Gladstone and the Irish Nation

By J. L. Hammond | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIX
GLADSTONE, CHAMBERLAIN AND PARNELL

When Forster resigned in May, 1882, it was generally expected that Chamberlain would take his place. To the general astonishment Gladstone chose Lord Frederick Cavendish, known in the Treasury as an able and conscientious Minister, in the House of Commons as a good Liberal and a bad speaker, and in society as a man who combined high principle with great charm and sincerity of character.1 When Cavendish was murdered Gladstone passed over Chamberlain again. In this case he offered the post to Chamberlain's ally, Dilke, but as he would not put him in the Cabinet-- thinking that Spencer's position would be made difficult-- Dilke refused. The office, now a post in which a man risked life as well as reputation, was then taken by Sir George Trevelyan.

Spencer and Trevelyan would in ordinary circumstances have been an admirable combination in Ireland. Their sense of duty did not fall short of the highest standard set by the noblest of England's public servants. They had personal courage and minds that were naturally generous and tolerant. Trevelyan was a first-rate speaker and debater, qualities needed in a Minister who had to answer such masters of guerilla warfare as Healy and Sexton. Spencer was an impressive figure whose dignity of carriage reflected dignity of character. They regarded the Orangemen and landlords, whose influence had made Dublin Castle so obnoxious and suspect, without fear or favour. Trevelyan's

____________________
1
Writing to Acton, August 16, 1891, Gladstone said, "I won't admit politics to be so bad as all these big wigs make them, or they could not attract and hold two such men as Frederick Cavendish and the last Dalhousie, two men whose minds were in political action of a truly angelic purity." Acton's Correspondence, Figgis and Laurence, I, 258.

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