The thrilling scene enacted in the House of Commons on that memorable night is thus described: "In the following month the Chancellor of the Exchequer produced his second budget. It was an ambitious and a skillful attempt to reconcile conflicting interests, and to please all while offending none. The government had come into office pledged to do something for the relief of the agricultural interests. They redeemed their pledge by reducing the duty on malt. This reduction created a deficit; and they repaired the deficit by doubling the duty on inhabited houses. Unluckily, the agricultural interests proved, as usual, ungrateful to its benefactors, and made light of the reduction on malt; while those who were to pay for it in double taxation were naturally indignant. The voices of criticism, 'angry, loud, discordant voices,' were heard simultaneously on every side. The debate waxed fast and furious. In defending his hopeless proposals, Mr. Disraeli gave full scope to his most characteristic gift; he pelted his opponents right and left with sarcasms, taunts, and epigrams, and went as near personal insult as the forms of Parliament permit. He sat down late at night, and Mr. Gladstone rose in a crowded and excited House to deliver an unpremeditated reply which has ever since been celebrated. Even the cold and colorless pages of 'Hansard' show signs of the excitement under which he labored, and of the tumultuous applause and dissent by which his opening sentences were interrupted. 'The speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer,' he said, 'must be answered on the moment. It must be tried by the laws of decency and propriety.'" He indignantly rebuked his rival's language and demeanor. He reminded him of the discretion and decorum due from every member, but pre-eminently due from the leader of the House. He tore his financial scheme to ribbons. It was the beginning of a duel which lasted till death removed one of the combatants from the political arena. 'Those who had thought it impossible that any impression could be made upon the House after the speech of Mr. Disraeli had to acknowledge that a yet greater impression was produced by the unprepared reply of Mr. Gladstone.' The House divided and the government were left in a minority of nineteen. This happened in the early morning of December 17, 1852. Within an hour of the division Lord Derby wrote to the Queen a letter announcing his defeat and the consequences which it must entail, and that evening at Osborne he placed his formal resignation in her majesty's hands.
It is related as an evidence of the intense excitement, if not frenzy, that prevailed at the time, that Mr. Gladstone met with indignity at his Club. Greville, in his "Memoirs," says that, "twenty ruffians of the Carleton Club" had given a dinner to Major Beresford, who had been charged with bribery at the Derby election and had escaped with only a censure, and that "after dinner, when they were drunk, they went up stairs and finding Mr. Gladstone alone in the drawing-room, some of them proposed to throw him out of the window. This they did not quite dare to do, but contented themselves with giving some insulting message or order to the waiter and then went away." Mr. Gladstone, however, remained a member of the Club until he joined the Whig administration in 1859.
Mr. Gladstone's crushing expose of the blunders of Mr. Disraeli's budget was almost ludicrous in its completeness, and it was universally felt that the scheme could not survive his brilliant attack. The effect that the merciless criticism of Disraeli's budget was not only the discomfiture of Mr. Disraeli and the overthrow of the Russell administration, but the elevation of Mr. Gladstone to the place vacated by Chancellor Disraeli.
The Earl of Aberdeen became Prime Minister. The new government was a coalition of Whigs and Peelites, with a representative of the Radicals in the person of Sir William Molesworth. Mr. Gladstone, the Duke of Newcastle, Sir James Graham and Mr. Sidney Herbert were the Peelites in the Cabinet. Mr. Gladstone was chosen Chancellor of the Exchequer.
We may refer here to a letter of Mr. Gladstone, written Christmas, 1851, in order to show his growing Liberalism. The letter was to Dr. Skinner, Bishop of Aberdeen and Primus, on the positions and functions of the laity in the Church. This letter is remarkable, because, as Dr. Charles Wordsworth, Bishop of St. Andrew's, said at the time, "it contained the germ of liberation and the political equality of all religions." The Bishop published a controversial rejoinder, which drew from Dr. Gaisford, Dean of Christ Church, these emphatic words: "You have proved to my satisfaction that this gentleman is unfit to represent the University," meaning the representation for Oxford in Parliament.
This feeling was growing, for when the Russell Ministry fell and it became necessary for Mr. Gladstone, because he accepted a place in the Cabinet, to appeal for re-election to his constituents at Oxford, he met with much opposition, because of his Liberalism. Appealing to his university to return him, and endorse his acceptance of office in the new Ministry of the Earl of Aberdeen, Mr. Gladstone soon discovered that he had made many enemies by his manifest tendencies toward Liberal-Conservatism. He had given unmistakable evidence that he held less firmly the old traditions of that unbending Toryism of which he was once the most promising representative. Lord Derby, whom he had deposed, had been elected Chancellor of the University to succeed the Duke of Wellington, deceased. Consequently his return to the House was ardently contested. His opponents looked around for a candidate of strong Conservative principles. The Marquis of Chandos, who was first elected, declined to run in opposition to Mr. Gladstone; but at length a suitable opponent was found in Mr. Dudley Perceval, of Christ Church, son of the Right Hon. Spencer Perceval, who was nominated January 4th.
Dr. Hawkins, Provost of Oriel, one of the twenty colleges of Oxford, proposed Mr. Gladstone, and Archdeacon Denison, leader of the High Church party, proposed Mr. Dudley Perceval. According to the custom at university elections, neither candidate was present. It was objected to Mr. Gladstone that he had voted improperly on ecclesiastical questions, and had accepted office in "a hybrid ministry." The "Times" described Mr. Perceval as "a very near relative of our old friend Mrs. Harris. To remove any doubt on this point, let him be exhibited at Exeter Hall with the documentary evidence of his name, existence and history; his first-class, his defeat at Finsbury, his talents, his principles. If we must go to Oxford to record our votes it would at least be something to know that we were voting against a real man and not a mere name." The "Morning Chronicle," on the other hand, affirmed that a section of the Carleton Club were "making a tool of the Oxford Convocation for the purpose of the meanest and smallest political rancor against Mr. Gladstone."
Mr. Gladstone, who fought the battle on ecclesiastical lines, wrote, after the nomination, to the chairman of his election committee, as follows:
"Unless I had a full and clear conviction that the interests of the Church, whether as relates to the legislative functions of Parliament, or the impartial and wise recommendation of fit persons to her majesty for high ecclesiastical offices, were at least as safe in the hands of Lord Aberdeen as in those of Lord Derby (though I would on no account disparage Lord Derby's personal sentiments towards the Church), I should not have accepted office under Lord Aberdeen. As regards the second, if it be thought that during twenty years of public life, or that during the latter part of them, I have failed to give guarantees of attachment to the interests of the Church—to such as so think I can offer neither apology nor pledge. To those who think otherwise, I tender the assurance that I have not by my recent assumption of office made any change whatever in that particular, or in any principles relating to it."
Mr. Gladstone was again elected by a fair majority and returned to Parliament. Seventy-four of the professors voted for Mr. Gladstone and fifteen for Mr. Perceval.
When Parliament assembled the Earl of Aberdeen announced in the House of Lords that the measures of the Government would be both Conservative and Liberal,—at home to maintain Free Trade principles and to pursue the commercial and financial system of the late Sir Robert Peel, and abroad to secure the general peace of Europe without relaxing defensive measures.
Mr. Gladstone had already proved himself to have a wonderful mastery of figures, and the confused technicalities of finance. He did not disappoint the hopes of his friends in regard to his fiscal abilities. On the contrary, he speedily inaugurated a new and brilliant era in finance. Previous to presenting his first budget, in 1853, Mr. Gladstone brought forward a scheme for the reduction of the national debt, which was approved by Radicals as well as Conservatives, and adopted by the House. The scheme worked most successfully until the breaking out of the Crimean war. During this very short period of two years the public debt was reduced by more than $57,500,000.
In consequence of his general reputation and also of this brilliant financial scheme, the first budget of Mr. Gladstone was waited for with intense interest. His first budget was introduced April 18, 1853. It was one of his greatest budgets, and for statesmanlike breadth of conception it has never been surpassed. In bringing it forward Mr. Gladstone spoke five hours, and during that length of time held the House spellbound. The speech was delivered with the greatest ease, and was perspicuity itself throughout. Even when dealing with the most abstruse financial detail his language flowed on without interruption, and he never paused for a word. "Here was an orator who could apply all the resources of a burnished rhetoric to the elucidation of figures; who could make pippins and cheese interesting and tea serious; who could sweep the widest horizon of the financial future and yet stoop to bestow the minutest attention on the microcosm of penny stamps and post-horses. The members on the floor and ladies in the gallery of the House listened attentively and showed no signs of weariness throughout." A contemporary awarded to him the palm for unsurpassed fluency and choice of diction, and says:
"The impression produced upon the minds of the crowded and brilliant assembly by Mr. Gladstone's evident mastery and grasp of the subject, was, that England had at length found a skillful financier, upon whom the mantle of Peel had descended. The cheering when the right honorable gentleman sat down was of the most enthusiastic and prolonged character, and his friends and colleagues hastened to tender him their warm congratulations upon the distinguished success he had achieved in his first budget."
