Justin H. (Justin Huntly) McCarthy.

England under Gladstone, 1880-1885 online

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under the threat of eviction and the pressure of starvation, have
paid the unjust rents levied on their improvements, and extorted
from their desperate toil and hopeless poverty. I say that on
this matter, as on many others, Lord Salisbury constitutes him-
self the spokesman of a class — of the class to which he himself
belongs, " who toil not, neither do they spin ; " whose fortunes,
as in his case, have originated in gi-ants made in times long gone
by for the services Avliich courtiers rendered kings, and have
since grown and increased, while they have slept, by levying an
unearned share on all that other men have done by toil and
labour to add to the general wealth and prosperity of the
country of which they form a part.'

It is no exaggeration to say that this speech roused the
greatest excitement throughout the country. Advanced Radi-
cals hailed it as a declaration of war against a profitless and
costly aristocracy. Whigs and Conservatives, dubious Liberals
and desperate Toi-ies, huddled together in the common union of
angiy panic. From the shores of the ' tideless, dolorous, midland
sea,' from the myrtle groves of Cannes, the Duke of Argjdl wrote
an indignant protest on behalf of his class against the utterances
of the President of the Board of Trade. There was nothing of
the rose-scented wind of Provence in the tone and temper of


the Duke's letter. It blew with the angry, acrid breath of the
mistral. The Duke of Argyll is nothing if he is not omniscient.
He hurled portentous blocks of political economy at the Bir-
mingham Trojan, He quoted Carlyle, he quoted Lord Bacon,
he alluded to the career of James Nasmyth, he volunteered the
superfluous statement that he was not ' a Communist.' All
this was entertaining enough, but it can hardly have impressed
Mr. Chamberlain very profoundly, or have caused the Radicals
of Birmingham and elsewhere to veil abashed foreheads. It
had, indeed, nothing to do with the matter in hand. Every one
knew of course that the Duke of Argyll was not likely to con-
sider a wealthy aristocracy a useless feature in a State system,
"What Mr. Chamberlain complained of was the heartless in-
difference with which the chief champion of a wealthy and idle
body had regarded the sufferings of some millions of less fortunate
fellow-men. Nobody had accused, nobody could accuse the
Duke of Argyll of idleness. His activity might not be very
profitable to the State, but it was undoubted. He was always
writing books or letters, and displaying the varied range of his
acquirements^ prompt at all times to enter the lists against
Radicalism, ever ready to break a lance with progress, to defend
the old order that was rapidly giving place to the new.

On April 19 a bronze statue of Lord Beaconsfield was un-
veiled in Parliament Square, in the presence of Lord Salisbury,
Sir Stafford Northcote, and a large number of Lord Beacons-
field's relations, friends, and admirers. Among the friends was
Sir John Pope Hennessy, one of Mr. Disraeli's favourite lieu-
tenants in former days. Sir John Pope Hennessy had just
come from his old governorship of Hong Kong, and was making
a brief stay in London before starting for his new governorship
of Mauritius. When Sir John Hennessy was a young man
making his way in Parliament, Mr. Disraeli, who always
sought the alliance of young men of political promise, mani-
fested the warmest friendship and affection for him, and it was
a curiously appropriate chance which allowed him to be present
dt a ceremony in honour of his old frier^d and leadei\


