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the power of protecting themselves against native tribes. But, one fancies, the Amaboona (the Boers) were the only “ tribe” from whom they needed protection.
In all this miserable business it is easy to criticise. Perhaps a really powerful nation would have simply enlisted the Zulus as its gladiators, and held South Africa with them. As it chances, we rescued the Boers from their assegais, only to “perish by the people we have made,” only to ruin the finest natural soldiers in the world, and to give the world a typical proof of our inability to discharge imperial tasks. The Zulus were hardly overthrown before the Boers, now safe on that side, began to show their teeth. But the Boers were left to be dealt with by Mr Gladstone's Government.
SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE AS A PARLIAMENTARY LEADER.
ACCESSION TO LEADERSHIP-STATE OF POLITICS — HISTORY OF
OBSTRUCTION-SIR STAFFORD AND THE CLÔTURE-MR BRAD-
THE two previous chapters, reviewing Sir Stafford's conduct as Chancellor of the Exchequer and in foreign affairs, do not deal with his other work as leader of his party in the House of Commons, both before and after the Liberal victory of 1880. To that topic we now address ourselves.
Sir Stafford Northcote entered upon his duties as leader of the House of Commons on the 8th February 1877, when the Parliament of 1874 met for its fourth session. On the 6th July 1885, he took his seat in the House of Lords as Earl of Iddesleigh and Viscount St Cyres. For eight sessions and a half he led the Conservative party continuously in the Lower House.
When Sir Stafford Northcote, at the end of the session of 1876, quietly succeeded Mr Disraeli, who had been
created Earl of Beaconsfield immediately after the prorogation, he undertook in 1877 a task of much difficulty. A House of Commons elected in quiet times as a protest against over-legislation had been guided and amused for three years by a consummate master of tact and tactics. Lord Beaconsfield was depicted in 1852 by a contemporary poetaster as
“ Astute, sagacious, wary, stern,
But from 1874 to 1876 general good-humour prevailed in the political world, and Mr Disraeli had no occasion to be stern or icy. He could afford to express sentimental regret for the infrequent attendance and sudden resignation of Mr Gladstone, to patronise the efforts of Lord Hartington, and to pour a flood of delicious banter over the luckless head of Dr Kenealy. It was in the summer of 1876 that the first mutterings of the great storm from the East were heard ; and when Parliament met in 1877, both sides of the House were swayed by the excitement of a keen and bitter agitation, which grew more intense during the next two years, and only ended, if end it ever did, with the general election of 1880.
The period of Sir Stafford Northcote's leadership may conveniently be divided into two parts. From 1877 to 1880 he led the House; from 1880 to 1885 he led the Opposition. During the first of these periods Sir Stafford Northcote’s principal duties were to defend the foreign
policy of the Government in the House of Commons, and to deal with the question of parliamentary obstruction. For these duties Sir Stafford was well qualified, possessing, as Lord Beaconsfield said to Mr Montagu Corry (Lord Rowton), “ the largest parliamentary knowledge of any man he had met in his career.”
The first of his duties was admirably discharged. During the whole of the Bulgarian agitation the Conservative party under his leadership, in spite of tremendous pressure from multitudes of their constituents, held firmly together. They were constant in their support of the Government; the Irish party frequently lent their assistance, and the Treaty of Berlin was the final result. But questions of foreign policy have been already discussed, and we may turn at once to the question of parliamentary obstruction, with the beginnings of which it became Sir Stafford Northcote's lot to deal, and which is illustrated in the subsequent chapter of his diary.
Obstruction has indeed been traced to the dilatory proceedings of “the Colonels” on the bill for abolishing purchase in the army (1871), to Mr Gladstone's innumerable speeches on the Divorce Bill (1857), and to Sir Charles Wetherell's performances in opposition to the great Reform Bill. But organised obstruction in its true sense, which Mr Gladstone called “ resistance to the will of the House otherwise than by argument,” began with the South African Confederation Bill of 1877. It was initiated by Mr Parnell and Mr Biggar. The South African Bill, first introduced in the House of Lords, was
merely a permissive bill. It enabled the various communities of South Africa, British colonies and others, to confederate if they so pleased. Lord Carnarvon brought it in, Lord Kimberley supported it, and there was no division in the Lords. But before it came to be read a second time in the House of Commons, Sir Theophilus Shepstone had annexed the Transvaal. The annexation was approved by the Crown, and did not require the sanction of Parliament. It was on the whole a very popular move, and Mr Forster expressed the warmest approbation of it. But a few Radicals strongly resented it, among whom Mr Henry Fawcett and Mr Leonard Courtney were prepared to go all legitimate lengths in resisting the bill, because it would allow the Transvaal to become part of the Federation. Sir Stafford Northcote must have felt that the opinions of such men were not to be lightly disregarded. Mr Fawcett's death was lamented almost as much by Conservatives as by Liberals; and Mr Courtney's conduct in the chair has been praised alike by his political opponents and his political friends.
But Mr Parnell and Mr Biggar were determined to “resist the will of the majority otherwise than by argument.” They had as coadjutors the late Mr Gray, Captain (now Colonel) Nolan, Mr O'Donnell, whose name is contained in the Special Commission Act, 1888, and Mr Kirk, who has dropped out of history. On Wednesday, the 25th of July 1877, they prevented the House from making any progress with the bill, and in the course of the division, if so it can be called, Mr Parnell