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The life of William Ewart Gladstone, Volume 2 online

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almost every page of your book is that you have none/
He complains, however, of finding Augustine put into a
leash with Luther and Calvin. 'Augustine's doctrine of
human nature is substantially that of Bishop Butler; and
he converted me about forty-five years ago to Butler's
doctrine/ Of far earlier date than this (1839) is an inter-
esting letter from Montalembert : —

London, July 4, 1839. — It seems to me that amidst many
dissentimens, and although you pass generally in this country
for an enemy to my faith and my church, there is a link between
us; since admitting every superiority of talent and influence on

1 Mr. Gladstone to Mr. W. L. Courtney, Sept. 5, 1888.

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your side, we stand on the same ground in public life — that of
the inalienable rights of spiritual power. I have, therefore, received -
your book with gratitude, and read it with the sincerest interest.
I now take the liberty of offering you a portion of the work I
have published, not on matter of actual controversy, but on an
unknown and delightful subject of religious history. If you
ever find leisure enough to throw a glance on the History of
St. Elizabeth, and more particularly on the Introduction, which
is a rapid resume 1 of the thirteenth century, you will perhaps
gain some slight information on what the Rev. Hugh McNeile so
appropriately called ' the filth and falsehood of the middle ages/
in his splendid speech on church extension, at Freemasons' Hall
a few days ago. And allow me to add, my dear sir, with the
utter frankness which I cannot divest myself of, that what you
seem to me to stand the most in need of at present, is a deeper
and more original knowledge of the laws and events of Catholic

Then come others, recalling illustrious names and famous
events in English history. There are a dozen letters of
business (1837-1846) from the Duke of Wellington. The
reader may be curious to see the earliest communication
between two such men —

London, Nov. 27, 1837. — I have by accident mislaid the petition
from the Cape of Good Hope, if it was ever sent me. But I shall
be happy to see you and converse with you upon the subject ; and
consider whether it is desirable or possible that I can bring the
subject before the consideration of the House of Lords at the same
time that you will in the H. of C. I would propose to you to come
here, or that I should go to you to-morrow, Tuesday, at any hour
you will name. — I have the honour to be, dear sir, your most
faithful, humble servant, Wellington. 1

Once he uses his well-known laconic style —

Stratkfteldsaye, January 3, 1842.— F. M. the Duke of Wellington
presents his compliments to Mr. Gladstone. He has received Mr.
Gladstone's letter of the 1st inst. He begs leave to decline to
interfere in any manner in the matter to which Mr. Gladstone's
letter refers.

1 See above, vol. L p. 143.

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BOOK What the matter was we cannot tell ; but we may guess
^ * that it was perhaps less tersely propounded. The rest touch
military affairs in the colonies, and are now of no concern.

Here we have a last vision of one of the forlorn shadows
of ruined power : —

Ckislehurst, le 5 Juillet, 1871. — Monsieur le Ministre, j'ai recu la
copie du nouveau Ballot bill que votre excellence a bien voulu
m'envoyer et je profite de cette occasion pour vous dire combien
je suis touch6 des marques d'attention que je recois en Angleterre.
Je vous prie de recevoir l'assurance de mes sentimens de haute
estime. NapolAon.

Notes from and to his illustrious adversary in the stirring
arena of public life are not without a delicate accent of
pathos and sincerity. The first was on some occasion of
Mrs. Disraeli's illness, 1 the second on her death : —

Nov, 20, 1867. — I was incapable yesterday of expressing to you
how much I appreciate your considerate sympathy. My wife had
always a strong personal regard for you, and being of a vivid and
original character, she could comprehend and value your great gifts
and qualities. There is a ray of hope under this roof since the
last four and twenty hours : round your hearth, I trust, health and
happiness will be ever present. — Yours sincerely, B. Disraeli.

