IN the month of July, 1865, the Parliament of 1859 was dissolved and anew one elected with an increased Whig and Liberal majority of 50. Palmerston thus found himself at the head of a Government ostensibly stronger than before. But only ostensibly. Events soon uncovered its weakness.
The elections, fought in the main on Reform, had powerfully reinforced the Radical wing of the party. Bright loomed larger than ever in the hopes of the "masses" and the fears of the "classes." Then in October the death of Palmerston took the heaviest brake off the wheel of Reform. It did not immediately come full circle. But, with Russell as Prime Minister and Gladstone leading the House of Commons, the way slowly opened out for advance to the final struggles and the crowning achievements of Bright's career. They came within the next three years. The householder was enfranchised. Ireland was emancipated from the trammels of the State Church.
Bright's journals of the eighteen months from June, 1865, are missing, if even he kept journals in the midst of the heroic and continuous labours, first of a heated Parliamentary session and then of the great campaign in the country which was the prelude to the Reform Act of 1867. It was the period of the "Cave of Adullam" speech, and the defeat of Gladstone's modest Reform scheme (after he had resoundingly "passed the Rubicon, broken the bridge and burned the boats") by the Adullamites in combination with the Opposition; of the resignation of Russell and the accession of Lord Derby's third Ministry, still in a minority; of the riots in Hyde Park and the vast demonstrations addressed by Bright in many cities; of his memorable visit to Ireland and the speech in the Rotunda at Dublin; and finally of the adoption by a Liberal House of Commons of a more radical measure at the bidding of Disraeli than it had refused to Gladstone twelve months before.