After his return to London Mr. Gladstone received an address from the Corporation, setting forth the long services he had rendered to the country. Mr. Gladstone, in his reply, touched upon Irish obstruction, and announced, incidentally, the arrest of Mr. Parnell. Mr. Parnell, the leader of the Irish party, having openly defied the law, had been arrested and imprisoned without trial, under the Coercion Act, passed at the last session.
On the opening night of the Parliament, of 1882, Mr. Gladstone laid before the House the proposed new rules of Parliamentary procedure. The cloture, by a bare majority, was to be established, in order to secure the power of closing debate by a vote of the House.
The House of Lords decided upon the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into the working of the Land Act, including the alleged total collapse of the clauses relating to purchase, emigration, and arrears. The Prime Minister in the House of Commons introduced a resolution condemning the proposed inquiry as tending to defeat the operation of the Land Act and as injurious to the good government of Ireland.
Early in May, 1882, the whole country was startled and terrified by the news of the assassination of Lord Frederick Cavendish, the new chief secretary for Ireland, and Mr. Burke under-secretary, in the Phoenix Park, Dublin. A social revolution was raging in Ireland. Outrages and murders had been fearfully frequent, and such brutal murders as those of Mrs. Smythe and Mr. Herbert had filled England with terror. In the first week of May announcement was made that Earl Cowper had resigned the Viceroyalty. Rather than share the responsibility of releasing Mr. Parnell, Mr. Dillon and Mr. O'Kelly, Mr. Forster left the Cabinet. Lord Spencer was appointed to the Viceroyalty, and Lord Frederick Cavendish succeeded Mr. Forster, and two days thereafter all England was thrilled with sorrow and indignation by the terrible news of the assassination in Phoenix Park. The news shattered the hopes of many concerning Ireland, and fell with special severity upon Mr. Gladstone, because he and Lord Cavendish enjoyed the closest friendship. The government presented a Prevention of Crimes Bill of a very stringent character. In the course of debate warm discussions arose over an "understanding" called, "The Kilmainham Compact," but Mr. Gladstone successfully defended the government in regard to its supposed negotiations with Mr. Parnell. This bill was directed against secret societies and illegal combinations, and it was hoped that as the Land League party had expressed its horror at the Phoenix Park crime, and charged that it was the work of American conspirators, they would allow the measure speedily to become law. Mr. Bright declared that the bill would harm no innocent person, and explained his own doctrine, that "Force is no remedy," was intended to apply not to outrages, but to grievances. For three weeks Mr. Parnell and his followers obstructed legislation in every conceivable way, and were finally suspended for systematic obstruction. The obstructionists removed, the bill was then passed, after a sitting of twenty-eight hours. The measure was passed by the Lords July 7th, and the Queen signed the bill July 12th. A crisis nearly arose between the Lords and the Commons over the Irish Arrears Bill, but the Lords finally yielded.
THIRD ADMINISTRATION AND HOME RULE
It is our purpose next to trace the events that led to the overthrow of the Second Administration of Mr. Gladstone, and to the formation of his Third Cabinet. The question that seemed to begin the work of weakening the foundations of his existing government was their policy in regard to Egypt, which began with the occupation of Egypt in 1882.
The budget of the session of 1882 was presented by Mr. Gladstone April 24th. It was not expected that anything novel in the way of legislation would be attempted in it. But its main interest was in this, that it proposed a vote of credit for the Egyptian Expedition, which was to be provided for by addition to the income-tax, making it sixpence half-penny in the pound for the year. The financial proposals were agreed to. In the course of the session Mr. Bright resigned his place in the Cabinet on the ground that the intervention in Egypt was a manifest violation of the moral law, that the Government had interfered by force of arms in Egypt, and directed the bombardment of Alexandria. Mr. Gladstone denied that the Ministry were at war with Egypt, and stated that the measures taken at Alexandria were strictly measures of self-defence. In justifying his resignation Mr. Bright said there had been a manifest violation of the moral law; but the Premier, while agreeing with his late colleague generally on the question of the moral law differed from him as to this particular application of it.
The Prime Minister attended the Lord Mayor's Banquet at the Mansion House, August 9, 1882. In replying to the toast to Her Majesty's Ministers, after some preliminary remarks, Mr. Gladstone alluded to the campaign in Egypt, which had been so much discussed, and said: "Let it be well understood for what we go and for what we do not go to Egypt. We do not go to make war on its people, but to rescue them from the oppression of a military tyranny which at present extinguishes every free voice and chains every man of the people of that country. We do not go to make war on the Mohammedan religion, for it is amongst the proudest distinctions of Christianity to establish tolerance, and we know that wherever the British rule exists, the same respect which we claim for the exercise of our own conscientious convictions is yielded to the professors of every other faith on the surface of the globe. We do not, my Lord Mayor, go to repress the growth of Egyptian liberties. We wish them well; for we have no other interest in Egypt, which cannot in any other way so well and so effectually attain her own prosperity as by the enjoyment of a well regulated, and an expanding freedom."
Mr. Gladstone's confidence respecting the early termination of the war in Egypt was somewhat justified by Sir Garnet Wolseley's victory at Tel-el-Kebir, but the future relations of England with Egypt were still left an open subject of discussion and speculation. Again, November 9th, at the banquet at the Guildhall, to the Cabinet Ministers, Mr. Gladstone spoke. He called attention to the settlement of the troubles in the East of Europe, congratulating his hearers on the removal by the naval and military forces of the Egyptian difficulty, and calling attention to Ireland, compared its condition with that of the previous March and October, 1881, showing a diminution of agrarian crime to the extent of four-fifths. This happy result had been brought about, not by coercive means alone, but by the exercise of remedial measures. "If the people of Ireland were willing to walk in the ways of legality, England was strong, and generous, and free enough to entertain in a friendly and kindly spirit any demand which they might make."
On the 13th of December, 1882, Mr. Gladstone's political jubilee was celebrated. Fifty years before, on that day, he had been returned to Parliament as member for Newark. A large number of congratulatory addresses, letters, and telegrams complimenting him on the completion of his fifty years of parliamentary service were received by him. He had entered the first Reformed Parliament as a conservative, had gone ever forward in the path of reform, and was yet to lead in greater measures of reform.
The excellent prospects regarding domestic measures with which the session of 1883 was opened were dispelled by prolonged and fruitless debates on measures proposed and on the address from the Queen. But Mr. Gladstone was absent, the state of his health requiring him to pass several weeks at Cannes. He returned home in March greatly invigorated, and at once threw himself with wonted ardour into the parliamentary conflict. Mr. Parnell offered a bill to amend the Irish Land Act of 1887, which was opposed by the Premier and lost.
An affirmation bill was introduced at this session by the Government, which provided that members who objected to taking the oath might have the privilege of affirming. The opposition spoke of the measure as a "Bradlaugh Relief Bill." Its rejection was moved, and in its defense Mr. Gladstone made one of his best speeches, which was warmly applauded. He said: "I must painfully record my opinion, that grave injury has been done to religion in many minds—not in instructed minds, but in those which are ill-instructed or partially instructed—in consequence of things which ought never to have occurred. Great mischief has been done in many minds by a resistance offered to the man elected by the constituency of Northampton, which a portion of the people believe to be unjust. When they see the profession of religion and the interests of religion, ostensibly associated with what they are deeply convinced is injustice, it leads to questions about religion itself, which commonly end in impairing those convictions, and that belief, the loss of which I believe to be the most inexpressible calamity which can fall either upon a man or upon a nation." But the measure was lost.
During the session of 1883 the Bankruptcy Bill and the Patents Bill were both passed, and effected reforms which had long been felt to be necessary. The Corrupt Practices Act was designed to remove from British parliamentary and borough elections the stigma which attached to them in so many parts of the country. The Government was checked, however, in its policy in the Transvaal, and Mr. Childers' action in regard to the Suez Canal.
Mr. Gladstone attended, in March, the celebration of the inauguration of the National Liberal party, predicting for it a useful and brilliant future, if it remained faithful to its time-honored principles and traditions.
Sir Stafford Northcote, in the session of 1884, moved a vote of censure, and vigorously attacked the Egyptian policy of the administration. Mr. Gladstone defended the ministerial action with spirit and effect. He declared that the Government had found, and not made, the situation in Egypt and the Soudan. The Prime Minister "traced all the mischief to Lord Salisbury's dual control. Though the motive and object had been to secure a better government for Egypt, a great error had been committed. The British Government had fulfilled all the obligations imposed upon them, and they were acting for the benefit of the civilized world. Reforms had been effected in the judicature, legislature, police, and military organizations of Egypt; and they were resolved to see all the vital points recommended carried out by the Khedive's Government. As to the war in the Soudan, it was hateful to the people of Egypt; and England declined to have anything to do with the reconquest of the Soudan.... General Gordon, whom Mr. Gladstone characterized as a hero and a genius, had been despatched to Khartoum for the purpose of withdrawing, if possible, in safety the 29,000 soldiers of the Khedive scattered over the Soudan. The General's mission was not the reconquest of the Soudan, but its peaceful evacuation, and the reconstruction of the country, by giving back to the Sultan the ancestral power which had been suspended during the Egyptian occupation. The Government had to consider in any steps which they took the danger of thwarting Gordon's peaceful mission and endangering his life." Mr. Gladstone said that the policy of the Government was to "rescue and retire." Sir S. Northcote's resolution was rejected by 311 to 292 votes, showing the growing strength of the Opposition.
