'In a note in my diary upon the question of the leadership I say: "Harcourt's good points and bad points are both on a large scale. Childers is too much in city business and in companies to be one of the leading men in the party in the future. Hartington is too careless and too much bored to interest others. Gladstone and Bright are old; Bright 'past'; Gladstone still a great power, and, but for his Scotch deference to the aristocracy, which is a sad drawback, I could admire him with little check."
'On July 26th I received from Bradlaugh a letter about his candidature for Parliament, in which he wrote: "It appears that the so-called moderate Liberals mean to fight for one seat only at Northampton. I, therefore, can only fight for myself. This means Phipps's seat sure, and for the second either Merryweather or Ayrton, and I think the order expresses—subject to contingencies—the probability. There are one or two county constituencies and several boroughs where moderate Liberals will stand who cannot be elected without the votes of my friends. I am now consulted as to what my friends in such cases ought to do. Speaking moderately, I think I could surely prevent the return of five or six moderates, and render doubtful the return of ten or twelve more. Is it reasonable to expect me to aid actively those who do me the most possible mischief? I owe no debt of gratitude to anyone in England ... except the people who love me. May it not be as well for me this coming election to pick, say, twenty seats and make a few burnt-offerings by way of example, to show the moderates that I am strong enough to be worth reckoning with? Pardon me if I am boring you with a matter in which you have no interest."'
At the close of the Session Sir Charles addressed his constituents—
'with an overwhelming case against the Government, in which I showed the folly of the pretences which had been put forward as to the Berlin settlement in Bulgaria and in Asia Minor, of the Anglo-Turkish Convention, of the occupation of Cyprus, and of the South African policy; and pointed out the fact that in the year we were spending fifty millions sterling upon our army and navy, and that if the navy was in excellent condition, no one would venture to make the same assertion with regard to our land forces.'
He crossed to France, saw Gambetta in Paris, and also Nubar Pasha, and went to drink waters at La Bourboule, and on to Le Puy, and thence started on one of the long tramps by which he came to know France as few Englishmen have done. He walked across to Vals, 'and so to the Rhone, and then to my solemn Provencal country—to my mind, a better Italy.'
At Toulon he busied himself with the German history of the nineteenth century for his projected book, and wrote much to his brother, who was now hoping to enter Parliament.
'Nubar, who had a quarrel with our Foreign Office, and who had been expelled from Egypt by the new Khedive, but, as Nubar thought, at the wish of the French Consul-General, was another correspondent of these days, destined afterwards to return to be made Prime Minister at the hands of this same Khedive.'
The Government's sixth year of office was running out, and a General Election was at hand.
'At the end of the year I had letters describing the state of things in England from Harcourt, Chamberlain, and Adam. Chamberlain wrote: "Things look bad for the Tories. We shall have a majority at the next election. I feel confident." Adam wrote: "As things are at present, we shall have a majority independent of Home Rulers." Harcourt wrote that he was unusually dull and stupid: "I feel as if the soul of Northcote had transmigrated into me, and, if only I had a flaxen beard, I am sure I should make one of his Midland speeches to admiration.... I really find nothing new to say. Of course, there is the old story of Afghanistan, but the latter is already discounted, and it is rather a ticklish question. I never felt it so difficult to mix a prescription good for the present feeling of the constituencies.... Depend upon it, if we are to win (as we shall), it will not be on some startling cry, but by the turning over to us of that floating mass of middle votes which went over to the Tories last time, and will come back from them in disgust at the next election. It is much easier to persuade the public that the Government are duffers than that we are conjurers. I shall therefore ... be dull and safe, and not overabusive. That, at least, is my diagnosis of the treatment the patient requires just now.... Not having materials for one speech, I have got to make a second. I must trust to the newspaper abuse of the first to supply me with materials for the second."'
Sir William Harcourt was too diffident, as his brilliant speeches at Oxford and elsewhere, full of epigrams, had more effect on the electorate than any others—not even excepting Mr. Gladstone's speeches in his Midlothian campaign.
There is no suggestion in the correspondence of the ferment which was working in Midlothian. Mr. Gladstone was apart from both Whigs and Radicals in these days.
So closed the last years of Sir Charles's second Parliament. He had played in it a commanding part in debate upon matters of war and of foreign policy without abating his activity in domestic politics, such as the franchise, or flogging in the army, which he helped finally to abolish. No man could well seem to have fewer enemies or more friends.
THE FORMATION OF A MINISTRY
By the close of 1879 the Beaconsfield Administration was deeply discredited. The year had opened with the disaster in the Zulu War at Isandhlwana; in September came the tragedy at Kabul, when Sir Louis Cavagnari and his staff were slain by a sudden uprising of the tribesmen; and though Sir Frederick Roberts fought his way into the Afghan capital on October 12th, it was only to be beleaguered within the fortifications of Sherpur.
The European situation Sir Charles described to his constituents before the Session of 1880 opened:
'What, I asked, were they promised in the Treaty of Berlin? Turkey restored to strength, reformed, and, if reformed, made secure for a distant future; Greece contented; Russian influence excluded; and the Balkans fortified as "an impregnable frontier" for Turkey. Very different were the realities. Turkey had been partitioned; Greece had not been satisfied; surrender of Turkish territory to Greece, though it was the one form of surrender which might really have strengthened Turkey, had been opposed rather than advocated by the British delegates. Austria, gorged with Bosnia and Herzegovina, was alone contented.
'Of the Asia Minor clandestine convention, it was beyond our power to fulfil the terms. Russian intrigue would sooner or later create insurrection in Armenia. The insurrection would be put down by the old Turkish means, by the old savagery, and our guarantee would prove useless in face of public opinion at home. The Government had allowed Russia to gain exactly those things which in the excellent circular of April 1st, 1878, they had declared that it would be fatal to our country that she should possess. The Government had proclaimed British interests in language which I had described as the gospel of selfishness, but there was not a British interest which was not worse off for their rule. In Egypt, their policy of joint action with France was certain to lead to future trouble. Greece was dissatisfied, and leant on France, and the rising nationalities of South-Eastern Europe were all alienated from us. Russia was in possession, not only of Bessarabia, not only of a firm hold over Turkey by the stipulations with regard to the debt due to her, but of that fortress of Kars and that port of Batoum which our Government had told us she could not consistently with British interests be permitted to possess. To add insult to injury, we were thought such silly children as to believe that what was left of Turkey had been saved by our plenipotentiaries— saved in Asia by a bit of paper, and in Europe by an "impregnable frontier" which was situated in the middle of the Bulgarian country, and which the Sultan's troops would never be allowed to approach.
'This was a strong indictment, and, as is now seen, it was all true.'
Sir Charles's "indictment" was strengthened by information he had received as to England's treatment of M. Waddington's circular proposing mediation between Turkey and Greece, and by the knowledge that the championship of Greek interests was at this moment being left to France.
'On January 26th I reached Paris on my return from Toulon, and breakfasted with Gambetta, stupid Spuller remaining with us all the time. Barrere came to see me, and told me that the late ministerial crisis in France had had for cause Waddington's refusal to accept Gambetta's orders to turn out all the reactionaries from the Foreign Office. "That lock has now been forced." [Footnote: The Waddington Ministry had fallen in the last days of December, and M. de Freycinet came into power. M. Camille Barrere was at this time Gambetta's chief private secretary. Sir Charles had first met him in London during the Commune. He has had a distinguished career, and is, in 1917, Ambassador at Rome.] Tissot, French Minister at Athens, and known to me as having been formerly the representative of the Government of National Defence in London, when he occupied the Embassy and acted as an unauthorized Minister, is to be Ambassador at Constantinople, and Waddington will take the Embassy in London. Barrere has been made French Commissioner on the European Commission of the Danube, which enables him for nine months in the year to continue his newspaper work in Paris. It is true, as stated in the French newspapers, that Waddington's last circular proposing mediation between Turkey and Greece was accepted by all the Continental Powers, but not answered by England.
'On the 27th I breakfasted with Gambetta to meet General Billot, commanding the Marseille corps d'armee, who, in the event of war occurring between 1887 and 1890, would have been second in command of the French armies.
'"On the 28th Gambetta, at a private interview, confirmed what Barrere had said about Greece, regretted that Waddington had proposed to leave the town of Janina to Turkey, and thought that the French Government ought to go back to the old position of 'Thessaly and Epirus.' He added (most confidentially) that as soon as the trouble about 'Article 7' was over Leon Say would come as Ambassador to London." [Footnote: The double quotes here show that Sir Charles transcribed in his Memoir a note of the conversation taken at the time.] Leon Say did come, but Waddington came afterwards, though with some between. Article 7 was, of course, the Ferry proposal with regard to unauthorized congregations, which I opposed in conversations with Gambetta, who supported it as strongly in private as in public. [Footnote: The 'Article 7' referred to was in the Education Bill then under discussion in the French Assembly. By this article it was proposed that members of religious bodies which were not recognized by the law should be forbidden to teach in public or in private schools.] Opinion in France undoubtedly backed him in his opposition to "Clericalism," but I myself continue to think that it was unwise to harry the Church, although the position of the Government was in accordance with the law.
