Justin H. (Justin Huntly) McCarthy.

England under Gladstone, 1880-1885 online

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upon her by the Crimean Avar, The forty-fifth article of the
Treaty of Berlin compelled Roumania to restore to Russia the
greater portion of the Bessarabian territory which Russia had lost
by the Treaty of Paris in 1856. Thus all the Kilia mouths of
the Danube, with the exception of that of Stary Stamboul, were
comprised within the Russian frontier. By the forty-sixth
article the islands forming the Delta of the Danube, including
the Isle of Serpents, were added to Roumania. By the fifty-
third article Roumania as an independent power was granted
a representative on the European Commission.

The Em-opean Commission, through a committee of its
members, drew up certain draft regulations for that portioii of
the river between the Iron Gate and Galatz, and recommended
the formation of a permanent mixed Commission, consisting of
representatives of Austria, and of the Riverain States of
Roumania, Bulgaria, and Servia, to enforce these provisions.


It was farther proposed that the Austrian member, out of
courtesy to a great Power, should be president of this mixed
Commission. These proposals met with many objections.
Roumania was opposed to the presence of any Austrian member
on the Commission, Austria not being a riverain state. Bul-
gai'ia objected to the presence of either Austrian or Roumanian
members on the mixed Commission on the ground that these
Powers were already represented on the Euroj^ean Commission
by permanent members. The Fi-ench commissioner on the
European Commission, M. Camille Barrere, then proposed that
Austria, Roumania, Servia, and Bulgaria should each be repre-
sented on the mixed Commission, and that each of the members
of the European Commission should s?rve on the mixed Com-
mission successively for six months at a time, in the alphabetical
order of the countries they represented. This proposition was
eventually agreed to and signed by all the commissioners and
delegates, with the exception of Roumania, The English
Government in the end of 1882 issued invitations to France,
Germany, Austria, Italy, Russia, and Turkey, to assemble their
representatives in conference at London, with a view to decid-
ing upon the confirmation of these regulations, and the extension
and prolongation of the powers of the European Commission.
On this conference the riverain states who were especially
interested were not represented at all. All that the plenipo-
tentiaries would concede to the riverain states was that re-
presentatives from Roumania and Servia might be admitted to
the conference with a consultative voice, and that the Bulgarian
representatives might be present at the confei-ence and hear all
that was said, but would only be suffered to speak themselves
through the mouth of the Turkish ambassador. These con-
cessions were naturally very galling to the pride of the riverain
states, and though Servia accepted them, both Roumania and
Bulgaria refused, and declared that they would not be bound by
any decisions that might be taken without their participation.

In all this the riverain states, and Roumania especially,
appear to have been somewhat roughly nsed by the great
Powers. Prince Georges Bibesco, in his valuable book 'Histoire


d'line Frontiere ; la Eoumanie sur la rive droite du Danube,' has
given a very clear and fair account of the hard treatment
Roumania had to undergo at the Congress of Berlin, where the
independence conceded to her was certainly made as bitter as
possible by the conditions demanded and the concessions enforced.
In the question of the navigation of the Danube, she would
certainly seem to be geographically entitled to a voice in the
matter; but at the London conference of 1883 her rights were
ignored, or at least recognised in such a manner as made the
recognition almost more humiliating than a direct refusal. Lord
Granville was very bland and very gracious, and if he suffered
Eoumania to be dealt with at the pleasure of the great Powers,
his attitude was polished and courteous. There was, un-
doubtedly, a considerable feeling of opposition to the riverain
states in this country. The Associated Chambers of Commerce,
bodies of great influence, believed that the representatives of
the riverain states on the proposed permanent mixed Com-
mission would endeavour to restrict the coastinsr trade of the
upper portion of the river to their own vessels. As such a
condition of things would be highly injurious to the trade and
shipping of this country, the Associated Chambers of Commerce
had memorialised Lord Granville in the April of L882, urging
him to ensure to English shipping all the rights and privileges it
then enjoyed as regarded the free navigation of the Danube.
Though it is by no means certain that Roumania had any such
intentions as were set forth in this appeal, the appeal would
undoubtedly have great weight with Lord Granville.