The pacific mission of General Gordon to Khartoum having failed, there was great solicitude felt for that gallant soldier's welfare and safety. Sir M. Hicks-Beach offered another vote of censure, complaining of the dilatory conduct of the Government for not taking steps to secure the safety of General Gordon. Mr. Gladstone, in reply, admitted the obligations of the Government to General Gordon, and stated that on reasonable proof of danger he would be assisted. "The nation would never grudge adequate efforts for the protection of its agents, but it was the duty of the Government to consider the treasure, the blood, and the honor of the country, together with the circumstances of the time, the season, the climate, and the military difficulties. Conscious of what their obligations were, they would continue to use their best endeavours to fulfil them, unmoved by the threats and the captious criticisms of the Opposition." The proposed censure was defeated.
A conference of European powers was held on Egyptian affairs, but was abortive; and Mr. Gladstone while announcing that he wished to get out of Egypt as soon as circumstances would allow, admitted that institutions, however good, were not likely to survive the withdrawal of our troops. Lord Northbrook was next despatched by the government on a mission to Egypt, with the object of rescuing her from her financial embarrassments, and averting the impending dangers of a national bankruptcy.
In February, 1884, Mr. Gladstone introduced the Government Franchise Bill in the House of Commons. It was a great measure and proposed to complete the work of parliamentary reform by conferring the suffrage upon every person in the United Kingdom who was the head of a household. Mr. Gladstone said that the results of the bill would be to add to the English constituency upwards of 1,300,000 voters; to the Scotch constituency over 200,000 voters; and to the Irish constituency over 400,000 voters; which would add to the aggregate constituency of the United Kingdom, which was then 3,000,000 voters, 2,000,000 more, or nearly twice as many as were added in 1832. The Premier appealed for union on this great reform, and observed: "Let us hold firmly together, and success will crown our efforts. You will, as much as any former Parliament that has conferred great legislative benefits on the nation, have your reward, and read your history in a nation's eyes; for you will have deserved all the benefits you will have conferred. You will have made a strong nation stronger still—stronger in union without, and stronger against its foes (if and when it has any foes) within; stronger in union between class and class, and in rallying all classes and portions of the community in one solid compact mass round the ancient Throne which it has loved so well, and round the Constitution, now to be more than ever free and more than ever powerful."
The measure was warmly debated. Besides this opposition there were, outside of the House, ominous utterances threatening the rejection of the scheme. Mr. Gladstone, referring to these hostile murmurings, said that hitherto the attitude of the government had been, in Shakespeare's words, "Beware of entrance to a quarrel; but, being in, bear it, that the opposer may beware of thee." He deprecated a quarrel and declared that the government had done everything to prevent a collision between the two Houses of Parliament on this question, which would open up a prospect more serious than any he remembered since the first Reform Bill.
The House of Lords passed a resolution to the effect that the Lords would not concur in any measure of reform without having the complete bill before them, including the redistribution and registration, as well as an extension of the suffrage. The Premier promised to introduce a Redistribution Bill in the following session, but Lord Salisbury, since the death of Lord Beaconsfield, the leader of the Conservative party, declined to discuss the Redistribution Bill, "with a rope around his neck," by which he meant a franchise act under which his party must appeal to the country. Negotiations followed between the Liberal and Conservative leaders with fruitless results, and the House of Lords finally passed a resolution that it would be desirable for Parliament to have an autumn session, to consider the Representation of the People Bill, in connection with the Redistribution Bill, which the government had brought before Parliament.
Public meetings were held at various places throughout the country, and the question of the enlargement of the franchise discussed. The policy of the Tories was strongly condemned at many large and influential public gatherings. In August Mr. Gladstone visited Midlothian and delivered a powerful address in the Edinburgh Corn Exchange. He explained that the special purpose for which he appeared before his constituents was to promote, by every legitimate means in his power, the speedy passage of the Franchise Bill. "The unfortunate rejection of the measure," he observed, "had already drawn in its train other questions of the gravest kind, and the vast proportion of the people would soon be asking whether an organic change was not required in the House of Lords. He, however, did not believe that the House of Lords had as yet placed itself in a position of irretrievable error. He believed that it was possible for it to go back, and to go back with dignity and honor."
With regard to the foreign policy of the Government, which had been attacked and compared unfavorably with the Midlothian programme of 1879, Mr. Gladstone defended it with spirit. He expressed his satisfaction with the expansion of Germany abroad, and reviewed the policy of the Government in Eastern Europe, Afghanistan, India and South Africa. As to the Transvaal, he contended that "they were strong and could afford to be merciful," and that it was not possible without the grossest and most shameful breach of faith to persist in holding the Boers to annexation, "when we had pledged ourselves beforehand that they should not be annexed except with their own good will." In reply to the oft-repeated question, "What took you to Egypt?" the Premier said: "Honor and plighted faith." The covenants they were keeping were those entered into by their Tory predecessors, and most unfortunate and most unwise he considered them to be. The Government had respected the sovereignty of the Porte and the title of the European Powers to be concerned in all matters territorially affecting the Turkish Empire; they had discouraged the spirit of aggression as well as they could, and had contracted no embarrassing engagements. Great improvements had been introduced in the administration of Egypt, but he regretted the total failure of the late Conference of the Powers to solve the problem of Egyptian finance. With regard to General Gordon the Government were considering the best means to be adopted for fulfilling their obligations.
Parliament met in October, 1884. The Franchise Bill was introduced and sent to the House of Lords, and the Redistribution Bill, upon which a compromise with the Conservatives had been reached, was presented in the House of Commons. The measure, as altered, proposed to disfranchise all boroughs with a population under 15,000, to give only one member to towns with a population between 15,000 and 50,000, and to take one member each from the counties of Rutland and Hereford. By this arrangement one hundred and sixty seats would be "extinguished," which, with the six seats extinguished before, would be revived and distributed as follows: "Eight new boroughs would be created, the representation of London, Liverpool, and other large cities and towns would be greatly increased, while in dealing with the remainder of the seats unappropriated, the Government would apply equal electoral areas throughout the country." The Franchise Bill—a truly democratic bill—-was carried through both Houses, and became a law. The Redistribution Bill was carried, January, 1885, after animated debate. Registration measures were also passed for England, Scotland and Ireland, which received the royal assent May 21st.
January, 1885, Mr. Gladstone wrote a kindly, serious, yet courtly letter of congratulation to Prince Albert Victor, eldest son of the Prince of Wales and heir presumptive to the Crown, on the attainment of his majority.
In the hour of triumph the government was doomed to receive a stunning blow. The news of the fall of Khartoum and the untimely death of General Gordon sent a thrill of horror and indignation throughout England. The government was seriously condemned for its procrastination in not sending timely relief, for the rescue of the imperiled English. But when the facts became fully known it was found that no blame could be attached to Mr. Gladstone, who was himself strongly moved by the death of General Gordon, whose work and character he highly esteemed. The Prime Minister was, however, equal to the emergency, and announced that it was necessary to overthrow the Mahdi at Khartoum, to renew operations against Osman Digna, and to construct a railway from Suakin to Berber with a view to a campaign in the fall. The reserves were called out by royal proclamation.
However, these measures met with opposition. Sir Stafford Northcote brought forward a motion affirming that the risks and sacrifices which the government appeared to be ready to encounter could only be justified by a distinct recognition of England's responsibility for Egypt, and those portions of the Soudan which were necessary to its security. An amendment was proposed by Mr. John Morley, but regretting its decision to continue the conflict with the Mahdi. Mr. Gladstone replied forcibly to both motion and amendment, and appealed to the Liberal party to sustain the administration and its policy by an unmistakable vote of confidence. The government was sustained.
The Great Powers of Europe, in convention for the settlement of the finances of Egypt, had concluded that it would require a loan of L9,000,000 to save Egypt from bankruptcy. This loan was to be issued on an international guarantee, with an international inquiry at the end of two years into the success of the scheme. This plan of adjustment was agreed to by the House. A short time after this settlement Mr. Gladstone announced a vote of credit to provide against any danger from Russian action, stated that no farther operations would be undertaken either on the Nile or near Suakin, and that General Graham's campaign would be abandoned, as well as the construction of the new railway.
