not seem to be crowned with
success.’ Through the ineptitude of some of their leaders and the
perversity of others the Opposition, alike above and below the gangway,
cut a poor figure during the debates on the ‘Bill for the Representation
of the People.’

Perhaps the most direct divergence occurred on Mr. Brodrick’s amendment
to omit Ireland from the scope of the new franchise. We have seen how
Lord Randolph, as a young man in the Parliament of 1874, had first
supported and later on--when circumstances had changed--opposed the
extension to Ireland of electoral privileges similar to and simultaneous
with those enjoyed in Great Britain. His speech at Edinburgh had laid
emphasis on the danger of any large accession to the Irish vote. Only a
few days before the question was discussed he had been re-elected, as
described in the last chapter, to the chairmanship of the Council of the
National Union. It was popularly assumed that he had come to terms with
Lord Salisbury, and their reported reconciliation had been
ostentatiously paraded in the party press. But when Lord Randolph
resumed the debate on May 20, it soon appeared that he was still
recalcitrant. Amid an ominous silence on the Conservative benches he
asked Mr. Brodrick to withdraw his amendment, and declared that he had
made up his mind to vote against it if it were carried to a division. He
then declared once and for all in favour of the equal and similar
treatment of Ireland in all matters of electoral reform; and this
principle of ‘similarity and simultaneity,’ as it came to be called, has
since been commonly identified with his name. One passage in this speech
was at the time greatly admired and applauded. Mr. Smith during the
autumn had argued that no votes should be given to Irish peasants who
lived in mud-cabins, and the ‘mud-cabin’ argument had become a very
prominent feature in the debate. Lord Randolph dealt with this
contention in his most polished Parliamentary style.

‘I have heard,’ he said, ‘a great deal of the mud-cabin argument. For
that we are indebted to the brilliant, ingenious, and fertile mind of
the right honourable member for Westminster.[23] I suppose that in the
minds of the lords of suburban villas, of the owners of vineries and
pineries, the mud-cabin represents the climax of physical and social
degradation. But the franchise in England has never been determined by
Parliament with respect to the character of the dwellings. The
difference between the cabin of the Irish peasant and the cottage of the
English agricultural labourer is not so great as that which exists
between the abode of the right honourable member for Westminster and the
humble roof which shelters from the storm the individual who now has the
honour to address the Committee.’ When the cheers and laughter had
subsided he went on to quote the famous lines:--

    Non ebur, neque aureum
    Meâ renidet in domo lacunar;
    Non trabes Hymettiae
    Premunt columnas ultimâ recisas

‘But if the right honourable member for Westminster were to propose to
the Committee that he himself should have a vote at Parliamentary
elections and that I should have none, I feel sure the House of Commons
would repudiate the proposal with indignation and disgust.’ The
‘mud-cabin’ argument seems after this to have disappeared altogether
from Parliamentary warfare and Mr. Brodrick’s amendment was rejected by
the enormous majority of 332 to 137. After this the resistance of the
Opposition in the House of Commons was at an end. The third reading of
the Bill was allowed to pass _nemine contradicente_ and entered
accordingly on the journals of the House. The Bill then went to the
House of Lords at the end of June; and there, by amendments supported by
majorities of 59 and 50, it was incontinently destroyed. The collision
between the two Houses was direct, and a dangerous excitement arose in
the country.

Although unwilling to impede the progress of the Reform Bill and
decidedly predisposed to take action contrary to the views of his own
pastors above the gangway in order to put a spoke in their wheel, Lord
Randolph was the most unrelenting and vigilant opponent of the Liberal
Government. Whenever and wherever a favourable chance of fighting
occurred he was the foremost man, and many furious wrangles between him
and Mr. Gladstone, or Mr. Chamberlain or Sir Charles Dilke marked the
course of the session. In the quarrel between the two Houses after the
rejection of the Bill in the House of Lords, he exerted himself to his
utmost on behalf of the House of Lords and laid on the Prime Minister
the whole responsibility for the dangerous constitutional situation
which had arisen and was becoming increasingly grave. Hansard and the
newspapers record these battles in ample detail. Sometimes he found
powerful support. On one occasion, when a dispute arose with Sir Charles
Dilke as to the accuracy of a quotation from Lord Randolph’s speeches,
Sir Michael Hicks-Beach said abruptly that ‘he preferred to believe the
word of his noble friend to that of the right honourable baronet’--an
observation which he was required by the Speaker to withdraw. On another
occasion Lord Randolph charged the Prime Minister with having ‘traduced’
his opponents by representing that Lord Salisbury had said in the course
of a confidential conversation that he would not discuss Redistribution
‘with a rope round his neck,’ and he moved the adjournment of the House.
Mr. Gladstone, violently incensed, described this word ‘traduce’--which
he declared implied a wilful and disgraceful act, not arising from
error--as ‘foul language.’ Lord Randolph immediately rose to order, and
asked the Speaker whether the Prime Minister was to be allowed to use
words which would not be tolerated in any other member. The Speaker
hoped that Mr. Gladstone would not insist on employing the expression.
The Prime Minister’s reply was accepted as a withdrawal, though his
actual words do not favour that construction. It is said that this was
the only time in his whole career when Mr. Gladstone incurred the rebuke
of the Chair. Lord Randolph seems to have been distressed at having
offended his great antagonist so deeply. Later in the debate he rose
again. ‘Recollecting,’ he said, ‘the vast difference which separates me
from the Prime Minister, I wish to say that it never has been and never
will be my intention, during the many years I hope he will remain in
this House, to use language in any way incompatible with his lofty
position.’ Mr. Gladstone received this assurance with much magnificent
urbanity. ‘I was no doubt at the moment a little irritated at language
that I thought very strong; but on reflection I must own that the noble
lord has always been very courteous to me.’

But whether, in these vexed and protracted debates, Lord Randolph
Churchill attacked the Prime Minister or harassed his own leaders;
whether he was supported by loud applauses of Conservative members or
heard by them in chilly silence; whether he seemed to be the accepted
spokesman of the Opposition or a solitary politician--his hand against
every man and every man’s hand against him--his almost unerring eye for
a Parliamentary situation, his mastery over the House and his formidable
power for good or evil upon the fortunes of his party became continually
more evident. Alone, or almost alone, he waged his double warfare
against Government and Opposition. Assailed on all sides--from the
Ministerial box, from the Front Opposition Bench, from those who sat
before him and behind him and even beside him; confronted with his own
contradictory statements, now by one side, now by the other; rebuked by
the Prime Minister, repeatedly repudiated by his colleagues and
leaders, he nevertheless preserved throughout an air of haughty
composure and met or repelled all attacks with resourceful and undaunted
pluck. ‘Tory Democracy,’ said Mr. Chamberlain during a vehement speech
in favour of the Reform Bill (House of Commons, March 27), ‘of which we
shall hear a good deal in the future, is represented in this House by
the member for Woodstock. I pay the greatest attention to anything he
says because I find that what he says to-day his leaders say to-morrow.
They follow him with halting steps, somewhat unwillingly; but they
always follow him. They may not always like the prescription he makes up
for them; but they always swallow it.’

Meanwhile the second vote of censure upon the conduct of Egyptian
affairs had been debated. On May 12 Sir Michael Hicks-Beach moved: ‘That
this House regrets to find the course pursued by Her Majesty’s
Government has not tended to promote the success of General Gordon’s
mission and that even such steps as may be necessary to secure his
personal safety are delayed.’ The attack was vigorously delivered. The
Prime Minister’s reply was judged inadequate and disquieting, even by
many of his own supporters. Mr. Forster assailed him during the debate
harshly and sternly. The weight and earnestness of Lord Hartington alone
retrieved Ministerial fortunes. Lord Randolph Churchill spoke (May 13)
to a larger audience, according to the newspapers, than had gathered to
hear any other speaker; and the benches, the gangways and the spaces
below the bar and behind the Chair were all filled to overflowing.
Despite the bitterness of the struggle in the National Union, the
wrangles over the Reform Bill of almost nightly recurrence and the
antagonisms which these had excited, the Conservative members broke into
loud acclamation at his rising. Before he had spoken for a quarter of an
hour he was sustained by the cheering of the whole party. He scourged
Mr. Gladstone relentlessly. He applied to him the well-known story of
the Duke of Wellington sitting down after making a speech on Reform amid
a great buzz of conversation and, on asking the reason for the
excitement, being told: ‘My Lord Duke, you have announced the fall of
your Government.’ It was curious, he said, how different individuals
appealed to the Prime Minister’s sympathies. ‘I compared his efforts in
the cause of General Gordon with his efforts in the cause of Mr.
Bradlaugh. If a hundredth part of those invaluable moral qualities
bestowed upon the cause of a seditious blasphemer had been given to the
support of a Christian hero, the success of Gordon’s mission would have
been assured. But the finest speech he ever delivered in the House of
Commons was in support of the seditious blasphemer; and the very worst
he ever delivered, by common consent, was in the cause of the Christian
hero.’ At this there was a great tumult.

Towards the end, when he had his party thoroughly behind him, Lord
Randolph took occasion to declare, in the form of an elaborate eulogy
upon Sir Michael Hicks-Beach, his intentions as to the leadership of
the House of Commons. ‘I hear a great deal about the deplorable weakness
of the Opposition; but I did not detect any deplorable weakness in the
speech of the right honourable gentleman who proposed this motion; nor
did I detect any deplorable weakness in the sonorous and resonant cheers
which greeted that speech continually from beginning to end--a speech
with reference to which I may be permitted to remark that it was a
magnificent indictment, all the more magnificent because it was so
measured and so grave; and I think it must have recalled to the Prime
Minister himself the palmy days of Tory leadership.’

‘The Government,’ he concluded, ‘when they went to Egypt abandoned every
atom of principle which they possessed. Egypt has been a Nemesis to them
and will, I believe, be their ruin. But the whole question is at last,
thank God, presented to us in an intelligible form. Will you or will you
not rescue Gordon? Answer “Aye” or “No.” The people of England and
Scotland, and of Ireland also, I believe, say “Aye.”’ (Cries of “No”
from the Ministerial benches and cheers.) ‘The Prime Minister and a few
Radical fanatics say “No”; but great as is the Prime Minister’s power,
long as has been his career and dazzling as his eloquence is, the odds
against him on this question are so overwhelming that even he must
either submit or resign.’ The Government escaped defeat only by
twenty-eight votes. Thirty-one Home Rulers voted with the Tory party;
and fifteen, or enough to have carried the censure, voted with
Ministers. The debate and the division alike foreshadowed the events of

While the fortunes of battle in the House of Commons varied thus from
day to day, the attention of both factions in the National Union was
concentrated on the approaching Conference of delegates from all parts
of the country, when the new Council must be elected. The chairmanship
depended upon the complexion of the Council. Lord Percy, the official
candidate, and his friends entertained hopes that an appeal to the
delegates to stand by the official leaders of the party and to repudiate
disloyalty would result in the election of a Council hostile to Lord
Randolph Churchill. To this end nothing was neglected. A careful and
earnest canvass was set on foot, supported by all the influence which
the representatives of the old and high Toryism could command.
Sheffield, it appears, was specially selected for the meeting-place, as
the local members were hostile to Lord Randolph; and that authority in
its highest embodiment should not be lacking, Lord Salisbury himself
undertook to address the assembled delegates at the evening meeting.

On the other hand Lord Randolph Churchill’s friends were not idle, and
Mr. Gorst’s great experience in all matters of organisation proved
invaluable; but when all had been done, the event rested upon a popular
vote, the character of which none could forecast. The Conference was
awaited by all parties with anxiety and excitement, and passion ran high
in the weeks that preceded it. Lord Randolph had promised informally to
speak for Mr. Stuart-Wortley at Sheffield. Consequent upon that
gentleman’s hostility he now refused. He was pressed to reconsider his
decision in order to avoid making differences public. He refused. The
report of the Council of the National Union was now prepared for the
Conference. It contained a succinct account of the course of the
quarrel, with many of the letters published in the last chapter. It was
felt that its circulation would be damaging to party interests. Mr.
Hartley, ‘at risk even of annoying you,’ wrote (July 9) to urge that it
should be suppressed or modified. Lord Randolph curtly replied that the
report unanimously adopted by the Council for presentation to the
Conference could not now be altered without authority. A requisition
under the rules of the National Union, duly signed by five members of
the Council, was forwarded to Lord Randolph (July 10) demanding a
special meeting for the purpose of revising the report. Availing himself
of the discretionary power reserved to the Chairman under by-law No. 23,
Lord Randolph declined to act upon the requisition.

The following correspondence also passed at this time between him and
Sir Stafford Northcote:--

          _Sir Stafford Northcote to Lord Randolph Churchill._


30 St. James’s Place, S.W.: July 10, 1884.

     Dear Lord Randolph,--Will you be able to give me a few minutes’
     conversation after Mr. Gladstone has made his statement to-night?

     We ought, I think, as soon as the intentions of the Government have
     been disclosed, to come to some arrangement for a meeting in
     London (either St. James’s Hall, Duke of Wellington’s Riding
     School, or elsewhere, but _not_ out of doors) in order to give the
     keynote for the party in the country. I would not make it a meeting
     about the Reform Bill exclusively, but have three or four
     resolutions--one a general review of the Ministerial misdeeds;
     another a growl about Egypt; another on the question of the
     Franchise Bill; and a concluding one urging a dissolution, unless
     Gladstone has already announced one.

     I should like to consult you about the resolutions and about some
     other points.

I remain
Yours very faithfully,

          _Lord Randolph Churchill to Sir Stafford Northcote._

2 Connaught Place, W.: July 10, 1884.

     Dear Sir Stafford Northcote,--It is my duty always to hold myself
     at your service whenever it may be your pleasure to do me the
     honour of asking my opinion on any political question; at the same
     time I feel bound to remark that former occasions on which on your
     invitation I have offered an opinion have almost invariably led to
     considerable misunderstandings, for which, of course, I blame no
     one but myself.

     The Conference of Associations which is to meet on the 23rd will
     have to decide upon important and serious differences which have
     arisen between myself and certain other parties who claim to be
     acting (with what amount of justice I cannot determine) as the
     representatives and agents of yourself and the Marquis of
     Salisbury; and till that Conference has taken place I am certain
     that it is not in my power to attend public meetings with the
     slightest usefulness or effect.

Believe me to be
Yours very faithfully,

The Conservative Associations assembled at Sheffield on July 23. Lord
Randolph did not attend Lord Salisbury’s meeting, though Mr. Chaplin
naïvely assured him that he would have been welcome. Upwards of 450
delegates gathered under his presidency in the Cutlers’ Hall. He made a
conciliatory speech, urging the necessity of adapting the organisation
of the Conservative party to the changed political requirements of the
day. He expounded the report at length and concluded by declaring that
in the contest between himself and Lord Percy he was actuated by no
personal ambition, but anxious for the welfare of the party. Lord Percy
thereupon attacked him, asserting ‘that he had broken away from the
leaders of the party and not adhered to them as he ought to have done.’
It was known that he spoke with official authority and that the
candidates whom he proposed were those favoured by Lord Salisbury and
Sir Stafford Northcote. After a long debate the delegates voted. Lord
Randolph Churchill was placed at the head of the poll by 346 votes. Mr.
Forwood, his principal supporter, was second, but after a great interval
(298). Six of his nominees occupied the first six places. Lord Percy did
not appear till the eighth place (260). Lord Salisbury’s private
secretary, who was also a candidate, was rejected. Out of thirty
candidates proposed by Lord Randolph Churchill, twenty-two were elected.
The whole official authority of the party exerted by Lord Percy secured
only eighteen out of thirty-six put forward by him. ‘The result,’ said
the _Times_ (July 24), ‘showed that the substantial victory rested with
Lord Randolph Churchill.’ His main reforms in organisation had been
conceded by the Central Committee and adopted by resolution at the
Conference. His own re-election as Chairman was assured.

But now a strange and unexpected turn was given to the course of events.
Lord Randolph Churchill’s victory, remarkable as it was, had been
narrowly won. A powerful and inflamed minority remained upon the Council
of the National Union to hamper and assail the leader of Tory Democracy.
The proverbial three courses lay before him. To renew his chairmanship
and to continue an internecine quarrel up to the very verge of the
General Election; to withdraw for a time from public life; or to make a
peace with Lord Salisbury. He chose the third. Sir Henry Wolff was
authorised to open negotiations. Mr. Balfour’s good offices were freely
tendered. Lord Salisbury was prompt in seizing the opportunity. Indeed,
the suicidal results to the principals and to their party of a
continuance of the quarrel were obvious. Terms of reconciliation were
speedily arranged. The Central Committee was abolished, and the
democratic reforms in the organisation of the National Union were
confirmed; the Primrose League was formally recognised and supported by
the official leaders. Sir Michael Hicks-Beach, who had been elected to
the Council of the National Union as an independent member on the list
of neither contending faction, and who was liked and trusted by both
sides, was nominated as the new Chairman. There was, moreover, a
general understanding that Lord Randolph Churchill and his friends were
to act in harmony with Lord Salisbury and were to be treated with full
confidence by him and the ruling members of the Conservative party.

Such were the conditions, so far as they could be, or have ever been,
put on paper. But it is evident that their moral consequences were of
much graver importance. No record has been preserved of what passed at
the interview between Lord Randolph Churchill and Lord Salisbury. But
certain very significant facts are plain. Lord Salisbury did not select
a lieutenant. He formed an alliance on terms of comradeship for the
general advantage of the party. The two men met as chiefs of almost
equal powers. Although Lord Salisbury’s primacy was never disputed by
Lord Randolph Churchill, they exercised from the very first a divided
authority; and it is in the light of this unusual relationship--based
not, indeed, upon any definite agreement, but arising out of the hard
facts of the situation--that the conduct of both, amid the political
turbulence of the next two years, can alone be fairly judged.

Lord Salisbury was loyal throughout to Sir Stafford Northcote, even in a
degree which was often detrimental to party interests. But, whatever his
wishes may have been, the settlement of the National Union dispute
sealed that unfortunate statesman’s fate--so far as the leadership of
the House of Commons was concerned. The dinner to which, in celebration
of the peace, Lord Salisbury invited the Council of the National Union,
including a majority of those who had been his most active opponents
during the past year, was the public acceptance of Tory Democracy in the
councils of the Conservative party. The great meeting held in the Pomona
Gardens at Manchester in August and addressed by Lord Salisbury, Lord
Randolph Churchill, and Sir Michael Hicks-Beach, was a plain indication
of the Cabinet and Parliamentary arrangements which would be a necessary
consequence of that acceptance.

Sir Henry Wolff, who had been throughout these conflicts Lord Randolph’s
most intimate and trusted friend, entirely approved of the steps which
had been taken to end the quarrel.[24] Mr. Gorst also wrote to Lord
Randolph on July 27, 1884, expressly and explicitly signifying his
concurrence and describing Lord Randolph Churchill’s refusal to continue
as Chairman of Council of the National Union as ‘a good stroke of
policy.’ But it has since been suggested, upon apparently unimpeachable
authority,[25] that Mr. Gorst disapproved of the reconciliation; that he
thought greater advantage to the Conservative party would have followed
from the prosecution of the dispute; and that he conceived himself in
some measure deserted by its abandonment. Of Lord Randolph’s behaviour
to his able, energetic supporter the reader will be able to judge before
the story is complete. But there is no doubt that Mr. Gorst was for a
time, after the _concordat_, in a position of much weakness and
isolation. He had incurred very bitter enmities by the part he had taken
in the quarrel. It was especially resented that those talents of
organisation which had so greatly aided the Tory victory of 1874, should
have been employed against the recognised leaders of the Conservative
party ten years later. Men who did not think it wise, in view of what
had happened in the past, and still more of what might happen in the
future, to anger Lord Randolph Churchill, were glad enough to indulge
their spite upon Mr. Gorst. His real feeling--that he had been thrown
over--must have become apparent to Lord Randolph Churchill, in spite of
his written agreement in the course adopted; and a coolness ensued
between them, diversified with occasional heats.

Sir Michael Hicks-Beach laid the National Union peacefully to rest in an
obscurity from which its members have only emerged at infrequent
intervals to pass Protectionist resolutions. Nearly twenty years elapsed
before it recovered, at another Sheffield Conference, a passing shadow
of its old importance, and the distinction which it achieved on that
occasion may excuse the hope that its future repose will long remain

The reconciliation of Lord Randolph Churchill with Lord Salisbury which
followed on the Sheffield Conference, was comprehensive and loyally
observed. The tactics of the Opposition became more effective in the
House of Commons and their councils more harmonious. But strife in the
constituencies was to succeed this session of storm and effort. Faced
by the rejection of a great popular measure at the hands of hereditary
legislators, the Liberal Government did not waver. The autumn was
consumed in angry agitation and Parliament was specially summoned for a
winter session to pass the Bill again. The Radicals were full of hope
that no compromise would be offered or accepted. Never before or since
had they laid hands upon so good a battering-ram as the Franchise Bill.
Never since those days has the House of Lords placed itself on ground so
insecure. But the pressure of public opinion proved effective; Mr.
Gladstone was benevolent; and the Queen urgent for a settlement. Lord
Randolph Churchill was deeply impressed with the danger of a continuance
of the constitutional struggle between the Lords and the Commons. ‘It
was not a little owing to the urgency,’ writes Sir Michael Hicks-Beach,
‘with which he pressed on me the need of some arrangement that, with the
consent of Lord Salisbury and Sir Stafford Northcote, I had the
preliminary conferences with Lord Hartington which led to the more
formal meetings of the leaders of both parties.’ Finally, after weeks of
haggling, expostulation, menace, and intrigue, it was finally arranged
that the Franchise Bill should pass first and that Redistribution upon
lines agreeable to both parties should follow forthwith.

To mark and proclaim the newly compacted alliance within the
Conservative party, Sir Stafford Northcote came during the autumn recess
to speak in Lord Randolph’s support at Birmingham. Of all the
demonstrations organised against the House of Lords for its rejection of
the Franchise Bill scarcely any had exceeded that held at Soho Pool,
near Birmingham, on Bank Holiday. Aston Park, in the same neighbourhood,
had been secured on October 13 by the Conservatives for a
counter-demonstration, which was to open a week of campaigning
throughout the district. Besides Sir Stafford and Lord Randolph
Churchill, Colonel Burnaby and many other members of Parliament and
candidates were to address the concourse at five simultaneous political
meetings, and the well-known attractions of the Park and of the orators
were to be strengthened by bands of music and a firework display.
According to the Conservatives, the Aston demonstration was to represent
the Midlands in general and Birmingham in particular, and special trains
were run from all the surrounding constituencies with detachments of
enthusiastic Tories and holiday-makers.

These well-conceived arrangements caused much offence to the Radicals of
Birmingham. They declared that an attempt was to be made to misrepresent
the feeling of their city by importing outsiders and excursionists to
swell the numbers of the demonstrators; and as the meetings had been
called from the citizens of Birmingham and were in local parlance ‘town
meetings’ rather than ordinary ‘party meetings,’ they resolved to attend
them too. Admission to Aston Park was by ticket. It was stated that
120,000 tickets would be issued to those who applied for them. Everyone
applied. Trade Union secretaries, great Liberal manufacturers like the
Tangyes, officials of the Radical organisations, applied for, in some
cases, as many as 800 at a time. The promoters of the demonstration
became alarmed; and as it was now clear--and even avowed--that the
Radicals would attend in force and spoil the effect, the issue of
tickets was stopped and the applications were refused. Elaborate,
formidable, and, as it proved, thoroughly effective measures were
thereupon adopted to enable the voice of Birmingham to be heard. It
became known that large numbers of tickets were being forged. Of course,
no one in authority in the Liberal party lent any countenance to such
proceedings. Mr. Schnadhorst went away for the day upon important
business. A few working men--a mere handful of trampled
toilers--spontaneously, with no help from their party, inspired by no
other emotion than zeal for freedom and Reform, organised a
counter-demonstration. The place of meeting was selected, by an unlucky
coincidence, just outside the walls of Aston Park; and there also it
happened that, on the appointed day, a cart containing ladders and other
useful appliances drew up. The bills announcing this innocent
counter-demonstration summoned the ‘Men of Birmingham and the Midlands’
to assemble for deliberation in Witton Road (just outside the Park),
after which ‘let all who can get admittance attend the Tory meetings,
wear the Gladstone badge, and show you are not ashamed of your
colours.’ In order that nothing should interfere with the discharge of
these civic duties, Tangye’s and other large works in the city closed
for the afternoon.

The day arrived. The weather was suitable to outdoor political debate.
The holders of tickets--forged or genuine--assembled by road and rail
from all parts of the Midlands. The Aston grounds were soon crowded with
demonstrators. Outside, the counter-demonstration, made up of three
large processions, estimated at 15,000 strong, converged upon a waste
plot of land hard by the Park wall. Individuals began to climb over but
were stopped by broken glass. Earnest hands seized the ladders which
stood there by chance and the broken glass was demolished. A waggon
which had served as the platform was dragged towards the wall; and by
this, by the ladders, and also, it appears, by a convenient tree, many
persons swarmed over. Inside they found a single policeman, who could do
nothing to gainsay them, and a tool-house containing a number of planks.
By using the planks as battering-rams a breach was made in the wall and
thousands of excited people poured through it into the Park to join by
force their friends who had entered by fraud.

The open-air meetings were broken up by riot. Stones, potatoes, and even
chairs were flung at the members of Parliament who attempted to address
the crowd. The platform of the great hall was stormed. Sir Stafford
Northcote, who showed much pluck throughout these turbulent experiences
which his physical condition ill fitted him to endure, and Lord
Randolph Churchill were overwhelmed by furious clamour and finally
driven from the hall in the midst of a battle royal of sticks and
chair-legs. Lord Randolph, not following promptly enough, was picked up
and carried away bodily by a burly admirer from Wolverhampton. The crowd
at first followed at a walk and afterwards at a run, and so menacing and
dangerous was their temper that Sir Stafford Northcote was dragged along
by his guards at full speed and even so narrowly avoided capture. Other
members of Parliament had rougher experiences and Mr. Darling[26] was
lucky to make an escape from a window before the door of the room in
which he had taken refuge was battered down. The platform of the Skating
Rink collapsed while a free-fight was raging upon it. The fireworks
perished ignominiously in broad daylight; the set-piece of Sir Stafford
Northcote being received with storms of groans and fired off, by a
refinement of cruelty, _upside down_. Such were the Aston riots. No
persons were actually killed in them, but not a few were seriously
injured, and hundreds carried away scars and bruises from the fray.

The indignation caused among the Conservatives of Birmingham, and indeed
throughout the country, by these events was fierce and bitter. Lord
Randolph Churchill turned to the fullest advantage the blunder into
which his adversaries had been drawn. Every day for a week, in spite of
repeated threats of personal violence, he journeyed to and fro in
Birmingham and in a series of speeches, published and read in every part
of the country, he fastened the responsibility for disorder and
intimidation upon Mr. Chamberlain and his Caucus. He urged Conservative
working men to take effective measures to protect themselves from
tyranny and not to hesitate to meet force by force. ‘I do not think,’ he
said, ‘the Conservative party ought to look to the police for
assistance. We are quite capable of taking care of ourselves.’ Formal
resolutions were accordingly passed by Conservative Clubs, pledging
themselves to take concerted measures of defence and of reprisal. Upon
the connection of the Birmingham Corporation with Radical politics he
was explicit.

     The contest in Birmingham is not a contest, such as is carried on
     in other constituencies in England, between party and party. It is
     a contest between popular self-government and a corrupt oligarchy;
     between electoral freedom and Russian despotism; between open
     dealing and Venetian espionage; between individual security and
     public order and all the resources and ingenuity of terror and
     intimidation. The whole of the governing power of the borough of
     Birmingham is almost absolutely in the hands of the Caucus. The
     patronage disposed of is enormous. The Caucus, acting under the
     name of the Corporation, own the gasworks; they own the water
     supply; they control the lunatic asylums; they control the grammar
     school; they control some large establishments in the nature of a
     drainage farm; they manipulate the borough funds to the extent of
     nearly one million a year; they pay something like 80,000_l._ a
     year in wages; and their number of employees, as far as I can
     ascertain, is about 25,000. And all these enormous resources are
     directed principally, not so much to the good of the town of
     Birmingham, as to the maintenance of the power of the Caucus. Every
     one of their employees knows that he holds his office, his
     position, his employment, upon the distinct understanding that in
     all political and municipal matters he must blindly submit himself;
     and upon the slightest sign even of independence--to say nothing of
     opposition--he will lose his employment; he will be thrown upon the
     world with all his family, even if it should lead to his ruin or
     his starvation.

These charges were furiously denied, and were no doubt exaggerated in
form; but they bore a sufficiently accurate and substantial relation to
circumstances well within the knowledge of Birmingham citizens to be
highly damaging. Moreover, the argument that the Radical party, although
already possessed of all the machinery of national government, were
preparing--by the abolition of the Second Chamber on the one hand, and
the suppression of public meetings on the other--to subvert the
Constitution and to enter upon revolutionary paths, gained acceptance in
England far beyond the ordinary limits of Conservative opinion.

So soon as Parliament met, a week later, for the winter session, Lord
Randolph placed upon the paper an amendment to the Address taking the
form of a vote of censure on Mr. Chamberlain for speeches which
encouraged interference with freedom of discussion and incited to riot
and disorder. The debate was heralded for several days by much
preliminary snarling. Mr. Chamberlain, irritated by constant
cross-questioning, referred to Sir Henry Wolff as Lord Randolph
Churchill’s ‘jackal.’ ‘With his usual insolence,’ observed Sir Henry
Wolff in reply; and, on being rebuked by the Speaker, he substituted
‘with his usual courtesy.’ Mr. Chaplin inquired whether the President of
the Local Government Board would not proceed to describe his opponents
as ‘hyænas’; and Lord Randolph Churchill, availing himself of the
Speaker’s ruling that the word ‘jackal,’ if looked upon as a figurative
expression, was not out of order, proceeded to state that at the
earliest possible opportunity he would move his amendment and ‘draw the

This occasion was provided on October 30, and led to a singularly
unpleasant debate. Lord Randolph Churchill quoted numerous extracts from
Mr. Chamberlain’s speeches. He asserted that no Minister of the Crown
had ever used such language and that Irish members had been committed to
prison for language much less strong. He declared that Mr. Chamberlain
knew beforehand of the counter-demonstration and of what it was intended
to effect and that he might easily have prevented the riot had he chosen
to do so. Mr. Chamberlain exerted himself greatly, and not
unsuccessfully, in replying. He in his turn was able to discover in Lord
Randolph Churchill’s speeches some traces of violent language. He flatly
denied that he had had any personal complicity in the riot, which, he
explained, had arisen solely from the mismanagement of the Tory
organisation and from their attempt to give their meeting the character
of a national demonstration. But the most effective part of his speech
consisted in a number of affidavits of roughs, said to have been engaged
by the Secretary of the Conservative Association to turn out Liberals
from the meeting, whose violence it was alleged had provoked the
outbreak. When he sat down he had in great measure stemmed the tide
which had been running strongly against him. As his speech was drawing
to a close Lord Randolph leaned across the gangway and asked Sir Michael
Hicks-Beach if he would reply. Sir Michael, much impressed by Mr.
Chamberlain’s argument, declined; but Sir Hardinge Giffard, to whom Lord
Randolph then turned, stepped into the breach, and with little
premeditation made a most admirable and effective rejoinder, which
swayed the opinion of the House and threw the gravest doubt upon the
authenticity and credibility of the documents from which Mr. Chamberlain
had quoted. Upon the division Lord Randolph’s amendment was defeated by
214 to 178. ‘The majority,’ observes the _Annual Register_, ‘exonerating
Mr. Chamberlain from any blameworthy act, was far smaller than a member
of the Cabinet commanding the confidence and sympathy of his supporters
had a right to expect.’

The dispute was then carried by both parties into the Courts. The
summonses and counter-summonses were heard together at Birmingham on
successive days during the month of November, and when Mr. Chamberlain
was examined as a witness (November 26) attempts were made to fix upon
him the responsibility of suggesting that the affidavits should be
procured. But he denied it. On December 6, the compromise upon the
Franchise and Redistribution Bill having been achieved nearly three
weeks before, the proceedings came to an abrupt close. But at the
Assizes (February 28 and March 2, 1885) a man named Peter Joyce, said to
be ‘Larry Mack,’ a notorious rough whose affidavit had been quoted in
Parliament, was tried before Mr. Justice Field on the charge of criminal
libel and sentenced, despite the lukewarmness of the prosecution and
strong recommendation to mercy, to six weeks’ imprisonment. A Liberal of
respectable antecedents was found guilty of having had the ‘forged
tickets’ printed and was heavily fined. No evidence was ever produced to
sustain any charge against Mr. Chamberlain of having himself fomented
the disorders; but an impression was created that the whole
affair--especially the discharging of the fireworks upside down--showed
that he had been only partially successful in exerting those influences
of moral restraint which are so much to be commended in political
leaders during times of popular excitement.

The Aston riots led to some curious consequences. When Lord Randolph was
arranging for the prosecutions of the ‘roughs’ whose depositions Mr.
Chamberlain had read to the House of Commons, he asked one of his
friends to find him a lawyer of repute who would conduct the case so as
to make ‘as much political capital out of it as possible.’ A Mr. Henry
Matthews--already a barrister of distinction upon the Midland
Circuit--was recommended to him. They met at dinner on two successive
nights. Lord Randolph was perfectly delighted with his conversation and
his personality and formed the very highest opinion of his powers. At
his insistence Mr. Matthews became a candidate for a Birmingham seat.
Eighteen months later, when he was reading in the Athenæum Club the
newspaper rumours of the composition of Lord Salisbury’s second
Administration, he was startled and astonished by Lord Randolph breaking
in upon him with the offer of the office of Home Secretary.

The course of their violent political quarrels and the harsh language
and personal charges with which they were accompanied produced a total
breach in Lord Randolph’s private friendship with Mr. Chamberlain. They
no longer addressed or saluted each other and such correspondence as was
necessary was conducted on both sides with frigid formality. Thus:--

House of Commons: October 28.

     Mr. Chamberlain presents his compliments to Lord R. Churchill and
     begs to thank him for his courtesy in communicating the grounds on
     which he is prepared to support the charge which he has brought
     against Mr. Chamberlain.

Lord Randolph had been much exhausted in health and strength by the
unremitting exertions of the year, and late in November it was announced
that he purposed to start almost immediately for a four months’ holiday
to India. Mr. Chamberlain no sooner heard this than he was anxious to
make friends. His letter speaks for itself:--

          _Mr. Chamberlain to Lord Randolph Churchill._

40 Prince’s Gardens, S.W.; November 27, 1884.

     My dear Churchill,--You see that I have returned to the old
     superscription. If you object, I will not offend again; but I do
     not like to allow you to leave the country for what, I understand,
     is a long voyage, necessitated by circumstances that I sincerely
     regret, without saying that recent occurrences have, in my case at
     all events, left no personal bitterness behind.

     I am sorry that we have been forced into public conflict; I should
     be still more sorry if political opposition degenerated into a
     private quarrel.

     I heartily wish you a pleasant holiday, and hope that rest and
     change of scene may thoroughly restore your health and strength.

Believe me,
_Sans rancune_,
Yours very truly,

          _Lord Randolph Churchill to Mr. Chamberlain._

2 Connaught Place, W.: November 27, 1884.

     My dear Mr. Chamberlain,--I hasten to answer your very kind letter,
     which caused me the greatest pleasure.

     I had always hoped that the friendship which existed between us and
     which, for my part, I most highly valued, might at all tunes be
     altogether unaffected by any Parliamentary conflicts, however
     brisk, and even sharp, the latter might be.

     It is indeed very pleasant to me to know from the generous
     expressions in your letter that my hopes are in no way illusory,
     and as long as I continue in politics it will be a source of pride
     to me to endeavour to the best of my abilities to mitigate the
     asperities of party warfare as far as you and I are concerned. I am
     not likely to forget that in the last Parliament you gave me the
     most valuable and effective support in a matter in which at that
     time I was greatly interested, without which support I should have
     been unsuccessful.

     I like to think that it is neither impossible nor improbable that
     political circumstances may from time to time find us again in
     agreement; and although your position and power will be far above
     mine, I shall be on the look-out for those occasions.

     Believe me, I am very sensible of your amiable wishes as to the
     results of my travels to India, and that I hope always to remain

Yours very sincerely,

One more incident which arose out of the Reform Bill must be noticed in
its place. When Parliament assembled for the winter session the
Conservative leaders agreed with Lord Randolph Churchill to offer a
regular though perfunctory resistance to the second passage of the
Reform Bill through the House of Commons, in order to strengthen the
position of the House of Lords in effecting the compromise which was now
recognised as inevitable. Lord Randolph accordingly placed on the paper
an amendment to the second reading, setting forth ‘that any measure
purporting to provide for the better representation of the people must
be accompanied by provisions for the proper arrangement of electoral
areas.’ This seemed to repeat as a general principle the amendment which
Colonel Stanley had moved as a precise instruction on May 23, when the
Bill was for the first time in Committee, which amendment Lord Randolph
and the Fourth Party had opposed and indeed denounced. The political
situation was entirely changed; but the verbal similarity did not escape
one acute, retentive mind.

In Lord Randolph’s absence at the funeral of Lord Londonderry his
amendment was moved by Mr. Stanhope. To the surprise of his party Mr.
Gorst rose from below the gangway and thereupon criticised and opposed
the amendment in terms which bore a sufficiently close resemblance to
those in which Lord Randolph had opposed it when it had last been moved.
By this very able and perfectly consistent speech Mr. Gorst gave great
offence to all sections of the Conservative party, who were now united
in an embrace of unaffected love. Lord Randolph, when he read the
newspapers next day, accepted it as a personal declaration of war. He
was very angry. ‘Gorst,’ he said, ‘must be punished’; and accordingly on
the next sitting of the House (November 7) he administered to his
mutinous lieutenant a castigation prolonged, deliberate, and severe. ‘I
have yet to learn,’ he observed, with undisturbed gravity, ‘that either
the traditions of party warfare or Parliamentary etiquette teaches one
to desert one’s party and stand aloof from it and refrain from giving
assistance to it, simply because of the very inadequate and miserable
reason that in one’s own poor and very feeble judgment one does not
altogether approve of the course which may have led them into that
difficulty.’ The mirth which this grimace excited was strengthened by
the joy and relief alike of Government and Opposition at the breaking-up
of the formidable confederacy at whose hands they had endured so much.

On December 3 Lord Randolph sailed in the _Rohilla_ for India. Since the
beginning of history many travellers have visited the East. Few have
neglected to record their adventures. But if the reader is inclined to
follow the subject of this story into an atmosphere remote from that of
Westminster his own letters will be found to supply an easy and
connected narrative.[27] After several years of strife he entered upon a
brief interval of peace. The battles of the Reform Bill had ended in a
compromise far less unsatisfactory to Tory interests than could have
been expected. The agitation which menaced the House of Lords was at an
end. His dispute with Lord Salisbury was settled. The Conservative party
had acclaimed the return of the prodigal son. The Aston riots were
forgotten in his renewed friendship with Mr. Chamberlain. And as the
English coast-line faded, a passing temper of tranquil benevolence led
him to send through Wolff messages of amity to all his friends--‘even to
the erring Gorst.’



     ‘Of this, however, I am well persuaded, that it is better to be
     impetuous than cautious. For Fortune is a woman who to be kept
     under must be beaten and roughly handled; and we see that she
     suffers herself to be more readily mastered by those who treat her
     so, than by those who are more timid in their approaches. And
     always, like a woman, she favours the young, because they are less
     scrupulous and fiercer, and command her with greater
     audacity.’--MACHIAVELLI: _The Prince_, chapter XXV.

[Sidenote: 1885 ÆT. 36]

This account, which has hitherto been concerned with the doings of Lord
Randolph Churchill and the steps by which he attained power in his party
and in Parliament, must now for a time be greatly extended. However
strictly the thread of personal narrative be followed, biography
broadens insensibly into history, and the career of a private member
becomes a recognisable part of the fortunes of the nation. We enter upon
a period of tumult and change. Within little more than a year two
General Elections were fought and four separate Administrations took
their seats on the Treasury Bench. In order to find an equal convulsion
it is necessary to go back almost exactly a hundred years, to the time
between the fall of Lord North’s Administration in 1782 and the final
triumph of Mr. Pitt after his dissolution in 1784. In each period
Ministries were constructed and fell like houses of cards; in each a
new, young figure sprang suddenly into universal attention; in each, one
of the historic parties in the State entered into a disastrous
coalition; and the other, after taking office in a minority, secured a
predominance which lasted for a generation.

The Administration of 1880 tottered to its fall in tragedy and disaster.
General Gordon perished and Khartoum fell in February. The expeditionary
columns recoiled in sorrow and failure from the desert and the Nile. The
Queen telegraphed her displeasure openly to the Prime Minister; and on a
vote of censure the Government escaped only by a majority of fourteen
(February 27). Few more critical divisions have been taken in modern
times; for the defection of eight more discontented Whigs or Liberals
would have procured a dissolution before either the Reform or
Redistribution Act could have come into operation. In the temper of the
moment, upon the votes of the old electorate, the Conservative party
could hardly have failed to gain a clear majority. With such a prize in
view the attacks of the Opposition increased in vehemence, bitterness,
and effect. Votes of censure succeeded each other with almost
bewildering rapidity. Early in the year Mr. Chamberlain began to
proclaim the new demands of Radicalism in a series of crudely impressive
speeches. Nationalist Ireland struggled in the grip of Dublin Castle.
The menace of Russian aggression towards the Indian frontier grew into
reality. Dynamite explosions tore up the Treasury Bench and shook the
structure of Westminster Hall. A momentous General Election drew near.
It was indeed, as Mr. Gladstone noted in his diary, ‘a time of _Sturm
und Drang_.’

Lord Randolph Churchill returned from India in March, to find himself in
a position of unusual importance. He had won no battle, negotiated no
peace; he had passed no great measure of reform; he had never held
public office; he was not even a Privy Councillor; yet he was welcomed
on all sides with interest or acclamation. The political temperature was
steadily rising with the approach of the General Election. The Fourth
Party received him with joy and the House of Commons with satisfaction.
Mr. Gladstone in his courtly way walked across the House to shake hands
with him. His absence had been felt on his own side. He was looked to as
a man who would infuse a belligerent energy into the Opposition and
range their lines for the impending battle. It was evident to all men
that he occupied a position in which he might turn the balance of many
great things. ‘What place will you give him when the Government is
formed?’ Sir Stafford Northcote was asked by a friend. ‘Say rather,’
replied the leader of the Opposition, ‘what place will he give me?’ ‘I
had no idea,’ said Lord Randolph calmly when this was repeated to him,
‘that he had so much wit.’

The passage of a year had wrought important changes. Birmingham, divided
by the Reform Bill into seven seats, was no longer the great
three-member constituency which had invited him to stand. Colonel
Burnaby, his good comrade, had been killed at Abu Klea.[28] But the
Central Division sent a pressing requisition. Although the acceptance
involved a direct contest with Mr. Bright himself, Lord Randolph
considered himself bound by his former promise to come forward; but,
lest fortune should be adverse in Birmingham, Mr. Kerans voluntarily
withdrew from the candidature of South Paddington, so that that seat
also might be at his disposal.

It is not easy to estimate, and quite impossible to explain, the
personal ascendency which he had by this time acquired in the House of
Commons. The Conservative Opposition almost instinctively yielded to his
decisions. His authority seemed to have grown in his absence. On the
motion to go into Committee on the Egyptian Loan Bill (April 16) Sir
Richard Cross moved an amendment urging that the Suez Canal Convention
should be submitted to the House before it was finally settled. The
ground was ill-chosen and the occasion inauspicious. The speech of the
mover could not fully surmount these disadvantages. But the amendment
was moved with all the sanction and authority of the official
Opposition, and the party Whips had summoned their followers from far
and near to support it. Lord Randolph Churchill made a short speech,
suave and friendly in substance, elaborately polite in form, but with
just a suspicion of irony. He deprecated the amendment. He persuaded
both sides of the House that it was unfortunate. The debate came
abruptly to a conclusion. All determination of dividing oozed out of
the Opposition. The amendment was withdrawn. This was a typical

Lord Randolph had returned from India at a time when Indian problems
occupied all minds. The turbulence of English politics was hushed for a
space by a perilous interlude. In the year 1884, after the occupation of
Merv, the Russian Empire attained the limits of its expansion southwards
and came at last into contact with the territories of the Amir, to whom,
by the engagements of 1880, Great Britain had given a pledge of
protection against external aggression. A joint demarcation of the
northern boundary of Afghanistan was decided on by the British and
Russian Governments, from the Persian border eastwards to a point on the
Oxus, beyond which that river had been recognised by the agreement of
1873 as constituting the limits of Afghan territory. The Commissioners
of the two Powers had met on the frontier in November 1884, and devoted
themselves to their task with that air of leisurely diligence
inseparable from international undertakings. On March 30 the tangled
negotiations were torn to pieces by an act of violence. While
diplomatists were groping for scientific frontiers upon imperfect maps
and amid unfamiliar names, General Komaroff advanced, ‘covenant’
notwithstanding, collided with the Afghan pickets upon the debatable
ground, and in a short but bloody action at Penjdeh drove the Amir’s
forces from the field. All England was stirred. The newspapers were hot
to counsel war. A wave of double panic swept across the country. The
national temper rose and the funds fell. A period of acute suspense

On all that concerned the safety of India Lord Randolph spoke in
picturesque and thoughtful language. ‘Our rule in India,’ he said at the
Primrose League banquet in the St. James’s Hall on April 18, ‘is, as it
were, a sheet of oil spread out over the surface of, and keeping calm
and quiet and unruffled by storms, an immense and profound ocean of
humanity. Underneath that rule lie hidden all the memories of fallen
dynasties, all the traditions of vanquished races, all the pride of
insulted creeds....’ He spoke of the advance of Russia on the North-West
Frontier--‘that sometimes stealthy, sometimes open, always gradual,
always sure advance of countless hosts, now resembling the gliding of a
serpent, now the bound of a tiger’--as a perpetual injury to stability
and progress in the Government and people of India. And his counsels,
like those of Lord Salisbury, seemed full of the menace of war.

