"MY DEAR DILKE,
"Please don't be a d—d fool. Go home and do exactly what your doctor tells you.
And again on August 18th Lord Granville wrote:
"I must formally request you not to leave the house till you send me the doctor's written statement that he has advised you to do so. I consider myself an honorary member of the gouty faction, and entitled to speak with weight on the folly of trying to bully the disorder."
To this friendly dictation the patient submitted till the 23rd, when he insisted on going to the House to answer questions, but returned to bed, and next morning underwent an operation. [Footnote: He worked hard during his enforced confinement to the house, and one of his visitors was M. Joseph Arnaud, one of Gambetta's secretaries, who was sent by his friend to reassure him as to the pressure he was using in the Frontier Question. It is of M. Arnaud that Sir Charles tells a Gambetta story: 'G. was jovial to-day, November 12th, 1880. Arnaud having said that all the people to whom tickets were given for the presidential tribune were grateful to Gambetta, and all who were angry were angry with him—Arnaud—the reply was: "Tu ne comprends donc pas que tu es institue pour ca?"'] In a few days he was again in Parliament, where the peace party, headed by Sir Wilfrid Lawson, had begun to denounce the naval demonstration against Turkey. In this they were backed by the Fourth Party, who spoke of it as "the combined filibustering." However, on September 7th, the general question was raised on the motion for adjournment of the House, and Sir Charles, 'replying to the peace party on the one hand, and on the other to Cowen, who attacked them in the name of Albanian nationality,' drew from Lord Granville this compliment:
"My mother once said that Clarendon—with a slight headache—was the pleasantest man she knew. I will not say that an operation makes you speak better, but it certainly does not prevent your speaking as well as usual."
The Fourth Party [Footnote: Dilke dates the birth of the Fourth Party at the beginning of the Gladstone Ministry, and says: 'Gorst was its real brain, the other two members (for Arthur Balfour hardly belonged to it) contributing "brass."'] were also busy in denunciation of the Government's policy in Afghanistan, which had been finally determined on August 7th, when—
'the Cabinet directed Lord Hartington and Lord Ripon to retire from Kandahar, although we had now heard of the intention of the Russians to occupy Merv, a step on their part which was certain to make our retirement from Kandahar unpopular with those who did not know its necessity.'
Another circumstance even more certain to add to the unpopularity of the retirement was not then known to the Home Government. On July 26th, Lord Ripon, writing to Sir Charles, complained of the "embarrassing engagements" with which "Lytton's reckless proceedings" had hampered him. One of these engagements bound him to maintain Shere Ali as Wali of Kandahar; and on July 27th, Ayub Khan, Shere Ali's rival, defeated at Maiwand the force under General Burrows which was supporting Great Britains' nominee. The policy of evacuation met with resistance in a quarter where such policies were always opposed. On September 7th Sir Charles left London to stay with Lord Granville at Walmer Castle, and Lord Hartington joined them on the 9th.
'The Queen had written for the second time to Hartington urging with great warmth that we should retain Kandahar, although, as Hartington said, this meant, to India, an expenditure of four millions sterling a year, on local troops, for no military return.... The Queen ... at this moment was not only protesting strongly with regard to Kandahar, but also, in cipher telegrams, against the naval demonstration....
'On September 20th Lord Granville, just starting for Balmoral, came to see me. He told me that he thought of sending Dufferin to Constantinople at the end of Goschen's special mission, and Paget to Petersburg, and Layard to Rome if he could not get a pension out of the Treasury for Layard.'
The Queen conceived the interests of England as Lord Beaconsfield had presented them. But Mr. Gladstone did not conceive of English interests as bound up with Turkish success, and wrote on September 21st:
"If Turkey befools Europe at Dulcigno, we may as well shut up shop altogether."
About the same time Chamberlain expressed his mind on questions of foreign policy in their bearing on party politics:
"Kandahar will have to be given up.... I only hope Hartington will have the pluck to do it at once and before we get into some fresh scrape. I observe the papers generally speak well of the session, the Government, and especially of the Radicals. So far so good. We have scored very well up to this time."
'In another letter Chamberlain added:
'"What about the Concert of Europe? Will it last through a bombardment of Dulcigno? I don't much like concerts. Our party of two, with Dillwyn as chorus, was about as numerous as is consistent with harmony, and I fear five great Powers are too many to make a happy family."'
In France the great ally of the Sultan's Fabian policy had fallen. M. de Freycinet found himself forced to resign on September 19th:
'On September 9th I recorded that Gambetta means to turn out Freycinet. He foretold all this when Freycinet took office, and said to me at that time: "He will do well enough until he tries to fly. But one of these days he will set off flying." Gambetta turned out Freycinet on this occasion, but the day was to come when Freycinet would turn out Gambetta.'
On the 23rd Sir Charles 'heard from Paris that the fallen Minister "had been discovered to have been negotiating with the Vatican for months, without the knowledge even of his own colleagues."'
In the new Ministry, with Jules Ferry as Prime Minister, the Foreign Office fell to Barthelemy Saint-Hilaire, [Footnote: M. Barthelemy Saint- Hilaire, born in 1805, the well-known philosophical writer and translator of Aristotle, was now seventy-five years of age. He entered the Chamber of Deputies in 1848 as a member of the Left, and became a member of the Senate in 1876. He was the first Secretaire-General de la Presidence de la Republique.] and Lord Houghton said: "Think of the old Aristotelian Barthelemy having the F.O.! Without pretension, I think at my age I am just as fit for the English one." This was a view in which Sir Charles inclined to agree, although M. Barrere wrote: "Barthelemy Saint-Hilaire's tendencies are excellent. He is in complete accord with us, and his views are wholly ours."
Lord Houghton also spoke of an interview with Moltke, who had told him that 'Russia was the cause of the necessity for the immense arming of Europe, not France, which at present might be trusted to keep quiet.'
'On September 28th I noted: "Cabinet suddenly and most unexpectedly summoned for Thursday to sit on Parnell, the Sultan, and the Queen, about Ireland, Dulcigno, and Kandahar respectively."... [Footnote: The decisions as to the Irish difficulties are dealt with in the first portion of Chapter XXII., pp. 343-348.]
'On September 30th Chamberlain, who was staying at Sloane Street, gave me a note of what passed at the Cabinet. With regard to Kandahar, the Generals whose names had been suggested by the Queen had been consulted, and had, of course, pronounced against giving it up. So the Queen had got her own way sufficiently for the matter to be left over till after Christmas. The Cabinet were evidently sorry that they had not more fully and more early adopted my suggestion of British coercion of the Turks at Smyrna. And on this occasion they agreed to try to induce the other Powers to agree upon (1) local action, or (2) the seizure of a material guarantee: (1) meaning a demonstration at the Dardanelles, and (2) meaning Crete.'
But the Eastern, unlike the Irish, trouble was now nearing a close, though—
'On October 1st Lord Granville came to sit with me, and was very gloomy. He thought that Mr. Gladstone was inclined to give in to the Turks rather than resort to coercion. Harcourt came in also—at one moment, "Whatever we do, we must not be snubbed," and the next, "After all, it will be no worse than Palmerston and Denmark."'
Sir Charles's plan for the seizure of Smyrna was now agreed to in principle by the Ministers in London, but while it still remained uncertain whether they could carry other Powers with them in this coup, Lord Lyons, British Ambassador at Paris, had written expressing a wish to see, Dilke concerning negotiations for a commercial treaty, 'and the Foreign Office also desired that I should deal with the Danube question later.' Sir Charles left London on October 11th.
'Before I left, Lord Granville showed me a letter from Hartington from Balmoral saying that the Queen had not named Kandahar to him, and had "agreed to the Smyrna seizure project," but was angry about Ireland. Hartington added that he had pledged Forster to put down Parnell. As to her not naming Kandahar, Lord Granville said that she never attacked the policy of a department to its chief.'
At Paris Sir Charles was warned by Lord Lyons that '"you will find the French Foreign Office in some confusion, as the new Under-Secretary of State is vigorously employed in 'purging' it of clericals and reactionaries."' On October 12th he went with Lord Lyons to see Barthelemy Saint-Hilaire, and also Jules Ferry, the Prime Minister, and Tirard, the Minister of Commerce, with whom he would be principally brought into touch.
Lord Granville was in London with Mr. Gladstone, bewailing the unhappy fate of those who have to wait for an Eastern Power to make up its mind. But at last the Porte's decision to surrender Dulcigno was announced, and Lord Granville wrote:
"MY DEAR DILKE,
"I accept your felicitations d'avance—the Turkish Note has got us out of a great mess. My liver feels better already. I hope you will improve the occasion by impressing upon all that it only requires firm language from all, such as was used by them on Saturday, to make the Turk yield.
"I wonder whether they will be keen about Turkish finance. It is rather in their line.
"How are we to help our poor friends the Greeks?"
The letter closed by a warning not to write by the post, "unless to say something which it is desirable the French Government should know." Caution as to danger of gossip about his frequent meetings with Gambetta was also urged. [Footnote: Sir Charles notes on 11th November: 'Having had a telegram from Lord Granville to caution me, I told Gambetta that I did not want my visits talked about because of the German newspapers. The result of it was that the Agence Havas stated that I had not seen Gambetta, and this was copied by Blowitz next day, so that the Times repeated the untrue statement!']