Great excitement was created in England by the announcement of the advance of the Russians on the Indian frontier. March 13th Mr. Gladstone stated in the House that as the protests formerly made against the advance of Russia had been allowed to lapse, it had been agreed that pending the delineation of the frontier there should be no further advance on either side. In April, however, a conflict occurred between the Russians and the Afghans, which seemed to indicate that General Komaroff had committed an act of unprovoked aggression on the Ameer. Mr. Gladstone moved a vote of credit on the 27th in a speech, whose eloquence and energy greatly stirred both sides of the House. Happily, the difficulty with Russia was adjusted by conceding Pendjeh to Russia in consideration of the surrender of Zulfiker to the Ameer.
The administration of Mr. Gladstone, which had weathered through many storms, was destined to fall in a wholly unexpected way. When the budget for 1885 was produced there was a deficit of upwards of a million pounds, besides the depressed revenue and an estimated expenditure for the current year of not less than L100,000,000. Mr. Childers, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, proposed to make the taxation upon land proportionate to that on personal property, and to augment the duties on spirits and beer. But various interests were antagonized, and opposition was aroused. The country members demanded that no new taxes be put on the land until the promised relief of local taxation had been granted. The agricultural and liquor interests were discontented, as well as the Scotch and Irish members, with the whisky duty. Concessions were made, but they failed to reconcile the opposition. A hostile motion was offered by Sir M. Hicks-Beach, and Mr. Gladstone declared that the Cabinet would resign if defeated. Many Liberals were absent when the vote was taken, regarding a majority for the Ministry as certain, but the amendment was carried June 9th by a vote of 264 to 252, and the Premier and his colleagues resigned. The Liberals were desirous of passing a vote of confidence in the administration, but Mr. Gladstone deprecated this, as he felt the situation to be intolerable, and was desirous of being relieved from the responsibility of office. Misfortunes, both in reference to affairs at home and abroad, had fallen heavily upon the Government, for many of which they were not responsible, and the Cabinet had been held together chiefly by the masterly personality of the Premier. Hence it was not without a feeling of personal satisfaction that Mr. Gladstone transferred the seats of office to his successor, Lord Salisbury. On his retirement from office the Queen offered an Earldom to Mr. Gladstone, which he declined. Its acceptance would have meant burial in the House of Lords, and an end to his progressive action.
The events that led to the third administration of Mr. Gladstone will next engage our attention.
The first general election under the New Reform Act was held in November, 1885. Mr. Gladstone again appealed to his constituents, and, although nearly seventy-six years of age, spoke with an energy and force far beyond all his contemporaries. His attitude on the question of Dis-establishment drew back many wavering Scotch votes. He discussed the Scotch question at Edinburgh, and said there was no fear of change so long as England dealt liberally, equitably, and prudently with Ireland, but demands must be subject to the condition that the unity of the empire, and all the powers of the Imperial Parliament for maintaining that authority, must be preserved.
In another address he stated his conviction, that the day had not come when the Dis-establishment of the Church in Scotland should be made a test question. The question pressing for settlement by the next Parliament was land reform, local government, parliamentary procedure, and the imperial relations between Ireland and England; and every sensible man would admit that it was right to direct attention to them rather than to a matter impossible of immediate solution.
At West Calder Mr. Gladstone made an address, in which he "approved Lord Salisbury's action with regard to Servia, complained of the ministerial condemnation of Lord Ripon's Indian administration, ridiculed the idea of benefit resulting from a Royal Commission on trade depression, warned the electors against remedies which were really worse than the disease, and defended Free-Trade principles. He furthur advocated comprehensive land reforms, including free transfer, facility of registration, and the uprooting of mortmain."
Mr. Gladstone was returned again for Midlothian by an overwhelming majority. The elections resulted in the return of 333 Liberals, 249 Conservatives, 86 Parnellites, and 2 Independents. The Liberals thus secured a substantial triumph. The agricultural districts were faithful to the Liberals, but they lost in the boroughs. The clergy and the publicans, and the Parnellites were found "arrayed" in "scandalous alliance" against the Liberal cause. The Liberal party was just short of the numbers required to defeat the combined forces of Tories and Parnellites. Lord Salisbury was retained in office, but the Conservatives were disunited, and the life of his administration hung by a thread. The Liberals were strong, hopeful, and united. In Mr. Chamberlain they had a popular champion of great ability and industry.
December 17, 1885 England was astonished by the appearance of an anonymous paragraph in the Times, affirming that, if Mr. Gladstone returned to power, he would deal with a liberal hand with the demands of Home Rule. The author of the paragraph has never been clearly ascertained, but the atmosphere of mystery with which it was surrounded was not regarded as becoming, either to such an important policy or to the personal dignity of the illustrious statesman. A storm of questions, contradictions, explanations, enthusiasms, and jeremiads followed its appearance. Mr. Gladstone would neither affirm nor deny, but held his peace. The question, he said, was one for a responsible Ministry alone to handle. There was great uncertainty. It was, however, plain that if Mr. Gladstone should favor Home Rule, the Parnellites would support him, and the Tories must leave office. But only twelve months before Lord Shaftesbury wrote: "In a year or so we shall have Home Rule disposed of (at all hazards), to save us from daily and hourly bores."
The Parliament of 1886 had scarcely opened before the Salisbury government was defeated upon an amendment to the Queen's address, affirming the necessity for affording facilities to agricultural laborers to obtain allotments and small holdings. Some of the leading Liberals opposed the amendment, but Mr. Gladstone earnestly favored it, as a recognition of the evils arising from the divorce of so large a proportion of the population from the land. The Irish and the Liberals coalesced, and the Government was placed in a minority of seventy-nine, and Lord Salisbury immediately resigned.
Late at night, January 29, 1886, Sir Henry Ponsonby arrived at Mr. Gladstone's residence with a summons from the Queen for him to repair to her at Osborne. On the 1st of February Mr. Gladstone "kissed hands," and became for the third time Prime Minister of England. The new Premier was forced to face unusual difficulties, but he finally came to the conclusion that it was impossible to deal with the Irish question upon the old stereotyped lines. He was resolved to treat this subject upon large and generous principles. Accordingly, on the 8th of April, Mr. Gladstone, in the presence of a crowded House, brought forward his Home Rule Bill—his bill for the government of Ireland. With certain imperial reservations and safeguards the bill gave to Ireland what she had long demanded—the right to make her own laws. The interest in the expected legislation was so great that members began to arrive at half-past five in the morning, while sixty of them were so eager to secure seats that they breakfasted at Westminster.
Mr. Gladstone's new measure was not only opposed by the Conservatives, but it alienated from the Premier some of the most influential of the Liberal party. Among the Liberals who opposed the measure were those who had been the colleagues of Mr. Gladstone only the June before in the Cabinet—Lord Hartington, Lord Shilborne, Lord Northbrook, Lord Derby and Lord Carlingford. Mr. Gladstone's forces, however, were reinforced by Mr. Morley, Lord Herschell and others. May 10th, Mr. Gladstone denied that he had ever declared Home Rule for Ireland incompatible with Imperial unity. It was a remedy for social disorder. The policy of the opposition was coercion, while that of the government was autonomy.
On the 18th of April the Premier presented the Irish Land Purchase Bill, for the buying out of the Irish landlords, which was intended to come into operation on the same day as the Home Rule Bill. The object of this measure was to give to all Irish landowners the option of being bought out on the terms of the Act, and opening towards the exercise of that option where their rent was from agricultural land. The State authority was to be the purchaser, and the occupier was to be the proprietor. The nominal purchase price was fixed at twenty years' purchase of the net rental, ascertained by deducting law charges, bad debts, and cost of management from judicial rent. Where there was no judicial rental the Land Court could, if it chose, make use of Griffiths' valuation for coming to a fair decision. To meet the demand for the means of purchase thus established, Mr. Gladstone proposed to create L50,000,000 three per cents. The repayment of advances would be secured by a Receiver General, appointed by and acting upon British authority.
The Land Purchase Bill was also opposed. It was the final cause which led to the retirement from the government of Mr. Chamberlain, "the able and enterprising exponent of the new Radicalism." He was soon followed by Sir George Trevelyan, "who combined the most dignified traditions, social and literary, of the Whig party with a fervent and stable Liberalism which the vicissitudes of twenty years had constantly tried and never found wanting." Mr. Bright also arrayed himself in opposition to the government, and accused Mr. Gladstone of successfully concealing his thoughts upon the Irish question in November. Mr. Gladstone replied that the position of Ireland had changed since 1881.
The debate extended over many nights, and the opposition to the Irish bills of so many Liberal leaders in every constituency, soon led to disaffection among the people. What was lost in some districts, however, was to some extent made up, says an English writer, by "the support of that very broken reed, the Irish vote, which was destined to pierce the hand of so many a confiding candidate who leaned upon it." While this debate was in progress a bill directed against the carrying of arms in Ireland was introduced and pushed forward rapidly through both Houses, and became a law.
