But the Home Rule departure filled him with misgivings, and he declined the offer of a safe Liberal seat in 1891.
In view of its parliamentary impotence, and its legacy of an unpopular Home Rule programme, Sir Henry had a difficult task to perform, but he prudently interpreted his duty as chiefly consisting in the effort to keep the Radical party together in the midst of its pronounced differences.
That statesman had in the latter part of the year indicated his leaning towards the disestablishment of the Church of England, and towards Home Rule for Ireland.
After Mr Gladstone's brief Home Rule Ministry in 1886 he entered Lord Salisbury's next Cabinet again as Irish secretary, making way for Lord Randolph Churchill as leader of the House; but troubles with his eyesight compelled him to resign in 1887, and meanwhile Mr Goschen replaced Lord Randolph as chancellor of the exchequer.
He developed this line of argument when moving the second reading of the Home Rule bill in April, and at Dundee in the autumn outlined a general policy under which England would be cut up into self-governing areas.
Canovas so fully comprehended the necessity of averting American intervention that he listened to the pressing demands of secretary Olney and of the American minister in Madrid, Hannis Taylor, an.d laid before the Cortes a bill introducing home rule in Cuba on a more liberal scale than Maura, Abarzuza and Sagasta had dared to suggest two years before.
He was deeply interested in politics, was a follower of Mr Gladstone, and approved the Home Rule Bill of 1886, but objected to the later proposal to retain the Irish members at Westminster.
Gladstone was implored to withdraw them, or substitute a resolution in favour of Irish autonomy; but he resolved to press at least the Home Rule Bill to a second reading.
Of these, the federation of the Empire was the first, and he would only contemplate Irish Home Rule as part of a Federal scheme.
When the first Home Rule bill was introduced he demurred privately to its financial clauses, and their withdrawal was largely due to his threat of resignation.