« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
Volunteers were to be placed under the Mutiny Act was urgently required for this purpose. Accordingly arrangements for forming a Camp of Exercise were for some time in
progress. Committees were appointed ; the commanding officer at Aldershott and two of his subordinates visited the district proposed for the evolutions, and reported on its fitness for the proposed operations. Every thing promised a useful experiment. All indulged the hope that the pledges of the Government would be fulfilled, and that a real effort would at length be made to afford our army the benefit of practical training in the art of war. Suddenly all these good intentions and preparations collapsed. Incredible as it may seem, it appeared, on the publication of the official reports, that the Inspector and Quartermaster-General had observed that the weather might possibly be wet. There was no sign in their reports of any reluctance on the part of the military officers to undertake the task proposed for them. Of course, it was their business to indicate any difficulties they might foresee, in order that due preparation might be made for surmounting them. But so far from suggesting the abandonment of the campaign, they proceeded to show in general terms how the forces employed should be conveyed to the scene of operations. The two officers reported that, in consequence of the lateness of the harvest, there were likely to be more difficulties than had been anticipated, and they observed that, should the autumn be wet, encampment on the arable land, of which that part of Berkshire principally consists, would be objectionable ; but they prudently added (what Lord Northbrook as prudently omitted in his explanation in the House), that “should the autumn be dry, no objection or inconveniences are to be expected.” In short, the troops would have to take the risk of encountering "objectionable” or favourable weather—a risk to which soldiers are supposed to be always exposed. This report seems to have caused an immediate panic among the unknown authorities at head-quarters. On the same day it was received, a Council was held at the War Office, at which the same two officers were directed to inspect the district in the neighbourhood of Aldershott, and to offer alternative schemes. They reported accordingly that the country between Aldershott and Chobham was very suitable for maneuvres, and the original plan was abandoned just when the plans of the campaign were prepared, the military officers were ready to do their part, the farmers of the district, with creditable public spirit, had offered their co-operation, the public were expectant, and the Government had an admirable opportunity for dissipating the suspicions cast upon the genuineness of their military reforms. The Duke of Somerset's reproach to the Government for providing "a navy that could not swim and an army that could not march,” conveyed an impression too widely entertained. Few more severe criticisms could be passed upon an army than to pronounce it incapable of encountering the risk of the rain and wind of an English autumn in a southern county.
It would be useless to dwell at greater length on the achievements of this unlucky session. One other Bill the Government passed, to which later in the year unpleasant attention was to be directed. Most unwillingly, and under great pressure from Lord Westbury and others, the Lord Chancellor consented to bring in a bill for the appointment of some paid judges on the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, to do away at last with the crying scandal which had arisen from the accumulating arrears of Indian and other appeals. It was enacted that four judges should, or might, be appointed on salaries of 50001. a year (inclusive of any pension they might hold), two being ex-Indian Chief Justices, and two judges of the superior Common Law Courts. This was one of the closing features of the session, which was brought to an end on the 21st of August amid a universal sense of uneasiness and disapproval, which appeared vaguely to have communicated itself to the Queen's closing speech.
With whomsoever the blame was to rest, the fact was patent that the House of Commons this year to some extent impaired the confidence of the country in Parliamentary Government. Charges and recriminations exchanged between Ministers and Opposition members involved on both sides the admission that the House had failed both in legislation and in its function of supervising administrative business. The time of the House of Commons was fully occupied down to a tardy prorogation, and yet of the long list of measures imprudently announced in the Speech from the Throne very few passed into law, and the chief practical result of the session was achieved, not by the action of Parliament, but by an irregular exercise of the powers of the Crown.
The prevailing discontent with the Government took tangible shape and form. During the summer the House and London society suffered a great loss in the sudden death of Mr. Charles Buxton, the honest and earnest Liberal member for East Surrey. In the election that ensued the Liberals were badly beaten, though every thing was against the Tories. Their candidate, Mr. Watney, was an utterly unknown man, who could not speak, and read to the electors papers evidently written for him, and professing the most primitive and fossil opinions, and the villa population, always Conservative, were at the sea-side. On the other hand, the Liberals had a fair candidate, Mr. Leveson Gower, who spoke out clearly and strongly, and the great advantage of the unbroken tradition of four-and-twenty years. Still they were beaten by 3889 to 2770. The party would not vote, and while the Tories brought up 300 more voters than at the last election, the Liberals were less by 1300, or one clear third.