On April 27 Mr. Gladstone asked the House of Commons for his vote of
credit of 11,000,000_l._ He unfolded the ‘case for preparation’ in an
impressive harangue. Tory blood, long chilled, stirred in his veins. The
eloquence and authority of his great war speech covered everything
behind it--even the total abandonment of the Soudan, which was
foreshadowed almost incidentally--and carried everything before it. He
sat down while the House was ringing with the united acclamations of
Radicals who hated war and of Tories who hated him. The debate
collapsed. Notices of motion and amendment disappeared as if by magic.
The vote was carried without a single protest.

But it was no part of the policy of the Opposition to allow Mr.
Gladstone to obtain personal triumphs of this character. Though for the
time they were dazzled by his rhetoric, they felt no confidence that the
honour of the country was safe in his hands; and the parlous condition
to which British relations with Russia had come, only made them more
anxious to get possession of the Government. Lord Randolph, who had
freed himself altogether from the Gladstone spell, saw in the collapse
of the debate only another proof of that feeble and ineffective
leadership of the Opposition against which he had warred so ruthlessly.
Hitherto his communications with Lord Salisbury had been scanty and
formal. Since the settlement of the National Union dispute no letters
had passed between them; and although they were supposed to be working
in harmonious agreement, they hardly knew each other at all. But Lord
Randolph’s vexation prompted him to write with much more freedom than he
had yet allowed himself; and this proved the beginning of an intimate
correspondence and association only to cease after the crisis in British
politics was over.


Turf Club, Piccadilly: April 27, 1885. 11 P.M.

     Dear Lord Salisbury,--The Opposition cannot be conducted to any
     other goal but smash if things are to go on as they did to-night.
     At first all went well. We divided, and were only beaten by 43--a
     respectable position, the only unpleasant feature of which was the
     slack attendance of our party. A four-line whip had been out for a
     week. Many telegrams had been despatched yesterday, and yet only
     about 160 Tories came up to the scratch. The worst was to come, and
     I blame myself as much as anyone for what happened. Mr. Gladstone
     was evidently much annoyed by the opposition to his vote of credit
     arrangements and commenced his statement in Committee by the most
     wanton, outrageous, violent, and yet wretchedly weak attack upon
     the late Government. He then went on into a very elaborate and
     easily exposed apology for the evacuation of the Soudan, and
     finally wound up (and this part I did not hear) with a very warlike
     denunciation of Russian aggression, which H. Fowler of the Home
     Office told me he thought was too strong. Would you believe it? The
     whole Front Opposition Bench sat as mute as mummies--though, after
     all, it was they who had been flouted--and the Prime Minister got
     his 11,000,000_l._ at one gulp, without a remark of any sort or
     kind. I have not really the right to complain or criticise, as I
     went away in the middle of his speech to dine; but it never
     occurred to me for a moment that Sir S. N. would allow his
     intemperate remarks to pass unnoticed, or that the debate would
     collapse in such an ignominious manner for the Opposition.

     It is quite possible that the Metropolitan Press may not notice
     this so strongly, but the Liberal provincial Press will; and the
     fact remains that at this time of day Gladstone has the audacity to
     revive in their worst form all the stale and exploded charges
     against the Beaconsfield Government, and that Northcote, the man
     most concerned, has not a word to say in reply. The effect in the
     House of Commons has been deplorable. All the Liberals are
     cock-a-whoop, and Gladstone has been allowed to obtain,
     gratuitously, an unparalleled Parliamentary triumph. It is probable
     that in the next few weeks crisis and sensation will follow each
     other closely. You know that under these circumstances, in the
     House of Commons, if the leader of the Opposition does not move,
     no one else can; and if to-night’s proceedings are to be repeated,
     we are done. Excuse, I pray you, a hurried scrawl. I thought you
     might like to have an account fresh from the House of Commons.

Yours very sincerely,

The reply was prompt and friendly.

‘I sympathise with you very heartily,’ replied Lord Salisbury late the
same night. ‘But what can I do? It is not a case where advice would be
of any service. In fact, I sometimes think my advice does more harm than
good; for, if only partially followed, it may produce exactly the
reverse of the intended effect. I hope the papers will attribute the
collapse to our exalted patriotism. At least, that is the only hope with
which one can console oneself.’

Lord Randolph wrote again:--

_Private and Confidential._

Carlton Club: April 28, 1885.

     Dear Lord Salisbury,--I have been thinking of nothing else but the
     events of last night in the House of Commons and, encouraged by
     your kind note received this morning, I venture to inflict upon you
     another letter.

     The tone of the Metropolitan Press this morning is not unfavourable
     to us; but the Metropolitan Press is most misleading. I see every
     day the provincial Press, and I know well how in their London
     correspondence and in their articles they will magnify the personal
     triumph of Mr. Gladstone. He had been running down for some time,
     but has now, _for the time_, completely recovered his old position
     by the extraordinary and unprecedented _coup_ he carried off last
     night. That _coup_ has done us, as a party, more real harm with the
     constituencies than any event in this Parliament which I can
     remember. This sort of thing did not matter in 1880; but we are now
     within six months of a General Election, and any event which
     greatly elevates the Liberals and depresses our own people has a
     terrible effect. That triumph of last night will be repeated unless
     very decided and energetic steps are taken now. The personal
     ascendency of Mr. Gladstone is our great difficulty. If we can
     destroy or mitigate that, we gain adherents. I know what the little
     Fourth Party did in ‘80 and ‘81 and what support and sympathy they
     acquired in the country on that account. That old Fourth Party has
     disappeared; but the time has come when another body of the same
     nature, but on much better and weightier lines, might be formed,
     and might effect astonishing Parliamentary success.

     I quite perceive that anything in the nature of open revolt against
     Sir S. N. would be fatal in every way. At the same time _it is
     madness_ to blind yourself to the fact that whatever abilities he
     once possessed for guiding a party are utterly gone and that his
     influence upon the vigour and vitality of the party now enervates
     and enfeebles; and _that_ at a moment when the greatest possible
     party life and vigour is a matter of life and death.

     I have suggested to Sir Michael Hicks-Beach that he should remain
     permanently in town for the remainder of the Session and should be
     always in the House of Commons when it is sitting; and I have told
     him that if he can pledge himself to this, I believe a certain
     number of M.P.’s would pledge themselves to be always at his back.
     I allude principally to the old Fourth Party, to Raikes and
     Chaplin, to Dyke and Gibson, and to one or two more very talented
     and ambitious young members of the party. The effect of the
     constant attendance and skilful action of such a body night after
     night upon the Government cannot be over-estimated. It might lead
     them to throw up the sponge, either by one or more unexpected
     defeats. But, in any case, it would keep our party in the country
     alive and in good heart and should supply them with endless topics
     for local controversy. It is absolutely essential that some member
     of real position and influence upon the Front Bench should be at
     the head of such a combination. The weakness of the old Fourth
     Party was that they had no _point d’appui_; they were always a body
     of skirmishers altogether _en l’air_. And yet House of Commons
     history would be altogether misread if their disintegrating effect
     upon the Liberal party was underestimated or ignored. To show you
     what might have been done last night, I have ascertained from so
     reliable a source as Lord R. Grosvenor that all the elements of the
     Courtney faction and the Labouchere faction might have been let
     loose last night, if only Sir S. N. had not weakly yielded to an
     evanescent impression created by Gladstone’s gingerbread rhetoric,
     and allowed the debate to collapse. I think under high persuasion
     Sir M. Hicks-Beach would be prepared to make great sacrifices and
     run some personal risks, and it is for that reason that I bring all
     these matters to your notice. I may, without overmuch presumption,
     claim some little authority on these party interests. My letters to
     the _Times_ in 1882 and my article in the _Fortnightly_ clearly
     foretold the ultimate effect of Sir S. N.’s leadership. They
     brought much odium upon me at the time and may indeed have
     embarrassed persons I wished not to embarrass, but my word has been
     justified by events and by present public opinion.

     I pray you not to allow yourself to imagine that either then or now
     was I or am I actuated by much, or indeed any, personal ambition.
     My only desire is to see the game properly and scientifically
     played, and the Conservative party fairly strong in the next
     Parliament; and I do not care a rap who carries off the laurels or
     the credit. The plan I propose for efficient Parliamentary action
     during the remainder of the Session may be skilfully carried out
     without any formal communication to Sir S. N. But not only does it
     depend upon Sir Michael being supported by a certain number of
     M.P.’s; that body will have to be inspired by yourself and will
     have to show that in their action they are receiving and deserving
     your support and approval.

     I am ashamed of myself for worrying you with this interminable MS.
     It is only the critical condition of our party prospects which
     enables me to do it.

Yours very sincerely,

‘I concur very much,’ wrote Lord Salisbury in answer to this lengthy
appeal, ‘in your estimate of the evil; and your idea of surrounding the
Sultan with a body of Janissaries under Sir M. Beach is likely to be
very effective if vigorously carried out. I will gladly do anything I
can to help, but always with one reservation. I am bound to Sir S.
N.--as a colleague--by a tie, not of expediency, but of honour; and I
could not take part in anything which would be at variance with entire
loyalty to him. But what you propose will rather take the form of
assistance than supersession. I think that, properly managed, your
_jeune garde_ may do great things and acquire considerable practical
authority. I will talk the matter over with Beach whenever I can see
him. But he must abandon agriculture.’

The Conservative party had repented of their enthusiasm by May 4, when
the Committee stage of the vote of credit was again set down for
discussion. The decision to abandon the Soudan altogether and admit
defeat in that quarter of the world had soaked in. They now learned,
besides, that--vote of 11,000,000_l._ notwithstanding--Anglo-Russian
differences were to be submitted to arbitration--‘surrender disguised as
arbitration,’ as Lord Randolph Churchill called it. They were indignant
at what they considered a betrayal. But how to show their displeasure?
Sir Michael Hicks-Beach protested against the vote of credit being
proceeded with in the altered circumstances without further delay. Lord
Randolph, who had a speech all ready, intimated meekly that, unless the
vote of credit was forthwith debated, he would obstruct the passage of
Supply. The Government, anxious to get their business through, and
uncertain which section in the Opposition would prove the more
recalcitrant, proposed a compromise. Lord Randolph waved it aside and
remained obdurate. The vote of credit came on at once.

The speech which he then delivered was a speech of minute detail, but of
accurate detail. In twenty-four hours he had mastered an enormous Blue
Book. No one could contradict him at any point. ‘So far as I know,’ said
Lord Salisbury later, ‘that description [of Russian proceedings] is
historically unimpeachable.’ Into the entanglements of General
Komaroff’s action, of the strategic value of Merv, of the opinions of
Baron Jomini, or of the territorial rights of the Amir in the disputed
regions of the Murghab and Khushk rivers it is not, fortunately,
necessary to enter. But one episode in Lord Randolph’s second speech on
May 11 is worthy of record. The complacency with which the Government,
and particularly the Prime Minister, had abandoned, in the Soudan,
enterprises for the sake of which so many lives, British and Arab, had
been sacrificed, had excited general wonder and even disgust.

‘I was reading in the _Times_ this morning,’ said Lord Randolph,
dropping his voice and buttoning up his coat--‘does the Prime Minister
ever read the _Times_?’ Mr. Gladstone tossed his head disdainfully. ‘It
is a pity, because if the Prime Minister had read the _Times_ this
morning he could not have failed to notice the review of a very
interesting book--“The Home Letters of Lord Beaconsfield”--edited by Mr.
Ralph Disraeli, who is, I believe, a friend of the Prime Minister’s.’
(‘Nothing of the sort,’ said Mr. Gladstone.) ‘Lord Beaconsfield, it
appears, went many years ago to Yanina, where he had an interview with a
very celebrated Minister--Redschid Pasha. There had recently been a
great insurrection in Albania which had been put down by the Turks. This
is Lord Beaconsfield’s account of the interview: “I bowed with all the
nonchalance of St. James’s Street to a little, ferocious-looking,
shrivelled, careworn man, plainly dressed, with a brow covered with
wrinkles and a countenance clouded with anxiety and thought. I seated
myself on the divan of the Grand Vizier (‘who,’ the Austrian Consul
observed, ‘has destroyed in the course of the last three months--not in
war--upwards of four thousand of my acquaintance’) with the
self-possession of a morning call. Our conversation I need not repeat.
We congratulated him on the pacification of Albania. He rejoined that
the peace of the world was his only object and the happiness of mankind
his only wish.”’ Here there was a long pause, intensified by the hush
with which the House awaited the delayed conclusion. ‘There,’ cried
Lord Randolph, raising his voice suddenly, hissing his words and
pointing savagely across the House at Mr. Gladstone--‘there, upon the
Treasury Bench, is the resuscitated Redschid Pasha.’

I have tried to revive the spirit of this attack as some of those who
listened describe it, for _Hansard_ reduces it to a very bald account.
But, although Lord Randolph Churchill never commanded the surge and
majesty of Mr. Gladstone’s oratory, he held the House docile and
responsive in his grip. Whatever liberties he chose to take, they chose
to cheer. So through a speech of an hour and a half, all devoted to a
pitiless reproach of ‘that policy of base and cowardly surrender to
Russia which marks your daily life.’ Was it wonderful that party
newspapers and party men rallied to this bold champion of their
grievances? ‘Why was it left to Lord Randolph Churchill,’ they asked,
‘alone to raise a protest against Mr. Gladstone’s treacherous conduct?
Where were the occupants of the Front Opposition Bench? Have they
resigned their functions? If so, let them resign their position’; and so
forth. The next day Lord Granville took occasion to refer to this speech
at length in the House of Lords. He declared that he had marked no less
than nine passages, ‘some of them inaccurate and some exactly opposed to
the truth.’ Lord Randolph rejoined, through the columns of the _Times_,
in a celebrated--or perhaps I should write ‘notorious’--letter. He
accused Lord Granville, among other things, of showing ‘the petty
malice of a Whig’; ‘of his usual shamelessness’; and of ‘sneaking down
to the House of Lords to make without notice a variety of deliberate
misrepresentations, deliberate misquotations, and false assertions which
were quite in accordance with the little that was known about the public
career of Earl Granville, Knight of the Garter, and, to the misfortune
of his country, Her Majesty’s principal Secretary of State for Foreign
Affairs.’ The _Times_ was so horrified at this that, not content with
printing the letter in a column of its largest type, it devoted another
column and a half to repeating, for the purpose of dissociating itself
from, its insults, and rebuking the bad taste of the author.

But the fate of the Government was not to be settled by anything arising
out of the stormy events in the East. Another cause, nearer home and
more intimately affecting party politics, was to operate decisively. The
Crimes Act was to expire in August. Lord Spencer insisted upon its
renewal and his demand was backed by most of the Whig Ministers. The
Radical representatives, however, refused to associate themselves with
such legislation and moderate Liberals were scarcely less reluctant to
tar their hands with Coercion before presenting themselves to the
electors as the champions of liberty. On May 15 Mr. Gladstone gave
notice that the Government would propose what was, at any rate, a
partial continuation of the measure. Five days later Lord Randolph
Churchill, at the St. Stephen’s Club, struck what was, according to Mr.
Morley, a mortal blow. He intimated that a Conservative Government would
not think it necessary to renew the Act. His language was guarded and
carefully chosen. He had to carry his audience with him and he knew with
what satisfaction many of his colleagues in the House of Commons would
repudiate his words if they thought their repudiation would be
effective. He said, in short, that he was shocked that so grave an
announcement as the renewal of a Coercion Bill should be taken as a
matter of course. The state of Ireland must be much worse than was
commonly supposed for the Radical members of the Cabinet to assent to
such a proposal. What a comment it was on Liberal administration, and on
the boasted Viceroyalty of Lord Spencer, that the Liberal party could
not govern Ireland without that arbitrary force ‘which all their
greatest orators have over and over again declared is no remedy for
lawlessness!’ ‘I believe most firmly,’ he concluded, ‘that this ought to
be the attitude of the Tory party--that while they are ready and willing
to grant to any Government of the Queen whatever powers may be
necessary, on evidence adduced, for the preservation of law and order,
they ought to be anxious and careful beyond measure not to be committed
to any act or policy which should unnecessarily wound and injure the
feelings and the sentiments of our brothers on the other side of the
Channel of St. George.’ That was all, but it was enough. The speaker was
not disavowed. The Tory party remained mute. The words were observed
and weighed both by the Irish Nationalists and the English Radicals.
Within a few days Mr. Morley gave a notice of motion to oppose the
renewal of the Crimes Act. The Radical members of the Cabinet stiffened
their backs, and the days of the Ministry were numbered.

As the weakness and embarrassments of the Government and the dissensions
in the Cabinet became glaring, it was evident the end could not be
distant. But no one could tell when the moment would come; and the
imminent possibility of a transference of power forced grave
considerations into the minds of the chiefs of the Opposition. They
hated the Government. They believed its continuance to be deeply
injurious to the country. They were mortified by the dishonour which had
been inflicted on British arms and British reputation. The cry of their
supporters in the country for unceasing Parliamentary attack was
vehement. They were bound to fight their hardest. But, upon the other
hand, what if they succeeded? They could not dissolve, because of the
Reform Bill. Until the new registers for the reconstructed
constituencies had been prepared, and other indispensable mechanical
details settled, a General Election was physically impossible. Could
they, then, take office? Even if some Ministers were anxious to escape
from power, willing to ride for a fall--and this was certainly not the
disposition of the Prime Minister--the Government majority was enormous.
The only chance of overturning the Gladstone Administration was by a
division on some issue which should at once divide the Liberals and
secure the Irish vote. No mere lukewarmness on the part of
Ministerialists would suffice.

It was quite plain that an incoming Government, in a minority, without
the power of dissolution, brought into office by Nationalist votes,
could never carry a Coercion Bill through Parliament. But was a Coercion
Bill necessary? Mr. Gibson on whom the Conservatives relied as their
Irish authority, was of opinion that it would not be necessary. But
certainly Mr. Parnell could make it necessary! The question was long and
painfully debated. Clearly they had to fight. Not to do so was to
discourage the whole party on the eve of the election. Clearly they
might win. To refuse then to undertake the task, to admit that the
Conservative party had neither the men nor the cohesion to carry on the
Government, would equally injure them in the national estimation. It was
a grim dilemma. But the decision did not lie altogether in the hands of
particular men. Had it been possible for any one man to give orders
which would be obeyed with military discipline, he could not have
failed, were he a Conservative, to decide against any attempt to turn
out the Government; and, conversely, a Minister must have sought for any
decent pretext to resign. But the forces at work were not to be so
nicely governed. It is in the nature of Ministries to survive in spite
of their inclinations. It is in the nature of Oppositions to strive to
win, even in spite of their interests. Borne along by the stream, the
Conservative leaders determined to overthrow the Government if they
could, and they solaced themselves with Mr. Gibson’s assurances that the
state of Ireland did not require the renewal of the Crimes Act to
protect the lives and liberties of Her Majesty’s lieges.

Lord Randolph Churchill made a regular practice of preserving every
letter he received. He made notes of many important interviews. Nothing
that related to politics, whether creditable or not, whether important
or petty, seems to have been excluded from his archives. Had any
agreement been made with Mr. Parnell sufficiently definite or formal to
be called a ‘compact,’ it is most unlikely that no written record would
have been preserved. No scrap of paper referring directly or indirectly
to this subject can, however, be traced. On the other hand, it is
certain that he had more than one conversation with the Irish leader;
that he stated to him his opinion of what a Conservative Government
would do should it be formed; and that he declared that he considered
himself precluded by public utterances from joining a Government which
would at once renew the Crimes Act. No bargain could, in the nature of
things, have been made. The chances of Lord Randolph joining a
Conservative Administration were undetermined. The Conservative party
would certainly not have ratified such a bargain. Lord Randolph
Churchill could not presume to speak in their name; and even if their
official leaders had bound themselves, their action might well have been
repudiated by important sections of their followers both in Parliament
and in the country. ‘There was no compact or bargain of any kind,’ Lord
Randolph said to FitzGibbon a year later, ‘but I told Parnell when he
sat on that sofa [in Connaught Place] that if the Tories took office and
I was a member of their Government, I would not consent to renew the
Crimes Act. Parnell replied, “In that case, you will have the Irish vote
at the Elections.”’

So far as the vote in the House was concerned, the Nationalists wanted
little temptation to turn out a Coercionist Liberal Administration. They
had long been looking for an opportunity of revenge. They shared the
general expectation that the lowering of the franchise would give a
great advantage to the Liberal party. Their interest was clearly, and
their intention was notoriously, to play for an equalisation in party
strength by supporting the weaker side at the dissolution. If the
Conservatives would give them any reasonable excuse for preferring them
to the Liberal Government, if they would avoid studied causes of
offence, the Irish party would be content to support them in the House
and to throw their vote--so far as it could be thrown--for the
Conservative candidates in the election. On some such tacit
understanding as this Lord Salisbury’s first Administration came into
power and held sway. Neither party gave away any point of practical
importance, or entered into any confidential relationship. Both Tories
and Nationalists pursued their own ends. They used each other for their
own purposes; and in the end the Conservatives came off the winners.
All suggestions of a more definite compact belong to the regions of

Within the space of a single year both great English parties were
supported by the votes of the Irish members and were to some extent
dependent on their good-will. But there was an important difference
between the relations which respectively existed. The Conservatives,
consciously or unconsciously, used the Irish party. The Liberals,
willingly or unwillingly, were used by them. And whereas the former
moved on through that association to prosperous years of power, the
latter sank into paralysis and decay. But it should not be inferred from
these unedifying reflections that Lord Randolph Churchill in his
declarations against the re-enactment of the Crimes Act in 1885 was
animated solely by a hard desire to effect a political combination. His
views on Irish men and Irish matters were very different in character
from the general opinion of his party. He knew Ireland well and liked
her people. He had been in former days the friend of Mr. Butt. For five
years of hard Parliamentary fighting he and his associates had sat in
front of the Irish Nationalists, and many a reciprocal service or
manœuvre had built up a House of Commons comradeship. ‘You can always
trust them,’ he used to say, ‘if you know them and understand them.’ In
office or Opposition, in good fortune or defeat, he detested the use of
special legislation in Ireland; and, although he remained an unwavering
opponent of Repeal, these pages will show that he at least did not
approach Irish questions in a spirit of selfish opportunism.

Lord Randolph’s votes and speeches during all the Coercion struggles of
the Parliament were, moreover, upon record. The Irish members, on their
part, knew that he had often supported them, to the detriment of his
reputation among his own friends, while the most brilliant
representatives of the Liberal Cabinet were scourging them without pity.
They remembered that he had always been civil and friendly to them in
days when scarcely any other English member would speak to them. They
were attracted by his stormy, rebellious nature. They delighted in his
attacks upon the Government. Parnell, we are told, liked him personally,
though +their acquaintance was scanty. Among prominent English
politicians, he was at that time the best friend, and the only friend,
Nationalist Ireland could find. Any Government in which he was powerful
must be better than the Ministry from which Irish members had received
so much ill-usage. It was upon the opinion they had formed of him during
several years as a man, and upon their estimate of his influence with
his party, and not on any compact or bargain, that they acted in 1885.

In some fashion or another, however, Cabinet and Administration had held
together till the Whitsuntide holidays. The third period of the session
is dangerous to Governments. Most of the measures of the year, and
usually the Budget, are in the Committee stage and liable at any moment
to be challenged by a vote. At the same time, when vigilance is most
needed, a feeling of languor or exhaustion steals over the House of
Commons. With the advent of hot weather weary members seek escape from
London. Divisions are frequent; majorities precarious; an accident
always possible. Rumours had, however, gained acceptance that Cabinet
differences on Irish policy were not incapable of adjustment, and many
Liberal members thought that for the session at least the danger of
defeat was passed. But meanwhile a third and, as it proved, a fatal blow
had been aimed against the Ministry. An amendment to the Budget had been
framed at a meeting in Mr. Balfour’s house in Carlton Gardens, at which
Sir Michael Hicks-Beach, the Fourth Party, and Mr. Raikes alone were
present. It was approved by Lord Salisbury and Sir Stafford Northcote
and placed upon the paper in the name of Sir Michael Hicks-Beach. To a
casual observer the amendment might have appeared unimportant. It
condemned the proposed increase of the beer and spirit duties in the
absence of a corresponding increase in the duties upon wine, and
declined to add to the duty on real property without relief to the
rates. But it was, in fact, artfully and deliberately contrived to unite
the Opposition on an issue easily defensible in the country and likely
to secure support from the Irish and from the liquor interest in the
House. It acquired significance from a rumour that the Radical section
of the Cabinet had severely criticised Mr. Childers’s increase of the
beer duties and wished to substitute therefor an additional duty on

The debate was not remarkable and until late in the evening neither in
the House nor outside it was there any expectation of the actual result.
But after the dinner-hour a feeling of apprehension seemed to pervade
the air. When the division was about to be taken, the ranks of the
Ministerialists were unusually thin. Suddenly it was realised that the
result must be narrow. A thrill of excitement swept through the House.
The doors were closed, and the counting proceeded. When the tellers
advanced to the table it was seen that Lord Richard Grosvenor, the
Government Whip, stood at the left instead of at the right of the line.
For a moment the significance was not appreciated; then the Opposition
burst into exultant cheering, renewed again and again. Four Liberals and
42 Irishmen had voted against Ministers: 74 Liberals were absent, mostly
unpaired: the Government was defeated by 12.

It had come, after all. The mighty Government which had towered up
august and formidable in 1880, which during five long years, in spite of
disastrous enterprise and so many evil turns of fortune, had presented
an unbroken front to all attacks, was overthrown at last. So often had
good and careful plans miscarried; so often had skill, patience, and
courage led only to disappointment that, although a dark curtain of
perplexity obscured the future, this at least was triumph now. Lord
Randolph had seen the shot strike home. The aim was shrewd and sure. His
famous antagonist was down at last and he did not care, or was not able,
to contain his joy. He jumped on his seat below the gangway and, waving
his handkerchief, led the cheers of the astonished and delighted
Conservative party. Well might they have cheered if they had only known
that events would follow from that June division which should lead in
direct and unbroken sequence to their long supremacy in the State; and,
having regard to the repression and firmness which the next few days
would require of Lord Randolph Churchill, his jubilation may be

A threefold crisis now supervened: first, the national emergency,
arising from grave affairs in Egypt and with Russia, and the political
fermentation at home and in Ireland; secondly, a constitutional
situation peculiar and unprecedented in character; and thirdly, the
struggle within the Conservative party. All these operated
simultaneously and sympathetically affected each other. The Liberal
Administration was defeated on June 8. On the 9th Mr. Gladstone tendered
his resignation to the Queen. The Queen expressed surprise that he
should make his defeat a vital question and inquired whether, if Lord
Salisbury were unwilling to form a Government, the Cabinet would remain.
Mr. Gladstone replied that they would not remain. The Queen thereupon
accepted the resignations, which were announced to Parliament on the
12th, and sent for Lord Salisbury. Anticipating, or having private
notice of, the formal summons, Lord Salisbury had already approached
Lord Randolph Churchill through Sir Michael Hicks-Beach:--

June 10, 1885.

     My dear Lord Randolph,--Lord Salisbury has asked me to tell you
     that he would be very glad to talk to you on the general position,
     if you would call on him: and I very much hope that no such ideas
     as those which you seemed to entertain this afternoon will prevent
     you from doing so.

     I feel convinced (though I am not authorised to give you more than
     my own belief) that he has asked no one to call on him, and that
     his reason for not doing so is that he thinks that to do so would
     be to usurp the position of leader, which no one has as yet
     conferred on him.

     It would be simply ridiculous that this idea on his part, combined
     with your idea as to ‘place-hunting,’ should keep you two apart
     just now.

Yours sincerely,

And the next day, on the eve of his departure to Balmoral, Lord
Salisbury himself wrote:--


20 Arlington Street, S.W.: Thursday, June 11, 4.45.

     My dear Churchill,--I have just received a communication which
     makes me anxious to see you. Could you call on me to-night after
     dinner, or to-morrow morning?

Yours very truly,

Lord Randolph thought it better to defer his visit until after Lord
Salisbury had seen the Queen. His opinion had already been given as to
the conditions under which it would be desirable for the Conservatives
to take office, and was involved in the decision to try to turn out the
Liberal Government by means of the Irish vote on the Beach Amendment. He
had nothing new to say about that. If Lord Salisbury should decide not
to undertake the commission, there would be no necessity to raise the
thorny and painful questions connected with Sir Stafford Northcote.

In ordinary circumstances Lord Salisbury’s course would have been
simple. He would have advised a dissolution of Parliament. This solution
was, however, impossible until November, owing to the Franchise and
Seats Acts. Therefore his legal and constitutional right of recommending
a dissolution was in abeyance; and, upon the other hand, the party of
which he was the head would be compelled, if he took office, to carry
the Budget, Supply, and other indispensable business of the year through
a House of Commons in which they were in a minority of nearly 100. Lord
Salisbury was so impressed by the difficulty of the situation that he
went to Balmoral with the intention of declining to form a Government.

At Balmoral, however, the Queen persuaded him to make the attempt if Mr.
Gladstone would not resume; and several attempts to induce Mr. Gladstone
to resume having failed, Lord Salisbury accepted the duty and returned
to London to discharge it. His first care was to seek from Mr. Gladstone
an assurance of support in the measures absolutely necessary to bring
the session to a close. The negotiations were protracted for many days;
but eventually Mr. Gladstone agreed that facilities for expediting
Supply might reasonably be provided, so long as the liberties of the
House of Commons were not placed in abeyance; and he added the
assurance that there was no idea on the part of the Opposition of
withholding the Ways and Means required for the public service. During
this discussion Lord Salisbury addressed himself to the formation of a
Government. He forthwith invited Sir Stafford Northcote to become
Chancellor of the Exchequer and Leader of the House of Commons; and Sir
Stafford Northcote agreed. He asked Sir Michael Hicks-Beach to be
Colonial Secretary; and Sir Michael Hicks-Beach agreed. Lord Salisbury
then applied to Lord Randolph Churchill, whom he desired to take the
India Office. But Lord Randolph refused to join the Government if Sir
Stafford Northcote continued to lead in the House of Commons.

From this position nothing could move him. He remained silent and
stubborn. While Lord Salisbury was still undecided whether to go on
without him or not, Sir Michael Hicks-Beach intervened. He was, in his
own words, ‘deeply impressed with the conviction that Lord Randolph
Churchill’s active assistance as a member of the Government was vital to
any hope of Conservative success at the General Election, for his
popularity with the new electorate was greater than that of any other
member of the party’;[29] and therefore, as soon as he learned that Lord
Randolph had refused to join, he told Lord Salisbury--though without
Lord Randolph’s knowledge, and entirely without pre-arrangement of any
kind--that in the altered circumstances he could not join either. The
dead-lock was again complete.

The narrative must here be somewhat interrupted, so far at least as
chronology is concerned, to admit Lord Randolph Churchill’s own account
of his action. He left behind him a considerable memorandum from which I
quote all that is relevant to this situation.

‘In the events,’ he wrote (as I should judge, early in 1889, though the
paper is undated), ‘which led to the formation of the Conservative
Government in June 1885, I bore a part, and am induced to record my
recollection of their nature; for one reason among others, that in my
belief they were the main cause which led to the adoption by Mr.
Gladstone of the policy of Repeal.

‘In the spring of 1885 it was a matter of notoriety among well-informed
and studious politicians that the question as to the expediency of the
renewal by the Government then in power of the Irish Crimes Act--which
was to expire in September[30]--was one on which the Cabinet could come
to no agreement. In the speeches which I made in the month of May at the
St. Stephen’s Club and at Bow I endeavoured by diffuse examination of
the question to do what I could to add to the difficulties which in
connection with this subject embarrassed the Ministry.

‘My remarks at the former place were followed by a decisive intimation
from Mr. J. Morley that he would oppose any measure for the renewal of
any portion of the Crimes Act. This intimation practically terminated
the duration of Mr. Gladstone’s Government. Agreement in the Cabinet on
this question became impossible. The Ministers determined to court
defeat in Parliament as a method of escape from the dilemma by
resignation. A General Election was impending and the Opposition eagerly
clutched at any opportunity of discrediting and defeating the Liberal
party, and with this eagerness I was in thorough accord. Two attempts to
place Ministers in a minority failed--one arising out of the events in
the Soudan, the other out of a dispute concerning election expenses and
local rates. A third attempt, against the Budget, met with unexpected
success. The hostility of the licensed victuallers, who considered
themselves aggrieved by Mr. Childers’s financial proposals, and the
almost admitted connivance of Lord Richard Grosvenor, then the Head Whip
of the Liberal party, secured the absence from the division of some
sixty or more members of the Ministerial forces. The Government was
placed in a minority and resigned.

‘The Opposition now found themselves in a position of immense
difficulty, and though the difficulty had been foreseen by the leaders
it was not on that account in any degree diminished.

‘The difficulty was twofold: personal and political.

‘1. For a long time there had been a division of opinion in the
Conservative party on the question of the leadership--on the question as
to whether Lord Salisbury or Sir Stafford Northcote ought to be the
head of any Conservative Administration which events might bring into
existence. While, on the one hand, there was a unanimous recognition by
the party of the sterling worth and high character of the latter, there
was, on the other, an equally unanimous but certainly not equally
expressed opinion that he was indisposed by nature and training to place
himself in entire harmony with the intense and acute party polemics of
the moment; that he was, as he once admitted in a public speech,
“deficient in go”; and that Lord Salisbury, though he was much less
personally known to members of the House of Commons and much less
popular than Sir Stafford, was more qualified for the conduct of a
pitched battle such as we had to face.

‘I had identified myself with this latter opinion, and had expressed it
publicly and privately in one way and another since the year 1883. In
that year I had committed myself to such an extent that my action was
much resented by the party in the House of Commons, who adopted and
presented to Sir Stafford an address expressing their full confidence in
and great admiration of him. My belief is that in this controversy, the
existence of which was notorious, the principals had no share; that Sir
Stafford and Lord Salisbury behaved with the utmost loyalty to each
other, and remained throughout on the most intimate and friendly terms.

‘In June 1885, the crucial moment came. Mr. Gladstone resigned. “Whom
would the Queen send for?” was a question in everyone’s mouth. Lord
Salisbury was sent for. His intention was, if he formed a Government,
that Sir Stafford should become Leader of the House of Commons. To this
proposition, when proper opportunity offered, I declined to agree,
adhering to my former opinions as to the indisposition of Sir Stafford
for acute party warfare. Whether I was right or wrong I do not argue;
public opinion in the party and outside was certainly not with me, and
soon after, and since, I have been strongly drawn to the conclusion that
I was in error. The fact remains for record: I declined to take office
unless there was a change in the leadership of the party in the House of

‘My conviction is that Lord Salisbury was most reluctant to attempt to
form a Government. It was most distasteful to him to be brought into any
conflict with Sir Stafford, to be preferred above him--thus shattering
what had been Sir Stafford’s great and honourable ambition. Finally,
when it was demanded of him that he should put a slight upon Sir
Stafford, and depose him from the leadership of the party in the House
of Commons, Lord Salisbury almost determined to renounce the duty
imposed upon him by the Sovereign. For days the matter was in suspense.
Conversations, suggested arrangements, even intrigues were rife in the
Carlton and in the Lobby. I have only a general and second-hand
knowledge of what then went on. I kept entirely aloof, saw hardly
anyone, and took no part in the controversy beyond what I had originally
taken. Ultimately representations were made to Sir Stafford--how and by
whom I do not know--which induced him to consent to accept the sinecure
office of First Lord of the Treasury and a peerage with the title of
Earl of Iddesleigh and Viscount St. Cyres. All I do know is that in
these _pourparlers_ Lord Ashbourne (then Mr. Gibson) was very busy and
prominent and that he constantly and to many expressed his astonishment
and displeasure that the susceptibilities or predilections attributed to
Sir Stafford should form any obstacle to the formation of a Conservative
Government. At that time Mr. Gibson exercised considerable influence
with the Conservative party in the House of Commons.’

Lord Randolph seems to have overrated the importance of the part played
in these negotiations by Mr. Gibson, though there is reason to believe
that his influence was, so far as it was effective, exerted--and
properly exerted--in the direction described. It is probable that Mr.
Smith was the principal agent. Like other colleagues who sat beside him
on the Bench, he knew, perhaps better than Sir Stafford Northcote’s
family, how often the progress of heart disease incapacitated the Leader
of the Opposition from Parliamentary work, and sometimes even reduced
him to a lethargic condition. Mr. Smith had recently taken Sir Stafford
for a long cruise in his yacht, the _Pandora_, and had the best reasons
for judging his true condition, as well as the best right to make
representations to him about it. But to return to Lord Randolph.

‘The second part of the difficulty,’ proceeds the memorandum, ‘which
confronted Lord Salisbury was political and arose entirely out of the
question whether it was or was not essential and necessary to seek from
Parliament a renewal of the expiring Irish Crimes Act. This question had
been more than once discussed in small conciliabules before the fall of
Mr. Gladstone’s Government, and a sort of decision arrived at. I alluded
publicly to the subject in a speech I made at Sheffield in the following
September. But the former semi-decision did not help Lord Salisbury much
when the actual crisis came. The whole question was again gone over with
great care. Mr. Gibson in this difficulty was the real arbiter. He was
the principal, and indeed the only, adviser to whom Lord Salisbury and
his friends could have recourse for Irish information. In all the
recurring debates on the state of Ireland and on the Irish land
legislation which had marked the preceding sessions since 1880 he had
been the real leader, and with him naturally it rested now to decide
practically this grave and difficult question. I use the adjective
“grave” because I believe that the decision not to attempt to renew the
Crimes Act, more than any other event, finally determined Mr. Gladstone
no longer to resist Repeal, and by some process or calculation not open
to ordinary persons led Mr. Gladstone to the conclusion that there was a
real working alliance arrived at between the Tories and the party of Mr.
Parnell, the legitimate results of which would be proposals by the Tory
Government in the nature of very large concessions to the Irish in the
direction of Repeal.

‘My own part in the matter was to express no opinion beyond what was
contained in the following formula, from which I never departed, and
which was accepted by Lord Salisbury and his friends: If it is decided
that the state of Ireland is such as to require the further continuance
of the Crimes Act, then the Conservative party cannot accept office, as
the period of the session and the Parliamentary weakness of the party
preclude the possibility of their passing through the House of Commons
the necessary measure. If a contrary decision is arrived at--viz. that
the Act may be allowed to expire--then the Conservative party might
succeed the Liberal Government with safety and advantage. It was well
known that personally I would not have taken office had it been thought
necessary by a Conservative Government to attempt to renew the Crimes

‘Such was the nature of the difficulty which Lord Salisbury had to
solve. I repeat my impression that he was most reluctant to form a
Government. The personal difficulties alluded to above deterred him, and
the recollections of Lord Derby’s Ministries of 1852, 1858, and 1866
were heavily against an attempt to carry on the business of the country
without the support of a majority in the House of Commons. The pressure,
however, from the local organisations in the country was strong to cause
him to undertake the unattractive duty, and the prevalent feeling of
the party in Parliament was in accord with this pressure.

‘For the decision he ultimately arrived at I can claim little
responsibility and in it I had little or no share. I had no
prepossession one way or the other, unless it was that the precedent set
by Mr. Disraeli in 1873 under similar circumstances, and the apparent
results of Mr. Disraeli’s action, were very vividly before my mind. I
would have consented with equal cheerfulness to one decision or the
other; nor do I believe that either decision would have affected
numerically the results of the General Election which took place in

‘Looking back on those events after January 1886, and after the
resolution arrived at by Mr. Gladstone to introduce a measure for the
Repeal of the Union, I came to the conclusion that in June 1885, we had
been most unfortunately inspired. I can trace a clear connection of
cause and effect between Lord Salisbury’s accession to office in 1885
and Mr. Gladstone’s new departure in 1886.’

For five days uncertainty and rumour were supreme. Lord Randolph
maintained an unbroken reserve. Good friends who had knowledge of what
was going forward pressed him hard. Those who cared about his career
thought he was ruining himself. Even Sir Henry James, a political
opponent, but a personal friend, was provoked to address him.

The letter is interesting for its frank recognition that ‘Tory
Democracy’ was a faith of its own.

          _Sir Henry James to Lord Randolph Churchill._

Temple: Saturday Morning.

     My dear Friend,--I am so afraid that you are about to make a grave
     mistake, most injurious to your interests, that I _must_ intrude my
     thoughts upon your breakfast.

     I assume Salisbury ‘accepts the commission’; of course he will
     offer you office. If there be any definite measure--say the Crimes
     Act--which he insists upon and you object to, you will be quite
     justified in refusing office. For you will have a justification
     which you can make public, and everyone will give you credit for
     having acted according to your principles and conscience. But if
     your reasons are indefinite--say, for instance, because you cannot
     obtain a declaration in favour of a Liberal Toryism--you will have
     no explanation to give which the public will ever be able to
     understand. Between this and November no policy can be carried into
     effect by legislation, and so it is scarcely possible that any
     difference existing between the Salisbury Tories and yourself could
     be brought to a practical issue. And so, if you now refuse office
     on theoretical grounds which you can never explain, you will obtain
     the credit amongst the whole Tory party of having plotted against
     Salisbury and of having prevented him and them from coming into
     office. It will be time enough for you to fight the battle of Tory
     Democracy when some action (by way of legislation or
     administration) is taken adverse to the principles you hold.

     Surely you ought to be catholic _now_, and let all shades of
     Toryism enjoy a gleam of success. If you do not, you will much
     endanger the cause of ‘Tory Democracy’; for although you can at any
     time be the leader of a Democracy, your power with the Tory element
     will be sadly shaken.

Ever yours,
H. J.

Men who presume to deal with great affairs must cultivate an unyielding
disposition. It is easy to withstand the reproaches or attacks of
opponents; but the honest advice of a friend and well-wisher at once
disinterested and experienced saps the foundations of judgment. There
was one appeal which must have greatly disturbed Lord Randolph. Nothing
in his private life was more striking and constant than his affection
for his mother and his respect for her opinion. ‘I have been thinking,’
she wrote (June 14), ‘very quietly and calmly over your position, and I
think you might go to see Lord Salisbury before his meeting, to show him
your friendly feeling while you maintain your own position. You see, in
the winter you felt acutely he did not consult or notice you. He may say
on this critical occasion he came to you before anyone else and offered
you one of the highest places in his Cabinet, and you refused your
assistance. Yesterday he sends his secretary to bid you to go to his
meeting. This, from reasons, you are obliged to decline. But do you not
think you owe him some explanation?... He told you to consider his
offer; so that, it seems to me, you are almost in duty bound to go to
see him; and if you simply refrain from going, he will think you
decidedly hostile. There is no doubt he is in a very difficult position,
and may say you require _not_ any policy or special measure, but simply
that he should _kill_ an old friend whom _all_ respect.... I do hope you
may be guided rightly.’

But Lord Randolph Churchill remained unresponsive. No communication of
any kind passed between him and Lord Salisbury until the crisis was

‘At this time,’ writes a Bencher of the Middle Temple, ‘an event
occurred which strangely evidenced the strength of Lord Randolph’s
popularity. But a description of the scene needs some explanation.
Amongst the Inns of Court the Middle Temple is fortunate in the
possession of a Hall grand in its construction and rich in evidence of
associations extending over seven centuries. In this Hall, during Term
time, the barristers and students dine. From amongst the barristers a
governing body, called the Benchers, is selected. On the Grand Day of
the summer Term the Benchers entertain distinguished guests at a
sumptuous banquet held in the Hall. On these occasions Benchers and
guests enter the Hall walking two and two, in procession, to the Daïs,
upon which they dine. After the dinner is concluded, in like procession
they leave the Hall, walking throughout its full length from the Bar to
the door which leads to the Parliament Chamber.