Acting on these suggestions, Sir Charles Dilke during the next four days discussed with the French Foreign Office and with Gambetta (who had written on September 28th to say, "Je reviendrai expres de Suisse pour vous vous en causer a fond"), not only commercial negotiations, but also Turkish finance and the affairs of Greece. According to Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice, the interests of Greece were at this time suffering because Barthelemy Saint-Hilaire was anxious to reconcile the Porte to those designs "which France was executing at Tunis and contemplating at Tripoli"; [Footnote: Life of Granville, vol. ii., pp. 215, 436.] and in Sir Charles's notes of these interviews there is repeated mention of Gambetta's references to what Lord Salisbury had promised or suggested in regard to Tunis. Gambetta himself was strongly Philhellene, but said to his friend on October 17th: "Mr. Gladstone has spoilt our European affairs by putting Montenegro first." He held, and M. de Courcel agreed with him, that the Concert was for the moment "used up," and that Greece must wait until it could be reinvigorated. The conclusion which Sir Charles drew and conveyed to Lord Granville was that 'France waited on Germany, and Germany on Austria, in regard to the Eastern Question, and consequently that, Austria being absolutely mistress of the situation, a confidential exchange of opinions at Vienna was essential.'
The demonstration at Dulcigno was carried out in December, but no further progress was made then towards helping their "poor friends the Greeks."
Sir Charles's health was not at this time fully restored, but he was hard at work. Even when he went for a short rest to his villa near Toulon he was obliged to take a cipher with him, and, having no secretary at hand, spent much of his time (most grudgingly) in ciphering and deciphering telegrams.
'On October 25th Lord Granville wrote to me to Toulon, in cipher, to the effect that Odo Russell thought that "Bismarck was jealous of the leading part in Europe which we were now taking."'
Later, in November, the Prince of Wales, just returned from Berlin, confirmed this. At the German Court Sir Charles was regarded as a "most dangerous man" and as "a French spy." "But," the Prince added, "they say the same of me." On November 22nd Lord Odo Russell is quoted as saying 'that at the Court of Berlin I was considered a most dangerous man, but that the Crown Princess fought my battles like a sound Liberal and a true Briton as she is.'
At the close of the year, addressing his constituents, Sir Charles delivered a very effective general reply to Lord Salisbury's attacks on the Government's European policy. It was a little hard to be blamed for delay in settling difficulties which all sprang from Lord Salisbury's own "harum-scarum hurry" when he was Foreign Minister and Second Plenipotentiary of England. Lord Salisbury might say of the naval demonstration that the Powers might as well have sent "six washing-tubs with flags attached to them." The fact was that only to the concerted action of the whole of the Powers had Turkey yielded.
"The European Concert is the first real attempt in modern times to arrive at such an understanding between the six Great Powers as might gradually become a basis for partial disarmament, and for the adoption of a policy which would cease to ruin nations in time of peace by perpetual preparations for war. In arriving at the idea that when territorial changes are to be made it is for Europe to arrange them, a practical step has been taken in the direction of this policy."
"Quite excellent," wrote Lord Granville. "I am delighted, and so, let us hope, is Salisbury." [Footnote: The complicated story of the negotiations relating to the Montenegrin and Greek frontier questions will be found in detail in the Life of Granville, vol. ii., chap, vi., and the Life of Lord Goschen, vol. ii., chap. vii. The principal documents, with illustrative maps, are given in Sir Edward Hertslet's Map of Europe by Treaty, vol. iv.]
HOME POLITICS—COMMERCIAL TREATY—PERSONAL MATTERS
The opening successes of British foreign policy under the Gladstone Government were to a large extent neutralized by other difficulties in which the new Administration found itself at once involved. Ireland carried confusion into the very heart of Imperial authority, and discord into the counsels of the Government.
On October 30th, 1880, Lord Tenterden wrote:
'Odo Russell says there is a general opinion abroad that the Gladstone Government will be in a minority when Parliament meets, ... and that then the policy of England will have to be changed. There will be no more demonstrations, or concerts, or inconvenient proposals. I told him that such ideas were illegitimate offspring of Musurus and the Morning Post.'
These rumours of coming defeat sprang from the Irish situation. Captain Boycott's case had given a new word to the language; agrarian murders were frequent; and the decision to seek no powers outside the ordinary law, which had been pressed on Mr. Forster, was vehemently challenged by the Opposition. Radicals wished for a Bill offering compensation to tenants evicted under harsh conditions; but this proposal bred dissension in a Government largely composed of great landlords, two of whom, Lords Hartington and Lansdowne, possessed wide domains in Ireland. On June 13th, 1880, Sir Charles, after dining with Lord Rosebery in company with Mr. Gladstone, noted that there was disagreement in the Cabinet, 'all the peers being opposed to an Irish Land Bill, and all the Commoners supporting Forster in this branch of his proposals.'
'On July 2nd trouble broke out in the Cabinet with a letter from Lord Hartington advising the withdrawal of Forster's Irish Land Bill. [Footnote: The Compensation for Disturbance measure.] ... I placed my conditional resignation in Chamberlain's hands, and he his and mine in Forster's, in case the latter was inclined to nail his colours to the mast. I noted in my diary: "I do not care in the least about the Bill, but I must either go out with these men or climb into the Cabinet over their bodies, to either become a Whig or to eventually suffer the same fate, so I prefer to make common cause. I suppose there will be a compromise once more;" and so, at the Cabinet of the next day, Saturday, the 3rd, there was.'
The compromise of July 3rd did not terminate dissension. Lord Lansdowne retired from the Government, and in the first days of August the Compensation for Disturbance Bill itself was rejected by the Lords, many of Mr. Gladstone's nominal supporters voting against it.
This was the first revolt of the Whigs. The old order was passing, and shrewd eyes perceived it. Lord Houghton wrote to Sir Charles from Vichy on August 8th:
"I told Hugessen [Footnote: Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen had been created Lord Brabourne in this summer.] that a peer always voted with his party the first Session as a matter of etiquette; but it seems he does not think so. The Government will have to decide in the vacation whether they can govern without the Whigs or not. I am glad that I have not to decide this point, but I own I am glad that I have lived in a Whig world. It has been a wonderful combination of public order and personal liberty. I do not care much for future order, but I care a good deal for individual liberty, which is slipping away from under us."
For the moment the House of Lords had given victory to the Whigs; but the sequel was, in Mr. Gladstone's own words, "a rapid and vast extension of agrarian disturbance," which grew all through the winter of that famine- stricken year, presenting to the Chief Secretary the traditional Irish problem, how to deal with a lawless demand for redress of grievances. Towards the end of September Mr. Chamberlain wrote:
"Next Session will settle Forster one way or the other. Either he will pass a Land Bill and be a great statesman, or he will fail and be a pricked bubble for the rest of his natural life."
Mr. Forster wanted to pass a Land Bill, but he also wanted to deal with lawlessness by coercive legislation, and, after the Cabinet hurriedly called on September 28th, Mr. Chamberlain reported:
'"With regard to Ireland, Forster made a strong case for a Coercion Bill, but the Cabinet thought it best that the insufficiency of the present law should be thoroughly proved before new powers were asked for."
'Chamberlain went on:
'"Probably a prosecution will be tried against Parnell and the Land League for intimidating tenants and others. Even if it fails, it may divert the attention of the Land League from its present agitation, and so lead to a cessation of outrages."'
'I added in my diary: "I hope they will not commit the folly of prosecuting Parnell, which they discussed to-day. I sent for Hill, and got the Daily News to damn the idea." But my intervention through the Daily News was not on this occasion sufficiently strong ultimately to prevent this folly, for I had not, this time, any following at my back.'
Later in the year he told Mr. Chamberlain that "to try to stop Irish land agitation by making arrests was like firing a rifle at a swarm of midges."
Mr. Chamberlain replied from Birmingham on October 27th;
"I do not half like the Irish prosecutions, but I fear there is no alternative, except, indeed, the suspension of the Habeas Corpus, which I should like still less. Parnell is doing his best to make Irish legislation unpopular with English Radicals. The workmen here do not like to see the law set at defiance, and a dissolution on the 'Justice for Ireland' cry would under present circumstances be a hazardous operation."
Mr. Forster was eager to suspend the Habeas Corpus Act, and wanted to have Parliament specially summoned in order to carry through repressive legislation.
'On Monday morning, November 15th, on my return to London, I saw Harcourt, and told him that I should follow Chamberlain in resigning if a special Irish Coercion Session without a Land Bill were to be called. I saw Chamberlain immediately after the Cabinet which was held this day. Bright and Chamberlain were as near splitting off at one end as Lord Selborne at the other. Mr. Gladstone proposed at the Cabinet the creation of English, Scotch, and Irish Grand Committees, but obtained very little support....
'It seemed probable that there would be a Coercion Bill and a Land Bill, and that the Land Bill (although the resignation of the Lord Chancellor was threatened) would give what was known as "the three F's," and that the Government would insist on both Bills. [Footnote: The "three F's" were "Fair Rent" (i.e., judicially fixed rent), "Free Sale" (of tenant right), and "Fixity of Tenure."] The Lords would probably throw out the Land Bill, and the Government would resign....
'Chamberlain had dined with me on November 17th, and had given me late news of the condition of the Cabinet, which had been adjourned until Friday, the 19th.
'The division was really a division between the Commons' members on the one side (except Forster and Hartington, but with the support of Lord Granville), and Forster and Hartington and the Peers upon the other side; Lord Cowper, the Viceroy of Ireland' (who, although not a member of the Cabinet, had been called in for the occasion), 'making common cause, of course, with Forster....
'On the 19th the adjourned Cabinet was held; Forster was isolated, and all became calm. The Queen had telegraphed on the previous evening to Lord Granville in a personal telegram, in which she said that Mr. Gladstone had told her nothing about the dissensions in the Cabinet, and that she "must request Lord Granville either to tell her what truth there is in the statement as to dissensions or to induce Mr. Gladstone to do so!" Mr. Gladstone always held that the Queen ought not to be told about dissensions in the Cabinet; that Cabinets existed for the purpose of differing—that is, for the purpose of enabling Ministers who differed to thrash out their differences—and that the Queen was only concerned with the results which were presented to her by, or in the name of, the Cabinet as a whole. This seems reasonable, and ought, I think, to be the constitutional view; but the Queen naturally ... hates to have personal differences going on of which she is not informed....
