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[Illustration: Walker and Cockrell Photo
Sir John Gladstone
_from a painting by William Bradley_]

THE LIFE OF

WILLIAM EWART

GLADSTONE


BY

JOHN MORLEY

_IN THREE VOLUMES - VOL. I_

(_1809-1859_)



TORONTO
GEORGE N. MORANG & COMPANY, LIMITED
1903

COPYRIGHT, 1903,

BY THE MACMILLAN COMPANY.

Set up, electrotyped, and published October, 1903. Reprinted
October, November, 1903.


Norwood Press
J. S. Cushing & Co. - Berwick & Smith Co.
Norwood, Mass., U.S.A.

TO THE

ELECTORS OF THE MONTROSE BURGHS

I BEG LEAVE TO

INSCRIBE THIS BOOK

IN GRATEFUL RECOGNITION

OF

THE CONFIDENCE AND FRIENDSHIP

WITH WHICH

THEY HAVE HONOURED ME

NOTE

The material on which this biography is founded consists mainly, of
course, of the papers collected at Hawarden. Besides that vast
accumulation, I have been favoured with several thousands of other
pieces from the legion of Mr. Gladstone's correspondents. Between two
and three hundred thousand written papers of one sort or another must
have passed under my view. To some important journals and papers from
other sources I have enjoyed free access, and my warm thanks are due to
those who have generously lent me this valuable aid. I am especially
indebted to the King for the liberality with which his Majesty has been
graciously pleased to sanction the use of certain documents, in cases
where the permission of the Sovereign was required.

When I submitted an application for the same purpose to Queen Victoria,
in readily promising her favourable consideration, the Queen added a
message strongly impressing on me that the work I was about to undertake
should not be handled in the narrow way of party. This injunction
represents my own clear view of the spirit in which the history of a
career so memorable as Mr. Gladstone's should be composed. That, to be
sure, is not at all inconsistent with our regarding party feeling in its
honourable sense, as entirely the reverse of an infirmity.

The diaries from which I have often quoted consist of forty little books
in double columns, intended to do little more than record persons seen,
or books read, or letters written as the days passed by. From these
diaries come several of the mottoes prefixed to our chapters; such
mottoes are marked by an asterisk.

The trustees and other members of Mr. Gladstone's family have extended
to me a uniform kindness and consideration and an absolutely unstinted
confidence, for which I can never cease to owe them my heartiest
acknowledgment. They left with the writer an unqualified and undivided
responsibility for these pages, and for the use of the material that
they entrusted to him. Whatever may prove to be amiss, whether in
leaving out or putting in or putting wrong, the blame is wholly mine.

J. M.

1903.

CONTENTS




_BOOK I_

(_1809-1831_)

CHAPTER PAGE

INTRODUCTORY 1

I. CHILDHOOD 7

II. ETON 26

III. OXFORD 48


_BOOK II_

(_1832-1846_)

I. ENTERS PARLIAMENT. 86

II. THE NEW CONSERVATISM AND OFFICE 116

III. PROGRESS IN PUBLIC LIFE. 131

IV. THE CHURCH 152

V. HIS FIRST BOOK 169

VI. CHARACTERISTICS 184

VII. CLOSE OF APPRENTICESHIP 219

VIII. PEEL'S GOVERNMENT 247

IX. MAYNOOTH 270

X. TRIUMPH OF POLICY AND FALL OF THE MINISTER 282

XI. THE TRACTARIAN CATASTROPHE 303

_BOOK III_

(_1847-1852_)

CHAPTER PAGE

I. MEMBER FOR OXFORD 327

II. THE HAWARDEN ESTATE 337

III. PARTY EVOLUTION - NEW COLONIAL POLICY 350

IV. DEATH OF SIR ROBERT PEEL 366

V. GORHAM CASE - SECESSION OF FRIENDS 375

VI. NAPLES 389

VII. RELIGIOUS TORNADO - PEELITE DIFFICULTIES 405

VIII. END OF PROTECTION 425


_BOOK IV_

(_1853-1859_)


