This was the first of a series of instances in which, to Sir Charles's great disgust, the British Foreign and Colonial Offices 'lay down to Germany.'
Since the annexation of part of New Guinea by Queensland had been disavowed in April, 1883, all Australia was vehemently concerned over the ultimate fate of this territory, and pressed the home Government to forestall other Powers by occupying it.
'June 27th we discussed New Guinea, as to which Lord Derby was getting into serious trouble.
'On July 5th there was a Cabinet called to consider what was called the "crisis"—our relation with the House of Lords over the Franchise. But so peculiar is the British Empire that, although the Cabinet was called upon this question, we immediately proceeded to consider for the greater portion of the day matters in Sumatra, in the Malay Archipelago, and the Pacific, and ... the affairs of New Guinea and so forth. Harcourt, Lord Selborne, and Mr. Gladstone violently opposed the occupation of New Guinea—Harcourt and Mr. Gladstone on anti-imperialistic grounds, and Lord Selborne on grounds connected with the protection of the aborigines against the rapacity and violence of the Queensland settlers. Hartington, Lord Granville, Derby, Kimberley, Chamberlain, and I, took the Australian view. The matter was adjourned, as matters always are adjourned when the Prime Minister is against the Cabinet.'
'August 6th.—We then attacked New Guinea, most of us wanting annexation, some protectorate, and decided on the latter to please the Chancellor and Mr. Gladstone.'
'August 9th.—We first discussed German colonies in the South Seas. Bismarck had seized North New Guinea, and we decided to stick to the long peninsula which faces both north and south.'
Bismarck's immediate answer was to annex, not only the north coast, but what is now called the Bismarck Archipelago.
'October 4th.—Next came New Guinea. Were we to insist, as we had done previously, on keeping the Germans off the north coast of the long eastern peninsula? The previous decision was reversed. The Cabinet, however, vetoed a suggestion for the joint commission with Germany as to land claims in the Pacific Islands being allowed to meddle in New Guinea. We then decided to annex one quarter, and several members of the Cabinet expressed a hope that this time the thing would "really be done."' [Footnote: A useful sketch of these events has recently appeared in the paper read before the Royal Geographical Society by Sir Everard Im Thurn, K.C.M.G. See Journal, vol. xlv., No. 5, April, 1915.]
These instances did not stand alone. Two native chiefs in the Cameroons had so far back as 1882 proposed to be taken under British protection, and Sir Charles had pressed acceptance of their offer. The matter had been discussed in the Cabinet, and Lord Derby and Lord Granville were still debating what should be done, when a German expedition seized the territory.
'On September 18th I received from Chamberlain a letter from Leipsic, in which he said: "The Cameroons! It is enough to make one sick. As you say, we decided to assume the protectorate eighteen months ago, and I thought it was all settled. If the Board of Trade or Local Government Board managed their business after the fashion of the Foreign Office and Colonial Office, you and I would deserve to be hung."'
Those who thought with Sir Charles felt considerable anxiety about possibilities on the East Coast of Africa. The Cameroons were lost, but a protectorate over Zanzibar had been offered, and Zanzibar was the outlet for an important trading district, which the forward party thought of securing. The Prime Minister was opposed to all such schemes. 'On December 14th Mr. Gladstone broke out against the proposed annexations in what is now called the Kilimanjaro district.'
He wrote to Sir Charles: 'Terribly have I been puzzled and perplexed on finding a group of the soberest men among us to have concocted a scheme such as that touching the mountain country behind Zanzibar with an unrememberable name. There must somewhere or other be reasons for it which have not come before me. I have asked Granville whether it may not stand over for a while.' [Footnote: The allusion is to the treaties with native chiefs which were negotiated by Mr. (afterwards Sir) Harry Johnston in 1883-84. These treaties were the foundation of what is now known as British East Africa, and related mainly to the Kilimanjaro and Taveita districts. It would appear that Mr. Gladstone himself had at first expressed an interest in the development of British influence 'over this hinterland of snow mountains and elevated plateaux,' to which his attention had been drawn by the report of Mr. Joseph Thomson. Speaking subsequently at the Colonial Institute, Sir Harry Johnston said that 'about twenty years ago he was making preparations for his first expedition to British Africa. He had a very distinguished predecessor, whom he regarded as the real originator of British East Africa: Mr. Joseph Thomson, who died all too young in 1895. His great journey from Mombasa was commenced in 1882 and finished in 1884.... His reports sent home to the Royal Geographical Society had attracted the attention of Mr. Gladstone; and there was another British statesman, Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice, who perhaps more than most of his colleagues saw the possibility of a white man's settlement in Equatorial Africa, and who chose to select him (Sir H. Johnston) as one agency by which this work should be commenced.' (Journal of the Royal Colonial Institute, 1903-04, No. 5, p. 317.) The territory covered by the Kilimanjaro Treaties was ceded to Germany under the arrangement made at the end of 1885, but the remainder has continued to be British (see Sir Harry Johnston, A History of the Colonization of Africa by Alien Races, pp. 376-409.]
Mr. Gladstone could not bring himself to understand that the great States of Europe had, almost without premeditation, moved into a field of policy which involved the apportionment of regions scarcely yet known in any detail to the geographers; nor did he realize the far-reaching consequences of the acquisition or refusal of some of these districts. The question of the Congo, for example, involved, as Sir Robert Morier had foreseen, the settlement of the whole West African coast. In April Sir Charles had recorded how he
'had to read up African papers, and found reason to fear that the King of the Belgians was contemplating the sale of his Congo dominions to France. We had a meeting at the Foreign Office in the afternoon, [Footnote: April 26th, 1884.] at which were present Lord Granville, Kimberley, Chamberlain, myself, and Fitzmaurice, and, finding that we could not possibly carry our Congo Treaty with Portugal, we determined to find a way out by referring it to the Powers.' [Footnote: The following extract from an article in the Quarterly Review explains the importance attached by Sir Charles to this Congo treaty, and the far-reaching results which it would have had:
'In 1875 the results of Lieutenant Cameron's great journey across Africa became known.... They revealed ... the material for a Central African Empire awaiting the enterprise of a European or an Asiatic power. There is now little doubt that, had the famous treaty negotiated by Sir Charles Dilke, Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice, and Sir Robert Morier in 1884, been ratified and carried out ... the Congo Basin would have been added to the British Empire, together with Delagoa Bay and Nyasaland, before its time; with Dahomey also, and an all-British West African Coast between Sierra Leone and the Gaboon.' (Quarterly Review, January, 1906.)
It would perhaps have been more accurate had the author spoken of the 'treaty proposed to be negotiated.' The original plan of Sir Robert Morier—part of a large scheme for the settlement of all outstanding questions with Portugal—contemplated inter alia some territorial acquisition on the Congo by Great Britain. But the Cabinet put a veto on this. The Foreign Office had therefore to fall back on the alternative but less ambitious plan contained in the Anglo-Portuguese Treaty of 1884, which was never ratified, owing to the opposition of Germany. (Life of Granville, vol. ii., chap. x.; and supra, I. 418. See also on this subject the observations of Sir Harry Johnston in his History, quoted above, pp. 277, 278, 343, 405.)]
In October he goes on to relate how
'Lord Granville had been frightened by Plessen, the Prussian, coming to invite him to a Conference at Berlin, but explained that he had been much relieved on finding, as he put it, that it was only about the Congo. It was, however, the famous Africa Conference which virtually settled the whole future of the Dark Continent.'
Sir Charles notes the result in January, 1885:
'The sittings of the West African Conference, as it was called, were at this time taking place at Berlin, and the General Act was signed in the following month—that of February, 1885. [Footnote: He notes in this month, February 4th, at "a meeting at the Admiralty of all the Ministers in town, Childers and I stand alone in support of Portugal as regards the Congo. I stated very freely what I still believe, that we had behaved shamefully to the Portuguese; but this neither convinced Lord Granville at the time, nor excused the subsequent behaviour of the Portuguese." On February 11th Sir Charles wrote to a diplomatic friend: "I cannot quite follow the present phase of Congo, but I hope that nothing will be done to back up the rascally association against Portugal. I believe that Portugal will seize the disputed territory, and I certainly should if I were the Portuguese Ministry."] I was very busy with this work, in which I had long taken a deep interest, and was much relieved when I found that what I thought the folly of the House of Commons in upsetting our Congo Treaty, and preventing a general arrangement with the Portuguese as regarded both West Africa and South-East Africa, had turned out better than could have been anticipated, owing to the interposition of the Germans. My joy was short-lived, for King Leopold has not kept his promises.'
The interests thus claimed or created beyond the seas had to be defended upon the seas. Either Great Britain must be prepared to abate her pretensions, or she must strengthen her power to enforce them. Dilke and Chamberlain were strongly against giving way to anything which could be regarded as usurpation. Mr. Gladstone, on the other hand, pointed out that to maintain a control, or veto, over the allocation of unappropriated portions of the globe meant large increase of naval expenditure, and he set his face against both. On December 2nd
'Naval expenditure was mentioned. The Cabinet had been about to agree both to Northbrook's proposals (for Egypt) and to the sums suggested for the defence of coaling-stations, when Mr. Gladstone suddenly broke out, told us that he did not much care for himself, as he now intended to retire, but that had he been twenty-five years younger nothing could have induced him to consent. A loan he would not tolerate. Then there was a general veer round, and all went against the fortifications. Mr. Gladstone, however, said that he should retire as soon as the Redistribution Bill was carried.'
