Gladstone and the Irish Nation

By J. L. Hammond | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXIII
THE OFFER TO SALISBURY AND THE HAWARDEN KITE, DECEMBER, 1885

In the autumn of 1885 there were two men who thought the Irish question the most urgent of all the problems of politics. They were Carnarvon and Gladstone. Salisbury, Chamberlain, Hartington, and Churchill, were all more interested, from one point of view or another, in the fate of the Church and of property. Carnarvon among the Conservatives had only joined Salisbury's Government because he believed that the constructive settlement of the Irish problem was a vital need. Gladstone had written frankly that he would not lead the Liberal Party after the election for any of the ordinary purposes of public life, but that if he could help the two nations to solve this problem he would think it a duty to give what help he could. These two men arrived at the same conclusion; that a settlement could best be found by co-operation between men who differed in domestic politics. The plan of a union of men of all parties to resist concessions to Ireland had occurred both to the Spectator and to Hartington. Carnarvon and Gladstone took just the opposite view. They looked for a union of men of all parties not to defeat Home Rule but to grant it; not to convince Ireland that however often she asked for self-government it would be refused, but to convince her that if she was ready to consider England's difficulties, England would try to satisfy her wishes.

Neither of these two men knew what was in the other's mind, but, as it happened, they acted within a few hours of each other. Carnarvon suggested at a Cabinet meeting on December 14 that Salisbury should find out whether he would get the support of some of the Liberal leaders if he

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