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

Part 8 out of 11

Commons. He was in favour of moderate courses, and always began by
agreeing with us in private, after which Randolph Churchill would send
a man to him with the message: "Go and tell the old goat that I won't
have it." And then the unfortunate Northcote, to avoid being denounced
in public, had to turn round and say that he could not answer for his

Chronicling another talk with Gladstone, in which the latter spoke of
Northcote's "shiftiness," Sir Charles says:

'I had a high opinion of Sir Stafford, but in face of Churchill he was
not a free agent....

'The Cabinet rejected Chamberlain's proposal to accompany coercion by
a provision against ejectments in the sense of the Compensation Bill
of 1880. In my diary I add: "By a majority they decided that there
should be no declaration of the nature of the Land Bill as yet; but,
as Gladstone was in the minority on this point, we shall probably not
wait long for the declaration. The Land Bill was finally settled. It
really gives the 'three F's,' applied by a Court, but so wrapped up
that nobody will find them."'

Mr. Forster's Coercion Bill was introduced as the first business of the
Session, and was met by obstruction which more than realized the forecast.
From Monday, January 31st, through the whole of Tuesday, February 1st, the
debate was prolonged in a House possessing no recognized authority to
check it; and at nine on the Wednesday morning Speaker Brand adopted the
course which had been advocated by Lord Hartington. Acting in the exercise
of his own discretion, he ordered the question to be put. The Irish
members, having refused to submit, were removed one by one, technically by
force. In face of these circumstances the Cabinet met on the Wednesday

'The Cabinet decided not to have general closure in the form in which
Chamberlain had asked for it in my name as well as in his. Gladstone
wanted to have a special closure for Irish coercion, but Chamberlain
presented our ultimatum against that, and won. When Chamberlain and I
talked over the whole situation, I told him that I thought we had been
too popular up to now for it to last. We were now unpopular with our
own people in the constituencies on account of coercion, but, holding
their opinions, were not really trusted by the moderates. I thought
this position inevitable. The holding of strongly patriotic and
national opinions in foreign affairs combined with extreme Radical
opinions upon internal matters made it difficult to act with anybody
for long without being attacked by some section with which it was
necessary to act at other times, and made it difficult to form a solid

When Dilke and Chamberlain, neither of whom was averse from the idea of
closure in itself, resisted a proposal which meant treating the Irish
members in a category apart from the rest of the House of Commons, they
took a course which now seems simple and inevitable. But there is some
difficulty in realizing to-day how Irishmen, and more especially Irish
members, were viewed in England through the early eighties. Something of
the public feeling towards them may be gathered from a string of extracts
dealing with another source of dissension in this Cabinet. Sir William
Harcourt, as Home Secretary, had adopted determined views of what may be
conceded to the exigencies or the demands of detectives. Sir Charles
writes on February 5th:

'It was at this moment that I first had to do with dynamite. Lord
Granville had instructed me to deal with such matters at once myself
without their passing through the Office; and receiving despatches
from Washington (containing despatches from our Consul at Philadelphia
offering information as to plots), and having missed Harcourt, I took
them to Mr. Gladstone. I said that I had no doubt a sharp Yankee was
trying to get a couple of hundred pounds out of us.'

But Sir William Harcourt wished for the information, and Sir Charles adds:

'The result of this policy undoubtedly was the fabrication of plots,
as exposed by Michael Davitt in the _Labour World_ in 1890.'

Later Harcourt modified his view, but 'this was like shutting the stable
door when the steed was stolen.'

'On February 16th I noted in my diary my dissatisfaction with regard
to the Secret Service money. In 1880 I had walked out instead of
voting for it, and I proposed this year to follow the same course. I
knew of nothing on which was spent the L15,000, except one sum of L40
for a service not secret at all in its nature, "and L200 spent in
America on a ... panic of Harcourt's." I believe that as a fact most
of the money was spent in the United States, but as I was not trusted
with the information, I again walked out.'

On February 12th 'there was a great row between Fawcett and Harcourt.'

'Harcourt and Fawcett had been opening the letters of the Irish
members, and when the Irishmen found it out Fawcett wanted to admit
it, and Harcourt insisted on a blank refusal of information. My
brother came to me with this question from the Radicals: "What is the
use of having a blind Postmaster-General if he reads our letters?"'

The matter came up in the Cabinet along with a discussion on the Arms Act,
which prohibited the possession of firearms in Ireland without licence
from a Magistrate, and authorized the police to search. This Act had been
in force before, but had been dropped by the Government on coming into
office, and was now proposed as a supplement to Mr. Forster's "Protection
of Property" measure.

'On February 12th Mr. Gladstone, with Bright and Chamberlain, fought
hard against the Arms Bill. Harcourt, however, said that "coercion was
like caviare: unpleasant at first to the palate, it becomes agreeable
with use"; and, led by Harcourt, the majority insisted on having more
coercion, and it was settled that the second Bill should go on. At
dinner at Lord and Lady Cork's in the evening I was astonished to see
in what excellent spirits Mr. Gladstone was, although he had been
entirely overruled in his own Cabinet in the afternoon.'

Meanwhile the Home Secretary's activity was making trouble for the Foreign

'It having been stated in the House of Commons by Parnell that he had
been watched and followed in Paris by persons connected with the
Embassy, Lord Lyons telegraphed to me to ask me to contradict the
statement. On February 19th he telegraphed again: "No one known to or
in communication with the Embassy followed Parnell or watched him in
any way in Paris, and nobody reported to the Embassy about him." I
wrote to Harcourt and told him that Lord Lyons wished a contradiction
made, and that Lord Granville wished me to make the contradiction "if
Harcourt sees no objection." I afterwards wrote to Harcourt, "From
what you said, I imagine that you do see objection; but if we can, it
is better to keep the Embassies out of police matters." Harcourt,
however, would not allow a contradiction to be given; and the fact was
that Parnell had been watched, but watched by the Home Office, through
the police, without the knowledge of the Embassy. Through this
watching of the Irish leaders, Parnell's relations with Mrs. O'Shea
were known to some of those who afterwards professed to be amazed by
the discovery.'

Another subject produced open symptoms of a "split." On January 21st,
1881, during the debate on the Address, Mr. Rylands proposed a resolution
condemning the annexation of the Transvaal as impolitic and unjustifiable,
which was tantamount to declaring that the Boers had been justified in
their revolt.

'After my dinner party on the 21st, I went down to the House of
Commons and deliberately walked out on the Transvaal division, as did
three other members of the Government--Bright, Chamberlain, and
Courtney. We had all along been opposed to the annexation.'

This was only the beginning. In South Africa difficulties accumulated for
the British Government. General Colley was repulsed at Laing's Nek on
January 28th, and on February 8th at the Ingogo River. But in this war
there was a real anxiety on both sides to negotiate, and President Kruger
despatched an offer to submit the whole dispute to an English Royal
Commission if troops were withdrawn from the Transvaal. On Wednesday,
February 16th, Sir Charles learnt from Mr. Chamberlain that there had been
a special Cabinet that afternoon 'to consider proposals from President
Kruger of the Transvaal, which Mr. Gladstone was most anxious to accept.'

On the 18th 'the Transvaal question came up again on a Dutch petition
brought over by delegates, as to which Lord Granville wrote to me: "I
suppose it would not be right for you or me to see them. We shall probably
bear with fortitude the sacrifice."' But the Government were trying to
meet Kruger's advances in a reasonable spirit, and they instructed Colley
by telegram to suspend hostilities if the Boers abandoned armed
opposition. Colley telegraphed back for more precise instructions. The
Boers hold Laing's Nek, which was in Natal territory. Was he to insist on
their evacuating it--and thus opening the pass into the Transvaal--before
he suspended hostilities? The answer sent back on February 19th was that
he should forward to the Boers the British proposal, and fix a reasonable
time within which they must reply. During that time he was not to attempt
to occupy Laing's Nek. Sir Charles's Memoir makes it plain that the
decision to negotiate with the Boers was due to Mr. Gladstone and Mr.

'At the Cabinet of Saturday, February 19th, Mr. Gladstone and
Chamberlain, for a wonder, were in the majority, and it was decided to
drop the Arms Bill and to negotiate with the Boers; but at a further
Cabinet on the 26th, Mr. Gladstone being in bed... the decision of the
previous week was reversed, and it was decided to go forward with the
Arms Bill.'

No reply came from the Boers within the time appointed, and on the night
of February 26th Colley seized the height of Majuba, which commanded
Laing's Nek. By noon on the 27th he was a dead man, and his force
defeated. The stated time had expired, and Colley did his duty as a
soldier. [Footnote: See an article in the _Nineteenth Century_ (March,
1904) by Lady Pomeroy Colley (Lady Allendale) in reply to some points in
the account of these events in the _Life of Gladstone_, iii., pp. 36-38.]
But it is none the less true that the Boers, even after the action, still
believed themselves to be in negotiation. On the 28th Kruger, ignorant of
what had befallen, was writing a grateful acknowledgment of the proposal
to suspend hostilities, and was suggesting a meeting of representatives
from both sides.

It was urged, of course, that a disgrace to the British Army must be wiped
out before there could be any further talk of parleying. Yet in Mr.
Gladstone's Government there had been from the first an element which
plainly thought the war unjustified, and with that element Mr. Gladstone
had some sympathy. The Radicals now asserted themselves.

'On Wednesday, March 2nd, after a long interview between me and
Chamberlain on the state of affairs, Chamberlain had an hour and a
half with Bright, and got him to write a strong letter to Gladstone
about the Transvaal, which we put forward as the ground for a proposed
resignation, although of course the strength of the Coercion measures,
the weakness of the Land measures, and the predominance of the Whigs
in the Cabinet were the reasons which weighed chiefly with Chamberlain
and myself. In the Transvaal matter, however, we should not be two,
but four, for Bright and Courtney must go out with us, and Lefevre
might do so. On the other hand, we had reason to think that if the
Whigs yielded to us on the Transvaal, Kimberley would go. On the next
day, Thursday the 3rd, Bright was sent for by Mr. Gladstone on his
letter. Bright found him in entire harmony with our views. Kimberley
at once gave in, and telegraphed what he was told; so the difficulty
was over before the Cabinet was able to meet, and we as far from
resignation as ever.

'On March 5th, I noted in my diary that the Land Bill was
unsatisfactory. Chamberlain told me of a scene between Bright and
Dodson which amused me much. Says Bright to Dodson: "You were put into
the Cabinet to vote with Gladstone. Surely you ought not to oppose
him." Says Dodson indignantly, "A man may have an opinion." "But why
express it?" said the old Quaker.'

In the middle of March

'Things looked bad again at this moment, for on the 14th I wrote a
draft address to the electors of Chelsea, prepared in view of my
resignation along with Bright and Chamberlain. I alluded in it to "the
non-reversal in the Transvaal of an act of high-handed aggression,
which at the time of its inception I had condemned by vote and
speech," and also condemned the resort to coercive measures for

So far as the Transvaal was concerned, the sympathies of Chamberlain and
Dilke with the Boers prevailed; negotiations proceeded, and a Commission
was named, which finally recommended a reversal of the annexation. The
selection of Chamberlain--whose department had no connection with South
Africa--to justify this step in debate indicated how strong was his
opinion in favour of the Boers. But the Duke of Argyll, who was leaving
the Government from disapproval of their Irish Land Bill, nevertheless on
this matter defended the action of his former colleagues.

The situation was summed up by an observation of the Queen's to Lord
Spencer, which, says Sir Charles, amused the Cabinet on March 26th. The
Queen's Speech on January 7th had contained this curt phrase: "A rising in
the Transvaal has imposed upon me the duty of taking military measures
with a view to the prompt vindication of my authority." To this the Queen
replied: "I cannot see how my 'authority' has been 'vindicated' in the
Transvaal." "There was nothing else to be done, Ma'am," says Spencer. "I
quite understand that," says Her Majesty, "but still I do not see how my
'authority' has been 'vindicated.'"

