Sir Charles was one of the first in Paris after the siege (which was raised by an armistice on January 29th, 1871), taking in with him a large quantity of condensed milk, of which he made presents to his Paris friends. The purpose of the armistice was to enable regular conditions to be signed between the conqueror and the conquered. The Imperial Government had declared war on Prussia; but the Empire had fallen and the existing Government was only provisional. It had a branch in Paris, another branch in Bordeaux, and between these the investing army barred all intercommunication. The purpose of the armistice was to allow the holding of elections throughout France to return a National Assembly, which in its turn should appoint Ministers fully authorized to treat for peace. The elections did but emphasize the division between Paris and the provinces, for in Paris an Ultra-Radical representative was returned, while in the country a considerable majority of monarchical deputies were elected. Republican France feared, and not without cause, some attempt to re- establish a dynasty.
When, on February 20th, the new Government, with Thiers at its head, signed preliminaries of peace, a condition was included which stipulated that the Prussian troops should formally enter Paris and remain for three days in possession of all the forts before evacuating the place. The National Guard, refusing to obey orders, entrenched itself in Montmartre; the seat of government was transferred to Versailles, lately the Prussian headquarters; fighting broke out in the streets, and the control of the city was seized in the name of the Commune.
So began the second siege, in which revolutionary Paris stood at bay against those whom they called 'the Prussians of Versailles,' while the real Prussians, still occupying part of the exterior line of forts, looked on, impartial spectators. Sir Charles writes:
'At this time my attention was exclusively turned to foreign affairs, and immediately after my Black Sea speech I started for Paris. I took with me an appointment as a Daily News correspondent—not that I intended to correspond, but only because it would explain my presence. Having been unable to leave London during the first days of the rising of March 18th, which developed into the Commune of Paris, I left it with my brother on April 2nd, and reached Creil at night, and St. Denis in the morning. From Creil I wrote to my grandmother: "We shall reach Paris in the morning. It is no use writing, and we shall not be able to write to you." We drove into Paris, and at once went to the Hotel de Ville, where we found the famous Central Committee sitting. We obtained from some Garibaldian officers of the Staff a special pass to leave Paris in order to see Gustave Flourens, for whom I was carrying a private letter from a friend of his in London.... The drums were beating through the streets all day, and great numbers of National Guards were under arms attempting to march upon Versailles, and there was heavy fighting, which we witnessed from a distance.
'We counted 160 battalions of National Guards all carrying the red flag, and saw altogether, as near as we could compute, almost 110,000 men. That all Paris was in the movement at this time was clear, not only from this fact, but also from the following: that on March 26th between 226,000 and 227,000 electors voted, a full vote for Paris considering the great number of persons who, having left Paris before the siege, had not returned. In the municipal elections after the Commune, when the Conservatives had come back and made a great attempt to win, the total number of voters was only 186,000. I noticed at the Hotel de Ville that the Parisians had a great many sailors in uniform with them. These were sailors who had remained in Paris after serving there during the siege, and my pass was handed to me by a splendid specimen of a French tar wearing the name of the Richelieu on his hat. I was one of the few persons not in the insurrection (and these were mostly killed) who saw the pictures in the Hotel de Ville so late—that is, so soon before the fire which destroyed them all—and I recognized old friends which I had known from 1855, when I was there at the great ball. Those who showed us from room to room were chiefly Garibaldian Poles, among them the Dombrowskis, one of whom was killed, and two of whom I afterwards befriended in London in their exile.
'The next morning we left Paris early by the Vaugirard gate, for no one could tell us where Flourens was engaged. We had followed the main line of fighting; his death occurred upon the other line; but so great was the confusion of these days that we knew nothing of it until the 5th. We thought that to make for Clamart would be the surest course to bring us to the forefront of battle, and at 8 a.m. we were in Issy. We then heard heavy firing, and came over the hill between Forts Issy and Vanves, but there was a dense fog which deadened sound, and it was not till we were well down the hillside that we heard the crunch of the machine-guns, when we suddenly found ourselves under a heavy fire from the other side. Seeing the railway embankment in front of us at the bottom of the hill, we ran down and got under shelter near an arch at the corner of a park wall, which may, perhaps, have been the cemetery. Here we sat in safety while the bullets sang in swarms through the trees over our heads, while the forts cannonaded the heights, and the heights bombarded the forts, and while the federal regiments of the National Guard tried in vain to carry once more the line of hills which they had carried on the previous day, but had of their own accord at night abandoned, having no commissariat. They used, in fact, to go home to dinner. Indeed, many would in the morning take an omnibus to the battlefield, and fight, and take the omnibus back home again to dine and sleep—a system of warfare which played into the hands of the experienced old soldiers—the police of Paris—all ex- non-commissioned officers, and the equally well-trained Customs guards and forest guards, by whom they were opposed. General Vinoy, who was commanding, had, however, heavy work on this day, in which Duval, the General of the Commune, met his death within a quarter of a mile of the spot where we were hiding. With this day ended, indeed, the offensive operations of the Federalists against Versailles, and began the offensive operations of the regulars against Paris. After sitting a long time in our corner we found ourselves starved, and ran up the hill by the park wall, under a heavy fire, to Issy and then walked into Paris. I have a bullet in my room which struck the wall between us just as we reached shelter at the top. One of my curiosities of the time is the official newspaper of April 4th, which was conducted, of course, for the insurrection, but which played so well at being official that it announced as good news the telegrams from Algeria showing that the Arab insurrection was being put down, although the Government which was putting down this insurrection was the very same Government which was engaged in putting down the more formidable insurrection in Paris, to which the journal temporarily belonged.
'On Wednesday, the 5th, my brother went to the fighting at Neuilly bridge, where the troops from Versailles were beginning to develop a serious attack, destined, however, to continue for six weeks without result, for Paris was not entered at this point. I, with a letter from Franqueville [Footnote: Le Comte de Franqueville, well known to a large circle of English friends by his book, Le Gouvernement et le Parlement Britanniques (Paris, 1887).] to the Duc de Broglie, afterwards Prime Minister, in one pocket, and a pass from the Insurrection in the other, left Paris at 5 a.m. by the Porte Montrouge, and walked by Bourg la Reine to La Croix de Berny, and thence by Chatenay to La Cour Roland, where I met a cavalry patrol of the regular forces, and then came to an infantry camp. Having shown my letter, my English passport, and my appointment as a newspaper correspondent, I was allowed to go on to Versailles. There I slept on a table, there being a terrible crowd of Paris fugitives in the town. In the morning I had my interview with the Duke. He was kind to me, and I saw much of him in London and in Paris in later years. Thiers was right in alluding to his dull father as "The Duc de Broglie; the other, the duke." But both were narrow doctrinaires.
'After looking at M. Thiers' reserves, which at this time consisted of 250 guns parked on the Place d'Armes, with no artillerymen to work them, and a Paris regiment, the 118th, raised during the siege, locked up in the park to prevent their joining the insurrection, I started for St. Germain, where I met Major Anson, M.P., afterwards the leader of "the Colonels" (who resisted abolition of army purchase) in the House of Commons, and lunched, watching the firing of Mont Valerien on Paris. I then drove to St. Denis, the Prussian headquarters. Thence I drove again (the La Chapelle gate of Paris being shut) to Pantin. After a long parley the Belleville-Villette drawbridge was lowered for me, and I was admitted to Paris, having been almost all round it in the two days.
'Major Anson gave me a bag of gold to pay to his brother's (Lord Lichfield's) cook. This man was in Paris, and on the 7th I called on him at a house close to the Ministry of the Interior, and to the Palace of the Elysee. The cook's rooms were at the top of the house, over the Librairie, still there in 1907. He received the visit of myself and my brother in bed. "Excuse me," he said, "but I have been fighting these three days, and I am tired out." I asked his wife what he was fighting for, and she did not in the least know. No more did he, for the matter of that. He was fighting because his battalion was fighting. "The Prussians of Versailles" had taken the place of the other Prussians; that was all. At this moment 215 battalions of the National Guard supported the insurrection, having joined in pursuance of the resolution that, in the event of the seat of Government being transferred from Paris to any other place, Paris was to constitute itself a separate Republic. This more than anything else was at the bottom of the insurrection, and, as M. Jules Simon has said, "many Republicans who were neither Socialists nor Revolutionists hesitated. One asked oneself if in fighting on the side of order one was not at the same time fighting for a dynasty." Then, again, serving in the National Guard meant pay and food, especially for the working man, for there was no work to be got in Paris, as business had not been reopened. Moreover, Paris was writhing with rage at the Prussian entry, and Parisian vanity was engaged on the side of the insurrection.
