John Morley.

The life of William Ewart Gladstone, Volume 2 online

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endurance it was almost unsurpassed ; as a feat of parliamentary
courage, parliamentary skill, parliamentary endurance, and par-
liamentary eloquence, I believe it will always be unequalled. 2

As he drew to his close, he looked according to Mr.
Forster, 'like an inspired man,' and I have heard many
hearers of cool temperament declare the passage about the
Montenegrins and onwards, to have been the most thrilling
deliverance that could ever be conceived. Here is this
noble peroration : —

Sir, there were other days when England was the hope of
1 Spectator. * Mr. Balfour, House of Commons, May 20, 1898.

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^t. 68.


freedom. Wherever in the world a high aspiration was enter- CHAP,
tained, or a noble blow was struck, it was to England that the eyes ,
of the oppressed were always turned — to this favourite, this darling
home of so much privilege and so much happiness, where the
people that had built up a noble edifice for themselves would, it
was well known, be ready to do what in them lay to secure the
benefit of the same inestimable boon for others. You talk to me
of the established tradition and policy in regard to Turkey. I
appeal to an established tradition older, wider, nobler far — a
tradition not which disregards British interests, but which teaches
you to seek the promotion of these interests in obeying the
dictates of honour and justice. And, sir, what is to be the end of
this ? Are we to dress up the fantastic ideas some people entertain
about this policy and that policy in the garb of British interests,
and then, with a new and base idolatry, fall down and worship
them 1 Or are we to look, not at the sentiment, but at the hard
facts of the case, which Lord Derby told us fifteen years ago — viz.,
that it is the populations of those countries that will ultimately
poasessthem — that will ultimately determine their abiding con-
dition 1 It is to this fact, this law, that we should look. There
is now before the world a glorious prize. A portion of those
unhappy people are still as yet making an effort to retrieve what
they have lost so long, but have not ceased to love and to desire.
I speak of those in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Another portion — a
band of heroes such as the world has rarely seen — stand on the
rocks of Montenegro, and are ready now, as they have ever been
during the 400 years of their exile from their fertile plains, to
sweep down from their fastnesses and meet the Turks at any odds
for the re-establishment of justice and of peace in those countries.
Another portion still, the 5,000,000 of Bulgarians, cowed and
beaten down to the ground, hardly venturing to look upwards,
even to their Father in heaven, have extended their hands to you ;
they have sent you their petition, they have prayed for your help
and protection. They have told you that they do not seek
alliance with Russia, or with any foreign power, but that they
seek to be delivered from an intolerable burden of woe and shame.
That burden of woe and shame — the greatest that exists on God's
earth — is one that we thought united Europe was about to

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BOOK remove ; but to removing which, for the present, you seem to have

^1 — ^no efficacious means of offering even the smallest practical con-

'• tribution. But, sir, the removal of that load of woe and shame is
a great and noble prize. It is a prize well worth competing for.
It is not yet too late to try to win it. I believe there are men in
the cabinet who would try to win it, if they were free to act on
their own beliefs and aspirations. It is not yet too late, I say, to
become competitors for that prize ; but be assured that whether
you mean to claim for yourselves even a single leaf in that im-
mortal'chaplet of renown, which will be the reward of true labour
in that cause, or whether you turn your backs upon that cause and
upon your own duty, I believe, for one, that the knell of Turkish
tyranny in these provinces has sounded. So far as human eye can
judge, it is about to be destroyed. The destruction may not come
in the way or by the means that we should choose ; but come this
boon from what hands it may, it will be a noble boon, and as
a noble boon will gladly be accepted by Christendom and the


The division, after a debate that lasted five days, resulted
in 354 for ministers, against 223 for Mr. Gladstone.

Of course if you had gone on alone, Lord Granville told him,
you would only have had either more or less than half the liberal
party. If Hartington had moved the first two resolutions, the
government would certainly have had some 160 or 170 majority.
All the malcontents behind the opposition front benches were
obliged to vote on Monday, in consequence of having so vigorously
preached allegiance during the previous ten days. As it is, the
party voted pretty well.