I. THE COALITION 443

II. THE TRIUMPH OF 1853 457

III. THE CRIMEAN WAR 476

IV. OXFORD REFORM - OPEN CIVIL SERVICE 496

V. WAR FINANCE - TAX OR LOAN 513

VI. CRISIS OF 1855 AND BREAK-UP OF THE PEELITES 521

VII. POLITICAL ISOLATION 544

VIII. GENERAL ELECTION - NEW MARRIAGE LAW 558

IX. THE SECOND DERBY GOVERNMENT 574

X. THE IONIAN ISLANDS 594

XI. JUNCTION WITH THE LIBERALS 621

APPENDIX 635

CHRONOLOGY 654

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

SIR JOHN GLADSTONE _Frontispiece._

_From a painting by William Bradley._

WILLIAM EWART GLADSTONE _to face page_ 86

_From a painting by William Bradley._


CATHERINE GLADSTONE " 223

_From a painting._


HAWARDEN CASTLE " 337


Book I

_1809-1831_

INTRODUCTORY

I am well aware that to try to write Mr. Gladstone's life at all - the
life of a man who held an imposing place in many high national
transactions, whose character and career may be regarded in such various
lights, whose interests were so manifold, and whose years bridged so
long a span of time - is a stroke of temerity. To try to write his life
to-day, is to push temerity still further. The ashes of controversy, in
which he was much concerned, are still hot; perspective, scale,
relation, must all while we stand so near be difficult to adjust. Not
all particulars, more especially of the latest marches in his wide
campaign, can be disclosed without risk of unjust pain to persons now
alive. Yet to defer the task for thirty or forty years has plain
drawbacks too. Interest grows less vivid; truth becomes harder to find
out; memories pale and colour fades. And if in one sense a statesman's
contemporaries, even after death has abated the storm and temper of
faction, can scarcely judge him, yet in another sense they who breathe
the same air as he breathed, who know at close quarters the problems
that faced him, the materials with which he had to work, the limitations
of his time - such must be the best, if not the only true memorialists
and recorders.

Every reader will perceive that perhaps the sharpest of all the many
difficulties of my task has been to draw the line between history and
biography - between the fortunes of the community and the exploits,
thoughts, and purposes of the individual who had so marked a share in
them. In the case of men of letters, in whose lives our literature is
admirably rich, this difficulty happily for their authors and for our
delight does not arise. But where the subject is a man who was four
times at the head of the government - no phantom, but dictator - and who
held this office of first minister for a longer time than any other
statesman in the reign of the Queen, how can we tell the story of his
works and days without reference, and ample reference, to the course of
events over whose unrolling he presided, and out of which he made
history? It is true that what interests the world in Mr. Gladstone is
even more what he was, than what he did; his brilliancy, charm, and
power; the endless surprises; his dualism or more than dualism; his
vicissitudes of opinion; his subtleties of mental progress; his strange
union of qualities never elsewhere found together; his striking
unlikeness to other men in whom great and free nations have for long
periods placed their trust. I am not sure that the incessant search for
clues through this labyrinth would not end in analysis and disquisition,
that might be no great improvement even upon political history. Mr.
Gladstone said of reconstruction of the income-tax that he only did not
call the task herculean, because Hercules could not have done it.
Assuredly, I am not presumptuous enough to suppose that this difficulty
of fixing the precise scale between history and biography has been
successfully overcome by me. It may be that Hercules himself would have
succeeded little better.

Some may think in this connection that I have made the preponderance of
politics excessive in the story of a genius of signal versatility, to
whom politics were only one interest among many. No doubt speeches,
debates, bills, divisions, motions, and manoeuvres of party, like the
manna that fed the children of Israel in the wilderness, lose their
savour and power of nutriment on the second day. Yet after all it was to
his thoughts, his purposes, his ideals, his performances as statesman,
in all the widest significance of that lofty and honourable designation,
that Mr. Gladstone owes the lasting substance of his fame. His life was
ever '_greatly absorbed_,' he said, '_in working the institutions of his
country_.' Here we mark a signal trait. Not for two centuries, since the
historic strife of anglican and puritan, had our island produced a ruler
in whom the religious motive was paramount in the like degree. He was
not only a political force but a moral force. He strove to use all the
powers of his own genius and the powers of the state for moral purposes
and religious. Nevertheless his mission in all its forms was action. He
had none of that detachment, often found among superior minds, which we
honour for its disinterestedness, even while we lament its impotence in
result. The track in which he moved, the instruments that he employed,
were the track and the instruments, the sword and the trowel, of
political action; and what is called the Gladstonian era was
distinctively a political era.

On this I will permit myself a few words more. The detailed history of
Mr. Gladstone as theologian and churchman will not be found in these
pages, and nobody is more sensible than their writer of the gap. Mr.
Gladstone cared as much for the church as he cared for the state; he
thought of the church as the soul of the state; he believed the
attainment by the magistrate of the ends of government to depend upon
religion; and he was sure that the strength of a state corresponds to
the religious strength and soundness of the community of which the state
is the civil organ. I should have been wholly wanting in biographical
fidelity, not to make this clear and superabundantly clear. Still a
writer inside Mr. Gladstone's church and in full and active sympathy
with him on this side of mundane and supramundane things, would
undoubtedly have treated the subject differently from any writer
outside. No amount of candour or good faith - and in these essentials I
believe that I have not fallen short - can be a substitute for the
confidence and ardour of an adherent, in the heart of those to whom the
church stands first. Here is one of the difficulties of this complex
case. Yet here, too, there may be some trace of compensation. If the
reader has been drawn into the whirlpools of the political Charybdis, he
might not even in far worthier hands than mine have escaped the rocky
headlands of the ecclesiastic Scylla. For churches also have their
parties.

