Justin H. (Justin Huntly) McCarthy.

England under Gladstone, 1880-1885 online

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the repetition of such speeches from the bar could not but
prove injurious to any cause and to any orator. Whatever
may have been his reasons, Mr. Bradlaugh was not going this
time to keep within the old lines. He boldly entered the
House, took a seat below the gangway, and argued with the
Speaker his right to state his case from that position. This
made the House more angry than ever. A stringent motion


for expulsion was at once brought forward by Sir Stafford
Northcote, and carried by 297 to 80. Mr. Bradlaugh being
thus formally expelled from the House, a new writ was im-
mediately moved for, and granted without division. About the
same time that Mr. Bradlaugh was thus being turned adrift
from the Commons, the case of Clarke v. Bradlaugh was being
argued over in the Court of Appeal, and the decision of the
lower court, granting a new trial in Clarke v. Bradlaugh, was
reversed. Mr. Bradlaugh once more came forward as a candi-
date for Northampton, and was once more triumphantly re-
elected, defeating Mr. Corbett, who again opposed him, by a
majority of 108 votes.

Once more, therefore, the House of Commons and Mr.
Bradlaugh were opposed. On March 6 Sir Stafford Northcote,
determined to do his best to keep Mr. Bradlaugh out this time,
moved a stern resolution that the House, having ascertained
that Mr. Bradlaugh has been re-elected for Northampton,
affirmed the sessional resolution of February 7, and directed that
he be not permitted to take the oath. To this Mr. Maijoribanks
moved, as an amendment, a resolution urging a modification of
the existing law, which would allow every elected member to
take the oath or to affix'm according to his option. This
amendment was supported by Mr. Gladstone, who considered
Sir Stafford Northcote's resolution of too aggressive a charac-
ter, and believed that legislation would relieve the House from
a painful position. The resolution, however, was carried by
257 to 242 : majority, 15. The Government thereupon went
through the now familiar performance of pretending to regard
the leadership of the House in this matter as entirely in Sir
Stafford Northcote's hands, and allowed it to be understood
that they had no intention of bringing forward any legis-
lation on the matter. They assumed, in fact, the attitude
which of all others is perhaps the least becoming to a Govern-
ment — that of the small boy who announces that he ' won't play
any more,' because he thinks he has been badly treated by his
companions in the game. A sort of understanding, however,
was arrived at with Mr. Bradlaugh himself by virtue of which


he was allowed a seat on one of the benches below the clock,
on condition that he did nothing to disturb the House, and
made no effort to share in its debates.

Strife over the Bi'adlaugh question was not confined to the
Commons alone. In the Upper House as well there was
wrangling, and peer opposed to peer on the great question of
oath or no oath. Lord Redesdale began the war by bringing
in a Bill to exclude all atheists from Parliament ; but it was
defeated on its second reading, on March 23, by Lord Shaftes-
bury moving the previous question. For a while the Govern-
ment made no reply to this attack, but three months later, on
July 4, tlie Duke of Argyll made an effort to solve the difficulty
by bringing in an Affirmation Bill of his own, which was
promptly thrown out, on Lord Carnarvon's motion, by 138
to 62.

The Thanes were flying from Mr. Gladstone. One after an-
other the old Whigs were dropping from his standard, and
cither holding aloof or formally going over to the enemy. In

1881 Lord Zetland had formally seceded from the Liberal party,
an insignificant herald of more significant secessions. Early in

1882 Lord Grey cut himself off from Liberalism, and went over
with much pomp and solemnity to the enemy. Lord Grey
expressed himself as much alarmed by the harm Mr. Gladstone
was doing to the land laws in Ireland, and was no doubt
scheming to do to the land laws in England. He, at least,
vvould not support Mr. Gladstone in a policy to which he no
doubt thought — for he almost said so — that Lord Beaconsfield's
expression of ' plundering and blundering ' was singularly
appropriate. With Lord Zetland Lord Grey refused * to go on
supporting a man who on every really important question acts
against the old opinions of all the great Whig leaders in the old
days, when the Whigs were a party to which I for one Avas
proud to belong, and of which I will not give up the traditions
because a set of men choose to call themselves the successors of
a party with which they have really nothing in common.' Sc
wrote Lord Grey angi'ily to Colonel Dawnay, brother of the
man who was just about to be returned for the North Biding


