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The whole Liberal party was taken very much by surprise at the course which the election ran. Or perhaps it might be more proper to say that the parliamentary leaders of the party were surprised. It had not been recognised by them as necessary that the great question of Church and State should be generally discussed on this occasion. It was a matter of course that it should be discussed at some places, and by some men. Eager Dissenters would, of course, take advantage of the opportunity to press their views, and no doubt the entire abolition of the Irish Church as a State establishment had taught Liberals to think and Conservatives to fear that the question would force itself forward at no very distant date. But it had not been expected to do so now. The general incompetence of a Ministry who could not command a majority on any measure was intended to be the strong point of the Liberal party, not only at the election, but at the meeting of Parliament. The Church question, which was necessarily felt by all statesmen to be of such magnitude as to dwarf every other, was not wanted as yet. It might remain in the background as the future standing-point for some great political struggle, in which it would be again necessary that every Liberal should fight, as though for life, with his teeth and nails. Men who ten years since regarded almost with abhorrence, and certainly with distrust, the idea of disruption between Church and State in England, were no doubt learning to perceive that such disruption must come, and were reconciling themselves to it after that slow, silent, inargumentative fashion in which convictions force themselves among us. And from reconciliation to the idea some were advancing to enthusiasm on its behalf. "It is only a question of time," was now said by many who hardly remembered how devoted they had been to the Established Church of England a dozen years ago. But the fruit was not yet ripe, and the leaders of the Liberal party by no means desired that it should be plucked. They were, therefore, surprised, and but little pleased, when they found that the question was more discussed than any other on the hustings of enthusiastically political boroughs.
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Anthony Trollope

Anthony Trollope was a novelist.

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