Charles Wentworth Dilke, the son of Charles Dilke, the Whig politician, was born in London on 4th September 1843. His grandfather, Charles Dilke, a prominent literary figure, had a major influence on his upbringing. The boy's health was judged too delicate for him to go normally to school; he was taught mainly at home by a variety of tutors and relatives. (1)
In the autumn of 1862 Dilke arrived at Trinity Hall College. While at Cambridge University he studied mathematics before switching to law. He was also President of the Cambridge University Student Union. (2)
On the death of his father he inherited enough property, much of it in the form of two literary publications, The Athenaeum and Notes and Queries, as well as more specialized publications, including the Gardeners' Chronicle and the Agricultural Gazette, to bring him an annual income of around £7,000.
After leaving university he went on a world tour. In 1868 he published Greater Britain: A Record of Travel in English-Speaking Countries. "Its title was chosen to encapsulate not only his itinerary but a large part of his political philosophy... He was for what he regarded as British energy and superiority, but against such archaic British institutions as the monarchy and an oligarchic parliament. The United States, although he maintained a sharp edge of criticism during his four months there, greatly excited him." (3)
Charles Wentworth Dilke was elected to the House of Commons for Chelsea in 1868. Dilke joined forces with John Stuart Mill, Peter Alfred Taylor and Jacob Bright, in supporting votes for women. In July 1869 he spoke at the first public meeting of the London Society for Women's Suffrage and in 1870 with Bright, proposed the inclusion of women's ratepayers in the municipal franchise. (4)
Dilke was one of the most left-wing members of the Liberal Party and on 6th November 1871 he gave a speech to a large crowd of working men in a lecture hall in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, about the need for universal suffrage and other social reforms. He caused a sensation when he also declared that he was a republican and complained about the cost of the royal family and suggested that the country should debate the merits of the monarchy. (5)
"I think that, speaking roughly, you may say that the positive and direct cost of the Royalty is about a million a year. In addition... it is worth remembering that the Royal Family pay no taxes... There is a widespread belief that a Republic here is only a matter of time. It is said that some day a Commonwealth will be our Government. Now, history and experience show that you cannot have a Republic without you possessing at the same time the Republican virtues. But you answer - Have we not the public spirit? Have we not the practice of self-government? Are we not gaining general education? Well, if you can show me a fair chance that a republic will be free from the general corruption which hangs about the Monarchy, I say, for my part - and I believe that the middle classes will say - let it come." (6)
The following day he was attacked by conservative newspapers. The Times reacted by arguing: "Looking only at the language as it is reported, and remembering that it comes from a member of the Legislature, we cannot but recognise it as a recklessness bordering on criminality. Sir Charles 'sets aside the question whether a Republic would not work better,' as if this were not the whole question to be decided, and as if anything could justify the attempt to excite the working class audience against their existing Government, except a firm conviction, supported by solid proofs, that it could be replaced by something better... Sir Charles is prospectively willing to risk the destruction of a Monarchy at least a thousand years old, though he defers till a more convenient season any statement of the little plan which he may have for a new Constitution... But even these allegations of waste and nepotism are not fair and legitimate points... to be handled, and that with little candour or delicacy, before an assembly of working men". (7)
Republican clubs were established in several major cities. The historian, Charles L. Graves, has pointed out that: "There was undoubtedly a strong wave of anti-monarchical sentiment in England in 1871. It was not confined to agitators or extremists, but found utterance in organs which represented moderate opinion." He goes on to argue that some of this hostility dated back to the death of Prince Albert: "Ten years seclusion from social activity and public duty seemed an excessive indulgence in the luxury of sorrow." (8)
