'I wrote to Lord Granville to say that I was sorry there had not been included in the papers a despatch of July 16th, 1878, giving the conversation between Lord Lyons and Waddington on Waddington's return to Paris' (from the Congress of Berlin). 'On the 9th, on the 11th, and on the 13th July, 1878, Lord Lyons had reported the irritation in France at the Cyprus Convention. On July 16th Waddington returned to Paris, and the row in the French Press suddenly ceased. In his despatch Lord Lyons says that Waddington told him that Lord Salisbury "had assured him" that "H. M. G. would make no objection if it suited France to take possession of Tunis." [Footnote: The Life of Lord Lyons, by Lord Newton, gives, on July 20th, 1878, a letter from Lord Salisbury which evidently refers to the despatch. In this letter Lord Salisbury says: "What M. Waddington said to you is very much what he said to me at Berlin...." A further passage in the letter is: "If France occupied Tunis tomorrow, we should not remonstrate." See Life of Lord Lyons, vol. ii., p. 152.] Waddington said that he— Waddington—had pointed out to Lord Salisbury that Italy would object, and that Lord Salisbury had replied that she must "seek compensation in Tripoli." Corti had also assured me that Lord Salisbury had said this to him at the time. I strongly urged the publication of Lord Lyons' despatch in justice to ourselves, if anything was to be published. Lord Salisbury undoubtedly, and even by his own admission, had used most impolitic language, giving up that which was contrary to British interests to give up and which was not ours to give. (He was fated to do the same thing in the case of Madagascar.) He had afterwards denied that he had done anything of the kind. He also had denied that France had minded our occupation of Cyprus, and doubly concealed the fact that after making the foolish mistake of taking Cyprus, he had got out of the difficulty in a still more foolish fashion.'
This led to correspondence between Count Corti, then Italian Ambassador at Constantinople, and Sir Charles—a discussion which was renewed later in conversation:
'He in fact admitted the truth of what I had said, but added that he disapproved of the Berlin conversations. "At that time everybody was telling everybody else to take something which belonged to somebody else. One more powerful than Lord Salisbury, more powerful than Lord Beaconsfield, advised me to take Tunis. [Footnote: Life of Lord Lyons, vol. ii., p. 224; letter from Lord Lyons to Lord Granville, May 13th, 1881: "They got Bismarck's leave for this."] Lord Salisbury advised me to take an island, and Lord Salisbury may have advised me to take Tripoli." At the State ball in the evening, I told Odo Russell this. He told me that Lord Salisbury had disgusted Corti by forgetting him on the occasion when he told the great men at the Congress of Berlin about the occupation of Cyprus, and that Corti had never forgiven him.'
Egypt also was now a growing anxiety, made graver by the events in Tunis, which excited apprehensions of like proceedings elsewhere. In such a condition of feeling even trifling incidents—as, for example, that of the Smyrna Quays, where the Porte had violated some rights of an English company—grew delicate and critical. All such matters and many others had to be dealt with in the House of Commons by question and answer—a task of no small difficulty, since the susceptibilities of foreign Powers had to be considered, while British interests, no less sensitive, could not be ignored.
The fulfilment of the Treaty of Berlin was meanwhile an enormous addition to the work of the Parliamentary Under-Secretary, especially as it was at first complicated by the ill will of Russia, which had hoped that the change of Government might bring about some modifications. It was also complicated by the Porte's unlimited capacity for wasting time. The topics regulated by the treaty and its supplementary conventions, when taken in connection with the Treaties of Paris and London, which it partly superseded, fell under at least seventeen separate heads; each of these branched off into numerous divisions and subdivisions, most of which admitted of possible controversy, while many required executive action by Commissioners on the spot, [Footnote: Thomas Erskine Holland, The European Concert in the Eastern Question, pp. 222-225.] such as the delimitation of the boundaries of the new States. Nearly every question involved communications with the signatory Powers, and each of them had a long diplomatic history which had to be studied. M. de Courcel told Sir Charles that in his dreams he always saw a second river flowing by the side of the Danube, as large and as swift, but black—the river of ink which had been shed over the Danube question! Sir Julian Pauncefote, the Permanent Under-Secretary, was credited by Sir Charles with being the only man in England who then understood it; and the question of the Danube, after all, was only one of many.
Questions were continually being asked in the House of Commons, where the expert in foreign affairs was not so rare as he became in a subsequent period; but the inquiries of inexpert persons were the most troublesome of all.
Sir Charles's power of terse and guarded reply was universally considered supreme, and was all the more valuable at a time when the practice had grown up, then comparatively new and since gradually limited, of asking questions on foreign and colonial affairs, with the object of embarrassing Ministers, and without regard to the consequences abroad. It gradually became a dangerous growth, greatly facilitated by the lax procedure, as it then existed, of the House of Commons in regard to supplementary questions. This procedure often allowed question time to degenerate into a sort of ill-regulated debate. Mr. Gladstone's habit of allowing himself very frequently to be drawn into giving a further answer, after the carefully prepared official answer had already been given by the Under- Secretary, was another complication. The brunt of all these troubles had to be borne by the representative of the Foreign Office. [Footnote: Sir Henry Lucy, writing "From the Cross Benches" in this year, discussed critically the various styles of answering questions:
"Sir Charles Dilke's answers are perfect, whether in regard of manner, matter, or style. A small grant of public money might be much worse expended than in reprinting his answer to two questions put last night on the subject of Anglo-French commercial relations, having them framed and glazed, and hung up in the bedroom of every Minister. A good test of the perhaps unconscious skill and natural art with which the answer is drawn up would be for anyone to take the verbatim report which appears in this morning's papers and attempt to make it shorter. There is not a word too much in it. It occupies just twenty-eight lines of print, and it contains a clear and full account of an exceedingly intricate negotiation. The majority of the answers given by Ministers in their places in Parliament appear much better in print than when spoken, redundancies being cut out, parentheses put straight, and hesitancy of manner not appearing. But to the orderly mind and clear intelligence which instinctively brings uppermost and in due sequence the principal points of a question, Sir Charles Dilke adds a frank manner, a clear voice, and an easy delivery."]
Sir Charles was always a close student of Indian government, and many notes on it are scattered through his diary. On January 9th, meeting Mallet at York House with the Grant Duffs, he says: 'I had always held a strong opinion against the India Council, and Mallet confirmed me in my view that the existing constitution was bad. He ought to know.' The Government turned to Dilke for assistance in debates on foreign affairs, even in a case where the Government of India rather than the Foreign Office was involved.
By the beginning of 1881 England's policy in Afghanistan had been finally determined. The evacuation of Kandahar was now definitive, in spite of opposition from a high quarter. On January 18th 'the Queen telegraphed to Mr. Gladstone at length in a tone of severe rebuke that all her warnings as to Kandahar had been disregarded.' On March 8th Sir Charles received a preliminary warning from Lord Hartington to read up his Central Asian papers, and—
'the Cabinet of March 19th wrote to me to follow Edward Stanhope as to Kandahar debate' (who had been Lord Beaconsfield's Under-Secretary of State for India in 1878, and now naturally led the Tory attack). 'I had to move the direct negative on behalf of the Government. This was a great compliment, as the matter was not in my department, and the only three members of the Government who were to speak were Mr. Gladstone and Lord Hartington and myself.'
After the debate on March 24th, Lord Granville, having first sent his own congratulations, wrote to say: "Gladstone expressed himself almost poetically about the excellence of your speech." [Footnote: "The speech of the debate was that of Sir Charles Dilke. It was close, cogent, and to the point throughout. His facts were admirably marshalled, so as to strengthen without obscuring his arguments. There was no fencing, no rhetoric, no fighting the air.
He came at once to close quarters with his adversary, and demolished his arguments one after another by a series of cut-and-thrust rejoinders, which left but little to be added by those who followed him on the same side. Mr. Stanhope's attack on the Ministry has been of conspicuous service to at least one Minister" (Pall Mall Gazette, edited by Mr. John Morley).]
In the course of this year, Sir Charles, once more diverging from Radical preconceptions, helped Sir Robert Sandeman, who was
'sent over by the Viceroy to state his views. I was able to give him such assistance with my colleagues as to save the districts (the Pishin districts and the Khojak frontier) to the Indian Government.'
In this Sir Charles was with Lord Ripon, but a draft treaty of Lord Ripon's, which proposed to surrender Merv ('not ours to give'), roused his fierce opposition, and was rejected by the Cabinet. He was always resolute for a strong frontier policy in Central Asia.
The assassination of the Emperor of Russia on March 13th in this year roused all the Home Offices into activity, and England was as usual taxed with being the asylum of every desperado. Sir William Harcourt inclined strongly to the demands of the police, including the prosecution of Socialist publications, and he carried the Cabinet with him.
