Justin H. (Justin Huntly) McCarthy.

England under Gladstone, 1880-1885 online

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the question of the representation of Northampton came up for
discussion. Undoubtedly Mr. Bradlaugh himself was in some
measure to blame for what happened. If it was against his
conscience to take the oath, it was clearly his duty not to
take it, and abide the consequences. We know, however, that
Mr. i\lill did not consider it hypocritical for even an unbeliever
to take the oath of allegiance in its entirety.

The Bradlaugh episode had one curious influence upon the
House of Commons — it consolidated, it might, indeed, be said
to have created, the Fourth Party ; and it brought a new man
prominently forward into political life. Lord Randolph
Churchill had been half a dozen years in Parliament when Mr.
Bradlaugh was elected member for Northampton, but up to
that time he had played practically no part in the House.
When he spoke he was listened to because he was the son of a
gi'eat Tory duke ; but nobody paid much attention to what he
said, and it occurred to nobody to regard him as a political influ-
ence. Mr. Bradlaugh's advent was Lord Randolph Churchill's
opportunity. He made himself at once conspicuous as the

mh. brablaugh—tre fourth party. 45

opponent of Mr. Bradlangh and the atheistic Government who
supported him, Burke, flinging the dagger of the Jacobites on
the floor of the House of Commons, found a modern imitator in
Lord Randolph Churchill trampling under foot some printed
wi'itings of the member for Northampton. The House had
laughed at Burke ; it also laughed at Lord Randolph Churchill ;
but it soon began to discover that Lord Randolph Churchill
was not a young man to be put down or disconcerted by any
amount of laughter. He asserted himself again and again;
he spoke as often as he pleased ; he treated the recognised
leaders of his party with a frank indifierence which was not
a little shocking to established Conservative traditions. He
began alone, but he soon found companions. Like King John
in Anthony Munday's play, he held up his sword, and bade
' those that intend as I, follow this steely ensign lift on high.'
Three other persons were found to ' intend ' as Lord Randolph
Churchill intended — Sir Henry Wolff", Mr. Gorst, and Mr.
Arthur Balfour. These four gentlemen found themselves
agreed as to the necessity of lending new vigour to the Tory
cause, and their own fate-appointed duty to lend that vigour.
They formed a little party together, a small Tory cave, soon
nicknamed in the slang of the House the Fourth Party, as the
party of Parnellites had already been called the Third Party.
At first the House was hardly inclined to take the Fourth
Party seriously. It thought the thing was only a joke, and
rather a poor and impertinent joke. But Lord Randolph
Churchill soon made it clear to the House of Commons that he
was not, in their sense, a humourist. He had not formed a
party j)ou,r rire, but a party that was destined to become a
decided power in debate ; and it was a party of which he was
the acknowledged leader. At first the Government and its sup-
porters, and even the gentlemen in opposition above the gang-
way, were inclined to smile scornfully whenever Lord Ran-
dolph rose to inform the amused Commons of his intentions,
and the intentions of those who acted with him. But in a
little while the Government and its followers, and the gentle-
men in opposition above the gangway, began to perceive that


Lord Randolph's attitude was not quite so comic as it had
appeared at first. With happy political insight he had per-
ceived a want in the composition of the House of Commons,
and with happy political audacity he determined to fill that
want himself. The Conservative party had lost all its passion
and most of its vitality since its chief had gone to the House of
Lords. Undei" the gentle and genial guidance of Sir Stafibrd
Northcote, the chief chai-acteristic of the Conservative pai-ty
appeared to be a comprehensive amiability. With felicitous
inspiration Lord Randolph Churchill conceived the formation
of an advanced Tory party, obeying his orders, and i-epeating
the tactics of the advanced Liberals below the gansfwav, Avhich
had done their own party such simple service daring the
previous Parliament. It soon became evident that Lord
Randolph was the leader of a little Tory cave ready to accept
the adherence of any of the discontented and the distressed who
would join his fiag. The Government found itself suddenly
opposed by a new and eccentric element in the political battle.
Sir Stafford Northcote's method of opposition had led them to
expect a more peaceful occupation of office than fate and the
Fourth Party had in store for them. Lord Randolph charged
upon the Government with all the energy of Don Quixote, when
he fancied that he saw before him the armies of King Agra-
mant. Whenever there Avas a chance of annoving the Liberal
leaders, whenever there was an opportunity of harassing them
in their plans, or of disturbing their arrangements. Lord Ran-
dolph was sure to do it. The Government were more em-
barrassed than they would have liked to admit by Lord Ran-
dolph and his friends. The Government could not always
count with perfect security upon the adherence of all their own
followers, but they could always feel assured of the unresting
hostility of Lord Randolph Churchill and his fellows of the
Fourth Party. The ranks of the IMinisterialists could not
furnish forth any champion so audacious, so self-reliant, so
indifferent to opinion as Lord Randolph Churchill. Lord
Randolph Churchill's party may be looked upon as in some
sense the revival of the Young England movement with which


