John Morley.

The life of William Ewart Gladstone, Volume 2 online

. (page 11 of 91)
Online LibraryJohn MorleyThe life of William Ewart Gladstone, Volume 2 → online text (page 11 of 91)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

His culture was high and his character one of deep interest.
His memory was on the whole decidedly the most remark-
able known to me of the generation and country. His life,
however, was retired and unobtrusive ; but he sat in parlia-
ment, I think, for about fifteen years, and was lord-lieutenant
of his county/

I thank you much — Mr. Gladstone said to the Duke of Argyll —
for your kind note. Your sympathy and that of the duchess
are ever ready. But even you can hardly tell how it is on
this occasion needed and warranted. My wife has lost the last
member of a family united by bonds of the rarest tenderness, the
last representative of his line, the best of brothers, who had ever
drawn closer to her as the little rank was thinned. As for me,
no one can know what our personal relations were, without know-

Digitized by



ing the interior details of a long family history, and efforts and CHAP.

struggles in common carried on through a long series of years, * '<—-

which riveted into the closest union our original affection. He *
was a very rare man, but we grieve not for him; he sleeps
the sleep of the just. The event is a great one also to the
outward frame of our life here. 1

In the same letter he says it is most painful to him to be
dragged into ecclesiastical turmoil, as for example by the
Scotch patronage bill, which he considers precipitate, unwise,
and daring, or the bill directed against the endowed schools
commissioners, of whom his brother-in-law, Lord Lyttelton,
was one. In the last case he acted as leader of an organized
party, but in the more important instance of a bill devised,
as Mr. Disraeli said, to put down ritualism, his dissent from
most of those around him fulfilled all the anticipations that
had pointed to retirement. The House was heartily in
favour of the bill, and what is called the country earnestly
supported it, though in the cabinet itself at least four
ministers were strenuously hostile. Mr. Gladstone writes
to his wife a trenchant account of his vigorous dealing
with a prominent colleague who had rashly ventured to
mark him for assault. He sent word to the two archbishops
that if they carried a certain amendment he should hold
himself ' altogether discharged from maintaining any longer
the establishment of the church.' He wrote to Lord
Harrowby when the recess came : —

I think, or rather I am convinced, that the effect either of one or
two more ecclesiastical sessions of parliament such as the last, or of
any prolonged series of contentious proceedings under the recent
Act, upon subjects of widespread interest, will be to disestablish
the church. I do not feel the dread of. disestablishment which
you may probably entertain : but I desire and seek so long as
standing ground remains, to avert, not to precipitate it.

To another correspondent —

Individually I have serious doubts whether the whole of the
penal proceedings taken in this country with respect to church
1 See vol. i. p. 337.

Digitized by



BOOK matters from the day of Dr. Hampden downwards, have not done
, / * considerably more harm than good. There is no doubt at all that
18 ^ 4 ' all the evils, of whatever kind, at which they were aimed, exist at
this moment among us in a far more aggravated shape than when
they began. . . . My object and desire has ever been and still is,
to keep the church of England together, both as a church and as
an establishment. As a church, I believe, she is strong enough,
by virtue of the prayer-book, to hold together under all circum-
stances ; but as an establishment, in my opinion, she is not strong
enough to bear either serious secession or prolonged parliamentary

Finally, in a letter dated from Whittinghame (Nov. 17) —
There are already too many causes of demoralisation operating
upon the House of Commons. If it is also to become a debased
copy of an ecclesiastical council, all the worst men and worst
qualities of the worst men will come to the front, and the place
will become intolerable.

Even any member of parliament who shares none of Mr.
Gladstone's theology, may sympathise to the full with his
deep disgust at theologic aaid ecclesiastical discussions as
conducted in that secular air. We can easily understand how
detestable he found it, and how those discussions fortified
his sense of estrangement from the ruling sentiments of the
parliamentary party of which he was still the titular leader.

