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BEA'CONSFIELD first preferred retirement and the writing of Lothair, came forward from time to time to point the moral and predict the end of Mr Gladstone’s impulsive courses, which socn began to fret the confidence of his friends. Some unpleasant errors of conduct—the Collier case, the Ewelme rectory case, the grave and significant Odo Russell scandal (to help the Government out of a scrape the ambassador was wrongfully accused of exceeding his instructions)— told yet more. Above all, many humiliating proofs that England was losing her place among the nations came out in these days, the discovery being then new and unendurable. To be brief, in less than four years the Government had well-nigh worn out its own patience with its own errors, failures, and distractions, and would gladly have gone to pieces when it was defeated on an Irish University Bill. But Disraeli, having good constitutional reasons for declining office at the moment, could not allow this. Still gathering unpopularity, still offending, alarming, alienating, the Government went on till 1874, suddenly dissolved Parliament, and was signally beaten, the Liberal party breaking up. Like most of his political friends, Disraeli had no expectation of such a victory—little hope, indeed, of any distinct success. Yet when he went to Manchester on a brief political outing two years before, he was received with such acclaim as he had never known in his life. He was then sixty-eight years old, and this was his first full banquet of popularity. The elation and confidence drawn from the Manchester meetings were confirmed by every circumstance of the 1874 elections. But he was well aware of how much he owed to his opponents’ errors, seeing at the same time how safely he could lay his future course by them. He had always rejected the political economy of his time, and it was breaking down. He had always refused to accept the economist’s dictum without reference to other considerations than the turnover of trade; and even Manchester could pardon the refusal now. The national spirit, vaporized into a cosmopolitan mist, was fast condensing again under mortification and insult from abroad uncompensated by any appreciable percentage of cash profit. This was a changing England, and one that Disraeli could govern on terms of mutual satisfaction; but not if the reviving “ spirit of the country ” ran to extremes of self-assertion. At one of the great Manchester meetings he said, “Do not suppose, because I counsel firmness and decision at the right moment, that I am of that school of statesmen who are favourable to a turbulent and aggressive diplomacy. I have resisted it during a large part of my life.” But for the hubbub occasioned by the Public Worship Regulation Act, the first two years of the 1874 administration had no remarkable excitements till near the end of them. The Public Worship Act, introduced by the Archbishop of Canterbury, was meant to restrain ritualism. Disraeli, who from first to last held to the Reformed Church as capable of dispensing social good as no other organisation might, supported the Bill as “ putting down ritualism ” ; spoke very vehemently ; gave so much offence that at one time neither the Bill nor the Government seemed quite safe. For some time afterwards there was so little legislation of the kind called “ enterprising ” that even some friends of the Government began to think it too tame; but at the end of the second year an announcement was made which put that fear to rest. The news that the Khedive’s Suez Canal shares had been bought by the Government was received with boundless Shares'0111 applause. If was a courageous thing to do; but it was not a Disraelian conception, nor did it originate in any Government department. It was suggested from without at a moment when the possibility of ever acquiring the shares was passing away. On the


morning of the 15th of November 1875, the then editor of the Pall Mall Gazette went to Lord Derby at the Foreign Office, informed him that the Khedive’s shares were passing into the hands of a French syndicate, and urged arrest of the transaction by purchase for England. (The shares being private property their sale could not, of course, be forbidden.) Lord Derby thought there must be a mistake. He could not believe that bargaining of that kind could go on in Cairo without coming to the knowledge of the British Consul there. He was answered that nevertheless it was going on. The difficulties of purchase by England were then arrayed by Lord Derby. They were more than one or two, and of course they had a formidable look; but so also had the alternative and the lost opportunity. One difficulty had already come into existence, and had to be met at once. Lord Derby had either to make direct inquiry of the Khedive or to let the matter go. If he inquired, and there was no such negotiation, his question might be interpreted in a very troublesome way ; moreover, we should put the idea of selling the shares into the Khedive’s head, which would be unfortunate. “ There’s my position, and now what do you say ? ” The answer given, Lord Derby drafted a telegram to the British Consul-General at Cairo, and read it out. It instructed Colonel Stanton to go immediately to the Khedive and put the question point blank. Meanwhile the prime minister would be seen, and Lord Derby’s visitor might call next day to hear the reply from Cairo. It is enough to add here that on receipt of the answer the purchase for England was taken up and went to a speedy conclusion. As if upon the impulse of this transaction, Disraeli opened the next session of Parliament with a Bill to confer upon the Queen the title of Empress of India—a measure which offended the instincts of many Englishmen, and, for the time, revived the prejudices against its author. More important was the revival of disturbances in European Turkey, which, in their outcome, were to fill the last chapter of Disraeli’s career. But for this interruption it is likely that he would have given much of his attention to Ireland, not because it was an attractive employment for his few remaining years, but because he saw with alarm the gathering troubles in that country. And his mind was strongly drawn in another direction. In a remarkable speech delivered in 1872, he spoke with great warmth of the slighting of the colonies, saying that “ no minister in this country will do his duty who neglects any opportunity of reconstructing as much as possible our colonial empire, and of responding to those distant sympathies which may become the source of incalculable strength and happiness to this island.” However, nothing was done in fulfilment of this duty in the first two years from 1874, and early in the third the famous Andrassy note, the Berlin memorandum, the questfon. Bashi-Bazouk atrocities, and the accumulative excitement thereby created in England, reopened the Eastern question with a vengeance. The policy which Disraeli’s Government now took up may be truly called the national policy. Springing from the natural suggestions of self defence against the march of a dangerous rivalry, it had the sanction of all British statesmanship for generations, backed by the consenting instinct of the people. It was quite unsentimental, being pro-Turkish or anti-Russian only as it became so in being pro-British. The statesmen by whom it was established and continued saw in Russia a Power which, unless firmly kept within bounds, would dominate Europe; more particularly, that it would undermine and supersede British authority in the East. And without nicely considering the desire of Russia to expand to the Mediterranean, the Pacific, or in any other