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The life of William Ewart Gladstone, Volume 2 online

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the popular tide in the north still appearing to rise around
him. To Lord Granville he writes : —

Alnwick Castle, Oct. 3, 1876. — We have advanced thus far in a

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BOOK northern and eastern tour, and we hope to he at Castle Howard on


t ' ^ Wednesday. I left home at this particular time partly with ideas
1876. f health and relaxation, partly because I thought that being
everywhere and nowhere I should escape a little from the turmoil
of the time. Through Cheshire and Lancashire we accomplished
the first stage of our journey to Raby without witnessing any parti-
cular indication of public sentiment ; and this rather encouraged
our extending a little the circle of our visits, which I am now half
tempted to regret. For at every point I have had the greatest
difficulty in maintaining any show of privacy, and avoiding strong
manifestations. I never saw such keen exhibitions of the popular
feeling, appearing so to pervade all ranks and places. A tory
county member said to my wife two days ago, ' If there were a
dissolution now, I should not get a vote.' This may be in some
degree peculiar to the northerners with their strong character and
deep emotions. ...

Castle Hoivard, Oct. 7, 1876. — Before receiving your letter of the
5th, I had been driven to the conclusion that I must make a
further utterance, following the actual course of the transactions.
And upon the whole I adhere to this conclusion, notwithstanding
your opinion to which I attach great weight. There is a great
difference in our situations, which I think accounts for this
difference of view. I found Ailesbury, of course, full of friendship
and loyalty to you, but disposed to regret that you had not been
able to see your way to a more advanced and definite policy. I
told him that I found no cause for surprise in your reserve, and
thought you held yourself in hand for the purpose of holding your
party in hand — a view which I think he more or less embraced.
Now, I have not your responsibilities to the party, but I have for
the moment more than your responsibilities to the country, in this
sense that I feel myself compelled to advise from time to time
upon the course of that national movement which I have tried
hard to evoke, and assisted in evoking. I regard myself as an
outside workman, engaged in the preparation of materials, which
you and the party will probably have to manipulate and then to
build into a structure. For though I do not wish to shut the door
upon the government, I despair of them, after so many invitations
and so many refusals. . . .

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To Madame Novikoff, a Russian lady who at this time CHAP,
began to exercise a marked influence upon the opinions of -
important men with much influence on the opinions of many iET# 67,
other people, 1 he indicated some doubtful symptoms : —

Hawarden, Oct. 17, 1876. — There is an undoubted and smart
rally on behalf of Turkey in the metropolitan press. It is in the
main representative of the ideas and opinions of what are called
the upper ten thousand. From this body there has never on
any occasion within my memory proceeded the impulse that has
prompted, and finally achieved, any of the great measures which
in the last half century have contributed so much to the fame and
happiness of England. They did not emancipate the dissenters,
Soman catholics, and Jews. They did not reform the parliament.
They did not liberate the negro slave. They did not abolish the
corn law. They did not take the taxes off the press. They did
not abolish the Irish established church. They did not cheer on
the work of Italian freedom and reconstitution. Yet all these
things have been done ; and done by other agencies than theirs,
and despite their opposition. When I speak of them, I speak of
course of the majority among them. Unhappily, the country is
understood abroad mainly through the metropolitan press.

He was no sooner back at Hawarden than he fell to work
on subsidiary branches of the question of questions.

Oct. 22. — Worked hard and finished my paper on Russia in
Turkestan, and sent it off. Criminal justice on Sunday ! But it
is for peace. 24. — To London. 27. — Up at 6. Went with Harry
to Dover, saw him off on board the packet and pier [on his way to
India]. Drove over to Walmer, reviewed the place, saw Lord
Granville and Sir W. James. Returned to London, and at, 9.30
to the Gaiety, saw a miserable burlesque of which I had heard a
most inviting but false account. 28. — To Hawarden. 31. — Tenny-
son and H. T. came. Nov. 1. — Tennyson read to us his Harold.
It took near 2£ hours. Walk with him and a party. 2. — Read

1 The story of the heroic death of Invasion of the Crimea. This episode

Colonel Kireeff, her brother, was is supposed by some to have helped

vividly told by Kinglake in the intro- to intensify Mr. Gladstone's feeling

daction to the cabinet edition of his on the issues of the eastern war.

