The Life of the Rt. Hon. Sir Charles W. Dilke V1
Stephen Gwynn

Part 11 out of 11

'In consequence of the position taken up by the Cabinet, I proceeded
to draft a Local Government Bill.' [Footnote: The measure was a large
one, but he notes in his Memoir that 'it was a less complete and
comprehensive measure than that prepared by me for Chamberlain in

Thus, immediately on his entry into the Cabinet Sir Charles found himself
entrusted with the task of framing the chief measure for the succeeding
Session. When the outlines had been sketched in, he wrote:

'Before I started for my Easter holiday I went through the draft of
the Local Government Bill. Drawing great Bills is heart-breaking work,
for one always feels that they will never be introduced or seen, so
considerable are the chances against any given Bill going forward. All
the great labour that we had given to the London Bill was wasted, and
this forms a reason why the Foreign Office is pleasanter than other
offices, as no work is wasted there.'

The decision to postpone extension of the franchise, though it eased the
situation, did not solve all difficulties. Mr. Chamberlain urged a Tenant
Rights Bill for England, which, he said to Sir Charles, "would be a great
stroke of business. Without it" they would "lose the farmers for a
certainty." Sir Charles concurred, and an Agricultural Holdings Bill was
amongst the measures carried in that Session. It did not go far in the
direction of tenant right, and therefore created no controversy with the
Whigs. But with regard to Ireland, Mr. Chamberlain 'was strongly in favour
of an Irish Local Government Bill' (which had been promised in a previous
Queen's Speech). The Prime Minister was of Mr. Chamberlain's view. On
February 3rd to 5th, when Dilke was staying with the Duke of Albany at
Claremont (and 'admiring Clive's Durbar carpet, for which the house was
built'), the Duke 'talked over Mr. Gladstone's strong desire for an Irish
Local Government Bill.' That desire was, indeed, no secret, for Mr.
Gladstone, still in his expansive mood of Cannes, gave an interview to M.
Clemenceau, in which he expressed his hope to "make the humblest Irishman
feel that he is a self governing agency, and that the Government is to be
carried on by him and for him."

At the Cabinet of February 9th

'we looked forward to what the schoolboys call "a jolly blow up," when
Mr. Gladstone should return. The letter from Mr. Gladstone, which was
read, was so steady in its terms that I passed a paper to Chamberlain,
saying: "He is quite as obstinate as you are."

'On February 12th I ... found Harcourt perfectly furious at Mr.
Gladstone's conversations as reported in the _Daily News_. I wrote to
Chamberlain to tell him, and he replied: u It is lovely. And his
conversation with Clemenceau will send Hartington into hysterics re
Irish Local Government.'

Sir Charles's first Cabinet Council was on Tuesday, February 6th, 1883.

'This was the Queen's Speech Cabinet, and my notes show that I wrote a
good deal of the speech, especially the part which concerned the
Bills. I was much surprised at the form of the circular calling the
Cabinet: "A Meeting of Her Majesty's servants will be held," etc....
We were thirteen on this day, and spent a portion of our valuable time
in wondering which of us would be gone before the year was out. Mr.
Gladstone still stated in his letters that he would retire at Easter,
or at the latest in August, and it was generally thought that he meant

A series of Cabinets followed in which the Prime Minister continued to
make himself felt, though absent, and Sir Charles wrote in his Diary:

"Talk of two Kings of Brentford! This Cabinet has to serve two
despotic monarchs--one a Tory one, at Osborne, and one a Radical one,
at Cannes."

It shows the temper of the moment that Sir Charles should have described
the second monarch as 'Radical.' But Ireland was then the central subject
of contention, and concerning Ireland Mr. Gladstone was with the Radicals,
Dilke and Chamberlain, and against those who wanted to revenge upon the
whole Irish nation, the plots of the "Invincibles," then being exposed by
the evidence of James Carey, the Phoenix Park assassin, who had been
accepted as an informer.

'On Sunday, February 18th, I dined with the Prince and Princess of
Wales at Marlborough House, where were present Prince Edward of Saxe-
Weimar, Hartington, the Duchess of Manchester, Lord and Lady Hamilton
(afterwards Duke and Duchess of Abercorn), Lord and Lady Granville,
Lady Lonsdale (afterwards Lady de Grey), Lord Rowton, H. Bismarck,
Leighton, Alfred de Rothschild, and Sir Joseph Crowe. Lord Granville
and I sat in a corner and talked Danube Conference. Lord Granville
told me, when we returned to other matters, that Harcourt was in a
dangerous frame of mind, and might at any moment burst out publicly
about the necessity of governing Ireland by the sword. He was also
threatening resignation on account of Mr. Gladstone's views about the
Metropolitan Police.'

'On February 19th there was an informal Cabinet in Mr. Gladstone's
room, which was now temporarily mine.... Harcourt fought against Lord
Granville, Kimberley, Northbrook, Carlingford, and Childers, in favour
of his violent views about the Irish. At last Carlingford, although an
Irish landlord, cried out: "Your language is that of the lowest Tory."
Harcourt then said: "In the course of this very debate I shall say
that there must be no more Irish legislation, and no more
conciliation, and that Ireland can only be governed by the sword." "If
you say that," replied Carlingford, "it will not be as representing
the Government, for none of your colleagues agree with you." It was
only temper, and Harcourt said nothing of the kind, but made an
excellent speech.' [Footnote: Sir Charles Dilke's view of the Irish
movement is expressed in a letter of March 7th, 1883: "I don't think
that the movement in Ireland is to be traced to the same causes as
that on the Continent. The Irish movement is Nationalist. It is
patriotic--not cosmopolitan, and is as detached from French Anarchism
and German or American Socialism as is the Polish Nationalist

'On March 1st I heard that when the Irish Government, through the Home
Office, had applied to the Foreign Office to ask the Americans for P.
J. Sheridan, the Home Office had said that they feared it was useless
to apply to the United States except on a charge of murder. On this
hint the Irish Government at once charged Sheridan with murder.
Harcourt told me that their promptitude reminded him of a story which
he had heard from Kinglake, who was once applied to by a friend as to
the circumstances which would be sufficient to legalize a "nuncupative
[Footnote: "Nuncupative" is a legal term for an oral as distinguished
from a written will.] death-bed will." Kinglake wrote a figurative
account of an imaginary case in much detail, and by the next post
received a solemn affidavit from the man setting out Kinglake's own
exact series of incidents as having actually occurred.'

Prosecutions and sentences had no more effect than such things generally
have in face of a suppressed revolution and on the night of March 15th,
1883, a dynamite explosion took place at the Local Government Board. Sir
Charles, however, did not take a very serious view of it:

'The dynamiters chose a quiet corner, and they chose an hour when
nobody was about, which showed that the object was not to hurt
anybody, but only to get money from the United States. At the same
time they picked their office most unfortunately, for the Local
Government Board is the only office where people worked late at night,
and two out of my four leading men were still in their rooms, although
they had come at ten in the morning and the explosion did not take
place till nine at night.'

Mr. Gladstone had returned at the beginning of this month, and on March
5th Sir Charles saw him for the first time in Cabinet, 'singularly quiet,
hardly saying anything at all.' He did, however, say that Mr. Bradlaugh
was "a stone round their necks," 'which in a Parliamentary sense he was.'
Despite one of Mr. Gladstone's greatest speeches, Government were again
beaten when they proposed to let him affirm.

In this spring there was an agitation to create a Secretaryship of State
for Scotland, and Lord Rosebery was looked upon as designate for the
office. Sir Charles did not think the change necessary, but was strongly
for having Lord Rosebery in the Cabinet, and wrote to Sir M. Grant Duff,
Governor of Madras:

"It would be natural to give Rosebery the Privy Seal, and let him keep
the Scotch work; but nothing will induce Mr. G. to look upon him as
anything but a nice promising baby, and he will not hear of letting
him into the Cabinet." 'Nothing,' he adds, 'was settled on this

"A smaller Bill than those which I have mentioned, but one in which I
was interested, was my Municipal Corporations (unreformed) Bill, which
had passed the House of Lords, but failed to pass the Commons.
[Footnote: Previous reference to Sir Charles's persistent fight for
this Bill is to be found in Chapter XIII.] Rosebery thought that this
time it should be introduced into the Commons... because, although the
Lords were pledged to it by having passed it," this pledge must not be
strained too hard by constantly waving the red flag of uncomfortable
reform before the hereditary bull. "Harcourt having agreed with me
that the Bill should be introduced into the Lords, and having also
agreed with Rosebery that it should be introduced in the Commons,
Rosebery again wrote: 'I am afraid if you go on bringing this measure
before the peers they will begin to smell out suspicious matter in

On April 21st 'Rosebery again promised me to introduce a Bill,' and the
Bill became law in 1884.

After his brother's death on March 12th Sir Charles Dilke, in his reply to
a very kind letter from the Prince of Wales in the name of himself and the
Princess, mentioned Lord Rosebery and the Scotch agitation. The Prince
wrote back:

"I quite agree. If Rosebery was not to be President of the Council, he
ought at least to be Privy Seal. It seems very hard, as he has every
claim, especially after the Midlothian election."

