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The Life and Times of Sir George Grey, K.C.B.

Chapter XLVI. — The Newark Election

page 356

Chapter XLVI.
The Newark Election.

"His is was no common party race
Jostling by dark intrigue for place."

"Who in his mightiest hour
A bauble held the lust of power,
Spurned at the sorlid lust of pelf,
And served his Albion for herself."

Upon another subject then attracting considerable attention in England Sir George Grey felt deeply. The elections of 1868 bad been decided by a large majority in Mr. Gladstone's favour on his famous declaration that "the time was come for the disestablishment of the Irish Church." The need for reform in Ireland had made itself felt throughout Great Britain, and when Parliament met on December 10th under the ministry of Mr. Gladstone, they bad a majority in the Commons of over one hundred.

Sir George Grey had never forgotten the misery which he beheld in that unhappy land nearly fifty years before. He had never relinquished the purpose then formed of attempting to relieve that misery and to induce such government and circumstances as would gradually heal the wounds which had been inflicted during many centuries of misgovernment, and give to the impulsive children of the Emerald Isle a fair opportunity for a happy and brilliant future.

With these great principles prompting him to action, and being unable to obtain employment in the colonies from Earl Granville, he page 357determined, if possible, to enter Parliament, and there gather around him a party which should be pledged to carry out these plans.

In March, 1870, a writ was issued for Newark, which seat had been rendered vacant by the lamented death of the good and gentle Denison. He entered vigorously upon his electoral campaign. Sir Henry Storks was contesting the seat, backed by all the force and influence which Mr. Gladstone could bring to bear. Sir George remonstrated strongly with Mr. Gladstone, as he himself was a strong supporter of the Liberal party. His remonstrances were unavailing. The great Liberal leader sent a letter to Sir George Grey by Mr. Stanhope full of eulogiums of his opponent, and stating the unqualified hope that the Liberals would vote for Sir Henry Storks in the coming election. This strange letter closed with the following remarkable paragraph: "I have sent a copy of this letter to Sir Henry Storks, with permission to him to make use of it in any way."

In truth, matters between Sir George Grey and the Liberal leaders had by this time come to a crisis. On March 27th of the previous year he had published a letter in the Daily News on the position of the agricultural labourers in Ireland, and the influence of that condition upon the welfare of the poor in England, which had created a painful sensation. In this letter, after commenting upon the history of the Estate of Farney, in the County of Monaghan. and showing from it the terrible condition to which the Irish people had been reduced, and the successive steps by which that condition had been brought about, he urged that, in the interests of the nation and of humanity, it was the duty of Parliament at once to institute remedial measures of a drastic character. This letter, in conjunction with Sir George Grey's other utterances, alarmed Ministers, who were already well aware of his extreme views upon the consolidation of the Empire and the importance of emigration.

On the 7th of October, 1869, Earl Granville, as Secretary for the Colonies, wrote a despatch upon the subject of the withdrawal of troops from New Zealand, which drew a further expression of opinion from Sir George Grey. As this matter is of the very greatest importance, not merely as giving evidence of the relations between Sir George Grey and Lord Granville, but as the practical commencement of the Home Rule movement, it is proper to place it page 358in full before the public. It is headed "the Irish Land Question." The following is its text:—

A despatch from Earl Granville, dated the 7th inst., which raises very grave questions, has induced me to re-publish a letter I wrote upon the state of Ireland, which was printed in the Daily News the 27th of last March.

Earl Granville has in that despatch stated in telling language some general views of the highest possible importance, and capable of the widest application. Although he there applies them solely to the case of New Zealand, their utter inapplicability to the state of that country, and other causes, must insure the ulterior object being gained of ascertaining with what degree of favour the opinions expressed will be regarded by the public of Great Britain, and to what extent they will desire to see them applied in Ireland, and in other parts of these islands.

The general principles laid down by Lord Granville as the basis for his subsequent arguments may be stated as follows:—

That there is a part of the Queen's dominions in which it is manifest that the deep and wide-spread discontent which there exists arises mainly from the lands of the original owners having been confiscated. That it is the opinion of the Government that in such a country the larger and more generally operating incitement to rebellion is the hope of recovering laud and status, while it finds that the restoration of the large extent of land originally confiscated is often unequivocally put forward by the inhabitants of such a country as a condition necessary to ensure their pacification.

