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Title: My Memory of Gladstone
Author: Smith, Goldwin
Language: English
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MY MEMORY OF GLADSTONE



    AN INTERESTING VOLUME OF CHARACTER SKETCHES:

    POLITICAL AND OTHER.

    PORTRAITS OF THE SIXTIES.

    By JUSTIN MCCARTHY, Author of “A History of our own Time.” With
    many Illustrations from Contemporary Photographs. Demy 8vo,
    cloth, 15s. net.

    LONDON: T. FISHER UNWIN.



[Illustration:

    _Photo_]            [_Barraud._

           W. E. GLADSTONE.]



                              MY MEMORY OF
                                GLADSTONE

                                   BY
                              GOLDWIN SMITH

                             [Illustration]

                           _SECOND IMPRESSION_

                                 LONDON
                             T. FISHER UNWIN
                           PATERNOSTER SQUARE
                                  1904

                          _All Rights Reserved_



MY MEMORY OF GLADSTONE


Since the appearance of the first volumes of Macaulay’s History there
has not been such an event in the publishing world as the appearance
of a Life of Gladstone by Mr. Morley. Nor has public expectation been
disappointed.

Though I saw a good deal of Gladstone, both in the way of business and
socially, I never was nor could I have been, like Mr. Morley, his
colleague and a partner of his counsels. On the other hand, I lived in
the closest intimacy with men who were his associates in public life, and
saw him through their eyes.

This man was a wonderful being, physically and mentally, the mental part
being well sustained by the physical. His form bespoke the nervous energy
with which it was surcharged. His eye was intensely bright, though in
the rest of the face there was nothing specially indicative of genius.
His physical and mental force was such that he could speak for more than
four hours at a stretch, and with vigour and freshness so sustained
that George Venables, an extremely fastidious and not over-friendly
critic, after hearing him for four hours, and on a financial subject,
wished that he could go on for four hours more. His powers of work were
enormous. He once called me to him to help in settling the details of a
University Bill. He told me that he had been up over the Bill late at
night. We worked at it together from ten in the morning till six in the
afternoon, saving an hour and a half which he spent at a Privy Council,
leaving me with the Bill. When we parted, he went down to the House,
where he spoke at one o’clock the next morning. Besides his mountain of
business, he was a voluminous writer on other than political subjects,
and did a vast amount of miscellaneous reading. As a proof of his powers
of acquisition, he gained so perfect a mastery of the Italian language
as to be able to make a long speech, in which Professor Villari could
detect only two mistakes, and those merely uses of a poetical instead of
the ordinary word.

Like Pitt, Gladstone was a first-rate sleeper. At the time when he had
exposed himself to great obloquy and violent attacks by his secession
from the Palmerston Government, in the middle of the Crimean War, one of
his intimate friends spoke of him to me as being in so extreme a state of
excitement that he hardly liked to go near him. Next day, I had business
with him. He went out of the room to fetch a letter, leaving me with
Mrs. Gladstone, to whom I said that I feared he must be severely tried
by the attacks. She replied that he was, but that he would come home
from the most exciting debate and fall at once into sound sleep. A bad
night, she said, if ever he had one, upset him. But this was very rare.
He chronicles his good and bad nights, showing how thoroughly he felt
the necessity of sound sleep. In extreme old age he took long walks and
felled trees, conversed with unfailing vivacity, and seemed to be the
last of the party in the evening to wish to go to bed. At the same time
he was doing a good deal of work.

The hero was fond of dwelling on his Scottish extraction. His domicile,
however, was Liverpool, and his father was a West Indian proprietor and
slave-owner; a circumstance perhaps not wholly without influence on one
or two passages of his life. To his Scottish shrewdness and aptitude
for business, Eton and Oxford added the highest English culture. Eton
in those days would teach him only classics. But there was a good deal
of interest in public affairs among the boys, many of whom were scions
of political houses. There was a lively debating club, called “Pop,” of
which Gladstone was the star. At Oxford he added mathematics to classics,
taking the highest honours in both. There, also, he was the star of the
debating club. It was a fine time for budding debaters, being the epoch
of the great struggle about the Reform Bill. Gladstone led vehemently and
gloriously on the Tory side. The result was that his fellow collegian,
Lord Lincoln, introduced him as a most promising recruit to his father
the old Duke of Newcastle, the highest of Tories, and Gladstone was
elected to Parliament for Newark, a borough under the Duke’s influence. I
have been allowed to read the correspondence, and there is nothing in it
derogatory to the young man’s independence.

Oxford was the heart of clericism as well as Toryism, and the advance of
Liberalism threatened the Anglican State Church, as well as the oligarchy
of rotten boroughs. The Tractarian movement of sacerdotal reaction was
already on foot. Gladstone imbibed the ecclesiastical as well as the
political spirit of the place, and formed a friendship, which proved
lasting, with the authors of the mediævalising movement. He published
a defence of the Anglican State Church, which, as we know, was terribly
cut up by Macaulay. The Reviewer, however, ends with a defence of
religious establishments really weaker than anything in Gladstone. The
State, according to Macaulay, though religion is not its proper business,
has some time and energy to spare which it may usefully devote to the
regulation of religion.

Gladstone cast off by degrees his extreme Establishmentarianism. He came
at last to disestablishing the Church in Ireland and pledging himself to
disestablishment in Wales. But he remained firmly attached to the Church
of England, encircled by High Church friends, who were really nearer to
his heart than anybody else, deeply, even passionately, interested in all
their questions, and an assiduous writer on their side. He was suspected
of being a Papist. A Papist he certainly was not. No one could be more
opposed to Papal usurpation. His special sympathy was with anti-Papal
and anti-Infallibilist Catholics, such as Döllinger and Lord Acton. His
religious faith was simple and profound; so simple that he continued in
this sceptical age to believe in the plenary inspiration of the Bible,
and in the Mosaic account of the Creation. He retained unshaken faith
in Providence and in the efficacy of prayer. This in his meditations
constantly and clearly appears. At the same time, he grew tolerant of
free inquiry as a conscientious quest of truth. Many Nonconformists, the
leaders especially, notwithstanding his Anglicanism and his suspected
leanings to Rome, were drawn to him on broad grounds of religious
sympathy, and lent him their political support. Lord Salisbury called him
“a great Christian.” He could not have been more truly described. He had
thought of taking Holy Orders. From this he had been happily deterred,
but he seems to have been fond of officiating in a semi-clerical way by
reading the lessons in Hawarden Church.

Gladstone’s zeal in the service of his nation and humanity, his loyalty
to right and hatred of tyranny and injustice, and his conscientious
industry, were sustained by spiritual influences, and Christianity has a
right to appeal to his character in support, not of its dogmas, but of
its principles.