Lord Beaconsfield's youth was connected. It was, however, a
Young England movement suited to the spirit of the age. It
had not the poetry, the sentiment, the romance which coloured
the career of the party of which Mr. Bailie Cochrane and Lord
John Manners were the illustrious ornaments. But it had an
energy, we might even say a ferocity of purpose, which was
much better suited to the matter-of-fact temper of the House
of Commons of to-day. It aimed straight for political success,
but it fought for it on the good old Tory lines which had been
abandoned. It opposed to the growing spirit of Radicalism,
not the temperate and mild-mannered Conservatism of Sir
Stafford Northcote, nor the fantasies of Lord Claud Hamilton,
but a vigour and determination, a fixity of purpose, akin
to that which of old deserved the title of stern and un-

Hostile critics described Lord Randolph Churchill and his
little band as ' political Mohocks,' or compared them with the
cabal formed by Mr. Bertie Tremaine in Lord Beaconsfield's
' Endymion.' Friends likened it to the gallant quadrilateral
of musketeers in Dumas's story who were united by destiny to
accomplish great deeds. If we were to accept this parallel,
Lord Randolph Churchill is of course the D'Artagnan of the
party. He has all the audacity, all the serene belief in his own
ultimate success, which was characteristic of the famous Gascon
who started in life with the assurance that gi'eat things were
awaiting him, and who ended his career at Malplaquet with the
marshal's baton in his hand. A man who means to succeed,
and who has in him the stuff for success, cannot often perhaps
do better than to pose confidently before the world as a man for
whom fortune reserves laurel victory. Lord Randolph Churchill
did thus pose as the heir expectant of fair fortune. He never
allowed himself or his audience to forget that he was the leader
of an important party, and the bearer of a mighty mission.
The greatness of the party was not always obvious, the mean-
ing of the mission was sometimes occult ; but still there was the
party, and somewhere in its midst lay the mission, like the
heart of the Bruce, none the less sacred because it was not visible.


*It must be night for Friedland's star to shine,' says "Wallen-
stein in Schiller's great play. In the existing political night
Lord Randolph Churchill's star is shining with remarkable
brightness in the Parliamentai'v firmament.

If Lord Eandolph Chiirchill was the D'Artagnan of the party,
Sir Henry "Wolff might in many respects fairly claim to be its
Aramis, just as Mr. Gorst would naturally become its Porthos,
and ]\Ir. Arthur Balfour gracefully interpret the part of Athos.
Ml". Gorst was a rapidly rising lawyer, who had passed much of
his life in New Zealand, and had written a book upon the Maoris.
He had been in Parliament for Cambridge from 1866 to 1868 ;
at the general election he lost his seat, and did not enter Parlia-
ment again until 1875, in which year he became at once member
for Chatham and a Queen's Counsel. Mr. Arthur Balfour was
a curious contrast to the bustling, energetic law^-er. He intro-
duced into Parliamentary life that air of languid indifference
which Lord Melbourne once tried' to make fashionable, and
Avhich was pardonable in a young man who had sought distinc-
tion on the different paths of diplomacy and philosophy before
he was two-and-thirty. The great problems of existence remaiu
unchanged by Mr. Balfour's ' Defence of Philosophic Doubt.' The
European balance has scarcely undergone any finer adjustment
from Mr. Balfour's presence in Berlin in the summer of 1878.
Still, to have played any part in these two different and diverse
siibjeets is something in itself. But the most fortunate move
Mr. Balfour ever made was when he withdrew his virtus from
its efforts in the philosophical aether, and joined himself to
the ranks of the Foiirth Party.