The budget provided for the gradual reduction of the income tax to expire in 1860; for an increase in the duty on spirits; for the abolition of the soap duties; the reduction of the tax on cabs and hackney coaches; the introduction of the penny receipt stamp and the equalization of the assessed taxes on property. By these provisions it was proposed to make life easier and cheaper for large and numerous classes. The duty on 123 articles was abolished and the duty on 133 others reduced, the total relief amounting to $25,000,000. Mr. Gladstone gave a clear exposition of the income tax, which he declared was never intended to be permanent. It had been the last resort in times of national danger, and he could not consent to retain it as a part of the permanent and ordinary finances of the country. It was objectionable on account of its unequal incidence, of the harassing investigation into private affairs which it entailed and of the frauds to which it inevitably led.
The value of the reduction in the necessities of life proposed by Mr. Gladstone is seen from the following from a contemporary writer:
"The present budget, more than any other budget within our recollection, is a cupboard budget; otherwise, a poor man's budget. With certain very ugly features, the thing has altogether a good, hopeful aspect, together with very fair proportions. It is not given to any Chancellor of the Exchequer to make a budget fascinating as a fairy tale. Nevertheless, there are visions of wealth and comfort in the present budget that mightily recommend it to us. It seems to add color and fatness to the poor man's beef; to give flavor and richness to the poor man's plum-pudding. The budget is essentially a cupboard budget; and let the name of Gladstone be, for the time at least, musical at the poor man's fireside."
It unquestionably established Gladstone as the foremost financier of his day. Greville, in his "Memoirs," says of him: "He spoke for five hours; and by universal consent it was one of the grandest displays and most able financial statements that ever was heard in the House of Commons; a great scheme, boldly and skillfully and honestly devised, disdaining popular clamor and pressure from without, and the execution of its absolute perfection."
We reproduce some extracts from this important speech: "Depend upon it, when you come to close quarters with this subject, when you come to measure and test the respective relations of intelligence and labor and property in all their myriad and complex forms, and when you come to represent those relations in arithmetical results, you are undertaking an operation of which I should say it was beyond the power of man to conduct it with satisfaction, but which, at any rate, is an operation to which you ought not constantly to recur; for if, as my noble friend once said with universal applause, this country could not bear a revolution once a year, I will venture to say that it cannot bear a reconstruction of the income tax once a year.
"Whatever you do in regard to the income tax, you must be bold, you must be intelligible, you must be decisive. You must not palter with it. If you do, I have striven at least to point out as well as my feeble powers will permit, the almost desecration I would say, certainly the gross breach of duty to your country, of which you will be found guilty, in thus putting to hazard one of the most potent and effective among all its material resources. I believe it to be of vital importance, whether you keep this tax or whether you part with it, that you should either keep it or should leave it in a state in which it will be fit for service on an emergency, and that it will be impossible to do if you break up the basis of your income tax.
"If the Committee have followed me, they will understand that we found ourselves on the principle that the income-tax ought to be marked as a temporary measure; that the public feeling that relief should be given to intelligence and skill as compared with property ought to be met, and may be met with justice and with safety, in the manner we have pointed out; that the income tax in its operation ought to be mitigated by every rational means, compatible with its integrity; and, above all, that it should be associated in the last term of its existence, as it was in the first, with those remissions of indirect taxation which have so greatly redoubled to the profit of this country and have set so admirable an example—an example that has already in some quarters proved contagious to the other nations of the earth, These are the principles on which we stand, and these the figures. I have shown you that if you grant us the taxes which we ask, to the moderate amount of L2,500,000 in the whole, much less than that sum for the present year, you, or the Parliament which may be in existence in 1860, will be in the condition, if it shall so think fit, to part with the income tax."
Sir, I scarcely dare to look at the clock, shamefully reminding me, as it must, how long, how shamelessly, I have trespassed on the time of the committee. All I can say in apology is that I have endeavored to keep closely to the topics which I had before me—
—immensum spatiis confecimus aequor, Et jam tempus equum fumantia solvere colla.
"These are the proposals of the Government. They may be approved or they may be condemned, but I have at least this full and undoubting confidence, that it will on all hands be admitted that we have not sought to evade the difficulties of our position; that we have not concealed those difficulties, either from ourselves or from others; that we have not attempted to counteract them by narrow or flimsy expedients; that we have prepared plans which, if you will adopt them, will go some way to close up many vexed financial questions—questions such as, if not now settled, may be attended with public inconvenience, and even with public danger, in future years and under less favorable circumstances; that we have endeavored, in the plans we have now submitted to you, to make the path of our successors in future years not more arduous but more easy; and I may be permitted to add that, while we have sought to do justice, by the changes we propose in taxation, to intelligence and skill as compared with property—while we have sought to do justice to the great laboring community of England by furthering their relief from indirect taxation, we have not been guided by any desire to put one class against another. We have felt we should best maintain our own honor, that we should best meet the views of Parliament, and best promote the interests of the country, by declining to draw any invidious distinctions between class and class, by adapting it to ourselves as a sacred aim to differ and distribute—burden if we must, benefit if we may—with equal and impartial hand; and we have the consolation of believing that by proposals such as these we contribute, as far as in us lies, not only to develop the material resources of the country, but to knit the hearts of the various classes of this great nation yet more closely than heretofore to that throne and to those institutions under which it is their happiness to live."
It is seldom that a venture of such magnitude as Mr. Gladstone's first budget meets with universal success. But from the outset the plan was received with universal favor. Besides the plaudits with which the orator was greeted at the conclusion of his speech, his proposals were received favorably by the whole nation. Being constructed upon Free Trade principles, it was welcomed by the press and the country. It added greatly, not only to the growing reputation of the new Chancellor of the Exchequer as a financier, but also to his popularity.
The following anecdote of Mr. Gladstone is told by Walter Jerrold and is appropriate as well as timely here:
"During Mr. Gladstone's first tenure of office as Chancellor of the Exchequer, a curious adventure occurred to him in the London offices of the late Mr. W. Lindsay, merchant, shipowner and M.P. There one day entered a brusque and wealthy shipowner of Sunderland, inquiring for Mr. Lindsay. As Mr. Lindsay was out, the visitor was requested to wait in an adjacent room, where he found a person busily engaged in copying some figures. The Sunderland shipowner paced the room several times and took careful note of the writer's doings, and at length said to him, 'Thou writes a bonny hand, thou dost.'
"'I am glad you think so,' was the reply.
"'Ah, thou dost. Thou makes thy figures weel. Thou'rt just the chap I want.'
"'Indeed!' said the Londoner.
"'Yes, indeed,' said the Sunderland man. 'I'm a man of few words. Noo, if thou'lt come over to canny ould Sunderland thou seest I'll give thee a hundred and twenty pounds a year, and that's a plum thou dost not meet with every day in thy life, I reckon. Noo then.'
"The Londoner replied that he was much obliged for the offer, and would wait till Mr. Lindsay returned, whom he would consult upon the subject. Accordingly, on the return of the latter, he was informed of the shipowner's tempting offer.
"'Very well,' said Mr. Lindsay, 'I should be sorry to stand in your way. One hundred and twenty pounds is more than I can afford to pay you in the department in which you are at present placed. You will find my friend a good and kind master, and, under the circumstances, the sooner you know each other the better. Allow me, therefore, Mr.——, to introduce you to the Right Hon. W. E. Gladstone, Chancellor of the Exchequer.' The Sunderland shipowner was a little taken aback at first, but he soon recovered his self-possession, and enjoyed the joke quite as much as Mr. Gladstone did."
THE CRIMEAN WAR
The Crimean War, the great event with which the Aberdeen Cabinet was associated, was a contest between Russia and Turkey, England and France. A dispute which arose between Russia and Turkey as to the possession of the Holy Places of Jerusalem was the precipitating cause. For a long time the Greek and the Latin Churches had contended for the possession of the Holy Land. Russia supported the claim of the Greek Church, and France that of the Papal Church. The Czar claimed a Protectorate over all the Greek subjects of the Porte. Russia sought to extend her conquests south and to seize upon Turkey. France and England sustained Turkey. Sardinia afterwards joined the Anglo-French alliance.
The people of England generally favored the war, and evinced much enthusiasm at the prospect of it. Lord Aberdeen and Mr. Gladstone wished England to stand aloof. The Peelite members of the cabinet were generally less inclined to war than the Whigs. Lord Palmerston and Lord John Russell favored England's support of Turkey. Some thought that England could have averted the war by pursuing persistently either of two courses: to inform Turkey that England would give her no aid; or to warn Russia that if she went to war, England would fight for Turkey. But with a ministry halting between two opinions, and the people demanding it, England "drifted into war" with Russia.