'The insurrection was certainly at this time very far from being a communistic movement, as from a natural confusion of names it was thought to be by foreigners. There was a burning jealousy in Paris of the "Rurals," and a real fear, not ill-founded, that a Royalist conspiracy was on foot. The irritations of the siege, however, played the largest part. The National Guard, who had fought very well at Buzenval on January 19th, profoundly moved by the capitulation, had carried off their guns to their own part of Paris in February, and it may be said that the insurrection dated from that time, and was historically a protest against the peace, for M. Thiers temporized with the insurrection until the old seasoned soldiers were beginning to return to him from their captivity in Germany. The fighting began with the sudden attempt of the Government to remove by force the guns which had been taken to Montmartre, followed as it was by the murder of two Generals by the mob. [Footnote: General Lecomte and Clement Thomas, the Commandant of the National Guard, were shot on March 18th, 1871, under conditions of peculiar brutality.] A number of men threw themselves into the movement from love of fighting for fighting's sake, like the Garibaldian Poles. Some joined it from ambition, but the majority of the men who later on died on the walls or in the streets in the Federalist ranks died, as they believed, for the Republic, and had no idea of the plunder of the rich. Ricciotti Garibaldi was near Dijon "in observation," as he afterwards told me. He said that he wanted to march upon Versailles with his excellent little army, which would have followed him, and fought well, and would certainly have taken the new capital, although it would have been crushed later on. He telegraphed to Garibaldi, and "Papa" telegraphed to him not to move, Garibaldi being wiser, perhaps, in his son's case than he would have been had it been his own, for he was not remarkable for wisdom. It was a strange moment: the Prussians watching the fighting from those of the forts which were still in their hands, and a careless, idle Paris crowd of boys and women watching it from the walls.
'On the 7th my brother and I were all but killed by a shell from Mont Valerien which suddenly burst, we not having heard it, close to us in a garden at the corner of the Place de l'Etoile and Avenue d'Uhrich, as the Avenue de l'Imperatrice had at this time been named, from the General who defended Strasbourg. During the 7th and 8th a senseless bombardment of a peaceable part of Paris waxed warm, and continued for some days uselessly to destroy the houses of the best supporters of the Conservative Assembly without harming the Federalists, who did not even cross the quarter. M. Simon has said that Thiers did not bombard Paris; that he only bombarded the walls of Paris at the two points at which he intended to make a breach.... All I can say is that if this was the intention there must have been someone in command at Mont Valerien who failed to carry it into effect, and who amused himself by knocking the best part of Paris to pieces out of mischief, for no artilleryman could have been so incapable as to fire from hill to hill when intending to fire down into that which, viewed from Mont Valerien, looks like a hole. In 1841, curiously enough, Thiers had been accused, at the time of the erection of the forts of which Mont Valerien was one, of making it possible that Paris should be bombarded in this way, and had indignantly replied, asking the Assembly if they believed that after having inonde de ses feux la demeure de vos familles a Government could expect to be continued in power. But in 1871 he did it, and was continued in power for a time, and that with the triumphant support at the moment of the very persons whose houses he had destroyed. The Commune had a broad back, and that back was made to bear the responsibility of the destruction.'
Sir Charles returned to his duties in London after the Easter recess, but he was back in Paris to see the last moments of the second siege. On May 21st the army had forced its way into the city, though several days of bitter street fighting remained, in which the town was fired, and the Hotel de Ville and Ministry of Finance were destroyed. [Footnote: Sir Charles writes of the celebrated order, "Flambez Finances": 'the order to burn the Ministry of Finance was an undoubted forgery, as a distinguished Frenchman, signing himself "A Communalist," showed in the Pall Mall Gazette. The evidence before the court-martial of the porter of the Ministry of Finance, that the fire was caused by shells, confirms my view, and shows how the events of the moment have been distorted by the passions of writers.'] Sir Charles had foreseen the destruction of these uildings, "because they were behind great barricades in the direct line of the necessary attack," and was also proud of the verification which a minor military forecast received. Alan Herbert, Auberon's elder brother, who for many years practised as a doctor in Paris, was awakened on May 21st by a disturbance in the street, and
'"saw several National Guards and dirty-looking fellows taking counsel together whether they should raise a barricade opposite my windows, and they were actually beginning it. However," he wrote to his mother, Lady Carnarvon, "Sir Charles Dilke, when he was in Paris with Auberon, came to see me here, and the question being raised as to a barricade being placed opposite my windows he decided it could not be, as the only proper place for one would be some doors lower down at the meeting of the three streets. This recollection was some consolation to me, and his opinion was quite correct, for an officer arrived, supposed to have been the General Dombrowski, who made them begin lower down."'
It was on May 25th that Sir Charles left London to reach Paris, which was known by the 24th to be in flames.
'Crossing by Calais, I reached St. Denis at night, drove to Le Bourget, got a pass into Paris from the Germans at dawn, with a warning, however, that it would not bring me out again. By the drizzling rain I passed unhindered into Paris, all the gates being open and the drawbridges down, as the Federalists were both within and without the walls. I reached the great barricade in front of the gates of the Docks de la Villette at seven in the morning. My road had been lighted till the daylight grew strong by the flames of the conflagration of the warehouses. This day, Friday the 26th, was that of the third or last massacre of hostages—the thirty-seven gendarmes, the fifteen policemen, the eleven priests, and four other people, I believe. It was a very useless crime. When I reached the great barricade at a meeting of roads, one of which I think was called Route d'Allemagne, fighting had just recommenced after a pause during the night. At this point the field artillery were bombarding the barricade from the Rue Lafayette. I stood all day in comparative safety at the door of a baker's shop in the Rue de Flandre, for the baker was interested in what was going on sufficiently to keep his door open and look out and talk with me, though his shutters were up at all the windows. When evening came the Federalists still at this point maintained their strong position, and I, of course, knew nothing of the movements on the south by which the troops had all but hemmed them in. The baker with whom I had made friends offered me hospitality for the night, which I accepted, and I might have stayed longer with him had I pleased; but not knowing how long the fighting might continue, I determined to make my way into the Versailles lines at dawn.
'Fighting in our quarter had been again suspended at night, and in the grey light of early morning (it was fine after a long rain) I left my baker and made my way to the left, the left again, and then down a long street towards the Eastern Railway. A sentry about two hundred yards off presented his piece. I stood still in the middle of the street. He seemed then not to know what to do. I had on the red-cross armlet which I wore throughout the war, and held a white handkerchief in my hand. I suppose I looked respectable enough to be allowed to come nearer, for he let me advance. When near enough I called to him that I wished to speak with the officer of the post. He called out a corporal, to whom I made the same statement. They kept me there for a time which seemed an age, and then brought an officer. I shouted to him that I was an English newspaper correspondent, that I had an authorization as such, an English passport, and a Prussian pass into Paris, and that I was known to the Due de Broglie and to Lord Lyons; also that I could name friends in the centre of Paris to whom I might be sent under guard. He let me pass, and said: "Allez! Vous avez eu de la chance." I went straight to the Arts et Metiers. The dead were lying thick in the streets, especially at the Porte St. Martin barricade, where they were being placed in tumbrils. The fighting had been very heavy; the troops alone had lost 12,000 killed and wounded after entering Paris. At least as many Federalists were killed fighting, or wounded and finished, besides the great number shot after their surrender. I found Tresca, the father, picking up the pieces of the shells which were bursting in the courtyard, and putting them all together with wires, to the greater glory of his own particular make. It was the Federal artillery on the heights which was bombarding Paris with Tresca's shells. When one burst perfectly into some twenty equal pieces he would say:" Beautiful; that is one of mine." Any that burst into one large piece and two or three little ones he set down to the "genie militaire" of Vincennes.
'After several days I left Paris with Dr. W. H. Russell of the Times, my former opponent at Chelsea at the '68 election, whom I had last previously seen at Nancy on the day of Mars la Tour, and returned to London, having for the purpose of leaving Paris a pass from Marshal MacMahon's Chief of the Staff, which I still preserve.' [Footnote: This Diary Extract of the War of 1870 was published in the Nineteenth Century of January, 1914.]
So ends the story. Later in life, during his championship of army reform in the House of Commons, a Tory Colonel interrupted the civilian critic with some bluntness. "I have been on more battlefields," Sir Charles retorted, "than the honourable and gallant member has ever seen." The white ambulance cap, with its black and green peak, which he preserved as a memento, bore on its lining:
"WORTH. ORLEANS. PHALSBOURG. LONGWY. MARS LA TOUR. BAPAUME. GRAVELOTTE. PARIS."
Preserved among Sir Charles's papers, and dated September 30th, 1870, there is this letter from John Stuart Mill:
"If Gladstone had been a great man, this war would never have broken out, for he would have nobly taken upon himself the responsibility of declaring that the English Navy should actively aid whichever of the two Powers was attacked by the other. This would have been the beginning of the international justice we are calling for. I do not blame Gladstone for not daring to do it, for it requires a morally, braver man than any of our statesmen to run this kind of risk."
