My Life in Two Hemispheres/Chapter 19

CHAPTER III


IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS


The Irish Party in London—Sergeant Shee, William Keogh Frederick Lucas, George Henry Moore—Public dinner in London—Leaders in the House of Commons—Mr. Disraeli—Characteristic anecdotes—Lord John Russell, Mr. Gladstone, Lord Palmerston—Tête-à-tête with Sir Joshua Walmsley—Mr. Roebuck-Dinner at Richard Cobden's—Conversation with Bright and Sharman Crawford—Vigilance of the Irish Party—Their Bill read a second time—Petition against my qualification—The evidence of Mr. O'Hara—Decision in my favour—Vote of Want of Confidence formulated—Negotiations between the Government and the League Party—Lord Derby declares in Parliament that he will never accept the principles of Crawford's Bill—The Leaguers consequently vote against him, and the Government falls—The Aberdeen Government gives office to John Sadleir and William Keogh—Indignation in Ireland—Sadleir loses his seat—When Parliament reassembled seventeen members of the Irish Party deserted to the Government—Diary—A love poem—Select Committee on the Land Bills—Sharman Crawford deserts his own Bill.


Parliament met on the 4th of November,[1] 1852. The Queen's Speech announced that her advisers meditated a liberal and generous policy towards Ireland; and at an unusually early period four Bills, designed to regulate the Land Question in all its branches, were submitted to the House of Commons by Mr. Napier, the Irish Attorney-General. It was plain that the Irish Party, mustering more than fifty votes, were worth conciliating. When we reached London the new men were impatient to begin work, but Mr. Keogh was altogether opposed to hasty action—let them become familiar with the House and see a little of London, and then no doubt the time might be ripe for operations. But he was dealing with men who were in earnest, and these objections had to give way, and a consultation of the party was speedily summoned. They agreed to sit in opposition, to hold themselves perfectly free of all party organisations but their own, and it was strongly urged, though it was not made the subject of a motion, that they should decline official hospitalities from either side of the House. The time for introducing their Bill was considered, and sub-committees were appointed, charged with special duties on which men who took little part in debate might employ themselves. Parliamentary capacity does not mean exclusively the power of talking; Franklin and Jefferson rarely spoke in Congress, and Andrew Marvel never uttered a sentence in the House of Commons. But the Irish Party did not lack capacity of any sort for the duty with which they were charged. Sergeant Shee had acquired by long practice at the Bar an easy and fluent elocution and an imperturbable temper. The Sergeant was what is called a man of the world, determined before all to stand well with Sergeants' Inn and Westminster Hall; but his reputation was extremely useful to the party at the outset, and his massive head and stately carriage made him a notable figure in the House. Mr. Keogh had more political ability, but less weight. He was a man with a head and figure which, his admirers were accustomed to tell him, resembled those of the First Napoleon. His manners were so insinuating that it was hard to resist them if one did not start with a lively distrust, for he belonged to the gay, exuberant class of Irish adventurers who are fatal to weak women and credulous men. On some public occasion he declared that his aim in life was to raise himself and his country together. Practical people thought this a very sensible formula of political faith, but unhappily it represented imperfectly his intentions. He was determined to raise himself, and was ready to bear with complacency whatever mischance befell his country.

Of the men who had no sinister ambition to promote, but went into Parliament for public ends, the most notable were Frederick Lucas and George Henry Moore. The one was a type of the bourgeoisie, refined by culture and a high sense of duty; the other a type of the gentry, refined by spiritualism and courage. Lucas was soon recognised as a skilled debater. He had serenity and temper, and was habitually deferential to the House, but under these graces there lay, as no one could fail to see, "genuine, solid, old Teutonic pluck." With time he would have become much more than a great debater. Of the qualities which constitute an orator, he possessed profound conviction and wide knowledge. His lucid narrative arrested attention by the mesmeric feeling that he was uttering well-weighed convictions. He had mastered the case of Ireland, not only with his intellect but with his sympathy, and his audience felt that he was telling them what he entirely believed to be true.

Moore was more agile and lively, had greater skill and address in social controversy, and understood the temper of the House better, for he belonged to the predominant class by birth, and had been their associate from an early age in studies and sports. It was a serious drawback to his usefulfulness that he was impatient of contradiction. Among men whom he esteemed and who were his intellectual peers, he was a charming companion—frank, cordial, and winning. He was entirely sincere in desiring the success of the Irish cause; but he had seen much of life on its seamy side, and had only limited confidence in its speedy attainment. He did not give the impression of a man who brings the force of a strong character to promote an end which he passionately desires; and though he pleased or provoked an audience almost at will he rarely controlled or persuaded it in any considerable degree.

