The personal composition of the assembly had greatly altered. More than a third of its members were new to Parliament. W. Vernon Harcourt, Henry James, and Campbell-Bannerman, sat then for the first time, and sat, as did Charles Dilke, below the gangway. In the same quarter was Fawcett, who helped them in creating the new phenomenon of a House of Commons alive in all its parts.
Sir George Trevelyan, who almost alone of living men can compare from experience the House of Commons before the Reform Bill of 1867 and after, holds that it would be difficult to overstate the contrast. The House was no longer an arena for set combat between a few distinguished parliamentarians, whose displays were watched by followers on either side, either diffident of their ability to compete, or held silent by the unwritten rule which imposed strict reserve upon a new member. For the greater number promotion had come through slow and steady service in the lobbies.
Charles Dilke from the first was always in his place—that corner seat below the gangway which became gradually his traditional possession; and from the first he assumed a responsible part in all Parliamentary business. "He was the true forerunner, in his processes, his industry, his constant attendance, and his frequent speaking, of Lord Randolph Churchill." The revolt against 'the old gang' began on the Liberal side, and Charles Dilke was the chief beginner of it. Although the new Reform Act had led to far-reaching change in the quality of the House of Commons, the choice by Mr. Gladstone of the members of the Ministry made it plain that no break with the past was contemplated by the leaders. Lowe, whose anti-democratic utterances on Reform had been denounced by Dilke at the Cambridge Union, was Chancellor of the Exchequer; and only half the Cabinet were commoners. Among these was indeed Bright; but the only other Minister whose name carried a hint of Radicalism was Forster, Vice- President of the Council of Education, and he was not in the Cabinet when it was first formed.
On the other hand, Bright and Forster were to an exceptional degree responsible for the general trend of the Government policy. The dissolution and election had turned with more than usual definiteness on a clear issue—the proposal to conciliate Ireland by disestablishing the privileged Church of the minority; and behind this immediate proposal lay a less clearly defined scheme for giving security of tenure to Irish tenants. Ireland was the first business of Charles Dilke's first Parliament, and it was Bright more than any other man who had stirred English feeling with the sense that England had failed in her duty to the smaller country, and that an attempt to do justice must be made. Yet in both Church reform and land reform the actual brunt of the Parliamentary struggle fell upon Mr. Gladstone. Bright had a marvellous gift for rousing political emotion, but he had not the application necessary to give legislative effect to his aims; and Charles Dilke, though fully sensitive to the beauty of cadence in Bright's language, and enthusiastic for the music of "his unmatched voice," nevertheless inherited something of his grandfather's suspicion of "that old humbug Oratory"—at all events, when the oratorical gift was not allied with executive capacity.
There was no lack of masterful grip and handling of detail in the other great orator of the Liberal party, yet the young Radical's attitude to his leader was one of admiration indeed, but always of limited sympathy. Not only did a long generation lie between them, but Charles Dilke had been bred a Radical, and Gladstone had been bred a Tory. The Government policy after 1868 was dominated by the education controversy, and was dictated by Forster. There was probably no man among his colleagues with whom Dilke more often came into collision. Forster was a strong natural Conservative, though he had been brought up in the traditions of Radicalism, and Mr. Gladstone was suspected of not being willing to abolish Collegiate as well as University tests.
On the Opposition front bench Disraeli's primacy was not less marked than Mr. Gladstone's, and his romantic figure always fascinated Dilke. But his special admiration was for Gathorne Hardy (afterwards Lord Cranbrook), in whom High Toryism found its most eloquent and sincerest spokesman. Later, in 1876, Sir Charles was to complain ironically that the Conservatives "never will be able to employ the services of the man best fitted by nature to be their leader. Mr. Gathorne Hardy will never lead the Conservative party because he is not a Liberal."
In 1869 he saw little of either the Tories or the Whigs, 'but acted with the Radicals.' He had modified his first estimate of the composition of the House. This Radical group largely represented the industrial towns and Nonconformist interests. It included Peter Rylands, member for Warrington; Peter Taylor, member for Leicester; Henry Richard, member for Merthyr Tydvil; George Anderson, member for Glasgow; and Llewellyn Dillwyn, member for Swansea. Some, such as Peter Taylor, were theoretical Republicans, but all were peace-at-any-price men, Bright's votaries, though when Bright joined the Government they were ready to vote against Bright.
The group contained also some men of Charles Dilke's own stamp, with whom Cambridge associations created a bond. 'Harcourt, of whom I saw much, was then a below-the-gangway Radical.' He, though sixteen years Dilke's senior, was also a newcomer, but a newcomer well known already at Westminster by his famous letters to the Times, signed "Historicus," and by his career at the Parliamentary bar. Another was Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice, who had been Charles Dilke's contemporary and coadjutor at the Union. A great figure in the Radical group came from Trinity Hall— Fawcett, who had first won his seat for Brighton in 1865.
Among Government Liberals, Lord Granville in the House of Lords was an hereditary friend, through his attachment to Dilke's father, but belonged to a much older generation. Grant Duff, a man to whom later on Dilke came to be strongly attached, was Under-Secretary of State for India. From the first, however, a close alliance formed itself between Charles Dilke and a junior member of the Government, who had still been debating at the Union when Dilke came to Trinity Hall. Entering Parliament in 1865, Mr. Trevelyan had distinguished himself by a vigorous campaign against the system of purchase in the Army, and, in 1868, he was put in office as Junior Lord of the Admiralty. Senior to Charles Dilke by five years, he had not known him at Cambridge; but they "speedily became very intimate." So writes Sir George Trevelyan in a letter of 1911:
"I was a very young Minister, worked hard all day by Mr. Childers, a very strict but very friendly taskmaster, and never, according to the Treasury Bench discipline of those heroic times, allowed to be absent from the House of Commons for a single moment. I used to come to the House unlunched, and desperately hungry; and I got my dinner at four o'clock in an empty dining-room. Afternoon after afternoon, Charles Dilke used to come and sit with me; and a greater delight than his company, young to the young, I can hardly describe. But it does not need description to you, for never did anyone's talk alter less as time went on. The last time I saw him was at the swearing-in of Privy Councillors last May (1910), when we talked for half an hour as if we were respectively thirty and five-and-twenty years old."
An enrichment of that talk, as his friend remembers it, lay in Charles Dilke's multifarious knowledge. "This man seems to know all about everything in the world," someone remarked in those days. "Yes," was the answer, "and last week we were talking about the other world: Dilke seemed to know all about that too."
It was characteristic of Charles Dilke to choose for his maiden effort the most highly technical of subjects, and one which lent itself as little as possible to tricks of oratory. He would recall how Mr. George Melly, the member for Stoke-on-Trent, had cautioned him: "Don't talk to them about God Almighty; even Mr. Gladstone can't; they'll only stand it from John Bright." On March 9th, 1869, Mr. William Vernon Harcourt (as he then was) came forward with a motion for the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into registration in Parliamentary boroughs. Upon this Charles Dilke made his first speech, filled with detailed knowledge, and with suggestions drawn from French procedure. Later speakers recognized the special competence shown, and when the Select Committee was appointed, he was named to serve on it—thus taking his place at once in the normal working life of the House.
'I acquired in the early months of this Session a knowledge of the registration and rating systems which lasted for a good many years, and the plan for the restoration of compounding, which was accepted by Mr. Goschen and moved by him in the form of new clauses in his Bill in April, 1869, was of my suggestion. By the joint operation of this plan, and of the Registration Act of 1878, which was my own, an immense increase of the electorate in boroughs was effected.'
No subject could have appeared less attractive than all this dull lore of compound householders and lodger's franchises.
But the spirit of official Liberalism was constantly at war with Radical views.
'My diary continually expressed my regret at what I thought the timidity of Mr. Gladstone's Government.' Thus, when it was beaten by the abstention of Liberals on Fawcett's Election Expenses Bill, which proposed to throw the necessary expenses of returning officers on the local rates, Charles Dilke 'was angry with the Government for not having so much as named the Bill upon their Whip.' Again, when his group had proposed to penalize a corrupt borough, the member for which had been unseated on petition, the entry ran: 'We Radicals beaten by Government and Tories on the Bewdley writ,' the issue of which the Radicals had moved to postpone for twelve months.
In the case of Fawcett's motion to abolish University Tests, of whose injustice Dilke had personal experience: [Footnote: Having taken his Master's degree at Cambridge in this year, Dilke was 'immediately nominated to the Senate as an examiner for the Law Tripos by the Regius Professor of Laws.' But on further inquiry it appeared that an examiner for honours in Law must be a member of the Senate, and that a member of the Senate must declare himself a member of the Church of England. Dilke, strongly objecting to this exclusiveness, had refused to make the required profession. The 'grace,' therefore, was withdrawn, and he was not allowed to examine. Sir Roundell Palmer became Chancellor in 1872, on the retirement of Lord Hatherley. He was again Chancellor from 1880 to 1885.]
'My diary records a division in connection with which Sir Roundell Palmer did us some harm, the fact being that the great lawyer, who was afterwards Lord Selborne, was one of those gentlemen calling themselves Liberals in whom it was difficult to find any agreement with Liberal principles at any time or upon any subject. He was, in fact, a High Church Tory, as I found when I served with him in a Liberal Cabinet.'
