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Mr. Gladstone deprecated the interference of the House of Commons with Westminster Abbey, and the gallantry of the young Prince and his father's friendship for England were insisted upon by several speakers, some of whom used considerable strength of language with respect to the agitation out of doors against the monument. But Mr. Beresford Hope offered to support Mr. Briggs if he would withdraw the reference in his motion to the Bonaparte family, and confine it to a protest against the monument as being inconsistent with the national character of the Abbey. Sir Wilfrid Lawson said he had reasou to believe that the proposed monument was objectionable to the French Government, and that they were only restrained by courtesy from interfering; and Mr. Broadhurst spoke to the strong feeling of resentment which the proposal had roused among the working classes of France, and which were sympathised with by the working classes of England. Mr. Briggs's resolution was carried by 162 to 147, although most of the members of the Ministry, with the exception of Mr. Bright, Mr. Chamberlain, Sir Charles Dilke, Mr. Fawcett, and Mr. Lefevre, voted for passing it by. The incident was commented on as being significant of the temper of the new House.
Mr. Gladstone's serious illness at the beginning of August arrested universal attention and sympathy. For a few days, till his life was pronounced to be out of danger, it was the all-engrossing subject of public interest. The news that he was seriously ill first got abroad on a Sunday evening, and then it became known that for some time his friends had warned him that he was working too hard, and advised him to take rest. It appeared that he had been closely occupied all Friday, and in the evening complained of feeling a chill, and went home. Sir Andrew Clark was sent for, and pronounced him to be suffering from fever, with slight congestion of the base of the left lung. A bulletin to this effect was published in the papers of Monday, August 2, and an excitement was produced throughout the country which had had no parallel since the serious illness of the Prince of Wales. The interest was by no means confined to party. Lord Beaconsfield sent a distinguished messenger to ask after the health of his great rival, and the chiefs of the Opposition were among the first to make visits of kindly inquiry at the doors of his house in Downing Street. The traffic in that street was stopped, and from morning till night it was thronged with sympathetic crowds from all classes and all parties. The various journals vied with one another in their expressions of respect and solicitude. “However unwelcome the occasion," said the Pall Mall Guzette, “ it is pleasant to be reminded that there is a limit to the heat and passion of partisan warfare.” “ A statesman," wrote the Standard, “ so enthusiastically attached to his own opinions as the Premier, and so persistent in advocating them, must necessarily excite no small amount of political antagonism, which will sometimes seem to degenerate into personal animosity. But it only needs an occasion like the present to convince us that the language of politics is invariably tinged with exaggeration, and that the most resolute opponents of the Prime Minister in Parliament entertain for him feelings of perfect kindliness and genuine admiration.” In a few days the illness took a favourable turn, and the patient made rapid progress to recovery. On Saturday, August 28, Mr. Gladstone was back in his place in Parliament, with every appearance of renewed strength.