Mr. Gladstone was meanwhile doing the right thing in Ireland with his Land
Bill, but Mr. Forster, Sir Charles thought, was destroying the effect by
the free use of his new measure, which, having become law by the end of
February, enabled the Irish Government to put any man into gaol on a mere
suspicion and without form of trial. Members of Parliament were not at
first attacked, but the officials of the Land League were seized. Mr.
Davitt had been general manager; his ticket-of-leave, as an ex-Fenian
prisoner, was recalled by Sir William Harcourt, and he was re-arrested.
Mr. Dillon took Davitt's place. Sir Charles writes on Saturday, April
30th, 1881:

'At the Cabinet, which I think was on the previous night, but of which
I heard the details on this day, it was decided to arrest Dillon.
Spencer and Granville, who were both of them away, for it was not, I
think, a regular Cabinet, were both against it rather than for it;
Harcourt was really neutral, though Gladstone counted him for it;
Kimberley, Hartington, and the Chancellor alone supported Gladstone
and Forster. Bright, Chamberlain, Childers, and, wonderful to relate,
Carlingford (who was present, though the newspapers said he was
absent), Northbrook, and Dodson opposed the arrest. Gladstone declared
that it was six to six, and gave himself a casting vote. A few days
later Lord Granville spoke to me warmly against the decision of the
Cabinet. He said he never knew numbers counted in the Cabinet before,
and that it was absurd to count heads in assemblies in which there was
such a difference in the contents of the heads. This criticism,
however, goes too far, and strikes at the root of the decisions of
Parliament itself.'

Meanwhile the Land Bill had reached its second reading. But the Irish
executive was constantly appealed to for constabulary to assist in
carrying out sentences of eviction, while, on the other hand, tenants were
fighting landlords by a general strike against rents.

'At the Cabinet on May 4th the chief topic discussed was the
possibility of checking evictions in Ireland without preventing the
payment of rent by tenants perfectly able to pay.'

In addition to the Irish trouble in Ireland, there was the Irish trouble
in the House of Commons, in no way settled by the Speaker's one arbitrary
imposition of closure at his own discretion. That Mr. Gladstone's mind was
working towards another solution is evident from the following note:

'On June 8th I went to The Durdans to lunch with the Roseberys, and
walked with Mr. Gladstone. We marched round the Derby course, and Mr.
Gladstone said that the first business after the Irish Land Bill must
be procedure, and that this must be the business of next year. He
said, "there must no doubt be some repression by the closure, but
there must also be still more delegation."'

The discussion of the Land Bill was long almost beyond precedent, but by
August it left the Commons, and Lord Salisbury, though furious in his
invective, declined to advise its total rejection. The Irish landlords had
their will of it in Committee, and sent it back unrecognizable. The Lords'
amendments were then reviewed by Mr. Gladstone, and, broadly speaking,
rejected. There was the usual threat of a collision between the Houses.
Sir Charles's first note, in his diary of August 12th, indicates how
completely Mr. Gladstone controlled this situation:

'"Harcourt is very violent against the Lords, more so than either
Bright or Chamberlain, but the decision, whatever it may be, of the
Cabinet, will on this occasion be Mr. Gladstone's."

'On the 14th I noted, "The claim of Lord Salisbury to force us to
'consult the country' is a claim for annual Parliaments when we are in
office, and septennial Parliaments when they are in office." I did
not, however, believe in this particular crisis. On the 14th Lord
Houghton wrote complaining that we did not meet so often as we used to
do. "This is a penalty one pays for having one's friends in power. I
fear there is no hope of their ceasing to be so by the instrumentality
of the House of Lords." On the 15th Lady Lytton's sister told me that
Lytton had "enjoyed the fighting attitude of the Lords. It seemed more
worthy than talking so much and doing so little." But she added:
"After it was all over they were in a most horrid fright."'

Lord Ripon wrote from India of the proceedings in the House of Lords that
he thought Lord Salisbury "would succeed in blowing the institution to
pieces before long."

With a Cabinet so divided, rumour of changes was certain to be rife.

'On August 17th there occurred the Ministerial fish dinner at
Greenwich, which was then a yearly institution. Rosebery was in the
chair--for on these occasions the Chairman is arbitrarily chosen,
generally from among the very youngest members of the Government, and
is a sort of lord of misrule. [Footnote: Lord Rosebery was Under-
Secretary at the Home Office.]

'Harcourt told Chamberlain at the dinner that Mr. Gladstone had made
up his mind to put Lord Frederick Cavendish into the Cabinet, as
Chancellor of the Exchequer, Chamberlain arguing that he ought not to
be put in over my head.

'On the way home Harcourt told me that there were other changes to be
made besides putting in Cavendish, and that one of them was that he
should become Lord Chancellor.... I did not myself believe any of
these reports, but confined myself to urging that Chamberlain should
be Chancellor of the Exchequer.'

This assumed continuance in office, but a little later Mr. Chamberlain,
writing to Sir Charles, entered the domain of prophecy, with some hint of
the 'unauthorized programme.' He thought that the Liberals would be beaten
at the next election, and that their business was to try to get the
farmers over to their side.

"What is the good of bothering about Bankruptcy or Local Government
when our real business is to outbid Chaplin and Co. with the farmers?
But, then, what will our Whig friends say to Radical proposals as to
tenant right, improvements, rating, etc.?"

While Sir Charles was in Paris Mr. Chamberlain wrote on October 4th:

"I am very uneasy about the Irish business. It does not look as if the
Land Bill would do much, and meanwhile 'outrages,' exaggerated
probably by the Press, are forming a large part of the information
supplied by the papers for the autumn season. It is the history of
last October over again, and I expect every day to hear of some
proposal for further coercion. I am clear that we were right in
resisting coercion last year, and I even wish we had gone further and
gone out upon it. But what is to be done now? Can we go on drifting
without a policy? We cannot go back. It is too late to release the
'suspects,' and, if we were to do so, the experience of the past few
weeks shows that this would not make things smoother with Parnell and
Co., while it would bring down a storm of denunciation from the other
side. Then, can we go further in the direction of coercion? I doubt if
the House of Commons would stand it. To put down the Land League would
involve so many questions affecting public agitation in this country
that the Radicals would surely be up in arms. It is possible the
Tories might do it if they were in office, which I wish to God they
were. But can the Liberals do it, and, above all, can you and I be
parties to any more of such work? I should not have a moment's
hesitation in saying 'No,' if I could find any alternative, but it is
evident that Parnell has now got beyond us. He asks for 'No Rent,' and
Separation, and I am not prepared to say that the refusal of such
terms as these constitutes an Irish grievance. I should like to stand
aside and let the Coercionists and Parnell fight it out together, but
I fear this is not now possible. Altogether it is a horrible
imbroglio, and for the moment I do not see my way out of the fog. I
wish I could talk it all over with you."

A little later, however, he wrote:

"'The resources of civilization'--see Mr. G.'s speech--will mean
immediate and greatly extended use of the Protection Act. There will
be a miraculous draught of fishes directly. In for a penny, in for a
pound. I hope it will be a clean sweep. The electors will better stand
a crushing blow than coercion by driblets. There is no other
alternative except new legislation--and from that may Heaven defend

On October 12th, 1881, Mr. Parnell was arrested and put into gaol. On
October 17th, Sir Charles, then in the South of France, wrote to Sir M.
Grant Duff--who had become Governor of Madras--that "Bright and
Chamberlain supported the proposed general _razzia_ on the Land League
leaders in order to avoid fresh coercive legislation." Fresh legislation
would have meant trouble in the House of Commons. But the arrest of Mr.
Parnell, which "folly" Sir Charles had tried to prevent, led to greater

The British Government now endeavoured to back up the policy of force by
dividing the opposition. Ever since the trouble generated by the rejection
of the Compensation for Disturbance Bill, Dublin Castle had been (not for
the first time) seeking to enlist on its side the spiritual power of Rome.
There were two lines of approach, of which the first is indicated in a
note under November 22nd, 1880:

'Lord Granville was engaged at this moment in trying, through Cardinal
Newman, to induce the Pope to bully the Irish Bishops; but the Irish
Bishops told the Pope, in reply to his remonstrances, that if he
adopted a policy of compromise in Italy which was unpopular with the
Church, he must leave them alone with Irish affairs.'

The "policy of compromise" was not likely to be adopted. Cardinal Manning,
talking to Sir Charles on July 15th, 1880, on his return from Rome,
expressed his belief that the Vatican was badly advised in its hostile
attitude towards the Italian Monarchy, which he personally would be
prepared to support against the Revolutionary Party, since its fall would
probably bring about an anti-clerical republic.

Far more continuous were the negotiations, with a view to influencing the
Irish Church, carried on through Mr. George Errington, a gentleman of old
Roman Catholic family, who had sat since 1874 as a moderate Home Rule
member for County Longford. [Footnote: The historic difficulties in the
way of an Embassy to the Vatican, fully given by Lord Fitzmaurice in the
_Life of Lord Granville_, vol. ii., chap, viii., pp. 281-282, had been
surmounted "by the practice of allowing a Secretary of Legation, nominally
appointed to the Grand Ducal court of Tuscany, to reside at Rome, where he
was regarded as _de facto_ Minister to the Vatican." Lord Derby had,
however, withdrawn Mr. Jervoise, the last representative, and no other
appointment had been made.]

The following notes show the points at which Sir Charles came into touch
with the development of Mr. Errington's 'Mission' to the Vatican. On
December 1st, 1880, Mr. Errington wrote--in pursuance of a conversation of
the previous day--to solicit Sir Charles's offices with the French
Government towards mitigating the severity with which expropriation of the
unauthorized congregations might be carried out under M. Ferry's Article
7. The letter dealt also with the matter on which his 'Mission' was
afterwards based:

"I am constantly receiving news from Ireland of the evil effects
already produced by the temporary success at Rome of Archbishop
Croke"--who represented advanced Nationalism--"and his party. This
would have been quite impossible had any diplomatic relations existed.
Cardinal Jacobini will take care, I am sure, that such a thing does
not occur again. Whether he can undo or counteract the mischief
already done is, I am afraid, doubtful....

"I suppose it would be desirable in the interests of government and
order in Ireland that the Vatican should do all in its power to keep
the clergy from going with or countenancing the Land League."

On December 6th, 1880:

'Errington came to me in Paris, nominally on behalf of the Vatican,
with a view of having negotiations entered upon, and I believe this
was the time at which he obtained, at Lord Spencer's request, some
sort of private commission from Lord Granville. The commission was
afterwards made more definite.'

October 28th, 1881:

'I saw Errington, who was in Paris on his way to Rome with letters
from Lord Granville, based on the request of Spencer and Forster that
he, Errington, should represent the Irish Government at Rome during
its great struggle with Parnell, matters in Ireland being too serious
to make roundabout dealing through Lord Emly [Footnote: An Irish Roman
Catholic M.P. who, after being Postmaster-general, was raised to the
Peerage.] and Cardinal Howard safe; and Errington was to be tried from
October until Easter....

'In the evening of November 10th, at dinner at the Harcourts', Mr.
Gladstone, taking me aside about Errington's mission, told me that he
was bitterly opposed to the notion of reopening relations with the
Papal Court; and there can be no doubt that he assented most
unwillingly to the views of Spencer, Forster, and Harcourt in favour
of the Errington "Mission." He deceived the House of Commons about it,
because he always closed his own eyes to the facts. [Footnote: The
line taken by the Government in the House of Commons was that Mr.
Errington had no formal appointment, and that his communications were
not officially dealt with by the Foreign Office. These diplomatic
explanations only increased the suspicion of the followers of Parnell
and of the Ultra-Protestants led by Sir H. Drummond Wolff.]