Dilke continued to make speeches on the subject of Queen Victoria all over England. These meetings often ended in riots. The Spectator reported on a meeting that took place in Bolton where "a Conservative mob the assailants, who sent brickbats through the windows and afterwards swarmed into the hall". Dilke got out unharmed, but there was afterwards a free fight among the roughs.... The reporters' table was thrown down and smashed into fragments, the pieces being used as cudgels, surely a symbolical act, for public opinion ends where violence begins, and the Press itself ceases to have any function, except to cry aloud and spare not against this overflow of political brutality". (9)
Charles Dilke complained about the money given by the government to members of the royal family. For example, her son Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught, received £15,000 a year (£850,000 at today's prices) and Princess Louise was given a marriage dowry of £30,000 (£1.6 million). An anonymous pamphlet entitled What Does She Do With It? was published accusing the Queen of "squirrelling away £200,000 a year". It was later revealed that it had been written by another left-wing Liberal MP, George Otto Trevelyan. (10)
Charles Dilke raised the issue of the monarchy in the House of Commons and on 19th March 1872, he managed to get a debate on the subject. Dilke's only supporters were Auberon Herbert, George Anderson and Wilfrid Lawson. Dilke argued that the cost of the Royal Family to the nation had risen to £1,000,000 a year - ten times what the Americans spent on their president. However, he received little support for his republicanism and his motion was heavily defeated. (11)
Punch Magazine reported: "Auberon Herbert announced his preference for a Republic. The row then set in fiercely, and Mr. Punch inclines to draw a veil over proceedings that did not greatly redound to the credit of the House of Commons. It is true that they were an index of public opinion in the matter, but Parliament is expected to be decorous, and not to allow cock-crowing as an argument... Finally, there were division on the motion itself, and the voters for it, including Tellers, were three Aristocrats, namely, Baronets Dilke and Lawson, and Mr. Herbert, son of an Earl, and they had one friend, Mr. Anderson, of Glasgow. Against these four were, without Tellers, two-hundred and seventy-six... The Republican attack on the Queen was about as contemptible as that by the lad who presented the flintless and empty pistol the other day; but in the latter case as in the former, the affair was one for the police, and Constable Gladstone, was quite equal to the occasion". (12)
On 30th January 1872, Dilke married Katherine Mary Eliza Sheil. "She possessed, according to Dilke, an unusual combination of attributes: extreme attractiveness of appearance, vivacity, intimidating violence of temper, and debilitating ill health. She sang and she played croquet to professional standards." Kate died in childbirth on 20th September 1874. Dilke later wrote that in the weeks following her death he was "deranged". (13)
In 1876 Dilke became involved with Annie Besant and Charles Bradlaugh in their campaign against the money being spent on the royal family. They were especially against the sum of £142,000 being spent on sending Edward, Prince of Wales, to India. The strip of signatures was almost a mile long and it was rolled around a pole and driven with great ceremony to the House of Commons. The publicity was good, but the tour went ahead. (14)
Dilke now concentrated on trying for a new parliamentary reform act. In 1878 Charles Dilke and George Otto Trevelyan, introduced a motion that stated that urban franchise achieved by the 1867 Reform Act should be extended to the countryside. They were defeated by 275 votes to 222. Dilke calculated that the 275 had been elected by 1,083, 758 electors, the 222 by 1,126,151. "The discrepancy arose from the enduring unevenness of parliamentary elections - from the plural voting, pocket boroughs, universities and other anachronistic constituencies which still existed and whose MPs voted almost unanimously against reform." (15)