The affairs of South Africa, where Great Britain was consolidating her position, are also touched on in 1884.
'On March 22nd we had another Cabinet without Mr. Gladstone. The first matter discussed was Zululand, Chamberlain opposing Kimberley and Derby, who wished to increase the British Protectorate. At last Kimberley said: "I see the Cabinet do not want more niggers," and dropped the scheme.
'On May 17th ... we decided to defend the Zululand reserve against all comers.'
Later in the year there are entries as to the annexation of Bechuanaland:
October 4th, 'Bechuanaland was discussed, as to which Chamberlain wanted to go to war with the Boers, and had written to me.'
And on November 11th 'there was a Cabinet called on the Bechuanaland trouble, and we discussed votes of money for the Gordon and Bechuanaland expeditions.'
During this year the Central Asian question, always of first-rate interest to Sir Charles, constantly claimed his attention.
'On February 22nd there was a meeting at the Foreign Office which was intended to be a meeting about my Central Asian scheme, but which developed into a virtual Cabinet. There were present Mr. Gladstone, Hartington, Kimberley, Northbrook, myself, Fitzmaurice, and J. K. Cross, Undersecretary of State for India. The delimitation of the Afghan frontier was further considered and pretty much decided.
'Pleasures of Office. I dined with the Dean of Westminster, and was called away in the middle of dinner to make a speech about Central Asia, and got back again for coffee.'
'On March 5th Hartington suggested that we should recommence the Quetta railroad, and it was decided to give a hint to Lord Ripon to ask for it.'
'August 5th.—Lord Granville informed us that the Shah was alarmed at the Russian advance upon the Persian frontier, and asked us for promises.
'August 7th.—There was a meeting of the Central Asian Committee.... Lord Granville, Hartington, Kimberley, I, and Fitzmaurice were present, with Philip Currie. As to the amount of support to be given to Persia Lord Granville wrote an excellent despatch, while we were talking. It was settled that we were to repeat our statements at St. Petersburg at a convenient opportunity, but to ask the Shah that, as an earnest of his good intentions towards us, the Persian rivers should be thrown open to our trade—not a bad touchstone. We discussed the Afghan boundary, and decided that, if the Russians would not agree to our proposed starting-point for the delimitation, we would send an Afghan British Commission without them to make our own, delimitation.'
'November 18th.—Edmond Fitzmaurice consulted me as to Central Asia. The Russians had agreed in principle to the delimitation, but ... had made much delay in questions of detail.'
On the Committee Sir Charles and Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice were unequally yoked with the lethargic Secretary of State for War. Lord Fitzmaurice has vivid recollection of Lord Hartington's entry at one sitting half an hour late, after his fashion. The question turned on the probable action of some Afghan chiefs, whereupon Lord Hartington broke silence by observing reflectively: "I wonder what an Afghan chief is like." Sir Charles, with a glance at the high-nosed, bearded, deliberate face of his colleague, pushed a scribbled note to Lord Edmond: "I expect an Afghan chief is very like the Right Honourable the Marquis of Hartington."'
Sir Charles's interest in this Central Asian question, where political and military interests lay so close together, led to a correspondence, and the correspondence to a friendship, with Lord Roberts.
'In March I received a letter from Sir Frederick Roberts, not yet personally known to me, in which he enclosed a memorandum by him called "Is an Invasion of India by Russia Possible?" In his letter he said that he had given up the idea of returning to Kandahar, and only desired that we should make ourselves secure upon our new frontier, improve our relations with the Afghans, and clearly show that we could not allow the Russians to establish themselves in Northern Afghanistan. In his printed paper he showed that Persia might be looked upon as virtually Russian, and that what we had to do was to prevent Afghanistan falling into the same position. He incidentally admitted the strength of the view of those of us who had advocated the evacuation of Kandahar by saying that the Afghans "must be assured that we have no designs upon their country, and that even should circumstances require a British occupation of Kandahar, the direction of all internal affairs would be left in their hands; we must guarantee them the integrity of their kingdom." He strongly supported my view that no time should be lost in defining the northern boundary of Afghanistan.
'Roberts went on to lay down the principle that the main body of a Russian army destined for the invasion of India must advance by Herat and Girishk on Kandahar, whence, if not defeated, the Russians must move by Ghazni, Kabul, and the Khyber. Sir Frederick Roberts pointed out that India could not place in the field, under the then conditions, more than 40,000 men, with from 130 to 140 guns. Part of the native army could be relied on, but, writing as Commander-in- Chief in Madras, he pointed out that the Southern Indian Sepoys had not the courage and physique to fight against Russian troops, or even against natives from the north. On the other hand, many of our northern native troops would be of doubtful loyalty in the event of Russia becoming predominant in Afghanistan. "Sir Fred" laid down the principle of completing railway communication to a point near Kandahar, with a bridge across the Indus near Sukkur, and generally described the plan of a vigorous offensive on the Kandahar side and a defensive on the Khyber line, which has since been adopted.'
'At the end of May I received from Sir Frederick Roberts a letter in reply to mine, acknowledging the receipt of the Defence of India papers which I have named. I had told him that the real danger was that Russia would detach Herat by local intrigue without appearing, and that I did not see how we could prevent this alarming danger. Sir Frederick admitted the truth of my view, and again pointed out the importance of trying to win the friendship of the Afghans. He favoured my proposals for the delimitation of the northern frontier of Afghanistan. "But I much doubt Russia's now agreeing to any proposal of the sort." He ended by expressing his gratification at our issue of the order for the completion of the railway to Quetta and Pishin.'
Discussions preliminary to the Budget occupied the Cabinet in January, 1884, and Mr. Childers announced that the Army and Navy Estimates would leave him with a deficit, chiefly because the newly introduced parcel post had been 'a disastrous failure.'
'In the course of this Cabinet of January 24th, I for the first time stated my views on the subject of army reform. I have a slip of paper which passed backwards and forwards between Chamberlain and myself, headed "The condition of the army." I wrote: "Do you remember my saying one night in our cab to you that I could not go to the W.O. because of my views upon this very point?" Chamberlain wrote back: "But that really is the reason why you should go. I have the lowest opinion of army administration wherever I can test it— contracts, for instance. It is most ludicrously inefficient." To which I replied: "The Duke of Cambridge and the old soldiers and the Queen would make it very nearly hopeless."'
The War Office never tempted Sir Charles as did the Admiralty, where, he wrote to Lord Granville in 1885, 'I fear I should be extravagant.'
A holiday home in the South of France had ceased to be easily accessible to the 'most hard-worked member of the Government.' Though for many years he retained his little villa of 'La Sainte Campagne' near Toulon, nestling in its olive groves with, from windows and cliff, the view of the red porphyry rocks across the deep blue of the bay, he had for some time been negotiating for the purchase of strips of land by the riverside near Shepperton, and among the pines at Pyrford.
In 1883 the building of the cottage at Dockett Eddy was begun, over the door of which he set this inscription:
"Parva sed apta mihi, sed nulli obnoxia, sed non Sordida, parta meo sed tamen aere, domus."
[Footnote: Thus rendered in English by the Rev. W. Tuckwell:
''Tis tiny, but it suits me quite, Invades no jealous neighbour's right; 'Tis neat and clean, and—pleasant thought— I earned the cash with which 'twas bought.'
(It was bought out of his official salary.)]
This was to be always his riverside home, and in it he always slept, even after the larger house had been built near by. There he was one of the river's most jealous guardians, and in this year notes that he
'gave evidence before the Select Committee on the River Thames, and was instrumental in securing the insertion of a clause in the Bill, afterwards produced by the Committee, which put an end to shooting on the Thames, and did a great deal to protect the quiet of the river.'
The Dockett cottage was not finished till 1885, and:
'On Saturday, March 21st, I took a holiday on the river, starting down with my punt from Taplow Court, and bringing her down to Dockett Eddy, of which I now took possession, the little house being now finished.'
On May 22nd, 1884,
'I settled to go on Whitsun Tuesday to look at Lord Onslow's land at Pyrford, for a winter house. I had forgotten that my ancestor Sir R. Parkhurst had been Lord of the Manor of Pyrford, and that my ancestor Sir Edward Zouche had lived even nearer to my new purchase, at old Woking St. Peter, whence I hear his bells.'
Late in the year
'I settled on my motto for my cottage at Pyrford—a line of Ruskin, "This is the true nature of Home,—it is the place of Peace."
'The selection meant in my mind that home was about to exist once more for me.'
'In July, 1884, Mrs. Mark Pattison had been left a widow by the death of the Rector of Lincoln College. She went to live at The Lodge, Headington, near Oxford.
'Later in the year we became privately engaged, and told Mr. and Mrs. Frank Pattison, Mrs. Westlake, Mrs. Earle, and Mrs. Grant Duff, as well as Chamberlain, but no one else. It was decided that others should not be told until much later, and to Lord Granville, who (without mentioning a name) congratulated me, I had to feign ignorance of what he meant. Mrs. Pattison settled to go to India in February, March, or April, 1885, to stay with the Governor of Madras and Mrs. Grant Duff in the hills, and to return in September or October for our wedding, which before her departure was fixed for October. Before the return there happened Emilia's typhoid fever at Ootacamund, and our terrible misfortunes; but the date of October, 1885, was fated to remain the date, and Chamberlain, who had, before Emilia left, consented to be best man, was best man still. The place of the wedding alone was changed—from Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, to the parish church of Chelsea. Mrs. Grant Duff wrote to us on being told a most pleasant letter.