'The assumed laughter of the conservatives/ he adds,
'showed their vexation, and some of the radicals showed
their cards — that it is not the eastern question, but the
hopes of breaking up the party that really excites them/
The radicals on their part were extremely sore at the
withdrawal of the resolutions. ' Your goodness/ wrote their
leading man to Mr. Gladstone the following day, ' has been
abused in the interests of a section of the party who deserve

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least at your hands. The current report in the lobbies last CHAP,
night, spread by these gentlemen, and easily believed by t ' *
their friends, was that you had " caved in." ' Could he not Mr - 6&
take some further opportunity of showing that he had not
abandoned the policy of joint intervention, and that the
liberal party in the country had no reason to regret that
they rose almost as one man to his call ?

At first it was thought that the discussion had done good
by impressing the government with the desire of the country,
if not for coercion at least for real neutrality, and that Lord
Beaconsfield had submitted to the better influences in the
cabinet. It soon appeared that this had not happened.
'The fidelity of the party/ said Lord Granville ' and the large
majority have given Beaconsfield the lead, of which he has not
been slow to avail himself. It is very serious.' The war in
the Balkans went on ; the Tprks fought with valour and con-
stancy : sufferings on both sides were frightful. In England
the sympathy with the miserable victims of Turkish misrule
became modified by the re-awakened jealousy of Russian
power. Mr. Gladstone held his ground with invincible
tenacity against all comers. He took his share in such par-
liamentary operations as were possible, but these operations
were necessarily fruitless, and the platform now for the
first time since the long campaign against the corn laws
became the effective field for moving national opinion.

Great parties of tourists from the northern and midland
towns began to make it a fashion to go on high pilgrimage
to Ha warden, where besides a fine park they saw the most
interesting man in the country, and had a good chance of
hearing an eloquent speech, or watching a tree fall under the
stroke of his vigorous arm. If they brought him the tribute
of a casket or an axe or some cunning walking-stick, he was
obliged to thank them, and if he opened his lips to thank
them, the all-engrossing theme was sure to well up. Some
of these earnest utterances jarred even on his admirers in
the press and out of it. Just so would critics in colleges and
cathedral closes have found Wesley and Whitefield in their
evangelising mission north, south, east and west, excessive,
exaggerated, indiscreet, and deficient in good taste. They
vol. ii. " M

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BOOK could not understand how one supposed to be so knowing in
. v ' / all the manoeuvres of parliament and party, was at the same
1877 * time so naif. This curious simplicity in fact marked him in
all the movements into which he put his heart Like every
other grand missionary — the abolitionist, the gospel mis-
sionary, the free trader, the peace man, the temperance
man — he could not believe that the truths, arguments, and
appeals, of which he was the bearer, could fail to strike in
all who heard them the same fire that blazed in bosoms
fervid as his own.

He went to Birmingham and was received with tumultuous
acclamations by many tens of thousands : —

May 31. — [Hawarden]. Off before 11. Reached Birmingham
at 3£. A triumphal reception. Dinner at Mr. Chamberlain's.
Meeting 7 to 9J, half occupied by my speech. A most intelligent
and duly appreciative audience — but they were 25,000 and the
building I think of no acoustic merits, so that the strain was
excessive. A supper followed. June 1. — Breakfast party 9.30,
Much conversation on the Birmingham school board system. Off
at 10.45 to Enfield Factory, which consumed the forenoon in a
most interesting survey with Colonel JDickson and his assistants.
Then to the fine (qy. overfine?) board school, where addresses
were presented and I spoke over half an hour on politics. After
luncheon to the town hall ; address from the corporation, made a
municipal speech of say 20 minutes. A good deal of movement in
the streets with us even to-day. Thence to the Oratory and sat
with Dr. Newman. 1 Saw Mr. Chamberlain's very pleasing children.
Then to the dinner, spoke again. To Hagley at 11.5.