The League members did not permit the party Whips on either side to communicate with them, and did not even ask information from the Government, except across the House. Sergeant Shee was an exception, to a limited and justifiable extent. It was necessary to ask facilities for our Bill, and, as he had no notion of making enemies unnecessarily, he took an early opportunity of telling Mr. Hayter, the Whip of the Opposition, that he would gladly support the Liberal Party whenever he could agree with them. "You are very obliging," rejoined the Whip, "but we want men who will be glad to support the Party when they don't agree with them."

The Irish in London invited me to a public dinner. I suggested that it should be a dinner to the leaders of the Tenant-Right Movement, but they replied that it was not to the advocate of fair land laws nor even to the victor at the New Ross election they proffered the compliment, but to the State prisoner of '44 and '48 and one of the founders of the new literature in Ireland. The committee was one representing all the Irish districts in London, and I was touched to find that the secretary was my early friend Mat Trumble, whom I had lost sight of for a time. The dinner took place, and one of the banners presented is still an ornament in my salon, after nearly half a century. This friendly demonstration introduced me to a man destined to become a life-long friend, Michael O'Grady, the manager of an insurance office, and a man of great practical ability. He accompanied me at a later period to Australia, when he became my constant ally in difficulties and my colleague in office, and his sympathy and services only ended with his life.

Parliament was a focus of new emotions. It was a strange sensation to encounter in one hall of limited extent a crowd of personages familiar to cultivated men wherever civilisation existed. Punch had made many of them immediately recognisable, and some of them I had seen before. The most striking figure in the assembly was its official leader, Mr. Disraeli. In the front benches, crowded with Englishmen, for the most part bright complexioned and always punctiliously fresh in linen and visage, sat a man approaching fifty, with swarthy features and a complexion which had once been olive, on every lineament of which was written foreigner and alien. It was not an uncomely face, and far from unimpressive, but it was conspicuously un-English. Masculine will and unflinching purpose might be read, it seemed to me, in the firm mouth and strong jaw—gifts worth nearly all the rest in the art of governing men. He dressed in complete disregard of conventional prejudices. A Chancellor of the Exchequer in a plum-coloured vest was a sight as perplexing to trim propriety as Roland's shoe-ties in the Court of Louis XVI. And he cultivated on his chin an ornament rarely seen and little loved north of Calais, a goatee.

I kept a diary at this time, often abandoned for weeks and even months, but tolerably certain to contain whatever I desired to remember accurately. I will have recourse to it occasionally as a safer guide than memory.

"Disraeli, I noted, sat during a debate in dumb abstraction, never cheering and never interjecting a denial. There he sat, the man who re-created his party; surely a great achievement. I have no doubt he loses friends by his apparent insouciance and the method in which he walks to his place—without looking at anybody; but I surmise from my own experience that it arises from near-sightedness. I perceive that he cannot tell what o'clock it is without using his glass, and somebody told me lately that he saw him hailing a police van, mistaking it for an omnibus. His face is often haggard and his air weary and disappointed, but he has the brow and eyes of a poet, which are always pleasant to look upon. He generally says the right thing at the right minute, and in the right way, and he is lustily cheered; but sitting among the Opposition I have abundant reason to note that he is not completely trusted. It is said that young Stanley, and other youngsters of his class, believe in him, and that the man who is so taciturn in Parliament is a charming companion among his familiars, and is a gracious and genial host. Some of his post-prandial mots steal out, and I should think make fatal enemies. Somebody asked him lately if Lord Robert M. was not a stupid ass. 'No, no,' said Benjamin, 'not at all; he is a clever ass.'

"Benjamin, the son of Isaac, only the second Englishman of his race, had his path strewn with difficulties like chevaux de frise, but how splendidly he overcame them all! A mutual friend told me that he predicts Gladstone will come to power, and that he will create an appetite for strong things which it will be impossible to satisfy, with the sure result of giving the Tories a long hold of power. Such a success will be less difficult, he says, than Peel's was after the deluge of the Reform Bill, but it only needed patience to succeed. G. H. Moore declares that the popular idea that Disraeli created Lord George Bentinck is a mistake. Bentinck was untrained in politics when the Corn Laws were repealed, but he was a man of prodigious will. In one of his horsey cases it was necessary to produce a livery stable keeper of whom he had no trace; he took up the London Directory and determined to go to every livery stable in the city until he had found' his man, and he found him. Some of the young bucks on the Liberal side are fond of sneering at Disraeli's devotion to his wife, who would not, perhaps, be a suitable Queen of Beauty at a new Eglington Tournament, but to whom he owes everything. M'Cullagh Torrens says he saw them one night leaving the opera; when descending the grand escalier one of the lady's shoes got untied, she stopped suddenly, and cried, 'Dizzy, tie my shoe.' Dizzy dropped on his knee and performed the service required. And why not? It is the devoir of a cavalier to his lady.

