Justin H. (Justin Huntly) McCarthy.

England under Gladstone, 1880-1885 online

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Hent' manifesto, wished also to know if his name had been
mentioned to the Prime Minister. As these members rose one
after another to question the Prime Minister thus, the House
became painfully excited. Something was evidently coming ;
what revelations would now take place 1 Mr, Gladstone, with
an appearance of sui'prise, answered that no name of any of the
members who had just spoken had been separately mentioned
to hhn., but that he was bound to say that he had heard state-
ments which appeared to him to include them. In a House
more excited than ever, but holding its breath to lose nothing
of what might be forthcoming, Mr. Dillon rose to assure the
Prime INIinister and the country that if his name was included
it was without his authority, knowledge, or consent. Mr.
O'Kelly made the same statement; Mr. Sexton, too, disclaimed it.

IRELAND IN 1S82. 199

Sit Michael Hicks-Beach immediately rose, and put the wonder
and curiosity of the House into spoken words, asking the Prime
Minister from whom he had received the statements. Mr.
Gladstone replied slowly that he had received statements from
members of that House, one of Avliom was not in his place,
whose duty it was to consider when or whether they should
make an explanation on the subject to the House. For himself
he stood by his statement that the Government had had infor-
mation voluntarily tendered to them with regard to the inten-
tions of the Irish members, on which they had acted. Several
other questions were at once showered upon the Prime Minister
but he declined to make any further answer until the members
responsible for the communication upon which the Government
had acted should have made whatever explanation they thought
fit to the House.

A few minutes later Mr. Forster rose to make his personal
explanation of his resignation. In a speech which seemed
studiously contrived, under the appearance of candour and
rugged honesty, to injure as much as possible the Government
he had left, Mr. Forster defended his present position and his
past career. He had advocated the imprisonment of the three
members; he was now opposed to their liberation. They had
been arrested, not merely because they Avere obstructing the
carrying out of the Land Act, but because they were trying to
carry ou.t their unwritten law to a degree that would have left
the Government a sham, and made Mr. Pai-nell in reality what
he was called by many of his friends, the uncrowned king of
Ireland. To the late Chief Secretary's mind there were three
conditions in virtue of which he would have consented to the
liberation of the imprisoned members, but to his mind not one
of these three conditions had been fulfilled. There should have
been a public promise on their part ; or Ireland quiet ; or the
acquisition of fresh powers by the Government. Had the three
members promised to make no further attempt to set up their
will acjainst the law of the land, he would have taken their
word. ' The honourable member for Cork knows how I differ
from him ; he knows what a wonder and surprise it is to mo


that he can bring himself to do what he has done ; but he is
not only a gentleman in station, he is a man of honour, and
I would have taken his word.' This condition had not been
obtained, nor was Ireland quiet. Its condition was better than
it had been. Tlie Land League had been defeated , Boycotting
checked; outrages had, on the whole, diminished Still the
battle of law against lawlessness was not won, and there never
was a time, in Mr. Forster's opinion, in which it Aves more
dangerous to relax the authority of the law. The tliird con-
dition — the passing of a fresh Act — was, indeed, in the mind of
the Government, but it was to be postponed until the passing
of the Procedure Hules, instead of taking, as it should, prece-
dence of all other measures.

So far Mr. Forster, who sat down amidst enthusiastic Con-
servative cheers. He was immediately followed by Mr. Glad-
stone. He was evidently strongly impressed with the painful
nature of the situation, and of the difficulty in which Mr.
Forster's well-planned attack had placed him. After paying
an eloquent tribute to the services and ability of his late Chief
Secretary, the Prime Minister regretted that he should have
allowed himself to charge the Government with giving Pro-
cedure precedence of all other questions, indifferent as to the
grave condition of Ireland. He proceeded to parry with great
skill the strokes of his late colleague. He fully admitted his
i-esponsibility for the liberation, as for the arrest, of Mr.
Parnell and his friends. But he refused to admit that he
or the Government had any right to question Mr. Parnell and
his companions for any avowal c^ change in their views. That
would be something like, in effec , asking for a penitential con-
fession. ' I am not the man to go to any member of the House
and ask him for a statement involving his won humiliation.'
To ]\[r. Forster's appeal to the Government not to buy obedience
to the law by paying any blackmail of concession, the Prime
IMinister replied by assuring the House there was no arrange-
ment between the Government and Mr. Parnell. ' There is no
bargain, no arrangement, no negotiations ; for nothing has been
asked, and nothing has been taken.' The promised Arrears Bill

