'The Cabinet of March 25th further decided that Graham must soon be brought away from Suakim.
'On the next evening, March 26th, when the Ministers were dining with the Speaker, we received a very unpleasant telegram from Baring, pointing, we thought, to a possible resignation unless it was promised to send an expedition to Khartoum. I suggested the following answer: "We adhere to our instructions of the 25th, 160 Secret. We cannot send an expedition now, and entertain the gravest objection to contemplating an expedition in the autumn." This answer was rejected in favour of one suggested by Mr. Gladstone and Lord Granville. Our telegram 160 Secret had been an absolute refusal, and my additional words had been intended by me slightly to open the door, which was as much as I could hope that the Cabinet would do. But the telegram actually sent on March 28th (165 Secret, extended in 191) was to the effect that we were unable to alter the instructions, and it was accompanied by two long despatches, virtually written by Harcourt, and afterwards laid before Parliament, explaining our reasons for not sending Zebehr and for not sending an expedition. Gordon had been communicating with us with difficulty, as the telegraph was broken from time to time, but he had told us that if he was to evacuate Khartoum he wished to resign his commission and to take all his steam vessels and stores to the equatorial provinces, "which he would consider under the King of the Belgians." This Baring had told him he must not do. Baring had rejected every possible alternative except the sending of Zebehr, and Zebehr we could not have sent. In discussing the question of an expedition to Khartoum, Baring had told us that Gordon was "not in any immediate danger. He has provisions for six months." Gordon himself had telegraphed: "As I have been inconsistent about Zebehr, it is my fault, and I should bear the blame if Zebehr is sent, and should put up with the inconvenience if he is not." He had himself told us that he had provisions for six months, but had after this informed us that provisions were still coming in freely to Khartoum—as late as after March 15th, a week later than the date at which he had told us that he had six months' provisions in the town. I had made up my mind that we must send an expedition, but I did not agree with Baring that it was physically possible to send an expedition at this moment, and thought that if sent at high Nile it would be in time. On the 23rd, after Gordon's defeat, by treachery and shooting, of the two black Pashas, Gordon telegraphed: "I think we are now safe, and that as the Nile rises we shall account for the rebels." This we received on March 31st.
'On March 27th there was a Cabinet without Chamberlain, who was listening to George Russell's speech which I had got him leave to make, and without Mr. Gladstone, who was still ill. The Cabinet decided against an expedition to Khartoum, but the Chancellor' (Lord Selborne) 'gave us to understand that he should resign if one were not sent in the autumn, and Harcourt intimated that he should resign if one were sent. Lord Granville observed that no Cabinet could last a day if it was to be exposed to going to pieces on differences as regards the future. Harcourt proposed to "clear out" of Egypt immediately. Lord Granville won an easy victory over him by proving that only three weeks ago he had wanted to take Egypt under our protection. Harcourt then said that as long ago as November, 1883, he had spoken in favour of clearing out. "Yes," said Lord Granville, "so you did; but I said three weeks ago."
'On March 29th there was a Cabinet at Coombe Warren. Mr. Gladstone seemed pretty well, and had at least one good laugh. He still regretted Zebehr. The Cabinet considered Gordon, what we should do with slavery at Suakim, and House of Commons business.'
About this date the main body of the British troops was withdrawn from Suakim in accordance with the decision of March 25th. They had inflicted defeats on Osman Digna at El Teb, and again at Tamanieb; many Dervishes and not a few English had been killed, but no effect of moment had been produced, and the road to Berber was not opened.
A new complication now arose. Egypt was presented with Europe's total claims for the losses to Europeans in the burnings at Alexandria. They amounted to four millions and a half. How was this demand to be met? Under the Law of Liquidation established in 1880, Egypt could not borrow without the consent of the five Powers who had constituted the Commission of Liquidation. The demand presented to Egypt had to be considered by the one Power which was now de facto supreme in Egypt.
'On April 2nd there was an important Cabinet called on Egyptian finance. It began, of course, on something else. We discussed the future of Suakim; the replies to be given in the House on the next day as to Gordon; and then Childers' views upon Egyptian finance; while we were considering these, there came a letter from Northcote with the questions that he intended to put on the next day' (questions which could only be answered by a full statement of policy on all the points of the Egyptian problem). 'After going back to this, we went on again to finance, and decided to call a conference of the Great Powers to alter the Law of Liquidation. Mr. Gladstone had unwillingly consented to meet the Powers by proposing to reduce the charge for the British army; and he was anxious to get the money for the British taxpayer out of a borrowing operation on the future value of the Canal Shares. Chamberlain and I decided that if he did this the Tories would declare that Mr. Gladstone had become a pensioner on the bounty of Lord Beaconsfield. There was some talk at this Cabinet as to whether we should guarantee the Egyptian debt, to which I was opposed. Chamberlain had at one time been friendly to such an operation, but had now "gone round" on the ground that we could not "carry it against the Tories and the Radicals." "Is there anything else?" said Chamberlain to Mr. Gladstone as the Cabinet was breaking up. "No," said Mr. Gladstone, "we have done our Egyptian business and we are an Egyptian Government."'
From this time forward the 'Egyptian Government' at Westminster had two main subjects of concern—the question of extricating Gordon with the garrisons, and the question of dealing with the international situation, partly diplomatic and partly financial. France, increasingly unfriendly to Great Britain, was above all unfriendly in regard to Egypt: while Bismarck, doing his best to foment this quarrel, was at the same time weakening Great Britain by menaces in Africa and Australasia, and the danger of a Russian advance in Central Asia hung like a thundercloud over the whole situation. [Footnote: Sir Charles wrote to Mr. Brett on November 15th, 1884: 'I told Herbert Bismarck when he was here that it was very silly of his father to get in the way of our Egypt plans, for France would not go to war about them, and therefore, after threatening, he would have to look on and see the things he had threatened against done quietly.']
There were three groups of opinion in the Government in regard to the Soudan. The first was for an expedition which should carry with it the consequence of occupation more or less prolonged. Another was against any expedition and in favour of immediate evacuation. A third section— including Sir Charles Dilke and Mr. Chamberlain—accepted the need of an expedition, but was determined that occupation should not follow. It was incumbent on this last-named group to suggest a positive policy, and Dilke, as will be seen, had his plan ready. There was a further decision to be taken. When once an expedition was in contemplation, the route and the character of the expedition had to be fixed. On this matter also Sir Charles had early formed a resolve, but neither he nor anyone else could pin the Cabinet to a clear course of action.
'At this time' (April 2nd) 'Chamberlain wrote to me of Egypt: "Once more Hartington, and you and I, are at opposite poles. For one, I do not mean to be forced any further in the direction of protectorate."
'Although they would not admit it, the Cabinet were rapidly coming round at this time to an autumn Gordon expedition, and Chamberlain wrote to me: "I believe it will come to this in the end"; while Northbrook was in favour of an expedition. I then made up a list from private information showing that six of us were favourable to an expedition, as against five the other way—several members having made no statement either way. Those for an expedition were Hartington, Northbrook, the Chancellor (Lord Selborne), Derby, Chamberlain, and myself; and those against it, Mr. Gladstone, Lord Granville, Harcourt, Kimberley, and Dodson. On April 21st, Egypt was discussed without decision, though with the note by me: "The majority now begin to see that an October expedition is certain."
'On the 23rd a Cabinet ... considered the possibility of reaching Berber.... After the Cabinet of April 23rd, I advocated a naval expedition by the Nile on the ground that the Admiralty were likely to do the thing better than the War Office. [Footnote: A review by Sir Charles in the Athenaeum of October 24th, 1908, deals with the Life of Lord Northbrook, by Sir Bernard Mallet, and his allusions to Lord Northbrook's consideration, as early as April, of a 'rescue and retire' expedition by the Nile route for the autumn, 'it being assumed that the boats then ordered could not pass the various cataracts before High Nile.' See Life of Lord Northbrook, pp. 185-186. A review by Sir Charles of March 28th, 1908, in the same paper, of Modern Egypt, by the Earl of Cromer, also deals with Lord Northbrook's pressure for a Nile Expedition in March, 1884.] On April 28th, Berber, Khartoum, and Gordon, on which there was nothing new, but Hartington insisted on a large and important military expedition.'
'On April 29th Baring had now come over about Egypt, and attended a Cabinet to state his views. I saw him privately, and settled with him the details for a possible Nile expedition "small and early." The difficulty was at the sixth cataract. He also broached to me his scheme for a new control by the four Powers already represented on the Caisse de la Dette—namely, England, France, Austria, and Italy, with an English president.'