The first step in emancipation from bondage to the State Church theory
was curious and characteristic. Peel, in whose Government Gladstone
then was, proposed an increase of the grant to Maynooth. Gladstone
paid a tribute to the principle of the “Church in its Relation to the
State” by resigning his office. Then, on the ground that the other
principle had prevailed, he voted for the grant and went back into
the Government. It is thus possible to see how the idea of a certain
tortuosity became connected with his career. Bitter enemies even accused
him of duplicity. He had a habit, of which his biographer seems aware,
of making his words open to a double construction, the consequence,
perhaps, of consciousness that his mind was moving and that his position
might be changed. He had also a dislike of owning change, and a habit of
setting his retroactive imagination at work to prove that there was no
inconsistency, which had a bad effect, especially in such a case as his
sudden coalition with Parnell.

The value of the recruit was at once recognized and the door of office
was presently opened to him by Peel, who was always on the look-out for
youthful promise, and set himself, perhaps more than any other Prime
Minister ever did, to train up a succession of statesmen for the country.
Though himself the least eccentric of mankind, Peel showed in more than
one case that he could overlook a touch of eccentricity where there
was real merit and genuine work. Set, as Vice-President of the Board of
Trade, to deal with a subject entirely new to him, Gladstone at once
justified Peel’s confidence and discernment. Perhaps the office had been
chosen for him as one in which his eccentricity had no play. He served
Peel admirably well, and was perfectly true to his chief. But, from
things that I have heard him say, I rather doubt whether he greatly loved
Peel. Peel detested the Tractarians; the Tractarians hated Peel; and some
of the Tractarians were nearest of all men to Gladstone’s heart.

Peel’s Government having been overthrown on the question of the Corn
Laws by a combination which the Duke of Wellington characterized with
military frankness, of Tory Protectionists, Whigs, Radicals, and Irish
Nationalists, the whole under Semitic influence, its chief, for the
short remainder of his life, held himself aloof from the party fray,
encouraging no new combination, and content with watching over the safety
of his great fiscal reform; though, as Greville says, had the Premiership
been put to the vote, Peel would have been elected by an overwhelming
majority. His personal following, Peelites as they were called, Graham,
Gladstone, Lincoln, Cardwell, Sidney Herbert, and the rest, remained
suspended between the two great parties. When Disraeli had thrown over
protection, as he meant from the beginning to do, the only barrier
of principle between the Peelites and the Conservatives was removed.
Overtures were made by the Conservative leader, Lord Derby, to Gladstone,
whose immense value as a financier was well established, and the common
opinion was that Gladstone would have accepted had Disraeli not been in
the way. But Disraeli, though he offered to waive his claims, was in
the way, and the result was that the Peelites, Gladstone at their head,
coalesced with the Whigs and helped to form the coalition Government of
Lord Aberdeen.

Mr. Morley has said rightly that an impulse in the Liberal direction was
lent to Gladstone’s mind by the crusade into which his humanity impelled
him against the iniquities and cruelties of the Bourbon government
at Naples. Though it was not revolutionary sentiment but zeal for
righteousness and hatred of iniquity that moved him, his heart could not
be closed against the loud and passionate acclaim of the Mazzinians and
all who were struggling against the traditions of the Holy Alliance in
Europe, while all the powers of reaction, political or ecclesiastical,
denounced him, and even the good Lord Aberdeen shrank from anything which
appeared to encourage revolution or to imply that the treaties of Vienna
were effete. The famous letters sent a thrill through Europe and made all
the powers of tyranny and iniquity tremble on their thrones. Seldom, if
ever, has a private manifesto had such effect. Combined with humanity
and zeal for righteousness, in Gladstone’s heart was a strong feeling
in favour of nationality, which he showed in promoting, as he did, the
emancipation of the Ionian Islands and their union with Greece.

Once launched in any career, Gladstone was sure to imbibe the full spirit
of the movement and lead the way. His Liberalism presently outstripped
that of the Whigs. As the most conspicuous seceder from the Tory camp,
he became the special object of antipathy to the Carlton Club, which was
fond of speaking of him as insane. A member of the Carlton was reported
to have said to a member of the Reform Club, “I am much better off for a
leader than you are, my leader is only an unscrupulous intriguer; yours
is a dangerous lunatic.” The story was current that Gladstone had bought
the whole contents of a toyshop and ordered them to be sent to his house.
This came to me once in so circumstantial a form, that I asked Lady
Russell whether she thought it could be true. Her answer was: “I begin to
think it is, for I have heard it every session for ten years.”

It must be owned that Gladstone was impulsive, and that impulsiveness was
the source not only of gibes to his enemies, but sometimes of anxiety
to his friends. “What I fear in Gladstone,” said Archbishop Tait, “is
his levity.” That he could easily throw off responsibility, I think I
have myself seen. But a man on whom so heavy a load of responsibility
rests, if he felt its full weight would be killed by it, and want of
conscientiousness is not to be inferred from lightness of heart.

It must have been, indeed it evidently was, much against the grain that
the great Minister of peace and economy went into the Crimean War. He
seems to have tried to persuade himself that the result, after all,
would be the bringing of Turkey under control. More substantial was his
resolution, as Chancellor of the Exchequer and holder of the purse, to
make the generation which waged the war, as far as possible, pay for
it by taxes, not cast the burden upon posterity by loans. Mr. Morley
is right in pointing to Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, then unhappily
Ambassador at Constantinople, as largely responsible for the war.
Besides his hatred of Russia, the ambassador had a personal grudge
against the Czar. But conspiring with him were Palmerston, intensely
anti-Russian, the father of Jingoism, perhaps not unwilling to replace
the pacific Lord Aberdeen; and the Emperor of the French, who wanted
glory to gild his usurped throne and a better social footing in the
circle of Royalties, which he gained by publicly embracing the British
Queen. In the middle of the war, Gladstone seceded from the Ministry,
reconstructed under Palmerston after its fall under Lord Aberdeen; not,
I suspect, so much because Palmerston failed to oppose Roebuck’s motion
of inquiry, against which it was useless to contend, as because he was
himself thoroughly sick of the war. I happened just then to be with him
one morning on business, at the conclusion of which he began to talk to
me, or rather to himself, about the situation, saying, in his Homeric
way, that if the Trojans would have given back Helen and her treasures,
his Homeric phrase for the Vienna terms, the Greeks would have raised
the siege of Troy. I had not had the advantage of being at the Greek
headquarters; but I could not help seeing in what mood the British people
were, and how hopeless it was then to talk to them about reasonable terms
of peace. Had Gladstone, instead of bolting in the middle of the war,
mustered courage, of which he generally had a superabundance, to oppose
it at the outset, he might have incurred obloquy at the moment, but he
would have found before long that, to use Salisbury’s metaphor reversed,
he had laid his money on the right horse. The grass had hardly grown over
the graves on the heights of Sebastopol before everybody condemned the
war.