Sir Heniy "Wolff plays an important part in the economy of
the Fourth Pai-ty. He has had more experience in the game of
statesmanship than Lord Randolph Churchill, and his counsel
is of great value to the energetic leader, who is too wise to
believe that the capacity for leadership is above the necessity of
learning. Sir Henry "Wolff is eminently skilled in those moves
of sfcitesmanship which belong to diplomatic action. He was
not indeed born to the diplomatic purple. The bearer of an
honoured name, which recommended him to the attention and the


sympathy of statesmen, he gained, early in life, that practical
education in statesmanship and diplomacy, that knowledge of
foreign countries and of foreign courts, and, above all, that
close acquaintance with the trouble of all politicians — the
Eastern question — which made him an invaluable ally to the
founder of a new school of Toryism. Intimate acquaintance
with foreign countries and foreign modes of thought naturally
descended to him from his father. A generation ago the name
of Dr. Wolff was familiar and honoured in all the capitals of
Europe. A distinguished traveller and an eminent scholai-,
Dr. Wolff deserves special remembrance for the noble efforts
w^hich he made to rescue the captive English officers, Stoddart
and Conolly, who died a cruel death at the hands of a Bokhara
tyrant. The intrepitUty which was characteristic of the father
is scarcely less characteristic in other fields of the son. He is
a man of pronounced ideas and of belligerent tastes. He likes
])olitical battle for the sake of battle, and he is therefore emi-
nently in his right place in the Fourth Party.

The new party was formed in undoubted opposition to Sir
Stafibrd ISTorthcote. Sir Stafibrd ISTorthcote was not a leader
after the hearts of the Tories below the gangway of the Fourth
Party, and of men who, like Mr. Chaplin, were allies, if not
adherents, of the Fourth Party. The men below the gangway
wanted battle, and Sir Stafford Xorthcote was not warlike ; they
wanted aggression, and Sir Staffoixl ISTorthcote was not aggres-
sive. He would not attack the Government as Lord Bandolph
Churchill loved to attack it; he would not summon Sir
Richard Cross and Lord John Manners to rise and assist him
in harrying the Prime Minister. The fact that he had been
Mr. Gladstone's secretary was in itself enough to create a
certain alliance between himself and his political opponent,
which for long did much to calm the trouble of debate. Who-
ever else might wrangle and call names, Sir Stafibrd Northcote
and Mr. Gladstone were faithful to their ancient amity. They
resembled Homeric heroes, who recognise some guest-friend in
the lines of war, and hold theu^ hand and exchange civiHties
•while the fight rages around them. Sir Stafford Northcota



always slione in the amenities of debate. There was no one more
ready to reply to an antagonist in words of kindly sweetness •
no one to whom it was more pleasant for a foe to pay a com-
pliment, since he was sure to get his gracious words returned
in yet more gracious fashion. In one of Marryat's sea novels,
the young midshipman listens with dismay to the way in which
sailors call each other names and indulge in profuse profanity.
He reflects that it would be much easier and pleasanter for
them to address each other in the forms of polite society ; to
say ' if you please,' and * will you be so good,' and ' thank
you,* instead of the more forcible, but sadly inelegant
vernacular, of which they had so complete a command. Sir
Stafibrd Northcote is somewhat like Marryat's young midship,
man. He is convinced that political discussion would be far
pleasanter if there were no disagreeable interchange of stinging
phrases and hostile teims. If Pailiament were to be managed
according to his ideas, it would run in something of this fashion.
Every one would assume that every one else was acting with the
best possible intentions, and was inspired only by the loftiest
purposes. Every one would begin his speech by praising the
manner, if not the mattei", of his opponents' arguments. Dif-
ferences of opinion should be expressed in a regretful tone, as
if the speaker was pained to disagree with any one, and was
only forced to do so by an overmastering sense of pu.blic dvity.
Little compliments might be lightly exchanged. A gentle
banter should be the nearest appi-oach to anything like person-
ality. Under such a mild and benignant sway the Saturnian
age was to return to the earth, or at least to that portion of it
called Westminster. Then politicians of all parties should
abide in peace, ' a golden race on earth of many languaged
men,' who should live —

With calm, untroubled mind,
Free from tlie toil and anguish of our kind.