Several matters relating to the Queen and Royal Family appear at this time
in the Memoir. At the Cabinet of March 5th

'a letter from the Queen was read as to her strong wish to have an
Indian bodyguard, consisting of twenty noncommissioned officers of the
native cavalry. I did not say a word, and Chamberlain not much, but
all the others strongly attacked the scheme, which they ended by
rejecting. Lord Derby said that the Empress title had been forced on
the former Conservative Cabinet, of which he had been a member, in the
same way. It was pointed out that if India consented to pay the men,
and they only carried side-arms, they might be treated as pages or
servants, not soldiers, and need not be voted at all as "men" in the
Army Estimates.'

'A day or two later Villiers, our military attach. in Paris, reported
the existence of a military plot, said to have been got up by General
Billot, the Minister of War: the plan being that fifteen commanders of
corps were to turn out Grevy and put in the due d'Aumale. The story
was probably a lie.'

'On March 18th there was to have been a "forgiving party" at Windsor,
for Lord Derby was commanded as well as I. The Harcourts were to have
gone, but the Queen sent in the morning to say she had slipped down,
and must put off her Sunday dinner.'

'At this time peace was restored between Randolph Churchill and the
Royal Family. The reconciliation was marked by Lady Randolph attending
the Drawing-Room held on March 13th at the Queen's special wish.'

'At the Marlborough House dinner on May 27th, the Prince spoke to me
about the allowance for his sons as they came of age, and told me that
he thought the money might be given to him as head of the family. My
own view is very much the same, but I would give it all to the Crown,
and let the King for the time being distribute it so that we should
not deal with any other members of the family.'

'At Claremont I found, from the conversation of the Duke of Albany and
of his secretary, that if the Duke of Cambridge resigned speedily, as
then seemed probable, the Duke of Connaught had no chance of obtaining
the place; but it was hoped at Court that the Commander-in-Chief would
hold his position for five or six years, and then might be succeeded
by the Duke of Connaught.'

Later Sir Charles mentions the Duke of Albany's conversation with him as
to Canada, of which he wished to be Governor, but the Queen opposed the
project, and Lord Lansdowne was eventually sent out.

Returning to the Easter recess:

'The Government programme now began to be revised in the light of
men's declared intentions.'

'On Wednesday, March 21st, I crossed to Paris, and went to Toulon. I
must have been back in London on Thursday, March 29th, on which day I
had a long interview with Mr. Gladstone on things in general. He had
told Harcourt that he would hardly budge about the London police. His
last word was that they should be retained by the Home Office for a
period distinctly temporary, and to be named in the Bill. I gathered
from Mr. Gladstone's talk that all idea of retirement had gone out of
his mind.'

There was a Cabinet on April 7th, and 'London Government was again
postponed, but, owing to the fierce conflict between Harcourt and Mr.
Gladstone, was looked upon as dead.'

Mr. Gladstone, in his anger, told Sir Charles that "Harcourt, through
laziness, wanted to get out of the Government of London Bill." But the
truth was, says the Memoir, 'that he could think of nothing but the
dynamite conspiracy.' A Bill to meet this was being rushed through
Parliament, with an almost grotesque haste, that was as grotesquely
baffled in the end.

'On April 9th the Queen sat up half the night at Harcourt's wish in
order to be ready to sign the Explosives Bill at once, but Mr. Palmer
of the Crown Office (the gentleman who signs "Palmer" as though he
were a peer) could not be found; and the other man, Zwingler, was in
bed at Turnham Green, and to Harcourt's rage the thing could not be
done. On the 16th Harcourt told the Chancellor that in the discussion
of the Crown Office vote he should move the omission of the item for
his nephew's pay.' [Footnote: Mr. Ralph Charlton Palmer was Lord
Selborne's second cousin, and secretary to Lord Selborne in the Lord
Chancellor's Office. He was afterwards a Commissioner in Lunacy.]

The London Government Bill was not yet given up for lost. On April 11th
Sir Charles Dilke wrote to Mr. Gladstone to deprecate its withdrawal, and
the Prime Minister replied, agreeing that "withdrawal ... would be a
serious mischief, and a blow to the Government."

'On April 14th there was a Cabinet, at which Mr. Gladstone announced
that Harcourt had written to him refusing to go on with the Government
of London Bill after the second reading of the measure, and proposing
that I should conduct it through Committee.'

'At the Cabinet of this day (April 21st) Mr. Gladstone said that he
wanted the bearing of the Agricultural Holdings Bill on Scotland
explained to him. "I wish Argyll were here," said he. "I wish to God
he was," said Hartington, who had been fighting alone against the
Bill, deserted even by the Chancellor and by Lord Derby. Indeed, all
my lords were very Radical to-day except Hartington, who was simply
ferocious, being at bay. He told us that Lord Derby was a mere owner
of Liverpool ground rents, who knew nothing about land.'

'On Thursday, May 24th, there was a meeting at the Home Office of nine
members of the Cabinet as to the Government of London Bill, and I
wrote after it to Chamberlain: "Victory! Hartington alone dissenting,
everybody was for going on with everything, and sitting in the
autumn." And Chamberlain replied: "At last! But why the devil was it
not decided before?"'

At a full Cabinet a few days later 'the police difficulty finally slew the
London Bill.' This seemed to Sir Charles a very serious matter, and he
thought of resigning. Mr. Chamberlain, however, was against this, though
agreeing that he should resign in the autumn 'unless Mr. Gladstone would
promise to put franchise first next year.'

So it was left. But presently Mr. Chamberlain himself became the cause of
very grave dissensions. On June 13th, 1883, a great assembly was held at
Birmingham to celebrate the twenty-fifth year of Mr. Bright's membership
for the borough, and Mr. Chamberlain in speaking observed that
representatives of royalty were not present, neither were they missed.
[Footnote: On Monday, June 11th, 1883, there was a "monster procession and
fete constituting the popular prelude to the more serious business of the
Bright celebration at Birmingham" that week. On June 13th Mr. Chamberlain
said: "Twice in a short interval we have read how vast multitudes of human
beings have gathered together to acclaim and welcome the ruler of the
people. In Russia, in the ancient capital of that mighty Empire, the
descendant of a long line of ancient Princes, accompanied by a countless
host of soldiers, escorted by all the dignitaries of the State, and by the
representatives of foreign Powers, was received with every demonstration
of joy by the vast population which was gathered together to witness his
triumphal entry. I have been told that more than a million sterling of
public money was expended on these ceremonies and festivities.... Your
demonstration on Monday lacked nearly all the elements which constituted
the great pageant of the Russian Coronation. Pomp and circumstance were
wanting; no public money was expended; no military display accompanied Mr.
Bright. The brilliant uniforms, the crowds of high officials, the
representatives of Royalty, were absent, and nobody missed them; for yours
was essentially a demonstration of the people and by the people, in honour
of the man whom the people delighted to honour, and the hero of that
demonstration had no offices to bestow--no ribands, or rank, or Court
titles, to confer. He was only the plain citizen--one of ourselves...."
(the Times, June 14th, 1883).] He added that the country was in his
opinion more Radical than the majority of the House of Commons, but not
more Radical than the Government; that the country was in favour of
Disestablishment, and that three things were wanted: First, "a suffrage
from which no man who is not disqualified by crime or the recipient of
relief shall be excluded "; secondly, equal electoral districts; and,
thirdly, payment of members.

'On June 25th Mr. Gladstone had sent for me about a recent speech by
Chamberlain at Birmingham.

'The Queen had been angry at his "They toil not, neither do they
spin," but was still more angry about this recent speech, at which Mr.
Gladstone was also himself offended. [Footnote: "This speech is open
to exception from three points of view, I think--first in relation to
Bright, secondly in relation to the Cabinet, thirdly and most
especially in relation to the Crown, to which the speech did not
indicate the consciousness of his holding any special relation," wrote
Mr. Gladstone to Sir Henry Ponsonby (Morley's Life of Gladstone, vol.
iii., p. 112).] I pointed out that Hartington had committed his
colleagues on a practical question when he spoke as to Irish Local
Government last January, and Mr. Gladstone had committed them when he
talked on Ireland and on London government to Ribot and Clemenceau at
Cannes. Mr. Gladstone defended himself, but threw over Hartington, who
had "behaved worse than Chamberlain." I went to see Chamberlain about
it, and found him very stiff, but tried to get him to say something
about it at the Cobden Club, where he was to preside on Saturday, the
30th. On the next day he promised that he would do this, but when he
came to read me the words that he intended to use I came to the
conclusion that, although they would make his own position very clear,
they would only make matters worse as far as Mr. Gladstone and the
Queen were concerned.'

Dilke's mediation was ultimately successful, and 'on July 2nd Mr.
Gladstone, in a letter to Chamberlain, accepted his explanations with
regard to his speech.' In the House of Commons, charge of the Corrupt
Practices Bill had been entrusted to the President of the Local Government
Board--a very unusual arrangement--and it meant sitting late many nights,
once till 5.30 a.m., after which 'I had to get up as usual for my fencing

'On July 25th there was another Cabinet, before which I had
"circulated" to my colleagues my local government scheme. Many members
of the Cabinet objected to it as too complete, and on my communicating
their views to the draftsman, Sir Henry Thring, he wrote:

'"I believe that the great superiority of your plan of local
government over any other I have seen consists in its extent. I
believe that you will find that your scheme, though apparently far
more extreme than any scheme yet proposed, will practically not make a
greater alteration in existing arrangements than a far less
comprehensive scheme would make. It is, as far as I can judge,
impossible to make a partial plan for local government: such a plan
disturbs everything and settles nothing.... Your plan, when carried
into effect, will disturb most things, no doubt, but will at the same
time settle everything."'