Of course the whigs, always for keeping a parliamentary
church in its proper place, disliked his line. Liberals like
Thirlwall read his speeches ' with great pain and suspicion,'
and declared their confidence to be shaken. Hardly any
section was completely satisfied. His mind in the autumn
and winter of 1874 was absorbed, as we shall see within a
few pages, in an assault upon the decrees of the Vatican
Council of 1870. This assault, as he told Lord Granville
(Dec. 7, 1874), while tending * to hearten ' the party gener-
ally, was against his resumption of formal leadership, because
it widened the breach with the . Irishmen in the House of
Commons. Apart from this there were many questions,
each with a group of adherents to a special view, but incap-
able of being pursued by common and united action. Ho

Digitized by



ran through the list in writing to Lord Granville. It has CHAP,
historic interest : — < ,1— '

1 . Extension of the suffrage, with redistribution of seats abreast
or in the rear. 2. Disestablishment in Scotland, England. 3.
Land laws. 4. Retrenchment. 5. Colonial policy, territorial
extension of the empire. 6. Reform of local government taxa-
tion. 7. Secular education. 8. Undenominational education.
9. Irish affairs. On no one of these is there known to exist a
plan desired by the entire party, or by any clear and decisive
majority of it.

On the whole, he was persuaded that neither the party
generally nor the country desired another period of active
reforms, even if he were fit to conduct them. Besides this
he confessed his ' apprehension that differences would spring
up, and great shrinking from any breach with the party, and
a determination, often expressed, never, if he could help it,
to lead one branch of it against another/ In many forms
he carried Lord Granville with him round the circle of his
arguments. He once sent his points on half-a-dozen scraps
of paper. Granville playfully replied, ' I should like to treat
them as old Lord Bessborough used to treat his playing-
cards when luck was adverse — tear them up into small
bits and toss them in the fire.' Nothing shook him, not
even Mrs. Gladstone's misgivings. To her he wrote from
Carlton House Terrace on the eve of the session of 1875 : —

Now for the grave matter about the leadership. I have had
much conversation with Granville and Card well, and I am going •
to see Hartington, also Goschen, to-morrow. My letter is re-
written and improved, but I am obliged to stand to my con-
clusion, for many reasons. Among them the church reason is one
of the most serious, and the other the undefined and prolonged
character of the service if now undertaken. This, while arguing
and deprecating, they admit I think to a great extent. Our old
colleagues are inclined to come up on Thursday if they can, and
this will be rather to hear than to debate. Hartington will
succeed. I am indeed sorry that you and I have not been able
to take the same view of this important subject, but you know that

Digitized by




BOOK I am acting on convictions very long entertained, and will I am

> sure believe that I have probed myself deeply, and used all the

1875. means in mv power to get at a right conclusion. Nay, I think you

will be more reconciled, when I tell you that Granville did not

really see his way either to a nominal leadership, or to making

any arrangement by which I could after a short time with some

certainty have escaped. I saw Clark last night and this morning ;

he gives an excellent account of me and makes it impossible for

me to plead health as my reason.

The drama went rapidly forward : —

Jan. 12. — I find that the agreement made yesterday that I
should meet my former colleagues on Monday will require me to
remain until this day, though after a pretty busy morning the
pressure is less. I have, however, to preside in the evening at
the meeting of the Metaphysical Society, and to listen, though
I hope nothing more, to a tough discussion. Manning, I am
sorry to say, will be there. His pamphlet is at length going
to press, and will extend he says to 150 pages. Newman is not
out yet.

11 Carlton House Terrace, Jan. 14, 75. — This great affair is
nearly arranged. My old colleagues all submit under protest;
and I shall be free. An article in the Times this morning is
undisguisedly aimed at getting rid of me ; but it does not express
any of their feelings. We have had a morning at Granville's;
Halifax, Granville, Cardwell, Hartington, Aberdare, Forster,
Carlingford, Stansfeld, Selborne, Goschen, Lowe, Kimberley, — in
short all, I think, except Argyll and Bright. There was argu-
ment and exhortation, and much kindness. My letter to Gran-
ville will be accompanied by a short reply from him expressing
difference of opinion and regret. They are afraid of being
blamed by the party if they seem to show indifference.