'Chamberlain wrote the best letter of his life to her.'
This was the letter:
'40, Prince's Gardens, S.W.,
'November 5th, 1884.
'My Dear Mrs. Pattison,
'Dilke has told me his great secret, and I sympathize with him so warmly in the new prospects of happiness which are opening for him that I have asked leave to write to you and to offer my hearty congratulations.
'I venture to think that we are already friends, and this adds greatly to the pleasure which this intelligence has given me.
'For many years I have been on the most intimate terms with your future husband; and while I share the general opinion of the world as to his talents and force of character, I have better reason than any other man to appreciate his generosity and goodness, and the chivalrous delicacy which a natural reserve conceals from casual acquaintance.
'I prize his friendship as the best gift of my public life, and I rejoice unfeignedly that he will have a companion so well able to share his noblest ambitions and to brighten his life.
'I know that you will forgive me this intrusion, which is justified by the fact that next to yourself I am more interested than anyone in the change which will bring so much happiness to my dear friend.
'Believe me always,
'Yours most sincerely,
JANUARY AND FEBRUARY, 1885
At the close of 1884 Mr. Gladstone's colleagues expected that he would resign, and it appears that he had really thought of doing so, provided that a ministry could be formed under Lord Hartington's leadership. Franchise and Redistribution were virtually settled, and there was no legislative proposal before either the Cabinet or the country on which Lord Hartington was in marked disagreement with his colleagues. But they were still 'an Egyptian Government,' and here differences seemed to be irreconcilable.
'The Egyptian policy of the Government had now become thoroughly unpopular, and those of us who, although we had favoured intervention as necessary at the time, had deplored alike the engagements of our predecessors which had made it necessary, and the occupation which, unnecessarily in my opinion, followed it, were as unpopular as were those like Hartington, and the majority of the peers in the Cabinet, who had insisted not only on going, but on staying—at least in Cairo. It is curious to reflect how intervention in the East is judged by subsequent complications which do not affect the principle. The intervention of 1860-61 in Syria gave considerable popularity to the Government who agreed to it, and to Lord Dufferin who conducted it on the spot; and it was as popular in France which found the troops, as in England which found the man. By that intervention Syria was pacified and war in the East prevented, and ultimately it was followed by evacuation and reversion to what diplomatists style in their jargon "an improved status quo."
'It is too often now (1891) forgotten that we actually proposed in 1884 to France (in connection with a Conference which took place, obtaining therefore to some extent, it might be contended, valuable consideration for our proposal) that we would, at or before the expiration of our occupation, propose to the Powers and to the Porte a scheme for the neutralization of Egypt on the basis of the principles applied to Belgium. A document which we printed at the beginning of 1885 gave our suggested wording for the neutralization treaty, declaring that Egypt should be an independent and perpetually neutral State under the guarantee of the contracting parties; limiting the strength of the Egyptian army, the claim of Turkey to military aid from Egypt, and so forth.'
The suggestion was not welcomed by the Powers.
'On New Year's Day I left Antibes for Paris, which I reached on Friday, the 2nd January, and quitted for London on Saturday, the 3rd.
'Chamberlain wrote to me that Mr. Gladstone was threatened with a return of his illness, that he required rest, that Egypt had been for the moment tided over, though it might at any moment break up the Government. It had been decided to send a firm but courteous despatch to France demanding immediate consideration of our proposals, failing which we should "take our own course." Chamberlain, however, added, "What that course is to be is the question on which agreement appears impossible. It is 'scuttle and bankruptcy' against 'protectorate and guarantee.' Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof."'
Mr. Gladstone was with Dilke and Chamberlain in opposing protectorate or guarantee in any shape. But there were other questions of Imperial policy upon which the Imperialism of these two Ministers divided them from Mr. Gladstone.
'New Guinea had also been discussed, and Chamberlain was for demanding explanations from the Germans. Zululand had been mentioned. Chamberlain supported the annexation of the coast of Pondoland: Mr. Gladstone, with the support of Trevelyan, "opposing any attempt to anticipate Germany."
'On Sunday, January 4th, Chamberlain wrote again from Birmingham. His letter shows that I was anxious for resignation on the Egyptian question, and Chamberlain replied that he could not find a satisfactory boat to leave the ship in, and that he thought that the Government had more lives than a cat. Chamberlain added that he had to speak on January 5th, and should find it difficult to steer between Jingoism and peace-at-any-price.'
'He also was engaged in preparing a programme for the future to be set forth at Ipswich. This last was the memorable "Unauthorized Programme."'
A first instalment of this programme was given by Mr. Chamberlain in a speech at Birmingham, which advocated restriction of game-preserving, provision of land for agricultural labourers, and better housing. The accusations of Communism brought against Mr. Chamberlain began at this point; and they, of course, redoubled after he had proposed on January 10th at Ipswich to give local bodies power for compulsory acquisition of land.
At this juncture Mr. Chamberlain was absent from London, and communicating only by letter with Sir Charles, whom he had not seen since the middle of December, when Sir Charles crossed to Paris, on his way to Toulon; and before the unauthorized programme was launched Lord Hartington contemplated forming a Government which would have given the foremost positions to Dilke and Chamberlain.
'On the morning of January 5th Harcourt had told me that Mr. Gladstone intended to resign, and that Lord Granville would follow Mr. Gladstone, in which case Hartington intended to make him, Harcourt, Chancellor, to move Lord Derby and Childers, to put in Rosebery, [Footnote: As Secretary for the Colonies.] to offer Chamberlain the Chancellorship of the Exchequer, and me the Secretaryship of State for Foreign Affairs. But, great as were the offices proposed, Chamberlain and I could not have consented to remain in if Mr. Gladstone had gone out notoriously dissatisfied. If he had gone out on grounds of health alone, it would, of course, have been another matter.'
In a letter,
'probably of Monday morning, January 5th, Chamberlain said that Mr. Gladstone's retirement was possible, and might be necessary; that Hartington and Harcourt could bring it about; but that we must be most careful not to allow them to say that we had been engaged in an intrigue with them against Mr. Gladstone. He thought that we ought to tell them frankly that we could enter into no negotiations with them, and to put this in a Memorandum to which we could afterwards appeal. On the other hand, he was willing to state his views as to policy, provided all reference to personal questions was avoided. As his Egyptian policy, he stated "immediate bankruptcy, communication to the Powers of our fixed intention to leave, declaration that we would not allow intervention by other Powers in our place, and Conference to settle details of neutralization." As to domestic policy, he agreed in my suggestion that we should insist upon an immediate Civil List Committee, and proposed an inquiry into labour. He gave me leave to discuss his letter with Harcourt ("the latter has always been a most loyal friend, though he can not be expected to agree with us in everything"), and I did so before the Cabinet of January 7th.'
By this time Mr. Chamberlain had come to London, and there is no indication that his speech at Birmingham had created friction. But the party which wished to offer resistance to Germany's high-handed policy had been strengthened by a new instance of usurpation.
'Mr. Gladstone was absent from this Cabinet. The first matter discussed was that of Samoa raised by me. There had been received on the night of the 6th from the Governor of New Zealand a telegram saying that the Germans had made a treaty giving the whole authority of Government to the German Consul. While Muenster had been telling Lord Granville that Germany would take no step hostile to Samoan independence, the Germans had sent warships there with secret orders, and had hoisted their flag in various parts of the islands. The next subject mentioned was that of Zanzibar, and it was decided that we should warn Germany that we would not brook interference there. At the same time I had much doubt whether Lord Granville would act upon the instructions of the Cabinet in this matter, and my doubts were justified. The third matter was that of the Pondo coast, and also the coast of Zululand. Mr. Gladstone alone objecting to a protectorate and being absent, it was decided to have one.'
'Then came the old question of sending troops to Suakim; [Footnote: Colonial troops were offered about this time, and the Diary contains the entry, February 20th: "The sending of a Colonial force to Suakim. Hartington and Derby had snubbed the Colonists, and were snubbed by the Cabinet in consequence."] then that of Egyptian Finance, on which Harcourt broached his scheme by which the United Kingdom was to pay the difference caused by a reduction of the rate of interest, to which scheme Chamberlain and I were opposed. We were informed that the Queen "most strongly protested against our binding ourselves to leave Egypt."'
Meanwhile the Radicals in the Cabinet considered their concerted action in view of a change of leadership.
'We settled during the Cabinet that Trevelyan, Chamberlain, and I should meet at my room at the Local Government Board, directly the Cabinet was over, to discuss the terms on which we would join a Hartington administration; and we did so, finding Egypt and my proposed inquiry into the Civil List the only real difficulties. The Civil List could be got over, as it was certain that the Whigs would give in to pressure from us upon this point. But Harcourt had informed us that our Egyptian policy made the formation of a Government impossible, as Hartington would not consent to accept office on our Egyptian policy.'
It was very difficult to come to an agreement about Egypt. Lord Derby had declared that the only alternatives were guaranteed neutrality or annexation. Dilke and Chamberlain stood for the former, considering their duty done if they prevented occupation by any other European Power, and took steps to establish internal order—which meant completing the organization of an Egyptian army. There was a third policy; for Lord Hartington, who repeatedly in public repudiated the idea of annexation, insisted upon the retention of a single control during a prolonged occupation. In this he had the strongest backing from the Queen.