The 1880 General Election was won by William Gladstone and the Liberal Party that had successfully obtained 352 seats with 54.7% of the vote. The party had gained from an increase in the number of working-class male voters. Queen Victoria and Gladstone were in constant conflict during his premiership. She often wrote to him complaining about his progressive policies. When he became prime minister in 1880 she warned him against the appointment of left-wing Liberals such as Charles Dilke, Joseph Chamberlain, Henry Fawcett, James Stuart, Thorold Rogers and Anthony Mundella, into his government. (16)
Gladstone rejected the Queen's advice on Dilke and Chamberlain. She wrote a letter of protest to Gladstone: "The Queen regrets to see the names of such very advanced radicals as Mr Chamberlain and Sir Charles Dilke" in the new government. (17) On his return to his office he wrote to Dilke: "I am convinced, from a hundred tokens, that she looks forward to the day of my retirement as a day if not of jubilee yet of relief". (18)
Dilke was appointed as under-secretary at the Foreign Office. Soon after taking office he had written to the Foreign Secretary, Granville Leveson-Gower, 2nd Earl Granville, to say that "he thought the Republican Government best for France". When the Queen heard about this she called on Gladstone to sack Dilke on the grounds that the republican French Government was composed of violent revolutionaries". (19)
Queen Victoria still remembered Dilke's criticism of the royal family nine years previously and strongly disagreed with his views on universal suffrage. Dilke's opposition to the royal family was undermined on 2nd March, 1882, when Roderick McLean attempted to assassinate the Queen with a pistol. As a result she became extremely popular. Apparently she said that it was worth being shot at "to see how much she was loved". (20)
In December 1882, Dilke entered the cabinet as president of the Local Government Board. "It was perhaps the least glamorous of all departments, and one which certainly met the queen's demand that he should not be close to her person. But it was also one suited to Dilke's talents, and which he made more constructively central to the government than were the great traditional departments. He set up, and himself presided over, a royal commission on the housing of the working classes in 1884, which had perhaps the most remarkable membership of any royal commission ever assembled." (21)
Dilke worked well with William Gladstone although on one occasion he did describe him as a "magnificent lunatic". (22) The relationship between the two men was helped by their mutual commitment to parliamentary reform. The 1867 Reform Act had granted the vote to working class males in the towns but not in the counties. Gladstone argued that people living in towns and in rural areas should have equal rights. Robert Cecil, 3rd Marquis of Salisbury, leader of the Conservative Party, opposed any increase in the number of people who could vote in parliamentary elections. Salisbury's critics claimed that he feared that this reform would reduce the power of the Tories in rural constituencies. (23)
In 1884 William Gladstone introduced his proposals that would give working class males the same voting rights as those living in the boroughs. The bill faced serious opposition in the House of Commons. The Tory MP, William Ansell Day, argued: "The men who demand it are not the working classes... It is the men who hope to use the masses who urge that the suffrage should be conferred upon a numerous and ignorant class." (24)
Gladstone told the House of Commons "that every Reform Bill had improved the House as a Representative Assembly". When opponents of the proposed bill cried "No, no !" Gladstone "insisted that whatever might be the effect on the House from some points of view, it was past doubt that the two Reform Acts had made the House far more adequate to express the wants and wishes of the nation as a whole". He added that when the House of Lords had blocked the Liberal's 1866 Reform Bill the following year "the Conservatives found it absolutely necessary to deal with the question, and so it would be again". (25)
The bill was passed by the Commons on 26th June, with the opposition did not divide the House. The Conservatives were hesitant about recording themselves in direct hostility to franchise enlargement. However, Gladstone knew he would have more trouble with the House of Lords. Gladstone wrote to twelve of the leading bishops and asked for their support in passing this legislation. Ten of the twelve agreed to do this. However, when the vote was taken the Lords rejected the bill by 205 votes to 146.