On yet another motion of Fawcett's the Radicals found themselves in collision with the head of the Liberal Government. This advocated open competition for the Civil Service, and Dilke supported Fawcett by speech as well as vote. Mr. Gladstone, following Dilke in the debate, suggested that he had spoken without examining his facts, a charge specially calculated to excite this conscientious worker's resentment. 'I recorded a strong opinion as to the crushing of independent members by Mr. Gladstone.'
Charles Dilke was already displaying that blend of opinions which made him always a trial to the party Whips. He notes that, 'taking as I did an independent line, I supported on the Navy Estimates the Conservative ex- chief First Lord of the Admiralty' (Mr. Corry) 'on a motion which deprecated the building of further turret ships till those already built had been tested.'
These outbreaks of independence led to remonstrance from his father, and remonstrance to this reply:
"I don't mean to let either you or Glyn" (the Chief Whip, afterwards Lord Wolverton) "frighten me into supporting the Government when I think they are wrong, but I vote for them when I am at all doubtful."
This letter was written to Sir Wentworth Dilke, then on a tour through the north of Europe with his son Ashton, by this time a Cambridge undergraduate, and inclined to regard his elder brother as a very timid politician. 'My father and my brother went to Berlin, and saw the Crown Prince, afterwards the Emperor Frederick, and Prince Bismarck, who many years later described to me the impression which they—the Whig and the Republican—had made on him.' From Germany they passed into Russia, where Wentworth Dilke was commissioned to represent England at the Horticultural Congress. In May a sudden telegram called Charles Dilke to St. Petersburg. His father had been attacked with 'that deadly form of Russian influenza, a local degeneration of the tissues, which kills a man in three days, without his being able to tell you that he feels anything except weakness.' Before Charles Dilke could reach the Russian capital, his father had been already 'embalmed and temporarily buried,' with a view to interment in England.
His successor entered upon his position while still several months short of the age of twenty-six. He took steps to give up at once Alice Holt—'a mere shooting place'—and also sold Hawkley in Hampshire, keeping only the London house, 76, Sloane Street, in which he had been born, and which was to be his home till he died there. It was home also for his brother Ashton, now reading classics and rowing in the Trinity Hall boat. The house continued to be managed for the two young men by their grandmother, Mrs. Chatfield, known to Sir Charles and to all his intimates as the "Dragon," 'on account of the sportive old soul calling herself the Dragon of Wantley whenever she attacked me in arms.' With her lived her niece, Miss Folkard, a quiet little old lady. When Charles Dilke married, Mrs. Chatfield and Miss Folkard made way for the bride, and Ashton Dilke's home was then with his grandmother. When death cut short that marriage, the old ladies returned, and lived out the end of their lives in Sloane Street. Mrs. Chatfield was a very popular personage; and many letters from Sir Charles's friends have affectionate or jesting messages to 'Dragon.'
John Stuart Mill returned to England from Avignon in the spring of 1869, and followed up his earlier letter of friendly criticism on Greater Britain by a suggestion of meeting. On Easter Sunday the meeting took place, and the acquaintance 'rapidly ripened into a close friendship.'
Sir Charles was elected in May to the Political Economy Club, of which Mill was a leading member, 'defeating George Shaw Lefevre, Sir Louis Mallet, Lord Houghton, and John Morley, although, or perhaps because, I was somewhat heterodox. Still,' a marginal note adds, 'Mallet and Houghton were pretty heterodox too.'
The heterodoxy challenged that economic orthodoxy of which the Political Economy Club was the special guardian. Forty years later Sir Charles wrote, against the date May, 1869:
'This was the moment of the domination of the Ricardo religion.[Footnote: It will be remembered that the fundamental principle of the "Ricardian theory"—distinguishing it from that o+ Adam Smith—is the determination of wages by the law of population. According to Ricardo, it is the influence of high or low wages on the numbers of the population which adjusts the "market rate" to the "natural rate."] It is admirably pointed out in Professor Ashley's address, as President of the Economic Section of the British Association, 1907, that this doctrine had become a complete creed, with a stronger hold over the educated classes of England (and I should add France) by 1821 than any creed has had. The Political Economy Club is shown by Ashley to have been the assembly of the elders of the Church, of which the founder assumed that they possessed a complete code, representing just principles necessary to "diffuse." The Club was to watch for the propagation of any doctrine hostile to sound views. The sect grew rapidly from the small body of Utilitarian founders, and conquered all the statesmen who rejected the other opinions of James Mill. As I tried to show, with the support of a majority of the Club, in April, 1907, the heresy of which I was elected in 1869 as a representative has now (1908) triumphed. The facts announced as "certain" by Ricardo have crumbled, and the doctrine crumbles with them. Professor Ashley declared from the Ricardo chair in 1907 that "the Ricardian orthodoxy is, by general consent, ... dead to-day among the English-speaking economists."
'The son of the Club's founder, John Stuart Mill, lived to lead the way out of the doctrine of his father, James Mill, Malthus, and Ricardo, against the opposition of his own disciple Fawcett, into the new land which he just lived to see.
'In the debates, which I regularly attended, Mill, who had become semi-socialist in his views, was usually at odds with his own disciple Fawcett, who had remained individualist. The rows which they had at this Club were carried to the Radical Club after its formation later, and I gradually deserted Fawcett, and, more and more influenced by Mill's later views, finally came to march even in front of Mill in our advance.'
Sir Charles was from the first actually in political life, to which Mill had come after more than half a lifetime spent in study; and experience transformed the philosopher.
"The whole tone of his writings before he entered Parliament," said Sir Charles a quarter of a century afterwards, "had been marked by a vein of practical Conservatism, which entirely disappeared when he found himself in touch with the destructive realities of British politics." [Footnote: "John Stuart Mill, 1869-1873," Cosmopolis, March, 1897.]
Dilke, rightly zealous for the repute of a teacher under whose influence his own political faith developed, was always at pains to confute the popular opinion as to Mill's hardness. Addressing the Economic Society in 1909, he said:
"John Mill's nature was far more spiritual than that of his father. His self-training was far more permeated by what may be loosely called Comtist-Christianity than by the utilitarian philosophy."
He cited as an example the conclusion expressed by Mill so far back as 1848 that "cheapness of goods was not desirable when the cause was that labour is ill-remunerated." Here was one of the points where Fawcett 'fiercely differed' from Mill, denying the possibility of any 'exception to the wage principle laid down by Malthus and Ricardo.' Sir Charles was destined not merely to affirm the principle which Mill conceded, but to show by infinitely patient investigation of the facts, first the need for applying the principle, and later—far more difficult—the means by which it could be brought into operation.
The change foreshadowed by this division among leaders of democratic thought was no ordinary one; the whole direction of forces and tendencies was altered; and from 1870 onwards Sir Charles was at the centre of the movement which has established the 'semi-socialism' of Mill's last years as the normal political opinion accepted by both parties to-day. He, more than any other man, translated it from abstract theory into terms of political reality.
Since his undergraduate years Charles Dilke had entertained the project of writing on Russia, and perhaps the journey to his father's death-bed revived the plan.
While on the way to St. Petersburg in May, 1869, he chanced to share a railway carriage with a distinguished member of the Russian Diplomatic Service, Baron Jomini, son of the famous writer on strategy, and 'almost,' says Sir Charles, 'the cleverest man I ever met with, and to me always an excellent friend.' Jomini was useful even on that journey, when difficulties arose over an irregular passport; and in later years he rendered Sir Charles various services with officialdom—as, for example, when the Russian Customs officers, not unnaturally, objected to the English traveller's bringing in for his personal use 'books prohibited in Russia, the most extraordinary collection that was probably ever got together in that country unless in the office of the censorship of police.'
From the first Baron Jomini was at hand to introduce Sir Charles to society in Russia, but in other directions the traveller was not less well equipped. He learnt Russian; and before setting out on his second visit to St. Petersburg in the autumn of 1869 he had made a special journey to Geneva, with an introduction from Louis Blanc to Herzen, leader of the moderate Russian revolutionists. He knew Mazzini well, and through him had visited Baden to make a lasting acquaintance with Tourgenief. Tourgenief was then 'living with the Viardots, the sister and brother-in-law of Malibran.' Long years after Dilke spoke of him as one of the finest of talkers.
At St. Petersburg he met many of the advanced revolutionaries to whom Herzen had commended him, and he was also received by more orthodox Liberalism. The Political Economy Club gave a dinner in his honour, at which he made a speech in French on the Irish Land Question; and the Geographical Society held a reception in recognition of the author of Greater Britain, with Baron von der Osten Sacken in the chair, son of a comrade and colleague of the elder Jomini in days of Napoleonic war. [Footnote: Nicolas Dmitrivitch von der Osten Sacken, Chamberlain of the Imperial Court, afterwards Russian Ambassador at Berlin; born 1834, died 1912.] Osten Sacken's father was the Governor of Paris in 1815 after the entry of the Allies.