At a Cabinet held in the recess on October 25th

'Mr. Gladstone made a speech about the next Session which virtually
meant franchise first, and the rest nowhere. After this I locked up my
now useless Local Government Bill, of which the principal draft had
been dated August 24th. One of its most important parts had been the
consolidation of rates and declaration of the liability of owners for
half the rates. It had then gone on to establish district councils,
and then the County Councils. There was, however, to be some slight
resuscitation of the Bill a little later.'

Two minor concerns which interested Sir Charles exceedingly were under
prolonged discussion this year. The first was the proposed purchase of the
Ashburnham and Stowe collections. Sir Charles 'voted all through against
the purchase of the Ashburnham manuscripts, being certain that we were
being imposed upon.' He noted

'the experts always want to buy, and always say that the thing is
invaluable and a chance which will never happen again. No one can care
for the National Gallery more than I do; I know the pictures very
well, for I go there almost every week.'

He thought, however, that some wholesale purchases for public collections
had been all but worthless, with perhaps one admirable thing in a mass of

Secondly, there arose in May a discussion over the Duke of Wellington's
statue, which Leighton and the Prince of Wales wanted to remove from Hyde
Park Corner, but which Sir Charles cherished as an old friend. It was one
of the matters on which he and Mr. Gladstone were united by a common

'The ridiculous question of the Duke of Wellington's statue had come
up again at the Cabinet of August 9th, and the numbers were taken
three times over by Mr. Gladstone, who was in favour of the old statue
and against all removals, in which view I steadily supported him, the
Cabinet being against us, and Mr. Gladstone constantly trying to get
his own way against the majority. It was the only subject upon which,
while I was a member of it, I ever knew the Cabinet take a show of

In the last Cabinet of the Session they 'once more informally divided
about the Wellington statue'; and he recorded the fact that he 'still
hoped to save it.' Yet in the end he failed; and 'now,' he notes
pathetically, 'I should have to go to Aldershot to see it if I wished to
do so.'



Sir Charles Dilke's transference to the Local Government Board scarcely
lessened his contact with the more important branches of the Foreign
Office work, while his entry into the Cabinet greatly increased the range
of his consultative authority.

The Triple Alliance was a fact, but only guessed as yet. It is not till
the middle of 1883 that Sir Charles writes:

'On June 4th, 1883, I heard the particulars of the alliance of the
Central Powers, signed at Vienna between Germany and Austria in
October, 1879, and ratified at Berlin on October 18th of that year, to
which Italy had afterwards adhered.' [Footnote: Sir Charles knew that
Prince Bismarck had tried first for an English alliance, and wrote on
August 17th, 1882, to Sir M. Grant Duff: "N. Rothschild told me that
the late Government had twice declined an offensive and defensive
alliance offered by Germany." See also _Life of Lord Granville_, vol.
ii., p. 211.]

An extension was contemplated which would have put France between two
fires. Later, in the autumn of 1883,

'a private letter from Morier to Lord Granville showed that Bismarck
had sent the Crown Prince of Germany to Spain to induce Spain to join
the "peace league"' (Triple Alliance), 'and had failed.'

On November 22nd, 1883,

'At the Cabinet I saw a telegram from Lord Dufferin, No. 86, received
late on the previous night, in which the Sultan asked our advice as to
offers of alliance in the event of immediate general war, which had
probably been made him by both sides. We replied to it after the
Cabinet (No. 68): "We cannot enter into hypothetical engagements or
make arrangements in contemplation of war between friendly Powers now
at peace. The Sultan must be aware that Germany is the most powerful
military nation on the Continent, and that she has no ambitious views
against Turkey. Strongly advise the Sultan not to enter into
entangling engagements." This whole story of the Sultan's was probably
a lie, to get us to say whether we would defend his Armenian frontier,
but, curiously enough, Dufferin seemed to believe it.'

'On May 24th, 1883, I informed the Ministers assembled of two
interesting matters of foreign affairs. The one was Bismarck's
denunciation to us of a league among the small Christian States of the
Balkan Peninsula for provoking popular votes in Turkey in favour of
annexation of various provinces to one or other of the partners. The
other was an offer by the Grand Sherif of Mecca to turn the Turks out
of Arabia, and place it under British protection.'

The gravest danger to the world's peace lay in the fact that to the
ordinary Englishman Russia was still the natural enemy, and that France,
smarting under the rebuff she had experienced in Egypt, was assuming a
more unfriendly attitude towards Great Britain.

In South Africa the state of things established after Majuba was revealing
itself as one of constant friction, and border wars between the Boers and
African tribes claiming British protection led to ceaseless controversy.

'On the 10th (March, '83) there was another Cabinet. A Transvaal
debate was coming on on Thursday the 15th, and in view of this
Chamberlain asked for support of his opinion that an expedition should
be sent out to save Montsioa. He was supported only by Hartington and
myself, but he afterwards managed to commit us to it, and to force his
view upon Mr. Gladstone. He passed a paper to me when he found we
could not win at the Cabinet: "How far would the difficulty be met by
supplying arms to Mankowane and (query) to Montsioa, and permitting
volunteers to go to their assistance?" I replied, "I don't think it
would stand House of Commons discussion." To this he answered,
"Perhaps not. But the first is what Mankowane himself asks for, and if
we gave him what he wants that course ought to be defensible." I
wrote, "Yes, I was thinking more of Montsioa."' [Footnote: Mankowane
and Montsioa were independent native chiefs of Bechuanaland, for whose
protection the Aborigines' Protection Society was appealing to the
British Government.]

'March 16th, 1883, Mr. Gladstone asked me to speak in the event of the
Transvaal debate coming on again, and I refused, as I did not agree in
the policy pursued. Chamberlain said he would speak in my place, and
did so.

'May 26th or 27th. We decided at the Cabinet to keep Basutoland.

'June 13th. As to South Africa, the Colonial Office told us that they
hoped to induce the Cape to take Bechuanaland. A little later on the
whole of their efforts were directed in the opposite direction--
namely, to induce the Cape to let us keep Bechuanaland separate from
the Cape. It was announced that Reay had accepted the Transvaal

'June 23rd. We decided that Reay was not to go out, because the
Transvaal people preferred to come to us.

'November 30th. We talked of the Transvaal, which looked bad.'

The Transvaal deputation is mentioned immediately after this as having

There are also allusions to South African affairs having been raised at
other Cabinets in this year, but no details given.

Late in 1883, Sir Charles says, 'I was pressing for the restoration of
Cetewayo, and Lord Derby insisted that he had brought all his troubles on

At this time Russia had subdued the Turcomans and made herself paramount
in the territories north of Persia and Afghanistan. It was only a matter
of months before Russian troops would be on the ill-defined frontiers of
Afghanistan. Great Britain was bound to the Amir of Afghanistan by an
engagement to assist him against external attack, provided that he
complied with British advice as to his foreign relations. Not only was a
collision predicted between Russia and the Amir, whose territory Great
Britain had thus guaranteed, but it was known where the struggle would be.

'It was also about this time' (February, 1883) 'that the Russian
Government took up my suggestion as to the delimitation of the
boundary of Afghanistan. But, as Currie wrote, "the object of the
Russian Foreign Office may only be to keep the British Government
quiet, while they are settling the boundary question with Persia and
annexing ... Merv, with a view to a fresh departure in the direction
of Herat as soon as that process is accomplished."'

'We already foresaw that the struggle would be over Penjdeh. A
memorandum of 1882, by Major Napier, [Footnote: Lieutenant-Colonel the
Hon. G. C. Napier, C.I.E., son of the first Lord Napier of Magdala,
and twin brother of the second Lord Napier.] had told us that "below
Penjdeh the Afghans would not appear to have ever extended their
authority." Mr. Currie, [Footnote: Afterwards Lord Currie, Assistant
Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office.] as he then was, prophesied
that the line proposed by the Russians would strike the Murghab near

This was a situation well fitted to arouse Sir Charles, who wrote to Lord
Edmond Fitzmaurice: "I'm as great a jingo in Central Asia as I am a
scuttler in South Africa." His policy was not that of the India Office. He
advocated delimitation of the Afghan frontiers, and in October, 1882, the
Amir had asked for this. [Footnote: 'On October 17th, 1882, the Amir had
proposed to Lord Ripon that delimitation of his frontiers which I was
pressing at the time, but which had been refused by Lord Ripon. Lord
Granville and Fitzmaurice had come round to my view. Northbrook strongly
resisted, and wanted his famous treaty.'] 'The Government of India
insisted at this time upon the proposal to Russia of a treaty with regard
to Afghanistan.' Sir Charles thought that British interests in India would
be better served by strengthening Afghanistan, by ascertaining exactly
what the Amir's rights were, and by making him feel that he would be
protected in them. To-day, when Afghanistan is one of the self-equipping
Asiatic military powers, and admittedly an awkward enemy to tackle, the
situation seems plain enough; but in those days Abdurrahman, new on the
throne, was still a 'King with opposition.'

