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The life of William Ewart Gladstone, Volume 2 online

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dangerous. I determined to let no political prejudice stand in
my way, and to test to the best of my very feeble power the
opinion of parliament with respect to tea and sugar. I stated
that if the opinion of parliament were against me I should not
factiously prolong the contest but should withdraw from it. Not
only was the opinion of parliament against me, but it so happened
that the opinion of the country was immediately afterwards taken by
a dissolution on that and on other kindred questions. The country
affirmed the policy of Lord Palmerston, and the policy of a materially
increased expenditure, by an overwhelming majority. I had mis-
judged public opinion ; they had read it aright. After the dissolu-
tion of 1857, Sir George Lewis who had previously raised the tea
and sugar duties for one year, proposed to raise them for two
more. I immediately followed in debate, and thanked him warmly
for doing it. All this of course I can prove. I said, we are going
to have more expenditure, we must therefore have more taxation.
As I have gone thus far with my history, I will conclude it.
Notwithstanding what had happened, I did not absolutely abandon
at that time the nope that we might still reach in 1860 a state which
might enable us to abolish the income-tax. I had a faint expec-
tation of more economy under another government. When Lord
Derby's administration came in in 1858, they professed to reduce
expenditure by £800,000, and to contemplate further reductions.
I expressed my satisfaction, and gave them the extreme of sup-
port that I could. But I then clearly pointed out that, even with
the scale of expenditure they then proposed, we could not abolish
the income-tax in 1860. In a few months, their reductions
vanished into air. In 1859 came the famous 'reconstruction.'
I took office in June, and found a scale of expenditure going on in
the treasury far more prodigal and wanton than I had ever charged
upon Lord Palmerston's first government. I found also that when
the estimates had been completed, I believe entirely on their basis,
there was a probable deficiency of four or five millions for a year
of which nearly one-third had passed. And the expenditure was

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BUDGET OF I860 813

I think nearly seventy millions, or some fourteen millions more than
in 1853. This was not the act only of the government. The
opposition halloed them on ; and the country, seized with a peculiar
panic, was in a humour even more lavish than the opposition.

My view was, and I stated it, that we ought to provide for this
expenditure in a due proportion between direct and indirect taxes.
I snowed that this proportion had not been observed ; that we had
continued to levy large amounts of war tax on tea and sugar,
and had returned to the scale of 1853 for income. I proposed to
provide the necessary sums chiefly by an increase of income-tax.
But neither then (in July 1859), nor for nearly two and a half
years before, had I ever (to my knowledge) presumed to speak of
any one as bound to abolish the income-tax or to remit the addi-
tional duties on tea and sugar.

I fully expect from you the admission that as to these measures
I could not in the altered circumstances be bound absolutely to
the remissions. But you say I was bound to give them a pre-
ference over all other remissions. Nowhere I believe can one
word to this effect be extracted from any speech of mine. I found
in 1860 that all the reforming legislation, which had achieved
such vast results, had been suspended for seven years. We were
then raising by duties doomed in 1853, from twelve to thirteen
millions. It would in my opinion have been no less than mon-
strous on my part to recognise the preferences you claim for these
particular duties. All of them indeed would have been reliefs,
even the income-tax which is I think proved to be the least relief
of any. But, though reliefs, they were hardly reforms; and
experience had shown us that reforms were in fact double and
treble reliefs. I may be wrong, but it is my opinion and I found
it on experience, that the prospect of the removal of the three
collectively (income, tea extra, and sugar extra) being in any case
very remote, it is less remote with than without the reforming
measures of the last and (I hope I may add) of the present year.
Had the expenditure of 1853 been resumed, there would notwith-
standing the Russian war have been, in my opinion, room for all
these three things. 1. Abolition of income-tax by or near 1860;

2. remission of increases on tea and sugar within the same time ;

3. the prosecution of the commercial reforms.