‘A Grand Day of the Middle Temple occurred on June 10, 1885. Never
before or since has so remarkable a company gathered within that Hall.

‘Nearly every Bencher was present, for fifty-five were there. Amongst
them were the Prince of Wales and his eldest son, Prince Albert Victor,
who on that day was called to the Bench. But many distinguished visitors
were also present, for amongst the guests were the Archbishop of
Canterbury, Prince Edward of Saxe-Weimar, Lord Derby, Lord Cranbrook,
Sir Stafford Northcote, Mr. John Bright and other leading politicians;
and yet it seemed as if there was only one of whom the gathering was
thinking--and he was Randolph Churchill. The first sign of the great
interest was shown when the loving-cup was being handed round; for when
it was placed in Lord Randolph’s hands and he stood up to drink from it,
the whole assemblage in the body of the Hall sprang to their feet and
cheered him vociferously. No such demonstration had ever occurred in the
Middle Temple Hall. And, again, when the dinner was concluded and the
Benchers and their guests, walking two and two, proceeded to leave the
Hall, a still more marked demonstration took place. The Royal Princes
passed almost unheeded, whilst the Hall rang with shouts of “Randolph!”
“Randolph!” “Churchill!” “Churchill!” No other name was uttered. It
seemed as if all present wished to show that they regarded him--and him
alone--as being the political victor of the hour.’

Yet, in contrast with these signs of triumph, what inward misgivings
darkened Lord Randolph Churchill’s mind! In the presence of a trusted
friend he dropped with relief his mask of unconcerned reserve and
revealed himself plunged for a while in one of those fits of despondency
which so often followed or preceded the crisis and action of his life.
‘I am very near the end of my tether,’ he said to this friend who met
him at the Turf Club in these anxious days. ‘In the last five years I
have lived twenty. I have fought Society. I have fought Mr. Gladstone
at the head of a great majority. I have fought the Front Opposition
Bench. Now I am fighting Lord Salisbury. I have said I will not join the
Government unless Northcote leaves the House of Commons. Lord Salisbury
will never give way. I’m done.’ To the remark that Lord Salisbury could
not form a Ministry without him he answered drily, ‘He can form a
Ministry if necessary with waiters from the Carlton Club.’ His companion
on this proceeded amiably to suggest that if all was really over with
the Conservative party, Liberalism offered a wide field for the
activities of a Tory Democrat. ‘Ah, no!’ said Lord Randolph in utter
pessimism, ‘Chamberlain and the Birmingham Caucus will swallow you all.
It is they who will govern the people of England for the future.’ ‘The
working classes must have leaders.’ ‘Yes, but they will not want

The whole country was agog about the political interregnum and busy in
the fascinating employment of Cabinet-making. Two main opinions were
focussed by the newspapers--one was for a Cabinet of ‘old and tried
public servants,’ to maintain an orderly and decorous Government during
the few months that must elapse before the election; the other for a
‘Cabinet of Compromise,’ which should include the Tory Democrats and
secure their powerful aid in the coming fight. But meanwhile the
business of the House of Commons was not wholly interrupted and a
curious Parliamentary incident occurred. On the evening of the 15th Mr.
Gladstone proposed to consider, before adjourning, the Lords’
amendments to the Seats Bill. He moved accordingly; but on the question
being put Sir Henry Wolff at once moved the adjournment of the debate.
He pointed out that the Lords’ amendments were matters of substance and
importance--as, indeed, they were--and ought not to have been inserted
by them into the Redistribution Bill. He declared that such matters
could not be decided upon in the absence of a responsible Government or
a responsible Opposition. Sir Charles Dilke replied on behalf of the
Government that the insertion of these amendments in the Redistribution
Bill had the approval of Lord Salisbury himself, and was, in fact,
adopted to avoid inconvenient delay. Sir Stafford Northcote thought it
right to confirm the statement that it had been agreed that the matter
should be dealt with in the Redistribution Bill instead of by a separate
Bill. But the Fourth Party were not inclined to change their minds on
that account. Mr. Gorst argued against haste without good reason for
haste. Lord Randolph also spoke sharply in favour of the adjournment.
What were the leaders of the so-called constitutional party about that
they should tolerate the transaction of important business connected
with reform under prevailing conditions? He also accused the Government
bluntly of having produced the difficulty by procuring defeat.

Sir Michael Hicks-Beach then got up from the Front Opposition Bench and,
to the astonishment of his colleagues on the Treasury Bench, spoke in
favour of the adjournment and against his leader. In the division the
Conservative party split into puzzled fragments, and persons who thought
they might be Under-Secretaries--and in such circumstances they are a
respectable body--suffered acutely. Thirty-five members voted with Sir
Michael and Lord Randolph for the adjournment. Sir Henry Wolff and Mr.
Gorst were their tellers. The rest, with Sir Stafford Northcote at their
head, went into the Government lobby to support Mr. Gladstone. Sir Henry
Wolff’s colleague in the representation of Portsmouth was a venerable
member of the orthodox Conservative party. As he passed the Front
Opposition Bench on his way to vote with Lord Randolph Churchill, Sir
Stafford Northcote said reproachfully: ‘These are the times when one can
tell one’s friends.’ ‘At such a crisis,’ replied the old gentleman
ruefully, ‘and with such an election before us, the representation of
Portsmouth must be undivided.’

This was the end. Two days later it was formally announced that Sir
Stafford Northcote would retire to the House of Lords and that Sir
Michael Hicks-Beach would lead the House of Commons. It has been
asserted that this division settled the struggle and that Lord
Salisbury, confronted with this plain proof that Sir Stafford
Northcote’s leadership would not be accepted by a powerful and active
section of his party, capitulated to Lord Randolph Churchill. This is
not quite true. No doubt the division clinched the issues; but the
personal negotiations which resulted in Sir Stafford’s elevation were
already far advanced; and he himself notes in his diary of June 15:
‘This has apparently been my last night in the House of Commons.’
Indeed, there seems to have been less design in the affair than is
commonly supposed. Few people--even among the most intelligent and
informed--will believe how much in modern English politics is settled by
the accident or caprice of the hour. Lord Randolph Churchill had often
voted and spoken against the leader of the Opposition before. He thought
the acquiescence in Mr. Gladstone’s wishes on this occasion stupid, and
he said so. He thought the House should adjourn without transacting
business and he voted in that sense. Sir Michael Hicks-Beach was party
to no plot. He did not enter the House until late and had not heard Sir
Stafford’s speech. He gathered from the debate that the Fourth Party and
the ‘Janissaries’ were attacking the Government and he supported them on
general principles. Not until he sat down did he learn what he had done.
Moreover, before the division had taken place Lord Salisbury’s hopes of
a settlement were already so good that he had sent the following letter
to Lord Randolph Churchill:--


20 Arlington Street, S.W.: June 15, 1885.

     My dear Churchill,--I was very sorry you were not able to come to
     our meeting this morning. The general sense of those present, with
     one or two exceptions, was that we could not well refuse to take
     office, after all that has happened this year, if the Government
     have finally determined not to resume it. Still I think everyone
     present recognised that in a party sense this obligation was a

     Though I fear I must draw an unfavourable inference from your
     absence, I still venture to express a hope that you will allow me
     to put down your name for the Indian Secretaryship on the list
     which I must submit to the Queen on Wednesday.

     I should be very glad to talk these matters over if you like to
     come and see me. I shall be in all the morning.

Yours very truly,

Lord Randolph replied as if nothing had happened:--

2 Connaught Place: June 16, 1885.

     Dear Lord Salisbury,--I am deeply sensible of the extreme kindness
     towards myself which you show me by your letter received this
     morning, and if not inconvenient to you I will do myself the honour
     of waiting upon you about eleven o’clock to-day.

Believe me to be
Yours most sincerely,

That the interview was friendly and in the main satisfactory may be
inferred from the following letter written later in the day, which
shows, among other things, that in the hour of victory Lord Randolph
Churchill was not inclined to desert those who had worked with him:--

2 Connaught Place: June 16, 1885.

     Dear Lord Salisbury,--I do hope you will not be annoyed if I add to
     your many difficulties by these few lines. Of course, since I saw
     you this morning I have thought about little else than all that you
     were kind enough to say to me on many subjects. I do feel very
     uneasy indeed about Wolff and Gorst, and I cannot think that I have
     submitted to you their position as regards myself with the urgency
     which they are entitled to expect from me. If it were possible for
     you to consider whether it might not be in your power to recommend
     Wolff for the high dignity of a Privy Councillor I should be easy
     in my mind about him, and I venture to press this desire of mine
     upon you.

     Gorst ... knows his powers, his position in the House, his hitherto
     barely recognised claims, and it makes me perfectly wretched to
     feel that it must occur to his mind that his failure to obtain that
     for which so many persons of knowledge consider he is fitted in
     every way is due to lukewarmness on my part. If I did not know what
     the general feeling of the House of Commons will be as regards
     myself on this point, I would have hesitated to trouble you; but I
     am certain that if with respect to these two cases things remain in
     the position you gave me to understand this morning they would be,
     I shall be considered to have failed my friends, and my powers,
     whatever they may be, of being useful to your Government will be

Yours most sincerely,

Lord Salisbury, thus appealed to, consented to submit Mr. Gorst’s name
to the Queen for the office of Solicitor-General and Sir Henry Wolff’s
for a Privy Councillorship. When the lavish hand with which high
appointments were distributed among persons who had borne no share in
the battle is remembered, it cannot be said that these rewards were
disproportioned to services or talent.

The difficulties within the Conservative party were now settled; but the
delays in the formation of the Government and consequent uncertainty
were prolonged in order to extract from Mr. Gladstone further
assurances in regard to the passage of necessary public business while
the Government were in a minority in the House of Commons; and meanwhile
Lord Salisbury retreated to Hatfield. Of the interviews and negotiations
incidental upon this, a complete account was afterwards given to
Parliament; and on June 23 the acceptance of office by Lord Salisbury
and the composition of the Ministry, the main features of which had
become generally known, were formally announced, and the constitutional
and party crisis came to an end.

‘What a triumph!’ wrote Mr. Chamberlain on June 18, when the issue
became apparent. ‘You have won all along the line. _Moriturus te
saluto_.’ And with this an important chapter in Lord Randolph
Churchill’s life may be conveniently closed.



     ‘This is no man of system, then; he is only a man of instincts and
     insights. A man, nevertheless, who will glare fiercely on any
     object; and see through it, and conquer it; for he has intellect,
     he has will, force beyond other men. A man not with
     _logic-spectacles_; but with an _eye_!’--CARLYLE on Mirabeau,
     _French Revolution_, bk. iv. ch. iv.

The first trials of a Prime Minister are often the most severe. The most
formidable obstacles lie at the beginning. Once these have been
surmounted, the path is comparatively smooth. Nearly all the rest of
Lord Salisbury’s life was spent at the head of the Government. In a
period of seventeen years he filled for more than twelve the greatest
office in the State. Four separate Administrations were formed under his
hand. Responsibilities not less grave than those of 1885, far more
important legislation, wide acquisitions of territory, vast decisions of
peace and war attended their course. But, as with Mr. Pitt, the first
two years of his service perhaps exceeded in personal stress all the
years that were to follow. And it is probable that no part of those two
years was more clouded with anxious perplexity than the autumn of 1885.
His own position was not assured. Public confidence in his character and
judgment had yet to be won; his authority within his party had yet to
be consolidated. That party itself had struggled back to power, weak in
numbers, nervously excited by its efforts, upon curious and compromising
terms. It was torn by the very inspiration that revived its strength. It
awaited in acute apprehension an imminent and momentous election, the
result of which no man could foretell. Very different were those
after-years, when the old statesman, towering above his colleagues in
the Cabinet and commanding the implicit obedience of his followers, had
gathered patiently together round the standards of Conservatism almost
all the strongest forces in the country.

Yet while resources were still slender the difficulties and dangers of
the situation were tremendous. The dispute with Russia about the Afghan
boundary was in its most critical stage. For at least two months the
Cabinet faced the chance of war with a formidable military Empire. The
triumphant Mahdi was ravaging the Soudan, and Egypt, withdrawn behind
her narrowest frontiers, was threatened without and utterly disorganised
within. The British finances were oppressed by a deficit. Ireland
smouldered. All the elements of Irish national life were banded together
under the supreme authority of Parnell and that efficient Protestant
rebel was methodically preparing his campaign for an Irish Parliament.
In the English provinces Mr. Chamberlain, released from such partial
restraint as official obligations had hitherto imposed, unfolded the
‘Unauthorised Programme’ to an exulting Radical democracy. And behind
all ‘two million intelligent citizens,’ newly enfranchised, impatiently
awaited the opportunity of casting their votes. Such were the perils and
embarrassments amid which the ‘Ministry of Caretakers’ came into being.
Nor was it strange that eminent politicians were willing to prophesy
that after a brief and inglorious career they would be ‘swept off the
face of the earth.’ But Lord Salisbury, reminding the House of Lords
that several of the longest Administrations in English history had come
into being under precarious conditions, and fortifying himself by the
examples and experiences of Mr. Pitt in 1784, of Lord Liverpool in 1812,
and of Lord Palmerston in 1855, addressed himself to his heavy task with
serene determination.

The Fourth Party was translated bodily to a higher sphere. Lord Randolph
Churchill became Secretary of State for India--at that time, with the
exception of the Foreign Office, the most anxious and important of all
Ministerial posts. Mr. Balfour, though not admitted to the Cabinet, was
appointed President of the Local Government Board. Sir Henry Wolff was
despatched on a special mission to Turkey and Egypt with wide and
peculiar authority over the whole field of Egyptian affairs. Mr. Gorst
accepted the position of Solicitor-General. Three out of the four
friends who had worked together more or less harmoniously in Opposition
were sworn Privy Councillors upon the same cushion; and it was also
noticed that an unusual proportion of the thirty-five members who had
voted with the Fourth Party in the division upon Sir Henry Wolff’s
motion during the _interregnum_ were included in the Government.

Lord Randolph’s popularity was enhanced by his promotion. Those
commanding qualities which the House of Commons had so frankly accepted,
and Tory Democracy so loudly proclaimed, were now recognised by persons
and by classes who had hitherto schooled themselves to regard him merely
as an unedifying example of irresponsible audacity. The vigorous
assertions of youth were stamped with the seal of official authority and
over all hung the glitter of success. His friends, old and new, hastened
to offer their congratulations. One of his acknowledgments may be

June 25, 1885.

     Dear Mr. Tabor,--I was so pleased to receive this morning your kind
     letter and I trust that your congratulations may be to some extent
     justified by results. As it is the fact that whatever of success I
     may have attained is mainly owing to the six years which I passed
     at Cheam, may I ask as a favour for a holiday for all those young
     gentlemen who are now deriving from you similar advantages to those
     which befell me? It would be a pleasure to me to know that I have
     not asked anything which was not in your power to grant.

Yours most sincerely,

Now that Lord Randolph had accepted ‘an office of profit under the
Crown’ his seat at Woodstock was vacated and he had to submit himself to
re-election. The leaders of the Liberal party did not encourage
opposition to Ministers in such circumstances at this juncture. When
they had themselves forced upon the Conservative party the task of
Administration, it seemed factious to impede the return of individuals
necessary for that purpose. Moreover, they were sensible of the
advantage which almost always accrues to anyone who is singled out for
attack by the opposite side. But the personality of the candidate gave
promise of distinction to his opponent, the nice balance of parties in
the old Borough held out a hope of success, and Mr. Corrie Grant hurried
down from London to voice the hot and not unreasonable resentment of the
Radical rank and file. This gentleman appealed to the electors upon a
single issue. It was not, he declared, a fight of politics against
politics, or of principle against principle--it was a fight against a
man. The statements and expressions which Lord Randolph had employed
against the Liberal party, its leaders, and in particular Mr. Gladstone,
made it necessary at all costs to challenge his return.

Because of the immense pressure of work at the India Office and also no
doubt not to treat his opponent too seriously, Lord Randolph declared
himself unable to take part in the contest personally and left his
election entirely to his constituents and friends. He contented himself
with a short address. Having never held office before, it was necessary
for him to give double the time of more fortunate persons to acquiring
knowledge of his duties. ‘Under these circumstances it is impossible for
me to leave London and to go among you as has been on former occasions
my practice and my pleasure. But I console myself with the recollection
that I am no stranger to any of you, that for nearly twelve years my
public life has been before you, and that on no occasion had I any
reason to imagine that I had forfeited your confidence or gone against
your general political sentiments.’ ‘Whatever may be, in your opinion,
the position I now occupy, that position you have made; it is mainly
your work. And that position I am perfectly certain no stranger or
carpet-bagger or any hirelings from the Birmingham Caucus will persuade
you to damage or destroy.’

The campaign was opened immediately and with determination on both
sides. Sir Henry Wolff, Lord Curzon, Sir Frederick Milner, Mr. St. John
Brodrick,[31] a nephew of the former Liberal candidate, arrived in
Woodstock to support Lord Randolph; and the Opposition was aided by a
zealous contingent from Birmingham to such an extent that at the opening
meeting Sir Henry Wolff described Mr. Corrie Grant as ‘the delegate of
Mr. Schnadhorst and Mr. Chamberlain.’ This statement caused Mr.
Chamberlain annoyance and he wrote at once to Lord Randolph disclaiming
all responsibility for the contest and any desire to cause him trouble.
Lord Randolph replied as follows:--

          _To Mr. Chamberlain._

July 1, 1885.

     I think the mention of your name in Wolff’s speech was either
     wrongly reported or else not in the least meant ill-naturedly....
     In any case, no mischief is to be made by anyone between you and
     me as far as I am concerned. I was quite sure that you had nothing
     to do with the Woodstock contest, but even if you had, I never
     should have thought it anything else but perfectly fair and
     legitimate. In the meantime many thanks for your kind letter, which
     I much value. Don’t be angry with Wolff.

There were, notwithstanding, several reasons for uneasiness as to the
result. The absence of the candidate was an undoubted drawback. The
propaganda of Mr. Joseph Arch had produced a considerable impression
upon a section of the labourers. A more formidable consideration was the
attitude of the Duke of Marlborough. Lord Randolph’s father had wielded
immense personal influence in the borough and had neglected nothing that
might constitutionally be done to secure the return of his nominee. Two
years before, the new Duke would no doubt have exerted himself to the
utmost to help his brother; but the sale of the Blenheim pictures had
produced a serious quarrel in the family. Lord Randolph had vehemently
protested against the dispersal of so many of the treasures for which
Blenheim had been famous and a complete estrangement had ensued. The
Duke, moreover, after the opposition which had been threatened to his
candidature for the Carlton, had relapsed into political independence.
He now declared himself so strictly neutral during the contest that Lady
Randolph and the friends who came down to fight the election for her
husband, were fain for the first night of their arrival to shelter at
the Bear Hotel. Sir Henry Wolff’s diplomacy soon proved equal to those
difficulties. Friendly relations were restored; Blenheim opened its
gates to the Conservatives; and the Duke, stung by a statement in the
press that he had himself been a party to Mr. Corrie Grant’s
candidature, finished by lending his carriages to convey Lord Randolph’s
supporters to the poll. The election was nevertheless fought under some
disadvantage as compared with former occasions.

But the Secretary for India found in Lady Randolph and in his sister,
Lady Curzon, a mainstay of support and enthusiasm. ‘I should be very
glad,’ he wrote to his wife on June 29, ‘if you could arrange to stay in
Woodstock till Friday. If I win, you will have all the glory.’ Driving
about the widely extended constituency in a smart tandem profusely
decorated with pink ribbons, well known to most and with a smile for
all, these ladies canvassed indefatigably from morn till night. Their
Primrose badges--still an object of amusement in high Tory circles--were
the first to be worn in actual political warfare; and their influence,
supplying as it did that personal element without which enthusiasm is
scarcely ever excited, became a factor in the fight, against which the
eloquence of two Liberal ladies from Girton--specially imported to meet
the emergency--was utterly unable to prevail.

The result of the election was announced on the evening of July 3:--

  Lord Randolph Churchill         532
  Mr. Corrie Grant                405

The majority for Lord Randolph Churchill was 127, or more than double
that by which he had been returned in 1880. Needless to relate, the
declaration of the poll was received with the utmost satisfaction by the
crowd in front of the Bear Hotel, to whom Lady Randolph, Lord Curzon,
Sir Henry Wolff, and later on Mr. Corrie Grant made brief but
appropriate speeches; and the fact that over six hundred ‘result
messages’ were despatched from the local post-office that evening showed
the interest taken by the world at large in this the last of the
Woodstock elections.

Even before Lord Randolph was re-elected for Woodstock, he was required
in the House of Commons. Portentous extracts were read from his speeches
as a private member, and his secretary in the House was cross-questioned
about them. Did he still adhere to his charges against the Khedive? Were
his views on Ireland what he had declared them to be at Edinburgh? To
all such inquiries Lord Randolph sent a simple answer, which may be
recommended to others similarly circumstanced: ‘I neither withdraw nor
apologise for anything that I have said at any time, believing as I do
that anything which I may have said at any time was perfectly justified
by the special circumstances of that time, and by the amount of
information I may have had in my possession.’

The new Ministers met Parliament with general statements of their views
and intentions on July 6. In both Houses they made a good appearance.
They achieved at once the requisite pomposity of public utterance, and
handled power as to the manner born. To the Peers Lord Salisbury
declared that the pledges of any British Government were sacred, and
that all existing obligations would be faithfully observed in the
further conduct of the negotiations with the Court of Russia. In answer
to the taunt, made out-of-doors, that the Conservatives would postpone
the date of the election for the purpose of prolonging their enjoyment
‘of what some persons are pleased to call the sweets of office,’ he
invited Lord Granville to admit that the new Government had endeavoured
to amend the Redistribution Bill so as even to accelerate the
dissolution. Lord Carnarvon justified the attempt to govern Ireland
under the ordinary law by statistics which showed the diminution of
agrarian crime. He spoke of former statesmen who had failed in
Ireland--‘so many that the wrecks of them lie strewn about’--and he
seemed to wrestle modestly, but hopefully, against the conviction that
he himself would be added to the number. In the Commons Mr. Bradlaugh
again presented himself and was received by the new Leader of the House
with the usual resolutions of prohibition and exclusion, affirmed by the
usual majorities. The next day Sir Michael Hicks-Beach explained the few
uncontentious legislative projects which the Government would try to
carry through and asked for the time of the House to enable them to wind
up the business of the Session. Mr. Gladstone declared that the request
was not unreasonable and that he would himself endeavour to help the
Ministry by his vote and by the example of his silence. Lord Randolph,
in what is called ‘a statesmanlike tone,’ described the late Prime
Minister’s conduct as magnanimous and considerate; and a Radical motion
of want of confidence in the new Administration finding only two
supporters, the prevailing harmony remained unbroken.

The position of the Government, faced by a large majority in nominal
opposition, dependent upon Nationalist favour for the avoidance of
defeat at any moment and on any question, mistrusted by many of their
own friends, bitterly hated by Whigs and Radicals, and unable to escape
from constant humiliation by resignation or dissolution, was one of
extreme discomfort. But there seemed to be a kind of truce at
Westminster, in vivid contrast to the rising strife elsewhere. Under
such happy conditions, and with the cessation of Irish obstruction, the
end of the Session proved curiously fruitful. The Budget was
uncontroversial. The Government helped Lord Rosebery to carry his
Secretary for Scotland Bill through both Houses. Lord Salisbury passed a
measure dealing with the housing of the working classes, in spite of
some murmurings among the Peers at its socialistic flavour. Mr. Balfour
took charge of a Medical Relief Bill which ultimately became law,
although the Liberal majority ‘improved’ it to such an extent that the
Government disclaimed responsibility for it. Mutual concessions and
genuine co-operation placed both a Land Bill and a Labourers Bill for
Ireland upon the statute book. The Land Bill, or the ‘Ashbourne Act,’
as it was called, took extensive effect, and was the foundation and the
precursor of all subsequent Land Purchase Acts, culminating in the Land
Act of 1903. Sir William Harcourt and the new Home Secretary aided each
other to effect most important amendments in the criminal law; and,
finally, the Colonial Secretary, firmly refusing to allow the objections
of New South Wales to defeat the wishes of the other Australian
Colonies, succeeded in passing a Federation Bill which opened the door
to a Commonwealth of Australia. Indeed, a Parliamentary Paradise, albeit
enduring only upon sufferance, seemed to have sprung into being in the
midst of a Political Inferno. The good sense and tolerance of the nation
were gathered within the sheltering walls of Parliament, while discord,
faction, and electioneering clamour reigned supreme outside.

One curious legislative feat must be recorded. An Irish Educational
Endowments Bill had been brought down from the Lords and read a first
time in the Commons early in the session (May 12) as one of Mr.
Gladstone’s Government Bills. It had been practically abandoned before
the change of Ministry. Not one of the members of the new Government had
read a line of it; but Lord Randolph--interested as ever in Irish
education--was persuaded by FitzGibbon, in the early days of August,
that the Bill might be so altered as to make a useful measure and he
exerted himself to salve the derelict. The difficulties seemed
insuperable. The Chief Secretary for Ireland, Sir William Hart-Dyke,
indignant at a proposal to introduce important legislation in the last
week of the last session of an expiring Parliament, refused to have
anything to do with it. The Leader of the House only consented to allow
the attempt upon the condition that the session should not be prolonged
by a single day. The Bill had to be redrafted from beginning to end. It
could not be advanced a stage without the concurrence of the Nationalist
party. Three or four perfectly distinct and usually antagonistic
sections of Irish opinion had to be conciliated and the negotiations
between Lord Randolph and FitzGibbon on the one hand, and Mr. Sexton and
Mr. Healy on the other, afforded some beautiful specimens of Hibernian
diplomacy. All obstacles were surmounted. The Irish Attorney-General,
Mr. Holmes--with whom Lord Randolph had made friends--undertook the
conduct of the redrafted Bill. It was read a second time on August 11.
The amendments, covering whole pages of the order paper, entirely
altering the Bill from its original shape, unintelligible to everyone
except the Minister who moved them and the two or three Irish members
who discussed them, were considered on the 12th. On the 13th the Bill
was recommitted, to introduce the necessary money clauses, read a third
time and sent to the House of Lords: and the next day, on which the
session closed, it passed and received the Royal Assent. None of its
thirty-eight sections have given rise to any difficulty and during the
nine years which followed its passing it was constantly renewed until
the endowments and management of upwards of 1,350 Primary Schools and
more than 100 Intermediate and Collegiate Institutions had been
reorganised under its operation.

Mr. Holmes, the Attorney-General, like many others who worked under Lord
Randolph Churchill, became warmly attached to him. Their joint labours
on this Bill impressed him with the extraordinary power of conciliating
persons and overcoming difficulties possessed by a man so often
associated only with violence. Above all he admired his courage. ‘I
feel,’ he wrote two years afterwards, when the leader of Tory Democracy
was leader no more, ‘like one of Rupert’s soldiers serving under a Dutch

One harsh note jarred upon the ears of these Elysian legislators. The
new Ministers had scarcely taken office before the shadowy relations
which existed between the Conservative Government and the Irish party
issued in a substantial form. Nationalist opinion in Ireland had long
been excited over one of those dark and curious police cases the
savagely disputed details of which are thrust from time to time before
the House of Commons, to the bewilderment of British members. In August
of 1882 a whole family of the name of Joyce had, with the exception of
one young boy, been murdered under circumstances of peculiar atrocity at
Maamtrasna. Ten men were arrested upon the evidence of three witnesses
who professed to have seen them enter the house in which the crime was
committed. This evidence was confirmed by two of the prisoners who
turned approvers. After three successive trials three men were condemned
to death and executed, and the remaining five, having pleaded guilty,
received death sentences, afterwards commuted to penal servitude for
life. So far the story was grimly simple. But it was now alleged that
two of the murderers hanged had, in their dying depositions, declared
the innocence of the third, Myles Joyce; while this man himself had
protested always and to the last that he was not guilty. One of the
informers next came forward and swore that he had been told by an
official that his evidence would not be accepted by the Crown unless it
applied to all the prisoners, that he was given twenty minutes to
decide, and that then from ‘terror of death’ he had been induced to
swear away the life of Myles Joyce. An appeal from the Archbishop of
Tuam to the Lord-Lieutenant had led to an inquiry by Lord Spencer and
this inquiry resulted in the conclusion that the verdict and sentence
were right and just.

Hatred of a Coercion Viceroy and the profound distrust which divided all
who administered the law in Ireland from the mass of the people,
magnified this squalid tragedy into a political issue of importance. It
was asserted that as a result of Coercionist procedure and the
overweening desire of the Government to secure convictions, not only had
an innocent man been done to death, but that some of those still in
prison had been wrongfully convicted. When the case was raised in
Parliament during the Autumn Session of 1884, the Government,
representing the vote as one of confidence or want of confidence in Lord
Spencer, refused all further inquiry. In this they were generally
supported by both great parties and the Irish motion was rejected by 219
to 48. But Lord Randolph Churchill, Sir Henry Wolff, and Mr. Gorst had
voted in the minority with the Nationalists and Lord Randolph had spoken
strongly in their favour.

Almost as soon as the formation of the new Cabinet was complete Mr.
Parnell moved (July 17) a resolution reflecting on Lord Spencer and
demanding a fresh inquiry. Sir Michael Hicks-Beach opposed this
resolution in the name of the Government; but at the same time he said
that it was the right of every prisoner at any time to appeal to the
Lord-Lieutenant for the reconsideration of his sentence. ‘The present
Lord-Lieutenant [Lord Carnarvon] has authorised me to state that, if
memorials should be presented on behalf of those persons referred to in
this motion, they will be considered by him with the same personal
attention which he would feel bound to give to all cases, whether great
or small, ordinary or exceptional, coming before him.’ That was all; and
it may not seem a very large concession to Irish national feeling, but
it was enough to draw upon the head of the Minister a storm of reproach.
Sir William Harcourt, undisturbed by the significant absence of Mr.
Chamberlain and Sir Charles Dilke, rose to express the indignation of
the Liberal party that law and order should be subverted to political
expediency and the decision of a Viceroy impugned. These sentiments were
received with undisguised approval on the Conservative benches. Lord
Randolph Churchill replied. So far as he was personally concerned his
task would have been easy. He, at least, had consistently supported the
Irish demand for an inquiry. He was to defend in office a smaller
concession than he had urged in Opposition. But what with Ulster
growlings, sympathetically echoed by the Tory party on the one hand, and
on the other the plain need of Nationalist good-will, if peace and order
were to be maintained in Ireland under the ordinary law, the path was
not easy to find and perilously narrow to tread. His speech, in fact,
resolved itself into a series of depreciatory comments upon Lord
Spencer’s administration. Sir William Harcourt had spoken of it with
pride. ‘We were proud of the administration of Lord Spencer.’ Who did
‘_we_’ include? It was the prerogative of royalty to speak in the plural
number. Sir William Harcourt had once before electrified the country by
claiming royal descent. Was it in that exalted character that he used
the ‘we,’ or did he mean that the late Cabinet were united in their
admiration of Lord Spencer’s Viceroyalty? The division list would show.
For himself he had had no confidence in the administration of Lord
Spencer. For that reason he had a year before voted in favour of an
inquiry into this particular case. The new Government ought not
unnecessarily to go out of their way to assume responsibility for the
acts of the late Administration. They would now pronounce no opinion
upon the merits of the case. The new Lord-Lieutenant would inquire
carefully and impartially into it; and pending that inquiry, having full
confidence in Lord Carnarvon, Ministers would vote against the motion of
Mr. Parnell which seemed to prejudge the issue. On this Mr. Parnell rose
at once and said that he was content to await Lord Carnarvon’s decision.
He therefore asked leave to withdraw his motion. But the discussion did
not terminate. The Ulster members and their friends--always so powerful
in the Conservative party--were offended by the concession, small though
it was, which had been made to their hereditary foes. The friendly tone
of the Irish leader, and the Nationalist cheers with which Lord
Randolph’s strictures upon Lord Spencer had been received, excited
Orange wrath and Tory disapproval. Liberals who had smarted under the
taunt ‘Kilmainham Treaty’ were not slow to retort ‘Maamtrasna Alliance.’
Mr. Brodrick, a young Conservative who had not been included in the new
Government as his talents deserved, and who believed, perhaps with
reason, that his exclusion was due to the fact that he had voted with
Sir Stafford Northcote and against Lord Randolph Churchill in the
_interregnum_ division, expressed with much force the Conservative
discontent. He was supported by the vehement outcry of an Ulster member.
Mr. Gorst, who now for the first time defended the Government as
Solicitor-General, unwittingly fanned the flames by allowing himself to
use the candid but unfortunate expression ‘reactionary Ulster members.’
The stern reproaches with which Lord Hartington closed the debate, were
endorsed by many Conservatives in the House and by an influential
section of the party press.

The Maamtrasna incident was a factor in great events. It profoundly
disturbed the Conservative party. It thrust the Whigs for a space back
upon Mr. Gladstone. It prepared Mr. Gladstone’s mind for the reception
of other impressions which were to reach him later. Upon Lord Spencer
its influence was perhaps decisive; and the Viceroy who for three years
had ruled Ireland with dignity and courage, yet with despotic power,
whose name had become a synonym for the maintenance of law and order by
drastic measures, finding the standard of Coercion abandoned even by
Tory Ministers, came by one wide yet not irrational sweep to the
conclusion that Home Rule in some form or other was not to be prevented.
There can be no doubt that he was deeply wounded by Lord Randolph
Churchill’s speech. Connected though they were by many ties of kinship,
their friendly relations were not for several years repaired and were
never perfectly restored.

Heavy censures have been laid upon Lord Randolph Churchill for his share
in this affair. The Maamtrasna inquiry has often been described as part
of the purchase price paid by the Conservative party to Irish
Nationalism for power. On this a word may be said. Although no bargain
of any kind existed, it is obvious that Lord Salisbury’s
Government--which had come into office upon Nationalist votes, which was
forced to govern Ireland by the ordinary law, and which possessed no
majority in the House of Commons--was dependent largely upon Nationalist
good-will. To preserve that good-will was vital to their power to bring
the necessary work of the expiring Parliament to a creditable conclusion
and to the success of their struggle with Mr. Gladstone. Many other
issues of domestic and Imperial politics, far greater in their
importance than Irish affairs, were at stake in the approaching
election. The times were tempestuous; the need was great; the concession
pitifully small. In the event, Lord Carnarvon received, considered, and
in due course rejected the memorials which were sent him. No decision
was reversed; no prisoners were released; but the Irish people,
satisfied that the inquiry had been fair, accepted its conclusions. It
would not be difficult, from another point of view, to justify on its
merits an examination into the administration of justice in an island
which for five years had lain in the grip of what was almost martial
law, where the most elementary civil rights had been in abeyance and
where nearly every safeguard of British judicial procedure had been
destroyed--more especially when that examination was demanded by
recognised representatives from a Government of which they were in a
sense constituents. This is, however, to raise questions beyond the
scope of these pages. The merits of the Maamtrasna inquiry will be
variously appraised. Lord Salisbury’s first Administration must
collectively share the responsibility, as they shared the advantage.
But, whether right or wrong, Lord Randolph Churchill’s personal
sincerity cannot be doubted by anyone who reads his consistent
declarations upon this and kindred Irish subjects or who studies his
life and opinions as a whole.

The feeling excited among the Ulster members and so largely shared by
orthodox unbending Conservatives was not concealed. The _Standard_
abused the Tory leaders in the Commons as vigorously as any Liberal
newspaper. Lord Randolph Churchill had promised to attend a great
meeting at Liverpool at which Conservative working men from all parts of
Lancashire were to present him with a great number of addresses. July 29
was fixed for the ceremony. On the afternoon of the 28th he learned that
Lord Claud Hamilton, one of his old opponents in the National Union
fight, and another local member declined to attend. Regarding this as a
deliberate insult to the Government and to himself, he telegraphed at
once to the Chairman of the meeting:--

_Telegram from Lord Randolph Churchill to A. B. Forwood, Esq._

     Lord Claud Hamilton has just informed me that he and Mr. Whitley do
     not intend to be present at the meeting to-morrow, assigning as
     their reason that they disapprove so strongly of the policy of the
     Government on Irish questions that, if they were present, they
     would be obliged to express publicly their disapproval. Under
     these circumstances I distinctly decline to attend a meeting of the
     Tory party in Liverpool at which the two senior members refuse to
     be present. I think it in the highest degree ungenerous and
     unpatriotic that two gentlemen professing Tory principles should
     show at a difficult and critical time such a deplorable want of
     confidence in a Government which, in all other parts of the United
     Kingdom, has received from its friends a hearty and cordial

From this determination the most frantic appeals from Liverpool failed
to move him, and the meeting was abandoned at the last moment, to the
great disappointment and inconvenience of all concerned. The Lancashire
Tories were not, however, to be discouraged from their purpose and
resolutions were immediately passed by the Liverpool Conservative
Association inviting Lord Randolph to another similar meeting a few
weeks later and urging the local members to attend.

The relations of Ministers with the Irish party which were thought so
improper by good Conservatives, and were certainly compromising, did not
end with the Maamtrasna inquiry. The appointment of Lord Carnarvon as
Viceroy had been a part of the general policy of concession to Irish
feeling which the new Government was forced to adopt. His opinions were
known to be sympathetic to Irish aspirations and he was for that reason
agreeable to the Nationalist party. That he had carried Federation in
Canada, had tried to carry it in South Africa, and was well known to be
familiar with the machinery of subordinate legislatures and Colonial
Parliaments, were facts not in those days devoid of significance. His
first speech, in the House of Lords, as Lord-Lieutenant had been a
declaration of the abandonment of Coercion and an appeal, in terms of
generous sincerity, for a kindlier feeling between the two countries.
Beginning thus, Lord Carnarvon was soon treading that path of hope and
peril which seems to possess an almost irresistible fascination for
English statesmen who are invited to watch at close quarters the
detailed workings of Irish administration.

Lord Randolph Churchill was always inclined to blame Lord Ashbourne for
his absence from Ireland at this critical time. ‘The Irish Chancellor’s
constant presence in Dublin,’ he wrote in 1889 in the memorandum already
quoted, ‘might have been of inestimable service to the Viceroy and the
Government.... Lord Carnarvon, a nobleman of broad sympathies, liberal
mind, and warm imagination, was left alone, without any previous
knowledge of the country, to survey Ireland, to realise its condition,
to appreciate the difficulties of its government, under the influence
and guidance of Sir Robert Hamilton, at that time permanent
Under-Secretary, who was possessed of great ability and long experience
of the Civil Service, and who had some time previously arrived at the
conclusion that the concession of Home Rule in some shape or other was
inevitable. There was no countervailing influence of knowledge and
authority with the Viceroy such as Lord Ashbourne might have afforded
and Lord Carnarvon glided gently into the heresy which so grievously
embarrassed and damaged his colleagues and correspondingly strengthened
the party of Repeal.’

At the end of July Lord Carnarvon’s opinions were so far advanced that
he sought an interview with Mr. Parnell. The famous ‘empty house’
meeting was arranged. In a drawing-room in Grosvenor Square, dismantled
and deserted at the end of the London season, the representative of the
Queen in Ireland and the executive head of the Irish Government met the
man whom the mass of the English people, high and low, had been taught
during five years, by the leaders of both political parties, to regard
as guilty at least of high treason and probably of complicity in murder.
From the accounts which have since been made public, the conversation
that ensued seems to have been interesting and agreeable. Lord Carnarvon
carefully explained that he spoke for no one but himself, that he sought
for information only, and that as the Queen’s servant he could listen to
nothing inconsistent with the Union of the two countries. After this
formality had been assented to by Mr. Parnell, the two rulers of
Ireland--coroneted impotence and uncrowned power--rambled discursively
over such topics as self-government and national aspirations, Colonial
Parliaments and a central legislative body which might, it appeared,
possess--a remarkable licence--the right of protecting Irish industries.
Altogether a very instructive afternoon!

When Lord Carnarvon first explained this incident in the House of Lords
(June 10, 1886) he stated emphatically that he had had no communication
with the Cabinet on the subject either before or after the interview
took place and that he had received ‘no authorisation’ from the Cabinet.
Not until two years more had passed (May 3, 1888) did he reveal the fact
that he had acted throughout with Lord Salisbury’s consent. ‘I should
have been wanting in my duty if I had failed to inform my noble friend
at the head of the Government of my intention of holding that meeting
with Mr. Parnell, and still more should I have failed in my duty, if I
had not acquainted him with what had passed between us at the interview,
at the earliest possible moment. Accordingly, both by writing and by
words, I gave the noble Marquess as careful and as accurate a statement
as possible of what had occurred within twenty-four hours after the
meeting and my noble friend was good enough to say that I had conducted
that conversation with perfect discretion.’[32]

Lord Salisbury, however, kept this matter entirely to himself. No one of
his colleagues, not even the Leader of the House of Commons, was made
aware of the incident until the fact was declared in Parliament. Lord
Randolph Churchill was subsequently both astonished and offended at this
concealment of such an important political event from Cabinet Ministers
by the head of the Government.

The fact that Lord Carnarvon met Mr. Parnell and, with the knowledge and
assent of the Prime Minister, discussed at large with him projects of
Home Rule, has been held by many people to prove that the Tory Cabinet
was considering such a policy in the autumn. But, as Lord Salisbury
never apprised his colleagues of this interview, the inference is
obviously incorrect. No Home Rule proposals were ever submitted to the
Cabinet of 1885. Had proposals of this kind been submitted, taking the
form of the establishment of a Parliament in Ireland, the Cabinet would
inevitably have rejected them. If Lord Salisbury had been a convinced
Home Ruler he could not have imposed his view upon his colleagues.
Principle, prejudice, obstinacy, conviction, would each and all together
have paralysed him. Apart from the Irish Viceroy, the two Ministers who
might have been expected--according to prevailing impressions and
suspicions--to give the most favourable consideration to such proposals
were Lord Randolph Churchill and Sir Michael Hicks-Beach. It is certain
that both Lord Randolph and Sir Michael Hicks-Beach would have resigned
rather than support such proposals, still less be responsible for their
conduct through the House of Commons; and in resigning they would have
been followed by the great majority of their colleagues. If these two
leading Ministers had agreed with Lord Salisbury upon a plan, the
Cabinet would have broken in pieces; and even if the entire Cabinet had
agreed, it is by no means likely that they would have succeeded in
carrying the Conservative party with them.

What ground is there for believing that Lord Salisbury was ever inclined
towards Home Rule, or contemplated, even in the vaguest terms, making
proposals to the Cabinet? No one knew better than he the character of
his party and the disposition of his Government. His method had always
been to obtain and use power only _through_ the party and _by_ the party
and no English statesman in the nineteenth century was less likely to
split his party or to lead some forlorn, uncalculated crusade of
enthusiasm or adventure. Certainly, if any idea had crossed his mind of
making a settlement on Nationalist lines with Mr. Parnell, Lord Randolph
Churchill would have been the Minister he would earliest have
approached. Lord Salisbury was on intimate terms with Lord Randolph.
They communicated with the greatest freedom and fulness almost every day
and almost always by letter. In all the extensive correspondence that
remains no trace can be discovered which suggests even remotely the
existence or the recognition of such an idea. The Prime Minister’s
letters to Lord Randolph, so far as they relate to Ireland, proceed on
the fundamental assumption that they are leagued together to resist Home
Rule. They speak of the ‘onslaught that is impending.’ They examine the
resources with which it can be met. But that either or both could join
the attacking forces is a suggestion in itself so widely improbable, of
such inherent absurdity and unimagined remoteness, that it is not even
mentioned for the purpose of being dismissed. The same may be said
generally of the correspondence of the 1885 Cabinet of which Lord
Randolph’s archives contain an extensive store.