'On April 20th, 1883, there was a meeting at the Foreign Office as to
Central Asia between Lord Granville, Hartington, Kimberley,
Northbrook, Edmond Fitzmaurice, and myself. The Amir was in a friendly
humour, and I felt that the evacuation of Kandahar had been better
than a dozen victories.'

The evacuation of Kandahar had been Lord Ripon's work, but Lord Ripon was
now inclining to compromise the unity of the Native State which he had
then laboured to establish. He was disposed to keep the Amir at arm's
length, and wished to decline a visit of ceremony which Abdurrahman
proposed. All the Committee at the Foreign Office were against this,
except Lord Northbrook, who 'did not believe in Abdurrahman's strength,
and believed that he would soon be turned out of Herat by his own

'On June 7th it was settled that the Amir should have twelve lakhs of
rupees a year.' But Sir Charles had not yet carried his point as to
preventing a treaty with Russia, and

'Philip Currie and Fitzmaurice both wrote to me in favour of the India
Office view, while Condie Stephen [Footnote: Sir Alexander Condie
Stephen, K.C.M.G., was in 1882-83 despatched from the Legation at
Teheran on a mission to Khorassan, the north-east province of Persia]
returned from Central Asia with the same view in favour of a
treaty.... But Currie put a postscript to his long letter, in which he
departed altogether from the treaty position, and took up my own view
as to delimitation: "In view of our engagement to defend Afghanistan
from foreign aggression, we ought surely to know the limits of the
territory we have guaranteed."

'I finally said that I had no objection to a treaty which would merely
recapitulate facts and set out the Afghan frontier. This was my last
word, and, Lord Granville agreeing with me, we went on with
delimitation as against treaty.... It was not until June 8th, 1888,
that the Emperor of Russia recognized the arrangement and the frontier
marked by the boundary pillars.'

For Sir Charles's policy it was necessary to propitiate the ruler of
Afghanistan, and in July, 1883, it was reported that the Amir had applied
to the British Government for a new set of teeth. The application had
really been for a European dentist. When Lord Ripon persisted in refusing
Abdurrahman's proffered visit, Sir Charles tried to get civil expressions
of regret from the Government, and, failing in this, wrote in despair to
Lord Kimberley: "I hope to goodness he has got his teeth."

It was not, however, till 1885 that the tension with Russia became really

In France, Gambetta's death had been followed by a Ministerial crisis, and
in the disturbances which resulted M. Duclerc fell in February, 1883, and
after a time of confusion M. Ferry became, for a second time, Prime
Minister, having M. Challemel-Lacour, no lover of England, for his Foreign

"In order to distract the country's attention from internal dissensions
and the Eastern frontier," [Footnote: _Life of Lord Granville_, vol. ii.,
p. 313.] M. Ferry developed that "Colonial policy" of which Sir Charles
said, in 1887, that

"it greatly weakens the military position of France in Europe, and
disorganizes her finances, while it compromises the efficiency of the
only thing which really counts in modern European war, the rapidity of
mobilization of the reserves." [Footnote: _Present Position of
European Politics_, p. 101.]

Germany also was embarking on a "Colonial policy" disapproved of by
Bismarck, but to which later he had to bow. One instance of the
difficulties thus created was that of the Congo. A sketch of our proposed
treaty with Portugal has already been given; [Footnote: See Chapter XXVI.,
p. 418.] but while the negotiations were proceeding,

'de Brazza, employed by the French, had been making treaties in the
Congo district, which had been approved by the French Government and
Parliament. The King of the Belgians pulled the strings of the
Manchester Chamber of Commerce, and succeeded in arousing a good deal
of feeling against our negotiations with the Portuguese, and
ultimately the French and Germans joined the King of the Belgians in
stopping our carrying through our treaty.'

Mr. Jacob Bright became the spokesman of those who opposed the Portuguese
negotiations, and in 1883 Sir Charles, though offering to express his own
clear belief that the treaty was right, foretold to Lord Granville that
the House of Commons would not accept the arrangement, and Mr. Gladstone
avoided an adverse vote only by promising that the treaty should not be
made without the express consent of Parliament. Sir Charles's reference to
this lays down an opinion upon the relation of Parliament to the Foreign
Office which is interesting as coming from so strong a democrat:

'In the Congo debate, which took place on Tuesday, April 3rd, 1883,
Mr. Gladstone went perilously near giving up the valuable treaty-
making power of the Crown. What he said, however, applied in terms
only to this one case. To Grant Duff I wrote: "In all other countries
having parliamentary government, the Parliaments have to be consulted.
We stood alone, and it was hard to keep the special position, but it
was good for the country, I feel sure."'

In 1883 a Committee of the Cabinet was appointed to deal with affairs on
the West Coast of Africa, and this Committee 'by its delays and
hesitations lost us the Cameroons,' where two native Kings had asked to be
taken under British protection. [Footnote: See Chapter XXVII., p. 431.] On
the East Coast there was a more serious result of procrastination in
regard to Zanzibar.

'As late as November 16th, 1882, I wrote to Lord Northbrook, "Are you
going to let Zanzibar die without a kick?" a note which applied to an
offer which had been made to us by the Sultan, that we should become
his heirs--an offer which Mr. Gladstone had wished us to decline, and
which I was in favour of accepting.'

'The Foreign Office, in a memorandum upon this subject, assigned as
the chief reason for not accepting this trust "the fear lest it should
infringe the agreement entered into with France in 1862." ... It may
be open to argument whether our acceptance of a voluntary offer by the
Sultan of the above nature would have been a breach of the agreement.
In the autumn of 1884 the Government, waking up too late, telegraphed
to our agent at Zanzibar as to the importance of our not being
forestalled by any European nation in the exercise of at least
paramount influence over the mountain districts situated near the
coast and to the north of the equator. The Foreign Office at my
suggestion pointed out at this time that "to the north of the
Portuguese dominions we are at present, but who can say for how long?
without a European rival; where the political future of the country is
of real importance to Indian and Imperial interests, where the climate
is superior, where commerce is capable of vast extension, and where
our influence could be exercised unchecked by the rivalry of Europe in
the extension of civilization and the consequent extinction of the
slave trade." The Government, however, delayed too long, and we
afterwards lost our position at Zanzibar, and had ultimately to buy
half of it back again by the cession of a British colony.'

Sir Charles was especially concerned at the heedlessness which disregarded
the interests of the great self-governing colonies, who had no authority
to deal with foreign affairs. He gives the history of the New Hebrides.
Here native chiefs had asked to be taken under British protection; New
South Wales had urged action; the French had three times declared
intention to annex, but Great Britain had done nothing. Australian anxiety
as to the French occupation extended to New Guinea, and in March, 1883,
officials of the Government of Queensland declared an annexation of half
New Guinea. They were disavowed, but their action had created a feeling
that something must be done.

'On June 12th, 1883, there was hatched a scheme for the partial
annexation of New Guinea, which had been prepared by the Chancellor,
Mr. Gladstone, and Sir Arthur Gordon, [Footnote: Sir Arthur Gordon was
one of the philanthropists who believed in making the coloured peoples
work by a labour tax. Sir Charles had met him in 1879, and described
him as one 'who invented, in the name of civilization and progress, a
new kind of slavery in Fiji.'] of Fiji and New Zealand fame. On the
13th a Cabinet decided to go slowly in this matter, and they went so
slowly that we lost half of our half of New Guinea to Germany, and
almost lost the whole of it.'

'As early as June, 1883, we had told Italy that any attempt to occupy
any portion of New Guinea without a previous agreement with the
British Government would undoubtedly "excite a violent outbreak of
public feeling in the Australian colonies." Lord Derby was a party to
this communication to the Italians, and it was absurd for the Cabinet
and Lord Derby afterwards to argue, when the Germans landed in New
Guinea, that steps ought not to have been taken in advance to have
prevented such action. The difference was that we were willing to
bully Italy, and not willing to stand up to Germany.'

The Colonial Secretary's general attitude upon these matters may be
illustrated from a correspondence which passed between him and Sir Charles
in the autumn of this year. Replying to criticisms concerning the
Australian Colonies, Lord Derby

'somewhat sneeringly observed that in order to keep out foreign
convicts "it is not necessary that they should annex every island
within a thousand miles of their coast. They cannot have at once the
protection of British connection and the pleasures of a wholly
independent foreign policy."'

On this Sir Charles comments:

'Lord Derby had lost all credit with the Conservative party about the
time of his resignation of the Secretaryship of State for Foreign
Affairs in the Conservative Administration. But he had retained
considerable weight with Liberals. During his tenure of the
Secretaryship of State for the Colonies in Mr. Gladstone's
Administration, he lost his credit with the Liberals as well, and his
influence reached a position of decline which makes it difficult even
to remember the enormous weight he had possessed in the earliest part
of his political career. For many years Lord Derby was the ideal
spokesman of the middle man not fiercely attached to either party.
Going over this diary in 1900, it is a curious reflection that the
immense weight gained by Sir Edward Grey in the period between 1890
and 1900 was similar to that which Lord Derby had enjoyed at the
earlier period. Each of them in his time appeared to express, though
far from old, the lifelong judgment of a Nestor. Each of them extorted
from the hearer or reader the feeling: "What this man says is
unanswerable. It is the dispassionate utterance of one who knows
everything, and has thought it out in the simplest but the most
convincing form." Lord Derby could sum up a discussion better,
probably, than anyone has ever done, unless it is Sir Edward Grey. Sir
Edward Grey's summing up of a discussion on a difficult problem, such
as that presented by the Chinese question, 1897-1900, was better than
was to be expected from anyone else, unless it had been the Lord
Stanley of, say, thirty-five years before.'