It may be said that having set my face against an excess of
expenditure I ought to have considered that a holy war, and not
to have receded. Although I place public economy somewhat
higher as a matter of duty than many might do, I do not think
it would have been right, I do think it would have been foolish
and presumptuous in me to have gone beyond these two things :
first, making an effort to the utmost of my power at the critical
moment (as I took it to be), and secondly, on being defeated to
watch for opportunities thereafter. Since it should be remembered
I do not recommend or desire sweeping and sudden reductions.

The chief errors that I see myself to have committed are these.
In 1853 when I took the unusual course of estimating our income

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for seven years, and assuming that our expenditure would either
continue as it was, or only move onwards gradually and gently, I
ought no doubt to have pointed out explicitly, that a great
disturbance and increase of our expenditure would baffle my
reckonings. Again in 1857 the temper of the public mind had
undergone a change which I failed to discern ; and I attacked the

Sovernment and the chancellor of the exchequer of that day for
oing what the country desired though I did not. I name these
as specific errors, over and above the general one of excess of heat.
The budget of last year I cannot admit to have been an error.
People say it should have been smaller. My belief is that if it had
been a smaller boat it would not have lived in such a sea. I speak
of the period of the session before the China war became certain.
When it did so, we were in a great strait about the paper duty.
We felt the obligation incurred by the vote on the second reading,
and we construed it according to the established usage. We took
the more arduous, but I think the more honourable course for a

fovernment to pursue. Had we abandoned the bill, I know not
ow we could have looked in the face those who had acted and
invested on the faith of an unbroken practice. I admit that
political motives greatly concurred to recommend the budget of
last year. It was a budget of peace, and peace wanted it The
budget of this year followed from the budget of last, given the
other circumstances. At the same time I can understand how the
claim of tea could be set up, but not well after the occurrences of
last year how it could be supported.

This is a long egotistical story. But when you consider that it
contains my whole story (except pikes justijkatives) in answer to* so
many speeches in both Houses and elsewhere, for never to this
hour have I opened my lips in personal defence, you will under-
stand why I might be garrulous. . . .

Notwithstanding the mild doctrine I have held about expendi-
ture I admit it may be said I ought not to have joined a govern-
ment which had such extended views in that direction, even though
they were the views of the nation. Much may be said on this.
I may, however, remark that when the government was formed I
did not fully conceive the extent to which we should proceed.


Vol. I. page 670

Mr. Gladstone's memorandum on the currents of opinion in the
cabinet of 1860 concludes as follows: —

1. The most Italian members of the cabinet have been : Lord

Palmerston, Lord John Russell, W. E. G., Gibson, Argyll.
The least Italian: Lewis, Wood, Grey, Herbert, Vifiiers

2. In foreign policy generally the most combative have been :

Lord Palmerston, Lord John Russell, Duke of Newcastle,
the chancellor. The least combative : Duke of Somerset.

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Duke of Argyll, Granville, Gibson, Herbert, Lewis, Grey,
W. E. G., Wood, the same in feeling but not active.

3. In defences and expenditure, the most alarmed or most

martial (as the case may be), have been : Lord Palmerston,
Lord John Russell, Duke of Newcastle, S. Herbert, followed
by Duke of Somerset, the chancellor, Granville, Cardwell.
Inclined the other way : Gibson, W. E. G., Lewis, Grey,
Duke of Argyll (Elgin, I think).

4. In finance some are for movement, some stationary or retro-

grade so as to be ready for immediate war. Yet here we
are not divided simply as combative or anti-combative.
* The onward men in finance are : Lord John Russell, Duke
of Newcastle, Granville, Argyll, Gibson, W. E. G., and, I
think, the chancellor. The stationary men are, first and
foremost : Sir Gteorge Lewis, Sir C. Wood ; next to these,
Lord Palmerston, Cardwell, and, I think, Villiers, Herbert.

5. On reform I must distinguish between (a) extension of the

franchise and (b) redistribution of seats. In the first the
more liberal men are : Lord John Russell, Duke of Somerset,
Duke of Newcastle, Duke of Argyll, Gibson, W. E. G.
The fearful or opposed are: Lord ralmerston, C. Villiers,
S. Herbert. In the second, for small disfranchisement
were, I think, all the first except Newcastle. For larger
disfranchisement : Newcastle, Villiers, and Lord Palmer-
ston, I think not greatly averse. In fact, I think, that
larger disfranchisement of places may have been favoured
by him, 1. as a substitute for enlargement of the franchise,
which he chiefly dreads ; 2. as perhaps an obstacle to the
framing of a measure.