Later in the year the same change took place on a vacancy occurring at Plymouth-an old Liberal stronghold; and a Conservative stranger was returned by a considerable majority over a wellknown and popular local Liberal. Many little causes might be at work in both instances, of which the general and vigorous opposi
tion of the publican interest, which had been enlisted against the Government, was no doubt the chief. But all allowance made for that and other causes, it was impossible to avoid the conviction that Liberalism, for the time at all events, was on the decline.
The Situation in France—Democracy at Home-Mr. Bruce and the Demonstration in Trafalgar-square-Royal Visit to Dublin-Proposed Meeting in Phønix-park
-Conflict between the Nationalists and the Police–The French DeputationElection of Mr. Smyth-Mr. Gladstone on Home Rule-His Speech at WhitbyAlarmists-Mr. Gladstone at Greenwich-The “ Seven Points" and New Social Alliance-Mr. Scott Russell—Sir Charles Dilke-His CareerHis Speech at Newcastle-Anti-Republican Riots—The Dangerous Illness of the Prince of Wales-Excitement and Enthusiasm throughout the Country and ColoniesEnglish Loyalty-The Last Ministerial Difficulty-Appointment of Sir R. Collier to the Privy Council, and Protest of Sir A. Cockburn--Prevalence of Strikes
The Strike at Newcastle-Strike of the Telegraph Clerks. With unabating interest, however much occupied in domestic concerns and debates, did the House and the country watch the progress of events in France throughout this memorable year; scarcely less memorable in the history of that distracted nation than the year which had preceded it. It is no part of this portion of our work to dwell upon the startling events which continued to follow each other in rapid succession upon the other side of the Channel, or to do more than note their effect upon the English mind. There was nothing, unhappily, in the conduct or attitude of the French Republic to keep alive or to justify the general sympathy which the apparent hardness of the German terms, coming to crown so unparalleled a course of disaster, had begun to evoke in England; and in the hideous struggle which culminated in the events of that “Black Wednesday," when the burning streets and palaces of Paris presented so strange a contrast to the aspect of our own country, engaged in celebrating its annual Derby Day. “Sympathy” with either of the contending parties was out of the question. Only the conduct of the Versaillists, it was said and felt at the time, could have mitigated the horror and execration born of the acts of the Commune. Mr. Gladstone only gave voice to the general feeling when he rose in the House of Commons and expressed himself, "conscious there are no epithets which could adequately, or in any degree, give satisfaction to the feelings with which every man's mind and heart must be oppressed,” under the impression created by events, “so entirely without any real precedent in history.” The stream of English charity, however, continued unchecked; as soon as the gates of Paris were opened after the Prussian siege, and again after the capture by the Versaillists, English food and English money was poured into the unhappy
capital ; and unfortunately English tourists were not slow to follow, and make a sight of the smoking ruins, and the traces of blood and murder which in that city, so strangely compounded of order and disorder, were effaced more rapidly and easily than the remains of a snowfall in the streets of London. The French were at the time in a mood rather to resent our curiosity, than to be grateful for our charities; and private acknowledgments, however handsome, from M. Thiers or M. Jules Favre, of the value of English assistance, could scarcely be accepted as indicative of a national feeling. But later in the year a society was formed in Paris for the purpose of offering to England some lasting token of French tribute. This association, composed of landed proprietors, merchants, tradesmen, and peasants, named a Committee to sit daily in the Rue Vivienne and receive signatures from Frenchmen of all classes—a separate sheet of parchment being set aside for each department, and illuminated with the arms of the department and its principal towns. The association hoped to receive between five and six million signatures before the spring, and it was proposed that the sheets should then be bound in “livres d'or," and handed over to the presidents of the different English charitable funds.
