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The life of William Ewart Gladstone, Volume 2 online

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BOOK bility was acclaimed in St. Peter's in presence of the pope by

vlL , 533 against 2.

1870. jf r Gladstone is very glad when Clarendon instructs Mr.
Russell to turn his back on the festivities at Rome. ' The
whole proceeding has been monstrous, and it will here-
after become one of the laughing-stocks of history. The
fanaticism of the middle ages is really sober compared
with that of the nineteenth century.' ' The proclamation of
Infallibility/ he said to Bishop Moriarty, 'I must own I
look upon as the most portentous (taking them singly), of
all events in the history of the Christian church.'


The next day, as we know, war was declared by France
against Germany, the French garrison left Rome, and on
September 20 the Italians marched in.

A month before the war broke out, Mr. Gladstone wrote
to Lord Clarendon : ' I would avoid any official support of
the Italian application to France for the evacuation of Rome,
by saying that this country had always abstained from mixing
in that question; and that we were the more induced to
persevere in that policy from being well convinced that the
French government is perfectly aware that in this country
the occupation of any part of the pontifical territories by
French troops is regarded with regret, pain, and disapproved.
Further, that those who most strongly entertain these
sentiments, are generally the persons who most highly value,
and have most striven to promote, the good understanding
between France and England/

The occupation of Rome by the Italian government brought
upon Mr. Gladstone various demands and movements from
different parts of the country. His cabinet agreed that the
proper course was to decline all interference with a view to
the restoration of the temporal power, though they accepted
the task of promoting, by means of friendly representations,
arrangements to secure the pontiff's freedom and becoming
support Then some of his presbyterian friends asked him
why he should even do so much as this, when he would take
no such steps for the moderator of the free church. Now

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consider, Mr. Gladstone replied: 'the pope is a sovereign
-who was in lawful possession of large revenues, and who had
charged himself with the support of a body of cardinals,
ministers, nuncios, servants, and guards out of those revenues.
He has been dispossessed, not for any fault of his own, but
because clerical dominion was deemed intolerabla In the
maintenance of the pope and his court, followers and agents,
six millions of our fellow-subjects or thereabouts are deeply
interested; and they are making demands upon us which
we are forced to decline. But I should for one be ashamed
to deny that there are the strongest equitable claims upon
the Italian government growing out of the past state of
things; that in these equitable claims the six millions
I speak of have a real interest and share ; and as the
matter is international, and they have no locus standi
with the Italian government, it is our part so far to plead
their cause if need be.'


Four years elapsed before Mr. Gladstone was in a position
to follow up his strong opinions on the injury done, as he
believed, to human liberty by the Vatican decrees. But
the great debate between ultramontanes and old catholics
was followed by him with an interest that never slackened.
In September 1874 he went to Munich, and we can hardly
be wrong in ascribing to that visit the famous tract which
was to make so lively a stir before the end of the year.
His principal object was to communicate with Dr. Dollinger,
and this object, he tells Mrs. Gladstone, was fully gained.
' I think,' he says, ' I have spent two-thirds of my whole
time with Dr. Dtfllinger, who is indeed a most remarkable
man, and it makes my blood run cold to think of his being
excommunicated in his venerable but, thank God, hale and
strong old age. In conversation we have covered a wide
field. I know no one with whose mode of viewing and
handling religious matters I more cordially agree. ... He
is wonderful, and simple as a child/

' I think it was in 1874/ Dollinger afterwards mentioned,
• that I remember Gladstone's paying me a visit at six o'clock


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BOOK in the evening. We began talking on political and
f ' - theological subjects, and became, both of us, so engrossed

1874. ^k t ^ e con versation, that it was two o'clock at night when
I left the room to fetch a book from my library bearing on
the matter in hand. I returned with it in a few minutes,
and found him deep in a volume he had drawn out of his
pocket — true to his principle of never losing time — during
my momentary absence.' 1 'In the course of a walk out
of Munich in the travelling season of 1874/ Mr. Gladstone
wrote sixteen years later, 'Dr. Dollinger told me that he
was engaged in the work of retrial through the whole circle
of his Latin teaching and knowledge. The results were
tested in his proceedings at Bonn, when he attempted to
establish a formula concordiae upon the questions which
most gravely divided Christendom/ 2 Among other topics
Mr. Gladstone commended to his mentor the idea of a
republication in a series, of the best works of those whom
he would call the Henotic or Eirenic writers on the differ-
ences that separate Christians and churches from one
another. He also read Pichler on the theology of Leibnitz,
not without suspicion that it was rather Pichler than Leib-
nitz. But neither Leibnitz nor Pichler was really in his