by a comparatively small majority over Mr. Rowlandson, the
representative of the Farmers' Alliance, Nobody paid any great
attention to Lord Grey's retii'ement or to Lord Grey's pro-
nouncement. The days of the old Whigs, to which he so fondly
alluded, ■were as much a part of the past as the reigns and
records of Egyptian Thothmes or Assyrian Assurbani-Pal. No
human being was ever to be stirred again by any appeal to the
venerable party cries and i^olitical watchwords which had done
good service in the days when the house of Hanover was yet
young in England, and "VValpole was setting an example to
commoner Prime Ministers. Lord Grey was an eccentric
statesman, who had long ceased to play any part of the least
importance in politics. He was the son of that Lord Grey, the
friend of Fox, the father-in-law of Lord Durham, who had been
so much under the domination of his strenuous, great-hearted
son-in-law. The present Lord Grey was determined not to
understand that the world had advanced at all from the days of
the first Reform Bill. He lived entirely among the traditions
of the past, in that peaceful time before energetic Eadicalism
had reared its head high ; he still fondly imagined the world to
be in the Saturnian age of politics. He was out of tune with
the modern mind, to whom the Whig is almost as much an
anachronism as the mastodon, or the men in armour of a Lord
Mayor's Show. He did not see that the strife henceforward
was not between Whig and Tory, but between Tory and Radi-
cal ; that the moderados of both parties, the Whig on he one
hand and the Conservative on the other, were boimd to dis-
appear from the bustle and stiife about them, and to take their
proper place as the curiosities of a museum.

On March 20, 1882, the debate on the proposed alterations
of the new rules of Parliamentary debate may be said to have
practically begun. The first resolution had actually been moved
by Mr. Gladstone on February 20, and Mr, Marriott, Q.C, the
Liberal member for Brighton, had brought forward his famous
amendment ; but the Bradlaugh episode, and the quarrel with
the Lords, and the necessity of obtaining Supply, had inter-
im 2


vened, and occupied Parliamentaiy time to the exclusion of
other lousiness for the succeedincf month.

The first rule gives the Speaker, or the chairman of a com-
mittee of the whole House, the power of informing the House
when he considers it to be the evident sense of the House, or
of the committee, that the debate should close ; whereupon a
motion ' that the question be now put ' might be at once decided
in the affirmative, if supported by more than two hundred
members, or opposed by less than forty members, and supported
by more than one hundred members. The second rule restricts
the making a motion for adjournment before the orders of the
day or notices of motion have been entered into. The third
limits the debate on such motions strictly to the matter of the
motion ; and prohibits any member sjieaking to such a motion
from moving or seconding a similar motion during the same
debate. The fourth rule allows the Speaker, before a dilatory
division, to call upon the members challenging it to rise in their
places, and if they are less than twenty to declare the deter-
mination of the House without a division. By the fifth rule
the Speaker may call the attention of the House to continued
irrelevance or tedious repetition on the part of a member, and
direct him to stop speaking The sixth decides that, in com-
mittee on a Bill, the preamble shall stand postponed without
debate until after the consideration of the clauses. The seventh
allows the chairman of a committee, who has been ordered to
make a report to the House, to leave the chair without the
question being put. The eighth amended the half -past twelve
o'clock rule of February 18, 1879, by declaring that the rule
should not apply to the motion for leave to bring in a Bill, nor
to any Bill which has passed through committee. The ninth gives
the Speaker, after naming a member, the power of putting the
question for his suspension without any debate, and rules that
any member suspended under this order should be suspended
on the first occasion for a week, on the second for a fortnight,
and on the third for a month. The tenth allows the Speaker
to put the question at once, whenever he considers any motion
of adjournment to be made for the purpose of obstruction.


