Page:Dictionary of National Biography, Second Supplement, volume 3.djvu/710

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Report presented in 1878, only dissenting on some points of detail. In 1876 he accompanied George Joachim (afterwards Lord) Goschen [q. v. Suppl. II] on a mission of inquiry into Egyptian finance to Egypt, in behalf of the Egyptian bondholders. During the Easter recess in 1878, when the revision of the treaty of San Stefano by a European congress was still in suspense. Wolff visited Paris, Vienna, and Berlin to ascertain the general feeling of European statesmen. In August 1878 he returned to employment under the foreign office, and was made G.C.M.G. Lord Salisbury selected him to be the British member of the international commission for the organisation of the province of Eastern Roumelia. After a preliminary discussion at Constantinople the commission established itself at Philippopolis in October. The Russian and British delegates were often at diplomatic odds, the former being openly hostile to the separation of the newly formed province from Bulgaria and seeking to give to it a fuller freedom from Turkish sovereignty than the treaty of Berlin sanctioned. Wolff appealed to the higher Russian authorities with considerable success. In April 1879 the organic statute was settled and signed. After assisting at the installation of the new governor-general, Aleko Pasha, Wolff returned to his parliamentary duties in England, and in September was created K.C.B. The Eastern Roumelian commission was further directed to draw up schemes for the administration of other European provinces of the Turkish empire, but before this task was approached, Gladstone's second administration began in England, and Wolff resigned (April 1880), being succeeded by Lord Edmond (now Lord) Fitzmaurice.

At the general election in the spring of 1880 Wolff was elected for Portsmouth. At the opening of the new parliament he took a leading part in opposing the claim of Charles Bradlaugh to take the oath, receiving the active support of Lord Randolph Churchill and Mr. (afterwards Sir John) Gorst. In the result these three members formed the combination, subsequently joined by Mr. Arthur Balfour and known under the title of the Fourth Party, which, during the next five years, did much to enliven the proceedings of the House of Commons and to make uneasy the positions both of the prime minister, Mr. Gladstone, and of the leader of the opposition, Sir Stafford Northcote, afterwards earl of Iddesleigh [see Churchill, Lord Randolph, Suppl. I]. Wolff was an active and efficient colleague, taking his full share in parliamentary discussions and being especially useful in reconciling his companions' differences. He was personally responsible for the passing of a bill, which he had introduced in the previous parliament, enabling the inhabitants of seaside resorts to let their houses for short periods without losing their qualification to vote at elections. But his attention was mainly devoted to party warfare. On 19 April 1883, after the unveiling of the statue of Lord Beaconsfield in Parliament Square, he first suggested to Lord Randolph Churchill the formation of a ‘Primrose League,’ to be so named after what was reputed to be the deceased statesman's favourite flower. In the course of the following autumn the league was set on foot. The statutes of the new association were drawn up by Wolff and revised by a small committee. They prescribed a form of declaration by which members undertook ‘to devote their best ability to the maintenance of religion, of the estates of the realm, and of the imperial ascendancy of the British empire,’ and they ministered to the weaker side of human nature by providing a regular gradation of rank with quaint titles and picturesque badges. The league, though at first somewhat scoffed at by the conservative leaders, was soon found to be a most efficient party instrument. In the dissension caused in the conservative party by Lord Randolph Churchill's advocacy of a frankly democratic policy, Wolff sided with his colleague, but he was too astute a politician to favour internal divisions, and was instrumental in procuring the reconciliation, which was effected in the summer of 1884. On Lord Salisbury's return to office in June 1885 Wolff was made a privy councillor, and in August was despatched on a special mission to Constantinople to discuss with the Turkish government the future of Egypt, which since 1882 had been in the military occupation of Great Britain. The British occupation, though accepted as a practical necessity, had not received formal recognition or sanction either from the Sultan or any of the powers. Wolff was instructed to arrange with the Porte the conditions on which the Sultan's authority should in future be exercised in Egypt and the methods for assuring the stability of the Khedive's government. After some months Wolff concluded with the Turkish government in Oct. 1885 a convention providing that the two govern-