THE LIFE OF THE RT. HON.
SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
BEGUN BY STEPHEN GWYNN, M.P.
COMPLETED AND EDITED BY
GERTRUDE M. TUCKWELL
LITERARY EXECUTRIX OF SIR CHARLES DILKE
WITH PORTRAITS AND ILLUSTRATIONS
IN TWO VOLUMES
CONTENTS OF VOL. II.
XXXIV. HOME AFFAIRS (OCTOBER, 1883, TO DECEMBER, 1884)
XXXV. EGYPT (1884)
XXXVI. FRANCHISE AND REDISTRIBUTION (JULY TO DECEMBER, 1884)
XXXVII. FOREIGN AFFAIRS IN 1884
XXXVIII. DIVIDED COUNSELS (JANUARY AND FEBRUARY, 1885)
XXXIX. THE FALL OF KHARTOUM AND THE PENJDEH INCIDENT
XL. REDISTRIBUTION: COERCION AND DEVOLUTION (1885)
XLI. FALL OF ADMINISTRATION (JUNE TO JULY, 1885)
XLII. OUT OF OFFICE (JULY, 1885)
XLIII. THE TURNING-POINT (JULY, 1885, TO JULY, 1886)
XLIV. THE RADICAL PROGRAMME VERSUS HOME RULE (JULY TO DECEMBER, 1885)
XLV. BEGINNING OF THE HOME RULE SPLIT (DECEMBER, 1885, TO FEBRUARY, 1886)
XLVI. THE FIRST HOME RULE BILL (FEBRUARY TO JULY, 1886)
XLVII. LADY DILKE—76, SLOANE STREET
XLVIII. FOREIGN POLICY
XLIX. PUBLIC LIFE AND RETURN TO PARLIAMENT (1886-1894)
L. INDIA AND FRANCE—RHODES AND BISMARCK (1886-1892)
LI. PERSONAL LIFE—IN OPPOSITION (1895-1904)
LII. LABOUR (1870-1911)
LIII. WORK FOR NATIVE RACES (1870-1911)
LIV. THE BRITISH ARMY
LV. IMPERIAL DEFENCE
LVI. ARMY AND NAVY IN PARLIAMENT
LVII. DEATH OF LADY DILKE—PARLIAMENT OF 1905
LVIII. FOREIGN AFFAIRS (1890-1910)
LIX. THE LAST YEARS
LX. LITERARY WORK AND INTERESTS
LXI. TABLE TALK
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS TO VOL. II
SIR CHARLES W. DILKE IN THE YEAR 1908 From a drawing by W. Strang.
MRS. MARK PATTISON From a photograph taken about 1878.
SIR THOMAS WENTWORTH, 1ST BARON WENTWORTH (DIED MARCH 3RD, 1550-51) From a painting ascribed to Theodore Bernardi.
BISMARCK From a photograph given by him to Sir Charles W. Dilke.
SIR CHARLES W. DILKE ROWING From a photograph reproduced by permission of the Daily Mirror.
DOCKETT EDDY From photographs.
PYRFORD ROUGH From photographs.
LADY DILKE IN THE YEAR 1903 From a photograph by Thomson.
THE LIFE OF SIR CHARLES DILKE
OCTOBER, 1883-DECEMBER, 1884
The interval between the Sessions of 1883 and 1884 was critical for the question of electoral reform which interested Liberals beyond all other questions, but involved the risk of bringing dissensions in the Cabinet to the point of open rupture. As the months went by, Mr. Chamberlain and Lord Hartington used less and less concealment of their differences, while it was well known to all the Cabinet that the alliance between Chamberlain and Dilke was complete and unconditional. Whoever broke with Chamberlain broke with Dilke. Fortunately a certain bond of personal sympathy, in spite of divergent views, existed between Lord Hartington and Sir Charles Dilke, and this bond largely helped to hold Mr. Gladstone's Government together.
In the negotiations which followed between the leaders of the two great Parties, Sir Charles Dilke was able to show the full measure of his value to the State. It was of first-rate importance that the Liberal Party should possess at that moment a representative with whom Lord Salisbury found it congenial to treat, and whom the most advanced Liberals trusted unreservedly to treat with Lord Salisbury.
The same confidence could hardly have been given by them to Lord Hartington, who held that "equalization of the franchise was pressing mainly on account of the pledges that had been given, and not much for any other reason." [Footnote: Letter to Mr. Gladstone of October 24th, 1883, quoted by Mr. Bernard Holland in his Life of the Duke of Devonshire, vol. i., p. 395.] Most Liberals took a very different view of the need for this reform. Further, Lord Hartington held that franchise and redistribution should be treated simultaneously, and he was unwilling to extend the franchise in Ireland.
At a Cabinet on October 25th, 1883, the question of simultaneous or separate treatment of the problems had been settled. Mr. Gladstone, says Sir Charles, 'made a speech which meant franchise first and the rest nowhere.' On the Irish question, Sir Charles was instructed to get accurate statistics as to the effects of equalizing the franchise between boroughs and counties, and 'on Friday, November 16th,' he notes, 'I wrote to Chamberlain: "I have some awful figures for poor Hartington to swallow—700,000 county householders in the Irish counties."' Lord Hartington still stuck to his point of linking redistribution and franchise.
But on November 22nd,
'Mr. Gladstone read a long and admirable memorandum in favour of the views held by him, by Chamberlain, and by me, as to franchise and redistribution—that is, franchise first, with a promise of redistribution but no Bill; and Hartington received no support after this from any members of the Cabinet.'
There were, however, matters in which Lord Hartington's Conservative tendencies found an ally in the Prime Minister. On November 28th, 1883, at the Committee of the Cabinet on Local Government,
'Chamberlain noted: "Mr. Gladstone hesitates to disfranchise the freeholders in boroughs—persons voting as householders in boroughs and as freeholders in the counties in which the boroughs are constituted. I am in favour of one man one vote, and told him so." Our not getting one man one vote was entirely Mr. Gladstone's fault, for the Cabinet expected and would have taken it, Hartington alone opposing, as he opposed everything all through.'
The question of widening the franchise in Ireland was still unsettled, and Mr. Chamberlain and Lord Hartington both made allusion to it in public speeches at this moment. The speeches, apart from their marked difference in general tone, were on this point in flat contradiction to each other, and on December 2nd Lord Hartington wrote to Mr. Gladstone with a threat of resignation. On that day he delivered at Accrington a long eulogy of the Whigs, who had 'formed a connecting link between the advanced party and those classes which, possessing property, powers, and influence, are naturally averse to change.' The Whigs it was, he contended, who had by their guidance and their action reduced changes in the direction of popular reform to the 'calm and peaceful process of constitutional acts.'
'At this moment there was a conflict raging between Chamberlain and Hartington, and in their autumn speeches each of them pretty plainly attacked the other's policy. Chamberlain wrote to me: "Why does Hartington think aloud when he thinks one thing and is going to do the other? And why does he snub the Caucus when he has made up his mind to do exactly what they want? If he cannot learn to be a little more diplomatic, he will make a devil of a rum leader!" A little later Chamberlain gave me "passages from a speech which ought to be delivered: 'Yes, gentlemen, I entirely agree with Lord Hartington. It is the business and duty of Radicals to lead great popular movements, and if they are fortunate enough to kindle the fire of national enthusiasm and to stir the hearts of the people, then it will be the high prerogative of the great Whig noble who has been waiting round the corner to direct and guide and moderate the movement which he has done all in his power to prevent and discourage.'"
'The storm between Hartington and Chamberlain having broken out again, Chamberlain wrote to me on December 5th, enclosing a letter of reproof from Mr. Gladstone, and saying: "I replied casuistically that I would endeavour to exclude from my speeches the slightest reference to Hartington, but that he was really too trying. I reminded Mr. G. that I had asked if I were free to argue the question, and that he had said: Yes—no one taking exception." In the following week Chamberlain came to town and dined with me, and we discussed the matter. Although Mr. Gladstone had blown Chamberlain up, he was really much more angry with Hartington.'
It appears from the Life of the Duke of Devonshire that Mr. Gladstone continued through December his attempts to mediate. [Footnote: See Life of the Duke of Devonshire, by Mr. Bernard Holland, vol. i, p. 398 et seq.] The matter is thus related by Sir Charles, though not from first- hand knowledge, since he went to Toulon in the middle of December, and stayed there till January 8th, 1884:
'During my absence I had missed one Cabinet, the first that I ever missed, and perhaps the only one. It was held suddenly on January 3rd, and I could not arrive in time. Mr. Gladstone had come up from Hawarden under the impression that Hartington was going to resign, because we would not produce a redistribution scheme along with franchise. On the morning of the 3rd, however, he received a letter in which Hartington gave way on the understanding that Mr. Gladstone would state the general heads of his redistribution scheme. The subject was not named at the Cabinet of the 3rd, which dealt with Egypt only. But the Cabinet adjourned to the 4th, and on January 4th discussed South Africa, and also ... received a statement from Mr. Gladstone as to his intention to state the heads of our redistribution scheme in "very general terms." On the 10th I noted: "The Cabinets have resulted in peace between Lord Hartington and Mr. Gladstone, but the Reform Bill will be less complete than I had hoped." "Mr. Gladstone calmed Hartington by promising not to run away from us after franchise and before redistribution, which was what Hartington feared he meant to do."'
Discussion upon the detail of the Bill was resumed, and on January 23rd, 1884,
'the Chancellor (Lord Selborne), Hartington, Kimberley, and Dodson, supported by Mr. Gladstone, forced, against Harcourt, Chamberlain, and myself, a decision not to attach any condition of residence to the property vote.'
'On January 28th there was a meeting of the Committee of the Cabinet on the Franchise Bill in Mr. Gladstone's room. Chamberlain was anxious to "make Hartington go out on franchise." I asked him how he thought it was to be done, and he replied: "If he is restive now, raise the question of Mr. Gladstone's statement on redistribution, and oppose all limitations in that statement"; and he added that Mr. Gladstone had only agreed to make the statement unwillingly to quiet Hartington, and that if Hartington were not quieted Mr. Gladstone would go back about it. Chamberlain and I on this occasion tried to make the Franchise Bill more Radical, but failed, Mr. Gladstone opposing us on old-fashioned grounds.'