At the outset of hostilities France, and not Germany, appeared to Sir Charles not only ostensibly, but really the attacking Power, and therefore the true menace to the liberties of Europe. The policy of Louis Napoleon was apparently responsible for the Franco-German War, and as he said in Greater Britain: "If the English race has a mission in the world, it is surely this, to prevent peace on earth from depending upon the verdict of a single man." With the fall of Napoleon and observation of the Germans as conquerors, Sir Charles became wholly French in his sympathies, and before long his close study of events preceding the war showed him that it had really been of Bismarck's making. This did not lead him to advocate "alliance," for when alliances between various Powers were constantly advocated, he declared his belief that "the time for permanent alliances is past"; [Footnote: Speech at Chelsea to his constituents, January 24th, 1876.] but his observations in these years made him through life the steady friend of France, the constant upholder of her value to Europe, the advocate of fellowship between her free greatness and that of his own free country. "France," said he, "has in England no stronger friend than I." He lectured and spoke more than once upon the great war and its results, and the passage which ends a Recess speech of 1875 was delivered after one of the critical moments when Germany had shown a disposition to renew attack on France. Someone had spoken of Germany "as the most 'moral' among the nations." Sir Charles replied:
'Not only do I think the conduct of Prussia towards Denmark the reverse of "moral," but I confess I have the same opinions of her later conduct towards France.... No doubt the military law presses hardly on the German people, and no doubt the Prussian Court tells them that it is the fault of France; but is it true? Do not believe in the French lamb troubling the waters to the hurt of the Prussian wolf. Taxes and emigration increase in Germany because, as Count Moltke said in his place in Parliament, "Germany must stand armed to the teeth for fifty years to defend the provinces which it took her but six months to win." But why have taken them? Did not England and Austria at the time warn Prussia what would be the wretched consequences of the act? German fears of to-day are the direct outcome of the frightful terms which victorious Germany imposed on France. She might have had money, reduction of forces, dismantlement of fortresses, but she would have the dismemberment of France and her money too. She insisted, in defiance of all modern political ideas, in tearing provinces from a great country against their will. France has since that time set an example of moderation of tone, yet Germany cries out that she will fight again, and crush her enemy to the dust. Poor German Liberals, who abandoned all their principles when they consented to tear Alsace and Lorraine from France, and who now find themselves powerless against the war party, who say: "What the sword has won the sword shall keep!"'
He then quoted 'the words of an Alsatian Deputy who spoke before the German Parliament on February 16th, 1874, words which were received with howls and jeers, but which were none the less eloquent and true.' The words dealt with the dismemberment of France, and ended with this passage: "Had you spared us you would have won the admiration of the world, and war had become impossible between us and you. As it is, you go on arming, and you force all Europe to arm also. Instead of opening an age of peace, you have inaugurated an era of war; and now you await fresh campaigns, fresh lists of killed and wounded, containing the names of your brothers and your sons." "The view of this Alsatian Deputy is my view," said Sir Charles: "I do not believe that might makes right.... For our own sakes as well as hers, T pray that France may not be crushed. France is not merely one of the nations. The place of France is not greater than the place of England, but it is different. The place of France is one which no other nation can quite hold."
THE CIVIL LIST
The disregard of party allegiance which Sir Charles showed in regard to the Education Bill and the Black Sea Conference did not grow less as time went on. When the Ballot Bill of 1870 was in Committee, he moved an amendment to extend the hours of polling from four o'clock to eight, as many working men would be unable to reach the poll by the earlier hour. There was much talk in debate of the danger which would ensue from carrying on so dangerous an operation as voting after dark, and the Government Whips were actually put on to tell against this proposal; nor was any extension of the hours effected till 1878, and then by Sir Charles Dilke himself, in a Bill applying to London only, which he introduced as a private member of the Opposition under a Tory Government.
The first of the many Bills introduced by him was that to amend the procedure of registration, which in the session of 1871 he got successfully through Committee stage; but it perished in the annual "slaughter of the innocents."
One of the measures which contributed to a decline of the Government's popularity was the unlucky proposal in Mr. Lowe's Budget of 1871 to levy a tax on matches; and Sir Charles was the first to raise this matter specifically in Committee, condemning the impost as one which would be specially felt by the poor, and would deprive the humblest class of workers of much employment. On the day when Lowe was forced to withdraw the obnoxious proposal, Sir Charles had opened the attack by a question challenging Government interference with a procession of the matchmakers organized to protest against the tax. He was, therefore, personally identified with the rebuff administered to the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
The tremendous spectacle of events in France had inevitably bred a panic in England. It was proposed to increase the active army by 70,000 men. Sir Charles was no friend to panics, and he was one of the seven who voted against the motion.
But his was not merely a blank negative directed against any proposal for increasing the standing army. He writes:
"About this time" (March, 1871) "I promoted a movement in favour of a system of universal instruction in arms, and between fifty and sixty members of Parliament attended the meeting which I called, the most prominent among them being Sir M. Hicks Beach, Mr. Mundella, and Henry James. We all lived to know better."
Those who joined him in this momentary propaganda dropped the proposal of universal instruction in arms, and turned their attention elsewhere. He substituted for it another ideal of military efficiency, and laboured all his life to give it effect. Speaking to his constituents at Kensington in the autumn of 1871, he advocated "the separation of the Indian from the home army, and the adoption of the Swiss rather than of the Prussian military system." As a Radical, he faced the question whether Radicals ought to interest themselves at all in army reform, and he answered:
"As a mere matter of insurance, it is worth taking some trouble to defend ourselves. There are, however, higher reasons for such interest, and among them are treaty obligations and the duty which we owe to the rest of the world of not suppressing our influence—on the whole a just and moral one."
'In these words,' Sir Charles notes, 'there lies in a nutshell all that I afterwards wrote at much greater length upon army reform in my book, The British Army.'
In this year he made a visit to the autumn manoeuvres, then held for the first time, and 'looked upon by the army reformers as the dawn of a new day.' Sir Charles, however, with his knowledge of war, 'thought them singularly bad.' He was to repeat that experience several times, attending manoeuvres both in France and England. He held that annual manoeuvres were "essential to efficiency," and with other army reformers brought later much pressure to bear on the Government to secure this end.
As early as February, 1871, Mr. Trevelyan (then out of office) had written to propose "a little meeting of Radical army reformers, say ten or twelve or fifteen, to arrange parts for practical work in the House, and to found a nucleus for an Army Reform Association in case of dire need (to stump the country)." The stumping of the country Mr. Trevelyan did himself, and his speeches led to the abolition in this year of the purchase system. What he wanted of Sir Charles is indicated by another sentence: "There never was a time when your turn for organization would be of more immediate value." But even more immediate use was made of Sir Charles's willingness to confront unpopularity. The "practical" part assigned to him in House of Commons' work was to undertake a motion (on going into Committee of Supply) for the suppression of two regiments of Household Cavalry and the substitution of two regiments of cavalry of the line. The change was justified by Sir Charles not only on the score of economy, but upon the ground that heavy cavalry had proved unserviceable in the Franco- Prussian War. Whatever his arguments, this attack on the maintenance of privileged troops brought social displeasure on the assailant.
In 1870 the Queen had consented to abandon the tradition which made the appointment of the Commander-in-Chief a matter within the Sovereign's personal control; and the subordination of the military head of the forces to the Secretary for War was formally recognized. But the Duke of Cambridge continued to be Commander-in-Chief, and army reformers were extremely desirous to remove him. On this subject the Press was reticent no less than public speakers, and finally it was left for Sir Charles to advocate in the speech at Kensington already referred to the substitution of some other officer "more amenable to parliamentary control."
In 1870 the Civil Service had been (with the exception of one preserve, the Foreign Office) thrown open to competitive examination. In 1871 the institution of purchase in the army perished after a fierce conflict.
In the autumn of 1871 Sir Charles arranged to deliver at great centres throughout the country a series of speeches advocating a redistribution of seats which should make representation more real because more equitable. The first of the series, delivered in Manchester, merely propounded the view that a minority in Parliament very often represented a large majority of voters, because one member might have 13,000 electors and another only 130. But when he came to speak at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, on November 6th, he gave this general principle definite application to a particular instance, in which very small minorities had nevertheless represented very large bodies of the electorate, and, as Sir Charles held, very widespread opinions.
This instance was the vote for an allowance of L15,000 a year to Prince Arthur, proposed on his coming of age. Radical opinion had been already stirred in the earlier part of the Session by the Queen's request for a dowry of L30,000 for the Princess Louise on her marriage with the Marquis of Lorne; and Mr. Peter Taylor, in opposing the dowry, had spoken of the probability that such a grant would strengthen the tendency towards republican views among the artisan class. [Footnote: Taylor's opposition had led to a division, in which Fawcett had a lobby to himself, Dilke, with Taylor, being tellers for the "Noes." But on the question of the allowance to Prince Arthur fifty-three voted for a reduction of the allowance, and eleven against any grant at all.]
'I visited Newcastle, and there spoke chiefly upon the Dowry question, which had led to a division in the House of Commons, in which the minority had consisted of but three persons, with two tellers.... But in the course of the recess I had gone into the question of the Civil List expenditure upon the Court, and at Newcastle I made references to this subject which were accurate, though possibly unwise.'