Well was it said of this visit by Dale, that strenuous
whole-hearted man, 'Forsaken or but feebly supported by
many of those with whom he had shared many glorious
conflicts, and who owed to him their place and fame, his
courage remained undaunted, and his enthusiasm for
righteousness and freedom unquenched/

1 At this interview Mr. Chamber- wonderful pair were nervous and

lain was present. Ho had asked Mr. constrained, and each seemed a little

Gladstone what he would like to do relieved when, after twenty minutes

or see in Birmingham. Mr. Glad- of commonplace conversation, they

stone said he thought he should like rose to part
to call upon Dr. Newman. The

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Mr. Gladstone described the general situation in a letter
to a correspondent out of England : —

I cannot say much for the conduct of the Powers. That of the
pope and his court has been vile; Manning and most part of
Ireland have followed suit ; France and Germany are thinking of
themselves and one another ; and Italy, for fear of the pope, is
obliged to look very much to Germany. Austria is to some
extent in a false position. For us there is no excuse : there was
no difficulty whatever in our doing our duty. I have said
in parliament, and I deeply feel, it is the most deplorable chapter
of our foreign policy since the peace of 1815. The good cause has
been further weakened by the bad conduct, in varying degrees, of
many races, Magyars and Jews above all. You see I cannot help
filling up my paper with this subject.

In July he made a pleasure trip in one of Sir Donald
Currie's steamers, from London to Dartmouth. ' We set out
at 10.20/ he says, 'for the docks. Started in the Dublin
Castle at noon. We spent the night at the Nore, good
weather, kind reception, splendid fare. The Cape deputies
came with us as far as Gravesend/ Among these deputies
was Mr. Kruger.

In October he paid his first and only visit to Ireland. It
lasted little more than three weeks, and did not extend
beyond a very decidedly English Pale. He stayed in great
houses, was feasted by the provost of Trinity, in spite of
disestablishment, and he had a friendly conversation with
Cardinal Cullen, in spite of Vaticanism. 'You know, Mr.
Gladstone/ said the Cardinal, ' we could have given you a
warmer reception if it had not been for certain pamphlets
which we in Ireland did not like very well.' He received the
freedom of the city of Dublin, broke bread with the Duke of
Marlborough at the vice-regal lodge, admired the picturesque
site of the castle at Kilkenny, enjoyed sympathetic talks
with host and hostess at Abbeyleix, and delighted in the
curious antiquities and exquisite natural beauties of the
county of Wicklow. Of the multitudes of strange things
distinctively Irish, he had little chance of seeing much.

Mr. 68.

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On these great questions, which cut so deep into heart and mind,
the importance of taking what they think the best course for the
question will often seem, even to those who have the most just sense
of party obligation, a higher duty than that of party allegiance, —
Gladstone {to Granville, 1878).

BOOK Of 1878 Mr. Gladstone spoke as ' a tumultuous year/ In
January, after a fierce struggle of five months in the Balkan
passes, the Russian forces overcame the Turkish defence,
and by the end of January had entered Adrianople and
reached the Sea of Marmora. Here at San Stefano a treaty
of peace was made at the beginning of March. The last
word of the eastern question, as Lord Derby said in those
days, is this: Who is to have Constantinople? No great
Power would be willing to see it in the hands of any other
great Power, no small Power could hold it at all, and as for
joint occupation, all such expedients were both dangerous
and doubtful. 1 This last word now seemed to be writing
itself in capital letters. Russia sent the treaty to the Powers,
with the admission that portions of it affecting the general
interests of Europe could not be regarded as definitive
without general concurrence. A treaty between Russian and
Turk within the zone of Constantinople and almost in sight
of St. Sophia, opened a new and startling vista to English
politicians. Powerful journalists, supposed to be much in
the confidence of ministers, declared that if peace were
ultimately concluded on anything like the terms proposed,
then beyond all doubt the outworks of our empire were
gone, and speedy ruin must begin. About such a situation

Speeches of the Fifteenth Earl of Derby, i. p. 297.


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Mi. 69.


there had been but one opinion among our statesmen for CHAP,
many generations. Until Mr. Gladstone, ' all men held that
such a state of things [as the Russians at Constantinople]
would bring the British empire face to face with ruin.' x

