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Printed in Great Britain by Butler & Tanner, Frame and London 


IT has been said that the life of every one contains the 
material for at least one good book. If this is not a 
good book, the fault is not with the life it records, 
nor with the material of that life supplied to the biographer. 
When, at the late Lord Harcourt's request, I undertook 
the task I did so, not only because I felt a personal attraction 
to the theme, but because I believed it had an enduring 
human interest and an important political value. In that 
view I have not been mistaken. The story of any life 
faithfully told should be something of a revelation to the 
writer as well as to the reader. It is not possible to live for 
a long period in constant companionship with a man's 
public acts and most intimate private thoughts without 
making many discoveries and emerging from the task 
with views much modified by the experience. That has 
been so in the present case. I did not anticipate any 
difficult or obscure problem of character to encounter me 
in attempting the portraiture of Harcourt. He was writ 
large and very plain. He was natural and spontaneous, 
elemental and singularly child-like. He wore his heart on 
his sleeve, and it was a very big heart. It was easily moved 
and when it was moved the calculations of the head went 
by the board. What was in his mind tumbled out pell- 

" He poured out all as plain 
As downright Shippen or as old Montaigne " 

and there was as little subtlety as there was secrecy in his 
mental processes. His thoughts lay clear as pebbles in a 
brook. When he was angry he exploded in violent wrath 



and when he was happy and few men have been endowed 
with such an abounding gift of happiness he exhaled an 
atmosphere of gaiety and good humour that warmed the 
general air. 

All this and much else his unfailing wit, his boisterous 
humour, his combative temperament, his love of debate, 
his rare powers of speech, his friendships and his quarrels 
lay on the surface of the man, plain alike to his time and 
to history. To know more of him might strengthen the 
impression, but could not change it, and on these aspects 
of Harcourt by which he dwells in the public memory 
it cannot be claimed that this book sheds much new light. 
But in other respects it is hoped that the reader will find, 
as the writer has found, that fuller knowledge leaves 
Harcourt a greater and more significant figure in the life 
of his time than popular judgment has divined. He 
was a great jester, and it was his comic genius that chiefly 
struck the general imagination. For the rest it was assumed 
that he loved the battle for its own sake and wore his 
principles a little lightly and negligently. The record of 
his life conveys a widely different impression of the man. 
There was much in his career that was open to criticism, 
and a pedantic consistency was never a feature of his 
political character ; but it would not be easy to find in the 
records of modern statesmanship a life devoted with more 
passion and disinterestedness to the public service, a more 
ceaseless industry continued to the last day of life, or a 
more abiding enthusiasm for a fundamental political faith. 

That faith had certain fixed and unalterable points. 
He loved his country with the warmth of a singularly rich 
and generous nature. He loved it for the fine things it 
had done for the enlargement of human liberty, and he would 
not suffer it to fall below the standards of its own high 
past. By instinct and by training alike, he had a profound 
reverence for justice, and in all his long and often tempestu- 
ous career it is not easy to point to any incident in which 
he allowed any inferior consideration, whether personal 
or public, to influence his sense of right. He believed that 


England was a great country and could not afford to do 
mean things. No doubt he was sometimes on the wrong 
side, but, as was said of another, he was never on the 
side of wrong. The governing motive that is visible through- 
out his public action was the desire for a kindly world, and 
the chief function of statesmanship, as he conceived it, 
was to make that ideal attainable. In his own day he was 
sometimes supposed to be excessive in his fervour for peace, 
but in the light of the experience that has befallen the world 
since his death this accusation will not lie heavy upon his 

But the record of Harcourt's career is not only valuable 
for the light it throws on his own character and motives. 
It is no less valuable for the revelation of a high tradition of 
statesmanship that may profitably be studied at a time 
when statesmanship has become so deeply discredited. 
He was, perhaps before everything else, a great member of 
Parliament. He loved the parliamentary institution, 
regarded it as the most authentic expression of the English 
spirit, and served it with an unselfish loyalty and an unques- 
tioning obedience to its traditions that have become an 
outworn creed. If Parliament has fallen into disrepute 
and has largely ceased to command the public confidence, 
the fact is in no small degree due to the loss in high places 
of that reverence for its dignity, its decency and its con- 
stitutional rights to which Harcourt was so conspicuous 
a witness. 

In the preparation of this record of his life I have to 
make acknowledgment of my great debt to the labours 
of the late Viscount Harcourt. It is a source of deep 
regret that he did not live to see the completion of the work, 
the accomplishment of which was the chief interest of his 
later years. The pages that follow bear ample witness to 
his devotion to his father in life, and in a very real sense 
this book is a memorial of his devotion to his memory. 
The principal occupation of his life in the years following 
his retirement from office was the accumulation and arrange- 
ment of the vast mass of material bearing upon his father's 


career. This he placed unreservedly at my disposal, and 
it is from these voluminous resources, thousands of official 
documents, private memoranda, contemporary criticisms 
and newspaper cuttings and tens of thousands of letters, 
that this record has been compiled. Especially valuable for 
the light it threw on the more intimate and obscure phases 
of the story was the Journal which Lord Harcourt, 
when private secretary to his father, kept during the years 
1881-5 and 1892-5. From this I have made frequent 
quotation, and to it I have made still more frequent refer- 
ence, the unusual relations of the two men giving it something 
of the authority of a personal record of events by Harcourt 
himself. Lord Harcourt lived to see the first volume written 
and gave me the benefit of his criticisms of that portion 
of the work. After his death his interest in the matter was 
committed to the keeping of his literary executors, Vis- 
count Esher and Lord Buckmaster, to whom I am 
indebted for much valuable advice and suggestion. The 
task has also been greatly facilitated by the help of Miss 
Philip, the private secretary of the late Lord Harcourt. 
My thanks are due to Lady Harcourt, the widow of Sir 
William, for many reminiscences bearing upon the social 
and domestic events of his life, and to the numerous 
correspondents of Harcourt (or their executors) for per- 
mission to quote from their letters. In this connection 
special reference is due to His Majesty the King who has 
graciously consented to the liberal use of letters from 
Queen Victoria and King Edward VII to Harcourt ; and 
to Viscount Morley for allowing me the utmost latitude 
to draw upon his correspondence with Harcourt much 
the most important correspondence of the latter's later 
life. Finally, I have to acknowledge with special warmth 
my indebtedness to the labours of Miss Margaret Bryant 
without whose assistance in tunnelling through the mountain 
of documents in which the record of Harcourt 's career 
was buried I fear I should never have emerged into the 
daylight of publication. 








VII " HISTORICUS " . . . . . . . 125 

VIII THE LAWYER ....... 149 

IX IN PARLIAMENT . . . . . . .174 



XII IN OFFICE ........ 241 







XIX PHCENIX PARK ....... 420 





XXI THE " HEAD DETECTIVE " . . . . 469 










SHOWS ....... 607 


After a pencil drawing by G. F. Watts, in the 
possession of Lady Har court. 





. 88 

After a miniature by C. Couzens, now at Nuneham. 
" A OUTRANGE ! " . . . . . . . . 


After a cartoon by J. Tenniel, reproduced by kind per- 
mission of the proprietors of " Punch." 




Archbishop Harcourt Origin of the Harcourt Family Lord 
Chancellor Harcourt Poets and Wits of the Eighteenth 
Century at Nuneham The Archbishop's Family Lady 
Waldegrave Canon Harcourt. 

VERNON, known throughout his long life 
as William Vernon Harcourt, was born on 
October 14, 1827. The place of his birth is uncertain. 
His father, the Rev. William Vernon, was at that time 
Rector of Wheldrake in Yorkshire and Canon of York, 
and the family occupied both the Rectory at Wheldrake and 
the Residence at York. It was at one or other of these 
homes that the future Chancellor of the Exchequer first 
saw the light, and the fact that his father was the Canon in 
residence at the time of his son's birth is strong evidence 
in favour of York. The atmosphere into which he 
was born was patrician and ecclesiastical. His mother, 
Matilda Mary, daughter of Colonel William Gooch, was 
a granddaughter of Sir Thomas Gooch, who was in 
turn Bishop of Bristol, of Norwich, and of Ely, and at 
the palace of Bishopthorpe his grandfather on the paternal 
side, Edward Venables Vernon, was in the midst of his 
long tenure of the archbishopric of York, which he occupied 
from 1807 till his death in his ninety-first year in 1847. 

It is the fortune of few men to live a life so prolonged, so 
prosperous, and so uniformly happy as that enjoyed by 
this amiable man. The son of George, first Lord Vernon, 
Baron of Kinderton, by his third wife, sister of Simon, first 

1 B 


Earl Harcourt, he was born in 1757, in the midst of that 
period of national adventure when the genius of the first 
William Pitt was annihilating France by sea and land 
and when, as Horace Walpole humorously remarked, men 
used to ask on waking what new regions had been added 
during the night to the British dominion. At an early age 
the future Archbishop was sent to Westminster School, 
whither he journeyed from his home at Sudbury in Derby- 
shire, a distance of 133 miles, on horseback, followed by 
his mounted groom with saddlebags. From Westminster 
in due course he proceeded to Christ Church, Oxford, and, 
having graduated and toured the Continent, he entered 
holy orders, and became incumbent of the family living at 
Sudbury, Prebendary of Gloucester by the gift of the Duke 
of Portland, and a little later it was the comfortable day of 
pluralities a canon of Christ Church. In 1784 he married 
Lady Anne Leveson-Gower, third daughter of Granville, 
Earl Gower, first Marquess of Stafford, by Louisa, daughter 
of the first Duke of Bridgwater. From this marriage 
sprang a family of sixteen children, eleven sons and five 
daughters, fourteen of whom lived to maturity. 

Endowed with adequate intellectual gifts, a distinguished 
bearing, high character, and powerful connections, Vernon's 
path in the Church was assured. In 1791, at the age of 
thirty-four, he was appointed by William Pitt to the see 
of Carlisle, which he retained until 1807, when the Duke of 
Portland, then Prime Minister, promoted him to the arch- 
bishopric of York, which he held to his death forty years 
later. His life was filled with grave and various activities. 
He toured his diocese in carriage-and-four in pursuit of his 
episcopal functions, played a conspicuous part in the House 
of Lords, and in later years, when the Harcourt estates had 
fallen to him, spent much of his time in Oxfordshire in per- 
forming the duties of a great landowner. He was an uncom- 
promising Church and State man, and his general political 
and religious attitude is illustrated by his opposition in the 
House of Lords to the cause of Catholic emancipation. In 
the great ceremonial events and dignified duties of his day 


he took a distinguished part, serving on the Queen's Council 
during the illness of George III, preaching the sermon at 
the coronation of George IV, and assisting at the coronation 
and the marriage of Queen Victoria. It was to him, as a 
member of the Queen's Council, that George III complained 
that he was not given cherry tart often enough. But though 
courtly and a courtier, he was no sycophant, and, in con- 
nection with the trial of Queen Caroline, voted against the 
divorce clause in the ministerial Bill of Pains and Penalties 
as a protest against the notorious irregularities of George 
IV, an offence which caused the King to turn his back on 
him at the next Iev6e. In the midst of his multifarious 
public duties, the Archbishop found time for the exercise 
of that domestic affection which is a tradition of the family, 
and his abundant correspondence with his numerous children 
reveals a mind of much sweetness and sympathy. 


It was in June 1830, when the Archbishop was seventy- 
three and his grandson, the subject of this memoir, was in 
his third year, that the family name was changed. The 
death of William, third Earl Harcourt, left the Archbishop, 
as the great-grandson of Lord Chancellor Harcourt, the 
inheritor of his estate, and the assumption of the family 
name was a condition of the succession. It was a succession 
to an illustrious inheritance, which had accrued to the 
family in the course of seven centuries. At the end of the 
twelfth century Robert de Harcourt married Isabel de 
Camville, who brought him the Oxfordshire manor of 
Stanton as a marriage portion. Isabel had inherited from 
her mother Millicent, a cousin of Queen Adeliza, second 
wife of Henry I, who had herself received the lordship of 
Stanton as a marriage gift from the Queen. Since that 
time Stanton Harcourt has remained in the possession of 
the Harcourt family without a break. 

The genealogists trace the descent of the lords of Stanton 
Harcourt back to a certain Bernard, a Saxon who is said to 
have obtained in 876, at the time of Rollo's invasion, the 


lordships of Harcourt, Cailleville and Beauficel in Normandy 
and to have founded the French noble family of Harcourt. 
Bernard is sometimes described as " the Dane." His 
youngest son, Anchetil, took the surname of Harcourt, and 
Anchetil's eldest son Anguerraud de Harcourt accompanied 
William of Normandy in his invasion of England. Robert, 
the second son, built the castle of Harcourt in Normandy 
in 1 100, and his grandson Ivo, who inherited the English 
estates of the Harcourts, is regarded as the founder of the 
English family. From the time of the acquisition of Stanton 
Harcourt the family historian is on firmer ground. A long 
succession of Harcourts, allying themselves by marriage 
with other landed families and from time to time acquiring 
fresh property, appear in the records of their times. The 
Sir Robert Harcourt who bore the standard of Henry VII 
on Bosworth Field received from the King in 1501 the 
stewardship of the manors and lordships of Ewelme, Tackley, 
Swyncombe, Lewknor, Newnham, Swerford, etc. 

Some of the Harcourt estates were dissipated by the 
adventurous Robert Harcourt, whose relation of a Voyage 
to Guiana (1613) in the reign of James I figures in Purchas 
his Pilgrimes. He built and fitted out at his own expense 
three vessels, the Rose of 80 tons, the Patience, a pinnace of 
36 tons, and a shallop of 9 tons called the Lily, with 
which he sailed to the New World in 1609. Doubtless 
partly on that account he sold the manors of Ellenhall, 
Staffs, and Wytham, Berks, which had been in the possession 
of the family since the reign of King John. It is related 
that when he found the sale of Ellenhall insufficient to meet 
his needs he said, " Let loose a pigeon," adding that he 
would sell the land over which the pigeon flew. The pigeon 
circled round the Wytham estate, now the property of the 
Earl of Abingdon. To Harcourt himself the expedition 
brought some fame, and apparently considerable financial 
loss, for his son Simon succeeded to a very impoverished 
estate. He sought to mend matters by serving in various 
campaigns as a soldier of fortune, fighting in the Low 
Countries under his uncle Horace, Lord Vere, when he was 


sixteen, and spending another twenty years campaigning 
mostly in the service of the Prince of Orange. He took 
part in the Scottish operations of 1639-40, and in 1641 he 
was sent to Dublin with a regiment of 1200 foot, and was 
designated Governor of Dublin " much to the comfort of 
the Protestants and terror of the rebels," says his chronicler. 
He was mortally wounded next year when attacking Castle 
Kilgobbin, Co. Dublin. 

It was his grandson, also named Simon, Solicitor-General 
and then Attorney-General under Queen Anne, Lord Keeper, 
and in the last year of the Queen's reign Lord Chancellor, 
who became the first Lord Harcourt and restored the family 
fortunes, which had been reduced to a very low ebb during 
the three preceding generations. His father, Sir Philip 
Harcourt, had refused to recognize the Commonwealth and 
suffered accordingly, and his stepmother, nee Elizabeth Lee 
(ancestress of the Harcourts of Anckerwyke), who had held 
Stanton Harcourt for life, had allowed the place to go to 
ruin. Simon, when he had become prosperous, bought 
Nuneham Courtenay from the family of Wemyss in 1710, 
and resided there from time to time, but he lived principally 
at Cokethorpe, about 2^ miles from Stanton Harcourt, the 
old manor house at Nuneham being small. Like his father 
he stood by the Stuarts, though not without vacillations 
which won for him from Swift the name of " Trimming 
Harcourt." There is no evidence that he was definitely 
Jacobite as his enemies alleged. His opinions account for 
his making little headway under William and Mary, but his 
preferment was rapid under Queen Anne, who raised him 
to the peerage in 1711 with the title of Baron Harcourt of 
Stanton Harcourt. This was in the year after his defence 
of Sacheverell, which raised him high in the Queen's favour. 
" We had yesterday," writes a contemporary of Harcourt's 
speech, " the noblest entertainment that ever audience had 
from your friend Sir Simon Harcourt. He spoke with 
such exactness, such force, such decency, such dexterity, so 
neat a way of commending and reflecting as he had occasion, 
such strength of argument, such a winning persuasion, such 


an insinuation into the passions of his auditors as I never 
heard. . . . His speech was universally applauded by 
enemies as well as friends." The silver salver which Sach- 
everell presented to his defender is still preserved at Nuneham. 
With the advent of George I Harcourt surrendered the 
great seal, and spent some years in retirement, cultivating 
the muses and the acquaintance of the wits of his time who 
were the familiar associates of his son Simon, a man of 
unusual gifts who died before his father. Pope, Prior, Gay 
and Swift were frequent guests at Cokethorpe, and a portrait 
of Pope commissioned by Harcourt from Kneller hangs at 
Nuneham. That the Lord Chancellor was an agreeable 
companion there is evidence from Pope himself, to whom 
Harcourt had in 1718 lent the deserted remnant of the 
house at Stanton Harcourt to provide him with a quiet 
retreat while he was engaged on his translation of Homer. 
Writing to Caryll from Stanton Harcourt, Pope says : 

I was necessitated to come to continue my translation of Homer, 
for at my own house I have no peace from visitants. . . . Here, 
except this day that I spend at Oxford, I am quite in a desert in- 
cognito from my very neighbours, by the help of a noble lord who 
has consigned a lone house to me for this very purpose. I could 
not lie at his own, for the very reason I do not go to Grinstead, 
because I love his company too well to mind anything else when 
it is in my way to enjoy that. 

On the death in 1727 of the Lord Chancellor who, having 
allied himself with Sir Robert Walpole, had been made a 
viscount in 1721 and re-admitted to the Privy Council in 
the following year, the title and estates passed to his grand- 
son, Simon, who became first Earl Harcourt of Stanton 
Harcourt and Viscount Nuneham of Nuneham Courtenay 
in 1749. His sister, Martha, married the first Lord Vernon, 
and was the great-grandmother of Sir William Harcourt. 
It was probably with a certain sense of gratitude, as well as 
from sympathy of taste, that Sir William was accustomed to 
declare himself " an eighteenth century man," for that 
century was the golden age of the Harcourt story, and the 
treasures of Nuneham are richest in the memorials of the 
Court associations of that time. 


The first Earl Harcourt was governor to the Prince of 
Wales, afterwards George III, was for a short time British 
ambassador in Paris, and for five years Lord Lieutenant of 
Ireland. There seems to be no reason for Walpole's gibe 
that he was " civil and sheepish " and could not teach the 
Prince " other arts than what he knew himself, hunting and 
drinking." As a matter of fact, he and his fellow-governor, 
the Bishop of Norwich, were so badly treated by the Dowager 
Princess of Wales, who thought that " books and logic were 
no use to princes," that they resigned. Lord Harcourt was 
sent to Germany in 1761 to marry by proxy and to bring to 
England the King's bride, Princess Charlotte Sophia of 
Mecklenburgh. The marriages of British royalties with 
scions of minor German royal houses were apparently no 
more popular in those than in later times, for Horace Walpole 
wrote that " Lord Harcourt is to be at the court of the 
Princess of Mecklenberg, if he can find it." Harcourt held 
many court appointments, and eventually (1772) became 
Viceroy of Ireland, not with much credit, for during his five 
years of office the system of corruption which he found 
flourishing when he arrived was not diminished. He 
resigned on January 25, 1777, in consequence of a disagree- 
ment with the military authorities, and retired to Nuneham. 
Here in 1755 he had begun building operations on the Italian 
villa which was to supersede the old manor house. For 
that purpose stone was brought by the river from Stanton 
Harcourt. The plans, which gave, as so often in eighteenth 
century architecture, splendid state rooms, but poor accom- 
modation for sleeping and for the necessary domestic offices, 
proved quite inadequate. Many alterations and additions 
followed, the house only being completed in 1833 by Arch- 
bishop Harcourt, who built an entirely new wing, terraces, 
parapets, and various outbuildings. 

It was at Nuneham that the Earl died under tragic circum- 
stances in September 1777. Horace Walpole, who, as we 
have seen, did not love him, relates the incident character- 
istically in a letter to William Mason : 

September 18, 1777. An amazing piece of news^that I have this 


moment received from town. The dinner bell had rung where ? 
at Nuneham. The Earl did not appear. After much search, he 
was found standing on his head in a well, a dear little favourite dog 
on his legs, his stick and one of his gloves lying near. My letter 
does not say whether he had dropped the other. In short, I know 
no more. . . . 

And in a letter of the same date to Sir Horace Mann : 

It is concluded that the dog had fallen in, and that the Earl, in 
trying to extricate him, had lost his poise and tumbled in too. It 
is an odd exit for the Governor of a King, Ambassador and Viceroy. 

But though Walpole did not like the deceased Earl he 
was deeply attached for so incurable a cynic to the new 
Earl, and writing to Mason again three days later he says : 

September 21, 1777. I fear I was a little indelicate about Lord 
Harcourt's death, but I am so much more glad, when I am glad, 
than I am sorry, when I am not, that I forgot the horror of the 
father's exit in my satisfaction at the son's succession. ... I am 
sure Lord Nuneham will have been exceedingly shocked ; he is all 
good nature, and was an excellent son, and deserves a fonder father. 

Walpole's affection for the new Earl extended to the 
new Earl's wife. He had married his cousin, Elizabeth 
Vernon, a sister of the future Archbishop, a woman of 
unusual graces of person and mind whose memoirs of her 
life at Court as Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Charlotte, 
and whose correspondence with the royal princesses, together 
with the series of letters addressed to her by Mrs. Siddons, 
are preserved in the privately printed Har court Papers. 
" She writes with ease and sense, and some poetry," said 
Walpole of her in a letter to the Countess of Upper Ossory, 
" but is as afraid of the character as if it was a sin to make 
verses." She and her husband, as Lord and Lady Nuneham, 
had done much to make Nuneham a literary and artistic 
centre of the time, and had entertained there Walpole, 
Mason, Whitehead, Mrs. Clive, the actress, Mrs. Siddons and 
other celebrities. While the lady wrote verses, her husband 
etched and collected etchings. On the latter subject there 
is preserved a correspondence with J. J. Rousseau, with 
whom he had become acquainted in Paris and whose portrait, 
given to him by Rousseau himself, is at Nuneham together 


with Rousseau's pocket book, his pocket Tasso and other 
personal gifts. ' You have gone beyond what I have ever 
seen in etching," wrote Walpole to Lord Nuneham in 1763. 
" I must beg for the white paper edition too, as I shall frame 
the brown, and bind the rest of your lordship's works 
together." But the friendship of Walpole cooled when the 
new Earl and Countess modified the position they had 
hitherto taken up with regard to royalty and became mem- 
bers of the innermost court circle. Whatever the cause of 
the reconciliation between the Court and the Harcourts 
there was no doubt about its warmth when it had been 
accomplished. The King pressed the Spanish Embassy 
upon Lord Harcourt, and Lady Harcourt became Lady of 
the Bedchamber to Queen Charlotte. Later the Earl was 
made Master of the Horse, and while the intimacy with the 
Court continued the King and Queen, with the Princesses, 
paid frequent visits to Nuneham. 

In 1806 the Earl, confronted with the necessity of paying 
62,000 out of his estate as fortune for his brother and sister, 
sold Pipewell Abbey.. On his death, three years later, he 
was, being childless, succeeded by his brother, General 
William Harcourt (1743-1830). He also being childless, 
his wife urged the disposal of the property to the French 
Harcourts, many of whom had been refugees in England 
after the French Revolution, and the meeting with whom is 
recorded in the Harcourt Papers (vol. xi). The third Earl 
is best remembered by an incident in the American War of 
Independence. He was then serving in the British Army, 
and performed the remarkable feat of capturing an American 
General, Charles Lee, in his own quarters " almost in sight 
of his army " to use Harcourt's words to his father in the 
course of a scouting expedition. 

General and Mrs. Harcourt spent the years 1792 to 1795 
on the Continent, the General serving under the Duke of 
York in the disastrous campaign in Flanders in 1793-4 and 
succeeding to the Command when the Duke returned to 
England. On the accession of George IV the General, 
now Earl Harcourt, was made a field marshal, and he and 


his wife were as intimate with the royal family as their 
predecessors had been with the family of George III, Lady 
Harcourt having, among other duties, a commission to 
attend the unfortunate Princess Caroline of Brunswick on 
her wedding journey to England. 

With the death of the third Earl in 1830, the title became 
extinct, and the estates reverted as we have seen to Arch- 
bishop Vernon, as the descendant of Martha Harcourt, wife 
of Lord Vernon and daughter of Lord Chancellor Harcourt. 
Like the Harcourts, the Vernons were Norman in origin. 
They derived from a William de Vernon, who was lord of 
the town of Vernon in Normandy in 1052, and was the 
father of two sons who came over with the Conqueror. 

It was a time-honoured jest of Sir William Harcourt's 
political opponents to twit him on his Plantagenet descent. 
The point of the jest was a little obscure, for a Plantagenet 
descent was a character he shared with many of the con- 
temporary aristocracy and with many more who were 
outside the pale of the aristocracy. The royal element in 
his ancestry came from his grandmother, the wife of the 
Archbishop. Lady Anne was, through her mother, Lady 
Louisa Egerton, heiress to the Bridgwater estates, which 
were entailed on her heirs male. Through the Bridgwaters 
and the Derbys her descent is traced back to Lady Margaret 
Clifford, who in 1555 married the fourth Earl of Derby. 
This lady was a great-granddaughter of Henry VII, her 
grandmother being Henry's daughter, Princess Mary of 
England and Queen Dowager of France, who married, as 
her second husband, Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk. 
Through their mother the Archbishop's children were 
furnished with an enormous family connection with the 
Sutherlands, the Carlisles, the Macdonalds and others. 
Canon Harcourt, the father of Sir William, mentions, in 
one of his letters, " the 78 cousins Louisa and I counted 
up the other day." 

To this prolific circle few can have contributed more 
handsomely than the Archbishop and Lady Anne. Even 
in days when large families were the rule rather than the 


exception their abundant children were the subject of 
respectful and good-humoured comment. When Edward 
Vernon was appointed to the bishopric of Carlisle by Pitt, 
Dr. Hinchcliffe, Bishop of Peterborough, wrote to con- 
gratulate him on not being deprived of his other preferments, 
the living of Sudbury and the canonry of Christ Church. 
" The habits of life which a Bishop must adopt," he said, 
" besides that you are in of getting a child annually, cannot 
be maintained under two or three and twenty hundred 
pounds a year, and if you preserve your form ten or a dozen 
years longer, half your bishopric will go in breeches and 

That the problem of " breeches and shoes " mixed itself 
up with graver pre-occupations is shown by a letter which 
the Archbishop wrote in 1823 to Charles Vernon, his ninth 
son, then Rector of Rothbury, and afterwards Canon of 
Carlisle. Charles had many fine qualities, but a genius for 
finance was not one of them, and in the following gentle 
rebuke there is evidence that the 100 bank bill enclosed 
was not by any means the first incident of the kind : 

Archbishop Vernon to his son Charles. 

YORK, July 31, 1823. MY DEAR CHARLES. I send you a Bank 
Post Bill for one hundred pounds, which the Bankers, either at 
Newcastle or Alnwick, will exchange for you into smaller Bank or 
County notes. I am well aware that you have not the great prin- 
ciples of character requisite for forming a good Economist, I mean 
activity and method, but I earnestly exhort you to endeavour to 
acquire them for your own comfort and credit's sake. You are 
mistaken in supposing that everything was so much cheaper when 
I became Rector of Sudbury than when you succeeded to Rothbury. 
In 1782, when I commenced my Sudbury Residence, meat of all 
kinds, and corn, were dearer than in 1822. The articles supplied 
by the Oilman, the Tallow Chandler, and the Grocer, were as dear ; 
in fact, I could not afford to buy either the superfine Green or Bohea 
Teas. In Coffee I did not indulge myself, but had about six pounds 
annually for my more particular Company, at an expense of about 
thirty shillings ; but, then, recollect that, out of my 500 per annum, 
I had to pay for every individual article of my furniture (for I found 
only bare walls), for my Linen, Plate, China, and Wine. Of course 
I could not do this in one year, but I did it by instalments, out of 
the receipts of three years. 


By strict and methodical economy I have successfully struggled 
with very many pecuniary difficulties. In the first place I began 
by denying myself whatever I did not really want, and I made a 
point of entering regularly, in an account book, whatever I expended, 
and of settling monthly all my minor bills for meat, flour, common 
country groceries, etc. ; and ever since I was delivered from the 
weight of my first setting out in furnishing, etc., etc., I have invariably 
settled my annual bills on the ist of January, or as soon after as I 
could get them in. This has placed me in the situation of inde- 
pendence, and of being able to provide for the necessities of my 
numerous family, and will, I trust, under the blessing of God, enable 
me to contribute further to their comfort at my death. You have now 
my secret on this most important subject ; whether you will profit by 
it remains to be seen. . . . Ever very affectionately yours, F. EBOR. 

The Archbishop's eldest son, George Granville Harcourt, 
who became master of Nuneham on his father's death in 
1847, married, as his second wife, the famous and brilliant 
Lady Waldegrave. She was a daughter of John Braham, 
the great tenor singer, and at the time of this her third 
marriage was twenty-six years of age. Harcourt. was then 
a widower of sixty-two, and was Peelite M.P. for Oxford- 
shire. Lady Waldegrave, who from her second husband 
inherited Strawberry Hill and other estates, lived much 
at Nuneham, which under her sway was the scene of great 
social and political activity. Lady Harcourt, Sir William's 
widow, recounts a tradition that the Archbishop, who had 
been greatly dominated and led into great expense by the 
charms of Lady Elizabeth Harcourt, was less pleased at the 
thought of George Harcourt's second marriage and when 
showing the beauties of the place to friends would say : 
" To think that all this will go to a Jewess ! " The " Jew- 
ess," however, with her strong character, spirits, audacity, 
power over men, generous instincts and real kindness was 
destined to play a role in the social life at Nuneham more 
conspicuous even than that of her predecessor. " She said 
to me once," writes Lady Harcourt, " ' I never cared for 
Nuneham unless it was full of people,' and judging from 
the traditions in the house of the rooms in which guests 
were asked and expected to sleep, very full, not to say 
uncomfortable, it must often have been. Mr. Charles 


Villiers told me once that at this time of Lady Waldegrave's 
third marriage a Frenchwoman, who was her companion, 
advised her to marry Mr. Harcourt as she had enquired and 
found out that as eldest son he would inherit the Arch- 

Some years before George Harcourt died she opened and 
restored the house at Strawberry Hill, and after his death in 
1861, when his brother, Canon William Harcourt, succeeded 
to the Harcourt estates, it became her principal residence. 
Two years later she married as her fourth husband Mr. 
Chichester Fortescue (afterwards Lord Carlingford), and 
henceforward Strawberry Hill and 7, Carlton Gardens, 
became active centres of the Liberal Party, where the due 
d'Aumale, Bishop Wilberforce, Lords Grey and Clarendon 
were among the older habitues and William Harcourt, her 
nephew through her third marriage, the most conspicuous 
of the younger men, who included Julian Fane and Lords 
Dufferin, Ampthill and Alcester. There is an interesting 
glimpse of this brilliant woman in Sir W. Gregory's Remin- 
iscences when, referring to Gladstone's Irish Church Bill in 
1869, he says : 

I had almost made up my mind to move an amendment to the 
Bill, but I was dissuaded by Lady Waldegrave, with whom for the 
last few years I had contracted a strong friendship, and whose 
advice much influenced me in every action of my life. She was a 
most remarkable woman, one of the most remarkable I have ever 
known. She was very pretty as a girl, and married first Mr. 
Waldegrave, and then his brother Lord Waldegrave, who was one 
of the most debauched, drunken rowdies of his time. A year of 
her married life she passed with him in Newgate. . . . He shortly 
afterwards died of dissipation, leaving her a title and fine income 
in fact, everything he had and she married, thirdly, a very different 
man, Mr. Harcourt, who was all that was respectable. She was an 
excellent wife to him, and neither during her married life with him, 
nor previously, in spite of the bad company into which she was 
thrown and the temptations to which she was exposed, was there 
ever a whisper of disparagement on her character. No great lady 
held her head higher, or more vigorously ruled her society. Her 
house was always gay, and her parties at Nuneham were the liveliest 
of her time, but she never suffered the slightest indecorum, nor 
tolerated improprieties, 


It was on the death of Lady Waldegrave's third husband 
and her consequent removal from Nuneham that Canon 
William Harcourt (1789-1871), the Archbishop's fourth son 
and father of Sir William Harcourt, succeeded to the family 
estates. He had been born while his father was still rector 
of Sudbury, and he entered the Navy as a midshipman, 
not with any predilection for the career, but because two 
of his elder brothers desired to take orders and presumably 
his father's finances did not permit at the moment of a long 
professional preparation for a third. He was the most 
precocious and remarkable of the Archbishop's children, 
and at the age of nine was criticizing quantities in his 
brother's Latin verses and turning these verses into excellent 
English. At twelve, when he set out for the sea, he visited 
the House of Commons, remaining from four o'clock in the 
afternoon until three in the morning, and he wrote to his 
father expressing the greatest satisfaction at having heard 
Mr. Fox, Mr. Pitt and Mr. Wyndham and his delight at 
" the amazing elegance and happiness " of Wyndham's 
speech. On board H.M. Theseus at Spithead, the little 
middy, writing to his parents, says he " falls every now and 
then into fits of melancholy, which owe their origin to my 
thinking too much of what I have left and comparing it, 
too, too narrowly with my present situation." There was 
no long preparation for the young seaman in those rude 
days, and he sailed forthwith in his ship to the West Indies, 
where he served five years. 

But, on his brother Edward's death, his father, now 
Bishop of Carlisle, wrote to his captain suggesting that 
unless William had acquired an affection for the Navy he 
might return home to go into the Church. The youth 
accordingly left the Navy, and went to Christ Church, 
Oxford. Having graduated, he was ordained in 1814, and 
became chaplain to his father (now Archbishop) and vicar of 
Bishopthorpe, subsequently becoming rector of Wheldrake, 
a village 6 miles from York, a canon residentiary of York 
and finally rector of Bolton Percy, where he remained until 
his succession to the Nuneham estates on the death of his 


brother in 1861. Mrs. Harcourt, who was, her daughter- 
in-law relates, " full of executive ability and kindness," 
directed the management of house, garden and estate. 
" The task," she writes, " must have been somewhat sim- 
plified by the fact that the estate then yielded a sufficient 
income for its maintenance. As the house was often filled 
to overflowing she suggested to my husband, then alone in 
the world with one delicate little boy, that they should live 
when he liked at the house in the Park now occupied by the 

It is, however, as a scientist rather than as a clergyman 
that the Canon is remembered. At Oxford his friendship 
with Dr. John Kidd led him to take up science, especially 
chemistry, and his passion for this subject remained to the 
end the dominant interest of his life. He found time in his 
quiet parish to pursue a series of experiments on the advice 
of Dr. Wollaston and Sir Humphry Davy, founded the 
Science Museum in York, became the first president of the 
Yorkshire Philosophical Society and in 1824, the year of his 
marriage, was elected a fellow of the Royal Society. It is 
as the chief inspirer and founder of the British Association 
that his memory in the world of science is most secure. 
He organized the first meeting of the Association held at 
York in September 1831, framed, with the assistance of Sir 
David Brewster, Sir Roderick Murchison and Professor 
Phillips, the plan of its proceedings and the laws governing 
the new institution, was appointed its general secretary, 
and in 1839 filled the office of president. The subject of 
his address was the history of the composition of water. 
He supported the claims of Cavendish to the discovery by 
original documents, and resolutely sustained the title of 
science to entire freedom of inquiry. Another subject to 
which Canon Harcourt devoted himself was the effect of 
heat on inorganic compounds, but his chief study for forty 
years was directed to the conditions of transparency in glass, 
his main purpose being to acquire glasses of definite and 
mutually compensative dispersions so as to make perfectly 
achromatic combinations. During the last years of this 


work he was assisted by Professor (afterwards Sir Gabriel) 
Stokes. Among his other public services he was responsible 
for the foundation of the Yorkshire School for the Blind 
and the Castle Howard Reformatory. His extensive corre- 
spondence, printed in the Harcourt Papers (volumes xiii and 
xiv), was chiefly carried on with his scientific friends, but 
his character, tastes and outlook upon life may be indicated 
by passages from typical letters addressed to his son William 
when the latter was at Cambridge : 

February 26, 1849. ... If I were you I would enter life as a 
wooer of the comic rather than the tragic muse ; it is not every man 
that is born, like that prodigy the younger Pitt, as " Jupiter tonans " 
or rather as the Minerva who sprung in full armour out of his head. 
Do not let the undoubting confidence, which you have to excess in 
your own first convictions on the most complicated subjects, lead 
you to confound your own ardour and power of language with his 
most precocious talent for the acquisition of accurate knowledge, his 
intuitive poetical sagacity, and power of grasping beforehand that 
which ordinary men gain by long processes of corrective experi- 
ence. ... As for you, my dear Willy, you ivrite, I believe, more 
discreetly and temperately than you sometimes converse, but have 
a care ; keep quiet, learn as accurately as you can the statistics of 
the world and of England ; study its constitution and law with that 
of nations ; in party politics tread lightly and warily, keeping a 
conscience for every real point of conscience. 

December 12, 1849. . . . Your view of these matters, to judge 
from your letter, seems to be that impulse should determine the 
fact ; mine is that the fact should decide the impulse. I enquire 
first Did Herod murder the children of Bethlehem ? A venerable 
writer, in whom I have reason to place confidence, affirms that he 
did. There is no affirmation to the contrary. The fact agrees with 
the jealousy and the cruelty of his conduct as recorded by other 
writers. This fact however is unnoticed by Josephus ; but then 
Josephus passes by many other facts, and in particular all that 
relate to the -history of Christ. If I still doubt the fact, I do not 
denounce it ; if I think it true, I know the horror which it inspires 
in those who are of my opinion, and I do not think I should add to 
it by calling Herod a brute and a villain, still less by declaring that 
had I been a Jew, I would have put him to death with my own 
hand. That your impulses are good I rejoice ; that they lead you 
into blameable excesses of expression, I know ; but I trust in God 
that they will never lead you into violent acts of fanaticism. Learn, 
my dear boy, to be in nothing, least of all in religion, the mere 
creature of imagination and impulse. You have not travelled over 


my library if you have not observed in it the works of Spinoza and 
Bayle and Toland, and Woolston, and Middleton, and Socinus, and 
if you had ever travelled over my mind, you would know that the 
reasonings of deists, pantheists, and atheists from Epicuraeus down 
to Blanco White, are not only as familiar to me, but have been 
weighed by me, as far as they were not transparent fallacies, with 
as much care and scruple as any on the other side. A sound and 
calm understanding will always profit by looking at its subject on 
all sides. I should have no fear of any one not remaining essentially 
and practically a Christian, who deliberated before he determined, 
taking reason for the natural " candle of the Lord within," and 
" probability as the guide of life " any one I say of sound and calm 
understanding Your man of impulse fits his religion, whatever he 
calls it, to his passions, and too often, like a Fitzgerald or a 
Robespierre, beginning with thoughts of freedom and humanity, ends 
in deeds of crime and blood. For you I am sure the best prayer I 
can offer is, that you may learn to distrust yourself, and to discipline 
your mind by subjecting impulse to reason, and submitting to the 
trammels of common sense. 

(Undated.} We have been much inspirited by your success, 
which has been rather beyond my expectations, and is the more 
agreeable to me from the opinion I hold of the accurate sciences as 
a kind of pruning hook for paring off redundancies and reducing the 
mind to a fit state for bearing real fruit. In the schools of mathe- 
matical and physical philosophy we gain a keener eye for truth, a 
clearer notion of proof, a greater value for reason and a lower esti- 
mate of opinion. Now you are going on to strive with the Athletes 
in a less severe but more various game which includes all the decora- 
tions of the mind, the methods of persuasion, the accumulated 
experience of ages, and in that rivalry I hope for still greater dis- 
tinction for you that you may become hereafter, if your life be spared, 
an useful citizen of this little world of ours on your road to greater 
things, God willing, in a world to come. . . . 

The last ten years of the Canon's life were spent at Nune- 
ham in the now uninterrupted pursuit of his scientific 
interests. He died in 1871, and was succeeded by his elder 
son Edward W. Harcourt, the historian of the family, who 
collated the Harcourt Papers in fourteen volumes. Unlike 
his more famous brother, Edward Harcourt continued the 
Tory traditions of the family, and though he remained on 
affectionate terms with William, he deplored his politics 
and was aggrieved when he became the Liberal candidate 
for Oxford, while he himself was the Conservative candidate 


for Oxfordshire. There is a story that on one occasion at 
the Carlton Club, Sir Thomas Gladstone, the elder brother 
of the Prime Minister, turned to Edward Harcourt and 
sadly remarked : " Mr. Harcourt, you and I have two very 
troublesome brothers . ' ' 

On Edward Harcourt's death in 1891 the Nuneham 
estates which were disentailed by him passed to his only 
son, Aubrey, who spent much of his life in travel. He 
remained unmarried, and on his death in 1904 left 
Nuneham to his uncle, the subject of this memoir. 




Canon Har court's family Schooldays at Southwell Death of 
Louisa Harcourt Much work and little play at Durnford 
Mr. Parr removes with his pupils to Preston Preparation for 
the University. 

ALTHOUGH the family at the Canon's residence at 
York did not rival the heroic dimensions of that of 
the Archbishop at the Palace it was sufficient to 
make what Bishop Hinchcliffe called the problem of 
" breeches and shoes " an important one. William was the 
second son in a family of seven children, two sons and five 
daughters. The eldest son, Edward William, succeeded his 
father in the Nuneham estates in 1871. Of the daughters, 
the eldest, Louisa, died in childhood ; Emily Julia remained 
unmarried, outliving by nine years her brother William, who 
to the end of his life carried on an abundant and affectionate, 
correspondence with her ; Cecilia Caroline married Admiral 
Sir E. Bridges Rice ; Selina Anne became the wife of Sir W. C. 
Morshead and Mary Annabella the wife of George de la Poer 
Beresford, M.P., eldest son of the Archbishop of Armagh. 

William was in his third year when the death of the 
third and last Earl Harcourt brought his branch of the 
family into the Nuneham succession, and changed his name 
from William Vernon to William Harcourt. Thence- 
forward his grandfather divided his time between his archi- 
episcopal duties at York and the administration of his 
estates at Nuneham, the fabric of which he restored and 
enlarged and where he was accustomed to entertain his 
guests, among his visitors in later years being Queen Victoria 



and the Prince Consort. 1 His wife, Lady Anne, did not 
long survive the succession to the new dignities and respon- 
sibilities. She died in 1832, after a married life of forty- 
eight years, and the bereaved Archbishop spent the days of 
his mourning with this son and his grandchildren at the 
rectory at Wheldrake. 

In spite of the abundance of children it was not a gay 
household, for it was conducted on austere principles. 
Recalling Harcourt's childhood, his sister Emily long years 
afterwards said : 

Our earliest life was made for all of us very monotonous, and no 
variety or amusements of any kind provided for us, partly from my 
father's temperament, who saw no necessity for either in his own 
case or in that of any of us, and from my mother's nervousness after 
the death of my sister Louisa, thinking the dull routine of the 
schoolroom the safest thing for us. We never had a holiday. 

We had a very ignorant Swiss governess for twelve years, who 
came when W. V. H. was four years old. He was quite right in 
disliking her at first sight and got up into a tree with a stick to 
defend himself against her, for which my father punished him. I 
believe there was war ever after between her and the two brothers, 
as there was a dark cupboard at the Vicarage at Bishopthorpe in 
which they were shut up and in which they pierced holes with a 
gimlet to get air and light, much to the astonishment of their perse- 
cutor. I suppose this reign to have lasted, so far as they were 
concerned, for two years, as at six years old he (W. V. H.) began to 
ride the 3 miles into York with his brother to be day scholars at 
St. Peter's School. It belonged to the Cathedral and was at its 
East End, close to the Old Residence. The New Residence was 
built by my father and there W. always said he was born, but I 
thought it was at Bishopthorpe. 2 

1 In a letter to her uncle, the King of the Belgians, dated from 
Nuneham, June 15, 1841, Queen Victoria said : " I followed Albert 
here, faithful to my word, and he is gone to Oxford for the whole 
day, to my great grief. And here I am all alone in a strange house, 
with not even Lehzen as a companion, in Albert's absence, but I 
thought she and also Lord Gardner and some gentlemen should 
remain with little Victoria for the first time. But it is rather a 
trial to me." 

8 In a letter to Lord Rosebery (October 18, 1892) announcing 
his return from Malwood to n, Downing Street, Harcourt says : 
" I shall feel a good deal like the ' transient and embarrassed phan- 
tom ' (Lord Goderich), who produced this week sixty-five years ago 
the present Secretary of State for the Colonies (Lord Ripon) in the 
same edifice just at the same time when I was opening my own 
eyes in the Cathedral Close of York." 


There were no holidays for the children and no games. 
William's amusements as a child took the practical form of 
helping his father with his farm accounts, and his mother 
with her bees, for which he provided her with a glass inspec- 
tion hive. As to his behaviour, Emily described it as kind 
to all and always contented. Of his opinions as a child she 
remembered nothing, remarking significantly that whatever 
they were " they were not expressed before my father." 
But his virtues were qualified by occasional escapades such 
as painting the new cow green, escapades " generally 
planned by Eddie, though Willie only had the courage to 
carry them out." On one occasion the two boys planned to 
run away from Bishopthorpe as their mother had gone to 
Scarborough and they were left with their father, who was 
strict about their lessons. Getting a basket of food they 
mounted on their two ponies, inducing one of the Arch- 
bishop's grooms to go with them, but he made them return 
after they had crossed the York race-course. 

When William was eight years of age he was sent to a 
private school at Southwell, near Nottingham, the head- 
master of which was named Fletcher. The choice of the 
school was no doubt dictated by the fact that his uncle, 
Charles Harcourt, was Canon of Southwell at the time. 
Among his contemporaries at the school was Sir Tatton 
Sykes. His letters to his father, whom he addressed as 
" Dearest Pad," show a commendable enthusiasm for his 
studies, a healthy sense of fun and a talkative habit. " I 
have been top of my class for four days," he says in April 
1837, " but on the fifth he took it away because I was talk- 
ing. I am second now. ..." The love of a classical 
quotation which remained with him through life is early 
revealed. " I was glad," he says, " to hear that Lou was 
able to go under the beech trees in her green drawing-room 
like Tityrus. Tityre, tu patulae recubans sub tegmine fagi. 
. . . Do you think that going out makes Lou stronger ? " 
In a letter, written when he was eleven and signed " Your 
affectionate and improving son," we find him wrestling with 
Milton and oppressed with the sense of the unequal conflict. 


" I think, as you say, that Milton is rather too learned for 
me, for some of the passages I have to read over and over 
again before I understand them, so that I do not get on 
very quick with it, and I am afraid it will be a long time 
before I know enough of Greek, Latin and Italian to write 
such verses as Milton's." He is more cheerful at the pro- 
spective visit of a conjuror and the tricks to be expected, 
and when the magician has been describes the event with 
fervour, adding " though I am afraid you will not enjoy my 
account of the conjuring as much as if dear Lou had been 

These and many other references to " dear Lou " relate to 
his eldest sister, Louisa, who was dying of a spinal disease, 
and had been taken by her parents to St. Clare, Isle of 
Wight, which belonged to his uncle, Francis Harcourt. 
Thither from Southwell William journeyed by stage coach 
to spend the summer of 1837 with the family, and one of his 
most vivid early recollections was that of the guard of the 
coach putting his head in at the window and announcing 
that the King (William IV) was dead. His only reminiscence 
of his stay at St. Clare was that of dressing up in armour to 
receive his uncle Francis on his return. From St. Clare the 
family moved with their daughter to Bromley, Kent, to be 
near their trusted physician, Dr. Scott, and it was here that 
Louisa died on January 24, 1839. 


In the meantime Canon Harcourt had been preferred to 
the living of Bolton Percy, and William's days at Southwell 
had come to an end. His father was adverse to the public 
school system and William and his elder brother, Edward, 
were sent to Durnford near Salisbury, where with five other 
boys, the most distinguished of whom in after life was 
Laurence Oliphant, they were the pupils of Canon Parr. 
He rejoiced in the change. They were, he wrote, among " a 
much nicer set of boys than at Southwell and consequently 
much happier, and as we have pleasant companions and 
plenty of liberty we do not much regret our decreased 


quantity of play." He goes on to explain his gratitude to 
his parents for " sending us to this school at your own 
material inconvenience . ' ' The modern boy would not under- 
stand this gratitude, for life at Canon Parr's consisted of 
much work and little play. William describes the school 
day in a letter to his mother : 

DURNFORD, February, 1839. As we get up at half -past six and 
go into school at seven till nine, when we breakfast, then go into 
school till eleven, go out till twelve, come into school till two, have 
dinner, play till half-past three, go into school and do lessons all the 
rest of the day till half-past eight, then go to bed, so that we have 
only two hours play in the day, and as it has been very rainy these 
two days I have not been out for more than half an hour. I fully 
intended to have written yesterday to you, but as I heard the post 
did not go till two I thought we should have some more play than 
one hour before that time. . . . My principal friend here is Owen 
Parr, Mr. Parr's eldest son. 

To this eleven-hour working day was added a Sunday task 
of two chapters of the Greek Testament. The classics, as 
might be expected, occupied the chief place in this strenuous 
study. William describes to his father the text -books he 
is using, and mentions that he is in the middle of the first 
book of the Iliad and is reading concurrently Livy and the 
Hecuba of Euripides. There are few glimpses of Canon Parr, 
but his political predilections are revealed when the boys 
write home triumphantly announcing that when the 
Ministers are turned out the school is to have a whole holiday. 
" We are going to have bonfires and burn them all in effigy." 
Alas, the Government returned, and the Master visited his 
disappointment on the boys by revoking the holiday. But 
the severe regimen of the school had its alleviations. There 
is a long description to his mother of " a fox hunt " in which 
one of the boys is pursued by his fellows, and another of a 
garden which Miss Parr has given him for his own and the 
peculiar joy of which is a " dear little Scotch rose tree." 
He begins his career as a publicist in the modest pages of 
the " Durnford School Magazine." And he has his social 
duties, indicated in a letter to his mother asking her to send 
him a sovereign of his which she has in her care. He has 


broken his fishing line, and " as I put one of the poor little 
children in this village to school I have not enough remaining 
to pay with." The chief event of his stay at Durnford was 
a holiday expedition to Longford Castle which he describes 
in a long descriptive letter to his mother preserved among 
his papers. Meantime the school had grown in numbers to 
twenty-four, not with wholly pleasant results, for some of 
the new boys were mischievous, and we find William lament- 
ing in August that liberty is restricted, no one is allowed 
beyond the gates, fishing is at an end and there is " no half 
holiday on Wednesday." 

The days at Durnford were brief, for in 1840 Mr. Parr was 
appointed Vicar of Preston in Lancashire, and thither he 
took his pupils, among them the two Harcourts. " We do 
not call it a school at Preston as Mr. Parr says we are to 
consider ourselves as on a visit," writes William to his mother. 
But the euphemism implied no relaxation of the curriculum. 
The young visitors at Preston had to work no less industri- 
ously than the young scholars at Durnford had done. " We 
dine at four instead of two, and have luncheon at half-past 
twelve, at which time we go out, and then come in at two and 
read till dinner and then go in till half-past seven, which is 
tea time and then have the rest of the evening to ourselves, 
so that if we do not go out at twelve we can not go out at all." 
The classics still occupy most of the time, and Mrs. Harcourt 
is requested to " tell Papa we have plenty of learning by 
heart. We learn sixteen lines of Virgil every morning and 
then say forty lines of repetition on Saturday." He is 
concerned about the novel theories of a new drawing master. 
" I think his trees niggly as you would say, and he teaches an 
odd doctrine about trees, which is ' draw the shadow first 
and then the outline,' and altogether I do not like him." 
His recreations are infrequent and chiefly intellectual. 
We hear of an occasional walk with Mr. Venn and some 
schoolfellow by the Ribble, in the course of one of which Mr. 
Venn's anecdotes about Oxford were interrupted by a cow 
which charged the group and gave the master a severe blow. 
But games play little or no part in the record. They had an 


insignificant part in the scheme of school life, and Harcourt 
had little taste for them, as may be gathered from a remark 
in one of his letters to his mother. " The order of the day 
was cricket in which I joined for a short time, but finding 
it cold I took a perambulation all over the park." The 
indifference was perhaps more physical than tempera- 
mental, for strange as it will seem to those who were familiar 
with his heroic figure in later years, he was a slim and 
delicate boy. " Give my best love to dear Papa from his 
cartilaginous youth," he says in one of his letters. " William 
is not allowed to play cricket as the doctor thinks that much 
exertion is not good for him," writes Edward to his father. 
" However I do not think he regrets it much, as he was never 
very much devoted to it. He is very great friends with his 
doctor, whom he has found to be an amateur chemist, and 
who has been supplying him with seals, impressions from 
the rings of Egyptian mummies in electro-type." With 
this indifference to sport there was at this time a concern 
about spiritual things unusual enough in a lively boy of 
thirteen. There is a memorandum in his handwriting, 
dated October 16, 1840, which runs as follows : 

I have now just entered on my thirteenth year, and have up to 
this time, I must to my sorrow confess, lived in neglect of Thee, but 
now by the assistance of Thy Holy Spirit do resolve to follow Thee, 
the only God, and to renounce the service of the World, the Flesh 
and the Devil, and the more to strengthen me in this resolution I 
have determined to draw up a solemn dedication of myself to Thee 
which I mean on the return of each Sabbath day to read and ratify 
by Thy Grace. Signed, W. G. V. HARCOURT. 

The Covenant follows, and the document is ratified with 
the sign W. V. H. and a line of inscription on the following 
dates : 

Preston October 18, 1840 

25, 1840 

,, November i, 1840 

8, 1840 

,, ,, 15, 1840 

22, 1840 

,, 29, 1840 

Preston December 6, 1840 

,, ,, 20, 1840 

York ,, 27, 1840 

,, January 3, 1841 

,, 17, 1841 

This course of self-examination seems to have continued 


through half a term and the subsequent holidays. There is 
also a form of confession of sin, and versicles from the 
Communion Service, the latter suggesting that this phase 
was probably associated with his preparation for confirma- 

But it is the intellectual interests of life which furnish the 
material of the abundant correspondence with his parents. 
There is a portentous gravity in his boyish criticisms which 
must have raised a smile on the Canon's face ; but there is 
also an unusual maturity and grasp. Here is a character- 
istic note to his mother about his reading : 

Harcourt to his Mother. 

PRESTON (Undated). . . . According to Papa's advice I began 
to read Horner's Life and found it so interesting that I devoured 
half the volume before it passed from my hands ; there are passages 
in the journalic account of his youthful vagaries which excite a 
smile in the reader as they did the indignation of the author in his 
maturer years ; there is something not English in the preference 
of metaphysical inquiries to more useful studies, this I remember 
was the case with Burke (who was an Irishman) in his younger days, 
but who after a certain course of English naturalization was among 
the first to laugh at his metaphysical Inquiry into the Sublime and 
Beautiful ; Davy also as a boy delighted to dabble in it, a strange 
taste for one versed in experimental philosophy to prefer a study 
in which everything must be conjectured and where no certainty 
can be obtained, where the subtle arguer takes the place of the 
accurate observer. One of Horner's youthful projects was a work 
to parallel in the eighteenth century Lord Bacon's Instauratio 
Magna in the sixteenth, to which is subjoined an amusing note of 
his own some twenty years after the draft of the scheme was made. 
It is difficult sometimes, from the tale being told in his own words, to 
separate one's ideas of his immense industry from the self-reproaches 
of idleness which he heaps on himself in his journal, and it requires 
a little pause to gain a just conception of his close application and 
unwearied perseverance. I have a great deal more to say about 
Mr. Horner, but I am quite astonished at the quantity of nonsense 
which I have already daubed into this note with a pen which is 
split up to the top and which therefore I have no doubt you will not 
be able to read. 

In excusing himself for negligence in writing to his mother, 
he describes himself as being kept " on a continual stretch " 
at Latin and Greek. " We begin at nine and work till two, 


when we dine, we then work again till five, which ends our 
regular lessons. From five we go out till seven, when we have 
tea, and then we have from half-past seven till ten to our- 
selves, every minute of which has for this last fortnight been 
so fully engaged with writing notes on what we have done 
in the day, composing verses, finishing exercises and reading 
history for examination that I have not had a minute to 
spare for anything." There is a record of an occasional 
walk by the river or to the falls of the Darwen, and one 
long and joyous account of an expedition to Bolton Abbey, 
but the main theme throughout is his work the classics he 
is reading, his progress in mathematics, the text-books he 
uses and the merits of the writers of them. There is only 
one reference to politics, but it is enough to show that at 
this stage of his career there was no suspicion of a breach 
with the traditional Toryism of the family. There had been 
a dissolution of Parliament in June 1841, and at the subse- 
quent election Sir P. H. Fleetwood and Sir George Strick- 
land, the Liberal candidates, were returned, whereupon 
Harcourt writes to his parents that " Preston, to its eternal 
disgrace, has returned two Radicals to Parliament." 

But generally the events of the time seem to engage little 
of the attention of a boy who is wholly immersed in his 
studies, and even so stirring an incident as the Bread Riots 
in Preston in 1842, when people were shot down in the streets, 
is left to be recorded by his brother. The latter left Preston 
in the spring of 1843 to prepare for Oxford. He read with 
Charles Conybeare at Filey, and was there joined by William 
who shared in his brother's studies during a holiday of twelve 
weeks. On returning to Preston, he describes the course 
of his studies to his father : 

Harcourt to his Father. 

PRESTON (Undated}. ... I have been reading straight through 
the 23rd book of Livy, a labour sufficiently tedious, as the spirited 
speeches and animated details do not occur often enough to enliven 
the dullness of the regular narrative. I am now finishing the 
Electm of Sophocles, half of which I had read with Conybeare at 
Filey. I have made a few essays at Greek Iambics, and though 
not quite so successful as I could have hoped, I have found that 


Filey Sophoclizing has been of much benefit, and may I trust have 
laid the foundation of great improvement in this particular branch. 
When Owen Parr returns we are to make an attack upon the 
second book of Thucydides, the Orations of Cicero, and the Pro- 
metheus of ^Eschylus, which together with the divers sorts of com- 
position and a certain quotum of mathematics will complete the 
bill of fare for this half year ; I have about two hours every day 
for private reading which I devote either to collecting materials for 
composition from the studies of the day, to the writing of Latin 
Verses, or to the reading of Virgil, Juvenal, etc. I have accomplished 
at last the loth Satire of Juvenal, and am now engaged in trans- 
lating on paper the 4th Oration of Cicero against Catiline, which I 
conceive will be at the same time improving to my English composi- 
tion, and give me a more intimate acquaintance with the style of 
the writer himself. 


His days at Preston were drawing to a close, and the 
question of his career began to take shape as a practical 
problem of the near future. Associated with this question 
was the choice of University, and this matter is discussed 
with great elaboration in the following letter to his father : 

Harcourt to his Father. 

PRESTON, November 2, 1843. ... I am not sorry that some 
mention in your last letter of my future University life has given 
me an opportunity of laying before you my real feelings on this 
subject ; you will not be surprised when I tell you that it is one 
which has occupied much of my attention, and on which I have 
been at some pains to gain every information, and now therefore 
I may with truth declare, that on this point I can, as far as my own 
private wishes and inclinations are concerned, unreservedly leave 
to you the choice and the decision, and that not only from a feeling 
of filial obedience, which in itself would be abundantly sufficient, 
but also from a conviction of my own judgment, that there are no 
reasons with which I am acquainted, cogent enough to induce me 
much to prefer the one or the other ; for in either case I have found 
that manifest advantage is counteracted by equivalent evil, and 
that apparent evil is seen, on close examination, to be counter- 
balanced by proportionate advantage. 

I have come to this conclusion, not from a consideration of the 
general system of education in either University, into which it 
was not my purpose to inquire, and to which, if it had been so, 
I should not have esteemed myself competent, but as regarded 
the application of either system to the tendencies and disposition 
of my own mind and intellect. I have long learnt to consider 


aeavrov as the grand elementary basis of all inquiries, 
religious, moral and intellectual, and have therefore endeavoured, 
as best I might, to discover, from a strict analysis of my own 
mind, which of the two species of education was the best suited 
to foster and improve it. And so with respect to ambition and 
desire of distinction, I came to the conclusion that though the one 
course might be better adapted to stimulate and excite it, yet 
that the other would be more advantageously employed in reducing 
ideal ambition into substantial improvement. And on the other 
hand that though one system might impart more general informa- 
tion, and give a freer scope for the mind, yet that to myself 
individually, who I am aware am too much inclined to volatile and 
desultory courses, that system would be more useful which confines 
the thoughts and the energies to a single point or a single study. 

He continues in this vein for more pages of quarto, and 
concludes in the same formal manner : 

I must now conclude this letter, which I had intended to have 
written a week ago, but for whose composal I have with difficulty 
snatched half an hour from my time which is fully occupied, and 
I must therefore beg you to excuse the many defects which I know 
it to contain, but I shall fully have succeeded in my intentions if I 
have been able in it intelligibly to express to you the affection and 
obedience of your son. 

Perhaps it was with the formidable and oppressive manner 
of this document in mind that the Canon, later, advised his 
son to be a wooer of the comic rather than the tragic muse, 
a hint that was to bear much more abundant fruit than the 
Canon could have anticipated. But though he is not yet 
the master of his instrument, his habit of mind and his 
literary tastes are already visible. In one of his last letters 
from Preston, written on May 30, 1844, he tells his father 
that he has read six books of the Odyssey and has " become 
an ardent admirer of the Maeonian Swan." But he admires 
Pope still more. He has read his translation of Homer and, 
faithful even at this early stage to the eighteenth century 
tradition that he preserved throughout his life, he proclaims 
his preference for Pope. " Though of course a translation 
can have no claim to originality or imaginative power, yet 
it seems to me that Pope has supplied that which was 
deficient in Homer, by polishing his rhythm, by adorning 
his images, by amplifying his obscurities, and by softening 


his familiarities." With this taste for literary formalism, 
it follows that Thucydides is alien to his spirit. He does not 
find " those abstruse and recondite beauties, which are, I 
suppose, like the diamond flaming in the mine, to com- 
pensate the mud, or rather the solid rock, of inverted con- 
structions and crabbed expressions, which must be bored 
through or exploded by the gunpowder of commentators 
before it can be worked with ease or satisfaction ; and I 
would gladly exchange all the pith and the terseness of the 
Athenian historian for the amusing puerilities of Herodotus, 
or the elegant narration of Livy." He is more appreciative 
of /Eschylus, " whose Choephoroi, with its huge apparatus of 
annotators, is now occupying and straining my attention." 
He does not yield to Thucydides in intricacy and obscurity, 
but he has at least the excuse of metrical restriction and an 
unmanageable Pegasus. 

and, like his great master Homer, fills the mind with magnificent 
images and noble expressions, which convey their meaning to the 
poetical soul by a short cut and an untrod road, without submitting 
to the bounds and the regulations which limit geniuses of a lower 
rank. ' Coelum negata tentat iter via, Coetusque vulgares et udam 
spernit humum fugiente -penna.' 

It is the de Oratore of Cicero which evokes, naturally 
enough, his most genuine enthusiasm. 

I know not (he says) whether I ought most to admire, the subtle- 
ness of the observation, the conclusiveness of the reasoning, the 
copiousness of the style, or the aptness of the illustration. I have 
been reading this alternately with Homer, and shall not therefore 
accomplish more than one book of it before the holidays when I 
hope Nocturna versare manu, versare diurna. 

Literature, at this time, is alike his work and his play, for 
outside his routine he is engaged on a verse translation of 
the Pleasures of the Imagination, and he employs his odd 
moments " in committing to memory those passages which 
I meet with both in English and classical reading which 
appear to me remarkable for the beauty either of their 
expression or thought." Mathematics are merely a neces- 
sary grind. " When I have said that I read them voild 
tout." So much for the particulars. 


As for the tout ensemble I find that a more regular system both of 
study and exercise has brought me nearer to that most desirable 
condition, of which you wrote to me in one of your letters, Mens 
sana in corpore sano ! And as I find that the morbid prejudices 
of the mind train off with the unhealthy humours of the body, I am 
beginning to be convinced that the economy of the body has. a much 
more intimate connexion with the welfare of the mind than I was 
before willing to believe. 

Evidently he has had some parental advice as to his distaste 
for games, but he does not indicate the nature of the exercise 
to which he is now reconciled. 

The end of the school days had now come. Harcourt 
was well advanced in his sixteenth year, and Parr's seminary 
no longer supplied his needs. Irwin, the mathematical 
tutor, had left for a curacy in the South, and as Parr's 
remaining pupils were at the commencement of their studies, 
no adequate successor could be appointed for one student. 
As for his classical studies Harcourt points out in writing 
home that he can pursue them alone or with his father's 
assistance. The date of his actual departure from Preston is 
uncertain, but it was probably in the summer of 1844. His 
father was still rector of Bolt on Percy and Canon of York, 
and the next two years of Harcourt's life were mainly spent 
between the two residences of the family in completing his 
preparations for Cambridge, on which the choice had fallen. 
A glimpse of him is given in a letter from the Archbishop to 
the Canon : 

GROSVENOR SQUARE, June 26, 1845. . . . Your sons left me 
this morning and I can with great truth assure you that, in my very 
long experience, two more amiable youths I never saw. Your 
namesake is a most extraordinary boy of his age. Both were equally 
kind and attentive to myself. 

His brother had now gone to Oxford, and it was intended 
that William should follow him thither. Emily Harcourt 
records that when her father received from his friend 
Dr. Ball of Christ Church a not very flattering reference 
to Edward's attainments, he remarked, " They will see 
the difference when William goes there." His success in 
mathematics seems to have led his father to change his mind 


and send him to Cambridge instead. Emily Harcourt 
recalled him in these days of his early youth as cheerful 
and good-natured, but serious in his interests, full of sym- 
pathy with all suffering and " hot with horror of capital 
punishment." " I never remember receiving an impatient 
word from him," she said, " only constant appreciation. 
He took much interest in my reading and at this time took 
me on a tour amongst the architectural interests of York- 
shire, the great Norman Church at Selby, etc." 


Entrance at Trinity Shilleto and Maine The Apostles Conflicts 
with Fitzjames Stephen Friendship with Julian Fane Deli- 
cate health A reading party at the Lakes Debates at the 
Union An offer from the Morning Chronicle The choice of 
a career. 

IN the autumn term of 1846, when he was approaching his 
nineteenth year, Harcourt went up to Cambridge, being 
entered as a gentleman commoner at Trinity College. 
His appearance at the University aroused interest on several 
grounds. He had reached his full stature of six feet three 
and a half inches, and though still, in his own phrase, " a 
cartilaginous youth," he carried himself with an ease and 
self-confidence that made him a noticeable figure in any 
company. The boldly sculptured face with its wide set 
eyes, strong nose and ample mobile mouth was instinct 
with intelligence and humour, and his general bearing had 
that suggestion of the gladiator which he carried with him 
to the end of his days. Masterful, buoyant, endowed with 
unusual natural gifts which had been quickened and en- 
larged by strenuous work, the most brilliant representative 
of a house allied with most of the families that still governed 
England, his appearance in the lists at Cambridge was some- 
thing of an event. It has been described by Spencer Per- 
cival Butler, one of his contemporaries at the University. 
" When Harcourt appeared in the following summer term," 
he says, " he made a great impression on me. He was 
taller and handsomer than the others, and he knew more 
of literature and politics than any of us. He was witty and 

33 D 


full of anecdotes of distinguished men who were only 
names to me, and he had a talent for conversation which 
was very unusual." 

In one respect he was at a disadvantage. Having been 
privately educated, he did not arrive at the University with 
a group of friends as was the case with young men coming 
from the public schools. But his reputation had preceded 
him. He had read with a queer tutor, whom he used to 
recall in after life, who was " half mad, got into great rages 
with himself, threw his watch into a clover field, and tore 
his portmanteau up because he could not pack it." But 
in spite of these oddities, he seems to have been a man of 
some authority at Cambridge, and is said to have spread 
his pupil's fame there before his arrival. Apart from this, 
Harcourt, owing to his abilities and associations with the 
world, was more mature than most first year men coming 
direct from the public schools. Two years before he had 
taken his brother Edward's place at a reading party at 
Thorpe Arch where he met Oxford men of distinction, Henry 
West, John Bode, Leveson Randolph and Goldwin Smith. 
Nor was he wholly without acquaintances at Cambridge. 
George Cay ley and Reginald Cholmondeley were old friends, 
and on a visit to the Marquis of Northampton at Castle 
Ashby in the summer of 1846 he had met Lord Alwyne 
Compton, who introduced him into a set which he describes 
as " Comptonian," an adjective synonymous in his mind 
with " sensible and quiet." Another early friend at Cam- 
bridge was E. H. Stanley (i5th Earl of Derby) who entered 
Parliament straight from Cambridge in 1848. Then as now 
Trinity sheltered men of widely different tastes. Harcourt 
was naturally an omnivorous and eager student, and gravi- 
tated inevitably to a reading, serious set. In the following 
letter to his mother he relates his first experiences at 

TRINITY COLLEGE, 1 846. . . . Here I am domesticated at Cam- 
bridge. I had a prosperous journey to town though the train arrived 
very late ; the tedium of the way was enlivened however by the 
vivacity of my compagnon de voyage, who from her accent was a 


foreigner, and being addressed by her maid as miladi was I suppose 
a Countess. I did not discover the name of my fair friend, and the 
only conjecture which I could form from the style of her conver- 
sation was that she might be the Countess de Hahn who has I 
know been residing in England. 

I passed the night very comfortably at the Euston Hotel and 
arrived at about one o'clock at Trinity, from whence I found my 
way to Thompson's rooms. 1 My reception was most gracious, he 
was very indignant when he heard that the Master had interfered 
to prevent my coming to read at Cambridge as originally intended, 
and said, " If your father had never applied to the Master there 
would have been no difficulty ; it was a point on which I should 
have felt myself quite authorized to have given permission." I 
then inquired into the state of the case with regard to the non ens, 
which he said was a metaphysical abstraction which had more 
meaning at Cambridge than metaphysical abstractions are wont 
to have, but the long and the short of it is that I shall have to wait 
a year longer for my degree, and if I am a scholar of Trinity shall 
be compelled to reside at Trinity four years instead of three ; he 
also said that he had foreseen for a long time that I should be placed 
in this dilemma but had foreborn to interfere through delicacy, 
having understood from the Master within these six months that 
it was not settled whether I should go to Oxford or Cambridge. 
From his rooms I went to Compton's whom I found at home ; he 
gave me some luncheon and some hints with respect to Trinity 
etiquette to save me from making a fool of myself, to which you 
know I have a particular objection. I then found my way to my 
lodgings which are good enough in size, but the furniture is terribly 
A la lodging. I then decked myself in cap and gown, and proceeded 
to go to the Hall at 4 o'clock where the process of feeding is cer- 
tainly anything but refined, in fact the old coach dinner was polite- 
ness itself compared with the manner in which yahoo-like each 
fellow seized hold of the joint of meat and cut off from it as much 
as he could for himself till his neighbour clawed it from him, and 
having triumphantly appropriated the last slice passed down the 
well cleaned bone to the wretches below. . . . 

His letter to his father a few days later is concerned with 
College matters : 

CAMBRIDGE, October, 1846. . . . My examination on Thursday 
was even more of a farce than I had expected. They set one a 
long paper full of simple addition and subtraction sums and also 
some long division. I managed to do the former and cut the latter 
as being too laborious, at the risk of the examiner supposing that 
I had not read so far ; however Lord Durham managed to get 

1 W. H. Thompson, afterwards Master of Trinity. 


stumped as it is called here in his Euclid, but this only makes it 
necessary for him to undergo the same process in the course of a 
few weeks. 

I went to wine with Compton yesterday, and met I suppose his 
select familiares, Lord R. Montagu, Lord Durham, a son of the 
other Lord Stanley, Coke, and Dent of Yorkshire, most of them 
very Comptonian, i.e. sensible and quiet. 

I have determined at all events to read with a private tutor 
this term, though I am aware that I shall not be able to afford it 
hereafter, but it is of great importance for me to be placed in the 
first class at this Christmas examination, and there is here nothing 
to be done at least in Classics, of which composition forms so large 
a part, without coaching. Thompson has recommended to me 
Lushington, who is he says far the most elegant scholar in the 
college, and particularly practised in Latin prose composition which 
is made the chief point at Trinity, of which as I told Thompson 
I am almost entirely ignorant. . . . 

Lectures begin to-morrow. Tell Eddie that Robert Owen is 
here at St. John's. He tells me that Mr. Parr has married his 
pretty servant Jane whom E. will remember, and that Cath. Parr 
is married. The former I hope may not be true (though I do call 
him Pecksniff), for the sake of his children, the second of course 
I could not be so uncharitable as to disbelieve. 

With his love of intellectual combat and his passion for 
affairs, it was natural that Harcourt lost no time in joining 
the Union and taking part in its debates. But, like Disraeli 
on another stage, his first effort was something of a failure, 
and, like Disraeli again, the experience whetted his appetite 
for success. He tells the episode in a letter to his father : 

CAMBRIDGE, Tuesday evening. . . . My first speech was on 
the character of Mr. Canning, in which I am sensible enough that 
I broke down, though my friends were very good-natured and said 
" a successful first attempt " and all that. The truth was that 
intending only to make a declaration and not having the least idea 
I should lose my wits I went down without my notes, and found 
all at once as soon as I got on my legs that my heart was (like 
Bacchus in the Ranae) in my stomach. However I was determined 
not to sit down and worked off as well as I could. This you may 
imagine was not a little disgusting, but I don't mean to " say die " 
and am going about this week calculating when I shall try the 
argumentative style. I dare say you will laugh at all this, but it 
is not without its advantages. One which I value not the least 
is the introduction to Stanley, whom I like far the most of any 
one whom I have yet met at Cambridge ; his speaking is very good, 


and his power of debating has a sort of hereditary quickness, though 
his manner is not graceful or effective. 

In the meantime he was settling down to the more serious 
business of the University with characteristic industry. 
" You must consider that as yet," he tells the Canon, " we 
are a young pack not used to hunt together, and that the 
energizing principle (if I may be allowed to use a piece of 
Oxford cant) of individual emulation has not yet had time 
to produce itself. We are reading therefore it may be said 
upon the merits of the case, which may be steady but not 
brilliant, neat but not gaudy," While he was measuring 
himself with the pack, he had time to take stock of the 

Our mathematical lecturer is a fat comfortable man with a bullet 
head and no shirt collars, with an eye-glass. He lectures on Euclid. 
The process is this. He desires one of us to demonstrate a pro- 
position, which is accordingly done, with the more facility inasmuch 
as he appears equally satisfied with a wrong as a right demonstra- 
tion. This over he soars into the seventh heaven of deductions 
into which he is followed only by two or three Daedaleian mathe- 
maticians who catch the proof almost before the enunciation has 
escaped his lips ; some talk is held concerning it almost as unin- 
telligible as the A Imagest, and it vanishes at the same instant from 
the slate and our memories. I complained of this unsatisfactory 
species of conjuring to the Dean of Ely, who quite admitted the 
facts and recommended me not to trouble myself about the deduc- 
tions which form the staple of our lecture, but to apply myself 
with diligence to the book itself, which advice I shall be very ready 
to pursue. And now for a lecture*- of a very different stamp ; 
Thompson is a man of fine though wicked countenance, large black 
eyebrows and eyes and a certain sneer about the mouth, a great 
contempt for everything academical, more especially the Master 
of Trinity and his own pupils ; but for this affectation he is a man 
who would command respect, being evidently of extensive attain- 
ment and beyond the suspicion of pedantry ; he is a great German 
scholar, and in the vacations lives much with the German literati. 
His lectures are not without traces of this intimacy in his love of 
profound inquiries into topics which Thucydides neglects as ovra 
x.a.l TO. jroAAct vno %QOVOV avrtov aniarax; em TO fivQatdeq 
. 1 His style is however in general enlarged, and 

1 Being irrefutable and having for the most part won their way 
by the course of time assuredly to the fabulous. 


treats more of various men and various manners than of various 
readings. My private tutor is Lushington, who was senior classic 
and medallist last year and has the reputation of being the most 
elegant scholar in Trinity. If he has a fault it is that of being too 
shy and not visiting blunders with a sufficient amount of indigna- 
tion. I read Thucydides with him, and also practise composition 
in which I hope to make some progress. These three lectures 
together with Sedgwick's take up the greater part of my morning, 
and the requisite preparation for them together with my composition 
occupy the larger portion of the evening. 

When Franklin Lushington, one of a family which have 
been described as having an hereditary claim to distinction, 
fell ill, Harcourt read for a time with Charles Evans, of 
King Edward's School, Birmingham, and eventually with 
Richard Shilleto, who was for thirty years the leading 
classical coach at Cambridge. Shilleto had his defects. 
" You are Shilleto-ing," wrote Lord Stanley, who had then 
gone into Parliament, to Harcourt. " I grieve for you, 
knowing what you must undergo. Can you keep the little 
round, red man to his work ? When I read with him, he 
used to talk by the hour instead of sticking to business. I 
never could get my fair pennyworth out of him, and his 
conversation did not compensate for the loss." There is a 
more friendly picture of the " little round red man " in 
Spencer Butler's recollections of his own and Harcourt's 
college days : 

He was a most conscientious and devoted tutor. He might have 
taken his pupils in small classes, and so have multiplied his income 
as others did, but he never would consent to this though he had 
a growing family. He was a Tory of the old type, who was ready 
to die for the unblemished reputation of Anne Boleyn and Mary, 
Queen of Scots. He entertained us occasionally at supper, and 
on these occasions toasts and audit ale were drunk, and Harcourt, 
whom Shilleto admired greatly, used to be a little wicked. I remem- 
ber him rising to his full height with great solemnity, and asking 
if he might propose a toast, and then, after much exordium, pro- 
posing the health, at this time when thrones abroad were falling, 
of the First Magistrate of this Realm ! Years afterwards, when 
Shilleto's health began to fail, Harcourt obtained, by his recom- 
mendations to Mr. Disraeli, a Civil List pension of zoo a year for 
Shilleto, and on the death of Shilleto I was told that a pension of 
100 was continued to his widow. 


A more distinguished man with whom Harcourt read for 
a time was Henry Sumner Maine, whose appointment to the 
Chair of Civil Law in 1847 is described by Sir Leslie Stephen 
as the beginning of the awakening of the ancient University 
from its slumbers. Maine had been senior classic in 1844, 
and was thus only of three years' standing in the University 
when he received the Chair. " Maine cannot at that 
time," says Sir Leslie, 1 " have had any profound knowledge 
of the Civil Law if, indeed, he ever acquired such know- 
ledge. But his genius enabled him to revive the study in 
England although no genius could galvanize the corpse of 
legal studies at the Cambridge of those times into activity. 
Maine, as Fitzjames says, ' made in the most beautiful 
manner applications of history and philosophy to Roman 
law, and transfigured one of the driest of subjects into all 
sorts of beautiful things without knowing or caring much 
about details.' ' Harcourt fully shared Fitzjames Stephen's 
view of his tutor's rare genius. Maine was in India in the 
'sixties when Harcourt as "Historicus" made the reputa- 
tion which led to his appointment as first Whewell Professor 
of International Law at Cambridge. When he resigned 
he was succeeded by his former tutor. 

Of the Master of Trinity himself there are only casual 
glimpses in Harcourt's letters, but in his later years, as the 
private diary of H. O. Sturgis, in recording conversations 
at Mai wood, shows, Whewell furnished the subject of many 
lively memories. Harcourt loved to recall the verses which 
Tom Taylor wrote on the building of the Lodge of Trinity 
College, apropos of the fact that while Beresford Hope built 
it, Whewell took the credit for it : 

This is the house that Hope built 

This is the Master rough and gruff 

Who lived in the house that Hope built 

This is the Mistress tawny and tough 

Who married the Master rude and gruff, etc. 

Life of Fitzjames Stephen (Smith, Elder, 1895). 


These are the Sinners cutting up rough 
At sight of the tablet set up by a muff 
Who built the house for the Master gruff. 

And so on. It was not only Thompson, who succeeded him 
as Master of Trinity, who disliked Whewell. " Sedgwick 
was staying with my father," Harcourt told Sturgis, " when 
the news came of Whewell being appointed Master, and the 
curate, who slept in the room next Sedgwick's, heard him 
walking about and damning all night." Sedgwick had a 
rough and a picturesque style. " When he had lived for 
about fifty years in College," said Harcourt to Sturgis, " his 
chairs began to wear out, so he told his bedmaker to get him 
some new chairs. To his unspeakable wrath she brought 
him some with cane seats, whereupon he said, ' Woman, 
what is this that thou hast done ? Do you wish me to go 
before my Maker with hexagons on my backside ? ' 


Before the end of his first year at Trinity Harcourt became 
an " Apostle." This famous society, limited at any one 
time as to its active members to a membership of twelve, 
dated back to 1820 when a group of lovers of literature and 
of free inquiry formed a society at St. John's for weekly 
meetings for essay reading and discussion, of which no 
records were kept. Later on Trinity became its headquar- 
ters. Although membership was limited, past members 
were admitted to the meetings, and an annual dinner in 
which old friends might meet used to be held at Greenwich. 
It was no mean distinction to belong to a society whose roll 
of members included at one time or another the names 
of Charles Butler, Monckton Milnes, Bishop Thirlwall, John 
Sterling, Alfred Tennyson, Arthur Hallam, James Spedding, 
W. H. Thompson, Charles Merivale, Sir Frederick Pollock, 
Henry Sumner Maine, Tom Taylor and Frederick Maurice. 
In Harcourtjs day the group included H. S. Main, Fitz- 
james Stephen, Julian Fane, E. H. Stanley (Lord Derby), 
H. W. Watson, the future Canon Holland, and others. 


It would be interesting to have a record of the play of these 
minds one on the other. Sir Leslie Stephen says : l 

Mr. Watson compares these meetings to those at Newman's 
rooms in Oxford as described by Mark Pattison. There a luckless 
advocate of ill-judged theories might be crushed for the evening 
by the polite sentence, " Very likely." At the Cambridge meetings, 
the trial to the nerves, Mr. Watson thinks, was even more severe. 
There was not the spell of common reverence for a great man, in 
whose presence a modest reticence was excusable. You were 
expected to speak out, and failure was the more appalling. The 
contests between Stephen and Harcourt were especially famous. 
Though, says Mr. Watson, your brother was " not a match in 
adroitness and chaff for his great rival, he showed himself at his 
best in these struggles." " The encounters were veritable battles 
of the gods, and I recall them after forty years with the most vivid 
recollection of the pleasure they gave." When Sir William Har- 
' court entered Parliament, my brother remarked to Mr. Llewelyn 
Da vies, " It does not seem to be the natural order of things that 
Harcourt should be in the House and I not there to criticize him." 

It is true, as Watson indicated, that Harcourt and Fitz- 
james Stephen were the gladiators of the company. They 
were born for mutual conflict, each equipped with a power- 
ful understanding, vigorous expression and a boldness bor- 
dering on arrogance, qualified in the case of Harcourt^by 
his high spirits (and the inexhaustible flow of his humour. 
Their antagonism had its roots in deeper things than the 
love of combat. Stephen's Toryism was ingrained and 
unalterable ; but Harcourt's Toryism was only a family 
tradition which was already losing its hold on him in the 
presence of the upheaval which was disintegrating political 
thought. The peace that had followed Waterloo was 
approaching its end, and the world was filled with the 
symptoms of social and political disturbance. In England 
a momentous breach had been made with the past. For 
more than half a century the idea of Free Trade had been 
growing in influence on the most instructed minds engaged 
in public affairs. The younger Pitt, under the inspiration 
of Adam Smith's epoch-making book, had been captured by 
the doctrine, and had put forward statesmanlike proposals 

1 Life of Fitz james Stephen (Smith, Elder, 1895). 


for its adoption, and though the Napoleonic wars effectually 
submerged his project, the return of peace and the lament- 
able condition of the people revived it and ultimately 
made it the dominant issue. The memorable association of 
Cobden and Bright the association of the most illuminated 
and dispassionate mind with the most eloquent and passion- 
ate speech in our records had prepared the country for 
the change, and the potato famine in Ireland completed 
their work. The rain had washed away the Corn Laws. 
Sir Robert Peel in bowing to the inexorable argument of 
necessity only gave expression to what had been his growing 
private conviction, but his surrender to the teaching of the 
Anti-Corn Law League shattered the Tory Party. The old 
guard of the party, under Lord George Bentinck, the Earl 
of Derby and Disraeli, remained a Protectionist rump, 
and the Free Traders with Sir Robert and his brilliant 
lieutenant, Gladstone, formed a new political group known 
as the Peelites. Harcourt took his place in the ranks of the 
Peelites. It was the first step in his political progress to the 
Left, and the record of his activities in the Union during his 
later years at Cambridge will show the rapidity with which 
his mind and sympathies moved in that direction. 


But though Fitzjames Stephen was the most formidable 
opponent of Harcourt in the Society, there was another 
personality who made a more profound impression on him. 
Julian Fane is one of those elusive figures who flit through 
their time with a certain spiritual glamour that defies 
analysis, aloof yet pervasive, irradiating the general atmo- 
sphere with a subtle sense of character and leaving behind 
a memory all the more enduring and tender because it 
seems a perfume rather than an achievement. The deep 
affection which subsisted between Julian Fane and Harcourt 
perhaps the strongest friendship in the life of cither- 
throws more light upon the inner life of the latter at this 
time than any other circumstance. How profound the 
attachment was on Fane's side is indicated in a letter which 

1846-51] JULIAN FANE 43 

Robert Lytton (ist Earl of Lytton), who prepared the memoir 
of Fane, wrote to Harcourt from Vienna in December 1870, 
requesting him to contribute to the memorial volume : 

At that time there was no name which he mentioned so frequently 
or with so much admiration and affection as yours ; and of all his 
college friends you are certainly the one of whose intellectual power 
and force of character he retained, in after life, the deepest and 
strongest impression. No one could so fitly or so appropriately 
as yourself present to the imagination of those who knew him not, 
the image of all he was at the time when you and he were in daily 
companionship at Cambridge ; and any testimony contributed by 
you to the charm and brilliancy of his character, and the affluence 
of his intellectual gifts in those days, cannot but be much more 
flattering to his memory than the recorded opinions (however 
enthusiastically appreciative) of men far less eminent than yourself. 

Harcourt's sentiments towards Fane are recorded in the 
moving tribute which, in response to this letter, he con- 
tributed to Lytton's memorial volume. 

Fane was a later addition to the small company of the 
Apostles than Harcourt. Like his friend he was a man of 
unusual stature. " I am glad you have got Fane in," writes 
Lord Stanley to Harcourt, " though a few more such will 
give the world in general the impression that the standard 
of Apostolic recruits is set a^/Six feet four, and that ' none 
not properly qualified need apply,' as the advertisements 
have it." He at once established a unique place for himself 
among the Apostles. " He was the salt and life of those 
well-remembered evenings," said Harcourt in a letter to 
Lord Lytton. " He had interest in every topic and sym- 
pathy with every mind ; and when graver discussions were 
exhausted would delight us inexperienced schoolboys with 
the tales of the great world outside, of which we had seen 
nothing, and of which he knew as much as any man of fifty." 

But Harcourt himself was not the inexperienced schoolboy, 
or if he was, it was in thejfctacaulayan sense. He had been 
brought up in the atmosphere of public life, he was treated 
by his father on terms of equality unusual for those days, 
and he had had at home, at Nuneham, and elsewhere many 
glimpses of the great world. There is no need to supply 


reasons for Harcourt's attachment to a nature so sunny, so 
delicate, and so poetic as Julian Fane's, but perhaps this 
common knowledge of the world had some small part in the 
friendship with a man who had been attached to his father's 
mission at Berlin at the age of seventeen, and was thus able 
to set the doings of Cambridge against a wider background. 
W. H. Thompson, then Senior Tutor, notes Fane's marked 
preference for intellectual merit over rank and position in 
society. " One of his most intimate friends was a sizar, 
and with one exception, I do not remember," says the future 
Master of Trinity, " that he was intimate with any of the 
then fellow-commoners and noblemen." The exception 
alluded to was, of course, Harcourt. 

But before these associations .had become established, 
there had been a serious break in Harcourt's University 
career. As a boy he had, as we have seen, been delicate 
and disinclined to much physical activity, and the rapidity 
of his growth coupled with his intense intellectual life had 
doubtless put a severe strain on his system. Soon after his 
arrival at Cambridge he had some disquieting symptoms. 
" I have been on the sick list for a few days," he tells his 
father, " owing to a discomfort in my chest which my 
doctor who is a very clever and very satisfactory man 
ascribes to a little disorder in the action of the heart, in which 
I have no doubt he is right." The trouble seemed to pass, 
but in the autumn of (i847)the condition of his health made 
it necessary for him to suspend his university career and to 
winter in Madeira. It was a serious interruption of his 
studies, and it involved his absence from England during 
many important happenings, both public and private, 
including the revolution in France, the critical months of 
the Chartist agitation in England, and the death of his 
grandfather, the Archbishop. By the latter event the 
Nuneham estate passed to his uncle George Granville Har- 
court, who was himself now a man well advanced in life, 
having occupied a seat in Parliament for over forty years, 
and being at the time Conservative member for the county 
of Oxfordshire. Another incident of some interest to Har- 

1846-51] VISITS THE LAKES 45 

court that took place during his absence from England was 
the engagement of his brother Edward to Lady Susan Harriet 
Holroyd, a daughter of the Earl of Sheffield. 

In April 1848 Harcourt returned from Madeira to Cam- 
bridge. The public atmosphere in which he found himself 
is indicated in a letter to Monckton Milnes in which, after 
promising to bring some contributions to his Cromwelliana 
and mentioning that three new Apostles, Stephen, Stanley 
and Watson, have been elected, he says, referring to the fact 
that he is going up to London on his way to Yorkshire : "I 
shall take a big stick with me to town to defend my port- 
manteau on its transit from Shoreditch to the West End, 
which may be necessary as such articles are not a bad 
material for barricades." 

The journey north was in order to join in a reading party 
with Holland and Evans (his tutor), both fellow Apostles, 
at Keswick. Harcourt's enforced idleness had put his 
work in arrears and his health was evidently still unsatis- 
factory. At Keswick he mingled work with a judicious 
amount of exercise. To his sister he writes a description 
of their walks : 

I have been once up Skiddaw with a man, who was spending his 
honeymoon here. He left his wife behind which I suppose you 
would consider wrong ; there is a large supply here of people in the 
same condition. It is not a pleasant spectacle, any more than that 
of a person sitting in a corner eating his plumcake all by himself. 
Evans, Holland and I either walk by the lake or lie in a boat which 
we have got, and mix reading with talk. I have got you some 
ferns, one I think peculiar, which only grows above the height of 
2000 feet. It is called something cristata and has two leaves per- 
fectly different in appearance. I profit by Holland's experience, 
who is also collecting for his sister. The rest of the party talk of 
making a long expedition through Borrowdale to Ambleside and 
home by Patterdale over Helvellyn the next day. If I go it will be 
on four legs, as I cannot stand thirty miles of walking a day in this 
weather ; though it is very fine for everything but waterfalls. 

One day he went to see an exhibition of Cumberland 
wrestling, probably at Grasmere. " It was a fine sight," he 
tells his father, " and one might have fancied oneself in an 
ancient palaestra, nothing could be more good-natured or 


harmless we afterwards went to a ball and danced in- 
sanely." He and Evans paid a visit to Rydal Mount, but 
found Wordsworth out and contented themselves with a 
look at his garden, " with which, however, he does not seem 
to have taken any pains. The view of Windermere from 
it is very fine, though the steamboats rather spoil the 
romance." He saw Wordsworth later, but does not seem 
to have sought the acquaintance of Hartley Coleridge. He 
saw Whewell, who had come on a visit to his brother-in- 
law, Mr. Myers, " who is a clever man, preaches Carlyle and 
keeps agreeable society," and met Smith O'Brien's sisters 
who were staying at Keswick, and who were much shocked 
at the news of their brother's capture, " as they imagined 
they had received certain intelligence of his escape to the 
Continent ; he seems to have had an infatuated notion that 
the police force would sympathize with the insurgents." 

With these diversions he mingled a lot of solid work. 
Writing to the Canon he says : 

THE LAKES, 1848. My classical tutor Evans has just left us. 
We have lost in him not only a good scholar but a very agreeable 
companion. I think I have gained a good deal of advantage from 
his instructions, having acquired more practice in composition, of 
which I did some every day, and also in accuracy in which he is 
particularly strong ; I read with him in Meidias which is the longest 
speech in Demosthenes, a play of Sophocles, one of ^Eschylus, and 
four of Aristophanes ; besides frequent examination papers in the 
harder passages of different authors. He gives me hopes of getting 
the University scholarship in my third year, but I have still a great 
many books to read, but which if I have health permitted me I 
shall be able to get through. I am now going to read Mathematics 
for a month with Hedley. I hope that this will still leave me some 
weeks of Eddie's society before his going abroad. . . . 


It was after his return from Madeira that Harcourt began 
to dominate the Union, of which Spencer Butler says he was 
considered the best speaker among several of unusual pro- 
mise. His political views were now taking definite shape in 
a democratic direction, though they were still a little patchy, 
as some of the notes of his speeches, preserved with the dust 


of years upon them, indicate. One set on the question of 
the adoption of the secret ballot reads strangely to a genera- 
tion which has almost forgotten that voters once had no 
such protection. Then and up to the time when he stood 
for the Kirkcaldy Burghs in iSfiq^Harcourt was against 
the institution of a secretMsallot. His notes for the defence 
of open voting include one to the effect that the assumption 
underlying the demand is tixat all landlords are tyrants and 
all tenants cowards, another on the advantage of canvassing 
because it brought the classes together, and still another 
x with the more reasonable contention that the ballot would 

Knot do all that was expected of it because canvassing would 

in any case be continued, and that in case of the imputation 

of fraud there would not be the same power of scrutiny. 

But in spite of occasional aberrations the trend of Har- 

court's mind is now clear. The records of the Union 

debates from May 1848 furnish abundant witness of his 

developing sympathy with Liberalism. The first motion 

he proposed in the Union was " That the Game Laws are 

/unjust in principle, injurious in operation and ought to be 

r repealed." He carried this by 20 votes to n, and had the 
satisfaction in later life of giving effect to his motion in a 
valuable piece of legislation. His next appearance in debate 
was less successful, but no less prophetic. It was a speech 
in support of the proposition, " That we consider the present 
system of indirect taxation as unjust in principle and injur- 
ious in practice ; and therefore regard it as highly expedient 
/that a system of direct taxation should be substituted in its 

V stead." On this occasion the motion was lost by 8 votes. 
It was the common fate of the causes he adopted in the 
Union. He was learning to fight against the popular 
current, and no man probably ever had more joy in the 
experience, or more justification from the course of events. 
His life-long hostility to Imperialism, perhaps the most 
deeply rooted political motive of his career, was early indi- 
cated in his opposition to the motion, " That the policy 

v /pursued by Lord Elgin and the English Government in 
Canada is alike impolitic and unjustifiable." He had only 


one supporter on this occasion against a majority of 43, 
but history has abundantly ratified his judgment. He 
showed the same enlightened understanding on the slavery 
issue, speaking against a motion for the abandonment of 

,/rhe British policy directed towards the suppression of the 
slave trade, and on this occasion he had the satisfaction 
of being in the majority of 14 against 9. But his motion, 
which sheds an interesting light upon his attitude towards 
Ireland and religious freedom, " That it is alike our duty 
X 4nd interest to pay the Roman Catholic clergy of Ireland," 
T was defeated by 72 to 24. He had, however, a handsome 
victory at the next debate in which he took part. The 
motion was " That the Revolution of 1688 does not deserve 
the name of glorious, but is rather to be considered inglor- 
ious and unjustifiable." This attacked all the fundamentals 
>f Harcourt his Erastianism, his evangelicalism, and 

/his constitutionalism and he had the satisfaction of carry- 
ing by an overwhelming majority the amendment " That 
the blessings of the Revolution of 1688, which established 
without bloodshed the Protestant Religion and a Constitu- 
tional Government, are especially to be acknowledged 
at a time when Europe is convulsed by political parties 
whose violence affords a striking contrast to the modera- 
tion of the two great parties who combined to effect the 
revolution of 1688." He proposed a little later a motion, 
" That the provision for the education of the people is 
/ totally inadequate, and that a large measure of state educa- 
tion ought to be immediately adopted " ; but an amend- 
ment which, while accepting his motion, attached to it a 
clause in favour of denominational education was carried 
against ium by 38 to 22. He was found a little later plough- 
ing a lonely furrow in opposition to a motion which attacked 
the now admittedly wise policy of the Government towards 
the West Indian Colonies and at the next meeting was again 
in the minority in supporting " the foreign policy of the 
present Ministry during the last three years." He sup- 
rported the motion, " That the principle that asserts that 
education is a necessary previous condition to the conferring 

1846-51] A GOOD FREE-TRADER 49 

of the Suffrage is unsound," but he was beaten in the 
division by 20 votes to 5. 

At this time the publication of Macaulay's History was 
creating an unprecedented stir in the reading world, and 
its brilliant championship of the Revolution of 1688 and 
of the Whigs led to a challenging motion in the Union, 
declaring " That the first two volumes of Mr. Macaulay's 
History of England are utterly wanting in the most essen- 
tial characteristics of a great history." Harcourt, who 
loved both Macaulay's style and his theme, spoke against 
the motion, and had the satisfaction of seeing it amended 
thus, " That, without pledging ourselves to Mr. Macaulay's 
political opinions, we consider that his History of England 
deserves to be ranked among the master-pieces of English 
historical literature." As a good Free-Trader he supported 
the motion, " That the agitation in favour of Protectionist 
re-action is short-sighted and mischievous," and ineffect- 
ually opposed the substitution of the amendment " That 
this House views with feelings of the strongest disapproba- 
tion the apathy displayed by the present Ministry in 
considering the proper measures to be taken for the allevia- 
tion of the depressed condition of the agricultural interest 
in Great Britain." This ingenious device of getting a 
Protectionist verdict by a side wind was carried by 29 
to 22. 

But although Harcourt was now a firm Free Trader and 
had travelled far on the Liberal path, he had not caught 
up with the Radical advance guard, and we find him on 
November 27, 1849, speaking against the motion, " That 
this House considers Mr. Cobden and his party to repre- 
/ sent the rising good sense of the nation." The motion was 
evidently pour rire, for not a single vote was cast for it 
and the " noes " numbered 47. The last motion which 
Harcourt proposed in the Union was, " That a property 
qualification is an unfit basis for the electoral franchise 
and that the suffrage should be extended, excluding only 
JBuch persons as have been convicted of crime or are in 
receipt of parochial relief." It was beaten by 16 votes to 


12. His final speech in the Union, on March n, 1851, was 
against the ballot. 

This Union record is important in estimating Harcourt's 
political character. It was the habit of his opponents in 
after life to attempt to discredit him by suggesting that 
he lacked sincerity and spoke from a brief. The breezy, 
gladiatorial manner of the man no doubt helped to give 
currency to this view. The very efficiency he displayed 
in the use of his quarterstaff was an argument against him, 
for no one could be so accomplished without being a 
professional, and to dub a man a professional politician 
has always been a popular artifice for disposing of a 
dangerous adversary. The humour with which Harcourt 
enveloped his political activities was also a factor against 
him. Just as Gladstone was regarded as dangerous 
because he was too serious, so Harcourt was discounted 
because he joked. A man who could have such fun 
out of his work could not possibly be sincere. This 
shallow view that high spirits and a humorous outlook 
cannot be reconciled with serious purpose a view that 
would make an impostor of St. Francis and a suspect of 
Lincoln has little support from the career of Harcourt. 
He did not make an idol of consistency or hesitate to shift 
his ground if events or party interest for he was always 
a stout party man and held that the party had claims upon 
the individual which could not be ignored made a change 
of attitude necessary. 

But taking his career as a whole, few statesmen in modern 
times have shown so little divergence in practice from the 
principles to which they have given their adherence as he 
did, except when his judgment was temporarily warped 
in 1880-5 by his pre-occupation with the criminal activities 
of Fenianism. Emerging from an entirely Conservative home 
atmosphere into a dominantly Conservative university atmo- 
sphere he developed a reasoned view of government, based 
in many respects on a conception of Liberalism well in 
advance of the Whig thought of his time, and on no funda- 
mental issue did he ever depart from it. If he shifted his 


ground, it was usually to the Left, and a comparison of his 
parliamentary record with his undergraduate convictions 
reveals not only a rare continuity of thought but an even 
rarer loyalty to that thought in action. " Harcourt was 
a man who knew the difference between right and wrong," 
said Lord Morley to the writer, " and who never took the 
wrong side for any personal motive." 

Harcourt's connection with the Union was duly rounded 
off by his election as Treasurer of the Society in the Lent 
term of 1849 and President in the Easter term of the same 
year. " I am President of the Union this term," he writes 
to his sister Emily, " which absolves me from speaking 
pretty much, but listening is almost as great a bore." It 
was probably the fame of his political debating in the 
Union, as well as the personal recommendation of Maine, 
that led to his first adventure in the great world which, in 
turn, helped to dictate his ultimate decision in regard to 
his professional career. The matter is first alluded to mys- 
teriously in a letter to his sister. " What you will think 
still funnier," he writes, "is to hear that I declined a pro- 
position which would have made me a rich man, at least 
to the extent of 6 or 700 a year, without interfering materi- 
ally with my reading here (Cambridge). This is a secret 
which I will tell you about when we meet." To his father, 
a little later, he is more communicative : 

CAMBRIDGE (Undated). The offer which I declined, which however 
I had better not have mentioned but having mentioned wish to be 
kept secret, was that of writing for the Peel paper the Chronicle. 
The proposal was 20 for six articles whenever I chose to send them. 
I had no objections to the politics of the paper but did not fancy sell- 
ing myself to their views altogether, besides which it might have 
been inconvenient if I had felt they had a claim on my time. Lord 
Lincoln and S. Smythe are the active directors and a man of the name 
of Cook is the Editor. I promised to send them articles now and 
then according as I had opportunities, thinking it as well not to 
lose sight altogether of a goose which lays such golden eggs. For 
" need 'twill no better be " an article a day is no very laborious 
way of earning ^1000 a year. However, of course I never should 
look upon it in any light but that of a temporary expedient, for the 
occupation in itself is most precarious, and in fact I should exceed- 


ingly dislike that any body out of the domestic circle should know 
that I meddled in any way with printer's ink. ... I had young 
Hallam to breakfast with me this morning. He is come up to take 
his master's degree. Rogers'slast is that " Croker in his article in 
the Quarterly meant to do murder but committed suicide." 

The Morning Chronicle from which the offer emanated 
Avas the Peelite paper in London, and the " man of the 
v/name of Cook" to whom Harcourt refers was John Douglas 
Cook, who after a wandering and diversified career had 
found his true vocation in journalism, became editor of 
the Morning Chronicle and afterwards, on the foundation 
of the Saturday Review, editor of that journal. Cook had 
learned of Harcourt from his tutor and fellow Apostle, 
Maine, and came down to Cambridge to see the brilliant 
young undergraduate and to offer him a post as leader 
writer on his staff. It was a flattering distinction for a 
youth who was still only in his twenty-first year, and 
although Harcourt affected to treat it a little cavalierly and 
even contemptuously he understood its significance, and 
did not fail to grasp it. He began his contributions during 
the Lng Vacation of 1849, his first article being one advo- 
cating a new Reform Bill, doubtless on the lines of the 
motion he supported at the Union during the following 
October. It was his custom, he used to say afterwards, to 
send his articles to London by train, paying an extra half- 
crown for immediate delivery. They were written in his 
earlier manner, sonorous, oppressively dignified, and with 
little of the sparkle that he developed later. It had 
the eighteenth century measure, and derived some of its 
qualities from a study of Junius. " I have just got 
hold of a new edition of Junius's letters which I am reading 
carefully," he tells his sister Emily. " The style is inimit- 
able in that department of eloquence which is called invec- 
tive. Though sometimes too artificial the sentences are 
always full of meaning, an excellence which is so rare that 
it may almost be called the highest. As to his identity, I 
suppose we shall have some opinion in the coming volumes 
of Macaulay, who is unquestionably the person living most 
competent to form a. critical judgment on such a point." 


