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THE LIFE

OF

WILLIAM EWART GLADSTONE



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THE LIFE OF

WILLIAM EWART

GLADSTONE



BY

JOHN MORLEY



IN TWO VOLUMES— VOL. II
(1878-1898)



Honbon

MACMILLAN AND CO., Limited

NEW YORK : THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
1907



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KE lo«?su






First Edition, 3 vols 800., published October 9, 1903
Reprinted November 1903; and January 1904 ■

3T«0 Edition, in Fifteen Monthly Parts,
beginning October 1905



Copyright in the United States of America



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CONTENTS



BOOK Fl—ConUnvsd
(1869-1874)

<?RAPTER

IX. WASHINGTON AND GENEVA .
X. AS HEAD OF A CABINET

XI. CATHOLIC COUNTRY AND PROTESTANT PARLIAMENT
XII. THE CRISIS .....
XIII. LAST DAYS OF THE MINISTRY
XIV. THE DISSOLUTION ....



1
22
42
54
65
86



BOOK VII

(1874-1880)

I. RETIREMENT FROM LEADERSHIP
II. VATICANISM .

III. THE OCTAGON .

IV. EASTERN QUESTION ONCE MORE
V. A TUMULTUOUS YEAR .

VI. MIDLOTHIAN .
VII. THE EVE OF THE BATTLE
VIII. THE FALL OF LORD BEACONSFIELD
IX. THE SECOND MINISTRY



105
115
134

156
180
192
206
213
224



BOOK Fill

(1880-1885)

I. OPENING DAYS OF THE NEW PARLIAMENT
II. AN EPISODE IN TOLERATION .

III. MAJUBA ....

IV. NEW PHASES OF THE IRISH REVOLUTION
V. EGYPT. ....

VI. POLITICAL JUBILEE .
VII. COLLEAGUES— NORTHERN CRUISE — EGYPT



240
251

261
286
311
326
349



vii



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Vlll



CONTENTS



CHAPTER

VIII. REFORM
IX. THE SOUDAN - .

X. INTERIOR OF THE CABINET .
XI. DEFEAT OF MINISTERS
XII. ACCESSION OF LORD SALISBURY



PAOK

362

384
409
427
441



BOOK IX

(1885-1886)

I. LEADERSHIP AND THE GENERAL ELECTION .
II. THE POLLS IN 1885 .

III. A CRITICAL MONTH ....

IV. FALL OF THE FIRST SALISBURY GOVERNMENT
V. THE NEW POLICY ....

VI. INTRODUCTION OF THE BILL .
VII. THE POLITICAL ATMOSPHERE — DEFEAT OF THE BILL



458
485
495
516
529
549
561



BOOK X

(1886-1898)

I. THE MORROW OF DEFEAT
II. THE ALTERNATIVE POLICY IN ACT

III. THE SPECIAL COMMISSION

IV. AN INTERIM .

V. BREACH WITH MR. PARNELL .
VI. BIARRITZ

VII. THE FOURTH ADMINISTRATION
VIII. RETIREMENT FROM PUBLIC LIFE
IX. THE CLOSE
X. FINAL .
APPENDIX
CHRONOLOGY
INDEX .



589
601

629
652
665
699
729
745
756
773
793
846
877



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CHAPTER IX

WASHINGTON AND GENEVA

(1870-1872)

Although I may think the sentence was harsh in its extent, and
unjust in its basis, I regard the line imposed on this country as dust
in the balance compared with the moral value of the example set
when these two great nations of England and America — which are
among the most fiery and the most jealous in the world with regard
to anything that touches national honour — went in peace and con-
cord before a judicial tribunal rather than resort to the arbitrament
of the sword. — Gladstone. 1