'On November 23rd I noted in my diary that Hartington ... had grown restive, and wanted to resign and get Forster to go with him, and that Forster talked of it but did not mean it. Kimberley and Northbrook had come over to Mr. Gladstone's side, and the other view was chiefly represented by Lord Spencer and Lord Selborne; and I could not help feeling that if, as I expected, the split with Whiggery had to come, it had better be this split, so that we should have the great names of Gladstone and Bright upon our side. One could not help feeling that we had no men to officer our ranks, and that really, besides Mr. Gladstone, who was an old man, there was only Chamberlain.... Hartington was a real man, but a man on the wrong side, and with little chance of his getting rid of his prejudices, which were those, not of stupidity, but of ignorance; with his stables and his wealth it was useless to expect him to do serious work. Bright was a great name, and had a power of stringing together a series of sound commonplaces, so put that they were as satisfactory to the ear as distinct statements of policy would be; and had a lovely voice, but it was rhetoric all the same—rhetoric very different from Disraeli's rhetoric, but equally rhetoric, and not business.'
By November 25th the severity of the crisis may be gathered from a letter of Sir Charles's to Mrs. Pattison, which describes the grouping of forces. On the one side were "Gladstone, Bright, Chamberlain, Granville, Harcourt, Kimberley, Childers, Dodson, Northbrook; on the other Hartington, Forster, Spencer, Argyll, the Chancellor." "Forster," he wrote, "talks about resigning, but does not mean it. It is meaning it which gives us so much power."
'"If Chamberlain and I should be driven to resign alone, we shall have a great deal of disagreeable unpopularity and still more disagreeable popularity to go through." His old kinsfolk who cared for him were "hard- bitten Tories": Mr. Dilke of Chichester; his cousin, John Snook, of Belmont Castle; and Mrs. Chatfield, if she were still able to follow political events, would "badger him horribly." Worse still, he would have to endure "patting on the back by Biggar," to which he would prefer stones from "a Tory mob."
The lull in Cabinet troubles was only momentary:
'On December 10th, Chamberlain, the stormy petrel, came to stay. When we were at dinner there suddenly arrived a summons for a Cabinet to be held on Monday, instead of Thursday for which it stood, and we went off to Harcourt's. We found that he was not in the secret, and therefore decided that the Cabinet must have been called at the demand of the Queen on the suggestion of Dizzy, who was staying with her at this moment; "but it may have been called on account of Forster's renewed demand for coercion," as I noted.
'The next morning, December 11th, Lulu Harcourt came, and brought a note: "Dear Dilke, L. will tell you what he heard from Brett. It is odd that the Sawbones should know what we are trying to find out." Lulu reported that Dr. Andrew Clarke had told Reggie Brett, Hartington's secretary, that Parliament was, after all, to meet before Christmas. When Lulu was gone, Chamberlain and I decided that if there was only a pretended and not a real change we would resign, whatever our unpopularity. In the afternoon of the same day Harcourt wrote to Chamberlain that he had seen Hartington; that Forster had written to Gladstone that he could not wait till January 6th' (for extended powers of coercion). 'Harcourt said that the reports were not much worse, and only of a general kind; that Hartington thought Forster worried and ill. "In fact, I think he is like the Yankee General after Bull Run—not just afraid, but dreadful demoralized. I have only one counsel to give—let us all stick to the ship, keep her head to the wind, and cram her through it. Yours ever, W. V. H."
'Monday, December 13th.—... called before the Cabinet to find out whether the offer of Chamberlain's place would now tempt me to sell him! We won, after all!'
Mr. Forster had accordingly to wait till the New Year for the introduction of his Coercion Bill.
A departmental change in the Foreign Office at this time greatly increased the responsibilities of the Under-Secretary. Complaint had become frequent in the House of Commons of an apparently insufficient representation of the Government in regard to commercial questions, which belonged partly to the sphere of the Board of Trade and partly to that of the Foreign Office, with unsatisfactory results. Lord Granville determined, on returning to office, to make a new distribution of duties, and to take advantage of the Under-Secretaryship being occupied by a Member of Parliament whose competence on commercial questions was universally recognized to place the commercial business of the Office more completely under his control—as supervising Under-Secretary. [Footnote: This arrangement continued in the Under-Secretaryship of Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice, Mr. James Bryce, Mr. Robert Bourke, and Sir James Fergusson, but was subsequently altered. See also above, p. 314.]
'On Sunday, May 2nd, Lord Granville asked me to take over general supervision of the commercial department of the Foreign Office, and, although I should have preferred to keep free of all departmental work in order to attend to larger affairs of policy, I admitted that there were strong reasons for my taking the Commercial Department, inasmuch as the commercial members of the House of Commons were dissatisfied with its management, and because also it was certain that I should have to defend in the House of Commons treaty negotiations with foreign Powers, which would in any case force me to give much time to the consideration of commercial questions. When I first agreed to take over the Commercial Department, it was only with the view of keeping it for a short time, but I was unable to rid myself of it during the whole time I was at the Foreign Office, and it gave me heavy work.'
The first and chief instalment of this burden consisted in the negotiations for a new commercial treaty with France.
In January Dilke had learnt from Gambetta that M. Leon Say, late President of the Finance Committee of the Senate, would come to London as Ambassador 'when the trouble about "Article 7" was ended.' [Footnote: See Chapter XX., p. 300.] It was in the month of May (when the "trouble" about M. Ferry's attack on the religious Orders was by no means ended) that M. Say arrived, charged with an important mission, specially suited to his qualifications as an ex-Minister of Finance. France was revising her commercial policy; several commercial treaties, including that with Great Britain, had been only provisionally prolonged up to June 30th; and M. Say was instructed to try to secure England's acceptance of the new general tariff, which had not yet passed the Senate. Gambetta and his friends still held to the ideals of Free Trade. M. Tirard, the Minister of Commerce, supported the same view, but there was a strong Protectionist campaign on foot.
M. Say arrived on May 5th, and on the 6th had his first interview with Sir Charles:
'At this moment I was showing my disregard for the old Free-Trade notions in which I had been brought up by my grandfather, and my preference for reciprocitarian views, by carefully keeping back all grievances with the countries with which we were negotiating upon commercial matters, in order that they might be thrown in in the course of the negotiations. On this ground I managed to cause the Colonial Office to be directed to keep all Gibraltar grievances in hand.
'Immediately on taking charge of the Commercial Department, I had sent a memorandum on the wine duties to Mr. Gladstone, who replied, "I have never yet seen my way to reduction below a shilling or to a uniform rate. At present, we have not a sixpence to give away. I do not like bargaining away revenue for treaties, or buying over again from France what has been bought already.... In my view the treaty of 1860 was exceptional; it was to form an accommodation to the exigencies of the French Emperor's position. We never professed to be exchanging concessions, but only allowed him to say he had done it. I am, of course, open to argument, but must say, as at present advised, that I see but very little room for what is called negotiating a commercial treaty."'
This was discouraging, since it came from the author of the treaty of 1860, who by lowering the duties on light wines had brought into general popularity the "Gladstone clarets"; and Mr. Gladstone's expression of opinion, renewed in a second letter of May 11th, caused M. Say to 'let me clearly understand that as Mr. Gladstone was unwilling to lower the wine duties, he should resign his Embassy and try to become President of the Senate,' then vacant by the resignation of M. Martel. In this he succeeded, much to the regret of Gambetta, who afterwards said to Dilke:
'"People never know for what they are fit. There was Leon Say, the best possible Ambassador at London, who insists on resigning the Embassy in order to become a bad President of the Senate."'
But M. Leon Say, even in the act of resigning, advanced the possibility of a treaty. While visiting Paris in May, to promote his candidature, he 'attacked Mr. Gladstone so fiercely through the French Press for not offering to lower our wine duties that the Prime Minister, afraid to face our merchants, gave way.' In the supplementary Budget, proposed on June 9th, provision was made for a reduction from one shilling to sixpence of the duty on some wines. This new scale, however, was not to take effect unless compensating advantages were obtained from other countries.
France, of course, was not the only country concerned; and the Portuguese Minister, M. Dantas, wrote to Sir Charles holding out great prospects of expansion for British trade if Portuguese wines were let into the English market at a cheaper rate.
The Prime Minister first demurred, but finally agreed that the Portuguese might be asked—
'"whether, supposing fiscal conditions allowed us to give a great advantage to their wines between 26 and 36 degrees of alcoholic strength, they could engage for some considerable improvements in their duties upon our manufactures, and what would be their general character and effect?
'"The Spaniards appear to have been much less unreasonable in their demands. Please to consider whether the same question should be put to them. Both probably should understand that we have no money, and should have to make it, so that their replies respectively would form a serious factor in our deliberations."
'Here, at last, I had got all I wanted. I merely begged leave to put the same questions at Rome and Vienna, and, obtaining his consent ("Pray do as you think best about Rome and Vienna.—W. E. G."), I went on fast.'
Cipher telegrams were despatched on May 28th to Portugal, Spain, Italy, and Austria—countries which produce strong wines more abundantly than France—inquiring what corresponding advantages would be offered for a change in the wine duties; and Sir Charles resumed his discussions with M. Say, who had returned to London.
For a time there seemed hope of a settlement, based on a new classification of wines; but when the bases of agreement arrived at were seen in France, there was violent opposition to the proposed countervailing 'amelioration,' which was construed to mean 'a lowering of duties upon the principal products of British industry.' Protectionist feeling ran too high to accept this.
