Page:Dictionary of National Biography. Sup. Vol II (1901).djvu/29

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Churchill
Churchill
17

of the government to renew the Crimes Act. This omission has been explained frequently enough, both at the time and since, as being due to an unwritten compact between the Parnellites and the conservatives. But so far as Lord Randolph was concerned and it was to him that the discredit, if such there was, of this alliance chiefly attached it is to be observed that he had opposed the prolongation of the coercive system even while Gladstone was still in office. In his speech at the St. Stephen's Club on 20 May 1885, delivered before the fall of the liberal ministry, he declared against the renewal of the Crimes Act for the same reasons as those he subsequently urged namely, that the condition of Ireland had so far improved that crime could be dealt with by the ordinary law, and that it was absurd and inconsistent to bestow exceptional powers upon the executive immediately after the parliamentary franchise had been conferred upon the mass of the Irish people.

In the general election of November 1885 Lord Randolph's connection with Woodstock came to a close owing to its disfranchisement. For some time past he had been closely interested in the politics of Birmingham. The conservatives of the midland capital early appreciated his abilities. Their toryism was always of an advanced and decidedly democratic character, and the local leaders of the party, eager to shake off the radical predominance, which at that time was unbroken, made advances to him. In 1883, the year of John Bright's jubilee, when radicalism was supposed to have reached its zenith in Birmingham, Lord Randolph took part in the conference of the National Union of Conservative Associations held in that city. On 13 Oct. of the following year a political garden party was held at Aston Park, at which Lord Randolph and other leading conservatives were present. A riot occurred, instigated, in part at least, by some of the persons connected with local radical organisations. The incident led to some angry discussions in the House' of Commons, in the course of which Lord Randolph accused Mr. Chamberlain of being partly responsible for the disorder. In the early part of 1884 Churchill was invited by the Birmingham Conservative Association to contest the representation of the borough, with Colonel Burnaby as the other conservative candidate. Lord Randolph accepted the invitation, 'and the consciousness that he was to be pitted against Bright at the polls seems to have lent a sharper edge to the satirical vehemence with which he assailed the veteran radical orator in the House of Commons. Before the election of 1885 Colonel Burnaby had been killed on the battle-field and the Redistribution Act had divided Birmingham into seven constituencies. Lord Randolph opposed Bright in the central division, and was defeated after a sharp contest by 4,939 votes against 4,216. The result was really a 'moral victory' for the conservative candidate, considering Bright's long services and great personal popularity in Birmingham. The following day (25 Nov.) Lord Randolph was returned for South Paddington by a majority of 1,706.

The Salisbury administration came to an end in January 1886 by the defection of the Irish members in consequence of Gladstone's adoption of home rule. On 26 Jan. 1886 the government was defeated on Mr. Jesse Collings's amendment to the address by a combination of liberals and nationalists, and the resignation of Lord Salisbury and his colleagues was announced on 1 Feb. Gladstone returned to office, and for the next few months all other public questions were forgotten in the agitation over the home-rule bill. In the fierce campaign, in and out of parliament, which lasted through the spring and summer of 1886, Lord Randolph took a prominent part. Op. 23 Feb. he addressed a great audience in Belfast, and roused much enthusiasm by a stirring appeal to Ulster sentiment and tradition. At Manchester on 3 March he advocated a coalition among those who were opposed to home rule, and suggested that 'unionists' should be the general name adopted by 'the party of the union,' while their opponents should be known as 'separatists.' He added that if the dissentient liberals should be able to form a ministry of their own the conservatives would support them, and that if their leaders were willing to enter a coalition cabinet those conservatives 'with whom the whigs did not wish to serve ' would cheerfully stand aside. In the House of Commons he spoke during the first few days after the introduction of the home-rule bill, which he described as a 'desperate and insane' measure. After the rejection of Gladstone's bill by the House of Commons he used even stronger language, both in his platform speeches and his address to the electors of South Paddington, with regard to the scheme and its author. 'The caprice of an individual,' he said, 'was elevated to the dignity of an act of the people by the boundless egoism of the prime minister;' and he declared that an attempt was being made to destroy the constitution merely 'to gratify the ambition of an old man in a hurry.' He was re-elected for