'Chamberlain at our meeting added a fresh proviso—namely, that Parnell or some other Irishman should be Chief Secretary. I afterwards informed Harcourt of Chamberlain's views, adding that Chamberlain was willing to avoid all personal questions, although he much wished that John Morley should be in the Cabinet, [Footnote: Sir Charles had noted his own strong wish to this effect in the previous year.] that he wholly rejected Harcourt's plan for Egypt as being a bribe to buy off the Powers, forced on us by unworthy fears. Chamberlain wished, if his own Egyptian policy was not adopted, to simply evacuate the country.
'Chamberlain, I was empowered to say, had also mentioned the English land question, and was opposed to allowing Lord Salisbury to come in,' as this, he said to Sir Charles, 'would surely be a hopeless confession of weakness, and give him a chance with the new electors.
'I argued against Chamberlain's Egyptian policy, not on the merits, but on the chances of our getting our own way.
'"I doubt our getting our way as to bankruptcy, and am not sure that we ought to put that forward as sole or chief cause for not joining Hartington." To this Chamberlain replied: "True. But how can we join another Government without any settled policy about Egypt? Harcourt's alternative is impossible; then what is there? I should refuse to join Hartington unless we can agree as to Egypt policy, and if we do agree, there can in that case be no reason for letting Salisbury in."'
Egypt was in Sir Charles's view the main, but not the only, difficulty. The Government policy of 'lying down to Germany' was another. At the same date:
'January 7th, Chamberlain and I had a conference with regard to Samoa, in which I pointed out that if we quarrelled with France about Egypt she would have all Europe behind her, whereas in our dealings with Germany about Samoa, Zanzibar, and other matters, Germany would stand alone.' [Footnote: A letter to Lord Hartington from his secretary, Mr. Brett, which is quoted by Mr. Bernard Holland (Life of Duke of Devonshire, vol. ii, pp. 38, 39), suggests that the Hartington section had difficulty in reconciling Sir Charles's attitude on other Imperial matters with his Egyptian policy: "It would indeed be a farce, after all the fuss about the Cameroons and Angra Pequena, to allow Suakim, which is the port of Khartoum, and the Nile to pass into the hands of foreigners." The answer is, first, that Sir Charles would certainly never have consented to let any port in Egypt or the Soudan pass into the hands of any European Power: his proposal was neutralization of Egypt under international guarantee; and, secondly, that the questions were governed by different conditions, which he set out in conference with Mr. Chamberlain about Samoa.]
January 9th, 'I had decided that if I resigned, or if I refused to join a Hartington administration, I should mention four subjects—Egypt, Samoa, Zanzibar, and (probably) the Civil List inquiry (if I were not completely satisfied). On the same day I was at work on our draft despatch to Sir Edward Malet as to Zanzibar, which had been settled on the 8th after the Cabinet of the 7th, but which did not go off until the 14th. On January 14th I noted in my Diary, "The Zanzibar despatch went. Seven days' delay. I know that two days' delay was caused by the necessity of sending to Osborne and to the Prime Minister, but why seven days?"
'On January 21st the first matter discussed was that of New Guinea, in which we found ourselves in difficulties caused by absence of jurisdiction over foreigners, and we agreed in consequence to annexation.'
The situation with Germany was undoubtedly grave, but ought not, Sir Charles maintained, to entail the sacrifice of Zanzibar. On February 24th Count Muenster, the German Ambassador, told Mr. Alfred de Rothschild that he expected to be withdrawn, but that New Guinea was the only serious matter in dispute.
'On Tuesday, February 24th, I breakfasted at Alfred de Rothschild's house, to meet the German Ambassador, Count Muenster, at the latter's wish. Alfred de Rothschild did not sit down with us, and we were tete-a-tete. Muenster was very free in his remarks about Bismarck. "No one ever contradicts him." "He sees none but flatterers." "His life is a period to be got through."'
Two March entries are apposite here:
'On Wednesday, March 4th, Rosebery wrote to me to ask me to dine with him to meet "Herbert Bismarck," who had suddenly arrived, but I was engaged to the Speaker's dinner, and had to put off seeing young Bismarck till Thursday, the 5th. He had come over to try to force us to dismiss Lord Granville and Lord Derby. I noted in my Diary: [Footnote: Sir Charles's Diaries, to portions of which certain biographers had access, are at this point quoted by Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice in his Life of Lord Granville, vol. ii., p. 430. The passage runs: "Negotiations with Germany on the vexed colonial questions were meanwhile proceeding, more particularly with regard to New Guinea. Sir Julian Pauncefote proposed a plan which it was hoped might satisfy the German Chancellor, and Count Herbert Bismarck reappeared as co-negotiator with Count Muenster in London. Lord Rosebery, who had just joined the Cabinet as Lord Privy Seal, also took part in the negotiations. 'Herbert Bismarck came over again,' Sir Charles Dilke noted; 'if at his former visit he had only tried to get us to dismiss Lord Derby, on this occasion he wanted us to dismiss Lord Granville and Lord Derby.'"] "He puts us in a difficult position as individuals, for how can we say to this personally friendly fellow that we do not think Lord Granville's speech in the Lords on Friday foolish, or how say that we think that the allusion to old Bismarck's dislike of Muenster in a recent despatch from Malet ought to have been published."
'On Friday, March 6th, I saw Herbert Bismarck again twice.... I having expressed anxiety about Zanzibar, he told me that his father had directed him to say that he "considered Zanzibar as independent as Turkey or Russia." It is to my mind shameful that, after this, Lord Granville should have begun and Lord Salisbury have rapidly completed arrangements by which the Zanzibar mainland, the whole trade of which was in our hands, was handed over to Germany.'
'On March 7th we discussed Herbert Bismarck's views on the Cameroons, on German claims in New Guinea (on this head we settled with him), and on Pondoland.'
While the difficulties with Germany were being discussed, differences as to Egyptian policy and our relations with France continued.
On January 20th, Egypt once more threatened to break up the Government. France had proposed an international Commission of Inquiry into the financial situation.
'We discussed a French proposal which, as I wrote to the Chancellor, had at least one advantage—namely, "that it re-forms the majority in the Cabinet by uniting two of the three parties—yours and mine." Mr. Gladstone, Lord Granville, Kimberley, Derby, Harcourt, the Chancellor, Trevelyan, and Dilke, eight in all, supported taking the new French proposals as a basis. Chamberlain was absent ill. Northbrook, Hartington, Childers, to my astonishment, and Carlingford were against us. After the Cabinet Hartington wrote to Mr. Gladstone to say that he "could not accept the decision," and Northbrook supported him.' Next day, however, 'when we turned to Egyptian finance, Trevelyan went over from our side to the other. Mr. Gladstone announced that what we had decided on the previous day was not to prevent our arguing against the French proposed inquiry, and thus Hartington was kept in.'
'On January 23rd I forwarded to Chamberlain a letter from Sandringham, which showed that the Queen had been alarmed at the possibility that my proposed Civil List inquiry might affect not only new grants, but also the Civil List arrangements made at the beginning of the reign. Chamberlain made a Delphic reply that, on the one hand, inquiry would be a farce if it did not include the existing Civil List, but that on the other hand there could be no intention to make any change in the arrangements with the Queen.'
'On January 28th, I heard from Sandringham that the Prince of Wales was going to Osborne the next day, and would broach to the Queen his friendliness to the idea of a new settlement of the Civil List. Chamberlain was anxious that no difficulty should be made by us on the occasion of the marriage of Princess Beatrice. He wrote: "If alone, I should wait for something or somebody to turn up. Before Prince Edward wants an allowance who knows what may happen? But I am perfectly ready to follow your lead or to lead to your prompting."'
All arrangements were being made on the assumption that Lord Hartington would become Prime Minister.
'I had been left by Mr. Gladstone in a certain doubt as to whether I was to be completely responsible for the Redistribution Bill, or whether Hartington was to share the responsibility. I wrote to Hartington: "Mr. Gladstone sends me everything on Redistribution, and expresses no opinion of his own. Northcote and Salisbury write to me only, and the whole thing is more and more in my hands. If I let things drift, it is clear that I shall practically have sole charge of the Bill, for no one else will know anything about it. I do not shrink from this at all. It is work I like. But, as you will probably be called on to form an Administration immediately after the passing of the Bill, don't you think it would look well, and that our people and the Press and the country would like it, if you were to take charge of the Bill? If so, I had better have two or three days' work at it with you."
'Hartington had asked me to stay with him at Hardwick to talk it over, but it was only a Saturday to Monday visit from January 10th to 12th, and there were many people in the house, and our whole conversation was but very short; and Hartington continued to show but little desire to work at the detail, and the Bill could only be handled by those who knew its detail.'
Although the Opposition leaders had accepted the compact, it was at this time quite uncertain whether the House of Commons would consent to the Redistribution scheme—affecting as it did the interests of every member. The Fourth Party had not been consulted in the arrangement, and inevitable friction followed.
'On January 27th I had a correspondence with Northcote in reference to some mischief which had been made by Randolph Churchill. Northcote had been told by the Conservative Chief Whip, "Dilke told Randolph that the Government would have given more grouping if we had pressed for it." The Conservative party being angry at the absence of grouping of the boroughs, Northcote had taken up the point, but he now wrote: "Whatever Churchill said must have been in the nature of an inference of his own from what had previously passed, from which he had probably gathered that the Government were ready to concede grouping." But there was a lady in the case who had gossiped about what Northcote had said to her, and he promised to write to the offender.'
