Gladstone on April 8, 1886, introduced a Bill to establish a system of Home Rule in Ireland. The principal object of the measure was to give to Ireland some such system of domestic self-government as is possessed by each of our great colonies. There was, however, a difference caused by the actual condition of things. Ireland is represented in the Imperial Parliament at Westminster. Canada and the Australasian colonies have no such representation. Mr. Gladstone endeavoured to meet this difficulty by withdrawing from Ireland its representation at Westminster. Many English Liberals who were quite willing to admit the principle of Home Rule for Ireland, objected altogether to the withdrawal of the Irish members from Westminster which they declared would be to set up an unprecedented system of taxation without representation. That, however, was not the most serious difficulty in the way of Gladstone's Bill. Some of his most influential supporters objected altogether to the principle of Home Rule as applied to Ireland; and the result was that a most formidable secession from the ranks of Mr. Gladstone's followers took place. Lord Hartington, now the Duke of Devonshire, joined with the Tory Opposition on this measure, so did Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, and so, too, did a man whose name carried a far greater weight with the public in general than either Lord Hartington or Mr. Chamberlain - the late Mr. John Bright. The Bill was defeated in the House of Commons on the second reading. Mr. Gladstone appealed to the country, and the result was that the Conservatives, with the help of the seceders, the dissentient Liberals as they were called, came back into power. Lord Salisbury formed a Government, and with the help of the dissentient Liberals had a strong majority at his back. He succeeded in passing one very important measure - the Local Government Bill for England and Wales, which established County Councils and Borough Councils in every administrative division as arranged by the measure; each Council to consist of Councillors and Aldermen; the constituents to be Parliamentary electors and also local ratepayers, whether men or women. Nothing could have been more satisfactory than the working on the whole of this valuable measure. It reorganised the public life of English counties and boroughs, brought the administration of local and municipal affairs directly within the control of the public, and put a stop to the old conditions under which local cliques, and what were called interests, were virtually endowed with the mal-administration of local affairs and local money.
On March 27, 1889, one of the greatest orators of the English Parliament passed away. Mr. Bright died in his seventy-eighth year. He was probably the only man in the House of Commons, during his time, who could have been called a rival of Mr. Gladstone in eloquence. There were many who believed that although he did not possess Mr.
Gladstone's inexhaustible capacity for debate, there were some of his speeches in which he surpassed even Mr. Gladstone. As it was said by an observer, "Bright was not so ready with the bow, but he could sometimes shoot his arrow higher than Gladstone could." Bright had been for many years a devoted follower of Gladstone's, and had twice taken office under his influence. He withdrew from Gladstone's Administration in 1882 because he could not support the Egyptian policy of the Liberal Government; and as has just been stated he was strongly opposed to Gladstone's proposal for Home Rule in Ireland.
In 1892, Gladstone was again at the head of a Liberal Ministry, and undismayed by the events of the past he again introduced a Home Rule Measure for Ireland. This time he provided that a certain representation should be retained by Irish members at Westminster, and by this concession he got back the support of some of those who had seceded from his leadership in 1886. The most influential among the seceders still held to their position and opposed Home Rule under any conditions. The Bill, however, was carried in the House of Commons, but was rejected by the House of Lords. In the meantime serious divisions took place amongst the Irish Nationalist party - divisions arising out of an un happy divorce proceeding in which Mr. Parnell was co-respondent - and the division led to Parnell's removal from the leadership of the party. Parnell died suddenly at Brighton, in October, 1891, in his forty-fifth year. His was the tragic story of what might well have been called a great career suddenly blighted by one sad error. The result of his death and the divisions that came before it, and followed it, undoubtedly was to throw back the Home Rule cause for the time, although, of course, no one who admitted the justice of the principle and recognised its practicability as illustrated in the working of the colonial systems, could possibly believe that the cause of Irish Home Rule was buried in the grave of Parnell.
Of late years a passion for the acquirement of territory in Africa seems to have taken hold of nearly the whole of the European States. England is breaking new ground in one region of Africa, France in another, Germany in yet another; even Italy and Belgium and Portugal must have their share in the redistribution of African soil. We are constantly disturbed by rumours of war between the English and French in West Africa, and the forward policy, as it may be called, of some of our own settlers in South Africa has led to disturbance there already - -Jameson's raid for instance - and may at any time lead to more disturbance still. Over these later impulses to international disturbance Mr. Gladstone had no control. He withdrew from public life on March 1, 1894, and his disappearance seemed to change the face of politics in these countries. He withdrew from Parliament because he believed that advancing years, although they had in no wise diminished the strength of his intellect, or frozen the torrent of his eloquence, left him without the physical strength which had once enabled him to defy fatigue in the work of parliamentary statesmanship. He had lost meanwhile, by death, his two great friends and allies, Earl Russell and John Bright. It is not too much to say that the House of Commons no longer seemed the same place when that noble presence was withdrawn from its debates, and that ever-healthy influence could guide its councils no more.
(From a photograph by Messrs. Russell & Son) H. R. H. The Duke Of York. I865.
(From a photograph by Messrs. Russell & Son.) H. R. H. Victoria Mary (Princess May). 1867.