'At the next Cabinet there was a proposal by Hartington that there should be a vote of thanks to Sir Gerald Graham and Admiral Hewett for the Suakim expedition—a proposal which the Cabinet rejected, having had quite enough of votes of thanks on the former occasion when Wolseley and Beauchamp Seymour were in question. The next matter was what we should say about our Law of Liquidation Conference, on which there arose an awkward question as to what should happen in the probable case of the representatives of the Powers not being unanimous. There was every reason to suppose that the French would not agree to anything, and precedents went to show that unanimity was necessary to render valid the decisions of a conference. Indeed, there was no precedent as regards questions of principle which told the other way; and at the Congress of Berlin Prince Bismarck had stated, as recorded in the first protocol, that as regarded substantive proposals it was an incontestable principle that the minority should not be bound to acquiesce in a vote of a majority.
'Then came the consideration of the action to be taken by the Egyptian Government towards Mr. O'Kelly, M.P., [Footnote: Mr. James O'Kelly, then M.P. for Koscommon, a very adventurous war correspondent. He died in 1916.] Parnell's friend, who had been trying to join the Mahdi. We next considered Lord Salisbury's relations towards Tewfik as Khedive, as affected by the violent attacks of many Conservative members, put up by Broadley, upon Tewfik's character. Randolph Churchill had made a most ferocious series of attacks upon the Khedive, without one atom of truth in them. It is a curious example of his forgetful flightiness, that when, a few years later, he went to Egypt, he was struck with wonder at the Khedive's refusal to receive him. The terms of the French acceptance of our invitation to the Conference were discussed, as were the House of Commons questions as to Gordon, and the offer of Mr. Guy Dawnay, M.P., to go as a messenger to Gordon at his own cost. Then followed the internal condition of Egypt, as to which Baring's views were stated by me; then Harrar; then the employment of negroes or Turks for the Egyptian army; then the Turks at Suakim; then the Somali coast.
'On the same day I had an interview with the ex-Khedive Ismail, who had gone downhill. He always had a certain difficulty in collecting his ideas and putting them into words, but on this occasion it went farther than I had previously known. He wished to impress on me the necessity for defending Egypt against the Mahdi at some given point upon the Nile, when occurred that incident of his continually working up to the name of the place and forgetting it. [Footnote: See Chapter XXX., Vol. I., p. 487.]
'On May 5th there was a Cabinet. We considered the vote of censure as to Gordon, and decided that time must be given for it; and I then had some correspondence with Northbrook across the table as to an expedition. I said: "Northbrook, I should be glad to know all you know against the Nile route. Ismail, who knows all about it, thinks it quite possible." Northbrook replied: "My objections are uncertainty of getting steamers up at all (we know nothing of the 140 miles beyond Wady Halfa), and necessity of assistance from natives, which may not be given. Key" (Sir Cooper Key) "is in rather a delicate position, as he does not like to go against Wolseley, whose opinion is for the Nile, and the responsibility is with the W.O."
'On May 7th there was another Cabinet. It was decided that Nubar need not be brought to London for the Conference, that a fresh place in some other unhappy portion of the world must be found for Clifford Lloyd; [Footnote: A Resident Magistrate who had come violently into collision with the Nationalists in Ireland, and who had also proved himself a storm centre in Egypt, as he afterwards did in Mauritius.] and one was found, and he again fought with the local authorities as he had fought in Ireland and in Egypt. With regard to the attitude of France, it was decided that we could not, so long as we remained in Egypt, put up with a new international control. It was decided to bring the Turks to Suakim, although this decision was afterwards reversed. We then wasted much of our time on the consideration of what should be our attitude on the vote of censure which was pending in the House. Harcourt had drawn an amendment for Mr. Gladstone on which they had agreed. Chamberlain and I had agreed to support a mere negative, and we talked the others over....
'On May 11th Fitzmaurice wrote to me complaining that no definite instructions had been given him with regard to the conduct of the Gordon debate' (on the vote of censure), [Footnote: See Hansard, vol. cclxxxviii., 3rd series, debate of May 13th, 1884] 'as was usual in such important cases, but stating that he expected me to speak. On the next day, May 12th, I learnt that Hartington had refused to speak, although he was finally made to do so by Mr. Gladstone. On Tuesday, May 13th, I made a good speech from 12.10 to 1.10 a.m.—too late for the reporters. "The debate has (I noted in my diary) been the best I ever heard. Mr. Gladstone was not so good as usual, while Hartington and I were neither better nor worse than usual. But Churchill, Forster, Cowen, John Morley, and Beach, all spoke far above their usual level; and the rest were good. A memorable debate, which I do not expect to see excelled for interest and fire, and I am glad to have had the honour to wind it up for the Liberal party." Afterwards I noted that it "does not read well."
'On May 14th Cabinet again decided that Nubar must not come over for the Conference; discussed internal affairs of Egypt, then the Conference again; and then called in Sir Evelyn Baring and discussed with him the same matters of Clifford Lloyd, Nubar, Conference, the Turks and the Red Sea ports, what was to be said to Waddington about the Conference, and the detail of a scheme of Childers upon Egyptian finance, which was extraordinarily unpopular with the Cabinet.
'On May 17th at noon there was a full Cabinet (Spencer being present), and a long one. The first matter discussed was the Queen and Conference, [Footnote: Proposed Conference of the Powers on the Law of Liquidation.] and a strong objection on the part of Mr. Gladstone to tell Parliament anything about the Conference. Chamberlain wrote to me on this: "What a queer twist this objection of Mr. G. is!" To which I replied: "I really wish he would have gone to Coombe for this lovely day and let us go on without him. He has wasted an hour and a half. Mr. G. will fight a whole day in Cabinet to avoid telling Parliament something, and then after all will tell them twice as much in reply to Ashmead Bartlett." On this Chamberlain wrote:
"Here lies Mr. G., who has left us repining, While he is, no doubt, still engaged in refining; And explaining distinctions to Peter and Paul, Who faintly protest that distinctions so small Were never submitted to saints to perplex them, Until the Prime Minister came up to vex them."
[Footnote: These were notes passed during the sitting of the Cabinet. On Mr. Gladstone's inconvenient habit of giving information at question time, see Vol. I., pp. 307, 384, 459, 535; and infra, p. 118.]
'The Cabinet decided to send a telegram to Gordon through Zebehr, in order to obtain safe conveyance for it, offering free use of money among the tribes.
'To Grant Duff I wrote on May 17th: "The Queen is much against our arrangements with France. If we 'let them out' we spoil them, and if we don't we shall be condemned for a 'secret negotiation with France by a moribund Cabinet.' Yet, though we look very wrong, we are right."'
'On the 19th it was decided that the Nile was to be patrolled by the Navy as far as Wady Halfa.'
This was in the direction of the military policy which Sir Charles favoured, but in which he was not to succeed. His diplomatic proposals now have to be considered.
'At this time I sent a box round the Cabinet as to the neutralization of Egypt, Northbrook assenting. In a minute dated May 22nd, Lord Northbrook wrote: "I am disposed to think it would be wise to propose at once an international guarantee of the neutrality of Egypt, (1) It would give a substance and solidity to the French assurances." (To Grant Duff I wrote on the 22nd: "We have got from France an engagement not to go to Egypt when we come away, and never at any future time, except by the authority of Europe.") "(2) Without it I hardly see a chance of escaping from annexation.... All the circumstances of Egypt ... point to this solution, and ... the release of Egypt from the Soudan makes the solution possible." Chamberlain wrote: "I agree entirely with Dilke and Northbrook. (1) As to the intrinsic importance of such a proposal. If adopted it secures every essential British interest, and promises relief from the intolerable burden of a continued occupation. I am strongly in favour of making the proposal at once. It will give a real guarantee to the Powers of our good faith and intention to clear out of the country. (2) I attach great importance to it as forming a definite policy.... To make Egypt the 'Belgium of the East' is an object easily popularized. The phrase will carry the proposal." Kimberley wrote: "I agree with Northbrook and Dilke. The neutralization of Egypt will be a gain in itself, irrespective altogether of the question of its internal administration. It would also ... render it easy to establish a firm domestic Government in so far as it would put an end to the rivalries ... which exercise a very disturbing influence on all Egyptian affairs.—K." This minute received the support of the signatures of the Chancellor, Harcourt, and Childers. Lord Derby wrote: "I agree so entirely with the views of Lord Northbrook and Sir Charles Dilke that I need add nothing to what they have written. There is only one alternative in the long-run; guaranteed neutrality or annexation.—D., May 23." Carlingford also agreed, but Hartington strongly dissented; and although Lord Granville agreed with us, Hartington's dissent was so fierce that he succeeded in preventing Mr. Gladstone from expressing an opinion, and the view taken by ten members of the Cabinet remained without effect.