On May 27th

'I dined at Marlborough House at a dinner to meet a little tin soldier
cousin in white epaulettes, who was over from Germany ... and (the
German Ambassador) Count Munster told me that the French had hoisted
their flag on a reef, as he said, within cannon-shot of Jersey, as to
the British or neutral nature of which there had long been a dispute
between the two Governments.' [Footnote: The Memoir has a note upon
this episode of the Ecrehous Books, which led to the publication of
Parliamentary papers in June of that year:

'The rocks were not within three miles of the coast of Jersey at low-
water mark, and this was the limit of the reservation of the Jersey
oyster fishery, and it was upon this fact that the French went. It
afterwards appeared that the French flag never had been hoisted on the
rocks, but only on a boat which came thither for the purpose of
fishing, so that the whole matter was somewhat of a storm in a teacup.
It raised, however, another question. The Convention of 1839, which
defined the limits of the oyster fishery between Jersey and France,
also defined the limits of the exclusive French rights of fishery on
all other parts of the coast of the British islands; and some day an
Irish Parliament may find interest in Sir Edward Hertslet's
"Memorandum as to the French right of fishery upon the coast of
Ireland, printed for the Foreign Office on the 5th June, 1883."']

'On May 28th there was a Levee, at which d'Aunay, of the French
Embassy, told me that the act of the fishermen at Ecrehous was
disavowed by France. "But," he added, "there is perhaps some Challemel
in it," an admission which rather weakened the other statement, and it
again struck me that it was a pity we had been so rude to Challemel
when he was Ambassador.'

Relations with France were going from bad to worse. Not only were they
strained by the breach of 1882 over Egypt, but French colonizing
aspirations had created trouble in Madagascar. The understanding between
the two Great Powers that an "identic attitude" in regard to the Hova
people was to be maintained was broken down by France, which under various
pretexts intervened by force in Madagascar, claiming a protectorate over
certain narrow strips of territory on the north-west coast. This claim was
denounced by Lord Granville. Yet 'on October 27th, 1882, there was a
dinner at Lord Granville's, at which I met Hartington, Kimberley, and
Northbrook.' This meeting of the heads of the military and foreign
services discussed the affairs of the Congo, and also Madagascar; 'it was
decided against my strong opposition to put no difficulties in the way of
the French. 'At this time the growing tension was disagreeably felt, and
Sir Charles learnt a month later that the Cabinet of November 28th, 1882,
'had been much frightened at the prospect of trouble with France.'

At this time an Embassy from Madagascar was in Paris to protest against
the oppressive policy pursued. An ultimatum was presented which left the
envoys no option but to depart, and they came with their bitter complaint
to London, where Sir Charles Dilke very warmly espoused their cause:

'At this moment, December 1st, 1882, I was having difficulties with
Lord Granville about Madagascar, as I was seeing much of the Malagasy
envoys, and was very friendly to them; whereas Lord Granville was
frightened of the French. A deputation came to us, got up by Chesson,
Secretary of the Aborigines' Protection Society, and introduced by
Forster; it suggested American arbitration, and Lord Granville threw
much cold water upon the scheme.'

A few days later he adds:

'I was still at this moment fighting for my Malagasy friends. Not only
did Lord Granville snub me, but Courtney wrote from the Treasury: "I
hope you will get rid of these people as soon as possible. Even the
Baby Jenkins sees the absurdity of the anti-French feeling." But
whatever "Ginx's Baby" might do, I could not see the absurdity of the
anti-French feeling with regard to Madagascar, for the French were
wantonly interfering with an interesting civilized black people in
whose country they had not even trade, for All the trade was in
American, British, or German hands.

'On December 15th, 1882, there was a fresh trouble, for Lord Granville
was furious at a speech by Lord Derby, and, indeed, I never knew him
so cross about anything at all. The difficulty was once more
Madagascar. Lord Granville _meant_ to do nothing about Madagascar, but
he did not like Lord Derby saying so in public. It spoiled his play,
by allowing his French adversary to look over his hand and see how bad
the cards were.'

The Malagasys were unique in that since 1869 they had become definitely a
Christian State, and a State Christianized by English missionaries, and
this fact was impressively brought home to Sir Charles by a scene which he
afterwards (in 1886) thus described in a public lecture:

"At Westminster Abbey there came in to the Morning Service the whole
of the members of the Madagascar Embassy, which had just come to
London from France. The two Malagasy Ambassadors were at the head of
the party. They sat very silently through the service, which the
senior Ambassador did not understand at all, and which the second
Ambassador only partly understood, until a hymn which had been given
out was sung, when, recognizing the familiar tune, the two Ambassadors
and the whole of their secretaries struck boldly in with the Malagasy
words. There could be no better instant proof, to anyone who saw the
scene, of their familiarity with the missionary teaching of England
and America, and of the extent to which, though separated from us by
language, they look upon themselves as members of the Christian

In 1882-83 Sir Charles failed to interest his colleagues in the matter,
till on August 22nd, 1883, just before Parliament was prorogued, the
Cabinet had to discuss 'what was known as the Tamatave incident, which
nearly brought England and France to war over matters growing out of the
French operations in Madagascar.'

The town of Tamatave had been bombarded and occupied by the French in
June. The matter was aggravated by the treatment of the British Consul and
of a British missionary, and difficulties were made as to adequate apology
and indemnity.

'In the course of September I had frequent interviews with Fitzmaurice
at the Foreign Office with regard to Madagascar.... Lord Granville
wrote to me, about the middle of October, that (the French Ambassador)
Waddington "professed to have a solution of the Tamatave" difficulty,
and on the 22nd a Cabinet was called with regard to the Tamatave
difficulty, Egypt, and South Africa. The French despatch from
Challemel to Waddington was most unsatisfactory.'

Another Cabinet having been summoned for October 25th, Harcourt wrote:
"I have heard nothing about its cause or object, but conjecture that
it is Granville's Cabinet for France.... It is ominous Northbrook
(First Lord of the Admiralty) being a principal assistant. I am myself
for being _stiff_ with France."

'The Cabinet was upon the two points of Tamatave and withdrawal from
Egypt, but, in the absurd way in which Cabinets behave when summoned
upon important questions, we spent most of our time in discussing a
scheme of Lefevre's for widening Parliament Street; Mr. Gladstone
wishing to widen King Street and to make a fork. A Committee was
appointed on the matter, to consist of Harcourt, Childers, Lefevre,
Northbrook, and myself. Hartington came late as usual, and on his
arrival our Tamatave despatch was discussed.'

The complete destruction of the native State and dynasty did not come at
this time, and French "protection" of Madagascar was only recognized by
Lord Salisbury's Government in 1890. But the encroachments of France led
in this year to further friction, arising from their conflict for the
possession of Tonquin. On November 17th the Cabinet discussed 'the
protection of British subjects in China in view of a French attack on the
Chinese Empire, and decided to concert measures with Germany and the
United States.' On the 19th they proposed to France mediation in the
Chinese difficulty, 'with the full expectation that it would be refused.'

'On December 7th there was a paragraph in the _Times_ in large type
intended to reassure the French, by stating that our interference in
China to protect our own subjects was not combined with Germany in
particular. The paragraph, although it may have been wanted, was
untrue. We _had_ combined our action with the Germans, and then found
it was resented by the French.'

So dissension grew at a pace which enabled Bismarck to turn his attention
from European politics, and, in one of his many meetings with Count
Herbert, Sir Charles reports that about the second week in November

'I had a conversation with H. Bismarck about his father. He said that
the Prince had turned as yellow as a guinea, and could not now work
more than an hour at a time, and that the only thing on which he
troubled himself was his workman's insurance scheme.'



'On September 19th, 1882, at noon we had a conference at the War
Office with regard to the future of Egypt, at which were present Lord
Granville, Childers, Sir Auckland Colvin, and myself, and which was
followed afterwards by a further conference, when there were admitted
to us Pauncefote for the Foreign Office and Sir Louis Mallet for the
India Office, Admiral Sir Cooper Key for the Admiralty, Sir F.
Thompson, Permanent Under-Secretary for War, and Generals Sir Andrew
Clarke and Sir Henry Norman for the War Office. In preparation for the
conference I had stirred up Lord Granville as to the volunteering of
Indian Moslem troops for the Khedive's guard. But Lord Granville in
his reply to me was more concerned with abusing my handwriting in
choice language than with answering my questions. Hartington, however,
had telegraphed to India for me on the 17th to ask the opinion of the
Indian Government on the point. Harcourt, writing from Balmoral on the
19th, said: "If you have any ideas on the settlement of Egypt, I wish
you would let me have them. I confess I am myself _in nubibus_, and I
do not find that my betters are much more enlightened. I am constantly
asked here what we are going to propose, and I do not know what to
say. I have written to Mr. G. and to Lord G. to ask for light, but I
should like to have your own personal views as to what is practicable.
I think we must cut the cord between Egypt and Turkey, but one cannot
conceal from oneself that the consequences will be serious, and may
lead to far-reaching complications. The one good thing is that
Bismarck is honestly friendly, and I believe will support us in
whatever we propose. Austria seems to be almost as nasty as Russia,
and France naturally jealous. I suppose Bismarck can and will keep
Austria in order. Please write me a real letter on these knotty

'Our Egyptian conference decided upon free navigation of the Canal,
or, in other words, that ships of war were to pass at all times; on
increased influence for England on the Directorate of the Canal; and
on the destruction of the Egyptian fortresses. Childers promised to
prepare a scheme for taking over the Egyptian railroads. A paper by us
was printed for the use of the Cabinet on October 20th, in which we
stated our views about the Canal, and incidentally our decision
against a British protectorate of Egypt. The arrangement proposed by
us was pretty much that afterwards agreed upon by the Powers.'