The result of the conference was practically to gratify all the
demands made by Russia. Russia carried her point about being
allowed, in conjunction with Roumania, to have the free super-
vision of the Kilia branch, and constructing in that branch and
its embouchures works of a commercial nature for the purpose
of improving the navigation. Russia, moreover, had the right
to levy tolls intended to cover the expenses of any such works
undertaken by her ; in fact, the principal result of the con-
ference was to yield to Russia all the concessions she demanded,
and to place Roumania very materially under Russian influence


and Russian authority. The nature of the mixed Commission
was agi-eed upon. The powers of the European Commission
were extended to Ibraila. The powers of the European Com-
mission were prolonged for a period of twenty-one years; and on
the expiration of this term it was further decided that the Com-
mission shouhl continue to exercise its functions for periods of
three yeai's, unless, one year before the expiration of one of these
terms of three years, any one of the contracting Powers gave
notice of a wish to propose modifications in the constitution or
powers of the Commission. A date of six months later than
the conference was assigned for the exchange of the ratifications
of this treaty, which accordingly took place at the end of
August 18S3.

Parliament opened on Thursday, February 15, 1883. The
Queen's Speech expressed satisfaction at the settlement of the
Egyptian struggle, announced that a confei^ence of the great
Powers had assembled in London to consider the questions
relating to the navigation of the Danube, and pointed out the
revival of disturbances in Zululand. Several measures of legis-
lation were announced — for the codification of the criminal
law, for the establishment of a Court of Criminal Appeal, for
the amendment and consolidation of the laws relating to
bankruptcy and patents, for preventing corrupt practices at
elections, for perpetuating and amending the Ballot Act, for
the better government of London, and for general reform in
the local government of the country. Bills were also promised
dealing with the conservancy of rivers and the prevention of
floods, with the police and universities of Scotland, with education
in Wales, and compensation to tenants for agricultural improve-
ments in England and Scotland. The Speech concluded with
the hope that Parliament might be able to deal with some of
the legislative wants of Ireland for which provision had not
yet been made.

In conformity with the habit of Parliament under the new
administration, a long debate sprang up upon the address.
People who objected to the policy of the Government in Egypt
and in Zululand, or who objected to other actions of the Govern-


ruent, or wlio wished to point out what the Government ought
to do, expressed their opinions with sufficient copiousness. Mr.
Gorst was the first to bring Ireland prominently forward by an
ingenious amendment, expressing a hope that no further con-
cessions would be made to lawless agitators in that country.
This at once aroused all the old Kilmainham treaty excitement.
In these debates Mr. Gibson and Mr. Plunket are always in
their element. Like the great twin brethren who were always
supposed to have a special eye to the safety of Home, and to
interfere in person where the fortunes of the ' Nameless City '
were going badly, Mr. Gibson and Mr, Plunket are ever in the
van of the Conservative battle when an Irish question gives
them the chance of showing that the Conservative party really
have some of the old fighting spirit left in them. The Kil-
mainham treaty has been the greatest of blessings to these two
gentlemen. The curious resemblances that exist between them
increase their likeness to the Dioscuri, and lend a piquant attrac-
tion to any of their united attacks upon the Ministry accused of
unholy compact with the Third Party. Both represent the same
constituency, both are clever la'wyers, both are exceptionally able
speakers, both have peculiarly eighteenth-century faces, both
pride themselves on their gifts of satiric speech, both are en-
dowed with a certain quality of theatrical display which enables
them to make the very most of even the slightest rhetorical
opportunity, both were law officers of the Crown under the late
Administration. But just as Castor was not wholly like Pollux,
or Pollux like Castor, so Mr. Gibson and Mr. Plunket have
certain points of difierence, which serve perhaps only to heighten
the general similitude. Mr. Gibson is, perhaps, the harder hitter;
Mr. Plunket the more poetically minded. Mr. Plunket is more
showy than solid ; Mr. Gibson more soHd than showy. On this
occasion both speakers were in full force. Mr. Gibson attacked
everybody fiercely— the Govei'nment, the Irish members, and
especially Mr. Herbert Gladstone, who had made a speech at
Leeds which stirred Mr. Gibson to a passion of indignation.
The Dioscuri raised the Kilmainham ghost again, showed that
it had been neither laid nor exorcised by all the debates that


