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In dealing with Irish Obstruction otherwise than by the clôture, he gave a hearty support to the Government. In questions of foreign affairs he undoubtedly behaved as a good citizen rather than as a partisan, and declined to make unnecessary attacks upon the Ministry. His most serious attack, with which probably all members of the House in their hearts sympathised, was upon the Egyptian policy that led to the fall of Khartoum and the death of Gordon. Upon this occasion the small majority of fourteen was all that the Government could obtain.
An acute and well-informed critic has singled out Sir Stafford Northcote's treatment of the questions raised by Mr Bradlaugh as the best example of Sir Stafford Northcote's tact and adroitness. It was certainly successful. He defeated the Government in several divisions, owing to the discontent of the Whigs, and the scruples of the Nonconformists, while his adversaries exposed themselves to certain religious imputations, which probably did them more harm with the constituencies than anything else which happened during their term of office, except the fall of Khartoum. In the Parliament of 1885, the present Speaker refused to allow any interference with his taking the oath. In the Parliament of 1886, which is still sitting, Mr Bradlaugh has himself carried an Act which enables atheists to make an affirmation in Parliament, as elsewhere. But these subsequent triumphs, which have nothing to do with Sir Stafford Northcote, cannot blind a historian to the fact that Mr Bradlaugh never took his seat in the Parliament of 1880, except for 1880.]
MR BRADLAUGH'S AFFAIR.
a few weeks under statutory liability, when he incurred heavy penalties by law.
The story of Mr Bradlaugh's non-admission to the House in 1880 may be briefly sketched. Mr Bradlaugh made a claim to affirm instead of taking the oath in the ordinary manner. A doubt arose as to the propriety of this claim, and the question was referred to a Select Committee. The Committee reported against Mr Bradlaugh by a majority of one. Mr Bradlaugh, not being a Quaker, had no right to affirm in Parliament. He then demanded to be sworn, but before he could reach the table Sir Henry Wolff interposed. Mr Speaker Onslow, or Mr Speaker Lefevre, might have directed Sir Henry to resume his seat, and reminded him that there was no question before the House. Lord Hampden declined to exercise his authority, and left the matter to the judgment of the House. Again was a Select Committee appointed, and this time it reported that Mr Bradlaugh could not lawfully take the oath. The Committee, however, recommended that he should be permitted to make an affirmation at his peril; and after a special resolution enabling him to do so had been rejected, a general resolution enabling any one to do so was adopted. It would throw no light on Sir Stafford Northcote's leadership to follow the details of this tedious and protracted struggle. Mr Bradlaugh was once expelled for administering the oath to himself, and immediately re-elected at Northampton. Twice his seat was “ vacated as though he were dead," and his constituents faithfully sent him back to West
minster as though he were alive. He was consigned to the Clock Tower on the motion of Sir Stafford Northcote; and on the motion of Sir Stafford Northcote he was released from that dungeon the following day. He lost actions, and won them. He was defeated in the Court of Appeal, and was victorious in the House of Lords. He was repeatedly placed at the bar, and at last told that he could be heard no more from that classic spot. Twice he administered the oath to himself. He sued the Deputy Serjeant-at-Arms for assault, and caused some excusable popular misconception by recovering damages from Mr Newdegate for "maintenance." Meanwhile Sir Stafford Northcote continued his course, in which the legal tribunals supported him, by deciding, first, that an atheist could not make an affirmation in Parliament; secondly, that he could not take an oath anywhere; and thirdly, that the House of Commons was omnipotent over its own members within its own walls. Among the results of Sir Stafford Northcote's conduct was the defeat of the Government on the morning of the 4th of May 1883, when the second reading of the Affirmation Bill was rejected by a majority of three, although Mr Gladstone supported it in one of the finest speeches of his life. Nothing more readily proves the facility with which Sir Stafford H. Northcote was able to deal with unexpected difficulties than the manner in which he thus suddenly adopted the role of the House, and carried his point against a strong Government in their first session. So far as these issues can be settled by the Legislature, they have been settled in Mr
MR BRADLAUGH'S AFFAIR.
Bradlaugh's favour; and when an Affirmation Bill was no longer the battle-ground of party, it passed with ease. Sir Stafford's diaries, which follow, throw some light on his views upon this difficult subject. There is an interesting note in them to the effect that on the day of his final appearance in the House of Commons in 1885, the Speaker read a letter from Mr Bradlaugh, in which he threatened to insist on taking his seat as soon as the new Ministers were re-elected. Sir Stafford remarks in his journal that he ought in strictness to have renewed his motion for excluding Mr Bradlaugh from the precincts, but that he did not wish to conclude his thirty years of membership by proposing the exclusion of a brother member.
It is now generally, though tacitly, acknowledged that the Conservatives were wrong in resisting the clôture. On the other hand, few people would now contend that Mr Gladstone's form of the clôture was a satisfactory one. Both these statements may be tested by facts. Mr Gladstone's clôture Resolution was introduced on the 20th of February, and carried on the 11th of November 1882. It was debated for nineteen nights, and the House of Commons had to sit specially in the autumn for the purpose of passing it. It was only once enforced-two years and a half after it had become a standing order. Its origin, its grandeur, and its decadence are interesting and peculiar. On Monday, the 31st of January 1881, the House of Commons began a sitting which lasted for forty-one hours and a half. The occasion was the introof Person and Property in Ireland. At nine o'clock on the morning of Wednesday the 2d of February, the Speaker refused to call upon any more members, and peremptorily put the question. This was an extremely high-handed proceeding, which could only be excused by the tyrant's plea of necessity, and which was totally unwarranted by precedent or practice. The Speaker was subsequently given power to frame in certain circumstances "rules of urgency,” after thirty-six members had, on the 3d of February, been suspended for disorder. During the session of 1881, the House was content with the “rules of urgency.”
a . duction of Mr Forster's Bill for the Better Protection
But at the commencement of the next session Mr Gladstone moved that the Speaker or Chairman might announce what appeared to him the evident sense of the House in favour of an immediate division, and thereupon put the question from the chair. Sir Stafford Northcote's speech against this resolution was a very mild one, but from the benches behind him the destruction of parliamentary freedom was copiously and repeatedly predicted. The debate was interrupted by the horrible tragedy of the Phoenix Park, and the coercive legislation consequent thereupon. But the acerbity of the resistance offered was much diminished by the Speaker's announcement that he should take the “evident sense of the House from both sides of the chair. Lord Hampden, in point of fact, never applied the clôture at all. It was employed for the first time by the present Speaker on the 28th February 1885, when he came within an ace of receiving a most