'... On May 24th, the next matter discussed was the neutralization of Egypt, which Mr. Gladstone decided, in face of Hartington's minute, was "not to be immediately proposed."' [Footnote: The offer of neutralization was, however, made. See infra, Chapter XXXVIII., pp. 94, 97.]
'We then returned to our old business of Waddington and the Conference. Mr. Gladstone next complained that he had been catechized in the House of Commons on Monday, May 19th, as to whether he "told most lies on Monday or on Thursday." We then discussed the desirability of making a statement in the House as to the number of years that our troops would remain in Egypt; Northbrook and Hartington suggesting either five years or three years from January, 1885, and Carlingford suggesting one year, in which he was supported by the Prime Minister and myself; but three years prevailed. Next came Morocco; and then a Gordon expedition—Mr. Gladstone speaking strongly against it.
'On May 27th there was a Cabinet before the Whitsuntide recess. It was decided what statement was to be made to Parliament about the Conference. Lord Granville had told Waddington that we should not stay more than five years in Egypt at the outside, and Hartington, who himself had been willing to limit our stay to three years, now fought violently against a limitation even to five. Chamberlain wrote to me: "As usual—the question having been twice settled, Hartington, in a minority of one, raises the whole question again. It is direct, unmitigated, and unconcealed obstruction." We then discussed the expedition to Khartoum and the making of a Suakim- Berber railway, but it was decided that orders were not yet to be given. On the next day Mr. Gladstone, who had gone to Hawarden, wrote:
'"My Dear Northbrook,
'"I have received and read this morning Sir Cooper Key's very interesting paper on an expedition to Khartoum. I write, however, to suggest that it would be a great advantage if two suggestions it contains were to be fully examined and developed. (1) The small river expedition which he thinks practicable. (2) The small desert expedition from Korosko to which he also adverts as an auxiliary method.... Clear as is the case for the railway from Suakim, as against the large expedition by the Nile, in every other view it is attended with the most formidable difficulties of a moral and political kind ... whether the 'turning of the first sod' of a Soudan railway will not be the substitution for an Egyptian domination there, of an English domination ... more unnatural, more costly, more destructive, and altogether without foundation in public right. It would be an immense advantage that the expedition (should one be needed) should be one occupying little time, and leaving no trace behind it.
'"Yours sincerely, '"W. E. Gladstone."
'Of this letter a copy was made by Edward Hamilton, and enclosed to me with an autograph letter from Mr. Gladstone.
'On May 31st I had received a further letter from Mr. Gladstone about the Soudan expedition, in which he said: "Suakim and Berber route has utterly beaten Nile route for a large expedition.... But the question of a small expedition has hardly yet been touched, while some believe Gordon is or will be free, and there need be no expedition at all." I sent this letter to Lord Northbrook, and to Lord Hartington, pointing out that Colonel Sartorius had written a letter to the papers in favour of an expedition of a thousand picked men armed with repeating rifles; and after receiving replies, I wrote to Mr. Gladstone on June 4th that I had not had much encouragement from Hartington and Northbrook, the fact being that Hartington was determined on giving Wolseley his big job. [Footnote: See Life of Granville, vol. ii., p. 395.]
'On June 6th Lord Granville called a meeting to ask us whether, Waddington having now agreed to all our demands, we could devise some plan of getting out of them. He said that for his own part he should not have asked the question, but that Hartington had suggested it.... He said: "I must rather complain of Hartington's conduct—from so intimate a friend. If it had been Dodson I should have been very angry." After such an introduction, the meeting could hardly come to a conclusion favourable to Hartington's views.
'On June 9th Sir Henry Ponsonby came to see me before the Cabinet, wishing to talk to me before he spoke to any other member, as the Queen thought that I was the most in agreement with her views, which was not the case, as regarded evacuation. He discussed with me two points: First the term of years, as to which I explained that, under the agreement, if at the end of three and a half years any one Power thought we had better stay, and we ourselves wished to stay, then we could stay. It was not my wish that we should. Secondly, as to the union of Bulgaria and East Roumelia, about which I did not care, and as to which I suggested that the Queen should propose to Lord Granville to take counsel with Austria. [Footnote: The union took place in 1885.] At the Cabinet which followed we discussed the words of our promise to lay our French agreements before Parliament, and also our answer as to the Turks and Suakim. The French having written us a disagreeable despatch, we agreed that they must be made to take it back.
'On the next day, June 10th, there was a Cabinet to begin the railway from Suakim. and to consider the draft despatch to Waddington, and as the Government at this time was not very strong, it was decided to leave for our successors a Cabinet minute upon the subject of our relations at this time with France. After the Cabinet I had to see Mr. Gladstone from Lord Granville upon the question whether we should insist on a casting vote on the Caisse. Mr. Gladstone, against the unanimous opinion of the Cabinet, replied: "No, not to the point of breaking off."'
On June 12th Sir Charles made two notes in his Diary of that date:
'I think that if Mr. Gladstone was to stay in, and live on, we should come as regards Egypt to evacuation and neutralization. Under the Tories, or under Hartington, the status quo may be tried for a long time.'
'When Bismarck offered Egypt to Dizzy, it was in order to embroil England with France.'
From this point onwards in the Memoir the focus of the Egyptian question changes; attention is centred on the diplomatic questions arising out of the financial problem.
As between England and France the issue concerned itself with the proposal to pay less than the promised interest on previously existing loans. The French view, expressed through M. Barrere, the French agent in Egypt, was that interest need not be reduced; the alternative view was that the bondholders must make a sacrifice of part of their interest, at any rate for some period of years, in return for the better security they were obtaining.
'On July 3rd Barrere called and explained to me a scheme of his on Egyptian finance, in which he was now highly skilled, having been French Agent in Egypt for some time. I put the matter before Lord Granville, who sent it to Mr. Gladstone and Childers. Barrere argued that it was not necessary to reduce interest, or, to use the slang of the moment, to "cut the coupon." We called a meeting of the Commons Ministers, and Chamberlain announced that he should resign if the coupon were not cut.
'July 18th, 1884.—We had virtually decided on declaring Egypt bankrupt in order to force the hands of the French, but Waddington, at a meeting with Childers, had broached a plan, which had originally been suggested by the Germans, for a temporary reduction of interest, to be reconsidered at the end of a certain number of years.' (These proposals were discussed at the Conference, which met in the latter half of July, held seven sittings, and then broke down without arriving at a conclusion on August 1st.) 'The question now raised was—at the end of what number of years? The French said three, and we decided to propose ten; but with a willingness to take six or even five; we advancing 4 1/2 millions instead of 8, or, in other words, leaving out the indemnities due by Egypt. If this arrangement failed, then we were to fall back on bankruptcy. Harcourt was much against declaring bankruptcy, and in favour of the policy of "scuttle." Hartington was against bankruptcy, and for paying the differences ourselves; so as to force us into annexation. Spencer, Childers, Chamberlain, and I, were for bankruptcy or for a strong threat of bankruptcy.
'On July 21st there was a meeting of members of the Cabinet after questions, at which Mr. Gladstone, Lord Granville, Hartington, Harcourt, Childers, and I, were present. The French had backed out of their proposals, and we considered a new scheme of Childers's to put all administrative charges in Egypt before interest of debt, a scheme which it was certain that the French would refuse. Harcourt was again violent against bankruptcy, which he announced he thought grossly "illegal," as if there were such a thing as illegality in such affairs.
'On August 2nd there was a full Cabinet, every member being present, and we had to consider whether, the Conference having broken down, Baring should go back to Egypt or remain at the Foreign Office and continue to advise us. Lord Granville proposed that he should remain, and that Malet should go to Egypt. Chamberlain proposed that Goschen should go. Childers proposed J. K. Cross. [Footnote: Under-Secretary for India.] Dufferin was mentioned; then Lord Granville proposed Northbrook. All other names were immediately withdrawn, and Northbrook took time to consider, but evidently meant to go, and decided, I think, in the course of the same evening. Baring was then called in, and we once more began to chop straw by considering the "ulterior consequences" of the collapse of the Conference—i.e., bankruptcy. Lastly, Gordon was dealt with, and it was decided that a supplementary estimate should be proposed, with the understanding that we should spend more if it was wanted. I wrote to Chamberlain: "We always have two subjects—(a) Conference, (b) Gordon." And he wrote back: "The first always taking up two or three hours; and the second five minutes at the fag end of business."