Why, then, did Lord Salisbury allow and authorise the Irish Viceroy to
confer with Mr. Parnell? It is not for me to attribute motives to
persons with whom this story is only indirectly connected; but the
question cannot be avoided and certain interpretations of his action
irresistibly obtrude themselves. It seems, in the first place, a
reasonable assumption that Lord Salisbury allowed the Viceroy to meet
Mr. Parnell because the Viceroy was anxious for such a meeting and
because Lord Salisbury did not think that such a meeting would do any
harm. If the officer responsible for the Government of Ireland thought
that his task would be made easier by private consultation with any
particular Irishman, why should the head of an Administration avowedly
pursuing a conciliatory policy to Irish Nationalism and earnestly
endeavouring to preserve order without a special Act, refuse to allow
such consultation? Lord Carnarvon was warned to make it perfectly clear
that he was acting for himself and by himself, that the communications
were from his lips alone, that the conversation was with reference to
information only, that no agreement or understanding--however
shadowy--was in question, and that the Viceroy must neither hear nor say
a word that was inconsistent with the union of the two countries. Lord
Carnarvon always asserted that he had made these conditions perfectly
clear. Mr. Parnell did not in all respects concur. He declared that he
did not recollect that these conditions were made. The conflict of
evidence was direct. Even if it were admitted that Lord Carnarvon
failed to convey fully to Mr. Parnell these important preliminaries to
their discussion, the fact that he honestly tried to do so to the best
of his ability and believed that he had in fact done so, relieves him
from any imputation of intentional bad faith as regards Mr. Parnell and
clears _à fortiori_ the Prime Minister--a person more remote from the
transaction. But if Mr. Parnell chose to place upon Lord Carnarvon’s
words a construction which they would not bear or to attach to them an
authority which they did not possess; if he chose deliberately, or
through natural inclination, to magnify the importance of the whole
incident, to treat it as a formal negotiation of a treaty, was Lord
Salisbury to blame for that? And if Mr. Parnell thought fit for his own
purposes to convey a detailed and highly-coloured account of his
interview to Mr. Gladstone and other Liberal leaders, was Lord Salisbury
responsible for that? And if Mr. Gladstone jumped at conclusions upon
insufficient and questionable evidence, was Lord Salisbury responsible
for that? Could he foresee these possible consequences of the permission
he had given to Lord Carnarvon? Ought he to have foreseen them; and if
he had foreseen them, ought he to have refused to allow the meeting to
take place? These are questions which it is difficult to answer here. A
sufficient explanation is that Lord Salisbury allowed the interview to
take place in order to pacify the Viceroy and soothe Mr. Parnell and
that he did not communicate the fact to his colleagues because he
thought the matter would make more trouble in the Cabinet than it was
worth. Mr. Parnell’s biographer has explained with ingenuous candour the
delicate and elaborate manœuvres in which his hero was at this time
engaged. ‘The course of the Irish leader,’ he tells us, ‘was perfectly
clear. He had to threaten Mr. Chamberlain with Lord Randolph Churchill,
and Mr. Gladstone with both, letting the whole world know meanwhile that
his weight would ultimately be thrown in the scale that went down upon
the side of Ireland.’ Tactics like these, though perfectly legitimate
for a public object earnestly cherished, are not of a character to
entitle those who adopt them to any special consideration.

The session had no sooner ended than the campaign in the country began.
The Liberal party went down to the General Election of 1885 in a spirit
of comfortable over-confidence. Their leaders occupied themselves more
in correcting each other than in assailing the Conservative Government.
Indeed, it would seem that in the fulness of their power, with all the
prestige of the ‘Old Man’ and the ‘old cause’ and the expected
reinforcement of ‘two million intelligent citizens,’ they believed
sincerely that the future lay exclusively in their hands and that the
only questions of real importance were those which divided the ranks of
the predominant party. Of these questions, however, there seemed to be
no lack. Mr. Chamberlain’s views upon Local Government, free education,
graduated taxation and, above all, upon the transfer, tenure, and
compulsory acquisition of land, set forth in a series of remarkable
addresses, soon drew him into a lively controversy with Lord Hartington
and Mr. Goschen. Speech for speech they followed him about the country,
until in the end he declared that he would accept office in no
Government which ‘deliberately excluded’ the reforms he had
advocated--in other words, in no Government of which they were members.
Next came the question of Disestablishment, raised by stern Liberals,
who found phrases about ‘the old cause’ and ‘the old ship’ soothing
rather than satisfying in point of precision and substance. It was
supported positively, as it appeared, by 374 Liberal candidates, and
eagerly snatched at as a bone of contention by Wales and by English and
Scotch Dissenters on the one hand and by Tory Churchmen and--let it be
added--Tory politicians, on the other. In the last week of August Mr.
Parnell demanded a national Parliament for Ireland. The whole press,
Metropolitan and provincial, Liberal and Conservative, denounced his
claim as destructive and impossible. ‘There was no sign,’ said the
_Manchester Guardian_, ‘of any appreciable section of Englishmen who
would not unhesitatingly condemn or punish any party or any public man
who attempted to walk in the path traced by Mr. Parnell.’ Lord
Hartington and Mr. Chamberlain--differing so widely on all
else--representing as they did the extreme limits of Whig and Radical
opinion, rivalled each other in terms of prompt, explicit, and
unqualified condemnation. Ministers were silent. Lord Randolph
Churchill, speaking at Sheffield a few days later, ranged over many
subjects, dwelt long upon the state of Ireland and the decision not to
renew the Crimes Act, but made no reference of any kind to Home Rule.

Upon all these grave matters Mr. Gladstone was called to pronounce; and,
like other party leaders under similar circumstances, he exerted himself
rather to find a common basis of agreement between followers who
fundamentally disagreed than to point a path of his own. He would
apparently go as far with Mr. Chamberlain in domestic reform as he could
carry Lord Hartington. Disestablishment, he observed cautiously, was a
gigantic question, ‘and I am very far from saying that if I were twenty
years younger, and circumstances were ripe for taking a matter of this
kind in hand--either on the one side or the other--I should urge you not
to give it the first place in your thoughts and actions.’ Upon Ireland
and the future he was majestically mysterious and uttered stately
phrases about the supremacy of the Crown, the unity of the Empire, and
the authority of Parliament, mingled with aspirations towards ‘an
equitable settlement’ and ‘another effort to complete a reconciling
work.’ Mr. Gladstone’s utterances were officially declared to have
united the Liberal party and, fortified by this assurance, all its
sections resumed their warfare with ever-increasing turbulence, amid a
babel of conflicting voices.

From this clamour and darkness the lines of battle slowly but surely
ranged themselves much as Lord Randolph Churchill had expected and
desired. The menace to the Established Church and to denominational
teaching consolidated the Conservative party. It provided a new and
perfectly unimpeachable bond of union between them and the Irish
Nationalists. The cry of the ‘Church in danger’ rendered Lord Salisbury
very tractable on all other questions. To preserve that sacred vessel,
to him precious beyond all else in English life, there was scarcely any
concession he was not prepared to make--no merchandise he would not
jettison. At Newport (October 7) he showed in unmistakable language that
he was ready to make common cause with Tory Democrats, though they were
Radicals at heart, and with Irish Nationalists, who were rebels by
profession, thereby the better to resist the onslaught of secularism and
atheism. Viewed in this light, boycotting seemed to him a very small
matter, probably intangible to the law, depending ‘on the passing humour
of the population,’ ‘more like the excommunication or interdict of the
Middle Ages than anything we know now’; and in fine his Conservative
principles made shift to accommodate themselves to a political programme
which was morosely admitted by friends and foes alike to be little less
than the Gladstonian manifesto.

The Irish vote came over solid and unstinted into the Tory lines upon a
Parnellite denunciation of Mr. Gladstone and all his works, which in
tone and language might have been an extract from one of Lord Randolph’s
speeches. ‘In 1880,’ ran this document,[33] ‘the Liberal party promised
peace, and it afterwards made unjust wars; economy, and its Budget
reached the highest point yet attained; justice to aspiring
nationalities, and it mercilessly crushed the national movement in Egypt
under Arabi Pasha. To Ireland more than to any other country it bound
itself by most solemn pledges. It denounced Coercion, and it practised a
system of Coercion more brutal than that of any previous Administration,
Liberal or Tory.’

Among the millions who at the General Election of 1885 exercised, many
of them for the first time, the proud privilege of the franchise, no
human being could have explained with any approach to accuracy what a
vote for either of the great parties in the State actually involved,
whether in principle or action. Leaders on both sides, swept to and fro
by turbulent cross-currents, took refuge in ambiguous obscurity, even
where the most fiercely contested questions were concerned. Official
Liberalism had no decided opinion about Disestablishment, nor Toryism
about Fair Trade. Every politician had his own ideas about a social
programme; and Ireland was a riddle at which neither party cared to
guess in the absence of the electoral returns. What a mockery of
statesmen’s leadership and foresight the future was to unveil! The
Parnellite manifesto and the Irish vote weakened, perhaps fatally, the
Liberals who a few months later were to stake their fortunes upon Home
Rule. Sir William Harcourt, who derided the Conservative party for
‘stewing in Parnellite juice,’ was himself to stew in that juice for
the rest of his life. Lord Salisbury, whose philosophic defence of
boycotting had excited general consternation, stood on the threshold of
a Coercion Bill and ‘twenty years of resolute government.’ Mr.
Gladstone, appealing for a majority independent of Irish members, became
evermore dependent upon them. Mr. Chamberlain was soon to fight for
political existence side by side with that same Lord Hartington whom he
now described as Rip Van Winkle, to sit for years in the same Cabinet as
the Mr. Goschen he now ran up and down the land to denounce, and to be
driven from the Liberal party, locked in fast alliance with the very
Whigs he was now striving in the name of Radicalism to expel. Whether
Lord Randolph Churchill surpassed these standards of consistency the
reader will be able to judge as the account proceeds.

These were perhaps the busiest days of his life, and the amount of work
of the most exhausting character which he contrived to discharge
astonished all who knew him. Besides the anxious and incessant attention
which the India Office required, and the ordinary labours of a Cabinet
Minister, he had to watch the Irish situation and to prosecute his
Birmingham candidature from week to week. In addition to all this he
darted to and fro about the country--to Dorsetshire, Sheffield,
Worcester, Lynn, Manchester--commending the Conservative cause to the
electors in speeches in which serious argument was garnished with a
vigour of metaphor and a raciness of language that delighted the Tory
Democracy and attracted universal attention. Lord Salisbury, who knew
what the management of the India Office at this time involved, seems to
have been genuinely concerned lest his lieutenant should break himself
down by attempting a platform campaign as well as his departmental work.
‘The strain of doing the two things together,’ he wrote (September 13)
in a letter almost paternal in the kindness of its tone, ‘is enormous:
and if you once go a step too far--if you once break the spring--you may
take years to get over it.’ But Lord Randolph persevered; and though he
was forced by ill-health to take a few weeks’ rest at the end of
September, he managed to carry out nearly all the engagements he had

Such brief leisure as he could secure he spent mainly salmon-fishing in
the Carron at Auchnashellach--a house and river in Scotland then the
property of his brother-in-law, Lord Wimborne. Thither also went Sir
Frederick Roberts before leaving to take up the Indian command. Lord
Randolph was delighted to renew a friendship so happily begun the year
before at Rewah.[34]

          _To his Wife_.

Auchnashellach: September 27.

     I have written twenty-one letters to-day, some of them long ones,
     so you won’t be vexed if I only send a short scrawl. I think your
     letter to Lady Dufferin admirable and all your plans with regard to
     her Fund most excellent. I am sure Moore will do anything you want.
     I should advise you to get hold of Mr. Buckle and fascinate him,
     and make him write you up. I have been very glad to get Sir
     Frederick Roberts here, and have had long conversations with him on
     many Indian subjects. Did you not find him very nice? It has been
     everything for me getting him up here. I never could have had any
     real satisfactory _pow-wow_ in London. He is coming to dine with me
     on October 6, to meet some of the other Ministers--only a man
     party. I hope the new cook will be on his mettle....

He found time to pay a flying visit to Howth--thus combining pleasure
with certain matters of importance which drew him to Dublin.

          _Lord Randolph Churchill to Lord Justice FitzGibbon_.

Auchnashellach, Dingwall, N.B.: September 21, 1885.

     A line to tell you that on Tuesday, 29th inst., I commence my
     journey to Howth. A considerable business. I shall go by Carlisle
     to Holyhead, and imagine I ought to arrive at Kingstown on Thursday
     morning. From there I shall proceed to the Attorney-General’s abode
     at Monkstown, and later in the day move on in the direction of ‘the
     Eye.’[35] Will you keep me for two nights? I have asked the
     Lord-Lieutenant to let me go to him on the Saturday. Can you
     possibly manage to put up my secretary, Cecil Wolff? He is here
     with me and, while we are exploring the bay and deluding the wily
     lobster, will decipher telegrams and look after papers--a work I am
     perfectly unequal to. I hope the ‘Tutissimus’[36] will be on the
     spot and David Plunket--also I shall have to go and see O. V. G.
     L.,[37] who wrote to me from Buxton the other day; and there are
     many other old friends I am greatly looking forward to seeing
     again--you first.

Auchnashellach, Dingwall, N.B.: September 27, 1885.

     Many thanks for your letter and telegram. My complete physical
     restoration absolutely depends upon an evening with Father James

     I shall try to get to you early Saturday morning, and I fear I must
     leave Monday night, as our great Prime Minister has summoned a
     Cabinet for Tuesday. I shall go to the Attorney-General’s on
     Thursday morning in order to get myself into a proper state of mind
     and body before meeting the Lord-Lieutenant. Could you not run out
     to Monkstown in the early morning, in order that we may deliberate
     as to the proper employment of Saturday and Sunday and Monday, and
     also that I may hear at first hand from authentic sources what the
     FitzGibbon Commission (Endowed Schools) has been up to. I see you
     have made a lot of jobbing appointments. Wolff is very pleased with
     your kind letter.

     Can’t you get O. V. G. L. over to Howth on Sunday? This would be
     better than any amount of Church.

     Please tell Baillie Gage privately that an intelligent telegraph
     clerk at Howth while I am there would be a great advantage. The
     cypher telegrams require care, or else are worse than useless. They
     come pretty thick now.

The Irish capital under Lord Carnarvon was disturbed by many whisperings
of Parnellite intrigue, Maamtrasna alliances, Catholic Universities and
Repeal. What if they had known of the conversation in Grosvenor Square?
Lord Randolph’s sudden arrival in Dublin created a new flutter. It had
been very freely said that he had committed himself to the Parnellites
on Home Rule, and his visit was attributed in some newspapers to the
purpose of further negotiation. He soon reassured his Irish friends. At
the Vice-Regal he had a long conversation with Lord Carnarvon. The
Viceroy made no mention of his communications with Parnell; but his
language excited Lord Randolph’s suspicions. He called upon Mr. Holmes,
the Attorney-General, early one morning, as he had proposed. They
talked much on Irish politics. At length Lord Randolph got up to go. As
he reached the door he paused, and, pointing with his finger, said,
almost harshly and in a tone of command: ‘Now, mind. None of us must
have anything to do with Home Rule in any shape or form.’ For the rest
of his visit he amused himself at Howth, playing whist, chaffing his old
friends, and catching lobsters in the bay. The cypher telegrams came in
thickly. The short holiday was soon at an end.

Election oratory is not illuminating. The tags, the personalities, the
arguments which spring into being in the excitement of the moment, may
pass muster in the scrimmage. It were a harsh measure to call them forth
one by one in cold blood to justify themselves before austere tribunals
of taste and truth. The passions of these stormy months drew Lord
Randolph Churchill into a dispute with Lord Hartington very soon to be
regretted by both. It was natural that Whigs and Tory Democrats should
eye each other with mutual dislike. The Whigs saw with jealousy the hold
which the Tory party were gaining upon popular sympathies; with disgust
their readiness to outbid old-fashioned Liberalism in all that appealed
to the new democracy; and with alarm the excesses to which their own
Radicals were encouraged or goaded thereby. The Tory Democrat, on the
other hand, was incensed to see the ægis of aristocracy and wealth and
all the solid assurance of respectability spread, however reluctantly,
in protection over levelling and revolutionary doctrines. Both exerted
influences upon their respective parties--the one of restraint, the
other of propulsion--contrary to the general tendency of those parties.
It needed but a step from these considerations for each to regard the
other as insincere. The Whig accused the Tory Democrat of unscrupulous
opportunism; the Tory said that the Whig was a humbug.

The actual dispute arose in this wise. Lord Hartington’s examination of
Mr. Chamberlain’s programme led him to utter many sentiments about the
rights of property which were not less gratifying to the Conservative
party than his blunt repudiation of Mr. Parnell and Home Rule. ‘If,’
said Lord Randolph Churchill at Sheffield, after reading one of Lord
Hartington’s speeches, ‘this is really all you can bring yourself to
utter on political questions, you cannot indicate any difference between
yourself and your friends and the Government now in power. If, on the
contrary, you are compelled by the honesty of your nature to indicate
the strongest possible difference with a certain section of the Liberal
party with whom for years you have hopelessly and vainly tried to agree,
then I say you have no longer the right as a patriot and a citizen to
oppose the Conservative Government simply on the ground of antiquated
names; nor the right to act with Mr. Chamberlain and his friends, who
would not only destroy the Constitution, but would destroy with it that
great party of the Revolution--the Whigs--under whose guidance that
noble Constitution was framed.... I say to Lord Hartington before you
all--not by any backstairs intrigue, not by any secret negotiations, but
in the face of this meeting and before all England--to Lord Hartington,
to his friends, and to his following, words which were said to men
nearly two thousand years ago, who were destined to become great
political guides, “Come over and help us.”’

This invitation was rejected by Lord Hartington with some asperity. It
was comically suggested that he had written to inquire ‘Who’s “us”?’ and
had received the answer ‘“Us” is me.’ Radicals earnestly besought him to
follow the advice which had been offered. He would be much happier in
the Conservative camp. It would be better for all parties if he took the
plunge. To a proud man profoundly attached to historic Liberalism,
painfully conscious of the increasing difficulties of his position,
these taunts were galling in the extreme. In more than one speech he
denounced the New Conservatives, of whom he said that they arrogated to
themselves the title of Tory Democracy, had no distinctly marked
political opinions, and looked on politics only as a game by which they
might attain office. One shaft at least was shrewdly aimed. He taunted
Lord Randolph Churchill with going about the country with ‘a great
policy of grand pretensions but absolutely no legislation.’

The Secretary of State for India spoke in Manchester on November 6. It
was the eve of the poll. The election fever was at its height. The
streets leading to the St. James’s Hall were impassable, through the
crowd waiting to catch a glimpse of their favourite.[38] The vast hall
itself was crammed with excited people. Lord Randolph was in his
element. He cast away every kind of restraint and devoted himself for an
hour and a half with zeal and relish to an unmeasured attack upon the
Whigs, their record, their leaders, their influence, and their aims. He
showed how Lord Hartington had opposed almost every reform that the
Liberal party had ultimately carried--the ballot, household suffrage,
the abolition of flogging in the army--and yet under pressure had in the
end consented to them all; how he was still professedly opposed to
manhood suffrage and Disestablishment, but how in the near future he
would be forced to support them; how he already advocated that extension
of Local Government to Ireland which only the year before he had
denounced. This was political principle! And now? ‘Did any of you ever
go,’ inquired the speaker, ‘to the Zoological Gardens? If you go there
on some particular day in the week you may have the good fortune to
observe the feeding of the boa-constrictor, which is supplied with a
great fat duck or a rabbit. If you are lucky and patient and if the
boa-constrictor is hungry, you may be able to trace the progress of the
duck or the rabbit down his throat and all along the convolutions of his
body. Just in the same way, by metaphor and analogy, the British public
can trace the digestion and the deglutition by the Marquess of
Hartington of the various morsels of the Chamberlain programme which
from time to time are handed to him; and the only difference between the
boa-constrictor and the Marquess of Hartington is this--that the
boa-constrictor enjoys his food and thrives on it and Lord Hartington
loathes his food and it makes him sick....’ ‘Ah! the Whigs hate the New
Conservatism and the Tory Democracy because they are democratic and
because they are popular. They hate the Tory Democracy because it has
cut the ground from under their feet; because Tory Democracy has taken
the place of the Whigs and swept away that baffling and confusing medley
party which at every crisis obscures the issues before the people. No; I
quite admit that there is nothing democratic about the Whig. He is
essentially a cold and selfish aristocrat who believes that the British
Empire was erected by Providence and exists for no other purpose than to
keep in power a few Whig families, and who thinks that our toiling and
struggling millions of labourers and artisans are struggling and toiling
for no other purpose than to maintain in splendour, opulence, and power
the Cavendishes and the Russells.’

The audience were delighted at this hard hitting. Certainly Lord
Randolph had set his mark upon the Whig leader in unmistakable fashion.
It is said by some who were present and who followed his movements
closely, that on no occasion in Lancashire, not excepting the celebrated
‘Chips’ speech at Blackpool in 1884, was his command from minute to
minute of a meeting containing a large proportion of opponents so
strikingly displayed. Lord Hartington was deeply and personally
offended. ‘I hear,’ wrote Lord Randolph to his wife a few days later,
‘that Hartington says he will never speak to me again. _Je m’en moque._’
But ‘never’ is a hard word in political strife.

The contest in Birmingham was watched with the keenest interest all over
the country. The fame of Mr. Bright, the popularity of his young
challenger, the antagonisms which Mr. Chamberlain and his doctrines had
excited, the daring of the assault upon the stronghold of Radicalism,
the incidents of the Aston Riots, still fresh in the public mind, united
so many picturesque and personal elements that the rough and tumble of a
modern election assumed the glamour of a Homeric combat. Even Mr.
Balfour seems to have become enthusiastic. Considering how intimate his
relations with Lord Randolph must have been during these years, it is
curious how few of his letters are to be found among Lord Randolph’s
extensive correspondence. But the Birmingham election drew from him a
warm private message of encouragement and congratulation, written in his
own hand, in the midst of his own fight in Manchester. Every word
uttered by Lord Randolph was diligently reported. Not merely the regular
speeches in the Town Hall with which the campaign was opened, but
accounts of every petty ward meeting were telegraphed verbatim to the
newspapers. Lord Randolph’s address[39] had been issued as early as
October 10. From October 24 till the poll a month later he prosecuted
his candidature with seemingly inexhaustible vigour and fertility; and
as the days slipped by the tide of popular approval seemed to flow ever
more strongly in his favour. At the Radical headquarters there had been
at first some disposition to treat the attack with indulgent and
superior contempt. But soon feelings of incredulous anxiety broke in
upon complacency, and Mr. Schnadhorst and his myrmidons bent again over
their finished--‘perhaps too highly finished,’ as Lord Randolph
suggested--organisation, ciphering their pledged electors out again by
wards and streets and alleys with all that American thoroughness for
which the Caucus was remarkable. The progress of the fight, strangely
enough, provoked no personal ill-feeling between Lord Randolph and Mr.
Chamberlain. Their renewed friendship continued unimpaired. They
exchanged various small civilities and avoided, so far as possible,
attacking each other in irritating terms. When, for instance, Mr.
Chamberlain described Lord Randolph’s address as ‘colourless’ and the
reporters wrote ‘scurrilous,’ Mr. Chamberlain at once telegraphed to
explain the mistake and added a friendly inquiry about Lord Randolph’s
health. For the rest, the contest in all the seven divisions was bitter
and fierce. Lord Randolph was helped from morn till night by his wife
and his mother, at the head of their Primrose Dames. These ladies
canvassed the whole of the Central Division street by street and house
by house; and the Duchess of Marlborough--who was, as these pages
perhaps suggest, a woman of remarkable character and capacity--visited
the factories and addressed the workmen effectively on her son’s behalf.
If it were in human power to command success, the Central Division of
Birmingham would have been won. Against any other candidate Lord
Randolph must have prevailed. But the personal loyalty of the people to
their famous representative resisted all efforts. ‘I like your husband,’
said an old fellow to Lady Randolph on one of her canvassing tours, ‘and
I like what he says; but I can’t throw off John Bright like an old

Not until the very eve of the General Election did the Liberal party
realise that their victory in England and Scotland would not be complete
and was even doubtful. For the first time since the Conservatives had
taken office in June all talk of triumphant and crushing Gladstonian
majorities died away. Tales of distress came in on every hand from the
boroughs. Crowds of ardent Conservative working men--utterly unexpected
phenomena--assembled to cheer and support the Government candidates. The
Conservative party was found, moreover, to have gained vastly in
prestige by its short tenure of power. Lord Salisbury’s conduct of
foreign affairs extorted admiration even from his opponents. The Afghan
difficulty had been removed and the Russian crisis was at an end. The
Egyptian settlement was proceeding smoothly. Good relations had been
restored between Great Britain and the two Empires of Germany and
Turkey, from which under the late Government she had been estranged.
The charges of ‘rashness’ and ‘Jingoism’ which it had been so
fashionable to make against Lord Salisbury found their answer in actual
events. The new Ministers had shown themselves competent and capable
men. It was no longer denied that the Conservative party could produce
an efficient alternative to any Government Mr. Gladstone might form.

The voting began on November 23. Forty-four borough constituencies which
had been represented in the late Parliament by 35 Liberals and 20
Conservatives now (after redistribution) returned 26 Conservatives and
18 Liberals. Liverpool elected 8 Conservatives and 1 Parnellite (Mr. T.
P. O’Connor); Manchester 5 Conservatives to 1 Liberal; Leeds and
Sheffield 3 Conservatives each to 2 Liberals. Other large towns like
Stockport, Blackburn, Oldham, Staleybridge, Bolton, Brighton, hitherto
for the most part strictly Liberal, were now represented mainly or
wholly by Conservatives. London, which in 1880 had sent up 14 Liberals
and 8 Conservatives, now returned 62 Members, of whom 36 were
Conservatives and 26 Liberals. Wherever the influence of Lord Randolph
Churchill upon the Tory Democracy had been the strongest, that is to
say, in the great centres of population and of active political thought,
victory--all the more dazzling because so desperately won--rested with
the constitutional cause. Two ex-Cabinet Ministers and quite a litter of
underlings from the late Government fell before the storm. Whereas, in
1880, 287 English borough members had mustered only 85 Conservatives;
in 1885, 226 English borough members numbered 116 Conservatives to 106
Liberals, 3 Independents, and 1 Parnellite. And it was, moreover,
noticed that even in boroughs where the Tories were outnumbered the
increase in their vote was heavy and almost universal.

Yet it is remarkable that, amid so many successes, the Conservative
party should have derived enormous encouragement from a defeat. The
result of the Birmingham election was declared late on the night of the
24th. Seven Liberals or Radicals were returned for its seven divisions.
But the Conservative minorities were everywhere largely increased, and
raised in the aggregate from 15,000 voters to 23,000. Whereas in 1880
the proportion of Liberals to Tories in Birmingham was as 2 to 1, it was
in 1885 as 3 to 2. Mr. Alderman Kenrick, the Chairman of the National
Liberal Federation, saved his seat by scarcely 600 votes from Mr.
Matthews. In the Central Division Lord Randolph Churchill was defeated
by Mr. Bright by 4,989 votes to 4,216, a majority of less than 800. It
was claimed by Conservative, and generally admitted by Liberal, writers
that no more significant proof of the change of opinion in English
cities could be furnished than this result. But while the political
world was fully aware of the meaning of the Birmingham elections, the
Tories who had fought the battle with so much earnestness and enthusiasm
were bitterly disappointed. Hope, growing stronger, had even ripened
into confidence as the contest had proceeded, and the crowd of local
leaders in the Midland Conservative Club awaited the declaration of the
poll in intense excitement. As one by one the adverse results came in,
the hum of eager conversation died away and gloom overspread every face.
The figures of the Central Division were still delayed. ‘Churchill’s
in!’ shouted a voice from the street; and a frantic cheer went up. ‘At
the bottom!’ cried the mocker; and fled. Then the truth arrived. There
was a sickly silence. In a moment Lord Randolph was upon his feet.
‘Gentlemen,’ he said, ‘the man who cannot stand a knock-down blow isn’t
worth a damn.’ The Midland Conservative Club were accustomed to regard
this remark with a respect which they did not always extend to more
edifying political pronouncements.

Lord Randolph returned to London next day and was almost immediately
elected by a majority of more than 2 to 1 for South Paddington, where he
then lived. The Fourth Party had fought everywhere in the front line.
Mr. Balfour, forsaking the shelter of Hertford, had captured an immense
working-class constituency in Manchester. Mr. Gorst was returned again
for Chatham. Only Sir Henry Wolff--still far away in Egypt--fell at
Portsmouth, and passes as a Parliamentary politician out of this story
altogether. Tory confidence flared high during the first few days of the
election and ‘Back to 1874’ was everywhere the word. Lord Justice
FitzGibbon was in London when the returns from the boroughs were coming
in, and after spending the small hours among an excited crowd at the
tape machine in the Grand Hotel, he hurried round to Connaught Place to
see his now famous friend. ‘Ah!’ said Lord Randolph, pacing up and down
in excited satisfaction, ‘the Whigs can no longer call us the party of
the classes. If they do, I’ll chuck big cities at their heads.’

But after the boroughs, the counties. While Liberals all over the
country were beginning to lose heart, while whispers of utter defeat and
panic were flying about among the wire-pullers, Mr. Gladstone stoutly
proclaimed his undiminished confidence that the new voters would reverse
the decision of the old; and so it proved. Scotland voted solidly
Liberal--only nine Conservatives being returned. In the English counties
the agricultural labourers tramped doggedly to vote down the farmers’
and landlords’ candidates. Mr. Farrer Ecroyd’s Fair Trade movement,
which had proved so popular in Lancashire towns, exerted an opposite
effect in villages, where Corn Law memories were still wakeful. Mr.
Chamberlain’s speeches had fallen upon a fertile soil. The country
party, with all its immense territorial influence and candidates of
county families, was shattered, never to be restored, except as a shadow
of its old strength. Henceforth the Conservative leaders, if they were
to rule the land, must build in town and country upon the foundation of

[Illustration: _Reproduced by permission of the proprietors of “Punch.”_


_Punch._ December 26, 1885.]

Ireland was a portent. Not a single Liberal was returned. The Irish
Whigs were as a party and a force totally exterminated. Ulster elected
16 Tory members and 17 Nationalists. Out of 89 contests Mr. Parnell
won 85, the greater part by overwhelming majorities. Upon such national
authority could he base his demand for Home Rule. The leaders of both
the great English parties understood the meaning of the Irish elections.
On November 30 Mr. Gladstone was still appealing to his counties for a
clear and strong majority over the combined forces of Conservatives and
Parnellites. ‘There seems to be still hope,’ wrote Lord Salisbury to
Lord Randolph Churchill, as late as December 3, ‘that we may be above
low-water mark--_i.e._ Tories + Parnellites = Liberals.’ The hopes of
both were falsified by the event. The final result of the General
Election of 1885 sent to the House of Commons 335 Liberals, 249
Conservatives, and 86 Parnellites. ‘Low-water mark’ it was.

‘What will happen now?’ Lord Randolph was asked by a friend. ‘I shall
lead the Opposition for five years. Then I shall be Prime Minister for
five years. Then I shall die.’ In respect to the span of his life the
words came true almost to the day. But his personal fortunes and the
destinies of Britain were about to receive a vast and unanticipated



          [Greek: archhê andra deixei. ἁρχἡ ἁνδρα δεἱξει]

‘Great command proves the man.’

The reader, having persevered so long amid the intrigues of party and
the warfare of Parliament, may now be glad to escape for a while into
the calm atmosphere of a public department. The India Office rejoices in
a character and constitution of its own. The cost of its maintenance and
the salaries of its officials, from the Secretary of State downwards,
are defrayed by India and do not appear upon the votes of the House of
Commons. The opportunities of debating the policy or conduct of the
responsible Minister, except upon formal votes of censure, are therefore
perhaps inconveniently few. Any apparent laxity of control by Parliament
is, however, corrected by the Council of India--a body consisting of
gentlemen of long and distinguished service in the East--with whom the
Secretary of State is by law compelled to act and by whose decisions he
is in many matters of the highest importance absolutely bound. Under
these restrictions the Minister brings the opinion of his colleagues and
of Parliament and his own personal influence to bear upon the majestic
organisation of the Government of India.

Modern conditions increasingly enhance the power of the political chief
over all officials, military and civil. If the Secretary of State is
possessed of sufficient personal authority to enforce his will upon the
Cabinet, no hierarchy, however glittering, no Constitution, however
venerable, can withstand him. He has it in his power to change the
hierarchy and to remould the Constitution till the implement is
convenient to his hand; and his decisions will in almost every case be
acclaimed by the party press and ratified by driving a party majority
through the division lobbies of the House of Commons. But to employ
methods so costly and even ruinous, in their violence, is in itself
usually a confession of failure on the part of the Minister. His
business is to exert his authority by modes of persuasion, patience, and
adjustment which may secure in the end the triumph of his opinions
without the sensible abasement of others.

The Council of India is for all such purposes an invaluable instrument
to a wise Secretary of State. Having in subordination to him officers as
great and independent as the Governor of nearly three hundred million
persons and perhaps as intractable as a Commander-in-Chief at the head
of nearly three hundred thousand soldiers, he should naturally fortify
himself with the unique authority of his Council, now in his dealings
with the Cabinet and now with the Viceroy. At the time at which Lord
Randolph became Secretary of State the Council of India consisted of
fifteen men, nearly all of whom had spent their lives, whether as
soldiers or as civilians, in India; nearly all were old or elderly men,
and many of them were men of very high distinction and reputation. In
these circumstances it was not an easy task for a Secretary of State
thirty-six years of age and absolutely devoid of all official
experience, to preside over their meetings and to bring to bear on them
the personal influence which, for the proper conduct of business, should
be exercised by the responsible head of the office. Lord Randolph
himself, after his first experience of a meeting of Council, said to a
friend that he had felt ‘like an Eton boy presiding at a meeting of the

‘Yet it is probable,’ writes Sir Arthur Godley (who was then, as now,
Under-Secretary of State for India) in a memorandum for which I am much
indebted to him, ‘that no Secretary of State ever showed greater skill
and address in the discharge of this part of his duties. His treatment
of it was characteristic and in a degree peculiar to himself. For some
time and until he had mastered the methods of procedure and the
idiosyncrasies of the individual members, he took no part whatever in
the debates, but sat in his Presidential chair absolutely silent. As
soon, however, as he began to feel at home, he adopted a method to which
he strictly adhered as long as he was at the India Office. Having gone
carefully through the list of agenda, he would decide some days
beforehand which were the subjects as to which he desired to use his
influence. He would then send for the papers on these subjects and would
study them most thoroughly. Then, when the day of meeting arrived,
having thus mastered his brief, and possessing the immense advantages of
his natural readiness, his powers of speech and his Parliamentary
training, he would intervene with decisive effect, and rarely, if ever,
failed to carry his point. The other subjects--those which he had
deliberately left unstudied--he never touched, relying entirely upon
those members of Council who were specially qualified to deal with them.
He treated his Council with great consideration and with marked
politeness; but he nevertheless spoke always with confidence and
decision and occasionally with a touch of vehemence and of “the personal
note” which, though natural enough in the House of Commons, came as a
slight surprise in the serener regions of the India Council room.’

Railway construction was one of the first subjects which commanded his
personal attention. The opinion had been for some time gaining ground in
the Railway Department that the necessary development of Indian lines
could only be attained if private enterprise were enlisted to supplement
the efforts of the State. Bargains between public departments and
limited companies are subject to such severe scrutiny in Parliament that
hitherto the India Office had not ventured to offer sufficient
inducement to attract commercial interests. Lord Randolph Churchill had,
however, no fear of the House of Commons and always believed in his
power to persuade them to any reasonable proposal. The construction of
the Indian Midland and Bengal-Nagpur Railways had been recommended as
famine-protective lines by a select committee which sat in 1884. Under
his hand both projects moved forward at once. The stimulus of a four per
cent. guarantee on capital, together with one-fourth of the amount by
which the net receipts might exceed the guarantee, led to the formation
of the Indian Midland Railway Company in July 1885. The railway was 589
miles in length; it connected the Great Indian Peninsula with the East
Indian Railway system by continuous broad-gauge lines, opened out a
populous and fertile country, and shortened the distance by rail from
Bombay to Cawnpore by 134 miles. The Bengal-Nagpur Railway, though,
owing to financial considerations, not actually floated till 1887, was
eventually founded on the same conditions. The transfer of the Mysore
State Railway to the Southern Mahratta Railway Company for extension and
working was another important railway scheme arranged while Lord
Randolph was in office.

Nothing pleased the officials of the India Office more in their new
chief than his total freedom from anything like humbug. On one occasion
the Finance Committee were to deal with the question, then so vital to
India, between bimetallism on the one hand, and a gold standard on the
other. Before going into the committee he said to the Permanent
Under-Secretary, who happened to be in his room: ‘I’ve asked Arthur
Balfour to come across and sit with us at this Committee: he knows all
about bimetallism, but I’m as ignorant about these things as a calf.’
Accordingly Mr. Balfour came and a very interesting discussion took
place, at the end of which Lord Randolph (though he probably had not
greatly exaggerated his own previous ignorance) delivered an admirable
summing-up, worthy of an experienced Chancellor of the Exchequer.

‘He was, in fact,’ Sir Arthur Godley continues, ‘an excellent head of a
great department. He occupied himself instinctively and naturally with
the great questions and kept his work upon a high plane, leaving petty
matters to his subordinates, but always maintaining his own ultimate
control. He was, as everyone knows, exceedingly able, quick, and
clear-sighted. Besides this, he was very industrious, very energetic and
decided when once his mind was made up and remarkably skilful in the art
of devolution--that is to say, in the art of getting the full amount of
help out of his subordinates. He had the gift of knowing at once whether
a given question was worth his attention or should be left to others. If
he took it up, he made himself completely master of it; if he left it
alone, he put entire confidence in those to whom he left it, endorsed
their opinions without hesitation, and was always ready to defend them
or to further their wishes. This quality, it is needless to say, was
invaluable both to himself and to those who worked with him. His perfect
candour and straightforwardness were not only admirable in themselves
but were a great assistance to business. What he said, he meant; and if
he did not know a subject he did not pretend to know it. Few high
officials can ever have been his superior, or indeed his equal, in the
magical art of _getting things done._ Those who worked under him were
sure of a friendly and favourable hearing and they felt that, if they
had once convinced him that a certain step ought to be taken, it
infallibly would be taken and “put through.”’

Lord Randolph enjoyed his official work greatly, and made no secret of
it. His tenure of the post was brief but it would be safe to say that
there was not a single individual among those who had worked with him
who was not sorry to lose him. He, on his side, was extremely sorry to
go, and freely said so. Just before Christmas, when it was known that
the Government would be turned out as soon as Parliament met, he was
talking to one of his Under Secretaries and said: ‘I suppose you are
going away for a holiday?’ ‘Yes,’ was the reply; ‘I am going away for a
week; what holiday are you going to take?’ ‘I shall take none,’ he said;
and then, with the air of one who is making a confession, ‘The fact is,
you know, it is all very well for you: but I’m new to office: I enjoy it
thoroughly; and I’m going to be kicked out very soon. So I mean to stay
here and get as much of it as I can.’

Lord Salisbury in after-years distinguished as perhaps Lord Randolph
Churchill’s greatest quality his power of commanding the personal
devotion of his subordinates. In coming to the India Office the new
Minister was lucky in finding available as his Private Secretary a
remarkable man, who rendered invaluable service to him, to the India
Office, and (it is hardly too much to say) to the two Governments of
which Lord Randolph was a member. Mr. A. W. Moore had come at an early
age to the India Office as a clerk, with no special reputation for
industry or ability, and, being placed in the Finance Department, was
soon regarded as a somewhat idle and not very efficient member of the
establishment. After some years, however, he was by a lucky chance
transferred to the Political Department, which is concerned with Indian
Foreign Affairs and with the relations between the Government of India
and the Native States and conducts the correspondence which is
constantly passing between the India Office and the Foreign Office. No
more important work could be found; but it requires special
qualifications which are not very commonly met with. ‘Mr. Moore,’ writes
Sir Arthur Godley, ‘as soon as he was transferred, was a new man: he set
to work with extraordinary energy and zeal and in a very short time
acquired the reputation, which he never lost, of being among the most
valuable servants of the Crown. His industry was immense, possibly
excessive; his knowledge of his work, and of everything connected with
it, was unrivalled: he had it always at his finger-ends; and his gift of
rapid but clear, lucid and effective conversation and writing was hardly
to be surpassed. When Lord Randolph came to the Office, it happened
fortunately that, owing to some changes in the Department, Moore’s
services were available, though his age and position were by this time
such as might have been expected to debar him from the office of Private
Secretary. In this capacity he was exactly the man Lord Randolph needed;
he supplied whatever was at first wanting to his chief, who treated him
not only with the most complete confidence but really more as a
colleague than as a subordinate; and it may safely be said that he
contributed in no small degree to the success with which Lord Randolph
discharged the duties of the two great offices which he successively

Moore followed his chief from the India Office to the Treasury when Lord
Salisbury’s Administration of 1886 was formed, and Lord Randolph
Churchill’s resignation of the Chancellorship of the Exchequer seems to
have struck him a fatal blow. In a sense it may be said to have broken
his heart. His health had for some time suffered from the amount of work
he imposed upon himself. He was an active, athletic man, a great hero in
the annals of the Alpine Club; but he had undoubtedly over-tasked both
his mind and his body in the service of a master to whom he was not only
personally but politically devoted. Fortunately, as it seemed, an
opportunity occurred just then of offering him the headship of his old
branch, the Political Department, in the India Office. He accepted it,
and went abroad to the Riviera for a few weeks’ rest. But he never
recovered from his exhaustion and depression, caught a fever at Cannes
and died there two months later (February 2, 1887) at the age of 46.
‘The Home Civil Service,’ writes Sir Arthur Godley, ‘has not, for very
many years, sustained a greater loss.’

When Lord Randolph Churchill became Secretary of State for India on June
24, 1885, the imminent danger of war with Russia had been dispelled by
the agreement of May 4. Under this it was arranged that Penjdeh should
be neutralised till the boundary on that section of the frontier had
been settled and that negotiations should be resumed at once in London
as to the main points of the line of delimitation, the details of which
alone would be examined and settled by Commissioners on the spot. Some
progress had also been made towards defining the general line of the
frontier by an agreement arrived at on May 22. That agreement, however,
left open what was then the crucial question of how to reconcile the
full possession by the Afghans of the Zulficar Pass, on which we
insisted with the maintenance of the existing communications between
points on the Russian side of the frontier which the Russian Government
considered essential. This difficulty had declared itself before the
change of Government took place and the negotiations on the subject were
resumed by Lord Salisbury from the point at which they had been left by
Lord Granville.

Little progress was made for some considerable time and the situation
again became somewhat critical owing to the local excitement on both
sides of the border and recollections of what had taken place at
Penjdeh. Finally, however, an agreement was arrived at and embodied in
a Protocol signed on September 10, which stated, in sufficient detail to
ensure the completion of the work, the conditions under which the
Commissioners on the spot were to carry out the actual demarcation. The
agreement was one which, though it necessarily involved mutual
concessions, enabled both parties to it to claim that they had made no
sacrifice of vital points. From the British point of view the really
important objects attained by the settlement were the maintenance of
British credit with the Amir, whose interests had been successfully
guarded, the escape from what for a long and anxious period had seemed a
diplomatic impasse and the establishment of a frontier which has
remained unaltered to this day.

The actual demarcation commenced on November 10, when Sir Joseph West
Ridgeway met the Russian Commissioner at Zulficar. The work proved long
and difficult; and the position of the British Agent, forced to winter
with a small escort in that wild country, was full of peril to himself
and caused constant anxiety at home. It was not until July 1887 that a
Protocol was signed at St. Petersburg completing the delimitation of the
whole frontier between the Hari Rud and the Oxus.

Lord Randolph’s letters to the Queen throw a clear light on his views
and temper during this critical time. The dignified and ceremonious
style which flowed so naturally from his pen may surprise the reader who
is familiar with his platform speeches and his private letters.

India Office: July 11, 1885.

     Lord Randolph Churchill presents his humble duty to your Majesty,
     and begs to submit the accompanying telegrams which have passed
     between the Viceroy of India and himself.

     There can hardly be any doubt, in view of the remarkable
     expressions made use of by Mr. Gladstone on Tuesday last in the
     House of Commons, giving such strong confirmation as to the
     absolute pledge given by the Government of Russia, that the pass of
     Zulficar should be ceded to the Amir. Your Majesty’s Government is
     in an exceptionally favourable position for taking up an unyielding
     attitude on this question. Parliament as a body is practically
     committed to the policy of faithful observance of pledges given to
     the Amir, and it may well be that so much Parliamentary unanimity
     on any large question of foreign policy may not occur again for a
     very long time. It is most earnestly to be hoped that this dispute
     with the Government of Russia, which really involves the whole
     Afghan Question as far as Russia is concerned, may be definitely
     decided one way or another before Parliament separates for the

     The negotiations have been extremely protracted. Troops are being
     massed, both by Russians and Afghans, near the frontier; the strain
     on the finances of India, caused by the obligation of keeping our
     military preparations in a very advanced state, is evidently
     causing the Viceroy uneasiness; and the character and credit of
     this country cannot well sustain any further concessions to Russia
     at the expense of our ally the Amir.

     If this matter is not resolutely treated and definitely settled
     now, before Parliament separates, not only does the state of
     military emergency, so trying both to this country and to India,
     continue indefinitely, but there is great reason to believe that in
     September or October the Russians will make a further advance or
     aggression, just before the General Election here, causing the
     greatest alarm, confusion, excitement, and party feeling among the
     people, and consequently the greatest possible danger to the
     interests and security of India. Lord Randolph Churchill would
     humbly submit that no possible precaution should be neglected now
     in order, if possible, to obviate such an eventuality.