Before this paper was issued Sir Charles had seen Emile Ollivier, who, as
a legal adviser of the Khedive, 'had great knowledge of the affairs of the
Suez Canal':

'I possess the draft of a full memorandum of Ollivier's conversation
which I sent to Lord Granville, and which represented his private
protests to Lesseps and his argument to the Khedive. Ollivier, who was
more English than French in the matter, accepted the position that by
the Khedival decree of August 14th England had been substituted for
the Khedive in all measures for the re-establishment of order in
Egypt, and that it was under this decree that we occupied the ends of
the Canal as the delegates of the Khedive; therefore there was no
violation of the neutrality, and when the Canal Company on August 19th
set up as a new Great Power, and addressed to the Khedive a diplomatic
note, their arguments became nonsensical, inasmuch as they virtually
argued that the Khedive himself had violated his own neutrality by an
internal act. Moreover, the neutrality of the Canal had never been
declared at all. The word "neutral" was indeed found in the original
concession, but it evidently meant that the Company was not to give to
one Power an advantage not given to others as regards trade and
passage. Lesseps had set up the Canal as a new Great Power, whereas it
was only an Egyptian Limited Company.

'Even, however, if the Canal had been neutral, Ollivier would have
argued against the Company that the suppression of an internal
rebellion in the Khedive's name, at his request, was not war or
violation of neutrality. It was the duty of the Khedive to suppress
rebellion, and the duty of the Canal as an Egyptian Company to aid,
and not to impede, as it had impeded, the lawful action of the
Egyptian ruler through his representatives. It had not been contended
by the Porte, as the overlord of the Khedive, that the Khedive had not
power to delegate authority to England to suppress Arabi's rebellion.
The Porte had delegated to France power to suppress the rebellion in
Syria in 1860 in its name. Lesseps seemed to think that it was within
the power of the Khedive to delegate to him sovereignty over the
Canal, and not in his power to delegate to anybody else the
suppression of a rebellion.'

A casual reference at this point recalls the fact that the Khedive's
dethroned predecessor was still moving about the world and capable of
causing trouble. Sir Charles went abroad for his autumn vacation:

'In Paris' (in the middle of October) 'I found a letter from Lord
Granville as to a visit which the ex-Khedive Ismail proposed to pay to
London. Lord Granville said that the Government could not object to
his "coming to this country. But at this moment his arrival would be
misunderstood, and any civilities, which in other circumstances they
would be desirous to show to His Highness, would lead to
misconstruction."' [Footnote: 'In November, 1883, the ex-Khedive had
come to London, and when asked to see him, at his wish, I at first
refused, but as, after he clearly understood that I knew him to be a
rascal, he wished to see me "all the same," I saw him privately at
Lady Marian Alford's house in Kensington; but he had little to say,
and seemed very stupid.' ]

'I was at this time in correspondence with my friend d'Estournelles,
[Footnote: Baron d'Estournelles de Constant.] who was Acting Resident
at Tunis, as to the capitulations. In the course of his letter
d'Estournelles expressed his bitter regret that France had not gone to
Egypt with us.'

When Sir Charles came back to London from France on October 20th, the
Cabinet was still vacillating as to its Egyptian policy:

'I had found on my return that nothing had been done towards setting
up such an Egyptian Army as could take the place of our own, although
Sir Charles Wilson, Colonel Valentine Baker, Baring, [Footnote: Major
Evelyn Baring, afterwards Lord Cromer, was then Financial Member of
Council in India. Sir Charles Wilson (Colonel Wilson) must not be
confounded with Sir Charles Rivers Wilson. Colonel Valentine Baker was
head of the Egyptian Gendarmerie.] and others, had written memoranda
upon the subject. Baring, in the course of his memorandum, strongly
defended the honesty, humanity, and conscience of the Khedive, and
opposed annexation and protectorate. On the whole, Baring's memorandum
was a better one than that of his relative Lord Northbrook, or that of
Lord Dufferin, which afterwards attracted much attention. Chamberlain
and I discussed on Saturday, October 21st, a letter to me from
Labouchere, in which the latter seemed to take a different view from
that recorded above. Labouchere said that the dissatisfaction with the
Egyptian policy was growing, that we seemed to be administering Egypt
mainly for the good of the bondholders. He was a bondholder, so it
could not be said that he was personally prejudiced against such a
policy. But he was sure that it would not go down.

'He went on to recommend the policy which I was in fact maintaining--
namely, that we should warn off other Powers, hand Egypt over to the
Egyptians, but, establishing our own influence over the Canal, remain
masters of the position so far as we needed to do so. Chamberlain
wrote on Labouchere's letter: "I am convinced the war was submitted to
rather than approved by Radicals, and, unless we can snub the
bondholders in our reorganization scheme, we may suffer for it. I have
written a long paper upon the subject, and sent it to Mr. G. I have
arranged for a copy to be sent you."'

A further Cabinet held on Saturday, October 21st, "decided" (so Sir
Charles noted in his Diary at the moment) "to be very civil to the French
--too civil by half, I think. They rejected a complicated scheme of Lord
Granville's, and substituted a single English (not to be so expressed)
controller (not to be so called)."

At this moment the autumn Session was approaching, in which the thorny
subject of reforming Parliamentary procedure must be disposed of, and the
Cabinet were preoccupied with this till 6 p.m. on October 23rd. They

'scamped their work on the draft despatch to Lord Lyons as to what he
was to tell the French as to Egypt, and so made a wretched job of it.
At night I pointed this out to Lord Granville, and told him that the
despatch was slipslop, and on the next day, October 24th, I managed to
get a good many changes made--one by telegraph, and the others by an
amending despatch.'

'Chamberlain's view of Lord Granville's proposals was that they were
childishly insincere. Europe would not be deceived into believing them
to be anything more than a proposal to restore the old system in its
entirety, with an English nominee as controller in place of the dual
control. Nothing, Chamberlain thought, was being done to develop
Egyptian interests or promote Egyptian liberties.

'Chamberlain was absent from some of the Cabinets at this moment,
detained at Birmingham by the gout, but his memorandum was sent round
the Cabinet. He was, however, in London on October 24th to assist me
in somewhat improving the despatch. His memoranda show the strong view
he held that, in spite of the almost unanimous approval of the Press,
the war had not been popular, but had only been accepted on the
authority of Mr. Gladstone as a disagreeable necessity; and that
dissatisfaction existed upon several points, but above all with regard
to the civil reorganization of the country. "There is great anxiety
lest after all the bondholders should be the only persons who have
profited by the war, and lest the phrases which have been used
concerning the extension of Egyptian liberties should prove to have no
practical meaning." Chamberlain thought that our first duty was to our
principles and our supporters rather than towards other Powers, and
that, if the other Powers insisted upon financial control, we should
at least put forward as our own the legitimate aspirations of Egyptian
national sentiment. Chamberlain refused to believe that an Egyptian
Chamber would repudiate the debt, inasmuch as such a course of action
would at once render them liable to interference by the Great Powers.'

'On October 27th, 1882, there was a dinner at Lord Granville's, at
which I met Lords Hartington, Kimberley, and Northbrook' (representing
India, the Colonies, and the Admiralty). 'I noted with regard to

'"Chamber of Notables: decided to do nothing, at which I am furious.
What do four peers know about popular feeling?"'

In view of the temper of the House of Commons, Sir Charles Dilke warned
Lord Granville by letter of the danger that the Fourth Party might carry
"the mass of the Tories" with Liberals on a cry for the "liberties of the
Egyptian people." Considerable delay was occasioned by negotiations as to
whether Arabi and his associates should or should not be represented by
European counsel at their trial, and in the interval rumours were set
afloat as to ill usage of them in prison.

'I had had in the course of this week a good deal of trouble in the
House of Commons, caused by a sensational telegram in the _Daily
News_, and a letter from a Swiss Arabist in the _Times_ containing
most ridiculous lies as to the treatment of political prisoners in
Egypt, but believed by our supporters, who were backed up by the
Fourth Party.'

These attacks involved the British Agent-General in Egypt, and Sir Edward
Malet felt the situation cruelly. He telegraphed home begging to be
relieved from the sole responsibility.

'On Sunday, October 29th, 1882, Lord Granville, with the gout, got the
French refusal of our proposals, and the bad news from the Soudan'
(where the Mahdi was laying siege to El Obeid, the capital of
Kordofan). 'He called a Cabinet, but only five Ministers were in town,
so it was decided that it was not to be called a Cabinet.'