Mr. Gladstone explained the position of the Cabinet on the Home Rule and Land Bills at a meeting of Liberals held at the Foreign Office, May 27th. He stated that the Government at present only asked for an endorsement of the leading principles of the two measures; and in closing the debate afterwards on the second reading of the Home Rule Bill, in the House of Commons, he made an eloquent appeal for Ireland. But all parties were preparing for the conflict, and members of opposite parties were consolidating themselves for opposition. "The Whigs, under Lord Hartington, coalesced with the Radicals, under Mr. Chamberlain, and both together made a working alliance with the Tories. This alliance was admirably organized in London and in the constituencies."
It seems that the Premier was deceived by his official counsellors of the Liberal party as to the real condition of affairs respecting Home Rule and the prospects for the passage of his bills. He did not dream of defeat, but if by some mischance they would suffer defeat, then he could appeal to the country with the certainty of being sustained by the popular vote. This was what Mr. Gladstone hoped, and what he thought he had the assurance of. But hopes of success began to give way to fears of defeat as the time drew near to take the vote. However, some still hopeful prophesied a small majority against the bill—only ten votes at the most. The Cabinet desperately resolved not to resign if beaten by so small a majority, but would have some adherent move a vote of confidence. This they argued would be favored by some opposed to Home Rule, and the question be deferred to another session, leaving the Liberals still in office. But these hopes were doomed to be blasted. Early in the morning of June 8th the momentous division took place, and it was found that the Government, instead of getting a majority, was defeated by thirty votes. It was found that ninety-three Liberals had voted with the majority.
The Premier at once advised the Queen to dissolve Parliament, and though Her Majesty at first demurred at the trouble of another election within seven months of the last, and begged Mr. Gladstone to reconsider his counsel, yet he argued that a general election would cause less trouble than a year of embittered and fanatical agitation against Home Rule. Besides, as he said to a colleague, "If we did not dissolve we would be showing the white feather." Mr. Gladstone finally had his way, the Queen yielded and Parliament was dissolved June 26, 1886. June 14th Mr. Gladstone issued an address to the electors of Midlothian, and later paid a visit to Edinburgh and Glasgow, where he made powerful addresses. He then spoke at Manchester, and, passing on to Liverpool, he advocated the cause of Ireland, calling upon the people to "ring out the old, ring in the new," and to make Ireland not an enemy but a friend.
The result of this appeal to the country was the return of a decided majority of over a hundred against Home Rule, and thus, after a short term of five months in office, the third administration of Mr. Gladstone was brought to a close, and he became again the leader of the Opposition. The dissolution and appeal to the country was a practical blunder, but Mr. Gladstone's address to the people was skilfully worded. He freely admitted that the Irish bills were dead, and asked the constituencies simply to sanction a principle, and that, too, a very plain and reasonable one in itself. He invited the people to vote aye or no to this question: "Whether you will or will not have regard to the prayer of Ireland for the management by herself of the affairs specifically and exclusively her own?" The separation of the bare principle of self-government from the practical difficulties presented by the bills enabled many Liberals who were opposed to the measures to support Mr. Gladstone, but the majority of voters failed to make this distinction, and hence came defeat. The decision of the people was not regarded as final.
In 1887 the Jubilee of the Queen was celebrated. Fifty years before Queen Victoria had ascended the throne of England. Mr. and Mrs. Gladstone celebrated the Queen's Jubilee by giving a treat to all the inhabitants of the estates of Hawarden, who were of the Queen's age, which was sixty-eight and upwards. The treat took the shape of a dinner and tea, served in a large tent erected in front of the castle, and the guests numbered upwards of two hundred and fifty. The principal toast, proposed by Mr. Gladstone, was the Queen. He contrasted the jubilee then being celebrated all over the English-speaking world, with that of George the Third, which was "a jubilee of the great folks, a jubilee of corporations and of authorities, a jubilee of the upper classes." On the other hand, he continued, the Victorian Jubilee was one when "the population are better fed, better clothed, and better housed—and by a great deal—than they were fifty years ago, and the great mass of these happy and blessed changes is associated with the name and action of the Queen."
In the year of the Queen's Jubilee, 1887, Mr. Gladstone addressed many gatherings, and at Swansea, where he was the guest of Sir Hussey Vivian, he spoke to a vast concourse of people, estimated at one hundred thousand.
PRIME MINISTER THE FOURTH TIME
When Parliament met in 1887 Mr. Gladstone entered upon "a course of extraordinary physical and intellectual efforts, with voice and pen, in Parliament and on the platform, on behalf of the cause, defeated but not abandoned, of self-government for Ireland." The Tory administration passed a Crimes Prevention Bill for Ireland of great severity. Irish members of Parliament were thrown into prison, but the Act failed of its object—the suppression of the Land League.
In December, 1887, Mr. Gladstone visited Italy and made Naples his headquarters. He was received with joy for the service he had rendered to the Italian people. The University of Bologna, in celebrating the eighth century of its existence, conferred upon him the degree of Doctor of Arts.
In 1888 the House of Commons appointed a Commission to try the "Times" charges against Mr. Parnell. The charges were found to be false.
Mr. Gladstone visited Birmingham in November, 1888. After paying a glowing tribute to John Bright, and expressing an earnest desire for his recovery to health, he condemned the Coercion Act. Mr. Gladstone received many handsome presents from the workingmen, and Mrs. Gladstone received from the ladies a medallion cameo portrait of her husband. A great demonstration was made at Bingley Hall, in which were gathered over 20,000 persons.
A number of Liberals, who had deserted Mr. Gladstone, returned upon the promise of certain imperial guarantees which were granted, among them Sir George Trevelyan. Mr. Chamberlain, who had asked for these safeguards, did not accept them.
July 25, 1889, Mr. and Mrs. Gladstone celebrated their "Golden Wedding." Among the many to offer congratulations were the Queen by telegram, and the Prince of Wales by letter. A pleasant surprise met them at home. A portrait of Mr. Gladstone, by Sir John Millais, was found hanging in the breakfast-room, "A gift from English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish Women."
In 1890 trouble came to the Liberal party through the scandal connecting the names of Mr. Parnell and Mrs. O'Shea. Mr. Gladstone announced that the Irish party must choose between himself and Mr. Parnell. In November, 1890, Mr. Parnell was deposed from the chairmanship of the United Irish National Party. This led to a division. Mr. Justin McCarthy was elected leader by the Anti-Parnellites, and the Parnellites selected Mr. John Redmond.
Parliament would soon terminate by limitation, so Mr. Gladstone devoted himself to preparing the people for the coming general election. Besides, in February, 1891, he made an address, at the opening of St. Martin's Free Public Library, and in March to the boys at Eton College on Homeric Studies. June 28, 1892, Parliament came to an end. Mr. Gladstone's journey to Edinburgh, in July, was all along the route "a triumphal progress." He was re-elected. The question of the day was Home Rule, and wherever the people had the opportunity of declaring themselves, they pronounced condemnation upon the policy of Lord Salisbury's administration, and in favor of Home Rule for Ireland.
The new Parliament met, and, August 12, 1892, a motion was made of "No Confidence" in the Salisbury government. The division was the largest ever taken in the House of Commons, the vote being 350 for the motion and 310 against it—a majority of 40 for Mr. Gladstone. The scene in the House which attended the overthrow of the Salisbury government was less dramatic than that which accompanied the defeat of the Gladstone ministry in 1885, but it was full of exciting episodes. The House was packed to the doors. The excitement was intense, and the confusion great. When the figures were announced, another wild scene of disorder prevailed and there was prolonged cheering. "Ten minutes later the great forum was empty and the excited assembly had found its way to the quiet outside under the stars."
Monday, August 15, 1892, Mr. Gladstone repaired to Osborne on the Royal Yacht, and became for the fourth time Prime Minister. Since 1868 he had been the undisputed leader of his party. His main supporters in all his reform measures were the Nonconformists, whose claim for "the absolute religious equality of all denominations before the law of the land," must, in time, it was thought, bring about the disestablishment of the Episcopal Church.
In September, 1892, Mr. Gladstone went to Sir E. Watkin's Chalet on Mount Snowdon, Wales, where he made his Boulder Stone speech. To commemorate his visit a slab of gray Aberdeen granite was "let into the actual brown rock," on which is the following inscription in Welsh and in English: "September 13, 1892. Upon this rock the Right Honorable W.E. Gladstone, M.P., when Prime Minister for the fourth time, and eighty-three years old, addressed the people of Eryi upon justice to Wales. The multitude sang Cymric hymns and 'The Land of My Fathers.'"
