Page:Dictionary of National Biography. Sup. Vol II (1901).djvu/33

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Churchill
Churchill
21

the decline of his political energy prevented the realisation of this project. In March 1888 he supported the appointment of a royal commission to inquire into the condition of the army ; and on the introduction of Mr. Goschen's naval defence scheme he strongly attacked the government proposals. Other matters that occupied his attention from time to time were the Channel tunnel project, which he opposed on 26 June in a speech of much humour and lightness of touch, and temperance reform, which he dabbled with sufficiently to produce a licensing bill of his own in 1890. Labour questions and social reform had been part of his conservative programme since his first appearance as a tory democrat. At this period of his life he paid renewed attention to them, and in reply to a deputation of miners he promised his support to an eight hours bill. On 9 June 1888 he received the hon. LL.D. at Cambridge in company with the Duke of Clarence, the Earl of Rosebery, the Earl of Selborne, Lord Acton, Lord Rayleigh, and Mr. Qoschen. In April 1889 Bright died, and the Birmingham conservatives invited Lord Randolph to fill the vacancy in the representation of the city. The result was a controversy with Mr. Chamberlain as to the rival claims of conservatives and liberal unionists in the midland capital. Finally the matterwas referred to arbitration, and Lord Randolph acquiesced in the decision to leave the seat in possession of the other wing of the unionist coalition.

His attendance in parliament was becoming fitful and his devotion to public affairs diminishing. In the session of 1889 he threatened the first lord of the admiralty with relentless opposition, and 'a long and heavy fight' over his estimates. But by the time the committee stage was reached the champion of economy had gone to Norway, and the votes were got through with exceptional ease. Lord Randolph was much occupied in other ways during these years. He spent a good deal of the time, which in the first half of the decade he had devoted to politics, in sport, travel, and social recreations. He had always been interested in racing; and between 1881 and 1891, but particularly during the.last four years of that period, he was well known on the turf. He and the Earl of Dunraven ran their horses together, and the partnership was on the whole successful. In 1888 Lord Randolph and Lord Dunraven won the Fitzwilliam Plate at Newmarket with St. Serge. In L'Abbesse de Jouarre, a filly said to have been bought by Lord Randolph on his own unaided judgment, they possessed an animal of remarkable quality, which won the Newmarket May Plate in 1888, the Oaks in 1889, and the Prince of Wales Handicap at Sandown in 1890, and ran second for the Gold Vase at Ascot. Lord Randolph entered his own horses, and paid great attention to their training. He was an excellent judge of horseflesh, and he threw into his racing a good deal of the intensity which he brought to bear on most matters that really engaged his interest.

In the spring of 1891 he started on a journey to South Africa. The expedition was undertaken partly for change and recreation, and partly for the benefit of the traveller's health. A constitution congenitally delicate, with a high-strung nervous system, had been severely tried by the strain to which it had been exposed for years. His political work had been performed with fiery energy ; and his activity in the House of Commons and on the platform was often supplemented by long spells of exhausting labour over blue-books and official publications. Nor had he ever taken much pains to conserve his mental and physical forces. He is credited with the characteristic saying that he had tried every kind of excitement from tip-cat to tiger-shooting. He was fond of society, and he and his accomplished wife were constant guests at country-house parties, and leading personages in the fashionable gaieties of successive London seasons. But Lord Randolph was also tempted to South Africa, as he said, by an interest in the country, and by the attraction 'of seeking for gold oneself, of acquiring gold mines or shares in gold mines.' He left London towards the end of April 1891, and returned to England in December. He travelled through the Cape Colony to the Transvaal, visited Kimberley and Johannesburg, and rode across Bechuanaland and Mashonaland, inspecting the reefs and gold mines, conversing with the principal officials, and shooting lions and antelopes as occasion offered. One result of his visit was to cause him to recant his former opinions on Gladstone's South African policy in 1881, which at the time he had violently assailed in the House of Commons and on the platform. 'Better and more precise information,' he wrote, 'combined with cool reflection, leads me to the conclusion that, had the British government of that day taken advantage of its strong military position, and annihilated, as it could easily have done, the Boer forces, it would indeed have regained the Transvaal, but it might have lost Cape Colony.' Lord Randolph gave some account of his experiences and