John Morley.

The life of William Ewart Gladstone, Volume 2 online

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body in the room knew that the British government had
taken the lead in virtually assuring Russia that she had only
to hold to her point and Bessarabia should again be hers.
Most effective of all was his exposure of the convention with
Turkey, a proceeding by which we had undertaken, behind
the back of Europe and against the treaty of Paris, to
establish a sole protectorate in Asiatic Turkey. 2 We had
made a contract of such impossible scope as to bind us to
manage the reform of the judicature, the police, the finances,
the civil service of Turkey, and the stoppage of the sources

1 As it happened, the severance of * Mr. Gladstone made an important
northern from southern Bulgaria only speech on the treaty-making power
lasted seven years. on June 13, 1878,

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BOOK of corruption at Constantinople. The load, if we took it
}' - seriously, was tremendous ; if we did not take it seriously,

1878. t j ien w h at was t h e whole story of the reform of Asiatic
Turkey, but a blind to excuse the acquisition of Cyprus?
This great presentation of a broad and reasoned case con-
tained a passage near its close, that had in it the kernel of
Mr. Gladstone's policy in the whole controversy that was now
drawing to an end : —

I think we have lost greatly by the conclusion of this conven-
tion ; I think we have lost very greatly indeed the sympathy and
respect of the nations of Europe. I do not expect or believe that
we shall fall into that sort of contempt which follows upon weak-
ness. I think it to be one of the most threadbare of all the
weapons of party warfare when we hear, as we sometimes hear, on
the accession of a new government, that before its accession the
government of England had been despised all over the world, and
that now on the contrary she has risen in the general estimation,
and holds her proper place in the councils of nations. This
England of ours is not so poor and so weak a thing as to
depend upon the reputation of this or that administration ; and
the world knows pretty well of what stuff she is made. . . . Now,
I am desirous that the standard of our material strength shall be
highly and justly estimated by the other nations of Christendom;
but I believe it to be of still more vital consequence that we should
stand high in their estimation as the lovers of truth, of honour,
and of openness in all our proceedings, as those who know how to
cast aside the motives of a narrow selfishness, and give scope to
considerations of broad and lofty principle. I value our insular
position, but I dread the day when we shall be reduced to a moral
insularity. . . . The proceedings have all along been associated
with a profession as to certain British interests, which although I
believe them to be perfectly fictitious and imaginary, have yet
been pursued with as much zeal and eagerness as if they had been
the most vital realities in the world. This setting up of our own
interests, out of place, in an exaggerated form, beyond their
proper sphere, and not merely the setting up of such interests, but
the mode in which they have been pursued, has greatly diminished,
not, as I have said, the regard for our material strength, but the

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estimation of our moral standard of action, and consequently our
moral position in the world.

Lord Beaconsfield lost some of his composure when Mr.
Gladstone called the agreement between England and
Turkey an insane convention. ' I would put this issue/ he
said, ' to an intelligent English jury : Which do you believe
most likely to enter into an insane convention? A body
of English gentlemen, honoured by the favour of their
sovereign and the confidence of their fellow-subjects,
managing your affairs for five years — I hope with prudence,
and not altogether without success — or a sophistical rheto-
rician, inebriated with the exuberance of his own verbosity/ 1
— and so forth, in a strain of unusual commonness, little
befitting either Disraeli's genius or his dignity. Mr. Glad-
stone's speech three days later was as free from all the
excesses so violently described, as any speech that was ever
made at Westminster.

No speech, however, at this moment was able to reduce
the general popularity of ministers, and it was the common
talk at the moment that if Lord Beaconsfield had only
chosen to dissolve, his majority would have been safe.
Writing an article on ' England's Mission ' as soon as the
House was up, Mr. Gladstone grappled energetically with
some of the impressions on which this popularity was
founded. The Pall Mall Gazette had set out these impres-
sions with its usual vigour. As Mr. Gladstone's reply
traverses much of the ground on which we have been
treading, I may as well transcribe it : —