'On December 24th, 1881, Lord O'Hagan passed through Paris, despatched
on a secret mission to Rome about Ireland by Forster, who was not
satisfied with the results up to then of the Errington Mission.'

'On December 31st I received a letter from Forster, in which he said
that Lord O'Hagan had returned, and that no notice had been taken by
the papers of his visit to Rome, which was a good thing.'

To the principle of such intermediation Sir Charles had no objection. What
he disliked was that the thing should be done and denied. He himself in
the previous year had written by the Government's request to Cardinal
Manning at Rome for assurance that the future Bishop of a new See in
Canada would be a British subject. Manning also had written to him
concerning the establishment of a new See for Catholics of the Levant,
with its seat in Cyprus, guaranteeing that "the influence of our Bishop
and all about him would be ... strictly in support of the Government," and
asking therefore that, "when the seat of Government for Cyprus had been
fixed, Rome might be informed, as it would be desirable for the Bishop to
be in the same place."

Manning was quite content with the influence that he could wield, and, as
a letter from him in 1885 shows, was strongly against diplomatic relations
between England and the Vatican. Sir Charles, however, did not take that

'Such perpetual applications have to be made to the Court of Rome, not
only (as the public thinks) with regard to Irish affairs, but with
regard to Roman Catholic interests in all parts of the world, that I
have always been favourable to taking the public into our confidence
in the matter and appointing a representative at the Court of Rome. At
one time we used to carry on our affairs with the Papal Court through
Cardinal Howard, an English Cardinal; but the Pope is so anxious to
obtain official representation that he throws difficulties in the way
of ecclesiastics acting as informal representatives. Then Lord O'Hagan
used to go to Rome, at the expense of Irish Secret Service money, as a
private traveller, and he used to carry on negotiations with the

Sir Charles resented 'the complications that are caused by our having to
do that in fact which we refuse to do in form.' The Errington "Mission,
which was no mission," was an instance.

Though the year drew to its close there was still no decision as to the
means of dealing with obstruction. But approach was being made to a
settled policy.

'On my return to London I found that a Cabinet had been called for
Thursday, November 10th, to deal with the forms of the House, as the
Speaker and Erskine May had been concocting a new code, which, I
added, "is certain to be perfectly useless, as the Speaker is
generally, and May invariably, wrong.... Direct closure is the only
thing of any use. That would be one fight and no more; but the
Speaker-May code would probably take a whole Session to get, and be
useless when we have got it.'

'When Chamberlain came to dinner on November 11th, he left with me till
the next day the "secret" paper printed for the Cabinet as to the forms of
the House, which was written by May and annotated by the Speaker, and I
was glad to find that it included closure.'

In a Parliamentary Session marked by so much that was inconclusive, Sir
Charles had the satisfaction of recording in his diary one piece of
progressive legislation which was his own. By April, 1881, he had got
ready his Bill for putting an end to the Unreformed Municipal
Corporations, and so carrying out the policy which he had recommended
while in Opposition, and it became law.



In 1881 the general European situation was still critical. The Greeks had
seen Montenegro's claim made good while their own pretensions remained
unsatisfied, and at the beginning of the year war between Greece and
Turkey seemed so probable that Lord Houghton was writing anxiously to ask
Sir Charles by what means the antiquities of Athens could be guaranteed
against bombardment.

Sir Charles notes, on January 18th and 21st, conversations between himself
and Mr. Goschen, who had temporarily returned from his mission at
Constantinople, 'as to helping Greece by a naval force, which he and I
both desired.' But Mr. Gladstone refused his sanction to this project, and
Sir Charles for the moment took a very grave view, noting in his diary on
February 1st:

"Lord Granville has now to decide (in two days), before Goschen starts
for Constantinople via Berlin, whether he will disgracefully abandon
Greece or break up the Concert of Europe."

The Concert was kept together, but only upon condition of limiting Greece
to a frontier with which Sir Charles was extremely discontented.

'On March 27th I was in a resigning humour about Greece, but could not
get anybody to agree with me, and Chamberlain said that not even
Liberal public opinion in England would now support isolated action or
Anglo-Italian intervention. Chamberlain thought that in the interest
of Greece herself it was desirable that she should be made to take the
last Turkish offer, which gave her all the revenue-producing country,
and kept from her the costly and the dangerous country.'

A week later he wrote a minute for Lord Granville and Mr. Gladstone,
proposing that autonomy should be given to those portions of Epirote
territory which were being withheld from Greece; but this plan was
negatived, and a final settlement was reached on May 17th.

The settlement of 1881 was not a settlement which contented Greece and the
friends of Greece; and it was only a provisional settlement.

But new complications were developing elsewhere.

'On February 1st I wrote to Gambetta by our "bag" to tell him that
Sheffield' (Lord Lyons's secretary) 'would call on him from me to tell
him a secret. This secret was that the Three Emperors' League was
again revived and France once more isolated. But this was such a dead
secret that even our Cabinet were not to know for fear some of them
might talk.' [Footnote: The murder of the Emperor Alexander II. on
March 13th terminated these plans for the time. But out of them
subsequently grew the meeting of the three Emperors at Skierniewice on
September 15th and 16th, 1884; and indirectly Prince Bismarck's
"reinsurance" treaty with Russia, which his successor, Caprivi,
refused to renew in 1890.]

France, though 'isolated,' was beginning to take action which threatened
far-spreading trouble. Mention has been made of her pretension to Tunis,
and of the support to that pretension afforded by a hint of Lord
Salisbury's in 1878. In the early spring of 1881 the first serious step
was taken to threaten the independence or quasi-independence of Tunis.
This development was the more serious because an important dispute was in
progress concerning a Tunisian estate called the Enfida, to which rival
claims were put forward by M. Levy, a British subject, and by a French
company, the Societe Marseillaise. On January 12th M. Levy's
representative, himself also a British subject, was expelled from the
property by agents of the French Consulate.

'On February 3rd there came to me at ten o'clock in my Foreign Office
boxes a telegram from Lord Lyons, which told us that the French had
sent the _Friedland_ from Toulon to Tunis to bully the Bey. I wrote
off by special messenger to Lord Granville that we ought at once to
send the fleet to Tunis unless the _Friedland_ were withdrawn, and
Lord Granville accepted this view, and telegraphed to Lord Lyons to
that effect at noon. [Footnote: 'On February 5th, the Cabinet having
approved our suggestion, we telegraphed for the _Thunderer_ and a
despatch-boat to sail at once for Tunis.']

'Our difficulty was in this matter to avoid acting with Italy. We did
not want to keep the French out of Tunis, but we could not have
ironclads used to force Tunisian law courts into giving decisions
hostile to British subjects. Barrere wrote to me from Paris at
Gambetta's wish saying that I was labouring under a grievous mistake
in thinking that the _Friedland_ was sent to settle the Enfida case
against the English. The ship was sent because the Bey "declines to
sign a treaty of alliance with us." At the same time he went on to say
that the present policy of France would not last longer than six
months, which meant, of course, that Gambetta intended to form a
Government at that time (which as a fact he did), and that "our friend
deplores the present policy of the Government and declines all

On August 25th Gambetta expressed to Dilke "profound disapprobation of all
that has been done in Tunis," on which is noted: 'Possibly he would have
done the same, but he is very wise after the event.'

'On May 6th Lord Granville, against Tenterden's opinion and my own,
sketched drafts to Germany and Austria as to the position of the
French in Tunis, with a view to raise the Concert of Europe in their
path. We pointed out to him that Germany and Austria would snub us,
and succeeded at last in stopping this precious scheme. The wily
Russian got up the trouble by hinting verbally to Lord Granville that
Russia would act with England and Italy in this matter. A curious
league: England, Russia, and Italy against France; and a queer
Concert. The proposal led to trouble three days later, for, of course,
the Russians told the French in such a way as to make them believe
that the idea was ours.'

On the evening of May eth Sir Charles met Laffitte, "the Comtist Pope," at
the Political Economy Club.

'Frederic Harrison treated him as an old lady of the Faubourg would
treat the Pope or the Comte de Chambord, or both rolled into one. But
Laffitte happening to say that he approved of the French expedition to
Tunis, Harrison's feelings became too much even for his reverence and
his religion. Laffitte's remark, from Laffitte, showed, however, how
unanimous was the French feeling....

'On the 9th the trouble which I had expected broke out. The French
Ambassador (Challemel-Lacour) came to see me in a great rage, and told
me that his Government had heard that we had tried to raise Germany
against France on the Tunis question by an alliance offered at Berlin,
though not through our Ambassador. This particular story was untrue. I
denied it, and I then went to Lord Granville, who denied it.... I then
wrote to Challemel to ask him to give up names; but he declined.'

France was in conflict with the Kroumirs on her Algerian frontier, the
expeditionary force penetrated the interior, and by the middle of June the
Bey had appointed M. Roustan, the French Consul, to represent him in all

Justifications were put forward, and there was much discussion as to what
Lord Salisbury had said or not said at Berlin in 1878.

'Lord Salisbury had made Wolff withdraw the question, of which
(foolishly from the Conservative point of view) he had given notice,
but the matter having been raised, the Cabinet, on Friday, 13th,
decided to publish a portion of Lord Salisbury's despatches, though
not the worst.... [Footnote: A letter from Lord Granville to Sir
Charles, of May 15th, 1881, shows the difficulty. "I sent, according
to custom, the Salisbury Tunis papers to the Marquis. You will be
surprised to hear that he does not like them. He objects to all, but
principally to the extracts from Lord Lyons' despatch." Lord Granville
goes on to suggest alternative courses, the first being "to consent at
his request to leave out the extracts, with a warning that it is not
likely it will be possible to refuse them later."]

'I wrote to Lord Granville to say that I was sorry there had not been
included in the papers a despatch of July 16th, 1878, giving the
conversation between Lord Lyons and Waddington on Waddington's return
to Paris' (from the Congress of Berlin). 'On the 9th, on the 11th, and
on the 13th July, 1878, Lord Lyons had reported the irritation in
France at the Cyprus Convention. On July 16th Waddington returned to
Paris, and the row in the French Press suddenly ceased. In his
despatch Lord Lyons says that Waddington told him that Lord Salisbury
"had assured him" that "H. M. G. would make no objection if it suited
France to take possession of Tunis." [Footnote: The Life of Lord
Lyons, by Lord Newton, gives, on July 20th, 1878, a letter from Lord
Salisbury which evidently refers to the despatch. In this letter Lord
Salisbury says: "What M. Waddington said to you is very much what he
said to me at Berlin...." A further passage in the letter is: "If
France occupied Tunis tomorrow, we should not remonstrate." See _Life
of Lord Lyons_, vol. ii., p. 152.] Waddington said that he--
Waddington--had pointed out to Lord Salisbury that Italy would object,
and that Lord Salisbury had replied that she must "seek compensation
in Tripoli." Corti had also assured me that Lord Salisbury had said
this to him at the time. I strongly urged the publication of Lord
Lyons' despatch in justice to ourselves, if anything was to be
published. Lord Salisbury undoubtedly, and even by his own admission,
had used most impolitic language, giving up that which was contrary to
British interests to give up and which was not ours to give. (He was
fated to do the same thing in the case of Madagascar.) He had
afterwards denied that he had done anything of the kind. He also had
denied that France had minded our occupation of Cyprus, and doubly
concealed the fact that after making the foolish mistake of taking
Cyprus, he had got out of the difficulty in a still more foolish

This led to correspondence between Count Corti, then Italian Ambassador at
Constantinople, and Sir Charles--a discussion which was renewed later in

'He in fact admitted the truth of what I had said, but added that he
disapproved of the Berlin conversations. "At that time everybody was
telling everybody else to take something which belonged to somebody
else. One more powerful than Lord Salisbury, more powerful than Lord
Beaconsfield, advised me to take Tunis. [Footnote: _Life of Lord
Lyons_, vol. ii., p. 224; letter from Lord Lyons to Lord Granville,
May 13th, 1881: "They got Bismarck's leave for this."] Lord Salisbury
advised me to take an island, and Lord Salisbury may have advised me
to take Tripoli." At the State ball in the evening, I told Odo Russell
this. He told me that Lord Salisbury had disgusted Corti by forgetting
him on the occasion when he told the great men at the Congress of
Berlin about the occupation of Cyprus, and that Corti had never
forgiven him.'