The Government has further remarked that an independent people very unwillingly see their nationality pass from them, and not unnaturally long for some recognition of their national authority.

Lord Granville then observes that the causes above alluded to being the real sources of great dangers to which the country he alludes to is exposed from its inhabitants, it is evident to Her Majesty's Government that the task of continually keeping down the people of such a country by military force is beyond the strength of the Empire. This is conclusively shown by the experience of many years past, during which time, in the island spoken of, a strong local force has always had the assistance of a large body of regular troops, yet such is its present state that the discontented amongst its inhabitants suffice to impose a ruinous insecurity on a large number of landholders, and a ruinous expenditure on the local and British treasury.

In such a case large concessions are, from the causes above stated, unavoidable to appease a pervading discontent with which it is otherwise difficult to cope, and still larger concessions will be necessary to insure the respect of the inhabitants of the country when the large reductions contemplated in our military expenditure have been carried out.

It is then stated that in the case of the island alluded to the abandonment of the confiscated lands to its people, the recognition of a national page 359Government, and the maintenance of larger and expensive local forces, however indispensable some or all of them may be, are remedies which would be distasteful to many people, and which will not be resorted to so long as they continue to expect assistance from British troops. A decision, therefore, to maintain the past and present policy would be injurious to the people of the country, as tending to delay the adoption of those prudent counsels on which its restoration depends.

These remarks are not made in anyspirit of controversy. Lord Granville would not gratuitously have criticised the proceedings of another Government, but a case has arisen in which Her Majesty's present Government is asked for assistance—it is asked for assistance to sustain a policy which it does not choose to assist, and is not able to foresee.

Upon such a state of facts many questions arise, and among them it becomes material to enquire whether the assistance expected by a portion of the people is for the real advantage of those who seek it. Earl Granville, in judging from the best materials at his command, is satisfied that it is not so. and that it is not the part of a true friend of the inhabitants, by continuing a delusive support, to divert their attention from that course in which their safety lies—the course of deliberately measuring their own resources, and, at whatever immediate sacrifice, adjusting their policy to them.

It is not without a full sense of the responsibility which attaches to Her Majesty's Government in deciding on such an important question, nor without a firm belief that they are discharging that responsibility in a manner most conducive to the interests of the country, that they have determined to carry out the line of policy pointed out in Earl Granville's despatch.

Such are the undoubted general truths which have been put forward by Earl Granville in reference to New Zealand alone. I cannot but hope that in writing them he must have thought of Ireland, that country which at the present moment engages so largely the attention of Her Majesty's Government and of all thoughtful minds, for it is hardly possible for language more' truly and accurately to describe the state of Ireland than the language used by Lord Granville, yet it could easily be shown that his language has little or no true reference to the state of New Zealand.

The measures and principles inculcated by such high authority may, therefore, be probably meant for the wide scope which they legitimately embrace. Are they intended, then, to he bounded in their application to Ireland? or are they intended to be extended also to England, where such vast tracts of Church land, once the undoubted heritage of the poor of this country, and so great an extent of. public land, once the heritage of the entire nation, have been confiscated for the use of private persons? In both these countries it has been seen that from the confiscations made a small number of persons have been constantly, yet rapidly, growing into inordinate wealth, whilst the number of landholders has been rapidly diminishing, and page 360the mass of the nation is sinking into helpless and indescribable misery, which the heart sickens in contemplating, and the eye grows sad and weary in looking on.

Lord Granville truly states, that the content of a people and the strength of an empire would be vastly augmented by large concessions in the direction which he has traced out, and that still larger concessions would insure the respect of a people, even if very great reductions in the military expenditure were carried out.

It is possible that the Govenment, carrying one degree farther the ideas they have expressed in reference to the more distant colonial possession of Great Britain, may have thought that in the ease of Ireland it is wrong that the miseries and poverty of the productive classes in England should be augmented by their being heavily taxed, to pay for the maintenance of a large military force in Ireland, to prolong the wretchedness of that country The people of England and Ireland have all interests in common. It is only those who have self-interested views to advance who strive to make them enemies. In Lord Granville's words: "It is not the part of a true friend of the inhabitants of such countries, by continuing a delusive shadow of support, to divert their attention from that course in which their true safety lies—the course of deliberately measuring their own resources, and, at whatever immediate sacrifice, adjusting their policy to them."