'On January 13th Mr. Gladstone wrote as to the Redistribution Bill: "The difficulty as I see it about communication with Northcote is that he seems to have little weight of influence, and to be afraid or unwilling to assume any responsibility. I have usually found him reasonable in his own views, but obliged to reserve his judgment until after consulting his friends, which consultations I have found always to end badly. On the other hand, it is, of course, necessary to pay him due respect. What may prove to be best under these circumstances is—(1) not to be bound always to consult HIM, (2) to consult him freely on the easier and smaller matters, but (3) in a stiff question, such as the numbers of the House may prove to be, to get at Salisbury if possible, under whose wing Northcote will, I think, mostly be content to walk, (4) Or, if Salisbury cannot be got alone, then Northcote and Salisbury would be far preferable to Northcote alone."'
All these difficulties had to be met by Sir Charles. When the Bill actually came before the House, 'Mr. Gladstone instructed James to assist me in the conduct of it. But practically I had it to myself.' Lord Hartington had rendered invaluable service in the preliminary negotiations. But for such laborious work of detail as was needed to carry through this Bill, neither temperament nor surroundings had fitted him. His Hardwick home is thus described by Sir Charles in a letter which he wrote to Mrs. Pattison:
'I am writing in my bedroom, which is—bed and all—that of Mary Queen of Scots, who was the prisoner of Bess of Hardwick. It is a wonderful house, indeed—enormous, and yet completely covered with the tapestry and the pictures of the time.... The casement windows have never been touched since Queen Elizabeth was here, and are enormous. (There is a local proverb which speaks of the hall as "all window and no wall.") The result is that, in spite of heavy hanging curtains, the candles are blown out if you go near the windows.... The portrait of the first Cavendish—who was usher of Cardinal Wolsey, and who married Bess of Hardwick, the richest lady of the day—is exactly like Hartington, but a vulgar Hartington—fat and greasy—a Hartington who might have kept a public-house.'
Mr. Chamberlain wrote to Sir Charles at Hardwick concerning his host:
'The true Whig tradition is to keep abreast of the movement which they would willingly restrain, and do nothing to quicken, but it is difficult for a man of Hartington's temperament to make the sacrifice of pride which these tactics require.'
Mr. Chamberlain's Ipswich speech had made its mark, and Sir Charles notes 'the beginning of the terror caused by the unauthorized programme' in 'a letter which I received from Lord Salisbury, who was at Florence, as to my draft Report of the Housing Commission.'
'Lord Salisbury had greatly changed his views since he had sketched out socialistic proposals for me in his own hand. He now complained of that which I had said on "the burning questions of expropriation, betterment, and land tenure," and thought that Chamberlain's evidence had affected the report, and that such views "must now be considered in the light of the doctrines as to land he has recently laid down."'
That letter, received on January 30th, must have been written two days earlier, and evidently at that moment there were plans of forming an administration which should exclude the Radicals.
'On January 28th Harcourt told me that he had stopped the Queen deciding to send for Goschen to form a Whig Ministry if we were beaten or if Mr. Gladstone resigned by telling her that Goschen would refuse, or that, if he consented, no one would join him.'
On January 29th, at Birmingham, Mr. Chamberlain made reply to his critics in a speech which added to the Ipswich programme manhood suffrage and payment of members, and which further declared that the sanctity of public property far exceeded that of private property. If land, for instance, had been 'lost or wasted or stolen,' some equivalent for it must be found, and some compensation exacted from the wrongdoers. [Footnote: 'The ransom theory,' afterwards alluded to (see Chapter XLIV., p. 182).]
These utterances from a member of the Cabinet were not likely to pass unchallenged.
'On Monday, February 2nd, Chamberlain telegraphed to me that he was coming up on the next day, Tuesday, the 3rd, on purpose to see me on an important matter; and on the morning of the 3rd I received in a secret box the letters about which he was coming. There was one from Mr. Gladstone complaining of the unauthorized programme, and a draft proposed reply, and Chamberlain added: "Take them (Mr. Gladstone's letters and enclosures from the Whigs) in connection with the Times articles. There is to be a dead set evidently.... There are three possibilities. (1) Mr. Gladstone may wish me to resign. (2) A vote of censure may be proposed in the House of Commons and carried. (3) Mr. Gladstone may defend me, and in so doing may to all intents and purposes censure me in such a way as to entail my resignation. The first would not, I think, do me any harm. The second would do me good. The third would not be pleasant. My object in proposed reply is to make Mr. G. speak more plainly, and to let me know where I stand. I have spoken in the first person because (until I see you) I have no right to assume that you will accept a joint responsibility. But I think you will, and then if we go out or are forced out there will be a devil of a row. I have been speaking to Schnadhorst to-day on the possibility. He says (you must take the opinion for what it is worth) that it would strengthen us in the country.... I assume Trevelyan would go with Mr. G.... I shall want to know what you think of it all, and whether you have any alterations to propose in the reply."
'I noted: "I, of course, make common cause. The Whigs want to force him into a row with Mr. G., who, they think, will break him in place of his breaking Hartington after Mr. G. is gone." I admitted to Chamberlain when we met on February 3rd that there was, as he said, a dead set at him, and that the Pall Mall for a wonder was backing it up. On his first point I was sure that Mr. Gladstone did not wish for his resignation, and knew that I should go too. On the second, I doubted any member being ready to bell the cat; and on the third point I was sure that Mr. Gladstone's defence of Chamberlain would not be such as to entail his resignation.'
Sir Charles thought, and told Chamberlain, that the object of the Whigs was to force them 'to war with Mr. G. who is strong, and not with Hartington,' against whom the Radicals would hold winning cards. 'We therefore play into their hands by going NOW.' Meanwhile, he took up a fighting attitude towards the rest of the world.
'I had written to Mr. Gladstone very strongly backing up Chamberlain's right to express his individual opinion upon the questions of the future, and pointing out his patience in not repudiating some of Hartington's remarks, and saying that I could not let him go out alone.'
'On February 4th I heard from Chamberlain ... thanking me for getting Carrington, who represented my Department in the Lords, to make a pro-Chamberlain speech.'
This was the more valuable because the whole Press was against the "unauthorized programme." At the same time, Sir Charles did not fail to point out that their position was an unsound one, writing first:
'Our words as to the future are too wide. They would cover my preaching a Republic for two years hence, or your preaching the nationalization of land without compensation for the next Parliament.'
He urged also that the precedent which Mr. Chamberlain sought to establish was two-edged.
February 5th, 'At night I gave Chamberlain a hint that some day others might turn against him that freedom of speech which he claimed as against Hartington; and he prepared a document which, under the form of standing out for full right of free speech, really yielded the whole point. He covered his retreat with great skill, and the document as corrected by me would be valuable if it could be found. I have no copy, but have memoranda which passed between us, in one of which I begged him to keep the draft with my corrections as representing our joint view, inasmuch as it might be important in the future. Chamberlain notes, in a minute which I have, his acceptance of the general doctrine, with a declaration that the present was an exceptional period; that there was a new departure under the franchise reform, that it was essential to give a general direction to the discussion, that his actual proposals were moderate, and such as only to point to, firstly, a revision of taxation which Mr. Gladstone himself had advocated, details being open, but the principle being to secure equality of sacrifice; secondly, the extension of power of local authorities on lines already conceded in Ireland.'
The two allies were fighting a hard fight at a critical moment. At such times even the closest friends naturally seek to reassure each other, and to a letter from Sir Charles Mr. Chamberlain made this reply, January 11th:
'The malice and ingenuity of men is so great that I should be afraid they would some day break our friendship if it had not victoriously stood the strain of public life for so many years. I will swear that I will never do anything knowingly to imperil it, and I hope that we are both agreed that if by any chance either of us should think that he has the slightest cause of complaint he will not keep it to himself for a day, but will have a frank explanation. In this case I shall feel safe, for I am certain that any mistake would be immediately repaired by whoever might be in fault.'
THE FALL OF KHARTOUM AND THE PENJDEH INCIDENT
'On the morning of Thursday, February 5th, 1885, at 3 a.m., Brett went to Lord Granville with the news of the fall of Khartoum. He used to tell how he had been wholly unable to find the old gentleman, and how the servants had ultimately asserted that their master was at Walmer—which he was not. At the same hour the news was sold by a War Office messenger to one of the News Agencies. The resident clerk at the War Office had written to Thompson, of the War Office, in an unsealed envelope, instead of putting the despatch into a box. It did not matter much on this occasion, but it might matter in a great European war. A Cabinet was immediately summoned for the next day. [Footnote: The following correspondence between Mr. Brett (now Viscount Eslier) and Sir Charles throws light on the summoning of the Cabinet:
Thursday morning, 3 a.m.
Here is some bad news.
No Ministers in town, except you and Chamberlain!
Have tried Lord G. and Lord Northbrook. No results!
So things must take their chance. There ought to have been a Cabinet to-morrow; but suppose it is not possible.
Please return enclosed. Will send you a copy later. Have you any suggestion to make?
You will see that W. proposes to keep this secret. Not possible for long in this Office.
Sir Charles Dilke to Mr. Brett.
Telegraph to Mr. G. and Hartington to come up to-day, and call a Cabinet for to-morrow at 11 a.m. Make Hamilton telegraph to all Ministers at once. I'm prepared to take it on myself if you like, but you can send this to Chamberlain if he agrees.