After a visit to Taganrog, at the eastern end of the Sea of Azof, he came back to St. Petersburg, and occupied by chance the next rooms to the great singer Mario—"an embarrassing neighbour, as he used to come in about 2 a.m., and give me far too much of the quality of his voice." Here also Sir Charles made friends with Governor Curtin, the American Minister, 'formerly Lincoln's Governor of Pennsylvania during the war, and the best story-teller in the world.' 'I went about a good deal with Baron Jomini and Baron von der Osten Sacken, and saw much of the Emperor's aunt, the Grande Duchesse Helene. My chief friends were at this time Princess Galitzin, Prince Orlof Davydof, leader of the high Tory party, and the old Princess Kotchubey, afterwards Grand Mistress of the Robes.'
Later in the year he pushed across into Siberia; and in the Christmas vacation Ashton Dilke came out to join his brother. They met at Kazan, whither Charles had returned from his Siberian wanderings, and went down the Volga together to Astrakan, and thence travelled across the Don Cossack Steppe. Sir Charles returned in the last days of 1869. He notes that Ashton showed at this time the beginnings of consumption—symptoms which led him to give up rowing, and became more grave in the years of his travels in Central Asia.
Russia exercised from the first for Charles Dilke a fascination which it never lost. A picture by Vladimir Makofsky, which he bought about this time, hung in the breakfast-room at Sloane Street; 'it represents a scene from one of Tourgenief's early stories, a summer's night in the government of Toula: boys telling ghost stories while they watch horses grazing on the lammas land.'
A chapter in Greater Britain had set out the opinion which, after travel in the East, he formed of Russia, from talk both with Englishmen and with Orientals. The great power, which he then guessed at from the other side of the Himalayan barrier, seemed to him essentially Asiatic, not European, and not a civilizing power. He quoted with approval the saying of an Egyptian under Ismail's rule: "Why, Russia is an organized barbarism,— why—the Russians are—why, they are—why, nearly as bad as we are."
This was his view of the Russian Government. The opinion which he formed of the Russian people as a whole was in itself 'contradictory because they are a contradictory people.' He found them 'avid of new ideas.' Yet, 'however fond half-educated Russians may be of professing a knowledge of things they do not understand, I never doubted for one moment the greatness of the future that lies before Russia, nor the essential patriotism and strength of the Russian race; and it was these last considerations that took me so often to their country.'
THE EDUCATION BILL OF 1870—THE FRANCO-GERMAN WAR
From his Russian journeys Sir Charles returned to take part in an election in which occurred his first opportunity for helping the cause of direct Labour Representation. In 1869—
'at the extreme end of the year, I returned to London, and worked hard for Odger in the Southwark Election, in which, opposed by a Conservative and a Liberal (Sir Sydney Waterlow), he beat the Liberal, with the result, however, that the Conservative got in. Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice subscribed towards Odger's expenses, and Fawcett also worked for him. The incident contributed a good deal towards that separate organization of the Radicals which was attempted early in the following year.'
Already another organization of far-reaching influence had been planned, and it led to a great alliance.
'In the course of 1869 I became Chairman of the London Branch of the newly formed Education League, and my friendship with Joseph Chamberlain began, he being Chairman of the Committee of the League and its real head.'
Dilke was seven years the junior of Chamberlain, who in 1869 was thirty- three. But he had seven years' Parliamentary seniority over his friend, who did not become a member of the House of Commons till 1876. Chamberlain was in 1869, and indeed for several years later, a politician and member of the Birmingham Town Council, known throughout the Midland area for the boldness of his Radicalism—which did not stop short of avowing Republican principles—and also for extraordinary ability in developing the municipal improvements in which Birmingham under his auspices led the way. He had conceived, and in the Education League partly carried out, the idea of a political association independent of official party control, which should cover the whole country with its branches, and so become a power behind and beyond the Parliamentary leadership. Sir Charles, on his side, brought into the partnership the resources possessed by a young man of considerable reputation both in literature and in public life, who at an early age had established himself in a metropolitan seat.
'The principle of the League was that of general education, and of compulsion and freedom from fees as a consequence. The teaching of religion was left to the Sunday-schools, and upon this head difficulties soon arose.' The mass of English Liberals inherited the Protestant conviction that "simple Bible teaching" could offend nobody, and must be good for everybody, and consequently should be included in the term "education," while the view of more sophisticated politicians was given by Sir William Harcourt (then Mr. Vernon Harcourt). He wrote to Sir Charles in 1870:
"We are fighting with inferior forces, and everything must depend upon husbanding our strength, using it to the best advantage, and not exposing ourselves to needless defeats. We must always seem to win, even though we do not get what we want. That is what up to this point we have accomplished. But we must not allow ourselves to be precipitated upon destruction by men who may be philosophers, but who are no politicians.... We must now retire on the second line of defence. What is that to be? I lay down first that the thing to be resisted is denominationalism. If it can be got rid of altogether— best; but if not, then to the greatest degree—next best. Now, as a politician (not as a philosopher) I am quite satisfied that neither in the House of Commons nor in the country can we beat denominationalism by secularism. If we attempt to meet the flood by this dyke it will come over our heads. We must break the force of the wave by a slope, and deal with its diminished weight afterwards as best we may."
'Harcourt then went on to defend that to which I was strongly opposed —namely, Bible reading—on the ground that "we should give our republic not the best possible laws, but the best which they will bear. This is the essence of politics. All the rest is speculation.... We must make up our minds before the meeting on Monday, for in the multitude of counsellors there is folly."'
A definite principle was at stake. Under this proposal the teaching, though called undenominational, would not in fact be so. Bible reading, subject, no doubt, to a conscience clause, would be enforced on Roman Catholics, Jews, and secularists, and Bible reading, though undenominational as regarded the different divisions of Protestant Christianity, would still be denominational as regards these three: 'I myself took the extreme and logical line of not only opposing Bible reading, but of opposing Mr. Jacob Bright's and Mr. Cowper Temple's amendments for excluding creeds, and for setting up a general undenominational Protestantism of the majority.'
He was in agreement with John Stuart Mill in resisting a proposal which in his opinion did injustice to large classes of the community for the sake of introducing what (in his own words) "could be only religion of the driest and baldest kind, and such as would be hardly worthy of the name."
At the beginning of 1870 Sir Charles was not openly in revolt, though after working for Odger against the Government candidate, he had gone on to condemn in a speech the Whig influences and fear of the House of Lords, which in his opinion were destroying Mr. Gladstone's Irish Land Bill. Mr. Gladstone showed a desire to conciliate this overactive critic by inviting him to second the Address to the Crown.
Accordingly at the opening of Parliament on February 8th, 1870, Sir Charles had his part to play in the modest ceremonial which still survives, rather shamefacedly, in the House of Commons, when a couple of commoners, uniformed or in Court dress, are put forward as the spokesmen of that sombre assembly.
His speech, advocating the European concert, dwelt on the cloudless calm which lay—in February, 1870—over the civilized world, and for another six months wrapped it in delusive peace.
For the moment domestic affairs held the field. In spite of Bright's observation about driving six omnibuses abreast through Temple Bar, Forster's Education Bill was pressed forward along with the Irish Land proposals, and the Government were at once in trouble with their advanced wing, in which Sir Charles Dilke was a leader of revolt. He acted as teller along with Henry Richard when Richard took sixty dissentient Liberals into the Lobby in support of a general motion demanding that school attendance should be compulsory, and that all religious teaching should be separately paid for out of voluntary funds. When compromise was accepted: [Footnote: The Cowper Temple clause practically left religious teaching to local option. Each school was to give or not give such religious teaching as it thought well, so long as no Board School was used to attach a child to a particular denomination.]
'I was, I believe, the only Liberal member who resisted the Cowper Temple amendment as accepted by the Government, and I resigned my post as Chairman of the London Branch of the Education League. I published a letter explaining the reasons for my resignation; the Committee wrote in reply that they fully agreed with me in matters of principle, and asked me to reconsider my resignation.'
This, however, he refused to do, since the London Branch and the League generally were abandoning the principle in the support they gave to compromise.
Throughout the Committee stage his name appears in all the numerous division lists, voting against Government as often as with it. Thus it was from a position of complete independence that he carried two amendments of great importance.
'The Bill as brought in made the School Boards mere committees of Boards of Vestries, and the amendment that School Boards should be elected by the ratepayers, which was forced on and ultimately accepted by the Government, was mine. I also was the author of the proposal that the School Board elections should be by ballot, which was carried.' [Footnote: He always regretted the substitution later of the Educational Committees of County Councils for the School Boards.]
The ballot was then the question of the hour, and it was a matter upon which his study of foreign and Colonial institutions had made him an authority. In 1869 he had given evidence before the Select Committee on Parliamentary and Municipal Elections, 'explaining the working of the ballot in France, in the United States, and, above all, in Tasmania and Australia.' The evidence which he gave was of service in the preparation of the Ballot Bill of 1870, which closely followed the example set by Tasmania and South Australia.
Sir John Gorst, who was already a well-known figure in English politics, though not yet in Parliament, remembered attending a debate specially to hear what this newcomer had to say upon the question of the hour.