'On the same morning I received a letter from Chamberlain inviting himself to dine with me on February 4th "to discuss the situation." Chamberlain was strongly opposed to taking Lord Derby in the next Administration, and determined also, if he could, to shut out Goschen.
'On Wednesday, January 28th, I reached London, and on the 29th saw Harcourt as to a request which had been made to him by A. M. Sullivan on behalf of Lord Ramsay, who was standing at Liverpool as the Liberal candidate, but who had pronounced in favour of Home Rule, to the great scandal of the country. The Irish members were supposed to be doing more harm than good by helping him, and were most anxious that someone from the Liberal Front Bench should give them countenance. Hartington was strongly opposed to Ramsay's action. Harcourt consented to go, and went, which must have meant, I think, that he had decided to throw over Hartington, seeing that Mr. G. was the only possible leader, and that he did not think that Mr. Gladstone would feel strongly about the Home Rule pledge. Harcourt told me that Lord Granville and Hartington intended that Lord Derby should be in the next Government, but found difficulties, inasmuch as they thought that the land question must be dealt with, and he was too conservative for the party on it. The Duke of Argyll was to be left out of the next Cabinet; no one would consent to become Viceroy of Ireland or Irish Secretary; and there was a difficulty about the Viceroyalty of India. I suggested Lansdowne for India, if his wife would go, and it is curious that after many years he was sent, although sent by the other party. Harcourt said that some of the older men over whose heads I had passed were very jealous of me. I said, half in jest: "I believe I am the only English politician who is not jealous," at which Harcourt laughed very much, and replied: "We all think that of ourselves." I said: "I mean it."'
The sincerity of that assertion was to be proved within three months. But he notes in his diary a decision in consequence of Harcourt's warning "to keep in the background this Session."
'On February 4th Harcourt wrote to me to say that, if I would go to his house that night, someone from Devonshire House should meet me to show me the Queen's Speech, as he had to go to Liverpool; Hartington, he said, was full of approval of my speech.'
The dissolution came suddenly, hastened by the result of a by-election, which encouraged the Government to believe that the country was with them. On February 10th Sir Charles dined at Lady Ripon's, where were 'the Duke of Argyll, Lord Granville, the Childers, and the Hayters.'
'The conversation of the evening turned upon the Southwark election, where we all knew that the Conservative must win, Clarke (later Sir Edward Clarke) being a popular Queen's Counsel, an excellent election speaker, while the Liberals were divided between two bad candidates.... When the numbers became known to me I wrote in my diary: "Southwark not quite so bad as I expected, but quite bad enough." Yet it was this election, which, to anyone who knew the facts, should have meant nothing, which is supposed to have induced the Tories to dissolve.' [Footnote: The Conservatives won both the Liverpool and Southwark elections.]
'Cross drowns the Government,' is Sir Charles's comment on the Return on the Water Question, for which he now moved; 'the notice contained such a mass of statistics as to make the return of a very searching character in its bearing on the agreement that the Home Secretary had come to with the water companies.' It did frighten Cross, as Mr. Trevelyan had prophesied, 'and the trouble between himself and his colleagues over this question was the immediate cause of the dissolution.' [Footnote: Mr. Cross, Home Secretary, had introduced a Bill to provide for the purchase of the undertakings of the London Water Companies, which was supposed to offer the companies too favourable terms. Sir Charles notes (July, 1879): "Manning was getting up a meeting on the water question, and got me to manage it for him." 'I fancy, indeed,' he adds in his Memoir, 'that it was the Cardinal who was the indirect cause of the dissolution in the spring of 1880, for he induced Cross to undertake the purchase of the Metropolitan Water Supply, and so got him into tangled negotiations.']
Just before the electoral campaign began—
'On March 4th I received a note from Lord Fife asking me to dine with him on Friday, the 12th, to meet the Prince of Wales at the Prince's wish. The note was of such a character that it left no choice. When the dinner came off it turned out well. The Prince laid himself out to be pleasant, and talked to me nearly all the evening—chiefly about French politics and the Greek question. The other guests were Lansdowne, Dunraven, Burnand of Punch, Bernal Osborne, and Colonel Carington, brother of Lord Carrington, a very pleasant member of the House.' [Footnote: Colonel Carington was M.P. for Wycombe, 1868-1883.]
There was still among leading politicians 'much doubt as to the prospects of the election,' which Sir Charles found expressed when he spent Sunday, March 7th, 'at Aston Clinton with the Cyril Flowers, Lord Hartington being there, and Charles Villiers (at eighty), and Wolff walking over from Tring Park.' However, on March 15th, Sir William Harcourt wrote from Oxford: "I have never wavered in my opinion that the Government will be beaten, though I thought a fortnight ago it would only be a shave."
In his own borough Sir Charles found that there were 580 publicans, and that 500 of them were Conservative.
'My belief in the influence of the publicans made me hesitate with regard to Chelsea, where I thought myself not unlikely to be beaten, but I had a full belief in the success of the party generally. I was triumphantly returned, bringing in Firth with me, by great majorities over a clever Tory, Lord Inverurie (afterwards Earl of Kintore, and Governor of South Australia), and a colonial sheep-farmer, who paid the cost.'
The result was declared on April 2nd, and Sir Charles, having stayed to vote in two divisions of Surrey where he owned property, left England for Toulon on the 7th—a proceeding which separated him from those who were importunate for office. Before his departure he had dined with Sir William Harcourt:
'I found his ambition to be to ... succeed Lord Selborne as Lord Chancellor. In order to reach this goal, he would prefer to be Attorney-General rather than Home Secretary. James, however, cannot well be anything but Attorney-General. Harcourt would like James to be Home Secretary, for which James is not fit, but which he would like to be. If this combination should fail, then Harcourt would like to be Chancellor of the Exchequer.... He asked me what I should like, and I told him that I did not expect to be offered a great post, but that if there were any such chance the Navy was the only one that I should like.' [Footnote: Sir Charles's view that a Foreign Secretary had better be in the House of Lords, so long as there is a House of Lords to put him in, no doubt influenced his preference for the Admiralty.]
In regard to the events which have now to be narrated, it must be remembered that the Chamberlain of 1880 was not yet the author of any "unauthorized programme" or any "gospel of ransom." He was admittedly the controller of the Caucus. It was widely known that he, like Fawcett, had professed republican principles. But Queen Victoria's objection to Sir Charles Dilke—and it will be seen how strongly she maintained it—was based not merely on his avowal of abstract Republican theories, but also on his very concrete proposal to assert control over the Civil List. Chamberlain upon this matter was not committed to a personal view, and it had not yet been demonstrated that whatever position Dilke defended, Chamberlain would defend also.
A compact laying down the principle of mutual support between the two Radicals was proposed in a letter written by Chamberlain to Dilke—then at Toulon—immediately after the General Election had given the Liberals a sweeping triumph. They came back 349 against 243 Conservatives. Irish Nationalists were 60, of whom 35 followed Mr. Parnell.
Chamberlain's proposal was in these words:
"The time has come when we must have a full and frank explanation.
"What I should like—what I hope for with you—is a thorough offensive and defensive alliance, and in this case our position will be immensely strong.
"I am prepared to refuse all offers until and unless both of us are satisfied.
"Can you accept this position with perfect satisfaction? If you think I am asking more than I can give, I rely upon your saying so—and in this case you may depend on my loyalty and friendship—I shall support your claim cordially and just as warmly as if I were personally interested.
"But my own feeling is that if you are stronger than I am in the House, my influence is greater than yours out of it, and therefore that, together, we are much more powerful than separated; and that in a short time, if not now, we may make our own terms.
"To join a Government as subordinate members, to be silenced and to have no real influence on the policy, would be fatal to both of us. If we both remain outside, any Government will have to reckon with us, and, on the whole, this would be the position which on many grounds I should prefer.
"I am ready to make all allowances for the difficulties in the way of giving to both of us the only kind of places which it would be worth our while to accept. If these are insuperable, I will give a hearty support to any Government which is thoroughly liberal in its measures; but I am not going to play the part of a Radical Minnow among Whig Tritons.
"The victory which has just been won is the victory of the Radicals. Gladstone and the Caucus have triumphed all along the line, and it is the strong, definite, decided policy which has commended itself, and not the halting, half-hearted, armchair business.... The country feels it, and we should be mad to efface ourselves and disappoint the expectations of all our strongest supporters.
"You see that my proposed condition is—both of us to be satisfied.
"As to what ought to satisfy us, if you agree to the principle, we will consult when the time comes, but my present impression is all or nothing."
'In other words, Chamberlain's view was that we should insist on both being in the Cabinet. My own view was that we should insist on one being in the Cabinet, and the other having a place of influence, giving him the opportunity of frequent speech in the House of Commons, pleasant to himself; and my view prevailed.
'On April 19th, Chamberlain wrote again that he had heard from Mr. Bright that "Mr. Gladstone will take the Premiership if pressed."'
'"I am glad to see that all the papers speak of you as a certainty for the Cabinet. For myself, I am absolutely indifferent to office, and the only thing on which I am clear is that I will take no responsibility which does not carry with it some real power. Another point on which I have made up my mind is that I will not play second to Fawcett, or to anyone of the same standing, except yourself."'
