Billeder på siden

resigned his office, and immediately afterwards was decorated with the order of the Medjidie, and appointed one of the Sultan's own aide-de-camps. With this doubtful victory Sir H. Layard had to be satisfied; and tried in vain, in subsequent correspondence, to obtain from the Sultan's Ministers any abatement of his pretensions.

Between this disturbing creak in our strained relations with Turkey, the echoes of which had not died away by the end of January, and the opening of Parliament on February 5, the current of public affairs ran with tolerable smoothness; though there were angry spots here and there over the huge area of our Imperial system which needed anxious tending. The New Year had opened with good news from Afghanistan—the complete dispersal of the armed gathering by which Sir F. Roberts had been beleaguered at Cabul; and the apparent collapse of the attempt of Mahomed Jan to rally the Afghan cause at Ghuznee, under the green flag unfurled by the aged Mollah, Mushki-Alam. But this clearing of the sky on the North-west frontier of India did not last long. The clouds which had been dispersed soon began to gather again as threateningly as before. From the Transvaal on the 3rd came a welcome report that Sir Garnet Wolseley had accomplished his mission of restoring order, and that his return had been fixed for the month of February. But this was followed a few days afterwards by the less satisfactory intelligence that telegraphic communication with Pretoria had been cut, and that two of the Boer leaders, Burgers and Bok, had been arrested on a charge of high treason—or exciting their countrymen to revolt.

A livelier interest was taken in the disturbed state of Ireland. The belief in the reality of the distress with wbich the Irish peasantry were threatened would probably have been less dashed with scepticism if the language of agitators had been less heated, and an attempt to make political capital out of the distress had not occupied the foreground of their speeches. In particular, attention was directed from the facts of the Irish distress to the anti-landlord, anti-rent campaign in America, for which the distress furnished Mr. Parnell with a pretext. Mr. Parnell, indeedwho arrived at New York in the "Scythia” on January 2, and was received with addresses of welcome from Reception Committees of Irishmen in the United States-affirmed that one of his objects was to collect funds for the relief of the distress; but he declared from the moment of his landing that this object was subsidiary to another : the seizure of the unexampled opportunity for making war upon the land system ; to the operation of which he believed the distress to be due. The New York Herald had advised Irishmen in America to subscribe liberally, to save people in their mother country from starvation; and proposed the appointment of a committee to collect funds for the purpose. Mr. Parnell was invited to join this committee, but he refused. He would have nothing to do, he said, with a scheme for the relief of distressed landlords and the British Government. It was for them to see that the people did not die of famine. “If you want to help us," he said to his audiences," help us to destroy the system which produces famine.” Which was to say that Mr. Parnell wished to collect funds to carry out the purposes of his Land League, and enable small tenant-farmers to become the owners of the soil of their holdings. Irishmen in the United States, however, were more impressed with the necessity of making provision against immediate distress. Mr. Parnell was received with great courtesy. The halls of the Representative Assembly at Washington and of several State Legislatures were placed at his disposal, in order that he might fully explain his case. But he wore out his welcome by his wall-eyed pertinacity in urging his own nostrum, and the virulence with which he spoke of the Relief Funds organised by the Duchess of Marlborough and the Lord Mayor of Dublin. He not only described these funds as means for relieving landlords and the State from their just obligations, but indulged in bitter personalities against all connected with them. The American newspapers were especially severe regarding his attacks on the Duchess of Marlborough. They described Mr. Parnell's mission as a failure, and attributed the failure entirely to himself.

It was natural that the prospect of famine in Ireland should be supposed to be more or less a rhetorical “bogey," when Mr. Parnell, instead of urging that immediate relief should be sent, sneered at the relief agencies already in operation. Another circumstance which went to encourage the same impression was a quarrel between the managers of the two relief funds, whose head quarters were in Dublin. The Duchess of Marlborough complained that subscriptions were sent by mistake to the Lord Mayor, which were intended for her fund, and the Lord Mayor resented this as an imputation upon the honour of himself and his secretaries.