During Mr. Gladstone's absence the leadership of the House devolved upon Lord Hartington. It was a severe trial of capacity, for the opposition was keen and hot, and the House was not in the best of tempers at the prospect of abnormally prolonged sittings. Lord Hartington abundantly justified the belief of those who had confidence in his powers of rising to an occasion. At first it was supposed that Mr. Gladstone's breakdown would be fatal to the Ministerial programme, and for some days, whenever Lord Hartington rose, the House listened eagerly for the names of the measures that were to be sacrificed. Members could hardly be persuaded that the Government, without Mr. Gladstone's assistance, were resolved to carry every one of their measures except the Vaccination Bill. That Lord Hartington would meet efforts to delay business and to obtrude inconvenient questions with firmness was expected, but he developed a power of putting down troublesome opponents with sharp, telling retorts, which fairly took followers and opponents alike by surprise. The opinion was universally expressed, at the close of the Session, that he had established a reputation as a first-rate Parliamentary leader, under very trying circumstances. The seal was set upon this reputation by an elaborate reply, on August 20, to an oft-repeated accusation that the Government were hurrying through measures at a period of the session when reasonable time could not be afforded for their discussion. He made his first good point by saying that the introduction of measures was subject not only to “ reasonable time,” but to discussion at “a reasonable length.” Then he supplied the House with some interesting statistics as to the Fourth Party and some of the Parnellites. Mr. Gorst had made one hundred and five speeches and asked eighty-five questions ; Sir H. Wolff had made sixty-eight speeches and had asked thirty-four questions ; Lord R. Churchill had made seventy-four speeches and had asked twenty-one questions ; Mr. Biggar had made fifty-eight speeches and had asked fourteen questions ; Mr. Finigan had made forty-seven speeches and had asked ten questions; and Mr. A. O'Connor had made fifty-five speeches, but had asked only two questions. As these numbers were read out there were continual bursts of laughter varied with irate cheers. Six members, continued the noble Marquis, had thus made 407 speeches; and allowing ten minutes to each speech, they had occupied about a fortnight of the working time of the House. If all of the 652 members occupied a similar time, the session would last about four years, which, said Lord Hartington, winding up the calculation, as Euclid remarked in similar circumstances, was absurd. The offending members had frequently stated that they had no desire to obstruct; but, he went on to triumphantly ask, amid the excited cheers of the Ministerialists, what would be the time occupied if a similar number of members had desired to obstruct? This might be freedom of discussion for these six members, but it was complete exclusion from discussion for the vast majority of the members of the House. This state of things would soon become intolerable; it was not, the noble lord added, amid loud and prolonged cheers, very far from that position now. And then he ended with a declaration of the determination of the Government to proceed with the business. The House, when he sat down, was a scene of unusual excitement, the cheering lasting for some minutes.
Irish business occupied a very large portion of the time of the session, and Irish business supplied the occasion of the most exciting incidents at its close. The rejection of the Disturbance Bill intensified the Land League agitation in Ireland, and furnished its leaders with a new text. The member for Galway, Mr. T. P. O'Connor, gave notice of a motion for the abolition of the hereditary chamber, but strong language in Ireland itself was not confined to attacks on the House of Lords, and discontent did not express itself only in language. Soon after the rejection of the Bill there came most disquieting reports from Ireland. There were riots at evictions; tenants who had ventured to take the place of evicted occupiers were assaulted, their property damaged, their ricks burnt, their cattle maimed; there was a mysterious robbery of arms from a ship lying in Queenstown harbour, and it was said that a plot had been discovered for the blowing up of Cork barracks. Great indignation was excited above everything by the outrages on dumb animals, and this indignation was loudly expressed when one of the Irish members, Mr. John Dillon, made a speech at a Land League Meeting which was apparently an incitement to such outrages, and also to organised insurrection. Mr. Dillon expressed a significant opinion that cattle would not thrive upon the fields of a supplanter, and, urging upon his hearers the importance of organisation, said that with 300,000 men enrolled in the Land League, and trained like regiments of soldiers, all the army of England would not be able to levy rent in the country. Questioned in Parliament as to whether he was aware of this speech, and what the Government proposed to do with the speaker, Mr. Forster declared that “its wickedness could only be equalled by its cowardice.” A storm gathered thereupon among the Irish members, but Mr. Forster for the moment escaped it by making a hurried visit to Ireland. The disturbed state of the country in consequence of the rejection of the Disturbance Bill was construed to be the reason for this visit. A significant addition was made to the number of troops quartered in Ireland. On Mr. Forster's return Mr. Dillon demanded an explanation of the language that had been applied to him. Mr. Forster adhered to it; and the storm which had been gathering burst upon him, and raged throughout nearly the wbole of the sitting of August 23. The man who called John Dillon a coward must have forgotten who his father was; the man who called such a speech as his an incitement to crime declared war against Ireland
Next day there was a debate on Home Rule, Mr. Parnell moving that the rejection of the Disturbance Bill had supplied one more proof of the necessity of a radical change in the Parliamentary relations between England and Ireland. In opposing this motion, Mr. Forster made a statement which drew down upon him great wrath from another quarter of the political heavens. The Government, he said, were determined to maintain the law in Ireland. If they did not find the existing powers of the law equal to the maintenance of order, they would have to call Parliament together and ask for increased powers. He did not believe such a course would be necessary. But, he added, “if they should find, what during the past two or three weeks they had not found, and which he trusted they would not find, that the landlords of Ireland were to any great extent making use of their powers so as to force the Government to support them in the exercise of injustice, they would certainly accompany any request for special powers with some sort of a Bill which should prevent them from being obliged to support injustice. He thought that the Irish people, notwithstanding the history of centuries, might have sufficient hope and confidence and trust to allow the Government one year at least in which to try and solve the most difficult problem before them.” Mr. Forster was sorely taken to task for this “ treasonable concession," as it was called, to Irish clamour. His implied description of the existing law as unjust was denounced as an incitement to the Irish people to break it. He declared, in reply to these taunts, that his language was being “intentionally misrepresented.” The Government were quite resolved to enforce the law; but if they had to ask for increased powers, they would accompany the coercive measure with a measure for the removal of what they believed to be injustice.
