Page:Dictionary of National Biography. Sup. Vol II (1901).djvu/327

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Gladstone
Gladstone
315

rated for the Whitsuntide recess, Gladstone suddenly announced that the government would ask parliament to renew some 'valuable and equitable' provisions of the Irish Crimes Act. This dissatisfied the radicals, and Mr. John Morley gave notice that he would oppose any such measure. He had, however, no opportunity of doing so. The end of Gladstone's second administration was at hand. On 8 June Childers moved the second reading of the budget bill, which proved extremely unpopular. The expenditure of the country had run up, for the first time, to 100,000,000l. There was a deficit of 15,000,000l. The opposition attacked the budget in form. The particular points which they chose to assail, objection to which was embodied in an amendment to the second reading by Sir Michael Hicks-Beach, were the increased duties on beer and spirits, and the addition to the succession duty on land, which was not accompanied, as the conservatives argued it should have been, by a relief of local rates. The amendment was carried by 264 to 252, and the government at once resigned. Six liberals and thirty-nine home-rulers voted with the tories in this division, from which many liberals abstained. On 12 June, when Gladstone formally declared the resignation of himself and his colleagues, the redistribution bill, which had not been seriously altered in committee, was passed in the House of Lords, and thus the work of electoral reform was complete. On 13 June the queen, who was at Balmoral, sent for Lord Salisbury. Lord Salisbury objected to taking office in a minority without an assurance that the liberal party would not impede the remaining business of the session; and on this subject he had a long correspondence with Gladstone, through the queen, which was read by Gladstone in the house without comment on 24 June. It was impossible to dissolve parliament before November. Gladstone declined to give any specific undertaking of support to Lord Salisbury during that interval, but he declared that he had no intention or desire to harass the ministers of the crown. With this Lord Salisbury, at the earnest request of the queen, had to be content, and undertook to form an administration. The queen offered Gladstone an earldom, but this he respectfully declined; and on 29 June he wrote to his committee in Midlothian that he was prepared to contest the county once more.

Both sides had ample time to prepare for the general election, and it was not till 18 Sept. that Gladstone issued his address to his constituents. In this document, which was of unusual length, he dealt, in a spirit of singular moderation, with a great variety of subjects. He expressed a hope that it would be possible at an early date to withdraw British troops from Egypt; he supported the reform of the land laws; he pleaded for unity in the liberal party, and for the freedom of all sections who accepted its main principles to pursue their special objects. The disestablishment of the English church he relegated to 'the dim and distant courses of the future.' With regard to the Irish question he wrote: 'In my opinion, not now for the first time delivered, the limit is clear within which any desires of Ireland, constitutionally ascertained, may, and beyond which they cannot, receive the assent of parliament. To maintain the supremacy of the crown, the unity of the empire, and all the authority of parliament necessary for the conservation of that unity, is the first duty of every representative of the people. Subject to this governing principle, every grant to portions of the country of enlarged powers for the management of their own affairs is, in my view, not a source of danger, but a means of averting it, and is in the nature of a new guarantee for increased cohesion, happiness, and strength.' Gladstone's address was regarded by the radicals as disappointingly tame, and Mr. Chamberlain put forward more advanced proposals.

On 9 Nov. Gladstone started for his campaign in Scotland, where he again dwelt upon the need for liberal unity. Even in Scotland he disappointed many of his most ardent supporters by intimating that the time was not ripe for the disestablishment of the Scottish church. As for Ireland, he held that she was entitled to the utmost measure of local self-government consistent with the integrity of the United Kingdom. Parnell declared that this was the most important deliverance on Irish affairs which had hitherto come from any British statesman, and called upon Gladstone to say particularly what his plan of Irish self-government was. Speaking at West Calder on 17 Nov., Gladstone declined this challenge, saying that Ireland had not yet spoken, and that he awaited her verdict. On 21 Nov. appeared a manifesto from the Irish nationalist party, attacking the liberals in violent terms, and urging all Irish electors in Great Britain to vote against those who had coerced their country. On 23 Nov. Gladstone, turning aside, as he so readily did, from party politics, delivered an address upon the historical associations of Edinburgh, to which he had just presented a new market cross in place of the old one long since destroyed. On 27 Nov. the result