To show how truly Lord Granville's description applies to the state of Ireland, I now proceed to reprint my letter of the 27th of March last.

Then followed a transcript of the letter on the agricultural labourers in Ireland already alluded to as having been published in the Daily News of March 27th. At the conclusion of the letter, Sir George added the following remarks:—

In conclusion, I would now say, let Her Majesty's Ministers fairly apply, so far as they are applicable, their own principles to Ireland, to a country close to them, regarding which they have complete knowledge, instead of a distant dependency of the Crown regarding which they know nothing Here, before them, in their presence, they have a misery, a wretchedness, which is a disgrace to mankind and to civilisation. All future times will look with wonder on statesmen who could speak as some of the present Government have spoken, or who could write as Earl Granville has written, if whilst in the very presence of want, and woe, and ignorance, exceeding, in some respects, the want, and woe, and ignorance of barbarism, they hesitate to act; or who, whilst looking at a deep and wide-spread discontent, frequently almost approaching to revolt, and who seeing under such circumstances that in one island the discontented amongst its inhabitants suffice to impose a ruinous insecurity on a large number of landholders, and a ruinous expenditure on the public treasury, should yet hesitate to use the powers they hold to put an end to such a state of things.

I would suggest one mode in which I believe they might most beneficially page 361apply in part their own principles to Ireland without delay. Let them at once give to that country a State Legislature, sitting in Dublin, composed of two elective House—a House of Representatives and a Senate, and having the same legislative powers as a State Legislature in the United States of America. Let them leave in the British Parliament the Irish members as at present, but without power to speak or vote upon any such question as the State Legislature sitting in Dublin is competent to legislate upon. In this manner the Parliament of Great Britain and Ireland sitting in London would have the power of settling all Imperial questions, such as the strength of the army and navy, customs duties, postal service, etc., etc. The State Legislature sitting in Dublin would have the power of dealing with all local questions, such as the Land Question, Education, etc., etc.

Many advantages would spring from such an arrangement, such as Irish member no longer interfering in English domestic affairs, and English members no longer interfering in Irish domestic affairs. The domestic affairs of each of the two countries would then the conducted far more with a view to the welfare of the inhabitants of each than to the passions of party warfare and to the desire of making or pulling down Ministries.

It should also be remembered that the union of several Parliaments in one, charged with the duty of minute special legislation upon so many points in different countries, has thrown upon that one Parliament an amount of labour which it cannot perform. Hence its attention is distracted from its really important duties. Each determined party can force its own job through a distracted and bewildered Assembly, Matters of the highest interest are neglected. All legislation is crude and unsatisfactory, and little or no explanation can he asked or afforded regarding the expenditure of the public funds, which are often squandered at the caprice of the party in power for the time, Whilst confused Ministers frequently, indeed generally, new to their different offices, occupied with their duties in the Cabinet, in leading the two Houses of the Legislature, and torn and worn by the enormous mass of duties of every kind thrown upon them in their respective offices, from the most important to the most trifling, in their efforts to attend to all, are forced to neglect all, and the Government of the country has fallen into the hands of irresponsible clerks in the different offices, who care nothing for ruining Ministries, or individual statesmen, if they promote views of their own, or advance the interests of their relations or friends. Hence is arising a disorder and an insubordination in the Empire such as has never before been seen.

Mr. Disraeli must have felt the necessity of some such arrangement for Ireland as I have proposed when he made his speech on returning thanks at his last election. He then said:—

"I admit that there is a certain degree of morbid discontent permanently in Ireland. But you must look a little to the race, and probably that will account for it. The Irishman is a very imaginative being, and he lives in an island with a damp climate, and contiguous to a melancholy ocean.

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With extraordinary talents he has no variety of pursuits open to him. There is no nation in the world leading such monotonous lives as the Irish, because they have only the cultivation of the soil before them. Men are discontented when they are not occupied. But put an Irishman in a country where there is a fair field fur his talents in a variety of occupations, and you will see the Irishman not only equal, but superior to most races."