'On March 26th I noted in my diary: "...At to-day's Cabinet Bright was the only Minister who opposed the prosecution of the Freiheit, and Chamberlain positively supported it."'
It may be added that Sir Charles was charged by a certain Mr. Maltman Barry with having subscribed to the funds of the Freiheit, which was an anarchist publication. The charge was met by an absolute denial, and was supported by no evidence. It was, however, fathered in the House by Lord Randolph Churchill, and this led to a breach of friendly relations with the latter, which lasted for some time.
'On April 9th I was in Paris, and breakfasted with Gambetta, who told me that Bismarck was about to propose a Conference, which was insisted on by Russia, concerning the right of asylum, and we agreed that England and France should refuse together to take part in it.'
A fortnight later Sir Charles, returning from Toulon, was able to offer his congratulations to Gambetta, because France had declined to attend the Conference. But the matter was still open as regarded England, and
'on April 30th, and again on May 3rd, I noted that Sir William was "wrongheaded about the right of asylum," but that I hoped he would not be allowed by his colleagues to offer to legislate on extradition to please the Russians.'
At the Cabinet on May 4th
'there was a long debate upon nihilism. Lord Granville some time before had told the Russians that legislation was intended. That was so, for a Bill had been prepared. But it was clear that it would be foolish to introduce it. Kimberley and Chamberlain were against all proposals to meet the Russians. Then came before the Cabinet the question of Harcourt's reply to Cowen's question to be put on the next day, whether information was given by the English police to the Austrian police as to Socialist addresses in Vienna, which had led to arrests. Our police say that they only told the Austrians of a place where dynamite was stored. This seemed to me a cock and bull of Howard Vincent's. Harcourt had drafted a reply about Napoleon Bonaparte, which the Cabinet wanted him to alter, but when he is pleased with an answer it is not easy to make him alter it, as I noted. As our police virtually denied the charge, Harcourt might have given their denial, as theirs, in their own words, but nothing would induce him to do this.'
As regarded Russia, Lord Granville based himself on the fact that a similar arrangement existed between England and Germany, and he questioned whether political offenders would be much safer in a German than in a Russian court of law. To the promise of backing from France, he objected that M. Saint-Hilaire had already pledged himself to an extradition treaty with Russia. On the latter point Sir Charles answered that for this amongst other reasons M. Saint-Hilaire was about to be removed from the French Foreign Office. In the end of October, 1881, Sir Charles was seeing Gambetta frequently, and observes that he was
'much excited about the question of the extradition treaty with Russia....
'Curious though it seems to us (in 1890-1895), when we know how intensely pro-Russian Gambetta's friends now are, Gambetta was intensely anti-Russian and pro-Turk....
'There is the same difference of opinion in the French Cabinet as to the making of an extradition treaty with Russia as there is in ours, where Harcourt wants it and his colleagues do not. This was the only subject discussed at the interview of the Russian and German Emperors at Danzig' (September, 1881), 'and England and France are in their black books.'
Lord Granville constantly referred to Sir Charles for advice as to the temper of the House of Commons, though in this case he supported Sir William Harcourt, and might be excused for failing to see what was plain to Sir Charles as a practical House of Commons politician, that, apart from principles, a Liberal Ministry would be sadly embarrassed if it had to defend the handing over of political refugees to the Russian police, and that the Tories would probably support the Radical wing in a vote of censure.
The combination at the Foreign Office of the two Ministers, the old and the young, the Whig and the democrat, worked excellently, and Lord Granville, in telling Sir Charles that in his absence in France during the Session Hartington must answer his questions, said that 'picking out any of those who are not in the Cabinet is an indication of what would be done when that terrible moment may come to me of your leaving the P.O.' One matter had, however, caused Sir Charles uneasiness.
In the close of the year 1880 there was a proposal to give a charter to the North Borneo Company. No ordinary politician knew anything of this Company, but Sir Charles, while in Opposition, had grounds for asking questions hostile to it, and had stirred up Mr. Rylands to do the same. This fact Dilke mentioned to Lord Granville. But, finding Foreign Office opinion in favour of the concession, he promised that
'I would not take an active part in opposition to the Charter scheme if and providing the Cabinet approved of it.... On November 19th, 1880, the box, which had been round the Cabinet on the North Borneo business, having returned without any comment by Mr. Gladstone, I got it sent again to Mr. Gladstone, who finally decided, I was informed by Lord Granville, against Herbert of the Colonial Office, Harcourt, Chamberlain, Bright, Childers, and myself, and with Lord Kimberley, the Chancellor, and Lord Granville. So it was settled that the Charter was to be granted; but a little later Mr. Gladstone forgot the decision which he had given, insisted that he had never heard of the matter at all, went the other way and would have stopped the Charter, but for the fact that it was too late.'
This made Sir Charles exceedingly indisposed to undertake the defence of it in a House of Commons where his own questions asked in Opposition would assuredly be quoted against him by Sir John Gorst, who, when the Charter was published in December, tabled a motion against it. 'It was not so much to the thing itself I was opposed as to the manner in which it was done.' He therefore wrote to Lord Granville that he had made full search for precedents, 'the first thing which occurs to a Radical in distress,' and that finding no modern precedent, he simply could not undertake to defend the Charter, his objections being that to make such a grant without the knowledge of Parliament strained the prerogative of the Crown, and, further, that the Foreign Office was not the fit department to control a colony (as had been urged in the case of Cyprus). He notes: 'Gambetta tells me that he has at once had an application from a similar French Company—for the New Hebrides.' Lord Granville made official reply, with some asperity. But he sent a separate unofficial letter, in which, after treating of other matters, he smoothed over his more formal communication. These letters were received by Sir Charles on December 27th, 1881, on his return to Paris from Toulon.[Footnote: Later Sir Charles notes: 'My own objections (besides those to the form in which the matter had been considered) were to the absence of sufficient provisions with regard to domestic slavery and opium, but as regards these two latter points I succeeded in getting the gap filled in.'] The unofficial letter ran:
"I have sent you an answer on a separate piece of paper to your rather blowing-up letter about Borneo. You have been misled by Spencer's ignorance and Gladstone's very natural forgetfulness of the particulars. It was more inexcusable of me to have forgotten what it appears you told me about your and Rylands' previous action. When my liver does not act and official work becomes unusually irksome, I sometimes ask myself upon what question I should like to be beaten and turned out. The first would be fair trade. The second, which the St. James's and Raikes, the late Chairman of Committees, seem to anticipate, is failure to reform the procedure of the Commons owing to Tory and Home Rule obstruction. I should not think Borneo a fatal question for this purpose.... There is a great run upon us now as to Ireland, but do you remember a December when it was not generally supposed that the Government of the day was going to the dogs?"
The matter passed over, but was serious enough for Mr. Chamberlain to say in January of the following year:
"If, what I do not expect, the affair should proceed to extremities, I shall stand or fall with you."
One other matter of this period is interesting as showing Sir Charles and his chief at work. A draft was on its way to the Colonial Office, 'laying down the law for dealing with fugitive slaves who escaped into the British sphere of influence'—a case of constant occurrence at Zanzibar. Sir Charles's views on this and kindred subjects were strong, and he worked then, as always, with the Aborigines Protection Society. He stopped it—
'and Lord Granville wrote upon my views a characteristic minute': "I think our proposed draft is right and defensible in argument. I also am of opinion that your condemnation of it is right, because the fact is that the national sentiment is so strongly opposed to what is enjoined by international law that it is better not to wake the cat as long as she is asleep!"'
At the end of July, 1881, Lord Granville's health seemed seriously affected, and Sir Charles noted that, apart from his own personal feeling, his chief's enforced retirement would be 'a great misfortune.' The choice would be between Lords Derby, Hartington, Kimberley, and Northbrook. Lord Derby seemed to him 'undecided and weak,' Lord Northbrook still weaker, while Lord Hartington 'knew no French and nothing of foreign affairs.' Of Lord Kimberley's ability he had not then formed a high estimate; but he adds that, having afterwards sat with him in the Cabinet, he changed that opinion, finding him 'a wise man,' who never did himself justice in conversation.
COMMERCIAL RELATIONS WITH FRANCE
Although in the course of 1881 Sir Charles had refused to defend in the House of Commons a special grant for defraying the Prince of Wales's expenses on a Garter Mission to St. Petersburg, and Lord Frederick Cavendish, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, had to undertake this task, which more properly belonged to the Foreign Office, the Prince's relations with him were cordial. The Prince was increasingly inclined to interest himself in foreign politics, but received very little encouragement from the Court. In June, 1880 (when the rumours as to Challemel-Lacour were being set afloat [Footnote: For an account of these rumours see Chapter XXII., p. 353.]), Sir Charles noted that, as far as he could ascertain, the Prince of Wales,
'being not at this time admitted by the Queen to "official knowledge," got the whole of his modern history from the Figaro....