The eleventh and twelfth provide for considering an amended
Bill, and for going into Committee of Supply under certain
conditions without putting any question. Then followed
some rules empowering the formation of two grand committees
— one on law and justice, and the other on trade, shipping,
and manufacture, to which Bills belonging to either of these
divisions were to be committed. It was soon made evident
that these innovations were not to be accepted without a severe
and protracted struggle. Notices of amendments to all these
various proposals literally were showered upon the order books.
The amendment which was first considered, that of Mr.
Marriott, was one of the most important, because it came from
a supporter of the Government, and because it struck at once
at the chief principle of the new proposals. Mr. Marriott's
amendment declai-ed that no change in the rules of debate
could be considered satisfactory which gave to a majority in
the House of Commons the power of closing a debate. Mr.
Marriott did not limit his censures to the proposals; he freely
attacked the manner in which he considered that the proposals
had been forced on the House by the machinery of the caucus, as
applied by Mr. Chamberlain, and he vigorously attacked the
dangerous influence which, according to him, Mr. Chamberlain
exerted in the Cabinet. This was the point at which the
Government had arrived, when first Mr. Bradlaugh, then the
Peers, and finally Supply, had interfered with its further

When the discussion on Mr. Marriott's amendment to the
first of the procedure resolutions was resumed on March 20,
Lord Hartington, as the spokesman of the Ministry, announced
that the Government were determined to stand by the principle
of closure by a bare majority. This principle was not merely
obnoxious to the whole body of the Opposition ; it was vigor-
ously assailed from within the Libei'al ranks. Mr. IMarriott
himself had declared his opposition by his amendment, while
supporters of the Government like Sir John Lubbock, and even
Mr. AValter, were urgent in advising the Government to yield
to some compromise, such as that of a two-thirds majority. For


ten nights the debate on this question was carried on, in which
both sides displayed an ingenuity of argument that was not a
little bewildering to the unprejudiced student;, whose opinions
wavered one Avay as he heard Sir Michael Hicks-Beach point
out the horrors of the tyranny which the Government were
about to impose upon a once free Commons, and veered back in
the other direction as he listened to Mr. Bright painting the
reign of peace which would be sure to follow upon the success-
ful adoption of the Ministerial proposal. When the division
was taken on March 30, the numbers stood 318 in favour of the
Government to 279 against it — a decidedly lai-ger majority than
the Ministerialists had really ventured to hope for. When the
rules had reached this point the House adjourned for Easter, in
the full confidence that the discussion would be soon resumed
and soon finished. But it was decided by the destinies that,
with the exception of a single discussion on May 1, the new
rules were not to be heard of again till the end of the session.

Early in March Parliament was able to congratulate the
Queen on her escape from the attack of a madman. The Mini-
sterial proposal to increase Prince Leopold's allowance of
10,000/. to 25,000/. in view of his approaching marriage was
carried on March 23, after some sharp Radical oi")position,
by 387 to 42, the minority being the largest ever recorded
ngainst a grant to a royal prince. On March 24 the old
sijiiit of protection, which was deemed to have been exorcised
and laid long ago, strove to rise from its grave and display itself
in all its terrors to an undismayed majority. Mr. Ritchie, it is
true, did not avowedly call himself a protectionist ; he merely
moved for a committee, in the interests of fair trade, to consider
the oj)eration of foreign tarifis on British commerce. But it
needed a vei-y slight display of the arguments of Mx. Ritchie
and his supporters to show that new fair trade was indeed but
old protection writ short. Sir Stafford Northcote, it is true,
who had once been looked upon as the staun chest Conservative
opponent of protection, and who had shown himself such on the
protection motion of two years before, now declared himself
ready to vote for Mr. Ritchie's inquuy. In spite, however, of
this exami)le, only 89 members supported Mr. Ritchie, as


opposed to 140 who declined to have any dealings with pro-
tection, however cunningly dioguised.

Parliament i-eassembled on October 24 to discuss the rules
of procedure. Lord Eandolph Churchill immediately attacked
the Government for departing from constitutional usage by
assembling for the discussion of business after passing the
Appropriation Bill. The Appropriation Bill, Lord Randolph
Churchill urged, was almost invariably kept for the last measure
of a session, in order to preserve the privileges of members after
Supply had been closed. By abandoning this principle, Lord
Randolph Churchill declared that the Government were putting
the House at their mercy. Mr. Gladstone, in rej^ly, admitted
that it was unusual for Parliament to reassemble after the pass-
ing of the Appropriation Bill, but that the course was not un-
precedented; as in 1820, when Queen Caroline was tried, the
House adjourned three times after passing the Appropriation
Act, and transacted public business each time. Sir Stafford
ISTorthcote pointed out that the cases were not parallel, as the
Government in 1820 only kept the House sitting for the pur-
pose of the Queen's trial, and l^rought forward no business of
their own. Lord Randolph Churchill's motion for adjournment
was defeated by 209 to 142.