Egypt also was now a growing anxiety, made graver by the events in Tunis,
which excited apprehensions of like proceedings elsewhere. In such a
condition of feeling even trifling incidents--as, for example, that of the
Smyrna Quays, where the Porte had violated some rights of an English
company--grew delicate and critical. All such matters and many others had
to be dealt with in the House of Commons by question and answer--a task of
no small difficulty, since the susceptibilities of foreign Powers had to
be considered, while British interests, no less sensitive, could not be

The fulfilment of the Treaty of Berlin was meanwhile an enormous addition
to the work of the Parliamentary Under-Secretary, especially as it was at
first complicated by the ill will of Russia, which had hoped that the
change of Government might bring about some modifications. It was also
complicated by the Porte's unlimited capacity for wasting time. The topics
regulated by the treaty and its supplementary conventions, when taken in
connection with the Treaties of Paris and London, which it partly
superseded, fell under at least seventeen separate heads; each of these
branched off into numerous divisions and subdivisions, most of which
admitted of possible controversy, while many required executive action by
Commissioners on the spot, [Footnote: Thomas Erskine Holland, _The
European Concert in the Eastern Question_, pp. 222-225.] such as the
delimitation of the boundaries of the new States. Nearly every question
involved communications with the signatory Powers, and each of them had a
long diplomatic history which had to be studied. M. de Courcel told Sir
Charles that in his dreams he always saw a second river flowing by the
side of the Danube, as large and as swift, but black--the river of ink
which had been shed over the Danube question! Sir Julian Pauncefote, the
Permanent Under-Secretary, was credited by Sir Charles with being the only
man in England who then understood it; and the question of the Danube,
after all, was only one of many.

Questions were continually being asked in the House of Commons, where the
expert in foreign affairs was not so rare as he became in a subsequent
period; but the inquiries of inexpert persons were the most troublesome of

Sir Charles's power of terse and guarded reply was universally considered
supreme, and was all the more valuable at a time when the practice had
grown up, then comparatively new and since gradually limited, of asking
questions on foreign and colonial affairs, with the object of embarrassing
Ministers, and without regard to the consequences abroad. It gradually
became a dangerous growth, greatly facilitated by the lax procedure, as it
then existed, of the House of Commons in regard to supplementary
questions. This procedure often allowed question time to degenerate into a
sort of ill-regulated debate. Mr. Gladstone's habit of allowing himself
very frequently to be drawn into giving a further answer, after the
carefully prepared official answer had already been given by the Under-
Secretary, was another complication. The brunt of all these troubles had
to be borne by the representative of the Foreign Office. [Footnote: Sir
Henry Lucy, writing "From the Cross Benches" in this year, discussed
critically the various styles of answering questions:

"Sir Charles Dilke's answers are perfect, whether in regard of manner,
matter, or style. A small grant of public money might be much worse
expended than in reprinting his answer to two questions put last night on
the subject of Anglo-French commercial relations, having them framed and
glazed, and hung up in the bedroom of every Minister. A good test of the
perhaps unconscious skill and natural art with which the answer is drawn
up would be for anyone to take the verbatim report which appears in this
morning's papers and attempt to make it shorter. There is not a word too
much in it. It occupies just twenty-eight lines of print, and it contains
a clear and full account of an exceedingly intricate negotiation. The
majority of the answers given by Ministers in their places in Parliament
appear much better in print than when spoken, redundancies being cut out,
parentheses put straight, and hesitancy of manner not appearing. But to
the orderly mind and clear intelligence which instinctively brings
uppermost and in due sequence the principal points of a question, Sir
Charles Dilke adds a frank manner, a clear voice, and an easy delivery."]

Sir Charles was always a close student of Indian government, and many
notes on it are scattered through his diary. On January 9th, meeting
Mallet at York House with the Grant Duffs, he says: 'I had always held a
strong opinion against the India Council, and Mallet confirmed me in my
view that the existing constitution was bad. He ought to know.' The
Government turned to Dilke for assistance in debates on foreign affairs,
even in a case where the Government of India rather than the Foreign
Office was involved.

By the beginning of 1881 England's policy in Afghanistan had been finally
determined. The evacuation of Kandahar was now definitive, in spite of
opposition from a high quarter. On January 18th 'the Queen telegraphed to
Mr. Gladstone at length in a tone of severe rebuke that all her warnings
as to Kandahar had been disregarded.' On March 8th Sir Charles received a
preliminary warning from Lord Hartington to read up his Central Asian
papers, and--

'the Cabinet of March 19th wrote to me to follow Edward Stanhope as to
Kandahar debate' (who had been Lord Beaconsfield's Under-Secretary of
State for India in 1878, and now naturally led the Tory attack). 'I
had to move the direct negative on behalf of the Government. This was
a great compliment, as the matter was not in my department, and the
only three members of the Government who were to speak were Mr.
Gladstone and Lord Hartington and myself.'

After the debate on March 24th, Lord Granville, having first sent his own
congratulations, wrote to say: "Gladstone expressed himself almost
poetically about the excellence of your speech." [Footnote: "The speech of
the debate was that of Sir Charles Dilke. It was close, cogent, and to the
point throughout. His facts were admirably marshalled, so as to strengthen
without obscuring his arguments. There was no fencing, no rhetoric, no
fighting the air.

He came at once to close quarters with his adversary, and demolished his
arguments one after another by a series of cut-and-thrust rejoinders,
which left but little to be added by those who followed him on the same
side. Mr. Stanhope's attack on the Ministry has been of conspicuous
service to at least one Minister" (_Pall Mall Gazette_, edited by Mr. John

In the course of this year, Sir Charles, once more diverging from Radical
preconceptions, helped Sir Robert Sandeman, who was

'sent over by the Viceroy to state his views. I was able to give him
such assistance with my colleagues as to save the districts (the
Pishin districts and the Khojak frontier) to the Indian Government.'

In this Sir Charles was with Lord Ripon, but a draft treaty of Lord
Ripon's, which proposed to surrender Merv ('not ours to give'), roused his
fierce opposition, and was rejected by the Cabinet. He was always resolute
for a strong frontier policy in Central Asia.

The assassination of the Emperor of Russia on March 13th in this year
roused all the Home Offices into activity, and England was as usual taxed
with being the asylum of every desperado. Sir William Harcourt inclined
strongly to the demands of the police, including the prosecution of
Socialist publications, and he carried the Cabinet with him.

'On March 26th I noted in my diary: "...At to-day's Cabinet Bright was
the only Minister who opposed the prosecution of the _Freiheit_, and
Chamberlain positively supported it."'

It may be added that Sir Charles was charged by a certain Mr. Maltman
Barry with having subscribed to the funds of the _Freiheit_, which was an
anarchist publication. The charge was met by an absolute denial, and was
supported by no evidence. It was, however, fathered in the House by Lord
Randolph Churchill, and this led to a breach of friendly relations with
the latter, which lasted for some time.

'On April 9th I was in Paris, and breakfasted with Gambetta, who told
me that Bismarck was about to propose a Conference, which was insisted
on by Russia, concerning the right of asylum, and we agreed that
England and France should refuse together to take part in it.'

A fortnight later Sir Charles, returning from Toulon, was able to offer
his congratulations to Gambetta, because France had declined to attend the
Conference. But the matter was still open as regarded England, and

'on April 30th, and again on May 3rd, I noted that Sir William was
"wrongheaded about the right of asylum," but that I hoped he would not
be allowed by his colleagues to offer to legislate on extradition to
please the Russians.'

At the Cabinet on May 4th

'there was a long debate upon nihilism. Lord Granville some time
before had told the Russians that legislation was intended. That was
so, for a Bill had been prepared. But it was clear that it would be
foolish to introduce it. Kimberley and Chamberlain were against all
proposals to meet the Russians. Then came before the Cabinet the
question of Harcourt's reply to Cowen's question to be put on the next
day, whether information was given by the English police to the
Austrian police as to Socialist addresses in Vienna, which had led to
arrests. Our police say that they only told the Austrians of a place
where dynamite was stored. This seemed to me a cock and bull of Howard
Vincent's. Harcourt had drafted a reply about Napoleon Bonaparte,
which the Cabinet wanted him to alter, but when he is pleased with an
answer it is not easy to make him alter it, as I noted. As our police
virtually denied the charge, Harcourt might have given their denial,
as theirs, in their own words, but nothing would induce him to do

As regarded Russia, Lord Granville based himself on the fact that a
similar arrangement existed between England and Germany, and he questioned
whether political offenders would be much safer in a German than in a
Russian court of law. To the promise of backing from France, he objected
that M. Saint-Hilaire had already pledged himself to an extradition treaty
with Russia. On the latter point Sir Charles answered that for this
amongst other reasons M. Saint-Hilaire was about to be removed from the
French Foreign Office. In the end of October, 1881, Sir Charles was seeing
Gambetta frequently, and observes that he was

'much excited about the question of the extradition treaty with

'Curious though it seems to us (in 1890-1895), when we know how
intensely pro-Russian Gambetta's friends now are, Gambetta was
intensely anti-Russian and pro-Turk....

'There is the same difference of opinion in the French Cabinet as to
the making of an extradition treaty with Russia as there is in ours,
where Harcourt wants it and his colleagues do not. This was the only
subject discussed at the interview of the Russian and German Emperors
at Danzig' (September, 1881), 'and England and France are in their
black books.'

Lord Granville constantly referred to Sir Charles for advice as to the
temper of the House of Commons, though in this case he supported Sir
William Harcourt, and might be excused for failing to see what was plain
to Sir Charles as a practical House of Commons politician, that, apart
from principles, a Liberal Ministry would be sadly embarrassed if it had
to defend the handing over of political refugees to the Russian police,
and that the Tories would probably support the Radical wing in a vote of

The combination at the Foreign Office of the two Ministers, the old and
the young, the Whig and the democrat, worked excellently, and Lord
Granville, in telling Sir Charles that in his absence in France during the
Session Hartington must answer his questions, said that 'picking out any
of those who are not in the Cabinet is an indication of what would be done
when that terrible moment may come to me of your leaving the P.O.' One
matter had, however, caused Sir Charles uneasiness.

In the close of the year 1880 there was a proposal to give a charter to
the North Borneo Company. No ordinary politician knew anything of this
Company, but Sir Charles, while in Opposition, had grounds for asking
questions hostile to it, and had stirred up Mr. Rylands to do the same.
This fact Dilke mentioned to Lord Granville. But, finding Foreign Office
opinion in favour of the concession, he promised that

'I would not take an active part in opposition to the Charter scheme
if and providing the Cabinet approved of it.... On November 19th,
1880, the box, which had been round the Cabinet on the North Borneo
business, having returned without any comment by Mr. Gladstone, I got
it sent again to Mr. Gladstone, who finally decided, I was informed by
Lord Granville, against Herbert of the Colonial Office, Harcourt,
Chamberlain, Bright, Childers, and myself, and with Lord Kimberley,
the Chancellor, and Lord Granville. So it was settled that the Charter
was to be granted; but a little later Mr. Gladstone forgot the
decision which he had given, insisted that he had never heard of the
matter at all, went the other way and would have stopped the Charter,
but for the fact that it was too late.'