After some turns of the political wheel, we find Gladstone Chancellor of
the Exchequer under Palmerston, making the fortune of that Government by
his masterly Budgets and splendid expositions of them in the House. If
Palmerston was the father of Jingoism, Gladstone was its arch-enemy. Of
the two things for which the Prime Minister said he lived, the extinction
of slavery, and the military defence of England, Gladstone looked not
with special zeal upon the first and very cautiously on the second.
Palmerston was a commercial Liberal, and he saw the immense value of such
a Chancellor of the Exchequer to his Government. But he was believed to
have said that, when he was gone, Gladstone would in two years turn their
majority of seventy into a minority, and in four be himself in a lunatic
asylum. It was known that he wanted as his successor in the leadership,
not Gladstone, but Cornewall Lewis. Very pleasant would have been the
situation of that highly respected scholar and statesman, leading the
House with Gladstone on his flank!

One fruit, distinctly Gladstonian, the Palmerston Government bore. That
fruit was the commercial treaty with France, negotiated through Cobden,
who shared, with Bright, Palmerston’s particular dislike. Cobden even
suspected that Palmerston would not have been sorry if the treaty had
miscarried, and that he betrayed his feeling in his bearing and language
towards France while negotiations were going on. There was nothing in the
treaty which could militate against a rational policy of free trade. Some
Liberals were inclined to demur to it, not because it was inconsistent
with free trade, but because it made us to some extent accomplices in
a stretch of prerogative on the part of the Emperor of the French, who
used the treaty-making power to accomplish, without the authority of his
Legislature, a change in the fiscal system of France.

The objections which some might perhaps take to Gladstone’s fiscal system
are, that it retains, though it reduces, the income tax, originally
imposed only for the purpose of shoring up the fiscal edifice while a
great change was taking place, with a promise that when the change should
be effected the tax should cease; and that it rests so much upon the
consumption of a few important articles. Suppose tobacco, for instance,
were to go out of fashion, as some sanitary authorities say it ought,
there would be a serious gap in the Budget.

The great master of finance, while he was dealing with it on the largest
scale, was conscientiously mindful of the public interest in the most
minute details of expenditure. He regarded public money as sacred, and
any waste of it, however trifling, as criminal. His biographer has given
us amusing instances of his conscientious parsimony in small things. In
one case, however, his parsimony was misplaced. He grudged the judges
their large salaries. Public money cannot be better expended than in
taking the best men from the Bar to the Bench. The expedition of business
assured by their command of their courts would in itself be worth the
price, apart from the security for justice.

Among other relics of Gladstone’s Conservatism was his clinging to
his seat in Parliament for the University of Oxford, in which he was
supported by a rather strange and precarious alliance of High Churchmen
voting for the High Churchman and Liberals voting for the progressive
Liberal; a combination the strain upon which became extreme when
Palmerston, in whose Government Gladstone was, made Shaftesbury, the lay
leader of the Evangelicals, his Minister for ecclesiastical affairs, and
allowed him to go on promoting Low Churchmen. But the Tories never made
a greater mistake than the ejection of Gladstone from his Oxford seat.
By sending him from Oxford to Liverpool, they, to use his own phrase,
unmuzzled him. It is true, I believe, that, on the day of his rejection,
the Bible fell out of the hand of the statue of James I. on the gate
tower of the Bodleian, an omen of the separation of the Church from
the State. The stone being very friable, the fall was not miraculous;
although it was curiously apt.

It was a mistake, however, to say that the disestablishment of the Irish
Church had been an issue in the Oxford election. I compared notes on that
point with my friend, Sir John Mowbray, who had been the chairman of
the Tory committee, and agreed with me in saying that the Irish Church
was not an issue. Gladstone took up disestablishment for Ireland, which
had been long on the Liberal programme, when he had been thrown out of
power by Disraeli on the question of extension of the suffrage. He was
ambitious, happily for the country; and he wanted to recover the means of
doing great things. His admirers need not shrink from that avowal. But he
was also sincerely convinced, as well he might be, and as all Liberals
were, that the State Church of Ireland was about the most utterly
indefensible institution in the world. He framed his measure, expounded
it, and carried it through Parliament, in his usual masterly way; and the
Anglican Church in Ireland, it is believed, has felt herself the better
for the operation ever since. Gladstone’s High Church friends in England
forgave him with a sigh. The State Church of Ireland was separate from
that of England, and was Low Church and opposed to everything Catholic
from local antagonism to the Church of Rome.

Before his junction with the Liberals, Gladstone had deprecated the
interference of Parliament with the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge on
the ground that they were private foundations with which Parliament had
no right to interfere; and when he brought on his Oxford Reform Bill he
had to perform one of his feats of retrospective explanation. But, as
usual, he did his work well, though he still left more to be done. By his
legislation, clerical as his sympathies were, the universities were set
free from clericism, reopened to science, and reunited to the nation.
Our Oxford Bill was badly cut up in the Commons, some misguided Liberals
playing into the hands of Disraeli, who of course meant mischief. When
the Bill in its mutilated state went up to the Lords, it appeared that
the Tory leader, Lord Derby, though he felt bound to speak against
the Ministerial measure, was not really prepared to throw it out,
and that consequently there had not been a whip upon his side. It was
then suggested to the Ministers in charge of the Bill that the Commons
amendments might be thrown out in the Lords, and the Bill might be sent
back in its original state to the Commons, where our friends might by
that time be better advised, and the Opposition benches, as it was the
end of the session, might be thinned. Russell, then the leader in the
Commons, condemned the suggestion as most rash and not unlikely to be the
death of the Bill. Gladstone was lying sick of an attack, strange to say,
of the chicken-pox. On appeal to him, the signal for battle was at once
held out, as I felt sure it would be; and the result was just what we
desired.

In connection with this legislative dealing with the endowed colleges of
Oxford and Cambridge, the principle may be said to have been practically
adopted, though not formally laid down, that, after the lapse of fifty
years from the death of a Founder, the Legislature may deal freely with
all his regulations, saving the main object of his foundation. The
assumption that the wills of Founders were for ever inviolable, in spite
of the lapse of ages and the total change of circumstances, had led, as
it must always lead, to a perpetuity of perversion and to the defeat of
the main object of the Founders themselves.

