In his earlier life and in his own particular line of business he was not a conspicuous success. His heart was not in it or his hand either. Speaking from my own experience, he made me about the worst fitting coat I ever wore. Mr. Chamberlain, however, took his measure more successfully than he himself took other people’s, in a sartorial sense, and soon saw that he would make up into something useful if the cutting out was done for him.
Mr. Schnadhorst as a young man began by taking a keen and intelligent interest in local public life. He came under the eye of Mr. Chamberlain, who quickly perceived that he possessed certain qualities which would prove useful and valuable if properly employed. He saw in him a man of aptitude and capacity, who had the suaviter in modo, even if he had not much of the fortiter in re—a man of method, persuasiveness, and industry, with a cool head, a safe temper, and a calm mind.
Of Mr. Schnadhorst’s possession of the last-named qualities I once had a striking proof. It was on the occasion of one of Mr. Gladstone’s visits to Birmingham. A great political meeting was held in Bingley Hall, and the immense gathering was in a fever of excitement. I remember speaking with Mr. Schnadhorst in the course of the evening, and was greatly struck by his self-possessed, quiet, easy manner. So far from being affected by the intense enthusiasm and feverish excitement that prevailed, he was just as cool and collected as though the occasion was some little tea party affair or a ward meeting, instead of the greatest indoor political demonstration ever held in Birmingham.
As already stated Mr. Chamberlain quickly perceived and plumbed to the bottom Mr. Schnadhorst’s capabilities, and as he was bent on solidifying and systematising, or, in other words, “caucusing” the Liberal party in Birmingham, he thought he saw in Mr. Schnadhorst the organising mind and methodical skill that would be eminently useful in carrying out the work. Nor was he wrong. Mr. Schnadhorst proved to be all that was expected of him, and the political world knows the rest. How he became the great political machinist of his day, and how, by his zeal, ability, and method, he elevated “caucusing” or party “wire pulling” into a recognised system—I had almost said a political science.
Circumstances have changed since that period. Mr. Chamberlain made Mr. Schnadhorst, but Mr. Schnadhorst turned his back upon his maker. He was probably actuated by conscientious motives and convictions, although professional politicians may not, as a rule, be credited with being greatly overburdened with conscientious scruples. Still, Mr. Schnadhorst was, I think, generally credited by those who knew him with being an upright, earnest, honest man, so he may well be allowed the benefit of the doubt.