Life of Sir George Grey: Governor, High commissioner, and Premier. An Historical Biography.
He set himself with an inexorable purpose to turn out of office the Ministry that had used him so ill. He refused to sit on the same Parliamentary committees with the Premier, and when the Premier rose to speak, Grey left the chamber. In the following session, of 1887, he enjoyed the gratification of seeing the Ministry decisively defeated in the House. A dissolution was obtained, and he saw his opportunity. For the third time he went on an electioneering tour through the Colony. He spoke at the chief cities and at some of the larger townships. He was listened to with curiosity, with respect, with admiration. He gained no followers, but he gained his end. The Ministry, by the confession of its head, had never a majority in the Assembly. We may add that it never possessed the confidence of the Colony. Grey had therefore an easy task. The Ministry suffered a decisive defeat. The Premier and several of his Ministers lost their seats. Their party was scattered to the winds. It was not a defeat. It was a rout.page 195
While he powerfully contributed to the result, Grey took no visible part in the débâcle. He had come back from his oratorical tour in a state of complete nervous prostration. For a week or more he lay between life and death. Then his inexhaustible vitality reasserted itself, and, after some weeks of confinement to the sickroom and the house, he emerged with his strength unimpaired. He enjoyed his convalescence and spoke of it as a luxurious sensation. He next played a pretty little comedy. While the elections were being fought out, he ostentatiously sat in the Parliamentary Library, in the building lately burnt to the ground, professedly pursuing from book to book a research on the ethnical relations between the Portuguese and the blacks of South Africa! "General elections!" "Contested seats!" He had not heard of them. "Happy or unfortunate results?" He took no interest in them. Of course, it was all a pretence. In reality, no one inwardly rejoiced more at the result, though his exultation was discreetly veiled. He had cause for lamentation as well. He had lost his last follower. The little band he had nominally led in the preceding Parliament vanished into space, and Grey realised his own political ideal of one-adult-one-vote. Complete desertion was the guerdon of the man who had twice governed the Colony through long and critical periods, rescued it from bankruptcy, given it a political and an ecclesiastical constitution, endowed it with its Provincial governments, subjugated and pacified the Native race, and whose mere residence in it reflected distinction on the Colony.
His revenge was not then consummated. The day came, in 1893, when there was to be a conflict for the Premiership between the ex-Premier referred to and the Minister who was acting as Premier. Grey threw all his weight into the scale of the Acting-Premier. When Mr. Seddon, whom no one had before suspected of lacking self-confidence, hesitated to accept the Premiership which the Governor almost thrust upon him, he appealed for counsel to Grey. Grey's advice was unqualified and almost peremptory. Once and again he urged page 196Seddon to accept the office; he assured him of his competence; he seemed afraid that Seddon would refuse. Just so had he pressed Seddon, fifteen years before, when Seddon had likewise been hesitant, to stand for a constituency. He became one of the '' Greyhounds," so loyal did he prove. Ever afterwards he leant on Grey and would seek counsel of him during the Parliamentary session. To Grey it was owing that Seddon did not stand aside in favour of his rival. Grey strenuously supported his nominee and follower. "I have never met with a manlier man,'' he said of him. And when Seddon went to London, Grey renewed acquaintance with him and thus gave him public countenance. Seddon, for his part, constantly associated himself with Grey and represented himself as the continuator of his policy.