Queen Victoria thought that the Lords had every right to reject the bill and she told Gladstone that they represented "the true feeling of the country" better than the House of Commons. Gladstone told his private secretary, Edward Walter Hamilton, that if the Queen had her way she would abolish the Commons. Over the next two months the Queen wrote sixteen letters to Gladstone complaining about speeches made by left-wing Liberal MPs. (26)
The London Trades Council quickly organized a mass demonstration in Hyde Park. On 21st July, an estimated 30,000 people marched through the city to merge with at least that many already assembled in the park. Thorold Rogers, compared the House of Lords to "Sodom and Gomorrah" and Joseph Chamberlain told the crowd: "We will never, never, never be the only race in the civilized world subservient to the insolent pretensions of a hereditary caste". (27)
Queen Victoria was especially angry about the speech made by Chamberlain, who was President of the Board of Trade in Gladstone's government. She sent letters to Gladstone complaining about Chamberlain on 6th, 8th and 10th August, 1884. (28) Edward Walter Hamilton, Gladstone's private secretary replied to the Queen explaining that the Prime Minister "has neither the time nor the eyesight to make himself acquainted by careful perusal with all the speeches of his colleagues." (29)
In August 1884, William Gladstone sent a long and threatening memorandum to the Queen: "The House of Lords has for a long period been the habitual and vigilant enemy of every Liberal Government... It cannot be supposed that to any Liberal this is a satisfactory subject of contemplation. Nevertheless some Liberals, of whom I am one, would rather choose to bear all this for the future as it has been borne in the past, than raise the question of an organic reform of the House of Lords... I wish (an hereditary House of Lords) to continue, for the avoidance of greater evils... Further; organic change of this kind in the House of Lords may strip and lay bare, and in laying bare may weaken, the foundations even of the Throne." (30)
Other politicians began putting pressure on Victoria and the House of Lords. One of Gladstone's MPs advised him to "Mend them or end them." However, Gladstone liked "the hereditary principle, notwithstanding its defects, to be maintained, for I think it in certain respects an element of good, a barrier against mischief". Gladstone was also secretly opposed to a mass creation of peers to give it a Liberal majority. However, these threats did result in conservative leaders being willing to negotiate over this issue. Hamilton wrote in his diary that "the atmosphere is full of compromise". (31)
Other moderate Liberal MPs feared that if the 1884 Reform Act was not passed Britain was in danger of a violent revolution. Samuel Smith feared the development of socialist parties such as the Social Democratic Party in Germany: "In the country, the agitation has reached a point which might be described as alarming. I have no desire to see the agitation assume a revolutionary character which it would certainly assume if it continued much longer.... I am afraid that there would emerge from out of the strife a new party like the social democrats of Germany and that the guidance of parties would pass from the hands of wise statesmen into that of extreme and violent men". (32)
John Morley was one of the MPs who led the fight against the House of Lords. The Spectator reported "He (John Morley) was himself, be said, convinced that compromise was the life of politics; but the Franchise Bill was a compromise, and if the Lords threw it out again, that would mean that the minority were to govern... The English people were a patient and a Conservative people, but they would not endure a stoppage of legislation by a House which had long been as injurious in practice as indefensible in theory. If the struggle once began, it was inevitable that the days of privilege should be numbered." (33)
Eventually, Gladstone reached an agreement with the House of Lords. This time the Conservative members agreed to pass Gladstone's proposals in return for the promise that it would be followed by a Redistribution of Seats Bill. Gladstone accepted their terms and the 1884 Reform Act was allowed to become law. This measure gave the counties the same franchise as the boroughs - adult male householders and £10 lodgers - and added about six million to the total number who could vote in parliamentary elections. (34)
Charles Wentworth Dilke was responsible for the Redistribution of Seats Bill. Roy Jenkins claims that it was "Dilke's best work" and was involved in detailed negotiations with Robert Cecil, 3rd Marquis of Salisbury. "Dilke was the key figure in negotiating with Salisbury in November 1885 a settlement that seemed acceptable from a Liberal point of view, and piloting the resultant bill through the House of Commons with skill and authority. In both the negotiations and the parliamentary process he had the decisive (and for him typical) advantage of knowing twice as much about the subject as anyone else." (35)
