S. H. (Samuel Henry) Jeyes.

The earl of Rosebery; online

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By STUART J. REID. Fourth Edition.




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THE writer of the following account of Lord Rosebery's
public career wishes to acknowledge his obligations to the
successive volumes of the Annual Register, to Mr. John
Morley's " Life of Gladstone," Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice's
recent biography of Lord Granville, Mr. Herbert Paul's
" History of Modern England," and many other standard
works which he has consulted. He has also made free and
profitable use of Mr. T. F. G. Coates's " Life and Speeches
of Lord Rosebery," Miss Jane T. Stoddart's " Illustrated
Biography of Lord Rosebery," Mr. J. A. Hammerton's
" Lord Rosebery, Imperialist," and " The Foreign Policy
of Lord Rosebery" (anonymous).

He has to thank the Editor of this series, Mr. Stuart J.
Reid, for many valuable suggestions.






Birth and parentage Eton and Christ Church Early travels
First speech in Parliament Defence of Racing Scottish
history Address to the Social Science Congress ... I


General Election of 1874 Mr. Gladstone's retirement The
Eastern Question Reputation of England Lord Rosebery
and Mr. Gladstone Representation of Midlothian Lord
Rosebery's marriage 13


Liberal foreign policy General Election of 1880 Mr. Glad-
stone's second Administration Lord Rosebery's position
His relations with Scottish Liberals At the Home Office
His resignation Scottish administration .... 23


Colonial tour Agricultural labourer's enfranchisement Reform
agitation Lords and Commons Lord Rosebery's plea
Appeal for Moderation The crisis solved Lord Rosebery
and reform of the House of Lords 39


An Imperialist address Occupation of Egypt General Gordon's
mission Lord Rosebery at Epsom Rejoins the Ministry
Defeat of Mr. Gladstone Dissensions in the Cabinet Lord
Rosebery's supporters in Scotland First Reference to Home
Rule Recent developments of the Irish Question Mutual



suspicions and Party competition Mr. Parnell's attitude
General Election of 1885 Mr. Gladstone's adoption of
Home Rule Lord Rosebery's position The first Salisbury
Administration defeated Mr. Gladstone's third Administra-
tion Lord Rosebery Foreign Secretary Liberal Imperialism
The ' Umbrella ' speech S3


Greek claims Lord Rosebery's note Batoum a free port
Russian defiance of the Berlin Treaty Lord Rosebery's
protest France and the New Hebrides Spanish Treaty
Convention with China Duties of a Foreign Minister . . 79


General Election of 1886 Lord Salisbury's second Administra-
tion Lord Rosebery and Gladstonian Liberalism Overtures
for Liberal Reunion Lord Rosebery on Reform of the
House of Lords Speech at Leeds on Imperial Federation in
1888 Commercial and Fiscal aspect Subsequent develop-
ment of Lord Rosebery's views Speech at Burnley
Economic orthodoxy suspected Explanation at the Liberal
League Arguments against the Birmingham policy . , . 90


Institution of the London County Council Lord Rosebery
elected Opposition to his Chairmanship Success with the
Progressives Death of Lady Rosebery Second Municipal
contest Lord Rosebery member for Finsbury ' Revival of
London' Disavowal of Party aims Growing unpopularity
of the Conservative Government Liberal campaign Lord
Rosebery at Edinburgh General Election of 1892 Mr.
Gladstone's new Administration Lord Rosebery's accept-
ance of Office 116


Lord Rosebery at the Foreign Office The British Occupation of
Egypt Question of Evacuation Previous negotiations
The young Khedive's bid for independence Prompt action
of Great Britain Telegrams between Lord Rosebery and
Lord Cromer Crisis settled Great Britain and France
Lord Rosebery and M. Waddington Indications of future
British policy 131