July 2, 1853, the Russian troops crossed the Pruth and occupied the Danubian Principalities which had been by treaty, in 1849, evacuated by Turkey and Russia, and declared by both powers neutral territory between them. London was startled, October 4, 1853, by a telegram announcing that the Sultan had declared war against Russia. England and France jointly sent an ultimatum to the Czar, to which no answer was returned. March 28, 1854, England declared war.
On the 12th of March, while great excitement prevailed and public meetings were held throughout England, declaring for and against war, Mr. Gladstone made an address on the occasion of the inauguration of the statue of Sir Robert Peel, at Manchester. He spoke of the designs of Russia, and described her as a power which threatened to override all other powers, and as a source of danger to the peace of the world. Against such designs, seen in Russia's attempt to overthrow the Ottoman Empire, England had determined to set herself at whatever cost. War was a calamity that the government did not desire to bring upon the country, "a calamity which stained the face of nature with human gore, gave loose rein to crime, and took bread from the people. No doubt negotiation is repugnant to the national impatience at the sight of injustice and oppression; it is beset with delay, intrigue, and chicane; but these are not so horrible as war, if negotiation can be made to result in saving this country from a calamity which deprives the nation of subsistence and arrests the operations of industry. To attain that result ... Her Majesty's Ministers have persevered in exercising that self-command and that self-restraint which impatience may mistake for indifference, feebleness or cowardice, but which are truly the crowning greatness of a great people, and which do not evince the want of readiness to vindicate, when the time comes, the honor of this country."
In November a conference of some of the European powers was held at Vienna to avert the war by mediating between Russia and Turkey, but was unsuccessful. Mr. Gladstone said: "Austria urged the two leading states, England and France, to send in their ultimatum to Russia, and promised it her decided support.... Prussia at the critical moment, to speak in homely language, bolted.... In fact, she broke up the European concert, by which France and England had hoped to pull down the stubbornness of the Czar."
Mr. Gladstone had opposed the war, not only on humanitarian and Christian grounds, but also because the preparation of a war budget overthrew all his financial schemes and hopes; a new budget was necessary, and he as Chancellor of the Exchequer must prepare it. Knowing that the struggle was inevitable, he therefore bent his energies to the task and conceived a scheme for discharging the expenses of the war out of the current revenue, provided it required no more than ten million pounds extra, so that the country should not be permanently burdened. It would require to do this the imposition of fresh taxes.
"It thus fell to the lot of the most pacific of Ministers, the devotee of retrenchment, and the anxious cultivator of all industrial arts, to prepare a war budget, and to meet as well as he might the exigencies of a conflict which had so cruelly dislocated all the ingenious devices of financial optimism."
Mr. Gladstone afterwards moved for over six and a half millions of pounds more than already granted, and proposed a further increase in the taxes. Mr. Disraeli opposed Mr. Gladstone's budget. He devised a scheme to borrow and thus increase the debt. He opposed the imposition of new taxes. Mr. Gladstone said: "Every good motive and every bad motive, combated only by the desire of the approval of honorable men and by conscientious rectitude—every motive of ease, comfort, and of certainty spring forward to induce a Chancellor of the Exchequer to become the first man to recommend a loan." Mr. Gladstone was sustained.
The war had begun in earnest. The Duke of Newcastle received a telegram on the 21st of September announcing that 25,000 English troops, 25,000 French and 8000 Turks had landed safely at Eupatoria "without meeting with any resistance, and had already begun to march upon Sebastopol."
The war was popular with the English people, but the ministry of Lord Aberdeen, which inaugurated it, was becoming unpopular. This became apparent in the autumn of 1854. There were not actual dissensions in the Cabinet, but there was great want of harmony as to the conduct of the war. The Queen knew with what reluctance Lord Aberdeen had entered upon the war, but she had the utmost confidence in him as a man and a statesman. She was most desirous that the war be prosecuted with vigor, and trusted the Premier for the realization of her hopes and those of the nation, but unity in the Cabinet was necessary for the successful prosecution of the war.
Parliament assembled December 12, 1854, "under circumstances more stirring and momentous than any which had occurred since the year of Waterloo." The management of the war was the main subject under discussion. The English troops had covered themselves with glory in the battles of Alma, Balaclava and Inkermann. But the sacrifice was great. Thousands were slain and homes made desolate, while the British army was suffering greatly, and the sick and wounded were needing attention. Half a million pounds were subscribed in three months, and Miss Florence Nightingale with thirty-seven lady nurses, soon to be reinforced by fifty more, set out at once for the seat of war to nurse the sick and wounded soldiers. It is recorded that "they reached Scutari on the 5th of November, in time to receive the soldiers who had been wounded at the battle of Balaclava. On the arrival of Miss Nightingale the great hospital at Scutari, in which up to this time all had been chaos and discomfort, was reduced to order, and those tender lenitives which only woman's thought and woman's sympathy can bring to the sick man's couch, were applied to solace and alleviate the agonies of pain or the torture of fever and prostration."
It was natural to attribute the want of proper management to the ministry, and hence the Government found itself under fire. In the House of Lords the Earl of Derby condemned the inefficient manner in which the war had been carried on, the whole conduct of the ministry in the war, and the insufficiency of the number of troops sent out to check the power of Russia. The Duke of Newcastle replied, and while not defending all the actions of the ministry during the war, yet contended that the government were prepared to prosecute it with resolve and unflinching firmness. While not standing ready to reject overtures of peace, they would not accept any but an honorable termination of the war. The ministry relied upon the army, the people, and upon their allies with the full confidence of ultimate success.
Mr. Disraeli, in the House of Commons, attacked the policy of the ministry from beginning to end. Everything was a blunder or a mishap of some description or other; the government had invaded Russia with 25,000 troops without providing any provision for their support.
When the House of Commons assembled, in January, 1855, it became apparent that there was a determination to sift to the bottom the charges that had been made against the ministry regarding their manner of carrying on the war. The Queen expressed her sympathy for Lord Aberdeen, who was in a most unenviable position. Motions hostile to the government were introduced in the House of Lords, while in the House of Commons Mr. Roebuck moved for a select committee "to inquire into the condition of the army before Sebastopol, and into the conduct of those departments of the government whose duty it has been to minister to the wants of the army."
Lord John Russell resigned his office and left his colleagues to face the vote. He could not see how Mr. Roebuck's motion could be resisted. This seemed to portend the downfall of the ministry. The Duke of Newcastle, Secretary of War, offered to retire to save the government. Lord Palmerston believed that the breaking up of the ministry would be a calamity to the country, but he doubted the expediency of the retirement of the Duke of Newcastle, and his own fitness for the place of Minister of War, if vacated. Finally the Cabinet resolved to hold together, except Lord John Russell.
In the debate it was declared that the condition of things at the seat of war was exaggerated; but the speech of Mr. Stafford caused a great sensation. He described the sufferings which he declared he had himself witnessed. He summed up by quoting the language of a French officer, who said: "You seem, sir, to carry on war according to the system of the Middle Ages." The situation of the ministry was critical before, but this speech seemed to make sure the passage of the resolutions.
It was under all these depressing circumstances that Mr. Gladstone rose to defend himself and his colleagues. In a fine passage he thus described what the position of the Cabinet would have been if they had shrunk from their duty: "What sort of epitaph would have been written over their remains? He himself would have written it thus: Here lie the dishonored ashes of a ministry which found England at peace and left it in war, which was content to enjoy the emoluments of office and to wield the sceptre of power so long as no man had the courage to question their existence. They saw the storm gathering over the country; they heard the agonizing accounts which were almost daily received of the state of the sick and wounded in the East. These things did not move them. But as soon as the Honorable Member for Sheffield raised his hand to point the thunderbolt, they became conscience-stricken with a sense of guilt, and, hoping to escape punishment, they ran away from duty."
This eloquent passage was received with tumultuous cheers. Mr. Gladstone claimed that there had been many exaggerations as to the state of the army and there were then more than 30,000 British troops under arms before Sebastopol. The administration of the War Department at home was no doubt defective, but he declined to admit that it had not improved, or that it was as bad as to deserve formal censure, and the Duke of Newcastle did not merit the condemnation sought to be cast on him as the head of the War Department.
Mr. Disraeli was eagerly heard when he rose to speak. He said that the government admitted that they needed reconstruction, and that now the House was called upon to vote confidence in the administration. It was not the Duke of Newcastle nor the military system, but the policy of the whole Cabinet which he characterized as a "deplorable administration."