     Lord Randolph Churchill humbly submits to your Majesty a memorandum
     he has drawn up on the subject of proposing to the Government of
     Russia and, if possible, concluding a comprehensive and to some
     extent permanent treaty, providing generally for the integrity of
     Afghanistan and the regulation of all frontier matters, and having
     appended to it a rough draft of the possible clauses of such a

India Office: July 13, 1885.

     Lord Randolph Churchill presents his humble duty to your Majesty,
     and begs to submit that, as is pointed out by your Majesty, it
     would be in the highest degree desirable to have some information
     as to the manner in which a proposal for a comprehensive treaty on
     the Afghan Frontier Question would be received by the Government of

     Lord Randolph Churchill has never supposed that a proposal of this
     kind would be favourably received by the Government of Russia
     unless it was known to that Power that such a proposal was
     favourably received by other European Powers, or that a refusal to
     view it in a friendly manner would place so singular an
     interpretation on Russian policy that the continuation of
     negotiations might become very difficult.

     Such a state of things, favourable to the proposal for a treaty the
     rough draft of which has been humbly submitted to your Majesty,
     does not exist at the present moment. Whether such a state of
     things may be brought into existence Lord Randolph Churchill would
     not venture to determine positively, but he has often expressed to
     Lord Salisbury the opinion that an effort in this direction could
     not well be at variance with sound policy, and would in no way
     conflict with public opinion.

     The observation which your Majesty graciously records, that under
     such a treaty as has been sketched your Majesty’s Government would
     become responsible for the acts of the Amir, is profoundly
     accurate; and it may well be that such a policy is liable to most
     searching criticism, and might lead to serious evils. The whole
     policy which is best known as ‘the buffer State policy’ is herein
     called in question, and Lord Randolph Churchill is possessed by the
     gravest doubts as to whether that policy is the best which could be
     adopted for the security of your Majesty’s Indian Empire.

     In its defence it may be urged, [1] That that policy has been
     adopted by this country for very many years; with short and abrupt
     intervals it was the policy pursued when Dost Mahomed and when
     Shere Ali Khan ruled in Afghanistan. [2] That it is a policy to
     which both political parties in this country are deeply committed,
     and therefore it is a policy which, if it does not actually unite
     public men, perhaps divides them the least. [3] Under that policy
     pledges of a very binding character have been given to the present
     Amir, on several occasions, that as long as he is guided by the
     advice of your Majesty’s Government in the conduct of his foreign
     relations your Majesty’s Government will hold themselves
     responsible for, and will protect him from, any dangers and evils
     arising from that advice being followed. [4] It is a policy which,
     if it can be carried out (a very large and wide assumption),
     undoubtedly has the merit of keeping Russian influence very remote
     from actual contact with India.

     The great danger of the policy alluded to is that it is dependent
     upon the caprice or the design of the Amir; that it may be upset at
     any moment by the revolt of the Governor of Badakshan in the north
     and of the Governor of Herat in the south-west of Afghanistan, by
     the escape of Ayoub Khan from Teheran, or by a decidedly aggressive
     movement of the Russian forces.

     It may be doubted whether there is any real solution of our
     difficulties and dangers except in the breaking-up by force of arms
     of the Russian Asiatic Empire, an enterprise far less hazardous and
     doubtful, in Lord Randolph Churchill’s opinion, than is generally
     supposed, but nevertheless an undertaking the responsibility of
     which would, except under extraordinary circumstances, terrify an
     Administration which at the present day has to face a House of

     Lord Randolph Churchill humbly submits that in acknowledging the
     great force of your Majesty’s observations graciously conveyed to
     him he has ventured to offer for your Majesty’s consideration views
     and opinions which have for long been upon his mind, and Lord
     Randolph Churchill earnestly hopes that he may not have
     transgressed your Majesty’s pleasure by too diffuse an exposition.

     No further action could well be taken with regard to a treaty until
     the opinion of the Viceroy has been fully ascertained.

India Office: July 15, 1885.

     Lord Randolph Churchill presents his humble duty to your Majesty,
     and begs to submit that there can be little doubt that your
     Majesty’s apprehension that the Government of Russia will try to
     evade the half-promise they gave to cede the pass of Zulficar to
     the Afghan Amir is well founded. Lord Randolph Churchill would
     humbly submit to your Majesty whether the original pledge given by
     the Russians was not very full and unreserved, the difficulty about
     communications being raised subsequently. In the note to M. de
     Staal Lord Salisbury has taken this view very plainly. Colonel
     Ridgeway’s telegrams cannot well be regarded as at all reassuring,
     though there is reason to hope that the news in No. 97 may not be
     altogether so grave as at first seemed to appear. The sequence of
     events from day to day does not at all weaken the views on the
     whole boundary question which Lord Randolph Churchill has from time
     to time humbly submitted to your Majesty, and Lord Randolph
     Churchill is more than ever of opinion that a firm and resolute
     insistence on the faithful fulfilment of Russian pledges is not
     only vital to your Majesty’s interests, but perhaps in reality the
     best method of averting an eventual rupture of negotiations.

While Lord Salisbury at the Foreign Office was rapidly gathering into
his skilful hands the tense and tangled threads of British diplomacy,
the Secretary of State for India took pains to secure an effective
defence upon the spot. Until the advance of Russia had reached the
borders of Afghanistan, the functions of the military forces of India
had been limited to maintaining internal peace or to frontier operations
against adversaries of limited power. Now that a great European Power,
liable at any time to become hostile, was in close proximity to the
Afghan border, it was evident that the existing military establishments
must be strengthened. The British troops in India were accordingly
increased by 11 batteries of artillery (30 guns and 1,373 men), by the
addition of a fourth squadron to each British cavalry regiment (1,332
men), and by the addition of three battalions of infantry and the
augmentation of each of those already serving by 100 rank and file,
amounting to 196 officers and 10,567 men. The increase of the British
garrison allowed an expansion--in recognised proportion--of the native
army. Most of the cavalry regiments were raised to four squadrons each
and three new native cavalry regiments were formed, making an increase
of 56 British officers and 4,572 natives of all ranks. Nine new native
infantry battalions were enlisted and the strength of the existing
regiments was increased--a total addition of 63 British officers and
11,968 natives of all ranks. Various improvements were made in the
position of the native soldier and a native Army Reserve was formed of
23,000 men. The Ordnance and Commissariat Departments were reorganised
and an Army Transport Department was formed. The construction of
strategical railways, roads and bridges on the North-West Frontier was
undertaken, and Karachi harbour was improved as part of a general scheme
of defence. Although all these military preparations were rapidly pushed
forward, this substantial increase of power was secured at an initial
cost of about one and a half millions sterling and maintained at an
annual charge of not much more than one million pounds a year. Lord
Randolph also approved, shortly before he left the India Office, of a
proposal for arming the native army with the best rifle available and
placing it in this respect on an equal footing with British troops. This
change, however, was long delayed.

Scarcely anything that Lord Randolph Churchill did as a Minister gave
him more pleasure than the appointment of Sir Frederick Roberts to be
Commander-in-Chief in India. It was almost the first important step
which he took on coming into power. Very powerful influences supported
the high claims of Lord Wolseley and, as the appointment of the Indian
Commander-in-Chief rested according to practice with the Secretary of
State for War, the matter hung for some days in suspense. But Lord
Randolph was insistent. His long and friendly talks with Sir Frederick
Roberts during his visit to India had made a great impression upon him.
All his life he continued to assert that Roberts was the first soldier
of his age. The Russian crisis and Sir Frederick’s unequalled service
and experience in the theatre of possible war constituted in his eyes
overwhelming qualifications. He won the agreement of Lord Salisbury; he
persuaded the Queen. In less than five weeks after the Government had
taken office, the appointment was announced and was received with
general assent and satisfaction.

In conjunction with this appointment and with the military preparations,
orders were given and money supplied for a Camp of Exercise to be
prepared upon a much larger scale than had ever been held in India
before. The troops were mobilised early in 1886 in two Army Corps. They
assembled at Umballa and Gurgaon--towns 150 miles apart--and after a
fortnight of brigade and divisional tactics, the opposing forces came
into contact near the famous battle-ground of Panipat. This was the
first occasion on which representatives from foreign armies had been
invited to be present at Indian manœuvres. Lord Randolph Churchill
arranged that the invitations should be sent through the Foreign Office;
and Lord Dufferin, who was present during the closing days of the
operations, was accompanied by twelve officers from the principal armies
of Europe and America.

On August 6 the Secretary of State for India laid the Indian Budget
before the House. This statement, coming as it does during the ‘Dog
Days,’ at the end of the Session, is usually heard in its ponderous
complexity with apathy by an empty and exhausted House. But the
importance of public departments varies with the authority of the
Minister who directs them. The Chamber was filled with members in all
the interest and eagerness of a great Parliamentary occasion. Nor were
they disappointed. Lord Randolph had no difficulty in holding their
attention for upwards of an hour and three-quarters while he unfolded in
stately language, but with the utmost simplicity and clearness, the wide
scroll of Asia. Intricate and unfamiliar figures, facts and problems
tangled with strange names and novel conditions, submitted themselves
willingly to his interesting narration. The account was not cheering in
its character. The confusion of Indian finances had permitted an
astounding error in the Budget calculations of Lord Ripon’s Government
and the new Minister had to announce to Parliament a heavy deficit,
largely unforeseen. The Russian crisis, moreover, imposed upon India the
necessity of extensive military preparations. Before he had spoken very
long the House realised that Lord Randolph was developing an elaborate
indictment of the late Viceroy.

‘The most unpardonable crime,’ he said, ‘of which the Governor-General
of India can be guilty, is not to look ahead and make provision for the
future. The Government of England cannot from its very nature look far
ahead; its policy is always one of month to month, of week to week and
sometimes of day to day; it is always more or less a policy of hand to
mouth. The reason is, that our Government in England depends upon a
Parliamentary majority which is violently assailed and swayed by an
enlightened, but at the same time by a capricious public opinion. The
Government of England has to think, in shaping its policy, of the state
of Europe, of the Colonies and of Ireland; of the state of England; and
last, not least, of the state of business in the House of Commons. It
has to think of all those subjects, and the result is, that although we
in England possess an unrivalled Constitution and unexampled freedom,
yet for the purpose of that freedom we have to put up with the
disadvantage of little stability and little continuity in our Government
and hardly any forethought in our policy. The Government of India is
exempt from all these disadvantages. It is a Government in its nature
purely despotic, but it is not an hereditary despotism. We do our best
to supply India from time to time with statesmen who shall exercise this
tremendous power of government, but who shall at the same time be wise,
experienced and courageous. In India it is not as in England. In India
there is no public opinion to speak of, no powerful press, and hardly
any trammels upon the Government of any sort or kind. For that reason I
say that if the Governor-General of India does not look ahead and
provide for the future, he not only commits a blunder but is guilty of a

‘I am compelled to apply this general statement to the Government of
Lord Ripon. Lord Ripon went out to India with a full knowledge of the
state of affairs; he knew of all the events which had occurred--of the
Russo-Turkish War which led to the Treaty of San Stefano and the
Congress of Berlin; he knew of all the events which had caused the great
preparations of Russia for advancing on India. He must have had
knowledge of the gradual but sure extension of the Russian Empire in
Asia.... I say nothing of the abandonment of Candahar. I say little of
the destruction of the Quetta Railway. I come rather to the acts of Lord
Ripon’s Government which seriously affected the finances of this year.
Lord Ripon had prosperous times to deal with and an increasing revenue.
The sky overhead, to the careless observer, seemed very blue. All
dangers apparently had passed away so far as foreign affairs were
concerned and so far as they had any bearing upon Indian finances, and
Lord Ripon and his counsellors laid themselves down and slept. All
indirect taxation of any value was remitted, the Customs duty was almost
totally abolished and the salt duty was reduced. In 1882-3 the Indian
army was reduced by five cavalry regiments and sixteen infantry
regiments. The British army was allowed to fall to 10,000 men below its
proper strength. To bring it up to its full strength, which it has now
nearly attained, has cost the Indian Government 100,000_l._ No frontier
railways were commenced; no roads were begun; no preparations were made
for the defence of a long and difficult frontier. Surely in prosperous
times a wise man would have provided for the event of a rainy day. But
Lord Ripon slept, lulled by the languor of the land of the lotus. Yet
there was much which ought to have warned and to have roused him. In
1882 the Russian Government, with the frankest candour, called our
attention to their proceedings in Central Asia and invited us to delimit
the frontier of Afghanistan; but the only reply they received was a dull
and sullen reply, as of a man under the influence of a narcotic. Our
ally, the Amir of Afghanistan, also sent many warnings. It is most
curious to observe, in the account of the interview of the Amir with
Lord Dufferin at Rawul Pindi, how frequently we come across that
familiar saying “I told you so.” All this time the cloud grew bigger,
the distant darkness nearer and blacker and the great military Power
loomed larger and more distinct upon our borders; yet Lord Ripon and his
counsellors slumbered and slept, never dreaming that any foreign danger
could by any possibility come nigh those dominions which had been
entrusted to their watchful care, taking no thought for the morrow,
heedless and ignorant of the future which was shaping itself with the
utmost clearness under their very eyes. Then, sir, there came a sharp
and sudden awakening. Russia’s hosts absorbed the territory of Merv,
rapidly filled up the vacuum to the south which had been so blindly left
unprovided for by us, and Lord Ripon and his counsellors were found,
like the foolish virgins, with no oil in their lamps. Then followed the
fruitless frontier negotiations and Lord Ripon came home and Lord
Dufferin went out, not one hour too soon for the safety of India and the
tranquillity of the East. Next we see the lonely and unsupported
British Commissioner endeavouring to stay the advance of the Russian
troops--troops flushed with success and animated by the highest hopes of
glory and of booty. Then came the incident of Penjdeh and, following
that, the vote of credit of eleven millions. Next we see the hasty and
hurried recommencement of the Quetta Railway which had been so foolishly
abandoned. Then came the announcement of the frontier railways and roads
too fatally postponed. And then came the additional military
expenditure, from three to four millions; and the result of it all is
now before the House in the deficit in the Indian accounts of a million
and a half and in the permanent extra military charge of no less than
two millions a year.[40] The good time has gone; the advantages which we
had, have been thrown away. No economy whatever was practised by that
Government. The expenditure on civil buildings was allowed to be
increased by over one million a year. The Famine Insurance Fund, on
which we prided ourselves, has been proved in time of trial to be
illusory. I declare that I endeavoured to contemplate the action of the
late Government of India without party passion. I found in it not one
redeeming feature. Indian interests were so clumsily, so stupidly,
handled that progress has been thrown back almost for a generation; and
having to place those results before the House of Commons in the
practical and matter-of-fact form of figures and finance, I disown and
repudiate on behalf of the present Government all responsibility of any
sort or kind for that policy and I hold up that Viceroyalty and the
Government responsible for it to the censure and the condemnation of the
British and Indian peoples.

‘This Parliament,’ he concluded, after a survey of many matters
interesting in themselves, but too specialised for quotation here, ‘has
done little or nothing for India. It would appear as if members of
Parliament of the present generation considered Indian affairs to be
either beneath their attention or above their comprehension, and India
is apparently left to pursue its destiny alone--some might even think
uncared for--as far as Parliament is concerned. That was not always the
case. In the last century, when our Indian Empire was forming, the
greatest men--Mr. Pitt and Mr. Burke and Mr. Fox--did not disdain to
apply their minds to the most careful examination and exposition of the
difficult and complicated Indian questions, and with great advantage. At
the present time, when everything around is changing fast and when
nothing seems secure or firm or free from assault and danger, as far as
India is concerned, we shall act wisely if we revert to the more
patriotic practice of earlier days. I would ask those who have been so
kind as to listen to me, and those who possibly may not have concurred
in many remarks I have made, to join with me in what I would call an
appeal, or even, almost, a command, to those who will be our successors,
some faint echo of which may possibly linger around these walls and
influence the new Parliament so shortly to meet here: I would ask those
who hear me to join in an appeal to the members of the new Parliament to
shake themselves free from the lassitude, the carelessness, the apathy,
which have too long characterised the attitude of Parliament towards
India. I would appeal to them to watch with the most sedulous attention,
to develop with the most anxious care, to guard with the most united and
undying resolution, the land and the people of Hindostan, that most
truly bright and precious gem in the crown of the Queen, the possession
of which, more than that of all your Colonial dominions, has raised in
power, in resource, in wealth and in authority this small island home of
ours far above the level of the majority of nations and of States--has
placed it on an equality with, perhaps even in a position of superiority
over, every other Empire either of ancient or of modern times.’

With this impressive harangue the ‘Ministry of Caretakers’ may be said
to have brought the Session and the Parliament to a close.

Upon Lord Randolph’s acceptance of office begins a constant, intimate
and candid correspondence with Lord Salisbury, which ranges over the
whole field of politics at home and abroad, continues with almost equal
fulness in Opposition and in Government and ends abruptly in January
1887. Their letters were never more frequent than when Lord Randolph was
at the India Office. The fortunes of India were at this time inseparably
interwoven with the conduct of the Foreign Office--at first in regard
to Russia and Afghanistan, and later on in regard to France and China on
account of Burma--and Lord Randolph was always most particular to
consult the Prime Minister on any matter of importance and to take no
serious step without his concurrence. Lord Salisbury, on the other hand,
had much to give to an Indian Secretary. He possessed a vast knowledge
of Indian affairs, gained during his prolonged administration of that
department; and in all matters of official method, of procedure and
etiquette, his guidance was especially valuable to a Minister altogether
unversed in the details of administration.

Lord Salisbury was, like Lord Randolph Churchill, a prodigious
letter-writer, and he seems to have written no fewer than 110 letters to
his lieutenant--many of them very long ones--all in his beautiful
running handwriting, during the seven months of his first Ministry. How
he ever found time to write so many to a single Minister is a marvel.
Often three letters passed between them in a day. On July 25, for
instance, Lord Salisbury wrote four times to Lord Randolph on different
subjects, all of considerable importance. Two of these letters cover
between them five separate pieces of closely written notepaper. To a
later generation, accustomed to shorthand writers and anticipating a
time when it will be regarded as inconsiderate to address a person on
business otherwise than in type, such manual energy is astounding.
Whether elaborate letter-writing between Ministers is conducive to the
facile conduct of public affairs is doubtful. Strength and time are
consumed, difficulties are multiplied and differences only look wider
and more formidable when marshalled by ink and paper. Many of the
questions laboriously discussed on both sides of this correspondence
could have been despatched immediately at an interview or even upon a
telephone. But Lord Salisbury did not like political conversations. He
felt that he could not do so much justice to himself or his opinions in
an informal discussion as he could either in a letter or a speech. He
belonged, moreover, to a formal, painstaking, old-fashioned school; and
in Lord Randolph Churchill he had a pupil unexpectedly apt and

Whatever may have been lost at the time has been gained by posterity,
for Lord Salisbury’s letters have a character and interest apart from
and even superior to the important matters with which they deal. A wit
at once shrewd and genial; an insight into human nature penetrating,
comprehensive, rather cynical; a vast knowledge of affairs; the quick
thoughts of a moody, fertile mind, expressed in language that always
preserves a spice and flavour of its own, are qualities which must exert
an attraction upon a generation to whom the politics of the ‘85
Government will be dust.

Throughout their association the letters of both men--whether in
agreement or in sharpest dispute--are marked by personal goodwill; and
Lord Randolph never for a moment drops the air of respect and deference
with which he invariably treated Lord Salisbury and which is never more
pronounced than in moments of stress. Lord Salisbury’s counsels and
comments are always instructive and so often amusing that I may be
allowed to transcribe a few at random: ‘My dear Randolph,’ the letters
begin (June 25), ‘(if I may venture to address a Secretary of State in
such familiar fashion!),--So much has been made of Herat, that we must
do more than is possible to defend it’ (July 25). ‘I quite agree with
your doctrine that it is better to go at the principal offender rather
than the instrument--with one important qualification--_if you can_’
(August 4). ‘It is curious to notice how the “buffer State” policy has
gone down in the world. When first I had to do with India, nineteen
years ago, it was the supremest orthodoxy: you might as well have
impugned one of the doctrines of Free Trade’ (August 4). Upon a curious
little question of Portuguese ecclesiastical establishments in India he
writes (August 24): ‘I am glad to see you take the same view as on the
first blush I was inclined to take. The Government of India by its
nature must ignore religious questions, except so far as they take the
secular form of furnishing a pretext for either robbery or riot.’ ‘I am
inclined to think you underrate H----. He knows these odd people in a
way we cannot do. I should be as much inclined to set up my opinion
against that of the keeper of an asylum on the best way of keeping
lunatics quiet’ (November 24). Again, in another letter on the same
day: ‘I am afraid F.O. and I.O. have hopelessly divergent opinions on
H----’s trustworthiness. But I think that when Departments differ on a
point which is not worthy of reference to the Cabinet, the best rule is
that the Department should prevail which will have the trouble of
dealing with the consequences of a mistake if a mistake is made. The
India Office view should therefore prevail.’

‘Honours’ and promotions of various kinds prove a thorny business to
handle, more especially after an episode soon to be recorded. ‘I was not
aware that Mr. * * * had been disappointed. He bears a high character in
the service, and I shall be glad to assist him if I have the
opportunity. But it is perilous to go out of the beaten track in matters
of promotion. I remember doing it in 1878, and I had a vote of censure
moved on me in the House of Commons by a Conservative’ (January 8,
1886). ‘I am afraid that in the matter of honours I am as destitute as
you are. The C.B.’s are all exhausted’ (June 20). And again (November
13): ‘My Baths are all run dry.’ ‘There can be no doubt that * * * is a
very fit candidate for the Privy Council and I will submit his name at
once. We may take more time to consider over the other two--who are less
distinguished: it will be time enough to settle whenever a
much-to-be-regretted accident befalls us. Unless * * * is very much
changed, I doubt your getting him to resign for a Privy Councillorship.
If I might follow the precedents of the early Church I should like to
make * * * a Bishop’ (December 5). ‘That fountain which you desire to
have turned on for the benefit of Birmingham is frozen up--and only runs
with a dribble. It is very difficult to restore it to activity’
(November 13).

The pleasant flow of this correspondence was very soon disturbed by an
interlude which might have broken up many other things as well. The
Bombay command, which at that date was a post of much dignity and
importance, carrying the title of Commander-in-Chief and giving the
holder a seat on the Governor’s Council, became vacant about the same
time that the new Government took office. In the prevailing uncertainty
upon the frontier Lord Randolph Churchill desired that it should be
filled at once. He agreed with Mr. Smith at the War Office upon an
officer. The Queen, however, was anxious that the Duke of Connaught
should serve in high command in India and Lord Salisbury strongly urged
her wishes upon the Secretary of State. ‘Though I am quite ready to
accept the responsibility of your decision,’ he wrote (July 25), ‘I
cannot, speaking confidentially, take quite your view. I hold that in
India the monarchy must seem to be as little constitutional as possible;
that it is of great importance to obtrude upon the native Indian mind
the personality of the Sovereign and her family; and that, therefore,
the policy of giving high military command to one of the Queen’s sons is
a step of political importance; and that its value is far from being
outweighed by the more restricted considerations attaching to military
susceptibilities or the details of military administration.... However,
though my opinions on it are clear, the matter is one for your

Lord Randolph Churchill resisted the appointment with an obstinate
determination. It need scarcely be said that his reasons were not based
on any suggestion that the Duke of Connaught was not fully qualified to
discharge the military duties of the office. They consisted entirely in
the grave constitutional objections which exist to the employment of
Royal Princes in positions, such as the Bombay command then was, which
carry with them the necessity of speaking and voting constantly in
Council, and where numerous and important _political_ functions, apart
from military duty, may at any moment devolve upon the General officer
in command. These reasons were unanimously accepted as decisive by the
Cabinet on October 9. While the matter was still in suspense there
occurred an incident which is, on various grounds, indispensable to the
completeness of this story. The letters tell their own tale:--

          _Lord Salisbury to Lord Randolph Churchill._

(_Very Confidential._)

Hatfield House, Hatfield, Herts:
August 14, 1885.

     My dear Randolph,--About ten days ago the Queen wrote to me and
     told me to send a private telegram to Lord Dufferin in the
     following words:

     ‘How would it be for the Duke of Connaught to succeed to the
     command at Bombay? I wish for your opinion by telegraph after you
     have consulted Sir Donald Stewart and Sir Frederick Roberts, both
     of whom, I know, think very highly of the Duke of Connaught’s

     As it is quite regular for the Queen to communicate directly with
     the Viceroy, I simply cyphered and sent the telegram without note
     or comment on my part.

     At the beginning of this week I received from the Viceroy and
     forwarded to the Queen, also without any comment, the following

     ‘Secret and Personal. Please submit following to Her Majesty. Both
     Sir Frederick Roberts and the Commander-in-Chief entirely approve
     of the idea of the Duke of Connaught’s appointment to the command
     of the Bombay army. The Commander-in-Chief observes that the Duke
     was the best of his General officers, and he considers that he
     possesses great tact in dealing with the natives. Speaking from a
     political point of view, I have always considered it a very good
     thing that one of H.M.’s sons should be in India. The presence of
     the Duchess of Connaught also exercises a very wholesome effect
     upon Indian society. Personally I should welcome H.R.H.’s return
     with the greatest satisfaction.’

     The next day there came the following from the Viceroy, which was
     also sent on to the Queen:

     ‘I conclude you know that in a despatch which will go home next
     week, or the week following, we are reiterating the proposals
     already made by the Indian Government for the amalgamation of the
     Presidential armies, in which case the command at Bombay would be
     that of a Lieutenant-General. Perhaps you will mention this to Her

     I then requested the Queen that I might be allowed to communicate
     these telegrams to you, which I have received permission to do.

     I have not offered her any advice on this matter since I last wrote
     to you about it--except to defer any public decision till after the

     My advice to you, however, would be to give way, so far as the
     Lieutenant-Generalship is concerned; that is to say, subject to
     the last telegram. It is probable that these three men are sincere
     in substance in what they recommend; and, if so, there is no doubt
     they are probably right--and our position (if we oppose them) will
     be a very difficult one to maintain. On the other hand, I think no
     declaration should be made before the elections.

Believe me
Yours very truly,

          _Lord Randolph Churchill to Lord Salisbury._

Carlton Club: August 14, 1885.

     Dear Lord Salisbury,--I have just received your two letters; one
     about the succession to the Bombay Command, and the other about
     giving Mr. Gorst[41] a nomination for the examination for the F.O.
     I am very greatly obliged to you for your kindness in this latter

     The first subject is very serious, to my mind. I cannot continue to
     hold with any advantage the high position which H.M. the Queen has
     conferred upon me unless I feel I have the confidence of the
     Sovereign and her principal advisers. This elementary qualification
     I am without. Some time ago I placed you in possession of the
     objections which I and others saw to the Bombay Command being
     conferred upon the Duke of Connaught. I was not aware that it was
     possible, under such circumstances, that communications should pass
     between the Prime Minister and the Viceroy, at the instance of H.M.
     the Queen, without the knowledge of the Secretary of State, on a
     matter on which the latter held very strong and deliberate

     I have for some time felt that the India Office, while I was there,
     had little influence with respect to other matters of great
     importance. But from what has passed between yourself and the
     Viceroy about the Duke of Connaught, it must be obvious to the
     Viceroy that I no longer possess either the confidence of the
     Sovereign or of yourself, and, under these circumstances, I
     respectfully ask you to submit to H.M. the Queen my resignation of
     the office which I have now the honour to hold.

Yours very sincerely,

          _Lord Salisbury to Lord Randolph Churchill._


Hatfield House, Hatfield, Herts: August 14, 1885.

     My dear Randolph,--I am sorry you take such a view of a
     correspondence that is perfectly regular. The Queen has always
     written private letters to the Viceroy, and has always received
     private answers from him, both received and sent without any
     knowledge of any of her Ministers. She would have telegraphed in
     the same way, only the Viceroy did not happen to have her cypher. I
     did nothing else but cypher and decypher the message for her. I
     could no more inform you of her private telegram, without her
     leave, than I could inform you of a private letter, if I had been
     asked to copy it for her, without her leave.

     I regret very much that you should think I have not shown you
     confidence. I have done my best to give effect to your wishes as
     far as I possibly could. In this case I think you are really under
     a misapprehension. What has passed does not pledge your liberty of
     action, or decide the question in issue. The question is exactly
     where it would have been if the Queen, instead of telegraphing, had
     written to Lord Dufferin. It would still have remained to be
     decided by her responsible Ministers. The only effect of the
     telegraphing has been to ante-date the issue by five or six weeks.

     I trust I have removed from your mind all misapprehension of the
     character and effects of the Queen’s correspondence with Lord

Believe me
Yours very truly,

          _Lord Randolph Churchill to Mr. Moore._

     Dear Mr. Moore,--Will you copy the enclosed letter to Lord S., and
     send it to Hatfield? A special messenger is not necessary.

Yours very truly,

          _Lord Randolph Churchill to Lord Salisbury._

2 Connaught Place, W.: August 15.

     Dear Lord Salisbury,--You write to me, as usual, very kindly, for
     which I am indeed grateful; but the impressions with which I
     received your letter of yesterday remain as strong as ever. God
     forbid that I should allow myself for one moment to throw a shadow
     of a doubt upon the right of the Sovereign to communicate with the
     utmost freedom on any conceivable matter with any one of her
     subjects; but I submit that a very different question arises when a
     communication from the Queen to so high an official as the Viceroy
     of India on a matter of high State importance passes through the
     Prime Minister. Such a communication, so sent, acquires a character
     of responsibility which it would not otherwise possess.

     Moreover, the matter becomes complicated indeed when it happens to
     be the fact that it is in the knowledge of the Prime Minister that
     the Royal communication which he forwards contains a suggestion--or
     rather, I may say, makes a proposal--to which the responsible head
     of the Department chiefly concerned entertains the strongest
     possible objections.

     The communications from the Queen direct to the Viceroy may be
     frequent--I can see no reason why they should not be; but it would
     appear that telegraphic messages on matters of a very confidential
     and important nature have not been usual hitherto; otherwise surely
     the Viceroy would have been provided with a copy of the Queen’s

     Generally, I would further submit to you the following: My
     position in relation to Lord Dufferin is in many ways anomalous. He
     is old enough to be my father, has been all his life in public
     affairs, has acquired an immense reputation. Clearly, therefore, it
     is curious that I should be placed in a position of superiority
     over him--I who have had no experience of official life, a very
     short experience of public life, and have not acquired any
     reputation worth speaking of.

     Under the circumstances the relations between the Secretary of
     State and the Viceroy can be attended with no advantage to the
     public service, on the contrary must be attended with the utmost
     disadvantage, unless it is, more than usually even, obvious to the
     latter that the former possesses the full, complete and perfect
     confidence of the Prime Minister.

     Lord Dufferin is no ordinary man. He has a greater faculty for
     putting two and two together than most men. I have not the smallest
     doubts as to the nature of the impression left upon his mind by the
     Royal communication on the subject of the Duke of Connaught as it
     has reached him. In about a week he will get a letter from me in
     which I gave at great length, and with all the arguments that had
     occurred to me, my strong objections to the appointment in
     question. He will find that he has committed himself somewhat
     lightly, and after the manner of a courtier--influenced, no doubt,
     by the fact that the inquiry came through you--to an opinion
     diametrically at variance with that of the Secretary of State, and
     he will know that in so doing the Prime Minister is on his side. If
     you follow my argument and concur in the premises on which it is
     based, I think you will easily see that satisfactory and
     advantageous relations between me and Lord Dufferin, which under
     the best circumstances were difficult, will now have become

     The superiority of the Secretary of State over the Viceroy, as
     intended by the Constitution of the Indian Government, will exist
     only in name as far as I am concerned, and this must have a most
     unfortunate effect on all questions of Indian administration. I
     shall never know, moreover, what communications may not be passing
     between the Queen, the Prime Minister and the Viceroy on matters of
     great and small importance; and this element of uncertainty and
     ignorance of events will prevent me from being of the smallest

     The appointment of the Duke of Connaught to a high and very
     responsible military command in India is, as it appears to me, a
     question of the utmost importance. It is not my business to point
     out how largely is raised by it the constitutional position of
     Royal Princes in these days; though I infer that you are aware of
     the existence of objections of very considerable weight, from the
     stipulation which you make with the Queen that no public
     declaration of the appointment should be made till after the
     elections. I am concerned only with the matter as it affects India
     generally, and the Indian Army in particular. Although the
     Secretary of State is not solely responsible for such an
     appointment, he practically is the person most identified with it
     in the public mind: and if it was not for my inexperience of
     official life, I should have thought that it was absolutely
     impossible that the freedom of action of the Secretary of State on
     so important a matter could be so absolutely demolished as it has
     been in this case.

     I may add, to show the extreme inconvenience of allowing matters of
     this kind to be prematurely settled without the knowledge of the
     Department chiefly concerned, that the Viceroy’s proposal that the
     Duke of Connaught should have the command of a Corps d’Armée with
     the rank of Lieutenant-General is absolutely impracticable at the
     present time. Even assuming that the new proposals of the
     Government of India for the amalgamation of the Bombay and Madras
     Commands were approved of by the Secretary of State in Council, and
     this is very uncertain, they would require, before they could be
     entered upon, an Act of Parliament. A Bill introduced into the
     House of Commons for this purpose would lead to much debate; it
     would necessarily raise very large questions of Indian government,
     military and political; might easily fail to pass into law, and at
     the best would hardly receive the Royal Assent till the early
     autumn of next year. It cannot be supposed that all this while the
     Bombay Army could be left without a responsible chief.

     Under all these circumstances I remain of the opinion which I
     expressed to you yesterday. From the first I always had great
     doubts whether my being in the Government would be any advantage to
     the Government or to the party. All doubts on the point are now
     removed from my mind. A first-class question of Indian
     administration has been taken out of my hands, and at any moment
     this action may recur, and it is clear to the Viceroy that I do not
     occupy towards himself the position which the Secretary of State
     ought and is supposed to occupy.

     I therefore with much respect adhere to the views which I put
     before you yesterday.

Believe me to be
Yours very sincerely,

     P.S.--I enclose for your consideration an extract from my letter to
     Lord Dufferin of July 31.

     His advice, which I asked for, will not be worth much now.

_Lord Salisbury to Lord Randolph Churchill._


Hatfield House, Hatfield, Herts: August 15, 1885.

     My dear Randolph,--I had no intention of taking any decision out of
     your hands, and I think in attributing it to me you do not put
     fairly the position in which I was placed. The Queen’s desire for
     privacy was very natural. The question she was asking about her son
     might have had an unfavourable answer: and then she would naturally
     wish that as few should know it as possible. I could not,
     therefore, do otherwise than I did--send the message, and urge her
     to communicate it to you as soon as I knew it could be done
     satisfactorily. It would not have been honourable to communicate it
     before. Perhaps I might, if I had thought of it, have sent the
     cypher to Ponsonby--but that would hardly have been civil; and it
     did not occur to me that you would take this objection. As a matter
     of fact I did not communicate with the Viceroy otherwise than by
     transmitting that which was sent to me. But if I had done so I
     should not have done anything unusual. Lord Beaconsfield used to do
     it occasionally: and Lord Dufferin wrote to me and asked me to
     correspond with him. The Viceroy is nominated by the Prime
     Minister, not by the Secretary of State. I only say this because I
     am concerned to show that I have not behaved unfairly to you, or
     taken anything out of your hand. But I do not hold to this power of
     corresponding either by letter or wire with the Viceroy: and if you
     really feel that ‘you will never know what communications are
     passing between the Queen, the Prime Minister, and the Viceroy,’ I
     am quite ready to give up for myself the right of communicating
     with him.

     Of course, you must take what course you think right. I should be
     sorry if, out of mere suspicion of me, you took a step which will
     tend to break up the party at a critical time: and still more that
     you should do it on a matter which can hardly fail to make the
     Queen’s name and actions matter of public controversy. But, at all
     events, before you take any definite step I trust you will talk to
     me about it. I shall be going through town on Tuesday to Osborne.
     If you are still there, would you come to me at two o’clock?

Yours very truly,

          _Lord Randolph Churchill to Lord Salisbury._

2 Connaught Place, W.: August 16.

     Dear Lord Salisbury,--I feel I cannot persist easily in urging my
     view upon you after your letter received this morning, though it
     does appear to me that you have not allowed yourself to appreciate
     with perfect justice the consideration which I tried to convey to
     you. It can be no satisfaction to me to be the means of depriving
     Lord Dufferin of the advantage, instruction and pleasure which
     correspondence direct with you cannot fail to afford him, and I do
     not quite understand how you can think me capable of such a

     Further, I am much distressed that you should suppose that the step
     which I was anxious to take (and which I still firmly believe would
     be for the advantage of all concerned) could be animated by so
     unworthy a motive as ‘suspicion of you.’

     My argument was that, viewing all the surrounding circumstances
     together, the peculiar occurrence about which I wrote had
     seriously, if not irreparably, impaired my power of being useful to
     your Government.

     Perhaps, before finally putting aside what I have pressed upon you,
     you will kindly give Mr. Moore an interview. He understands and can
     explain the position as I regard it much better than I can make it
     clear by letter.

     I shall be happy to wait upon you on Tuesday in accordance with
     your desire, if I am allowed to leave the house, to which for the
     last two days I have been kept a prisoner.

Yours very sincerely,

_Note by Mr. Moore._

     I went to Hatfield on Sunday August 16, and saw Lord Salisbury. The
     result was that he spontaneously proposed to send the subjoined
     telegram to the Viceroy, which he thought would remove any
     misapprehension on the part of Lord Dufferin. I took the draft to
     Lord Randolph, who quite concurred. The matter was thus
     settled.--A. W. M.

          _Lord Salisbury to Mr. Moore._


Hatfield House, Hatfield, Herts:
Sunday, August 16, 1885.

     Dear Mr. Moore,--I am not sure that the last phrase in the draft
     telegram I gave you is sufficiently accurate. It should run:

     ‘My own view--_though inclining towards the proposal_--is not very
     decided on the subject.’

     That is very much what Lord R. C. said in his letter.

Yours very truly,


_Lord Salisbury to Lord Dufferin._

     Most secret. Your telegraphic correspondence with the Queen. It may
     be as well to put upon record that the telegram I sent you was from
     the Queen and that I merely transmitted it. The Cabinet have not
     considered the question; there is much difference of opinion on the
     subject, and my own view, though inclining to the proposal, is not
     very decided.

          _Lord Salisbury to Lord Randolph Churchill._


Hatfield House, Hatfield, Herts: August 16, 1885.

     My dear Randolph,--I was very glad to receive your letter, for it
     would have been very painful if we had ‘come in two’ over this
     matter. I saw Mr. Moore, whose power of exposition I knew of old. I
     gave him a draft telegram which, if you approve, I will send, and
     which will prevent any possible misapprehension in Dufferin’s mind.
     I do not the least fear any such misapprehension--for he is an old
     public servant, and knows the Queen’s ways well. You need not have
     the least anxiety about your authority with Dufferin. I shall be
     very glad if your health is sufficiently restored to enable you to
     come about two on Tuesday to my house. I can explain any point you
     wish explained, and I can tell you what Staal has said.

Ever yours very truly,

Opinions vary on the merits of this dispute. Some of those who have held
great office have informed me that the Secretary of State for India had
no choice but to tender his resignation after such an incident: and it
is certainly curious that so high an authority upon Ministerial
propriety as Lord Salisbury should have allowed the difficulty to arise.
On the other hand, it may be urged that personal slights, however
provoking, ought never to be allowed to compromise a great political
situation. Probably Sir Michael Hicks-Beach, in his dry way, summed the
question up correctly:--

_Sir Michael Hicks-Beach to Lord Randolph Churchill._

     Many thanks for sending me the correspondence, which I return. I am
     the more glad of its conclusion, because I think there is reason on
     both sides. The Queen put Salisbury in an almost impossible
     position by asking him to forward the telegram. He could not tell
     you of it and it would have been very difficult, perhaps
     impossible, for him to interfere with her _private_ correspondence
     by suggesting that she should reconsider it. But, on the other
     hand, I agree with you that the very fact of _his_ forwarding it
     must have suggested to Dufferin that it was something more than the
     Queen’s private opinion.

     Salisbury has written to tell me what has passed and I have
     therefore ventured to suggest to him that Ponsonby should have the
     cypher, so that what has occurred should not happen again. So far
     as I know, the Queen exercises her right of private correspondence
     with great care, to avoid anything that would affect the decisions
     of Ministers; and this exception to the rule was obviously due to
     the personal nature of the question, which Dufferin (had the
     telegram been sent by Ponsonby) would have quite appreciated.

     But please forgive me for saying that I think you looked at this
     matter rather too seriously last Friday. I think I should have been
     more inclined to laugh at the story of the telegram than to treat
     it as a proof of want of confidence on the part of the Queen and
     Prime Minister. If you had not been ill you would never have said
     of yourself in your letter to me that ‘I have no longer any energy
     or ideas, and am no more good except to make disturbance.’ And I
     suspect the same reason has influenced your view of this telegram

The sequel, so far as concerned the Bombay command, was simple. Lord
Dufferin perceived from Lord Salisbury’s second telegram that grave
differences had arisen in the Cabinet and that the matter would not be
settled with easy and deferential good-humour. Upon receiving Lord
Randolph’s despatch on the subject, the Viceroy, while seeming to
re-iterate his opinion, ranged himself with the Secretary of State in
the following dexterous sentence: ‘The fact of our having proposed the
abolition of the Presidential Commanderships-in-Chief has got rid of
what otherwise would have been _an insuperable objection_[42]: namely,
the political responsibilities of the Bombay Commander-in-Chief as a
member of Council’ (August 21). As this proposal involved the carrying
of a Bill through the House of Commons, the ‘insuperable objection’ must
have held good until the autumn of 1886--even had the Government
survived. The Cabinet, to whom the matter was referred, unanimously
decided (October 9) ‘that the political position of the
Commander-in-Chief of a presidency army could not be filled by a son of
the Queen’;[43] and the Bombay command remained vacant during the
remaining tenure of the Government. It should, however, be added, lest
anything in the foregoing correspondence should seem to reflect upon the
Duke of Connaught, that under Lord Salisbury’s second Administration,
the ‘insuperable objection’ being removed by the abolition of
Presidential Commanders-in-Chief with their customary political
functions, he was appointed to the Bombay command and discharged its
military duties with conspicuous advantage to the public.

But the consequences were more lasting outside the actual subject of
dispute. Although the correspondence between Lord Randolph and the Prime
Minister ripples on as pleasantly as ever, although in the next few
months their comradeship became increasingly cordial, it cannot be
supposed that such a conflict could pass away without leaving scars.
Lord Salisbury could not forget, Lord Randolph Churchill could not but
remember, what the result of a resignation had been.

Last in chronology, first in importance, among Lord Randolph Churchill’s
enterprises at the India Office came the conquest and annexation of
Burma. When Lord Randolph Churchill had travelled in India in the
winter of 1884, he had consulted a native fortune-teller and thought it
worth while to keep a note of what he said. The astrologer, after
saying, perhaps ambiguously, ‘that he had never seen so good a star
since Lord Mayo’s (for during his Viceroyalty Lord Mayo was assassinated
in the Andaman Islands), repeatedly asserted that his visitor would
‘return to India shortly in connection with a warlike expedition,’ and
that he was ‘about to go on a warlike expedition.’ The prediction may
perhaps in a sense have come more nearly true than many others of its
class. When the Conservatives came into power, the British
administration in Burma was confined to the maritime province at the
mouth of the Irrawadi and the strip of sea-coast bordering on the Bay of
Bengal. The inland country up to the confines of China still remained an
independent State under its native ruler, the King of Ava. The relations
of the British Government with that State had long been unsatisfactory.
By the Treaty of Yandaboo, which terminated the first Burmese War in
1826, the right of a British representative to reside at Mandalay had
been secured, and until 1876 this agent of the Imperial Government had
from time to time--sitting on the ground and barefooted, according to
the inflexible ceremonial of the Burmese Court--endeavoured, with small
success, to safeguard the ever-growing commercial interests of British
and British-Indian subjects.

In 1878 the old King of Burma died, leaving behind him thirty sons with
families on the same generous scale. A palace intrigue secured the
throne to Prince Theebaw and the new reign was inaugurated by an
indiscriminate massacre of the late King’s other sons, with their
mothers, wives and children. Eight cart-loads of butchered princes of
the blood were cast, according to custom, into the river. The less
honourable sepulchre of a capacious pit within the gaol was accorded to
their dependents. Two of the thirty sons had had the prudence to take
refuge with the British Resident, who not only stoutly refused to
surrender them but addressed a strong remonstrance to the Burmese
Government. The Burmese Minister for Foreign Affairs replied tartly that
the procedure followed was in accordance with precedent and that under
the existing treaties of ‘grand friendship’ the two great Powers were
bound to respect each other’s customs. With this answer the Government
of India were forced to be content, though Ministers at home seem to
have had some difficulty in persuading Queen Victoria to sign the
necessary message of cousinly congratulation to the new monarch.