'On the evening of February 19th, 1881, I dined with Lord and Lady Spencer to meet the Prince and Princess of Wales. The Prince spoke to me about his anxiety to be kept informed of foreign affairs, and the Princess spoke to me in the same sense, telling me how fond she was of her brother the "King of Greece," and how anxious therefore about his business. The Prince asked me whether he could, while in Paris, do anything to help on the negotiation of a new treaty of commerce, and I wrote to him next morning to suggest the language that he should hold. Ferry, the Prime Minister, I pointed out, was a Protectionist, and I suggested that the Prince should say to Ferry how important for the good understanding of the two countries it would be to conclude a fair treaty at once....
'On the 18th I had written to Gambetta to tell him that I should be in Paris on April 9th and on April 24th, and that I was to see him, but that no one was to know; and on March 20th I received his answer accepting my conditions. The Prince of Wales had carried out the suggestion which I had made, having taken my letter with him, and read it over immediately before seeing Jules Ferry, upon whom he seemed to have made some impression.'
This Sir Charles learnt from a letter of Gambetta's of March 30th, which ended: "Je vous attends le 9 avril au matin, incognito strict impenetrable, ou le 24 au retour A votre choix." At this meeting Sir Charles received from Gambetta the assurance that delegates would be sent to London to attempt the negotiation of a treaty.
Sir Charles did not believe that a treaty would be concluded. In his judgment England would not consent to accept a treaty unless it were an improvement on the existing position, and such a treaty France was not likely to give. But he believed that by negotiating better terms could be obtained, not indeed by treaty, but under the tariff which the French legislature would introduce by Bill. [Footnote: Gambetta kept in touch with Sir Charles throughout on this matter, writing April 16th: "Nous causerons de toutes ces sottes affaires, que je ne peux m'imaginer aussi mal conduites, mais il y a encore de l'espoir, croyez-moi."]
A joint Commission was nominated to sit in London, with Challemel- Lacour and Dilke for its respective heads. The other English Commissioners were Sir C. Rivers Wilson, who was a Treasury official before he became Finance Minister in Egypt; Mr. C. M. Kennedy, head of the Commercial Department of the Foreign Office; and Mr. W. E. Baxter, the member for Dundee. Sir Charles says of the preliminary meetings, which were concerned with a wrangle between him and Challemel-Lacour as to the extent to which M. Leon Say had committed his Government:
'We got no further, but we were both very much pleased with ourselves for the manner in which we argued. Challemel, being an orator and having the use of his own tongue, was at an advantage, but I managed to hold my own, I think, pretty well.'
'At the second meeting, May 30th, I began a course of speeches on pig iron and such matters which was destined to continue for many months. I used to get up my technical terms in the morning (the "jargon," as the French call it), and to forget them immediately after. I believe that on this day I forgot the French for "steel blooms" within five minutes after being most learned in regard to them.'
The sittings went on throughout June, 1881, with results in some respects favourable. But the matter had now a political as well as a commercial aspect. It was probable that Gambetta was about to form a Government, though it was unlikely to come into being before the late autumn, after the French general election. On both sides there was a desire to have friendly relations, but public feeling was extremely sensitive in both countries. The occupation of Tunis had produced a certain tension with the Foreign Office; and in France the growing Protectionist movement made it certain that if England, which from 1860 onward had enjoyed special terms in her commerce with France, was again to have a special treaty, it would not be so favourable.
The position in July was that a treaty giving certain advantages to England could be secured at once from M. Ferry's Ministry, and that a total failure of the negotiations was in itself to be deprecated. Lord Lyons was for concluding the treaty which might be made at once, fearing lest England should be put under the general tariff. Here Sir Charles's familiarity with Parliament made him invaluable. He perceived that any treaty which could be made at this moment would leave certain leading British industries—notably cottons and woollens—worse off than they had been under the expiring arrangement, and therefore would probably be upset by a vote in the House of Commons. This would be disastrous. It seemed to him better to wait till Gambetta came in, and to do the best he could with the new Government. This decision prevailed, Sir Charles persuading Mr. Chamberlain to support his view in the Cabinet.
It was decided, however, to insist on prolongation of the existing treaty as a condition of continuing the negotiations, and Sir Charles now proposed to strengthen his hand by a threat of retaliation. He was invited by the Prime Minister to attend a meeting of the Cabinet in regard to commercial treaties on August 6th.
'The result was a despatch from myself to Mr. Adams [Footnote: Afterwards Sir Francis Adams. He was then Charge d'Affaires in Paris, and later Minister in Switzerland. He was at this moment in charge of the Embassy during Lord Lyons's absence.] which was not included in the Blue-Book afterwards laid before Parliament. It ended by relating a conversation with the French Ambassador on the previous day, in which I threatened (and this was the reason for not placing the despatch before Parliament) that if we did not come to a satisfactory understanding with France, we should make treaties with Spain, Portugal, and Italy, in which we should reduce the rate of duty on the dear wines produced by those countries, and raise the rate of duty on the less strong wines produced by France. I have always been a reciprocitarian to this extent, and was always backed in using such arguments by Chamberlain, who held the same view in a still stronger form. Mr. Gladstone and Lord Granville always prevented any public reference to such matters, but they allowed me to put them in despatches, although not to lay them before Parliament.'
On August 17th Gambetta again suggested a private interview, and it was decided that Dilke should cross, ostensibly on a visit to La Bourboule, and hold the interview on his way. [Footnote: Gambetta wrote: "Nons serons strictement seuls. Si! les choses electorales ont fort bien tourne, non sans peine, mais pas de guerre sans blessures." (22 aout, 1881).] On August 22nd Mr. Adams reported that—
'Gambetta was determined that Tirard' (Minister of Commerce in M. Ferry's Cabinet) 'should fail, in order that his Government should have the glory of succeeding in our negotiations....
'On Thursday, August 25th, I breakfasted with Gambetta, and then went on to La Bourboule. He told me that he was prepared to take office without portfolio, "in order to be able to watch all the others."'
"Tuesday, August 30th, '81.—As to the treaty, Gambetta said that M. Tirard would not be got rid of in time; some mode must be found of turning the difficulty which he had created. He would see him, and Tirard would probably propose some plan to me when I called on Tuesday" (this might be Thursday). "I suggested... a treaty with some small country, and the most-favoured-nation clause with us—we giving nothing.... This was the excellent ultimate outcome." [Footnote: This paragraph is from a note made at the time.]
On September 5th, on his way back from La Bourboule, 'I was officially in Paris, and saw the Ministers, Barthelemy Saint-Hilaire, Jules Ferry, and Tirard; and on the next day, Tuesday the 6th, saw Gambetta privately without their knowledge.'
At this moment prolongation of the existing treaty had not been accorded, and negotiations were in suspense. Sir Charles frankly "told the Ministers that I did not expect we should be able to agree," and suggested a plan which, without a special commercial treaty, should secure what had up till then been settled in negotiation. France was obliged to renew her treaties with Switzerland and Belgium, and might concede to these countries in detail 'those things which up to this point we had obtained in negotiation.'
Prolongation of the existing treaty was, however, at last accorded, and conferences were resumed on September 19th in Paris-a change of scene greatly to the Commission's advantage.
'We now continued to sit day by day in state at the French Foreign Office, which contrasted with the simplicity of Downing Street under the rule of a parsimonious Treasury. The French certainly know how to spend their money, and I fancy that the United Kingdom must suffer in negotiations both from the superior style in which foreign Governments treat negotiators and from our abstention from the practice pursued by foreign Governments of showering decorations upon negotiators. At the French Foreign Office, outside the magnificent room in which the conferences are held, was a great buffet covered with the most costly luxuries, behind which stood tall footmen dressed in the national livery of red and blue, and I think that our manufacturers who came in to give evidence were in some cases not altogether insensible to the attractions offered them. Some of our witnesses, however, were really first-class men, and it was a pleasure to hear Mr. Joseph Lee of Manchester, who was afterwards knighted on my suggestion, hammering the French.... When I called the name of Wedgwood as that of my witness upon pottery I noticed the sensation that ran round the French Commission, who were under the impression that "Wedgwood" was a contemporary of Michael Angelo; but, of course, my Wedgwood was not the original, though he was a descendant....
'During my first long visit to Paris the French Government gave me every night the official box at either the Opera or one of the great theatres, and I used to go, not that I cared about the theatre, but because I was able to give hospitality in this way to our leading manufacturers, who were over as our witnesses. We used, indeed, to do a good deal of our business at the theatre. The official boxes having drawing-rooms at the back, we retired into these, and discussed what we were going to say at the Conference the next morning.'