The liberals, according to that ably written newspaper, have
now imbibed as a permanent sentiment a ( distaste for national
greatness.' This distaste is now grown into matter of principle.
'The disgust at these principles of action ever grew in depth and
extent,' so that in the Danish, the American, and the Franco-
German wars, there was ' an increasing portion of the nation ready
to engage in the struggle on almost any side,' as a protest against
the position that it was bound not to engage in it at all I The
climax of the whole matter was reached when the result of the

1 At KnighUbridge, July 27, 1878.

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BOOK Alabama treaty displayed to the world an England overreached,
VIL , overruled, and apologetic. It certainly requires the astounding

suppositions, and the gross ignorance of facts, which the journalist
with much truth recites, to explain the manner in which for some
time past pure rhodomontade has not only done the work of
reasoning, but has been accepted as a cover for constant mis-
carriage and defeat; and doctrines of national self-interest and
self-assertion as supreme laws have been set up, which, if unhappily
they harden into ' permanent sentiment ' and ' matter of principle, 9
will destroy all the rising hopes of a true public law for Christen-
dom, and will substitute for it what is no better than the Com-
munism of Paris enlarged and exalted into a guide of international
relations. It is perhaps unreasonable to expect that minds in the
condition of the ' increasing portion ' should on any terms accept
an appeal to history. But, for the sake of others, not yet so
completely emancipated from the yoke of facts, I simply ask at
what date it was that the liberal administrations of this country
adopted the ' permanent sentiment* and the ' matter of principle*
which have been their ruin? Not in 1859-60, when they
energetically supported the redemption and union of Italy. Not
in 1861, when, on the occurrence of the Trent affair, they at a
few days' notice despatched ten thousand men to Halifax. Not
when, in concert with Europe, they compelled the sultan to cut
off the head of his tyrannical pasha, and to establish a government
in the Lebanon not dependent for its vital breath on Constanti-
nople. Not when in 1863 they invited France to join in an
ultimatum to the German Powers, and to defend Denmark with
us against the intrigues which Germany was carrying on under
the plea of the Duke of Augustenburg's title to the Duchies ; and
when they were told by Louis Napoleon in reply that that might
be a great British interest, but that it had no significance for
France. Not when in 1870 they formed in a few days their
double treaty for the defence of Belgium. Does, then, the whole
indictment rest on this — that, in conformity with the solemn
declaration of the European Powers at Paris in 1856, they cured
a deep-seated quarrel with America by submitting to the risk of a
very unjust award at Geneva ; and reconciled a sister nation, and
effected a real forward step in the march of civilization, at about

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half the cost which the present administration has recently CHAP,
incurred (but without paying it) in agitating and disturbing .
Europe ? Or is it that during all those years, and many more iET# e9 *
years before them, while liberty and public law were supported,
and British honour vindicated, territorial cupidity was not inflamed
by the deeds or words of statesmen, British interests were not set
up as * the first and great commandment,' and it was thought better
to consolidate a still undeveloped empire, which might well
satisfy every ambition, as it assuredly taxes to the utmost every


Though this was a ' tumultuous year/ he noted with some
complacency that the work of his pen produced a thousand
pounds. He laboured hard at his Homeric primer, 'just
contriving to squeeze the completion of it into the Easter
recess '; wrote articles on the 'Peace to Come/ on the 'Paths
of Honour and of Shame/ on the Abb6 Martin, on ' England's
Mission/ on * Electoral Statistics/ the ' Friends and Foes of
Russia/ and other matters. He finished a paper on Iris, ' a
charming little subject, and for once I am a little pleased
with my work.' He toiled diligently at a collection of old
articles, which he christened Gleanings t—

November 14. — Worked on articles for reprint. Iteperusal of
Patteson moves me unto tears. 1 What a height he reached !
What he did for God and the church. Praise to the Highest in
the height ! 21. — This morning the rain on the trees was wonder-
ful and lovely. When it fell under the trees in the afternoon it
was like snow or small icicles an inch deep. 25. — Bead Maud once
more, and aided by Doyle's criticism wrote my note of apology
and partial retractation. 2 The fact is I am wanting in that higher
poetical sense, which distinguishes the true artist.