Six years later when Lady Beaconsfield died, Mr. Gladstone
wrote (Jan. 19, 1873):—

Dear Mr. Disraeli, — My reluctance to intrude on the sacred-
ness and freshness of your sorrow may now, I think, properly
give way to a yet stronger reluctance to forego adding our small
but very sincere tribute of sympathy to those abundant manifesta-
tions of it which have been yielded in so many forms. You and
I were, as I believe, married in the same year. It has been per-
mitted to both of us to enjoy a priceless boon through a third
of a century. Spared myself the blow which has fallen on you,
I can form some conception of what it must have been and must
be. I do not presume to offer you the consolation which you will
seek from another and higher quarter. I offer only the assurance
which all who know you, and all who knew Lady Beaconsfield,

1 Referred to by Mr. Gladstone in the House of Commons, Nov. 19, 1867.

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and especially those among them who like myself enjoyed for a CHAP,
length of time her marked, though unmerited regard, may perhaps <
tender without impropriety, the assurance that in this trying hour
they feel deeply for you and with you. — Believe me, sincerely
yours, W. E. Gladstone.

Hughenden Manor, Jan. 24, 1873. — Dear Mr. Gladstone, — I
am much touched by your kind words in my great sorrow. I
trust, I earnestly trust, that you may be spared a similar affliction.
Marriage is the greatest earthly happiness, when founded on com-
plete sympathy. That hallowed lot was mine, and for a moiety of
my existence ; and I know it is yours. — With sincere regard, D.

A last note, with the quavering pen-strokes of old age
(Nov. 6, 1888), comes from the hand, soon to grow cold, of
one who had led so strange a revolution, and had stood for
so much in the movement of things that to Mr. Gladstone
were supreme : —

It is a great kindness and compliment your wishing to see me.
I have known and admired you so long. But I cannot write nor
talk nor walk, and hope you will take my blessing, which I give
from my heart. — Yours most truly, John H. Card. Newman.

So the perpetual whirl of life revolves, ' by nature an un-
manageable sight/ but—

Not wholly so to him who looks
In steadiness ; who hath among least things
An under-sense of greatest ; sees the parts
As parts, but with a feeling of the whole. l

Such steadiness, such under-sense and feeling of the
whole, was Mr. Gladstone's gift and inspiration, never ex-
pending itself in pensive musings upon the vain ambitions,
illusions, cheats, regrets of human life — such moods of
half-morbid moralising were not in his temperament — but
ever stirring him to duty and manful hope, to intrepid
self-denial and iron effort.

1 The Prelude, viL

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Thk dead have been awakened — shall I sleep ?

The world 's at war with tyrants — shall I crouch ?
The harvest 's ripe — and shall I pause to reap ?

I slumber not — the thorn is in my couch :
Each day a trumpet soundeth in mine ear,

Its echo in my heart.


BOOK Preserved in the Octagon is a large packet of notes on
v ^' , ' Future Retribution/ and on them is the docket, 'From this
1876. / -HXJ3 called away to write on Bulgaria.' In the spring
of 1876 the Turkish volcano had burst into flame. Of the
Crimean war the reader has already seen enough and too
much. 1 Its successes, in Mr. Gladstone's words, by a vast
expenditure of French and English life and treasure, gave
to Turkey, for the first time perhaps in her bloodstained
history, twenty years of a repose not disturbed either by
herself or by any foreign power. As Cobden and Bright
had foreseen, as even many European statesmen who ap-
proved the war on grounds of their own had foreseen,
Turkish engagements were broken, for this solid reason if
for no other that Turkey had not in the resources of her
barbaric polity the means to keep them.

Fierce revolt against intolerable misrule slowly blazed up
in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and a rising in Bulgaria, not
dangerous in itself, was put down by Turkish troops des-
patched for the purpose from Constantinople, with deeds
described by the British agent who investigated them on
the spot, as the most heinous crimes that had stained the
history of the century. The consuls of France and Germany

1 Vol. L pp, 476 and 521.


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at Salonica were murdered by the Turkish mob. Servia
and Montenegro were in arms. Moved by these symptoms <
of a vast conflagration, the three imperial courts of Russia, ^ 3t ' 67 -
Austria, and Germany agreed upon an instrument imposing
on the Turk certain reforms, to be carried out under
European supervision. To this instrument, known as the
Berlin memorandum, England, along with France and Italy,
was invited to adhere (May 13). The two other Powers
assented, but Mr. Disraeli and his cabinet refused, — a pro-
ceeding that, along with more positive acts, was taken by
the Turk and other people to assure the moral support of
Great Britain to the Ottoman, and probably to threaten
military support against the Russian.