had been devoted to it, and succeeded in bringing up Mr.
Forster. Mr. Forster bas a peculiar affection for the Kilmain-
ham treaty topic. It allows him to figure, like Eogue Rider-
hood, as 'a honest man,' and if enables him to gratify his sense
of injury against the colleagues who did not properly appreciate
his worth and his ability. Mr. Forster's speech was a long
attack upon Mr. Parnell, interrupted at one point not un-
dramatically. Mr. Forster had used words which, whatever
they were meant to convey, gave to their hearers the impression
that he charged Mr. Parnell with conniving at murder. Mr.
O'Kelly impetuously interrupted him by crying out thrice,
' You lie ! ' and was immediately suspended. This debate took
place on Thursday, the 22nd, and the next day Mr. Parnell
replied in a brief speech, in which he coldly repudiated Mr.
Forster's insinuations. In the course of the debate some in-
genious use was made by Mr. Forster's opponents of former
utterances of his own, and journalistic comments upon them.
Mr. Forster had made a speech in March 1864. defending
Mazzini as a man of high character, whose friend he should
not be ashamed to be, as he was not ashamed to be his acquaint-
ance. This declaration was made after long quotations had been
read in the House from Mazzini's letter on ' The Theory of the
Dagger,' in which he had written, 'Blessed be the knife of
Palafox; blessed be in your hands every weapon that can
destroy the enemy and set you free. The weapon that slew
Mincovitch in the arsenal initiated the insurrection in Venice.
It was a weapon of irregular warfare, like that which three
months before the republic destroyed the minister Rossi in
Rome.' These were the utterances of the man whom Mr.
Forster considered of high character, whose friendship he would
not repudiate. The quotation of these passages was appropriate.
They were not brought forward to convey the idea that Mr.
Forster approved of political assassination; that, of course,
would have been absurd. The intention was to show how easily
such accusations are trumped up, and also how liable English
statesmen are to commend, or at least to condone, principles of
revolution in foreign states, Avhich they view, and rightly view


then, in a very different light when they are applied at home.
The Kilmainham treaty was not heard the last of in this
debate. It came up again and again. "Whenever adventurous
membex'S of the Opposition had nothing better to do or to talk
about they turned to the Kilmainham treaty, and made it the
sempiternal text for attacks upon the Government. But no
amount of indignant inquiries or pertinacious onslaughts suc-
ceeded hi eliciting any further facts as to the alleged ' treaty.'
The Government had given its explanation, and declined to
amplify it to suit the sensational and mysterious suggestions
of an incredulous Opposition.

Once more the Bradlaugh question came prominently to the
front. During the recess Mr. Bradlaugh had been going about
the country addressing meetings, and had brought an un-
successful astion against the serjeant-at-arms for expelling
him from the House. On the day when Parliament met a
great meeting was held in Trafalgar Square to support jMr.
Bradlaugh's claims, at which Mr. Bradlaugh announced that
unless the Government brought in some Bill that would allow
him to affirm, he would take his seat as before. The Queen's
Speech, as we have seen, contained no reference to any Bill of the
kind suggested by Mr. Bradlaugh, but it war; nevertheless noised
abroad that the Government did propose to introduce legislation
on the subject. In answer to an appeal from Mr. Labouchere,
Lord Hartinoton announced that the Government intended to
bring in a Parliamentary Oaths Amendment Bill, which would
enable members objecting to the oath to affirm. In consequence
of this pledge, which aroused promises of the fiercest opposition
from the Conservative party, Mr. Bradlaugh consented to defer
further action on his part until the fate of the measvire was
decided. The decision was not long delayed. Before it came
Mr. Bradlaugh gained a victory over Mr. Newdegate after two
years of litigation. ]\Ir. Newdegate, in the person of his ' man of
straw,' named Clarke, had brought an action against Mr. Brad-
laugh, to recover penalties for his having sat and voted without
taking the oath. Mr. Clarke gained his case, and the verdict
was supported by the Coiu-t of Appeal, but was reversed by the