The unpleasant feelings which had been aroused were not readily allayed.
Since 1876 the British representative had been instructed not to sit
upon the ground barefooted when enjoying the honour of a royal audience
but to sit upon a chair, clothed in the ordinary manner. The etiquette
of the Burmese Court could not, however, be relaxed. The King refused to
countenance the innovation and all direct access to the Sovereign
ceased. Forced now to deal only with the Minister of State, the British
representative found his personal influence vanishing and his personal
safety impaired. For nearly a year the British Residency remained
guarded by a scanty escort, wholly indefensible in itself, within a mile
of the palace where ‘the ignorant, arrogant, drunken boy-king,
surrounded by a set of parvenu sycophants, the men of massacre and
bloodshed, ignorant and savage enough to urge him on to any further
atrocities,’[44] disposed of a body of two thousand soldiers. It was
therefore decided in 1879 to recall the whole Residency and the
Government of India, whose patience was inexhaustible, were left without
a representative at the Burmese capital.

For the next five years disorder and misgovernment gripped the land of
Upper Burma. In 1883 a hideous massacre was perpetrated upon three
hundred prisoners in the gaol. Outrages upon British subjects and upon
British vessels on the Irrawadi were frequent. The protests of the
Viceroy were treated with disdain. Innumerable vexations arose. Trade
was strangled. The life and property of a large European-Indian
community were insecure. So threatening was the Burmese attitude that a
considerable addition, involving much expense, had to be made in the
garrison of the maritime province, and this necessary precaution
aggravated the prevailing uncertainty. To complete the tale of
grievances, Burmese Missions were found in March 1885 to be negotiating
treaties of commerce in various foreign capitals. Such was the
situation when Lord Randolph Churchill became Secretary of State.

Events were now to force a crisis. The Burmese Mission had already
negotiated in Paris a Franco-Burmese Convention. The French Consul at
Mandalay, an energetic man, had acquired great authority. French
influence was rapidly becoming predominant and ousting British
interests, both diplomatic and commercial. Banks, railways, mining and
timber concessions were falling almost daily into their hands. The long
procession of facts which advanced upon the British Government in July
1885, left no room to doubt the imminence of a dominant foreign
influence in Upper Burma, involving the most serious and far-reaching
consequences to the British province of Lower Burma and to the Indian
Empire. The whole question at once became urgent.

While these considerations were causing Her Majesty’s Government the
utmost anxiety, a lucky incident occurred. King Theebaw, partly from
want of money, partly in a spirit of sheer bravado, imposed a fine of 29
lacs of rupees upon an important British company trading in his
dominions, on a pretext that certain Customs duties had not been paid,
and with the intention of ruining the company and transferring their
concession to a French firm. With this final and definite provocation
Lord Randolph Churchill considered the case for action complete both as
regards Parliament and the country. He threw himself into the enterprise
with characteristic vigour. The official papers show on almost every
page the driving power which he exerted. As early as July 25 he drew
Lord Salisbury’s attention to the rumours of a new Franco-Burmese
Convention. Lord Salisbury’s reply was terse: ‘The telegram, if not a
_canard_, is painfully important. The King of Burma must not be allowed
to conclude any such convention.’ Unofficial remonstrances having
produced no effect, Lord Randolph addressed the Foreign Office formally
on August 28, urging that a communication should be made to the French
Government stating that any further prosecution of the commercial
projects in contemplation ‘will necessitate such prompt and decided
measures as may most effectually satisfy the paramount rights of India
in the Indo-Chinese Peninsula.’ The French Government recognised frankly
that the British interest in Burma was much more intimate and
substantial than their own. Their Ministers temporised politely and
deprecated, while they did not arrest, the activities of the Consul.

Meanwhile King Theebaw, in his great unwisdom, rejected almost
insolently the remonstrances of the Government of India and their
proposal that the case should be referred to arbitration. On October 16,
therefore, Lord Dufferin transmitted to the India Office the draft of an
ultimatum insisting that a special envoy of the British Government
should be received at Mandalay to settle outstanding disputes and that a
British Resident, suitably guarded, should be permanently admitted,
without being forced to submit to any humiliating ceremony, to the
Court of Ava. It was further intimated to King Theebaw that he would be
required in future to accept the same position in regard to his foreign
relations as the Amir of Kabul and to regulate them in accordance with
British advice. Lord Randolph Churchill, in approving the despatch of
the ultimatum, telegraphed as follows:--

     The terms of your ultimatum are approved. But I am strongly of
     opinion that its despatch should be concurrent with movement of
     troops and ships to Rangoon. If ultimatum is rejected, the advance
     on Mandalay ought to be immediate. On the other hand, armed
     demonstration might bring Burmese to their senses. Also, on account
     of security of many British subjects and Europeans in Upper Burma,
     it is of vital importance that Burmese should feel that any injury
     to them or their property would be followed by rapid punishment.
     Under all the circumstances of the case, and in view of public
     opinion here, I do not think that considerations of expense should
     deter you from these precautions. Lord Salisbury concurs. I would
     suggest that you should demand an answer within a specified time.

Overwhelming force was employed. An expedition, consisting of a naval
brigade of 433 seamen and marines, with 49 guns and machine-guns, and
3,029 British and 6,005 native soldiers, with 28 guns, was ordered to
assemble, together with a flotilla, at Thyetmyo by November 14, under
command of General Prendergast, with Colonel White (afterwards Sir
George White) and Colonel Norman as Brigadiers. These troops were
collected swiftly and unostentatiously. No sufficient reply having been
received by the appointed date--November 10--General Prendergast was
ordered to advance. The strength of the force employed, prevented any
effectual opposition in Burma. Its rapid movement allowed no time for
serious complications to develop either with France or China. The
Burmese army was routed at Minhla on November 17, at a cost of one
officer and three men killed and five officers and twenty-four men
wounded. On the 27th Mandalay was occupied and King Theebaw was a
prisoner. Injuries and embarrassments tolerated for fifty years were
swept away in a fortnight. General Prendergast’s advance was pressed
forward to Bhamo, on the Chinese frontier, which was soon occupied
without any serious fighting.

Although a sporadic resistance--euphemistically termed
‘dacoity’--disturbed the less accessible regions for several years,
Burma was now in British hands. What was to be done with it? Lord
Randolph Churchill was for annexation simple and direct. The Council of
the Governor-General disapproved of this course, which they feared would
excite the hostility of China. Many important authorities preferred the
establishment of a native prince under British advice. Lord Salisbury
thought the great cost of British administration would overweight the
new territory. In the end, however, the Secretary of State for India
prevailed. The Chinese Government was reassured by the abandonment of
Lord Randolph Churchill’s projected mission to establish commercial
relations between India and Thibet, to which they had been persuaded to
give a rather reluctant consent. They were soothed and even gratified
by the establishment of a Llama in Burma--‘a spiritual king sending
decennial presents,’ as Lord Salisbury with relish describes him,
‘though,’ he adds, ‘the Chinese Empire is no more Buddhist than
Chartist.’ The annexation was resolved. Lord Randolph arranged that the
proclamation should be made on January 1, 1886, as ‘a New Year’s present
to the Queen.’ On the last day in December he was staying with
FitzGibbon for his Christmas party; and as the clock struck midnight he
lifted his glass and announced, with due solemnity, ‘Howth annexes Burma
to the British Empire.’ The next morning the Viceregal proclamation was
published. It is one of the shortest documents of the kind on historical

     _By command of the Queen-Empress, it is hereby notified that the
     territories formerly governed by King Theebaw will no longer be
     under his rule, but have become part of Her Majesty’s dominions,
     and will during Her Majesty’s pleasure be administered by such
     officers as the Viceroy and Governor-General of India may from time
     to time appoint._





_To the Electors of Woodstock._

I gladly avail myself of the opportunity afforded me by the retirement
of your late member, Mr. Barnett, to offer myself as your representative
in the coming Parliament.

The politics I profess are strictly in accordance with those of the
great leaders of the Conservative party which the Borough of Woodstock
has now so long supported.

Many questions of great political importance which formerly divided the
Conservative from the Liberal party have passed for the present out of
the field of conflict; their settlement, whether for good or evil, being
now stamped on the face of our Statute Book. The essential features of
the Constitution of this country continue, however, to defy the attacks
of extreme Reformers. All legislation should, in my opinion, be based
strictly on the outlines of these features, which are capable of being
developed and expanded in accordance with the demands of a progressive

Any measures that would ameliorate the condition of the working classes
would ensure my best and most earnest assistance. My desire would be to
place at their disposal, if it were possible, the common necessaries and
comforts of life free from the prohibitory impost of taxation.

Some reforms of the systems of rating and local taxation are much
required. This subject, however, I hold to be one which should be dealt
with largely in one comprehensive measure, and not piecemeal or by
small instalments after the manner of recent futile attempts.

Legislation tending to the severance of the Established Church from the
State would be vigorously opposed by me. On the other hand, measures
which would increase the great sphere of usefulness of the Church of
England and render her more and more the Church of the nation, I would
as vigorously support.

With regard to Foreign Policy, it is impossible to blind oneself to the
fact that the position of England among foreign nations has deteriorated
in the hands of the recent Liberal Administration. While deprecating
unnecessary interference in Continental affairs, I am of opinion that in
cases where the honour of our country is implicated, the security of the
nation can only be attained by a bold and uncompromising policy. To that
end I should oppose any large reduction of our naval and military
establishments. An economical policy might, however, be consistently
pursued, and the efficiency of our forces by land and sea completely
secured, without the enormous charges now laid upon the country.

The Colonial Empire of Great Britain, offering as it does a field of
development for the talent, energy and labour of the sons of our
overburdened island, will continually demand the attention of the
Legislature. I would support all efforts which would tend to facilitate
the means of emigration, and would at the same time strengthen and
consolidate the ties which unite the Colonies with the mother country.

With regard to education, both in this country and in Ireland, I am of
opinion that the existing means are capable of a large and liberal
development, and that while the rights of conscience should be most
sacredly respected, religious teaching should not wholly be forgotten.

The Education Act of 1871 has, on the whole, successfully settled the
question and opened the doors of knowledge to all our countrymen without
regard to sect. I agree with the spirit of that Act, but any alterations
that may be needful to ensure its more perfect working will always
receive my best consideration.

The principles of true Conservatism I hold to be those of gradual,
unceasing progress, adhering strictly to the lines of a well-founded
Constitution and avoiding all violent and unnecessary changes. It is in
these principles, in which I firmly believe myself, that I aspire in
hopeful confidence to become the Representative of the Electors of the
Borough of Woodstock.

Should I be so fortunate as to be successful in gaining your confidence,
I can safely promise that the interests of the Borough will not suffer
from any neglect at my hands, and the wishes and views of every
individual member of the constituency, of whatever political party, will
always receive my best and most earnest attention.

I have the honour to be, Gentlemen,
Yours very faithfully,

Woodstock, January 26, 1874.


_To the Electors of Woodstock._

Parliament is about to be dissolved, and I venture again to solicit a
renewal of your confidence, which for six years I have enjoyed.

When in 1874 you did me the honour to return me as your representative
to the House of Commons, I pledged myself to give a general support to
the policy and the principles of the Conservative party.

And now that I again offer myself as a candidate for the Borough I
confidently appeal to you on the same grounds, renewing my former

The attention of the Parliament which is about to expire has been
chiefly occupied by momentous questions of Foreign Policy involving
almost the existence of the Empire.

Her Majesty’s Government have had to contend not only against the
dangerous ambition of a great Foreign Power but also against a
determined and powerfully-led Opposition at home.

By repeated and unusually large majorities the policy which the
Government pursued has been sanctioned by Parliament. A few weeks will
surely demonstrate that it has been approved by the country.

In giving a consistent support to that policy I am convinced that I have
been carrying out the wishes of a vast majority of this constituency,
and I believe that the safety of this Empire can only be secured by a
firm adherence on the part of the country to the course pursued by the
present advisers of the Crown.

To their credit it may be stated that they have hitherto achieved the
great result of ‘peace with honour’ without having added perceptibly to
the burdens imposed upon the people by taxation.

My opinions on domestic matters have been more than once stated to you
during the six years which have elapsed since my election in 1874. The
Conservative party have been instrumental in placing on the Statute Book
many comprehensive and useful measures. I would instance the Act to
Consolidate and Amend the Law relating to Friendly Societies; the
Artisans’ and Labourers’ Dwellings Act; the Act Consolidating and
Extending the various Laws relating to the Sanitary Condition of the
People; the Act for Modifying and Improving according to Modern
Experience the Regulations affecting the Discipline and Control of our
Army; and other Statutes which I need not now particularise.

Her Majesty’s Government have now in hand carefully considered measures
for the consolidation of the Criminal Code, and for the improvement of
the Law of Bankruptcy; also three most important measures relating to
the settlement of landed estates, enlarging the powers of life owners
and reducing the cost of land transfer, to which, as you may imagine
from my remarks to you in the autumn, I shall be prepared, if you return
me as your Member, to give a most cordial support.

The present condition of Ireland must be a cause of uneasiness to every
thoughtful person and will no doubt occupy the anxious consideration of
the new Parliament.

The party led by Mr. Parnell, which has for its object the
disintegration of the United Kingdom, must, in my opinion, be resisted
at all costs.

At the same time, I do not see how the internal peace of Ireland can be
permanently secured without a judicious reconsideration of the laws
affecting the tenure of land; and should measures with that object be
introduced by her Majesty’s Government, I shall be inclined to give them
an unprejudiced support.

It must not be forgotten that the successful and wise solution of the
difficulties surrounding the question of Irish education effected by
ministers and the Conservative party will greatly contribute to the
rapid progress of a future prosperity of the sister Island.

I am in favour of the present system of County Government by Quarter
Sessions, but I think that the hands of the magistrates might be
strengthened by the addition of elected representatives of the

The contribution from the Imperial revenue to the expenses of Local
Government, which was the work of the Conservative party, has no doubt
proved a boon to the agricultural community. I should be glad to see
this principle further carried out by throwing a portion of the cost of
maintenance of highways upon the moneys annually voted by Parliament.

To secure the freedom and to encourage the enterprise of the tenant
farmer, it would be expedient to abolish the Law of Distress in its
present form.

It appears to me that all matters dealt with by that law should be a
subject of agreement between landlord and tenant.

I shall heartily co-operate with any party which brings forward
carefully considered measures for the amelioration of the condition of
the agricultural labourer, and I think it would be well if powers were
given to municipalities and local bodies for the purchase of land to be
let in allotments and for the improvement of the dwellings of this
valuable class of men.

Trusting that the principles above enunciated will commend themselves to
your consideration and will secure your approval,

I have the honour to remain,
Very faithfully yours,

Woodstock, March 9, 1880.


_To the Electors of Birmingham._

The time is near when you will be called upon to express your judgment
on the past and your desires for the future. Two schools of political
thought strive against each other to win your confidence. The one,
composed of those who, having had under their complete control the
Government of the Empire from May 1880 until June 1885, are unable to
justify their claims upon you by any record of foreign or colonial or
home achievement, but, contenting themselves with incomplete and
misleading extenuation of acknowledged failure, seek to attract you by a
renewal of promises, and even bribes, which bitter experience has shown
they have neither the capacity nor the strength to fulfil. The other,
whose views I share, and whose policy I will endeavour soon, as best I
may, personally to uphold among you, appeals to the electoral body in
Great Britain and Ireland to confirm the adverse judgment pronounced on
June 9, against Mr. Gladstone’s Administration by the Parliament which
in a few weeks will be dissolved. That judgment, striking and
wide-reaching as it was in its immediate results, was literally wrung
from a House of Commons the majority of which would have been only too
glad to have continued their support of Mr. Gladstone had it not been
for the irresistible influence of popular discontent, excited by various
causes--Irish troubles, Colonial losses, Indian dangers, costly wars,
fruitless sacrifices of many heroes, financial excesses, Parliamentary
impotence, imperilled industries, commercial and agricultural depression
growing greater and more alarming year by year. All this was expressed
by the action of the House of Commons on June 9. Mr. Gladstone’s
Government, the author of these many and long-continued disasters, fell;
that Government in 1880 so popular, so powerful, with such immeasurable
opportunities for promoting the peace, progress and prosperity of the
people, fell, and not a voice was raised, either in Parliament or the
country, of sympathy for the vanquished or of mourning over their fall.
Mr. Bright will request of you to contribute to restore to power that
most unlucky Administration. To this end will be directed all the powers
of his unrivalled oratory, his simple but forcible invective, his
personal position and experience. But very little of patriotism, very
little of self-interest, very little of recollection, reflection and
calculation will compel you to remain outside the influence of that
persuasive voice. The British Empire is great and powerful from the
character of its people, the extent of its dominions and the varied
nature of its resources. More than all other Western nations, we can
afford to indulge ourselves in experiment and, indeed, caprice, as
regards our system of Government or the direction of our Home and
Imperial policy. But there are limits even to the strength of the
British Empire, and a repetition of the policy of the last five years
will, without doubt, transgress those limits. Yet such will be the
inevitable consequence of a restoration to office of the Liberal party,
as that party is at present constituted. The old divisions, the
irreconcilable differences, personal and political, which all the
ascendency of Mr. Gladstone was unable to compose, much less conceal,
while he was Prime Minister, which were the chief cause of the failure
of his Administration, are now blazing forth most fiercely, and Mr.
Gladstone, with all honesty, warns you that his controlling hand will be
stretched forth only for a little time. To this party, which even
hatred of the Tories cannot decently unite, which comes before you with
such a past, you will be asked to commit for another six years perchance
the destinies of the Empire. You cannot yield to this appeal.

The policy of the Tory party is before you:--To regain the friendship of
the European Powers which prejudice, presumption and poltroonery had all
but forfeited; and to use that friendship so as to maintain effectually
the united European action by which alone the peace and the liberties of
the peoples of the Continent and of these islands can be secured and
developed; to evolve from the region of sentiment such forces as may
enable the mother country to tighten the bonds of union between herself
and our colonies and to rear on a practical and permanent basis, for
defensive and commercial purposes, that Imperial federation of the
subjects of the Queen which many wise and far-seeing minds regard as
essential to the perpetuation of our power; to conciliate by equal laws
and by just and firm administration our Irish brethren, now much
irritated and estranged, so that the Union which Nature, as well as
policy, has effected may for all time endure; to place, by material
provisions and constructions, the security of our Indian dependency
beyond the influence of panic, alarm or even anxiety, and
simultaneously, by careful Parliamentary inquiry, to ascertain how we
may most safely and most speedily bring to the strengthening of our
Government all that is high and good of the traditions, the intellects
and the aspirations of the native races; to give to our rural and
agricultural population that machinery of self-government which has been
of advantage to our great towns; to strive, as far as the laws of
political economy may permit, to multiply the number of freeholders and
occupiers; to utilise the powers of the House of Commons, in recent
years almost forgotten, so as either to effect financial retrenchment
and departmental reform, or else to make sure that the present
expenditure of the people’s money is justifiable and thrifty; to
develop still further the efficiency of Parliament by alterations in its
methods of transacting business and in its hours of labour; to restore
public confidence; to revive commercial enterprise by a patient
continuance of good and prudent administration; in a word, to govern the
British Empire by the light of common sense. That is the policy of the
Tory party.

Measures are now recommended to you by our opponents which the Tory
party will not only not attempt to carry out, but which I hope and
believe they will always resolutely oppose. They are the dismemberment
of the Empire, under the guise of National Councils, the abolition of
the House of Lords, the disestablishment of the Church and the
appropriation of its endowments to the support of irreligious education,
the compulsory acquisition by local bodies of landed estates for the
purposes of arbitrary division, the wholesale plunder of all who have
acquired properties, great or small, by thrift or by inheritance, under
the names of ‘ransom’ and of ‘graduated taxation.’ These and other
similar projects, if they are decided by the nation to be wise and
prudent, I freely admit must be confided to the hands of Mr. Chamberlain
and his friends. I will have none of them, for I know that they mean
political chaos and social ruin.

Such, gentlemen, are to my mind the circumstances of the time, as far as
they can be conveniently and concisely summarised in an election
address. No one can be more convinced than I am that I should be guilty
of intolerable presumption if I based my candidature for the Central
Division of Birmingham on any other ground than the truth of the
political principles I have endeavoured in this document to set forth;
moreover, I am profoundly aware that from many causes, some of them
physical, I have feebly and inadequately served in the House of Commons.
My opponent has the immense advantage of long-established possession,
amounting in the minds of some almost to prescriptive right; he is
further supported by a highly (perhaps too highly) finished political
organisation. But the experience of the past and the essential truth of
the principles which I will endeavour to sustain may, in all
probability, outweigh these considerable forces. The people, in the
widest acceptance of the expression, are now, for the first time in the
history of England, called upon to decide and define their future. If
they are guided by reflection and by knowledge they cannot err. But if,
unmindful of the last five years, they recur, like the constituencies in
1880, for government and for policy to those who have so misled them and
betrayed them, I, in common with the party with which for twelve years I
have acted, will patiently accept their judgment; but history will mourn
and will wonder long at the blindness and the folly, ay, even the
insanity, of a people who, called to the more free and perfect enjoyment
of their ancient liberties, deliberately and in spite of warnings writ
large and full, flung away a priceless heritage, and consigned to the
grave of the past a great and glorious Empire.

I am your obedient servant,

India Office, St. James’s Park:
October 10.




_The Marquess of Salisbury to Lord Randolph Churchill._


Hatfield: April 1, 1884.

     My Lord,--I had the honour of receiving a letter from you, dated
     the 19th ult., in which, on behalf of the Organisation Committee of
     the National Union, you requested that Sir Stafford Northcote and
     myself would give our early consideration to a report and other
     documents which you enclosed.

     We had already expressed our disapproval of the report; therefore,
     in the absence of any explanation, we could not have entered
     further upon the consideration of it. We had the advantage,
     however, of a conference with yourself and Mr. Gorst, in which some
     passages of the report, which seemed to us objectionable, were
     explained. It was made clear to us that there was no intention on
     the part of the Council of the National Union either to trench on
     the province of the Central Committee or to take any course upon
     political questions that would not be acceptable to the leaders of
     the party. The ‘large and general principles of party policy’
     reserved for the determination of the Council by the fourth
     recommendation of the report were explained to refer exclusively to
     questions affecting the organisation of the affiliated

     It was very satisfactory to us to find from your language that the
     Council were at one with us in the conviction that harmonious
     co-operation between them and the Central Committee was of great
     importance to the interests of the party, and that the matters
     which have hitherto been disposed of by the leaders and Whips of
     the party must remain as heretofore in their hands, including the
     expenditure of the funds standing in the name of the Central

     It was thought desirable that, in place of further discussing the
     report, Sir Stafford Northcote and I should indicate with more
     precision the objects to which the efforts of the Council may with
     the greatest advantage be directed. It appears to us that these
     objects may be defined to be the same as those for which the
     Associations themselves are working. The chief object for which the
     Associations exist is to keep alive and extend Conservative
     convictions, and so to increase the number of Conservative voters.
     This is done by acting on opinion through various channels, by the
     establishment of clubs, by holding meetings, by securing the
     assistance of speakers and lecturers and by the circulation of
     printed matter in defence of Conservative opinions, by collecting
     the facts required for the use of Conservative speakers and
     writers, and by the invigoration of the local press.

     In all these efforts it is the function of the Council of the
     National Union to aid, stimulate and guide the Associations it

     Much valuable work may also be done through the Associations, by
     watching the registration and, at election time, by providing
     volunteer canvassers and volunteer conveyance. But in respect to
     these matters it is desirable that the National Union should act
     only in concert with the Central Committee, because there are in
     many constituencies other bodies of Conservatives who do not belong
     to the Associations, but whose co-operation must be secured.

     To ensure complete unity of action, we think it desirable that the
     Whips of the party should sit, _ex officio_, on the Council, and
     should have a right to be present at the meetings of all
     Committees. Such an arrangement would be a security against any
     unintentional divergencies of policy and would lend weight to the
     proceedings of the Union. Business relating to candidates should
     remain entirely with the Central Committee. On the assumption,
     which we are entitled now to make, that the action of the two
     bodies will be harmonious, a separation of establishments will not
     be necessary--unless business should largely increase. There is
     some advantage, undoubtedly, in their working under a common roof,
     for it is difficult to distinguish between their functions so
     accurately but that the need of mutual assistance and communication
     will constantly be felt. I have the honour to be

Your obedient servant,

          _Lord Randolph Churchill to the Marquess of Salisbury._

The National Union of Conservative and Constitutional Associations,
St. Stephen’s Chambers, Westminster S.W.: April 3, 1884.

     My Lord,--I have laid your letter of the 1st inst., in which you
     indicate your reconsidered views and those of Sir Stafford
     Northcote concerning the position and functions of the National
     Union of Conservative Associations, before the Organisation
     Committee. It is quite clear to us that in the letters we have from
     time to time addressed to you and in the conversations which we
     have had the honour of holding with you on this subject, we have
     hopelessly failed to convey to your mind anything like an
     appreciation either of the significance of the movement which the
     National Union commenced at Birmingham in October last or of the
     unfortunate effect which a neglect or a repression of that movement
     by the leaders of the party would have upon the Conservative cause.
     The resolution of the Conference at Birmingham in October--a
     Conference attended by upwards of 450 delegates from all parts of
     the country--directed the Council of the National Union to take
     steps to secure for that body its legitimate share in the
     management of the party organisation. This was an expression of
     dissatisfaction with the condition of the organisation of the
     party and of a determination on the part of the National Union that
     it should no longer continue to be a sham, useless and hardly even
     an ornamental portion of that organisation.

     The resolution signified that the old methods of party
     organisation--namely, the control of Parliamentary elections by the
     Leader, the Whip, the paid agent, drawing their resources from
     secret funds--which were suitable to the manipulation of the 10_l._
     householder were utterly obsolete and would not secure the
     confidence of the masses of the people who were enfranchised by Mr.
     Disraeli’s Reform Bill, and that the time had arrived when the
     centre of organising energy should be an elected, representative
     and responsible body. The delegates at the Conference were
     evidently of opinion that if the principles of the Conservative
     party were to obtain popular support, the organisation of the party
     would have to become an imitation, thoroughly real and _bonâ fide_
     in its nature, of that popular form of representative organisation
     which had contributed so greatly to the triumph of the Liberal
     party in 1880 and which was best known to the public by the name of
     the Birmingham Caucus. The Caucus may be perhaps a name of evil
     sound and omen in the ears of the aristocratic or privileged
     classes, but it is undeniably the only form of political
     organisation which can collect, guide and control for common
     objects large masses of electors; and there is nothing in this
     particular form of political combination which is in the least
     repugnant to the working classes in this country. The newly-elected
     Council of the National Union proceeded to communicate these views
     to your Lordship and Sir Stafford Northcote, and invited the
     assistance of your experience and authority to enable them to
     satisfy the direction which had been imposed upon them by the

     It appeared at first from a letter which we had the honour of
     receiving from you on February 29 that your Lordship and Sir
     Stafford Northcote entered fully and sympathetically into the
     wishes of the Council, in which letter it was distinctly stated
     that it was the duty of the Council--

     1. To superintend and stimulate the exertions of the local

     2. To furnish them with advice and in some measure with funds.

     3. To provide lecturers on political topics for public meetings.

     4. To aid them in the improvement and development of the local

     5. To help them in perfecting the machinery for registration and
     volunteer agency at election time.

     6. To press upon the local Associations the paramount duty of a
     timely selection of candidates for the House of Commons.

     Nothing could have been clearer, more definite or satisfactory than
     this scheme of labour; and accompanied as it was by observations of
     a flattering character concerning the constitution of the National
     Union, the Council was greatly gratified and encouraged by its

     The Council, however, committed the serious error of imagining that
     your Lordship and Sir Stafford Northcote were in earnest in wishing
     them to become a real source of usefulness to the party, and
     proceeded to adopt a report presented to them by us, in which
     practical effect was given to the advice with which the Council
     have been favoured, and they were under the impression that they
     would be placed in a position to carry out their labours
     successfully by being furnished with pecuniary resources from the
     considerable funds which your Lordship and Sir Stafford Northcote
     collect and administer to the general purposes of the party.

     The Council have been rudely undeceived. The day after the adoption
     of the report, before even I had had time to communicate that
     report officially to your Lordship, I received a letter from Mr.
     Bartley, the paid Agent of the leaders, written under their
     direction, containing a formal notice to the National Union to
     quit the premises occupied by them in conjunction with the other
     organising officials, accompanied by a statement that the leaders
     declined for the future all and any responsibility for the
     proceedings of the National Union.

     Further, in your letter of the 1st instant you express your
     disapproval of the action of the Council, and decline to consider
     the report, on the ground that the contemplated action of the
     Council will trench upon the functions of an amorphous and unknown
     body, styled the Central Committee, in whose hands all matters
     hitherto disposed of by the leaders and Whips of the party must
     remain, including the expenditure of the party funds.

     In the same letter you state that you will indicate with more
     precision the objects at which the Council of the National Union
     should aim, the result being that the precise language of your
     former letter of February 29 is totally abandoned, and refuge taken
     in vague, foggy and utterly intangible suggestions.

     Finally, in order that the Council of the National Union may be
     completely and for ever reduced to its ancient condition of
     dependence upon, and servility to, certain irresponsible persons
     who find favour in your eyes, you demand that the Whips of the
     party--meaning, we suppose, Lord Skelmersdale, Lord Hawarden and
     Lord Hopetoun in the Lords, Mr. Rowland Winn and Mr. Thornhill in
     the Commons--should sit _ex officio_ on the Council, with a right
     of being present at the meetings of all Committees.

     With respect to the last demand we think it right to state, for the
     information of your Lordship, that under the rules and constitution
     of the National Union the Council have no power whatever to comply
     with this injunction. The Council are elected at the Annual
     Conference and have no power to add to their number. All that they
     can do is that, in the event of a vacancy occurring among the
     members, they have power by co-optation to fill up the vacancy.

     I will admit that in conversation with your Lordship and Sir
     Stafford Northcote, with a view to establishing a satisfactory
     connection between the Council and the leaders of the party without
     sacrificing the independence of the former, I unofficially
     suggested an arrangement--subsequently approved by this
     Committee--under which Mr. R. N. Fowler, one of the Treasurers of
     the National Union, might have been willing to resign that post,
     and Mr. Winn might have been elected by the Council to fill it--an
     arrangement widely different from the extravagant and despotic
     demand laid down in your letter of the 1st instant.

     You further inform us that in the event of the Council--a body
     representing as it does upwards of 500 affiliated Conservative
     Associations, and composed of men eminent in position and political
     experience, enjoying the confidence of the party in populous
     localities, and sacrificing continually much time, convenience and
     money to the work of the National Union--acquiescing in the view of
     its functions laid down in your letter of April 1, it may be
     graciously permitted to remain the humble inmate of the premises
     which it at present occupies.

     We shall lay your letter and copy of this reply before the Council
     at its meeting to-morrow and shall move the Council that they
     adhere substantially to the report already adopted, in obedience to
     the direction of the Conference at Birmingham; that they take steps
     to provide themselves with their own officers and clerks; and that
     they continue to prosecute with vigour and independence the task
     which they have commenced--namely, the _bonâ fide_ popular
     organisation of the Conservative party.

     It may be that the powerful and secret influences which have
     hitherto been unsuccessfully at work on the Council, with the
     knowledge and consent of your Lordship and Sir Stafford Northcote,
     may at last be effectual in reducing the National Union to its
     former make-believe and impotent condition; in that case we shall
     know what steps to take to clear ourselves of all responsibility
     for the failure of an attempt to avert the misfortunes and reverses
     which will, we are certain, under the present effete system of
     wire-pulling and secret organisation, overtake and attend the
     Conservative party at a General Election.

I have the honour to be
Yours obediently,

          _Draft of Lord Randolph Churchill’s letter resigning his
candidature for Birmingham._

     Dear Mr. Satchell Hopkins,--You will not be surprised, after what
     passed yesterday at the Council of the National Union, to receive a
     communication from me with reference to the electoral contest which
     the Conservative party in Birmingham intend to wage at the General
     Election, and to the part in that contest which I have been invited
     to take. It will be within your recollection that in last November,
     when you first inquired of me whether I would be willing to have my
     name submitted to the Conservative party in Birmingham as one of
     the candidates for the Parliamentary representation of the town, I
     hesitated greatly before complying with your very flattering
     request. My hesitation was not due to any great fear of defeat, but
     rather to doubts which I entertained as to whether the political
     principles, both as regards foreign and domestic affairs, which I
     held to and which I should advocate as candidate for Birmingham,
     were in any degree coincident with the political principles of the
     present leaders of the Tory party or would be adopted by them if
     they came into power. You are also aware that shortly before I went
     to Birmingham at Easter for the purpose of addressing public
     meetings at the Town Hall I again expressed to you those doubts,
     which had been rather confirmed than dissipated by various
     circumstances which had marked the interval between April and
     November last. It is within your knowledge that the Council of the
     National Union has been since its election by the Conference of
     Associations at Birmingham in October 1883 engaged in a struggle
     to acquire for itself a large share in and control over the
     organisation of the Tory party throughout the country, to become
     the principal centre and source of organising energy, and to
     transform itself from a thoroughly sham and artificial into an
     active and powerful body. The Council in undertaking this effort
     was acting in obedience to the positive direction of the delegates
     at the Conference. The principles of political organisation which
     animate the Council are the encouragement, extension and formation
     of popular Associations combining all classes and electing a
     representative and responsible executive in electoral districts for
     the carrying-on of all business relating to Parliamentary
     elections. This is the form of political organisation which has
     been widely and successfully adopted by the Liberal party, which is
     the only form of political combination suitable to the present vast
     electorate but which as far as the Conservative party is concerned
     is solely confined to some of the most populous constituencies of
     Great Britain. I would also add that this is the only form of
     organisation which can bring the Parliamentary action of the
     Conservative party into harmony and sympathy with the masses of the
     people in the country who are inclined to support the principles of
     that party. A popular organisation and a popular policy follow
     naturally the one upon the other, and without the former you will
     not have the latter. The efforts of the Council from the outset met
     with the strongest opposition from those who have great influence
     with the leaders of the party, who at present control such
     organisation as exists, and dispense in irresponsible secrecy the
     considerable funds subscribed for party purpose.

     To thwart the efforts of the Council every pretext of delay was
     seized upon, promises and menaces being freely resorted to. The
     Council, however, succeeded in procuring from the leaders a
     document recognising largely the legitimacy of their demands and
     conceding much of that which they claimed; but so soon as they
     embodied its substance in a report for the purpose of immediate
     action, an attempt was first made to prohibit this step, and when
     the Council had the independence to persist, the National Union
     received a prompt notice to quit the premises it had so long shared
     with the agents of the party leaders. Thereupon the Council were
     careful not to communicate this hostile measure to the Associations
     in the country, ever hoping that a conciliatory spirit might yet
     avert a public rupture. Unfortunately no corresponding spirit
     restrained those who had been opposed to the Council. Independents
     in the Conservative party could not be brooked for a moment, and a
     circular was hurriedly issued from the Central office to every
     Association and agent in the country intimating that the National
     Union was an outcast, and that a small Committee nominated by the
     leaders themselves, in whose appointment the Associations had no
     voice, would conduct all the functions for the discharge of which
     the National Union was originally constituted. Notwithstanding the
     issue of this document, which threw local bodies and local leaders
     into the greatest confusion and embarrassment, the Council of the
     National Union continued their efforts to bring about an
     arrangement which, while preserving their independence and
     usefulness, would enable them to act harmoniously with all
     authorities in and sections of the party.

     These efforts proved unavailing, and on the 2nd instant the
     majority of the Council was induced under great pressure to recede
     from the line of action which it had for six months adopted, and a
     Committee was appointed to supersede the Chairman and the Executive

     The advocates of popular control on the Council were suppressed,
     the inchoate work of invoking energy and co-operation among the
     Associations was abruptly stopped, and the Council has been in
     effect reduced to the position of dependence and unreality from
     which the delegates at the Birmingham Conference had directed it to
     emancipate itself.

     Such is the summary of the abortive effort of the National Union to
     infuse a popular element into the organisation and policy of the
     Tory party. The jealous guardians of aristocratic privilege have
     proved for the time too powerful for those who would base the
     strength of the Tory party upon the genuine and spontaneous
     attachment of the masses of our people. The interests of the many
     are still to be sacrificed to the love of power and interested
     ambition of a favoured few.

     These things being so, I have arrived at the irresistible
     conclusion that it would be impossible for me, consistently even
     with the lowest standard of political honesty, to solicit the
     suffrages of the citizens of Birmingham in support of the obsolete
     policy still adhered to by the Tory party; basing my solicitations
     upon those principles of government, whether domestic or foreign,
     which I endeavoured to set forth in your Town Hall at Eastertide;
     knowing, as I know now, beyond all doubt of contradiction, that
     notwithstanding the immense changes effected by the Reform Bill of
     1867, and about to be effected by the Reform Bill of 1884, those
     principles are inexpressibly repugnant to the authorities of the
     party and would never be carried into effect by the Tory party
     under their guidance.

     The malignant influences which for four years have had complete
     possession of the Tory party and hopelessly muddled the conduct of
     the Opposition, rendering us an object of derision even beyond the
     limits of these Islands, ought not in my opinion to be permitted to
     overshadow the destinies of the British people.

     Caring less than nothing for results personal to myself, and using
     what lights I possess, what knowledge and experience I have
     acquired for the purpose of laying the whole truth on political
     matters before the public on the eve of a great national decision,
     I have, after much reflection and perhaps unduly prolonged
     self-restraint, indited to you this communication. You and your
     friends will surely perceive that, hampered and shackled by the
     animosity of those whose support is essential, and which I had a
     right to anticipate, it would be out of the question for me with
     any hopes of honourable success to realise the aspirations of the
     Conservatives of Birmingham.

I remain
Yours faithfully,

          _Sir Henry Wolff to Mr. Harold Gorst._

28 Cadogan Place, S.W.: Jan. 5, 1903.

     My dear Harold Gorst,--Only on Saturday I saw the recent number of
     the _Nineteenth Century_, in which was published your third article
     on the so-called ‘Fourth Party.’

     It contains two passages which I should like to see corrected.

     On page 138 you write: ‘Lord Randolph Churchill, on his own
     initiative and without consulting his colleagues, made terms for
     himself with Lord Salisbury.’

     This statement does not accord with my recollections.

     After the Sheffield conference on July 23, 1884, it appeared to me
     and to some other friends of Lord Randolph Churchill, that the
     election of a majority of his supporters on the council of the
     National Union placed him in a position so strong as to enable him
     without any misconstruction or sacrifice of dignity to negotiate
     with Lord Salisbury for more harmonious action. Your father was out
     of town, and there was no time to lose, as the election of a
     chairman of the Union was impending. I was therefore authorised to
     inquire whether Lord Salisbury would be willing to discuss certain
     points with Lord Randolph Churchill. The same day they met, and an
     agreement was come to on the following terms:--

     (1) Lord Randolph Churchill and his friends were to act in harmony
     with Lord Salisbury, and were to be treated with full confidence by
     him and the ruling members of the Conservative party.

     (2) Sir Michael Hicks-Beach was to be elected chairman of the
     National Union.

     (3) The Primrose League was to be officially recognised by the
     leaders of the party and by the Council of the Union.

     (4) In order to celebrate this concordat--as you have put it--Lord
     Salisbury was to give a dinner to the Council.

     The conditions were carried out within a few days. Sir Michael
     Hicks-Beach was elected chairman and the Primrose League
     recognised, by resolution, at the first meeting.

     As above mentioned, your father was at the time absent, but until
     now I had always understood that he concurred in the course taken.
     I had attributed his absence from the dinner to some other cause,
     and I the more believed in his approval of the reconciliation from
     the support given the next year, after conference, both by himself
     and Lord Randolph Churchill, to a motion made by me in the House of
     Commons to adjourn the third reading of the new Reform Bill during
     the interregnum between the resignation of Mr. Gladstone and the
     accession of Lord Salisbury. This motion is, I think, referred to
     by Sir Herbert Maxwell in his ‘Life of Mr. W. H. Smith.’

     I had regretted in later years to perceive that there was some
     tension between your father and Lord Randolph Churchill; but,
     through ignorance, I had imputed it to disagreements on the
     formation of Lord Salisbury’s second Administration in 1886, when I
     was absent from England.

     The second passage which, to my mind, requires explanation occurs
     on page 140. It runs thus:--

     ‘But no member of the Fourth Party, except himself (Lord R. C.),
     was admitted to the Cabinet. Mr. Balfour, though made President of
     the Local Government Board, was excluded from the latter

     I have always understood that at the time Lord Randolph Churchill
     not only advised, but urged the admission of Mr. Balfour to the
     Cabinet; and that this advice was not followed on account of Lord
     Salisbury’s reluctance to give to a near kinsman an advancement to
     which others might think they had greater claim.

Yours very truly,



          _Lord Randolph Churchill to H. H. Wainwright, Esq., M.P._

2 Connaught Place, W.: June 9, 1884.

My dear Mr. Wainwright,--You tell me in your letter of the 30th ult.
that you find some difficulty in understanding my recent action in the
House of Commons with respect to the Reform Bill.

The position of the Conservative party on the question of Parliamentary
Reform ever since 1887 has been very ill-defined. The action taken at
that time by Mr. Disraeli and his colleagues made it impossible for the
Conservative party at any future date to oppose on principle large
extensions of the franchise. That this result was clearly perceived by
the authors of the Reform Bill of 1867 is proved by the fact that in no
single speech of Mr. Disraeli or of Sir Stafford Northcote on the
question of Parliamentary Reform can any trace be found of opposition to
assimilation of county and borough suffrage on principle. The old Tory
attitude of 1832 has been for ever abandoned. I think, if you refer to
Mr. Disraeli’s address to the Buckinghamshire electors in 1874, you will
find a passage clearly intimating that he himself was prepared, if
necessary, to supplement his work of 1867 by doing what Mr. Gladstone is
at present engaged on. If these facts had any meaning at all they meant
this--that extension of the franchise was no longer a monopoly of the
Liberal party, and was not attended by any danger to the Constitution.

Lancashire, which is usually in the van of the Conservative party in
Great Britain, was quick to detect the change. When I went to Oldham
and to Manchester in the autumn and winter of 1881 for the purpose of
addressing public meetings I was particularly enjoined by the leading
gentlemen in those places not to say a word against the assimilation of
the county and borough franchise. During the sessions of 1880-81,
1881-82, 1882-83, the question of Parliamentary Reform was permitted to
remain in a dormant state, and the position of both parties with regard
to it was to no inconsiderable extent forgotten.

Suddenly in the autumn of 1883 it was rumoured that Parliament would be
called upon to deal with the question; the recess oratory of Ministers
and their followers confirmed the intelligence; the Conservative leaders
were singularly reticent of their opinions, and I found myself (then, as
now, a mere member of the rank and file of the party) obliged to go at
length into this question of Reform before an Edinburgh audience without
having at my command any certain indication as to the course which the
Conservative party would pursue. As the representative of a small
agricultural borough which any new Reform Bill must extinguish I could
not be expected to look upon the measure with any very longing eye;
further, in accordance with the maxim that it was the duty of the
Opposition to oppose, I considered that it would be right and reasonable
for Conservatives to resist the proposed Reform Bill on the ground of
(1) the inopportuneness of the moment chosen and the far more urgent
character of other questions; (2) the obvious risk of any large addition
to the Irish electorate; (3) the transparent design of the Government to
divert public attention from foreign affairs; (4) the absence of any
indication, on the part of the unenfranchised masses, of any great
desire for the voting privilege. On those grounds at Edinburgh I spoke
against Reform; but I perceived that my views, though listened to with
kindness and courtesy, were not highly acceptable to the intelligent
audience of Scotch artisans which I was addressing, and moreover the
disagreement with those views which was expressed from the platform by
Mr. Balfour, M.P., and Lord Elcho, M.P., voiced unmistakenly the
prevalent opinion of the meeting.

In the ensuing period, before the opening of Parliament, I ascertained
by communications with members of the party at the Carlton that no
unanimity of feeling on the subject of Parliamentary Reform existed;
that many borough members, and particularly Lancashire members, were
positively in favour of the change; and that direct opposition on
principle was only to be expected from a highly influential but
numerically small circle of members representing county and borough
constituencies exclusively of a rural character.

