In the session of 1867 Disraeli brought in a Reform measure which was evidently and almost ostentatiously submitted to the House as a scheme open to alteration and improvement of any kind. Mr. Lowe had a very hard battle to fight this time; for whereas in the former session he had Disraeli on his side, he now had to fight against Gladstone, Bright, and Disraeli together. Gladstone and Bright, of course, could not refuse point blank a measure of Reform simply because it came from a Tory Ministry; and they merely did their best to get the Reform scheme improved and expanded as much as possible. In the meantime a number of the more advanced Radicals made it clearly known to Disraeli that if he did not consent to a very liberal expansion they would vote against his Bill, and the division was likely to be close enough to make their to manhood suffrage that it has satisfied the country from that time to this. Gladstone could not have carried such a measure, because he would have had the Tories and the Liberal secessionists against him in the House of Commons, and could only have carried a handful of votes with him in the House of Lords. Disraeli and his Party were sure of the votes of the genuine Liberals in the House of Commons, and had absolute control of the House of Lords. So the great measure, for it really was a great measure, was carried and the suffrage question was practically settled. Disraeli and the Tories got little credit by their policy. To this day many people speak of the Reform Bill of 1867 as Gladstone's measure, because everybody knows that Mr. Gladstone's measure of 1866 forced Mr. Disraeli into rivalry, and into the resolve to go one better than his Liberal opponent; and that Lord Derby, the Tory Prime Minister, although he called the extension of the suffrage "a leap in the dark," was as much under the guidance of Disraeli as the Duke of Wellington in former days used to be under the guidance of Sir Robert Peel.
Lord Russell's great career as a Liberal leader ceased with the defeat of 1866. Mr. Gladstone, out of office, occupied much of his time in considering the subject of Irish grievances. He made up his mind that the principal grievances were three in number - that there were, as he described it, three branches of the Upas-tree which poisoned the condition of Ireland - the state Church, the Land Laws, and the lack. of higher education. On March 23rd, 1868, Gladstone gave notice of his series of resolutions condemning the Irish Church. He carried his resolutions; Disraeli appealed to the new electoral conditions created by the recent Reform Bill, and Mr. Gladstone was returned to power by a great majority.
Charles Dickens. 1812-1870.
We must interrupt here the course of our political narrative for a moment in order to record the death of one of the great masters of English literature. Charles Dickens died suddenly in his home at Gads-hill near Rochester, on June 6, 1870. Dickens had won, as a novelist, a popularity unequalled by any other English writer of stories during this century with the single exception of Sir Walter Scott. He had breathed a new life into English fiction; he was a great humourist as well as a great moralist; he was the prose poet of the poor; his very faults, his occasional extravagance and exaggeration brought humorous touches with them, which won for them quick forgiveness from his fascinated readers. His books are instinct with human sympathy on every page, and he never wrote a line which might not be read aloud in every household circle.
Mr. Gladstone promptly carried out two of his great promises : he disestablished the Irish State Church, and he introduced a land measure, which although it did not go as far as public opinion in Ireland thought it ought to have gone, yet released the Irish tenant from a state of absolute bondage to his landlord, and formed the basis on which subsequent Governments, Tory as well as Liberal, made further improvements in the land tenure system of Ireland. Mr. Gladstone tried to establish a national Irish University, following out some of the ideas which Sir Robert Peel embodied in his scheme establishing the Queen's colleges in Ireland; but he did not succeed in carrying his measure. He introduced the first great scheme for the creation of a thorough system of national and compulsory education in Great Britain - a scheme which was conducted through Parliament with much skill by the late William Edward Forster. Statesmen and Parliaments had worked at something like a scheme of national education without much success since Lord Brougham in one way, and Lord John Russell in another, had made efforts to prevail on Parliament to do something real towards so great an object. Mr. Gladstone had done much also towards public education in these countries, by the measure which he introduced in 1860, and carried in the following year, for the abolition of the duty on paper, which for the first time allowed cheap daily papers to be published all over these countries, and brought the reading of the daily journals within the reach of the poorest voters in Great Britain and Ireland. During the period of wonderful activity which followed his return to office, after the General Election of 1869, he had amongst other reforms accomplished the abolition of the system of purchase in the Army, a system which made the obtaining of an officer's commission a matter of money and patronage, not of merit. The introduction of the system of voting by ballot in political and municipal elections was another of the great and successful reforms accomplished during this period of Gladstone's triumphant legislation. Later still, in 1886, he applied himself to the Irish question once again, and he brought in a measure to give Ireland such a system of domestic and national self-government as almost every one of our Colonies had long been enjoying. To quote certain words of Mrs. Barrett Browning, applied to a very different personage, " his great deed was too great." He was defeated exactly as he had been defeated in his Reform Bill of 1866, by a secession of a number of Liberals from the ranks which he was leading. Mr. Bright, Lord Hartingdon, now Duke of Devonshire, Mr. Chamberlain and other men fell away from his side, and chaos had come again for the time so far as the political condition of Ireland was concerned. Gladstone brought in another Home Rule Bill on 13th February, 1893, which passed the House of Commons but was rejected by the House of Lords in September of the same year.