The new task he had undertaken made no appreciable 
inroad upon the normal activities of Harcourt. He still 
wrote lively letters to his sister, giving her the gossip of 
the University " Cambridge is terribly dull and I shoot 
in an archery ground when I am not dyspeptic. . . . Rob. 
Sedgwick is up here, and yesterday I met him walking 
down the street with a pineapple in his hand " graver 
letters to his father about this, that and the other, and 
buoyant letters to Stanley who had been in America and 
had come back full of " Yankee tales," and had gone into 
politics fired with " Peel hatred," only less intense than 
his hatred of Cobden whom, says Harcourt, he calls " an 
inspired bagman who believes in a calico millennium." 
Harcourt was active against the " Romanizer in the Church," 
and wanted to have a meeting of undergraduates on the 
subject, " but the V.C. would not let us." The censorship 
of authority on matters political as well as ecclesiastical 
roused his anger. He writes to his mother : 

Harcourt to his Mother. 

CAMBRIDGE, 1850 (?) ... I have to read an Essay in Hall this 
week. My title was " Sir R. Peel and trie Characteristics of Statesman- 
ship." Would you believe that this was objected to by the authorities 
(I believe because Whewell is a Protectionist and reads the Standard}. 
It was in vain that I protested that there was no allusion to Corn 
or Catholics and that Peel was only generally praised. I told 
Kimpson that I thought Trinity must be in a state of siege if liberty 
of opinion was denied on a matter which had commanded such 
universal concurrence even in foreign countries. 

Meanwhile, he was pursuing his studies industriously. 

" I have been doing little public speaking lately since my College 
Declamations, which are so far satisfactory that I am given to under- 
stand that I shall get a prize for both," he tells Emily. 1 " I live 
now secluded with two or three bosom cronies, of whom choicest 
and best Julian Fane. More's the pity that next term is his last 
up here. Besides I read Mathematics aU the morning, Classics all 
the evening, and strange to say am well enough all the while." 

1 He won the Declamation Prize Cup. 


But though he read mathematics it continued to be a 
distasteful subject to him, and was the source of the only 
serious check he sustained in his college career. 

I went in a few weeks ago for the Trinity scholarship (he says in 
an undated letter to his father) and must confess I was a little dis- 
appointed at not getting it, though I knew I had another time to try. 
Thompson however told me that my Classics were very good and 
that he voted for me. I know that I did badly in Mathematics, 
partly because I have only lately begun to read them, but I did not 
even do justice to my moderate knowledge in the examination. 
However as Thompson told me that if there had been another 
scholarship to dispose I should have had it, I must console myself 
with the prospect of it next year. Thompson also encouraged me 
as to my ultimate prospects of a fellowship. I shall now work hard 
at my Mathematics in which my Coach gives me hopes of getting 
a low Wrangler's degree ; I am now reading the sesame of Mathe- 
matics, the Differential Calculus. 

When the " other try " came Harcourt's expectations were 
justified, and he writes to his father : 

CHRIST CHURCH, OXFORD, Thursday (1851). As you will be the 
better satisfied, so am I the better pleased to find myself this morning 
in the first class in the Trinity list. To me it affords the additional 
delight which a fluke (an expressive word which it would weaken to 
explain by a windfall) always has over the wages of labour. Con- 
fidentially speaking it is no honour for there are thirty-five of us of 
whom I know that I am not the first ; and as to profit it is rather 
a damnosa hereditas as it consists in a permission to buy an expensive 
book with your own money ; and moreover I have lost a bet of 
five shillings which I laid against myself with Stanley ; so that 
independently of your approval I do not know whether I have not 
more cause to regret than to rejoice in my luck. I cut all my 
mathematical papers as my illness prevented me from reading any. 
But I must leave off talking of myself as I hope to-morrow to present 
myself in person as your affectionate son. 

It is a little difficult to be precise as to the sequence of 
events in Harcourt's Cambridge life, for he had no talent 
for tidiness, and never dated a letter at that time. But the 
following letter, written apparently in 1850, is interesting 
as showing the ingenious way in which he was accus- 
tomed to make his political departure from the family 
tradition palatable to his father : 


Harcourt to his Father. 

CAMBRIDGE (Undated). I was much amused by the account of 
the washing controversy ; it is a better sign than I expected that 
the operatives should have taken so much interest in the question. 
The unvarying selfishness of the middle class seems to me the great 
argument for the extension of the suffrage. If the whole political 
power of the country is absorbed by the middle class, a consummation 
at present rapidly advancing, I do not see how anything is to be 
done for the working classes at all. If we are to have a dominant 
class I think the old one was much better ; but if the operatives are 
willing to help themselves rationally, surely the sooner they are made 
able the better ; it is very commonly argued I know that political 
privileges do nothing for social development, but the rapid advance 
of the middle class since the Reform Bill leads one to expect a similar 
result when applied to the class below them ; and the denunciations 
of danger in the former case, which were so ludicrously falsified, 
incline one to regard without much dread the prophecies of the 

I cannot get up much sympathy for the Jews fight, for though I 
sympathize with their claims abstractly, yet from my personal 
acquaintance with Jewish individuals, I have such a horror of the 
race, as only to have the coldest convictions at their disposal. 

Meanwhile I am drudging through mathematical examination 
papers ; I never felt better up to work, or in fact at any time was 
less incommoded by that great origin of evil the stomach, which I 
attribute mainly to a medical discovery of my own, viz. a cold 
shower bath immediately before dinner, which enables me to digest 
the lumps of tough mutton of which our diet is composed. By this 
means I escape the mornings of lassitude and evenings of misery 
which made reading almost impossible last long vacation. I am 
getting quite fat under the process. 

Tell the young ladies that I have found the effects of getting into 
a passion with them so productive of letters that I shall not fail to 
repeat it on'future occasions. 

The reference to digestive troubles in this letter pro- 
bably explains the fact that he was prevented by illness 
from taking the degree in 1850 as he should normally have 
done. In a letter written to the Canon, probably in the 
Christmas vacation of 1850, he discusses his prospects 
in the approaching finals, and as the event showed gauged 
them very accurately : 

University honours as a reAos have never been a very strong 
lure^to'my ambition (he says), and therefore so long as you are 
satisfied that I have not neglected the advantages whichjyou have 


placed at my disposal I shall not be very solicitous about the event. 
. . . My ambition has always extended to a more distant and a 
wider field. I know how necessary a fellowship is to me in every 
point of view and I shall make that my great aim after the degree. 
It is somewhat unfortunate for me that I have fallen into a remark- 
ably strong year ; the best batch of Classics, Thompson tells me, that 
has come up to Trinity since his own. 

When the results of the Classical Tripos were announced 
on March 20, 1851, Harcourt's name appeared eighth on the 
list, among the names preceding his own being those of 
Lightfoot, Mayor, Whymper, Blore and Williams. Spencer 
Butler's name followed Harcourt's. In the Mathematical 
Tripos Harcourt was a Senior Optime, coming out about 
the middle of the list. 

BOLTON PERCY, Saturday. I am perfectly satisfied with what you 
have accomplished [said the Canon in writing to his son], and doubt 
not that this first trial of your wings will conduce to higher flights 
hereafter. You will be the better all your life for the hard and 
steady, or as Sam Johnson would have said " dogged " work which 
you have latterly gone through in your contention for a high aca- 
demical degree. 

The problem now before Harcourt was what direction 
those " higher flights " of which his father spoke were to 
take. The previous Christmas he had spoken of the neces- 
sity of working for a fellowship after he had taken his 
degree, but had added that his ambition had always extended 
to a more distant and a wider field than scholarship. The 
choice had now to be made. There was no doubt to which 
side Harcourt's own predilections leaned. Through his 
connection with the Morning Chronicle he had already 
smelt powder on the larger field of affairs, and to his com- 
bative temperament the experience could not fail to be 
exhilarating. No man ever had less of the spirit of the 
cloister, or more joy in drinking " delight of battle with 
his peers," and it was inevitable that a mere calculation of 
worldly interest must yield to his powerful natural dis- 
position. Moreover he could not fail to be conscious of 
the unusual gifts with which he was equipped for the world 
of controversy and to be assured of the success that awaited 

1846-51] THE CANON'S ADVICE 57 

him there. The only serious consideration that led him 
still to contemplate remaining at Cambridge for the fellow- 
ship which would fall to him two years hence was the strong 
preference of his father for that course. Harcourt had 
a deep affection for the Canon and a high sense of filial 
obedience, and his hesitation in taking the plunge was due 
entirely to these considerations. He had naturally attracted 
the notice of the political leaders on the Whig side as a 
promising recruit to the cause, and had received from the 
Duke of Bedford an invitation to enter the political arena. 
This proposal he communicated to his father, who replied 
in a witty and sensible letter : 

Canon Harcourt to his Son. 

BOLTON PERCY, May 9, 1 851 . . . . You have not yet I hope passed 
the Rubicon. What ought to be the first object of an honest man in 
pursuing a profession or choosing one ? To secure for himself, for 
the purpose of best serving God and doing good in his generation, 
that independence for want of which men make shipwreck of all 
conscience and self respect. Will politics give any poor man a 
reasonable chance of that ? You mention D' Israeli ; what are his 
chances of retaining office ? What would have become of him 
if he had made politics his profession without first marrying a rich 
wife ? What supported Canning in a similar position but his 
marriage ? You think perhaps D' Israeli might have lived by his 
pen ; that then would have been making literature, not politics, his 
profession ; is journalism to be yours ? I hope not. A fellowship of 
Trinity is a real independence, in sickness and in health, till you can 
turn the work of a real profession to account. No one was ever 
rendered independent by politics, except accidentally, and, after 
all, to live out the remnant of one's days as Burke did on a pension 
of 1200, with which he was reproached, is not altogether satisfactory. 

Leave politics and the turf to rich men to play with, or if you look 
to politics, look to them only through the law, which inosculates 
with them naturally. Burke studied law industriously at the 
Temple, and in other ways prepared himself for Parliament with an 
assiduity not only in historical and philosophical researches, but in 
making himself conversant with old records, patents and precedents, 
of which you have no idea. He was a richer man too than you, 
for he was heir at least to a small landed property (he is said to have 
inherited from his father and uncle 20,000, with which he purchased 
Beaconsfield), and set out, long before he thought of Parliament, 
with a pension of 200 a year from the Irish Government, which 
indeed he resigned in dudgeon with the patron who obtained it 


him. Let me add too that Burke began his course as he ended 
it not with wild convictions, but with writings directed to repress 
anarchical innovation, which doubtless favoured bis early fortunes 
as well as his latter. 

Is there anything in the position of political men now that makes 
politics more likely to insure a man independence than formerly ? 
Does it not become every day more doubtful how the Queen's 
government can be carried on ? Can any Ministry be insured 
six months' continuance in office ? It would be the idlest infatua- 
tion, my dear Willy, to look to the troubled and muddy waters of 
the House of Commons for a profession in which to attempt working 
out your own independence, which I repeat it is on all accounts the 
object on which you ought to keep your eye steadily fixed. If you 
had been born with a silver spoon in your mouth it would have been 
another affair. Even then I should have dreaded your tongue 
outrunning your understanding, but were you disappointed in your 
venture it would be of less consequence ; as it is, if the Woburn 
angler tickles you and turns you into his stock pond for the chance 
of your growing into a large fish for his table, without of course 
undertaking to feed you, and you find short commons there, you will 
not only disappoint him of his dish, but you will bitterly regret 
that you ever let him take you from your own natural stream where 
there are certainly flies to suffice for your support. My advice is 
stick to the waters of Trinity for the present at least, and let His 
Grace fish elsewhere. Take care of yourself for a few years, and you 
may become by and by a steady nurse for the baby people with a 
comfortable knowledge that if the baby cry and you are discharged 
you have somewhat to retire upon. 

I think this is sounder advice than you will get from Dukes or 
Ladies, and that you must allow it to be so when you have wiped from 
your eyes those cobwebs of " fatalism " which you speak of. Nos 
te facimus, Fortuna, deam must not be your motto, but Nullum 
numen abest si sit prudentia. . . . Si quid novisti rectius istis 
candidus imperti. Unless you were to tell me candidly that you have 
been accepted by a girl with 20,000 and pledge yourself not to 
present me with more than two or three grandchildren, I do not think 
it possible for you in any degree to justify so desperate a specula- 
tion for an independent livelihood as the Duke would offer you. 

Harcourt's reply has not been preserved ; but on the 
main point he followed his father's advice. He did not 
accept the ducal overtures made to him to enter on a 
political career. It was not until eight years later that 
he contested a seat in Parliament, and he was forty before 
he entered the House of Commons. He was ambitious, but 
he was in no hurry, and he wisely resolved to secure his 


independence before he adopted public life as a career. But 
in spite of his father's opinion he decided not to wait for 
a fellowship. His interests had outgrown the Cambridge 
atmosphere, and he resolved to try his fortune in the great 
world forthwith. His intention was to read for the bar, 
using journalism, as many others had done, as a stepping 
stone to a more profitable career. His connection with the 
Morning Chronicle had assumed a permanent character and 
gave him the assurance of a sufficient income until he had 
established -himself in his chosen profession. This security 
was necessary, for he had no resources other than those his 
intellectual gifts could provide for him. Confident of the 
sufficiency of these resources he left Cambridge in the 
spring of 1851 and took up his residence in London. 


Introduction to London Society The Cosmopolitan Club The 
Hyde Park Exhibition The Morning Chronicle Louis Napo- 
leon's coup d'etat Palmerston's fall Puseyism The Derby 
Government of 1852 A visit to Italy The Morality of Public 
Men A party at Woburn The Aberdeen Government 
Hard work in Chambers The Crimean War Life in the 
Temple An affair of the heart. 

ON arriving in London Harcourt established himself 
in rooms in St. James's Place with his friend 
Reginald Cholmondeley. He did not come as a 
stranger into the great world. While his influential connec- 
tion gave him immediate access to the social life of the 
metropolis, the reputation he had made in the Cambridge 
Union was an introduction to political society, and his 
association with the Morning Chronicle brought him into 
contact with the literary and journalistic world. He was 
introduced to a little club, the Cosmopolitan, which met in 
Bond Street in the rooms of Robert Morier, then a clerk 
in the Board of Education, with his diplomatic career still 
before him. It met on Wednesday and Saturday nights 
for talk over a friendly pipe. Some of those in the original 
list of members, George Stovin Venables, Charles Brookfield, 
James Spedding and Harcourt himself had been Cambridge 
Apostles. Others were Robert Lowe, G. F. Watts, John 
Rusjan and F. T. Palgrave. Probably through his connec- 
tion with Lady Waldegrave, his uncle's wife, he made the 
acquaintance of Rachel, the actress, then at the height of 
her unprecedented reputation, and among his papers are 


1851-55] IN THE GREAT WORLD 61 

some verses signed by her, and dated London, July 28, 
1851. They were written to accompany a statuette of 
herself in Greek costume which she presented to him. 
His experience of Carlyle was less flattering, according to 
a story which Mr. Augustine Birrell tells. Carlyle was 
extolling Cromwell, when Harcourt intervened with the 
observation that it was a remarkable fact that all Cromwell's 
institutions crumbled with his death. Would it not be true 
to say that Ignatius Loyola had produced more permanent 
effect on mankind ? Carlyle turned on him and said, 
" Young man, ye may be very clever ; I daresay ye are, as 
/ye're just from the University, but allow me to tell ye, ye 
are going straight to the bottomless pit." 

These early days in London were diversified by week- 
ends at Nuneham, with which he now became intimately 
acquainted. " I spent Sunday at Nuneham," he tells his 
mother. " In fact, I am under a permanent engagement 
to go there every Saturday, and Uncle G. has ordered a 
carriage to meet me always on that day. She (Lady Walde- 
grave) recounted to me the other day the whole of her history. 
I assure you no romance could be more extraordinary, and 
considering the incredibly difficult position in which she has 
all her life been placed, I am more surprised at the good 
points than at the foibles of her character." His letters 
home at this time give evidence of a rapidly widening circle 
of friendships. Lady John Russell had invited him down to 
Richmond, "so youisee after all there is some danger of 
my relapsing into aAVhig." " Lady E. Bulteel who, as I 
think I told you, is a very charming person, has a regular 
reception on Mondays which I attended last night. The 
little Bertha is a great pet of mine, and the eldest daughter 
Mary something more." But his affections are still centred 
in his family. " It has always been my hope," he writes 
to his mother, " in the event of contingencies which I pray 
God may be far removed, that my lot should be cast in 
with you and my sisters, and that our home should be a 
common one. . . . For the rest I assure you I have at 
present no intention of seeking elsewhere the gratification of 


a domesticity which I enjoy in such perfection at home." 
The overshadowing social event of Harcourt's early days 
in London was the opening of the Great Exhibition in Hyde 
Park at which he was present and of which he sent an 
enthusiastic description to his sister Emily : 

May, 1851. ... As the clock struck twelve the Queen entered. 
I am told the crowd outside was perfectly incredible. She marched 
in procession up to the dais where she stood for five minutes bowing 
in acknowledgment of the cheers. She was dressed (I studied this 
particularly for the information of the young ladies) in a pink satin 
gown with a simple circlet of diamonds. At this moment the scene 
was very striking, the Queen standing alone in the very centre of 
that vast and beautiful scene looking at a distance a young and 
pretty woman, surrounded by a brilliant court, Prince Albert 
advancing to read the Address from the Commissioners, to which 
she replied, but at the distance at which I stood we could not of 
course hear. Then the Archbishop read a prayer and the Hallelujah 
Chorus was performed with great effect. This took about half 
an hour. The procession was then formed and paraded the whole 
building down the passages which I have marked by the double 
lines in the plan ; so that everybody had a perfect view of the 
Queen as she walked down looking exceeding pleased on Prince 
Albert's arm, he leading the Princess Royal who wore a large wreath 
of roses, and the Queen holding the Prince of Wales by the hand. 

.But the many social activities in which he engaged with 
so much zest implied no lack of attention to the practical 
purpose which had brought him to London. He entered 
at Lincoln's Inn on May 2, 1851, and pursued his law studies 
as a pupil of James Shaw Willes of the Inner Temple, who 
formed the highest opinion of his legal promise. Meanwhile 
he was earning his living by journalism, which continued 
to be his sole source of income until he was called to the 
bar and his main source of income for some years after he 
was called. His connection with the Morning Chronicle, 
begun while he was at Cambridge, had now assumed the 
character of a staff appointment and he largely shaped the 
policy of the paper on the principal issues of the time. 
The journal had been sold in 1848 by Sir John Easthope to 
a Peelite syndicate which included Lord Lincoln and Sidney 
Herbert. Under the new control the paper exercised a 


powerful influence on public opinion, but it was financially 
a failure, the Peelites sinking, it is said, 200,000 in the 
undertaking, and at the end of six years it was again sold 
to a barrister who was said to have purchased it in the 
interest of Napoleon III, who had no more bitter assailants 
than the brilliant young men whom Cook had gathered 
round him. And the most formidable of these was Harcourt. 
His hostility to the pinchbeck adventurer who had trampled 
on the liberties of France with fraud and violence was 
couched in language of unrestrained vehemence. Thus, one 
of his articles begins : " The time is now arrived when, 
having gagged the press and destroyed the Parliament, 
transported the Liberals, robbed the Royalists, bribed the 
Church, exiled the Constitutionalists, hired the army and 
duped the peasants, Louis Napoleon thinks he may, without 
sacrificing the power of a Dictator, assume the situation 
of a Protector." 

There were others besides Napoleon who had begun to 
take account of the young gladiator of the Morning Chronicle. 
In the political confusion at home he had become a force 
to be reckoned with and to be conciliated by the party 
managers. Public affairs have rarely been in so chaotic 
a condition as they were during 1851. The Ministry of 
Lord John Russell, which came into power in 1846 on the 
fall of Sir Robert Peel and the rupture of the Tory Party, 
was visibly approaching dissolution, and with it the political 
domination of the great Whig families was doomed to pass 
away. The policy of Lord John on the anti-papal agitation 
had gravely weakened his position. The issue by the Pope 
of a Bull under which England became a province of the 
Roman Catholic Church with a Catholic hierarchy endowed 
with territorial titles, had inflamed the public mind, already 
profoundly disturbed by the Oxford Movement, and Russell 
gave voice to the popular clamour in his famous letter to 
the Bishop of Durham of November 1850. There is no 
doubt that Lord John was seriously alarmed, though the 
wiser spirits saw that the affair was grossly exaggerated. 
Harcourt, writing to his sister at this time, probably 


expressed what was the general opinion, however, when 
he said : 

... I was glad to see Lord John's letter against the Pope and 
.'Dr. Pusey. I hate the Pope, as Nelson did a Frenchman, like the 
Devil. Lord John with his usual astuteness is taking advantage 
of the Protestant haze, to raise a little wind in favour of the effete 
Whig Government. It is not a bad notion. If the Whigs choose 
to take up the strong Protestant side, they will gain much support 
from all those who are justly alarmed by the hierarchical projects 
of the Puseyites. On the whole I should think Wiseman never 
showed himself so unworthy of his name, for though the real danger 
is nothing there is quite groundwork for an agitation which will give 
Protestantism a fillip such as it has not had for many years. 

But so far from giving a fillip to " the effete Whig Govern- 
ment," the affair substantially contributed to its downfall, 
alienating as it did the Irish contingent in the House and 
intensifying differences with powerful Peelites like Gladstone 
and Sidney Herbert, who were strong High Churchmen. 
When Lord John brought in the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill, 
prohibiting the assumption by Roman Catholic bishops of 
territorial titles, he offended the Catholics without going 
far enough to please the Protestants, and John Leech hit 
off the situation in a famous cartoon in Punch, in which he 
pictured Lord John as a little boy who, having written 
" No Popery " on the wall, was seen in the act of running 
away. The Bill was passed, and of course became a dead 
letter, but it helped to prevent the success of repeated efforts 
by Lord John to strengthen his Government by securing 
the co-operation of the Peelite leaders. He had resigned in 
February after his defeat on the Locke-King motion for 
the extension of the franchise, and the Queen had asked 
Lord Stanley to form a Government. Stanley tried and 
failed, and then Lord John sought the help of the Peelites, 
but he was committed to the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill, and 
had to return without them. In the autumn the effort was 

Then came the coup d'etat of Louis Napoleon on December 
2, 1851. That incident had created widespread indignation 
in England, but the Cabinet very wisely decided that a 


policy of absolute neutrality must be observed in regard 
to it, and sent instructions accordingly to Lord Normanby, 
the British ambassador in Paris. Palmerston, although 
he was Foreign Minister, privately endorsed Napoleon's 
coup, came into conflict with the Court and the Prime 
Minister, and was finally dismissed by Russell two days 
before Christmas. The rupture sealed the fate of the 
Government and of the Whig supremacy. Palmerston had 
not long to wait for his revenge. 

Events in France had created a popular suspicion of the 
aims of Napoleon in regard to this country. The great 
Napoleon and his plans of invasion were still a living memory 
in the land, and it was not unnatural that the revival of 
Imperialism in France should lead to new fears and to a 
demand for action. To placate this outcry Lord John on 
February 16, 1852, brought in a measure for the re-organiza- 
tion of the local militia. Palmerston, who had been Louis 
Napoleon's friend and had probably as little fear on the 
subject as Lord John, promptly took the Jingo line, expressed 
his dissatisfaction with the Government proposals, and 
moved an amendment on which he succeeded in defeating 
his old colleague by nine votes. The Government immedi- 
ately resigned. " I have had my tit-for-tat with John 
Russell," he wrote to his brother, " and I turned him out 
on Friday last." It was taken in good part by Lord John. 
" It's all fair," he said, " I dealt him a blow, and he has 
given me one in return." 

The political atmosphere, on the eve of this crisis, is 
reflected in an undated letter from Harcourt to his father : 

Harcourt to his Father. 

I dined last Sunday with Uncle G. where I sat between the Dukes 
of Bedford and Newcastle, who seemed rather shy of one another ; 
the latter is very deaf. He said he knew Napoleon better than any 
man in England, having spent days alone with him in Scotland, and 
said, " I am as certain as that those two bottles are on this table 
that he means to seize Egypt." 

I met Thiers and Duvergier de Hauranne at Milnes's at breakfast 
yesterday. Thiers laughed at the idea of Egypt, but said (in the 
presence of Van der Weyer the Belgian Minister) that he had only 



to send 4,000 men into Belgium and he might have it when he 
chose. . . . 

The Whigs will die as miserably as they have lived. I was at 
Lord Granville's last night where they all looked very miserable. 
\jLord. G.'s x will be a short tenure of office. The Peelites definitely 
refused to join till after Lord Derby had tried a Government. It is 
thought Lord D. has made a mistake in opposing unconditionally 
the Reform Bill. 

I only go to political parties now which I do not consider waste of 
time. I receive every day bitter complaints against the Chronicle 
from the Greys ; z it will be quite a relief when they are out as they 
will be, as far as Greys can be, in a better humour. 

The Duke of Bedford asked me to his box at Drury Lane on Tues- 
day, which was civil enough, as Lady Waldegrave had told him 
that I occupied myself in writing down the Government. I hope 
in my next letter to be able to announce the extinction of the Whigs. 


" Uncle G." was evidently proud of the young relative 
who had come into his circle, and asked Lord Canning to 
meet " a nephew whom I have just discovered." He and 
Lady Waldegrave " have been very kind in taking me 
anywhere where I wish to go and also in getting up political 
dinners for me," writes Harcourt. It is to Uncle G. 
that " Lord John complains of the fractiousness of the 
Peelites to which I am proud to have contributed." And 
it is at Uncle G.'s that he meets at this time, not only the 
political dukes, but the statesman with whom he was to 
have the longest association of his career. 
. " I have made friends with Gladstone, who is the man of all 
4hose going I have most respect for," he tells his mother. 
Since Sir Robert Peel's death, Gladstone had been easily 
the most distinguished figure in the ranks of the Peelites, 
although the able and amiable Earl of Aberdeen was the 
official leader. Gladstone was the senior of Harcourt by 
eighteen years, had already a long parliamentary career 
behind him, and had entered on that duel with Disraeli 

1 Granville succeeded Palmerston as Foreign Minister, and did 
not hold his office much more than a month. 

1 Sir George Grey was Home Secretary in Lord John Russell's 


which was to hold the centre of the political stage for a 
generation to come. 

Like Gladstone, Harcourt was still in the transition state 
of a Peelite, and had no love for the Whigs, least of all 
for the Greys. " Layard's appointment I think will be 
popular," he says. " There will be one place at least not 
'occupied by a Grey." He was especially dissatisfied with 
the Whigs for the poverty of their Reform Bill. He had 
in his Union days taken a strong and advanced view on 
the franchise question, and his first article in the Morning 
Chronicle, written while he was still an undergraduate, 
had outlined a drastic scheme of electoral reform. The 
timid proposals of the Whigs fell far short of his views, 
and he contemplated the fall of the Government with 

But if he was hostile to the Whigs he was a still more 
formidable opponent of the Government which succeeded 
it. This was the short-lived Ministry of the Earl of Derby. 
It was a stop-gap Government without a majority and 
without a policy. Derby sought to make it a coalition by 
bringing in the Peelites and inducing Palmerston to take 
the Foreign Secretaryship ; but the issue of Protection 
rendered the idea impossible of achievement, for Palmerston 
refused Derby's offer when he learned that Protection was 
not abandoned, and the " Rupert of dejbatp " was thrown 
back upon the rump of the Conservative Party and the 
" Asian mystery " who was their one intellectual asset in 
the House of Commons. It is more than doubtful whether 
Disraeli at this time was still a Protectionist. He had 
thrown in his lot with the Protectionists in the great Tory 
disruption of 1846, and had written the life of the now 
defunct leader of the Protectionist faction, Lord George 
Bentinck. But his own views on the subject were always 
opportunist, and he had probably already realized that, as 
he said later, " Protection was not only dead, but damned." 
Lord Derby's path was not made easier by the suspicion 
and distrust felt by the old-fashioned Tories for the brilliant 
Jewish adventurer. They kicked, as Sir William Gregory 


describes in his autobiography, " against the supremacy of 
one whom they looked at as a mountebank." They were 
impossible without him and miserable with him. 

But from its birth the Derby administration was doomed, 
and the General Election in the summer of 1852 made its 
end, when Parliament reassembled in the autumn, only a 
question of Opposition tactics. The Liberal and Conservative 
Parties were nearly balanced and the forty Peelites who held 
the key of the situation were being drawn inevitably into 
the Liberal camp. Free Trade or Protection was still the 
dominating issue of domestic politics, and the course of 
events had justified the comment that Sir Robert Peel in 
declaring for Free Trade had " steered his fleet into the 
enemy's port." During the summer the accommodation 
between the Liberals and the Peelites made substantial 
progress, and the pen of the young leader writer of the 
I Morning Chronicle became an important influence on the 
* development of the situation. Apart from his work on the 
paper he was contemplating a broadside against the 
Government for the autumn. 

In the meantime, having scraped together 100 out of 
his modest earnings, he indulged himself in his first visit 
to the Continent, taking his sister Emily with him to Italy. 
One or two incidents of the tour may be recalled as indicating 
the feverish state of continental affairs at that time. When 
he was walking one evening on the Piazza at Venice with 
some friends he declared that a number of the men about 
there were Austrian mouchards. This his friends denied. 
" Very well, watch me, and you will see," he said. Walking 
up and down with a cloak thrown over his shoulder he 
constantly mentioned in conversation the name of Mazzini, 
and in a few minutes he was visibly followed and almost 
surrounded by a number of the men, who kept him in 
view for the remainder of the evening. On the return from 
Venice, during the Customs examination on the Swiss 
frontier, his luggage was very carefully examined, and a 
shaded relief map of Switzerland was found in his bag 
and was stated by the authorities to be an opera politica. 


He was removed from the diligence and elaborately searched ; 
the other passengers assuring his sister that he would almost 
certainly be shot, but he was released, though the map was 

Returning to England he proceeded with the task he had 
in mind. It was an indictment of Lord Derby in the form 
of an open letter entitled " The Morality of Public Men." 
It was signed " Englishman," and was published at the 
beginning of December 1852. The authorship of the attack 
was of course an open secret, and had an added interest 
from the fact that Harcourt was then and always remained 
a close friend of Lord Derby's son, Lord-Stanley, a fellow 
Apostle and now a supporter of his father's Ministry. Lord 
Derby was himself one of the most brilliant and wayward 
figures of his time. Scholar, orator, sportsman, he belonged 
to a tradition that was passing away before the tendencies 
of what his son called " the calico millennium." Ther^-i^ 
an amazing glimpse of him in Greville in the April of/i85i, 
when he was still Lord Stanley, and shortly after his ra&ttrtf 
to form a Government : 

At Newmarket on Sunday and returned yesterday. It was worth 
while to be there to see Stanley. A few weeks ago he was on the 
point of being Prime Minister, which only depended on himself. 
Then he stood up in the House of Lords and delivered an oration 
full of gravity and dignity. ... A few days ago he was feasted in 
Merchant Taylors Hall amidst a vast assembly of lords and com- 
moners who all acknowledged him as their chief. ... If any of his 
vociferous disciples and admirers . . . could have suddenly found 
themselves in the betting room at Newmarket on Tuesday evening 
and seen Stanley there, I think they would have been in a pretty 
I/state of astonishment. There he was in the midst of a crowd of 
blacklegs, betting men and loose characters of every description, 
in uproarious spirits, chaffing, rowing and shouting with laughter 
and joking. His amusement was to lay Lord Glasgow a wager that 
he did not sneeze in a given time, for which purpose he took pinch 
after pinch of snuff while Stanley jeered him and quizzed him with 
such noise that he drew the whole mob around him to partake of the 
coarse merriment he excited. 

But with all his defects he was a man of genius, erratic 
and incalculable, but of a certain chivalry and generosity. 
He had a high sense of his responsibilities as a territorial 


magnate, and subsequently earned the lasting gratitude of 
Lancashire for his efforts to keep it on its legs during the 
cotton famine. 

The theme of Harcourt's invective was that the Prime 
Minister had abandoned his political principles for the sake 
of office and had so degraded public life. He laid down the 
principle that political consistency was the foundation of 
party government, and denned consistency as " a middle 
term, which lies between irrational obstinacy and interested 

^levity," accusing Lord Derby of both these qualities. 

The publication of the pamphlet was well-timed, and it 
contributed substantially to the overthrow of the Govern- 
ment a fortnight later. It summed up the case against the 
Derby administration on the eve of the struggle, and brought 
the author still more prominently before the notice of the 
party leaders. " My third edition comes out to-morrow," 
he writes to Spencer Butler at Cambridge. " Gladstone, 
Lord John, the Duke of Bedford, his Grace of Newcastle, 
tc., have been very civil about the letter, and I think it 
l put me in a solidly good political position." He was 
the recipient of widespread congratulations. In the most 
exalted circles the pamphlet was discussed with approval. 
" The Queen," writes Greville in his Memoirs, " is delighted 
to have got rid of the late Ministers. She felt, as everybody 
else does, that their Government was disgraced by its 
shuffling and prevarication, and she said that Harcourt's 
pamphlet (which was all true) was sufficient to show what 

' they were. As she is very honourable and true herself, it was 
natural she should disapprove of their conduct." 

The evidence that Harcourt had, as he anticipated, put 
himself in "a solidly good political position " by its 
pamphlet was immediate. He was invited a few days later 
to a momentous gathering at Woburn where the imminent 
fall of the Government and the constitution of a Ministry 
that was to succeed it were discussed. Here the young man 
found himself in the company of the leaders of both the 
Whigs and the Peelites, and in their innermost counsels at 
an historic moment. Lord John had gone to consult his 


brother, the Duke of Bedford, and the party was joined by 
Lord Aberdeen, the Duke of Newcastle, Lord Clarendon and 
Lady "Vyajflegrave. At dinner on the first night there 
was no place at the table for Harcourt, whereupon Lord 
Clarendon remarked, " But he is the biggest man here." 
On December 16 the new Ministry had been provisionally 
agreed upon, and the company went off to London to hear 
Disraeli's r Budget destroyed by Gladstone in a speech of 
extraordinary power. They came back having beaten the 
Government and having missed a great meet of the hounds 
which Harcourt recalled as the event of their absence. 

The new Ministry was a singular and not very promising 
compromise. The first difficulty was in regard to the office 
of Prime Minister. Lord John Russell was the obvious 
choice, but he was impossible because neither the Peelites 
nor Palmerston, with whom he had had so recent and open 
a disagreement, would serve under him. Palmerston was 
equally impossible, and though he agreed to join the Ministry 
he was ruled out of the Foreign Office, which was his only 
real interest in affairs because neither party would trust 
his provocative temper there. In the end the choice of 
Prime Minister fell upon Lord Aberdeen, the Peelite leader, 
a statesman of the old school, modest, singularly wise, 

1 Harcourt, at this time, as always, was politically opposed to 
Disraeli on almost every capital issue of politics, but he had a 
personal liking for him, and one of his articles in the Morning 
Chronicle, written after the fall of the Derby Administration, is 
devoted to a defence of him against the backwoodsmen of the 
Tory Party, in the course of which he said : 

There is, however, about Mr. Disraeli this element of success 
that he is never disheartened by defeat. We see, in the course 
which he has adopted since the fall of the Administration of which 
he was the actuating spirit, a change of tactics which indicates a 
sense of the mistakes by which his past career was marred. The 
truth is that, in his perfect indifference to one opinion as distin- 
guished from another, the mistake of Mr. Disraeli has heretofore 
been to adopt in turn those which were on the point of becoming 
extinct. What he wanted was, not ability, but judgment. Experi- 
ence, which could never give him the first, is by degrees teaching 
him the last. No one who has attentively marked his conduct 
during this session of Parliament can have failed to remark his 
anxiety to place himself in relation with advancing, rather than 
re-actionary, opinion. The Derbyites have already given him that 


serene and unambitious, but with insufficient force of will 
to rule so brilliant and mixed a team. With him into the 
Ministry he carried the greatest of the Peelites, Gladstone, 
as Chancellor of the Exchequer, while the leading Whigs, 
Lord John and Palmerston, went respectively to the Foreign 
Office and the Home Office. Neither Cobden nor Bright, 
the real authors of the policy that brought the Whigs and 
the Peelites into alliance and the leaders of the growing and 
virile Radical element in the country, were offered seats in 
the Ministry. 

From the Woburn party Harcourt, flushed with his new 
honours, went home to York to spend Christmas. Soon after 
his return he moved from his rooms in St. James's Place to 
chambers at 15, Serjeants Inn, Fleet Street, where he found 
himself next door to John Delane, of The Times, a fact which 
was to bear important fruit later on. " I am immersed in 
the law," he writes to Monckton Milnes (Lord Houghton), 
" for which I have conceived a great passion, and hope one 
day with the help of the Pontefract Attorney to make a 
good job of." But he was no less deeply immersed in politics 
and journalism, and, tempted no doubt by the success of 

of which they never can deprive him a parliamentary position. 
He only required opportunity to make his abilities known, and 
that opportunity their necessities afforded him. As long as it 
suited his purpose, he ministered to their vengeance, their passions, 
and their prejudice. But he knew they had adopted him from no 
respect for his genius, but from a hope of his utility. If he has 
not altogether answered their expectations, it is not they at least 
who have the right to complain. He cannot have betrayed a con- 
fidence which he never received. . . . They have treated with 
gross and insulting ingratitude the only man of ability who has 
done any credit to their cause. They complain of qualities in him 
of which they were perfectly aware at the time when they availed 
themselves of his services. They find fault with the Liberal sym- 
pathies of a man whom they took to themselves from the Radical 
sheepfolds, and made him King over their Israel. They pretend 
to be offended at his sympathy with a race whose cause he ably 
advocated long before he enlisted in their ranks. They think that 
they can confine the ideas and the aspirations of a man of genius 
and courage within the narrow pale of their own bigoted prejudices. 
But they will find, as they have found before, that the man whose 
ability can make him their leader will also raise him above the dull 
atmosphere of their contracted views. . . . 


his previous effort, he hazarded a second canter over the 
same course. He again still signing himself " Englishman" 
addressed Lord Derby in an open letter of prodigious 
length, which appeared in the Morning Chronicle dated 
May 23, 1853. Those were days when newspapers still 
assumed that the public were interested in the serious 
discussion of affairs, but even then it was unusual for a 
newspaper to print an essay running into four columns on 
the foundations of government. It was a leisurely time, and 
we must assume that people read it. Very nearly two 
columns are occupied with a description of the state of 
Europe, a prey to reaction after the unsuccessful revolutions 
of 1848, and the duty of a British government as the guardian 
of free institutions. Only then does Harcourt come to the 
real subject of his letter, the " profligate dispensing of 
patronage," which was, he held, a natural corollary of the 
absence of political principle : 

It was yourself who promulgated among your party the pernicious 
doctrine that anything was permissible in their relations with the 
constituencies which might tend to improve the position of your 
Government. You allowed prominent members of the Administra- 
tion to bid for supporl/by professions which you and they never 
intended to perform. "Your Cabinet was a sort of political Sorbonne, 
in which each doctor was permitted to stamp with all the authority 
of Government, any opinion which might suit his fancy or con- 
venience. You talked of compromises which were nothing but 
juggles, and principles which turned out to be no better than baits. 
All the baseness of the most profligate coalition was combined in 
a homogeneous party. Each individual Minister was in himself 
a coalition at once a Protectionist, a Free-trader, a Tenant-leaguer, 
and an Orangeman. It was intimated to candidates that they must 
accommodate their professions to the sympathies of their consti- 
tuents, and that it would be time enough after they succeeded to 
devise means for betraying their pledges and serving their interests. 

If in these open letters he adopted a ponderous style 
reminiscent of Johnsonian English, he could write simply 
and straight to the point when he liked, and his usual 
articles move with a swifter and more energetic spirit. There 
are many hard hits skilfully delivered in the leaders written 
for the Morning Chronicle. In one of these the real accents 


of the author of the Budget of 1894 are audible. " Why," he 
says, writing of Lord Derby, " did we never hear a syllable 
of ' native industry ' and ' untaxed foreigners ' till the land 
was touched ? The National League is at least consistent ; 
they say, ' We will have nothing cheap.' But Lord Stanley 
says, ' We will have everything cheap except food ' ! Strange 
exception ? What can be the history of it ? Can it have 
anything to do with rent ? " And in these more spontaneous 
writings his wit was always fresh and searching, as, when 
referring to the Russell administration in 1851 he observes : 
" It was the glory of Ulysses to have seen many cities and 
nations of men it is the misfortune of Lord John Russell 
that his acquaintance with mankind is confined to a cousin- 
hood l remarkable more for the antiquity of their race than 
for the freshness of their intellects." 

As a good Peelite, Harcourt became increasingly intimate 
with the Gladstones and Herberts. Gladstone had emerged 
as the hero of the new Ministry with the first of his historic 
Budgets. In reference to this event, Harcourt, writing 
(1853) to his sister, says : 

Gladstone's Budget is considered a great triumph. Lord John 
wrote to Mrs. G. to say that her husband's speech " realized his 
conception of what Rtt would have done in his happiest moment." 
In fact even the Peelites place it above Peel. It has totally shattered 
the Derbyites who have fallen back on the Irish brigade and conse- 
quently lost the confidence of the reputable part of their party. 

I don't do much society except political of which there is a good 
deal at present. I breakfast with Gladstone on Monday. Mrs. G. 
is a great ally of mine, as also Mrs. Sidney Herbert, who is the most 
beautiful woman it is possible to see. 

It was probably at this time that G. F. Watts, who was 
one of the Cosmopolitan Club which met in Bond Street, 
made the drawing of Harcourt which appears in this volume, 
and it was certainly at this time that the Lawrence drawing 

of him now at Nuneham was done for Monckton Milnes. 


1 Mr. Herbert Paul points out (History of Modern England) that 
Privy Seal was the Prime Minister's father-in-law, Colonial Secretary 
and Chancellor of the Exchequer brothers-in-law ; Home Secretary 
and War Secretary, cousins. 


Among the many close friendships which Harcourt made 
in his early days in London, that with the future Lord 
Houghton, a man eminent for his genius for friendship, held 
a high place. He was one of the wide circle who shared in 
Harcourt's abundant letter-writing. " There are few things 
I value so much as friendship," said Harcourt in one of his 
letters, " and among my friends there is none whose affection 
I esteem more than yours." It was at Milnes's request 
that he sat to Lawrence. " I have waited to answer your 
letter till I had seen Lawrence," writes Harcourt. " He will 
gladly undertake the commission, and it will be a great 
charity as I fear, poor fellow, he is very badly off with a large 

His general manner of life at this time is indicated in a 
letter to his sister : 

Harcourt to his Sister. 

LINCOLN'S INN HALL, 1854. At ten I go into my tutor's chambers 
where I work like a horse till five at pleadings, opinions, etc. I 
then scramble to get a little dinner, then a leading Art. till ten, 
then my own private law studies till two, and so to bed. It seems 
to suit me very weU and I always find hard work suits both my 
mind and body better than anything else. One has no time to do 
what Palmerston calls " meditate on the immensity of the universe," 
which is a most unsatisfactory occupation. I am at this moment 
attending a lecture of J. G. Phillimore on Constitutional Law, 
and take the liberty of writing this letter as more improving than his 
inflated and ignorant declamations. 

In the midst of his activities he finds time not only for 
society, but for literature. He continues : 

Have you read the second volume of Ruskin's Stones of Venice ? 
If you have not, beg, borrow or steal it. It is one of the finest things 
that ever was written, full of inspiring eloquence and genuine 
genius. It recreates Venice, and one felt in reading it not only as if 
one was there again, but when there saw much more than is revealed 
to ordinary eyes. You will be in ecstasies at the gorgeous descrip- 
tion of St. Mark's, and the deeply pathetic of Torcello. By all 
means read it. 

And here is a reminiscence, also recorded for " My dearest 
Em," of his social life : 

I dine to-day with the Colonial Duke (Newcastle). In the evening 
I go to a soiree at General Webb's, a great Yankee who is over 


here. You may have seen some months ago in The Times a contro- 
versy between him and that paper over the subject of the English 
false impressions of America. He swaggers a good deal but on the 
whole is intelligent and Anglomaniac. Lady Mahon complained 
to me the other day at Lord Clarendon's that she had been sitting 
at dinner by the American Minister and that he spat on the floor 
all dinner-time. I hear he does this to queer the Britishers, and 
does not practise those manners at home. 


It is in his letters at this period that a cloud which was 
soon to overshadow the sky of Europe begins to claim atten- 
tion. Writing to Milnes he says : 

Har court to Monckton Milnes. 

You will rejoice I know as heartily at the great moral lesson which 
Turkey is reading to Europe. I hope it may not be lost on the 
antiquated imbecilities of the Cabinet a quality which I believe 
has descended even to its youngest members. It is ludicrous to 
see the discomfiture of Reeve, C. Grenville and the rest of the 
Bruton Street conspiracy. The White Cottage and the Cosmopoli- 
tan are open again and we have had some pleasant gatherings. 
Thackeray is in England for a few days. Higgins paid him and 
Doyle the compliment of telling him that it was assumed that D. 
wrote the letterpress and T. did the etchings a pretty double 

We do as much for Maurice as we can manage with the clog of 
our Damned Puseyites. 

I have seen Clarendon and Newcastle several times. My impres- 
sion is that the Government have done nothing, are doing nothing 
and will do nothing. The only hope for them is that the " solecism," 
as Gladstone calls the Turks, may yet drag the impostors through 
with as little disgrace as can be expected. 

And a little later in November 1853 his letters are still 
undated he says, writing again to Mimes : 

Do you read the war which I (Jus Gentium) am carrying on against 
Venables in the M.C. [Morning Chronicle'] ? 

I see Clarendon and Newcastle frequently, and had a long talk 
to old Aberdeen, by whom I sat at dinner at Molesworth's. The 
latter was very civil, and told Andalusia afterwards that " though 
he had ceased to be enthusiastic himself he was delighted to find 
persons who were so." This I suppose was in consequence of my 
blackguarding the Czar and Austria to him. 

I can't reciprocate the compliment. Nothing can be feebler or 

i8 5 3] AS "JUS GENTIUM" 77 

more contemptible than the tone of the Government throughout 
and especially since the Sinope affair. 

The reference to the controversy with Venables deserves 
passing notice, for it records Harcourt's first incursion into 
the realm of international law. Venables had maintained 
in an article published on November 18, 1853, "that by the 
outbreak of war pre-existing treaties between the belli- 
gerents became null and void. It was assumed that war 
" not only suspends, but abrogates, all positive conventions 
between independent powers." This contention was put 
forward in support of the theory that the terms of the 
Treaty of Kainardji enabling Russia to interfere in the 
interests of the Christian populations of Turkey were 
annulled by the outbreak of war between Russia and 
Turkey. This theory of the nullification of international 
engagements on the outbreak of war was based on the fact 
that many of the most important treaties of the past had 
taken the precaution of inserting recitals of former treaties 
which were to remain binding on the parties in addition to 
the new stipulations arising out of the war. 

Harcourt sustained the contrary view in the series of 
letters signed " Jus Gentium," to which he refers Milnes. 
He protested against " the monstrous injustice of the 
doctrine that the breach of one contract vitiates all existing 
contracts," backing his argument by a long array of quo- 
tations from the judgments and the writings of international 
jurists. Positive conventions were, he declared, only 
suspended, not abrogated by war, except as regards the 
particular treaty from a breach of which the war arose. 
The letters are valuable for the light that is incidentally 
thrown on the diplomatic history of Europe from the Peace 
of Amiens onwards, but their chief interest from the point 
of view of this biography is the indication of the power in 
controversy on subjects bound up with international law 
which was to make Harcourt a considerable reputation in 
two hemispheres in the next decade. In style these letters 
are more ponderous and less finished than the famous series 
of the letters of " Historicus," but they show the same skill 


in marshalling authorities, the same ability to discover the 
weak points of his opponent's reasoning, and the same 
enormous industry and persistence. 

Meanwhile, the cloud in the East expanded. To Har- 
court, as to others, it was a cloud of a beneficent kind. He 
shared the popular enthusiasm which the prospect of war 
rarely fails to awaken. He had yet to acquire that hatred 
of war which was to become one of the most constant and 
intense of his passions. When, long after, the Russians 
seized Port Arthur, he said, commenting on the popular 
mood of the time, " I remember Lord Aberdeen saying to 
me at the close of his life that he had never forgiven himself 
for giving way to popular clamour at the time of the Crimean 
War. I will not go down to the grave," he added, " with 
such a reproach on my soul." But at the time he had no 
hesitations, as the following passages from letters to his 
sister show : 

Harcourt to his Sister, Emily Harcourt. 

, . . No one now believes in peace. I have seen persons who 
have come from Petersburg, who all agree that the Czar is bent 
on fighting. His admirers are obliged to take refuge in the hypo- 
thesis that he is mad just as people always say that a man who 
commits suicide is non compos. But the truth is, crime is a different 
thing from insanity, and it is sheer immorality to confound them, 
He will get, I take it, such a licking as will last Russia for fifty years. 
The Government believe in the sincere adhesion of Austria, I confess 
I am not so sanguine. That she will not fight for Russia is clear, 
because it would be destructive to her to do so ; that she will fight 
against her I think much more questionable. Nothing can be 
better than the spirit of the public in the matter ; nobody seems to 
grudge their friends to the cause of the country. The Sutherlands 
are quite pleased at Freddy's going the week after his joining ; 
the only people disappointed are those who are left behind. . . . 

There can be no doubt now that war has broken out. I never 
had any belief in the possibility of any other solution. The pre- 
tensions of Nicholas never had any other foundation but force, 
and by force alone they can be and they will be put down. I 
have very little doubt that the Turks will give the Czar a good licking. 
And if they can't do it alone we shall help them. It is plain that 
the Mahometans are much the best Christians of the two. . . . 

The news from abroad is capital. Austria and Prussia have 
declared against Russia, Austria threatening to march an army 


against the Russian flank if they cross the Danube. This makes 
either the destruction or humiliation of Russia certain ; I should 
prefer the first, but should be satisfied with the last. Nicholas is 
now in the situation of Napoleon after his return from Elba, only 
without his genius or his generalship. If this attitude of the Ger- 
man powers had been assured before the last reply of the Western 
Powers to the Ambassadors, the Czar would no doubt have slunk 
out of his scrape under an affectation of moderation, but having 
withdrawn his ambassador if he retreats as he must, it will be obvious 
that he succumbs from fear. And so the prestige of Russian power 
is destroyed for the next half-century. Amen. 

The kindest comment that can be made on this prayerful 
eagerness for war is that Harcourt was, in this matter, 
no wiser than his generation. The nation had enjoyed 
forty years of peace, and having forgotten what war meant 
fell an easy prey to the preachers of panic, and Harcourt 
fell with it. There was one consideration that might have 
been expected to save him from the general surrender of 
reason. No one in England had shown a more acute 
understanding of the character of Louis Napoleon or a 
more profound distrust of his motives, and Louis Napoleon 
was the true author and begetter of the Crimean War. 
That of course was not the popular judgment at the time. 
The heavy villain of the piece in the contemporary view 
was the Tsar, Nicholas. Time and its disclosures have so 
completely reversed this view that Nicholas is left the 
accuser rather than the accused. There are three chief 
offenders at the bar of history in connection with the 
authorship of perhaps the most foolish and gratuitous war 
on record, and Nicholas is certainly not one of them. The 
three are Napoleon, the Sultan and Lord Stratford de 
Redcliffe, the British Ambassador at Constantinople. Of 
these the chief sinner is Napoleon III. There are few 
more remarkable documents than the letter which Count 
Nesselrode, the Russian Foreign Minister, wrote in Decem- 
ber 1852 immediately after Napoleon had assumed the 
Imperial crown. It is remarkable alike as a reading of 
Napoleon's mind and as a forecast of events. The letter 
was not written to Lord Aberdeen, but it was seen by 
him, and must have helped to strengthen him in the 


struggle he made against the tide of mingled deceit, folly 
and betrayal which finally swept the country into war as 
the instrument of the French adventurer. In this letter 
Nesselrode prophesied that Louis Napoleon would seek to 
embroil Russia and Turkey, and analyzed with extraordinary 
perspicuity the calculations upon which he would gamble. 
The fulfilment of this prophecy came in the following 
summer and autumn. Napoleon chose his ground well. 
He caused demands to be made on the Sultan for privilege 
for the Roman Catholic clergy in connection with the Holy 
Places. The demands were irreconcilable with the pledges 
which had been given to Russia by the Turkish Government, 
and when they were conceded Nicholas asked, as Napoleon 
of course had foreseen he would ask, for equal privilege 
for the Greek Church. It was so reasonable a request that 
its refusal could only be interpreted as a part of a calcu- 
lated policy of affront. The trumpery issue was carefully 
kept open during the summer, autumn and winter, while 
the chief conspirators wove the web of events that were to 
lead up to " the inevitable war." Whenever a settlement 
seemed imminent one of the trinity threw a new faggot on 
the expiring flames. At first Aberdeen had the bulk of the 
Cabinet with him in his desire to preserve the peace, and 
it is probable he would have succeeded, but for the fact 
that throughout the British Ambassador at Constantinople 
was playing into the hand of Napoleon, by encouraging 
the Porte to reject the advice of which he was the official 
vehicle. When, following on the declaration of hostilities 
by Turkey, the Russians destroyed the Turkish ships at 
Sinope, the Ambassador exclaimed in a loud voice, " Thank 
God, this is War." From this moment Aberdeen's last 
hope of preserving the peace vanished. The war spirit 
had seized the nation, and the Cabinet was swept into the 
torrent of events. 


It was in the midst of this feverish time that Harcourt 
entered on his career at the Bar. " I am all surprise that 

i8 5 4l HIS FIRST BRIEF 81 

you are boxed up in Chambers and apparently callous 
about politics," writes Julian Fane to him : 

VIENNA, April 20, 1854. If I am in England, I must go part of 
the circuit with you and witness the taking of your legal maiden- 
hood, which operation will be highly interesting. Seriously, I 
think you are quite right to take the Law in earnest, because I think 
you are quite sure to succeed in it, and I look forward with some 
confidence now to your making a carri$re of it, if you do not suffer 
politics to lure you away to the H. of C. for a profession and back 
to the L.C. for an income. I suppose the preliminary work is 
tedious beyond measure, but, once started, your combative nature 
will, I imagine, greatly disport itself in a Court of Law, and I hope 
to witness its recreations. 

On May i Harcourt was called to the Bar at the 
Inner Temple and began his legal career on the Home 
Circuit. In the following year, however, James Shaw 
Willes, with whom he had read law, became a judge, and 
took Harcourt with him as Marshal on the Northern 
Circuit. There he came in contact with some of the ablest 
men at the bar, including James Wilde (Lord Penzance), 
Colin Blackburne, the first lawyer of his day, Gathorne 
Hardy (Lord Cranbrook), Cross (afterwards Home Secre- 
tary), and Holland (Lord Knutsford). He returned, from 
this interlude, to the Home Circuit, and the story of his 
first brief there is recorded by Spencer Percival Butler ; 

It is a privilege, according to Livy in the fine Preface to his Roman 
history, to add to the lustre of the earliest annals by mingling with 
the human a certain element of the Divine. I am afraid that no 
such superhuman halo often surrounds the first brief of the young 
barrister. After I had followed Harcourt to the Bar, I remember 
him in his new wig and gown looking very nice, going before the Judge 
in Chambers, Mr. Baron Martin, a very strong Judge, with the guinea 
brief, as Counsel for the Defendant in a peculiar case. There was 
an old statute, under which where property belonged to two or more 
persons as tenants in common, and one of them occupied it in the 
absence of the other, a right of action was given to the other for 
an account of the profits which the occupant had or might have 
received. The ordinary Statutes of Limitation did not apply to 
actions brought under this Statute. A long account of the profits 
or presumed profits of the occupancy in this case formed a part 
of the brief. When the solicitors and counsel in the case came before 
the Judge in Chambers, the Judge looked in some dismay at the 
bulky account and said : 



" Who are you for, Mr. Harcourt ? and what is the meaning of 
this account ? " 

" I am for the defendant, my Lord," was the reply, " and I think 
you will be a little surprised if you look at the first item in the 
account dated fifty years ago." 

"Hog's inwards 35. 6rf.," said the Judge. "This will never do; 
we cannot go into questions of Hog's inwards fifty years ago." 

Solvuntur risu tabulae. It is not always that such complete 
success attends the future Solicitor General in his first professional 
experience of the courts of law. 

His enthusiasm for his new profession was unqualified. 
" My mother has written me charming accounts of you and 
your visits to her," writes Julian Fane from Vienna on 
July 19, 1854. " She is so delighted that you have aban- 
doned politics for law. I trust the practical part of the 
latter will interest you, and that your success on circuit 
may be as large as my love for you." He had no reason 
to complain of his progress at the bar. " I have been to 
Hertford and Chelmsford on Circuit, going on Thursdays 
and returning on Tuesdays, which I can do to all the towns 
on this circuit, which suits very well for all purposes," he 
tells his sister. " I shall have something to do at Croydon. 
... I have had a very fair share of business in town, and 
am in a great case with Sir F. Kelly in the Privy Council 
next week." 

A pleasant picture of Harcourt's life in these early days 
at the bar is contained in Spencer Percival Butler's reminis- 
cences of his friend : 

During three years or thereabouts between 1855 and 1859 Harcourt 
and I and a common friend, Benjamin Gray, a fellow of Trinity and 
a barrister, occupied, for residential ('purposes, a charming set of 
Chambers at the top of No. 5, Paper Buildings in the Temple, which 
contained a large sitting room with oriel windows, overlooking the 
river, and on clear Sundays the Surrey hills also, and I think we all 
enjoyed it. We were all members of the Oxford and Cambridge 
Club, and generally dined there at the " Island " (as we called it), 
being a collection of two or three small tables in the central part 
of the room which could accommodate four to eightdiners as required. 
There were several pleasant and some very witty men who were 
attracted by Harcourt to the " Island," such as Horace Mansfield, 
a fellow of Trinity, Garden, then Sub-dean of the Chapels Royal, 
Sir Francis Doyle, a friend of Gladstone at Eton and Professor of 


Poetry at Oxford, one of the wittiest and most genial of companions, 
and Post of Oriel and Patrick Cumin of Balliol, and John Martineau 
and Sclater and many others ; and sometimes Harcourt left us, 
and dined with Venables or Kinglake, the historian and author of 
Eothen, and reported to us their wise and weighty utterances. One 
day I remember his coming back to tell us that Kinglake attributed 
the super-excellence of John Bright' s oratory to his never having 
enjoyed the disadvantage of a classical education. 

Benjamin Gray was the son of a wealthy Manchester manufacturer 
and had a passion for all warlike things. One day, when Napoleon 
III was imitating Napoleon I and was reviewing his Army on the 
heights above Boulogne, he persuaded us, nothing loth, to run down 
to Deal, and engage a Deal lugger, which Harcourt believed to be 
the best boat you could sail in. We had a pleasant week-end, but 
only got half across the Channel. The wind and the tide, I believe 
crossed purposes, and we returned towards Deal, but the tide was 
then too low to let us sail or row across the Goodwin Sands, and we 
lay for some hours outside the Sands, while two of us in a small 
boat landed on the dry sand and took a walk thereon. On another 
occasion, we all three went over to Brussels and visited the field of 
Waterloo, without any mishap. 

I find among my letters from Harcourt invitations in 1857 an d 
1858 to join him in Switzerland and in Austria. Something must 
have prevented us in 1857 starting so soon, for later in the year 
Gray and I went to the Pyrenees, and in 1858 a family death pre- 
vented me from joining Harcourt on a fishing expedition* in the 
Salzkammergut which I should have enjoyed greatly. 

In March 1857, I went with Harcourt to hear the close of the 
debate on the Chinese (Arrow) question in the House of Commons. 
It was expected that Gladstone would speak and Palmerston reply, 
and that the Government might be defeated, as a few of their sup- 
porters, including an uncle of Harcourt, were expected to vote against 
them. . . . Gladstone made one of his finest speeches, and towards 
the end of it, he said, " Having, Sir, adverted to the arguments 
founded on the municipal and international law, I now ask how 
does this question stand on the higher ground of natural justice? 
I say higher ground, because it is the highest ground of all. My 
Right Honourable friend was forbidden to appeal to the principles 
of Christianity. ... As it seems to give offence, I will make no 
appeal to these principles, but I will appeal to that which is older 
than Christianity, because it was in the world before Christianity 
to that which is broader than Christianity, because it extends to 
the world beyond Christianity and to that which underlies Chris- 
tianity, for Christianity itself appeals to it I appeal to that justice 
which binds man to man." . . . 

As he spoke, the thunder of his voice rolled, and he raised his 
arm to its full height, as an appeal to Heaven itself, and then moved 


it majestically across as if to the full breadth of the world, and then 
dropped it to that which underlies everything, and binds man to 
man. The House divided, and Cobden's resolution was carried by 
a majority of 16, Ayes 263, Noes, 247. The House adjourned at 
half -past two. 

As we walked away to the Temple Harcourt remarked " If I 
had been in Parliament, I should have voted for the Government, 
but I should have felt uncomfortable about it after Gladstone's 

It will be seen from the above statement that Harcourt 
was living in 1855 in Paper Buildings with Butler and Gray. 
His business chambers he shared with Kenneth Macaulay. 
He lived in Paper Buildings until 1859, an d was a ble at 
the general election of 1857 to vote in the City for Lord 
John Russell. As he and Butler were Liberals, they made 
their fellow lodger go to the poll on behalf of Lord John on 
the ground of the right of majority. 

But although Harcourt established his position at the 
Bar with less than the customary delay, there was a moment 
in 1855 when he contemplated turning to another career. 
He had formed as long before as 1852 an attachment to a 
young lady, a member of a Devonshire family, to whom, 
in the August of that year, he had addressed some verses 
disclosing his thoughts about himself. " I am no judge 
of poetry," wrote the recipient in reply, with commendable 
caution, " and that the lines have pleased me very much 
is no proof of their excellence. I can only assure you that 
they are not thrown away, and I will merely add I hope 
one day to resemble more than I do now the character they 
describe." The attachment thus begun continued for 
some years, and it is from the diary of the lady's sister that 
we learn that Harcourt at one moment contemplated throw- 
ing up his career at the Bar. Under the date of July 3, 
1855, she says : 

There has been a most awful row about W. V. H. He has written 
to Lady Canning and applied for the place of Secretary to Lord 
Canning in India without ever saying a word to Mama or Maimee. 

Whatever the cause of this sudden impulse events 


decided otherwise. An entry in the diary on the 3oth of 
the same month reads : 

Willes is made a Judge of India and he has given his business to 
W. V. H. 1 So the latter wrote off to Lady Canning to say that 
circumstances had occurred which prevented his wishing to have 
the place. 

It only remains to be said in regard to this episode that 
Harcourt and the lady retained their friendship throughout 
their later life, and, as will be seen, occasionally corre- 
sponded. The lady married a distinguished public servant 
who was for many years one of Harcourt's kindest and 
most intimate friends, and they were closely associated 
the one as a Minister of the Crown and the other as Private 
Secretary to Queen Victoria. 

1 " When Mr. Justice Willes was made a judge," wrote Sir J. 
Hollams in Jottings of an Old Solicitor (1908), " he suggested to many 
of his clients that they should send papers to Mr. Vernon Harcourt. 
In consequence he was at that time constantly referred to as the 
' Codicil.' " 


The Saturday Review Liberalism v. Toryism Opposition to Bright 
Denunciation of Napoleon III Palmerston's foreign policy 
Disraeli and Gladstone The Indian meeting Hits at The 
Times Social life Tour in Switzerland and Italy The Kirk- 
caldy Election A Kirkcaldy Presentation. 

WHATEVER the passing motive which led Harcourt 
to contemplate going to India with Canning, he 
had no reason to regret his change of mind. Not 
only did the promotion of Willes to the Bench enlarge his 
opportunities at the Bar, but a new and more brilliant 
phase of his journalistic career opened out before him in 
the autumn of 1855 with the establishment of the Saturday 
Review. Cook had not made a financial success of the 
Morning Chronicle, and when that organ was sold to the 
enemy he turned to weekly journalism. The Saturday 
Review, of which Alexander Beresford Hope, who had married 
l</ Lady Mildred Cecil, was the principal proprietor and of 
which Cook was the editor, made an unusually brilliant 
entrance upon the stage. No journal probably ever started 
with a more accomplished team of writers. Cook had 
brought H. S. Maine and Harcourt with him from the 
Morning Chronicle, and among his other contributors were 
G. S. Venables, Thomas Collett Sandars, the editor of 
J Justinian, Lord Robert Cecil (afterwards Marquess of 
Salisbury), G. W. Hemmings, Fitzjames Stephen, Goldwin 
Smith and later Walter Bagehot, and other men of present 
or future distinction. The paper was an immediate and in its 


1855-59] WIT AND HUMOUR 87 

way an unprecedented success. It was admirably written, 
hit freely all round the wicket, and was critical rather than 
constructive. " If any one into whose hands the Saturday 
mav since have fallen fancies that its success was due to 
political pepper, he is mistaken," wrote Goldwin Smith 
afterwards. " Its tone during its palmy days was Epi- 
curean, and this was the source of its popularity in the 
circles by which it was chiefly supported. It was said of 
us that whereas with the generation of the Reform Bill, 
everything had been of the highest importance, with us 
nothing was new.^ltiothing wa>^true, and nothing was of any 
importance." . 

It was an attitude which admirably suited the combative 
spirit of Harcourt, and the ringing blows of his quarter- 
staff and his boisterous chaff make the pages of the Saturday 
nearly seventy years afterwards still gay and refreshing 
reading. The articles are so extraordinarily alive that it 
is easy to forget that their themes are the faults and foibles 
of a long past time. Johnson said of some one that his 
writing had not wit enough to keep it sweet. It is the 
riotous wit with which he envelops his subject that makes 
Harcourt's contributions to the Saturday as fresh as if the 
ink was still wet on the page and the laughter still sounded 
in the ear. It is Rabelaisian, or perhaps rather Dickensian 
wit, appealing to the plain man, without a hint of subtlety, 
but broad, direct, flamboyant. To the modern taste, the 
metaphors and allegories in which he revelled will seem 
sometimes to be carried to excessive length, but the gaiety 
with which he gores and tosses his victims is irresistible, and 
behind the invective there is so much good sense and sound 
feeling that he not only wins the laugh, but generally carries 
the argument. He was now, in a journalistic sense, the 
complete master of his instrument. He had freed himself 
entirely from the stiff and formal invective of " The Morality 
of Public Men," and from the sometimes stilted English of 
his Morning Chronicle leaders. He writes, as it were, in 
his shirt sleeves, out of a full mind and the abundance of 
his animal spirits, using the racy style and the picturesque 



illustration which afterwards made him the most enter- 
taining platform speaker of his time. His contributions 
were at first occasional, but as the paper flourished his 
connection with it assumed a different character. In an 
undated letter to " Dearest Em " he says : 

Circuit is just beginning, but I must write a line before I am off to 
Chelmsford. I have been very busy legally and otherwise lately. 
Professional work is coming in regularly and steadily. The Saturday 
Review has prospered so well that the proprietors have constituted 
five of us into a regular staff with a good salary, so that we write 
just as much or as little as we like, which is much more satisfactory 
than working by the job. 

In his attitude to affairs, parties and politicians he was 
still very much of a free lover. He had been a Peelite and 
was now a Liberal, holding in the main by the policy of 
Lord John Russell, but with reservations. For Lord John, 
in spite of his zeal for parliamentary reform, remained a 
Whig, and his associates were chosen from the great Whig 
families. As Harcourt remarks in one of his articles : 

Lord John Russell returned to office in 1846, like the French 
emigrants, having learnt nothing and forgotten nothing ; and the 
Government, as a matter of course, was again parcelled out, with 
cynical contemptuousness, among Greys, Russells, Eliots, and 
again, Eliots, Russells, Greys. Without wishing to detract from the 
merit of particular individuals, people began to be sick of the Whig 
bill of fare toujours perdrix. Since the Reform Bill, there have 
been half a dozen Whig Cabinets but there has never been a Liberal 
Administration . 

And in one of his first contributions to the Saturday Review 
(November 17, 1855), he wrote the obituary notice of Lord 
John as the " Last Doge of Whiggism," using as the peg 
of his strictures a reminiscence of the tomb of Manin, the 
last Doge of Venice. He has no hope of Whiggism broaden- 
ing out into the new current of Liberalism : 

The struggle of Whiggism in these days to transmute itself into 
Liberalism is like the attempt of an old mail coachman to turn 
stoker. He fails because he was not bred to the trade, and does not 
understand it because it is alien to his nature, his habits and his 
tastes. . . . The mournful interest which attaches to the name of 
Manin will belong to Lord John Russell as the last Doge of Whiggism. 

i855-59l ' POT AND KETTLE " 89 

But if he despairs of Whiggism as the instrument of reform, 
he finds Liberalism vague and shapeless, and sets himself 
in a series of articles to define its aims and principles. 
Liberals are always, he thinks, at a disadvantage as com- 
pared with Conservatives, because they cannot, by definition, 
be content with things as they are, but must be prepared 
with a precise answer when they are asked what they 
really want. A constructive policy is always bound to be 
more difficult to state than the mere maintenance of the 
status quo. Liberalism cannot live on past achievements. 
It must live iorihe future or perish. Thus the Free Trade 
issue " is a thing of the past, as purely historical as the 
Glorious Revolution." Harcourt was to live to see it on 
its trial once more. He writes on March 21, 1857, under 
the homely heading " Pot and Kettle " : 

It is not the metier of a Tory to have a policy, any more than it is 
that of a king to be a democrat. A Tory government may do very 
well without a policy, just as a country gentleman may sit at home 
and live upon his rents ; but a Liberal government must do some- 
thing for its bread, or else it will starve like a merchant without 
customers, a doctor without patients, or a lawyer without clients. 
If you see a quiet old gentleman, fast asleep, with a cigar in his 
mouth and his feet on the hob, it would be cruel if not impertinent 
to ask him where he is going to ; but if you go round to the front- 
door, and see a knowing looking " party " on the box of a drag, with 
his hat on one side, handling a team of screws, and an Earl in a 
Windsor uniform behind, blowing a long tin-horn and touting for 
passengers, you may be excused for inquiring his destination and 
discussing the probability of his getting there. ... 

. . . With a fatal blindness, the Liberal party seem rushing on 
to their destruction. They are eagerly helping the wolves to get 
rid of the watchdogs. Manchester vies with London in seeking 
to dismiss the men who have really stuck by the cause through good 
report and evil report. The article in request now is a dog warranted 
not to bark. A Government official is to be run against Messrs. 
Bright and Gibson, and Mr. Cobden is, if possible, to be kept out 
of the House of Commons. Lord John Russell is to be discredited, 
and Mr. Currie, good easy man, thinks he is going to squeeze Lord 
Palmerston into Liberalism. Did so foolish a bluebottle ever buzz 
on a chariot wheel ? 

The reference to Bright and Cobden is interesting. He 
wanted the watchdogs to be in the House to bark, but he 


had not, in his progress to the Left, arrived at the Radical 
position. He was moving parallel with his fellow Peelite, 
Gladstone, and was as far removed from Bright and Cobden 
on the one hand as he was from the Whigs on the other. 
From Bright he differed radically on the question of parlia- 
mentary reform, and for a long time his attitude to that 
great man was hostile and scornful. He thinks this plainest 
of plain men " of all human puzzles the most perplexing." 
Like Rob Roy, he is " ower bad for a blessing and ower good 
for a banning." Harcourt is conscious of the " bold 
masculine force of his natural and not uncultivated elo- 
quence " (an engaging concession which the Harcourt of 
later years would have enjoyed as much as any one), but he 
does not like his Socialism ! 

Socialism is the legitimate and inevitable corollary of Mr. Bright's 
doctrine. If want is the crime of the Government, then the duty of 
the Government must be to proviBe against want. This is Socialism 
pure and simple. It begins with national workshops, and ends 
with what Mr. Carlyle calls a " whiff of grapeshot." Mr. Bright 
may pretend to direct his attacks against the aristocracy alone, but 
it is the possessors of capital, the employers of labour, the great 
middle class of this country who have real cause to dread his 
revolutionary language. 

The charge of Socialism seems an odd accusation to have 
been brought against the high priest of Individualism, but 
Harcourt was right in the long view. The Radicalism of 
Bright was shaping the future far otherwise than Bright 
himself foresaw, and Harcourt himself lived to declare that 
" We are all Socialists now." But if at this time Harcourt 
distrusted the views of Bright, he recognized his high 
courage and disinterested character, realized the importance 
of the presence of such a man in Parliament, and when, 
as the result of his opposition to the Chinese War, he was 
rejected at Manchester at the general election of 1857, ne 
wrote (May 9) : 

It may be very convenient for an Administration to rule with 
undisputed sway over submissive mediocrities ; but if the standard 
of the House of Commons should ever be permanently degraded 
in public estimation the end of parliamentary government will not 

l855 -59] 'PREMATURE' 1 PEACE 91 

be far off. The substitution of Potters and Turners for Brights and 
Cobdens is not a process which will bear indefinite extension. 

There was too much respect for Bright's character evident 
in Harcourt's attacks on him to make those attacks quite 
convincing. It was far otherwise with two other persons 
against whom he waged relentless war in the Saturday 
Review. In spite of the episode of the Crimean War which 
had made England and France allies, Harcourt retained 
his profound and unchanging distrust of Napoleon III. 
The war in which that adventurer had so skilfully involved 
this country had come to a close on March 30, 1856. Its 
course had been as shameful a record of incompetence and 
blundering as its origin had been discreditable, and in the 
end Napoleon was as anxious to get out of it as, two years 
before, he had been anxious to get into it. With the fall 
of Sebastopol and the death of Nicholas the miserable 
struggle was closed and a peace was patched up on the basis 
of Russia relinquishing her control over the Danube and 
her protectorate over the Principalities and being forbidden 
to build arsenals on the shores of the Black Sea. Turkey 
emerged triumphant, thanks to the arms of the Christian 
Powers, having confirmed, on paper, the privileges proclaimed 
in 1839 ^0 Christians dwelling in the Ottoman Empire. 
But of the fruits of that squalid war nothing endured. 
The neutrality of the Black Sea was cancelled in less than 
twenty years, and the massacres of Christians at Damascus, 
at Lebanon, in Bulgaria and Armenia were the comment 
upon the ally for whom we had sacrificed thirty thousand 
lives and added forty-one millions to the National Debt. 
Harcourt shared the popular feeling in England about the 
" premature " peace, and the fact that Napoleon was the 
active influence in bringing it about added to his abundant 
hatred of the Emperor. His attacks on him in the Saturday 
Review touch the extreme limit permissible in speaking of 
the sovereign of a friendly state. Of the French Assembly 
he writes (June 13, 1857) : 

For what purpose this fragment of a parliament was stuck up, 
it is rather difficult to divine. One would almost suppose that the 


Emperor kept it only as an amulet to ward off the evil eye or to 
avert the Nemesis of a popular tyranny. 

And later he denounces the Emperor and his associates as 
" that little gang of Italian conspirators who took the 
civilization of France by the throat on the night of the 2nd 
of December." On another occasion, in an article on the 
prosecution of Montalembert he says (November 6, 1858) : 

The Empire has existed now six years, but since the night of 
the second of December it has not gained one real convert it has 
scarcely been able to purchase a solitary traitor. Plundered, insulted, 
gagged, persecuted, trampled on everything that is noble, virtuous, 
and intelligent in France has opposed, and still opposes to the tyranny 
which oppresses it, a dignified and indomitable resistance. 

He had abundant occasion soon after the war was over 
for the expression of his feelings towards Napoleon. The 
prosecution of Montalembert for criticizing the French 
Government outraged his sense of freedom and justice alike. 
He writes to his sister : 

Harcourt to his Sister. 

PARIS, October, 1856. ... I brought a letter to Montalembert 
and received a very civil note from him begging me to come next 
Friday to his house, apologizing for being so occupied with the 
prosecution which the Government is directing against him for a 
private letter disparaging to the Government which was published 
without his knowledge or authorization. The friends of the Emperor 
have in vain dissuaded him from pursuing the matter further, but 
in vain. The question of the prosecution was voted on yesterday 
in the Assembly of Deputies, who are mere dummies of the Govern- 
ment and carried by 184 to 51. It is only surprising considering the 
way the Government insisted on it that any of the members dared 
to vote against it. He will be tried next week by the Court of Police 
and his condemnation is therefore certain, as the Courts of Justice 
here never decide against the Government. Benguer is to be his 
Counsel and will no doubt make a splendid speech which I shall try 
to hear. It will be very interesting to meet the party at Montalem- 
bert' s on Friday. 

When, Montalembert having been convicted " according 
to plan," Harcourt returned, his wrath boiled over in the 
pages of the Saturday Reveiw, in which he backed " the 
cause for which Montalembert lies in prison against the 
title by which Louis Napoleon sits on the throne." He had 

1855-59] RIGHT OF ASYLUM 93 

a little later a more popular occasion for his invective. 
The French demand that England should abandon the right 
of asylum because of the evidence that the Orsini conspiracy 
against the life of Napoleon III had been hatched in England 
roused him as it roused the majority of Englishmen. 
Readers of Richard Feverel will remember how the boy was 
moved to challenge the French colonels whose addresses to 
the Emperor denouncing the English people as harbourers 
of assassins were published in the official journal of the 
Empire, the Moniteur. The Conspiracy Bill, introduced 
to modify English law in the direction demanded, was the 
immediate cause of the fall of the Palmerston Government 
in 1858. When in the autumn of that year Palmerston 
and Clarendon, then no longer Ministers of the Crown, saw 
fit to pay a visit to the Emperor at Compiegne, Harcourt 
expressed the general feeling of indignation at the action. 
The Orsini case was the occasion of the first of the long 
series of contributions which Harcourt was to make to 
The Times. Under the pseudonym of " Lex et Consuetudo " 
he addresses two learned letters to that paper on the right 
of asylum given to aliens in this country. In the second 
of these (February 3, 1858), he says : 

Depend upon it the course which is adopted in this matter is of the 
very last importance, not to this country alone or to this present 
age, but to all nations and to future times. England is a city set 
on a hill that cannot be hid. To her alone is confided the charge of 
the sacred beacon which casts its hospitable rays athwart the dark 
waters of illimitable despotism. It behoves us, each and all, in 
our individual and collective capacities, to labour that she should 
do nothing unworthy of the last hope and refuge of Europe. 


In this episode two cherished antagonisms of Harcourt 
were united. If there was any one who inspired him with 
more distrust than Napoleon it was Palmerston. The 
two main counts on which Harcourt attacked the Palmer- 
ston system in the pages of the Saturday Review are the 
bullying of the weak and truckling to the strong, the latter 
especially in the case of the French government. A spirited 


foreign policy in practice meant truculence in China over 
the case of the Arrow, and in Greece over the wrongs of 
that typical British subject Don Pacifico, but subservience 
to French policy in great matters. He parodied the Palmer- 
stonian attitude in a description of "Mr. Tomkins Abroad," 
and was unceasing in his protest against Palmerston's 
submission to French policy. Writing on August 15, 1857, 
on the acquiescence of the Government on the question of 
the Moldavian elections, and the union of the Principalities 
which had been opposed by Great Britain and Austria in 
the interests of Turkey, he says : 

But, after all, it is not the Eastern aspect of the question which is 
the most serious part of this miserable affair. It affords to Europe 
another conspicuous and shameful proof of that complete subser- 
vience to French diplomacy which is the key-note of Lord Palmer- 
ston's policy. Ever since the Emperor dictated to our Government 
the premature conclusion of the Russian war, the history of our 
foreign affairs has been one series of submissions to the Court of 
France. We really had hoped that, on this occasion at least, we 
might have dared to show that England could take a line of her 
own in the affairs of Europe. . . . The truth is, our attitude towards 
foreign countries is that of a man who on every occasion takes off 
his coat and then, when his adversary squares up to him, humbly 
begs his pardon. 

He rejoices when the break between Palmerston and the 
Liberal Party at home and abroad is final and incurable. 
" The fate has befallen ' the spirited foreign policy,' which 
sooner or later overtakes all impostures it has been 
found out." And in an article on February 20, 1858, under 
the heading " The Great Potato Doctrine " (Harcourt had 
a rare gift for the comic title), he urges that without dis- 
turbing the French alliance there might be less flattery 
on the part of England. 

We are asked to throw the weight of English public opinion into 
the scale of a precarious government which barely maintains a blood- 
stained existence by the sword, against all that is immortal in the 
mind, and all that is permanent in the character of the nation which 
it oppresses. 

He was profoundly interested in the two men who were 
to dominate politics in the next generation. Disraeli he 


liked personally and distrusted politically, while Gladstone's 
moral and intellectual qualities inspired in him a reverence 
which he had felt for no politician since the death of Peel. 
He took a mischievous delight in the incongruity of Disraeli 
with his party. " What do the Tories mean to do with 
Mr. Disraeli ? " he asks, and he coins a mot that, " There is 
but one Disraeli and the Press is his prophet." Writing 
in 1857 on the prospects of a general election he showed 
a very clear conception of what must inevitably happen 
in the existing constitution of parties. He knew that how- 
ever desirous Derby might be of a rapprochement with 
Gladstone and his friends for the purposes of opposition, 
there could be no alliance between Gladstone and Disraeli. 
The latter desired such an alliance. Greville records on 
April 3, 1856, conversations which show that " Disraeli 
appears to be endeavouring to approach Gladstone, and a 
confederacy between these two and young Stanley is by no 
means an improbability." Harcourt was obviously con- 
scious of these approaches, probably through Stanley, 
with whom he continued on close terms of intimacy and of 
whose high character and liberal tendencies he had written 
in the Saturday Review with cordial praise. But, unlike 
Greville, he was convinced that there could be no alliance 
between the brilliant sceptic and a man to whom politics 
was not a game but a religion. " Mr. Gladstone's manly 
and liberal language, both written and spoken," he says, 
" on the subject of Naples, affords a sufficient guarantee 
that he has no sympathy with the sycophancy of absolut- 
ism which distinguishes all Mr. Disraeli's speeches on the 
foreign relations of England." The moral passion with 
which Gladstone touched political issues shook Harcourt 
out of his characteristic vein. Writing to his sister in 
March 1857, ne savs : 

Mr. Gladstone's speech was indescribably fine. One quite fancied 
one might have been listening to one of the managers of the Warren 
Hastings Impeachment. 

The allusion is to Gladstone's speech on the Arrow case 
(referred to in the preceding chapter). That case, with 


the Indian Mutiny, filled the public mind at the time. In 
the previous October a merchant ship, the Arrow, owned by 
a Chinese merchant and manned by Chinamen, but com- 
manded by an Englishman, was boarded by a local mandarin 
who carried off the crew on a charge of piracy. The Arrow 
was not a British vessel and did not carry the British flag ; 
but Sir John Bowring, the British representative, seizing 
the trumpery and dishonest excuse to further other aims, 
demanded the release of the crew, and when that was refused 
ordered Sir Michael Seymour, who was in command of the 
British squadron, to bombard Canton. From this discredit- 
able beginning sprang a long and costly war. Harcourt 
shared the view of this shameful episode which Lord Derby 
put forward in the House of Lords and Cobden in the House 
of Commons. Writing in the Saturday Review on February 
28, 1857, he pointed out that 

The public opinion of England and Europe will not be formed on 
the narrow point of whether the Chinese Government were or were 
not justified in boarding the Arrow. The real question which we 
have to ask ourselves, and which the historian of England will one 
day have to answer, is this " Were the circumstances such as to 
justify the English fleet in bombarding a defenceless city ? " 

The debate on Cobden's motion of censure in the Commons 
led to the defeat of the Government, and in Harcourt's 
opinion Gladstone's speech turned the scale. Writing in 
the Saturday Review of March 7, he describes that speech as 

. . . worthy of the best days of English oratory, and in our time 
unexampled in loftiness of thought, felicity of expression and dignity 
of delivery. Those who have read it only, through the medium 
of the press, can form but a faint idea of the effect produced by the 
tone, manner and solemnity of Mr. Gladstone's appeal to the House 
to redress an injustice which the Executive Government had covered 
with its approbation, and which the nobles and bishops had declined 
to condemn. This oration is probably one of the few instances in 
parliamentary history in which the issue of a doubtful deliberation 
has been influenced by a speech. On this occasion (to borrow Mr. 
Gladstone's own words) " the cause was worthy of the eloquence, 
and the eloquence of the cause." 

Palmerston took his defeat jauntily to the country, and 
came back pledged, as it was said, to nothing but " a spirited 

1855-59] CHAFFS THE TIMES 97 

foreign policy." He had carried the election not merely 
in the teeth of the Manchester school, but against Derby, 
Russell, Gladstone, and Disraeli, all of whom had denounced 
the shameless buccaneering in China. Cobden, who had 
moved the Vote of Censure, was beaten at Huddersfield, and 
Bright and Milner Gibson at Manchester. Lord John 
Russell kept his seat in the City contrary to general expecta- 
tion, which was shared by Harcourt who, writing to his 
sister on the eve of the election, said, " I was at Lord John's 
the other night. He is in great spirits though I believe it 
is pretty certain he will not get in again for London." 

It is noteworthy, in view of the famous series of letters 
which he was later to contribute to its columns, that during 
the first two years of his connection with the Saturday 
Review one of Harcourt 's most constant diversions was to 
chaff The Times. It is often very good chaff. When it 
criticizes Admiral Dundas for failing to accomplish anything 
in the Baltic and tells him that it was Nelson's practice to 
go into every enemy port and harbour, he shows that, on 
the contrary, Nelson never did anything so foolish ; when 
Absolute Wisdom," as proved by a circulation of sixty 
thousand, finds fault with the Government, Harcourt defends 
the Government ; when The Times ventures on advice to 
[Lord Clarendon as to his policy at the Congress of Paris 
jhe remarks that " we cannot afford to compromise our 
eputation in deference to its swagger " ; when objection 
is taken to costermongers' cries the Saturday Reviewer 
.ds that the costermongers have a right to live even if 
.ey " disturb the noonday slumbers of the contributors to 
Times." He reminds the unknowing public that the 
.e pen does not operate from day to day and that lapses 
om consistency may be due to " what an eminent man 
called the we-gotism of journalism." He laments that 
he predominant influence exercised by journalists is unac- 
ompanied by that " first security for public and private 
lorality which is derived from the consciousness of personal 
lentity and individual responsibility." It was a bold 
iplaint to come from one who was himself an anonymous 



journalist, but in making it Harcourt raised a question 
which has since assumed a gravity much beyond what it 
possessed in those days. 

His Liberalism was still uncertain and shaky in places, 
but he had the root of the matter in him in his enthusiasm 
for liberty, and even his hostility to Russia vanished before 
the courageous action of Alexander III in abolishing serf- 
dom. Writing on this subject in the Saturday Review on 
October 16, 1858, he says: 

There never yet was a sovereign who better deserved to attract 
the interest and sympathy of a free country than does the Emperor 
Alexander in the great work on which he is now engaged. The very 
nature of the task he has undertaken will inevitably cause the policy 
of his Empire to approximate more and more to the cause of liberty 
rather than to that of despotism ; and perhaps we may not be too 
bold in hazarding the conjecture that England, hated of tyrants, 
may one day find in emancipated Russia an ally against the Abso- 
lutist conspiracy in Europe. 

Of his life during these days there are glimpses in his 
letters to his sister at York, through whom he mainly 
communicated with his family. Extracts from these will 
serve to indicate his social and professional activities. 
They are all undated : 

Harcourt to his Sister. 

I have been leading rather a stagnant existence lately, not having 
had much totake me into Court, and so I have lived almost exclusively 
in chambers. Butler and I have made acquaintance with an Italian 
Count, who is to come once a week in the evening to brush up our 
Italian, as I mean to spend all my spare days in Italy. I enjoy it 
more every day I see it. ... 

Monckton Milnes and a few others are in town and we have pleas- 
ant evenings sometimes at the Cosmopolitan. . . . 

. . . My companions left me on Saturday. I stayed till Monday 
by myself walking about the Lake Country, on which day I went to 
Lancaster. F. Wortley and I finding a steamer starting for Douglas 
in the Isle of Man from Morecambe (near Lancaster) took the Isle 
of Man on our way to Liverpool, leaving Morecambe at 2 p.m. and 
arriving at 8 at Douglas and leaving the next morning so as to arrive 
at Liverpool in the afternoon. I was charmed with the island, and 
the sea being perfectly smooth the expedition was most enjoyable. 

1855-59] VISIT TO PARIS 99 

... I sat at dinner by Miss Talbot that was, the imprisoned 
nun, she is now Lady F. Howard ; she is pretty and rompish and 
seems very well pleased to have escaped a convent. . . . 

... I went down in a hansom with Fortescue to the Rothschild 
ball at Gunnersbury which is near Kew ; it was a very fine show. 
The amount of Jewesses walking about studded with pearls and 
diamonds, and Jews in blue coats and brass buttons was surprising 
for the rest dull enough. . . . 

... I am glad you are come to a more just estimate of Swells. 
I dined yesterday with an unobjectionable one, Lady Newburgh, 
our Venetian friend. . . . 

... I have written to Thackeray to tell him that he will be fed 
if he chooses at the Residence, and that you like all your sex are 
great admirers of Vanity Fair. . . . 

... I have been writing a good deal in the Saturday Review 
lately. ' Making Things Pleasant ' and ' The Disraeli Shave ' are 
by me this week. . . . 

The reference to the fact that he was " brushing up " 
his Italian with an Italian Count foreshadowed a second 
visit to Itaty. This he made in October 1856. He kept 
his sister informed of his travels in a series of letters. In 
the first written, from the Hotel Mirabeau, Paris, he says : 

. . . Two of the Sartoris, one of whom married a French lady, 
Mme de 1'Aigle, are my companions in a very nice set of rooms. 
Henry Grenfell, Sir John Aston, G. Barrington and many others 
whom I know are here. The Chronicle correspondent acts as my 
cicerone and so I am very well off. On Monday I went to the 
Cowley's box at the Opera. She is lively and pleasant. The 
Prophete was sung very ill by two French performers. Last night 
I went with the de 1'Aigles to the Opera Comique where a piece 
was played which has had a great run in Paris " VEtoile du Nord " ; 
the subject is Peter the Great. During the negotiations on the 
Eastern question there was great doubt whether it would be allowed 
to be performed. . . . 

. . . On Sunday Lady Sandwich has promised to take me to 
Thiers where I shall meet Mignet the historian. 

Continuing his journey, he writes to his sister on his way 
to Marseilles : 

I am writing to you in the coupe of the express train from Paris 
to Lyons. It is a large comfortable carriage which I have all to 
myself with a writing table, etc., in which to-night (as I travel 
straight through to Marseilles) I shall lay the cushions on the floor 
and sleep as well as in bed. 


Tell Ed. it is well worth, the extra five francs one pays for this 
place de luxe as it is called. . . . 

The final letter of the tour is written from Florence on 
October 14, and is full of enthusiasm for that city. " Except 
Rome and Jerusalem," he concludes, " there can be no 
place of such interest as this, and none, I think, can be so 

In the following year he spent his holiday in Switzerland, 
and the record of his experiences is contained in letters to 
his sister and his mother. One letter to the latter will 
serve to indicate his adventures : 

Harcourt to his Mother. 

LAGO D'ORTA, September 8, 1857. ... I must now give you 
Cap. 2 of my journey. My last letter to Em concluded my visit 
toChamounix. On Monday, August 31, I started for Martigny by 
the pass of the Tete Noire which is not a hard walk though it takes 
seven hours. The Russell Gurneys accompanied me to the top 
of the pass. I then descended through beautiful chestnut groves 
into the valley of the Rhone. At Martigny I found a diligence 
starting at 6 p.m. up the Simplon, and there being no room I gave 
the conductor five francs for his place and travelled all night to Visp 
where I got to bed for a few hours and set off to walk to Zermatt at 
ten o'clock. It is a hard and tiring walk of nine hours and I did 
not get in till dark. At the hotel at Zermatt I fell in with Davies 
and Hawkins, two fellows of Trinity, friends of mine (I ought to 
mention that at breakfast at Visp I found Frank Freeman who was 
going in the opposite direction). The following day, Wednesday, 
was dreadfully wet. However Davies, Hawkins and I went up to 
the Riffelberg ( a place where there is a small hotel, corresponding 
somewhat in situation to the Montanvert) full of plans for crossing 
the great chain of Monte Rosa into Italy by the famous pass of the 
Weiss Thor. On my way up I examined the Corner Glacier which 
is very curious. It is advancing now, which is the case with few 
glaciers in Switzerland, and you see on each side the ground ploughed 
up and trees cut down as if only yesterday. 

When I got up to the Riffelberg I found all the beds engaged so 
I had to sleep on the table in the guides' salle a manger. I slept, 
however, well enough, having given orders to be called at three 
o'clock if the weather was clear. My guide accordingly came and 
pulled me off my table and we were all off at four o'clock. In five 
hours we mounted the great Corner Glacier which leads by the foot 
of the highest peaks of Monte Rosa into the great Mer not de glace 
but of snow which forms the basin of the chain. Here we saw 

l855 -59] ADVENTURE ON THE ICE 101 

some chamois cantering over the great plains of snow which stretch 
all around. Leaving the Cima de Jazzi on our right we arrived 
after a long but not fatiguing walk of six hours over the ice and snow 
at the summit of the Weiss Thor. Here we should have had a 
splendid view of Italy, but though the weather was perfectly fine 
on the Swiss side we encountered a dense cold mist which rolled 
up from the valleys on the South and almost froze us to death as 
we sat down to eat on the summit. 

In some respects perhaps it was fortunate as it hid from the 
inexperienced the dangers we were about to encounter. The descent 
from this height of 12,000 feet is almost perpendicular into the 
valley of Macugnaga. Forbes writing of this pass says, " The Pied- 
montese shepherd who occupied the chalet could give me no informa- 
tion respecting it and the range appears on this side so absolutely 
precipitous that I could hardly convince myself that any track 
could be found accessible to human foot. This pass is mentioned 
by almost every writer on Monte Rosa. Dr. Simpson says it is 
very dangerous but does not state that he had conversed with any 
one who had performed it. It is pretty certain that it has been 
crossed but once in the memory of men now living and then by 
a pretty numerous company." 

This account, alarming as it sounds, is not now at least correct, 
as it has been crossed by many Englishmen in the last few years 
and I crossed it in a dense mist with only two guides. The descent 
commences with a table of snow going down almost perpendicularly 
not wider than a dinner table. I can fancy it would be nervous 
work if the weather was clear for on each side you look sheer down 
into the valley below, 12,000 feet. However, the snow was soft, 
and as I was tied with a rope by my waist to a guide before and 
behind, and as I sank at each step up to my knees there was no 
danger of slipping or falling over. 

After leaving this ledge we came into a great snow basin. Here 
was the only really alarming part of the passage ; for five minutes 
in the dense fog it was evident to me that my guide had lost his 
way and could not find the track which led downwards. I have 
not often in my life known what it is to be afraid, but I confess for 
those five minutes I was very uncomfortable at the prospect of 
having to spend the night in such a position. However the mist 
lifted for a minute, and they hit off the track and we set off merrily 
climbing down the sheer face of the rock on our hands and knees. 
I thought at one time my hair was standing on end but was relieved 
to find that it was only the icicles, which had formed on my whiskers 
and all the hair which was exposed to the fog. We got down without 
further dangers, except an avalanche of stones which narrowly 
missed us, and arrived at Macugnaga at i p.m. I went to bed 
directly and got up at six o'clock to a good dinner, when I found 
my companions had arrived two hours after me. The weather 


being bad in the Val Anzasca we started off for Lago Maggiore on 
Saturday and arrived at Baveno in the evening. I spent Sunday 
there, and walked over Mt. Monteone here on Monday. My future 
movements are very uncertain, but I have had enough of the moun- 
tains for the present, and unless very fine weather comes I think 
I shall walk for another week in Italy and then come home by 

His next holiday excursion was to Austria, in search of 
good fishing. In September 1858 he writes from Vienna to 
Spencer Butler in London imploring him to join him at 
Ischl : 

Harcourt to Spencer Butler. 

The country deserves all that has been said of it ; from the accounts 
I hear the fishing is really magnificent and September is the best 
month for weather. I leave this in a few days. If you think of 
coming write by return of post, paste restante Ischl, to say what day 
you leave England, and buy at Jones in Jermyn Street a ten foot 
fly rod pretty stiff, a reel, a 40 yard line, and a hank of ordinary 
and extra fine prepared gut. I have flies enough for both, but bring 
two dozen black and red palmers of various sizes. If you come I can 
promise you good fun. 


Although Harcourt had shown no eagerness to begin the 
Parliamentary career on which his mind nevertheless had 
long been fixed as his ultimate aim, there was something 
impulsive and even jocular in his first plunge into the 
electoral field. What led him in April 1859 to 8 to the 
Kirkcaldy Burghs to fight the local magnate is not apparent. 
He had no local connections, he was backed by no party 
machine, there was little apparent chance of winning, and 
he had no serious political hostility to his opponent. The 
constituency at that time had a meagre roll of 724 electors, 
and had been held for eighteen years by Colonel Ferguson of 
Raith, a local land and coal magnate whose position was 
regarded as unassailable. Me professed Liberal principles, 
and stood for Lord John^Kussell and Reform, but he was 
roundly charged with neglect of his parliamentary duties. 
On the disgruntled burgesses of Kirkcaldy William Vernon 
Harcourt descended from London without any credentials 


other than the energy, the ability and the buoyancy which 
were clearly discernible even on a first meeting. The 
Kirkcaldy malcontents had been looking for a local Liberal 
candidate to oppose the sitting member, but the persons 
whom they had approached, as Provost Birrell put it, 
" stood aghast at the bare idea of contesting these burghs 
which had long been known in the annals of the country as 
the burghs of Raith, not the Kirkcaldy Burghs." At this 
juncture Harcourt appeared, invited them to meet him at 
the Town Hall on April 12, 1859, anc ^ convinced them 
forthwith on his own unsupported testimony that he was 
the man to release them from the " feudal superiority " 
which had hitherto governed their choice of a representa- 

It was a boisterous affair which resolved itself very largely 
into a duel between the Scotsman, then under its most 
famous editor, Alexander RusseL and the young barrister 
from London. " Sandy Russel used to smash me in the 
morning and I used to smash him at night " was Harcourt 's 
way of describing the battle afterwards. The Scotsman, 
discussing the new candidate, complained that his political 
antecedents were unknown, and that the Harcourt family 
record was not a Liberal one. Nor was the fact that his 
grandfather was an archbishop any recommendation in a 
Scottish constituency, though it was admitted that this did 
not constitute a disability. " A candidate," said the 
Scotsman, " has appeared to contest these Burghs with 
Colonel Ferguson ; his name is William Vernon Harcourt, 
but beyond this we know neither who nor what he is." This 
was Harcourt 's real difficulty, and the point on which he 
was immediately heckled at the preliminary meeting in the 
Town Hall. Why should the electors support him, a 
stranger, who came provided with no political recom- 
mendation from any leader of the Liberal party, against the 
sitting member, also a Liberal. He claimed to be a follower 
of Lord John Russell, but so was Colonel Ferguson. 

The only case put forward for the intervention was the 
need of emancipating the Burghs from the shackles of 


feudalism. " Is the theory of representation to become in 
practice identical with that of hereditary rights ? " was the 
keynote of his election address. But writing to his sister 
Emily he frankly treated the episode as a holiday adventure. 
" Whether I succeed or not," he said, " it is great fun and, 
what I care for more, excellent practice. I have to speak 
all day and all night, and assure you have become already 
quite a mob orator. ... I shall spend very little money 
and assure you I never had so much amusement so cheap. 
... In a few days I shall be able to judge better of the 
chances of success, for which, to say the truth, I don't very 
much care." His lack of official support, however, was a 
source of disquiet to him and he described his dilemma in a 
letter to Lady Melgund (afterwards Lady Minto) : 

Harcourt to Lady Melgund. 

KEIR, near DUNBLANE, N.B., April 17, 1859. Having a holiday 
of canvassing I cannot resist taking up my pen to pay you the 
Sunday visit which must be omitted to-day. I started as I told 
you I intended to Scotland on Tuesday night and on Wednesday 
morning I found myself in Kirkcaldy. By the greatest luck it 
turned out that a Committee of discontented electors in that distin- 
guished borough had just come to a resolution the night before to 
look out for a new representative. Of course I descended among 
them like an angel from heaven on a special mission to fulfil their 
righteous aspirations in fact like a raven with an address in my 

I started at once, made a thundering oration and secured the 
mob on my side. It is the greatest fun you can possibly conceive. 
I am all day surrounded by Scotch Baillies, Free Kirk Ministers 
and other interesting specimens of northern Zoology who regard 
me as a sort of divine speaking machine. 

Of course Scotch questions were a little difficult at first but I 
provided myself with a Shibboleth which answers every purpose. 
I always say that " I perfectly concur in the views on that subject 
taken by Lord Melgund." This formula embraces everything from 
religion down to public houses and turnpike roads. 

My opponent is happily universally detested so that I enjoy the 
agreeable position of the " popular Candidate." Of the result it 
is not easy to predict anything just yet. In all the other boroughs 
except Kirkcaldy I have a good majority, but of course the Raith 
influence is strong in Kirkcaldy. 

I send you a copy of the Scotsman which contains a very bad report 
of my speech. It makes nonsense of a great part of it and leaves 


out all the really important part at the end. But the quarrel 
between me and Russel of the Scotsman will amuse you. I am 
sorry I have not a copy of his answer to me yesterday. He of 
course attacks me violently about the Saturday Review, but I shall 
answer him to-morrow. I stand on Lord John Russell principles. 
The Scotsman declares I am the author of the abusive articles which 
of course I shall deny in public as I have already denied it to you 
in private. 

I can't tell you how the whole thing amuses me. I am becoming 
I assure you quite an accomplished mob orator and whether I succeed 
or fail it is capital practice. None of the respectable people in the 
constituency will vote for my opponent the difficulty is to get 
them to vote for me. They naturally enough ask " Who are you ? " 
Our friend Russel is doing everything he can to prejudice them 
against me by insinuating that I am a Tory in disguise ! Fancy 
that ! ! 

My respectable friends of the Free Kirk say why don't you bring 
us a testimonial from somebody we know in which I must admit 
there is a good deal of Scotch prudence and sense. If I had thought 
of it I certainly should have asked Melgund for a character before 
I came to Scotland. I am afraid that now he would not like to inter- 
fere. . . . However I shall fight the battle out as it is not in my 
nature to give in when I have once begun. It will in any event 
I think be a close contest. If I could get any one to give me a good 
Liberal character I should be sure to win. 

I have stood out like a man against the Ballot and find the people 
don't really care about it when you have the courage to reason with 
them. . . . 

But having, with characteristic waywardness, entered the 
contest as a free lance, Harcourt could find no Liberal 
statesman ready to back him against the sitting member 
who claimed to be as much a Liberal as himself. The other 
side telegraphed to Melgund and Russell alleging that use 
was being made of their names in favour of Harcourt against 
Ferguson, and their replies disclaiming support of the new- 
comer were posted throughout the constituency. The report 
was spread that he was a "Tory in disguise" and an 
" emissary of the Carlton Club." This caused a good deal 
of annoyance to Harcourt in his canvass, but the incident did 
not impair his good relations with either Lord Melgund or 
Lord John Russell. Lord Melgund wrote to him : 

The receipt of a telegram (and its terms) from a place with which 
I have no connection or interest whatever, puzzled me. . . . Party 


ties and old acquaintance with the Raith family would have made 
it impossible for me to place myself in an antagonistic position t 
Colonel Ferguson, gladly as under other circumstances I 
have seen your success. 