'On Tuesday, October 31st, the Queen, who had at first approved of the
idea of Dufferin being sent to Egypt to supersede Malet, had now been
turned against him by Wolseley, who was staying with her, and, not
having seen the telegrams of the 27th, because we had made them into
private telegrams and kept them back, told us that she thought that to
send Dufferin was bad treatment of Malet. We had therefore to send her
Malet's telegrams in order to persuade her that it was necessary that
Dufferin should go.'

'On Monday, November 6th, there was held at the House of Commons, by
Lord Granville's wish, a meeting at which were present, besides Lord
Granville and myself, Hartington, Childers, Harcourt, Chamberlain, and
Dodson. We met to consider a further violent refusal by France of all
our proposals. Chamberlain and Harcourt were strong in the one sense,
and Hartington in the other, while Childers and Dodson sat meek like
mice. Hartington was fiercely for the old control, Harcourt and
Chamberlain against all control, and no one except Lord Granville in
favour of the proposals which were actually made, and Lord Granville a
man who constitutionally would always prefer a compromise to a clear
course. None of them knew what to do. I noted that I wished they would
not first agree upon some foolish course, and then call me in when it
had been taken beyond all possibility of alteration. When I was
talking to Brett afterwards, he said of his chief, Hartington, that it
was somewhat a pity that, being so violent as he always was in
Cabinet, he should frequently forget what his opinions were on
particular questions, as, for example, closure and county franchise.'

'Brett also told me that the Queen, to whom, he said, Lord Granville
had had to "crawl" for having sent Lord Dufferin to Egypt, was now
still more furious with him because the instructions to Dufferin had
been sent off on Friday, the 3rd, without her having seen them.

'Having trouble in the House with regard to the legal points connected
with the trial of Arabi, I had at the time frequent meetings with Lord
Selborne, who drew draft answers to the questions in the House of
Commons, which were ingenious, but hardly suited to the Commons

'On the 8th there was a Cabinet at which Mr. Gladstone only attended
for a minute, merely to prevent his name being omitted from the list.
He was ostentatiously devoting himself to procedure only, and taking
no part with regard to Egypt.

'On Friday, the 10th, Count Munster called on me to tell me that
Prince Bismarck objected to any plan for a temporary dealing with
Egyptian finance, as he feared panic towards the end of the term
fixed; but the Ambassador said that the Chancellor attached no
importance to any form of control.

'On Monday, November 13th, I had a formal conference at the House of
Lords with the Chancellor, the Attorney-General, and Pauncefote, on
the whole of the legal questions connected with the trial of Arabi and
our position in Egypt; and I cannot but think that Lord Selborne in
all those many letters to me about the subject, which I have retained,
showed himself given rather to legal quibbles than to a broad view of
the questions raised. At three o'clock there was a Cabinet to consider
whether a day should be given to Bourke for the discussion of a
motion, but the Cabinet went on to decide to accept a suggestion by
Childers and Chamberlain that the sending of a Turkish envoy to Egypt
was to involve the breaking off of diplomatic relations with Turkey.
Six members, however, stopped after Mr. Gladstone, Chamberlain, and
Childers had gone away, and toned down the phrase to be made use of to
Musurus Pasha.

'On Tuesday, November 14th, we had a Suez Canal conference at Lord
Granville's at noon, and in the afternoon a Congo deputation. Between
the two we discussed at Lord Granville's house (Kimberley, Northbrook,
Carlingford, and Childers being present with Lord Granville and
myself) the question of the employment of Baker Pasha in Egypt as
Chief of the Staff.... Coming back to the Suez Canal question,
Childers, who wished us to obtain preponderance, made a characteristic
observation, saying: "_I would do it boldly_ by making the Khedive
say--" It struck me that some people had an odd idea of boldness.

'On November 15th we had a further meeting on the Canal question at
Mr. Gladstone's room at the House.... When all had come, there were
present Childers, Hartington, Northbrook, Kimberley, Carlingford, Lord
Granville, and myself. I found that Count Munster had not told Lord
Granville that which he had told me on November 10th. It was decided
to send my notes, based on my conversations with Ollivier, to
Dufferin. With regard to Arabi's trial, it was decided that Dufferin
should be told to consider the case against him, and to decide that
there was no proof of common crime, after which, by arrangement
between us and the Khedive, we were to put him away safely in
Ascension, Barbados, Bermuda, Ceylon; or any other island than St.
Helena, which would be ridiculous. Mr. Gladstone had written us a
letter proposing that we should make the Sultan banish Arabi, but we
did not much like the idea of his coming to England and stumping the
country between Wilfrid Lawson and Wilfrid Blunt. Childers asked leave
to arrest any Turkish envoy who might be sent to Cairo, but the matter
was left open.'

On November 16th the Cabinet again 'discussed the fate of Arabi, and
decided to let him run riot anywhere; but the decision was afterwards

On November 21st

'there was sent off to Lord Dufferin a personal telegram to say that
Baker was to be sent to fight in the Soudan, and that another
Englishman must be chosen for his post, that Arabi was to be interned
on some island on parole.

'I received letters at this time from Lord Dufferin on his arrival at
Cairo, asking me to keep him informed of my views on the Egyptian

'On December 4th there was a Cabinet which decided to send Arabi to
Ceylon, but after a consultation with Lord Ripon, whose advice was not
to be followed if it was hostile; and on the next day Lord Ripon
protested, as had been foreseen.

'Evelyn Wood, who was to command the Egyptian Army, asked the Cabinet
for such large figures as to startle them.'

'I heard from Dufferin also in December from Cairo, in reply to
Chamberlain's memorandum. He thought that Egyptian Members of
Parliament would many of them be tools in the hands of the Sultan or
of foreign Powers, but added that he would sooner run any risk than
wholly abandon representative institutions. "But I think we should
make a mistake if we forced upon this country premature arrangements
which we dare not apply to India, where the strength of our own
position and other circumstances afford not only better guarantees for
success, but the power of retreating if the experiment should prove a

'In a further letter Lord Dufferin confirmed a story which I had heard
as to Halim having bribed Arabi and the other Egyptian Colonels, but
most of the money stuck to the hands of the agent who was employed.'

"Two days after I had left the Foreign Office, Hartington wrote to me
to ask whether his soldiers might pay military honours to the holy
carpet on its return from Mecca--an amusing example of the kind of
question with which British Ministers are sometimes called on to

After Dilke's promotion to the Cabinet,

'On Thursday, February 15th, 1883, Parliament met, and I was very hard
worked, and on February 17th had heavy business in the House with
regard to Egypt, as revealed in the division of the previous night, in
which we only had a majority of thirty-five, although I had been
permitted distinctly to announce our intention to withdraw our troops,
and not to stay permanently in the country. This, after all, was a
mere expansion of the promise given to the Powers by Lord Granville in
his circular despatch of January 3rd, in which he said that we were
desirous of withdrawing British force as soon as the state of the
country would permit.

'In the meantime the Soudan was in a disturbed condition. On January
1st, 1883, we had heard from Cairo: "Second false prophet appeared,
hung by first;" or, as the despatch by post expanding the telegram put
it, "A second Mahdi has lately appeared, but was hung by order of the
first." The Mahdi, however, was making progress. The Foreign Office
were inclined to adopt some responsibility for the Egyptian attempt to
defeat the Mahdi, and reconquer the Soudan; but I invariably insisted
on striking out all such words from their despatches, and, so far as I
know, no dangerous language was allowed to pass. In consequence of my
observations a despatch was sent by Lord Granville to our consulate in
Egypt, pointing out that telegrams had been received from General
Hicks in relation to his military operations in the Soudan, and that
Lord Granville understood that these were messages intended for
General Baker, and only addressed to the consulate because Hicks found
it convenient to make use of the cipher which had been entrusted to
Colonel Stewart, who was acting as our Consul at Khartoum; but we
repeated that "H. M. G. are in no way responsible for the operations
in the Soudan, which have been undertaken under the authority of the
Egyptian Government, or for the appointment or actions of General
Hicks." At this time the Turkish Government were supplying the Mahdi
with money and officers in the hope that the troubles in the Soudan
would afford them an excuse for sending troops to "assist the
Khedive." As we continued to get telegrams from Hicks Pasha, Sir
Edward Malet informed the Egyptian Government by letter that we must
repeat that we had no responsibility for the operations in the Soudan.
We foresaw the failure of the Hicks expedition, and should perhaps
have done better had we more distinctly told the Egyptian Government
that they must stop it and give up the Soudan, holding Khartoum only;
but to say this is to be wise after the event. What we did was to
"offer no advice, but" point out that the Egyptian Government should
make up their minds what their policy was to be, and carefully
consider whether they could afford the cost of putting down the Mahdi.
In other words, we discouraged the expedition without forbidding it. I
fear, however, that Malet, against our wish, was a party to the
sending of reinforcements "to follow up successes already obtained";
for after his conversation with the Egyptian Prime Minister he added:
"This view seems reasonable."'

'On May 4th; 1883, I noted in my Diary, in reference to a matter which
I have named, that Colonel Hicks's telegram to Malet, about which both
Hicks and Malet would be reproved, the British Government having
nothing to do with the expedition, was to request that communications
should be made to General Baker which were, in fact, intended for Sir
Evelyn Wood. This showed how completely it had been settled in advance
that Baker should command the Egyptian Army, for Hicks in the Soudan
fully believed that Baker was in command.'