The result of the vote was a strange surprise to all parties, and one of the greatest ever experienced in Parliamentary history. The vote for Mr. Roebuck's committee was 205; and against it, 148; a majority against the ministry of 157. "The scene was a peculiar and probably an unparalleled one. The cheers which are usually heard from one side or the other of the House on the numbers of a division being announced, were not forthcoming. The members were for a moment spellbound with astonishment, then there came a murmur of amazement and finally a burst of general laughter." The resignation of the Aberdeen ministry was announced February 1st, the Duke of Newcastle stating that it had been his intention to give up the office of Secretary of War whether Mr. Roebuck's resolution had passed or not.
Thus was overthrown the famous coalition Cabinet of Lord Aberdeen—one of the most brilliant ever seen—a Cabinet distinguished for its oratorical strength, and for the conspicuous abilities of its chief members. Mr. Gladstone, who was the most distinguished Peelite in the Cabinet, certainly could not, up to this period, be suspected of lukewarmness in the prosecution of the war. Lord Palmerston formed a reconstructed rather than a new Cabinet. Mr. Gladstone and his friends at first declined to serve in the new Cabinet, out of regard for the Duke of Newcastle and Lord Aberdeen, the real victims of the adverse vote. But these noblemen besought Mr. Gladstone not to let his personal feelings stand in the way of his own interests, and not to deprive the country of his great services, so he resumed office as Chancellor of the Exchequer. Lord Palmerston had been regarded as the coming man, and his name carried weight upon the Continent and at home. But the new ministry was surrounded by serious difficulties, and did not pull together very long. The War Minister, Lord Panmure, entered upon his duties with energy, and proposed, February 16th, his remedy for existing evils; but on the 19th of February Mr. Layard in the House of Commons said, "the country stood on the brink of ruin—it had fallen into the abyss of disgrace and become the laughing-stock of Europe." He declared that the new ministry differed little from the last.
Lord Palmerston, in answer to inquiries, lamented the sufferings of the army and confessed that mishaps had been made, but the present ministry had come forward in an emergency and from a sense of public duty, and he believed would obtain the confidence of the country. But another strange turn in events was at hand. Mr. Roebuck gave notice of the appointment of his committee. Hostility to the ministry was disclaimed, but Mr. Gladstone, Sir James Graham and Mr. Sidney Herbert took the same view of the question they had previously taken. They were opposed to the investigation as a dangerous breach of a great constitutional principle, and if the committee was granted, it would be a precedent from whose repetition the Executive could never again escape, however unreasonable might be the nature of the demand. They therefore retired from office.
The report of the committee, when presented, practically advised a vote of censure upon the Aberdeen Cabinet for the sufferings of the British army, hence the house declined to entertain it by a large majority of 107. As the appointment of the committee, however, was the only way to allay the popular excitement, there were many who thought that the Peelites would have done well to recognize the urgency of the crisis and not to have abandoned the Government.
The resignation of Mr. Gladstone made him very unpopular. However, "the wave of unpopularity lasted perhaps for a couple of years, and was afterwards replaced by a long-sustained popularity, which has not been exceeded by any statesman of the country. Greville referred to Gladstone about this time as 'the most unpopular man in the country.'"
March 2d the Emperor Nicholas died suddenly, and there were momentary hopes of peace; but his successor, Alexander, resolved to prosecute the struggle rather than yield the positions taken by the late Czar. He issued a warlike proclamation, and though he agreed to take part in the Vienna Conference of European powers, to be held March 15th, there were no signs that he intended to recede from the Russian claims.
Lord John Russell was sent to Vienna as English Plenipotentiary. The English aimed to secure the limitation of the preponderance of Russia in the Black Sea, and the acknowledgment of Turkey as one of the great European powers. To gain these points would, it was thought, end the war. Russia "would not consent to limit the number of her ships—if she did so she forfeited her honor, she would be no longer Russia. They did not want Turkey, they would be glad to maintain the Sultan, but they knew it was impossible; he must perish; they were resolved not to let any other power have Constantinople—they must not have that door to their dominions in the Black Sea shut against them." The Conference failed, and Lord John Russell was held responsible for its failure, and was eventually forced out of the Cabinet on that account. The failure of the Vienna negotiations produced great excitement, and the ministry were attacked and defeated in both Houses of Parliament. Mr. Disraeli offered a resolution of dissatisfaction in the House of Commons. Mr. Gladstone spoke during the debate on the failure of the Vienna Conference, and defended the war of the Crimea. He did not consider it a failure, for Russia now agreed to most of the points raised by the allies, and the only matter to be adjusted, was the proposition to limit the power of Russia in the Black Sea. Personally, he had formerly favored the curtailment of Russia's power there, but he now thought that such a proposal implied a great indignity to Russia. He believed that the proposal of Russia to give to Turkey the power of opening and shutting the straits was one calculated to bring about a peaceful settlement. The time was favorable to make peace. Lord John Russell replied vigorously to Mr. Gladstone. The House decided by a majority of 100 to support the ministry in the further prosecution of the war until a safe and honorable peace could be secured.
But on the 10th of July Sir E. Bulwer Lytton offered the following resolution: "That the conduct of our Ministry, in the recent negotiations at Vienna, has, in the opinion of this House, shaken the confidence of this country in those to whom its affairs are entrusted." Lord John Russell again declined to face discussion and resigned. During the debate on the motion Mr. Disraeli bitterly attacked Lord John Russell and the Premier, Lord Palmerston. But Mr. Gladstone said that so far from blaming the Ministry for hesitating about the offers of peace at Vienna, he blamed them for not giving the propositions that consideration which their gravity demanded, and for abruptly terminating the Conference and closing the hope of an honorable peace.
Mr. Gladstone, on the 3d of August, made another powerful appeal for the cessation of the war. He held that there was now no definite object for continuing the struggle; defended the Austrian proposals; defied the Western powers to control the future destinies of Russia, save for a moment; and he placed "the individual responsibility of the continuance of the war on the head of the Ministry."
But while Sebastopol held out there was no prospect of peace with Russia. Finally, in September, that fortress was taken and destroyed, and the Peace of Paris was concluded, March, 1856.
IN OPPOSITION TO THE GOVERNMENT
It was in February, 1855, that Mr. Gladstone resigned his seat in the Cabinet. After the Treaty of Paris, March, 1856, which put an end to the Crimean War, Mr. Gladstone found himself in opposition to the Ministry of Lord Palmerston. He had assumed a position of independence, associating politically with neither party. The political parties dreaded criticism and attack from him, for he was not properly constructed for the defense of either. He had himself declared his "sympathies" were "with the Conservatives, and his opinions with the Liberals," and that he and his Peelite colleagues, during this period of political isolation, were like roving icebergs on which men could not land with safety, but with which ships might come into perilous collision. Their weight was too great not to count, but it counted first this way and then that. Mr. Gladstone was conscientious in his opposition. He said: "I greatly felt being turned out of office. I saw great things to do. I longed to do them. I am losing the best years of my life out of my natural service. Yet I have never ceased to rejoice that I am not in office with Palmerston, when I have seen the tricks, the shufflings, the frauds he daily has recourse to as to his business. I rejoice not to sit on the Treasury Bench with him."
In August, 1855, Lord Aberdeen said; "Gladstone intends to be Prime Minister. He has great qualifications, but some serious defects. He is supreme in the House of Commons. He is too obstinate; if a man can be too honest, he is too honest. I have told Gladstone that when he is Prime Minister, I will have a seat in his Cabinet, if he desires it, without an office."
During 1856, several measures came before Parliament which Mr. Gladstone opposed. He vindicated the freedom of the Belgian press, whose liberty some of the powers would curtail, and opposed resolutions to consider the state of education in England and Wales, as tending to create a central controlling power, involving secular instruction and endless religious quarrels. He also opposed the budget of Sir G.C. Lewis, which imposed more duties upon the tea and sugar of the working-man, and was said to be generally at variance with the policy pursued by every enlightened minister of finance. Besides, he condemned the continuance of the war duties in times of peace. "He was a particularly acute thorn in the side of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and criticised the budget with unsparing vigor. 'Gladstone seems bent on leading Sir George Lewis a weary life,' wrote Mr. Greville. But finance was by no means the only subject of this terrible free-lance."
A resolution was offered in the House of Commons expressing disapprobation with the English Cabinet for sanctioning, in 1855 and '56, the violation of international law, by secretly enlisting the subjects of the United States as recruits for the British army, by the intervention of the English Ambassador. Mr. Gladstone said: "It appears to me that the two cardinal aims that we ought to keep in view in the discussion of this question are peace and a thoroughly cordial understanding with America for one, the honor and fame of England for the other. I am bound to say that in regard to neither of these points am I satisfied with the existing state of things, or with the conduct of Her Majesty's Government. A cordial understanding with America has not been preserved, and the honor of this country has been compromised."
