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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 tte 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 Circular 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 which 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 difficulty not settled without many motions and angry, excited, and protracted debates, it is necessàry 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.”
political power impending as has sometimes followed an appeal to (the constituencies.
While Mr. Gladstone went on day after day addressing audiences in Midlothian, keeping the foreign policy of the Government well in the foreground, but dealing also incidentally with the Land Laws, Local Government, Home Rule, the National Debt, various topics, local and imperial, provoking from the Times the complaint that “if the Midlothian campaign continues as it has begun, the newspapers will have no opportunity of allowing any one else to be heard.” The impression that his speeches were chiefly remarkable as phenomenal displays of individual energy, and exercised very little real influence on opinion, was by no means confined to the Times. Even in the Liberal camp itself, disheartened by a long series of Parliamentary defeats almost beyond hope of recovery, the confidently proclaimed opinion that he was damaging his own cause by his long-windedness and his indiscretions, wearying out the public mind with intolerable iteration, found a considerable num\ber of easily convinced believers.
The Ministerial cause suffered not a little, in the first ten days of the struggle, from the fact that its leaders were tied to town by their official duties, although Mr. Cross, who was the first to take the field, made very light of Mr. Gladstone and his oratory. has gone to Scotland,” Mr. Cross said, “to say that so long as breath is in him he will not cease to speak against the wicked actions of the present Government. He has begun his second volume, and I hope his second volume will be distributed as widely as the first; and I hope it will produce the same impression upon the English, Scotch, and Irish people. I am quite certain of this, that the more he speaks, the more determined will the country be against him and his policy; and I am certain that when the verdict has to be given, as it will be in the course of the next month, you Lancashire men-as you did in 1868, as you did in 1874, and as the country did in 1874—will say that you will not have his policy, and that you will not have his power.” The gist of Mr. Cross's speech was that the great secret of the difficulties with which the Government had to deal in the East was 66 the fermenting of insurrection by Russian intrigue.” Mr. Gladstone had asked why they did not go to war to prevent Russia from invading Turkey, if they were convinced that it was the ambition of the Russians to possess the Sultan's European provinces. Because, Mr. Cross said, “our policy was not one of war, but of peace.” “Our great desire was peace, and we strove in every possible way to keep this country out of war.” The Government defined the interests which they could not allow to be threatened by the progress of the war; and when Constantinople was threatened, they took action accordingly. “Whether we were in the right or in the wrong,” Mr. Cross said, “ I hope our policy has succeeded. Constantinople did not pass into other hands, and the Dardanelles was still open. If Russia had got possession of Constantinople
you would never have driven her out, and if the Dardanelles had been closed, I believe that whatever Government was in power at the time would have been hurled from office by an indignant country. The difficulties and the dangers were great, and although it may be said 'you could have done this, and you could have done that, it is very well to be wise after the event. I am certain we did that which we believed to be right, and I believe that a grateful country will acknowledge that we did so, and Europe we know is thankful.” But the danger was not yet past. Mr. Cross spoke in the strongest language about the designs of Russia. “I want to ask
you and this country, do you believe when Russia advanced into Turkey in the way she did she had simply the benefit of the inhabitants at heart? I ask you whether you can credit the most tyrannical, the most arbitrary Government in the world with this new-fledged wish for the freedom of other nations, which she at the moment professed ?” Further, “if Mr. Gladstone carries the country with him and gets a majority, the undoubted result will be that foreign nations will say that the policy of England has changed. Russia will feel relieved and will breathe more freely, for she will know that there is no bar to her ambition, and she will go on as she did in 1876 and 1877, and I, for one, will not be answerable for the result."
In a speech at Liverpool on the 20th, Mr. Cross repeated that the broad issue before the country was whether England was to maintain her position or not. “If the Opposition came into power, there was not a Government in Europe that would not understand that the policy of England was changed, that Russia might advance if she liked, and that the freedom of Europe was in danger.” This argument, which was repeated in hundreds of speeches on the Conservative side, was reinforced by reports from abroad of the alarm and indignation caused among foreign governments by Mr. Gladstone's reference to Austria. With regard to domestic questions, Mr. Cross in the same speech urged that the Liberals could not carry any useful measures because they were not united. “At the present moment they were not a Liberal party, they were a party of atoms. The Home Rulers guided them. The greatest misfortune that could happen to this country would be that there should be a Liberal Government in office with a practically small majority in the House of Commons made up simply by Home Rulers from Ireland. If the Liberals could come forward with a majority without the Home Rulers, he would bow to them at once, but if not they had no right to come into office.” Then who was their leader? Was it Mr. Gladstone or Lord Hartington ? Lord Hartington could not lead the Liberal party, because it would not be led. Mr. Chamberlain had spoken of him as “the late leader of the Liberal party.” “Lord Hartington would act in a different spirit from Mr. Gladstone, but he could not act for the Liberal party. It was Mr. Gladstone who was leading them into mischief, and, depend upon it, if they reversed