This first practical application of the ballot, 'forced on and ultimately accepted by the Government,' did not pass unchallenged. When Sir Charles's amendment was at last put to the vote, he was privileged to tell with George Glyn, the Chief Whip, in a division which took place 'after the fiercest conflict ever up to that known within the walls of Parliament, we having sat up all night.' There was a long series of dilatory motions, a fresh one being moved after a division had disposed of its predecessor 'This was the first birth of obstruction, and the lesson taught by Mr. G. C. Bentinck on this occasion was afterwards applied by "the colonels" in the proceedings on the Army Purchase Scheme in 1871, and then by Butt's Irish after 1874.'
In all the discussions on the Ballot Bill for Parliamentary elections Sir Charles steadily opposed the introduction of a scrutiny which involved the numbering of the ballot papers. This appeared to him 'a pernicious interference with the principle of secrecy, chiefly important because it would be impossible to convince ignorant voters that their votes would not be traced.' His view 'prevailed,' he says, 'in the House of Commons, but the provisions of which we secured the omission from the second Ballot Bill were once more inserted by the House of Lords' at its passage in 1871.
There was another matter connected with the franchise in which Sir Charles had effected by an amendment an even more remarkable change, and that in his first session. The proposal to give women ratepayers the franchise in municipal elections, or rather 'to restore to them a right which was taken away by the Municipal Reform Act of 1835,' was his. Two amendments were on the paper, and though by a chance Mr. Jacob Bright's was taken first, the suggestion, as Mr. Bright admitted, really came from Sir Charles, and it was carried in the session of 1869. This proposal, as he explained to a meeting of the London Society for Woman's Suffrage over which Mrs. Grote presided, was in his opinion 'merely experimental, and only a first step to adult suffrage.' In 1870 he seconded Jacob Bright's Woman's Suffrage Bill, which was carried through the second reading—'the only occasion when a majority of the House of Commons declared for the principle till 1897.' Divergencies of opinion had in the meantime arisen. The Bill of 1870 did not debar married women from obtaining the vote. When in later years a proviso excluding them was introduced, Dilke, with Jacob Bright, withdrew from the parent society. He held throughout his life that to attempt compromise on this matter was to court failure, and that women would never get the vote except as part of a scheme for universal suffrage. This was no mere academic opinion; and he gave later on proof of his earnestness for the principle involved in convincing fashion.
To the argument still urged against that principle—the argument that most women are against it—he gave his answer in 1870:
"You will always find that in the case of any class which has been despotically governed—and though I do not wish to use strong language, it cannot be denied that women have been despotically governed in England, although the despotism has been of a benevolent character—the great majority of that class are content with the system under which they live."
He pointed out that to admit women to the franchise did not compel those to vote who did not desire to do so.
In this matter Jacob Bright was his leading associate in Parliament; but outside Parliament he was working with Mill.
To the two questions already dealt with—Education and Woman's Suffrage— was now added a third, which Sir Charles describes as 'chief of all the questions I had to do with in 1870—the land question.' There is this endorsement on one of Mill's letters written in 1870:
"I acted as his secretary for above a year on (a) his land movement = taxation of land values; (b) the women's suffrage proposal, which followed the carrying of his municipal franchise for women by me in 1869 and the School Boards, 1870."
The Radical Club was founded, with Sir Charles as Secretary, in 1870, and Mill was among the original members of the Club. [Footnote: The others were Professor Cairnes, Mr. John Morley, Mr. Frank Hill (editor of the Daily News), Leslie Stephen, Mr. Leonard Courtney, Mr. Henry Sidgwick, Mr. W. C. Sidgwick, Mr. McCullagh Torrens, and Mr. Fawcett. Sir David Wedderburn, Mr. Peter Taylor, and Mr. Walter Morrison were added at the first meeting, as also was Mr. Hare. At the first meeting it was decided that women should be eligible. Half the Club was to consist of members of Parliament, half of non-members.] From this platform Mill propounded, in 1870, his views on land—views which forty years later became the adopted principles of the Liberal party; and at the inaugural public meeting of the Land Tenure Association in 1870 Sir Charles for the first time promulgated the doctrine of taxing the "unearned increment." He insisted that England's system of land tenure was "unique in the world," and answerable for tragic consequences.
"One who has seen our race abroad under fair conditions knows how frank and handsome the Englishman is elsewhere, and might be here. But when he looks around him in Sheffield or in East London, he sees none but miserable and stunted forms. The life of the English labourer is a steady march down a hill with a poorhouse at the bottom. At the same time the observer finds, when he asks for the remedy, that in these matters there is not a pin to choose between the two parties in the State." [Footnote: A note sent to Lord Courtney in 1909 will show exactly what Sir Charles's position had been on this fundamental matter from the very outset of his political career:
"Mill's object was—
"To claim for the benefit of the State the interception by taxation of a great part of the unearned increase of the value of land which is continually accruing, without effort or outlay by the proprietors, through the growth of population and wealth.
"To purchase land for the State, and let for co-operative agriculture under conditions of efficiency and to smallholders on durable cultivating interests."
He adds a reference to his own Bill "for utilizing public and quasi- public lands under public management, with repeal of the Statute of Mortmain and forbidding of alienation."
This Bill was introduced by him in the early seventies, but obtained no support till 1875 (see Chapter XIII., p. 192).]
Within the previous twenty-five years over six hundred thousand acres of common land had been enclosed, under Orders sanctioned by Parliament. Of this vast amount only four thousand had been set apart for public purposes. In 1866 the commons near London were threatened, and a Society for their preservation was formed, in which Mr. Shaw Lefevre was the moving spirit. [Footnote: Now Lord Eversley.] Sir Charles became in 1870 Chairman of the Society. Among the latest of his papers is a note from Lord Eversley accompanying an early copy of the new edition of his Commons and Forests "which I hope will remind you of old times and of your own great services to the cause." 'We saved Wisley Common and Epping Forest,' says the Memoir. It was more important that on April 9th, 1869, the annual Enclosure Bill was referred to a Select Committee, notwithstanding the determined opposition of the Government. The date is memorable in the history of the question, for the Committee recommended that all further enclosures should be suspended until the general Act had been amended, as it was in 1876.
About the same time Sir Charles became publicly committed to another cause, barren of political advantage, into which he put, first and last, as much labour as might have filled the whole of a creditable career. He began to take an active part in connection with the Aborigines Protection Society and presided at its Annual Meeting in 1870. This, says the Memoir laconically, 'threw on me lifelong duties.'
The Franco-German War broke upon Europe in July, 1870. Later, it became one of the chief interests of Sir Charles's mind to track out the workings of those few men who prepared what seemed a sudden outburst; here it is important only to outline his attitude towards the combatants. In that period of European history every politician was of necessity attracted or repelled by the personality of the Emperor of the French. In Sir Charles's case there was no wavering between like and dislike: he carried on his grandfather's detestation of the lesser Napoleon. The chapter in Greater Britain which is devoted to Egypt shows this feeling; and when news of Sadowa reached him during his American journey in the autumn of 1866, he wrote home to say that he rejoiced in Prussia's triumph, and hoped "Louis Napoleon would quarrel with the Germans over it, and get well thrashed, with the result that German unity might be brought about."
'This' (he notes in the Memoir) 'is somewhat curious at a time when everybody believed (except myself and Moltke and Bismarck, not including, I think, the King of Prussia) that the French Army was superior to the armies of all Germany.'
In coming down the Mexican coast he touched at Acapulco, which was under Mexican fire, as the French still held the bay and city; and he had then, later in 1866, 'begun to hope for the fall of Louis Napoleon, who was piling up debt for France at the average rate of ten millions sterling every year, and whose prestige was vanishing fast in the glare of the publicity given to the actions of Bazaine.'
Before Sir Charles returned to Europe in 1867, Maximilian, the Austrian Archduke sent by Napoleon III to be 'Emperor of Mexico,' had fallen, an unlucky victim of French intrigue. But Paris was still the centre of Europe; and the traveller on his way home from Egypt—where he had seen French enterprise opening the Suez Canal, French language and influence dominant—saw Louis Napoleon preside at a pageant, already darkened by the rising storm-cloud:
'Reaching Paris' (in June, 1867), 'I attended the review held (during the Exhibition of 1867) by the Emperors of Russia and of the French, and the King of Prussia, at which I saw Gortschakof, Schouvalof, Bismarck, and Moltke, on the day on which the Pole Berezowski shot at Alexander II. Sixty thousand men marched past the three Sovereigns at the very spot at which, three years later, one of them was, to review a larger German force. The crash was near; Maximilian had been shot. It is, however, not pleasant to contrast the horror with which the news of the execution of the puppet Emperor was received in Europe, with the indifference with which all but a handful of Radicals had regarded the Paris executions of December, 1851.'
'In October, 1867, three months later, I again visited Paris, with my father, and made the acquaintance of the Queen of Holland, the Queen of Sheba to Louis Napoleon's Solomon in his glory. The Emperor of Austria, the King of Bavaria, and Beust were also in Paris on business which boded no good to Bismarck, and the populace were amusing themselves in crying "Vive Garibaldi!" to the Austrian Emperor, as three or four months earlier they had cried "Vive la Pologne!" to the Tsar. At a banquet to the Foreign Commission to the Exhibition, at which I dined, I heard Rouher make his famous speech, "L'Italie n'aura jamais Rome," which he afterwards in December repeated in the Corps Legislatif—"L'Italie ne s'emparera pas de Rome—jamais" (shouts of "Jamais!" from the Right): "Jamais la France ne supportera cette violence faite a son honneur et a la catholicite." When I heard the word "jamais," I believed I should live to see Italy at Rome, but hardly so soon.'