In the latter half of this quotation lies its main truth. Give to Ireland a State Legislature and a State Executive in Dublin; secure thereby the residence of its ablest men in the country. Open a fair field, as ministers, legislators, orators, to its best and wisest men. Afford from the same source, as would necessarily and certainly be done, occupation to Irish architects, sculptors, painters, and secure a resident aristocracy, of worth, talent, and wisdom, and you will at the same time restore the wealth, trade, and commerce of Dublin and Ireland. Dumb Ireland will then speak again. Half inanimate Ireland will again awaken to national life, and breathe the breath of hope and freedom; whilst by again accustoming the Irish people to the management of their own affairs, and to administrative duties of the highest order, a willing people will be educated in that political knowledge which will enable them to put an end to the ills which afflict them, the causes and cure of which none can understand as well as themselves.

Only those who have lived in populations accustomed to manage their own affairs can realize the dignity under such circumstances imparted to the mass of the people. The highest education in earthly matters that can be given to man is that education which trains him to consider his duties, position, and lights as a citizen of a corporate community: to reflect on his duties to others, and their corresponding duties to himself; upon the effect which every existing law or new measure may have upon the community of which he is a member, and upon his own interests; to exercise that self-restraint and generous courtesy even to the meanest, which is necessary to secure the affection and regard of those who have not only a free voice in the choice of men who are to direct affairs, but who, from knowledge and position, have gained the political knowledge necessary to form a sound opinion upon the value or worthlessness of measures proposed to them. To give such power and consequently such knowledge to a people is a really conservative step in the right direction.

All this can be done for Ireland without taking from England any power she wants, or which can be of the least use to her; and if Her Majesty's Government really hold to the principles laid down, and so earnestly insisted upon, by Earl Granville, there is reason to hope that they will at once do something in this direction for suffering Ireland.

And what they do for Ireland will be equally done for the trade and commerce of England. It is impossible to benefit one country without benefiting at the same time the other. The miseries of Ireland now hang like a millstone round the neck of England. Restore Ireland to contentment, prosperity, political knowledge, hope in the future, and England will receive an page 363impetus which will impel her onwards to a course of commerce, greatness, and happiness far surpassing anything which she has yet been able to achieve. Raise the condition of the Irish labourer, render necessary to him the food, the clothing, the dwellings, the comforts which the very lowest order of civilization requires, and you will save the English labourer and the English working man from that cruel competition which is ruining and deteriorating the nation.

The wonderful skill with which Sir George had applied the whole reasoning used by Earl Granville in the case of New Zealand to the case of Ireland appears in every paragraph. His arguments are luminous, complete, and conclusive. No illustration more apposite, no logic more convincing, is to be found in the whole range of literature upon this much-disputed subject than are contained in the few pages of this pamphlet.

At the end of the pamphlet Sir George gives a draft of a proposed enactment —

An Act to Grant a Provincial Parliament to the Kingdom of Ireland.

Whereas, large number of her Majesty's subjects, natives of the Kingdom of Ireland, have from time to time rendered most important military and naval services to the Crown and Empire, and have shown their capacity for Government by administering with great ability the Government, or conducting the affairs of the Legislatures of many of her Majesty's Colonial possessions, and whereas it is desirable to foster and restore the commerce and trade of the said Kingdom, and to encourage the residence therein of proprietors of land and others, and to open a Held for the development of the talent, and patriotism of its inhabitants which does not now exist, and to restore contentment and prosperity to its people, by allowing them to exercise that control over the management of their local affairs, without the possession of which no nation can be either contented, prudent, or prosperous.

Be it therefore enacted, by the Queen's Most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same as follows:—

There shall be within the Kingdom of Ireland a Provincial Parliament to consist of a Viceroy, a Senate, and a House of Representatives.

The pamphlet closes with the following words:—"I have here suggested this one mode in which immediate effect could be given in part to the principles put forth by Lord Granville; but it is evident that other and most important modes of giving speedy page 364relief to Ireland could be also suggested. Into some of these I hope to inquire at a future time."

This pamphlet was published about the end of October, 1869. It is the first definite and practicable proposition ever made for the local self-government of Ireland.