December 29, 1892, Mr. Gladstone celebrated his eighty-third birthday. Mr. and Mrs. Gladstone were at Biarritz. Congratulatory telegrams and messages were received in great numbers, besides many handsome presents. The event was celebrated all over England. The Midlothian Liberals sent congratulations upon the return of the Liberal Party to power under his leadership, and the completion of his sixty years' service in the House. Resolutions were passed deploring the wickedness of the dynamite outrage at Dublin, December 24, and yet avowing the justice of granting to Ireland the right to manage her own affairs.
January 31, 1893, Parliament was opened. In the House of Commons there was a brilliant gathering, and nearly all the members were present, many of them standing. Just before noon the Hon. Arthur Wellesley Peel, Speaker, took his seat, and Archdeacon Farrar, Chaplain, offered prayer. When Mr. Gladstone entered from behind the Speaker's chair, every Liberal and Irish Nationalist stood up and greeted him with prolonged and enthusiastic cheers; and when he took the oath as Prime Minister, he received another ovation. The members were then summoned to the House of Lords to hear the Queen's speech, which was read by the Lord High Chancellor, Baron Herschall. The Prince of Wales and his son, the Duke of York, occupied seats on the "cross bench."
February 13, the excitement in and about the Parliament Houses was as great as that which prevailed two weeks before. Enthusiastic crowds greeted Mr. and Mrs. Gladstone. When the doors of the House of Commons were opened, there was a "disorderly rush" of the members into the House to obtain seats, "the members shouting and struggling, several being thrown to the floor in the excitement." Peers, Commons, and visitors filled the floor and galleries. The Prince of Wales and other members of the royal family were present. When Mr. Gladstone arose he was greeted with applause. He reminded the House that for seven years the voices which used to plead the cause of Irish government in Irish affairs had been mute within the walls of the House. He then asked permission to introduce a "Bill to Amend the Provision for the Government of Ireland," which was the title of the Home Rule Bill. Mr. Balfour led the opposition to the bill. Mr. Chamberlain declared that the bill would not accomplish its purpose, whereupon Mr. Justin McCarthy, for the anti-Parnellities, replied that the Irish would accept it as a message of everlasting peace, and Mr. John Redmond, for the Parnellites, answered that if disturbances followed in Ireland it would be due to the Conservatives.
The Ulster Unionists opposed the bill. The Scotch-Irish Protestants of the north of Ireland declared that they preferred to stand where they did in 1690, when they defeated James II and his Catholic followers, in the battle of the Boyne, and fought for William of Orange for the English throne and liberty and Protestantism. Their opposition to Home Rule for Ireland grew out of their hostility to Roman Catholicism and the fear of its supremacy.
After six months of earnest debate in the House of Commons, the Home Rule Bill for Ireland was passed, with slight amendments, September 1, 1893, by a vote of 301 to 267, a majority of thirty-four, The struggle was perhaps the most heated in the history of Parliament.
The bill was sent to the House of Lords, where it was defeated, midnight, September 8, by the surprising majority of 419 to 41, after only one week's discussion. Members that never attended were drummed up to vote against the bill. The usual working force of the House of Lords is from thirty to forty members. The vote was the largest ever taken in the Lords.
At once the cry, "Down with, the House of Lords!" was heard. The National Liberal Federation issued a circular, in which were the words: "The question of mending or ending the House of Lords ... displaces for awhile all other subjects of reform." Mr. Gladstone was probably aware of the contents of this manifesto before it was issued, and the sentiments were in accord with those uttered by him two years before at New Castle.
September 27th, Mr. Gladstone addressed his constituents at Edinburgh. He was received with an outburst of enthusiasm. He said that the People's Chamber had passed the bill. If the nation was determined it would not be baffled by the Peers. If the Commons should go before the country, then the Lords should go too, and if defeated, should do what the Commons would do—clear out.
The Queen wanted Mr. Gladstone to appeal to the country, and there was an opinion among some that Mr. Gladstone would be defeated at the polls upon the question; but the Premier intimated to the Queen his intention not to appeal, and announced the readiness of the Cabinet to be dismissed by the Queen. However, the Queen would hardly expose the throne to the danger threatening the Peers.
December 29, 1893, Mr. Gladstone attained the eighty-fourth year of his age. When he entered the House of Commons that day his political associates of the Liberal party all rose anta greeted him with cheers. When the applause had subsided, the Conservatives raised their hats and their leader, Mr. Balfour, rose and tendered his congratulations. Mr. Gladstone was much pleased with the demonstrations of his friends, as well as with the graceful compliments of his political opponents. Besides about two hundred congratulatory messages, letters and telegrams were received, those from Queen Victoria, and the Prince and Princess of Wales, being among the first.
July 6, 1893, Prince George of Wales, Duke of York, and Princess Mary of Teck were married. The Prince was by inheritance heir, after the Prince of Wales, to the throne of England. Mr. Gladstone attended the wedding, arrayed in the blue and gold uniform of a brother of the Trinity House, with naval epaulettes, and was conducted to the royal pew reserved for him.
Among the great measures proposed at this time by Mr. Gladstone were the Employers' Liability, and the Parish Councils Bills. The latter was as evolutionary and as revolutionary as the Home Rule Bill. Its object was to take the control of 10,000 rural English parishes out of the hands of the squire and the parson and put it into the hands of the people. With its amendments regarding woman suffrage, to which Mr. Gladstone was opposed, it gave to every man and woman in England one vote—and only one—in local affairs. February 21, 1894, when Mr. Gladstone had returned from Biarritz, where he had gone for his health, there was again a notable assemblage in the House of Commons to hear him speak. It was expected that he would make a bitter attack upon the House of Lords, which had attempted to defeat both these bills by amendments. But he calmly spoke of the lamentable divergence between the two branches of the legislature upon the Employers' Liability Bill, and asked that the amendment be rejected, which was done by a majority of 225 to 6. The bill was therefore withdrawn, and the responsibility of its defeat thrown upon the Lords. The House also rejected all the important amendments of the Parish Councils Bill, but concurred in the unimportant changes made by the Lords. It was sent back then to the lords, and finally passed by them. But Mr. Gladstone greatly disappointed many of his political friends by his mild manner of dealing with the House of Lords. The extreme Radicals were angered and condemned severely the Premier for what they called his "backing down" and his "feeble speech."
Rumors in reference to Mr. Gladstone's resignation, which had been started by the Pall Mall Gazette, while he was yet at Biarritz, were now renewed. February 28, 1894, Mr. Gladstone informed the Queen of his contemplated retirement, giving as reasons his failing eyesight, deafness and age. March 1st, he made an important speech in the House of Commons. He displayed so much vigor and earnestness in his speech that it was thought that he had given up the idea of retiring. But this was his last speech as Premier. March 2d, Mr. and Mrs. Gladstone were summoned to Windsor, where they dined with the Queen, and remained over night. Saturday, March 3, 1894, Mr. Gladstone tendered his resignation as Premier to the Queen, who accepted it with many expressions of favor and regret, and offered him again a peerage, which was declined. On the way to Windsor and return to London, Mr. Gladstone was greeted by a large and enthusiastic crowd. Hundreds of letters and telegrams expressing regret, because of his retirement, were received by the ex-Premier, On Sunday he attended church as usual and was looking well, Mr. Balfour in the Commons, and Lord Salisbury in the Lords, vied with Mr. Gladstone's political friends in speaking his praise, and referring in the highest terms to his character and labors. The press in all parts of the world spoke in glowing terms of his natural endowments, great attainments, invaluable services, pure character and wonderfully vigorous old age. It was quite evident that Mr. Gladstone's retirement was not enforced by mental or physical infirmities, or by his unfitness for the leadership of the House and the Premiership, but that as a wise precaution, and upon the solicitation of his family, he had laid down his power while he was yet able to wield it with astonishing vigor. Thus closed the fourth administration of this remarkable man, the greatest English statesman of his time. In all history there is no parallel case, and no official record such as his.
Lord Rosebery was appointed Premier in the place of Mr. Gladstone, and Sir William V. Harcourt became the leader of the Liberal party in the House of Commons. Mr. Gladstone wrote congratulating Lord Rosebery, and promised to aid him whenever his assistance was required. In assuming office Lord Rosebery eulogized Mr. Gladstone, and announced that there would be no change in the policy of reform of the Liberal party under the new administration, and declared for Home Rule for Ireland, the disestablishment of the church in Wales and Scotland, and the reform of the House of Lords.
IN PRIVATE LIFE
Justin McCarthy, in the closing pages of his Story of Gladstone's Life, says: "The long political struggle was over and done. The heat of the opposition this way and that had gone out forever, and Mr. Gladstone had none left but friends on both sides of the political field. Probably that ceremonial, that installation of the Prince of Wales as Chancellor of the Welsh University, was the last occasion on which Mr. Gladstone would consent to make an appearance on a public platform. It was a graceful close to such a great career."