British position in Uganda Cabinet differences Sir Gerald
Portal's mission Railway to Victoria Nyanza Lord Rose-
bery and Sir William Harcourt Attempt to improve the
Anglo-German Convention Reasons of the failure French
aggression on the Upper Nile Marchand's expedition
Attitude of the British Government Significant warning
Trouble in Siam High-handed action of France Dangers
of conflict Lord Rosebery's diplomacy War between China
and Japan British mediation suggested Attitude of the
Great Powers Lord Rosebery's reply to criticisms On
Continental suspicions Treaty of Shimonoseki Hostile
combination of Russia, Germany, and France Coercion of
Japan Attitude of Great Britain Lord Rosebery justified
Difficulties with the South African Republic Mr. Kruger's
policy Persecution of Armenians Action of Lord Rosebery 147


Lord Rosebery on the Home Rule Bill of 1893 Speech in the
House of Lords 'A question of policy' The possible
alternatives Not a leap in the dark Phrases open to
criticism The Coal Strike Lord Rosebery as mediator
The Session of 1893 Mr. Gladstone and the Peers Radical
discontent Mr. Gladstone's resignation Lord Rosebery his
successor Rumours of a Central party Meeting of the
Liberal party Lord Rosebery's statement Position of a
' Peer Premier ' The new Administration The Queen's
Speech Peers' Debate on the Address Lord Rosebery on
' the predominant partner ' Explanations in the Commons
Speech at Edinburgh Attitude of the Nationalist parties
Unionist criticism The new Administration beaten on the
Address An absurd position The Prime Minister disparaged
Agitation against the Peers National Liberal Federation
at Leeds Lord Rosebery's advice Procedure by Resolution
A Constitutional dilemma Lord Rosebery and Sir William
Harcourt Mansion House banquet Murder of President
Carnot Death of the Emperor of Russia . . . .172




Liberal meeting at Cardiff Reception of the Prime Minister
Welsh Disestablishment Parnellites and Radicals Retire-
ment of the Duke of Cambridge The Cordite Vote Defeat
of the Government Lord Rosebery's resignation His views
on the position of a Prime Minister Platform speeches
Defeat of his Administration Need for Liberal concentration
House of Lords the first question Lord Salisbury's third
Administration Lord Rosebery on Liberal failures Party
organisation The persecution of Armenians The question of
British intervention Lord Rosebery's retirement Speech in
explanation Disagreement with Mr. Gladstone This the
' last straw ' Lord Rosebery's other reasons References to
his late colleagues Compromise in politics .... 202


Reappearance in public controversy Imperial and Municipal
retrenchment Eulogies on Mr. Gladstone Fashoda speech
Reconstitution of the Liberal party South African War A
reference to Majuba Mr. Chamberlain and France The
General Election of 1900 A po'licy for Liberals Death of
Queen Victoria Feuds in the Liberal party A letter from
Lord Rosebery At the City Liberal Club The Chesterfield
speech 'Clean the slate' Rejoinders and retorts Anglo-
Japanese Alliance of 1902 The Lord Kitchener proposal
Free Trade speeches Anglo-French convention Reference
to Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman Party dissensions modi-
fied Lord Rosebery and Mr. Redmond On duality of
government At Liberal League The League and the Party
Speech at Stourbridge On continuity in foreign policy
On Government by Party The example of Japan Party
versus Efficiency Resignation of Mr. Balfour Sir Henry
Campbell - Bannerman's Administration Lord Rosebery's
position Retrospect 229




Birth and parentage Eton and Christ Church Early travels First
speech in Parliament Defence of Racing Scottish history
Address to the Social Science Congress.

OF the gifts from nature and fortune that smooth the road
to success in English public life, none perhaps was lacking
at the birth of Lord Rosebery. Equally in evidence, how-
ever, were opportunities and temptations that point to more
facile paths. It is the object of this sketch to describe the
use which he has made of his advantages, especially during
the period when he was the last of the Liberal Prime
Ministers of Queen Victoria. Born on 7 May, 1847, at
20 Charles Street, Berkeley Square, he was the son of the
Lord Dalmeny who died in 1851, and grandson of the
fourth Earl of Rosebery. His father, who did not live
to complete his forty-second year, had sat in the House
of Commons as member for the Stirling Burghs from 1832
to 1847, held office as a Lord of the Admiralty in Lord
Melbourne's Administration, and published 'An Address
to the Middle Classes on the subject of Gymnastic Exer-
cises.' It was written in the fluent style of the period, and
contained much excellent advice, which may have been
required at the time when it was offered. But in the light