Lord Palmerston, though very popular with the people, had greatly offended a large portion of the House of Commons by his interference in China. A lorcha, called the Arrow, flying the British flag, had been seized by the Chinese, and the question arose as to the right of the vessel to the protection of England. The opponents of the government contended that the vessel was built in China, was captured by pirates, and recaptured by the Chinese, and hence had no claim to British protection. To bring the matter to an issue Mr. Cobden introduced a resolution of inquiry and censure. For five nights the debate was protracted, and many able speeches were made on both sides, but Mr. Gladstone made one of the most effective speeches, against the ministry. He said: "Every man, I trust, will give his vote with the consciousness that it may depend upon his single vote whether the miseries, the crimes, the atrocities that I fear are now proceeding in China are to be discountenanced or not. We have now come to the crisis of the case. England is not yet committed. With you, then, with us, with every one of us, it rests to show that this House, which is the first, the most ancient, and the noblest temple of freedom in the world, is also the temple of that everlasting justice without which freedom itself would only be a name or only a curse to mankind."
The Premier ably defended himself, but the resolution of Mr. Cobden was passed. Parliament was dissolved March 21, 1857, and Lord Palmerston appealed to the country. He was victorious at the polls. Among the prominent Liberals who lost their seats were Cobden, Bright, and Milner Gibson. The Peelites suffered loss too, but Mr. Gladstone was again elected for Oxford University. However, Mr. Greville writes, under date of June 3d: "Gladstone hardly ever goes near the House of Commons, and never opens his lips." But his indifference and silence were not to last long.
When the Divorce Bill, which originated in the Lords, came up in the Commons, Mr. Gladstone made an impassioned speech against the measure, contending for the equality of woman with man in all the rights pertaining to marriage. He dealt with the question on theological, legal and social grounds. He contended that marriage was not only or chiefly a civil contract, but a "mystery" of the Christian religion. By the law of God it could not be so annulled as to permit of the re-marriage of the parties. "Our Lord," he says, "has emphatically told us that, at and from the beginning, marriage was perpetual, and was on both sides single." He dwelt with pathetic force on the injustice between man and woman of the proposed legislation, which would entitle the husband to divorce from an unfaithful wife, but would give no corresponding protection to the woman; and predicted the gloomiest consequences to the conjugal morality of the country from the erection of this new and odious tribunal. Nevertheless the bill became a law.
In 1858 a bill was introduced in the House of Commons by Lord Palmerston, to make conspiracy to murder a felony. It grew out of the attempt of Orsini upon the life of Napoleon III. The bill at first was carried by an immense majority, but the conviction spread that the measure was introduced solely at the dictation of the French Emperor, and hence the proposal was strongly opposed. Mr. Gladstone said: "These times are grave for liberty. We live in the nineteenth century; we talk of progress; we believe we are advancing, but can any man of observation who has watched the events of the last few years in Europe have failed to perceive that there is a movement indeed, but a downward and backward movement? There are few spots in which institutions that claim our sympathy still exist and flourish.... But in these times more than ever does responsibility centre upon the institutions of England, and if it does centre upon England, upon her principles, upon her laws and upon her governors, then I say that a measure passed by this House of Commons—the chief hope of freedom—which attempts to establish a moral complicity between us and those who seek safety in repressive measures, will be a blow and a discouragement to that sacred cause in every country in the world."
The bill was defeated by a majority of nineteen, and Lord Palmerston again resigned. He was succeeded by Lord Derby, who once more came into power. Mr. Disraeli again became Chancellor of the Exchequer, and leader of the House of Commons. The new ministry, which existed largely on sufferance, passed some good measures.
The one hundredth anniversary of the battle of Plassey was celebrated in England June 23, 1857, to obtain funds for a monument to Lord Clive, who secured India to England. The English then felt secure in the government of that land, yet at that very time one of the most wide-spread, destructive and cruel rebellions was raging, and shaking to its very foundations the English rule in Hindostan. Suddenly the news came of the terrible Indian mutiny and of the indiscriminate slaughter of men, women and children, filling all hearts with horror, and then of the crushing out of the rebellion. Lord Canning, Governor-General, issued a proclamation to the chiefs of Oudh, looking to the confiscation of the possessions of mutineers who failed to return to the allegiance of England. It was meant as clemency. But Lord Ellenborough, the officer in charge of affairs in India, dispatched "a rattling condemnation of the whole proceeding." Says Justin McCarthy: "It was absurd language for a man like Lord Ellenborough to address to a statesman like Lord Canning, who had just succeeded in keeping the fabric of English government in India together during the most terrible trial ever imposed on it by fate." The matter was taken up by Parliament. Lord Shaftesbury moved that the Lords disprove the sending of the dispatch. In the Commons the ministry were arraigned. But Lord Ellenborough took upon himself the sole responsibility of the dispatch, and resigned. Mr. Gladstone was invited to the vacant place, but declined.
The most important among the bills passed by Parliament was the India Bill, by which the government of India was transferred from the East India Company to the Crown and the Home government. Mr. Gladstone, who opposed the bill, proposed a clause providing that the Indian troops should not be employed in military operations beyond the frontiers of India.
In November, 1858, Mr. Gladstone accepted from the Premier the post of Lord High Commissioner Extraordinary to the Ionian Islands. The people of the Ionian Islands, which in 1800 was formed into the Republic of the Seven Islands, and was under the protection of Great Britain from 1815, were desirous of adding themselves to Greece. But the British government objected to the separation and their union with Greece. Mr. Gladstone was to repair to Corfu for the purpose of reconciling the people to the British protectorate. The Ionians regarded his appointment as a virtual abandonment of the protectorate of Great Britain. Mr. Gladstone, December 3d, addressed the Senate at Corfu in Italian. He had the reputation of being a Greek student, and the inhabitants of the Islands persisted in regarding him not as a Commissioner of a Conservative English Government, but as "Gladstone the Phil-Hellene!" He made a tour of the Islands, holding levees, receiving deputations and delivering harangues, and was received wherever he went with the honors due to a liberator. His path everywhere was made to seem like a triumphal progress. It was in vain he repeated his assurance that he came to reconcile them to the protectorate and not to deliver them from it. But the popular instinct insisted upon regarding him as at least the precursor of their union with the Kingdom of Greece. The legislative assembly met January 27, 1859, and proposed annexation to Greece. Finding that this was their firm wish and determination, Mr. Gladstone despatched to the Queen a copy of the vote, in which the representatives declared that "the single and unanimous will of the Ionian people has been and is for their union with the Kingdom of Greece." Mr. Gladstone returned home in February, 1859. The Ionians continued their agitation, and in 1864 were formally given over to the government of Greece.
Parliament was opened February 3, 1859, by the Queen, who in her speech from the throne said that the attention of Parliament would be called to the state of the law regulating the representation of the people. The plan of the government was presented by Mr. Disraeli. "It was a fanciful performance," says an English writer. The ministry proposed not to alter the limits of the franchise, but to introduce into boroughs a new kind of franchise founded on personal property. Mr. Disraeli characterized the government measure as "wise, prudent, adequate, conservative, and framed by men who reverence the past, are proud of the present, and confident of the future." Two members of the Cabinet promptly resigned rather than be parties to these proposals. Mr. Bright objected because the working classes were excluded. An amendment was moved by Lord John Russell condemning interference with the franchise which enabled freeholders in boroughs to vote in counties, and demanding a wider extension of the suffrage in boroughs.
Mr. Gladstone, though agreeing with these views, declined to support the amendment, because, if carried, it would upset the government and bring in a weaker administration. He did not propose to support the government, but he desired to see a settlement of the question of reform, and he thought the present opportunity advantageous for such settlement. He pleaded eloquently for the retention of the small boroughs.
The bill was lost by a majority of thirty-nine. Lord Derby having advised the Queen to dissolve Parliament, this was done April 3d. The general elections which resulted from the defeat of the Conservatives in the House of Commons on the Reform Bill, resulted in returning the Liberals with a considerable majority. Mr. Gladstone was again returned unopposed for the University of Oxford. The Queen opened the new Parliament June 7th. In reply to the speech from the throne an amendment to the address was moved by Lord Hartington, proposing a vote of want of confidence in the ministers. After three nights debate it was carried on June 10th, by a majority of thirteen, Mr. Gladstone voting with the government. Lord Derby and his colleagues immediately resigned. The Queen being averse to choosing between Lord John Russell and Lord Palmerston, turned to Lord Granville, leader of the Liberal party in the House of Lords. He failed to form a Cabinet, and Lord Palmerston again became Prime Minister.