After the session of 1874 when the public ear and mind
had been possessed by the word Ritualism, he had as usual
sought a vent in a magazine article for the thoughts with
which he was teeming. 8 He speaks with some disdain of
the question whether a handful of the clergy are or are not
engaged in 'an utterly hopeless and visionary effort to
Romanize the church and people of England.' At no time,
he says, since the sanguinary reign of Mary has such a
scheme been possible. Least of all, he proceeds, could the
* scheme have life in it ' when Rome has substituted for the
proud boast of semper eadcm a policy of violence and change
in faith ; when she has refurbished and paraded anew every

1 Conversations of DdUinger, by the reader will also find (p. 141) the

Louise von Kobell, p. 100. six resolutions deemed by him to

8 Mr. Gladstone in Speaker, Jan. furnish a safer and wiser basis of

18, 1890. legislation than the Public Worship

• (77j>jin.inn*. vi. nn. 107-1Q1. Thftra Rponlation Acfi.

Gleanings, vi. pp. 107-191. There Regulation Act.

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rusty tool she was fondly thought to have disused ; when no CHAP,
one can become her convert, without renouncing his moral . ^
and mental freedom, and placing his civil loyalty and duty ^ T « 66 -
at the mercy of another; and when she has equally re-
pudiated modern thought and ancient .history.' If these
strong words expressed his state of mind before he went
abroad, we may readily imagine how the Bavarian air would
fan the flame.

Though Dr. Dollinger himself — ■ so inaccessible to religious
passions' — was not aware of the purpose of his English
friend, there can be little doubt that Mr. Gladstone returned
from Munich with the same degree of internal ferment as
that which had possessed his mind on his return from
Naples three-and-twenty years before. In October he writes
to Lord Acton from HawaTden : —

What you have said on the subject of ultramontanism and of
the mode in which it should be handled, appears to me to be as
wise and as good as is possible. It is really a case for hitting
hard, but for hitting the right men. In anything I say or do on
the subject, I would wish heartily and simply to conform to the
spirit of your words. But I feel myself drawn onwards. Indeed
some of your words help to draw me. The question with me now
i3 whether I shall or shall not publish a tract which I have written,
and of which the title would probably be, ' The Vatican Decrees in
their bearing on Civil Allegiance: a Political Expostulation.' 1
incline to think that I ought to publish it. If it were in your power
and will to run over here for a night or two I should seek to profit
by your counsel, and should ask you to read as much of the MS. as
your patience would endure. A more substantial attraction would
be that I could go over much of my long and interesting conversa-
tions with Dollinger.


The pamphlet x appeared in November, and was meant for
an argument that the decree of infallibility aimed a deadly
blow at the old historic, scientific, and moderate school; it
was a degradation of the episcopal order; it carried to its
furthest point that spirit of absolutist centralisation, which

1 The Vatican Decrees in their bearing on Civil Allegiance: a Political

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BOOK in its excesses is as fatal to vigorous life in the church as
VIL . in the state ; it overthrew the principle not even denied by
1874. the council of Trent in the sixteenth century, that the pope
and his judgments were triable by the assembled representa-
tives of the Christian world.

Thrice in history it seemed as if the constitutional party in
the church was about to triumph: at the council of
Constance in the fifteenth century ; in the conflict between
the French episcopate and Innocent xi. in the days of
Bossuet ; and thirdly, when Clement xiv., exactly a hundred
years before now, dealt with the Jesuits and ' levelled in the
dust the deadliest foes that mental and moral liberty have
ever known.' From July 1870 all this had passed away, and
the constitutional party had seen its death-warrant signed
and sealed. The ' myrmidons of the apostolic chamber ' had
committed their church to revolutionary measures. The vast
new claims were lodged in the reign of a pontiff, who by the
dark Syllabus of 1864 had condemned free speech, a free
press, liberty of conscience, toleration of nonconformity, the
free study of civil and philosophic things independently of
church authority, marriage unless sacramentally contracted,
and all definition by the state of the civil rights of the church.