'Chamberlain came to me' (on April 26th) 'about a plan which Mr. Gladstone was to broach at the next Cabinet, for putting off the operation of the Franchise Act until January 1st, '86, in order to give time for redistribution to be dealt with. We decided to oppose it, on the ground that it would not improbably lead to our being forced into holding an election on the old franchise.'
At the beginning of the Session Sir Charles helped on the general policy of Radicalism by one of his many minor electoral reforms. This was a Bill to extend over the United Kingdom the right of keeping the poll open till eight o'clock at night, which he had secured as a privilege for Londoners in 1878. He notes that on February 11th he 'fought with Tory obstructives as to hours of polling, and won'; but the violent resistance which was offered at first did not continue, and the Bill passed quietly in July, after time had been given to discuss it in the constituencies.
'On this day (July 22nd) I had a long and curious conversation with Healy as to Irish redistribution and as to the hours of poll in counties, with regard to which he was against extension, but said that he was forced to support it in public. He told me that his private opinion was that the Land Act had quieted Ireland.'
The 'Representation of the People' Bill, as the franchise measure was called, was introduced on February 28th, 1884, and made steady progress, Liberals finding their task facilitated by the difficulties of their opponents.
'On May 7th I wrote to Chamberlain to say that I had to speak at a house dinner of the Devonshire Club that night, and to ask him if there was anything he wanted said, to which he replied: "Note Randolph Churchill's letter to Salisbury with reference to the Conservative Caucus, and the vindication of the Birmingham one." It was impossible not to notice this important letter, which revolutionized politics for some time.'
'May 14th.—After the Cabinet I was informed by Chamberlain that a week earlier, on Wednesday, May 7th, Randolph Churchill had sent to him to know whether, if he broke with the Conservatives, the Birmingham Liberals would support him as an independent candidate.'
Sir Charles's letter to his agent at this time sums up the political position:
'The Tory game is to delay the franchise until they have upset us upon Egypt, before the Franchise Bill has reached the Lords.... Our side will be in a humour to treat as traitors any who do not insist that the one Bill and nothing else shall be had in view—in face of the tremendous struggle impending in the Lords.'
'On May 13th I had received a letter from Mr. Gladstone in answer to one from me in a matter which afterwards became important, and but for Chamberlain's strong stand would have forced me to leave the Government. I had so strong an opinion in favour of woman's suffrage that I could not undertake to vote against it, even when proposed as an amendment to a great Government Bill.'
Sir Charles had written as follows:
'ANTIBES, 'Easter Eve, '84.
'I had thought till lately that the Woman's Suffrage division in Committee on the Franchise Bill would have been so hollow that my absence from it would not have mattered; but as I find that Grosvenor thinks that it will not be hollow, it becomes my duty to write to you about it. I myself think Grosvenor wrong; the woman's suffrage people claim some 250 "friends," but this they do by counting all who, having voted with them once, have abstained from voting for many years, and who are really foes. The division can only be a close one if the Tory party as a body support the view which is Northcote's, I believe, and was Disraeli's, but many of the leaders would be bitterly opposed to such a course. Mr. Disraeli left the woman's suffrage amendment an open question on his own Reform Bill, and forbade the Government Whips to tell against the amendment, but the mass of the Tory party voted in the majority. On this next occasion there will be a larger Liberal vote against the change than there was last year, and I do not believe that there will be a larger Tory vote in its favour. But, supposing that I am wrong and Grosvenor right, I should feel no difficulty in voting against the amendment on the grounds of tactics which would be stated, provided that Fawcett and Courtney, who are the only other thick-and-thin supporters of woman's suffrage in the Government, voted also, but I cannot vote if they abstain. Under these circumstances what had I better do?'
Mr. Gladstone wrote back on May 11th:
'The question as to the votes of members of the Government on woman's suffrage is beyond me, and I have always intended to ask the Cabinet, and (like the Gordon rescue) at the proper time. The distinction appears to me as clear as possible between supporting a thing in its right place and forcing it into its wrong place. To nail on to the extension of the franchise, founded upon principles already known and in use, a vast social question, which is surely entitled to be considered as such, appears to me in principle very doubtful. When to this is added the admirable pretext—nay, the fair argument—it would give to the House of Lords for "putting off" the Bill, I cannot see the ground for hesitation. But I quite understand what (I believe) is your view, that there should be one rule for all the members of the Government.'
'This was an important letter. The words "(like the Gordon rescue) at the proper time" seem to show that Mr. Gladstone had already made up his mind to send an expedition to Khartoum, although he would not say so. The body of the letter proved that Mr. Gladstone had a very strong opinion against me on the main point, and the consultation of the Cabinet (which was dead against woman suffrage), and the one rule for all members of the Government, meant that he intended to force my vote by a Cabinet resolution, and, killing two birds with one stone, to attack at the same time Fawcett, who had walked out on several questions, and announced his intention of walking out on others.
'By May 22nd I had finally made up my mind that I could not vote against the woman franchise amendment—even as a mere matter of tactics and deference to others—if Courtney and Fawcett went out on the matter. I could not speak to them about it because of the "Cabinet secret" doctrine. Childers had been directed by the Cabinet to sound Courtney, because he was Courtney's official superior in the Treasury. Childers was to offer Courtney that if he would vote against the amendment he should be allowed to speak for woman franchise on the merits, and that none of its opponents in the Cabinet (that is, all except myself) should speak against it on the merits. I noted: "On the whole I think that we shall walk out, and not be turned out for so doing." I again explained my position to Mr. Gladstone.... I felt that the majority of those voting for woman franchise on this occasion would be Tories, voting for party reasons, and in order to upset the Bill. I was therefore unwilling to go out on this occasion, but thought I could not do otherwise than make common cause with Courtney. On the merits of woman franchise I had and have a strong opinion. I always thought the refusal of it contrary to the public interest. The refusal of the franchise also affects the whole position of women most unfavourably.' [Footnote: Mrs. Fawcett wrote thanking him 'in the name of the friends of Women's Suffrage. Your being a member of the Cabinet made your position in the matter one of special difficulty; but I do assure you that our gratitude is real and unfeigned.']
On May 24th Sir Charles told the Cabinet what 'I had told Mr. Gladstone in a letter which I had written to him on Easter Eve, and renewed on the occasion when he made the reply which has been quoted above.'
When the amendment was reached, Dilke, with Fawcett and Courtney, abstained. This led to serious trouble. Sir Charles wrote on June 12th in his Diary:
'Hartington is very angry with me for not voting, and wants me turned out for it. He has to vote every day for things which he strongly disapproves, and this makes the position difficult. He says that my position was wholly different from that of Fawcett and Courtney, because I was a party to the decision of the Cabinet, and that custom binds the minority in the collective decision of Her Majesty's servants. This is undoubtedly the accepted theory. Poor Hibbert was made to vote. [Footnote: Sir John Tomlinson Hibbert (d. 1908), at this time Financial Secretary to the Treasury, was an able administrator, and held office in Mr. Gladstone's four administrations. He assisted materially in the passing of the Execution within Gaols Act, Married Women's Property Act, and Clergy Disabilities Act, and was keenly interested in the reform of the Poor Law.] I fear the Cabinet put the yoke, not of political necessity, but of their personal prejudice against woman suffrage, on the necks of their followers.'
The matter came up at a Cabinet on June 14th, and was made worse because a letter from Lord Hartington, 'offensive in tone,' had been circulated by accident. However, Mr. Gladstone issued a minute about my walking out on woman's suffrage, which concluded by a proposal, if his colleagues concurred, to request me to remain in the Government. Thus ended a personal crisis which, to use the French phrase, had been 'open' since my letter to Mr. Gladstone dated 'Antibes, Easter Eve.'
'Chamberlain wrote to me: "It is settled"; and I wrote back: "It is settled. I would not have asked you to stand by me, as I have no constitutional case, and your conduct in so doing could not be defended. I always count on your friendship, but this would have been too much." He replied: "We are both right. You could not ask me, but if you had been requested to resign I should have gone too." Chamberlain had previously informed the Cabinet that, though he differed from me about woman's suffrage, and regretted the course that I had felt myself obliged to take, he intended to stand by me "to the fullest extent."' [Footnote: The further negotiations with regard to Franchise and Redistribution in 1884, and the 'compact' which ended them, are dealt with in Chapter XXXVI., infra, pp. 63-79.]
While the great measure of the Session went steadily through its stages, various other questions were also occupying the Cabinet. The search for a new Speaker in succession to Sir Henry Brand, who had declared at the beginning of 1883 his unwillingness to retain office beyond that Session, was one, and not the least important, of these questions. Sir Henry James was first mentioned, and he refused.
'November, 1883. Some had thought of putting up Dodson, but the Tories had announced that they should run Ridley in opposition to him. There was also a difficulty about filling Dodson's place. Trevelyan was the only man who could be put into the Cabinet without causing the resignation of Courtney and Fawcett, and Mr. Gladstone was still in the humour which he had developed at the time of the offer of the Chief Secretaryship to me, and declared that he would not have the Chief Secretary in the Cabinet, the Viceroy being in it, for this would be to have two Kings of Brentford.'
On November 10th 'Childers seemed the favourite for Speakership,' but on the 12th it was decided that Herschell, Goschen, Arthur Peel, and Campbell-Bannerman, were to be offered the Speakership—in that order. It was known that Herschell would refuse, it was thought that Goschen would refuse on the ground of sight, and Peel on the ground of health, and it was intended that Campbell-Bannerman should have it. Herschell did refuse, but Goschen accepted, and had to be shown by his doctor that he could not see members across the House, that he would be capable of confusing Healy with Parnell.... Peel accepted, and in spite of his bad health took it, and has kept it till this day (1891).'
There was also continuous discussion behind the scenes as to the two important measures of local government reform—for London and for the country.
'By November 8th, 1883, I had succeeded in bringing Harcourt round on the London police matter ... to let the City keep their police, and then went to Mr. Gladstone.... After twelve o'clock at night Harcourt joined us, and it was agreed to put both London and local government in the Queen's Speech for 1884.'