I agree certainly.—J. C.
Local Government Board,
February 5th, 1885.
It is absurd not to make them come up to-day in face of Wolseley's "It is most essential that I shall have the earliest possible decision."] Only three subjects were discussed: Khartoum, secrecy, and the question of the Italians as against the Turks in the Red Sea.'
On February 7th, 'The next matter was Wolseley, who had confused us by greatly varying his statements.... Next came a proposal that Gordon should be bought from the Mahdi.'
'On February 9th Mr. Gladstone mentioned his intention to bring in Rosebery and Lefevre as members of the Cabinet. It was decided that the Italians should be allowed to go to Kassala—a decision which was afterwards reversed. The French views on Egyptian finance were named, the despatch of Indian troops to Suakim again discussed. Wolseley having asked that General Greaves should be sent to Suakim, Childers said that the Queen and Duke of Cambridge had stopped that officer's promotion because he "belonged to the Ashantee gang" (Wolseley's friends), and that the Duke had now complained that he did not know him. Chamberlain proposed that we should invite the Canadian Government to send a force to Suakim; and, finally, Childers was allowed to mention finance, which had been the object for which the Cabinet was called.
'On February 10th I wrote to Chamberlain that Rosebery and Lefevre would help the Cabinet with the public, but would weaken us in the Cabinet.
'On February 11th there was another Cabinet, five members being absent—namely, the Chancellor, Carlingford, Spencer, Chamberlain, and Trevelyan—owing to the suddenness of the call. It was on the Suakim command, Mr. Gladstone being very obstinate for Greaves, as against Graham with Greaves for Chief of Staff—a compromise. I supported Hartington—I do not know why—and we beat Mr. Gladstone by 5 to 4. Both officers were inferior men, and Graham did but badly. Probably Greaves would have done no better....
'Mr. Gladstone complained that he and Hartington had received at Carnforth on the 5th a disagreeable telegram en clair from the Queen, and Mr. Gladstone was very anxious to know whether the Tories had found it out, asking anxiously, "What are the station-master's politics?"
'February 13th ... I was with Harcourt when Rosebery came to be sworn in, so I took the opportunity of making Rosebery help us to make Lord Derby uncomfortable for proposing to refuse the troops offered by the colony of New South Wales.
'We began to discuss our Soudan policy with some anxiety.
'Courtney and Morley had insisted in private letters that we should only rescue, and not attack the rebels, and the Times agreed with them—unless we intended to stay in the country and establish a Government. Wolseley's policy would be represented as one of "smash and retire," and it was for this reason that Chamberlain pressed negotiations with the Mahdi, as he thought we should be stronger if we could show that the Mahdi had rejected a fair offer. It was on February 13th that Hartington most strongly pressed his proposal for the Suakim railroad, and invited me to be a member of a Cabinet Committee to consider the proposal.'
'On Monday, February 16th, the first matter discussed was the Russian answer as regards Egyptian finance. The Soudan was put off till the next day, Chamberlain making a strong speech first upon our policy. Hartington asked for five million, to include the cost of his Suakim-Berber railway, and for leave to call out reserves.
'On February 19th I had an interview with Mr. Gladstone, and found him anxious to be turned out on the vote of censure. Indeed, he was longing for it, in the firm belief that, if turned out, he would come back after the dissolution in November, while, if not turned out, he would be more likely to be beaten.
'On February 20th the subjects discussed were Egypt (Finance and Suez Canal) and the sending a colonial force to Suakim. Chamberlain had developed to Childers at the same meeting a proposal that Hartington should form a Ministry to carry on the Soudan War, with the loyal support of those of us who went out with Mr. Gladstone.
'On February 25th, Goschen having asked for assurances as to the Berber railway, Chamberlain wrote to me saying that if Hartington gave them, it might be a sufficient cause for our resignation, as we were not prepared to commit the country to establishing settled government in any part of the Soudan. Chamberlain proposed that we should resign before the division, and that the Government being beaten, there should then be brought about the establishment of what he called the combination or patriotic Government, which meant a Hartington administration. I, on the whole, preferred to go on as we were, so I stopped a box of Hartington's which was going round the Cabinet, and proposed an alteration of form which prevented Chamberlain going out on these assurances.
'During the debate I went away to dine, and, not having heard the middle of Harcourt's speech, asked Chamberlain whether Harcourt had tried to answer any of Goschen's questions, to which Chamberlain answered, "Not one. He asked questions in turn," which is a good description of Harcourt's style. I then wrote on a slip of paper, "Forster is taking notes"; and Chamberlain replied, "Forster— against slavery, against Zebehr, [Footnote: Zebehr was arrested in Cairo on the ground of treasonable correspondence with the Mahdi, and interned at Gibraltar, but later was allowed to return to Cairo. He died in January, 1903.] and of course generally in favour of a crusade," a note which is also characteristic—of both these men.
'At four o'clock in the morning of February 28th, when we got our majority of 14, after the first division, Mr. Gladstone, who wanted to go out, said to Childers and myself, "That will do." This was indeed a Delphic utterance.'
Sir Charles himself spoke, at Mr. Gladstone's request, at great length in the third day's debate on February 26th, but it was 'only a debating speech.'
'After we had had a sleep, we met in Cabinet on Saturday, February 28th. Lord Granville and Childers now anxious to go. Harcourt, who had at night been against going, was now anxious to go. This was a curious and interesting Cabinet. Lord Granville and Lord Derby, who were at loggerheads both with Bismarck and with their colleagues, were strong that we should resign, and they got some support from Chamberlain, Northbrook, Childers, and Hartington. Lefevre, [Footnote: Lord Eversley, then Mr. Shaw Lefevre, had joined the Cabinet after the news from Khartoum. Lord Rosebery had accepted the Privy Seal. Lord Eversley says that on February 28th opinions were evenly divided, but that one member refused to express an opinion on the ground of his recent admission. See, too, Life of Granville, vol. ii., pp. 421-422.] who had only just come in, and Trevelyan were strong for staying in, as was Carlingford; but the other members of the Cabinet either wobbled backwards and forwards, or did not care. At last it was decided by the casting vote of Mr. Gladstone, if one may use the phrase when there was no actual voting, that we should try to go on at present so as to carry the Seats Bill ourselves.
'We then turned to the Berber railway, and decided that it should be a temporary or contractor's line made only so far as might be necessary for purely military reasons. We then decided that Wolseley should not be allowed to make himself Governor-General of the Soudan.
'After the Cabinet Chamberlain and I continued our discussion as to his strong wish to resign. I told him that I wanted to finish the Seats Bill, that I thought Lord Salisbury might refuse or make conditions with regard to coming in, that Mr. Gladstone would not lead in opposition, and that we should seem to be driving him into complete retirement, and I asked whether we were justified in running away.'
Meantime the financial business of the year had to go on, and part of it was a demand for increased naval expenditure, to which, as has been seen already, Mr. Gladstone was opposed.
'The Navy Estimates were first discussed, and then the Army, and a sum asked for for the fortification of coaling-stations was refused, and also a sum asked for for defending the home merchant ports. We all of us were guilty of unwise haste on this occasion, for the demand was right; but the chief blame must fall rather on Childers, Hartington, and the others who had been at the War Office than upon those who sinned in ignorance.'
This decision against naval expenditure was a cause of embarrassment to the Government in the country, for a strong 'big navy' campaign followed. The real question at issue in the Cabinet became that of taxation. On March 2nd, and again in April, Sir Charles 'warned Mr. Gladstone against Childers's proposed Budget'—the rock on which they finally made shipwreck. 'Mr. Gladstone replied: "The subject of your note has weighed heavily on my mind, and I shall endeavour to be prepared for our meeting." I now sent him a memorandum after consultation with Chamberlain.'
What Sir Charles wrote in 1885 is nowadays matter of common argument; it was novel then in the mouth of a practical politician:
'I stated at length that, as head of the Poor Law department, I ought to have knowledge of the pressure of taxation upon the incomes of the poor. As Chairman of the Royal Commission on the Housing of the Working Classes, I had had to hear a great deal of evidence upon the subject of the income of the working classes, and as Chairman of the recent Conference on Industrial Remuneration had had special opportunities of further examining the question. It was my opinion that the position of the agricultural labourers had declined, and that the Whig or Conservative minority on my Commission, represented by Mr. Goschen and Lord Brownlow, admitted this contention of mine as regarded the south of England. The labourers of the south were unable to procure milk, and relied largely on beer as an article of food. Their wages had but slightly increased in the twenty years since 1865, and had decreased considerably since 1879. Food had slightly risen in price, clothes were nominally cheaper, but the same amount of wear for the money was not obtainable, and house rent (where house rent was paid by the labourers) had greatly risen. An enormous proportion of the income of the rich escaped taxation: fifty millions a year of their foreign income at the least. The uncertainty of employment placed the labourer even lower as a partaker in the income of the country than the statisticians placed him. The calculations of employers, upon which the estimates of statisticians were based, were founded upon the higher earnings of the best workers; and when the matter was examined, it was found that variation of wages, loss of time, and failure of work, much lowered the average earnings. The taxation of the working classes rose to a higher percentage than that of the upper and middle classes. Mr. Dudley Baxter, who was a Conservative, had admitted this, and had advocated a reduction in the tobacco duty and the malt tax. Since that time the tobacco duty had been raised, and the duties pressing upon beer had been rather raised than lowered.'