IRELAND IX 1882. 201

had nothing to do with the release of Mr. Parnelh When it
had been promised, the Government had not received the infor-
mation which had since come to their knowledge. ' We received
information upon evidence which we knew to be most ti'ust-
worthy "Was it possible for ministei's of the Crown, pos-
sessed of such information in regard to persons whose honour
we have no title to dispute, to treat it as if it had never
reached them, and to continue them in their confinement ? '

Mr. Parnell then rose to assure the House that in any com-
munications, verbal or written, to his friends on the state of
Ireland, w^hich may have come to the attention of the Govern-
ment, the question of his own release or the release of his
colleagues had never been entered into. He had, however, both
said and Amtten that a settlement of the arrears would have an
enormous effect in the restoration of law and order in Ireland.
He was followed by Mr. Dillon and Mr. O'Kelly, who dis-
claimed having made any suggestion of any sort for release, or
any conditions of any kind with the Government. Then Sir
Stafford Northcote moved the adjournment of the House to
discuss the situation, and a lengthy debate sprang up, in which
the Conservatives bitterly attacked the Government, whose
conduct was defended by Sir William Harcourt and Lord



For the first time since the Liberal Government had taken
office the aspect of Irish affairs was really hopeful. The mis-
understanding between the Liberal party and the Irish party,
which had grown wider and more embittered during the past
two years, seemed to have passed away for good. The Govern-
ment appeared to have at last resolved to act upon Fox's prin-
ciple of governing Ireland according to Irish ideas ; it looked
as if a golden age had actually arrived in Irish politics. Then


came the terrible tragedy which suddenly shattered all those
fair hopes, and made the dark history dai-ker just at the
moment when men were fondly fancying that the new era had

On Saturday, May 6, Lord Frederick Cavendish arrived in
Dublin. He came out full of hope to deal with the difficult
problem, under the new and better conditions that now appeared
to govern it. He took part in the procession which attended
the entry of the new Viceroy, Lord Spencer. It was said at
the time that at one point in the journey to the Castle a man
out of the crowd that filled the streets came to the carriage
in which Lord Frederick Cavendish was seated, and asked
which was the new Chief Secretary ; and that. Lord Frederick
answering, the man looked at him long and curiouslj', and
then disappeared into the crowd. Afterwards, it was thought
that this incident, if it ever took place, had something to do
with the dismal story — a belief in the end disproved when it
became known that the murder of Lord Frederick was un-
intentional. When the inaugural ceremony was over. Lord
Frederick Cavendish walked towards the residence appointed
for him in the Phcenix Park. On the road he was overtaken
by Mr. Burke, a Castle oflicial of long standing and of great
impopulaiity. ]\Ir. Burke stopped his car, got ofi", sent the
car away, and, joining Lord Frederick Cavendish, walked with
him through the long broad road that leads through the park
past the viceregal lodge. It was a bright, beautiful summer
evening ; the time was between seven and eight, and the light
was scarcely less clear than at noonday. The park was not
lonely or deserted ; there were many j^eople in it enjoying the
fine summer evening. What happened would seem to be im-
possible were it not too terribly true. On the wide highway
of the park, with grass-grown spaces at each side, with trees
indeed here and there, but none in such niimber as to in any
place darken or cover the spot ; in the vivid light of a IMay
evening, with many people about ; these two men were killed,
almost cut to pieces, by a band of armed assassins. Some men
on bicycles, who were riding through the park, passed Lord


Frederick Cavendish and Mr. Burke walking together within a
few yards of the Phcenix monument. The bicyclists went
round the monument : coming back, they met an outside car
with four men on it driving rapidly away. A little further
on they found two bodies lying on the ground, covered with
wounds and soaking in blood. From the windows of the
viceregal lodge, which lies to the right of the road. Lord
Spencer himself and his friends had been looking out. They
had seen some sort of scuffle going on in the road some hun-
dreds of yards away, and had thought unconcernedly that they
were looking at some rough horse-play. A man who was
walking with his dogs at some little distance from the scene of
the murder beheld what he too thought was rough horse-play,
saw two men fall to the ground, and the rest drive away, with-
out any thought that he was AvitnessLng a terrible murder. The
assassins themselves had made their escape. The car and its
occupants had driven rapidly oft' in the direction of Chapelizod,
the Dublin suburb that takes its name from that Belle Isoud,
who was daughter of the fabulous King Anguish, of Ireland —
a monarch most appropriately named. They seemed to have
wholly disappeared ; darkness apparently had swallowed them
up for ever from the eyes of men.

