Page:Dictionary of National Biography. Sup. Vol II (1901).djvu/27

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
Churchill
Churchill
15

Salisbury, Sir Stafford Northcote, Edward Stanhope, and Mr. Arthur Balfour. A severe struggle took place in the association, where Lord Randolph was denounced for his open adoption of radical views on lease-hold enfranchisement, and for his endeavour to introduce the methods of the Birmingham caucus into the conservative organisations. A resolution was carried in the council of the association which Lord Randolph regarded as a vote of confidence in the central committee. He immediately resigned the chairmanship (3 May), and a letter, addressed by him to Lord Salisbury, appeared in the 'Standard,' in which he contended vigorously, and with much plainness of speech, for 'that popular form of representative organisation which had contributed so greatly to the triumph of the liberal party in 1880.' As for the caucus, it may be, he said,' a name of evil sound and omen in the ears of aristocratic and privileged classes, but it is undeniably the only form of political organisation which can collect, guide, and control for common objects large masses of electors.' This bold defiance of 'effete wire-pulling' and secret influence, and the threat to appeal to the general body of conservatives in the country, were to a large extent successful. On 7 May Edward Stanhope [q. v.], speaking for the conservative front-bench, accepted the principle of popular and representative party organisation. On 8 May the chairmen of the conservative associations in some of the largest constituencies in England and Scotland held a meeting, and requested Lord Randolph to withdraw his resignation of the chairmanship, which he consented to do, on the understanding that the main points for which he contended should be adopted. This recognition of his position by the party leaders was followed by his appearance at the meeting of the conservative party at the Carlton Club (9 May), where he spoke immediately after Sir Stafford Northcote, and generally supported his views on the proposed vote of censure. The partial reconciliation, however, did not prevent him, ten days later, from opposing Mr. Brodrick's amendment to the franchise bill, which aimed at excluding Ireland. On this, and on Colonel Stanley's amendment for postponing the operation of the measure till a new redistribution or boundary bill should become law, his attitude provoked from Mr. Balfour the observation that if the noble lord had endeavoured to place himself in accord with the majority of his party, he had not succeeded in his object. On 23 July the annual conference of the National Union of Conservative Associations assembled at Sheffield under the presidency of Randolph Churchill. The contest between the two sections was renewed over the election of members of the council for the ensuing year. The result was again a success for the chairman, twenty-two out of the thirty candidates recommended by him being selected. This further proof of his influence in the constituencies led to a final adjustment of the dispute. The question of the National Union was settled by a compromise. At a meeting of the council on 31 July, Churchill resigned the chairmanship, and moved the election of Sir Michael Hicks-Beach as chairman for the ensuing year. Mr. Gorst, Mr. Balfour, and Mr. Akers-Douglas were chosen vice-chairmen. As a public demonstration that the quarrel was at an end, and that Lord Randolph was officially accepted as one of the party leaders; he appeared on the same platform with Lord Salisbury at a great conservative meeting at Manchester (9 Aug.)

In the recess agitation he took an active part, strongly supporting the action of the House of Lords in adopting Lord Cairns's amendment to the franchise bill. He declared his confidence that the nation 'would award the palm, and the honour, and the victory to those who, conscious of the immeasurable responsibilities attaching to an hereditary house, have dauntlessly defended, against an arbitrary minister, the ancient liberties of our race.' He also insisted on the unity of the opposition. 'Tory disunion,' he said in his Manchester speech, with his usual audacity of assertion,' is a phantom and a fiction, the ridiculous figment of a disordered and dissipated liberal imagination.' His platform campaign ended at Carlisle on 8 Oct., when he concluded his address with a description of the liberals as 'clouds without water, blown about by the wind ; wandering stars, whose helplessness would compel the English people to turn to the united and historic party, which can alone re-establish your social and imperial interests, and can alone proceed safely, steadily, and surely along the broad path of social progress and reform.'

Before the close of the autumn session of 1884, in which the franchise bill was passed, Churchill started for a tour of some months in India. He left England towards the end of November and landed at Bombay, where he was the guest of Sir James Fergusson, the governor. He visited the other Indian capitals and most of the chief towns of the peninsula, occupying himself to some extent with sport, and at the same time studying the political situation of the country. He was enthusiastically welcomed by some of