The symptoms of keen distress in England were less marked than last year, but the Revenue Returns furnished a significant index of the state of the national prosperity. Except on the supposition that the nation had taken a sudden fit of thrift, it was obvious that people had less money to spend when the Revenue showed such a falling off from the previous year. In the month of January, nearly a million less was collected from the various sources of revenue than in the January of 1879, and the first week of February presented the unparalleled phenomenon of a deficiency of more than half a million. The chief falling off was in the Excise. There was a decrease in January in the receipts from this source as compared with the previous year of 485,0001., and in the first week of February a decrease of 342,0001. Although less was said about the distress in England, a great deal undoubtedly existed throughout the month of January, and quiet and unostentatious measures were taken for its relief. At a conference of unemployed labourers held at the Mansion House, on January 23, at which delegates from thirty-four districts were present, various schemes of relief were discussed. The idea of holding a meeting in Hyde Park to make known the destitute condition of unskilled labourers was mooted, but local meetings were recommended instead. Such signs of the pinching of the industrial system made themselves felt, but Lord Derby was probably justified in a remark which he made in addressing the Incorporated Chamber of Commerce at Huddersfield, on January 8, that in no previous industrial crisis had there been so little suffering.

The oratorical battle between the leading men of the parties, which had been suspended about the time of the New Year, was resumed with fresh vigour as the reassembling of Parliament drew near. At Oxford, on January 13, Sir W. Harcourt defended himself brilliantly from the charge of saying the same things over again. Lord George Hamilton was also one of the first to break silence; he had gone to Edinburgh to encourage his party against the effects of Mr. Gladstone's Midlothian campaign, and made a dashing speech to the Edinburgh Conservative Association on January 14. On January 15, Mr. W. H. Smith spoke at Sutton, Sir S. Northcote at Stroud, Mr. Baxter at Forfar, and Mr. Stansfield at Halifax. This activity continued up to the eve of the meeting of Parliament. It was estimated that in the course of this recess more speeches had been made by Cabinet Ministers than in all the recesses of other Parliaments put together.

The death of Mr. Torr, one of the members for Liverpool, on January 16, gave rise to an exciting contest for the vacant seat. The result was eagerly looked forward to as a test of the feeling of the country, and both sides put forth all their strength. The Conservative candidate was a Liverpool solicitor, personally popular in the town; the Liberal candidate, Lord Ramsay, was unknown in Liverpool, but showed much spirit and ability in his electioneering speeches, and gained popularity so quickly, that his supporters, at first doubtful of winning a Conservative stronghold, began to be sanguine of success. A peculiarity in the Liverpool constituency is the size of the Irish vote, and out of this grew the most notable episode in the contest. It was announced at first that the Irish electors would abstain from voting, because Lord Ramsay would not go far enough to satisfy their Home Rule leaders. A day or two afterwards it was announced that Lord Ramsay had agreed to vote for Mr. Shaw's motion, affirming the expediency of an inquiry into the claims of the Home Rulers, and that in consequence the Irish electors of Liverpool would vote for him. A cry was immediately raised against Lord Ramsay's concession as a sacrifice of principle for the sake of winning a vote, and Lord Sandon, who was in Liverpool actively supporting Mr. Whitley's candidature, denounced him in strong language for thus identifying himself with those who wished to dismember the Empire. A report was circulated that Lord Ramsay, by his unworthy compliance, bad forfeited the countenance of the Liberal leaders, and this report drew from Lord Hartington a letter in which he declared that while opposed to the demand for Home Rule himself, he did not consider it necessary to

repudiate the allegiance of those who might consider that demand a fair subject for inquiry.

Lord Hartington's frank declaration had only the effect of turning against himself the denunciations which had been levelled at Lord Ramsay. From numberless platforms and printing-offices came loud expressions of indignation against the iniquity of trimming his sails to catch the Home Rule vote. Lord Ramsay protested in vain in the face of the storm of abuse with which he was assailed, that he had not in the least changed his attitude under pressure. When he first addressed the Liverpool Nine Hundred, on being chosen as the Liberal candidate on the death of Mr. Torr, he had avowed himself anxious to make every concession to Irish claims with a view to the removal of legitimate discontent, short of any measures that might tend to the dismemberment of the Empire. He had said that he would not consent to the restoration of the old Irish Parliament, because that would be breaking up the empire, and from this position he would not budge. But he was willing to support Mr. Shaw’s motion, as a means of raising the question whether, short of restoring the Irish Parliament, Ireland might not receive a larger measure of selfgovernment. Lord Ramsay maintained that he had not yielded a jot, and that he had consented to vote for Mr. Shaw's motion only on the understanding that it did not pledge him to anything beyond the opinions which he had from the first distinctly declared.