"One of my friends told me of an adventure he witnessed at Bellamy's. Olivera, who has a craze for the introduction of French wines at a nominal duty, stalked up to the table where Disraeli was dining, and, picking up a little flask of red wine and glancing at it between him and the light, demanded, 'Do you know what you are drinking, Mr. Disraeli? You think it is port wine, but it isn't.' 'No,' replied the man of the world, who was determined not to be bored, 'I have no doubt it was made at Holywell Street, but I like it.'

"On the opposite side of the House the eye was caught by a figure diminutive and insignificant to deformity. Ill-dressed, ill-posed, with unsympathetic, melancholy face, timid gestures, and feeble gait, he seemed an intruder on the scene, and was in fact a leader who for twenty years had shivered at the head of a great party. But it was my conviction then, and it remains my conviction, that if he were not the son and brother of a duke he would not have distinguished himself in a parish vestry. Around and behind him were the Whig and Peelite leaders, for whom all strangers in the gallery and newcomers in the House inquired.

"Mr. Gladstone was not yet the official leader of the Peelites, but he was the most noteworthy of them, and attracted close observation. He was habitually grave, it seemed to me, and spoke as if he uttered oracles, yet he left the impression that his speeches were not only improvised, but that the process of adopting a conclusion was not always complete when he rose to speak. But the vigour and grace of his rhetoric put criticism to flight. The House, which relished the persiflage of Palmerston, thought Gladstone too serious, and resented a little, I think, the subdued tone of contemptuous superiority in which he addressed the leader of the House. He was as smooth as silk, but there was manifestly a reserve of vehement and angry passion ready to break out when it was provoked."

Of another notable man I find this entry:—

"Palmerston has a gay, débonair appearance, which finds much favour with the House, but on me he makes the impression of a play actor cast in the part of a patriot statesman. Carlyle says he is a fitting leader for an age without sincerity or veracity."

A new phenomenon which attracted much attention was two long rows of Irish members sitting in Opposition. They included men of all ages, from the grey-headed Sergeant Shee to the boyish Captain Bellew, and a majority of them were new to the House.

Sir Joshua Walmsley, a former mayor of Liverpool, who had become spokesman of a Parliamentary group of Reformers, resting on a political society outside, appears a good deal in the diary of this date, but as nothing came of his coquetting with the Irish party one specimen will suffice:—

"Excused myself for Sunday to Walmsley (he had invited me to meet a number of his political friends at dinner, but I was engaged to Richard Swift and a muster of our own men). As he wanted to talk we dined soon after tête-à-tête at Bellamy's. All popular questions, he thought, including the Irish Land Question, ought to be postponed till an extension of the franchise was obtained; then, and then only, would everything be possible. I told him that nobody familiar with the condition of Ireland would consent to a fresh postponement of the Land Question on any pretence. He thought Cobden and Bright might be induced to lead the franchise movement if it became wide enough to promise a speedy success. I said I would be glad to see the franchise become the English question of the day, and it would get substantial Irish help. In Ireland the franchise had dwindled away till genuine popular representation had almost disappeared. We wanted an extension urgently, but the farmer wanted the right to live on his own land so much more that it was idle to speak of the questions together. He talked of Cobden with affection. He was a truly generous man, he said. His American investments had not turned out well, but he was always ready to put his hand in his pocket for a public purpose. A fund was raised to sustain Kossuth, and Cobden gave £50 a year, while many other conspicuous Liberals, including Bright, would not give a penny. I spoke, of Hazlitt, Cobbett, Leigh Hunt, Hone, and the martyrs and confessors of Radicalism, but modern Radicalism does not apparently keep a calendar. He knew more of Edward Whitty, Linton, and The Orchestra of the Leader, but his esteem is moderate for any one who does not regard an extension of the suffrage as a specific for human woes. I asked him about Roebuck. Roebuck, he said, was privateering, and could no longer be counted on by any popular section. He loved no party, and no party loved him. My own observation confirms this description. I had some talk with him lately in the Library, and he seemed embittered and disappointed beyond any one I had ever encountered; his face had an expression that was scarcely human. I compared it mentally to the aspect of an angry dog—venomous and dangerous. He used to be called the most conceited man in Parliament, but his unkempt hair, stooping figure, and flabby look give him the appearance of a ruin."