The Queen thanked Mr. Gladstone for communicating to
her his resolution of retiring from the more active duties
of parliamentary life. She was not entirely unprepared for
it after what he told her himself last year. ' She knows
that his zeal and untiring energy have always been exerted
with the desire of advancing the welfare of the nation and

Digitized by



maintaining the honour of the crown, and she thanks him CHAP.

for his loyal assurances of support on all occasions when ; .

it may become necessary.' iET " **

The Duke of Argyll wrote ' sincerely to congratulate ' him
upon his withdrawal. Bright on the other hand (Jan. 17)
said he could not applaud, yet he would not blame: Mr.
Gladstone's course seemed so unfortunate if not disastrous
to the great public interests committed to him : —

For myself, says Bright, if I could have foreseen either the result
of the election of last year, or your retirement from the conduct of
the party, I should certainly have withdrawn from parliament,
where now I seem to have quite as little of duty or of a mission as
you have. The front opposition bench is full of discord, and when
you are not there full of jealousy, and I find myself without any
particular attraction to any particular part of the House. However,
I will not complain ; some door of escape may open for me, and I
can become a spectator as you are proposing to be.

I hope on some occasion I may have the clf&nce of seeing you
when you come to town. I have had so much pleasure in your
friendship, and have gained so much from it, that I would fain
hope it need not cease now, when our association will necessarily
be less frequent than it has been of late years. Whether you
come back to the political field or turn wholly to study and to
literature, I am sure you will be usefully employed, and I hope
that nothing but blessing may rest upon all your labours.

The feeling among liberals in the country was of deep
dismay. Some of the whigs doubtless found solace in the
anticipation that a new middle party might be formed, with
'a recovery of the old liberal position demolished for the
time by John Mill, Gladstone, and Cobden/ * But this was
limited to a narrow circle. 'All sunshine is gone out of
politics/ was a general phrase. The news was compared
by one correspondent to Gelon's message to the Greeks, that
the spring was taken out of their year. 2

An organ of the stiff nonconformists said, 8 ' Against his
government we felt that we had a great grievance ; for him-

. 1 Blackford's Letters, p. 862. 3 CongregationcUist, Feb. 1875, p.

3 Herod, vii. 162. 66.


Digitized by



BOOK self, the nonconformists of this country have long cherished
• / a loyalty more fervent, we are inclined to imagine, than

1875. j-k^ w j t j 1 which he has been regarded by any other section
of the community. He, beyond all other modern states-
men, with perhaps here and there a doubtful exception,
gave us the impression of a man who regarded politics as
a part of Christian duty/ And the same writers most truly
added, 'We do not know what the English people have
done for Mr. Gladstone that can be compared for a moment
with what Mr. Gladstone has done for them. Claims on
him we have none. He has far more than discharged any
debt that he could have owed to the nation/ These words
are a just remonstrance against the somewhat tyrannical
conventions of English public life.

When the session began, he wrote to Mrs. Gladstone (Feb.
15) : — ' I came down to the House and took my seat nearly
in the same spot as last year, finding Bright my neighbour,
with which I was very well pleased. Granville and Harting-
ton both much preferred my continuing on the front bench
to my going elsewhere/ Lord Hartington, strongly en-
couraged against his own inclinations by Mr. Gladstone,
accepted a thankless and unpromising post, and held it
with honour and credit for five difficult years to come.

Digitized by





Let no susceptibilities, puritan, protestant, anglican, or other, be
startled if we observe that Rome is, and may long be, in some im-
portant respects, the centre of the Christian world. It is indeed a
centre which repels as well as attracts ; which probably repels even
more than it attracts ; but which, whether repelling or attracting,
influences. — Gladstone (1875).

One question, as the reader by this time well knows, living CHAP
deepest in Mr. Gladstone's heart and mind from his first IL
book in 1838 onwards, was the relation of the churches to jet. 61.
modern society. English statesmen are wont to be either
blind to the existence of such a question, or else they seek
an easy refuge from it in a perfunctory erastianism, some-
times intellectually refined, sometimes a little brutish,
but always shallow. In all the three great branches of
Christianity, the Latin, the Greek or orthodox, the protes-
tant, Mr. Gladstone's interest was incessant, sincere, and
profound. It covered their theology, their organization,
their history and principles of growth, the bearings of their
system upon individual character and social well-being
all over Europe. He was one of the very few public men
capable of discerning that the fall of the temporal power
of the pope marked a more startling change and a pro-
founder crisis in human history, than the unification of
Italy, the unification of Germany, the reconstructed re-
public in France, perhaps even than the preservation of the
American union. He knew the force of ideas in the world ;
he realised the vast transformations that had in their suc-
cession swept over the minds of men since cardinal dogmas
had been established; he comprehended the motion in