Dilke spent much work upon the London Government Bill with Harcourt in January of that year; but the Bill, having passed its second reading, was not further proceeded with, owing to House of Commons difficulties. Sir Charles gives the true reason in a letter to his agent:
'One unfortunate thing about the London Bill is that no one in the House cares about it except Dilke, Firth, and the Prime Minister, and no one outside the House except the Liberal electors of Chelsea. This is the private hidden opinion of Harcourt and of the Metropolitan Liberal members except Firth. I am personally so strong for the Bill that I have not at any time admitted this to Harcourt, and I have only hinted it to Firth....'
When Sir William Harcourt's Bill collapsed, Dilke attempted a minor improvement for the Metropolis by framing a City Guilds Bill, which he described to Mr. Gladstone as following the scheme of the Bills by which the Universities had been reformed. But the Chancellor, Lord Selborne, fought strongly against this proposal: and nothing came of it.
The great scheme for reforming Local Government in England and Wales was meanwhile being considered by the Committee to which it had been referred. Besides Sir Charles Dilke, who naturally acted as Chairman, the Committee consisted of Mr. Chamberlain, Lord Kimberley, Mr. Childers, Lord Carlingford, and Mr. Dodson (who were members of the Cabinet), and Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice. With them were Sir Henry Thring, the celebrated Parliamentary draughtsman, and Mr. Hugh Owen, the Permanent Secretary of the Local Government Board. The task of obtaining agreement, and even sometimes of maintaining order, in a Committee composed of persons representing such a variety of opinion, was no easy one, and it tested to the full the tact and ingenuity of the Chairman. Mr. Dodson, Sir Charles Dilke's immediate predecessor at the Local Government Board, and Lord Carlingford represented the views which had hitherto prevailed in favour of piecemeal and gradual reform. Mr. Chamberlain, Lord Kimberley, and Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice were, on the contrary, supporters of the large Bill which the Chairman had prepared; while Mr. Childers, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, was there mainly to keep a vigilant watch on the local authorities, who were suspected, and not without reason, of desiring to treat the Treasury as a sort of "milch cow," a description which Mr. Gladstone had recently made current in a debate in the House of Commons, Sir Henry Thring was no mere draughtsman. He had had an immense experience of official life, had known every man of public importance over a long period of years, and had very determined views on most subjects, which he never hesitated to express in clear-cut language and without respect of persons. Mr. Lowe, it was asserted, had once observed at a Cabinet just before Thring entered the room: 'I think before he arrives we had better carry a preliminary resolution that we are all d——d fools.' As it also happened, Local Government was a subject on which Sir Henry Thring, and not without reason, prided himself as an expert, and the Committee over which Sir Charles Dilke presided consequently had Sir Henry Thring's views conveyed to them in unmistakable terms. One of his special objects of hostility was the Poor Law Union area, which he hoped ultimately to destroy. On the other hand, Mr. Hugh Owen, like nearly all the Local Government Board officials of that time, regarded the Poor Law and everything connected with it as sacred. The controversies were frequently fierce, and on one occasion a serious crisis almost arose owing to Lord Kimberley asking to be informed if Sir Henry Thring was preparing a Bill of his own or was acting on his instructions.
The Bill of 1884 contained almost everything now to be found within the corners of the two great measures of 1888 and 1894, which, the one passed by a Conservative, the other by a Liberal Government, entirely revolutionized the Local Government of England. It was, however, decided to have no Aldermen, but a few ex-officio seats were created on the County Council. Otherwise direct election was the method chosen for all the new Councils. The administration of the Poor Law was kept within the purview of the Bill, after a long controversy as to the method of electing the representatives of urban parishes on the local Poor Law authority, when such an authority included both a borough and a rural district; and the limit of population that was to entitle a borough to a complete independence from the county authority was raised from the figure originally proposed of 20,000 to 100,000 and upwards.
It had been part of Sir Charles Dilke's plan to include education within the framework of the Bill, making the Borough and District Councils the local education authority, with a limited superior jurisdiction in the County Council. But it was found that almost insurmountable difficulties would arise in adding so immense a proposal to an already large measure, and it had to be abandoned.
Mr. Gladstone expressed a decided view on one portion of the Bill only. He gave his strongest support to the proposal that the price of any increased contributions in the shape of Treasury grants should be the complete reform of the conflict of areas and jurisdictions, which added so much to the difficulties and the cost of local administration. [Footnote: In a speech made at Halifax on October 13th, 1885, which occupies nearly the whole of a page of the Times, Sir Charles Dilke, after the fall of the Government, gave a full account of the proposed measure.]
The question of female councillors inevitably found its way into the discussions, and it was decided in their favour, notwithstanding much divergence of opinion.
'"I am sorry," Childers wrote, "about female councillors, but I suppose I am in a minority, and that we shall soon have women M.P.'s and Cabinet Ministers." This shows that we had decided to clear up the doubt as to the possibility of women serving as councillors, and distinctly to give them the opportunity of so doing. When Ritchie afterwards introduced portions of my Bill, he left this doubtful, and the Lady Sandhurst decision was the result.' [Footnote: See for "Lady Sandhurst decision," infra, p. 17.]
Sir Charles differed from other members of the Committee in the desire to make the county and not the Local Government Board the sole appellate authority from the district. 'I would, indeed,' he says, 'have gone farther, had I been able to convince my colleagues, and have set up an elective Local Government Board for England.'
Owing to the Parliamentary position, progress with any large measures of reform was, however, difficult even in the preliminary stages; and the road seemed to get more encumbered every day, for the period now under review indicates the high-water mark of Parliamentary obstruction in the skilled hands of the Irish Party and Lord Randolph Churchill, who successfully defied the feeble reforms of procedure of 1882. So it came about that early in 1884 Sir Charles was found rather mournfully writing to Mr. Gladstone:
'We produced to-day our last draft of the Local Government Bill, and had our funeral meeting over it, I fear. I wish to tell you with what spirit and skill Edmond Fitzmaurice has gone into the matter. He is the only man I know who is fit to be President of this Board.'
In the autumn of 1883 Sir Charles made what was rare with him, a kind of oratorical progress. He spoke at Glasgow, at Greenock, and lastly at Paisley, where he received the freedom of the burgh for his services connected with the commercial negotiations. His speech at Paisley naturally dealt with commercial policy, and drew an admiring letter from Sir Robert Morier, who was then just bringing to a head the offer of a commercial treaty with Spain. The Cabinet, however, had been much inclined to issue a general declaration on the subject,
'Mr. Gladstone and Lord Granville being against all commercial treaties, I for good ones and against bad ones, and Chamberlain for punishing Italy for her conduct to us.' [Footnote: 'March 5th, 1883.—We turned to Tariff Treaties: Lord Granville and Mr. Gladstone wishing for a general and abstract declaration against them, and I, with support of Childers, urging most strongly the other view. The proposed declaration was a gratuitous piece of folly, for we were not called on to say anything at all.']
When the proposed treaty with Spain, and the changes in duties which it would involve, were before the Cabinet on November 10th,
'I am afraid I played upon Mr. Gladstone's favourite weakness (next to praise of Montenegro)—namely, abuse of the Customs, a department for the routine of which he always had a perfect loathing.'
Queen Victoria's demand for investigation into the housing of the poor [Footnote: See Vol. I., p. 509.] had led to prompt administrative action, planned by Sir Charles before he left for his Christmas holiday.
'While I was at Toulon there were issued from the Local Government Board the circulars on the Housing of the Working Class, which I had prepared before leaving London.... One circular, December 29th, 1883 ... called on the Vestries to make use of the powers which they possessed for regulating the condition of houses let in lodgings. Another, December 30th ... called attention to their powers under the Sanitary Acts, and under the Artisans and Labourers' Dwellings Acts; and one of the same date to a similar effect went to all urban sanitary districts throughout the country, while a further circular with digests of the laws was sent out on January 7th, 1884. This action was afterwards repeated by Chamberlain and others, and taken for new, and again by Walter Long.'
But, naturally, the first man to do it stirred up a hornets' nest. Punch of the first week in January, 1884, derides the 'Bitter Cry of Bumbledom' against Dilke and Mr. Hugh Owen, [Footnote: Years after Sir Hugh Owen, G.C.B., wrote to Dilke: 'I shall always remember that I owed my first step in the Order of the Bath to you.'] Secretary to the Local Government Board:
'Us to blame? That's a capital notion! Drat them and their "statutes" and "digests"! "Convenience of reference." Ah! that is one of their imperent sly jests. Removal of Noosances? Yah! If we started on that lay perniskers There is more than a few in the Westries 'ud feel suthin' singein' their wiskers, Or BUMBLE'S a Dutchman. Their Circ'lar—it's mighty obliging—defines 'em, The Noosances namely; I wonder if parties read Circ'lars as signs 'em, If so, Local Government Boarders must be most oncommonly knowin', And I'd like to 'eave bricks at that DILKE and his long-winded myrmidon OWEN. The public's got Slums on the brain, and with sanitry bunkum's have busted. We make a more wigorous use of the powers with which we're entrusted! Wy, if we are at it all day with their drains, ashpits, roofs, walls, and windies, Wot time shall we 'ave for our feeds and our little porochial shindies! And all for the 'labouring classes'—the greediest, ongratefullest beggars. I tell you these Radical lot and their rubbishy littery eggers, Who talk of neglected old brooms, and would 'ave us turn to at their handles, Are Noosances wus than bad smells and the rest o' their sanitry "scandals."'
Sir Charles's main object in local government was to decentralize, and he sought to move in this direction by stimulating the exercise of existing powers and the habit of responsibility in local popularly elected bodies. But inquiry was also necessary.
'On February 8th, 1884, it had been decided to appoint a Royal Commission on the Housing of the Working Classes, and Mr. Gladstone had expressed his wish that I should be chairman of the Commission, on which the Prince of Wales desired to serve.'
'On the 9th it was settled that Bodley, my secretary, should be secretary to the Royal Commission. I immediately wrote to Manning to ask him to serve, and he consented on February 12th.'
Lord Salisbury's name lent another distinction to the list, which was completed by February 16th. [Footnote: In addition to the Prince, the Cardinal, and Lord Salisbury, Dilke's Commission consisted of Lord Brownlow, Lord Carrington, Mr. Goschen, Sir Richard Cross, the Bishop of Bedford (Dr. Walsham How), Mr. E. Lyulph Stanley, Mr. McCullagh Torrens, Mr. Broadhurst, Mr. Jesse Collings, Mr. George Godwin, and Mr. Samuel Morley. To these were added later Mr. Dwyer Gray and Sir George Harrison, for Ireland and Scotland respectively.]