One morning in the summer of 1862 a small wooden sloop, chap.
screw and steam, of a little over a thousand tons register . I ^*
dropped slowly down the waters of the Mersey. The decks ^ T - 61 -
were rough and unfinished, but guests on board with bright
costumes made a gay picture, flags were flying, and all wore
the look of a holiday trial trip. After luncheon in the cabin,
the scene suddenly changed. At a signal from the vessel
a tug came alongside, the cheerful visitors to their surprise
were quickly transferred, and the sloop made off upon her
real business. She dropped anchor in a bay on the coast
of Anglesey, where she took twenty or thirty men mostly
English on board from a tug sent after her from Liverpool,
with or without the knowledge of the officials. Thence she
sailed to the Azores, where a steamer from London and a
steamer from Liverpool brought officers, armaments, and
coal. As soon as these were trans-shipped, the British
ensign was hauled down, the Confederate flag run up, and
the captain opened sealed orders directing him to sink, burn,
or destroy, everything that flew the ensign of the so-called
United States of America. These orders the captain of the

1 House of Commons, June 15, 1880.
VOL. II. a



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2 WASHINGTON AND GENEVA

rover faithfully executed, and in a few months the Alabama
— for that was henceforth her memorable name — had done
1870. much to sweep the commercial marine of America from the
ocean.

On the day on which she sailed (July 29), the government
made up its mind that she should be detained, on the strength
of affidavits that had been almost a week in their hands.
The bird of prey had flown. The best definition of due
diligence in these matters would seem to be, that it is the
same diligence and exactness as are exercised in proceedings
relating to imposts of excise or customs. We may guess how
different would have been the vigilance of the authorities
if a great smuggling operation had been suspected. This
lamentable proceeding, for which the want of alacrity and
common sense at the foreign office and the bias or blunder-
ing of the customs agents at Liverpool, may divide the grave
discredit, opened a diplomatic campaign between England
and the United States that lasted as long as the siege of
Troy, and became an active element in the state of moral
war that prevailed during that time between the two
kindred communities. Mr. Gladstone, like other members of
the Palmerston administration, held for several years that
the escape* of the Alabama was no wrong done by us. Lord
Russell admitted (1863) that the cases of the Alabama and
the Oreto were 'a scandal and in some degree a reproach
to our laws/ though he stated in the same sentence that the
cabinet thought the law sufficient where legal evidence also
was sufficient It was true that Britain is the greatest ship-
building country in the world ; that to interfere with ships
or any other article of commerce is in so far to impose on
a neutral some of the calamities of a belligerent ; and that
restriction of trade was no element in the policy and spirit
of foreign enlistment acts either here or in America, which
was the first country that by positive legislation sought to
restrain its citizens within definite limits of neutrality. By
a law of this kind parliament intended to forbid all subjects
within its jurisdiction, to make war on people at peace with
the British sovereign. It is only, in the words of Canning,
when the elements of armament are combined, that they



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ESCAPE OF THE ALABAMA 3

come within the purview of such law. This is not by way of CHAP,
controversy, but to define an issue. Chief justice Cockburn, .
an ardent champion of his country if ever there was one, * Et - 6l -
pronounced in his judgment at Geneva, when the day for
a verdict at length arrived, that the cruiser ought to have
been detained a week before; that the officials of customs
were misled by legal advice ' perhaps erroneous ' ; and that
the right course to take was 'plain and unmistakable.'
Even Lord Russell after many years of obdurate self-defence,
at last confessed in manly words : — * I assent entirely to the
opinion of the lord chief justice that the Alabama ought
to have been detained during the four days I was waiting
for the opinion of the law officers. But I think that the
fault was not that of the commissioners of customs ; it was
my fault as secretary of state for foreign affairs/ x