On April 22nd, Sir Charles received at Toulon a telegram from Sir William Harcourt insisting on his immediate return, and he started at once for London, missing a second urgent telegram from Harcourt on his way. From Mr. Frederic Harrison he received a letter strongly urging him to claim at once a place in the Cabinet and 'to lead the new men.' He meant 'the cultured Radicals; Mr. Bryce and the like.' He urged that the new Left must have a full place in the Ministry, and that any Liberal Minister must be pledged to deal with redistribution in the House.
'Hill of the Daily News had written to me that with the exception of Harcourt everybody thought that Gladstone must be Prime Minister.' Sir Charles goes on to note a breakfast with Lord Houghton, Renan, Professor Henry Smith of Oxford, Henry Reeve of the Edinburgh Review, Lord Arthur Russell, and Lord Reay, at which they
'agreed that Gladstone must be Prime Minister, or would upset the Government within a year. ... Hill advised that I should take the Cabinet without Chamberlain if Gladstone was Prime Minister, but refuse the Cabinet without Chamberlain—i.e., insist on both being in the Cabinet—if Hartington was Prime Minister.'
By the night of April 23rd, when Sir Charles reached London, the question of Mr. Gladstone's primacy was settled, and Ministry-making had begun, with the decision of Lord Granville to return to the Foreign Office, and Lord Hartington's consent to act as Secretary of State for India. Mr. Childers went to the War Office, Lord Northbrook to the Admiralty; Lord Selborne, most conservative of Whigs, became Lord Chancellor; Lord Spencer was President of the Council, Lord Kimberley took the Colonies, the Duke of Argyll the Privy Seal. Sir William Harcourt, who had been called "a Whig who talked Radicalism," was Home Secretary. Mr. Forster at the Irish Office, with Lord Cowper as Lord-Lieutenant, did not commend himself greatly to the advanced party, and Mr. Bright, in returning to the Chancellorship of the Duchy, brought with him only a tradition of Radicalism. When it is added that Mr. Dodson was President of the Local Government Board, ground will be seen for a warning which Sir Charles received that, although the victory had been forced upon them by the Radicals almost against their will, the "incorrigible old place-hunters would, if left to have their own way, appropriate the victory and the prizes calmly enough to themselves."
On Saturday, April 24th, Sir Charles had two interviews with Sir William Harcourt, and communicated the result to Chamberlain:
'The position is that Gladstone is in the hands of Lord Wolverton, [Footnote: As Mr. Glyn he had been Chief Whip.] the evil counsellor of 1874, and that, while a Whig Premier must have had a Radical Cabinet, Gladstone will say, "You have got me; that is what you asked for," and will give us a Whig Cabinet. Stansfeld is likely to be in the Cabinet owing to W. E. Forster's influence, of which I personally shall be glad. Rosebery is likely to be put in, at which I shall not be sorry.... Gladstone disapproves strongly of people being put straight into the Cabinet who have not held office before. This is for Chamberlain and for me. They are likely to offer me the Under- Secretaryship for Foreign Affairs, which I suppose I shall be unable to accept. Later in the evening I was informally offered the Secretaryship of the Treasury, with management of the Government business in the House. Harcourt at a second interview said that Gladstone intended pedantically to follow Peel's rule that men should not be put straight into the Cabinet without going through non-Cabinet office; and that Chamberlain and I must both take non-Cabinet office; [Footnote: It is worth noting that Sir Robert Peel himself had violated this rule if it ever existed.] that he, Harcourt, strongly advised us to take Under-Secretaryships of which the Secretary was in the Upper House, or the Secretaryship of the Treasury. He then offered me the Under-Secretaryship for the Colonies, to which I replied, "Certainly not." He said, "Remember that with Mr. Gladstone Prime Minister, the Undersecretary for Foreign Affairs will have no chance to speak, because Gladstone will do all the talking." [Footnote: Sir William Harcourt's prophecy received frequent confirmation. See infra, pp. 384, 459, 535, and Vol. II., p. 51.] At the same time, there was evidently another reason behind—namely, that Lord Granville had sooner have anybody in his office than me; in other words, he would like me in anybody's office except his own. Harcourt strongly urged me to take office on personal grounds—namely, in order to get over the Queen's prejudice, and so succeed naturally to the first vacancy in the Cabinet. I replied that I had sooner keep my independence than take office without power. He then said curtly, "It will not be a pleasant opposition." I said it would not be an opposition at all, as far as I could see, as I should support the Government and lead a very quiet, humdrum Parliamentary existence. Harcourt replied, "That is what is always said." "But I shall not be cross," was my last word. I telegraphed at night for Chamberlain, who replied that he would come up at five on Sunday afternoon and dine and sleep. But I prepared him, and was prepared by him, for a double refusal of office. In fact, we were decided on refusal of that which alone was offered.
'On Sunday afternoon, 25th, before seeing Chamberlain, I saw James, who went to Lord Granville and fully stated my views, reporting to me afterwards that Lord Granville seemed inclined to come round a little. James added of Harcourt: "Confound that Home Secretary! How discreet he is even before kissing hands! I shall live at the Home Office." I went to Euston to meet Chamberlain. We were fully agreed in our line, and he remained at my house the next morning, when I was sent for by Mr. Gladstone through Lord Granville, the note being simply to ask me to call at four o'clock at Lord Granville's house, where Mr. Gladstone was. The questions which I put to Chamberlain were—"Is your former opinion changed by the fact that Mr. Gladstone can, if he likes, do without us, whereas Hartington could not? Or is it changed by the fact that Gladstone's Government will last six years, whereas Hartington's would soon have been modified by Gladstone?" Chamberlain's view was my own view, that, although we were much weaker, we could not change our attitude as regards one of us being in the Cabinet. Before seeing Mr. Gladstone I had calls from Fawcett and Lefevre. Nothing had been offered to Fawcett; Lefevre had been sounded as to an Under- Secretaryship, and would take it. He told me he was sure that Stansfeld would have the Local Government Board again and be in the Cabinet. Childers came three times to see me in the course of the day, and said that he was most anxious that I should be in the Cabinet and Chamberlain in a good place outside it; but that the Queen had made a difficulty about my Republicanism, and he asked me to write him a letter about it. I declined to say anything new, but ultimately we agreed that I should write him a letter marked "Private," in which I wrote to the effect that on March 13th I had been asked the question at a meeting, and that my answer had been in the newspapers on March 15th, that it was the same answer which I had made before the election in 1874, and that I had nothing to alter in it.' [Footnote: The rest of the letter gave a full account of the incident of Saturday, March 13th, 1880:
"The Tories sent the 'Reverend' W. Pepperell, an ex-dissenting minister, to a meeting of mine, who asked me 'whether it was true that I was a republican?' I replied to the effect that 'while as a matter of speculative opinion I thought that a country starting afresh—as France after Sedan—would in these days generally do better to adopt a republican form of government than a limited monarchy, yet that in a country possessing a constitutional monarchy it would be mere folly to attempt to upturn it, and consequently folly even to try to disturb it.' The answer was a very long one, and was nowhere fully reported, but everything in it was on these lines."]
A copy of this letter was ultimately brought to the Queen, and on May 5th returned by Sir Henry Ponsonby with the words, "Her Majesty accepts Sir Charles Dilke's explanation." But Lord Granville, through whom it had been sent, and who had by that time become Sir Charles's immediate chief, softened the austerity of this formula by explaining that the Queen in a private letter had said she was "quite ready to believe all I had told her about you, having known you as a child."
These preliminary conversations having occupied the morning, Sir Charles set out after luncheon for the decisive interview.
'When I got to Lord Granville's I found Lord Granville, Lord Wolverton, and Mr. Gladstone in the room, and Mr. Gladstone at once offered me the Under-Secretaryship for Foreign Affairs. I asked who was to be in the Cabinet. I was told Mr. Gladstone, Lord Granville, Hartington, Harcourt, and Lord Spencer. Further than this, they said, nothing was settled. I asked, "What about Chamberlain?" Mr. Gladstone replied to the effect that Chamberlain was a very young member of the House who had never held office, and that it was impossible to put him straight into the Cabinet. I then said that this made it impossible that I should accept the Under-Secretaryship for Foreign Affairs, or any place. Mr. Gladstone said he would see whether anything could be done, but that he feared not. I then asked whether, supposing that anything could be done in my direction, I should be excluding Grant Duff [Footnote: Sir M. Grant Duff had been spoken of for this office in 1868, and had then in that Ministry become Under-Secretary of State for India. In 1880 he was—much to Sir Charles's joy—made Under- Secretary for the Colonies, his chief, Lord Kimberley, being in the Lords.] from the Under-Secretaryship for Foreign Affairs, because I said that I should be very sorry to do that, for both personal and public reasons. He replied that if I refused it, it would not be offered to Grant Duff; and I then left....