of subsequent developments in sports, games, and athletics,
the observations it records and the lesson it enforces seem
curiously antiquated. ' In other countries,' wrote Lord
Dalmeny, ' the tendency is to think too much of diversions,
and too little of work. Here the tendency is the reverse ;
to devote our whole attention to business and none to
recreation. . . . We are, indeed, rich in literary and scien-
tific societies, mechanics' reading clubs ; rich in institutions
for bewildering and oppressing the overwrought brains of
our middle and operative classes with crude speculations
and ill-digested knowledge. But where are the institutions
for gymnastics ? Where are the arenas where the limbs,
the sinews, the spirits of our merchants may be recreated
and refreshed by manly diversions ? Where are the noble
sports of our ancestors ? Where are the rude but invigora-
ting pastimes which hardened their muscles, steeled their
nerves, exhilarated their spirits, and gladdened their hearts ?
. . . We are the wisest, the greatest, but the saddest nation
in the world. . . . Perhaps it may be said, "All is very well
as it is, and where is the necessity for change? Every
large community, every closely-thronged city, must have its
proportion of mortality and sickness. This is the ordination
of Providence and the lot of humanity, and why engage in
a vain attempt to combat an established and immutable
order of things ? " All is not well. . . . This doctrine, that
all is well that exists, is a dangerous delusion, and is, after
all, the lazy excuse of those spurious philosophers who avert
their faces from abuses to escape the trouble of reforming

This last sentence, and some others, in the pamphlet
written by the father who did not live long enough to win
distinction might have come from the pen of the accom-


plished son. It is, perhaps, worth note that the young
Whig patrician was independent enough to scoff at the
'crude speculations and ill-digested knowledge,' which, so
he thought, were produced by the philosophy and inquiry
of the Early Victorian period. The thought of that robust
and fertile epoch was essentially Radical, yet Lord Rose-
bery's father was able to treat it as having no relation to
the Liberal principles which he represented in Parliament,
and quietly put it aside with an air of tolerant indifference.
Nor will it escape remark that the heir to a Scotch earldom
looked on ' merchants ' and ' operatives ' as both being
members of 'the middle classes' and equally in need of
advice from a person who knew what was good for them.
The phrase was used and, no doubt, accepted without a
suggestion or suspicion of offence. And this was little more
than half a century ago.

The mother of Lord Rosebery (who subsequently became
Duchess of Cleveland) was the only daughter of the fourth
Earl Stanhope, and one of the most beautiful and gifted
ladies about the Court of Queen Victoria. The distinction
of her personal appearance, the gaiety and wit of her con-
versation, her very considerable literary attainments, and her
interest in historical studies, rendered her one of the most
remarkable women of a reign which was conspicuous for
the development of feminine intellect and ambition. De-
ductions in heredity are confidently drawn only by persons
unacquainted with the problems which they undertake
to solve, but it may fairly be assumed that some of the
personal qualities and aptitudes displayed by Lord Rose-
bery were either inherited from his mother or inspired by
her fascinating example.

Yet he owed as much, or almost as much, to training and


instruction at school as to his descent and home surround-
ings. After a period spent with Mr. W. R. Lee at Brighton,
the boy, then Lord Dalmeny, and heir to the Earldom
of Rosebery, was sent to Eton in September, 1861, where
he fell under the influence of Mr. William Johnson, better
known under the name, which he afterwards assumed,
of Cory. Other scholars of the period were more learned,
more exact, and wider in their range than the author of
1 lonica,' but few modern Englishmen have so completely
absorbed and assimilated the spirit and meaning of classical
culture. It is possible, perhaps it is easy, to be idle at Eton,
but at none of those foundations where a more strenuous
life is inculcated and enforced, not even at Rugby or Win-
chester, is there a similar atmosphere of intellectual accom-
plishment. Lads who are not wedded to great thoughts
and high endeavour at least cohabit with them, and form
intellectual associations which they do not altogether shake
off when they mix in the rough-and-tumble of after life.
The Old Etonian may be ignorant, or inefficient, or incur-
ably lazy, but he is seldom a Philistine. Art, literature, and
the personal side of English history have been to the most
graceless youngster a distinct part of the daily life of his
'people at home' or 'people his people know,' and he
always preserves a certain respect, though he may have no
personal liking, for the harmless hobbies of the noble or
opulent amateur. In a school society like Eton the tone is
set by the traditions of aristocracy, and even the 'young
barbarians' keep up a bowing acquaintance with the Higher