The revolution of the political wheel once more brought Mr. Gladstone into office as Chancellor of the Exchequer. It became necessary in accepting a Cabinet position to again appeal to his constituents at Oxford for re-election. He voted as he did to sustain Lord Derby's administration and to settle the Reform question, yet he was misunderstood and some of his constituents alienated. He was strongly opposed by the Conservative Marquis of Chandos. The Conservatives claimed that he should not be returned, because, as Professor Mansel said, by his "acceptance of office he must now be considered as giving his definite adhesion to the Liberal party, as at present reconstructed, and as approving of the policy of those who overthrew Lord Derby's government." It was found on the conclusion of the poll, which continued for five days, that Mr. Gladstone was returned with a majority of nearly two hundred over his opponent. It is worthy of note that this same year Cambridge conferred upon Mr. Gladstone the honorary degree of D.C.L.
"The plenitude and variety of Mr. Gladstone's intellectual powers," says G. Barnett Smith, "have been the subject of such frequent comment that it would be superfluous to insist upon them here. On the political side of his career his life has been as unresting and active as that of any other great party leader, and if we regard him in the literary aspect we are equally astonished at his energy and versatility. Putting out of view his various works upon Homer, his miscellaneous writings of themselves, with the reading they involve, would entitle their author to take high rank on the score of industry.... We stand amazed at the infinity of topics which have received Mr. Gladstone's attention."
To solve the problems associated with Homer has been the chief intellectual recreation, the close and earnest study of Mr. Gladstone's literary life. "The blind old man of Scio's rocky isle" possessed for him an irresistible and a perennial charm. Nor can this occasion surprise, for all who have given themselves up to the consideration and attempted solution of the Homeric poems have found the fascination of the occupation gather in intensity. It is not alone from the poetic point of view that the first great epic of the world attracts students of all ages and of all countries. Homer presents, in addition, and beyond every other writer, a vast field for ethnological, geographical, and historical speculation and research. The ancient world stands revealed in the Homeric poems. Besides, almost numberless volumes have been written based upon the equally debatable questions of the Homeric text and the Homeric unity.
Some literary works of Mr. Gladstone have been already noticed. "Studies on Homer and Homeric Age" shows Mr. Gladstone's classic tastes and knowledge as well as his great industry and ability. This work was published in three volumes, in 1858. It is his magnum opus in literature, and exhibits wide and laborious research. "It discusses the Homeric controversy in its broad aspects, the relation of Homer to the Sacred Writings, his place in education, his historic aims, the probable period of the poet's life, the Homeric text, the ethnology of the Greek races, and the politics and poetry of Homer. Among subsequent Greek studies by Mr. Gladstone were his 'Juventus Mundi' and the 'Homeric Synchronism.' There is probably no greater living authority on the text of Homer than Mr. Gladstone, and the Ancient Greek race and literature have exercised over him a perennial fascination."
Mr. Gladstone dwells much on the relation of Homer to Christianity. "The standard of humanity of the Greek poet is different, yet many of his ideas almost carry us back to the early morning of our race; the hours of its greater simplicity and purity, and more free intercourse with God.... How is it possible to overvalue this primitive representation of the human race in a form complete, distinct and separate, with its own religion, stories, policy, history, arts, manners, fresh and true to the standard of its nature, like the form of an infant from the hand of the Creator, yet mature, full, and finished, in its own sense, after its own laws, like some masterpiece of the sculptor's art?" The Homeric scene of action is not Paradise, but it is just as far removed from the vices of a later heathenism.
Mr. Gladstone compares the "Iliad" and the "Odyssey," which he believed to be the poems of one poet, Homer, with the Old Testament writings, and observes that "Homer can never be put into competition with the Scriptures as touching the great fundamental, invaluable code of truth and hope;" but he shows how one may in a sense be supplementary to the other. As regards the history of the Greek race, it is Homer that furnishes "the point of origin from which all distances are to be measured." He says: "The Mosaic books, and the other historical books of the Old Testament, are not intended to present, and do not present, a picture of human society or of our nature drawn at large. The poems of Homer may be viewed as the complement of the earliest portion of the sacred records."
Again: "The Holy Scriptures are like a thin stream, beginning from the very fountain-head of our race, and gradually, but continuously, finding their way through an extended solitude into times otherwise known, and into the general current of the fortunes of mankind. The Homeric poems are like a broad lake, outstretched in the distance, which provides us with a mirror of one particular age and people, alike full and marvelous, but which is entirely disassociated by a period of many generations from any other records, except such as are of the most partial and fragmentary kind. In respect of the influence which they have respectively exercised upon mankind, it might appear almost profane to compare them. In this point of view the Scriptures stand so far apart from every other production, on account of their great offices in relation to the coming of the Redeemer and to the spiritual training of mankind, that there can be nothing either like or second to them."
Mr. Gladstone thinks that "the poems of Homer possess extrinsic worth as a faithful and vivid picture of early Grecian life and measures; they have also an intrinsic value which has given their author the first place in that marvelous trinity of genius—Homer, Dante, and Shakespeare."
As to the historic aims of Homer, Mr. Gladstone says: "Where other poets sketch, Homer draws; and where they draw he carves. He alone of all the now famous epic writers, moves (in the 'Iliad' especially) subject to the stricter laws of time and place; he alone, while producing an unsurpassed work of the imagination, is also the greatest chronicler that ever lived, and presents to us, from his own single hand, a representation of life, manners, history, of morals, theology, and politics, so vivid and comprehensive, that it may be hard to say whether any of the more refined ages of Greece or Rome, with their clouds of authors and their multiplied forms of historical record, are either more faithfully or more completely conveyed to us."
Mr. Gladstone fixes the probable date of Homer within a generation or two of the Trojan war, assigning as his principal reason for so doing the poet's visible identity with the age, the altering but not yet vanishing age of which he sings, and the broad interval in tone and feeling between himself and the very nearest of all that follow him. He presents several arguments to prove the trustworthiness of the text of Homer.
In 1877, Mr. Gladstone wrote an article on the "Dominions of the Odysseus," and also wrote a preface to Dr. Henry Schliemann's "Mycenae."
One of his most remarkable productions bore the title of, "The Vatican Decrees in their Bearing on Civil Allegiance; a Political Expostulation." This book was an amplification of an article from his own pen, which appeared October, 1874, in the Contemporary Review. It created great public excitement and many replies. One hundred and twenty thousand copies were sold. Mr. Higginson says: "The vigor of the style, the learning exhibited, and the source whence it came, all contributed to give it an extraordinary influence.... It was boldly proclaimed in this pamphlet that, since 1870, Rome has substituted for the proud boast of semper eadem, a policy of violence and change of faith;... 'that she had equally repudiated modern thought and ancient history;' ... 'that she has reburnished and paraded anew every rusty tool she was thought to have disused,' and 'that Rome requires a convert who now joins her to forfeit his moral and mental freedom, and to place his loyalty and civil duty at the mercy of another.'"
Mr. Gladstone issued another pamphlet, entitled "Vaticanism; and Answers to Reproofs and Replies," He reiterated his original charges, saying: "The Vatican decrees do, in the strictest sense, establish for the Pope a supreme command over loyalty and civil duty.... Even in those parts of Christendom where the decrees and the present attitude of the Papal See do not produce or aggravate open broils with the civil power, by undermining moral liberty, they impair moral responsibility, and silently, in the succession of generations, if not in the lifetime of individuals, tend to emasculate the vigor of the mind."
Mr. Gladstone published in seven volumes, in 1879, "Gleanings of Past Years." The essay entitled "Kin Beyond the Sea" at first created much excitement. "The Kin Beyond the Sea" was America, of which he says: "She will probably become what we are now, the head servant in the great household of the world, the employer of all employed; because her services will be the most and ablest." Again: "The England and the America of the present are probably the two strongest nations in the world. But there can hardly be a doubt, as between the America and the England of the future, that the daughter, at some no very distant time, will, whether fairer or less fair, be unquestionably yet stronger than the mother." Mr. Gladstone argues in support of this position from the concentrated continuous empire which America possesses, and the enormous progress she has made within a century.
In an address at the opening of the Art Loan Exhibition of Chester, August 11, 1879, Mr. Gladstone said: "With the English those two things are quite distinct; but in the oldest times of human industry—that is to say amongst the Greeks—there was no separation whatever, no gap at all, between the idea of beauty and the idea of utility. Whatever the ancient Greek produced he made as useful as he could; and at the same time, reward for work with him was to make it as beautiful as he could. In the industrial productions of America there is very little idea of beauty; for example, an American's axe is not intended to cut away a tree neatly, but quickly. We want a workman to understand that if he can learn to appreciate beauty in industrial productions, he is thereby doing good to himself, first of all in the improvement of his mind, and in the pleasure he derives from his work, and likewise that literally he is increasing his own capital, which is his labor."
In his articles on "Ecce Homo" he expresses the hope "that the present tendency to treat the old belief of man with a precipitate, shallow, and unexamining disparagement, is simply a distemper, that inflicts for a time the moral atmosphere, that is due, like plagues and fevers, to our own previous folly and neglect; and that when it has served its work of admonition and reform, will be allowed to pass away."
