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be represented, although those opinions, as he showed, were the natural result of long years of Conservative government. Mr. Meldon's motion did not, of course, commend itself to the Conservative party, and on a division it was negatived by 242 to 188.
Sir Wilfrid Lawson, who had frequently brought forward his Permissive Bill in the House of Commons, varied his course on the Temperance question on the 6th of March, 1880, by bringing forward a resolution in favour of local option. He acknowledged that he hoped to catch votes by his resolution, which simply meant that the people should be enabled to protect themselves from the evils of drinking. Mr. Burt seconded the motion; and Mr. Gladstone said he could not vote against it, though he had never yet heard of a plan to give effect to local option which it would not be premature at present to lay before ParJiament. He regretted that the opportunity had been lost of trying the Gothenburg system. Amongst other speakers was Mr. Bright, who said he had always opposed the Permissive Bill, but it had disappeared, probably never to appear again; and he denied altogether that the House would be committed to that impossible measure by accepting this resolution. All that the House would do would be to express an opinion condemning the present system, suggesting a new one, and calling on the Government to submit a measure which would embody some kind of local control on the granting of licences. The present system was admitted to be deficient; the magistrates were irresponsible, and in towns at least he thought the power might be transferred to the corporations. When the House divided, the resolution was negatived by 248 to 134.
This was the last of Mr. Bright's appearances in Opposition, for three days after this debate Parliament was dissolved, under circumstances which will be detailed in the ensuing chapter.
THE GENERAL ELECTION OF 1880.
Causes which led to the Dissolution of 1880.-Opening of the Birmingham Liberal
Club.-Speeches of Sir William Harcourt and Mr. Bright. --Brilliant Attack on the Government.--Meeting of the Birmingham Junior Liberal Association. - Address by Mr. Bright.—The Zulu and Afghan Wars.—Dissolution of Parliament.—Manifesto by the Premier.-English Ascendency in Europe. — The Liberal Leaders and Lord Beaconsfield's Letter to the Duke of Marlborough. - The General Election.—The Contest in Birmingham.- Reception and Speeches of Mr. Bright.-Interview with the Licensed Victuallers.The County Franchise and the Land Question.-Result of the Poll at Birmingham.—Great Liberal Triumph.—Enormous Liberal Majority in the Country.—Mr. Gladstone called to power.-Mr. Bright again accepts Office.Re-election with Mr. Chamberlain at Birmingham.
GENERAL belief in the early dissolution of
Parliament had been current before this important step was formally announced by the Premier. The Beaconsfield Administration had been called to power ostensibly on two leading grounds — one of a negative and the other of a positive character. With regard to the former of these, it was understood that the new Ministry would abandon what had been described as the 'harassing domestic policy' of Mr. Gladstone's Government; while as to the second, it would assume a definite and spirited course on foreign affairs. The country, however, began to weary of our constant embroilment in foreign quarrels, and of the restless war policy which actuated the Ministry, and which had been pursued to the complete detriment of domestic legislation. Mr. Gladstone's campaign in Midlothian in the autumn of 1879—during which he exhibited marvellous powers of eloquence and physical endurance-was greatly instrumental in turning the tide of popular feeling against the Government; and by the beginning of 1880 it was admitted on all hands that the dissolution could not be much longer delayed.
Mr. Bright attended the opening of the Birmingham Liberal Club on the 20th of January, 1880, and in his speech made anticipatory allusions to the dissolution, which he also, in conjunction with the chief of the Liberal party, had for many months been looking forward to. The banquet in connection with the opening of the club was very brilliant and successful. It was held in the Town Hall, the Mayor, Mr. R. Chamberlain, presiding; and amongst those present were Mr. Bright (President of the Club), Sir William Harcourt, M.P., Mr. Chamberlain, M.P., Lord Lyttelton, the Earl of Camperdown, Sir J. Swinburne, and the following members of Parliament, in addition to those above named: Messrs. M. A. Bass, T. Lea, C. C. Cotes, H. Bass, R. Edge, T. R. Hill, C. Harrison, T. Blake, J. C. Clarke, and A. Brogden.
Sir W. Harcourt proposed the toast of the evening, · The Health of the new Liberal Club of Birmingham.' In the course of his speech he attacked the Government with great wit and sarcasm, his numerous points being received with continuous laughter and applause. He justified the opposition of the Liberal party to the foreign policy of the Government, and contended that during the administrations both of Lord Palmerston and of Mr. Gladstone the Conservatives exercised the right to criticise and condemn the policy of their opponents. He (Sir William) did not complain of them for this; what he did complain of was the impudent fiction that they had never done that which was their constant practice.' He had been taken to task for daring to jest at such virtuous and excellent men as the members of Her Majesty's Government—a charge which all must admit came with crushing force from the followers and admirers of Lord Beaconsfield; but the humour of the situation was their creation, not his. Ministers did the most absurd thing in the world, and then expected that they would not laugh at them because they were Ministers.
Mr. Bright spoke at some length in response to the toast proposed by Sir W. Harcourt, his speech consisting chiefly of a review of the political history of the last fifty years.
In trenchant language he traced the course of the reforms which had been achieved; but as the substance of his inspiriting recital has been given in preceding chapters of this work, we do not propose to repeat it here. This review led up to the question, what part in bringing about all the reforms of the last fifty years had the