This made Sir Charles exceedingly indisposed to undertake the defence of
it in a House of Commons where his own questions asked in Opposition would
assuredly be quoted against him by Sir John Gorst, who, when the Charter
was published in December, tabled a motion against it. 'It was not so much
to the thing itself I was opposed as to the manner in which it was done.'
He therefore wrote to Lord Granville that he had made full search for
precedents, 'the first thing which occurs to a Radical in distress,' and
that finding no modern precedent, he simply could not undertake to defend
the Charter, his objections being that to make such a grant without the
knowledge of Parliament strained the prerogative of the Crown, and,
further, that the Foreign Office was not the fit department to control a
colony (as had been urged in the case of Cyprus). He notes: 'Gambetta
tells me that he has at once had an application from a similar French
Company--for the New Hebrides.' Lord Granville made official reply, with
some asperity. But he sent a separate unofficial letter, in which, after
treating of other matters, he smoothed over his more formal communication.
These letters were received by Sir Charles on December 27th, 1881, on his
return to Paris from Toulon.[Footnote: Later Sir Charles notes: 'My own
objections (besides those to the form in which the matter had been
considered) were to the absence of sufficient provisions with regard to
domestic slavery and opium, but as regards these two latter points I
succeeded in getting the gap filled in.'] The unofficial letter ran:

"I have sent you an answer on a separate piece of paper to your rather
blowing-up letter about Borneo. You have been misled by Spencer's
ignorance and Gladstone's very natural forgetfulness of the
particulars. It was more inexcusable of me to have forgotten what it
appears you told me about your and Rylands' previous action. When my
liver does not act and official work becomes unusually irksome, I
sometimes ask myself upon what question I should like to be beaten and
turned out. The first would be fair trade. The second, which the _St.
James's_ and Raikes, the late Chairman of Committees, seem to
anticipate, is failure to reform the procedure of the Commons owing to
Tory and Home Rule obstruction. I should not think Borneo a fatal
question for this purpose.... There is a great run upon us now as to
Ireland, but do you remember a December when it was not generally
supposed that the Government of the day was going to the dogs?"

The matter passed over, but was serious enough for Mr. Chamberlain to say
in January of the following year:

"If, what I do not expect, the affair should proceed to extremities, I
shall stand or fall with you."

One other matter of this period is interesting as showing Sir Charles and
his chief at work. A draft was on its way to the Colonial Office, 'laying
down the law for dealing with fugitive slaves who escaped into the British
sphere of influence'--a case of constant occurrence at Zanzibar. Sir
Charles's views on this and kindred subjects were strong, and he worked
then, as always, with the Aborigines Protection Society. He stopped it--

'and Lord Granville wrote upon my views a characteristic minute': "I
think our proposed draft is right and defensible in argument. I also
am of opinion that your condemnation of it is right, because the fact
is that the national sentiment is so strongly opposed to what is
enjoined by international law that it is better not to wake the cat as
long as she is asleep!"'

At the end of July, 1881, Lord Granville's health seemed seriously
affected, and Sir Charles noted that, apart from his own personal feeling,
his chief's enforced retirement would be 'a great misfortune.' The choice
would be between Lords Derby, Hartington, Kimberley, and Northbrook. Lord
Derby seemed to him 'undecided and weak,' Lord Northbrook still weaker,
while Lord Hartington 'knew no French and nothing of foreign affairs.' Of
Lord Kimberley's ability he had not then formed a high estimate; but he
adds that, having afterwards sat with him in the Cabinet, he changed that
opinion, finding him 'a wise man,' who never did himself justice in



Although in the course of 1881 Sir Charles had refused to defend in the
House of Commons a special grant for defraying the Prince of Wales's
expenses on a Garter Mission to St. Petersburg, and Lord Frederick
Cavendish, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, had to undertake this
task, which more properly belonged to the Foreign Office, the Prince's
relations with him were cordial. The Prince was increasingly inclined to
interest himself in foreign politics, but received very little
encouragement from the Court. In June, 1880 (when the rumours as to
Challemel-Lacour were being set afloat [Footnote: For an account of these
rumours see Chapter XXII., p. 353.]), Sir Charles noted that, as far as he
could ascertain, the Prince of Wales,

'being not at this time admitted by the Queen to "official knowledge,"
got the whole of his modern history from the _Figaro_....

'On the evening of February 19th, 1881, I dined with Lord and Lady
Spencer to meet the Prince and Princess of Wales. The Prince spoke to
me about his anxiety to be kept informed of foreign affairs, and the
Princess spoke to me in the same sense, telling me how fond she was of
her brother the "King of Greece," and how anxious therefore about his
business. The Prince asked me whether he could, while in Paris, do
anything to help on the negotiation of a new treaty of commerce, and I
wrote to him next morning to suggest the language that he should hold.
Ferry, the Prime Minister, I pointed out, was a Protectionist, and I
suggested that the Prince should say to Ferry how important for the
good understanding of the two countries it would be to conclude a fair
treaty at once....

'On the 18th I had written to Gambetta to tell him that I should be in
Paris on April 9th and on April 24th, and that I was to see him, but
that no one was to know; and on March 20th I received his answer
accepting my conditions. The Prince of Wales had carried out the
suggestion which I had made, having taken my letter with him, and read
it over immediately before seeing Jules Ferry, upon whom he seemed to
have made some impression.'

This Sir Charles learnt from a letter of Gambetta's of March 30th, which
ended: "Je vous attends le 9 avril au matin, incognito strict
impenetrable, ou le 24 au retour A votre choix." At this meeting Sir
Charles received from Gambetta the assurance that delegates would be sent
to London to attempt the negotiation of a treaty.

Sir Charles did not believe that a treaty would be concluded. In his
judgment England would not consent to accept a treaty unless it were an
improvement on the existing position, and such a treaty France was not
likely to give. But he believed that by negotiating better terms could be
obtained, not indeed by treaty, but under the tariff which the French
legislature would introduce by Bill. [Footnote: Gambetta kept in touch
with Sir Charles throughout on this matter, writing April 16th: "Nous
causerons de toutes ces sottes affaires, que je ne peux m'imaginer aussi
mal conduites, mais il y a encore de l'espoir, croyez-moi."]

A joint Commission was nominated to sit in London, with Challemel-
Lacour and Dilke for its respective heads. The other English Commissioners
were Sir C. Rivers Wilson, who was a Treasury official before he became
Finance Minister in Egypt; Mr. C. M. Kennedy, head of the Commercial
Department of the Foreign Office; and Mr. W. E. Baxter, the member for
Dundee. Sir Charles says of the preliminary meetings, which were concerned
with a wrangle between him and Challemel-Lacour as to the extent to which
M. Leon Say had committed his Government:

'We got no further, but we were both very much pleased with ourselves
for the manner in which we argued. Challemel, being an orator and
having the use of his own tongue, was at an advantage, but I managed
to hold my own, I think, pretty well.'

'At the second meeting, May 30th, I began a course of speeches on pig
iron and such matters which was destined to continue for many months.
I used to get up my technical terms in the morning (the "jargon," as
the French call it), and to forget them immediately after. I believe
that on this day I forgot the French for "steel blooms" within five
minutes after being most learned in regard to them.'

The sittings went on throughout June, 1881, with results in some respects
favourable. But the matter had now a political as well as a commercial
aspect. It was probable that Gambetta was about to form a Government,
though it was unlikely to come into being before the late autumn, after
the French general election. On both sides there was a desire to have
friendly relations, but public feeling was extremely sensitive in both
countries. The occupation of Tunis had produced a certain tension with the
Foreign Office; and in France the growing Protectionist movement made it
certain that if England, which from 1860 onward had enjoyed special terms
in her commerce with France, was again to have a special treaty, it would
not be so favourable.

The position in July was that a treaty giving certain advantages to
England could be secured at once from M. Ferry's Ministry, and that a
total failure of the negotiations was in itself to be deprecated. Lord
Lyons was for concluding the treaty which might be made at once, fearing
lest England should be put under the general tariff. Here Sir Charles's
familiarity with Parliament made him invaluable. He perceived that any
treaty which could be made at this moment would leave certain leading
British industries--notably cottons and woollens--worse off than they had
been under the expiring arrangement, and therefore would probably be upset
by a vote in the House of Commons. This would be disastrous. It seemed to
him better to wait till Gambetta came in, and to do the best he could with
the new Government. This decision prevailed, Sir Charles persuading Mr.
Chamberlain to support his view in the Cabinet.

It was decided, however, to insist on prolongation of the existing treaty
as a condition of continuing the negotiations, and Sir Charles now
proposed to strengthen his hand by a threat of retaliation. He was invited
by the Prime Minister to attend a meeting of the Cabinet in regard to
commercial treaties on August 6th.

'The result was a despatch from myself to Mr. Adams [Footnote:
Afterwards Sir Francis Adams. He was then Charge d'Affaires in Paris,
and later Minister in Switzerland. He was at this moment in charge of
the Embassy during Lord Lyons's absence.] which was not included in
the Blue-Book afterwards laid before Parliament. It ended by relating
a conversation with the French Ambassador on the previous day, in
which I threatened (and this was the reason for not placing the
despatch before Parliament) that if we did not come to a satisfactory
understanding with France, we should make treaties with Spain,
Portugal, and Italy, in which we should reduce the rate of duty on the
dear wines produced by those countries, and raise the rate of duty on
the less strong wines produced by France. I have always been a
reciprocitarian to this extent, and was always backed in using such
arguments by Chamberlain, who held the same view in a still stronger
form. Mr. Gladstone and Lord Granville always prevented any public
reference to such matters, but they allowed me to put them in
despatches, although not to lay them before Parliament.'

On August 17th Gambetta again suggested a private interview, and it was
decided that Dilke should cross, ostensibly on a visit to La Bourboule,
and hold the interview on his way. [Footnote: Gambetta wrote: "Nons serons
strictement seuls. Si! les choses electorales ont fort bien tourne, non
sans peine, mais pas de guerre sans blessures." (22 aout, 1881).] On
August 22nd Mr. Adams reported that--

'Gambetta was determined that Tirard' (Minister of Commerce in M.
Ferry's Cabinet) 'should fail, in order that his Government should
have the glory of succeeding in our negotiations....

'On Thursday, August 25th, I breakfasted with Gambetta, and then went
on to La Bourboule. He told me that he was prepared to take office
without portfolio, "in order to be able to watch all the others."'

"Tuesday, August 30th, '81.--As to the treaty, Gambetta said that M.
Tirard would not be got rid of in time; some mode must be found of
turning the difficulty which he had created. He would see him, and
Tirard would probably propose some plan to me when I called on
Tuesday" (this might be Thursday). "_I suggested... a treaty with some
small country, and the most-favoured-nation clause with us--we giving
nothing...._ This was the excellent ultimate outcome." [Footnote: This
paragraph is from a note made at the time.]

On September 5th, on his way back from La Bourboule, 'I was officially in
Paris, and saw the Ministers, Barthelemy Saint-Hilaire, Jules Ferry, and
Tirard; and on the next day, Tuesday the 6th, saw Gambetta privately
without their knowledge.'

At this moment prolongation of the existing treaty had not been accorded,
and negotiations were in suspense. Sir Charles frankly "told the Ministers
that I did not expect we should be able to agree," and suggested a plan
which, without a special commercial treaty, should secure what had up till
then been settled in negotiation. France was obliged to renew her treaties
with Switzerland and Belgium, and might concede to these countries in
detail 'those things which up to this point we had obtained in

Prolongation of the existing treaty was, however, at last accorded, and
conferences were resumed on September 19th in Paris-a change of scene
greatly to the Commission's advantage.

