Gladstone and the Irish Nation

By J. L. Hammond | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXI
GLADSTONE'S LEADERSHIP IN 1885

The question with me now is whether I am to march any more or not.

"I can neither march with a party which is simply a party, nor with a party which is in schism against itself.

"Not that I undervalue the interests which are involved in the regular and standing contention between Liberalism and Toryism, especially the Toryism of the present day and the miserable imposture termed Tory democracy. But the life of tension and contention which I have been living is an awful life, eminently unsuited to old age; and hence it is that I leave the strife of party to my successors who have not yet served out their time.

"Nothing can withhold or suspend my retirement except the presentation of some great and critical problem in the national life, and the hope, if such a hope shall be, of making some special contribution towards a solution of it.

"No one I think can doubt that, according to all present appearances, the greatest incident of the coming elections is to be the Parnell or Nationalist majority. And such a majority is a very great fact indeed. It will at once shift the centre of gravity in the relations between the two countries.

"How is it and how are its probable proposals to be met?

"If the heads of the Liberal party shall be prepared to unite in rendering an adequate answer to this question, and if they unitedly desire me to keep my present place for the purpose of giving to that answer legislative effect, such a state of things may impose upon me a formidable obligation for the time of the crisis. I cannot conceive any other form in which my resolution could be unsettled. . . .

"I have not considered the question what will the Tories do with Ireland. But they may solve all these questions for me, and for us all, if it be true that they are really to grant Parnell's motion for an inquiry into the actual trial of the Maamtrasna case, not merely the conduct of the political authorities in regard to it." Gladstone to Spencer, June 30, 1885.

-390-

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