6. In church matters Herbert, Newcastle, and I, are the most

conservative and the most church-like; with a sympathy
from Argyll. But, as I said, there is no struggle There :
patronage, the sore subject, not being a cabinet affair.


Vol. I. page 681

Extract from a Letter to the Duke of Argyll

Penmaen., September 3, 1860. — The session has been one to make
all of us thoughtful, and me perhaps most of all. It is indeed
much before my mind, but my head has not ceased to whirl, so
that I cannot get a clear view of what Seward would call my
position. Two things I know, one is that it produced the greatest •
pleasures and the greatest pains I have ever known in politics;
the other that I have had to take various decisions and perform
acts that could neither be satisfactory to others, nor from the
doubt attaching to one side or the other of the alternative, even
to myself. To have been the occasion of the blow to the House
of Commons, or as I call it the 'gigantic innovation,' will be a
grief to me as long as I live ; if by wildness and rashness I have

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been its cause, it will be a much greater grief. Of that I am not
yet able to judge. On the whole when I think of the cabinet, I
always go back to Jacob and Esau fighting in their mother's
womb; only here there have been many Jacobs and Esaus, by
which I do not mean the sixteen members of the cabinet, but the
many and very unhandy causes of division. Perhaps I should find it
easiest in the work of confession to own my neighbour's faults, i.e. to
dwell upon those strange sins of foreign policy which have happily
for the most part been nipped in the bud almost a VmanimUid (yet
with what exceptions !) ; but avoiding that task, I will make my own
confession. I cannot justify the finance of the year as a whole. . . .
As to the amount of the final demand [for the China war], what
it really demonstrates is one among the follies and dangers of our
high-handed policy, our want of control over proceedings at the
other end of the world. But the weak point is the fortification
plan ; I do not now speak of its own merits or demerits, but I
speak of it in relation to the budget. ... It is a vile precedent
to give away money by remission, and borrow to supply the void ;
and in the full and chief responsibility for having established this
precedent I am involved, not by the budget of February but by
the consent of July to the scheme which involved the borrow-
ing. No doubt there are palliating circumstances ; and lastly the
grievous difficulty of choice between mischievous [illegible] and
mischievous resignation. Still I must say, it is in retrospect, as
the people and parliament have a right to judge it, a bad and un-
workmanlike business, and under a skilful analysis of it in the
House of Commons (which there is no one opposite fit to make,
except it be Northcote who perhaps scruples it) I should wince.
All these things and others more inward than these, make sore
places in the mind ; but on the other hand, that I may close with
a gleam of sunshine like that which is now casting its shadow on
my paper from Penmaenmawr after a rough morning, I am
thankful in the highest degree to have had a share in resisting the
alarming mai a of the day hy means of the French treaty, to which,
if we escape collision, I think the escape will have been mainly
due ; and likewise in one at least negative service to the great
Italian cause, which is not Italian merely but European.


Vol. I. page 69S

Mr. Gladstone to Herbert Gladstone

March 10, 1876. — Mr. Pitt's position in the Revolutionary war
was, I think, a false one. To keep out of that war demanded
from the people of this country an extraordinary degree of self-
control, and this degree of it they did not possess. The conse-
quence of our going into it was to give an intensity and vitality
to the struggle, which but for the tenacity of English character it
would not have possessed. Mr. Pitt did not show the great genius
in war which he possessed as a peace minister. Until the epoch