In the second week of July 1883 the Government found
itself in a new difficulty, which threatened at one time to prove
the most serious they had yet encountered. The Suez Canal
had for some time been proving itself insufficient to meet the
increased demands made upon it as a waterway, and various
susfQiestions were made from time to time for affordins; mcreased
facilities of transit to the Ease. At one time there was some
talk of a canal, founded on British capital, and worked by a
British company, being cut by Alexandi'ia and Cairo. Nothing
much was heard of this scheme. Then it became known that
M. de Lesseps had a plan of his own for increasing the means
of communication across the isthmus. M. de Lesseps's position
was somewhat peculiar. In 1856, M. Ferdinand de Lesseps
came to England with a great project for cutting a ship canal
across the Isthmus of Suez. Any one who glances at a map will
see at once what immense advantages to the commerce of the
world, and especially to the commerce of England, such a canal,
if really feasible, offered. The way to our Indian empire, to our
Australian colonies, instead of encii-cling the whole African
continent, might be enormously abridged by the proposed canal.
Yet in England M. de Lesseps's proposal was received with in-
diffei'ence if not with contempt. It coiild not be made; if
made it could not possibly pay; if it did pay, and proved a
success, it would be a serious danger to British interests.
M. de Lesseps had an interview with Lord Palmerston, who
regarded the scheme with whole-hearted hostility; and Lord
Palmerston in his love and hate was always whole-heax'ted.
M. de Lesseps was in no wise discouraged. He appealed to his
own countrymen, and found that they were more easily impressed
with the feasibility of the scheme than the engineering race of
England. French patience, French energy, and French per-
severance overcame all obstacles and cut the canal. Then the
English people began to discover that they had made a great
mistake. Lord Beaconsfield, in 1875, did something to retrieve
the mistake by the famous purchase of the shares of the ruined
Khedive, amounting in number to nearly half the 400,000
original shares jr). the cf^nal. The pm^chase was enthusiastically


praised and wildly condemned ; it may now be admitted to have
been a clever and successful stroke of policy.

There were three courses open to ]M. de Lesseps and his
energetic son Charles in 1883, when the new canal scheme was
talked of. Either the existing canal might be widened and
enlarged genei-ally, so as to allow of greater traffic between its
banks ; or a new canal might be cut alongside through the land
already belonging to the company at whose head M. de Lesseps
was — a plan, however, which, owing to the limitations of the
land actually at the disposal of the company, would entail many
disadvantages, among others the necessary junction of the two
canals at cex-tain points. The third plan was, to obtain from
the Egyptian Government concessions for an entirely new canal
on entirely new ground in the isthmus. Such a new canal
would undoubtedly be the best of all ; and by using one canal
for up and the other for down ships, the traffic might be at
once greatly increased and greatly accelerated. "Why then, it
may be asked, should not England, with all her money and her
engineering skill, build this second canal for herself? There
were many complaints of the Avay in which the old canal
was managed ; of the heavy tolls exacted ; of the absence of
British influence in its management ; of the completely French
nature of its pilotage and officialdom generally. Why should not
England, who had now learned the value of a canal, and regretted
her old hostility to it, build this second canal, and pay no heed
to the two Lesseps and their demands ? M. de Lesseps's answer
was simple enough. The company, of which M. de Lesseps is
the head, have a monopoly on the isthmus. The original grant,
Avhicb allowed them to undertake the task of cuttincf a water-
way through the isthmus, and linking together the Mediter-
ranean and Red Seas, gives into their hands all rights of canal-
cutting on the isthmus. Either the new canal must be cut by
jSL de Lesseps and his company, or it cannot be cut at all. On
the face of it, it must be admitted that there was a good deal in
this way of stating the case. It was hardly conceivable that
any man would go to work at such a business without some
such monopoly to protect him. What would be the nse of his


expanding his genius and his life, and all the funds he could
raise to the cutting of a canal through the isthmus, if, the
moment it was completed, and he had shown that the task could
be dene, any other nation could step in, and, profiting by his
eTparience and his example, cut another canal by the side of
his, and practically render his valueless ? No railway company
would run a line joining two towns unless they possessed some
monopoly which ensured them against any knot of adventurers
who pleased, and who could collect money enough, starting a
rival line between the same two towns within a week after the
first line had been established. It seemed reasonable, therefore,
to assume that M. de Lesseps had obtained such a monopoly.
Factsj however, and not probabOities, were wanted. People in
England wanted to know, not what M. de Lesseps ought for his
own security to have done, but what M. de Lesseps really had
done. Had he secured from Egypt a monopoly of canal-cutting
rights over the Isthmus of Suez to the exclusion of all other
competitors 1 AVhen the question of the second Suez Canal
came up, and the English Government began to inquire into
the matter, in the hope of obtaining some solid securities for
British interest in the new venture, they answered in the
aflSrmative. They at once conceded the claim of M. de Lesseps
to an exclusive right to make a second canal through the
Isthmus of Suez. They chose to regard themselves as coming
to buy from a seller who did not wish to sell, and to whose
terms they had practically to agree. In their interpretation of
the grant of Said Pasha they were supported by the opinion of
the law ofiicers of the Crown, and of the Lord Chancellor him-
self. In this spirit the British Government went to M. de
Lesseps and made certain provisional arrangements with him,
subject, of course, to the approval of Parliament. By these
arrangements the British Government were to advance M. de
Lesseps a sum of eight millions sterling, to assist him in cutting
the new canal. In return for this loan M. de Lesseps was to
make certain concessions and efiect certain alterations in the
dues and management of the two canals. On July 10 the
heads of a provisional agreement were signed in London by