It would be difficult to exaggerate the horror that fell upon
England on that Sunday morning in May when the news was
known. The crime was without a parallel in the recent history
of England and Ireland ; it was as unexpected as it was terrible.
The manner in which the murder was done, with knives — and
the knife was hitherto almost unknown in all cases of outrase
in Ireland — the escape, the absolute disappearance of the
assassins, the moment chosen for the crime, at a time when the
hostility of two years seemed at an end, the fact that the chief
victim was the herald of the new policy of peace ; all these
things combined to make the deed of especial blackness. It
should never be forgotten that at a time when England and all
the world were thrilled with horror at the murder, at a time
when the passions of the coolest men might well be stirred to
their worst, the tone of English opinion and of the English


press was with rare exceptions just and moderate. No howl of
hate was raised ; no wild cry for indiscriminate revenge. In
the face of the awful catastrophe the English leaders and the
English people were able to govern their anger, and to meet the
situation with honourable dignity and composure.

The three chief Irish leaders, Mr. Parnell, Mr. Davitt, and
Mr. Dillon, held a hun-ied meeting together. Mr. Davitt had
come out of Portland Prison the previous night, had been wel-
comed joyously by his friends, but all joy in his release faded
before the news of the murder. He and his two friends pre-
pared a hurried address to the Irish people, expressing in their
own heart-stricken grief the sorrow and shame of the party and
the people they represented. The document concluded, ' We feel
that no act has been perpetrated in our country during the
exciting struggles for social and political rights of the past fifty
years that has so stained the name of hospitable Ireland as this
cowardly and unprovoked as.sassination of a friendly stranger ;
and that until the murderers of Lord Frederick Cavendish and
Mr. Burke are brought to justice, that stain will sully our
country's name.' At meetings all over the country the crime
was no less bitterly denounced. A meeting in Cork, composed
chiefly of Nationalists and Land Leaguers, passed unanimously
a resolution declaring ' that this meeting of the citizens of Cork,
spontaneously assembled, hastens to express the feelings of in-
dignation and sorrow with which it has learned of the murders
of Lord Frederick Cavendish and Mr. T. H. Burke last night ;
to denounce it as a crime that calls to Heaven for vengeance; to
repudiate its authors, Avhoever they may be, with disgust and
abhoiTence, as men with whom the Irish nation has no com-
munity of feeling; and to convey our condolence with the
families of the murdered.' The Corporation of Dublin passed a
resolution declaring that, until the perpetrators of the crime
were brought to justice, all Irishmen must feel dishonoured.
Resolutions of l^indred nature were passed in all parts of Ire-
land, and the deepest sorrow and indignation appeared to prevail
throughout the country, but no trace of the assassins was dis-
coverable. Many arrests were made, but nothing could be


proved against the men arrested. Some few madmen in different
parts of the world accused themselves of the criiue, as is always
the case when any such crime is committed, and were found on
investigation to be insane. For a time it seemed as if the
authors of the crime had succeeded in hiding themselves for ever
from the pursuit of law.

