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which would be put abroad upon any change of Government by the elections, would undoubtedly be that England would withdraw practically from interference in European affairs, and that Russian ambition would not be checked. Once more he pressed the Opposition to say what their policy would be if they came into power. To this Lord Hartington answered in a speech at Padiham on the 25th. “If the Liberal party were in power, he might at least say this of what their policy would be their policy would not be a repetition of that which, in their opinion, had so disastrously failed, but which the present Government seemed to think had so triumphantly succeeded. The 'Liberals would not stake the interests or the honour of England upon the maintenance of the integrity and independence of an unreformed Turkish Government. They would not treat the condition of those people and the relations of the Turkish Government to its Christian subjects as a matter which was only of interest to Russia and to Turkey, and in which we had no call to interfere except so far as certain definite interests of our own were concerned. They would not try to disturb and thwart the concert of Europe if by some happy providence Europe was united as to what should be done. On the contrary they would strive and do their utmost to promote that concert, and if that concert should again be happily established they would do the utmost that lay in their power to carry its resolves into execution.” In Lord Hartington's opinion the Eastern Question would soon of necessity be reopened, and these were the principles on which he and his party would try for a solution.
On the subject of Afghanistan, Lord Hartington spoke Bacup on the 29th. “ He did not assert,” he said, “that the Liberal party were prepared with a policy which would be satisfactory, nor which would at once undo all the enormous mischief done by the present Government. He would make a frank confessionIf the Liberal party came into power they would adopt the same policy which the present Government would, if they dared avow it, like to pursue-namely, retire as soon as they could with as little loss of credit as possible, and with as little sacrifice of our real Indian interests as possible, from the false position in which the blunders of the last five years had placed us."
With regard to the reform of the Land Laws, and questions more particularly concerning the farmers, Lord Hartington said that the Liberal party did not wish to represent themselves as having particular measures to propose for the benefit of particular classes. But he promised that one of the first things that they would do if they were sent into office would be to reform the county franchise, and they were also prepared to revise the land laws, with a view to making traffic in land as free as in anything else. They wished to give the farmer greater security for his capital, and they would readjust local taxation in connexion with an amended system of local government in the counties. 6 Whenever the Tories,” Lord Hartington said in one of his speeches, “had been out of office, they had heard a deal about the repeal of the malt
tax and the relief of local taxation, but when they came into power he would like to know what they had done. No doubt it would be said that the Liberals had been in power far longer than the Tories, and it would be asked what had they done for the farmers. He wished them to remember, however, that the tenant farmers had always given their whole support to the Conservatives. All he asked was that if the farmers would give the Liberals their support for one Parliament, then, if in the end they could show that the Liberals had done as little as the Conservatives, they could go back to their old supporters."
Lord Beaconsfield's manifesto had an unexpected effect upon the Irish vote. A counter-manifesto was at once drawn up by the Home Rule confederation, calling upon all Irishmen to “oppose the Minister whose policy towards our country is summed up in coercion codes, and who would jest at the starvation of the western tenantry amid the toasts and feasting of the London Guildhall.” “ In presence,” the manifesto ran on, of the atrocious and criminal maneuvre which has now been attempted, the duty is doubly imperative. Vote against Benjamin Disraeli as you should vote against the mortal enemy of your country and your race.” No pledges were to be asked of Liberals at the hustings; the plain instruction was given to vote in every case against the Conservative candidate. The result was that the Liberal party, although its leaders held the most uncompromising language on the subject of Home Rule, had the solid Irish vote secured for them. In the course of the ensuing session, the new Government was taunted by a Whig supporter with having solicited support in order that the Liberal party in Parliament might be independent of the Home Rulers; but the truth was that in the course of his candidature, Lord Hartington, while strongly protesting against any concession to Home Rule, was no less energetic in repudiating the government of Ireland by rigid repression without inquiring into the reality of Irish grievances. “ Î'he Liberal party," he said at Burnley, on April 7, “ had always felt that, looking to the great and deep misgovernment under which Ireland suffered for so many centuries, Irish agitation and discontent ought to be treated with great patience and forbearance, and that before we resorted to measures for the repression of Irish agitation, or while we resorted to those measures, we ought to do the utmost to see whether the causes which had produced that state of things still remained, or were capable of being removed."