But after many sittings negotiations did not seem likely to lead to any settlement, and Sir Charles was anxious to break them off. The French opposed this, urging that prolongation of the treaty would then have been gained for nothing; and they made a good many small concessions on the numerous articles subject to their tariff.
During the sittings Sir Charles Dilke kept Lord Granville posted in a mass of detail: Ivory and pearl buttons reduced to half; vulcanite goods, an improvement on the status quo; great and wholly unexpected reduction on biscuits; but starch very bad (this was on "an excellent day for the small things"). Other reports dealt with steel scrap, phosphorus, faience, and so forth, and by tabulated figures set off the total of losses and gains. Lord Granville, thanking him for these constant reports, remarked with serene detachment that they were "as interesting as lists of the betting in the newspapers just before the Derby. I hope you will win the race." He added that in his opinion "Tirard and the Temps were only playing a game of brag."
'At my conference on October 24th I had found Tirard very cross, he apparently having made up his mind that Gambetta intended to turn him out, and having therefore resolved to make the conclusion of a treaty impossible in order to attack his successor and to destroy the treaty if one were made. He suddenly asked for a vast reduction in the English wine duties, and on my refusing to discuss the matter, he replied that after the "enormous concessions" which had been made to us, any French Minister who did not obtain similar concessions from us would be worthy of impeachment. He was very rude to me, and evidently wanted to provoke an immediate rupture.'
On this Sir Charles wrote to Mr. Gladstone:
"The Commissioners are in the singular position of trying to arrange the terms of a treaty with a Minister who, if the treaty is made, is likely to become the private member to move its rejection."
'I was not much hampered from London at this time. Mr. Gladstone wrote: "I have nothing to do but commend and concur."'
'On October 28th I determined not to break off negotiations, but simply to finish—that is to say, to go clean through the tariff, and stop when we had no more to say. We then could leave matters open, and begin again in the following month with the new Government which Gambetta was about to form.'
Already Sir Charles was being introduced to the future members of what came to be called the "Grand Ministere," and was not favourably impressed:
'On November 2nd, Gambetta having informed me that Rouvier would be his Minister of Commerce, and having asked me to meet him, we dined together at the Cafe Anglais, but I was greatly disappointed in him.'
On November 5th Sir Charles left Paris for London, nominally for purposes of consultation; but this was only a pretext to suspend operations till Gambetta came into office, which he did on November 10th. Sir Charles, being then in London, found the British Government of his own opinion, that they could hope for no more than most-favoured-nation treatment; but opinions differed as to how this should be obtained. Mr. Gladstone wanted to give a pledge that the low duty on the lighter wines—which favoured France, since no other country could produce them-should not be raised. Sir Charles, on the other hand, wanted to threaten the French with a change in the duties, which would favour Italy by letting in the slightly stronger Italian wines at the same rate as "Gladstone" clarets.
On November 19th he was back in Paris, seeing Rouvier and Gambetta, both of whom asked for time to prepare the way for a final meeting of the Commission, and Sir Charles went to his house near Toulon. On December 28th the detail of the French proposals was known, and they were held to be unsatisfactory. Gambetta still insisted that an agreement could and must be reached, but Dilke was of another opinion, and at the thirty- seventh sitting, held on the last day of the year, negotiations were really broken off. The last sitting, held on January 2nd, 1882, was merely formal, and that evening Sir Charles left for London. He had not expected to succeed in concluding a treaty, and he had not concluded one, but he had earned high credit from experts. Lord Granville wrote: "From all sides I hear praises of your knowledge, tact, and judgment." His secretary, Mr. Austin Lee, [Footnote: Now Sir Henry Austin Lee, K.C.M.G., C.B., Commercial attache for France, Belgium, and Switzerland at the British Embassy in Paris.] showed him a letter from one of the Under-Secretaries of State in the Foreign Office, who
'said that it was a blessing to have had me at Paris, because any other negotiator would have sent yards of cipher telegram to the Office asking to be allowed to give the French all that they demanded from us, and proving that we must take whatever we could get from them.'
The British members of the Commission were unanimous in support of their chairman, and when Gambetta fell and M. de Freycinet became Prime Minister, they refused to hold any further sittings. Lord Lyons was uneasy, and in February, 1882, wrote that the most-favoured-nation treaty was a very forlorn hope." Mr. Gladstone thereupon wished to give his pledge against any raising of the duties.
'I succeeded in stopping this, for I felt sure that we should get it for nothing, as, in fact, we did.
'That we obtained most-favoured-nation treatment without giving way upon our wine duties and sacrificing revenue was a triumph, as we got all the reductions (which on yarns were very large) which we had obtained in the course of the negotiations. These had, after being won by us, been given to the Swiss and Belgians—who were "behind" us, and signed treaties. The result was that there was an increase, not a falling off, in our trade with France.' [Footnote: Full information with regard to the negotiations of a new commercial treaty between France and Great Britain, will be found in Commercial No. 37, 1881, and Commercial No. 9, 1882.]
"The foresight shown by Sir Charles Dilke in proposing this arrangement is brought out by the fact that it has been maintained, and given entire satisfaction, during the thirty years and more which have elapsed from its conclusion," says Sir Henry Austin Lee.
M. Hanotaux, in his France Contemporaine, observes that Dilke was often a precurseur. He certainly was so in an important matter of Imperial policy which connects itself with these negotiations. Leave was granted, through Sir Charles at the Foreign Office, to the Canadian High Commissioner, Sir A. Galt, 'to negotiate upon his own account, provided that he concluded no stipulations unfavourable to the mother country. In this, I made a precedent which has been followed,' and which was not made without opposition. The Colonial Office, while unable to prevent Canada from acting for herself, prevented Sir Charles at the Foreign Office from acting conjointly with Canada. The matter developed in 'the following spring':
'On March 1st (1882) Sir A. Galt asked me to let Kennedy' (Sir C. M. Kennedy) 'of the Foreign Office go to Paris as Second Commissioner for Canada to help make a Franco-Canadian treaty. On the 2nd I agreed, and got Lord Granville's consent, and the Foreign Office officially asked the Colonial Office, when Lord Kimberley refused. I pressed the matter in angry, but as I think conclusive, minutest Lord Kimberley, however, set his teeth, and refused point blank, and Lord Granville then backed him up, saying that "on a Colonial matter it was impossible to fly in the face of the Colonial Secretary of State." I wrote, 2nd March, 1882:
'"I think Lord Kimberley's decision a great misfortune to British trade and to friendly relations with the Colonies, and wish this minute and opinion to that effect placed on record with the despatch which he wishes to withdraw. We could have stipulated that the mother country should have been entitled to all reductions made to France, a further advantage which, if Canada is angry at the refusal, may be needed but not obtained."'
'April 20th, 1882: At this moment I called attention to the bearing of our most-favoured-nation-clause treaties on the commercial condition of the British Empire generally, and pointed out that the bearing of the matter on the Colonies would become very important some day; and I found even too much support from the head of the Trade Department, who was a Protectionist, or at least a strong Reciprocitarian, and who at once grasped my idea by arguing that there was a chance that some day there would be formed a British Zollverein, raising discriminating duties upon foreign produce as against that of the British Empire. I had only pointed out the possibility. The representation of Canada by Sir A. Galt at Paris also provoked minutes by me on this question later in the year.'
GAMBETTA, DISRAELI, ROYAL PERSONAGES, MORIER
The New Year of 1881 had opened for Sir Charles with Gambetta's greetings:
"Chambre des Deputes.
"Je vous envoie mes voeux les plus ardents pour tous les succes que vous pouvez desirer dans cette annee qui s'ouvre, et pour la realisation desquels j'ai confiance que votre bon genie continuera a vous sourire.
"Quand vous passerez a Paris le 4 ou autre jour venez me voir. Je ne bouge d'ici jusqu'au 20.
"Je vous embrasse et vous aime, "Paris, 1 Janvier, 1881."
When they met, the Ferry Ministry was in office. Sir Charles met 'General Farre, the Minister of War, who has left no name except for having abolished drums, which were shortly afterwards reintroduced, and who, so far as I could see, did not deserve to leave one,' and also Ranc, one of Gambetta's satellites, who 'was entertaining with a description of the various anarchical parties in Paris then engaged in sitting "on each other's ruins."' A story which Sir Charles tells of his crossing to Paris (in the end of August, 1881) illustrates the vehemence of prejudice against Gambetta:
'I had made the journey alone in a compartment with the young Comte de FitzJames, who was a Lieutenant in the army. He did not know me, and assured me that, it being Gambetta's custom while President of the Chamber to ask to breakfast each day the officer of the guard, if he ever happened to be on duty at the Palais Bourbon, and, consequently, were asked, and had to go, he should utter not one word.'