While Lord Granville left commercial matters entirely to his junior colleague, every detail of every proposal had to be thrashed out with the Prime Minister, who was his own Chancellor of the Exchequer. In such a correspondence there was much for a young Minister to learn; there was also an opportunity for Mr. Gladstone to take the measure of a man whose appetite for detail was equal to his own.
One of the minor difficulties lay in the fact that the Portuguese and Spaniards wanted changes in the wine scale, but not the same as those which the French required. Owing to the accumulation of obstacles, Mr. Gladstone, on going into Committee with his Budget, dropped the proposed alteration in the wine duties for that year. But in October Sir Charles was sent to Paris in order to open the matter afresh, and on November 11th Gambetta 'promised commercial negotiations in January in London, and an immediate declaration in the Senate.' Beyond this nothing could be done in 1880. The details of this first phase of these long-drawn-out transactions will be found in a very full despatch written by Sir Charles on August 6th, 1880 (and published subsequently in the Blue Book 'Commercial Relations with France, 1880-1882'), which placed on record the whole of the dealings between himself and the two successive French Ambassadors.
'On Tuesday, June 1st, Leon Say called on me to settle the words which he should use before a Commission of the Senate in answer to a question as to the new treaty. What I think he had really come about was as to his successor. Challemel-Lacour, a friend of Gambetta, had forced himself upon his Government; ... and Say came to tell me that Gambetta did not really want Challemel to come, but wanted Noailles, if an anticipated difficulty with the Queen could be got over.'
The difficulty was not got over, and so the appointment stood. The Memoir gives another version of the story, which Sir Charles heard in 1896, when he was staying with his friends the Franquevilles at Madame de Sevigne's chateau, Bourbilly.
'Franqueville said that Lord Granville had told him that when the Queen refused Noailles, the French Government had not meant to send him, but that he had been proposed only in order that Challemel- Lacour should be accepted. Lord G. had said: "The fact is that I told them the Queen would not have Challemel. They said they must send him or no one. Then said I, Propose Noailles.... She will refuse Noailles, and, having done that, she will take Challemel! So it happened."'
'Stories were at once set afloat that Challemel had shot a lot of monks, and various other inventions about him were started.' [Footnote: He had been in authority at Lyons during the war.] Matters went so far that the Prince of Wales wrote through his secretary suggesting that Sir Charles should use his personal influence with Gambetta to have the appointment cancelled. Trouble broke out in Parliament, where one Irish member put on the order paper a question specifying all the charges against the new Ambassador. The question having been (not without hesitation) allowed by the Speaker, Sir Charles gave a full reply, completely exonerating the new Ambassador from all these accusations. This, however, did not satisfy Mr. O'Donnell, who proposed to discuss the matter on a motion for the adjournment of the House. The Speaker interposed, describing this as an abuse of privilege, and when Mr. O'Donnell proceeded, Mr. Gladstone took the extreme course of moving that he be not heard. So began a most disorderly discussion, which ended after several hours in Mr. O'Donnell's giving notice of the questions which at a future date he proposed to put on the matter, but which were never put.
Gambetta wrote to Dilke on June 18th:
"Let me thank you from the bottom of my heart for the lofty manner in which you picked up the glove thrown down by that mad Irish clerical. In my double capacity of friend and Frenchman, I am happy to have seen you at this work."
A few days later the Prince of Wales's secretary wrote to say that the Prince had received M. Challemel-Lacour, and found him very agreeable. On this Dilke comments:
'Challemel was delightful when he pleased; but he did not always please, except very late at night.'
In November of this year Dilke met Rouher, the great Minister of the fallen Empire.
'He told me that he had quite dropped out of politics, and was becoming a philosopher, and that Gambetta was the only man in France, and could do anything he pleased with it.'
Sir Charles's own opinion of contemporary France was conveyed to Lord Granville in one of several despatches, which have never been printed, partly because the Queen raised objection to his writing officially from a capital at which there was an Ambassador. It gives his impressions of the state of things under "the Grevy regime," some years later exposed in connection with the Wilson trial.
"Paris, October 17, 1880.
"Your Lordship asked me to send you any general remarks that I might have to offer upon the existing state of things in Paris, so that I may perhaps be permitted to express the conviction which I feel that at this moment there is an extraordinary contrast between the strength and wealth of France and the incapacity of those who are responsible for the administration of its Government. In addition, it is impossible not to be struck with the atmosphere of jobbery which surrounds the public offices. Transactions which in England would destroy a Ministry, in Paris arouse at the most a whisper or a smile. Something was heard in England of the terrible conversion of 'rentes' scandal of last year, and there is reason to suppose that the administration of Algeria by the persons who surround the brother of the President of the Republic, its Governor-General (Albert Grevy), constitutes a standing disgrace to France. The venality not only of the Opposition, but also of the Ministerial Press, is admitted on all sides, and the public offices are disorganised by the sudden dismissal of well-trained public servants, who are replaced by the incompetent favourites of those in power. The lightest suspicion of what is known as clericalism, even when only a suspicion, based on anonymous and calumnious denunciation, is sufficient to condemn a functionary. If it be not trivial to give a simple example, I would quote one which will, I think, remind your Lordship of the name of an old friend. Monsieur Tresca, who was for more than thirty years the Assistant-Director of the Conservatoire des Arts et Metiers, is a member of the Institute, the most distinguished Civil Engineer in France, and not past work. The Director having lately died, I expected to find that he had been succeeded by Monsieur Tresca, but I discovered that this was not the case. I took an opportunity while sitting next to the Prime Minister at dinner at Her Majesty's Embassy to mention M. Tresca's name, in order to see if I could discover the reason for his disgrace. 'Mais il parait qu'il est clerical,' was the phrase. Monsieur Tresca was a moderate Orleanist who followed M. Thiers when the latter gave his adhesion to the Republican form of government, and is certainly not a man who could be properly described as clerical in his views.
"Strange as it may seem, however, I am not inclined to see in the existing and increasing degradation of French politics an actual danger to the form of government which has been adopted in France. It is, on the contrary, an undoubted fact that the Imperialist, Legitimist, and Orleanist parties are continuing steadily to lose ground. But if the Government is not only to last, but to succeed, those who are responsible for its guidance will have at all hazards to abandon their present policy of suspicion and exclusion, and to adopt that of tolerance and comprehension, which, with magnificent effect upon the power of France, was followed by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1801. If they continue in their present course, the result must be fatal to the reputation and to the influence of France."
'I was rather given to interfering in the affairs of other offices, which is not as a rule a wise thing to do; but then it must be remembered that I was in the position of having to represent the interests and opinions of the men below the gangway, and that they used to come to Chamberlain and to me in order to put pressure upon our colleagues through us, and that I was the person approached in all Indian, Colonial, naval, and military questions, and Chamberlain in domestic ones.'
In the last week of May, 1880,
'I engaged in a struggle with Lord Northbrook over the proceedings of some of his ships.... The town of Batanga, on the west coast of Africa, had been bombarded, sacked, and burnt for a very trifling outrage; and I succeeded in inducing Lord Northbrook to telegraph for further information. Ultimately the First Lord reported that—"The Commodore has only done what was forced upon him, but it is necessary to look very sharply after our commercial and consular people in those parts, who constantly want to use force."'
At the beginning of July hostilities between Russia and China seemed probable, and there was a rumour of a Russian defeat on the Kashgar frontier. Serious apprehensions were entertained, especially in India, as to the effect on British trade:
'I went to W. H. Smith, and asked him to ask me whether we would strengthen the China squadron in view of a possible Russian blockade of the Treaty ports. I strongly recommended this increase of force, but had been unable to get our people to agree to it; and through Smith's question the thing was done....
'On May 31st I was asked to explain why I had taken the unusual course for a member of the Government of walking out from a Government division on the Secret Service money. I replied that I thought that there was room for reduction in the sum, that I knew nothing about what was spent in Ireland, but that what went abroad was chiefly spent in America, "in buying Fenians to write reports about other Fenians, probably at the wish of the latter, who divide the spoils." There was a Consul at Philadelphia who was perpetually writing to us with plans of infernal machines, models of bombs, specimens of new kinds of dynamite, and so forth, and we had to forward all his letters to the Home Office, and always received from Harcourt the same reply—that we were very probably being imposed on, but that the matter was so important that whether we were imposed on or not we must buy; so that naturally there was a good deal of waste.' [Footnote: In 1881 Sir Charles again abstained from voting on this question.]
Another note shows how some Secret Service money was expended:
'On December 2nd Sir Henry Thring told me that a great number of the Queen's telegrams had been sent to be pulped, and that the pulper had taken them to America, whence they were recovered by a plentiful expenditure of Secret Service money.'
Dilke maintained his practice of seeing Gambetta every time he passed through Paris to or from Toulon. But the British Embassy now gave him another object in these visits, and he notes a pleasant story of the Ambassador:
'As I was passing through Paris on my way to Toulon for Christmas, I started with Lord Lyons negotiations for the renewal of representation by England to the Mexican Republic, [Footnote: The Mexican negotiations were not at this time successful, but in 1883 Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice, who followed Sir Charles at the Foreign Office, again raised the matter, and ultimately a representative was appointed. See Life of Granville, vol. ii., p. 304.] which I thought important for commercial reasons, and which was ultimately brought about. I said to Lord Lyons as we were walking together across the bridge from the Place de la Concorde to the Chamber: "If you bring about this renewal of relations, you will have the popularity in the Service of making a fresh place—for a Minister Plenipotentiary." "Yes," said he, "but if I were to jump off this bridge I should be still more popular—as that would make promotion all the way down."'
At the beginning of December Sir Charles received an offer from the Greek Government of the Grand Cross of the Saviour, which he was obliged, according to the English custom, to decline.