He who in his youth had won the favour of the most bigoted of Tory
patrons and entrance to public life by his rhetorical opposition to the
Reform Bill of 1832, was destined in his maturity to father a Reform
Bill at the thought of which the reformers of 1832 would have shuddered.
The Reform Bill of 1832 had enfranchised the middle-class, but by
abolishing the scot-and-lot borough, had deprived the working-class of
the little representation which it possessed. Moreover, the legislative
preponderance of the landed interest, which had the House of Lords to
itself and a large section of the Commons, was too great for the general
good. These were the best reasons for an extension of the suffrage,
while the Whig party and its leader Russell, perhaps, as is the way of
parties, finding their sails flapping against the mast, wished to raise a
little popular wind. It is by the bidding of parties against each other
for popularity, largely, that the suffrage has been extended. Russell
had for some time been busy with reform, and had more than once moved in
that direction, but had been deftly put aside by Palmerston, who, though
a Liberal by profession, and revolutionary or affecting that character in
foreign affairs, was in home politics a Tory at heart, and met general
assertions of the right of men to the suffrage as “partakers of our flesh
and blood” and presumptively entitled to a place “within the pale of
the constitution,” with the aphorism that “the one right of every man,
woman, and child was to be well governed.” It could not be said that the
reform agitation, at all events south of Birmingham, was very strong. The
large measure of extension brought in by Gladstone was opposed, in some
very memorable speeches, by Robert Lowe, a high aristocrat not of birth
but of intellect, who made the last stand against democracy and in favour
of government by mind. He and his section, dubbed by regular party men
“the Cave of Adullam,” helped Disraeli to kill the Bill. Disraeli then
brought in and carried a Bill, not less radical, of his own, to which the
Conservative gentry under the party whip, styled by Disraeli “education,”
lent a doleful support; while Robert Lowe appealed to their consistency
almost with tears, but in vain. Disraeli thus carried off the popularity
of the measure, and enabled himself to say that the Tories were the
true friends of the masses. But, besides this, Disraeli looked out of
window, which Gladstone’s critics, perhaps not wholly without ground for
their gibes, said that he did not, and had perceived and laid to heart
the great fact that there were many in the masses who cared little for
Liberalism or progress, and who would be apt under skilful management to
vote Tory.

Such a subject as the French war lent transcendent interest to the great
speeches of Pitt and Fox. Otherwise, their best efforts are not superior
to Gladstone’s speech in favour of extension of the suffrage, though
Gladstone’s style is different from theirs. Gladstone’s speeches are not
literature. He spoke without notes, and no man can speak literature _ex
tempore_. Nor are there any passages of extraordinary brilliancy. For
such he had not imagination. But the speeches are masterly expositions of
the measure and of the case in its favour, always dignified, impressive,
and persuasive. The language is invariably good and clear; wonderfully
so, considering the absence of notes, though it is somewhat diffuse, and
had perhaps rather lost freshness by over-practice in debating-clubs when
the speaker was young. The voice, the manner, the bearing of the orator
were supreme, and filled even the most adverse listener with delight.

Gladstone’s multifarious reading does not seem to have included a large
proportion of history or political philosophy. He has left among his
writings nothing of importance in the way of political science, nor does
he seem even to have formed any clear conception of the polity which he
was seeking to produce. His guiding idea, when once he had broken loose
from his early Toryism, was liberty which he appeared to think would
of itself be the parent of all that was good. He had, perhaps, derived
something from Russell, whose leading principle it was that the people
needed only responsibility to make them act wisely and rightly. He had,
apparently, no notion of any system of government other than party, which
he seemed to treat as though it had been immemorial and universal,
whereas it was born of the struggle for constitutional government against
the Stuarts. Even as to the working of the British Constitution, his
opinions are not very clear. He professed, and probably felt, the highest
respect for the Lords; yet, when they played their constitutional part
by throwing out Bills of his of which they did not approve, he denounced
them as violators of the Constitution. Did he intend to vest supreme
power absolutely in an assembly elected by manhood, or nearly manhood,
suffrage?

For the Crown, Gladstone’s reverence went at least as far as to any but
believers in political fetichism would seem meet, or as we feel to be
perfectly consistent with the dignity of one so eminent and the real
head of the State. Yet, it was understood that he was not a favourite
at Court, and it is pretty evident that Her Majesty did not eagerly
embrace the opportunity of calling on him to form a Government. With all
her personal virtues and graces, she was a true granddaughter of George
III., cherishing, as we have been told, apparently on the best authority,
ideas of Divine Right, and liking to connect herself not so much with the
Hanoverians as with the Stuarts. To her, progressive Liberalism could
hardly be very congenial. Moreover, she was a woman, and in a competition
in flattery Gladstone would have had no chance with his rival.

It is rather startling to learn from this Life how much there is of
interference on the part of irresponsibility with the responsible
Government of the Kingdom, and what drafts are made upon the time and
energy of one who has the burden of Atlas on his shoulders by the demands
of correspondence with the Court. Another thing of which the friends of
personal government, who have been labouring so hard by pageantry and
personal worship to stimulate the monarchical sentiment, may well take
note, is the confidential employment of Court Secretaries, like Sir
Herbert Taylor under George IV., in communications between the Sovereign
and the Minister. They might find, when they had revived the personal
power, that it was really wielded, not by Royalty itself, but by some
aspiring member or members of the household.

Gladstone’s declaration, at a critical juncture of the American War,
that Jefferson Davis had made a nation, gave deep offence to the friends
of the North both in the United States and in England. But he atoned
for it by frank and honourable repentance. As a statement of fact, it
lacked truth only in so far that Davis, instead of making the South a
nation, had found it one already made. The schism between the Free and
Slave States was inevitable, and the war was from the outset one between
nations. That Gladstone subscribed to the Confederate loan was false, nor
is there the slightest reason for believing that he was less faithful
than any of his colleagues to the policy of strict neutrality, however
ready he may have been, in common with the rest, to tender good offices
in a contest in which, as it deprived millions of British artisans of the
materials of their industry, Great Britain had a manifest and pressing
interest. It might be rash to assert that the son of a slave-owner felt
the same intense abhorrence of slavery as Wilberforce, or that a High
Churchman fully equalled in his zeal for emancipation the Evangelicals
whose special heritage it was. But Gladstone’s actuating motives,
certainly, were his regard for the bread of the British artisan, and his
sympathy with all who were struggling to be free. With a view, probably,
to the satisfaction of mortified friends of the North in England, he
wrote to me suggesting that, if the North thought fit to let the South
go, it might in time be indemnified by the union of Canada with the
Northern States. As the letter, on consideration, seemed unlikely to
have the desired effect, and not unlikely at some future time to prove
embarrassing to the writer, no use was made of it, and it was destroyed.

Had it been possible for the son of a Jamaica proprietor to be an ardent
emancipationist and a warm friend of the negro, Gladstone could hardly
have failed to show his feelings on the occasion of the Jamaica massacre,
that most atrocious outpouring of white hatred, rage, and panic on the
black peasantry of Jamaica. However, he had the general sentiment of the
upper classes and of the clergy upon his side.