Before the treaty of San Stefano, an angry panic broke out
in parts of England. None of the stated terms of British
neutrality were violated either by the treaty or its pre-
liminaries, but even when no Russian force was within forty
miles of Constantinople, the cabinet asked for a vote of six
millions (January), and a few days later the British fleet
passed the Dardanelles. Two years earlier, Mr. Gladstone
had wished that the fleet should go to Constantinople as a
coercive demonstration against the Porte ; now, in 1878, the
despatch of the fleet was a demonstration against Russia,
who had done alone the work of emancipation that in Mr.
Gladstone's view should have been done, and might have
been done without war by that concert of the Powers from
which England had drawn back. The concert of the Powers
that our withdrawal had paralysed would have revived
quickly enough,if either Austria or Germany had believed that
the Czar really meant to seize Constantinople. ' I have done
my best/ wrote Mr. Gladstone to a friend, ' against the vote
of six millions ; a foolish and mischievous proposition. The
liberal leaders have, mistakenly as I think, shrunk at the last
moment from voting. But my opinion is that the liberal
party in general are firmly opposed to the vote as a silly,
misleading, and mischievous measure/ He both spoke and
voted. The opinion of his adherents was that his words, not-
withstanding his vote, were calculated to do more to throw
oil on the troubled waters, than either the words or the
abstention of the official leader.

The appearance of the British fleet with the nominal object
of protecting life and property at Constantinople, was imme-
diately followed by the advance of Russian troops thirty
miles nearer to Constantinople with the same laudable
object. The London cabinet only grew the wilder in its
projects, among them being a secret expedition of Indian
troops to seize Cyprus and Alexandretta, with the idea that

1 Pall Mall Gazette, Feb. 26, 189a

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BOOK it would be fairer to the Turk not to ask his leave. Two
t : ' ministers resigned in succession, rather than follow Lord
1878 - Beaconsfield further in designs of this species. 1

'It is a bitter disappointment/ Mr. Gladstone wrote to
Madame Novikoff, * to find the conclusion of one war, for
which there was a weighty cause, followed by the threat of
another, for which there is no adequate cause at all, and
which will be an act of utter wickedness — if it comes to pass,
which God forbid — on one side or on both. That unhappy
subject of the bit of Bessarabia, 2 on which I have given you
my mind with great freedom (for otherwise what is the use
of my writing at all ?) threatens to be in part the pretext
and in part the cause of enormous mischief, and in my
opinion to mar and taint at a particular point the immense
glory which Russia had acquired, already complete in a
military sense, and waiting to be consummated in a moral
sense too.'

Public men do not withstand war fevers without discom-
fort, as Bright had found in the streets of Manchester when
he condemned the Crimean war. One or two odious and
unusual incidents now happened to Mr. Gladstone : —

Feb. 24. — Between four and six, three parties of the populace
arrived here, the first with cheers, the two others hostile.
Windows were broken and much hooting. The last detachment
was only kept away by mounted police in line across the street
both ways. This is not very sabbatical. There is strange work
behind the curtain, if one could only get at it. The instigators
are those really guilty ; no one can wonder at the tools.

One Sunday afternoon a little later (March 4) :—
Another gathering of people was held off by the police. I walked
down with C, and as a large crowd gathered, though in the main
friendly, we went into Dr. Clark's, and then in a hansom off the

Stories were put about that Lord Beaconsfield reported the

1 Lord Carnarvon resigned in Janu- s Russia demanded from Turkey the

ary 1878 when the fleet was ordered Dobrudscha in order to cede it to

to the Dardanelles, and Lord Derby Roumania in exchange for the Rou-

in March on the calling out of the manian province of Bessarabia,

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names of dissentient colleagues to the Queen. Dining with CHAP.

Sir Robert Phillimore (Jan. 17), Mr. Gladstone — » ^ —

jEt. 69.
was emphatic and decided in his opinion that if the premier

mentioned to the Queen any of his colleagues who had opposed

him in the cabinet, he was guilty of great baseness and perfidy.

Gladstone said he had copies of 250 letters written by him to the

Queen, in none of which could a reference be found to the opinion

of his colleagues expressed in cabinet.

On the same occasion, by the way, Sir Robert notes: —
* Gladstone was careful to restrain the expression of his
private feelings about Lord Beaconsfield, as he generally is.'