The "Impregnable Rock of Holy Scripture" is the title of a book by Mr. Gladstone, the articles of which were originally published in The Sunday School Times, Philadelphia.
The year 1860 marked the beginning of the second half of Mr. Gladstone's life as a statesman, in which he stood prominently forward as a Reformer. July 18, 1859, as Chancellor in the Liberal government of Lord Palmerston, he brought forward his budget. The budget of 1860 was the greatest of all his financial measures, for a new departure was taken in British commerce and manufactures. Mr. Cobden, in behalf of the English Government, had negotiated with France a treaty based on free trade principles—"a treaty which gave an impetus to the trade of this country, whose far-reaching effects are felt even to our day."
The Chancellor explained the various propositions of his financial statements. Speaking of discontent with the income tax he observed: "I speak on general terms. Indeed, I now remember that I myself had, about a fortnight ago, a letter addressed to me complaining of the monstrous injustice and iniquity of the income tax, and proposing that, in consideration thereof, the Chancellor of the Exchequer should be publicly hanged."
Mr. Gladstone said that the total reduction of duties would be over L1,000,000, requiring a slight extension of taxation; that by this means nearly L1,000,000 would be returned to the general revenue; that the loss to the revenue by the French Treaty, which was based upon free trade principles, and the reduction of duties, would be half made up by the imposts specified; that the abolition of the paper duty would produce the happiest results from the spread of cheap literature. The reductions proposed would give a total relief to the consumer of nearly L4,000,000, and cause a net loss of the revenue of over L2,000,000, a sum about equivalent to the amount coming in from the cessation of government annuities that year. The total revenue was L70,564,000, and as the total expenses of government was L70,000,000, there remained an estimated surplus of L464,000.
Mr. Gladstone concluded; "There were times, now long by, when sovereigns made progress through the land, and when at the proclamation of their heralds, they caused to be scattered whole showers of coin among the people who thronged upon their steps.... Our Sovereign is enabled, through the wisdom of her great council, assembled in Parliament around her, again to scatter blessings among her subjects by means of wise and prudent laws; of laws which do not sap in any respect the foundations of duty or of manhood, but which strike away the shackles from the arm of industry."
"It was one of the peculiarities of Mr. Gladstone's budget addresses that they roused curiosity in the outset, and, being delivered in a musical, sonorous, and perfectly modulated voice, kept the listeners interested to the very close. This financial statement of 1860 was admirably arranged for the purpose of awakening and keeping attention, piquing and teasing curiosity, and sustaining desire to hear from the first sentence to the last. It was not a speech, it was an oration, in the form of a great State paper, made eloquent, in which there was a proper restraint over the crowding ideas, the most exact accuracy in the sentences, and even in the very words chosen; the most perfect balancing of parts, and, more than all, there were no errors or omissions; nothing was put wrongly and nothing was overlooked. With a House crowded in every corner, with the strain upon his own mental faculties, and the great physical tax implied in the management of his voice, and the necessity for remaining upon his feet during this long period, 'the observed of all observers,' Mr. Gladstone took all as quietly, we are told, as if he had just risen to address a few observations to Mr. Speaker. Indeed, it was laughingly said that he could address a House for a whole week, and on the Friday evening have taken a new departure, beginning with the observation, 'After these preliminary remarks, I will now proceed to deal with the subject matter of my financial plan.'"
The ministry was supported by large majorities, and carried their measures, but when the bill for the repeal of the duty on paper at home, as well as coming into the country, came before the House of Lords, it was rejected. Mr. Gladstone appeared to be confronted by the greatest constitutional crisis of his life. He gave vent to his indignation, and declared that the action of the Lords was a gigantic innovation, and that the House of Commons had the undoubted right of selecting the manner in which the people should be taxed. This speech was pronounced by Lord John Russell "magnificently mad," and Lord Granville said that "it was a toss-up whether Gladstone resigned or not, and that if he did it would break up the Liberal party." Quiet was finally restored, and the following year Mr. Gladstone adroitly brought the same feature before the Lords in a way that compelled acceptance.
The budget of 1861 showed a surplus of L2,000,000 over the estimated surplus, and proposed to remit the penny on the income tax, and to repeal the paper duty. Instead of being divided into several bills as in the previous year, the budget was presented as a whole—all included in one. By this device the Lords were forced to acquiesce in the repeal of the paper duty, or take the responsibility of rejecting the whole bill. The Peers grumbled, and some of them were enraged. Lord Robert Cecil, now Marquis of Salisbury, rudely declared that Mr. Gladstone's conduct was only worthy of an attorney. He begged to apologize to the attorneys. They were honorable men and would have scorned the course pursued by the ministers. Another member of the House of Lords protested that the budget gave a mortal stab to the Constitution. Mr. Gladstone retorted: "I want to know, to what Constitution does it give a mortal stab? In my opinion it gives no mortal stab, and no stab at all, to any Constitution that we are bound to care for. But, on the contrary, so far as it alters anything in the most recent course of practice, it alters in the direction of restoring that good old Constitution which took its root in Saxon times, which grew from the Plantagenets, which endured the iron repression of the Tudors, which resisted the aggressions of the Stuarts, and which has come to its full maturity under the House of Brunswick. I think that is the Constitution, if I may presume to say so, which it is our duty to guard, and which—if, indeed, the proceedings of this year can be said to affect it at all—will be all the better for the operation. But the Constitution which my right honorable friend worships is a very different affair."
In 1860, Mr. Gladstone was elected Lord Rector of Edinburgh University, and the degree of LL.D. was conferred upon him.
Mr. Gladstone, in 1861, introduced one of his most beneficial measures—a bill creating the Post Office Savings Bank. The success of the scheme has gone beyond all expectation. At the close of 1891, the amount deposited was L71,608,002, and growing at the average rate of over L4,000,000 annually.
Mr. Gladstone's financial measures for 1862, while not involving such momentous issues as those of the preceding year, nevertheless encountered considerable opposition. The budget was a stationary one, with no surplus, no new taxes, no remission of taxes, no heavier burdens.
In October, 1862, Mr. and Mrs. Gladstone made a journey down the Tyne, which is thus described: "It was not possible to show to royal visitors more demonstrations of honor than were showered on the illustrious Commoner and his wife.... At every point, at every bank and hill and factory, in every opening where people could stand or climb, expectant crowds awaited Mr. Gladstone's arrival. Women and children, in all costumes and of all conditions, lined the shores ... as Mr. and Mrs. Gladstone passed. Cannon boomed from every point;... such a succession of cannonading never before greeted a triumphant conqueror on the march."
It was during this journey that Mr. Gladstone made the memorable speech, at New Castle, upon the American Civil War, which had broken out the same year. There had been much speculation as to whether the English government would recognize the Confederacy as a separate and independent power, and the utterance of a member of the Cabinet under the circumstances was regarded as entirely unwarranted. Mr. Gladstone himself frankly acknowledged his error in 1867: "I must confess that I was wrong; that I took too much upon myself in expressing such an opinion. Yet the motive was not bad. My sympathies were then—where they had long before been, where they are now—with the whole American people."
The session of 1863 was barren of important subjects of debate, and hence unusual interest was centered in the Chancellor's statement, which was another masterly financial presentation, and its leading propositions were cordially received. The whole reduction of taxation for the year was L3,340,000, or counting the total reductions, present and prospective, of L4,601,000. This still left a surplus of L400,000.
In four years L8,000,000 had been paid for war with China out of the ordinary revenues. A proposition to subject charities to the income tax, although endorsed by the whole cabinet, led to such powerful opposition throughout the country that it was finally withdrawn. The arguments of the Chancellor were endorsed by many who were opposed to the indiscriminate and mistaken beneficence which was so prevalent on death-beds.
A bill was introduced at this session by Sir Morton Peto, entitled the "Dissenters' Burial Bill," the object of which was to enable Nonconformists to have their own religious rites and services, and by their own ministers, in the graveyards of the Established Church. The bill was strongly opposed by Lord Robert Cecil and Mr. Disraeli. Mr. Gladstone favored the measure. The bill was rejected, and Mr. Gladstone at a later period discovered that his progress in ecclesiastical and political opinions was creating a breach between himself and his constituents at Oxford.
Mr. Gladstone's financial scheme for 1864 was received with undiminished interest. It was characterized as "a policy of which peace, progress and retrenchment were the watchwords." An available surplus of L2,260,000 enabled him to propose reductions.
The subject of reform, which had been coming up in the House of Commons in one way or another and agitating the House and the country since 1859, when the Conservative party was beaten on the question, reappeared in 1864. The question of lowering the borough franchise came up, and Mr. Gladstone startled the House and the country by his declaration upon the subject of reform, which showed the rapid development of his views upon the subject. The Conservative party was filled with alarm, and the hopes of the Reform party correspondingly elated. "The eyes of all Radical Reformers turned to Mr. Gladstone as the future Minister of Reform in Church and State. He became from the same moment an object of distrust, and something approaching to detestation in the eyes of all steady-going Conservatives."