Gambetta, who heard the story, was greatly amused by it.
During part of September and part of October, 1881, the friends did not meet, because Gambetta was away from Paris. 'It was rumoured he had been to see Bismarck, which was untrue,' says Dilke. "But," he adds in a letter to Lord Granville on October 24th, "Gambetta visited Memel and Kiel, and saw the German fleet, of which he does not think much."
The Prince and Princess of Wales were in Paris when Sir Charles returned there to resume commercial negotiations. On October 24th he breakfasted with them at their hotel, and met them again on the 28th, when they lunched with the Austrian Ambassador:
'Beust is a man that I never saw without marvelling how he should have played so great a part in the affairs of Europe. He always reminded me of Lord Granville with the brains left out. The same little jokes, though less good, the same smile, the same courteous manner; but an affectation and a real stupidity which were all his own.'
'I went in the afternoon with the Prince and Princess of Wales to see Munkacsy's "Christ," an enormously overrated picture, in which the chief figure was that of an Austrian village idiot, not a Christ, but the half-revolutionist, half-idiot that Christ was to the Jews who crucified Him, and who formed the crowd in the picture. If that was what the man wanted to paint, he had succeeded, but that probably was not what he wanted.'
'The Prince was most anxious to meet Gambetta again; Gambetta not at all anxious to meet him. But the Prince having distinctly asked me to ask him to breakfast, and to ask Gambetta to meet him, the latter was obliged to come. The Prince, however, having asked me to invite Galliffet as one of the guests, Gambetta, who liked Galliffet personally, but was afraid of being attacked in the Press, absolutely refused to come, so Galliffet had to be knocked off the list again. Galliffet has misrepresented this in his Memoirs.'
This breakfast took place on Sunday, October 30th, and made much talk, though the Prince was officially travelling as a private gentleman, an incognito which the waiters had difficulty in remembering. Mr. Austin Lee had been invited to take the place of General Galliffet in the party of six, which was completed by Mr. Knollys and Colonel Stanley Clarke. The place was known as the Moulin Rouge Restaurant, soon to disappear in the rebuilding of the Avenue d'Antin. It is said to have been kept open for some days beyond the date originally fixed, to furnish a dejeuner worthy of these guests. In spite of the privacy observed, Rumour was busy, and Punch of November 12th appeared with an amusing "Monologue du Garcon," giving at great length the supposed conversation and the menu of the breakfast.
'Gambetta said a great many good things. He called Blowitz a "crapaud de Boheme," which Escott afterwards quoted from me in the World, I think. He said, apropos of the then French Government: "To change a policy you must have a policy, just as to change a shirt you must have a shirt." Gambetta told me that he wished to make Tissot Foreign Minister, and that as he intended to take Chanzy from St. Petersburg, he should have three Ambassadors to find. Gambetta was satirical about Ireland. He said, referring to Mr. Gladstone's speech: "Everything is going on admirably in Ireland, it seems. You have thirty thousand lawsuits under your new Land Act. Excellent!"'
The Prince returned to London next day, and sent to Sir Charles through Mr. Knollys an expression of thanks and a request that Gambetta would send him a signed photograph. The request was duly transmitted, and Gambetta replied:
"Pensez-vous que ceci soit acceptable? Si oui, pas de reponse; si non, dites-moi s'il suffit d'une simple signature comme autographe.
The inscription was: "Au plus aimable des princes—un ami de l'Angleterre."
Four months later the Prince of Wales wrote to Dilke expressing his personal regrets for Gambetta's fall from power, and Gambetta's letter in reply was sent to Sir Charles for transmission on March 6th, 1882.
The Ferry Ministry fell on November 10th, 1881, and the thought of Gambetta in power acted, said Bismarck, on the nerves of Europe "like a drum in a sick man's room."
On November 1st
'I heard from Lord Lyons, and gathered from confidential telegrams, that the idea of disarmament was in the air again in Europe. This, of course, really meant a disarmament to be imposed by the Empires and Italy upon France. But it was stopped again, as it had often been stopped before, by Russia.
'I had told Lord Granville that I thought Gambetta would offer the Embassy in London to Ferry, and that I did not know if the Queen would like his marriage being only a civil one, and that the Roman Catholics in England would certainly make it disagreeable for him. Lord Granville wrote on this: "I am glad to be rid of Challemel-Lacour. He must be a clumsy fellow to have got on such bad terms with both Saint- Hilaire and Gambetta." In the following week, however, Gambetta made up his mind that J. Casimir-Perier should become his Ambassador in London. But Gambetta fell before he had been able to give him the place.
'On the night before I left I dined with Pouyer-Quertier, who had been Finance Minister of France under Thiers at the time of the Frankfort Treaty. He told me a wonderful story about how, when the negotiations had been all but broken off, he went to bed in despair. But in the morning before light there was a knock at his door. He got up in his nightshirt, and there was Bismarck in full uniform, who made him get back into bed, saying he would catch cold. Then, drawing a chair to the bedside, Bismarck spread out the treaty on the night-table and wrangled on, till after a while he said that it was dry work, and got up and rang and asked for beer. After the beer had been brought by a sleepy waiter, he rang again and asked for kirsch, and poured a quantity of the liqueur into the beer. Then he made the poker red-hot in the fire which he had relighted, stirred up the mixture, and invited Pouyer-Quertier to drink. Pouyer-Quertier said: "I drank it thinking of my country, and Bismarck clapped me on the back, and said that I was such a good fellow that the evacuation should take place at once, and this is how the final article was signed; it was signed on the table at my bedside." I did not believe the story, but when I asked Bismarck years later he said that it was true.'
Returning to London on November 5th
'I left Paris at a moment of great excitement over the financial situation, there having been a kind of Roman Catholic financial union which had beaten a Jewish ring, and which afterwards itself collapsed. It was said that James de Rothschild had lost his money in this business; but his brother-in-law told me that ... it was not true that he had lost a sixpence.'
On November 19th Sir Charles left London, and saw Rouvier and Gambetta late that evening in Paris. 'The Gambetta Ministry had been formed, and it was thought important that I should see Rouvier at once.' Next day, Sunday the 20th, he 'breakfasted with Gambetta, meeting Spuller and General Billot.' To the latter he had been introduced by Gambetta in January, 1880, when Billot was 'commanding the Marseille Corps d'Armee: an intriguer who, in the event of war occurring between 1887 and 1890, would have been second-in-command of the armies of France.' [Footnote: "A letter to a friend of this date shows that Sir Charles did not think Gambetta's Ministry was likely to be in a strong position when it came into power:
"FOREIGN OFFICE, "PARIS, "21st November, 1881.
"Gambetta is, according to the papers, at war with the Senate and with the Church. I think that he is at war with the Senate, and that this is foolish of him. I don't think he is at war with the Church. It is the Senate, more than the Church, which is offended by the appointment of a rampant atheist and vivisector as Minister of Religion. The Church has probably less to fear from Bert than from less known men. Gambetta is to see the Nuncio to-day, and I don't think that the Nuncio, who has long been his warm personal friend, is likely to express much alarm.
"The Senate is more serious. The monstrous folly of Bert's appointment, the dismissal of the senator de Normandie, governor of the Bank, and the putting only one senator into the Cabinet, have irritated it beyond all bearing. Gambetta may gain twenty seats in January, but even supposing that he is supposed to have a majority in the Senate, it is a majority in which you have to count semi- Conservative rivals such as Leon Say and de Freycinet, foes like Challemel-Lacour, and men of the extreme Left like Victor Hugo, who are more likely to follow Clemenceau than Gambetta. And yet he needs the Senate to keep the other House in order by the threat of a dissolution, which requires the consent of the Senate."]
Gambetta had taken the Foreign Office himself:
'He seemed to me solid, strong, and prudent. Indeed, I never saw him appear to so much advantage. We walked from his "den" to the dining- room, where the guests were waiting for breakfast, through his bedroom. A fine Louis XVI. bed from the garde-meuble was in the alcove. I pointed, and asked: "Le lit de Talleyrand?" "Le lit de Dagobert!" At our meeting on the 20th we discussed fully the Danube question, and also that of Newfoundland, in which I always took a deep interest, but with regard to which I was far from agreement with the French. [Footnote: The Danube question was left unsettled by the Treaty of Berlin. The question of the navigation and outlets gave rise to constant trouble, owing to the claims of Russia and Austria- Hungary. After prolonged negotiations the Conference of 1883 arrived at a compromise. See Life of Granville. vol. ii., chap, vii., Lord Granville's despatch, March 14th, Turkey, No. 3, 1883.]