The Queen's long retirement (now of ten years' duration) from all ceremonial functions had occasioned considerable discontent. A pamphlet, under the title What does She do with it? written, as Sir Charles believed, by one who had been a member of the Government, had received wide publicity. Sir Charles alluded to this, and, taking up the pamphleteer's argument, drew a picture of royal power as increasing, of quaint survivals of ancient offices kept up at high cost, and of the army's efficiency impaired by the appointment of Royal personages to command. He concluded by a peroration on the model State, inspired, one fancies, not only by his early training, but by Vacation reading of that long series of Utopias and "Commonwealths ideal and actual," the recollection of which fascinated him to the end: [Footnote: Chapter V., p. 55.]
"It is said that some day a commonwealth will be our government. Now, history and experience show that you cannot have a republic unless you possess at the same time the republican virtues. But you answer: Have we not public spirit? Have we not the practice of self-government? Are not we gaining general education? Well, if you can show me a fair chance that a republic here will be free from the political corruption that hangs about the monarchy, I say, for my part—and I believe that the middle classes in general will say—let it come."
This was the abstract avowal of a theoretical preference, which Sir Charles expressed with greater clearness and decision than others who professed it—than Fawcett, who preached Republicanism at Cambridge, or than Chamberlain; whose attitude is sufficiently indicated by the letter which he wrote to Dilke on seeing the very violent leader with which the Times greeted the Newcastle speech:
"I am glad to see that you have raised the Philistine indignation of the Times by your speech at Newcastle, which, as well as that at Manchester, I have read with interest and agreement."
'Going on beyond my utterances, or indeed my belief, Chamberlain added:
'"The Republic must come, and at the rate at which we are moving it will come in our generation. The greater is the necessity for discussing its conditions beforehand, and for a clear recognition of what we may lose as well as what we shall gain."'
The essence of Republicanism to Sir Charles was equality of opportunity for all citizens in a well-ordered State.
His theoretical avowal of Republicanism was seized upon by all who were offended by his lack of deference in dealing with a matter so nearly connected with Royalty. Charges of treason were made against the member of Parliament who, in defiance of his oath of allegiance, proposed to overthrow the monarchy.
This general outcry did not begin till the Times leader had circulated for a few days. But within a week the whole Press had broken out in fury. The London correspondent of the New York Tribune reported that "Sir Charles Dilke's speech competes with the Tichborne trial" as a subject of public comment. There was a second article in the Times The Spectator imputed to Dilke a want both of sense and decency, and declared that he "talked sheer vulgar nonsense and discourteous rubbish in order to mislead his audience." But as the correspondent of the New York Tribune said: "No one proved or attempted to prove that Sir Charles Dilke had misstated facts."
'On one point, and on one point only, had I any reason to think that I was wrong—namely, upon the Queen's Income Tax.' No documents existed, and information was promised to Sir Charles by Mr. W. E. Baxter, Secretary to the Treasury, 'but when he applied for it he was told that it could not be given unless Mr. Gladstone agreed, and on this Mr. Gladstone wrote one of his most mysterious letters, and I never really believed that the matter was cleared up.'
In December, when the Prince of Wales was brought to the extremity of danger by grave illness, an outburst of loyalty was aroused which shaped itself into a protest against the "republican" demonstrations. But in the hearts of thousands of working men who had expected some great change from the Reform Act of 1868 and found no real alteration, there was a deep resentment against the power and the attitude of the upper classes; and against this power Sir Charles had struck a blow. The Press campaign against him had the result which always follows when popular clamour seeks to brand a strong man for an act of moral courage—it made him notable. He was at a crisis in his political career, and the risks were great. Opposition to him in Chelsea was threatened from orthodox Liberalism. A letter from Labouchere warned him of this, and of the support which such opposition would assuredly receive from Government organizers. Dilke went straight ahead. It happened that the projected campaign on Representation had pledged him to a series of speeches, and he did not therefore need to seek occasions.
His next appearance on a public platform after the Newcastle meeting was fixed for November 20th at Bristol, and opposition was promptly threatened, somewhat to the surprise of Professor F. W. Newman, who had been asked to take the chair.
"I do not read the papers daily" (the Professor wrote), "and was quite unaware that any animosity against Sir Charles Dilke existed among the Bristol Liberals. But I think it is high time that the Liberal party everywhere be pulled out of the grooves of routine, and that new men take the lead of it. I hope there will not be a mere noisy disturbance, but I will try to do my duty in any case."
There was a noisy disturbance, but at Leeds on November 23rd the chairman of the meeting was Alderman Carter, a Radical member of Parliament, of considerable local influence, and an immense hall was packed by 5,000 supporters who secured the speaker from any interruption. Under these conditions, Sir Charles delivered a speech much better, in his own opinion, than the Newcastle discourse. As he put it many years later, the former was on the cost of the Crown, the second a defence of the right of free speech in the discussion of the cost of the Crown. [Footnote: Private letter to the Editor of Reynolds's Newspaper, June 23rd, 1894.]
A main part of his defence was devoted to one point on which throughout all this controversy he showed himself sensitive. "I care nothing," he said at Leeds, "for the ridiculous cry of 'treason,' but I do care a great deal for a charge of having used discourteous words towards the Queen;" and he went on to explain by citation of his speech that 'the malversation, if there was one,' had been charged, not against the Queen, but against the neglect of her Ministers. He added now that the "breach of the spirit of the Civil List Act," in allowing the savings to accumulate, was one for which neither the present Government nor the Opposition were responsible so much as their predecessors; and he made it doubly clear that, although he desired to see savings made for the public, his true objection to the office of Hereditary Grand Falconer and other sinecures was 'not on account of the money that they cost, but on account of the miserable political and moral tone which was set by their retention.' Asserting that the Duke of Edinburgh had been appointed to an independent naval command without the training which other officers would have undergone, he reverted to the ideal of the model State:
"To say these things is not to condemn the monarchy, because they are no necessary part of the monarchy, although the opposite idea—that of promotion by merit alone and of the non-recognition of any claims founded upon birth—is commonly accepted as republican. I care not whether you call it republican or whether you do not, but I say that it is the only principle upon which, if we are to keep our place among the nations, we can for the future act."
'Not only was the Leeds meeting a success, but so also was one at Middlesboro' a few days later than that at Leeds. But on November 30th, when I attempted to address a meeting at Bolton under the auspices of the local leaders of the Liberal party, such as Mr. Cross [Footnote: Eventually the chairman named withdrew his support in view of the agitation; and the Liberal Association (on the casting vote of their Chairman, Mr. J. K. Cross) decided to refuse sanction to the meeting.] (afterwards Under Secretary of State for India), Mr. Mellor, and Mr. Haslam, there was a fearful riot, at which a man was killed and a great number of persons injured by iron nuts and bars being thrown in through the windows by the Tory roughs outside the hall.' [Footnote: Eight of the party who broke up the meeting were put on their trial, and Serjeant Ballantine, who defended, made such play with "Citizen" Dilke's unpopular opinions that "most of the jury felt that, as loyal men, they were bound to acquit the prisoners." Mr. George Harwood, the late member for Bolton, related in a letter of 1911 what he saw as "an indifferent young fellow" who had "strolled down to look on." "The crowd" he writes, "was very thick and very fierce, having declared that Sir Charles should not get away alive; but when the excitement was hottest, Sir Charles came out of the main door and stood quietly in sight of all, then struck a match and lit his cigar, and walked unguarded and unaccompanied through the thickest part of the crowd. His cool courage quite took everyone's breath away, so not a sound was uttered."]
One passage in the speech is notable in view of later events: "I think working men should not make themselves too much the slaves of any political party, but should take care of the means of seeking representation in Parliament, and when they have got the means in their hands, they will then be able to use them so as to be favourable to their interests as a whole."
'My speech at Newcastle had been not only as true as Gospel, but a speech which, as Americans would say, "wanted making." But I was nearly subjected to physical martyrdom for it at Bolton, and was actually and really subjected to moral martyrdom for a time. The thing was not, however, wholly painful. It had its ludicrous side. The then Lord Chelsea, for example, afterwards my friend Lord Cadogan, regretted, in a discourse at Bath with regard to my speech, "that the days of duelling were over."'
The Memoir goes on to note that Lord Chelsea and Sir Alfred Slade, the Receiver-General of Inland Revenue—
'who had both accused me of inventing "lies," afterwards asked to be introduced to me and were very civil, and I, for political and local reasons, had to forget their speeches and to be civil to them.
'On December 6th I spoke at Birmingham Town Hall, and Chamberlain, who was Mayor, and who was my host, had the whole borough police force present or in reserve, and had every interrupter (and there were several hundred) carried out singly by two policemen, with a Conservative Chief of Police to direct them, after which I delivered an extremely humdrum speech to a very dull assembly. [Footnote: He spoke on the House of Lords.] Chamberlain was more lively, and made a speech in ridicule of Second Chambers, in which I still (1895) agree. On the other hand, in Chelsea we carried the war into the enemy's camp. The "loyal inhabitants" tried to hold a meeting at the Vestry Hall to censure me, on which occasion no article or piece of furniture larger than a match was left in existence in the room, and the meeting concluded with a vote of confidence in me, carried in the dark after the gas had been put out. The second attempt was made outside the borough, at the Duke of Wellington's Riding School at Knightsbridge, but the result was the same. Although the meeting was a ticket meeting, the hall was stormed, and the loyal address to the Queen captured and carried off in triumph by my friends. It is still (May, 1905) at the Eleusis Club—the centre for the Radical working men in Chelsea.'