Mr. Gladstone said: "I say that every man who is not presentably incapacitated by some consideration of personal unfitness or political danger, is morally entitled to come within the pale of the constitution." This declaration was the first note sounded in a conflict which, twelve months later, was to cost Mr. Gladstone his seat for Oxford University, and finally to culminate in the disruption of the Liberal Government. The general feeling in regard to this speech was that if the Liberal party had failed in its duty on the subject of reform in the existing Parliament after Mr. Gladstone's utterances, that the condition of things must undergo a change, so great was the effect of his speech in the country. The bill, which was presented by a private member and lost, was made memorable by the speech of the Chancellor. The eyes of careful political leaders were again turned towards Mr. Gladstone, and strong predictions made of his coming exaltation to the Premiership. Mr. Speaker Denison said, in October, 1864: "I now anticipate that Mr. Gladstone will be Premier. Neither party has any leader. I hope Mr. Gladstone may get support from the Conservatives who now support Palmerston." And these expectations were known to Mr. Gladstone himself, for Bishop Wilberforce had a conversation with him and writes: "Long talk with Gladstone as to Premiership: he is for acting under John Russell." Again to Mr. Gladstone: "Anything which breaks up, or tends to break up, Palmerston's supremacy, must bring you nearer to the post in which I long to see you, and, if I live, shall see you." Lord Palmerston himself said: "Gladstone will soon have it all his own way; and whenever he gets my place we shall have strange things."
The hostile feeling towards the Palmerston government, which had been growing in intensity, chiefly on the ground of its foreign policy, reached its full height in a fierce battle between the Ministry and the Opposition. July 4, 1864, Mr. Disraeli brought forward his motion of "no confidence." Mr. Gladstone replied for the government, and sought to rebut the accusations made by the leader of the Opposition. He said that it was the very first time in which the House of Commons had been called upon to record the degradation of the country, simply for the sake of displacing a ministry.
An amusing episode which occurred during this debate is worthy of record here; Mr. Bernard Osborne "grew amusingly sarcastic at the expense of the government, though he paid at the same time a great compliment to Mr. Gladstone. He likened the Cabinet to a museum of curiosities, in which there were some birds of rare and noble plumage, both alive and stuffed. There had been a difficulty, unfortunately, in keeping up the breed, and it was found necessary to cross it with the famous Peelites. 'I will do them the justice to say that they have a very great and noble Minister among them in the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and it is to his measures alone that they owe the little popularity and the little support they get from this Liberal party.' Describing Mr. Milner Gibson, the honorable gentleman said he was like some 'fly in amber,' and the wonder was 'how the devil he got there.' Mr. Cobden and Mr. Bright must have been disappointed in this 'young man from the country.' He had become insolent and almost quarrelsome under the guidance of the noble lord. Should that Parliament decide on terminating its own and their existence, they would find consolation that the funeral oration would be pronounced by Mr. Newdegate, and that some friendly hand would inscribe on their mausoleum, 'Rest and be thankful.'" Mr. Disraeli's motion was lost, and the ministry was sustained.
The budget of 1865 represented the country as in a prosperous financial condition. The total reduction was over L5,000,000. Such a financial showing gained the warm approval of the people, and excited but little opposition in the House. It was evident that a master-hand was guiding the national finances, and fortunately the Chancellor's calculations were verified by the continued prosperity of the country. At a later period, in commenting upon the policy of the two parties—Conservative and Liberal—Mr. Gladstone said: "From thence it follows that the policy of the Liberal party has been to reduce the public charges and to keep the expenditure within the estimates, and, as a result, to diminish the taxation of the country and the national debt; that the policy of the Tory government, since they took office in 1866, has been to increase the public charges, and to allow the departments to spend more than their estimates, and, as a result, to create deficits and to render the reduction of taxation impossible. Which policy will the country prefer?"
LIBERAL REFORMER AND PRIME MINISTER
July, 1865, Parliament having run its allotted course, according to the constitution, was dissolved, and a general election took place, which resulted in the Liberal party being returned again with a majority. Mr. Gladstone's relations with many of his constituents were not harmonious, owing to his pronounced Liberal views, and his seat for Oxford was seriously imperilled. Mr. Gathorne Hardy was nominated to run against him. The High Tory party resolved to defeat him, and he was defeated by a majority of 180. "The electors preferred the uncompromising defender of the Church and Toryism to the brilliant statesman and financier." Almost all of the distinguished residents of Oxford and three-fourths of the tutors and lecturers of the University voted for Mr. Gladstone, and his rejection was entirely owing to the opposing vote of non-residents and the bigotry of the hostile country clergymen of the Church of England. From the Bishop of Oxford Mr. Gladstone received the following indignant protest:
"I cannot forbear expressing to you my grief and indignation at the result. It is needless for me to say that everything I could with propriety do I did heartily to save our University this great loss and dishonor, as well from a loving honor of you. You were too great for them."
"The enemies of the University," observed the Times, "will make the most of her disgrace. It has hitherto been supposed that a learned constituency was to some extent exempt from the vulgar motives of party spirit, and capable of forming a higher estimate of statesmanship than common tradesmen or tenant-farmers."
His valedictory address to his former constituents was short: "After an arduous connection of eighteen years, I bid you, respectfully, farewell.... It is one imperative duty, and one alone, which induces me to trouble you with these few parting words, the duty of expressing my profound and lasting gratitude for indulgence as generous, and for support as warm and enthusiastic in itself, and as honorable from the character and distinctions of those who have given it, as has, in my belief, ever been accorded by any constituency to any representative."
One event in Parliament, in 1865, contributed much to Mr. Gladstone's defeat: In March, 1865, Mr. Dillwyn, the Radical member for Swansea, moved "that the present position of the Irish Church Establishment is unsatisfactory, and calls for the early attention of her Majesty's Government."
Sir Stafford Northcote wrote: "Gladstone made a terribly long stride in his downward progress last night, and denounced the Irish Church in a way which shows how, by and by, he will deal not only with it, but with the Church of England too.... He laid down the doctrines that the tithe was national property, and ought to be dealt with by the State in a manner most advantageous to the people; and that the Church of England was only national because the majority of the people still belong to her."
"It was now felt that henceforth Mr. Gladstone must belong to the country, and not to the University." He realized this himself, for driven from Oxford, he went down to South Lancashire, seeking to be returned from there to Parliament, and in the Free Trade Hall, Manchester, said: "At last, my friends, I am come among you, and I am come among you unmuzzled." These words were greeted with loud and prolonged applause. The advanced Liberals seemed to take the same view, and regarded Mr. Gladstone's defeat at Oxford by the Conservatives as his political enfranchisement. His defeat was not wholly unexpected to himself. In 1860 he said: "Without having to complain, I am entirely sick and weary of the terms upon which I hold the seat."
Mr. Gladstone felt keenly the separation, for he wrote to the Bishop of Oxford: "There have been two great deaths, or transmigrations of spirit, in my political existence—one, very slow, the breaking of ties with my original party, the other, very short and sharp, the breaking of the tie with Oxford. There will probably be a third, and no more." And in a speech at Liverpool, there was something of pathos in his reference to Oxford, when he said that if he had clung to the representation of the University with desperate fondness, it was because he would not desert a post to which he seemed to have been called. But he had now been dismissed from it, not by academical, but by political agencies.
Mr. Gladstone was elected to represent his native district in Parliament, and he was at the head of the poll in Manchester, Liverpool, and all the large towns. The result of the general elections was a considerable gain to the Liberal party, but that party sustained a severe loss by the death of Lord Palmerston, October 18, 1865.
A new cabinet was constructed, with Earl Russell as Premier, and Mr. Gladstone as the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Mr. Gladstone became for the first time the recognized leader in the House of Commons, which then meant virtually Prime Minister, for with the aged Premier in the House of Lords, and the youthful Chancellor in the Commons, it meant nothing else. But Earl Russell and his younger colleague were calculated to work in harmonious action, for they were both Reformers. The ardent temperament and the severe conscientiousness of the leader was the cause of much speculation and anxiety as to his management. His first appearance as leader of the House was therefore waited for with much curiosity. The new Parliament was opened February 6, 1866, by the Queen in person, for the first time since the death of Prince Albert. In the speech from the throne it was announced that Parliament would be directed to consider such improvements in the laws which regulate the right of voting in the election of the members of the House of Commons as may tend to strengthen our free institutions, and conduce to the public welfare. Bishop Wilberforce wrote: "Gladstone has risen entirely to his position, and done all his most sanguine friends hoped for as leader.... There is a general feeling of insecurity of the ministry, and the Reform Bill to be launched to-night is thought a bad rock."