Some such shape Sir Stafibrd ISTorthcote's political Utopia Avould
take ; but if he dreamed of realising it at St. Stephen's, the
dream was not fulfilled. For such a system of brotherly love,


more was needed than the personal example of an ex- Chancellor
of the Exchequer, no matter how amiable. The guerillas below
the gangway would not fall in with Sir Stafford Northcote's
ideas. He wanted peace, and they wanted war ; so the warriors
seceded and formed the Fourth Party.



On the Continent, in Central Asia, and in South Africa the
Government were involved in the complications left unfinished
when Lord Beaconsfield's Ministry fell from power. One com-
plication, however, which might have proved serious was
entirely the property of the new Administration. This was
the difficulty with Austria. In one of his Midlothian speeches,
that of the second series delivered in Edinburgh on Wednesday,
March 17, 1880, Mr. Gladstone alluded to an account given
in the London papers of some observations of the Emperor of
Austria. ' Did you see,' asked Mr. Gladstone, ' that the
Emperor of Austria sent for the British ambassador. Sir Henry
Elliot, and told Sir Henry Elliot what a pestilent j)erson he
considered a certain Mr. Gladstone to be, as a man that did
not approve of the foreign policy of Austria ; and how anxious
he was — so the Emperor of Austria was condescendingly pleased
to say— for the guidance of the British people and of the electors
of Midlothian. How anxious he was, gentlemen, that you
should all of you give your votes in a way to maintain the
Ministry of Lord Beaconsfield ! Well, gentlemen, if you
approve of the foreign policy of Austria, the foreign jDolicy that
Austria has usually pursued, I advise you to do that very
thing. . . . Whathas that policy of Austria been ? . . . Austria
has been the steady, unflinching foe of freedom in every country
in Europe. Russia, I am sorry to say, has been the foe of
freedom too, but in Russia thei'e is one exception — Russia has
been the friend of Slavonic freedom ; but Austria has never
been the friend of Slavonic freedom. Austria trampled Italy
under foot, Austria resisted the unity of Germany, Austria did

E 2


all she could to prevent the creation of Belgium, Austria never
lifted a finger for the resreneration and constitution of Greece.
There is not an instance, there is not a spot upon the whole
map where you can lay your finger and say, " There Austria
did good." ' Statements like these were undoubtedly unfortu-
nate, coming at such a time and from such a man. Even the
most enthusiastic of Mr. Gladstone's admirers may admit that
a man who was seeking to be Prime Minister of England, who
had been Prime Minister, and who, it was then evident, would
be Prime Minister again, had need to be very guarded in the
language which he used in condemnation of a foreign power's
foreign policy. To have allowed himself to be piqued into
retoi-t by some observations of the Emperor of Austria would
have been unlucky enough, but at least he should have been
very sure that the words were really uttered by the Emperor
of Austria before proceeding to reply to them in a tone of
acrimony. As a matter of fact Sir Henry Elliot at once con-
tradicted the statement that the Emperor of Austria had used
any such words to him, or had made to him any statement
bearing any resemblance to the alleged words. Unfortunately
Mr. Gladstone aggravated the original difiiculty by practically
repeating his attack on Austria's foreign policy again, in his
eighth Midlothian speech, delivered on Wednesday, March 24,
1880. ' I have,' said Mr. Gladstone, * condemned the foreign
policy of Aiistria. I have said that outside of Austria, making
no reproach as to what is inside of it — that outside of Austria
the name of Austria has, upon all occasions known to me, been
the symbol of misgovernment and oppression in other countries.
That neither in Germany, nor in Belgium, nor in Greece, nor
in Italy, where most of all she was concerned — for she was the
vu'tual mistress of Italy until Italy was made a kingdom — in
no one of these is her name known, except in conjunction with
the promotion of what you and I believe to be wrong, and the
repression of what you and I believe to be right.' Mr. Glad-
stone then declared that he discerned ' menacing signs that the
Austrian Government of to-day, and especially the Hungarian
portion of its subjects, . . . is engaged in schemes for repressing