Lord Salisbury, the distinguished man who followed Mr. Gladstone in a
longer tenure of power than his, called him 'a great Christian'; and
nothing could be more true or better worth saying. He not only accepted
the doctrines of that faith as he believed them to be held by his own
communion; he sedulously strove to apply the noblest moralities of it
to the affairs both of his own nation and of the commonwealth of
nations. It was a supreme experiment. People will perhaps some day
wonder that many of those who derided the experiment and reproached its
author, failed to see that they were making manifest in this a wholesale
scepticism as to truths that they professed to prize, far deeper and
more destructive than the doubts and disbeliefs of the gentiles in the
outer courts.

The epoch, as the reader knows, was what Mr. Gladstone called 'an
agitated and expectant age.' Some stages of his career mark stages of
the first importance in the history of English party, on which so much
in the working of our constitution hangs. His name is associated with a
record of arduous and fruitful legislative work and administrative
improvement, equalled by none of the great men who have grasped the helm
of the British state. The intensity of his mind, and the length of years
through which he held presiding office, enabled him to impress for good
in all the departments of government his own severe standard of public
duty and personal exactitude. He was the chief force, propelling,
restraining, guiding his country at many decisive moments. Then how many
surprises and what seeming paradox. Devotedly attached to the church, he
was the agent in the overthrow of establishment in one of the three
kingdoms, and in an attempt to overthrow it in the Principality.
Entering public life with vehement aversion to the recent dislodgment of
the landed aristocracy as the mainspring of parliamentary power, he lent
himself to two further enormously extensive changes in the
constitutional centre of gravity. With a lifelong belief in
parliamentary deliberation as the grand security for judicious laws and
national control over executive act, he yet at a certain stage betook
himself with magical result to direct and individual appeal to the great
masses of his countrymen, and the world beheld the astonishing spectacle
of a politician with the microscopic subtlety of a thirteenth century
schoolman wielding at will the new democracy in what has been called
'the country of plain men.' A firm and trained economist, and no friend
to socialism, yet by his legislation upon land in 1870 and 1881 he
wrote the opening chapter in a volume on which many an unexpected page
in the history of Property is destined to be inscribed. Statesmen do far
less than they suppose, far less than is implied in their resounding
fame, to augment the material prosperity of nations, but in this
province Mr. Gladstone's name stands at the topmost height. Yet no ruler
that ever lived felt more deeply the truth - for which I know no better
words than Channing's - that to improve man's outward condition is not to
improve man himself; this must come from each man's endeavour within his
own breast; without that there can be little ground for social hope.
Well was it said to him, 'You have so lived and wrought that you have
kept the soul alive in England.' Not in England only was this felt. He
was sometimes charged with lowering the sentiment, the lofty and
fortifying sentiment, of national pride. At least it is a ground for
national pride that he, the son of English training, practised through
long years in the habit and tradition of English public life, standing
for long years foremost in accepted authority and renown before the eye
of England, so conquered imagination and attachment in other lands, that
when the end came it was thought no extravagance for one not an
Englishman to say, 'On the day that Mr. Gladstone died, the world has
lost its greatest citizen.' The reader who revolves all this will know
why I began by speaking of temerity.

That my book should be a biography without trace of bias, no reader will
expect. There is at least no bias against the truth; but indifferent
neutrality in a work produced, as this is, in the spirit of loyal and
affectionate remembrance, would be distasteful, discordant, and
impossible. I should be heartily sorry if there were no signs of
partiality and no evidence of prepossession. On the other hand there is,
I trust, no importunate advocacy or tedious assentation. He was great
man enough to stand in need of neither. Still less has it been needed,
in order to exalt him, to disparage others with whom he came into strong
collision. His own funeral orations from time to time on some who were
in one degree or another his antagonists, prove that this petty and
ungenerous method would have been to him of all men most repugnant. Then
to pretend that for sixty years, with all 'the varying weather of the
mind,' he traversed in every zone the restless ocean of a great nation's
shifting and complex politics, without many a faulty tack and many a
wrong reckoning, would indeed be idle. No such claim is set up by
rational men for Pym, Cromwell, Walpole, Washington, or either Pitt. It
is not set up for any of the three contemporaries of Mr. Gladstone whose
names live with the three most momentous transactions of his
age - Cavour, Lincoln, Bismarck. To suppose, again, that in every one of
the many subjects touched by him, besides exhibiting the range of his
powers and the diversity of his interests, he made abiding contributions
to thought and knowledge, is to ignore the jealous conditions under
which such contributions come. To say so much as this is to make but a
small deduction from the total of a grand account.