A few days later I find another entry of interest:—

"Dined with Cobden at Westbourne Terrace, the other guests being Bright and Sharman Crawford. The talk ran on Ireland chiefly, and we were substantially agreed as far as concessions coming through Parliament are concerned, Cobden thinks little effectual can be done for any popular question in these countries till we get the ballot. 'Is the ballot not worth such a campaign as won Free Trade? 'I inquired 'Yes,' he said, 'it is worth it, and it might be won in five years by the same agency. But where are the men? I, for one am not ready for another lustrum of toil and sacrifice; it is work for new men!' 'There are new men,' I suggested, 'who I doubt not would act if you encouraged them; but have noted with wonder that you and Mr. Bright trust your opinions and proposals altogether to their intrinsic merit. There is never any muster of your friends, never any whip, never any of the party diplomacy in which Mr. Hayter spends his life.' 'No,' he said, 'there is no attempt to create a party because we have none of the necessary agencies. We have no office or honours to promise, no court holy water to distribute; we can only state our opinions and leave them to take their chance outside the House as well as inside.' I suggested that the old Free Trade party, if he asked them, would insist on members being faithful to them on penalty of dismissal. Irish members of very tepid public spirit were compelled to vote right by national opinion at home. In the late Ecclesiastical Titles contest, for example, some of the men whom we trusted least in Ireland had been kept straight by fear of consequences. 'Yes,' said Bright, 'and by the hope of consequences also; they were associated in that contest with statesmen who were in the habit of carrying their supporters into office.' Cobden observed that Richard Shell's conduct at that time was not edifying; he held his post in the Government during the entire proceedings, making it a point, indeed, to walk conspicuously out of the House on each division. But if he had resigned and led the Irish Party he would have struck terror into the Whigs, and the Bill might have been defeated. Sheil, Cobden added, was a genuine orator, but his speeches will be forgotten in a few years because they were not associated with any great cause, especially with the needs of his country. After a pause he added that he did not recognise much disposition among leading men of Irish birth to acknowledge the claims of their country. 'Look at Palmerston. Whenever any Irish measure was under consideration he was absent, or active on the wrong side.' I said I would never think of citing Palmerston as an Irishman; he was an Englishman born in Ireland and living on the proceeds of a beggarly rack-rented Irish estate, but no more Irish than Tim Bobin. Cobden insisted that he was essentially Irish. If he let his beard grow for a week and ceased to wash his face no one could distinguish him from a hodman from St. Giles. Whatever was least pleasant in Irishmen might be found in him: ill-timed levity, braggadocio, and unfathomable insincerity. The conversation went off on Sharman Crawford's Bill, which Sharman explained and defended a good deal too like a professor for a dinner-table. He does not talk, he harangues. It is fine, however, to note the genuine sympathy of this big proprietor with the working farmer.

"Cobden said Ireland did not exhibit much discretion in the choice of representatives. In the present Parliament, for the first time in his memory, she sent men apparently moved by public motives, and who might, it seemed, be trusted to do what they promised! I said O'Connell relied on himself, and wanted agents, not colleagues—a fatal mistake when the purpose was to persuade hostile and prejudiced opponents. The bulk of the present men were not only better than their predecessors, but some of the worst of the old set were excluded, and for ever, it might be hoped.

"Speaking of the Irish members Bright said his kinsman Lucas was a man of great vigour and sincerity. He would make a better use of his life, however, if he crossed over the House and sat by him (Bright). I laughed, and said he ought to be shot for a spy if he came into our camp to recruit for the other side. Lucas, however, was beyond his influence. Some one said of him that he was born a Quaker and turned a Catholic; he was born an Englishman, but he turned Irishman. I told them a mol Sergeant Murphy made about Lucas and Bright which would have been very effective if Lucas were a blockhead, but, being what he was, it altogether lost its point. Lucas (said Murphy) is Lucus a non lucendo—Lucas, not Bright.

"Listening to Cobden and Bright, I thought it highly creditable to the English people that the former was recognised as the leader. Bright has more public gifts, a finer voice, a more emphatic manner, a more self-confident bearing, and a more habitual consciousness of power; but Cobden was the persuasive teacher; his lofty and spiritual forehead, and frank, friendly expression, which were altogether worthy of the great reformer, were somewhat marred by a mouth and chin manifestly weaker than the brow, but relieved by a cordial smile.

"When I left Westbourne Terrace I asked a policeman at the door to do me the favour of calling a cab. ''Deed I will, Misther Duffy,' said he, 'and more than that.' 'How do you know me, my friend?' 'Ah, sir, wasn't I six years in the Metropolitan Police in Dublin,?'"