His governing dislike of France's rulers had reflected itself in that part of his first address to the electors of Chelsea which laid down his views on foreign affairs. "Our true alliance," he had told them, "is not with the Latin peoples, but with men who speak our tongue, with our brothers in America, and with our kinsmen in Germany and Scandinavia." This prepossession, notable in one who came afterwards to be regarded as the closest friend of France among English politicians, shaped his action when the crash came. It tempted him to the German side, but contact with Prussian militarism showed where his real sympathies lay.
War was declared on Tuesday, July 19th. On the following Saturday morning Sir Charles left London for Paris: left Paris for Strasbourg the same evening: visited Metz on the Monday, and saw the Imperial Guard at Nancy. Within four days from the time of leaving he was back in London, and busy with preparations. He had decided to attach himself to the ambulances of the Crown Prince of Prussia's army, and in this expedition two other members of Parliament joined him:
'Auberon Herbert (physically brave, and politically the bravest, though not politically the strongest, man of our times) and Winterbotham, afterwards Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, and a man of eloquence, whose early death is still deplored by those who knew him. We took letters from Count von Bernstorff, the Prussian Ambassador, and following up the German armies through the Bavarian Palatinate, a journey during which we were arrested and marched to Kaiserslautern to the King's headquarters by Bavarian gendarmes, as French spies, we were enrolled under the Prussian Knights of St. John at Sulz by Count Goertz, and received billets from that time, although we used to pay for all we had at every place. At Wissembourg and at Sulz we were sent to the inn, and at Luneville I was planted on an ironmonger, but we were divided. At Nancy only, being fixed on a legitimist Baron, I was not allowed to pay for what I had, but I was put with him by his wish, by his friend the Mayor, as he would not have real Prussians. He made things so unpleasant for my companion, Count Bothmer—though, unlike his brother, the Count was a non-combatant—that this Knight of St. John had to go elsewhere. Auberon and Winterbotham were also put elsewhere at Nancy. At Sarrebourg and Pont-a-Mousson I forget with whom we were, but we were together and were nearly starved.
'We marched with the Poseners, or Fifth Army Corps, through Froeschwilier and Reichshoffen; went off the road to Saverne to witness the bombardment of Phalsbourg; joined again at Sarrebourg; marched by Luneville, and from Nancy were sent to Pont-a-Mousson during the battles before Metz.
'The first thing that struck us much during this portion of the war was that the grandest of the early victories in this so-called war of races, the Battle of Worth, was won and lost in the centre of the position by pure Poles and native Algerians. Poseners were arrayed against Turcos, and both fought well, while hardly a German or a Frenchman was in sight. On the field of Worth I noted that the Poseners had all many cartridges as well as their Polish hymn-books with them, but the Turcos were as short of cartridges as of hymn- books. Wanting a French cartridge, I was unable to find one in the pouches of the dead, while of German cartridges I had at once as many dozens as I pleased. I fancy, however, that it would not be safe to conclude, from the fact that the French had fired away their ammunition, that they fired carelessly because too fast; for the Germans, vastly outnumbering the French (who ought not to have fought a battle, but rather should have fallen back), had probably opposed at different portions of the day different corps to the same French regiments, who had not been relieved. After this battle all was lost to the French cause. The scattered French spread terror where they went, and while the railway might have been wholly destroyed by the simple plan of blowing up some tunnels, only bridges were blown up, which in the course of a few days were, of course, replaced even where they were not in a few hours easily repaired....
'I was glad to have seen the beginning of the invasion. At no other time could I have gained a real knowledge of that which every politician ought to know—the working of the transport system of a modern army. We were the smaller of the two invading forces, yet we needed a stream of carts the whole way to Nancy from Bingen upon the Rhine, perpetually moving day and, night. The French compared the swarming in of Germany to the invasions of the Huns....
'My letters to my grandmother (by the military field post) were not numerous. My first (written from Wissembourg) states that we are much elated at the victory of Wissembourg; while the second is as follows:
'"I write on paper left by the French in the Palace of Justice. They seem to have fled in haste, for... the judges' pen-and-ink portraits of one another still adorn the blotting-paper. This place (Wissembourg) is in much confusion.... When, by straining, and a good deal of pressure upon the members of the old French municipal council, a regiment is housed, in comes another with a demand for food and lodging for six hundred horses and four hundred men; then a Prussian infantry regiment two thousand strong, and so on all night.... We are leaving as members of the Prussian Order of St. John for the Bavarian camp. The whole series of French telegrams up to July 30th are still posted here on the Sous-Prefecture, inside which is confined Baron de Rosen, Colonel of the 2nd Cuirassiers of the French Guard." I go on to say that the "town commandant is an English volunteer and lives in London when at home.... He is a most accomplished man." He was accomplished enough, but he was a lunatic; and there is no more singular episode in the war than the fact that an unauthorized lunatic should have appointed himself to the command of an important depot, and been recognized for at least a week as commandant by all the authorities. The fact was that no regiment was stopping many hours in the town, and that each Colonel, finding a particular person established there, although he may have thought him a curious commandant, never thought of questioning his authority.
'One of my letters appeared in the Daily News. It was dated August 15th, and prophesied the complete destruction of the French armies, and it contained a somewhat amusing paragraph:
'"In our march last night we came into a part of the country unoccupied by either army. We were twice driven from villages by the Mayors, who seemed at their wits' end in the mazes of international law. One said to us: 'This town is not Prussian. It is French, and martial law is proclaimed in this part of France. Accordingly I must tell you that you need a French military safe-conduct. If you stop here without it I must arrest you, and send you'—he thought for a while—'to the Prussian Commandant at Sarrebourg.'" At Nancy I saw the Crown Prince, Dr. Russell of the Times, Mr. Hilary Skinner of the Daily News, and Mr. Landells of the Illustrated London News, who afterwards died of rheumatism caused by exposure in the war. Lord Ronald Gower was there on the same day, but was sent away, as his presence with Dr. Russell as a guest was unauthorized.
'Among our adventures, in addition to our arrest near Kreuznach and to our obtaining passes from the maniac commandant, was the adventure of our being lost in the Vosges, and nearly coming to be murdered by some French peasants, who in the night tried to force their way into the village school in which we had barricaded ourselves. Another adventure was our being nearly starved at Pont-a-Mousson, where at last we managed to buy a bit of the King of Prussia's lunch at the kitchen of the inn on the market-place at which it was being cooked in order to be placed in a four-in-hand break. While we were ravenously gorging ourselves upon it, a man burst into the room, and suddenly exclaimed: "Winterbotham!" It was Sir Henry Havelock, who was hiding in the place, being absent without leave from the Horse Guards, where he was, I think, an Assistant Quartermaster-General. He had made friends with the Prussian Military Attache, to whom Bismarck had lent his maps, and we thus saw them and learnt much. It was on the same day that Bismarck himself was nearly starved. The first part of the story had appeared in print, and I asked him about it when I was staying with him in September, 1889. He told me that he had with him at his lodging the Grand Duke of Mecklenburg and General Sheridan, the American cavalry officer. Bismarck had gone out to forage, and had succeeded in finding five eggs, for which he had paid a dollar each. He then said to himself: "If I take home five, I must give two to the Grand Duke and two to Sheridan, and I shall have but one." "I ate," he said, "two upon the spot and took home three, so that the Grand Duke had one, and Sheridan had one, and there was one for me. Sheridan died: he never knew—but I told the Grand Duke, and he forgave me."'
No turn of fortune any longer seemed possible, and in Sir Charles's mind hatred of the Emperor began to be replaced by sympathy for France.
'Writing on the day of Gravelotte to my grandmother, I said: "I have no notion how I shall get back.... Perhaps I shall come from Paris when we take it, as I suppose we shall do in a week or two." Such was the impression made on me by the rapidity of the early successes of the Germans. My feelings soon changed. Winterbotham continued to be very German, but Herbert and I began to wish to desert when we saw how overbearing success had made the Prussians, and how determined they were to push their successes to a point at which France would have been made impotent in Europe....
'During the week which followed Gravelotte I saw much of Gustav Freytag, the celebrated Prussian writer and politician, who was the guest of the Crown Prince. This "Liberal," who had the bad taste to wear the Legion of Honour in conquered France, was odious in his patriotic exultation.
'Bringing back with me nothing but a couple of soldiers' books from the field of Worth, and the pen of the Procureur-Imperial of Wissembourg, which still hangs outside my room, I got myself sent to Heidelberg in charge of a train full of wounded French officers of Canrobert's Division, wounded at the Battle of Mars la Tour on August 16th, but not picked up until after Gravelotte on August 18th. It was the first train back; and as there was no signal system, and we had to keep a lookout ahead, it took me two days to reach the German frontier. We halted for the night at Bischweiler, and, passing through Hagenau, were received at the frontier of the Palatinate by a young man who came and spoke to every French officer, and asked after his wounds, introducing himself at each compartment by saluting and saying: "Je suis le duc Othon de Baviere." This pleasant boy was afterwards to show the hereditary madness of his unhappy race. One of my prisoners was a Nancy man, and at this station I managed to find a boy who ran to his house, and brought down his old nurse with wine and food. It was a touching scene of a simple kind, and we were all the gainers by the officer's hospitality.