Sir C. Rivers Wilson and Mr. J, Stokes as representatives of
the British Government, and by M, Charles Aime de Lesseps
for the president of the Suez Canal Company. By this agree-
ment England agreed to lend the company, by instalments, a
sum of eight millions at three per cent, interest, with a sinking
fund, not to commence until after the completion of the works,
calculated to repay the capital in fifty years. The Government
also pledged themselves to use their good offices to obtain from
the Egyptian Govei'nment concessions — first, for the land re-
quired for the new canal and its appi^oaches ; secondly, for a
sweet-water canal between Ismailia and Port Said ; thirdly,
for an extension of the terms of the original concession for so
many years as would make a new term of ninety-nine years
from the date of completion of the second canal. In considera-
tion of such an extension the company were to pay annually to
the Egyptian Treasury from the commencement of this new
term of ninety-nine years one per cent, of the total net profits,
after the statutory reservation. The Canal company on its
side agreed to construct the canal so that its width and depth
should satisfy the English directors. A reduction of the transit
dues was agreed to on the basis that every increase of profits
should be shared with the shipowners. In other words, an in-
crease of profits would always mean a decrease of transit dues
down to a minimum of five francs per ton ; while, on the other
hand, a decrease of profits would mean an increase of transit
dues on the same scale. No second increase or decrease of transit
dues was to take place in the same year. From Januaiy 1,
1884, ships in ballast were to pay twenty-two francs per ton
less than ships with cargo. It was hoped that pilotage dues
would be got rid of altogether by January 1, 1887. An exist-
ing grievance in the use of exclusively foreign pilots was to be
got rid of by the employment of a fair proportion of English
pilots. The agreement further included the appointment of an
English officer, selected by her Majesty's Government, to be
called Inspecteur de la Navigation, to whom the captains of
English vessels could address themselves in cases of complaint,
or of desired communication with the company. Finally, it


was agreed that one of the Euglisli directors was always to be
a vice-prasident of the company.

Such were the terms agreed to between the rejiresentatives
of the British Government and the President of the Suez
Canal Company. When they were made known in England
they were greeted with almost unanimous disapproval. From
the Chambers of Commerce all over the country a chorus of
angry discontent was raised. In Pai'liament Sir Staflbrd
Northcote immediately gave notice of the hostility of the
Opposition to the proposed agreement, and it soon became plain
that in the Liberal ranks there was no slight dislike to the
new plan. The Government suddenly found themselves in-
volved in a serious and imexpected difficulty. They met it by
quietly abandoning the whole affair. The arrangement was
undertaken, Mr. Gladstone said in effect, for the benefit of the
country ; if the country did not approve of it — and the country
had undoubtedly shown that it did not approve of it — there
was nothing for it but to give the business up and leave M. de
Lesseps and his son to their own devices. Sir Stafford North-
cote very successfully spoilt the really strong position which the
agitation had given him by bringing forwai'd a motion which,
while ostensibly directed against M. de Lesseps, was of a nature
that M. de Lesseps himself would have cordially agreed to. Sir
Stafford Northcote's motion combated the assumption which
nobody had raised, that M. de Lesseps had a monopoly in tha
making of canals to join the INIediterranean and the Red Sea.
M. de Lesseps's most enthusiastic advocates never claimed such
a monopoly for him ; his most impassioned antagonists never
alleged that he had claimed any such a monopoly. All that
M. de Lesseps did claim was the monopoly of piercing tho
Isthmus of Suez : this point the Government had conceded to
him ] this claim the Opposition objected to ; but this claim was
not combated or indeed alluded to in Sir Stafford Northcote's
motion. At one time the Opposition seemed to have the game
entirely in their own hands; bvxt Sir Stafford Northcote's motion
gave it back at once into the hands of the Government. An
amendment was brought forward from the Ministerial side of


the House, setting forth the condition of things in a clearer
fashion, and was of course carried.