'But as I afterwards, when out of Parliament, declined the Turkish Grand Cross of the Medjidieh, I became one of the few persons, I should think, who ever had the chance of declining those two decorations.'
His home anxieties in this year had been great. He tells very sadly of the death of the grandmother who had kept house for him from his childhood. Shortly after "her little old niece, Miss Folkard," who had always lived with them, also passed away.
His uncle, Mr. Dilke of Chichester, and Mr. Chamberlain came often to stay with him, but he was anxious as to the care and education of his little boy. Early in the new year Mr. Chamberlain proposed that Wentworth Dilke should come and live with his own children. A year later the boy was sending messages to his father to say that 'he had made up his mind not to return to London, but proposed to reside permanently at Birmingham, and thought that I had better go to live there too.'
It was also for Sir Charles a year of change in one of the more intimate relations of political life. Mr. George Murray, his secretary at the Foreign Office, was taken 'by the Treasury, [Footnote: See mention of Mr. George Murray, Chapter XX., p. 314.] and in his place was appointed Mr. Henry Austin Lee, formerly a scholar and exhibitioner of Pembroke College, Oxford.' Also his private secretary, Mr. H. G. Kennedy, who had been with him for many years, was now in ill-health, and had been much away for two years. On July 27th, 1880, his place was taken by 'a volunteer from Oxford,' Mr. J. E. C. Bodley, the future author of France—one of the few Englishmen who has attained to the distinction of writing himself "Membre de l'Institut."
In November, 1880, Mr. Forster's "resignation" had only been staved off by the Cabinet's promise to him of coercive powers in the new year, and it was certain that such a Coercion Bill, when introduced, would be met by the Irish members with obstruction outdoing all previous experience. The Land Bill, which was to accompany coercion, went far enough in limitation of the rights of property to be a grievous trial to the Whigs, and yet to Radicals such as Dilke and Chamberlain seemed complicated, inconclusive, and unsatisfactory.
Bad as was the Irish trouble, South Africa was worse. Finding no attempt made by Liberal statesmen to fulfil the expectations of free institutions which had been held out even by the Tory Government, the Boers rose for independence in December, 1880. War followed—a half-hearted war accompanied by negotiations. All was in train for the day of Majuba.
Sir Charles's Memoir shows this ferment working. By January 6th, 1881, he was back in London from his Christmas at Toulon.
'The Radicals were angry with the weakness of the Land Bill, which, however, was Mr. Gladstone's own. Oddly enough, both Hartington and Forster would have gone further, and Hartington certainly even for the "three F's," though he would have preferred to have had no Bill at all; but then Hartington did not care about stepping in, and Gladstone did, and feared the Lords. Chamberlain thought that the Land Bill was sure to be vastly strengthened in passing through the House....
'I noted on January 7th that I was very restive under Mr. Gladstone's Irish policy, but I found that if I were to go I should have to go alone, for Chamberlain at this moment was not in a resigning humour.'
A second element of discord lay in the preparations for the struggle on the Coercion Bill.
'On January 8th Chamberlain gave me a minute by Hartington, which I still have (dated the 3rd), proposing a summary method of dealing with Irish obstruction. Hartington thought that the Speaker, "by a stretch of the rule against wilful obstruction, might, if assured of the support of the great majority of the House, take upon himself the responsibility of declaring that he would consider any member rising to prolong the debate as guilty of wilful obstruction, and thus liable to be silenced." If the Speaker exceeded his power, he would (Hartington thought) only render himself liable to censure by the House, and if previously assured of its support there was hardly any limit to the authority which he might not assume. Chamberlain wrote strongly to Hartington against this proposal. He was convinced that with a stretch of authority the number of opponents would be increased. He added: "I believe the time has passed when Ireland can be ruled by force. If justice also fails, the position is hopeless, but this is a remedy which has never yet been tried fairly." Hartington wrote in reply, on January 10th: "If we cannot pass the Coercion Bill without locking up fifty or sixty members, they must be locked up." Hartington's view was accepted by the Speaker, and led to the wholesale expulsion from the body of the House of the Irish members....
'On January 12th I somewhat unwillingly made up my mind that I must remain in the Government, as Chamberlain insisted on remaining. I feared that if I came out by myself I should be represented as encouraging disorder, and to some extent should encourage it, and should be driven to act with mere fanatics. In coming out with Chamberlain I always felt safe that we could carry a large section of the party with us. Coming out by myself, I feared that that was not so. Chamberlain's position at this moment was that he personally did not believe in coercion, but that the feeling in the country was such that any Government would be forced to propose it, and he was not sufficiently clear that it was certain to fail to be bound as an honest man to necessarily oppose it. I received on this day a letter from a constituent upon the point, and answered that, agreeing generally as regarded pending Irish questions with Bright and Chamberlain, I should follow them if they remained united. [Footnote: The phrase 'pending Irish questions' is important. It excluded Home Rule.] Should they at any point differ from Mr. Gladstone, or the one with the other, as to the course to be adopted, I should have to reconsider my position.
'On January 14th I had a full talk with Bright, trying to get him to go with me. Bright told me that the outrages had got much worse in Ireland since the middle of December, as for example that of firing into houses. He had come round a great deal in the coercion direction. He now distinctly favoured suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act—that is to say, did not unwillingly yield to it, like Chamberlain, but supported it almost willingly, and he evidently had been converted by Forster to the view that things had grown to be very bad, and that by locking up a small number of the chiefs the rule of law might be restored. I did not agree, but his opinion showed me how completely I was isolated. I seemed trying to put people a point beyond themselves before they were naturally ready to go, and risked only being followed by those who are always ready to run on any fresh scent and whose support is but a hindrance. I felt myself face to face with the necessity for self-sacrifice of the hardest kind, the sacrifice of my own judgment as to the right course in the attempt to work with others. It was clear that few men thought at this time that coercion was so inexpedient that a single member of the Government would be justified in venturing on a course which would weaken the hands of Government itself, increase Mr. Gladstone's difficulties, and retard or hamper the remedial legislation which I myself thought most desirable. Moreover, we had weakened the Irish executive in past years by continually teaching them to rely on unconstitutional expedients, and it seemed very difficult to choose a moment of great outrage to refuse them the support which we had long accustomed them to look for in every similar stress of circumstances.
'The Cabinet of January 22nd dealt with the allied questions of closure, coercion, and remedial legislation for Ireland. It was decided to produce a scheme of closure as soon as it was certain that Northcote was in favour of the principle, and it was left to Mr. Gladstone to make sure of this, and I noted in my diary, "He had better make very sure." I was right in my doubt, and this question of Parliamentary procedure led to such a breach between Mr. Gladstone and his former private secretary that the Prime Minister told me he should never in future believe a word that Northcote might say. The apparent tortuousness of Northcote's conduct was caused by the weakness of his position as leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons. He was in favour of moderate courses, and always began by agreeing with us in private, after which Randolph Churchill would send a man to him with the message: "Go and tell the old goat that I won't have it." And then the unfortunate Northcote, to avoid being denounced in public, had to turn round and say that he could not answer for his party.'
Chronicling another talk with Gladstone, in which the latter spoke of Northcote's "shiftiness," Sir Charles says:
'I had a high opinion of Sir Stafford, but in face of Churchill he was not a free agent....
'The Cabinet rejected Chamberlain's proposal to accompany coercion by a provision against ejectments in the sense of the Compensation Bill of 1880. In my diary I add: "By a majority they decided that there should be no declaration of the nature of the Land Bill as yet; but, as Gladstone was in the minority on this point, we shall probably not wait long for the declaration. The Land Bill was finally settled. It really gives the 'three F's,' applied by a Court, but so wrapped up that nobody will find them."'
Mr. Forster's Coercion Bill was introduced as the first business of the Session, and was met by obstruction which more than realized the forecast. From Monday, January 31st, through the whole of Tuesday, February 1st, the debate was prolonged in a House possessing no recognized authority to check it; and at nine on the Wednesday morning Speaker Brand adopted the course which had been advocated by Lord Hartington. Acting in the exercise of his own discretion, he ordered the question to be put. The Irish members, having refused to submit, were removed one by one, technically by force. In face of these circumstances the Cabinet met on the Wednesday afternoon.
'The Cabinet decided not to have general closure in the form in which Chamberlain had asked for it in my name as well as in his. Gladstone wanted to have a special closure for Irish coercion, but Chamberlain presented our ultimatum against that, and won. When Chamberlain and I talked over the whole situation, I told him that I thought we had been too popular up to now for it to last. We were now unpopular with our own people in the constituencies on account of coercion, but, holding their opinions, were not really trusted by the moderates. I thought this position inevitable. The holding of strongly patriotic and national opinions in foreign affairs combined with extreme Radical opinions upon internal matters made it difficult to act with anybody for long without being attacked by some section with which it was necessary to act at other times, and made it difficult to form a solid party.'
When Dilke and Chamberlain, neither of whom was averse from the idea of closure in itself, resisted a proposal which meant treating the Irish members in a category apart from the rest of the House of Commons, they took a course which now seems simple and inevitable. But there is some difficulty in realizing to-day how Irishmen, and more especially Irish members, were viewed in England through the early eighties. Something of the public feeling towards them may be gathered from a string of extracts dealing with another source of dissension in this Cabinet. Sir William Harcourt, as Home Secretary, had adopted determined views of what may be conceded to the exigencies or the demands of detectives. Sir Charles writes on February 5th:
'It was at this moment that I first had to do with dynamite. Lord Granville had instructed me to deal with such matters at once myself without their passing through the Office; and receiving despatches from Washington (containing despatches from our Consul at Philadelphia offering information as to plots), and having missed Harcourt, I took them to Mr. Gladstone. I said that I had no doubt a sharp Yankee was trying to get a couple of hundred pounds out of us.'
