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reply, thanking me for my letter, and saying he did not wish me to undertake any responsibility ; but that he wished to point out to me that, if the Conservatives did not repudiate such language as was used about him, they must be taken to approve it. I must say I think he has ground for his complaint. Our friends want a lesson from “Hamlet,” how to use a man according to their own nobleness. News of the disaster to General Burrows's force on the Helmund. I fear this will seriously affect our position throughout Afghanistan. It comes most unfortunately, just as Abdur-Rahman was getting into the saddle.
To August 9.—We have passed a busy fortnight with the stirring events of the debate in the House of Lords on the Irish bill, and the scene of Gladstone's illness. It may be hoped that in both cases we have seen the worst of it, and shall be quittes pour la peur. The majority in the House of Lords was a crushing one, and the bill would have been defeated by the number of Liberals voting against it, even had no Conservative been in the division. Cairns's speech on the second night was the great one of the debate, though it was of course less lively and telling than Salisbury's. Lord Beaconsfield's does not seem to have been one of his best. He told me he was embarrassed by Gladstone's illness. There seems to have been no question of resignation after the defeat. Probably none of the Cabinet, except Bright and Chamberlain, liked the bill, or were otherwise than angry with Gladstone and Forster for letting them into the scrape. Pynes, September 7.—Note report of Gladstone's speech on Cowen’s interpellation (Saturday, September 4). He misrepresents the action of the Powers in dissuading Greece from joining Russia against Turkey. It was in the interests of Greece herself that she was dissuaded from taking a course which would have exposed Athens to destruction by the Turkish fleet. Of course there would have been great pressure then put on the Powers, and especially on England, to interfere on her behalf ; and Turkey might have been willing to attend to our remonstrances, but only with the condition that, if we held her back from striking at the ally of Russia, we should assist her against Russia herself. We did the best we could in obtaining for Greece a hearing at Berlin, and in then obtaining for her, without war, a claim and (so to speak) an international title to a revised frontier, such as she very likely might not have obtained had she gone to war. True, she is still left unsatisfied ; and we are all ready to admit that Turkey may justly be called on to fulfil her engagements. But I should dispute the proposition that the action of the Powers in restraining Greece from joining in the Russo-Turkish war gave her a special moral claim on their consideration.
Mr Gladstone's remarks on the concert of Europe also deserve attention. He hints that the late Government broke up the concert and adopted a line of isolated action, having for its end British interests alone, and pursued it regardless of the rights and interests of others. He also says that it is “almost a moral impossibility that the
whole of the united Powers of Europe ever can consciously act together in the pursuit of an object that is unjust. Errors may be committed, but injustice is hardly conceivable, whilst selfishness is totally impossible.” Now it is clear, at any rate, that two or more nations may easily combine for unjust and selfish purposes, as Russia, Austria, and Prussia for the partition of Poland, or Austria and Prussia for the dismemberment of Denmark, and that the other Powers may, through timidity, indolence, or selfish indifference, allow them to act as they please; and so a virtual concert of the Powers may easily commit injustice. And this it was that we desired to guard against when we refused to join in the Berlin Memorandum in 1876. That was a nominally concerted action to be taken by all the Powers, but it would really have been a concert of three Powers only, acquiesced in through timidity or indifference by the rest, had not England dared to have an opinion of her own.
His closing observations on the unreasonableness of pledging the Government to summon Parliament before adopting any measure which can lead to coercion are very refreshing, and contrast curiously with his language in opposition.
Lord Granville's apology for Forster's language about the House of Lords is also well worth noticing. Clearly the Irish Secretary had had a good thrashing in the Cabinet. However he may explain away his words, there can be no doubt of the animus with which they were spoken.
IN AND OUT OF PARLIAMENT, 1880-85.
CRITICISM IN OPPOSITION — SUMMARY OF POLITICAL EVENTS
LETTER TO LORD BEACONSFIELD ON THE DEFEAT OF 1880—
THE later years of Sir Stafford Northcote's life were crowded with great and momentous events. As to most of these, owing to the position of his party out of office, he occupied the attitude of a critic and of a teacher. In Parliament his business was to criticise, and his criticism
was ever fair, and even generous. But criticism in politics is seldom perfectly well informed, and is seldom efficacious. For these reasons his action was not of such interest or importance as his conduct might well have been had he possessed other opportunities. Again, he was much occupied out of Parliament in journeys to distant towns all over the country, where he did his best to educate his listeners in politics as understood by him. In the chapter on Sir Stafford as a parliamentary leader, much of his activity has already been described. More as to his private impressions will be learned from the diaries which he kept at intervals from 1880 to 1886. In this chapter we shall endeavour briefly to describe his principal contributions to discussion in the House of Commons and on the platform. The events which he had to watch, the policy which he had to criticise, were extraordinary. There were the relations of the Liberal Government to Ireland in the first place. The Government, as is usual'with new English Governments, made an attempt to govern without coercion, without renewing the Peace Preservation Act. Then came disorders. The Act was renewed, the Land Bill was also brought in—"A bill of Belial; there is no ruin to which it may not lead,” said Lord Beaconsfield. Then came the “No Rent” manifesto; the imprisonment of Mr Parnell and many of his associates. Next followed their release the “Kilmainham Treaty," or arrangement, or whatever it should be called. Mr Forster and Lord Cowper resigned on this, and presently Lord Frederick Cavendish and Mr Burke