Gladstone and the Irish Nation

By J. L. Hammond | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XII
THE IRISH EMERGENCY, 1880

The chief Ministers in Gladstone's Government were aware in the summer of 1880 that they had on their hands in Ireland a very difficult and urgent problem. Their different proposals are interesting, not only for the light they throw on their problem, but also because they illustrate the differences of temperament and view within the Cabinet. It will be seen that almost every measure that was tried in the next twenty years for the solution of the Irish question was foreshadowed in these months, and that the men themselves discovered in this emergency the same qualities that they displayed in their later careers.

The most confident and energetic mind in this Cabinet was the youngest. Chamberlain was then, as always, a man of action. He proposed that the Government should take up the challenge of the Lords at once, call an autumn session, and pass again their Compensation for Disturbance Bill. At the same time he submitted a memorandum proposing a large scheme of public works, including improved communications, drainage and reclamation of lands, and aid to industrial enterprises.1 This was the sort of programme for which he had been prepared and educated by his experience as reforming Mayor, a school as different as possible from that in which men like Granville, Argyll, and Hartington had learnt their leisurely politics. This document was circulated to the Cabinet on August 18. Nothing was done, though Forster himself liked the plan. Gladstone was at the time expiating the folly of his misspent energy on the Budget on a sick bed, but we know enough of his Treasury mind to know that he would have examined such a plan in a critical spirit.

____________________
1
Garvin, Life of Joseph Chamberlain, Vol. I, p. 323.

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