Under these circumstances, after Parliament had met, and after the
Opposition had failed to overthrow the Government on the Egyptian
policy, and the Reform Bill had been introduced, I proposed on the
second reading of the Bill to move the previous question--a form of
opposition which appeared to combine most of the objections which I had
stated at Edinburgh, while not committing anyone who might support it to
resistance to Reform on principle. Sir Stafford Northcote requested me
not to persevere with this motion, which had precedence over the
amendment of Lord John Manners, and it was accordingly removed from the
paper. Now Lord John Manners’ motion, if it meant anything at all (and
on this I am not prepared positively to decide), meant that the
Conservative party was prepared to deal with extension of the franchise,
provided that the measure was accompanied by provisions for the
redistribution of seats. Yet even this modified form of resistance did
not secure the support of the entire Conservative party, and was
defeated by the overwhelming majority of 130. Finally, on the motion to
go into Committee, Mr. Chaplin’s proposal to exclude Ireland from the
Bill met with so little favour from the leaders of our party that he
wisely declined to press it to a division.

These things being so, I am sanguine that all impartial persons will
agree that a frank and open departure from the position of strong
resistance to Reform which I had taken up in December was not only
pardonable but incumbent upon any practical politician. Had that
position been the position of the Conservative party generally, I would
certainly have adhered to it at any sacrifice; but, far from that, it
was not even the position of any considerable section of the party, who
as a body recurred to the policy of Mr. Disraeli. Moreover, since
December I had by the favour of the Conservatives in Birmingham become a
candidate for the Parliamentary representation of that immense
constituency, and undoubtedly in Birmingham there existed no serious
differences between Liberals and Conservatives as to the propriety of
the assimilation of the county and borough franchise. Having thus been
guided to the conclusion that Reform was inevitable, and that equality
of political rights between England and Ireland was to govern the
Conservatives as well as the Liberals, I did not conceal my change of
mind from the House of Commons or the public. It appeared to me to be as
reasonable and intelligible a change of mind as it could be possible for
any M.P. to undergo; brought about not by one short debate, as has been
most erroneously asserted, but by a careful study of a continued
succession of circumstances extending over a period of four months. I am
sure that it is well for our public life that a change of opinion on any
great question, should it take place, should be frankly and fearlessly
avowed; and I believe that violent censure of such a change, if
generally adopted, would tend to produce hypocrisy and political
dishonesty: and possessed by that idea I do not now hesitate to remark
that if the Government were to give a definite guarantee to Parliament
that their Reform legislation should not be operative until the
redistribution of seats has been provided for, by the announcement that
Parliament will be called together in the autumn to complete the scheme,
and by the insertion of a proper date in the present Bill before which
no election shall take place under it, then I see no strong or
overwhelming reason why the labours of the present session should be
rendered abortive by the rejection of the Bill for the representation of
the people.



          _To his Wife._

S.S. _Rohilla_: December 13, 1884.

     We had a very enjoyable day yesterday at Malta; the steamer dropped
     anchor at 9.30, and greatly to my surprise the Governor, Sir
     Lintorn Simmons, whom I did not know, sent his barge and an
     aide-de-camp to fetch me off and take me to the Palace. I had a
     long interview with the Governor, who was most polite and
     agreeable. He was very gloomy about Wolseley’s expedition and
     generally about the Army, Navy, fortifications, &c.; and as he is
     considered one of our greatest authorities, I suppose he is right
     as to the unsatisfactory condition of everything. But they want
     such a lot of money!

     He showed me all over the Palace, which would have delighted you;
     it is one of the finest buildings I ever saw. His sitting-room used
     to be the Grand Master’s bedroom, and the whole place is in much
     the same condition as it was 300 years ago. The tapestries exceed
     in beauty any I ever saw. After we had seen the great church, a
     magnificent edifice, Lord John Hay gave us his barge to go round
     the dockyard, which fortunately happened to be full of ships. We
     went over the _Dreadnought_ and _Inflexible_, and on the latter
     enjoyed the pleasure of moving the turrets and 80-ton guns with
     just the same ease as one winds up one’s watch--the whole thing
     very wonderful, very complicated and perfectly unintelligible, and
     all the more interesting on that account.

     At 1.30 luncheon with the Governor; large party; Admiral Tryon and
     Lord Elphinstone, going out to Australia, Lord John Hay and
     others. We returned on board in the Governor’s barge in great
     state, the object of admiration and envy of the other passengers.

     At five o’clock the ship started again for Port Said, where we hope
     to arrive Tuesday night. The weather keeps very fine. To-day
     (Sunday) muster of the crew at 10.30: 120 Lascars, Negroes, Turks,
     heretics and infidels; curious objects. After that, church in the
     saloon, the chief merit of which was its brevity. The ubiquitous
     parson, of course, presided, and gave us a silly address on the
     dislike the clergy felt for the laity and _vice versâ_, and several
     silly reasons for same. I thought if the clergy are like him the
     whole thing was very easily accounted for, but have not yet
     communicated to him this suggestion.

     They are talking of getting up some theatricals and concerts; I
     hope they won’t. The two junior officers on board are very cheery
     fellows, and give smoking concerts in their cabin, which is about 6
     ft. square, and which seats comfortably about a dozen persons,
     smoking, drinking whiskey-and-water and singing choruses. I have
     twice attended these concerts, which are of a very cheerful
     character; and so wonderful is the sea air that though the
     concert-room atmosphere might be cut with a knife and the whiskey
     is copiously supplied, one feels rather the better than the worse
     for it the next morning.

     I saw the _Morning Post_ of the 4th at Malta with Borthwick’s
     valedictory article; the article is so very friendly that I fear
     people will think I wrote it myself.

December 18.

     Here we are in the Canal, which is very much what I expected; a
     dirty ditch with nothing remarkable except the multitudes of
     flamingoes, pelicans, and wild fowl in the lakes we passed. It is a
     great nuisance having to change ships. I have got so accustomed to
     the _Rohilla_, and the captain is such a good fellow that I am
     quite sorry to leave him. I doubt if the _Nizam_ will be as

S.S. _Nizam_: December 22.

     Yesterday we had adventures. At 10.30 the machinery broke down;
     something had got into the cylinder. At first they thought it would
     only be an affair of half an hour, but in the end we did not start
     again until seven in the evening. In the meantime we had church on
     deck, the captain doing clergyman; and after that there was great
     excitement over some sharks which were swimming about the ship. In
     the clear water we could see them beautifully, each attended by a
     shoal of pilot fish, a most beautiful creature about the size of a
     10-lb. salmon and streaked with the brightest blue. The sailors
     fixed a piece of pork on a hook at the end of a chain, and
     instantly hooked one. Such a business to get him on board!--and he
     flapped about finely, making us all beat a hasty retreat, in which
     two or three unfortunate people were knocked down and trampled on.
     Then we caught another, and after that a very large one, which
     turned out to be 7 ft. 6 in. long and weighed 210 lbs. This one had
     three live sharks inside, which we cut out and handed round. The
     vitality of these brutes is extraordinary. After their tails had
     been cut off and their insides taken out they kept flapping and
     struggling, and the heart of one placed on a bit of wood kept
     beating for hours.

     In the meantime the _Rohilla_, which left Suez after us, came in
     sight and, seeing something was wrong, bore down. Captain Barrett
     and his chief engineer came on board, and there was much joy at
     meeting again, and drinks were partaken of. As they found we could
     go on again in a short time they departed and steamed away, and
     were soon out of sight; and then we felt gloomy, as it was quite
     uncertain whether the machinery would not collapse again, and if it
     did we should have no _Rohilla_ to pick us up, and might be days in
     the Red Sea. But while we were at dinner another ship appeared, and
     this turned out to be the _Rohilla_, which felt nervous about us
     and had come back. Much relief was experienced at this amiability
     and soon after, after much struggling, our machinery was in motion;
     but this delay will make us get to Aden in the dark, which is most

Government House, Bombay: January 1, 1885.

     We got here Tuesday morning early, after a very pleasant voyage
     across the Indian Ocean. I found the Governor’s carriage waiting at
     the dock, and we came up here. Sir James Ferguson is most kind and
     pleasant and so are all the Staff. I have not done any sight-seeing
     yet, except going into Bombay and walking about the streets and
     looking at the people, an endless source of interest. It would be
     quite useless my endeavouring to describe to you my impression of
     this town. The complete novelty and originality of everything is
     remarkable, and one is never tired of staring and wondering. I
     cannot tell you how much I am enjoying myself or how much I wish
     you were with me. The Bombay Club asked me to a dinner but I
     declined, as there would have been speeches and more or less of a
     political demonstration against the Ripon party, which would never
     have done. I did not come out to India to pursue politics or to
     make speeches.

January 9.

     We have been going about a great deal, seeing various things and
     people. Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy, a great Parsee, took us to see
     the Towers of Silence, where they place all the dead Parsee bodies
     to be eaten by vultures. I was asked to write my opinion of their
     process in their books, and composed a highly qualified and
     ambiguous impression which would have done credit to Gladstone.

     Last night we dined at the Byculla Club with several gentlemen,
     when an American lady gave us some very dull recitations from
     Tennyson; we were all much bored. I had a long interview with eight
     of the leading native politicians on Wednesday morning on Indian
     politics, in which they set forth with great ability their various
     grievances. We leave to-night for Indore, and after that go to
     Jaipur, Agra, Delhi and Lucknow, which last place we hope to reach
     about the 21st. From there I go to spend a week or ten days with
     Colonel Murray in the district which he administrates, somewhere
     on the borders of Nepaul. We shall be in camp, and moving about
     every day, and I shall be able to see something of the details of
     Indian administration and also lots of sport; but of this last I
     shall be a spectator rather than an actor. You have no idea how
     extraordinarily polite people are out here, and what trouble they
     take to amuse me.

The Residency, Indore: January 14.

     We were met at the junction for Indore by Captain F., of Holkar’s
     service, who informed us that Holkar was away from his capital and
     was ill, but would come to a station near and meet us; and
     presently there we found him, drawn up with all his Court. We had
     an interview of about half an hour, while the other unfortunate
     passengers were kept waiting. He was most gracious and very
     intelligent, and when we left he embraced me. At Indore we found
     his son, also drawn up, and more _pow-wow_. In the evening
     fireworks, Hindoo drama, Nautch, conjurers, &c. All very Hindoo and
     delightful the first time one sees it, but I can quite imagine that
     after a time it would pall. In the morning Holkar sent us out
     cheetah-hunting for black buck; however, the cheetah was sulky and
     would not run well, so did not catch one. We then took our rifles,
     and I shot three and Thomas two.

The Residency, Lucknow: January 24, 1885.

     Poor Fred Burnaby’s death[45] is a great blow to me, and it was so
     sad getting his letter enclosed in yours this morning. I wrote to
     him as I passed through Egypt; I wonder if he got my letter. I
     shall miss him greatly. I see Airlie has been wounded, but am
     delighted not to find the names of any more of our friends in the
     list of casualties. I have had a most exasperating letter from
     Wolff, saying that he has a great deal to tell me, but that it is
     so important he cannot write it for fear the letter should be
     lost. Did you ever know such tiresomeness?

     I have no intention to hasten my return in order to increase the
     embarrassments of the Government. I am starting off to-night for
     Colonel Murray’s camp.

In camp Dudna: February 1.

     Here we are in camp in the middle of an immense Government forest
     at the foot of the Himalayas. We have been leading a very enjoyable
     life since we left Lucknow and Colonel Murray. Out all day
     careering round on elephants after game, sleeping in tents at
     night, always at a different place, always hungry for breakfast,
     very hungry for dinner--two sensations to me which have the
     attraction of novelty. The whole thing is a charming change after
     racketing about in railways from town to town. We have not seen
     much game, I must admit, as it is far too early in the year and, no
     grass being burnt and much water being about, the wild animals are
     very widely scattered, and shots are few and far between; though
     yesterday we hunted one leopard which ultimately escaped after
     being much fired at and, I think, grievously wounded. I shot a very
     nice swamp deer and Thomas a nilghai or blue bull. We also shot
     pea-fowl, bustards and partridges, and every variety of bird. We
     have fifteen elephants, and these creatures are an unfailing source
     of interest and amusement. I think an elephant is the best mode of
     conveyance I know. He cannot come to grief; he never tumbles down
     nor runs away (at least, not on the march); nothing stops him; and
     when you get accustomed to his paces he is not tiring. You would
     not believe what steep places they get up and down or what thick,
     almost impenetrable jungle they go through. If a tree is in the
     way, and not too large a one, they pull it down; if a branch hangs
     too low for the howdah to go under, they break it off. They are
     certainly most wonderful animals, and life in many parts of India
     would be impossible without them. The scenery all round here is
     lovely--very wild, and with splendid woodland effects. We have
     spent more days in camp here than we meant, which has altered our
     plans a little, but I like so much seeing the country and the

     What explosions these are in London! I think it very amiable of the
     dynamite people to blow up the House of Commons when we are all
     away; they might have chosen a more inconvenient moment.

          _To his Mother._

Government House, Calcutta: February 8.

     I have had the great good fortune to kill a tiger. It was our last
     day, and the party proposed to shoot ducks and snipe; but for that
     I did not much care and suggested that I and a Mr. Hersey (an
     English gentleman who is living in the district) should go into the
     forest on the chance of seeing deer and perhaps getting a
     sambur-stag, while the others went to shoot ducks. This was agreed
     to, and the others bet fifty rupees they would have the heaviest
     bag. Well, Hersey and I, each on an elephant and accompanied only
     by two other elephants, were beating an open space in the forest
     when I came upon the recently killed carcase of a hog, half
     devoured. Hersey, when he saw it, declared it was quite fresh, and
     that the tiger must be close by. You may imagine the excitement. We
     beat on through the place and then came through it again, for it
     was very thick high grass. All of a sudden out bundled this huge
     creature, right under the nose of Hersey’s elephant, and made off
     across some ground which was slightly open. Hersey fired, and
     missed. I fired, and hit him just above the tail. (A very good
     shot, for he only showed me his stern, and he was at least forty
     yards off.) Hersey then fired his second barrel, and broke his
     shoulder, which brought him up (literally with a round turn). He
     took refuge in a patch of grass about fifty yards from us, where we
     could just see bits of him. Heavens, how he growled and what a rage
     he was in! He would have charged us but that he was disabled by
     Hersey’s last shot. We remained still, and gave him four or five
     more shots, which, on subsequent examination, we found all told;
     and then, after about five minutes’ more awful growling, he
     expired. Great joy to all. The good luck of getting him was unheard
     of at this time of year; the odds were a hundred to one against
     such a thing. He was a magnificent specimen, nine feet seven inches
     in length, and a splendid skin--which will, I think, look very well
     in Grosvenor Square. This is certainly the acme of sport. I never
     shall forget the impression produced by this huge brute breaking
     cover; or, indeed, the mingled joy and consternation of the other
     party when they saw him--for they had to pay up fifty rupees. They
     had got a black buck and a blue bull, and thought they had
     certainly won.

     Tigers in the Zoo give one very little idea of what the wild animal
     is like.

Government House, Calcutta: February 10.

     I hope to leave Bombay March 20th and return viâ Marseilles, in
     which case I should be back in London about the 11th or 12th April.
     I do not think I shall be able to stop in Paris, as I guess the
     House of Commons will be just reassembling after Easter, and it
     would be a good moment to drop in upon that body. It is extremely
     pleasant here. The Dufferins are very kind and easy-going; the
     Staff, too, are amiable; and Bill Beresford does everything he can
     for one. Yesterday the Government telegraphed to Dufferin to
     despatch a brigade of Indian troops and thirty miles of railway
     plant to Suakim. Great preparations at once made; late at night
     comes an order from London countermanding the whole thing.
     Dufferin, diplomatist that he is, could not conceal his disgust at
     this vacillation when they handed him the telegram on our return
     from dinner. I telegraphed to Borthwick, and I hope I put the fat
     in the fire.

Rewah: February 17.

     I got a telegram from Wolff yesterday, through Pender, saying that
     affairs were pressing and a crisis impending, and inquiring when I
     was coming back. _Mais je connais mon Wolff_; he has crisis on the
     brain and, in any case, no political contingency will hasten my
     return by an hour. I expect the Government will try and get put out
     and the Tories will try to come in; I wish them joy of it.

     On Sunday morning General Roberts turned up, and we had a jolly
     day; lots of talk. The General is all I had imagined him to be. He
     is very keen on taking me up the frontier to Peshawar and Quetta.
     It would be most pleasant if it could come off, and one would learn
     a great deal about that most mysterious problem, ‘the dangers of
     the Russian advance’; but there is no chance of it.

Benares: February 24.

     This place is the most distinctly Hindoo city I have yet seen; old
     and curious in every part. We are leaving for one of the
     Maharajah’s palaces, or villa rather. We are extremely _bien logés
     et nourris_, with a retinue of servants and carriages at all times
     ready. There is an old Rajah, Siva Prasad, an interesting and
     experienced old man who acts as guide; he speaks English perfectly,
     though at the top of his voice, and indulges in endless
     dissertations on Indian politics. Yesterday morning we started off
     to see the Maharajah’s royal palace of Ramnugger. Very great
     reception; all the retainers, elephants, horses, &c., together with
     army--the latter about 100 strong--drawn up in a long avenue from
     the gates to the door. The army gave a royal salute, and the band
     played ‘God save the Queen,’ which I had to receive with gravity
     and dignity; rather difficult! The Maharajah’s grandson, a boy of
     ten, met us at the door, and his son, a man of thirty, half-way up
     the staircase; such are the gradations of Oriental etiquette. The
     Maharajah was not there, as he is old and infirm, and was keeping
     himself for the evening. Then Nautch girls and mummers, which, so
     early in the morning, were out of place; and so on.

     Later we took a boat, came down the Ganges, and saw all the Benares
     people bathing--thousands. As you know, this is part of their
     religion. The water is very dirty, but they lap up quantities of
     it, as it is very ‘holy’; also there were to be seen the burning
     Ghats, where all the dead are cremated. There were five bodies
     burning, each on its own little pile of faggots; but the whole
     sight was most curious and I am going again this morning to have
     another look. Benares is a very prosperous city, as all the rich
     people from all parts of India come here to spend the end of their
     days. Any Hindoo who dies at Benares, and whose ashes are thrown
     into the Ganges, goes right bang up to heaven without stopping, no
     matter how great a rascal he may have been. I think the G.O.M.
     ought to come here; it is his best chance.

     In the evening the Maharajah gave a party to all the native
     notabilities of the city; great attendance of Baboos. Many of them
     speak English, and some appear to be very clever men, but I have
     had so much _pow-wow_ that I did not talk to them much. I
     discovered a great scandal here the evening of my arrival. I found
     the magistrate and police were impressing Bheesties, or
     water-carriers, for service in the Soudan; great consternation in
     the profession, and all the Bheesties were hiding and were being
     actively hunted up by the police. I investigated the matter,
     questioned the head of the police, and went and saw three of the
     victims for the Mahdi. The poor creatures fell at my feet in the
     dust, screaming not to go. I was very angry, and telegraphed it to
     Sir Alfred Lyall, the Lieutenant-Governor of the North-West
     Provinces, and an inquiry is being made which will, I hope, save
     these unfortunate persons from a service to them terrible. This
     little incident of our rule goes far to explain why we make no
     progress in popularity among the people.

Jaipur: March 3, 1884-5.

     We only remained at Delhi two days, as the hotel was piggy, and we
     moved to the Club at Agra, which is very comfortable, with
     excellent food and wine. This also gave us the opportunity of
     seeing the ‘Taj’ by moonlight, which we were not able to do last
     time, and which is an unequalled sight. Also we went to dine at the
     house of a native judge--a very interesting and clever man; we met
     a most curious collection of native notabilities. The natives are
     much pleased when one goes to their houses, for the officials out
     here hold themselves much too high and never seek any intercourse
     with the natives out of official lines; they are very foolish.

     We go on to-night to Baroda, where the Guicowar is organising a
     tiger hunt. I almost think I am getting a little tired of
     travelling, and shall be glad to find myself on board ship.



[Illustration: _Lord Randolph Churchill,








New York


_All rights reserved_



Set up and electrotyped. Published January, 1906.

Norwood Press
J.S. Cushing & Co.--Berwick & Smith Co.
Norwood, Mass., U.S.A.








Mr. Gladstone’s meditations--The Home Rule disclosures--Lord Randolph’s
Irish policy--Hopes of a Coalition--Lord Randolph’s programme--Lord
Salisbury’s reply--Resignation of Lord Carnarvon--Procedure
discussions--Rumour and report--Mr. Gladstone’s offer--The Queen’s
Speech--Lord Salisbury and Coercion--Divisions in the Cabinet--Meeting
of Parliament--The policy of the 26th of January--Mr. Jesse Collings’
Amendment--Defeat of the Conservative Government--Their record.....1




Mr. Gladstone’s Home Rule Administration--The reality of the
struggle--Mr. Chamberlain’s position--Lord Randolph and Home
Rule--Ulster, 1886--‘The Union party’--Waiting for the Bill--Mr.
Chamberlain resigns--Mr. Chamberlain and Lord Randolph--The great
debate--Mr. Chamberlain’s speech--The Whig peers--The Land Bill--The
dissentient Liberals--Mr. Chamberlain and Birmingham--The Foreign
Office meeting--A critical interlude--‘Never! Never!’--The Home Rule
Division--Parliament dissolved.....48




The General Election--‘An old man in a hurry’--Birmingham--Triumph
of the Unionist party--Formation of Lord Salisbury’s second
Administration--The lead in the House of Commons--Chancellor of the
Exchequer--The short session--Lord Randolph as leader--Conduct of
public business--Correspondence with Lord Hartington--End of the
session--Golden opinions--Foreign affairs--A grave divergence--Eastern
policy--The Dartford programme--‘Mr. Spencer’s journey’--Bradford--‘The
Grand Young Man’.....115




At the Treasury--Lord Randolph as an official--Secret Service money--The
Metropolitan coal and wine dues--Preparation of the Budget--Democratic
finance--The death duties--The inhabited house tax--New stamp
duties--Horses, cartridges and theatre tickets--The Sinking Fund--Large
reductions of taxation--A fivepenny income tax--The means for Local
Government--The Budget in the Cabinet--A silence.....179




Lord Randolph Churchill’s resignation announced--Consideration of rival
forces and principles in the Conservative party--The conflict in the
Cabinet--Various differences--Retrenchment--The Army Estimates--The
Prime Minister’s choice--Windsor Castle--Letter of Resignation--Lord
Salisbury’s reply--Publication of the news--General reflections




A private member--Mr. Chamberlain’s letters--Outcry against Lord
Randolph Churchill--Lord Salisbury and Lord Hartington--Failure
of a coalition--Protracted Cabinet crisis--A New Year’s Day
letter--Explanation to the Queen--Mr. Jennings--Mr. Goschen--Death of
Lord Iddesleigh--The Government reconstituted--Final correspondence with
Lord Salisbury--The two courses--Meeting of Parliament--Lord Randolph’s
statement--Algiers and Italy--Public results of Lord Randolph’s
resignation--Displeasure of the Conservative party.....251




Difficulties of an ex-Minister--Lord Randolph’s course--Mr.
Goschen’s Budget--The Army and Navy Committee--Economy and
efficiency--Departmental mismanagement--Wolverhampton speech--The
Hartington Commission--Effect of Lord Randolph’s agitation--Lord
Randolph abandons Fair Trade.....302




Ireland still--The Liberal Unionists--Coercion--Lord Randolph Churchill
and Mr. Chamberlain--Dream of a central party--Difficulties of
co-operation--A severance--Correspondence with Lord Hartington--Weakness
of the Government--Irish educational schemes--Lord Randolph in
Russia--His conversation with the Czar.....334




Irish Local Government--A disregarded pledge--Suakin--Vacancy at
Birmingham--Mr. Chamberlain’s attitude--Mr. Jennings’ account--Lord
Randolph withdraws--Disappointment of Birmingham Conservatives--Mr.
Balfour’s intervention--Correspondence with Mr. Chamberlain--Royal
grants--Speeches in the Midlands--‘Mr. Podsnap’--Hostility of the
Conservative party.....370




The Pigott letter--Action of the Government--Lord Randolph’s
warning--The forgery exposed--Report of the Special Commission--Mr.
Jennings’ amendment--Lord Randolph’s speech--Mr. Chamberlain
replies--Mr. Jennings offended--Wrath of the Conservative
party--Estrangement from Mr. Jennings--Tendency of Lord Randolph
Churchill’s later views--Ministerial discredit--Lord Randolph on the
turf--At home and abroad--Barren years--Loyalty to the Conservative
party--Expedition to Mashonaland--Lion-hunting--Mr. Balfour becomes
Leader of the House of Commons.....405




A new situation--General Election of 1892--Lord Randolph
unopposed--Friendly dispositions of Conservative leaders--Lord
Randolph rejoins their councils--Speech on the Home Rule Bill--Fatal
symptoms--His last success--Correspondence with FitzGibbon--Riot
in the House of Commons--Increasing infirmities--A desperate
campaign--Kissingen--Meeting with Bismarck--Preparations for a long
journey--The end.....453


V. TWO ELECTION ADDRESSES, 1886 AND 1892.....491









1. LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL, 1886 (_Photogravure_)....._Frontispiece_



3. THE GRAND YOUNG MAN (_Cartoon from ‘Punch’_).....140

4. LETTER FROM QUEEN VICTORIA (_facsimile_).....154


6. BELLEROPHON JUNIOR (_Cartoon from ‘Punch’_).....184

7. LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL’S BUDGET (_facsimile_).....192

8. LADY RANDOLPH CHURCHILL (_from a drawing by John S. Sargent_).....438



     ‘When it was said that the noble lord, the member for Paddington,
     had not declared a policy, he pointed, and he was justified in
     pointing, not to a sentence, nor even to a phrase, but to a date,
     and he said, “Our policy is the 26th of January.”’--_Speech of Mr.
     Gladstone, Second Reading Government of Ireland Bill, May 10,

According to Mr. Morley, the month that followed the General Election
was passed by Mr. Gladstone ‘in depth of meditation.’ The questions
which he revolved were vast and grave. Important and even vital factors
in their decision were hid from him. He saw that the Liberal party was
ripe for schism. He faced the united demand of Nationalist Ireland. He
knew that the balance of power was held by Mr. Parnell. But he could not
know whether the Government would meet Parliament or not; whether they
wanted to be dismissed or not; whether they would seek to gain Whig and
Liberal support, or would try to preserve the combination which had
placed them in power; nor what, in the last alternative, was the Irish
policy Ministers would be prepared to offer or parties disposed to
accept. Yet time was short and the country waited tip-toe on his

The suspense was not prolonged. The results of the elections could not
be estimated till after November 30 and were not determined until
another week had passed. But on December 17, after ten days of
whisperings and rumour, a public announcement of his Home Rule scheme,
apparently authentic in character and circumstantial in detail, appeared
simultaneously in Liberal and Conservative papers. Mr. Gladstone was
prompt to repudiate, as a mere ‘speculation’ upon his opinions, this
premature and unfortunate disclosure. But the next day he was writing to
Lord Hartington, who had asked for explanations, a frank and full
account of his ‘opinions and ideas,’ which shows how closely newspaper
assertion corresponded with the workings of his mind. The process by
which his conversion was effected, has been at length laid bare. His
internal loathing of the Coercive measures he had been forced to impose
during the past five years; his suspicion and entire misconception of
the cold-blooded manœvres by which his Government had been
overturned; his hope of repairing, remoulding and consolidating the
great party instrument which he had directed so long; the desire of an
‘old Parliamentary hand’ to win the game; the dream of a sun-lit
Ireland, loyal because it was free, prosperous and privileged because it
was loyal--the crowning glory of an old man’s life--all find their place
in that immense decision. And then the whole mass of resolve,
ponderously advancing, drawing into its movement all that learning and
fancy could supply, gathering in its progress the growing momentum of
enthusiasm, wrenching and razing all barriers from its path, was finally
precipitated like an avalanche upon a startled world! All has been set
forth. What communications Mr. Gladstone made to his colleagues; how he
addressed himself to Lord Granville, to Lord Spencer, to Lord
Hartington, to Mr. Chamberlain; and how he was variously met, have now
become matters of published fact. An authoritative analysis of the
workings of his mind has been published and may be checked or extended
by a score of conversations, letters and chance remarks, all carefully
recorded. Judgment may be formed of the part he played, upon evidence
perhaps more full and accurate than attaches to any similar transaction.
But a veil of mystery and even suspicion still hangs over the inner
councils of Lord Salisbury’s Government. What were the leaders of the
Conservative party thinking about during these anxious weeks? What plans
did they resolve, what difficulties did they face within the secrecy of
the Cabinet? Their final decision was declared on January 26. But what
alternatives were they weighing meanwhile in conclave or consultation?
How far were they prepared to go in satisfaction of Irish demands? What
purpose lay behind Lord Randolph Churchill’s silence at Sheffield or
lurked in Lord Carnarvon’s ‘empty house’? Upon these much-disputed
matters it may now be possible to cast some light.

Lord Randolph’s view of the policy which the Conservative party should
pursue in Irish matters is described with the utmost candour in a
letter which he had written to a friend of mark before the result of
the General Election was known:--


2 Connaught Place, W.: October 14, 1885.

     I have no objection to Sexton and Healy knowing the deliberate
     intention of the Government on the subject of Irish Education; but
     it would not do for the letter or the communication to be made
     public, for the effect of publicity on Lancashire might be
     unfortunate and might cripple the good intentions of Her Majesty’s

...It is the Bishops entirely to whom I look in the future to turn,
     to mitigate or to postpone the Home Rule onslaught. Let us only be
     enabled to occupy a year with the Education Question. By that time,
     I am certain, Parnell’s party will have become seriously
     disintegrated. Personal jealousies, Government influences, Davitt
     and Fenian intrigues will all be at work on the devoted band of
     eighty: and the Bishops, who in their hearts hate Parnell and don’t
     care a scrap for Home Rule, having safely acquired control of Irish
     education, will, according to my calculation, complete the rout.

     That is my policy, and I know that it is sound and good, and the
     only possible Tory policy. It hinges on acquiring the confidence
     and friendship of the Bishops; but if you go in for their mortal
     foes the Jesuits on the one hand, and their mortal foes the
     anti-clerical Nationalists on the other, for the purpose of
     humiliating and beating back Archbishop Walsh and his colleagues,
     this policy will be shattered.... My own opinion is that if you
     approach the Archbishop through proper channels, if you deal in
     friendly remonstrances and in attractive assurances, ... the
     tremendous force of the Catholic Church will gradually and
     insensibly come over to the side of the Tory party.

Lord Randolph furthermore openly avowed and defended his Irish policy
during these months--in its general scope--on March 4, 1886, in the
House of Commons _after_ the election and after the accession to power
of Mr. Gladstone’s Home Rule Government. ‘I am not going to deny,’ he
said, ‘that at one time I had an idea that the Tory party might
co-operate with the Irish party. I have often worked with Irish members.
I hope to be able to do so again. I have never concealed in the last
Parliament that I thought it possible that on many Irish subjects the
Tory party might co-operate with the Irish National party.... It always
appeared to me that the Tory party were well qualified to deal with many
questions of Irish interest in a manner agreeable to the Irish people
and not in the least dangerous to the general welfare of the British
Empire. I particularly allude to the question of education and to the
question of the land. Judging by past history, I imagined that the cry
of Repeal might be raised as strongly as ever and that Irish members
might say again: “Live or die, sink or swim, we go for Repeal.” Still, I
imagined that might merely turn out to be a sentiment for keeping
together a powerful political party; and that, if Repeal were shown to
be absolutely against the will of the Imperial Parliament, the policy of
Repeal would be dropped.’ Whatever may be thought of the merits of such
a policy, there is nothing disingenuous or obscure either in its private
handling or its public declaration.

Lord Randolph’s Irish opinions were not altered by the verdict of the
constituencies. His natural delight at the Tory victories in the
boroughs led him to form a more sanguine estimate of the mood of the
counties than the event sustained. But even his highest anticipations
did not place the number of Conservative members at more than 300; and
his mind turned at once towards a Whig coalition:--

          _Lord Randolph Churchill to Lord Salisbury._

2 Connaught Place, W.: November 29, 1885.

     Dear Lord Salisbury,-- ...If we have any luck this week we ought to
     number 300 in the House.

     I saw Sir Erskine May yesterday--very grumpy. He said the first
     trial of strength would be a vote of want of confidence. I said
     that did not follow; that the first trial of strength in a new
     Parliament often took place on the election of a Speaker. He said:
     ‘What, oppose Mr. Peel!’ I intimated that, though we were very fond
     of Peel, he had no prescriptive possession of the Chair, and that
     his election would require something in the nature of a _quid pro
     quo_. I also gave him to understand that we have quarrelled with
     the Irish, and, having put these and various other false ideas into
     his head, left him in a state of exasperated perplexity.

     I hope you may be a little in town next week, for the future seems
     to require the most careful consideration before any policy is
     submitted to the collective luminosity of the Cabinet. I think you
     ought to negotiate with the other side, giving Hartington India,
     Goschen Home Office and Rosebery Scotch Office. You will never get
     Whig support as long as I am in the Government, and Whig support
     you must have. I should like to contribute effectively to your
     getting it, for my curiosity as to the internal and mysterious
     mechanism of Government is completely satiated. Very indifferent
     health makes me look forward irresistibly to idleness regained. If
     you wanted another bait for the Whigs, ----’s elevation to the
     Lords might supply it, for I hear on the very best authority that
     chaos and the ---- Office are at present indistinguishable. I
     believe that by some process of this kind you could institute a
     Government which would keep the Parnellites and Radicals at bay for
     years; and, after all, that is what must be arrived at.

Yours most sincerely,

Lord Salisbury’s answer reads strangely in the light of after-events:--

November 30, 1885.

     My dear Randolph,--I am afraid your patriotic offer of giving place
     to Goschen for the sake of making a coalition will be of little
     avail. They hate me as much as they hate you--and if retirements
     are required for the sake of repose and Whig combinations I shall
     claim to retire with you in both respects.

     The time for a coalition has not come yet--nor will, so long as the
     G.O.M. is to the fore. But I don’t expect we shall be long in
     office this time. I must try and see you some time this week about
     our future measures. Are you staying in town? I have not yet had
     time to read your Burma papers, but will send them you back, with
     any comments that occur to me, when I have.

Yours very truly,

Lord Randolph, however, held tenaciously to the idea of a coalition. The
fact that the accession of Lord Hartington to the leadership of the
House would block his own path effectively and that the acceptance of
office by important Whig Ministers must diminish his personal influence,
does not seem to have affected this self-seeking and unscrupulous man;
and about December 4 or 5 he sent the Prime Minister a formal and
elaborate account of his views, which is for many reasons worthy of


     Assume that the supporters of the Government will number 300.

     Under ordinary circumstances Government would probably resign at
     once, there being a clear majority of seventy against them. The 370
     opponents of the Government are so singularly disunited that there
     is no reason to suppose the Government need be placed in a
     minority, and there is every reason to suppose that no other
     Government could command so large a following as the present


     It is almost certain that there are in this number some twenty-five
     members who without doing any violence to their political
     principles would habitually support the Government. It may be
     reckoned that 200 will follow the lead of Lord Hartington as long
     as he remains leader of the Liberal Opposition. The party more
     immediately under the control of Messrs. Chamberlain, Dilke, Morley
     and Labouchere may be estimated at sixty-five votes. There remain
     eighty Nationalists under the leadership of Mr. Parnell.

     It is certain that no Vote of Censure or of Want of Confidence will
     be moved at the assembling of Parliament because--

     1. Neither Mr. Gladstone, nor Lord Hartington, nor Mr. Chamberlain
     could form a Government.

     2. Without the support of the eighty Nationalists a Vote, of
     Censure or otherwise, would be heavily defeated.

     3. The support of the Nationalists would demand a heavier price
     than any large portion of the Liberal party would be prepared to

     On what occasion can a trial of party strength arise?

     1. On the election of Speaker.

     2. On the question of Parliamentary Oath.


     The Irish are hostile to Mr. Peel.

     The Whigs equally strong in his favour. The Government can displace
     Mr. Peel with the help of the Irish. The Whigs will be bitterly
     alienated. On the other hand, the Government can support Mr. Peel
     and carry his election. The Irish will find their revenge in voting
     for Mr. Bradlaugh. The triumph of Mr. Bradlaugh would be a shaking
     blow to the Tory Government and party. The alienation of the Whigs
     by the defeat of Mr. Peel would certainly in the course of a few
     weeks or months destroy the Government.

     Which course to choose?

     Seeing that the Irish support can never be other than momentary,
     seeing that by no possibility can [that] support be clothed with
     any elements of stability, seeing that the alienation of the Whigs
     from the Government must lead to great evils, seeing that Whig
     support, if attained, is honourable, stable, and natural, in my own
     mind I pronounce for the re-election of Mr. Peel and for running
     the risk of the triumph for Mr. Bradlaugh.

     We have proceeded thus far.

     The Whigs will not be displeased by the election of Mr. Peel. The
     Whigs will not be indignant at the seating of Mr. Bradlaugh. Is it
     possible to convert this negative frame of mind of non-hostility
     into one of positive co-operation?

     Three methods suggest themselves.

     1. The offer of places in the Government.

     2. The production of a large, genuine and liberal programme.

     3. After such a programme has been produced and proceeded with
     satisfactorily, the renewal of the offer of places in the

     I think that all these three methods should be honestly tried in
     their order. The first must be done with liberality. The leading
     members of the Whig party who should be offered places in the
     Government are Lord Hartington (with the lead of the House of
     Commons), Mr. Goschen, Lord Rosebery and Sir Henry James.

     I do not imagine that these offers would be now accepted.
     Nevertheless the fact that they have been honestly made may before
     long be a powerful weapon in the hands of Lord Salisbury, either as
     influencing his own party or the public. The making of these offers
     in a generous spirit cannot possibly do harm.

          II. THE PROGRAMME.

     On foreign questions there does not at present appear to be any
     difference of opinion, nor on colonial questions. Attention may be
     concentrated on domestic questions. I suggest that the programme
     should include:--

     1. Parliamentary Procedure                  }
     2. Departmental Reform                      } Executive.
     3. Indian Inquiries. (H. of C. Committee)   }
     4. Education Inquiries. (Royal Commission)  }
     5. Local Government                         }
     6. Land Laws                                } Legislative.
     7. University (Ireland) Education           }
     8. Codification of Criminal Law             }


     The following measures might be informally submitted to the leaders
     of parties in the House of Commons:--

     _A. The Resort to Autumn Sessions._--The session at present is too
     long and too short--too long for a consecutive session; too short
     for the decent and efficient transaction of executive, financial
     and legislative business.

     If this is granted, the following reform suggests itself:--

     That Parliament should meet not later than the first week in
     February, and, with the usual Easter and Whitsuntide holidays,
     should continue in session not later than the first week in
     August. That an adjournment should then take place to a period not
     later than the second week in October, and that the annual session
     should formally be brought to an end by prorogation not later than
     the first week in December.

     _B. The Alteration of Hours of Business._--That the House should
     meet four days in the week at 1 P.M., adjourn from 7 P.M., and rise
     at midnight.

     _C. Clôture._--That, in addition to existing regulations, it shall
     be within the right of the Minister to demand a division on the
     subject under discussion a quarter of an hour before the
     adjournment of or rising of the House.

     _D. Questions._--That the Speaker should appoint a Committee of
     three, not being Privy Councillors, who shall decide what questions
     can be answered in the House, and which in the votes; and that no
     question shall be put without notice, other than explanatory
     questions, except by the leave of the House on the demand of 100

     _E. Adjournment, Motion for._--That the existing rule be altered,
     substituting the number 100 members for the present number 40.

     _F._ That Grand Committees deal with the report stage of any Bill
     referred, as well as with Committee stage; and that all Bills be
     referred to Grand Committees after second reading.

     _G._ That the bulk of private business relating to local
     development and local enterprise be transferred to local boards
     whose proceedings must be sanctioned by provisional orders.

     _Departmental Reform._--That Committees of the House of Commons be
     appointed to examine and report upon the constitution, staff, work
     performed, comparative cost of all public departments, with a view
     to the effecting of economies and the rearrangement of salaries,
     promotions and retirements.

     _Indian Inquiry._--This has been agreed upon.

     _Elementary Education Inquiry._--This requires no further notice.


     _Local Government._--Two essentials: (1) purely popular election by
     ratepayers; (2) large and liberal measure of executive and local
     legislative powers. Workhouse management need not be touched, nor
     education arrangements. But all Quarter Sessions business, all
     sanitary matters, registration of votes, survey of land and
     registration of titles should be among the duties of the local
     boards. Also powers might be given, as in Ireland, to local boards
     to advance money on security of rates for purchasers of small
     holdings and allotments.


     1. Abolition of primogeniture in cases of intestacy.

     2. Compulsory registration of title.

     3. Enfranchisement of future leaseholds.

     4. Enfranchisement of copyholders.

     5. Enfranchisement of lands held in mortmain.


     This should take the form of--

     1. The transference of Cork College to a Catholic board of

     2. The endowment of the Catholic University College in Dublin.

     3. The establishment of a Catholic College in Armagh.

     4. The transference of the Belfast College to a Presbyterian board
     of management.


     This can never be attained if it is left to the action of
     Parliament entirely. The procedure suggested is:--

     1. The proposing and carrying of certain general resolutions
     through both Houses.

     2. The appointment by statute of jurisconsults with full power
     under aforesaid resolutions to codify; and

     3. That the code as drawn shall, after lying on the table of either
     House for six months, become the criminal code of the United

     This, as above, is my second method for attracting Parliamentary
     support from the ranks of the nominal Opposition. Should this
     programme, or one more or less closely analogous to it, be
     introduced, generously received by the bulk of the Whigs and
     honestly supported, a further offer of places in the Government
     might with advantage be made.

     ‘The success of foregoing,’ concluded Lord Randolph, ‘turns upon
     Ireland. I assume two facts:

     ‘1. That Coercion is impossible now.

     ‘2. That anything in the nature of an Irish Parliament is
     impossible always.

     ‘_Similarity_ of treatment between England and Ireland in respect
     of Local Government:

     ‘_Liberality_ of grants from Treasury towards Irish objects:

     ‘_Concession_ to the Roman Catholic hierarchy on education

     ‘These are the main lines of a policy towards Ireland which will
     secure a great amount of Parliamentary and public concurrence and
     will, if vigorously and boldly followed, bring about inevitably the
     disintegration of Mr. Parnell’s party. The great size of this party
     is its chief danger. Its members are open to various
     influences--jealousy of each other and of Parnell; want of funds;
     Ministerial influences, priestly influences; and last, but not
     least, the capricious, unstable and to some extent treacherous
     character of the Irish nature. If that party is boldly dealt with
     at the outset it will soon dissolve. I do not consider that the cry
     for an Irish Parliament now need be more dangerous than was the cry
     for Repeal in the days of O’Connell. As that latter danger
     altogether disappeared, so may this present danger if the
     Government is strong in Parliament, undivided in council and
     unwavering in action.

     ‘I wish to express my firm conviction and belief that if the
     general spirit of this Memorandum could be acted up to, the
     Queen’s Government might well be carried on with dignity and
     efficiency, and the Parliament will have every reasonable chance of
     running a normal course and of being the means of benefit to the

Lord Salisbury did not answer until the 9th:--


Foreign Office: December 9, 1885.

     My dear Randolph,--Lord Melbourne used to say that if you only
     would let a letter alone, it would answer itself. Your very
     interesting memorandum is not quite in that condition: but some
     important parts of it have been answered by events. After
     Hartington’s speech of Saturday, there can be no longer any
     question of offering office _just yet_ to the Moderate Liberals;
     and, therefore, no question of your or my resigning to facilitate
     that operation. He evidently said what he did to prevent his
     friends from suspecting him of any intention, under any
     circumstances, to join us. His resolves are not eternal, but he has
     effectually debarred himself from any such course until some little
     time has passed or something new has happened. Then, again, I don’t
     think the Irish will expect us to upset the Speaker; but, if they
     did, I quite agree with you in thinking that it would be poor
     policy to do so.

     But we shall have to make a Queen’s Speech--at least, I can hardly
     imagine the Cabinet resolving on an immediate resignation. It would
     be deliberately excusing the other side from the necessity of
     showing their hand.

     In making this Queen’s Speech I entirely agree that our leaning
     must be to the Moderate Liberals, and that we can have nothing to
     do with any advances towards the Home Rulers. The latter course
     would be contrary to our convictions and our pledges, and would be
     quite fatal to the cohesion of our party.

     But in leaning towards the Moderate Liberals we should take note
     of the fact that the moment for bargaining with them has not yet
     come. Whenever it does come, two results will follow: (1) Our own
     people will recognise the political necessity of admitting a
     somewhat stronger ingredient of Liberal policy into our measures,
     and (2) the Moderate Liberals will require some such concession as
     a condition of their joining us and as a proof to their own friends
     that they have not been guilty of any _apostasy_ in so doing. That
     being so, the extra tinge of Liberalism in our policy will be part
     of the bargain when it comes, and must not be given away before
     that time comes. If we are too free with our cash now, we shall
     have no money to go to market with when the market is open.