'From Heidelberg and Karlsruhe, where I was examined as a spy, I made my way by Switzerland and Paris to London. Almost the moment I reached London I saw a telegram in an evening paper announcing Sedan. I started that evening for Paris, accompanying Major Byng Hall, who carried despatches to Lord Lyons. We were the first to bring the news to Calais, where it was not believed, and we were mobbed in the railway-station. Old Byng Hall put his hand on his heart, and assured the crowd upon his honour that, though he was very sorry, it was true.
'On the morning of September 4th, my birthday and that of the French Republic, I was standing in Paris with Labouchere, afterwards the "Besieged Resident," in front of the Grand Hotel upon the Boulevard in an attitude of expectation. We had not long to wait. A battalion of fat National Guards from the centre of Paris, shopkeepers all, marched firmly past, quietly grunting: "L'abdication! L'abdication!" They were soon followed by a battalion from the outskirts marching faster, and gaining on them to the cry of "Pas d'abdication! La decheance! La decheance!" It was a sunny cloudless day. The bridge leading to the Corps Legislatif was guarded by a double line of mounted Gardes de Paris, but there were few troops to be seen, and were indeed very few in Paris. We stood just in front of the cavalry, who were perhaps partly composed of mounted Gendarmerie of the Seine, only with their undress kepis on, instead of the tall bearskins which under the Empire that force wore.... Labouchere kept on making speeches to the crowd in various characters—sometimes as a Marseillais, sometimes as an Alsatian, sometimes as an American, sometimes as an English sympathizer; I in terror all the while lest the same listeners should catch him playing two different parts, and should take us for Prussian spies. We kept watching the faces of the cavalry to see whether they were likely to fire or charge, but at last the men began one by one to sheathe their swords, and to cry "Vive la Republique!" and the Captain in command at last cried "Vive la Republique!" too, and withdrew his men, letting the crowd swarm across the bridge. So fell the Second Empire, and I wished that my grandfather had lived to see the day of the doom of the man he hated.
'The crowd marched across the bridge singing the "Marseillaise" in a chorus such as had never been heard before, perhaps, for the throng was enormous. After ten minutes' parley inside the Chamber the leaders returned from it, and chalked up on one of the great columns the names of the representatives of Paris declared to constitute the Provisional Government, and I drew the moral—on a day of revolution always have a bit of chalk. The crowd demanded the addition of Rochefort's name, and it was added. We then parted, one section going off to look for Paul de Cassagnac, [Footnote: M. Paul de Cassagnac was a conspicuous Imperialist.] who was the only man that the crowd wanted to kill.
'I went with the others, first to the statue of Strasbourg, which was decorated with flowers, and to which a sort of worship was paid on account of the gallant defence of the city, Labouchere making another speech, and then on to the Tuileries. A Turco detained us for some time at the gates by dancing in face of the crowd. But at last they insisted on the private gardens being thrown open, and then swept in, and we passed through the whole of the apartments. Privates of the National Guard stationed themselves as sentries in all the rooms, and not a thing was touched, an inscription proclaiming "Death to thieves" being chalked upon every wall. Precautions were necessary, for the police, knowing themselves to be unpopular, had disappeared. Indeed the first proof to me in the early morning of the certainty of a revolution had been that on the boulevards the squads had passed me, relieving themselves in the usual way, but no squads going to take their places. The crowds were orderly, but the eagles, of course, were broken down, and a bit of one from the principal guardroom hangs still on the wall of my London study. The next day I wrote to my grandmother: "I would not have missed yesterday for the world. Louis Blanc and other exiles have come over, but I fear that the great northern line will be cut by Wednesday, and then you will get no more news from me."
'I had dined with Lord Lyons on the previous evening in such a costume as had never till then been seen at dinner at the Embassy, and had listened with him to the bands playing the "Marseillaise" and "Mourir pour la Patrie," and on the morning of the 5th I had seen Louis Blanc. On the 6th I wrote that I feared that my letters would be stopped. In the course of the following days I visited all the forts with Alfred Tresca, of the Arts et Metiers, who had been set by Government, although a civil engineer, to organize the bastion powder-magazines, so I saw the defences well. Alfred Tresca was afterwards arrested while I was in Paris under the Commune, in the first week in April, 1871, for refusing to point out where his powder was.
'I did not believe in food being got in fast enough to enable Paris to hold out long. Knowing as I do that the German cavalry were within 100 miles of Melun for a fortnight before they cut the Lyons line, I consider that to have allowed the French its use was a great error on the part of Germany, an error equal to that of letting Canrobert's army join Bazaine by Frouard Junction without hindrance on August 13th, when we were already in Nancy, only five miles off. Both errors turned out well enough, as the luck of the Germans had it; but I do not believe that anyone now realizes the narrowness of the escape that the Prussians had of being crushed by Gambetta. They undertook too much when, with 210,000 men (at first), they set themselves to besiege Paris, which had in it 500,000 (though of bad material and no discipline), with 300,000 more French upon the Loire. The Germans succeeded, but I believe, with the French, that if Bazaine had held out a fortnight longer they must have failed....
'What was done in thirteen days at Paris was wonderful. It is to Jules Favre and to Gambetta that France owed the exhaustion of the Germans by a siege in 132 days, instead of a collapse in ten days, and it is to them, therefore, that they nearly owed success—success which would have crowned Gambetta a king of men, though he had done no more than what, as it is, he did. I had an interview with Jules Favre [Footnote: Jules Favre was at this time Vice-President of the Provisional Government for National Defence with the Portfolio of Foreign Affairs.] at the Foreign Office one morning at 6 a.m. I also met Blanqui, [Footnote: Blanqui, well known as an agitator and revolutionary writer, was elected to Parliament in 1871 for Montmartre. He was disqualified from membership by various judicial condemnations, but "the Chamber decided to invalidate his election by solemn vote, instead of accepting as his disqualification the recital of the sentences passed on him depriving him of political rights" (France, by J. E. C. Bodley, vol. ii., p. 101). Theirs had him arrested and imprisoned.] afterwards too famous, at breakfast at Louis Blanc's restaurant (opposite the old Town Hall), the headquarters of the Reds. Naquet, the hunchback, now known for his divorce law, was also there.
'On one of the last sad days before the commencement of the siege (Vinoy's or) Ducrot's army crossed Paris, and the 30,000 men which formed it marched down the Rue Lafayette, across the Place de l'Opera, and down the Rue de la Paix towards the south-western heights, where they afterwards ran away on September 19th. I never saw a more depressing sight. I stood all day and through the evening in the rain, comparing these wretched, draggled, weary, dejected men, on the one hand, with the French troops I had seen at Nancy six weeks earlier, and, on the other, with the Prussian Fifth Army Corps I now knew so well. Troops, however, cannot be always judged by the eye alone, for the Bavarians, who fought admirably throughout the war, when I saw them on the march at the beginning of it looked so bad that I expected daily to see the whole 60,000 of their two strong corps eaten up by the single French corps which I knew was just in front of them. This French corps was commanded by de Failly, who had commanded three years earlier a mixed Papal and French force against Garibaldi at Mentone, near Monte Rotondo, and reported: "Les chasse-pots ont fait merveille."
'The day before I left Paris I saw a sergeant of foot surrounded by a crowd of roughs. He was explaining to them that he was an Alsatian. "I come from down there. They have eaten my cow!" "Ah," cried the witty Paris crowd, "if they had only eaten Leboeuf!" The Marshal was looked upon in Paris as the cause of the war in virtue of his influence with the Empress.
The investment of Paris was completed on September 15th, and on the 16th 'I parted from Louis Blanc, who was despondent, and to whom I was able to give no reassuring words, for I had seen the wonderful organization of the Germans. I left by the southern station for Geneva. Thousands of packing-cases encumbered the courts, the luggage abandoned by the women and children flying from Paris. At Villeneuve St. Georges the French marines were drawn up in skirmishing order, and the enemy's cavalry were in sight. Our train was the last but one which passed, but we could, if stopped, have left Paris two days later by the Rouen line, although on the 18th the trains by that last line were fired at. I wrote home that I could not help thinking of one of the plays of Aristophanes, in which a peasant wings his way to heaven on the back of a gigantic dung-beetle in order to remonstrate with God upon the evils which He has inflicted upon man by war, and finds that God is out, and that His place has been taken by a devil, who is pounding all the powers together in a mortar.
'I went to Lyons, where the red flag was flying from the Town Hall, but where the feeling in favour of continuing the war was just as strong as in the districts of the tricolour. I then crossed France to Tours, where I saw M. Cremieux, a Jew, the representative of the Government outside Paris, Gambetta not having yet descended from his balloon....