But Sir William Harcourt wished for the information, and Sir Charles adds:
'The result of this policy undoubtedly was the fabrication of plots, as exposed by Michael Davitt in the Labour World in 1890.'
Later Harcourt modified his view, but 'this was like shutting the stable door when the steed was stolen.'
'On February 16th I noted in my diary my dissatisfaction with regard to the Secret Service money. In 1880 I had walked out instead of voting for it, and I proposed this year to follow the same course. I knew of nothing on which was spent the L15,000, except one sum of L40 for a service not secret at all in its nature, "and L200 spent in America on a ... panic of Harcourt's." I believe that as a fact most of the money was spent in the United States, but as I was not trusted with the information, I again walked out.'
On February 12th 'there was a great row between Fawcett and Harcourt.'
'Harcourt and Fawcett had been opening the letters of the Irish members, and when the Irishmen found it out Fawcett wanted to admit it, and Harcourt insisted on a blank refusal of information. My brother came to me with this question from the Radicals: "What is the use of having a blind Postmaster-General if he reads our letters?"'
The matter came up in the Cabinet along with a discussion on the Arms Act, which prohibited the possession of firearms in Ireland without licence from a Magistrate, and authorized the police to search. This Act had been in force before, but had been dropped by the Government on coming into office, and was now proposed as a supplement to Mr. Forster's "Protection of Property" measure.
'On February 12th Mr. Gladstone, with Bright and Chamberlain, fought hard against the Arms Bill. Harcourt, however, said that "coercion was like caviare: unpleasant at first to the palate, it becomes agreeable with use"; and, led by Harcourt, the majority insisted on having more coercion, and it was settled that the second Bill should go on. At dinner at Lord and Lady Cork's in the evening I was astonished to see in what excellent spirits Mr. Gladstone was, although he had been entirely overruled in his own Cabinet in the afternoon.'
Meanwhile the Home Secretary's activity was making trouble for the Foreign Office.
'It having been stated in the House of Commons by Parnell that he had been watched and followed in Paris by persons connected with the Embassy, Lord Lyons telegraphed to me to ask me to contradict the statement. On February 19th he telegraphed again: "No one known to or in communication with the Embassy followed Parnell or watched him in any way in Paris, and nobody reported to the Embassy about him." I wrote to Harcourt and told him that Lord Lyons wished a contradiction made, and that Lord Granville wished me to make the contradiction "if Harcourt sees no objection." I afterwards wrote to Harcourt, "From what you said, I imagine that you do see objection; but if we can, it is better to keep the Embassies out of police matters." Harcourt, however, would not allow a contradiction to be given; and the fact was that Parnell had been watched, but watched by the Home Office, through the police, without the knowledge of the Embassy. Through this watching of the Irish leaders, Parnell's relations with Mrs. O'Shea were known to some of those who afterwards professed to be amazed by the discovery.'
Another subject produced open symptoms of a "split." On January 21st, 1881, during the debate on the Address, Mr. Rylands proposed a resolution condemning the annexation of the Transvaal as impolitic and unjustifiable, which was tantamount to declaring that the Boers had been justified in their revolt.
'After my dinner party on the 21st, I went down to the House of Commons and deliberately walked out on the Transvaal division, as did three other members of the Government—Bright, Chamberlain, and Courtney. We had all along been opposed to the annexation.'
This was only the beginning. In South Africa difficulties accumulated for the British Government. General Colley was repulsed at Laing's Nek on January 28th, and on February 8th at the Ingogo River. But in this war there was a real anxiety on both sides to negotiate, and President Kruger despatched an offer to submit the whole dispute to an English Royal Commission if troops were withdrawn from the Transvaal. On Wednesday, February 16th, Sir Charles learnt from Mr. Chamberlain that there had been a special Cabinet that afternoon 'to consider proposals from President Kruger of the Transvaal, which Mr. Gladstone was most anxious to accept.'
On the 18th 'the Transvaal question came up again on a Dutch petition brought over by delegates, as to which Lord Granville wrote to me: "I suppose it would not be right for you or me to see them. We shall probably bear with fortitude the sacrifice."' But the Government were trying to meet Kruger's advances in a reasonable spirit, and they instructed Colley by telegram to suspend hostilities if the Boers abandoned armed opposition. Colley telegraphed back for more precise instructions. The Boers hold Laing's Nek, which was in Natal territory. Was he to insist on their evacuating it—and thus opening the pass into the Transvaal—before he suspended hostilities? The answer sent back on February 19th was that he should forward to the Boers the British proposal, and fix a reasonable time within which they must reply. During that time he was not to attempt to occupy Laing's Nek. Sir Charles's Memoir makes it plain that the decision to negotiate with the Boers was due to Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Chamberlain:
'At the Cabinet of Saturday, February 19th, Mr. Gladstone and Chamberlain, for a wonder, were in the majority, and it was decided to drop the Arms Bill and to negotiate with the Boers; but at a further Cabinet on the 26th, Mr. Gladstone being in bed... the decision of the previous week was reversed, and it was decided to go forward with the Arms Bill.'
No reply came from the Boers within the time appointed, and on the night of February 26th Colley seized the height of Majuba, which commanded Laing's Nek. By noon on the 27th he was a dead man, and his force defeated. The stated time had expired, and Colley did his duty as a soldier. [Footnote: See an article in the Nineteenth Century (March, 1904) by Lady Pomeroy Colley (Lady Allendale) in reply to some points in the account of these events in the Life of Gladstone, iii., pp. 36-38.] But it is none the less true that the Boers, even after the action, still believed themselves to be in negotiation. On the 28th Kruger, ignorant of what had befallen, was writing a grateful acknowledgment of the proposal to suspend hostilities, and was suggesting a meeting of representatives from both sides.
It was urged, of course, that a disgrace to the British Army must be wiped out before there could be any further talk of parleying. Yet in Mr. Gladstone's Government there had been from the first an element which plainly thought the war unjustified, and with that element Mr. Gladstone had some sympathy. The Radicals now asserted themselves.
'On Wednesday, March 2nd, after a long interview between me and Chamberlain on the state of affairs, Chamberlain had an hour and a half with Bright, and got him to write a strong letter to Gladstone about the Transvaal, which we put forward as the ground for a proposed resignation, although of course the strength of the Coercion measures, the weakness of the Land measures, and the predominance of the Whigs in the Cabinet were the reasons which weighed chiefly with Chamberlain and myself. In the Transvaal matter, however, we should not be two, but four, for Bright and Courtney must go out with us, and Lefevre might do so. On the other hand, we had reason to think that if the Whigs yielded to us on the Transvaal, Kimberley would go. On the next day, Thursday the 3rd, Bright was sent for by Mr. Gladstone on his letter. Bright found him in entire harmony with our views. Kimberley at once gave in, and telegraphed what he was told; so the difficulty was over before the Cabinet was able to meet, and we as far from resignation as ever.
'On March 5th, I noted in my diary that the Land Bill was unsatisfactory. Chamberlain told me of a scene between Bright and Dodson which amused me much. Says Bright to Dodson: "You were put into the Cabinet to vote with Gladstone. Surely you ought not to oppose him." Says Dodson indignantly, "A man may have an opinion." "But why express it?" said the old Quaker.'
In the middle of March
'Things looked bad again at this moment, for on the 14th I wrote a draft address to the electors of Chelsea, prepared in view of my resignation along with Bright and Chamberlain. I alluded in it to "the non-reversal in the Transvaal of an act of high-handed aggression, which at the time of its inception I had condemned by vote and speech," and also condemned the resort to coercive measures for Ireland.'
So far as the Transvaal was concerned, the sympathies of Chamberlain and Dilke with the Boers prevailed; negotiations proceeded, and a Commission was named, which finally recommended a reversal of the annexation. The selection of Chamberlain—whose department had no connection with South Africa—to justify this step in debate indicated how strong was his opinion in favour of the Boers. But the Duke of Argyll, who was leaving the Government from disapproval of their Irish Land Bill, nevertheless on this matter defended the action of his former colleagues.
The situation was summed up by an observation of the Queen's to Lord Spencer, which, says Sir Charles, amused the Cabinet on March 26th. The Queen's Speech on January 7th had contained this curt phrase: "A rising in the Transvaal has imposed upon me the duty of taking military measures with a view to the prompt vindication of my authority." To this the Queen replied: "I cannot see how my 'authority' has been 'vindicated' in the Transvaal." "There was nothing else to be done, Ma'am," says Spencer. "I quite understand that," says Her Majesty, "but still I do not see how my 'authority' has been 'vindicated.'"
Mr. Gladstone was meanwhile doing the right thing in Ireland with his Land Bill, but Mr. Forster, Sir Charles thought, was destroying the effect by the free use of his new measure, which, having become law by the end of February, enabled the Irish Government to put any man into gaol on a mere suspicion and without form of trial. Members of Parliament were not at first attacked, but the officials of the Land League were seized. Mr. Davitt had been general manager; his ticket-of-leave, as an ex-Fenian prisoner, was recalled by Sir William Harcourt, and he was re-arrested. Mr. Dillon took Davitt's place. Sir Charles writes on Saturday, April 30th, 1881:
'At the Cabinet, which I think was on the previous night, but of which I heard the details on this day, it was decided to arrest Dillon. Spencer and Granville, who were both of them away, for it was not, I think, a regular Cabinet, were both against it rather than for it; Harcourt was really neutral, though Gladstone counted him for it; Kimberley, Hartington, and the Chancellor alone supported Gladstone and Forster. Bright, Chamberlain, Childers, and, wonderful to relate, Carlingford (who was present, though the newspapers said he was absent), Northbrook, and Dodson opposed the arrest. Gladstone declared that it was six to six, and gave himself a casting vote. A few days later Lord Granville spoke to me warmly against the decision of the Cabinet. He said he never knew numbers counted in the Cabinet before, and that it was absurd to count heads in assemblies in which there was such a difference in the contents of the heads. This criticism, however, goes too far, and strikes at the root of the decisions of Parliament itself.'