'On Tuesday morning Chamberlain was sent for, and accepted a seat in the Cabinet (with the Presidency of the Board of Trade), and at one o'clock I accepted the Under-Secretaryship for Foreign Affairs. Just about this time I received a message from James: "Do, for the sake of our future comfort, take something. The Bench will be dreadfully dull. Stansfeld in office must be worse than Stansfeld out." But Stansfeld was not in office. What had interfered at the last moment to prevent an appointment which was resolved upon I never knew for certain. [Footnote: Mr. Stansfeld is generally believed to have refused office owing to his wish to devote himself entirely to the cause of a special measure of social reform in which he was interested.] But, as they had not intended to put Chamberlain in, and I forced him in, I suppose that Stansfeld was the man who had to make way for Chamberlain.'
So ended the negotiations. The Radical wing had asserted itself, and asserted itself successfully. It had been enabled to do so by Sir Charles's action. To him the matter represented the mere carrying out of a bargain; but friends were, as is natural in such a case, remonstrant, and he was accused of "needless self-sacrifice," of "Quixotic conduct," of "self-abnegation," of "your usual disinterestedness in politics," and the bargain was much criticized. A letter from Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice, congratulating Sir Charles on the stand he had made, added: "Not that I am altogether satisfied with the result. I had assumed that as a matter of course you would be in the Cabinet. I share the universal feeling that of the two you had the undoubted claim to priority." But this regret was probably based on more than personal grounds, and may well be read with a letter written many years afterwards, in July, 1914:
"The real truth is that Dilke was too big a man to be an Under- Secretary in 1880, and the whole position was a false one. I fancy Lord Granville felt it to be so. One of his best points was his readiness to recognize ability. I think he desired Dilke's sphere in the Office to be as large as possible consistently with the general arrangements of the Office, but it is always difficult to make special arrangements work smoothly if they are based on a false principle.
"Dilke ought to have insisted on being in the Cabinet. It was very much to his honour that he did not do so."
Lord Fitzmaurice goes on to say that in the making of the Cabinet public opinion would have substituted Sir Charles Dilke for Mr. Dodson, who, in spite of his work as Chairman of Committees from 1868 to 1873, and afterwards as Secretary to the Treasury—("he would have made an excellent Speaker")—had done but little in the House for the party in the long period of Opposition from 1874 to 1880.
A mistake had, in fact, been made. The strong man should be put where his services can avowedly be best utilized. This statement is true of Chamberlain. He was, as the Times put it, "the Carnot of the moment, the organizer of Liberal victory." [Footnote: Neither Sir Charles Dilke nor Mr. Chamberlain would, however, have desired to underrate the great share in organizing the victory of Mr. Adam, the principal Liberal Whip in the House of Commons, whose services were generally considered to have been very insufficiently recognized by Mr. Gladstone.] Moreover, the confidence and friendship which led to constant consultations on every point between the two men guaranteed an added power to Sir Charles behind the scenes, and to him power, and not the appearance of power, was the essential thing. But Dilke's position also as a Parliamentarian, his acknowledged power and insight on questions both of Home and Foreign Affairs, his following inside and outside the House of Commons, had created a claim of long standing to Cabinet rank, and its abandonment made the "false position" to which Lord Fitzmaurice alludes. Although Mr. Disraeli was reported to have said, apropos of Sir Seymour Fitzgerald, that an Under- Secretary for Foreign Affairs with his chief in the House of Lords holds one of the most important positions in a Ministry, nevertheless the Under- Secretary is the subordinate of his chief, and Lord Granville's reputation as Foreign Minister was great.
That personal difficulties at least were overcome is shown by a note of Lord Granville, written when Sir Charles left the Foreign Office in 1882, but the note is in itself a commentary on the "false position":
"WALMER CASTLE, "December 27th, '82.
"MY DEAR DILKE,
"As this is the day you expect to go to the Local Government Board, I cannot help writing you one line. I will not dwell upon the immense loss you are to me and to the Office. You are aware of it, and I have no doubt will continue to help us both in the Cabinet and in the House, and will be ready to advise the Under-Secretary and myself. I must, however, say how deeply grateful I am for our pleasant relations, which might easily have been a little strained from the fact that it was a sort of fluke that you were my Under-Secretary instead of being my colleague in the Cabinet. As it is, nothing could be more satisfactory and more pleasant to me, and the knowledge we have obtained of one another will strengthen and cement our friendship.
Sir Charles's acknowledged authority in foreign affairs made his appointment a matter of congratulation among foreign diplomatists. It was welcomed on the ground that it would correct Mr. Gladstone's presumed tenderness towards Russia, and, above all, would make a bond of union with France through his personal relations with Gambetta, who wrote on April 28th:
"Merci pour votre lettre de ce matin. Je trouve votre determination excellente, et si la depeche de 4 heures qui annonce votre entree dans le Cabinet, en qualite de sous secretaire d'etat aux Affaires Etrangeres, est vraie, vous serez universellement approuve.
"Pour ma part, je vous felicite bien cordialement de la victoire que vous venez de remporter, car je sais qu'avec des hommes tels que vous on peut etre assure que c'est une victoire feconde en resultats pour la civilisation occidentale et le droit europeen.
"Votre presence au Foreign Office est bien decisive pour dissiper les dernieres apprehensions et effacer jusqu'aux souvenirs les plus persistents.
"Mais vous devez avoir autre chose a faire qu'a lire des lettres inutiles.
"Je vous serre les mains,
The letter was 'couched in such terms as to make it desirable to answer him with some statement of the views of the Government,' and Sir Charles consulted Lord Granville about his reply, which would 'really be a despatch,' and must 'say something about 1870' and the period of Lord Granville's previous tenure of the Foreign Office. With recollections of that time in their minds, and of England's entry upon the Black Sea Conference without the presence of a French representative, French politicians had commented very jealously upon some references to Gambetta in a speech delivered by Lord Granville at Hanley in March of this year. Lord Granville accordingly sent Dilke a memorandum in his own hand, suggesting words for the reply. Gambetta was to be told that a speech "made before the election" had been interpreted by some of his supporters in the Press "as of a personal character against him," that Dilke knew this to have been "the reverse of the speaker's intention," and that he would be glad to have a talk with Gambetta on the subject of Lord Granville's policy during the war when he next had the opportunity of meeting him in Paris.
'But it was indeed difficult for Lord Granville to say anything about his policy during the war which would please the French.' Gambetta's official reply was, however, that, having read Lord Granville's speech, he found it "proper under the circumstances and impartial," and that, although "absurd ideas with regard to our recent elections had been ascribed to himself," he had "desired nothing in those elections" except Sir Charles's personal triumph. To this Lord Granville rejoined: "Please thank M. Gambetta for his friendly message. I presume you will not tell him that Lyons says his assertion about the elections is a tremendous cracker."
Sir Edward Malet, Resident at Cairo, [Footnote: Afterwards Ambassador at Berlin.] wrote:
"We have had one Under-Secretary after another" (at the Foreign Office) "who knows nothing about these affairs, and who has therefore never been able to exert the legitimate influence to which his position entitled him. It will now be different, and I hope soon to recognize the thread of your thought in the texture of the Government policy."
M. Gennadius, the Greek Charge d'Affaires, while the matter was still open, implored him not to decline. "All your Greek friends consider our country's cause as dependent on your acceptance. You have done much for us already. Make this further sacrifice."
Sir Charles entered upon his functions on Thursday, April 29th, when his colleague, the Permanent Under-Secretary, Lord Tenterden, took him round to be introduced to the heads of the various departments. For his private secretary he chose Mr. George Murray, [Footnote: Now the Right Hon. Sir G. Murray, G.C.B.] "an extraordinarily able man." But in a few weeks Mr. Murray was transferred to the Treasury, and afterwards became secretary to Mr. Gladstone, and, later, to Lord Rosebery when Prime Minister.
'I found' (from Bourke, his predecessor, who had written to him with great cordiality) 'that as Under-Secretary for the Foreign Office, I had the Cabinet key—or most secret key that at that time there was: another still more secret key being introduced after I was in the Cabinet, and confined to the Cabinet itself. I found in the Foreign Office that if I liked I might have got back the "Department" which Lord Derby took away from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary in 1874, leaving him only the Commercial Department. [Footnote: The "Department" assigned to the Parliamentary Under-Secretary before 1874 was 'control of' some branch of foreign affairs in its details. See also below, p. 349.] But I at once decided that I would not have it, as I wanted to concern myself with the Parliamentary business and with the important business, instead of doing detailed work at the head of one section of it.'
On the evening of his first day in office Sir Charles gave a dinner at Sloane Street to several of his colleagues. There were present
'Fawcett, just appointed Postmaster-General, Lord Northbrook, Childers, Forster, Hartington, and Goschen.... Chamberlain was at my dinner, having taken up his quarters with me for a week....
'Hartington after dinner showed me Indian despatches which were very startling. Mr. Goschen told us that he had refused the Governor- Generalship of India and the Embassy at Constantinople, but he afterwards took Constantinople. He appeared at this moment to have made up his mind to stay in the House of Commons to oppose equalization of the franchise and redistribution of seats....
'Forster told us that he was starting for Ireland to see whether he could avoid some renewal of coercion; and Chamberlain and I told him that he must avoid it. This was the cloud no bigger than a man's hand.'