The Government at once decided to abandon for the moment
the Procedure question, and to bring forward Bills for amend-
ing and extending both the Land and the Coercion Acts of
the previous session. All this was resolved at a harried
Cabinet Council called on the Sunday succeeding to the murder.
A new Chief Secretary, too, was to be appointed. The names of
Mr. Chamberlain and Sir Charles Dilke at once occurred to
many minds. It was generally believed that either of them
would have accepted the ofler of the post without the slightest
hesitation, in spite of the terrible fate of Lord Frederick
Cavendish ; but neither Mr. Chamberlain nor Sir Charles Dilke
would accept the position of Chief Secretary unless the post
was accompanied with the privilege of a seat in the Cabinet. It
is in the highest degree probable that the appointment of either
of these statesmen might, at that critical point in Irish affairs,
have been productive of great good. Both were men of wide
and profound political knowledge, both were distinctly in ad-
vance of the conventionalities of party politics; both were known
to have great sympathy with the grievances of Ireland. The
Government, however, did not see their way to appointing either
of the only two men who could possibly have been able to deal
with the Irish question in a spirit of broad and comprehensive
statesmanship. It is of course possible that the conditions of
the place are too severe for any ability ; it is possible that either
Mr. Chamberlain or Sir Charles Dilke would have injured in
vain a brilliant reputation and marred a distinguished career by
the effort to manage the affairs of Ireland from within the walls
of Dublin Castle. It is difficult to imagine either Mr. Chamberlain
or Sir Charles Dilke submitting tamely to the sordid routine and
stubborn officialdom of Dublin Castle. It is easier to believe
that the Castle clique would have found a master and not a


servant, a rod and not a tool. The Government, however, was
determined not to allow a seat in the Cabinet to go with the
Irish secretaryship, and the post was given to Mr. George Otto

Mr. George Otto Trevelyan's career is a cnrious example of
the infatuation with which the passion for political life can
inspire its victims. Mr. Trevelyan was a clever man in a
variety of ways, but he was, beyond and above all, a really
brilliant man of letters. He had written very few books, but
among that few some were certainly among the best that hLs
time had j^roduced. His ' Cawnpore ' is an honourable example
of beautiful English prose worthily applied. Seldom has a sad
and simple story of suffering and heroic deeds found fairer in-
terpretation. The record of that desperate siege, of the courage-
ous defence, of the fatal catastrophe, and of the bloody, swift re-
venge, reads with something of the strength of an Homeric
rhapsody, with something of the vivid genius which records the
taldng of the Bastille. Yet ' Cawnpore ' must rank second to
' The Early Years of Charles James Fox.' In those pages the
wild youth who was to be one of England's greatest statesmen
lives again. He is as real there as Harry Esmond, or George
Warrington, or Sydney Carton ; as truthful as any last century
chronicle written in the acid speech of a Hervey or the courtly
slanders of a Chesterfield. All the last century lives in those
delightful pages, in which the author seems to have inherited
his uncle's marvellous prose, and to have adopted the kindly,
loving keenness of insight with which Thackeray gazed upon
the dim and faded canvases of last century heroes and beauties
and statesmen. It is deeply to be regretted that the early
life alone of Fox is told. The gain to English literature
would have been great indeed had Mr. Trevelyan con,sented to
carry that resplendent career, from its wild Tory boyhood,
through those years of a statesmanship in advance of its epoch,
into the grave over which Freedom might well have wept !
But we are given to understand that the unfinished window in
Aladdin's palace is destined to remain unfinished. Mr. Trevel-
yan, uniting the rare qualifications of being a man of fortune


and a man of genius, chooses rather a life of Parliamentaiy
drudgery and narrow official distinction to the honour of being
one of the foremost authoi-s of his time. He prefers that instead
of teaching men to say of him, He wrote the Life of Fox, they
shall say instead. He served without much notice in Parliament
for many years, and filled some small offices unworthy of his
name, in order that he might become an unsuccessful Irish
secretary, and walk the streets of Dublin or of London with an
armed detective at his heels.

Other Ministerial changes took place. Mr. Leonard Court-
ney was given Lord Frederick Cavendish's Financial Secre-
taryship of the Treasury ; Mr. Campbell Bannerman Avent from
the War Office to the Admiralty, and was succeeded by Sir
Arthur Hayter. Mr. Couitney's Under-Secretaryship of the
Colonies was taken by Mr. Evelyn Ashley, whose place at the
Board of Trade was given to Mr. J. Holms, while Mr. Herbert
Gladstone and Mr. E. AV. Duff were advanced to Treasury
vacancies. Later on Mr. Gladstone resigned the Chancellor-
ship of the Exchequer to ]Mr. Childers. Lord Hartington
came to the War Office. Lord Kimberley took the India
Office. Lord Derby became Colonial Secretary. Sir Charles
Dilke entered the Cabinet as President of the Local Govern-
ment Board in the place of Mr. Dodson, who became Chancellor
of the Duchy of Lancaster on the resignation of Mr. Bright.