'During the whole of this visit to Paris I deeply admired Gambetta, with whom I spent almost the whole of my three days. He showed to great advantage, sobered by power, rapid in his acquisition and mastery of new subjects. He had grasped the Danube difficulties and those of Newfoundland in a moment. How different from those about him, of whom Spuller, of all men in the world, was one day to be his successor—a heavy fellow, who, as long as Gambetta lived, used only to open his mouth for the purpose of "thee-and-thouing" Gambetta in asking for the salt, just to show that he dared to "thee" and "thou" him.
'On December 28th I breakfasted with Gambetta, when he told me that he would himself have given Jules Simon any Embassy or any place in his Government, for he was fit for any ("the cleverest man in France"), had he not known that Simon was too bitter, and would think that he was being bought, and would refuse. Freycinet was at Gambetta's, and also Spuller, Rouvier, Ranc, Pallain, Reinach, and Gerard. They were much excited as to the selection by Gambetta of Weiss of the Figaro as Secretary in the Foreign Office' (in place of Baron de Courcel), 'as Weiss was said to have made the anti-Republican Government of May 16th; but Gambetta merely answered that he could not see why he should not be allowed to employ as a despatch writer "the first pen of France." The same difficulty had arisen about the army, Gambetta wishing to make Miribel Chief of the Staff, although he was a reactionary. This appointment was afterwards made by Freycinet in 1890, amid public applause, although the suggestion had been one of the causes of Gambetta's overthrow....
'Gambetta says that the American despatches to us about Panama raise a monstrous pretension—that they might as well claim the Straits of Magellan and Cape Horn'. [Footnote: The Americans had announced that in the event of the completion of the Canal they intended to keep it in their own hands.]
On December 29th Sir Charles dined with Lord Lyons to meet Gambetta and some of the new Ministers:
'On this evening I heard Gambetta for the first time say "If I can," for he was beginning to feel how sharply limited by the hostility of the Chamber was his power. He was speaking of revision of the constitution for the purpose of the adoption of scrutin de liste.' [Footnote: Sir Henry Brackenbury, in Some Memories of My Spare Time, observes that in 1881 he dined at the Embassy, when "Gambetta and M. Spullor, his fidus Achates, were also present, as well as Sir Charles Dilke." He thought Dilke "by far the best talker of the party."]
On January 2nd, 1882, he again breakfasted with Gambetta.
'Gambetta told me that the Chamber would never forgive him for having suggested scrutin de liste, and hated him. At the same time he informed me of his intention of again proposing it, although he expected to be beaten, and seemed to have made up his mind to go out.'
Writing to Grant Duff of this coming conflict, Dilke said:
"Gambetta means to put scrutin de liste into the constitution at the revision—if he can. That will be a warm day! I never heard him say 'If I can' before. I wonder if his great exemplar ever said 'If I can'? Sala and Rosebery, who are the two best Napoleonists I know, can tell us."
Sir Charles, as representing the Foreign Office in the House of Commons, was naturally in close touch with Mr. Gladstone; in addition, the commercial negotiations necessitated frequent interviews. The admiration which Sir Charles felt for his chief was, however, frequently crossed by differences of opinion, especially as to his method of approaching foreign affairs.
'Writing to express his concurrence in my action with regard to the commercial negotiations, Mr. Gladstone went on to say: "I am glad Gambetta says that he is in the same boat as us as to Panama. Our safety there will be in acting as charged with the interests of the world minus America." This was a curious example of the world of illusions in which Mr. Gladstone lives. The Americans had informed us that they did not intend to be any longer bound by the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty, and that in the event of the completion of the Panama Canal they intended virtually to keep it in their own hands. Mr. Gladstone called in France in joint protest with us against this view, although he might have foreseen the utter impossibility in the long-run of resisting American pretensions on such a point, and although he himself would have been the first, when the Americans threatened war (as they would have done later on), to yield to threats that which he would not yield to argument. It amused Harcourt, however, to concoct with the Chancellor and the Foreign Office portentous despatches to Mr. Blaine, in which we lectured the Americans on the permanency of their obligations. How childish it all was! Moreover, the Monroe doctrine suits our interests.'
Sir Charles's letters to Mr. Gladstone, even when short and business-like, are marked by a deference which he used to no one else; and the deference at times has the accent of affection. Sir Charles always enjoyed Mr. Gladstone's old-world courtesy, and especially his playfulness.
"It would be impossible," he said, "to give a true account of Mr. Gladstone without recalling the manner in which, however absorbed he might be in his subject, he would break off to discuss some amusing triviality. When we were talking once of the real and inner views of French statesmen with regard to our occupation of Egypt, some chance expression suddenly diverted Mr. Gladstone's mind to the subject of rowing; and he began recalling in the most amusing way incidents of his own Eton days of some sixty-eight or sixty-nine years previously, shivering at the thought of his sculling in cold weather against strong stretches of the stream near Monkey Island."
But the elder statesman who fascinated Sir Charles's imagination was the great Tory chief; and in 1881 came at last the realization of a wish long entertained by him for a meeting with Lord Beaconsfield. More than once he had been balked of the opportunity by his punctilio of holding rigidly to even the most ordinary social engagements. After one of these disappointments he wrote:
'I should like to talk to the most romantic character of our time, but I fear it is only vulgar curiosity, for I really know a great deal more already about him than I could find out in conversation.'
The curiosity had been sharpened by the publication of Endymion, for Sir Charles thought that in devising the story of Endymion Ferrars Lord Beaconsfield had taken a general suggestion from the career of the Radical who, like Endymion, had made his debut as Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs; and the novelist admitted the debt.
The meeting took place on Sunday, January 30th, at Lady Lonsdale's house.
'Wolff, Chaplin and Lady Florence, Hartington, the Duchess of Manchester, Lord and Lady Hamilton, and Captain and Lady Rosamond Fellowes (Randolph Churchill's sister) were there. Arthur Balfour and the Randolph Churchills came in after dinner. Lord Beaconsfield told me that he had been very anxious to meet me, since he had taken the liberty of writing about me without my leave in his novel Endymion, and that he thought we wore never destined to meet, for he had twice asked Alfred de Rothschild to invite me, and that I had not "been" on those two or on a third occasion which he had made. He was, as usual, over-complimentary and over-anxious to captivate, but was certainly most pleasant. He praised my grandfather, a sure way to my heart, and said that my grandfather and his own father were "the last two men in England who had a thorough knowledge of English letters." The talk at dinner was dull, in spite of Wolff's attempts to enliven it, but Arthur Balfour and the Randolph Churchills brightened it afterwards, and Dizzy said a good many rather good things—as, for example, that he should like to get married again for the purpose of comparing the presents that he would get from his friends with the beggarly ones that he had got when he had married. Also that he "objects to the rigid bounds of honeymoons as an arbitrary attempt to limit illimitable happiness." I thought him very polite and pretty in all his ways and in all he said.'
On Sunday evening, February 20th, Sir Charles dined with Mr. Alfred de Rothschild to meet the Prince of Wales;
'but was more pleased with again meeting Lord Beaconsfield.'...
'After dinner I was next him. When he was offered a cigar, he said: "You English once had a great man who discovered tobacco, on which you English now live, and potatoes, on which your Irish live, and you cut off his head." This foreign point of view of Sir Walter Raleigh was extremely comical, I think.'
Finally there is this entry:
'Having made no note in my diary, I cannot tell if it was on Sunday, April 3rd, or on Sunday, March 27th, that Lord Barrington met Edmond Fitzmaurice and me in Curzon Street, where Lord Beaconsfield's house was, and said: "Come in and see him; he's ill, but would like to see you." He was on a couch in the back drawing-room, in which he died, I think, on April 19th. There was a bronchitis kettle on the hob, and his breathing was difficult, but he was still the old Disraeli, and, though I think that he knew that he was dying, yet his pleasant spitefulness about "Mr. G." was not abated. He meant to die game.'
Lord Beaconsfield made no secret of his liking for Sir Charles, but is said to have doubted the permanency of his Radicalism. "The sort of man who will die a Conservative peer," is said to have been his commentary after their first meeting, echoing an idea then widespread in the fashionable world, that of the two men so often compared, Sir Charles would gravitate towards the opinions of the Times, leaving his colleague 'to the unassisted championship of democratic rights.'
To the greatest of all European statesmen Dilke did not at this time become known; but Bismarck watched his career, and in the early part of this year, after the Prince of Wales's visit to Berlin,
'On March 16th Arthur Ellis, who had been with the Prince at Berlin, came to me from the Prince to say that the Prince had had much talk with Lord Ampthill (Odo Russell) about me. Our Ambassador was most anxious that I should visit Berlin, and thought that I could do much then with Bismarck, and usefully remove prejudices about myself at the Court. Ellis was the bearer of an invitation from the Embassy for me to stay there, and of a message that Bismarck much wished to make my acquaintance.'
