On my return to New York I did as requested. The story was published and commented on everywhere, and whether it was due to American insistence or not, I do not know, but shortly after Mr. Gladstone succeeded in carrying his Home Rule bill through the House of Commons, but it was defeated by the Conservatives in the House of Lords.
His Irish policy is a tribute to Mr. Gladstone's judgment and foresight, because in the light and conditions of to-day it is perfectly plain that if the Gladstone measure had been adopted at that time, the Irish question would not now be the most difficult and dangerous in British politics.
I had many talks with Mr. Parnell and made many speeches in his behalf and later for Mr. Redmond. I asked him on one occasion if the Irish desired complete independence and the formation of an independent government. He answered: "No, we want Home Rule, but to retain our connection in a way with the British Empire. The military, naval, and civil service of the British Empire gives great opportunities for our young men. Ireland in proportion to its population is more largely represented in these departments of the British Government than either England, Scotland, or Wales."
Incidental to the division in Mr. Gladstone's Cabinet, which had not at this time broken out, was the great vogue which a story of mine had. I was dining with Earl Spencer. He had been lord lieutenant of Ireland and was very popular. His wife especially had been as great a success as the vice-regent. He was called the Red Earl because of his flowing auburn beard. He was a very serious man, devoted to the public service and exceedingly capable. He almost adored Gladstone and grieved over the growing opposition in the Cabinet.
The guests at the dinner were all GIadstonians and lamenting these differences and full of apprehension they might result in a split in the party. The earl asked me if we ever had such conditions in the United States. I answered: "Yes." Mr. Blaine, at that time at the head of President Harrison's Cabinet as secretary of state, had very serious differences with his chief, and the people wondered why he remained. Mr. Blaine told me this story apropos of the situation: The author of a play invited a friend of his to witness the first production and sent him a complimentary ticket. During the first act there were signs of disapproval, which during the second act broke out into a riot. An excited man sitting alongside the guest of the playwright said: "Stranger, are you blind or deaf, or do you approve of the play?" The guest replied: "My friend, my sentiments and opinion in regard to this play do not differ from yours and the rest, but I am here on a free ticket. If you will wait a little while till I go out and buy a ticket, I will come back and help you raise hell."
The most brilliant member of Mr. Gladstone's Cabinet and one of the most accomplished, versatile, and eloquent men in Great Britain was Lord Rosebery. I saw much of him when he was foreign minister and also after he became prime minister. Lord Rosebery was not only a great debater on political questions, he was also the most scholarly orator of his country on educational, literary, and patriotic subjects. He gathered about him always the people whom a stranger pre-eminently desired to meet.
I recall one of my week-end visits to his home at Mentmore, which is one of the most delightful of my reminiscences abroad. He had taken down there the leaders of his party. The dinner lasted, the guests all being men, except Lady Rosebery, who presided, until after twelve o'clock. Every one privileged to be there felt that those four hours had passed more quickly and entertainingly than any in their experience.
It was a beautiful moonlight night and the very best of English weather, and we adjourned to the terrace. There were recalled personal experiences, incidents of travel from men who had been all over the world and in critical situations in many lands, diplomatic secrets revealing crises seriously threatening European wars, and how these had been averted, alliances made and territories acquired, adventures of thrilling interest and personal episodes surpassing fiction. The company reluctantly separated when the rising sun admonished them that the night had passed.