The debates on the Procedure Rules were long, and it must
be confessed wearisome. There was vigorous opposition offered
to all the Ministerial proposals, b\;t on the strength of its great
majority the Government was unwilling to make many con-
cessions, and in most cases carried its point triumphantly. The
great battle of the protracted debates was fought on the question
of closure by a majority pure and simple, or by a propoi-tional
majority of two-thuxls, or some other ingenious device. Com-
pared with this question, in which the whole principle of closure
was involved, all the other portions of the Ministerial proposals
were comparatively unimportant, and on this question the
opinion of the House was widely divided. The majority of the
Conservative party, following Sir Stafford Northcote's lead, de-
clared themselves opposed to the introduction of closure at all.
Still, if closure they must have, let it be the proportional closure,
as being on the whole less mischievous than the closure by a


pure and simple majority. To this Lord Randolph Churchill
and the extremer members of the Tories below the gangway
disagreed. Bad as closure was, proportional closure was worse.
Closure by a bare majority would be more likely to bring the
system into contempt than the more speciously fair- seeming
system of proportional closure. The vast majority of the Liberals
were in favour of the absolute closure. The really advanced
Radicals, as represented by Mr. Labouchere, wished to see closure
frequently employed against even the formal and recognised
opposition. The 'democratic creed,' as expounded by Mr.
liabouchere, was ' that there ought to be very frequent elections,
say once every three yeai's ; that certain measures ought to be
presented to the people at these elections ; that there should be
a plebiscite with regard to them ; and that if the people made
up their minds that they should pass, the Ministry representing
the majority having received an imperative mandate to carry
them through, discussion was therefore useless.' The Govern-
ment received further the somewhat rare support of the Irish
members, who, as a party, voted for closure pure and simple, on
the ground that the two-thirds scheme was aimed at the Irish
party alone, while by the Government plan the measure would
be ineted out to the Opposition as well as to the Irish party.
Mr. Gibson's two-thirds amendment was defeated by 322 to 238,
a much larger majority than the supporters of the Government
liad ventured to hope for. The Opposition made various other
attempts to amend and oppose the first rule, but the final division
on it was taken on November 10, when by a majority of 44 —
the numbers being 304 to 260 — the principle of closure familiar
to Continental parliaments was for the first time introduced into
the procedure of the English House of Commons. The passing
of the other rules was a mere question of time. Six weeks after
the House had met for its autumn session the new rules were
finally disposed of, and had become a part of the institutions of
Parliament. But tinkering of this kind was of very little use.
The Parliamentary machine was well-nigh worn out. The con-
duct of the Conservative opposition in 1884 made it quite
clear that its antiquated forms and formalities had had their


day, and were now only impediments to the progress of public

A further effort to shorten the time devoted to public busi-
ness was made by the creation of the two grand committees,
one to deal with Bills relating to law and justice, the other to
consider measures relating to trade, shipping, and manufactures.
Each committee was to be composed of not more than eighty and
not less than sixty members, twenty to form a quorum. Their
sittings were to be public, and were not to be carried on while
the House was not sitting unless by special order. These com-
mittees were empowered to consider all Bills entrusted to them,
to debate upon and amend according to all the rules of the
House. Measures considered by them would be then sent to
the House, which had the power of re-discussing the whole
measure point by point. It was, however, hoped that the House
would not invariably make full use of this privilege, and that
the grand committee would therefore materially facilitate busi-
ness. The experiment was limited at first to one session ; rooms
were fitted up in the House for the reception of the new insti-
tutions, These rooms had all the appearance of mimic parlia-
ments — toy parliaments, their opponents contemptuously called
them — with their Ministerial and Opposition benches, or rather
rows of chairs, their gangway, and their table for chairman and