Thus this incident passed off, but another crisis was presently brought on by a threat from Mr. Parnell, that if the Government did not give satisfactory assurances as to their intentions next session, he and his followers would obstruct the passing of the Irish Estimates. In response to this, Lord Hartington said that the time had come for plain speaking ; the Government had no further concessions to make, and nothing to add to their previous assur
It had been said that a majority of Liberal peers had opposed the Disturbance Bill in the House of Lords, and that this fact was evidence of the unfairness with which English politicians regarded Irish affairs. Their unsympathetic spirit, Lord Hartington bluntly said, would not be amended if Irish members ob structed public business,
This reply was considered eminently unsatisfactory, and there were rumours that, when the Irish Estimates came on, obstruction would be resorted to on a scale hitherto unheard of. The rumours proved to be well founded. When the House went into Committee on the Irish Estimates, on Thursday, the 26th, the Constabulary vote was violently opposed, and by speeches on alternate motions for reporting progress and for the Speaker to leave the Chair, the House was kept sitting throughout the night, and did not rise till ten minutes to one on Friday afternoon. The Government had to consent to the postponement of the Constabulary vote, which was finally got rid of, after another debate, on August 30.
Yet another hitch occurred, in consequence of the rejection of another Irish Bill by the House of Lords. Much indignation was expressed by the members of that House at the lateness of the period at which measures came to them from the Commons. There was no time, it was complained, for the proper consideration of them; the Upper Chamber was insulted, treated with contempt, practically told that it was a nonentity, in being asked to pass measures in such circumstances. The Lords were only prevented by the judicious advice of Lord Beaconsfield from marking their sense of displeasure by rejecting the Ground Game Bill. At Lord Redesdale's instigation, they seized upon a humble victim, an Irish Registration of Voters Bill
, intended to put the law of registration on the same footing in Ireland as in England. This Bill was presented on September 1, and, in a thin House, summarily rejected, in spite of the pleading of the Miņisterial peers.
This disturbed for a moment the understanding on which matters were proceeding smoothly in the Commons between the Government and the Irish members. Mr. Parnell proposed that the main clause of the measure should be “tacked” to the Appropriation Bill. The Government declined. Then he proposed that the main clause should be sent up again to the House of Lords, as a separate Bill. To this also the Government objected, on the ground that the measure was not urgent. But, in response to one of Mr. Parnell's proposals, Mr. Forster made a speech about the conduct of the House of Lords which was accepted as some consolation by the Irish members for the rejection of the Registration Bill. “ If such a course were often taken,” he said, “it would make it very difficult for the two Houses to go on,” and the Commons “ might think that some change in the constitution of the House of Lords was desirable or might be necessary.” With reference to the complaint made by Lord Redesdale of want of time, Mr. Forster said that “this was one of the matters which especially noblesse oblige, and that the House of Lords ought not to allege the argument of personal inconvenience to prevent Bills sent up from that House at any time of the session being thoroughly considered. They could not forget --at any rate the country could not forget—these two facts : first, that the Commons were the hardest worked law-makers in the