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BOOK Bagehot on Lord Spencer's Life — very clever, very imperfect.
/ ' Conversation with Tennyson on future retribution and other

1876, matters of theology. He has not thought, I conceive, systemati-
cally or thoroughly upon them, but is much alarmed at the
prospect of the loss of belief. He left us at one. Walk and long
conversation with Lord Acton, who seems in opinion to go beyond
DoUinger, though in certain things he stops short of him.
8. — Bead aloud the debate of the first Iliad from Pope. 9. — Read
aloud my version of the Assembly — Iliad I. 10. — Read aloud
Lord Derby's and Cowper's version of the Assembly. 14. — The
Olympian part of Iliad I, in Pope's version aloud, and then my
own. 17. — We went to Liverpool, where we attended the theatre
to see Pennington in Hamlet. It was really excellent. I never
was so well received in that town. 21. — Finished revision of my
MS., ' The Hellenic Factor in the Eastern Problem,' and sent it to


At the Lord Mayor's feast in November, the prime
minister used menacing language. The policy of England,
he said, was peace, but no country was so well prepared for
war as ours. If England were to enter into a righteous war,
her resources were inexhaustible. 'She is not a country
that, when she enters into a campaign, has to ask herself
whether she can support a second or a third campaign. She
enters into a campaign which she will not terminate till right
is done.' This was a hardly veiled threat to Russia, it was
encouragement to Turkey, it was incitement to a war party
in Great Britain. ' The provocation offered by Disraeli at the
Guildhall,' wrote Mr. Gladstone, ' is almost incredible. Some
new lights about his Judaic feeling in which he is both con-
sistent and conscientious have come in upon me.'

Still the general feeling was strongly adverse to any action
on behalf of Turkey. Mr. Gladstone eagerly noted even the
most trivial incident that pointed this way. ' Yesterday night '
he wrote (Nov. 26), ' in the tory town of Liverpool, when
Othello was being acted, and the words were reached " The
Turks are drowned/' the audience rose in enthusiasm and

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interrupted the performance for some time with their
cheering. These things are not without meaning.' Men<
who commonly stood aside from political activity were iET * 67#
roused. 'Mr. Carlyle,' says Mr. Kuskin, 'Mr. Froude, and
several other men of creditable name gathered together at
call of Mr. Gladstone as for a great national need, together
with other men of more retired mind — Edward Burne- Jones
for one, and myself for another/

The reply to the Guildhall speech was a conference at St>
James's Hall (Dec. 8), one of the most remarkable gatherings
of representative men of every type and from every part of
the kingdom ever held in this country. ' I have most flourish-
ing accounts of the progress of preparations for the confer-
ence of which I have been a promoter from the beginning.
They urge me to speak on the 8th, but I should much prefer
that others should put themselves in the foreground.' Besides
the eminent politicians, great territorial magnates were there,
and men of letters, and divines of various churches, and men
who had never been to a militant assemljly in their lives
before, — all with a resolute purpose expressed by Mr. Trevel-
yan, ' No matter how the prime minister may finger the hilt
of the sword, the nation will take care that it never leaves
the scabbard.' Mr. Gladstone reached London a day or two
before. On the 8th, he enters : —

8. — Made notes and extracts for speech. Attended the meetings
at St. James's Hall, 12-1 J and 4-8. Spoke (I fear) 1 \ hours with
some exertion, far from wholly to my satisfaction. The meetings
were great, notable, almost historical.

The day after this important and impressive gathering he
was back at Hawarden, busy at his article upon the life of
the Prince Consort. Then came Christmas day, — ' The most
solemn I have known for long ; I see that eastward sky of
storm and of underlight ! '

At a suggestion from the London foreign office, a con-
ference of the great Powers met at Constantinople in the
middle of December. Lord Salisbury went as the representa-

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BOOK tive of England. To a correspondent Mr. Gladstone spoke of

' - this as an excellent selection : —

I think it right at once to give you my opinion of Lord Salis-
bury, whom Lknow pretty well in private. He has little foreign
or eastern knowledge, and little craft; he is rough of tongue in
public debate, but a great gentleman in private society ; he is very
remarkably clever, of unsure judgment, but is above anything
mean ; has no Disraelite prejudices ; keeps a conscience, and has
plenty of manhood and character. In a word the appointment of
Lord Salisbury to Constantinople is the best thing the government
have yet done in the eastern question.