Hostility concentrated on Sir Charles because the courage and cogency with which he expounded views shared by many men of standing, and men far senior to himself at this time, marked him out for the public as the leader:
'Fawcett had taken a far more active republican line, as had Chamberlain, and both of them had joined republican clubs in towns, while Fawcett had himself founded one in the University of Cambridge, which had but a short existence. I had refused to join these clubs, and to work in any way in connection with republican propaganda, but it was difficult to get people to understand my position, and the perfect legality of holding republican opinions was even denied by many, while the wisdom of expressing them was denied by almost all. Some thought that I was of opinion that an immense amount of revolutionary feeling existed in the country, and that I wished to lead a storm to my own profit. Some thought that I was sorry I had said what I did.
'It never seemed to occur to anyone that there were many persons who had been trained up in families republican in sentiment, and that it was possible that I should have never been anything but a republican without the trace of a "reason," and thought it honest to say so when I was charged with Republicanism as with some fearful crime. But to think and even to say that monarchy in Western Europe is a somewhat cumbersome fiction is not to declare oneself ready to fight against it on a barricade. It is only to protest against the silence of many being read into agreement with the fulsome nonsense that the majority talk about the personal loyalty of the country to the reigning House. My Republicanism was, however, with me a matter of education. My grandfather was a conservative republican in old age, a radical republican in youth, but a republican through life, and, as I have said before, my young ideas were my grandfather's ideas. It is a mistake to think that republican opinions in England died with Algernon Sidney, that Tom Paine was about the only English sympathizer with the French Revolution, and Shelley, Landor, and Swinburne only three mad poets. It is forgotten now that Burns subscribed to the funds of the French Republic, that Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Moore all wrote republican odes to it, and that at the beginning of the century Southey and Brougham were republican, not to speak of Bentham and Godwin and other writers on whose books I had been brought up.'
Sir Charles was not only denounced, but boycotted. [Footnote: Shirley Brooks of Punch wrote in his diary, under date December 5th, 1871: "Macmillan asked me to dine, but as Sir C. Dilke, who has been spouting Republicanism, was to be one, I would not go, hating to dine with a man and abuse him in print, as I must do." (Life, Letters, and Diaries of Shirley Brooks, by G. S. Layard).] He seems for the moment to have had only two close friends available in London, Mr. Trevelyan and Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice. The former—
'who had been deeply engaged in the anti-dowry agitation, although keeping himself in the background ... used to come every Sunday to go for walks with me; generally the two of us only, though on one of these occasions he brought Wilfrid Lawson, the wit of the public platforms, but a dismal man enough in private, [Footnote: Sir Charles's friendship with the great Temperance Reformer was cemented five years later by his adhesion to the Temperance ranks.
'February 4th, 1877, in Paris on my road I received a letter from Wilfrid Lawson, who had learnt that I had turned teetotaller. I was as a fact teetotaller for some eleven years, from 1874-1885. Lawson's letter was in verse with a chorus:
"Coffee and tea, Coffee and tea, Those are the liquors for Lawson and me."
There was a good deal of chaff of the Bishop of Peterborough in the letter, as this Bishop, whose name unfortunately rhymed to "tea," had been speaking against Lawson's views in the House of Lords:
"Some day, perhaps, we both bishops may be, And both much more sober than Doctor Magee, Who finds that he cannot be sober and free; But it's only last week that I heard from you, Dilke, That you'd rashly and recklessly taken to milk. Abandon the habit, I beg and I pray, Only think what the scoffers and mockers will say. They'll say, with a cynical grin and a laugh, 'He has taken to milk—just the thing for a calf.' Oh, abandon that milk—stick to coffee and tea, For those are the liquors for you and for me.
"Coffee and tea, Coffee and tea, Finest of Mocha and best of Bohea; "Coffee and tea, Coffee and tea, Those are the liquors for Dilke and for me."'] while George Trevelyan was in private most agreeable.'
This social isolation, if it severed Sir Charles from some acquaintances, restored to him a friend, Miss Katherine Sheil, who was living in Sloane Street with Miss Louisa Courtenay, a near neighbour and old friend of Charles Dilke. Both Miss Sheil's parents were dead. Her father, who died when she was a baby, had been a Captain in the 89th Foot; her mother came of an old Devonshire family, the Wises. Although she and Sir Charles had been close friends for about three years, their friendship had broken down.
For a long time we avoided one another, and I was only forgiven when the attacks on me in November, 1871, and the Bolton riot led to an expression of sympathy on her part. Miss Courtenay, who knew us both extremely well, ... said: "A very suitable marriage. You are neither of you in love with one another, but you will get on admirably together." Miss Courtenay was, perhaps, at this time not far wrong. I had a profound respect for Miss Sheil's talent and a high admiration of her charm and beauty, and I think she had more liking than love for me. We both of us had a horror of the ordinary forms of wedding ceremonies, and we told only five persons in all-my great-uncle, who came up to town for the wedding, and was present at it; my brother, who was in Russia; my grandmother, who kept house for me, and who was present at it; George Trevelyan, [Footnote: 'On January 14th I announced to him my intended marriage with Miss Sheil, which was a profound secret... but our walks did not come to an end with my wedding a fortnight later.' Sir Charles's marriage to Miss Sheil took place January 30th, 1872.] and Kitty's maid.'
'We did not go far away till Easter. Castelar [Footnote: 'Easter, 1870, I spent in Spain. I made the acquaintance of Castelar, then Professor of Political Economy in the University of Madrid, and probably the first orator in the world—a little man, though not so small as Thiers, or my other orator friend, Louis Blanc.'] sent over a friend to ask me to go to stay with him in Spain, but when I had been in Paris at the end of '71, I had found myself watched by the French police, doubtless under the impression that I was helping the English Comtists under Harrison in supplying English passports to the Communards in hiding to help them to leave France; and I objected to return to the Continent till this spy system was at an end.' [Footnote: "Kinglake, dining with Thiers at the close of the Franco- German War—the sole Englishman at a dinner to Deputies of the Extreme Left—tells how 'among the servants there was a sort of reasoning process as to my identity, ending in the conclusion, "il doit etre Sir Dilke."' Soon the inference was treated as a fact, and in due sequence came newspaper paragraphs declaring that the British Ambassador had gravely remonstrated with the President for inviting Sir Charles Dilke to his table. Then followed articles defending the course taken by the President, and so for some time the ball was kept up. The remonstrance of the Ambassador was a myth; Lord Lyons was a friend of Sir Charles, but the latter was suspect at the time, both in England and France—in England for his speeches and motion on the Civil List; in France because, with Frederic Harrison, he had helped to get some of the French Communards away from France, and the French Government was watching him with spies" (A. W. Kinglake: a Biographical and Literary Study, by the Rev. W. Tuckwell, p. 114).]
This assurance was procured for him by his friend Louis Blanc from Casimir-Perier, then Minister of the Interior, who wrote by the hand of his son, afterwards President of the Republic.
'Before I could leave London, I had to meet my constituents, which I did with complete success, and to stand the fire of my enemies by bringing forward in the House of Commons, on the earliest day that I could obtain, a motion on which I should be able to repeat the statements of my Newcastle speech, that they might be answered if any answer could be given.
'I had a rival in this project, a member who had given notice in the previous session for a Committee to inquire into the Civil List, George Dixon, known at that time in connection with the Education League.'
But as the day, March 19th, approached, Mr. Dixon wrote to Sir Charles—
'saying that his mind had been greatly exercised with regard to the motion of which he had given notice, and which had originally been suggested to him by Trevelyan, that he had come to the conclusion to leave the matter in my hands, but that he thought it one which ought to be brought before the House. "Of course," he added, "I shall go into the lobby with you if you divide the House." This, however, he did not do.'
No ordinary moral courage was needed to face the demonstration which had been carefully prepared. The House of Commons has seldom witnessed a stormier scene.
When Sir Charles stood up in a crowded House, charged with that atmosphere which the expectation of a personal incident always engenders there, Lord Bury intervened with an appeal to privilege, and, backed by tempestuous cheers, asked the Speaker to refuse the member for Chelsea a hearing on the ground that by declaration of republican principles he had violated the oath of allegiance. When this appeal had been dismissed, Sir Charles, on rising again to address the House, was, in the discreet words of Hansard, "received with much confusion." There was a "chorus of groans and Oh's and ironical cheers." But the House, after a brief demonstration, settled down to hear the speaker, who proceeded to set out the grounds on which he asked for full information concerning the Civil List under a number of tabulated heads, "his object," said the London correspondent of the New York Tribune, "clearly being to crowd as many facts as possible into a certain amount of time." It was, he says himself, 'solid and full of matter, but studiously wooden, 'unutterably dull,' and 'towards the latter part of the speech members went trooping out of the House, and conversation was general.' At last Sir Charles sat down, and men crowded in, all agog to hear Mr. Gladstone, who had sat uneasily on his bench, "longing to be at him," says one reporter; and at him he went, with tremendous artillery of argument, sarcasm, and declamation, while the Opposition cheered every point to the echo, though the Liberals sat in glum silence. Probably many of them shared the feeling which Sir Wilfrid Lawson reflects in his Reminiscences, that Mr. Gladstone was "often most unfair in debate," and on this occasion (not for the first time) "simply tried to trample upon Dilke, having the whole House at his back."