'We now continued to sit day by day in state at the French Foreign
Office, which contrasted with the simplicity of Downing Street under
the rule of a parsimonious Treasury. The French certainly know how to
spend their money, and I fancy that the United Kingdom must suffer in
negotiations both from the superior style in which foreign Governments
treat negotiators and from our abstention from the practice pursued by
foreign Governments of showering decorations upon negotiators. At the
French Foreign Office, outside the magnificent room in which the
conferences are held, was a great buffet covered with the most costly
luxuries, behind which stood tall footmen dressed in the national
livery of red and blue, and I think that our manufacturers who came in
to give evidence were in some cases not altogether insensible to the
attractions offered them. Some of our witnesses, however, were really
first-class men, and it was a pleasure to hear Mr. Joseph Lee of
Manchester, who was afterwards knighted on my suggestion, hammering
the French.... When I called the name of Wedgwood as that of my
witness upon pottery I noticed the sensation that ran round the French
Commission, who were under the impression that "Wedgwood" was a
contemporary of Michael Angelo; but, of course, my Wedgwood was not
the original, though he was a descendant....

'During my first long visit to Paris the French Government gave me
every night the official box at either the Opera or one of the great
theatres, and I used to go, not that I cared about the theatre, but
because I was able to give hospitality in this way to our leading
manufacturers, who were over as our witnesses. We used, indeed, to do
a good deal of our business at the theatre. The official boxes having
drawing-rooms at the back, we retired into these, and discussed what
we were going to say at the Conference the next morning.'

But after many sittings negotiations did not seem likely to lead to any
settlement, and Sir Charles was anxious to break them off. The French
opposed this, urging that prolongation of the treaty would then have been
gained for nothing; and they made a good many small concessions on the
numerous articles subject to their tariff.

During the sittings Sir Charles Dilke kept Lord Granville posted in a mass
of detail: Ivory and pearl buttons reduced to half; vulcanite goods, an
improvement on the _status quo_; great and wholly unexpected reduction on
biscuits; but starch very bad (this was on "an excellent day for the small
things"). Other reports dealt with steel scrap, phosphorus, faience, and
so forth, and by tabulated figures set off the total of losses and gains.
Lord Granville, thanking him for these constant reports, remarked with
serene detachment that they were "as interesting as lists of the betting
in the newspapers just before the Derby. I hope you will win the race." He
added that in his opinion "Tirard and the Temps were only playing a game
of brag."

'At my conference on October 24th I had found Tirard very cross, he
apparently having made up his mind that Gambetta intended to turn him
out, and having therefore resolved to make the conclusion of a treaty
impossible in order to attack his successor and to destroy the treaty
if one were made. He suddenly asked for a vast reduction in the
English wine duties, and on my refusing to discuss the matter, he
replied that after the "enormous concessions" which had been made to
us, any French Minister who did not obtain similar concessions from us
would be worthy of impeachment. He was very rude to me, and evidently
wanted to provoke an immediate rupture.'

On this Sir Charles wrote to Mr. Gladstone:

"The Commissioners are in the singular position of trying to arrange
the terms of a treaty with a Minister who, if the treaty is made, is
likely to become the private member to move its rejection."

'I was not much hampered from London at this time. Mr. Gladstone
wrote: "I have nothing to do but commend and concur."'

'On October 28th I determined not to break off negotiations, but
simply to finish--that is to say, to go clean through the tariff, and
stop when we had no more to say. We then could leave matters open, and
begin again in the following month with the new Government which
Gambetta was about to form.'

Already Sir Charles was being introduced to the future members of what
came to be called the "Grand Ministere," and was not favourably impressed:

'On November 2nd, Gambetta having informed me that Rouvier would be
his Minister of Commerce, and having asked me to meet him, we dined
together at the Cafe Anglais, but I was greatly disappointed in him.'

On November 5th Sir Charles left Paris for London, nominally for purposes
of consultation; but this was only a pretext to suspend operations till
Gambetta came into office, which he did on November 10th. Sir Charles,
being then in London, found the British Government of his own opinion,
that they could hope for no more than most-favoured-nation treatment; but
opinions differed as to how this should be obtained. Mr. Gladstone wanted
to give a pledge that the low duty on the lighter wines--which favoured
France, since no other country could produce them-should not be raised.
Sir Charles, on the other hand, wanted to threaten the French with a
change in the duties, which would favour Italy by letting in the slightly
stronger Italian wines at the same rate as "Gladstone" clarets.

On November 19th he was back in Paris, seeing Rouvier and Gambetta, both
of whom asked for time to prepare the way for a final meeting of the
Commission, and Sir Charles went to his house near Toulon. On December
28th the detail of the French proposals was known, and they were held to
be unsatisfactory. Gambetta still insisted that an agreement could and
must be reached, but Dilke was of another opinion, and at the thirty-
seventh sitting, held on the last day of the year, negotiations were
really broken off. The last sitting, held on January 2nd, 1882, was merely
formal, and that evening Sir Charles left for London. He had not expected
to succeed in concluding a treaty, and he had not concluded one, but he
had earned high credit from experts. Lord Granville wrote: "From all sides
I hear praises of your knowledge, tact, and judgment." His secretary, Mr.
Austin Lee, [Footnote: Now Sir Henry Austin Lee, K.C.M.G., C.B.,
Commercial attache for France, Belgium, and Switzerland at the British
Embassy in Paris.] showed him a letter from one of the Under-Secretaries
of State in the Foreign Office, who

'said that it was a blessing to have had me at Paris, because any
other negotiator would have sent yards of cipher telegram to the
Office asking to be allowed to give the French all that they demanded
from us, and proving that we must take whatever we could get from

The British members of the Commission were unanimous in support of their
chairman, and when Gambetta fell and M. de Freycinet became Prime
Minister, they refused to hold any further sittings. Lord Lyons was
uneasy, and in February, 1882, wrote that the most-favoured-nation treaty
was a very forlorn hope." Mr. Gladstone thereupon wished to give his
pledge against any raising of the duties.

'I succeeded in stopping this, for I felt sure that we should get it
for nothing, as, in fact, we did.

'That we obtained most-favoured-nation treatment without giving way
upon our wine duties and sacrificing revenue was a triumph, as we got
all the reductions (which on yarns were very large) which we had
obtained in the course of the negotiations. These had, after being won
by us, been given to the Swiss and Belgians--who were "behind" us, and
signed treaties. The result was that there was an increase, not a
falling off, in our trade with France.' [Footnote: Full information
with regard to the negotiations of a new commercial treaty between
France and Great Britain, will be found in Commercial No. 37, 1881,
and Commercial No. 9, 1882.]

"The foresight shown by Sir Charles Dilke in proposing this arrangement is
brought out by the fact that it has been maintained, and given entire
satisfaction, during the thirty years and more which have elapsed from its
conclusion," says Sir Henry Austin Lee.

M. Hanotaux, in his _France Contemporaine_, observes that Dilke was often
a _precurseur_. He certainly was so in an important matter of Imperial
policy which connects itself with these negotiations. Leave was granted,
through Sir Charles at the Foreign Office, to the Canadian High
Commissioner, Sir A. Galt, 'to negotiate upon his own account, provided
that he concluded no stipulations unfavourable to the mother country. In
this, I made a precedent which has been followed,' and which was not made
without opposition. The Colonial Office, while unable to prevent Canada
from acting for herself, prevented Sir Charles at the Foreign Office from
acting conjointly with Canada. The matter developed in 'the following

'On March 1st (1882) Sir A. Galt asked me to let Kennedy' (Sir C. M.
Kennedy) 'of the Foreign Office go to Paris as Second Commissioner for
Canada to help make a Franco-Canadian treaty. On the 2nd I agreed, and
got Lord Granville's consent, and the Foreign Office officially asked
the Colonial Office, when Lord Kimberley refused. I pressed the matter
in angry, but as I think conclusive, minutest Lord Kimberley, however,
set his teeth, and refused point blank, and Lord Granville then backed
him up, saying that "on a Colonial matter it was impossible to fly in
the face of the Colonial Secretary of State." I wrote, 2nd March,

'"I think Lord Kimberley's decision a great misfortune to British
trade and to friendly relations with the Colonies, and wish this
minute and opinion to that effect placed on record with the despatch
which he wishes to withdraw. We could have stipulated that the mother
country should have been entitled to all reductions made to France, a
further advantage which, if Canada is angry at the refusal, may be
needed but not obtained."'

'April 20th, 1882: At this moment I called attention to the bearing of
our most-favoured-nation-clause treaties on the commercial condition
of the British Empire generally, and pointed out that the bearing of
the matter on the Colonies would become very important some day; and I
found even too much support from the head of the Trade Department, who
was a Protectionist, or at least a strong Reciprocitarian, and who at
once grasped my idea by arguing that there was a chance that some day
there would be formed a British Zollverein, raising discriminating
duties upon foreign produce as against that of the British Empire. I
had only pointed out the possibility. The representation of Canada by
Sir A. Galt at Paris also provoked minutes by me on this question
later in the year.'




The New Year of 1881 had opened for Sir Charles with Gambetta's greetings:

"Chambre des Deputes.


"Je vous envoie mes voeux les plus ardents pour tous les succes que
vous pouvez desirer dans cette annee qui s'ouvre, et pour la
realisation desquels j'ai confiance que votre bon genie continuera a
vous sourire.

"Quand vous passerez a Paris le 4 ou autre jour venez me voir. Je ne
bouge d'ici jusqu'au 20.

"Je vous embrasse et vous aime,
"Paris, 1 _Janvier_, 1881."


When they met, the Ferry Ministry was in office. Sir Charles met 'General
Farre, the Minister of War, who has left no name except for having
abolished drums, which were shortly afterwards reintroduced, and who, so
far as I could see, did not deserve to leave one,' and also Ranc, one of
Gambetta's satellites, who 'was entertaining with a description of the
various anarchical parties in Paris then engaged in sitting "on each
other's ruins."' A story which Sir Charles tells of his crossing to Paris
(in the end of August, 1881) illustrates the vehemence of prejudice
against Gambetta:

'I had made the journey alone in a compartment with the young Comte de
FitzJames, who was a Lieutenant in the army. He did not know me, and
assured me that, it being Gambetta's custom while President of the
Chamber to ask to breakfast each day the officer of the guard, if he
ever happened to be on duty at the Palais Bourbon, and, consequently,
were asked, and had to go, he should utter not one word.'

Gambetta, who heard the story, was greatly amused by it.

During part of September and part of October, 1881, the friends did not
meet, because Gambetta was away from Paris. 'It was rumoured he had been
to see Bismarck, which was untrue,' says Dilke. "But," he adds in a letter
to Lord Granville on October 24th, "Gambetta visited Memel and Kiel, and
saw the German fleet, of which he does not think much."

The Prince and Princess of Wales were in Paris when Sir Charles returned
there to resume commercial negotiations. On October 24th he breakfasted
with them at their hotel, and met them again on the 28th, when they
lunched with the Austrian Ambassador:

'Beust is a man that I never saw without marvelling how he should have
played so great a part in the affairs of Europe. He always reminded me
of Lord Granville with the brains left out. The same little jokes,
though less good, the same smile, the same courteous manner; but an
affectation and a real stupidity which were all his own.'

'I went in the afternoon with the Prince and Princess of Wales to see
Munkacsy's "Christ," an enormously overrated picture, in which the
chief figure was that of an Austrian village idiot, not a Christ, but
the half-revolutionist, half-idiot that Christ was to the Jews who
crucified Him, and who formed the crowd in the picture. If that was
what the man wanted to paint, he had succeeded, but that probably was
not what he wanted.'

'The Prince was most anxious to meet Gambetta again; Gambetta not at
all anxious to meet him. But the Prince having distinctly asked me to
ask him to breakfast, and to ask Gambetta to meet him, the latter was
obliged to come. The Prince, however, having asked me to invite
Galliffet as one of the guests, Gambetta, who liked Galliffet
personally, but was afraid of being attacked in the Press, absolutely
refused to come, so Galliffet had to be knocked off the list again.
Galliffet has misrepresented this in his Memoirs.'