     In this view I should offer one or two suggestions in revisal of
     your programme. The abolition of primogeniture is in itself of no
     importance except on strategic grounds--it is not worth the trouble
     of resistance. But it is a bit of a flag. The concession would be
     distasteful to a certain number of our people now, and it might be
     acceptable as a wedding-present to the Moderate Liberals whenever
     the Conservative party leads them to the altar. I would not proffer
     it, therefore, now; though, if carried against us, I should make no
     serious fight over it.

     The proposition of Leasehold Enfranchisement in the future requires
     more thrashing out. I doubt whether it would effect your object,
     which is that more occupiers should be owners of the houses they
     inhabit. I quite agree in the object. I should be more disposed to
     follow the Irish precedent and give local authorities the power of
     advancing (on the security of the tenement) some large fraction of
     its value at low interest, limiting the advance to cases where the
     occupier was owner of the whole lease--and, of course, confining it
     to voluntary purchase. This for existing leaseholds. For future
     buildings the most effective plan would be to allow exemption from
     the rates and house tax for five years in all cases where the
     occupier was also the owner. (3) With respect to Local Government,
     I admit that a general ratepaying franchise may be difficult to
     avoid; and, on the whole, I think the Local Government Bill should
     be mentioned in the Queen’s Speech. But I should mention in the
     same sentence, and as part of the same subject, a London Local
     Government Bill, which might be drawn in a very popular manner. The
     multiplication of municipalities--say eight or nine--would please
     the local leaders, who hope to figure in them and become Mayors. I
     should introduce this before the big Local Government Bill. If we
     are turned out, we shall be able to fight the question better for
     not having shown our hand.

     I should be disposed--subject to counsel--to introduce a Church
     Reform Bill giving an easy method for getting rid of criminous
     clergy, and perhaps also of incompetent clergy; but that craves
     wary walking. Then a Bill for making the sale of all corporate land
     easy; a Bill to enable marriages to take place in Dissenting
     chapels without the presence of the Registrar; and, perhaps, a Bill
     for dealing with the Scotch marriage law, but that is doubtful.
     With respect to the other articles of your programme--such as
     Parliamentary Procedure, Criminal Code, and Roman Catholic
     Education--I need say nothing, because I generally agree with you.
     I have inflicted on you an abominably long letter, but I thought it
     better to put my thoughts before you....

Lord Randolph replied:--

India Office: December 9, 1885.

     Dear Lord Salisbury,--It will be a great pleasure to me to wait
     upon you to-morrow afternoon at three o’clock at the Foreign

     It is very kind of you writing to me at such length; but as this
     will require no answer, other than what you may give in
     conversation to-morrow, I venture a few additional observations.

     As to offer of places to Whigs.

     I can imagine a crisis supervening, to deal with which might
     require heroic measures and a great appeal to your followers in
     both Houses of Parliament for confidence and support. Under such
     circumstances the fact of the offer having been made and sulkily or
     arrogantly refused would be of great moral value to you. A proper
     recognition of two leading features of the situation seems to me
     almost to compel you to make an attempt _now_ at such a
     negotiation, even though you may be certain that it will fail:--

     1. The fact that your Government is in a minority in the House of

     2. The division in the Opposition, so glaringly and so recently
     shown by Mr. Chamberlain’s speech at Leicester and Lord
     Hartington’s in Derbyshire.

     I submit with great deference that, your task being to carry on the
     Queen’s Government, it is incumbent upon you to take advantage of
     every apparent circumstance which may be made to contribute to the
     efficiency and solidity of the Government; nor ought you, under
     such grave conditions as now exist, to shrink unduly from any
     reasonable sacrifice of friends or colleagues which might enable
     you honourably to attain the end in view. Having put your hand to
     the plough under the uninviting conditions of June last, it is
     hardly possible to look back, or to act as if the responsibility
     for Government was not upon you.

     It is very pleasant to me to learn that my suggestions with regard
     to Parliamentary Procedure, R.C. University Ireland, Education, and
     criminal law reform and codification meet with your general
     concurrence; and that being so, I allow myself to risk a few
     arguments which seem to me to militate somewhat against the views
     expressed in your letter on the question of the programme
     generally, and in particular the questions of Local Government and
     Land Law reform.

     If I apprehended your meaning rightly, you would make your
     programme rather rigidly orthodox Tory, with a view of expanding it
     into Whig heresy when the time for a fusion should seem to have
     arrived. Now I hold very strongly that in that case the moment for
     a fusion will never arrive. If the Newport programme is not at once
     presented to Parliament in a large and generous measure, the Whigs
     will be justified in their contention that it did not signify real
     progressive legislation--that they were right and discriminating
     when they mocked at it. That has been Lord Hartington’s cry all
     along, which he reiterated with emphasis last Saturday. The
     difference between the Newport programme and the concrete portions
     of the Midlothian address was not easy to be distinguished, and I
     doubt its existence. That being so, if you produce the former,
     without timidity, skimping, paring, or scraping, and if the Whigs
     turn you out, obviously their motive is office, and office only.
     The country will not be deceived or edified by such purely party
     manœuvres. And as by your administrative record, so with your
     legislative programme, you will have laid up for yourself treasure
     in the constituencies, you will have cast bread upon the waters
     which you will find after many days.

     This is indubitably the lesson of 1835.

     I do urge as strongly as I may that you should decide in your mind
     how far you can go in legislation--not under Whig pressure, not
     with a view solely of gaining Whigs, but solely with a view of what
     appears to be best for the country without infringement of any
     great Tory principle; and that, having so decided, you should offer
     the result to Parliament without delay, without stint, without
     qualification, and with all confidence. It is, I am convinced, by
     ‘showing your hand,’ by showing how many good trumps you have in
     it, that you will gain support--if not immediate, at any rate in
     the near future. It is by hiding your hand--by giving cause for the
     belief, or ground for the accusation, that it is a poor hand and
     that you have no trumps, that you will lose support now and make it
     most difficult to gain later. The boroughs have gone for you so
     strongly because they believe in the fulness and genuineness of the
     Newport programme. Our task should be to keep the boroughs, as
     well as to win the counties; this can only be done by an active
     progressive--I risk the word, a democratic--policy, a casting-off
     and a burning of those old, worn-out aristocratic and class
     garments from which the Derby-Dizzy lot, with their following of
     county families, could never, or never cared to, extricate

     This being so, in my mind, I find the suggested postponement of
     rural Local Government a course open to the deepest suspicion; the
     preference given to London government an error in tactics of the
     largest kind. No one in the country, or in London either, cares a
     damn about a London municipality, nor would many municipalities
     attract them. But county government, involving as it does a
     redistribution and relief of burdens, to which every man of our
     party is deeply pledged, is without doubt anxiously expected by the
     constituencies, and will not brook delay. So I would say about land
     law reform. I am very sure that the feeling of the boroughs is in
     favour of extensive changes in our land system, on the ground that
     the labour in the towns is depreciated by agricultural migration,
     and that this latter is the effect of an antiquated land system.
     This, rightly or wrongly, is the notion in the manufacturing minds,
     and failure on our part to come up to their legitimate and
     reasonable expectations would produce incalculable disappointment
     and mortification.

     If you decide that the large constructive measures which the times
     seem to demand are beyond the capacity of the Tory party, or the
     scope of their political principles, though I should regret the
     decision I would accept it without demur. But in that case I would
     press upon you the advisability of prompt resignation, on the
     ground that the country had for the time decided that the function
     of the Tory party would be more usefully displayed in Opposition,
     in efforts purely critical, in attempts to amend Liberal
     legislation and moderate Liberal zeal. If you show your hand at
     all, show it fully and show a good one; but if you have no hand
     good enough for the game or the stakes, place the cards face
     downwards on the table, decline to play, and leave the Downing
     Street table. I cannot think there is any safe _via media_ between
     these two courses.

     Lastly, I will not conceal my repugnance to dealing with Church
     reform. Surely the Russell-Gurney-Disraeli Church legislation is a
     warning. The time of Parliament will be wasted in furious
     ecclesiastical differences, and votes will be lost on every side by
     the party responsible for the effort. The Public Worship Regulation
     Act was one of my first House of Commons experiences, and I cannot
     forget it. The Nonconformists, so powerful, will offer every
     opposition; and nothing will be gained except loss of time, of
     temper, and of strength. If those ornamental but, on the whole,
     rather useless and expensive Lords Spiritual care to justify their
     privileges by attempts at legislation, smile on them, beam on them,
     give them every encouragement for bringing the Lords Temporal into
     a devout and heavenly frame of mind. Some good may possibly issue
     from such a source, if such should be the will of Providence. But
     Church reform which is the product of a Cabinet checked and
     controlled by party Whips and guided by House of Commons lobbies is
     surely in its nature a monstrosity, possibly a profanity, certainly
     a farce.

     Please pardon me this long letter. I feel that my constant and
     lengthy epistolary communications to you may lead you to look
     forward to resignation of office as an immense relief, but I find
     my excuse in your kindness hitherto, and am

Yours most sincerely,

Ireland swiftly overclouded all other projects and puzzles which
Ministers might consider. It was late in July that Lord Carnarvon had
met Parnell. Four anxious months had passed and the Viceroy had now
arrived at definite conclusions. He saw with alarm that the National
League was strengthening and expanding every day. The fall in prices had
affected the payment of rents. Serious social and economic discontents
stimulated the increasing political excitement. Boycottings were
flagrant, pitiless and widespread. Alike by his convictions and his
public pledges he felt himself debarred from asking for special
legislation. Another policy forced itself upon him with crushing weight.
He declared that unless the Cabinet could move in the direction of Home
Rule he could not continue their servant. It became a question for the
Cabinet whether the retirement of Lord Carnarvon on the grounds stated
would be so heavy a blow to the Government and so injurious to their
main political position that, if he persisted, it would be better for
the Government to resign in a body, ostensibly as a consequence of the
election. Lord Salisbury desired his principal colleagues to express
their opinion upon Lord Carnarvon’s views and intentions.

          _Lord Randolph Churchill to Lord Salisbury._

December 10, 1885.

     Dear Lord S.,--I return you Lord Carnarvon’s memorandum, which was
     carefully considered by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Smith,
     and myself.

     We came to the conclusion that if the Lord-Lieutenant insists on
     the choice being made between the adoption of his policy and
     resignation, the latter course becomes compulsory on us. If we go
     out merely on the ground of our Parliamentary position, we remain
     for the purposes of opposition to Home Rule, as a party, _totus
     teres atque rotundus_; but if that blessed man sets the signal for
     concession flying, our party will go to pieces, as it did on the
     Irish Land Act. The only hope for the country is to keep this
     present Tory party well together; and unfortunately Lord Carnarvon
     has it once more in his power, as on two former occasions, to
     disintegrate, demoralise, and shatter.

     However, I wish to say for myself--and I feel pretty certain it
     will be the view of Sir M. Hicks-Beach and Mr. Smith--that,
     whatever course you may finally decide upon, I will gladly see it
     through to the best of my ability, no matter what may be the

Yours most sincerely,
R. S. C.

But Lord Salisbury preferred to face the consequences of the Carnarvon
resignation, whatever they might be. ‘The fact,’ he wrote (December 11),
‘that Gladstone is mad to take office, will force him into some line of
conduct which will be discreditable to him, and disastrous, if we do not
prematurely gratify his hunger. The Carnarvon incident is vexatious. I
hope he will be induced to stay with us till Parliament meets. But even
if he does not, I doubt if his retirement will produce any very serious
confusion. He will nominally retire on the ground of health or some
private reason. The truth may ooze out. But we shall not mend matters by
all retiring with him. The true reason will equally ooze out; and we
shall have proclaimed our own impotence very loudly.’

The Irish situation oppressed all minds and from every quarter doubt and
foreboding streamed in upon the Conservative leaders. Was it possible in
face of Mr. Parnell and his United Ireland, in face of Mr. Gladstone
and his ponderous meditations, in face of Lord Carnarvon and his open
sympathies, to remain utterly unyielding? Would it not be well to make
terms while time remained? Could not a joint conference of parties
arrive at some compromise in regard to Irish government? And if not, how
could the land be ruled? Everywhere during this month of December the
sands were shifting underneath men’s feet. Few were firm. Lord Randolph
Churchill was a rock.

          _Lord Randolph Churchill to Lord Chief Justice

_Very Confidential._

December 7, 1885.

     My dear Chief Justice,--I am very grateful to you for your letter,
     which I have sent on to Lord Salisbury for his consideration.

     In a memorandum on the situation which I submitted to the Prime
     Minister a week ago, I laid down as an axiom that with regard to
     any policy towards Ireland in the nature of, or containing an Irish
     Parliament, the attitude of the Tory Party could only be an
     absolutely ‘non possumus’ one. You suggest a Committee of leading
     men on both sides to inquire, and you base the suggestion on the
     proceedings which took place with regard to the Reform Bill.

     Two objections seem to me to arise.

     1. With regard to Irish Government the Ministers cannot yet with
     honour or even decency shift the responsibility from off their
     shoulders on to Parliament. In so great a matter surely Ministers
     must take the lead and state their policy or abdicate.

     2. The precedent of the proceedings on the Reform Bill does not
     yet, it seems to me, apply at all closely. Those proceedings were
     taken to extricate Government, Opposition, and Parliament generally
     from a deadlock and to avert a great constitutional crisis. In
     this matter of Irish Government neither deadlock nor crisis has yet
     arisen. In the event of their arising, the co-operation of parties
     may well be resorted to, but this machinery would, I think, be
     spoilt by premature recourse to it.

     This may happen: Mr. Gladstone may persuade his colleagues and
     party to a policy which Parnell might think too good to refuse
     absolutely. The policy might be embodied in an amendment to the
     Address and carried against the Government by a large majority.
     What should be the course of Government under such circumstances?

     To resign or to dissolve?

     I should be strongly in favour of the latter if Royal sanction
     could be obtained. If the Government resign, Gladstone succeeds in
     forming an Administration and carrying a Bill through the Commons
     by great majorities. Then will crop up again the eternal question
     of resistance of the House of Lords to the will of the people, and
     an appeal to the people on that ground will cause the essential
     question of Repeal or no Repeal to be obscured or perhaps
     altogether lost sight of. By dissolution, a clear issue is
     presented to English and Scotch constituencies, and the House of
     Lords is kept out of the battle.

     Then there is no reason, it is true, why the agricultural
     labourers, revolving many things in their anxious minds, should not
     gladly agree to Repeal in order to obtain three acres and a cow,
     and therefore no great change in the state of parties might result,
     and the Tories would be definitely and decisively beaten on a
     distinct issue. Well, what then? We should have fought our battle
     as well as it could be fought, and the Repeal of the Union would be
     the work of the people, the responsibility resting absolutely upon
     them and not upon us.

     This is my own way of looking at the situation, and why I adhere to
     the policy, which you think will be ‘brushed aside,’ of changes in
     County Government, &c. That policy may fail, but at any rate it is
     a Conservative policy; the surrender to Home Rule, no matter how
     you disguise it, is the reverse of conservative as you will be the
     first to admit. The Disraeli epoch of constant metamorphoses of
     principles and party has passed away.

     Radical work must be done by Radical artists; thus less mischief
     will arise.

Yours sincerely,

‘I cannot say,’ wrote Lord Salisbury, to whom this correspondence had
been referred (December 6), ‘how heartily I agree in the tone of your
letter to Morris.’

The whole political situation was considered at a Cabinet Council on the
16th. Decision was taken to go on with the Government, to meet
Parliament and await results. The outlines of the Queen’s Speech were
considered. Lord Randolph was most anxious to assign a foremost place to
the reform of Parliamentary Procedure, as described in his memorandum.
The Cabinet, having listened to long speeches on Irish matters, were
tired and disposed to be irritable. The subject was one with which they
were very familiar and on which many of them had already committed
themselves. One Minister whom Lord Randolph thought he had conciliated
the day before, pronounced absolutely against it. Lord Salisbury
practised what he called ‘the decorous reserve proper to one who had
been so long out of the House of Commons.’ The whole question was
abruptly postponed. This defeat filled Lord Randolph with mortification.
He loved his own plans ardently. He cared too much for the objects at
stake to be skilful in personal diplomacy. He could fight; he could
lead; he could drive; but a stolid junta of Cabinet Ministers--‘holy
men,’ as he called them, vexed his soul. He was grievously disappointed
at what he took to be the summary dismissal of a most important subject.
He wrote in deep despondency to the Prime Minister. Lord Salisbury
consoled him in a letter almost affectionate in character. All would
come right if he drafted his proposals and chose a better opportunity of
taking the sense of the Cabinet upon them.

          _Lord Randolph Churchill to Lord Salisbury._

India Office: December 17, 1885.

     Dear Lord Salisbury,--I am very grateful for your kind letter, and
     intensely relieved to learn that you consider the question of
     giving to Procedure a prominent place in our programme as still
     quite open. I shall do as you tell me, and place on paper
     elaborated proposals for the more efficient and speedy transaction
     of ‘business.’ You are, I know, quite right in blaming me for
     having been precipitate on Tuesday. I cannot help it, and shall
     never be able to attain to that beatific state of chronic
     deliberation which is the peculiarity of * * *, * * * & Co., and
     also of the Turk.

     This I add--that Procedure reform does not necessarily entail rapid
     legislation. ‘Business’ includes Estimates, Budget, and Supply. It
     is the transaction of this that I am more especially anxious to
     promote. Further, assuming that owing to some miraculous exercise
     of superhuman control H.M. Government remained in office, I would
     suggest that there might be very considerable tactical advantages
     from not plunging immediately into legislation, and from gaining
     time by setting the House of Commons to work on a difficult
     question in the consideration and settlement of which no issue of
     party or of confidence need arise.

Yours most sincerely,

The Cabinet did not meet again until the New Year, but Christmas was not
a season of unbroken peace and good-will to Her Majesty’s Ministers. Not
one, however experienced and imaginative, could penetrate the obscurity
of the future or calculate the crisis to which events were hurrying. The
election had left them in a large minority. The Government of Ireland
was rapidly passing into the hands of the National League. The Viceroy
had resigned. Mr. Gladstone was revolving vast and unfathomable schemes.
Parliament was to meet for regular business upon January 21. Meanwhile
the days were disturbed by every kind of rumour and alarm. Lord Randolph
Churchill, who always cultivated the acquaintance of clever men
irrespective of their political opinion, had friends in every camp and
possessed many special channels of information. All he could gather he
wrote to his chief:--

          _Lord Randolph Churchill to Lord Salisbury._

India Office: December 22, 1885.

... Now I have a great deal to tell you.

     Labouchere came to see me this morning. He asked me our intentions.
     I gave him the following information. I can rely upon him: (1) That
     there would be no motion for adjournment after the 12th, but that
     business would be immediately proceeded with after three or four
     days’ swearing. On this he said that, if we liked to go out on a
     motion for adjournment, he thought the other side might
     accommodate us. I told him that such an ineffably silly idea had
     never entered our heads. Then he told me that he had been asked
     whether he could ascertain if a certain statement as to a Tory Home
     Rule measure which appeared recently in the _Dublin Daily Express_
     was Ashbourne’s measure, and if the Tories meant to say ‘Aye’ or
     ‘No’ to Home Rule; to which I replied that it had never crossed the
     mind of any member of the Government to dream even of departing
     from an absolute unqualified ‘No,’ and that all statements as to
     Ashbourne’s plan were merely the folly of the _Daily News_. Then I
     was very much upset, for he proceeded to tell me that on Sunday
     week last Lord Carnarvon had met Justin McCarthy, and had confided
     to him that he was in favour of Home Rule in some shape, but that
     his colleagues and his party were not ready, and asked whether
     Justin McCarthy’s party would agree to an inquiry, which he thought
     there was a chance of the Government agreeing to, and which would
     educate his colleagues and his party if granted and carried
     through. I was consternated, but replied that such a statement was
     an obvious lie; but, between ourselves, I fear it is not--perhaps
     not even an exaggeration or a misrepresentation. Justin McCarthy is
     on the staff of the _Daily News_. Labouchere is one of the
     proprietors, and I cannot imagine any motive for his inventing such
     a statement. If it is true, Lord Carnarvon has played the devil.
     Then I told Labouchere that if the G.O.M. announced any Home Rule
     project, or indicated any such project, and by so doing placed the
     Government in a minority, resignation was not the only course; that
     there was another alternative which might even be announced in
     debate, and the announcement of which might complete the
     squandering of the Liberal party, and that his friend at Hawarden
     had better not omit altogether that card from his calculations as
     to his opponents’ hands. Lastly, I communicated to him that, even
     if the Government went out and Gladstone introduced a Home Rule
     Bill, I should not hesitate, if other circumstances were
     favourable, to agitate Ulster even to resistance beyond
     constitutional limits; that Lancashire would follow Ulster, and
     would lead England; and that he was at liberty to communicate this
     fact to the G.O.M.[48]

Meanwhile Mr. Gladstone, although embarrassed and forestalled by the
disclosures in the newspapers, was deep in his Irish schemes. A chance
conversation which he had had with Mr. Balfour in the middle of December
had encouraged Mr. Gladstone to make a proposal to Lord Salisbury. He
wrote (December 20) of the ‘stir in men’s minds’ and of the urgency of
the question, how it would be ‘a public calamity if this great subject
should fall into the lines of party conflict.’ Only the Government could
deal with such a question, and on public grounds he specially desired
that the existing Government would deal with it. If Lord Salisbury and
his friends would bring forward ‘a proposal for settling the whole
question of the future government of Ireland,’ he would desire to treat
it in the same spirit as he had shown in respect to Afghanistan and the
Balkan Peninsula.

We are assured that Mr. Gladstone laid great stress upon this proffer of
support. He had told the Queen two years before that the Irish question
could only be settled by a conjunction of parties. He seems to have
imagined that such a proposal would be regarded us a fair and
magnanimous undertaking, and would receive, as some may think it
deserved, the unprejudiced deliberation of the Cabinet. He had received
full information--denied to Lord Randolph Churchill--of Lord Carnarvon’s
interview with Parnell. He believed in all sincerity that the
Conservative Government were seriously considering, even if they were
not already committed to, a policy of Home Rule in some form or other.
He remembered the conferences on the Reform Bill, and the support which
he had lately given to the new ministry. Neither he nor his friends seem
fully to have appreciated the fear and aversion with which his opponents
regarded him. His letter was treated with contempt. No other word will
suffice. ‘A public calamity,’ forsooth! ‘If this great question should
fall into line of party conflict!’ ‘His hypocrisy,’ wrote a Minister to
whom this letter had been shown, ‘makes me sick.’ In the Tory Cabinet
there was but one opinion about him. He was ‘mad to take office’; and if
his hunger were not ‘prematurely gratified,’ he would be forced into
some line of conduct which would be ‘discreditable to him and

Mr. Gladstone wrote again on the 23rd, pressing for a definite answer.
‘Time,’ he said, ‘was precious.’ Lord Salisbury suavely replied through
Mr. Balfour, in a letter which has since been made public, that a
communication of the views of the Government would at this stage be at
variance with usage. As Parliament would meet for business before the
usual time, it was better ‘to avoid a departure from ordinary practice
which might be misunderstood.’ There, of course, the matter ended; and
thus idly drifted away what was perhaps the best hope of the settlement
of Ireland which that generation was to see. Mr. Gladstone tarried no
longer. On December 26[49] he drafted a memorandum for submission to the
various noblemen and gentlemen with whom he proposed to act, setting
forth with all possible precision his immediate intentions. If the
Government were ready to deal with Ireland in a manner that would
satisfy him and satisfy the Irish Nationalists, he would support them.
If not, he would turn them out at the earliest convenient opportunity;
and if in consequence entrusted with the duty of forming a Government,
he would make the acceptance of a plan of ‘duly guarded Home Rule’ an
indispensable condition.

Ministers meanwhile preserved an impenetrable silence. No one knew in
what spirit, with what intention or with what allies they would meet
Parliament. The Queen’s Speech still engaged the attention of the
Cabinet. Lord Randolph Churchill was indebted to a friend for a happy
suggestion, which he did not delay to forward to Lord Salisbury:--

          _Lord Randolph Churchill to Lord Salisbury._

India Office: January 14, 1886.

     Mr. Buckle has just been to see me, full of an idea of his own
     which struck me as good, and which I persuaded him not to spoil by
     bringing it out in to-morrow’s _Times_.

     [Sidenote: 1886 ÆT. 36]

     He wishes the Queen’s Speech of 1833 to be imitated, when, after
     the agitation of O’Connell, the Government declared in the Speech
     their intention of maintaining the Union. I send you the paragraph
     and also the paragraphs from the Speech of 1834, which seem still
     more to the purpose. Mr. Buckle very forcibly argues that some
     declaration of such a kind will force on the question at once, and
     prevent Gladstonian shuffling being resorted to successfully. The
     Irish would be obliged to meet such a challenge, and all parties
     would have to declare themselves....

The paragraph which was finally adopted was modelled on the lines of the
Speech of 1834:--

     _The King’s Speech, Feb. 4, 1834._

     But I have seen, with feelings of deep regret and just indignation,
     the continuance of attempts to excite the people of that country to
     demand a repeal of the Legislative Union.

     This bond of our national strength and safety I have already
     declared my fixed and unalterable resolution, under the blessing of
     Divine Providence, to maintain inviolate by all the means in my

     In support of this determination I cannot doubt the zealous and
     effectual co-operation of my Parliament and my people.

     _The Queen’s Speech, Jan. 21, 1886._

     I have seen with deep sorrow the renewal, since I last addressed
     you, of the attempt to excite the people of Ireland to hostility
     against the Legislative Union between that country and Great
     Britain. I am absolutely opposed to any disturbance of that
     fundamental law, and in resisting it I am convinced that I shall be
     heartily supported by my Parliament and my people.

But the Tory leader was meditating a more decided challenge. He proposed
to meet Parliament with a declaration of a Coercion policy which should
disperse all doubts as to the relations of his Government with the
Parnellites and should throw upon the Opposition the odium of defeating
a Government upon a measure affecting law and order. He may have been
led to this decision partly by a desire that the armies should face
each other squarely in the coming battle. Partly, no doubt, he was
persuaded thereto by the growing clamour and pressure of those sections
of his own party who are always powerful to urge repressive measures.
Sulky murmurs at the Carlton; loud complainings in the _Times_;
trumpeted advent of Loyalist and Orange deputations claiming the
protection of the Crown--all the storm-signals were flying. But there
was a considerable case upon the merits. When Lord Randolph Churchill
had visited Ireland in October he found the Viceroy anxious and alarmed
by the growing power of the National League, and that organisation was
now greatly extended. Throughout those parts of Ireland where the
National League was supreme, liberty and law were gravely endangered.
There was not, indeed, that kind of treasonable organisation which had
existed in 1865 and 1867; nor was there such an amount of capital crime
as culminated in the Phœnix Park murders; but a sullen, widespread,
and well-organised spirit of resistance to the laws of property had
taken possession of the Irish people and grew worse week by week. ‘There
were in Ireland, and there are in Ireland now,’ said Lord Randolph at
Paddington (February 13, 1886), ‘two governments--there is the
Government of the Queen and the government of the National League--and
the Government of the Queen is not the stronger government of the two in
many parts of Ireland.’

Lord Salisbury first mentions the subject on January 13. ‘I am very
perturbed,’ he writes, ‘about the state of Ireland.’ Three days later
he met the Cabinet with definite proposals. Lord Ashbourne had prepared
a Coercion Bill, and the Prime Minister had drafted a paragraph for the
Queen’s Speech announcing its immediate introduction. The Cabinet was
startled. Lord Randolph Churchill and Sir Michael Hicks-Beach had not
prepared themselves for such a departure, grave as they knew the
situation in Ireland to be. They were not satisfied that a case for
special legislation was disclosed, still less that it could be sustained
in the House of Commons. Both remembered their speeches of the previous
summer. Neither responded sympathetically to the militant and autocratic
temper of the mass of the party. The council was long and stormy and
Ministers separated without having come to any decision. Meanwhile the
resignation of Lord Carnarvon was publicly announced.

The decision of Lord Salisbury’s Administration to introduce a Coercion
Bill in January 1886 has been the subject of much hostile criticism. It
has been censured as a resort to extra-constitutional measures, not for
the sake of public safety, but as a party manœuvre. It has been
denounced as the callous and unscrupulous reversal of a policy of
conciliation so soon as the Irish vote had been cast at the election.
There is a degree of justice and truth in these harsh accusations, but
it is only a degree; and if the Ministers concerned require a defence,
that defence is best supplied by their own secret letters during these
days of perplexity and stress.

          _Lord Randolph Churchill to Lord Salisbury._

Carlton Club: January 16, 1886.

     Dear Lord Salisbury,--I cannot resist writing to you on Ireland
     while the proceedings of to-day’s Cabinet are fresh in my mind. As
     far as I could ascertain, the exact difference of opinion between
     the view which you hold and the view which I ventured to express
     amounts (in the measure of time) to a month at the outside. You
     would announce and produce a Bill at once. It appears to me that at
     present there is no sufficient Parliamentary case for a Bill,
     estimated by the weight of facts adduced; and that the Bill which
     you may decide upon now, upon your incomplete grounds, may and will
     in all probability be utterly insufficient to meet the facts which
     you will have to deal with in abundance in a period of time which
     may be calculated by weeks and even days.

     What I would like to know, if I am not asking too much, is
     this--What influence or information not yet disclosed is compelling
     you to lay such a heavy burden on your sadly inefficient colleagues
     in the House of Commons? I assume as indubitable that you consider,
     and almost entirely guide your action by, the state of parties in
     the House of Commons--that is involved in the decision come to in
     December to carry on the Government--yet I am certain that you know
     that none of us could sustain a case for Coercion. Yet you press it
     on us--for we could have come to an agreement to-day on Lord
     Cranbrook’s suggestion, only that evidently it was not acceptable
     or good in your eyes.

     I wish I knew what you really wanted, and how you wished it to be
     worked out. I have never thought of anything except the success, or
     at least the credit, of _your_ Government; and, knowing how much
     depends on the House of Commons, I am at the present moment only
     occupied in imagining how the action which you seem to favour could
     be effectively sustained from a House of Commons point of view. I
     do not think you will accuse me of arrogance or conceit if I avow
     my belief that, unless you show me the way very clearly, that
     action must fail disastrously. I do not want it to fail so. I know
     how very great and high your position is, what a really fine party
     you have behind you, how great their confidence in you is (on these
     points I do not believe I am capable of making an error), and I am
     most anxious that that great instrument on which depends not merely
     the item of Ireland, but also the interests of the entire Empire
     and home community, should not be damaged or blunted by weak and
     inefficient House of Commons action such as the immediate demand
     for Coercion will in practice involve.

     One word as regards the Government of Ireland. You think the
     situation so serious that it demands a Coercion Bill. That
     necessitates a strong Irish Government. That Government you have
     not got. I think there are three men in the Government who would
     answer to the requirements of the position--Lord Cranbrook, Mr.
     Smith, and (please don’t be shocked) myself. Of the three I greatly
     prefer Mr. Smith. But, assuming that you have decided it is your
     duty to carry on the Government until you are turned out, I implore
     you not to think of [the arrangement Lord Salisbury had suggested].
     No extra laws could make that good or stable. I hope you won’t be
     vexed with me for writing so freely. I am only anxious to find
     myself on Monday loyally and strenuously supporting whatever you
     may think best to be done; but I admit I have not been able
     hitherto to refrain from shrinking to take part in an enterprise
     desperate in its nature, involving certain and immediate
     Parliamentary death, and which, if determined on, will only leave
     you without one or two of your most faithful supporters in the
     House of Commons. Not that they will refuse to obey what you order,
     but that the order itself will be their ruin.

Yours most sincerely,

_Lord Salisbury to Lord Randolph Churchill._


Foreign Office: January 16, 1886.

     My dear Randolph,--I cannot say how much touched I am by the great
     kindness and loyalty of your letter. I cannot help feeling how
     little I deserve it. I will tell you at once what my dominant
     feeling is. It is that we should be a united Cabinet--if possible
     with a united party. I have been throughout ready to postpone my
     individual opinion to this primary consideration. We have no right
     to the luxury of divided councils in a crisis such as this. It is
     evident that the great majority of the Cabinet--and, I believe, the
     great majority of the party--wish earnestly for a policy which will
     show that we do not shrink from the duty of government, and that we
     mean to stand by the Loyalists. The disaster I am afraid of is that
     we should be driven from office on some motion insisting on the
     necessity of a vigorous step, and our position in Opposition would
     then be very feeble and we should be much discredited.

     I really feel very strongly and deeply all the kindness you have
     shown to me, and the great and most successful efforts you have
     made to sustain the Government. I should differ from you and Beach
     with the most extreme reluctance. But do not let us take any line
     which will brand us in the eyes of our countrymen--or will enable
     our opponents to do so--as the timid party, who let things float
     because they dared not act. The time is coming on us when people
     will long for government: do not let us get a character of
     shrinking from responsibility.

     The question of the _personnel_ of the [Irish] Government must be
     considered, but the Speech presses for settlement in the first
     instance. I should have thought that the notorious growth of this
     ‘second government’ throughout Ireland, overshadowing the law and
     the Queen’s authority and securing its power by organised terror,
     would have sustained a case for such a Bill as Gibson produced. If
     you remain of the opposite opinion, let us consider whether some
     such phrase as the enclosed could unite us.[50] It is merely a
     suggestion. I confess I have a heavy heart in the whole matter. I
     have serious doubts whether I am doing my duty. But my train is
     going. Perhaps I may write again from Hatfield.

Ever yours very truly,

Lord Randolph now surrendered his view altogether. Never before or
afterwards did the two men stand in such cordial relationship. A
comradeship in anxiety had drawn these contrasted natures, each so
vehement and earnest after its own fashion, very close together:--

          _Lord Randolph Churchill to Lord Salisbury._

India Office: January 16, 1886.

     Dear Lord Salisbury,--I am very grateful for your letter, which
     enables me to enter more fully into the position from which you
     view things than I have been able hitherto to do. I greatly like
     the paragraph suggested, and believe firmly that it meets with
     wisdom, tact, and courage the necessities and the possibilities of
     the situation. But, _after all_, you are the head of the
     Government, and have had a very long experience of public affairs;
     and if you think it absolutely incumbent to go further--well,
     then, further we must go. A collapse of the Government at the
     present moment would be a catastrophe too hideous to contemplate.

     I have said all that occurs to me at much too great length and with
     far too much reiteration. _Kismet._

Yours most sincerely,

There is a passage in the speech of Sir R. Peel on the Address in ‘33,
where the constitutional position required before a Coercion demand is
very clearly and weightily laid down.

He wrote to Beach accordingly. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was more
unyielding and his letter shows the variety of strong characters arrayed
against Mr. Gladstone:--

          _Sir Michael Hicks-Beach to Lord Randolph Churchill._

January 17, 1886.

     My dear Churchill,--Of course I should readily accept the sentence
     Salisbury suggests. But though his letter touches and influences
     me, it does not persuade me to anything more; and I am sorry your
     reply goes so far. I do not in the least believe that, with such
     Irish paragraphs as we are all ready to accept, any motion
     insisting on the necessity of a vigorous step would be ever
     proposed, much less carried, against us. I do not think in such a
     matter we ought to be governed by the ignorant wish of ‘the great
     majority of the party’ or be forced to action we do not approve for
     fear of being branded as the ‘timid party.’ If these are
     Salisbury’s reasons for Coercion, my opinion remains the same.

     But his last sentences require explanation. If by ‘serious doubts
     whether I am doing my duty’ he means that he is himself persuaded
     that the moment has come when the government of Ireland cannot be
     carried on without it, and that he ought not therefore to agree to
     delay, that is another matter. I would yield my opinion, strong as
     it is, to his convictions, but _only to his convictions_. And in
     that case he _must_ have a man to govern Ireland.

Yours sincerely,

Monday’s Cabinet was united upon the Queen’s Speech. Lord Salisbury
decided to entrust the Irish Office to Mr. Smith. Lord Randolph
Churchill, who had acquired much influence with him, was chosen to press
it upon him. The task was thankless and unpromising; the occasion
momentous; but the post of difficulty and peril was also the post of
honour. Gravely and reluctantly Smith accepted, and Lord Cranbrook
became Minister of War in his stead. ‘I saw Mr. Smith this morning,’
wrote Lord Randolph to the Prime Minister (January 20), ‘and used every
argument to persuade him to take in hand the government of Ireland. The
appointment should be settled to-day and announced to-morrow morning
without fail. If there is any weakness in our attitude on Coercion
(which I do not at all admit) it will be more than contradicted by the
appointment of Mr. Smith. This of itself will do much to restore
confidence. Please do not, if possible, allow any delay. On second
thoughts,’ added Lord Randolph mischievously, ‘would Lord Iddesleigh
like to go as Lord-Lieutenant?’

The appointment of the new Irish Secretary was announced on the morning
of the 21st, and that same day formal business, including election of
Speaker, having been previously completed, Parliament was opened in
state and the Session began.

The Government prolonged a precarious existence for five days. Both
parties were in a turmoil. On the one side Whigs and Moderate Liberals
endeavoured, without success, to extract from Mr. Gladstone definite
declarations upon Ireland. In the Tory camp the demand for a Coercion
Bill was loud and insistent. Although the party as a whole had been
beaten in the elections, the bulk of its members came fresh from
remarkable victories in the big towns. Their temper was aggressive. They
welcomed the declaration of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that Mr.
Smith would go to Ireland at once to consider what special measures were

We are told that Mr. Gladstone did not resolve to overturn the Ministry
until they definitely declared for Coercion on January 26. That act, he
considered, imposed the responsibility of government upon him. But Lord
Randolph Churchill’s correspondence shows that he had information as
early as January 13 that some independent member would move an amendment
to the Address regretting that no announcement was made of provision for
the wants of the agricultural population. Whether this would fail, or
would gain the support of a united Opposition, could not be ascertained
till the House met. A few hours of Westminster were, however, sufficient
to convince the Tory leaders that the temper of the majority was
adverse to them, that virtual and effective agreement existed between
Mr. Gladstone and Parnell, and that Whig and Moderate Liberal support
would almost certainly be insufficient to sustain them. They had decided
on Coercion; they resolved, if possible, to place the details of their
policy and the case in support of it before the country. The adroit and
experienced Parliamentarians on the Treasury Bench used all their wits
to obtain the necessary delay. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had given
notice on the 21st that immediately on the conclusion of the debate on
the Address he would move resolutions for the Reform of Procedure and
that these would be pressed to the exclusion of other matters, ‘subject
to the intervention of any specially important or urgent business.’ On
the following day Lord Randolph Churchill suggested that the general
debate on the Address should be brought to a conclusion and that the
reforms in Parliamentary Procedure, the consideration of which Mr.
Gladstone had declared in his election address ought to take precedence
of legislation, might be decided before the amendments to the Address
were considered. The changes which Ministers proposed were in themselves
sufficiently startling to have absorbed the House in calmer times; and
Lord Randolph no doubt calculated upon this. But Mr. Gladstone found no
difficulty in persuading his party that Procedure reform might safely be
a little delayed. Lord Randolph’s proposal was ignored and the debate

On the 23rd Mr. Smith started for Dublin, which he reached on the
morning of the 24th. The imminent defeat of the Ministry had now become
certain. An amendment relating to Burma was moved on the 25th. Mr.
Gladstone, though recommending that no decision should be taken upon it,
as other more convenient opportunities of discussing Indian matters
would occur, indulged in acid criticism of the Burmese policy. ‘Shall I
answer him now?’ asked Lord Randolph, taking up the red box in which the
India Office papers reposed, ‘or shall I wait for the Indian Budget?’
‘Now or never,’ answered the Leader of the House; and Lord Randolph
thereupon, using the precise information of a great department with the
skill of a practised debater, made a vigorous rejoinder. Upon the spur
of the moment he managed to cite a number of instances from the record
of the late Government where they had themselves been drawn into warlike
operations, with, as Lord Randolph contended, far less justification
than was presented in Burma. Mr. Gladstone was much provoked by such
comparisons. He could not speak again himself, and as the Secretary for
India proceeded he was observed repeatedly turning to those about him
and behind him, explaining how this did not apply; how that was wholly
unfounded: how this, again, was a travesty; and so forth. The
Conservatives were delighted at Lord Randolph’s prowess. The attack was
repelled. On the next amendment the Liberal Front Bench abstained, and
the Government survived by twenty-eight. But this was the end.

Faced by approaching destruction, the Government cared only to rally
their friends, to make one last bid for Whig support, and to declare
plainly the issue on which they were to be dismissed. The Cabinet which
met on the morning of the 26th desired the immediate introduction of a
Coercion Bill. But Mr. Smith was not inclined to be hustled. He could
not realise the rapid developments which had taken place in his absence.
Harassed by telegrams, he appealed to Lord Randolph. The friendship
between them was steadily ripening. Of all the characters with which
this story deals, scarcely one improves so much upon acquaintance as
this valiant and honest man. He was the true type of what Disraeli calls
‘an English worthy.’ Here is his letter:--

          _Mr. Smith to Lord Randolph Churchill._


Chief Secretary’s Office, Dublin Castle: January 25, 1886, 6 P.M.

     My dear Churchill,--I have had a telegram from Salisbury which
     affords evidence of pressure for what is termed ‘prompt action,’
     and I have replied by letter. Another telegram has just come in
     from Beach, which cannot be deciphered before post leaves.

     There is only one opinion here--that the League must be suppressed
     and large powers obtained to protect life, property and public
     order, unless the Government is prepared to treat for terms of
     capitulation with the Parnellites. But the Land Question is at the
     bottom of the trouble, and gives all the force to the agitation. As
     at present advised, I should be unwilling to ask for large
     repressive powers unless I had authority to promise a large land

     But these telegrams indicate restlessness in my colleagues. So big
     a question cannot be decided offhand. It is more than peace or war
     with a foreign Power. We are at a crisis in the relations of the
     Imperial Government with Ireland. I may very possibly fail to do
     any good, but I will not be hurried into a positive decision on
     such momentous issues by the party or the papers; and if my
     colleagues think the three or four days I propose to take too long,
     I will return to London with pleasure. Let me hear from you either
     by telegraph or post.

Yours sincerely,

The correspondence was continued by cypher telegrams:--

          _Lord R. Churchill to Mr. Smith._

January 26.

     Greatly obliged by your letter.

     Absolutely necessary for Government to state to-night their
     intentions with regard to Ireland--viz. suppression of National
     League followed by Land Bill. This is the only method of averting
     defeat on Jesse Collings. Notice should be given to-day of
     introduction of repressive Bill on Thursday, coupled with revival
     of rules of urgency. Telegraph to me your views. I would earnestly
     press your return to London.

_Mr. Smith to Lord R. Churchill._

     I think proposed action looks precipitate. There is no excessive
     urgency here, and great care is required in framing and describing
     measure. I should prefer, if possible, to provide against the
     intimidation of League than denounce it by name. I cross to-night.

Lord Randolph replied from the House of Commons at six o’clock the same

     Your telegram received half-hour after Cabinet separated. Beach has
     just announced introduction of Bill by you on Thursday for
     suppression of National League and other dangerous associations,
     for the prevention of intimidation and for the protection of life,
     property and order in Ireland.[51] Of course, great sensation.

     It is not improbable, however, that we shall be defeated to-night,
     in which case we shall resign. I showed your wire to Lord
     Salisbury. We both agreed you would not wish unanimous decision of
     Cabinet modified.

Mr. Smith arrived in London with the daylight, to read upon the early
placards that the Government was out.

The famous Jesse Collings Amendment produced an interesting debate; but
as the members listened to the opposing views of Mr. Chaplin and Mr.
Joseph Arch, of Mr. Goschen and Mr. Bradlaugh, of Mr. Gladstone and Lord
Hartington, they knew that behind the relevant arguments of the
speakers, behind all the talk of peasant-proprietors, allotments,
vegetables, and cows, stood a far greater issue. ‘If the result of this
division,’ said the Chancellor of the Exchequer, ‘should be unfavourable
to Her Majesty’s Government we shall accept that decision without
regret. We assumed office reluctantly, and we shall leave it willingly
as soon as we are assured that we do not possess the support of the
House. But the success of this motion will have another and graver
effect.... It will not only be a defeat of Her Majesty’s Government, but
it will be a defeat of the policy ... which they believe it to be their
duty to pursue with respect to Ireland.’

The Government were beaten on the division by seventy-nine votes,
notwithstanding that sixteen Liberals, including Lord Hartington, Mr.
Goschen and Sir Henry James, voted with them and fifty-six others stayed
away. The next day Lord Salisbury’s Cabinet resigned.

Thus, after a brief but exciting reign, fell the ‘Ministry of
Caretakers.’ They had confronted enormous difficulties with small
resources. They existed at the caprice of their enemies. They had
office, but not power. Yet they faced their task and their oppon