In the face of these facts France was not lightly to be accused of indifference and ingratitude, though our quiet course of prosperity at home, sheltered by the streak of silver sea, was such as might well excite the envy of our perplexed neighbours. Happily for the moment, whatever it might prove in the long run, England was in a phase of strange indifferentism. There were not wanting observers, and very acute observers, too, who predicted, some with hope and some with dread, a coming and sudden development of Communism in Great Britain, who were oracular on the dark doings of the Internationale and the growing spirit of Republicanism. But the outward manifestations of the spirit, except so far as strikes were so to be considered, were singularly weak, and even laughable; and such democrats as Messrs. Odger and Bradlaugh seemed the merest caricatures by the side of their terrible brethren in France. Mr. Odger was laughingly accused by one of his own friends, at one democratic meeting, of having been reduced to “raflling a blanket” in order to provide funds to carry on the publication of his especial democratic prints, and as laughingly admitted the imputation ; while Mr. Bradlaugh, whose Republicanism was mainly confined to blasphemy, was generally disclaimed even by his friends.
One triumph the English democrats obtained in the course of the summer through the agency of Mr. Bruce. A“ demonstration' in Trafalgar-square, which the democrats had announced their intention of holding, was prohibited by the police, under the orders of the Home Secretary. Formal notices of prohibition, headed with the Queen's arms, were served on each of the leaders of the movement, who resolved to hold the meeting in despite of authority. The result of the anticipated struggle was to bring together the largest gathering ever known to have met in Trafalgar-square, who
crowded the column, fountains, and square, even to the steps of St. Martin's Church on the one side, and the entrance to the barracks on the other—in place, probably, of one of the scanty bodies of people who usually attended the summons of the English Republic. Meanwhile, the Home Secretary consulted the law officer-which he had before omitted to do—and discovered that he had no legal right to interfere with the meeting at alla power which he had proposed to exercise under a statute of George III., which was now found to be entirely inapplicable. The prohibition was accordingly withdrawn, and the meeting held, with a factitious importance attached to it, due entirely to the proceedings of Mr. Bruce.
The bad effect of this singular display of administrative weakness was enhanced by certain occurrences which took place about the same time in Dublin, on the occasion of a royal visit paid by the Prince of Wales, with Prince Arthur, and the newly married favourites of the hour, Princess Louise and the Marquis of Lorne'. The visit had been in all respects apparently a success, except with the disaffected Nationalists, who, as a rule, kept out of the way of the royal party, and could not be conciliated by the green dress of the Princess, and the shamrock sprigs worn by Prince Arthur and the Marquis. This feeling of antagonism culminated in an attempt to hold a meeting in Phænix-park, just before the departure of the visitors, to pray for the liberation of the military prisoners confined for Fenianism. As soon as announced the meeting was forbidden by the authorities, who on this occasion acted differently from their brothers-in-office at home, and dispersed the meeting, which, as in England, was persisted in, at the cost of the most violent riot which had been witnessed for a long time. Two prominent Nationalists, Mr. Smyth, M.P., and Mr.-A. M. Sullivan, came in for a share of the violence of the police, which was excited to a considerable, if a justifiable, extent; and many others were more or less seriously injured. The promoter of the meeting afterwards issued the following address :
“Fellow-countrymen,—While yet the Princes of England are guests of the Viceroy, the green sward of the Phænix-park, close by their residence, has been reddened with the blood of the people. The royal visit has had a battue of peaceful citizens for its finale. Yesterday evening a lawful and constitutional assembly of the people in the public park was violently interrupted by an armed body of police, who savagely set upon the unarmed and unresisting crowd of men, women, and children, and soon left many of them weltering in their blood. And why has the blood of the people been shed by police brutality? If it was a crime for the public to assemble in the park, if a crowd upon its area was an offence against our rulers for which blood alone could atone, why was not the law announced or enforced against the tens of thousands who assembled there on Friday last? Why were the people struck down on the 6th for
1 An account of this Visit will be found in the “Chronicle."