This rejection of the Berlin memorandum in May marked
the first decisive moment in British policy. The withdrawal
of England from the concert of Europe, the lurid glare of
the atrocities in Bulgaria, and his abiding sense of the
responsibility imposed upon us by the Crimean war and all
its attendant obligations, were the three main elements in
the mighty storm that now agitated Mr. Gladstone's breast.
Perhaps his sympathies with the Eastern church had their
share. In a fragment of reminiscence twenty years after,
he says : —

When, in 1876, the eastern question was forced forward by
the disturbances in the Turkish empire, and especially by the
cruel outrages in Bulgaria, I shrank , naturally but perhaps unduly
from recognising the claim they made upon me individually. I
hoped that the ministers would recognise the moral obligations to
the subject races of the east, which we had in honour contracted
as parties to the Crimean war and to the peace of Paris in 1856.
I was slow to observe the real leanings of the prime minister,
his strong sympathy with the Turk, and his mastery in his own
cabinet. I suffered others, Forster in particular, to go far ahead
of me. At the close of the session [1876] a debate was raised
upon the subject, and I had at length been compelled to perceive
that the old idol was still to be worshipped at Constantinople, and
that, as the only person surviving in the House of Commons who
had been responsible for the Crimean war and the breaking of

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BOOK the bulwark raised by the treaty of Kainardji on behalf of the
T / eastern Christians, I could no longer remain indifferent. Conse-
876, quently in that debate Mr. Disraeli had to describe my speech as
the only one that had exhibited a real hostility to the policy of
the government. It was, however, at that time an opposition
without hope. I went into the country, and had mentally post-
poned all further action to the opening of the next session, when
I learned from the announcement of a popular meeting to be held
in Hyde Park that the question was alive. 1 So I at once wrote
and published on the Bulgarian case. From that time forward,
till the final consummation in 1879-80, 1 made the eastern ques-
tion the main business of my life. I acted under a strong sense of
individual duty without a thought of leadership ; nevertheless it
made me again leader whether I would or no. The nation nobly
responded to the call of justice, and recognised the brotherhood
of man. But it was the nation, not the classes. When, at the
close of the session of 1876, there was the usual dispersion in
pursuit of recreation, I thought the occasion was bad. It was good,
for the nation did not disperse and the human heart was beating.
When the clubs refilled in October, the Turkish cause began
again to make head. Then came a chequered period, and I do not
recollect to have received much assistance from the ' front bench.'
Even Granville had been a little startled at my proceedings, and
wished me to leave out the * bag and baggage ' from my pamphlet.

Before the end of the session of 1876 Mr. Disraeli quitted
the House of Commons and became the Earl of Beaconsfield.
Lord Granville informed Mr. Gladstone, on the authority of
a high personage, that Disraeli had said to the Queen he
must resign ; ' that the peerage was then suggested ; that at
first he said, " Yes, but accompanied with resignation," but
was told that in the present state of Europe that was im-
possible.' In reporting to Sir Arthur Gordon, then abroad,
what was not merely a piece of news but an event, Mr.
Gladstone says (Aug. 16) : —

Disraeli assumes his earldom amidst loud acclaims. I had better
be mute about him and his influence generally, except as to a full

1 Mr. Stead, then at the Northern able journalistic career in pressing
Echo in Darlington, began his redoubt* this question into life.

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acknowledgment of his genius and his good points of character. CHAP.
His government is supposed now to stand mainly upon its recent * '
foreign policy : the most selfish and least worthy I have ever known. ^ Jt * ^»
Whatever was open to any degree of exception in Palmerston, has
this year received a tenfold development in Disraeli. Derby's
influence, I think, has been for good ; but too little of it.

To the Duke of Argyll a couple of days before, he had
written : —

I am entirely in harmony with you as to your view of the
eastern policy. It has been depressing and corrupting to the
country ; a healthier air has been generated by indignation at the
Bulgarian massacres, which have thrown us back on our rather
forgotten humanity. I hope the subject will not slumber through
the recess. Dizzy's speech (so I call him with all due respect to
the peerage) in the Turkish debate gave me a new light on his
views. He is not quite such a Turk as I had thought. What he
hates is Christian liberty and reconstruction. He supports old
Turkey, thinking that if vital improvements can be averted, it
must break down ; and his fleet is at Besika Bay, I feel pretty
sure, to be ready to lay hold of Egypt as his share. So he may
end as the Duke of Memphis yet.