As the conference met, so it ran a usual course, and then
vanished. The Powers were in complete accord as to the
demands that were to be made upon Turkey for the pro-
tection of the unfortunate Christian rayahs. The Turk in just
confidence that he should find a friend, rejected them, and
the envoys departed to their homes. Mr. Gladstone, however,
found comfort yi the thought that by the agitation two
points had been gained: the re-establishment of the
European concert, and extrication from a disgraceful posi-
tion of virtual complicity with Turkey.

In the spring of 1877 he wrote a second pamphlet, 1 because
a speech in the House could not contain detail enough, and
because parliamentary tradition almost compelled a suspen-
sion of discussion while ministers were supposed to be engaged
in concert with other Powers in devising a practical answer to
Russian inquiry. He found that it ' produced no great impres-
sion/ the sale not going beyond six or seven thousand copies.
Still, the gain remained from the proceeding in the autumn,
that the government dared not say they had nothing to do
with the condition of the Christian rayahs of Turkey, and any
idea of going to war for Turkey was out of the question.

Public feeling had waxed very hot, yet without any clear
precision of opinion or purpose on the side opposed to
Mr. Gladstone's policy of emancipation. Dean Church
(Dec. 1876) describes how ' everybody was very savage with
everybody about Turks and Russians: I think I never

1 Lestton* in Ala&tacre.

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J. r. green's description 169

remember such an awkward time for meeting people (until CHAP,
you know you are on the same side) except at the height of v
the Tractarian row.' *

A little later we have one of the best pictures of him that
I know, from the warm and vivid hand of J. R. Green, the
historian : —

Feb, 21, 1877. — Last night I met Gladstone— it will always be a
memorable night to me ; Stubbs was there, and Goldwin Smith, and
Humphry Sandwith, and Mackenzie Wallace, whose great book
on Russia is making such a stir, besides a few other nice people ,
but one forgets everything in Gladstone himself, in his perfect
naturalness and grace of manner, his charming abandon of con-
versation, his unaffected modesty, his warm ardour for all that is
noble and good. I felt so proud of my leader — the chief I have
always clung to through good report and ill report — because, wise
or unwise as he might seem in this or that, he was always noble of
soul. He was very pleasant to me, and talked of the new historic
school he hoped we were building up as enlisting his warmest
sympathy. I wish you could have seen with what a glow he spoke
of the Montenegrins and their struggle for freedom; how he called
on us who wrote history to write what we could of that long fight
for liberty ! And all through the evening not a word to recall his
greatness amongst us, simple, natural, an equal among his equals,
listening to every one, drawing out every one, with a force and a
modesty that touched us more than all his power.

In another letter, says the same ardent man, ' I begin to see
that there may be a truer wisdom in the " humanitarianism "
of Gladstone than in the purely political views of Disraeli. The
sympathies of peoples with peoples, the sense of a common
humanity between nations, the aspirations of nationalities
after freedom and independence, are real political forces;
and it is just because Gladstone owns them as forces, and
Disraeli disowns them, that the one has been on the right
side, and the other' on the wrong in parallel questions such
as the upbuilding of Germany or Italy. I think it will be so
in this upbuilding of the Sclave.' 2

It was my own good fortune to pass two days with him

1 Church, Life, p. 252. a Letters of J. K. Green, pp. 4467.

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BOOK at this moment at High Elms. Huxley and Playfair were of
t ' ' the party. Mr. Gladstone had with him the printer's proofs

