Page:Dictionary of National Biography. Sup. Vol II (1901).djvu/328

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Gladstone
Gladstone
316

of the Midlothian election was declared. Gladstone's majority surpassed expectation. He defeated (Sir) Charles Dalrymple, the conservative candidate, by more than two to one, the numbers being for Gladstone 7,879, for Dalrymple 3,245. But the English elections were not altogether favourable to the liberal party. The fall of Khartoum and the death of Gordon weighed heavily on the public mind, and they turned many votes against Gladstone. In the English boroughs, where the doctrine of 'fair trade,' which would have limited the policy of free exchange by confining it to our intercourse with countries that were not protectionist, found many supporters, and conservatives won in consequence many seats.

At Edinburgh on 9 Nov. Gladstone had called upon the country to return a liberal majority which would be strong enough to act against a combination of conservatives and Parnellites. Even liberals, he added, could not be trusted to deal fairly with the Irish question if it were in the power of the Irish members to turn them out at any moment.

The final result of the election was a new House of Commons composed of 335 liberals, 249 conservatives, and 86 followers of Parnell. Thus the conservatives and the Parnellites combined, as they had been combined at the general election, exactly balanced the liberal party in the house. Such a confused state of things had never existed before, and every possible form of speculation about the future was freely indulged in. But on 16 Dec. there appeared, simultaneously in the 'Standard' and the 'Leeds Mercury,' a paragraph to the effect that Gladstone had made up his mind to propose a scheme of home rule, with an Irish legislature sitting at Dublin, and an Irish executive responsible for Irish affairs. Gladstone at once telegraphed that this statement was published without his knowledge or authority. But no stronger or more direct denial was forthcoming.

This declaration of Gladstone's views on home rule, or what he called this speculation on them, took his former colleagues, most of whom he had not consulted, by surprise. Lord Hartington announced that he knew nothing about them, and Mr. Chamberlain spoke as if they were new to him. It afterwards turned out that, towards the end of December, Gladstone had, both in conversation and by letter, urged Lord Salisbury, through Mr. Balfour, to take up the Irish question, on the ground that it ought not to be made a subject of dispute between parties. Lord Salisbury acknowledged the communication, but deemed it undesirable to forestall the statement of policy which he had to make when parliament met. Gladstone remarked to Mr. Balfour that, unless the Irish problem were speedily solved, the party of violence and assassination would get the upper hand in Ireland. Parliament met on 12 Jan. 1886. On 21 Jan., speaking to the address, Gladstone declared that home rule was not a question of party, and, turning to the new members, he reminded them that, as an 'old parliamentary hand,' it would not be wise for him to make a premature disclosure of his plans. But he significantly added that the maintenance of the empire, though an excellent object, in which they were all agreed, was not enough to constitute a policy. The resignation of Lord Carnarvon, and the appointment of William Henry Smith [q. v.] to be chief secretary for Ireland, with a seat in the cabinet, were immediately followed by a notice from Sir Michael Hicks-Beach, leader of the House of Commons, that a bill would be introduced for the suppression of the national league. This notice, Gladstone afterwards said, convinced him that the conservatives would not deal with home rule, and that he must therefore take his own independent course. An opportunity for displacing the government followed immediately. On 26 Jan. Mr. Jesse Collings moved an amendment to the address in favour of giving local bodies compulsory power to obtain land for allotments. Gladstone spoke in support of the amendment, which was carried against the government by a majority of seventy-nine, of which seventy-four were home-rulers.

Lord Salisbury at once resigned, and on 1 Feb. the queen sent for Gladstone. A formidable split in the liberal party followed. Lord Hartington refused to join a government pledged to consider favourably the question of home rule, and his example was followed by Mr. Goschen and Sir Henry James. It was known that Bright and Lord Selborne were hostile to any material change in the act of union. On the other hand, Gladstone had the aid of Lord Spencer, lately lord-lieutenant of Ireland; of Sir Farrer Herschell, formerly solicitor-general, who became lord chancellor; of Lord Rosebery, whose appointment to the foreign office gave general satisfaction; of Lord Granville, who joined the cabinet as colonial secretary; and of Mr. John Morley, who became chief secretary for Ireland, with a seat in the cabinet, where Lord Aberdeen, the new lord-lieutenant, had no place.

Mr. Chamberlain, who entered the cabinet