Again and again he gives himself the delightful refresh-
ment of arranging his books. He finds that he has 700
volumes of English poetry. ' After 30 hours my library is
now in a passable state, and I enjoy, in Ruskin's words " the
complacency of possession and the pleasantness of order." '
He sat to Millais in the summer for what was. to be the

1 See Gleanings, ii. p. 213. a Ibid. ii. pp. 146-7.

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BOOK most popular of his portraits. € Jvly 5. — Went with C. to
V * L . examine the Millais portrait, surely a very fine work 6. —
1878. g a t once m ore to Millais, whose ardour and energy about his
picture inspire a strong sympathy/ On Good Friday he
hears Bach's passion music, ' most beautiful, yet not what I
like for to-day/ In the afternoon: 'We drove down to
Pembroke Lodge. For a few minutes saw Lord Russell at
his desire — a noble wreck He recognised us and overflowed
with feeling/

In December the Argylls and Mr. Ruskin came to
Hawarden : —

Dec. 12. — Mr. Ruskin's health better, and no diminution of charm.
14. — Mr. Ruskin at dinner developed his political opinions. They
aim at the restoration of the Judaic system, and exhibit a mixture
of virtuous absolutism and Christian socialism. All in his charm-
ing and modest manner.

From a pleasing account of Ruskin at Hawarden privately
printed, we may take one passage : —

Something like a little amicable duel took place at one time be-
tween Ruskin and Mr. G., when Ruskin directly attacked his host
as a c leveller/ c You^see you think one man is as good as another
and ail men equally competent to judge aright on political ques-
tions ; whereas I am a believer in an aristocracy/ And straight
came the answer from Mr. Gladstone, c Oh dear, no ! I am nothing
of the sort. I am a firm believer in the aristocratic principle —
the rule of the best. I am an out-and-out ineqwdttarian? a con-
fession which Ruskin treated with intense delight, clapping his
hands triumphantly.

The true question against Ruskin's ^nd Carlyle's school
was how you are to get the rule of the best. Mr. Gladstone
thought that freedom was the answer ; what path the others
would have us tread, neither Ruskin nor his stormy teacher
ever intelligibly told us.


Writing on November 1 to Madame Novikoff, Mr. Glad-
stone said : —

Nov. 1, 78. — My opinion is that this government is moving to

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its doom, and I hope the day of Lord Granville's succession to it
may be within a twelvemonth. It is not to be desired that this «
should take place at once. The people want a little more ex- iET *
perience of Beaconsfield toryism.

Unfortunately this experience, whatever be the precise
name for it, now came with disastrous promptitude, and the
nation having narrowly escaped one war, found itself in-
volved in two. The peril of a conflict in Europe had hardly
passed, before the country found itself committed to an
attack for which the government themselves censured their
high-handed agent, upon the fiercest of the savage tribes of
South Africa. A more formidable surprise was the announce-
ment that, by a headlong reversal of accepted Indian policy,
war had been declared against the Ameer of Afghanistan.

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fiildl jiaXOaicdt ytvy.
ri 8pq.s ; ivloTu, fi-/j <re vikcltw k6tou

— uEsch. Eum., 74, 128.

Turn not faint of heart. What doest thou ? Up and forth !
Let not weariness be thy master.

After the general election of 1874, Mr. Gladstone resolved
not again to offer himself as candidate for Greenwich, and in
1878 he formally declined an invitation from the liberals in
that constituency. At the end of the year it was inti-
mated to him that he might have a safe seat in the city of
Edinburgh without a contest. In January 1879, more am-
bitious counsels prevailed, and it was resolved by the liberal
committee of Midlothian, with Lord Rosebery in the front,
and amid infinite resolution, enthusiasm, and solid sense of
responsibility, that Mr. Gladstone should be invited to contest
the metropolitan county of Scotland. Mr. Adam, the Scotch
whip, entered into the design, Lord Wolverton approved, and
Lord Granville sent Adam a letter assenting. The sitting
member was Lord Dalkeith, eldest son of that Duke of
Buccleuch who had been Mr. Gladstone's colleague in Peel's
cabinet nearly forty years before, and who had left it in the
memorable December of 1845. Parties had always been
closely balanced, although the tories had held their own
pretty firmly, and only two contests had been fought for
forty years. The Midlothian tory was described to Mr.
Gladstone as of the hardest and narrowest type, and the battle
was therefore sure to be fierce. Some of the voters, however,