When political parties were carefully scrutinised, it became plain that the Government were in a minority, unless they could obtain support from some section of the Opposition. In the third week Mr. Villiers launched a party vote against them; but the immediate danger was postponed by an adroit amendment, framed by Lord Palmerston, who had not yet come to an understanding with his late colleagues, and was resolved that a political crisis should not precede that event. A little later Mr. Napier's Bills came on for consideration, and proved better than we had expected, the vital principle of compensation to tenants for past improvement being distinctly recognised. Sergeant Shee obtained permission to introduce the League Bill, and it was set down for reading as early as the Government measures. To dangle their Bills before the eyes of Irish members, but not to press any of them to a division till the contest of the Free Traders had terminated, was the ministerial strategy, Mr. Disraeli, with easy nonchalance, announced that the whole question must stand over until after the Christmas recess. But the Irish party was present in force and not disposed to be trifled with. They contended that the Government Bills ought to be read a second time immediately, and Sergeant Shee's also, and referred together to a Select Committee fairly chosen from the landlord and tenant parties. The Government gave no answer to this audacious proposal. The Whig party, the Peelite section, Cobden, Bright, and the Free Traders, even Joseph Hume, Sir Joshua Walmsley, and the small knot of Radicals, had left the Irishmen without aid or countenance; but they stood firm, and renewed their proposal again and again. As the Government were not prepared to yield, the Irishmen moved the adjournment of the debate, and were supported by Lord Godrich, Lord Monck, Lord Mulgrave, eldest son of Lord Normanby, whose name was still popular in Ireland, the son of William Cobbett, and a few newly-elected Radicals, and mustered fifty-nine votes. It was plain there would be a protracted and unflinching contest, and after much parley the Government gave way and consented to read all the Bills a second time, and send them to a Committee of the character suggested. To the consternation of the Irish landlords the measure which they had derided for twenty years as "Crawford's Craze" received the second reading, which affirms the leading principles of a Bill, and was to be referred to a Committee, nominated by Mr. Napier and Sergeant Shee, to settle the details. Next day the Times was furious and the Tory Press dumbfounded by this concession.

In the meantime the landlords were not idle. They also had remedies to propose. Lord Lucan submitted a Bill to his peers providing increased powers of eviction, and facilitating distress for rent, which he conceived would meet the real difficulties of the case. Lord Westmeath introduced another Bill inflicting severe penalties on tenants who cut their crops after sundown to the peril of the landlord's claims on the entire cereal harvest. Some more politic proprietors, advised apparently by Isaac Butt, who was the leading spokesman of their opinions, declared that the true specific for the public distress was a revival of the Corn Laws.

Election petitions rained on the new Parliament. More than a fourth of the House had their seats called in question, twenty of the Irish party being assailed in this way, including nearly all the leaders of both branches. My seat was attacked upon various grounds, one of which excited considerable attention; it was alleged that my property qualification was inadequate. I qualified from a rent-charge, and Parliamentary Committees had formerly listened to evidence intended to show that such annuities were legitimately bought and strictly collected—evidence which in certain recent cases nobody was able to believe. What would the Young Irelander do, it was demanded, with respect to a rent-charge which he certainly had not bought and probably did not collect? I instructed my counsel to rely on the naked facts, extenuating nothing, and withholding nothing committee was constituted in the usual manner—of two Whigs two Tories, and a chairman of moderate opinions.

My first witness was Mr. O'Hara, a retired solicitor of capacity and experience. After stating that he had offered me, and that I had accepted, a rent-charge of £300 a year on his landed property, he was cross-examined. "I presume Mr. Duffy paid at least a dozen years' purchase for this annuity, or was it twenty years?" said the counsel for the petitioner in the tone of badinage usual on such occasions. "No," replied Mr. O'Hara, "he did not pay a penny." "Did not pay a penny!" echoed the learned counsel, with uplifted hands and eyebrows, and a triumphant glance at the committee. "The annuity (he continued) was received quarterly; no doubt Mr. Duffy collected it punctually?" "No," replied Mr. O'Hara, "he has not collected it at all." "Pray tell us, Mr. O'Hara, were you surprised at this neglect in realising his property?" "Certainly not? I granted the annuity for the purpose of a Parliamentary qualification, and I never expected him to enforce it." "So, sir, you created this charge on your estate without receiving any price for it? The grantee never asked you to pay a single instalment, and you admit that you never expected that he would? In point of fact, was not the arrangement a mere pretence and delusion?" "Not at all," rejoined Mr. O'Hara, with admirable coolness, "the law requires that a borough member should have a legal estate of £300 a year, and I granted Mr. Duffy such an estate as effectually as if he had paid ten thousand pounds for it; he had the right and power to enforce it at his discretion; if he had judgment creditors they might enter on the land, seize my cattle, and sell them to satisfy their claims. I have given him all I could give. The price to be received in return is, I conceive, a question affecting me alone."