In Ireland things were unquiet. Early in January Mr.
Davitt, Mr. Healy, and Mr. Quinn were tried before the
Queen's Bench in Dublin, on account of speeches they had de-
livered, and were ordered to find securities for their good be-
haviour, or to go to prison for six months. They chose im-
prisonment, and were accordingly committed to Richmond
Prison on the second week of February. In January, also,
the Irish executive began an action for libel asrainst Mr.
William O'Brien, editor of United Ireland., for an article
which he had written against Lord Spencer. At the time of
the action Mr. William O'Brien was standing as a candidate
for the town of Mallow, which had become vacant through the
acceptance by the Solicitor- General for Ireland of a place of
profit under the Crown. Mallow was a constituency which
seemed very unlikely to return a National candidate. Once
before it had returned a very moderate Home Buler, Mr. John
George MacCarthy, to the great surprise of everybody. But it
was generally looked upon as a safe seat for an Irish Govern-
ment official. This time, however, the condition of things
was changed. Mr. William O'Brien, extreme among extreme
Nationalists, was returned at the head of the poll by a majority
of 72 over the new Solicitor-General for Ireland, ]\Ir. Naish,
On February 9 the new member for Mallow was put upon his
trial for the alleged libel, and the next day the trial came to an
end, as the jury were unable to agree.

All other causes of public interest in Ireland, however,
were destined for some months to sink into comparative insig-
nificance when compared with the excitement aroused by cer-
tain inquiries that were going on at Kilmainham Court-house.
On January 13 the Dublin police made a sudden raid upon
several houses in the town, and arrested seventeen men. Two
days later three other arrests were made, and on the 20th the
prisoners were brought into the Dublin Court-house, and for-
mally charged with being associated in a conspiracy to murder


Government ofiBcials. INIost of these men were of the artisan
class, stonecutters, compositors, van-men, and masons : one ■was of
better position, James Carey, a well-to-do contractor and builder
who had been a suspect, and was recently elected to the
Dublin Town Council. Of all the prisoners this man carried
himself most coolly, protested the loudest against the injustice
of his arrest, and the inconvenience it caused him. On the 20th
he stepped out of the prison van, smoking a cigar, carefully
dressed to represent a thriving tradesman who was proud of
civic honours, ostentatiously, even aggressively, composed in
bearing. Offers of bail for any of the prisoners were rigorously
refused. The doubts — and they were many — as to the value of
the police raid were soon dispelled. One of the arrested men,
Farrell, i)roraptly turned informer. He did not know much.
Little that Farrell told about the Fenian organisation itself,
its Bs and Cs, its subscriptions and distributions of arms and
secret drilling, was either new or important. It was when he
came to describe the ' inner circle ' formed for the purpose of
assassinating Government officials that interest began to thicken.
Farrell was not himself a member of this inner circle, and its
existence has been frequently denied and frequently affirmed
since. The ' member of the Fenian brothei'hood ' who in the
February and March of 188-i wrote letters on the subject of the
I. R. B. to the Pall Mall Gazette, admitted its existence, and
described some of its acts. Its existence and its acts were im-
mediately flatly denied by another correspondent of the same
jom-nal, who wrote under the signature of ' One who Knows.'
Farrell gave minute descriptions of a series of attempts to assas-
sinate Mr. Foi-ster, all of which failed almost in the very moment
of execution through some chance which seemed little short of
miraculous. He also offered hearsay evidence as to the attack
on Mr. Field, in which five men, Brady, Kavanagh, Kelly,
Dwyer, and Hanlon were implicated. Later in the month
another of the prisoners, Michael Kavanagh, turned informer,
and on his evidence Brady, Kelly, James Carey, Michael Fitz-
harris, Hanlon, Joseph Mtdlett, James Mullety, Delaney,
Edward O'Brien, John Moroney, Peter Carey, Daniel Delaney,