Sir Charles goes on to tell how he stayed for a time its development:
'On the night of May 13th, between one and two o'clock in the morning, I did a thing which many will say I ought not to have done—namely, went down to a newspaper office to suggest an article against the policy of another member of the Government. Under the circumstances, I think that I was justified. I was not a member of the Privy Council or of the Cabinet, and the interests of the party were at stake, as subsequent events well showed. There was no shade of private or personal interest in the matter. The effect of what I did was to stop the policy of which I disapproved for the year, and might easily have been to stop it for ever. I had found out in the course of the evening that Forster was in favour of a Coercion Bill, and that the Cabinet were likely to adopt it. I went down to the Daily News office, and told Hill, not even telling Chamberlain until two years afterwards what I had done. The result of it was that the Daily News had an article the next morning which smashed Forster's plan.'
Chamberlain had written on May 4th to Mrs. Pattison: "The charmed circle has been broken and a new departure made, which is an event in English political history." But although the circle was broken, only one man had found his way to the innermost ring; and in the composition of the Ministry the Radicals were overwhelmingly outnumbered. Such a situation did not lead to the stability of the Government, and by his reluctance in the admission of Radicalism to office Mr. Gladstone had created difficulties for himself. In the House his personal authority was overridden in a matter which came up at once.
'In the morning of May 3rd I received a note from Lord Frederick Cavendish, the Secretary of the Treasury, asking me to be at the House at two, as there would be trouble about Bradlaugh's application to affirm instead of take the oath. It had been decided by the Cabinet that "Freddy" Cavendish, [Footnote: Lord F. Cavendish was Financial Secretary to the Treasury.] who was leader of the House in the absence of the Ministers who had gone for re-election, should move for a Committee, and I spoke in support of that view.'
Sir Charles never took part again in any debate upon this once famous struggle. He supported Mr. Gladstone's view in favour of allowing affirmation, but he did so without heartiness, disliking 'the trade of living on blatant atheism,' and finding in himself tendencies which led him to fear that he was 'clerically minded.' He had always an extreme dislike of talk or writing that offended legitimate susceptibilities.
The completion of the Ministry inevitably left some personal claims unsettled.
'On May 1st I had John Morley to dinner to meet Chamberlain, who was still staying with me. We talked over the men who had been left out. Edmond Fitzmaurice was one, but Mr. Gladstone did not care about having brothers. [Footnote: Mr. Gladstone was believed in 1868 to have declined to have Lord Clarendon and his brother, Mr. Charles Villiers, both in the Cabinet. See Life of Granville, vol. i., p. 537. In the new Government Lord Lansdowne was Under-Secretary for India, but resigned in the course of the year on the Irish Land Question.] At Chamberlain's wish Courtney had been offered the Secretaryship of the Board of Trade, which, however, he declined. He would have taken the place of Judge Advocate General, but it was not offered to him. Chamberlain told us that the Cabinet were unanimous for getting rid of Layard, the Ambassador at Constantinople, but that the Queen was trying hard to keep him. The result of this difference of opinion ultimately was that Goschen went to Constantinople on a special embassy, without salary, and keeping his place in the House of Commons, and that Layard continued to draw the salary without doing any work.'
A large section of the Liberal Press was at this period very independent, and helped to frustrate Mr. Gladstone's determination to exclude Radicals from office.
Sir Charles's relations with Mr. Hill, then editor of the Daily News, were close, as also was the alliance between the two Radical Ministers and Mr. John Morley, who had just then become editor of the Pall Mall Gazette.
'On May 14th John Morley asked me to see him to give him information as to the general position of foreign affairs, and I consented to do so. "It would be worth silver and gold and jewels," he said, "if I could have ten minutes with you about three times a week."'
Chamberlain gave him the same privilege concerning domestic policy—a privilege 'which he used so well that no complaint ever arose in regard to it.' Chamberlain was much in touch with 'Escott of the Standard and the World.'
It was suggested at the dinner of May 1st that Mr. Courtney might succeed Sir H. Drummond Wolff on the Commission for Reforms, appointed under Article XXIII. of the Treaty of Berlin, for the European provinces of Turkey and Crete; but this too Mr. Courtney declined, and the place was eventually filled by Lord E. Fitzmaurice. Mr. Trevelyan was not included in the Ministry. [Footnote: See the Life of Goschen, by the Hon. Arthur Elliot, vol. i., pp. 215, 216; T. E. Holland, The European Concert in the Eastern Question, pp. 291, 292; also Turkey, No. 15 (1880). Lord E. Fitzmaurice was subsequently appointed British Plenipotentiary, under Articles LIV. and LV. of the Treaty of Berlin, to the Conference in regard to the navigation of the Danube. Both Mr. Courtney and Mr. Trevelyan joined the Ministry later.]
At the moment Conservative society was inclined to regard the new Ministry with suspicious wonder, and Sir Charles tells how, on May 5th, a week after taking office, when he and Chamberlain were dining with the Prince of Wales—
'most of the Cabinet were present with their wives; also the new Viceroy of India (Lord Ripon), and Rosebery and his wife. When the Duke of Cambridge came in, following the Prince and Princess, after shaking hands with those he knew, he stood staring about, whereupon Harcourt, nudging Chamberlain and myself, said, "He is looking for Bradlaugh."'
New men were coming to the front; a new political era had begun, and to the Radicals the situation was summed up by the House of Commons' jest which stated that B.C. now meant "Before Chamberlain," and A.D. "Anno Dilke."
The break with the past was real and important: 1880 is a marking date in the political history of Great Britain, and the change was due to the Radical combination.
AT THE FOREIGN OFFICE
In "a memorandum of later years," quoted by his biographer, Mr. Gladstone defined his own understanding of "the special commission under which the Government had taken office" in 1880. "It related to the foreign policy of the country, the whole spirit and effect of which we were to reconstruct." Sir Charles's views as to the need for this had long been before the public, and he threw all his energies into the task of helping to achieve it.
'The Liberals, having come into office after violent denunciation of the whole foreign and colonial policy of their predecessors, had a general wish to reverse it in all parts of the world, and to dismiss the agents by whom it had been carried out. They were especially violent against Lytton in India, Layard at Constantinople, and Frere in South Africa.'
Questions of the Indian frontier and Africa lay outside the immediate sphere of the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, yet he was constantly consulted upon both of them, and had his full part in defending the reversal of Lord Lytton's policy by the new Viceroy, Lord Ripon, who restored, or perhaps established, the unity of Afghanistan.
In the matter of South Africa, the Boer leaders wrote at once to express their confidence that the new Government would consist of "men who look out for the honour and glory of England, not by acts of injustice and crushing force, but by the way of justice and good faith." They were answered by promises of local self-government, but such promises had been made to them before, and the retention of Sir Bartle Frere no doubt seemed a bad omen. So, at all events, it was regarded by the Radical party. On May 24th—
'I found that Courtney and my brother, with Dr. Cameron and Jesse Collings, were getting up an attempt to coerce the Colonial Office and Mr. Gladstone by preparing a list of between one and two hundred members who would vote with Wilfrid Lawson for a censure on the Government for not recalling Frere. Childers had found that it would be easy to recall him, for Frere had said that he would only go out for two years, and the two years were over. No doubt Frere, while blameworthy for the Zulu War, was not responsible for the Transvaal business, which had been done by Shepstone and Lord Carnarvon before he went out; but with our people he received the whole discredit for all that went wrong in South Africa, and it was impossible to wonder at this when one recalled the language that he habitually made use of....
'Frere was protected by Mr. Gladstone, and allowed to remain, a mistake for which we very gravely suffered. As this matter became of great importance in 1899, I ought to add that Lord Granville backed Mr. Gladstone in abstaining from rescinding the annexation of the Transvaal, on the ground that as we were retiring from Kandahar we had better not also retire from Pretoria.'
When, a few months later, the Boer rising followed, Dilke, with three other Radical Ministers, Bright, Chamberlain, and Courtney, refused to defend the Government's action even by a silent vote. 'Everything went as badly as possible in South Africa, and Lord Kimberley' (the Colonial Secretary) 'must share the blame with Mr. Gladstone.'
The third instance in which the recall of a man was demanded by Liberal opinion as essential to the reversal of a policy touched matters in whose development Sir Charles had a considerable part to play:
'May 20th.—One of our first troubles in debate was with regard to Layard's position at Constantinople, we being attacked by our own people on May 20th, who were more Gladstonian than Mr. Gladstone, as to the public insults which Layard had heaped upon him. Mr. Gladstone discussed with me what he was to say, and I have his note which, in addition to the statement about Layard, contains the curiously large one, "Statements made in Opposition not to be taken too literally when in office."'
Next day Mr. Gladstone wrote: "Thank you for the wonderful despatch you kindly made in obtaining for me the particulars about Layard's appointment."