'I visited the camp of the Army of the Loire, of which the organization was commencing, saw Lord Lyons and Sheffield, his secretary, near Tours, and took despatches for them to Calais by Rouen and Amiens. They included the correspondence of Mme. de Pourtales and Mme. de Metternich. The railways were in terrible confusion—National Guards moving, people flying before the Prussians, no food. I was three days and three nights on this little bit of road, and slept on tables in waiting-rooms at Vierzon and elsewhere. Passports were strictly demanded at this time on leaving as well as on entering France. When I reached Calais I found that the boat (and even that boat one with no passengers) would leave about 4 a.m., after the arrival of mails by sea. The inspection of my passport could only take place, I was told, when the boat was starting. It was midnight, the gates of the town were shut and drawbridges up, and the hotel at the station had been closed for lack of visitors. Watching my time, I dropped on board the steamer from off the quay, when the coastguardsman's head was turned, and, finding a deck-cabin unlocked, I popped in and bolted the door, going fast asleep, and woke only when we were outside the harbour in the grey light of early morning, which shows that passport regulations can be evaded. All through the war Prussian spies could get into France with ease, without any need of false papers, by visiting the Savoy coast of Lake Leman as Swiss peasants. I was not called upon to show my papers when I passed from the Germans to the French by way of Basle, Ouchy, and Evian.'
Sir Charles here concludes the story of his French adventures of this year by giving his judgment of that moment upon the—
'events which will never be forgotten by those of my time ... the downfall of the most magnificent imposture of any age—the Second Empire....
'As I noted in my diary at the time, "it is possible that the Bonapartists may raise their heads again, though if so, it is more likely to be under Plon-Plon than under the Empress, an impossible woman, whom even her son would have to exile should he come to the throne. But the 'Sphinx' who dominated Europe for so long is fallen, and it seems that my grandfather and dear old Kinglake were right, who always said that he had long ears and was a sorry beast after all. Now Europe thinks so, except the Rothschilds and the Daily Telegraph. What will future ages say of the shameful story of the coup d'etat of 1851, of the undermining of the honour of every officer in the French Army by promises of promotion for treachery to the nation, of France ruined by the denying of all advancement to those who had not Court favour, of the Morny war in Mexico—of Maximilian, abandoned after having been betrayed, of the splendour of the Guards and of the Imperial stables, of the plundering, of the degradation of justice, of the spying by everybody on everybody else? What a sad farce the whole thing was, but how seriously Europe took it at the time!"'
THE BLACK SEA TREATY—THE COMMUNE
In September, 1870, shortly after the Siege of Paris had begun, the Russian Chancellor, Gortschakof, intimated to the Powers that the Tsar proposed to repudiate that article in the Treaty of Paris which declared the Black Sea neutral, forbade Russia to build arsenals on it, and limited her fleet there to six small vessels. [Footnote: Treaty of Paris, July 13th, 1856 (Hertslet's Treaties, vol. xiv., p. 1172).] This particular article had been specially demanded by England; and when France, desirous of closing the Crimean War, spoke of yielding to Russia's resistance, Palmerston had declared that without this stipulation England and Turkey must carry on the war alone.
Sir Charles, on this matter as on many others, inclined to the Palmerstonian tradition, which was certainly neither that of Mr. Gladstone nor of Lord Granville. But Lord Granville gave him introductions for his projected second journey to Russia, and charged the young Liberal member with the task of representing the Cabinet's views:
"In talking to Russians I hope that you will say that we are about the most peaceable Ministry it is possible for England to have, but we are determined not to put up with any indignity. On the other hand, we greatly regret any stop to increasing good relations between the two countries, and shall be glad to make them even more cordial than before if we are properly treated."
He added the request that Sir Charles would write him first-hand impressions of the situation in Russia.
From St. Petersburg Sir Charles, in November, 1870, went to Moscow, where he lived with the Mayor, Prince Tcherkasky, 'who afterwards became Governor of Bulgaria, and died at San Stefano, just after the signature of the Treaty.' He was thus brought into touch with 'the political intrigues' of the moment:
'The Imperial Prince, who was afterwards Alexander III., was no stranger to them. Alexander II. was, like his grandfather Alexander I., a German and a dreamer, as well as melancholy mad. His son, the Imperial Prince, like his grandfather Nicholas and like Paul, was both violent and sulky; but he was patriotic, and had at this time the sense to put himself in the hands of the Moscow men.'
"It is satisfactory to know that the antagonism of an heir-apparent to the reigning Sovereign docs not depend on race or climate," was, says Sir Charles, Lord Granville's comment on this description.
'It was an interesting moment, and no foreign residence of my life was ever more full of the charm which attaches to the development of new political situations. The Emperor Alexander II. had fallen back from a most brilliant early part of his reign into its second period, which saw the rise of his unpopularity and the birth of Nihilism. He had become frightened, had not perhaps lost all his good intentions, but become too terrified to escape political reaction. His son, afterwards Alexander III., was, as often happens in despotisms, glorified by a popularity which he afterwards did not retain. When I saw the heir- apparent at his palace he seemed to me to be a hard-working, stupid man, and I never afterwards was able during his reign to divest myself of this first impression.
'Of all those that I met in Russia, the ablest were the two brothers Miliutine. The General, I think, survived his brother by a long time, and continued to be Minister of War for years after his brother's death; but the brother, the Miliutine of the reorganization of Poland after the last Polish insurrection, who was when I knew him half paralyzed in body but most brilliant in mind, struck me as being more full of ideas than any man I have ever met. His inferior brother was, though inferior, nevertheless a good Minister of War.
'The Miliutines were Liberals. The leader of the high Tory party of my time was an equally remarkable man, Count Tolstoi, the iron representative of iron Toryism, of perfect honesty, in whom energy and strength were not destroyed by prejudice. He was the most ideal minister of despotism that autocracy has produced, representing the principles of order and authority with more ability than is generally found in leaders of his type. He was intensely hated by the Universities and by most of those, chiefly Liberals, with whom he lived. But although he is said by his terrorism to have created Nihilism, I am far from being convinced that any other course was possible to the Russian Empire, and if this course was to be taken, he took it well. In modern times there never was so unpopular a Minister, and when, in after years, Alexander III. recalled him to power as Minister of the Interior, one could not but feel that the break between the principles acted on by this Sovereign as Emperor, and those which he had honestly professed when heir-apparent, was complete.
'I not only well knew Jomini, but I had made the acquaintance in 1868 in London (and renewed it at a later date) of his colleague Vlangali, at that time as truly brilliant and as supple as Jomini himself, though as silent as Jomini was talkative; ... and between them and their marvellous subordinates, Hamburger the hunchback Jew, and his head of the Asiatic Department, Westmann, I do not wonder that two stupid men, the vain Gortschakof and the drill-sergeant de Giers, were able successively to pretend to rule the Foreign Office without the policy of the country suffering.
'In Katkof I was greatly disappointed. The man was very powerful under two reigns, and with the exception of Count Tolstoi, he was the only man who was so, since otherwise all the adherents of Alexander II. were in disgrace during the reign of Alexander III.; but I could see nothing in Katkof except strength of will and obstinacy. He was entirely without judgment or measure or charm. The two Vassiltchikofs were men of what is called in Russia a "European" type, or "civilized." There was nothing specially Russian about them, but they were far pleasanter than as a rule are able Russians, and this was also the case with Madame Novikof's brothers, the two Kiriefs. In general it may be said that in the Moscow chiefs of the Slav Committees there was more European give and take, and less obstinacy or pig-headed Toryism of Russian character, than among any other set. One of the Vassiltchikofs had an art collection, and afterwards became, I think, Art Director at St. Petersburg, while the other, who was the greater Slav, and who was the son-in-law of Prince Orlof Davydof of St. Petersburg, who sent me to him at Moscow, was chiefly given to good works in Moscow. I think, if I remember right, that my hostess, Princess Tcherkasky, with whom I lodged, was their sister.
'I saw a good deal of Peter Schouvalof, known as "all-powerful," of whom I afterwards again saw a great deal when I was at the Foreign Office and he was Ambassador in London. He was the bitter enemy of Count Tolstoi all through life; but his complete fall, and it may even be said utter destruction, during the reign of Alexander III., was, I think, not owing to this fact, but because he was easygoing and had made friends with the morganatic wife of Alexander II. in his last years. Alexander III. never forgave anyone who had shown this disrespect to the memory of his mother, although as soon as his son in time succeeded to the throne, the members of the Imperial family visiting France, who had never acknowledged the existence of the Princess during all the years of Alexander III.'s reign, immediately began to revisit her at Biarritz or in Paris.
'Peter Schouvalof represented the French Regency in our times, with all its wit, with all its half-refined coarseness—the coarseness of great gentlemen—with the drunkenness of the companions of the Regent, and with their courage. At the time that I knew him in St. Petersburg he was as much hated as his enemy Count Tolstoi, but that was because he held the terrible office of head of the Third Section or Director of the Secret Police, with the power of life and death over everyone except the Emperor. It was a somewhat sinister contrast to find, in one who used to the full the awful powers of his office, the greatest gaiety that existed in mortal man, unless in Gambetta.