Wednesday, March 31, was the first day of the polling, and the result was a startling surprise to both parties. The Liberals gained 24 seats, and lost 9,-a net gain of 15 seats, in 69 constituencies. Next day the Liberal successes continued in very much the same proportion, and on Friday, the same tale was repeated. A net gain of 50 seats was chronicled on Saturday; the ministerial majority was swept away, and all hope of a reaction which might restore it out of the question. But the polling in
the counties was still to come, and in spite of their unexpected triumph in the boroughs, the Liberals hardly ventured to hope that in the counties they would do more than hold their own. The result of the county elections was a new surprise. The polling went on throughout the following week, and at the end of it, the net Liberal gains were reckoned at 99, with less than 30 seats remaining unfilled. When the returns for all the constituencies were completed, it was computed that the New Parliament would number 349 Liberals, 243 Conservatives, and 60 Home Rulers. The composition of the dissolved Parliament was, 351 Conservatives, 250 Liberals, and 51 Home Rulers.
Explanations of this startling reverse of fortune were, of course, poured forth in abundance. The inconstancy and caprice of democracies, the incalculability of the new element in the electorate, the influences of hard times against the Government of the day, were the favourite texts of the defeated party; while the other naturally held that the constituencies had answered with sound judgment to the issues placed before them. Those who had argued in 1874 that Mr. Gladstone's defeat was owing to the defection of the Moderate Liberals, were reminded of this, and asked to square it with their theory that the present change was the result of democratic fickleness. Superior organisation also claimed a share in the Liberal victory. Mr. Chamberlain, referring to a remark made before the elections that they would test the efficiency of the Birmingham or “Caucus” system, wrote to the Times pointing out that in the 67 boroughs where the caucus nad been established, the Liberals had gained or retained 60 seats, and had sustained only 7 defeats. The farmers' alliance was supposed to have been influential in the revolt of the counties, and some amusement was caused by a correspondence between Mr. O'Donnell and Mr. Howard, in which the former claimed to be the founder of this alliance, though “never, technically speaking, a member of the association.”
Speculations on the causes of the Conservative reverse were, however, soon forgotten in speculations on the result of the Liberal victory. One question immediately took precedence of all others, -was Mr. Gladstone, or Lord Granville, or Lord Hartington to be Prime Minister ? That Lord Beaconsfield would follow the precedent which he had set in 1868, and which had been followed by Mr. Gladstone in 1874, and would not defer his resignation till the meeting of the new Parliament, was generally taken for granted, though there were rumours that some members of the outgoing Ministry wished to have an opportunity of once more defending their policy and challenging a formal vote of censure. But in the absence of the Queen on the Continent, the change of administration could not take place immediately after the turn of the elections could no longer be mistaken. For some ten days or a fortnight, pending her Majesty's return on April 17, the question of the premiership was keenly discussed. In the Liberal press,
though there was no disposition to deny the great services which had been rendered by Lord Hartington as leader of the party in the House of Commons, the feeling was all but unanimous that Mr. Gladstone was indispensable to the formation of a strong Liberal Administration, and there was only one office which he could possibly be asked to accept. The same thing was urged in the Conservative press from a different point of view; it was said that he had turned out the Ministry, and that he should not be allowed to escape from the responsibility of forming another.
But though there was a tolerable unanimity that Mr. Gladstone ought to be the head of the new Administration, it was still open to doubt who would be sent for by the Queen in the first instance, Lord Granville being the recognised leader of the Opposition in the House of Lords, Lord Hartington in the Commons, and Mr. Gladstone having openly severed himself from all official connexion with his party. The doubt was set at rest on the 22nd. Lord Hartington was sent for. Next day he and Lord Granville had an audience of the Queen together, and Mr. Gladstone was sent for. Late on Friday night it was announced that Mr. Gladstone had undertaken to form a Ministry, and that he would be Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer.
A curious feature in the excitement with which the process of cabinet-making was speculated on and guessed at was, that spies were set upon all the prominent members of the party, and their movements from club to club, and from house to house daily, almost hourly, recorded in the newspapers.