And Lord John Russell himself on April 27 wrote thus to 
the " Tory in disguise " : 

You will see that when appealed to I could do nothing else than 
adhere to my old party attachments. With your position and 
convictions, no one would have the least chance in an attempt 
brand you as a social and political impostor, nor could I give 
least countenance to such an unwarrantable course. 

So much for the methods of political warfare. The 
result of the poll was : 


so that it was only by a slender majority of eighteen votes, 
one of them cast by himself, that the " representative of 
J feudal superiority " kept his seat. There were exciting 
scenes after the declaration of the poll. The street in front 
of the hustings was filled chiefly by working men, who had 
not then acquired the right to vote and who were wit 
Harcourt to a man. It was in allusion to this fact that 
Harcourt made one of his most effective points in returning 
thanks from the hustings : 

I remember (he said) an incident in the life of Napoleon Bonaparte. 
Once in a certain battle the French appeared to be getting the wor 
of it and one of his generals seeing this expressed the fear that i 
a battle lost. " No," replied Napoleon, pointing to reinforceme 
which he saw approaching, " I think it is a battle won." 
tinued Harcourt) it seems now a battle lost, but (looking rou 
the cheering multitude whom he hoped soon to see emancipate 
I think I see what will make the tide of battle turn. 

The crowd took their revenge on the victor by refusing 
to let him speak. The attitude was so hostile that 
Colonel had to stay in the inn in front of which the hustings 
were placed until the attention of the mob was diverted 
when he started for home by a circuitous route. As soon i 
it was known that he had gone the mob started in pursuit 1 
intercept him at the gates of Raith. The excitement was 


so intense that a local paper put it on record that : " Even 
on Sunday, when men's thoughts are generally supposed to 
take a much loftier flight than on week-days alas, for 
human nature ! grave and reverend sages might have 
been seen during the interval between services arguing as to 
whether ability or ' use and wont ' was henceforth to rule 
the Burghs." 

The Sabbath-breaking sages would have been shocked if 
they had known in what hilarious spirit Harcourt was 
writing of his Kirkcaldy adventure. In a letter to Lady 
Melgund, written on his return from his Scotch raid, Harcourt 
said : 

Harcourt to Lady Melgund. 

THE TEMPLE, Thursday morning. I was very sorry not to find 
you at home for I assure you I am at this moment like Baron Mun- 
:hausen's horn frozen up with pent-up laughter and write to you 
;o thaw it out of me. In the presence of my Free Kirk friends and 
supporters I hardly dared to smile and I sadly want a vent for 
congested amusement by which my moral pipes are likely to be 

I shall probably go down to-morrow to Strawberry Hill and might 
oerhaps have come to see you at Pembroke Lodge but for fear of 
mubbings past and to come in that quarter. Seriously I am sorry 
Lord J. thought it necessary to decline my personal adherence. For- 
tunately the " liberty of the subject " secures to me the right to 
remain attached to his principles whether he will or not. Is it not 
in odd state of things at present in politics where none of the fol- 
[owers choose to have leaders and the leaders in order to be even 
ivith them don't choose to have followers. However I will (is that 
scotch or English for I have ceased to be quite sure) be a Liberal and 
in M.P. in spite of you all, and then I shall perhaps be all the better 
or owing to the Whigs nothing but forgiveness. 
i However a truce to all this stuff. The long and the short of it 
Is that I have nothing to regret for I have had the very best fun I 
ould possibly have conceived. I have learnt to talk to mobs which 
1 3 a blessed experience, I have sat under the Free Kirk and am greatly 
[ dified, I have pitched right and left into my foes and have returned 
i .midst the benedictions of my friends. Can human felicity reach 
k higher point ? 

There are two things which I am most proud of 

(1) I have kept a whole Scotch community for a month in a state 
>f laughter and enthusiasm, 

(2) I have made them put their hands in their pockets, for the 
lectors have subscribed four or five hundred pounds for a testi- 


monial to me and the non-electors are to give me another. Could 
Orpheus even have done more with the stocks and the stones ? . . . 
I hope you think that Bully of the North and our good friend the 
Scotsman got the worst of it. 

At a meeting of his supporters after the declaration of 
the poll Harcourt had assured them that on the passing of 
the next Reform Bill they would find themselves with a 
majority of more than eighteen, and one owing nothing to 
feudal superiority. " I pledged myself to tell you that 
feudal superiority was dead. I tell it you now feudal 
superiority is dead. ... It is true that I have not gained 
a seat in Parliament, but yet you have acquired your 

There was an unusual sequel to the Kirkcaldy incident. 
So pleased were Harcourt's supporters with their candidate 
that they organized a public presentation to him, and nine 
months later, in January 1860, Harcourt, having been 
married in the interval, went with his wife to receive from 
the electors a trophy in the shape of a silver epergne, 
representing a giraffe under the shade of palm trees, and 
from the non-electors a silver claret jug. The local paper 
related with conscious pride that the epergne cost 125 and 
the jug 33. " I believe," said Harcourt on his return, 
" that I am absolutely the first Saxon who has ever taken 
bullion out of Scotland." Whatever the merits of these 
pieces of plate and the epergne must have been alarmingly 
Victorian they provided the occasion for a remarkable 
speech in which Harcourt expressed his distrust of the 
Emperor of the French and his views on Reform. In 
company with many of his contemporaries Harcourt was 
at that time uncertain in what direction Napoleon III 
might turn for adventure, and impressed on his hearers 
the need of answering the call for volunteers in case of 

On the question of parliamentary reform and of taxation, 
the future author of the Death Duties Budget of 1894 was 
at great pains to dissociate himself from the doctrines urged 
by Bright in a speech at Liverpool, in which Bright had 


advocated a tax on the realized ppejty- of the country. 
Long afterwards, in a speech at the Glasgow Liberal 
Club (October 9, 1891), Harcourt, recalling the Kirkcaldy 
episode, said : 

Now my introduction to Scotland was not to study Scotch meta- 
physics. I came in a different capacity, and, I think, for a more 
practical form of education. It was when I was exactly half my 
present age that I, for the first time, crossed the border on a rash 
and daring adventure. Audacity is one of the characteristics of 
youth, and I came down to Scotland to contest against the feudal 
superior of the place. . . . I came to Scotland under great disadvan- 
tages, not being a Scotchman, but I had also one great advantage 
I had a letter of recommendation, which I find always a passport 
to the confidence of Scotland I had the vehement hostility of the 
Scotsman newspaper. That I found a constant source of support. 
It was very agreeable. But the Scofowaw was not then exactly 
the same newspaper that it is to-day. It was under the conduct 
of a man who was an original genius I mean Alexander Russel. 
He was a man, and there was no stupid glum philosophy about the 
newspaper in those days. It had a lambent wit and bright temper ; 
it was a hard hitter, and was not incapable of reason. I enjoyed the 
contest in those days with the Scotsman newspaper. Mr. Russel 
wrote an article against me every morning, and I made a speech 
against him every night, and in the intervals of business he came 
over to have luncheon with me at Kirkcaldy. And for many years 
after whenever I came to Edinburgh I used to write a letter to him 
and I said " My dear Russel I have always maintained you are 
the most nefarious character in Scotland, and I hope you will come 
to dine with me." Well, Gentlemen, I was beaten, as happens to 
everybody in their time. I think it was a very small majority 
twenty or thirty and the local influence prevailed. . . . 


Miss Therdse Lister Lady Theresa Lister Sir George Cornewall 
Lewis A journey to Alsace Death of Julian Harcourt Birth 
of second son Lewis and death of Mrs. Harcourt Sir G. Lewis's 
death Har court's devotion to his little son Lewis Last 
articles for the Saturday Review Political work for the Govern- 

WHO do you think will be here on Monday ? " 
wrote Lady Minto 1 to Lady Charlotte Portal 
on December 31, 1859. " I give you twenty 
guesses ; William Harcourt and his wife en route for Kirk- 
caldy. I am of course delighted, and as William (Lord 
Minto) admires the lady as much as I do the gentleman, and 
as they are coming a good deal out of their way to see us, it 
is to be presumed that all will be pleased." 

The marriage had taken place the previous month, after a 
short engagement, and the journey to Kirkcaldy to receive 
the thanks of his supporters immediately followed the 
honeymoon. It was in August 1859 that Harcourt, writing 
to Monckton Milnes, had disclosed his engagement : 

HACKNESS HALL, SCARBOROUGH. I meant (he said) to have 
proposed myself to you for this week at Fryston, but unfortunately 
I have proposed myself to another party of the other sex. 

Tell Venables with my best regards that I am going to marry a 
friend of his and a Radnorshire woman, and that I await his con- 
gratulations at Harpton on behalf of myself and Therese Lister. 

I don't know if you are acquainted with my fiancee. If you are 
you will not wonder that I insist on being married in a month. I 
go to Harpton to-morrow. 

Sir Cornewall [Lewis] told me he never could see that any body 

1 The Lady Melgund of the preceding chapter. Her husband 
succeeded to the earldom in July 1859. 



wanted any thing to live on and the affair is all arranged on this 
" basis." 

" You are going into a very distinguished family," replied 
Milnes, " and will be connected with the only man in England 
I look on as certain to be Prime Minister, so you will probably 
not be overlooked by a grateful country." He added : 

I never forget what the phrenologist said about your mixture of 
benevolence and combativeness but I find it difficult to get others 
to believe it. You are lucky enough to have found one person who 
does. May you be as happy as is good for you ! 

The lady on whom Harcourt's affections had fallen was 
Therese Lister, daughter of Lady Maria Theresa Lewis, the 
wife of Sir George Cornewall Lewis, by her first husband, 
Thomas Henry Lister, of Armytage Park, Staffordshire. 
Lady Theresa Lewis, who wrote Lives of the Friends and 
Contemporaries of Lord Chancellor Clarendon, was the 
daughter of the Hon. George Villiers and Theresa Parker, 
daughter of Lord Boringdon. On her father's side she was 
descended from the historian Clarendon, and on her mother's 
from Oliver Cromwell. Her brother, the fourth Lord 
Clarendon, had been Foreign Minister under Palmerston in 
1855 and filled the same office in the Russell Ministry of 
1865 and the Gladstone Ministry of 1868. Harcourt had 
been on terms of intimacy with the Clarendons for some 
time and had travelled with them in 1857. But a * ^^ he 
was not altogether persona grata to Lady Theresa who, 
writing to Lord Clarendon on November 28, 1858, remarks, 
" The article in the Saturday Review was odious and bitter, so 
I suppose it was Mr. Harcourt's." But her feeling under- 
went a change as the acquaintance grew, and we find her 
less than a year later, in a letter to her daughter, recording 
with great satisfaction that " Mr. Reeve told your Papa 
(Sir G. C. Lewis) that he had heard Willie conducting a 
legal argument before the Privy Council and was much 
struck with his ability." 

There is a pleasant picture of Miss Lister in a letter written 
by Lady Minto, when the engagement was announced, to 
Harcourt himself. " Therese," she says, " if I may call her 


so, has always been more simpatica to me than any other 
young lady of the London world, and I think the man very 
lucky whose house is to be brightened by her pleasant looks 
and joyous unspoilt nature." That the engagement was 
approved by the bride's family is evident from a letter to 
Lady Theresa from her sister-in-law, the Hon. Mrs. Edward 
Villiers : 

The Hon. Mrs. Edward Villiers to Lady Theresa Lewis. 

August, 1859. Hurrah ! dearest Theresa, I really am so enchanted, 
but a very great surprise to me not so to the girls they had an 
inkling of it from their cousins. As for myself, I can safely say 
there is not one single man in the United Kingdom I could have 
welcomed half as cordially. He took my fancy from the very 
moment I first saw him. I think him splendidly handsome and a 
calibre of intellect that soars far and away above the generality. 
I found him perfectly charming at Florence, and as Therese knows 
have always said I would give the world to have him for a nephew. 
I consider him the most valuable addition to our already fascinating 
Family Circle ! And this is saying a great deal, for what I find is 
that when one sits in judgment upon the men, there is scarcely one 
whose society is worth cultivating. Of course there is no denying 
that William has a good deal of bitterness in his nature, but then you 
will seldom find a very powerful large nature without it. Your 
own noble brothers have all some. People cannot be thoroughly 
in earnest, active and vigorous for the right, without undue violence 
and prejudice at times for what seems to them all wrong. 

Although Sir George Cornewall Lewis had told Harcourt 
that he never could see that any body wanted any thing to 
live on, he wrote to Canon Harcourt gravely enough on the 
subject of the finances of the young people. Sir George 
gave the figures of Therese 's fortune. He thought it desir- 
able that Harcourt should agree to insure his life for a certain 
sum, the amount to be considered. He expressed the hope 
that the marriage " not advantageous from worldly point 
of view " would be to the happiness of both parties. He 
spoke of the " clear and correct understanding, well regulated 
mind, sound moral perceptions " which gave Therese " an 
excellent practical judgment and discreet conduct in the 
affairs of life." 

Harcourt wrote to his sister Emily on the same subject : 


Harcourt to his Sister, Emily Harcourt. 
I know, darling, that you are well aware of the deep 


has three rooms on the ground floor, two nice drawing-roorr 
then two bedrooms, and on the third floor three very Too! roo 
besides servants' wings. The offices are particularly good and t he 

abou^T 7 ^ WhiCh 1S V6ry Cheap ; but I shaU have tVlay out 
about 00 on altering the ground floor. My principal difficulty at 
present xs to know where the money is to come from to furSsh ^th 

SU Se 

S mehow 

; The marriage took place at All Saints' Church, Princes 
Gate on November 5, 1859, at n o'clock, and the party 
breakfasted afterwards at Kent House, Knightsbridge, Sir 

.eorge Lewis s London residence. Reginald Cholmondeley 
with whom Harcourt still shared rooms, acted as best man 

-he relations between the bride and her mother were very 

ose and affectionate, and the greatest satisfaction was 
expressed that the Harcourts' house in Pont Street would 
be within easy distance of Kent House. 


The union proved one of singular felicity. There was no 
more : marked trait in Harcourt's character than his inex- 
haushble fund of family affection, and with his marriage 
s amiable quality found expression in abundant corre- 
spondence with his new relations, especially Lady Theresa 
On the visit to Kirkcaldy to receive the "bullion " 
he wrote, presumably from Lady Minto's house, a New 
Year's letter to his "dearest Mum" in which he saidT 
Harcourt to Lady Theresa Lewis. 



less than an angel. I did not think it was possible to love so much 
or to be so perfectly happy as I am, and I hope she is too. But it is 
impossible for any one to be otherwise than good to and with her. . . . 

A little later, writing from the family home of the Lewises 
at Harpton, he says : 

MY DEAREST MUM, I think you will probably like to hear some 
account from me of your little daughter and my little wife. Of 
course yesterday there was a slight supply from the waterworks in 
recollection of all the happy birthdays we had spent with you, 
especially when we went to visit her little maiden room. But on 
the whole I never saw her better than she has been here and it is 
so charming to find ourselves together in this delightful place. I 
assure you I am fully worthy of Harpton and all its beauties. . . . 

Therdse tells me this is the day on which " W. H. wrote a very 
foolish letter." However all's well that ends well and it has ended 
very well. You are quite right in saying that the day on which the 
darling was born ought to be to me the happiest of the year. 

Mrs. Harcourt gave birth to a son on October 6, 1860. 
The child was named Julian after his father's friend, Julian 
Fane, at whose wedding in 1856 Harcourt had acted as 
best man. He was christened at All Saints', and writing to 
her mother on November 15, Mrs. Harcourt says : 

I am sure we must all have felt grateful and happy at All Saints' 
last Monday and I most of all, for I am so much happier than any 
woman can confidently expect to be. 

The child was delicate, and Mrs. Harcourt's letters to her 
mother are full of concern about his health. Another cause 
of disquiet is indicated in the following letter of Harcourt 
to Lady Theresa : 

I assure you I deeply feel all I ought to repay you in affection 
for having taken Therese from you. In fact I think it is only you 
and I in the world who can really know all she is, for it requires to be 
always with her to know how constantly perfect such a woman can 
be. It is the in variableness of her goodness that makes the happiness 
of being continually with her. . . . Th6r6se will have told you that 
in spite of all her eloquence she was not able to persuade Wilson 
that I had an " enlarged liver " though she said it always used to 
so. However I have no doubt Homburg will brisk me up. 

The visit to Homburg in the summer of 1861 was made 
double debt to pay. Harcourt was at this time deep in the 

i86i- 2 ] BEREAVEMENT II5 

interminable Bode case, and varied the drinking of the 
water with the discussion of law and the search for evidence 
in the case which Baron de Bode was bringing against the 
British Government. Mrs. Harcourt writes from Baden 
early in October to her mother : 

Luckily Mr. Treitt was on the look out for W. and came to this 
hotel to inquire after him a few minutes after our arrival He seems 
a jolly man and I hope will be useful. They are now deep in feudal 
law ... to Strassburg on the i8th where we must stay several 
days for Willie to poke about amongst attorneys, etc etc So 
please direct there on the i 5 th. The result of all this is that we have 
given up the Tyrol and are going to pass the intervening days in 
Switzerland near Lucerne. 

After some days in Switzerland Harcourt was at Strassburg 
" poking among attorneys." " He is in good spirits about 
Bode," writes Mrs. Harcourt, " and thinks he will find out 
some important points." Evidently he did, for writing 
himself to Lady Theresa he says : 

Tell Sir C. that my Alsatian researches in the Bode business have 
been not only very interesting in point of law but very important 
in point of fact and to my mind establish completely the fraudu- 
lent character of the whole story. 

Harcourt and his wife returned to meet an affliction which 
had long been threatened. On February 24, 1862 their 
child developed fever and brain disorder, and on March 2 
he died. It was a bitter bereavement to the Harcourts 
Writing to Thomas Hughes, in reply to a letter of condolence, 
he says : 

Harcourt to Thomas Hughes. 

Many many thanks for your kind note. We are indeed in great 

need of sympathy and kindness, for it is a very heavy and bitter 

I really feel as if all my heart strings were snapped. My 

happiness was so wrapped up in the little boy that I feel it must be 

ery long before either mind or body can rally from the shock 

My wife bears up with an angelic courage. Women behave better 

their trials because they are better. Watts did for me yesterday 

:ch from the cold clay which Perugino might have envied. 

It really ls my little darling as he lived. I shall write on his grave 

this angel doth always behold the face of my father which is 

javen." We carry him to-morrow to the Nuneham Churchyard 


and put him to bed (as I have so often done) for the last time. 
Thank you again. 

There was a deeper shadow soon to fall over the domestic 
happiness of Harcourt. In the spring he took his wife 
abroad to Brussels and Liege on a tour of healing, and as 
the summer advanced he found relief in the heavy pro- 
fessional and semi-public tasks which were falling upon him. 
But early in the following year he suffered a crowning 
bereavement. On January 31, 1863, his wife gave birth to 
her second son, Lewis, the late Viscount Harcourt, and died 
on the same day. It was a shattering blow that darkened 
all the summer of 1863. We find him in the following 
September writing to Spencer Butler from Scotland, where 
he had been on a round of visits to the Argylls at Inverary, 
the Russells at Meiklour and the Mintos at Minto, and con- 
fessing that he can find no relief. " I don't think Scotland 
has answered to me either in health, spirits or sport. We 
have had very little shooting for our money, and I find my 
mind will not bear a month's idleness now. I require the 
constant anodyne of work." 

The affliction had been swiftly followed by another which 
added to the sorrows of a singularly affectionate nature. 
Two months after Mrs. Harcourt's death Sir George Corne- 
wall Lewis, her step-father, died at Harpton, and Harcourt, 
writing from thence to his mother, said : "To me the loss is 
irreparable. He was a second father, my guide, philosopher 
and friend. Another sheet-anchor of my life is severed, 
and I am more than ever adrift." It was no idle figure of 
speech. There are few more stainless figures in the records 
of English public life than that of George Cornewall Lewis. 1 

1 The son of T. F. Lewis of Harpton Court, Radnorshire, he had 
a distinguished career at Oxford, went to the Bar in 1831, began 
public work in 1833 as a Commissioner to inquire into the condition 
of the poor Irish residents in the United Kingdom, wrote many 
important books on history and philology among them an Essay 
on the Origins and Formation of the Romance Languages, Enquiry 
into the Credibility of the Early Roman History, attacking the Niebuhr 
theory of epic lays, etc., Essay on the Government of Dependencies, 
Treatise on the Methods of Observation and Reasoning in Politics, 
etc. sat in Parliament for Herefordshire in 1847 and for Radnor 

i86 3 ] CORNEWALL LEWIS n 7 

All his contemporaries, whether political friends or foes 
bear witness to/the beauty of his character, and the range of 
his intellect. He was distinguished, said Lord Aberdeen 
for " candour, moderation and the love_cLRrth," and in 
his speech on the motion for the adjournment of the House 
on the occasion of his death, Disraeli said of him : 

Although he was a man most remarkably free from prejudice and 
passion, that exemption from sentiments which are supposed in 
general to be necessary to the possession of active power had not 
upon him that effect which they generally exercise, and he was a 
man who in all the transacts of life, brought 4Tgreat organizing 
faculty and a great epwer of sustained perseverance to the transac- 
tion of public affairs. 

But the best picture of this remarkable man appears in 
that rich mine of memories, Greville's Diary. Under date 
February 8, 1857, Greville says : 

Gladstone seems bent on leading Sir George Lewis (Lewis was the 
Chancellor of the Exchequer at that time) a weary life, but Lewis is 
' U S S e ma ? t0 encounter and baffle such an opponent, for he is 
cold-blooded & a fish, totally devoid of sensibUity or nervousness 

VfVT?* 111 ^ 16 tCmp ^ caln ^ an d resolute, laborious and 
indefatigable, and exceedingly popular with the House of Commons 
from his general good humour'and civility, and the credit given him 
,or honour, sincerity, plain dealing, and good intentions 

The saying attributed to him that " life would be tolerable 
but for its amusements " illustrates both his humour and 
his gravity. Harcourt was always attracted by the qualities 
character and intellect, and in falling in love withTherese 
jster he fell under the moral and political influence of her 
step-father. The contact with Cornewall Lewis shaped 
s conception of Liberalism, and corrected his judgment. 
' sat with that humility which mingled so curiously with 
rather despotic temper at the feet of his step-father and 
ought his counsel on all public and professional questions 
SSP^JJPalgafiL (afterwards Earl of Selborne), whose liking 
Harcourt was never more than temperate, perhaps 

? Q fill <;d successively the posts of Secretary 
(I847)> Financial Secretary to the Treasury 

(I855)> Home Secretary 


because of the latter's incurable Erastianism, wrote on Sir 
George Lewis's death : " The death of Sir George Lewis, 
in the full maturity of his powers, was a public misfortune. 
. . . For Harcourt's weak points, no corrective could be 
more salutary than the guidance of such a man." 

Harcourt was conscious both of his debt and his loss, and 

made recognition of them in a characteristic way. The son 

who had come into the world when the mother left it, had 

jbeen christened in the name of Reginald, after Harcourt's old 

I friend Reginald Cholmondeley, but, after Cornewall Lewis's 

death, he was christened again at Nuneham in the name of 

Lewis, Lord Clarendon acting as his godfather. In that 

child, the shattered affections of Harcourt centred with an 

intensity that continued unbroken to the end of his life, and 

became a legend of the social and political world. Lady St. 

\> Helier has left a touching description of Harcourt's devotion 

to his motherless boy in her Memories of Fifty Years : 

How long it seems since I used to go and sit by the bedside of the 
dear, thin, pale-faced, delicate little boy to whom, as a great treat, 
I brought early strawberries. Sir William Harcourt was then living 
in an old-fashioned house in Stratford Place, and what time he could 
spare from his political and legal work was devoted to his son. No 
more tender or devoted nurse ever watched over her charge, and 
though his methods and treatment were not, perhaps, in accord with 
the first principles of health, one cannot scrutinize too severely the 
regime which nurtured and brought up Mr. Lewis Harcourt. Deep 
down in the heart of every child there is, I believe, an instinctive 
revolt against the system of spoiling which too indulgent parents 
are wont to carry out, and I am quite sure that that instinct was 
fully developed in him, for in his quiet way, he recognized that his 
father was wrong in acceding to his ill-regulated appetite for un- 
wholesome luxuries. Sir William was rough, often impatient, 
but no one could see, as I used, the father and child together without 
realizing how tender and affectionate he was. Perhaps it was the 
memory of my affection and friendship for the little boy that spared 
me the treatment he used sometimes to mete out to other people, 
but through the many years I knew him, in all the stress, turmoil, 
and conflict of his political life, in all his bursts of deep indignation, 
his bitter attacks on his opponents, and his natural pugnacity, I 
never could forget the peep I had had into the heart of the other Sir 
William, who used to sit by the little sick boy's bedside. 

When Henry Fox was told that his young son, Charles 

i86 3 ] FATHER AND SON H 9 

James, was pulling his gold watch to pieces, he replied, 
' Well, if he wants to pull it to pieces I suppose he must,"' 
and Harcourt's idolatry of the little Loulou was of the same 
unregulated kind. The joy he got out of the companionship 
was unceasing. He bridged the gulf of years by assuming a 
boisterous rompishness himself and elevating Loulou to the 
dignity of an equal. In 1867 he had printed cards- 
Mr. William Vernon Harcourt 

Mr. Lewis Harcourt 

at home. 
Westcombe Lodge, 

Wimbledon Common (Putney Station). 

The removal from Pont Street to Wimbledon Common 
was in order that his boy might be in the country. Harcourt 
himself drove into work in a tea-cart, and Loulou used to 
meet him in the evening at the top of Putney Hill and be 
driven by his father through the horse-pond on the Common. 
The fiction of equal comradeship with which Harcourt 
delighted to play was shared by the family. " Months have 
passed since I saw Mr. Lewis Harcourt," writes Clarendon 
to Harcourt when the boy was three, " and I shall be 
delighted to renew my acquaintance with him. I often 
think of the happiness he is to you." " I am spending Christ- 
mas in London with Loulou," Harcourt writes to Julian 
Fane when Loulou was four. " You would have laughed 
to see us dine in state on Christmas Day. L. in his finest 
clothes and a crown at one end of the table and I in my 
black velvet court suit and knees and buckles at the other, 
drinking solemn toasts in fits of inextinguishable laughter." 


While the incidents of his brief married life passed rapidly 
from happiness of an unusual completeness to a sorrow no 
less complete, Harcourt was making great advances in his 
professional and political standing. His definite journalistic 
career ended with the issue of the Saturday Review of April 2, 
1859- No doubt his work at the Bar, where his practice 


was assuming considerable dimensions, made the suspension 
inevitable. Much as he delighted in the work and no 
journalist can ever have got more pleasure out of his calling 
it was impossible, even for a man of his energy of mind and 
gifts of industry, to pursue three careers indefinitely, and 
the fall of the brief Derby administration, followed by the 
General Election which took him to Kirkcaldy, served as a 
convenient occasion to close his connection with the Review 
that he had helped to make famous. The fall of the Govern- 
ment had occurred over the franchise question, which had 
for years past and was to be for several years to come the 
standing issue of domestic politics. On that issue, Harcourt 
had made his first appearance as a publicist in the columns 
of the Morning Chronicle while he was still an undergraduate 
at Cambridge ten years before, and one of the last two 
" leaders " that he wrote for the Saturday Review of April 2, 
1859, was devoted, apropos of the defeat of the Government, 
to the same prolific theme. Disraeli, anticipating the " leap 
in the dark " of eight years later, had introduced " a so-called 
Reform Bill " of fancy franchises which, while frightening 
the Tories, dissatisfied the Whigs, and angered the Radicals. 
Harcourt wanted reform, but he was critical of all parties 
on the subject most critical of Bright. Generally speaking, 
/he was in sympathy with Lord John Russell, but he was 
^ critical of him too. In an article in the Saturday on the 
introduction of the Disraeli scheme, he said : 

If the truth must be told, there has been a great deal of bunkum, 
not to say of downright dishonesty, on all sides about this question 
of Reform. All parties in turn, and almost all politicians, have for 
several years past made it a practice to give vague pledges and hold 
out indistinct expectations on a subject on which it is obvious that 
they felt no very strong interest. ... A politician who pledges 
himself to a Reform Bill ought, in common honesty, to have made 
up his mind as to the existence of certain specific evils which he 
proposes to remedy, and as to the method by which he expects to 
cure them. . . . Lord John Russell promises a Reform Bill just as he 
might announce another volume of the life of Mr. Fox or an historical 
essay on John Hampden. Lord Palmerston, too, becomes a reformer 
in his old age, and undertakes to reconstruct the fabric of the Con- 
stitution in the same jaunty spirit in which he undertook to revolu- 


tionize the Indian Government. And now, to drown the whole 
come the leaders of the Conservative Party with their charlatan 
cry of a Reform Bill to satisfy all parties. 

The result of the General Election was the return of the 
Liberals with a majority of forty-eight, and when the new 
Parliament met the Derby Government was beaten in an 
amendment to the Address moved by Lord Hartington 
Palmerston was called on to form a new ministry, and 
Gladstone and Lord John Russell rejoined him, the former 
as Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the latter as Home 

, Although Harcourt had not got his foot in Parliament 
he was now a person of consideration with the Government 
His marriage at this time gave him powerful connections 
with the Ministry, and we find him writing to Lord Clarendon 
protesting against the Government practice of sending 
special information to The Times, and receiving an elaborate 
explanation from Clarendon who pointed out that The Times 
could not be considered a Government organ, for " one 
leading article generally is at variance with the other and 
both cannot represent the opinions of the Government " 
t was on the eve of his marriage also that Harcourt received 
from Cornewall Lewis, his future father-in-law, a commission 
some importance. The new Liberal Government were 
pledged to Reform, and although the introduction of a Bill 
was deferred till the following spring, the preliminary work 
was put in hand in the autumn. Under Lewis's instructions 
Harcourt carried out an inquiry into the changes in the 
register which might be expected to ensue if the proposals 
which Lord John had in mind became law. These were 
the reduction of the basis of the country franchise to a /io 
ental and of the borough qualification to 6. A limited 
scheme of redistribution was attached. 
The inquiry, which was the beginning of a close connection 
the Government, was carried on by Harcourt appar- 
ently m the midst of his honeymoon, for on New Year's 
Day, 1860, when on his way to Kirkcaldy, he writes to 
icwall Lewis from York giving the details of his investi- 


gation into the effect of the proposed changes on the 
electorate of Scarborough, It is not necessary to pursue 
this inquiry at length, or to publish the extensive corre- 
spondence which passed between Harcourt and Cornewall 
Lewis on the subject. The discussion is interesting as 
showing how limited the proposed reform was. It was not 
expected on either side to add more than 200,000 voters 1 
the register, and in view of what has happened since it is a 
curious comment on the timidities of the time that so trifling 
a measure of change as that contemplated should have been 
the subject of controversy for a generation. When the 
Reform Bill was introduced by Lord John Russell in the 
spring it aroused no enthusiasm and was withdrawn in May. 
But the inquiry was useful to Harcourt. It gave him that 
mastery of the subject of electoral reform and of registration 
which established his authority in regard to these questions 
in later years. 

But perhaps the most conspicuous achievement of 
court at this time was the skill and energy with which he 
disposed of a grotesque claim which had been before the 
Courts and both Houses of Parliament for three generations. 
This was the notorious Bode case, to which reference has 
been made. It arose from the Anglo-French Conventions 
for the compensation due to British subjects whose property 
had been seized during the Revolutionary wars, and related 
to estates and salt mines in Alsace, alleged to have been 
assigned by the father, a German nobleman, to the claimant, 
his son and a British subject by birth. The Courts 
given decision after decision on points of law, and Bode 
claim had been considered by Committees of both Houses, 
but the claimant persisted. As Counsel for the Treasury 
before a new Select Committee of the House of Commons : 
1861, Harcourt showed conclusively how shadowy were the 
foundations of the claim, and that the awards already given 
under the Convention were for losses suffered because the 
owners were British subjects. He proved that a great 
part of the romantic story which had gone to create tte 
Bode legend had arisen thirty years after the event. 

1859-62] PALMERSTON'S FORTS 123 

Select Committee were unable to complete their sittings 
owing to the late period of the session, but the Report of the 
proceedings as far as they had gone was sufficient. The 
Baron retired to Russia and the Treasury heard no more of 
the claim for the present, though years later another claimant 
came on the scene. 

In another connection Harcourt was called in to the 
service of the Government. The country was once more 
disturbed about the intentions of Napoleon III, whose 
action in using the cause of the liberation of Italy in order 
to annex Savoy and Nice had incurred the severe hostility 
of the Government. Harcourt was always ready to 
denounce Napoleon, and he had cordially supported the 
new Volunteer movement during his candidature at Kirk- 
caldy, though he was soon to base his idea of defence entirely 
on the " blue water " doctrine. In answer to the public 
alarm, Palmerston, in a letter dated December 15, 1860, made 
a demand on the Exchequer for ten millions sterling to be 
spent in the fortification of Portsmouth, Plymouth, Chatham, 
and Cork. The proposal nearly caused a complete break 
between Palmerston and Gladstone. The latter, speaking 
at Manchester on the 1862 Budget, complained that the 
country had forced the Government to undertake needless 
expenditure, and when he introduced his Budget he got 
some support from Disraeli who denounced " bloated arma- 
ments," and urged some agreement with France. At the 
suggestion of Cornewall Lewis, who was now (1861) Secretary 
State for War, Harcourt wrote a pamphlet, with the 
motto " Hannibal peto pacem," in defence of Palmerston's 
tifications. The pamphlet has disappeared, but in The 
Times of May 21, 1862, there appears a long letter signed 
istoncus," in which the writer makes Disraeli's phrase 
about " bloated armaments " the text of a formidable attack 
on Disraeli's defence of the Emperor of the French. " In 
Italian policy," he says, " Mr. Disraeli assumes that the 
objects of England and France are identical. Since when, 
I should like to know, has the colleague of Lord Malmesbury 
hscovered this remarkable harmony?" And then he 


proceeds to quote from the speeches of Lord Derby, the 
leader of Disraeli's party, the severest indictments of France 
and the " despotic " Emperor of the French as the source 
of a mischievous policy in Italy and of the disquiet in Europe 
and in this country. 


Hostile feeling in England-Delane and Harcourt-A Plea for 

Jefferson Davis-Declaration of neutrality-The "recognition " 

issue-The Trent incident-A duel %*h Hautefeuille- 

the Alabama Harcourt's contention on behalf of 

tne British Government. 

THE public were in no doubt as to the identity of 
Historicus." Harcourt had embarked in the 
previous autumn on the famous series of letters 
which he wrote to The Times under that name on the grave 
that now chiefly occupied the mind of the country 
In 1861 the smouldering fire that had long menaced the peace 
of the United States had burst into flames. The Southern 
States had, on the election of Lincoln to the Presidency 
declared for secession from the North, had fired on the Union 
flag at Fort Sumter, and had plunged the country in civil 
The struggle raged for four years, and throughout 
that time the relations between Great Britain and the 
Federal Government were of the most delicate character 
:onstantly verging on complete rupture. The causes of 
irritation were many, and, though history has laid the chief 
burden upon this country, they were not wholly one-sided, 
the first crisis was precipitated from Washington, 
reward the American Foreign Secretary, conceived the idea 
that civil strife might be averted by external strife, and that 
by an appeal to the common patriotism against the foreigner 
nation might be reunited within itself. Hence the 
paper of April, 1861, entitled "Some Thoughts for the 
Jtata Consideration/' in which he proposed to divert 


the public mind from the domestic issue by creating a 
quarrel with Europe at large. He proposed to demand 
from Spain and France explanations, " categorical and at 
once," of their proceedings in the West Indian Islands and 
Mexico, also " explanations from Great Britain and Russia," 
to " send agents into Canada, Mexico and Central America to 
rouse a vigorous continental spirit of independence in this 
continent against European intervention," and if satisfactory 
explanations were not received from Spain and France ' 
convene Congress and declare war against them." 
counsel of panic, and though the wisdom of Lincoln modified 
the dispatch and saved the situation, it created a disastrous 

impression. . 

No such folly was needed to imperil the situation in Eng- 
land. The attitude of society and the Press was over- 
whelmingly hostile to the North in the early years of the 
war It would not be just to assume from this that the 
intellectual and wealthy classes in England were in favour 
of slavery. They were not. But though the slavery issue 
lay at the root of the struggle, that fact was not so clear to 
the contemporary judgment as it is to the judgment of 
history. It was masked by the secession issue. The rival 
interests of the North and South caused both to disguise 
or at least to blur the real question. The South did so 
because they knew that their "peculiar institution" of 
slavery did not furnish a ground on which they could hope 
to win the active sympathy of nations to whom slavery was 
an unholy practice. The North did so because they did 
not enter the war with the idea of abolishing slavery, but 
preserve the Union, and at the same time prevent the exten 
sion of slavery to territories outside those in which it already 
existed. It is true that before his election, Lincoln had 
made his famous declaration that no nation could continue 
" half slave and half free," but his own general attitude was 
more exactly represented by his statement that he looked 
for abolition to be a long process, perhaps occupying a 
century. He would not permit the extension of the evil, but 
apart from that he was concerned to avoid the disruption o 


the Union rather than to secure the abolition of slavery, and 
it was not until his proclamation of emancipation in the 
darkest hour of the war that the true issue was presented 
clearly and unequivocally to the world. 

From this time the tide turned, and popular opinion began 
to overwhelm the prejudices of society and the Press. The 
sympathies of aristocratic and governing England were with 
the South because the South represented their own stock and 
their own traditions. The colonization of the South had 
been carried out in the spirit of the old landed aristocracy 
and like appealed to like across the Atlantic. All the 
hostility which a privileged and monarchical society enter- 
tained towards the Republic was directed against the indus- 
trial and democratic North whose foundations were laid by 
the Puritan migration of 1620. Conservative England had 
never reconciled itself to the Republic, and the break between 
the two elements in the United States seemed to offer what 
the contemporary Times called the opportunity of pricking 
" the bubble of the Republic." In short, it was hostility 
to the Union and not support of slavery that made all the 
powerful influences in English society take the side of the 
South and inspired what Cobden described as " the diabolical 
tone of The Times and the Post." 

It was on the part which he played in this great controversy 

Harcourt founded that reputation as an international 

lawyer which was subsequently recognized by his election 

as the first holder of the Whewell Chair of International Law 

at Cambridge. The problems that arose between England 

and the United States as the war proceeded called for an 

instructed and competent interpretation of the duties of 

neutral nations towards belligerent nations, and the letters 

Histoncus " in The Times supplied this requirement 

with a luminous force and a wealth of learning that pro- 

undly influenced the course of events and made them a 

permanent contribution to the discussion of the relations 

nations in time of war. The choice of The Times as the 

medium of these famous papers was creditable alike to Har- 

ourt and Delane. They had been personal friends since 


' they were neighbours in the Temple ten years before, but in 
the columns of the Saturday Review Harcourt had been a 
ceaseless critic of the policy of The Times, and on the main 
issue raised by the Civil War in America the two men were 
remote from each other. Harcourt stood throughout, not 
i/ only for political, but for moral neutrality, and had no 
sympathy with the " diabolical tone " of The Times. But 
that great newspaper gave him the ear of the world, and, on 
the other hand, Delane recognized the journalistic value of 
so weighty a discussion and so powerful a contributor. He 
groaned occasionally, however, under the demands which 
Harcourt's voluminous pen made upon his space. 

In one letter Delane tells Harcourt that he seems to be 
departing from the judicial spirit of his contributions ; 
but, generally speaking, the temper of the manifestoes is 
calm and argumentative. His intellect was engaged in the 
struggle more than his feelings, and his main concern was, 
in the language of Francis Homer, " to reinspire a deference 
to solemn precedents and established rules " in the relation 
of nations. On the issue of the war itself he was with the 
l&orth. His general view was expressed later in the letter 
which he wrote when the war was over and Jefferson Davis's 
life was in the balance. In the course of this letter (June 
15, 1865), which was a plea for clemency to Davis, he 
said : 

I have never been able to accept the doctrine of the right of seces- 
sion. I have read the great arguments of Webster and Calhoun 
V/ on either side of this subject, and they appear to have exhausted the 
discussion. For myself I cannot doubt on which side the deliberate 
judgment of a lawyer and a statesman should incline. . . . The 
truth is that the Federal Constitution of the United States was from 
the commencement, a clumsy and almost cowardly compromise 
between two parties of antagonistic and almost irreconcileable views, 
one of whom desired Federal unity and the other State independence. 
That fundamental and original rent in the body politic of America 
was skinned over, but never healed. From that day to this the party 
of Hamilton and the party of Jefferson have represented two hostile 
camps, whom a series of compromises more or less sound alone kept 
from breaking out into open hostility. The irrepressible question 
of slavery at last precipitated the struggle and the issue has been 

i86i-6 5 ] HOLDING THE BALANCE 129 

referred to the arbitrament of the sword. I do not regret the award 
which the ordeal of battle has delivered. I believe that a decision 
has been pronounced which is for the lasting benefit of the human 
race. . . . 

They [the South] have committed, it is true, the greatest of political 
faults, that of attempting a revolution which could not possibly be 
successful. But if the error was immense, the expiation has also 
been terrible. By an appeal to force they have accomplished nothing 
but the absolute destruction of their cause and the utter ruin of its 
supporters. The retribution is an awful one, and might satisfy 
the rancour even of the most insatiable foe. If prevention be the 
proper end of punishment, can any one pretend that the execution 
of a single political victim could add anything to the terrible lesson 
which is read in the fall of Richmond, the ruin of Charleston, and 
the desolation of the homes and the lands of the South. 

But though his sympathies were with the North, he pre- 
served through the long discussion a judicial detachment 
from the merits of the quarrel, and aimed solely at stating 
the legal case as each new issue between the countries arose. 
His intercourse with the Government, and especially Lord 
John Russell, the Foreign Secretary, became so close and 
constant that it was assumed in the United States that he 
was the semi-official voice of the Ministry. Nor was the 
opinion wholly without foundation. Harcourt was the 
spokesman of English policy to the unofficial world, but he 
was also in no small degree the author as well as the defender 
of that policy. He not only justified action when it was 
taken, but he largely dictated the nature of the action by 
the force of his preliminary arguments. At each critical 
stage it was his robust thought and his astonishing industry 
in the pursuit of precedents, especially precedents provided 
by the jurists of the United States, that clarified the dis- 
cussion and cleared the path to reasonable decisions. Read 
in the light of the verdict which history has passed upon 
events, the letters are as remarkable for their wisdom as 
for their learning. In no capital instance has time reversed 
the judgment which " Historicus " pronounced in the heat 
of a debate which constantly trembled on the verge of war. 
Sometimes that judgment served the interests of the South, 
sometimes the interests of the North, but always it stood 



for neutrality not merely according to the letter, but 
according to the spirit. 

In the first serious question that arose he came into con- 
flict with the North and the friends of the North in this 
country. Within three weeks of the proclamation of the 
blockade of the Southern ports by the North, Great Britain 
recognized a state of belligerency, and issued a declaration 
of neutrality. The fact created great bitterness of feeling 
in the North, and led to the first suspicion of the intentions 
of this country. It was argued that the South were " rebels " 
and that to recognize them thus hastily as belligerents was 
an affront to the cause of the Union and an act of unfriendli- 
ness to the North. The grievance continued to rankle 
throughout the war, and it was endorsed as late as March, 
1865, by John Bright in a speech at Manchester. But there 
is no escape from the dilemma with which Harcourt met the 
attack in the letter published in The Times of March 22, 

The date of the proclamation of the blockade was April 19, 1861. 
In virtue of this proclamation, the Northern Government by the 
law of nations became entitled to search English merchant vessels 
in every part of the high seas, to divert them from their original 
destination, and to confiscate the vessels and their cargoes. If a 
state of legitimate warfare did not exist, such action on the part of 
the Northern Government would have been unlawful, and would 
have been a just cause of war on the part of England, against whom 
such a course would have been in such case pursued without justifica- 
tion. The proclamation of blockade of April 19 was therefore either 
a declaration of war against the South, or it was a cause of war on 
the part of all neutral nations against whom it should be put in 
force. From that dilemma there is no escape. So far as regards 
the position of the Northern Government as brought to the notice 
of the English Cabinet on May 10, 1861. Now let us see what was 
our situation with respect to the Southern States. The proclama- 
tion of Mr. Jefferson Davis authorizing the issue of letters of marque 
was dated April 17, 1861. The English Government were conse- 
quently advertised that the high seas were about to be covered by 
armed vessels, who under the colour of a commission claimed to 
exercise against neutrals the rights of warfare i.e., claimed to stop, 
and to search English merchant vessels, to capture them, and to 
carry them into their ports for adjudication, and to condemn them in 
case they had on board contraband of war. Nor was this all. 

i86i-6 5 ] STATES THE DILEMMA 131 

If legitimate war existed, the penalties of the Foreign Enlistment 
Act came into operation. If no such war existed, then the ship- 
builders might equip, arm and despatch vessels of war equally to 
New York and Charleston. English subjects might enlist and take 
service in the forces of either party. 

I would venture to ask him whether it was compatible with the 
duty of the English Government to leave them (the mercantile 
interests of Great Britain) for a single instant in doubt of their 
real situation in respect to the condition which had arisen in America. 
Was an English merchantman, sailing peaceably in pursuance of 
his ordinary trade, to be left in ignorance whether an armed vessel 
which overhauled and captured him was regarded by his own Govern- 
ment in the light of a pirate committing a robbery on the high seas, 
or whether it was a lawful belligerent exercising the recognized 
rights of war ? What was to be the position of the English navy, 
who are posted in every corner of the habitable globe, to protect 
by their presence, and if necessary to vindicate by their arms the 
security of our mercantile marine ? Were they or were they not 
to be informed whether they were " to sink, burn and destroy " 
as pirates or to respect as lawful belligerents the cruisers of either 
party who exercised against our merchantmen those acts of force 
which the rights of war alone could justify ? . . . 

The North created belligerent rights in both parties by making 
war on the South. The North have enjoyed their rights and we 
have endorsed them. They have seized our merchantmen and 
crippled our trade, and they have had a right to do it. If the South 
had not had belligerent rights it could only be because there was no 
war. But if there was no war then the North could have enforced 
no blockade, they could have seized no combatant, they could have 
made no prizes. English merchants might have traded as before 
to Charleston and Wilmington and Savannah and Mobile and New 
Orleans with impunity. To have seized our ships would have been 
to make war on England. If there had been no war Mr. Laird 
might have equipped for the South 500 Alabamas without inter- 
ference. This is what the North have gained. But war is a quarrel 
which necessarily requires two sides. In order to exercise belli- 
gerent rights yourself you must have an antagonist, and that antagon- 
ist must have belligerent rights also. And yet it is this just and 
inevitable consequence of their own policy which the North seem 
disposed to lay at our doors, and to make a ground of complaint 
against us. 


But on a much more vital question Harcourt's influence 
was decisively in the interests of the North. This was the 
question of the recognition of tjie Southern States, From 


the outbreak of the war this had been the aim of powerful 
social interests, and the early successes of the South 
in the field lent weight to a demand which was backed by 
all the reactionary influences in the country and endorsed 
by Napoleon, who was engaged in an adventure of his own 
in Mexico, with unceasing vehemence. As the summer of 
1862 advanced and the victories of the South seemed to fore- 
shadow the defeat of the North, the clamour increased and 
opinion in the Cabinet itself became sharply divided. Out- 
side, Gladstone, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, gave 
utterance at Newcastle to his lamentable declaration that 
Jefferson Davis had " made a nation," and his prophecy 
that the success of the South was " as certain as any event 
yet future and contingent can be." Inside the Cabinet 
Harcourt's step-father-in-law, Cornewall Lewis, was fighting 
the battle against recognition with characteristic tenacity. 
He summoned his brilliant relative to his aid, and together 
they produced a powerful memorandum for the Cabinet 
against recognition. Meanwhile " Historicus " was arguing 
the question publicly in letters in which he ransacked 
history for precedents against the recognition of an insur- 
rectionary power which had not fully established its claim to 

He met the advocates of recognition on their own ground 
and overwhelmed them by superior learning and energy of 
mind. They brought forward the action of the Great 
Powers in the Wars of Independence of Greece and Belgium 
and the South American Republics. Harcourt pointed out 
that in the first two instances the Great Powers, impelled 
by their conviction of the justice of the claims of these 
countries to independence (and possibly by other political 
considerations), definitely intervened by military means 
against the sovereign state from which these countries had 
revolted. These were acts of high policy " above and beyond 
the domain of law." The case of the South American 
Republics in revolt against Spain was one of true " recog- 
nition " within the understood limits of normal international 
law. The British^Government did not dictate to Spain ; 

i86i-6 5 ] ON "RECOGNITION' 133 

what they did was to recognize the Republics as and when 
they had won their independence in fact, when it was 
evident that Spanish control was gone. 

The practical rule that emerged from the historical prece- 
dents, " Historicus " stated as follows (November 7, 1862) : 

When a Sovereign State, from exhaustion or any other cause, has 
virtually and substantially abandoned the struggle for supremacy 
it has no right to complain if a foreign State treat the independence 
of its former subjects as de facto established ; nor can it prolong its 
sovereignty by a mere paper assertion of right. When, on the other 
hand, the contest is not absolutely or permanently decided, a recog- 
nition of the inchoate independence of the insurgents by a foreign 
State is a hostile act towards the Sovereign State which the latter 
is entitled to resent as a breach of neutrality and friendship. 

The dialectical method pursued in this great argument on 
which the issue of peace or war with the United States largely 
depended, may be illustrated by a few passages from the 
letter of November 7, 1862, a month after Gladstone's 
declaration for the South at Newcastle. He asks : What 
is the " South," and proceeds : 

Is " the South " which we are to recognize to include the Mississippi 
and New Orleans ? If so, what is to become of its de facto inde- 
pendence while the Federal gunboats hold the former and General 
Butler the latter ? Is Kentucky North or South ? Which is 
Virginia and what of Tennessee and Alabama ? " The South " at 
present is a cloud, apparent enough and sufficiently menacing, 
but still a cloud, varying in size and shape with every victory and 
every reverse, and never presenting the same outline for two mails 
together. Who, then, is to settle this question of limits ? The 
belligerents have not yet been able to settle it by their arms. Is it 
we, then, who are to determine what is the " South which we are 
called upon to recognize " ? 

To the argument that the South was entitled to recogni- 
tion on the grounds of the original sovereignty of the several 
States he replies : 

If South Carolina is and always was an independent Sovereign 
State, no struggle was necessary antecedently to her recognition by 
the European Powers. In this view of the case she might at any 
time, without an effort to throw off the yoke of the Federal Union, have 
negotiated a treaty with England. And Charleston, for instance, 
might have proclaimed a free trade tariff while the Government 


of Washington was exacting a protective duty. The argument must 
go to this length or it is good for nothing at all. The truth is that 
from the time that the States chose, for their own interests and 
in order to enhance their own importance, to organize and present 
themselves to the world as a collective Federal Government, foreign 
nations have ceased to have anything to do except with that Govern- 
ment which, for the purpose of all foreign relations, the States them- 
selves constituted their representative and plenipotentiary. 

He turns to the demand for intervention, friendly or for- 
cible, to put an end to " this horrible strife." Intervention 
is a question of policy and not of law. It is above and 
beyond the domain of law. 

But . . . it is obviously necessary that those who are to intervene 
should know and be able to declare what they are prepared to enforce, 
or that those who offer to mediate should be in a position to state 
what they propose to recommend. In the cases of Belgium and of 
Greece the Powers of Europe knew very well what they intended to 
accomplish, and they effected their purpose. When Louis Napoleon 
intervened in Italy he had a policy which he more or less carried out. 
But if Europe is to intervene in America, either by mediation or 
otherwise, what is the view on which she proposes to act ? Whatever 
may be thought of the original causes and motives of the American 
quarrel, it is obvious enough that in its final solution the question 
of slavery must in some form or other be dealt with. Its limits 
must be defined and its conditions determined. What scheme are 
the great Powers prepared to recommend or to enforce on the subject 
of slavery which " the South " would accept and which would 
not shock the conscience of Europe ? Is Europe prepared with a 
substitute for Mason and Dixon's line, or has it settled a new edition 
of the Missouri Compromise ? Yet if we are to mediate, it can only 
be by urging some plan which we approve. What is that solution 
of the negro question to which an English Government is prepared to 
affix the seal of English approbation ? If the combatants settle 
the question for themselves, we can accept the result without re- 
sponsibility. If the matter is to be negotiated through our mediation 
we must lend our moral sanction to the settlement at which we assist. 
There are many things which we cannot help, but there are some 
things with which it were wise to have nothing to do. And to this 
latter category I venture to think most eminently belongs the defini- 
tion of that permanent line of demarcation which must, no doubt, one 
day separate the Slave from the Free States of America. 

" I am extremely glad that you have written the letter," 
writes Cornewall Lewis to Harcourt apropos of this 
deliverance. " It will be very useful, and will teach such 


shallow writers as Robert Cecil (Lord Salisbury) that there 
is something more than they see." 

It was the practice of " Historicus " to clinch his case by 
appealing to the example of the United States. He used 
the precedents set up at Washington with extraordinary 
skill in all his controversies, If he was aiming at making 
the British Government fair to the North he showed how 
fair an example Washington had set, in the face of popular 
clamour, when we were in trouble ; if his purpose was to meet 
some criticism from the Federal Government he produced 
an avalanche of precedents set up by the American jurists 
which sustained our action. In this way he disarmed the 
attack from both sides. Throughout the critical autumn 
of 1862, the struggle over recognition went forward. The 
Confederate agents, Slidell and Mason, brought every gun 
to bear upon the Government, and they had behind them 
the ceaseless activities of France. " All through the summer 
of 1862," says C. F. Adams in his biography of his 
father, the American Minister in London, " the Ministers of 
Napoleon III were pressing the British Government towards 
recognition." Napoleon told W. S. Lindsay, the Pro-South 
Englishman, that " he would long since have declared the 
inefficiency of the blockade and taken steps to put an end 
to it, but that he could not obtain the concurrence of the 
English Ministry." And the interview with Lindsay was 
granted, on the Emperor's own admission, in the hope that 
he would be a channel through which he could once more 
approach the British Government with a view to prompt and 
decisive action which was to take the shape of the despatch 
of a joint fleet to the mouth of the Mississippi. But Lord 
John Russell was indisposed to fall into the trap, and his 
own judgment was fortified by the firmness of Cornewall 
Lewis and the industrious researches and powerful dialectic 
of " Historicus." Cornewall Lewis's letters to Harcourt at 
this time show how closely the two men were working 
together, and Russell's notes to Harcourt indicate an in- 
creasing tendency to look to him, not only for support in 
public but for assistance in private. By the end of 1862, 


the battle over recognition had been practically won, and 
in his introduction to the collected edition of the " His- 
toricus " letters, 1 Harcourt summed up as follows : 

I rejoice that the English Government have proclaimed the policy 
of an absolute neutrality. I most earnestly hope that, through good 
report and through evil report in spite of all solicitations and every 
menace they will religiously adhere to the only course which can 
bring credit to themselves or advantage to the country. We are 
told, indeed, that a policy of neutrality will bring us the hatred of 
both belligerents. It may be so ; for, to men inflamed by passion 
and hatred, nothing is so odious as the spectacle of justice and 
fairness in others. It is said that neutrality is not popular in this 
country. I do not believe it ; but if it were so, I hope that fact 
would not influence the policy of an English Administration on so 
critical a question. The quality by which statesmen are distin- 
guished from the clamorous mob, and the title which they possess 
to govern the destinies of a people, he in the power to look beyond 
the exigency of the moment, and to forecast the horoscope of the 
future. To be firm when the vulgar are undecided, to be calm in 
the midst of passion and to be brave in the presence of panic 
are the characteristics of those who are fit to be the rulers of 
men. Such men bear obloquy and put aside vituperation, be- 
cause they know that the time will come when their assailants 
themselves will feel though perhaps not acknowledge the 
wisdom of their acts, and that, in the return of moderation and 
good sense, justice will be done to the equitable policy of a true and 
faithful neutrality. 

In the year 1818, in the debates on the Foreign Enlistment Bill, 
Mr. Canning held up to the imitation of the English House of 
Commons the example of the Government of the United States at 
the outbreak of the Revolutionary War in Europe. I know no 
story in the page of history more striking or more instructive than 
the noble stand made by Washington and the great statesmen by 
whom he was surrounded, against the excited passions of Ms own 
countrymen, who sought to force the Government into hostilities 
with Great Britain. The narrative is told in the closing chapters 
of Marshall's Life of Washington the worthy biography of a noble 
life. No spectacle so sad or so memorable has been transmitted 
for the instruction of posterity as that of an ungovernable people 
who clouded, by their ingratitude, the closing days of the patriot 
chief who had led them through the wilderness and brought them 
into the land of promise. But those were days in which American 
statesmen had the courage to be wise, and dared to be unpopular. 
In the midst of almost universal obloquy Washington stood firm, 

1 Letters of Historicus on some Questions of International Law. 
Reprinted from THE TIMES. Macmillan & Co. 1863. 


and refused to adopt the rash and short-sighted policy of a 
frantic people and a violent Press. He knew too well 
How nations sink, by daring schemes opprest, 
When vengeance listens to the fool's request. 
I have spoken with the respect they deserve of the judicial records 
of American decisions. But an equal if not higher reputation belongs 
to the archives of American diplomatic statesmanship, at the 
close of the last and the beginning of the present century. The 
published volumes of American States Papers during the early years 
of the French Revolutionary War present a noble monument of 
dignity, moderation and good faith. They are repertories of 
statesmanlike principles and juridical knowledge. Their relation 
to the publications of modern transatlantic politicians is much that 
of the literature of Rome under Augustus to that of the Lower 
Empire. Pressed upon either side by the violence and menaces 
of the rival combatants, Washington persisted to the last in an 
inflexible attitude of strict neutrality. The country over whose 
destinies he presided reaped the lasting advantage of his wise and 
prudent counsels. And the verdict of an enlightened posterity 
has indemnified his fame for the odium which was cast upon him 
by an unjust and ignorant populace. I trust that the administration 
which may be charged with the fortunes of this Empire, to whatever 
party they may belong, will sustain the same superiority above the 
solicitations of interested partisans and the clamour of ignorant 


I have dealt at some length with the recognition issue, 
because it was the crucial question of the first two years of 
the war, and because it discloses better than any other 
phase of the great battle of words the central position which 
Harcourt took up in the varying argument. But side by 
side with this main stream of controversy, there were con- 
stant episodes of violence which threatened an outbreak of 
hostilities and in regard to which Harcourt's powerful pen 
was always at work to keep the discussion in the realm of 
law. " The jurist should know no distinction between the 
Trojan and the Tyrian camps," he says in one letter (January 
3, 1863). " I have observed with some satisfaction that the 
letters which I have addressed to you have been in turn 
displeasing to each set of partisans who espouse opposite 
sides in the American quarrel." They were sufficiently 
displeasing to the North in the matter of the Trent, which 


was the first incident that brought the countries to the brink 
of war. The American steamship San Jacinto, which had 
been cruising off the West Coast of Africa for the suppression 
of the slave trade, was returning home in October 1861, 
when Captain Wilkes, the commander, learned at Cienfuegos 
that the British steamer Trent was to leave Havana on 
November 7 with the Confederate envoys, Slidell and 
Mason, who were duly accredited to Paris and London 
respectively. Wilkes steamed to the Bahama Channel, 
sighted the Trent on November 8, ran up the United States 
flag and fired a shot across the Trent's course. The Trent 
showed the British colours, but did not stop until a shell 
was exploded across her bows. Thereupon her course was 
stayed, a boat's crew from the San Jacinto boarded her, 
and Mason and Slidell, with their secretaries, were forcibly 
removed, after which the Trent proceeded on her way. 

A storm of unprecedented fury broke out on both sides of 
the Atlantic and for six weeks war seemed imminent. The 
North, depressed and angry with the deplorable failures of 
the war, hailed the feat of Wilkes as if it were a great victory, 
and jurists and statesmen as well as journalists and stump 
orators exalted Wilkes as a hero and endorsed his action as 
in conformity with international law. He was entertained 
at a banquet at Boston at which the most extravagant 
praise was heaped on him by the Governor of Massachusetts 
and the Chief Justice of the State (George T. Bigelow), who 
declared that " Commodore Wilkes acted more from the 
noble instincts of his patriotic heart than from any sentence 
he read from a law book," adding that in such circumstances 
" a man does not want to ask counsel, or to consult judges 
upon his duty ; his heart, his instinct, tells him what he 
ought to do." 

This hysteria was answered by a violent tempest in Eng- 
land. It mobilized all the sympathies for the South around 
a grievance in regard to which the legal merits were clearly 
on the side of England. The Government issued an imme- 
diate demand for the release of the prisoners, and for two 
months the issue hung in the balance. During this crucial 

1861-65] THE TRENT CASE 139 

time the pen of " Historicus " was working at high pressure 
on the law of the subject, and he bandied argument and 
precedent with the American controversialists with torren- 
tial energy. And, as usual, he scored by his appeal to 
American history. George Sumner, the brother of Charles 
who was Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations 
at Washington, had himself unfortunately appealed to 
American history. He defended in the Boston Transcript the 
seizure of Mason and Slidell on the ground that in the War 
of Independence the British had seized Henry Laurens, 
colonial envoy to Holland. Sumner's argument was based 
on the inaccurate statement that Laurens was on a Dutch 
(neutral) packet, the Mercury, when the seizure took place. 
Harcourt looked up Sumner's authority, and pointed out 
that the Mercury was not a Dutch packet, but an American 
belligerent. No complaint was made of the incident at the 
time, as would assuredly have been the case if the Mercury 
had been a neutral. Harcourt says (December 5, 1861) : 

If the San Jacinto had taken Messrs. Slidell and Mason out of 
the Charleston packet when she was running the blockade under the 
Confederate flag, the cases would have been parallel. So far the 
precedent of Mr. Laurens carries the argument, but not a step 

Driven from the Laurens precedent, the American con- 
troversialists took new ground. 

" A mouse that is confined to one poor hole 
Can never be a mouse of any soul," 

writes " Historicus " five days later (December 10, 1861), 
" and, accordingly, now that the H. Laurens case has broken 
down, we hear of nothing but the great Lucien Bonaparte 
case." The new parallel brought forward by the Americans 
was the capture of Lucien Bonaparte by the English in 1810. 
Harcourt proves that this precedent is as fallacious as the 
Laurens case. Lucien Bonaparte was not taken, as alleged, 
from a neutral ship, but from an American boat chartered 
by Murat, a belligerent, for the express purpose of carrying 
Lucien Bonaparte, a belligerent, and his property. If 
the Trent had been chartered by Jefferson Davis expressly 


to carry Messrs. Mason and Slidell the case might have been 
similar. Moreover Lucien had placed himself under Sar- 
dinian jurisdiction in Sardinian waters. Sardinia was 
at war with France, and virtually handed over Lucien 
Bonaparte to the British cruisers defending the Island, by 
refusing him permission to land. 

Not less effective was his reply to Randolph Clay, a former 
American charge d'affaires at St. Petersburg and Vienna, 
against whom, in regard to the arrest of belligerents on 
board neutral vessels on the high seas, he quoted weighty 
American authority in the shape of a message to Congress 
during the war of 1813 by President Madison. In this 
message it is stated that a search for, or seizure of, British 
persons or ^property on board neutral vessels on the high seas 
is not a belligerent right derived from the law of nations. 

On the argumentative as on the historical issue, " His- 
toricus " claimed the victory. Seward, the American 
Secretary of State, insisted that the men and their despatches 
were contraband of war. Harcourt in his reply said (January 
15, 1862) : 

In order to constitute contraband of war it is absolutely essential 
that two elements should concur viz. a hostile quality and a hostile 
destination. If either of these elements is wanting there can be no 
such thing as contraband. Innocent goods going to a belligerent 
port are not contraband. Here there is a hostile destination, but 
no hostile quality. Hostile goods, such as munitions of war going 
to a neutral port, are not contraband. Here there is a hostile 
quality but no hostile destination. . . . The unquestioned and 
unquestionable neutral destination of the Trent proves beyond all 
possibility of cavil that neither persons nor goods on board of her 
could be treated as contraband. 

This, and much else in the prolific judgments of " His- 
toricus " on the various issues raised on the war " Block- 
ade," " Right of Search," " Neutral Trade in Contraband 
of War," " Essential Qualities of Contraband " and " Bel- 
ligerent Violations of Neutral Rights," read strangely in the 
light of the ruthless practice during the European War of 
1914-18 ; but his argument and his precedents prevailed 
then. The hot fit passed in America, and on January 8, 1862 
Cornewall Lewis wrote to Harcourt from the War Office : 

1861-65] CHARLES SUMNER 141 

You will, I am sure, be glad to hear that we are to have peace, and 
not war, with the United States. A telegram has been received this 
afternoon from Lord Lyons, announcing that the four prisoners 
(Mason, Slidell and then: secretaries) are to be surrendered, and that 
he remains at his post. 

It must be confessed that in the controversy Harcourt 
mixed his law with a good deal of pepper. He ragged Seward 
and the Sumners unmercifully, scoffed at their law and their 
" swagger," contrasted them unfavourably with the great 
Americans of the past, spoke slightingly of Lincoln, and made 
violent attacks on John Bright who had espoused the 
American case and, said Harcourt, seemed to think that 
" Justice and Wisdom when they left the rest of the earth 
took refuge in the broad beavered shades of Boston." It 
was always a trait of Harcourt that he was not content with 
beating his man. He had to roll him ignominiously in the 
dust. That he was unjust to Charles Sumner he came later 
to realize, and his opinion of Lincoln underwent a profound 
change which evoked perhaps the noblest tribute paid to 
that great man on this side of the Atlantic after his assassina- 
tion. There is no doubt that the fact that the peace was 
kept was, apart from Lincoln himself, as much the work of 
Sumner on the other side of the Atlantic as of Russell, Lewis 
and Harcourt on this side. He was in close touch with the 
better mind of this country throughout, and the letters of the 
Duke of Argyll to Harcourt from 1863 onwards are full of 
the most intimate revelations of Sumner's private views. 
Sumner's own letters from Cobden, Bright, Gladstone and 
Argyll were, at Lincoln's request, always read to the Cabinet 
and formed a chief source of light as to the trend of thought 
in England. It was Sumner's word that convinced Lincoln 
that Mason and Slidell must be given up and reconciled 
the public to that step. This was the first, but not the last 
great service he performed in helping to keep the peace be- 
tween the two countries. 

But the most sustained and powerful argument which 
" Historicus " conducted was not against the American 
statesmen and jurists, but against a French international 
lawyer, M. Hautefeuille. It covered almost the whole 


ground of controversy in regard to neutrals and belligerents, 
and by its clarity, force and learning, it remains one of the 
weightiest contributions to the discussion of international 
law extant. M. Hautefeuille was a very voluble, but not 
very formidable opponent. His object was not so much to 
clear up the law of the sea as to make mischief between 
England and the North and between England and the Con- 
tinent. He frankly avowed that his deliberate object was to 
lay the foundation of an European confederation against the 
maritime interests of Great Britain. The scheme was developed 
in a passage which began in the following amiable terms : 1 

Des faits qui precedent il resulte que faute d'un e"quilibre maritime 
toutes les nations sont a la merci d'un peuple qui a toujours use 1 
et use encore de sa preponderance pour les opprimer and pour 
an6antir leur commerce et leur navigation. Un pareil e"tat de choses 
est-il done sans r6mdde ? N'existe-il aucun moyen pour le monde 
opprime', de mettre un frein a de si graves abus ? . . . 

To the assertion of M. Hautefeuille that France was 
historically the protector of the small nations and that Eng- 
land was the universal oppressor of the sea, " Historicus " 
replied with a torrent of facts dealing with the French record 
at sea from the days of Louis XIV to the Berlin Decrees of 
Napoleon, and, having stripped every rag from his unhappy 
victim, exclaimed : 

It is time that this line of argument should be put a stop to, if 
not for fairness' sake at least for shame. If England has erred, the 
last Power in Europe who is entitled to fling a stone at us is that of 
which M. Hautefeuille is a citizen. We may be no better than our 
neighbours, but we have never been so bad as France. The black 
deeds with which a criminal ambition has scarred the face of Europe 
from the days of Louis XIV to those of the First Napoleon from 
the smoking villages of the Palatinate to the dark ditch of Vincennes 
find no parallel in the annals of Great Britain. If France has 
repented of these acts, and has abjured the spirit which gave birth 
to them, it is well and I should be the last to desire to revive their 
memory. If France desires to appear in a new character as just in 
peace and moderate in war I shall be happy to hail the Magdalen 
in her new capacity. But I demur at the outset to the light in 
which M. Hautefeuille presents her of the Pharisee of Europe, 
who thanks God that she is not as other nations are, nor even as the 
English publican. 

1 Letters of Historicus, p. 55. 


Having routed him in the field of history, " Historicus " 
pursued M. Hautefeuille into the field of law, first on the 
subject of blockade, next on the subject of neutral trade in 
contraband of war, convicting the Frenchman of invincible 
ignorance or deliberate suppression of the authorities, and 
hurling at him the judgments and declarations of Grotius, 
Vattel, Stowell, Bynkershoeck, Lampredi, Ortolan, Jefferson, 
Story, Martens, Kluber, and " the greatest jurist this age 
has produced," the American Chancellor Kent. In main- 
taining against Hautefeuille and Dr. Phillimore the right 
of neutrals to sell contraband of war to belligerents a right 
without which, by the way, neither France nor England 
would have survived the European War of 1914-18, for its 
denial would have cut off the American supplies " His- 
toricus " said : l 

If the doctrine against which I am contending were to be estab- 
lished, and the duty of neutral Governments to prohibit the domestic 
trade in contraband by their subjects were once to be admitted, it is 
easy to perceive the monstrous and intolerable consequences that 
would ensue. Instantly upon the declaration of war between two 
belligerents, not only the traffic by sea of all the rest of the neutral 
Powers of the world would be exposed to the inconveniences of which 
they are already impatient, but the whole inland trade of every 
nation of the earth, which has hitherto been free, would be cast into 
the fetters. The neutral Government, being on this assumption 
held responsible to the belligerent for the trade of its subjects within 
its own territory, must establish in every counting-house a sort of 
belligerent excise. It must have an official spy behind every counter, 
in order that no contract may be concluded for which either belliger- 
ent may call it to account, and in respect of which it may possibly 
find itself involved in war. This newfangled and, forsooth, Liberal 
doctrine would introduce the irksome claims of belligerent rights 
into the bosom of neutral soil, from which they have been 
hitherto absolutely excluded, and in which they ought to have 
nothing to do. It would give to the belligerent State a right of 
interference in every act of neutral domestic commerce, till at last 
the burden would be so enormous that neutrality itself would become 
more intolerable than war, and the result of this assumed reform, 
professing to be founded on " the principles of eternal justice," 
would be nothing less than universal and interminable hostilities. 
In reference to this letter Clarendon wrote to Cornewall 
Lewis : 

1 Letters of Historicus, p. 134. 


THE GROVE, December 23, 1862. How clearly and completely 
W. Harcourt has brought out the case of the Neutrals and their com- 
mercial rights with belligerents. . . . Historicus deals so deferenti- 
ally with American authorities Kent, Story, Wheaton and Peirce, 
that if I was in John Russell's place I would send the letter to Lyons 
and tell him to have it privately printed and circulated at N. York 
by the Consul. 


But meanwhile a much more dangerous subject by far 
the gravest of the war engaged Harcourt 's pen. It was the 
launching of the Alabama from Laird's shipyard at Liverpool. 
There was never any real doubt as to the purpose and destina- 
tion of this famous vessel. Adams, the U.S. Minister, in 
London, gave the Foreign Office the complet.est evidence 
that it was ordered by the Confederate Government and 
intended for their use. At the eleventh hour Russell decided 
to detain her, but a singular accident defeated his intention. 
New evidence on which Russell proposed to act was sub- 
mitted to Sir John Harding, the Queen's Advocate. What 
followed is told in the Life of Charles Francis Adams by his son : 

He (Sir John) just then broke down from nervous tension and 
thereafter became hopelessly insane. His wife, anxious to conceal 
from the world knowledge of her husband's condition, allowed the 
package to He undisturbed on his desk for three days days which 
entailed the destruction of the American merchant marine, and it 
was on the first of these days, Saturday, July 26, 1862, that Captain 
Bullock (the Confederate Agent who had ordered the ship) " received 
information from a private but most reliable source that it would 
not be safe to leave the ship at Liverpool another forty -eight hours ! ' ' 
On the following Monday accordingly the Alabama, alias the " 290," 
alias the Enrica, was taken out of dock and under pretence of making 
an additional trial trip steamed, dressed in flags, down the Mersey, 
with a small party of guests on board. It is needless to say she did 
not return. The party of guests was brought back on a tug, and the 
Enrica, now fully manned, was on the 3ist off the North Coast 
of Ireland, headed seawards in heavy weather. 

It was the most disastrous blow struck at the cause of the 
North from any external source. The American mercantile 
marine was destroyed by a ship built in a British yard, and 
manned by British seamen whose achievements were openly 
applauded in the English Press and by English passengers, 
who hailed it with cheers as they passed it at sea. Even 

1861-65] THE ALABAMA 145 

the patience and wisdom of Lincoln could not have prevented 
so flagrant a breach of neutrality issuing in a declaration of 
war if the circumstances of the moment had not been too 
heavy to admit of action, and for ten years the incident was 
destined to cloud the sky of Anglo-American relations. 
There was no doubt of the culpability of the British Govern- 
ment in the matter and Russell, who throughout the war 
was genuinely anxious to play fair and keep the peace, was 
distressed at having been outwitted by the Confederate 
agents and afterwards frankly admitted that he was to blame. 
He was badly served by the legal advisers of the Crown, and 
it is noticeable that from this time forward his habit of 
consulting Harcourt on legal problems and the drafting of 
documents became more marked. Harcourt made no con- 
cealment of his opinion that the Government were in the 
wrong. It may seem perplexing that while he was, on the 
one hand, defending the right of neutral trading with bel- 
ligerents, he was, on the other hand, insisting that the 
launching of the Alabama was an illegal act. If the bel- 
ligerents could buy guns from a neutral, why could they not 
charter a warship ? The answer was that international law, 
confirmed by all the highest authorities, permitted neutral 
trading, but that the Foreign Enlistment Act of this country 
forbade the " fitting out, equipping and arming of vessels for 
warlike purposes " in foreign quarrels. International law 
did not forbid it, but our own municipal enactment did. In 
allowing the equipping and manning of the Alabama we had, 
therefore, offended not against the law of nations, but against 
a law which Canning had passed for our own protection, and, 
although the North had no legal case against us on the ground 
of international law, it had an overwhelming moral case 
against us on the ground that we had sanctioned a grave 
breach of our own law to the serious and almost irreparable 
hurt of the North. When the mischief was done " Histori- 
cus " argued forcibly against the Alabama and the Florida 
being allowed the hospitality of British ports (the former had 
been admitted to Saldanha Bay) on the ground that they had 
been equipped in violation of the rules of a neutral state. 



But while on the broad question, Harcourt took the side 
of the North, he disclaimed any responsibility on the part 
of this country over the acts of the Alabama beyond the 
limits of territorial waters. It was an offence against this 
country in those waters : it was not an offence against 
international law outside those waters : 

If policy and interest did not forbid, the neutral State would be at 
liberty to permit enlistment or equipment to either party so long as 
it acts impartially to both. But the forbidding a thing which the 
neutral is at liberty, if he chooses to permit, cannot confer on the 
belligerent any larger right than that which he originally possessed. 
All that he can strictly claim is, that what is permitted to one shall 
be conceded to the other. 

His conclusion, therefore, was that " this ' tall talk ' of 
claims of compensation against Great Britain for prizes taken 
by the Alabama is mere nonsense, which has no colour or 
foundation either in reason, history or law." On the strict 
law of the matter it may be that Harcourt was right, but he 
was to discover as the years went on that a grave wrong was 
not to be airily dismissed by what was in spirit if not in fact 
a legal quibble. 

But on the main issue raised by the Alabama he prevailed. 
Slidell, the Confederate envoy, having succeeded once, tried 
to repeat the success on a more ambitious scale. He com- 
missioned armoured vessels, both at Laird's and in France, 
nominally for non-belligerent powers. Harcourt not only 
denounced in public the Confederate attempts to violate 
English municipal law, but brought his private influence to 
bear on the Foreign Secretary during his stay with him in 
Scotland in the August of 1863. There is no doubt that 
Russell himself did not wish to be caught napping a second 
time, but that the danger point was not past is clear from a 
letter from Lord Clarendon to his sister Lady Theresa Lewis, 
the mother of the late Mrs. Harcourt, on September 13, 1863 : 

Lord Clarendon to Lady Theresa Lewis. 

There is a great deal of truth in your remarks about " Historicus," 
whose style moreover discloses the cloven foot of the old Saturday 

1861-65] 'LETTERS OF HISTORICUS " 147 

Reviewer, but at the same time I must say that the question of these 
ships of war is so beset with difficulties and is so likely to become 
a more or less fair casus belli against us on the part of the United 
States, that many people, while still adhering to the standpoint of 
strict neutrality, now incline to the view of " Historicus," i.e. of 
not allowing ships of war to depart from an English port which are 
manifestly intended for the Confederates. . . . The whole thing, 
however, resolves itself into a question of expediency, and there is 
as much to be said on one side as the other whenever that is the case. 
I may mention, however, that Layard, whom I had a talk with on my 
way through London and who had just seen Roundell Palmer (the 
Attorney- General), told me he had written to Lord John to advise 
much the same course as W. Harcourt dictates. 

At this time Russell had issued an order detaining the 
Laird Rams and a month later they were seized by the 
Government. " Historicus " celebrated the victory in a 
letter of prodigious length in which he disclosed the docu- 
ments that showed that these so-called Egyptian ships were 
commissioned for the Southern States. 

It was in the midst of his domestic afflictions that the first 
of the two collected volumes of the Letters of Historicus ap- 
peared in book form. One of the latest of Cornewall Lewis's 
letters to Harcourt (February 20, 1863) announced the 
receipt of copies of the book, together with the following 
list of the persons to whom he had sent them : Lord Claren- 
don, Sir E. Head, Robert Lowe, the Lord Chancellor, Lord 
John Russell, Dr. Ferguson and the Attorney-General (Sir 
Roundell Palmer). Lewis himself had taken the deepest 
interest in the letters as they had appeared, and his notes 
to Harcourt were full of suggestion, criticism and comment 
on their effect on his colleagues and intimates in the Govern- 
ment. Lord Wensleydale " is satisfied with your argument " 
though " his political tendencies would draw him the other 
way " ; "I shall be surprised if the Lord Chancellor does not 
concur unless he goes the other way out of jealousy " ; "I 
enclose a letter from Clarendon, in which you will see his 
opinion of ' Historicus ' on the trade and contraband in 
war," and so on. Harcourt, in sending a copy of the volume 
to the Duke of Argyll, said, referring to the crucial point of 
" obligation " in the matter of the Alabama : 


Harcourt to the Duke of Argyll. 

You will find in the letter on " Belligerent Violations of Neutral 
Rights," p. 149, the question which we discussed at Cliveden 
examined at length and the reasons which lead me to think that the 
Foreign Enlistment Act is not a Statute " in furtherance of an 
international obligation." This was a point on which I myself 
was for a long time in considerable doubt and argued myself into 
conviction by the process stated in this letter. I thought the matter 
so important and so difficult that I would not print it till I had taken 
the opinion of Sir Cornewall Lewis, Lowe and Sir E. Head, who all 
concurred. You will see that the Solicitor-General in his speech on 
the A labama adopted the same view. 

Among the congratulations and thanks which Harcourt 
received on the publication of the collected letters were 
several from members of the Government, including Lord 
John Russell and the Attorney-General, and one which 
doubtless gave him special satisfaction from R. H. Dana, 
junior, of Boston, in which the distinguished American 
lawyer said : 

The Government and people of the United States owe you a debt 
of gratitude for your convincing and fearless exposition of many 
principles of international law which have borne in our favour in 
this our life and death struggle. We know your purpose has not 
been to aid one side or the other, but, with a judicial mind, to quiet 
excitement, clear the atmosphere, and correct the public mind ; 
but this course so ably pursued, has been of incalculable benefit 
to us, and I assure you, is appreciated. 


First Brief at the Parliamentary Bar Railway Development 
Defence of Public Interest against the Crown on the Embank- 
ment Controversy The Crawley Court Martial Autumn Shoot- 
ing with Millais The Alabama again Eulogy of President 
Lincoln Consultations with Lord Russell The Reform Bills 
of 1866-67 Disraeli's Coup Assistance to Lord Stanley 
on American Controversy. 

IT is time to turn to another phase of Harcourt's many- 
sided activities. The argument he carried on with so 
much energy and success during the Civil War was 
incidental to his profession, but not associated with it. In 
that profession he had by this time established himself 
securely. After some preliminary practice on the Home 
Circuit and at the Law Courts he had gone to the Parliamen- 
tary Bar, where he became a leading expert on railway mat- 
ters, this being a period of great railway expansion. Indeed 
the first brief preserved among his papers relates to a railway 
case : 

Rogers present their compliments to Mr. Har court and beg to inform 
him that in accordance with their interview with him after the rising 
of the Committee this afternoon, the Consultation with Counsel 
is fixed for to-morrow morning at a J to 10 o'clock at Mr. Serjt. 
Wrangham's Chambers, 12, Gt. George St. 

23 Fludyer St., Westminster, S.W., 
8th June, 1857. 

The brief was delivered at breakfast time and very little 
opportunity was left for its study before the hour fixed for 



the consultation. Harcourt appeared punctually, suggested 
a settlement, and so gained time to read his brief. 

In a letter to the late Lord Harcourt, the ist Lord Brassey 
gives a glimpse of Harcourt in those early days at the 
parliamentary bar : 

I vividly remember the first occasion when I saw him. In 1860 
I was a pupil in the chambers of John Buller, the leading parlia- 
mentary draughtsman of his day. There was a continual va et vient 
between Buller and his clients in the parliamentary Committee 
Rooms, as the need arose for amendments or new clauses. When- 
ever the news came that a distinguished advocate was about to 
address a Committee, John Buller 's chief clerk would rush into the 
pupil-room and send us off to study eloquence, as displayed by the 
leaders of the parliamentary bar. It was in the corridor leading 
to the Committee Rooms that I first saw your father, then in the 
prime of early manhood. He was pacing leisurely to and from, 
in consultation with his leader, Hope-Scott. Clients, witnesses, and 
lookers-on, more or less interested, formed a busy throng. In stature 
and dignity of bearing your father and Hope-Scott were conspicuous 
in the crowd. For the successful men incomes were large in those 
palmy days of private bill legislation. When your father left the 
Bar to enter Parliament he made a sacrifice which did him honour. 

A gay episode of his career at the parliamentary bar is 
recorded by Lord Shaw of Dunfermline in his Letters to Isabel 
(Cassell, 1921). It was told to Lord Shaw (then Mr. Thomas 
Shaw) during a dull debate in the House at a time when 
Harcourt was leader of the Opposition. Mr. Shaw had asked 
Harcourt to tell him something of his life at the Parliamen- 
tary Bar : 

He gave that gurgling chuckle of his which shook his heavy frame, 
and then he said : 

"I was once, about the beginning, taken in as third counsel. My 

seniors were Mr. Hope-Scott and Mr. Pope. We were for Lord 

and we were to oppose an Irish railway scheme. So we had a 

conference, and Lord came to it. Said Hope-Scott, ' Would 

your Lordship tell us in a word what your case is ? ' ' My case,' 
said his Lordship, ' is that the directors are all damned scoundrels.' 

' Any more ? ' said Scott. ' No,' said Lord , ' that's enough, 

isn't it ? That is my case.' " We both laughed, and I said, " Very 

Then he resumed : " The very thing I said at the blessed confer- 
ence. I struck in, ' Your instructions, Lord , are very clear. 

You wish the case run on those lines.' ' I do,' said his Lordship. 

1857-67] " ANY MORE DIRECTORS ? " 151 

"So we all agreed there was no more to be said. And when 
the Bill came on, of course, Hope-Scott and Pope were not there." 

" What happened ? " said I. 

" Oh," he said, " I ran the case according to instructions. I 
cross-examined the first director. It rather appeared, after all, 
there was something in Lord 's idea. When the cross-examina- 
tion finished, my clerk pulled my gown, and said to me : ' Lord 

has given instructions to double your brief fee.' 

" Then came on another director. At the close of his evidence 

my clerk again pulled my gown and said : ' Lord has given 

instructions to treble your brief fee.' I turned to him and said, 
' Any more directors ? ' " 

" And were there ? " said I to him. " Alas, no, Shaw," said he. 
" They wouldn't face the music. The Bill collapsed." 

What the extent of the sacrifice was to which Lord 
Brassey refers is not known with precision. There is a 
statement in Harcourt's own handwriting of earnings at 
the parliamentary bar in one session of 1865 as follows : 

Unpaid, Paid, 

6,910 gns. 1.370 gns. 

and, according to the best authority on the subject, it would 
appear that when he sacrificed law for politics his income 
was in the neighbourhood of 20,000 a year. That it was 
considerable is evident from the fact that, starting without 
a fortune of his own, he in ten years or so of professional 
practice secured such a position of independence that he was 
able for the rest of his days to devote himself to the uncertain 
and, in his case, highly unprofitable calling of politics. 

It was always characteristic of Harcourt's legal activities 
that they widened out into the sphere of public affairs and 
not seldom into public discussion. For example, his ex- 
perience in connection with railway legislation led him early 
to the consideration and discussion of the enhancement of 
land value, whether by railway building or otherwise. He 
did not live to see the great controversy on the subject in 
the decade before the European War, but the letters which 
he contributed to The Times on various occasions show that 
he had formed very clear ideas on the subject. In his 
argument with Lord Redesdale in regard to the opposition 
which the latter's committee was putting in the way of 


railway construction, he insisted that " public advantage " 
governed the matter. It was not the duty of Parliament to 
ask whether the projected railway would pay : 

I say a line may be distinctly for the public advantage, and 
therefore justify the concession of compulsory powers over private 
property, though the contractor who constructs the line makes a 
bad speculation and the shareholders who invest in it make an un- 
profitable investment. 

Harcourt was concerned to meet the prejudice of landlords 
and others who feared the destruction of the amenities of 
the countryside by the coming of the railway, the objection 
of existing railway companies to reasonable development 
which might limit their share of business, and so on. One 
contention put forward, apparently by Lord Redesdale, that 
if a railway was desirable in any district the money for its 
construction would be locally forthcoming, seems an odd 
one. Harcourt pointed out that it was desirable that 
farmers, traders, and manufacturers should employ their 
money in their own businesses, and that the objection to 
" foreign " capital was a revival of the old Protectionist 

He was under no illusion as to the class who were really 
profiting by the new development. 

Whatever gains or losses (he writes) have been made by railroad 
enterprises, there is one set of persons who have derived from them 
unmixed advantages, and that is the landed interest. From the 
owners of the barren moors in Scotland down to the proprietor of 
a small plot of building land near the metropolis there is not a 
landowner in the country whose property has not been enormously 
enhanced by the construction of railroads (The Times, June 4, 1866). 

His brother, E. W. Harcourt, who succeeded to the Nune- 
ham estate, might well complain, as he did on another occa- 
sion, " You have no landed ideas," to which Harcourt gaily 
retorted, " You have the land, and may leave the ideas 
to me." 

Some of his contentions on railway development are more 
open to criticism in the light of later events. He thought 
that the expense of railway construction did not concern the 


general public at all. If there was extravagance on the part 
of contractors that was the business of the contractors and 
of the shareholders, and no one else's. But sixty years ago 
no one who was not endowed with prophetic powers could 
have foreseen to what extent agriculturists and manufacturers 
would depend on cheap freights, still less that the purchase 
of the railways by the State would ever become a question 
of practical politics. 

Parliament (he says) will have regard alone to the general interests 
of the whole community, and not to that of particular individuals. 
And from this general and national point of view I venture boldly 
to assert that, so long as a railway is properly constructed and 
worked at fair rates, it matters not one jot to the public or to Parlia- 
ment how much it cost where the money comes from, or whether 
it pays any dividend. . . . (The Times, June 4, 1866). 

It is clear that the validity of this argument depends on 
the definition of " fair rates," and that extravagance in the 
sums paid for land, excessive costs of construction, and lavish 
watering of capital have handicapped farmers, merchants, 
and traders by preventing the establishment of cheap rates. 

In another case, that of the Thames Embankment, Har- 
court was conspicuous in the defence of the public interest 
in this case against the Crown. In 1862 he was Counsel to 
the Board of Trade in the controversy which arose over the 
rights of the holders of the property facing the river. The 
Crown, as represented by the Department of Woods and 
Forests, claimed special treatment in respect of the frontage 
reclaimed, and Harcourt wrote to The Times (July 7, 1862), 
under the name of " Observer," putting the case for the 
public very strongly. The Department demanded the in- 
sertion in the Bill of a clause which would, in Harcourt 's 
view, create a position such that 

The Crown, alias Mr. Gore, will obtain the whole enjoyment of 
the land which the public has been at the expense of reclaiming, 
and the public will have, in addition, to compensate the Crown's 
lessees, whom the Crown has expressly provided shall not be com- 
pensated by itself. 

Messrs. Gore and Pennithorne, acting for the Department 
of Woods and Forests, had stated that they " made a distinc- 


tion between the Crown and the Public." This was too 
much for Harcourt. 

The lands of the Crown (he wrote) are just as much public property 
as Trafalgar Square or the House of Parliament. The notion that 
the Crown could or would ever abandon the Civil List, and resume 
the management of its own territories, is about as probable as that 
some one should take up the glove at the coronation and challenge 
the title of the Sovereign ; but, perhaps, it may be said that what 
is amassed by the rapacity of Mr. Gore's department on the one 
hand flows, on the other, into the public Treasury ; and that, there- 
fore, if Peter is robbed, it is only in order to pay Paul. But this 
is not so ; unfortunately Mr. Gore has the spending as well as the 
extorting power. We have seen that he was ready to pay 90,000 
out of the funds of his department to keep the public off the Embank- 
ment. It is certainly not the interest of the public to tolerate 
the grasping policy of the Woods and Forests, which, while it greedily 
exacts from the public claims to which it has no title, is on the 
other hand ready to spend with profusion the funds of which it has 
so possessed itself, wholly without regard to the public interests, 
and even, as in the case of the Thames Embankment, absolutely 
to the exclusion of the public rights. 

The sequel to this struggle came ten years later, when 
Harcourt was able to give effect in Parliament to the view 
for which he had fought outside. The matter may be con- 
veniently disposed of here by the following extract from 
The Times " Summary of the Session " published on August 
10, 1872 : 

Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Lowe reverted with characteristic tenacity 
of purpose to their claim on behalf of the Crown to a portion of the 
reclaimed land near the western end of the Thames Embankment. 
A Select Committee was induced to reverse the recommendation 
of last year, and a Bill for the settlement of the disputed question 
was about to be passed through the House of Commons, when Mr. 
Harcourt moved and passed against the Government a resolution 
that it was not expedient to proceed further with the matter during 
the present year. In this instance, whatever may be thought of 
the tact and judgment of Ministers, it is impossible to doubt that 
their opposition to the wishes of the London ratepayers and to the 
feelings of the House of Commons must be dictated by conscientious 


It was in a case of an entirely different sort, however, that 
Harcourt came conspicuously before the general public as a 


great combatant lawyer. Towards the end of 1863 the 
country was excited by one of those trials which periodically 
seize its imagination and arouse its anger. The Crawley 
Court Martial has long been forgotten by the public, but it 
still lives in the annals both of the Army and of the Law. It 
involved problems of military discipline and military tyranny 
that never fail to awaken public feeling, and it was accom- 
panied by an element of tragedy that moved the public mind 
and led to a fierce outcry both in the Press and in Parliament. 
The case was, briefly, as follows : 

Colonel Crawley had assumed command of the 6th (Ennis- 
killen) Dragoons at Ahmednuggur early in 1861. His efforts 
to promote discipline in the regiment may have been severe ; 
they certainly aroused violent feeling in the regiment, in 
which a clique hostile to the Colonel was formed. Paymaster 
Smales, one of his chief opponents, was court-martialled at 
Mhow in 1862, and cashiered. While this court was pending, 
three non-commissioned officers were placed under arrest, by 
direct orders from Colonel Crawley's superiors, in connexion 
with Smales's case. Reports reached England that the 
Colonel had been guilty of gross inhumanity towards these 

Public opinion was indeed so stirred by the stories of the 
treatment of the three non-commissioned officers, one of 
whom, Lilley, died under arrest, while a second was reported 
to have been a raving lunatic when released, that it was 
eventually agreed to institute a public inquiry at Aldershot, 
the witnesses being brought over from India for the purpose. 
Meanwhile the verdict of the Mhow court martial had been 
quashed on the advice of the law officers at home, though it 
had been approved by the Indian military authorities. 

The court martial assembled at Aldershot on November 17. 
1863, under the presidency of Lieut. -Gen. Sir G. A. Wetherall, 
Colonel James Kennard Pipon acting as officiating Judge- 
Advocate. The charges were limited to the case of Sergt.- 
Major Lilley and were, substantially, that Colonel Crawley 
had carried out the orders for his close arrest with unnecessary 
severity and that he had at the Mhow court martial tried to 


shift responsibility for undue severity and for the incon- 
venience caused to the sergeant's wife on to the shoulders 
of a subordinate 

The trial lasted for twenty-one days, Harcourt acting as 
counsel for Crawley. He was not permitted to speak, but 
sat beside his client prompting his questions and preparing 
his defence. He threw himself into the case with his accus- 
tomed energy, and as the trial proceeded the public interest 
grew " Crawley is confounding the prosecution daily," 
wrote Delane to G. W. Dasent (November 26, 1863). l " Head- 
lam tells me he will be convicted, but I don't seem to see that, 
and in the United Service and Junior United Service Clubs 
the betting is all in favour of an acquittal." The charges 
were entirely broken down. It was proved that the quarters 
in which Sergt. -Major Lilley and his wife were confined 
were ordinary married quarters, and that the wife preferred 
to stay with her husband. Great play had been made about 
the intrusion of the sentry on the sick woman's privacy, but 
this also was proved to be a myth. The defence put into 
Crawley's mouth by Harcourt created something of a sensa- 
tion. Blackburn, the Chief Justice of Appeal in Dublin, de- 
clared that " Crawley's defence was the ablest and the most 
masterly and conclusive one he had ever read, and that he 
did not think it had been transcended by any other on 
record." Crawley was found " Not guilty," and after the 
trial Harcourt addressed the following letter to his client : 
Harcourt to Colonel Crawley. 

December i, 1863. Now that your defence is over, my duties as 
your Counsel are at an end. I am therefore at liberty to say now 
what professional etiquette would have prohibited before. 

From the first time that I really understood the true nature of 
your case, I made up my mind that it was one in which I could take 
no fees. 

You belong to one profession and I belong to another, both equally 
honourable and equally necessary to the welfare of our common 
country. To yours it belongs to defend us all from foreign and open 
enemies ; to ours is attributed the not less necessary task of defending 
society from the more dangerous and treacherous foes of slander and 

1 A. I. Dasent, John Thadeus Delane. Murray, 1908. ii. 79. 

i86 3 ] A GENEROUS ACT 157 

If my professional efforts have been of any service to you in 
helping to unravel the trammels of a great conspiracy, I desire no 
other satisfaction than the hope that they have been so, and I can 
accept no other reward. 

Pray express to Mrs. Crawley my sincere admiration of the feminine 
devotion and the more than feminine fortitude with which she has 
supported you and sustained herself through the greatest trial which 
a woman can undergo. Alas, I know too well what it is to have the 
devotion of such a wife and to feel what it is to have lost it. In 
all your sufferings you have been spared the bitterest of all. 

Harcourt was the recipient of a host of congratulations on 
his triumph, from people who, like Martin Tupper, had 
" fancied your client in the wrong " and had been converted 
by his speech, from others who, like Lady Minto, had 
throughout regarded the Colonel " as the object of a most 
malignant attack," and from legal colleagues. Among the 
latter, Thomas Hughes wrote : 

Thomas Hughes to Harcourt. 

Waller showed me to-day in court your letter to Crawley refusing 
to take fees I cannot resist writing to thank you as a barrister 
and an Englishman for what you have done. It does one real good 
in these weary, dark days to come upon such a glimpse of a nobler 
and worthier way of life ; all honour to the man who has shown it 
to us. I know well that such acts carry their own reward, but hope 
that you will not object to the fact being made public. I am sure 
from my own case that it will do great good, both in our profession 
and outside. 

I need add nothing as to your long and trying fight I have 
followed it carefully from day to day, and can honestly say I do not 
know the man who could have pulled the case through so well. 

" You may be amused to hear that the countryside has 
been enthusiastic in its admiration of Col. Crawley' s brilliant 
powers of speech," wrote Lady Minto. " William heard of 
nothing else in the hunting-field for days, and I should not 
wonder if the Roxburghshire farmers were to suggest him as 
a suitable candidate next election to the Duke of Buccleuch ! 
You certainly have drawn your sword against the many- 
headed Press with extraordinary pluck, and I am glad to see 
the weapon as bright as ever it was." In the course of his 
reply to Lady Minto, written from Nuneham, where he had 
been spending Christmas with his parents, Harcourt said : 


Harcourt to Lady Minto. 

January g, 1864. The Crawley case was one which for many 
reasons really interested me much and I was very lucky in being 
entrusted with its sole management. There is (nothing) so exas- 
perating as to be on board a ship when you cannot command the 
helm yourself. It was a real good stand-up fight with the Press, 
and it is not often one has such good materials for giving it a thrash- 
ing. What I am most proud of is having made The Times cry 
peccavi. But you know an old poacher makes the best gamekeeper, 
and when one knows the tricks of the trade one learns exactly how 
and when to hit. Those who have not served a journalistic appren- 
ticeship don't know whereabouts its fifth rib is. 

I was restrained only by a prudent regard for the interests of my 
client from saying what I think of that biggest of moral poltroons 
H.R.H. the Commander -in-Chief, who from sheer funk would sacrifice 
anyone to the newspapers. What a pity it is that people will not 
understand the truth of Byron's saying that " no one ever was written 
down by anyone but himself." I should as soon think of being 
afraid of the Press as I should of a bogie made out of a turnip with 
a candle in it. " Resist the Devil and he will flee from you." My 
old tutor Willes (the Judge) used to say that the true rule of life 
was to be found in the non euro damnum principle which translated 

in Crawleian English means " I don't care a d ." What a pity 

you were not born a man ! You are one of the few people I know 
capable of acting on this sublime philosophy. . . . 

In the summer of 1864 Harcourt's name was mentioned 
in the Press in connection with the post of Junior Counsel 
to the Treasury, and Sir Roundell Palmer (afterwards Lord 
Selborne), the Attorney-General, who had appointed Hannen 
to the position, wrote to Harcourt (July 20) regretting the 
" liberty taken with your name," adding : 

I need not tell you how high an opinion I have of you, nor how 
much it would always rejoice me to manifest that opinion in any 
suitable way : and, if it did not occur to me, that an appointment, 
requiring special attainments in the technical parts of professional 
learning, would be particularly suitable to you (whom I have always 
thought qualified and destined for much greater things), you will 
not, I am sure, attribute it to any lack of friendship. 

A few days later Palmer asked Harcourt to act as junior 
counsel on behalf of the Crown in proceedings against 
Rumble, a dockyard official at Sheerness, accused of helping 
to enlist men for the Rappahannock. Among his other 


professional engagements at this time was one in which 
Lord Hartington asked him to act as the counsel before the 
Committee which had been appointed to decide the question 
of the legality of his seat in the House of Commons. 

In additional to his professional work he was engaged in 
many semi-professional duties, such as the arrangement of 
the settlement made by G. F. Watts with Ellen Terry at the 
time of their separation in 1865. In this matter he acted 
for Watts, who was a fellow-member of the Cosmopolitan 
Club, and worked with his friend Tom Taylor, from whom 
there are several letters on the subject among Harcourt's 
papers. In his letter of thanks to Harcourt for his services, 
Watts says that what he pays in pocket is " the least penalty 
that is inflicted on me." Of Harcourt's delicacy in this 
episode there is touching evidence in an undated note to him 
from the great actress long after : 

You looked exactly the same as you looked on a certain evening 
in (I fancy in February) when you stood by the fireplace in a certain 
big studio and said a few kind words to a poor almost child then 
but that's long ago. . . . 

It was at this period that Harcourt began those autumnal 
visits to Scotland which became for many years his chief 
source of recreation. His first sporting adventure was in 
1862, when with a friend he took a moor at Suie, near 
Crieff, in Perthshire. The next autumn he paid a round of 
visits to the Duke of Argyll at Inverary, Lord John Russell 
at Meiklour, and the Mintos, finding, however, as we have 
seen from his letter to Butler, that idleness was no cure for 
the depression with which the bereavements of that year had 
afflicted him. Soon afterwards he contemplated taking the 
moor of Killean in Argyllshire, but the Duke of Argyll warned 
him that the game was not plentiful and that the rain was 
87 inches in the year and the scheme fell through, 
Harcourt spending the autumn holiday of 1864 in a shooting 
at Roehallion near Inverary, where he met Livingstone and 
stayed with Sir John Millais. It was the beginning of a 
close sporting friendship with the painter, who, with Sir 
John Fowler, the engineer, became his most constant 


companion in the Highlands. The usual rendezvous was 
Fowler's house at Braemore. He was there on the eve of 
the election of 1868, when the house-party included Russell 
of The Times, Millais, and Landseer. There are among 
Harcourt's papers many letters from Millais and Fowler, 
but the best glimpse of these days is given in The Life 
and Letters of Sir J. E. Millais, written by his son : 

August 12, 1865. He (Sir J. Millais) and his friend Reginald 
Cholmondeley went off to the North this time to Argyll, where Sir 
William Harcourt had taken a shooting called Dalhenna, amongst 
the lovely hills near Inverary. The great leader of the Liberals 
proved a most admirable host, and many are the good stories told 
of the jovial times the three friends had together. How Millais 
enjoyed it may be gathered from the following letters to his wife, 
all dated in August 1865. In the first he says : 

" Harcourt and I shot twenty-three brace yesterday in a frightful 
sun, and enjoyed the day very much. Cholmondeley is not well 
(knocked up by the heat), so he didn't accompany us. H. is sending 
all the birds to England, and we don't like to have birds for ourselves. 
The cuisine is like that of a good club. His cook is here and man- 
servant, and the comfort is great altogether delightful and the 
grapes and peaches were thoroughly appreciated. The Duke 
and Duchess of Sutherland left yesterday. She looked so pretty 
at luncheon on Sunday. We have a great deal of laughing. To-day 
we are going to fish in Loch Fyne for lythe, which afford good sport ; 
and to-morrow we shoot again. Cholmondeley has his keeper and 
dogs with him. H. has a kilted keeper of his own, besides the ponies 
for the hill with saddlebags. We are going to visit the islands in 
a yacht, as the rivers are too dry for fishing salmon. . . . 

" Harcourt is having a new grate put into his kitchen to soften his 
cook. We have come in the dog-cart here for the day, taking boat 
at Cladich and leaving it almost immediately in terror, from the un- 
safeness of the boat in heavy waves. We walked on here, and H. at 
once let go a storm of invective against the landlady and the waiter, 
both being so supremely indifferent about our custom that we had 
great difficulty in assuaging our appetites. After long suffering 
we obtained only very tough chops and herrings. . . . 

" We have killed comparatively little game, but enough to make it 
pleasant, and I expect plenty of blackgame. Rabbits are abundant, 
and no one could be more kind and jolly than Harcourt. . . . 

Of these Dalhenna days Millais loved to recall an amusing incident, 
the hero (Harcourt) being one of the three shooters, who shall be 
nameless. One evening during a casual stroll about the domain, 
the sportsman spied a magnificent " horned beast " grazing peace- 
fully on their little hill. In the gloaming it looked like a stag of 

1857-6] HUNTS THE STAG 161 

fine proportions ; and without pausing to examine it through a 
glass, he rushed into the house, and, seizing a rifle, advanced 
upon his quarry with all the stealth and cunning of an accom- 
plished stalker. The crucial moment came at last. His finger 
was on the trigger, and the death of the animal a certainty, when a 
raucous Highland voice bellowed in his ear, " Ye're no gaen to shute 
the meenister's goat, are ye ? " 

Harcourt always gave a Roland for an Oliver, and he took 
his revenge for this humiliation in the next autumn. The 
jest is contained in the following merry exchange between 
the two friends : 

Millais to Harcourt. 

CALLANDER, N.B., September 20, 1866. DEAR HARCOURT, How 
can I convey the bitter intelligence (after all your unsuccessful 
efforts) that yesterday I had my second shot at a stag at ninety 
yards and killed him as dead as a door- nail right through the heart ? 
It was the most difficult and exciting stalk possible, and for the 
greater part of the day I was lying on my back in a torrent, whilst 
a deluge of rain battered my upturned countenance. Working 
down with our elbows the keeper and I eventually reached some 
rocks which concealed us, and there, after a council, I did the deed. 
From below we must have presented this appearance (here follows 
a picture of Millais and the keeper sliding down a gully on their 
backs and another of the triumphant shot ; also a picture of a cock 
crowing lustily, labelled " I," and another of the stag shot). 

I feel this to be rather a painful communication, but you have 
brought it on yourself. You needn't tear your wig, but come quietly 
some day to me, and I will coach you before you try your hand again 
upon the Monarch of the Forest. Yours sympathizingly, J. EVERETT 

Harcourt to Millais. 

I received your insane letter, from which I gather you are under 
the impression that you have killed a stag. Poor fellow, I pity 
your delusion. I hope the time is now come when I can break to 
you the painful truth. Your wife, who (as I have always told you) 
alone makes it possible for you to exist, observing how the dis- 
appointment of your repeated failures was telling on your health 
and on your intellect, arranged with the keepers for placing in a 
proper position a wooden stag constructed like that of ... You 
were conducted unsuspectingly to the spot and fired at the dummy. 
In the excitement of the moment, you were carried off by the gillie, 
so that you did not discern the cheat, and believed you had really 
slain a " hart of grease." Poor fellow, I know better, and indeed 



your portrait of the stag sitting up smiling, with a head as big as a 
church door on his shoulders, tells its own tale. I give Mrs. M. 
great credit on this, as on all other occasions, for her management 
of you. I am happy to hear that the result of the pious fraud has 
been to restore you to equanimity and comparative sanity, and I 
hope by the time I see you again you may be wholly restored. . . . 
Pray remember me to Mrs. M. Yours ever, W. V. HARCOURT. 

I see that, in order to keep up the delusion, puffs of your per- 
formance have been inserted in all the papers. 


Meanwhile the activities of Harcourt in connection with 
the Civil War were assuming a new character. That struggle 
was drawing to a decision, the nature of which had become 
increasingly apparent as the campaign of Grant in the 
Wilderness proceeded through the summer and autumn of 
1864. In the November of that year Lincoln had been 
re-elected President, and in the following March he had 
delivered the greatest and most moving utterance, perhaps, 
that ever issued from the lips of a statesman the Second 
Inaugural. The danger of a sudden rupture between Eng- 
land and America had long since passed away ; but the old 
wounds rankled, and as the end drew near the battle of 
words on both sides of the Atlantic grew more intense. There 
were two main points which embittered American feeling. 
With both of them the reader is familiar. They were (i) 
the early recognition of belligerency by England, which the 
North regarded as an encouragement to the South, (2) the 
question of compensation in regard to the destruction of 
American commerce by the Alabama. On these questions 
Harcourt had taken a decisive line in support of the British 
Government. On the first point he was clearly right ; on 
the second he was right as a lawyer, but wrong in his 
estimate of the moral weight of the case for compensation. 
Pursuing his custom of basing his case on American precedent, 
he confronted his antagonists with the action of the United 
States during the Wars of Independence in South America 
and with the declarations of their own lawyers and statesmen. 

But the issue was becoming so grave that he contem plated 


other action. He proposed to write a letter to President 
Lincoln showing how honourably England had observed the 
spirit and letter of neutrality and how that observance had 
been to the advantage of the Union cause. He refers to this 
project in a letter to the Duke of Argyll : 

Harcourt to the Duke of Argyll. 

LONDON, April 6, 1865. I have no reason to think that C. Sumner 
is right or that I am wrong. On the contrary, from what I know 
of the two persons I should be disposed to believe the reverse. I 
don't think it very probable that either he or I are likely to appreciate 
one another's merits, though I hope that you will tell the Duchess 
that some disagreeable sentences to his address were scratched out 
of my last letter solely from consideration for her feelings. 

Nevertheless I should like to see what he says on the subject to 
which your letter refers if I may be trusted with that portion of 
the precious MS., as in the course of the Easter recess I am about 
to prepare a complete argument on the case of the Alabama in the 
form of a pamphlet in which I shall publish the said Portuguese 
correspondence in extenso. . . . 

My pamphlet will be in the form, I think, of a letter to Lincoln 
on the neutrality of England. I have formed a very high opinion 
of Lincoln and mean to be very civil to him. . . . 

I fear a very nasty question has arisen in the seizure of some 
Englishmen whom the Yankees are going to try for being engaged 
in equipping the Stonewall on the high seas. They are going to try 
them as enemies by a Military Commission, and I am not sure that 
they have not a right to do so. 

The American proclamation ordering all persons who have been 
engaged in blockade running to leave the States is very foolish and 
spiteful just at the moment when it ceases to be of any use. They 
might just as well expel all episcopalians. 

Writing to Harcourt on the subject of the contemplated 
letter to Lincoln, Lord Clarendon says : 

Clarendon to Harcourt. 

THE GROVE, April 16, 1865. It occurs to me that in your letter to 
Lincoln you might lay stress upon the signal service we have rendered 
to the North for nearly three years by preventing the E. of the 
French from recognizing the South he did not venture upon such 
a step singlehanded, but in conjunction with us he would have done 
so at any moment, and the tallest talkers among the Federals will 
hardly deny the importance of our refusal to associate ourselves 
with the pro-Confederate policy of the Emperor. Recognition by 
England and France two years ago would have been everything to 


the Confederates. The Federals might possibly have declared war 
against us, and in a month they would have found themselves in the 
same position as the Confederates have been in with their ports 
blockaded and their intercourse with Europe paralysed. 

As the overtures of the French Government to us have been rather 
in the nature of feelers and have not been made public, I think that 
before alluding to them it would be prudent to consult Lord Russell. 

But the pro] ected letter was not written. While Clarendon 
was penning his note to Harcourt, Lincoln lay dead in 
Washington. A fortnight later (May 2, 1865) there appeared 
in The Times the noble eulogium which " Historicus " wrote 
on the murdered President. One passage will serve to 
indicate the dignity and beauty of this tribute : 

. . . Upon Mr. Lincoln himself the world, even before his death 
had passed a just and favourable judgment. Situated in circum- 
stances of unexampled difficulty, he had achieved unexpected 
greatness. As the leader in a revolution which he had not made, he 
adhered as closely as that revolution permitted him to the law. In 
disaster he was undismayed, in success he was sober, in the presence 
of provocation he was moderate, in the hour of victory he was merci- 
ful. If these are not the constituents of greatness, political and 
moral, I know not what is the meaning of that word. . . . Mr. 
Lincoln grew to be what he at length became by the hard discipline 
of adversity and the strict school of responsibility. He became 
great as such natures do become great by the action of the ennob- 
ling duties of such a station upon a mind honest, courageous, con- 
scientious, and truthful. Under the purifying influences of this 
fiery assay the ore is purged from the dross, and shines out at length 
in a sterling lustre which did not belong to its native state. Those 
who have compared his earlier with his later discourses will have 
marked the striking growth of his moral stature. No one, I think, 
can have read the Message of March 4, 1865, distinguished as it was 
by a tone of chastened and saddened earnestness, without feeling 
that it was the true language of a good and a great man, sober in 
the midst of political success and moderate in the hour of military 
triumph. The lesson to be learnt from the history of such a character 
is to abstain from hasty judgments upon untried men. I trust it 
will not be lost at this moment either at home or abroad. . . . 

From the panegyric he passed to a weighty defence of the 
cause of the North as the cause of freedom, closing with a 
moving appeal for peace : 

This is the moment of reconciliation of reconciliation both at 
home and abroad. I earnestly trust it will not be lost. There 

i86 5 ] EULOGY OF LINCOLN 165 

can be few among your readers who have been so happy as not some 
time or other to have stood by the death-bed of a friend. In the 
awful sadness of the scene old enmities are forgotten and former 
grudges are removed. Fortunate are the mourners who have nothing 
to be forgiven or to be forgotten. But there are others less happy 
in their grief, who after long times of alienation are reconciled and 
made friends at last. The grave of Mr. Lincoln seems to me to offer 
such an occasion of charity and of peace. He was a friend to peace 
and, therefore, a friend to us all. He was eminently, I believe, a 
friend to peace between England and America. I hope and I believe 
that as a nation England has been neither unjust nor unkind towards 
America in her trouble. The heart of the people of England has 
been throughout with the cause of freedom. It is a remarkable fact 
that the friends of the Southern cause have, I believe, never ventured 
to call a free open meeting in this country to support their views. 
To my mind that in itself is a conclusive test of the real preponder- 
ance of public opinion. The action of the English Government, for 
which alone the English nation can be held responsible, has been 
such as ought to satisfy the American people. There may have 
been on either side idle provocation employed by irresponsible 
persons which had better be forgotten and forgiven. Let them be 
buried in the grave of President Lincoln. ... If, Sir, America and 
England walk forth from this sad chamber of death friends with one 
another and among themselves, then we may still pluck consolation 
from this dreadful disaster. Then, in the result, the death of Presi- 
dent Lincoln will have helped to achieve the ends which he had most 
at heart in his honourable and useful life. 

But the cloud between the two countries did not pass, 
and the loss of the wise and magnanimous influence of 
Lincoln was to be felt here as well as in America. In the 
storm that was working up Russell turned increasingly for 
help to Harcourt. He writes to him : 

Russell to Harcourt. 

CHESHAM PLACE, March 15, 1865. I should be much obliged to 
you if you would look through the cases in Wheaton's Reports of 
prizes taken by cruisers fitted out in U.S. ports to prey on the 
commerce of Spain and Portugal during the War of South American 
Independence, with a view to see how far their enterprises resembled 
or exceeded in open violation of neutrality the doings of our Lairds 
and other speculators. 

I want this that I may be ready with an answer to Seward when he 
makes his demand, and you shall have payment for the work if you 
think proper. 

I have now (he writes on April 23) to answer a very groundless, 
though civilly worded complaint of Adams against our conduct for 


the last four years, and after my answer has been before the Cabinet, 
I should like to show it to you. This would be about Friday next. 

The next day Harcourt wrote to Russell providing him 
with further precedents, especially of American origin, to be 
put forward in defence of the British case on the questions 
of blockade running and the concession of belligerent rights. 
Russell replied (April 26) asking Harcourt's consent to 
sending his letter to the Attorney-General and adding : 

I think the American Government will be assisted by a sound 
substantial answer from us, and then they will say to their own 
people as they did in the case of the Trent, " You see we cannot fly 
in the face of our own doctrines," or (in Castlereagh's language) 
" We cannot turn our backs upon ourselves." 

But the disquiet in the Government about American 
feeling continued, and Clarendon wrote to Harcourt a few 
days later : 

Clarendon to Harcourt. 

FOREIGN OFFICE, April 30, 1865. If Sumner reigns in Se ward's 
stead I would not give much for the maintenance of peace. He 
writes to the Argylls that the army is very impatient for the payment 
of the Alabama bill, and he seems to think that the army is quite 
right. I shall be curious to see whether the genuine feeling manifested 
here in re Lincoln will have a good effect in America. Lyons thinks 
it will. 

The Whitsuntide was occupied by Harcourt in more work 
for Russell, who had written to him " to furnish me with 
ammunition for a reply." Meanwhile Harcourt was engaged 
on his vindication of British neutrality, which, originally 
designed as a letter to Lincoln, was now taking the form of 
a memorandum. In the preparation of this document 
Russell took much interest, and his notes to Harcourt have 
frequent references to the subject. " I am much obliged to 
you for the different points of your memorandum," he writes 
to Harcourt on August 5. "I shall now finish my despatch 
and submit it to the Law Officers. I hope you will publish 
your memorandum. ... It is a very complete argument." 
Ten days later he writes : 


Russell to Harcourt. 

PEMBROKE LODGE, August 15, 1865. I have finished, with the 
assistance of your valuable papers, my reply to Adams, and it is 
now gone to Lord Palmerston, and the Law Officers. As soon as 
it comes back, I will send you a copy. I think your publication 
may appear some time next month, or early in October. I don't 
think public attention, either here or in America, will be awake 
to the importance of the question before that time. The use the 
American Government makes of the question is to show unfriendly 
tendencies, and refuse a Reciprocity Treaty. 

A few days later Russell was again urging publication of 
" your ' Neutrality of England Vindicated,' a very good 
title," and complaining that his own despatch was hanging 
fire in the hands of the law officers. Palmer, the Attorney- 
General, was also delaying the publication of the memor- 
andum, which eventually appeared under the title, The 
Neutrality of England and the United States Compared, 
Harcourt, writing to Russell from Dunblane on August 
27, says : 

Harcourt to Russell. 

Many thanks for your notes and for the kind way in which you 
speak of my Memorandum. It is by no means up to the mark of 
what I should wish in a formal publication, but I think I could lick 
it into shape in a short time. I have received a letter from the A. G. 
on the subject, which I enclose to you. I confess I cannot follow 
the reasoning in all respects. It seems to me to go almost the length 
of denying the existence of actual rights as between nations, which 
I should be sorry to do. Indeed, unless there be some fixed standard 
to appeal to, there can be no redress except in force. Especially 
also in such cases as that of the Alabama, I think it is eminently 
the interest of a powerful maritime nation like Great Britain to 
maintain that there is a duty on the part of the neutral nations to 
prevent armaments within their jurisdiction. I should desire, 
therefore, to found the argument as a distinct admission of the duty 
and a proof that we have not failed in it, rather than as a traverse 
of the duty itself, which, it seems to me, would be for us a most 
mischievous contention in its future consequences. Besides, all 
nations, in practice, have acted on the admission of such a duty. . . . 

" I have got your note," writes Russell from Minto on 
August 31, " and send you in return my despatch, which is 
made up in great part of the fragments of your clothes. . . . 
What about payment ? I think you ought to accept 3, 


4, or 500 for your labour." In acknowledging the despatch 
Harcourt wrote to Russell from Keir on September 5. 
After discussing " two weak points in our armour," he says : 

Harcourt to Russell. 

... I am sure that among the great services of your long political 
life, next after the great triumph of domestic Reform, the criticism 
of posterity will rank that of having conducted the fortunes of 
England in peace through the crisis of the American War. Perhaps 
posterity will know, what is a secret to-day to all but a few, how 
that important and happy result was due in chief to your personal 

I think you have very skilfully selected this moment for bringing 
the Alabama question to a head. The relations of the American 
Government to France make this a very favourable moment for a 
selection. They must give a definite reply to your despatch and 
they cannot afford to bring down England and France at once upon 
their backs. It will puzzle Seward on what pretext to hang up 
the question to a " more convenient season." I shall be very sorry 
to miss you at Minto as I counted much on seeing you there. 

As to what you say anent " payment," International Law is my 
passion rather than my profession. What I have done was solely 
with a view of being of use to you and to the country. I don't like 
to marchander mes amours. But if the F.O. choose to send an 
honorarium quelconque to my clerk I shall not be too proud to accept 
it, and shall apply it to the publication of that which will not be 
otherwise remunerative. 

In replying to Harcourt's criticisms, Russell makes (Sep- 
tember 7) the following caustic comment : 

As to our not preventing the Alabama going into our ports, it 
was a small fault, but I agree with you that it was a fault. Lord 
Westbury in that case over -ruled my opinion, and Lord Palmerston 
naturally agreed with him. 

It was the last criticism that Russell had to make on a 
colleague with whom he had worked so long and had had so 
many disagreements. A month later Palmerston was dead, 
and Lord Russell was called upon to succeed him as Prime 
Minister, with Gladstone, still Chancellor of the Exchequer, 
as leader of the House of Commons, and Lord Clarendon as 
his successor at the Foreign Office. Harcourt's view of the 
new Government is indicated in a note to Lord Houghton 
(Monckton Milnes) : 

i866] THE REFORM BILL 169 

Har court to Houghton. 

I have work now in London anent the American business, and am 
sleeping at the Grove (Lord Clarendon's). 

Lord Clarendon is not at all dissatisfied that Johnny should be 
chief. I am surprised that The Times should have admitted the 
absurdity of pressing Gladstone to stand out for the Treasury. 
His position in the H. of C. will be so great and his succession so 
certain I don't see what more he could desire. I have no doubt 
there is to be a mild Reform Bill. 

And writing to Earl Russell himself in November, he says : 

Harcourt to Russell. 

I have not yet had an opportunity of expressing to you with 
what great satisfaction I have seen the recent changes in the Govern- 
ment. It is impossible not to regret the loss of so experienced a 
statesman as Lord Palmerston, but under his lead the Liberal Party 
has always been in a false position, and it has now regained its 
natural chief. I have always thought that American affairs acted 
as a singularly true touchstone of English Liberalism, and by that 
test the true friends of the Liberal cause have recognized you as 
their leader. You have a first-rate Lieutenant -General in the House 
of Commons. . . . He has much of the afflatus of Burke. I hope 
he will show that he has more self-control and discretion. If he has 
there is clearly no man in the country who can stand in competition 
with him for an instant. . . . 


With the advent to power of .a Government with which 
he was in full sympathy, Harcourt turned aside from the 
American issue to the defence of the new Ministry's Reform 
policy. That issue had now behind it the driving force of 
Gladstone as well as the tenacity of Russell. The Bill was 
introduced by Gladstone on March 12, ig66^ It was less 
advanced in some respects than the Bill of 1860, which had 
been ignominiously withdrawn in the first year of the 
Liberal Government's life. It proposed a rent qualification 
of 7 for the boroughs and 14 for the counties. Compound 
householders were to be on the same footing as other house- 
holders, and lodgers whose rooms were worth 10 a year were 
to have a vote. But this modest measure was met by a 
wrecking amendment seconded by Harcourt's old friend 
of the Apostolic days, Lord Stanley which provided 


that the question of the franchise should be postponed until 
the redistribution proposals were produced. Harcourt sailed 
in to the attack of the wreckers, and seized the opportunity 
to pronounce in The Times a eulogium on Earl Russell. 

The last fifty years has probably witnessed the greatest moral, 
social, and political progress which this nation has ever achieved, and 
the captain of the van of the army which has compassed these 
victories is Lord Russell. 

Harcourt had not yet advanced so far as to give more 
than tempered praise to Bright, who had some claims to be 
regarded as a champion of Reform. But he had at least got 
beyond the scorn of the Saturday Review days. In a short 
time he was to become one of that great man's warm 
admirers. He writes (The Times, May 8) : 

I desire to do full justice to the course which Mr. Bright has 
pursued with reference to this question. . . . Forgetting his words, 
and looking only at his acts, it must be admitted that the steady and 
sincere support which he has given to the Government measure, 
falling as it does far short of the wishes and expectations of the party 
with which he acts, is a proof of prudence and moderation deserving 
of all commendation and of imitation. 

The amendment was defeated by five votes, but another 
amendment by Lord Dunkellin providing that a rating 
should be substituted for a rental qualification was carried 
on June 19 by eleven votes, and the Russell Government 
went out of office and Russell himself into retirement. 

There followed that strange episode variously remembered 
as the " leap in the dark " and the " dishing of the Whigs." 
Lord Derby came into power, with Disraeli as Chancellor of 
the^Exchequer, and his son, Lord Stanley, as Foreign Minis- 
ter', and by a turn of the wheel, not unfamiliar in English 
politics, the Tory Government which had defeated the 
Liberal scheme of reform became itself the instrument of 
reform. The cause could no longer be resisted. Derby had 
no enthusiasm for it, as his own phrase, " a leap in the dark," 
indicated, but Disraeli was now the intellectual master of 
the party, and the idea of " stealing the Liberal clothes " 
while his opponents were bathing appealed to his ironic 

186;] RATES AND VOTES 171 

humour as well as to his instinct of political opportunism. 
Harcourt, who ^Jaad been approached by Disraeli with the 
offer of a saffc seat in Wales as the price of his support, saw 
that what those who wanted reform could not accomplish 
might be won from those who did not want reform. In 
The Times of May 2, 1867, he wrote : 

No doubt the accession of a Conservative Government to office 
offers solid advantages, of which Reformers are right to make the best 
possible use. Most of the great triumphs of the Liberal cause have 
been extorted from Tory Governments. Catholic Emancipation 
was the unwilling work of the Duke of Wellington. The repeal of 
the Corn Laws was the tardy concession of Sir Robert Peel. The 
first Government of Lord Derby offered Reform as the price of its 
official tenure. The third Government of Lord Derby may possibly 
be induced to improve upon its former bid for the same object, 
^uch a state of things, no doubt, offers exceptional facilities for 
iX'passing a Bill. The natural opponents of Reform are neutralized, 
and to a certain extent its friends are disarmed. . . . 

This time the storm raged around the compound house- 
holder. The new Bill promised household suffrage for 
boroughs, provided that the householder paid the rates 
The condition, the personal payment of rates, made " house- 
hold suffrage " a farce in the industrial districts of the larger 
towns, where the practice was for the rates to be paid by 
the landlord and included in the rent, and Harcourt 
attacked the proposed condition vehemently. 

It is founded (he said in The Times of April n) upon a distrust 
of the classes upon whom the suffrage is to be conferred. It says in 
fact to the operative class, " While the rest of the community are 
entitled to the franchise in their normal condition of life, you shall 
not enjoy it unless you prove it by some special action, by changing 
the existing condition of your social economy." 

The Bill, he pointed out, pretended to enfranchise 700,000 
householders, and incapacitated 500,000 of them. He 
showed from the case of Leeds how fantastically the con- 
dition would work, all the householders in the suburbs of 
the borough being enfranchised, while 25,000 householders 
within the borough would be left out. The personal pay- 
ment of rates, he insisted, was as much a fancy qualifica- 
tion as if Disraeli had chosen to say that only persons with 


red or curly hair might vote. It was true that other persons 
might have their hair curled or dyed to meet the conditions, 
but the number who did so would be small. It was a device 
for the disfranchisement of half a million voters. 

But though his pen was in ceaseless eruption against the 
Government on the subject of reform, Harcourt was ready 
to help the new Ministry on another issue. When Lord 
Stanley succeeded Clarendon at the Foreign Office he pro- 
ceeded to set up a Commission to inquire into the working 
of the neutrality laws with the object of making such inci- 
dents as the Alabama affair impossible in the future. Stanley 
and Harcourt had continued the close friendship of their 
Cambridge days, and there was no politician among the 
younger men for whom Harcourt entertained a higher regard 
than for Stanley. One of his earliest articles in the Saturday 
Review had been a eulogy of Stanley, whose sobriety of temper 
and practical wisdom he greatly esteemed. Stanley, on his 
side, had a high regard for Harcourt's powers, and on taking 
office at once asked him to continue the unofficial help he 
had given to the previous Government in regard to the still 
outstanding troubles with the United States. He also asked 
him to take a seat on the Neutrality Commission. " Pray 
join it if you can," he wrote. " No one will be of more use." 
Harcourt accepted the invitation. With him sat Lord Cran- 
worth, who presided, Lord Cairns, R. J. Phillimore, Roundell 
Palmer, and W. E. Forster. Their deliberations extended 
over nearly two years, their report being issued on June i, 
1868. They suggested amendment of the Foreign Enlist- 
ment Act, making it a misdemeanour to take any part in 
building or equipping any ship intended to be used by any 
foreign power waging war against a country at peace with 
Great Britain, and giving the Executive power to interfere 
at any point. They met the American contention that 
illegally equipped and commissioned vessels of war had 
received hospitality in British ports in various parts of the 
world by suggesting strict examination of the status of 
vessels in regard to which reasonable suspicions might be 
entertained, and the restoration of prizes captured by ships 

i86 7 ] DUTIES OF A NEUTRAL 173 

not properly accredited and brought into British ports. 
Harcourt signed the report, but added a note giving reasons 
for dissenting from the sections giving power to the Executive 
to interfere in the building of ships apart from the question 
of arming and equipment. He thought the exercise of powers 
of this kind would be injurious to the shipbuilding industry, 
and constituted an unnecessary interference with private 
"enterprise. The general trend of the Report was accepted 
by Mr. Gladstone's Government, and was embodied in 
the new Foreign Enlistment Act of August 9, 1870, which 
repealed the Act of i&^/and made explicit and minute 
provisions for preventing the construction and equipment 
of future Alabamas. The duties of a neutral in this respect, 
as embodied in the Treaty of Washington, May 8, 1871, are 
virtually in the terms of this Act, but very much less precise. 
It will be seen later that the vagueness of the clauses inserted 
in the Treaty led to considerable trouble in the Geneva 
Arbitration, and needed an official gloss. Only Great Britain 
and America laid down stringent rules of this kind at that 


Harcourt on Himself Disraeli as Premier The Irish Church 
Controversy The " Manchester Martyrs " A Visit to Liver- 
pool Candidate for Oxford Mr. E. W. Harcourt's displeasure 
Returned for Oxford Offer of Judge- Ad vocateship refused. 

SINCE his adventure at Kirkcaldy, Harcourt had made 
no move towards a Parliamentary career. He was 
now in his fortieth year, and easily the most accom- 
plished politician outside the House of Commons. The range 
and vigour of his activities, the tireless industry of his pen, 
the prestige which his illuminating researches in the sphere 
of international law had given him on both sides of the 
Atlantic, his love of battle, and his unrivalled gifts of 
humour made him a conspicuous figure in the public life 
of the time. He was a man of the future. He had not 
hurried his steps ; but there was no need to hurry them. 
As one who knew him at this time, himself afterwards a 
distinguished statesman, remarked to the writer, there was 
the feeling about Harcourt that he was destined for great 
things whenever he chose to assert himself. He strode the 
stage with a challenging arrogance that neither asked nor 
gave quarter. He had a genius for friendship, and his 
friendships were lifelong. They were not confined to men 
of his own way of thought. On the contrary, some of his 
closest personal ties were with those who became his political 
opponents, as in the case of Chamberlain and Henry James. 
But in his public controversies neither tongue nor pen took 
counsel of caution, and he made enemies with a splendid 



disregard of consequences, confident that his combative gifts 
would be equal to any emergency that arose. He had no 
illusions about himself, and a singularly clear appreciation 
both of his powers and his defects. In a letter which he 
wrote at this time to Mrs. (afterwards Lady) Ponsonby (the 
Mary Bulteel of other days) he gave a very candid picture 
of himself : 

Hat -court to Mrs. Ponsonby. 

I am very glad to know that I have not been as maladroit as I 
feared. You are still too gay, too intelligent, and too unchanged 
from what you were to want either energy, spirit, or wit. Like 
most women you are too absolute and too impatient of the illogicality 
of facts and the imperfections of men. I don't know why a difference 
of sex should make such a distinction as it does in the appreciation 
of that which is attainable and that which is not. I have come to 
look on human affairs as a great series of stratifications built up by 
slow deposits out of the wrecks of succeeding generations, just as 
the limestone hills are only conglomerations of the microscopic 
insects which have lived and died and whose little organisms have 
piled up these masses to the sky. The generation which is so much 
to us is nothing to the race. And what belongs to our lifetime is 
and must be a little thing, though it goes to build up a great whole. 

You may call this fatalism, but it is not nihilism. You and Dizzy 
are greatly mistaken. It is not true I have no principles, nor is it 
the principles which are second-rate though possibly the man may 
be. Dizzy is by no means my prophet, though I think him a pro- 
foundly interesting character, and I should like, if it were possible, 
to penetrate the secret of his life. Mine is a far more simple and 
commonplace one. I don't pretend to originality, because I don't 
possess it. I think I have pretty fairly and honestly gauged myself 
and know what I can and what I can't do. I have fair, not extra- 
ordinary, intellectual powers, rather above the average logical 
faculty, a power of illustration rather than of imagination, a faculty 
of acquiring knowledge of particular things rather than much store 
of knowledge itself, a passion for politics as a practical pursuit, 
which has been cultivated by a good deal of study (a thing nowadays 
rare) so that I appear less ignorant of them than ordinary politicians. 
A tendency to believe in general principles rather than in small 
expedients. A natural disposition towards vanity, wilfulness, and 
exaggeration, which I have tried a good deal to correct. An ambi- 
tion not of an ignoble order which cares little for place or pelf but 
a good deal for honour. A nature not ungenerous in its impulses, 
but strong in its passions and its prejudices. 

With all this a good deal of courage, obstinacy and determination, 


not discouraged by mistakes or deterred by disparagement. Too 
careless of the feelings and too little respectful of the power of others. 
Positive, confident, I fear I must add overbearing. With a profound 
belief in myself. A queer jumble of good and bad. A good deal 
that is high, still more that is weak, not much I think that is mean. 
That is what nature has made me, and which I have done too little 
to alter. A character which may end by being a great failure but 
which will never be a small success. I was not made to be a philo- 
sopher or a discoverer. I should never have found out steam, but 
I can make a steam engine and drive it. I am a thoroughgoing 
Englishman, and perhaps may one day govern Englishmen, not 
(as you suppose) by practising upon their weaknesses but by really 
sharing them. I forgot to claim for myself a certain power of 
discourse which in a debating country is valuable, as it seems to me, 
principally because it is rare. 

Why do I tell you all this ? Because I want your good opinion ; 
because I want you to see that I don't deceive myself and don't wish 
to deceive others. 

The long apprenticeship which Harcourt had served to 
politics while securing his independence in other callings 
was now approaching its end. Events were paving the 
way to a new political generation in which he could not fail 
to have a leading part. The death of Palmerston and the 
retirement of Russell and Derby had left the stage clear for 
the two men who were to dominate it for years to come. 
Disraeli's romantic career had carried him to the Premier- 
ship, to the mingled wonder, amusement, and disgust of the 
/political world. " The old Government was the Derby, 
ythis the Hoax," said Lord Chelmsford, and the jest fairly 
embodies the contemporary opinion of the brief Disraeli 
Ministry. " The leper," as Lord Shaftesbury called him, 
though in office, was not in power. The disappearance of 
the great Whigs and the settlement of the Reform question 
had made way for a homogeneous Liberal party under the 
commanding leadership of Gladstone, and the only question 
was the time and the occasion which the new leader would 
seize to defeat the Government. In a letter to Harcourt 
(February 13, 1867) Clarendon had expressed the hope that 
" disgraceful " though the conduct of the Government is, 
" they will not be turned out just yet " for the following 
reasons : 


ist, a demand for explanation and precision will break up the 
Tory party an adverse voiwr will enable them to conceal their 
internal dissensions and to retreat in apparent union. 

2nd, that the Liberal party is not yet in a position to furnish 
a strong Government and will not be so until Gladstone has had the 
time necessary for regaining the confidence of the House of Commons. 

3rd, because, reform being the one thing needful and urgent, all 
hope of passing a good measure in conjunction with the Tories 
should not be abandoned until they themselves had shown it to be 
impossible. . . . 

This policy of patience prevailed. The Tory Reform Bill, 
of which, as the Duke of Buccleuch said, the only word that 
remained unaltered was the first word " Whereas," was 
passed. Disraeli succeeded Derby as Prime Minister to the 
discomfiture of the Tory aristocracy, and the Liberal party 
was consolidated under its new leader. Then on March 
6, 1868, Gladstone hurled his bolt. Significantly enough 
he formally opened his career as the Liberal leader by com- 
mitting the party to the cause of Irish reconciliation. He 
declared for the disestablishment of the Irish Church, and 
his resolutions for giving effect to the proposal went through 
the House of Commons. The issue of the coming election 
was dictated, and the result was not in doubt. From the 
first Harcourt was an active supporter of the policy both 
on the platform and in the press. He had inherited from 
Cornewall Lewis a strong conviction on the subject and in 
his first letter on the subject to The Times he paid a glowing 
tribute to his tutor, basing his argument on a passage from 
Lewis's Irish Disturbances and the Irish Church Question, 
published in 1836, in which the writer said : 

We confess that if there were only two alternatives in Ireland, 
either to maintain the Established Church on its present exclusive 
system, or to have all religious worship unprovided for, we should 
without hesitation adopt the latter, being convinced that the Irish 
Roman Catholics will always remain disaffected to the State, as long 
as the Protestant religion is made the object of its undivided favour. 

In a later letter (March 30) Harcourt deals with the ques- 
tion of tithes and endowments, and draws a very strong 
distinction which he stoutly maintained, both in public and 



in private, between the Church of England and the Church 
of Ireland. 

The Church of England lives in the hearts of the English people. 
The Church of Ireland is condemned by the verdict of mankind, and 
is already dead in the conscience of the nation. It is the office of 
great statesmen to stand, like Aaron, between the living and the 
dead and to stay the plague. 

He insisted on the same distinction between the two 
institutions when speaking at Liverpool at a breakfast 
given to Bright on June 4. In the course of this speech he 
said : 

Though this is not the place to do it, I am prepared to defend the 
Established Church of England by arguments that are satisfactory 
to myself, but on no one of those arguments can I defend the Estab- 
lished Church of Ireland. When I am told that to touch the Estab- 
lished Church of Ireland is to touch religion, I ask whether religion 
had its origin in establishments, and whether religion will cease to 
exist when establishments are no more. 

He spoke at a crowded meeting at St. James's Hall on 
April 17, when he girded at Disraeli for the famous letter 
dated " Maundy Thursday " : 

Samson (he said), when he wanted to create a conflagration, did not 
write a letter, but collected a number of foxes, tied firebrands to their 
tails, and then sent them out imong the standing corn. Mr. Disraeli 
had acted something like Samson ; only the straw was found a 
little damp, and the firebrands attached to the foxes' tails did not 
succeed in setting it in a blaze. 

These activities in the Press and on the platform doubtless 
led to the request which Harcourt received from Gladstone 
that he should write a pamphlet on the Irish Church question 
for distribution at the coming general election. The pamph- 
let, a clear and forcible presentation of the case, was written 
and published in due course. 

Nor were his activities on the issue confined to his public 
utterances. Sir Roundell Palmer (afterwards Lord Sel- 
bourne) had taken alarm at the^ew policy, and Harcourt 
entered into a fervid correspondence with him for the purpose 
of dissuading him from separating himself from the party. 
In one of his letters, given in Lord Selborne's Memorials, 
he said : 


Harcourt to Sir Roundell Palmer. 

. . . First, 1 understood you not to object to the action of the 
Liberal party in respect of the Irish Church as a question by itself, 
but that you were actuated by your view of what might be the 
result of such a policy (oXrather of the public sentiment it might 
create) on the position of the English Church. Now that the Irish 
Establishment is doomed is a fact which cannot be doubted, and 
which I do not understand you even to disapprove. 

But will not the fact of your treating the two as so intimately 
connected as to call upon you to take such a decided course go a long 
way to contribute towards identifying their fate ? Is not far the 
best solution for the English Church one in which its defenders shall 
say, our position rests on wholly different principles and relies on 
wholly distinct arguments from that of the Irish Establishment ? 
Yet if that be so, why should your apprehensions for the one be 
founded on the abolition of the other ? Surely the course you 
contemplate will go a long way in the eyes of the defenders of the 
Church, who will look to you as their champion, and in the eyes of 
its enemies, who will regard you as its representative, to establish 
the solidarity of the two Churches. But if their fortunes are insepar- 
able, who can doubt what the issue will be ? 

Surely this is the amputation of a diseased limb at which the most 
attached friend of the patient may attend as a salutary remedy. 
If I may be allowed to repeat myself, ought you not to " stand 
between the living and the dead that the plague may be stayed " ? 

Secondly which seems to me a matter most deserving your 
consideration you cannot doubt Gladstone's real attachment to the 
English Church, both in sentiment' and conviction. If anyone can 
dominate the spirit of the nejsC Parliament, can " ride the whirl- 
wind and direct the storm " on Church questions, it is he. For 
that object it is essential that he should have all the support 
both within his Cabinet and without it from those who are the 
friends of the Church. If you separate from him (and with your 
secession must necessarily ensue that of those who think with you 
and look to you for guidance) you will weaken the right and propor- 
tionately strengthen the left of the Liberal party ; you will drive 
Gladstone by the force of circumstances into the hands of the 
Liberationists. Are you not bound to protect him and the Church 
from this pressure ? Are you not called upon at least to make the 
experiment whether by the aid of the moderate section of the party 
matters cannot be satisfactorily concluded ? If you should find 
that upon trial you and your friends were not able to moderate the 
course of events, and that you were being dragged by the tide in a 
direction which you disapproved, then I, for one, should not utter 
one word in deprecation of your secession. . . . 

Is it not a stronger position to take up I don't say for yourself, 
but for the Church to say, " When the Irish Church has been dealt 


with, if the English Church is attacked I will withdraw," than to 
say, " If the Irish Church falls, the English Church must follow it, and 
I will take no part in the one because I feel confident that their 
fate is inseparable. . . ." 

I am going to-morrow to Nuneham to join my dear little boy. 
I wish you and Lady Laura would give us a few days there. Your 
visit gave my dear father so much pleasure, and you could do him 
no greater kindness than to repeat it. 


The enthusiasm with which Harcourt flung himself into 
the cause of the disestablishment of the Irish Church was 
not the only indication of his concern about Irish affairs. 
It was the time of the Fenian movement, and Burke and 
Doran were sentenced to death in Dublin in 1867 for treason, 
Doran being recommended to mercy and reprieved. The 
case of Burke aroused intense feeling, and John Stuart Mill 
headed a deputation to the Prime Minister on his behalf. 
Harcourt, according to his habit, wrote to The Times. 
Read to-day, in the light of the ruthless policy of 1920-21, 
and the indifference with which the policy was regarded 
in England, the letter seems to belong to the moral standards 
of another civilization. Harcourt, recalling his plea two 
years before to the United States for mercy to Jefferson 
Davis, argued with extraordinary passion against the death 
penalty for political offences. He appealed from the sanc- 
tions of the law to the sanctions of conscience, quoted the 
language of " the great and humane statesman, Lord Corn- 
wallis, at the atrocities of the Government of Ireland over 
which it was his misfortune to preside " in 1798, contrasted 
the contemplated severity with the attitude of France 
towards political offenders, and our own moderation in 
Canada, and asked, " Dare we expose ourselves to the belief 
that we were merciful in Canada because we feared America, 
and that we are ruthless in Ireland because there we believe 
cruelty to be safe ? " 

England (he continued) has already enough and too much of the 
blood of Ireland on its hands. For three centuries, till the Is 
fifty years, we have been doing little else but shooting and hanging 


Irishmen, with what success let the history of '98 testify. For half 
a century we may happily say that, since the fortunate extinction of 
the " Protestant Ascendancy," we have adopted a more humane and 
generous policy. ... It is true that we cannot boast that we have 
secured affection or even restored political tranquillity. But, after 
the treatment which Ireland has received during centuries of misrule, 
that can only be the work of patient kindness and persistent justice. 

In the end Burke, too, was reprieved. Unfortunately, the 
same mercy was not shown to the three men, Allen, Larkin, 
and Gill, committed for murder in connection with the Fenian 
riots in Manchester. They were hanged in the city on 
November 23, 1867, and became immortalized as the " Man- 
chester martyrs. '.X' 

With the approach of the General Election, Harcourt had 
to look round for a suitable constituency. The first approach 
made to him came from Liverpool. One Liberal candidate, 
William Rathbone, was already in the field for that constitu- 
ency and the Liberal Association were seeking a colleague for 
him. The name of Robert Lowe, the chief of the Adul- 
lamites, was mentioned, but his opposition to the Reform 
Bill was not forgotten, and attention was then directed to 
Harcourt. He was asked by S. G. Rathbone to go down to 
Liverpool and speak at a public breakfast to John Bright 
at the Philharmonic Hall on June 5, 1868. The speech he 
delivered on this occasion was remarkable for two things. 
The first was his tribute to John Bright, whom years before 
he had handled so roughly in the Saturday Review, but whose 
views on many subjects and especially the subject of reform 
he had now come largely to share. 

They (the Tories) may say what they like (he said), but everybody 
knows who the real author of the Reform Bill of 1867 was. The 
real author of the Reform Bill was the author of the Reform Bill 
of 1858, and he is sitting at this table, (great applause). There is a 
passage in one of those admirabl^>e6medies of Sheridan in which 
he says that certain people are like the gipsies who steal children 
and disfigure them to make people think they are their own (much 
laughter and loud cheering). Well, gentlemen, the Conservative 
Government have introduced Mr. Bright's Reform Bill of 1858, 
but you know those political gipsies have thought that nobody 
would take it for their bill unless they did something to it. So they 
put into it what we call rubbish, but which they call vital principle. 


But the weightiest passage in the speech was that in which 
he assailed the attempt of Disraeli to involve the Crown in 
the Irish Church issue. Here Harcourt spoke with the 
authority of a great constitutional lawyer. The passage is 
worth quoting for permanent reference : 

What are they doing for the Monarch whom they profess to respect ? 
Are they not exposing her to that very danger from which it is the 
object of the British Constitution to protect her ? The theory of 
the English Constitution is this, that the Crown must always be in 
accord with the House of Commons. And how is that worked out 
in the English constitution ? The Crown speaks by its Ministers 
and by its Ministers alone. The moment the Ministers are out of 
accord with the House of Commons they cease to be the Ministers of 
the Crown, and the people who represent the opinion of the House of 
Commons become the mouthpiece of the Crown ; and, therefore, 
by the spirit of the British constitution the opinions of the Crown 
are the opinions of the House of Commons and of the people. That 
is the fundamental and the indestructible foundation of the English 
Monarchy, as established by the English constitution, and it is that 
which these constitutional ministers at this day are violating. As 
Lord Derby has endeavoured to set the House of Lords against the 
House of Commons, so Mr. Disraeli is struggling to set the Queen 
against the people. (Great applause, the audience rising en masse.) 
Gentlemen, I say that is the most wicked, the most dangerous and 
the most unconstitutional course which was ever pursued by a great 
party or by a public Minister in this country. (Renewed cheering.) 

The speech was decisive. Next day S. G. Rathbone 
wrote to Harcourt at Nuneham saying that the Committee 
appointed to recommend candidates had met, and unani- 
mously decided to recommend him as one of the two candi- 
dates and had called a meeting of the Council to confirm 
the decision next day. The ratification was unanimous, 
and Harcourt was asked to receive a deputation to convey 
the invitation to him. Immediately his name was discussed 
as a candidate the slander put about at the time of the Kirk- 
caldy election was revived. The Liverpool Daily Post, after 
referring to the fame of " Historicus," said : 

A little incident in his history which jars strongly with his severe 
criticisms of Mr. Disraeli's changes of opinion tells unpleasantly 
against him. In 1857 a Mr. Vernon Harcourt was a candidate, and 
an unsuccessful candidate for the Kirkcaldy Burghs, against Mr. 


Ferguson, who had represented the constituency for a number 
of years. That Mr. Vernon Harcourt was a Conservative sent down 
by the Carlton Club to defeat the Liberal representative. People 
are curious to know if the Conservative Vernon Harcourt of 1857 
is the Historicus of The Times and the possible Liberal nominee for 

Before leaving Liverpool Harcourt promptly replied to 
the accusation in a letter to the Daily Post, pointing out that 
the calumny had been refuted at the time of the Kirkcaldy 
election, which took place in 1859, n t> as the Post stated, 
in 1857. 

But in the meantime another wooer had made serious 
proposals to Harcourt. Speaking long afterwards at Oxford, 
Harcourt said that when several constituencies were open 
to him in 1868 he chose Oxford on the advice of John 
Bright. It is probable therefore that the matter was 
discussed at the breakfast, and that an event arranged partly 
to introduce Harcourt to Liverpool resulted in his going to 
Oxford. The possibility of his standing for Oxford had 
been under consideration for some days, as a letter to him 
from his brother Edward (May 28) shows. He was already 
acquainted with the senior member for the City, Card well, 
and had $pent some portion of the previous autumn vaca- 
tion with him at Eashing Park, Godalming. The prospect 
of a Harcourt standing as Liberal candidate for Oxford 
was very distasteful to Edward Harcourt. He was the 
heir to Nuneham, from whence the towers of Oxford are 
visible, and in politics was an old-fashioned Tory with very 
correct views in regard to the land and the rights of property. 
When he heard the distressing idea of his brother's candida- 
ture mooted he wrote to him as follows : 

HASTINGS, May 8. I cannot imagine anything that would give 
me more annoyance and pain than your standing for Oxford as a 
Liberal. Whatever unfriendly feeling you may entertain towards 
landowners, there is no doubt that the inhabitants of Oxford are 
very much indebted to the owners of Nuneham for allowing them 
so free a use of their property. Nuneham and Oxford are intimately 
connected with each other. . . . 

I don't see at all why all the towns in Oxfordshire should be 
" tabooed " to you as you say but no one could fail to see that 


Oxford being, as I have said before, specially connected with Nune- 
ham, presents special reasons why your corning forward there as a 
Liberal would be especially annoying to me. You say I am at 
liberty to oppose you. Why create a painful necessity which would 
not exist anywhere else ? 

Harcourt's reply was evidently uncompromising, for a 
few days later (June 2) Edward wrote a letter in which he 
said : 

I deeply regret the determination you have come to. It is quite 
on the cards that I may be standing for the County at the next 
election, and I cannot imagine anything much more unfortunate, 
and to me more painful, than that our two agents should be fighting 
against each other for voters in Oxford. It is all very well to say no 
ill feeling need be excited, but the action of agents in such matters 
often involves their principals as experience shows every day 
and no reasoning of Lord Clarendon's will convince me to the con- 
trary. Such a catastrophe would hardly be compensated for by 
the success of either of us. 

Less than a week later, however, the Liverpool invitation 
had arrived and Edward breathed again. Perhaps his 
erring brother would, after all, carry his wickedness else- 
where. He would have rejoiced to know how ardently the 
Liverpool people were pursuing their quarry. They knew 
that Oxford was in the field, and despatched S. G. Rathbone 
to London to press their claim. He wrote to George Glyn, 
the Liberal Whip, a letter imploring help : 

I must entreat you to use your influence to secure Mr. Harcourt as 
a candidate for Liyetgool ; he made such an impression there by 
his two speeches that there is the greatest amount of enthusiasm 
for him, and I believe it may make the difference as to whether 
we carry two or only one Liberal candidate whether Mr. Harcourt 
stands for Liverpool or not. I need not point out the great import- 
ance of enabling us to return two Liberals under the new Reform 
Act for a Borough, and the only large Borough represented up to the 
present time by Conservatives ; the moral influence of such a success 
would be great throughout the country, and if we are to succeed you 
must please get us Mr. Harcourt as the candidate. 

While Rathbone was dunning the Chief Whip, the Liberal 
agent at Liverpool was throwing out bait to the candidate 
with a profuse hand, promising him that he would head 
the poll and that the party had not been so united for 


many years. But all their efforts were in vain. Whether 
it was John Bright 's advice or his brother's opposition that 
turned the scale we can only guess ; but Harcourt's decision 
went in favour of Oxford, and we find Edward writing to 
him in the following minatory terms : 

HASTINGS, June 10. I am very sorry to find on my return here 
that my hopes about Liverpool are vain. I find a letter here saying 
" your brother is hard at work canvassing in Oxford, and his sup- 
porters are making all the use they can of your family and name. 
..." You have preferred political partisans and their very pre- 
judiced advice to the maintenance of family affections, which once 
severely lacerated are not easily healed. Every one is free, and it 
is most right they should hold and enunciate their conscientious 
thoughts and opinions. There is scope enough in England for all. 
In your case it might have been done without administering a heavy 
blow to one who does not deserve it. 

Edward had many excellent qualities, but a sense of 
humour was not among them. Harcourt, in announcing his 
decision to the Liverpool Association, said he had yielded 
to what seemed the superior claim, and Rathbone, in return, 
expressed regret that " we had not thought of you before 
you were committed to Oxford." Harcourt and his fellow- 
candidate, Card well, who were opposed by Dr. Deane, held 
their first important meeting in the Town Hall of Oxford 
on June 12, Goldwin Smith supporting his old colleague of 
the Saturday Review in a cordial speech. Harcourt began 
by reciting the history of the Reform Bills of 1866 and 1867, 
and by telling how the Reform Bill of the Tory Government 
had been remodelled in Parliament so that it came very near 
to the model of Bright. He discussed the Disraeli remedy for 
the " evils of afflicted centuries " in Ireland, a Catholic 
University, and made an earnest plea for Gladstone's policy 
of Irish Disestablishment. Speaking of the Church of 
England, he declared himself once more her devoted son, 
and paid an eloquent tribute to his father and grandfather, 
both of them well known in Oxford. He said : 

All that I know of good, all that I have learnt of what is wise, has 
come to me from a father who was a minister of the Established 
Church, and who, by the faithfulness of his service, the purity of 


his life, and the beauty of his character, commands not only the 
affections of a son, but the devoted admiration of a man. 

He went on to say that he did not regard the establish- 
ment and endowments of the Church of England as the 
foundations of her power, though he thought they were not 
unfavourably regarded by the majority of the people, but 
as a political arrangement, and ended by putting before the 
meeting the essential difference between Gladstone and 
Disraeli as the directing power in the State : 

I said to a Tory friend the other day, " You support Mr. Disraeli, 

but he does not believe in your principles " ; and my friend replied, 

" Oh yes, we know he does not belong to our eleven, but we have 

him down as a professional bowler." This is Dr. Deane's side and 

the side of his friends the Constitutionalists. But the Liberals 

1 have also a side, and we contend for the principles of liberty, justice 

I and equality. And we have a leader too, a leader who is not a pro- 

' fessional bowler, but one of our own eleven, a man who believes in his 

principles, and who is condemned because he is so much in earnest. 

Harcourt never did things by halves, and he was as 
industrious in canvassing the electors as he had been in 
ferreting out precedents in the Civil War. In a speech on 
August 31, 'he said he had visited 5,000 Oxford homes in 
pursuit of voters. He mentioned that his opponents made 
two serious objections to him : 

In the first place, they make merry about my large size which I 
can't help, and in the second place they say I am exceedingly bad 
tempered, which is my fault, and I must try to mend it. (Laughter. ) 
They say the same thing of Mr. Gladstone, and the disciple cannot 
expect to fare better than the master. 

The pursuit of his own candidature did not monopolize 
his political energies during the autumn. He spoke in 
London in support of the Liberal candidates for the City, 
and on October 4 addressed a Working Men's meeting at 
the Social Science Congress at Birmingham. In the latter 
speech, dealing with the danger of unnecessary and super- 
fluous armaments for "self-defence," he said : 

It seems to me that this question of war, this question of arma- 
ments, this question of preparation for war, is eminently a working 
man's question. I cannot forget, and the world will not soon forget, 

i868] CANNON FODDER 187 

the part the working man of England played not many years ago 
when we were trembling upon the brink of a war with the United 
States of America. It is my firm belief that had it not been for the 
distinctly pronounced opinion of the working classes, we should 
have been much nearer the great catastrophe of a war with the 
United States than we were. 

This speech was construed into an attack on education, and 
Harcourt wrote to The Times to repudiate the construction, 
while insisting that " there have been far more wars of state 
policy than of popular passion. Governments have made 
war, not from ignorance, but from false ideas of policy, the 
result of a perverse education." 

The hundreds of thousands of lives (he said) which were lavished 
in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in order to sustain 
" the balance of power " were expended in the pursuit of a complex 
idea, which belonged essentially to educated minds. I did not 
want to flatter the uneducated who had not made war, but to 
condemn the educated who had made them. . . . Louis XIV and 
Napoleon looked at war from a different point of view from that 
in which it was regarded by the peasants of France and the natives 
of the Palatinate. . . . There is a song which says : 

" We should have peace at home, 
And all things would go right, 
If those who made the quarrels 
Were the only ones to fight." 

. . . The whole theory of popular government rests, I imagine, 
on the belief that large bodies of men (of whom, of course, the mass 
are imperfectly educated) do, from a personal apprehension of what 
is for the individual interest of eacjfc come to a wiser and safer 
conclusion as to what is for the benefit of all than is likely to be 
reached by the most highly educated and enlightened rulers on their 
behalf. The subjects of conscription are necessarily far more sensi- 
ble of the mischief of war than those who conscribe them. . . 
Government by the people is, on the whole, wiser than govern- 
ment for the people. These are the reasons why I venture to enter- 
tain a confident hope that the more popular the basis of government 
is made the greater will be the disposition to pursue a policy of peace 
not because the governing power will better understand the evils 
of war, but because it will feel them more. . . . This doctrine may 
be right or wrong, but I hope that it is, at all events, not inconsistent 
with the creed of "an g d' tK 'TVCgri liberal." 

The election took place in November. It was destined to 
be the last election at the hustings, and on the day of nomina- 


tion at Oxford there was a lively debate between the candi- 
dates before the electors in the Town Hall yard. Harcourt 
had the good fortune to follow Dr. Deane, and he made great 
havoc of his speech. When at the close of the speeches the 
Mayor called for a show of hands, it was clear that Cardwell 
and Harcourt were in an overwhelming majority. A poll 
was demanded, and took place the following day, the result 
being : 

Cardwell . . . . . - . . 2,765 

Harcourt . ...... 2,636 

Deane ....... 1,225 

The costs of the election were returned as follows : 

Cardwell 1,220 

Harcourt ....... 1,017 

Deane ....... 1,341 

In the country at large Gladstone had a sweeping 
triumph, in spite of the fact that he himself was defeated in 
South West Lancashire, being returned, however, for Green- 
wich. It was the first Parliament elected after the Reform 
Bill, and it exhibited a profound change in the social tone 
of the House. The supremacy of the governing families had 
gone, and there appeared a group of new men, mostly Liberals, 
who were marked out for future distinction, among them, 
in addition to Harcourt, being Henry Campbell (Bannerman), 
Wilfrid Lawson, A. J.jyfnndgHa. Charles Dilke and Henry 
James. Among these men Harcourt had, of course, the 
most established reputation, and it was assumed that, though 
he was new to Parliament, he would have office. Writing 
to him on the eve of the election Spencer Butler said : 

I tell, and have told every one for some time past, that you will 
be Solicitor- General, and all agree it will be a good appointment. 
So I shall see your Cambridge dream of sitting as Lord Chief Justic 
come true. 

Replying to Butler after the election Harcourt wrote : 

BOURNEMOUTH, 1868. Many thanks for your kind letter of 
congratulation. I never forget how you stood by me at the Kirk- 
caldy hustings. On the whole I dare say it is better that the event 
was postponed for ten years, as the pear is riper. 


The majority is a slashing one. It is provoking that the Lancashire 
places should have gone so wrong. I take it to mean nothing 
else but hatred of the Irish, who like the niggers are most hated 
where they are best known. You will probably see this idea ex- 
pounded in a letter to The Times by " one who knows Lancashire." 
Gladstone has four by honours and all the cards, and if he does not 
win a treble off his hand, it is no one's fault but his own. 

As to S.-G. (Solicitor-General), I don't see how Collier is to be 
disposed of. If he were out of the way, I suppose I should stand 
next. However, I should not regret having a little heedless rhetoric 
below the gangway before I go into the dull harness of office. To 
go there at once would be like marrying at sixteen. 

I think the Parliament, on the whole, satisfactory. I fear its 
Liberalisms will be somewhat too Conservative for the desires of the 
country and I see too few active and go-ahead names amongst 
the new members and God knows they were scant enough amongst 
the old. If the Liberal Party stick in the mud as in Pam's time 
they will go to smash, and the Tories will come back. 

Harcourt's expectation that Collier could not be set aside 
was justified, but Gladstone offered him the position of 
Judge-Advocate-General. This he declined on the " sole 
ground that I could not with the necessary regard for that 
private independence which is the first essential for a politi- 
cian detach myself from my profession in an office which 
would not only deprive me of all present practice but also 
shut me out from all those future prospects of promotion in 
the law to which you were good enough to allude." But it 
is probable that his refusal was also partly due to the desire 
he had expressed to Butler to have his fling before he went 
into harness. He wanted to play the part of the candid 
friend to the new Government, and he communicated his 
intention to Lord Clarendon, who had accepted his old post 
of Foreign Minister in the Administration. Clarendon was 
alarmed at the prospect of this^formidable colt taking the bit 
in his teeth and causing trouble. Early in December, while 
the Government was still barely formed, we find him writing 
to his kinsman : 

THE GROVE, Tuesday night. I don't think that I in any way 
misapprehended what you said to me on Monday, and your letter 
of to-day proves to me thaj^fdid not. 

I agree with you that Gladstone's policy should be bold and 
vigorous, but I don't agree with you in assuming that it will not be 


so ; yet such must be your opinion if you have already prepared 
a programme of measures some of which you know he could not 
now assent to because the country is not yet ripe for them. 

You say that no more efficient aid can be given to the Government 
than by compelling them to pronounce upon these measures. In 
my humble opinion no course could be adopted more palpably 
hostile and embarrassing to the Government. On the other hand 
I think the plan well devised if your object is to take the place that 
Bright has hitherto occupied, but then you cannot, any more than 
he has ever done, call yourself a " true and loyal supporter of the 
Government." In all sincerity I hope that the line of conduct you 
may pursue will redound to your honour and be satisfactory to 

It would seem that one of Harcourt's criticisms was that 
the advanced men were not getting sufficient representation 
in the Cabinet, for Clarendon writes : 

G. C., December g, 1868. I had read the Art. in the Telegraph 
before you directed my attention to it, and should have had no 
difficulty in designating the author even if it had not been a transcript 
of your letter to me yesterday. 

It is a war-cry against Gladstone, but as yet not a faithful expres- 
sion of public opinion. . . . 

But the article in the Telegraph was not Harcourt's, as 
appears from the following letter from Clarendon the next 
day, still expostulating with his intransigeant relative : 

G. C., December 10, 1868. Pray believe that I did not mean to 
do you an injustice by assuming that the Art. in the Telegraph 
was written or inspired by you. I thought it was because it con- 
tained not only opinions but expressions identical with those of 
your letter to me the previous day. You tell me I am mistaken 
however, and I have only to ask your pardon for my erroneous 

But now I must correct an error of yours which is that I am 
offended at your plain speaking, whereas it has through life been 
my object to get at opinions which differed from my own. My 
friendship and regard for you have led me to discuss the course of 
conduct you intended to pursue, which seemed to me unfair towards 
Gladstone and that if I chanced to be right you would be sorry 
hereafter. I had no other wish than that you should be cautious 
on first crossing the threshold of parliamentary life. 

In the meantime Gladstone had been immersed in the 
difficulties of Cabinet-making and with no one had those 


difficulties been more severe than with Bright, who Har- 
court apparently assumed was being left out. When at 
last Bright's indisposition to take office was overcome, Har- 
court wrote congratulating him on having joined the Ministry. 
In his reply Bright said : 

ROCHDALE, December 17, 1868. It was a hard struggle for me, 
for I had all along determined not to take office, but I have surren- 
dered to the pressure put upon me, and I hope what I have done is 
/ight. I am glad to have your kind expression of opinion upon what 
/ I have done. ... It was well you went to Oxford and not to Liver- 

The anxiety to see Bright in the Ministry was evidence of 
the movement of Harcourt's mind to the Left, but the general 
attitude of which Clarendon complained was probably 
nothing more than the natural disposition of a combative 
spirit to be " agin the Government " and to explore the 
parliamentary field by adopting guerilla warfare. Claren- 
don was not the only person at this time who was disturbed 
about Harcourt. His brother at Nuneham, referring no 
doubt to the offer of the Judge-Advocate-Generalship, 
wrote : 

December 12. I am very glad to see by the papers that you are 
on the road to advancement. 

I have never disguised the extreme annoyance which your position 
as Radical member for Oxford causes me, and as long as such a 
position continues I cannot look upon your connection with Nune- 
ham as anything but a misfortune. 

This does not, however, diminish in the least the pleasure I feel 
in your well doing. This must always increase as I hope your success 
will increase, and you may believe from past experience that no 
one will be so heartily or affectionately glad as I shall be at everything 
which conduces to your happiness. A relationship like ours is not 
lightly forgotten, though clouds may sometimes intervene for a 

The wound continued to rankle, and writing on the 
following February 25, from Hastings, he, much in the 
spirit of Sir Anthony Absolute , warned him that he must 
get a hemisphere of his own : 

Your successful and good speech gave me sincere pleasure, and 
only made me the more regret that the stool you stand upon is 


such a thorn in my side as to introduce very mixed feelings on the 
subject of your parliamentary career. 

My personal feelings towards yourself and your dear boy are of 
course unchanged ; but I think you hardly realize the extent of 
my dislike to your present connection with Oxford sufficiently to 
understand why, as long as it continues, I can have no sort of pleasure 
in meeting you in Oxfordshire or in thinking of you in connection 
with the Nuneham property. Here, or on any other neutral ground, 
it will always give me the greatest pleasure to see you and yours. . . . 


Whewell Professor of International Law Se ward's conditions for 
the Alabama Arbitration His theory of a local insurrection 
Harcourt defines his position on the Alabama Claims War 
and Trade The Fish Despatch Expatriation and Naturaliza- 
tion The Civis Romanus doctrine Royal Commission on 

IT is possible that Harcourt had another motive for not 
putting himself into official harness too hurriedly. He 
had won a unique position in the country as an inter- 
national lawyer, and although international law, as he had 
told Lord Russell in accepting payment for his work, was his 
" passion not his profession," it was a subject which seriously 
challenged his interest in politics. And at this time a crown- 
ing distinction and an attractive opportunity in this field were 
within his grasp. He was still perhaps undecided between 
the claims of the law and the claims of politics. The highest 
achievements in either sphere were open to him, and though 
his love of combat drew him to one, his intellectual interest 
was powerfully engaged by the other. He had taken silk in 
1866, and, as Spencer Butler's letter of congratulation after 
the Oxford election shows, had had dreams of the Lord Chief 
Justiceship. A parliamentary career, so far from being an 
obstacle to such ambitions, was, in his case, the true path 
to their attainment. But before pursuing that path he 
explored another which left him more freedom and inde- 
pendence than a law office under the Crown would have given 
him. Dr. Whewell, the Master of Trinity, died in 1866, 
leaving in his will provision for the foundation of a Chair of 

193 o 


International Law at Cambridge. The Whewell Professor 
had to deliver at least twelve lectures annually, and it was 
required by the founder that he should " make it his aim in 
all parts of his treatment of the subject to lay down such 
rules and to suggest such measures as may tend to diminish 
the causes of war and finally to extinguish war between 

By a singular coincidence it seems that the idea of the 
professorship was first discussed by Whewell when he was 
on a visit to Canon Harcourt, whose son was destined to be 
the first holder of the Chair. There were several distinguished 
men who had claims upon so desirable a position. H. S. 
Maine was among' them. He had gone to Calcutta, but 
contemplated returning to England, and he wrote to Har- 
court on November 29, 1868, expressing his preference for 
the contemplated Professorship of Jurisprudence at Oxford, 
but indicating that if that fell through he " did not consider 
himself debarred by anything which passed between us from 
standing for the Whewell Professorship." He added : 

I dare say you will deem it profoundly immaterial whether I 
stand or not. But it would give me great pain to find myself a 
candidate and then to discover that you thought the step a breach ; 
of an understanding with yourself. I shall be greatly obliged to i 
you if you will let me know your view of the situation. 

In the end Maine 1 did not stand, but among the eight ; 
candidates the most formidable rival of Harcourt was another 
friend of the Apostolic days, Fitzjames Stephen. The 
prestige attaching to " Historicus " carried the day, and 
Harcourt was appointed to the Chair on March 2, 1869. 
The first letter of congratulation he received was from W. H. 
Thompson, for whose appointment as Master of Trinity in 
succession to Whewell Harcourt had laboured industriously 
in the teeth of much opposition. Another letter no doubt 
gave him even more satisfaction. It was from his father at 
Nuneham. Canon Harcourt had the scholar's love of the 
collegiate life and the scholar's dislike of the political world, 
and he had wanted his brilliant son to remain at Cambridge. 
1 Maine succeeded to the Chair on Harcourt's resignation in 1887. 


In standing for the Whewell Professorship, Harcourt, whose 
affection for his father was always an active influence on his 
conduct, knew that success in this matter would give keen 
pleasure to the Canon, who had shared the family disquiet 
at his political development. He was not disappointed, 
though the Canon's letter was double-edged. He wrote 
(March 4) : 

MY DEAREST WILLIE, I am rejoiced to hear of your appoint- 
ment to the Professorship, and shall hope soon to hear that your 
first Lecture deserves comparison with that fine one on International 
Law by Sir J. Macintosh, and that you will not, like him, stop short 
with the past history of that grand and imperfectly studied subject, 
but pursue it with the principles on which it does or ought to rest. 
This would afford me sincere satisfaction, whilst on the contrary 
it would be nothing but pain and grief to me to hear of your being 
implicated in a conspiracy to rob the Almighty, to give to Caesar the 
things which belong to God, which have been devoted to His service 
by immemorial usage, and are applied to it at this moment more 
perfectly and efficiently than in any former age such a policy 
violates the highest and most sacred of principles, and therefore 
can never prosper. Entertaining this opinion, as I do with the 
deepest conviction, it would be, my dear William, with no common 
regret that I should see a son of mine involved in so heavy a respon- 

As he had admitted in his letter to Mrs. Ponsonby, Har- 
court was often too careless of the feelings of others, but 
he was never forgetful of the feelings of his father. The 
letter which I have quoted indicates the Canon's atttiudeon 
the Irish Church question, and it is not without significance 
that Harcourt did not take office until after his father's 

The appointment to the Professorship did not involve 
residence at Cambridge, but under the terms of Whewell's 
will Harcourt was entitled to a handsome suite of rooms in 
the New Court " I fear they are not rent free," wrote 
Thompson to him and these he took and long continued to 
use. King Edward, when Prince of Wales, stayed in them on 
his visits to his son at Cambridge. The distinction conferred 
on " Historicus " came at a time when the prolonged con- 
troversy which had made his reputation was once more acute. 
The Alabama question still clouded the sky and seemed 


wellnigh insoluble. The grievance of America was indisput- 
able ; but since the war the attitude of the American Govern- 
ment had made the question of reparation by England 
extremely difficult. In 1867, Lord Stanley, then Foreign 
Minister, had suggested arbitration, but Seward had for- 
mally declined the proposal. The United States would only 
accept arbitration on condition that England's concession 
of belligerent rights at the beginning of the war formed 
part of the case for the arbitrators' decision. The British 
Government, on the contrary, insisted that an actual state 
of war should be assumed to have existed, and that upon 
this assumption the arbitrator should proceed to consider 
the claims of the United States to compensation. Seward's 
argument was that but for the English proclamation of 
neutrality there would never have been civil war in 'America ; 
that it was England who gave it the name of war ; and that 
but for our " intervention " it would have been a mere 
domestic insurrection with which the world would have had 
nothing to do. If this argument was sound, it followed, as 
" Historicus " showed in a succession of powerful letters 
during January 1868, that England was not only responsible 
for all the damage done by the Alabama but for all the 
damage done throughout the war. She was, in a word, the 
sole cause of the war. But this wild theory was destroyed 
by Seward's own despatches, which Harcourt produced with 
smashing effect. He pointed out, for example, that on 
May 4, 1861, nine days before the English proclamation 
of neutrality, Seward wrote to the American Minister in 
Paris : 

The insurgents have instituted revolution with open, flagrant, 
deadly war to compel the United States to acquiesce in the dismem- 
berment of the Union. The United States has accepted this Civil 
War as an inevitable necessity. 

This paper (commented Harcourt, January 20, 1868) is a record 
laid on the table of Congress, circulated through the world, and yet 
the man who wrote it now says that on May 13, 1861, " the disturb- 
ance in the United States was merely a local insurrection," that 
" it wanted the name of war to be a civil war and to live "... 
and that " the President declined to confer upon the insurrection the 
pregnant baptismal name of Civil War to the prejudice of the nation 


whose destiny was in his hands," but that this was done " by the 
Queen of England, who baptized the slave insurrection within the 
United States a civil war. ..." On May 4, Mr. Seward writes 
officially, " The United States has accepted this civil war as an 
inevitable necessity." But for the Queen of England to affirm 
on May 13 that a civil war had been accepted by the United States 
is a wrong, forsooth, for which England is to pay an indemnity. 

On another point Harcourt showed how ill Seward's 
record of facts in 1868 accorded with the record of the same 
facts in 1861. He now denied that the blockade was a 
blockade until England converted the " local insurrection " 
into a civil war. It was only a closing of the ports by 
municipal law. But, says Harcourt, on May 2, 1861 
eleven days before the Queen's proclamation of neutrality 
Seward, replying to the Spanish Minister, described the 
conditions of the blockade as follows : 

1. That the blockade will be strictly enforced upon the principles 
recognized by the law of nations. 

2. That armed vessels of neutral states will have the right to enter 
and depart from the inderdicted ports. 

It is unnecessary to pursue the endless controversy in 
detail. We may wonder to-day that so unreal a point 
could for years have menaced the peace of the two countries. 
There was ground for arguing that England was over-hasty 
in recognizing belligerency. Goldwin Smith held that view. 
When in November 1868 Harcourt issued a pamphlet on 
the subject, he sent the proofs to Goldwin Smith, who in his 
comment on them said : 

I wish Bemis (the American " Historicus ") was away, or that there 
was less of him. He is an opponent scarcely worthy of you, and the 
operation of kicking him rather spoils the judicial dignity of the 
work. . . . You do not convince me that more pains should not 
have been taken to soften the recognition of belligerency. If 
not strictly necessary it would have been wise. As to the recognition 
itself, you are overwhelming. 

But, in any case, the grievance on this point had no rele- 
vance to the case of the Alabama, and to make its considera- 
tion a condition of assenting to arbitration in regard to the 
depredations of the Alabama was to make an agreement 


impossible. On the question of the Alabama. Harcourt 
continued impenitent. It was an offence against our 
municipal law, and the vessel ought not to have been per- 
mitted to enter our ports abroad. But again in opposition 
to Goldwin Smith he took a too narrow legal view as to 
our responsibility for damage done by the vessel on the 
high seas. He held that as the launching and equipment of 
the Alabama was not a breach of international law that 
responsibility did not exist. But he was in favour of arbi- 
tration if it could be confined to two points (i) whether the 
English Government took proper precautions and exhibited 
adequate vigilance ; and (2) whether, if they did not, 
indemnity was due. In a letter to the Pall Mall Gazette 
(January 1868) , replying to an attack on him, " Historicus " 
defended his record in the great controversy that he had 
waged for seven years : 

You sneer (he said) at my pretensions to " have done all I can 
to be polite and agreeable to the Americans." You are unjust in 
this. I never said I had been " polite and agreeable " to the Ameri- 
cans. I said I had done what I could to " maintain the friendship 
of England and America." That, in my opinion, is not to be 
attained by an attempt to be " polite and agreeable " to either 
country, but by trying to be just to both. It has been my fortune 
to have to argue questions of public law both for and against America. 
I argued for America when it was proposed, contrary to the pre- 
cedents and the principles of the law of nations, to recognize the 
independence of the Southern States. I argued for America when 
it was sought to violate or restrict the belligerent right of blockade. 
I argued for America when the English Government were attacked 
for stopping the Confederate Rams. I argued for America and 
against the English Government in favour of excluding the Alabama 
from the ports of the realm. I argued for America in these cases 
because I thought she had the right on her side, though the public 
voice of a large and influential class in England was against her. 
I argued for England and against America in the case of the Trent, 
in the case of the Alabama claims and above all on the question of 
the recognition of belligerency, because I knew her to be in the 
wrong. I have defended the cause of America when she was weak 
because I believed her to be right, and I claim the title to resist 
her when I know she is wrong, and to refute the arguments of those 
who counsel submission to her chiefly because they believe her to be 
powerful. That I have been unfair to America is a charge which I 
know the opinion of America will not sustain. I may have been 


mistaken. God knows it is likely enough. But in endeavouring 
to elucidate questions which concern the peace of two kindred nations 
which I equally admire which I could almost say I equally love 
I have to the best of my ability, and with some labour and industry, 
declared what I believed to be right. I have been the partisan of 
no Government and the advocate of neither nation. I have sought 
peace where alone it can be found in the paths of law, of justice 
and of truth. Pray excuse this egotism, but it is the nature of any 
man to protest against injustice. 

With the failure of Stanley's proposal, the controversy 
between the two countries continued inflamed and irritating, 
and it was one of the gravest questions which the new Min- 
istry had to face. Writing to Harcourt, Clarendon expressed 
his disappointment that he had not come down to visit him : 

THE GROVE, December 6, 1868. I am on every account sorry, 
as among other things I wished to have a talk with you on our report, 
about which I am painfully anxious, as it appears that things are 
going to the devil at Washington, mainly owing, I apprehend, to the 
indiscretions of Reverdy Johnson which have intensified the anti- 
English feeling, and I fear that Seward now thinks there is more 
capital to be made by throwing over than by supporting his Minister 
here. Don't mention this, but an article in The Times yesterday 
shows that Delane is aware of the rocks ahead. It appears that 
immense importance is attached to the naturalization question and 
that the settlement of it or at all events the introduction of a Bill 
into Parliament would go far to smooth matters on the five ugly 
questions on which negotiations are pending. Sorely against my 
will and notwithstanding the arguments against myself that I 
honestly urged I have been talked into the F.O. (Foreign Office) 
again. . . . The moral of this long story is that I want very much 
your aid in understanding the report. 

Reverdy Johnson, who was the United States Minister in 
London, in a speech at Manchester criticized Harcourt's 
address on War and the Working Man at the Social Science 
Conference at Birmingham, and asserted the doctrine of the 
immunity of the private property of belligerents at sea in 
war time. Johnson had justified the course taken by his 
Government in declining to accede unconditionally to the 
Declaration of Paris with regard to the abolition of priva- 
teering, on the ground of the particular interests of the 
United States. Harcourt declined to argue the question on 
" the ground of the special advantages that may accrue to 


individual nations." To Johnson's proposal that men might 
be killed in battle, but that the merchant should go his way 
unharmed, he retorted (The Times, March i, 1869) : 

Now, I confess that I am not completely satisfied that this plan of 
unrestricted personal slaughter, by which people are to be killed 
first, and the survivors afterwards to be consoled by the profits 
of trade, would, on the whole, conduce to the happiness of mankind. 
. . . Mr. Johnson says that the horrors of war are already sufficiently 
great ; and it is unhappily true. But shocking as it may be, it is 
unfortunately true likewise that men are far less afflicted by the 
sufferings, however terrible, of others, than by a loss much less 
considerable that befalls themselves. Men read with equanimity 
and even pride the story of the storming of Badajos or the field of 
Gettysburg who would shrink from the ruin of their own fortunes. 
I, for one, am not disposed to part with the suretyship of the com- 
mercial class as a guarantee against war. Mr. Johnson says, " Why 
should the innocent merchant who has had nothing to do with the 
war, or the causes of the war, specially suffer for it ? " I cannot 
agree that the merchant has any special claim to the epithet of 
" innocent." On the whole, inasmuch as his class is much more 
powerful, he is far more responsible for the war than the innocent 
soldier or sailor in most countries the victim of conscription but 
who according to the modern theory are exclusively to suffer for it. 
I venture to affirm that, in this country at least, no war could be 
made against the united resistance of the commercial classes. Is 
is desirable to dimmish the inducement to that resistance ? During 
the last hundred years, while trade was comparatively safe under 
the overwhelming maritime superiority of Great Britain, the com- 
mercial class had not as a rule been hostile to wars which more 
often than not served their interests. The City of London which 
flouted the pacific Walpole, idolized the warlike genius of Chatham. 
Burke at Bristol, and Brougham at Liverpool idly preached the 
gospel of peace ; if the carrying trade had been at stake they might 
possibly have been better listened to. ... So great a transaction 
as war, involving such horrible evils and such tremendous responsi- 
bility, ought not to be conducted on the principle of limited liability. 
. . . The proposal to exempt commerce from the operation of 
hostilities seems to me a direct encouragement to reckless trading 
in war. It resembles the conduct of a spendthrift who, in contempla- 
tion of bankruptcy, makes a settlement on his family, and then 
proceeds to ruin the rest of the world at his ease. 

Replying in a later letter (March 15) to the Economist, 
which had charged him with confounding the general foreign 
trade with the carrying trade of the belligerents, Harcourt 
showed that the general foreign trade of the belligerent 


already enjoyed the desired immunity, by virtue of the 
Declaration of Paris, when placed under a neutral flag. 
That rule was not for the benefit of the belligerent but of 
the neutral. 

What I argued was that because you had by a rule intended to 
benefit the neutral indirectly favoured the belligerent, that circum- 
stance affords no ground for establishing another rule directly in 
favour of the belligerent, but offering no advantage to the neutral. 

Summing up his general attitude he said, in words which 
gain a new force from the experience of the World War : 

I believe the idea of reducing war to a military and naval duel 
between armies and fleets is as chimerical and less humane than the 
romantic project of chivalry to settle the fate of the Moslem and the 
Christian by a single combat between Saladin and Richard. These 
two nations are locked in the deadly embrace of war, whether they 
be fighting for empire or struggling for independence. They will 
deal the fatal blow with every weapon which fortune places within 
their grasp. Passion is deaf, patriotism is unscrupulous, fear is 
cruel. To attempt to disarm war of its horrors is an idle dream and 
a dangerous delusion ; let us labour at the more practical task of 
making it impossible. 


But this argument with Reverdy Johnson was only a 
digression from the main theme that continued to disturb 
the diplomatic atmosphere. General Grant had now become 
President of the United States and Seward had been suc- 
ceeded by Fish as Secretary of State. But the change so 
far from producing a more accommodating spirit at Wash- 
ington made the situation much worse. Clarendon at the 
Foreign Office was reduced to an indignant despair by the 
attitude of Fish. His state of mind is recorded in his letters 
to Harcourt in the autumn : 

THE GROVE, October 17, 1869. I have been operated upon by 
Motley (the new United States Minister) and as I had no chloroform 
it was not pleasant. He read me the Fish despatch which, as nearly 
as I could count, was twelve sheets long. Its tone is that of studied 
courtesy and injured friendship, but it reopens the whole question 
in all its details and insists on all the old facts and arguments just 
as if it was brand new matter and was to be discussed for the first 


time. They ask for nothing, but leave it to me to propose reparation 
for our irreparable misdeeds. . . . 

THE GROVE, October 25, 1869. I was glad to find that your opinion 
corresponded so exactly with my own on the Fish Despatch. . . . 
To-morrow the Cabinet meets and I shall learn the opinion of 
Colleagues. Hitherto I only know Gladstone's, which does not 
much differ from yours or mine, but there is a passage in his letter 
of yesterday upon which I want your advice and opinion. After 
saying that they ask for a proposal which we cannot with honour 
make, he 'adds : jj," Might you not glance at a mode of proceeding 
such as this that the two countries should set about the considera- 
tion of a good prospective system and should thereafter, in the 
light of principles thus elucidated, reconsider the manner of arbitra- 
tion or any other mode of proceeding in the Alabama case. Might 
not something be hammered out of this ? " 

Clarendon wrote to Harcourt (November 4) asking him 
to come to the Grove to meet the Gladstones and perhaps 
Bright, and proposing to send him the draft of the British 
Government's reply to the document Harcourt called 
the " piscine despatch." Harcourt's observations did not 
reach him, however, until after the draft had been con- 
sidered and approved by the Cabinet. In the meantime 
Fish, who had up till that moment kept his own despatch 
secret " in a manner quite unprecedented," had suddenly 
sent to the newspapers the whole correspondence with 
the exception of the second British despatch, which he 
had suppressed. Clarendon, who had no desire at a 
critical moment to appear hostile to Fish, preferred to 
leave the American people to discover Fish's manoeuvre. 
" This feeling," he wrote to Harcourt on December 30, 
" prevented my alluding to their assumption that the war 
had for its object the abolition of slavery, but as I have 
long desired that this should be done I need not say with 
what satisfaction I read your smasher of yesterday." 

The " smasher " to which Clarendon refers was one of a 
series of letters which Harcourt in his old role of " Histori- 
cus " was addressing to The Times at this period in reply 
to Fish. The attitude of this diplomatist was certainly 
disquieting. Not content with the original claim of Seward 
that the recognition of belligerency should be part and 


parcel of any reference to the case of the Alabama to arbitra- 
tion, he now embittered the situation by insisting that, as 
the North fought for the abolition of slavery, England ought 
not to have been neutral at all. " Since the famous bulletins 
of the first Napoleon," wrote Harcourt, " such liberties 
have probably never been taken with facts for political 
purposes as those ventured upon in the despatch of Mr. 
Fish." He disposed of the assertion that the North began 
the war to abolish slavery by pointing out that Lincoln not 
only disclaimed any such purpose in his first inaugural 
message, but still more clearly disavowed it in a famous 
letter in the second year of the war in which he said : 

My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and 
is not either to save or destroy slavery. If I could save the Union 
without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by 
freeing all the slaves I would do it ; and if I could save it by freeing 
some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do 
about slavery and the coloured race I do because I believe it helps 
to save this Union ; and what I forbear I forbear because I do not 
believe it would help to save the Union. 

It followed, said Harcourt unanswerably, that " if the 
rebellion had been successfully crushed in its commencement, 
the Union would have been restored and slavery with it." 
Fish's claim, therefore, was an afterthought that had no 
basis in historical fact. As to the suggestion of " warm 
neutrality " it was a contradiction in terms, for which, 
according to his practice, he put the American jurists in 
evidence. " A neutral," he said, " has no business to be 
warm ; it is essentially his duty to be not only lukewarm, 
but cold. A warm neutrality is neither more nor less than 
a fraudulent neutrality. You might as well talk of hot ice 
or cold steam." Fish's claim that the Confederates had 
no rights at sea a theory, as Harcourt said, of " divisible 
belligerency " was met by a torrent of precedents from the 
records of the United States during the War of Independence 
and the South American Wars. 

But the storm that raged around the Alabama was not 
the only menace to Anglo-American relations at this time. 
Another cause of irritation arose in connection with the 


Fenian agitation and the status of Irishmen in the United 
States. Fenians could not, of course, be tried in Ireland for 
acts done in the United States, but once they had committed 
some offence on British soil which enabled them to be brought 
to trial, could evidence of preparation in the United States 
be admitted ? All international questions affecting persons 
were, and are, complicated by the fact that the English- 
speaking peoples base nationality on the place of birth, 
Great Britain claiming allegiance from all persons, of what- 
ever parentage, born within the dominions of the Crown, 
while the Latin nations base citizenship on the nationality 
of the father. English law, moreover, regarded British 
citizenship as indelible, and as being handed down from 
father to son, wherever the son might be born. Many nice 
diplomatic questions had arisen out of this confusion during 
the American Civil War, when natural-born Englishmen 
resident in the States had asked to be protected by the 
British Minister against conscription, and the case of Don 
Pacifico was still fresh in the public mind. In France the 
military authorities were questioning the right to exemption 
from military service of the children of foreigners born in 

In January and February 1868 " Historicus " contributed 
to The Times a series of letters on the various international 
questions arising out of the treatment of aliens and conflict- 
ing national laws on nationality. He began by exposing 
the inconsistencies of American statesmen on the question 
of expatriation, and the unreasonableness of claiming that 
persons seeking naturalization in America should divest 
themselves of their nationality while the Americans them- 
selves insisted on the indelibility of American citizenship, 
and he suggested that the first step necessary was a defini- 
tion of that citizenship. Harcourt desired to see general 
international agreement on these questions, but failing that, 
thought certain simple steps would serve to mitigate existing 
difficulties : 

First (he said), the right of expatriation should be generally 
admitted ; secondly, that right should be limited by certain condi- 


tions ; thirdly, it belongs as much to the native state to prescribe 
the conditions of severance as it does to the state of adoption to 
prescribe the conditions of naturalization ; fourthly, it would be 
highly desirable that the conditions on which one state confers and 
the other severs the tie of citizenship should be regulated by special 
convention, as in the case of extradition. This would be best 
accomplished by a general agreement ; but if this be impracticable, 
then it should be made the subject of separate treaties. 

He takes the opportunity of pressing on a not too willing 
public the principle that the Law of Nations is as real a thing 
as the municipal law of any state, and in a characteristic 
passage (The Times, February 6, 1868) disposes of the Palmer- 
stonian doctrine of Civis Romanus sum. Quoting a famous 
passage from Gladstone's denunciation of the doctrine in 
the Don Pacifico debate, he proceeds : 

Well, justice and common -sense were in the minority then, as they 
very often are when popular prejudice and popular passion run 
high. But time and experience ultimately vindicate the truth, 
and now that we have our own Don Pacificos on hand who claim to 
be Gives Americani, we are beginning to be a little more disposed to 
listen to reason on the subject. The ordinary Englishman's idea 
of his rights as a Civis Romanus are simple enough. He thinks 
himself entitled whenever he goes to trial by jury, to habeas corpus, 
to a Protestant Chapel and the Bill of Rights in short, to do and 
say what he likes and make himself as disagreeable as he pleases, 
with the comfortable confidence that there are any number of 
ironclads in the background to protect him from being called to 
account for it. This was all very well for a real Civis Romanus, 
who was the citizen of an universal empire which recognized no 
independence of States and tolerated no equality of nations. It 
becomes a very inconvenient and perilous doctrine where it is applied 
to times where there are more nations than one who may be disposed 
to play at the same game. . . . Let us, then, disabuse our minds 
of the Civis Romanus idea. It is historically an anachronism and a 
blunder ; legally it is an injustice and a wrong ; politically it is a 
folly and a crime. The phrase belongs to the vocabulary of the 
bully and the doctrine is the policy of the oppressor. Let us hope 
we shall hear no more of it here. I fear we are destined to listen to 
a good deal of its echo elsewhere. 

He goes on in a succession of letters to explain the right 

of each nation to the administration of the law within its 

! own territory, and examines the difference between the 

English, French and American law in bringing to justice 


criminals whose crimes were committed without its boun- 
daries. He suggests the summoning of a congress of the 
principal nations for the settlement of the questions of 
naturalization, expatriation, criminal jurisdiction over aliens, 
and extradition. Let England take the lead in this great 
task. " It would be the proper answer to the sneers which 
are too often levelled at her selfish isolation and insular 
pride." The statesman who inaugurated such an achieve- 
ment " would have done more than all the speculations 
of philosophers and the dreams of philanthropists to give 
reality to those projects of universal peace which have too 
long been deemed to belong to the Commonwealth of Utopia." 
But public opinion was not ripe for this enlightened 
anticipation of the League of Nations. All that could be 
aimed at was an understanding with the United States, 
and with this in view a Royal Commission was appointed 
in May 1868 to inquire into the British laws of naturaliza- 
tion and allegiance. Clarendon presided over this Com- 
mission, and Harcourt was invited to become a member. 
The Commission reported in April of the next year. They 
recommended that British subjects naturalized in a foreign 
country should cease to be British subjects, that is, they 
proposed that the doctrine of the indelibility of British 
nationality should be abandoned. 

It is inexpedient (they said) that British law should maintain 
in theory, or should by foreign nations be supposed to maintain in 
practice, any obligations which it cannot enforce, and ought not to 
enforce if it could ; and it is unfit that a country should remain 
subject to claims for protection on the part of persons who, as far as 
in them lies, have severed their connection with it. 

So far Harcourt's view had prevailed, but the Report 
went in detail into the question of who should be regarded 
as natural-born British subjects, and on this point Harcourt 
was not in agreement with the majority of the Commis- 
sioners. By this time he was a member of Parliament, and 
found himself compelled to oppose the proposals put forward 
by the Government. 

The recommendations of the Committee were rejected 


on the ground that the limited object of the Bill was the 
regulation of expatriation and repatriation on a basis which 
would permit the required understanding with the United 
States. The Act, somewhat ambiguous and timorous as 
it was, formed the basis of the convention signed in May 
1870 between the United States and Great Britain which 
provides that naturalization in either country is to be valid 
immediately on completion, but permits the resumption of 
British or American nationality on certain conditions. 

With this convention the sky began to clear over the 
Alabama issue. Another measure passed a few months 
later (August 1870) helped to the same end. It was the 
new Foreign Enlistment Act, based on the recommendations 
of the Neutrality Commission of which Harcourt was a 
member. In one respect it goes beyond those recommenda- 
tions, because it gives power to the local authority named 
to seize a vessel if they have reason to believe that she is 
about to escape. Harcourt, pursuing his line on the Com- 
mission, secured the insertion of a clause that in the case of 
a pre-war contract the builder would not be liable if he 
gave notice of his proceeding to the Secretary of State. 

The Alabama controversy was at last in a fair way for 


The New Men Harcourt's political creed still Incomplete First 
Speeches in the House New Year's Speech (1870) at Oxford 
Irish Land Question Education Act Passage of arms with Mr. 
Gladstone Excessive Expenditure on armaments Death of 
Lord Clarendon Franco-German War Question of Neutrality 
Criticism from Below the Gangway Abolition of Purchase by 
Royal Warrant Eighteenth-century prejudices Law Reform 
Death of Lady Beaconsfield The Invasion Panic Para- 
mount importance of the Navy The Battle of the Parks The 
Ballot Act Freedom for the Public House. 

THE new Parliament which met in February 1869 
is a landmark in political history. It introduced 
new leaders, new ideas and a new spirit into affairs. 
Not since Pitt and Fox faced each other across the floor of 
the House had there been so Homeric a conflict of person- 
ality in Parliament as that presented by Gladstone and 
Disraeli. They were flint and steel to each other's genius, 
the one all moral fervour, to whom politics were an article 
of religion, the other a romantic artist, to whom they were 
the material of a diverting tale. Gladstone always seemed 
to be hurrying with a message from Mount Sinai and meeting 
Disraeli coming from the feet of Scheherazade. The gravity 
of the one and the levity of the other left them no common 
ground of intercourse. To the great sceptic, Gladstone's 
seriousness was an incomparable jest ; to the great Church- 
man, Disraeli's cynicism was an outrage on all the sanctities 
of life. They were alike in one respect. Each had created 
a new party. Gladstone had been a Tory, but he had 
never been a Whig, and the party he led was a new instru- 



ment, forged by his own genius and inspired by his own 
imperious purpose. Disraeli had been a Radical in his 
youth, but he had never been a Tory, and the party he 
led was the creation of his own romantic imagination. The 
change of spirit was emphasized by the operation of the 
new Reform Act. For the first time the towns had effective 
representation, and the old political order gave place to 
another type of parliamentary intelligence, more demo- 
cratic, more instructed, more in touch with realities. It 
was the beginning of a new era, social as well as poli- 

In no previous Parliament had there been anything 
comparable to the legislative activity of 1869 and 1870. 
Harcourt had decided on the role of the candid friend of 
the Government, but with so energetic a spirit of reform in 
control of affairs he had at first relatively little scope for 
criticism. His own political creed was still in process of 
development. In many respects he was an advanced 
Radical. He was a passionate anti-militarist and the most 
militant of peace men. He hated the Imperialism of 
Disraeli in England as much as he hated the Imperialism 
of Louis Napoleon in France. His views on the land had 
brought him into collision with his brother, and his advocacy 
of the disestablishment and disendowment of the Irish 
Church had, he knew, given pain to a father whom he deeply 
revered. His study of international law had led him to a 
conception of world relationships far in advance of the 
general thought of the time, and on questions like education, 
taxation and free trade he represented the advanced opinion 
of the party. But there were gaps in his equipment, as in 
the case of the liquor question, in regard to which he still 
adopted an extreme laissez-faire attitude that had brought 
him into conflict with the temperance reformers. While a 
candidate for Oxford he had, replying to a correspondent 
who had asked for his opinion on the compulsory closing of 
public-houses on Sunday, said (Oxford Chronicle, June 30, 
1868) : 

Each man should be governed by the needs of his own health and 



the dictates of his own conscience. I have been all my life a hard 
working man. I find that after a hard day's work I receive not only 
enjoyment, but strength and refreshment from a good glass of beer 
or wine. I often make an excursion out of London on the Saturday 
and Sunday, and seek fresh air and exercise, after the toil of the 
week, at Richmond, or Windsor, or Maidenhead. I should think 
it a great hardship if, after a good walk, I could not get a good 
glass of beer. ... I should not think of imposing on others what I 
should deem a hardship to myself. I know nothing more to be 
desired than that the labouring man, upon his only holiday, should 
(not inconsistently with his service of God) find relaxation for his 
mind and refreshment for his body. We must trust to education, 
reflection, and religion to keep men within the bounds of moderation. 
The scheme of compulsion has been tried in some of the States of 
America and has failed. If I am not mistaken, the State of Maine 
has repealed its liquor law. 

This description of the idyllic week-ends of " Historicus " 
and the conclusion drawn from it annoyed the United 
Kingdom Alliance, who had promoted in Parliament a 
permissive Bill embodying the principle of local option, 
and a lengthy correspondence ensued. Harcourt admitted 
in reply to criticism that when he wrote " Maine " he should 
have said " Massachusetts." On the general question he 
contented himself with saying that it was a great mistake 
to allow legislation to outrun the opinion and conscience 
of the majority ; that laws were never effective when they 
were more stringent than the general moral sense of the 
people was disposed to support, and that legislation neces- 
sarily lags behind, though in the end it always follows the 
aspirations of the social reformer. 

In the great legislative achievement of the first session, 
Irish Disestablishment, Harcourt took little active part. 
The election had been fought and won on the issue, and 
it only remained to give parliamentary effect to the decision. 
But he lost no time in trying his parliamentary paces. He 
made his maiden speech on February 23, 1869, on Lord 
Bury's motion to alter the law compelling members on 
accepting office under the Crown to seek re-election. He 
opposed the motion in an elaborate set speech, the rhetoric 
of which was a little in excess of the needs of the occasion. 
It was extremely well received, highly praised by Gladstone 

1869] MAIDEN SPEECH 211 

and much discussed in the Press. " The speech of this future 
Solicitor-General, as so many regard him," said the Specta- 
tor, " was listened to with the most fastidious criticism on 
both sides of the House, and on both sides of the House 
evidently more than fulfilled expectation." In a long 
criticism of the speech the Manchester Examiner referred to 
the unusual curiosity with which the first utterance of 
" Historicus " had been awaited, and its marked success. 
The writer dwelt upon the distinction of his presence, his 
" clear and pleasant voice," his lucidity of style, his carefully 
marshalled argument, his irony and sarcasm and his power 
of combining breadth of view with monotony of detail. 
But his oratory was not free from faults. " It wants free- 
dom and spontaneity. . . . The slowness with which he 
speaks tends to become tedious. His delivery and manner 
are too didactic and dogmatic, and it must be confessed that 
his apparent confidence in himself verges upon, if it does 
not pass, the line which separates confidence from self- 
conceit." It remained true to the end that in his prepared 
speeches Harcourt tended to be +00 formal and elaborate. 
Nature gave him an unrivalled endowment for debate a 
full mind, a ready speech and an abundant humour but 
he never wholly trusted it, and it was not uncommon for 
him to rise and delight the House with a breezy and devas- 
tating retort upon an opponent and then relapse upon a 
prepared speech which destroyed much of the effect of his 
livelier, natural style. 

It was to legal rather than general political subjects that 
Harcourt applied himself in his parliamentary apprentice- 
ship. On March i he attacked the question of " corrup- 
tion " at elections. 

A week later he raised a kindred subject, moving for the 
appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into the 
registration of voters in parliamentary boroughs. Sir Robert 
Peel, he said, had stated that the battle of the constitution 
must be fought in the registration courts. English govern- 
ment was understood to rest on the House of Commons, 
and the House of Commons on the constituencies, but what 


the constituencies rested on was by no means clear. They 
appeared to stand on the overseer, who worked on the rate- 
book, an imperfect and incorrect document for the purpose. 
He set out with great clearness the existing chaos, resulting 
in the exclusion from the poll of many qualified electors, 
especially from the working-classes, and asked for a Com- 
mittee to recommend the necessary legislation. The motion 
was agreed to, and on March 19 the Committee was appointed. 
Stafford Northcote's name was the first on the list, but Har- 
court was elected Chairman and drafted the report. Dilke 
was also a member. The report is dated July 2 of the same 
year (1869). In 1871 a Bill was brought in by Harcourt, 
Dilke and others to give effect to this report. The question, 
however, aroused little interest, and when the order for the 
Committee was read, the Bill after a short discussion was 

In his advocacy of reform in the " fifties " Harcourt had 
taken the view that the power of the middle classes was 
excessive as against the working classes, and his early- 
activities in Parliament were largely concerned with improv- 
ing the political and social status of the working man. " I 
have always deeply regretted," he said in the debates on the 
Assessed Rates Bill, " and I regret now, that we have not 
in the House a member of the working classes to represent 
their interests." This attitude and Harcourt 's proposals 
gave great offence to the Standard. Harcourt desired the 
Bill to be amended in a radical direction. It was designed 
to remove a very real grievance. The Reform Act of 1867 
had secured household suffrage by an amendment which 
abolished the compounding of rates. This change, however, 
proved to be very hard on many poor people, who now had 
to face for the first time the visit of the rate-collector without 
having secured, in many cases, any reduction of their rents, 
and to find in one week money to meet a rate demand note 
for three months or for six. In Harcourt's words " the 
working classes had gained their political rights at the expense 
of their social comfort." 

The Standard was outraged by this proposal to encourage 


the working man to be improvident. The three months' or 
six months' demand for rates was a blessed stimulus to him 
to be thrifty, and any interference with it was an attack on 
" habits of providence." Harcourt did not carry his amend- 
ment to the Bill, but he secured from Goschen, who had the 
measure in charge, some valuable concessions which mitigated 
the grievance. 

It was Harcourt's practice throughout his connection 
with Oxford to deliver a New Year's address on public 
affairs to his constituents at the annual dinner of the Ancient 
Order of Druids. In his speech on January 4, 1870, he 
urged that the disestablishment of the Irish Church had 
not settled our account with Ireland, and that the land 
question called for immediate treatment. The tenant's 
right in the improvements which his industry had invested 
in the soil must be secured. " Nothing could be more 
unjust, or, to use a phrase employed by Lord Clarendon, 
' more felonious ' than that a man, because he possessed 
the right to evict a tenant, should exercise that right without 
making any allowance for the capital which had been invested 
by the tenant in the improvement of the soil." His other 
main theme was education, and he pleaded for a national, 
unsectarian, publicly-supported and publicly-controlled 
system. This attitude on education was consistently main- 
tained to the end, and he was one of the most active 
opponents of the Balfour Education Bill of 1902. 

If Gladstone had had a comparatively easy task in attack- 
ing the first of the great Irish grievances, he paid the penalty 
when he came to the second. The tragic record of the mis- 
government of Ireland had no more shameful chapter than 
that dealing with the land. Owned by absentee landlords 
and governed by an absentee Parliament, the interests of 
the tillers of the soil had been shamelessly disregarded. 
" Between the Union and the year 1870," says Lord Morley, 1 
" Acts dealing with Irish land had been passed at West- 
minster. Every one of these Acts was in the interest of the 
landlord and against the tenant. A score of Insurrection 
1 Morley, Life of Gladstone, Bk. vi., Chap. ii. 


Acts, no Tenant Right Act. Meanwhile Ireland had gone 
down into the dark gulf of the Famine." Out of the 
misery that was the fruit of this wrong came Fenianism and 
crime and the deadly expedient of coercion. Gladstone 
addressed himself to the task of removing the wrong by 
establishing the cultivator in his holding. His idea was 
modest enough. It was, he wrote in a letter to Cardinal 
Manning, " to prevent the landlord from using the terrible 
weapon of undue and unjust eviction, by so framing the 
handle that it shall cut his hands with the sharp edge of 
pecuniary damages. The man evicted without any fault 
and suffering the usual loss by it, will receive whatever the 
custom of the country gives, and, where there is no custom, 
according to a scale, besides whatever he can claim for 
permanent buildings or reclamation of land." In this way 
it was hoped wanton eviction would be extinguished and 
with it the power of the unjust augmentation of rent, which 
could only co-exist with the power of wanton or arbitrary 

It was the first time for nearly a century that British 
statesmanship had entered on a large act of appeasement 
towards Irish secular discontent, and Gladstone found himself 
in the midst of a hornets' nest. He was assailed on all sides 
by actual hostility or competitive proposals. The Duke of 
Argyll was actively opposed to the scheme. Bright was 
urging a project of purchase by state aid ; Chichester- 
Fortescue, the Irish Chief Secretary (who had married Lady 
Waldegrave) , was insisting that more than compensation to 
tenants for their improvements was needed to settle the 
Irish land laws, and Clarendon was writing to Granville 
predicting the imminent break-up of the Government. In 
the midst of these conflicting counsels Stuart Mill was urging 
outside that the only effective plan was to buy out the land- 
lords. The proposal was greeted as a wildly impracticable 
one, but in the end it was found to be the only way out. 
Harcourt, while giving general support to the Irish Land 
Bill, did not like the graduated scale of compensation, anc 
wrote at great length to The Times analysing what seemed 

i87o] EDUCATION BILL OF 1870 215 

to him to be its probable disastrous effects. He was opposed 
to the excessive subdivision of land and to peasant pro- 
prietorship, which he thought led to starving the soil. In 
the end Gladstone carried the Bill through without disaster 
to his Government. 


It was in connection with the other great measure of 
1870, the Education Bill, that Harcourt first crossed swords 
with Gladstone. Harcourt's expressed intention of adopting 
an independent attitude in Parliament was fully carried out 
in the debates on this Bill. He took an emphatically non- 
clerical view. He was a member of the Birmingham League, 
which stood for a national, free and compulsory system and 
for the absence of any kind of sectarian pressure. It was ] 
as a member of the League that Joseph Chamberlain first / 
corresponded with him. Sir Charles Dilke, with whom I 
Harcourt was closely associated at this time, went further,/ 
and stood for a purely secular system. In an extremely' 
interesting letter written during the progress of the measure, 
Harcourt joins issue with him on this point. 

Harcourt to Dilke. 

14, STRATFORD PLACE, 1876. I sincerely hope that you and I 
and Dixon shall be able to agree on some common course of action 
on Monday, as I feel sure that everything depends on it. We are 
fighting a great cause with inferior forces and everything must 
depend on husbanding our strength, using it to the best advantage 
and not exposing ourselves to needless defeats. We must always 
seem to win even though we do not get all we want. That is what 
up to this point we have accomplished. But we must not allow 
ourselves to be precipitated upon destruction by men who may 
be philosophers but who are not politicians (Fawcett). 

We have thrown up the first earthwork against denominationalism 
in the Amendment, and we have smashed up the main assault of 
the enemy. We must now retire on the second line of defence. 
What is that to be ? I lay down first that the thing to be resisted 
is denominationalism. If it can be got rid of altogether best. 
If not, then to the greatest degree next best. 

Now as a politician (not as a philosopher) I am quite satisfied 
that neither in the House of Commons nor in the country can we 
beat denominationalism by secularism. If we attempt to meet the 


flood by the direct dyke it will simply be over our heads, and we 
shall go to the bottom. We must break the force of the wave by 
a side slope, and deal with its diminished weight afterwards as we 
best may. 

If the Government succeed in Gladstone's plan of rival sectarian 
teaching by all Denominations out of school hours this is nothing 
but denominationalism run mad, and seems to me the very worst 
thing that could happen. 1 For my part I would prefer one sect to 
half a dozen on the principle that you can't have too little of a bad 

There remains that which to my mind is the only practicable 
means of defence. I mean the acceptance of the simple Bible 
reading in the time set apart for religious instruction exclude 
everything else. Behind such a line of defence as this we shall rally 
a great party I believe the most powerful party in the country. 

