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73
SALISBURY, 3RD MARQUESS OF

measure—a measure based upon a £6 franchise; but their own side did not like it, the Opposition were furious, and the moral sense of the country was revolted by the undisguised adoption of almost the very Bill which the Conservatives had refused to accept from their opponents only a year before. The result was that the Government reverted to measure A, and the three ministers again handed in their resignations. In the debate on the third reading of the Bill, when its passage through the House of Commons without a division was assured, Lord Cranborne showed with caustic rhetoric how the “precautions, guarantees, and securities” with which the Bill had bristled on its second reading had been dropped one after another at the bidding of Gladstone.

In countries where politics are conducted on any other than the give-and-take principles in vogue in England, such a breach as In the House of Lords.that which occurred in 1867 between Lord Cranborne and his former colleagues, especially Disraeli, would have been beyond repair. But Cranborne, though an aristocrat both by birth and by conviction, was not impracticable; moreover, Disraeli, who had himself risen to eminence through invective, admired rather than resented that gift in others; and their common opposition to Gladstone was certain to reunite the two colleagues. In the session of 1868 Gladstone announced that he meant to take up the Irish question, and to deal especially with the celebrated “Upas tree,” of which the first branch was the Established Church. By way of giving full notice to the electorate, he brought in a series of resolutions on this question; and though the attitude adopted by the official Conservatives towards them was not one of serious antagonism, Lord Cranborne vigorously attacked them. This was his last speech in the House of Commons, for on the 12th of April his father died, and he became 3rd marquess of Salisbury. In the House of Lords the new Lord Salisbury’s style of eloquence—terse, incisive and wholly free from false ornament—found an even more appreciative audience than it had met with in the House of Commons. The questions with which he was first called upon to deal were questions in which his interest was keen—the recommendations of the Ritual Commission and, some time later, the Irish Church Suspensory Bill. Lord Salisbury’s argument was that the last session of an expiring parliament was not the time in which so grave a matter as the Irish Church Establishment should be judged or prejudged; that a Suspensory Bill involved the question of disestablishment; and that such a principle could not be accepted by the Lords until the country had pronounced decisively in its favour. Even then there were those who raised the cry that the only business of the House of Lords was to register the decisions of the Commons, and that if they refused to do so it was at their peril. Lord Salisbury met this cry boldly and firmly:—

“When the opinion of your countrymen has declared itself, and you see that their convictions—their firm, deliberate, sustained convictions—are in favour of any course, I do not for a moment deny that it is your duty to yield.”

In the very next session Lord Salisbury was called upon to put his view into practice, and his influence went far to persuade the peers to pass the Irish Church Disestablishment Bill. In his opinion the general election of the autumn of 1868 had been fought on this question; his friends had lost, and there was nothing for them to do but to bow to the necessities of the situation. The story of his conduct in the matter has been told in some fulness in the Life of Archbishop Tait, with whom Salisbury acted, and who throughout those critical weeks played a most important part as mediator between the two extreme parties—those of Lord Cairns (representing Ulster) and Gladstone. October 1869 saw the death of the old Lord Derby, who was still the titular leader of his party; and he was succeeded as leader of the House of Lords by Cairns. For the dignified post of chancellor of the university of Oxford Convocation unanimously chose as Derby’s successor the marquess of Salisbury. Derby had translated the Iliad very well, but his successor was far more able to sympathize with the academic mind and temper. He was at heart a student, and found his best satisfaction in scientific research and in scientific speculation; while still a young man he had made useful contributions to the investigation of the flora of Hertfordshire, and at Hatfield he had his own laboratory, where he was able to satisfy his interest in chemical and electrical research. As regards his connexion with Oxford may be mentioned in particular his appointment, in 1877, of a second University Commission, and his appearance, in September 1894, in the Sheldonian Theatre as president of the British Association.

It is not necessary to dwell at any length upon the part taken by Lord Salisbury between 1869 and 1873 in respect of the other great political measures of Gladstone’s Government—the Disraeli Cabinet of 1874.Irish Land Act, the Act Abolishing Purchase in the Army, Forster’s Education Act, &c. Nor does his attitude towards the Franco-German War of 1870–71 call for any remark; a British leader of Opposition is bound, even more than a minister, to preserve a discreet silence on such occasions. But early in 1874 came the dissolution, suddenly announced in Gladstone’s famous Greenwich letter, with the promise of the abolition of the income-tax. For the first time since 1841 the Conservatives found themselves in office with a large majority in the House of Commons. In Disraeli’s new Cabinet in 1874 Salisbury accepted his old position at the India Office. The first task with which the new secretary of state had to deal was one of those periodical famines which are the great scourge of India; he supported the action of Lord Northbrook, the viceroy, and refused to interfere with private trade by prohibiting the export of grain. This attitude was amply justified, and Lord Salisbury presently declared that the action of the Government had given so much confidence to private traders that, by their means, “grain was pouring into the distressed districts at a greater rate than that which was being carried by the public agency, the amount reaching nearly 2000 tons a day.” The Public Worship Regulation Bill of 1874 was the occasion of a famous passage of arms between Salisbury and his chief. The Commons had inserted an amendment which, on consideration by the Lords, Salisbury opposed, with the remark that it was not for the peers to attend to the “bluster” of the lower House merely because a small majority there had passed the amendment. The new clause was accordingly rejected, and the Commons eventually accepted the situation; but Disraeli, banteringly criticizing Salisbury’s use of the word “bluster,” alluded to him as “a man who does not measure his phrases. He is one who is a great master of gibes and flouts and jeers.”

From the middle of 1876 the Government was occupied with foreign affairs. In regard to the stages of Eastern fever through The Eastern question.which the nation passed between the occurrence of the Bulgarian “atrocities” and the signature of the Treaty of Berlin, the part played by Salisbury was considerable. The excesses of the Bashi-Bazouks took place in the early summer of 1876, and were recorded in long and highly-coloured dispatches to English newspapers; presently there followed Gladstone’s pamphlet on Bulgarian Horrors, his speech on Blackheath and his enunciation of a “bag-and-baggage” policy towards Turkey. The autumn went by, Servia and Montenegro declared war upon Turkey and were in imminent danger of something like extinction. On the 31st of October Russia demanded an armistice, which Turkey granted; and Great Britain immediately proposed a conference at Constantinople, at which the powers should endeavour to make arrangements with Turkey for a general pacification of her provinces and of the inflammable communities adjoining. At this conference Great Britain was represented by Lord Salisbury. It met early in December, taking for its basis the British terms, namely, the status quo ante in Servia and Montenegro; a self-denying ordinance on the part of all the powers; and the independence and territorial integrity of the Ottoman empire, together with large administrative reforms assured by guarantees. General Ignatieff, the Russian ambassador, was effusively friendly with the British envoy; but though the philo-Turkish party in England professed themselves scandalized, Salisbury made no improper concessions to Russia, and departed in no way from the agreed policy of the British