Digitized by



BOOK articles of faith, as men made their 'voyagings through
strange seas of thought ' ; he was alive to the fact that moral

187 °- crises brought on by change in intellectual outlook and
temperature, are of deeper concern than questions of terri-
tory, or dynasty, or form of government. The moral crisis
is what reaches furthest and matters most. A movement of
the first magnitude was accentuated by Pius ix., when by the
Syllabus of 1864 he challenged modern society in all its
foundations, its aims, its principles, in the whole range of its
ideals. Some called this daring ultimatum the gravest event
since the French uprising in 1789. The Syllabus prepared
the way for a more elaborately organized operation on behalf
of papal authority. The train was secretly laid for a grand
reaction, a grand re-installation of the Christian faith. 1

The Pope had been despoiled of territory, his sway
within the walls of Rome itself was in constant danger,
his most powerful protector north of the Alps had been
weakened and humiliated by protestant Prussia. He was
now to be compensated for his calamities by a majestic
demonstration of his hold upon the spiritual allegiance of
millions of adherents in every portion of the habitable
globe. The twentieth ecumenical council assembled in St.
Peter's at Rome on December 8, 1869. In this gathering of
catholic prelates from both hemispheres, two antagonistic
schools confronted one another. The ultramontanes held
that the revolutionary welter and confusion of the modern
world could only be healed by solemn affirmation of the
principle of sovereign authority lodged in an infallible pope,
with absolute power to define by that apostolic authority
what ought to be held as articles of faith or morals. The
assumptions, the standards, the ruliDg types of the modern
age, they boldly encountered with rigid iteration of maxims
of old time, imposing obedience and submission to a fixed
social order and a divinely commissioned hierarchy. In-
flexibility was to be the single watchword by which the
church could recover a world that, from Naples even to
Mexico, seemed to be rapidly drifting away from her. The

1 See Cecconi's Storia del Cone, earlier views on the temporal power,
Vat, i. p. 3. For Mr. Gladstone's see above, vol. i. p. 403.

Digitized by



opposing school took other ground Perhaps th$y saw that
supremacy is one thing, and infallibility another thing quite *
different. The liberal catholics did not contest the dogma - aiT - el -
of papal infallibility ; they questioned the expediency of its
proclamation; they were for associating ideas of religion
with ideas of liberty; they were not for extending the
domain of miracle and the supernatural

Then as in the old historic councils, influence of race
and nation had decisive effects. It could not be otherwise
in what was in essence a conflict between a centralized
doctrinal authority on the one hand, and the inextinguish-
able tendency towards national churches on the other. The
Italian bishops went with the Pope. The Germans, as of old
they had been for emperor against priest, were now on the
side of freedom against what certain of them did not hesitate
to call tyranny and fraud. Some of the ablest of the French
were true to Gallican tradition and resisted the decree.
Among the most active and uncompromising of all the
ultramontane party was our English Manning. 1


At the end of November 1869, Acton had written to Mr.
Gladstone from Rome. ' Your letter is a very sad one/ Mr.
Gladstone answered. ' I feel as deep and real an interest in
the affairs of other Christian communions as in my own ; and
most of all in the case of the most famous of them all, and
the one within which the largest number of Christian souls
find their spiritual food.' Before Manning left for Rome, an
amiable correspondence took place between Mr. Gladstone
and him. ' How sad it is for us both ' — this was Mr. Glad-
stone's starting-point — ' considering our personal relations,
that we should now be in this predicament, that the things
which the one looks to as the salvation of faith and church,
the other regards as their destruction.'

To Mr. Odo Russell, now the informal agent of the British
government in Rome, the prime minister wrote : —

It is curious that Manning has so greatly changed his
character. When he was archdeacon with us, all his strength was
1 See Purcell, ii. chap. 16.