'K. Aksakof was in Moscow the superior in power even of Tcherkasky the Mayor, even of the two Samarines, even of Miliutine of Moscow, the brother of the General. He was not in reality so strong a man, but he had the ear of the heir-apparent, and I cannot but think, from a good deal which came to my knowledge at the time, that there was some secret society organization among the Slavophiles, of which he was the occult chief. Some think that had he liked he would have continued to rule Alexander III. after the latter ascended the throne, but my own impression is that he would have ended his days in Siberia. His brother John, who survived and had influence, was a very different man, and held other views. His influence for a time was enormous, although I could more easily have understood the dominance in the party of Miliutine or of Samarine. Katkof retained his influence because he was above all of the despotic party. Aksakof would have failed to retain his, because, although he held, as an article of faith, that reforms must come from the Emperor to the people, yet he desired that the Emperor should be a Russian Liberal—a very different thing from a "European" Liberal, but still something different from Alexander III. or from Count Tolstoi's ideal of a Russian autocrat....
'Among those I knew' (says a later note) 'was the pretty little child of Count Chotek of the Austrian Embassy, the bosom friend of Prince Henry VII. of Reuss, the Prussian Ambassador. The child's mother, Chotek's wife, was Countess Kinsky. She became the wife of the Archduke Francis Ferdinand, and the birth of her son, in 1902, was hailed by the Magyars as that of an heir to the throne of the dual monarchy, and may lead to civil war in Austria some day.' [Footnote: It was the assassination of this Archduke which preceded the Great War of 1914.]
Sir Charles continued to correspond with Lord Granville about the international complication. The Foreign Secretary wrote in December of the proposed Conference of London that—
"It would not be a bad result that each side should imagine it had had a victory. There would remain the public opinion of Europe, and as we are neither of us popular, that may be tolerably impartial."
The Russian point of view had been put to Sir Charles before he left England in a letter from Baron Jomini, who complained that attempts to revise the Treaty of Paris by a European Congress had repeatedly failed, because England had always made it a condition that at such "a Congress the Eastern question should not be raised." What, then, was open to Russia—since "all the world privately admitted that the position created for her by the Treaty of 1856 was inequitable and an obstacle to good understanding" but to show the signatory Powers the impossibility of her remaining any longer in a false position?
The view which Sir Charles formed at the time was in strong condemnation of Lord Granville's action. In his opinion, Great Britain, by consenting to a Conference (proposed by Russia's friend; Prussia), consented to negotiate upon an act of repudiation by which her own rights were infringed; and this surrender seemed to him wholly unnecessary. Later knowledge only confirmed him in his opinion.
'We knew' (he writes in the Memoir) 'that Austria, the original proposer of the neutralization, had on November 22nd stated that she would join us in a war with Russia if we declared war upon the question, and Italy had already declared that she would act with Austria and ourselves. On the other hand, we now know (1906) that the British Cabinet of 1856 did not contain a member who thought the neutralization worth anything, or that it could be maintained beyond "the first opportunity." Gladstone, in 1879, returned to the question, and said that even Turkey had been willing to agree in 1870 to what had been done; but from a despatch to Lord Granville, dated November 24th, 1870, which has been published, it is clear that Austria, Italy, and Turkey would have gone along with us. Under these circumstances no fighting would have been wanted. All that we need have done would have been to have declared that we should take no notice of the Russian denunciation, and to have sent our fleet into the Black Sea, and the Russians could have done nothing but give in, as a platonic declaration that they were free would not have enabled them to launch a ship. Then we might gracefully have yielded; but as it was, we gave in to a mere threat of force.'
Acceptance of the Conference, moreover, seemed to Sir Charles a betrayal of France. France, who had been England's ally in the Crimea, one of the signatory Powers to the Black Sea Treaty, saw her capital beleaguered by the Prussian friends of the Power which repudiated the Treaty, and could not even send a representative to the Conference to protest.
It was natural, then, that at the opening of Parliament in 1871 the member for Chelsea should raise this question. But to do so involved the bringing forward of a motion tantamount to a vote of censure on the Government, which Sir Charles Dilke himself supported; and Mr. Gladstone contrived to put his too critical supporter in a difficulty.
The Queen's Speech inevitably contained reference to Prince Gortschakof's action, and in both Houses there was considerable comment upon this in the debate on the Address. The Prime Minister referred to the opportunity for fuller discussion which would be afforded by Sir Charles's motion, but, when pressed to name a day for the motion, deprecated discussion while the Conference was sitting. Frequent questioning led finally to the intervention of Mr. Disraeli, who raised the whole question of Conference and Treaty in a speech, and was answered by Mr. Gladstone. When after all this Sir Charles still persisted in his motion, the purpose of which was not to discuss either the methods or the results of the Conference, but to deplore the Government's action in having entered on it at all, Mr. Gladstone declared that Government could spare no time, and would give a day only if it were taken as a direct vote of censure, which they must in honour meet; adding that the day could only be found by the postponement of a Licensing Bill which had much support in the Liberal party. Sir Charles persevered, and made a very able speech, to which no serious answer was given. He entirely destroyed the pretence that the Conference had met without a "foregone conclusion," and stigmatized the indecent haste which could not wait to secure the presence of France even as an assenting party to this acceptance of an act of repudiation. But the House was dominated by dislike for anything which seemed to hint at opening up a new European war at the moment when a settlement of the existing conflict was expected. The Tories, 'would only speak, and would not vote'; while Sir Charles's Radical associates, such as Mr. Peter Rylands, welcomed anything done under pretext of avoiding war.
'An attempt was made by Sir Henry Bulwer, the cynical and brilliant brother of Lord Lytton, by Mr. Horsman and Mr. Otway, to use my motion for their own purposes. Otway had resigned his Under-Secretaryship of Foreign Affairs on account of his strong opinion upon the question, and was distressed to find that his resignation had fallen flat. Horsman was always discontented, and Bulwer wanted to be a peer. [Footnote: Sir Henry Bulwer was afterwards created Lord Calling; Mr. Horsman had been a conspicuous Adullamite in the previous Parliament.] I used to tell Bulwer up to his death that I gave him his peerage, for he received Gladstone's offer of the peerage just in time to prevent him from speaking for my motion. Bulwer, whom I had known as Ambassador at Constantinople, Sir Andrew Buchanan, whom I had known as Ambassador at St. Petersburg, Horsman, and Otway came and dined with me, and we made a great plot, and thought we were going to upset the arrangement with the Russians. But Gladstone succeeded in taking away Goldsmid, who was one of our very few Liberal supporters, made Bulwer a peer, and left me only with Otway, Gregory, afterwards Governor of Ceylon, and Horsman....
'I ought to have divided, even if I had been in a minority of one, for the proposal to withdraw my motion brought a hornet's nest about my ears, and was a parliamentary mistake.'
Michel Chevalier, the celebrated French Economist and Free Trader, wrote thanking Sir Charles. He had spent, he said, thirty years of his life in advocating an Anglo-French understanding, and now he would not know how to look his countrymen in the face were it not for the courageous utterances of a few friendly Englishmen to which he could point as evidences of a good-will that had not forsaken France in her evil day.
'Immediately after my return to England in the middle of the winter of 1870-1871, which had already been the severest ever known in Russia, I again started for the scene of war. I first visited the army of General Faidherbe, which was gallantly fighting in the north, and I was present at one of the engagements near Bapaume, in which the French took prisoners sixty sharpshooters of the Prussian Landwehr— splendid soldiers, towering above our little Frenchmen, to whom it seemed incredible, whatever the odds, they should have surrendered. I never saw so wretched an army to look at as Faidherbe's. His cavalry were but a squadron. He had one good regiment of foot Chasseurs and two good regiments of marines; and the gunners of his artillery (escaped men from Sedan) were excellent, and the guns were new; but he had for his main body some 20,000 second-skim of the National Guard, the cream from the north having been sent south to the Army of the East under Bourbaki, with whom they were driven into Switzerland.
'Ours were what schoolboys would call second choice. Oh, such men! and without boots, without overcoats, facing arctic weather in wooden shoes and old sacks—facing the Prussians, too, with old muzzle- loading guns; but they fought well, and their leader, a man of genius, made the most of them. I returned two or three times to England—that is, to Dover—to eat and buy things I could carry, for I could hardly get anything at Lille, where, by the way, I heard Gambetta make his great speech. It was the finest oratorical display to which I ever listened, though I have heard Castelar, Bright, Gladstone, the Prime Minister Lord Derby, Gathorne Hardy, and Father Felix (the great Jesuit preacher) often, at their very best.
'Picking up Auberon Herbert, who was on his way to Versailles to wait for the surrender of Paris in order to take in food to his brother Alan, who was serving as a doctor on the ambulance inside, I went to the siege of Longwy. Like all the fortresses of France bombarded in this war, with two exceptions, it surrendered far too easily.
'From Longwy we passed on to Montmedy, at which latter place we witnessed the immediate effects of a fearful railway accident, a collision in a tunnel between a trainful of French prisoners and one of recruits for the Prussian Guards. The scene in the darkness and smoke, with the stalwart, long-bearded Landwehr men, who formed the garrison of the town, holding blazing torches of pine and pitch, and the glare from the fires of the upset engines, was one which would have delighted Rembrandt. When a rush of water, a cataract from the roof of the lately blown-up tunnel, suddenly occurred, adding to the horror of the night, the place was pandemonium. Almost the only men unhurt in the front carriages, which were smashed to pieces, were the Mayors of the villages on the line, travelling compulsorily as hostages for the safety of the trains. I made military reflections on the advantage of blowing up tunnels, as against the practice of destroying bridges and so forth.'