Peel, as Premier, had been master of the Government, as well as head, in
the last resort, of every Department. His habit had been to hear what all
the members of his Cabinet had to say, and then make up his mind. In his
time, there was no voting in the Cabinet nor any disclosure of Cabinet
proceedings. Disclosure of Cabinet proceedings is, in fact, at variance
with the Privy Councillor’s oath. Gladstone, it appears, put questions
to the vote. He also allowed a member of the Cabinet to set forth on
a political adventure of his own and proclaim a policy independent of
that of his chief and his colleagues, as the same politician is now
again doing. The Cabinet system itself under Gladstone’s Premiership
was apparently beginning to give way. There was a commencement of the
change which has now made the Cabinet an unwieldy body, meeting at long
intervals and almost publicly, while the real power and the direction of
policy centre in an inner conclave, something like that which, in the
reign of Charles II., was called the Cabal.

Not only the Cabinet system but the party system, on which the Cabinet
system was based, had begun to show signs of disintegration. Sectionalism
had set in, as it was pretty sure to do when political speculation
had grown more free and there was no controlling issue, like that
of Parliamentary Reform in 1832, to hold a party together. Personal
ambition was also becoming restless and difficult to control. More than
once, Gladstone’s Government was defeated by the bolting of its own
supporters. The task of a Premier was not easy. Allowance must be made
for this, when we compare the measure of Gladstone’s success as head of
the Government with that of his predecessors, and with the measure of his
own success as Chancellor of the Exchequer, giving life and force to the
Government by his triumphs in finance.

Of the truth of the charges of want of knowledge of men and of personal
tact, often brought against Gladstone as Premier, I cannot pretend to
judge. There was certainly no lack in him of social affability or charm.
He may not have practised the jovial familiarities of Palmerston or had a
counterpart of Lady Palmerston’s salon. But the lack of such things, or a
want of what is called personal magnetism, will hardly deprive a great
leader, such as Pitt or Peel, of the devotion of partisans, much less of
the trust and attachment of the people.

Once, however, it must be owned, Gladstone as Premier was guilty of
a mistake in tactics at anyrate, which could not fail to shake the
confidence of his party. I happened to be revisiting England and was at
Manchester, when, like a bolt out of the blue, without notice or warning
of any kind, came upon us the dissolution of 1874. All Liberals saw at
once that it was ruin. It seems that the leader himself contemplated,
and almost counted on, defeat. What was it, then, that moved him to
this desperate act? His Chancellor and devoted friend, Lord Selborne
(Roundell Palmer), did not doubt that it was a legal dilemma in which
he had involved himself, by taking the Chancellorship of the Exchequer
in addition to the First Lordship of the Treasury without going to
his constituents for re-election, a violation, there was reason to
apprehend, of the law. The only escape from that dilemma, according to
the Chancellor, was dissolution. Mr. Morley, to whose authority I should
willingly defer, strenuously repels this explanation, and points to
another ground, assigned by Mr. Gladstone. Mr. Gladstone was, of course,
sure to assign another ground, and equally sure to persuade himself that
it was the real one. But what was that other ground? It was, in fact,
that the Government was sick, and that the election would put it out
of its misery, thereby declaring the situation. But did Mr. Gladstone
overlook the fact that he would be depriving a number of his followers of
their seats? Why was the stroke so sudden? On the other hand, the charge
of bribing the constituencies by promising to repeal the income tax, Mr.
Morley is perfectly right in dismissing as baseless. Such expectations
are held out by all competitors for power. What is the game of party but
that of outbidding the other side?

After this defeat, Achilles retired in dudgeon to his tent. Gladstone
insisted on resigning the leadership. But everybody foresaw that his
return to it was inevitable; and it was difficult to fix on a man of
sufficient eminence to take his place, and yet not too eminent to give
it up when the great man might see fit to return. Lord Hartington was
chosen as one whose comparative youth would make the surrender easy in
his case, while his high rank would continue to sustain his position.

Whenever there was fighting to be done for the party, either in
Parliamentary debate or on the stump, Gladstone was the man. His
Midlothian campaign displayed his almost miraculous powers as a speaker,
while it called forth the enthusiastic feeling of the people for the
man in whom they thought, and rightly, that they saw their heartiest
friend and the most powerful advocate of their interests. Three speeches
in one day and an address this prodigy of nature could deliver, and
the speeches were not flummery and clap-trap, but addressed to the
intelligence of the people. Yet one cannot help being rather sorry that
the stump should have been so much dignified by Gladstone’s practice. It
is a great evil. To say nothing of its effect upon the passions of the
audience, it wears out the statesman; it deprives him, in the intervals
of Parliament, of leisure for study and reflection; worst of all, it
tempts him imprudently to commit himself.

In the case of armed intervention in Egypt, Gladstone seemed to swerve
from his usual fidelity to a policy of moderation and peace. It lost him
Bright, to whom as he advanced in Liberalism he had been drawing closer,
and who had been induced to take office in his Government. Bright would
have nothing to do with aggrandizement or war, and in private his words
were strong, though in public he showed chivalrous forbearance towards
his friends. Seeing that Egypt lay on the road to India and commanded the
Suez Canal, it does not appear that the illustrious Quaker would have
had much reason for finding fault with Gladstone and his Government, so
far as the main scope of their policy was concerned. The fatal mistake,
as it turned out, was the employment of Gordon, a heroic enthusiast,
whose action no one could well foresee, who perhaps could hardly foresee
his own, and who was not the best agent to be selected for carrying out
a policy of retreat. That Gladstone went to the opera after receiving
news of Gordon’s death, as his malignant enemies said, was denied. But,
even if he had, would any real want of feeling have been implied in his
continuing to take his ordinary relief from the load of toil and anxiety
which he bore?

In the case of the Transvaal Republic, Gladstone had the moral courage,
in face of the agitation caused by Majuba Hill, to avow that he shrank
from “blood-guiltiness,” and to keep the nation in the path of honour
and justice. His biographer, in dealing with this case and its sequel,
has been evidently restrained by his desire not to multiply points of
controversy. He might otherwise have greatly strengthened his proof
that the claim of suzerainty was a fraud. Not such would have been the
treatment of a breach of the plighted faith of the nation had Gladstone
lived.

