Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 54.djvu/69

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


was accordingly in his hands, and when it passed he became the first secretary of state for India. In this office he came on several occasions into collision with the policy of the governor-general, Lord Canning; in parliament, though not a prominent debater, he showed talents for business, and the general success of his Indian administration added to the reputation of the government. In the discussions in the cabinet on the Reform Bill of 1859 Stanley supported the disfranchising clauses, even threatening resignation unless the measures were made more liberal (Malmesbury, Memoirs of an ex-Minister, ii. 157). Going out of office again in June, he continued active in support of reforms of a moderate liberal character. He served on the Cambridge University commission, and supported the admission of nonconformists to fellowships. He presided over commissions on the sanitary state of the Indian army and on patent law.

A curious episode followed in 1862–3. On the revolution which expelled King Otho, the throne of Greece was offered to and refused by Queen Victoria's second son, Prince Alfred (afterwards Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha). Thereupon the idea was seriously entertained by the authorities in Greece of making the offer to Stanley. ‘The Greeks really want to make our friend Lord Stanley their king,’ wrote Disraeli on 7 Feb. 1863. Stanley declined the suggestion (FROUDE, Earl of Beaconsfield, p. 184). He increased his reputation in the House of Commons when he seconded Lord Grosvenor's amendment to the Reform Bill of 1866, which proposed the postponement of the discussion of any reduction of the franchise until the whole of the government scheme had been placed before the House of Commons; this speech was considered ‘the finest and most statesmanlike he had ever made.’ Just before and at the time of the fall of Lord John Russell's ministry (June 1866), serious suggestions were made that he should form the succeeding administration; it was anticipated that he would command the support of the Adullamites [see Lowe, Robert, and Horsman, Edward]. Such a plan, though supported by so shrewd an observer as Delane, proved impracticable, and Stanley's father was again sent for on Lord John's resignation. In Lord Derby's third administration Stanley took the foreign office. Here his policy was as far as possible to maintain neutrality with regard to continental disputes, and by all means to avoid war. In spite of the Abyssinian expedition in 1868 he was fairly successful; he avoided war without too great concessions, and although, especially at that juncture, he, as an untried man, found it a difficult task to follow a statesman of Lord Clarendon's experience, he filled the office of foreign minister in the main with credit. He held aloof from the war of Prussia, Italy, and Austria, mediated between France and Prussia on the Luxemburg question, and postponed a Franco-German war for a time by devising the ‘collective guarantee’ of Luxemburg's neutrality at the conference of London in May 1867. Somewhat, as was thought, at the cost of his reputation for humanity, he avoided interfering in the Cretan rebellion, and refused to take sides in the disputes between Turkey and Greece. He declined the Emperor Napoleon's proposal for a conference on the Roman question, and of his attitude when the French troops occupied Rome Lord Augustus Loftus says (Diplomatic Reminiscences, 2nd ser. i. 203): ‘I cannot sufficiently extol the wise statesmanship and prudent course taken by Lord Stanley during this critical time. He was calm in judgment and free from any enthusiastic impulse, and when his opinion was formed he never deviated from it.’ With regard to the disputes with the United States arising out of the depredations of the Alabama, he admitted the principle of refering the question to arbitration which Russell had declined to recognise (Russell, Speeches and Despatches, ii. 259), and he negotiated a convention which the United States refused to ratify. In domestic affairs he was not prominent. What share he had in the Reform Bill of 1867 is uncertain. Lord Malmesbury attributes to him the form into which the bill was hastily recast on 25 Feb., just before the introduction in the House of Commons, when the tender of Lord Cranborne's resignation involved alterations in it. At any rate he cannot be altogether acquitted of inconsistency in supporting the bill after the declarations unfavourable to democracy which he had made in previous years. Stanley continued at the foreign office when Disraeli succeeded, on Lord Derby's retirement, to the post of prime minister in February 1868. He resigned with the rest of the ministry after the general election (November 1868).

Stanley was selected to lead the opposition to Mr. Gladstone's Irish church resolutions in 1869. Throughout his life, however, his leanings towards liberalism had been more marked on ecclesiastical matters than elsewhere. He had published a pamphlet as early as 1853 in favour of exempting nonconformists from the payment of church rates, and accordingly the defence he made on this occasion was somewhat ambiguous. A little later he incurred the suspicion of