* It has been a favourite purpose of my life,' Mr. Gladstone
said, ' not to conjure up, but to conjure down, public alarms.
I am not now going to pretend that either foreign foe or
domestic treason can at the bidding of the court of Rome,
disturb these peaceful shores. But although such fears
may be visionary, it is more visionary still to suppose for one
moment that the claims of Gregory vn., of Innocent in., and of
Boniface vm. have been disinterred in the nineteenth century,
like hideous mummies picked out of Egyptian sarcophagi,
in the interests of archaeology, or without a definite and
practical aim/ What, then, was the clear and foregone
purpose behind the parade of all these astonishing reasser-
tions ? The first was — by claims to infallibility in creed, to
the prerogative of miracles, to dominion over the unseen
world — to satisfy spiritual appetites, sharpened into reaction
and made morbid by ' the levity of the destructive specula-
tions so widely current, and the notable hardihood of the

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anti-Christian writing of the day.' This alone, however,
would not explain the deliberate provocation of all the ' risks <
of so daring a raid upon the civil sphere.' The answer was to ^ Sfr - 65 -
be found in the favourite design, hardly a secret design, of
restoring by the road of force when any favourable oppor-
tunity should arise, and of re-erecting, the terrestrial throne of
the popedom, ' even if it could only be re-erected on the ashes
of the city, and amidst the whitening bones of the people.'

And this brings the writer to the immediate practical as-
pects of his tract. ' If the baleful power which is expressed by
the phrase Curia RomaTia, and not at all adequately rendered
in its historic force by the usual English equivalent " Court
of Rome," really entertains the scheme, it doubtless counts
on the support in every country of an organized and devoted
party ; which, when it can command the scales of political
power, will promote interference, and while it is in a minority,
will work for securing neutrality. As the peace of Europe
may be in jeopardy, and as the duties even of England as
one of its constabulary authorities, might come to be in
question, it would be most interesting to know the mental
attitude of our Roman catholic fellow-countrymen in
England and Ireland with reference to the subject; and it
seems to be one on which we are entitled to solicit informa-
tion/ Too commonly the spirit of the convert was to be
expressed by the notorious words, 'a catholic first, an
Englishman afterwards* — words that properly convey no
more than a truism, ' for every Christian must seek to place
his religion even before his country in his inner heart ; but
very far from a truism in the sense in which we have been
led to construe them/ This, indeed, was a new and very
real 'papal aggression.' For himself, Mr. Gladstone said,
it should not shake his allegiance to 'the rule of main-
taining equal civil rights irrespectively of religious differ-
ences/ Had he not given conclusive indications of that
view, by supporting in parliament as a minister since the
council, the repeal in 1871 of the law against ecclesiastical
titles, whose enactment he had opposed twenty years before?

That the pamphlet should- create intense excitement, was
inevitable from the place of the writer in the public eye,

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BOOK from the extraordinary vehemence of the attack, and above
^7' , all from the unquenchable fascination of the topic. Whether
1874 - the excitement in the country was more than superficial;
whether most readers fathomed the deep issues as they stood,
not between catholic and protestant, but between catholic
and catholic within the fold ; whether in fastening upon the
civil allegiance of English Romanists Mr. Gladstone took the
true point against Vaticanism — these are questions that we
need not here discuss. The central proposition made a cruel
dilemma for a large class of the subjects of the Queen ; for
the choice assigned to them by assuming stringent logic was
between being bad citizens if they submitted to the decree
of papal infallibility, and bad catholics if they did not.
Protestant logicians wrote to Mr. Gladstone that if his
contention were good, we ought now to repeal catholic
emancipation and again clap on the fetters. Syllogisms in
action are but stupid things after all, unless they are checked
by a tincture of what seems paradox. 1 Apart from the par-
ticular issue in his Vatican pamphlet, Mr. Gladstone believed
himself to be but following his own main track in life and
thought in his assault upon ' a policy which declines to ac-
knowledge the high place assigned to liberty in the counsels
of Providence, and which upon the pretext of the abuse that
like every other good she suffers, expels her from its system/
Among the names that he was never willing to discuss
with me — Machiavelli, for instance — was Joseph de Maistre,
the hardiest, most adventurous, most ingenious and incisive
of all the speculative champions of European reaction. 2 In
the pages of de Maistre he might have found the reasoned
base on which the ultramontane creed may be supposed to
rest. He would have found liberty depicted less as a bless-
ing than a scourge; even Bossuet denounced as a heretic
with dubious chances of salvation, for his struggle on behalf
of a national church against Roman centralisation ; the old