The new Under-Secretary writes of these early days and first impressions:
'The general opinion of the party was that a Liberal policy was being pursued in foreign affairs, and that we had in the Foreign Office carried out that which the country intended us to do. We were able to bring about joint action on the part of Europe, and by means of it to settle the Greek and Montenegrin questions; and Goschen's presence at Constantinople was useful, inasmuch as he fully shared the views of the Liberal party upon foreign affairs, although he differed from them in domestic matters. On the other hand, the party were frightened about India, for, although Lord Lytton had been removed, the Government refused to make any sign as to the immediate evacuation of Kandahar, and, as a matter of fact, it was a long time before the Queen's resistance upon this point could be overcome. She no doubt felt more able to stand out against Hartington, whom she liked, than against Lord Granville.' [Footnote: See Life of Granville, vol. ii., p. 5.]
Lord Lytton's policy is thus described:
'The Allgemeine Zeitung for one of the last days of February contained a remarkable disclosure of the Government scheme for the settlement of Afghan affairs, which, so far as I know, did not appear in the English newspapers. It was quoted from some Indian paper, and revealed the fact that Persia was to occupy Herat, Kabul and Kandahar being capitals of two separate States. I did not at the time believe that it was possible that the Government should have absolutely reversed the past British policy by proposing the cession of Herat to Persia, but when I came into office at the end of April I made immediate inquiry into the subject, and found that it was true, and that they had done so. It was afterwards admitted.'
This proposal, however, had been declined by Persia. Before the fall of the Beaconsfield Ministry—
'The Amir of Afghanistan had written to tell us that he must be the friend of Russia, though he would be our friend too. We had replied (that is to say, the outgoing Government had replied) that Russia had sworn to us to have no dealings with Afghanistan, but that we should in any case evacuate his country in October without conditions, although he must respect our hold on Kandahar. Persia, it was clear from Lytton's despatches, had acted under Russian influence when declining Herat on our conditions.'
Under Lord Ripon, the policy of breaking up Afghanistan disappeared. But although there was a clear intention to abandon all claim to remain in Kandahar, yet the difficulty which attends any retrogressive movement in Central Asia was at this moment intensified, because Russia was threatening to advance on Merv, only 250 miles from Herat; and it seemed as if the Tsar's troops might occupy one Afghan stronghold at the moment when the Queen's forces withdrew from another.
'Lord Granville showed me, 15th May, some notes of language which he intended to hold to Russia as to Central Asia, very strong indeed upon the question of Merv; but the Cabinet afterwards took all this out, not a single man being found in the Cabinet to back up Lord Granville upon this question.'
In the succeeding months Sir Charles maintained a steady correspondence with the new Viceroy, Lord Ripon, who described his task as a hard one. "But I will do my best to perform it faithfully, and trust to you to back me up." In it appears the reason for Lord Ripon's unwilling acceptance of Abdurrahman, whom he called "the most Russian of the candidates" for the Afghan throne, but also the inevitable choice. If Lord Ripon broke with him, no hope appeared of establishing "even a semblance of order" before the Indian Government withdrew the troops, "as," said the Viceroy, "we must, because the service in Afghanistan, especially in winter, is so unpopular with the native troops as to be a serious difficulty if it should continue long. I hate the idea of leaving the Afghans a prey to anarchy, created to some extent, at all events, by our policy, and I shall do all I can to avoid it."
The Eastern Question was still dominant. The Treaty of Berlin had left three sources of discontent in the region affected by its provisions. In Bulgaria, Turkey complained that the Bulgarians had not fulfilled their promise to disarm and to raze fortifications. In Greece, evasive negotiations concerning the promised 'rectification of the frontier' were being deliberately spun out. On the Montenegrin border, territory surrendered and evacuated by the Turks had immediately been occupied by Mohammedan Albanians before the Montenegrin troops could reach it.
'On my first examination of the papers at the Foreign Office, I found that the black spot was Montenegro; the Roman Catholic Albanians on the frontier and the Mahomedan Albanians being equally determined not to become Montenegrin, and the Montenegrins insisting either on the line of the Treaty, which would give them some Mahomedan, or on the lines of the "Corti compromise," which would give them some Roman Catholic Albanian subjects.' [Footnote: The "Corti compromise" was so named after the Italian Ambassador at Constantinople, who advocated a frontier line more favourable to Turkey than those previously proposed (Sir Edward Hertslet's Map of Europe by Treaty, vol. iv.).]
Immediate steps were taken to remove the menace to European tranquillity which arose from what the Austrian Ambassador called "the Porte's long delays and tergiversation."
'May 1st.—Pressure at Constantinople had begun this day, the Cabinet having on the previous day approved an excellent and firm despatch from Lord Granville to Layard, really written from the first word to the last by Tenterden, containing the phrase, "While Her Majesty's Government wish to abstain from anything like menace, any intimation they give will be adhered to to the letter." The weak point about the despatch, however, was that the Russians had written us a despatch in the same sense, and that it might have been made to appear that we were only acting under Russian dictation. At the same time the despatch returned to the position of the circular bearing Lord Salisbury's name, which I have called the April 1st (1878) Circular, and set up that Concert of Europe which was destined to be kept together until the Greek and Montenegrin frontier questions had been settled....
'On May 3rd the Cabinet again considered our circular despatch (calling on the Powers to address an identic and simultaneous note to the Porte to fulfil its Treaty obligations as regards Greece, Montenegro, and Armenia) in its final form.... On May 4th I lunched with Lord Granville, and found that it was finally settled that Goschen would go as Ambassador to Constantinople and Edmond Fitzmaurice in Wolff's place.'
Meanwhile France was vigorously backing the new policy. Lord Granville was deeply engaged in trying to unite Germany with the Powers in carrying out concerted action, which was constantly evaded by Bismarck.
'May 7th.—On this day I had an opportunity of reading quietly a curious despatch of Odo Russell, dated April 29th, recounting the views of Prince Bismarck, who seemed to me to have been laughing at him. The Prince "is even more willing to give his support to any combined policy of England and France, as for instance in Egypt, because he looks upon an Anglo-French alliance as the basis of peace and order in Europe." [Footnote: This despatch is to be found in the Life of Granville, vol. ii., p. 211, where the date is given as May 1st.]
'On Sunday, May 9th, I had to dinner Leon Say, the new French Ambassador; Montebello, his first secretary, afterwards Ambassador at Constantinople; Lord Lyons and his secretary Sheffield; Lord Tenterden, my colleague at the Foreign Office; my secretary Murray; Harcourt, and C. E. D. Black, who the week afterwards became Harcourt's secretary on my recommendation. Leon Say brought with him from the French "bag" Gambetta's answer to my letter. Gambetta informed me that the French Government were unanimous in throwing over Waddington's compromise and giving Greece all that she had been intended to have; and Gambetta was in favour, and said that his Prime Minister' (M. de Freycinet) 'was in favour, of taking active steps to prevent further delay on the part of Turkey.' [Footnote:
"CHAMBRE DES DEPUTES, "PARIS, "le 7 Mai, 1880.
"Les dernieres Elections Cantonales m'avaient si vivement absorbe que je n'ai pu trouver la minute de liberte necessaire pour repondre a vos deux lettres.
"Permettez-moi d'ailleurs, apres m'etre excuse du retard, de vous dire que je ne partageais ni votre emotion ni votre point d'impatience. Je crois fermement que la solution grecque sera prochainement obtenue, en depit des resistances et des tergiversations qui peuvent se produire chez les Turcs ou ailleurs. L'important est de maintenir le concert de l'Europe, de le manifester par l'action commune d'une demonstration navale; et d'apres tout ce que je sais, j'ai confiance que le gouvernement de la Republique est reste dans la ligne de conduite et qu'il y perseverera.
"Quant a la Grece, il convient qu'elle attende aussi, sans faire mesure, l'effet de cette demonstration. Je suis peut-etre optimiste, mais je crois a une issue favorable.
"En ce qui touche le traite de Commerce votre lettre m'a fort surpris, et je ne peux m'expliquer une attitude si contraire aux preliminaires pris par M. L. Say: je vous prie de ne pas trop vous hater de la porter a la connaissance du public. Je crois qu'il y a la quelque malentendu que je serai bien aise de faire disparaitre, si vous voulez m'y donner le temps.
"Je vais demain a Cherbourg, ou je verrai vos amis qui sont invites par la Ville, et au retour je vous manderai ce que j'aurai appris sur les negociations du traite de Commerce qu'il serait si bon de voir conclure.
"CHAMBRE DES DEPUTES, "PARIS, "le 8 Mai, 1880.
"MON CHER AMI,
"Je profite de l'intermediaire d'un jeune ami, M. Auguste Gerard, que vous avez deja rencontre, pour vous envoyer quelques lignes de reponse a votre aimable derniere communication.
"J'ai vu le President de notre cabinet au sujet de la question Grecque, et comme vous pensez, le gouvernement est unanime pour reprendre la question de Janina integralement, en ecartant definitivement la derniere proposition de Waddington; on accepte la formation de la commission internationale, chargee de reprendre le trace au double point de vue diplomatique et technique. On y defendra le trace qui englobe Janina. Ce qui importerait aujourd'hui serait d'agir promptement, et de concert. On commettrait une lourde faute en laissant la Porte atermoyer plus longtemps et epuiser toutes les forces des diverses nationalites auxquelles elle refuse de donner les maigres satisfactions fixees par le traite de Berlin.