Whatever objections you may have to the scheme it has the 
enormous advantage that it is substantially defensible, which in my 
judgment no other is. We shall drive our opponents to contend 
that the Bible is not enough to satisfy them and that they must and 
will have sectarianism, and in that position we can punch their 
heads instead of their punching ours. 

You will say that after all this is nothing but a form of denomina- 
tionalism and so it is logically I admit it. But it is the smallest 
amount of denominationalism which in the present state of public 
opinion is attainable. Let us give our Republic not the best possible 
laws but the best which they will bear. 

This is the essence of politics ; all the rest is speculation. . . 

On the second reading of Forster's Bill, George Dixon, 
the spokesman of the Birmingham League, moved : 

That this House is of opinion that no measure for the elementary 
education of the people will afford a satisfactory or permanent 
settlement which leaves the principle of religious instruction in 
schools supported by public funds and rates to be determined by 
local authorities. 

When the debate on this amendment was resumed on 
March 15, Harcourt made a considerable speech. He defined 
the doctrine of religious equality : 

If I understand the doctrine it is this that the State in its 
relations with its citizens is absolutely indifferent to all forms of 
religion and religious teaching, and as regards any funds raised 
either directly by the State, or indirectly under its authority, one 

1 In a letter to The Times (March 28) Harcourt says this would make 
the national schoolroom " the drum ecclesiastic of rival sects." 


form of religious opinion has as full a right to share in the appropria- 
tion of such funds as another. 

After prolonged discussion the Government met the point 
of the amendment by accepting the Cowper-Temple proposal 
that no religious catechism or religious formulary which is 
distinctive of any particular denomination should be taught 
in any school provided out of the rates, at the same time, 
however, conceding an increased grant from the Exchequer 
to denominational schools. This did not satisfy Harcourt, 
who had tabled the wider amendment that the religious 
instruction given in rate-aided schools should be unde- 
nominational in character and confined to unsectarian 
instruction in the Bible. In the course of the debate Glad- 
stone said that Harcourt had described the Cowper-Temple 
amendment as exhibiting pure and undiluted denomination- 
alism. " I am at a loss to conceive with what kind of fairness 
any person who has examined the matter can contrive to force 
even his organs of speech to utter such a statement, "he said. 

The next day Harcourt wrote as follows to Gladstone : 

Harcourt to Gladstone. 

14, STRATFORD PLACE, June 25, 1870. I am sure you will be 
neither surprised nor displeased that I should be sensitive to censure 
coming from one for whom both in his public capacity and in his 
private character I have always felt and I hope not failed to show the 
deepest respect. 

You will I feel confident forgive me if I am anxious to show you 
that the phrase of mine (however rhetorically " undiluted ") on 
which you commented yesterday did not in fact bear the sense 
which you attributed to it. 

I did not say that Mr. C. Temple's amendment was " pure and 
undiluted denominationalism." To have said so would have been 
no doubt absurd and untrue. What I did say was something which 
I conceive was very different. I expressed an opinion that Mr. 
[ C. Temple's amendment was an ineffectual counterpoise and safe- 
guard against the denominationalism of the rest of the Bill, and 
especially of the new proposal to increase the Parliamentary grants 
' (to denominational schools). And therefore that the Bill not by 
virtue of nor in spite of Mr. C. Temple's amendment remained a 
! : scheme of "pure and undiluted denominationalism." 
I said in short that 

-f- 2 4 = 2, not that -j- 2 = 2. 


I may be quite wrong about my ( 4) and therefore in the net 
result, but surely I am guiltless of a misrepresentation which would 
have been unpardonable. 

I did not feel that my opinions were of sufficient importance to 
justify me in the crisis of a great division attempting any public 
explanation. But I trust you will not misunderstand my motives 
in thus seeking to set myself right in your opinion. 

I feel sorry that in maintaining to the best of my power what I 
have long held to be a principle of the first importance, viz. that of 
unsectarian religious instruction, I should have been forced in some 
degree into opposition to the policy of the Government, as well as 
to that of my friends of the League. But this seemed to me a ques- 
tion on which the assertion of independent opinion was not only 
admissible but necessary. 

In withdrawing my amendment after your declaration last week 
with the object of supporting in Committee that of Mr. Jacob 
Bright, I took the course which I thought most likely to promote 
the cause I had at heart and the least calculated to obstruct the Bill. 

I should be very sorry to remain under the impression which the 
tone of your remarks rather conveyed to me, that in freely criticising 
the religious clauses of the Bill you considered that I had been guilty 
either of disloyalty to your Government or of want of respect towards 

Three days passed without reply. Then on June 28 Har- 
court alluded to the misconception in the House, and there- 
upon Gladstone wrote to him as follows : 

Gladstone to Harcourt. 

10, DOWNING STREET, June 28. As you gave me an opportunity 
this day in the House of expressing the pleasure with which I 
learned that I had mistaken the intended application of your refer- 
ence to pure and undiluted denominationalism, I need only thank 
you for your letter and join very sincerely in your expressions of 
regret, while most fully admitting the permanent title of conviction 
to guide conduct, and assuring you that I never felt myself even 
tempted to impute to you the slightest trespass beyond the bounds 
of public duty. 

It was the first rift in the lute, but it foreshadowed many 
a difference. The two men, though they were perhaps more 
nearly agreed on the main issues of politics than any of their 
leading contemporaries, were born to strike mutual sparks. 
Both were intellectual autocrats and intolerant of opposition, 
and temperamentally they were remote from each other. 
Harcourt to the end was sensible of Gladstone's moral 

i87o] BURDEN OF RATES 219 

grandeur, but his high spirits were a little chilled by his 
senior's enormous seriousness. He loved the fun of the fight 
and could not restrain his gift of caricature, and his tendency 
to drive in his points with an exaggerated phrase offended 
the austere mind of Gladstone, whose excesses proceeded 
from the other extreme of an ingenious intellect so painfully 
concerned to be exact that it often gave the impression of a 
deliberate attempt to obscure the truth. 

In the debate on the financial clauses of the Bill, Harcourt 
gave forcible expression to two themes which were always 
present to his mind the unjust system of local taxation and 
the excessive expenditure on armaments. After paying a 
tribute to the financial genius of Gladstone, who had so 
rearranged the burdens of taxation as to make them as little 
felt as possible, and had thus incidentally removed one of the 
checks on expenditure, he said the state of local taxation 
was a disgrace to the country. 

It was unequal in its incidence as regarded classes, and unfair in 
its incidence as regarded property. It was impossible to defend it 
on any principle of reason or justice. . . . We had carried our 
system of imperial taxation to great perfection, and swept away 
the whole of our financial rubbish under the bed of local taxation. 
. . . House rent was an article of first importance to the poor man. 
... It meant the decent comfort of his family, the health of his 
sons, the virtue of his daughters ; and it was upon this that they were 
going to place the heavy burden of a new tax. For the increased 
rate meant nothing but an enhanced house rent. He asked on what 
districts the tax would fall most heavily. On the East of London, 
on the slums of Liverpool, and places of that kind which had fewest 
schools, because they were least able to provide them. In these 
districts people would be unable to pay the school fees, and the rate 
would be further raised, the burden falling on the provident. artisan. 

The rate should be limited, and the remainder charged on the 
Imperial Exchequer. Money for the army and navy was not 
charged on local rates, and the hostile force of ignorance was actually 
present while the army and navy were increased against an invasion 
which he thought never would occur. The State of Massachusetts 
spent more on education than was spent by the British Empire. 
One -tenth of the money spent on fortifications (a vote of which 
members were probably ashamed) would have sufficed to cover the 
country with schools from one end to the other. . . . 

He had looked into the Navy Estimates lately, and found that the 


last ironclad which was built cost a sum about equal to the whole 
of the voluntary subscriptions for education. Having arrived at a 
point in the cost of engines of war when the expense of fitting up a 
school was about equal to the cost of a cannon, the House might 
fairly borrow from the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Minister 
of War as much money to relieve local taxation as was necessary 
to make this a workable Bill. 

He reminded the House that the Birmingham League had 
indeed proposed that one-third of the cost of education 
should be borne by the rates, but that proposal was coupled 
with free education. They had never contemplated that 
the classes benefiting should pay in fees and in rates. It 
was right that some charge should be laid on local rates to 
ensure good local administration. He suggested that the 
limit might be one-sixth. He then moved an amendment 
to this effect, but was defeated by 176 to 21. 

The Education Act of 1870 did not establish a complete 
and uniform system of education, but it did more than was 
contemplated by the Government when it was first intro- 
duced. This enlargement of its scope was largely due to the 
determined efforts of the friends of the Birmingham League 
who sat below the gangway, and to no one more than to 
Harcourt. It was very much more than a Bill to " complete 
the voluntary system and to fill up gaps," as it had been 
represented in the first instance. Education was not made 
free of fees as the Birmingham League had desired, but power 
was given to remit the fee in cases of extreme poverty. 
Neither was the desire of all advanced educationists that 
education should be uniformly compulsory attained, but a 
long step was taken in that direction by enabling the Boards 
to make by-laws under which attendance was compulsory. 

While the struggle over the Education Bill was at its 
height Gladstone lost an able colleague, and Harcourt a 
close personal connection by the death of Lord Clarendon. 
He had filled a conspicuous place in the public life of the 
country since his mission to Spain in 1833 when he laid the 
foundations of the Quadruple Alliance. He had been thrice 
Foreign Minister, and when Gladstone formed his Govern- 
ment he had expressed the opinion, apropos of some opposi- 


tion from the Queen, that he was the only living British 
statesman whose name carried any weight in the councils of 
Europe. He was a j ovial, free-spoken man , wholly immersed 
in foreign politics and always a little alarmed about the 
advanced wing of the party and Harcourt's tendency to kick 
over the traces. Largely through his marriage with Claren- 
don's niece, Harcourt had been brought into the closest 
association with him, and though his intellectual debt to him 
was not of the nature of that which he owed to Cornewall 
Lewis, it was considerable, and on the personal side the loss 
was a heavy one. 


It came at a critical moment in the affairs of Europe. 
Clarendon died on June 27, and on July 6 Lord Granville 
took over the seals of his office, to encounter the most sudden 
and unexpected storm that had swept over the Continent 
in living memory. The Franco-German War came like a 
bolt from the blue. On the afternoon of July 8, Hammond, 
the Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office, told 
Granville that in all his long experience he had never known 
so great a lull in foreign affairs, and that he was not aware of 
any important question that he (Granville) would have to 
deal with. At six o'clock that evening Granville received a 
telegram informing him that the provisional Government of 
Spain had offered the Crown to Prince Leopold, a Catholic 
member of the house of Hohenzollern and of Leopold's 
acceptance of the offer. A week later France had declared 
war on Germany. The responsibility for the war is pretty 
evenly divided. On the one side, Bismarck certainly desired 
it as the instrument for unifying Germany. On the other 
side, the tottering Imperialism of France contemplated it 
as a means of recovering influence. The King of Prussia 
did not want it, and yielded to the French opposition to the 
Hohenzollern succession ; but the preposterous de Gramont, 
the French Foreign Minister, intent on playing the role of 
Talleyrand, sought to convert the surrender of the King of 
Prussia into a public humiliation. He demanded through 


the French Ambassador Benedetti that the King should bind 
himself for all future time not to consent to a Hohenzollern 
candidature, and sought the backing of the British Govern- 
ment in this gratuitous demand. In addition to this exten- 
sion of the trouble, a despatch came from Paris asking for an 
apologetic letter from the King to the French Emperor. 
The King was naturally angry at the attempt to turn his 
pacific action into a French diplomatic victory, and told the 
French Ambassador at Ems that he would conduct future 
negotiations direct with Paris. He framed a telegram re- 
jecting the new demand, and left it to Bismarck to decide 
whether the rejection should be communicated to the Ger- 
man Ambassadors and to the Press. Bismarck reduced the 
message by eliminating some words, gave it a more decisive 
form, and issued it to the world. There followed a night of 
agitation in Paris, and on July 15 the Emperor declared war. 

Opinion in England at the time regarded France as the 
aggressor. The public distrust of Napoleon had fluctuated 
during his reign, but had never wholly subsided. No one had 
expressed a stronger detestation than Harcourt of the 
methods of corruption employed by Napoleon. He had in 
1859 believed that war was inevitable, and had been an 
enthusiastic supporter of the Volunteer movement, and even 
of Palmerston's fortification scheme. His opinion had not 
altered now. 

Speaking to his constituents in the autumn (October 18) 
during the progress of the war, he said : 

The Liberal party are of opinion that the war commenced by 
France is entirely unjust ; that France forced upon an unwilling 
people, upon a pretext which hardly pretended to be serious, a war 
that had no object but that of ambition and aggrandizement. The 
German people have met that menace in a spirit of fortitude that 
truly admirable ; for they did not anticipate the wonderful success 
that they have since achieved. One of the causes for which war 
was undertaken was to prevent the national unity of Germany. 
. . . Now, one of the first results of the war has been the fall of 
the imperial system in France. . . . That Government rested on I. 
three principles. It may be said to have rested on a tripod ; it * 
rested, first, upon ignorance, because it appealed not to the enlight- 
ened mind, but to the ignorance of France, for its support. Its 



i87o] NEUTRAL RIGHTS IN 1870 223 

second support was corruption corruption which was used without 
any reserve, and used at the expense of the nation. And its last 
and principal support was armed force the army of France. 

On August 2 he asked a question in the House of Commons 
which drew from Mr. Gladstone an important statement on 
the origin of the war. Harcourt asked for the production 
of the negotiations instituted by the late Lord Clarendon 
before the war to secure disarmament on the part of France 
and Prussia, and why Baron Brunnow's suggestion of a 
protocol to be drawn up by the Great Powers recognizing 
the withdrawal of the Hohenzollern candidature was not 
followed, and whether any attempt had been made to secure 
a combined remonstrance from the Great Powers against 
this unnecessary war. 

As in the case of the Civil War in America, both belligerents 
proclaimed their grievances against the exercise of neutrality 
by this country, and " Historicus " once more laid down 
the law in The Times on the obligations of the neutral State. 
After stating the rules of neutrality, he pointed out that, 
where there was no blockade, " the sole duty of the neutral 
Government in respect of contraband trade carried on by its 
subjects is to be passive and not to interfere between them 
and the right of capture which the law of nations gives to the 

In the light of the European War of 1914-18, and the 
restrictions imposed by England on neutrals, it is important 
to record Harcourt's judgment on the position in 1870. He 
protested against the contention that neutrals were bound 
to prevent the export of contraband to either party, which 
was, he thought, both impolitic and impracticable, since in 
order to ensure anything of this kind it " would be necessary 
to establish a belligerent excise in every workshop and yard 
in the neutral country." The right of the capture of con- 
traband was confined to the high seas. France and Prussia 
could trade in contraband with the neighbouring countries 
of Holland and Belgium without hindrance. This same 
consideration would, he said, make any blockade impractic- 
able, since Prussia might as well be supplied through 


Antwerp and Rotterdam as through Hamburg. We have 
lived to see a very different state of affairs in which it was 
found practicable to exercise a very efficient supervision of 
neutral trade with Prussia, both by sea and land. 

Harcourt's generation would assuredly have been startled 
to see the power that resides nowadays with the Executive 
Government. In a letter to The Times (July 30) he lays 
down the theory of the source of the authority of a Royal 
Proclamation : 

A proclamation of the Crown can of its own force and virtue 
create no illegality as respects the subject. It rehearses and records ; 
it cannot make law. If it were otherwise the liberties of Englishmen 
would not be worth an hour's purchase. It is true that in certain 
cases the Legislature has conferred on the Crown power to forbid 
certain things by Proclamation or Order in Council, such as the 
export of munitions of war. But the power depends not on the 
Proclamation but on the Statute, and it is only exercised when war 
is anticipated with this country, and in defence of the interests of 
the Realm. 

It is true that Harcourt was contemplating international 
affairs only, but the passage has a much wider application 
now, when Acts are passed by Parliament giving the widest 
limits to government by administrative order. 

His sympathy with Germany did not prejudice his view of 
the law when it operated in favour of France. On August i 
he wrote to The Times on the question of whether coal 
should or should not be regarded as contraband. Prussia 
was disturbed at the suggestion that British ships might be 
supplying coal to the French fleet in the Baltic. That such 
provision was possible was due to the maritime superiority 
of France. As a neutral Great Britain must make no conces- 
sion which would weaken her own vital interest in time of 
war. The advantages (he said) which France may now 
happen to enjoy by virtue of her powerful marine are engines 
of self-defence of which we may, we know not how soon, 
stand sorely in need. No country in the world is bound 
by anything like the interest which compels us, even in a 
situation of neutrality, to respect in others, in order that we 


may maintain for ourselves, the unimpaired rights which 
belong to maritime superiority. To other nations these 
rights may be much ; to us they are alL 


By the end of the Session of 1870 it had become apparent 
that Harcourt's support of the Government was qualified 
by an independence which was apt to be more formidable 
than the hostility of the Opposition. He had the fighting 
temperament, and was happier in disagreement than in 
agreement. He worked hard, and hit hard. Neither then 
nor at any time could he resist the temptation to let his gifts 
of wit and satire have full play, and he made enemies among 
his political friends as cheerfully as among his political foes. 
Like Scott's schoolmaster, who apologized to the boy for 
knocking him down by saying that he did not know his own 
strength, Harcourt hurt more than he knew and more than 
he intended. But he hurt without malice, and his essential 
good nature usually healed wounds that his hasty and 
impetuous temper had made. He showed little respect for 
the Front Bench, and " incidents " with his leaders were of 
frequent occurrence. Generally they ended happily enough. 
Thus we find W. E. Forster, whom he had fought with so 
much tenacity during the progress of the Education Bill, 
writing to him : 

W. E. Forster to Harcourt. 

80, ECCLESTON SQUARE, January 20, 1871. Few letters have ever 
given me more pleasure than your most kind note, but it has also 
given me some pangs of remorse, for I feel now that I have sometimes 
thought unjustly of you. However, in future we shall understand 
one another when we differ, and very likely differ less than we had 

And later, in the course of the conflict over the Abolition 
of Purchase in the Army, Sir John Coleridge, the Solicitor- 
General, wrote : 

Sir J. Coleridge to Harcourt. 

i, SUSSEX SQUARE, August 16, 1871. Your few words yesterday 
were most kind and I assure you touched me not a little. I 
believe I was very ill-tempered and unreasonable with you. But 


indeed for the last month I have hardly been able to keep about 
and have never been so weak and ill from work in my life. . . . 
Pray forgive me if I said what you feel to require forgiveness. I 
felt it the more as now in many years we have never had an unkind 

It is shabby to say sharp words in public and apologize in private ; 
but the first time I speak and can find or make an opportunity I will 
say what I can to show my respect and regard for you and to set 
straight anything that is wrong. At my time of lif e I cannot readily 
afford to lose a friend. 

It was not by any means the last of the tiffs with the 
Solicitor-General, for if Harcourt was critical of most of his 
leaders he was especially critical of the law officers. He 
pursued them with that abnormal industry and research 
which he had applied in the past to Seward and Fish, 
Napoleon and Derby and the rest of his multitudinous list 
of public opponents. After one of the numerous conflicts 
we find him stating his general attitude to the Government 
in a letter to Coleridge in the following terms : 

Harcourt to Sir J. Coleridge. 

Wednesday, December, 1872. I am very anxious that our conversa- 
tion of to-night (which I regard on your part as a very friendly one) 
should not be misunderstood as regards myself. 

I am speaking not of course with respect to you but with regard to 
others when I say that I am very willing and should be glad to be 
regarded as a friend. 

I am equally willing to be treated as a. foe if that course is preferred. 
As the French say, " c'est a prendre ou a laisser." I am still young 
enough, ambitious enough if you please, vain enough to be 
indifferent to either fortune. Only I don't want you or others to 
suppose that antagonism, if there be antagonism, is of my making 
or seeking. 

I should not have said so much only your good nature led me into 
saying more perhaps than I should have said, and I therefore wish 
that you should be under no misapprehension as to what I really 
meant. . . . 

The " others " of whom he was speaking in this letter no 
doubt included the Prime Minister himself. Time was not 
improving the relation between Gladstone and Harcourt. 
A note of asperity became increasingly evident in the replies 
of Gladstone to the criticisms of his intractable follower. 
In the course of the debate on the Budget of 1871 he told 


lim that if his strictures on military expenditure were not 
extravagantly unjust, it was his duty to try to put an end to 
:he Government. And later in the year a more sustained 
iiscord arose between the two statesmen in regard to the 
ise of the Royal Prerogative for the abolition of the practice 
:>f purchasing commissions in the Army. This strong action 
had arisen out of the drastic army reforms introduced under 
:he influence of the Franco-German War. Gladstone's 
proposal to abolish purchase had met with fierce hostility 
in the House of Lords, who saw in the scheme a menace to 
the aristocratic control of the Army. Gladstone had replied 
by announcing the abolition by Royal Warrant. This 
unusual procedure was an opportunity after Harcourt's own 
tieart for the discussion of nice points of constitutional law, 
md he flung himself into the fight with a zest that brought 
aim into violent conflict with the Solicitor-General and his 
Chief. He had supported the proposal in the first instance 
because he understood that it was a purely statutory execu- 
tion of a power conferred on the Executive by Act of Parlia- 
ment. But it appeared in the course of debate that the 
Solicitor-General based the Government's action on an 
obscure statute of Charles II asserting royal supremacy over 
the Army. There was much bandying of references and a 
leated personal explanation. In a speech made on August 
15, Harcourt made a hit by saying, " They were entitled to 
j:all upon the owner of those two distinguished steeds, the 
Solicitor-General and the Attorney-General, to name the one 
py which he intended to win, whether by the Solicitor- 
Greneral on Prerogative or the Attorney-General on Statute." 
The Solicitor-General had distinctly said that purchase was 
abolished by the prerogative of the Crown ; that the Crown 
was the sole governor and regulator of the Army, and that 
Parliament had nothing to do with it. " Why," said Har- 
:ourt, " Strafford died on the block and Clarendon was 
disgraced for pretending, the one and the other, that the 
3rown was the supreme governor and regulator of the Army.' ' 
He proceeded with his historical doctrine down to the Revolu- 
tion, the Bill of Rights and the annual Mutiny Act, and 


declared that there had already been too much royal influence 
about the Army, and that the abolition of purchase would 
do something to get rid of it. But there had been no 
reason for introducing the " odious and detestable word 

Gladstone replied with great acerbity. After commenting 
on " the historical readings without end " of Harcourt, he 
said, " To them (Harcourt and Fawcett) all things are clear 
' and lucid, owing to the piercing characters of the intellects 
which they possess so different from the dull brains of 
common men and official plodders." 

No act of Gladstone's administration aroused more dis- 
quiet, not among his opponents, but among his friends, than 
this incident, and the venerable Earl Russell, now in retire- 
ment, wrote to Harcourt : 

PEMBROKE LODGE, August 17, 1871. You must allow me to 
congratulate you on your progress in constitutional studies. What- 
ever you may think of the decay of statesmanship, I have deeply 
regretted the disappearance of constitutional lawyers, and I am 
happy to find from your late speeches and your admirable letter in 
The Times to-day, that the race is reviving. 

I disapprove strongly of the abuse of the prerogative in the issue 
of the Royal Warrant, and see very clearly that if the power had 
been used against some measure the House of Commons liked, instead 
of the Act of 1809, which they disliked, we should have heard much 
of the dispensing Power. I hope, you will go on, and set right the 
facts imagined by our Ministers. They seem to me to be wanting 
in truth whenever they are obliged to answer on ministerial or 
constitutional points. 

It was not easy at this time to fit Harcourt into any 
category. On the constitutional side he took his stand on 
the blessed Revolution of 1688, which had settled all things 
well. Ecclesiastically, he was the most uncompromising 
Erastian, to whom the Church was as much a department 
of State as the Local Government Board, and to whom the 
modern Anglican movement was only a pernicious reversion 
to Romanism. He was a modern Radical in his passion 
for peace, his hatred of war, his international outlook, his 
faith in the widest extension of self-government, and his 

i8 7 i] ANTI-FEMINISM 229 

enlightened economic and financial convictions. But he 
cultivated little idealism. His temper was aristocratic and 
his tastes were of the eighteenth century. He loved the 
formalist of Pope's poetry and the rationalism of Walpole's 
politics. Mr. T. P. O'Connor once remarked to him that he 
would like to revisit the world a century after his death and 
see what changes had taken place. " I have quite an 
opposite wish," said Harcourt. " I would like to go back. 
I would like to have been a member of the Cabinet of Sir 
Robert Walpole." Harcourt had a genuine affection for 
the working classes, but an unconcealed dislike for the new 
commercial plutocracy, and on such subjects as the social 
status of womeruhe was as uncompromising a reactionary 
as Dr. Johnson. Writing to Mrs. Henry Ponsonby, in answer 
to an appeal for his support in the promotion of the univer- 
sity training of women, he said : 

Harcourt to Mrs. Ponsonby. 

TRINITY COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE, November 23, 1871. I am far 
too deeply committed to go back unless I am prepared like Cranmer 
(which I am not) to put my hand into the fire. I could not retract 
in the presence of this University the deep oaths I have -sworn 
against "the higher education of woman." Even your influence 
cannot convince me. Have I not resisted to the death Lady Amber- 
ley who regards me as what Dizzy calls " one of the nincompoops of 
Politics." You will say why ? That is just what I can't tell you. 
A man even a lawyer and a Radical must have some prejudices, 
and this is as respectable a one as another, perhaps more so. I am 
a country gentleman on this subject. You might just as well try 
to persuade him to kill foxes or not to preserve pheasants. I have 
an instinct, a sentiment, a passion, a prejudice call it what you 
please. I don't profess to account for it. You might as well ask 
me why I am in love with one woman rather than another. 

Don't believe that this arises from a disparaging idea or feeling 
about women. Nothing could be less true. No man has owed more 
to women or respects them more or has felt their influence more 
than I have. As to their education, God knows a pupil of Mons. 
Roche (Th&re'se Harcourt was Roche's pupil) knows ten times more 
than ninety-nine out of 100 men who take their degrees in this 
place. But I do shrink from assimilating their status in any respect 
to that of men. It seems to me that their charm, their influence, 
their force depends so much on their dis -similarity in modes of life, 
modes of action, modes of thought. I know I am not enlightened. 


All my younger friends tell me so. Herbert, Dilke, etc., call me 
an " antiquated Radical of the poor old John Bright school." I be- 
lieve it is quite true. I have none of the new lights, and am 
altogether behind the age. But don't be discouraged you have 
plenty far better men than I on your side here who are working for 
your cause. . . . 

I am greatly occupied about my Land Question which grows upon 
me in interest and importance. I have been much cheered by 
letters of approval from Gladstone (no very partial critic), but still 
more from Hastings, Russell (Duke of Bedford), dated from Wo burn- 
does not it sound strange ? I have told him if he thinks so, why does 
not he say so. People would listen to him who will pay no attention 
to the lackland ideologues of Greenwich and Oxford. 

I had a charming letter from Dizzy, very flattering of course 
about everything except land, on which he advised me to say nothing 
in Parliament. 

The allusion to the land question relates to a new crusade 
on which he had embarked against the law's delays and the 
evils of the land system. In 1871 and 1872 he wrote to The 
Times an important series of letters on Law Reform. These! 
letters are in amplification and explanation of an address ., 
which he gave in his capacity of President of the Jurispru- 
dence Department of the Social Science Congress held at 
Leeds in October 1871. The address was afterwards issued 
in pamphlet form as a Plan for the Amendment of the Law, and 
embodies radical and far-reaching proposals, going beyond 
the conclusions reached by the Judicature Commission,! 
which had then issued part of their report. He complained 
of the way in which the Inns of Court made use of their 
rich endowments, and suggested the termination by Act of 
Parliament of these " ropes of sand held together principally 
by dinners," and their reconstruction as a legal university. 
He sought a closer union between the two branches of the 
legal profession, remedies for the existing confusion in 
English statute law, and a reorganization of the superior 
courts. He even attacked the long vacation, which served, 
he declared, no real purpose except to protect " the monopoly, 
already sufficiently great, of a few principal practitioners." 
His iconoclasm extended to the office of the Lord Chancellor 

i8 7 i] THE DEAD HAND 231 

himself, essentially a party politician and yet the head of a 
judicial system carefully guarded at other points from 
political influence. 

Not content with this assault on his profession, Harcourt 
turned to the attack of the most sacred creed of his class. 
If the administration of the law was bad, the state of the 
land laws was worse. " To misuse and waste land is nothing 
else but to waste and misuse England. If a man has 50,000 
a year in the Funds and chooses to dissipate it in riotous 
living he alone is the worse for it. The stock passes into 
other hands who know how to employ it better. . . . But 
if a man with 50,000 a year in land lets his property go to 
rack and ruin it is not he alone that suffers. The homesteads 
and the villages over 50,000 acres and the people who inhabit 
them suffer by his fault. The land is ill-farmed . . . the 
peasants are ill-housed, ill-paid, ill-taught, ill-fed." He did 
[not want state ownership, nor peasant proprietorship ; but 
le wanted the land set free tp the play of economic influences 
the destruction of thelaw of entail, which enabled the 
lead hand to tie it up and encumber and impoverish it by 
estrictions which played havoc with the interests of the 

It will be said that the present system is necessary in order to 
ceep up old families. I venture, however, to think that old families, 
f they are worth keeping up, will keep up themselves. And if 
:hey are not able to take care of themselves it is not for their advant- 
age, certainly not for the advantage of the community, that the law 
should attempt to keep them up. A law framed with such an 
object is in the nature of a protective duty of the worst description. 

In acknowledging a copy of the pamphlet on Law Reform 
which Harcourt had sent to him " as a slight acknowledgment 
of the public and private courtesy I have received at your 
lands," Disraeli said : 

HUGHENDEN MANOR, November 7, 1871. . . . I think it would 
:>e well for you to bring the whole subject before Parliament. Prigs 
and pedants depreciate the utility of our debates. For my own part, 
I am not ashamed to say, that I never seem thoroughly to under- 
stand a question, till it has been discussed in the House of Commons. 
In such a motion, you would, of course, not treat of the land 


laws, which require to be separately considered. My impression, in 
reading your address, was, that you had not sufficiently taken into 
account all the mitigations of the powers and consequences of the 
settlement of landed estates, which have accrued during the last 
quarter of a century ; but it is almost presumption in me to make this 

This interchange was but one incident of a personal 
relationship between Disraeli and Harcourt which was inter- 
rupted only by death. Harcourt's social friendships had 
little to do with his political affinities, and though he had 
been opposed to Disraeli on most public issues he was pro- 
foundly attracted by his bizarre personality and his cynical 
genius. Disraeli, on his side, was early sensible of Harcourt's 
political possibilities, and, as already said, had sought to 
enlist him on his side by the offer of a safe Welsh seat in 
1866. The proposal was not entertained, but the friendly 
intercourse between the two continued, and in November 
1872 Harcourt paid a visit to Disraeli and Lady Beacons- 
field at Hughenden Manor, a record of which appears in the 
My Reminiscences by Lord Ronald Gower. It was after 
this visit that Harcourt wrote to Lady Beaconsfield a confes- 
sion of petty larceny : 

CAMBRIDGE, November 26, 1872. I have all my life made efforts 
(apparently destined to be unsuccessful) to appear what Falstaff 
or is it Touchstone calls " moderate honest." But here I am actually 
a felon malgrS moi. 

Joseph's brother was not more alarmed and shocked than I was 
when on opening my sack the first thing I discovered in its mouth 
was the French novel you had provided for my entertainment in my 
charming bedroom at Hughenden. Whether the act was one of 
accidental larceny by my servant or whether it was insidiously 
effected by Lord J. Manners in order to ruin my public and private 
reputation I do not feel sure. I did however return it by this morn- 
ing's post before I left London, and so I hope to be forgiven. 

I have already taken measures to secure a consignment to you 
of Trinity Audit Ale. Delicious as it is I doubt whether there really 
exists anyone except a Cambridge man who can drink it with 
impunity. For the benefit of science, however, I hope the experi- 
ment will be made of administering a whole bottle of it one morning 
after breakfast to the " Page of the Peacocks " with a view of ascer- 
taining its effects on his moral and physical nature. . . . 

The gift was duly sent ; but the acknowledgment did not 


come from Lady Beaconsfield. She died a few weeks later, 
and in answering a letter of condolence from Harcourt, 
Disraeli said : 

HUGHENDEN MANOR, /anwary 9, 1872. . . . She, whom I mourn, 
my inseparable, and ever-interesting companion for a moiety of my 
existence, had a genuine regard for you, and I saw you appreciated 
her happy disposition, and the constant, yet spontaneous, gaiety 
of her mind, which softened care, and heightened even joy. 

Yours was the last present she received. She was conscious of 
its arrival, and gratified by it ; and mentioned your name with 


Meanwhile Harcourt had become engaged in another of 
those controversial battles in which he delighted and which 
he waged with such consuming energy. The Franco-German 
War had disturbed the public mind on the question of inva- 
sion and military security. It was under the stimulus of 
that disquiet that Cardwell, the War Secretary, Harcourt's 
colleague in the representation of Oxford, had carried through 
his Army reforms and established the short service system 
with its potentiality of reserves. In the public discussion 
which arose on the question of defence, Harcourt came for- 
ward as the protagonist of what afterwards came to be 
called the Blue Water School, and for eighteen months in 
Parliament, in the Press and on the platform he argued the 
case for a naval against a military policy the case, that is, 
of defence against continental intervention with inex- 
haustible fertiljfe^ and vivacity. He began the campaign 
against " panic " measures in Parliament with an attack on 
Lowe, who, in introducing the Budget in April 1871, main- 
tained that it could not be said of England any more than of 
France that her soil was safe from invasion, that the fleet 
might be decoyed away and that an Army sufficient for 
dealing with an invasion was necessary. Harcourt asked 
where the invasion was to come from. Was it expected from 
" that worn-out crater of an extinct volcano, France " ? If 
from the Baltic, neither Prussia nor Russia had the marine 
necessary even for the transport of 50,000 men. But the 


core of his argument was that if the Government really 
believed in the danger of invasion it was their duty to 
. increase the Navy, not the Army. The proposed increase of 
I the Army by 20,000 men had no relevance to either of the 
policies before us the policy of defence against invasion 
and the policy of intervention in continental warfare. " For 
the security of a defensive policy the Government," he 
declared, " asked too much ; for a policy of European 
intervention their preparations were ridiculously and con- 
temptibly inadequate." 

He developed his Blue Water thesis at greater length in 
a paper read before the Royal United Service Institution in 
the May of the following year, and in the meantime had 
begun a prolonged discussion of the subject in the columns 
of The Times, which had attacked his New Year's speech at 
Oxford in which he had said : 

If you persist in increasing your expenditure at one time because 
you say wars are coming, and at another because they are over, 
what hope is there of any pause in this descent into the bottomless 
pit of an ever-increasing extravagance ? 

The question was whether we stood for a policy of defence 
or of aggression. It was by virtue of possessing the most 
powerful navy in the world that our voice would be heard in 
the counsels of Europe, but if our land forces were to be 
organized on a footing for continental action the military 
estimates must be enormously increased. In a long letter 
(January 16, 1872) he deals with the various invasion scares 
which had disturbed this country from the time of Napoleon 
onwards. He pointed out that Napoleon had realized that 
a temporary command of the sea was useless for the purpose 
of invasion ; such a command must be permanent, so as to 
ensure the inviolability of the invader's communications. 
No theory of the possibility of " decoying away " the Navy 
would meet this condition. Why did not Napoleon in 1803 
throw on these shores an army of 100,000 men when we had 
only an army of 60,000 men ? The answer was to be found 
in the epigrammatic remark of the third Napoleon on his 


Uncle's enterprise, " a maritime expedition without a mari- 
time superiority is a contradiction in terms." Harcourt 
showed what an enormous flotilla of transports was required 
for the small expedition to Abyssinia, but it was the case 
of the transfer of the Anglo-French armies to the Crimea 
which gave him the material for the most overwhelming 
case against the possibility of invasion in the face of a 
dominant fleet. " The invasion panic," he went on to say, 
" I do not fear. Of the ' continental obligation ' panic, I 
confess, I am mortally afraid." 

His fear was well founded. The country had narrowly 
escaped being drawn into the Franco-German conflict on the 
subject of Belgium. On the eve of the war, Bismarck had 
disclosed in The Times the fact that in 1867 Napoleon had 
sought to make a "deal" with Prussia of a peculiarly odious 
kind. The treaty he projected provided that Prussia was 
to be allowed to absorb the South German States, while 
France was to be allowed to annex Belgium. Bismarck had 
other views as to how to consolidate Germany, but he kept 
the proposal and published it at his own moment. The 
revelation created great alarm in this country, and the 
Government submitted a proposal to the belligerents by 
^ which the immunity of Belgian soil already secured by 
treaty was fortified by special agreement for the period 
of war, Great Britain engaging, in the event of the viola- 
tion of the neutrality of Belgium by either belligerent, 
to co-operate with the other in its defence. It was 
the breach of Belgian integrity forty-six years later by 
Germany that involved this country in the European War. 
On the question of these continental obligations Harcourt 
took his stand by Bright. In the House of Commons 
(March n, 1872) he said : 

Treaties of guarantee embody all the vices of the law of entail 
and mortmain. I would not advocate the repudiation of existing 
^guarantees, but I entirely deny the right of one generation to pledge 
the fortune, the reputation and, it may be, the very existence of its 
successors by obligations of which it can by no possibility be a judge 
as to the power of posterity to fulfil. ... It is as impossible for 
England to become a military power on the Continent as it is for 


Switzerland to become a naval power. ... In the case of the 
Belgian treaty we might have to meet the combined armies of France 
and Germany, perhaps 1,000,000 men. People speak of garrisoning 
Antwerp ; we might as well talk of defending France by garrisoning 
Brest or Cherbourg. . . . We should make it honestly under- 
stood in Europe that England is not a military, but a naval 

Time has made its own tremendous comment on this utter- 
ance. In the light of that comment it will seem in some 
respects singularly wide of the mark. Harcourt had not 
realized, any more than anyone else at the time had realized, 
that the organization of an army on the continental scale 
was, given the command of the sea and the control of 
mechanical production, a thing that could be improvised in 
a few months. But the essential argument that underlies 
the whole case that Harcourt presented still stands, and has 
been strengthened by the experience of the war. Invasion 
is impossible so long as we command the sea, and the true 
policy of defence is not a great army, but a sufficient navy. 
In Chatham's phrase, the fleet is the standing army of 

It was one of the defects of Harcourt's ebullient spirit and 
love of disputation that he fanned his indignation so exces- 
sively, and enjoyed it so much that he led duller minds to 
suspect that his passion was all make-believe. This was un- 
just. The passion was quite sincere, but the artist in him 
could rarely resist the temptation to overplay his part. It 
was so in regard to the great Battle of the Parks that he 
fought with such enormous zest from February 1872 to the 
spring of the following year. He enjoyed the fight, I think, 
because it was a fight, and he enjoyed it none the less because 
it enabled him to scourge the Government of which he was a 
nominal supporter and to lash the leaders of whom he was 
supposed to be a follower. But the issue he raised was a 
real one, and the victory he won was a genuine benefaction 
to the public. Ayrton, the Commissioner of Works, had 
promoted a Bill for the regulation of the royal parks, which 
gave the Ranger, who was a nominee of the Crown, the right 


of framing new rules for the conduct of the public in the 
parks and the keepers extraordinary power of enforcing 
them, including arrest without the issue of a warrant. 
Among the new regulations was a clause which reduced the 
liberty of public speech in the parks to the narrowest limits. 
Harcourt attacked the proposal as a scheme for depriving theV 
people of air and space as well as of rights of speech. It was 
" Algerine legislation," in which a Liberal Government was 
the vehicle of Conservative aims : 

The law with regard to our parks was different from that of any 
country in the world, because it excluded from them all but carriage 
folk. (No, no.) Yes ; no carriage but a private one was allowed 
to enter the parks, but in Paris there was no restriction on any person 
driving upon the Champs lys6es or the Bois de Boulogne ; and 
there was no despotic country in the world where people who had 
not a carriage of their own were refused access to the parks. 
(February 12, 1872.) 

He quoted a Conservative journal as having said that the 
Bill was to get rid of " that loathsome and disorderly crew 
who may be seen any afternoon disporting themselves like 
Yahoos in St. James's Park," and took this as the clue to the 
policy of popular exclusion. A corner of the Thames Em- 
bankment was not to be given to the people. In Epping 
Forest, in the New Forest, wherever there was a chance of 
the people getting a little air and space, he and a few of his 
friends had to fight a battle against a Liberal administration. 
He expressed a malicious pleasure when Gladstone and 
Disraeli had a fierce passage over the subject, and " offered 
a few words of mediation between such great allies " now 
that their grand alliance " seemed to be broken up." His 
own proposal was that the regulation of the parks should be 
left to the police. If that were done the breach between the 
great chiefs could be healed and they might again " kiss 
and be friends." 

The core of the disagreement between Gladstone and Har- 
court was public right v. Crown right. Gladstone agreed, 
that the people should hold meetings in the Park, as other- 
wise they would have to hold them in the town to the 


inconvenience of the rest of the public, but he was against 
the statutory right of meeting. In the end Harcourt and the 
other critics got modifications in the Bill which met their 
case, and the rules were withdrawn. However, during the 
Recess, new rules which had not been approved by the 
House were issued, and under them a group of men were 
prosecuted in November in connection with a meeting in 
Hyde Park. Thereupon the storm broke out with redoubled 
fury. Harcourt was at Trinity College, but he thundered in 
The Times, and carried on agitation in private. To Dilke 
he writes : 

Harcourt to Dilke. 

CAMBRIDGE, 1872. The issuing of the Rules in the Recess is a 
gross breach of faith. I don't know whether I told you that in 
July Ayrton gave me a copy of the Rules (substantially the same as 
the present). I showed them to Forster who professed to be shocked 
and disgusted at them. They were quashed by the Cabinet and at 
F.'s instance. I allowed the matter therefore to drop instead of as 
I intended bringing it before the House of Commons. The Rules 
being thus withdrawn when Parliament was sitting are reproduced 
as soon as it rises. 

I have written to Forster on the subject. The matter is a delicate 
one as so much of it passed in private, but I must wait till I hear 
from F. and see what happens on the summonses on Monday. 

A few days later he writes again to Dilke : 

I have sent a second letter to The Times setting forth a semi- 
legal view against the Rules, but I fear it is not water-tight. Never- 
theless the Rules are done for and Ayrton too, whatever becomes 
of the legal decision. I have a letter from Lord Russell in a great 
state of exultation at the row. He says " there never was a Govern- 
ment towards which distrust was more justifiable and of all its 
members Ayrton is the least trustworthy." Don't you think some- 
thing might be done in the way of getting up big petitions all over 
London for the removal of Ayrton. If a few hundred thousand 
signatures were got and sent in to Gladstone it would have a good 

The Hyde Park case went to appeal, and the Court affirmed 
the conviction ; but the agitation which Harcourt, Peter 
Rylands, Dilke and others carried on during the winter had 
its reward. When Parliament met new rules were laid on 
the table by the Home Secretary. The rules admitted 


the right of delivering public addresses in Hyde Park without 
any previous formalities, so long as they were held within 
certain limits. With this concession Harcourt practically 
withdrew any imputation he might have made on the good 
faith of the Government. He had won a conspicuous 
victory, and was disposed to be quite amiable, even to 

In another case Harcourt had a complete and deserved 
victory. The old question of the Crown rights in regard to 
the reclaimed land at the western end of the Thames Em- 
bankment was revived and embodied by Lowe in a Bill. 
Harcourt, standing for the public rights in the matter, 
moved its rejection and secured its defeat. 

He was less successful in two other directions during the 
Session. They were directions in which he had always been 
out of the modern current of Liberalism and was entirely 
unrepentant. Even when arguing for reform in the Cam- 
bridge Union he had opposed the ballot, and on the introduc- 
tion of the Bill of 1872 he showed no sympathy with the 
measure, though he took an active part in modifying its 
clauses. Harcourt only differed from the majority in ex- 
pressing his dislike of a Bill which had few enthusiastic 
friends. " It became law," says the Annual Register of 
that year, " in spite of the all but unanimous hostility of 
the House of Lords, the secret disapproval of the House of 
Commons and the indifference of the general community." 
And no Act ever passed probably had a more unchal- 
lenged success in operation. The same may almost be said 
of Brace's famous Licensing Act of the same year which 
among other things put an end to the scandal of the un- 
limited hours of the public-houses. Thousands of poor 
women in the land had reason to bless a measure that sent 
their husbands home at some time before the morning. 
Harcourt, however, would have no terms with what he 
regarded as an interference with personal liberty, and in his 
speech (December 30, 1872) to his constituents at the 
/Oxford Town Hall, after his colleague, Cardwell, had given 
his blessing to the Act, he denounced it with uncompromisng 


vigour. In the midst of an eloquent and generally sound 
plea for liberty, he said : 

We no longer prescribe the course of trade by Act of Parliament, 
but it seems we are to establish protective prohibitory duties upon 
, the habits of the people. We have removed religious tests and now 
we are to have Thirty-nine Articles for the Tavern. The policy of 
the Liberal party has been for generations a policy of emancipation 
from restriction and if it is now to begin to forge fresh fetters for 
the free I will have nothing to say to such a perversion. ... I 
don't admire a grand -maternal Government which ties nightcaps 
on a grown-up nation by Act of Parliament. I am against putting 
people to bed who want to sit up. I am against forbidding a man 
to have a glass of beer if he wants a glass of beer. I am against 
public -house restriction and park regulations. I don't approve 
Mr. Ayrton making it a misdemeanour to use soap in bathing. I 
am against sending people to prison for disclosing their votes. . . . 

It is good boisterous fun, but it reads a little hollow to-day, 
and the author of the Local Option Bill came in time to see 
how hollow it was. 


Social Life Lady Waldegrave Log of the Loulou Law of Entail 
Irish Universities Bill Friendship with Disraeli The 
Alabama Arbitration The Trade Unions Gas- Workers' 
Strike The Law of Conspiracy Harcourt Solicitor-General 
Objection to Knighthood Economy and the Estimates. 

IN 1870 Harcourt had lost the most cherished link with 
his undergraduate days through the death of Julian 
Fane, and in the following year he sustained another 
heavy personal berearement. His father, who had spent 
the last ten years of his li'fe in the pursuit of his scientific 
studies at Nuneham, died at an advanced age, leaving his 
elder son Edward to succeed to the estates. The political 
differences between the two brothers did not interrupt their 
friendly intercourse. They sat on opposite sides of the 
House, after 1878, the elder then representing the County 
of Oxfordshire in the Conservative interest ; but, in spite 
of the note of ostracism struck by Edward at the time of 
his brother's election for Oxford City, he remained on cordial 
personal terms with him, was obviously proud of his achieve- 
ments, and never failed to consult him on business affairs 
affecting Nuneham and questions such as the family settle- 
ments upon the sisters. Harcourt's own life in these years, 
as will have been apparent from what has gone before, had 
been extraordinarily full. Few men had touched the 
public affairs of the time at more points or flung themselves 
into the current of controversy with more enjoyment. His 
political work, vast as it was in bulk, only represented one 

241 R 


phase of his many-sided activities. His work at the Parlia- 
mentary Bar was increasing, and he carried out his duties 
at Cambridge with the whole-hearted enthusiasm that he 
seemed able, from his abundant resources, to put into any 
task that he undertook. Fortunately the delicacy of con- 
stitution with which he began life had disappeared, though 
he had not yet assumed those Falstaffian proportions which 
marked him in later years and were the delight of the cari- 
caturists. Apart from an attack of scarlet fever in the 
beginning of 1872, he had enjoyed good health, and he took 
his pleasures with the same high spirits that he took his 
work and his innumerable combats. 

The chief of those pleasures centred around the son who 
embodied the memories of his brief domestic happiness. 
Wherever he went Loulou went with him, and the child 
became the petted associate of half the public men of the 
time. In two homes the father and son were especially 
welcome. Through Cornewall Lewis, Harcourt had become 
an intimate friend of Lord and Lady de Grey (afterwards 
the Marquis and Marchioness of Ripon), and on the death 
of Mrs. Harcourt the latter took a maternal interest in 
father and son. Lady Ripon was one of the most remarkable 
women of her generation. Afflicted for many years by a 
disfiguring ailment, she appeared little in the public eye, 
but privately she exercised a powerful influence upon many 
public men in the Liberal party, notably Harcourt, G. J. 
(afterwards Lord) Goschen and W. E. Forster. She held 
very advanced views, and applied to all issues a singularly 
rigorous and clearly defined code of principles, and until 
she left England in 1880 on the appointment of her husband 
as Viceroy of India no one was more constantly consulted 
by Harcourt on public affairs than she was. He did not 
always act on her advice for example, she was later strongly 
opposed to his support of a Harrington leadership against 
Gladstone but much that he did owed its inspiration to 
her counsel. Her kindness was not merely political. From 
his earliest years she largely took charge of Harcourt's son, 
who found a second home in her household both in London 


and at Studley Royal, the family seat in Yorkshire, where 
he spent many of his holidays. 

Another household in which Harcourt was a constant 
visitor in these years was that of the Countess Waldegrave. 
After the death of her third husband, George Granville 
Harcourt, she had married Chichester-Fortescue (afterwards 
Lord Carlingford), a high-minded if not very distinguished 
politician who had filled the post of Chief Secretary during 
Gladstone's first Irish legislative period and then succeeded 
Bright at the Board of Trade. On leaving Nuneham the 
Countess had resumed her residence at Horace Walpole's 
villa at Twickenham, Strawberry Hill, and here, in the 
strange confection of sham Gothic that Walpole had created, 
and to which she largely added, she set up the most famous 
political salon of the period. With the disappearance of 
Lady Palmerston from the stage, she became the leading 
hostess of the Liberal party, and the week-end gatherings 
at Strawberry Hill, where the Saturday night dinner party 
not infrequently numbered fifty guests, became an important 
factor in the political life of the time. To her table came 
all the brightest wits and sharpest tongues of the period, 
but the most constant member of her entourage was Harcourt, 
for whom from the Nuneham days she had conceived a great 
friendship, whose marriage she had done much to make 
possible and in whose political career she took an interest 
second only to that of her husband. 

Lady Harcourt, who remembers the generous hospitality 
of Strawberry Hill, has sent me some of her recollections. 
She writes : 

Sant, the artist, adorned the walls of the long room built in imita- 
tion of the one at Nuneham, with portraits of fair ladies, statesmen, 
diplomatists, a somewhat flamboyant presentment of the hostess 
leaning out of a bower of roses holding pride of place on the walls. 
Guests pouring in at all times and seasons were received not only 
by the hostess, but met by Miss Braham, Lady Waldegrave 's niece 
(now Lady Strachie), who sorted out, combined a shifting mass of 
nationalities with different aims, different opinions, different wishes, 
with a tact and gentleness which all admired and some still remember. 
There came many ambassadors and envoys, there came important 
Liberal statesmen, not all congenial spirits, and the ways for these 


were not always paths of pleasantness. There came selections of 
relatives from former marriages, whose exact kinship to the hostess 
it was difficult to unravel, but who mixed more or less harmoniously 
with the crowd. 

There was Lady Moles worth, noisy and good humoured, who 
wondered if one could know anybody living on the wrong side of 
Oxford Street, and who, advised of a more moderate dressmaker 
than her own, asked doubtfully, " Do you think cheap gowns suc- 
ceed ? " She herself lived in Eaton Place where she entertained 
carefully and successfully. Mr. A. Hayward, the well-known essay- 
ist, diner-out, raconteur, an habitud of both ladies' houses, notes 
in his Selected Essays an amateur performance at Lady Moles worth's 
of Alfred de Musset's II faut qu'une porte soit ouverte ou fermec 
before a distinguished audience comprising both French and English 
royalty. There was Mrs. Cornwallis West in the hey-day of her 
youth and beauty, singing Irish songs and brimming over with animal 
spirits. There was Bernal Osborne, intensely witty and amusing 
as long as he could provide himself with a butt whose sufferings he 
enjoyed, although the victim writhed. All this within the natural 
everyday setting of house, garden, grounds. Set balls, set festivities 
came at intervals, when perhaps masked figures and fancy dress 
enriched the summer night. 

A great feature of that world was association with the Orleans 
princes and their families the Due d'Aumale, the Comte de Paris, 
the Due de Chartres, who enlivened their exile with other revels 
dinners at Orleans House near by, ffites then called " breakfasts," 
beginning with a fancy fair of booths with contents to tempt the 
unwary and ending with dance and supper. The Due d'Aumale, 
brilliant in conversation, courtly in manners, a lover of literature 
although a soldier, was a stately figure, and to Strawberry Hill 
and its mistress a loyal friend. 

Of course neither then nor at any time was there any one society. 
Great ladies were certainly a law unto themselves, and allowed access 
to their inner circle on conditions framed entirely without trace of 
constitutional right a despotism tempered only by their smiles. 
There was another set more amiable but still holding aloof from 
Strawberry Hill by virtue of old tradition one tradition being 
oddly enough that of the breakfast table, only some accidental 
condition of health being allowed to interfere between hostess and 
guests at that well-spread board, to which ladies came attired in 
what now seems the strange array of silk gowns and short kid gloves. 
But at Strawberry Hill all broke their fast when and where they 
pleased ; neither hostess nor lady guests usually appearing until 
a later period in the day. 

The joyous life, of which this is a poor description, went on 
season after season, but the end was sudden, tragic. Lady Walde- 
grave died unexpectedly on July 15, 1879, after a few days' illness. 


Unsettled affairs demanded prompt action. To the less intimate 
part of the social world all came like the fall of the curtain after a 
successful comedy ; no sound of speech, no echo of gay song broke 
the utter stillness. 

Friends mourned truly and deeply, grateful for past kind deeds, 
sorrowing for valued companionship. To the one chief mourner, 
her husband, the light of life went out, nor was it ever rekindled in 
the sad days that remained to him. 

For his main recreation in these strenuous years Harcourt 
still went to Scotland, staying sometimes with the Duke of 
^/Sutherland at Dunrobin Castle, at other times with the Duke 
of Argyll 'at Inverary, the Min+r>c a t Hawick, Sir John 
Fowler, or Millais. Occasionally he exchanged shooting 
for yachting, as in 1872 when he bought a small schooner 
of 15 tons which he christened the Loulou, in which he cruised 
during the autumn with his son, aged nine, and a crew of 
two. Of this adventure, Harcourt wrote a comic frag- 
ment of history, a log of the Loulou, and the late Lord 
Harcourt supplied me with the following reminiscences : 

There was one small cabin which served us as saloon and sleeping 
quarters, with a small hatch opening to the fo 'castle through which 
our food (of a primitive character) was handed. 

One night we anchored in the Bay of Glenelg N. of Sound of 
Sleat in calm weather. In the night it blew a gale from the S.W. 
and the Loulou was blown ashore on the shingle. We scrambled 
out on to the beach, went to the inn at 2 a.m., could make no one 
hear, so opened a window and occupied an empty room for the night, 
to the great dismay of a maid-servant who found us in the morning. 

We got the yacht off the shore that day, apparently undamaged, 
and dredged for our lost anchor and cable, which we recovered. 
Later in the same autumn we crossed the Minch north of Skye 
for Harris, to stay with Lord and Lady Ripon, who were living 
at Lord Dunmore's, Fincastle, N. Harris. 

On the way over we sprang a leak in a heavy wind, and the crew 
of two, W. V. H., and I were pumping all night to keep her afloat. 

When we reached East Tar bet, Harris, in the morning, she was 
down to the deck line, and to prevent her from sinking we ran her 
ashore on some sand at low water. We then went on to the Ripons. 

Later the Loulou was repaired and refloated and taken back to 
Kyle Akin, but, being discovered to be thoroughly rotten, she was 
abandoned there and subsequently looted and broken up by the 
inhabitants without protest by W. V. H. 

It was during one of these visits to Scotland that Harcourt 


was seized with a new passion. The game of lawn tennis 
had just become the popular novelty in outdoor games, and 
Millais in his autumn holiday at Erigmore had taken it up 
with boyish enthusiasm. 

He was quite fierce in his determination to master the game 
(writes J. G. Millais in the Life of his father), the more so as we were 
expecting visitors who probably knew something of it already. 
They came at last Sir William Harcourt, Sir Henry James, and 
my uncle George Stibbard and were so taken with the game that 
they too must become proficient, or perish in the attempt. In 
deadly earnest, then, they set to work. The balls flew about in the 
most lively and erratic way, and, as to the rules, nobody knew 
exactly what they meant, and nobody cared so long as his interpre- 
tation was upheld. The thing was to get this interpretation accepted 
by the adversaries, and to this end the game was stopped again and 
again, until one or other of the opponents gave way. Never was 
heard such an array of arguments as a disputed " fault " would 
draw forth from that able lawyer, Lord James, or such a torrent 
of eloquence as the great leader of the Liberal party let fall now and 
again in imploring his host and partner to keep clear of that " horrid 
net," and never did the host himself go to work in more fiery mood 
than at this new plaything that had caught his fancy. For hours 
together the game went on in this absurd fashion, the genial banter 
of the combatants keeping us all in fits of laughter as we sat and 
watched the performance. 

In the meantime, largely at the instance of Lady Ripon, 
Harcourt had consented to a separation from his son, who 
was sent to a private school at Eastbourne, more with a view 
to his health than his education. The first news from thence 
Harcourt conveys to Dilke in the following note early in 

Loulou is overcome with joy and gratitude at the stamps. He 
has only been at school a fortnight, and has been elected by the boys 
(apparently a purely democratic performance) to be " head of the 
War Office," a mysterious office of a Vehmgericht character which 
determines who shall fight and is generally a sort of Prime Minister - 
ship of the school having no relation, I am happy to say, to acquire- 
ments of any description. You may imagine how delighted I am 
that he should be the popular leader at once Voild qui marche. . . . 

A few scraps from his correspondence at this time will give 
the flavour of his intercourse with his friends of the other 
sex. Writing to Mrs. Ponsonby (May 1876), he says : 


14, STRATFORD PLACE, Sunday evening. . . . You read the 
Examiner, don't you ? It is the organ of the enlightened philoso- 
phers. Will you be good enough to look at a poem in that of May 17 
called " Dirae or the Saviour of Society " by Swinburne ? Will you 
teach it to your daughter ? Will you even read it aloud to me ? 
That is the sort of argument I like. It is short, compendious, un- 
answerable. Depend upon it, we learn more from our children than 
they do from us. That is the use of having them. You know the 
saying, Tous les -pvejuges sont respectables. Permit me to add, 
Toutes les philosophies sont detestables. 

To Lady Dilke he writes : 

1873. . . . My wretched memory conveyed to you an imperfect 
version of the lines which you so much appreciated. I send you the 
correct card. They are from the " Progress of Man " in the Anti- 

Of Whist or Cribbage mark the amusing game, 
The partners changing but the sport the same ; 
Else would the Gamester's anxious ardour cool, 
Dull every deal and stagnate every pool 
Yet must one man with one unceasing wife 
Play the long rubber of connubial life. 

Remember this in the long evenings of double dummy. 
Referring to the death of Samuel Wilberforce, Bishop of 
Oxford, he says in a letter to Mrs. Ponsonby (July 1873) : 

. . . Alas for our poor Bishop. He was a finished Philistine. 
Did you ever hear the story of Bright taking him by the lappel of 
his purple coat and saying, " Bishop, is this the proper thing, purple 
and fine linen ? " to which he replied, " No, Mr. Bright, it is meant 
to show you that the Church should always be inviolate." He always 
seemed to me to have had a splendid nature debauched by society 
or just an angel who had been too much about town. He was an un- 
happy man, but happy in dying without knowing it. How much 
to be wished I think by all in spite of the Litany ! It will be a great 
shock to Granville who has a tender heart, and especially to Glad- 
stone who is always meditating a retraite and is like the Trappist 
digging his own grave barring the silence. . . . 


With the close of the session of. 1872. the Gladstone Minis- 
try had shot its bolt. It had achieved an unequalled record 
of first-class legislation, but its popularity had largely dis- 
appeared, and the seeds of internal disruption were abund- 
antly present. Not the least of its afflictions was the group 


of brilliant but equivocal supporters below the gangway, 
Harcojirt, Fawcejtt, Dilke, Lord E. Fitzmaurice. and Henry 
Jame^all of whom, and chiefly Harcourt, had been liberal 
in inflicting the faithful wounds of friendship. In his 
customary New Year's speech at Oxford on January i, 
1873, he was less critical of his leaders than he had been in 
the speech on the Bruce Act two years before. He devoted 
himself mainly to the position of agriculture and to the 
subject of agricultural wages, developing the attack on the 
law of entail which he had made at the Social Science Con- 
gress, and showing how that mischievous custom encumbered 
the owner, impoverished the soil, and prevented the farmers 
from putting capital into their farms. Another hindrance 
to production was the excess of ground game : 

What would you think (he said) if, when a corn factor leased 
premises for his trade, his landlord required that he should always 
keep a few hundred rats in his granary ? But the rats would not be 
more injurious in the granary than are hares and rabbits among the 
crops. What would you think if a dairyman were compelled to keep 
a stock of cats among the cream ? Or the butchers to keep a constant 
supply of flies among the meat ? 

Writing to Spencer Butler who, following those speeches, 
had sent him " a plea in favour of the silver shrines of the 
real property law," Harcourt bade him have no fear. " It 
is as little likely that there will be any substantial Land 
Reform undertaken by the present Government, or the 
present Parliament, as that I shall be S.-G. (Solicitor-General). 
The great motto in life is patience. I don't expect we shall 
do any more good till we have had the fallow of a short Tory 
Government to clear the ground. Then something may 
be accomplished by the next Liberal administration." 
And a few days later, in answer to another letter from Butler, 
he says : 

STRATFORD PLACE, Saturday. What I practically want is that 
tenants for life should not be hampered or limited in charging or 
borrowing, or selling for the sake of the improvement of the estate. 
This is the real evil which to a certain degree retards improved 
cultivation. How can a man who has six children, and who knows 
the estate is all to go to the eldest son, lay out on the land the money 


he might save. He must keep it for the younger children, or they 
will starve. This was the case at Nuneham. The power of charging 
under the entail had been long ago exhausted. My father was 
obliged to save all he could, and therefore could not improve the 
estate. This is the real mischief. Is not the practical remedy to 
give to tenant for life all the power for the purpose of improvement 
of the soil (and for no other) which owners in fee would have. 

As you know, tenant for life now, if he borrows must pay 7 per 
cent, to replace capital in twenty-five years. Whereas he might 
borrow as owner in fee at 4 or 4^ per cent. This is done to protect 
the inheritance, but in fact the growing wealth of the country is the 
true protection of the inheritance. 

If you lay out ^10 an acre to-day, you may be sure, whatever 
becomes of your improvement (whether it is worn out or not) the 
land itself will be worth 10 more twenty-five years hence. So the 
protection is really superfluous. 

Tell me how you can free tenant for life completely for land im- 
provement purposes only, and leave him tied up not to waste the 
estate for gambling, racing and other things. You need never fear 
a man being a spendthrift on improvements. 

The new Session opened with a formal attack by Harcourt 
on the question of public expenditure. In a speech of 
weighty criticism he moved a resolution (February 18) 
couched in the historic formula that the national expenditure 
has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished. 
No sooner, however, had Jacob Bright, who seconded the 
motion, sat down than Gladstone rose and took the sting 
out of the attack by offering a Select Committee to consider 
the state of the public expenditure, and on this compromise, 
which Harcourt accepted while expressing doubt as to 
whether it would serve the cause of public economy, the 
motion wai withdrawn. A few weeks later, however, the 
Government were on the rocks. Not for the first or the 
last time it was Ireland that brought about disaster. Having 
disestablished the Irish Church and established the principle 
of tenant right in the improvement of the soil, Gladstone 
attacked the third branch of what he had called the upas 
tree of poisonous ascendancy in Ireland. For years the 
grievance of the Catholics on the subject of university educa- 
tion had perplexed successive Governments, but no solution 
had been found. Gladstone sought to remove it by the 


Irish Universities Bill, which proposed to set up a new uni- 
versity in Dublin in which there were to be no religious 
tests either for teachers or taught, and in which there was 
to be no university teacher in theology, modern history, or 
moral and mental philosophy. The separate affiliated 
colleges might make arrangements for those subjects, but 
the new university would not teach them directly and 
authoritatively. It was a compromise. It aimed at meeting 
the grievance of Catholic Ireland without offending the 
prejudices of Protestant England. Gladstone's speech in 
introducing it " threw the House into a mesmeric trance," 
and if the fate of the Bill could have been settled offhand 
he would have carried his measure. 

But as the debate proceeded opposition grew, and though 
Cardinal Manning had urged acceptance, the Irish hierarchy 
rejected the measure as the endowment of " non-Catholic 
and godless Colleges." On March 10 Harcourt opened the 
discussion by a speech in advance of any he had yet delivered 
in its effect upon the House. Severe in criticism of detail, 
he was favourable to the substance of the Bill. He sup- 
ported it in the hope that it might be made tolerable in 
Committee, but he described the clauses which excluded 
theology, philosophy, and modern history from the curriculum 
of the new university as " the most hideous deformity ever 
laid by an English Government on the table of the House." 
, He considered the whole scheme faulty, but he thought that 

V the danger of handing over the Government to Disraeli was 
greater than any danger to be feared from the Bill. The vote 
was taken the following night, when Disraeli spoke till 
midnight and Gladstone followed him for two hours. At two 
In the morning the Government were defeated by three votes, 
and Gladstone resigned. But Disraeli refused to take office 
without a dissolution, and after some days of negotiation 
Gladstone resumed power. His troubles, however, continued 
to accumulate. The discovery that a sum of 800,000 had 
been irregularly detained on its way to the Exchequer and 

j applied to the service of the telegraphs led to the enforced 
retirement of Lowe from the Treasury, Monsell from the 


Post Office, and Ayrton from the Board of Works, all having 
been involved in this gross impropriety. 


Harcourt's declaration that he would rather have a Bill 
for which he had no enthusiasm than run the risk of a 
Government of which Disraeli would be the head did not 
indicate any change of attitude in the personal relations of 
the two men. Indeed they were at this time in cordial 
correspondence on a question to which it is necessary to 
return once more, and finally. The long struggle over the 
Alabama claims had at last come to an end. It had been 
bitter and menacing throughout, and never more menacing 
than in its last phase. Gladstone had taken up the thorny 
problem where Disraeli had left it. As a preliminary a new 
Foreign Enlistment Act, based on the recommendation of 
the Royal Commission of 1868, was passed, by which, among 
other things, it was made an offence to build a ship with 
reasonable cause to believe that it would be employed in 
the service of a foreign state at war with a friendly state. 
Harcourt declared this Act to be " the best and most com- 
plete law for the enforcement of neutrality in any country." 
Following on this, Gladstone in 1871 sent a Commission 
headed by Lord de Grey (lyfnrflnfc of Ripnn) to Washington 
to arrange a treaty of arbitration in regard to the outstanding 
issues between the two countries. The negotiations' were 
extraordinarily difficult, and they were complicated by an 
amazing memorandum by Sumner to Fish in which he 
suggested that as Fenianism in the United States was 
excited by the proximity of the British flag in Canada, that 
flag should be withdrawn from the whole American hemi- 
sphere, including the islands. Fish, never behindhand in 
extreme proposals, added his own modest hint that the 
cession of Canada might end the trouble. The real struggle, 
however, was as to the rules to be laid down for the arbi- 
trators. Certain of the rules proposed by the United States 
had not been established when England's alleged breaches 
of neutral obligation had been committed. Those breaches 


had been breaches not of international law, but of English 
municipal law, and it was necessary to make the new rules 
retro-active in order to bring those breaches within the 
scope of an international tribunal. This, however, was 
conceded, the treaty was signed, and the Geneva arbitration 
tribunal, consisting of five members named by Great Britain, 
the United States, Switzerland, Italy, and Brazil, was agreed 
upon. At last all the danger-points seemed to have been 

But before the meeting of the tribunal the whole contro- 
versy flared up again with astonishing violence. The claim 
put in by the United States to the arbitrators was not 
limited to the depredations of the Alabama, the Florida, and 
the Shenandoah. It represented the full original demands 
of Sumner, all the losses, individual, national, direct, indirect, 
constructive, material, that could by the most liberal 
interpretation be attributed to the activities of the vessels. 
It was not a matter of millions ; it was a matter of hundreds 
of millions. Gladstone was horrified. " We must be 
insane," he said, " to accede to demands which no nation 
with a spark of honour or spirit left could submit to even 
at the point of death." For months the new conflict waxed 
hot and hotter, and when the arbitrators met at Geneva in 
June 1872 it seemed that they had only met to break up, 
and Cockburn, the Lord Chief Justice, who did not believe 
in the arbitration though he had been chosen as the English 
representative, was satisfied that all was well over. He 
proposed an adjournment for eight months. Happily 
there was a wiser man there. Adams, the United States 
representative, saved the situation by an act of courage 
and statesmanship which is the supreme witness of that 
distinguished man's wisdom. In disregard of the position 
taken up by his own Government, he arranged with his col- 
leagues on the tribunal to make a spontaneous declaration 
that the American Government would not press the indirect 
claims. It was a daring and brilliant outflanking movement. 
It left the diplomatists at home en I' air and the tribunal mas- 
ter of the field. The court set to work forthwith, and in Sep- 


tember gave its award, unanimous in the case of the Alabama, 
not quite unanimous in the other cases. England was 
called upon to pay a gross sum of three and a quarter millions, 
and the world was enriched with the most splendid prece- 
dent in all its history for the pacific settlement of inter- 
national differences. 

Harcourt rejoiced in the settlement of the great contro- 
versy in which his pen had played so large a part. He had 
always been a friend of arbitration, believing " that it was 
for the highest interests of civilization that the rule of 
reason and justice should be substituted for the barbarism 
of war." But, like other jurists, both English and American, 
he was disquieted by the interpretation placed by the Geneva 
tribunal on the rules embodied in the Washington Treaty. 
There were discrepancies between the Foreign Enlistment 
Act and the rules which might lead to serious difficulties, 
supposing one belligerent demanded a judgment in our prize 
court on the basis of the Act and the other on the basis of 
the rules. The effect of the new doctrines as interpreted at 
Geneva would be to make neutrality impossible, and in the 
war of the future every nation would find it necessary to 
range itself on one side or the other. He was especially 
alarmed about the second rule, designed " not to permit or 
suffer either belligerent to make use of its (the neutral's) 
ports or waters as the basis of naval operations against the 
other, or for the purpose of the renewal of military supplies 
or arms, or the recruitment of men." This, Harcourt held, 
was extremely ambiguous, and was published at a moment 
when we were engaged in controversy with Germany with 
reference to our dealings with France in munitions of war. 
If that rule was literally accepted the Germans had won 
their case. The Award interpreted this rule to the effect 
that the supply of coal in limited quantities converted a 
neutral country into a " base of operations " because such 
supplies would assist a vessel to sail. Thus, if a French 
fleet watered or coaled at Heligoland the German Govern- 
ment would have claims against this Government to the 
extent of the damage resulting to the Germans. The law 


applied not only to Aldbamas, but to properly commissioned 

In a letter to Harcourt Disraeli said : 

EDWARDS HOTEL, February 9, 1873. It appears to me that the 
best mode of meeting the case we were talking about would be for 
an independent member to give notice of an Address to the Crown, 
praying H.M. not to communicate, etc., the three rules to Foreign 
Powers without accompanying them with a note, expressing H.M.'s 
interpretation of them. 

This would bring the whole affair into discussion, and we might 
go to the bottom of it. 

Think of this ; the motion would require careful wording. 

Harcourt in reply (February 10) sent the terms of an 
Address to Disraeli, but urged that it was not a case for a 
private member, but for persons of the highest responsibility 
in the House. He had no predilection for his own form of 
words, and asked Disraeli to ascertain the views of Lord 
Cairns on the matter, as he (Harcourt) had been in agree- 
ment with him on the Neutrality Commission. In the end 
the Address was placed in the hands of Gathorne H. Hardy, 
and a prolonged debate, in the course of which Harcourt 
spoke at great length, followed on March 21. The Govern- 
ment, however, were hostile, and the Address was rejected. 


At this time another issue of a domestic character engaged 
the attention of Harcourt. The hostility to the trade 
unions had not yet been overcome, and among the hostile 
element were many Liberals of the Manchester school. 
Harcourt was not one of them. He had no passion for 
the middle classes, but he had a genuine affection for the 
working classes. In his Autobiographic Memories Frederic 
Harrison says : 

I had a good deal of business with Harcourjt when, with 


and Hughes and Mundella, he took a leading part in the reform of 
the law of Trades Unions. In all these questions I always found him 
clear-headed, courageous, and trustworthy. Of course, he never 
ceased to be the genuine aristocrat at heart, both outwardly and 


inwardly. I remember him as a friend of Maine and a promising 
barrister in the fifties, when he was at once elegant and magnificent. 
One night, as we walked home together from the Cosmopolitan, and 
I was full of the Disestablishment of the Church of England, he 
larched on, grandly shouldering his cane, crying out in the dead of the 
night in Oxford Street, " Then I and my people will go forth into the 
wilderness ! " He was always instinctively in the grand mood, which 
was in no way affected to impose on others, but was a native sense / 
that he was both socially and intellectually of the order of magnates. *^ 

But, as a magnate, he had a real sense of the imperative 
duty of the governing class to do justice to the working 
classes, and he took up the cause of justice to the trade 
'-'unionists with enthusiasm. He had endeavoured unavail- 
ingly to raise the question of the law affecting Labour in 
the House of Commons in 1872, and with Henry James had 
helped in drafting the demands of the Trades Union Con- 
gress. Later in the year the issue had assumed an urgent 
shape. There was a strike of gas-stokers employed by 
the London gas companies in November, and the Chartered 
Gas Company, when the strike was most serious, summarily 
and permanently dismissed 1,400 strikers, and five of the 
leaders were brought up on a charge of conspiracy at the 
Central Criminal Court before Mr. Justice Brett, and were 
/ sentenced to twelve months imprisonment. This proceeding 
created indignation, and led to an impressive demonstration 
in Hyde Park. Harcourt raised the question in Parliament. 
He denounced the attempt to subvert the CriminaL-feeEW 


Art of 1877, which recognized the legality of 

combination for trade purposes, by indictments "taken 
from the rusty armour of the common law," the law of 
conspiracy. Of all civil contracts, one contract alone 
was enforced by the cruel arm of the criminal law the 
, /contract of master and servant. The same law was being 
applied to merchant shipping, and he understood that at 
Cardiff men had been committed to prison for breaking 
their contract because the ship in which they were to sail 
was unseaworthy. He recalled a saying of Wilkes's that the 
worst use to which you could put a man was to hang him. 
He thought that one of the worst uses to which you could 


put a man was to put him in prison. He went on to point 
out that for other breaches of contract, financial and other, 
in which the happiness and the fortune of many people might 
be affected, the offence was not regarded as criminal unless 
fraud could be proved. Only in the case of master and 
servant was the criminal law called in. If that was not 
class legislation he did not know what was. 

The Attorney-General (Coleridge) in his reply took his 
revenge on Harcourt for many old wounds : 

His honourable and learned friend (he said) hardly ever addressed 
the House without administering a lecture on our rashness and 
inconsideration, leaving it, of course, to be inferred that his own 
wisdom, his calm and temperate view of matters were above all 
suspicion and all praise, leaving them to imagine that he alone 
stood the one faithful soul true to his trust, who had warned, but 
like Cassandra in vain, the House of Commons not to proceed on a 
course of legislation which experience had shown them could lead 
only to contempt. 

This rebuke was robbed of something of its reality by 
Coleridge's agreement that the law of conspiracy needed 
amendment and his suggestion that Harcourt, " whose 
accuracy, love of detail, and ability to devote time in a spirit 
of self-sacrifice to a difficult and intricate subject were 
recognized by all," should prepare a Bill. 

A few days later Harcourt brought forward his Bill, which 
was backed by himself, Rathbone, Mundella, and Henry 
James. It dealt with the law of conspiracy as it affected 
trade combinations and the law of master and servant. 
It provided that no prosecution for conspiracy should be 
instituted unless the offence was indictable by statute or 
was punishable under some statute with reference to violent 
threats, intimidation, or molestation ; that no prosecution 
should be/instituted without the consent of one of the law 
officers of the Crown, and that persons convicted on such 
prosecution should not be liable to any greater punishment 
than that provided by law for such cases. He explained 
that the object of the Bill was simply to bring the law into 
harmony with the intention of the Criminal Law Amendment 


Act of 1871. The Bill passed through the House of Commons, 
but was lost in the House of Lords. As for the five men 
sentenced by Mr. Justice Brett, the Home Secretary ordered 
their release after they had served four months of their 

During the summer and early autumn numerous changes 
were made in the Ministry, which was now pretty visibly 
sinking. John Bright rejoined it, and Harcourt, writing to 

him, said : 

Harcourt to Bright. 

14, STRATFORD PLACE, August 8. ... I hope you will bring 
much to the Government, your health which is the first thing and 
then your policy, and that we shall feel your hand in next year's 
Estimates and next year's Budget. A good rattling Budget such 
as Gladstone knows how to propound and a settlement of the 2gth 
clause (which is the most rubbishy trifle that a great party ever 
squabbled over) may yet do something for us. 

I confess I am not for " big programmes " and " loud cries " ; 
they seem to me the resources of advertising tradesmen and bank- 
rupt politicians. At present I am sure they would only revolt the 
country and make the business worse than ever. 

I wish you could get the Government to address itself seriously to 
the grievances of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, the Master and 
Servants Acts, and Company Law. 

These are the sorts of things the mass of the people do care about 
and which have been strangely neglected. 

I could not refrain from telling you as one of the passengers in 
the water-logged and sinking ship with what pleasure I had learnt 
that an experienced old pilot, who has weathered many a storm, 
had gallantly come on board to lend a hand at the helm and the 

If he was not a leading member of the Government by 
that time would he come down and pitch into them, wrote 
Chamberlain to Harcourt a little later (September 3) apropos 
of the annual meeting of the National Education League at 
Birmingham in October. Harcourt did not go, although 
he was not a leading member of the Government then. 

He went to Scotland instead on a visit to the Duke of 
Sutherland at Dunrobin Castle. There is a record of that 
visit in some lines which Harcourt wrote at Dunrobin to 
another visitor there, " the daughter of two skies," Teresa 
Caracciolo, who in 1875 married Prince Colonna, and became 


mother of Vittoria, the wife of Prince Teano. But while 
Harcourt was stalking the deer and penning pretty compli- 
ments to his fellow-guests, things were happening far away 
in London. A vacancy which he had long been expected 
to fill was created in the Solicitor-Generalship by the 
elevation of Coleridge, the Attorney-General, to the Bench. 
The position, however, was given to Henry James, who, 
in writing to Harcourt announcing the fact, said : 

28, WILTON PLACE, Thursday. I am sure I sincerely wish you 
had had this office instead of me. You had far higher political 
claims and would have made a far better Law Officer, but as it is I 
hope that your friendship will cause you to give me your good 

If Harcourt was disappointed, his disappointment was 
short-lived. Sir George Jessel, the new Attorney-General, 
was raised to the bench, and James succeeded him. Glad- 
stone offered the vacant Solicitor-Generalship to Harcourt, 
who wrote : 

Harcourt to Gladstone. 

TRINITY COLLEGE, November 13. I gladly accept the offer which 
you have been so good as to make to me. Your letter only reached 
me here this morning, where I am engaged in delivering my annual 
course of lectures. This must be my apology for a delay in my 
answer, which I fear may be inconvenient. ... I shall of course 
observe the absolute secrecy which you enjoin. But I shall be much 
obliged if you will allow your secretary to inform me at the earliest 
moment when I may communicate with my friends at Oxford 
as constituencies though gracious are apt to be somewhat jealous 
sovereigns. . . . 

The Press naturally showed much interest in the elevation 
of the famous guerrilla chief to the Ministry he had so often 
assailed. The Spectator spoke of him as a Liberal Disraeli, 
the Saturday Review observed that he was thoroughly sound 
on the subject of beer, and The Times delivered a homily 
on Harcourt 's doctrine of Peace, Retrenchment and Reform, 
recalled me " Historicus " chapter in his past, and congratu- 
lated Gladstone on the magnanimity he had shown in 
preferring one who had so frequently led the opposition to 
his policy. Sir Henry Maine wrote : 


Sir H. Maine to Harcourt. 

27, CORNWALL GARDENS, November 17. You have climbed as high 
as a lawyer can, without sacrificing your chance of more than the 
humble parliamentary position of most lawyers. I hope you will 
do something to restore the time when the Crown Officers were a 
real power in the House of Commons. 

Times are changed since I taught you Greek. You will clearly 
have to make me something extremely swell some day, as a mark of 
my share in giving you a liberal education. 

To Dilke, Harcourt wrote his private thoughts on what 
he had done : 

Harcourt to Dilke. 

CAMBRIDGE, November 21, 1873. I don't know if I have done a 
very wise or a very foolish thing, probably the latter. But it is 
done, and my friends must help me to make the best of it. It was 
a great inducement to me the having H. James as a colleague. I 
could not have gone into it with the other chaps. . . . 

I feel like an old bachelor going to leave his lodgings and to marry 
a woman he is not in love with, in grave doubts whether he or she 
will suit. However, fortunately she is going to die soon and we shall 
soon again be in opposition below the gangway and take the seats 
of T. Collins and J. Lowther with Hoare for our Elcho. The Duke 
of Argyll says " now I am in harness I must be driven in blinkers," 
but then Dukes are insolent by nature. Whatever comes I shall 
never leave the House of Commons. I don't see why I am not to 
be a politician because I am a Law Officer. Law Officers used to be 
politicians some years ago till the men of later days degraded the 

Replying to a letter of congratulations from Lord E. 
Fitzmaurice, Harcourt wrote : 

Harcourt to Lord E. Fitzmaurice. 

Like you I had begun to find the responsibility of the gangway 
rather fatiguing, and I accepted as much out of moral laziness as 
anything else. We can always take refuge in a Gladstonian non 
possumus. One consolation is it will not last long. 

I never felt more convinced that we like, I will not say the ship 
of fools, but at least the ship of Plimsoll, Omnes ibimus ad diabolum 
et Dizzy non conquerabit. 

There was one cross to be borne. Writing to Mrs. Pon- 
sonby, 1 * Harcourt said : 


Harcourt to Mrs. Ponsonby. 

STRATFORD PLACE, Wednesday. I am on Friday next at Windsor 
to undergo the last humiliation of being made a Knight ! 

I went down on my knees to Gladstone to let this cup pass from 
me, and asked him how he would like it himself, but he was inexor- 
able. I think he had a malicious joy in thus punishing me for all my 
past sins. He is so like a woman. Never mind, I will be even with 
him yet and make him a Lord. It is horribly vulgar almost as 
bad as being a Baronet but it can't be helped. The only thing 
which would take the taste out of my mouth I mean the iron off 
my shoulders would be if you and your husband would give me 
luncheon in the Norman Tower, and show mercy to a degraded being. 

Both he and James pleaded with Gladstone against the 
knighthood, but Gladstone insisted on the ground that it was 
necessary to attach knighthoods to certain distinguished 
offices in order to keep up the prestige of the Order. Har- 
court replied : "I have a better plan than that to submit 
to you." " What is that ? " ' That you should take a 
knighthood yourself." 1 

On his appointment, Harcourt was returned unopposed 
for Oxford. He delivered one speech in which he dealt 
largely with domestic questions, education, trade unions, 
and so on, which brought him a cordial letter from Earl 
Russell and another also of peculiar interest from Disraeli 
(December 30) : 

Disraeli to Harcourt. 

HUGHENDEN, December 30, 1873. Returning from Trentham, I 
find on my table, with pleasure, a copy of your speech on your 
re-election, and from yourself. This gives me a natural, and un- 
obtrusive, occasion to congratulate you on your late appointment 
to an eminent post, and which is only the first step in the course of 
high promotion, which you are destined to run. 

1 His son used to relate that after he had been knighted he received 
a bill of considerable fees from Garter King-at-Arms. These he 
refused to pay, but added that if Garter had attended the ceremony 
in his tabard and blown a fanfare on a trumpet, he (Harcourt) would 
have been inclined to give him largesse, but none of these things 
had happened, and he had received a secret and silent accolade. 
He told Garter King-at-Arms that if he liked to submit the charters 
upon which he founded his claim to fees, he, as Law Officer of the 
Crown, would advise him as to the legality of his claim. This 
Garter did not think it well to do, and ultimately a compromise 
was effected for a small sum. 


At the beginning of the year, I assured our dear friend and alas ! 
my fair foe Lady Waldegrave, who was always interested about 
your career, and sometimes anxious that you would surely mount, 
and I was so confident on this head, that I mentioned to you, when 
we were alone in the summer, that, in my opinion, it would have been 
a great error, had you accepted office on the formation of the present 
Government. In that case, you could scarcely have founded the 
parliamentary reputation, which is the surest basis of power, and 
which has led to your present preferment. 

I regret that it is not our fate idem sentire de republica, which is 
said to be the most powerful element of friendship, but personal 
sympathy and similar tastes are strong bonds, and I heartily hope 
that in our instance they will always preserve for me a friendship 
which I appreciate, and a friend whom I greatly regard. 

There is a certain note of cordiality and intimacy in 
Harcourt's communications with Disraeli which contrast 
with the severely official correspondence at this time with 
Gladstone. It was not, as the Spectator suggested, that they 
were political birds of a feather, but that they shared each 
other's mundane interests and each enjoyed the other's wit. 
In the previous August, Harcourt, in sending a sketch of 
Pitt (still at Hughenden) to Disraeli, wrote : 

LONDON, August 16, 1873. I despatched by train the sketch of 
Pitt, which I think is spirited and probably like. It has the con- 
sciousness of superiority about the look, and justifies the saying that 
orbem naso suspendit. I picked it up some years ago ; it is one of a 
series of sketches done by Jackson for Lodge's portraits, and if it is 
thought worthy of a place in your gallery it will have reached its 
proper goal. Not that I can allow your claim to Pitt any more than 
Grenville as a purely Tory Minister. I think that like the child 
before Solomon's judgment seat he should be divided and that we are 
entitled to the first half of his public life. I shall not grudge you 
the second. . . . 

Disraeli in sending his thanks referred to other additions 
to his gallery, and added : 

HUGHENDEN, August 17, 1873. I do not at all agree with you in 
your estimate of Mr. Pitt's career. It is the first half of it which I 
select as his title-deed to be looked upon as a Tory minister : hos- 
tility to boroughmongering, economy, French alliance, and commer- 
cial treaties, borrowed from the admirable negotiations of Utrecht. 
The latter half is pure Whiggism : close parliaments, war with 
France, national debt, and commercial restrictions ; all prompted 
and inspired by the arch -Whig trumpeter, Mr. Burke. 


However, we won't quarrel about this, at least not now, but 
postpone it till our next ramble in Bradenham Chase. 

I was much obliged to you for breaking my solitude. Your 
visit was too short, but very agreeable. 

If it was assumed that office would quieten his activities 
the expectation was disappointed. He was no sooner in 
office than we find him writing to Bright urging him to press 
on Gladstone a policy of retrenchment, especially in regard 
to armaments : 

14, STRATFORD PLACE, December n, 1873. I can't approach G. 
myself on the subject (i) because it would seem egotistical, (2) because 
it would appear independent. Two things most obnoxious to Govern- 
ments. You I hope will not accuse me of the first and will forgive 
me the second. 

If you have had time to look at my Oxford speech, which was only 
reported in The Times of Tuesday, I hope you will pardon my fidelity 
to the Church in consideration of my obstinate adherence to Peace 
and Economy. If the Estimates of 1874 are to be what they have 
been for the last three years I do not see how you and I can personally 
support them, when even The Times suggests their reduction. It 
is not only the harm they do in themselves but the example we set 
to the Tory Government which is so soon going to occupy our seats. 

Lady Waldegrave evidently had reason to think that 
Harcourt meant to be troublesome, for writing to him from 
Strawberry Hill (December u) she read him a very severe 
lesson : 

Lady Waldegrave to Harcourt. 

STRAWBERRY HILL, December n. What is the matter now ? 
What has happened since you took office to make you say that if 
the Government does not go out soon you will ? The only event 
I know of likely to make you discontented with your position is 
your own speech. To follow out your own simile of having married 
a woman you did not love this speech is as inappropriate to your 

present position, as if the Duke of , in returning thanks at his 

wedding breakfast, had launched out into fresh praise of his late 
mistress, and then cried down his wife and her family. The speech 
itself is intensely clever and the language admirable, but the whole 
tone of it fully accounts for the silence of the Telegraph. No Govern- 
ment could be carried on if all its members were intent upon only 
playing their own game. No one is fit to govern who does not know 
how to serve. This is true even for the individual, who cannot serve 
himself, if he cannot govern himself. You have taken the shilling 
and must serve loyally, though you may hate and despise the com- 
mander-in-chief. . 


New Year's Speech at Oxford Attack on Radical crotchet -mongers 
Hoisting the Whig flag Fall of the Gladstone Government 
The Greenwich seat Oxford election Champions Harting- 
ton as Party leader Differences with Gladstone on Public 
Worship Regulation Bill The Admiralty Estimates Glad- 
stone's Six Resolutions Controversy in The Times Difference 
with Gladstone becomes more acute Death of Lady Dilke 
Gladstone's pamphlet on the Vatican Decrees Haf court on 

PERHAPS the homily addressed to him by Lady 
Waldegrave had its effect. In any case, Harcourt's 
customary speech at the Druids' dinner at Oxford 
on New Year's Day, 1874, contained plenty of " fun," 
but he was quite civil to the Government. He spoke of 
the immense surplus which the Budget would disclose, and 
described his leader as " the greatest Finance Minister whom 
this or any country has seen."/ He denounced the growth 
of local taxation and its caufees in terms which must have 
made some of his Radical colleagues a little alarmed : 

The ratepayer is the helpless victim of the crotchet-mongers. 
Rate after rate is imposed in the vain attempt to fill the rapacious 
maw of centralized philanthropy and doctrinaire extravagance. The 
rate is nothing else than the quarterly bill sent in by a grand- 
motherly Government. The country is infested by a voracious 
caterpillar I don't know what the entomologists call it I would 
call it the Inspector Vastattfr. I think I once told you that the day 
might come when the number of the inspectors would exceed the 
number of the inspected ; it is fast approaching. Till you stay this 
plague of crotchets, till you have the courage and good sense to resist 
the importunate benevolence of these reckless spendthrifts, all your 
attempts to reform local taxation will be in vain. * 



But it was in regard to the land that he was most vigorous 
and most amusing. He dismissed the talk about the " un- 
earned increment xrf land " as "an idea so illogical, so 
unreasonable, so per^ctly unjust and so absolutely philo- 
sophical " that it did not deserve refutation ; but he wanted 
the land to be freed from the paralysis of the law of entail. 
He drew a delightful picture of the English landowner, who 
was " not a sort of ogre in top-boots who roasts a peasant 
in the morning and stews a baby for supper." But he was 
afraid that they (the landowners) preferred foxes to Radicals 
and would rather preserve rabbits than Nonconformists. 
As to the idea that the law of entail was necessary to the 
preservation of old families, a subject in which, with his eye 
on Nuneham, he always revelled, he said : 

I have myself no aversion to old families. If they are made of 
good stuff, like old wine they grow better by keeping. If they 
come of a bad vintage, the longer you bottle them the worse they 
grow. If a man is fit to support a great name, he will not want the 
law of entail to sustain him in the station to which he is born. If 
he is not fit the worst thing that can happen to him is that he should 
be bolstered up in a position that he discredits. 

The speech was well received, and Harcourt, writing to 
Spencer Butler (January 5), said, " I am amused to see how, 
by dint of using the proper country gentleman slang in 
which I was brought up I have been able to propound this 
revolutionary scheme and yet be called a Tory for it." But 
there was one quarter in which he was in no danger of being 
called a Tory. It was no doubt with this offence in mind 
that his brother Edward wrote to him : 

E. W. Harcourt to his Brother. 

HASTINGS, March 18. And now a word about our mutual relation. 
It has been a greater deprivation to me than I can say the not 
having you at Nuneham nothing but an ineradicable dislike, on 
principle, to the opinions you represent at Oxford could have made 
me look with anything but the greatest pleasure upon having at 
Nuneham a brother who has always (excepting in one respect) shown 
me the most delicate affection. 

I now tell you what I mean to propose to you. I ask for no answer 
and for no promise. I merely express a hope that you will be able 
to do as I so strongly wish, 


One, that when at Nuneham you will take no political action in 

Two, that you will abstain from education theories in Oxford. 

Three, that as soon as you can see your way to do it you will cease 
to represent Oxford as a Radical. 

These points I do not make into conditions, but only express an 
ardent hope that you will favour my prejudices (if you like to call 
them so) in respect to them. 

Having said this much I have only to add that I hope you and 
Loulou will consider Nuneham your home. 

Writing to Mrs. Tom Hughes, Harcourt announces that 
he has hoisted the Whig flag : 

Harcourt to Mrs. Tom Hughes. 

14, STRATFORD PLACE, January 4, 1874. We are very glad to 
hear of Plump's (T. Hughes's son) triumphs. Loulou has also his 
to record. He was the only boy in the school who came back with 
two prizes. And he had the most marks of twenty-five boys. East- 
bourne has answered admirably for him both in mind and body. 
I never saw him so well. . . . 

I hope you read my speech. I am delighted to see how it has 
riled the " enlightened " Party. I have hoisted the good old Whig 
flag, and shall stick to it. These duffers who have gone after strange 
women have made a nice mess of it. 

I am so sorry to hear you have been so much amiss. I hope you 
will soon return to town. 

I trust Tom ceases to be serious for an interval at Christmas. Tell 
him it is bad for the health to be always at it. 

The hoisting of the Whig flag brought him an enthusiastic 
letter from H. Reeve of the Edinburgh Review, who said : 

H. Reeve to Harcourt. 

January 9, 1874. Old John Russell wrote to me not long ago, 
" The Liberal Party, if it is to be a party again, must be the Whig 
Party." The Radicals may flounder and bluster as they please, 
but they will not get very far without us. You have very wisely 
and ably made a true Whig speech, and if you stick firmly to the 
old colours, I don't know any man who has a better claim than 
yourself to lead the Whig party, which upon the whole is the most 
glorious position in England. / 

Gladstone was a Tory, and is a Radical : but he never was a 
Whig at all. 

Lord Stanhope is desirous of proposing you as a Member of 
" The Club." I cordially concur in this suggestion, and I hope it 
would be agreeable to you if you are elected. 


In the meantime events were rapidty moving to a crisis. 
On January 23, Chichester-Fortescue (Lord Carlingford) 
wrote to Harcourt : 

Chichester-Fortescue to Harcourt. 

January 23, 1874. I am just going back to Dudbrook after a 
highly interesting Cabinet, as you may conceive. We were all 
sworn to secrecy about the coup d'ttat this evening otherwise I 
should like to have seen you. I hope you will approve. I think you 
will like the Gladstonian manifesto. At all events you like a row. The 
surprise is worthy of your own Dizzy. How he will denounce it 1 

With dissolution imminent Harcourt disburdened his mind 
in "a letter to Lord E. Fitzmaurice : 

Harcourt to Lord E. Fitzmaurice. 

January, 1874. I must utilize my official paper before next 

I thought at first that the Government had better stay in to meet 
Parliament, but I don't think so now. I spoke the words of prophecy 
because I knew how deeply and universally the Government was 
execrated throughout the country. I have preached like Cassandra 
now for two years, and I told Bright on the celebrated Friday night 
when the resolution to dissolve was taken that it would be 1841 
over again. This Government has fallen as all Governments will 
fall in England from sheer lack of common sense. The Treasury 
Bench seem to me very much in the position of the Imperialists 
after Sedan. In my judgment the rout has been richly deserved, 

/'and the Liberal Party will never recover till it is led by different 
men on different principles. 

The sudden decision of the Cabinet to dissolve has been 
attributed to the rather trivial controversy that had taken 
place during the autumn in regard to the fact that Glad- 
stone on taking over the Chancellorship of the Exchequer 
from Lowe had not submitted himself for re-election at 
Greenwich. Around this trumpery point a vast battle of 
words had raged. As a matter of fact, Gladstone had acted 
entirely on the advice of the law officers, Coleridge and Jessel, 
who had declared that having been re-elected on assuming 
the office of First Lord of the Treasury the Act of Queen 
Anne did not require further re-election. James and Har- 
court on succeeding to the law offices expressed themselves 
inconclusively"on the subject. Disraeli put the matter in 


the forefront of his attack when the dissolution came, and 
it became necessary for the law officers to clear their Chief. 
James, writing to Harcourt from Taunton in the midst of 
the election, said : 

I have had a letter from Godley, and I am to speak here to-night 
denying the statement in Dizzy's first paragraph about the Green- 
wich seat. The way I intend to put it is that Gladstone's law 
officers in August advised him that his seat was not vacant, and that 
you and I counselled him that he could not send in notice to the 
Speaker. I will take care not to state our opinion any stronger. 

You must let me pledge your opinion to this extent. Telegraph to 
me to-morrow morning, but you really must not object. I will take 
every care not to express any opinion as to whether the seat was 
vacant or not. 

No opposition here, but by jingo what a lot of seats we shall lose. 

From this it is pretty evident that Harcourt, whose maiden 
speech in Parliament had been a defence of the Act of Queen 
Anne, had been disposed to think that Gladstone should 
have offered himself for re-election. His own reference to 
the subject in his election speech to his constituents at 
Oxford confirms this view. Replying to Disraeli's attack, 
he used this careful phraseology, which must be read in the 
light of James's letter : 

I feel it my duty to tell you that Mr. Gladstone, in retaining his 
seat for the borough of Greenwich till the meeting of Parliament, was 
governed, as he was bound to be governed, by the opinion of the law 
officers of the Crown ; and, further, that if he had done otherwise 
he would, in my opinion, have done that which was unconstitutional. 

But apart from this incident Gladstone had another reason 
for making the plunge then rather than at the end of another 
Session. His Government in its achievements the most 
brilliant in our political history had become waterlogged 
He had in prospect a magnificent surplus, and he aimed at 
the abolition of the income tax and the sugar duties. To 
achieve this he needed the economies which had been 
promised on naval and military expenditure, but Cardwell 
/at the War Office was unable to meet his wishes, and, deter- 
mined to carry his point and conscious of the disintegration 
of the Ministry, Gladstone decided on the bold course of 
an appeal to the country. The dissolution took place on 


January 26, and Gladstone in his manifesto to the Greenwich 
electors promised the abolition of the income tax, relief to 
local taxation and a further step in the reduction of duties 
on articles of general consumption. The vigour of the 
appeal alarmed Disraeli, who thought it would carry the 
country. He retorted on what he called his rival's " prolix 
narrative " with light sarcasms about the Straits of Malacca, 
and with vague hints that the national institutions and the 
integrity of the empire were in danger ; but to the proposals 
for the remission of taxation which were the core of Glad- 
stone's manifesto he offered neither criticism nor objection. 
Harcourt went down to Oxford, from whence he wrote 
to Dilke : 

OXFORD, 1874. Ravi nantes in gurgite vasto. " Here we are 
again." As Dizzy said the night of the division on the University 
Bill, " It is very amusing." To tell you the truth I am not sorry. 
It had to come and it is as well over. We shall get quit of the 
County duffers of the party and begin afresh. I return to town 
to-morrow. We must all meet again below the gangway. We shall 
still have a nice little party though diminished. I am very sorry 
about Fawcett, but we shall soon get him back again. 

If in his private letters Harcourt was critical of the 
Government, he balanced matters by the fervour of his 
advocacy to his constituents. He made a detailed defence of 
the policy pursued by Peel and continued by Gladstone, 
dwelt on the triumphs of Gladstonian finance, drew a 
fundamental distinction between Liberal and Conservative 
foreign policy, contrasting Gladstone's protest against the 
cruelties of King Bomba with the Conservative support of 
Austria and sympathy with the South in the Civil War. In 
home policy he touched on incidents like the gas-stokers' 
strike, the Chipping Norton case, the Burials Act, and the 
perpetual hostility of the House of Lords to all the allevia- 
tions of popular discontent. The result of the poll was : 

Harcourt . . . . . 2,332 

Cardwell ...... 2,281 

Hall (C.) 2,198 

The figures showed how the popular tide had left the 
Government in the country generally. The reaction was 


general, and the Tory majority of forty-eight did not repre- 
sent the real dimensions of the blow, for the Irish Liberals 
had broken away from the British political system, and 
established the Nationalist party with the name of Home 
Rulers and a separate organization. 

Writing to Mrs. Ponsonby immediately after the election, 
Harcourt said : 

Harcourt to Mrs. Ponsonby. 

14, STRATFORD PLACE, Wednesday. England has pronounced 
a great and overwhelming verdict in favour of Philistinism which 
is a vituperative epithet intended to discredit common sense. To 
poor Philistines like myself this is not unsatisfactory. . ." . 

The philosophers and the philanthropists are " gone to pot." 
The " world betterers " are nowhere. 

The profession of a political prophet is a poor one, but I have 
pursued it with some success for the last two years. I was amused 
to find your friend the " intransigeant " F. Harrison, rejoicing over 
the fall of the crotchet-mongers. I am glad my dear Dizzy is to go 
to his grave in a blaze of glory. It is dreadfully immoral but very 
amusing. And in this dull world that is always something. 

For my part I go into Opposition with much better heart than I 
entered Government. Adversity suits my temperament and puts 
me in good humour and good spirits. If I must be a knight (and 
that is the only thing which is indelible), I prefer to be a knight 

Remember me to your husband ; he is like the physician who 
attends the death-bed of innumerable administrations. 

There is a pleasant appendix to the Oxford contest in the 
shape of a letter to Harcourt from his defeated opponent, 
A. W. Hall, who says : 

A. W. Hall to Harcourt. 

BARTON ABBEY, February 6. Surely no man ever had such 
generous opponents ! Thank you very much indeed for your 
letter ; amidst all your work to have taken the trouble to write 
to me is an act of kindness I shall not forget. I enjoyed the fight 
uncommonly, though it was hard work for a novice. It's not unlike 
the excitement of a good run, and though I lost my fox, I have the 
satisfaction of feeling that I rode straight and did my best. 

/ Cardwell, on the defeat of the Government, accepted a 
peerage, and Harcourt seems to have suggested to Chichester- 
Fortescue, who^fcad been beaten at Louth, that he should 


contest the vacant seat. Fortescue, however, wrote (Feb- 
ruary 17) : 

I did not get away from Gladstone's until very late last night. 
We are out at once, though there may possibly be another Cabinet 
first. Mr. G. will not act as leader of Opposition and will make that 
clear. There will be no leader so far as I can see. 

I have decided to go to the other place with great difficulty and 
many throes, aided by the doctor, who was very urgent on the ground 
of health. Oxford would have been a temptation which I don't 
think I could have resisted, had it been safe, but it was evidently 
doubtful, even with all your powerful and friendly help so heartily 

Lord E. Fitzmaurice wrote, February 18, 1874, to Har- 
court suggesting that Fawcett should contest the Oxford 
seat, and adding : 

HOME DEPARTMENT. . . . Gladstone is not going to act as the 
regular leader of the party, but will only attend the House occa- 
sionally. This seems to me about the worst arrangement possible. 
Hartington is, I believe, to play Addington to Gladstone's Pitt. 
The one arrangement will last about as long as the other did. 

In his reply Harcourt disclosed the attitude in regard 
to the leadership of the Liberal party which governed his 
actions for the next half-dozen years : 

Harcourt to Lord E. Fitzmaurice. 