There was no doubt as to the attractiveness of the invitation, but it was at once ruled out on public grounds.
'The visit, however, would give rise to much speculation in the Press, and would also make the Queen angry and Mr. Gladstone most uneasy. "But," I added in my diary, "if we want to stop the French from going to Tunis, there is a safe and easy way to do it—i.e., let me go to Berlin for one day and see Bismarck and talk about the weather, and then to Rome for one hour and see, no one, merely to let the fact get into the newspapers."'
'Dufferin wrote to me from Paris: "The Sultan is besotted with the notion of a German alliance against France, and of obtaining the assistance of Germany in freeing himself from foreign control in Asia."'
On New Year's Day, 1882, Sir Charles, while accompanying Lord Lyons on his round of official New Year visits, saw a despatch from Lord Odo Russell. [Footnote: Ambassador at Berlin.] In it Bismarck described his attitude towards the Turks, who had "asked him for protection against their protectors, who, with the sole exception of Germany, in their opinion, wanted 'to cut slices out of their skin.'" Bismarck had assured the Turks that he should never attack France unless seriously threatened by France, and would never in any circumstances "fire a cartridge for Turkey."
In the course of the summer of 1881 Sir Charles had become acquainted with a great personage in whom Bismarck always saw an enemy of his policy, and in so far as it was hostile to France the Memoir bears out his judgment.
'On July 13th the Prince of Wales introduced me to his sister, the Crown Princess of Germany. [Footnote: Though this was Sir Charles's first meeting with the Crown Princess, she had at the time of his father's death 'telegraphed her condolences to me at St. Petersburg, and to the Embassy, asking them to call on me and help me in the matter.'] She talked to me at length in the most friendly way with regard to France and Gambetta. She told me that she had been secretly to Cherbourg to hear Gambetta's famous speech, which he himself called "the first glass of wine administered to the convalescent." But she added that she stood absolutely alone in Germany in her pro-French opinions.
'The Crown Princess seemed very able, but inclined to sacrifice anything in order to produce an effect. I was afterwards sent for by them, and had a long talk in what are called the Belgian Rooms at the back of Buckingham Palace, on the gardens.
'On Monday, August 22nd, I called at Buckingham Palace by the wish of the Crown Prince, and saw him and the Crown Princess together. I thought him a dull, heavy German, and noted in my diary: "He dare not speak before he sees that she approves of his speaking." But he was a nice-minded, kind, and even pleasant man in his way.'
Sir Charles's formal summing-up of his impressions is to be found in his work on The Present Position of European Politics (1887):
"It is no secret that at times the Crown Princess has been unfriendly to Prince Bismarck. They are perhaps two personalities too strong to coexist easily in the same Court.... The Crown Prince, it must be admitted, intellectually speaking, is, largely by his own will, the Crown Princess. But that most able lady, when she shares the German throne, must inevitably have for her policy the Bismarck policy—the strength and glory of the German Empire."
Sir Charles notes that, although he was hard-worked in Parliament and in the Office, the peculiar nature of the Foreign Office work brought him necessarily a good deal into contact with royal personages and foreigners of distinction visiting London, and forced him 'to go out a good deal and burn the candle at both ends.' Of these official gaieties he gives no very grateful impression:
'Some of the parties to which the Prince of Wales virtually insisted that I should go were curious; the oddest of them a supper which he directed to be given on July 1st, 1881, for Sarah Bernhardt, at the wish of the Duc d'Aumale, and at which all the other ladies present were English ladies who had been invited at the distinct request of the Prince of Wales. It was one thing to get them to go, and another thing to get them to talk when they were there; and the result was that, as they would not talk to Sarah Bernhardt and she would not talk to them, and as the Duc d'Aumale was deaf and disinclined to make conversation on his own account, nobody talked at all, and an absolute reign of the most dismal silence ensued....
'On March 13th we had received news of the murder of the Emperor of Russia; and when Lord Granville came to dinner with me (for he dined with me that night to meet the French Ambassador), he told me that I must attend in the morning at a Mass at the Russian Chapel, and attend in uniform. I had two of these Masses at the Russian Chapel in a short time, one for the Emperor and one for the Empress, and painful ceremonies they were, as we had to stand packed like herrings in a small room, stifled with incense, wearing heavy uniform, and carrying lighted tapers in our hands. On this occasion I saw the Prince of Wales go to sleep standing, his taper gradually turn round and gutter on the floor.'
Two months later, Friday, May 27th,
'I dined with Lord and Lady Spencer to meet the King of Sweden and the Gladstones....
'The King talked to me after dinner about the murder of the Emperor of Russia.... It was clear that the Swedish loathing for Russia on account of the loss of Finland was not over. The King might, however, have reflected upon his own popularity in Norway, a country which had been given to his grandfather because the people used to hate the Danes. They now hated the Swedes still more.'
A royalty known to Sir Charles by correspondence was King Mtsa of Uganda, 'who had been presented by us in 1880, at the request of the Queen and the Church Missionary Society, with a Court suit, a trombone, and an Arabic Bible,' but who relapsed early in 1881, and became again the chief pillar of the slave trade in his district. Another strange monarch played his part that year in London society.
'On Sunday, July 10th, Lord Granville wrote to me to ask me to lunch with him the next day to meet "the King of the Cannibal Islands [Footnote: Sandwich Islands, in reality.] at 12.55, an admirable arrangement, as he must go away to Windsor at 1.20." I went, but unfortunately was not able to clear myself of all responsibility for Kalakaua so rapidly, for I was directed to show him the House of Commons; and when he parted from me in the evening in St. Stephen's Hall he asked me for a cigar, and on my offering him my case he put the whole of its contents into his pocket. The Crown Prince of Germany and the Crown Princess (Princess Royal of England) were in London at the same time, and at all the parties the three met. The German Embassy were most indignant that the Prince of Wales had decided that Kalakaua must go before the Crown Prince. At a party given by Lady Spencer at the South Kensington Museum, Kalakaua marched along with the Princess of Wales, the Crown Prince of Germany following humbly behind; and at the Marlborough House Ball Kalakaua opened the first quadrille with the Princess of Wales. When the Germans remonstrated with the Prince, he replied, "Either the brute is a King or else he is an ordinary black nigger, and if he is not a King, why is he here at all?" which made further discussion impossible. Kalakaua, however, having only about 40,000 nominal subjects, most of them American citizens who got up a revolution every time he went away, his kingship was very slight.'
'At this Cabinet a curious matter came up, though not for decision. The Cabinet had been intending to give the commission for the public statue of Lord Beaconsfield to a British sculptor, and I had been trying hard to get it for Nelson Maclean; but a communication from the Queen settled the matter, she absolutely insisting that Boehm should do the statue. Everybody felt that it was wrong that she should interfere, but nobody, of course, resisted.'
On May 27th we hear that the Queen, having received
'warning in an anonymous letter of threats against her life by "persons of rank," wrote to Harcourt to say she did not see who could be meant "unless it were Lord Randolph Churchill"!'
Elsewhere Sir Charles noted:
'The only subjects upon which the Prince of Wales agreed with any Liberals were (1) detestation of Randolph Churchill; (2) the government of London. But then, as I personally, although assailed by Randolph Churchill and not then on speaking terms in consequence, did not dislike him, there remained only the government of London, and the topic became well worn between us, for we had found by experience that it was the only one upon which we could safely talk.'
One correspondent, the length of whose letters was 'fabulous,' was Sir Robert Morier, then Minister at Lisbon, 'an old friend.'
'He had more brains than all the other Foreign Office servants put together (excepting Lord Lyons and 'old White' and Lord Odo Russell), but, although "impossible" in a small place, he was afterwards a success at St. Petersburg.... He used to send ultimatums to any weak Government to which he was despatched, and he used to treat the Foreign Office almost as badly, for he was the only Minister given to swearing at the Office in despatches.'
Comment on this is afforded by a note of Lord Granville's to Sir Charles in 1884, when the Embassy at Constantinople was vacant: "The Turks had been behaving so badly, we should send Morier, to pay them out." Sir Charles's respect for his friend's 'immense ability' led to his taking great trouble in dealing with Sir Robert Morier's difficulties, put before him in a voluminous correspondence, both private and public, and in return he received 'a veritable testimonial on February 22nd, 1881: "You have done the right thing at exactly the right moment, and this is to me so utterly new a phenomenon in official life that it fills me with admiration and delight."' He had previously noted a letter in which, describing himself as "a shipwrecked diplomat on the rocks of Lisbon," Morier wrote:
"To have for once in my life received help, co-operation, and encouragement in a public work from a man in the Office, instead of the cuffs and snubs I am used to, is so altogether new a sensation that you must excuse my being gushing."