In the summer the famous congress assembled at Berlin
(June 13 to July 13), with Lord Beaconsfield and Lord
Salisbury as the representatives of Great Britain, to sanction,
reject, or modify the treaty of San Stefano. Before the
congress met, the country received a shock that made men
stagger. While in London it was impossible to attempt to
hold a meeting in favour of peace, and even in the northern
towns such meetings were almost at the mercy of anybody
who might choose to start a jingo chorus; while the war
party exulted in the thought that military preparations
were going on apace, and that the bear would soon be rent
by the lion ; a document was one afternoon betrayed to the
public, from which the astounding fact appeared that Eng-
land and Russia had already entered into a secret agreement,
by which the treaty of San Stefano was in substance to be
ratified, with the single essential exception that the southern
portion of Bulgaria was to be severed from the northern.
The treaty of Berlin became in fact an extensive partition of
the Turkish empire, and the virtual ratification of the policy
of bag and baggage. The Schouvaloff memorandum was not
the only surprise. Besides the secret agreement with Russia,
the British government had made a secret convention with
Turkey. By this convention England undertook on terms to
defend Turkey against Russian aggression in Asia, though
concessions were made to Russia that rendered Asiatic Turkey

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BOOK indefensible; and Turkey was to carry out reforms which
^ all sensible men knew to be wholly beyond her power. In
payment for this bargain, the Sultan allowed England to
occupy and administer Cyprus.

At the end of the session Mr. Gladstone wound up his
labours in parliament with an extraordinarily powerful
survey of all these great transactions. Its range, compass,
and grasp are only matched by the simplicity and lucidity
of his penetrating examination. It was on July 30 : —

Finished the protocols and worked up the whole subject. It
loomed very large and disturbed my sleep unusually. H. of C.
Spoke 2 J hours. I was in body much below par, but put on the
steam perforce. It ought to have been far better. The speech
exhausted me a good deal, as I was and am below par.

He sketched, in terse outline, the results of the treaty —
the independence of Roumania, Servia, and Montenegro;
the virtual independence of northern Bulgaria; the creation
in southern Bulgaria (under the name of Eastern Roumelia)
of local autonomy, which must soon grow into something
more. Bosnia and Herzegovina, though Mr. Gladstone would
have hoped for their freedom from external control, had
been handed over to Austria, but they were at any rate
free from the Ottoman. The cardinal fact was that eleven
millions of people formerly under Turkish rule, absolute or
modified, were entirely exempted from the yoke. * Taking
the whole of the provisions of the treaty of Berlin together,
I most thankfully and joyfully acknowledge that great
results have been achieved in the diminution of human
misery and towards the establishment of human happiness
and prosperity in the East/ A great work of emancipation
had been achieved for the Slavs of the Turkish empire. He
deplored that equal regard had not been paid to the case of
the Hellenes in Thessaly and Epirus, though even in LS62
Palmerston and Russell were in favour of procuring the
cession of Thessaly and Epirus to Greece. As for the
baffling of Russian intrigue, it was true that the Bulgaria of
Berlin was reduced from the Bulgaria of San Stefano, but

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Mt. 69.


this only furnished new incentives and new occasions for CHAP.
intrigue. 1 Macedonia and Armenia were left over.

On the conduct of the two British plenipotentiaries at
Berlin he spoke without undue heat, but with a weight that
impressed even adverse hearers : —

I say, sir, that in this congress of the great Powers, the voice
of England has not been heard in unison with the institutions, the
history, and the character of England. On every question that
arose, and that became a subject of serious contest in the congress,
or that could lead to any important practical result, a voice has
been heard from Lord Beaconsfieid and Lord Salisbury which
sounded in the tones of Metternich, and not in the tones of Mr.
Canning, or of Lord Palmerston, or of Lord Russell. I do not
mean that the British government ought to have gone to the
congress determined to insist upon the unqualified prevalence of
what I may call British ideas. They were bound to act in con-
sonance with the general views of Europe. But within the limits
of fair differences of opinion, which will always be found to arise
on such occasions, 1 do affirm that it was their part to take the
side of liberty ; and I do also affirm that as a matter of fact they
took the side of servitude.

The agreement with Russia had in truth constantly tied
their hands. For instance, Lord Beaconsfieid and Lord Salis-
bury might make to Russia as many eloquent speeches as
they liked against the restoration of Bessarabia, but every-

Online LibraryJohn MorleyThe life of William Ewart Gladstone, Volume 2 → online text (page 17 of 91)