The bill was less radical than Gladstone would have liked. He realised he had to pay regard to Gladstone's instinctive conservatism. Another problem was Spencer Cavendish, 8th Duke of Devonshire, who was seen as the leader of the Whigs (aristocratic Liberals), who feared that any new system would result in more left-wing politicians being selected as Liberal candidates. Dilke decided that it would be wise to leave alone university representation or other forms of plural voting that was popular with more conservative Liberals. (36)
The Redistribution Act made the following changes to the House of Commons: (i) seventy-nine towns with populations smaller than 15,000 lost their right to elect an MP; (ii) thirty-six with populations between 15,000 and 50,000 lost one of their MPs and became single member constituencies; (iii) towns with populations between 50,000 and 165,000 were given two seats; (iv) larger towns and the country constituencies were divided into single member constituencies. (37)
In June 1885 Gladstone resigned after supporters of Irish Home Rule and the Conservative Party joined forces to defeat his Liberal government's Finance Bill. Gladstone was expected to retire from politics and Dilke was considered to be a possible candidate for the leadership. This speculation came to an end when Virginia Crawford, the 22-year-old wife of Donald Crawford, a lawyer, and also Dilke's brother's sister-in-law. Virginia claimed that Dilke seduced her in 1882 (the first year of her marriage) and had then conducted an intermittent affair with her for two and a half years. Virginia also told her husband that Dilke had involved her in a ménage-à-trois with a servant girl, Fanny Grey (she denied the story). Virginia said she had resisted this but the MP, whom she portrayed as a sexual monster, forced her to co-operate. "He taught me every French vice," she said. "He used to say that I knew more than most women of 30." (38)
Donald Crawford sued for divorce, and the case was heard on 12th February 1886. Virginia Crawford was not in court, and the sole evidence was her husband's account of Virginia's confession. There were also some accounts by servants, which were both circumstantial and insubstantial. Dilke resolutely denied the charges, although his position was complicated from the beginning by the fact that he had, both before and after his first marriage, been the lover of her mother, Martha Mary Smith. Dilke was advised by his legal team not to give evidence in court. (39)
Betty Askwith has pointed out that "as English law stood... a wife’s confession to her husband is evidence of her guilt but did not carry the corollary that the co-respondent whom she accuses is also guilty". (40) As a result the judge ruled that "I cannot see any case whatsoever against Sir Charles Dilke" and ordered Crawford to pay the costs but Virginia was found guilty and the judge granted Crawford his divorce. The judge appeared to be saying "that Mrs. Crawford had committed adultery with Dilke, but that he had not done so with her". (41)
The Spectator reported that the case could bring an end to his political career: "There was no corroboration of those charges, except as to a few dates; and for all that was proved, they might be mere inventions, or the dreams of a woman suffering from a well-known form of hallucination. But then, there was no disproof, and the Judge accepted the confession as substantially true. Sir Charles Dilke's counsel called no witnesses, attempted no cross-examination of Mr. Crawford, and advised their client not to enter the witness-box, and so defend both himself and Mrs. Crawford, lest 'early indiscretions should be raked up,' - obviously a mere excuse. The world is tolerant enough, if not over-tolerant, and no indiscretions could have hurt Sir Charles Dilke as the confession if proved would do. As a result, Mr. Justice Butt, while expressly stating that he believed Mr. Crawford's report of the confession, accepted the confession itself as so true, that though almost uncorroborated, be founded on it a decree of divorce against Mrs. Crawford". (42)
William T. Stead began a campaign against Dilke for not going into the witness box. By April this had persuaded him that he should seek to reopen the case by getting the Queen's Proctor to intervene. The second inquiry began on 16th July 1886. Dilke falsely assumed that his counsel would be able to submit Virginia Crawford to a devastating cross-examination. Instead, both witnesses were examined by the Queen's Proctor. Christina Rogerson also gave evidence and testified that Virginia Crawford had both confessed her adultery with Dilke and conducted another adulterous relationship with Captain Henry Forster, sometimes meeting him at Rogerson’s home. Under oath, Virginia Crawford confirmed her friend’s evidence - and also informed the court that Dilke had told her that Rogerson was another of his ex-mistresses. (43)