This breakfast took place on Sunday, October 30th, and made much talk,
though the Prince was officially travelling as a private gentleman, an
incognito which the waiters had difficulty in remembering. Mr. Austin Lee
had been invited to take the place of General Galliffet in the party of
six, which was completed by Mr. Knollys and Colonel Stanley Clarke. The
place was known as the Moulin Rouge Restaurant, soon to disappear in the
rebuilding of the Avenue d'Antin. It is said to have been kept open for
some days beyond the date originally fixed, to furnish a _dejeuner_ worthy
of these guests. In spite of the privacy observed, Rumour was busy, and
_Punch_ of November 12th appeared with an amusing "Monologue du Garcon,"
giving at great length the supposed conversation and the menu of the

'Gambetta said a great many good things. He called Blowitz a "crapaud
de Boheme," which Escott afterwards quoted from me in the _World_, I
think. He said, apropos of the then French Government: "To change a
policy you must have a policy, just as to change a shirt you must have
a shirt." Gambetta told me that he wished to make Tissot Foreign
Minister, and that as he intended to take Chanzy from St. Petersburg,
he should have three Ambassadors to find. Gambetta was satirical about
Ireland. He said, referring to Mr. Gladstone's speech: "Everything is
going on admirably in Ireland, it seems. You have thirty thousand
lawsuits under your new Land Act. Excellent!"'

The Prince returned to London next day, and sent to Sir Charles through
Mr. Knollys an expression of thanks and a request that Gambetta would send
him a signed photograph. The request was duly transmitted, and Gambetta


"Pensez-vous que ceci soit acceptable? Si oui, pas de reponse; si non,
dites-moi s'il suffit d'une simple signature comme autographe.

"A vous,


The inscription was: "Au plus aimable des princes--un ami de

Four months later the Prince of Wales wrote to Dilke expressing his
personal regrets for Gambetta's fall from power, and Gambetta's letter in
reply was sent to Sir Charles for transmission on March 6th, 1882.

The Ferry Ministry fell on November 10th, 1881, and the thought of
Gambetta in power acted, said Bismarck, on the nerves of Europe "like a
drum in a sick man's room."

On November 1st

'I heard from Lord Lyons, and gathered from confidential telegrams,
that the idea of disarmament was in the air again in Europe. This, of
course, really meant a disarmament to be imposed by the Empires and
Italy upon France. But it was stopped again, as it had often been
stopped before, by Russia.

'I had told Lord Granville that I thought Gambetta would offer the
Embassy in London to Ferry, and that I did not know if the Queen would
like his marriage being only a civil one, and that the Roman Catholics
in England would certainly make it disagreeable for him. Lord
Granville wrote on this: "I am glad to be rid of Challemel-Lacour. He
must be a clumsy fellow to have got on such bad terms with both Saint-
Hilaire and Gambetta." In the following week, however, Gambetta made
up his mind that J. Casimir-Perier should become his Ambassador in
London. But Gambetta fell before he had been able to give him the

'On the night before I left I dined with Pouyer-Quertier, who had been
Finance Minister of France under Thiers at the time of the Frankfort
Treaty. He told me a wonderful story about how, when the negotiations
had been all but broken off, he went to bed in despair. But in the
morning before light there was a knock at his door. He got up in his
nightshirt, and there was Bismarck in full uniform, who made him get
back into bed, saying he would catch cold. Then, drawing a chair to
the bedside, Bismarck spread out the treaty on the night-table and
wrangled on, till after a while he said that it was dry work, and got
up and rang and asked for beer. After the beer had been brought by a
sleepy waiter, he rang again and asked for kirsch, and poured a
quantity of the liqueur into the beer. Then he made the poker red-hot
in the fire which he had relighted, stirred up the mixture, and
invited Pouyer-Quertier to drink. Pouyer-Quertier said: "I drank it
thinking of my country, and Bismarck clapped me on the back, and said
that I was such a good fellow that the evacuation should take place at
once, and this is how the final article was signed; it was signed on
the table at my bedside." I did not believe the story, but when I
asked Bismarck years later he said that it was true.'

Returning to London on November 5th

'I left Paris at a moment of great excitement over the financial
situation, there having been a kind of Roman Catholic financial union
which had beaten a Jewish ring, and which afterwards itself collapsed.
It was said that James de Rothschild had lost his money in this
business; but his brother-in-law told me that ... it was not true that
he had lost a sixpence.'

On November 19th Sir Charles left London, and saw Rouvier and Gambetta
late that evening in Paris. 'The Gambetta Ministry had been formed, and it
was thought important that I should see Rouvier at once.' Next day, Sunday
the 20th, he 'breakfasted with Gambetta, meeting Spuller and General
Billot.' To the latter he had been introduced by Gambetta in January,
1880, when Billot was 'commanding the Marseille Corps d'Armee: an
intriguer who, in the event of war occurring between 1887 and 1890, would
have been second-in-command of the armies of France.' [Footnote: "A letter
to a friend of this date shows that Sir Charles did not think Gambetta's
Ministry was likely to be in a strong position when it came into power:

"21st November, 1881.

"Gambetta is, according to the papers, at war with the Senate and with
the Church. I think that he is at war with the Senate, and that this
is foolish of him. I don't think he is at war with the Church. It is
the Senate, more than the Church, which is offended by the appointment
of a rampant atheist and vivisector as Minister of Religion. The
Church has probably less to fear from Bert than from less known men.
Gambetta is to see the Nuncio to-day, and I don't think that the
Nuncio, who has long been his warm personal friend, is likely to
express much alarm.

"The Senate is more serious. The monstrous folly of Bert's
appointment, the dismissal of the senator de Normandie, governor of
the Bank, and the putting only one senator into the Cabinet, have
irritated it beyond all bearing. Gambetta may gain twenty seats in
January, but even supposing that he is supposed to have a majority in
the Senate, it is a majority in which you have to count semi-
Conservative rivals such as Leon Say and de Freycinet, foes like
Challemel-Lacour, and men of the extreme Left like Victor Hugo, who
are more likely to follow Clemenceau than Gambetta. And yet he needs
the Senate to keep the other House in order by the threat of a
dissolution, which requires the consent of the Senate."]

Gambetta had taken the Foreign Office himself:

'He seemed to me solid, strong, and prudent. Indeed, I never saw him
appear to so much advantage. We walked from his "den" to the dining-
room, where the guests were waiting for breakfast, through his
bedroom. A fine Louis XVI. bed from the _garde-meuble_ was in the
alcove. I pointed, and asked: "Le lit de Talleyrand?" "Le lit de
Dagobert!" At our meeting on the 20th we discussed fully the Danube
question, and also that of Newfoundland, in which I always took a deep
interest, but with regard to which I was far from agreement with the
French. [Footnote: The Danube question was left unsettled by the
Treaty of Berlin. The question of the navigation and outlets gave rise
to constant trouble, owing to the claims of Russia and Austria-
Hungary. After prolonged negotiations the Conference of 1883 arrived
at a compromise. See _Life of Granville._ vol. ii., chap, vii., Lord
Granville's despatch, March 14th, Turkey, No. 3, 1883.]

'During the whole of this visit to Paris I deeply admired Gambetta,
with whom I spent almost the whole of my three days. He showed to
great advantage, sobered by power, rapid in his acquisition and
mastery of new subjects. He had grasped the Danube difficulties and
those of Newfoundland in a moment. How different from those about him,
of whom Spuller, of all men in the world, was one day to be his
successor--a heavy fellow, who, as long as Gambetta lived, used only
to open his mouth for the purpose of "thee-and-thouing" Gambetta in
asking for the salt, just to show that he dared to "thee" and "thou"

'On December 28th I breakfasted with Gambetta, when he told me that he
would himself have given Jules Simon any Embassy or any place in his
Government, for he was fit for any ("the cleverest man in France"),
had he not known that Simon was too bitter, and would think that he
was being bought, and would refuse. Freycinet was at Gambetta's, and
also Spuller, Rouvier, Ranc, Pallain, Reinach, and Gerard. They were
much excited as to the selection by Gambetta of Weiss of the _Figaro_
as Secretary in the Foreign Office' (in place of Baron de Courcel),
'as Weiss was said to have made the anti-Republican Government of May
16th; but Gambetta merely answered that he could not see why he should
not be allowed to employ as a despatch writer "the first pen of
France." The same difficulty had arisen about the army, Gambetta
wishing to make Miribel Chief of the Staff, although he was a
reactionary. This appointment was afterwards made by Freycinet in
1890, amid public applause, although the suggestion had been one of
the causes of Gambetta's overthrow....

'Gambetta says that the American despatches to us about Panama raise a
monstrous pretension--that they might as well claim the Straits of
Magellan and Cape Horn'. [Footnote: The Americans had announced that
in the event of the completion of the Canal they intended to keep it
in their own hands.]

On December 29th Sir Charles dined with Lord Lyons to meet Gambetta and
some of the new Ministers:

'On this evening I heard Gambetta for the first time say "If I can,"
for he was beginning to feel how sharply limited by the hostility of
the Chamber was his power. He was speaking of revision of the
constitution for the purpose of the adoption of _scrutin de liste_.'
[Footnote: Sir Henry Brackenbury, in _Some Memories of My Spare Time_,
observes that in 1881 he dined at the Embassy, when "Gambetta and M.
Spullor, his _fidus Achates_, were also present, as well as Sir
Charles Dilke." He thought Dilke "by far the best talker of the

On January 2nd, 1882, he again breakfasted with Gambetta.

'Gambetta told me that the Chamber would never forgive him for having
suggested _scrutin de liste_, and hated him. At the same time he
informed me of his intention of again proposing it, although he
expected to be beaten, and seemed to have made up his mind to go out.'

Writing to Grant Duff of this coming conflict, Dilke said:

"Gambetta means to put _scrutin de liste_ into the constitution at the
revision--_if he can_. That will be a warm day! I never heard him say
'If I can' before. I wonder if his great exemplar ever said 'If I
can'? Sala and Rosebery, who are the two best Napoleonists I know, can
tell us."


Sir Charles, as representing the Foreign Office in the House of Commons,
was naturally in close touch with Mr. Gladstone; in addition, the
commercial negotiations necessitated frequent interviews. The admiration
which Sir Charles felt for his chief was, however, frequently crossed by
differences of opinion, especially as to his method of approaching foreign

'Writing to express his concurrence in my action with regard to the
commercial negotiations, Mr. Gladstone went on to say: "I am glad
Gambetta says that he is in the same boat as us as to Panama. Our
safety there will be in acting as charged with the interests of the
world minus America." This was a curious example of the world of
illusions in which Mr. Gladstone lives. The Americans had informed us
that they did not intend to be any longer bound by the Clayton-Bulwer
Treaty, and that in the event of the completion of the Panama Canal
they intended virtually to keep it in their own hands. Mr. Gladstone
called in France in joint protest with us against this view, although
he might have foreseen the utter impossibility in the long-run of
resisting American pretensions on such a point, and although he
himself would have been the first, when the Americans threatened war
(as they would have done later on), to yield to threats that which he
would not yield to argument. It amused Harcourt, however, to concoct
with the Chancellor and the Foreign Office portentous despatches to
Mr. Blaine, in which we lectured the Americans on the permanency of
their obligations. How childish it all was! Moreover, the Monroe
doctrine suits our interests.'

Sir Charles's letters to Mr. Gladstone, even when short and business-like,
are marked by a deference which he used to no one else; and the deference
at times has the accent of affection. Sir Charles always enjoyed Mr.
Gladstone's old-world courtesy, and especially his playfulness.