A difficulty was believed to have occurred in regard to the share in the new Administration apportioned to the leading representatives of the Radical section of the party. All the first names announced had been members of Mr. Gladstone's previous ministry. Lord Granville, Secretary for Foreign Affairs; Lord Hartington, Secretary for India; Lord Northbrook, First Lord of the Admiralty ; Mr. Childers, Secretary for War; Mr. Forster, Irish Secretary; Lord Selborne, Lord Chancellor. Mr. Gladstone, it was rumoured, did not intend at first to offer a seat in the Cabinet to any statesman who had not held office before, as if to mark his interpretation of the wish of the constituencies as being that the Administration which was rejected in 1874 should now return to power. Ultimately it was arranged, after negotiations during which Sir Charles Dilke's movements were narrowly watched, that Mr. Chamberlain should have a seat in the Cabinet as President of the Board of Trade, Mr. Fawcett being appointed PostmasterGeneral, and Sir Charles Dilke Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs. The other prominent leaders of the triumphant Opposition were placed as follows:-Sir William Harcourt, Home Secretary; the Duke of Argyll, Lord Privy Seal; Lord Kimberley, Secretary for the Colonies, with Mr. Grant Duff as UnderSecretary ; Mr. Mundella, Vice-President of the Council ; Mr. Adam, First Commissioner of Works. Mr. Bright had a seat in
the Cabinet as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. Mr. Lowe went to the Upper House with the title of Viscount Sherbrooke, and Mr. Goschen shortly afterwards was sent as Special Ambassador to Constantinople. Lord Lytton resigned the Governor-Generalship of India as soon as the result of the elections was known, and Lord Ripon was sent to India in his place,
Meeting of the new Parliament-Mr. Bradlaugh's claim to “affirm "- The Oxford
election-The extraordinary error in the Indian Budget-Lord Granville's Cir. cular Note pressing for the fulfilment of the Berlin Treaty - Mr. Gladstone and Austria—The Queen's Speech-Debates on the Address-- Amendment moved by Irish Members—Forecasts of the session-The Bradlaugh difficulty-Attitude of the Opposition-Protracted debates-- Reference to a Committee- Mr. Bradlaugh taken into custody-Escape from the Bradlaugh difficulty-The Irish difficulty-Mr. O'Connor Power's Bill-Relief of Distress Bill-Compensation for Disturbance Bill-- Protracted debate in the House of Commons-Bill rejected by Lords-Prolongation of the session-Supplementary BudgetAbolition of the Malt Tax-Customs and Inland Revenue Bill— The Hares and Rabbits Bill—Employers' Liability Bill — The Burials Bill-- Education BillsGrain Cargoes-Seamen's Wages-Savings Banks—Post Office Money Orders -Hours of Polling-Local Option-Prince Louis Napoleon's monumentMr. Gladstone's illness – Lord Hartington's leadership-Effects of rejection of
Disturbance Bill-Mr. Forster's speech. The new Parliament was opened by Commission on Thursday, April 29. The first business of the House of Commons was the election of a Speaker. Mr. Brand was elected without opposition. The choice of the Commons having received the formal approbation of the Crown, the House met for several days in succession, in accordance with custom, for the swearing in of members, and the issue of new writs for the seats wbich had been vacated by Ministers accepting office under the Crown and by double returns. This business, generally purely a matter of form, received an extraordinary interest from the position taken up by Mr. Bradlaugh, one of the members for Northampton.
As Mr. Bradlaugh's admission to the House proved to be a difficulty not settled without many motions and angry, excited, and protracted debates, it is necessary to follow the various phases of the difficulty with some degree of minuteness. Mr. Bradlaugh presented himself on the third day of the swearing-in with a written claim to be allowed to make a solemn affirmation or declaration of allegiance, instead of taking the oath. Being permitted to state on what grounds he made this claim, he did so briefly : “I have only to submit,” he said, “ that the Parliamentary Oaths Act, 1866, gives the right to affirm to every person for the time being permitted by law to make affirmation. I am such a person; and under the Evidence Further Amendment Act, 1869, and the Evidence Amendment Act, 1870, I have repeatedly for nine years past affirmed in the highest Courts of jurisdiction in this realm. I am ready to make the declaration or affirmation of allegiance.'