The occasion referred to was the ceremonial at Aberystwith, Wales, June 26, 1896, when the Prince of Wales was installed as Chancellor of the Welsh University, and when the Prince presented to the Princess of Wales and to Mr. Gladstone honorary degrees conferred upon them by the University. The appearance of Mr. Gladstone was the signal for great applause. The Prince in his remarks was very complimentary to Mr. Gladstone, and spoke of the honor paid the University by the presence of the aged scholar and statesman, and also said it was truly one of the proudest moments of his life, when he found himself in the flattering position of being able to confer an academic honor upon one furnishing the rare instance of occupying the highest position as a statesman and who at the same time had attained such distinction in scholarship.
But Mr. McCarthy was mistaken about this being the closing public service in the life of Mr. Gladstone. It was very far from his last public appearance. After that event Mr. Gladstone appeared repeatedly. Though his official life had closed, yet he was to emerge from retirement many times, and especially when it became necessary for him to raise his strong voice for humanity. His advocacy of the great causes of Armenian rescue, of Grecian independence, of Arbitration instead of War, and the unity and harmony of the two great English-speaking people, was given with all the old time fire of youth. What Mr. Gladstone did and said with pen and voice since the occasion mentioned, was enough not only for another chapter, but a whole volume, and sufficient alone to immortalize any man.
After the great struggle for Home Rule and during the sultry summer of 1893, Mr. Gladstone repaired to his favorite winter resort, Biarritz, in the south of France, It was while he was there that rumors of his resignation were heard, based on the ground of his failing health. Dr. Granger, of Chester, who was also an oculist, was summoned to examine Mr. Gladstone's eyes. He told Mr. Gladstone that a cataract had obliterated the sight of one eye, and that another cataract had begun to form on the other. In other words Mr. Gladstone was threatened with total blindness. The Prime Minister reflected a moment, and then requested—almost ordered—the physician to operate immediately upon his eye. He said: "I wish you to remove the cataract at once." The physician replied that it was not far enough advanced for an operation. "You do not understand me," answered the patient, "it is the old cataract I wish removed. If that is out of the way, I shall still have one good eye, when the new cataract impairs the sight of the other." As the physician still hesitated, Mr. Gladstone continued: "You still seem not to understand me. I want you to perform the operation here and now while I am sitting in this chair." "But it might not be successful," said Dr. Granger. "That is a risk I accept," was the instant reply. However, the physician dared not then undertake it, and afterwards said that Mr. Gladstone's eyes were as good as they were a year before, and that his general health was also good.
In May, 1894, Mr. Gladstone's eye was successfully operated upon for cataract. He took no anaesthetic, and was conscious during the time. Every precaution was taken to insure success, and the patient was put to bed for rest and quiet and kept on low diet. Mr. Gladstone's eyes were so improved by judicious treatment that before long he could read ten or twelve hours a day. This could be regarded as complete restoration of sight, and enabled him, upon his retirement from public life, to devote himself to the work he so well loved when at home in his study at Hawarden.
Mr. Gladstone's retirement from public life, from the Premiership, the Cabinet, the leadership of the Liberal Party, and from Parliament did not mean his entrance upon a period of inactivity. In the shades of Hawarden and in the quiet of his study he kept up the industry that had characterized his whole life heretofore.
It had been the custom for centuries for English statesmen, upon retiring from official life, to devote themselves to the classics. Mr. Gladstone, who was pre-eminently a statesman-scholar, found it very congenial to his mind and habits to follow this old English custom. He first translated and published "The Odes of Horace." Then he took Butler's "Analogy" as a text book, and prepared and published "Studies Subsidiary to the Works of Bishop Butler." The discussion necessarily takes a wide range, treating, among other matters, of Butler's method, its application to the Scriptures, the future life, miracles and the mediation of Christ. Says W.T. Stead: "No one who reads the strenuous arguments with which Mr. Gladstone summarizes the reasoning of Bishop Butler on the future life is conscious of any weakening in the vigorous dialectic which was so often employed with brilliant success in the House of Commons."
One of Mr. Gladstone's latest productions was his "Personal Recollections of Arthur H. Hallam," which was written for the "Youth's Companion." It is a tribute to the memory and worth of one of his early friends at Eton.
These and other literary works occupied most of his time. But Mr. Gladstone would not content himself with quiet literary work. He had too long and too intensely been active in the world's great movements and on humanity's behalf to stand aloof. Hence it was not long before he was again in the arena, doing valiant service for the Armenian and against the Turk.
In 1892 the Sultan, in the execution of a plan devised in 1890, issued an edict against religious freedom. In 1894, he threw off the mask and began to execute his deliberate and preconcerted plan to force all Christian Armenians to become Mohammedans or to die. Robbery, outrage and murder were the means used by the hands of brutal soldiers.
In a letter to an indignation meeting held in London, December 17th, 1894, Mr. Gladstone wrote denouncing these outrages of the Turks. The reading of the letter was greeted with prolonged applause.
A deputation of Armenian gentlemen, residing in London and in Paris, took occasion on Mr. Gladstone's 85th birthday, December 29th, 1894, to present a silver chalice to Hawarden Church as "a memorial of Mr. Gladstone's sympathy with and assistance to the Armenian people." Mr. Gladstone's address to the deputation was regarded as one of the most peculiar and characteristic acts of his life. He gave himself wholly to the cause of these oppressed people, and was stirred by the outrages and murders perpetrated upon them as he was 18 years before. He said that the Turks should go out as they did go out of Bulgaria "bag and baggage," and he denounced the government of the Sultan as "a disgrace to Mahomet, the prophet whom it professed to follow, a disgrace to civilization at large, and a curse to mankind." He contended that every nation had ever the right and the authority to act "on behalf of humanity and of justice."
There were those who condemned Mr. Gladstone's speech, declaring that it might disrupt the peace of Europe, but there were many others who thought that the sooner peace secured at such a cost was disturbed the better. It was but natural for those who wrongfully claimed the sovereign right to oppress their own subjects, to denounce all interference in the affairs of the Sultan.
It was reported, March 19, 1895, that Francis Seymour Stevenson, M.P., Chairman of the Anglo-Armenian Association, on behalf of the Tiflis Armenians, would present to Mr. Gladstone, on his return to London, the ancient copy of the Armenian Gospels, inscribed upon vellum, which was to accompany the address to the ex-Premier, then being signed by the Armenians there. In a letter Mr. Gladstone had but recently declared that he had abandoned all hope that the condition of affairs in Armenia would change for the better. The Sultan, he declared, was no longer worthy of the courtesies of diplomatic usage, or of Christian tolerance. Mr. Gladstone promised that when these Gospels were formally presented to him he would deliver a "rattling" address on behalf of the Armenians. When a delegation waited on him, he said, after assuring them of his sympathy, that the danger in the Armenian situation now was that useful action might be abandoned, in view of the promises of the Turkish Government to institute reforms.
In June 1895, Mr. and Mrs. Gladstone attended the opening of the Kaiser Wilhelm Canal as guests of Sir Donald Currie, on his steamship Tantallon Castle, returning home on the twenty-fifth. During this trip an effort was made to arrange for an interview between the Ex-Premier and the Prince Bismarck, but the Prince seemed disinclined and the project failed.
It was while Mr. Gladstone was at Kiel, that the Rosebery Ministry fell by an accidental defeat of the Liberal Party in Parliament, and which again brought Mr. Gladstone to the front in the public mind. Lord Rosebery telegraphed Mr. Gladstone full particulars of the situation, and Mr. Gladstone strongly advised against the resignation of the Government and urged that a vote of confidence be taken. Mr. Gladstone wrote that the Liberal Party could well afford to stand on its record. The Ministry with but two exceptions, was the same, as that formed by Mr. Gladstone in August 1892, and had his confidence.
Nevertheless, the cabinet of Lord Rosebery resigned, and the Marquis of Salisbury again became Prime Minister,—on the very day of Mr. Gladstone's arrival home. However Lord Rosebery retained the leadership of the Liberal Party.
There is no doubt that if the wishes of the Liberal Party had been gratified, Mr. Gladstone would have taken the leadership and again become Prime Minister. Subsequent events proved that he would have been equal, at least for a while, to the task of succeeding Lord Rosebery. But Mr. Gladstone was not willing. He refused to re-enter Parliament, and wrote a letter to his old constituents at Midlothian, declining their kind offer to send him to the House and bade them a kind farewell. In his letter he said that the Liberal Party is a party of progress and reform, and urged his constituents to stand by it. He regarded the changes of the century exceedingly beneficial.
August 6, 1895, Mr. Gladstone made a great speech at Chester. A meeting was held in the Town Hall to arouse public sentiment against the slaughter of Armenian Christians within the Empire of the Sultan by Turkish soldiers, and to devise some means of putting an end to such crimes, and of punishing the oppressor. The audience was very large, including many Armenians resident in England, and rose with vociferous cheering when Mr. and Mrs. Gladstone, the Duke of Westminster, the Bishop of Chester, and the Mayor of Chester entered the hall. The Bishop of Ripon was already there. The Duke of Westminster presided, and read a letter from the Marquis of Salisbury, the Premier.