The last act of this wonderful life and its closing scene connect
themselves with the history of Ireland, and are scarcely of a brighter
hue than the rest of that sad story. The history of the case with
which, at this juncture, statesmanship had to deal, if it was clearly
apprehended, was never, so far as I remember, very clearly set forth,
either by Mr. Gladstone or by anyone who took part in the discussion.
Cromwell had given Ireland, with union, the indispensable boon of
free trade with Great Britain. Succeeding Governments, less wise and
magnanimous, had allowed British protectionism to kill the great Irish
industries, the cattle trade and the wool trade. The people were thus
thrown for subsistence entirely on the cultivation of the soil, in an
island far the greater part of which is too wet for profitable tillage,
and lends itself only to grazing. Then came the Penal Code, and to
economical destitution was added utter social degradation. The people
were reduced to a state bordering on absolute barbarism, a state in which
they could look for nothing beyond bare food, while even bare food,
the treacherous potato being its staple, periodically failed. In such
a condition, all social and prudential restraints on the increase of
population were lost, and the people multiplied with animal recklessness
far beyond the capacity of the island to maintain them. Desperately
contending for the soil on which they solely depended for their
maintenance, they became, in the most miserable sense, tenants-at-will,
prædial serfs of the landlord, who ground them through his middleman, and
sometimes through a series of middlemen forming a hierarchy of extortion,
while what the middleman had left was taken by the tithe-proctor. All the
improvements of the tenant were confiscated by the owner of the soil.
The only remedy for over-population, apart from the fell agencies of
famine and disease, was emigration. The remedy for the agrarian evil and
grievance, so far as it could be reached by legislation, apparently was
some measure which would give the Irish tenant-at-will the same security
for his holding which had been given to the English copyholder by custom
and the favour of the courts. To buy out the Irish landlord was hardly
just to the British people, and was a measure in itself of dangerous
import. The abolition of the Irish gentry by any means, if it could be
avoided, was a social mistake. The peasantry would thereby be deprived of
the social chiefs, whose influence it specially needed, and there would
be danger of handing the island over to the demagogue or the priest.

The political part of the problem, which concerned the relations between
the two islands, had, when Mr. Gladstone came to deal with the question,
assumed the aspect of a struggle for Home Rule. This was an ostensibly
reduced and mitigated version of the struggle for the repeal of the
Union, which had been set on foot by O’Connell, and, passing from him
into more violent hands, had in 1848, under Smith O’Brien, come after a
feeble outbreak to an unhappy end. The political movement, apart from
the agrarian insurrection, had never shown much force. It was not on
political change that the heart of the Irish people was set, but on the
secure possession of their holdings and their deliverance from the grasp
of famine. But the new leader, Charles Stewart Parnell, a real statesman
in his way, combined the two objects, and the movement, carrying the
people with it, became formidable in its political as well as in its
agrarian form.

There had been, as we know, an immense Irish emigration to the United
States. This, while it had somewhat relieved the pressure of population,
had in another respect greatly added to the difficulty of the case.
It had given birth to American Fenianism, with its Clan-na-Gael, an
agitation wholly political, sanguinary in spirit, formidable from
the influence of the Irish vote on American politicians, having its
headquarters and its centre beyond the reach of British repression.

Gladstone had been in Ireland only for three weeks, and then, Mr. Morley
says, he had not gone beyond a very decidedly English circle. There
is, at all events, no trace of his having studied on the spot the
character of the people with whom he had to deal, the influences which
were at work, the various forces, political, ecclesiastical, social, and
economical, to the play of which he was going to deliver the island. Had
he done this, he might have known why it was that Irish Liberals, like
Lord O’Hagan and Sir Alexander Macdonald, while they were Irish patriots
to the core, and because they were Irish patriots to the core, shrank
with horror from the dissolution of the legislative Union. He might have
seen the probable futility of any clause of a Home Rule Act forbidding
preference of a particular religion, and the ease with which it could
have been practically nullified by the Roman Catholic hierarchy and
priesthood, wielding the influence which they possessed over the people
and over popular elections. He might also have more vividly realized
the danger attending the relation of Protestant and Saxon Ulster to the
Celtic and Catholic part of Ireland, when they came to face each other in
a separate arena and their conflict was uncontrolled.

With the agrarian grievance Mr. Gladstone undertook to deal by means of
land legislation, purchasing for the people, or giving them the means of
purchasing, the freehold of their lots. The operation, as has been said,
was perilous, as it involved exceptional dealing with contracts, as well
as an unusual employment of public money; and in its course it exposed
Mr. Gladstone to angry charges, not only of violent legislation, but of
deception, to which colour may have been given by some shifting of his
ground. A simple Act of the character above suggested, if it had been
practicable, might possibly have solved the problem with less of a shock
to the sanctity of contracts and less disturbance of any kind.

The political part of the Parnell movement Mr. Gladstone had for some
time strenuously and vehemently opposed. He denounced Parnell’s policy as
leading through rapine to dismemberment. He applied coercion vigorously
to Irish outrage, imprisoned a number of Parnellites as suspects, and
himself proclaimed the arrest of Parnell to an applauding multitude at
Guild Hall. He allowed his colleague to rise night after night from
his side, and denounce the Home Rule movement in language even stronger
than his own. But, having been defeated in the election of 1885 by the
combined forces of Conservatives and Parnellites, he suddenly, to the
amazement of everybody, and the general consternation of his party,
turned round, declared in favour of Home Rule, and coalesced with
Parnell, by whose assistance he ousted the Conservative Government of
Lord Salisbury, and reinstalled himself in power. It is not necessary
to charge him with being actuated by love of power, or to say that his
conversion was not sincere. It is due to him to bear in mind that the
Conservative leaders, in what was called the Maamtrasma debate, had
unquestionably coquetted with Parnellism, one of them, Sir Michael Hicks
Beach, courting Parnellite favour by censuring Lord Spencer; and that
by this conduct on their part the aspect of the question had undergone
a certain change. On the other hand, it is impossible to forget that
Gladstone’s position was that of leader of the Opposition, wishing to
reinstate his party in power, and seeing that this could be done only by
the help of the Irish vote. Nor can we easily bring ourselves to accept
the account of his gradual conversion to Home Rule put forth in his
_History of an Idea_. If he felt that his mind was moving on the subject,
how could he have deemed it right not only to mask his own misgivings
by vehement denunciations of Home Rule, but to lead his party and the
nation on what he had begun to feel might prove to be the wrong line? His
honesty, I repeat, need not be questioned. But neither his consistency
nor the perfect singleness of his motive can very easily be maintained.
He was a party leader; a full believer in the party system; and his party
wanted to prevail over its rival. It is only by contention for power that
party government can be carried on.