'A very difficult question arose about his precedence. I referred it to the Prince of Wales, who said that he thought Manning ought to take precedence, as a Prince, after Princes of the Blood, and before Lord Salisbury.'
The nice question was referred to Lord Salisbury and to many other authorities, and finally to Lord Sydney, who wrote, from the Board of Green Cloth, 'that in 1849, at the Queen's Levee at Dublin Castle, the Roman Catholic Primate followed the Protestant Archbishop, but he was not a Cardinal. A fortiori I presume a Cardinal as a Prince of the Holy Roman Empire would have precedence next to the Prince of Wales. It showed, however, extraordinary ignorance on the part of the Lord Steward to suppose that the Holy Roman Empire and the Papal Court were the same thing.' [Footnote: The story of how the question of precedence was settled in Manning's favour is given in detail in Mr. Bodley's Cardinal Manning, and Other Essays (1912).]
'It was on February 12th that I received Sir Henry Ponsonby's letter announcing the approval of the Queen to the Prince serving on the Commission as an ordinary member under my chairmanship, and the Prince of Wales expressed his pleasure at the Queen's approval.'
'On February 22nd the members of the Cabinet present (at a meeting at the Foreign Office) discussed my proposal to put Miss Octavia Hill on my Royal Commission, no woman having ever sat on one; and Harcourt having refused to sign the Commission if it contained a woman's name, Mr. Gladstone, Kimberley, and Northbrook sided with me, and Hartington with Harcourt. Lord Granville said that he was with me on the principle, but against me on the person. After this Mr. Gladstone went round, and said that the decision of the Cabinet was against me. Asquith put several women on a Royal Commission a few years later, but refused them the precedence to which they were entitled, and gave every male member precedence before them.'
Mr. Lyulph Stanley was included to represent his sister, Miss Maude Stanley, whom Sir Charles Dilke had wished to appoint.
Later in the year Sir Charles successfully asserted the principle for which he was contending, by putting women on the Metropolitan Asylums Board. Lady Ducie had the honour of the first invitation to serve, and Sir Charles afterwards added Miss Maude Stanley and others. The question of qualification was discussed, only to be set aside. The law officers
'knew the women would be knocked off if anyone raised the question, and in Lady Sandhurst's case this was afterwards made clear; but no one did raise it against my nominees, and they stayed on for life.'
'March 7th.—I had now had several interviews with Lord Salisbury and the Prince of Wales about the Royal Commission, and the first meeting of the Commission itself was held on March 5th.... We really began our work on March 14th. My work was heavy at this time, with sittings of the Commission twice a week, for which I had to prepare, as I did all the examination in chief of the witnesses, and, indeed, found them all and corresponded with them in advance.'
'The Commission was dull, although it produced a certain amount of valuable evidence, and almost the only amusing incident which occurred in the course of many months was Lord Salisbury making a rather wild suggestion, when Broadhurst put down his pen, and, looking up in a pause, said with an astonished air, "Why, that is Socialism!" at which there was a loud laugh all round.'
'I wrote to Lord Salisbury on May 7th to ask him for his suggestions as to what I called "remedies" to be proposed by our Commission, as I had already made my own list, and wished from this time forward to examine each witness on the same heads, with a view to collecting a body of evidence for the Report, intended to lead to recommendation and legislation upon these particular points....'
Some of Lord Salisbury's suggestions were 'valuable, and still throw much light on his temporary Radicalism, which unfortunately soon wore off.'
'It is clear that on May 9th, 1884, he was contemplating throwing the rates upon the land, and making a long step towards leasehold enfranchisement. Lord Salisbury's proposal on this last head was virtually one for "judicial rents," as far as principle went, and destructive of the old view of the rights of holders of landed property—although, perhaps, not one carrying much advantage to anybody!'
The Report of the Commission proposed the rating of vacant land, but before it was drafted Lord Salisbury condemned the proposal in a memorandum attached to the Report, which Mr. Goschen supported by another independent minute.
Sir Charles sent also a request for the suggestion of 'remedies' to Cardinal Manning, who, says a scribbled note, 'is our only revolutionary!'
'On Friday, May 16th, at the Commission the Cardinal handed me his list of suggestions, which were not only revolutionary, but ill- considered, and I have to note how curiously impracticable a schemer, given to the wildest plans, this great ecclesiastic showed himself. He suggested the removal out of London, not only of prisons and infirmaries (which no doubt are under the control of public authorities), but also of breweries, ironworks, and all factories not needed for daily or home work, as a means of giving us areas for housing the working class, suggestions the value or practicability of which I need hardly discuss.'
'On May 18th, I having proposed to add to the Royal Commission a member for Ireland and a member for Scotland before we began to take the Scotch and Irish evidence, and having proposed Gray, the Nationalist member and proprietor of the Freeman's Journal, who was the highest Irish authority upon the subject, Ponsonby replied: "Although the Queen cannot say she has a high opinion of Mr. Gray, Her Majesty will approve of his appointment, and that of the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, on the Royal Commission." Sir Henry Ponsonby was a worthy successor of General Grey—a wise counsellor of much prudence, invaluable to the Queen.'
'Early in June Chamberlain came a good deal to the Local Government Board to consider the evidence which he was to give before my Commission. His view was mine—that in the Metropolis the housing of the working classes could only be dealt with by imposing the most stringent obligations on the owners of property on which artisans' dwellings already existed; and Chamberlain was willing to go so far as to reserve such property permanently for the object, with State interference to secure fair rents. I argued with him that a strong case could be made against him on such points as extension of trade from the City into Whitechapel, extension of fashionable dwellings from Mayfair into Chelsea, and so forth. He then fell back upon a proposal for exchange, and said that at all events there was no practical alternative to his view, an opinion in which I agreed. On a later day in June the Cardinal wrote to me expressing his regret for absence from the Commission, "at which I should like to have seen Lord Salisbury examine Mr. Chamberlain." But the Commission kept up its character for dulness, and nothing noteworthy occurred.'
The Commission on Housing, to which so much of Sir Charles's time was devoted, had an importance, now forgotten, in the modern development of Social Reform.
'Up to five-and-twenty years ago,' said a writer in a daily newspaper on Social Reform in 1910, 'when the living Sir Charles Dilke was the President of the Local Government Board, no one cared how the poor lived or fared. They could reside in the most ramshackle tenements in insanitary slums, for which, by the way, they were charged exorbitant rents, far higher than what they would now pay for the well-ventilated and well-equipped self-contained houses of the London County Council and building companies which provide accommodation for the industrial classes. Sir Charles saw the abject and helpless condition of the people of London, and resolved, when he succeeded to office, to try and remedy the evils under which they laboured. His enthusiasm in the cause of the poor caught on, and in a short time "slumming" became a fashionable craze. Committees were formed—the premier one being that which had its headquarters at the Mansion House—to improve the dwellings of the poor. In a short time the movement became a great success, and, that there should be no falling back, medical officers of health, whose sole time was to be devoted to their duties, and battalions of sanitary inspectors, were appointed in every district in the Metropolis.'
It cannot be said that 'no one cared,' for outside the great official movement which Sir Charles Dilke directed were the devoted social workers on whom he called for evidence at the Commission, and to whose labours he always paid tribute; nor must be forgotten the Queen's fine letter calling on her Ministers to act. But, as Miss Octavia Hill wrote to him on March 22nd, 1884, 'you among all men realize most clearly that action is more needed than words.'
The question of Housing is so inextricably bound up with all the conditions of the poor, with hours of work and with those questions of wages which Sir Charles had first studied with John Stuart Mill, that it is natural to find him presiding over another inquiry which, though prepared for in 1884, was carried out in the first weeks of 1885.
'At the beginning of the new year of 1885 there were completed the final arrangements for my presidency of the Industrial Remuneration Conference, which was held at the end of January at Prince's Hall, Piccadilly, on three mornings and three afternoons. A large sum of money had been given for the purpose of promoting the consideration of the best means for bringing about a more equal division of the products of industry between capital and labour, so that it might become possible for all to enjoy a fair share of material comfort and intellectual culture—possible for all to lead a dignified life, and less difficult to lead a good life. The trustees who were appointed decided to promote a conference on the present system whereby the products of industry are distributed between the various classes of the community, and the means whereby that system should be improved. They then divided the subject into subheads, and asked certain persons to read papers, and an extraordinarily interesting series of discussions was the result. In my own speech in opening the proceedings I called attention to the nature of the German Governmental Socialism, and quoted Prince Bismarck's speeches, showing what was the object which the Prussian Government had in view—namely, to try experiments as to the labour of man with the view "to reach a state of things in which no man could say: 'I bear the burden of society, but no one cares for me.'" This Conference first introduced to London audiences all the leaders of the new Unionism, and future chiefs of the Dockers' Strike. Among the speakers were Arthur Balfour and John Burns, who told us of his dismissal from his employment as an engineer at Brotherhoods [Footnote: A great engineering firm at Chippenham in Wiltshire.] for attending as delegate of the "S.D.F."'
'I am convinced,' wrote Mr. Burns in 1914 from the Office of the Local Government Board, over which he then presided, 'that few, if any, conferences held in London in recent years have done more good for the cause of social progress than the Industrial Remuneration Conference of 1885. The Conference focussed public opinion and sympathy upon a large number of important questions, which have since made greater headway than they would have done if the Conference had not taken place. I have the highest opinion of the value of its work, and of the good influence it exercised in stimulating inquiry and action in many directions.'
Six years later, when Sir Charles was before the electors of the Forest of Dean as their chosen candidate, he discussed the whole question of limiting by law the hours of work; and he told them how his experience of those days spent in the chair of the Conference in 1885 had converted him 'from a position of absolute impartiality to one strongly favourable to legislative limitation.'
A speech delivered by him in January, 1884, to the Liberals of Bedford Park, brings together the two sides of his work. For him political reform lay at the very base of social reform; in his opinion the government of London and extension of the franchise ought not to be party questions at all; his desire was to call the whole people of the country into citizenship of the State, and he would make exercise of the voting power compulsory and universal. People said there was no 'magic in the vote.' He wanted as many citizens as possible to have the right to consider 'the sort of magic by which many persons contrived to live at all under the existing social conditions.'