1877. f hig second pamphlet, and was in full glow against Turkish
terrorism and its abettors. This strong obsession cquld not
be concealed, nor was there any reason why it should be ; it
made no difference in his ready courtesy and kindness of
demeanour, his willingness to enter into other people's topics,
his pliant force and alacrity of mind. On the Sunday after-
noon Sir John Lubbock, our host, took us all up to the hill-
top whence in his quiet Kentish village Darwin was shaking
the world. The illustrious pair, born in the same year, had
never met before. Mr. Gladstone as soon as seated took
Darwin's interest in lessons of massacre for granted, and
launched forth his thunderbolts with unexhausted zest His
great, wise, simple, and truth-loving listener, then, I think,
busy on digestive powers of the drosera in his green-house,
was intensely delighted. When we broke up, watching Mr.
Gladstone's erect alert figure as he walked away, Darwin,
shading his eyes with his hand against the evening rays, said
to me in unaffected satisfaction, ' What an honour that such
a great man should come to visit me ! ' Too absorbed in his
own overwhelming conflict with the powers of evil, Mr. Glad-
stone makes no mention of his afternoon call, and only says
of the two days that ' he found a notable party, and much
interesting conversation,' and that he 'could not help liking 9
one of the company, then a stranger to him. In his absence
at church, we were talking of the qualities that send men
forward and keep them back. ' I should like to know,' cried
Huxley, ' what would keep such a man as that back/ pointing
to where Mr. Gladstone had been sitting; 'why, put him in
the middle of a moor, with nothing in the world but his
shirt, and you could not prevent him from being anything
he liked/ And Huxley was as far as possible from being a


Events meanwhile had moved. The failure of the con-
ference in December, and the futility of an instrument
known as the London protocol devised in March, led up to
a declaration of war by Russia against Turkey in April.

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We now come to an episode in this controversy, that £**£*-

excited lively passions at the moment, and subjected Mr. * ^ — *

Gladstone's relation to his party to a strain that would have
been profoundly painful, if his heroic intensity had not for
the time taken him beyond the region of pain and pleasure.

To Lord Granville. 73 Barley Street, April 23, 1877.— The protocol,
the refusal of Turkey, the insistence of Russia, have been followed
to-night by the announcement that the Russian Charge' has sus-
pended relations with Turkey. Is not the moment now come for
raising the rather stiff question whether a policy, or a substantive
motion, is to be submitted to parliament 1 I hold back from a
conclusion as long as I can, that I may benefit by the views of
others. But it is perfectly plain that Salisbury is at a discount,
and that the government grow more Turkish every day ; reason-
ably plain that some grave arguments against moving have now
lost their force. My own inclination is towards a series of
resolutions with such points as are rudely indicated on the
enclosed scrap. Please to let me have it again at some time ; I
have no copy.

To the Duke of Argyll. April 26, 1877. — I have drawn some
resolutions of which I intend to give notice to-day unless the
leaders will move. If they will move, though they may say
much less, I can support them and express my fuller ideas in
a speech. I cannot leave my bed, but notice will be given in my

From th* Diary. # April 27, 1877. — 111 in the night ; kept my bed
Saw Dr. Clark twice. Saw Mr. Goschen, Lord Wolverton, Mr.
Bright, Lord Frederick Cavendish. This day I took my decision,
a severe one, in face of my not having a single approver in the
upper official circle. But had I in the first days of September
asked the same body whether I ought to write my pamphlet, I
believe the unanimous answer would have been No. Arranged
for the first (general) notice to be given, in my absence.

The resolutions were five in number, and the pith of them
was, first, an expression of complaint against the Porte;
second, a declaration that, in the absence of guarantees on
behalf of the subject populations, the Porte had lost all

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BOOK claim to support, moral or material; third, a desire that
" ^British influence should be employed on behalf of local

1877. liberty and self-government in the disturbed provinces;
v fourth, this influence to be addressed to promoting the
concert of the Powers in exacting from the Porte such
changes as they might deem to be necessary for humanity
and justice; fifth, an address to the crown accordingly.
On the expediency of these resolutions, at a moment when
a war with many complexities had just broken out, opinion
in the party was divided. The official liberals and their
special adherents doubted. The radicals below the gangway,
headed by Mr. Chamberlain and Sir Charles Dilke, sup-
ported the resolutions with enthusiasm. Adverse notices of
the previous question were put upon the paper. Lord
Granville wrote to Mr. Gladstone (May 2) that his colleagues
on the front opposition bench had met, and were still of
opinion, ' that it was not opportune at this moment to move
resolutions, and thought that the least antagonistic course
as regarded you would be to vote for one of the motions
announced for the previous question/ To the Duke of
Argyll Mr. Gladstone wrote on the 4th : —

Our friends of the late cabinet have fallen into a sad series of
errors, some of which I fear will be greatly resented in the
country. To meet on Wednesday; to use the private pressure
which is being used, as I am told, against the resolutions; and
above all to have announced the result of the meeting in the
papers of yesterday; these form a combination, in my opinion,
deplorable and almost incredible. I shall do all in my power to
avert consequences, but my difficulties are greatly increased.