Parliament met on May 8 to pay tribute of regret to the
memories of Lord Frederick Cavendish and Mr. Burke. Lord
Granville spoke in the Upper and Mr. Gladstone in the Lower
House. Mr. Parnell expressed, on the part of his friends and
on the part, as he believed, of every Irishman, in whatever
part of the world he might live, his unqualified detestation of
the horrible crime which had just been committed in Ireland.
He wished to state his conviction that the crime had been
committed by men who absolutelj^ detested the cause with which
he was associated, and who devised and carried out the crime
as the deadliest blow which they had it in their power to deal
agains^ the hopes of the Irish party, in connection with the new
course on which the Government had entered.


The House met on May 11 at nine in the evening, aftei' the
funeral of Lord Frederick Cavendish had taken place at Chats-
worth. The first reading of the new Prevention of Crime Bill
■was at once introduced by Sir William Harcourt. The new
measure contained some startling proposals. To meet the diffi-
culty of punishing crime caused by the intimidation of jurors,
who might be afraid to return, at the peril of their lives, a
condemnatory verdict, it was proposed that where the Lord
Lieutenant was of opinion that a just and impartial ti'ial could
not be had of persons charged with treason, murder, and crimes
of exaggerated violence, he might appoint a Special Commission,
consisting of three judges of the Supreme Court. This court
would sit without a jury, and decide the questions of law and
fact, and their judgment would have to be unanimous. To
meet some of the objections that would be raised against such
an unusnal tribunal, an appeal was to be allowed in all cases
tried before such a court to the Court of Criminal Cases Re-
served, in which a quorum of five judges decided cases brought
before them by a majority. The second part of the Bill gave
the police power, in proclaimed districts, to search houses by
day or night for the secret apparatus of crimes. Another
clause provided for the arrest of persons found prowling about
at night and unable to give a projDer account of themselves. To
meet the importation of crime from abroad, it was decided to
reviv'e the Alien Act, giving power to arrest and to remove from
the country foreigners who might be considered dangerous to
the public peace. All kinds of intimidation would be sum-
marily punished; the Govei-nment would be empowered lo
seize all newsjiapers inciting to crime ; and the Lord Lieutenant
was given sj^ecial powei's to deal with unlawful assemblies by
a Court of Summary Jurisdiction, consisting of two resident
magistrates. The duration of the Act was to be for three
years. The measure was received with something like enthu-
siasm by the majoi-ity of the House, only one English member,
Mr. Joseph Cowen, speaking against it. Mr. Parnell expressed
his deep regret that the Government should have found it
necessary to introduce such a measure, which could only result


in more disastrous failure than the failure of the previous
coercive policy. On a division the Bill was read for the first
time by 327 to 22, only two English members, Mr. Joseph Cowen
and Mr. J. C. Thompson, of Durham, voting in the minority.
Opposition to certain portions of the Bill came from a more
unexpected quarter than that of the Irish members. The Irish
judicial bench publicly proclaimed their unwillingness to accept
the new duties which the Government Bill would have pvit
upon them. So grave a change in the principles of the adminis-
tration of justice was most unwelcome to the majority of the
Irish judges; and one of them in especial, Justice Fitzgerald,
•was conspicuous for the opposition he offered to the Ministerial

Before the new Coercion Bill was brought forward for its
second reading, the question of the negotiations between the
Government and the imprisoned Irish members came up again,
negotiations which about this time received the name of the
'Treaty of Kilmainham.' On May 15 Mr. Puleston asked the
Prime Minister if he would produce the documentai-y evidence
of the intentions of the recently imprisoned members of Parlia-
ment with reference to their conduct if I'eleased from custody.
Mr. Gladstone declined, on the gi'ound that the production of
the letters which had passed between certain members of the
House might tend to diminish the responsibility of her
Majesty's Government. The moment Mr. Gladstone had
finished speaking, Mr. Parnell rose and offered to read the
letter which he understood to be the documentary evidence

Online LibraryJustin H. (Justin Huntly) McCarthyEngland under Gladstone, 1880-1885 → online text (page 19 of 38)