Patrick Whelan, and Michael Fagan were formally accused of
taking part in the murders in the Phoenix Park on May 6 in
the preceding year, Kavanagh declared that he drove Joe
Brady, Tim Kelly, Patrick Delaney, and one other who was not
in the dock, to the Phoenix Park on the evening of May 6. There
they found James Carey waiting. There he saw the victims
approaching, saw James Carey give a signal by waving a hand-
kerchief, saw one of the victims fall, and drove off with the four
men whom he had brought there. On February 27 he drove
Brady and Delaney to the spot where they attacked Mr. Field,
and after the attempt drove off with Brady and Kelly. The
excitement of such evidence as this was soon surpassed by the
appearance on the table of another, a far more remarkable in-
former, James Carey himself. This man was, on his own show-
ing, a bloody and I'emorseless villain. He was the guiding
spirit of the murder organisation which called itself the Irish
Invincibles. He organised the plans of assassination against
Mr. Forster; his influence led his fellow-prisoners into the
schemes ; he planned the murder in the Phoenix Park ; he
gave the signal for the crime, and composedly witnessed its
execution. He afterwards had the almost unparalleled heart-
lessness to propose a motion of condolence with the widow
of Lord Frederick Cavendish. History does not afford many
examples of so complete a villain; fewer still of villains
composedly giving testimony to their own infamy. Carey's
evidence was the practical conclusion of the trials. Some
effort was made to compromise the Land League as a body by
his evidence, but the attempt failed. Men who were also
members of the Land League were criminated by his evidence,
but no proof whatever was adduced that the Land League
organisation had any connection with the schemes of crime,
or that the mysterious Number One, who, according to
Carey, was the prompter of the whole business and the finder
of funds, was in any way associated with the Land League.
Carey declared that the woman who brought over the knives
with which the Phoenix Park assassinations were committed
from London was Mrs. Frank Byrne, the wife of an official



of the English branch of the Land League ; but when she was
arrested and confronted with him, he failed to identify her.
Another proof, if proof were really needed, of the wide gulf
between the leaders of the National party and the members of
secret societies was afforded by one of the prisoners. This man
kept a diary, which formed part of the evidence that convicted
him, and in this diary he put on record his unmitigated con-
tempt for constitutional agitators like Mr. Parnell. Those who
really knew Irish affairs were of course aware that the secret
societies regard the Parliamentary agitation with unconcealed
contempt and dislike. The diary of James Mullett was only
one additional piece of evidence towai'ds what might be con-
sidered an obvious fact.

Brady, Curley, Michael Fagan, Caffrey, and Timothy Kelly
were convicted, sentenced to death, and hanged. Delaney,
Fitzharris, and Mullett were sentenced to penal servitude for
life; the others to various periods of penal sei-vitude. True
bills were found against Walsh and P. J. Sheridan, who had
escaped to America, and against a man named Tynan, said to
be ' Number One,' who had also got aw^ay to America. The
fate of James Carey was dramatic. For a time he was kept
in Kilmainham, until the authorities should decide what to do
with him. He blustered a good deal of his determination to
remain in Dublin, and his intention to take his place as usual on
the Dublin Town Council. Then he suddenly disappeared. It
was assumed that the Government would ensure his removal to
some safe place, establish him in some Crown colony, or
appoint him warder in some prison, where, under a changed
name, he might defy detection, and never be heard of again.
Suddenly, in July, came the startling new^s from the Cape that
James Carey had been shot dead on board ship at sea by a man
named O'Donnell. The story was disbelieved at first, but it
was soon confirmed. O'Donnell was brought to London, tried,
found guilty, and hanged. The evidence did not make it cer-
tain whether he killed Carey in a sudden fit of indignation at
finding himself with the detested informer, or was sent as the
special emissary of a secret society to make away with him.



Towards the end of the year the old Orange and Green feud
■was revived in Ireland with peculiar animosity. It had never,
indeed, died out, but of late years its old ferocity seemed to
have faded. Ever since 1795, when the first Orange lodge
was founded in Armagh, after the ' Btittle of the Diamond,'
Orangeism had become an important factor in the political
situation of Ireland. The Orangemen were the legitimate sue-
cessors of the old English ' garrison,' of the chivalry of the Pale,
of the Cromwellians of the plantations, of the Scotch ' settlers.'
The guiding principle of Orangeism was antagonism to Catho-

Online LibraryJustin H. (Justin Huntly) McCarthyEngland under Gladstone, 1880-1885 → online text (page 25 of 38)