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of the Peninsula our military performances were small and poor,
and the method of subsidy was unsatisfactory and ineffective.
The effect of borrowing money in three per cents, was to load us
with a very heavy capital of national debt. I think at one time
we only got £46, or some such amount, for the £100. It must,
however, be taken into view that a perpetual annuity of £3,
redeemable upon paying £100, brought more than £ of what a per-
petual annuity of £4, similarly redeemable, would have brought;
or than £ of what a £5 annuity, similarly redeemable, would
have brought. It is not easy to strike the balance. Mr. New-
march, a living economist of some authority, I believe, thinks
Mr. Pitt was right. I do not think the case is so clear against
him as to detract from his great reputation. But were I in the
unhappy position of having to call for a large loan, I should be
disposed to ask for the tender in more than one form, e.g., to ask
for a tender in three per cents, pure and simple, and an alternative
in 4 or 5 per cents., with that rate of interest guaranteed for
a certain number of years. Sir Robert Walpole had not to con-
tend with like difficulties, and I think his administration should
be compared with the early years of Pitt's, in which way of judging
he would come off second, though a man of cool and sagacious
judgment, while morally he stood low.

Vol. I. page 700

Mr. Gladstone at Leeds, October 8, 1881 :—

I, for my part, look with the deepest interest upon the share
that I had in concluding — I will not say so much in concluding,
but in conducting on this side of the water, and within the walls
of parliament as well as in administration — the proceedings which
lecf to the memorable French treaty of 1860. It is quite true that
that treaty did not produce the whole of the benefits that some
too sanguine anticipations may possibly have expected from it,
that it did not produce a universal smash of protective duties, as I
wish it had^ throughout the civilised world. But it did some-
thing. It enormously increased the trade between this country
and France. It effectually checked and traversed in the year
1860 tendencies of a very different kind towards needless alarms
and panics, and tendencies towards convulsions and confusion in
Europe. There was no more powerful instrument for confining
and controlling those wayward and angry spirits at that particular
crisis, than the commercial treaty with France. It produced no
inconsiderable effect for a number of years upon the legislation of
various European countries, which tended less decisively than we
could have desired, but still intelligibly and beneficially, in the
direction of freedom of trade.

VOL. II. 3 F

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Vol. L page 721

Mr. Gladstone to Sir Arthwr Gordon (Lord Stanjnore)

Downing Street, JprU 21, 1861. — My dear Arthur, — When,
within a few days after your father's death, I referred in conver-
sation with you to one or two points in his character, it was from
the impulse of the moment, and without any idea of making my
words matter of record. Months have now passed since you asked
me to put on paper the substance of what I said. The delay has
been partly, perhaps mainly, owing to the pressure of other
demands upon my time and thoughts. But it has also been due
to this, that an instinct similar to that which made me speak,
has made me shrink from writing. It is enough in conversation
to give the most partial and hasty touches, provided they be not
in the main untrue. Those same touches when clothed in a form
of greater assumption have but a meagre and unsatisfactory
appearance, and may do even positive injustice. Most of all in
the case of a character which was not only of rare quality, but
which was so remarkable for the fineness of its lights and shadows.
But you have a right to my recollections such as they are, and
I will not withhold them.

I may first refer to the earliest occasion on which I saw him ;
for it illustrates a point not unimportant in his history. On an
evening in the month of January 1835, during what is called the
short government of Sir Robert Peel, I was sent for by Sir Robert
Peel, and received from him the offer, which I accepted, of the
under-secretaryship of the colonies. From him I went on to your
father, who was then secretary of state in that department, and
who was thus to be, in official home-talk, my master. Without
any apprehension of hurting vou, I may confess, that I went in
fear and trembling. [Then follows the passage already quoted in
vol. i. p. 124.] I was only, I think, for about ten weeks his
under-secretary. But as some men hate those whom they have
injured, so others love those whom they have obliged; and his
friendship continued warm and unintermitting for thp subsequent
twenty-six years of his life.