A proof of his friendship for the cause of labour, and of his desire to associate manual workers with the administration, was given by him in a use of patronage, in which he departed from his principle of confining it to the men in his office, tendering the chance of official employment to two leading representatives of labour in August, 1884.
'I had a "good" appointment under the Local Government Board to make, and I offered it not only to Broadhurst, but afterwards to Burt. I expected both of them to decline, which both did, but I should have been glad if either of them would have taken it, for both were competent.'
As to his departmental work, Sir Charles notes in July, 1884:
'I have said but little of my work at the Local Government Board, because, though heavy, it was of an uninteresting nature.' [Footnote: There are, however, many entries, of which this for 1884 is typical:
'September 8th.—With the Local Government Board Inspectors Fleming and Courtenay to the worst villages in England. I made my way from Bridport to Yeovil, Nettlecombe, Powerstock, Maiden Newton, Taunton and its neighbourhood, Wiveliscombe, Bridgwater, and North Petherton.'
'Between September 21st and 27th I was visiting workhouses and infirmaries every day, and on the 27th I completed my visits to every workhouse, infirmary, and poor-law school in or belonging to Metropolitan Unions.]
'My chief new departure was in connection with the emigration of pauper children, which had been long virtually prohibited, and which I once more authorized.'
Mr. Preston Thomas has fortunately preserved a note of another innovation. The Guardians of a certain union in Cambridgeshire had committed the offence of spending three shillings and threepence of public money on toys for sick pauper children in the workhouse infirmary. The case had occurred before, and the Board's legal advisers had held the expenditure to be unwarrantable, and had surcharged the offending Guardians. Dilke was questioned in the House about the matter, and admitted the previous decisions, but said that the Board had changed its mind. So the children at Wisbech kept their toys; and not only that, but a circular went out from Whitehall suggesting that workhouse girls should be supplied with a reasonable number of skipping-ropes and battledores and shuttlecocks.
The appearance of cholera in French and Spanish ports disquieted the public, and as early as July 25th, 1883,
'I circulated a draft of a Bill to meet the cholera scare, which I carried into law as the Diseases Prevention Act. I did not much believe in cholera, but I took advantage of the scare to carry some useful clauses to deal with smallpox epidemics, the most important clause being one giving compulsory powers for acquiring wharves, by which we could clear the London smallpox hospitals, removing the patients to the Atlas and Castalia floating hospitals on the Thames. I was a strong partisan of the floating hospitals for smallpox. I used to pay frequent visits to them, and in the early summer of 1885 stayed there from Saturday to Monday; and I used also to go to the camp at Darenth to which we removed convalescents from the ships.'
He notes that he was revaccinated before one of these visits:
'September, 1884.—My arm was in a frightful condition from the vaccine disease, though I was still a teetotaller, now of about ten years' standing.'
During the autumn recess:
'In the course of this week I was every day inspecting schools and asylums, the imbecile asylums at Caterham, Leavesden, and many others; and my smallpox wharves were also giving me much trouble, as Rotherhithe and the other places showed strong objections to them, which I was, however, able to remove.'
But the veteran official who has been already quoted attaches a very different importance to this whole matter. In France and Spain, says Mr. Preston Thomas, the Governments were chiefly concerned to deny the existence of any danger. In England the medical staff demanded such an increase in the number of inspectors as would enable them to take proper precautions at the ports.
'Fortunately, Sir Charles Dilke had become President of the Board, and carried with him a political weight which his two worthy, but not particularly influential, predecessors, Sclater-Booth and Dodson, had not enjoyed. He had one or two passages of arms with Childers, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when it was attempted to interfere with the estimates which he had put forward, and which he declined to defend in Parliament if they were curtailed. There was an appeal to the Premier, and Sir Charles Dilke had come off victorious. So when he proposed largely to increase the medical staff in order to make a sanitary survey of the entire coast, the Treasury's sanction was given, and the work was carried out with far-reaching results. The authorities of the ports ... were impressed with a sense of their responsibilities; not only did they organize special arrangements for the inspection of ships from infected countries, but they also recognized the necessity of setting their own houses in order in a literal sense, and many of them for the first time displayed activity in providing pure water, efficient sewerage, and a prompt removal of nuisances.... The communications of the Board's expert with the local authorities and their officers ... did something more than lay the foundations of that Public Health System ... which has saved us from any outbreak of cholera for the last quarter of a century, [Footnote: Written in 1909.] and has reduced the mortality from preventable diseases to a rate which such countries as France and Germany may well envy.' (Work and Play of a Government Inspector, p. 148.)
It should be noted, too, that the first definite action of the Housing Commission concerned the Local Government Board:
'It was decided to ask Parliament to alter its standing orders with regard to persons of the labouring class displaced under Parliamentary Powers, and to insist on local inquiry in such cases, and the approval of the Local Government Board after it has been shown that suitable accommodation had been found for the people displaced. This was done by resolution of both Houses of Parliament.'
The friendliness which had grown up between Sir Charles and Lord Salisbury, and was later in this year to be of public service, is illustrated by an amusing note in the Memoir. Sir Charles Dilke was never a clubman, and had incurred the remonstrances of Sir M. Grant Duff by refusing to take up membership of the Athenaeum, as he was entitled to do on entering the Cabinet. But there is a club more august than the Athenaeum, and here also Dilke showed indisposition to enter. He notes in May:
'Before this I had been much pressed to accept my election at Grillion's Club on Lord Salisbury's nomination. The Club considers itself such an illustrious body that it elects candidates without telling them they are proposed, and I received notice of my election accompanied by some congratulations. I at first refused to join, but afterwards wrote to the secretary: "Carlingford has been to see me about Grillion's, and tells me that I should have the terrible distinction of being the first man who ever declined to belong to it, an oddity which I cannot face, so ... I will ask your leave to withdraw my refusal." On May 3rd I breakfasted at the Club for the first time, Mr. Gladstone and a good many other Front Bench people, chiefly Conservatives, being present.'
The meetings of the Housing Commission had also increased the frequency of intercourse between Sir Charles Dilke and the Prince of Wales, who was in this May
'showing a devotion to the work of my Commission which was quite unusual with him, and he cut short his holiday and returned from Royat to London on purpose for our meeting.'
On January 11th, 1884, the Duke of Albany wrote to Sir Charles that he had hoped to call, but was not sure whether he had returned to England. 'I write to express a hope that your opinions will coincide with the request which I have made to Lord Derby ... namely, to succeed Lord Normanby as Governor of Victoria.' He referred to their talk at Claremont of his 'hopes, which were not realized, of going to Canada.' 'The Prince went on to say that, as I had been in Australia, I was "a more competent judge than some others of the Ministers as to the advisability of my appointment."' He spoke of the matter as one in which he was 'vitally interested,' and his 'sincere trust' in Sir Charles's support. The Cabinet agreed to the appointment,
'unless the Queen persisted in her opposition. The matter had been discussed at Eastwell (where I stayed with the Duchess of Edinburgh from the 19th to the 21st) by me with the Duchess as well as with Princess Louise and Lorne, who were also there. The Duke of Edinburgh was not there, but at Majorca in his ship. The party consisted of Nigra, the Italian Ambassador, the Wolseleys, Lord Baring and his sister Lady Emma, and Count Adlerberg of the Russian Embassy, in addition to the Princess Louise and Lome already named.'
'On January 24th there was a regular Cabinet. The Queen had written that she would not allow Prince Leopold to go to Victoria.'
On March 28th 'we heard of the death of Prince Leopold,' codicils to whose will Sir Charles had witnessed in the preceding year. 'All newspapers wrote of the pleasant boy as though he had been a man of literary genius.'
But anxious as Sir Charles had been to further Prince Leopold's wishes, and in spite of his 'respect for his memory,' he could not allow a principle, for which he always fought, to be waived.
'The Queen wrote to Mr. Gladstone at this time (April 5th) with regard to provision for the child and possible posthumous child of the Duke of Albany, and I wrote to Mr. Gladstone that I could not possibly agree to any provision for them, for which there was no exact precedent, without the Select Committee which I had previously been promised as regarded any new application.'
On April 22nd Mr. Gladstone alluded 'to a letter to the Queen, but he did not read it to us,' and Sir Charles again insisted 'upon inquiry before the proposal of any provision for which there was no direct precedent.'
'At the Cabinet of Monday, April 28th, we found that the Queen was indignant with us for our refusal to make further provision for the Duchess of Albany.... None of the precedents of the century warranted provision for children in infancy. It was agreed that Mr. Gladstone was to write to the Queen again, but "our negative answer is only applicable to the case where the children are in infancy." In other words, we did not wish to bind those who might come after us, but the phrase was not to commit us as to what we would do in five years' time.'
At the close of 1883 the destruction of Hicks's army had made clear to all that the Soudan was, for the time at least, lost to Egypt; and close upon this disaster in the central region had followed defeats on the Red Sea coast. But Egyptian garrisons were holding out at Sinkat, some fifty miles from the port of Suakim, and at Tokar, only twenty miles from the coast. In October, 1883, a small force sent to relieve Sinkat was cut up by the Dervishes under Osman Digna; in November, a larger column of 500, accompanied by the British Consul, was utterly routed in an attempt to reach Tokar. General Baker, with his newly formed gendarmerie, was then ordered to Suakim. He desired to enlist the services of Zebehr Pasha, a famous leader of men, but a former dealer in slaves. To this the British authorities objected, and Zebehr was not sent. Baker went, attempted with 3,500 troops to reach Tokar, and on February 2nd, 1884, lost 2,000 of them near the wells of El Teb. Both Tokar and Sinkat soon after fell into the hands of the Dervishes.
Long before this event, the evacuation of the Soudan had been decreed. A peremptory mandate from the British Government was sent to Cherif Pasha, the Egyptian Prime Minister, who, as he had intimated that he would do, resigned rather than be responsible for giving up so vast a possession. On January 8th, Nubar took office to carry out the prescribed policy. But the problem was how to get away the garrisons, and, since England had ordered evacuation, the Egyptian Government looked to England for assistance.