1 Republishing his article on ritual- great change effected by the Vatican
ism in 1878 {Gleanings, vi. p. 127) Mr. council, would upon occasion given,
Gladstone appends in a footnote on the whether with logical warrant or not,
passage that stated the anti-vatican adhere under all circumstances to
campaign, an expression of belief and their civil loyalty and duty.'
hope that 'some at least who have * 2 He died In 1821, when Mr. Glad-
joined the Latin church since the stone was a boy at Eton.

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Greeks held up to odium as a race of talkers, frivolous,
light, and born incorrigible dividers. In dealing with de <
Maistre, Mr. Gladstone would have had a foeman worthier -^ T - ^
of his powerful steel than the authors of the Syllabus,
Schema, Postulatum, and all the rest of what he called the
Vaticanism of 1870. But here, as always, he was man of
action, and wrote for a specific though perhaps a fugitive


At the end of the year the total number printed of the
tract was 145,000, and of these 120,000 were in a people's
edition. ' My pamphlet/ he tells Lacaita, * has brought upon
me such a mass of work as I can hardly cope with, and I am
compelled to do all things as succinctly as possible, though
my work is with little intermission from morning till night.
I agree with you that the pamphlet in the main tells its
own story ; and I am glad there is no need to select in a
hurry some one to write on the difference between papism
and Catholicism. . . . There is no doubt that the discussion
opens, i.e. makes a breach in the walls of the papal theology,
and it ought to be turned to account. But I shall have
enough to do with all my hands, if I am to work properly
through the task I have undertaken. Not, I trust, for long,
for I think another pamphlet should suffice to end it on my
side. But I am vexed that Manning (as if he had been
pulled up at Rome), after having announced his formal reply
six weeks ago, hangs fire and now talks of delaying it.''
The result, he assures Lord Granville (Nov. 25), ' must be
injurious to the pestilent opinions that have so grievously
obtained the upper hand in that church, and to the party
which 7nea,7i8 to have a war in Europe for the restoration of
the temporal power. To place impediments in their way has
been my principal purpose.'

He told Acton (Dec. 18), 'When you were putting in caveats
and warnings, you did not say to me, " Now mind, this affair
will absorb some, perhaps many, months of your life." It has
been so up to the present moment, and it evidently will be
so for some time.' With Acton he carried on elaborate corre-

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BOOK spondence upon some of the questions raised by the Sylla-

r J > bus, notably on the effect of the pope's disciplinary judgment

1875. on anglican marriages, converting them into relations that
were not marriage at all. He fears that he has conceded too
much to the papal party in not treating the Syllabus as ex
cathedra\ in allowing that the popes had been apt to claim
dogmatic infallibility for wellnigh a thousand years; as to
the ecumenicity of the Vatican council. Among other matters
he was reading ' the curious volumes of Discorsi di Pio IX.,
published at Rome, and he might find it his duty to write
collaterally upon them/ This duty he performed with much
fidelity in the Quarterly Review for January 1875. He is
active in interest about translations; keen to enlist auxiliaries
in every camp and all countries ; delighted with all utter-
ances from Italy or elsewhere that make in his direction,
even noting with satisfaction that the agnostic Huxley was
warm in approval. ' I pass my days and nights/ he tells the
Duke of Argyll (Dec. 19), ' in the Vatican. Already the
pope has given me two months of incessant correspondence
and other hard work, and it may very well last two more.
Nor is the work pleasant ; but I am as far as possible from
repenting of it, as no one else to whom the public would
listen saved me the trouble. It is full of intense interest.
Every post brings a mass of general reading, writing, or
both. Forty covers of one kind or another to-day, and all
my time is absorbed. But the subject is well worth the
pains.' The Italians, Lord Granville told him, 'generally
approved, but were puzzled why you should have thought it
necessary.' Retorts and replies arose in swarms, including
one from Manning and another from Newman. He was
accused by some of introducing a Bismarckian KvZturkampf
into England, of seeking to recover his lost popularity by
pandering to no-popery, of disregarding the best interests
of the country for the sake of his own restoration to power. 1