No form so simple has ever since been submitted to the public. No plan so efficacious has been elaborated through the long course of the argument. Perhaps no mind in the world had thought out the question of local self-government so deeply as that of Sir George Grey. He had devoted years of study to the subject, which he believed to be of primary importance. His Constitution for New Zealand had been admitted by thinking men to be well-nigh perfect; and though shorn of its fair dimensions in its application to that colony had been almost completely adopted upon the vast theatre of the Dominion of Canada.

He was convinced that that, which proved so great a boon to Antipodean nations would be equally full of blessing to the unhappy land which lay, as it were, within rifle-shot of Westminster. Like many of his other plans, this was far in advance of the intelligence of the time. Twenty years of strife and sorrow and oppression have not been sufficient to bring public opinion to the plane from which Sir George Grey then viewed the Irish question.

His two friends, Carlyle and Froude, equally differed from him in opinion on this subject at the first. Both wrote against it. The arguments used by Grey converted Carlyle completely, but Mr. Fronde to this day seems to retain his old opinion.

The effect upon Lord Granville of this sudden demand of "Home Rule for Ireland" was instantaneous and remarkable. He attacked Sir George Grey violently in a speech in the House of Lords, and made no secret of the angry feelings aroused within him by this last act of his seemingly determined antagonist. Nor were Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Bright far behind their colleagues in their feelings of hostility to Sir George Grey. He became to them what Lord Carnarvon had long since pronounced him to be, in his opinion, "a dangerous man."

It was therefore felt that the contest at Newark was a contest, not between Liberals and Conservatives, but a contest between Sir George Grey—representing the extremest views upon the questions page 365of the Colonial Empire, of Emigration, of Home Rule for Ireland, and the cause of the English poor—against all other political parties and all other political shibboleths huddled together.

The following manifesto was issued by Sir George Grey to the electors of Newark:

To the Independent Electors of the Borough of Newark.

Gentleman,—I offer myself as a candidate for the honour of being your representative in Parliament. I appear before you, not as the nominee of any section or party, but as an independent Liberal candidate. I promise to support, not merely a Liberal Government, but Liberalism in its truest, widest, and noblest sense. I desire to obtain the distinction which you Can confer, from a wish to serve my country, by promoting measures calculated to foster and advance the morality, welfare, and commerce of this vast empire. As one to whom Her Majesty has repeatedly confided the important task of governing great dependencies, I take a deep interest in Imperial questions. I am opposed to the view's of those who advocate the severance of the colonies from Great Britain, believing that they add to her strength, wealth, and glory. In accordance with these opinions, I have striven to initiate a policy of emigration, by which, if conducted under proper conditions, our colonies would be regarded as the natural outlet for our excessive population, and instead of being looked upon as places of exile would be considered —what in truth they are—a home and heritage for the people of England. Equitable measures can also be adopted for reclaiming the waste lands of this country, thus establishing throughout the Empire the great remedial principle of "waste labour to waste lands." So strongly do I feel upon the question of the introduction of the ballot, that I should strive to prevent any further postponement of its adoption. I am in favour of a system of Free education for the people, so devised as assuredly to reach every home in the country. I may point to many public efforts which I have made to promote the welfare of the working men of Great Britain as a proof that their interests will never be neglected by me. Should I have the good fortune to be chosen as your representative, I shall always remember that it is my duty, irrespective of class or party, to labour for the good of the borough of Newark, and of each of its inhabitants.—I have the honour to be, gentlemen, your faithful servant,

G. Grey.

Saracen's Head, Newark, March 25, 1870.

The triangular duel was watched with extreme interest by the keenest intellects and the warmest hearts in the kingdom. On March 25th, 1870, Carlyle wrote as follows:

Chelsea, March 25th, 1870.

Dear Sir George,—The day before yesterday I fell in accidentally with Lord Derby, and talked a few minutes (all the time we had) about emigration and you, with pleasure to both parties as seemed to me.

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His Lordship, who is by no means an adherent of the hide bound political economist-system-rather a despiser of it, I should think-desired warmly that colonies and Mother Country should be kept together by every rational and feasible method; objects strongly to the notion of shovelling out paupers and other until canaille upon the colonies, but is "clear for emigration," could the great difficulties be overcome.