Acute, susceptible, and precociously clever, it would have
been in any circumstances impossible for Lady Dalmeny's
son not to inhale some of the intellectual aroma of a place


so rich in romantic and historical associations. His in-
timate friendship with William Cory for such his relation-
ship towards his tutor rapidly became enabled him to
reap some of the benefits of Eton without, perhaps, taking
a proportionate share in the labours. He was, indeed,
'one of those who like the palm without the dust.' In
the ' Letters and Journals of William Cory ' many references
occur to the brilliant but not industrious pupil. ' I am doing
all I can,' wrote the tutor, ' to make him a scholar ; any-
how, he will be an orator, and, if not a poet, such a man as
poets delight in.' Already the lad's interest and curiosity
had been stirred by the public and private life of Pitt, and
they were further stimulated by Cory's letters and conver-

In 1864 they visited Rome, and had many eager talks
together. It was the influence and kindly supervision of
Cory that compensated, in some degree, for the imperfect
use which he made at Eton of the opportunities for
sound and systematic instruction, and for the abrupt cur-
tailment of his career at Oxford. As an undergraduate he
was fired with the ambition to win the Derby, and it was
his persistence in keeping racehorses that led to his final
quarrel with the authorities at Christ Church. All this
time, however, and for many years afterwards, he maintained
an affectionate correspondence with his old tutor, and the
letters are sufficient proof that, if he lacked the application
required for academical success, his enthusiasm for picking
up knowledge by independent methods was quite unabated.
It may sound paradoxical, yet it is substantially correct, that
the alumnus of, perhaps, the two most famous foundations
in England is largely a self-educated man. But he has
always been, even in the years which show little record of


public activity, a diligent reader of books, and, as he has
quite a remarkable memory, he has accumulated a very
considerable store of solid knowledge. When he has been
most vigorously amusing himself he has not ceased to be
a student and thinker.

In 1868, two years after his matriculation at Oxford, he
succeeded his grandfather as Earl of Rosebery, and, on
shortly afterwards attaining his majority, took his seat in
the House of Lords. It is one of the drawbacks which he
laments in a singularly smooth career that he never had the
chance of sitting in the House of Commons, and he showed
no special eagerness to assume the duties of an hereditary
legislator. The first years of his manhood were spent in
sport and travelling, but in 1871 he was selected by Mr.
Gladstone to second the motion for the Address in reply to
the Queen's Speech. It was a memorable year, and a large
part of Lord Rosebery's set oration was naturally devoted
to the results of the great war between France and Germany.
He received, and no doubt deserved, the kindly compli-
ments which it is the custom to bestow upon the duly
accredited novice; but it may be interesting to mention
that he was evidently nervous at this formal appearance in
Parliament, since it is recorded that he 'spoke with a graceful
emotion which became his years.'

Not for some time did he seriously try to make for him-
self a position at Westminster, though on two or three
occasions he intervened in debate on distinctively Scottish
matters. He was occupied largely with social pleasures
and on the Turf, not having been discouraged by the some-
what ignominious failure of his first Ladas to win the
Derby. But he exercised, now and again, his already
recognised capacity for ornamental oratory. The fashion-


able diversions and sporting tastes with which he was
associated did not prevent him from earning a more serious
reputation. It was not at that time considered unbecoming
in a young Liberal peer to take his pleasures amongst his
fellows, although even in 1873 he seems to have thought it
necessary to offer a humorous defence of racing. He was
asking in the House of Lords for the appointment of a
Royal Commission to inquire into the capacity of the
country to meet the present and future demand for horses.
He jeered at the moralists who attributed every crime to
the Turf, and declared that in his opinion racing was as
innocent an amusement as large numbers of people could
enjoy. Hunting and shooting were reserved for the wealthy,
but there was no one so poor that he could not visit a race-
course. In a sanguine passage which has not been verified
by the event, he expressed his belief that gambling was on
the decline, and asserted that there were few owners who
had as much on their horses as would form the stake on an
ordinary rubber of whist. As for trying to put down gam-
bling by abolishing races, they might as well attempt to
abolish rain by suppressing the gutters.