Before the Alabama some ten vessels intended for con-
federate service had been detained, inquired into, and if
released, released by order of a court for want of evidence.
After the Alabama, no vessel on which the American minister
had made representation to the foreign office succeeded
in quitting a British port. But critical cases occurred.
Emboldened by the successful escape of the Alabama, the
Confederate agents placed two ironclad rams upon the stocks
at the Birkenhead shipyard; Mr. Adams, the American
minister in London, renewed his bombardment of the foreign
office with proof of their object and design; the foreign
office repeated its perplexed pleas against interference, made
still more difficult by a colourable transfer of the rams to
a French owner ; and the whole dreary tragi-comedy of the
Alabama seemed likely to be acted over again. By the
autumn of 1863 the rams were ready to take the water, and
the builders were again talking of a trial trip. This time
Lord Russell gave orders that the rams were to be stopped
(Sept. 3). He felt the mortification of an honourable
man at the trick, of which he had allowed himself to be
made the dupe in the case of the Alabama. Perhaps also
he had been impressed by language used by Mr. Adams to
a member of the cabinet, and more formally to himself, to

1 Walpole'e Russell, ii. p. 373 n.



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WASHINGTON AND GENEVA

the effect that the departure of the rams would mean the
practical opening to the Southern confederates of full liberty
l8 70. t0 use tj^g country as a base for hostile expeditions against
the North. ' This,' said Mr. Adams, ' is war.' x

The affair of the rams was followed by Mr. Gladstone with
absorbed attention. He confessed to the Duke of Argyll
(Sept. 30, 1863) that he could not get the ironclads out of
his head, and his letter shows with what exhaustive closeness
he argued the case. The predicament was exactly fitted to
draw out some of his most characteristic qualities — minute
precision, infinite acuteness, infinite caution, the faculty of
multiplied distinction upon distinction, an eye for the shadows
of a shade. The points are no longer of living interest, but
they exhibit a side of him that is less visible in his broader
performances of parliament or platform.

As might have been expected, Mr. Adams was instructed
to solicit redress for the doings of the Alabama. Lord
Russell (Dec. 19, 1862), declaring that government had used
every effort to stop her, refused to admit that we were under
any obligation whatever to make compensation. Two years
later (Aug. 30, 1865) he still declined both compensation
and a proposal for arbitration. This opened a long struggle
of extreme interest in the ministerial life of Mr. Gladstone,
and, what was more, in the history of civilised nations. It
was arbitration upon these issues that now began to divide
politicians both inside the cabinet and outside, just. as media-
tion and recognition had divided them in the earlier stages
of the American conflict.

In 1863 Mr. Adams was the first to point to what after
a long struggle became the solution of these difficulties, by
assuring Lord Russell that there was ' no fair and equitable
form of conventional arbitrament or reference' to which
America would not be willing to submit. In 1865 (Sept. 2)
Mr. Gladstone wrote a letter to Lord Russell, the reply to
which has already been published. 2 Always jealous for
cabinet authority, he began by submitting to Lord Russell
that he had no idea that a despatch refusing arbitration was
to be written, without a cabinet being held upon a subject

i See Rhodes, iv. pp. 377-86. * Walpole's Russell, ii. p. 370.



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AMERICAN CLAIMS 5

so important As it was, they had not disposed of the v,hap.
question or even discussed it. On the merits, he inclined * ^'
to believe that the demand for arbitration was highly - Et - 61 *
unreasonable ; still though not disposed to say ' Yes ' to the
demand, he doubted ' No/ The proper course would be to
lead the Americans to bring out the whole of their case,
so that the cabinet might have all the pleas before them
previously to coming to 'a decision of great delicacy and
moment.'