"M. Leon Say doit avoir recu d'ailleurs a ce sujet les instructions les plus nettes, et vous l'avez probablement deja vu.
* * * * * * *
"A bientot, je l'espere, "Votre devoue,
Such a step had already been taken by Great Britain on May 8th, when the Cabinet—
'wrote a despatch to the Courts proposing a Conference at Berlin or Paris as to the Greek frontier, which led, in fact, to the Conference summoned at Berlin to consider the fulfilment of the terms of the Treaty.'
On May 10th this activity was resented by the Sultan, who 'telegraphed his unwillingness to receive Goschen, and great pressure had to be brought to bear upon him during the next few days to induce him to consent.'
There was another matter arising out of the Russo-Turkish War which had occupied Sir Charles much while in Opposition—namely, the government of Cyprus. He did not think that the Foreign Office was the proper department to administer dependencies, and accordingly, within a few days of taking office, he raised the question whether there was any ground for keeping Cyprus under the Foreign Office, and suggested its transfer to the Colonial Office. In this Lord Granville concurred. But—
'Philip Currie, who as head of the Turkish department was managing the affairs of Cyprus, did not want to lose it, and asked to be allowed to prepare a memorandum in the opposite sense, and Lord Granville wrote, "I do not expect to be converted by Currie's memorandum. Do you? If not, the Colonial Office will have to bolt it." The Colonial Office did have to bolt it, for the island was soon handed over to them!'
By the close of the year, as has been seen, Sir Charles was able to report to his constituents "that, acting under the instructions of Lord Granville, he had secured a greatly improved administration for this island."
On May 21st—
'Egypt began to trouble me, and I was not to be clear of the embarrassment which it caused for several years. I wrote to Lord Granville to say that I had been sounded through Rivers Wilson as to how the Government would take the appointment of a Nubar Ministry with an English Finance Minister,' and Sir Charles again warned Lord Granville of dissensions between the English representatives in Egypt.
It became the most serious of all the embarrassments which involved Mr. Gladstone's Government. On May 8th—
'I had to see Lord Ripon, who had appointed Colonel Gordon to be his private secretary, and to inform him privately that the Foreign Office feared that he would find him too excitable to be possible as a secretary, which, indeed, very speedily proved to be the case.'
Gordon resigned before Lord Ripon reached India, and on June 14th telegraphed to Sir Charles—
'to know whether we would let him take service again with the Chinese. I saw a friend of his in London, one of the Chinese Commissioners of Customs, and asked whether Gordon could be got to telegraph that he would refuse any military command in the event of war between China and Russia. He said he thought so, and I told Lord Granville, who wrote back, "I have told the Duke of Cambridge that on these conditions he might have leave."'
Lord Ripon wrote on his arrival:
"... So, you see, your warnings about Gordon came true. It is fortunate that the arrangement came to an end before I got here. As it is, there is no real harm done; we parted the best of friends, and I learned to my astonishment, after I left him at Bombay, that he was off for China."
So passes out of sight for the moment, but only for the moment, this fateful personality.
An immediate trouble, however, arose out of the Anglo-Turkish Convention of 1878, by which Great Britain had been pledged to defend Turkey's possessions in Asia Minor on condition that necessary reforms in government were introduced. This pledge made England indirectly responsible for the character of Turkish rule in Armenia; and Sir Charles had repeatedly expressed the view that England was committed to more than she could perform, either as against Russia or on behalf of Armenia. On May 14th the Cabinet left in the draft of instructions to Mr. Goschen 'a passage of Tenterden's, in which we recognized the Asia Minor Convention of our predecessors.... But I induced Lord Granville to strike it out after the Cabinet on his own responsibility.'
On the other hand, since the Convention existed, Sir Charles held that by abrogating it they 'might appear to invite the Russians to invade Armenia, which Russia might proceed to do in the name of humanity.' So far as Turkey was concerned, it was considered likely that the Porte would wish to see the Convention annulled, because it could then sell Cyprus to Great Britain for cash instead of leasing it in return for the Asiatic guarantee; and Turkish Pashas would be free from any interference about reforms in Asia Minor. Ultimately the fear of letting Russia in outweighed the other considerations, and the Convention was recognized, leaving England with a heavy burden of moral responsibility for all that subsequently occurred in Armenia under the protection of what Mr. Gladstone himself had not unjustly called this "insane covenant."
Meanwhile, Musurus Pasha, the Turkish Ambassador, was complaining to Lord Granville that 'the Sultan had assented to the Convention under a false impression, not knowing that a portion of his dominions would be given over to Austrian control, an alienation not contemplated by the Treaty of San Stefano.' He complained, moreover, that the arrangement went, in reality, beyond temporary occupation of provinces. 'We (Lord Salisbury) had given Bosnia and Herzegovina secretly to Austria without reserve.'
The whole Eastern situation was ill-defined and full of difficulties. Mr. Goschen, before he left England on his mission, came to Dilke to 'bewail the unwillingness of Gladstone and of Lord Granville to make up their minds how far they were going in the direction of coercion of Turkey.' On May 26th—
'Looking about to see how Turkey was to be coerced with regard to the Greek and Montenegrin questions, I discovered that all reinforcements and officials were sent, and all money received by the Constantinople Government, by the sea route, so that a blockade of the Dardanelles would cut their Empire in two until they came to terms.'
Sir Charles's aim throughout all these frontier negotiations was to support the claims of Greece, left indefinite by the Berlin Treaty. At Great Britain's instance, the Greeks had refrained from attacking Turkey when Turkey was engaged with Russia; but the Treaty of Berlin had only promised to Greece in general terms "a rectification of frontier." On the other hand, the Treaty had awarded to Montenegro certain districts of Albania, which, as already stated; showed great repugnance to accept Montenegrin rule. Sir Charles now conceived a plan—
"for combining Albanian autonomy with personal union with Greece, finding that the Albanians were willing to accept the King of the Hellenes, provided they succeeded in obtaining securities or privileges for the Roman Catholic Church, to which great numbers of them belonged."
On May 28th he learnt from the Greek Charge d'Affaires that proposals for such a personal union had been made to the King of Greece, directly and very secretly, "on the part of a Turkish statesman." The Southern Albanians, wrote M. Gennadius, are to all intents and purposes Greeks. But, the latter added, "the initiative ought to proceed from the Albanians." A few days later Mr. Goschen wrote from Constantinople that the proposed union would be a solution "very valuable for Europe," but that the Turks would struggle hard to outbid the Greeks, and the Albanians were very strong in the Palace, and were trusted all over the Empire. Still, autonomy, Mr. Goschen thought, the Albanians "would and must have in some shape." [Footnote: See also Life of Goschen, vol. ii., pp. 215, 216.]
In their attempt to reverse the Beaconsfield policy there was one influence steadily opposed to the Government.
'On June 11th there went out a despatch, which had been for several days on the stocks, as to the Anglo-Turkish Convention. It had come back on the 10th from the Queen, who had written by the side of our words: "The acquisition of Cyprus is, in their view, of no advantage to the country either in a military or political sense." "I do not in the least agree in this.—V.R.I." But we sent it, all the same.'
The King of Greece had come to London, and on June 4th Sir Charles went by his wish to Marlborough House, and had an hour's conversation, 'chiefly upon the question of personal union with Albania, but partly with regard to the past, as to which I received his thanks.' 'I thought him a very able man, an opinion which I have never changed.' All Europe confirmed this judgment when the King of the Hellenes was struck down more than thirty years later in the very achievement of his long-planned schemes. In 1880 the note of disparagement was widespread; but Sir Charles was not alone in his estimate:
'Dizzy was once, after this date, talking to me and the Duchess of Manchester about him, and the Duchess said to me: "How you Liberals have deceived that poor little King!" Whereupon Dizzy replied: "It would take a very clever Government to deceive that youth."'
Elsewhere Sir Charles wrote that the King was a "good talker, but academic," and, dining at Marlborough House on June 6th, he heard an estimate of him as the too industrious apprentice:
'A big aide-de-camp of the King of Greece took more champagne than was good for him, and was extremely funny. Pointing to his King, he said: "Now, there is my King. He is a good little King; but he is not what I call a fashionable King." And then, pointing to the Prince of Wales, he said: "Now, that is what I call a fashionable Prince—un Prince vraiment 'chic.' He goes to bed late, it is true, but he gets up— well, never. That is what I call a really fashionable Prince. My King gets up at six!"'
Sir Charles met the King repeatedly during the next fortnight, to follow out, with the maps, the military details of the proposed new frontier. As soon as the French and Austrian Governments had accepted the British proposal for a Conference at Berlin to settle the question of the frontiers, and Bismarck had consented to call it, Lord Odo Russell wrote that he would have to "act on the Greek Frontier Commission, in which Dilke was better versed than anyone," and begged Sir Charles to "lend him his lights," 'which,' says the Memoir, 'I had to proceed to do' by an exhaustive letter.
A naval demonstration in the Adriatic now followed, generally known as 'the Dulcigno demonstration,' carried out by ships of the concerted Powers, under command of the senior Admiral present, and acting under a protocole de desinteressement. It was imposing rather than formidable, since France and Italy both instructed their officers in no case to fire a shot. But it was powerfully reinforced by the threat of independent British action, on the lines which Sir Charles Dilke suggested, and, so helped, it did its work, so far as the Montenegrin question was concerned. The Greek question still remained for settlement.
