Page:Dictionary of National Biography. Sup. Vol II (1901).djvu/318

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Gladstone
Gladstone
306

been in 1873, prime minister and chancellor of the exchequer. Lord Granville and Lord Hartington both took office under him, the former as foreign secretary, and the latter as secretary for India. In other respects the government much resembled that of 1868. Lord Selborne returned to the woolsack, and Bright, to whom official work was never congenial, became chancellor of the duchy. Lord Cardwell's health had failed, and Lowe retired to the House of Lords. Sir William Harcourt, who had been for a time solicitor-general, became home secretary; while Mr. Chamberlain, whose political association, commonly called the Birmingham caucus, had been of great practical value to the liberal party, entered a government and a cabinet for the first time as president of the board of trade. Of the other radicals, Fawcett was made postmaster-general, and Sir Charles Dilke under-secretary for foreign affairs. Mr. Goschen refused to join the government because he was not prepared to vote for the extension of the county franchise, and was sent as special ambassador to Constantinople. A good deal of feeling was excited among fanatical protestants by the appointment of one catholic, Lord Ripon, to be viceroy of India, and another, Lord Kenmare, to be lord chamberlain.

On 7 May the 'Daily News' announced that Lord Granville had sent a circular to the powers, urging a joint enforcement of the unfulfilled clauses in the treaty of Berlin, such as those which dealt with Montenegro, Greece, and Armenia. The object of Mr. Goschen's mission was to impress upon the sultan the duty of fulfilling these engagements. On 10 May there appeared a letter from Gladstone to Count Karolyi, the Austrian ambassador, intimating that he had obtained from Austria those assurances of fidelity to the treaty of Berlin which he had called upon her to give. In these circumstances, he said, it was not his intention to repeat or defend in argument language which he had used in a position of greater freedom and less responsibility. The last phrase was thenceforth part of the political vocabulary. The opposition bitterly denounced the letter as unworthy of a British minister. On 20 May the queen's speech was delivered. It contained a hope for the pacification of Afghanistan, an assertion of supremacy over the Transvaal, and an opinion that the ordinary law would be sufficient in Ireland. This meant that the Peace Preservation Act, which expired on 1 June, was not to be renewed.

On the 21st Gladstone, who had been re-elected without opposition after taking office, had his first experience of the perplexing case raised by Charles Bradlaugh [q. v. Suppl.] Lord Frederick Cavendish, secretary to the treasury, as representing the government, had moved that the case should be referred to a select committee. The committee reported, by a majority of one, that Bradlaugh had no right to affirm. Bradlaugh then came forward to take the oath. Sir Henry Drummond Wolff objected, and Gladstone successfully proposed the appointment of another committee, to consider whether the house had a right of interference with the discretion of a duly elected member. They reported that Bradlaugh was incapable of taking an oath, but recommended that he should be allowed to affirm at his own risk. On 22 June a motion to that effect, which Gladstone supported, was defeated by a majority of forty-five. On the 23rd, Bradlaugh again appeared to take the oath, which the speaker refused to administer to him, and he was allowed to be heard on his own behalf at the bar; when afterwards ordered to withdraw, he declined, and was taken into custody by the sergeant-at-arms. Gladstone refused to interfere. The house, he said, had rejected his advice, and the duty of proceeding further devolved upon the leader of the opposition. On 24 June Sir Stafford Northcote moved that Bradlaugh should be released. On 1 July the question was settled for the year by Gladstone's motion, which the house adopted, that any person claiming to affirm should be allowed to do so. Bradlaugh accordingly affirmed and took his seat, but his right was successfully challenged in the courts, and he did not sit without objection till the meeting of a new parliament in 1885.

On 10 June Gladstone, as chancellor of the exchequer, introduced a supplementary budget, Sir Stafford Northcote's budget having provided only for the early part of the year. It was the first time he had made the financial statement of the government for fourteen years. The principal feature of it was the unexpected repeal of the malt tax, for which conservative representatives of the farming interests had clamoured for many years, but which no conservative government had found itself able to touch. Gladstone substituted for it a duty on beer, and provided for the incidental loss to the revenue by putting another penny on the income tax, all hope of abolishing that tax having vanished. The budget was popular. The principal struggle of the session, after the case of Bradlaugh had been temporarily disposed of, arose out of the Irish compensation for disturbance bill, which Forster,