The Prime Minister ended with an appeal for the division to be taken at once, but Sir Charles's seconder, one of the most picturesque figures in the politics of that time, insisted upon claiming his part in the condemnation. Not so much Radical as Anarchist, converted from the traditional Toryism of his surroundings by the influence of J. S. Mill and Ruskin, Auberon Herbert was at this moment vehemently republican, and nothing would serve him but to rise and, in supporting this motion purely on the Civil List, to make an avowal of republican principles:
'He stood up before a howling House, which had listened quietly to me, but was determined to have no more, with remarkable pluck, equal to that with which he had faced bullets in the Danish lines; but it was partly useless and partly mischievous.'
When clamour failed to silence the speaker, members trooped out, and attempts were made to count out the House, but unsuccessfully. Thereupon Lord George Hamilton "spied strangers," and the Press having been excluded, Tories trooped back and went resolutely to work to howl Herbert down. Imitations of the crowing of cocks were said to have been given by Mr. George Bentinck, though Sir Wilfrid Lawson declared that he did not hear them, and added:
"If there was such a manifestation it was, however, for the last time in the House of Commons; therefore I mention it. The division was 276 against 2—the two consisting of Anderson, one of the Glasgow members, and myself. [Footnote: Dilke and Herbert acted as tellers.] I think my vote was quite right, for the returns asked for by Dilke were due to the country, and Mr. Gladstone did not at all benefit the monarchy by withholding them."
That was the impression which Sir Charles desired to leave on the mind of Radicals. But he had produced also the effect that he intended on the mind of the general public. The Press complained
'that my speech was voted prosy, and that my want of vivacity tended to prevent the interruptions which had been organized, and that it would have been impossible to make an oration more mild and inoffensive. This was exactly what I had wished and intended....
'My speech was left unanswered, and I afterwards had the satisfaction of arranging while in office for acting on the principles which I laid down, and that action has since been taken. My main point was the right of the House of Commons to inquire into the Civil List even during the continuance of the reign, a right important because inquiry at the beginning of a reign is held under circumstances which prevent the possibility of its being satisfactory. This has since been admitted by Mr. Gladstone himself, and my view has been acted on. Mr. Gladstone professed to answer me at the time, and to do so with much vigour, but as a fact he carefully avoided coming to close quarters. He stated indignantly that he had not been able to find who were the members of the Committee of 1837 who had complained of insufficient investigation, to whose complaints I had referred, and he said this as though none did complain, although it is notorious that Grote and his friends, especially Hawes, did so complain. He maintained that I was wrong in saying that the Civil List in the present reign was greater than in the last, although I was quoting a Chancellor of the Exchequer, and although Mr. Gladstone made his figures support his view by including the allowance to Queen Adelaide, while I properly excluded both that allowance and the allowance of Prince Albert, as these personages were supposed to spend these allowances themselves, and not to hand them over to the King or to the Queen Regnant, as the case might be. Mr. Gladstone denied the pretended statement by me that the annuities to Princes and Princesses in the present reign were unprecedented in amount, but I had never named Princes, and I had never named amount. What I had said was that the provisions made for the Royal children during the reign were unprecedented in character, and so they were, as I showed clearly in my speech, and especially the allowances to the Princesses. Mr. Gladstone, with regard to the Royal savings, declined to go into the Exchequer accounts on the ground that I had not given him enough notice. I had given him eight days' notice, and he had not asked for any further information than that which I had afforded him. He argued that the savings were not great, for L590,000 had been spent on private allowances and personal pensions, a fact which was wholly new to us and not intended by Parliament. He argued that there was little to say about sinecures, because none had been created during the present reign, a reply which gave the go-by to the fact that the old ones continue. Long afterwards, when I was Mr. Gladstone's colleague, he recanted a good deal of his doctrine of 1872, as I shall show. Indeed, in 1889 all the information was given to the House which I had asked for and been refused in 1872, and the principle was laid down by the Committee on grants to the Royal Family, which I had privately suggested in 1880.' [Footnote: See also Chapter LIX., which deals with the Committee on the Civil List (Volume II., pp. 526, 527).]
During the whole of 1872 it was not easy to find a platform on which local Liberals would be at ease in company with the member for Chelsea. Even Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice hinted that at a meeting held in Wiltshire to promote the cause of the agricultural labourer, Dilke and Auberon Herbert would be better away. But towards the close of the year, when a meeting devoted to the same cause was fixed for Exeter Hall, Joseph Arch, its chief promoter, insisted that Sir Charles should speak, and though the appointed chairman, Sir Sydney Waterlow, resigned his office, Archbishop Manning and Dr. Jackson, Bishop of London, made no scruple of attending while Dilke's speech was delivered.
'It was a dreary speech, and, given the fact that my speaking was always monotonous, and that at this time I was trying specially to make speeches which no one could call empty noise, and was therefore specially and peculiarly heavy, there was something amusing to lovers of contrast in that between the stormy heartiness of my reception at most of these meetings, and the ineffably dry orations which I delivered to them—between cheers of joy when I rose and cheers of relief when I sat down.'
But courage and resource and knowledge had got their chance. His opponents had gone about to make a marked man of Sir Charles Dilke; within six months they had established his position beyond challenge as a man of mark.
PERIOD OF FIRST MARRIAGE
Having successfully faced his opponents in Parliament, and having also got assurances from the authorities in France that he would not be shadowed, Sir Charles was able to spend the Easter recess with Lady Dilke in Paris:
'At Easter we went to Paris and went about a good deal, seeing much of Gambetta, of Milner Gibson (who had completely left the world of English politics, and lived at Paris except when he was cruising in his yacht), Michel Chevalier, and the Franquevilles. We attended sittings of the Assembly at Versailles, drove over the battlefields, dined with the Louis Blancs to meet Louis's brother, Charles Blanc, the critic and great master of style, ... breakfasted with Evarts the American lawyer, to meet Caleb Gushing, his colleague on the American case on the Alabama claims; met at the Franquevilles' Henri de Pene and Robert Mitchell, the Conservative journalists; and saw "Mignon," Katie's favourite opera, and "Rabagas." This last famous piece, which was being played at the Vaudeville, where it was wonderfully acted, had been written during the premiership of Emile Ollivier, but being brought out when Ollivier was half forgotten, and when the name of Gambetta was in all men's mouths, was supposed by many to have been intended as a satire of the tribune, though it is far more applicable in every point to Ollivier's career.'
Many years later Sir Charles was to form a friendship of lifelong duration with Louis Napoleon's Minister Ollivier. But from this visit to Paris dates the beginning of an intimacy between the young English member of Parliament and the leader of French democracy.
He had already met Gambetta once in the end of 1871, and to renew this acquaintance was a special purpose in going to Paris. He had conceived the plan of writing a history of the nineteenth century. On the origin of the Franco-German War Gambetta was a high authority, and it was to discuss these questions that during this visit he for the first time came to see Sir Charles, who records: 'Had Gambetta to breakfast with us, when he stayed the whole day talking with me.'
In five minutes the two men must have been in touch. Those who knew Sir Charles knew how his intense geniality of nature, masked sometimes for outsiders by a slight austerity, his air boutonne—as it was described by those who did not pass the barrier—showed immediately with those to whom he was drawn. That rire enfantin, described by Challemel-Lacour, would burst out at the first quick turn of talk, and he would give his whole self, with an almost boyish delight, to the encounter with a nature whose superabundant vitality and delight in life, as in Gambetta's case, equalled his own.
For these two the common points of interest were strongly marked. Not only was there the kindred geniality of disposition, and the kindred interest in the history and fortune of France: there was in each an overwhelming love of country; strong, indeed, in Gambetta, and in Dilke so strong that it can best be described in the words of a French friend who, watching him, said to Sir Charles's second wife: "That man is a great patriot, for with his whole self he serves his country, never staying to consider how she has served him."
In the spring of 1872 both men were young: Dilke not yet twenty-nine, Gambetta just thirty-four. But the past of one was crowded with experience, and the other had already made history.
Sir Charles here inserts—
'a word of the personality of Gambetta, who for a long time was my most intimate friend, and for whose memory I have still the deepest regard.