Phases in the development of this situation are thus chronicled:
'On June 23rd I went to the State Ball, and had a good deal of talk with Musurus, to try and find out about a curious business which I noted in my diary as follows: "The Russians and Turks are working together. The Russians came yesterday to propose to send 20,000 Russian men in English ships to coerce Turkey, and the Turks tell us to-day that they will yield to an occupation by a European force, but not to a mere naval demonstration. Both want to raise the difficulties which this will cause, and to fish in troubled waters."
'On Wednesday, June 30th, at three o'clock, an interview took place between Lord Granville, Lord Northbrook' (First Lord of the Admiralty), 'Childers' (Secretary of State for War), 'Sir John Adye' (Childers' adviser), 'and myself at the Foreign Office as to the means of coercing Turkey. The War Office wished to place an army corps in Greece, which, if they were to send a full complement of guns, would take a month. I suggested the far cheaper plan of a naval occupation of the port of Smyrna, and the collection and stoppage of customs and dues. Mr. Gladstone came in a little late, and took up my idea. But, preferring his Montenegrins to my Greeks, he insisted that we should first deal by the fleet with the Montenegrin question at Dulcigno. Both ideas went forward. The Dulcigno demonstration took place, and produced the cession of territory to the Montenegrins; and we afterwards let out to the Turks our intentions with regard to Smyrna, and produced by this means the cession of territory to Greece. [Footnote: Life of Granville, vol. ii., p. 231.]
'On Thursday, July 1st, we had a further interview with the Admiralty to arrange our naval demonstrations. On this day there came to see me Professor Panarietoff, a secret agent of the Prince of Bulgaria. He informed me that his Government intended to press on a union between Bulgaria and Eastern Roumelia. They did not see any reason why they should wait. It might suit the English Liberal Cabinet that they should wait; but from their point of view, why wait? At a party in the evening I met Borthwick, who playfully assured me that he knew that our policy was to send one army corps to Greece to support the Greeks against the Turks, and another to Eastern Roumelia to support the Turks in maintaining the Treaty of Berlin. The two, after each of them had accomplished its mission, would probably, he thought, come into hostilities with one another in Macedonia.'
On July 5th the Austrian Ambassador, Count Karolyi, told Sir Charles that the Turkish representative at Vienna had been solemnly warned to reckon no longer upon the possibility of disagreement among the Powers, and to consider 'the danger which would result if the Powers became convinced that the Porte had no respect either for their pledges or its own.' This Dilke hailed as 'a great step in advance on Austria's part,' and on July 7th he called at the Austrian Embassy, at the wish of the Ambassador, who explained the views of his Government:
'It would send two ships to meet two ships of each Power that chose to send any, to watch the Montenegro coast with a view to carrying out the Dulcigno proposal if the Porte would not give effect to the Corti compromise within three weeks.' Count Karolyi 'then went on to speak warmly in favour of the future of Greece, and to say that as regarded the Greek frontier Austria would be willing even to send troops.'
Public feeling in Austria, it appeared, was willing to sanction much stronger measures in support of Greece than it would tolerate on behalf of Montenegro. The British Foreign Office now proceeded to utilize the position of vantage which had been gained.
'On July 16th I noted that, Lord Granville having urged the Queen to write an autograph letter to the Sultan of a nature to induce him to give in, the Queen very naturally refused, on the ground that she dissented from every proposition in the draft sent her. She offered to write a mild word of advice or recommendation to him to yield without bloodshed, and this proposal was accepted by the Government. A telegram based on it was despatched on the 17th, and it asked in the name of united Europe for a complete fulfilment of the conditions of the Treaty of Berlin. The Sultan had at this moment despatched a secret agent, a French advocate at Constantinople, to Gambetta, who assured him that it was because France was interested in the maintenance of the Ottoman Empire that it was absolutely necessary to force Turkey to allow herself to be saved.
'The attitude of the French Government had begun to embarrass us a good deal. On July 28th I wrote to Gambetta that we could not understand the hesitations of the French Government, which was continually putting in reserves. All this was known at Constantinople, and augmented the resistance of the Porte; the Prime Minister's paper was attacking us, and Gambetta's paper (the Republique Francaise) giving us no support.... In his telegraphic reply Gambetta used words of encouragement with regard to the attitude of his Government, as to which, no doubt, he was himself finding a good deal of trouble. A little later he sent over one of his private secretaries with a fuller letter.'
A conversation with Gambetta would have been valuable to Sir Charles at this moment, and he regretted having to forgo an opportunity which offered. He had procured invitations for—
'the Brasseys and Samuelson to the Cherbourg banquet, [Footnote: This banquet was the occasion of Gambetta's famous Cherbourg speech, a passage from which is inscribed on his monument in Paris.] which was to be given to the President of the Republic and the Presidents of the two Chambers (that is, Grevy, Gambetta, and Leon Say). Brassey asked me to go with him in the Sunbeam. Although I should like to have gone, I was under engagements in London; and I spent the Sunday dismally ... instead of at Cherbourg with Gambetta.'
But he sent him messages by Mr. Bernhard Samuelson [Footnote: M.P. for Banbury; afterwards Sir Bernhard Samuelson.] which were quickly effective.
Also, although public opinion in Austria favoured Greece, Sir Charles had ground for believing that Italian Ministers kept the Turks perfectly informed, and that even while advising concession upon Montenegro, they did so with the suggestion that the Greek claims might be the more easily resisted. Austria's concern was, of course, with the northern part of the Illyrian coast; Italy's with the southern. As he noted later in the year, 'the European Concert was about as easy to manage as six horses to drive tandem.' Nevertheless, by the first week in August, 1880, he was able to write:
'A collective note had now been presented by the Powers to the Porte, so that we had carried the Powers with us as fully in our Montenegrin policy, represented by the collective note, as in our Greek policy, represented by the previous Identic note—a most considerable success, contrasting strongly with the failure which our foreign policy met with two or three years later.'
These impressions were shared by Lord Ripon, who followed European and domestic affairs keenly, from India. He wrote on August 17th:
"I rejoice to see that the F.O. seems to be distancing all competitors in the race of success, ... which" (he added) "in regard to some parliamentary proceedings is not very high praise, you will be perhaps inclined to say."
Even after the collective note had been presented, the European situation remained delicate and difficult through the mutual distrust of the Powers. On August 9th Lord Granville, who through all these negotiations was exerting his greatest diplomatic skill in keeping Germany in the Concert, expressed to Sir Charles his conviction that 'Bismarck had spies in the Queen's household, and knew everything that went on.' On the side of France matters improved. [Footnote: See Life of Granville, vol. ii., chapter vi.]
'On the 8th I received, at last, a reply from Gambetta to my letters— a reply in which he showed that he fully agreed with me, but that he was not as a fact all-powerful with the Prime Minister (Freycinet). The same post, however, brought me a letter from Lord Houghton, who was at Vichy, and who complained that it was an unhealthy state of things that Gambetta (who had talked freely to him while in Paris) "should exercise so much irresponsible power." ... The result of my attempts to stir up Gambetta upon our side was seen in the report by Bernhard Samuelson of Gambetta's conversation with him at Cherbourg on Monday, August 9th, and in an article which appeared on Wednesday, August 11th, and another on Friday, the 13th, in Gambetta's paper on the coercion of the Turks. These articles were from the pen of Barrere, who had been over in the previous week to see me, and were written at the personal direction of Gambetta; and Adams (Secretary to the Embassy) wrote from Paris on the 13th that the tone of the French Government had correspondingly improved.'
But even while France assisted in one direction, she introduced fresh complications in another by her quickly maturing designs on Tunis—which had been mentioned to Sir Charles by the French Ambassador, M. Leon Say, as early as June 8th. French diplomatists claimed an authorization from Lord Salisbury. [Footnote: See Crispi's Memoirs, vol. ii., pp. 98-109 and 121; Life of Granville, vol. ii., pp. 215, 270, 436, as to Tunis and Tripoli.] "How can you," he was reported to have said, during the conversations which attended the Congress of Berlin, "leave Carthage to the barbarians?"
'It was on this day (June 8th, 1880) that I became fully aware of the terms of Lord Salisbury's offer of Tunis to France, as to which he misled the public, Lord Salisbury having, when reminded of the statement, said privately that it was "a private conversation," and publicly that there was "no foundation for the statement."'
Later Sir Charles made inquiries of M. Say, who gave the dates of the two conversations as July 21st and 26th, 1878.
'Lord Salisbury made a denial which is on record at the Foreign Office in his own handwriting in red ink, but this denial is dated July 16th —i.e., before the conversations.'
The trouble developed rapidly. By August 14th, 1880, Italy was threatening to withdraw her Ambassador from Paris, 'on account of the receipt of information showing that the French intended to occupy Tunis under Lord Salisbury's permission.'
At this moment Sir Charles's health broke down. Two notes from his chief, Lord Granville, are preserved, the first evidently sent across in the office: