Eastbourne Memories - A Victorian Perspective

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292                 Old Memories of East-Bourne. [Chap. XX,
Nos. 4 and 5 may be taken together, including with them the 2 debates at which I was not present. A special sensation was caused by the speeches of Mr. W. E. Forster, the Member for Bradford, who had been Chief Secretary for Ireland under Mr. Gladstone, from whose policy in Egypt he had felt himself obliged to dissent. The speeches marked 3 stages in the speaker's mind : (i.) A reluctant vote in support of Mr. Gladstone; (ii.) abstention from voting ; (iii.) a vote against Mr. Gladstone, wrung by force of conscience from one of the most honest statesmen who ever held a seat on the Liberal side of politics in the House of Commons.
On the 2nd Vote, on May 12,1884, Mr. Forster said:
" He (Mr. Gladstone) can persuade most people of most things, and, above all, he can persuade himself of almost anything. ... It is because I cannot but feel that they are engaged at this moment in a vain, a useless, though also a dangerous, and what may turn out to be a costly attempt to shift off responsibility, that I find myself utterly unable to support the Government on this occasion."(Hansard, vol. cclxxxviii., col. 220).
The voting took place on May 13. The votes were, for the Vote of Censure 278, against, 302, majority against, only 28.
The 4th Vote of Censure came on at the beginning of the next Session, on February 27, 1885. Mr. Forster said:
" I fear that this policy of doubt and vaccillation will continue . . . and therefore I cannot record my vote in their favour."(Hansard, vol. ccxciv., col. 1699).
The votes were, for the Vote of Censure 288, against, 302, majority 14. It was well understood at the time that Mr. Forster's speeches, especially his gradual change of opinion and vote, did much to destroy the credit of the Gladstone Government. The House sat late in those days. I did not get home (Kensington) till about 4.0 o'clock in the morning after each of the above occasions on which I was present at the debates.
Two speeches by the 8th Duke of Devonshire, the Statesman par excellence, deserve record. One I heard at the Devonshire Park on June 24, 1892, in support of the candidature of Admiral Field : the other was in the House of Lords in 1904, in which the Duke sought, but with no great success, to exculpate himself from quitting the Conservative Cabinet in 1903.
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