I have now finished reading — he said at the beginning of
February, — the 20th reply to my pamphlet. They cover 1000
pages* And I am hard at work preparing mine with a good

1 Dr. Michael's Ignaz van Ddllinger, p. 296.

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conscience and I think a good argument. Manning has been, I CHAP.

think, as civil as he could. Feb. 5. — All this morning I have had *

to spend in hunting up one important statement of Manning's ^ T * w#

which I am almost convinced is a gross mis-statement . . .

Feb. 6. — Manning in his 200 pages has not, I venture to say, made

a single point against me. But I shall have to show up his

quotations very seriously. We have exchanged one or two friendly

notes. 8. — Worked on Vaticanism nearly all day and (an

exception to my rule) late at night. 14. — Eight hours' work on

my proof sheets. 15. — Went through Acton's corrections and

notes on my proofs. 19. — Worked much in evening on finishing

up my tract, Dr. Dollinger's final criticisms having arrived. He

thinks highly of the work, which he observes will cut deeper than

the former one, and be more difficult to deal with. By midnight

I had the revises ready with the corrections. 20. — Inserted one

or two references and wrote * Press' on the 2nd revises. May

the power and blessing of God go with the work.

The second tract was more pungent than the first, and it
gave pleasure to an important minister abroad who had now
entangled himself by Falk laws and otherwise in a quarrel
with the papacy. ' I have had a letter of thanks,' Mr. Glad-
stone writes to Hawarden (March 6), ' from Bismarck. This
pamphlet is stouter, sharper, and cheaper than the last, but
is only in its eleventh thousand, I believe.' Among others
who replied to Vaticanism was Dr. Newman ; he appended
a new postscript of four-and-twenty pages to his former
answer to the first of Mr. Gladstone's pamphlets. Its tone is
courteous and argumentative — far too much so to please
the ultras who had the Pope's ear — and without the wild
hitting that Mr. Gladstone found in Manning.

Newman wrote to thank him (Jan. 17, 1875) for a
letter that he described as 'forbearing and generous.' 'It
has been a great grief to me,' said Newman, ' to have had to
write against one whose career I have followed from first to
last with so much (I may say) loyal interest and admiration.
I had known about you from others, and had looked at you
with kindly curiosity, before you came up to Christ Church,
and from the time that you were launched into public life,
VOL. II. . i

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BOOK you have retained a hold on my thoughts and on my
f ' ' gratitude by the various marks of attention which every now

1875# and then you have shown me, when you had an opportunity,
and I could not fancy my ever standing towards you in any
other relation than that which had lasted so long. What a
fate it is, that now when so memorable a career has reached its
formal termination [retirement from leadership], I should be
the man, on the very day on which it closed, to present to you
amid the many expressions of public sympathy which it
elicits, a controversial pamphlet as my offering.' But he
could not help writing it, he was called upon from such
various quarters ; and his conscience told him that he who
had been in great measure the causa of so many becoming
catholics, had no right to leave them in the lurch, when
charges were made against them as serious as unexpected.
' 1 do not think,' he concluded, ' I ever can be sorry for what
I have done, but I never can cease to be sorry for the
necessity of doing it.'


This fierce controversial episode was enough to show that
the habit and temperament of action still followed him in
the midst of all his purposes of retreat Withdrawal from
parliamentary leadership was accompanied by other steps,
apparently all making in the same direction. He sold the
house in Carlton House Terrace, where he had passed eight-
and-twenty years of work and power and varied sociability.

Online LibraryJohn MorleyThe life of William Ewart Gladstone, Volume 2 → online text (page 12 of 91)