The attack upon the Liberal candidate for Liverpool and the Liberal leader for tampering with Home Rule for party purposes was varied by a counter-charge against the Conservatives. Premising that the indignation of the latter with their opponents was feigned and theatrical, Mr. Sullivan, at one of the election meetings in Liverpool, undertook to "let in the light of day” upon some of their own transactions with Home Rulers. The idea of forming a Home Rule party, he alleged, originated with certain Conservatives. Conservative gentlemen supplied the money for the earliest Home Rule elections, and in particular the candidature of O'Donovan Rossa for Tipperary was fought with funds supplied by a Conservative nobleman. Further, Conservative members professing Home Rule had been singled out for honour and appointments. Mr. Sullivan's inference that Conservative Home Rulers acted with the connivance of these party leaders, who meditated at one time

dishing the Whigs” by giving Ireland a separate legislature, was immediately denied. Their action had been entirely independent. But the fact that Colonel King-Harman, Home Rule member for Sligo, had been appointed Lord-Lieutenant of Sligo county, could not be denied, and it furnished Sir W. Harcourt and Lord Hartington with matter for ironical comment on the duty of holding no fellowship with those who aimed at dismembering the Empire, and were therefore traitors to the country and the constitution.

The Liverpool contest was fought with infinite spirit on both sides, and resulted on February 6 in the largest poll ever taken between two candidates in the United Kingdom. Mr. Whitley was returned by 26,106 votes, a majority of 2,221 over Lord Ramsay, for whom were polled 23,885.

Two other bye-elections followed immediately after, and were watched with hardly less interest for indications of the balance of parties. On February 12, a Liberal successor to Mr. Waddy, who had vacated his seat at Barnstaple to contest Sheffield, was returned in the person of Lord Lymington by 817 votes against 721 recorded for Sir R. Carden. The result at Southwark was more remarkable. Three candidates appeared in the field,-Mr. Edward Clarke, who avowed himself a thorough supporter of the Government, Mr. Andrew Dunn, an equally decided supporter of Mr. Gladstone and his policy, and Mr. Shipton, who stood as a Labour candidate. The Conservative candidate was returned by 7,683, against 6,830, polled for Mr. Dunn, and 799 for the Labour candidate. Mr. Clarke had received more votes than both his opponents put together, and so striking a result in a borough in which the Liberal side had from 1832 to 1870 been all powerful, was hailed by the supporters of the Ministry as conclusive proof that the country was with them.

When Parliament met on February 5, public interest was concentrated more on Liverpool, and the contest there proceeding, than on St. Stephen's. People were more concerned to know what this constituency would say, than what would be said by Her Majesty's Ministers. Curiosity had been whetted on one point. It had been rumoured that the Government proposed to introduce a Bill affecting the existing Land System. There was some eagerness to see whether this rumour would be confirmed. But no other surprise was anticipated and no surprise was given. Parliament was opened by the Queen in person, and the speech from the Throne, read by the Lord Chancellor, was as follows:

My Lords and Gentlemen,

“ It is with much satisfaction that I again resort to the advice and assistance of my Parliament.

“My relations with all the Powers continue to be friendly. The course of events since the prorogation of Parliament has tended to furnish additional security to the maintenance of European peace, on the principles laid down by the Treaty of Berlin. Much, however, still remains to be done to repair the disorder with which the late war has affected many parts of the Turkish Empire.

“A Convention for the suppression of the Slave Trade has been concluded between my Government and that of his Imperial Majesty the Sultan.

“ At the close of your last session I expressed my hope that the Treaty of Gundamak had happily terminated the

war in Afghanistan. In conformity with its provisions my Envoy, with his

« ForrigeFortsæt »