It looked as if a mortal split within the party were

From the Diary. May 5. — The post brought me near 140 letters
to-day which took some hours to examine, but they are most
remarkable. Saw Lord Granville with Lord Wolverton. They
opened the means of bridging over the chasm inadvertently made ;
and I readily went into the scheme. It was carried through by
Granville at a meeting of his friends after the Academy dinner,
and he came to me at Wolverton's with Hartington to make

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known the result and consider some details of execution. What
they ask of me is really, from my point of view, little more than
nominal. They have in truth been awakened as from a slumber by i ® T * **•
the extraordinary demonstrations in the country. 3-4£ attended
the Academy exhibition. 6£-10£ at the dinner; spoke for
literature ! My reception surprised me, it was so good.

What was asked was that he should consent to an
amended form of his second resolution, declaring more
simply and categorically that the Turk, by his misgovern-
ment, had lost his claims. As to the other resolutions,
according to a common usage, it was at his choice to accept
a division on the first or first two, and not divide upon the
rest. His speech, of course, would cover the ground of all
the resolutions. This reduction was, as he truly said, ' little
more than nominal/ A friendly question was to be put
when the time came, and in reply he would state how things

The critical day arrived, and not often has parliamentary
excitement been so high. It was a battle of high national
and even European policy, for England was now at the
front; it was a battle between two sections of a party; it
was the ordeal of a man admitted to be the greatest in the*
House, and perhaps some of the onlookers felt much like
the curious Florentines, as they wondered what would
happen to Savonarola and the monks in the great Trial
by Fire.

From the Diary. May 7. — This day came in about 100 meetings
and say 200 letters or 250. Worked hard upon the blue book,
and references and notes for speech. House at 4J. For over two
hours I was assaulted from every quarter, except the opposition
bench which was virtually silent. Such a sense of solitary
struggle I never remember. At last I rose on the main question
nearly in despair as to the result; but resolved at least not to
fail through want of effort. I spoke 2\ hours, voice lasting well.
House gradually came round and at the last was more than good.
It was over at 9.30. Never did I feel weaker and more wormlike.
Dinner at Sir W. James's and H. of C. again 10}-12|. 8. — I am
the spoiled child of sleep. This night was an exception.

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BOOK The scene began with the question as preconcerted, put
f ' ' by Mr. Trevelyan. Such moves never fail to provoke some

1877, measure of mockery, and this time both regular opponents
and opponents in more or less disguise thought that they
had got the monarch of the forest down. The situation was
one that opened the way for Mr. Gladstone's love of over-
precision, and his various explanations prolonged the
wrangle. It lasted until the dinner-hour. 'While many
members/ says one observer, 'were streaming out to dine
and those who remained looked dejectedly at their watches,
Mr. Gladstone, who is sixty-eight years of age, sprang again
to his feet, and without any sign of diminished spirit
delivered a noble speech lasting two hours and a half. It
was perhaps the greatest triumph of irrepressible moral and
physical vitality over depressing conditions that was ever
won in the House of Commons/ 1

The record of a distinguished eyewitness, himself one day
to be prime minister, ought not to be omitted : —

There was one of those preliminary parliamentary debates — or
series of debates — which preceded the main business of the
evening. In this Mr. Gladstone had to speak not once or twice,
- but several times, and it was not until hour after hour had passed
in this preliminary skirmish in a House hostile, impatient, and
utterly wearied, that he got up to present his case with that con-
viction that he was right, which was his great strength as a
speaker in and out of the House. I never shall forget the im-
pression that speech left on my mind. As a mere feat of physical

Online LibraryJohn MorleyThe life of William Ewart Gladstone, Volume 2 → online text (page 16 of 91)