Then came the pamphlet. The story of this memorable
publication is told in the diary : —

Aug. 28, 1876. — Church 8J a.m. Worked on a beginning for a
possible pamphlet on the Turkish question. I stupidly brought
en again my lumbago by physical exertion. Was obliged to put
off my pamphlet. Bead The Salvation of all Men . . . 29. — Kept
my bed long. Wrote to Lord Granville, etc. . . . and as a treat
began Waverley once more. Lumbago bad. 30. — Much bed;
forswear all writing. Bead St. Thomas Aquinas on the Soul. . . .
Waverley. A snug evening in the Temple of Peace. 31. — Kept
my bed till four, and made tolerable play in writing on Bulgarian
horrors. Sept. 1. — Wrote [16 letters]. Again worked hard in
bed and sent off more than half to the printers. Bead Waverley.
Short drive with C. 2. — This day I wrote again a good piece of
the pamphlet in bed, but improved considerably. Bose at four.

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BOOK Read Waverley in the evening. 3. — Hawarden Church 11 am. and
VIL , fifr p.m. Wrote [16 letters]. Off at 10.15 p.m. for London.

1876. 4 — Reached 18 C.H.T. at five in the morning by limited mail;
bed till nine. Saw Lord Granville, Mr. Delane, Sir A. Panizzi,
Mr. Clowes, Messrs. Murray, the American minister. In six or
seven hours, principally at the British Museum, I completed my
MS., making all the needful searches of papers and journals. Also
worked on proof sheets.

To Mrs. Gladstone. — We had an interesting little party at Gran-
ville's. I had a long talk with Delane. We, he and I, are much of
one mind in thinking the Turks must go out of Bulgaria, though
retaining a titular supremacy if they like. Between ourselves,
Granville a little hangs back from this, but he could not persuade
me to hold it back.

5. — . . . Saw Lord Granville, Lord Hartington. . . . Finished
the correction of revises before one, discussing the text with Lord
Granville and making various alterations of phrase which he
recommended. At seven I received complete copies. We went to
the Haymarket theatre. Arranged my papers after this, and sent
off copies in various directions.

The pamphlet spread like fire. 1 Within three or four days
of its first appearance forty thousand copies had gone. It
was instantly followed up by a tremendous demonstration
among his constituents. ' Sept. 9, 1876. — Thought over my
subject for Blackheath. Off at two. A very large meeting.
The most enthusiastic far that I ever saw. Spoke over an
hour.' This is his very prosaic story of the first of those
huge and excited multitudes of which for months and years
to come he was to confront so many. The pamphlet and the
Blackheath speech were his rejoinder to the light and callous
tones of Mr. Disraeli, and the sceptical language of his
foreign secretary. ' I have a strong suspicion/ he told the
Duke of Argyll, who was a fervent sympathiser, 'that
Dizzy's crypto-Judaism has had to do with his policy. The
Jews of the east bitterly hate the Christians; who have
not always used them well' This suspicion was constant
' Disraeli/ he said to Mrs. Gladstone, ' may be willing to risk

1 The Bulgarian Horror* and the Question of the East.

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his government for his Judaic feeling, — the deepest and
truest, now that his wife has gone, in his whole mind.'

The tract beats with a sustained pulse and passion that
recalls Burke's letters on the Regicide Peace. The exhortation
against moral complicity with ' the basest and blackest out-
rages upon record within the present century, if not within
the memory of man ' ; the branding of the Turkish race as
' the one great anti-human specimen of humanity* ; the talk
of ' fell satanic orgies ' ; the declaration that there was not a
criminal in a European gaol nor a cannibal in the South Sea
Islands, whose indignation would not rise at the recital of
that which had been done, which remained unavenged,
which had left behind all the foal and all the fierce passions
that produced it, and might again spring up in another
murderous harvest, from the soil soaked and reeking with
blood, and in the air tainted with every imaginable deed of
crime and shame, — all this vehemence was hailed with eager
acclamation by multitudes who felt all that he felt, and
found in his passionate invective words and a voice. Mr.
Gladstone was not the man, his readers and his public were
not the men, for mere denunciation. They found in him a
policy. Indignation, he said in a thoroughly characteristic
sentence, indignation is froth, except as it leads to action ;
mere remonstrance is mockery. There are states of affairs,
he told them, in which human sympathy refuses to be con-
fined by the rules, necessarily limited and conventional, of
international law. Servia and Montenegro in going to war
against Turkey might plead human sympathies, broad, deep,
and legitimate, and that they committed no moral offence.
The policy of the British government was the status quo,
'as you were/ This meant the maintenance of Turkish
executive authority. What was really needed was the
total withdrawal of the administrative rule of the Turk.
And here he used words that became very famous in the
controversy : —