Mr. William Eliot Hudson was in attendance to prove a second rent-charge; but it was not necessary to produce him, as the intrinsic value of Mr. O'Hara's grant was not disputed. The committee retired to deliberate on the case submitted to them. M'Mahon, the member for Wexford, had advised me from the beginning that the legal estate was all the law required; and when the room was cleared he was still confident in this view. But my friends generally were apprehensive that the committee would be of a different opinion. Some of them urged me to stand again if the decision should be unfavourable. "Folly," I replied somewhat impatiently; "if the decision be unfavourable it is because my qualification is invalid, and there will be an end to my Parliamentary career." Dr. Brady, the League member for Leitrim, had been taught the value of money by early struggles gallantly surmounted, and this is an experience which prosperity seldom completely counteracts. But he had at bottom a generous Irish nature, easily kindled into a flame. "Certainly not," he rejoined, "Consols or dividends constitute an unassailable qualification, and I will transfer £10,000 to your credit to-morrow morning, in the Bank of England, if the necessity arises." The necessity did not arise, for after a few minutes we were called into the committee room to be informed that my qualification was valid. This decision in a case where nothing was coloured or withheld contributed to bring the practice of requiring a property qualification to an end. In the next Parliament it was abolished."[2]

Perhaps it may help to illustrate the wisdom of treating Ireland justly if I cite the effect this decision produced on the friend who represented me, during my absence, in the chair of the Nation.

"Did I not tell you (Cashel Hoey wrote to me) you would make a Parliamentary precedent as well as a Four Courts one? After all a committee of English gentlemen is the noblest and fairest tribunal on earth. As I have read the evidence, by my honour, there is not a man upon that committee who could not, with perfect satisfaction to his conscience and his character, have given it against you. They ignored law to do justice, and did the same with courage.

"God has made your path out of a heavy strait, and made it marked and memorable to all men—you, almost the first Irish Nationalist, who have walked without subterfuge or chicane into the British Parliament."

On all the other charges in the petition I got not only a decision in my favour but costs against the petitioner.

When Mr. Disraeli introduced his Budget it was not Protectionist after all. Some of the Whig wire-pullers became alarmed at this strategy. "Give Dizzy six months," some of them whispered, "and he'll wheedle a majority." To bar such a fearful catastrophe a motion was privately handed about destined to bring down the Government, and the Irish Party were invited to support it. It was sanctioned by Whigs, Peelites, and Free Traders, but the Leaguers answered that the question which interested them was Tenant- Right, and that they had had no assistance of any sort from Free Traders to obtain that concession. At this juncture Sergeant Shee invited Lucas and me to a condential conference at his chambers in Sergeants' Inn. It was confidential then, but after more than forty years it has become historical. A Cabinet Minister, Mr. Walpole, was authorised to negotiate with the Irish party for their support to the Budget. After deliberation we answered in writing. We were pledged not to vote for any Government which would not accept the leading principles of Crawford's Bill. It was a moderate measure, framed by a great landowner, and introduced into Parliament by a great lawyer. It would go before the Select Committee with Mr. Napier's Bills, and if the Government undertook to accept its leading principles we could promise to bring at least twenty members, who would otherwise vote against it, to support their Budget. Some official who loved his acres better than his party or his office probably betrayed this negotiation to the Irish landlords. A strong deputation was sent to remonstrate with Lord Derby, and Lord Roden asked him in the House of Lords whether if the Select Committee should approve of what were called the principles of Crawford's Bill, the Government were prepared to adopt them. Lord Derby assured his friends that the Goverment would certainly not adopt them. This was conclusive, we could no longer support the Budget without a violation of our pledges, and we voted against the Government, who were turned out of office by a majority of only nineteen. The support of the League would have given them a majority of over twenty. The landowners obtained delay by this sudden coup, but they made the final settlement more stringent. All the principles which they resisted at that time are now the law of the land; but a crop of new demands has sprung up from the exasperation of hope deferred. At this time I made a hasty excursion to France, to see John Dillon and his family, who had made a visit to Europe, and came as near the mother country as the English authorities permitted him. Wilson Gray accompanied me, and we found we had been preceded by some other friends. "Dillon (says my diary) looks vigorous and tranquil; he preserves the sweet serenity that distinguished him of old." I cannot pause on this visit except to note two lessons I got—one against prejudice, one teaching magnanimity. On Sunday morning Gray and I strolled to the local church without waiting for the Dillons. After we came out we compared notes, and agreed that French women had an unrivalled art of dressing. One petite dame, who knelt before us, was, we agreed, the best-dressed woman we had seen for a decade, showing that only the French, &c. When she walked out of the church we discovered that the belle dame was our countrywoman, Mrs. Dillon. The example of magnanimity was furnished by Dillon himself. We told him what was being done in Ireland, not only above the surface, but, as we understood, beneath the surface. "We ought to consider," says Dillon, "that what we call England is the only country in Europe where the personal liberty of men is secure. Here we are living under a perpetual spy system. We don't know that our servants are not spies, and it is little better in Germany and Italy. It goes against my conscience to see anything done in the pursuance of our just quarrel which is not done in broad day." When we consider that the exile was shut out of his own country by the Power he was judging so generously this was surely finely magnanimous.