In short he seemed to me a man well worth your attending to and investigating further: and when I proposed sending you to him for a little conversation, he at once, and with evident pleasure, assented, and I really believe desires to hear you explain yourself.

How important the help or countenance of such a personage might be at this stage of the affair I need not suggest: a man of such position, a man of sense, too, of quietly independent judgment, and not suspected of disloyalty of mind or character by anybody. I decidedly think it might be worth your while to go. Here accordingly is my card enclosed, which please do not take for an impertinence (though probably you know nearly as much of Lord Derby as I), but for a piece of punctuality and sign of willingness on my part, to be used or not used as you yourself judge fittest.—Believe me, yours always truly, T. Carlyle.

On the 29th of March, Sir George Grey received, among others, the following two letters. The polling was rapidly approaching, and the interest of those who had sufficient knowledge and discernment to understand the meaning of the struggle was becoming intense:—

5, Cheyne Row, Chelsea, 29th March, 1870.

Dear Sir George,—My uncle bids me say that he has received your telegram; and you yourself know how heartily be wishes you success in the object you have in view by getting into Parliament. For he considers emigration by far the most important question now on foot in England, and you of all Englishmen the most likely to bring it to a useful result. But for many years he has been resolved "neither to vote nor be voted for, nor in any way to concern himself" with any Parliament that can now be in England. But I am copying the parts out of his books in which he speaks of emigration, and shall forward them to you to-morrow. Perhaps you may be able to make some use of them instead of a letter from him, for the thoughts there expressed have in no way changed except always to grow more strong and decided.—I am, yours very truly,

Mary Carlyle Aitken.

March 29th.

My Dear Sir,—I hear with the greatest pleasure that you are standing for Newark. I only wish I had a vote there or could in any way forward your return. The question with which you have identified yourself is page 367incommeasurably greater than any other at present before Parliament. The Irish land affair is a mere puddle by the roadside in comparison with it. The leaders of this great Liberal party are either Mind or worse if they send down a candidate to oppose you. I trust for once that the electors will use their own judgment, and that Radicals and Conservatives alike will recollect that they are Englishmen. I shall regard your success as a declaration on the part of this people that their eyes are open and that they will not be made fools of any longer.—Believe me, with most hearty good wishes, faithfully your,

J. A. Froude.

On the day following Mr. Stanhope, who, as before stated, had been sent down specially by Mr. Gladstone, brought with him from a valued friend and relative of Sir George, the following letter:—

Charing Cross, March 28th, 1870.

Dear Sir george,—The bearer of this is Mr. Stanhope, a Herefordshire man and a friend of mine. He wants a letter of introduction to you. The Government are, of course, anxious to get Storks into the House, so I hope you will not let in a Tory between you.—Believe me, very truly yours,

M. Biddulph.

The next day Carlyle wrote to him thus:—

5, Cheyne Row, Chelsea, March 30th, 1870.

Dear Sir George,—Having had for the last half century these notions about emigration, and believing now, in the days which have come upon us, both that the question of emigration is the most important of all others for this nation; and that you of all men are the man to urge and guide it towards a successful issue, I need not say whether or not I wish you success at Newark against all comers.—Yours sincerely.

T. Carlyle.

As the day of decision had now come, the excitement among the few initiated reached its height. Carlyle, unable to conceal the earnestness of his hope, sent the following as a last and final message.

Chelsea, April 1st, 1870.

Dear Sir George,—Send me with your first moment of leisure, one word of tidings; so soon as the result comes, do at least let me have that at once. I see no newspapers almost never, and am more interested in this one membership (as matters have come to stand) than in all the other 657.— Hoping good news, yours very truly.

T. Carlyle.

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To this note might be applied Longfellow's verse:—

"This was the peasant's last good night,
A voice replied far up the height,

The election, so far as Sir George Grey was concerned, never took place. Determined that Sir George Grey should not succeed in Newark, although if he persevered, Sir Henry Storks was certain to be beaten, the Government kept their man upon the lists. Pressed upon many quarters not to sacrifice a Liberal seat, and seeing that with the Liberal votes divided, both mast fail, Sir. George agreed to an arrangement. Sir Henry Storks and he himself both withdrew, and another Liberal was put forward. The plan succeeded, and the Government candidate was returned.