As far as the Commons were concerned, it seemed at first as if
the session was not to be devoted to the Irish question so com-
pletely as the previous sessions had been. The Irish questions
had, indeed, been discussed in the Lower House during the
debate on the address. Mr. Gray had attacked the Government
for imprisoning the Irish leaders, and had moved unsuccessfully
for a committee of inquiry. Mr. Justin M'Carthy, as leader
of the Irish party in the absence of Mr. Parnell, had arraigned


tlie Irish policy of Mr. Forster, and the Chief Secretary had
made his defence. Mr. P. J. Smyth, an Irishman of the '48
school, who was as unpopular now in Ireland as he had been in
England in his younger daj^s, moved an amendment of his own,
supporting a restoration of the Irish Parliament, and had been
defeated after offering to withdraw his amendment. Mr, James
Lowther, delighted to find himself once more in Parliament,
and happier in opposition than in office, had made a rattling
attack upon Mr. Gladstone and the Ministry generally, ac-
cusing them of making use of agitation and of outrage for the
purpose of coercing Parliament. The Irish members had called
upon Mr. Gladstone to explain his speech upon Mr. Smyth's
amendment, in which he had uttered some words which bad
seemed to indicate sympathy with the demand for Home Rule.
Mr. Gladstone had replied that he had always been of opinion
that a demand from Ireland for some form of local government
was not too dangerous to be considered, but that up to this
time no case, properly formulating the Irish claim, and
including needful precautions for the preservation of the
supremacy of the British Crown, had been presented. But
all these various discussions of the various points of the Irish
question had passed over without much difficulty, and for a
moment it seemed as if Ireland were not to be the all-engross-
ing tojiic of the session, when suddenly, from the quarter where
it might least have been expected, the whole question was raised
anew and with aggravated intensity. This new quarter was the
House of Lords. On Friday, February 17, Lord Donoughmore
moved for a select committee to inquire into the working of
the Land Act. The step was undoubtedly extraordinary and
unusual. The Land Act had only been some four months in
actual working operation, and here was a proposition gravely
made among the peers to inquire into its workings and reopen
the whole land question and perhaps the land agitation again.
The Government fought despei-ately against the jn-oposal, but
wholly in vain. Many of the peers had regretted bitterly the
way in which they had been forced to accept the Land Act ;
many, perhaps, fancied that after all, if they had stood out

IRELAND IN 1882, 187

firmly at the time, they might have successfully rejected the
Bill, and possibly destroyed the Ministry. They saw now that
the ]Ministry was embarrassed ; they believed that it was un-
popular ; time and the hour seemed ripe for their revenge. The
landlord party, always strong in the House of Lords, denounced
the partiality of the new land commissioners and sub-commis-
sioners. They attacked Mr. Gladstone for his observations
about Home Rule, in which they detected darksome schemes
for the entire destruction of landlordism in Ireland. But most
of all, perhaps, they dwelt upon a certain pamphlet which had
just been issued Avith the official approval of the Irish Land
Commission. This pamphlet, which had for title ' How to
become Owner of your own Farm; why Irish Landlords should
Sell, and Irish Tenants should Purchase ; and how they can do
it under the Land Act of 1881,' consisted of a reprint of a series
of articles which had appeared in the Freemmi^s Journal. The
pamphlet was written by Mr, George Fottrell, a Dublin solicitor
of position, who had been appointed secretary to the Irish Land
Commission. It skilfully and strenuously defended peasant
proprietorship ; described the Land League as ' the most wide-
spread, the most powerful, and in its effects, we believe, the
most enduring organisation of our time;' and spoke of the cause
for which ' Parnell and Dillon and Davitt laboured and suf-
fered.' This was one of the pieces of ill luck that had pursued
the Government ever since they had taken office. No blame
was attachable to Mr. Fottrell. He had written to the
Freeman his opinions on the land question ; he had thought
that their republication would be of service to the Land Com-
mission, by making its powers and its purpose more easily in-
telligible to landlord and to tenant; he was a well-to-do man,

Online LibraryJustin H. (Justin Huntly) McCarthyEngland under Gladstone, 1880-1885 → online text (page 17 of 38)