Expressions of opinion in England had, however, prevented this

Another entry indicates that French opinion was beginning to accept the
British position in Egypt as a _fait accompli_:

'On May 2nd, 1883, d'Aunay, the French Secretary, told me that
Waddington was coming as Ambassador, and intended to ask for Syria for
the French as a compensation for our position in Egypt.'....

During the summer there was much negotiation concerning the Suez Canal,
and the proposal to cut a rival waterway.

'On July 4th there was a meeting of Mr. Gladstone, Lord Granville,
Childers, Chamberlain, and myself, as to the Suez Canal, and we
decided to ask Lesseps to come over and meet us. Childers had a scheme
with regard to the Canal, to which only Chamberlain and I in the
Cabinet were opposed.

'On July 19th there was another Cabinet. Chamberlain and I tried to
get them to drop Childers's Canal scheme, but they would not. The
Cabinet was adjourned to the 23rd, and on Monday, the 23rd, they
dropped it.'

In the end, however, M. de Lesseps won. An entry of November 22nd follows
up the question of widening the Canal:

'Another matter which was active at this moment was that of the
position of Lesseps, with whom we had now made peace, and to whom we
had given our permission for the widening of the first Canal. We
supported him against the Turkish Government, who wanted to screw
money out of him for their assent, and got the opinion of the law
officers of the Crown to show that no Turkish assent was needed. On a
former occasion we had contended that his privileges must be construed
strictly, as he was a monopolist. On this occasion the law officers
took a more liberal view. The fact is that the questions referred to
the law officers for opinions by the Foreign Office have very often
much more connection with policy than with law, and their opinions are
elastic. There never were such law officers as James and Herschell.
They did their work with extraordinary promptitude and decision, and
with the highest possible skill. They never differed, and they always
gave us exactly what we wanted in the best form. Comparing their
opinions with those of law officers of other days, which I often at
the Foreign Office had to read, I should call James and Herschell
unsurpassed and unsurpassable for such a purpose. Lord Selborne, who
was, I suppose, a much greater lawyer, was nothing like so good for
matters of this kind, for he always tried to find a legal basis for
his view, which made it unintelligible to laymen.'

'On August 7th I had to set to work hard to read up all the Egyptian
papers in order to support Fitzmaurice on the 9th. In the course of
this speech I announced our intention from November, 1883, to allow
Sir Evelyn Wood to maintain order in Cairo with his Egyptian forces,
we withdrawing the British forces to Alexandria. There was a Cabinet
on the 8th, at which, after a good deal of fighting, it had been
decided, against Hartington, to allow me to make the statement with
regard to Egypt which I made upon the 9th.'

By August 22nd Lord Hartington had 'come round so fast that he told us he
would be able to evacuate Cairo even before our meeting in October.' On
August 31st Sir Charles Dilke 'received Sir Evelyn Wood, who was anxious
to assure me that he was perfectly able to hold Egypt with his Egyptians.'

The report did not wholly convince Sir Charles, and he expressed some of
his doubts to Lord Granville, with whom Sir Evelyn Wood had been staying
at Walmer.

'Lord Granville wrote: "His conversation gives one more the notion of
activity, energy, and conscientiousness, than of great ability. I
presume you were not able to slip in a question, but, on the other
hand, if you had succeeded he would not have heard it. He is in favour
of the complete evacuation of Cairo.... He has full confidence in that
half of the Egyptian Army which is officered by English officers. He
has only a negative confidence in the other half. Evelyn Baring will
find a private letter on his arrival, and a despatch by this mail,
instructing him to send us a full report. Till we get this we had
better not go beyond the declarations which have already been publicly
made." Baring had just (September, '83) reached Cairo as Consul-

Government policy shaped itself on the assumption that Sir Evelyn Wood was
right. On October 25th

'we formally decided to leave Cairo and concentrate a force of between
2,000 and 3,000 men at Alexandria. This was no new decision, but was
taken on this occasion in order that the Queen should be informed,
which had not previously been done.'

Ten days after this date the Egyptian Army of the Soudan, under General
Hicks, was destroyed by the Mahdi in Kordofan. The news only reached Cairo
on November 22nd, and the question was now raised as to what should become
of the upper valley of the Nile.

'On December 12th there was a meeting at the War Office about the
Soudan, Lord Granville, Hartington, Northbrook, Carlingford, and
myself, being present, with Wolseley in the next room, and the Duke of
Cambridge in the next but one. We again told the Egyptians that they
had better leave the Soudan and defend Egypt at Wady Halfa, and that
we would help them to defend Egypt proper. Wolseley was at one time
called in, as was Colonel Stewart, the last man who had left Khartoum.
Lord Granville told Hartington, who was starting for Windsor, what to
tell the Queen, and I noted that "the old stagers, like Lord Granville
and Mr. Gladstone, waste a great deal of their time on concocting
stories for the Queen, who is much too clever to be taken in by them,
and always ends by finding out exactly what they are doing. It is
certainly a case where honesty would be a better policy."

'I cannot but think that Malet was largely responsible for the state
of things in Egypt (Lord Granville being so far responsible that I had
much difficulty in getting him to interfere against Malet), and that
we had interfered somewhat late.... Malet left before the army
commanded by Hicks was surrounded, and it was on Baring that the blow
fell. But Baring was always strongly opposed to the attempt of the
Egyptians to reconquer the Soudan, and, moreover, thought that they
were quite unfit to govern it. Immediately after the bad news about
Hicks first came, Baring told us that Khartoum must fall, and
recommended us to tell the Egyptian Government, which we did, that
under no circumstances must they expect the assistance of British or
Indian troops in the Soudan. We even stopped their sending Wood's army
to the Soudan, and we told Baring not to encourage retired British
officers to volunteer, and told him to recommend the evacuation of the
Soudan. On December 3rd Baring sent us a most able report upon the
whole situation, and he and General Stephenson commanding the British
troops, Sir Evelyn Wood commanding the Egyptian Army, and General
Baker, were all of opinion that it was impossible to hold Khartoum,
and that the Egyptians must be made to fall back on Wady Halfa. On the
other hand, the Egyptian Government could not make up their minds to
leave Khartoum. Malet up to the last days of his stay in Egypt was
rendering himself, in fact, responsible for the Hicks expedition and
for the Soudan policy of the Egyptians, and there is one fatal
despatch of his in existence in which he relates how he interfered, at
the wish of Hicks, to suggest a change of Egyptian Governor. He was
privately censured for this, but he was publicly approved for his
whole course, and therefore we were in a sense responsible, although
we expressly repudiated this responsibility in our despatches to him,
and forced the Egyptian Government to acknowledge that they thoroughly
understood our repudiation. The only thing that could have been done
more than was done would have been to have publicly censured Malet,
and Lord Granville should have had the courage to do this.

'In September I had succeeded in getting Edgar Vincent appointed to
the Egyptian Cabinet as the English financier, virtually Prime
Minister; but, able as he was, it was a long time before he felt his
feet, and could take the government into his own hands.' [Footnote:
When on August 15th Mr. (afterwards Sir) Edgar Vincent dined in Sloane
Street with Edward Hamilton, Mr. Gladstone's private secretary, and
some other people, Sir Charles noted that he 'was once more struck
with the extraordinary strength displayed by Vincent for a man of

'Two additional points concerning Egypt which should be mentioned here
are, in the first place, Lord Granville's mistake in creating a place
with Egyptian pay, at Lord Spencer's wish, for Clifford Lloyd, who had
made Ireland too hot to hold him; and, in the second place, the
violent protests of the Anti-Slavery Society, backed up by ours in
December, as to the employment of Zebehr Pasha. We should undoubtedly
have been censured by the House of Commons had we allowed any
important place to have been given to Zebehr Pasha, but it was
difficult to prevent it when it was wished both by the Egyptians and
by Baring--given the fact that we had washed our hands of their Soudan

'What we should have done, if I may be allowed to be wise after the
event, was to have distinctly ordered the Egyptians to abandon
Khartoum and to fall back to Wady Halfa. At the end of the year Baring
forwarded to us a memorandum from the Egyptian Government. They
pointed out that the Khedive was forbidden by Turkey to cede
territory; that we were asking them to abandon enormous provinces,
with Berber and Dongola, and great tribes who had remained loyal. They
thought that if they fell back Egypt would have to continually resist
the attacks of great numbers of fanatics, and that the Bedouin
themselves would rise. They were wrong, but they put their case so
well that they converted Baring; and he told us that he doubted if any
native Ministers could be found willing to carry out the policy of
retirement, and he thought that it would be necessary to appoint
English Ministers if we decided to force it on them.

'In the last lines of Baring's despatch of December 22nd there occur
words which afterwards became of great importance: "If the abandonment
policy is carried out ... it will be necessary to send an English
officer of high authority to Khartoum, with full powers to withdraw
the garrisons and to make the best arrangements he can for the future
government of the country." It was on those words that we acted in
sending for Gordon, and asking him whether he would go to the Soudan
for this purpose, which he agreed to do, and when we sent him there
was no question of his going for any other purpose than this.'



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