'On January 16th I noted: "Baring wants to make us send a British officer to conduct the retreat from Khartoum. I have written to Lord Granville to protest." Baring had been pressing for an answer to his suggestion named above. I had all along fought against the "Hicks Expedition," and this seemed a consequence. The Egyptian Government had resigned, and the sole supporter of the abandonment policy among the Egyptians in Egypt was the Khedive himself; but Nubar was sent for, and accepted office (with a number of cyphers) to carry it into effect. On January 10th Lord Granville had telegraphed to Baring, without my knowledge, "Would Gordon or Wilson be of use?" [Footnote: Colonel Sir Charles Wilson. See his Life, by Sir Charles Watson, p. 244.] On the 11th Baring replied, "I do not think that the services of Gordon or Wilson can be utilized at present"; and after a reply had been received I saw the telegrams. The earlier Gordon suggestions by Granville, now revealed by E. Fitzmaurice from the Granville Papers, and expounded in Cromer's (1908) book, were never before the Cabinet. [Footnote: Life of Lord Granville, vol. ii., pp. 381, 382.]
'On the 14th Lord Granville telegraphed to Baring: "Can you give further information as to prospects of retreat from (? for) army and residents at Khartoum, and measures taken? Can anything more be done?" Power, our Consular Agent at Khartoum, had also been told that he might leave. On January 16th Baring telegraphed: "The Egyptian Government would feel obliged if Her Majesty's Government would send out at once a qualified British officer to go to Khartoum with full powers, civil and military, to conduct the retreat." Lord Granville then telegraphed for Gordon, and on the 18th I was summoned suddenly to a meeting at the War Office in Hartington's room, at which were present, before I arrived, Hartington, Lord Granville and Lord Northbrook, and Colonel Gordon. Gordon said that he believed that the danger at Khartoum had been "grossly exaggerated," and that the two Englishmen there had "lost their heads"; he would be able to bring away the garrisons without difficulty. We decided that he should go to Suakim to collect information and report on the situation in the Soudan. This was the sole decision taken, but it was understood that if he found he could get across he should go on to Berber. Gordon started at night on the same day.
'On January 22nd the first subject mentioned was that of Egyptian finance, a Rothschild loan for six months being suggested, but nothing settled. The Cabinet approved our action in sending Gordon. But they had before them a great deal more than what we had done—namely, what he had done himself. On his road between London and Brindisi he had prepared a series of decrees which he telegraphed to us and which we telegraphed to Baring. In these he announced the restoration to the various Sultans of the Soudan of their independence, and he made the Khedive say: "I have commissioned General Gordon, late Governor-General of the Soudan, to proceed there as my representative, and to arrange with you" (the peoples of the Soudan) "for the evacuation of the country and the withdrawal of my troops." He then made the Khedive appoint him "Governor-General for the time necessary to accomplish the evacuation." He also telegraphed to the Hadendowa and Bishareen Arabs of the desert between Suakim and Berber, directing them to meet him at Suakim, and saying that he should be there in fourteen days. In sending these we told Baring: "Suggestions made by Gordon. We have no local knowledge sufficient to judge. You may settle terms, and act upon them at once, as time presses, or after consultation with him." Mr. Gladstone did not object, although strongly opposed to our undertaking responsibility in the Soudan, because Gordon still spoke in every sentence of conducting the evacuation; but reading his proclamations in the light of his subsequent change of mind, and desire to stay in Khartoum and be supported by force, it seems clear that he had deceived us and did not really mean evacuation. This, however, could not yet be seen from the words he used. I wrote to Lord Granville on January 22nd, to point out that in addition to the danger in the Soudan, which had been foreseen, there was a risk that Gordon might get himself carried off alive into the desert by some of the Arab chiefs that he was to meet, and that in that case we should have to send an expedition after him.
'On January 31st there was a meeting at the War Office about Egypt between Hartington, Lord Granville, Edmond Fitzmaurice and myself. As the facts about Gordon were beginning to be misrepresented in the Press, Lord Granville set them down in writing. [Footnote: See Life of Gladstone, vol. iii., pp. 152-155; Life of Granville, vol. ii., pp. 381-385 and 512, where a letter from Lord Cromer on General Gordon's instructions is printed; and chap. xvi. ('Gordon, and the Soudan') in The Development of the European Nations, 1870-1900, by Dr. J. Holland Rose.] It had been stated, and was afterwards repeated by Justin McCarthy in his history, that the mission on which we sent Gordon "was in direct opposition to his own ideas. He was not in favour of the abandonment of the Soudan or the evacuation of Khartoum." It had also been said that the whole mission had been forced upon us by the Press—i.e., by Stead, in the Pall Mall Gazette. Lord Granville gave me a memorandum saying that Gordon had acknowledged that the statements in the Pall Mall were "not accurate." Lord Granville went on to say that he did not think that Gordon could be said to have "changed his mind. It appeared in his conversation with Wolseley on the Tuesday that he (Gordon) was not decided in his opinion, and that he was as likely to recommend one course as another.... I told him that we would not send him out to re-open the whole question, and he then declared himself ready to go out merely to help in the evacuation of the interior of the Soudan. He is not remarkably precise in conversation, though I found him much more so than Wolseley had led me to expect."
'Lord Granville had previously written to me on this point: "The papers seem to think that Gordon is a new discovery by the Government under pressure of the Press. It happens that I consulted Malet on the subject months ago. But after communicating with Cherif he sent me an unfavourable reply. I subsequently consulted Baring, who agreed with Cherif that it was best not to do so. I consulted him again after the change of Ministry, with the same result. On the other hand Gordon was in Syria, having declared before leaving England that he would not enter the Egyptian service. It was only on his return to England that I heard indirectly that, although he had no wish to go, he would willingly obey the orders of Her Majesty's Government and act under the instructions of Sir Evelyn Baring and the orders of General Stephenson. Having got the full concurrence of Sir E. Baring by telegraph, the matter was arranged."
'The fact was that it was Wolseley, Gordon's friend, who suggested that he should be sent and who induced him to go; but Wolseley's account of the matter could not, I fear, be trusted, as he is more inclined to attack Gladstone than to let out anything which in the light of subsequent events might be unpleasant to himself.
'Edmond Fitzmaurice had drawn up an elaborate memorandum for our meeting at the War Office, which I have, with my own corrections. He thought that the public was hostile to us on four grounds: our non-interference to stop Hicks; [Footnote: General Hicks advanced west of the Nile, contrary to the views of Lord Dufferin, who wished him to limit his advance to the province lying between the bifurcation of the Blue and White Nile. See the Life of Dufferin, by Alfred Lyall, vol. ii., pp. 56, 57.] our failure to withdraw the garrisons of Khartoum and of the Equatorial Provinces in time to avoid disaster; our failure to relieve Sinkat; and, on the other hand, our decision to force the Egyptians to evacuate the Soudan in the face of defeat, a decision which had overturned Cherif Pasha. With regard to Hicks, we could only tell the truth, which was that our policy was to limit, not extend, the sphere of our responsibilities in Egypt; that we followed the advice we got, which was either for doing exactly what we did, or for a moderate support of Hicks, which latter we declined. Our opponents were prophesying after the event. We should have taken a great responsibility had we absolutely forbidden the Egyptian Government to make use of their own troops (not including any portion of the army officered by English officers under Sir Evelyn Wood for the defence of Lower Egypt) to crush the Mahdi. Hicks had at first defeated the Mahdi in every encounter and cleared him out of the whole country east of the Nile. [Footnote: Hicks Pasha complained that directly Lord Dufferin had left Cairo for Constantinople, he ceased to received adequate support from the Egyptian Government (Life of Dufferin. vol. ii., p. 55).] The main point, however, and that of present importance, was our forcing upon the Egyptians the policy of evacuating the Soudan after Hicks's defeat. Fitzmaurice wrote: "The Soudan could not be held without the assistance of England, and it is not a British interest to hold the Soudan.... The cost of the Soudan is one of the causes which ruin the Egyptian Treasury." Edmond Fitzmaurice then went on to explain in his memorandum the reasons which had forced us to wait until January 4th before we had told the Egyptian Government as to withdrawal from the interior of the Soudan, including Khartoum—"that the Ministers must carry out the advice offered them, or forfeit their places."
'On January 9th we had been told from Khartoum that, if a retreat was ordered at once, it could be safely effected; and it was on the next day, the 10th, that we offered the services of Colonels Gordon and Sir Charles Wilson, which were declined. It was not till January 16th that we were able to induce the Egyptians, even under their new withdrawal Government, to ask for a British officer, and on the 18th Gordon was sent. Gordon, however—who had left us to go to Suakim, and for whom we had drawn up a route from Suakim to Berber, in case he should go forward, and negotiated with the tribes for his free passage, and of whom we had telegraphed to Baring, "He does not wish to go to Cairo"—went to Cairo, "at Baring's" suggestion. He did not even land at Alexandria, but he was stopped by Baring at Port Said when on his way to Suakim, Baring sending Sir Evelyn Wood to meet him. Baring had already given orders, through Nubar, to commence the evacuation. Gordon had telegraphed to us requesting us to send Zebehr Pasha to Cyprus—that is, arbitrarily to arrest him and deport him. Yet, when he reached Cairo, at his own wish he had had an interview with this very man, and shortly afterwards he telegraphed to us, asking leave to take him to Khartoum and to make him virtually Governor of the Soudan, which, indeed, would have been entirely outside our power; for Forster, supported by the Anti- Slavery Society and the Conservatives, would at once have upset us in the House of Commons and reversed the policy. Wolseley had already begun to press as early as the 23rd for the sending of an expedition via Suakim and Berber.
'On January 26th Gordon had left for Khartoum without any communication with us upon the question whether he should go, and the last thing we had from him before he started was a memorandum in which, among other things, he said of the Soudan: "Few men can stand its fearful monotony and deadly climate." He insisted on absolute authority, and Stewart, who was with him, did the same for him, and, backing up his chief's arguments at this moment against Zebehr, said that Zebehr's return would undoubtedly be a misfortune to the Soudanese, and also a direct encouragement to the slave trade.
'On February 1st we received a telegram from Baring, telling us that Gordon had taken with him proclamations of evacuation, and other proclamations less direct, with authority to issue those which he thought best; but "he fully understands that he is to carry out the policy of evacuation, in which he expressed to me his entire agreement. I have sent home by last mail my instructions to him, which leave no doubt on this point, and which were drafted at his request and with his full approval.... There is no sort of difference between his views and those entertained by Nubar Pasha and myself." Here ended our responsibility, because it must be remembered that Gordon at Khartoum was entirely outside our reach, and openly told us that he should not obey our orders when he did not choose to do so. From this moment we had only to please ourselves as to whether we should disavow him and say that he was acting in defiance of instructions, and must be left to his fate, or whether we should send an expedition to get him out.