14, STRATFORD PLACE. You may be sure that Fawcett has been 
present to my mind, but I fear he is too strong meat for the babes 
of Oxford who have been fed on the mild pap of Cardwell and Har- 
court. The brewer would beat him into fits, and a personal canvass 
is absolutely necessary. I should not like to expose him to a contest 
which I know would be hopeless, especially in a place where the 
res angusta domi is not appreciated. You don't think as highly of 
Hartington as I do. He has very good judgment, great honesty 
1 and good pluck, all great political qualities, and how refreshing a 
I little silence and indifferent speaking will be. The change in itself 
! would be delightful. I think him far the best constitutional Sovereign 
in the party after the fall of the despotism. Some good stout northern 
Borough is the place for Fawcett. 

Harcourt had discussed the question of leadership with 
Hartington, who wrote to him : 


Hartington to Harcourt. 

IRISH OFFICE, February 20. Brand (the Speaker) was out of 
town yesterday, and I saw no one of much importance. I have, 
however, thought a good deal of our conversation. I am inclined 
to think that so long as,- Mr. Gladstone continues to take any part 
in the House of Commons, no other leader of the party is possible ; 
and if he should make up his mind to retire altogether, the members 
of the late Government and other heads of the party must consider 
what is to be done. I do not think, therefore, that any independent 
expression of opinion on my part is now called for, or would in 
loyalty to Mr. Gladstone and my late colleagues be justified. 

But Harcourt was determined that the leadership should 
not be left in commission. Writing to Frank Hill, the editor 
of the Daily News, he said : 

Harcourt to Frank Hill. 

14, STRATFORD PLACE, March 3. I need not say I certainly concur 
in the sentiments of the " Liberal M.P." The notion of letting the 
Liberal Party drift with the tide like an old collier without a rudder 
seems to me detestable. It is all due to the selfish egotism of the 
two G's (Gladstone and Granville) as they are called, who know they 
cannot carry on themselves and want to prevent anyone else doing 
so. I am more and more convinced that Hartington is the only 
possible figureheaa for the ship. I wish you would write an article 
strongly insisting on the necessity of organization and a leader, and 
indicate the leader or not as you think best. 

The issue of the Liberal leadership rapidly developed as the 
Session advanced. The new Government had foreshadowed 
in the Queen's Speech an unexciting programme of legislation, 
and the chief interest of the Session centred, not in a Govern- 
ment measure, but in the Public Worship Regulation Bill, 
which was introduced ostensibly as a non-party measure on 
which members might vote without involving the Govern- 
ment. As this Bill proposed, in the blunt phrase coined by 
Disraeli, " to put down Ritualism," it excited enormous 
popular interest. It summoned Gladstone from his very 
brief retirement at Hawarden, full of zeal for the liberties of 
the Church. The discussions on this Bill were important 
in Harcourt's career, because they brought him into frank 
conflict with Gladstone, and threatened at one time to cause 
a fatal breach between the two men. 


But before this there had been a curious little aside between 
Gladstone, Goschen and Harcourt which had shown the cross- 
currents within the party. It arose in connection with the 
Navy Estimates. In introducing them Ward Hunt, the 
First Lord in the new Government, pointed out that they 
were the estimates of the late Government. Gladstone 
thereupon wrote to Harcourt pointing out that they were 
not the estimates of the late Government. They were the 
estimates of the Department, and had not been endorsed by 
the Cabinet. Harcourt sent the letter to Goschen, who had 
been First Lord of the Admiralty and who in the course of 
his reply said : 

Goschen to Harcourt. 

SEACOX HEATH, April 7. It is no use beating about the bush, 
and I should like to write to Gladstone direct, as I should be entitled 
to write if I had seen the letter. 

One thing I can tell you. The estimates were not sanctioned by 
the Cabinet nor by Gladstone before we went out. He has been 
very particular about this, and both Card well and I left memoranda 
behind us stating that our Estimates were departmental only, that 
they contained what we should probably have submitted to the 
Cabinet, but that they had not been passed. (I am writing of course 
from memory.) . . . My theory is that Gladstone is vexed at the 
Press treating the Estimates passed on to our successors as our 
Estimates, after the trouble he had taken to draw the distinction. 
It is certain that he is not pledged to them. . . . 

In his reply to Gladstone, Harcourt said : 

Harcourt to Gladstone. 

TORQUAY, April g. ... I am very glad to think that the 
Liberal Party is not committed to high estimates, for I have never 
shared the opinion that growing wealth is a justification for increased 
extravagance. I do not know if you are aware that I voted last 
jveek (the only vote I have given in this Parliament) with Lawson 
for a reduction of the Army Estimates. I could not do otherwise, 
having regard to my former declarations and conduct. But I was 
sorry that A. Peel appeared to regard it as a vote against my late 
colleagues a view of the matter which I am happy to think your 
letter altogether refutes. 

I suppose the intentions of the Government on the Budget are a 
complete mystery, but I shall be most happy to do what little I can 
to sustain the cause of economy to which in these adverse times I am 
more than ever faithful. 


If the Government once repudiate the principle of remitting 
taxes, there will be no end to extravagance, for so long as the residue 
is only to go to liquidation of debt no one will care how small is the 

It seems to me that each tax taken off is a fresh recognizance 

binding on the Government not to waste. 



With the introduction of the Public Worship Bill there 
arose an open conflict between Harcourt and his Chief. 
Apart from the temperamental and other causes of friction 
between these two somewhat august spirits, a plain ecclesi- 
astical issue was certain to bring them into collision. They 
were the poles apart in religious feeling and church polity. 
Gladstone was saturated with the spirit of the High Anglican 
movement. To him the Church was a divine institution 
that owed no homage to the secular will of the State. Har- 
court, on the other hand, was both by origin, taste and 
training, the most unmystical of Erastians. He was a sound 
Church and State man, who sto^a upon the rock of the 
blessed Revolution, spoke of the Prayer Book as the schedule 
to an Act of Parliament, and regarded the Church as an 
institution by law established, over which Parliament pre- 
sided as a court armed with pains and penalties. Between 
these two hostile views there could be no reconciliation and 
the attack on Ritualism brought them into sharp collision. 

The Bill was introduced on April 20 by the Archbishop 
of Canterbury (Tait). Its intention was to give the bishops 
and the archbishops more power to check practices which 
were not in harmony with the character of the Established 
Church. In directing the forms of public worship the 
Bishop was to be assisted by a Board of Assessors, on which 
laymen and clergy would sit. Any one parishioner, or the 
rural dean, or the archdeacon would have the right to com- 
plain to the Bishop of any practice by an incumbent which 
he thought was not in accordance with the rules of the Church. 
If the Bishop thought that the matter ought to be inquired 
into, the Board of Assessors would be summoned, and the 
Bishop would be guided by their advice. The incumbent, 



if the judgment went against him, was to have a right of 
appeal to the Archbishop, also sitting with a Board of 

The proposal reawakened all the issues of the " No Popery " 
cry of the fifties. It cut right across the party lines, and 
in the House of Lords the Secretary for India, Lord Salisbury, 
as pronounced a High Anglican as Gladstone himself, to- 
gether with Lord Selborne, a Low Churchman, violently 
opposed the Bill, while in the House of Commons, Salisbury's 
leader, Disraeli, referring to his opposition, described him as 
" a master of gibes, and flouts and jeers." The measure was 
substantially modified before it reached the House of Com- 
mons, notably by a decision that an ecclesiastical judge 
should preside in the Courts of Canterbury and York. Its 
arrival brought Gladstone back to the House of Commons 
to declare war on what he regarded as profanation. In a 
speech on the second reading, which greatly moved the 
House, he gave notice of six Resolutions which he proposed to 
move on the principles which he thought ought to direct 
any legislation on this subject. Needless to say, these 
Resolutions were diametrically opposed to the spirit of the 
Bill. They laid stress on the diversity of usage which had 
grown up in the Church since the Reformation, and the 
unreasonableness of proscribing all varieties of opinion, on 
the danger of giving too much power to individuals, and the 
uhdesirability of substituting uniformity for the existing 
variety of ritual. 

Emphasizing the fact that this was not a Government 
Bill and that everybody was free to express his individual 
opinion, Harcourt followed with a broadside on his leader 
" the great enchanter," to whom they had " listened with 
rapt attention as he poured forth the wealth of his incom- 
parable eloquence." His argument was that the law of a 
Church established by the law must be declared by a secular 
tribunal. In a free Church the congregation had a summary 
remedy against a minister who defied its creed or custom, but 
in a national Church the incumbent was in possession of a 
freehold and could defy the congregation. But he held 

\ \ 


under a legal tenure which defined at once his power and his 
duties. The law was supreme, and it was that supremacy 
which was the only guarantee of the liberty of the clergy and 
of the rights of the people. The attack was inevitably much 
discussed. The Annual Register says that " people said it 
was evident, from the defiant attitude assumed by Sir 
William Harcourt to his former Chief, that he was making 
a bid for the leadership of the Liberal Party, whose allegiance 
Mr. Gladstone might have done not a little to forfeit by his 
present action." There is no reason to look further than the 
acute difference in the outlook of the two men in religious 
matters. Harcourt's Erastian principles were so marked 
as to wear to present-day readers an eighteenth-century 
aspect. The Church of England was to him " the parlia- 
mentary state Church " ; to Gladstone it was the mystical 
body of Christ. 

Writing to The Times the next day to explain and expand 
his meaning, as his habit was, Harcourt said : 

The gist of my argument was to show that the Reformation of 
religion was not effected by or with the aid of Convocation ; that all 
that was really effectual in that great transaction was accomplished 
by Royal Commissions of selected divines, whose work was imposed 
perforce on the clergy by Act of Parliament. . . . 

I know that it will be said that these are Erastian opinions. . . . 
But they are the doctrines on which the Parliamentary State 
Church of England was founded, and on which alone she stands. 
She has never rested on some Concordat negotiated between co- 
ordinate and co-equal powers. She is a national Church only 
because she is the work of the nation, acting through the only 
legitimate exponents of the national will I mean the Crown and 
Parliament. I know there is another theory which is the opposite 
of Erastianism, and its name is Ultramontanism. . . . 

I know that there are those to whom these doctrines are odious, 
but they are those to whom the history of the Reformation and the 
distinctive name of Protestant are detestable. 

The controversy roused Harcourt to study ecclesiastical 
authorities, and he poured out his learning in his letters to 
The Times with very much the same zest as he had shown in 
the " Historicus " controversy. Meanwhile the battle at 
Westminster, which had become largely a duel between 
Gladstone and Harcourt, waxed more fierce. 


Disraeli had now practically made the passage of the Bill 
a matter of confidence. Gladstone had withdrawn his 
Resolutions, but continued the fight almost single-handed. 
He introduced common law into the discussion to the horror 
of Harcourt, who said that the common law of Christendom 
was fulminated by the Vatican and since 1533 had been 
repudiated as controlling the authority of Parliament. 
Temper was rising with the heat of the August days, and the 
debate on an Amendment giving the complainant power to 
carry the case against an incumbent straight to the Ardh- 
bishop if the Bishop declined to take proceedings led to a 
somewhat bitter exchange of letters between Gladstone and 
Harcourt. In the third of these missives, all written on the 
same day, Gladstone wrote : 

Gladstone to Harcourt. 

21, CARLTON HOUSE TERRACE, August 3. What you effectually 
conveyed to the House was that a minority of bishops appointed 
during the last five years would not put the law in force, and in 
support of this statement you cited publicly the act of a particular 
Bishop, without informing the House that he was not one appointed 
within the last five years and privately the names of two who were. 
I think I was entitled to ask you for the foundation of the heavy 
charge you had in court language made against me, but I so far 
agree with you about a conversation which was de facto private that 
I shall leave the matter where it is and rest under the injustice. 

After this cut and thrust in private the disputants 
promptly retorted on each other in public. On August 5, 
Harcourt made a long and elaborate speech against Glad- 
stone's position. If, as Mr. Gladstone asserted, the Church 
knew nothing of courts appointed by Parliament with the 
assent of the Crown, then, he said, it was perfectly idle for 
Parliament to occupy itself with the discipline of the Church. 
The doctrine of Gladstone might be the true doctrine, he 
declared, but it was not to be found in the Constitution 
of England or in the Church of England. He praised 
Disraeli, " because he has long had the sagacity to 
divine the sentiments and to execute the will of the English 
people. ... He has seen that not England alone, but all 
Europe is divided into two camps, and that the camp on the 


one side is that of Ultramontanism and on the other that of 
Sacerdotalism." He urged him not to draw back from the 
struggle. Cobden had described Free Trade as a question 
which would dislocate many parties and destroy many 
governments. And this was a more important question than 
Free Trade. He was firmly convinced that the Church of 
England could only be saved by Protestantizing that Church, 
and that could only be done by the power that originally 
made it Protestant, the State. 

Disraeli followed with a speech that attacked impartially 
Gladstone and his own Secretary for India, Lord Salisbury 
But it was Gladstone's retort on his late Solicitor- General 
which made the debate memorable. 

I confess fairly (he said) I greatly admire the manner in which he 
has used his time since Friday night. On Friday night, he says, 
he was taken by surprise : the lawyer was taken by surprise, and 
so was the Professor of Law in the University of Cambridge : the 
lawyer was taken by surprise, and in consequence he had nothing 
to deliver to the House but a series of propositions on which I will 
not comment. 

. . . My hon. and learned friend has had the opportunity of 
spending four or five days in better informing himself on the subject, 
and he is in a position to come down to this House and for an hour 
and a half to display and develop the erudition he has thus rapidly 
and cleverly acquired. . . . The fact is my hon. and learned friend, 
who has spoken of the youth of the Bishops, though most of them 
exhibit grey hairs, is still in his parliamentary youth ; he has not 
yet sown his parliamentary wild oats. When he has I have not the 
smallest doubt he will combine with his ability which no one sees 
with greater satisfaction than I do temper and wisdom, a due 
consideration for the feelings of others, strictness in restating the 
arguments of opponents in fact every political virtue that can 
distinguish a notability of Parliament, and, if he persists in the 
course of study he has begun, a complete knowledge of ecclesiastical 

In the end the Commons did not insist on carrying their 
amendment in the face of the opposition of the House of 
Lords. Harcourt l had been in communication with Arch- 

1 During the progress of the Public Worship Regulation Act, 
Harcourt took out of his son's collection of coins a silver ten-shilling 
piece of Charles I, struck during the siege of Oxford, with a portrait 


bishop Tait throughout the controversy, and a passage from 
the Archbishop's diary (August 9) shows how anxious the 
position was : 

. . . On Monday night, as I was returning from town, I was pur- 
sued by a messenger from Disraeli to say that unless we could carry 
the Commons' amendment the Bill was lost. . . . On Tuesday the 
Bishops met by appointment in the House of Lords. They were 
bent on resistance to the clause, and carried the day. All voted 
against it except Carlisle, who did not vote, the Chancellor's attempt 
at a compromise having broken down. All seemed very black, and 
I went home to bed convinced that we had lost our six months' labour, 
and must prepare for a frightful year of agitation. It was not until 
I had read The Times article next morning that I had any hope, and 
immediately after I had read it, came a second note from Disraeli 
to say that in his judgment all was lost. (The note is as follows, 
" I am employed in trying to rally the ship. I conclude the Bill is 
lost. This is a heavy blow, I would almost say a fatal one. D.") 
I had my carriage at the door, and having a note from the Duke of 
Richmond saying that almost everything depended on the line 
taken by Sir William Harcourt (who was supposed to be the 
leader of the irreconcileables), I started in pursuit of him to his house : 
found him gone : tracked him to his club : got him into my carriage 
and urged wiser counsels. ... I used my best influence too with 
Holt and others. . . . By two o'clock the Bill was safe, and I 
wrote in the House of Lords to the Queen " Thank God, the Bill 
has passed." 

Among the many letters which Harcourt received in 
regard to the fight over the Public Worship Act was one 
from a relative of Gladstone, the Rev. J. Carr Glyn, who 
thanked him for " so ably and manfully coming forward in 
the House and in your letters to The Times on the cause of 
Protestantism." Replying to a letter from Baron Bram- 
well, Harcourt wrote : 

Harcourt to Lord Bramwell. 

14, STRATFORD PLACE, August 12. I was very much obliged to 
you for your kind letter and to know that there are some good judges 
who approve what I have tried to do. 

of the King riding above the buildings of the City, which bore on 
its reverse the following legend : 

Relig. Prot. 

Leg. Ang. 

Liber. Par. 
and gave it to Disraeli. 


I am and always have been and always shall be a Whig which 
I take to be the faith of all sensible Englishmen. The great vice 
of Gladstone is that he has never understood Whig principles and 
never will. If the Liberal Party is ever to be reconstructed it must 
be on that platform. If we can do nothing else we can at least 
prevent G. coming back with a motley crew of Home Rulers and 
Republicans, and I for one am much more content to bear the ills 
we have than fly to others which we know too well. 


Although, apart from the battle royal over ritualism, 
there was little of interest in the work of the Session, Har- 
court was active in many direction^. He took a strong line 
on the Endowed Schools Amendment Bill which he regarded 
as a part of "a crescendo of denominationalism." " In 
1869," he said, " we passed a Bill respecting the will of the 
founder ; in 1873 we extended that principle ; and now, in 
1874, it is proposed to extend it still further. In 1869 the 
pious founder ; in 1873 the more pious founder ; in 1874 the 
most pious founder." What the Government meant by the 
pious founder was " something that mirrored their own 
prejudices ; something which enabled them to treat the 
endowed schools as fortresses and strong positions against 
the Nonconformists : something which gave effect to their 
own sectarian passions." 

He spoke on the Land Titles and Transfer Bill, insisting 
that registration should be accompanied by a simplification 
of title and tenure ; pressed for reform of naval administra- 
tion, showing the repeated changes of plan at the Admiralty, 
and interested himself in the crusade for saving Epping 
Forest to the people, presiding at a great meeting at Shore- 
ditch Town Hall on the subject. 

In the midst of the Public Worship controversy, Baron 
Bramwell wrote asking Harcourt to protest " against the 
Chancellor's proposal to make a Court of Error out of the 
Chief." Harcourt replied : 

Harcourt to Lord Bramwell. 

14, STRATFORD PLACE, Saturday. I have no special reverence for 
" Chiefs " of any description whether in the Law or in politics. 


But it is difficult (however true it may be and no doubt is) to say 
in public that the Chief Justices knew less of law than other people. 
All barristers are supposed to be and are called " learned," Judges 
" more learned " and Chief Justices " most learned " such are 
the odious degrees of comparison, as with " Very Reverend," 
" Right Reverend " and " Most Reverend " Archdeacons, Bishops 
and Archbishops when none of them are Reverend at all. It does 
not do to let the public into these secrets too much. They might 
think that none of the august were learned at all. However, I will 
see what can be done, though I have got a tough job in hand just 
now in trying to convince the H. of C. that Gladstone knows nothing 
of the English Constitution in Church and in State which, however, 
is the fact. 

In the autumn Harcourt lost one of the circle of his closest 
friends by the death of Lady Dilke. Writing to him from 
Paris, after his bereavement, Dilke said : 

Dilke to Harcourt. 

PARIS, Wednesday. I have been wandering in the South of 
France ever since and my letters were all kept from me till Monday 
night. Yours was one of the first I read, and I addressed an envelope 
to you intending to answer it, but I couldn't, and I don't know 
whether I shall be able to finish this now. You see, I can write 
to the people she didn't know, and to those she didn't love, but it 
is hard to write to those she loved. To think of your visit and of my 
letter to you. It is awful, and she loved Loulou too but above 
all she loved you for the tenderness of your heart which we know 
and which so few can guess the extent of as we could. I am afraid 
I can't go on, do write to me. I don't know what I shall do. 

Harcourt replied : 

Harcourt to Dilke. 

14, STRATFORD PLACE, November i. I received your heartbroken 
and heartbreaking note last night on my return from Eastbourne, 
where I have been to settle my dear little boy at school for the 

What shall I what can I say to you ? I know how idle are all 
commonplace words of consolation to you. Still you have something 
to look to in the affection of your many devoted friends and hers 
and in the love of your child, who will I trust live to be to you what 
mine has been to me. Make an effort to transfer to it the wealth 
of your loving heart which has been so terribly lacerated. I too 
loved my wife as you did yours, and it is to me still after twelve years 
a daily joy to think over the happy days we spent together and to 
remember how no cloud ever arose between us and that we both 
made each others' lives delightful. I have never seen two human 


beings more happy in each others' love than you and she. I know 
how fearful must be the return to the scene of so much joy. But 
it must be done. 

Pray don't give up public life. It must be your sheet anchor ; 
and your child will make for you a home. I should come at once to 
see you and to try to be of use to you, but I go to-day to Cambridge 
for my lectures, which will keep me all November. But in Decem- 
ber and January I shall be free, and if the society of one of your 
most devoted friends who loves you for her sake and your own 
can be of any comfort to you my time shall be at your disposal. 

You and your sorrows are never out of my thoughts. Write to 
me when you feel disposed, but not otherwise as I shall quite under- 
stand it. I will write to you frequently and try to make you think 
of those things which in happier days she and you and I enjoyed so 
much together. 

Your affectionate friend, 


Loulou has talked so much to me of you, and was only waiting to 
know when he could write to you. 

Three days later he wrote again : 

14, STRATFORD PLACE, November 4. I fully meant to have written 
to you before, and was most glad to receive your note which tells 
me that you have been able to see your friends again. I have just 
done with Cambridge where all who knew you are full of interest and 
sympathy for you. I had a good class and saw much of Fawcett. 
He is become such an out and out Gladstonian that I call him 
Georgius Glynnus Secundus. 1 

I fear the great Dizzy is very shaky and that his illness has been 
very serious. I doubt if we shall see or hear much more of him. 

In spite of all the invitations which Liberal orators think it right 
to address to Gladstone the best opinion seems to be that he means to 
return less than ever to the House of Commons. . . . 

The feud between Gladstone and Harcourt smouldered 
on after the passing of the Act. Gladstone published his * 
pamphlet on the " Vatican Decrees," and, speaking at 
Oxford, Harcourt referred to the troubles of the Liberal 
party, and remarked that they would not restore the healthy 
tone of an over-excited system by blazing rhetoric and sen- \ 
sational pamphleteering. Returning to the subject later in 
his speech, after a general repudiation of extremists and a 
profession of his faith in Whig principles, he said they could 
not expect him to join in an onslaught on his Catholic fellow- 

1 G. Glyn, Liberal Whip, afterwards Lord Wolverton. 


subjects, and that, as a politician it was no part of his business 
to undertake the office of a controversial theologian. He 
fought over again the battle of the Public Worship Bill and 
defended the Establishment, remarking that it had been the 
good fortune of their race that they had nourished " a 
traditional distrust of priests and an instinctive aversion 
to philosophers." The Times, in commenting on this speech, 
said that " the crotchets of humanitarians and the dogmas 
of advanced thinkers will not receive any encouragement 
from the Liberal Party, so far as Sir William Harcourt can 
exercise any influence over it." With regard to his reference 
to Mr. Gladstone's pamphlet, it remarked that the passages 
" derive their chief interest from the indications they give of 
Sir William Harcourt's probable relations with Mr. Gladstone 
during the coming session." 

The question of the leadership was still the subject of 
domestic concern in the Liberal party, and writing to Frank 
Hill, Harcourt said : 

OXFORD & CAMBRIDGE CLUB, Sunday evening. The four-and- 
twenty tailors went to kill a snail, but when they saw his horns they 
were so frightened that they returned to their bench where they are 
still sitting cross legged. The truth is none of them dare go near 
G., and nothing has been done. They hope in a few days, perhaps 
weeks, more probably months, to dare to do something. In the 
meantime G. still sulks, and says he will not lead. They go on 
begging him, but they have been so long like babies in leading 
strings that they can't walk alone. In the meanwhile the disor- 
ganization is complete. There is no whip, no office, no nothing. 
The thing is ridiculous and disgraceful. You will be safe in saying 
there is nothing decided, nothing arranged, nothing prepared. The 
fate of the Liberal Party depends on whether G. chooses to get out 
of the sulks. 

The hoisting of the Whig flag had given satisfaction in one 
quarter. In a Christmas letter to his brother, Edward 
Harcourt said : 

HASTINGS, December 24. In writing you a line to send you the 
best wishes of the season, I must express to you my satisfaction at 
the tone of your last speech at Oxford. I do not despair of seeing 
you a sound Conservative some day, at any rate I am very glad to 
see you disclaim the Radical affinities of the Liberal connection. 

1874] "AN ENGLISH NAME' 283 

The story of this year may be fittingly rounded off with 
one of those pieces of self-portraiture which Harcourt had 
for years occasionally indulged in in writing to Mrs. Ponsonby. 
In the course of a letter to her (December 23) he says : 

Harcourt to Mrs. Ponsonby. 

It is true that in my opinions and my life I am what I have always 
been a good deal self-contained (what perhaps others would call 
self-centred}. But that I suppose belongs to those who have strong 
wills and great ambitions. 

As to the future, I assure you that my objects are not so definite 
as you suppose. I have a passionate love and admiration for the 
character of the English people. Those who think it is assumed are 
mistaken. If I can reflect their best thoughts and operate in any 
way on their judgment I am satisfied, though I have no doubt I 
share their weaknesses and have some tendency to glorify their 
prejudices. One does this incurably towards the woman or the people 
one loves. 

Whatever other people may think, you know mine is a really 
passionate nature. The events of my life have tended to chasten 
and sadden it, but its natural buoyancy and courage is not destroyed. 
I don't say I have no wish to leave an English name for I have. 
But as to official pre-eminence I am careless of it. The objects of 
personal ambition in that sense are more or less dead to me. . . . 

However, I stick by the old Whig motto Che sara sara. I try to 
understand the English people ; perhaps one day they will under- 
stand me. If they don't it will only be what has happened to my 
betters before. . 


The Question of the Leadership Antagonism to Gladstone Forster 
or Hartington Hartington Leader of the Party The Burials 
Bill A Visit to Hughenden The Suez Canal Shares Oxford 
speeches The Slave Circular The Exclusiveness of the " Late 
Cabinet " Naval controversy in The Times Canada and 
Merchant Shipping Acts The Disraeli peerage A Swiss 
Holiday Second marriage. 

FOR the first time since he had become a member for 
Oxford, Harcourt did not attend the Annual Druids' 
Dinner on the New Year's Day of 1875. His absence 
was attributed to health reasons, but the fact was that the 
situation was not one which could tempt a Liberal statesman 
to any public declaration. The Party was in dissolution. 
After his irruption on the Public Worship Bill, Gladstone had 
subsided into silence. In spite of the urgent appeals from his 
immediate circle his mind steadily moved in the direction 
of final retirement from the les/dership of the Party. Gran- 
ville, Hartington and Goschen on the one side, and Bright 
and Chamberlain on the other were anxious that he should 
continue to lead, but he was satisfied that neither the Party 
generally nor the country desired another period of active 

\reforms. Even if they did he was doubtful about his own 
fitness to conduct them and shrank from a rupture in the 
Party which would leave him leading one section against 
another. In the discussion which was going on behind the 

N scenes Harcourt was taking an active part. His antagonism 
to Gladstone had become temporarily the governing motive 
of his political activities, and he was determined that there 



should be "no return from Elba." In the first days of the 
New Year he was engaged in a feverish correspondence with 
his late colleagues on the subject. From the extracts which 
follow it will be seen that he was not getting much encour- 
agement in the course he was pursuing, though in the end 
the object he sought to attain, a Hartington leadership,^ 
was accomplished. It was accomplished, however, by Glad- 
stone's own final resolve to retire, conveyed in the letter of 
January 13 to Granville, rather than by the wish of his 
colleague that he should retire. 

Harcourt to Goschen. 

14, STRATFORD PLACE, January 4. . . . Gladstone having 
dismissed seventy Catholic vote^ I suppose will return as the leader 
of about eighty Radical Disestablishmentarians. I wish him joy of 
them. It is exactly the position I wish to see him occupy. And 
I rather hope that the approaching meeting at Birmingham will 
make that clear. 

There will remain about 120 moderate Liberals who will take^ 
precious good care he shall not be in the position to do any serious 
mischief. For my part I see nothing better at present than to" 
keep the present men in under surveillance. As long as Dizzy lives 
it will not be difficult. If he goes it will be a serious matter, as they 
will probably make themselves impossible by their follies. But in 
my opinion anything almost would be more endurable than a restora- 
tion of the late regime. 

Harcourt to Lord E. Fitzmaurice. 

14, STRATFORD PLACE, January 6. . . . Everything is possible 
and nothing particularly probable. Gladstone's Will-o'-the-Wisp^ 1 '' 
genius has been fatal to a party to which he has never really belonged 
and whose principles he does not now understand. 

I assure you honestly nothing is further from my desire than to 
lead anybody. I find it difficult enough to lead myself. . . . 

Whether he (Gladstone) means to come back to the opposition 
Bench as leader, I don't know, and I doubt if he does himself. It 
will be determined, as anything he does is, by temper and passion, 
and I don't see any use or possibility of electing a remplafant. 
There is not agreement enough on the subject, and for obvious 
reasons it is not a matter in which I feel disposed to stir. Things 
must slide for the present. 

I think it very likely that Chamberlain & Co. will make the 

/Birmingham meeting at the end of the month an occasion for a 

pronunciamento in his favour. But this will do him more harm 


_^_ than good. I have never counted on James to oppose Gladstone. 
He does not love G., but he fears him, which I don't. . . . 

I hear to-day from the Chancellor that Dizzy is really all right 

^ again. I am very glad of it, for if he were to go there would be chaos. 
It seems to me there is nothing to do for the present but to keep 
these men in, and without D. it would be probably impossible. I 
am going to meet the old lot at Strawberry Hill on Saturday. If 
I hear any news worth writing I will send it to you. 

Harcourt to Goschen. 

14, STRATFORD PLACE, January 7. ... If Gladstone returns 
as leader my course will depend on the policy which he pursues. 

\ I am a little sick of what G. Glyn called " loyalty," which, as far as 
I understand, was a servile abandonment of all principles to the 
whim of one individual. That sort of loyalty I hope I shall never 

^practice. My loyalty is due to the principles of the Party to which 
I belong. And I can neither see them dragged through the dirt 
not suffer myself to be so. If it be true, as is confidently stated, 
that Gladstone is to return in order to make a declaration against 
the Church, and you and your late colleagues think that even if 
you disapprove such a course you have not the right to say so : I 
can only protest that I do not so regard my political obligations, nor 
should I do so if the leader was a far wiser man than Gladstone is. 
I shall take on that subject the same course as I did on his Resolu- 
tions. It seems to me impossible for any man who respects himself 
to hold his political opinions as a sort of tenant at will ready to be 
ejected at an instant's notice. It was in my opinion this singular 
doctrine of " loyalty " (which I should call by another name) which 
deprived the late Cabinet of that independence of judgment and free- 
dom of consultation which is essential to the dignity and vitality 
of a government. 

A party or a cabinet or a government which only meets to register 
submissively the varying fancies of an individual, without daring 
even to remonstrate or to discuss, is sure to perish as the empire of 
bouis Napoleon did and as the Government of Gladstone has done. 
I know something of the way in which the Cabinet of Lord Palmer - 
ston was conducted when Sir C. Lewis was a member of it. In 
those days Cabinet Ministers dared to have an opinion of their 
own, and frequently made them prevail. But then Lord Palmerston 

\ was not a theologian. I claim the right to act just as independently 

as Gladstone himself did towards the Government of Lord Palmerston 

from 1854 to 1859 after he had been his colleague and indeed had 

- u r accepted office under him. If Gladstone will stick to the principles 

I of the Liberal Party I am very ready to act with him or under him. 
But I will not undertake to support any wild proposals which his 
flighty nature may at any moment think fit to go in for. Still 
less will I abandon the right of remonstrance against a policy which 


I regard as dangerous or mischievous, like that for instance of his 
late pamphlet. He has the secret unknown to me of justifying 
himself in doing and saying one day the exact opposite to what he 
did the day before. As I don't understand the art I shall not follow 
that course, and I am sincerely sorry for those who, like yourself, 
think yourselves bound to go wherever the Will-o '-the- Wisp may lead 
you. I hope you may not be choked in the quagmire. 

If Gladstone flings himself into the arms of the Radicals he cannot'"" 
expect that moderate men will follow him. 

However we will talk more of these things when we meet at Seacox 
Heath. Meanwhile I go to sleep more easily than you can do, who 
do not know whether you may not see in any morning's Times 
a manifesto or a pamphlet which will bind you like the Vatican 
Decrees to obey your Pope and declare for the destruction of the 
Monarchy, the House of Lords, or the House of Commons (as he no 
longer has a majority there) or the Church. 

Happily, however, as is the case of the Papists, the " loyalty " 
even of the late Cabinet is not so unreasonable as it professes to be, 
and I firmly believe that you would think three times at least before 
you killed your wife and family even at the command of Gladstone 
and G. Glyn. 

Goschen to Harcourt. 

SEACOX HEATH, January 7. George is much disappointed at 
hearing that Loulou is not to appear on Saturday, we thought it 
quite settled and I am sorry to lose your visit. ... A " more 
convenient season " is, I fear, a scriptural phrase for indefinite 

Less ambitious than you, I do not propose to act any part myself. 
I am so deficient in histrionic talent that I cannot even act in the 
House of Commons, a very great drawback in these days. 

Thanks for your political letter. You once paid me the compli- 
ment of saying that I was the only member of the late Cabinet to 
whom you could speak your mind straight out, without meeting 
anger or annoyance. And you judged rightly that I like to hear 
both sides, and of course I am glad to know what is passing in your 
breast, even when it takes the form of the strongest antipathy to my 
late Chief and his colleagues, of whom I was one. But it is difficult to 
know how to deal with your frank confidences. 

If Gladstone returns as leader, as I hope he will, and if the breach^ 
;Xvidens between yourself and Gladstone, as it must do, you and I 
must be in opposite camps, and you are supplying information to 
the enemy. Of course I treat your letter as confidential ; yet your 
attitude of increasing hostility is a circumstance which of course I 
cannot exclude from my mind in discussions which may arise, as to 
what ought to be done. Don't misconstrue what I say. My only 
wish is to be perfectly loyal to you when receiving confidence, yet 


loyal to Gladstone if he returns to the House and maps out a 

Goschen to Harcourt. 

SEACOX HEATH, January 8. In denouncing the definition of 
loyalty, which rightly or wrongly you put into Glyn's mouth (I 
admit that he has sometimes taken an exaggerated Gladstonian 
view), you denounce a kind of feeling which I myself entirely re- 
pudiate and which most of my late colleagues would probably 
"equally demur to. Your definition is a very great exaggeration. 

You have constantly told me that the late Cabinet always deferred 
to Gladstone and you seem to think that we could hardly call our 
"-.souls our own, that he was our Pope, in fact. That is historically 
incorrect, but that is comparatively immaterial at present. 

No one would hold certainly not Gladstone himself nor the 

^- super-Gladstonian Wolverton that if Gladstone were to return 

to-morrow with a programme of disestablishment loyalty would 

require anybody to follow him. The result would be an honest, 

open, and avowed split, that is quite certain. 

Of course every member of the party and ex-colleagues as 
much as anybody has a perfect right to protest publicly and 
privately, if on important questions a real divergence of opinion 
exists. . . . 

There is an immense interval between the general feeling of 
hostility towards Gladstone's whole course of action, the pleasure in 
his reverses, and the determination to do what can be done to keep 
him out of office, which you expressed to me in the train coming 
from Scotland, and the state of mind which you, most contrary 
to fact, attribute to me, of being ready to follow a will-o'-the-wisp 
into any quagmire to which it may stray. 

With the formal announcement by Gladstone of his resig- 
nation of the leadership, the question of a successor occupied 
the field of discussion. The course of the public discussion 
is summed up in Tenniel's famous cartoon, " The Bow of 
Ulysses," published in Punch (February 6), which represented 
Hartington engaged in trying to bend the bow, and Har- 
court, Goschen, Lowe and Forster behind awaiting their turn. 
That was the outside view, but behind the scenes the choice 
^was narrowed down to Hartington and Forster. Harcourt 
was a whole-hearted Hartington man, and he put into the 
candidature the enthusiasm which the candidate himself, 
characteristically, lacked. Writing to Harcourt on January 
17, Hartington said : 

i875] "THE BOW OF ULYSSES 289 

Hartington to Harcourt. 

I have to thank you for your letter ; the more because since last 
March you have taken a position in the House of Commons which 
certainly would entitle you to consider yourself a candidate for the 
vacant place. 

The time since Gladstone's retirement is short ; but I have already 
heard enough to convince me that if leadership of the Opposition as 
a whole is to be attempted at all it must be brought about not by its 
assumption by myself or by any one else, or by the dictation of the 
late Cabinet, but by the Party itself after consultation and considera- 
tion of the many difficulties of the position. I do not myself feel-''' 
certain that leadership of the Opposition as a whole is either possible 
or desirable, or that an arrangement which would recognize the real 
state of affairs among us might not be preferable. The Opposition -"^ 
consists of Whigs, Radicals and Home Rulers, and a recognition 
of that fact would save us all from many embarrassments, and might 
possibly enable us to resist any really mischievous policy of the 
present Government, at least as efficiently as if we were nominally 
united. . . . 

The only point on which I have at all made up my own mind is 
that I would not accept the nominal leadership, unless the proposal 
were made with the general concurrence of the leading men in and 
out of the late Government. 

" I am glad you think me ' bumptious/ " wrote Harcourt 
to Argyll (January 20) from Nocton Hall, where he was stay- 
ing with Lord Ripon. " It is the virtue of the young, and you 
know I have not yet sown my ' Parliamentary wild oats.' 
. . . How dear old Johnny (Russell) must be chuckling 
at Gladstone's overthrow. What is satisfactory to me is to 
think that it does not signify two peas except that one sleeps 
a little sounder at night, now that Gladstone cannot announce 
a new Resolution at breakfast." To Dilke he writes : 

Harcourt to Dilke. 

NOCTON HALL, LINCOLN, January 20. I entirely agree with you 
about Fawcett. His situation in nailing his colours to Gladstone's 
mast just as he was going to the bottom was ridiculous in the extreme. 
The truth is that Fawcett has many merits, but is wholly devoid of 
political judgment. He said to me at Cambridge in December, 
" Well, you go in against G. and I for him ; we shall see which will 
win." And we have seen. Fawcett positively believed that 
Vatican pamphlet was a great coup. Is it possible to be more 
blind ? 

I am sincerely glad G. is gone. Whatever happens things can't be 



worse than they were under his sudden impulses and unintelligible 
policy. What will happen God only knows or perhaps the Devil. 
I am keeping out of it all. Since the smash I have not been a day in 
London, and don't mean to be till Parliament meets. I hate club 
gossip. It is so ridiculous and altogether without influence. It is 
pull devil pull baker between Hartington and Forster. As you 
know I prefer the first, and I am not sure you would not likewise. 
^However I mean to have no finger in the pie. 

But having " no finger in the pie " did not mean that his 
unquiet spirit slumbered. His appetite for controversy was 
insatiable, and he wrote anonymously to The Times on the 
constitutional doctrine of the election of an Opposition 
leader. In one letter (January 30) which he signed " A 
Sheep without a Shepherd," he urged that Granville and 
Bright should have consulted with their late colleagues and 
that they should make a recommendation to the Party. He 
was evidently afraid that the vote at the Party meeting 
would go against Hartington, for to Dilke he writes : 

. . . Bright has made a fiasco at Birmingham. All the fat is in 

the fire. The odds which were on Hartington are now on Forster 

\Fawcett agitating furiously for F. in odium swellorum. As at 

present advised I shall not go to the meeting. 

However, next day Forster withdrew from the contest for 
leadership, and when the meeting of the Liberal members 
was held on February 3, Hartington was elected unanimously 
V and Harcourt was content. For a year he had been working 
for the retirement of Gladstone and the substitution of 
Hartington, and both objects were now accomplished. A 
curious sidelight is thrown on these proceedings by the 
postscript to a letter from Lyon Playfair to Granville 
(January 15), printed in Lord E. Fitzmaurice's IMe of 
Granville : 

The real meaning of the anxiety expressed is the following : 

/Lord Hartington is looked upon as a nominee of Harcourt and 
James, to be used in the equational proportion Lord George 
Bentinck : Disraeli : : Hartington : Harcourt. That is at the bottom 
of the agitation. But there is enough spirit of conciliation for the 
" independents " to accept Lord H. or A. B.C. provided it is done 
gently and with the concurrence of the Party. 


The Earl of Lytton, writing to Harcourt from Paris, con- 
gratulated him on the course of events, observing : "I hope 
that Lord Hartington will be your temporary leader. A 
good roi faineant is sometimes as great a desideratum as a 
maire du palais. You stand foremost in the order of Suc- 
cession, and whenever the throne is next vacated I shall 
expect to see you ascend." 

The Session was singularly humdrum., and there was no 
issue like that of the Public Worship Bill to engage Harcourt's 
love of battle. He spoke well and wisely in support of 
Osborne Morgan's resolution that interments should be per- 
mitted in churchyards either without any burial service or 
with services conducted by ministers of other denominations 
than the Established Church. He pointed out that the right 
had been conceded to Ireland and ought not to be withheld 
from this country. He " declined altogether to link the 
living body of the Church of England with dead and decaying 
privileges, for, if the two were inseparable, many a man 
would be driven to the conclusion that the cause of that 
Church was indefensible." 

There was an amusing echo of the Ritualistic controversy 
of the previous year after the Session was over. Disraeli 
wrote to Harcourt from Wortley Hall, Sheffield, as follows : 

Disraeli to Harcourt. 

September 13. Where are you ? and is there a chance of your 
being in the South on the 28th of this month ? And if disengaged, 
could you give me the great pleasure of coming to Hughenden ? 

My new Church is to be opened on the 29th, and the Bishop will 
be with me, who was created by your friend Mr. G. and is very 
high, and I hear there is to be a procession of stoled priests, of great 

I must have some of the reformed faith present to keep me in 
countenance, and you, being the grandson of an Archbishop, may 
please all parties. I hppe the Duchess of Sutherland will support 
me. But that is not^nough. Women, even she, may have aestheti- 
cal seizures, and to ensure my safety, I require your masculine 
Protestantism. Pray come if you can. It will recall old days. 

Harcourt's reply (September 17) was couched in the same 
slightly irreverent vein : 


Harcourt to Disraeli. 

14, STRATFORD PLACE, September 17. An invitation to Hughenden 
would attract me from the uttermost parts of the earth, for there is no 
place which has for me so great a fascination. I suppose it was an 
instinct of this magnet which brought me back yesterday from Swit- 
zerland to find your letter awaiting my return. 

Yes, I shall come with the greatest of pleasure. I was saying to a 
friend the other day that I believe I ought to regret for many reasons 
that you were Minister, but that in fact the reason for which I most 
deplored it was that now I had no occasion of seeing you. 

You have most amiably anticipated my wishes and not deferred 
them to the days, I fear too remote, of your opposition. 

As I am fresh from Geneva and Zermatt and Basle and Worms, 
I shall be ready to do battle by your side in the good cause, and if 
need be to shy a stool at the head of the mass-mongers. I wish a 
round dozen of Bishops would be translated in chariots of fire in 
order that you might fill the Bench with some better stuff than that 
with which it has been recently recruited. Just now I think the 
material of that seat quite as important as that of the Treasury 

Don't you think it would have a good effect if you appeared on 
this occasion in your Oxford D.C.L. robes, and I will bring a Geneva 
gown from Cambridge. 

Though I shall be charmed to take part in your ecclesiastical 
pageant, I can't accept it in exchange " for the happier time of social 
converse ill exchanged for power." And some time or other I hope 
we may have another day alone in Bradenham Chase and talk over 
the strange things which have happened and are to happen. 

You have made England dreadfully dull, which I suppose is the 
true test of national happiness. 

But individually you owe us compensation. 

After the visit to Hughenden Harcourt returned to Scot- 
land, where he had been with Henry James at Millais's 
shooting-lodge. Afterwards he was at Balcarres, Colinsburgh, 
from whence he wrote to his son : 

Harcourt to his Son. 

BALCARRES, October 14. I must write you a line on my birth- 
day. I think you know that in all the years of my life, you, my 
darling, have been my greatest happiness and joy. And your dear 
mother left you to me as both a trust and a consoler. We have 
been very happy in each other's love, and shall always be so as long 
as God is pleased that we should live together. I cannot remember 
that either has ever given the other a moment's sorrow or pain, 
and that will always be a happy thing for both to remember whatever 
may happen to us in the future. 

i8 7 5j SUEZ CANAL SHARES 293 

The weather is so bad here that I have determined to return to 
London to-morrow, so I shall very soon see you again, dearest. 
I will send you a telegram when I am coming down. 


During the Session Hartington had justified his appoint- 
ment to the leadership of the Party, but the intentions of 
Gladstone were still the subject of speculation. Writing to 
Harcourt from Chatsworth (November 21) .^Harrington says : 

. . . Mr. Gladstone is here, and seems a good deal interested in 
politics. The position of Egypt in regard to the Turkish repudiation, 
the Admiralty, and Mr/^Froude's proceedings at the Cape are his 
great political topics at present. 

Four days later Hartington, writing to Harcourt from 
Studley Royal, returns to the subject of Gladstone : 

... I don't much think that Gladstone meditates a return to 
politics. He certainly takes greater interest in secular affairs than 
I expected ; but tnen he is profoundly impressed with the rotten**' 
state of the Liberal Party. 

Harcourt went to Chatsworth in the following month, and, 
writing on his return to London to Lord Houghton, says : 

14, STRATFORD PLACE, December 21. . . . I was at Chatsworth 
last week where the governing race are I think much pleased at the 
success of the young Julius in his lead. He gains strength and 
popularity every day. The truth is the real political sentiment 
of the country is neither Conservative nor Radical, but Whig to the 

How Dizzy must curse the prosaic Derby for having desillusionne 
the world on the subject of the Suez Canal. That affair has almost 
blown over. 

The allusion is to the purchase of the Suez Canal shares, 
which in the general poverty of the ministerial achievements 
had been magnified into a miracle of Disraelian wizardry. 
Every one knows to-day the facts about that excellent, but 
absurdly trumpeted transaction, how, learning that the 
Khedive's shares were in the market, Frederick Greenwood, 
then editor of the Pall Mall Gazette, urged and induced 
Disraeli to buy them, and with what oriental magnificence 
the simple affair was invested for the public benefit. Unfor- 



tunately LoitLDerJiy (t ne Stanley of the Apostolic days, for 
whose plain honesty~Harcourt always showed the highest 
respect) had, as Foreign Secretary, put the matter in its true 
\ and modest light, and pointed out that the real power of 
England in Eastern affairs depended not on Canal shares, but 
on the British fleet. Harcourt made great play with this 
conflict between the blunt Englishman and the Oriental 
magician when he came to deal with the subject at Oxford 
on the last day of the year (December 31). It was the first 
of three speeches he had engaged to deliver to his constitu- 
ents. He was in his liveliest vein, and greatly shocked The 
Times, which thought that if he had been content with 
fifty ' ' laughs ' ' instead of 500 , he would better have consulted 
the gravities of public life. In fact, the speech was a most 
damaging criticism of the actions of the Government. He 
denounced the Army Regimental Exchanges Bill as instinct 
with the very worst spirit of exclusive privilege, showed the 
inadequacy of the amendment of the Labour laws, and spoke 
very forcibly on the maladministration of the Navy and 
on the Merchant Shipping and Judicature Acts. It was 
a serious speech dressed in gay apparel ; but it was 
nowhere more gay than in its allusion to the Suez 
Canal shares : 

Since the speech of the Foreign Secretary, the whole aspect of the 
question has been completely changed, both at home and abroad. 
Up to that time a sort of glamour had invested a very plain business 
with the unnatural haze that distorts the true proportion of things. 
There was something Asiatic in this mysterious melodrama. It 
was like the Thousand and One Nights, when in the fumes of incense, 
a shadowy genie astonished the bewildered spectators. The public 
V mind was dazzled, fascinated, mystified. We had done, we did not 
know exactly what, we were not told precisely why, omne ignotum 
pro magnifico. . . . 

England had at last resumed her lead among the nations. The 
Eastern question had been settled by a coup d'etat on the Stock 
Exchange and Turkey was abandoned to her fate. Egypt was 
annexed. The Bulls of England had vanquished the Bears of 
Russia. Moab was to be our washpot, and over Edom we had cast 
our shoe. France and Mr. Lesseps were confounded. We were a 
very great people, we had done a very big thing ; and, to consum- 


mate the achievement a Satrap 1 from Shoreham, attended by a 
pomp of financial Janissaries, was despatched to administer the 
subject provinces of the English Protectorate on the Nile. . . . 

We, all of us, felt some six inches taller than before. We spread 
our tails like peacocks to the sun, and were as pleased as children 
at our soap-bubble, iridescent with many hues. But, all of a 
sudden, this beautiful vision melted away ; the Egyptian mirage 
evaporated ; the great political phantasmagoria faded like a dissolv- 
ing view. . . . Lord Derby is a great master of prose, and he has 
translated the Eastern Romance into most pedestrian English. 

The second of the three New Year speeches was devoted 
to Oxford subjects, and the third, to the local Liberal 
Association on January 10, was a homily on party discipline. 
The programme makers were a nuisance, and the duty of a 
good Liberal was to/trust to his chiefs and not to embarrass 
them by wild fligfrfts. The main interest of the speech was 
as showing a change of heart. Indeed, the December speech, 
with its determined attack on the Disraeli Government, had 
already indicated a disposition to cease the " sowing of wild 
oats " deprecated by Gladstone. 

Probably the change and the enthusiasm for discipline 
were due to the cordiality of his relations with the new 
leader. What those relations were is indicated in a letter 
from Hartington on the Oxford speeches : 

Hartington to Harcourt. 

DEVONSHIRE HOUSE, January n, 1876. As we were in labour 
together, although I was in the most advanced stage, you must let 
me congratulate you on the safe delivery of your triplets. The 
first and third I consider very fine infants. You will probably 
forgive me if I confess that I did not get far with the second. 

I think that you ought to be especially pleased with the wrath 
which you kindled in the breast of The Times and some other papers, 
which I imagine are beginning to think that their raptures over the 
Suez business were a little premature. The only fault I have to 
find is that you were a great deal too complimentary to me, and the 
unfortunate Party will begin to entertain hopes of me which will 
soon be disappointed. However I am really grateful for all you said. 
You have backed me up in the line which I took, or attempted to take, 

1 Mr. (afterwards Sir) Stephen Cave, M.P. for North Shoreham, 
was sent to Egypt in December 1875 with Colonel (afterwards 
Sir) John Stokes, R.E., to report on the financial situation. 


and I shall begin soon to think that I have got a policy which will 
set the Party on its legs again. 

If you should be in London the next two days, I should be very 
glad to see you and have a little talk. 

A letter on the preceding Christmas Day from Henry James 
shows how, in spite of his occasional explosions, Harcourt 
could endear himself to those who saw most of him and 
knew him best. In the course of the letter James said, " I 
cannot let the year close without saying to you what a 
pleasure it is to me to feel that our friendship and the prospect 
of united action year by year increase. I often feel how 
deficient I am in many qualities required for political life, 
and it is entirely my association with you that gives me 
heart to endeavour to maintain my position." 


But the smoother waters into which the Liberal Party 
had entered were soon disturbed, and Disraeli retaliates on 
Harcourt for his levities in regard to the Suez Canal shares. 
A sudden squall appeared from a wholly unexpected 
quarter. In the previous July the Admiralty had issued 
a circular revising the General Slave Instructions 
issued to the officers of the Navy. This circular 
appeared to reverse British policy, for it provided that, 
though a captain might receive fugitive slaves on board his 
ship, he should, when the ship entered a port of the country 
from which the slave had escaped, surrender him on a 
properly authorized demand. This circular aroused violent 
opposition in the country. It was denounced by Henry 
James in a speech at Taunton, and on November 4 " His- 
toricus " published a letter in The Times supporting James's 
argument and adducing new authorities. He made it clear 
that, as foreign jurisdiction did not run on a British warship 
even in territorial waters, the captain of a British ship could 
not do otherwise than administer British law on that ship, 
and that, as British law did not admit of slavery, a slave once 
on board a British ship could not be handed over as a slave. 
The letter promised a new instalment for the next day, 


which did in fact appear. But in the meantime the offending 
circular was withdrawn. 

Contemporary journalism not unnaturally ascribed the 
withdrawal of the instructions to the attack of " Historicus," 
but there is some evidence that the decision was not so sudden 
as appeared. The World commented that the two letters 
showed what a great lawyer had been lost by Harcourt's 
choice of a political career. " If a man could write those 
two letters after spending a couple of days in a library with 
a smart and intelligent amanuensis, what might he not have 
done had Fortune led him to make the law his serious study." 

But though the first round had been won in the battle 
over the Slave Circular, the fight was not over. The new 
circular issued by the Admiralty in place of the documents 
which had been so severely criticized proved to be only less 
unsatisfactory. The question was debated in Parliament 
in January. Harcourt objected to the new circular on the 
ground that while the first assumed that we were bound to 
surrender the slaves by the obligations of positive law, the 
second directed them to be handed over to their masters^ 
except under special circumstances, while admitting that 
there was no legal obligation. No doubt every country had 
a right to lay down the conditions on which our ships of war 
would be received in their ports, but we could refuse to be 
bound by those conditions, and it was open to them to decide 
whether they would take the risk of quarrelling with us/ 
Disraeli agreed to the appointment of a Royal Commission 
to consider the question, but declined to suspend the circular 
pending the report of the Commission. 

So far the struggle had gone well for the Opposition. They 
had precedent for them and public opinion with them, and a 
formal attack was to be made on February 6. But at this 
moment the friends of the Government disinterred a most 
disastrous fact. A similar circular to that first issued had 
been promulgated by the late Government. The commotion 
caused by this discovery will be readily understood. 

Harcourt wrote to tell Granville that Egerton, the Secre- 
tary to the Admiralty, who had first made the announcement, 


had told him that he had referred to similar instructions 
sent out from the Foreign Office by Lord Clarendon. The 
next day (January 17) he told Granville he had received a 
copy of the circular of 1871, which was nearly identical in 
terms with the one against which he himself had been ful- 
minating. The law officers of the Gladstone Government, 
Coleridge and Collier, he said, denied all knowledge of it. 
Granville replied that to be forewarned was to be forearmed, 
and that he would ask the Foreign Secretary to let him have 
a copy of the papers. Hartington meanwhile had spoken 
on the subject at Bristol, though without committing himself 
too deeply. " How lucky," he wrote to Harcourt (January 
19), " that A. Egerton and the newspapers let the cat out 
of the bag, instead of keeping it to let loose on us in the 
House. ' ' Two days later Harcourt wrote to Granville saying 
how deeply disturbed even moderate Liberal opinion was 
by the revelation, and that it was obviously impossible for 
himself and James to recede from the opinion they had ex- 
pressed, not only because the whole of professional opinion 
that mattered was on their side, but because the legal point 
at issue, the immunity of the Queen's ships in foreign ports, 
was vital to the maritime supremacy of England. He went 
on to say : 

Harcourt to Granville. 

14, STRATFORD PLACE, January 21. . . . Cairns has felt the 
stress on this part of the argument, and has adopted our view in the 
2nd Circular. 

My objection to the 2nd Circular is one not of law (for our law has 
been incorporated into it), but of policy. 

Of course the Orders of 1871 make the situation in a Party point 
of view very difficult. But the country will not stand either the 
Circular of 1871 or those of 1875. I think they must all be thrown 
overboard bodily, and the matter settled on national grounds. 
There is in my opinion only one sound principle, viz. that a slave once 
voluntarily received on board a Queen's ship can under no circumstances 
be given up by the Queen's officers. I at least can support no other 
doctrine in the H. of C. . . . 

I fear that the scrape of 1871 as of 1875 is mainly due to the 
ramshackle and hugger-mugger way in which the law business of 
the F.O. is conducted, and against which I wrote a memorandum 
in my brief term of office. Under such a system everything is 


possible. The mere fact that the policy of the country should be 

left to the mercy of such a wretched incapable as is enough 

to make one shudder, and his successor is if possible worse. I had 
meant to say something on that subject at Oxford, and regret now 
I did not, as it would have covered our disaster. 

This was the real history of the escape of the Alabama and of I 
know not how many other miscarriages. 

If this business forces a reform of the administrative system it 
will not be altogether without its use. 

In the debate on February 20 on Whitbread's motion for 
the withdrawal of the circular, the Government spokesman, 
while offering a Royal Commission, made great play with 
the circular of 1871. Harcourt spoke in the " Historicus " 
vein. He insisted on the danger of the Government policy, 
which virtually abandoned the principle that the Queen's 
vessels were extra-territorial. He repeated his point that 
foreign nations "might decide on what terms they would 
admit British men-of-war to their ports, but England might 
say on what terms she accepted that hospitality, and, having 
once made that declaration, foreign Powers, if they still 
admitted British ships, tacitly admitted the justice of the 
British standpoint. In the debates in both Houses the 
view put forward by " Historicus " in The Times carried 
much weight, and finally after the Royal Commission had 
reported, a third circular was issued which removed the 
scandal of the earlier documents. 

But the episode had not passed without one of those 
squalls which were not infrequent in Harcourt 's tempestuous 
career. He and James had been invited to a meeting 
of the late Cabinet for consultation on the Slave Circular 
difficulty. Harcourt declined the invitation, and decided 
to withhold further papers which he had prepared in con- 
nection with the Amendment to the Address until he and his 
friend had learned what decisions had been reached. " We 
cannot," he wrote wrathfully to Hartington (February 4), 
" accept the position of being treated with half confidence. 
You must remember that we are out of our teens, and that 
we cannot (as James truly says) ' be sent for like children 
at dessert time.' " Hartington replied placably that if they 


had attended the meeting they would have been able to take 
part in the general discussion. " Of course you have a 
perfect right to say that you will not join in our meetings at 
all, unless you are invited to all. But other members of 
the Party have a right to say the same, and we must face the 
difficulty either of making a selection which cannot help 
being invidious, or of forgoing a great deal of assistance 
which we cannot well dispense with." 

Harcourt replied (February 5) heartily dissociating Hart- 
ington from any intention to slight James and himself, but 
hinting that Granville, " who has chosen to place our present 
relations on the most distant footing," had not been equally 
blameless. He proceeded : 

Harcourt to Hartington. 

. . . But all this is the fringe of the thing. The real matter 
\against which I intended to protest and against which I still protest 
is the exclusive pretensions of the gentlemen who call themselves 
the " late Cabinet " to direct and control the policy of the Opposi- 
tion. That assumption could not be put forward in a more promin- 
ent way than by distinctly intimating to us that whilst we might 
be heard upon one point we were to be turned out of the room on 
all others whilst the " late Cabinet " at the commencement of a 
new session resolved upon the general policy of the party. 

For my part I know nothing of the " late Cabinet." They were 
dissolved by the election of 1874 which was their last great work. 
They have ceased to exist. I cannot recognize them as a body of 
vieux emigres sitting en permanence on the banks of opposition 
longing to return, having " learnt nothing and forgotten nothing." 

I don't think the sagacity with which they conducted the fortunes 
of the Liberal Party in the last Parliament entitles them to assert 
that their voice and their voice alone shall be heard to counsel its 
leaders in this. I confess from my observation I should look with 
horror on a unanimous decision of the " late Cabinet " as a thing 
which would probably herald some great disaster. Two-thirds of 
them are in the House of Lords and know nothing of the House of 
Commons. The other third consist of gentlemen who do not agree 
ton any single point of important public policy. If you will keep your 
vyears open, talk to those you think fit, and exercise your own sound 
judgment, I believe you will come to much wiser conclusions than 
vyou will ever derive from this high and mighty and exclusive con- 
clave. I do not know who is the author of the dogma that the 
-i leader of the Opposition is to consult only with ex-Cabinet Ministers 
on the general policy of the Party. That theory shows a great 


ignorance of political history. (Dizzy always says that the worst 
thing in our days is that no one knows anything of political history.) 
There is no such rule and never has been any such practice. Men 
almost as great as Granville acted on different principles. [Then 
follow historical examples.] 

This rule then has never before been acted upon. It is invented 
now for the first time to keep the sole influence and control of the 
policy of the party in the hands of a few gentlemen who think them- 
selves entitled to its monopoly. For my part I protest against that 
unfounded pretension. 

Sitting on the front bench I shall always feel it my duty as it is 
my pleasure loyally to support you as the leader of the party whether 
you consult me or whether you do not. I regard you as the person 
to whose judgment I shall look. But I know nothing, and I mean 
to know nothing of the " late Cabinet " as a body to whom I owe 
any sort of allegiance. And, judging from the past, I should doubt 
if you could have more unwise guides in the future. You will see 
therefore that my protest goes to the root of the whole matter. 

This pretension on the part of the " late Cabinet " if it was not a 
nullity would be an impertinence. It is a novelty and a solecism 
in politics. 

Now I have said all my disagreeable things in writing in order that 
we may have, as we always have had, nothing but pleasant things 
to talk about. 

Hartington, like the sensible man he was, spoke to Gran- 
ville about the " distant footing," whereupon Granville 
wrote a pretty note to Harcourt assuring him of his good 

feelings : 

Granville to Harcourt. 

iS, CARLTON HOUSE TERRACE, February 5, 1876. . . . We are 
very old friends. At times I have been annoyed at the strong terms 
of condemnation you have applied to personal and political friends, 
with whom we were both serving, but you have always been friendly 
and courteous to me. I have as high an opinion as any one of 
your ability, knowledge, and power of speaking and writing, and 
you have had proof during the last fortnight of my desire to know 
your opinions. It will be your fault and not mine, if for the future 
we are not as good friends as we have ever been. 

Harcourt, who had almost as much delight in making up 
a quarrel as in having one, promptly wrote (February 6) to 
Hartington saying that all personal difficulties were removed, 
expressing his regret if his absence from the ex-Cabinet 
meeting has caused him inconvenience, and adding, " Please 
put my long letter to you of yesterday in the fire lest it 


should one day, fifty years hence, appear in the Life and 
Times of the Marquis of Hartington \" It was not destroyed 
by Hartington, and is put in the Life and Times of Sir William 
Harcourt instead because it helps to an understanding of 
his hot-tempered, but very human and essentially good- 
i 'natured character. 


While the struggle over the Fugitive Slave Circular was in 

progress, Disraeli brought in the Royal Titles Bill (February 

17). In doing so he did not indicate the style which the 

Queen proposed to adopt in connection with the government 

of India, and it was only on the second reading that it was 

announced that Her Majesty was about to become Empress 

^of India. The proposal was received with much disfavour 

*-by the Liberals, and Harcourt, who was always hostile to the 

spirit and forms of Imperialism, wrote to Hartington : 

Harcourt to Hartington. 

14, STRATFORD PLACE, March n. It is becoming hourly more 
clear that the question of the Royal Titles is becoming very serious 
and you will have to determine what to do about it. 

To judge by the press and the tone of all the people I have heard, 
I^iever knew so strong a feeling of dislike and opposition so rapidly 

I/developed. As to the repugnance of English sentiment to the change 
I think there can be little doubt. 

Thinking over the matter as regards India I believe the measure 
will be most disastrous. It has been our settled policy to govern a 
great part of India through Princes whom we have always treated 
with respect in regard of their, at least nominal, independence. 

\ Subject to our intervention, when political necessity obliged, we have 
always carefully avoided any assertion of absolute sovereignty over 
them. The very argument used by Sir G. Campbell for the change 
is to my mind the strongest that can be adduced against it. Holkar, 
Scindia, the Nizam and the Rajpoots represent houses whose proudest 
tradition is that they successfully threw off the yoke of the Emperor 
of Delhi. To tell them that the Queen claims to revive that authority, 
which for a century and a half they have repudiated, is a complete 
and most dangerous change in the whole scheme of our Indian 
Government. And if it is advisable to make it, this is certainly 
not the way in which it should be done. 

As far as my opinion goes I think we ought to resist and that we 
should have the country with us. The question remains how to do 


it. It has occurred to me that some one might move some resolution 
on going into Committee to this effect : 

" That the House will not proceed with the Bill till it is 
furnished with some information as to the sentiments on the 
subject of the Princes and the people of India." 
The great thing to fight for is time. I shall be ready if you wish 
it to speak against the Bill especially on the Indian argument. 

To my mind it is the most un -Conservative proposal that ever 
was made. 

The amendment moved by Hartington did not follow the 
lines suggested in Harcourt's letter, but was based on the 
ground " that it is inexpedient to impair the ancient and 
Royal dignity of the Crown by the assumption of the style 
and title of Empress." In the debate that followed Har- 
court supported the amendment with a speech in which he 
developed the line of argument he had employed in his 
letter to Hartington. 

While these events were occupying him in Parliament, 
Harcourt was engaged in a controversy in The Times with 
E. J. Reed and W. G. Romaine, on the subject of the Navy. 
In this discussion he opposed panic building, and examined 
the sufficiency of the fleet in relation to any conceivable 
combination against this country. Replying to the argu- 
ment of the unprotected colonies, he foreshadowed the naval 
policy long afterwards adopted by Lord Fisher, insisting on 
the folly of " squandering our fighting fleet about the world 
among our distant possessions " : 

The ironclad fleets of the world (he said) are in European waters,-/ 
and it is there that we must be prepared to meet and to fight them or 
if necessary to follow them. It is in the North Sea, the Channel, 
the Bay, or the Mediterranean that the mastery of the seas will be 
decided now as it has been before. To keep a squadron of ironclads 
in India, Australia or the Cape in order to meet the fleets of Europe 
when they get there is a proposal against which it is hardly 
necessary to argue. 

On another subject he had at this time the unusual dis- 
tinction of being adopted by the Conservative Government 
as the official spokesman of their policy. In deference to 
the representations of Plimsoll, the enlightened advocate of 
the merchant seaman, a Merchant Shipping Bill was brought 


in which extended the temporary measure passed the year 
before for the safety of merchant seamen, and brought 
Canada within the orbit of its regulations. Objection was 
raised to the proposal on the ground of Canadian autonomy 
in the matter of merchant shipping, and it was supported 
in The Times. Harcourt thereupon replied in the columns 
of that paper with an analysis of the Canadian Constitution, 
the purport of which was to show that Canada was bound 
by the legislation of the British Parliament on shipping 
questions. Selborne, writing to Harcourt (June 10), promised 
to do what he could in the House of Lords " to dispel the 
extraordinary misapprehension, which some ignorant writer 
in The Times has done so much to create," and added, " Your 
letter was very good ; only one almost grudged the expendi- 
ture of so much good powder and shot upon ignorance so 
remarkable." The Colonial Office took the unusual course 
of issuing the letter as a White Paper, and the Bill was duly 
passed into law. It was not the last occasion on which 
Harcourt was to take action in the interests of the merchant 
seaman. When in 1880 Plimsoll resigned his seat at Derby 
in order to make way for him, Harcourt received the care 
of the seamen's interests as a kind of legacy, and threw 
himself into the work of the Merchant Shipping Committee 
of that year with characteristic enthusiasm. 

At the close of the Session the political world was pro- 
vided with something of a sensation by the announcement 
that Disraeli was going to the House of Lords as Earl of 
Beaconsfield. The curiosity aroused by the fact is indicated 
in a letter from Henry Jar^/es to Harcourt : 

Sir Henry James to Harcourt. 

GLEN TULCHAN, Sunday morning. Do write and tell me the 
gossip about it. Did you know of it ? How well the secret was 
kept ? They will never manage in the House without him. How 
relieved we shall all be at feeling he is not there to pitch into us. 
It puts you very nearly at the top, and you will be able to do just 
as you like. My earnest prayer is that it will not hasten our return 
to office. I shall retire into complete private life if it does. 

" The House of Commons will be devilish dull without 


the great Dizzy," wrote Harcourt to Butler. Replying to 
a friendly letter of good wishes from Harcourt, Disraeli 
wrote : 

Disraeli to Harcourt. 

August 20. Lazy as one feels now and I hope for the rest of 
August I must thank you for your kind letter, for I know it comes 
from your heart. 

I did not leave the House of Commons without a pang, I assure 
you, but, I think, the step may add a few years to my life, and I 
left my friends there as free, on the whole, from difficulties as one, 
in this age, could hope for. 

If I had accomplished my original purpose, I should have closed 
altogether my public life, but, though I did not contemplate diffi- 
culties on this head, my purpose was found to be impossible. 

We shall not meet quite so often as before, but we shall meet more 
intimately. That is the consolation of your friend D. 

Shortly afterwards Harcourt went on a visit to Hughenden. 
" I am almost sorry you went to Dizzy's," wrote James to him 
from Paris. " Of course I know your devotion to him, 
but I think your visit is so likely to be misunderstood that 
I wish you had not gone." Instead of his customary visit to 
Scotland in the autumn, he went to Switzerland with his 
son, and at Grindelwald the two shared in a tragic episode 
on the glaciers. An English visitor named Bruncker was 
killed by an avalanche while gathering edelweiss, and the 
body was taken back to the hotel by the Harcourts, to whom 
the widow subsequently wrote a touching letter of thanks 
for their kindness. This holiday was the premonition of 
a change in the Harcourt menage which had been imminent 
for some time. Harcourt had been a widower for thirteen 
years, during which his almost exclusive domestic concern 
had centred in his son. The question of the boy's education 
for Eastbourne was only a health interlude had become 
urgent. Harcourt had put him down for Eton, but in 1875 
was still hesitating whether to send him there. Among the 
people he consulted was Lady Ripon, whose advice on both 
public and personal affairs had long exercised much influence 
upon his mind and whose affectionate interest in his son had 
deepened the relationship. Harcourt had consulted Cairns, 


who had not been satisfied with his son's Eton education, 
and sent Cairns's letter to Lady Ripon, who replied : 

Lady Ripon to Harcourt. 

I return you Lord Cairns's letter. You will think me a very stupid, 
obstinate woman, but it has not altered my opinion. I do not 
believe and indeed do not wish that you should send him to Welling- 
ton College or any similar school, and I still think, under the peculiar 
circumstances, that you ought to make the trial of a public school. 
He would be close at hand ; you could, especially at first, be in 
constant communication with the doctor, and very little would escape 
your observation. I mean sous le rapport physique. 

As to morals, it is a lottery what boys he associates with wherever 
he may go. But why do I prose, and above all share in the smallest 
degree so great a responsibility ? From my great affection, and 
fear that by avoiding this you will incur almost certain loss. 


With the boy safely established at Eton, Harcourt now 
contemplated a change in his condition, and writing to 
Granville, who had written to him on the news that he was 
about to remarry, he said, " I am fortunate in having one 
whom I have known so long and so well to make a home for 
me and for him (his son). She is a good Liberal, and I 
hope will do her duty to the Party and its leaders." 

The lady on whom his affections had fallen was Elizabeth 
Cabot Ives, the widow of Thomas Poynton Ives of Rhode 
Island, and daughter of John Lothrop Motley, the historian, 
Minister of the United States in London. Harcourt had 
long been acquainted with the Motleys, who were frequent 
visitors at Strawberry Hill. Lady St. Helier in her Memories 
and Recollections, describes Motley as " one of the most 
picturesque and remarkable men I have ever seen. ... As 
he came into the room it seemed almost as if the most 
magnificent Vandyck you could imagine had stepped out 
of its frame," and his daughter as "an extraordinarily 
^pretty young widow." She had seen much of the world and 
its greatest figures, having lived chiefly with her father on 
the Continent and at Washington. A pleasant glimpse of 
how the great news was received by one who was most 


deeply concerned in it is given in a letter from Lady Ripon 
to Harcourt : 

Lady Ripon to Harcourt. 

STUDLEY ROYAL, November 20. I must tell you that I had a 
beautiful letter from Loulou yesterday, but as he particularly begged 
me with many dashes not to let anyone see it, I destroyed it. I 
thought you would not mind my writing to him, and I am very glad 
I did, for he evidently wanted some one to speak to. 

He was so surprised when you told him that he did not hear the 
name, and begs me to send him immediately every particular, 
which I have done. There never was, I am sure, a child like him. 
" To please and help him is my aim," are his exact words. I do not 
think he is unhappy. He says he should much like to talk it all 
over with me, but that he supposes by Christmas that it will be all 

" My dear friend, you know how from my heart I wish you 
all and every happiness," wrote Henry James on hearing 
the news " exactly as much though only as you deserve 
for all your goodness and thoughtfulness towards others. 
One word of warning please give, that if I am not allowed 
to rush into Stratford Place at unreasonable hours to ask 
your advice, in fact to do just as I did before, there will be 
broken windows or something worse." 

Owing to the recent death of Harcourt 's mother, the mar- 
riage, which took place on December 2, was quite private, 
but there is a description of it in a letter from Motley to 
Oliver Wendell Holmes printed in the Motley Correspondence : 

BRIGHTON, January 30, 1877. I have three letters, delightful 
ones, as your letters always are, to acknowledge. The very last was 
one regarding Lily's marriage, and it gave her and her husband 
much pleasure. I wish you could have witnessed the marriage, 
for to an imaginative, poetical, and philosophical nature like yours, 
the scene would have been highly suggestive. It was strictly 
private, on account of deep mourning in both families. It was in 
Westminster Abbey, because Dean Stanley is a very dear and intim- 
ate friend of ours and also of Harcourt's. No one was invited, 
except one or two nearest relatives, and it was necessary courteously 
to decline all applications from representatives of the Press. The 
ceremony was performed in Henry VI I 's gorgeous and beautiful 
chapel, dimly lighted by a rain -obscured December sun. The party 
stood on the slab covering Edward VI's tomb, and at the Dean's 
back was the monument in which James I had his bones placed 


along with thoee of Henry VII, the first Stuart fraternizing in death 
with the first Tudor. The tombs of Mary Queen of Scots and of 
Elizabeth were on either side. As there were but very few people 
sprinkled about in sombre clothing, one could hardly realize amid 
all this ancient dust and ashes that a modern commonplace marriage 
was going on. Afterwards the wedding party went through the 
long-drawn aisle and beneath the fretted vault to the Jerusalem 
Chamber, where Henry IV died : 

" How call ye the chamber where I first did swoon ? 
'Tis called Jerusalem, my noble lord. 
In that Jerusalem will Harry die." 

You remember all this, and would have thought of it as I did, 
as one was signing and witnessing the marriage in the dim and dusty 
old apartment, now a kind of record chamber to the Abbey. The 
business was soon despatched. The couple then drove down to 
Strawberry Hill, once the famous gingerbread Gothic castle of Horace 
Walpole, and now the property of Lady Waldegrave, Harcourt's 
aunt, who lent it to them for a part of their honeymoon. 

The honeymoon, begun at Strawberry Hill, was continued 
in Paris, where Harcourt and his wife were accompanied by 
Loulou, who had acted as his father's best man. 


The Bulgarian Atrocities The Berlin Memorandum Gladstone's 
Bulgarian Campaign Cross-currents in the Liberal Party 
Lord Derby's policy Hartington's Keighley speech New 
Year Speech (1877) at Oxford The War Panic The Protocol 
of January 15 The Gladstone Resolutions Conversations 
with Schuvaloff Oxford Speech on the Turkish question 
British Fleet ordered to the Dardanelles Speech on the Vote 
of Credit Preliminaries of European Conference Employ- 
ment of Indian troops The Secret Treaties Cyprus Irish 
obstruction Select Committee on Courts -Martial Indian 
administration, the Fuller case Social and Political life 
Yachting in the Western Highlands. 

WAR clouds were once more filling the European sky. 
Twenty years had passed since the Crimean 
War, and the harvest of that mischievous sowing 
was due to be gathered. The Turk had been rehabilitated 
in Europe, and had enjoyed an uninterrupted opportunity 
to set his house in order. But, as the opponents of the 
Crimean War had prophesied, the opportunity was not 
used, and in the spring of 1876 the Turkish volcano, in Lord 
Morley's phrase, burst into flame. There were revolts in 
Bosnia-Herzegovina and in Bulgaria against the barbarous 
misgovernment of those territories, and Serbia and Mon- 
tenegro rose in arms. The Porte took refuge in the only 
weapon of government it understood, and the Bulgarian 
atrocities, described by the British agent who investigated 
them on the spot as the most heinous crimes that had stained 
the history of the century, were the result. Disraeli, who . 
had the Jew's unalterable devotion to the Turk, scoffed at 



the reports as " coffee-house babble," but the appalling facts 
were soon the common property of Europe. 

Russia, Germany and Austria promptly took action. In 
the Berlin Memorandum of May 13, 1876, they agreed to 
impose on Turkey certain reforms to be carried out under 
European supervision, and they invited England, France and 
Italy to adhere to their policy. France and Italy assented. 

\ Disraeli refused, and the scheme fell through. From this 
action flowed the disastrous events of the following two years. 
The Porte, relying upon the disruption which Disraeli's 
refusal had effected in European policy, resisted reform. 

^Russia was isolated, and a general conflagration seemed 
imminent. As~the summer advanced and the truth about 
the Bulgarian atrocities became known, public opinion in 
England was roused to unprecedented intensity of feeling. 
Gladstone again emerged from his retirement, issued early in 
September his famous pamphlet on " The Bulgarian Horrors," 
and addressed a great meeting at Blackheath. The Govern- 
ment, alarmed by the hostile current of public feeling, 

v trimmed their sails, and powerful influences within the 
Cabinet, led by Derby and Salisbury, began to dissociate 
themselves from the pro-Turkish line of the Premier, who 
at Aylesbury in September declared that the agitation on 
behalf of the Bulgarians was as bad as the atrocities, talked 
about " secret societies," and said that the Serbians were 
quite unjustified in making war. Writing to Dilke, Har- 
court said : 

STRATFORD PLACE, October 10. . . . Dizzy's rubbish about 
" secret societies " should be translated " public opinion." I know you 
will not agree with me, but I am convinced whatever happens the 
Turk is done for, and I am glad of it. His domination like that of 
the temporal power of the Pope is an anachronism, and will dissolve 

*V itself in spite of all attempts to prop it up. There seem to me only 
two real alternatives, either a joint military and naval occupation 

"'"-by the Powers or a Russian invasion. The third thing, which is 

J ji .. . . *-* 

what our Government want, viz. to patch things up and tide it 
over for a time, is I think impracticable and will break down. 

He was no more disposed than Gladstone to see this 
country and Europe involved in another Crimean War. His 

1876] BAG AND BAGGAGE 311 

anti-Russian feeling had faded, and his intimacy with 
Count Schuvaloff, the Russian Ambassador in London, had 
influenced his reading of events. The Count saw much of 
Lady Derby, the wife of the Foreign Minister, and from this 
source Harcourt, and through him the Opposition leaders, 
were kept informed of the progress of events within the 

But although Harcourt shared the hostility to the Dis- 
raelian attitude and favoured the coercion of the Turk, he S 
had little enthusiasm for the Gladstonian agitation. He 
was determined to keep Hartington in the Liberal leadership 
and Gladstone at Elba;''and the latter's emergence from his 
self-imposed exile threatened to upset the plan on which 
Harcourt had set his heart. Hartington shared the dis- x 
approval of Disraeli's policy, but he shared it in his phleg- 
matic way and had no passion for the crusading spirit of 
Gladstone. While the latter was issuing his pamphlet and 
delivering his terrific invective at Blackheath, Hartington 
was at Constantinople, from whence in the course of a letter 
to Harcourt he writes : 

Hartington to Hat -court. 

CONSTANTINOPLE, October 2. . . . Lord Beaconsfield's speech 
appears to me outrageous in tone and substance ; and if it were the 
only ministerial deliverance I should say that we cqulcL.rAot.PJ' 683 
too strongly for an autumn Session and protest against the policy 
of the Government. But Lord Derby's speeches, so far as I have /<x 
yet seen them (I have not seen the last, reported by telegraph), 
seem to me very different in tone ; and although I do not suppose' 
that the policy of the Government will satisfy you and others who 
are for turning out the Turks without further delay, I imagine from 
what I hear here, that they are now ready to go quite as far as any 
other Power except Russia. . . . 

Harcourt was against an autumn Session to censure the- " 
Government, on the ground of the disagreements within the 
Party. Writing to Granville (October 10), he said, " No 
doubt the Government have been greatly damaged in the 
last six weeks, but there is clearly a reaction setting in and 
surely Gladstone more swo is exaggerating the situation." 
In a livelier spirit he writes on the same day to Dilke at 
Toulon : 


Harcourt to Dilke. 

14, STRATFORD PLACE, October 10. . . . Things here are in the 
most damnable mess that I think politics have ever been in in my 
.time. Gladstone and Dizzy seem to cap one another in folly and 
imprudence, and I don't know which has made the greatest ass of 
himself. Blessed are they that hold their tongues and wait to be 
after the event ! To this sagacious policy you will see we, 
i.e. the Hartington section, have adhered and shall adhere. 

I had a long letter from Hartington from Constantinople, full of 
usual good sense and caution. I quite concur with him that 
though a strong case can be made against the Government for their 
obstinate status quo policy during the months of June, July and 
August there is little fault to be found with what they have been 
doing since Derby has taken the matter into his own hands in 

There is a decided reaction against Gladstone's agitation. The 
Brooksite Whigs are furious with him and so are the commercial 
gents, whose pecuniary interests are seriously compromised. The 
Bucks election was a great snub for Dizzy. All the Rothschild 
tenants voted Tory, though to save his own skin Nat went on 
Carrington's Committee. Rothschild will never forgive Gladstone 

\.and Lowe for the Egyptian business. Chamberlain and Fawcett 
and the extreme crew are using the opportunity to demand the 
demission of Hartington and the return of Gladstone. But you 

"^ need not be alarmed or prepare for extreme measures. There is no 
fear of a return from Elba. He is played out. His recent conduct has 
made all sober people more than ever distrust him. He has done 

^ two good things ;i_he has damaged the Government much and him- 
self still more.j At both of which I am pleased and most of all at 
the last. . . . 

It will be apparent that at this time Harcourt was torn 
between two contrary motives. He was determined to pre- 
serve the Hartington leadership, but his views on the main 
issue brought him, in spite of party considerations, into line 
with Gladstone's torrential crusade. Already that crusade 
won its first victory. It had checked the pro-Turkish 
tendencies of the Government, and turned the current 
\powerfully in the direction of peace. The fatal blunder of 
May, the rejection of the Berlin Memorandum, which broke 
up the possibility of concerted European action had been 
partially redeemed in September by Derby's declaration in 
favour of administrative autonomy for the afflicted provinces. 
But the battle was not over, and Harcourt, while anxious to 


keep Hartington in the centre of the stage, was no less 
anxious that he should not appear hostile to the Gladstonian 
campaign. In anticipation of a speech by Hartington at 
Keighley, he wrote to him two suggestive letters in the 
course of which he said : 

Harconrt to Hartington. 

14, STRATFORD PLACE, October 28. ... I hope you will notX 
throw over our " atrocity friends " more than you think absolutely 
necessary as it will cause a good deal of dissatisfaction. I think the 
case is quite clearly made out that Derby did change his policy in 
August owing to the loud expression of public opinion. Indeed he 
said to one of the deputations " what has taken place in Bulgaria 
has no doubt greatly altered the relations of this Government and 
of other Governments to Turkey." "which admits the whole thing. 
And Disraeli's assertion at Aylesbury that the opinion of the country 
was not in accordance with the policy of the Government is a proof 
that if it now is less in disaccord it is because that policy now is 
changed. But what_prQyS^thjg most conclusively is thejstajtfiment -^ 
of Derby in September that he is now in favour of administrative 
autonomy and has pressed it on the Porte. The only point James 
missed was in not bringing out clearly that this very thing was 
proposed by Gortschakov in June. It is inconceivable that Derby 
should have declined this. And his refusal was no doubt the immedi- ' 
ate cause of the Serbian War which broke out just ten days after- 
wards. I enclose some extracts in case you have not the book by 
you. As far as I can make out, the Russian proposals of June are 
precisely those of Derby in September ! 

What caused this change in Derby except two things, (i) The 
Serbian War ; (2) The atrocity agitation. 

The whole question seems to have been from the first " can 
Turkey reform herself or is there any use obtaining pledges from her 
without further guarantee." I understand you to hold there is 
not. If not then these guarantees must come from without. . . . 

14, STRATFORD PL ACE, November i. . . . I don't know if you will 
feel disposed to animadvert on the strange policy of the Government 
in the last fortnight in giving out that they have " retired from all 
negotiations and left Russia face to face with Turkey " just at the 
time when Russia was pressing the very proposals which England 
had made. The demand Of Russia for a six weeks' armistice and 
the English terms seems to have been a very fair one. The altera- 
tion brought forward by Turkey of a six months' armistice was 
evidently a dilatory evasion to escape the terms. If the Englislv- 
Government had supported instead of abandoning Russia in pressing 
their proposals all these last battles would have been avoided which 


may very probably " harden the heart of Pharaoh " and lead to 
war by Russia. . . . 

" You have steered a splendid course through the breakers 
and brought the party into smooth water," wrote Harcourt 
,to Hartington (November 6) apropos of the Keighley speech. 
v His appeal to him not " to throw over our ' atrocity friends ' ' 
had been observed, and when on January 9, 1877, Harcourt 
himself made a powerful speech on the subject to his con- 
v stituents at Oxford he associated himself very cordially with 
V the Gladstonian campaign. He was certain that the agita- 
tion of the previous autumn led by Gladstone had saved the 
Government from a dangerous error and the country from 
an enormous crime. The language used by Lord Beacons- 
field on the subject of the Turkish barbarities had shocked 
the conscience of the country, and the country, by a pro- 
found instinct, had perceived that it was in danger of being 
committed to war on behalf of Turkey. The Government 
and their supporters had cowered before the storm, and they 
now denounced the instruments of their conversion to a 
better state of mind. They complained that " Gladstone 
has done it all." Harcourt replied : 


It was perfectly untrue that Mr. Gladstone was the author of the 
agitation. He approved it after it had spontaneously arisen, and 
his spirit could not but give it a gigantic impulse. Mr. Gladstone, 
in a long and distinguished life, had rendered memorable service to 
the State, but none would rank higher in the memory of the country 
than the record that he led the van of the nation while it dragged 
back a misguiding and misguided administration from the brink 
of the abyss into which they had all but precipitated the fortunes 
and the reputation cf England. 

\ He showed how the Serbian War was the direct outcome of 
England's earlier refusal to act with the other Powers, and 

x how the Russian policy alone had now resulted in an armis- 
tice and a conference to which Lord Salisbury, a member of 
the Cabinet, had been sent to dictate peace to Turkey. Was 
there any reason why the armistice arranged in the last days 
of December should not have been arranged in the early 
days of June, but that England had refused to take the step 


urged on her by all Europe in May ? How much human 
misery would have been averted, how much blood, how much 
sorrow would have been spared ? 

We have been accused (he said) of enthusiasm for Russia. Sir, 
I reserve my enthusiasm for my own country alone. But if Russia 
were all that the Minister and his followers denounce her as being, 
the heavier is the condemnation which must attach to that imbecile 
policy which has made her the mistress of the situation a policy 
which has presented her to Eastern Europe as the successful cham- t 
pion of humanity, mercy and civilization. A sagacious and far-/^ 
sighted Government would have defeated the ambition of Russia 
and baffled her schemes by occupying the vantage ground which 
has been deliberately surrendered. 

He expressed himself as far from sanguine of the results 
of the Conference. 

One more attempt is to be added to the innumerable failures of 
the past to patch up Turkey. The measures which have been pro- 
posed by Lord Salisbury and his colleagues at Constantinople cor- 
respond very much to a commission of lunacy taken out against 
a dangerous imbecile, incapable of managing his own affairs, and 
very likely to do great mischief to his neighbours. ... I am not 
one of those who believe in the leopard changing his spots or the 
Ethiopian his skin. We find ourselves face to face with this hope- 
less dilemma either the remedies will be insufficient, and then the 
old story will recommence or, if they are efficient, they will annihilate 
Turkey. It is impossible to put this kind of new wine into the Otto- 
man bottles without bursting them to pieces. The Turk is what he 
always has been, and ever will be. The ultimate problem which/ 
still remains for European statesmanship is not how the Government 
of Turkey may be best maintained, but how it may be most safely 

The fears in regard to the Constantinople Conference were 
justified. Beaconsfield's threatening words to Russia at/"" 
the Lord Mayor's banquet in the previous November had 
very effectively defeated the Conference and Salisbury's 
attempts to put Turkey under control. The Eastern ques -^ 
tion was flung back into the cauldron, and the peril of a war 
against Russia on behalf of Turkey revived. Gladstone at-"" 
the St. James's Hall and Harcourt in the columns of The 
Times thundered against the sinister turn of events. 



The meeting of Parliament approached with a situation in 

which it seemed possible that the Government might demand 

war against Russia and the Opposition war against Turkey. 

^Pro- Russian as he had become, Harcourt shrank from the 

latter possibility. Writing to Lord E. Fitzmaurice, he said : 

Harcourt to Lord E. Fitzmaurice. 

\ January 25, 1877. . . ^_You cannot make war in this country 

unless you have with you a majority which amounts almost to 
X. unanimity^} That was the strength of our position when we resisted 

successfully Disraeli's desire to embark us in war on the side of the 

X. Turk. But for the same reason it would be our weakness if the 

^/situation were reversed and we were the war party against 

Turkey. . . . 

The question cannot be treated as if it were one of only Turkey 
. on one side and Russia and perhaps England on the 'other. Is it 

possible to assert that it is not a contest in which all Europe would 

be engaged ? 

I have had good reaspns to learn that at all events Austria and, as 

far as she dares, France, have given all their sympathies to the Turks. 

What Bismarck means no one knows, but could we engage the 

country in war in total ignorance of who were our allies and who our 
'"" foes ? Are we prepared to fight Austria and Turkey with a possible 

Germany on our flank, even with Russia as an ally. These are very 

grave questions and we must be prepared to answer them. 
*X> Gladstone evidently shrinks from speaking the word. Jawrptt, 

the difficulty as much as I do. He told me yesterday that he 
was not prepared (at least at present) to vote for war. What would 
Bright do ? ffir har d_ as might be expected, says he cannot support 
force. Dilke.. Wilfrid L<a,wsoj.and, I understand, Co wen are against 
war, men Tike Mundella and others have all spoken strongly to me 
against any attempt to force the hands of the Government. . . . 
Even Chamberlain takes this opportunity to discourse on disestab- 
lishment, which does not look as if he had the Eastern question 
much at heart. 

My advice is therefore that we should wait at least till Parliament 
meets. . . . 

To Hartington he writes on the same day in the same vein, 
and a few days later (February 4) he urges both Hartington 
and Granville to " look at the story of the great collapse of 
Mr. Pitt in his attempt in 1794 to negotiate an anti- Russian 
and pro-Turkish alliance aganist Catherine when she was 
making the grand assault upon Turkey. The whole thing 


is a marvellous parallel to the present state of affairs." Two * 
days before the meeting of Parliament (February 8), Harcourt 
was convinced that the pro-Turks were " on the run." 
" Everything seems to me to concur in pointing to the policy 
of your holding firm and strong language now," he writes 
to Hartington. " The counsels of the Dizzy-Pall Mall- 
Daily Telegraph Party are in confusion and they must be 
routed . " The new factor in the case was the strong line taken ' ' 
by Salisbury, who had come back from the Constantinople 
conference filled with indignation at the contumacy of the 
Porte in refusing guarantees. " Neither Gladstone nor P"" 
have said anything stronger as to the effect of the refusal of 
the Porte upon the Treaty of 1856." He adds : 

. . . Salisbury's view in the Protocol of January 15 sojCOSi- ** 
pletely meets pur view that I should adopt it en blacy Only I do not 
see that the conclusion from the premisses is a souna one. If Europe 
was bound to see that the Christians are protected, how can it retire 
from that obligation because the Turks refuse to conform to it ? 
The conclusion should not be to do nothing. . . . 

While the breach between the pro-Turks and the pro- 
Christians in the Government was widening, the Opposition 
position was consolidating. On the morning of the opening 
of Parliament, Harcourt wrote to Hartington pressing for a 
strong line. He had seen Dilke, Chamberlain and others of 
the advanced party, and they had all agreed that it was 
impossible to stand still, Chamberlain especially insisting on 
,the necessity of England pressing the European concert to 
compel the Turks to yield. On the previous day there had 
been a meeting of the ex-Ministers at Granville's house and 
referring to that gathering W. E. Forster in his diary says : 

Harcourt, Argyll and Gladstone very hot, but final result general 
agreement that Granville and Hartington should press for further 
general action of the Powers, a European demand from Turkey 
' with a threat of coercion : if not complied with, threat to be carried 
out. England to assent to and even initiate such action, but not 
to be committed to separate action with Russia. 

With this policy uniting all the forces of the Opposition, 
the struggle in Parliament opened : but Harcourt's view that 
they had got the pro-Turks " on the run " soon proved to be 


^ baseless. The Protocol, signed in London in March, failed. 

v and Russia, left to act alone in defence of the Balkan peoples, 

x declared war on Turkey on April 24. Once. .nioje the Dis- 

raelian policy seemed in the ascendant, and the Government, 

.y v^ replying to Gortschakov, seized the opportunity of rebuking 

j Russia for having taken " an independent and unwarrant- 

able course." Harcourt, in the House (May 15), denounced 

this latest provocation of Russia, and being challenged from 

the Government benches to say whether the Opposition 

would join Russia now that she had declared war, said " No," 

"-but retaliated by showing how the Government had persis- 

tently defeated the efforts for a common European policy to 

coerce Turkey, and had so brought events to the brink of a 

^ European war. 

Meanwhile Gladstone had thrown the Opposition in dis- 
order by the production of his Resolutions, which Harting- 
ton could not endorse. Harcourt was furious. In sending 
" a few heads of arguments against G.'s Resolutions " to 
Hartington, he says : 

14, STRATFORD PLACE, April 30, 1877. . . . There never was a 
leader of a Party who has been placed in a more incessant series 
of awkward and disagreeable situations than it has been your lot 
to encounter. The patience, temper and courage you have shown 
you may rest assured have won for you and increased every day 
the esteem and confidence of your friends. . . . Depend upon it 
you will have plenty of " good men and true " who will stick by you 
to the last in your difficult job. . . . 

In another letter to Hartington, written after seeing the 
lady who had become the recipient of Beaconsfield's most 
intimate thoughts, he says : 

14, STRATFORD PLACE, April, 1877. I saw Lady Bradford last 
night. She could not conceal her exultation at the news of Glad- 
stone's motion. Small blame to her. 

I heard also from a pretty safe Philo-Turk source that the civil 
war in the Cabinet is in full swing. Salisbury, Carnarvon, Derby 
and Northcote againsr Dizzy and his followers. My informant 
used the expression " Salisbury & Co. are such Gladstonites that 
Dizzy is thinking of breaking up the whole concern." He saw as 
clearly as we do that Gladstone's move will give Dizzy a decisive 
advantage over his peaceful colleagues. The thing really in its 
mischievous egotism and folly is past endurance. 



The Resolutions were modified. In the great debate 
followed the Opposition voted solid, and though the Govern^--'" 
ment held their normal majority it seemed that the pro- 
Turkish party had been checked. Gladstone carried the 
fiery cross to Birmingham, and Harcourt, still fearful that the 
Opposition might be swept out of its pacific line, writes to 
Granville that he has a " great dread of the ' St. James's S 
Hall ' flag being hung out again." He is against a popular' 
frenzy, wants " the commercial party to take the lead in/ 
the Peace movement," a^d^with Mundella is organizing " 
representations from the principal Chambers of Commerce. 
Throughout the autumn and winter, as the war between 
Russia and Turkey proceeded, feeling in the country 
hardened, with sympathy for the victims of Turkish mis- 
government on the one side and with fear of Russia on the 
other. " What is the meaning of this early summons of 
Parliament ? " wrote Hartington to Harcourt (December 19). 
" I suppose that Dizzy has at last had his way and we shall 
hear of some despatch, imposing limits to the Russian ad- 
vance, and that we are to provide money for the conse- 
quences of a refusal." 


The crisis of the long struggle had been reached. After 
five months of bitter war, of which the defence of Plevna had 
been the crucial incident, the Russian army had overwhelmed 
the Turkish resistance. The advance inflamed the anti-^y. 
Russian feeling in England, and the music halls rang with 
the Jingo an^nem " The Russians shall not have Con-stan-ti- 
no-ple." Before this wave of mob panic, the current of 
sympathy with the oppressed Balkan peoples set in motion 
by Gladstone gave way, and war seemed unavoidable. 
Harcourt, however, was confident that the forces for peace 
were too strong. Writing to Granville (December 24), he 
says that he learns that the Government " have no policy 
but to stave off the difficulty from day to day and from 
instant to instant," and that " Salisbury is rs content 


and in great spirits, considering that he has got his own way," 
adding : 

I think therefore that we may safely act on the conclusion that the 
meeting of Parliament Is only an expedient to give an empty satis- 
faction to H.M. and her Vizier. . . . They (the Government) have 
never recovered the primordial blunder of the Berlin Mem. rejection. 
Since that fatal swagger they have never been able to retrieve their 
situation in the European Council. ... I believe two things will 
come of this war (i) the dissolution of the Turkish Empire, and 
(2) the dissolution of this House of Commons. 

Replying next day, December 25, " or ' the Nativity ' as 
Dizzy would date his letter," Granville says : " Your letter 
is a very sunshiny Christmas present. The only dark spot is 
the possibility at which you hint of an immediate break-up of 
the Ministry, as the pear is certainly not yet ripe for us. 
But it will take a long course of discredit really to break up 
the Conservative Party, and Dizzy if he fails in carrying 
whatever views he may have, will gracefully retreat from 
everything excepting the Treasury. . . . The war party 
of the Carlton are moving and sounding." 

" My conviction is that the country will do anything for 
the Turks except fight for them, and everything against the 
Russians except make war upon them," Harcourt says in 
reply (December 27), adding that he has given a sketch of an 
address to Mundella for his Eastern Conference. " Let them 
fire away their powder, as it will test the real feeling of the 
country, and we shall know better where we are." " I had 
a long visit from N. Rothschild, who wanted to pump me," 
he writes to Hartington the same day, " but as there was 
no water in my well it was a process that failed. I think, 
however, I got out of him that the Government and even 
Dizzy have no idea of war." But on returning to London 
his confidence was shaken. To his wife he writes (December 
31) : " The Russian Count (Schuvaloff) has just been with 
me for two hours and I have only just had time to scribble 
twelve sheets to Granville, and now I am off to post up 
The Times. The Russian refusal is absolute, and things 
go on from bad to worse. Schuvaloff is evidently much 


The memorandum to Granville was a lengthy record of 
his conversation with Schuvaloff, who said that the Govern- 
ment's insistence that Russia should treat with England 
alone as to the terms of peace with Turkey could only be 
intended to place his Government in a false position as having 
repulsed England in its endeavours to restore peace. In 
reply to Harcourt, Schuvaloff had vehemently repudiated 
the idea that Russia had designs on Constantinople, but 
while she was prepared to give a pledge not to retain Con- 
stantinople she would not undertake to abstain from at- 
tacking it for military purposes in order to compel Turkey 
to conclude peace " otherwise," said the Count, " the 
Turks have nothing to do but to withdraw before the 
Russian armies, secure that at Constantinople they will find 
an ally in England." 

The next day, New Year's Day, 1878, Harcourt was at 
Oxford addressing the Druids. " The situation was a 
difficult one," he wrote to Granville (January 2). " The 
Tories have got possession of the Druids, and I was in the 
presence of a hostile audience." He found the anti-Russian 
sentiment tremendously strong, " and if Dizzy can once fire 
the train the whole thing will blow up." 

Harcourt to Granville. 

. . . We have but one anchor to ride by, and that is the moder- 
ates in the Cabinet if that parts, it is all over, a dissolution would / 
destroy us as it did the Peelites and Cobdenites on the China vote. * 
Nevertheless, if we are driven to the position of the Rockingham 
Whigs in the early days of the American War, I am all for standing 
to our guns and resisting the modern Lord North. ... I wish it/ 
could somehow be managed that the Russian terms should be made 
public so that we could refer to them. . . . Every one would be 
surprised at their moderation, and I think the country would say 
it was impossible to go to war against them. . . . 

He was convinced from Schuvaloff's tone to him that Russia 
was at the end of her resources, and had only one object 
to get out on the easiest terms possible " if Dizzy will let 
ihem." In a postscript, he says : 

I forgot to tell you that The Times is "in stays " and may go 



on the other tack any day. I sent for Chenery [the new Editor) on 
Monday to tell him of the Russian reply to the English offers, and 
the moderating article of Monday was the result of our conversation. 
\ He is with us in his own opinion, but is timid in his new post and 
evidently thinks the popular gale is veering round to war, and if 
so he will bow to it. ... 

During the first days of the New Year events moved with 
gathering impetus, and in a long memorandum to Granville 
(January 6) Harcourt, who had again seen Schuvaloff, 
relates the course of events in the Cabinet, England's satis- 
faction with the pacific declaration of Russia, and readiness 
to recommend the Porte to apply for an armistice. " So 
N - far as it went therefore the Peace party prevailed in the last 
Cabinet." But Russia had stiffened, declining to treat as 
between Governments and insisting upon the matter being 
transacted between the commanders in the field. " And 
upon that the whole thing may break off. England is no 
longer bound to recommend the armistice, and Turkey may 
be encouraged to reject it, and so after all Dizzy will have 
gained his point." 

You will have remarked that the objection to a drum head Con- 
ference has played a good part in the D. Telegraph for some days as a 
fatal objection to the Russian reply. That of course comes from 
Downing Street. It would certainly be lamentable if the thing 
went off on such a point, for of course the generals would only act 
by telegraphic communication to their Courts. However, there is 
another Cabinet to-morrow. 

This stiffness on the part of Russia leads Harcourt to 
j doubt whether Russia desires peace just now, and he describes 
how Schuvaloff fenced with his inquiry as to whether there 
was a danger of Russia's terms of the previous June being 
altered, and finally spoke of a Russian occupation of Bulgaria 
until a Christian governor was appointed. Harcourt pointed 
out the gravity of such a change, and Schuvaloff replied that 
as England had refused to discuss the terms in June she 
could not complain if they were altered now. " I have 
forwarded your letter, as full of meat as an egg, to Harting- 
ton," replies Granville (January 7). "It confirms one's 


idea that the mismanagement of the whole thing has been 
wonderful. Can anything be more childish than that in this 
moment of the Turk's extremity we should be standing up 
for him on a point of etiquette in which I believe the Russians 
to be right. And why not hear the terms of last June ? " 
Granville adds a warning : 

... Of course you will not let it be known that you have been in 
such close communication with Schuvaloff, and have suggested 
moves to Russia. But the suggestions have been most judicious 
and the information you have extracted is most useful. 

In this connection, it may be well to recall that the fact 
of these conversations with Schuvaloff subsequently reached 
the ears of the Government, and on April 3 Derby wrote to 
Beaconsfield 1 : 

When Schuvaloff called to take leave of me on Monday he ex- 
pressed a wish that I should communicate with you on the subject 
of a report which he had said reached your ears and which he 
supposed you believed to be true. It was to the effect that he 
had been in the habit of talking over official matters with members 
of the Opposition, especially with Vernon Harcourt. He denies 
having ever held any private conversations with them, or having 
talked about pending negotiations with any one except members 
of the Government. I told him he had better address his denial 
direct to you, but he preferred doing it through me, and I could not 
civilly refuse. 

The denial throws an entertaining light on diplomatic 
veracity. It was through Schuvaloff that Harcourt was / 
enabled to keep the Opposition in constant touch with the 
movement of events, and whatever may be said as to the 
proprieties of the matter the fact exercised a powerful and*" 
beneficent influence on the course of the struggle. 

The next day (January 8) Harcourt writes again, in high 
spirits, to Granville. " The news to-day is good the best 
yet." There has been another meeting of the Cabinet and 
Schuvaloff has written to him that " the dispositions of the 
Cabinet are good and even I who am not an optimist in 
general am much reassured to-day." Harcourt continues : 

1 The Life of B. Disraeli, by G. E. Buckle, vol. vi, p. 270. 


\ ... For the present the Peace Party in the Cabinet are clearly 
in the ascendant, and Dizzy has probably learnt that the disposition 
of the country would not support him in breaking the windows and 
so has drawn in his horns. But sic notus Ulixes. When baffled in 
one direction he will " try it on " in another, and he generally gets his 

^ own way. However we are over the first fence now, viz. the principle 
of separate negotiations between Turkey and Russia. Of course 
the next big obstacle will be the terms, which must soon transpire. 
But alors comme alors. . . . 

In this cheerful frame of mind Harcourt went next day 
(January 9) to speak to the Liberals at Oxford. " I have 
shown James what I am going to say," he tells Hartington, 
" and have cut out some Russianism. I fear there may be 
still too much left to please you, but I think it is necessary 
to protest against this most impolitic abuse of those with 

^ whom we must negotiate and with whom it is our interest 
to be friends." In reference to the abuse, Granville remarks 
to Harcourt (January 8), "I suppose it is true that the 
clamour for war is really based upon enormous Turkish 
speculations." And, alluding to Harcourt 's suspicion of 
January 6 that Russia was stiffening, he asks, " Why should 
they be so polite to us when we snub all their overtures and 
insist upon treating them as outlaws ? " 

In his speech'at Oxford, one of the weightiest of his career, 
Harcourt recanted his support of the Crimean War and 
asked whether in the face of that blunder England was to be 

^ again dragged into a war on behalf of Turkey ? He coun- 
tered the argument of Russia's aggressiveness by pointing 
out that in recent years France had taken Algiers and 
annexed Savoy, and yet we had not made war on France. 
Prussia had conquered Hanover and annexed Alsace and 

^ Lorraine, and yet we had not made war on Prussia, ^nd, 
in an eloquent passage he described the aggrandizement and 
greatness of the British Empire, and warned the nation not 
to embrace a doctrine that might recoil on themselves. He 
repudiated the ignorant prejudice that was aroused by 
" British interests," and said the idea that because we had 
conquered India we had the right to condemn the rest of 
Asia to remain outside contact with civilization was as 

1878] A GREAT SPEECH 325 

ridiculous as the claim of Spain 300 years before to prohibit 
every nation on earth from navigating beyond a certain 
parallel of longitude in the direction of the Indies. He 
discussed the just terms of settlement, and, referring to the 
blunder in refusing the Berlin Memorandum, said : 

Sir, if there is danger of war at this moment, it is because the 
Government, conscious of the disastrous consequences which their 
own error has brought about, may be meditating to fight their way 
back into that position in the European Concert which, by their 
own mismanagement, they have lost. 

For a long time the Government had been proclaiming 
that they cared only for British interests. " A nation that 
paddles its own canoe cannot expect to be chosen to pull 
stroke in the eight-oar of Europe. We ought to desist 
from inducing Turkey to think that she could rely on the 
help of England ; " and he asserted that all the blood that had 
been shed since the fall of Plevna could be laid at the door 
of those false expectations. The voice of the provinces was 
all for peace. " From every quarter," he said, " voices are 
pouring forth like the sound of many waters, and the burden 
of their prayer is the same, ' Scatter Thou the people that 
delight in war.' " 

The speech was welcomed in The Times as the testimony 
" not of a Liberal leader, but of an Englishman " against 
" a disgraceful and useless war," and Hartington wrote : 

HARLESTON, January 10, 1878. ... I think your speech was 
capital and not at all too Russian, even for me. I have not the 
least objection to fairness to Russia, or to rebuking the absurd 
abuse of Russia ; but it seems to me that if too much sympathy with 
Russia and dislike of the Turks is shown, it weakens the effect of 
the argument against the war party. ... 

That party was still powerful. Parliament met on 
January 17 in the midst of an angry and ignorant panic. 
The Russian army had reached the Sea of Marmora and 
Constantinople lay at its mercy. The war was over, and a 
treaty between victor and vanquished which might involve 
the future of the Turkish capital was under discussion. The 
Press rang with panic-stricken cries against a menace which 


was popularly supposed to spell the ruin of the British Em- 
pire, and the pro-Turkish element in the Cabinet once more 
became ascendant. Nothing had been done by Russia in 
violation of our terms of neutrality ; but the Government 
asked for a vote of six millions, and a few days later the 
British fleet was ordered to the Dardanelles, a proceeding 
that led to the resignation of Lord Carnarvon. By this 
time the reasonable conditions under which Russia was 
prepared to make a settlement were already in the hands of 
the Foreign Office, but they were not published and in their 
absence popular excitement increased. In the House of 
Commons there was a five days' debate on the Vote of Credit, 
and Harcourt stated the views he had already urged at 
Oxford. He demanded from the Government an assurance 
that they were going into a European Conference " to call 
a new world into existence to repair the scandals of the old," 
and not merely to save from the wreck some fragments of a 
ruined system. He insisted that nationality was a stronger 
force than diplomatic instruments, and in a powerful passage 
showed how the Treaty of Vienna of 1815 had been torn to 
shreds because it denied that principle : 

There were giants in the land in those days, but they made a 
gigantic blunder and their work had failed. The Treaty of Vienna 
was signed twelve years before he was born, and in his lifetime he 
had seen every bit of it torn into fragments. The chain first broke 
where it was weakest, for a chain is no stronger than its weakest 
link. It broke in Greece. The emancipation of Greece under the 
influence of England was the first breach in the Treaty of Vienna. 
Then followed the emancipation of Belgium, then the emancipation 
of Italy ; then came the Holstein question ; then the old German 
Empire was broken down at the battle of Sadowa ; it was finally 
destroyed at the battle of Sedan. The Treaty of Vienna had gone 
to pieces. Why ? Because it was founded upon principles radically 
false upon dynastic arrangements, upon a geographical puzzle : 
it was made to suit the ambition of rulers, and it neglected altogether 
the interests and the sympathies of nationalities and populations. 
(Hear, hear !) He did not wonder that the negotiators at Vienna made 
that mistake, fatal as it was. When, after the deluge of the French 
Revolution, the spires of ancient institutions began to appear out 
of the flood, it was not unnatural that a different view should be 
taken from what was taken now ; but the edifice was bwilt of un- 


tempered mortar ; it had broken down, and it now lay in ruins. 
What was it that had broken down that edifice ; what was it that 
had worked like leaven in the lump ; what was it that had des- 
troyed the Treaty of 1815 ? It was the principle of nationalities. 
What had made Prince Bismarck so strong in Europe ? Not his 
armies, great as they were ; but because he had the courage and the 
wisdom to grasp the principle of nationalities, by which he had 
ground potentates to powder. What had made Austria so weak ? 
It was because by the very conditions of her existence she was the 
enemy of the principle of nationality and autonomy. What had 
made Russia so weak ? Her treatment of Poland. What had 
made her so strong ? Because she was the vindicator of oppressed 
races. (" Oh ! ") Was she not strong ? Was she not the vindica- 
tor of oppressed races ? After all, the Slavs were a great nationality, 
and they had rights and aspirations which ought to be respected. 
If we acted upon the old policy, doubtless we should have good 
reason to fear Russia. It would not be her armies, or her fortresses, 
or her extent of territory which would make her formidable ; it 
would be the gratitude of the people that she had emancipated which 
would be her strength. (Hear, hear I) It was not yet too late for 
Her Majesty's Government to equal, and even more than rival, 
Russia, if they went into the Conference with a changed policy. 
England might surpass Russia in that Conference in being the 
champion, not of one, but of many races. 

Throughout February and March the issue hung in the 
balance. The war party were still powerful and Derby 
followed Carnarvon into retirement as a protest against the 
calling out of the reserves.*' Meanwhile Austria had issued 
an invitation to a European Conference at Vienna, afterwards 
changed to Berlin, and the Government had published the 
Russian terms of peace of the previous June. Harcourt 
wrote to Granville : 

Harcourt to Granville. 

14, STRATFORD PLACE, February 18, 1878. ... At last the 
Government have given us (Turkey No. 15) the papers relating to 
the Russian terms of peace of June last. These are the terms which 
in the letters I wrote to you six weeks ago formed the basis of my 
conversation with S. (Schuvaloff ) . They are of great importance. 
They seem to me to show : 

(1) That the Russian Government did not act to us in a spirit of 
dissimulation or reserve but on the contrary with great frankness. 

(2) That the Government and Layard between them did all they 
could to prevent the Turks from accepting a moderate settlement. 

It may be that the Turks at that time, buoyed up by their hopes of 



resistance, would not have accepted the terms. But it was clearly 
our business to have done what we could to bring them to a different 
frame of mind. 

On the contrary Layard (bottom of p. 10) openly said " it has been 
his object to raise such hopes " the hopes, viz., that if she did not 
succeed in the war the influence of England would be used in her 
favour at the peace. 

What was this but a distinct encouragement to the Turk to fight 
on ? If he won he would lose nothing ; if he was beaten the influence 
of England would prevent his losing much. 

Ought not our language to have been exactly the opposite ? 
" These are the terms you can have now. They are moderate. If you 
don't take them it will be the worse for you. And if you refuse them 
we can do nothing hereafter to help you." 

It seems to me very important that we should inquire whether 
(as I believe to be the fact) the Government of Austria and Germany 
assented in June to these terms. If so the sole responsibility of 
withholding or dissuading their adoption by the Turks rests upon 
our Government. 

" I saw Schuvaloff last night," he writes to Granville 
(March 5). " He told me the terms of peace as he had them 
yesterday from Ignatieff and as he communicated them to ' 
Derby. They are simple and moderate, and correspond 
almost to the terms of June, except that Bulgaria is some- 
what larger." He then defines the terms which proved to be 
the basis of the Treaty of San Stefano, and proceeds : 

... It is impossible to cook up a war out of this. Of course 
there will be a good deal of wrangling over the quantity and quality of 
Bulgarian autonomy. But I do not see how the English Government 
can use any real influence to cut them down. . . . 

I told him (Schuvaloff) the more moderate his terms were the more 
persuaded the Turkophils would be that there was a secret treaty. 
He asked me rather anxiously whether I really believed that the 
English Government would seriously take up the Greeks versus the 
Slavs. I said I did not know, but I hoped they would. He said, 
" That would be to complete the destruction of Turkey " ; to which 
I replied, " Tant mieux, we do not want to leave you a serviceable 
slave." . . . 

The confusion and disquiet that prevailed were aggravated 
at the end of April by the decision of the Government without 
the authority of Parliament to send Indian troops to Malta. 
This proceeding Harcourt challenged on the ground that 
statute law prescribed that all native troops employed out of 


India should be paid for by the Crown, and that therefore 
a vote of the House of Commons would be required. Har- 
court contended (May 6) that the action of the Government 
amounted to a claim on the part of the Crown to the right 
to move the whole of the Indian army to any place even to 
England for any purpose whatever without the sanction 
of Parliament. " We have a great rod in pickle for North- 
cote on Monday," he writes to Hartington (May n). " In 
1867 he distinctly admitted that the sending of native troops 
to Abyssinia and charging the cost on the Indian Revenue 
in the first instance with the intention of repaying it was an 
/illegal act and a violation of Gladstone's clause of the Act of 
1858 for which he humbly begged pardon." His indignation 
at what seemed a breach of the principle of the Bill of Rights, 
which forbade the employment of any troops, native or 
foreign, without the consent of Parliament overflowed in a 
torrent of precedents which he discharged in Parliament and 
in letters to Hartington. Meanwhile the Jingo frenzy was 
still high, and Harcourt, writing to Hartington, expresses 
alarm at the news he has had from Schuvaloff that the 
Cabinet may decide not to go to the Berlin Conference. 
" It seems to be another Berlin Memorandum affair over 
again. ... I find it very difficult to understand exactly 
the point on which they have split. As far as I can under- 
stand it is an affair of amour propre on both sides. Russia 
says, ' We will not be dictated to. ' England says, ' You shall 
take our terms.' ' But the fear was unfounded. The two 
years' struggle on the issue of peace and war was over, and 
one day, when the streets were still ringing with the Jingo 
refrain, the public were startled by the disclosure in the 
Globe of the fact that England and Russia had entered into 
a secret treaty which practically ratified the treaty between 
Russia and Turkey arranged at San Stefano in March. It 
was a strange denouement, and struck the war mood dead. 
The Berlin Congress followed. It confirmed the provisions 
of the Treaty of San Stefano in many respects, but diminished, 
with unhappy results in the future, the territory of the new 
Bulgaria, leaving Macedonia and Thrace still in the hands 


of the Turk. But the broad achievement was great. The 
independence of Montenegro, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Rumania 
was established, and the blight of Turkish misrule in Europe 
was reduced almost to vanishing-point. But although the 
policy of " bag and baggage " had largely won and the pro- 
Turkish sympathies of the Government had been frustrated, 
there were imperfections. It was discovered that not only 
was there a secret treaty with Russia on the one side, but 
that the Government had entered into a secret treaty with 
Turkey on the other, by which we had become the sole 
guarantors of the territories of Turkey in Asia, and that with 
this heavy obligation we had annexed Cyprus. 


While the results achieved by the war were important, 
Harcourt had no faith in the Berlin Convention. In a 
prophetic phrase he declared " it was a truce and not a settle- 
ment." The prophecy was amply fulfilled. In a letter to 
Hartington (July 28) commenting on " Beakey's (Beacons- 
field's) Riding School speech," he takes up Beaconsfield's 
contention that the Convention would " prevent future 
Governments from ever doing what this Government has 
done, viz., to keep the peace whilst Russia attacked Turkey." 
He proceeds : 

Harcourt to Hartington. 

. . . He (Beaconsfield) boldly says not only that the Crimean 
War would not have taken place if there had been such a Treaty 
but that the recent Russo-Turkish War would not have occurred. 
But how so ? The Treaty of 1856 did bind us then just as much 
as the Convention will bind future Governments. And yet we had 
Ministers hesitating, doubting, considering contingencies, and at 
last (as Salisbury says in his last despatch) determining that the 
risk and cost of war was too great. Why is this not to happen again ? 
If the Treaty of 1856 did not hinder this, why should the Convention 
of 1878 ? . . . 

The truth is that no Treaty of Guarantee has ever compelled a 
nation to go to war against its will or against the judgment of the 
people as to its expediency and necessity nor ever will. History 
is full of such examples. We had an offensive and defensive alliance 
with Holland, and invoked it in 1780, but Holland declined, etc., etc. 


To go to war is to risk the existence of a State, and self-preservation 
is the highest law which will always prevail, and each generation 
must and always will be the judge of circumstances which will 
justify or compel it to hazard its all. 

It may or may not be a wise thing to go to war to prevent the 
advance of Russia. If it is a wise thing we should do it without a 
Treaty : if it is not we should not do it with a Treaty. 

To say that Cyprus will aid us in such an event is an absurdity. 
If we go to war for Turkey to protect her Asiatic frontier, we shall not 
embark an army from Cyprus to march through Asia Minor. We 
should become the ally of Turkey. We should send our forces to 
Constantinople as headquarters, and we should operate from thence 
with our fleet and our transports on the southern shore of the Black 
Sea. . . . 

All their Treaties of Guarantee are simply the expression of a 
desire that Turkey should continue to exist. It is a desire for that 
which is an impossibility. They may delay, but they cannot avert the 
inevitable decay. They have not and they will not prevail against 
the moral forces which sooner or later overthrow bad Governments. 

The Treaty of 1856 guaranteed to Turkey Bosnia, Herzegovina, 
Serbia, the territory now annexed to Montenegro, Bulgaria, Batoum, 
Kars, Ardahan. What has become of them ? You make fresh 
guarantees of what remains, which will experience the same fate 
from the same causes. 

In attempting to defend that which cannot be defended we only 
prepare for ourselves the humiliation of deserting that which we 
have undertaken in vain to sustain. . . . 

In the House of Commons (July 30) the Berlin Convention 
was attacked on a motion by Hartington which laid special 
emphasis on the mischief of the Anglo-Turkish Treaty and 
its far-reaching engagements for the defence of Turkish 
territories in Asia. The debate was dominated by Glad- 
stone's famous speech on " the insane Convention." Har- 
court took part in it, and addressed himself mainly to an 
attack on the Asiatic policy involved in the Anglo-Turkish 
Convention. It was not a real policy, because the East had 
never been controlled except by conquest. The civilization 
of Asia Minor was a great policy worthy of a great nation. 
No one could suppose that Turkey, which kad refused to 
carry out reforms in her European provinces when the 
Russian army was at her gates and the whole of Europe 
remonstrating with her, would carry them out in Asia Minor 
on the mere strength of this Convention. It could not be 


pretended that Asia Minor was a British interest. All the 
spokesmen of the Conservative party had maintained that 
those interests were concerned with the sea route and not 
with the land route. He concluded : 

. . . The fate which came to the Treaty of 1856 will come to the 
Convention of 1878. It must be so. No guarantees can bind 
posterity to go to war. What, then, does this Convention come to ? 
My belief about it is that after your failure to induce Russia to give 
up many of the things she had claimed and obtained, you found it 
necessary to bring back something, and that something was Cyprus. 
It would never have done to have bought Cyprus without Cyprus 
being wrapped up, and you wrapped Cyprus up in this Convention. 
We are told not to be afraid of this Convention. It is said, " After 
all, it is not half so onerous a thing as you suppose it to be. It is a 
conditional agreement an agreement never to come into operation. 
It is dependent on two conditions : one is that Russia gives up the 
fortresses, and the other is that Turkey is well governed. Russia 
will not give up the fortresses, Turkey will not be well governed." 
From this point it seems to me that if this Convention were a serious 
thing the burden would be intolerable. I am not so much afraid of 
that. I do not complain so much of the burdens as that this Con- 
vention is utterly delusive. It puts forward conditions which are 
not intended to be fulfilled ; and, therefore, I regard it as a trans- 
action unworthy of English statesmanship and beneath the dignity of 
English statesmen. (Cheers.) 

During the long suspense that had hung over Europe, 
normal Parliamentary affairs had been largely in abeyance, 
but new troubles were coming to birth and old troubles wei 
assuming new aspects. Writing (July 1877) to his soi 
now at the end of his first term at Eton, Harcourt, after 
congratulating him on his place, and expressing the pleasure 
which the boy's success gave to " your dear old Papa," 
says : 

I only write these few lines as I have been up all night in the H. 
of C. and have been denouncing Biggar & Co. for more than twenty 
hours in succession. We sat from 4 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon to 
2 on Wednesday afternoon, then they gave in beat. It is one of 
the most extraordinary events that ever occurred in the H. of C. 
I went to bed for two hours. I returned at 10.30 and found the 


House still sitting. I am very tired now and will write no more 
except to say, my darling, that you have made me very happy. 

The " extraordinary event " that had happened marked 
the beginning of a new phase of the ancient struggle with 
Ireland. Since the Nationalists had broken away from their 
association with the Liberal party, and especially with the 
advent of Parnell, a more aggressive policy had been adopted 
by the Irish members, and H culminated in the introduction 
of the weapon of obstruction, with the quaint, almost 
grotesque figure of Biggar in the leading role. The scene 
referred to in the letter to Loulou occurred on the night of 
July 2. Harcourt's parliamentary conscience was outraged 
by the indignity to the decorum of the House. Writing 
the next day to Hartington he says : 

Hay court to Hartington. 

14, STRATFORD PLACE, July 3, 1877. ... I was there till 
3 o'clock. The opposition of the Home Rulers was most unreason- 
able, and I voted with the Government in every division till I 
went away. 

At 1.30 I pointed out to S. Northcote that it was idle to resist 
if the Irishmen were obstinate, and that it could only end as it did. 
I appealed also to the Irish, but of course in vain. Northcote with 
singular want of judgment resolved to keep up a hopeless and 
undignified fight. I went on till 3 o'clock voting with him. 
The Tories of course became very noisy and the scene was discredit- 
able. At 3 o'clock I again suggested to Northcote to give way, 
as whatever might be the merits of the case the Irish must win, 
that the House was placed in a false position, and it was impossible 
to vote money at that hour. 

However, he still persisted and appealed to the Tories to support 
him, which of course they did vociferously. I then retired. . . . 

Altogether it was as discreditable a piece of bad management 
on the part of Northcote as I ever witnessed. He got the Govern- 
ment and the House into a scrape from which there was no escape, 
and taught the Irishmen their power in a way they will not soon 
forget. . . . 

As the new warfare developed Harcourt's indignation 
increased. He wrote to The Times, and in the counsels 
of the Opposition declared for severe measures, as the 
following note in W. E. Forster's diary (July 31), following 


another obstructive night on the South African Bill, 
indicates : 

I went home, went to bed about 10 a.m. to be called at 12.45, 
but Kensington sent for me at 12. On coming down I found the 
seven staggered by fatigue and a threat by Northcote of suspension, 
but Harcourt very hot for censure or suspension after victory which 
would have been very foolish. At length they succumbed, and 
about 2 the Bill got through committee. 

In another matter at this time Harcourt was called in 
to assist the Government. Public attention had been drawn 
to the unsatisfactory condition of the law relating to courts 
martial, and towards the end of the Session a Select Com- 
mittee of the House of Commons was set up to inquire into 
the subject. Harcourt, whose past experience of courts 
martial gave him peculiar authority, was asked to serve, 
and he drafted a report which was published in the next 
year. In this he aimed at consolidating the whole existing 
law in a single statute and at making distinction between 
the punishment inflicted for military " crimes " committed 
in time of war and in time of peace. There are obviously 
faults which are a matter of life and death in war which 
cannot be so regarded in peace. The report sought to 
define conduct " to the prejudice of good order and military 
discipline," an expression which had been made in some 
cases a reason for inflicting severe punishment on men for 
making complaints of their superiors, and was susceptible 
of being turned to the uses of military tyranny. His efforts 
to humanize the law of courts martial were naturally not 
achieved without difficulty, and Stanley, the Secretary for 
War, writing to him (June 4, 1878) says : 

Lord Stanley to Harcourt. 

H.R.H. (the Duke of Cambridge) was grateful to you for handling 
him as Isaak Walton recommends the angler to handle the worm 
" as tho' you loved him." But what care it must require to 
drive such a team as you have got ! 

Harcourt gave assistance to the Government in anothc 
direction. A storm had arisen in India over the Fulle 
case, involving the position of judges in that count 


Salisbury and the Viceroy, Lord Lytton, had interfered 
with a decision of the judges and come into conflict with 
Anglo-Indian sentiment, and there was a move on the part 
of the Opposition to attack the administration. Harcourt 
stamped on the proposal energetically. At this time (June 
1877) Salisbury was righting the battle for peace within 
the Cabinet, and Harcourt, who knew that the war party 
wished to " run him down," insisted that in this matter 
it was the duty of Liberals "to do all we can to support 
him against Dizzy." In a letter to Hartington in which 
he put forward this view, he discussed with much sagacity 
the position of judges in India : 

Harcourt to Hartington. 

14, STRATFORD PLACE, June 4. ... In England the judges 
are properly removed from all control by the Executive, but they 
are controlled here effectually by two forces which are wanting in 
India : (i) Juries ; (2) Public opinion. Lowe's theory would make 
Indian judges absolute despots, in my judgment the very worst 
form of tyranny which could exist. 

If the judges in this case had had to submit the matter to a native 
jury the case would have been very different. If there had been 
any public opinion to control them it would not have been necessary 
for the Executive to interfere. But there is no public opinion in 
India except that which the Civil Service creates in its own favour. 
And of this exclusive caste the judges are themselves a part. 

The only representatives of a public opinion to which the natives 
can look for protection are to be found in the instincts of justice 
which are brought by the " short service " great officials, such as 
those who mainly constitute the Council of the Governor-General, 
who have not left a free country long enough to have parted with 
those traditions which wear out in a body of men habituated to the 
exercise of an unlimited authority over subject races. I therefore 
demur to the fundamental proposition that the judges in India 
are, can or ought to be regarded on the same footing in relation to 
the Executive as those in England or any of the free Colonies. 
The House of Commons has a manner of looking at the pith of the 
question and setting aside mere technical and hair-splitting distinc- 
tions which delight us lawyers. 

They will ask, Was Salisbury right or were the judges right in the 
Fuller case ? and they will answer in favour of Salisbury. 

It is impossible to pretend that this question can be argued as an 
abstract matter of principle. If Salisbury is condemned it would 
be understood in India as a rebuke to his interposition in favour 


of the natives. It would be regarded, as the question is now re- 
garded, as a struggle between the dominant race and their subjects 
in which the House of Commons had given the victory to the 
first. . . . 

In a letter from Simla (July 30) Lytton conveyed to 
Harcourt his gratitude for " the undeserved kindness of 
your spontaneous support on the Fuller case." He had 
incidentally saved his party from stumbling into a false 
position on a vital issue of Indian government. 


After his second marriage, Harcourt removed from 
Stratford Place to 7, Grafton Street, which became hence- 
forth one of the chief political centres of the time. In 
spite of his hard-hitting in debate, his range of personal 
friendships was unusually comprehensive, and at his table 
every shade of political opinion was represented. In a 
letter to his son, for example, he says : 

April 8, 1878. We had a dinner of sixteen on Saturday, Lord 
Carlingford and Lady Waldegrave, Lord and Lady Ripon, Lord 
and Lady Randolph Churchill, Lord and Lady G. Hamilton, Mr. 
and Mrs. Sturgis, Mr. Hy. Calcraft, Mr. Chamberlain (the Radical) 
and R. Brett. It was very pleasant and successful, and the house 
looked very well and was much admired. 

In the midst of his public activities Loulou was never 
far from his thoughts. To his wife he writes from Cam- 
bridge : 

November, 1877. ... I have sent L. one translation of the 
Odyssey. But I wish you would see if you can to-morrow morning 
get him either at Bumpus or Bickers & Bush, Leicester Square, 
Cowper's Translation of the Odyssey. I think there has been a modern 
edition. Make them find it and send it down at once to L., as he is 
evidently cramming for some Exam. . . . 

" I must try and give you a little help in the holidays, 
so that you will be ready for your trials at the end of the 
next term," he writes to the boy. ... "No father ever 
had a child he had more cause to love, and who has 
given him so much happiness and never a moment's 
pain." ... "I have written to Ainger to say this 


(January 31, 1878) is the first birthday I have been absent 
from you, and to ask leave for Saturday." ... "I have 
got your barge tickets for the boat-race " this was the 
tenor of the correspondence he kept up with affectionate 
industry while his son was at school, and during his holidays 
the boy was never far from his side. A new claimant to 
his abundant family affections presented himself on May 7, 
1878, when Lady Harcourt gave birth to a son, Robert. 
Meanwhile the political cloud that had come between 
Harcourt and his brother at Nuneham had dispersed. 
Time had tempered the shame of a Radical Harcourt repre- 
senting Oxford, though the wound still rankled a little. 
Thus, when Harcourt sends to his brother a cup of the 
Harcourt family, dated 1630, which has been presented 
to him, Edward replies : 

I am very glad W. Evelyn has given you a family cup. I shall 
by no means take it. It will serve to remind you of the steady 
loyalty and unvarying politics of our family in Oxfordshire for so 
many hundred years. ... I quite appreciate your kindness and 
delicacy about the cup, but why should I monopolize everything ? 

At this time Edward was engaged in his task of preparing 
the Harcourt Papers for the press for private circulation, 
and, replying to the offer of his brother to deal with the 
life and letters of Lord Chancellor Harcourt, he says : 

Of course I should be very glad if you would undertake the 
Chancellor and I could quite trust you not to put any (what shall 
we call it ?) over the lustre of his Toryism ! 

Early in 1878' Edward was returned to Parliament for 
Oxfordshire in the Conservative interest, and his brother 
wrote offering to undertake the formality of introduction, 
a service which Edward gratefully accepted. His advent 
did not disturb the current of Parliament. He sat silent 
and introspective while his brother thumped the box, and 
the journalistic jesters of the time declared that his steady 
stare of wonder, contempt, and sorrow at his voluble and 
erring relative was causing Harcourt to desert the House. 

A pleasant testimony to the place which Harcourt had 
now assumed in the Liberal party was his unanimous 



election in the summer of 1877 to membership of the 
Reform Club under a special rule empowering the Com- 
mittee " to elect each year two gentlemen of distinguished 
eminence for Public Service or in Science, Literature or 
Arts." The tribute flattered him, although, unlike Bright, 
James, and others of his political friends, he never became 
an habitut of the club, but limited his club life to the 
Oxford and Cambridge, of which he had become a member 
on first coming to London. He had now been in Parlia- 
ment ten years, and although the only office he had held 
was the Solicitor-Generalship, which he had occupied for a 
few months, no political career seemed more opulent in 
prospects. Next to Gladstone, he was easily the most 
formidable debater in the House. His ebullient wit, his 
power of concentration, his wide range of knowledge, and 
his energy of mind and manner gave him a unique place 
in Parliamentary conflict. He had his defects, the chief 
of which was that arrogance which his father had reproved 
when he was a boy and of which long ago, in a letter to 
Mrs. Ponsonby, he had himself made frank acknowledg- 
ment. It was a defect of the temper which did injustice 
to his natural generosity of heart, but it made him, as 
Campbell-Bannerman afterwards said, a thorn in the flesh 
to his friends as well as a terror to his enemies and often 
put unnecessary difficulties in his path. He had by this 
time definitely committed himself to a political rather than 
a legal career, and in the judgment of his contemporaries 
had the ultimate leadership of the Liberal party within 
his grasp. He was in no haste, and although he had chafed 
under the august leadership of Gladstone, he was quite 
happy as lieutenant to Hartington, whom he liked, not 
merely because he was not augus, but because of his high 
qualities of judgment and plain sense. Moreover, he was 
a contemporary with whom he could deal on equal terms 
and on whom he could press his point of view with some- 
thing like equal authority. The relations of the two men 
were of the most cordial kind, and Hartington, who had 
little taste for " devilling " and no false pride, welcomed 


the fruits of Harcourt's enormous appetite for historical 
and legal research on any theme that arose. Harcourt 
supplied him at this time not only with precedents, but 
with a private secretary who afterwards played a consider- 
able part in public affairs. ' You once mentioned a young 
Brett to me as a likely Private Secretary," wrote Harting- 
ton to Harcourt (December 19, 1877). " Do vou know 
whether he still wishes for anything of that kind ? " As 
the outcome of the inquiry Reginald Brett, the present 
Lord Esher, began that career which made him for a 
generation a sort of liaison officer between the powers and 
potentates of all camps, and the unofficial smoother of 

In June 1878, by the death of the Duchess of Argyll, 
the circle of Harcourt's close personal friendships was 
further impoverished. He journeyed to Roseneath with 
Gladstone and others to attend the funeral. " The poor 
Duke is wonderfully composed but looks ill," he writes to 
Lady Harcourt. " Gladstone and I walked up to the 
house with him. Gladstone looked very ill and did not 
sleep all night." 

With the Session of 1878 over and the peril of a European 
war at least postponed, Harcourt went to Scotland on a 
shooting and yachting holiday, taking Loulou with him. 
They first went to Glen Quoich, Invergarry. " I was out 
all day to-day fishing and shooting with L.," he writes to 
Lady Harcourt. " He killed his first grouse to-day, which 
is an event. I went out stalking yesterday much against 
my will in mist and storm all day and missed my stag." 
He intended to go via Dunvegan to Sir John Fowler's on 
Loch Broom, " picking up the gay Macleods " on the way. 

She is a daughter of Northcote, and I shall probably 
find Northcote there ..." But the programme was inter- 
rupted. Loulou was seized with the agonies of toothache, and 
he writes from Inverness to Lady Harcourt in admiration 
of the courage of the boy under " the horrid business " at 
the dentist's. " He showed so much sense and fortitude. 
I know how perfect he is in all the softer qualities, but it 


gives me great hope and pleasure to see that he is not 
wanting in those stronger forces which he will want in the 
battle of life. My love for him grows deeper every day 
as each fresh trial shows how good and true he is." After 
this episode father and son set out on a tour among the 
Western Islands, in a yacht of 120 tons, steaming 9 knots. 
After sailing up the Sound of Sleat to Loch Duich, " which 
is as lovely as Lugano," they encountered a gale and took 
shelter in Kyleakin, " where we spent many happy days 
in old times. He (Loulou) was greatly excited at the thought 
of seeing our old yacht, but it turned out like a toothless 
old woman, very unexciting, being, as I expected, a rotten 
wreck so we disposed of its component parts to the 
inhabitants, our old friends." Proceeding northwards to 
Portree, halting to fish and shoot on the way, they en- 
countered the heaviest storm that had been experienced 
on the coast for twenty years. Writing to Lady Harcourt, 
he says : 

September 18. . . . The sailor Algy [Sheridan] l will appreciate 
what it was when I say that the barometer fell ij inch in 12 hours. 
We were happily in a very fair harbour at Portree, but the squalls off 
the hills were so tremendous that with two anchors out we were in 
momentary fear of our cables parting, and we had steam up all the 
time, having fixed on the spot where we should run ashore in case the 
anchors failed us. This state of things lasted nearly forty-eight 
hours, during all which time we were tossing about within 300 
yards of the shore, but unable to land. It was very unpleasant 
and a little dangerous, but Loulou bore it like a man and slept all 
through the night. . . . 

With this adventure the holiday ended. Loulou had to 
return, leaving his father behind. " I parted with him 
last night with a heavy heart," he writes to Lady Harcourt. 
" I find now he has gone that my only real pleasure in 
Scotland is to witness his enjoyment. . . ." 

Returning from his holiday, Harcourt took up his cus- 
tomary duties as Whewell Professor at Cambridge. " I 
have just come back from a long walk with Sir H. Maine 
who, as you know, is of the India Office and ante damnee 
1 Lady Harcourt' s brother-in-law. 


of Salisbury," he writes to his wife (November 4). " He 
was my coach when I was an undergraduate thirty-one 
years ago, and it was strange for us to meet under such 
altered circumstances, he Master of Trinity Hall and I a 
Professor." The next day he writes : "I gave my first 
lecture to-day and had a satisfactory class. There is a big 
feast in Hall to-day to entertain the Judge who is here on 
Circuit, but I hate banquets and shall dine in my own room. 
I generally collect a dozen men in my rooms after Hall and 
we have a good smoke and talk. ... I also send you 
letters from Adam and Loulou. The latter had the 
impudence to direct to me ' Professor Harcourt.' ..." 

But the quiet interlude at Cambridge was darkened by 
new storms which heralded the final break-up of the 
Disraelian regime. 


Failure of Salisbury's foreign policy The Lytton policy in Afghan- 
istan Harcourt's and Hartington's speeches in the country 
Gathering clouds in South Africa Death of Lady Waldegrave 
Election prospects Defection of Lord Derby Harcourt's 
oratory Radical demand for Ireland The Liverpool election 
The Gladstone Cabinet Defeat at Oxford. 

THE pleasant illusion of " Peace with Honour " was 
short-lived, and the Berlin Treaty began to show 
signs of disruption while the ink on it was still 
hardly dry. It had served to shore up the Government for a 
time, and to give them a new lease of life. But events were 
preparing the final downfall of Disraelian Imperialism. 
Hardly had the threat of a European convulsion passed, 
than the country found itself with two new wars on hand, 
one, the result of an unwarranted attack on the Zulus, the 
other due to a reversal of Indian policy issuing in hostilities 
against the Ameer of Afghanistan. The graver of these 
two incidents was, in Harcourt's opinion, related to the 
mischievous despatch of Indian troops to Malta during the 
Russo-Turkish trouble, against which he had protested at 
the time. In a vigorous and incisive attack on the foreign 
policy of the Government which he delivered at Scarborough 
on October 30, 1878, he pointed out that the Malta incident 
had been intended to impress Russia with a sense of our 
Indian resources. If, as was probable, there had followed 
Russian intrigue in Afghanistan that intrigue was intended 
to create a situation on the borders of India that would 



keep the Sepoys in that country. This view was supported 
by Lord Northbrook, who had been Viceroy. 

The speech at Scarborough was followed by a long 
exposure in The Times by Harcourt of the reasons why the 
Berlin Treaty was already disintegrating. Again, it was 
the desire to protect Turkey that was the root of the mis- 
chief. We had rejected the proposals made by the other 
Powers for the federal execution of the treaty. We had 
refused lest Europe should be invited to compel Turkey 
to fulfil her obligations under the treaty. But in leaving 
the door ajar for the Porte we had, by an utter lack of fore- 
sight, left it open for Russia also. We did not need joint 
action to compel Turkey to perform her undertakings, for 
the armed force of Russia present on the spot was adequate 
for the task ; but we did need the collective action of 
Europe in the case of Russia herself. This we might have 
had and this Lord Salisbury had refused, and now we saw 
him going hat in hand to the various Ministers of Europe 
to ask a renewal of the proposal we had rejected at Berlin. 

We can figure to ourselves Prince Bismarck with a brutal frank- 
ness replying " Tu 1'as voulu, Georges Dandin," or, as he is a good 
English scholar, he might answer in the old lines : 
" He who will not when he may, 
When he will he shall have nay ! " 

Writing to Hartington, Harcourt says : 

November 7, 1878. . . . My wife saw M. Corry in town yester- 
day, and says he told her he was at Hatfield when Dizzy and Salis- 
bury read my letter to The Times, that I was all wrong in the asser- 
tion that the Government had been seeking the aid of the Powers 
to enforce the Treaty of Berlin against Russia, and that he supposed 
that I had got the idea at Knowsley, which was a source not to be 
trusted. They may deny it as they please, but the telegrams which 
/tome from Vienna, Berlin, and Rome show that they have made 
such an attempt and failed, though luckily they were cautious in 
the form of their application. 

Whether the information had come from Knowsley 
i.e., from Lord Derby there is nothing to show, but the 
suspicion was not without a certain basis. Derby, for 
whom Harcourt had had a warm affection dating from the 


Apostolic days at Cambridge, had shown very liberal ten- 
dencies, and his wife, who was understood to wish him 
to join the Liberal party, a little later drove openly with 
Harcourt from Knowsley when he went to address a Liberal 
meeting in Liverpool, and significantly left her carriage 
standing outside the Liberal Club. So far as the particular 
suggestion was concerned, Beaconsfield was able to meet 
the allegations of Harcourt that we had been seeking the 
aid of the European Powers to enforce the Treaty of Berlin 
against Russia with a reassuring message from the Tsar. 
In the meantime, the Afghan trouble was assuming grave 
proportions, and a meeting of Parliament was summoned 
for December. Harcourt was hot against the enterprise. 
" For my part," he wrote to Hartington from Cambridge 
(November 22), " unless the Government can give some 
clear evidence of a Russian alliance with the Ameer hostile 
to us (not mere surmise), I consider the war wholly un- 
justifiable and should be prepared to condemn it in toto." 
He was in close communication with Northbrook, who 
agreed with him and Sir Henry Maine that Sir Bartle Frere, 
who had " a deadly hatred and jealousy of Lawrence," was 
" at the bottom of the mischief." But Salisbury and 
Lytton were involved, and it was at the latter's instigation 
that Fitzjames Stephen wrote to The Times defending the 
Government policy. This led to a heated controversy in 
that journal between the old rivals of the Cambridge Union. 
Stephen had said explicitly, " I deny that the maxims of 
European international law should be the measure of justice 
in regard to Shere Ali," and had so placed himself at the 
mercy of so practised a controversialist as Harcourt, who 
said that Great Britain had bound herself by treaty not 
to violate Afghan territory or to interfere in the Ameer's 
dominions. Did Stephen's Asiatic doctrine place a con- 
vention of this kind on a different footing from other 
treaties ? Were we at liberty to break that treaty for the 
attainment of the scientific frontier, which the Prime 
Minister had declared to be the real object of war with 
Afghanistan ? 


He was compelled to join issue also with another old 
friend, Lord Lytton, who had found a pretext for a mission 
to the Ameer, intended to discover the extent of the Russian 
intrigues. He had chosen the very unhappy course of 
sending Sir Lewis Pelly to announce the assumption by the 
Queen of the title of Empress of India. In his speech in 
the House on December 13 Harcourt related in their sequence 
the events that had followed on the almost inevitable 
rejection of that mission. The situation when the Russian 
envoys went to Kabul was, he admitted, a difficult one, 
but the Indian Government had made the circumstances 
of their mission as humiliating as possible for the Ameer. 
The whole conduct of the business aimed at securing a 
definite break. " This Imperial policy is a servile copy of 
the imperialism of the second Empire. They began, too, 
with a little war, a Mexican expedition, which was to exalt 
the Latin race and to gratify the pride of the French 

Earlier in the controversy (November 7) Harcourt had 
urged Hartington not to speak in the country. "It is all 
very well for brigadiers to charge the enemy and keep the 
troops in spirits, but the Commander-in-Chief ought not 
to appear on the field till the real plan of campaign is 
developed." Now, however (December 19), he advised 
Hartington to speak at Leeds, but the occasion was one 
affecting the domestic affairs of the party. Joseph Cham- 
berlain had now assumed a strong position as the leader 
of the left wing of Liberalism, and was engaged in a scheme 
of party reorganization in regard to which Hartington was, 
according to his nature, somewhat chilly. Harcourt urged 
him to go to the Leeds meeting of the Liberal Association, 
and " play the game of conciliation handsomely and cor- 
dially." He advised him when he met Chamberlain " not 
to thrust the conditions down his throat," but to put 
" more of the Arabian Nights into it." He added, " they 
will care little for the head of your speech if, like the rocket, 
the force is in the tail." 


Harrington's correspondence with Chamberlain, however, 

ended in his deciding not to go to Leeds, and in a letter 

to Harcourt (January 2, 1879) he expressed his ob- 

./jections to a caucus designed to influence the policy of a 


A tobogganing accident to Loulou while he and his father 
were staying at Rangemore, Burton-on-Trent, had disturbed 
Harcourt's Christmas. ' You know how it always fusses 
me when anything is the matter with him," he wrote to 
his wife. But the broken nose was mended, and a week 
or two later the boy was at Studley Royal, and Lady Ripon 
was delighting the paternal heart with accounts of his 
shooting exploits and the comment of the keeper that 
" He's a ripper, and will be a clinking good shot." Christ- 
mas over, Harcourt made his customary appearance at the 
Druids' dinner at Oxford on New Year's Day, but reserved 
his set speech for the Liberal Association at Oxford on 
January 14, when he delivered a broadside against 
Disraelian Imperialism : 

We have seen a new spirit growing up among us which has deteri- 
orated the staple fibre of the public mind a spirit so strange to our 
ancient manners and traditions that it has been found necessary to 
invent for it a name for which the English language has no equiva- 
lent. It is called Jingoism. It has raged like some new epidemic, 
highly infectious for a time, though there are, happily, symptoms 
that the virulence of the poison is wearing itself off. 

He went on to describe the typical English gentleman 
and the pushing, bragging " smart fellow," and said that 
" by a kind of elective affinity the vulgarian of private 
society becomes the Jingo of public life." He subjected 
this gospel to searching analysis in the light of recent events, 
described the insincerity of the Berlin Treaty, declared with 
an emphasis that events soon justified that Lord Beacons- 
field's Eastern Rumelia " is just one of those ingenious 
pieces of political clockwork which have every merit except 
that they will not go," made havoc of the annexation of 
Cyprus, an island without a harbour for a fleet, which was 
to be "a strong place of arms for the defence of Turkey 

i8 7 9] "CRAM' FOR HARTINGTON 347 

in Asia Minor," and denounced the abandonment of the 
constitutional tradition that the Executive should act with 
Parliament as a coadjutor. In Salisbury's denial of the 
Schuvaloff agreement, which was in his possession, and his 
repudiation of a change in Indian policy when Lytton's 
breach with the Ameer had been arranged, Harcourt saw 
a sinister purpose of revolutionizing our constitutional 
system and founding government on the maxim populus 
vult decipi et decipiatur. Writing to Harcourt on this 
deliverance, Hartington said : 

Hartington to Harcourt. 

HOLKER HALL, January 16. I congratulate you on the great 
success of your speech. It is the heaviest blow which has yet been 
delivered against the Government, and seems to me unanswerable. 
... I agree with you that we ought to set to work about preparations 
for the election ; and we shall not have more than sufficient time, 
if the election should take place next autumn. 

I have asked Brett to show you, if you are in town, the draft of my 
Edinburgh address (as Lord Rector of the University), and to ask you 
if you can help him to brush it up a little. I am much dissatisfied 
with it, but I have never tried my hand at literary composition 
before, and hope never to do so again. . . . 

Whether Harcourt " brushed up " the Edinburgh address 
is not on record, but it is not likely that he would miss 
so agreeable a task. He not only made speeches himself 
but inspired speeches in others, and was always ready to 
supply ammunition to anybody who needed it, and to no 
one more readily than to Hartington. He wrote to him 
(February 4) with enthusiasm about the Edinburgh address 

" the topics were well chosen, the style simple and dig- 
nified, and the doctrine of the good old Whig brand " 
and, referring to Hartington 's approaching speech at Liver- 
pool, said, " I have no suggestions to offer except that you 
should put plenty of powder into your gun. I know it will 
always be held straight." But by the time he has reached 
the end of his letter his mind is bubbling with ideas for the 
Liverpool speech, and he jots down what he calls " a few 
rough notes " covering the whole field of foreign policy. 
Two days later he sends more notes apropos of a speech 


by R. Bourke, the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, 
and, always a little nervous that Hartington would not 
put enough " powder into his gun," adds, " I know you 

'will not allow the enemy to contrast (as they will be only 
too eager to do) your mildness with our fierceness." When 
the Liverpool campaign of Hartington was over his satis- 
faction was complete, and he wrote, " Nothing has had 
such a success in pulling the Party together, and they will 
meet on Thursday in high feather and spirits. The dismay 
of the Ministerialists is apparent in the shriek of The Times 
this morning." 

While prompting Hartington for his speeches in the 
country, he was fertile in suggestions to Granville for the 
attack in the House of Lords. The Afghan war was 
dragging on, and papers issued by the Government showed 
that we had " obligatory engagements " towards Russia 
in Central Asia,J>ut that Salisbury disputed the Russian 
interpretation of those engagements. What were they ? 
He writes to Granville : 

Harcourt to Granville. 

7, GRAFTON STREET, February 19. Surely if we have " obligatory 
engagements " towards Russia in respect of Afghanistan we ought 
to know exactly what they are, and this is the very point which 
S. (Salisbury) evades. As a fact I know that S. has given Russia 
an assurance that the English will not advance beyond Jellalabad 
and Kandahar as a maximum, and the withdrawal of the British 
force which is now going on is in furtherance of that undertaking. 
Ought we not to get this out ? Anyhow it is very unsatisfactory 
that we should be told that there are " obligatory engagements " 
between England and Russia on the subject of Central Asia, and at 
the same time it should be asserted by Salisbury that he does not 
understand them in the same sense as they are taken by Russia. 
This state of things is certain to lead to future complications. Ought 
we not to ask what meaning the Government attribute to the 
Memorandum of 1875 and whether in their view it imposes any anc 
what limits to our annexations in Afghanistan ? 

He urges Granville (March 26) to " eclaircir the positioi 
(in Eastern Rumelia) and make the Government declare 
what they are about," informing him that the Government, 
finding that the piece of clockwork invented by them woulc 


not go, were now in favour of a joint occupation, " an 
open confession that the Treaty of Berlin will not work." 
But while Austria and Italy agreed, Germany and France 
now stood aside. 

In the meantime Harcourt was delivering thwacking 
blows at the Government in the House of Commons. He 
made two speeches attacking the Cyprus policy, and in 
the second (March 24) gave a delightful disclosure of the 
genesis of that policy : 

It has been asked why we hold Cyprus at all ; but as yet the 

Government have never vouchsafed any satisfactory answer. The 

fact is that the acquisition of Cyprus was determined upon at a 

much earlier period than that covered by the blue-books on the 

, subject, and the record of it is to be found in a book which is not 

i exactly official, but which nevertheless throws a considerable 

amount of light on the Eastern policy of the present Government. 

" The English," said this book, " want Cyprus, and they will take it 

as compensation. The English will not do the business of the Turks 

jifor nothing. They will take this city and occupy it. They want a 

new market for their cotton. England will never be satisfied until 

the people of Jerusalem wear calico turbans." The title of the book 

was Tancred, or the New Crusade. 


Among " the half-dozen scrapes we were in," to use 
Harcourt's phrase at Sheffield (April n), the gathering 
cloud in South Africa was not the least formidable. The 
annexation of the Transvaal carried out in 1877 had lighted 
a. fire that was to smoulder for a generation before it burst 
.into flames. The chief author of that mischievous policy, 
Sir Bartle Frere, the High Commissioner, had since, by his 
tiigh-handed conduct, plunged the country into an idle and 
ndefensible war against the Zulus. In a large measure 
the Government were hostile to Frere's activities, but 
:hey showed great weakness in dealing with him, and 
In the House of Commons (March 31) Harcourt made a 
levastating attack both on Frere and on the Ministers / 
#ho had allowed themselves to be stampeded by his/ 
orovocative and predatory methods. He followed the 
ittack up in his speech at Sheffield, in which he gave 


currency to a phrase, " prancing pro-Consuls," that hit off 
the character of the new Imperialism, and became a part of 
the political phraseology of Press and platform. He spoke 
of the war as one " the origin of which is already con- 
demned, and the object of which no man can discover." 
On this occasion he not only surveyed the wide-spread 
failure of Disraelian foreign policy, but attacked the financial 
poltroonery of a Government which refused to pay for their 
adventures, and, having squandered the surplus left by their 
predecessors, piled up deficits which they had not the honesty 
or the courage to meet, offering the country " Peace with 
Honour upon tick " as their inglorious epitaph. He put 
his finger once more upon the cardinal vice of the Govern- 
ment policy. It had failed because it ran counter to the 
spirit of the age : 

In the last half -century (he said) Europe has been reconstructed 
on the principles of nationality ; and that principle may be truly 
called the spirit of our age, to which no wise statesman will run 
counter. Greece, Italy, Belgium, Germany, owe their new birth 
to this omnipotent force. Do you suppose that this vital principle 
is less active in the East than in the West of Europe ? Do you 
think that by your paper protocols you can smother out this potent, 
ever -living, struggling spirit ? 

This speech, like most of Harcourt's formal deliverances, 
had been elaborately prepared, while on a visit to Ilfra- 
combe. Writing from thence to his wife, he says : 

Har court to his Wife. 

ILFRACOMBE, Saturday. I had an interview with the famille 
Northcote this morning who have been staying in this Hotel. They 
were as always amiable. She said, speaking of the prevalence of 
daughters in families, " only Ldy. Harcourt seems able to have 
a son." But I pointed out to her that the credit really belonged 
to the sire which on reflection she admitted to be true. 

I chaffed Sir S. about Naboth and Uriah, and told him I should 
correct it in Hansard, so he would have to accommodate his speech 
to mine. 

I get on slowly with the speech, and cannot form an opinion 
of its quality yet any more than you can of a half -born child. 

I have just received a telegram from Neilson of The Times pro- 
posing to be down here to take my speech on Monday, but I ha\ 


appointed him to meet me at Graf ton Street on Tuesday morning, 
as I shall return to London Monday. . . . 

To the end of his public life the gestation of a big speech 
was a formidable function with Harcourt. 1 In the quiet 
of his room he walked rapidly to and fro " like a caged 
lion," twirling a button of his coat until he succeeded in 
dislodging it, whereupon he started on another button, and 
woe to the intruder who broke in upon him in the midst 
of these agonies of composition. No doubt, from an argu- 
mentative and logical point of view, his speeches gained 
much from this elaborate preparation ; but they lost the 
fresh and spontaneous wit and force that marked his 
impromptu manner. " I remember," said Sir George 
Trevelyan to me, " occasions on which, rising to reply in 
debate to previous speakers, he overwhelmed his antagonist 
and convulsed the House by the humour and impetus of 
jhis onset, and having swept the field fell back on his pre- 
pared speech and sacrificed much of the impression his 
impromptu exordium had created." Harcourt, of course, 
i knew this, but his eye was not set on the audience so much as 
on the country, and he spoke not to be heard but to be read. 

A note from Northcote to Harcourt (May 7) after the 
meeting at Ilfracombe indicates the pleasant relations that 
existed between Harcourt and the amiable leader of the 
Conservatives in the House of Commons : 

n, DOWNING STREET, May 7, 1879. Many thanks for your 
; aote on /corra/Jos. Lowe refers me to a passage in the Acharnians, 

where the Chorus attribute the Peloponnesian war to an affair 
i it Megara arising out of a game, and ending in a raid upon Aspasia's 

landmaidens. . . . 

Among the multitudinous problems over which Harcourt 
anged with eager and voluminous energy, none engaged 
lis mind quite so completely as a constitutional issue, which 

1 Dilke said to me, writes Lord Harcourt in his Journal, in 1885, 
' Your father always makes his speeches three times. The first 
ime they are sublime, the second they are very good, and the third 
ime they are only fauiy' good. He makes the first in conversation 
o one of his intimate friends or colleagues, the second in talk at a 
linner table, and the third in public. 


involved him both as a politician and a lawyer, and in the 
House on June 17 he delivered what Henry Fawcett, in a 
letter to him next day, described " as the best speech I 
ever heard you make." It dealt with the encroachment of 
personal government by the Viceroy or the Secretary for 
India in the recent affairs of that country. " No man had 
yet been created," he said, " who was fit to exercise un- 
controlled power over two hundred millions of his fellow- 
creatures," and, with his acute sense of the peculiar rela- 
tions of this country to India, he rebuked the tendency to 
disregard the constitutional checks upon autocratic action 
which had been lately apparent, notably in the case of the 
Afghan War, the Vernacular Press Act and the reduction 
of the cotton duties, arguing that the principle of limitation 
which was good for England was good also for India. 


The death of Lady Waldegrave at this time robbed 
Harcourt of the oldest and most loyal of his friends. Since 
the now remote days when, as the wife of " Uncle George," 
she was the mistress of Nuneham she had taken a maternal 
interest in all his personal affairs and his political activities, 
and he, on his side, had been the bright particular star of 
the week-end gatherings during her later life at Strawberry 
Hill. His bereavement was shared by many. " I dined 
at Crawford's last night," wrote Henry James to Harcourt 
(July 9). " H.R.H. (the Prince of Wales) was very civil 
about Lady Waldegrave. When I said I had lost as good 
a friend as anyone could have, he said, ' You have not sus- 
tained a greater loss than I have.' ' James proceeded, 
" He was full of Hartington's treatment and was somewhat 
abusive of Chamberlain." The antagonism of Chamberlain 
to Hartington was becoming as marked as Harcourt's 
antagonism to Gladstone had been. The previous day 
there had been an unusual demonstration in the House 
J on behalf of Hartington, but directed really against Cham- 
berlain. " Everybody on both sides abuses Chamberlain/ 


wrote James, " and he has lost immense way by his 
conduct." But Chamberlain was not easily suppressed, 
and in the debate on the Army Bill he made a scornful 
^allusion to Hartington as " the leader of a section of the 
Opposition." The Bill was founded on the report of the 
Select Committee drafted by Harcourt in the previous 
year, and the discussions centred largely round the question 
of flogging. Harcourt, anxious to save the Bill, came in 
for some hard hits from his own side for supporting the 
Government, but on the question of flogging he spoke 
voted with the Opposition for its abolition. The 
however, was passed without that reform being conceded. 
With the prorogation of Parliament, the thoughts of 
politicians turned to the country and the approaching 
election. Harcourt revelled in the smell of battle. " Elec- 
tion prospects in Scotland are good," he writes to Granville, 
" and James and I were in the thick of the Elginshire 
victory over the whole territorial influence of six Earls and 
three Dukes in one person." 1 The likelihood of the over- 
throw of the Government had penetrated to the most 
august quarters, as appears from a significant passage in 
Harcourt's letter to Granville : 

7, GRAFTON STREET, September 23, 1879. I came up last night 
from Scotland and met at Perth H. Ponsonby en route from Balmoral 
south. He is charged with a message to the " Chief of the Opposi- 
tion " having regard to " the possibility of a change " (which it 
seems is now contemplated for the first time). The message is of 
so singular a character having regard to some passages in Harting- 
ton's speech at Newcastle that I should much like to have a few 
words with you OH it, before I speak in Lancashire next week. 
It is of a most George -the -Thirdian character as to what can and 
cannot be submitted to. ... 

What the offence at Newcastle was can only be surmised, 
but probably it involved Harcourt, for he was the source 
of much of Hartington's eloquence. " If you can supply 
any hints (for his speeches at Newcastle) without robbing 

1 On Viscount Macduff's succession to the earldom of Fife, the 
seat for Elgin and Nairn was won (September 1879) by Sir Mac- 
Pherson Grant against the territorial influence of the Earl of Seafield. 



yourself I shall be grateful," Hartington had written to 
Harcourt (September 7). Forthwith Harcourt sent off a 
survey of the Government's misdemeanours abroad . 
^on had expressed a desire to attack Parnells new 
poUcy of obstruction. " I think you are quite right to 
speak out against Parnell, who is becoming intolerable 
replied Harcourt ; " but I don't knowthatl should make , 
too conspicuous a topic." 

mile Hartington's speeches at Newcastle had given 
concern in high places, they had created disquiet of another 
Lrt among tl Radicals. Dilke, writing to Harcourt from 
Toulon, islismayed at Hartington's and Goschen s speeche. 
The Radicals want three things-equalization of franc 
^disestablishment, reform of the land laws : 

Dilke to Harcourt. 
TOULON, September 27, i8 7 9.-Goschen's whole speech _fc ^ an 

strong, it would do good I'm sure. 

But Harcourt replies that he is going to be " long and dull" 
"Either things are unusually flat or I am preternaturally 
stupd but I feel as if the soul of Northcote had trans- 
SSed into me, and if I only had a flaxen beard I amsure 
I should deliver one of his Midland (?) speeches to admira- 
tion." He defends Hartington and continues 

Harcourt to Dilke. 

I am going to Knowsley for Liverpool. Indeed Lady D^ 
(Derby) w^to Lk me avec eminent as soon as she knew I 


to Hughenden. Apropos of his K.C.B. Wolff says he has now all 
the letters of the alphabet except L.S.D., which are the only ones 
he cares for. But I hear it is seriously contemplated to give him 
Layard's place at Constantinople. He is really fit to be the Abbe 
Dubois of Dizzy's Regence. 

Harcourt kept to his programme. His speeches at South- 
port (October 3) and at Liverpool (October 6) were lively and 
destructive criticisms, but they foreshadowed no domestic 
policy. He was attacked on his Southport speech for " say- 
ing the same thing," and at Liverpool replied : 

If we said from the first that the Treaty of Berlin would settle 
nothing, and it has settled nothing if we have predicted that 
Eastern Rumelia would prove a delusion, and it is a delusion if 
we have affirmed that Cyprus would be good for nothing, and it is 
good for nothing if we said that the Anglo -Turkish Convention 
was a sham, and it is a sham if we predicted that to send an envoy 
to Kabul would produce disaster, and that disaster has occurred 
how can we help saying the same thing ? 

He wrote from Knowsley to Granville (October 9) full of 
confidence as to the electoral outlook in Lancashire. " I 
have not yet dropped my lead into all the channels of this 
house (Lord Derby's) so I cannot give you the accurate 
soundings, but I shall do so before I leave on Saturday for 
London." Lord Derby's defection from the Government 
in 1878 on the calling out of the reserves, and his opposition 
to the acquisition of Cyprus and the Afghan policy had made 
the future of the " Lancashire Achilles ' a matter of much 
political importance. No one had done more to prevent 
war with Russia, and, as the correspondence between the 
Queen and Beaconsfield (Life of B. Disraeli, vol. vi.) shows, 
he had incurred the especial wrath oJ^He^ Majesty. It is 
possible that he was included in that " George- the-Thirdian " 
message which Ponsonby had to deliver to the " Chief of 
the Opposition." Harcourt reverts to this matter in his 
letter to Granville from Knowsley : 

I can tell you then of H. Ponsonby, but if you could manage to 
meet him (which I know he is anxious for), I think it would be a 
good thing. He will be for a week or ten days now at Norman Tower, 
Windsor, before he goes back. It is difficult without conversation 


with him to understand the exact nuances of what he has to say. 
But it seems clear to me that there is a large proscriptive list. 

It may be that Derby was on the list of undesirables ; but 
when the Gladstone Government was formed he declined a 
seat in the Cabinet as he did not wish to appear to profit by 
his desertion of his old party. He, however, had " taken the 
leap." Before leaving Harcourt wrote to Hartington the 
result of his " soundings " : 

KNOWSLEY, October 10. . . . You will receive by the same post 
as that by which I write this an invitation to come to Knowsley 
for your Manchester visit. The real meaning of such a proceeding 
is thoroughly understood, and is intended to have the signification 
which Lancashire and the rest of the country will attach to it. . . . 
In my opinion this step will go far to determine the whole Lancashire 
campaign. ... I think it is of great consequence that you should 
if possible go from hence to the Manchester meeting. . . . 

Hartington agreed to go to Knowsley, but was less con- 
fident than Harcourt of the influence of Derby. Harcourt 
was satisfied that he had helped to enrol a most powerful 
recruit who would not only carry Lancashire but would 
bring in the " arm-chair " people. He writes to Granville 
urging him also to accept an invitation from Knowsley, and, 
not forgetful of the virtues of publicity, writes to Frank Hill, 
the editor of the Daily News : 

7, GRAFTON STREET, October 15, 1879. You may announce that 
you are informed on good authority that the Earl of Derby has 
invited Lord Hartington to stay at Knowsley on the occasion of his 
visit to Lancashire for the Great Liberal meeting at Manchester. 
... You may comment as you please on this. It means what it 
seems to mean. 

Writing to Harcourt after the Hartington visit, Lady 
Derby says : 

KNOWSLEY, October 24, 1879. The great man duly arrived, had 
a good reception in L'pool, made himself very pleasant here, had a 
good deal of talk with Ld. D. ; seemed to be suffering agonies this 
morning ; was occupied from 10 till I with his notes, refreshed 
himself by a solitary walk and went off to Manchester at 4. I think 
you may feel well pleased with having been the means of getting 
him here. . . . Please write to me the real truth when you have 
seen him again of what he thought of all things here. I have rarely 
seen anybody more shy than he was last night. 

i8 7 9] IN THE RADICAL CAMP 357 

Meanwhile the Government was in its death throes. 
" What a wretched affair Dizzy's speech (at the Lord Mayor's 
banquet) is," writes Harcourt to his wife from Cambridge 
(November n). "It seems to me as if the Tories were 
regularly cowed. They have not a stick to throw at a dog." 

But if the Government were in extremis, the Opposition 
were not exactly a happy family. Victory lay before them, 
but whose victory would it be ? It was becoming obvious, to 
no one perhaps more than to Hartington, that his leadership 
was a temporary phase and that everything depended on the 
decision at Ha warden, A wide gulf separated the Whigs 
and the Radicals, and even among the Radicals all was not 
brotherly love. Harcourt, writing to his wife from Cambridge 
in November, says : 

TRINITY COLLEGE, Thursday evening. ... I saw the Fawcetts 
yesterday. She very eager that Chamberlain should lose his seat for 
Birmingham. He did n&Ssay, but thought the same and said it 
" would do him good." I dissented strongly. How these Radicals 
hate one another. I suppose Dilke, Chamberlain and Fawcett 
are mutually very jealous and think that they will have to jostle 
one another for the next Cabinet. Happily I am on good terms 
with them all. . . . 

Harcourt's eighteenth-century mind cultivated no illusions 
about his fellows or about himself, and Dilke records that 
when, a little later, he remarked to Harcourt " I believe I am 
the only English politician who is not jealous," Harcourt 
laughed very much and replied, " We all think that of our- 
selves," to which Dilke said, " I mean it." In the general 
uncertainty, Harcourt had a detachment which at once 
allied him with and separated him from both wings. He was 
" a Whig who talked Radicalism." He had been the chief 
backer of the Hartington leadership, but his closest political 
friendships were with the Radicals, and Chamberlain obvi- 
ously believed that his movement would be to the Left. He 
wrote to him (November 2) urging him to speak at a banquet 
in the Birmingham Town Hall to celebrate the opening of 
the Birmingham Liberal Club. Harcourt declined, but 
Chamberlain was urgent, and pressed him to reconsider 
his decision as an answer to those who were labouring to 


exaggerate the differences between the two sections of the 
Liberal Party. 

With the election now imminent, the floodgates were 
opened in the country. Gladstone had taken the field in 
Midlothian in December, and had roused public feeling by 
the passion and energy of his eloquence. Next to him, 
Harcourt's speeches caught the ear of the country most 
effectually. Indeed in the Life of Sir Charles Dilke, the 
biographers express the view that " Harcourt's brilliant 
speeches at Oxford and elsewhere, full of epigrams, had 

ore effect on the electorate than any others, not even 
excepting Mr. Gladstone's speeches in his Midlothian cam- 

This is an exaggeration. Neither Harcourt nor any 
other contemporary could draw the bow of Ulysses. They 
lacked the moral elevation that Gladstone communicated to 
the secular affairs of life and by which he touched the emo- 
tions of men to finer issues. But if this note of inspiration 
was absent from Harcourt's armoury, his oratory had other 
qualities which made him the delight of those who read him 
as much as of those who heard him. The breadth and 
sweep of his survey, the clarity of his style, the fertility of 
his illustrations, his journalistic art of weaving his abundant 
knowledge into the large pattern of his theme, above all the 
boisterous humour that filled the spacious sails of his 
rhetoric gave him a peculiar place in the public affections, 
and in the campaign that wrought the overthrow of the 
Disraelian Government he supplied the thunder to Gladstone's 

He spoke as usual at the New Year's Day dinner of the 
Druids at Oxford, confining himself to agricultural depression 
and reform and a repudiation of the argument that the 
depression was due to Free Trade and American competition. 
When wheat fell to 365. in the thirties it was not due to 
Free Trade, for there was no Free Trade, nor to American 
wheat, for there was no American competition. The remedy 
was not to be found in the quack specifics of Protection, but 
in freedom for the farmer and security for the capital he 


employeH. and freedom for the disposition of his estates to 
the owner\ of land. At Birmingham (January 20), when 
Bright also spoke, he introduced himself as " one of those 
miserable Whiffs who lead an abject life under the tyranny 
of Mr. Chamberlain," who by " a sort of apostolic succession ' ' 
had succeeded, as the archbogy of the Tory party, Mr. 
Bright " a statesman who, after forty years of public 
service unsurpassed, unequalled, is still left to us with eye 
undimmed, wisdom unclouded, eloquence unquenched." 
Replying to the theory that the foreign policy of the Govern- 
ment ought not to be attacked by the Opposition, he pointed 
to the example of Disraeli in Opposition, and offered as the 
revised canon of conduct the formula, " It is the duty of a 
Conservative Opposition to resist a Liberal Government that 
seeks to keep the country at peace, but it is the duty of a 
Liberal Opposition to support a Conservative Government 
which embarks the country on war." It was in this speech 
that, surveying the widespread failure abroad, he dubbed 
Salisbury " a Bismarck manque." Of the reception of 
the speech Henry James wrote to Lady Harcourt next 
day : 

Henry James to Lady Harcourt. 

NEW COURT, Wednesday. I have been in consultation to-day 
with a very shrewd solicitor from Birmingham Mr. Beale. He 
was present at the dinner last night. He says the speech was a 
wonderful performance, and sounded even better than it reads. 
'Twas received with one shriek of laughter from beginning to end 
and Bright and Chamberlain were tame and flat to a degree by 
virtue of the contrast. It certainly seems to me that the speech is 
the most telling our Master has yet delivered. . . . 

Chamberlain wrote to Harcourt warmly of the wit and 
wisdom of the speech, and of the service he had done in 
promoting union. " It is a bore having no roof over your 
head," writes Harcourt in reply, apropos of the fact that a 
fire at 7 Graf ton Street had just burned out his top story. 
The incident brought him compensation. The first visit 
of condolence was from Stafford Northcote, who came " to 
assure me that the Government were not the incendiaries. 


The next was Gladstone, who came to offer us the use of his 
house, the amiability of which overwhelmed me." His 
brother Edward was less sympathetic. " My dear Willie," 
he said, " this comes of your carrying fireworks in your top 

In choosing an issue for the coming election, Beaconsfield 
naturally wished to avoid foreign policy, and events pointed 
to his choice of Ireland as the one on which he would most 
effectively break up the Opposition attack. A by-election 
at Liverpool encouraged the idea. Harcourt had introduced 
Lord Ramsay (Earl of Dalhousie) as the Liberal candidate, 
and Ramsay had pledged himself to vote for " the amplest 
and promptest investigation into the demand for self-govern- 
ment." The Irish electors, however, were dissatisfied. 
They wanted an inquiry into the demand of the Irish people 
" for the restoration to Ireland of an Irish Parliament," and 
this the Liverpool Liberals would not concede. The differ- 
e was a discussion of local self-government or a discussion 
of Home Rule. The situation disclosed the vulnerable 
heel of the Opposition. Chamberlain, representing the 
Radical view on Ireland, in a letter to Harcourt (January 25) 
expressed a desire to recognize the nature of the Irish demand, 
and to hint that if the proposed changes did not satisfy the 
reasonable claim of the Irish people, after a fair trial, some- 
thing more would have to be attempted. But this modest 
attitude was too much for the Whig section, and Hartington, 
writing to Harcourt (January 27), rejoices that Ramsay had 
declined to pledge himself to anything which would be under- 
stood as a Home Rule promise and adds : 

Chamberlain in a good humour appears to me more dangerous 
.than in a bad one, and I hope he will not induce anyone else to 
/recognize the nature of the Irish demand, and hint that if they are 
not satisfied something more will have to be attempted. . . . 

The hostility of the Irish element at Liverpool led the 

Liberals to consider the withdrawal of Ramsay's candidature, 

and Harcourt was summoned to save the situation if possible. 

In his speech (February 6) he associated himself with 

A ylHartington's views on Ireland, but defended the right of an 


independent candidate to a private judgment. Replying to 
the charge of the Tories that the Liberal party were making 
Home Rule " an open question," he denned an open question 
as one that was left open between the members of a Govern- 
ment, but urged that open questions did not exist for an 
independent candidate, pointing out that King-Harman- 
from the Ministerial side of the House had supported a 
motion for an inquiry into the question of Home Rule, and 
not only had not been ostracized by his party, but had been 
made Lord-Lieutenant for Roscommon. Having met the 
Conservative attack, he proceeded to placate the Irish by 
pointing out that it was the Liberal party which had re- 
dressed the wrongs of Ireland, and that Gladstone and 
Bright had been pursued with virulence by the Tories on 
that ground. 


It was in vain. Ramsay was beaten by a majority of 
2,22iXThe victory, coupled with the return about the same 
time of the Conservative candidate in a by-election at 
Southwark, decided. Beaconsfield to go to the country and 
to go on the question of Ireland. In his letter to the Lord- 
Lieutenant of Ireland he called on " all men of light and 
leading to resist the destructive doctrine " of Home Rule, 
and with that war-cry summoned his supporters to his last 
political battlefield. But the current was flowing too strong 
to be diverted by so transparent an expedient, and as the 
election progressed it was obvious that the Government were 
in the presence of an overwhelming disaster. At Oxford 
Harcourt entered the field with J. W. Chitty, the Conser- 
vatives being represented by the junior sitting member 
A. W. Hall, who had approached Harcourt some monthsbefore 
with trie purpose of avoiding a contest, a proposal that 
Harcourt declined to entertain. In his address Harcourt 
dismissed with scorn the suggestion of the " complicity " 
of the Liberal party in a scheme for the dissolution of 
the Union, while insisting on the right of the Irish to 
equal justice and equal laws. The result of the poll was 


surprisingly close, but the Liberals carried the two seats, 
the figures being : 

Harcourt . ...... 2,771 

Chitty 2, 

Hall . . 

In the country generally the tide of victory was mounting 
high, and Harcourt's forecasts were more than fulfilled. 
" The smash of Jingoism is delicious and maketh glad the 
heart," he wrote to Dilke. ' You will have such a majority 
as you will not know what to do with," he told Hartington. 
" I am posting a cock-a-doodle-doo address to my con- 
stituents." " I always knew the country hated these chaps, 
and only wanted the chance to throw them out," he writes 
to Spencer Butler (April 6), while to Granville he rejoices 
that the victory leaves them independent of the Irish. 
" What an excellent prophet you have proved," wrote Lord 
Spencer in a letter rejoicing that the country had repudiated 
the " swaggering policy of Dizzy " in favour of the sober, 
sound and strong principles " such as Hartington and 
you and other leaders have preached." Chamberlain 
wrote to him (April 10), indicating the share of the 
Caucus in the victory, and remarked that the Liberal 
lions would demand a solid meal and he straightway 
writes out the menu, land legislation,- electoral reform, and 
so on. 

But the " Liberal lions " of the Caucus demanded some- 
thing more than a legislative feast. They wanted a share 
in the preparation of the meal. As to the chef, there could 
be no question. The election had swept away the Govern- 
ment, but it had also swept away the Hartington leadership. 
The dominion of Gladstone over the mind of the country had 
y/ never been more unchallenged, and his resumption of office 
was a matter of course. No one was more sensible of this 
than Hartington, and after a few perfunctory inquiries he 
^recommended the Queen to send for Gladstone, who there- 
^ upon set about the formation of a Cabinet, with Granville 
at the Foreign Office and Hartington at the India Office. 
Harcourt was offered the Home Secretaryship, " a heavy 


task, of the highest rank," said Gladstone in the letter 
making the offer, "... in which your legal knowledge 
will be of the greatest use, and you will find ample scope for 
all your powers." It was not the office of his wish. De- 
scribing a talk with him on April 6, Dilke says, " I found 
his ambition to be to ... succeed Lord Selborne as Lord 
ChanceUer," and in order to reach that goal to have the 
Attorney-Generalship. This, however, went naturally to 
James, and Harcourt became Home Secretary. But what 
of the " Liberal lions " ? The Whigs had got the plums, but 
the Radicals had to be satisfied, and Jesse Collings, the 
faithful voice of Chamberlain, indicated in a letter to Harcourt 
(April 12) that the country would expect both Dilke and 
Chamberlain to be in the Cabinet. With these two men in 
the Cabinet, all would be well. With these two men outside 
well, there would be trouble. Harcourt himself was in 
favour of both being in. They were his close personal friends, 
and, though he believed himself to be a Whig, he had far 
more in common with them than with the right wing of the 
party. For Dilke he had a deep affection, which he had 
shown in 1875 when, as Dilke records, Harcourt had taken 
him, while he was suffering from a slight attack of smallpox, 
to his own house in order to nurse him and provide him 
with companionship, Loulou being sent away to escape the 
danger of infection. 

But there were difficulties in the way of the inclusion of 
the two formidable Radicals in the Government. Gladstone 
had objections to giving Cabinet rank to men who had not 
been in inferior office, and Dilke himself was on the proscrip- 
ion list of the Queen, not only because he had pronounced 
in reply to a question at a meeting a more or less academic 
view in favour of republicanism, but also because of his 
attitude in regard to the Civil List. Chamberlain had pro- 
posed a compact with Dilke that they were both to be in the 
Cabinet or both stay out, but Dilke had persuaded him to 
agree to one being in the Cabinet and one having a place of 
influence outside. Harcourt was delegated to sound Dilke 
with a view to taking the Under-Secretaryship for Foreign 


Affairs, but when, later, Gladstone offered him the position 
he asked whether Chamberlain was to be in the Cabinet, and, 
finding he was not, declined office. The position was serious, 
and in the negotiations that followed Harcourt pressed the 
view that one of the two must be in the Cabinet. In the 
end Chamberlain was sent for, and was offered and accepted 
the Board of Trade, whereupon Dilke took the Under- 
Secretaryship for Foreign Affairs. 

Meanwhile Harcourt had had an unlooked-for check in 
the midst of the general victory. It was often his fate to 
be the victim of his own principles, as in the case of his 
famous Budget. His first speech in Parliament had been a 
defence of the doctrine of the vacation of seats by Ministers, 
under the Statute of Queen Anne, and now he was called upon 
to face the application of the doctrine to himself. His re- 
election was opposed, and he went down to Oxford on 
April 29 to meet the electors once more. Ten days later he 
telegraphed to Lady Harcourt, " It has gone wrong here. 
I am quite well and shall be home to-night." He had been 
defeated by fifty-four votes. He took his beating hand- 
somely, remarking on the declaration of the poll that he had 
received too much kindness from Oxford in the past to have 
any sense of bitterness now. The incident aroused much 
indignation owing to the corrupt methods employed. 
Among the letters of sympathy which Harcourt received 
were notes from the Speaker (Brand)" deploring the mishap," 
while Chitty, his late colleague in the representation of 
Oxford, wrote : 

/. W. Chitty to Harcourt. 

33, QUEEN'S GATE GARDENS, S.W., May 10, 1880. I can- 
not express to you how deeply I feel Saturday's defeat with 
which I seem, without any fault that I can discern on my part, 
to be most unfortunately connected. . . . You may remember 
what I said at Gloster Green that I would willingly jump 
overboard to save you. These were not idle words, uttered 
in the excitement of the moment. So far as I am personally 
concerned you may consider my seat at Oxford at your disposal. 
The circumstances are so peculiar that you may accept this offer 
without laying yourself under the slightest obligation to me. . . . 


But Harcourt had closed his account with his old con- 
stituency, and henceforth his brother Edward could look out 
from the lawns of Nuneham to the towers of Oxford without 
the humiliating thought that a Radical Harcourt stained 
the horizon. Immediately this defeat was known Samuel 
Plimsoll called his supporters at Derby together and, recalling 
the help received in the past in his work for the seamen 
from Harcourt, and pointing out that as Home Secretary 
Sir William would be able to do much more for the cause he 
had at heart than he could do as a private member, induced 
them to accept his resignation. Harcourt was adopted as 
candidate, and went to Derby for his third election campaign 
on May 21. He carried his gaiety with him. Speaking at 
the Drill Hall he told his audience that he had in the train 
seen a copy of Punch,who had seized the situation with regard 
to himself. There was a picture of a steamer labouring in a 
choppy sea, which was carrying Her Majesty's Government, 
and " beneath, just emerging dripping from the waves, was 
an unfortunate being in whom although not altogether 
complimentary I could not help seeing a likeness. I 
thought to myself, ' Why, the draughtsman in Punch must 
have guessed Mr. Plimsoll's secret, for if a distressed seaman 
overboard is to look for assistance anywhere I am sure he 
would look for it at the hands of Mr. Samuel Plimsoll.' " 
The rescue was very thoroughly accomplished, for Harcourt 
was returned without opposition,and thus began a connection 
with the borough of Derby which lasted until 1895. 

Meanwhile, the friends Harcourt had left behind in Oxford 
were preparing their revenge. An election petitjpn^was 
entered, and at the subsequent inquiry the election was 
annulled by Justices Lush and Manisty, who passed the 
severest strictures upon the corruption employed. The 
revelations were extraordinary even for so politically mal- 
odorous a constituency as Oxford. Bribery had been carried 
out on an astonishing scale, and Hall's expenses, returned 
as 3,610, were found to have been in reality 5,661, with 
outstanding claims for another 1,896. To complete the 
scandal, a remarkable letter, purporting to be from the 


Chichele Professor to the Public Orator of the University, 
was picked up in the street, and came into the hands of the 
Mayor. We are sure to win, said the letter, but only on 
condition that another 500 can be provided over and above 
the Carlton 3,000. Three hundred had been raised, he 
himself was good for 50, and could the Public Orator 
produce 10 ? 

The case was so glaring that it was largely responsible for 
the subsequent appointment of a Royal Commission to 
inquire into the election scandals, as the result of which 
Oxford was partially disfranchised, the vacant seat being 
left unfilled. If Harcourt desired revenge he had it in over- 
flowing measure. 


Legacy of trouble from the Disraeli Government Two Parties 
within the Cabinet Temperamental differences with Glad- 
stone The Bradlaugh episode The Ground Game Bill 
Merchant Shipping Committee Yachting among the Western 
Isles The Dulcigno demonstration Majuba and the sequel 
London Water Companies The Miles Platting case 
Society at 7, Grafton Street Mr. Lewis Harcourt becomes his 
father's Secretary A Diary. 

TE nas a difficult team to drive " was the comment 
of Speaker Brand, surveying the new House of 

JL JL Commons and its leader from the detachment of 
the Speaker's Chair. Superficially, the omens were good. 
Gladstone, now well past seventy but with his intellectual 
powers still unabated, had returned to supreme office as the 
unchallenged choice of the party. In the last pitched 
battle he was to fight against the great antagonist with 
whom he had divided the stage for so many years, he had 
won a victory as decisive as any in parliamentary annals. 
Disraelian Imperialism had been swept from the field, and 
the country, weary of wars and panics and adventures, had 
turned with overwhelming emphasis to a leader from whom 
it expected less romance and more peace of mind. The 
Parliamentary position had been almost exactly reversed by 
the election. The preceding House of Commons contained 
348 Conservatives, 250 Liberals, and 54 Home Rulers. 
The House that met on April 29 contained 353 Liberals, 
238 Conservatives, and 61 Home Rulers. 

With so formidable a backing, the prospects of the new 
Government seemed cheerful enough. The omens, how- 
ever, were deceptive. A new Government is not called on 



to start a new business, but to carry on an old one, with 
all its liabilities, commitments, and unsettled problems. 
These alone were heavy enough to try the wisdom and 
solidarity of the new Administration. The waters of con- 
tinental diplomacy were still heaving with the backwash of 
the storm that had passed and with the problems left by the 
Berlin settlement ; the discontents aroused in South Africa 
by the activities of Bartle Frere, and especially by the ill- 
advised annexation of the Transvaal, were beginning to 
assume menacing shape ; Ireland, under the bold and master- 
ful leadership of Parnell, had developed a new strategy of 
revolt that threatened to make government impossible ; in 
Egypt, the understanding which France and England had 
arrived at in the last year of Disraeli's Government had 
committed us to a policy of intervention which was soon to 
blaze up in unforeseen troubles. The new Ministry had 
succeeded to as disturbed an inheritance as any Govern- 
ment were ever set to administer. 

Nor were the dangers that enveloped it limited to events. 

stormy crew were set to navigate a stormy sea. The 
Gladstone Government of 1868-74 had been homogeneous / 
and manageable. In spite of the inclusion of men like ' 
Bright and Forster it had represented the moderate traditions 
of the old Whig school, with the dominating and fervid 
genius of Gladstone as its sole inspiration. But the new 
Government was composed of frankly hostile elements. The 
victory at the polls had been the victory of Gladstone plus 
the Caucus, and though the Whigs had taken the lion's share 
of office the Radicals knew their power in the country, 
and under the leadership of Chamberlain were determined 
to make their views operative in affairs. Gladstone was 
no longer the lawgiver of an obedient Cabinet, but the 
moderator between two forces that clashed violently on 
nearly every cardinal issue of politics. And his difficulties 
were not confined to his own parliamentary household. 
Across the floor of the House there loomed the promise of 
afflictions new to the experience of Governments. In the 
past the theory of Opposition had been that its function was 


to set up a rival policy for the well-being of the Common- 
'wealth. Parnell had fashioned an instrument of opposition 
that aimed at making government not better, but impossible. 
He had served his apprenticeship in the art of guerilla 
warfare, and now, the acknowledged chief of the Irish 
phalanx, prepared to put his theories of frankly destructive 
opposition into ruthless practice. Moreover in the Fourth 
Party, with Randolph Churchill as its head, the formal 
opposition of the Conservative party developed a ferocity 
oLattack that disregarded all the accepted rules of parlia- 
^jnentary conflict. 

The troubled story of the second Gladstone Administra- 
tion, however, does not belong to the theme of this book, 
and it will be referred to only in so far as it touches 
Harcourt's activities. He had come into the control of a 
department that engaged all his energies, and for the next 
five years his history is not mainly concerned with those 
world affairs that had chiefly occupied his mind in the past, 
but with the internal problems of justice and social order 
and with the struggle in Ireland. In the Cabinet, of course, 
he took his part in shaping the general policy of the Govern- 
ment, and in his speeches in the country he revelled as of 
old in the joy of battle, but in Parliament he kept to his 
own abundant tasks. With closer intercourse, the ascen- 
dancy which Gladstone had exercised over his mind in 
the sixties, and which had been interrupted by the conflict 
over the Public Worship Act, began to resume its sway. 
The temperamental clash of the mystic and the Erastian, 
of a spirit that dwelt in the sanctuary and of a spirit that 
lived in the statute book, remained, and on the plane of 
fellowship of feeling they never shared that comradeship 
which marked the relations of Harcourt and Chamberlain. 
Gladstone had no levity in his equipment, and never for- 
gave levity in others. He did not understand that one 
could jest and be serious, and it may be doubted whether 
he would have survived a single meeting of Lincoln's 
Cabinet. Harcourt's sense of humour did not indulge in 
the licence which Lincoln's enjoyed, but it coloured all he 



said and did. It was the atmosphere in which his per- 
sonality clothed itself, and laughter was his authentic 
weapon of attack as much as moral passion was Gladstone's. 
The conflict of outlook had its counterpart in difference 
of tastes. Both had an enormous appetite for work, but 
while Gladstone went for his recreation to the classics, 
Harcourt, though he preserved his love of the classics, 
found his chief joy in blue-books and statutes, and was 
an omnivorous reader of history, memoirs, biography, and 
poetry. Gladstone had no interest in sport and was much 
of an ascetic, while Harcourt delighted in yachting and 
deer-stalking and had a hearty appetite for the pleasures 
of life. Gladstone loathed tobacco, while Harcourt was 
one of the most industrious smokers of his generation, 
consuming something like sixteen cigars a day, good, bad, 
and indifferent, for in these matters he was no connoisseur. 
Sir Algernon West records that when acting as secretary 
to Gladstone at the Treasury his chief once accused him of 
smelling strongly of tobacco. " I don't wonder," replied 
West, " for I have been sitting for half an hour in Sir 
William Harcourt's room." " Does Harcourt smoke ? " 
Basked Gladstone in a voice of horror ; " if so, he must be 
very careful to change his clothes before he comes to me." 
But in spite of these and many other points of disagree- 
ment, and in spite of their conflicts in the past, the relations 
between the two men from 1880, if not undisturbed, became 
increasingly cordial. Gladstone was sensible of the un- 
rivalled pile-driving power of his lieutenant, and Harcourt, 
having sown those " wild oats " with which his senior had 
taunted him in years gone by, came eventually under the 
dominion of Gladstone's influence more completely than 
under that of any personal relation in his career, except 
that of Cornewall Lewis. 

Before the new Parliament had been sworn in the storm 
burst over it with almost unprecedented intensity. It is 
not necessary here to recall the incidents of the Bradlaugh 
episode. In these more tolerant days it is difficult to 
understand the passion of that prolonged and discreditable 


conflict, the result of which was the exclusion of the member 
for Northampton from the House. In the fierce debates on 
the subject Harcourt took some part. Writing to Glad- 
stone, Harcourt said : 

Harcourt to Gladstone. 

HOME DEPARTMENT, June 25. I had a long talk with Labouchere 
last night. He will try to persuade Bradlaugh not to present 
himself to-day so that if the motion to rescind the Resolution is 
brought on there may be behind it the^ear of the scandal of his 
reappearance, which would actuate many in their vote. 

The more I think of it the more convinced I feel it would be most 
disastrous if you were driven into taking the initiative against 
Bradlaugh. Your situation hitherto has been impregnable, and 
I cannot see what further right or power the Opposition have now 
than before of casting on you the responsibility of action. If the 
motion is made that he shall be excluded from the precincts of the 
House he will be finally done for. There will no longer be any 
method by which he can vindicate his right, for as I said last night 
there is no legal remedy. His only chance is in the appeal to public 
opinion involved in his imprisonment. If he is snuffed out in the 
other way I do not see what further resource remains to him. 

If the Tories are once assured that Bradlaugh can no longer intrude 
himself on the House they will never rescind the Resolution in 
fact the situation will be exactly what they would most desire, and 
they will certainly not help us out of the scrape. 

The prolonged and unseemly struggle which followed 
closed with the election of a new Parliament, when 
Bradlaugh, returned once more by Northampton, took 
his seat, the Speaker declining to take cognizance of what 
had gone before. He became one of the most useful and 
respected members of the House, and when he lay on 
his death-bed the House of Commons formally removed 
from its records the resolution of exclusion thaj^had been 
carried with such tumultuous enthusiasm ten years before. 

Owing to the brevity of the Session, the legislative 
programme of the Government was necessarily slight, but 
Harcourt had a substantial part of it allotted to him. The 
devastation by hares and rabbits had long been a standing 
grievance of the farmers, and in the closing days of the 
late Government, P. A. Taylor had moved the abolition 
of the Game Laws. Another member proposed that it 


" is not now expedient to deal with the question," where- 
upon Harcourt had moved to amend the amendment by 
leaving out the word " not." In the result Harcourt was 
beaten by only 18 votes. With his accession to office he 
i/promptly set about the preparation of a Bill to give " more 
effectual protection to occupiers of land against injury 
from ground game." In a formal letter to the Queen, 
describing the purport of the measure, he said : 

HOME DEPARTMENT, May 31. The object of this Bill is to remove 
a grievance which has long been felt and which has led to much 
ill- will between landlords and tenants, particularly in Scotland. 
The special feature of this Bill is section 3, which makes that right 
inalienable and invalidates all contracts in contravention of the 
right of the tenant to kill the ground game so that he cannot be 
/ forced by his landlord to contract himself out of it. This has become 
necessary in consequence of the inveterate habit of reserving the 
game in leases and the practice of letting the game to third persons 
over the head of the tenant. 

Through Sir H. Ponsonby, the Queen replied that, while 
lamenting the evils caused by over-preservation, she " does 
not like the prohibition of amicable contracts between 
landlord and tenant, and fears that the intervention of 
law between persons who have hitherto been on friendly 
terms will lead to the creation of a bad feeling between 
/ these classes." Her Majesty was also concerned to know 
" whether the cancelling of all contracts of this nature 
will not involve great hardship in many cases and be a 
novel and serious interference with the rights of property ? " 
In his reply Harcourt stated with great clearness the case 
for interference with the liberty of making contracts " in 
cases where a practical monopoly in the hands of one of 
the parties to the contract does in effect limit the freedom 
of the other in the bargain " : 

Harcourt to Queen Victoria. 

HOME DEPARTMENT, June 5. ... Thus in the Merchant 
Shipping Acts it has been found necessary to protect sailors against 
contracts which the shipowners would have power to force upon 
them to their detriment. So in the case of Railways which have 
a virtual monopoly of transport the Companies are not allowed to 


make stipulations, even if agreed to by their customers, which would 
relieve them from the liability to compensation for loss or damage. 
The same thing is done in the Truck Acts when employers of labour 
are forbidden to make agreements with their workmen to take their 
wages in goods supplied by the master. A cabman is not allowed 
to make what bargain he likes for the conveyance of a passenger. 
The law is full of such examples, founded on the principle that when 
one party has what amounts to a monopoly giving to him an over- 
whelming advantage in the bargain the power of contracting on the 
other side is not really free. If all the landlords, as a class, insist on 
reserving the ground game, the tenants, though nominally free to 
contract on the subject, have no real power to make their own terms. 
If they had, the evils so much complained of would not exist. . . . 
The tenants are comparatively content that the landlord should 
enjoy his sport even if they suffer somewhat by it, it is part of the 
friendly social relation which exists between them. On one estate 1 
with which Sir William Harcourt is personally connected, and 
where it has always been the practice to let the tenants have the 
game, they voluntarily abstain from shooting until the landlord 
his friends have taken the first day's sport. But what the 
farmers cannot endure is that a stranger of whom they know nothing 
and for whom they care nothing should keep up a large head of game 
at their expense. 

He pointed out that, without the clause preventing land- 
lords from contracting out of the Bill, the measure would 
be a mere empty declaration of principle, and by way of 
illustration referred to the experience in the case of the 
Agricultural Holdings Act, the purpose of which had been 
defeated by the landlords contracting out. 

Writing on the subject to the Duke of Argyll, he says : 

HOME OFFICE, June 4, 1880. . . . The drafting of the Bill 
gave me immense trouble before it was got into what is I think 
now a tolerably clear and simple form. 

The Squires ground their teeth over it dreadfully, especially on 
our side, but they dare not bite at it for fear of their constituents. 
But I go about in bodily fear for my life, as I believe that all the 
best shots in England have marked me down as a dead man. . . . 

The Bill, under its original title of the Hares and Rabbits 
Bill, was introduced by Harcourt in a reasonable and 
moderate speech on May 27, the day on which he took his 
seat as member for Derby. He proposed that every occupier 
of land should, as an incident of and during his occupation. 


have a right by himself and by any person properly employed 
by him to destroy ground game on the land, such person not 
to be entitled to divest himself of that right or to delegate 
it, and to exercise the right concurrently with and not 
excluding any person entitled to kill such game, that is 
to say, that if the landlord reserved the right to kill game 
he should still keep it, but concurrently with the tenant, 
who would also have the right to kill ground game. The 
Bill excited very great alarm in some quarters. Mr. Henry 
Chaplin was especially disturbed, and at every stage of the 
Bill found that some desperate results must follow so 
deplorable an interference with the rights of landlords to 
make what covenants they pleased with their tenants. 
He talked at great length on the dangers of " confiscatory 
legislation." Persons wrote to The Times about "an in- 
alienable concurrent right to slaughter the unfortunate 
bunnies and pussies." Where, asked one, was such legisla- 
tion to stop ? Were deer forests to be turned into sheep- 
walks, parks to be ploughed up for turnips, flower gardens 
to grow cabbages ? 

In Committee a vast number of amendments were put 
on the paper. They were indeed so numerous as to give 
colour to the allegation of deliberate obstruction. On the 
other hand, the Bill did not go far enough to please the 
Radical members, who would have liked to see a measure 
dealing drastically with the whole question of the Game 
Laws, but Harcourt's best ally was Bright, who pointed 
out that at common law the right of killing game on his 
holding belongs to the tenant in the absence of a definite 
contract to the contrary, and that all that the Bill pro- 
posed to do was to give him a moiety of his original right. 
The Bill emerged from Committee on August 28 with its 
principle intact. Although serious opposition was antici- 
pated in the Lords it was eventually returned to the 
Commons without radical amendment, and the Lords did 
not persist in those changes which Harcourt was not pre- 
pared to accept. Beaconsfield had given the wise advice 
not to quarrel with the other House except on the gravest 


matters, and, as he pointed out, these graver matters were 
likely to be the foreign policy and the Irish policy of the 
Government. It came in time to be recognized that the 
Act had not only done justice to the farmers, but had saved 
winged game and the Game Laws themselves from extinc- 
tion. ^ 

With this modest triumph Harcourt began his legislative 
career. The feeling which his success aroused among certain 
of the landowning class was reflected in the following letter 
(September 6) which he received from Sir Rainald Knightley, 
M.P. : * 

FAWSLEY, September 6. I send the enclosed in payment of the 
debt to which you are technically entitled as you have passed a 
wretched remnant of the revolutionary rubbish which you originally 
introduced. I am aware that postage stamps are not required 
while you are in office but the time is not far distant when they 
will again be available, and I cannot pay you in the way you propose, 
as I do not know where to look for a hare on this property, and my 
tenants have so effectually kept down the rabbits (without the 
concurrent right to the use of a gun) that I do not feel justified in 
depriving the poor foxes of even three of the few that are left. 


While Harcourt was piloting his Hares and Rabbits Bill 
through Parliament he was promoting another cause in 
which he had always been deeply interested, and which 
his succession to PHmsoll at Derby had imposed on him 
as a personal trust. He served on a Select Committee, 
presided over by Chamberlain, which was appointed to 
inquire into the losses at sea sustained by British merchant 
shipping. He brought all the skill he had acquired at the 
Parliamentary Bar to bear on the cross-examination of 
witnesses. Commenting on the inquiry The Times made 
playful allusion to the conflict between Harcourt and Cham- 
berlain. " If the Home Secretary," it said, " appeared to 

1 It was this correspondent who was the subject of one of the 
happiest and most familiar of Harcourt's bans mots. Sir Rainald 
was discoursing on the splendour of his ancestry when Harcourt, 
who was of the company, was heard to murmur : 

" And Knightley to the listening earth 
Repeats the story of his birth." 


demolish a witness by a shower of incisive questions, the 
President of the Board of Trade came to the rescue with 
no less acuteness. Powers and principalities were arrayed 
against each other, and Mr. Chamberlain's influence balanced 
Sir William Harcourt's." When the Committee reported 
in July they made useful recommendations on the better 
stowing of grain to avoid " shifting " and the resulting 
danger to the ship. These recommendations were incor- 
porated in the Merchant Shipping Bill of the following 

" Thank God Parliament is over at last," Harcourt wrote 
to Lord Derby (September 5) in the course of a letter in 
which, referring to one of the opponents of the Hares and 
Rabbits Bill, he asked : " Why don't you ' name ' Redes- 
dale to your House and have him suspended or he might 
be locked up in the Victoria Tower chained to Denman. 
What a perverse wrong-headed old animal it is." To 
Ponsonby he writes (September 7) : " And on the i6th I 
hope to be at Oban where I mean to wash the taste of 
Parliament out in the waters of the Hebrides." He had 
telegraphed to some yacht agents at Glasgow for a yacht, 
and received a reply from the Lord Provost of Glasgow 
(William Collins), one of his political admirers, to whom 
the telegram had been shown, and who offered him the use 
of his own yacht Fingal, 165 tons, and the services of his 
own captain and crew. Harcourt was accompanied on the 
cruise by Lady Harcourt and their infant son, and writing 
from Glen Quoich, Invergarry (September 24), he sent 
" Dearest Lou " a record of the tour. At " dear old Kyle- 
akin," he said, " the folk flocked round, very glad to see 
me again." All traces of the old yacht Loulou had 
disappeared, but he had seen one of the old crew and given 
him 5, which " rejoiced his old heart." 

. . . Yesterday, we spent the morning wandering about Kyle- 
akin, and up to the Castle, then to Balmacarra to get telegraphic 
news of Bobby who went up on Monday for an excursion with his 
three female attendants in the lona to Ballachulish. Then we sailed 
up Loch Duich which looked more lovely than ever. In the evening 


we dropped anchor at the top of Loch Hourn just opposite the little 
cottages where you and I stayed the first time we were there. It 
was a delicious night and we were surrounded as you and I were by 
herring boats the loch was full of fish and they could hardly 
carry the quantity they caught. I landed and sent up a note by 
Campbell to Glen Quoich and found a letter from Mrs. Arthur 
Bass in the morning to say the wagonette would be at the Loch 
at 8, so I drove up here only for two hours. . . . 

The only fly in the ointment is the absence of Loulou. 
" As I visit each of our old haunts the first thought in my 
mind is ' Oh, if only Loulou were here how much more I 
could enjoy it.' ' He was expecting " Jimmy " (Henry 
James), and on his arrival proposed to sail the yacht down 
Loch Hourn. 

But a few days later he was back in London, summoned 
thither to a Cabinet meeting. The troubles, which were to 
engulf the new Ministry, were becoming more grave, in 
Ireland, in South Africa and in the Near East. At the 
moment the chief anxiety centred in the non-fulfilment by 
Turkey of the provisions of the Berlin Treaty relating to 
Montenegro and Greece, and the naval demonstration off 
Dulcigno had taken place on September 14. It had, how- 
ever, only revealed that the European concert was, in 
Gladstone's phrase, " a farce," for Austria and Germany 
were cold supporters of Gladstone's move, and France was 
not warm. The situation was critical. Scenting disagree- 
ment between the Powers, the Sultan was obdurate, and 
a grave decision confronted the Cabinet. They could rely 
on Russia and Italy to support them in a policy of coercion, 
but what of the reactions of that policy elsewhere ? Writing 
to Granville (September 30), Harcourt said : " What you 
said to-night is quite enough to determine me not to leave 
the deck or to return as I intended to Scotland to-morrow. 
The only thing I have to consider is whether I can be of 
the smallest service to you now." He recalled his relations 
with Schuvaloff in Opposition days, and the valuable 
information he received. Should he see his successor, 
Bartolomei, who might tell him things which he might 
not think it politic to tell the Foreign Secretary ? But he 


could not take this demarche without Granville's concur- 
rence. " When I was a free lance I did what I liked. It 
is different now." On October 4 came the Sultan's refusal 
to fulfil the conditions, and Harcourt wrote (October 5) a 
long memorandum to Granville urging a circular letter to 
the Powers, pointing out the obduracy of Turkey, the 
assent of the Powers to the Dulcigno demonstration, the 
implication of that assent that they were prepared to 
coerce Turkey, and suggesting that they should jointly 
occupy Smyrna. If this were not done independent action 
with all its consequences would follow, and the securities 
for peace which the Concert of Europe had designed to 
establish would go. He concluded : 

... I think something of this kind would place us rectus in curia 
both in Europe and in England. It would show that it was not 
we who shrink back at the critical moment. If we are to fall we 
should at least fall with dignity. We shall have recommended to 
Europe the course she ought to pursue. If she will not tant pis 
pour elle. Austria will be the first and the greatest sufferer. As 
for us disengaged from all our obligations we can always defend our 
real interests with our fleet if they were attacked. And so we may 
bid good-bye to the Turk if not with glory at least without dishonour. 

This course was adopted, and the Government prepared 
to proceed with Russia and Italy. But the Sultan was 
bluffing. Dulcigno and the appeal of Great Britain to the 
Powers to coerce had done their work. Harcourt, who had 
returned to Oban, wrote (October 10) to Lord Derby, 
saying he had lost a week of his month's holiday by a 
Cabinet meeting, and was dreading a telegram announcing 
another. Instead came a letter from Granville : 

Granville to Harcourt. 

FOREIGN OFFICE, October 12. Thanks for note. Happy man to 
have escaped all we have gone through. We were low on Saturday, 
frightfully elated on Sunday, when the news came that the Turks 
had verbally promised cession. We countermanded Cabinet 
desiring the first telegram to be sent to Oban. All Monday we 
were plunged in despair again, Goschen [special ambassador at 
Constantinople] firing off at intervals that no note was come. 

This morning a telegram arrived, '' Note is to come, but is to be 
evacuation, not cession, only the old proposal." 


I found Gladstone simply furious, suggesting all sorts of fanciful 
messages, but he calmed down. I went home and found a second 
telegram " all right " returned to No. 10 (Downing Street), and 
before speaking executed a pas seul to his intense indignation at my 
intemperate gaiety. 

It is an intense relief. They will probably do us out of a bit of 
frontier, but I don't mind. Do you ? 

The note that had set Granville dancing before the out- 
,/faged majesty of his Chief was, so far as Montenegro was 
concerned, a complete surrender. There had not been so 
striking a success in British foreign policy for many a long 
day, and in far-away Oban it may be assumed that Gran- 
ville's pas seul was imitated a trifle ponderously on the 
deck of the Fingal. 

But the troubles were not at an end : they had only 
changed their scene. Parnell had made his famous Ennis 
speech in September, and there had immediately followed 
the " boycotting " of Captain Boycott and, later, the arrest 
of the Irish leaders, including Parnell. With the new phase 
of the Irish struggle, which all this foreshadowed, I must 
deal later. An even more disquieting conflagration had 
broken out far away. The murmurs of discontent from 
the Transvaal had grown in volume during the summer 
and autumn, and on December 16 the Boers declared for 
a Republican Government. The situation confronted the 
Cabinet with grave peril of disruption. It had come into 
office with a tolerably unanimous conviction that the 
.nnexation was morally wrong and politically unwise. 

That had been Harcourt's position, and he had reaffirmed 
it in a memorandum to Gladstone since he had taken office. 
But now that the issue was raised in this challenging form 
the course of action was infinitely complicated, and the 
conflict of voices within the Cabinet was acute. Harcourt, 
writing to Chamberlain, said his advice to all was to stick 
to the ship, keep her head to the wind and cram her at it. 
' There is no danger in facing a difficulty, but much in 

nning away from it." How the Government sought to 
avert a war, the idea of which they loathed, and how events 
drifted them into it ; how the unfortunate General Colley 



misapprehended the situation, floundered in policy and 
failed in the field ; how the check at Laing's Nek was 
followed by the disaster of Majuba Hill, and how, following 
the disaster, the Government restored the independence of 
the Transvaal all this is familiar and does not belong to 
my subject. Harcourt's own view of the episode was given 
later in the year, when (October 25, 1881) he went to 
Glasgow to receive the freedom of the city and afterwards 
addressed a meeting in St. Andrew's Hall. When the 
annexation was found to have been carried without the 
consent of the people, its continuance would have been an 
act of aggression. But the charge against the Government 
was not that they had conceded unfair terms to the Boers, 
but that they had conceded them after defeat. To this 
attack he replied : 

Now that is a perfectly intelligible issue and I meet it front to 
front. It is not a question of political expediency, it is a fundamental 
question of political ethics. It is a question of the justice or injustice 
of bloodshed. We were not responsible for the defeat of Majuba 
Hill. It was the unfortunate tactical error of a gallant man. But 
what the Government were responsible for was the conduct of the 
English nation after the disaster. Were we to say " There were 
terms which we would have given to these men before the battle 
/ was fought or if the battle had resulted in a victory. We will not 
give them now until we have wiped out that repulse in blood " ? 
That is the policy of Lord Salisbury. . . . He says our conduct 
was a stain upon the escutcheon of England, and these were his 
words : "In every contest which the Government have to wage 
military, diplomatic and domestic the stain of that defeat will be 
upon them, and they will feel that they are fighting under the 
shadow of Majuba Hill." That is the language of Lord Salisbury. 
It is the language which, in my opinion, the better sort of pagans 
would have been ashamed of. ... Lord Salisbury's doctrine is 
that the honour of a nation consists in the vengeance which it 
exacts. We believe that what was right before the defeat of Majuba 
Hill was equally right just after it. Such vengeance is not a pre- 
liminary right, and we did not think it right either before God or 
Jman to shed innocent blood when we could make the same peace 
before a battle which we could have made after it. I am not for 
peace at any price. I hold the opinion that nations, like individuals, 
may assert their just rights and defend them by force, but I regard 
it as a crime of the most heinous dye to continue war when all the 
effects may be produced by peace, and to take men's lives merely 


for the glory of victory is in my judgment the policy of savages and 
heathens, and would be a foul dishonour to the Government of a 
civilized nation. 


But while these events were occupying the centre of the 
stage, Harcourt was more intimately engaged in a subject 
of another sort much nearer home. It was the question of 
London's water supply. This troublesome problem, which 
raised the whole subject of the anomalies existing in the local 
government of London, was an inheritance from the late 
Government. Indeed, their conduct of this business was 
one of the immediate causes of the entire discredit into 
which the Government felly They were said to have " come 
in on beer and gone out on water." Cross, the Home 
Secretary, had brought forward a Metropolitan Water 
Works Purchase Bill at the beginning of March 1880 
proposing to create a central body to which all the existing 
companies should transfer their property and surrender 
their powers. The stock to be transferred was estimated 
by Cross at between twenty-seven and twenty-eight millions 
sterling, and the companies were to take the new 3^ per 
cent, stock to be issued by the new body in payment. 

This Bill was not discussed in the House, but raised 
violent criticism throughout London. The Government 
estimate of the value of the companies' stock was held to 
be outrageously high, and it was alleged in support of this 
contention that the shares of the companies had risen 
enormously on the market in expectation of the purchase. 
The Standard said that in the course of a year an addition 
had been made to the selling price of the shares, which, 
in the case of the Lambeth Company, was more than 100 
per share, while the Kent Company had an addition of 
126, and the Southwark Company as much as 170. 

Perhaps the best comment on the Government figures is 
the published statement of accounts of the companies for 
the year 1879, which gave the total share, loan and debenture 
capital of all the companies as/i2,256,43<5) 

At a very early stage in his administration of the Home 


Office Harcourt had to define his attitude on this matter. 
He told a deputation from the Metropolitan Board of 
Works that it was essential to consider not only whether 
the companies' terms were reasonable, but whether the 
supply was sufficiently good to be worth purchasing at all. 
On June 4 he proposed the appointment of a Select Com- 
mittee, to which the provisional agreements drawn under 
Cross's proposals were referred, but the primary business 
of the Committee was to consider the expediency of buying 
on behalf of the people of London the undertakings of the 
companies. This left the question of securing a fresh 
supply open. Within a week the Committee had com- 
menced their sittings, and they elected Harcourt as their 
chairman. There is an excellent, if hostile, picture of 
Harcourt's attitude on this Committee in Lord George 
Hamilton's Reminiscences and Reflections : 

. . . Harcourt, instead of acang in a judicial capacity, led the 
opposition to the agreement^>y a merciless cross-examination of 
Smith [E. J. Smith, who had made the agreement on behalf of Cross], 
and brought all his great legal attainments to bear in breaking down 
the statements made by that gentleman. The Metropolitan Water 
Board and the City of London were both hostile to the Bill, so the 
able counsel that were employed by these two bodies harried on 
both flanks the unfortunate Smith. Sir Richard Cross was somewhat 
dazed by the late defeat of the Government, and we could not get 
him in any way to exercise his faculties or to stand up against the 
onslaught rflade upon his agreement. The Committee were obviously 
appointed to kill the agreement, which they did. Harcourt, with 
great skill, fastened upon the one weak point in the general agree- 
ment made with the Water Companies. It was very essential 
to bring in all the companies, and the weakest company, namely, 
the Chelsea Water Company, held out and only could be induced to 
come in by an offer of exceptionally good terms. Upon these good 
terms Harcourt and the counsel concentrated their attention, and 
practically they never went outside this one particular point of 
the agreement. The Committee reported against the whole Agree- 

When the report was under consideration I was obliged to be 
away, but neither Sclater Booth nor I could induce Cross to draw 
up a separate report or to move the amendments which would have 
vindicated our position. The agreement was therefore repudiated. 

" The sequel of the proceedings of the Committee was 


sad," continues Lord George Hamilton. " Smith, who was 
in bad health at the time of his examination, suddenly 
died. Harcourt, who was a very kind man at heart, was 
frightfully perturbed at the result of his unfair treatment 
of Smith. He came over to us in the Opposition in the 
House of Commons almost with tears in his eyes, and stated 
he had only wished he had known that Smith was in bad 
health when he was under cross-examination. '/ 

Harcourt himself drew up the Report, which contained 
some very plain speaking on the financial proposals of the 
companies. They had asserted their right to escape from 
limitations of their charges under the title of back dividends, 
estimated at twenty million sterling. The New River Com- 
pany had given the astounding figure of 15,000,000 as back 
dividend. If these contentions could be maintained the 
four millions of Londoners would be at the mercy of the 
trading companies who would be able to raise the price 
of one of the prime necessaries of life practically without 
limit. If the purchase of the undertakings at any price 
the companies might like to fix were the only remedy the 
consequences to the consumer of the improvident legislation 
of the past would be indeed intolerable, but Parliament 
had powers to redress such grievances. 

The Committee recommended that the water supply 
should be placed under the control of a single public body 
with statutory powers, which should have the confidence 
of the ratepayers, and which should be empowered to 
acquire existing sources of supply or to have recourse to 
others. This ad hoc body should represent the Corporation 
of the City of London, the Metropolitan Board of Works 
and, in addition, the districts lying outside the jurisdiction 
of these authorities which were supplied by the companies. 
They declined to recommend the confirmation of the agree- 
ments negotiated with the companies by E. J. Smith on 
behalf of Cross, which seemed to them to be founded on 
assumptions which could not be substantiated on the future 
growth of the receipts and on the amount of new capital 
expenditure which might be required to meet the increased 


demands. These agreements would have involved an ex- 
penditure, the Committee estimated, of 33,000,000. The 
price actually paid when the water companies' stock was 
purchased in 1902 was 46,000,000, inclusive of legal costs. 
This question of the water supply became involved in 
the proposed legislation for the reform of London govern- 
ment. The draft of the measure was prepared by Harcourt 
in 1 88 1, but a dispute arose between Gladstone and Harcourt 
over the control of the Metropolitan Police, and the actual 
Bill was not brought forward until 1884, when, with other 
measures, it was jettisoned to clear the decks for the 
settlement of the dispute with the House of Lords over the 
Franchise proposals. 


Such differences as occurred between Gladstone and 
Harcourt were marked on both sides by an increasing 
friendliness. That was so even in ecclesiastical matters. 
In connection with the case of the Rev. Sidney Green, the 
rector of Miles Platting in the diocese of Manchester, who 
was sentenced on March 19, 1881, and sent to Lancaster 
Gaol for offences against the Public Worship Regulation 
Act, Gladstone was profoundly troubled. He was a High 
Anglican himself, and Church scandals always pained him. 
Harcourt's frame of mind on the subject was much more 
jovial, and he held firmly to his view that in the affairs of 
the Church, Parliament was the constitutional authority. 
The question of Green's release assumed the magnitude of 
a national controversy, and in July the Lower House of 
Convocation asked the Bishops to use their influence to 
secure the rector's release. But the Bishops would not 
move. There was nothing to be done except for Mr. Green 
to obey " the godly admonition of his Bishop," and this 
Mr. Green could not be prevailed on to do. The imprison- 
ment of a priest was a source of acute distress to Gladstone, 
who sought to prevail on Harcourt to release Green on 
medical grounds. " I think all parties would be much 
pleased," he wrote to Harcourt (September 9), "if there 


were a sufficient case of health to get Mr. Green out of his 
quandary and many others out of serious embarrassment." 
But Harcourt was genially adamant. He had no love for 
the Ritualist and a great deal of love for the law. Replying 
to Gladstone (September 10) from Loch Alsh, where he was 
" living an amphibian life, partly on our steam yacht, 
partly on shore in a country which pleases me more than 
any I know," he says : 

Harcourt to Gladstone. 

. . . And now to business. The Rev. Green is the most embarrass* 
ing of martyrs. Immediately on receipt of your letter enclosing 
Mr. Belcher's first communication, I wrote to the Prison Com- 
missioners for a report on Mr. G.'s health with a significant hint 
that I should be very glad of an excuse to release him on medical 
grounds if there was a decent pretext. In return to this invitation 
I have received the report I enclose which is very disappointing. 
What is one to do with a martyr who gains 9 Ibs. in weight in his 
bondage ? It shows the prison fare is very good or that like Daniel 
he thrives on the pulse. I suppose he is denied the opportunities 
of emaciation which he enjoys when at large. It is very puzzling 
to know what to do now my attempts at a " pious fraud " have been 
defeated. My prisoners will grow so fat. Davittadds pounds to his 
scale every week. It seems a positive cruelty to release them from 
a life which agrees with them so well. The difficulty I feel is to 
find a decent excuse to let out a man who has been imprisoned 
for his refusal to obey the law whilst he still insists on his right to 
disobey it. It is not like the accrued penalty for an isolated act. 
Mr. G. can walk out of prison any day that he chooses to purge his 
contempt. . . . 

In a later letter (October 22) written to Gladstone from Bal- 
moral Castle, where he was in attendance, Harcourt pointed 
out that the folly of Green's friends made it more difficult 
to do anything for him. The Puseyites were defying 
Parliament and repudiating all lay authority on ecclesias- 
i tical affairs. " This is pretty strong considering that the 
\Prayer Book was established and enacted by Parliament 
in the reign of Elizabeth against the votes of the whole 
spiritualty, and that the Anglican Church owed its existence 
to the laity turning out all the Bishops." The struggle 
over the resolute Mr. Green continued for many months, 



but Harcourt at last shifts his " old man of the sea " on 
to the shoulders of the Lord Chancellor (Lord Selborne). 
Writing to Granville, he advises him to leave the answer to 
Salisbury to Selborne : 

HOME OFFICE, October 26, 1882. . . . He is an ecclesiastically- 
minded man (far more than I have inherited from my ancestors) 
and if he cannot defend a good case can at all events gloss over a 
bad one. I remember Bob Lowe said, " If I had a very good case 
I should choose Cairns as my counsel because he would make every 
one understand how good a case I had ; if I had a bad case I should 
\J select fteiborne because he would conceal from every one how bad 
my case was. . . . 

In the end towards the close of November Green was 
released on the application of Dr. Fraser, Bishop of Man- 
chester, to the Court of Arches, and so, after eighteen 
months, the issue was amicably arranged. 

During his official life Harcourt continued the custom 
of entertaining which he had begun after his second marriage, 
and the dinners at 7, Grafton Street assumed considerable 
political significance, owing to the very catholic company 
that used to be brought together. One of them (March 6, 
1881) had a double interest. It was the last dinner that 
Beaconsfield attended (he died on April _i following), and 
it was the occasion of the reconciliation of Lord Lytton 
and Lord Hartington, who up to that time had not met 
since their difference over the former's Indian policy. At 
these dinners the most various social and political currents 
were present, and it was no uncommon thing to see that 
stern and unbending Tory, Mr. (now Lord) Chaplin side 
by side with Dilke or Chamberlain, or Bright and the Prince 
and Princess of Wales, or Mr. and Mrs. Gladstone in com- 
pany with the American Ambassador or the Dean of West- 
minster. The records of these gatherings were kept by 
the late Lord Harcourt. He had now begun to assume a 
new relation to his father. Always delicate, he was in 
1881 threatened with lung trouble, and the two succeeding 
winters were in consequence spent at Madeira. This fact 
interfered with the idea of a Cambridge career, and marked 
out another course for him, which the deep attachment that 


existed between father and son encouraged. At the 
suggestion of Mr. Justice Hawkins, Lewis Harcourt 
went on circuit as Marshal to that formidable judge, 
dined at the Bar mess, wrote jocular letters of his experi- 
ences to his father whom he addressed as " My dearest 
H.S." (Home Secretary), and won the encomiums of his 
Chief. From these adventures he drifted into that associa- 
tion with his father as his constant companion and private 
secretary which continued to the end of Harcourt 's career, 
and became a tradition of the political world. To this 
association we owe a journal kept by the younger Harcourt 
which throws many sidelights or/ Harcourt's official life. 
For the most part it refers only to the years in which Har- 
court was in office. It was written day by day, sometimes 
hour by hour, and was placed by Lord Harcourt at my 
disposal. In quoting from it, I shall indicate the source 
by appending the letter " H " in brackets. This chapter 
may be appropriately closed with some notes from this 
diary of a visit by Harcourt and his son to the Gladstones 
at Hawarden Castle under date November 3, 1881 : 

There was some discussion about the telegraph system in England, 
and both Gladstone and W.V.H. agreed that when they were 
bought by the Post Office in 1870 the price which F. T. Scudamore 
(the Secretary to the G.P.O.) gave for them was unnecessarily 
large as it was twenty years' purchase on their then income and 
an allowance for the prospective increase in the next ten years. 
W.V.H. was himself counsel for the submarine lines a short time 
afterwards, and in order to get as large a price as possible for his 
clients went minutely into the former transaction and threatened 
to show up Scudamore if he did not deal with the submarine com- 
panies on the same scale as he had done with the others. This 
so alarmed Scudamore that he immediately gave in, and so one 
bad bargain unintentionally let him in for another. . . . 

Apropos of Gladstone being unpopular in Court circles, I asked 
if it were ever known why he was not invited to the Duke of Con- 
naught's wedding. W.V.H. said that whilst at Balmoral this 
year Henry Ponsonby told him that the Queen said that it was the 
custom to ask only the Leader of the Opposition, and as Gladstone 
had voluntarily given up that post the invitation must go to Lord 
J Hartington. 

Last night Gladstone told W.V.H. that he had taken the Premier- 
ship for a special purpose, which was to introduce the Irish Land 


I Bill, and since that had been accomplished he does not wish to 
retain office, at least after Ireland has been pacified. 

Walking to the Rectory this morning I had some conversation 
with Mrs. Gladstone. She said that Mr. Gladstone has really been 
thinking seriously of retiring and gave as his chief reason that he 
felt he was keeping Hartington and Granville who have had all 

ythe hard work of opposition out of the place which they had a 
right to expect, and Mrs. Gladstone herself was rather in favour 
of his abdication. 

W.V.H. was rather mischievously complaining of the obstinacy 
and stinginess of the Treasury, and when Mr. Gladstone said, " I do 
not think they ought to be accused of that," W.V.H. replied, 
" Ah, you have never suffered under the Treasury as we do. I 
think the national expenditure ought to increase in proportion to 
the spread of wealth. Why don't you let the country live like a 
gentleman ? " " Because," said Mr. Gladstone, " living like a gentle- 
v man means paying five times its value for everything you buy.' ' 


Multifarious duties Sir E. Ruggles-Brise's recollections of the 
Home Secretary Under-Secretaries Juvenile Offenders 
Capital Punishment Correspondence with the Queen on 
remission of sentences The Queen on wife-murder The 
Most case The Queen's Safety Lord Rosebery and 
Scottish business Conflict over the Queen's Speech Residence 
at Balmoral The domestic circle. 

LEAVING the larger issues that occupied the mind 
of the Government aside and reserving to a later 
chapter the story of the developments in Ireland, 
in regard to which Harcourt was playing a conspicuous 
part, I propose in this chapter to bring together the out- 
standing features and incidents of his administration of the 
Home Office. It was not, as we have seen, the task which 
he would have chosen, but it was congenial enough to his 
tastes and sympathies. It touched life at many points, 
and it engaged him both as a lawyer interested in the prob- 
lems of justice and social order, and as a man of generous 
impulses endowed with a large appetite for the everyday 
affairs of the world. He himself described the abundance 
and variety of his duties when, in his speech at Glasgow 
(October 26, 1881), in acknowledging the freedom of the 
City, he said : 

. . . There is the criminal business of the whole country ; all the 
magistrates, all the judges, for England and Scotland ; all the 
judicial business. Then, sir, there is naturalization. Then there 
is the class of business which is, at times, more extensive than one 
could desire called disturbances. Then there is a very peculiar 
class of business called burials. And there is vivisection, and the 
recorders and the magistrates, and the lunatics, and the asylums, 



and the habitual drunkards, and the factories, and the mines, and 
the chimney-sweepers, and hackney cabs, and the police, and ex- 
plosives, and small birds, and tithes, and enclosures, and municipal 
corporations, and metropolitan buildings, and artisans' dwellings. 
And at the end of it there is the business of the Channel Islands 
and the Isle of Man. And when you have spent a morning on light 
work of that kind there is about ten hours sitting in the House of 
Commons, and after that it is supposed that I am desirous of engross- 
ing a larger share of business than that which I have at present. . . . 

Of the spirit in which Harcourt, during five years, 
administered this great office, no one is more competent to 
speak than Sir Evelyn Ruggles-Brise, who began his official 
career as Harcourt's private secretary at the Home Office. 
At the commemoration of the completion of twenty-five 
years' service as Chairman of the Prison Commission, Sir 
Evelyn said he owed much to the encouragement and 
training of Harcourt. " Sir William," he said, " was 
a great man and my constant friend a man who was 
terrifying to me, yet one of the most affectionate men I 
ever met. I used to take dictation of Sir William's letters 
given at a great pace and full of literary and other allusions . 
Once I could not follow one of his allusions, and turning 
to me he said, ' You are the most ignorant boy I ever 

" I had just come down from Oxford where I had done 
rather well," said Sir Evelyn to me in recalling the incident, 
" and I might have felt aggrieved. But I knew it was one 
of his pleasant ironies. His anger had much of the quality 
of summer lightning. It was fierce, but did not last 
long or do much damage. It was my first business in the 
morning to call on him at 7, Graf ton Street to take letters 
and receive instructions. He used to come down to me in 
his dressing-gown, very large, very red and generally very 
angry with some intolerable person or some impossible 
demand. But having exploded his anger, the sun came 
out, and his natural gaiety of temper would revive. He 
was quick to quarrel, but quick to forgive, and to take the 
blame to himself. My predecessor in the Chairmanship of 
the Prison Commission, Sir Edmund Du Cane, had as hot 


a temper as Sir William himself, and the two clashed with 
a good deal of violence. On one occasion Sir William 
ordered him out of his room, but he was not long in follow- 
ing him, with outstretched hand, and a delightfully boyish 
confession that he was a fool not to control his temper. 

" He was a man of singularly generous heart, and the 
Home Office was never administered by any one who had 
more sympathy with the prisoner and the captive. He 
was a great lawyer, but he put humanity above the law, 
and he was always thundering against judges and magis- 
trates who were harsh or inconsiderate. He was especially 
angry at the long periods prisoners were often kept in 
prison before being put on trial, and even after he went out 
of office he continued his efforts in and out of Parliament 
to put a stop to this abuse. In 1891 he got from the Home 
Office a promise to make a return of the periods that untried 
prisoners had been kept waiting for trial. ' Something 
must be done,' he wrote to me, ' to shame H.M.'s judges into 
doing a fair day's work for a more than fair day's wage.' 
And in the case of two boys whose treatment had aroused 
his indignation, he wrote to me (March 5, 1891) : 

... I shall be glad to know that these youths are not subjected 
to three months' imprisonment before trial for an offence for which 
they should not get more than a month. Pope says, ' Wretches 
hang that jurymen may dine,' but here people are detained months 
in prison (some of them innocent) in order that judges the laziest 
of the human race may be saved a little trouble. It is a very 
retrograde sort of legislation that prefers the convenience of judges 
to the liberty of the subject. 

" That was the spirit of his administration. He was 
impatient with the cold processes of officialism. I remember 
once a prisoner had been wrongfully convicted. A demand 
was made on the Treasury for some trifle of compensation 
to the aggrieved man a gift of 10 or so. The Treasury 
refused, and Sir William, very red and very angry, promptly 
sent the man the sum out of his own pocket. He could 
not tolerate injustice. . 

" And he was just as intolerant of official laziness. The 


Home Office messengers were certainly trying people in 
those days, and they were a constant source of annoyance 
to Sir William. On one occasion he had despatched by 
one of them an ' immediate ' box of documents to the Lord 
Chancellor. It was not delivered until next day, and this 
is a passage from a letter to the Lord Chancellor which Sir 
William thereupon dictated to me : 

. . . Though I believe there are about 200 public-houses between 
Grafton Street and the House of Lords, four-and-twenty hours 
is more than enough to have devoted to them on one occasion. 
I have remonstrated on this subject over and over again, but can 
get no support in endeavouring to re-establish discipline in the 
Office. ... It is like firing cannon balls into feather beds. 

" He was extraordinarily punctilious about the dignities 
and courtesies of official intercourse. It was before the 
days of the cold, impersonal departmental note. On one 
occasion, after he went out of office, he wrote to his successor 
on some public question, and received in return an official 
acknowledgment. He returned the note to me with the 
following letter : 

I return the enclosed letter without reading it. I am sorry to 
observe that the good manners of the Home Office have degenerated 
since I knew it. I certainly was not in the habit of answering 
letters addressed to me by my predecessors in office through an- 
under -secretary ; nor did they do so. I daresay I may be con- 
sidered old-fashioned in these matters, but the observance of tradi- 
tional courtesies is not a bad thing even in a Secretary of State. 
At all events I don't wish to make myself a party to what the French 
would call a mal eleve innovation. So please note this letter is 
' returned from the dead letter office.' 

" He would have no part in the periodical hue and cry 
against Civil Service extravagance. Writing to me in 
reference to Lord Randolph Churchill's ' economy ' cry 
against the Civil Service, he said : 

All this economy talk is for ' the gallery ' and not real business. 
The real truth is that there has been much growth of work and little 
growth of expenditure in the Civil Service of late years. If anything 
is to be really done it must be by big reduction of Army and Navy, 
and that only a Tory Government can attempt. 

" I think his attitude of mind was that of the oligarch 


rather than the democrat. He had a passion for justice 
and a genuine belief in liberty, but he had the tradition of 
the governing class. He wanted it to be an efficient govern- 
ing class, and he devoted much of his enormous energies 
to an unceasing .correspondence with the inner circle spirits 
in every phase of public affairs. He had great affection for 
and great pride in his subordinates, and no promotion ever 
came to me without bringing a generous letter of congratu- 
lation from him, with a jocular reminder that he ' invented ' 
me for the Home Office. He was a great man, with a for- 
midable outside, but a big heart and a powerful under- 

In his work at the Home Office, Harcourt had as Under 
Secretary Peel (afterwards Speaker of the House), but in 
December 1880, owing to the state of his health, Peel 
resigned, and Granville urged the appointment of the Earl 
of Fife. " I think Granville is somewhat too greedy for his 
peers," wrote Harcourt to Gladstone. He would not have 
Fife on any terms. He had tried him in the Office and done 
all he could to interest him with the work, but he never 
came near the place. He believed in a governing class, but 
it must be competent and must work. He would have no 
roi faineant. He urged Gladstone to consent to the appoint- 
ment of Leonard Courtney (Lord Courtney). " I know him 
well," he said, " and think highly of his powers. He is a man 
capable of being very useful in office and very much the 
reverse out of office. I know he is generally considered not 
facile a vivre, but I have always got on well with him per- 
sonally. " Gladstone agreed, and Courtney became Harcourt's 
chief lieutenant, on the condition that " I may be at liberty to 
walk out if the Transvaal question is raised." At this time 
Harcourt was urging Huxley to take the Chief Inspectorship 
of Fisheries, vacant by the death of Frank Buckland. " I 
have always thought that science has not its fair share in 
the Civil Service," he wrote, and Gladstone agreed. After 
much pressure Huxley took the post. One of Harcourt's 
tasks at the Home Office was the reorganization of the 
Metropolitan Police. In a long memorandum to Gladstone 


(December 3, 1880) he urged the need of carrying through 
the reforms recommended by the departmental committee, 
and expressed his own view that the staff at Scotland Yard 
was susceptible of material consolidation and reduction. 
He entered into his scheme with great minuteness, and as 
he showed a net saving of 3,650 a year as the result of a 
more efficient system he was justified in his remark that 
" I hope that . . . you will not regard this as a bad 
financial transaction." 


Among the multitudinous tasks that fell to him at the 
Home Office, none gave Harcourt so much anxiety as the 
treatment of prisoners and the revision of sentences. John 
Bright has described him as the most humane Home Secre- 
tary he ever encountered. It was this aspect of his ad- 
ministration which was largely the subject of his correspon- 
dence with the Queen, to whom he was responsible in the 
exercise of clemency, and who was disturbed at what she 
/felt was his undue tenderness to offenders, and was only 
pacified on receiving the most exhaustive reports. 

Harcourt was especially preoccupied with the unsatis- 
factory administration of justice in the case of juvenile 
offenders, which had already begun to offend the public 
conscience, although the process of remedying it is still 
incomplete. He was strongly impressed with the harmful 
effects of sending young children to prison, which he thought 
was more likely to make them into criminals than to reform 
them. But the magistrates were faced with the difficulty 
of dealing with young hooligans, in the absence of proper 
agencies to which their reform could be entrusted, and they 
were more than restive under the recommendations of the 
Home Secretary. In a circular sent to the metropolitan 
I police magistrates he recommended the birch in preference 
* to committal to prison in certain cases, and he also addressed 
letters to other districts urging his point of view. 

In a letter (September 1880) to the Mayor of Manchester, 
who had submitted to him a scheme for obviating some of 

1880-85] CHILD OFFENDERS 395 

the worst hardships of the system, he pointed out that in 
a single year/^o^/. children between the ages of twelve 
and sixteen, and(72<^ under the age of twelve, were sent to 
prison. In a long letter to the Queen, who had not approved 
of some remissions of sentences, he said : 

Harcourt to Queen Victoria. 

STUDLEY ROYAL, September 16, 1880. Many of these cases were 
for trifling offences, as, for instance, a boy of nine years old for 
throwing stones, several boys of eleven and twelve years for damaging 
grass by running about in the fields ; a girl of thirteen for being 
drunk ; several boys of twelve and thirteen for bathing in a canal, 
and similarly for playing at pitch and toss ; a boy of nine for stealing 
scent ; a boy of thirteen for threatening a woman, three boys of 
eleven for breaking windows ; a boy of ten for wilfully damaging 
timber. This morning a case is reported of a boy of ten years old 
sentenced to fourteen days' hard labour or a fine of i 155. 3*2!. 
for " unlawfully throwing down a boarded fence," and the Governor 
of Prisons reports this child as a small delicate boy who can neither 
read nor write. . . . 

Sir William humbly begs leave to represent to Your Majesty 
that protracted imprisonment in such cases has an injurious effect 
both upon the physical and moral nature of children of tender years. 
The child who has been guilty only of some mischievous or thought- 
less prank which does not partake of the real character of crime 
finds himself committed with adult criminals guilty of heinous 
offences to the common gaol. After a week or a fortnight's imprison- 
ment he comes out of prison tainted in character amongst his former 
companions, with a mark of opprobrium set upon him, and he soon 
lapses into the criminal class with whom he has been identified. 
That this sort of punishment has not a reformatory but a degrading 
effect is painfully evident from many of the cases reported. Most 
of them are first convictions, but in those where there have been 
previous imprisonments the child was over and over again brought 
up on fresh charges generally exhibiting a progressive advance in 
criminal character. . . . 

The Queen thereupon sent her approval. " H.M. was 
really interested in all you said about the youthful criminals," 
wrote Sir Henry Ponsonby in a private letter to Harcourt 
from Balmoral. " She would like to whip them, but it 
/seems that that cannot be done. What she objected to 
was not being forewarned of these numerous remissions." 
Incidentally Ponsonby advised Harcourt to put his letter 
in a sealed envelope to " The Queen." " She didn't say 


anything," he said significantly, " but she generally likes 
this best, as she can show me your letter or not as she thinks 

But Harcourt had other difficulties. The harsher type 
of magistrate was outraged by this display of leniency, and 
the Home Secretary became the target of widespread attack 
in the Press. " Your speech and Derby's," Harcourt wrote 
to Lord Houghton from Oban (October 9), " have come just 
in the nick of time to save me from the roaring J.P.'s who 
are about to devour me." This had reference to a meeting 
on the subject of the punishment of children, at the Man- 
chester Town Hall, when Lord Derby and Lord Houghton 
both spoke in support of the Home Secretary. Harcourt's 
activity had an immediate effect on the magistrates. He 
was able to say at Birmingham on November 6 that since 
he had received daily reports of the committal of children 
they had fallen from eighty and ninety in a week to ten. 
He mentioned that in one case a child of seven had been 
sent to prison. Unfortunately the legislation which Har- 
court had in mind was prevented owing to the increasing 
degree in which Ireland occupied the time of Parliament. 
But the administrative activity had a permanent effect upon 
the magisterial mind, and Lord Norton was able to write 
to Harcourt that his " bold and potent action " had emptied 
the Stafford Gaol of children. In 1882 Harcourt drafted 
a Bill giving discretion to magistrates to substitute whipping 
J for imprisonment in the case of indictable offences ; requiring 
the parent in certain cases to pay fines and to be responsible 
for the child's benaviour, and doing away with the necessity 
of preliminary imprisonment before sending a child to the 
\/ reformatory. 

The occupant of the condemned cell was no less disquieting 
a responsibility to Harcourt than the juvenile offender. In 
1878 he had declared in the House of Commons his unofficial 
view in favour of the abolition Jf the death penalty. He 
did not believe in the deterrent argument that had been 
used in the past to support the hanging of men convicted 
of the theft of 55. If it did not deter them from sheep- 


stealing why should it deter them from murder, which was 
generally done under the influence of violent passion. In 
office he developed his case in a paper addressed to the 
Cabinet. He recognized that public opinion was not ripe 
for abolition, but he desired to see a better discrimination 
established by law, and later (January 1882) he submitted 
a Bill to the Cabinet proposing that two " degrees " of 
murder should be recognized. For the first " degree " the 
jury must expressly find the " intent to kill " ; for this 
first degree the death penalty would still be exacted, but 
for the second, where " intent ' was not expressly recognized, 
penal servitude for life or for a shorter period would be the 
scheduled punishment. But like so many other good 
legislative intentions the project was suffocated by more 
clamant affairs. 

Meanwhile, in the treatment of adult prisoners as in the 
case of juveniles, the exercise of the prerogative of mercy 
under the administration of Harcourt was giving concern 
in high quarters. " The Queen is afraid from the number 
of remissions sent her," writes Ponsonby to Harcourt from 
Balmoral (November 17, 1880), "that you are treating 
/offenders with too great leniency, and commanded me to 
^ call your attention to this." Her Majesty demanded a 
return of the number of remissions signed by her in the 
last six months and in the previous six months. It was 
apparent that she intended to judge Harcourt's action by 
that of his predecessor Cross. 

" The notion that I am letting fellows out of prison right 
and left out of pure gaiete de c&ur is quite unfounded," 
wrote Harcourt to Ponsonby. " There was not one of 
these cases in which I could have acted otherwise if I had 
wished." The Queen had specially drawn attention to the 
discharge of two militiamen in prison for desertion. Har- 
court triumphantly pointed out to Ponsonby that one had 
been released at the instance of the Secretary of War because 
it had been found that he ought not to have been imprisoned 
at all, and the other had been inadvertently convicted of 
desertion when he was actually in custody in gaol. " What 


would have happened," he asked Ponsonby, " if she had 
declined to sign the release of two militiamen declared by 
the War Office and the judges to be innocent and to be 
wrongfully imprisoned ? " To the Queen he wrote at great 
length (November 20) pointing out that, except in the case 
of children, he had not departed from the practice of his 
predecessors. Seven of the sixteen cases had been remitted 
on medical certificates that the life of the prisoner was in 
danger, and he was confident that Her Majesty would not 
desire that a moderate punishment should be " turned into 
a capital sentence." In five other cases in which prisoners 
had been released an illegal sentence had been passed by 
inadvertence in excess of the powers of the judges. In two 
cases the judges themselves had recommended the revision of 
sentences. The remaining two cases were the commutation of 
the capital sentences on women for the murder of their 
illegitimate children. " No woman has for many years been 
^/ hanged under these circumstances. Sir William humbly 
submits to Your Majesty that he would not have been 
justified in advising Your Majesty to revive in their cases 
a practice long disused which would greatly have shocked 
the sentiments of the community." But he had given 
instructions that in future in every case of remission a 
memorandum of the facts should be sent to the Queen. 

But still the Queen was disturbed. " H.M. remarks 
But why are there more remissions now than formerly ? ' ' 
wrote Ponsonby to Harcourt, who promptly replied with 
the actual figures showing that he had remitted eighty-three 
/ sentences on adults in seven months against his predecessor's 
eighty-two in five months. 

This satisfied the Queen that the Home Secretary could 
be trusted not to be too lenient ; but her doubts returned 
later. She was especially suspicious where men guilty of 
wife murder were reprieved. " Men are lenient to criminals 
who murder their wives," she said to Ponsonby, and in 
the case of John Richmond, whose sentence had been com- 
muted by Harcourt, something like a storm arose between 
the Queenjand her Minister. Richmond had killed his wife, 


but not intentionally. He was sentenced to be hanged and 
the sentence was commuted to penal servitude. There 
were the customary protests, and Harcourt in a letter to 
Ponsonby objected to the Queen's asking why Richmond 
was pardoned, and said he must resign if she objected to 
commutation. Ponsonby claimed that the Queen had a 
right to inquire into the reasons, not in order to reject his 
advice, but to make her own opinions known to him and 
in order to receive further explanation. " Without insisting 
on this man being hanged, the Queen may surely ask for 
your observations." Harcourt cooled down, the commuta- 
tion was duly signed, and Ponsonby writes, " I have accord- 
t/ing to your directions destroyed your letter " the letter in 
which Harcourt had threatened resignation. 


There was another type of crime which led to a certain 
collision between the Queen and Harcourt./lt was that 
most unhappy of all forms of murder, infanticide. Harcourt 
in June 1884 commuted the sentence of death passed on 
Mary Wilcox for the murder of her illegitimate child, and 
the Queen wrote from Balmoral (June 20) that she could 
not " help observing that this is the third or fourth case 
in which conviction for murder has been commuted," and 
requesting explanation. Harcourt replied (June 23) that 
even in days when the law was more cruel, mercy was 
frequently extended by the Crown in such cases " in the 
manner so beautifully recounted by Sir W. Scott in the 
Heart of Midlothian." He proceeded : 

Hay court to Queen Victoria. 

... Sir William encloses the printed account of the trial from 
which Your Majesty will learn that all the circumstances of pity 
which surround these painful cases were present in this instance. 
The girl was very young ; her seducer had gone abroad ; her mother 
had turned her out of doors ; she loved her child ; out of her hard 
earnings of seven shillings a week she gave three shillings for the 
support of the child ; the child as one witness says was " better 
clad than its mother," and as another states " in fact except the 


bread and water that she ate and drank she gave all her money for 
her child." 

To have allowed a girl to be hanged under these circumstances 
would have been a thing unheard of in modern times, and would 
have produced a revulsion of public sentiment which would have 
been enlisted on the side of the offender and not against the offence. 
As it is she will undergo a terrible punishment which her crime will 
have well deserved. The jury strongly recommended the prisoner to 
mercy. This is a strong indication of public sentiment which it is 
not wise to disregard. If juries found that their recommendations 
were neglected, they would take the matter into their own hands 
(as they did in former days), and refuse to convict, in which case 
the offender would go free. . . . 

One thing which makes Sir William look at these cases with peculiar 
care and caution is the sad conclusion at which he has arrived after 
some years of experience at the Home Office, viz., that with all the 
care to guard against such a result, erroneous sentences are too 
often passed on innocent persons. So many examples of this 
misfortune have come under his notice in ordinary cases that he 
is bound to be specially careful in the execution of sentences when 
there can be no remedy in case of error. Only a few weeks ago on 
the careful study of the case of two men sentenced to death, Sir 
William, on a careful consideration, conceived that there was so 
much doubt about the case that he respited the prisoners for a 
week in order to enable an inquiry to be held. The result of the 
inquiry was to prove the innocence of one of the prisoners on the 
confession of the other man sentenced with him. Your Majesty 
will sympathize in the feeling of relief which Sir William felt in 
having been the means of rescuing an innocent man from a terrible 
and undeserved fate. . . . 

He concluded a long dissertation on the true exercise of 
the prerogative with the remark that " the principle on 
which he endeavours to act is that all the world should 
feel that no man is spared who ought to be hanged, and no 
man is hanged who ought to have been spared." 

The Queen replied (June 26) that she had read the letter 
with pain, " as it gives her the impression that Sir William 
Harcourt thinks she wishes to be harsh and cruel and to 
insist on the extreme penalty of the law being carried out 
in cases which above all commend themselves to mercy 
especially when poor young creatures have been in despair 
driven to destroy newly-born infants." She had herself 
urged mercy in such cases. But she did not know this was 

1880-85] DEGREES OF MURDER 401 

one of those cases the child being two years old nor was 
it about this case she meant to make the observation : 

... It was more generally with regard to several convictions 
for murders of wives, etc., which had struck her as very bad cases, 
and the commutation for which she hardly could understand. 
At the same time the bare thought of any innocent prisoner being 
executed is too horrible to contemplate. Still murder (excepting 
of late in Austria and Hungary) is more frequent within the Queen's 
Empire (she ought to say Kingdom as she means in Great Britain 
and Ireland) than in other countries. 

Harcourt replied (June 28) expressing his deepest regret 
that anything he had written had caused the Queen pain, 
or could convey an impression " so totally the reverse of 
his true sentiments. No one," he continued, " has had 
better means of knowing and of most thankfully acknow- 
ledging Your Majesty's tender kindness and constant sym- 
pathy for all your subjects, and particularly the miserable 
and the erring." With this prelude he proceeds to state 
the principles on which he tenders advice in these painful 
cases to Her Majesty. He points to the decline in serious 
crime as evidence that the penal code is neither too severe 
nor too lax, and describes the different categories of murder 
and the cases in which in all other countries " the sentence 
of death is not only not executed, but not pronounced." 
In England this discrimination does not exist : 

Harcourt to Queen Victoria. 

. . . But there are cases in which public sentiment would not 
support the execution of the extreme sentence. As for example in 
two recent cases (to which possibly Your Majesty may refer) a 
drunken husband has a brawl with his wife also drunk. In the 
course of the fight he throws an iron saucepan at her head and bruises 
her. She is in a bad state of health and dies a month after of erysipe- 
las. The blow was not intended to kill, nor indeed but for her 
state of health calculated to destroy life. But it is murder by law, 
and the capital sentence is properly passed, but every one would be 
shocked at the hanging of a man who had no intention of killing 
his wife, and both before and after the act had showed himself 
sincerely attached to her. 

Two years ago Sir William discussed at great length with the 
Chancellor and the Judges a Bill to classify murders which would, 
as abroad, prevent the capital sentence being inflicted except 



when the Jury found there was an intention to kill. But on mature 
consideration Sir William found that there was so much difficulty 
in obtaining an accurate definition, and so much danger attending 
an alteration in the law a so serious matter that he thought it more 
prudent to abandon the attempt, and leave the principle to be 
applied by the judgment of the Secretary of State in each particular 
case as it now is. Sir William feels most deeply the responsibility 
of this anxious duty and is most desirous that Your Majesty should 
be completely satisfied as to the manner in which it is discharged. 
Your Majesty will easily believe that sometimes it has caused him 
sleepness nights in the anxiety to arrive at a right conclusion. . . . 

Sir William asks leave to express to Your Majesty the pleasure it 
was to him to see in the corridor at Windsor your Majesty's little 
grandchildren round one of whom especially gather such sad and 
tender recollections. He trusts that the Duchess of Albany is 
in good health and is able to bear with fortitude her irreparable 
loss. [The Duke of Albany had just died.] 

As Sir William gathers from Your Majesty's letter that Your 
Majesty does not disapprove of the commutation in the case of the 
poor girl Mary Wilcox, he ventures again to submit the paper of 
commutation for Your Majesty's signature. 

The Queen thereupon signed the conditional pardon, with 
warm thanks for Harcourt's " clear explanation of the course 
pursued in this most painful part of his responsible duties." 
She added : 

. . . The Queen is glad he saw her dear little Grandchildren, 
as she knows the interest he takes in them, and the sight of these 
poor little fatherless bairns wrings her heart to look at ! Her poor 
daughter-in-law is well, and the most wonderfully resigned and un- 
complaining person the Queen ever saw> 

As a pendant to this phase of the relations between the 
Queen and the Home Secretary, the following note from 
Ponsonby to Harcourt is suggestive : 

WINDSOR CASTLE, July 5, 1883. I am commanded by the Queen 
to ask if men who are cruel to dogs as mentioned by " Ponto " 
cannot be more severely punished than by a fine of 2. 

Her sympathy with the animal world was acute, and in 
a letter to Harcourt she said : 

Queen Victoria to Harcourt. 
WINDSOR CASTLE, November 25, 1881. . . . There is, however, 

i88o-85] THE QUEEN'S HUMANITY 403 

another subject on which the Queen feels most strongly, and that is 
this horrible, brutalizing, unchristian-like Vivisection. 

That poor dumb animals should be kept alive as described in this 
trial is revolting and horrible. This must be stopped. Monkeys and 
dogs two of the most intelligent amongst these poor animals who 
cannot complain dogs, " man's best friend," possessed of more 
than instinct, to be treated in this fearful way is awful. She directs 
Sir Wm. Harcourt's attention most strongly to it. 

It must really not be permitted. It is a disgrace to a civilized 

Harcourt replied that he had already arranged an inter- 
view with Sir James Paget and Sir William Gull for the 
purpose of discussing the question of vivisection, and would 
later submit some observations on the subject. 

He had already informed the Queen that instructions had 
been given for the rigorous enforcement of the existing law 
with regard to vivisection and that the limit set to the 
practice should be restricted rather than extended. Pon- 
sonby was also asked by the Queen (June 20, 1880) to say 
that she " takes the greatest interest in the protection of 
wild birds, and trusts therefore that the Bill, which I under- 
stand is to be brought into the House to-morrow, will 
receive support." Harcourt replied that he believed it 
would be a useful measure and a proper correction for the 
cruelties now so often practised and the destruction of rare 
and beautiful species by unauthorized persons. " The 
object of the Bill," he said, " is to prevent vagrant bird- 
catchers from coming on to the land and killing and catching 
birds without the leave of the owners or occupiers." 


But there was another aspect of Harcourt's duties as the 
guardian of the peace and of justice that brought him into 
more anxious relationship with the Queen. He was largely 
responsible for her safety and for the security of her move- 
ments. It was the time when the words " dynamitards " 
and " nihilists " came into the popular currency and when 
crowned heads lay on unusually unquiet pillows. The 
murder of the Emperor Alexander II of Russia by the 


explosion of a bomb on March 13, 1881, aroused widespread 
alarm in the courts of Europe, and a demand arose from 
various continental quarters for legislation against aliens 
in Great Britain, which was alleged to be a harbourage for 
conspirators. Harcourt had at the time of the Orsini case 
been an energetic upholder of the right of asylum, and could 
hardly be expected to reverse his convictions. However, 
his indignation was thoroughly aroused by a scandalous 
article praising the assassination of the Tsar, which appeared 
in the Freiheit, a German paper printed in London. The 
Queen was very anxious for the prosecution of the offender, 
a man named Most. Harcourt was careful to explain in 
the House of Commons (March 31, 1881) that, in prosecuting, 
the Government were not acting at the instigation of foreign 
Powers. Most's language, which he read in the House, he 
justly characterized as of " a revolting and bestial ferocity," 
constituting a gross domestic crime and a breach of public 
morality. There was much difference of opinion as to the 
wisdom of prosecution, and The Times argued powerfully 
against action. Harcourt, however, took the contrary view. 
" I am myself in favour of prosecution," he wrote (March 
25) to Granville, and the next day he induced the Cabinet 
to agree with him. The Queen was delighted. " The article 
is an abominable one, and it would have been a scandal 
if it had been left unnoticed," wrote Ponsonby, and a few 
days later (April 7) he told Harcourt that the Queen was 
most anxious to know when the trial would come on and 
whether papers had been found at Most's house which would 
" help the police in following up the traces of any nihilistic 
plot." Three days later the Queen was inquiring again 
through Ponsonby as to the prospects of the trial, and 
whether there was any difference in law between conspiring 
the death of a foreign subject, which of course was a crime, 
and conspiring the death of the ruler of a foreign State ? "It 
has been said that the latter being an incident of a political 
nature is thereby protected." " The Queen," wrote Pon- 
sonby (May 2,6), "cannot understand a recommendation 
to mercy. She hopes no weak leniency will be shown." 

i88o-8 5 ] THE QUEEN'S SAFETY 405 

Harcourt pointed out that the conviction was of more 
importance than the punishment, and the Queen replied 
(June i) agreeing, but added, " Still the Queen trusts this 
(the punishment) will be sufficient to mark what she must 
consider a grave crime." Most was duly tried, convicted 
and sentenced to sixteen months' hard labour. 

The Queen's concern was not unfounded, for early in 
1882 an attempt on her own life was made by Roderick 
Maclean at Windsor. " The carriage was shut," wrote 
Ponsonby to Harcourt (March 2, 1882) in describing the 
crime, " as the Queen drove out of the station with Princess 
Beatrice and the Duchess of Roxburghe, so the man could 
not have seen the Queen. There was some cheering, chiefly, 
I think, from some Eton boys, and in the midst of it we 
heard the shot. He had a new revolver, five chambers 
two were loaded when I saw it. He had fourteen cartridges 
on him and a letter in pencil, that he seems to have written 
in the station, which accuses some one of not paying him 
properly and driving him to commit this crime." The 
incident created much sensation, and there were anxious 
messages to Harcourt. Ponsonby wrote : 

WINDSOR CASTLE, March 9. . . . The Queen does not want 
severity of punishment, but that the would-be assassin should be taken 
care of. Imprisonment without hard labour for life or any punishment 
that would prevent a recurrence of the offence. I send you a memor- 
andum by the Prince Consort written after Francis's crime. 

The memorandum stated certain premisses in regard to 
the protection of the Sovereign, and arrived at the con- 
clusion that as the law stood it did not afford adequate 

Later in the day came another message from Windsor 
to Harcourt from Ponsonby, asking whether he knew or 
could ascertain what had become of the previous would-be 

Before the trial came on the Queen left for Mentone, first 
sending to Harcourt (March 12) a message to the nation 
expressing her gratitude for the " outburst of enthusiastic 
loyalty, affection and devotion which the painful event has 


called forth from all classes and from all parts of her vast 
Empire as well as from the Sovereigns and People of 
other nations." Harcourt in a letter to Ponsonby pointed 
out that " loyalty " and " devotion " on the part of sover- 
eigns and people of other nations might be misunderstood, 
and suggested another form of words for publication. In 
a personal letter to Harcourt, the Queen said : 

Queen Victoria to Harcourt. 

CHERBOURG, On Board the Victoria and Albert, March 14, 1882. 
The Queen has to thank Sir Wm. Harcourt for a very kind letter 
received this morning before leaving Windsor. She is glad to see 
that her letter (which to her feeling did but feebly express what she 
felt) is appreciated. Indeed it is impossible to say how much touched 
and gratified she is by the demonstrations of loyalty, devotion and 
affection shown her on this painful occasion. Generally, people are 
appreciated only after their death as alas ! within her own experi- 
ence, has often been the case. But it has fallen to her lot to be 
most kindly and lovingly spoken of and appreciated in her lifetime. . . . 

The Queen is very glad to know from Mr. Gladstone to-day the 
proposed arrangement for Maclean's trial. How soon will that take 
place ? 

But Harcourt's anxieties did not end with the Queen's 
holiday. Ponsonby wrote to him from Mentone (March 20) 
about three Irishmen supposed to be coming from Paris, 
who were suspected of he knew not what. The Prefect of 
the Police and the detectives were all in a state of commo- 
tion, and John Brown, " who always goes with the Queen 
when driving," had told her of the alarm, and consequently 
made her nervous. There was a corrective however. 
" Policeman Greenham from Scotland Yard says he thinks 
it is a hoax. He has said this loudly so that it might reach 
H.M.'s ears (as it has), and this is a good thing, for it has 
relieved her and I am also inclined to agree with him." In 
his reply to the Queen's letter, Harcourt (March 26) set 
himself to calm her apprehensions, told her that he had 
at once reinforced the detective police at Windsor and other 
places where she might reside, and proceeded : 

... As Your Majesty has most truly and touchingly said it 
has been Your Majesty's lot to be universally beloved in your life- 


time, a fortune which in most cases is reserved for the dead. Sir 
William half remembers a line in Schiller's Maria Stttart, in which 
that ill-starred Queen is made to say, " I have been much hated, 
but I have been much beloved." But in a reign extended beyond 
the term of that of the great Elizabeth, Your Majesty has had 
experience only of the better fortune of a Queen who has always 
lived in the love of all her subjects. 

The Queen was still nervous and thought that a Scotland 
Yard detective should be at Windsor even when she was 
not there. When Maclean, tried at Reading by the Lord 
Chief Justice, was declared mad and condemned to per- 
manent restraint, Ponsonby wrote to Harcourt (April 19), 
" The Queen thinks the verdict an extraordinary one, and 
that it will leave her no security for the future if any man 
who chooses to shoot at her is thereby proclaimed to be 
mad." She was now back at Windsor, and Harcourt's 
letter-bag was heavy with disquiets from thence, and instruc- 
tions about precautions in regard to her movements. Thus 
Ponsonby writes (June 22) to Mm of mysterious digging 
going on in the garden of an unoccupied house. However, 
it was a \groundlessjscare, for next day Ponsonby informs 
Harcourt that " the digging observed was connected with 
a fountain " which the innocent suspect was placing in his 
garden. These alarms were not without a comedy aspect. 
Occasionally Harcourt was caught between two fires, from 
Windsor and Sandringham. A man named Bradshaw had 
written threatening the life of the Prince of Wales if he 
did not receive 10. He had the misfortune to come before 
Justice Hawkins, with the fate common to those who had 
that experience. On hearing the sentence ten years' 
imprisonment the Prince of Wales wrote to Harcourt 
asking him to secure the mitigation of the sentence : 

The Prince of Wales to Harcourt. 

SANDRINGHAM, Nov. 26, 1882. ... Sir Henry Hawkins has 
sentenced this unfortunate man to ten years' penal servitude, and 
I cannot help thinking that the latter was suffering from derange- 
ment of the mind when he threatened my life if 10 was not sent to 
him. No doubt in these days it is necessary to inflict punishment 
on those who write threatening letters, but at the same time I should 


be very glad if it were possible to lessen, with the concurrence of 
Sir Henry Hawkins, the sentence passed on Bradshaw. 

News of this request reached Windsor, and accordingly 
two days later Harcourt received a message from Ponsonby 
that " Her Majesty cannot help remarking that she fears 
anything that would weaken the sentence awarded by the 
judge would have a bad effect. " Harcourt was equal to 
the emergency. He wrote to Ponsonby (November 29) : 

... I had a note from the Prince of Wales asking me to remit the 
sentence of the letter- writer. This I have respectfully declined 
to do, and told him if it is to be done it must be by my successor ! 
May he soon appear for the sake of the culprit and of mine. Please 
tell the Queen this. 

Apart from the exercise of the prerogative of mercy and 
questions affecting the Queen's safety, Harcourt was in 
close intercourse with Her Majesty on many subjects. He 
prepared her speech for the opening of the new Law Courts, 
was consulted by her on such subjects as her attitude to 
the Salvation Army, and whether she should sign the 
diplomas of the Old Water Colour Society, was kept busy 
with inquiries about dynamitards and secret societies, had 
his attention called to the horror of the Morning Post at 
the announcement that a great Socialist Congress was to 
be held in London, and was inundated with inquiries about 
this, that and the other, the state of Ireland, public calami- 
ties and personal affairs. The spirit of the correspondence 
is always cordial, and as the years went on the Queen's 
confidence in her minister obliterated her earlier doubts. 
She was now growing old and feeling the weight of years 
and anxieties, and her letters contain many allusions to 
her weariness. Replying to a birthday greeting from 
Harcourt, she says: 

Queen Victoria to Harcourt. 

WINDSOR CASTLE, May 24, 1883. . . . She is truly sensible 
of and grateful for the loyalty of her people, and as long as life lasts 
and she has the strength to go on, she will work. But her powers 
have been very severely taxed and losses have fallen upon her which 


have made life again very sad and trying and difficult, and she must 
ask that not too much be expected of her or the cord will 
snap. The work is pressing, too heavy, too severe, and age 
advances and helps are withdrawn which makes everything very 

And a month later, referring to her lameness, she says in 
reply to Harcourt's inquiries : 

WINDSOR CASTLE, June 24, 1883. . . . Her leg is improving 
tho' not rapidly, and she can just walk downstairs with help. 
But otherwise she cannot give a better report her spirits remain 
deeply depressed, and this summer time, when she is so much out 
of doors, forces her sad loss more painfully than ever upon her, and 
she feels weak and tired. But it makes no difference in her anxiety 
to do her work, and her ability to do so as much as is possible. . . . 

As minister in attendance at intervals at Balmoral, 
Harcourt was a welcome figure, though he occasionally 
caused concern by such departures from decorum as 
appearing in a grey frock-coat when black was the accus- 
tomed wear. And his enormous consumption of tobacco 
was obviously a matter of comment. Ponsonby's letters 
to him bear witness to the strong odour of cigars that he 
left behind in his rooms. Thus, when Lord Spencer suc- 
ceeds Harcourt as minister in attendance, Ponsonby writes 
to the latter : 

. . . Spencer arrived radiant and with the glow of health upon 
his cheek. But he is rapidly growing pallider and sallower in conse- 
quence of a mysterious perfume in his room. But he intimated to 
me that the mystery was explained in a confidential despatch which 
he received on arrival. . . . 

After Harcourt left the Home Office, the Queen looked 
back with regret, in the light of what she supposed to be 
Childers'^/indifference to dangerous people like Socialists 
and " foreign political intriguers," to Harcourt's " careful 
watch on these men," and how regularly he told her of the 
measures taken for protecting every one against evil deeds. 
" H.M. says it is a pity you did not go back to the H.O.," 
wrote Ponsonby. " She don't always admire your political 
views, but you did your work very well there." 

Although John Bright's description of Harcourt as the 


most _humane Home Secretary he had encountered is 
justified by his general record, he had occasional aberra- 
tions. The famous case of the Mignonette was the most 
conspicuous example. Sentence of death had been passed 
on two men, Dudley and Stephens, shipwrecked sailors, 
who after drifting for twenty-four days had murdered a boy 
named Parker for cannibalistic purposes. Harcourt was 
for severity, but James and Herschell, the law officers, 
implored him to exercise mercy. The men had suffered ; 
their act was the act of men who had ceased to be respon- 
sible ; judge, jury, and public opinion were in sympathy 
with them. " If you announce a commutation to penal 
servitude for life or even to any other term," wrote James 
(December 5, 1884), " you will never be able to maintain 
such a decision and you will have to give way." Harcourt 
protested against yielding to popular sentiment. "It is 
exactly to withstand an erroneous and perverted sentiment 
on such matters," he wrote to the Attorney-General, " that 
we are placed in situations of very painful responsibility. 
. . . The judgment of the Court in this case pronounces 
that to slay an innocent and unoffending person to save 
one's own life is not a justification or excuse, and it is there- 
fore upon moral and ethical grounds, not upon technical 
grounds, that the law repels the loose and dangerous ideas 
floating about in the vulgar mind that such acts are venial 
or indeed anything short of the highest crime known to 
the law." But in the end he gave way, and the men were 
" respited during Her Majesty's pleasure." 

In closing this survey of Harcourt's administration 
at the Home Office reference may be made to his efforts 
in another direction which left their mark upon the ad- 
ministration of j ustice. He was a believer in short sentences, 
not on humane grounds so much as on practical grounds. 
In 1884 he addressed an official letter to the Lord Chancellor 
showing the rapid and solid diminution of crime indicated 
in the statistics of the Home Office. He pressed for a 
sensible mitigation of punishment by materially shortening 
the terms of imprisonment imposed in ordinary cases. His 

1880-85] LORD ROSEBERY 411 

experience was that sentences varied extremely in their 
magnitude without such difference in the circumstances as 
should account for the diversity. He hoped that by con- 
sultation with the Judges the Lord Chancellor might be 
able to introduce more harmony and uniformity in the 
sentences passed. He agreed with the opinion of Sir E. 
Du Cane, the responsible officer at the Home Office for 
prison administration, that the deterring and reformatory 
effect of imprisonment would in general be as well and even 
more effectually accomplished if the average length of 
sentences were materially shortened. 

Harcourt's general attitude to the social life and pleasures 
of jjthe people was essentially human, and I print in the 
Appendix to this volume a letter to a correspondent on 
itinerant shows, in which his point of view is stated with 
the kindliness and humour characteristic of the man. 


It was in the summer of 1881, when Courtney had gone 
to the Colonial Office, that Harcourt welcomed at the 
Home Office a new colleague with whom his own career 
was destined some years later to provide a political drama 
that occupied the centre of the stage at Westminster. 
Lord Rosebery was then a young man of brilliant promise, 
unusual gifts of speech, a pretty wit, excellent brain, 
youthful enthusiasm and great wealth. He had come into 
prominence during the Midlothian campaign as the host and 
supporter of Gladstone, and had already aroused the interest 
and expectations of the Party. He and Harcourt had long 
been acquainted, and in the previous December they had 
had a conversation at Mentmore on the subject of Scottish 
business, then in the hands ft the Home Office, with the 
Lord Advocate as the voice of the department. Lord Rose- 
bery felt strongly that a lawyer was not a suitable person for 
the sole management of the Scottish business which was not 
mainly legal, and Harcourt shared his view so strongly 
that he wrote to Gladstone (December^, 1880) urging the 
appointment of a Scottish Minister. He was himself 


anxious from the party point of view that Lord Rosebery 
should have a place in the Ministry. Lord Rosebery's 
popularity in Scotland was an important asset of the Party, 
and Harcourt thought that some recognition of his claims 
was not only due to him but desirable from the point of 
view of the favourable effect it would have on Scottish 
opinion. Gladstone, however, pleaded the pressure of 
business as a reason for not taking action then. Some- 
what later Lord Carlingford was appointed Lord Privy 
Seal, and on the following Good Friday Harcourt, after a 
visit to the Durdans at Epsom, wrote with what seems 
excessive candour to Gladstone : 

Harcourt to Gladstone. 

RICHMOND, Good Friday. ... I should like to have the oppor- 
tunity of some talk with you on the subject of the owner of The 
Durdans whom I found in a very great state of disappointment and 
irritation at the recent appointment to the Privy Seal, which office 
he says he did not expeofc though that I consider is not quite an 
accurate view of the matter but because he seems to have expected 
confidences on the subject which r6 did not receive. However 
unreasonable this may appear I can assure you that the annoyance 
is very strong and the vexation very deep. I did my best to smooth 
him down, but only with partial success. One of the symptoms of 
provocation is that he wholly declines to be consulted on Scotch 
business, on which I was in the habit of taking his opinion, as he 
says " that he has now no relations of any kind with the Government," 
and I have had some difficulty in restraining him from making a 
public declaration in Scotland to that effect pointing out to him 
that such a course would infallibly be attributed to pique and be 
more injurious to him than to the Government. 

I am sure you will be able to administer an anodyne to his wounded 
spirit when you return to town but it is wanted. ... 

Gladstone replying to Harcourt said he hoped it was 
a temporary emotion, and added that " the notion of a 
title to be consulted on the succession to a Cabinet office 
is absurd. ... I believe Rosebery to have a very modest 
estimate of himself, and trust he has not fallen into so 
gross an error." Harcourt, who had in the meantime 
gone to Sandringham, replied (April 17) to a letter from 


Granville, advising that nothing should be written to 
Lord Rosebery : 

. . . Later on I doubt not a word in season will tend to set matters 
straight. Time is a great soother. I think I had better not send 
on your letter. 

We find it very pleasant here. The hosts very gracious and easy. 
Everything in the deepest mourning (for the Emperor Alexander), but 
I don't think the spirits much depressed. The Princess gives a 
ghastly account of their having to go twice a day to kiss the Czar 
for a fortnight after his death. The spectacle most horrible. She 
for some reason augurs well of the prospects of the Great Throne, 
but I see he is by no means equally confident. . . . 

A month later Lord Rosebery sent Harcourt an old 
family relic which he had the luck to pick up, a watch 
/given by Charles II to JojiiiJ^^j^an ancestor of Har- 
court's. Gladstone kept Harcourt's hint in view, and when 
Courtney was promoted wrote to Harcourt suggesting that 
Lord Rosebery should succeed him as Under-Secretary at 
the Home Office. " I think you know how sincerely I am 
anxious that Rosebery should join the Government for all 
reasons/' replied Harcourr (July 27), " and particularly 
on the ground of my great personal regard for him." But 
he went on to point out that it was impossible to cany on 
the business of the Home Office without a Parliamentary 
Under-Secretary in the Commons. The Home Secretary 
had never been without such assistance for forty years. 
However, the appointment was made, perhaps unhappily. 
Harcourt's objection was a sound one, and no doubt absence 
from the parliamentary side of the work made the office, 
not in itself very suitable for one of Lord Rosebery's gifts, 
all the more irksome to him. The arrangement did not 
work well, and we find Harcourt recurring to it a little 
later in connection with a tiresome incident in connection 
with John Maclaren, the Lord- Advocate. He had been a 
source of much irritation, and as a way out Harcourt had 
offered him a vacant judgeship. Maclaren, however, 
resisted, appealed to Gladstone and to Bright, who wrote 
to Gladstone on his behalf. Harcourt in a letter to Glad- 
stone (August 5) said : 


. . . Already I find the Department in confusion and despair 
at the loss of a House of Commons Under- Secretary. And if be- 
sides wanting that aid I am to have a Lord-Advocate on whose 
cordial co-operation I could not rely, and who had successfully 
appealed against me (as he. said he should) I do not see how I could 
get on at all. . . . 

Gladstone suggested that the pertinacious Lord-Advocate 
should be allowed to continue in his office for two or three 
months until the law term began, and on this compromise 
the matter was settled. But in the meantime Rosebery 
had informed Harcourt that he could not accept the Under- 
Secretaryship if his name was to be associated with the 
incident. It was not a promising opening to their official 


Harcourt's preoccupation with his departmental duties 
of course curtailed his general political activities in public, 
but in the Cabinet and in private his influence was brought 
to bear on a multitude of themes, as his correspondence 
abundantly shows. Fears and threats of resignation from 
various quarters soon became a commonplace. In January 
1881, for example, there is a note to Harcourt from Dilke 
saying, " Chamberlain replies exactly what I expected 
that he would do it if nothing else was possible, but would 
prefer that he and I snould resign." It is not clear what 
this refers to in the midst of the gathering discontents, 
but I imagine it relates to the proposal to give a charter 
to the North Borneo Company, on which the Government 
was sharply divided, Harcourt, Chamberlain, Bright, Childers 
and Dilke being against the grant, and Kimberley, Selborne 
and Granville for it. But there were so many other crises 
about this time that the Dilke letter may refer to something 
else. Harcourt himself had passed his " resignation " 
phase, and though he often spoke in letters to his friends 
of the irritations of office, he generally played the part of 
peacemaker among his high-spirited colleagues. None of 
the extra-departmental duties he performed in 1881 was 
more delicate than his share in the famous conflict between 

1880-85] STORM AT BALMORAL 415 

the Queen and Gladstone over the evacuation of Kandahar. 
The announcement of that policy formed a part of the 
Queen's speech, and it was Spencer's and Harcourt's duty 
to go to the Council at Osborne and submit the speech for 
the approval of the Queen. The story of that singular 
day of battle, with its comings and goings, its remonstrances 
from the Queen, and the polite but adamant replies of the 
Ministers, the telegram to Gladstone and the anxious wait 
for the reply, all ending in the final surrender of Her Majesty 
is told in the memorandum which Harcourt and Spencer 
addressed to Gladstone (Appendix I to this volume). 

In another case in which Harcourt became involuntarily 
engaged there were sparks between the Queen and her 
Prime Minister. Harcourt was staying at Balmoral in 
October 1881 in the midst of the storm that arose over 
the appointment of Sir Garnet Wolseley as Adjutant- 
General. He was a firm believer in the Cardwell-Childers 
short-service system which the Duke of Cambridge, the Com- 
mander-in-Chief, hated. The Duke also disliked Wolseley, 
and prevailed on the Queen to adopt his view. At Balmoral 
the Queen approached Harcourt for his " advice," which, 
writes Harcourt to Gladstone (October 23), "I was 
obliged respectfully to evade, pointing out that it was 
impossible for one Secretary of State to invade or inter- 
meddle with the affairs of the department of a colleague." 
He could not however prevent the Queen giving her opinion, 
and he communicated that opinion to Gladstone. It seemed 
that the Duke had told the Queen he would resign if 
Wolseley was appointed. The Queen had thereupon 
telegraphed to Childers refusing to approve the appoint- 
ment. " She is quite conscious," he writes to Gladstone on 
October 23, " that the Duke has put himself out of court 
by the ground he has taken up, and the reasons he has given 
for his objection to Sir Garnet's appointment. He has not 
chosen to state what is the fact, that there is strong personal 
antipathy between the men quite apart from differences of 
professional opinion. . . . The question as I understand 
it is really one of ' incompatibility/ which between husband 


and wife is often regarded as a good ground of amiable 
separation. It seems almost idle to hope that the Duke and 
Sir Garnet can live conjugally together." Harcourt added : 

... I have not ventured myself to offer any suggestion, but I 
have endeavoured to lay before you the situation as it is. It is 
very like the dramatic position in the Critic when all the parties 
are at a deadlock each with his dagger at the other's throat, and how 
it is to be terminated is not obvious. I fear not by the formula, 
" In the Queen's name I bid you all drop your swords and daggers." 

The only thing I feel strongly is that the resignation of the Duke 
should if possible be averted. The Queen evidently looks to you to 
help her out of the scrape, of the gravity of which I think she is 
entirely aware. . . . 

Gladstone did not approve of the Court approaching 
Ministers, and showed no disposition to yield. Replying 
to Harcourt, he said : V 

Gladstone to Harcourt. 

HAWARDEN CASTLE, October 25. . . . The Childers-Wolseley- 
Cambridge imbroglio is indeed serious, and H.M. I fear will not mend 
it by multiplying channels of communication ; but it is not unnatural 
that she should, by herself and her belongings, feel for a soft place 
in the heart of the successive Ministers who may appear at Balmoral. 
You have been I think very constitutional. I am surprised that the 
temperature should now be high, because so far as I know Childers 
has given time, leaving the " enemy " so to speak in full possession of 
the field for the moment. No doubt his resignation would be an 
awkward fact for us, but to him damning. I will send your letter 
to Childers, and probably more light may be thrown upon the matter 
when we meet in town. . . . 

The conflict continued, and in a further letter to Glad- 
stone Harcourt said that the claim at Balmoral was that 
under the Royal Warrant the person who was to submit 
appointments to the Queen was the Commander-in-Chief, 
subject only to the approval of the Secretary of State. 

In the meantime Harcourt had delivered his speech at 
Glasgow (October 25), and visited Sir Wilfrid Lawson in 
Cumberland and Gladstone at Hawarden on his way to 
London. In his speech he had indulged in some plain 
speaking about Salisbury and Stafford Northcote. Writing 
to him Ponsonby said : 

1880-85] A FRIEND AT COURT 417 

Ponsonby to Hay court. 

BALMORAL, November 5. ... If you care to know the comment 
on your speeches, which were carefully studied, I may tell you that 
your references to Lord Salisbury were not so much remarked upon, 
but your observations on Sir Stafford were objected to. However, 
what was still more objected to was your going to stay with Sir 
Wilfrid Lawson. 

These exceptions excepted, your visit here was much liked and 
your letter on departing well appreciated. 

The Wolseley bother has come to a crisis. . . . 

Harcourt's stay with Lawson occurred in connection 
with his visit on October 29 to Cockermouth to speak on 
juvenile offenders. It was about this time that he began 
to favour local option as the solution of the liquor question. 
He ignored the reference to his visit to Lawson in his reply 
to Ponsonby, but said : 

Harcourt to Ponsonby. 

HOME DEPARTMENT, November 8. I fear I can hardly hope to 
give satisfaction politically, but if I suit personally it is as much as 
can be expected. As to the great Duke of Cambridge bear -fight I 
hope what the French call a transaction will still be arrived at. I 
saw Gladstone at Hawarden and Childers here this morning on the 
subject. I am not authorized to say anything, but I hope the direct 
personal difficulty may be removed and consequently the rupture 
arrested, but H.R.H. will have to learn for the future that the 
appointments do not rest with him, and I doubt if he will congratu- 
late himself on the substituted names. ... I never saw G. in better 
health and spirits than he was at Hawarden where we spent some 
pleasant days. 

There was a pleasanter subject between Harcourt and 
Balmoral a little later. He wrote to Ponsonby that " to- 
day (December 6) I found an equestrian picture of H.M. 
by Landseer on the point of being sold to a Yankee to go 
to America. So I cut him out and kept it for the U.K." 
The picture was painted when the Queen was eighteen. 
She remembered the sittings she gave for it well, said 
Ponsonby, but it was left unfinished : 

.... Her Majesty hopes you will not think she ever wore her 
hat as Landseer has represented it. He insisted on placing it so 
for artistic reasons, but much against her will. 

Earlier in the year Harcourt had sent to the Prince of 



Wales two water-colour drawings of George III out hunting, 
with a jocular suggestion that they might decorate the 
stables. His relations with the Prince were free from the 
heavy sense of decorum that marked his communications 
-with the Queen. The two men had much in common, and 
\J healthy understanding and good feeling characterized their 
correspondence which, after the visit of Harcourt and his 
wife to Sandringham in April of this year, was not infre- 
quent. For the rest, in spite of his heavy duties, he found 
time to cultivate his friendships and enjoy the pleasant 
things of life, especially those which centred in his family. 
Of his way of life we have a glimpse in a merry letter to 
Lord Lytton, with whom in spite of disagreements over 
India he still remained on cordial terms : 

HOME DEPARTMENT, January 7, 1881. You don't know how 
happy your letter makes me. By no means come to a pompous 
dinner on Saturday. I am obliged to dine or be dined en ceremonie 
Wednesdays and Saturdays, and I do not know which is the more 
detestable. But on the other days of the week I almost always 
dine at home on furlough for an hour or so. If you will come with 
or without notice on any Monday, Tuesday, Thursday or Friday, 
you will always find broken meats, ramshackle company, an odd 
Radical, an Old Whig, a strong Tory, and occasionally a Traverser 
(masculine for Traviata) picked up on the spot in the H. of C. and 
served hot and hot. If this menu with a bottle of claret smiles upon 
you, you will find it on all profane days with the warmest of welcomes 
at 7, Grafton Street. Do you remember the meeting at Ripon ; 
how strange all that has happened to all of us since. 

During the late summer of this year Harcourt went as 
usual to Scotland yachting with his wife. From Loch 
Alsh he wrote to Ponsonby : 

BALMACARRA, LOCH ALSH. I am living here in the midst of 
Celts and Papists on the West Coast of Scotland who have no 
thoughts of dynamite and are as loyal subjects and peaceful citizens 
as if they were Lowland Presbyterians. . . . 

We have had delicious weather yachting about the Islands for 
the last three weeks and not a day's rain even in Skye. . . . We 
weathered Cape Wrath last Tuesday in a perfect calm, and my wife 
wished to go on to the Orkneys, but I was too prudent to attempt 
it on the very day of the Equinox, and accordingly a gale came on 
next day from the East which would probably have sent us to the 

i88o-85] A HAPPY HOME 419 

I hope the weather will allow us to keep the sea a week or two 
longer. We make this place head-quarters, and come back at 
intervals to boxes and the baby. . . . 

His son, who had been shooting partridges at Studley, 
joined the family, and they set sail again for the Outer 
Hebrides, where they were caught in a great gale. "It is 
wonderful to think," he wrote to his sister, " that old Sam 
Johnson should have navigated these strong waters in an 
open boat in November when they are now sometimes as 
much as we can manage in a good steam yacht." He 
returned to London before his visit to Glasgow, and writes 
to his wife who had remained in Scotland, that he finds 
" this house lonely," and that " you had better house 
Bobs as soon as possible in ' Grafton Street, Hay Hill 
home.' ' He is full of complaints that he has had no 
letter from his wife or Loulou, only telegrams, says he is 
" homesick without a family," and concludes : 

. . . This is my birthday dearest the first I think I ever spent 
quite alone. I have thought much of you all and the happiness you 
have made for me. I don't think any man was ever more completely 
happy in his wife and children and his home. God bless you all 
for it, and kiss one another all round on my behalf. How I wish I 
was with you to do it for myself. 

During his visit to Balmoral in October he kept his wife 
informed of the life at Court, the company there, his after- 
dinner talks with the Queen and the manners and customs 
in vogue. " We wear trousers and not knees, which indi- 
cates a more relaxed tone of Society than Windsor, and the 
dinner last night was pleasant enough. I at once told 
many stories of Bobbie which were well received." Later, 
in connection with his speech at Derby (November 26) he 
paid a visit with Loulou to the Duke of Devonshire at 
Chatsworth, where he tells his wife there was a family 
party of twenty-four " very amiable, not very lively. 
There is only Emma (Lady Ed. Cavendish) who can be 
regarded as flirtable ... I am very glad of a day's quiet 
rest, for after a speech I always feel as if the virtue had 
gone out of me." 


Parnell's leadership Cabinet discussion over coercion Arrest 
of Parnell Harcourt and the Irishmen in the House Demand 
for Davitt's release Forster's Coercion Bill Gladstone's 
Land Bill Fenian outrages in England Fenian propaganda 
in the States Parnell arrested once more Karcourt's speech 
at Derby on Ireland The Errington Mission The Kilmainham 
negotiations The Phoenix Park murders The Crimes Bill 
Opponents of coercion in the Cabinet Lord Spencer's moderate 
attitude Gladstone's Arrears Bill Correspondence with 
Lord Spencer The Queen's interest in the Bill Abandonment 
of night search Harcourt' s disagreement with Gladstone 
on Irish policy Request for English police in Dublin refused 
by Harcourt The Maamtrasna murders. 

MEANWHILE the great drama that was to dominate 
the life of the Government, and in which Harcourt 
became involved as one of the principals, had 
begun to unfold. With the election of Parnell to the leader- 
ship of the Irish Party at the opening of the new Parliament 
the Irish agitation entered on a new and more formidable 
phase. It would have done so in any case, for the succes- 
sion of bad harvests from 1877 to 1879 had shown that the 
Land Act of 1870 was inadequate to the needs of the tenants. 
They could not pay their rents, and evictions had greatly 
increased in number. The Bright clause of the Act intended 
to facilitate the peasants' purchase of land was practically 
inoperative, and a radical revision was plainly necessary. 
The Government, through the Compensation for Disturbance 
Bill, brought in in June 1880, had gone a long way to meet 
the Irish demand for the recognition of full tenant right, 
but this wise measure was rejected by the House of Lords, 


i88o] " CAPTAIN BOYCOTT ' 421 

and the discontents grew. They were focussed in two men 
who embodied the new policy. 

The amiable spirit of Isaac Butt had given place to a 
resolute hostility that aimed at making the evictions and 
government itself impossible. Michael Davitt, that romantic 
figure with the tragic faoe and the armless sleeve, had 
returned to Ireland some two years before after eight years 
spent in Dartmoor prison, and had founded the Irish Land 
League in October 1879, with Parnell as its first President. 
The American Fenians would have nothing to do with the 
parliamentary movement and distrusted the Land League, 
but Parnell had visited America and secured much financial 
help, and, returnir^^nnounced in his historic speech at Ennis 
on September^ 18, i88A a new strategy which was promptly 
adopted againsT~Ca"pfain Boycott, and became known by 
that victim's name. Famine threatened, evictions and 
outrages became more numerous, and in many districts 
the new plan of isolating, as if he were a leper, the man 
who took a farm from which another had been evicted was 
carried out. As the autumn advanced the difficulties of 
the Cabinet increased. Gladstone, foiled by the Lords in 
his policy of appeasement, and determined to carry through 
a new Land Bill, was opposed to coercive measures ; but 
the Opposition were crying out for them, and Dublin Castle 
was demanding them. The letters of the Lord-Lieutenant, 
Lord Cowper, urged strong action, and Forster, the Irish 
Secretary, demanded the suspension of Habeas Corpus. 
" The actual perpetrators and planners [of the outrages] 
are old Fenians and old Ribbonmen and mauvais sujets," 
J he said. " They would shrink into their holes if a few 
were arrested." 

Within the Cabinet all was confusion in regard to 
policy. Chamberlain and Dilke threatened resignation on 
the one side, Cowper and Forster on the other. " I saw 
Harcourt," writes Dilke 1 in his diary (November 15), "and 
told him that I should follow Chamberlain in resigning if 
a special Irish coercion session were to be called. I saw 

1 Gwynn and Tuckwell, Life of Sir Charles W . Dilke, i, 246. 


Chamberlain immediately after the Cabinet which was held 
this day. Bright and Chamberlain were as near splitting 
off at one end as Lord Selborne at the other." Next day 
.Harcourt received a note from Chamberlain making the 
sensible suggestion that if he must bring in a Coercion 
Bill to please Forster and the Tories he should (pending 
the production of a Land Bill) accompany it with a measure 
of one clause suspending evictions for three months. 

The situation was aggravated by the arrest on November n 
of Parnell and other officials of the Land League for inciting 
to the non-payment of rent. The trial in Dublin lasted 
twenty-one days and ended, as it was expected to end, in 
a fiasco. The jury after four hours could not agree. They 
/ were sent back by the judges, and two hours later summoned 
again. " There is no good in keeping us here any longer," 
said the foreman ; " we'll never agree." " We are ten to 
two/' said another of the jurymen, and the gallery burst 
into applause. Parnell left the Court victorious. Irish 
opinion was solidly at his back and at the back of the 

At this time Harcourt was hostile to coercive measures, 
and in writing to Gladstone (November 18) urged delay. 
The case was not yet made out. " Of course The Times 
and the Telegraph and generally the Jingo Press are as usual 
for ' blood and thunder,' " but the provincial Press was 
more reasonable, and he observed in the papers " that 
Campbell-Bannerman (a very shrewd and sensible man) 
took credit to the Government for not having been frightened 
into resort to measures beyond the present law." To 
Chamberlain, Harcourt was urging moderation on the other 
side. " Let us all stick to the ship." Forster, he said, 
was like the Yankee general after Bull Run " not just 
afraid, but dreadful demoralized." Forster was demanding 
a meeting of Parliament before Christmas, but Gladstone 
was silent on the subject. On December II Lewis Harcourt 
took a note from his father to Dilke : " L. will tell you 
what he heard from Brett (Lord Esher, Hartington's private 
secretary). It is odd that the Sawbones should know what 



we are trying to find out." Sawbones was Gladstone's 
physician, Sir Andrew Clarke, who had told Mr. Brett that 
Parliament was to meet before Christmas. 

But " Sawbones " was wrong. Parliament did not meet 
before Christmas. It met on January 6 in an atmosphere 
of impending trouble. Coercion and land legislation were 
to be the solvents of the trouble. The Irish demanded 
precedence for the Land Bill, but Forster was insistent and 
got precedence for a Protection of Person and Property Bill, 
and an amendment of the law relative to the possession 
and carrying of arms. There followed scenes unprecedented 
in the history of Parliament. The weapon of obstruction 
which Parnell and Biggar had forged in the teeth of Butt's 
opposition, was now the official instrument of the party, 
and it reduced Parliament to a bear garden. Through six 
days and nights the struggle over the first reading con- 
tinued, and from January 31 to February 2 the House sat 
continuously for forty-one and a half hours, at the end of 
which the Speaker, stretching the power vested in the Chair, 
closed the debate by putting the question that the Bill be 
now brought in. The House had been for some hours in 
charge of Lyon Playfair, when at nine o'clock the Speaker 
returned. Biggar, who was speaking, sat down in accord- 
ance With custom, expecting to be called immediately, but 
the Speaker forthwith closed the debate. This exercise of 
the independent authority of the Chair won the first round 
against obstruction, and had been prearranged with Glad- 
stone, with Stafford Northcote's concurrence. The Speaker, 
however, took this exceptional course, he says in his note 
of the proceedings, only after stipulating that Gladstone 
should reconsider the regulation of business, either by giving 
more authority to the House, or by conferring authority 
on the Speaker. 

Meanwhile pressure was being put upon Harcourt to 
revoke Michael Davitt's " ticket-of -leave." He finally 
yielded, and on February 3, in reply to a question from 
Parnell, he said that Davitt had been rearrested as his 
conduct was incompatible with his ticket-of-leave. There 


followed scenes of intense anger. Davitt was in London 
at the time, and there is a note in the Journal that records 
a dramatic incident that preceded his arrest : 

February 15. . . . When Michael Davitt was in the Gallery of 
the House of Commons about ten days ago Howard Vincent (Scotland 
Yard) sat by him for some time without recognizing him. Labou- 
chere came up to the Gallery, and having greeted Davitt saw Vincent, 
upon which he said, " Mr. Vincent Mr. Davitt you are two men 
who ought to know one another." I believe their faces were a 
sight to be seen. [H.]. 

On the night of February 9 there was a dinner at Har- 
court's house, and afterwards a large party including Cham- 
berlain, Dilke, Childers and many M.P.'s. " Several Irish 
members were asked," says the Journal, " but none of them 
came, as I suppose they are still huffy." The comment is 
not so odd as it seems. It is true that Harcourt had 
announced the arrest of Davitt, but he was still working 
for peace, and was personally on good terms with the 
Irish members. Indeed throughout the fierce struggles 
that were to ensue this personal good feeling continued, 
and many records bear witness to it. Contrasting the 
methods of Forster and Harcourt in the handling of their 
respective Coercion Bills, Lord George Hamilton in his 
Reminiscences and Reflections says, " Forster . . . seemed 
perpetually to irritate and aggravate the Irish members. 
Harcourt, on the other hand, by his control and command 
of the more polished language of the practised advocate, 
contrived, with one or two notable exceptions, to handle 
his opponents very successfully." Lord Eversley, in his 
Gladstone and Ireland, bears the same testimony. But it 
was more than the skill of the " practised advocate " 
that explained the difference. Justin McCarthy in his 
Reminiscences pays a high tribute to Harcourt's good feel- 
ing during these bitter times : 

. . . Sir William Harcourt was, after Gladstone himself, the 
strongest fighting man on the Treasury Bench. He delighted in 
hard hitting, and he did not seem to grumble when he received hard 
hits in return. He stood up to Parnell many a time, and when I 
summoned up courage enough to assail him I need hardly say that 


he gave me a great deal better than I had brought. During the most 
heated period of that warfare I had on three or four occasions to 
make application to Sir William Harcourt, as Home Secretary, 
for some exercise of his official authority on behalf of entirely un- 
known and uninfluential applicants who knew no other member of 
the House of Commons. All that I had to ask of Sir William in 
each of these cases was a slight relaxation of the prison rules. The 
Home Secretary had only to say that he could not interfere with the 
ordinary course of prison discipline and there was an end of the 
matter. My friends and I had made ourselves as troublesome as 
we could to the Government, and I, like others of us, had had sharp 
and angry personal altercation across the floor of the House with 
Sir William Harcourt. Nothing, however, could have been more 
considerate and more kindly than the Home Secretary's manner of 
dealing with each of my applications. He sent for me, he gave me 
a most patient hearing, he went out of his way to make himself 
acquainted with the circumstances of each case, and to find out 
if there was anything exceptional in each which would justify any 
relaxation of the ordinary rules. 

Gladstone had consented as unwillingly as most of his 
colleagues to the arrest of Davitt, and wrote to Harcourt 
expressing the general feeling that his treatment should be 
as mild as possible. " Having put him out of the way of 
mischief, any allowable consideration for him will be so 
much to the good." Harcourt needed no pressure on the 
point, and ordered that Davitt should be allowed to work 
in the governor's garden, be supplied with books, and have 
all the comforts consistent with detention. 

There was much controversy over the legality of the 
revocation of the ticket-of-leave, and when on August 9 
Parnell on a formal motion demanded Davitt's liberation, 
Harcourt denied that the reimprisonment was due, as 
Parnell suggested, to the fact that Davitt had spoken of 
the Chief Secretary as " Outrage Forster," and read a 
speech in which Davitt had said that " the world will hold 
England responsible if the wolf-dog of Irish vengeance bounds 
over the Atlantic at the very heart of the Power from 
which it is now held back by the influence of the Land 
League. ' ' Would any Power on earth tolerate such language 
from a Fenian convict ? Harcourt proceeded to quote the 
violent language of O'Donovan Rossa and other Clan-na- 


Gael men. He did not know how bitterly hostile these men 
were to Davitt and the League, and how much truth there 
had been in Davitt's assertion that it was the Land League 
which held the wolf-hound of extremism in check. 


But this is to anticipate events. Meanwhile the struggle 
at Westminster had been going forward with heightening 
passion. The Speaker had been given powers of closure, 
but this only changed the character of the conflict. On 
February 22 in Committee Harcourt defended emergency 
legislation on the ground of a Fenian conspiracy. He said 
that his information was not based on informers but on 
the declared statement of O'Donovan Rossa in the United 
Irishman, and of John Devoy of the American Land League. 
O'Donovan Rossa had openly advocated the assassination 
of ministers and the burning of London. He did not assume 
that members of the Irish Land League held these views, 
but the Government was bound to take measures of defence 
in face of such statements. After fierce scenes which 
resulted in the expulsion of the whole Parnellite Party, 
the Bill was passed on February 28. Under the new powers, 
which meant the suspension of Habeas Corpus, the Lord- 
Lieutenant was able to arrest anyone on suspicion and hun- 
dreds of men were swept into Kilmainham and other gaols. 

The next and immediate step was Harcourt's introduction 
(March i) of the Peace Preservation Bill (the Arms Bill) 
which gave powers for the search for and the prohibition 
of arms. Dilke records (February 12) that Gladstone, 
Bright and Chamberlain " fought hard in the Cabinet 
against the Arms Bill. Harcourt, however, said that 
' coercion was like caviare ; unpleasant at first to the 
palate, it becomes agreeable with use ' ; and led by Har- 
court the majority insisted on having more coercion." 
Passion was still high, and the bitter conflicts that had 
become the commonplace of the debates continued during 
the passage of the Bill. After a violent attack by Mr. John 
Dillon (March 3) Harcourt said : 

i88i] IRISH LAND BILL 427 

We have heard the doctrine of the Land League expounded by 
the man who has the authority to explain it ; and to-morrow every 
subject of the Queen will know that the doctrine so expounded is 
the doctrine of treason and assassination. . . . The language of 
Redpath which I read the other day, and in which he recommended 
that the landowners should be shot down like rabbits, was exactly 
the language which the hon. member for Tipperary has just used. . . . 

Who support the Land League in Dublin ? Is it supported by 
Irish subscriptions ? Why, the Irish subscriptions are coppers, 
but the gold and silver come from Fenianism in America. 

He did not say that all members of the Land League 
held Fenian views, but Mr. Dillon had avowed them. Mr. 
Timothy Healy charged the Home Secretary with " a 
deliberate untruth " in saying that the doctrine of the 
Land League was a doctrine of assassination and treason. 
He was called upon to withdraw the remark, did so but 
repeated it in other words and was suspended. In com- 
mittee the temper was milder, Harcourt was conciliatory 
(he was actually complimented by Mr. Healy on his suavity), 
and the Bill passed on March n. 

With these repressive powers in hand, Gladstone pro- 
ceeded with his scheme of appeasement. The Land Bill 
was a large and just measure, which practically recognized 
duality of ownership, gave the tenant fair rent, fixed tenure, 
free sale, and the protection of a commission presided over 
by a judge or ex-judge, and provided for assistance from 
the Public Exchequer for the purchase of land by the tenant. 
It was a good Bill and Parnell knew it was a good Bill, 
and was determined not to prevent its passage. But the 
extreme spirits were hostile to " remedial legislation " as 
the enemy of the national demand for self-government, 
and between the two views Parnell imposed on his party 
an attitude of aloofness, neither accepting nor rejecting the 
measure. " I must congratulate you heartily on the success 
of the Land Bill," wrote Harcourt to Gladstone (April n). 
" It seems almost to have persuaded Parnell to become a 
Christian." The Opposition this time came from the Con- 
servatives, who, as usual when in opposition, found their 
refuge in the House of Lords. For a time the Bill was 
in danger, as this note from the Journal shows : 


August 14. Gladstone and W. V. H. had a very hard fight to 
get the Cabinet to decide on resisting the House of Lords on the 
Irish Land Bill. The Lord Chancellor, Granville, Kimberley, 
Northbrook and Hartington were strongly opposed to it, and the 
rest, with the exception of Bright and Chamberlain, were neutral, 
but Bright, Chamberlain, Gladstone and Har court carried their 
point. [H.] 

The Land Bill became law, but neither coercion nor 
appeasement brought peace, whether in Ireland or England. 
Public opinion at home was kept in a state of feverish alarm 
by rumoured Fenian outrages. There had been an attempted 
explosion at the Mansion House on May 16, and in June 
there was an attempt to blow up the Liverpool Town Hall. 
These troubles did not come from Ireland, but from the 
Fenians in America, where a propaganda of violence directed 
against England was being carried on in various publica- 
tions. In the attempt to deal with this Harcourt came 
into conflict with some of his colleagues, notably Dilke at 
the Foreign Office, over the use of secret-service money. 
The result of this policy, Dilke insisted, was the fabrication 
of plots, and Harcourt himself later modified his view on 
the subject. One incident in connection with this phase 
of the struggle brought the Foreign Office into some trouble. 
Parnell complained in the House that he had been shadowed 
in Paris by persons from the Embassy. Lord Lyons denied 
this and demanded a contradiction. " Harcourt, however, 
would not allow a contradiction to be given," says Dilke ; l 
" and the fact was that Parnell had been watched, but 
watched by the Home Office, through the police, without 
the knowledge of the Embassy." It was not the only 
subject of conflict between the Foreign Office and the Home 
Office. Harcourt was receiving despatches from the Foreign 
Office asking what was to be done about the incendiary 
literature in America. Harcourt retorted by asking what 
the Foreign Office thought should be done. To Granville 
he wrote : 

HOME OFFICE, June 2. . . . No doubt these atrocious publica- 
tions are mainly intended for the purpose of raising money, but as 

1 Life, i. 366. 


I told the American Minister privately last night it is not compatible 
with the self-respect of a civilized state that they should allow money 
to be raised openly on such pretences. . . . 

To Gladstone he wrote (June 13) asking him to give him 
" a good hearing at the Cabinet to-day on the subject of 
the assassination literature in the United States." The 
Queen was highly pleased with Harcourt's attitude. She 
observed, wrote Ponsonby, " that you were the only Minister 
of the present Government that had any determination." 
She was much concerned at " the U.S. allowing the propaga- 
tion of atrocious doctrines to go on publicly," and through 
Ponsonby wrote to Harcourt calling his attention to the 
Fenian threats in New York papers against the Prince of 
Wales. " The Queen would not wish the Princess of Wales 
to be alarmed by these reports, but does not think it right 
to keep them from the knowledge of the Prince." Writing 
to Granville, Harcourt summarizes the incitements to outrage 
in England the murder of the Prince of Wales, the murder 
of Gladstone and so on in O'Donovan Rossa's New York 
paper United Irishman, and says : 

Harcourt to Granville. 

HOME OFFICE, June 17. ... It seems to me that it is abso- 
lutely necessary to remonstrate with the Government of the U.S. 
against the publication of such papers within their jurisdiction. 
By no possibility could the venerable and venerated name of free- 
dom of discussion or liberty of the Press be prostituted to cover 
such outrages against public decency. . . . Would the U.S. or any 
civilized Government tolerate the keeping of an office to collect and 
distribute money publicly for the purpose of murder and incendiar- 
ism directed against individuals even though they happened to be 
political antagonists within their own borders. If so, will they 
tolerate the open profession of a trade in assassination and arson 
aimed at public and private persons in a friendly country. . . . 

The emissaries of O'Donovan Rossa come over with the wages of 
murder publicly advertised in America in their hands, commit the 
crime for which they were openly hired, and return to the United 
States to receive publicly the reward which they have earned. This 
is a state of things which is subversive of the very foundations of 
society, and the Government of the United States may be confidently 
appealed to to take such measures as they shall think fit to restrain 
this open defiance of public morals. 


He was writing at the same time in another vein to the 
Queen, who was concerned about the precautions for her 
journey to the North. " I wrote to the Queen yesterday," 
he tells Ponsonby (June 17). "I hope you will take any 
opportunity of reassuring H.M. as to the question of actual 
danger. I have watched this business most intently now 
for more than six months. There was a time when I thought 
the matter really formidable, but the more I learn of it 
the less it alarms me. ..." His alarms, however, were 
renewed a few days later. A vessel arrived at Liverpool 
bringing barrels of cement alleged to contain infernal 
machines. The barrels were taken over by the Customs, 
and in these the machines were found. In communicating 
the news to Granville, Harcourt says : 

RAMSGATE, July 3. I have just read the horrid news of Garfield's 
assassination. I think this terrible event will considerably modify 
the views of Lowell and Blaine on the subject of political murder 
and O'Donovan Rossa's proceedings. It will confirm those who 
think us right and confound those who have been disposed to ridicule 
our alarms and condemn our proceedings. . . . 

These events led to promise of action by Blaine, who 
said the United States Government were investigating the 
origin of the infernal machines, and thought it would be 
found that very few persons were actually involved. In 
the meantime, Harcourt was in unceasing correspondence 
with Vincent and Scotland Yard as to the various outrages 
and threatened outrages, and was in conflict with some of 
his colleagues as well as with the Irish on the subject of 
the opening of suspicious letters. " How I wish August 
were come," he writes to Ponsonby. 


But the recess brought little release from the anxieties, 
in spite of the " amphibian life " in the Hebrides. Harcourt 
was summoned back to London "to shut up Parnell." 
The immediate excuse for Parnell's arrest was a speech 
delivered at Wexford on October 9 in which he said : " The 
Irishman who thinks that he can now throw away his 


arms, just as Grattan disbanded the volunteers in 1789, 
will find, to his sorrow and destruction, when too late, that 
he has placed himself in the power of the perfidious and 
cruel and relentless British enemy." Gladstone he described 
as " this masquerading knight errant, this perfidious cham- 
pion of the rights of every other nation, except those of the 
Irish nation." He asserted that Gladstone had admitted 
that England's mission in Ireland had been a failure, and 
that Irishmen have established their right to govern Ireland 
by laws made by themselves. Forster took the opinion of 
the Irish law officers on this speech, and then crossed over 
to England to attend a meeting of the Cabinet, where it 
was decided to arrest Parnell under the terms of the Coercion 
Act. Messrs. Dillon, Sexton and O' Kelly were arrested at 
the same time. Biggar and Healy escaped by remaining 
in England. 

Granville, writing to Selborne 1 (October 12) about the 
Cabinet decision to arrest Parnell, said, " No opposition 
except from Harcourt, who took legal points on which he 
appeared to be wrong." His opposition was obviously 
Pickwickian, for writing to his wife on the day of Parnell's 
arrest (October 13), Harcourt said, "It is a great event, 
and it is difficult to foresee all the consequences, but it 
was inevitable." What the effect will be on his reception 
at Glasgow which was one-third Irish he did not know. 
" We may be in civil war by that time. But one can never 
tell. The Irish are like the West coast gales, one can never 
guess when or whence they will blow or cease." And three 
days later he writes again to his wife : 

. . . Forster goes on bagging his Leaguers, and Dillon and Sexton 
are now in the mouse trap. I am sorry he has missed Healy, who is 
the most dangerous, and T. P. O'Connor, who is the noisiest of them 
all. I am glad our friend A. M. Sullivan and O'Connor Power are 
out of the row. ... I fear nothing at Balmoral but the cold, as I 
am sure H.M. will be radiant at all this coercion. 

But while endorsing and taking his share in carrying out 
the policy of coercion, Harcourt did not forget the causes 

1 Lord Selborne, Memorials Political and Personal, ii. 30. 


of discontent or the need of removing those causes. In 
his speech at Derby (November 26) he dealt exclusively 
with Ireland, and made a reasoned reply to Salisbury's 
accusation that the lawless condition of that country was 
due to Liberal weakness and that the spirit of the Land 
Act was an attack on property. Harcourt took the ground 
that Ireland's grievances, especially in regard to the land, 
were real grievances, that they were chiefly due to Tory 
misgovernment in the past, and that while it was the duty 
of the Government to maintain order, it was not less their 
duty to remove the causes of discontent. It was soon 
obvious that the Coercion Act was a failure, and that the 
imprisonment of Parnell and his colleagues was worse than 
useless. " If you are arrested, who will take your place ? " 
Parnell was asked at a meeting at Wexford when his arrest 
was anticipated. " Captain Moonlight will take my place," 
he replied. 

Events confirmed the forecast. The condition of Ireland 
grew steadily worse during the winter, outrages increased 
threefold, and the no-rent propaganda spread like a prairie 
fire. Gladstone had no liking for and little faith in repres- 
sion, and several of his colleagues in the Government were 
notoriously hostile to it. He was feeling his way already 
to a large solution of the ancient quarrel, and in the early 
days of the new Session (February 18) said in the House 
that a demand from Ireland that purely Irish affairs should 
be under purely Irish control was not in his opinion so 
dangerous that it should be refused consideration, but the 
proper way of meeting it was to require those who proposed 
it to say what provision they intended to make for the 
supremacy of the Imperial Parliament. In the meantime 
a minor storm had arisen in regard to the Errington Mission 
to Rome, which fanned the old embers of "No Popery " 
into a feeble flicker. Harcourt was a stalwart of Protes- 
tantism, but he believed that any influence which could 
be brought to bear on the political situation should be 
invoked, and in sending a " formula " on the subject to 
Granville he said : 


Har court to Granville. 

HOME OFFICE, February 12, 1882. . . . In such a state of things 
as that which exists in Ireland I for one should not be afraid to assert 
that I had had recourse to any instrument which offered a legitimate 
prospect of sustaining the framework of society. I should point 
out how mischievous it is by such questions as those now put to 
seek to influence religious animosities at a moment when it is of the 
highest consequence to rally men of all creeds and opinions to the 
side of order and good government. I would add that if the clergy 
of the Church of Rome and their Head are willing to aid in the difficult 
task of tranquillizing Ireland it is not the business of any wise 
Government or any good citizen to repel their co-operation in a spirit 
of intolerance, but rather to welcome their co-operation in the 
common cause. 

Granville endorsed Harcourt's formula, and the " No 
Popery " alarm soon vanished before the impending rupture. 
Cowper, writing from Dublin, admitted the failure that had 
attended the policy of repression. " Every one," he said, 
" advised us to suspend the Habeas Corpus Act. . . . The 
police led us quite astray. They said they knew all the 
people who got up the outrages, and that if the Habeas 
Corpus Act was suspended they could arrest them. Of 
course we found out afterwards that they were mistaken." 
What was to be done ? Coercion had failed : let us have 
more coercion, was the demand of Cowper and Forster. But 
Gladstone would not advance deeper into that bog except 
under compulsion. If he did the rupture would not be 
prevented ; it would only be changed in character. More- 
over the Tories at this moment exhibited a singular modera- 
tion in regard to Ireland, called through John Gorst for a 
new departure, protested through Sir John Hay against 
the imprisonment of large numbers of Her Majesty's subjects 
in solitary confinement, without cause assigned and without 
trial, and asked, through W. H. Smith, for an extension of 
land purchase. 

Meanwhile, through Captain O'Shea, Parnell was in com- 
munication with Gladstone and Chamberlain. The former 
apprised Forster of what passed and of the ideas under 
consideration. They involved on the one side the intro- 
duction of an Arrears Bill to calm the discontents in Ireland, 



and on the other the exercise of Parnell's influence to slow 
down the agitation. Through this policy of appeasement, 
Parnell said, in a letter dated April 30, that he looked for 
co-operation of the Irish party and the Liberal party, and 
an improvement which would speedily justify the Govern- 
ment in dispensing with coercive measures. The night 
before, at the Royal Academy dinner, Forster had told 
Harcourt that he would resign "if it is decided to let out 
the men." He was sympathetic on the question of arrears, 
but he would not sanction the release of Parnell. The tide, 
however, was against him. Hartington was the last doubtful 
to be won over, as the following entry in the Journal indi- 
cates : 

May i. W. V. H. and Granville went this morning to Devonshire 
House to square Hartington for the Irish crisis, as he seems to doubt 
the advisability of releasing the suspects against Forster's will and 
thereby forcing his resignation. [H.] 

The prisoners were released next day, and the same day 
the resignations of Lord Cowper and Forster were announced 
in the House. 

Lord Spencer was appointed Lord-Lieutenant, and 
Chamberlain had expressed his readiness to take the Irish 
Secretaryship. In the end, says Sir Charles Dilke, 1 after 
the offer had been made to and rejected by Hartington, his 
brother Lord Frederick Cavendish was chosen. Harcourt 
had suggested the appointment of Dilke, but Gladstone in 
reply urged " a less aspiring course and no seat in the 
Cabinet," which Dilke made a condition of acceptance 
hence Cavendish. Harcourt in his reply (May 4) said : 
" F. Cavendish is like the aftv/iovei;, a man whom all like 
and all respect. His self-sacrifice will command for him 
still greater esteem. All that I can say of him is that I 
think he is too good for the job." He then went on to say 
that the case of Davitt was pressing and asked for Glad- 
stone's opinion about his release. He had that day received 
the following telegram from the Queen: 

May 4, 11.30 p.m. Is it possible that M. Davitt, known as one 
1 Life, i. 440. 


of the worst of the treasonable agitators, is also to be released ? 
I cannot believe it. Three suspects were spoken of, but no one 
else. I had not heard a word about the former. 

Two days later, by which time Davitt was free, there 
came an indignant letter from Ponsonby, protesting against 
the release of Davitt, stating that the Queen thought she 
ought not to have learned of the fact through the parlia- 
mentary report, and concluding " The Queen cannot deny 
that she looks with great anxiety to the effect which will 
be produced in Ireland by the change of policy in the Govern- 
ment." A little later she telegraphed to Harcourt, " Have 
you seen how Davitt profits by his release ? Is this language 
to be tolerated with impunity ? " Harcourt wrote a sooth- 
ing letter, impressing on the Queen his confident belief that 
Davitt's influence was being used against outrage. This 
view was confirmed in a letter (May n) from Howard Vin- 
cent at Scotland Yard to Harcourt in which he said that 
" Davitt will do anything I want and give every assistance 
that is possible." 


Meanwhile a crime of a shocking and unprecedented kind 
had plunged the country in anger and alarm and thrown 
its baleful shadow over the new policy of conciliation. 
Lord Frederick Cavendish had gone to Ireland