Lord Russell stood to his guns. ' The question/ he said,
' has been tho principal object of my thoughts for the last
two years, and I confess I think that paying twenty millions
down would be far preferable to submitting the case to
arbitration.' England would be disgraced for ever if a
foreign government were left to arbitrate whether an English
secretary of state had been diligent or negligent in his duties,
and whether an English law officer was partial and pre-
judiced in giving his opinion of English law. There the
matter stood, and the moral war smouldered on.



ii

In 1870, the time arrived when Mr. Gladstone himself, no
longer a minister third in standing in a Palmerston govern-
ment, was called upon to deal with this great issue as a
principal in his own administration. In 1868 the conserva-
tive government had agreed to a convention, by which a
mixed commission, British and American, sitting in London
should decide upon the settlement of all claims by the
subjects of either country upon the other; and in respect of
what were known generically as the Alabama Claims, pro-
posing to refer these to the arbitration of the head of some
friendly state, in case the mixed commission should not
agree. The idea of a composite court or tribunal, as distin-
guished from a single sovereign arbitrator, had not yet risen
above the horizon. Before this project ripened, Mr. Disraeli
was out of government, Lord Clarendon had taken Lord
Stanley's place at the foreign office, and the convention, with
some modifications, was signed by him (Jan. 14, 1869) and



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6 WASHINGTON AND GENEVA

book in due course despatched to Washington. There the Senate,

, * > not on the merits but for party and personal reasons, refused

1870. to ra tify. Though this attempt failed, neither of the two

English political parties was in a position any longer to

refuse arbitration in principle.

Agreement in principle is of little avail, without driving
force enough for practice. The driving force was found
mainly from a gradual change in English sentiment, though
the difficulties with Russia also counted for something.
Even so early as 1863 the tide of popular opinion in England
had begun slowly to swell in favour of the northern cause.
In 1866 victory across the Atlantic was decided, the union
was saved; and slavery was gone. A desire to remove causes
of difference between ourselves and the United States grew
at a remarkable speed, for the spectacle of success is wont to
have magical effects even in minds that would indignantly
reject the standards of Machiavel. While benevolent feel-
ing gained volume in this country, statesmen in America
took ground that made the satisfaction of it harder. They
began to base their claim for reparation on the original
proclamation of British neutrality when the American con-
flict began. First made in 1866, this new pretension was
repeated in despatches of 1867, and in 1869 the American
secretary formally recorded the complaint that the Southern
insurrection obtained its enduring vitality by resources
drawn from England, and as a consequence of England's
imperfect discharge of her duties as neutral. England
became, they said, the arsenal, the navy-yard, and the
treasury of the insurgent confederacy.

In the discussion of the Clarendon convention of 1869 Mr.
Sumner — a man of some great qualities, but too often the
slave of words where he thought himself their master — made
an extravagant speech against the Britisn government in the
Senate, assessing the claim of the United States upon this
country on principles that would have raised it to the modest
figure of some four hundred million pounds sterling due
from us to them, or, as Mr. Gladstone himself estimated it,
to sixteen hundred millions. It does not matter which.
This was only a violent and fantastic exaggeration of an



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ENGLISH ACCEPTANCE OF ARBITRATION

idea of constructive claims for indirect damages that lay CHAP,
slumbering, but by no means extinct, in American minds, «
until, as we shall see, in 1872 it very nearly led to a disastrous
explosion. This idea first found distinct and official utter-
ance in the despatch of 1869. Besides compensating in-
dividuals for depredations, we were to pay for the cost to
America of chasing the cruisers; for the transfer of most of
the American commercial marine to the British flag ; for en-
hanced insurance ; and generally for (he increased difficulty
of putting down the rebellion.

All through 1870 a rather troublesome exchange of
, letters went on between Washington and the foreign office,
and Mr. Gladstone took an active concern in it. ' I grieve to
trouble you with so much manuscript/ Lord Clarendon
writes to him on one occasion (Mar. 17, 1870), 'but I don't
venture singlehanded to conduct a correspondence with
the United States. . . . All this correspondence can do
nothing but harm, and I have made my answer as short as
is consistent with courtesy. I should like to send it on
Saturday, but if you have not time to look at it, or think it
ought to be seen by the cabinet, I could make an excuse for
the delay to Motley/ All this was in entire conformity to
Mr. Gladstone's enduring conception of the right relations
between a prime minister and the foreign secretary. We
need not follow details, but one must not be omitted. In
1868 a royal commission recommended various material
changes in the Foreign Enlistment Act, and in 1870 accord-
ingly a new law was passed, greatly strengthening the hands
of the executive, and furnishing due means of self-protection
against such nefarious manoeuvres as those of the Alabama. 1
By this Act, among other things, it was made an offence to
build a ship with reasonable cause to believe that it would be
employed in the service of a foreign state at war with a
friendly state.