Digitized by



BOOK thought to lie in a governing faculty, and in its wise moderation.
/ Now he is ever quoted as the ultra of ultras, and he seems greatly
7 • to have overshot his mark. The odds seem to be that the child
yet unborn will rue the calling of this council. For if the best
result arrive in the triumph of the fallibilitarians, will not even
this be a considerable shock to the credit and working efficacy of
the papal system? You must really be all eyes and ears, a very
Argus in both organs, until the occasion has gone by.

As for the issue of the council, Acton, having Mr. Odo
Russell in agreement with him, from the first conveyed to
Mr. Gladstone his opinion that the pope would prevail.

The only hope in my mind, said Mr. Gladstone in reply, is that
there may be a real minority, and that it may speak plainly.
A few bold men would easily insure themselves a noble im-
mortality. But will any have the courage t The Italian govern-
ment have one and only one method in their hands of fighting
the pope : and that is to run, against nomination from Rome, the
old and more popular methods of choosing bishops by clerical
election, with the approbation of the flock. 1 Unless they resort to
this they can do nothing.

All the accounts from Rome, he tells Lacaita (Jan. 2, 1870), are
as bad as possible. For the first time in my life, I shall now be
obliged to talk about popery ; for it would be a scandal to call the
religion they are manufacturing at Rome by the same name as
that of Pascal, or of Bossuet, or of Ganganelli. The truth is that
ultramontanism is an anti-social power, and never has it more
undisguisedly assumed that character than in the Syllabus.

The French government wrote despatches of mild protest
but said nothing of withdrawing their garrison. Mr. Glad-
stone and Lord Clarendon were for informing the Roman
court that they were cognizant of the French despatches,
and approved of their tenour. The Queen and the cabinet,
however .were entirely averse to meddling with the council,

1 ' Outside the Roman state, I am the temporalities of the sees. They

amazed at the Italian government ought to know their own business

giving over into the hands of the best ; but to me it seems that this is

pope not only the nomination to the liberality carried into folly ; and I

bishoprics as spiritual offices, but a know that some Italians think so.' —

nomination which is to carry with it To Lord Granville, Dec. 21, 1870.

Digitized by



and nothing was done officially. This did not prevent Mr. CHAP.
Gladstone from telling Archbishop Manning what impedi- * ^
ments would be placed in the way of Irish legislation by the Mt - cl
state of English feeling as to the Syllabus and other papal
proceedings. ' My feelings and convictions/ he says (April
16), ' are as you well know decidedly with your " opposition,"
which I believe to be contending for the religious and civil
interests of mankind against influences highly disastrous
and menacing to both. But the prevailing opinion is that
it is better to let those influences take their course, and
work out the damage which they will naturally and surely
entail upon the see of Borne and upon what is bound to it/
In parliament there was an utter aversion to the Boman
policy, and he gives instances, noting even a change of
opinion about the Irish land bill. ' What I have described
is no matter of speculation. I know it by actual and daily
touch. I am glad you have moved me to state it in some
detail It is to me matter of profound grief, especially as
regards land in Ireland/

To Lord Acton : —

Of all the prelates at Borne, none have a finer opportunity, to
none is a more crucial test now applied, than to those of the
United States. For if there, where there is nothing of covenant,
of restraint, or of equivalent between the church and the state, the
propositions of the Syllabus are still to have the countenance of
the episcopate, it becomes really a little difficult to maintain in
argument the civil rights of such persons to toleration, however
conclusive be the argument of policy in favour of granting it. I
can hardly bring myself to speculate or care on what particular
day the foregone conclusion is to be finally adopted. My grief is
sincere and deep, but it is at the whole thing, so ruinous in its
consequences as they concern faith. In my view, the size of the
minority though important, is not nearly so important as the
question whether there will be a minority at all.

There was a minority. In a division taken at a late
stage, 451 composed the majority, 88 resisted, and 62 were
for a new examination. Then the minority turned their
backs on Borne; and on July 18 the definition of infalli-

Online LibraryJohn MorleyThe life of William Ewart Gladstone, Volume 2 → online text (page 11 of 91)