When the Derby administration fell, a Coalition Government under Lord Aberdeen was formed. There had been a general shaking of hands; Palmerston and Russell sat side by side in the new Cabinet, and the Peelites mingled with the old Whigs. But the minor appointments excited a pause of amazement, and then a storm of indignation. Mr. John Sadleir was a Lord of the Treasury, and Mr. William Keogh Solicitor-General for Ireland. Up to the last minute, in the most express and emphatic manner, Messrs. Keogh and Sadleir had pledged themselves never to take office from, never to support, always to act in opposition to, any Ministry not pledged to repeal the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill, and to make a Land Bill, framed on the principles of Sharman Crawford's, a Cabinet measure. And here was a Government to whom these things were plainly impossible. The Leaguers were not surprised at a perfidy which they had predicted, but they were outraged by its audacious cynicism, and alarmed at its evil example. No one could tell how far the treason would spread. Mr. Anthony O' Flaherty was spoken of as Irish Secretary, and Mr. Vincent Scully for some legal sinecure. It was plain that the military law, which, to prevent desertion, prescribes the flogging of deserters, was applicable to the case, and the leaders and journals of the League applied it vigorously. The provincial Press put the new officials in a pillory, and George Henry Moore separated himself from them peremptorily, warning the country that a question which demanded instant attention from the constituencies—was How many followers they could carry with them across the House? But, though at the outset the desertion seemed to be condemned by a verdict that was universal, it soon became plain that under various decent disguises there were men ready to applaud and justify this "free trade in political profligacy."

The Council of the League took up zealously the resistance to the deserters with one disastrous exception. The Northerns were divided on the subject, but the most influential of them, Dr. M'Knight and Rev. John Rogers, insisted that the new officials must have time to explain themselves—perhaps they had got terms from the Cabinet, and they certainly could be more useful to the cause in office than out of office. I asked them to read the pledge these gentlemen had taken, and to remember the question really at issue was whether members elected at an immense sacrifice by an impoverished people were to make conditions for the country or only conditions for themselves. If the latter policy was determined upon I thought the League members ought to receive instructions when the Government were next in need of Irish votes to say, with Dr. M' Knight, the cause would be greatly advanced by having good men in office, and we would like to have something pleasant for ourselves. Mr. Lucas inquired whether the time the new officials were to have was to extend over their elections—must we wait until they went back and told the House of Commons and the people of England that their constituents approved of their conduct? If the Government could buy Irish support by places they would willingly pay that price for it, but there would be an end to public concessions. A motion condemning the deserters was carried in the Council against a minority of only four, and a deputation was dispatched to Carlow to exhort the electors to reject Mr. Sadleir, and they were happily successful. He was defeated the refusal of the men who had formerly supported him continue their confidence. But it was a great deduction from the satisfaction of the victory that Sadleir was supported the Catholic Bishop of the diocese, by Father Maher, uncle and confidant of Dr. Cullen, and by many local priests, who, like Sadleir, abandoned the principles they had hitherto professed. A further humiliation, almost equivalent to the loss of his seat, awaited Mr. Sadleir. During his canvass he ventured to suggest that Lord John Russell had proffered to the Brigadiers, as they were called, a practical retractation of the course he had taken on the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill; and when Lord John was questioned on the subject in the House of Commons he repudiated it with unconcealed scorn. No explanation, he affirmed, had been given, nor had any been asked. When Parliament reassembled the taint was found to have spread. Of thirty-eight members who attended a conference in one of the committee rooms, one-and-twenty declared themselves determined to sit in Independent Opposition, as before, and seventeen adhered to the Government. It was plain the Government had bought more than a brace of deserters; they had driven a wedge through the Independent party, dividing it into two sections, and English opinion scarcely took the pains of discriminating between them.

When the minority coalesced with the Whigs and Peelites it was assumed that the majority would coalesce with the Tories. The House did not in the least understand that these men had no personal aims, and had no alliance or understanding with either of the only parties it recognised. From that time the Irish Party, which had carried their Land Bill to a second reading, were divided into almost equal parts, and it was soon known that Archbishop Cullen and the bulk of the Catholic Bishops adhered to the minority. Mr. Keogh, whose re-election was delayed by a petition, got elected and came before his sympathisers, like Richard of Gloucester, leaning on the arm of a bishop, the same bishop who half a dozen years before had gone to Conciliation Hall to proclaim that the Young Irelanders were the enemies of religion.