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told the canvassers that they would no longer support chap.
ministers. 'If the government continues much longer/ • , '
they said, ' the whole nation will be in the poorhouse.' The Mc ' 7a
delight of the constituency was intense at the prospect of
having for their champion one whom they described as the
greatest living Scotchman, and Adam (January 10, 1879) pre-
dicted a majority of two hundred. Mr. Gladstone rapidly, but
not without deliberation, entered into the project ' I am now
only anxious/ he wrote to Mr. Adam (January 11)/ under
your advice and Wolverton's, about making the ground sure
before the plunge is taken ; after it is taken, you may depend
on ma* On the same day he wrote to Lord Granville : —

I believe you have been cognizant of the proceedings about the
county of Midlothian, which are now beginning to bear a practical
aspect. Generally, when one knows the tree is a large tree, yet
on coming close up to the trunk it looks twice as large as it did
before. So it is with this election. If it goes on, it will gather into
itself a great deal of force and heat, and will be very prominent.
Thus far I am not sure whether I have put the matter pointedly
before you, or have been content to assume your approval of what
I found Adam pressing strongly upon me. It will be a tooth and
nail affair.

Lord Granville replied, that he was doing a ' very plucky
and public-spirited thing.' 'Your Mends/ he said, 'must
begin working the coach at once, but I should think you had
better not appear too early in the field. Act Louis xrv/
'Having received your approval/ Mr. Gladstone told Lord
Granville, ' I wrote on the same day to Adam accordingly/
He then went into details with his usual care and circum-
spection. When the public were made aware of what was
on foot, the general interest became hardly less lively all
over the island than it was in the constituency itself. It was
observed at the time how impossible many people seemed
to find it to treat anything done by Mr. Gladstone as natural
and reasonable. Nothing would appear to be a more simple
and unobjectionable act than his compliance with the re-
quest of the electors of Midlothian, yet ' he was attacked as
if he were guilty of some monstrous piece of vanity and
vol. 11. n

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BOOR eccentricity.' 1 Relentless opponents amused themselves by

• .AAylng that 'Mr. Gladstone lives personally in Wales and

I879 - intends to live politically in Scotland ; and ids most fervently

held opinions, like the Celtic population of the island, have

very much followed the same line of withdrawal'

Mr. Gladstone described the general outlook in a letter to
his son Henry in India (May 16) : —

The government declines, but no one can say at what rate.
Elections are tolerably satisfactory to us — not, I think,. more. A
sure though evil instinct has guided them in choosing rather to
demoralise our finance, than to pay their way by imposing taxes,
but I do not see how they are long to escape this difficulty. . . .
Our people look forward comfortably to the election. The govern-
ment people say they will not have it this year. But if we come
to the conclusion that we ought to have it, I am by no means sure
but that though a minority, we can force it by putting our men
into the field, and making it too uncomfortable for them to con-
tinue twelve or fifteen months in hot water. I am safe in
Midlothian, unless they contrive a further and larger number
of faggot votes. ^

Adam looked forward with alarm to the mischief that
might be done if the general election were to be protracted
beyond the autumn of 1880. ' In order to neutralise the pre-
sent majority/ he told Mr. Gladstone, ' they will have to create
faggots to a disgraceful extent, but they are not troubled by
scruples of conscience/ The charity that thinketh no evil
is perhaps less liberally given to party whips than even to
other politicians.

Apart from Midlothian Mr. Adam, in January 1879, said
to Mr. Gladstone that the liberals were helpless even in the
best agricultural counties of England ; that he saw no hope
of improvement ; they had neither candidates nor organiza-
tion in most of them, and there was no means that he knew
of (and he had done all that he could) to wake them up.
By November 1879, he reported that he had been carefully
over the list, taking a very moderate calculation of the