'It was on All Saints' Day of 1868 that a few republicans had paid a fete-of-the-dead visit to the tomb of a Deputy killed on the side of the Constitution at the time of the coup d'etat, and had found it in a miserable state. Delescluze (who was two and a half years later to meet Baudin's fate, being killed, like him, in a black coat, unarmed, on a Paris barricade) communicated with Challemel-Lacour, and a subscription for a fitting tomb was started, which soon became an imposing manifestation of anti-Bonapartist opinion. [Footnote: The need for a fitting tomb is shown by the circumstance of Baudin's death and burial. He had gone early in the morning of December 3rd, 1851, to help in the construction of a barricade at the point where the Rue Ste. Marguerite and the Rue de Cotte meet. Two companies of the line arrived from the Bastille and formed an attacking party, and were joined by some men in blouses, who cried, on seeing the deputies: "A bas les vingt-cinq francs!" Baudin, unarmed, standing on the top of the barricade, replied: "Vous allez voir comment on meurt pour vingt- cinq francs." An attempt to address the soldiers by the Constitutionalists failed, and a shot from the barricade was replied to by a general volley, and Baudin fell, pierced by three shots. His body was taken to the Hopital Ste. Marguerite, and when claimed by his brothers was given up only on condition that it should not be shown to the people, but immediately and quietly buried. He was buried on December 5th secretly in the cemetery of Montmartre (See Dictionnaire des Parlementaires, by Robert and Cougny).]
'The Government having prosecuted the papers which published the subscription lists, Challemel-Lacour caused the selection of Gambetta as counsel. He was a young barrister speaking with a strong Southern accent, which, however, disappeared when he spoke in public, vulgar in language and appearance, one-eyed, of Genoese (possibly Jewish) race, full of power. Gambetta made a magnificent speech, which brought him at one bound into the front rank among the republican leaders. His description of December 2nd was such as had never been excelled even by Cicero or by Berryer: "At that time there grouped themselves around a pretender a number of men without talent, without honour, sunk in debt and in crime, such as in all ages have been the accomplices of arbitrary violence, men of whom one could repeat what Sallust had said of the foul mob that surrounded Catiline, what Caesar said himself of those who conspired along with him: 'Inevitable dregs of organized society.'" The word Pretender, without adjectives, may seem somewhat weak as applied to the Prince President, the head of the band, but those who have heard Gambetta alone know the contempt which he could throw into his voice in the pronunciation of such a word. Finest of all the passages that remain to us of Gambetta's eloquence was one near the close of this memorable speech, which began: "During seventeen years you who are the masters of France have never dared to keep December 2nd as the national anniversary. That anniversary we take as that on which to commemorate the virtues of our dead who died that day—" Here the Advocate Imperial tried to interrupt him so as to spoil his peroration, and the written version now printed in his speeches differs altogether in language from that which was taken down by the shorthand writers at the time, although the idea is exactly the same. The two counsel spoke together for some minutes, each trying to shout down the other, until Gambetta's tremendous roar had crushed his adversary, whereupon, in the middle of his peroration, with a really Provencal forgetfulness of his art and subject, Gambetta interposed— "He tried to close my mouth, but I have drowned him"—and then went on.'
This picture is made more vivid by the pencillings on Sir Charles's copy of Daudet's Numa Roumestan, where the word "Gambetta" is scribbled again and again opposite passages which describe Numa's wonderful ringing voice, his quick supple nature, all things to all men, catching as if by magic the very tone and gestures of those with whom he spoke, prodigal as the sun in greetings and in promises, poured out in a torrent of words, which seemed "not to proceed from ideas, but to waken them in his mind by the mechanical stimulus of their sound, and by certain intonations even brought tears into his eyes."
'My friendship with Gambetta perhaps meant to me something more than the friendship of the man. Round him gathered all that was best and most hopeful in the state of the young republic. He, more than any other individual, had both destroyed the Empire and made new France, and to some extent the measure of my liking for the man was my hatred of those that he had replaced. Louis Napoleon ... had dynastic ends in view.... The Napoleonic legend did not survive Sedan, and that it was unable to be revived in the distress which followed the Commune was largely owing to the policy and courage of Gambetta.
'There is some permanent importance in the discussions as to the origin of the war of 1870 which I had with Gambetta at this time; for it so happens that I have been able at various periods to discuss with the most absolute freedom the history of this period with the five men who knew most of it—Bismarck, Emile Ollivier, Gambetta, Nigra, and Casa Laigleisia (at that time Rancez), the Spanish diplomatist, afterwards three times Spanish Minister in London.
'The question which I often discussed with Gambetta, with Ollivier, with Nigra, with Rancez, until, in September, 1889, Bismarck's frank admissions settled the matter in my mind for good, has been one of the most disputed points in modern history. My opinion that Bismarck had prepared the war, and had brought about the Hohenzollern candidature in order to provoke it, was only strengthened by an article entitled "Who is responsible for the War?" by "Scrutator"—probably from the pen of Congreve, the Comtist, who I know was in correspondence with the Duc de Gramont. At Easter, 1872, I discussed the matter fully with Gambetta, with Rancez, with Klaszco (author of The Two Chancellors, and secret agent of the Austrian Government), and with Hansen, a Dane, and spy of the French Government. Rancez long represented Spain at Berlin, and it was he who, under Prim's orders, prepared the Hohenzollern candidature. He was then sent to Vienna, as it was wise for him to be out of the way when war, brought about by his agency, was impending; but he was fetched suddenly to Berlin from Vienna in 1869, and this was when the thing was settled. The facts are all known now." [Footnote: Bismarck, Gedanken und Erinnerungen, ii., chap, xxii., p. 90 (German edition); Benedetti, Ma Mission en Prusse, chap, vi., pp. 409, 410.] The King of Prussia, on July 13th (1870), refused to give assurances for the future, in simple and dignified language which meant peace. His telegram to Berlin was one of 200 words. Bismarck told me, when I was staying with him in September, 1889, that he was with Moltke and von Roon when it was received by them at Berlin, and that he deliberately altered the telegram by cutting it down "from a telegram of 200 words which meant peace into a telegram of 20 words which meant war;" and in this form it was placarded throughout North Germany in every village.
'I discussed repeatedly with Gambetta the incidents of the Cabinet at St. Cloud on the 14th (July, 1870). Gambetta proved to me that on the 14th the mobilization order was given by the Minister of War, and that on the same day the order was itself ordered by the Cabinet to be countermanded. The Duc de Gramont has said, with singular confusion, that it was decided on the 15th that the orders of the Minister of War should not be countermanded, and that the reserves should be called out. Ollivier assured me that after a six hours' sitting of the Cabinet he had finally left St. Cloud long before that hour at which Delord states in his history that the Cabinet again met in the presence of the Empress. There was no such sitting of the Cabinet, but there may have been a meeting of the Empress, the Duc de Gramont, and the Minister of War, and they may have dared to take it upon themselves to reverse the decision at which the Cabinet had arrived.
'The Duc de Gramont and the Minister of War had been in the minority at the Cabinet on the 14th when the Cabinet withdrew the order for the mobilization of the reserves, and this minority took it upon itself in the night to maintain the order for the calling out of the reserves. On the other hand, if there was ground for the impeachment of the Duc de Gramont, I am afraid that there was also ground for that of Ollivier in his own admissions. The declaration made to the Chambers on July 15th states that the reserves were called out on the 14th, and Ollivier allowed the decision of his Cabinet, which was his own, to be reversed in his own name, apparently with his approval. [Footnote: See note on p. 486, and the authorities cited there.]
'Bismarck's action in forcing on a war might be justified by his probable acquaintance with the engagement of Austria to France that she would join her in attacking Prussia in the early spring of 1871; but it is a curious fact that he has never, either to me or to anybody else, made use of this justification.
'Upon all these subjects the papers found in the palaces and published by the Government of National Defence had an essential bearing, and these I discussed, while they were fresh, with Gambetta and Ollivier. The same matters were again before me in the following year (1873), when I had the opportunity of attending the Bazaine Court-Martial, presided over by the Duc d'Aumale, and of again reading the papers found in the Tuileries (including the volume afterwards suppressed) on the spot, and while the events related were fresh in men's minds, as well as of talking over all doubtful points with my two friends.
'Bazaine at the Court-Martial looked only stupid, like a fat old seal, utterly unmilitary, and, as the French would say, "become cow-like." It was difficult to see in him the man who, however great his crimes in Mexico, had at least been a man of the most daring courage and of the most overweening ambition. In the suppressed volume of the papers of the Imperial family seized at the Tuileries there is a letter from General Felix Douay to his brother in which he describes Bazaine's attempt to become the Bernadotte of Mexico, and shows how, in order to obtain the Mexican throne, he kept up treasonable relations with the chiefs of the republican bands which it was his duty to combat. It is curious to find the French second-in-command writing to his brother, also a General, a letter which, somehow or other, came into the possession of the Emperor himself, in which he says: "It is terrible to see a great dignity prostrated in such fashion.... We have to go back to Cardinal Dubois to find such an accomplished scoundrel having made use of a situation of the highest confidence to sell his country and his master.... He will not long escape the infamy to which he is consigned by the wishes of all honest men in the army, who are daily more and more shocked by the scandal of his personal fortune." Colonel Boyer was chief of the staff to Bazaine in Mexico, and is mentioned in the correspondence between the two Generals Douay as being mixed up in these discreditable transactions; and he was afterwards, as General Boyer, concerned, it may be remembered, in the Regnier affair at Metz, when General Bourbaki was sent out under a pass from the Prussians on a fool's errand to the Empress Eugenie, there being some treasonable plot behind. This is now (1908) confirmed by the letter of the King of Prussia to the Empress Eugenie in the Bernstorff Memoirs.'
