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FOR THE YEAR
The Irish Leadership-The Behring Sea and Newfoundland Fisheries—Mr. J. Morley at Newcastle-The Unionist Position-Lord Salisbury at CambridgeLord Hartington on the Situation-The Hartlepool Election-The Strike at the Post Office Reassembly of Parliament-The Tithes Bill-Mr. Goschen on the Currency-The Plan of Campaign in Parliament-The Boulogne Negotiations Lord Hartington at the Liberal Unionist Club-The Religious Disqualifications Removal Bill-Marriage with Deceased Wife's Sister Bill-Mr. Morley's Vote of Censure Church Disestablishment in Wales-Army and Navy and Civil Service Estimates-The Scheme of National Defence-The Naval Programme— Irish Distress and Relief Works - Mr. Stansfeld's Resolution-Registration of Voters-Agricultural Holdings-The Temperance Question and Local Option— Conflict of Labour and Capital-Colonial Federation and Free Trade-The Newfoundland Fisheries Bill in the House of Lords-The Bye Elections - Mr. Gladstone at Hastings.
THE disorganisation of the English Liberals, consequent upon the refusal of Mr. Parnell to temporarily withdraw from political life, made them shrink as much from platform speeches as from Parliamentary opposition. Pending the result of the negotiations between Mr. Parnell and Messrs. O'Brien and Dillon, who had come to Boulogne to discuss the question of the Irish leadership, the Liberal leaders were unwilling to take action. These had clearly defined the attitude they were prepared to adopt towards Irish Home Rule, which they would press forward only on the understanding that Mr. Parnell should stand aside. This had not, it is true, been the attitude they had originally taken up. They had at first wished to leave the Irish to settle for themselves the choice of their leader; but the "Nonconformist conscience," after a short hesitation, had been aroused, and forced
Mr. Gladstone and his colleagues to break openly and completely with the member for Cork. At the same time, the Unionists were loudly calling. upon their opponents to say how much of Mr. Parnell's revelations as to the Home Rule scheme were true, and how it was proposed to satisfy high aspirations for a paramount Parliament in Dublin with the oft-repeated promise of Imperial control at Westminster. Under such circumstances a prudent reserve was obviously the best as well as the most convenient policy; and events had had time to ripen before Mr. John Morley, as the spokesman of his party, was called upon to give a lead to his colleagues and followers. By this time, too, public opinion and the Nonconformist conscience were alike in a calmer state; and Mr. Gladstone had had the opportunity of explaining his former attitude towards Mr. Parnell, which had given rise to some misconception. In his letter to Mr. John Morley (Nov. 24, 1890) on the subject of Mr. Parnell's leadership after the proceedings in the Divorce Court, Mr. Gladstone had written :
"Having arrived at a certain conclusion with regard to the continuance at the present moment of Mr. Parnell's leadership of the Irish party, I have seen Mr. McCarthy," &c.
Again, lower down, speaking of "the conclusion at which, after using all the means of observation and reflection in my power, I had myself arrived," Mr. Gladstone wrote:
"It was that, notwithstanding the splendid services rendered by Mr. Parnell to his country, his continuance at the present moment in the leadership would be productive of consequences disastrous in the highest degree to the cause of Ireland."
The conclusion drawn from these words by Captain Price, M.P. (Devonport), and others was that Mr. Gladstone had only suggested that Mr. Parnell should retire "for the present," presumably until the next general election. This inference Mr. Gladstone hastened to correct, and declared that the "retirement of which I spoke to Mr. Morley was not retirement for the present, but retirement now." This distinction, though perhaps somewhat subtle, gave no little comfort to Mr. Gladstone's admirers, who saw by the light of his explanation fresh evidence of the malignity with which their leader's plainest statements were misrepresented by his unscrupulous opponents. These, on the other hand, were tempted to suggest that the later reading of Mr Gladstone's text coincided with the alienation of the bulk of the Liberal party from Mr. Parnell, who had bitterly attacked Mr. Gladstone, and by that means had made himself for the future an impossible ally.
The "Boulogne conference," moreover, led to no satisfactory results. Beyond the fact that it had for object an accommodation between the two sections into which the Nationalist party was split, nothing was known. Mr. O'Brien, having come from New York to act as peacemaker, naturally did not from the outset show himself a partisan. After a couple of interviews with