Africa and the Victorians: The Climax of Imperialism in the Dark Continent

By Ronald Robinson; John Gallagher et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XII
The Way to Fashoda

THE INVASION OF THE SUDAN

On 25 June 1895, Salisbury returned to power after an election in which the coalition of Conservatives and Liberal Unionists had won an overwhelming victory.1 Here was the first British Government during the partition which was not divided on large issues of foreign policy, and which was not distracted and jeopardised by the Irish question. The result was a steadiness in policy which had been absent since 1880. In addition, Salisbury now presided over one of the ablest Cabinets of the century.2 But the presence of these active and powerful colleagues meant that the Prime Minister could not look forward to the same free hand in foreign affairs that he had enjoyed between 1887 and 1892. Out of nineteen Cabinet seats the Liberal Unionists had been given five -- an indication of how much the Conservative leadership depended on their support; indeed, Salisbury went so far as to offer the Foreign Office to the Duke of Devonshire (the former Hartington). But if the Duke could be relied upon not to strive officiously for the spoils, it was not so with Chamberlain. He moved quickly into his stride, and soon aroused the irony and the disquiet of the Prime Minister. A relative of the Cecils noted that 'I never heard him talk of any colleague as he does of him, says Chamberlain wants to go to war with every Power in the World, and has no thought but Imperialism'.3 If foreign policy was to be kept free from the

____________________
1
After the election there were 340 Conservatives and 71 Liberal Unionists against 177 Liberals and 83 Irish Nationalists.
2
Lord Salisbury'sthird Cabinet
Premier and Foreign Secretary:Marquess of Salisbury.
First Lord of the Treasury: A. J. Balfour.
Lord President:Duke of Devonshire, Lib. U.
Chancellor of the Exchequer: Sir Michael Hicks Beach.
Colonial Secretary: Joseph Chamberlain, Lib. U.
Secretary for War:Marquess of Lansdowne, Lib. U.
First Lord of the Admiralty: G. J. Goschen, Lib. U.
Chancellor of the Duchy:Lord James of Hereford, Lib. U.

The other eleven members of the Cabinet were all Conservatives.

3
Journal of Lady Frances Balfour, 26 Nov. 1895, printed in her Ne Obliviscaris, ( 1930), II, 270.

-339-

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