'On August 3rd I noted "we are going to send Northbrook to Egypt to put down Barrere."
'On August 5th we considered the instructions to Northbrook, or rather whether he should have any at all, and if so, what they should be. Northbrook read us a scheme which he had written, which attempted to conciliate Turkey and Italy, so as to have great naval strength in the Mediterranean and to prevent all chance of a sudden occupation of Egypt by France. We were to express our continued determination not to annex. We were to stay five years at the request of the Sultan. We were again to propose to the Powers those arrangements with regard to the Canal which we had proposed already. We were to pay the indemnities in stock; and the next coupon in full; and we were to promise for the future not less than 4 per cent, on privileged stocks, and not less than 3 per cent, on the Unified debt, while we were in Egypt. Indian troops were to hold Massowah. Harcourt, in reply, read a written counter-statement, again proposing to "scuttle," and again threatening us that we should have war with France. Hartington again spoke for a guarantee by us of the whole Egyptian debt. After Hartington's observations the discussion was, as usual, adjourned. Chamberlain and I decided that we would ask for our old term of three and a half years' occupation, as against Northbrook's five. Next came Gordon, and Hartington proposed that we should embody some militia.
'On August 6th there was another Cabinet, and the first question was that of Northbrook's scheme. Lord Granville agreed to a temporary use of Turkish troops provided that they were to leave Egypt when we left. Chamberlain would not agree, and wished to stick to Northbrook's phrase only inviting "co-operation." This view prevailed, and it was decided that if the Turks proposed to send a commissioner, we were to refuse. But the question of troops was really left open for more discussion. Next came the question of an advance of nearly a million which had been made by Rothschild to Egypt, and we asked him, as a favour to ourselves, to let it run, which was all he wanted us to do. Northbrook, who is not strong, had been a good deal fatigued with the discussion on his scheme, and instead of sleeping (his usual practice at a Cabinet) on this occasion fainted, and we had to get up and look after him at this point.
'On August 26th I received a letter from Hartington, saying that Northbrook was going to Osborne at the end of the week, and starting for Egypt from there. Hartington told me he was coming up to meet him, and he afterwards wrote to me to fix an appointment at the War Office on the 29th. This I kept. Northbrook was deplorably weak. He had returned from Rosebery's completely under the influence of Mr. Gladstone's pro-French views. [Footnote: At Dalmeny Lord Northbrook "met Mr. and Mrs. Gladstone." See Life of Lord Northbrook, p. 190.] He had settled to spend a day at Walmer, and had telegraphed to Lord Lyons to meet him there. His plan now was to ask the French Government to send a man to Egypt in order that he and the Frenchman might settle matters together. Hartington and I pointed out to him that the Frenchman's instructions from his Government must either be to refuse all reduction of interest, or to consent to it upon obtaining from us a better political position than that given to France by the Anglo-French agreement. We explained to him that it would be impossible for us to tolerate such proposals. I wrote to Chamberlain a full account of the interview.
'September 22nd_.—We decided with reference to Egyptian finance that Chamberlain should write a strong letter to Lord Granville protesting against any British advance to Egypt, unless accompanied by a cutting of the coupon. He did so, and on September 25th sent me a copy, and I sent the copy to Childers, and wrote myself to Lord Granville. On the 27th I received a memorandum from Chamberlain as to Lord Granville, Lord Derby, and Bismarck.
'Chamberlain's memorandum was a fierce denunciation of the principles laid down in Northbrook's despatch No. 4, dated September 13th, and received September 22nd.' [Footnote: Lord Northbrook had arrived in Egypt.]
Controversy now raged over Lord Northbrook's scheme, and added to the difficulties of the Cabinet, which was divided on the question of lowering or not lowering the rate of interest.
'On 19th November the second matter mentioned was Northbrook's scheme, against which I fought hard.... I pointed out that early in April, when Mr. Gladstone had wished to borrow on the future value of the Canal shares, that proposal had not been accepted, and we laid down the principle that it was for the bondholders to make sacrifices. On July 3rd we had decided that the coupon must be "cut." On July 18th the whole Cabinet had taken the same view except Harcourt and the Chancellor, and four members—Childers, Spencer, Chamberlain, and I—had advocated distinct bankruptcy. On August 2nd we had seen Baring to lay our plans for bankruptcy. On August 5th Northbrook himself had proposed a reduction of the interest. On August 29th there had been a general agreement to the same effect. Northbrook's policy had enormously sent up Egyptian stocks. After my strong observations the opinions stood: Mr. Gladstone, Childers, Chamberlain, Harcourt, Trevelyan, and Dilke against Northbrook's scheme; for it, Lord Granville, the Chancellor, Hartington, Spencer, Kimberley, Derby, Carlingford, and Northbrook himself. All the Lords on one side, curiously enough, and all the Sirs and Mr.'s on the other; eight to six against us. But I noted: "Mr. Gladstone is so strong that we shall win." "As we did."' [Footnote: Letter from Sir Charles to Mr. Brett (afterwards Lord Esher):
Local Government Board, Whitehall, November 19th, 1884.
'My policy has always been bankruptcy and stand the shot, and if we had stuck to that we should have had no trouble with the Powers; but indiscretions have made that difficult. It is not pleasant to be called in too late. I quite agree in your general view, but how can the bondholder be got to make sacrifices without his consent?']
'At the meeting of the Cabinet of December 2nd, Egyptian finance again came up. We were informed that Prince Bismarck suggested oral communications among ambassadors. For this Malet proposed Paris, and we replied Berlin.'
During this time the Government continued to waver as to the Soudan expedition.
On June 21st
'with regard to Gordon it was decided to wait ten days before settling anything, and to see whether we heard from him in reply to the silly questions which had been asked.'
On June 27th came the definitive news that Berber had fallen on May 26th. On July 5th
'We discussed the Egyptian army of the future, and then the question of whether we should send an expedition to Khartoum, as to which we again could come to no decision; Mr. Gladstone still opposing.'
Dilke, backed by Chamberlain, was still pressing the military solution which he favoured. On July 16th
'Hartington on this occasion gave up the Berber-Suakim route, and pressed for a decision as to an immediate expedition by the Nile. He was supported by the Chancellor, Northbrook, Carlingford, and Dodson. Mr. Gladstone, Harcourt, and Childers opposed.
'Chamberlain and I opposed a large expedition by the Nile, and supported a small expedition, under the control of the navy, with a body of picked men. Baring was called in about the police in Egypt, and his views in support of Nubar were approved. Nubar was to have his own way in the appointment of Inspectors of Police in Egypt.'
'On July 22nd we found that Mr. Gladstone had again taken up Zebehr, and was anxious to send him to Khartoum in order to avoid a British expedition.
'On July 25th there was a full Cabinet, Spencer being present, which first discussed the Conference and then the Gordon expedition, for which for the first time a large majority of the Cabinet pronounced. The issue was narrowed down to that of sending some sort of British force to or towards Dongola; and this was supported by Hartington, the Chancellor, Derby, Northbrook, Spencer, Carlingford, Dodson, Chamberlain, and me, while on the other side were only Mr. Gladstone, Harcourt, and Kimberley. Lord Granville said nothing. By the stoutness of their resistance the three for the moment prevailed over the nine.
'On July 31st a storm was brewing about Gordon, and Harcourt went about declaring that the Government would break up upon the question. On the next day, August 1st, a way out of the difficulty was found in an agreement that we should ask for a small vote of credit, which we were to use or not as should be thought right later.'
It must be remembered that communications with Gordon were now interrupted, though occasionally renewed, and this added to the confusion.
'On September 17th we received a telegram from Gordon which looked as though he were perfectly mad, although some of the other telegrams from him sent at the same time were sane enough.'
Since Parliament had risen and the Cabinet scattered, preparations had been going on apace.
'When Hartington came to me on September 15th he told me that he had already spent "L750,000 out of the L300,000" for the Gordon expedition.' [Footnote: 'On August 9th Lord Hartington again asked us for permission to embody militia or call out a portion of the First-Class Army Reserve.']
