The Diaries of John Bright

By John Bright; R. A. J. Walling | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIII THE IRISH CHURCH

I

SOON after the Parliament met in 1868 for what proved to be its last session, Lord Derby, then in very ill health, resigned, and Disraeli entered upon his first brief and stormy year as Prime Minister. He was even more effectively in a minority than Lord Derby, for the Irish question, forcing itself into the forefront of English politics after twenty years of neglect, began to knit the Liberal Party together. Bright had a glimpse of the coming harvest of a lifetime of hard labour. Unhappily, it proved hardly more than a glimpse.

"[ March 9, 1868.] To Town for the session.

"Since the House opened Lord Derby has resigned and Benjamin Disraeli reigns in his stead! A great triumph of intellect and courage and patience and unscrupulousness, employed in the service of a party full of prejudices and selfishness and wanting in brains. The Tories have hired Disraeli, and he has his reward from them.

"Called on Lord Russell: talk on Irish Church. He is willing to support any good settlement, and at least one which is not good.

"[10th.] House: Irish debate. Maguire opened; Lord Mayo for Government,--speech of 3 hours and 20 minutes--wearisome speech, manner and matter equally poor. Government plan not likely to suit Ireland or England.1

"Walked up thro' the Park with Mr. Gladstone. He is strong on

____________________
1
Lord Mayo, Chief Secretary for Ireland, proposed to establish a Catholic University, with a Royal Charter and a grant from Parliament. No party then wanted the scheme. In the end Lord Mayo dropped it. But it gave Bright the cue for one of the happiest of his apologues. The plan, he said (March 14) reminded him "of an anecdote which is related by Addison. He said there was a man in his county--I don't know whether it was Buckinghamshire or not: he was not a Cabinet Minister; he was only a mountebank--but this man set up a stall, and to the country people he offered to sell pills that were very good against the earthquake. . . ."

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