Dilke's biographer, Roy Jenkins, has argued: "The result was a disaster. He proved a very bad witness, she a very good one. The summing up by the president of the Probate, Divorce, and Admiralty Division was highly unfavourable to Dilke. The verdict of the jury - in form that the divorce should stand, in fact that Mrs Crawford was a witness of the truth and that Dilke was not - was reached quickly and unanimously". Jenkins is convinced that Virginia Crawford lied in court and was part of a conspiracy to end his political career. (44)
Some newspapers called for Charles Dilke to be prosecuted for perjury. "The sickening details of the Crawford divorce case, which ended yesterday with a verdict in favour of Mr. Crawford, in other words, against Sir Charles Dilke. If that verdict be true, Sir Charles Dilke must have been guilty of a particularly base form of perjury, and for perjury, of course, he must at once be prosecuted... That any man should escape without heavy punishment for the guilt of all these perjuries, which, if perjuries at all, are perjuries of the very meanest and basest kind, perjuries not committed in defence of the woman he had seduced, but for the purpose of making her seem even worse than she really was, would be a scandal to English justice of which it is hardly possible that this generation would exhaust all the miserable consequences". (45)
Brian Cathcart, recently investigated the case and believes that Charles Dilke was innocent of the charges. "This is not to say that the Liberal politician was pure as driven snow. Aged 42 at the time and single, he was known as a ladies' man and among his previous paramours was Virginia's mother. But Virginia also had a sexual track record. The daughter of a Tyneside shipbuilder, at the age of 18 she had been forced against her will to marry Donald Crawford, a man twice her age. With a married sister, Helen, she then set about finding consolation with lovers, particularly among the medical students at St George's Hospital. Both she and Helen also had affairs with an army captain, Henry Forster, whom they met frequently at a brothel in Knightsbridge, and Dilke's friends later produced evidence that the two young women shared the attentions of several men, possibly in the same bed at the same time."
Cathcart then goes on to explain why he was framed: "Various theories have circulated. Politically, he was important and controversial and many people, Liberal and Tory, were glad to see him fall. Queen Victoria was particularly amused, as he was the leading republican of his time.... Virginia was desperate for a divorce, but in the hope of avoiding publicity about her sexual past and of protecting her true lover, Forster, she decided to name some other, innocent man. Her choice fell on Dilke because of his past relationship with her mother and because she was encouraged by a friend, Christina Rogerson, who felt she had been jilted in love by Dilke." (46)
It is believed that one of the reasons that Christina Rogerson gave evidence against Dilke is that she expected to become his wife. However, Dilke was also involved with Emilia Francis Pattison, the art historian and an active member of the Women's Trade Union League and spoke "at public meetings across the country, regularly attending and addressing the annual Trades Union Congress as part of her promotion of male-female working-class co-operation." They were both also involved in the campaign for votes for women. The couple got married on 3rd October 1885. (47)
Charles Dilke lost his seat at the 1886 General Election. Although he had been a long-term campaigner for women's rights, a group of women activists, including Annie Besant, Millicent Garrett Fawcett, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, Elizabeth Blackwell, Frances Buss and Eva McLaren, tried to prevent him from returning to the House of Commons. However, in 1892 he was elected to represent the Forest of Dean, but because of the Crawford divorce case he was never to serve again as a government minister. (48)
Emilia and Charles Dilke were close friends of Richard Pankhurst and his wife Emmeline Pankhurst and they both continued to give money to organisations supporting women's suffrage. However, many of the leaders of the movement did not want to be associated with Dilke because of the Crawford case. Elizabeth Wolstenholme-Elmy felt very strongly about this as "she was clearly not at all in sympathy with his unorthodox extra-marital history." (49)
Dilke retained his radical beliefs and over the next ten years he continued to advocate progressive policies: "He achieved great local popularity, particularly with the miners of what was then a detached but significant small coalfield. He vigorously pursued their interests and those of labour generally, as well as being an independent parliamentary expert on military, colonial, and foreign questions, and was an important link with Labour members and trade unionists". (50)
Emilia Dilke was more concerned with universal suffrage than any limited enfranchisement of women. The main reason for this was the fear that most middle-class women would vote for the Conservative Party. In 1903 she left the Liberal Party and joined the Independent Labour Party. (51)
Charles Wentworth Dilke died of heart failure on 26th January, 1911.