1 Spectator, February 8, 1879.

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chances at the coming election ; and he believed they ought CHAP,
to have a majority of 20 to 30, independent of home*

rulers. Mr. Gladstone wrote to Lord Granville : — JEa * 7a

Aug. 6, 79. — Salisbury's speech indicates, and for several reasons
I should believe, that they intend sailing on the quiet tack.
Having proved their spirit, they will now show their moderation.
In other words they want all the past proceedings to be in the
main ( stale fish ' at the elections. Except financial shuffling they
will very likely commit no new enormity before the election. In
my view that means they will not supply any new matter of such
severe condemnation as what they have already furnished. There-
fore, my idea is, we should keep the old alive and warm. This is
the meaning of my suggestion as to autumn work, rather than
that I expect a dissolution. It seems to me good policy to join on
the proceedings of 1876-9 by a continuous process to the dissolu-
tion. Should this happen, which I think likely enough about
March, there will have been no opportunity immediately before
it of stirring the country. I will not say our defeat in 1874 was
owing to the want of such an opportunity, but it was certainly,
I think, much aggravated by that want.


It was on November 24 that Mr. Gladstone soon after eight
in the morning quitted Liverpool for Edinburgh, accompanied
by his wife and Miss Gladstone. 'The journey from Liver-
pool/ he enters, ' was really moi;e like a triumphal procession.'
Nothing like it had ever been seen before in England. States-
men had enjoyed great popular receptions before, and there
had been plenty of cheering and bell-ringing and torchlight
in individual places before. On this journey of a bleak winter
day, it seemed as if the whole countryside were up. The
stations where the train stopped were crowded, thousands
flocked from neighbouring towns and villages to main centres
on the line of route, and even at wayside spots hundreds
assembled, merely to catch a glimpse of the express as it
dashed through. At Carlisle they presented addresses, and
the traveller made his first speech, declaring that never before
in the eleven elections in which he had taken part, were the

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interests of the country so deeply at stake. He spoke again
with the same moral at Hawick At Galashiels he found a
1870. great multitude, with an address and a gift of the cloth they
manufactured. With bare head in the raw air, he listened
to their address, and made his speech ; he told them that he
had come down expressly to raise effectually before the
people of the country the question in what manner they
wished to be governed ; it was not this measure or that, it
was a system of government to be upheld or overthrown.
When he reached Edinburgh after nine hours of it, the
night had fallen upon the most picturesque street in all
our island, but its whole length was crowded as it has
never been crowded before or since by a dense multitude,
transported with delight that their hero was at last among
them. Lord Rosebery, who was to be his host, quickly
drove with him amidst tumults of enthusiasm all along
the road to the hospitable shades of Dalmeny. 'I have
never/ Mr. Gladstone says in his diary, 'gone through a
more extraordinary day/

All that followed in a week of meetings and speeches was
to match. People came from the Hebrides to hear Mr.
Gladstone speak. Where there were six thousand seats,
the applications were forty or fifty thousand. The weather
was bitter and the hills were covered with snow, but this
made no difference in cavalcades, processions, and the rest
of the outdoor demonstrations Over what a space had
democracy travelled, and what a transition for its champion
of the hour, since the days lialf a century back when the
Christ Church undergraduate, the disciple of Burke and
Canning, had ridden in anti-reform processions, been hustled
by reform mobs, and had prayed for the blessing of heaven on
the House of Lords for their honourable and manly decision in
throwing out the bill. Yet the warmest opponent of popular
government, even the Duke of Buccleuch himself, might
have found some balm for this extraordinary display of
popular feeling, in the thought that it was a tribute to the
most splendid political career of that generation ; splendid
in gifts and splendid in service, and that it was repaid, more-
over, with none of the flattery associated with the name of

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demagogue. Mr. Gladstone's counsels may have been wise
or,unwise, but the only flattery in the Midlothian speeches <
was the manly flattery contained in the fact that he took -**• 70 -
care to address all these multitudes of weavers, farmers,
villagers, artisans, just as he would have addressed the
House of Commons, — with the same breadth and accuracy of
knowledge, the same sincerity of interest, the same scruple
in right reasoning, and the same appeal to the gravity and
responsibility of public life. An aristocratic minister,
speaking at Edinburgh soon after, estimated the number of
words in Mr. Gladstone's Midlothian speeches in 1879 at
85,840, and declared that his verbosity had become ' a posi-
tive danger to the commonwealth/ Tory critics solemnly
declared that such performances were an innovation on

Online LibraryJohn MorleyThe life of William Ewart Gladstone, Volume 2 → online text (page 18 of 91)