'On October 4th Chamberlain had written strongly against Wolseley's great expedition, Harcourt was still opposing the whole thing. After this meeting of the Cabinet Northbrook wrote to Gordon a long letter based on the Cabinet decision. He stated that the expedition under Wolseley was not sent for the purpose of defeating the Mahdi, but only of enabling the Egyptian garrison of Khartoum, the civil employees and their families, with Gordon, to return to Egypt. He offered the Grand Cross of the Bath' (to Gordon) 'as from the Queen personally. He explained our refusal of Zebehr, and he suggested the placing at Khartoum of the Mudir of Dongola. It was easy, however, to write to Gordon, but it was not easy to get the letters to him; and we had to attempt even to send them by Tripoli and the desert.' [Footnote: As to the last communications with Gordon, see Life of Granville, vol. ii., pp. 397-399. Besides the authorities already quoted, the Parliamentary Papers Nos. 2, 6, 12, 13, and 25, for 1884, may be referred to.]
That is the last detailed reference to Gordon in the Memoir until February 5th, 1885, when the news of the fall of Khartoum reached London. The matter had passed out of the hands of the Cabinet into those of the soldiers.
This comment in the Diary may fitly end this chapter:
'On February 20th I noted (conversation, I think, not printed), Lord Acton says of Gladstone: "Cannot make up my mind whether he is not wholly unconscious when working himself up to a change of position. After watching him do it, I think that he is so. He lives completely in what for the moment he chooses to believe."'
FRANCHISE AND REDISTRIBUTION
JULY TO DECEMBER, 1884.
In the summer of 1884 the Government Bill for extension of the franchise had strong and even passionate support throughout the country; but that policy threatened a breach with Lord Hartington, who in the opinion of many was by prescriptive right Mr. Gladstone's successor. Still more entangling were the difficulties in respect of Egypt, over which the Government was so hopelessly divided that no coherent policy could be pursued. Sir Charles notes that on July 18th Mr. Gladstone,
'who had the greatest abhorrence for City dinners, proposed the extinction of the Lord Mayor's ministerial banquet; the fact being that the Government of London Bill and the failure to send an expedition to Khartoum had made the Ministry so unpopular in the City that he did not think it wise to subject himself to the torture which such banquets are to him.'
'The Tory game,' Sir Charles wrote on May 24th, 1884, to his agent, 'is to delay the franchise until they have upset us upon Egypt, before the Franchise Bill has reached the Lords.' [Footnote: This letter is also quoted in Chapter XXXIV.]
When the Franchise Bill went up to the Lords in the first week of July, it was rejected for a reasoned amendment which declined to alter the franchise except as part of a scheme dealing with redistribution of seats.
'On July 5th there was a Cabinet to consider what was called the crisis—our relations with the House of Lords over the franchise, and Spencer was present.... The question to be considered was that of dissolution or an autumn Session. Lord Granville, Hartington, and Lord Derby were for an immediate dissolution on the old franchise, which was at once negatived.'
'On June 21st there was mentioned the attitude of the House of Lords. Lord Granville said something in favour of life peerages. I asked Chamberlain whether he thought that it was seriously meant, and writing passed between us in which he replied: "Serious, I think"; to which I answered: "You won't have it, will you?" Answer: "No."'
'On July 7th Mr. Gladstone explained to me his plan for dealing with the House of Lords, which was not so objectionable to me as the schemes known as "Reform of the House of Lords." It was to imitate the French constitution, and in cases of difference to make the two Houses sit in Congress and vote together. From the practical point of view it would be as difficult to carry as the abolition of the House of Lords, and if carried would not be of much use to the Liberal party except on occasions when their majority was absolutely overwhelming.
'On July 8th offers of compromise came to us from the Lords, but they would not offer terms which we could accept. We decided to propose to them a solemn resolution by both Houses pledging us to redistribution. This they refused.'
The extent of real agreement which existed between the two sides had not yet been divined; and it was Sir Charles who set on foot the work which finally averted conflict.
'Early in July I began to take time by the forelock by preparing, without instructions from the Cabinet, a Redistribution scheme; and the first memoranda drawn up by Sir John Lambert for my use were written in that month, although it was not till after Parliament had separated for the recess that we got seriously to work. In the evening of July 14th Mr. Gladstone broached to me his views on Redistribution, and we practically hatched the Bill.'
Party feeling ran high, and the Queen intervened.
'On July 9th in the morning Sir Henry Ponsonby came up to see the Duke of Richmond and some of us, and tried to settle the deadlock, but failed.... The Cabinet decided that Chamberlain must not take the chair at a meeting at the Agricultural Hall to denounce the House of Lords.'
Liberals in general were, however, speaking out, and at a Cabinet a week later they had 'some fun with Hartington concerning his Lancashire meetings, with strong resolutions directed against the House of Lords for doing that which he privately approved.' Also, there was a tremendous demonstration in the Metropolis.
'On July 21st I saw the Franchise Demonstration on this day from the Speaker's window, the procession passing from three till six.'
'After the Cabinet on August 5th we congratulated Chamberlain upon his Birmingham franchise meeting, and he told us that Birmingham was "thirsting for the blood of the Lords"—saying to Bright: "You are too lenient with them. We won't stand them any longer." I told him that as the Times had said that he was too violent, I had no doubt the Queen would say so also, to which he replied: "Probably, and if she does I shall most likely ... deny her right to criticise my speeches, although she may, if she likes, dismiss me, in which case I will lead an agitation against the Lords in the country." I answered: "Yes, but you cannot go alone in such a case, and therefore should not appear to contemplate doing so." He replied: "I am not going, but perhaps she can dismiss me. What then? I am not going to tie my tongue." I retorted: "In that case it would surely be even more essential than usual that I should go too." He closed the matter by saying: "If it really arose out of the agitation against the Lords and the interference of the Crown with the liberty of speech of ministers, I do not see how a Radical could stay in. Remember, I have observed Mr. Gladstone's limits. I have said nothing about the future; only denounced past action."'
Mr. Chamberlain's outside agitation coincided with Sir Charles's work towards a peaceful solution. On August 9th
'A Committee of the Cabinet was appointed to deal with Redistribution—to consist of Hartington, Kimberley, Childers, Chamberlain, and me, with the addition of Lefevre. They forgot James, who was anxious to be on it, [Footnote: Sir Charles wrote to Sir Henry James on the matter, and received a reply admitting that he had been "slightly touched" by the omission of his name, but saying that he would still give his services.] but I soon got rid of the Committee and went on by myself with Lambert.'
Parliament was prorogued on August 14th, but very soon compromise was in the air.
'On August 21st and 22nd I had interviews with Hartington at his wish, nominally to talk over the sending of Wolseley to Egypt, but really to see what I thought of a compromise with the Lords on the basis of Lord Cowper's letter in the Times—introduction of the Redistribution Bill in October.'
The situation was profoundly modified by speeches from Lord Salisbury, which made it clear that the plan "hatched" between Mr. Gladstone and Sir Charles was not likely to have any terrors for him. Lord Kimberley wrote in September:
'Now that Salisbury is going in for electoral districts, it will become a sort of open competition which party can go furthest. I should not be surprised if he were to trump us by proposing to abolish the House of Lords.'
'I had now decided to agree with Lord Salisbury in advance, and divide the counties into single-member districts if Mr. Gladstone would let me; and Trevelyan, to whom I had broached my scheme, wrote: "I very much approve of the scheme of dividing counties. I hope to goodness you will be able to carry it out."'
The original draft, completed on September 18th, followed the lines laid down in consultation with Mr. Gladstone. The object of obtaining fair representation, and doing away with over-representation of vested interests, was thus attacked and began with two great industrial centres.
The scheme for England treated Lancashire and Yorkshire as urban throughout, and divided them into single-member districts; but the remaining 'rural' counties of England were divided into two-member districts. Thus, 'the net increase of county members was 53.' Boroughs which had less than 10,000 inhabitants (53 in all) were merged into the counties; those with a population of between 10,000 and under 40,000, which had two members, lost one. Thus, having added to the under- represented, Sir Charles took from the over-represented, and adds: 'this gave us 33 more seats.' Sir Charles in a secret memorandum added that he thought the fixing of so low a limit as 10,000 showed 'an altogether indefensible tenderness to vested interests.' 'I should carry the loss of one member far higher than the 40,000 line adopted, and should take away one member up to the point at which I began to give two' to a new constituency. Dilke was in favour of carrying merger of small boroughs to a greater extent than was adopted in the Act.
'Summing up, on our English borough scheme,' he said, 'I am struck by its extreme timidity. I do not see how it is to stand the revolutionary criticism of Lord Salisbury.' 'My plan for the Metropolis gave to it its legitimate proportion of members: 55 in all.... These figures should be compared with 22—the previous number.'
As to Ireland, he admitted that 'if you take its population as a whole it was over-represented in our plan; yet the difference in favour of Ireland is very small; moreover, Wales is vastly better treated than Ireland.' Lord Spencer 'thought there would be a howl from Belfast,' and wished for the representation of minorities. 'But the Irish Government made no practical proposal,' and the whole of this intricate business was left almost entirely to Sir Charles.