I think that, speaking roughly, you may say that the positive and direct cost of the Royalty is about a million a year. In addition... it is worth remembering that the Royal Family pay no taxes... In ... the Army, we have a Royal Duke, not necessarily the fittest man, at the head of it by right of birth, and the Prince of Wales, who would never be allowed a command in time of war, put to lead the Cavalry Divisions in the Autumn Manoeuvres, thus robbing working officers of the position and of the training they had a title to expect. Now, institutions are not good or bad in themselves, so much as good or bad by their working, and we are told that a limited Monarchy works well. I set aside, in this speech, the question of whether a Republic would work better; but I confess freely that I doubt whether... the monarchy should not set its house in order. There is a widespread belief that a Republic here is only a matter of time. It is said that some day a Commonwealth will be our Government. Now, history and experience show that you cannot have a Republic without you possessing at the same time the Republican virtues. But you answer - Have we not the public spirit? Have we not the practice of self-government? Are we not gaining general education? Well, if you can show me a fair chance that a republic will be free from the general corruption which hangs about the Monarchy, I say, for my part - and I believe that the middle classes will say - let it come.
Now we pass over the presumption which emboldens Sir Charles Dilke to speak in the name of the middle classes, and forbear to enquire how far he may be himself indebted to Royal favour. Looking only at the language as it is reported, and remembering that it comes from a member of the Legislature, we cannot but recognise it as a recklessness bordering on criminality. Sir Charles "sets aside the question whether a Republic would not work better," as if this were not the whole question to be decided, and as if anything could justify the attempt to excite the working class audience against their existing Government, except a firm conviction, supported by solid proofs, that it could be replaced by something better... Sir Charles is prospectively willing to risk the destruction of a Monarchy at least a thousand years old, though he defers till a more convenient season any statement of the little plan which he may have for a new Constitution... But even these allegations of waste and nepotism are not fair and legitimate points... to be handled, and that with little candour or delicacy, before an assembly of working men.
Auberon Herbert announced his preference for a Republic. The row then set in fiercely, and Mr. Punch inclines to draw a veil over proceedings that did not greatly redound to the credit of the House of Commons. It is true that they were an index of public opinion in the matter, but Parliament is expected to be decorous, and not to allow cock-crowing as an argument... Finally, there were division on the motion itself, and the voters for it, including Tellers, were three Aristocrats, namely, Baronets Dilke and Lawson, and Mr. Herbert, son of an Earl, and they had one friend, Mr. Anderson, of Glasgow. Against these four were, without Tellers, two-hundred and seventy-six... The Republican attack on the Queen was about as contemptible as that by the lad who presented the flintless and empty pistol the other day; but in the latter case as in the former, the affair was one for the police, and Constable Gladstone, was quite equal to the occasion.
England is lapsing into rowdyism. The other day Hackney' held a rowdy meeting, and now Chelsea and Bolton have followed suit. On Tuesday, the anti-Republican constituents of Sir Charles Dilke at Chelsea tried to hold a ticket-meeting to oppose his Republican policy.. But the doors were forced by non-ticket holders, a chairman of their own put into the chair, and a very tumultuous. and violent meeting held... At Bolton, in the Temperance Hall, on Thursday, it was even worse. But here Sir C. Dilke and his friends were the ticket-holders, and the Conservative mob the assailants, who sent brickbats through the windows and afterwards swarmed into the hall. Sir Charles and his friends got out unharmed, but there was afterwards a free fight among the roughs. The reporters' table was thrown down and smashed into fragments, the pieces being used as cudgels, surely a symbolical act, for public opinion ends where violence begins, and the Press itself ceases to have any function, except to cry aloud and spare not against this overflow of political brutality.