"It would be impossible," he said, "to give a true account of Mr.
Gladstone without recalling the manner in which, however absorbed he
might be in his subject, he would break off to discuss some amusing
triviality. When we were talking once of the real and inner views of
French statesmen with regard to our occupation of Egypt, some chance
expression suddenly diverted Mr. Gladstone's mind to the subject of
rowing; and he began recalling in the most amusing way incidents of
his own Eton days of some sixty-eight or sixty-nine years previously,
shivering at the thought of his sculling in cold weather against
strong stretches of the stream near Monkey Island."

But the elder statesman who fascinated Sir Charles's imagination was the
great Tory chief; and in 1881 came at last the realization of a wish long
entertained by him for a meeting with Lord Beaconsfield. More than once he
had been balked of the opportunity by his punctilio of holding rigidly to
even the most ordinary social engagements. After one of these
disappointments he wrote:

'I should like to talk to the most romantic character of our time, but
I fear it is only vulgar curiosity, for I really know a great deal
more already about him than I could find out in conversation.'

The curiosity had been sharpened by the publication of _Endymion_, for Sir
Charles thought that in devising the story of Endymion Ferrars Lord
Beaconsfield had taken a general suggestion from the career of the Radical
who, like Endymion, had made his debut as Under-Secretary for Foreign
Affairs; and the novelist admitted the debt.

The meeting took place on Sunday, January 30th, at Lady Lonsdale's house.

'Wolff, Chaplin and Lady Florence, Hartington, the Duchess of
Manchester, Lord and Lady Hamilton, and Captain and Lady Rosamond
Fellowes (Randolph Churchill's sister) were there. Arthur Balfour and
the Randolph Churchills came in after dinner. Lord Beaconsfield told
me that he had been very anxious to meet me, since he had taken the
liberty of writing about me without my leave in his novel _Endymion_,
and that he thought we wore never destined to meet, for he had twice
asked Alfred de Rothschild to invite me, and that I had not "been" on
those two or on a third occasion which he had made. He was, as usual,
over-complimentary and over-anxious to captivate, but was certainly
most pleasant. He praised my grandfather, a sure way to my heart, and
said that my grandfather and his own father were "the last two men in
England who had a thorough knowledge of English letters." The talk at
dinner was dull, in spite of Wolff's attempts to enliven it, but
Arthur Balfour and the Randolph Churchills brightened it afterwards,
and Dizzy said a good many rather good things--as, for example, that
he should like to get married again for the purpose of comparing the
presents that he would get from his friends with the beggarly ones
that he had got when he had married. Also that he "objects to the
rigid bounds of honeymoons as an arbitrary attempt to limit
illimitable happiness." I thought him very polite and pretty in all
his ways and in all he said.'

On Sunday evening, February 20th, Sir Charles dined with Mr. Alfred de
Rothschild to meet the Prince of Wales;

'but was more pleased with again meeting Lord Beaconsfield.'...

'After dinner I was next him. When he was offered a cigar, he said:
"You English once had a great man who discovered tobacco, on which you
English now live, and potatoes, on which your Irish live, and you cut
off his head." This foreign point of view of Sir Walter Raleigh was
extremely comical, I think.'

Finally there is this entry:

'Having made no note in my diary, I cannot tell if it was on Sunday,
April 3rd, or on Sunday, March 27th, that Lord Barrington met Edmond
Fitzmaurice and me in Curzon Street, where Lord Beaconsfield's house
was, and said: "Come in and see him; he's ill, but would like to see
you." He was on a couch in the back drawing-room, in which he died, I
think, on April 19th. There was a bronchitis kettle on the hob, and
his breathing was difficult, but he was still the old Disraeli, and,
though I think that he knew that he was dying, yet his pleasant
spitefulness about "Mr. G." was not abated. He meant to die game.'

Lord Beaconsfield made no secret of his liking for Sir Charles, but is
said to have doubted the permanency of his Radicalism. "The sort of man
who will die a Conservative peer," is said to have been his commentary
after their first meeting, echoing an idea then widespread in the
fashionable world, that of the two men so often compared, Sir Charles
would gravitate towards the opinions of the _Times_, leaving his colleague
'to the unassisted championship of democratic rights.'

To the greatest of all European statesmen Dilke did not at this time
become known; but Bismarck watched his career, and in the early part of
this year, after the Prince of Wales's visit to Berlin,

'On March 16th Arthur Ellis, who had been with the Prince at Berlin,
came to me from the Prince to say that the Prince had had much talk
with Lord Ampthill (Odo Russell) about me. Our Ambassador was most
anxious that I should visit Berlin, and thought that I could do much
then with Bismarck, and usefully remove prejudices about myself at the
Court. Ellis was the bearer of an invitation from the Embassy for me
to stay there, and of a message that Bismarck much wished to make my

There was no doubt as to the attractiveness of the invitation, but it was
at once ruled out on public grounds.

'The visit, however, would give rise to much speculation in the Press,
and would also make the Queen angry and Mr. Gladstone most uneasy.
"But," I added in my diary, "if we want to stop the French from going
to Tunis, there is a safe and easy way to do it--_i.e.,_ let me go to
Berlin for one day and see Bismarck and talk about the weather, and
then to Rome for one hour and see, no one, merely to let the fact get
into the newspapers."'

In December

'Dufferin wrote to me from Paris: "The Sultan is besotted with the
notion of a German alliance against France, and of obtaining the
assistance of Germany in freeing himself from foreign control in

On New Year's Day, 1882, Sir Charles, while accompanying Lord Lyons on his
round of official New Year visits, saw a despatch from Lord Odo Russell.
[Footnote: Ambassador at Berlin.] In it Bismarck described his attitude
towards the Turks, who had "asked him for protection against their
protectors, who, with the sole exception of Germany, in their opinion,
wanted 'to cut slices out of their skin.'" Bismarck had assured the Turks
that he should never attack France unless seriously threatened by France,
and would never in any circumstances "fire a cartridge for Turkey."

In the course of the summer of 1881 Sir Charles had become acquainted with
a great personage in whom Bismarck always saw an enemy of his policy, and
in so far as it was hostile to France the Memoir bears out his judgment.

'On July 13th the Prince of Wales introduced me to his sister, the
Crown Princess of Germany. [Footnote: Though this was Sir Charles's
first meeting with the Crown Princess, she had at the time of his
father's death 'telegraphed her condolences to me at St. Petersburg,
and to the Embassy, asking them to call on me and help me in the
matter.'] She talked to me at length in the most friendly way with
regard to France and Gambetta. She told me that she had been secretly
to Cherbourg to hear Gambetta's famous speech, which he himself called
"the first glass of wine administered to the convalescent." But she
added that she stood absolutely alone in Germany in her pro-French

'The Crown Princess seemed very able, but inclined to sacrifice
anything in order to produce an effect. I was afterwards sent for by
them, and had a long talk in what are called the Belgian Rooms at the
back of Buckingham Palace, on the gardens.

'On Monday, August 22nd, I called at Buckingham Palace by the wish of
the Crown Prince, and saw him and the Crown Princess together. I
thought him a dull, heavy German, and noted in my diary: "He dare not
speak before he sees that she approves of his speaking." But he was a
nice-minded, kind, and even pleasant man in his way.'

Sir Charles's formal summing-up of his impressions is to be found in his
work on _The Present Position of European Politics_ (1887):

"It is no secret that at times the Crown Princess has been unfriendly
to Prince Bismarck. They are perhaps two personalities too strong to
coexist easily in the same Court.... The Crown Prince, it must be
admitted, intellectually speaking, is, largely by his own will, the
Crown Princess. But that most able lady, when she shares the German
throne, must inevitably have for her policy the Bismarck policy--the
strength and glory of the German Empire."

Sir Charles notes that, although he was hard-worked in Parliament and in
the Office, the peculiar nature of the Foreign Office work brought him
necessarily a good deal into contact with royal personages and foreigners
of distinction visiting London, and forced him 'to go out a good deal and
burn the candle at both ends.' Of these official gaieties he gives no very
grateful impression:

'Some of the parties to which the Prince of Wales virtually insisted
that I should go were curious; the oddest of them a supper which he
directed to be given on July 1st, 1881, for Sarah Bernhardt, at the
wish of the Duc d'Aumale, and at which all the other ladies present
were English ladies who had been invited at the distinct request of
the Prince of Wales. It was one thing to get them to go, and another
thing to get them to talk when they were there; and the result was
that, as they would not talk to Sarah Bernhardt and she would not talk
to them, and as the Duc d'Aumale was deaf and disinclined to make
conversation on his own account, nobody talked at all, and an absolute
reign of the most dismal silence ensued....

'On March 13th we had received news of the murder of the Emperor of
Russia; and when Lord Granville came to dinner with me (for he dined
with me that night to meet the French Ambassador), he told me that I
must attend in the morning at a Mass at the Russian Chapel, and attend
in uniform. I had two of these Masses at the Russian Chapel in a short
time, one for the Emperor and one for the Empress, and painful
ceremonies they were, as we had to stand packed like herrings in a
small room, stifled with incense, wearing heavy uniform, and carrying
lighted tapers in our hands. On this occasion I saw the Prince of
Wales go to sleep standing, his taper gradually turn round and gutter
on the floor.'

Two months later, Friday, May 27th,

'I dined with Lord and Lady Spencer to meet the King of Sweden and the

'The King talked to me after dinner about the murder of the Emperor of
Russia.... It was clear that the Swedish loathing for Russia on
account of the loss of Finland was not over. The King might, however,
have reflected upon his own popularity in Norway, a country which had
been given to his grandfather because the people used to hate the
Danes. They now hated the Swedes still more.'

A royalty known to Sir Charles by correspondence was King Mtsa of Uganda,
'who had been presented by us in 1880, at the request of the Queen and the
Church Missionary Society, with a Court suit, a trombone, and an Arabic
Bible,' but who relapsed early in 1881, and became again the chief pillar
of the slave trade in his district. Another strange monarch played his
part that year in London society.

'On Sunday, July 10th, Lord Granville wrote to me to ask me to lunch
with him the next day to meet "the King of the Cannibal Islands
[Footnote: Sandwich Islands, in reality.] at 12.55, an admirable
arrangement, as he must go away to Windsor at 1.20." I went, but
unfortunately was not able to clear myself of all responsibility for
Kalakaua so rapidly, for I was directed to show him the House of
Commons; and when he parted from me in the evening in St. Stephen's
Hall he asked me for a cigar, and on my offering him my case he put
the whole of its contents into his pocket. The Crown Prince of Germany
and the Crown Princess (Princess Royal of England) were in London at
the same time, and at all the parties the three met. The German
Embassy were most indignant that the Prince of Wales had decided that
Kalakaua must go before the Crown Prince. At a party given by Lady
Spencer at the South Kensington Museum, Kalakaua marched along with
the Princess of Wales, the Crown Prince of Germany following humbly
behind; and at the Marlborough House Ball Kalakaua opened the first
quadrille with the Princess of Wales. When the Germans remonstrated
with the Prince, he replied, "Either the brute is a King or else he is
an ordinary black nigger, and if he is not a King, why is he here at
all?" which made further discussion impossible. Kalakaua, however,
having only about 40,000 nominal subjects, most of them American
citizens who got up a revolution every time he went away, his kingship
was very slight.'

May 20th:

'At this Cabinet a curious matter came up, though not for decision.
The Cabinet had been intending to give the commission for the public
statue of Lord Beaconsfield to a British sculptor, and I had been
trying hard to get it for Nelson Maclean; but a communication from the
Queen settled the matter, she absolutely insisting that Boehm should
do the statue. Everybody felt that it was wrong that she should
interfere, but nobody, of course, resisted.'

On May 27th we hear that the Queen, having received

'warning in an anonymous letter of threats against her life by
"persons of rank," wrote to Harcourt to say she did not see who could
be meant "unless it were Lord Randolph Churchill"!'

Elsewhere Sir Charles noted:


Back to Full Books