'On September 29th Mr. Gladstone wrote at length conveying his general approval of my plan, and stating that he did not intend to "handle" the Bill in the House of Commons; and so wished to defer to the opinions of his colleagues. He gave me leave to add 12 members to the House for Scotland, instead of taking the 12 from England; and he congratulated me upon the "wonderful progress" which I had made.... On the same day on which I had received Mr. Gladstone's letter I saw one from Sir Henry Ponsonby to Mr. Gladstone with Mr. Gladstone's reply. Sir Henry Ponsonby made proposals.... Mr. Gladstone had refused both for the present; the former with scorn and the latter with argument. [Footnote: The first was "that the Lords should read the Franchise Bill a second time, and then pass a resolution declaring that they would go into Committee as soon as the Redistribution Bill reached them."]
'On September 30th further letters were circulated, one from Sir Henry Ponsonby on the 27th, in which he said that the reform of the House of Lords must in any case come, but must come later, and that he would see the leaders of the Opposition about the second suggestion of his previous letter as it had not been absolutely refused (the suggestion being that the Lords should provide in the Franchise Bill that it should come into force on January 1st, 1886, unless the Redistribution Bill were sooner passed).
'On October 4th Hartington made a speech which produced a storm upon this subject of Compromise as to Reform.' (He proposed that the Lords should pass the Franchise Bill 'after seeing the conditions of the Redistribution Bill and satisfying themselves that they were fair.') 'But Mr. Gladstone went with Chamberlain and myself against any compromise.'
Mr. Chamberlain put the point that no bargain could be considered unless the Franchise Bill were first passed without conditions very plainly in a speech on October 7th, and next day at the Cabinet
'Mr. Gladstone expressed his approval of Chamberlain's speech of the previous night, and attacked Hartington for his earlier one. It seemed to me that at this moment Lord Salisbury might have caught Hartington by offering the compromise which Hartington had suggested.... I refused to discuss Redistribution with the Cabinet, telling Chamberlain that they would "drive me wild with little peddling points."'
The appreciation of Sir Charles's competence was general. It was not limited to Parliament, and he met the expression of it when he appeared on the platform in three great centres of the Lancashire industrial democracy.
'On Tuesday, October 14th, I spoke at Oldham, and on October 15th at the Free Trade Hall, Manchester, and on the 16th at Stockport. I had a wonderful reception at all these meetings, but especially at the Manchester meeting.'
Sir Charles's personal record served the party well, for the Tory cry was that the Liberals wished to preserve the inequalities of the existing divisions. To this he answered by appealing to the projects which he had introduced year after year, and recalling their reception from the Tory Government:
'I have preached for redistribution in the desert, I have advocated it unceasingly for years, I have been a bore upon it in Parliament and out; even the franchise is no less important in my eyes as being that which I have a dozen times called "the necessary first step to a complete redistribution" than in and for itself. Redistribution is, however, if possible, of even more tremendous difficulty than importance. It offers a greater hold than any other subject to the arts of blocking and delay.' [Footnote: October 14th, at Oldham.]
'On October 17th Spencer reported from Balmoral that the Queen was much pleased with her "Speech"; but not so with other people's speeches, being angry at the violence of the language used.'
Lord Salisbury had declared that if Birmingham was going to march on London, he hoped Mr. Chamberlain would head the procession and get his head broken for his pains. Mr. Chamberlain retorted that he would gladly head the procession if Lord Salisbury would promise to come and meet it, and then, if his own head were broken, 'it should be broken in very good company.' On October 21st
'I was sent for by Mr. Gladstone about Chamberlain's speech, and wrote to Chamberlain to ask him if he could tone it down a little.... On October 22nd at the Cabinet Chamberlain told me that he was willing to adopt the words of my letter in explanation of his speech.'
He agreed to write for publication a letter to one of his Quaker constituents; but it was judged insufficient.
'On October 28th Mr. Gladstone wrote to me: "I thought you and I were perfectly agreed about the unfortunate expressions in Chamberlain's speech ... and in the expectation that his letter ... would fully meet the case. I own that in my opinion it did not come up to the mark. All I had really wished was a note conceived in the same spirit as that in which he withdrew the 'jackal' because it gave offence. Can nothing more be done? You saw a recent letter of mine in defence, written when I thought the objections taken not to be just. I am precluded from writing any such letter with the facts as they now stand, but I hope that you may be able to bring them to the standard of our reasonable expectations." I sent this letter to Chamberlain, as was intended, with a note from me to say that it was clear that the Queen had written Mr. Gladstone a second letter about the matter, and asked whether I should say that I thought Chamberlain's letter met the case; and Chamberlain replied: "Yes. I cannot and will not do more." This I communicated to Mr. Gladstone. Randolph Churchill had taken the matter up. He accused Chamberlain of having advocated violence, and was loudly threatening, even to me, that there should be "somebody killed at Birmingham next time." Chamberlain told me that Randolph had tried to get up a march against Highbury on the part of the Birmingham Tory roughs; but they were still on speaking terms, and often chatting together at the smoking-room at the House. On the same day, the 28th, late in the evening Mr. Gladstone sent for me about the Chamberlain matter, and said of the Queen: "She not only attacks him but me through him, and says I pay a great deal too much attention to him." When Chamberlain and I went home, as we almost always did, together in one cab, he broke out, evidently much worried and excited, against Mr. Gladstone.
'Next day I warned Mr. Gladstone that it would not take much to make a serious row.'
On October 15th Sir Charles wrote to Sir M. Grant Duff that he expected 'they would sit till February, and send the Bill up a third time.' On October 24th Mr. Gladstone was inclined to resign at the second rejection, which was taken for a certainty. But as to the final issue, it was becoming daily clearer that the Commons were going to win against the Lords. Even in the home counties Liberalism had become aggressive.
'October 24th.—Franchise and Redistribution seemed well in view when I discovered on this day that Nathaniel Rothschild, who had lately looked on Buckinghamshire as his own, was now down on his knees to Carrington about it.' Work now began on the details of the draft Bill.
'On October 25th there was a full meeting of my Committee of the Cabinet on Redistribution. I took the chair, and Hartington, Kimberley, Childers, Chamberlain, James, and Lefevre, sat round the table. I got my own way in everything, and succeeded in raising the 10,000 limit of merger to 15,000. Mr. Gladstone, who disliked the change, and who was the strongest Conservative living upon the subject, yielded to it on the same night by letter.'
Sir Charles now threw himself into getting as big a measure as possible by a 'truce of God' between the parties.
'On October 29th Mr. Gladstone told me that Lord Carnarvon had proposed to him that they should meet in order to come to some conclusion about Redistribution. He had declined, but had tried, through Sir Erskine May, to induce the Tories to appoint a Committee of their own to draw up a scheme. I saw Sir Erskine May and told him to tell Northcote that I would accept, and press the acceptance of, any scheme not obviously unfair, and not containing minority representation, which I should be unable to carry.'
'On October 31st there was a Cabinet which was Trevelyan's first, and very glad he and his wife were to escape from Ireland, [Footnote: The Chief Secretaryship was offered to Mr. Shaw Lefevre, who refused on the same ground as had previously been taken by Sir Charles. Without Cabinet rank he was not prepared to accept it. Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman was then appointed. Mr. Lefevre entered the Cabinet as Postmaster-General after the death of Mr. Fawcett, which occurred on November 6th, 1884.] which had aged him dreadfully.... On the question of Reform Hartington told us that he had had several interviews with Sir Michael Beach, who had expressly stated that he was not authorized by his party to make suggestions, but had proposed total merger up to 25,000, and loss of the second seat up to 80,000. I, to clinch the matter, at once volunteered to draw up a scheme on this basis.'
'James called my attention to some communications in the Conservative newspapers, stating that he had it on very high authority (which with James always meant Randolph Churchill) that the extremely large schemes hinted at were Lord Salisbury's, and would be supported by the whole Conservative party; but these schemes suggested minority-representation in urban districts, with single-member constituencies in counties; or, as Chamberlain said, "Tory minority represented in towns, and Liberal minority extinguished in county." Lord Salisbury, however, was only keeping his friends in good humour with minority-representation. In the evening Randolph Churchill sent me a message that he wished to have a conference with me about Redistribution, and by an arrangement made through Sir Erskine May, we met in the Office of the Serjeant- at-Arms. He then told me that Beach's scheme was his, and that he was convinced that an agreement might be come to on those lines. I assured him of my warm support for a large scheme. I think this was the occasion (about this time) when Randolph, who was thinking of going to India, vented his anger as to Salisbury. Winston Churchill told me in March, 1901, that his father had come to terms with Salisbury as to the future Tory Government before he started for India. I told him this could not be, as the possibility of forming one depended on the Irish, and that Lord Salisbury could not at this early date have agreed to buy them by the promises of (1) Enquiry into Spencer's police, (2) no Coercion, (3) a Viceroy personally favourable to Home Rule.