Sir Charles Dilke on Monday addressed his electors in an interesting, but very discursive and rather wild speech, of which we find it simply impossible to give any general idea. He talked upon everything, from the suffrage, upon which he was very Radical, wanting more lodgers enfranchised as well as householders, to the defence of Turkey, upon which he was utterly conservative, talking of General Ignatieff's "murder" of Turkey. Granting General Ignatieff's agency, an execution is not a murder. He thought the Conservatives would keep power for two Parliaments on condition that they were Liberals, and thought Lord Hartington a capital leader because the duty of a Liberal leader was to follow his party, and Lord Hartington performed that duty steadily. If so, we may remark, if Lord Hartington really follows, say, only Mr. Lowe, Mr. Bright, and Sir Charles Dilke, on the single question of the suffrage, he must be in very small pieces by this time. Altogether, Sir Charles made a speech full of evidence of his mental courage, wide information, and keen interest in the people, and full also of evidence of the want somewhere which renders all his capacities so little useful. All his trains of thought run on needed lines, and go quick, and can carry many people, but they never correspond, and one gets nowhere.
We consider the incidents of the trial most grave for Sir Charles Dilke and for the nation, which is thereby deprived of his services as a statesman. The facts are patent to all who read legal proceedings. Mrs. Crawford made a confession to her husband, the Member for North-East Lanark, involving charges of unusual profligacy against Sir Charles Dilke, which Mr. Crawford repeated in Court. There was no corroboration of those charges, except as to a few dates; and for all that was proved, they might be mere inventions, or the dreams of a woman suffering from a well-known form of hallucination. But then, there was no disproof, and the Judge accepted the confession as substantially true. Sir Charles Dilke's counsel called no witnesses, attempted no cross-examination of Mr. Crawford, and advised their client not to enter the witness-box, and so defend both himself and Mrs. Crawford, lest "early indiscretions should be raked up," - obviously a mere excuse. The world is tolerant enough, if not over-tolerant, and no indiscretions could have hurt Sir Charles Dilke as the confession if proved would do. As a result, Mr. Justice Butt, while expressly stating that he believed Mr. Crawford's report of the confession, accepted the confession itself as so true, that though almost uncorroborated, be founded on it a decree of divorce against Mrs. Crawford. Gossip may well be neglected ; but a statement offered in Court, accepted by a first-class Judge, and made the ground of what is really a penal decree, is not gossip; and until it is disposed of in some effective way, Sir Charles Dilke, to the distinct loss of the country, cannot be held "exonerated?"
The sickening details of the Crawford divorce case, which ended yesterday with a verdict in favour of Mr. Crawford, in other words, against Sir Charles Dilke. If that verdict be true, Sir Charles Dilke must have been guilty of a particularly base form of perjury, and for perjury, of course, he must at once be prosecuted. This is a very sad conclusion to a most promising political career, and a conclusion which will shock politicians of all parties. Yet even at the frightful cost of a new trial reverting to these disgusting and debasing details, the prosecution for perjury must take place.
That any man should escape without heavy punishment for the guilt of all these perjuries, which, if perjuries at all, are perjuries of the very meanest and basest kind, perjuries not committed in defence of the woman he had seduced, but for the purpose of making her seem even worse than she really was, would be a scandal to English justice of which it is hardly possible that this generation would exhaust all the miserable consequences. If Sir Charles Dilke be innocent, he will assuredly court such a prosecution, as it will afford him by far the best means he could have of testing the evidence against him in the manner most favourable to his own acquittal. It is only fair to remember that in this trial Sir Charles Dilke has not been represented by his own counsel, but has had to rely on the counsel of the Queen's Advocate.