Gladstone proposed in effect to break the legislative Union by giving
Ireland a Parliament of her own. This Parliament he styled “statutory.”
Restrictions were to be laid upon it which would have made its relation
to the British Parliament one of vassalage, and against which it would
almost certainly have commenced, from the moment of its birth, a struggle
for equality and independence. If it was baffled in that struggle, it
might even have held out its hands for aid to the foreign enemies of
Great Britain. The framer of the measure apparently had not distinctly
made up his mind whether he would include the Irish in the Parliament of
Great Britain or exclude them from it. That he should have rushed into
legislation so momentous, legislation affecting the very existence of
the United Kingdom, without having thoroughly made up his mind on the
vital point, is surely a proof that, great as he was in finance, mighty
as he was in debate, powerful as he was in framing and carrying measures
of reform, when, as in dealing with Irish Disestablishment or the
Universities, a clear case was put into his hands, he was hardly one of
those sure-footed statesmen to whom can be safely intrusted the supreme
destinies of a nation.

If after the equitable settlement of the agrarian question and the
reduction of the population to the number which the island can maintain,
the political enmity generated by the long struggle continues unassuaged,
and the Irish contingent remains, as it has now for many years been,
an alien and rebellious element in the British Parliament, disturbing
and distracting British councils, there may be a sufficient reason for
letting Ireland go. It would be folly to keep her as a mere thorn in the
side of Great Britain. It would be more than folly to attempt to hold
her in bondage. It is not unlikely that, after a trial of independence,
she might of her own accord come back to the Union. But all wise
statesmen have united in saying that there must be legislative Union or
independence. Two Parliaments, two nations.[1]

The announcement of Gladstone’s plan was followed by terrible searching
of heart in his party, ending in a split. Lord Hartington undertook the
leadership of the Unionist-Liberals, and showed energy and striking
ability in his new part. The fatal blow was the declared opposition of
Bright, the great pillar of political righteousness, and the lifelong
advocate of justice to Ireland.

The stoutest opposition and that which did most to save the integrity
of the United Kingdom was made, as I shall always hold, by _The Times_.
The error into which it fell with regard to the Parnell Letters was a
trifling matter compared with the memorable service which it rendered on
the whole to the Unionist cause.

When the contest had begun, Gladstone’s pugnacity broke all bounds. He
appealed to separatist sentiment in Scotland and Wales, as well as in
Ireland. He appealed to the “masses” against the “classes.” He appealed
to ignorance against intelligence and the professions. One of the most
eminent of his lifelong friends and admirers, who had held high office
in his Government, said of him in a letter to me, “Gladstone is morally
insane.” He had lost the personal influences by which his impulses had
been controlled. Graham, Newcastle, Sidney Herbert, Cardwell, all were
gone. Cardwell especially, a man eminently sure-footed and cool-headed,
had, I suspect, while he lived, exercised an important and salutary
though unfelt restraint.

Carried away by his excitement, Gladstone traduced the authors of the
Union and their work, a work which he had once coupled with the treaty
of commerce with France as supremely honourable to Pitt. “A horrible
and shameful history, for no epithets weaker than these can in the
slightest degree describe or indicate ever so faintly the means by which,
in defiance of the national sentiment of Ireland, consent to the Union
was attained.” Such is his language, and he compares the transaction
in atrocity to the worst crimes in history. Consent to the Union was
attained by the absolute necessity, plain to men of sense, of putting
an end to murderous anarchy and averting a renewal of ’98. It has been
clearly shown that there was no serious bribery of a pecuniary kind. The
indemnities for the owners of pocket boroughs were paid, in accordance
with the notions of the day and under an Act of Parliament, alike to
those who had voted for the Union and to those who had voted against it.
The oligarchy to whose local reign the measure put an end was appeased
with peerages and appointments, the scramble for which might well disgust
a high-minded man like Cornwallis. This was probably inevitable in those
days. Satisfactorily to obtain the national consent was impossible.
The Parliament was a Protestant oligarchy, the Catholics being still
excluded, and it was deeply stained with the atrocities of repression.
Ireland, in fact, was not a nation, or capable of giving a national
consent; it was a country divided between two races antagonistic in
religion and at deadly enmity with each other. The submission of the
question to the constituencies by the holding of a general election,
five-sixths of the population being excluded from Parliament, would have
been futile, and would very likely have revived the civil war. Pitt, it
is true, held out to the Catholics a hope of political emancipation.
That hope he did his best to fulfil, but he was prevented by the fatuous
obstinacy of the King; and Mr. Gladstone, who was a devout monarchist,
might have been challenged to say what, when met by the Royal veto, Pitt
could have done. The promise remained in abeyance for one generation, at
the end of which it was fulfilled. These bitter appeals to Irish hatred
of the Union and belief that it was a deadly and inexpiable wrong, did
not come well from the author of a measure intended, as he professed, to
pluck the thorn out of the Irish heart.

The Bill was defeated in the House of Commons by a majority of thirty
votes; and, on an appeal to the country, the Liberal-Unionists combining
with the Conservatives on the special question, the Opposition won by
upwards of a hundred. Six years afterwards, by another turn of the
wheel, the Salisbury Government losing strength, Gladstone found himself
again at the head of the Government, but with a weak majority made up
largely of the Irish vote. Then came the catastrophe of Parnell, who,
at the critical moment, was convicted of _crim. con._ It is impossible
to read Mr. Morley’s account of the scene of distraction which ensued,
matrimonial morality struggling with political convenience, and of the
sorrowful decision that _crim. con._ would be an awkward thing to carry
in face of the Nonconformist conscience, without feeling the presence of
a comic element in the narrative.

Home Rule, however, was again put to the vote, and in its strangest form,
Ireland being given a Parliament of her own, and, at the same time, a
representation in the British Parliament with full liberty of voting on
all British questions. That the Irish delegation would barter its vote
to British parties for Irish objects, and especially for the relaxation
of restrictions on its plenary power, was what nobody could fail to
foresee. A more extraordinary proposal, surely, never was made to any
legislature. The one recommendation that Home Rule had was, that it
would rid the British Parliament of an alien and hostile element. That
element Gladstone’s Bill would have retained in its worst form. The Bill,
however, was carried in the Commons by a majority of thirty-four, some of
the English members probably giving a party vote in the assurance that
the Bill would be thrown out by the House of Lords.

The use of the clôture in forcing through the House of Commons such a
measure as Home Rule surely could not be defended. The clôture by which
our overbearing Government is able to gag the House of Commons, even on
the most vital question, remains a mark of Gladstone’s impetuousity and
inability to brook opposition when what seemed to him an object of prime
importance was in view.

After trying to raise a storm against the Lords, Gladstone resigned, as
was reported, on a difference with the Admiralty about naval expenditure.
One of the most memorable careers in English history came to an end. The
party which Gladstone led was utterly shattered, and shattered it still
remains. Palmerston, could he have looked upon the scene, might have
said that his cynical prophecy had been really fulfilled.