From 1872 onwards Sir Charles, in his many passages through Paris, invariably met Gambetta, 'and spent as much time with him as possible.' He was in this way kept fully informed on French politics by the most powerful politician in France. As Gambetta's power grew, Dilke's influence grew also, until there came a time when the friendship between the two was of international interest.
On returning to London after the Easter recess of 1872, Sir Charles resumed his political duties in and out of Parliament. The Radical Club, of which he remained Secretary till he took office in 1880, exercised some little influence in the House of Commons, and was of some value in bringing men together for the exchange of ideas, but began to present difficulties in its working, and soon 'dropped very much into the hands of Fawcett. Fitzmaurice, and myself.'
Apart from weekly attendance at its meetings, Sir Charles did not go out much. 'We were so wrapped up in ourselves,' he says, 'that I have no doubt we were spoken of as selfish.' The marriage had resulted in a tie much closer than the simple union of two people who would "get on very well together." Lady Dilke was a creature of glowing life. Those who remember her say that when she entered a room the whole atmosphere seemed to change: she was so brilliant, so handsome, so charged with vitality, so eager always in everything.
From this period there were dinners at 76, Sloane Street, twice a week, and among those who gathered about the Dilkes 'were Harcourt; Kinglake, the historian; Stopford Brooke (who had not then left the Church of England), Brookfield, the Queen's chaplain, commonly known as the "naughty parson," and husband of Thackeray's Amelia, Fitzmaurice; Charles Villiers; Mrs. Procter (widow of Barry Cornwall); Miss Tizy Smith, daughter of Horace Smith, of Rejected Addresses; James (afterwards Sir Henry James).' Browning also 'was constantly at the house,' and read there his "Red Cotton Nightcap Country"—'at his own request.' Lord Houghton began in these days an intimacy which lasted till his death. Of Americans, there were Leland ("Hans Breitmann") and Mark Twain, and with these are named a number of foreign guests: Emile de Laveleye, the economist; Ricciotti Garibaldi; Moret, the Spanish Minister.
'We used to judge the position of affairs in Spain by whether Moret wore or did not wear the Golden Fleece when he came to dinner. When Castelar was dictator and the Republic proceeding upon conservative lines, the sheep hung prominently at his side. When the Republic was federalist and democratic, as was the case from time to time, the sheep was left at home in a box.'
Others in the list of guests were Taglioni, 'in her youth the famous dancer, and in her old age Comtesse Gilbert de Voisins, the stupidest and most respectable of old dames,' and Ristori, the tragedian, who stayed at Sloane Street 'with her husband, the Marquis Capranica del Grillo, and their lovely daughter Bianca.'
A novel feature at some of Lady Dilke's evenings was the production of French comedies by M. Brasseur, the celebrated comedian, and father of the well-known actor of the present day. At all times in Sir Charles Dilke's life his house was a great meeting-place for those who loved and knew France and the French tongue.
Many painters were among the Chelsea constituents, and in 1868 Rossetti, having been pressed to vote, replied:
"I think if Shakespeare and Michael Angelo were going to the poll, and if the one were not opposing the other, and if there were no danger of being expected to take an active part in the chairing of either, I might prove for once to have enough political electricity to brush a vote out of me, like a spark out of a cat's back. But I fear no other kind of earthly hero could do it."
Another constituent was Carlyle, who in 1871 came to Dilke with a memorial in favour of a Civil List pension for Miss Geraldine Jewsbury. Out of him also no vote had been "brushed": he had exercised the franchise only once in his life. Passing through his native village, he had seen a notice that persons who would pay half a crown could be registered, and he had paid his fee and had been registered. He had thought at the time, so he told Sir Charles, that "heaven and hell hung on that vote," but he "had found out afterwards that they did not."
It was in the course of 1872 that Sir Charles carried out one of his grandfather's instructions by distributing old Mr. Dilke's books—
'in those quarters where I thought they would be useful in the cause of historic research, or where they would be best preserved. The British Museum had the first choice, and took those of the books relating to the Commonwealth, to the Stuarts, to Pope, and to Junius, which they had not already on their shelves. [Footnote: 'The Stuart papers consisted of the Caryll papers and the Seaforth Mackenzie papers, which last were first used by the Marchesa Campana da Cavelli in the preparation of a great work on the Stuart documents, in which they were fully quoted.'] I then offered the remainder of the Junius collection to Chichester Fortescue, at that time President of the Board of Trade (afterwards Lord Carlingford), husband of the famous Lady Waldegrave, and tenant in consequence of Strawberry Hill, where he was reforming Horace Walpole's library.'
It was a house at which Sir Charles became very intimate but not till some years later. About this time Lady Strachie remembers the interest with which, as a young girl at her aunt's table, she glanced down the row of guests to catch the profile of 'Citizen Dilke,' who, with his wife, was dining there for the first time.
Lord Carlingford believed that Francis wrote Junius, a view which old Mr. Dilke opposed.
'But Abraham Hayward, who was constantly with him, held anti- Franciscan opinions, and he would, I knew, have the full run of the books, which I was certain in Fortescue's hands would be carefully preserved. My arrangements were not concluded until the end of the following year, 1873, when I presented the last of the Pope books and all my grandfather's Pope manuscripts to John Murray, the publisher, in consequence of his great interest in the new edition.' [Footnote: Elwin and Courthope's edition of Pope's works.]
In the same year Sir Charles Dilke made another arrangement which testified to the strength of his brotherly affection. Wentworth Dilke had left his personal property in the proportion of two-thirds to the elder son and one-third to the younger; and had also exercised a power of appointment which he held by dividing his wife's property in the same way. Charles Dilke now decided that the shares should be equalized, and secured this by handing over one-sixth of his property to Ashton, who was at this time in Russia, on a journey of exploration extending over the greater part of that Empire.
About this time also Sir Charles purchased Notes and Queries for L2,500 from its founder, Mr. Thoms, the Librarian of the House of Lords, 'one of the dearest old men that ever was worshipped by his friends,' and a devoted admirer of old Mr. Dilke. He appointed Dr. Doran to be editor, "partly as consolation for having refused him the editorship of the Athenaeum, for which he had asked as an old contributor and as the yearly acting editor in the 'editor's holiday.'" But Sir Charles's choice had fallen on Mr. Norman MacColl, 'that Scotch Solomon,' as he sometimes called this admirable critic, who conducted the paper for thirty years.
'In the autumn we went abroad again, and took a letter of introduction to George Sand, for whose talent Katie had a great admiration. We missed her at Trouville, but found her afterwards in Paris—an interesting person, hideously ugly, but more pleasant than her English rival novelist, the other pseudonymous George. They had few points in common except that both wrote well and were full of talent of a different kind and were equally monstrous, looking like two old horses.'
Of George Eliot's "talent" he wrote to Hepworth Dixon in 1866:
"The only fact of which I am at this present very certain ... is that Miss Evans is not far from being the best indirect describer of character and the wittiest observer of human nature that has lived in England since Shakespeare, and I think that there are touches in Amos Barton, Scenes from Clerical Life, and in the first few chapters of The Mill on the Floss quite worthy of Shakespeare himself."
Also there is reference to a letter quoted in George Eliot's Life which tells that the year 1873 "began sweetly" for her, because "a beautiful bouquet with a pretty legend was left at my door by a person who went away after ringing." 'It was I,' says Sir Charles, 'who left that bouquet and I who wrote that legend. It was Katie who prepared the bouquet and asked me to take it.'
After the tempestuous scene of March 19th, Sir Charles had remained on the whole a silent member of Parliament.
'I am going to keep quiet till the general election' (he says in a letter of May 1st, 1873) 'as the best means of retaining my present seat. If I should be turned out, look out for squalls, as I should then stand on an extreme platform for every vacancy in the North.'
The main objects of the Radical group were, first, extension and redistribution of the voting power, and, secondly, a universal system of compulsory education, controlled by elective school boards. In October of this year (1872) Sir Charles and Lady Dilke went down as Mr. Chamberlain's guests to Birmingham, where Sir Charles spoke on free schools (basing himself, as usual, on his observation of other countries) with Mr. Chamberlain in the chair. In November there was a return visit, and Mr. Chamberlain spoke under Dilke's chairmanship at St. James's Hall on electoral reform. 'Chamberlain's was the first important speech that he had delivered to a London public meeting,' and probably these reciprocal visits and chairmanships gave the first general intimation of an alliance which for a dozen years was destined to influence Liberal policy.