'In the evening I dined with the Duchess of Manchester to meet the Dufferins, on which occasion Dufferin shone, but his health and spirits were now beginning to decline. Hartington was at the dinner, and told me that he had had a fresh interview with Beach, this time at his (Hartington's) request.
'On Saturday, November 1st, I had some correspondence with Hartington about these interviews, of which I warmly approved; and on the 3rd Hartington wrote to me that he was going to see Beach again that day, and I placed all my scheme before him for communication to the Conservative front bench.'
Publicly there was war.
'On November 4th was the laying of the foundation-stone of the National Liberal Club, at which Harcourt, after saying that he was a moderate politician, compared the House of Lords to Sodom and Gomorrah.'
'on this day Hartington again saw Beach, and afterwards Churchill.... Beach said that Lord Salisbury unreservedly accepted the Queen's suggestion for a meeting of the leaders.... Conferences went on, but all through the month Beach declined to take a "representative character, or negotiate in such a way as would commit his party"—to use Hartington's words. Hartington now thought "Mr. Gladstone would be able either to come to terms with Lord Salisbury or to put him completely in the wrong." Hartington added: "Beach very much regrets the Lowther and John Manners speeches,"'
and probably Lord Hartington expressed regret for Sir William Harcourt's references to Sodom and Gomorrah.
'On the 6th there was a meeting of my Committee on Redistribution to consider Beach's proposals, at which I took the chair, but did little else, and left all the talking to the others, and their view came to this—that they were quite willing to agree to the Tory revolutionary scheme, provided the Tories would take the odium with the House of Commons of proposing it.'
'On November 7th the Cabinet decided that I should be joined to Hartington as recognized plenipotentiary.'
On the 10th
'I proposed and Mr. Gladstone agreed to write to Lord Salisbury "distinctly accepting the Queen's offers." On November 11th we confirmed our decisions at the last Cabinet as to completely taking away from Lord Salisbury the power of saying that he had accepted and we declined the Queen's proposals, by unreservedly supporting Mr. Gladstone's letter to the Queen.'
On November 15th Mr. Gladstone informed the Cabinet that the Lords were unyielding.
'Northcote had taken tea with him on the previous evening. The Lords would not part with the Franchise Bill till the Redistribution Bill was in their House. As regarded Lord Salisbury and Sir Stafford Northcote, Mr. Gladstone considered the door absolutely closed, but he was informed that the Duke of Richmond and Lord Cairns did not agree with the leaders. We then drew up a statement to be made on Monday, November 17th, in both Houses of Parliament as to the steps we had taken to produce conciliation, Harcourt saying: "This is the apple-woman spitting on her old apples and shining 'em up!"—the fact being that it was only done to put the Lords in the wrong.'
'On Monday, November 17th, when I returned from Sandringham, I had to see Lord Rowton, who had been sent to me by the Prince of Wales to try and produce a settlement of the Redistribution difficulty, but we only sat and smiled at one another; he saying that he had come because he had been told to come, and I saying that I had nothing new to tell him, for Lord Salisbury knew all we had to say.'
'On November 19th there was a Cabinet. The first matter mentioned was the arrangement with the Conservatives for an interview, and at four o'clock on this day, November 19th, occurred the first meeting of the parties: an interview between Lord Salisbury and Sir Stafford Northcote on the one side, and Mr. Gladstone and Lord Granville on the other. Lord Salisbury had written to me about it already, and had privately seen my papers the previous day at the Commission, and had asked me a great number of questions, and I had given him my division of the Metropolis and of Lancashire at his wish, and received from him the following note: "I do not know whether it will be possible to discuss the application of the one-member principle to the Counties and the Metropolitan Constituencies and the suburbs of the larger towns." The hesitating way in which he asked shows that we might have avoided the single-members had we fought upon the point. But, as I liked them myself, I fought the other way, against Mr. Gladstone. At the interview between the leaders of the two parties and the two Houses it was merely decided that the real interview should take place on Saturday, November 22nd, at noon between the two Conservative chiefs and Mr. Gladstone, Lord Hartington, and me, Lord Granville being left out as knowing nothing of the subject. On November 21st I continued my private conference with Lord Salisbury at the Royal Commission, and we settled who the Boundary Commissioners should be. On Saturday, November 22nd, I had a conference with Chamberlain before going to the meeting with Lord Salisbury. Chamberlain was in favour of two-member seats as against single members, especially for boroughs. He was as clear as was Lord Salisbury that the single-member system would damage the Liberal party in the Metropolis.
'In the afternoon the Conference took place, and there never was so friendly and pleasant a meeting. I fully described it in three letters to Chamberlain, in which I said, among other things: "It looks as though Lord Salisbury is really anxious that we should pass our Bill." No memorandum on this day passed in writing, and the written compact was concluded between Lord Salisbury and me only on November 28th. The meeting of the 22nd was known at the time as the Downing Street meeting; and the other as "the Arlington Street compact."
'On Sunday, November 23rd, Lord Salisbury wrote to me a letter which I sent on to Mr. Gladstone and which he kept. Mr. Gladstone replied on the same day undertaking to move the adjournment of the House for a week, and showing that he was not at all sure that Lord Salisbury, having got from us the whole of our scheme and given us nothing in writing which was worth anything, did not mean to sell us. Chamberlain wrote on the same day in reply to my letters, "I cannot make head or tail of Salisbury. He appears to be swallowing every word that he has ever written or spoken about Redistribution.... I wonder if he will carry his party with him.... On the whole, you seem to be doing very well."'
Discussion now went on by correspondence between Sir Charles and Lord Salisbury, and it touched subjects which might easily have led to friction. Lord Salisbury proposed to create a number of urban constituencies by grouping; his plan being to get the small towns taken out of rural districts which he looked upon as otherwise Conservative, and to group them with small manufacturing boroughs:
'I was aghast at this suggestion, because it was a very difficult thing, in a Parliamentary sense, to create a few such groups in England; and if the thing was to be carried far and not confined to a few cases only it would entirely have destroyed the whole of the work that we had done, because all the counties would have had their numbers altered. I therefore fought stoutly for my own scheme, which I succeeded in carrying almost untouched. Lord Salisbury's letter crossed one from me to him in which, after Mr. Gladstone's leave (conveyed in the words "I see no objection to sending him this excellent and succinct paper marked Secret"), I had communicated to Lord Salisbury my views and the grounds on which they were based.'
'On the 26th, at four o'clock, we met at Downing Street, all five being present.... Lord Salisbury, yielding to my reasoning, gave up grouping,' on the understanding that the Boundary Commissioners were 'to keep the urban patches as far as possible by themselves.... Ultimately it was settled that single-member districts should be universal in counties, and that we should leave open for the present the question of how far it should be applied to boroughs.'
Lord Salisbury wished to retain the minority clause in places where he thought it had worked well, but he did not ask for it in Birmingham and Glasgow. 'All this showed great indecision,' says Sir Charles, and he observes that 'Lord Salisbury did not seem to me thoroughly to understand his subject.' It is probable, at all events, that he was no match on the details either for Sir Charles or for Mr. Gladstone, who, after the Conference, thus summed up his impressions in a letter dated November 26th:
'My Dear Dilke,
'I send you herewith for your consideration a first sketch which I have made of a possible communication to-morrow after the Cabinet from us to the Legates of the opposite party. I think that if the Cabinet make it an ultimatum we should be safe with it. There was a careful abstention to-day on their side from anything beyond praising this or that, and at the outset they spoke of the one-member system for boroughs "with exceptions" as what they desired.
'W. E. Gladstone.'
'Mr. Gladstone's memorandum was on my lines. On the next morning, November 27th, Mr. Gladstone, Lord Granville, Hartington, I, and Chamberlain met before the Cabinet at 11 o'clock, and kept the Cabinet waiting, the Cabinet having been called for twelve, and Redistribution alone being considered at it. I announced at the Cabinet that the Tories proposed and we accepted single-member districts universally in counties, boundaries to be drawn by a commission who were to separate urban from rural as far as possible, without grouping and without creating constituencies of utterly eccentric shape. The names of the commissioners had been settled, and both sides were pledged to accept their proposals, unless the two sides agreed to differ from them. [Footnote: At the meeting of the 26th 'it was agreed that the Boundary Commissioners should consist of those gentlemen who had been advising me.']