Sir Charles's insistence upon this matter is all the more notable because foreign complications were rapidly accumulating, and they were of a gravity which might well have seemed to dwarf all questions of the incidence of taxation.
There were not only the difficulties with Germany. There was also the Soudan, where a large body of British troops was engaged, in a country the perils of which England had now to realize.
'On March 7th there was a Cabinet as to the Suakim-Berber railway. Northbrook and I, soon joined by Harcourt and Chamberlain, were in favour of stopping our impossible campaign. I argued that when we decided to destroy the power of the Mahdi, it was on Wolseley's telling us that he hoped possibly to take Khartoum at once. For some weeks after that he had intended to take Berber. Then he had told us that he at least could occupy Abu Hamed. Now he was in full retreat, and both his lines of supply—namely, that up the Nile and that from Suakim—seemed equally difficult. The Chancellor wrote on a slip of paper for me: "We seem to be fighting three enemies at once. (1) The Mahdi; (2) certain of our people here; (3) Wolseley." Nothing was settled, and we passed on to Egyptian finance.'
March 11th, 'In the evening a despatch was circulated in which Wolseley said: "Please tell Lord Granville that I cannot wait any longer, and I must issue proclamation, and will do so on my own authority if I do not receive answer to this by the 14th. I hope I may be allowed to issue it as Governor-General."
'I at once wrote, "I understood that we had decided that he was not to be Governor-General, and that the proclamation should not be issued in the terms proposed"; on which Lord Granville wrote, "Yes. Cabinet to-morrow.—G."
'On Thursday, March 12th, the first matter discussed was that of the arrest of Zebehr. Then came Wolseley's proclamation, which was vetoed. We decided that he should not be allowed to make himself Governor-General of the Soudan.'
It now seemed more than likely that the British Government would have work on its hands which would render the employment of an army in the Soudan very undesirable; for more serious than the Mahdi's movements on the Nile, more serious than the operations of German Admirals in the Pacific, was the menace of a Russian advance upon Afghanistan.
Arrangements had been made for the demarcation of the Afghan frontier which Sir Charles had persistently urged. A British Commissioner had been appointed in July, 1884, but at the end of the following November Russia was still parleying on questions of detail. These, however, seemed to have been at length resolved; and in January, 1885, the British Commissioner was waiting in the neighbourhood of Herat for the Russian Commissioners to join in the work of fixing the boundaries. But the Russians did not appear; they were, says Sir Charles, 'intriguing at Penjdeh, and preparing for the blow which later on they struck against the Afghans.' The Amir evidently felt this, for he renewed the proposal that he should pay a state visit to the Viceroy, and on January 23rd Dilke wrote to Grant Duff that this had been accepted.
February 4th, 'On this day I received a letter from Sir Robert Sandeman at Quetta, in which he thanked me for the assistance that I had given him in the retention of Sibi, Pishin, and the Khojak. "It was greatly due to your support of my representations on the subject that our influence on this frontier is at present all-powerful."'
On February 5th, a few hours after the fall of Khartoum was published,
'there was a meeting of Ministers as to Central Asia. We decided on a reply to Russia drawn up by myself and Kimberley, Lord Granville and Northbrook somewhat dissenting, and Fitzmaurice and Philip Currie taking no part.
'On February 18th we had a meeting of the Central Asia Committee at the Foreign Office with regard to the Russian advance in the direction of Penjdeh, Lord Granville, Hartington, Northbrook, Kimberley, myself, Fitzmaurice, and Currie. We ordered Sir Peter Lumsden' (Chief of the Boundary Commission), 'in the event of a Russian advance on Herat, to throw himself and escort into that city, and to aid the Afghan defence.'
On March 12th, after deciding to limit Lord Wolseley's schemes in the Soudan, 'we took a decision that war preparations against Russia should be made in India.'
'On the 20th we decided that if the Russians continued to advance, 20,000 troops should be concentrated at Quetta. We next gave instructions to Lord Dufferin with regard to what he was to say to the Amir of Afghanistan at the interview which was about to take place between them, and authorized him to renew our guarantee. There was either a regular or irregular Cabinet on March 24th. We decided that if the Russians advanced upon Herat, the advance should be treated as a casus belli, and orders to this effect were sent to Dufferin. At the meeting on April 2nd the Viceroy, Lord Dufferin, assured the Amir in the presence of his Prime Minister, of Mr. Durand, and of Captain Talbot, "that a Russian advance on Herat should be met by war all over the world."'
'On April 8th, in public durbar, the Amir, without contradiction from Lord Dufferin, said: "The British Government has declared it will assist me in repelling any foreign enemy."'
Sir Charles was now discussing by letter with Sir Frederick Roberts the proposals which were preferred by the Defence Committee in India for the defence of the North-West Frontier, with special emphasis on the further question whether there was any point at which England could strike at Russia. [Footnote: See Appendix following on this chapter, pp. 122, 123.]
Early in April sittings of the Housing Commission in Scotland occasioned Dilke's absence from a Cabinet at which important phases of the Central Asian question were discussed.
April 4th, 'Chamberlain wrote to me an account of all that passed, pointing out that the Russian answer bade us "give up everything, and they offer us absolutely nothing by way of concession in return. This attitude really leaves us no alternative. I am very uncomfortable about it, because the more I study the matter the more I think that the Russians are right both in form and in substance—i.e., they have the pretexts on their side, and they also have a strong argument in favour of their line, both on the matter of territorial right, and also on the ground that this line is the only one which insures any chance of permanent peace. But we cannot have the pill forced down our throats by Russia without inquiry, or discussion on equal terms.... Harcourt declares that we have 'closed the door of Peace and opened the door of War.' The only difference between us is that he is inclined to accept the alternative of the Russian zone which has been already refused, and as to which the present Note says in effect that, though they are ready to go back to this zone, yet it will be of no use, as they are determined in the end to stick to their line."'
'On Thursday, April 9th, there was a Cabinet, which I also missed, and which considered the conflict at Penjdeh.' [Footnote: On March 20th, General Komarof with a Russian force had attacked and routed an Afghan army in the valley of Penjdeh.]
Every day now had its Cabinet. On April 11th, 13th, and 14th evacuation of the Soudan was discussed, but Lord Hartington, by a threat of resignation, secured repeated postponements.
'This question was mixed up by some members of the Cabinet with that of Afghanistan, inasmuch as they said that we could not fight Russia in Afghanistan, and go on in the Soudan as well; upon which Mr. Gladstone said of the Soudan, "I am not prepared to go on upon any terms, Russia or no Russia."
A new trouble was added when the Egyptian Government suppressed the Bosphore Egyptien, a local paper published in French, and closed the printing office. Against this the French protested, and in the course of the quarrel actually broke off diplomatic relations with the Egyptian Government, which, considering the relations between that Ministry and the protecting force of Great Britain, pushed unfriendliness very far. Ultimately the Bosphore was allowed to appear and to print what it chose, until it died a natural death.
'On Monday, April 13th, came a proposal from the Russian Ambassador, made through Lefevre and Brett, but which was really from Stead; Brett meaning Stead. Curiously enough, it was a proposal of Chamberlain's, of which he had previously told us, which had come back to him in this way. Chamberlain consulted me as to whether he should tell Mr. Gladstone that it was his, and I told him that I thought he had better not, as I thought it was more likely to be successful as coming from the Russian Ambassador and Stead than as coming from him. It virtually amounted to the plan of Arbitration which was ultimately adopted, although as a fact the Arbitration never took place.'
'On Wednesday, 15th, there was an informal Cabinet, at which I was not present, because the Seats Bill was in Committee in the House at the same time. A form of words with regard to the Soudan was agreed upon which united Hartington with the others.'
'On Thursday, the 16th, Mr. Gladstone misinformed the House of Commons—the inevitable result from time to time of his habit of answering without notice questions upon dangerous subjects. A meeting had taken place between Lord Granville, Kimberley, and Philip Currie on our side, and Staal, the Russian Ambassador, and Lessar, the Russian expert, at which Lord Granville showed that we meant to let Penjdeh go. Lessar paid a newspaper for its support by telling them. Mr. Gladstone was asked, and replied that he knew nothing about the matter, while he suggested that Penjdeh was not to be given up.'
'On the 18th the Queen agreed to retirement from the Soudan, with reservation of future liberty of action.' Whatever happened about Penjdeh, it was certain that resistance would be offered to Russia. 'On this day, Monday, April 20th, there was a Cabinet, at which it was decided to ask for eleven millions in the vote of credit. We then discussed Lumsden's despatch of explanation as to the Penjdeh incident, which we decided should be published. The vote of credit was really partly for Russia and partly for the Soudan, and a question arose whether it should be proposed as one or as two, and we decided for one. After which we went back again to the Budget, and the minority proposed a penny increase on the income tax as against the increase on beer, after which the Budget was adjourned to April 30th, it being decided then that the vote of credit should be taken first.'
'On April 20th I received from the Communalist General Cluseret a long letter in which he offered, on the ground of his profound sympathy, his services to England against Russia in the event of war—a document which would have done him little good had it seen the light when he afterwards stood successfully for my electoral division in the Var, at a time when French sympathy for Russia was predominant.