I must recur to my diary for some social gossip to relieve the painful strain of politics at this time:—

"There was no business on the paper to-night in which I took the least interest, and I accepted an invitation from J—— to walk home and dine with him. Our way lay through a wilderness called Victoria Street. It is a huge road that pierces one of the worst quarters in Westminster, running for half a mile, apparently, from the Abbey in the direction of Eccleston Square. J—— said he had shot snipe formerly within a gunshot, and I suggested that he might shoot sparrows still, for there are not half a dozen houses yet built, and there is a general air of desolation and loneliness which is alarming. After dinner a curious accident befell. The hostess, a sentimental young woman, produced her album and asked me what I thought of the verses with which the volume opened, while J—— smiled with a significance, the meaning of which I altogether misunderstood, when I saw that the verses were some I had written for the Vindicator ten years ago. 'I think,' I said, laughing, 'they are dreadful drivel. The hyperbolical devotion of Corydon to his shepherdess, reminds me of Moore's lines—

"'He thought her a goddess, she thought him a fool,'

(as I have no doubt she did),

'And I'll swear she was most in the right.'

My hostess looked flushed and offended. 'I don't mind your laughing at me/ she said, 'but pray don't laugh at verses which came from the very heart of my husband when we first knew each other; and which I will treasure to my dying day.' I hastened to apologise for my rudeness and got out of the scrape indifferently well."

When Parliament reassembled the Leaguers urged on the appointment of the Select Committee to which the Land Bills were referred. After much negotiation a committee of twentyn-ine members were chosen, half of them being unequivocal landlords, or landlords' friends, and on the other part, Shee, Lucas, Duffy, and Colonel Greville from the League. Mr. Bright and Dr. Phillimore, as amici-curiæ, and other supposed neutrals, including Mr. James Sadleir, brother of the new Lord of the Treasury, and Mr. J. D. Fitzgerald, a future Attorney-General. During this session the labour of the Leaguers was constant and exhausting. When the Select Committee sat they attended the House at noon, and only left it after midnight. Every Catholic or Irish interest in any part of the empire was referred to some of them. In the House they sat among enemies, and faced more dangerous enemies on the other side of it, the representatives of the constituencies supported by the undoubted majority of the Irish bishops. And after their success against Sadleir they had no further success. As the session proceeded, whenever a candidate went to the hustings he was hamstrung from behind by episcopal friends of Dr. Cullen. But the most important deserter from the principles which had carried Crawford's Bill to a second reading was Mr. Crawford himself. He published a letter advising the tenant-farmers to accept and be thankful for a measure more moderate than his Bill. He described the policy by which the Irish Party had won so signal a success in the current session, and described it accurately as a policy of "acting on their pledges." But though two members had just forfeited theirs he was not disposed to complain. He found it impossible to doubt that they would use the position they had obtained to promote public ends. Though we all now know that he might as reasonably have given credit for good intentions to Titus Gates as to John Sadleir, it would be cruel to triumph over the mistakes of an honourable man. Yet, as he had been twenty years in Parliament without getting his Bill read a second time, while the men whom he lectured carried it to a second reading in a single session, it would have been modest to recognise that they were better judges of Parliamentary policy than he was.[3]


  1. A comical incident befell me on my first journey to Parliament. The carriage from Holyhead was occupied by tour or five intelligent young men, and the talk gradually fell on Ireland and the condition of the Irish tenantry. A vigorous, enthusiastic young squire expressed strong opinions against the tenantry as greedy and dishonest, and I ventured to suggest that the greed and dishonesty were to be found a good deal on the other side. "Sir," he said, "turning his angry brow full on me, "I ought to know the facts, I am an Irish member of Parliament and I have lived nearly sixteen years in that country." "Sir," I rejoined, smiling, "I ought to know even better, for I am an Irish member of Parliament, and I have lived six-and-thirty years in that country." A hearty laugh from our audience declared that my competitor had not won that trick.
  2. My counsel, Mr. O'Malley, Q.C., and Mr. Huddleston, expressed great satisfaction at the manner in which they had been instructed to conduct the case, and the latter, when Baron Huddleston, in 1886 publicly renewed his expression of pleasure at the sort of case and instructions which I had put into his hands, and the public result which followed in the abolition of the property qualification.
  3. It cannot be doubted that in the policy of the Northerns the example of Crawford counted for much. An unjust prejudice against Lucas as a furious bigot (which he was not; he was a zealot, not a bigot) prevailed from an early period, and some of them were persuaded that it is only men in office who can carry questions successfully through the House of Commons. But Negro Slavery had been abolished by Wilberforce, Religious Equality established by O'Connell, and Free Trade by Cobden, without any of them having held office under the Crown. There were lower motives also at work. The Prime Minister was a Presbyterian, and the Duke of Argyll and two other colleagues belonged to the same Church. If there were four Catholics in the Cabinet it could not be doubted that the Catholics, who had imperilled the League on the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill, would have been found hoorahing at their backs, and we were patient with this sympathy.—"League of North and South." London: Chapman and Hall.