'Doubtless "we" wavered between these two opinions. Mr. Gladstone from the first moment that Gordon broke his orders was for the former view. Lord Hartington from the first moment was for the latter. Chamberlain and I supported Hartington, although we fully recognized Gordon's violations of his orders in much of his action at Khartoum, where he changed the policy agreed upon with Baring and with us to that expressed by him in the words, "Smash the Mahdi." Many members of the Cabinet went backwards and forwards in their opinion, but the circumstances were of incredible difficulty, and it must be remembered that we were not sure of being allowed to carry out either policy; and not only was it difficult to decide which of the two was right, but it was also difficult to decide whether either policy was possible—that is to say, whether the one adopted would not be immediately upset by a Parliamentary vote. The Liberal party in the House of Commons was divided on the matter, the Whigs generally wishing for an expedition, and the Radicals being hot for immediate abandonment of the Soudan, which meant abandonment of Gordon. The Conservatives were divided; most of them probably wished for an expedition, but they were afraid to say so; and Randolph Churchill, whose strength at this time was immense, was in full agreement with Labouchere and Wilfrid Lawson, and was denouncing the retention of the Soudan as a violation of the principles of freedom.
'Gordon on his way up and on his arrival at Khartoum issued extraordinary proclamations. Arriving there alone, but with incredible prestige, he was hailed as father of the people; he burned the taxation books and the whips upon the public place; he released the prisoners from the gaol; he sent away the commander of the garrison with the words, "Rest assured you leave this place as safe as Kensington Park." He declared the Mahdi "Sultan of Kordofan." Gordon, of all men in the world, sanctioned slavery by another written document; and he then asked us to send the arch slave-driver Zebehr to his help, which we thought on Baring's truthful opinion of the moment that we ought not to do, and which we certainly could not have done. I thought and still think that Gordon had lost his senses, as he had done on former critical occasions in his life; but the romantic element in his nature appealed to me, and, while I could not but admit that he had defied every instruction which had been given to him, I should have sent an expedition to bring him out, although thinking it probable that when Wolseley reached him he would have refused to come.'
While Gordon was on his way to Khartoum, which he reached on February 18th, the defeat at El Teb had occurred, and the question arose as to what should be done in the Eastern Soudan.
'On February 6th the Cabinet met twice, and at our second meeting it was decided to send marines to Suakim.
'On Thursday, February 7th, I visited the Admiralty with Pauncefote in order to take in hand the defence of the Red Sea coast against the Arabs, and then I went to the War Office, where I met Hartington, Northbrook, Wolseley, and Cooper Key, in order to concert steps. When I passed through the Secretary's room after the meeting, and stayed for a moment to talk with Hobart and Fleetwood Wilson, the Duke of Cambridge (whose room opened into theirs, and who had evidently been lying in wait for me) rushed out and carried me off into his room, and made much of me, with an enthusiastic desire to help an expedition. At night, Hartington, Chamberlain, and I met in Hartington's room and decided to press for relief of Gordon.
'On February 8th Chamberlain wrote to me, "I should like to telegraph to Baring, 'If you think that employment of British troops could relieve beleaguered garrisons in Soudan without danger, you are authorized to concert measures with Evelyn Wood.'" A Cabinet was called at the wish of Hartington, Chamberlain, and myself, for this day upon this point. Hartington, Harcourt, Northbrook, Carlingford, Chamberlain, and I, were for asking Gordon if a demonstration at Suakim would help him. Mr. Gladstone and Lord Granville, very strong the other way, broke up the meeting sooner than agree.'
'Gordon had acted as Governor-General of the Soudan without having told us that he had accepted this appointment, and we had had to ask on February 4th a question which had been answered by Baring on the 5th, to the effect that Gordon had "at his own request" been appointed Governor-General. On February 6th Baring had telegraphed stating that Gordon had said that it was possible he might go to the Mahdi and not be heard of for two months, as the Mahdi might keep him as a hostage for Zebehr. On the same day we telegraphed to Baring approving his having told Gordon that there would be the strongest objections to his placing himself in the Mahdi's power. On February 7th we received a despatch by post from Baring in which he informed us that, while Gordon would probably ask for Zebehr, "it would certainly not be desirable to send him ... for he is manifestly animated by a feeling of deep resentment against General Gordon." At the same time Baring forwarded a shorthand report of the meeting between Gordon, Zebehr, Baring, Stewart, Colonel Watson, Sir Evelyn Wood, and Nubar, at which Zebehr had told Gordon that he had entrusted his son to him, "and told you he was thenceforth your son. He was only sixteen years of age.... I entrusted my son to you.... But you killed my son whom I entrusted to you. He was as your own son." Gordon: "Well, well, I killed my own son. There is an end of it." Zebehr: "And then you brought my wives and women and children in chains to Khartoum, a thing which for my name in the Soudan was most degrading."
'By the same mail we received a despatch from Baring in which he made it clear that Gordon's instructions had Gordon's full approval. "He expressed to me his entire concurrence in the instructions. The only suggestion he made was in connection with the passage in which, speaking of the policy of abandoning the Soudan, I had said, 'I understand also that you entirely concur in the desirability of adopting this policy.' General Gordon wished that I should add the words 'and that you think it should on no account be changed.' These words were accordingly added."
'Between this Cabinet and the next we received, on February 9th, a telegram from Baring to the effect that he was sending home a letter from Gordon to the King of the Belgians in which he urged the king to appoint him Governor of the Equatorial Provinces, Gordon's idea being to go there from Khartoum; and Baring stated his own view that we should forbid Gordon to go south of Khartoum. In his letter, which was dated February 1st, Gordon said that the King of the Belgians had told him that he would take over the Provinces with the troops in them, when Gordon had been at Brussels immediately before we sent him out; but not one word had Gordon ever breathed of this; and when we first heard of it he was virtually beyond our reach, seated, when our answer arrived, at Khartoum, and little disposed to listen to us, although on some points, for a few days, he pretended to listen.
'On February 12th Baring telegraphed that he hoped that "H.M.G. will not change any of the main points of their policy"; but, as will be seen a little later, Baring soon changed his own, adopting the new policy of Gordon, and pressing it upon us.
'On February 12th it was decided, against Mr. Gladstone, to send an expedition to the Red Sea Coast.
'On February 13th we had before us a statement which had been made the previous day by Randolph Churchill, to the effect that in the summer of 1883 General Gordon had offered to go to the Soudan, and that the Government had telegraphed to him accepting his offer, and then written to him declining it. Lord Granville instructed me to say that the whole story was one gigantic concoction. I then asked Hartington if he knew anything about it; and Lord Wolseley ultimately discovered that Randolph Churchill had confused the Congo with the Nile, an amusing example of his harum-scarum recklessness. Gordon had telegraphed from Syria in October for leave to accept service under the King of the Belgians on the Congo, and the Commander-in-Chief had replied by telegraph that the Secretary of State declined to sanction his employment. In transmission the word "declines" was changed into "decides," which exactly reversed its sense, so that Gordon had received a confirming letter consistent with the telegram as sent, but exactly reversing the sense of the telegram as received. He had told the story which Churchill had heard, but altered from one side of Africa to the other.'
On February 14th Sir Charles made effective use of this blunder in the debate upon the vote of censure concerning Egypt. It was a debating speech which, he himself notes, 'had extraordinary success.' Lord Randolph Churchill had been more than usually aggressive, and Sir Charles hammered him with detailed facts. [Footnote: He comments on the 20th on the opinions expressed to him as to his powers of debate: 'This is a curious position for a man who has no natural gift of speech. I can remember when I was the worst speaker that ever spoke at all.'] The debate on this vote of censure, occasioned by the fall of Sinkat, occupied the House for five days. The motion was defeated by forty-nine.
'On February 14th I found that Lord Granville had not answered an important question from Baring about Wood's Egyptians which had been received by us on the 13th, and that because he had not seen it. We had started a red label as a danger-signal for pressing notes; but Lord Granville's room was full of red-labelled notes not touched.'
He records his remonstrances with Lord Granville as to the non- employment of Sir Evelyn Wood's Egyptians. On February 18th there was a Cabinet 'partly upon this subject. It was decided to send reinforcements to Egypt.'
'On February 21st there was another Cabinet which again discussed the Egyptian question and decided to send Wood's Egyptians to Assouan. On the 15th Gordon had reassured us by telling us that all communication between Cairo and the Soudan would be finally at an end within three months' (that is, that evacuation would be easily carried out). 'On February 18th we had heard that on the 17th Gordon had issued a proclamation saying that the Government would not interfere with the buying and selling of slaves; and this telegram, having got out from Cairo, produced a storm in England. On the 19th there occurred another matter which was considered by the Cabinet at the same time—the absolute refusal of Admiral Hewett, and very proper refusal, to issue a proclamation calling on the chiefs from Suakim to go peacefully to meet Gordon at Khartoum, inasmuch as the Admiral knew "that English troops are about to be sent against the people in question." The issue of this proclamation had been recommended by Wolseley, who thinks that Governments exist for the purpose of deceiving enemies in war for the benefit of generals.
'On the same day, February 19th, we had received a telegram which had been sent off from Khartoum by Gordon on the 18th, asking that Zebehr should be sent to the Soudan, "be made K.C.M.G., and given presents." This was backed by Stewart, so far as that he said that someone should be sent, adding that he was not sure whether Zebehr was the best man. It was clear from Gordon's proposed conditions that Zebehr was to be free to prosecute the slave trade. In another memorandum on the same day Gordon said that we must "give a commission to some man and promise him the moral support of H.M.G.... It may be argued that H.M.G. would thus be giving ... moral support to a man who will rule over a slave state.... This nomination of my successor must ... be direct from Her Majesty's Government.... As for the man, H.M.G. should select one above all others, namely Zebehr." Baring now backed this opinion up, so that we were face to face with an absolute change of front on the part of Gordon and Baring, and a partial change of front on the part of Stewart. On the other hand, Baring, at the same time when he told us to appoint Zebehr, added: "I am quite certain that Zebehr hates Gordon bitterly, and that he is very vindictive. I would not on any account risk putting Gordon in his power.... He is, to my personal knowledge, exceedingly untruthful.... I cannot recommend his being promised the moral support of Her Majesty's Government. He would scarcely understand the phrase, and, moreover, I do not think he would attach importance to any support which was not material.... I doubt the utility of making conditions. Zebehr would probably not observe them long." Baring further proposed that Zebehr should be given money, and he left us to judge of the effect of the whole scheme on public opinion in England. Colonel Watson, who had been present at the meeting between Zebehr and Gordon, informed us that to let Gordon and Zebehr be together in the Soudan "would entail the death of either one or other of them." On the 21st Gordon telegraphed to the newspapers explaining away his slave trade proclamation, but its terms were even worse than could have been gathered from the first summary, which was all that we had received.