Some of his many great qualities adorned him in common with
several, or even with many, other contemporary statesmen : such
a3 clearness pf view, strength of the deliberative faculty, strong
sense of duty, deep devotion to the crown, and the most thorough
and uncompromising loyalty to his friends and colleagues. In
this loyalty of intention many, I think, are not only praiseworthy
but perfect. But the loyalty of intention was in him so assisted
by other and distinctive qualities, as to give it a peculiar efficacy ;
and any one associated with Lord Aberdeen might always rest
assured that he was safe in his hands. When our law did not allow
prisoners the benefit of counsel, it was commonly said that the
judge was counsel for the prisoner. Lord Aberdeen was always

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counsel for the absent. Doubtless he had pondered much upon
the law, 'Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.' It had
entered profoundly into his being, and formed a large part of it.
He was strong in his self-respect, but his respect for others, not
for this man or that but for other men as men, was much
more conspicuous. Rarely indeed have I heard him utter a word
censuring opponents, or concerning those who actually were or
had been friends, that could have given pain. If and when it
was done, it was done so to speak judicially, upon full and reluc-
tant conviction and with visible regret.

If I have said that he had much in common with other dis-
tinguished men who were like him statesmen by profession, it has
been by way of preface to what I have now to say ; namely, that
what has ever struck me in his character as a whole, was its dis-
tinctiveness. There were several mental virtues that he possessed
in s, degree very peculiar; there were, I think, one or two in
which he stood almost alone. I am not in myself well qualified
for handling a subject like this, and also my life has been too
hurried to give me the most favourable opportunities. Still I
must try to explain my meaning. I will name then the following
characteristics, one and all of which were more prominent in him
than in any public man I ever knew: mental calmness; the
absence (if for want of better words I may describe it by a
negative) of all egoism; the love of exact justice; a thorough
tolerance of spirit ; and last and most of all an entire absence of

There was something very remarkable in the combination of
these qualities, as well as in their separate possession. Most men
who might be happy enough to have one half his love of justice,
would be so tossed with storms of indignation at injustice as to
lose the balance of their judgment. But he had or seemed to
have all the benefits, all the ennobling force of strong emotion,
with a complete exemption from its dangers. His mind seemed to
move in an atmosphere of chartered tranquillity, which allowed
him the view of every object, however blinding to others, in its
true position and proportion.

It has always appeared to me that the love of justice is one of
the rarest among all good qualities, I mean the love of it with full
and commanding strength. I should almost dare to say there are
five generous men to one just man. The beauty of justice is the
beauty of simple form; the beauty of generosity is heightened
with colour and every accessory. The passions will often ally
themselves with generosity, but they always tend to divert from
justice. The man who strongly loves justice must love it for its
own sake, and such a love makes of itself a character of a simple
grandeur to which it is hard to find an equal.

Next to Lord Aberdeen, I think Sir Robert Peel was the most
just of the just men I have had the happiness to know. During
the years from 1841 to 1846, when they were respectively
foreign secretary and prime minister, as I was at the bo^rd of

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trade for much of the time, I had occasion to watch the two in the
conduct of several negotiations that involved commercial interests,
such as that on the Stade Dues and that on the project of a com-
mercial treaty with Portugal Now and then Sir Kobert Peel
would show some degree of unconscious regard to the mere flesh
and blood, if I may so speak, of Englishmen ; Lord Aberdeen was
invariably for putting the most liberal construction upon both the
conduct and the claims of the other negotiating state.

There is perhaps no position in this country, in which the love
of justice that I have ascribed in such extraordinary measure to
your father, can be so severely tested, as that very position of
foreign minister, with which his name is so closely associated.
Nowhere is a man so constantly and in such myriad forms
tempted to partiality ; nowhere can he do more for justice ; but
nowhere is it more clear that all human force is inadequate for its
end. A nation is rarely just to other nations. Perhaps it is never
truly just, though sometimes (like individuals) what may be called
more than just. There can be no difficulty in any country, least
of all this, in finding foreign ministers able and willing to assert
the fair and reasonable claims of their countrymen with courage
and with firmness. The difficulty is quite of another kind ; it is
to find the foreign minister, first, who will himself view those
claims in the dry light both of reason and of prudence ; secondly,
and a far harder task, who will have the courage to hazard, and if
need be to sacrifice himself in keeping the mind of his countrymen
down to such claims as are strictly fair and reasonable. Lord
Aberdeen was most happy in being secretary of state for foreign

Online LibraryJohn MorleyThe life of William Ewart Gladstone, Volume 2 → online text (page 75 of 91)