Gladstone, in addition to his immense amount of public work, was a
voluminous author; the more voluminous because his style, formed by
public and _ex tempore_ speaking, though perfectly clear and correct,
was certainly diffuse. His biographer shows good judgment by dwelling no
more than he can help on this part of the subject. Readers of _Homeric
Studies_ and _Juventus Mundi_ must wonder how such things can have been
written and given to the press by so great a man. Stranger things have
seldom come from any pen than the pages of the Traditive Element in
Homeric Theo-Mythology, connecting Latona with the Virgin, Apollo with
the Deliverer of mankind, and Ate with the Tempter. All these volumes
are full of fantastic and baseless speculation. The fancy that there was
an Egyptian epoch in the early history of Greece appears to be partly
suggested by an accidental similarity between the name of an Egyptian and
that of a Bœotian city. Not on such reasonings were the famous budgets
based.

I was with Gladstone one day, when, our business having been done, he
began to talk of Homer, and imparted to me a theory which he had just
woven out of some fancied philological discovery. I felt sure that the
theory was baseless, and tried to convince him that it was. But he was
never very open to argument. Just as I had succumbed, the door opened
and his brother-in-law, Lord Lyttelton, came in. Lord Lyttelton was
a first-rate classical scholar, and I felt sure that he would see the
question aright and prevail. See the question aright he did; prevail he
did not; and the discovery has probably taken its place beside that of
the Traditive Element.

Before the publication of _Juventus Mundi_, I think it was, there was a
Homeric dinner at which, with Cornewall Lewis, Milman, and some other
scholars I had the honour of being present. It was a very delightful
reunion. No one could be more charming socially than our host. But I
doubt whether the critical result was great.

Gladstone had in part put off his Establishmentarianism, but his
orthodoxy and belief in the inspiration of the Bible remained unimpaired.
This deprives his theological writings of serious value, though
they still have interest as the work of a mind at once powerful and
intensely religious, dealing with topics of the highest concern. It is
not difficult to meet Hume’s philosophic objection to miracles, which
seems little more than an assumption of the absolute impossibility of a
sufficient amount of evidence. If the death of a man and his restoration
to life were witnessed and certified by a great body of men of science,
in circumstances such as to preclude the possibility of imposture, we
should not withhold our belief, however contrary the occurrence might be
to the ordinary course of nature. But we cannot believe anything contrary
to the ordinary course of nature on the testimony of an anonymous
gospel of uncertain authorship, of uncertain date, the product of an
uncritical age, containing matter apparently mythical, and written in the
interest of a particular religion. From considering the authenticity and
sufficiency of the evidence, Gladstone, by his faith in the Bible, is
debarred. So, in his critical work on Butler, he is debarred from free
and fruitful discussion by the assumption, which he all the time carries
with him, of the authenticity of Revelation. His faith in the inspiration
of the Bible seems to go so far as to include belief in the longevity of
the Patriarchs before the flood.[2]

Venturing to break a lance with Huxley about the truth of the account
of creation in Genesis, he could not fail to be overthrown. His apology
seems to amount to this; that the Creator in imparting an account of
the creation to Moses, was so near the truth that the account could, by
dint of very ingenious interpretation, be made not wholly irreconcilable
with scientific fact. Gladstone continued greatly to venerate Newman,
and apparently allowed himself to be influenced in his reasoning by
the _Grammar of Assent_, a sort of _vade mecum_ of self-illusion,
the characteristic purport of the Cardinal’s very subtle but not very
masculine and very flexible mind.

To me, Gladstone’s life is specially interesting as that of a man who
was a fearless and powerful upholder of humanity and righteousness in
an age in which faith in both was growing weak, and Jingoism, with its
lust of war and rapine, was taking possession of the world. The man who,
breaking through the restraints of diplomatic prudery, pleaded before
Europe with prevailing eloquence the cause of oppressed Italy; who dared,
after Majuba Hill, in face of public excitement, to keep the path of
justice and honour in dealing with the Transvaal; whose denunciation of
the Bulgarian atrocities made the Turkish Assassin tremble on his throne
of iniquity; who, if he had lived so long, would surely have striven
to save the honour of the country by denouncing the conspiracy against
the liberty of the South African republics; who, if he were now living,
would be protesting, not in vain, against the indifference of England
to her responsibility for Turkish horrors; has a more peculiar hold on
my veneration and gratitude than the statesman whose achievements and
merits, very great as they were, have never seemed to me quite so great
as, in Mr. Morley’s admirably executed picture, they appear. Not that
I would undervalue Gladstone’s statesmanship or its fruits. Wonderful
improvements in finance, great administrative reforms, the opening
of the Civil Service, the Postal Savings Bank, the liberation of the
newspaper press from the paper duty, the abolition of purchase in the
army, the reform of the Universities followed by that of the endowed
schools, the disestablishment of the Irish Church, and the commercial
treaty with France, make up a mighty harvest of good work; even if we
leave the re-settlement of the franchise open to question and carry Home
Rule to the wrong side of the account. Very striking is the contrast, in
this respect, between Gladstone’s career and that of his principal rival,
who gave his mind little to practical improvement, and almost entirely
to the game of party and the struggle for power. Moreover, Gladstone
filled the nation with a spirit of common enthusiasm and hopeful effort
for the general good, especially for the good of the masses, to which
there was nothing corresponding on the part of his rival for power,
whose grand game was that of setting two classes, the highest and the
lowest, against the third. Gladstone was, in the best sense, a man of
the people; and the heart of the people seldom failed to respond to his
appeal. As an embodiment of some great qualities, especially of loyalty
to righteousness, he has left no equal behind him, and deeply in this
hour of trial we feel his loss.



FOOTNOTES


[1] I used to think that an occasional session, or even a single session,
of the United Parliament at Dublin, for the special settlement of Irish
affairs, Irish character being what it is, might have a good effect on
the Irish heart. It might put an end to the feeling which at present
prevails, that the United Parliament is alien to Ireland and almost a
foreign power. The suggestion was considered, but the inconvenience was
deemed too great. Yet, inconvenience would have been cheaply incurred if
the measure could have answered its purpose. A more feasible course might
be to allow the Irish members to meet in College Green and legislate on
purely Irish questions, subject to the ultimate allowance or disallowance
of the Imperial Parliament, in which the Irish members would still sit.

[2] “The immense longevity of the early generations of mankind was
eminently favourable to the preservation of pristine traditions. Each
individual, instead of being, as now, a witness of, or an agent in, one
or two transmissions from father to son, would observe or share in ten
times as many. According to the Hebrew Chronology, Lamech, the father
of Noah, was of mature age before Adam died; and Abraham was of mature
age before Noah died. Original or early witnesses, remaining so long as
standards of appeal, would evidently check the rapidity of the darkening
and destroying process.”--_Studies on Homer and the Homeric Age_, II. 4,
5.

_Printed by MORRISON & GIBB LIMITED, Edinburgh_





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