Neither Mr. Gladstone, who was the undisputed dictator
of the Liberal party, nor his fellow-countrymen in Scotland,
thought the worse of Lord Rosebery because he was, more
or less, a racing man. The idea of banning a capable poli-
tician because he diverted himself in his own fashion either
had not yet occurred to the zealots, or they had not
attained such influence as to make their views count
in public opinion. Mr. Gladstone had already marked
Lord Rosebery in his mind as one of the coming men,
and in Edinburgh he was invited to lecture before the
Philosophical Institution. The subject which he chose was


the Union of England and Scotland, and the paper which
he read showed how fruitful had been his studies in his-
tory. He appealed to Scotch patriotism by dwelling sym-
pathetically on the sacrifice imposed on the smaller partner.
Except her Church, she lost all that she held most dear.
For the sake of commercial advantages which few under-
stood, and most despised, she was reduced from a king-
giving kingdom to a province without a legislature. Her
haughty aristocracy was despised and ignored ; her capital,
famous and brilliant, was shorn of its Court, its society,
and its Parliament, and descended to the level of a country
town. Nor were these sacrifices trivial at the time when
they were made. After these admissions Lord Rosebery
called attention to the other side of the picture. He
spoke of the many great men who had come from Scotland
and won fame in England. Their ancestors had put their
hand to a mighty work, and it prospered. Two great
nations had been welded into one Empire, and local
jealousies moulded into a common patriotism. On such
an achievement their descendants must gaze with awe and
astonishment the means had been so adverse and the
result so astonishing.

In the Sessions of 1 8 7 2 and 1 8 7 3 he attested his Radicalism
for he was then regarded as belonging to the advanced wing
of the Liberal Party by arguing in the House of Lords
against applying, in the Scottish Education Bill, any part of
the rates to instruction in denominational religion, and
protested against the statement that the 'religious difficulty'
had no existence in Scotland. He proposed, therefore,
that the Cowper-Temple Clause which had been established
in England should be extended to Scotland. This, he
believed, would result in the peaceful settlement of a long-


vexed question. This suggestion, however, did not find
favour with the official Liberals, and was rejected. In other
Scottish matters, such as Church Patronage and the position
of the representative Peers, Lord Rosebery showed an active
interest both in 1873 and 1874. But his Parliamentary
appearances were somewhat fitful at this period, and it
was by means of a non-political utterance that he first
attracted that public attention which he has ever afterwards
been able to command at pleasure. His address to the Social
Science Congress at Glasgow, in September, 1874, raised him
at once to the first place among the younger generation of
public men. It was, indeed, a very remarkable performance
for a man of twenty-seven, who had never before given any
striking indications either of thought or industry. It did
not cut very deep, but it showed sympathetic study of
social conditions, it formulated a distinct yet not extrava-
gant programme, and it abounded with glittering phrases.

It was, he said, the duty of a Social Science Congress to
raise the condition of the nation by means which Parliament
was unable or disdained to employ an illimitable field of
operations. The ' children of toil,' he said, were not mere
machines of production, but vehicles of intelligence. They
were a dark and mighty power like the Cyclopean inmates
of ALtna.. Yet they had not succeeded in making their
wants, their creeds, and their interests sufficiently intelli-
gible. Why, otherwise, had so little been done to advance
their condition ? Why had both parties failed to win their
confidence ? How else was it that, when the working man
had made his voice heard on any question, it came like
thunder in a clear sky? It was possible that some great
catastrophe, such as a European war, might find us unable
to deal with a teeming population ' confined within so small


an ark.' Suppose, again, that the United States should fail

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Online LibraryS. H. (Samuel Henry) JeyesThe earl of Rosebery; → online text (page 1 of 22)