Page:Dictionary of National Biography. Sup. Vol II (1901).djvu/32

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Churchill
Churchill
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and France do not spend more ; but we should find that while these powers have great armies we have no armies at all. We have regiments of various sorts ; but if by an army you mean a perfect fighting machine, fully equipped in all its parts, and ready to take the field at the shortest notice, then we have not got an army or anything approaching it ; and yet we spend over fifteen millions on it annually. You now have to consider whether it is worth while going on spending such an enormous sum of money for a thing which you do not possess.' With these strong views on economy he had a deep distrust of an adventurous foreign policy. Though he professed profound admiration for Lord Beaconsfield, he had little sympathy with that statesman's imperialism. The mission of Britain, as a great 'world-power,' and the mistress of a vast empire beyond the seas, does not seem to have appealed keenly to his imagination. But his belief in the old liberal axiom of 'peace, retrenchment, and reform' was quite sincere, and he had a vivid conception of the dangers which would arise if they were disregarded. He defended his views in detail in the House of Commons on 31 Jan., and in a speech to his constituents on 2 April. In these addresses he maintained that he had not opposed necessary expenditure on the defences of the country, but that he wished to reform the wasteful and extravagant administration of the public departments. A sane and sober external policy, he urged, would save us from 'throwing ourselves hysterically into the embraces of engineers or lying down pusillanimously in a cemetery of earthworks.' He contended that he had saved the country nearly a million and a half sterling by resisting the excessive demands of the military departments, and that further reductions, refused to him, were allowed to his successor. He suggested that printed summaries of estimates should be circulated among members before being read to the House of Commons, and that a select committee should be appointed to examine the naval and military estimates. The suggestions were subsequently carried out, and Lord Randolph became the first chairman of the committee. If Churchill entertained any expectation that the shock of his resignation would bring down the ministry and enable him to return to office as the actual chief of a conservative cabinet, he was disappointed. Mr. Goschen, whom, according to a story current at the time, Lord Randolph declared he had ' forgotten,' joined the ministry as chancellor of the exchequer, and W. H. Smith became leader of the House of Commons. Lord Randolph, however, made no attempt to revive the fourth party, or to harass the conservatives by damaging attacks in flank. During the whole existence of the administration he preserved the attitude of a candid, but not rancorous, commentator. He gave the government an independent support on most occasions, though he sometimes criticised them severely, particularly when dealing with Ireland and with naval and military administration. He remained staunch in his opposition to Irish home rule, and showed no symptom of entering into relations with the nationalists or mitigating his hostility to Gladstone's bill of 1886. Indeed he more than once warned the country that the union was in danger, not only through the designs of the home rulers, but because of the supineness, as he alleged, of the ministerial management of Irish affairs. 'The Union,' he said to a vast and enthusiastic audience at Nottingham in April 1887, 'is the life of the British empire, and it is worth fighting for.' But he continued to urge, with a consistency which was more real than that of some of his hostile critics, that conciliatory measures should be adopted to satisfy the Irish demand for the control of local administration. In the House of Commons in April 1888 he strongly advocated 'simultaneity' in dealing with the problem of county government, and asked that the unionist party should fulfil its pledge to 'legislate largely and liberally for the removal of Irish grievances.' He pointed out that in August 1886, speaking as the official representative of the cabinet, he had been authorised to announce remedial legislation on 'popular' lines for Ireland. On this question it cannot be said that Lord Randolph ever wavered, or that there is any contradiction between his earlier and later utterances. In the debates on the Parnell inquiry he took a line of vehement hostility both to the 'Times' and the special commission ; and in March 1890 he delivered one of the most violent of his diatribes in angry criticism of the commissioners' report.

Of his other speeches during these years the most important related to financial and economical reform. At Wolverhampton on 3 June 1887 he entered upon an elaborate and very able analysis of the whole system of naval and military administration, based on a mass of facts drawn from official documents of various kinds. He added that he had devised a comprehensive plan of departmental reform, and was prepared to lay it before the country. But other interests and