Meanwhile the Land Bill had reached its second reading. But the Irish executive was constantly appealed to for constabulary to assist in carrying out sentences of eviction, while, on the other hand, tenants were fighting landlords by a general strike against rents.
'At the Cabinet on May 4th the chief topic discussed was the possibility of checking evictions in Ireland without preventing the payment of rent by tenants perfectly able to pay.'
In addition to the Irish trouble in Ireland, there was the Irish trouble in the House of Commons, in no way settled by the Speaker's one arbitrary imposition of closure at his own discretion. That Mr. Gladstone's mind was working towards another solution is evident from the following note:
'On June 8th I went to The Durdans to lunch with the Roseberys, and walked with Mr. Gladstone. We marched round the Derby course, and Mr. Gladstone said that the first business after the Irish Land Bill must be procedure, and that this must be the business of next year. He said, "there must no doubt be some repression by the closure, but there must also be still more delegation."'
The discussion of the Land Bill was long almost beyond precedent, but by August it left the Commons, and Lord Salisbury, though furious in his invective, declined to advise its total rejection. The Irish landlords had their will of it in Committee, and sent it back unrecognizable. The Lords' amendments were then reviewed by Mr. Gladstone, and, broadly speaking, rejected. There was the usual threat of a collision between the Houses. Sir Charles's first note, in his diary of August 12th, indicates how completely Mr. Gladstone controlled this situation:
'"Harcourt is very violent against the Lords, more so than either Bright or Chamberlain, but the decision, whatever it may be, of the Cabinet, will on this occasion be Mr. Gladstone's."
'On the 14th I noted, "The claim of Lord Salisbury to force us to 'consult the country' is a claim for annual Parliaments when we are in office, and septennial Parliaments when they are in office." I did not, however, believe in this particular crisis. On the 14th Lord Houghton wrote complaining that we did not meet so often as we used to do. "This is a penalty one pays for having one's friends in power. I fear there is no hope of their ceasing to be so by the instrumentality of the House of Lords." On the 15th Lady Lytton's sister told me that Lytton had "enjoyed the fighting attitude of the Lords. It seemed more worthy than talking so much and doing so little." But she added: "After it was all over they were in a most horrid fright."'
Lord Ripon wrote from India of the proceedings in the House of Lords that he thought Lord Salisbury "would succeed in blowing the institution to pieces before long."
With a Cabinet so divided, rumour of changes was certain to be rife.
'On August 17th there occurred the Ministerial fish dinner at Greenwich, which was then a yearly institution. Rosebery was in the chair—for on these occasions the Chairman is arbitrarily chosen, generally from among the very youngest members of the Government, and is a sort of lord of misrule. [Footnote: Lord Rosebery was Under- Secretary at the Home Office.]
'Harcourt told Chamberlain at the dinner that Mr. Gladstone had made up his mind to put Lord Frederick Cavendish into the Cabinet, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, Chamberlain arguing that he ought not to be put in over my head.
'On the way home Harcourt told me that there were other changes to be made besides putting in Cavendish, and that one of them was that he should become Lord Chancellor.... I did not myself believe any of these reports, but confined myself to urging that Chamberlain should be Chancellor of the Exchequer.'
This assumed continuance in office, but a little later Mr. Chamberlain, writing to Sir Charles, entered the domain of prophecy, with some hint of the 'unauthorized programme.' He thought that the Liberals would be beaten at the next election, and that their business was to try to get the farmers over to their side.
"What is the good of bothering about Bankruptcy or Local Government when our real business is to outbid Chaplin and Co. with the farmers? But, then, what will our Whig friends say to Radical proposals as to tenant right, improvements, rating, etc.?"
While Sir Charles was in Paris Mr. Chamberlain wrote on October 4th:
"I am very uneasy about the Irish business. It does not look as if the Land Bill would do much, and meanwhile 'outrages,' exaggerated probably by the Press, are forming a large part of the information supplied by the papers for the autumn season. It is the history of last October over again, and I expect every day to hear of some proposal for further coercion. I am clear that we were right in resisting coercion last year, and I even wish we had gone further and gone out upon it. But what is to be done now? Can we go on drifting without a policy? We cannot go back. It is too late to release the 'suspects,' and, if we were to do so, the experience of the past few weeks shows that this would not make things smoother with Parnell and Co., while it would bring down a storm of denunciation from the other side. Then, can we go further in the direction of coercion? I doubt if the House of Commons would stand it. To put down the Land League would involve so many questions affecting public agitation in this country that the Radicals would surely be up in arms. It is possible the Tories might do it if they were in office, which I wish to God they were. But can the Liberals do it, and, above all, can you and I be parties to any more of such work? I should not have a moment's hesitation in saying 'No,' if I could find any alternative, but it is evident that Parnell has now got beyond us. He asks for 'No Rent,' and Separation, and I am not prepared to say that the refusal of such terms as these constitutes an Irish grievance. I should like to stand aside and let the Coercionists and Parnell fight it out together, but I fear this is not now possible. Altogether it is a horrible imbroglio, and for the moment I do not see my way out of the fog. I wish I could talk it all over with you."
A little later, however, he wrote:
"'The resources of civilization'—see Mr. G.'s speech—will mean immediate and greatly extended use of the Protection Act. There will be a miraculous draught of fishes directly. In for a penny, in for a pound. I hope it will be a clean sweep. The electors will better stand a crushing blow than coercion by driblets. There is no other alternative except new legislation—and from that may Heaven defend us."
On October 12th, 1881, Mr. Parnell was arrested and put into gaol. On October 17th, Sir Charles, then in the South of France, wrote to Sir M. Grant Duff—who had become Governor of Madras—that "Bright and Chamberlain supported the proposed general razzia on the Land League leaders in order to avoid fresh coercive legislation." Fresh legislation would have meant trouble in the House of Commons. But the arrest of Mr. Parnell, which "folly" Sir Charles had tried to prevent, led to greater trouble.
The British Government now endeavoured to back up the policy of force by dividing the opposition. Ever since the trouble generated by the rejection of the Compensation for Disturbance Bill, Dublin Castle had been (not for the first time) seeking to enlist on its side the spiritual power of Rome. There were two lines of approach, of which the first is indicated in a note under November 22nd, 1880:
'Lord Granville was engaged at this moment in trying, through Cardinal Newman, to induce the Pope to bully the Irish Bishops; but the Irish Bishops told the Pope, in reply to his remonstrances, that if he adopted a policy of compromise in Italy which was unpopular with the Church, he must leave them alone with Irish affairs.'
The "policy of compromise" was not likely to be adopted. Cardinal Manning, talking to Sir Charles on July 15th, 1880, on his return from Rome, expressed his belief that the Vatican was badly advised in its hostile attitude towards the Italian Monarchy, which he personally would be prepared to support against the Revolutionary Party, since its fall would probably bring about an anti-clerical republic.
Far more continuous were the negotiations, with a view to influencing the Irish Church, carried on through Mr. George Errington, a gentleman of old Roman Catholic family, who had sat since 1874 as a moderate Home Rule member for County Longford. [Footnote: The historic difficulties in the way of an Embassy to the Vatican, fully given by Lord Fitzmaurice in the Life of Lord Granville, vol. ii., chap, viii., pp. 281-282, had been surmounted "by the practice of allowing a Secretary of Legation, nominally appointed to the Grand Ducal court of Tuscany, to reside at Rome, where he was regarded as de facto Minister to the Vatican." Lord Derby had, however, withdrawn Mr. Jervoise, the last representative, and no other appointment had been made.]
The following notes show the points at which Sir Charles came into touch with the development of Mr. Errington's 'Mission' to the Vatican. On December 1st, 1880, Mr. Errington wrote—in pursuance of a conversation of the previous day—to solicit Sir Charles's offices with the French Government towards mitigating the severity with which expropriation of the unauthorized congregations might be carried out under M. Ferry's Article 7. The letter dealt also with the matter on which his 'Mission' was afterwards based:
"I am constantly receiving news from Ireland of the evil effects already produced by the temporary success at Rome of Archbishop Croke"—who represented advanced Nationalism—"and his party. This would have been quite impossible had any diplomatic relations existed. Cardinal Jacobini will take care, I am sure, that such a thing does not occur again. Whether he can undo or counteract the mischief already done is, I am afraid, doubtful....
"I suppose it would be desirable in the interests of government and order in Ireland that the Vatican should do all in its power to keep the clergy from going with or countenancing the Land League."
On December 6th, 1880:
'Errington came to me in Paris, nominally on behalf of the Vatican, with a view of having negotiations entered upon, and I believe this was the time at which he obtained, at Lord Spencer's request, some sort of private commission from Lord Granville. The commission was afterwards made more definite.'
October 28th, 1881:
'I saw Errington, who was in Paris on his way to Rome with letters from Lord Granville, based on the request of Spencer and Forster that he, Errington, should represent the Irish Government at Rome during its great struggle with Parnell, matters in Ireland being too serious to make roundabout dealing through Lord Emly [Footnote: An Irish Roman Catholic M.P. who, after being Postmaster-general, was raised to the Peerage.] and Cardinal Howard safe; and Errington was to be tried from October until Easter....