As the year 1870 went on, the expediency of an accom-
modation with America strengthened in Mr. Gladstone's

1 Sir William Harcourt called the any country.' See Hansard, Aug. 1,
Act ' the best and most complete law 3, 4, 1870.
for the enforcement of neutrality in



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8 WASHINGTON AND GENEVA

BOOK mind. One member of the cabinet pointed out to the
foreign secretary that if there was any chance of a war
with Russia about the Black Sea, it would be as well to
get causes of differences with America out of the way ; other-
wise, however unprepared the United States might be at
the moment, we should undoubtedly have them on our
hands sooner or later. 1 With Mr. Gladstone the desire was
not a consequence of the possible troubles with Russia. His
view was wider and less specific. He was alive to the extent
to which England's power ill Europe was reduced by the
smothered quarrel with America, but he took even higher
ground than this in his sense of the blessing to the world of
an absolute reconciliation in good faith between the old
England and the new. At first the government proposed
(Nov. 28, 1870) to send over Sir John Rose to America.
He was one of the many Scots who have carried the British
flag in its best colours over the face of the globe; his
qualities had raised him to great prominence in Canada ; he
had enjoyed good opportunities of measuring the American
ground ; he was shrewd, wise, well read in the ways of men
and the book of the world, and he had besides the virtue of
being pleasant Rose himself did not formally undertake
the mission, but he applied himself with diligence and
success to bring the American government to the project of
a joint high commission to examine and consider a situation
that there was a common desire to terminate.

On Feb. 1, 1871, Mr. Gladstone was able to report to the
Queen the arrival of news that the government of the United
States were willing to concur in a commission for the dis-
cussion of international questions at present depending,
without a previous understanding that liability in respect
of the Alabama was to be acknowledged by this country.
The cabinet naturally thought that on this they might
close, and they at once considered the composition of the
commission and the proper instructions. Lord de Grey
consented to be its president. Lord Derby, on being
invited to join the commission, was very grateful for the
compliment but declined, being of opinion that firmness

1 Life ofCkilder*, i. p. 173.



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THE BRITISH COMMISSION 9

and not concession to the Americans was what was wanted.
Sir George Grey declined ; so did Lord Halifax. ' I asked -
Northcote/ Lord Granville reports to Mr. Gladstone, * his * Et - 62
eyes twinkled through his spectacles. But he said he
must ask Lady Northcote, and requested permission to con-
sult Dizzy. The former consented, ditto Dizzy, which looks
well/ So the commission was made up of Lord de Grey as
the head of it, Northcote, Thornton (the British minister at
Washington), Sir John Macdonald, as the representative of
Canada, and Mr. Mountague Bernard, a theoretic jurist, who
had written a book upon our neutrality the year before. 1

in

The personal relations of Lord de Grey and his brethren
with their American colleagues were excellent. They worked
hard all day, and enjoyed Washington hospitality in its full
strength every night. In business, Mr. Fish occasionally
advanced or supported contentions thought by the English-
men to be almost amusing. For instance, Mr. Sumner
in a memorandum (Jan. 17, 1871) to Mr. Fish, had submitted
a singular species of political syllogism. He desired nothing
so much, he said, as that entire goodwill should prevail
between Great Britain and the United States, and that
the settlement should be complete. Now the greatest
trouble and peril in the way of a complete settlement was



Online LibraryJohn MorleyThe life of William Ewart Gladstone, Volume 2 → online text (page 1 of 91)