6 2


House of Lords on tlie ground that the right of action lay only
■with the Crown, and not with a common informer. Mr. Brad-
laugh's legal success was not ominous of like success in the
Commons. The Conservatives kept their promise to ofTer to
the Bill uncompromising opposition. Nor was opposition to
the Bill confined to the Tory benches. Within the Liberal
ranks some of the angriest opponents of the measiu-e avowed
themselves. On April 23 the second reading was moved by
the Attorney-General. A bitter debate, prolonged over several
days, came to an end on May 3. Shortly after midnight the
division was taken, amid a scene of excitement which recalled
to many members that wild night in 1866 when Mr. Lowe
and the Adullamites defeated a Reform Bill and overthrew a
Government. 289 members voted for the Affirmation Bill,
292 against it. The Government were defeated by a majority
of 3. Defeat was, indeed, inevitable. The forces allied for
the moment against the measure were so sti'ong, that the small-
ness of the majority was more remarkable than the fact that
there was a majority against the Government. But the Govern-
ment declined to go out. Foreseeing the possibility of defeat
from the beginning, they had taken cai'e to make it known that
they did not stake their existence on the fortunes of the Bill.
They chose to regard it as a matter for the House to decide
upon instead of a vital Ministerial measure, and they remained
in office. But the defeat was damaging, none the less. Re-
garded by itself the Government could afford to neglect it, but
it was Sb factor in the sum of troubles which was every day
becoming more bewildering to the political arithmetic of the
Administration. As soon as the Bill was defeated. Sir Stafford
Northcote moved his famihar resolution that Mr. Bradlaugh be
not permitted to take the oath ; and after Mr. Bi'adlaugh was
heard once more from the bar of the House in his own defence,
the motion was carried, and the difficulty was shelved for
another year.

An attempt was unsuccessfully made to include Mr. Brad-
laugh in a remarkable trial for blasphemy which was conducted
in February. This was the trial of the editor and publishers of a


periodical called the Freethh^her, for the publication of a series of
pictures described as a 'New Life of Christ,' for which the editor,
Mr. George William Foote, was sentenced to twelve months' im-
prisonment. The trial aroused the greatest public interest, and
many efforts were made to obtain a remission of the sentence by
persons who believed that the law had been strained, and who
considered that Mr. Foote, as a man of education and ability,
had been harshly treated for what was after all only an exagge-
rated expression of opinion. But, without entering into the
grave religious questions involved, it is surely obvious that
human society would become intolerable if it were permissible
for any one who pleased to insult publicly and coarsely the re-
ligion of the vast majority of his fellows. The illustrations
complained of were disgusting and disgraceful ; would have
been disgusting and disgraceful if the Chi'istians of England
were but as ten for every thousand. It is scarcely conceivable
that an educated man, as Mr. Foote undoubtedly was, could
have believed that he was serving any cause by these monstrous
caricatures of what even the bitterest unbelievers have agreed
to regard with reverence, the life of Christ. At the expiration
of the year Mr. Foote was released, and announced his inten-
tion of seeking a seat in Parliament to protest against religious

On April 2 Lord Randolph Churchill, judging that the time
had come for him to take a yet more active part in politics,
addressed a manifesto to the City and the world. The mani-
festo took the form of a letter to the Times. ' The position of
the Conservative party,' wrote Lord Randolph, 'at present is
hopeful and critical.' But, like the angry hive of bees iu
Warwick's simile, the Conservative party wanted a leader.
Three names at once presented themselves to Lord Randolph's
mind. ' If the electors are iu 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.' Salisbury w^as, indeed, the burden of Lord
Randolph's letter. * Honourable rescue and defence ' foi* the


Tory party * cried out upon the name of Salisbury,' and, likeLewia
of France, Lord Eandoli)h appealed to renowned Salisbury to
lift up his brow, and with a great heart heave away the inaction
of party due to the conduct of the ' Junta ' of leaders of Oppo-
sition in the House of Commons. Lord Randolph was dis-
mayed at the ' series of neglected opportunities, iiusillanimity,
combativeness at wrong moments, vacillation, dread of respon-
sibility, repression and discouragement of hard-working fol-
lowers, collusions with the Government, hankerings after coali-
tions, jealousies, commonplaces, and want of perception on the
part of the former lieutenants of Lord Beaconsfield,' All this
Avas due to the want of real leadership, and to the way in which
the opportunities of the party were 'handled by third-rate
statesmen, such as were good enough to fill subordinate oflSces
while Lord Beaconsfield was alive,' The Conservative party,
Lord Eandolph declared, was formed for better ends than 'the
short-lived triumph and speedy disgrace of " bourgeois " place-
men, " honourable " Tadpoles, hungry Tapers, Irish lawyers.'
Lord Salisbury alone could retrieve the party ; Lord Salisbury
alone could save the country.

The country, it must be admitted, smiled a good deal at
Lord Randolph's effort to save it, but it smiled good-humouredly.
There was something not displeasing in the cool audacity with
which Lord Randolph postured as the Elisha of the mantle of
Lord Beaconsfield, as the patron of the House of Cecil, and as
the saviour of his country, which disarmed any feelicg angrier
than amused interest. The immediate followers and allies of
Sir Stafibrd Northcote must be excepted from this sense of
amused interest. They were annoyed, indignant, incoherent.
Lord Salisbury himself did not appear to be greatly elated by
Lord Randolph's homage. In the phraseology of childhood.
Lord Randolph had spoken one word for Lord Salisbury, and
two for himself. Lately, Lord Randolph Churchill and Lord
Salisbury have almost parted company. It was easy to see,
even then, that, under all the respectful revei'ence for the
' English ' leadership of Lord Salisbury, Lord Randolph
Churchill cherished the complacent conviction that the Tory


party need not go to the UpjDer Hovise to find the needed new
leader. But the country is always good-humouredly tolerant of
youthful ambition, even of youthful audacity. Lord Randolph
was evidently playing a part learned from the life of the young
Disraeli, and the country perhaps remembered that its merri-
ment over the young Disraeli had not been particularly happy.
At any rate, it recognised Lord Randolph's right to prophecy,
even while it made merry over his prophecies. Lord Randolph
cared very little for the mirth of his opponents or his political
allies. ' Laugh, but hear me/ he might have said, paraphrasing
the well-worn classic story. He had been steadily advancing
more and more into the public view ever since the new Parlia-
ment; his letter made him more conspicuous than ever. It
provoked a counter-demonstration in favour of Sir Stafford
Northcote, in the shape of an address signed by two hundred
members of the Conservative party, assuring him of their alle-
giance. It called down angry letters, which Lord Randolph
Churchill took with great composure. In a second letter to
the Times he expressed himself as ' only too happy to bear the
brunt of a little temporary efiervescence, and to be the scape-
goat on which doomed mediocrities may lay the burden of
their exposed incapacity.' If Lord Salisbury declixaed to follow
his advice, then it became his duty to save the party and the
country himself; and Lord Randolph promptly assumed for him-
self, with no timid hesitation, the position of Lord Beaconsfield's

Lord Salisbury ^narle speeches in different parts of the
country, attacking the Government ; he even went to Birming-
ham to beard Radicalism by its own hearthstone, Birmingham
Radicalism was not disposed to take this Tory invasion patiently.
On March 30, 1883, Mr. Chamberlain delivered a counterblast
to Lord Salisbury. * Lord Salisbury surveys the Liberal policy
with jaundiced eyes, through glasses which are coloured by
temper and by prejudice. He exaggerates failures, he creates
defects where he does not find them, he ignores altogether
everything which is favourable and satisfactory, and by deej^en-
ing the shadows and altering the light produces a picture


which is not a portrait, but a gross caricature,' What would
Lord Salisbury and his party have done with Ireland \ ' No
remedial legislation ; more bayonets ; more police ; the Irish
leaders in gaol ; full rents for Irish landlords ; and eviction for
Irish tenants. But that is a policy which has been tried for
generations, and failed conspicuously. . . . Force is no remedy
for discontent. . . . Our task .vill never be completed until we
have succeeded, by just and equal laws, by wise administration,
in enlisting on the side of the English Government and the
English people the interest and the influence of the bulk of the
Irish nation.' Then came the passage which made this speech
one of the classics of the administration by its uncompromising
presentation of the position of the Radical party. ' Lord Salis-
bury cares nothing for the bulk of the Irish nation. . . . He
has no sympathy .... for the poor tenants who for years,

Online LibraryJustin H. (Justin Huntly) McCarthyEngland under Gladstone, 1880-1885 → online text (page 24 of 38)