'In the evening of November 10th, at dinner at the Harcourts', Mr. Gladstone, taking me aside about Errington's mission, told me that he was bitterly opposed to the notion of reopening relations with the Papal Court; and there can be no doubt that he assented most unwillingly to the views of Spencer, Forster, and Harcourt in favour of the Errington "Mission." He deceived the House of Commons about it, because he always closed his own eyes to the facts. [Footnote: The line taken by the Government in the House of Commons was that Mr. Errington had no formal appointment, and that his communications were not officially dealt with by the Foreign Office. These diplomatic explanations only increased the suspicion of the followers of Parnell and of the Ultra-Protestants led by Sir H. Drummond Wolff.]
'On December 24th, 1881, Lord O'Hagan passed through Paris, despatched on a secret mission to Rome about Ireland by Forster, who was not satisfied with the results up to then of the Errington Mission.'
'On December 31st I received a letter from Forster, in which he said that Lord O'Hagan had returned, and that no notice had been taken by the papers of his visit to Rome, which was a good thing.'
To the principle of such intermediation Sir Charles had no objection. What he disliked was that the thing should be done and denied. He himself in the previous year had written by the Government's request to Cardinal Manning at Rome for assurance that the future Bishop of a new See in Canada would be a British subject. Manning also had written to him concerning the establishment of a new See for Catholics of the Levant, with its seat in Cyprus, guaranteeing that "the influence of our Bishop and all about him would be ... strictly in support of the Government," and asking therefore that, "when the seat of Government for Cyprus had been fixed, Rome might be informed, as it would be desirable for the Bishop to be in the same place."
Manning was quite content with the influence that he could wield, and, as a letter from him in 1885 shows, was strongly against diplomatic relations between England and the Vatican. Sir Charles, however, did not take that view:
'Such perpetual applications have to be made to the Court of Rome, not only (as the public thinks) with regard to Irish affairs, but with regard to Roman Catholic interests in all parts of the world, that I have always been favourable to taking the public into our confidence in the matter and appointing a representative at the Court of Rome. At one time we used to carry on our affairs with the Papal Court through Cardinal Howard, an English Cardinal; but the Pope is so anxious to obtain official representation that he throws difficulties in the way of ecclesiastics acting as informal representatives. Then Lord O'Hagan used to go to Rome, at the expense of Irish Secret Service money, as a private traveller, and he used to carry on negotiations with the Vatican.'
Sir Charles resented 'the complications that are caused by our having to do that in fact which we refuse to do in form.' The Errington "Mission, which was no mission," was an instance.
Though the year drew to its close there was still no decision as to the means of dealing with obstruction. But approach was being made to a settled policy.
'On my return to London I found that a Cabinet had been called for Thursday, November 10th, to deal with the forms of the House, as the Speaker and Erskine May had been concocting a new code, which, I added, "is certain to be perfectly useless, as the Speaker is generally, and May invariably, wrong.... Direct closure is the only thing of any use. That would be one fight and no more; but the Speaker-May code would probably take a whole Session to get, and be useless when we have got it.'
'When Chamberlain came to dinner on November 11th, he left with me till the next day the "secret" paper printed for the Cabinet as to the forms of the House, which was written by May and annotated by the Speaker, and I was glad to find that it included closure.'
In a Parliamentary Session marked by so much that was inconclusive, Sir Charles had the satisfaction of recording in his diary one piece of progressive legislation which was his own. By April, 1881, he had got ready his Bill for putting an end to the Unreformed Municipal Corporations, and so carrying out the policy which he had recommended while in Opposition, and it became law.
In 1881 the general European situation was still critical. The Greeks had seen Montenegro's claim made good while their own pretensions remained unsatisfied, and at the beginning of the year war between Greece and Turkey seemed so probable that Lord Houghton was writing anxiously to ask Sir Charles by what means the antiquities of Athens could be guaranteed against bombardment.
Sir Charles notes, on January 18th and 21st, conversations between himself and Mr. Goschen, who had temporarily returned from his mission at Constantinople, 'as to helping Greece by a naval force, which he and I both desired.' But Mr. Gladstone refused his sanction to this project, and Sir Charles for the moment took a very grave view, noting in his diary on February 1st:
"Lord Granville has now to decide (in two days), before Goschen starts for Constantinople via Berlin, whether he will disgracefully abandon Greece or break up the Concert of Europe."
The Concert was kept together, but only upon condition of limiting Greece to a frontier with which Sir Charles was extremely discontented.
'On March 27th I was in a resigning humour about Greece, but could not get anybody to agree with me, and Chamberlain said that not even Liberal public opinion in England would now support isolated action or Anglo-Italian intervention. Chamberlain thought that in the interest of Greece herself it was desirable that she should be made to take the last Turkish offer, which gave her all the revenue-producing country, and kept from her the costly and the dangerous country.'
A week later he wrote a minute for Lord Granville and Mr. Gladstone, proposing that autonomy should be given to those portions of Epirote territory which were being withheld from Greece; but this plan was negatived, and a final settlement was reached on May 17th.
The settlement of 1881 was not a settlement which contented Greece and the friends of Greece; and it was only a provisional settlement.
But new complications were developing elsewhere.
'On February 1st I wrote to Gambetta by our "bag" to tell him that Sheffield' (Lord Lyons's secretary) 'would call on him from me to tell him a secret. This secret was that the Three Emperors' League was again revived and France once more isolated. But this was such a dead secret that even our Cabinet were not to know for fear some of them might talk.' [Footnote: The murder of the Emperor Alexander II. on March 13th terminated these plans for the time. But out of them subsequently grew the meeting of the three Emperors at Skierniewice on September 15th and 16th, 1884; and indirectly Prince Bismarck's "reinsurance" treaty with Russia, which his successor, Caprivi, refused to renew in 1890.]
France, though 'isolated,' was beginning to take action which threatened far-spreading trouble. Mention has been made of her pretension to Tunis, and of the support to that pretension afforded by a hint of Lord Salisbury's in 1878. In the early spring of 1881 the first serious step was taken to threaten the independence or quasi-independence of Tunis. This development was the more serious because an important dispute was in progress concerning a Tunisian estate called the Enfida, to which rival claims were put forward by M. Levy, a British subject, and by a French company, the Societe Marseillaise. On January 12th M. Levy's representative, himself also a British subject, was expelled from the property by agents of the French Consulate.
'On February 3rd there came to me at ten o'clock in my Foreign Office boxes a telegram from Lord Lyons, which told us that the French had sent the Friedland from Toulon to Tunis to bully the Bey. I wrote off by special messenger to Lord Granville that we ought at once to send the fleet to Tunis unless the Friedland were withdrawn, and Lord Granville accepted this view, and telegraphed to Lord Lyons to that effect at noon. [Footnote: 'On February 5th, the Cabinet having approved our suggestion, we telegraphed for the Thunderer and a despatch-boat to sail at once for Tunis.']
'Our difficulty was in this matter to avoid acting with Italy. We did not want to keep the French out of Tunis, but we could not have ironclads used to force Tunisian law courts into giving decisions hostile to British subjects. Barrere wrote to me from Paris at Gambetta's wish saying that I was labouring under a grievous mistake in thinking that the Friedland was sent to settle the Enfida case against the English. The ship was sent because the Bey "declines to sign a treaty of alliance with us." At the same time he went on to say that the present policy of France would not last longer than six months, which meant, of course, that Gambetta intended to form a Government at that time (which as a fact he did), and that "our friend deplores the present policy of the Government and declines all responsibility."'
On August 25th Gambetta expressed to Dilke "profound disapprobation of all that has been done in Tunis," on which is noted: 'Possibly he would have done the same, but he is very wise after the event.'
'On May 6th Lord Granville, against Tenterden's opinion and my own, sketched drafts to Germany and Austria as to the position of the French in Tunis, with a view to raise the Concert of Europe in their path. We pointed out to him that Germany and Austria would snub us, and succeeded at last in stopping this precious scheme. The wily Russian got up the trouble by hinting verbally to Lord Granville that Russia would act with England and Italy in this matter. A curious league: England, Russia, and Italy against France; and a queer Concert. The proposal led to trouble three days later, for, of course, the Russians told the French in such a way as to make them believe that the idea was ours.'
On the evening of May eth Sir Charles met Laffitte, "the Comtist Pope," at the Political Economy Club.
'Frederic Harrison treated him as an old lady of the Faubourg would treat the Pope or the Comte de Chambord, or both rolled into one. But Laffitte happening to say that he approved of the French expedition to Tunis, Harrison's feelings became too much even for his reverence and his religion. Laffitte's remark, from Laffitte, showed, however, how unanimous was the French feeling....
'On the 9th the trouble which I had expected broke out. The French Ambassador (Challemel-Lacour) came to see me in a great rage, and told me that his Government had heard that we had tried to raise Germany against France on the Tunis question by an alliance offered at Berlin, though not through our Ambassador. This particular story was untrue. I denied it, and I then went to Lord Granville, who denied it.... I then wrote to Challemel to ask him to give up names; but he declined.'
France was in conflict with the Kroumirs on her Algerian frontier, the expeditionary force penetrated the interior, and by the middle of June the Bey had appointed M. Roustan, the French Consul, to represent him in all matters.
Justifications were put forward, and there was much discussion as to what Lord Salisbury had said or not said at Berlin in 1878.
'Lord Salisbury had made Wolff withdraw the question, of which (foolishly from the Conservative point of view) he had given notice, but the matter having been raised, the Cabinet, on Friday, 13th, decided to publish a portion of Lord Salisbury's despatches, though not the worst.... [Footnote: A letter from Lord Granville to Sir Charles, of May 15th, 1881, shows the difficulty. "I sent, according to custom, the Salisbury Tunis papers to the Marquis. You will be surprised to hear that he does not like them. He objects to all, but principally to the extracts from Lord Lyons' despatch." Lord Granville goes on to suggest alternative courses, the first being "to consent at his request to leave out the extracts, with a warning that it is not likely it will be possible to refuse them later."]