Mr. Gladstone arose amid an outburst of enthusiastic applause, and addressing the vast audience said:
That the massacres in Armenia resulted from intolerable government—perhaps the worst in the world. He offered a resolution pledging the support of the entire nation to the British Government in its efforts to secure for the Armenians such reforms as would guarantee the safety of life, honor, religion and property. Mr. Gladstone said that language failed to describe the horrors of the massacre of Sussoun, which made the blood run cold. The Sultan was responsible, for these barbarities were not the act of the criminal class, such as afflicts every country, the malefactors who usually perpetrate horrible crime, but were perpetrated by the agents of the Sultan—the soldiers and the Kurds, tax-gatherers and police of the Turkish Government. And what had been done, and was daily being done, could be summed up in four awful words—plunder, murder, rape and torture. Plunder and murder were bad enough, but these were almost venial by the side of the work of the ravisher and the torturer. And the victims were defenceless men, women and children—Armenians, one of the oldest Christian civilized races, and one of the most pacific, industrious and intelligent races of the world.
There was no exaggeration in the language used to describe the horrible outrages visited upon whole communities of innocent and helpless people. The truth of these terrible charges in their most hideous form, was established by unbiased American testimony, by Dr, Dillon, an eye witness, and by the representatives of England, France and Russia.
Nothing but a sense of duty, said Mr. Gladstone, had brought him at his age to resign the repose, which was the last of many great earthly blessings remaining to him, to address them.
If the Powers of Europe were to recede before the irrational resistance of the Sultan, they would be disgraced in the eyes of the world, and the Christian population of the Turkish Empire would be doomed to extermination, according to the plan of the Porte. Terrible word, but true in its application.
As to the remedy the cleanest was to make the Turk march out of Armenia, as he did out of Bulgaria, "bag and baggage." He cautioned against trusting the promises of the government at Constantinople, which he knew from long experience, were worthless; and declared that the Sultan was bound by no treaty obligation. The word "ought" was not heeded at Constantinople, but the word "must" was understood fully there. Coercion was a word perfectly comprehended there—a drastic dose which never failed. If we have the smallest regard for humanity, he concluded, we shall, with the help of God, demand that which is just and necessary. Mr. Gladstone was frequently and loudly applauded during his speech, at the conclusion of which the resolution was adopted.
The most powerful voice in all Britain had been raised with stirring and thrilling power for justice and humanity. The testimony of an eye witness is to the effect, that never did the grand old man seem in finer form. His undimmed eye flashed as he spoke with withering scorn against hypocrisy and with hottest hate against wrong. His natural force was not abated, his health robust, and his conviction unsubdued. His deeply lined and pale face was transfigured with the glow of righteous indignation. The aged statesman was in his old House of Commons vigor. "There was the same facile movement of his body, and the same penetrating look as though he would pierce the very soul of his auditors; the same triumphant march of sentence after sentence to their chosen goal, and yet the same subtle method of introducing qualifying clauses all along the march without loosing the grip of his theme; the same ascent to lofty principles and commanding generalizations, blended with the complete mastery of details; and, above all, the same sublimity of outlook and ringing emphasis of sincerity in every tone." It was an occasion never to be forgotten. A distinguished hearer said: "To read his speech, as thousands will, is much; but to have heard it, to have felt it-oh! that is simply indescribable, and will mark for many, one of the most memorable days of this last decade of this closing century. The sweet cadence of his voice, the fascination of his personality, and, above all, the consecration of his splendid gifts to the cause of plundered men and ravished women, raise the occasion into prominence in the annals of a great people. Chiefly, I feel the triumphs of soul. His utterance of the words 'wives,' 'women,' lifted them into an atmosphere of awe and solemnity, and his tone in speaking of 'rape' and 'torture' gave them an ineffable loathsomeness. It seemed as if so much soul had never been put into a Saxon speech. Keen satire, rasping rebuke, an avalanche of indignation, rapier-like thrusts to the vital fibre of the situation, and withal the invincible cogency of argument against the Turkish Government, gave the oration a primary place amongst the master-pieces of human eloquence."
In the course of this famous speech Mr. Gladstone referred to America; once when welcoming the sympathy of the American people with the suffering Armenians, and again as he described the testimony of the United States as a witness that gained enormously in value because it was entirely free from suspicion.
A large meeting was held in St. James Hall, London, October 19, 1896, in memory of Christian Martyrs in Turkey. The Bishop of Rochester presided. The hall was packed with an audience of 2,600, while nearly 7,000 applied for admission. Many prominent persons were present. The large audience was in sombre funeral attire. About thirty front seats were occupied by Armenians. It was stated that 60,000 Armenians so far had been murdered with tortures and indignities indescribable. To this meeting Mr. Gladstone addressed a letter which was greeted with the wildest enthusiasm. He said that he hoped the meeting would worthily crown the Armenian meetings of the past two months, which were without a parallel during his political life. The great object, he said, was to strengthen Lord Salisbury's hands and to stop the series of massacres, which were probably still unfinished, and to provide against their renewal. As he believed that Lord Salisbury would use his powerful position for the best, personally he objected in the strongest manner to abridging Lord Salisbury's discretion by laying down this or that as things which he ought not to do. It was a wild paradox, without the support of reason or history, to say that the enforcement of treaty rights to stop systematic massacre, together with effective security against Great Britain's abusing them for selfish ends, would provoke the hostilities of one or more of the powers.
To advertise beforehand in the ears of the Great Assassin that Great Britain's action would cut down—what the most backward of the six Powers think to be sufficient—would be the; abandonment of duty and prudence and would be to doom the national movement to disappointment. The concert of Europe was valuable and important, but such an announcement would be certain to be followed by its failure.
One of the immediate effects of Mr. Gladstone's denunciation of the Sultan for the Armenian massacres was the resignation by Lord Rosebery of the leadership of the Liberal Party. Mr. Gladstone's return to politics, the agitation of the Turkish question and the differences between these two leaders of the Liberal movement as to the best way of dealing with the Sultan, were assigned as reasons by Lord Rosebery for his resignation.
It was then again suggested that Mr. Gladstone assume the leadership of the Liberal Party and accept a peerage and a seat in the House of Lords, so often tendered him by the Queen. Then Sir William Vernon-Harcourt could lead in the House of Commons and bear the burden, while Mr. Gladstone could be at the head of affairs without the worry of the House of Commons. Besides, Mr. Morgan offered to resign his seat in the House of Commons in his favor. But Mr. Gladstone would not agree to any of these plans as far as they pertained to himself.
July 22, 1896, Mr. and Mrs. Gladstone returned to London to attend a great social function, the marriage of one of the daughters of the Prince and Princess of Wales to Prince Charles of Denmark. Mr. Gladstone evinced much interest in everything connected with the important event, and was himself the object of much attention.
September 23, 1896, Mr. Gladstone wrote a long letter to the Paris Figaro in response to an appeal from its editor, M. Leudet, to Mr. Gladstone to arouse the French press in behalf of the Armenians. After expressing his diffidence in complying with the request, Mr. Gladstone declared his belief that the population of Great Britain were more united in sentiment and more thoroughly aroused by the present outrages in Turkey than they were by the atrocities in Bulgaria in 1876.
He said: "The question whether effect can be given to the national indignation is now in the balance, and will probably soon be decided. I have read in some Austrian newspapers an affected scruple against sole action by any one State in a European crisis, but there are two first-class Powers who will not make that scruple their own. One of these is Russia, who in 1878, earned lasting honors by liberating Bulgaria and, helping onward the freedom and security of other Balkan States. The other Power is France, who, in 1840, took up the cause of Egypt and pushed it single handed to the verge of a European war. She wisely forbore to bring about that horrible, transcendent calamity, but I gravely doubt whether she was not right and the combined Powers wrong in their policy of that period."
Mr. Gladstone denounced the Sultan as the "Great Assassin," and continued: "For more than a year he has triumphed over the diplomacy of the six Powers, they have been laid prostrate at his feet. There is no parallel in history to the humiliation they have patiently borne. He has therefore had every encouragement to continue a course that has been crowned with such success. The impending question seems to be, not whether, but when and where he will proceed to his next murderous exploits. The question for Europe and each Power is whether he shall be permitted to swell by more myriads the tremendous total of his victims.
"In other years when I possessed power I did my best to promote the concert of Europe, but I sorrowfully admit that all the good done in Turkey during the last twenty years was done, not by it, but more nearly despite it." The letter concludes by expressing the hope that the French people would pursue a policy worthy of their greatness, their fame and the high place they have held in European Christian history.