In an earlier letter of the same year there is complaint of the "utter absence of co-operation" between the Foreign Office at home and its servants abroad:
"You who are still a human being and able to see things from the general home point of view, will be over-weighted by two such bureaucrats as —— and —— ."
Morier's plea for reorganization which should ensure "intercommunion and intercommunication" was emphasized a few weeks later by
'a letter from White, then our Minister at Bucharest (afterwards our Ambassador at Constantinople), which concluded with a general grumble against the Foreign Office:
'"... Servants kept in the dark—thorough darkness—as to proceedings in the next-door house cannot be profitable servants, and such is, alas!
'"Yours ever truly,
'"W. A. White.'"
The idea bore fruit in Dilke's mind to this extent, that in
'1890 I was able to give evidence before a Royal Commission in favour of amalgamating the two services, and the Ridley Commission accepted my view and recommended the amalgamation. It was not carried out.'
Sir Robert Morier suffered, in his own judgment, more than anyone else from this lack of intercommunication, and this is probably true because he was restlessly fertile in suggestions, and when these raised opposition he turned to Sir Charles for help. Having just concluded the negotiation of a treaty respecting Goa, he was now pressing hard for another respecting Lorenco Marques and Delagoa Bay, in which he discerned the future gate of the Transvaal, and was projecting arrangements with regard to Portuguese West Africa. In these projects Sir Charles helped him indirectly, as he did in a larger proposal which the Minister at Lisbon was making.
'Morier's letter contained the draft of a proposed Congo treaty, which was afterwards put into shape, which I strongly favoured, and which in 1883, after I had left the Foreign Office, was virtually stopped by the House of Commons. The House and country were wrong, and the Foreign Office right.' [Footnote: This treaty would have associated Great Britain with Portugal in maintaining the freedom of the Congo River and in policing its waters, while it would have established a joint control of the whole Congo basin by the European Powers which had subjects settled in that region. Such an agreement would have altered the course of history in tropical Africa, and the Congo State would never have come into being. See Life of Lord Granville, vol. ii., pp. 341-354.]
Lord Ripon was Sir Charles's regular Indian correspondent, and a letter from the Viceroy in this year begs him not to intermit his communications whenever he could make time to write. To Lord Ripon another correspondent was now added:
'Grant Duff, having accepted the Governorship of Madras, asked me to write to him regularly in India, which I promised to do, and did, and in thanking me he said that my opinions would have interest for him, since among other things I knew was "that strange wild beast—the House of Commons." This saying was pathetic from him, for there never was a man who more utterly failed to understand the House of Commons than Grant Duff....'
DIFFICULTIES OF THE LIBERAL GOVERNMENT
The close of 1881 virtually terminated the protracted negotiations with France which had occupied most of Sir Charles Dilke's time, and had kept him for long periods absent from London. In the new year he was more closely concerned with the general business of the Government, and especially with its attempts at legislation.
Two important subjects mentioned in the Queen's Speech of 1882 were the reform of local government in the counties, [Footnote: This was foreshadowed in a note of November 11th, 1881: 'Local Government (Boards in all the three kingdoms on a tax-paying basis) will be the chief measure.'] and the proposed recasting of London's system of government, which appealed to Sir Charles both as a municipal reformer and as a metropolitan member. In the previous summer Mr. Gladstone had shown himself to Dilke as 'very keen' on this latter measure, and proposals to undertake it were actually put before the Cabinet on Lord Mayor's Day, 1881. The choice of a date seemed
'dramatic and courageous.... We all dined with the Lord Mayor, and as the men came in I felt that, knowing what I did as to Harcourt's resolution, we were there under false pretences.'
This project began to take shape when Ministers reassembled after Christmas.
'On the morning of January 3rd, 1882, I saw Harcourt about his London Government scheme, of which he had sent me a rough sketch asking for my criticisms. I found that he had adopted all the ideas of Beal and Firth and of myself. [Footnote: Mr. Firth was Sir Charles Dilke's fellow-member for Chelsea. Mr. James Beal, a Chelsea man and a veteran reformer, was Honorary Secretary of the Metropolitan Municipal Association, which existed to advocate the creation of a general municipality for London.] We formed a committee, consisting of the four, which met daily at Harcourt's house for some time.
'On the 6th regular Cabinets began, and Chamberlain came to stay with me, although he offered to go to the hotel, "as there is no crisis on hand just now." Hartington, who had a shooting party at Hardwick, ... scandalized his colleagues by declaring that he was too lazy to come up for the first Cabinet, although it had been fixed for between a fortnight and three weeks....
'On January 7th a Committee of the Cabinet on the London Government scheme was appointed, but it met only once, for the informal committee of Harcourt, Beal, Firth, and myself did the whole work....
'On January 11th the single meeting of the London Government Committee took place, Harcourt, Spencer, Childers, Chamberlain, and myself being present. But instead of discussing London Government, we discussed the Borneo Charter, to which all present were opposed.'
Over and above this work of preparation on another Minister's Bill, Sir Charles had a variety of occupations outside his own official duties. Thus, he notes on February 12th that he 'had a quarrel with Dodson' (then President of the Local Government Board) 'as to a rating question'; and a few weeks later, on April 28th:
'I was very busy at this moment because I had the Corrupt Practices Bill and the Ballot Bill on hand in the House, as well as Foreign Affairs debates.' [Footnote: In these measures he was helping Sir Henry James, Attorney-General.]
The main difficulties immediately in hand were those caused by Parliamentary procedure, and Mr. Bradlaugh, who had been re-elected during the Recess, and now proposed to take the oath; but the House was unwilling to let him do so, thus bringing itself into sharp conflict with the constituency.
'It was reported by the Prime Minister to the Cabinet of January eth that the Queen refused to open Parliament on the ground of health.... The Queen and Prince Leopold (who was about to marry) had urged that an additional allowance to the Prince should be voted before the discussions on the forms of the House began; but Mr. Gladstone insisted, and the Cabinet decided, that it was to come only after the Address, after the Bradlaugh business (upon which the Cabinet felt certain that we should be beaten), and after the reform of the procedure of the House—that is to say, at Easter at the earliest.'
When Mr. Bradlaugh presented himself to be sworn, Sir Stafford Northcote moved to prohibit his taking the oath. To this motion the Government opposed a motion for the 'previous question,' and were beaten. Feeling ran high, and the House of Commons as a whole would have endorsed a saying of Lord Winchilsea's. Having been asked to subscribe to the Northampton Horticultural Show, he replied:
'"A town which enjoys the flowers of Mr. Labouchere's oratory and the fruits of Mr. Bradlaugh's philosophy can need no further horticultural exhibition."...
No one quite knew how to deal with the situation which was now created by Mr. Bradlaugh's hurried advance up the floor of the House, when he administered the oath to himself.
'On February 22nd there was a Cabinet at one o'clock, at which there was a tremendous disturbance about Bradlaugh, Chamberlain and Mr. Gladstone standing alone against all their colleagues, most of whom, under Hartington's lead, had proposed expulsion, and wanted Mr. Gladstone himself to move it. While Mr. Gladstone was addressing the Cabinet, Harcourt wrote a paper, and got Hartington, Childers, and Dodson to sign it. Forster was in Ireland, and Bright was away with a cold. Harcourt did not ask Chamberlain to sign his paper, which, Chamberlain thought, probably suggested that Mr. Gladstone should himself propose some middle course, but Mr. Gladstone turned round angrily and hissed through his teeth at Harcourt "I cannot!" When the time came, even Northcote did not dare to move expulsion, which showed how foolish our people must be to long to go further in an anti- popular sense than the Tories themselves.'
There was also the other question of reform of Parliamentary procedure.
'On January 7th the Cabinet discussed the Closure, which was warmly supported (in the strongest form) by Harcourt and Chamberlain. Hartington walked in in the middle of the afternoon.
'On February 1st I had a chat with Manning, who says the Church applied the Closure at the Vatican Council to put down the minority against the Promulgation of the Doctrine of Infallibility, and that it must therefore be a good thing.
'On February 9th I was consulted by Harcourt and Chamberlain as to what I thought about sticking to Closure in the face of the great probability of defeat. I advised making it a question of life and death, but advised that if beaten we should immediately prepare for dissolution by bringing in the County Franchise Bill, and if the Lords threw it out, stop in to carry it. On a vote of confidence the Tories could not turn us out, so that we could play the game with them as long as necessary to carry County Franchise.