'On Tuesday, April 21st, after the Cabinet, I had told Mr. Gladstone that I could not agree to the increase of the taxation on beer, and Mr. Gladstone wrote to me twice on that day about the matter. I was not very sure of Harcourt standing by us, and knew that the pressure was great, inasmuch as, in addition to the two letters from Mr. Gladstone, I received one from Edward Hamilton, also dated the 21st, in which he made the strongest appeal to me on personal grounds not to worry Mr. Gladstone by resignations. He said that Mr. Gladstone was overburdened, and that it would take very little to break him down. Edward Hamilton wrote: "It is a peculiarity of his ... that, while he can stand the strain of a grave political crisis such as a question involving peace or war, he succumbs to the strain of a personal question.... Mr. Gladstone, I know, feels that any secession, especially of one who has a reputation not confined to this country, would necessarily weaken greatly the Government, and from a national point of view this is of all times a moment when there ought to be a strong Government which can confront Europe and face the varied difficulties. No one would more gladly escape from office than Mr. G. himself; but the more attractive is the prospect of freedom, the less does he dare allow himself to contemplate it."'
Mr. Gladstone wrote saying that such a secession at such a time would be serious for the Government, but also, he thought, serious for the seceder, and Sir Charles replied:
Local Government Board, Whitehall, April 21st, 1885.
'I should always let the consideration of what was due to my friends weigh with me as much as any man, I feel sure, and I am also certain that considerations of personal loyalty to yourself are as strong with me now as they are with any member of the Cabinet. I should never let the other class of considerations—i.e., those personal to myself—weigh with me at all. Because I am fond of work I am supposed to be ambitious; but I fancy few politicians are less so, and I do not mind unpopularity, which, after all, generally rights itself in the course of years. I knew that this matter would be a very serious one before I went into it, and I should not have said what I did had I not felt forced to do so.
'If others go with me, the extent of our unpopularity and consequent loss of future usefulness will depend on our own conduct, and if we do our duty by firmly supporting the Government through its foreign and general difficulties, I do not think that even the party will be ungenerous to us.'
But Sir Charles finally yielded, and drove a bargain.
'On April 24th I had decided at Chamberlain's strong wish to yield to Childers as to the beer duty; Childers promising in return to take the Princess Beatrice Committee of Inquiry demand upon himself.
'May 9th, the Queen now wished for immediate inquiry—that is, in other words, preferred the Parliament she knew to the new Parliament. The Government proposed "next year." It was agreed that the Government were to guide the Committee whenever it might sit, and that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should be in the Chair.
'Mr. Gladstone wrote me a letter to ease off my surrender on beer duties, by pointing out the importance of the proposals which were being made to put realty in the same position as personalty as to Death Duties. "This must in all likelihood lead to a very serious struggle with the Tories, for it strikes at the very heart of class-preference, which is the central point of what I call the lower and what is now the prevalent Toryism."'
In the great debate of April 27th, in which Mr. Gladstone proposed a vote of credit for eleven millions, of which six and a half were for war preparation in view of the collision between the Afghans and Russians at Penjdeh,
'Mr. Gladstone made perhaps the most remarkable speech that even he ever delivered, and I have his notes for it with a map I drew for him before he spoke, to show him the position of the various places. [Footnote: On this speech see the Life of Gladstone, vol. iii., p. 184; Life of Granville, vol. ii., p. 440.] At this time I wrote to Hartington to suggest that if we were forced into war with Russia we should attack the Russians at Vladivostock, and the Intelligence Department wrote a memorandum upon the subject. I also sent round a paper pointing out that we should fight at the greatest advantage from a Pacific base, that the help of China would be of moment, and that Chinese troops drilled and officered by Englishmen would be irresistible; and Northbrook strongly backed me up. Lumsden was sending us most violent telegrams, and while I was preparing for war I was also asking for the recall of Lumsden in favour of Colonel Stewart. Lord Granville wrote: "Lumsden was a bad appointment, and I for a moment wished to recall him. But it would be condemned here as an immense knock-under." [Footnote: See the Life of Granville, vol. ii., pp. 441, 442.] I also suggested that the engineers for whom the Amir had asked should be carefully picked, and should have a private Indian allowance for keeping us informed of what passed at Kabul, and Lord Granville conveyed the suggestion by telegraph to Lord Dufferin. (This was afterwards done.)'
Russia unexpectedly withdrew.
'On May 2nd there was a sudden Cabinet on the Russian acceptance of arbitration, Harcourt, Chamberlain, and Carlingford being absent. Kimberley, the Chancellor, Northbrook, Derby, and I were for immediate acceptance of the offer; Hartington against; Lord Granville for amiably getting out of it; Trevelyan and Lefevre silent; Rosebery late. Mr. Gladstone at first sided with Lord Granville, then came half way to us, and then proposed that we should wait a bit till Condie Stephen reached us. I replied by showing that Condie Stephen was a Jingo, the friend of Drummond Wolff and of Bowles of Vanity Fair, and would make things worse. Then Mr. Gladstone came completely to our side. Childers drew up in Cabinet the form for the declaration as to the Select Committee on the Civil List, and I agreed to it. I wrote what had passed to Chamberlain, who was at Birmingham, and he replied on the next day that he trusted that the information about Russia would be immediately communicated to the House, and went on: "But, then, what becomes of the vote of credit and the Budget? It seems cheeky to ask for 6 1/2 millions of Preparations when the matter is practically settled."
'On May 7th the Herat boundary was discussed and a line settled, and it was decided that either the German Emperor or the King of Denmark should be named as the Arbitrator about Penjdeh.' Later, 'There was a meeting of the Commons Ministers to discuss the situation created by the refusal by Russia of the German Emperor as Arbitrator, the Queen having previously refused the King of Denmark. The Queen had ultimately to yield. But, as I have said, the arbitration, although agreed on, never took place at all.'
The demarcation of frontier for which Sir Charles had so long contended was carried through without any marked incident, largely owing to the skill of Sir J. West Ridgeway, who had succeeded Sir Peter Lumsden.
The Memoir gives the following account of the proposals made for defence of the North-West Frontier in India in the spring of 1885, and some observations arising from them:
'The general idea was to hold the northern route by an entrenched position, and, as regards the southern or flank road, to fortify the mountains before Quetta. Roads and railways were to be made for concentration in the direction of Kandahar, and Sir Frederick Roberts afterwards very wisely noted, "It is impossible to threaten Russia's base, but we should do all in our power to keep it as far away as possible." Unfortunately, Sir Frederick Roberts afterwards forgot this, and suggested the possibility of advance upon Herat with the view to attack Russia at her Sarakhs base. The suggestions made in 1885 with regard to Kashmir and the Gromul Pass were acted upon in 1890. Sir Donald Stewart, however, went on to recommend a railway extension from Peshawur towards Kabul, and Sir Frederick Roberts, with greater judgment, on succeeding him, vetoed this scheme. Lord Kitchener revived it, but was not allowed to complete his work. Sir Donald Stewart's committee recommended the tunnel at the Khojak, which was carried out. Roberts reported against it, and he was right.
'On the whole, when Sir Frederick Roberts sent me his view on the defence proposals, I was struck with the contrast between the completeness of the manner in which a defence scheme for India has been considered, and the incompleteness, to say the least of it, of all strategic plans at home. Sir Charles Macgregor put on record at the same time his view that a mere offensive on the North-West Frontier of India would be folly, if not madness, and that it would be necessary also to undertake offensive operations against Russia. Quite so, according to all rules of war, and if ultimate defeat is to be avoided. Unfortunately, however, it is not easy to attack Russia, and the proposals made by Sir Charles Macgregor would not bear investigation. Sir Frederick Roberts himself afterwards tried his hand at proposals of his own in a Memorandum entitled, "What are Russia's vulnerable points?" But I do not know that he was more successful, and I fear that his first question, "Has Russia any vulnerable points?" must, if we are looking to permanency, and not to merely temporary measures, be answered in the negative, except as regards Vladivostock—a case I put. After much correspondence with me on this last memorandum, Sir Frederick Roberts quoted me, without naming me, as having, to his regret, informed him that English public opinion would oppose a Turkish alliance, that a Turkish alliance would not be of much use if we could obtain it, and that apart even from these considerations we could not obtain it if we wished.'
The importance which Sir Charles attached to Vladivostock, as the vulnerable point at which Russia could be attacked in time of war, explains his regret when Port Hamilton, which threatened Vladivostock, was abandoned. [Footnote: See Life of Lord Granville, vol. ii., p. 440; and Europe and the Far East, by Sir Robert K. Douglas, pp. 190, 248, 249.]
'May, 1885.—The Port Hamilton matter began about this time. We had seized it, and, as Northbrook and I agreed, "for naval reasons we ought to keep it." Northbrook also wrote that he was laying a cable from Shanghai to Port Hamilton, which he thought a most important precaution in time of war; but Port Hamilton was afterwards given up because the sailors found it dull—an insufficient reason.'
REDISTRIBUTION: COERCION AND DEVOLUTION
The year 1885 saw the Seats Bill, with its numerous compromises in detail, passed into law, but not without attendant difficulties.
'On Ash Wednesday, February 18th, I saw Sir Stafford Northcote, and settled with him, in view of the meeting of the House on the next day, the whole course of affairs for the 19th and 20th, under guise of discussing details of the Seats Bill. After we had parted, Northcote wrote to me that on consideration he had come to the conclusion that he must give notice of a vote of censure, but our amicable communication continued on the next day. "On consideration," with Northcote, always meant "After bullying by Randolph."'