I have not reproduced the full text of Letters in the proportion
customary in English biography. The existing mass of his letters is
enormous. But then an enormous proportion of them touch on affairs of
public business, on which they shed little new light. Even when he
writes in his kindest and most cordial vein to friends to whom he is
most warmly attached, it is usually a letter of business. He deals
freely and genially with the points in hand, and then without play of
gossip, salutation, or compliment, he passes on his way. He has in his
letters little of that spirit in which his talk often abounded, of
disengagement, pleasant colloquy, happy raillery, and all the other
undefined things that make the correspondence of so many men whose
business was literature, such delightful reading for the idler hour of
an industrious day. It is perhaps worth adding that the asterisks
denoting an omitted passage hide no piquant hit, no personality, no
indiscretion; the omission is in every case due to consideration of
space. Without these asterisks and, other omissions, nothing would have
been easier than to expand these three volumes into a hundred. I think
nothing relevant is lost. Nobody ever had fewer secrets, nobody ever
lived and wrought in fuller sunlight.



CHAPTER I

CHILDHOOD

(_1809-1821_)

I know not why commerce in England should not have its old
families, rejoicing to be connected with commerce from generation
to generation. It has been so in other countries; I trust it will
be so in this country. - GLADSTONE.


The dawn of the life of the great and famous man who is our subject in
these memoirs has been depicted with homely simplicity by his own hand.
With this fragment of a record it is perhaps best for me to begin our
journey. 'I was born,' he says, 'on December 29, 1809,' at 62 Rodney
Street, Liverpool. 'I was baptized, I believe, in the parish church of
St. Peter. My godmother was my elder sister Anne, then just seven years
old, who died a perfect saint in the beginning of the year 1829. In her
later years she lived in close relations with me, and I must have been
much worse but for her. Of my godfathers, one was a Scotch episcopalian,
Mr. Fraser of - - , whom I hardly ever saw or heard of; the other a
presbyterian, Mr. G. Grant, a junior partner of my father's.' The child
was named William Ewart, after his father's friend, an immigrant Scot
and a merchant like himself, and father of a younger William Ewart, who
became member for Liverpool, and did good public service in parliament.

Before proceeding to the period of my childhood, properly
so-called, I will here insert a few words about my family. My
maternal grandfather was known as Provost Robertson of Dingwall, a
man held, I believe, in the highest respect. His wife was a
Mackenzie of [Coul]. His circumstances must have been good.

Of his three sons, one went into the army, and I recollect him as
Captain Robertson (I have a seal which he gave me, a three-sided
cairngorm. Cost him 7ВЅ guineas). The other two took mercantile
positions. When my parents made a Scotch tour in 1820-21 with, I
think, their four sons, the freedom of Dingwall was presented to us
all,[1] with my father; and there was large visiting at the houses
of the Ross-shire gentry. I think the line of my grandmother was
stoutly episcopalian and Jacobite; but, coming outside the western
highlands, the first at least was soon rubbed down. The provost, I
think, came from a younger branch of the Robertsons of Struan.

On my father's side the matter is more complex. The history of the
family has been traced at the desire of my eldest brother and my
own, by Sir William Fraser, the highest living authority.[2] He has
carried us up to a rather remote period, I think before Elizabeth,
but has not yet been able to connect us with the earliest known
holders of the name, which with the aid of charter-chests he hopes
to do. Some things are plain and not without interest. They were a
race of borderers. There is still an old Gledstanes or Gladstone
castle. They formed a family in Sweden in the seventeenth century.
The explanation of this may have been that, when the union of the
crowns led to the extinction of border fighting they took service
like Sir Dugald Dalgetty under Gustavus Adolphus, and in this case
passed from service to settlement. I have never heard of them in
Scotland until after the Restoration, otherwise than as persons of
family. At that period there are traces of their having been fined
by public authority, but not for any ordinary criminal offence.
From this time forward I find no trace of their gentility. During
the eighteenth century they are, I think, principally traced by a
line of maltsters (no doubt a small business then) in Lanarkshire.
Their names are recorded on tombstones in the churchyard of Biggar.
I remember going as a child or boy to see the representative of
that branch, either in 1820 or some years earlier, who was a small
watchmaker in that town. He was of the same generation as my



Online LibraryJohn MorleyThe Life of William Ewart Gladstone, Vol. 1 (of 3) → online text (page 1 of 62)