September 24, 1896, a meeting was called by the Reform Club, of Liverpool, to protest against the recent massacres of 2000 Armenians at Constantinople at the affair of the Ottoman Bank, and many more throughout the Turkish Empire. Mr. Gladstone was asked to address the meeting. When requested by the agent of the Associated Press for an advanced proof of his speech he declined, but wrote that he would "recommend giving the warmest support to the Queen's government, and would contend that England should act alone if necessary for the fulfillment of the covenants which have been so disgracefully broken."
Mr. and Mrs. Gladstone, with their son Herbert, arrived at noon at Liverpool, and were met at the railroad station by 2,000 enthusiastic people. The meeting was held in the vast auditorium of the Circus Building, which was filled. Thousands failed to obtain entrance.
Before the arrival of Mr. Gladstone there was a spontaneous outburst of applause, everybody present standing and singing "God save the Queen." When Mr. Gladstone entered, the prolonged roar of applause could be heard for miles, arising from thousands inside and outside the hall.
The Earl of Derby, Conservative, presided. He was accompanied by the Countess of Derby, who with many distinguished persons occupied the platform.
Mr. Gladstone stepped briskly to the front of the platform at 12.30 p.m. bowing repeatedly in response to the applause. He looked strong and well for a man of his age and labors, and was easily heard. After a few preliminary remarks, he moved the following resolution:
"That this meeting trusts that Her Majesty's ministers, realizing to the fullest extent the terrible condition in which their fellow Christians are placed, will do everything possible to obtain for them full security and protection; and this meeting assures Her Majesty's ministers that they may rely upon the cordial support of the citizens of Liverpool in whatever steps they may feel it necessary to take for that purpose."
The resolution was received with great cheering.
Mr. Gladstone resumed: "We have a just title to threaten Turkey with coercion, but that does not in itself mean war; and I think that the first step should be the recall of our Ambassador, and it should be followed by the dismissal of the Turkish Ambassador from London. Such a course is frequent and would not give the right of complaint to anybody. When diplomatic relations are suspended, England should inform the Sultan that she should consider the means of enforcing her just and humane demands. I do not believe that Europe will make war to insure the continuance of massacres more terrible than ever recorded in the dismal, deplorable history of crime.
"Now, as in 1876, to the guilt of massacre is added the impudence of denial, which will continue just as long as Europe is content to listen. I doubt if it is an exaggeration to say that it was in the Sultan's palace, and there only, that the inspiration has been supplied, and the policy devised of the whole series of massacres. When the Sultan carries massacre into his own capital under the eyes of the Ambassadors, he appears to have gained the very acme of what it is possible for him to do. But the weakness of diplomacy, I trust, is about to be strengthened by the echo of this nation's voice."
Mr. Gladstone then referred to the supineness of the Ambassadors of the Powers at Constantinople, and continued: "The concert of Europe is an august and useful instrument, but it has not usually succeeded in dealing with the Eastern question, which has arrived at a period when it is necessary to strengthen the hands of the Government by an expression of national opinion. I believe that the continued presence of the Ambassadors at Constantinople has operated as a distinct countenance to the Sultan, who is thus their recognized ally.
"But, while urging the Government to act, it does not follow that, even for the sake of the great object in view, Great Britain should transplant Europe into a state of war. On the other hand, however, I deny that England must abandon her own right to independent judgment and allow herself to be domineered over by the other powers."
Mr. Gladstone expressed the opinion that the purpose of the meeting was defensive and prospective, saying that no one can hold out the hope that the massacres are ended, although he ventured to anticipate that the words spoken at the meeting would find their way to the palace at Constantinople. "The present movement," he said, "is based on broad grounds of humanity, and is not directed against the Mohammedans, but against the Turkish officials, evidence of whose barbarities rests in credible official reports." Mr. Gladstone declared his adhesion to the principles contained in the resolution, and said he came to the meeting not claiming any authority for sentiments expressed except that of a citizen of Liverpool.
"But," he remarked, "the national platform upon which the meeting is based gives greater authority for sentiments universally entertained throughout the length and breadth of the land, and I urge that in this matter party sympathy be renounced. I entertain the lively hope and strong belief that the present deplorable situation is not due to the act or default of the Government of this great country."
Mr. Gladstone spoke about twenty minutes and was repeatedly interrupted by applause. He was in good voice, and did not seem fatigued when he had finished.
The next day the Turkish Embassy at London telegraphed Mr. Gladstone's speech at Liverpool verbatim to the Sultan.
The London Times in an editorial said: "The spectacle of the veteran statesman quitting his retirement to plead the cause of the oppressed is well calculated to move the sympathy and admiration of the nation. The ardor of Mr. Gladstone's feelings on this subject is notorious. All the more striking and significant is the comparative restraint and moderation of the speech."
Other questions besides those mentioned were claiming the attention of English statesmen. In the Spring, prior to the great Liverpool meeting, the Venezuela boundary question was agitating the two great English speaking nations to the very verge of war. A large Peace Meeting was held in London, March 3, 1896, to favor arbitration. Mr. Gladstone wrote: "I am glad that the discussion of arbitration is to be separated from the Venezuela question, upon which I do not feel myself in final and full possession of the facts that I should wish. My views on arbitration in place of war were gathered from the part I took in the matter of the Alabama claims. I will only add that my conviction and sentiment on the subject grow in strength from year to year in proportion to the growth of that monstrous and barbarous militarism, in regard to which I consider England has to bear no small responsibility."
The meeting favored permanent international arbitration, and an Anglo-American treaty was finally signed by the representatives of the two nations, providing for the settlement of all questions between the two nations by arbitration instead of by war, but the Senate of the United States refused to ratify the treaty.
Mr. Gladstone deplored intensely the extraordinary misunderstanding which had prevailed on the subject of the Venezuela frontier. He seemed to think that nothing but a little common sense was needed to secure the pacific settlement of the question at any moment. A hundred square miles more or less on either side of the boundary of British Guiana was to him a matter of supreme indifference. He was extremely anxious to see justice done, and one of his last speeches in the House of Commons was in favor of permanent arbitration between England and the United States.
Another one of the absorbing questions that came before the civilized world for consideration, and almost to the exclusion of the Armenian question, was the Cretan Question. Greece heroically sustained the insurrection of the Cretans against the Turkish rule. The scene of Turkish cruelty was now transferred to the isle of Crete. For the time the Armenian massacres were forgotten. The Greeks rushed to the rescue, while all Europe held aloof. Mr. Gladstone sent the following dispatch to the Chronicle: "I do not dare to stimulate Greece when I cannot help her, but I shall profoundly rejoice at her success. I hope the Powers will recollect that they have their own character to redeem." This was in February, 1897, Later he wrote that to expel the Greek troops from Crete and keep as police the butchers of Armenia, would further deepen the disgrace of the Powers of Europe.
In March, 1897, Mr. Gladstone addressed a letter, now justly celebrated, on the same subject to the Duke of Westminster in which he expressed his opinion more fully, and which was evidently the sentiment of the English speaking people of the world. The letter was in the form of a pamphlet of 16 pages, published, and entitled The Eastern Crisis.
In less than a week after this eloquent manifesto in behalf of the Cretans and of Greece was put forth, it was currently reported that the precise solution of the problem recommended by Mr. Gladstone was likely to be adopted. The Sultan himself, fearful of the effect of the appeal on public opinion in Europe, sought the settlement of the question in the manner suggested. The Greeks still clamored for war. In the war that followed between Greece and Turkey, Greece was defeated and crushed by the Turk. Only by the intervention of the Powers was Greece saved from becoming a part of the Sultan's Empire.
After peace had been concluded between Turkey and Greece, Mr. Gladstone undertook to arouse public opinion by a trenchant review of the situation. Looking back over the past two years of England's Eastern policy, he inquires as to what have been the results, and then answers his own question. He thus enumerates:
1. The slaughter of 100,000 Armenian Christians, men, women and children, with no guarantee against a repetition of the crime.
2. The Turkish Umpire stronger than at any time since the Crimean war.
3. Christian Greece weaker than at any time since she became a kingdom.
These are facts, Mr. Gladstone claimed, for which the leading Christian nations and statesmen of Europe are responsible.
While Mr. Gladstone thus expresses himself, yet his vigorous protests had not been without effect. His voice penetrated into the very palace of the Sultan, and into every Cabinet of Europe, and was heard by every statesman and ruler throughout the world, and aroused the people everywhere. It was a mighty voice lifted for right and against oppression. The Sultan was afraid and was compelled to desist; not that he feared the protests and the warnings of the Christian Nations of Europe, but because that one voice was the expression of the popular feeling of all Christians throughout the world, and to defy such sentiment would be to court the overthrow of his throne, if not of the dominion of the Turk in Europe.
In June, 1894, an invitation was extended to Mr. Gladstone to visit the United States, signed by many representative men in public life. But Mr. Gladstone, while acknowledging the compliment, declined because of his age. It would, he thought, be a tremendous undertaking for him. The fatigue of the voyage and the strain of the receptions while in America, would prove greater than his physical condition could bear.