But I return to, and end with, that which is the omega as well
as the alpha of this great and most mournful case. An old
servant of the crown and state, I entreat my countrymen, upon

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BOOK whom far more than perhaps any other people of Europe it
VIL * depends, to require and to insist that our government which
1876. hgg tern working in one direction shall work in the other, and
shall apply all its vigour to concur with the other states of
Europe in obtaining the extinction of the Turkish executive power
in Bulgaria. Let the Turks now carry away their abuses in the
only possible manner, namely by carrying off themselves. Their
Zaptiehs and their Mudirs, their Bimbashis and their Yuzbashis,
their Kaimakams and their Pashas, one and all, bag and baggage,
shall I hope clear out from the province they have desolated and

At Blackheath, under dripping rain clouds, he said the
same, though with the invective tempered. 'You shall
receive your regular tribute/ he said in slow sentences to
imaginary Ottomans, whom he seemed to hold before his
visual eye, 'you shall retain your titular sovereignty, your
empire shall not be invaded, but never again as the years
roll in their course, so far as it is in our power to determine,
never again shall the hand of violence be raised by you,
never again shall the flood-gates of lust be open to you, never
again shall the dire refinements of cruelty be devised by you
for the sake of making mankind miserable/

Once again, it was not words that made the power of the
orator, it was the relation in purpose, feeling and conviction
between him and his audience. He forced them into unity
with himself by the vivid strength of his resolution and
imagination; he could not believe that his own power of
emotion was not theirs too : —

On Monday morning last between four and five o'clock, I was
rattling down from Euston station through the calm and silent
streets of London, when there was not a footfall to disturb them.
Every house looked so still, that it might well have been a
receptacle of the dead. But as I came through those long lines of
streets, I felt it to be an inspiring and a noble thought that in
every one of these houses there were intelligent human beings, my
fellow-countrymen, who when they woke would give many of their
earliest thoughts, aye and some of their most energetic actions, to
the terrors and sufferings of Bulgaria.

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All this was the very spirit of Milton's imperishable sonnet
upon the late Massacre in Piedmont ; the spirit that made
Cromwell say that the slaughter in the Waldensian valleys
' came as near to his heart as if his own nearest and dearest
had been concerned.'

Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, who had been one of the most
responsible promoters of the policy of the Crimean war, told
Mr. Gladstone of his own strong impression (Sept. 10),
that the formidable crisis would not have arisen, had Eng-
land in the first instance taken part with the other Powers.
Not that he believed that Russia was always and fully trust-
worthy, but she was so circumstanced then as to be open to
the full bearing of our moral influence. Six weeks later
Lord Stratford again expressed his unaltered opinion that
if in the beginning England had taken her place at the side
of the three emperors, the cloud on the horizon would never
have swelled out into its present colossal proportions. 'It
seems to me,' he said, ' that Russia has been gradually drawn
into a position from which she can hardly retreat with credit.'
' Whatever shades of difference appear in our opinions/ he
told Mr. Gladstone in September, ' may be traced in a great
measure to your having made Bulgaria the main object
of your appeal, whereas the whole eastern question was
my theme, and the Bulgarian atrocities, execrable as they
were, only a part of it.' The truth was that in making
the atrocious doings in Bulgaria the main object of his
appeal, Mr. Gladstone had both displayed a sure instinct
as to the most effective method of popular approach, and
at the same time did justice to his own burning and innate
hatred of all cruelty and oppression, whether in Bourbon
or Bashi-Bazouk. Humanity was at the root of the whole
matter; and the keynote of this great crusade was the
association of humanity with a high policy worthy of the
British name.

October was passed in a round of visits to great houses,

Online LibraryJohn MorleyThe life of William Ewart Gladstone, Volume 2 → online text (page 15 of 91)