and putting down the liberty of the lately emancipated com-
munities in the Balkan peninsula, and for setting up her own
supremacy over them, whether they like it or not.' All
this was sevei-e language to a nation with w'hom we were at
peace, with whom we were often obliged to confer, with whom
we might at any moment be in alliance. Whatever might be
thought of Austria's foreign policy in the past, such a sweeping
attack upon it from one who was soon to be at the head of the
English Government was little likely to promote good feeling
between the two countries. But it was doubly unfortunate
when it became a sermon preached on the text of a reported
conversation wdth the Emperor of Austria, the accuracy of
which was denied by one of the principal actors in the alleged
dialogue. Not unnatui'ally, there was considerable dis-
content in Austria at Mr. Gladstone's statements, and when
Mr. Gladstone became Prime Minister the Government felt
that something must be done to allay the irritation. Mr. Glad-
stone accordingly wrote a letter to Count Karolyi, the Austro-
Hungarian ambassador, which was practically a letter of apology
to the Emperor of Austria, * At the moment,' said Mr. Glad-
stone in this letter, ' when I accepted from the Queen the duty
of forming an Administration, I forthwith resolved that I
would not, as a minister, either repeat or even defend in argu-
ment polemical language in regard to more than one foreign
Power which I had used individually when in a position or
greater freedom and less responsibility,' After some assurances
that he entertained no hostile feelings towards Austi-ia, but,
on the contrary, wished her well in the task of consolidating
her empire, Mr. Gladstone w^ent on, ' With respect to my ani-
madversion on the foreign policy of Austria, at times when it
was active beyond the borders, I W'dl not conceal from your
Excellency that grave apprehensions had been excited in my
mind lest Austria should play a part in the Balkan peninsula
hostile to the freedom of the emancipated populations, and to
the reasonable and warranted hopes of the subjects of the
Sultan, These apprehensions were founded, it is true, upon
eecondary evidence, but it was not the evidence of hostile


witnesses, and it was the best at my command.' Acknowledging
the assurance of Count Karolyi that Austria bad no intention
of extending the rights it had acquired under the treaty of
Berlin, Mr. Gladstone went on, ' Had I been in possession
of such an assurance as I have now been able to receive, I
never would have uttered any one of the words which your
Excellency justly describes as of a painful and wounding cha-
racter. Whether it was my misfortune or my fault that I was
not so supplied I will not now attempt to determine, but will
at once express my serious concern that I should, in default of
it, have been led to refer to transactions of an eai'lier period, or
to use terms of censure which I can now wholly banish from
my mind.' Mr. Gladstone concluded by saying, * I think that
the explanation I now tender should be made not less public
than the speech which has supplied the occasion for it ; and as
to the form of such publicity, I desire to accede to whatever
may be your Excellency's wish.'

There could be no doubt in the mind of any Austrian or
any English politician of the completeness of this apology. It
must be admitted that it did not give much satisfaction in
England. Even those who felt most keenly the rashness of
Mr. Gladstone's attack upon Austria were not inclined to
rejoice over the manner in which Mr, Gladstone had made
amends. If the charges against Austria had been exaggerated,
surely there was no small exaggeration in the tone of the reply.
How, for example, people asked, did the fact that Austria had
no aggressive intentions with regard to the peoples of the
Balkan peninsula enable Mr. Gladstone to wholly banish from
his mind the terms of censure which he had employed against
Austria % Mr. Gladstone had challenged his hearers to point to
any spot on the map of Europe where Austria bad done good : he
had with great justice complained of her action with regard to
Belgium, to Greece, and above all to Italy. How could Mr.
Gladstone banish these censures from his mind because Austrian
statesmen now engaged themselves to keep within the limits of
the treaty of Berlin % It may have been ill-advised to choose
such a time and place as a general election and a Midlothian


hustings for censuring Austria Avith regard to her foreign policy
of old ; but her declaration of future policy could not obliterate
the past, or make Mr. Gladstone's censures upon it the less de-
served because they were untimely. The apology was felt to
be too complete, too comprehensive. Not a few persons were
ready to urge that an apology of any sort was a mistake ; that
an English Prime Minister had no right to apologise for his
utterances as a private individual, because he could not, so long
as he held office, make his apology entirely of" an individual
character, but unavoidably lent it something of a national value.
Into that subject it is not necessary to go. Mr. Gladstone had
certainly acted indiscreetly in his Midlothian speeches in attack-
ing the Austrian Emperor for words he had not used, and de-
nouncing a policy that was not going to be put into action. An
apology clearly was due, and there is nothing unbecoming in a
frank and honourable apology. Frank and honourable Mr.
Gladstone's apology undoubtedly was, but in his anxiety to make

Online LibraryJustin H. (Justin Huntly) McCarthyEngland under Gladstone, 1880-1885 → online text (page 5 of 38)