'The Tories proposed single-member districts almost everywhere in boroughs, and only positively named one exception—the City of London—but were evidently prepared to make some exceptions. They made our agreement on this point the condition of passing the Franchise Bill, of giving up the decrease of the Irish members from 103 to 100 which they urged, of giving up all forms of minority vote, and of giving up grouping. My own opinion and that of the Prime Minister were in favour of agreement. Hartington, who much disliked what he thought would be the extinction of the Whigs by an omnipresent caucus for candidates' selection, was hostile to the single-member system. I pointed out that we already proposed in our amended scheme 120 single-member borough seats out of 284 borough seats. We had thrown out to the Tories a question as to whether they would accept, say, 184 single-borough seats, and give us, say, not more than 100 for double-member seats; or, if they liked, two-thirds and one-third; and they did not positively decline this suggestion. Mr. Gladstone proposed to "save from compulsory division those urban constituencies, not Metropolitan, which, now possessing dual representation, are to have their representation neither increased nor diminished." (This was the ultimate agreement.) Also, that "cities and towns which are to receive four members and upwards, ten in number, should have one central or principal area set apart with two members." (This was purely personal on Mr. Gladstone's part and was universally rejected.)
'I argued warmly in favour of supporting Lord Salisbury's scheme (upon which he and I were absolutely agreed), I being delighted at having got seven more members for the Metropolis than were given by my scheme in its last form after the Cabinet had cut it down. In order to secure Chamberlain's support I told him "I might be able to save a seat for you and give the extended Birmingham seven if you liked to make that a condition, but in that case I must get one somewhere for Glasgow also out of the rest of Scotland, which is skinning flints."
'The reception of our proposals by the Cabinet, to which Grosvenor' (the Chief Whip) 'had been called in, was not altogether favourable. Childers talked about resigning, and Grosvenor was most hostile. We had the enormous advantage, however, that Chamberlain and I and Mr. Gladstone were the only three people who understood the subject, so that the others were unable to fight except in the form known as swearing at large. I was sent off from the Cabinet to Lord Salisbury to tell him that we could agree. At three o'clock we had a further conference with the Conservative leaders, and came to an agreement on my base, Chamberlain, who was somewhat hostile, yielding to me, I going in and out to him, for he was at Downing Street in another room.'
Next day memoranda were exchanged between the parties to the Conference, and Mr. Gladstone was pledged to stand by the heads set down in his memoranda, and accept no provision outside of these without Sir Stafford Northcote's agreement. One detail is of interest as illustrating Mr. Gladstone's inherited Conservatism, which comes out all through these negotiations.
'Mr. Gladstone in sending this (memorandum) to me said: "You will see that Salisbury stands upon our printed statement as to Universities." Mr. Gladstone, knowing that I was strongly opposed to University representation, took this matter upon himself. He proposed a more general form of words in place of Lord Salisbury's pledge against new matters, and, as for Universities, wrote: "Assure Salisbury that I personally will bind myself out and out to this proposition."'
'In the afternoon I went to Lord Salisbury to settle the terms of agreement, and had to go four times from him to Mr. Gladstone, and four times back again, before we finished....
'The next day I lunched with Mr. Gladstone to meet Miss Mary Anderson, the actress, and Princess Louise. I received at lunch a letter from Lord Salisbury making a few reservations ... none of them difficult of acceptance.
'On December 2nd I got a note from Harcourt—to ask what I had been doing with the British Constitution in his absence. On December 8th I had a serious grumble from Spencer from Dublin as to my having settled with Salisbury who were to be the Irish Commissioners, and only asked the Irish Government after the thing was done. I had undoubtedly been wrong, and can only say that Spencer let me off cheaply....'
Sir Charles's holiday in the South of France, whither he went on December 17th, was broken by copies of a correspondence between Lord Spencer and Lord Salisbury, the latter writing 'with much sound and fury' on the question of another Conservative Boundary Commissioner for Ireland. 'Lord Salisbury had always been so extremely soft and sweet to me that it was a revelation to find him writing to Spencer in the style of Harcourt or of Chamberlain when in a passion.'
'Sir Stafford Northcote also wrote to me upon the subject, and passing on to Scotland in his letter, added, "It is, I think, understood that we may have a free fight over the grouping of Scotch boroughs." This question of the Scotch boroughs was afterwards referred to me and Charles Dalrymple (M.P. for Buteshire), and I gave Dalrymple one or two changes that he wanted, which, I think, did not matter.'
Such difficulties were few and subordinate. The scheme was settled in principle, for after the Arlington Street compact
'I wrote the letter to the Boundary Commissioners the same night, and after I had signed their instructions on December 5th I had a pause in my Redistribution work for some time.'
But at the end of December Lord Hartington wrote:
'I think it will take two of us all our time to work the Bill through; and you know so much more about it than anybody else that you must necessarily take the greatest share of the details';
and ended with an invitation to Sir Charles to stay at Hardwick to do some preliminary work on the measure.
FOREIGN AFFAIRS IN 1884
Mrs. Mark Patterson
During 1884 'I warned Lord Granville, Mr. Gladstone, Fitzmaurice, and Childers, that I should not in future be able to speak on foreign affairs on account of the terrible work of the Redistribution Bill, and of the Royal Commission,' for 'I was now so busy with the preparation for working the Redistribution Bill through the House, and with the Report of the Royal Commission, that I objected to receiving Foreign Office papers not sent to other members of the Cabinet ... but Lord Granville insisted that I should still see them, and circulated a letter to that effect.'
During 1884 and 1885 Foreign Office work was not only exacting, but was connected with acute disagreements in the Ministry itself. It has been seen how closely Sir Charles was occupied with the Egyptian question, and how constantly he found himself opposed to Lord Hartington in his views of policy. Moreover, out of the Egyptian difficulty there sprang a general divergence from France, and this led to action by France in various quarters of the globe calculated to offend British susceptibilities and to injure British prestige. Sir Charles, friend of France as he was, had been strong for resenting and resisting such action, and this attitude had brought him into conflict with those who on the whole had supported him in Egyptian matters. A new factor was now introduced. Bismarck had previously been content to urge on the French in their colonization policy, but in 1884 the German Chancellor, who in 1883 had been working out his schemes of national insurance, found his hand forced by the Colonial party, and, in view of the coming German elections, could no longer afford to ignore them. Bismarck, 'contrary to his conviction and his will,' said Lord Ampthill, accepted a policy of colonization, which had the secondary effect of harassing and humiliating the British Liberal Administration. [Footnote: Life of Granville, vol. ii., p. 355.] Sir Charles, who realized that every such annexation meant the exclusion of British trade from an actual or potential market, fought for strong British action, but he fought against the older Liberals of the Cabinet. Again and again the Radical leaders were overborne by Mr. Gladstone.
The German Government had demanded protection for a German firm of traders who had established themselves in the territory of Angra Pequena, on the west coast of Africa, 280 miles south of Walfisch Bay. Lord Granville, after considerable delays, caused chiefly by the necessity of consulting the Colonial Office, which in its turn had to consult the Cape Government, where a change of Ministry was impending, objected to the declaration of a German protectorate.
'June 14th, 1884.—At a Cabinet at Lord Granville's house on Conference.... Waddington waiting in another room.
'H. Bismarck was also in the house, and had been very rude to Lord Granville about Angra Pequena, which was mentioned to the Cabinet, which would do nothing.
'June 2lth—... Angra Pequena was mentioned, and it was decided that Bismarck, who was greatly irritated with the Government, was to have all he wanted.
'On September 22nd Chamberlain came to me on his return from abroad. He told me that H. Bismarck had told him that the German Chancellor was very angry at having had no answer to a full statement of German views as to Angra Pequena and other colonial matters, which had been sent to Lord Granville on August 30th, and he was astonished to learn that the Cabinet had not seen his letter....
'On the 27th Lord Granville had in the meantime written: "I will send you my letter and Bismarck's answer, but I do not wish the correspondence to be mentioned.... My only excuse, but a good one, for acting merely as a medium between the German Government and the Colonial Office, was that I had continually the most positive assurances in London, and still more in Berlin, that Bismarck was dead against German colonization—as he was."' [Footnote: On this chapter of African history, see Life of Granville, vol. ii., chap. x., passim.]