'On February 21st we received the text of Gordon's proclamation, which contained the words, "I confer upon you these rights, that henceforth none shall interfere with your property," and spoke with apparent regret of "severe measures taken by Government for the suppression of slave traffic, and seizure and punishment of all concerned."
'On February 26th there was a meeting of Mr. Gladstone, Hartington, Childers, Chamberlain, Dodson, and myself, to approve a telegram from Hartington to General Graham; [Footnote: General Graham was in command of the expedition to Suakim.] and on the next day again, the 27th, a meeting of Lord Granville, Hartington, Northbrook, and myself, which decided to invite the Turk to show himself at the Red Sea ports. On the 29th there was a Cabinet at which it was decided that the Turk must approve our future ruler of the Soudan, and that British troops were to go as far as Assouan if Baring thought it necessary.
'On February 27th Gordon had frightened us out of our senses by telegraphing that, having put out his programme of peace, and allowed time to elapse, he was now sending out his troops to show his force; and another telegram from him said: "Expedition starts at once to attack rebels." On the same day he telegraphed that he had issued a proclamation "that British troops are now on their way, and in a few days will reach Khartoum." It was very difficult to know what to do with this amazing lie: solemnly to point out to him by telegraph that it was a lie was hardly of much use with a man of Gordon's stamp; and what was done was to send a strong private telegram to Baring to communicate with him about it, but the result was not encouraging, for it was the first ground for the desperate quarrel which Gordon afterwards picked with Baring, and for his charge against Baring of inciting the Government to drive him to his death.
'On the next day, February 28th, Gordon, having heard that Zebehr was refused, telegraphed his policy of smashing up the Mahdi, which, however, he seemed inclined to attempt with a most inadequate force. "Mahdi must be smashed up. Mahdi is most unpopular, and with care and time could be smashed.... If you decide on smashing Mahdi, then send another hundred thousand pounds, and send 200 Indian troops to Wady Haifa, and an officer to Dongola under pretence to look out quarters for troops.... At present it would be comparatively easy to destroy Mahdi." Gordon had also telegraphed to Baring to recommend that 3,000 black Egyptian troops should be kept in the Soudan, and completely throwing over the evacuation policy. Baring added for himself: "There are obviously many contradictions in General Gordon's different proposals"; but he went on to express his agreement in Gordon's new policy, strongly supported the selection of Zebehr, and sneered at us for having regard to uninstructed opinion in England. On the same day Gordon telegraphed: "If a hundred British troops were sent to Assouan or Wady Halfa, they would run no more risk than Nile tourists, and would have the best effect." At the same time Baring said: "I certainly would not risk sending so small a body as 100 men." It will be seen in how great a difficulty the Government were placed; but Baring's position was, in fact, as difficult as our own. We were evidently dealing with a wild man under the influence of that climate of Central Africa which acts even upon the sanest men like strong drink.
'On the same day Gordon telegraphed to us completely changing his ground about Suakim. He had previously prevented our doing anything except trying to relieve the towns blockaded, but on March 1st told us to do something to draw the Hadendowa down to Suakim. On the 2nd, General Graham having beaten the Arabs at Teb, the Admiral asked us to send more troops and to threaten Osman Digna's main force, a suggestion which concurred with Gordon's. And on March 5th the Cabinet met and decided that, while it was impossible to send Zebehr to the Soudan, General Graham was to be allowed to attack Osman Digna's main force.... Chamberlain then suggested that I should go to Egypt: Hartington evidently thought that somebody should go, and thought he had better go himself. Lord Granville would not have either, as might have been expected.... I suggested a way out of the Zebehr difficulty, and wrote to Chamberlain: "If I were sent out to do this, I believe I should get away the forces from the interior and have Zebehr elected, entirely without our action, by the Notables at Khartoum. On the whole, this would do if we did not do it. This would, in my opinion, be improved by Turkish approval under Turkish suzerainty, but that you do not like." Chamberlain answered: "Perhaps we cannot help having Zebehr, but surely we ought not to promote him, directly or indirectly; not only because he is a slave- hunter, but also because he will probably attack Egypt sooner or later, and very likely with the help of our subsidy." I replied: "I am quite clear that we must not set up Zebehr, but if we retire we cannot prevent his election by the Notables; and they would elect him." In the meantime Gordon had completely thrown over Baring's suggestion that Zebehr should be sent (but so sent that he and Gordon should not be in the Soudan together) by telegraphing that the combination at Khartoum of Zebehr and himself was "an absolute necessity," and that it would be "absolutely necessary" for him to stay at Khartoum with Zebehr for four months; and Stewart had now completely come over to Gordon's policy about Zebehr personally. On the other hand, Baring and the military authorities in Egypt were unanimously opposed to the idea of sending a small British force to Wady Halfa.
'On March 7th it was decided to give an inland district to the Abyssinians, but not to offer them a port (which was what they wanted), on account of its not being ours to give away from the Turks. The Cabinet would not hear of receiving a Turkish Commissioner at Cairo.
'On March 11th we further considered pressing demands from Gordon and Baring for Zebehr. Mr. Gladstone had taken to his bed, but was known to be strongly in favour of sending Zebehr. The Cabinet were unanimous the other way, and Hartington was sent to see Mr. Gladstone, we waiting till he returned. When he came back, he laconically stated what had passed as follows: "He thinks it very likely that we cannot make the House swallow Zebehr, but he thinks he could." Morley has told this, but the words which he took verbally from me are less good. [Footnote: Life of Gladstone, vol. iii., p. 159.] Baring on the 6th had recommended a further attack on Osman Digna, which he thought might open the Berber route. On the 9th we received Gordon's replies to our telegrams of the 5th, showing that he had done nothing towards the evacuation of Khartoum except by sending away the sick. He admitted that it was possible that "Zebehr, who hates the tribes, did stir up the fires of revolt, in hopes that he would be sent to quell it. It is the irony of fate that he will get his wish if sent up." On the same day Baring informed us that it was clear that Gordon now had no influence outside Khartoum, and that he contemplated the despatch of British troops. The Anti-Slavery Society had strongly protested against the employment of Zebehr, and they pointed out to us the records of murders "in which this man has stood the foremost and the principal actor.... Countenance ... of such an individual by the British Government would be a degradation for England and a scandal to Europe." W. E. Forster, amid loud cheers from the Conservatives, protested in advance in the House of Commons against the policy of sending Zebehr. On March 11th we had received in the morning from Baring twelve telegrams from Gordon, of the most extraordinary nature, which Baring had answered: "I am most anxious to help and support you in every way, but I find it very difficult to understand exactly what it is you want." Besides deciding that Zebehr could not be sent, the Cabinet changed its mind about the employment of Turks in the Red Sea, and decided that they could not be allowed to go there at present.
'On March 13th the matter was again considered by a Cabinet, which was not called a Cabinet as Mr. Gladstone was in bed and Chamberlain was at Birmingham, and on the 14th we met again, still retaining our opinion; and on Sunday, the 16th, Mr. Gladstone at last unwillingly gave up Zebehr as impossible. [Footnote: Life of Granville, vol. ii., p. 388.]
'I had been at this time working out the facts connected with the two routes to Khartoum in case an expedition should be sent, and had made up my own mind in favour of the Nile route; Wolseley still being the other way.
'On March 17th, I wrote to Lord Northbrook to protest against a proclamation which had been issued by the Admiral and General at Suakim offering a reward for Osman Digna, and I wrote also to Hartington upon the same subject, stating that I would not defend it, and that if it were "not disapproved, and the disapproval made public, I cannot remain a member of the Government." Northbrook would not admit that he had disapproved it, but Hartington did, and also informed me that Northbrook had telegraphed. Lord Granville agreed with me that the proclamation was not defensible, and it was as a fact withdrawn, although the Admiral was very angry.
'Mr. Gladstone had gone down to Coombe, near Wimbledon. On March 22nd we held a Cabinet without him.... Harcourt was now writing to me in favour of the view "that we must get out of Egypt as soon as possible at any price. The idea of our administering it or of the Egyptian army defending it is equally out of the question." On the 25th we had another Cabinet without Mr. Gladstone. Turning to Gordon, we decided that a force was not to be sent to Berber; but I noted in my diary: "It will have to be sent next autumn, I believe"; but when I said to Berber, it must be remembered, of course, that there were two ways of reaching Berber, and Lord Hartington, Brett, and I, now turned steadily to the consideration of which of those two ways should be taken. It will be remembered that we already had a report in print as to the Suakim-Berber route. [Footnote: See p. 33; 'We had drawn up a route from Suakim to Berber.'] We now obtained from Wolseley a general report, which was afterwards printed and circulated to the Cabinet on April 8th. Lord Wolseley, preparing for the sending of a military force to Khartoum this autumn, stated that his force must be exclusively British, for he doubted whether the very best of our Indian regiments could stand the charges of the Arabs, besides which our natives took the field encumbered with followers. Lord Roberts, who was not given to boasting, told me, long afterwards, that he, on the other hand, was sure that he could have marched from Suakim to the Nile and Khartoum with an exclusively Indian force. It is the case that our best Gurkha troops have sometimes stood when white troops have run. Wolseley had now come round to a boat expedition, which I had been for a long time urging, upon information which I had obtained for myself from the Admiralty, and which was afterwards printed by the Foreign Intelligence Committee at the Admiralty, and circulated to the Cabinet in April, a further document upon the subject being circulated to the Cabinet in May. It must be remembered that the date of passing the cataracts was settled for us by the high Nile, and that there was only one time of year at which the expedition could be safely sent.